Friday, May 30, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Quick, somebody call Aquaman!  GHOSTS #89Ghosts #89 -- Waitaminute, so are they skeletons wearing mermaid dresses, or mermaids who have only partially been turned into skeletons, or... ?

I. "Ghosts And The Supernatural" -- Our introduction posits whether the monsters of the world could possibly be the spirits of the dead.

II. "Came The Spectre Shrouded In Seaweed" -- A treasure diver double-crosses his partner, letting him die of "accidental" asphyxiation due to nitrogen narcosis. After getting all the loot for himself, the diver is visited by spectral friend! Retreating to his attic with a candlelabra, the diver spends all night up there... and is found the next morning, dead of supposedly "accidental" asphyxiation. Because "spooks" don't show up on coroner's reports.

III. "The Ghost Of 'The Estate'" -- Text story from the "files of Dr. Geist." An insurance salesmen from Manhattan has problems mowing one plot in his giant yard. When he tries to do it by hand, lightning strikes the spot, revealing his house as being built over, you guessed, the ubiquitous Indian Burial Ground.

IV. "The Phantom's Last Act" -- A scientist working on creating a holographic projector is murdered by his young collaborator, who takes all the credit. At a demonstration, the projector seems to display the events of the murder, driving the young man to try to block the images -- only to be flash-fried by the projector's laser. Did the ghost of the dead man have it's revenge, or was it just plain old guilt? You make the call.

V. "Haunted Coffin" -- A magician is murdered by his protege while performing a coffin escape. The assistant takes the magician's place, claiming he will top the old master's routine, by using a microphone to speak to the audience while in the oblong box. When locked in the coffin, the young man is met by the looming ghost of the old master, who delays him long enough to suffocate in the locked box. The audience, though, has to wonder: was the ghostly voice real or part of the act? It's like a Clive Barker novella or something.

Overall Weird Factor: 3 (out of 5)

This issue also has some nifty "bonus features," namely, house subscription ads for four Mystery tiles (House of Mystery, Unexpected, Secrets Of The Haunted House, and Ghosts), as well as a fabulous subscription ad for Weird War Tales. Ghosts focus strictly on the supposedly "true tales" of the supernatural does help differentiate from it's contemporaries. The second feature is easily the best, with a good ending, even if it is predictable.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Looks Good?

Delayed, delayed, always delayed! Having a holiday on a Monday throws my whole week off, it's good to know that even a day later than normal all your favorite four color goodies are waiting for you at your local comic shop.

Action Comics #865 -- Johns' "Rogue Profile" issues on Flash were always a highlight, so I figured it was only a matter of time until he did one here. And, after Busiek's work on making Prankster not only relevant but downright cool, I am eager to see what Johns does with Toyman.

Final Crisis #1 -- The DC event you've been waiting for! Or, at least, I have been waiting for, as all the spit hits the fan once more.

Futurama Comics #37 -- I'm always glad to see this title in my pullbox, as I think we all could use a little levity now and then.

Caliber #2 -- This is not listed on the Diamond list, but Newsarama sez it's coming out this week, so we shall see if the Arhturian West rides on, or if I have to wait a bit more.

So what looks good to YOU?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not Blog Ex?

I just wouldn't be a Marvel Comics fan if I didn't like at least one team at least partially composed of mutants. But first, you should click on through to Not Blog X and let G Kendall's knowledge of all things X work it's sweet, sweet magic.

Excalibur #60
Braddock Of The Jungle
Credits: Scott Lobdell (Script), Scott Kolins (Pencils), Jon Holdredge (Inks), Mike Thomas (Colors), Ul Higgins (Letters).

In Wakanda, Icon holds Captain America, Iron Man (Jim Rhodes), the Black Panther, a one-piece clad Kitty Pryde, and a disguised Meggan captive with his transmorgified tree-men, demanding their surrender. Kitty triggers Icon's weapon to fire into her phased out person, so that Iron Man can scan the energy signature for a countermeasure. Panther then agrees to the surrender in order to prevent any unnecessary bloodshed. At the same time, Brian, along with Lockheed, manage to escape the portable prison through the mud. Wearing just his ruined pants, Brian does his best Hulk impression and is immediately dubbed "Jungle Man" by Meggan to protect his identity. Trying at a rescue, Brian is surprised to find himself fall flat on his face, his powers not working. After much arguing and threats, Icon's time suddenly runs out -- his power to change flesh to wood is temporary, and time is up. Icon changes back into Dr. A'Kurru U’mbaya, a Wakandan scientist who's daughter was poisoned by commercial waste while in the "outside world," the very thing the coalition is in Wakanda to try to solve.

Meanwhile, back in England, Nightcrawler and Cerise continue to track down the Knight Errant, who appears to be an elderly man with delusions of granduer, and the technology to back it up. Following him to a pub, a blast from the Knight's lance reveals a small nuclear bomb hidden inside. Nightcrawler lets him go, which gets Kurt a scolding from Dai Thomas. The Knight Errant is revealed to be William Matson, a retired industrialist who seems to like playing a hero.

Continuity Notes
Captain America recognizes Kitty as Shadowcat, and deduces that the other woman must be "the shapeshifter" Meggan from the outfit she is wearing. Jim Rhodes has never heard of the supergroup Excalibur, evidently.

A lackluster conclusion to an underwhelming story. The main plot, with the heroes in Wakanda, is derailed of any suspense by the strange way in which Lobdell handles Icon -- true, he's not really evil, and new to being a villian, but what kind of danger can the heroes be in when the villian doesn't even seem to believe in his own cause? The fact that Brian, Kitty, and Meggan are given so little to do doesn't help either. The secondary story with Nightcrawler and Cerise is actually much more interesting, but since the Knight Errant would never appear again, it's really pretty pointless as well. Kollins art remains inconsistant, and the colors make it look really flat. Overall a big disappointment; good thing Davis is back with the next issue.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What I Read This Week

Batman And The Outsiders #7 -- Metamorpho is trapped on a mysterious space station, and fighting for his life to boot, while Grace, Green Arrow, and Katana are trapped in a Chinese prison, with Batgirl trying to free them. A "middle chapter" type of comic, where one subplot gets resolved and another moves to a climax, but the overall, larger story still continues. I like the pace Dixon is using on this series, but this is a lesser issue. Still enjoyable, but really only for Outsiders regulars.

Iron Man #29 -- Stuart Moore steps in to spell the Knaufs on Shellhead's senior title (De La Torre remains), and we see Iron Man leading a SHIELD team on a mission to find a tactical nuke which has been deployed in a small former Soviet republic, while a dangerous SHIELD artifact is reactivated. Moore has a good grasp on the modern Tony Stark, and does action and technology well. I think that this issue did a good job of differentiating the subtle difference between this title's "techno-thriller" alignment and Invincible Iron Man's superheroics. After the massive (and massively awesome) Mandarin story, this should be a nice change-up.

Flash #240 -- In this space, I have previously stated that a comic featuring a guy in a costume using his powers to rob a museum and then bedevil the Flash is the epitome of Flash comics. To that I must add: talking apes. Gorilla Grodd shows up because he's Gorilla Grodd, dammit, and the bananas really hit the fan for Wally West. Plus, just who are Brother Think amd Brother Drive, and what do they want with the "forever people" called Iris and Jai West? Peyer is all over the place in this issue, and while (similar to BATO) the major storyline doesn't get resolved or even really moved along that much, new subplots are introduced which are entertaining and intriguing. And Williams draws one sweet version of Grodd.

Justice Society of America #15 -- In the midst of a brutal, knockdown, drag-out slobberknocker with Gog, part of the Justice Society is transported to the Amazon along with their opponent, where an even more bizarre fate awaits them. Johns and Eaglesham deliver the goods in what initially appears to be just a blow-off brawl to the "Thy Kingdom Come" story (with a few little character bits pepper in there), but the end really is just the start of something bigger. It's funny, but even as Justice Leagie of America seems to meander from one event to another, JSoA just keeps right on trucking, delivering truly modernist superhero stories with a twinge of nostalgia ever month without missing a step. As a bonus, we also get a teaser page, revealing more big things coming in the next year of the title, as has become one of Johns' trademarks.

STEEL WATCH: Nathan really gets into the action this time out, going toe-to-toe with Gog and slamming him into an air-combo with Judomaster (*swoon*), plus taking Gog's best shot right in the chest and pulling his best Juggernaut impression. Aw yeah, Steel!

The Pick Of The Pile is a tough call, coming down to Iron Man and JSoA. I am going to give it to Iron Man, but only by a very slim margin; both are quite excellent and seem poised to remain that way.

So what did YOU read this week?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The (Long) Weekend

"Hello? Human Fly here! Cmon, I stayed up all last night dyin' my underwear!" That classic bit from The Simpsons not withstanding, here's Rick with the letterhead from the old Archie here, The Fly from his 90's revival.

An acetylene arrow? Aqua-lung arrows? When a Mechanical Octopus is not the goofiest thing in your story, it can only be the Silver Age, as Adama points out.

Frank presents: DEEEEEEEEEEEETROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIT JUSTICE LEAGUE! (With apologies to the Detroit Pistons... beat the Celts!)

G Kendall starts looking at the Warren Ellis run on Excalibur, which I may begin hunting at some point.

I can tell Bones is eagerly anticipating The Dark Knight, and these "alternative" trailers are just feeding the fire.

Scipio's Heroclix maps enter the mysteriois THIRD DIMENSION!

This Superfriends Aquasub, as presented by rob, is pretty awesome, but I am more jazzed about SF Hawkman! Must... resist... becoming... Hawkman... fanboy!

BONUS GAME! Aquaman teams up with The Blackhawks?!

And finally, be sure to check out James' Defenders Fansite, or else Valkyrie will smack you around... with the flat of her blade! (And if you get that joke I applaud you.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

Where Creatures Roam sounds like a Misfits song to me.  WHERE CREATURES ROAM #4
Where Creatures Roam #4 -- "Vandoom?" Does that make this guy, what, like Doctor Doom's cousin or something?

I. "Vandoom, the Man Who Made a Creature" -- (2 Chapters) A failing wax museum owner, Vandoom, decides to create a new monster to display, striking fear into the locals. The night he comepletes his yellow-brown behemoth, it is struck by lightning and comes to life (natch). The frightened villagers attack Vandoom and the monster, but the brute lumbers away into the Transylvanian contryside, escaping his attackers. Out of nowhere, Martians land, plotting to make Earth a colony of Mars. Driven by the villagers back into the town, the monster attacks and wrecks up the invasion, only to perish. The villagers come to the shockingly obvious conclusion that the monster meant them no harm, and so bury the beast and help Vandoom build a new one for his museum.

II. "Beware! of the Ghastly Glass!" -- An old man and his brutish companion search all over the world for a certain piece of crystal, which the old man lost a decade earlier, and has the power to grant the possesor whatever he wishes. Finding it in the Orient, he attacks the shopkeep and makes his wishes, one of which is to be the richest man in the world... too bad he didn't specify which world he meant.

Overall Weird Factor: 2 (out of 5).

Where Creatures Roam was short-lived even by Marvel's Bronze Age Monster-Mag standards. And while most of these comics were reprints, this series had the odd trait of reprinting whole issues, not just picking and choosing features. For example, this entire issue is a reprint of Tales To Astonish #17. The upside: we get Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko on art! The Weird Factor for this issue mostly comes from the random alien invasion two-thirds of the way through the first feature, with a crazy Kirby spaceship. WCR would end with issue #8.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Holiday Blogging

Well, my employers have seen fit to grant us a four day weekend, as Friday is our normal "off-Friday," and then the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, so I am off to sunny Florida to visit my in-laws and hopefully have a cook out. I should have a Weekly Dose of Weird and some Links for you to enjoy, and I should be back on Tuesday. I hope all my American readers have a fun and safe holiday, and see y'all next week!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Looks Good?

I'm going to be heading out of town for Memorial Day this weekend, but it's good to know that my comics will be sitting at home, waiting for me when I get back.

Batman And The Outsiders #7 -- Outsiders... in... SPAAAAAAAAACE! (And what's this about BATO tying into "Batman: R.I.P.?" Unless it's Geo-Force assuming command, I call shennanigans.)

Flash #240 -- It seems that my opinion of the new Rogue Spin puts me in the minority. Big shock there.

Justice Society of America #15 -- Ooh, what direction is Johns going to go in? Feature a cameo from a character only I like, or kill off more villians created by Mike W. Barr (that magnificent bastard)?

Iron Man #29 -- The new Invincible Iron Man may be splashier, but this remains the best title Marvel publishes.

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

4 Color Cinema

The Most Unfortunate Catchphrase Ever.  THE PHANTOM
The Phantom

Inspired by Mike Sterling's recent viewing, I decided to finally get around to posting my thoughts on this film, which I re-watched a few months back. I remember when The Phantom was first coming out, you couldn't flip through an issue of anything, especially Wizard, and not see an ad for it, proclaiming that the Ghost-Who-Walks would "SLAM EVIL!" I never got if that was supposed to be impressive, or intimidating, or simply hilarious, but it certainly raised awareness. And by "awareness" I mean derisive shouts of "SLAM EVIL!" across comic shops nationwide.

Be that as it may, our story is about Kit Walker, the latest in the long line of Phantoms, which has been passed from father to son for 20 generations in the jungle nation of Bangalla. The Phantom lives in the Skull Cave, which is hidden in the dark and forbodding Deep Woods. From there, he strikes out at evil, using his athleticism, twin automatics, and the mysterious jungle legends of being "The Man Who Cannot Die" to combat pirates, murderers, and thieves. Kit finds himself mixed up in new intrigue when a group of goons attempt to pilfer a legendary crystal skull (yes, years before Indiana Jones!), which leads to a run-in with his ex-girlfriend Diana Palmer and a trip to New York to stop the evil Xander Drax from achieving ultimate power.

Overall, this offering is something of a mixed bag. There's a lot of fun to be had, sure, but it's not the most expertly made or well-polished piece of entertainment you'll ever come across. The principles all turn in solid perfomances, especially Billy Zane, who looks and sounds like he stepped off the funny pages, and Treat Williams, who aggressivly gnaws on the scenery whenever and wherever he gets the opportunity. As Diana, Kristy Swanson could have been little more than a shrieking MacGuffin tied up to some deathtrap or another, but, true to the character from the strip, she is instead smart, resourceful, and brave beyond measure. The same cannot be said for the villianess pilot Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones, a few years before The Mask Of Zorro), who is given little to do beyond vamp and fails to deliver anything more than that.

The photography and scenery is spectacular, evocative of the classic era of jungle documentaries from the 20s and 30s, but in full lush colors. There's a lot of fighting and stunts, as is to be expected, and Zane is buff enough (he eschewed a Batman-esque muscle suit) to make most of it believable -- save a jump from a crashing plane onto his horse, Hero, which strains credibility even a film of this nature. The costuming similarly does a great job of capturing the period without looking like a parody. The Phantom's costume is faithful to the strip, which I applaud, as it could have just as easily be made black or dark grey. The purple really pops against the greens of the Deep Woods or the greys and whites of New York City.

The Phantom holds several distinctions over it's later -- more successful -- brethren, not the least of which is it's tone. Though not a comedy, there is a lot of humor to be found here; the term "light-hearted adventure" seems an appropriate label for the proceedings. Further, it is a period piece, echoing to old-school pulp adventure serials and their descandants, such as the aformentioned Indiana Jones films as well as contemporaries like The Shadow and The Rocketeer. These elements are somewhat polarizing -- depending on one's taste, you may really dig, or really groan at the slightly-less-serious take. Personally, I think that playing up the swashbuckling attitude works in the film's favor. Your mileage may vary. The Phantom is a pulpy product, so treating him in a pulpy manner works. Such sentiment is helped immeasurably by Zane's perfomance, which is so likeable that you tend to just roll with it once things get going (and usually end up cheering for him to lay someone out).

So, as I said, it's a mixed bag. I think that if you are looking for something light and fun, with a lot of high adventure and peril without any serious examination of character or emotion, then The Phantom would be a good choice. It doesn't require a huge investment on the part of the viewer, and it delivers exactly what it sets out to achieve: a fun, fast-paced romp through the jungle, both tropical and urban. Worth checking out, just don't go in expecting it to beat the world.

(Re-watching this film and writing this post has further inspired me to take a second look at the two aforementioned contemporaries, The Shadow and The Rocketeer, so hopefully you'll be able to hear about those in future installments.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

What I Read This Week

Given the number of titles here, yeah, these are going to be a little on the short side this week.

Tiny Titans #4 -- It's intense babysitting action as Wonder Girl has to take care of the Little Tiny Titans! As usual, this is too cute for words. I especially liked Starfire's new hairdo and Lil' Jericho's choice of clothes for Lil' Wildebeast.

Captain Britian and MI13 -- With the UK under Skrull invasion, it is up to Captain Britian and the combined might of all the British superheroes to defend queen and country. Very disappointed overall in this debut, which left me cold and unnethused. This title is on the watch list.

The All-New Iron Manual -- Part technical manual, part sourcebook, the new version of the Manual coveys lots of information about the Golden Avenger and his corner of the Marvel Universe. Some odd choices (I like Mrs. Arborgast, but she gets a profile over someone like the Controller?), but overall worth the money for an Iron Fan; others need not apply. There's a few errors and typos which are pretty noticeable, sadly. Also worth noting is that apparently Enter The Mandarin is in continuity.

Guardians Of The Galaxy #1 -- In order to prevent Annihilation Wave-level events from reaching that point, Peter Quill pulls together a group of adventurers to defend the cosmos. Great fun from DnA, this series looks like a worthy successor to Annihilation Conquest, with a hell of a stinger at the end.

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #2 -- Lots of fans on message boards have demanded that Iron Man go to Hell, so I guess this answers that request. "Old school cool" from Michelinie, Layton, and Lim, with twists and turns and doublecrosses galore.

The Phantom #23 -- The Ghost Who Walks faces threats to Bangalla on all sides as his enemies all conspire to sow unrest and anarchy. The plot builds very nicely, but the action is a little light this time out.

The War That Time Forgot #1 -- An American Navy pilot finds himself stranded on an island filled with dinosaurs, and other anarchronisms. A little slow on the setup, but as this is 12 issues and not 6 as I had thought, I guess that is to be expected. Right now I am just marking out for all the war characters.

Invincible Iron Man #1 -- Tony Stark, in full "cool exec" mode, must leave the countessa in his bed to respond to a strange new terrorist threat. Very impressive all around, as this title manages to be a different animal from the senior series while covering similar territory.

Project Superpowers #3 -- Probably should have read this one before the FCBD Special. Anyway, the fighting reaches Shangri-La, and more of the Superpowers spill out of the urn. I really hope Ross and Krueger have a goal in mind here, because things are still somewhat jumbled.

House of Mystery #1 -- Go see last week's Weekly Dose of Weird for a recap. A tremendous new spin on the old classic. Also, I really like the non-glossy paper -- DC, please use this more often.

Tor #1 -- Joe Kubert's classic caveman is back for more prehistoric adventure. Tor runs afoul of a tribe of ape-men and interrupts their ritual sacrifice, with predictable results. This title is a throwback in more ways than one, but in a good way.

Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #1 -- Jon Favreau and Adi Granov deliver a Shellhead comic which looks really, really nice (Granov can do tattoo babes like nobody's business), but this is really much too vapid for the price.

Nova #13 -- As Nova helps save the population of a world which has been targetted by Galactus, he discovers a spectral psionic being named Hallow using the opportunity to cause chaos. This title is essentially Marvel's answer to Green Lantern, and I mean that entirely as a compliment.

The Pick Of The Pile is Invincible Iron Man, unsurprisingly. The surprising thing, actually, to me about this title was how much it reminded me of the early-middle run of volume 3, almost like a less-jokey version of a story Frank Tieri would have written. (That's not a knock on Tieri, by the way -- I like his work.) Other strong features were more unusual or outlandish work like HoM and Tor, trad fare like GotG, Nova, and Legacy of Doom, and Tiny Titans is always a treat. Overall, a highly above-average set of titles over the last two weeks.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Let's start things off with the vacationing Adama (hope the fish are biting!) and his look at the Tuning Fork Arrow.

Plastic Man and Black Lightning teaming up? Sounds good to me! (If only.)

The last issue of X-Factor I ever bought. Well, at least until the last issue of the series, before it swapped over to Mutant X.

Let's give a big Bunker welcome to Lilbones, host of the awesomely Bat-centric Tales From The Batcave! This guy pretty much blogs circles around me, so be sure to check it out.

Scipio is at it again with his map of the Giant Prop Museum!

Some how I don't think my wife would have appreciated this Aquaman Valentine, though I am sure it is better than a GI Joe one.

Frank shows off his sweet sketch of OFM (Our Favorite Martian).

BONUS GAME! The Slow Steady Death of J'Onn J'Onzz.

Mike Sterling showcases some truly inane Marvel Masterpieces cards. My head hurts after reading this.

Chris revists the classic tale of Batman laying some dude out with a car battery in what may be the most intense use of a car battery ever.

And finally, fans of black and white art like me need to check out the Inkwell Awards. Inking gets very little respect from most fans, and it is a crying shame, because the best penciller can be mangled by a poor ink-job, while a mediocre prenciller can be totally saved by a good one. Be sure to click around and vote for your favorites!

Friday, May 16, 2008

And Now, Your Moment Of Zen

Blame this on reading too many old Weird comics, with the releases of both the bew House of Mystery and glamourpuss... (click to fabu-size)

Fashion And Suspense -- The Way You Like It!
(For the record, I retrieved the image from here, and it is a shot from America's Next Top Model, so no, I didn't go looking for pictures of dead girls. Just models who looked like dead girls. Also, I am aware that my image editting skill sucks.)

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

(In honor of the return of House of Mystery to comic book racks everywhere, this is a special edition of the Weekly Dose focusing on the new Vertigo series. Enjoy!)

I spy, with my little flies... HOUSE OF MYSTERY v.2:no.1House of Mystery #1 -- Is that a fly eye? Like, from the beginning of Family Affair?

I. "Room And Boredom, Part 1: The First Drink Is On The House" -- (Framing Story) After enjoying a lovely spot of tea and murder with his brother at the House of Secrets, Cain returns home to find the House of Mystery has vanished. Meanwhile, a young woman narrowly escapes from her house, which collapses and then catches fire in the wake of a pair of Victorian style spooks. An architecture student, she clutches the blueprints of the strange house she saw in her nightmares as she flees, eventually ending up at the back entrance a bar. After dispatching her persuers, she enters the "bar" to find herself inside the House, with many other patrons. Before she arrives, though, we see the farewell party for Rena, who gets to leave with the mysterious Coachman in his black coach. We also meet Harry, the bartender; the unamed poet; Ann, a pirate lady; and Cress, who is so bored, she claims that she would paint a wall to watch it dry. We also meet Hungry Sally, who tells her story to the patrons to pay for her bountiful meal...

II. "The Hollows" -- Sally moves to the quaint small town named The Hollows with her parents modest inheritance money, and is quickly the toast of the town with all the young suitors. The most worthy, Albert, wins her heart, and the two are soon wed, and then expecting. But the pregnancy is difficult, and afterwards, Sally cannot find it in herself to care for the children, or her husband -- she feels only hollow inside. But the truth is substantially more gruesome -- The Hollows is a town inhabited by anthropomorphic flies, and she gives birth to a giant pile of bloody, writhing maggots -- which leaves her literally a hollow shell, with nothing inside.

Overall Weird Factor: 5 (out of 5) (Pretty much all for the short).

Okay, yeah. This is pretty obviously a Vertigo title. The story itself -- why everyone is stuck in the House, why do certain people get to leave, and so forth -- is very intriguing and has me wanting more. But the story that Hungry Sally tells, illustrated with a sort of cartoony aspect by Ross Campbell, is one of the most bizarre and just mind-walloping stories I have ever seen in any medium. Please bear that in mind if you are considering picking this up: it's pretty darn freak-out-worthy. Beyond that, the new format looks like it will have a lot of potential, not only for Weird little tales but also for the overall story arc. So let's call this a Weird success.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fair Trade: Showcase Presents: The Flash

SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE FLASHWhen DC first announced their Showcase line of phonebook-style reprints, this title was the one I was most looking forward to. Nevermind the fact that it wasn't announced in the first wave. Or second or third. I knew that it was going to come out eventually, and when it did, I would possess it.

I first became a fan of the Flash as a little kid. I distinctly remember receiving the Super Powers Flash toy from my parents, although I do not really remember why. I don't think it was a birthday or Christmas. I think it may have been one of those treasured moments of childhood when your parents gave you something just cuz, and you had no idea why, but your gratitude typically was boundless. Anyways, from there I was always happy to see him pop up (rarely though it was) on Super Friends, and then made it appointment viewing to watch his short-lived TV show. Of course, as it seems to be true for a lot of characters I enjoyed as a kid, I never thought to, you know, go and buy his comic book until I was in high school. And of course, by that time, Wally West had taken over the mantle of the Fastest Man Alive. Still, I became a Flash Fan (Flashite? Flashhead? Flasher?!), and read up on the history of the Scarlet Speedster and his colorful cast; the Flash legacy quickly usurped Big Blue as my favorite corner of the DCU.

Which leads me back here. Starting out with the final adventure of the original Flash in Flash Comics #104, we jump directly into the world of Barry Allen, world's slowest boyfriend, dedicated and brilliant police scientist, and soon-to-be super-quick superhero. This being the Silver Age (that is, the creation thereof), things start out quickly enough -- no sooner does Barry gain his amazing powers than is he out stopping the superslow bank robber Turtle Man, or the exiled ciminal from the future Mazdan. And things pretty much keep to that pace for the balance of the volume.

Busting into the Silver Age!  SHOWCASE #4Straight-faced without being earnest, these early Flash stories are great examples of what was going on at DC in the late 50s which brought about the revitalization of the entire Superhero genre. Peppered with gloriously dubious science, this was a re-imagining of the way a costumed crime fighter would work, with some natural principle or another being held responsible for his amazing feats. How did Flash's uniform work? By expanding in contact with the air, similar to a Navy life raft when it touches the water! Why can Flash run through walls? The same way that at sufficient speed, a strand of hay can pass through a concrete block! It was the modern age of Two-Fisted Science! at it's very best.

Springing from the fertile imagination of writers Bob Kanigher and John Broome, and primary artist Carmine Infantino, we get to see the creation of what would become the Rogues Gallery, including Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Mr. Element/Dr. Alchemy, Gorilla Grodd, Weather Wizard, and the Trickster, not to mention Iris West, Kid Flash, Elongated Man, and Gorilla City. The stories move quickly (as is appropriate), and typically throw in a few twists and turns along the way as Flash has to outthink his enemies rather than just pummel them at super-speed.

Gorilla Grodd makes Flash the Fattest Man Alive, FLASH #115One advantage of this volume over the similarly-timed Showcase Presents: Aquaman v.1 is the handling of Kid Flash. In the Aquaman volume, once introduced, Aqualad is a near constant at the Sea King's side. Kid Flash, however, generally adventures on his own, giving him a chance to shine and show himself to be a competent hero in his own right, and not just a doomsaying sidekick. The other main difference between them is that Flash was a featured star; the longer stories afford for more depth and more complex plots, making them more memorable.

Obviously this collection is not for everyone. Readers who don't like the Silver Age will find these tales dull and one-dimensional, in addition to somewhat inane. And if questionable science offends you, then give it a wide berth (similarly, don't even think about the Showcase Presents: The Atom). But DC fans, I think, enjoy reading the foundations of one of the modern pillars of the universe. And with Barry primed to make a comeback of some sort in Final Crisis, now seems as good a time as any to relive his past exploits.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Looks Good?

Nothing beats coming home from a hard day at the office and unwinding with a tall, ice cold comic book. What looks refreshing this week?

Batman vs Two-Face TP -- One of the main benefits of having your favorite villian appear on the big screen is the inevitable tie-in merch.

Tiny Titans #4 -- I don't know if anything can top the Jericho bit from last issue, but we shall see.

Captain Britian and MI13 -- Time to see how Cornell handles this new Excalibur. Except it's not Excalibur. Sorta. Also, I hope there is not too much "Secret Invasion" nonsense.

The All-New Iron Manual -- It's like OHOTMU, only for techies and engineers. Who happen to be Iron Fans.

Guardians Of The Galaxy #1 -- Rocket Racoon!

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #2 -- I think this is about as close to a "no brainer" as you can get for me.

The Phantom #23 -- Continuing Moonstone's biggest story ever for The-Ghost-Who-Walks.

Project Superpowers #3 -- After the debacle of the FCBD Special, I just hope this makes more sense.

And, since I obviously didn't get to go to the shop last week, here's a retro-themed look at what looks good from last week.

House of Mystery #1 -- Could this signal the return of other DC Weird books? One can only hope.

Tor #1 -- I don't know why this caveman saga keeps drawing my interest. Maybe because it was a DC Explosion book at one point?

The War That Time Forgot #1 -- War Heroes! Versus! Dinosaurs!

Invincible Iron Man #1 -- Still a little shaky on a Shellhead comic that the "mainstream comic press" likes so much, but we'll see soon enough.

Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #1 -- There was a pretty cool Shellhead story set in Vegas in the last days of volume 3. I imagine this one will sell better.

Nova #13 -- I'm still riding on the post-"Annihilation Conquest" wave, so I guess now is the time to re-check out this very cool series.

Wow. Just wow. That's way, way too much stuff! Yikes!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

FCBD Freebies!

I'm never one to pass up free stuff, and free comics is just gravy as far as I am concerned. So how was this year's crop of FCBD goodies? (Sorry that these are a week late, but hey, I had to go out of town on business. And, uh, I'm not done reading them yet. Stop laughing at me.)

All-Star Superman #1 -- I think we're all familiar with this comic by this point, right? Still, pretty kick ass!

Project Superpowers -- Pretty incomprehensible for the most part, even as a reader of the series. A very disappointing freebie.

Archie's Pal Jughead -- Archie and Jughead get jobs as night watchmen at Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore. No, I am not making this up. Actually, not a bad Archie comic, with some light-hearted hijinks and some goofy pop culture references.

Hellboy/BPRD FCBD Special -- I have never read Hellboy, but this special is making me consider getting some material. Three very neat little short stories which paint an appealing picture of life in the BPRD.

X-Men: FCBD Special -- Yeah, I know that I initially met this comic with disdain. But you know what? I was really very pleasantly surprised by it! I don't know the first thing about the lead character (her mutant power is... that she's a pixie?), but as a done-in-one X-Men story, this was a very enjoyable, fun comic book. Are all of Marvel's X-books like this, and I just haven't noticed since I haven't read one since the 8th grade?

Ape Entertainment's Cartoon Apalooza -- There were some good premises -- the superheroes that were all funny animals, or the strange 90s horror heroes who were turned into funny animals -- but overall this didn't do much for me.

EC Sampler -- Just head over to the previous Weekly Dose of Weird to get my thoughts.

Imaginary -- Mostly a puff piece, with introductions of each title followed by some interior artwork. Aladdin looks it may be a purchase for me.

Bongo Comics Free-For-All -- This oddly-sized freebie presents one typical Simpsons strip, and then a weird manga parody. Sadly, no Futurama this time, nor the awesomeness of Nuclear Power Man and Iron Foot, but Bongo usually doesn't let me down.

Gyro Gearloose FCBD Edition -- The most surprising aspect about this comic to me was how relatively recent most of the stories were; there was only one "classic" tale amongst the four. Still, don't take that as a gripe, as Gyro's goofy inventor schtick gets him into all sorts of good clean fun.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man FCBD 2008 -- Guest starring Spider-Man and the Hulk and featuring the Mandarin. I guess this is more of a preview of the upcoming Marvel Adventures Super Heroes, which makes sense. Both of the Marvel freebies were superlative efforts (The Iron Man/Hulk preview book was alright, but not much more than a hype piece).

Transformwers Animated -- FCBD 2008 Edition -- I like the cartoon, so this series -- which looks like it essentially just screencaps with word baloons on them -- plays well for me. But I wonder, if the comic will just adapt the show, or actually tell original stories. If it's the former, count me out.

Owly And Friends -- FCBD 2008 Edition -- Personally, I'd like to see an issue of Owly entitled Orly?, mostly because I'm an idiot. Anyway, overall this was very cute. I especially enjoyed Johnny Boo, which I want to see more of.

Unfortunately, between travel and work, and soon, more travel, I have been unable to check out the balance of the free comics I picked up. So this little roundup will have to do for now, and hopefully I can get an opportunity to read the freebies in with the massive pile of new comics I am picking up this week.

So what did YOU think of the FCBD comics?

Unbridled Capitalism -- Free Comics? Schyeah Right!

In my neck of the woods, Free Comic Book Day has never been merely an excuse to go to your local shop and clean them out of free four color goodies. No, the true purpose of FCBD for a converted fan such as myself is to simply get into the shop (and perhaps, if you are lucky, several other shops) and SPEND SPEND SPEND.

As detailed over at his blog Dispatches From The Arrowcave, Adama and our giant Korean friend Joe both converged on my house, and the nerdery was underway. I say this because besides the anticipation of free stuff, Adam had picked up a bunch of comics for me at his various Quarter Bin frenzies down in Atlanta-town. So before even stepping outside of my home I had some new comics. Sweet! So, after breakfast and an episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, we made our way over to my local shop, Borderlands, to get freebies but also to hit the back issue bins! We spent a good long while in there -- my wife grabbed a Buffy trade and read the entire thing -- and then moved down the block a bit to the other comic shop in Greenville, Richard's Comics and Collectibles.

This store is substantially smaller than Borderlands square footage wise, but they don't have the same gaming stock, so I think in actual comics real-estate they are pretty similar. Anyways, they had a huge tent outside for all the freebies, and had Spider-Man and a gew Tusken Raiders roaming around as well. We made our way inside and partook of the back issue bins and impressive display of toys. On the way out, I managed to win an Iron Man button, which I promptly pinned onto my Iron Man shirt. Sweet!

From there it was time for lunch, followed by a trip to Toys R' Us, where I had to fight the urge to drop triple-digits on Iron Man stuff. I settled for one of the Superhero Squad four packs, this one featuring the classic Red-And-Golds, War Machine, Crimson Dynamo (Shatalov) and Titanium Man! The armored fun continued from there, as we hit the Hollywood 20 for a showing of Iron Man (which, as you know, is awesome). We got treated to trailers for Prince Caspian, The Dark Knight, and The Incredible Hulk to boot.

By the time we got home, I think all of us were a little too over-stimulated. So we wound down after dinner with The Film Crew's riff of Hollywood After Dark and MST3K's take on The Atomic Brain. All in all, a pretty insanely fun FCBD, with everyone having a lot of fun and bringing home a lot of swag. And so, without further ado...

Iron Man: Adama had my hookup this time, providing me with good copies of #113, 162, 163, and 174, good picks all. At Borderlands I added Annual '99, and Iron Man/X-O Manowar: Heavy Metal #1, which is actually the second part of the crossover. Riiiight. Richard's had some good stuff but it was too pricey for this trip. Still, a great haul!

(Batman and The) Outsiders: Richard's was more useful here, as there was a good selection of both the first and second series of Outsiders in a half off bin. Half off bin? Yes please! I obtained volume 1, #6 (Duke of Oil!), 10, and 11, and volume 2 #4 and 0 (and yes, a Retro Review of Zero Hour will be coming. Eventually). Adama got in the act with #15 and 23 from the first volume as well.

Magnus, Robot Fighter: The back issue selection was sparse (although, honestly, I couldn't even reach the bin at Richard's), but once again Adama comes to the rescue, with #42 and 50 to add to my collection of robot chopping madness.

Kull: Found a few more of Marvel's "other" fantasy title, with Kull The Conquerer #10, and Destroyer #12 and 13. Yes, those are the same series, the title just changed, honest! And while Adama couldn't track down any comics with the Valusian king, he did find some Marvel Conan, which will always be the standard-bearer for such comics, netting issues #195, 199, 254-256, and Annual #8.

Weird Stuff: Always on the lookout for more installments of the Weekly Dose, so I snagged Weird War Tales #19, and Vault Of Evil #19. Vault Of Evil? Another Marvel mid-70s horror mag, one which I have never encountered before. Looks like fun, even if I am sure it'll end up being a reprinter (The GCPD has no info on it).

Odds & Ends: Some interesting stuff this time out, including Rawhide Kid #151, an issue of Our Fighting Forces featuring The Losers (#147), and the first issue of the ongoing Hawk and Dove -- which reminds me that I need to email Rick.

Not bad, all told! I certainly will be kept busy reading this stuff for a while... in addition to, you know, all the stuff I still have from the Borderlands Sale, and Atlanta Comic Expo, and HeroesCon coming next month... yikes! Just yikes!

So what did YOU do for FCBD?

Monday, May 12, 2008

What I Read This Week

...Or, The Last Week I Got To The Comic Shop.

DC Universe #0 -- The DC Universe is set up for the next year or so in this 50-cent come-on comic. I think it owes a lot more to Brave New World than it does to Countdown to Infinite Crisis insofar as it is a series of previews of upcoming titles with a somewhat weak through-story rather than the other way around. Still, I enjoyed it, and seeing all the big, epic storylines planned all in one place was nice, especially for the cost. Johns and Morrison are obviously having a blast working on this event, and the various artists give the work a broad feel -- the transition isn't jarring because of the wide range of previews inside.

Avengers: The Initiative #12 -- Uh, wasn't this supposed to be a face-off between Iron Man and War Machine? If so, why did they have about 3 lines of dialogue between each other? I guess if you were reading Initiative already this might be alright, but other than some fun at the expense of Henry Gyrich, and some nifty use of thought baloons, the whole thing falls flat. The whole point that Slott and Gage are making ("The Initiative is bad... mmkay?") kinda seems ill-advised considering the title of the book, and Uy's art is poorly suited for a superhero title. I feel like a sucker for buying this.

Caliber #1 -- In the West, a great conflict is brewing between the new settlers and the established natives, and only a weapon of great and fantastic power can stop absolute chaos and lead civilization. This Weird-West-Meets-Round-Table update is, first off, beautiful; the art by Garrie Gastonny is lush and does a good job of capturing the "wide-vision" landscape (an interesting contrast to Cboins work in the first few issues of Graveslinger). The story, by Sam Sarkar, wanders a little bit and struggles to get it's footing, but by the end becomes clearer and sets up what should be an appealing adventure. Definitely worth checking this one out, especially with it's reduced price point ($1.00).

glamourpuss #1 -- I don't think anyone is ever really quite sure what Dave Sim is going to produce except for Dave Sim himself, and glamourpuss seems to contradict even that. This comic starts out as an examination of the "photo-realistic" cartooning style as used by Al Williamson and his disciples for newspaper strips decades ago, with Sim trying to recreate this "beyond noir" style through the liberal use of lines and black ink. But then it seemingly starts to get away from him, descending into a sort of narrative about high fashion model glamourpuss, in a series of satirical jabs at the fashion industry and publications such as Vogue and it's ilk. It's all very strange but also quite captivating -- the kind of off-the-wall thing most expect from Sim considering that we are all living in the "Post-Cerebus" era, so to speak. Definitely not for everyone, but check it out, you might be surprised.

The Pick Of The Pile this week is a tough call. DC Universe was a lot of fun, but really not overly substantial; Caliber was exciting and very pretty, but had some unclear bits which required a second look; and glamourpuss was challenging and fun, but still pretty far out there. In the end, I am going with Caliber, which set the ball rolling for what promises to be a rolickingly Weird Western.

So what did YOU read this week? (And the one before that, I guess.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird -- FCBD Edition!

In true EC fashion, the comics had long since turned to moldy dust, and undead fanboys rose from their graves to avenge this atrocity.
EC Sampler -- Free Comic Book Day -- I hope those books are bagged and boarded. You really shouldn't keep your comics in such a moist, humid environment.

I. "Spawn Of Venus" -- A team of two-fisted scientists rocket to Venus, only for half of them to fall victim to the deadly flora and a giant ameoba. One returns to Earth with a beautiful flower, only for it to produce another ameoba. The army blows it up with an atom bomb, which of course does little except produce hundreds of the little suckers.

II. "Dying City" -- A blinded North Korean officer is informed of all the death and carnage his choice to join the revolution has brought upon his village and his family by his grandfather.

III. "Curse Of The Full Moon!" -- An American travelling in Europe is pricked by wolfsbane, and believes himself to be a werewolf when reports of a feral beast pop up wherever he and his partner travel. Back in the states, he confesses this to his friend, who promptly reveals himself to be the killer, having used the werewolf bit as cover.

IV. "Under Cover!" -- The Black Vigilante Society (a barely-disguised Klan allegory) flogs a woman to death in view of an intrepid reporter. Escaping the Hoods in the forst, the reporter makes it back to his hotel, only for the Society to catch up with him and lay a beating on him. He awakes in the hospital to find the FBI wanting his information. When he tells that he saw the Grandmaster's face, the FBI "agents" pull their pieces and silence the witness to the Society's evil.

Overall Weird Rating: 3.5 (out of 5).

These stories (from Weird Science, Two-Fisted Tales, The Crypt Of Terror (forerunner of Tales From The Crypt), and Shock SuspenStories) offer a very good sampling of EC's output from the 50s, and are an excellent commercial for the hardcover Archive editions. The overall weirdness is negatively impacted by the second story, one of Two-Fisted classicly harsh anti-war features, which is excellent but in no way "weird." The first feature kinda makes up for this. Definitely pick this one up if your retailer has any sitting around after FCBD.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Short Hiatus

Well, yesterday was a very successful FCBD, with lots of freebies as well as some cool back issues and some more Iron Man swag! Unfortunately, I have to go out of town for business again this week, so the Bunker will have to go on hiatus for a few days. I'll be back later in the week with some more 4 Color fun! Take it easy!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

It's Iron Man time! It's a double dose of iron as Rick first asks us all to Sock It To Shellhead!

And Rick keeps it going as The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing and Tony Stark go all Hollywood on us in Marvel Two-In-One!

I was with Adama when he got this awesome print from Michael Golden. Hot stuff!

Let's all give a warm Bunker welcome to Lilbones of Tales From the Batcave. Batfans and Iron Fans, blogging together! Mass hysteria!

Time to go South Of The Border (no, my fellow South Carolinians, we are not going to Florence), and check out Aquaman in Mexico, along with archer extraordinaire Fleca Verde! Oddly, rob posts this the week that Disney re-releases Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros on DVD... coincidence? I think not.

Frank shows off this JLA-Avengers ACTOR piece by George Perez.

And finally: Never give up, never surrender! Galaxy Quest is coming to the world of comics! And remember, "It doesn't take a good actor to recognize a bad one!"

Friday, May 2, 2008

Weekly Dose Of Weird!

That is one horrific quilt.
Unexpected #123 -- Again with the patchwork look. It's becoming something of a trend on these DCs.

I. "Death Watch!" -- Charlie Miller, a wealthy man with a weak heart, is targetted by his friend Gil, who aims to kill him, take his money, and his girl Leah! Driving him into a coma by scaring him, Gil is on the home stretch, but doesn't count on Charlie's fear of the afterlife -- coupled with his unstoppable hatred -- helping him cling to life.

II. "Man In The Attic!" -- Landlady Mydia. Magloon and her old biddy tenent Lydia are afraid of the serial strangler terrorizing the city. Just then, the odd Mr. Purvis comes to rent a room. Lydia is convinced he is the killer, while the widow Mydia thinks only of marriage. When she goes to see Mr. Purvis in his room, Mydia says he reminds her of her late husband, then goes all wild-eyed and strangles him, saying she wants to feel her hands around his neck like all the others.

III. "Unexpected Mail" -- Letters column, with a highlight including a reader correctly identifying the Grang Guignol.

IV. "Curse Of The Sea Hag!" -- Jerry, on the run from the law for some reason, happens up a "ghost ship" named the Sea Hag. Sneaking aboard to hide out, he runs into Roseanne, who tells him about how she and two toughs attempted to ron the ship's owner, the aged Mrs. Heggerty. They suddenly discovered themselves set out to sea, and, with the men drowned after a failed escape, Roseanne found herself trapped on the Sea Hag for a year, until someone more evil came along to replace her. Jerry slaps Roseanne, then runs into Mrs. Heggerty, and promptly finds himself trapped out at sea.

V. "Voice In The Night" -- Michael is haunted by the spectral voice of his wife Jean, who died in a car accident. Seeking professional help, he soon discovers that it's not his wife, but he himself doing the haunting -- because Michael is a ventriloquist, driven insane by his guilt.

Overall Weird Factor: 2 (out of 5).

Not a bad little mystery/horror comic, but overly exceptional either. The third story is the best of the bunch, but the second's twist ending is good. The issue does a good job of playing on the title's theme, with twists to make things "unexpected," not entirely unlike the other DC genre titles of the era.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

FCBD Preview

Well, no doubt anyone reading this site knows that this Saturday is the 7th Annual Free Comic Book Day! And, though you really never need an excuse to go to your local comic book shop, FCBD does offer a great reason to stop in and sample some stuff which you normally might not pick up. And, of course, you should make sure to bring along your non-comic reading friends as well, along with your spouse. Have kids? Or neices and nephews? Bring em along too, or just grab some of the many free kids or AA books and make them a nice care package. I may be a superhero fan for the most part, but I like comics in general, and anything which raises the profile of the medium is a good thing in my book. So here is a little preview of some of the more interesting selections available this year.

Teens and Older
Hellboy/BPRD FCBD Special -- Just in time for the release of the second Hellboy movie (obviously). I've always liked Mignola's quirky art.

All-Star Superman #1 -- I'm tempted to put this on the All-Ages list, but I don't know if kids will appreciate it the way an older reader might.

Project Superpowers -- So far I have enjoyed this series, and as a tool to opening new readers minds to characters other than the Big Two, it might be worthwhile.

X-Men FCBD Special -- Ah let's face it. At some point, everyone reads an X-Book.

EC Sampler -- It might just be an advertisement for the hefty hardcovers, but any type of EC is worth reading.

Salem: Queen Of Thorns -- Comics set during the Salem Witch trials. I'm intrigued if nothing else.

Drafted -- This sci-fi title sounds like a mix of Verhoven's Starship Troopers and Space: Above And Beyond.

Imaginary -- Radical Press's sampler book, and since all of their titles sound interesting, this one sounds interesting as well.

Kids and All-Ages
Gyro Gearloose FCBD Edition -- Duck comics are usually fun, and I don't think I have ever read a Gyro comic. The Uncle Scrooge freebie from a few years ago remains my all-time favorite FCBD book.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man FCBD 2008 -- It's an MA book; it's a kick-butt movie; it's Iron Man. This is pretty straightforward, huh?

Kids Love Comics! Comic Book Diner -- Just for Patrick, The Wolf Boy, this looks like it will be cuteness overload.

Ape Entertainment's Cartoon Apalooza -- Apes! Look out Joe Quesada!

Graphic Classics -- I know Marvel has been doing updated versions of Classics Illustrated, but this looks like it has potential.

Maintenance #1 -- The concept of this title (the adventures of the custodial crew at the giant laboratory complex of a group of mad scientists) is just too amusing to pass up.

Tiny Titans #1 -- Yeah, I already bought it once, but I figure I'll give this one away to someone.

Bonus Swag
Iron Man Heroclix/Star Wars CMG Miniatures -- I've picked up a few FCBD Heroclixes over the years (Batman and Spider-Man), but Iron Man is the first one I am actively trying to get. Ironically, with him I can actually put together a team of Avengers from the original starter set my brother picked up many, many years ago. The Star Wars piece is mostly me hoping I can get the Skiff Guard (Weequay?) they show on the site -- that or a Nikto, because, let's face it, Nikto rock.

My good pals Adama and Joe are heading up for what is sure to be a nerdery-filled weeken, plus we are meeting up some more local folks as well. I am not sure if my shop is running any specials in addition to the FCBD stuff, but there's still dollar bins and other goodies to tempt. Plus, there is a second shop not too far away, so we might pop in there as well, before heading over the theater for Iron Man.

So, do you intend to head out to your shop for free comics? What looks good to YOU?