Quick Critiques – Dec. 11, 2017


Batman #36 (DC Comics)
by Tom King, Clay Mann & Seth Mann

I remember when I was a kid buying World’s Finest #271, one of DC’s many oversized dollar titles, and that issue promised a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Superman/Batman team. It explored the history of the characters’ connection (and I believed it opened to my eyes to DC’s multiple-earths concepts, which I loved). That purchase was made 36 years ago, so it’s safe to say I’ve read a lot of Superman/Batman team-up stories. With this newly released story, Tom King may have delivered the best Superman/Batman story to date. The villain in this opening chapter of the “Superfriends” story arc is deliciously deep cut, but what makes this such a memorable and touching piece of pop culture is King’s focus on who Bruce and Clark are and they view one another. The pacing and scripting are meticulous. I love how every moment, every word parallels another. I can’t begin to express how happy this comic book made me. My awe at the writing gave way to a real warmth inside. Thanks, Mr. King, for snatching a relatively simple notion out of the ether — the heroes’ unspoken awe and respect for one another — and shaping a wonderfully grounded tale that still builds on the ongoing engagement story.

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Flea Market Finds: Runaways (Battleworld)

Runaways v.4 #s 1-4
Writer: Noelle Stevenson
Artists: Sanford Greene & Noelle Stevenson
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artist: Greene (regular)/Phil Noto & Stevenson (variants for #s 1 & 2)
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US per issue

With the new Runaways TV series well underway now, I figured it would be a good time to delve into a set of comics of the same title from 2015 that I picked up for a song a couple of months ago. During its Secret Wars crossover series from that year, Marvel published a diverse array of limited series set in the weird, patchwork landscape of the World That Doom Built. Runaways (which carried “Secret Wars” and “Battleworld” branding on the covers) focused on various teen heroes. Writer Noelle Stevenson manages to achieve a nice balance between a dire, deadly tone to the story and a more irreverent side that’s in keeping with the youthful, oddball qualities of the characters. Unfortunately, the book was hindered by a couple of things. Firstly, like all of these “Secret Wars” spinoffs, there was a sense of the impermanent and inconsequential nature inherent in the alt-universe premise of the larger crossover, and secondly, I was constantly distracted by the fact that only one of the characters from the original title from which this spinoff derived its title was included in the cast of characters.

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Ready, Jet, Go!

Jupiter Jet #1
Writers: Jason Inman & Ashley Victoria Robinson
Artists: Ben Matsuya (main story)/Jorge Corona (“The Origin of the Jetpack, Part One”)
Colors: Mara Jayne Carpenter
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artists: Ben Matusya (two covers) & Jonboy Meyers
Editor: Nicole D’Andria
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

This comic book came to my attention because my local shop announced it would be hosting a signing event later this month with the writers. As a customer and comics enthusiast who wants to support the only comic shop in the area, I plunked my cash down for a copy of the first issue. I’m quite pleased that I did, because I discovered a delightfully entertaining, all-ages comic. We’ve seen a rise in this sort of comic in recent years, and I hope we see more, because it’s this sort of fare that can expand the medium’s audience. Jupiter Jet is a celebration of pluck and pop culture, and of the wonder and imagination that’s inherent in science and engineering. There’s enough of an air of mystery in the story to keep the reader coming back for more, and a couple of young characters whose energy and enthusiasm is infectious.

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Future Imperfect

Faith and the Future Force trade paperback
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Stephen Segovia, Barry Kitson, Diego Bernard; Juan Castro, Card Nord & Brian Thies
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Kano
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $9.99 US

My knowledge of any incarnation of the Valiant Universe is limited; the only Valiant-related title I ever followed with any regularity was The Second Life of Dr. Mirage in the 1990s. As for Faith, despite her significant rise in popularity as a character in the latest Valiant relaunch, I really had no knowledge of her other than her non-traditional body shape for the genre and the fact that she can fly. I’ve been curious about the character, given online chatter I’ve seen, but I generally attributed her higher profile to the fact that she’s a plus-sized character with which segments of the comics-reading audience could identify. Her titular role in Faith and the Future Force and the pleasing campiness of the title prompted me to give it a glance, and I’m pleased that I did. The book serves as a somewhat accessible introduction to the character, and I was surprised and entertained by what I found. Ultimately, some plot elements robs the story of tension, and the ever-shifting art styles found here are off-putting despite being crafted by some solid talent. Despite its flaws, though, this Faith and the Future Force collection is worth a look, especially given the affordable price, which is two thirds of the total cost of the original issues.

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Bruce Almighty

Batman: Creature of the Night #1
“Book One: I Shall Become…”
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: John Paul Leon
Letters: Todd Klein
Editors: Chris Conroy & Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.99 US

I had no idea this project was in the works at DC, but as soon as I saw the cover and who was writing it, I immediately recognized it as a sister book to the much heralded (and deservedly so) Superman: Secret Identity from 2004. In that book, a man living in a world in which Superman is a comic-book character just as he is in ours ends up developing the same powers as the Man of Steel, and essentially becomes Superman. It was a fascinating character study and an exploration of how the world who really react to such a powerful figure. With Creature of the Night, Busiek offers the same examination, but this time, he delves into the notion of the Batman. I suspected it wouldn’t work as well in this context, given that Batman is a hero without powers; I thought the lack of the fantastic might not offer the same opportunities to the writer. I might be right, but I don’t know, because Busiek surprised me, bringing an element of the supernatural or paranormal to bear here as well. Creature of the Night hasn’t quite hooked me as strongly as Secret Identity did right off the bat, but I remain intrigued. What pleased me the most about this book was how it appears to serve as another example of DC’s willingness to experiment with format and non-continuity examinations of its more noteworthy properties again.

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Clock Works


Doomsday Clock #1
“That Annihilated Place”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Gary Frank (regular)/Gary Frank & Dave Gibbons (variants)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US/$5.99 US (lenticular)

World-building. That’s what shared super-hero continuities are about. The juxtaposition of diverse characters and the connections that link them have become a huge part of the genre’s appeal over the years, and more recently, TV and movie audiences have discovered that appeal. Watchmen featured a huge world with such connections among an unusual array of characters, but it was crafted as a limited story. A few years ago, DC tried building on that limited world with its Before Watchmen line of limited series. Doomsday Clock is different, as it aims not only to build on the world constructed by Alan Moore going forward rather than add to the backstory, but it also seeks to connect that world to DC’s other super-hero properties. It’s a controversial project, as many felt this world was complete as it was when Moore finished with it three decades ago. The controversy, I’m sure, won’t stop this book from performing well for DC (though I question the publisher’s decision to launch this event book when another, Metal, is still unfolding). It remains to be seen if Doomsday Clock will prove to be a successful creative enterprise; thus far, I have to admit I’m intrigued.

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Mike Drop

Motor Girl #10
Writer/Artist/Letters/Cover artist: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studios
Price: $3.99 US

Any week that brings a new Terry Moore comic book into my life is a good one. I’d usually say Moore never disappoints with anything he offers up to his readers, but when I scanned of the cover of this issue of Motor Girl, I encountered disappointment. A small blurb, right under the issue number, cast a pall over me: “Final Issue!” Final issue? Final issue?!? Damn. Fortunately, that’s the only let-down about this concluding chapter of a weird but ultimately grounded and even important work. On the surface, Motor Girl seems like one of the goofier titles Moore has crafted, all on his own, but as we’ve seen in previous issues and as is proven with this conclusion, Motor Girl really isn’t about an imaginary ape pal, cute alien invasions or the cartoonish villainy of a megalomaniacal millionaire. Instead, it’s about the scars inflicted all too often on people who serve, and fortunately, also about the resilience of the human mind and spirit.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 20, 2017


Bug! The Adventures of Forager #5 (DC Comics/Young Animal imprint)
by Michael Allred & Lee Allred/by James Harvey

The only truly disappointing thing about this comic was the blurb at the end of the main story indicating the next issue will be the final one. This issue of Bug!, like those before it, was another loving tribute to the work of the late Jack Kirby, this time examining an even weirder incarnation of OMAC and Brother Eye. The plot is rather difficult to discern, as has been the case throughout this case. The Allred brothers have been offering up a seemingly stream-of-consciousness approach to fringe super-hero storytelling, and that continues here with almost random story concepts. But they’re wild, campy and entertaining concepts. I particular enjoyed how the writers linked the Mother Box of the Fourth World characters to Brother Eye. Mike Allred’s linework is perfect for the bizarre Kirby concepts on display here, but it would be for nought if Laura Allred’s brilliant, primary color palette didn’t enhance that energy.

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High in the Sky

Void Trip #1
Writer: Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist/Colors: Plaid Klaus
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Cover artists: Klaus (regular)/Sarah Suhng, Caspar Wijngaard, Alessandro Vitti & Mike McKone (variants)
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Image Comics is such a radically different beast than what it was when it launched a quarter century (!) ago. Them, it was home to creator-owned properties by some of the most popular talents in the industry, but it was basically a super-hero publisher, offering the same sort of fare as Marvel and DC. It’s finally evolved into what it was meant to be: a haven for creator-owned work across many genres, both crafted by the best-known writers and artists in the industry but also by new names. Void Trip falls into the latter category. Image has had such a solid track record as of late, it makes me want to sample all of its titles, but if there’s any problem with its publishing plans, it’s that it’s pumping out too many comics. Nevertheless, I like to try something new from Image from time to time, and I’m thoroughly pleased to chose to peruse Void Trip. This sci-fi comedy reads like someone took elements from the Star Wars franchise, threw them into a blender with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and hit purée.

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League Rules

Justice League
Actors: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Neilsen, Joe Morton, J.K. Simmons, Billy Crudup & Amber Heard
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Snyder, Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: PG

Yes, I saw it, and it filled me with joy.

Almost every element of the new DC cinematic universe (save for the Suicide Squad) turns up in this movie, and as I saw name after name of A-list actors in the opening credits, I wondered how all of these characters and a story that could link them all could fit coherently and comfortably in a two-hour movie. But they did, they do. People who haven’t cared for director Zack Snyder’s earlier movies in the DC franchise should be pleased with what they find here; this boasts the fun they sought. And for those who did enjoy Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman, Justice League builds on those foundations well, acknowledging them and evolving from them to offer something brighter.

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All-Stars Game


A DC comic came to a DC television show, but it only “flashed” on screen for a couple of moments. In this week’s episode of The Flash on the CW (CTV in Canada), we catch a glimpse of super-hero-in-training Ralph Dibny (not yet dubbed the Elongated Man) reading a comic book. I spied right away that it was an issue of Young All-Stars, a 1980s comic set during World War II.

A quick search online yielded a screen capture (seen above), and then a perusal of the Young All-Stars cover gallery on the Grand Comics Database uncovered a match to issue #20 (released January 1989), written by Roy and Dann Thomas, with art by Michael Bair, Ron harris and Tony DeZuniga. Its appearance as a prop in “When Harry Met Harry,” episode six of Season Four of The Flash, was a delight for this longtime DC reader.

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Comic Art Listing Looks a Bit Sketchy

The market for original comic art, commissioned comic art and sketches by noted professionals in the medium has exploded in recent years. Pieces that were once valued at less than $100 are now selling for hundreds more. Four- and five-figure prices for sought-after art and artists is commonplace these days. With the rise in demand and corresponding rise in prices comes an unfortunate side effect: fraud.

Phony comic art has definitely circulated in the marketplace, so buyers have to be knowledgeable and aware so as to avoid being fleeced. In addition to reading comics, I’m a collector of original art, and as such, I’m always scanning the marketplace for affordable pieces. Ebay has been a great resource to get bargains, so I peruse the original comic art listings on the site almost on a daily basis.

I stumbled across a piece Sunday that caught my eye; well, truth be told, it was the listing title that caught my eye: “BLACK CANARY FULL FIGURE original art commission by DARWYN COOKE (BEAUTIFUL).” I have three sketches from the late artist in my convention sketchbook, and I’ll always treasure them. As a fan of his work, I’m always up for a glance at something else he did.

As I looked at the scan of the sketch included in the auction, I immediately had some questions about it.

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Detective Comic

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1
Writer/Artist/Colors: Cynthia Von Buhler
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: David Mack, Robert McGinnis, Cynthia Von Buhler & photo cover
Editors: Charles Ardai & Tom Williams
Publisher: Titan Comics/Hard Case Crime imprint
Price: $3.99 US

OK, this may be the best title I’ve ever seen — on a comic, a book, a movie. Ever. That alone should be enough to get just about anyone to pick up this comic book and peruse its pages. Mind you, not everyone should, as this one is definitely not for the younger set, even those with a taste for historical fiction. Writer/artist Cynthia Von Buhler has created something rather unique here, and that’s an even better reason for one to check out this work. The fun and even slightly naughty qualities of this plot actually dress up a more pertinent message (especially in today’s socio-political environment): female empowerment. The protagonist is a woman who refuses to “know” her place in the early 20th century, and the other key players in the drama are women as well. What drew me in the most here was the mystery — not just the mystery at the heart of the plot, but the permeating celebration of the appeal of mystery, and the strong, willful personality of the title heroine had me eager to see her succeed.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 9, 2017

Batman: Lost #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jimenez & Jaime Mendoza

Even if I had no interest in the Metal crossover event giving rise to this one-shot, I would have been drawn to it just based on the artistic talent contributing to the visuals for this comic. Doug Mahnke and Jamie Mendoza’s meticulous linework has the perfect kind of intensity to it, bringing an edge even to the seemingly wholesome vision of an elderly Bruce Wayne reading to his potential granddaughter. Jorge Jimenez’s exaggerated and stylized art has been a great deal of fun on Super Sons, so it was interesting to see it take on a harsher tone for this story. But the art I enjoyed the most in this book came from Yanick Paquette, who’s had a strong association with Batman during the Grant Morrison runs on various titles. Paquette’s take on the character never fails to put me in mind of the style of Kevin Nowlan. I also appreciated how he tweaked his style slightly to convey different time periods in which the Batman finds himself in this ever-flowing hellscape.

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