Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Unbridled Capitalism: Richard's Basement

My brother and sister-in-law camedown from New York for a visit, and on Saturday we took a visit into Greenville to hit up our local comic shops.  While at Richard's Comics and Collectables, I noticed a little sign on their cash register which said to check out their downstairs area, which was filled with quarter bins and other discount items.  Never realizing that Richard's had such a section, my brother and I gave it the once over and were dutifully impressed.

It's a small space, crammed full of lonboxes and a few tables covered with statues and toys.  I wasn't prepared to go fully bin diving but I did poke around for a bit, especially in a box containing discounted whole runs or miniseries.  So what was the swag?

Camelot 3000 -- The entire series for $8.00!  Hot damn!  I had passed on the hardcover collection which was recently released entirely on the price, but for 8 bucks how can you go wrong?  It's worth noting that this series is 1) written by Mike W. Barr (that magnificent bastard) and 2) on Baxter paper!

GI Joe Roadblock bust -- My brother picked this up for $20, more than half off it's normal retail.  I have the Cobra Commander bust from this line so I can attest to it's awesomeness.

Like I said, a short spin but definitely a place I have to hit up again at some point.  

Monday, June 29, 2009

What I Read This Week

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #6 -- The Lost Battalion is surrounded and out of food, water, and ammo, but they will not give up the line -- and reinforcements have finally arrived!  A strong conclusion to a strong series, Tucci wraps everything up nicely and makes a few references/homages to the old DC War books which fans should enjoy.  Those who skipped out on this series because "if it ain't Kubert, it ain't Rock" missed the point and should buy the inevitable collected edition.

Guardians of the Galaxy #15 -- With the Inhuman Elite on one side and the Imperial Guard on the other, the Guardians are in it deep!  It's hard to imagine, but things then get worse!  Enjoyable (as always) sci-fi romp from DnA and Brad Walker, and the connective tissue back to War of Kings is always appreciated.  Not the deepest comic book you will read all month but certainly a fun one.

Nova #26 -- Richard Rider is back as Nova Prime!  (You didn't think he would stay as Quasar forever, did you?)  But he has chosen a rough time to come back, as he is forced to dismantle the hastily rebuilt Nova Corps and deal with the fallout from their ill-advised incursions into the Kree-Shi'ar War.  DnA deliver again, with Andrea DiVito handling the art chores nicely.  This ties back a bit to the first Annihilation, nicely showcasing the organic nature of these cosmic stories under DnA.  Great series month in and month out.

Invincible Iron Man #14 -- Tony Stark is still on the run, heading to Russia and getting help from his old comrade Dmtiri Bhukharin.  Meanhwile, Maria Hill's behavior gets more and more bizarre, and Pepper Potts finds herself with a new identity.  Better than some of the other issues in this seemingly interminable story, but Fraction and La Rocca only hit to about average.  This title has tons of fans, but in my book it could be so much more.  My nitpick for this installment: Dmitiri hasn't worn the Crimson Dynamo armor for years, comic-time, so why is he wearing it now?

The Pick Of The Pile is Sgt. Rock, which while a different experience from any other Rock project I have ever seen, is a true labor of love and really delivers the goods.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

One Panel, One Question: X-Men #58

Did the X-Men ever look better than when Neal Adams drew them?

I think not.

Man, I dig that panel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Looks Good?

As summer gets hotter, now is the perfect time to find something cool to read and beat the heat inside, as the Good Lord intended.  Or something.

Freddy vs Jason vs Ash: Nightmare Warriors #1 -- The original series as a hoot, but I think I am going to pass on this one in singles and just get the collection.  Hopefully Jason Craig is fully healed up from his hand injury and will be able to handle all the art chores this time out, as his pencils were outstanding in the last series.

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #6 -- The conclusion of what has been a very strong War series.  I wouldn't mind seeing more such projects from DC in the future but only with the right creators involved.

Essential Doctor Strange v.4 -- Maybe Adama can explain to me why Doctor Strange has four Essential volumes and Iron Man only has three?!  What the heck?!

Guardians of the Galaxy #15 -- War of Kings tie-in!  Woo!

Nova #26 -- Ditto!

So, what looks good to YOU?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

4 Color Cinema: Wonder Woman

On of the major advantages of DC Comics' corporate connection with Warner Brothers is Warner Animation, which has been helping keep the DC Long-Underwear Pantheon in cartoon form since the early 90s.  The latest front, direct-to-DVD animated films, has yielded successes for DC, including the superlative Justice League: The New Frontier and the anime-centric Batman: Gotham Knight (which although I didn't care for it apparently sold like proverbial hotcakes).  The next release from the series is the film we are looking at today, Wonder Woman.  (This review will contain some spoilers.)

Our story opens in the time of hallowed antiquity, as a battle rages between Hippolyta's Amazons and the forces of Ares, god of war.  In the end, Hippolyta is able to overcome her foe, but is ordered to spare Ares' life by Zeus, his father.  Demanding retribution for all that Ares has taken from her people, Hippolyta is instead rewarded by Hera, given an island paradise, Themyscira, away from Man's World where she and her sisters may live in peace and prosper -- and where Ares will be their prisoner for all eternity.  Further, Hera answers Hippolyta prayers for a daughter, molded from the sandy clay of the island's beaches.  Her name: Diana, Princess of the Amazons.

Diana longs to reconnect with the outside world, but Hippolyta knows the evil which rests in men's hearts, and wants nothing to do with it.  So the Princess must content herself with sparring against Artemis, captain of the guard, or studying with bookish Alexa.  But this is thrown in the air when US Air Force fighter pilot Steve Trevor accidentaly splashes down on Themyscira, the first man to step foot on the island.  Trevor is easily captured, and Hippolyta decrees that he must be returned to his own land.  A contest is held, and Diana (through sneaking her way in) wins the right to escort Trevor home, earning the gifts of the gods which become her costume -- the Golden Girdle of Gaea, Amazonian Bracelts, the Lasso of Truth, Invisible Jet, the whole nine.  

Back in Man's World, Diana finds the aculturization of women offensive -- raised from birth to think they are weaker than men, and then using their own feminity to get what they want as adults.  But while Diana becomes disillusioned with Man's World, devious events are unfolding back in Themyscira, as Ares is able to escape his prison cell and make for the Underworld, where he seeks his uncle Hades' assistance in returning him to his full power.  Diana jets off to stop the god of war, but is unable to do so.  Now, facing a god with the power to drive every living being on the planet into a frenzied battle rage, Diana must use all of her strength, courage, and skill to save both Man's World and Themyscira.

Wonder Woman is a character whom I have only recently (read: the last several years) begun developing an interest in.  I blame her appearances on Justice League, followed by my getting harder into the DCU in the build-up to Infinite Crisis.  I'm not a huge fan by any means but I do like her and will check out her title from time to time.  This film does a lot to foster than appreciation, as it is a very easy story to get into and doesn't bog down the proceedings with too much history or continuity.  As an introduction for non-fans to the world of Wonder Woman, this is a great job.

Keri Russell voices Diana with a mix of intelligence and naivete which works well for the character once she is in Man's World.  Her tone hardens shortly thereafter, keeping with her character's mindset.  Her performance is strong but not over-the-top.  On the other hand, Nathan Fillion, as Steve Trevor, comes really close, but stops just shy.  The rest of the cast all turn in solid perfomances, including Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2) as a slick Ares, Rosasrio Dawsom as tough-gal Artemis, and Virginia Madsen as the wise but still butt-kicking Hippolyta.

About the only complaint I have with the film is the very strong "battle of the sexes" theme which covers most of the second act.  Between Steve acting like a horn-dog and Diana's speechification, it comes very close to stumbling into corn-fed preachiness.  Luckily, there's a fight with a demon in there to break things up and otherwise clear the air.  The animation is fluid and the characters designed nicely.  My wife made a comment about the Amazon's not finding a lot of material with which to make Diana's garments, but that's her costume so you work with it.

Overall, this is a very strong, entertaining little film which will keep viewers satisfied, even if they are novice Wonder Woman fans like me.  

Monday, June 22, 2009

What I Read This Week

Outsiders #19 -- The Outsiders take a run at Deathstroke the Terminator as he tries to take out their lead, while the mysterious cabal the team has been fighting against sends their own strike force up into space... too bad they didn't count on The Creeper's security system!  It might jsut be me, but I very much enjoying the new Outsiders team's first story arc.  This issue treads strongly with a really well-designed and laid-out battle with Deathstroke (handled by Fernando Pasarin) intercut with scenes of a big-baddie as well as Creeper in space (handled by Jeremy Haun).  Tomasi keeps it all on the rails and I am really impatiently waiting for the finale.

Tiny Titans #17 -- It's Robin's birthday party!  And he gets a lot of clothes as gifts -- ugh!  Plus some of the Tiny Titans discuss continuity, and all the headaches that incurs.  Cute if immorable installment.  I like Tiny Titans but sometimes I can't help but wonder if I would be better served spending the money I budget for it on some other kids comics instead -- to stock up on for when my son gets to reading age.  Of course, every time I think that some referential joke comes around which makes me fall in love with it all over again.  

Invincible Iron Man #14 -- It appears that Marvel's mail order subscription service is now locked into being at least a week behind the newsstand release date.  Ah well.

War Machine #7 -- Woo!  More American Eagle!  But that's not all in this issue, as War Machine brings the fight to the US government and the "Ultimo virus."  More guns-blazing action in the manner which befits a character of War Machine's style.  The setup for the rest of the storyline is a little obvious ("they've split the CPU into three parts scattered across the country!") but this title is not about subtlety.

War of Kings: Ascension #3 -- The secret origin (of sorts) of Darkhawk continues, while the Raptors make their play with Emperor Vulcan!  There's a lot of hate for this series and Darkhawk in general online, and personally, I agree with none of it.  Much like DnA revitalized Nova back in the first Annihilation, Darkhawk is similarly getting refurbished here, and I for one am really enjoying the trip.  I am hoping that after this event is done we will be seeing more of Chris Powell in the future.  Plus, this ties back to War of Kings #4 very nicely -- and to be fair, the creators still do a good job of explaining the connection in the bizarre chance that you are reading this title and not WoK.  Still not thrilled with the price point, though.

The Pick of the Pile is Outsiders, which hits on just about every element I want in a superhero team book (with the exception that there is no romance between two members... yet.  Remember the hint back in #15?).  Strong week overall.

So, what did YOU read this week?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Discount Bin Finds: Marvel Two-In-One #21

Anyone who has looked through my (now, admittedly sparsely updated) blog has probably seen that when I go discount bin diving, I tend to come up with a lot of team-up comics  Team-ups are, in a lot of ways, the perfect sort of comic book for a discoubt bin.  For one thing, most of them are self-contained, so you don't need to get lucky in order to get the whole story.  Secondly, the combination of two characters is often more interesting than either character on their own.  By this I mean that while I may not buy a comic starring, say, the Black Knight, but one starring the Black Knight teaming up Spider-Man I'd consider.

None of this is rocket science; Rick has been espousing these same virtues over at Mail It To Team-Up for years.

We can take this one step further when we consider that team-up books were used not-infrequently as showcases for less popular or new characters in order to give them a boost.  Which leads me to the topic of this post, Marvel Two-In-One #21, guest starring none other than the Man of Bronze, Doc Savage!  Marvel had scored the license to publish Doc's comic book adventures, and gave him a guest spot in MTIO to give his title a rub.  Of course, since Marvel no longer has that license, this issue is not found in the Essential Marvel Two-In-One v.1 collection, meaning the only way to read it is in it's original form.  See, "waiting for the trade" is not perfect!

Our story is a time-bender, as The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing and the Man of Bronze each deal with a similar threat four decades apart from one another.  In the present (that is, 1976), the Thing's workout in the Baxter Building is interrupted by the arrival of a Mrs. Lightner, who promptly faints.  "Meanwhile," back in 1936, Doc and his crew are also paid a visit by a Mrs. Lightner, who also faints upon entering.   The "modern" Mrs. Lightner, Janice, says she is Raymond Lightner's daughter, and having trouble with her twin brother Tom, while the "classic" one, Lucinda, says that Raymond is her husband, and that he has begun to fall off the deep end, including beating her, after she told him she was pregnant.  Seems that both father and son have become obsessed with a device Raymond built called the Sky Cannon, which would allow the user to draw power from the stars and transmit it into a human host!  This is punctuated when all of the lights in New York City go out in both eras -- even the stars.  

Ben and Johnny Storm head head out to investigate in the 70s, while Doc and his crew do the same in the 30s, but both find themselves blasted with the Sky Cannon -- and end up being pulled together in time to the Disco era!  But that's not all, as Raymond and Tom are both struck with the reflected Sky Cannon's beam, and end up merged together as a being named Black Sun.  After some quick introductions, the two groups face down Black Sun, with the Thing amazed that he is fighting beside the legendary Doc Savage.  But there is no time for that, as Black Sun's super-dense body deflects bullets, and his darkness blasts are able to knock out the Human Torch.  Thing gets himself clobbered, but Doc is able to figure out that Black Sun's powers weaken when the stars are not visible.  The two heroes are still outmatched, though, and Black Sun tries to absorb the entire cosmos... only to burn himself out and collapse.  The anomoly defeated, the temporal rift closes, and Doc Savage and his crew return to their time -- unfortunately too quickly for Ben to get an autograph.  

I've never really gotten into Doc Savage all that much, and I think that contributes some to this issue not totally working for me.  I can't help but think that this story would have been better served in a Giant-Size or Annual, where the seperate timelines could have been presented as seperate chapters, and then the actual team-up as the climax.  The last bit, with Thing and Doc together, is exciting and a lot of fun, but the setup is less successful at holding interest.  The art, by Ron Wilson and embellished by Pablo Marcos, is typical mid-70s Marvel fare, which is say nice but nothing superlative.  The first half of the book is split vertically (which is slightly distracting but nothing we haven't seen before), but then takes on a more cohesive look in the end, which helps out the composition a lot.  I think that Bill Mantlo did the best he could with this pairing, but ultimately it doesn't work out as well as it could due to the space and time restrictions.  

Of course, Doc Savage fans will probably want to seek it out just for the novelty, while Thing fans can safely pass on it if they are happy with their Essential collections.  Still, as an oddity, and a relatively rare team-up, it's worth checking out if you can find a copy.  

What Looks Good?

Back to work full time now, as our son is slowly getting into something of a routine.  I remember what routine was like.  I miss routine.

Outsiders #19 -- The team is in trouble (as usual) and it looks like it is going to be a hard fight to get out of it (as usual)!

Tiny Titans #17 -- The cuteness just keeps on coming!

Invincible Iron Man #14 -- Tony's going old school!  You know, just like Frank Tieri did in the 90s and the Knaufs did last year!

War Machine #7 -- More American Eagle!  More American Eagle!  (I doubt we will get it, but still...) More American Eagle!

War of Kings: Ascension #3 -- The Raptors just changed the game over in the main War of Kings series, so I am eager to see what goes down over here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I Read This Week

Flash: Rebirth #3 -- With Barry Allen's touch revealed to be fatal, he is cordoned off and quarantined lest anyone else die at his hands.  But will the straight-laced, justice-minded Barry allow this to stand?  And once more we ask the age old question: who's faster, Superman or The Flash?  Johns and Van Sciver turn in another superior issue of what has been, to this Flash fan anyway, a superior series.  I know there haters out there, but I am really digging the mystery here.  And the big villian reveal on the last page may be "obvious," but as I find myself saying from time to time, sometimes the obvious choice is the right choice.  Van Sciver's trippy visuals as Barry treks through the Speed Force add bonus points.

House of Mystery #14 -- We're back to The Space Between, as Harry and Peter find themselves in some sort of wasteland, and the rest of the crew inside the house puzzles over what happened to the two of them.  Meanwhile, Rina is busy telling her story in a tale involving werewolves and suicide bombers.  Very thought-provoking "Weird" story, as one of the mysteries of the aforementioned House is revealed, as well as one a secret of a major character.  This title kind of flies under the radar most of the time, but it is a real treat to read each and every time out.

The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks #3 -- The first of two Phantom offerings this week from Moonstone closes out the End War storyline, as Arab "patriot" turned mercenary Kamil Kazi's plans to engluf the entire world in a war enters its final stages.  Can The Ghost Who Walks stop The Flame before it burns the entire world to cinders?  When Moonstone announced that they were relaunching their Phantom title, I was confused, since I didn't see the point.  It now has become clear that while this series is in continuity with the previous one, the split was done to provide a clean entry point for new readers into the world of The Ghost Who Walks.  I doubt many readers could read this initial story arc and not be impressed.  

The Phantom: Generations #2 -- Our other Phantom comic this week is actually an illustrated prose magazine moreso than a traditional comic book format.  The second Phantom finds himself between the war-bound tribes of Bangalla and an army of ferocious pirates, all while trying to rescue an innocent Spanish noblewoman from the Pirate lord!  While plagued by some production problems (notbaly, several typos, which have also cropped up in similar offerings from Moonstone), overall I am very pleased with this issue.  The story is fast paced but not lightweight, with a pair of strong setpieces which make for fun reading.  This format would work really well with just about any pulp-style or Men's Adventure hero, such as The Shadow, Mandrake, The Destroyer, or so forth.  Plus this entire series would look great bound up in a nice hardcover (with purple binding, of course).

Strange Adventures #4 -- On Hardcore Station, Comet, Eye, and Adam Strange set out to regain Adam's stolen wares, while the spectral Synnar gives them vague and cryptic hints about what is going on,  Starman investigates the vanishing stars, and Bizarro runs into the Station security.  What connects these people and why are they able to perceive the changes to the universe when no one else can?  More "throwback" style space opera from Starlin and company, which reads a lot more like a comic from the 80s than from the 00s, and I mean that in a good way.  More secrets are revealed regarding the Abberant Six, and the backup is put to good use in fleshing out the history of Lady Styx.  All around a strong issue of a strong miniseries.

Storming Paradise #6 -- While American troops are forced to patrol from village to village rooting out the resistance, the German/Japanese superweapon is ready for deployment.  But the Allies have gotten wind of it's existance and are on the hunt!  A sudden and surprising end to the series, one which strongly suggests (to me, at least) that this is the first chapter in a longer story.  The anti-climactic ending is a disappointment, but the issue (and the series) is still strong.

Warlord #3 -- Morgan, Shakira, and Machiste make their way to the stronghold of the "new god" in Skartaris, while Tinder makes contact with a newcomer to their world.  Grell's story builds in the standard S&S manner, and fills in some of the gaps which have been (intentionally) left in the first two issues.  So far I am really enjoying this series, which reads a lot like the original version and thus is a lot different than most anything else on the racks nowadays (again, similar to Strange Adventures).  

War of Kings #4 -- The war between the Shi'ar and the Kree rages on, as the cost of the massive conflict is becoming clear to both sides, even as the conflict grows with the addition of new players.  This event has a very different tone from both Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest (which simiarly had different tones from each other), and it is clear that DnA are really trying to push the envelope here.  When things come off the rails (in a good way) towards the end of this issue, the threat is palpable and the chaos raw.  This is an excellent piece of sci-fi comics.

War of Kings: Savage World of Skaar -- A one-shot tie-in of the best kind, as we get some time to focus on lesser members of the Kree ruling family (Gorgon) and the Shi'ar Imperial Guard (Firebolt) as they find themselves pulled through a cosmic anomoly and on the backwoods planet Sakaar.  A lot of fun but ultimately skippable, although the last page promises a return to this storyling at some point -- time will tell, I suppose.

The Pick of The Pile is a tough one, with lots of strong contenders from this batch.  I am going to give the nod to War of Kings, which just edges out Flash: Rebirth and Strange Adventures in the awesomeness department.

So what did YOU read this week?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

DOUBLE-SHOT! What Looks Good?

This is a Double-Shot of What Looks Good, covering this week and the last -- mostly because with the new addition to the family, getting to the comic shop has been a little difficult!

Flash: Rebirth #3 -- Ironically, they just had a race around the world in Tiny Titans.  I imagine this race will be somewhat different.

House of Mystery #14 -- Back to the main story after the 13th Issue Spectacular.  This is one series which always keeps me guessing.

The Phantom: Generations #2 -- Will this one be a Moonstone "Illustrated Prose" comic like the last issue?  Chances are good.

The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks #3 -- The new/old take on the Phantom is lots of jaw-jacking fun.

Strange Adventures #4 -- Adam, Comet, Eye, and Bizarro, flying through spaaaaace, having adventures!

Storming Paradise #6 -- The delayed alternate history of WWII bows here in what should be brutal fashion.

Warlord #3 -- Travis Morgan is one bad dude, and now that he and Shakira are reunited with Machiste, look out!

War of Kings #4 -- Avoiding spoilers for this one has been hard, so it has to go at the top of the pile.

War of Kings: Savage World of Skaar -- I have avoided the Planet Hulk stuff, but this one-shot will probably end up in my pull box.

So, what looks good to YOU?

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Well folks, my wife and I are back from the hospital with our brand-new son, our first child. As such, updates are going to be sporadic-to-non-existant for the next few weeks while we all get used to the new routine.

Now to start reading him some Richie Rich comics...