Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Avengers vs X-Men part 1

Remember the 90's X-Men cartoon where Jean Grey, the telepathic redhead gets possessed by a fiery bird of death, destruction and all kinds of crazy? Well, Marvel's got good news and bad news on that. First up, she may have been reincarnated as Cyclops' adopted grand-daughter, Hope Summers, who has been speculated to be the Mutant Messiah.

Now with the Phoenix Force coming to claim its latest host, the Avengers want to control this force of Cosmic power. Unfortunately they plan to do that by taking Hope onto their custody. Being the X-Men, they're not about to let that happen. Cyclops (Scott Summers) believes that she may be the key to bringing the mutant population back to its former glory.

Avengers vs X-Men will be a mini-series collected in various titles bi-monthly. So far, it looks to be promising. Unfortunately that means we all need to start choosing sides. Personally, I'm going with the X-Men

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Comically Speaking: Interview with Joey Esposito

Person of Interest (Comically speaking)
By: Andrew Hines

As a comic book reviewer, there's only one person I look to as an example of good reviews, IGN's Joey Esposito. As the Comics Editor at IGN Entertainment, he pens some of the most succinct and accurate reviews online. Being in charge of such a large portion of IGN, a company that caters to movie fans, as well as anyone interested in video games and comic books, is no small feat for the 27 year-old Massachusetts native. As a fan of such classic series as Back To The Future and Star Wars (for some reason he counts the prequels), a follower of professional wrestling, playing both drums and guitar, drinking beer, he may be the quintessential 21st Century male.

As most guys raised primarily in the 90's, he recalls his first career goals swinging back and forth between being a professional baseball player and some kind of superhero. Speaking of things he always wanted to be, he was always interested in storytelling. That became apparent when he mentioned his four-part mini-series, FOOTPRINTS, which comes out this month. No specific date was given as to its availability. Footprints is a crime noir set primarily in the present day, follows Bigfoot, who is working as a private detective and trying to find his brother, Yeti's killer. Built up in the fashion of a traditional noir murder mystery, it's a pretty straightforward story, despite the casting of such mythological monsters as the Loch Ness Monster, the Jersey Devil and El Chupacabra. When asked of his inspiration for the story, he says it "came from my love of the noir genre and using it in a way that was fresh to me." The concept came to him seven years ago, when he was still in college. "It stuck with me and evolved over time," says Esposito, "until about October, 2010 when I started writing the first issue." Though, he claims that there are other projects currently "in the works," none of them are superhero-related.

He mentioned that, though the first comic books he read were published by DC Comics, it is not his favorite publisher. "At heart, creator-owned material is what I love the most," he said, "and no one has been doing it better than Image [Comics] these last few years." His favorite new writer is Kurtis Wiebe, who is the scribe on the reimagined Peter Pan, now set in World War II, PETER PANZERFAUST. That begged the question of who actually drives a book to be good; the writer or the artist? "The two have to work in tandem 100% of the time." He continued, "Neither one can make a good book on their own. You can have strong writing with bad art or vice versa, but neither of those situations will make it a good book."
On the subject of good books, he mentioned that DC's recent re-launch was good, at least for the business aspects. He believes that since it got mainstream attention and lead people to more people finding their way to comic shops. He added that he has noticed a negative outcry from the fan base due to the certain events "not mattering" anymore. "Continuity stuff doesn't matter." he said, "If the story is good, then who cares where it fits?" He mentioned that he thought the company "catered too much to the longtime fans." Possibly as a result, he mentioned that we was hoping for "less editorial mandates," in the coming months from all of the major publishers. As far as current titles to focus on, he mentioned the accessibility and fun, in particular, of Mark Waid's run on Daredevil. "That's one place the New 52's been struggling: none of their books are plain and simple fun."

The last bit of critical information came when he thought of why people should be reading comics in the first place. "They are modern myth, just the same as we continue to pass down ancient myths and fairy tales from generation to generation. They're never going to die. The formats and consumption might change, but the stories will continue in some form or another."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man: Ends Of The Earth

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Spider-Man lead the Avengers? Neither have I, but apparently ASM (Amazing Spider-Man) writer, Dan Slott has. I freely admit that I haven't been following the wall-crawler for a while. With that being said, Slott has been showing us a ridiculous amount of awesomeness in these last two issues of ASM, #s 682 & 683. If you need a refresher for the story so far, here goes nothin'! (Spoiler alert!)

As a researcher at Horizon Labs, Peter Parker, also known as your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, has been developing items to aid in his battles with the Sinister Six. That comes in handy when a dying Doctor Octopus uses his newly developed "Octavian Lens" wreak havoc on the entire Western Hemisphere. After this, he reverses the effect, in essence playing both sides of the game. During this time, Spider-Man dons his new armor and assembles Earth's Mightiest Heroes. So, that's basically part 1.

Part 2 begins with the members of the Sinister Six grabbing items for Doc Ock in order to further his master plan. During this time, a G8 summit convenes in Rome to focus on the events in ASM #682. The American attendees happened to include some rather notable faces. The wall-crawler crashes the summit, with Thor and Captain America in tow. Spider-Man assembles the Avengers and prepares for, in his own words, "The Earth's Mightiest Smack Down." To figure out how 8 Avengers square off against 6 of Spidey's rogues gallery, go out and buy the issues. You won't be sorry.

As mentioned, Dan Slott's writing is pretty good. There are no bad transitions, wasted words or lack of quotable lines. It's a good read and a great jumping-on point. It's not missing much in terms of story. Nor is Stefano Casselli's artwork. I don't recall much of his previous work, though I will certainly be following it from now on. With a cool new costume, Casselli has his work cut out for him, especially if he plans for us to ever see this again. Frankly, that probably won't happen.

As I said, I just got back into Spidey, but if these two keep it up, I plan to keep reading it. It's cool, but I just wasn't quite a fan of how quickly the fighting ended. That was the only real downside. With that being said, I hope this duo will accept the honor of an 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Next Review Rewind?

So, which graphic novels/trades should I do for the next few months?

Here's the list of ideas:
Darkness, Batman: Knightfall, Superman: Godfall, Invincible: Ultimate Collection, Infinite Crisis, Batman & Son, Death In The Family, Kingdom Come, Empire, Hush, and any that you can think of from Marvel prior to 2005.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review Rewind: WildC.A.T.s #1-4

Review Rewind: WildC.A.T.s #1-4 
By: Andrew Hines

I want to introduce you to a comic that brought me into the medium as a huge fan of Jim Lee's work, WildC.A.T.s (Covert•Action•Teams). This 20-year old comic series, which is now defunct, has recently had its characters brought into current continuity with their own on-going series and guest spots in other series'. As the brainchild Jim Lee, an artist and co-publisher for DC Comics and writer Brandon Choi from their college days, the series debuted as a title for Image Comics, and later under the WildStorm imprint for DC Comics, where it's first run remained until 1998. It later came out in fits and jerks, until DC stopped WildStorm publications in 2010.

The first issue is fantastic in the way that introduces the main characters. Many team-based books, such as the new Justice League, never manage to have all of their main characters show up in the first issue. They also fail, most of the time, to introduce the main villain of the series. WildC.A.T.s is the only comic I've seen in the last 20+ years that has not failed in either regard. It is one of the few comics in which you can pick up a first issue and identify all of the principle characters.

Jim Lee's artwork is without equal in this, the master work of his 90s art. The amount of detail in this series is unprecedented. His pencils give more power and depth than 99% of the comics I have read. He does not pump up the muscles on his men more than is necessary, though admittedly the women have longer legs than should ever be anatomically possible. Because of the depth of the story and characters, I'll excuse that singular misstep. Since this is a world that doesn't have DC's Trinity, comprised of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, it is essentially our world. That is even more true, since the secondary villain in the premiere four issues, there is an alien possessing Dan Quayle (the Vice President from 1990-1994.) With just this seemingly small bit of realism, Choi and Lee brought a new idea and new era to mainstream comics.

With all of this in mind, I have to give a 9.8 out of 10 to the first story arc of WildC.A.T.s.

WildC.A.T.s Cover #1:

Cover #2:

Cover #3:

Cover #4:

Flash Freeze

Flash Freeze
Review of Flash #6
By: Andrew Hines

What happens when one of Barry Allen's oldest foes makes their fight personal? For that matter, what happens when that same founding member of the Scarlet Speedster's rogues gallery gains his own super powers?

Francis Manapul does a good job for the most part, including many "nerdgasm" moments such as including what will come to be known (again) as the Cosmic Treadmill 
. He also brings in people like Iris West and Barry's current girlfriend and coworker, Patty Spivot. Making the comic slightly more realistic or at least relatable, Manapul puts him in every straight man's worst nightmare, lunch with the girlfriend and the ex/alternate universe wife. The only downside to Manapul's writing in this one is his back and forth on the timeline. We see the present, then a day before and then back to the present. Once would be fine, but he does more bak and forth in time than an episode in the last season of LOST. Again, that really did seem to be the only thing wrong, unless you count Captain Cold never explaining how he got powers. I'll let that one slide and hope it's explained later on. Hopefully it'll only be a single issue wait.

Artist Brian Buccaletto takes what he's done right so far and just keeps on truckin'. I don't believe he's missed a beat so far. Though the style looks somewhat cartoony, it works for a character with a very simple costume and power set. In terms of style and consistency, he is better in this series than I ever expected him to be. The only downside to the artwork at first was Captain Cold's costume. It didn't make sense to give him a sleeveless top when he looks bluer than Sonic The Hedgehog. After careful consideration however, it does seem to be the best way to showcase his newfound powers.

These two have earned an 7.5 out of 10, mostly due to the LOST-like timeline.

Cover for Flash #6:
Page 2 of Flash #6:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Battle Royale - Geek Style

Within the next few days, I'm going to add a new bit to this group. Weekly geek battles. It could be anything from who you think would win a fight to the death between the Transformers or Power Rangers Zords (kickin' it old school up in here) or Ewoks vs My Little Pony. I'll even have a poll at the same time so we can see which way the group leans. I have a few ideas for it, but I'd like to hear yours first and we'll go from there.

First off though, Avengers vs the DCnU Justice League: Who will win in the fight to the death?

Comment on who you think would win.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Feature Coming Soon: Review Rewind

I'm about to begin a new feature here. Once a month I'm going to post a Review Rewind. This will be a review of several consecutive issues of a given title or storyline. They will all be at least 5 years old. The first of these will be the first few issues of WildC.A.T.s. I figure that this is fairly timely since Grifter and Voodoo have their own titles, Warblade is about to show up in Superboy #9 and the Daemonites are already making theirselves known.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Boy Blunder and the Alien

The Boy Blunder and the Alien
Review of Red Hood & The Outlaws #6
By: Andrew Hines

The resurrected Robin meets the former Teen Titan for the first time, as we see the true origins of this motley crew of vigilantes.

Thankfully we also get a new sense of who Starfire, aka Princess Koriand'r (Kori), really is.  After the new and much morerevealing costume that she displayed in the first issue as well as her "new" personality, there was a bit of uproar from fans. Thankfully we've seen quite a bit of ret-con explanations for behavior and costume design. Seeing these two together and interacting is also a ret-con in and of itself as it compares to a panel in December of 1980's New Teen Titans #2. I love that this issue is both new and retro at the same time. There are a lot of references to earlier issues and series'. For that we can thank both the writer and artist for giving us close to the full comic geek experience in one issue.

Writer Scott Lobdell has done a good job of bringing the old in with the new. He hasn't thrown out anything that we can geek out on. There are references to many past events and probably the most realistic interaction between characters this side of any story scripted by Geoff Johns. For my money, this is actually one of the best books about member of the extended Batman Family. We get plenty of looks at the past in both Kori and Jason's flashback panels. Lobdell did a great job on general scripting and dialogue.

Once again, Kenneth Rocafort brings a very distinctive style to this title. It fits the characters wonderfully and adds a bit of sleek style to Red Hood's otherwise fairly boring and mis-matched costume. Going back to the costumes, it was nice to see the throw-back Nightwing costume, though slightly updated. Though the issue was much more expository than anything, there was still a bit of really good art. 

Though not the best issue in terms of action, this is still a pretty good issue. Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort have earned this issue an 8.6 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reunion under the Big Top: Review of Nightwing #6

A tribute to Dick Grayson's parents is about to become a night to truly remember.

Since the beginning of this title in September of 2011, Dick Grayson & his alter ego have been doggedly pursued by a killer named Saiko. In that time, Dick was called the "fiercest killer in Gotham" by Saiko. After reuniting wis old friends from Haly's Circus, he began a casual relationship with his childhood friend, Raya. Leave it to the former Boy Wonder to get involved with a redhead. Shortly thereafter, Mr Haly gave him the reigns as the new owner of the circus.

As the writer for the series, Kyle Higgins dives right into the type of action that defines the members of the Batman Family. Just when we think the story is going to go one way, he cease right onto a hidden dirt road that nobody saw coming. Such is the case when a beloved character from Dick's early years in the cape shows up in a cameo. He leaves little room for red herrings, which would have made the story slightly more interesting. As it stands though, plot and pacing generally make up for this.

For the sixth issue, regular artist, Eddy Barrows teams up with Geraldo Borges. It's been a while since I've seen Borges' art. I almost didn't notice as it blended so seamlessly with Barrows' penciling. Their work shows much more dynamic motion than we typically see in monthly comics. They also do a bang up job with the complex facial expressions in this issue, which are very easy to gloss over.

The whole team deserves shout outs, but hopefully this will do. The creative team behind this one earns a 9.2 out of 10, leaving me in desperate need for issue 7.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Hero for Houston

A Hero For Houston
Review of Scarlet Spider #1 & 2
By: Andrew Hines

Let’s take a jump into the Marvel Universe. We will begin in the middle of what I like to call the Spiderman Family’s tangled web. From 1975 to 1996, there was an overly convoluted mega storyline, which came to be known as the Clone Saga. From this, came two particular members of the Spiderman Family: Ben Reilly and Kaine. Ben was the good clone, who dyed his hair blonde to distance himself from Peter Parker and became the web-slinging hero Scarlet Spider. Kaine, the scarred and degenerating evil clone often battled his “brothers.” Unfortunately Ben died at the end of a 4-part epic in 1996, when the Green Goblin’s glider impaled him, thus ending the run of the Scarlet Spider. This past year, we found Kaine getting a second lease on life after his degeneration was reversed and his scars healed. He also seems to have gained some semblance of a conscience and created his own spider costume.

Now on the run from a legal system that barely knows of his private existence, he was headed for Mexico before he landed in Houston, Texas. He now has a new look and a new identity as the Scarlet Spider, Houston’s own costumed vigilante. A man who never asked to be a hero, Kaine discovered a human-trafficking operation. After nearly killing the men responsible for the smuggling of these people, he managed to save the lone survivor, a young woman named Aracely. At the end of the first issue, it seems Aracely’s life may come back to haunt her and Kaine as a deadly new enemy, the Salamander makes himself known. Scarlet Spider must now embrace his new life with “all the power, none of the responsibility” that comes with membership in the Spiderman Family. Now with this newest threat, he must continue to fight his killer instincts. With the lives of everyone in the hospital at stake, he must fight for their lives as well as his own.

Writer Chris Yost may be best known for co-creating the female Wolverine clone, X-23 and co-writing the current X-Force title. He brings his clone knowledge to the table and pumps the “awesome” dial up to 11. Yost puts two decades of Clone Saga into two pages of comic book goodness, though there’s also a better history in the back of issue 1. Using Peter Parker’s voice as Kaine’s new moral compass, there could be no better explanation for his sudden bout of conscience. As mentioned, he even gives the new Scarlet Spider something and someone to fight for in the form of Aracely, the young woman he saved in the first issue. This is a wonderful jump into the realm of arachnids for Mr Yost.

Ryan Stegman does a wonderful job as the first artist for Scarlet Spider. He brings both humanity and an impressive flair to the pages. Despite the fact that some of the pages are a little cluttered, we as the readers get a greater sense of action than most Amazing Spiderman books can give us. Likewise, he gives the Salamander a more menacing light than most Spiderman villains, short of Venom or Green Goblin, generally get. From Stegman’s artwork, we don’t just see Peter Parker with a buzz cut. You see a man truly attempting to find a way all his own and actively living for the first time in his life. By their powers combined, Yost and Stegman earn a 9.4 out of 10 for the first two issues, though officially just the second.

Cover of Scarlet Spider #1:

Cover of Scarlet Spider #2:

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Dark Knight Invades the Penguin's Nest

In the aftermath of the Dark Knight's run-in with a now-faceless Joker, he must face the Penguin on the villain's home turf. As Batman chases down the Penguin's associates, the criminal underworld and all of Gotham are terrified. Nobody knows who the Caped Crusader's next victim* will be. Frankly, I'd be scared of a guy who dresses up as a bat every night too.

As both the writer and artist of the series to date, Tony Daniel has been consistently top-notch. The story has been gripping and twisted. The artwork is simply hypnotic. There is both a grittiness and detail that reaches the top-tier. Detective Comics has long been a favoured title and the reboot has only added to my liking of it. With all of the twists, turns, tragedy and climax, Daniels' run on Detective Comics is poised to cement itself as the defining title of the DCnU. Daniels warns a 9.8 out of 10.

Kryptonite On The Brain

Have you ever had the feeling that your biggest problems are all in your head? For Superman, that's not just a feeling. Given that some rather incredible things have already happened in the pages of Action Comics since the September reboot, this one may not be too Twilight Zone after all. Building up to a story reminiscent of The Fantastic Voyage, In an issue guest starring key members of the Legion of Superheroes, the greatest threat to the Man of Tomorrow is inside his own head. For those who are unfamiliar, the Legion of Superheroes are a group of heroes from the 35th century who were inspired by the legends of Superman.

In this issue, the fate of the Superman's rocket and the Brainiac artificial intelligence onboard that powers it (epic foreshadowing) hangs in the balance, as does the potential outbreak of an alien techno-organic virus. Unfortunately this virus comes from the rocket that saved the Last Son of Krypton. The issue also introduces the threat of krypton and all of its deadly derivatives. Unfortunately the kryptonite is from the engine of Superman's rocket. Oh irony of ironies, how did all of this death-dealing madness come from one little prototype rocket?

With Grant Morrison remaining as the writer of the series, Action Comics is sure to remain a fan favourite. With An intimate knowledge of Superman, Morrison guides the readers on one adventure after another while stating true to the character. He doesn't miss a beat as one minor arc leads seamlessly into the next. With these battles he paves the way for what is sure to be another few generations worth of timeless heroism.

Andy Kubert is no rookie to the comic industry. A talent in his field, he shows no loss of artistic ability. Rather, he is a wellspring of incredible illustrations. Taking on the task of pencilling the Man of Steel AND three found members of the Legion of Superheroes is no mean feat. While having to tackle all that and the problem of showing a physically I'll Superman, Kubert shines. Morrison and Kubert deserve an 8.4 out of 10.