All posts by Don MacPherson

The Strong Protect the Weak

Captain America #695
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Chris Samnee (regular)/Alex Ross, Mike McKone, Adi Granov, Jim Steranko & John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee… Off the top of my head, I can think of only one other active creative in comics today that’s as well suited to one another and as successful in storytelling (Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, for the record). It’s clear that after the tremendous success of their landmark run on Daredevil in recent years, the writer and artist have their pick of projects at Marvel Entertainment. They moved onto Black Widow after DD for a solid, entertaining 12-issue run, but their renegade spy thriller didn’t have quite the same personal impact. While I’m surprised Waid has chosen to return to Captain America (after leaving a lasting mark on the character with his classic run with artist Ron Garney in the late 1990s), I was eager to delve into what he and Samnee had in store for us. After reading the creative team’s inaugural issue, I’m pleased to report there’s definitely the promise of something memorable. And perhaps even more than that; this might be a classic. It’s a relatively quiet and straightforward start, but it’s so positive and idealistic, it’s definitely the right response to the year of divisive, dark Cap stories that preceded it.

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The Ascent of Consent

What Does Consent Really Mean? original hardcover graphic novel
Writers: Pete Wallis & Thalia Wallis
Artist/Cover artist: Joseph Wilkins
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers/Singing Dragon imprint
Price: £14.99 GBP/$21.95 US

The significant swing of the social pendulum on the massive problem of sexual assault and harassment in society, driven chiefly by the revelations of allegedly abusive behavior on the part of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, is a powerfully positive force for societal change. It also comes as an opportune time for the creators behind this British graphic novel, which delves into such issues and chiefly what constitutes consent — and more importantly, what doesn’t.

What struck me right away about this book as I delved into it was the fact that I’m most definitely not the target audience for the book. And I don’t mean because I’m a man. This was crafted with teens in mind, even ‘tweens, depending on their level of sophistication. It’s an interesting read, offering mainly a discussion of sex and consent and dispelling myths. At first, I thought it was mainly designed to be informative, but as one progresses through the book, one discovers the characters develop their own little story arcs that resolve satisfactorily by the conclusion.

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Flea Market Finds: Batman: Dreamland

Batman: Dreamland original graphic novella
Writers: Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle
Artist/Cover artist: Breyfogle
Colors: Noelle C. Giddings
Letters: John Workman
Editor: Dennis O’Neil & Joseph Illidge
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.95 US/$9.25 CAN

The two Batman artists who made the greatest impression of me in my 40 years of comics reading have been Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle, and one could argue they both offered up the least conventional interpretations of the Dark Knight. I loved Breyfogle’s runs on Detective Comics, Batman and Shadow of the Bat in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, so I was taken aback when I happened upon this prestige-format one-shot from 2000 at a local flea market. It’s an unusual example of the work of the creative team of Alan Grant and Breyfogle for a number of noteworthy reasons. It has its flaws, but it definitely satisfied that part of me that loved this team’s work years ago. After reading it, I completely understood why this was released as a one-shot (though it needn’t have been so expensive), because the premise just wouldn’t have worked in the context of serialized DC Universe comics.

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Artful Obsessions: The Art of War


I’ve never been much for war comics, though there have been occasional exceptions of strong storytelling that really grabbed my attention. But my extensive comic-book collection really includes very few war comics, just the occasional issue here and that was a part of a larger lot I picked up at flea markets or the like over the years. I have several issues of DC’s original Weird War Tales among the many long boxes around my place, but I honestly don’t recall if I’ve read them all (I ought to rectify that, especially given the vintage-comics kick I’ve been on as of late).

Despite that lack of nostalgic connection to war comics, when I spotted a page from Weird War Tales for bid online recently, I definitely wanted to try my hand at winning it. The reason wasn’t due to the content, but rather the era from which it originated and the unusual pairing of artistic talents who crafted it. I was fortunate enough to have landed the board and added to my collection, and when I finally got it in my hands, I realized it was a treasure-trove of classic comics craft details.

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Ascended from Nobility

Noble Volume 1 trade paperback
“God Shots”
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artists: Roger Robinson, Jamal Igle & Robin Riggs
Colors: Juan Fernandez & Sotocolor
Letters: Saida Temoforte
“The Event”
Writers: Priest & Joseph Illidge
Artists: Marco Turini & Will Rosado
Colors: Jessica Kholinne
Letters: Andworld Design
Cover artist: Roger Robinson
Editor: Joseph Illidge
Publisher: Lion Forge
Price: $14.99 US

I’ve been meaning to delve into Lion Forge’s line of super-hero comics, designed in part to offer a stronger array of black characters to a market that’s clearly hungry for diversity in its escapism pop-culture (contrary to what a vocal minority might argue). To be honest, though, I haven’t been following comics news and release dates of emerging publishers and creators nearly as much as I used to, and some of the initial releases escaped my attention when they first hit the stands. So I was thrilled when I had the chance to read this first collected edition of the initial issues of Noble. There’s certainly an ambitious tone set here; like other super-hero startup lines, Lion Forge and editor Joseph Illidge have set out to building a larger, connected continuity, and based on the main story and the backup, titled “The Event,” they’ve done so in a meticulous manner. Part of me thinks such interconnections need to happen gradually, but that’s likely not feasible in modern comics publishing. Super-hero audiences crave and expect those links, and the mysterious framework set out here certainly seems to indicate Lion Forge is off to a strong start in terms of that creative endeavor.

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Flea Market Finds: Captain America: Madbomb

Captain America & the Falcon: Madbomb trade paperback
Writer/Pencils/Editor: Jack Kirby
Inks: Frank Giacoia & D. Bruce Berry
Colors: Janice Cohen, Phil Rachelson, Michele Wolfman & Don Warfield
Letters: John Costanza, Gaspar Soladino & D. Bruce Berry
Cover artists: Kirby & John Romita Sr.
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $16.99 US/$27.25 CAN

It’s always fun when Diamond Comic Distributors has a clearance sale, as my local comic shop, without fail, capitalizes on it and offers a diverse array of product at deep discounts to its clientele. Which brings me to the 2004 Captain America & the Falcon: Madbomb collection. Part of Jack Kirby’s heralded return to Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, his run on Captain America is a keystone in comics history – one I hadn’t read before. Now, I must confess, while I appreciate the creativity, genius and foundational talent of the late Jack Kirby, I was never a huge fan of his work, at least as a younger comics reader and enthusiast. What’s noteworthy about this classic Cap run is that Kirby was the sole creative force; he’s even listed as the editor. That shows in the storytelling, and especially in the occasional clunkiness of the writing. Fortunately, there are still some powerful political notions at the heart of this story. While it shows its age a fair bit, there were moments when the story resonated and made me consider socio-political realities of the now. To achieve that sort of connection with a reader 40 years removed from the original crafting of the story speaks to why Kirby was so successful and integral in comics years ago and why he remains an ever-present force in the medium even years after his death.

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Flea Market Finds: Future Quest #1



Future Quest #1
“Part One: Lights In the Sky”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Evan “Doc” Shaner & Steve Rude
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artists: Shaner (regular)/Rude, Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Quinones & Aaron Lopresti (variants)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was sorely tempted to pick this comic up when it was released last year, given the creative team and the strong recommendation of the manager of my local comic shop. However, I was reticent, given my lack of nostalgic attachment to the many Hanna-Barbera adventure properties that populate the book. When I saw a copy at a flea market for a steal, I saw my chance to indulge my curiosity and appreciation of the work of writer Jeff Parker and artist Evan Shaner. While I’m pleased I was finally able to examine the book, my initial instinct proved to be correct: Future Quest is for the die-hard fan of these 1960s and ‘70s cartoons, and that’s about it. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with how the writer and artists present the material; it’s solid. But it seems clear to me that appreciation of this comic is wholly dependent on a pre-existing love for these characters.

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The Mage Runner

Mage, Book Three: The Hero Denied #0
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Matt Wagner
Colors: Brennan Wagner
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $1.99 US

I have to admit I’m only a casual reader of Matt Wagner’s comics. I’m broadly aware of the two creator-owned properties for which he’s known – Mage and Grendel – but I’ve read only a few comics from the various runs of those titles over the decades. There’s no denying there’s a fanbase out there for this material, though, so Wagner’s choice to return to Kevin Matchstick and company isn’t surprising. What drew me to this comic wasn’t so much my past exposure to Mage or the strength of Wagner’s work, but the cheap price, to be honest. While entertaining and diverting, it manage to hook me, so I don’t know if I’ll be moved to seek out subsequent issues.

Creepy little monsters still lurk in the dark corners of the world, and a new generation of heroes has arisen to deal with them, heroes like the hover-boarding millennial known as “the Steeze.” The cocky, young champion encounters Kevin Matchstick and is determined to show the old-timer a thing or two, but it doesn’t take the experienced hero long to teach him a thing or two. Still, the Steeze struts away, confident he saved the day, but Kevin knows the new generation hasn’t even scratched the surface of nefarious threats out there.

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Exit, Stage West, Even

Calexit #1
“Chapter 1: If You Wanna Scream, Scream With Me”
Writer: Matteo Pizzolo
Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan
Colors: Tyler Boss
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Price: $3.99 US

This may be the first Black Mask title I’ve sampled, as I haven’t been as engaged with comics-publication news in recent years, but the cover and name for this comic book really grabbed my eye when I glimpsed it on the stands last week. While I’m not as engrossed with the latest developments in the industry, I’ve become far more immersed in American political news, and this thoroughly topical reaction to that real-life news piqued my interest immediately. It’s a capable piece of fiction and commentary on the state of the world today and potentially going forward, but it also wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. And not necessarily in a bad way. Ultimately, this is character-driven story, which means the political and military status of a fractured America isn’t detailed in depth. But it’s intriguing and can spark important discussions about the ever-increasing issues of concern in the not-so-United States.

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Artful Obsessions: Challengers Accepted!

The Challengers of the Unknown have been with us for 60 years (!), having debuted in Showcase #6 (cover dated February 1957). The characters enjoyed a few more appearances in Showcase before moving onto their own title the following year. It’s noteworthy in that it’s one of the many long-lasting creations of the King, the late Jack Kirby. It’s actually such a beloved DC property, I’m surprised a Challengers one-shot wasn’t listed among the planned comics DC is publishing in August to mark what would have been the legendary writer/artist’s 100th birthday.

Now while a Kirby page (of any description) isn’t with my budget when it comes to comic-art collecting, I did manage to acquire a Challengers page recently for an affordable price on eBay. And it was from my favorite incarnation of the Challengers: the 1997-98, Steven Grant-penned series featuring a new lineup of Challengers. It boasts a cool X-Files vibe, featuring paranormal investigations against the backdrop of the DC Universe.

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Death Metal

Dark Days: The Forge #1
Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Pencils: Jim Lee, Andy Kubert & John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Williams, Klaus Janson & Danny Miki
Colors: Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams (regular)/Andy Kubert and John Romita Jr. & Danny Miki
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

This is not a good comic book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, mind you, but it’s awkwardly crafted.

It makes sense that Scott Snyder would helm an event-driven book for DC. He’s been the publisher’s most bankable writer for some time now thanks to his work with Batman. Here, he and James Tynion IV work to build on some of those Batman stories to develop a cosmic level event, but they also mine the 1980s for the raw material here as well. They tap a couple of rich veins of nostalgia, and that’s one of the reasons I was so entertained. It would seem these writers read and loved the same comics I did when they were kids. Batman and the Outsiders. Crisis on Infinite Earths. It’s a delight. But the problem with the carts full of nostalgic ore is that they don’t have a proper mechanism in place to refine that yield (OK, that metal metaphor has been soundly beaten to death). This script is inaccessible, and as the title suggests, it’s unfortunately dark. Given the recent success of the Wonder Woman movie, I suspect we’ll see DC pivot to a lighter, more traditional tone in its storytelling in the months ahead.

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Preschool Princess of Themyscira

Be a Star, Wonder Woman! hardcover children’s book
Writer: Michael Dahl
Artist/Cover artist: Omar Lazano
Publisher: Capstone Publishing/Capstone Young Readers imprint
Price: $15.95 US
I was provided with a digital review copy of this incredibly cute and timely Wonder Woman book for kids. While I didn’t have a physical copy, the nature and layout of the story and art led me to believe this is what they call a “board book.” It skews to a very young reader (the little Wonder Girl is depicted as being kindergarten age), so I would expect a heavy, cardboard-like stock would be the most likely medium for this quick read (Capstone’s website refers to this book as being “paper over board”). It’s wonderfully charming and cute, both visually and in terms of the message it offers its young audience. While the motif here — juxtaposition of super-hero action with the daily endeavors of a little kid, trying to learn and develop — is far from original, it’s certainly effective.

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Spencer So Dire

Spencer & Locke #2
“Every Rose Has Its Thorns”
Writer: David Pepose
Artist/Cover artist: Jorge Santiago Jr.
Colors: Jasen Smith
Letters: Colin Bell
Editor: Nicole D’Andria
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment/Danger Zone imprint
Price: $3.99 US

Hey, do you love Calvin and Hobbes, the beloved newspaper comic strip that celebrated childhood innocence and precociousness while also offering biting social commentary? Oh, me too. And speaking as someone who loved Bill Watterson’s landmark and impeccably crafted oeuvre, allow me to tell you, my fellow enthusiasts, the following: do not read Spencer & Locke. This comic casts the familiar, innocent figures from Calvin and Hobbes in a hard-boiled cop drama, and it totally doesn’t work. It taints everything special about Watterson’s work and demonstrates creator/writer David Pepose’s complete failure to appreciate what made the strip that serves as his inspiration special. The truly unfortunate thing about it is that his writing and plotting aren’t bad at all, and the visuals are exciting, gritty and involving. But the initial decision to link this weird buddy-cop story to Calvin and Hobbes mars it all and blocks any chance the reader has at finding a sense of entertainment or escape. I suppose if one weren’t familiar at all with Watterson’s work, one might find this to be a novel, even diverting effort, but any awareness of the larger context of the book will preclude that possibility.

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Stag Party

Batman/Shadow #2
“Batman/Shadow, Part Two”
Writers: Scott Snyder & Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rossmo (regular)/Chris Burnham & Tim Sale (variants)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publishers: DC Comics & Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been trying to limit the number of four-dollar comics I’m buying these days, as they can make for expensive weekly trips to the local comic shop. However, given Scott Snyder’s and Riley Rossmo’s involvement in this series, I couldn’t resist the first issue. I was pleased enough with what I found to seek out the second issue this past week. And now I’m hooked on the series. Not surprisingly, Snyder and Steve Orlando don’t disappoint with their take on the Batman and his dark world, but I’m quite intrigued by this eternal, supernatural take on the Shadow. I really don’t know all that much about the anti-hero who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men, but I rather enjoyed him as a figure who throws the Dark Knight off his game. Rossmo’s exaggerated and dynamic interpretation of Batman and Gotham are as sharp as ever, but his fluid, elongated portrayal of the Shadow and his eerie presentation of the serial-killing antagonist of the book really grab the eye as well. This is a thoroughly accessible and entertaining inter-company crossover that clicks in no small part because of the compatibility of the two title properties.

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Doom’s Date

Infamous Iron Man #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Alex Maleev
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

As I’ve written previously, I purged a significant number of Marvel titles from my pull list, ultimately deciding I wasn’t getting enough out of them to merit the $3.99 US price of admission, but there were a few Marvel books that survived the cull, and Brian Michael Bendis’s two Iron Man titles were among them. I enjoyed this issue because its pairing of both the protagonist and antagonist with other Marvel characters with which they share links (either personal or thematic) put me in mind of the classic team-up titles of the 1970s and ’80s I so enjoyed as a kid. Mind you, this issue is low on action and big on dialogue, and as a mature comics enthusiast, I was just fine with it. I continue to follow Infamous Iron Man because it’s essentially a great character study of a long-standing Marvel figure. Unfortunately, that history is also the book’s greatest liability, since the knowledge of the continuity leading up to this point in Doom’s life is rather integral to one’s full appreciation of the story.

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