Saturday, August 18, 2018

Batman #53 by Tom King and Lee Weeks -- A Review

With the third chapter of their third Batman story together, Tom King and Lee Weeks have unequivocally established themselves as one of the greatest Batman creative teams.  Top 10, Top 20, Top 40?  It doesn't matter what their rank is, because that would be debatable; the fact remains that the achievement has been reached (if it hadn't been already with just the Elmer Fudd story).  I will layout my case to support this bold claim below (after the break) in my SPOILER-FILLED Review: 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

There's still time to SUPPORT The Middle Age HC Collection Kickstarter Project

I've been following Steve Conley's The Middle Age award-nominating, weekly web-comic since the beginning.  Following and backing as a monthly Patreon supporter.  This community of fans help fund Steve to find the time to produce the best series work of his career!  If he gets more supporters then he'll be able to do two strips a week, rather than just one. It takes time to create those detailed images with the lavish colors and funny/punny jokes.  Steve usually provides current status updates and bonus features for his supporters too.


Early this year, Steve launched a super successful Kickstarter button campaign. I proudly wear the King Waddlebottom one on my jean jacket (seen above), along with two ApologetiX pins. ApologetiX, the Christian parody-band just released an awesome new single (She's Got Cooties/Dumb Questions) that I've listened to over 45 times this week at work (I just didn't get tired of it).  Now, Steve is in the midst of another Kickstarter campaign to compile his first few chapters into a glorious larger-sized hardcover (for all our middle-age eyes).  There are also a ton of cool stretch goals unlocking as we speak.  For one we're going to get a Waddlebottom solo story (and if enough people pitch in, we'll get a printed copy).

So please check it out here:


Hey, and if you just want to enjoy the series for FREE you can always do that too.  Just follow Steve on Facebook.

And although Thom Zahler's Kickstarter collection for his (SHOULD have been award-nominating [I nominated it for a Ringo]) web-comic: Warning Label is over. I posted about it a few months back.  You can now order the book directly from his store.
 #warninglabelks

See after the break for Steve's inks over a Godzilla pencilled commission the late-Herb Trimpe drew for me:

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 18 -- A Review

Wow, I just finished the 18th Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks volume and in record time.  Perhaps, I consumed it a tad too fast, but I've got to ride this FF interest wave for as long as I can.  You know, before something else comes up and takes its place.  Pity my poor stacks of unread new comics; they just can't compete.  While it wasn't quite the masterpiece volume 17 was, which I posted about this past Sunday, it was still good and contains some classic moments in FF history.

This volume covers Fantastic Four issues #192 thru #203 and also includes the 12th and 13th annuals from 1977 and 1978, respectively.  A brief (maybe) recap follows (after the break):

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four Volume 17 -- A Review and Celebration

This past Wednesday, 2018 August 09, marked the 57th anniversary of Fantastic Four #1 hitting the stands.  To celebrate, Marvel, after a publishing hiatus of the series, released the much anticipated Fantastic Four #1 (2018).  While I won't go into the details here (since Jim's copy probably isn't in the mail yet and it's not the focus of this post), I liked it and the ending of the first story actually left me slightly verklempt.  Plus, Scottie Young's Impossible Man one-page feature was really nice to see too (for reasons soon to be revealed).

You see, the new relaunch already had a positive effect on me since it influenced what I took to read on my second week of Summer Vacation: Marvel Masterworks (MMW) Fantastic Four Volume 17, which covers issues #176 thru #191.  And I actually had time to read the entire thing while staying at my Aunt's (formerly my Grandmother's) house in Kansas that has been in the family over 65 years.  Of all the Fantastic Four tales I could have picked, why might you ask, did I pick this collection?  Simple, it contains my first issues from 1977 and includes some stellar storytelling by Roy Thomas, the late great Len Wein and George Perez with Joe Sinnott among others.  Find out more after the break...

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Exceptionalism


And taking a sharp turn from two weeks ago's kid friendly recommendation I’m recommending two limited run books that are very adult. One is just beginning it’s run while the other has just finished.

 

Mirka Andolfo’s Unnatural, published by Image, is just starting its twelve issue run. That makes it new to readers of English, but it was originally published in Italian in 2016 and has been published in several other languages since. But I am an American and suck at other languages, so it’s new to me. Chances are it’s new to you, too.

 

Unnatural #1 Cover A Regular Mirka Andolfo Cover (Limit 1 Per Customer)

Unnatural features rather sexy anthropomorphic animals that have had some reviewers and interviewers compare it to the wonderful and explicit Omaha the Cat Dancer by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. Andolfo doesn’t think the comparison holds beyond the sexy and anthropomorphism, and so far I tend to agree.

 

Leslie is a literal pig and the lead. Where sex between species was common and inconsequential in Omaha, it’s forbidden in Unnatural. After one issue we don’t know why, but in this world there are two great sins. One is sex outside of your species. The other is same sex relationships. Both interfere with the government mandate for procreation of the many species.

 

Leslie has two big problems in this life. She’s fantasizing in detail, and with increasing frequency, about sex with a wolf. She’s also just turned twenty-five and is unmarried. The former she can keep to herself, though she has shared with her roommate, but the latter means the government can now pick a spouse from within her species for her. And that’s where the first issue ends.

 

The book has the always reliable hook of sex, but like Omaha, there’s a lot below that surface. It’s a story about race, sexism, homophobia, and fascism disguised as religiously sanctioned truths. In other words, perfect for our time in America. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Just ended is the five issue run of Mat Johnson’s and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro: Renaissance, published by Dark Horse under its Berger Books line. This is a prequel to their Incognegro graphic novel that saw Zane Pinchback, reporter for the The New Holland Herald, pass as white in the Jim Crow South to write about lynching.

 



 

This story takes us back to Zane as a cub reporter, broom closet for an office and all, who pushes to pursue the story of the death of an up and coming black writer at a party celebrating the publication of a once great white writer’s first book in many years, with the assistance of the now dead young writer. As you might surmise, this one is set in the Harlem Renaissance.

 

Issues of race are forefront, of course, but homophobia, sexism, police corruption, and corporate malfeasance appear as well. We learn how Zane learned to pass in the later story. We learn about the presumptions of white supremacy and white privilege. We learn how often those are willing to briefly turn a friendly face to others as long as others serve them but will abandon them, not in a pinch (heh) but as soon as it’s convenient.

 

These are two very different books, but they effectively and entertainingly delve into the never ending issues that keep America from greatness, have always kept America from greatness, and now threaten to drown America in mediocrity at best, and perennial poverty of empathy and economics more likely.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Three Great Books and Goodbye to Steve Ditko


My reading of comics is somewhat sporadic. I have a ton of new comics to read, old collections I want to re-read, regular books and various news articles. What this means is that it is often that I’m reading something which is old news in the comic book world. Still I finished three series recently that deserve mention. Doctor Star by Jeff Lemire and Max Firuma, Grass Kings by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins and Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. All were complete stories with a beginning, middle and an end. In addition to that I also don’t want my column to miss out mentioning the death of Steve Ditko. So let’s take them one at a time.

First off is Doctor Star. Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormistad have created what is an analogous version of the DCU with Black Hammer. From that series Jeff has spun off some mini-series and one was Doctor Star. Written by Jeff Lemire and brought to life by artist Max Fiumara and colorist Dave Stewart. It is a story about making choices, being heroic, being a father and being a husband. Jeff pays homage to the DC Starman series by naming Doctor Star James Robinson. It is a story that interlaces adventure and heroics with Greek tragedy.  The story is one that draws on the familiarity of knowing DC super heroes but ultimately, I believe can be read without any prior knowledge. It is more of an Easter egg type thing as it adds to the enjoyment if you know it, but you are not missing anything if you do not know it.  The choices our hero makes are done for good and altruistic reasons. As a hero and with the instinct to help others you would find it hard to blame him. Sadly, those choices cause untold pain and heartbreak to his family. The ending is both sad and wonderfully touching. If I was the type to tear up, this story would have made me do it. I’m being purposely vague about details because I want to encourage any reader to go out and buy this book or I’m sure a forthcoming trade.

Second up is Grass Kings by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. The story is about a group of people who have decided to live off the grid. Inside of this setting Matt has built a story about the loss of a child and wrapped it up in a fantastically well-done murder mystery. What is so surprising about the series is that I never even felt like it was a murder mystery the whole time because the character development was so well done that I got wrapped up in knowing the players.  You really don’t need to know anything else about the story other then it is a complete story. It does leave room for future stories about the Kingdom. Matt is at the top of his game the last few years and basically if Matt is writing it, I’m at least trying it. I’d be greatly remiss if I failed to mention the art. Tyler Jenkins painted art is gorgeous. It takes Matt’s story to a whole new level and fits the story to a “T”. I loved the work so much I purchased a page from the series (seen here). The best part about this page it is absolutely the page I wanted.

Third is Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. Now Cullen is a writer who I am beginning to enjoy more and more but only his independent work. Cullen and Tyler tell a story over 30 plus issues of a young girl who discovers she is a witch and how she handles her origins and everything about Harrow County. I loved the ending as it wrapped up everything in great fashion. Over the course of the story we meet many “Haints”, supernatural creators of all shapes and sizes. We meet Emmy, the main character, family, friends and extended family. You often wonder if she will make it out alive and in one way she ---- no, no spoilers. I will add that the skinless boy was one of my favorite characters in the series. Highly recommended, seek out the trade paperbacks and buy Volume 1, if you like that you will love the rest.
All three of these writers are gentleman who have been in the industry for a decent amount of time. All 3 have held jobs or still hold jobs at the big two, but all 3 shine the brightest with their creator owned work. For me the prospect of stories having a begging middle and an end is a major plus.  At this point in time I would say Jeff, Matt and Cullen are 3 of the top writers in comic books, with Tom King as another great story teller.

Finally, a quick tribute to the man, the myth, the legend Steve Ditko who died recently, reportedly alone as that was how he lived most of the last few decades of his life. Best known for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, but the litany of characters he created include The Question, Mr. A, Static, Hawk & Dove, the Creeper and many more. That doesn’t include all the villains he created. Steve was a follower of the Objectivism Philosophy of Ayn Rand, which helps explain his very black and white view of many situations. Still he was the writer and artist for perhaps one of the best comic book stories every done, Amazing Spider-Man #31-33, the original run. The two-page spread shown here are images forever locked in my memory. The life lesson I took from that book as a young child was you must do the right thing no matter the personal cost. I have tried to live up to that ideal most of my life and have fallen short, but I have also often achieved that goal. My personal philosophy has been better to die with my principals then to live with them compromised. Steve’s future work is often over looked and criticized by many.  Personally, as I read more of his writings and his later books he raises interesting questions and things worth pondering. Whether one agrees or disagrees his viewpoints are at least worth considering.  Steve Ditko was a one of kind talent whose work will live on achieving him some level of immortality.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: CatStronauts Mission Moon


written and illustrated by Drew Brockington

Story 4/5 stars

Recommended age: All ages!!! Best for reading with your kid(s) or independent readers up to middle school



As a space geek I am always attempting to show my son how the awesomeness of everything space. This means I have dragged him to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum twice in the 5 years he’s been around (we do not live near DC), taken him to a local Planetarium, made him watch Apollo 13 with me, gone with him to the Kennedy Space Center (I tear up every time I see space shuttle Atlantis), and generally geeked out on all things space. Finally, I was gratified to hear he told his teacher he wants to build rockets when he grows up – previous future jobs have included Batman, the Doctor, and Lego builder.

In all seriousness I don’t actually care what he does when he grows up as long as her sticks with the morals he’s learned from Star Trek TNG and comic books. Oh, and as long as he can generally support himself because I don’t want him living in the basement when he’s 35 or whatever. Still, I was pretty excited that he’s been on a rocket building career kick the past month or so and I found this great all ages comic book, CatStronauts, to work with his interests.



First, the good.

This book was a lot of fun. The art is appealing and accessible. My son easily followed the plot and really liked the various characters (especially Waffles, the pilot, and Blanket, the robotics expert). The book had easy to understand jokes for a young kid and was still entertaining for me to read – because it let me geek out on space stuff! My son has even quoted the story and told other people about it so I know he really enjoyed it.

The characters are cute. Waffles is always hungry leading to some mischief and Blanket is building a robot during training without permission. Major Meowser is a pretty straight forward mission commander, and Pom Pom doesn't get much of a chance to shine in this book but I hope the characters will become more developed in the other stories. 

I loved the premise of the story as well. The cats have to return to the moon to build a device that will help provide energy to the Earth so all the power doesn’t go out forever. All the mission training the CatStronauts go through was decently researched. The launch and trip to the moon (and back) were based on fairly accurate information from the Apollo missions. Basically, I was super excited to have such a fun and kid friendly way to teach Henry about the moon missions.

The story also includes problems with the mission somewhat reminiscent of the Apollo 13 mission (along with problem solving strategies). My son's favorite page is below. For whatever reason Waffles saying "prepare for lunch" cracked him up over a few days.



Now, the bad

Not a whole heck of a lot!

My only complaint is none of the astronaut characters appear to be lady cats. However, the head of mission control is a lady cat so that's cool. Also, you can only tell because the ladies have visible eyelashes so who knows, maybe I'm mistaken and Pom Pom the mission specialist is a lady cat. It's a minor quibble.

Beyond that, it’s not really a book most adults would enjoy reading more than once unless they want some very light reading. However, if you want a fun, entertaining, and even somewhat educational book to read with your kid(s) -or a book for maybe up to middle school for an independent reader – this is an exceptional choice. We will definitely be purchasing other books in this series. The next one up is about the CatStronauts going to Mars - I am super excited!

Bottom line: A+