Archive for the ‘Comics/Graphic Novels’ Category

First Impressions: Moon Knight, School For World Conquerors

TITLE: Moon Knight #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLER: Alex Maleev
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: May 4, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

If this first issue is any indication, our first story our in Moon Knight is going to be “Moon Knight and The Avengers.”

After the premiere of “The Legend of Khonshu,” a TV series created and executive produced by our hero Marc Spector (loosely based on his own life, apparently), Captain America (Steve Rogers?), Wolverine and Spider-Man approach him, telling him that numerous criminals are migrating to Los Angeles because of how crowded New York is. Our hero proceeds to break up a meeting involving two thugs and Mr. Hyde, and discovers that Hyde is in possession of an Ultron (a really powerful robot) body. He takes the case back to The Avengers and tells them they may need to work together on this one.

The inclusion of three of Marvel’s big guns is obviously a hook to draw casual fans in. Moon Knight’s not exactly a well-known hero among casual fans. Having him swap hands with Wolvie and Spidey while stepping on Cap’s shield might have been a bit much, but at least fans will get the idea.

The art definitely lends itself to a “darker” character like Moon Knight. Maleev has worked on books like Daredevil, New Avengers, The Mighty Avengers and Spider-Woman, all with Bendis. So at the very least, this is a well-seasoned creative team.

Personally, I doubt I’ll be coming back for more Moon Knight any time soon, simply due to budgetary issues. Plus, if I want to see The Avengers, I’ll read The Avengers. I imagine the book will do decent numbers, but when my wallet’s under pressure, you’ve got to come out of the gate strong. For my money (literally), Moon Knight didn’t start strong enough.

***

TITLE: Gladstone’s School For World Conquerors #1
AUTHOR: Mark Andrew Smith
PENCILLER: Armand Villavert
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 4, 2011

Wait…are you telling me that Joey Gladstone from Full House started an school for supervillains! CUT. IT. OUT!!!!

I jest, but Gladstone’s School For World Conquerors is indeed a title about a school for young supervillains. Think the Teen Titans animated series meets The Incredibles meets Harry Potter meets a Disney Channel show. It’s actually a really fun read, and pretty hefty for only $2.99.

As we open the book, we find out who Ashu Gladstone was, and how he (sort of) founded the school, in which seasoned supervillains teach villains-in-training. We then meet Kid Nefarious, an egotistical second generation villain astounded that he got a B+ in Victory Speeches 101. Later, we see Mummy Girl, who has a hopeless crush on Kid Nefarious. Then we meet the Skull Brothers, who find themselves in a brawl with their fellow students. The scenes are entertaining, and actually funny, which is always a plus.

Interestingly, toward the end of the issue one of the teachers mentions that “they retired my character.” Then, in the final scene of the issue, we see a hero and villain mapping out their next fight, as if it were a super-powered pro wrestling match. I’m not sure where they’re going with this, but it could get very interesting…

Image from watchplayread.com.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m a fan. This book appears to be friendly to all age groups, is witty, and pokes fun at the superhero genre in a way that both adults and kids can get into. Long-time comic book fans will likely recognize the parodies and play-offs of heroes like Martian Manhunter (Martian Jones) and Deathstroke (Mr. Willumson). If you look at the “Recess” page, I think we even get a pseudo-cameo from Terra of The New Teen Titans.

Overall, I’m liking what I see, both in the book and on the price tag. I’m ready for more! And what the heck, let’s get Joey Gladstone in here! Have him bring the Woodchuck puppet and his tacky shirts. He’ll fit right in…kinda.

Front page image from theflickcast.com.

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Echoes – Story Arc Review

TITLE: Echoes
AUTHOR: Joshua Hale Fialkov
ARTIST: Rahsan Ekedal
COLLECTS: Echoes #1-5
PUBLISHERS: Minotaur Press, Top Cow Productions, Image Comics
GRAPHIC NOVEL PRICE: $19.99
GRAPHIC NOVEL RELEASE DATE: July 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This book wasn’t as great like I thought it would be, but it’s certainly not void of greatness.

Echoes follows Brian Cohn, a man who suffers from schizophrenia. He has to take pills on a ritualistic schedule or he starts to hallucinate. The book starts with Brian’s father on his death bed, giving him instructions on how to find a mysterious box. Brian follows his father’s instructions to a mysterious house, finds the box in question, and inside there are dolls made from human skin, flesh and bone. Evidently, Brian’s father was a horrific serial killer of young girls. A short time later, a new girl goes missing, and Brian must ask himself the terrible question: Is he a killer like his father?

Like a lot of horror stories, the ending tarnished this book for me. I love psychological horror stories, and the suspense is built brilliantly. But the ending took the edge off a bit. It’s hard for me to begrudge Fialkov for that, because (at least in my estimation), it’s difficult to come up with a REALLY good ending to a horror story. That’s a rarity. I think sometimes writers make the premise so damn good and build it up so well, they can’t get their hero out of trouble or portray his downfall in a way that’s worthy of all the suspense they’ve built. For me, that’s what happened with Echoes. When question regarding Brian’s sanity is finally answered, I found myself saying: “Oh…that’s it? That’s the route they’re going?” It just goes to show you that what you’re imagining is usually 10 times worse than what the writer actually has in mind.

"Echoes" #1, final page. Image from horrorbid.com.

Still, I don’t regret buying Echoes in the least bit. The fact that the suspense built to the high level it did is a testament to Fialkov’s writing. Until the big reveal, NOTHING in this book is certain, because our main character isn’t completely sane. Are all these supporting characters real? Are ANY of them real? We don’t know. That certain fluidity to the world is very interesting. Echoes almost has a Sixth Sense vibe to it when you look at it that way.

The art is also top notch. The more black and white comic books I read, the more I love them. The textures of the pencils and inks really lend themselves to that spooky horror/noir style of storytelling. Ekedal also does Brian’s facial expressions very well, and I’m a stickler for those sometimes.

Did the ending of Echoes hurt the story? Yes, somewhat. But even in what I believe to be a flawed ending, Fialkov still manages to hit us with a nice horror twist at the end, and a little sequence of Brian’s life that’s downright chilling. THIS how you write scary comic books. Monsters? Demons? Spirits? We’ve seen them all before. Echoes beautifully illustrates how our past can haunt us, that the most frightening parts of life tend to come from within, and that each of us has the potential to lose our grip on reality.

RATING: 9/10

Front page image from comicbooktherapy.com.

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Darkie’s Mob – Graphic Novel Review

TITLE: Darkie’s Mob: The Secret War of Joe Darkie
AUTHOR: John Wagner
ARTIST: Mike Western
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: Titan Books
PRICE: $22.95
RELEASED: April 19, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Darkie’s Mob. Yeah, that sounds politically correct in 2011…

Like Johnny Red: Falcon’s First Flight, this book is a collection of World War II-related strips originally published in the ’70s in the British magazine Battle Picture Weekly. Heck, Garth Ennis even provides the introduction, just as he did in Johnny Red. But while Johnny Red was a daredevil fighter pilot, Joe Darkie is a bloodthirsty manhunter.

As the story goes, after the Japanese are defeated in 1946, a soldier’s journal is found, which documents his time as a member of “Darkie’s Mob,” a group of soldiers in the humid jungles of Burma who, after their captain is killed, come under the command of Captain Joe Darkie. However, they soon learn that Darkie isn’t a captain at all. What he is, is a brash, yet charismatic and effective leader, who will inspire these soldiers to become something much larger than the sum of their parts. But who IS Joe Darkie? And what is the root of his violent grudge against the Japanese?

Like Johnny Red, Darkie’s Mob is a schooling in good ol’ fashioned comic book storytelling. It’s not at all politically correct by modern standards (there’s even a disclaimer on the book), but I’d wager if retro war comic books interest you, you’re not likely to be offended by that sort of thing.

Image from bleaseworld.blogspot.com.

What really keeps this book interesting is Darkie himself. We don’t know much about him, except that he’s daring and courageous, but also mean and nasty. He’s not a pretty boy hero. By modern standards, I think he’d be considered a sadistic man whose cause happens to run parallel to that of a soldier’s. He also has a mysterious backstory. Who IS this man? How did he get to be this way? These are the questions that keep us (or at least me) coming back for more.

The quality of the art can’t be understated in a book like this. Mike Western’s black and white pencils give the book a gritty, war-tone feel to it that’s essential, especially when you consider this book takes place in a jungle setting. As you flip through the pages, you can almost smell the gunpowder, feel the heat, and even see the blood seep through bandaged wounds. That’s an awesome quality that I wish modern comics could have. You just don’t see that in this day and age.

The book also delivers that sense of impending dread and doom that’s synonymous with good war stories. Characters die in this book as you’d expect real soldiers to die in the battlefield. That element only makes the camaraderie between the characters seem more real.

Is an average American comic book fan likely to pick up Darkie’s Mob? Probably not. But I think they’d be pleasantly surprised if they did. These older British comic strips could teach a lot of modern comic book fans (and creators) a lesson in good storytelling and art.

RATING: 9/10

Front page image from dublinblogs.com.

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Blatant Insubordination: Truth, Justice and…?

***“Blatant Insubordination” is a regular column published at Primary Ignition by Rob Siebert, editor and Fanboy Wonder. The views expressed here are his, and do not reflect those of the staff of Primary Ignition.***

Let’s get this out of the way first: Primary Ignition is not a political web site. It never has been, and probably never will be. But you can’t get into this whole Superman/US Citizenship thing without dipping your toe in that pool. Rest assured that I’m not intending to blast or change anyone’s political beliefs, because that’s not what PI is about. What you’re reading is simply my take on the situation, and mine alone. After all this citizenship controversy has passed, we’ll all get back our regularly scheduled fanboy fantasy/art goodness. With that in mind…

In a backup story in Action Comics #900, Superman declared his intention to renounce his US citizenship. The premise of the issue is that the US government is mad at the Man of Steel for flying into an Iranian anti-government demonstration, and simply hovered near the ground as an act of civil disobedience. When the American government gets angry at him for doing so, he says the following…

Image from wonkette.com.

He goes on to say that being from another planet, it’s easier for him to see the bigger picture, and he’s been thinking too small.

Obviously, Superman is a fictional character. But still, this is a pretty big deal. How do I know? Because my MOM thinks it is. My mom knows next to nothing about comic books or superheroes. In fact, she thinks they all kind of look the same (Yeah, I don’t know where she got that one…). But when I asked her about this Superman/citizenship thing, she said something to the effect of: “Well, Superman is supposed to be the all-American hero, isn’t he? That’s a pretty big deal!” Mother knows best I suppose…

When this news initially broke, a lot of folks were up in arms about it. But for me, the best ones are always the people who have no idea what they’re talking about, and are simply looking for something America-related to rant and rave about. You also have your folks who are simply ignorant. Over at slog.thestranger.com, I found these little gems…

- “I will never buy another Marvel comic again.”
- “They will have him come out of the closet next.”
- “Stan Lee is a well known Illuminati member and DC comics is rife with occult symbolism.”
- “The real reason Superman is renouncing his US citizenship is because he just found out Obama actually IS a US citizen.”
- “He is EVIL LOOKING and who would ever BUY that comic book? YUCK, an AMERICAN who doesn’t want to be an American? Can you pass these out in Mexico, please?”

Meanwhile, Cal Thomas over at Fox News wrote that “The occasional big (for comic book readers) word and a left-wing plot are what make me think someone has hijacked Superman…The real Superman would never abandon America.”

GOP Activist Angie Meyer wrote: ”Besides being riddled with a blatant lack of patriotism, and respect for our country, Superman’s current creators are belittling the United States as a whole.”

Strong words, even if some of them ARE from people with no clue what they’re saying. By the way Cal Thomas, you can go drown in a colostomy bag. Oops, is colostomy too big a word for a comic book reader?

Citizen or not, Superman IS an American icon. He’s come to represent values that we like to think represent the best America has to offer. He’s been called the ultimate immigrant, having been rocketed here from a distant world, and using his new life to become a cultural idol. During the ’40s, Superman (along with Batman, Captain America, and various other characters) were essentially used as American war propaganda, punching out Nazis and the “evil Japanese,” and telling readers to buy war bonds. When America entered the space race with the Russians, Superman flew into the stars to conquer monsters from beyond. His history parallels our history, his values are what our values should be.

But let’s take a look at those values. The catchphrase is: “Truth, Justice and the American way.” But it’s more than that. It’s also, courage, strength, freedom, standing up for the things you believe in, etc. Are any of this values strictly American, either in origin or execution? No. These are HUMAN values. Superman is a character that everyone can look up to and aspire to be like. Was he created in America? Yes. But his message is universal.

Personally, I didn’t even know Superman WAS an American citizen. I assume his alter ego Clark Kent is. But I always figured he was someone that the American government simply accepted as part of the country, based on the good deeds he had done. It’s a bit hard to imagine Big Blue taking a citizenship exam…

“Alright Superman, you have one hour.”
“Done.”
“What?”
“Super-speed.”
“Well played, sir, well played.”

Image from comicartcommunity.com.

Still, the move was ballsy. In writing this story, David Goyer, and the execs at DC Comics are essentially defying the perception that Superman is a strictly American hero. They HAD to know this was going to ruffle some feathers. To that extent, I’m wondering why out of 96-pages, this story was only given nine. Heck, THIS could have been the feature! So why downplay it? Because of the controversy involved? Screw that! If you’re going to do this, don’t hide it in the background! Man up and put it out there so people can see it! They obviously found it anyway.

The fact is, so many of the people who are fussing over this don’t REALLY care about whether Superman is an American citizen. Let’s be honest, it’s not even real. It’s just something Goyer pulled out of a hat to tell a story. These same people would probably cry foul if Spongebob renounced his citizenship. This is just something that DC did to generate buzz over Superman. The fact that people are pointing to this issue and saying: “You SEE! America’s being destroyed! Our core values are eroding because this fictional character isn’t an American citizen!” inadvertently plays right into their hands.

Personally, I think all this uproar over Superman “not being American anymore” illuminates a value that’s extremely prominent in American society today, but that no one wants to talk about: Greed. Go to Google right now, and type in “Superman, America.” These are some of the headlines that pop up:

- “DC Comics turns Superman against the USA”
- “Superman becomes a super-rebel – and scourge of American right”
- Superman loses faith in the ‘American way

Image from Newsarama.com.

Why are so many people so insecure about this? Why does Superman have to be strictly OURS? He’s not saying: “I’m renouncing my American citizenship so I can move to Iran.” What he’s saying is: “It’s time to dedicate myself to something bigger than just one country.” And whether we’d like to admit it or not, there ARE things in this world bigger than America. I don’t say that as a flag-burning freedom hater. I say that as a proud American myself. From a government standpoint, we’ve never been afraid to reach across the ocean to help other countries. We got involved in World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, and overthrew a dictator in Iraq. In essence, that’s what the Superman character is doing now.

I can’t remember what issue it was, but when I was a kid, I read a story where Lana Lang said to Clark Kent: “You can’t belong to one woman, Clark. Superman belongs to the world.” But “belonging to the world” doesn’t make Superman anti-American. In fact, ideally it makes him more American than ever, regardless of what a theoretical government document would have to say. He still reflects the values we’re supposed to hold dear. In fact, just a few pages later, Brian Stelfreeze has a two-page spread documenting the evolution of Superman since his inception, and in his final incarnation, he’s holding an American flag.

Just get over it, people.

Front page image from newsrealbog.com.

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Brightest Day: An Overview

***WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the entire Brightest Day series. If you haven’t finished it yet, read no further***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Swamp Thing, huh? That’s the big reveal? That’s what we were waiting for the entire time? Swamp Thing was the key to all of this? Swamp Thing is the one that finally eradicates Nekron, the demon of death, from Earth? That, plus ONE page of John Constantine, is our payoff for all this? I’m underwhelmed, to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crapping on the characters themselves. They’ve both earned their place in comic book history. But pulling them out of the hat at the end like this seems like a cheap move to me. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi spent a year building up Aquaman, Deadman, Firestorm, and all the other characters Brightest Day focused on. But at the end of it, people were talking about Constantine and Swamp Thing. For my money, that’s an injustice to the characters, whether you like Swamp Thing or not.

It’s kind of cool to see DC start using some of these popular characters from Vertigo (they did it with Death from Sandman awhile back), but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the characters that are already on display. In any event, DC’s got a three-issue miniseries coming up called Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing, which will feature Constantine looking for the title character.

Despite what I feel was a botched finale, Aquaman, Firestorm and a good portion of the the other featured characters benefitted tremendously from Brightest Day. Others weren’t as lucky. Let’s take a look…

1. Aquaman
When we kicked off the series, Arthur Curry had just come back from the dead, and was reunited with his wife Mera. He found himself troubled by his ability to only summon undead undersea life. Hey, that’d freak anyone out, right? But as the series goes on, we learn that Mera isn’t the person we, or Arthur, thought she was. Plus, a new Aqualad, Jackson Hyde, is now in the picture. Ironically, Jackson is the son of Aquaman’s arch nemesis, Black Manta, who once killed Arthur and Mera’s infant son. In the final issue, we learn that there may be a traitor in Atlantis, who is supplying the enemy with Atlantean technology.

Of all the central characters, Aquaman probably benefitted more than anyone from Brightest Day, as is evidenced by his upcoming ongoing series written by Johns himself. Aquaman fans have longed to see Johns give the character the Rebirth treatment, and in effect, they’ve gotten it and are going to get more. The Aquaman character can be cheesy at times, but Brightesy Day proved that if done right, he can be as compelling and entertaining as any superhero. At the end of the day, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Image from comicvine.com.

2. Deadman
Boston Brand, a.k.a. Deadman, was the character that experienced the biggest change to his status quo during this series. Simply put: He was always a ghost-like character, and in Brightest Day he was alive again, and at the mercy of a mysterious White Lantern ring. The White Lantern is allegedly the embodiment of life itself, and the force which has foreseen all that is happening. Boston is along for the ride. During the series, he forms a romantic relationship with Dove (of Hawk & Dove), which is weird, as I was always under the impression that Dawn was a younger character. In the end, Boston is once forced to give up his life so that Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing, can live again. As a reader, this was a sad twist, but an expected one. I like how throughout the series, we see Boston, as well as other characters, realize that this White Lantern entity is not entirely fair to them, just as life itself isn’t always fair. It’s a nice metaphor, if not a pleasant one.

I’m not sure where this leaves Deadman going forward. As Dove is now a regular in Birds of Prey, it’s possible we could see him interact with her in that book. But if nothing else, we got a really good Deadman story, and that’s not something we see enough of.

As for Hawk & Dove, they’re pretty much back where they started. Essentially, their only purpose in this book seemed to be giving Deadman people to bounce dialogue off of. However, at the end of the series the White Entity tells Hawk that he did not fulfill his “purpose” for being brought back to life. Thus, his life is not his own. What this entails remains to be seen.

3. Firestorm
In this story, the original Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond, is forced to work with the new Firestorm, Jason Rusch, as they unite into a single body when using the Firestorm Matrix. Jason is still devastated over the loss of his girlfriend in Blackest Night, and the two don’t particularly want to work together. But in the end, they MUST get along, or their emotional turbulence could prompt the Firestorm Matrix to induce a second Big Bang, ending the universe. We also get a look at the relationship the boys have with Professor Stein and Jason’s father.

The reluctant partnership between Ronnie and Jason made for good reading here, but what I think gave the characters the most service was the emphasis on just how much power Firestorm wields. This is a power that could potentially unravel the universe, and it’s in the hands of two kids with conflicting personalities. That’s great fodder for an ongoing series, though how well it would do is anyone’s guess. Jason Rusch’s Firestorm ongoing lasted 35 issues, which is a strictly decent run in my estimation.

Either way, at the end of issue 24 we get a big cliffhanger, so we’ll be seeing more Firestorm in the near future. For my money, that’s a good thing.

Image from lost-man.com.

4. Hawkman and Hawkgirl
When Blackest Night ended, Hawkgirl, a.k.a. Shiera, had all her memories back, and she and Hawkman were finally allowed to be together again. But as it turned out, their nemesis Hath-Set had been collecting remnants from their previous bodies (reincarnations and all that), and using them to create a portal to Hawkworld, where they run into Shiera’s mother, and eventually all hell breaks loose. Carol Ferris and the Star Sapphires also jump into the mix.

I wasn’t as much a fan of this plot thread, especially when you put it next to the ones involving Aquaman, Deadman and the others. It took awhile to really heat up, and even then, it didn’t do much for me. However, I will say it was pretty cool to see Hawkman unleash himself Wolverine-style on the inhabitants of Hawkworld. That was nicely done.

At the end of the series, the White Entity takes Hawkgirl away from Hawkman for some reason. In a previous issue, the Entity says that Hawkgirl was brought back so she could conquer what held her back in her previous lives, i.e. her love for Hawkman. I can only assume this is the reason she’s gone at the end of the story. Naturally, this won’t sit well with Hawkman, and I imagine he’ll be looking for her soon.

All in all, I’d wager it was a good story for Hawkman/Hawkgirl fans. Personally, I wouldn’t have shed a tear without it.

Image from scans-daily.dreamwidth.org.

5. Martian Manhunter
J’onn J’onzz is another character who doesn’t get good solo stories very often. He’s been part of the Justice League for so long that we rarely get to see him on his own. In a sense, he got some of the Rebirth treatment in Brightest Day as well. He discovers that there is another green Martian alive, and struggles with visions of his past life on Mars. He also meets the daughter of the scientist who brought him to Earth in the first place. While she is remorseful for what happened to J’onn, he says she didn’t take his life from him, but gave him one.

I don’t think J’onn will be maintaining his own ongoing series anytime soon, and there’s very little mainstream interest in him as far as I can see. Thus, it’s nice that he can shine in big ensemble stories like this. I don’t think Brightest Day was a big game changer for J’onn the way it was for Aquaman or Firestorm. But it reiterated the fact that this is a great character. And I’ll drink to that, by God…

More than anything, Brightest Day served to expand the DC Universe a bit more, but spotlighting characters that don’t always get solo limelight. In that respect, it was similar to 52, which resulted in a Booster Gold ongoing series, Renee Montoya becoming The Question, and the new Batwoman. Hopefully, a few of these characters will still be benefitting from the spotlight of Brightest Day a few years from now. With any luck, it won’t simply be remembered as the book that brought Swamp Thing and Constantine back…

RATING: 8/10

Front page image from DC Comics.

 

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Superman Renounces US Citizenship

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In a story published in Wednesday’s Action Comics #900, Superman renounced his US citizenship.

Though it wasn’t the issue’s featured story, a back up story by David Goyer (screenwriter of  Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and the upcoming Man of Steel) and Miguel Sepulveda has Superman declare his intention to take his mission of peace global, as opposed to just focusing on the United States.

The story has been picked up by the The New York Post and Fox News. DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee told the Post that in the issue, “Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville.”

In an article from Fox News, GOP Activist Angie Meyer said: ”Besides being riddled with a blatant lack of patriotism, and respect for our country, Superman’s current creators are belittling the United States as a whole. By denouncing his citizenship, Superman becomes an eerie metaphor for the current economic and power status the country holds worldwide.”

In contrast, Wired‘s Scott Thill said: ”Superman has always been bigger than the United States. In an age rife with immigration paranoia, it’s refreshing to see an alien refugee tell the United States that it’s as important to him as any other country on Earth, which, in turn, is as important to Superman as any other planet in the multiverse.”

It is unclear at this point if this plot thread will be continued in future Superman comics.

Source: Newsarama

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First Impressions: The Mighty Thor #1

TITLE: The Mighty Thor #1
AUTHOR: Matt Fraction
PENCILLER: Olivier Coipel
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 27, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never been much of a Thor fan.  Something about the overly mythological nature of the character, combined with his look, always made him seem goofy to me. Wonder Woman’s in the same boat. When they’re part of big superhero teams, they’re fine. But when they’re on their own, they’ve got to work a little harder to pique my interest.

That being said, I really dug The Mighty Thor #1.

The issue opens at a Christian church in Broxton, Oklahoma, which is also the site of the recently wrecked realm of Asgard. The pastor talks about how talk there has been about the end of the world, and proceeds to talk about how insignificant one can feel when in the presence of “Gods” like Thor, and openly asks how they relate to THE God. Meanwhile, Thor and Sif journey to the bottom of the Yggdrasil, the world tree. As the tree was recently split in two by Thor, he and Sif take drastic action by attempting to retrieve the Worldheart, obtaining some help from Loki in the process.

All the while, The Silver Surfer watches over Earth, signaling the coming of Galactus…

I’m not always a sucker for religious commentary in comics, but I loved what Matt Fraction did with the pastor in this issue.

Early in the book, the pastor says: “Are the Asghardians ‘Gods?’…And if they are, well, where does that leave MY God? Or the big-G ‘God’ of anybody’s faith?…And if my God and these other Gods all exist in some kind of continuum…is there a winner, a loser?

At one point, a worried member of his congregation approaches him, and starts asking the heavy questions: Is Jesus going to protect us? How do we know Jesus is real? How do we know we’re not just talking to ourselves when we pray?

The pastor’s response is, “I have to believe this: We are not alone.” Those words appear on the final page, as we see Silver Surfer approaching Earth from space.

I LOVE this stuff. Religion is such a key aspect of our culture (for better or worse…), and when done well, it can make for some really interesting comic books. That’s why I was such a big fan of the Azrael ongoing series.

As Fraction is also the writer of Marvel’s big Fear Itself miniseries, it makes sense that this book ties in to some of those same themes. As the world faces impending doom, are we alone? Or do we have a savior waiting in the wings? Obviously, you can plug Thor into that otherworldly savior role, much like Superman often is. But how far do you take it? You’re obviously going to alienate certain readers if you play a comic book superhero up as too much of a God-like savior of humanity (“Thor is bigger than Jesus!”). But let’s be honest: A lot of comic book characters have God-like powers, particularly the more mythological ones like Thor and his supporting cast. So where do they stand in the grand scheme of things? I’m hoping that’s a question Fraction tackles in this story arc. In truth, I have yet to see it effectively tackled anywhere else.

Fraction earned a lot of respect from me with this issue. He’s a big money ball player. If there were any doubts before, there are none now.

All images from of Marvel.

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Comic Book Bloopers: Spider-Man Has a Nice Hat

***Comic books from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s tend to provide us with moments like that. Either a slang term meant something back then that it doesn’t now, or writers were simply under pressure to make stories lighter and less “explicit” (that was the case during the mid-20th century), or it’s simply a matter of stories being written in a different time. Retro comic books provide us with the occasional dose of unintentional hilarity. It is with that lovingly playful mindset that I bring to you: Comic Book Bloopers.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What can you say about Spider-Man that hasn’t already been said? Not much, really. But they say actions speak louder than words…

Image from superdickery.com.

OUCH!!!! My God, how do you…? I mean, why would he…? How is that even…? And what is that….?

Forget it. Let’s just go on to the next one.

Image from superdickery.com.

O-KAY, this one’s not right either…

Come to think of it, these panels might have been a byproduct of that anus punch, depending on what after-effects Spidey had to deal with. I’m just sayin’…

This is one of those moments that SOMEONE had to have caught, and let slip by. Mind you, Spider-Man was created after Seduction of the Innocent. You’d think with everybody looking out for sex and violence in comic books, this scene would have raised a few eyebrows. I mean, I get it, it’s supposed to be webbing. But like a lot of great comic book bloopers, if you take the word bubbles out, these panels take on an ENTIRELY new meaning.

Also, how old is Aunt May supposed to be, anyway? I get that she’s elderly and frail, but in the panel on the right she looks like Emperor Palpatine.

Image from againwiththecomics.blogspot.com.

Oh boy, another PSA comic. Yay.

In the early 90′s, Marvel published four PSA issues in Canada, and this was one of them. Written by the late Dwayne McDuffie, with a cover by Todd McFarlane, this issue obviously deals with drugs, alcohol, saying no, etc. But I can’t help but chuckle a bit when I see the cover, no offense to McFarlane. We’ve got a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of prescription pills, a syringe, and what appears to be a keg of beer, all webbed together. There’s also a test tube in there for some reason. Not only has Spidey taken the time to round up all these substances, but he’s brought a bunch of KIDS to see them! What exactly is the point?

“Kids, you see all this stuff? DON’T DO THIS STUFF!”
“Aw, but it’s got your webbing on it, Spidey! It looks so cool!”
“No, that…that’s not the point! The webbing will disolve in a little bit anyway.”
“It will? Then what was the point of webbing all this stuff together in the first place?”
“Oye…this is why I never got a junior partner…”

Also, note the Edmonton Oilers Jersey the kid in front of Spidey is wearing. Did Spidey go to Edmonton? If so, why? Did Dr. Octopus decide to take a crack at Canada? Wait, Wolverine’s Canadian, isn’t he? Maybe he was visiting Wolverine. Yeah, that’s it…

Image from superdickery.com.

This one was actually a Three Stooges short. Remember the one where the Stooges become movie stars, and Curly is in the gorilla suit, and then he runs into an ACTUAL gorilla? Three Missing Links, 1938, check it out.

This was published in an edition of Spidey Super Stories. I have no idea what that series entailed, but based on the above page, I can only assume it was a series where they let Superman write Spider-man stories. Who else would have it in for Marvel’s top draw enough to dress him in a gorilla costume? DC’s top draw, of course (theoretically at least). I can only assume in the next issue Superman had Spidey go the drag route. Peter Parker has to get into a fancy party by dressing in women’s clothing. And apaprently, he’d have to be wearing the dress OVER his Spider-man costume. Seriously, how sweaty must he be in that gorilla suit with his costume on underneath? In the sun, no less. There must be some kind of law against that.

I’m guessing this was the source of Superman’s bad blood with Spidey.

Image from comicbookmovie.com.

If you’re the victim, erectile disfunction jokes just aren’t funny. At least that’s what I’ve heard…

Image from againwiththecomics.blogspot.com.

Everything is better with hats.

The real question here is, why is Spidey being driven around by the Wolfman? In a purple jacket and yellow suit no less. I guess it must be difficult for a human/wolf mix to find something in his size.

But you know what? Here again we have the trend of characters wearing clothes they need not be wearing. Remember on the old Ninja Turtles cartoon, when the Turtles would walk around in a trench coat and fedora hat and nothing else? They even had Raphael do that in the first movie, remember? It’s the same thing here. It’s like…we can SEE you under that hat! We see you have green skin and a bright red bandana! You can’t fool us! Same principle with Spidey, especially when the hat in question is PURPLE.

Then again, the Turtles did have ONE trick they used while wearing the trench coats, which might have fooled everyone…

Image from collectiondx.com.

People masks. With no eyelids, or facial hair of any kind. I LOVE this. Because when you want to be inconspicuous, you walk around like an albino 1940s gangster with alopecia. They don’t make ‘em like THIS anymore, folks…

Front page image from comicsmastersonline.com.

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First Impressions: Black Dynamite

TITLE: Black Dynamite #1 (one-shot)
AUTHORS: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, Scott Sanders (story), Brian Ash (script)
PENCILLER: Jun Lofamia
PUBLISHERS: Ars Nova, Ape Entertainment
PRICE: $5.95
RELEASED: April 20, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m pretty sure this issue contains the comic book industry’s first ever 61-hour interracial sex scene. But what else would you expect from Black Dynamite’s debut on the paneled page?

Based on the character created in the retro blaxploitation style film Black Dynamite, this one-shot sees our hero travel to Slave Island to rescue thousands of black slaves held captive by southern white supremacists who want to bring the world back to “when tradition was appreciated! When there was a place for everybody, and everybody knew their place!”

Naturally, Black Dynamite comes to the rescue (managing to punch a shark in the process), but gets captured. He’s then auctioned off to the Ladies’ Auxillary of the KKK, deemed as a “genuine…prime uncut…male…mandingo!” One 61-hour sex scene later, Dynamite is ready to bring down Slave Island as only he can.

 

Page 8. From blacksuperherofan.com.

One of the really cool things about this book is it’s made to look like it was done in the ’70s. The pencilling and inking are very reminiscent of artists from that era, the pages are artificially worn a bit, the old Comics Code of Authority seal is on the cover, and we’ve even got a few mock ads (“How Skinny Ass Jack Became a Bad Ass Mack”). The retro feel of this issue really fits with the tone the film created.

The humor is what you’d hope to find in a Black Dynamite comic book. He’s a badass black superhero ninja mofo who spouts off cool one-liners (“Good as the warm body of a white widow feels.”). Michael Jai White’s character is very much alive and well. You’d expect as much, as he came up with the story alongside Scott Sanders and Byron Minns, who wrote the film’s screenplay. Sanders also directed the film.

With a Black Dynamite animated series apparently being developed for next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Black Dynamite pop up in comic book stores again. I’d hope to see him only on a semi-annual basis, though, if only to keep the concept fresh, and give the writers time to develop good content. The $5.95 price tag is a bit heavy for my personal tastes. But considering the amount of effort that obviously went into this issue, plus the absence of any ads whatsoever (save for the mock ones), if you have the money, it’s worth the purchase.

“Some people say, ‘Make love, not war.’ Me personally? I’d hate to choose.”

Front page image from blogomatic3000.com.

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Superman/Batman: Worship – Graphic Novel Review

TITLE: Superman/Batman: Worship
AUTHORS: Paul Levitz, featuring Joe Kelly, David Finch, J.T. Krul, Steven T. Seagle, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, David Finch, Peter Tomasi, Brian Azzarello, Duncan Rouleau, Billy Tucci.
PENCILLERS: Renato Guedes, Jerry Ordway, featuring Finch, Rouleau, Tucci, Francis Manapul, Gene Ha, Lee Bermejo, Adam Hughes, Jill Thompson, Teddy Kristiansen.
COLLECTS: Superman/Batman #72-75, Superman/Batman Annual #4
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASE DATE: April 20, 2011

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This is one of those books that could have been SO much better than it ended up being, at least in terms of its main story. I love all the religious implications of Superman’s presence here on Earth, and for a few issues, this book explores that. Unfortunately, it fails to capitalize on it in a meaningful way.

Veteran creator Paul Levitz teams with Renato Guedes for a Batman Beyond story which sees Terry McGinnis cross paths with Superman, presumably for the first time since their meeting in the animated series. Guedes knocks the art out of the park. Sadly, because this issue came out before Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond, it set the bar a bit too high for Ryan Benjamin to follow up on. But alas, we got one good issue out of Guedes. It’s also a nice little story that explores the human side of Superman.

Image from ifanboy.com.

The Worship story itself is something of a throwback in terms of its execution, as Levitz and another veteran Jerry Ordway are at the wheel. Some of the dialogue is a little stinky by modern standards, but for the most part, it holds up. Ordway’s art also looks really cool with Pete Pantazi’s colors at work. It’s a nice old school meets new school look.

While Superman is off-world, Lois Lane is captured by a cult of Superman worshipers, who believe she made an unforgivable mistake in marrying Clark Kent instead of Superman (*ahem*). Meanwhile, Lex Luthor discovers a distant planet whose primitive inhabitants despise Superman. Lex attempts to bring technology to their world so that he can be worshiped by them as a Prometheus type figure.

As one might expect, Worship is really a Superman story that just happens to have Batman in it, as opposed to a “true” Superman/Batman story. The story itself is all right, but I found myself wanting A LOT more from a story that tackles such a heavy issue. It feels like three issues of fluff. It was probably meant to simply be filler material, which is a shame. Had they been given another three issues, Levitz and Ordway might have created something more memorable.

Image from thehighdefinite.com.

The book also contains Superman/Batman #75, which features another mildly amusing story by Levitz and Ordway. But it also features several two-page backup stories by talents like Gene Ha, Francis Manapul and Adam Hughes. Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Rafael Albuquerque bring their “Li’l Leaguers” back for a brief story, which is lovely to see. Adam Hughes gives us a fun look into the lives of Batgirl and Supergirl.

But to me, the undisputed highlight of the entire book is the two-pager done by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo (the team behind Lex Luthor: Man of Steel and Joker). It’s a riff on Calvin & Hobbes called Joker & Lex, in which the two discuss evil plans. It’s a brilliant little tribute to all characters involved, and if you’re a Calvin & Hobbes fan, it’s hilarious.

All in all, one could do better for $17.99 than Worship. But it’s a decent book, if for no other reason than the Batman Beyond story, and a wonderful Calvin & Hobbes spoof.

RATING: 5/10

Front page image from comicmegastore.com.
For more Superman/Batman, check out
Finest Worlds and Night and Day.

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