January 31, 2020
The Ludocrats #1 (of 5)
This will have been in the pipeline for around five years before it finally hits print in April. It’s hard to say that it’s something I’ve been eagerly anticipating beyond the fact that it’s a new miniseries written by Kieron Gillen. Co-written, actually. Gillen’s former games journalist buddy Jim Rossignol is joining him here for what is described as “Dune” meets an “M-Rated take on ‘Asterix and Obelix.’” That’s a terrible description by any standard, so think of it as a fat person and a skinny person bounding around a whacked-out futurescape of the kind that can only be seen in comics. Or rather as one big excuse for Gillen and Rossignol to do whatever they want for five issues. With “The Spire’s” Jeff Stokely illustrating it, that’s actually a setup I wouldn’t mind investing in.
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January 29, 2020
How to Read Comics the Marvel Way #1 (of 4)
Reading (superhero) comics can be harder than it looks. Sometimes that’s because the creators have created complex works that demand more from the reader than simply reading left-to-right in straight lines. Other times that’s because the creators are so hopped up on fame, money, and ego that they’ll vomit an incomprehensible mess onto the page and call it art. That last bit was a lot more common in the 90’s. So if you’ve been wanting to read (superhero) comics but have been too intimidated by the learning curve, don’t worry because writer Christopher Hastings and artist Scott Koblish have you covered.
The writer of “Gwenpool” and (every so often) “Deadpool” and the artist of those really cool flashback issues from the Posehn/Duggan run of “Deadpool” have come up with a miniseries to explain (superhero) comics’ unique vocabulary. So if you don’t know your word balloons from your panel gutters, you’ll find an explanation here. As well as a story involving Spider-Man who has been trapped in a comic book by Mysterio. Why? Because the best explanations for anything involve turning them into story as well.
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January 27, 2020
(Just a reminder: If you read scanlations without buying the official release in your country of residence, you are a BAD PERSON!)
I know, it’s been a while since I’ve checked on the wacky hijinks of Kaguya, Miyuki, and company. I’ll admit that when it comes to this series, there’s only so many ways I can say, “This volume’s great. Here are some examples why.” This is also broadly true of vol. 11 as well: Kaguya makes her LINE debut and Hayasaca has to pick up the pieces, Chika and Kaguya have a sleepover, Kaguya takes a stab at helping Ishigami score well on the mid-terms, Miyuki tries to mediate the tension between Ishigami and Miko, while his dad winds up accompanying Kaguya to her Parent-Teacher Conference. There’s plenty of expertly timed bits of slapstick and witty comebacks as usual here and this would be another solid entry in this volume if it weren’t for one thing.
In the middle of this volume are two chapters revolving around rapping. Specifically, Miyuki teaching Chika how to rap (so she in turn can teach him), and then a dual encounter as the two of them plus Kaguya and Hayasaca rap their hearts out to each other. For me, this was easily one of the comedic high points of the series when I first read it. Trying to translate something like rap (as well as rhyming in general) from Japanese to English is something like a nightmare based on what I’ve heard from translators.
So while I recognize the officially translated version of these chapters as a valiant effort, it’s not quite as good as the scanlated version I first encountered. A well-placed “Ballin’” can sometimes make all the difference. Mind you, I don’t think the version here is bad and the ONLY reason I’m bringing it up is because I did buy the English version. Which is what all of you should be doing too. ESPECIALLY since vol. 11 leaves off with the reveal that our co-protagonists are now on a ticking clock in order for them to get over themselves and finally confess their love.
(And remember, if you’ve bought the official release then you can go back and re-read those scanlations if you want guilt free!)
January 26, 2020
I don’t think anyone expected “Avengers” to not have any tie-ins to the big crossover event that was “War of the Realms.” Especially when its current writer was also busy writing the main event. What we could expect was that it would have greater relevance to the inter-title fracas. As these issues show, it does not manage that. What it does manage to do is keep the many story threads the series has set in motion ticking right along. It may not do it with full grace, but that’s not actually the crossover’s fault.
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January 25, 2020
It took only two volumes to get there, but it looks like “The Green Lantern” is going to be one of those rare Grant Morrison projects that don’t quite click. These kinds of projects are where the writer gets so focused on conjuring up as many crazy ideas as he can that he forgets to ground them in recognizable human stakes. The first two stories in this volume manage that that best here as Hal Jordan has to find his way out of a mysterious place lorded over by the wizard Myrwhidden and then goes on to have a team-up with (who else but) Green Arrow in the next issue. Even if the first one feels overwhelmingly inscrutable at first, it all clicks once the big reveal happens while Hal’s personal connection to the mysterious green girl takes on a special resonance. The Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up is also good straightforward superhero fun, even when the story revolves around obscure giant alternate-dimension versions of the characters towards the end.
After these opening issues, the floodgates of madness proceed to open. We’re introduced or re-introduced to concept like the United Planets Superwatch, an antimatter border guard, charming rogue Sinestro, a sword-and-sorcery alternate-universe Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the Qwa-Man of the antimatter universe, Zundernell the Golden Lantern guardian of the cosmic grail… I could keep going because there’s so much more where these came from. Morrison’s imagination is one of his greatest assets as a writer, but only when he remembers to temper it with some kind of human concern. Which is why the volume’s back two-thirds isn’t a complete wash -- I hope hippie stoner Green Lantern sticks around in some form -- just disappointing. Even artist Liam Sharp seems like he’s struggling to keep up as vol. 2 wears on. This isn’t enough to make me give up on this series yet as there are far worse sins than having too much ambition. Still, it’d be nice to see Morrison dial things back just a tad to give his concepts some actual room to breathe.
January 24, 2020
(Huh… I was looking for the link to this review to add to my review of the second volume of this series and couldn’t find it. That’s a first for me. So if you’re wondering what I thought of vol. 2 after reading my thoughts here, come on back tomorrow.)
After Geoff Johns gave us the definitive “Green Lantern” run, I was of the opinion that it would take a similarly high-profile writer to keep me reading that series. Someone like Grant Morrison, you know. Instead we got Robert Venditti and that was that. (To be fair, Venditti had a run that lasted almost as long as Johns’ did, so I think I owe it to him to give it a look one of these days.) Now, Morrison is writing the series with Liam Sharp providing the art and they’ve boiled the series down to its essence: Hal Jordan is a SPACE COP fighting SPACE CRIME.
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January 22, 2020
Have you stopped reading about the X-Men? Then it's time to come back...
January 20, 2020
The first couple of chapters provide the kind of silliness you’ve come to expect from this series. Which means we get to see Nene and Clarion visit the doctor, play (what is almost certainly) “Monster Hunter” with some kids, and take part in an underground robot fight club where the owner has his own customized military mech on hand to stomp out anyone who gets out of line! This is all well and good, but the best part of these chapters is how Phobos’ character gets some much-needed rounding out. She presented with near-toxic levels of smugness in the previous volume as she forced her way into the blissfully unaware Nene’s life. While Clarion’s evil twin thought she had everything figured out, that turns out to not be the case here as she actually struggles with the concept of having fun while playing with others and openly grits her teeth upon seeing what the Pandora device can do. After seeing these things, I can even entertain the idea that she might not be the villain of this arc.
Then again, that’s also because someone makes a good case for being that villain -- even if they’re just an A-list henchman -- at the end of the volume. The extra-long third chapter in this volume starts off unassumingly enough as we catch up with Soviet spy Cruzkowa and the Chicken Brothers (of all people…) in jail. They don’t stay there for long, but before we can experience their titanic team-up, we find out that some of the spy’s feelings about cyborgs don’t sit well with the brothers. This triggers some surprisingly effective flashbacks that wind up rendering the Chicken Brothers (of all people…) as actual humans rather than living jokes and at odds with Cruzkowa. Before things can get deadly, steadfast C.P.D. officer Robert Altman shows up to round up the criminals, and then…
Look, I hate it when a volume ends with the death of a character only for it to be revealed in the next volume that they’re alive and well. It’s awful when it happens in a Marvel or DC book, and arguably worse when you see it done in an Image title. If it winds up being done here… then I honestly won’t mind. Really, that’s just how it is this time. If the creators are serious, however, then the end of this volume is either a game-changing raising of the stakes, or a tone-wrecking mistake that’ll sink this title. Whatever it is, the answers contained in vol. 13 can’t come fast enough.
January 19, 2020
There’s really only one question to ask regarding this miniseries. Is it any good once you take Batman’s penis out of it? The flagship title for DC’s Black Label imprint sparked immediate infamy when it launched and the Caped Crusader’s batawang was visible in one scene. In addition to spiking demand for this issue, it also sparked a widespread scrubbing of potentially objectionable content throughout DC Comics with rewrites and re-draws to this series being part of them. Now that all the furor has died down around “Damned” we can see what worth this comic actually has.
The short answer to that is, “It sure looks nice!”
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January 18, 2020
I’ll say this right off the bat: The first volume was not a fluke. Vol. 2 of “Outer Darkness” cements its status as the best Image launch I’ve read this year. Writer John Layman and artist Afu Chan serve up some more inspired stories in the series’ vein of “Star Trek” by way of “Ghostbusters” action. We get to see things like the crew of the Charon encountering a VERY haunted house in the middle of space, one that happens to have a still-living nun inside of it too. There’s also the interesting backstory of Ensign Hyzdek who, in addition to still dealing with the trauma of being resurrected in the first volume, is dealing with the stress of not being who everyone thinks she is. More fun is had with stories involving weapons that turn people into killers and flowers that feed off the dreams their hate generates. These stories also ratchet up the animosity between Capt. Joshua Rigg and 1st Officer Satalis, setting the stage for the volume’s two-part climax.
That’s “climax” in both senses of the word as, once they’ve arrived at Sagittarius Base, Capt. Rigg treats his crew to 24 hours of alien debauchery. It’s to keep them occupied while he finds out from Admiral Prakash why he’ll be heading into the outer darkness. Not that it matters too much, because Rigg has plans of his own. Plans that come off so smoothly he doesn’t realize the trouble he’s picked up until it’s too late. Which means that the (hopefully forthcoming) vol. 3 is going to be a great time as he deals with this problematic new status quo he’s brought upon himself. Granted, a little more information about the history between himself and the woman he’s doing this for would’ve been appreciated. He’s napalming a lot of bridges for her, after all. Even so, Layman’s clever writing and Chan’s stylish art make vol. 2 just as good as the first.
Now go buy both of them so that Layman doesn’t have to resort to stunts like the (still sure to be good) upcoming “Outer Darkness/Chew” crossover.