Monday, October 31, 2016

The Black Monday Murders #3

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The Black Monday Murders, Issue #3 is the third double-issue comic out of the four that make up the first arc or what will become the first trade paperback.  I hope that it becomes a long series, but who knows what'll happen by Issue #4.  Jonathan Hickman, artist Tomm Coker, colorist Michael Garland, and my favorite letterer, Rus Wooton, have created a rich world full of high finance and the occult.  In Issue #2, Viktor Eresko was arrested for the murder from Issue #1, but it's not as simple as that, of course.

This particular issue is very good, even in a series that is very good.  Besides the obvious themes, the comic also touches upon classism, authority, and how the two comingle.  Most of all, it's a comic about power, the power that comes with being a police officer, a high banking executive, or a member of the Russian mafia.  There is occult power, perhaps even extraterrestrial power, and it's all up to a very strange detective to sort it all out.

Poe Dameron #7

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Star Wars: Poe Dameron, Issue #7 starts a new arc, and it looks like the series is going to continue for some time.  For those that haven't read Issue #1 through Issue #6, Star Wars: Poe Dameron is the story of what Poe Dameron and Black Squadron did in the events leading up to Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.  Black Squadron is a sort of "black" ops group of pilot/agents within the Resistance, and their missions include finding the trail to Luke Skywalker.

This particular issue has Poe Dameron meeting an old friend named Suralinda from the Republic Navy who's now a journalist.  Of course, it all turns into a chase and a firefight in due order.  It also has him flying a stormsailer, which looks like a catamaran in the air.  The situations are a bit different from the rest of the current Star Wars canon, but Charles Soule and artists Angel Unzueta and Frank D'armata have really captured the feeling of Star Wars in this spy thriller.

Spider-Man/Deadpool #10

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Spider-Man/Deadpool, Issue #10 continues the "Itsy Bitsy" arc, which started at the end of Issue #9.  Itsy Bitsy is a new meta-human who combines the traits and abilities of Spider-Man and Deadpool.  She of course starts out by fighting the two.  That's how super-powered stories usually start.  Well, except for Spider-Man/Deadpool.  They kinda' started out already working together, but then Deadpool assassinated Peter Parker.  Then he went to the Underworld to save him, so I guess that is how this title started out.

The ease of reading of this title is quite a bit lower than most Marvel Comics titles.  There are puns, innuendos, and obscure references.  On top of that, there's a bit more text.  I don't think my 12-year-old nephew, for instance, would get a lot of the jokes even though he reads a lot of Teen+ rated comics, including a fair amount of Deadpool.  This is a great series, though.  How can you go wrong with Deadpool, Spider-Man, Ed McGuinness, and Joe Kelly?

Descender #16

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Descender, Issue #16 ends the "Singularities" arc, which focuses on Andy, the boy who Tim-21 was bought to be a companion of.  It shows his story after his mother dies, how he becomes friends with and then married to the woman who would become the leader of the Between, a cult of half-human, half-cyborg people just trying to survive.  This issue shows Driller's backstory.

The whole "Singularities" arc has shown pretty much nothing but backstories, and now that the arc is finished, there won't be any new Descender until December.  I'm pretty happy about this arc because it shows that the creators (Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen) are building for the future.  I do highly recommend this Image comic.  The art is all watercolors, so it's a little different from this particular cover.  The third trade paperback comes out in December, just before Christmas.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Blue Beetle #2

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Blue Beetle, Issue #2 had me a little confused at first.  I guess I didn't remember Issue #1 as well as I thought I did.  Issue #2 starts out with the Blue Beetle hanging out with a posse of meta-humans, none of whom are superheroes.  Not every meta-human is a superhero like the Blue Beetle, and not every superhero is a meta-human.  You've got the Green Arrow and Batman, for instance.  One of the meta-humans takes a fancy to the Blue Beetle, and they fight and stuff.  I think I need a Venn diagram.

This comic got good quickly.  I really should be reading more of these $2.99 Rebirth titles by DC Comics, but so far, I've only been reading a few B-team superheroes in this title and Green Lanterns.  They come out every couple of weeks, and they're easy to read.  I liked the interplay between Blur and the Blue Beetle, and the revelation that Jamie's mother is their doctor brings an added twist to this title.  I'll buy it next time.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Civil War II #6

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Civil War II, Issue #6 has Spider-Man (Miles Morales) smashing Captain America (Steve Rogers) on the cover, after a vision by Ulysses in Issue #5 shows Spider-Man killing Captain America.  Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) immediately tries to arrest Spider-Man, but Captain America nixes the idea, and Spider-Man goes home.  Not terribly much happens in this issue, but the planning, layout, and artwork are beyond compare.

One aspect of Marvel that's hard to keep track of is who the superheroes are.  There are two Captains America, two Hawkeyes, an Iron Man, and Riri Williams as Ironheart.  Thor is a woman, and the old Thor goes by Odinson, but the cover of the first issue of a new series by Jason Aaron and Olivier Coipel suggests that Odinson becomes Thor again.  The Thing is a Guardian of the Galaxy, but in Infamous Iron Man, which takes place after Civil War II, he's an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

At $4.99, this is a rather expensive comic, but it has a thicker cover and not quite as many advertisements as Issue #5, or at least the advertisements weren't as intrusive.  Really, this is a great series to read and collect.

Saga #39

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Saga, Issue #39 deals with the aftermath of the death of Izabel and the arrival of a pair of freelancers, the March.  In Issue #38, Hazel was really mean to Izabel right before she died, so she feels bad.  There's also a brief look at what the Will is doing.  It's all downright amazing how creative Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are.  They're really a magical combination, and this remains one of my favorite current comics.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Punisher Annual #1

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The Punisher Annual, Issue #1 isn't created by the famed team of Becky Cloonan and the late Steve Dillon, who by the way, died of a ruptured appendix, so it seems.  Instead, we have writer Gerry Conway, artist Felix Ruiz, and color artist Lee Loughridge, all solid hands.  Like most Annual issues, the artwork and story is a little bit different.  This issue takes place on Halloween, and it's a one-off story about a Punisher bloodbath.

The shift of the narrative voice from the Punisher's point of view to the point of view of Mamdouh, a second-generation cop following the Punisher is somewhat unnerving.  I was pleasantly surprised at the smaller amount of advertising this Marvel title had.  It's a riotous story, very typical of the Punisher and very good.  I bought the Variant Edition.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Immortal Rain, Vol. 1

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Immortal Rain, Vol. 1 is a title I picked up based on the strength of author Kaori Ozaki's more recent work, The Gods Lie.  It's the story of how the immortal Rain Jewlitt, also called Methuselah, is chased by the 14-year-old assassin, Machika.  Machika goes after Rain because her grandfather was also an assassin who hunted the Rain.  Long story short, they become friends.  That's at least what this first volume is about.  There are 11 total volumes, eight of which are available in English on TokyoPop.  I happened to pick up all eight volumes for $34 on eBay.

I have mixed feelings about this title.  The translation is workable if not excellent.  It reads like an anime, and I could almost hear the sound effects and the voices of the characters.  If I'd bought the first volume, I don't know if I'd have continued buying the rest, but for $4.50 per volume, it's basically worth it.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 1

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Kimi Ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 1 is a teen shojo manga with an interesting concept.  Sawako Kuronuma looks like a girl from a horror movie.  She has straight, black hair, and everyone in her school believes that it's bad luck to sit near her or look her in the eyes for more than three seconds.  They don't just shun her; they're afraid of her, calling her "Sadako," after Sadako Yamamura, the evil little girl in Koji Suzuki's Ringu trilogy of movies.  She becomes friends with Kazehaya, the most popular boy in her school.

This manga simply didn't work for me, and despite its catchy concept, it's just your typical teen drama with a few, jokes thrown in about Sawako summoning ghosts.  She's really nice; he's really nice.  There just isn't enough of an edge for me to consider buying Volume 2, which is too bad.  There are over two dozen volumes, and they're fairly cheap.  I bought Volume 1 for under $7.  The artwork is good, the colors on the cover are great.  I just didn't like it.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt #1

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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt, Issue #1 begins with a bizarre disorder on the part of Dirk Gently relating to his memory.  He isn't forgetting things; he's remembering extra.  Extra memories, bad memories, that aren't his at all are popping into his brain, and he doesn't know what to do about it.  Just kidding.  OF COURSE he knows what to do about it!  He's a holistic detective, able to see the interconnectedness of all things, or rather, the interconnectedness of all thinks!

That last line I made up, myself.  Perhaps it's not up to Arvind Ethan David's standards, but I do think it's somewhat clever, at least.  I love the artwork of Ilias Kyriazis and the colors by Charlie Kirchoff.  There's a lot of detail in the comic that you might miss on the first go-round, but I'll let you find those out, yourself.  I would recommend reading Dirk Gently: A Spoon Too Short either in trade paperback or comic before reading The Salmon of Doubt, but all that would do is introduce Sally Mills and explain a few jokes.  If you're looking for a Dirk Gently fix before watching the series, The Salmon of Doubt comes highly recommended.

The Autumnlands #13

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The Autumnlands, Issue #13 starts with Dusty and Learoyd running away from the stone-woman Galateans, while Feniz - the golden goddess who clothed, fed, healed, and armored Learoyd following his fight with Seven Scars - watches on.  Bertie, the goat-man, is trapped in the Golden Temple, and Dusty and Learoyd go back to save him.  This current arc is a little longer than the first at eight issues instead of six.  The trade paperback goes on sale in January, if you're into that.

I bought the first trade paperback of The Autumnlands when I was buying just about every Image paperback that was coming out.  I still have nearly a dozen left to read.  Now I mostly read comics, and as good as Image still is, I'm more of a Marvel guy now.  I still buy quite a few Image titles - and I start new ones - but they're always the last ones I read every week.  I think the reason for this is that Marvel and DC comics are written for a much lower age range than Image Comics.  They're often for adults too, but they're so much easier to read than Image titles.

The lower age range isn't the only reason Marvel titles are easier to read.  More importantly, they feature characters and situations that were created decades ago, characters and situations that the reader is already familiar with.  It's much easier to read even Chuck Wendig's Hyperion than The Autumnlands because although I hadn't read anything about Hyperion before, it took place in the Marvel Universe, where superheroes roam and generally do about the same things.  The Autumnlands takes place in a whole new world.

So where do DC comics fit into this?  I read painfully few DC comics - just Green Lanterns and Blue Beetle.  I do get out the old Batman or Green Lantern comic from time to time, and there are plenty of creators I have mad respect for in those publications, but Marvel has been snapping up the writers I like the best.  Charles Soule, Jason Aaron, Jeff Lemire, etc...  Writers whose stuff before they hit the big time are what drew me the most.  Marvel also picked up Star Wars and ran with it.  It has been suggested that without Star Wars, Marvel wouldn't be outselling DC, but DC is ingrained into my generation's mind more than Marvel.  I think the upcoming generation will be a Marvel generation.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

RIP Steve Dillon

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I just heard on social media that Steve Dillon is dead, age 54.  No details have been given on the cause of his death, and let's respect his family's privacy by not tagging him on social media aside from the hashtag, #RIPSteveDillon.  I know everyone's first instinct is to talk about himself or herself, and I've appreciated some of the stories on Twitter, but I'd like to stick to what of his work I've read.  Preacher is the series he's most known for, having illustrated all 66 issues.  I get nagged by my friends for not finishing it, as it's a classic in sequential art.

The Punisher, Issue #6 features a flashback to "The Desert, Then."  Of course, the traditional Punisher origin story is the Vietnam War, but the American veteran experience is now defined by the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Frank Castle, still a Marine and not yet the Punisher, along with his commanding officer, Olaf, are on an assassination mission.  Yeah, we still have those in the Bush/Clinton/Obama years.  Like usual, reading this comic is like watching a top-network TV show or a high-end movie.  The action is so visceral and real that you can't help being sucked in.  Steve Dillon will surely be missed.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Monstress #7

Monstress #7

Monstress, Issue #7 is just as beautiful as its cover, as always.  The story so far is that in an alternate world, in Asia, there is the Federation of Man and the Arcanics, who are hybrids, part human and part animal.  There was a Great War between the two factions years in the past, but tensions remain high as borders are closing.  Maika Halfwolf is an Arcanic girl who survived the War.  She is possessed by the Monstrum, a being of terrible power; they fight each other for control over Maika's body and mind.  And did I mention there were talking cats?  There are talking cats, and they have two or more tails.  At the end of the last arc, Maika was stalked by the Warlord of the Dawn Court, and now she's living in an Arcanic city.

There are a few new characters in this issue, including a couple of family members of Maika.  The writing is good and intriguing, but the artwork is breathtaking and delightful.  Letterer Rus Wooton is in peak form.  Most of the first six issues took place in the Federation of Man, while this issue and presumably the rest of the arc takes place in the realm of the Arcanics, which I really like.  Some of the species of man-beasts known as Arcanics don't trust other species.  There are factions, and there are alliances.  I'm looking forward to exploring this world in future issues.

Infamous Iron Man #1 - Spoilers

Infamous Iron Man (2016) #1

Infamous Iron Man, Issue #1 brings together an all-star team of creators: Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, and letterer, Clayton Cowles from VC.  In the story, Doctor Doom helps out Iron Man before the Civil War II storyline.  In Civil War II, Iron Man is incapacitated (hello? I thought I was up on Civil War II.  Is this a spoiler?), leaving only the A.I. version of Tony Stark.  Doctor Doom swoops in and becomes the new Iron Man.  Oh, and Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Doctor Doom's long-lost mother is alive, young, and well.

I very well couldn't review this title without giving away spoilers.  The whole thing is just so... strange.  The meeting in the first few pages of the issue suggests a conspiracy among super villains and nefarious ends on Doctor Doom's part.  For those that haven't followed Marvel closely, Doctor Doom is one of the main antagonists of the Fantastic Four.  His backstory is covered in the opening pages.  Despite all this, I have faith in Bendis, Maleev, and the rest because their work has been so kickass in the past, and it's kickass in the present.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mockingbird #8

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Mockingbird, Issue #8 takes place on board the Diamond Porpoise, a cruise liner that is traveling through the Bermuda Triangle.  She's being harassed by a former lover, the Phantom Rider.  The Hulk is dead, and everyone on the deck is doing cosplay, which is kinda' funny.  The title uses people well, but it tends to make the main character look smart by putting her in a world full of foolish people.  I like how her former husband, Hawkeye has been involved in this arc.

Mockingbird is always one of the first titles I read every week it comes out.  I do like it, but while it's always fun, only a couple of the issues have been great, such as Issue #1 and Issue #5.  I am interested on how this title will tie into Civil War II, in which Hawkeye kills Bruce Banner.  I absolutely loved Matt Fraction's run on Hawkeye with David Aja, and while I read the first trade paperback of Jeff Lemire's Hawkeye, I haven't read the second/sixth book.  Basically, there's been no Hawkeye for some time, and it's nice to see him in this comic.

Green Lanters #9

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Green Lanterns, Issue #9 starts the "Phantom Lantern" arc proper.  Frank Laminski is a test pilot, and he's saved by Hal Jordan when his plane is in a nose dive.  After that, his entire life's purpose is to become a Green Lantern.  This is his story.  Laminski is a middle child, not a standout in any regard.  He disparages himself, but he does become a U.S. Air Force pilot.  He tries his best to become a Green Lantern, and he almost becomes one, but the ring picks Simon Baz instead.

I'm a Green Lantern fan, of course, but this title has always spoken to me.  Its characters are misfits, outsiders - not your typical superheroes.  I see two main directions this title can go.  Either Laminski will be the perpetually-unpowered villain who uses his will and determination to constantly try to get the Phantom Ring, or he'll get it and become the Phantom Lantern.  Both scenarios are intriguing, but I find the latter to be much more likely.  What will Laminski do with his power ring?  He obviously wants to use it for good, but to get it, he must do evil.  That's a great storyline.  Or maybe a third option?  Voltoon, the First Lantern, might get the Phantom Ring for himself.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Deadpool, Vol. 1

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Deadpool, Volume 1 by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon, with art by Paco Medina and others is a title I bought when it was on sale on Amazon/ComiXology.  I quickly forgot about it, even when my nephew started reading the Daniel Way series religiously.  He insists that it's a great comic, and who am I to argue with a 12-year-old kid?  A giant spaceship attacks a baseball game.  Players, coaches, and spectators flee in panic, everyone but Deadpool.  After destroying most of the Skrull invasion force, Wade Wilson does the unthinkable.  He switches sides.  Issue #1 through Issue #3 are solely about the Skrulls; Issue #4 and Issue #5 are during the Skrull invasion but about a psycho plastic surgeon who creates zombies.

I've really liked this clever 2008 series so far.  Volume 2 is $8, and I might buy it when it's on sale.  Or, I might get a Marvel Unlimited membership and read a few of the titles there.  I haven't used my ComiXology Unlimited membership in some time - almost a month.  I kinda' have my eye on the Deadpool by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection.  The first volume has Issue #1 through Issue #12 of Deadpool (2008), plus five other issues.  For $60, I could get the first three or so.  Not a bad deal.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Black Butler XV

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Black Butler XV continues the "Weston College" arc, where Ciel and Sebastian go undercover as a student and a dormmaster, respectively, to investigate unexplained disappearances from the distinguished public school.  It's a fun story, replete with tradition, rules, bullying, discipline, and all sorts of things you'd see in a public school in Victorian-Era England.  There are four dormitories ruled by four prefects, and they report directly to the headmaster, who is nowhere to be seen.  Ciel is posing as an ordinary student, and Sebastian is posing as a house-master.

This is a funny, easy-to-read volume.  At Weston College, Ciel connives to become a "fag" of a prominent upperclassman, so you know that the homoerotic jokes will be on the rise.  There have been a few sporadically throughout the series, but with boys aged 13 to 18 living together, you know there have to be more.

Hunter x Hunter 24

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Hunter x Hunter 24 continues the "Chimera Ant" arc.  The chimera ants are a type of creature who gain the powers, abilities, and characteristics of whatever they eat.  A few volumes ago, the King Ant was born, and he's become the most powerful being in the world by eating Nen-influenced humans (long story short, it's like the force).  Right now, the king is obsessed with playing gungi, a complex game that has only truly been mastered by one person, a blind girl.  So, this gives the Hunters a chance to sneak into his territory and take out his top men.  Meanwhile, Kite, Gon's father's student, has been changed by the chimera ants, and Gon has promised to change him back.

The structure of this tankoban volume is a little complicated.  Of the 13 chapters, about half of them are part of the "6" storyline.  Then follows "5, Part 1 to 2, Part 1," "2, Part 2," and the four parts of "1."  Obviously, a lot happens in this volume, but the story is progressed much more in that one chapter than in the others, which feature the usual fights, games, and stories.  This is a very interesting volume in that it's a bit longer than most at 215 pages.  It is printed so because it ends the countdown, ending it in a perfect cliffhanger.

Comic and manga writers usually weave their stories around some weird shit.  Some of it really, really works, and most of it not so much.  Writer-artist Yoshihiro Togashi makes the weird work, like a Charles Mingus, but his artwork is spectacular as well, particularly the way he depicts size and perspective.

Image result for hunter x hunter  chimera ant mangaSo, how come I read Black Butler, Nisekoi: False Love, Citrus, and other titles instead of Hunter x Hunter?  They're easier.  Hunter x Hunter has a lot of text, has a lot of characters, and has a lot of situations you have to keep track of.  20th Century Boys might be my favorite long manga ever or tied with Hunter x Hunter, but I eventually got Naoki Urasawa fatigue.  In the past year and a half, I've read 18 volumes of 20th Century Boys, 12 of Monster, seven or so of Master Keaton, and one and a half of Pluto.  One Piece is another series I like, and I've finished 15 volumes of that or five three-in-one volumes.

Getting back to the point, Hunter x Hunter is hard to read, but it's totally worth it.  I don't know when I'll pick up Hunter x Hunter 25, but I'm excited to read manga again.  I only have one more volume of Black Butler in my home, but I'll likely read that pretty soon.  Nisekoi 18 comes out in just over two weeks, and I'm looking forward to that.  I'd also like to get back into Pluto and Food Wars, among other titles.

Weavers #6

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Weavers, Issue #6 concludes the series, which I've greatly enjoyed.  It's a mystery, and it's horror.  It's conspiratorial, and it's spooky.  The main character, Sid Thyme, is a former drug addict who gets mixed up in a supernatural gang called the Weavers or the Spiders.  There are 10 or 20 supernatural spiders that the gang members swallow, and they get powers from those spiders.  They don't use them to solve crime; they use them to create it.  You don't know who Sid's going to end up in bed with, the boss's daughter - Frankie - or the boss's lover - Pneema, but he ends up in bed with someone following the inevitable fall of the boss.

I really think that Weavers is Simon Spurrier's best work, and that it's one of the best five- or six-issue stories I've read in the past year, along with Tet by Paul Allor.  The art by Dylan Burnett is very evocative, and I love the color combinations of colorist, Triona Farrell, particularly the red with the dark-blue-green.  This color combination is used throughout the series, and it's featured prominently on the cover of this issue.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Black Butler XIV

Black Butler XIV is in five parts, like most of the other volumes preceding it. The first part and the second part are continuing the flashback to when Ciel and Sebastian first started working together. They have a few problems than such as Sebastian not knowing what human food tastes like. His cooking therefore is subpar. The third part continues the zombie arc which I'm not a big fan of because I don't really like zombies and zombie stories. The fourth part is a one off story about an Easter egg hunt, and the fifth part begins a new arc where Ciel and Sebastian investigate disappearances at a public school.

While some of the volumes of Black Butler are more suited to tankoban format, The format doesn't work as well in this volume which confuses four different arcs two of which are partially connected. That being said this is a good volume because the arc at the beginning of the volume is one of my favorites. Further, I somewhat enjoyed the Easter arc and I'm excited about the new arc that starts in this volume. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Blue Beetle #1

Blue Beetle, Issue #1 continues the story started in the "Rebirth" issue. Jaime Reyes is the teenage Blue Beetle. Ted Kord is his billionaire backup, and Brenda and Paco are his friends. Doctor Fate is the main antagonist, although in the previous issue, he tells Reyes that the Blue Beetle power comes from magic. 

There's a lot of teenaged banter in this comic. It's been 15 years since I taught high school, so I can't be the greatest judge of its authenticity. There are also a lot of ads, which is common in DC and Marvel titles, almost enough to make me want to skip the comics and just buy the trade paperbacks. 

I bought this comic for a couple of reasons. I've always liked the Blue Beetle, it's $2.99, Green Lanterns tickled my fancy, and I thought it could be sort of a DC version of the new Spider-Man comic. The jury is still out on that last one, but I'll continue reading it. 

Old Man Logan #12

Old Man Logan, Issue #12 is the fourth part of the arc, "The Last Ronin." Old Man Logan is Wolverine from the future, only he wants to prevent that future from coming to be. A boy, a monk of the Silent Order, has had visions of this future, and in it, Wolverine kills every member of the Silent Order, including the boy, who will be a man by then. So basically there are three time lines, one in the past, one in the present, and one in a future Logan wants to avoid. Logan's forray into Japan in the past isn't really important, though. 

The next issue continues the arc rather than starting a new one, and I'm looking forward to it. My favorite arc in this series is still the one where Logan goes to Canada and meets Maureen as a girl, but the current arc is very good. 

KIll or Be Killed #2

Kill Or Be Killed #2

Kill or Be Killed, Issue #2 begins with a tale out of One Thousand and One Nights.  There are white columns on the outside of the panels where the story takes place. This goes on for four pages as the inside panels show the main character, Dylan, stalking someone and killing him.  In typical non-linear fashion, the comic jumps back a day to before the Dylan stalks and kills the victim, which he must do every month or else a demon will kill him.

This is another long issue.  It has about 36 pages of content and 12 pages of extra material and advertisements.  In length, it's pretty much a double issue, like Issue #1.  One of the added features is a write up of the film, Oldboy.  I didn't read it because although I haven't watched the Korean film, I read the Japanese manga, which is 1600 pages long over eight tankoban volumes.  I need to read more manga, but I'm continually caught in the cycle of new comics coming out every Wednesday.  Issue #3 of Kill or Be Killed comes out today, and I look forward to reading it.

Velvet #15

Velvet #15

Velvet, Issue #15 ends the first major arc.  There are three arcs that make up this major arc, all revolving around Velvet Templeton, the former field agent for MI-6 turned secretary.  When her husband is killed and she is framed, Templeton goes underground in this high-stakes spy thriller set in 1974, the year of the Watergate scandal.  The arc is wrapped up to some extent in Issue #14 with Templeton's kidnapping of Richard Fucking Nixon, but this issue ties up a few loose ends.

Ed Brubaker still has work coming out; Kill or Be Killed, Issue #3 comes out today with the same supporting cast of creators.  Brubaker is the Supervising Producer on HBO's Westworld, so unfortunately, he won't have as much time to create great comics.  I haven't really watched television in the past couple of years (aside from sports), but I've heard Westworld is spectacular.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Spider-Man/Deadpool #9

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Spider-Man/Deadpool, Issue #9 begins the "Itsy Bitsy" arc.  A group of loser, animal-themed villains called the Hateful Hexad is fighting Spider-Man and Deadpool.  Aside from an appearance at the end of the issue of a new bad girl, that's pretty much it.  Witty banter, action, the odd flashback here and there.

This is one of the good titles, one you should be reading.  Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness are a proven pair, and they're at the peak of their powers as a creative team in this title.  There's a fair amount of dialogue, which would weigh down a lesser title, but Joe Kelly makes it work.  Some of the highlights are the timing, the breaking of the fourth wall, and oh... did I mention it's Spider-Man and Deadpool?

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Black Monday Murders #2

The Black Monday Murders #2

The Black Monday Murders, Issue #2 is a double-issue, like Issue #1.  It begins in East Berlin, 1985.  Like before, it details a high-finance "school" connected to the occult, but now they're experimenting with a unique form of transportation.  In 2016, Detective Dumas is back.  He's questioning a professor about the symbols he saw at 9:00 PM the night before.  Well, that's what the first ten pages are roughly about.  Interested?

I am.  Detective Dumas is a variation on the "Spooky" detective with almost supernatural powers: Sherlock Holmes without the reasoning, Fox Mulder, that sort.  Dumas is a little different, though.  He's not afraid to kill.  Before the events of Issue #1, he killed a woman just after looking her in the eye.  The woman?  A serial killer.  He just knew.  The detective angle really centers the comic, which could have become a little too abstract for some people's taste.  I like East of West and most of Hickman's other work, but for others, it is a little too hard to follow.  This isn't.

Deadpool V. Gambit #5

 Deadpool V Gabit: The "V" Is for "Vs.", Issue #5 concludes the mini-series. Deadpool, Gambit, and a con man named Chalmers are all after the Dragon's Tongue, a mystical artifact that gives its bearer unheard of powers. The journey to find the Dragon's Tongue takes them all over, even to Asgard, where they meet with Odin. This comic involves a host of recurring characters, like the mutant Kin Il Sung from the previous issue and Fat Cobra from earlier on.  

This series is good enough to read, but I don't know how strongly I'd recommend it. It does start to make more sense near the end, but it's confusing at points. Maybe I just don't read Marvel comics as closely as I read Marcel Proust or Umberto Eco, but I have the feeling I missed a lot. They joke about this at the end, in true Deadpool fashion. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Punisher #5

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The Punisher, Issue #5 starts out with Frank Castle's raid of Exeter Asylum, where the drug EMC is produced.  Henderson, the DEA agent, is captured in Issue #4, and the bloody outcome of that is in this issue.  Worse yet, the bad guys have spread EMC through the vents, creating an army of zombie-like super soldiers.  DEA Agent Ortiz has gone off the grid, and she and Castle are working together to take down Face and Olaf, the latter being Castle's former commanding officer in what war was it now?  Gulf I?  Gulf II?  Afghanistan?

Of course, traditionally, the Punisher is a Vietnam War vet who comes home to find his family taken out accidentally in a mob hit, but for him to be an American Vietnam vet, he'd have to be 60 years old or more.  Moreover, America is now defined by our wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which were huge mistakes.

There's something special about this comic.  The action is like that of a major movie or major TV series.  There are a lot of ultraviolent scenes that lesser creators would have cut out for the sake of brevity if not common taste, but each issue feels complete.  It's very well done but not at all suitable for kids under 12.  Yeah, I know, "kids" under 17 probably shouldn't read it, but I think that kids in high school should be able to read just about anything as long as it isn't teaching them to blow things up.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Descender #15

 Descender, Issue #15  begins 10 years before the current timeline, when Andy, who has just lost his mother to giant, attacking robots, meets Effie, his future wife. They live in an orphanage on Niyrata for three years before they escape to join a scrapping crew. Scrappers are people who kill robots. Effie grows to hate the practice, and after an accident leaves her with an artificial, robot arm and hand, she decides to become trans-robotic. Andy rejects her because he hates robots, but starting about five or six issues ago, they started working together.

I often wonder how much comedy writers intend in their work. Who hasn't laughed their way through writing a serious piece? The connection to the trans community, the bathroom bills, and the rest is too obvious to even discuss thoroughly. Of course, with people dying and being trampled upon, it's hard to laugh too hard.  

The Woods #26

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The Woods, Issue #26 follows the same pattern as Issue #25, starting out in the world that the students left behind, and again focusing on Karen's mother, Dr. Jacobs.  Sanami's father is on the television, saying that the students who disappeared are dead.  The story is classic science fiction.  You take ordinary people and put them into an extraordinary situation, creating a human drama with a touch of mystery.

One thing that has surprised me is that the moon on which the students live doesn't have a name, at least from what I've read.  I guess the creators of the comic don't want to fall into the pitfall of the characters saying the name of the place over and over again.  The title, of course, is simply The Woods.

I didn't take a good look at the cover of this issue until I finished it.  The cover almost seems like it doesn't fit with the rest of the story, since the issue ends with the four getting ready to go out on an excursion to the Black City.  The cover features the four characters battling a pair of monsters either on their way to or in the Black City.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Green Lanterns #8


Green Lanterns, Issue #8 develops the new arc further. A rogue Guardian of the Universe holds the Phantom Ring, which will give Lantern powers to anyone who wears it. The other Power Rings will only work for people chosen by the ring. That's why you don't see bad guys killing off Green Lanterns to steal their power. If they do, the ring will just find another appropriate bearer. For billions of years, the rogue Guardian has tried to destroy the Phantom Ring, with no luck. 

Issue #9 promises a new Phantom Lantern, and there are scant clues to his identity. A guy with a rifle is shown driving a van. Maybe the Phantom Lantern will be that guy. In his Commentary on the Torah, Richard Eliot Friedman wonders why YHVH put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Eden. For shade? Of course someone's going to eat the fruit. It would be a stupid story if they didn't. So, of course there's going to be a Phantom Lantern.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Green Lanterns Rebirth #1

Green Lanterns: Rebirth, Issue #1 is the first entry of my blog I'm doing from my car. Yeah. It's a little hokey, but I got a new app, and I wanted to try it out. Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are the two new Green Lanterns, and they are summoned to duty when an unidentified ship enters Earth's atmosphere. They soon find themselves in battle, but it turns out to be all an exercise orchestrated by Hal Jordan. He explains that the other four Green Lanterns from Earth are needed on the other side of the universe, and that they need to work together. To ensure this happens, he fuses their power lanterns and tells them to work with the Justice League. 

We don't see much of the Justice League in this comic, which focuses on Simon and Jessica. I've grown to like it, so it's no surprise I like this issue.  

Green Lanterns #7

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Green Lanterns, Issue #7 starts the new arc, "Family Matters."  Jessica Cruz is at Simon Baz's family's house, and she's having social anxiety.  It's Halloween season, and for Lebanese immigrants like the Baz family, that means making ma'amoul cookies using a complicated recipe.  Both Simon and Jessica want to get away but for different reasons.  Jessica is uncomfortable around people.  Simon is uncomfortable around his mother, who's on her way.  All the while, a former Guardian of the Universe, Rami, is meditating in the Baz attic, and he has a message.

This is a very needed issue.  I unfortunately skipped Green Lanterns: Rebirth, Issue #1 and went straight to Green Lanterns #1, so I missed a lot of the early character development.  I'll probably go back and buy that issue, perhaps today, but an action title without character development can be pretty bland.

I'm a big fan of Shaw Brothers movies from the 1970s, and the best ones involved a cogent reason for the characters to fight, plus a little humor.  Sure, many got by on pure fight stylings along with minor story arcs, like Heroes of the East, which basically involves a Chinese husband beating up his Japanese wife's friends for no good reason (slight hyperbole), but in the end, the Chinese husband begins to respect the Japanese friends of his wife, something that wasn't seen in Hong Kong cinema of the 1970s, where the Japanese were evil and foolish.

What I like about Green Lanterns is that it isn't just, "oh, let's have a black/Muslim/Japanese hero so that we can appeal to new target audiences and look more diverse."  The focus on Jessica Cruz's anxiety, perhaps stemming from PTSD or CPTSD, takes the title a step beyond what the usual diversity title is.  Simon Baz is a flawed hero as well; he still carries a gun, and his arm is still in a cast from it being broken four or so issues ago.

Monday, October 3, 2016

We All Wish for Deadly Force

We All Wish for Deadly Force is a difficult comic, so bear with me as I try to figure it out while typing this.  It starts out with the author, Leela Corman, losing her firstborn daughter in 2011 and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder in Brooklyn.  Then, after a short interlude, it speaks of Leela's life as a foreign-born bellydancer in 2011 Cairo, during the Egyptian Revolution.  The two stories take place at the same time period, but they're both so real.  Which one is the real Leela?

"Can't both of these be true?" Leela (or perhaps Leela's mother, Mimi) asks when Leela's grandmother says that the fish can't be both food and pet.  Perhaps this line on one of the last pages answers my question.  Either way, this is a very angry comic at times, and sometimes it's funny.  The way it contrasts a heavy story about the main character losing her daughter to a lighthearted story about that same character being a bellydancer just rips at the soul.  Retrofit Comics scores again.

Saga #38

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Saga, Issue #38 begins with Hazel reunited with her family after two years.  And zombies, I guess, because ZOMBIES!  The cast has shifted around a little bit.  Marko, Alana, and Hazel are the basic family unit, but Klara, Marko's mother, is out of the picture.  When Marko and Alana rescued Hazel from the military prison in which Hazel and Klara were being held, Klara decided to stay behind.  In her stead came another Landfallian prisoner, Petrichor, who quickly proclaimed that Alana was pregnant.  Prince Robot IV somehow became allied with the family, and Izabel, the torso of a ghost of a teenage babysitter, is with them.  And they're on the heavily-populated-with-refugees and fuel-rich comet, Phang.  For six months.  During those six months, The Will is looking for Sophie, who is a page to Gwendolyn.  When Izabel scouts out ahead, on the comet, she comes across another freelancer, The March.  He, or they, have two heads, a thick upper body, and two skinny legs.

Saga is a great amount of fun, and I'm going to post a spoiler, so if you aren't caught up, don't read on.  In On Writing, Stephen King wrote that he was 500 pages into The Stand when he hit a wall.  He discovered a controversial writing tool that he would go on to use repeatedly.  When you don't know what to do with a character, kill him or her.  When you don't know what to do with a book, kill a whole bunch of people.  Saga isn't like that.  Yes, there is an unexpected death in Issue #38, Izabel.  It's somewhat heartbreaking because she begins to fight with Hazel in the issue, making her death even more painful.  See, The March know that Marko, Alana, and Hazel are on Phang because Izabel's there.  If they had let her live, she would have only warned Marko and Alana.  Poof.