Thursday, December 28, 2017

Comic Shop Comi--Eh, it's just Scooby-Doo Team-Up #33

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #33 (DC Comics) So when I first started this blog, every Wednesday night the post would be a feature I called "Weekly Haul," wherein I reviewed all the comics I brought back from the shop that afternoon. At the time, the stack of comics was sizable enough that the word "haul" wasn't too much of an exaggeration. Then, in 2010, I moved to a city without it's own comic shop, so I changed the name of the feature to "Comic Shop Comics," because I was no longer getting comics on a weekly basis. Even though I moved back to a city with a comic shop some years ago, I kept the "Comic Shop Comics" title, because the number of comics has been dwindling to the point where "haul" doesn't seem to describe it. Some weeks, like this week, I wonder if I'll even continue the feature at all, under any name, because it's honestly not hard to imagine a Wednesday night in the near future where I go to the shop and then return empty-handed.

This week, for example, I came home with just a singe comic book. Comic books--at least the kind one can find in a comic shop on a Wednesday evening--seem to be drifting apart, and I'm not sure if it's me, or if it's Comics.

Anyway, I'm glad I found at least one comic today. Better still, it was a good one.

As you can see from the cover, this month's issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, DC's best gateway comic to the DC Universe's superheroes, features The Legion of Super-Heroes. It occurred to me that I've read exactly three comic books featuring the Legion this year, and all of them were out-of-continuity team-ups with characters seen on television (the others being Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Special #1 and Batman '66/Legion of Super-Heroes).

The three founders travel back in time to pick up Mystery, Inc and take them to their own time, as the legendary ghost hunting detectives are needed to help the LOSH solve the mystery of The Ghost of Ferro Lad. Before it's over, The Fatal Five will attack, and we get to see battles I think it's safe to say no one had ever imagined before writer Sholly Fisch typed them up, like Fred Jones vs. Mano, or Daphne Blake vs. The Persuader.

Fisch is joined by his usual partner on the series, Dario Brizuela, who does a pretty fine job of drawing all those Legionnaires into the superhero style he's established for the series.

While Fisch gets a lot of jokes out of the team-up, I can't help but feel there were a lot left on the table...perhaps the result of there being so many goddam Legionnaires--about nine of them get panel-time, many others simply have cameos. A Scooby-Doo/LOSH miniseries would be needed to take full advantage of all the opportunities presented by the teenagers from the late 1960s traveling a millennium into the future to hang out with the teenage superhero army.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: December 20th

Batman #37 (DC Comics) This comic was probably worth my $2.99 for panel three on page three alone. That particular joke is a good one in that it seems so obvious once you've heard it that you can't believe no one has made it before. I suppose it is possible that someone has made it already--it's been over four years since Man of Steel was released, and there are a lot of smart-asses on Twitter, which means, statistically speaking, it is all but certain that someone has--but it was the first time I heard it.

As promised on the last page of the previous issue, and on the weird-looking cover in which the World's Finest are almost touching their gigantic chests against one another, this issue features a double-date involving Superman, Lois Lane, Batman and Catwoman. They go to "Super Hero Night" at the Gotham County Fair, where everyone is required--required!--to dress as asuperhero if they want to come in. Rather than threaten the kid dressed as Zan working the gate, or throwing a handful of hundred dollar bills at him, Bruce Wayne relents (I suppose Superman coulda flew them all in at super-speed, too). This seems...unrealistic, but it does lead to the World's Finest gaining entrance by wearing one another's costumes, with Clark Kent wearing his glasses over Batman's cowl, and Lois putting on Catwoman's costume. As for Catwoman, in Lois' dress, she just seduces her way in.

The rest of the issue, which is honestly the best issue of King's run, just features the four characters hanging out at the fair, doing more or less basic, generic things people do at fairs. Now because these are among four of the longer-lived and most thoroughly-defined characters in American pop culture, I suppose that King's job is a bit easier here than it would have been any other four comic book characters hanging out, but nevertheless he does a fine job of defining characters through comparing and contrasting, and he does so in this particular issue in a much more natural, organic way than he did in the previous one, which did the same thing, but in a much more artificially constructed way.

What is particularly notable here is that King refrains from the apparently mandated scene of action or violence, that is almost always shoehorned into every issue of a superhero comic, whether it belongs in the story being told or not. There is a crime committed here, and it is stopped by the violent action of our characters, but it is so short that it takes no more space than, say, the Tunnel of Love gag. At one point, a thief dressed as The Question steals Lois' clutch--which, it turns out, contains a flask--and runs for it. The ladies just laugh at him, given that he has just stolen a purse in front of the real Batman and Superman (The Man of Steel conks him out with a baseball).

I would highly recommend this issue. Even if you haven't read any recent Batman or Superman comics, including Batman #36 which set this one up to a degree, it doesn't really matter (actually, this might ironically work better without having read the previous issue first). It's a perfectly well-executed, done-in-one exploration of the relationship between Batman and Superman, with little character sketches of all four characters sprinkled throughout.

The art, by Clay Mann and color artist Jordie Bellaire, is as fine as anything he did in the previous issue, or at any previous point in his career, but is all the more impressive because he does next to nothing in terms of action poses here. It's all just drawings of people walking around, eating, talking, riding rides--Batman and Superman at the batting cages is as close as he comes to the traditional, dynamic action stages expected in superhero comics.

Bombshells United #8 (DC) Artist Mirka Andolfo joins writer Margeurite Bennett for this issue, set entirely in a magical-ish labyrinth underneath a church in Spain, which Batwoman and Renee Montoya must try to make their way out of. The mythology gets a bit garbled, but then, Bennett incorporates a passage where she compares an element to myths from around the world, so it certainly works. The pair meet an unexpected character from their previous adventures at the end, but a new--and unexpected--Bombshell gets added in the form of Talia al Ghul (more unexpected still is an appearance by The Heretic, a minor Batman character that you may have half-forgotten...provided you knew his/its name at all, from having read Grant Morrison's run on the character).

Dark Knights: Metal #4 (DC) The above sequence from this week's installment of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's is not only an awesome sequence, nor is it perhaps the most surprising guest-star--and remember, as the cover indicates, this issue features a rather substantial appearance by Daniel, The Sandman and Dream of The Endless. It also typifies Snyder's approach to DC's complicated continuity within the framework of story. Note Mr. Terrific's response to Starro, who, as far as I know, has never faced Starro in either the pre- or post-Flashpoint continuities. When the editor takes to an editorial box to ask about this, "Scott & Greg" reply with...a drawing of devil's horns. The sequence is set on Thanagar Prime, a planet that "cosmic scientist" Mr. Terrific tells Hal Jordan is "a phased presence, built on zombie star gas" and "exists at multiple coordinates at once." Sounds like the sort of place Hawkman would be from!

I like this Starro, in part, because he looks like "himself" while still being different from all the other Starros I've seen over the years. Here he is still a giant starfish with one eye, but he's not exactly kaiju sized, and he walks around on two of his arms like legs. There's also a certain juvenile swagger to him, which seems to fit a cosmic alien bully that first met the League in the 1960s. It was an all-around good reminder that he really should have been the villain of this summer's Justice League movie, rather than the Darkseid-lieutenant Steppenwolf.

In the Gardner Fox-established formula for Justice League stories, we are in the split-up-into-smaller-teams sequence. Terrific and Jordan have taken the Plastic Man egg to Thanagar Prime, Aquaman and Deathstroke are below the ocean's floor now, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate and Kendra Saunders are at the Rock of Eternity and The Sandman is telling Superman and Batman a story, the story of where worlds come from, at least in the cosmology of this particular comic. It has an appropriate mythic feel, signaled by the inclusion of constellations of The Monitor, Anti-Monitor and other figures.

The title remains a good one, and it is still the best Justice League comic on the stands.

Hellboy: Krampusnacht (Dark Horse Comics) I remain as fascinated by The Krampus as I was when I first met him in Monte Beauchamp's 2010 Krampus: The Devil of Christmas, and all the sub-par movies and comics appearances have done nothing to dim my esteem for the weird figure of forgotten Christmases past. It is for the monster rather than the hero that I picked up this particular comic, then; I have liked all of Mike Mignola and company's "Mignola-verse" comics I've read over the years, but I have fallen so far behind in reading them in trade that I eventually just gave up, assuming I would catch up at some point in the future. That said, when I do occasionally check in with a one-shot like this one, it's clear that Mignola knows what he's doing, and he uses fairy tales and legends as fuel well-suited to his occult-punching hero's adventures. This is yet another comic where Hellboy basically comes across a scary story of some sort, Mignola and/or an artistic collaborator explain it and offer their own take on it, and then Hellboy fights it, beats it and calls it a day.

Here the monster is, of course, the Krampus. It's 1975, and Hellboy is in Austria, wandering through the snow while snatches of lyrics from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman"--the Christmas carol that mentions Satan--are juxtaposed with artist Adam Hughes' imagery. There, a ghost points Hellboy to the home of a wicked old man who is actually the Krampus. He claims to be a devil from hell, exiled on to Earth, and he wants Hellboy to kill him and send him back to hell, which Hellboy is only too happy to do.

After some great drawings of the Krampus, who starts out as goat man with an impossibly long tongue and, as his face is flayed off, takes on a more abstracted look, with an animal skull face, and a brutal fight in which Krampus commands Hellboy kills him while he pounds away on him, the Krampus is killed and...turns into a goat.

On the last pages, Hellboy and his professor mentor/friend discuss The Krampus and its origins, which in-story reflect a couple of real-world theories, and the potential solution is rephrased by Hellboy in a way that is amusingly dry but complicated, the ultimate "solution" merely being that it is dead, and should rest in peace.

This is a great done-in-one from two great talents, and a pretty great Krampus comic of which, as I've said, there are too few, despite all of the various attempts in the past decade or so (I liked the kinda sorta Krampus of Grant Morrison and Dan Morra's Klaus, too). My sole regret is that I didn't dig deep enough in the stack at the shop to find that there was also a Mignola-drawn cover for this comic.
Stupid variant covers.

Justice League #35 (DC) I was really looking forward to the start of writer Christopher Priest's run on Justice League, because I am a big fan of the League as a concept and a group of characters, and yet I have found writer Bryan Hitch's comics to be unreadably dull and boring (and I wasn't really a fan of Geoff Johns' run, which preceded that of Hitch...although some of that fault is that of the publisher's decision-makers, for deciding to reboot away all of the Justice League history and start over from scratch in 2011, as nothing of note seemed to have happen in the title for like six years now, and there is no longer any adventures that predate that period). And Christopher Priest, unlike Hitch, is an excellent writer of comic books.

Well, it turns out Priest's run actually started with the previous issue, presumably two weeks ago. I only noticed this one because I happened to glance down and see his name in the corner of the cover. I thought it might be starting in medias res until I got to the title page, and saw the "Part 2" there. Dammit!

So Priest is using the same format he did with Deathstroke, giving each scene a title of its own, as if each were its own short story that is part of a chapter that is part of a story arc. The opening one involves Wonder Woman being questioned about the League's role in a death; apparently a nun was stabbed to death with Wonder Woman's sword during a terrorist attack the team prevented. It's not the most dramatic or interesting angle to take on a Justice League story, but it seems like beyond Priest's examination of the way the hero team is perceived by some of those they fight on the behalf of, he may actually be more interested in exploring the emotional reactions of the characters to these pressures. Certainly the Dark Knight Detective has detected that Wonder Woman is kinda pissed at him.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the issue deals with a more traditional Justice League conflict. A space bounty-hunger from Priest's run on Justice League Task Force shows up at the satellite, asking for J'onn J'onnz--Psst! Wrong continuity, Glenn!--as he needs his assistance tracking down a super space cockroach that can hive-mind and breed with Earth cockroaches, making for an apocalyptic menace.

While the Trinity discuss the sub-plot on the Satellite, Glenn joins most of the rest of the League--which hasn't had a line-up change since Green Lantern Hal Jordan left and nominated GLs Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz to replace him--on the ground, fighting the space bug monster. Kid Flash Wally West helps out, and there is a lot of science and super powers involved in the fight and their victory over the villain, as there should be.

The issue is drawn by Pete Woods, a perfectly professional and skilled artist who one couldn't say anything bad about. Not only is this the best creative team to tell a Justice League story in the pages of Justice League in quite a while, it is also the first story in a Justice League comic I've found truly interesting since..."Throne of Atlantis," maybe...?

Now I just have to hope my shops still has a copy of Justice League #34 come Wednesday...

Nightwing #35 (DC) Hey, it's the first issue of the new creative team of writer Sam Humphries and artist Bernard Chang...! Although since this book is still on the bi-weekly publishing schedule*, I suppose Chang will be one of two artists, at the least. I was a little concerned about the change in creative team, as previous writer Tim Seeley had gradually, over years, gotten the Dick Grayson character back to a particularly comfortable place as a superhero starring in his own book. Sure, that meant taking him back to a place of a previous iterations, wherein he is once again the Batman of Bludhaven, but then, Seeley's Bludhaven is a lot different than Chuck Dixon's was, and his Nightwing proved rather different as well.

Humphries does not blow-up Seeley's work and start over here, although he does give Dick Grayson a new job, which I thought was pretty funny, just because Dick Grayson is one of those heroes who seems to get a new job every time he gets a new writer. He certainly doesn't have a vocation, the way Superman does. Here he has his own Crossfit-like gym/exercise program, operating out of the Grayson Cross Train Studio (the back of the building is his Nightwing-cave).

His first foe is a villain he has apparently faced and failed to capture a few times before, the first time as Robin. While we don't learn his whole deal or anything yet, he is apparently able to make other people do terrible, violent things somehow.

More importantly to some fans, this issue contains an image of Dick Grayson's bare ass, visible as he lowers himself into a bath of ice water. Just FYI.

Street Fighter Vs. Darkstalkers Vol. 1: Worlds of Warriors (Udon Entertainment) So I know next to nothing about the Street Fighter, although I suppose I must have played an arcade version of the game at some point in my youth (I was more familiar with Mortal Kombat and Tekken). On the other hand, I used to love the Darkstalker arcade games. The designs were all extremely appealing, and I liked the basic premise of classic horror movie archetypes dueling one another. Even their weird "moves" were appealing, as many of the characters had rather bizarre forms of attack, and could shape-change in strange ways--like the zombie's ability to turn his leg into a chainsaw when kicking, for example, or the crazy stuff the vampire/succubus could do with her wings.

I tried a Darkstalkers comic before, in the form of a Viz comic from back in the days when they were publishing serialized, comic book-comics in addition to digest trades (I read Dragon Ball and Neon Genesis Evangelion in that form for a while back then), and it...wasn't great.

I was intrigued by this when it started showing up in serial form, but I decided to wait for the trade. Unfortunately, the trade isn't the whole story. I'm not sure if it's an ongoing or...what, but the story really seems to just be getting started by the end of this 145-page trade.

The basic story seems pretty simple. In the Darkstalkers' home dimension, one of the games' boss villains has staged a coup, and enlisted the other succubus (from the second game) to visit Earth and send mighty warriors to their realm. These include a bunch of Street Fighter characters, who I assume are all of the characters I don't recognize from Darkstalkers (There's Chun-Li, and...after that, I got nothing, really. Ken? That's a guy, right?).

By the end of the first volume, Chun-Li, Sagat and Ken meet up with werewolf John Talbain and cat-woman Felicia in the Darkstalker realm, where they fight heavy metal zombie Lord Raptor. Meanwhile, other characters from both franchises meet one another in short preludes and "bonus round" stories, many of whom will eventually join the man story, one assumes, but we're not exactly there yet. Darkstalkers Victor, Morrigan, B.B. Hood, Lilith, Bigfoot, Rikuo, Donovan, Bishamon, Jedah and Hsien-Koh all put in appearance, and as for the Street Fighters, well, there's a lot of them in here too, I guess...?

Ken Siu-Chong is the writer, and Edwin Huang and Hanzo Steinbach are credited as the "lead artists", with many other artists making appearances throughout, the seven shorts being interspersed between the chapters of the main story, and these generally varying the most dramatically from the style of the main chapters. The most surprising chapter was "Oro's Weakness," a four-pager in which a Master Oro is visited by Lilith, who taunts him with images of various female Street Fighter characters in bikinis, all begging him to teach them. It was drawn by Corey Lewis. His presence here is cool as hell, but the downside was it really made me want to see a Corey Lewis Darkstalkers comic, and to hell with the rest of this noise.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Marvel's March previews reviewed

You might not be able to tell from the solicitations as announced by Marvel, but the publisher has at least started to trim their line with a handful of cancellations, few of which are all that shocking. Like, they are dropping two Avengers titles (U.S.Avengers, Uncanny Avengers) and cancelling the solo books of X-Men characters who aren't named "Wolverine" (Iceman, Jean Grey). Does this mean the publisher's recent flailing has gotten to it enough that not only have they replaced their Editor-in-Chief in maybe the most controversial hiring decisions they could have made without giving the job to Dave Sim, John Byrne or Donald Trump Jr. (just to choose three names that would be pretty shocking to named the new EIC of Marvel), but they have also decided to maybe stop flooding the market with so many books that they are competing with themselves as much as they are with DC Comics...?

Not to judge by the number of variants. And though they may have sloughed off Iceman, Jean Grey and Generation X, they still have Astonishing X-Men, X-Men Red and will be double-shipping X-Men Blue and X-Men Red. And then there's New Mutants, Cable and all the Wolverine and Deadpool material.

And sure, two of the Avengers titles are canceled, but Avengers is shipping monthly. Oh, and they are not giving up on big, crossover stories, as a new Infinity something-or-other is going on.

As for the variants being produced for this month, two of the new themes seem to be Thor-related variants and New Mutants variants, which means you will see a lot of covers featuring Thor or Dani Moonstar or whoever popping up on books that don't feature any of those characters (like Jason Pearson's cover for X-Men Gold #23, above, which I just put up there because I think it has the Demon Bear on it, and I like the phrase "Demon Bear").

Let's take a look, shall we...?

I assume that the blonde guy in white on the cover of Astonishing X-Men is Fantomex, huh? He looks super-weird to me without his mask on. I never noticed how much his costume looks a bit like a color-swapped Blackbolt costume with a coat. I don't like it. Put your mask back on, Fantomex!

As Madame Masque, Eden and a crew of misfit villains take on Hawkeye and Hawkeye with renewed vengeance, our heroes dig deep into themselves to solve the unique challenges they face. Arrows can’t solve EVERYTHING, it seems. Who knew?! When the dust settles, what will the future hold for the two Hawkeyes?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Word on the street (i.e. Twitter) is that this will be the last issue of Hawkeye; Marvel doesn't do that thing DC does where they say "FINAL ISSUE" in the solicit, likely to keep people from dropping the book (but if you already clicked on that first link, you know it has also been reported on at The Beat). For some reason, some readers tend to abandon superhero comics once they know they aren't going to be around much longer, perhaps because they feel the books won't "count," but I don't know that I ever understood such behavior. A good book is a good book.

I found the announcement a little ironic, because the same day I heard it, Good Comics For Kids published my review of Generations, which includes a Hawkeye one-shot by Hawkeye writer Kelly Thompson, and one of the values I found in that book was that it provided a nice overview of the current Marvel Universe, the past Marvel Universe and, because the individual one-shots were all written by the same writers handling the characters' ongoing series, it also provided a sort of sampler platter; that is, if you liked the Tom Taylor-scripted Wolverines chapter, there was a good chance you would like Tom Taylor's All-New Wolverine.

I liked the Hawkeyes chapter an awful lot--even if an aspect seemed to contradict elements of the other story; while reading, I wondered if the individual writers knew what Nick Spencer was writing in his chapter, which explains what the heck was going on all along--which lead me to conclude that I would probably like Thompson's Hawkeye...and now it's going away! (Well, it will exist in two or three trades for a while yet, I imagine).

That may partly be my fault. That's the downside of trade-waiting everything a publisher publishes. A factor in what Marvel decides to discontinue and what it plans to keep publishing seems to be how well the serially-published units move in the direct market, yet Marvel has made buying serially-published units in the direct market basically a sucker's game, and even if you don't mind burning $3.99 for a 20-page chunk of a story that will be available in trade as soon as that story arc is completed, just keeping up with or keeping track of the erratically released, often randomly numbered books can be hard to do (I'm actually surprised Hawkeye's final issue is so low; for whatever reason, I guess Marvel didn't use "legacy" numbering on this particular title).

Brian Hibbs recently penned--well, typed--an open letter to incoming Editor-in-Chief C.B. "Akira Yoshida" Cebulski with some suggestions on how to right their ship. You can skim the first few paragraphs, but when he gets to the point of making recommendations, I think what he says starts to be valuable. I can only speak for myself, but if you look at a random "Weekly Haul" column from like 2006 or so on my blog versus a random "Comic Shop Comics" column from the past few years, you'll see the number of Marvel comics I read weekly went from "a lot" to "maybe a trade every once in a while, if I really like the creators involved, but usually nothing at all, thanks." That is entirely attributable to the fact that I'm not going to give Marvel four bucks for 20 pages of comics cut with 12 pages of ads.

Further word on the street indicates that while Thompson's Hawkeye is ending, she's got a something new that she is excited about coming up in 2018. My first and best guess would have been a return of Lady Hawkguy Kate Bishop's original super-team, Young Avengers. Of course, the current Champions book kind of already fulfills the Young Avengers team's niche, and I'm not sure there's a reason for a Young Avengers book co-existing alongside Champions and a Runaways revival. That's a lot of teen superhero books for Marvel at this moment in time.

A friend suggesting that Thompson may end up on Jessica Jones, and while I was hoping for Chelsea Cain, Thompson seems like a pretty good fit for that character, too, so I would be totally okay with that.

Infinity Countdown Part 1
The Saga of the Infinity Stones begins!
As the Infinity Stones reappear around the cosmos, the ultimate race for power is on!! Battles will be fought, blood will be spilled, lives will be lost… all as the greatest cosmic heroes and villains vie for possession of the Power Stone, towering over a remote asteroid, somehow grown to the size of a building. Watch as the path to Infinity opens before your eyes and the END lies near…
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

So for a second there I thought this was an image of Thanos symbolically crushing all of these various characters in his gauntlet-clad fist, but now I see they are actually all crawling out of the gems. That's not a bad image, and I love Bradshaw's style. I am assuming that is the old, not-Old-Man-Logan Logan, who seems to have come back to life in the pages of Secret Empire (waiting on the trade, so I'm not entirely up to speed yet). Hopefully he puts some spandex on or something, at least a leather jacket, because that outfit doesn't really go with anything else in that image...

Looks like Thor forgot to put her shirt on under her armor on this variant cover for The Mighty Thor #705.

If you consult this other variant cover for The Mighty Thor #705, you'll see that she usually wears a shirt under her breast plate, so her midriff isn't actually exposed as it is on the above cover.
What could have happened to it? Did she just forget to put it on? Or is she changing her costume?  Well, if you consult this other other variant cover for The Mighty Thor #705, you'll see that she spends at least part of the issue on fire... perhaps it just burned off...?

As the creators of Jessica Jones leave her to an all-new team next issue, they bid her farewell with one last very special, fully painted story — a truly incredible tale that no one ever gets to see. Be here for an unforgettable issue that ties threads together from all over the amazing Marvel Universe.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

See? As mentioned earlier Jessica Jones is getting a new, non-Bendis writer...and a new, non-Gaydos artist. If Marvel asked me to pick the new team, I would have chosen Chelsea Cain and either GURIHIRU or Brittney Williams--let's have a cute, cartoony Jessica Jones!--but they did not ask me.

Daniel Kibblesmith (W) • Carlos Villa (A)
Lockjaw and his hapless recruit D-Man end up in the prehistoric Savage Land! And Zabu, the last living sabretooth tiger, is not happy about it. But there’s no time to mark territory — a puppy is in danger, and Lockjaw will need Ka-Zar and Zabu’s help to find it! Who’s after Lockjaw’s lost siblings? And can D-Man get over his D-pression long enough to help?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

I was going to say that I bet Zabu is pissed that Ka-Zar is hanging out with a dog now, but then I remembered Lockjaw and Zabu are pals from their time on the Pet Avengers, and thus he's probably cool with Ka-Zar hanging out with this particular dog.

Peter Parker, his sister (?) Teresa and J. Jonah Jameson take a trip back in time! The massive events of issue #300 presented them with a problem so huge that the only solution is way back in the past. The biggest challenge here won’t be keeping Jameson from changing the future, but it’s up there!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

As I learned last week, this is a good comic and I liked it a lot. I see Zdarsky's Howard The Duck partner is Joe Quinones will be joining him on this title, which is welcome news. Adam Kubert draw most of the issues in the trade I had just read, and while he did a pretty good job, Quinones' style is better suited to the type of humorous storytelling Zdarsky is doing here than Kubert's style is.

This is my favorite Venom image of all time. It was drawn by Sam Kieth for a 2003 Venom series, and reappears in this month's solicitations because Marvel's True Believers reprints this month are all Venom focused. So that appears on True Believers: Venom--Shiver #1. If you're going to give Venom a long tongue, give him a ridiculous, even ludicrously long tongue, I say.

AWOL Part 1
The Weapon X Program has done it again! At the cost of their own destruction, they’ve completed their biggest and possibly most dangerous experiment yet… With the strength of the Hulk and the rage and claws of Wolverine comes WEAPON H!
It’s been some time since Weapon H escaped and destroyed his creators. Now, our hero is on the run, as he tries to escape his mysterious past and seclude himself from the rest of society. But when a new kind of Wendigo threatens the lives of others, will Weapon H be able to shirk his responsibility? Does any of his humanity remain? Only the creative team of Greg Pak (INCREDIBLE HULK) and Cory Smith (X-MEN BLUE) can give you the answers!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Hmm, "the strength of the Hulk and the rage and claws of Wolverine," huh? I think they should have gone ahead and given Weapon H here the hair of Wolverine, too. I don' t much care for his standard military cut here, and it's not really that distinct; he just looks a bit like the Gray Hulk with Wolverine claws. Give him sideburns and a Wolfman-like pointy hair though and you've got something.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

DC's March previews reviewed

It wasn't until the second time that I read through the solicitations that I noticed there was a human head atop that trident--I blame cover artist Andy Kubert, in part, for the overall design of the image, which crowds the human head stuck atop a trident out with elements of the throne. Anyway, that's the cover for the March issue of Aquaman, and perhaps not a bad image with which to sum up any given month of DC Comics in the 21st century.

March of 2018 seems to be a relative quiet one for the publisher, with the most noteworthy happenings apparently being the relaunch of the Vertigo-esque Young Animal "pop-up imprint." Actually, while the natural comparison for Young Animal has always been early 90s Vertigo, it's perhaps worth keeping in mind how much Young Animal leans on the publishing strategies for superhero comics.

For example, following a line-wide crossover series, all of the Young Animal books are being relaunched with new #1s and slightly different titles--Shade, The Changing Girl is now Shade, The Changing Woman, for example--but otherwise look largely unchanged in terms of the people making them.

DC's other major 2018 initiative, the launch of a suite of seemingly doomed to fail new books kinda sorta spinning out of Dark Nights: Metal, will be continuing in March, with a few new titles launching, and the others reaching their third issue.

Let's take a closer look though, shall we...?

Hey look, Nightwing and Batgirl! That's kind of exciting, I guess. I mean, their presence, at least, serves to further differentiate James Tynion and Freddie Williams' second Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series from their first, anyway.

Written by LEE ALLRED and MICHAEL ALLRED • Art and cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
Forager is just one of the Hive before he breaks out of his cocoon and finds himself in a mysterious house in an unknown realm, where he meets a ghostly girl, a talking teddy bear and otherworldly weirdos. Worst of all is General Electric, who is on the hunt for a reality-bending metal that could alter the fabric of life itself. To preserve the Multiverse, Forager must travel through alternate dimensions to seek the metal before it gets into the wrong hands!
Collects issues #1-6.
On sale APRIL 25 • 168 pg, FC, $16.99 US • MATURE READERS • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7530-3

So I just read the first issue of this series, figuring I would wait for the trade. It's Mike Allred drawing Jack Kirby creations; how could it not be worth a read and the better part of a twenty dollar bill, you know?

Have any of you guys read the whole series? Thoughts?

Written by JUSTIN JORDAN • Art and cover by PHILIP TAN
Joe Chamberlain would do anything to save his small, forgotten town—even make a deal with the devil. But things get worse, and Joe finds himself cursed with the power of BRIMSTONE. With the power of fire and destruction coursing through his hands, Joe must now track down and destroy the demon he made his deal with before the power he now wields destroys the town he was trying to save. But as the fiery pain inside him grows, can this young man overcome his own demons before his power rips him apart from the inside out?

Huh. So, this is apparently another of the Metal spin-offs, featuring the artists that DC has alternately referred to as superstars and part of "a master class"--although I have trouble seeing how Tan fits into either of those categories--and that doesn't strike me as too terribly sustainable. Like many of the others, it seems based on a pre-existing DC character, but only somewhat loosely.

The name Brimstone will probably be familiar to anyone who read John Byrne's 1986 Legends; there Brimstone was basically just a big, giant monster created by Darkseid to give the heroes someone to fight for a while. Based on the above copy, it doesn't seem like they are keeping much other than the name and, perhaps, a few design elements. It also sounds kind of like a generic horror comic. given that neither writer Justin Jordan or Tan are the sorts of comics creators whose names alone can move thousands of units, I'm not sure how this survives at all, as it literally seems to have nothing going for it--although I guess if they throw a "From the pages of METAL!" slug on the cover, it might last as long as Damage or the Dan DiDio-written series...

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI • Art and cover by TONY S. DANIEL and DANNY MIKI
Even the unstoppable power of Wonder Woman herself is tested by the destructive might of the monster unleashed from Ethan Avery’s transformation into Damage! But when the Amazon Princess wraps the brutal beast in her Lasso of Truth, it reveals more than either expected to find!
On sale MARCH 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

It's Wonder Woman vs. The Hulk! No, wait, this is DC, it must be Doomsday. No, wait, the name of the book is Damage, so that must be the new Damage, I guess!

Wonder Woman looks like Wonder Girl there, doesn't she?

Dang, Guillem March draws awesome dinosaurs...! That's the cover for Future Quest Presents. I haven't read any of that particular series yet, but I dug Future Quest in trade. How is the spin-off? The same, but different?

Written by JAMES TYNION IV • Art and cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS
“THE END OF FOREVER” part one! There is a secret history to the DC Universe of heroes who have protected humanity from the shadows since the dawn of time…and who can live forever. Enter the Immortal Men! The team, headed by the Immortal Man, has waged a secret war against the House of Conquest for countless years—but Conquest has dealt a devastating blow. When their base of operations, known as the Campus, is savagely attacked, the Immortal Men must seek out their last hope—an emerging metahuman known as Caden Park! Caden’s emerging powers may be able to ensure the Immortal Men’s survival—but will Conquest get to him first?
RESOLICIT • On sale MARCH 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • FOLDOUT COVER • RATED T

With Jim Lee on art, Tynion writing and making use of plenty of pre-existing DC Comics characters--one of the the covers features what looks like a half-dozen or so of the publisher's various immortal characters--this series looks like one of the two post-Metal series that is poised to last the longest. I mean, it may not even see very sharp declines until around issue four or six when Lee moves on. That said, I was rather struck by the fact that the above copy sounds almost exactly like the premise of the New 52 StormWatch, just with a few different proper nouns in it.

Written by JAMES ROBINSON • Art and cover by PAUL SMITH
DC’s first generation of superheroes have been driven into retirement, hiding, or madness—except for a few who are willing to change with the times. But behind the scenes, something even more sinister is unfolding—a subtle plot that may engulf the planet and remake it in one man’s image.
Collects THE GOLDEN AGE #1-4.
On sale APRIL 25 • 216 pg, FC, $19.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7843-4

I have an older edition of this, with a different cover and a different title (the "JSA" was a later addition to the title), and I haven't re-read it in a while, but I recall liking it rather a lot. It was my first introduction to a lot of the Golden Age heroes who play parts in it. If I am remembering correctly, the actual members of the Justice Society of America all show up, but the bulk of the drama focuses on the lesser-known heroes of the era, those that played fairly big roles in All-Star Squadron (a book, by the way, I am still waiting for DC to properly collect, as they abandoned the Showcase Presents program too soon.

Anyway, I would recommend it.

Written by CHRISTOPHER PRIEST • Art by PETE WOODS • Cover by DAVID YARDIN • Variant cover by J.G. JONES
“JUSTICE LOST” part two! What does justice mean in a lawless world? This is the question the team must struggle with when the League finds itself trapped between warring factions, helpless refugees and mercenaries with advanced weaponry, all manipulated by Deathstroke’s frenemy the Red Lion. Meanwhile, Batman forces a showdown between himself and the League’s biggest fan.
On sale MARCH 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

It actually took me a few issues of Deathstroke to realize Christopher Priest's Red Lion character was a sort of more morally dubious analogue of The Black Panther. If he wasn't being written by Priest, who had a long and healthy run on Black Panther, it might have taken me even longer. But seeing him in his costume on the cover of a comic book full of superheroes, it's pretty much immediately obvious, huh?

“New Life and Death” finale! As the battle for the soul of Angor rages on, Batman and Black Canary face Lord Havok and his mad army of loyal servants. But it will be up to the Adjudicator to decide who will have any say over Angor’s rebuilding—and who will die!
On sale MARCH 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Wait, is that Aztek? Did Orlando--or is he in the process of--introducing a new, post-Flashpoint Aztek? Jeez.

Look, I liked Aztek as much as the next guy (actually, more, given the fact that Aztek, The Ultimate Man written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar somehow only lasted 12 issues), and I loved Morrison's run on JLA as much as it is possible for a human being to love a comic book, but come one. Orlando, like Tynion, has a fannishness to his writing that makes me extremely uncomfortable. It's not always easy to put my finger on or even articulate, but the ratio of borrowings from particular writers' bodies of work seem to push certain stories, titles or runs from works of homage to exercises in appropriation.

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
You think Scooby and the gang have seen it all? Just wait till the gang’s latest case leads them to the wackiest corners of the DC Universe, where they join forces with semi-simian private eyes Angel and the Ape, screwy superheroes the Inferior Five…and Stanley and his m-m-monster!
On sale MARCH 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

Angel and the Ape! Now that I see them on the cover of an issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, I can't help but wonder why it's taken them so long to guest-star, as they fit so perfectly with Scooby and the gang. Writer Sholly Fisch has a tendency to get as many characters in as possible when doing a theme issue--like, instead of doing just one or two ghost-ly characters, he will attempt to do all of DC's ghost characters--and it sounds like this issue will try to get as many of the weirder characters in as possible. This should be fun.

It sounds weird to say, but if you were only allowed to read one DC Comic book, Scooby-Doo Team-Up is probably your best choice. Eventually, everyone in the DCU should put in at least a cameo appearance, and the issues that feature particular characters usually do a fine job of defining that character, presenting a sort of ultimate take on them, and including a huge swathe of supporting characters and villains. I don't always like the non-superhero issues--it usually depends on my affection for the characters guest-starring--but the DC supherhero issues are always superb.

Written by ED BRUBAKER
In these classic stories by writer Ed Brubaker, Grifter is investigating the attempted murder of his friend John Lynch, while covert operative Holden Carver has been placed undercover in a villainous organization led by TAO. As Holden and Grifter cross paths, will cooler heads prevail? Hell no.
Riddled with noir undertones and the action of a spy thriller, SLEEPER BOOK ONE collects POINT BLANK #1-5, SLEEPER #1-12.
On sale APRIL 25 • 424 pg, FC, $29.99 US • MATURE READERS • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7844-1

It's been a long time since I read Sleeper--I did so via the first run of trade paperback collections--but I remember liking it quite a bit. It was a superhero crime series, basically, improbably set in the WildStorm Universe and, correct me if I'm wrong, but it was one of--if not the--series that granted Brubaker his crime comics rep.

Superman #42 begins a Bizarro-centic story featuring BOY-Zarro, a Bizarro Superboy. What is most notable about Patrick Gleason's cover, however, is the fact that the Bizarro Krypto is wearing glasses. Perhaps that is his disguise, to protect his secret identity...? Good boy, Bizarro Krypto!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A little help here.

I just recently read Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses, the collection of DC and Dynamite's six-issue crossover miniseries (plus a short story from Batman Annual #1) by writers Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando and artist Riley Rossmo. Perhaps unsurprisingly given some of the names involved in its production, it was an excellent comics story, particularly for this sort of inter-publisher, franchise-mingling crossover event series. In fact, Batman/The Shadow sets a new standard for such inter-company crossovers, and one can only hope future DC crossovers can meet that high standard.

The particular story fits well into themes and motifs that Snyder has repeatedly touched on throughout his long and healthy run on the Batman character, particularly the way he keeps returning to Batman's origins and finding new aspects to reveal that change without contradicting them. In a neat bit of meta-commentary regarding the pre-comics pulp hero The Shadow and his influence on many of the crime-fighting characters that would follow, Batman more than many others, Snyder and Orlando's plotting revolves around the idea of The Shadow having secretly trained Batman throughout his life and career, essentially grooming him to one day replace him. Evidence mounts throughout the series, and while Batman is never entirely convinced, it's a particularly fun idea that not only makes the real-world history of the characters part of the adventure story being told, but manages to elevate this crossover to one of particular importance hen compared to others of its kind.

Additionally, it's a fantastic showcase for Rossmo's always-impressive skills, and Snyder and Orlando give one of the better Batman artists working today the opportunity to draw a very large swathe of Batman characters, particularly in a scene in which Batman and The Shadow follow their enemies The Joker and The Stag to a place where much of Batman's rogues gallery has gathered to battle them.

Perhaps it is because Orlando, who has made a habit of name-dropping and cameo-ing obscure characters in his body of work, is involved, but that means there are a lot of rather deep cuts among the characters who appear in that Batman and Shadow vs. everyone scene, and an even earlier one in which The Shadow tells Batman that he is but one of many heroes he has secretly groomed.

How deep are some of these deep cuts? So deep that I can't recognize them all. Perhaps some of you can.

Within these panels are various characters that The Shadow says are his army of soldiers and secret students, each a potential replacement. Keeping in mind that the guy with the horns and the knife is the villain The Stag and the guy in the Batman costume is Batman, there nine other characters here.

I see...

1.) Miss Fury (although you'd be forgiven for thinking she's Catwoman), 2.) The Woman In Red, I think...?, 3.) The Whip, 4.) Green Arrow, 5.) Some Guy With a Hat I Couldn't Even Attempt to Guess The Identity Of, 6.) Seriously No Idea Who This Guy Getting Stabbed Is Supposed To Be, 7.) Crimson Fox (Though my scan cut her out), 8.) The Reaper (ditto) and 9.) Acro-Bat.

As I mentioned, the Batman villains include some rather minor ones from all eras, including Hellhound, a pre-Flashpoint version of The Wrath, a redesigned Zebra-Man and an original design Magpie. There's one character present, though, who I can't identify. That's him above, standing between Man-Bat and The Joker.

Anyone know who that guy is...?

Thanks in advance for your help! And, if you haven't read it yet, I'd strongly recommend Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: December 13th

Detective Comics #970 (DC Comics) One thing about the bi-weekly shipping schedule of a lot of DC comics? Even when you drop a book, there's a good chance your local retailer has already ordered you the next one, so you may have to buy one more issue after you drop it. So I guess this is my last issue of Detective for a while. Although since writer James Tynion's run does seem to be reaching a climax, I suppose it's only going to be a few months before the next writer is announced. I will bet you five dollars it's going to be Brian Michael Bendis.

In this issue, Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown have a fight, Tim Drake seems to know that Lonnie Manchin is Anarky for some reason, even though he didn't appear until after Tim was dead, Batwoman, Batwoman, Azrael and Batwing fight some naked robot people, Clayface has a heart-to-heart with Doctor October, and Batwoman's dad gives her some stitches. So the plotlines all take a step or two forward.

Joe Bennett pencils while three different people ink; the art didn't looks so great this issue. Sometimes I like Bennett's work and sometimes I don't; I think a lot of it depends on the inking and coloring. This book is so over-colored, with lots of effects, and there is so much dialogue crowding out the art, that it was overall kind of a messy-looking book.

Guillem March draws the cover though. I like that Guillem March guy a lot. I wish he was handling the interior art here.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1--Into The Twilight (Marvel Entertainment) It's been about ten years since Marvel performed a franchise-specific reboot on their flagship character in "One More Day," cosmically disentangling Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson because, as then-Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada had argued, a single Peter Parker provided many more interesting story possibilities than a married one.

This collection of the first six issues of the latest volume of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man included the first instances of a high-quality scene that could not have been published in-continuity if Peter and MJ were married. At one point early on, Spider-Man rescues an aspiring comedian who has just moved to the city, and she asks him out, throwing her business card at him and then being surprised that it bounces off and falls--she assumed that since he could crawl on walls, he was always sticky. Later, they go on a date, and Spider-Man arrives in costume, with a blazer; it doesn't go well for him, but it is an all-around pretty funny scene. So I guess it took a decade, but Quesada was proven right!

Thanks go to writer Chip Zdarksy, whose presence on the title is the main reason I picked it up at the shop today, rather than waiting a few weeks for the trade to appear at my local library. This might make me the only person, save perhaps a few of Zdarsky's friends and relatives, to pick up a new Spider-Man comic for him rather than Spider-Man or artist Adam Kubert. What can I say; I really liked Zdarsky's run on Jughead, and I was quite curious to see how he would handle the Spider-Man character in his own book, after seeing his use of Spidey in the excellent Howard The Duck (almost every scene featuring the character ended with Spider-Man on his knees, weeping about the death of Uncle Ben).

And it's not like I have anything against Spider-Man or his comics. The reboot was pretty dang alienating back then, and then Marvel jacked up their prices and their shipping schedule, and God-only-knows how many times they've relaunched Amazing Spider-Man. The not-very-helpful "Follow The Adventures Of..." reading order guide for The Amazing Spider-Man that runs on the front and back covers of this particular volume includes ten books, four volumes of Amazing Spider-Man, numbered 1-4, and then six volumes of Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide, numbered 1-6. Interestingly, Zdarsky features a lot of call-backs to past Spider-Man and other stories, many of them in the form of little jokes (like an asterisk leading to an editorial box saying to "Check out Infamous Iron Man! Unless it eats into your Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man budget!).

The stories that seem to most inform this one, however, are even older, like the 2014 original graphic novel Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business, which is apparently about Peter Parker's super-spy parents. One need not be familiar with them to follow/enjoy the book of course--I wasn't!--and even these allow for jokes (says Johnny Storm, "'I'm Spider-Man! I'm the relatable super hero with relatable problems! Just ask my long-lost sister from my super-spy parents with Nazi G--'").

Jokes are actually what the book is all about, which is a good thing, because I have found that the very best Marvel comics of the last few years have been the funny ones, and Spider-Man is on the few A-List heroes at the publisher who works perfectly well with a more comedic take, as he of course believes himself to be something of a comedian, and is notorious among his peers for his bad jokes (Zdarsky even includes a two-page scene in which Spidey takes the stage at a comedy club, and bombs). Introducing a potential love interest who is a stand-up comedian and heavily involving Spidey's BFF Johnny Storm actually helps quite a bit; Zdarsky doesn't have to stretch to include jokes in this thing...the vast bulk of the gags are organic to the characters and the dialogue.

The format is a little unwieldy, and doesn't read that great in trade at the beginning, because of some publishing decisions for the single issues that don't quite translate to the trade collection format. It opens with a ten-page short story from Free Comic Book Day 2017 (Secret Empire) #1, by Zdarsky and not-regular artist Paulo Siqueira (and a surprising three other inkers, in addition to Siqueria himself). That features The Vulture, probably because there was a movie featuring Spider-Man and the Vulture released around the same time.

Then the first six issues of PP:TSS start, but the first of those was apparently over-sized, so there's a short eight-page story tacked-on between the Kubert-drawn chapters in #1 and #2; that short is well-drawn by Goran Parlov and features Black Widow attacking the hell out of Spidey as a favor to some SHIELD types, but interrupts the flow of the story. From there though, it's smooth sailing--although Kubert is replaced on the sixth issue by Michael Walsh.

Kubert does pretty good here, even though he's probably not the ideal artist for this particular take on Spider-Man.

The storyline involves a brewing conflict between tech guy to the villains, The Tinkerer and his brother, tech guy to the heroes The Mason, plus some cell phone mystery and, complicating all of that, the sudden appearance of Peter's fake sister, an rogue agent from a black ops, off-the-books SHIELD faction who stole a bunch of dangerous info by injecting the data into her bloodstream--she's now on the run from pretty much everyone in the world.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man tries might start dating, and Aunt May almost says "casual sex" out loud. The aforementioned Human Torch guest-stars, and there are also appearances by Ironheart, Ant-Man, Kingpin and Karnak, plus some regular Spider-Man supporting characters, the most notable of which is probably J. Jonah Jameson. JJJ gets a whole issue, as Spider-Man agrees to sit down for a one-hour interview with the newspaperman-turned-blogger in exchange for some info. It's a surprisingly emotional and momentous issue, with a real milestone in the two characters' relationship.

I'd highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Sandwich Anarchy

If you're a regular reader of Every Day Is Like Wednesday, then chances are you are familiar with Cleveland-based artist John G. from one of two places. He is the co-creator of the self-published horror anthology series The Lake Erie Monster, with Jake Kelly. He is also the co-founder of Genghis Con, Cleveland's annual small press and underground comics convention (which also happens to have the best name of any comics convention in the world).

If you live in Ohio, though, then chances are you're most familiar with John G. from his gig as the poster artist for Melt Bar & Grilled, the grilled cheese joint that started in Lakewood in 2006 and has since expanded to 14 locations. John was a prolific artist who regularly created posters for bands playing in Cleveland, generally taking a Derek Hess-like approach and crafting an image evoked by the names or sounds of the bands. Around 2008, he did his first Melt-related art for local alt-weekly Scene Magazine, which brought him to the attention of Melt's Matt Fish. That lead to a rather unusual collaboration, in which John would be responsible for drawing a poster for the monthly sandwich specials.

Years later, that added up to a lot of posters, and Sandwich Anarchy: The Cult Culinary Posters of Melt Bar & Grilled (1984 Publishing) collects them into an art book as unusual as John's work and the Melt menu.

The basic approach for his posters has always been gig posters for sandwiches, and the elaborate construction of Melt's various special sandwiches and their clever names provide plenty of opportunities for an artist like John to riff off of. Take, for example, The New Bomb Turkey, a sandwich named in honor of Columbus punk band The New Bomb Turks. It's ingredients? Smoked turkey breast, "mom's homemade sage stuffing," roasted butternut squash puree, sweet cranberry dipping sauce and muenster cheese. It's basically Thanksgiving dinner, stuffed inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

Because that is a popular sandwich and is featured every November, John had to come up with new posters for it regularly, and most of these riff on turkeys or Thanksgiving in some way (a hand turkey, turkeys in Browns and Steelers uniforms playing football), although a few feature both turkeys and bombs (a member of the Melt bomb squad cautiously approaching a turkey all wired up with a detonator, a mushroom cloud in the form of a turkey).

Or there's General Tso's Delicious Manchu Dynasty Melt. The Chicken and Waffles Melt. The Rocktobernator. The Voodoo Zombie Jerk Chicken Melt. The Flying Falafel Melt. And so on.

Each poster contains all of the necessary information--the name, the ingredients, the locations and the dates--but at the center of each is John's imagery, typically working in a foregrounded drawing of the sandwich and a visual that has fun with the name, while John's own interests are often present, including the championing of a Rust Belt, Cleveland aesthetic and love of music and music culture.

Part of the fun of the collection is seeing all of John's posters at once, which allows one to see the recurring characters and attendant dramas that he fills them with. The Hungry Hungarian Melt features an anthropomorphic polar bear in the winter time, his family steadily growing from poster to poster. The Melt Pig Roast features a wolf man with an eye patch engaged in various conflicts with pigs. The Prime Time Prime Rib Melt features an anthropomorphic bull who is also a boxer, usually engaged in a fight with an anthropomorphic chicken, and we get fight posters, a Muhammad Ali homage, an image based on Mike Tyson's Punch Out, a manga-style action shot of a punch being throw, etc.

Because Melt created sandwiches to tie-in to Cleveland Cinema's cult classic late shift events, there are a lot of sandwiches based on movies, and these lead to some fun posters, and fun-sounding sandwiches--even if you couldn't pay me to eat most of them, even the vegan versions. The Gizmo Chicken and Waffles Melt (to go with Gremlins), the A London Style Fish & Chips Melt In America (to go with An American Werewolf in London), The Queen Mother Alien Melt (Aliens) The Lord Humongous Turducken Melt (The Road Warrior) and on and on.
Some of film-inspired sandwiches are on the regular rotation or always on the menu, like The Godfather, The Dude Abides Melt and so on, and there are a few specialty sandwiches meant to coincide with the release of popular films, two of the Star Wars-themed sandwiches having the best names--Vader's Thai Fighter Melt and The Obi Wan Canoli Melt.

Oh, and then there's the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Melt, which naturally has six different forms of bacon (hickory smoked bacon, black pepper crusted slab cut bacon, maple bourbon glazed smoked pork belly, Italian pancetta, herb cream cheese with bacon bits and bacon-infused mayonnaise...with sharp cheddar, lettuce and tomato), and appears in the book at least as many times as The New Bomb Turkey, which means John must continually think of different ways to draw Kevin Bacon, usually using a scene from a movie, and occasionally just riffing on him in weird ways (like the Kevin Bacon-as-Saint Nicholas-for-some-reason poster).

Basically, these pop culture sandwiches allow John G. to draw trolls, Robocop, Eddie Murphy, the cast of Dazed and Confused and others into his art, and they become part of the inky, gritty iconography just as much as the animal-headed people and robots that populate John G.'s world.
Of perhaps special interest to comics readers are his posters for The Firecracker Chicken sandwich, which started with an image of a Captain America-like supehrero with the head of a chicken, and gradually morphed into a "Captain Ohio" (think Captain America, but with the Ohio flag as the basis of his costume instead of the American flag), fighting alongside a Wonder Woman-esque chicken-headed lady against robot fascists with "FF" armbands. The "FF" stands for for "Fast Food."

And, as I've mentioned on the blog before, he's drawn several Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posters. These were for The TMNT Cowabunga Pizza Roll Melt, which sounds fucking awful (deep-fried pizza rolls, marinara sauce, "green ooze" basil pesto cream cheese, provolone and romano cheeses, with optional pepperoni). Commenting on his first poster, featuring the four turtles, John wrote "It's tough to draw the Ninja Turtles in your own style since they are so iconic," which sounded insane to me, but, well, maybe John hasn't read all that many Turtles comics.

Anyway, I really like his Turtles. I guess he was going for a more realistic version of the movie turtles--the first poster coincided with a showing of the original live-action film--but in general his ink-heavy artwork and various washes actually suggests Kevin Eastman's art. John G. Ninja Turtles wouldn't look out of place on an IDW variant cover, really. There are five TMNT images in the book all together: The aforementioned group shot, solo images of Michaelangelo and Donatello, an image featuring their weapons and a pizza design and another group shot that adds The Shredder, Casey Jones and an April in her cartoon yellow jump suit.

The 200-page book features a brief, two-page introduction by John G., and then devotes a page apiece to the posters, each with a sentence or two worth of commentary below, in which John G. talks about some aspect of the work, from inspiration to reception to a detail that might not be immediately obvious. At the end of the book, there are two pages on process, and then a nine-page chronology, showing all of the posters in order of their release in postage stamp-sized images, 30-ish to a page. These include all of those featured in the previous pages, plus 50 others.

It's definitely worth a look, although fair warning--chances are you're going to want to visit a Melt after reading.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: December 6th

Archie #26 (Archie Comics) I can't tell you how glad I am that the sitcom-like complication of one character overhearing part of a conversation and jumping to a melodramatic conclusion has resolved within the space of an issue, as that is a trope I have little patience for. Better still, not only does writer Mark Waid abandon it after using it for a cliffhanger and one fairly dramatic encounter at the Pop's, but he uses it to allow for the next cliffhanging conflict. Veronica and Archie realize that the fact that the misunderstanding happened at all means there must be a grain of something to it in their hearts, and she forces him to choose between herself and Betty: "You need to decide right now which of us you truly love."

It's a pretty ironic moment, and rather telling in just how different the new Riverdale comics are compared to the old. The fact that Archie can never truly choose between Betty or Veronica, and that the pair continue to fight over him anyway, has been a fact of life in Archie Comics for about as long as there have been Archie Comics. Hell, I noticed that the cover of Betty and Veronica Friends Winter Annual #257, which Good Comics For Kids just previewed, makes a gag of that fact on the cover. (Do you guys check in with GC4K regularly-ish? I don't update this blog as daily-ish as I used to, but that's the other major source for Caleb-writing-about-comics these days).

Meanwhile, to make for a parallel cliffhanger, Dilton decides to let Betty know exactly how he feels about her, in a perhaps too forceful kind of way:
I can't go on this unsure. Buddy or boyfriend? Exactly what am I to you? Choose.
Jeez, Dilton. Like she doesn't have enough going on at the moment.

Audrey Mok is still drawing. While I think Derek Charm is still my favorite of all the artists to have drawn any of the new Riverdale comics, Mok is up there, and probably one of the better, if not the best, to have drawn the main Archie title.

Batman #36 (DC Comics) Hey, how about those new corner boxes on the DC's covers? I'm not too crazy about the lowest tier, where the symbols are--here, it's a bat-symbol, apparently to let readers know that Batman is a Batman comic--but I do like the overall design. I see the ones that are DCU comics are branded "DC Universe," while others--like Bombshells United, below--are "DC Comics." This reminds me a little of Grant Morrison's discussed plan for the post-52 Multiverse, where different books would be set on different Earths and noted as such on the covers, but that never actually came to be.

Inside the cover? This is a pretty good example of what is peculiar to writer Tom King's Batman run. It is a very well-written issue, but it is also probably a little too well-written, in that it is overly clever in such a way as to be irritating.

The plot is that Lois Lane wants Superman to call Batman to discuss his recent engagement to Catwoman, but Superman is reluctant to do so for a variety of unconvincing reasons. And besides, he and Lois are both pretty busy working different angles of a major crime. Meanwhile, Catwoman wants Batman to call Superman to discuss their recent engagment, but Batman is reluctant for the same variety of the same unconvincing reasons. And besides, he and Catwoman are both busy working to foil a major crime.

The book is structure to jump back and forth between scenes featuring each couple, and many pages are split right down the middle, with one tier focusing on the Gotham City power couple, the other on the Metropolis power couple.

Like I said, it's all pretty good, but King makes the scenes so parallel that he hammers his point that the World's Finest heroes are much more alike then either would admit, even to himself, with a big cartoon mallet. With blinking lights and strings of bells on it. (For what it's worth, I found King's take on their relationship very 1988 in some respects).

Despite some quibbles--Catwoman having figured out Superman's secret identity seems pretty pre-Flashpoint, especially considering the fact that Clark Kent and Superman co-existed for such a long time in the New 52-iverse--I do like where this is going, with Batman and Superman punching out their respective foes, and then Superman asking everyone if they want to get something to eat.

World's Finest double-date!

I was sorry to see Joelle Jones wasn't drawing this issue. Instead, Clay Mann pencils and inks, with Seth Mann also getting an inking credit. JOrdie Bellaire handles the colors. It is a very nice-looking comic. Mann's designs for the superheroes are pretty evocative of Jim Lee's, but he handles the non-superheroes just as well, if not better, and the inks and colors never over-power the pencil work. It's a very drawn looking book.

Bombshells United #7 (DC) Okay, see how instead of a bat-symbol, this one has a bombshell with a stylized "B" in the space below the number and price? Given that this is the only Bombshells book, that's...not really necessary, is it? It's just a little more space eaten up on the cover. Well, at least there's no dumb text obscuring the art, as there so often is on DC comics (Nightwing before, has the words "Death From Above!" on the cover for some reason).

With this issue, the action have moved to Spain. Writer Marguerite Bennett spends some time recapping Batwoman Kate Kane's history to date, with particular attention to her time fighting in the Spanish Civil War with Renee Montoya, and then setting up their conflict with Spain's new dictator, Black Adam (Not "Adam Negro"...?). Bennett introduces the Religion of Crime into the story, which actually made me groan a little, but that was more so because of the way writer Greg Rucka seemed completely unable to let the idea go during his years at DC. I suppose it makes sense, given the presence of both Batwoman and Montoya, who Rucka had previously involved in battles against the Religion of Crime, but still...

I really liked this version of Black Adam. While his costume is basically just a generic-ish military uniform with a lightning bolt pattern on it, he is gigantic, maybe twice as tall as Batwoman.

Richard Ortiz handles the art, and gets to draw pretty much every character from the previous Bombshells for at least a panel, thanks to all the flashbacks. It's good stuff, but then, this being Bombshells, who knows how long Ortiz will be around, and if he will even get to draw the entirety of this story arc.

A couple of quibbles:

--I was surprised to see Bruce Wayne portrayed as a little kid, as it would make him younger than not only the Bombsehlls-iverse versions of all his peers, male and female a like, but younger even than this universe's versions of his sidekicks, like Barbara Gordon and Tim Drake and Jason Todd and Harper Row and so on. Besides, there is a grown man version of a Bombshell least, there was on a variant cover when DC did a round of Bombshells-themed variant covers

--Ortiz draws a full broke-back pose at one point--page three, panel two--which surprised me, given how solid the artwork is in general.

--I didn't like that Miriam Marvel was referred to as "Shazam" on the radio. I will probably never let go of the fact that "Shazam" has gone from magic word to magic word-and-character name. Perhaps it is a personal failing.

--The execution of the final scene was poor. Batwoman falls into a chasm, and Renee dives in after her as if she were divining into water, not seeking to catch her. Granted, I'm fairly certain there is going to be water or something soft at the bottom of the chasm, as it would be weird to kill them both off that way, but Renee wouldn't know that, and it reads as if she's just committing suicide for no reason at the end.

Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics: Mummies (IDW Publishing) If this 128-page collection of horror comics from the 1950s were organized around just about any other major monster group, I likely wouldn't have thought twice about it but, well, there's just something special about mummies. As monsters go, they are iconic, but not ubiquitous in the way that, say, vampires or werewolves or zombies are. Their "also-ran" status is actually something that Steven Thompson talks a bit about in his long-ish prose introduction, which is essentially just a walk-through of mummies in modern pop culture, medium by medium. After a shorter introduction by editor Steve Banes, who makes some interesting comparisons between finding mummy comics in long boxes and opening the tombs of actual mummies, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 short stories, and a handful of shorter-still one-page comics, all originally published between 1949 and 1954. The artists include Mike Sekowsky, Bob Powell and a bunch of other artists whose work I am unfamiliar with (Jay Disbrow, Hward Nostrand, Lin Streeter, Albert Tyler, etc).

While there are plenty of killings throughout, and most of the stories contain at least one shapely young woman, I was actually a little surprised at how tame and gentle the stories were. Having grown-up reading about how scandalous the post-super hero boom, pre-Code crime and horror comics were, I expected a collection of pre-code horror comics to be a lot more exploitative. It's actually kind of hard to imagine these stories frightening or shocking anyone, even in the early 1950s, save, perhaps, archaeologists and Egyptians.

The first story presented, a 1953, Harry Lazarus-drawn story simply entitled "The Mummy," is about a rogue scientist who uses forbidden knowledge to raise a huge, hulking mummy with surprisingly dainty hands to strangle all of his one-time academic rivals. That's a basic pattern that is followed by pretty much all of the stories. Mummies are either brought to life by modern men using sorcery or science or both, or they come to life on their own to kill modern men for messing with their tombs. Occasionally there are some different takes, like cursed objects, but, for the most part, it's mummies running amok for a handful of pages.

Oddly, one story--a 1952 Powell-drawn tale called "The Unburied Mummy"--is repeated beat for beat in a 1954, John Belfi-drawn story called "The Mummy's Curse." Odder than the fact that the later story is pretty clearly a re-telling of the earlier one with a few small changes, like the gender of the killer mummy, is that both get collected in the same book.

As fun as the collection is, I think I might have preferred one that gave a little more historical context to the stories in the form of a paragraph or two, as opposed to the simple notation of the date, artist and the name of the comic they originally appeared in.

Mummies is not a bad way to spend an evening by any means, but, at the same time, it's hardly a must-read.

Nightwing #34 (DC) This is the end of Tim Seeley's run on Nightwing, and he seems to do a pretty fine job of having moved the character forward from where he was at the beginning of the run, and establishing a new status quo--new city, new allies--while also pulling back from the more dramatic changes and moving the major villains he introduced off of the board. There's also a secret or two revealed about Dick Grayson's past or, more precisely, that of his mother. Overall, despite some ups and downs, this was a very solid run on the character and the book, one that was extremely well plotted and restored him to a new version of his most successful status quo (that of Bludhaven's answer to Batman during Chuck Dixon's long run as writer of the Nightwing series).

Sam Humphries takes over next issue. Fingers crossed; this has been the longest I have read Nightwing on a monthly basis, I think.