Monthly Archives: August 2018

Leaving Money on the Table

DC’s move to launch its own streaming service, DC Universe, is both completely logical and rather surprising at the same time. Many corporations are scrambling to catch up with Netflix and other early-out-of-the-gate services, seeking to reap the huge rewards of producing original content and making its older material available online for fees. Furthermore, there’s money to be made from selling its original content later on to other media outfits and on home video. CBS jumped on board with its own effort, CBS All Access, last year, and Disney is reportedly developing its own streaming service. Whether these newer efforts will have staying power remains to be seen.

So when viewed in that context, it’s understandable that DC would embark upon a similar venture. It has a huge library of properties adapted for TV and movies upon which it can draw, and as Hollywood has known for years, its vast array of characters offers significant potential for new programming. Furthermore, DC knows there’s an online audience for its comics, and offering that reading experience as part of DC Universe is a logical extension of the digital content effort.

What’s surprising is that it’s DC, not its parent company Time Warner, that’s taking on such a project. It’s quiet ambitious for a comparatively small branch of the media giant to undertake such an endeavor.

But here’s what’s even more surprising about DC Universe: it doesn’t want my money.

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OK, I Might Have a Problem…

My local comics retailer is having a huge sale on its non-key back issues and bundles on comics, scaling up the discounts from week to week. I started thumbing through those long boxes at 50 per cent and got some great deals, but when the discounts hit 70 and 80 per cent, I was a man on a mission. I got everything you see here at those deep discounts, which means most of those Bronze Age goodies came in at well under a buck apiece.

I joked with the manager that he’s tormenting me and that the sale was merely a ploy to shift storage from the shop to my house. But at those discounts, who could possibly resist?

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Foreign Objectives

The Punisher #1
“World War Frank, Part One”
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
Cover artists: Greg Smallwood (regular)/Clayton Crain, Frank Cho, Mike Zeck & Salvador Larroca (variants)
Editor: Jake Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter online about how entertaining this latest relaunch of The Punisher is, so I decided to have a look despite a general disinterest in the character. While there’s a novel idea at the heart of the plot, with two super-villains trying to advance their agendas through a facade of legitimacy by way of international politics, writer Matthew Rosenberg’s take on the title character is much like those before it: the implausible single-mindedness of a vigilante who’s impossibly impervious to harm.

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Send in the B Squad

Suicide Squad Annual #1
“For the Wicked, No Rest”
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Ronan Cliquet
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: Paul Pelletier & Mick Gray
Editors: Katie Kubert & Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

As a longtime fan of the Suicide Squad concept that John Ostrander introduced in the late 1980s, I was absolutely elated with this self-contained story. However, this was far from a perfect Suicide Squad comic, as it was highly inaccessible and featured interpretations of characters that really didn’t stay true to the characters’ histories. I was of two minds about this annual, but ultimately, I came away pleased. I hope that DC takes the same approach with future Suicide Squad annuals, using them to introduce alternate teams and to stay true to the dangerous and fatal appeal that its title would suggest.

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Flea-Market Finds: Avengers #194

Avengers #194
“Interlude”
Writer: David Michelinie
Pencils: George Pérez
Inks: Josef Rubinstein
Colors: Ben Sean
Letters: John Costanza
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: 40 cents

My local comic shop holds the occasional back-issue sale, and lately, it’s been bumping up the discount week by week. I reaped a Bronze Age bonanza at 70 per cent off, and this 1980 Avengers comic was among the treasures I snapped up. This is the first chapter in the storyline that introduced Taskmaster to the Marvel Universe, but he’s not seen here. As the title suggests, not much happens in this issue, but it’s a great spotlight of what sets the Avengers apart from other super-hero teams in the Marvel Universe and how important the interpersonal character dynamics were to the appeal of the property then and even today. It’s a well-balanced issue from a characterization perspective. But hey, it features vintage George Pérez art as his career was just beginning to ramp up — that’s all the reason I need to shell out less than a buck for a fun back issue.

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Trump Cards

Lil’ Donnie Vol. 1 hardcover comic-strip collection
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Mike Norton
Copy editor: Sean McKeever
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $12.99 US

Man, Image Comics and cartoonist Mike Norton couldn’t have had better timing. While satire and political commentary by way of cartooning is always topical these days, never was such a biting send-up of the 45th President of the United States more relevant than it is the day after two criminals from his inner circle have been deemed guilty by the criminal justice system.

I’ve been following Lil’ Donnie online since Norton launched the strip a year and a half ago, so there wasn’t any material included in this print collection of the strip that I hadn’t seen before. But man, there were a lot of them about which I’d forgotten. Remember Sean Spicer? The glowing Saudi Arabian orb? These oddities don’t face because Norton’s humor and sharp criticisms aren’t memorable, but due to the sheer volume of political and cultural insanity that’s unfolded in the United States since the cartoonist undertook this labor of loathe.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 17, 2018


Come with me as I explore elsewheres and elsewhens, worlds unlike our own populated by fantastic characters and unbelievable customs. From kickstarting a killing to pulling a heist in a galaxy far, far away. From punked-out heroes to robots with free will trying to earn a living. Continue and find out what I thought of this quartet of first issues: Crowded, Edge of Spider-Geddon, Star Wars: Beckett and Volition.

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The Girl with the Arachnid Tattoo

Pearl #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Colors: Gaydos (main story)/Patricia Mulvihill (“Citizen Wayne”)
Letters: Joshua Reed (main story)/Janice Chiang (“Citizen Wayne”)
Cover artists: Gaydos (regular)/Alex Maleev (variant)
Editor: Michael McCalister
Publisher: DC Comics/Jinxworld imprint
Price: $3.99 US

To say that I was highly anticipating this latest creator-owned project from Brian Michael Bendis would be an understatement. I was thrilled to hear that Bendis’s move from Marvel Entertainment to DC Comics wouldn’t bring his creator-owned material under Marvel’s Icon imprint to an end. While I’m champing at the bit to see Scarlet resume soon, the promise of Bendis re-teaming with his Alias/Jessica Jones collaborator on a new female protagonist was exhilarating, given my fondness and appreciation for Jessica, both in comics and in streaming TV. Pearl definitely boasts the sort of relatable humanity yet riveting darkness that makes so much of Bendis’s writing so engrossing, but it was more than a confusing at times. I’m definitely intrigued, but I didn’t quite connect with this story as much as I thought I would.

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Death, Be Rather Proud…

The Death of Superman direct-to-video animated film
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Voice actors: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Jason Mara, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Shemar Moore, Rocky Carroll, Nyambi Nyambi, Patrick Fabian & Cress Williams
Directors: Sam Liu & James Tucker
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation
Rating: 14A

In a commentary I posted here a few months ago, I questioned why DC was revisiting its classic “Death of Superman” storyline for an animated film when it had already explored that plot in the Superman: Doomsday direct-to-video animated movie in 2007. Having watched the latest installment from the DC animated movie universe, I now understand why the producers and Warner Bros. Animation chose to do so. This is a superior effort, far truer to the source material and surprisingly touching and resonant. I know how this story plays out, know what to expect from next year’s sequel, The Reign of the Supermen, and yet I found myself caught up on the emotional beats of the story. Peter J. Tomasi, a former DC editor and current teller of stories in DC comics titles, has crafted a compelling, concise and accessible script that the voice actors bring to life nicely.

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Soul Survivor

Run Wild original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: K.I. Zachopoulos
Artist/Cover artist: Vincenzo Balzano
Letters: Deron Bennett
Editor: Sierra Hahn
Publisher: Boom! Studios/Archaia imprint
Price: $24.99 US/$32.99 CAN/18.99 UK

Boom!’s decision to absorb Archaia Studios five years ago was a blessing for the comics industry and the craft of sequential storytelling, as it ensured there would be a home for unconventional graphic novels such as this one. Archaia was always a niche publisher and remains so as an imprint, but it gives life to unique projects that will connect with a limited segment of the comics-loving audience. I completely understand why Run Wild found a home there, but unlike other recent Archaia releases, this book didn’t quite work for me. Run Wild is a hauntingly (literally) beautiful book, but it’s also nebulous and perplexing. I can definitely see its appeal, though, and I think fans of the films of Hayao Miyazaki will recognize elements they’ll truly enjoy and appreciate here.

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Quoth the Raven…

The Sandman Universe #1
Writers: Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters
Artists: Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Max Fiumara & Sebastian Fiumara
Colors: Mat Lopes
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Jae Lee, Dave McKean, Jill Thompson, Jim Lee, Sam Kieth, P. Craig Russell & David Mack
Editor: Molly Mahan
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $4.99 US

I find myself quite torn after reading this comic. I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, and I was introduced to his writing through his landmark Sandman series. And while I acknowledge there’s tremendous potential in the characters and concepts he created and adapted in that book, I’m not entirely sure we need more of this material “curated” by Gaiman and written by others. This one-shot is something of a mixed bag, with some strong storytelling and artwork along with some that just didn’t grab me. Ultimately, The Sandman Universe #1 is a promotional book, teasing readers with what are essentially previews of a new line of Vertigo titles set to debut this fall. It was successful in that regard, though, in that it piqued my curiosity about two of the four new books spotlighted here.

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Flea-Market Finds: Superboy #226

Superboy #226
“The Dazzling Debut of Dawnstar!” & “Five Against One”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils: James Sherman & Mike Nasser (Michael Netzer)
Inks: Jack Abel
Colors: Liz Berube
Letters: Bill Morse
Cover artist: Mike Grell
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover price: 30 cents

My local comics retailer is blowing out its back issues and sets for half off this week, so I couldn’t resist stopping by to peruse the long boxes. I found a complete set of Peter David’s Atlantis Chronicles (which should make for an interesting read in the lead-up to the new Aquaman movie) and the first 20 or so issues of Power Pack. I also happened upon a bundle of four Legion of Super-Heroes comics from the 1970s, and among them was this gem: the first appearance of Dawnstar. I’d never read it before, so I was keen to delve into the character’s origin. To my surprise, though, writer Paul Levitz really doesn’t offer much in the way of background for her in her introduction, but more disconcerting is how he chooses to depict the better-known heroes’ reactions to her. Given the clunky nature of the plot and characterization in this main story, I’m honestly surprised Dawnstar turned to have any kind of staying power in the DC Universe.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 4, 2018


In Metropolis, criminals try to stay hidden from an all-seeing, all-hearing hero, while at the bottom of the ocean, a reanimated but foggy assassin undertakes a recovery mission that will haunt him. In New York, champions of justice gather with thieves and killers to discuss the fate of the universe, and in a different version of New York, comrades in arms gather for a reunion that turns into a rescue mission. I examine them all in this latest collection of capsule reviews.

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The Germination Situation

The Seeds #1
“1. Before We Go”
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist/Cover artist/Letters: David Aja
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books
Price: $3.99 US

This dystopian, sci-fi comic reads as though it’s drawing heavily from current events, turning relevant socio-economic themes of today on their ear in a dark vision of tomorrow, but it’s entirely possible this concept predates the era of Trump and Brexit politics. If that’s the case, then writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja couldn’t have found a better cultural backdrop against which to release this morose exploration of society. The script isn’t just cynical. It’s dripping with cynicism, slathered in it. And as a cynic, I loved it. The book also speaks to me as a journalist, as one of the central characters struggles to balances the struggles of the business of news with the idealism that’s inherent in what I see as a calling, not just a profession.

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