Review of Guardians of the Galaxy #14

gogGuardians of the Galaxy #14 by Brian Michael Bendis, Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett, Nick Bradshaw, Phil Jimenez, Gerardo Sandoval and others

So, once again it’s oversized anniversary issue time for Marvel’s cosmic line. Late last year, I picked up Nova #10 celebrating 100 issues (spread out over four volumes) of that series. As I wrote at the time, it was a fun introduction to the current Nova, Sam Alexander, and I have been following his adventures ever since. Now, this week, Marvel published a commemorative issue for their other premiere cosmic title (you know, the one that’s being made into a film).

My experience with the Guardians began with the 90s Jim Valentino series about the original 31st Century team. At the time, it was an enjoyable comic, even though their attempts to shoe-horn in references to contemporary characters got tiresome quickly. Yes, I can believe that Silver Surfer would still be gliding around, or that somewhere there was an alien race utilizing Stark armor tech. But a cult/gang/whatever inspired by the Punisher? Ghost Rider on a space bike? Yeah, not so much. I dropped the series soon after #25 (around the time Valentino jumped ship as well), and haven’t revisited any of the material since then.
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Review of Kaptara #1

Kaptara 1
Kagan McLeod

by Chip Zdarsky & Kagan McLeod

The debut issue of Chip Zdarsky’s new science-fiction journey gets off to a rather conventional start. The crew of the Kanga consists of the usual assortment of mismatched personalities chafing at sharing close confines with each other. There’s the tough muscle man, the spirited female doctor, the take charge pilot, and so on. These characters are brushed in lightly by Zdarsky, not really rising too far above types. The most fully rounded member of the team is Keith, a young gay scientist, who only got the posting through the string pulling of his aunt in administration. Zdarsky spends the most time with him, positioning Keith as central to the story, so it only makes sense that he would be the most developed. As events progress, the remainder of the cast appears to consist primarily of cannon fodder anyway.
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Review of The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents: Beyond Belief #1

Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents Beyond Belief 1By Ben Acker, Ben Blacker and Phil Hester

If you do not know, the Thrilling Adventure Hour is a stage show and podcast, done in the style of old time radio. One of their segments is called Beyond Belief. It is about a high society couple who can see ghosts. Their love for ridding the world of these pesky ghosts is only matched by their love of wine. Beyond Belief spreads the cheese on thick as these two silver-tongued gems partake in endless witty banter. In the stage production, Sadie Doyle is played by Paget Brewster and Frank Doyle is played by Paul F. Tompkins. I have a huge crush on Paget Brewster from way back in Season 4 of Friends when she was Joey’s girlfriend Cathy (later Chandler’s girlfriend Cathy). My love for her carried on into her Criminal Minds days where she used her brain to catch bad guys. Paul F. Tompkins, I only know from his stand up which is basically all about being a failed actor. It is some pretty funny stuff and provides some insight to what it is like on a movie set when you are not one of the billed actors. I love these two actors, they bring the characters Sadie and Frank to life. The question is, how did this transfer over to a comic book?

The first few pages are very over the top cheesy, just to make sure that the tone is properly set, in case you do not know what you have gotten into.  The story is a simple first issue story about a woman who moves into a new house which happens to be haunted. She calls up her friends Sadie and Frank who tell her to get out of the house, they will come by to take care of it. Sadie and Frank get right into their fast-talking routine, never forgetting to stop and have a few drinks along the way. If you are okay with the constant campy banter these two engage in then this read can be quite enjoyable. If you happen to know Paget Brewster and Paul F. Tompkins, hearing their voice in your head will make it even more enjoyable.

The problem is, for someone who doesn’t know Beyond Belief, I don’t think the concept translates well. Beyond Belief exists to replicate an old time radio show, where imagination is key. When it transfers over to the page, if you do not know what it is replicating, it is going to seem way over the top campy. The inside cover of the comic is basically the radio show introduction. However, if you just flip through the inside cover and get right to the story, you might miss the point completely. I enjoy a good ghost story, and for me Beyond Belief transfers very well from a podcast to a comic. I had a lot of fun with this first issue. I would be curious to hear what someone who hasn’t heard the show thinks of the comic. I would like to think it comes across, I’m just not sure it does.

– Dean

Review of The Infinite Loop #1

665364_d61fc8e8b60e665a6b04502f5a5b44f3108baab6By Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier

I am a huge fan of futuristic stories. I will read any story that has to do with time travel. Any story that paints a picture of what our world will evolve into. These stories fascinate me, as they do most people. When I walked through the comic shop on Wednesday and saw this cover on the stand, I knew I had to see what was inside. When I reached the 8th page and it was a full page spread of a T-Rex charging our main character Teddy accompanied by a flow chart titled “Will You Survive the T-Rex?” I knew this book was for me.

Infinite Loop is nothing like I thought it would be. I expect this to be a book about either some sort of Groundhog Day thing, where a day or sequence of days cannot be broken. Or I expect it to be about a time traveler who is trying to accomplish something and has to keep going back in time and trying again. That is not what this book is at all, and not what Infinite Loop means in this case. In this book, Infinite Loop is referring to the history of man, how we make the same mistake over and over. It refers to the pain we have caused others over the years because of prejudice. Whether it be in the 1950’s where a black boy could be beaten to death for flirting with a whit woman. Or whether it be in the 1500’s where a Protestant marrying a Catholic could result in a massacre. Or whether it be 2013 where a homosexual militant, Eric Lembembe was murdered in his home. There may be different motivations, inter-faith, interracial and same-sex, but the result is the same. Someone died because someone else didn’t approve of their choice of partner. So how do we break this infinite loop? Remove love from the equation. In the future you can choose to be “timeless”. If you are timeless you live in a world where there is no love. There is no flirting, there are no dates. There is no partner to choose, because whatever partner you choose, someone is going to disapprove for some idiotic reason. A world without prejudice is a world without love. The main character, Teddy, is timeless. She lives in the world without love. This story will be about showing her the importance of love, showing her that there is another way to break the loop.

This book is not what I thought it would be, and I’m glad it wasn’t as I enjoyed it immensely.

– Dean

Review of Elektra #1

ekby Haden Blackman & Mike Del Mundo

Elektra is a familiar and stunningly beautiful debut issue that let’s the art do the heavy lifting while the story connects the dots. By now we’ve come to a pretty standard style of reintroduction for pre established characters in All New Marvel Now where they are taken from their usual setting and called to adventure with a brief introduction on who they are and what they are all about. In that very basic sense Elektra #1 isn’t really breaking any new ground at this point. Elektra is called in on a hit out of the country, just what she needs as she expresses a desire to get out of New York City for awhile. Anybody that’s read Blackman’s Batwoman will recognize his dialogue style here and that’s fine for Elektra since so many of the same sensibilities carry over from the former to the latter. Also much like Batwoman the art here is stunning as Mike Del Mundo provides beautiful illustrations propelling the visual narrative that brings an almost dream like quality to the story telling as he uses his illustrations to let the imagery of the story flow naturally into one another in a way that allows past and present blend into one another. Del Mundo has long been doing superb cover work and his transition to interiors is seamless and natural here with just the right attention to detail and borderline surrealism to make the book sing. It’s pretty clear at this point that Marvel has a formula for it’s All New initiative but that formula works. By giving the comic it’s own distinct voice and style Marvel remains consistent with what’s made there comics successful over the last few years and this is one of many strong debut issues so far. A successful first strike for an intriguing concept. For a debut issue there isn’t much more you can ask for.

Lazarus #8

Lazarus #8          Overview: In the penultimate issue of the second arc of Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s new series, we inch towards a potentially explosive conclusion next month.  Forever is still trying to please her Dad at all costs, and the Barret family is getting closer to the Lift selection in Denver, CO.  A fog of unease hangs over this issue, and based on how things have gone so far, I’m expecting to get a bittersweet finale next month.  This has been an engrossing world from the beginning, but now that we’re getting to know the people who inhabit it a bit more, the reality of their situation is even more sobering.

          Story: I hadn’t read much by Rucka before this, save for his stint on Batwoman, but that combined with his reputation was all the convincing I needed.  The thing that sticks out so much to me is the massive world building he has done in just 8 issues.  The back matter where he elaborates on the history of the different families is fascinating, and by using flashbacks to Forever’s childhood, mixed with the present day goings on; we’re getting a vast amount of story.  Some of you may or may not have noticed, but they’ve been creating fake ads to go on the back cover, which have all been fantastic. I love details like this, it just adds to my enjoyment of the book as a whole, as well as my admiration for the creative team.

I want one!  Oh wait, never mind.
I want one! Oh wait, never mind.

This issue focused on Forever’s quest to stomp out a terrorist cell intent on attacking the Lift selection, and we checked in with how the Barrett family is doing after the firefight from last issue.  Every character is very well planned out and presented. From our protagonist, to the various members of the Carlyle and Barrett families, we’ve seen very rounded and complicated personalities.  We’ve known since the beginning that this was a harsh world, but after the past few issues’ deaths, and the uncertainty for nearly everyone’s survival lingering; every situation is filled with tension.  I really enjoyed this issue and the series in general, so if you haven’t given it a shot, grab the first trade that’s already available and join in the fun.

          img047Art:  Michael Lark is one of my favorites, and his heavy shadows combined with an attention to detail, fit the style of this book so well.  He excels in the action sequences, and does a perfect job moving our vantage around a scene. jumping in for emphasis, and pulling back to survey the aftermath.  While his figures can seem a little static, he makes up for it with his choices of story beats.  We fill in the blanks so naturally that the sequences have a very cinematic flow, and the action unfolds in a precisely orchestrated pace.  When things slow down and we join the Barrett family, his ability to deliver telling facial expressions adds to every interaction. When Michael Barrett is trying to make a little girl feel comfortable enough to let him reduce her dislocated elbow, you can see the hesitation on her face, and the concern on her father’s; Michael’ s body language combined with the dialogue conveys his calming approach and nature appropriately.  Lark’s abilities combine with Rucka’s deft scripting to make a lived-in world, thankfully I can’t imagine this actually happening, but the realistic approach by the creative team makes for a very affecting story.  I’m not very familiar with Santi Arcas, but he’s done great job coloring this series.  This is not a pretty world, the pages of the “waste” are filled with a grime, and warm, bland colors; you get the immediate sense that most people need a shower and laundry.  Conversely, the world of the Carlyles and other rich families is lovely and sanitary. The colors are cooler to go along with the cushy interior environments and conference rooms filled with the blue glow of computer screens.

Conclusion: This issue worked very well to set up the next chapter while still keeping this episode engaging.  If you’re interested in some powerful storytelling, and some speculative sci-fi that is incredibly well thought out; then you couldn’t do much better than picking up a copy Lazarus.


Manhattan Projects #20

img042          Overview: This issue deals with the aftermath of the return of Albert Einstein from his trek across alternate worlds.  We get an update from the man himself, telling his doppelgänger Albrecht, just what he had to do to get home.  The narrative jumps between times and universes, but it all flows very well, and is a great mix of excitement and humor.  I’ve been waiting for the explanation behind exactly where Einstein went way back in the series’ beginning, and this issue did not disappoint.

          img043 Art: After an issue off, Nick Pitarra is back on art.  Ryan Browne did a fantastic job in his absence, but this is Pitarra’s world and it was great to have him back.  I’ve been impressed from the beginning with Pitarra’s ability to depict all these historical figures’ likeness, but in his distinct style.  This issue he managed to show off even more by giving us alternate versions of these characters.  The issue opens with Einstein in an alternate world, hiding from cavemen versions of Oppenheimer, Fermi, Feynman, and Von Braun. It’s amazing how recognizable each person is, while at the same time looking like Neanderthals.  The rest of the issue we are treated to glimpses of the many worlds Einstein had to shift through on his return home.  Pitarra does a wonderful job with each one, and even throws in some awesome homage for good measure.  Another thing I really enjoy reading this series is how Pitarra peppers little winks of humor into the backgrounds, like having a poster for Van Damme’s Double Impact in a gymnasium, or Feynman working the BBQ while sporting an apron that reads “Good Look’n is Cook’n”.  These little touches are fun, and for me at least, provoke the desire to scan every page in search of more.  In Pitarra, Hickman chose the perfect partner for a series like this; he is full of strengths, and so far hasn’t shown a hint of weakness. There is so much room to experiment, and draw up some truly bizarre scenes, you can tell that Pitarra is really enjoying the freedom.

img044This also happens to be one of the 15 books that the superbly talented Jordie Bellaire colors.  There wasn’t anything specific that jumped out at me color wise this issue, but sometimes that is precisely the point.  The issue is filled with earth tones, nearly every surface is covered in hues of blue, brown, and gray; which work very well with the settings.  I like the choice to color the scientific base of operations a blue-gray hue, because usually these sets end up an aseptic white or beige, and that feels so rote and expected.  Another effect of these choices is that when a bright color is used, it pops right off the page the way it should.  I could go on with more praise, but you get the point, Pitarra and Bellaire fucking rule.

Even geniuses love a good reunion BBQ.
Even geniuses love a good reunion BBQ.



         Story:  For my money, this book is Hickman at his best; it’s smart, challenging, funny, and full of possibilities for future adventures.  Nothing is telegraphed, and I love that, I start each issue not knowing where the hell things will end up going.  It’s exciting, and honestly it makes me want to read more about the men behind the actual Manhattan Project.  I was familiar with Einstein, Von Braun, and Oppenheimer as names, but now I’d like to discover more about their real lives, as opposed to the insanity that fills this book.  After this issue it seems like we’re turning a corner in the overall narrative, and with the initial strife of crazy-ass Oppenheimer dealt with for now, the team can focus on more awesome exploration of the limits of science.  Having two Einsteins seems like it can only mean more fun.  I’m excited by Albert’s declaration of where the projects themselves are headed, “We’re going out there… to ze frontier… and then…even further.”  I wonder if that means that they will continue to use the door to travel to other demensions and kill every version of Oppenheimer. Maybe they’ll find another world where Robert Oppenheimer is alive, and we can see how he would have done things with this team as opposed to the evil joseph.  I can’t wait to see where this book goes now that some semblance of normalcy has arrived for our team of genius’ and soldiers.  I’m sure everything won’t be smooth sailing–what would the fun be in that?–but I do know that it will continue to fascinate my imagination and mind with every new issue.

Conclusion:  One of my favorite stories on the shelf continues to impress. The top-notch creative team, and a world of limitless possibilities make for a immensely satisfying comic.



Review of Harbinger #22

FEB141479Harbinger #22 by Joshua Dysart & Clayton Henry

After last month’s Bleeding Monk origin story, Dysart returns to the present day for the beginning of a new arc. As its title suggests, “Death of a Renegade” promises that either Peter Stanchek or one of his comrades-in-arms will meet their demise very soon. This issue expertly sets the stage for that possibility. Peter has resolved not only to bring the battle to Harada this time, but he will hit him in some way that does lasting damage to Harada’s ambitions. With this in mind he leads a raid against Harada’s Pittsburgh branch, targeting a specific item stored within the building. Needless to say, Harada does not take kindly to these developments. Once he uncovers Peter’s true intentions, Harada is overtaken with an anger fiercer than readers have seen before, even in Unity. In Unity he was fighting for an idea, whereas here, it is more a matter of survival. By this issue’s end, the battle has only begun, yet, its savagery is rapidly established.

One of the reasons I enjoy Harbinger so much is the strong sense of character. It truly is a team book, in the sense that everyone is a distinct individual who also interacts naturally with the larger group. A great example of this occurs between Monica and Ax. It is a brief conversation, in which, Monica tries to judge if Ax is ready to face combat. These characters are two of the newest additions to the title, however, they already feel like an organic part of it.

Then, there is Faith (aka Zephyr). For the last two issues, she and Torque have embarked on a romantic/sexual relationship. They have an appealing chemistry together, sweet without being cloying. These are two people who for one reason or another never really fit in anywhere before the Renegades. Now not only do they belong to a group, but have found something more intimate to share as well. Faith has long been my favorite character in Harbinger, and yet, Dysart has managed to make her even more endearing than she already was. Whether smiling at the sight of Torque’s frail, unpowered body or secretly holding his hand during a strategy meeting, Faith is an appealing individual. I cannot imagine the book without her. Then again, honestly, I cannot imagine the title without any of the core members. Peter, Kris, Flamingo, Torque & Faith are the Renegades. They are Harbinger.

However, very soon, one of them will be gone. This issue lays the groundwork for what promises to be an exciting, emotional arc. In other words, an excellent comic book.


Review of Larfleeze #10

LarfleezeLarfleeze #10 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Scott Kolins

Purists may wish to cover their ears now.

My favorite Green Lantern is G’Nort.

To be fair, I’ve never read that widely in the Lantern canon. Hal Jordon’s always been either a little too bland or unlikable for me. Guy Garnder’s, well, Guy Garnder. For whatever reason, I’ve never really encountered much with John Stewart or Kyle Rayner. As I said, the Corps were never a big interest for me. Alan Scott is cool, though, not as much as Jay Garrick who is still my favorite Flash (though that’s a debate for another day).

And so, my favorite Lantern is G’Nort. Created by Giffen and DeMatteis during their iconic Justice League run, G’Nort is an alien who resembles a humanoid dog. G’Nort may have his uncle’s graft to thank for his power ring, but, nonetheless he is a devoted teammate. Perhaps not always the smartest or the best fighter, yet still, someone you can count on to stick by you. It also helps that he has an appealing personality. From the moment he appears in this issue, he had me smiling once again. Some mega-powerful demi-god is going on about the trap he has lain for Larfleeze when G’Nort simply wanders over, inserting himself into the conversation. He actually succeeds in derailing the conversation. As I said, there is a good-natured feel to G’Nort, which is immediately winning.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the rest of the issue. Now, part of the problem is that I had never read an issue of this series before now, and possessed near zero knowledge of who Larfleeze is beyond “greedy, Orange Lantern”. It took me several pages to sort out what was going on and who a lot of the supporting characters were. I’m still unclear on the exact nature of the villains. G’Nort was in the issue enough to justify buying it, but, my enjoyment pretty much ground to a halt when he was off panel. If you’re a fan of the character, as I am, that may be worth it for you. For my part, I plan on buying the next two issues with G’Nort as well.

Let’s hope that Larfleeze is stocked up on Kibbles n’ Bits.