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#NotatWizardWorld

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Last year, when the carpetbaggers at Wizard World blew into town, I took to the streets to protest. Specifically, the streets that lead to the local comic shops in the area. I hit about eight places last year, and it was my goal to do better this time around. I donned my Star Lord jacket and headed out.

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Comics Are Go
5188 Detroit Rd
Sheffield Village, OH 44035

28576078_1848476678530080_7316552180490124023_nI started the day off meeting up with my friend Jennifer and her daughter Samantha at my home shop, Comics Are Go for my first stop. Eric had set up at Wizard World  (“consorting with the enemy” he told me) and then was heading to Columbus for a Harper show. That’s okay, Ed was manning the home front and chatted up Jennifer while Samantha and I dug through the discount trade bins. I grabbed a couple of avengers books entirely because they’ve got Ben Grimm in them while Jen found a Ghostbusters Annual to get. I waved goodbye to them and started to make my way towards the freeway. A couple stops before that though…..

Keiths comics
394 Broad St
Elyria, OH 44035

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Over to Keith’s to pick up some new Superman as I make my way to the freeway. I declined the bag for my comic books, so he sandwiched them between two old indie books with the covers ripped off to protect them from the weather! I always feel weird in here,  I used to work in the same corner building when it was a different business… I’m hoping to be back here around free comic book Day too!

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Comics and More
831 Chestnut Commons Dr,
Elyria, OH 44035
The comic book side of strongsville hobby is my last stop before I hit the freeway – it’s on the edge of town and I always think of it more as a hobby shop then a comic shop… So I sometimes accidentally overlook it. I missed going here last year and was happy to correct that oversight this time around! There’s always a weird varity of things here, more trades than comics but more interesting toys and models and you’re finding your average comic shop as well! I’m heading to Parma next!

 

Carol and Johns 17462 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44111

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United States. A comic tour of Cleveland wouldn’t be complete without a stop out here…. kind of cool to see that the place is packed!

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lsWarzone Matrix
4704 Rocky River Dr
Cleveland, OH 44135

Taking the little side trip year, last year I went out of my way to stop at recess games… This year I thought I’d drop in at war zone again, it’s been awhile – are used to play hero clix here in my tournament days. It’s a small, cramped, dark maze of games and figurines stacked up on top of each other – the sort of hidden treasure trove that you could dig for ever in and always find something new.

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B and L comics
5591 Ridge Road,
Parma, Ohio

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People love the store – one of the guys in my comic book club has told me it’s his favorite shop – and it shows, considering the place was still full and busy on a comic con weekend. It actually makes me feel good to see how busy the shop then today – this ones an old school shop, cramped and dark – there is an old tube TV playing infomercials underneath the counter… And I can always count on them to have a long box full of beat up Silver age books for $.50 each

Northcoast Nostalgia
5853 Ridge Rd,
Cleveland (Parma), OH 44129

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Right down the street is north coast nostalgia, who also usually has a nice selection of quarter bins full of interesting stuff – but this time around I found something really cool! The hologram figure of green Lantern… I remember this look from the rock of ages storyline in the early days of JLA. However, I’ve never seen one of these figures before – I didn’t even know they existed!

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Ground Zero Comics
15139 Pearl Rd,
Strongsville, OH 44136
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Still much heavier game emphasis at Ground Zero, but I Gotta admit I enjoy being greeted at the door by the gigantic Deadpool statue. Once again, the place was full of guys playing games and digging through boxes. I’m beginning to suspect that all the action this weekend just might NOT be at Wizard World…..

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Kidforce collectables 103 Front St
Berea, OH 44017

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I genuinely don’t remember if I just forgot about kid force last year or if I had just run out of steam by that point… But I definitely wanted to check them out this time around. I know they’ve been in this location for a couple years now, but it’s not the one I remember – I’ve seen them in a couple of their previous locations in the past and I must admit I really like the new digs. In addition to being a big pop marketplace, and game retailer, there’s also rows of pinball machines here! It’s an interesting new direction to see your game shop go – really digging it!

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Imaginary Worlds
13446 Cedar Rd,
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

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I actually checked out imaginary worlds in Cleveland Heights back when they first opened, but the place is just so far out of the way for me that I haven’t been back much> They also have dollar bins as opposed to fifty cent or quarter bins, which is frequently too rich for my blood.  But oh holy crap…these actually may be the best dollar bins in Cleveland.  I pulled a Dark Shadows in there, noticing that there’s a surprising amount of beat up gold key in there. There’s a price break at 25 for $20 and I think I may just have to pop back after I get paid again. The owner told me he could fill out my Thing collection and I think I see all the issues of Camelot 3000 that I’m missing in there…

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Big Fun

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It’s tough to say goodbye to big fun – A more tearful farewell even then York comics last year. This vintage toy, novelty, in pop culture shop has been the linchpin of the Coventry road shopping experience for as long as I can remember. I’ve been coming out here for 20 years, and I’m happy to say that I never took it for granted, and visited as often as I could – always finding something amazing whether it was in the back, in the context of beans, or in the dozens of tiny card catalogue drawers Full of Oriental trading toys. I’m gonna miss you guys as they pack up and move along.

 

My tour this year lasted six and a half hours covering eleven locations and once again saying goodby to one. Next year I think I may just have to try something different….this tour takes a lot out of me. I’m exhausted….

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#shopsmall #notatwizardworld

 

 


(Re)visiting X-Men

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dc expirimentalI think we’ve pretty well established that I am a DC person. I have always been a DC partisan. I think a lot of it has to do with when I really came in to comics – those years in the late 80s especially for a fascinating time for DC where they were dabbling in deconstruction long before it was fashionable. There were new prestige 12990856_1162340130477075_5221927102289294111_nprojects coming out it seemed, every month (books like the ones pictured above)– and I would gaze at them longingly in the ads that sat in the back of my Star Trek and Superman books. These were very hit or miss, but they were daring. Vertigo came around and changed everything, sorting all of that sort of thing into one place, and in some ways it feels like it tamed those tendencies. It’s certainly redirected them.

Still, even within the mainstream titles things felt different – like they were growing up. I saw themes and elements in Superman that I didn’t remember being there in the silver age, Batman was more violent, the JLI bickered and were dysfunctional – it all felt like DC was really trying to focus on writing and storytelling in an era that, as we rode into the 90s, seemed increasingly focused on art over a story – with superstars like McFarlane and Liefield creating a house style at Marvel that would eventually migrate over to Image… But never seemed to affect DC.

13015142_1162340050477083_3546158498580389158_nThe point being – I never read X-Men. Even when I was a young kid, picking up Spiderman and Superman comics, I always avoided X-Men. Something about the pointyness of their costumes always bothered me – it’s a crazy aesthetic peeve, but it’s pervasive in the 80s X books. The shoulders of Colossus costume, Nightcrawlers too– Jean Grey’s mask and wolverines whole outfit… So many points you could cut yourself just by looking at them! There was a exception, I do remember finding a copy of the Asgard wars and really enjoying it… But it was an anomaly. I was still by and large, reading DC comics even 12974426_1162340137143741_6960391579557794471_nwhen this volume fell in my lap. It had the advantage of featuring the New Mutants, which was an idea I really loved. Even though I wasn’t a fan of Marvel and X-Men, I was aware of the distinction between the main team, and the team of students – in fact it would be the gateway for me to enter that universe later on.

Asgard Wars also had the great advantage of introducing me to some of my favorite characters in the X-Men universe – in particular, Kitty’s dragon named Lockheed. Even without knowing much more about him then that particular story, I would be doodling and cartooning him for the next 10 years… Going so far as to have one of my birthday cakes done in the shape of his 13015262_1162340033810418_871404150190795508_ncharacter. Is it wrong that I was far more amused and intrigued by Lockheed then I was by Kitty? It kind of shows my complete disconnect from X-Men as I was growing up.

The other character that I fell in love with in Asgard Wars was Warlock. He is written and drawn in such a fascinating way throughout this entire story – quirky and funny and unpredictable. I would go on to collect tons of New Mutants later on in my life, always looking to recreate some of that same feeling of fun and whimsy that I got when I first read this book. They never quite found his voice again though. I was always disappointed that no one else quite captured how much fun this character could be and I have never loved him as much as I do in this book.

Me feeling dissapointed that Warlock isn't nearly as interesting in any of these as he was in Asgard Wars

Me feeling dissapointed that Warlock isn’t nearly as interesting in any of these as he was in Asgard Wars

Still, other than this I was not reading X-Men. I had a friend back in high school, whose name was Tim – he didn’t read any other comics but X-Men… And he had 13007092_1162340037143751_5833520867548055388_nbeen reading them for probably 10 years or more. He spoke fondly of it and had a real commitment to the series that I just didn’t understand.

It was about this time, the very early 90s, that I finally found myself dabbling. The Jim Lee run had exploded, and the cartoon was right around the corner, paving the way for what is arguably the most recognizable version of these characters since the brown suit Wolverine Claremont Era.

It started, as I mentioned with New Mutants, although at that point they were no longer the New Mutants – so rather it began with X-Force. It wasn’t the first issue, I believe we were somewhere around issue 19… A good jumping on point, as the team 13006501_1162347637142991_1283473157847782540_nchanges its roster a bit, changes its costumes, and attempts to go on without its leader. It was a good time for X-force, Fabian Nicieza was in full effect on the book and the next six months would be a fun story arc that gave you a real sense of continuity and a feel for the direction the book would be taking. The growth of the characters also was appealing to me. They had grown from High School kids into College age people. Sam had really grown into himself, and I was really having fun reading characters like Boomer and Rictor.

In the meantime, the X-Men cartoon was taking the community by storm, making the X-Men more popular than ever – and it was enough to suck me in, and was a very simple sidestep from X Force.

The thing is, the X-Men of this era were very superhero oriented – accessible but 12963590_1162340127143742_1670353489101401937_ncomparatively vapid. Classic villains would show up, but for no other reason than it was time for them to appear in the book. There were spurious tires to classic characters and storylines – even then I was aware of Clarmont epic run – who wasn’t? But this had really mutated into standard superhero soap opera fare. And that’s okay, but it still lacked that special spark that made my friend Tim such a devotees of this series. That’s not to say that there aren’t great points here – this is the series that took me from a mere interest in Rogue to absolutely loving her, it’s the series that brought us Gambit. And then there’s the white issue – this particular story tears me up every single time. Also coming out around this era was thier attempt to launch a new book to fill the New Mutant’s shaped hole that X-Force’s graduation to College age left in the mutant line of comics. The result was Generation X – a book that I absolutely adored. To this day I feel it got Back-Xsabotaged by the hiatus caused when Age of Apocalypse started…but I digress…you can read all about that in a short article over here – https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/in-defense-of-generation-x/

In recent days I’ve noticed a lot of the wonderful Essential volumes dropping in price – I frequently see them for five dollars, although Carol and Johns recently had a sale with them priced as low as three. I’ve been picking these up at conventions a lot, most recently at Great Lakes Comic Con and decided to take some time and really try to explore this classic Era.

What is fascinating is to encounter some of these storylines for the first time – Silver Samurai and the Brood and the Hellfire club, they all fit better in this period… They are introduced organically rather 13001060_1162340040477084_7714194724708277842_nthan the way they feel shoehorned in later on in the series. A lot of those stories I remember from the cartoon, I’m finally experiencing the source material – indeed, I’m coming in right around the time when my favorite little guy Lockheed was introduced! There is a strong continuity here, one of the things that appealed to me so very much about the Superman comics during the Byrne and Ordway Era. It seems like it would be hard to just drop in to this series though, and it’s one of the reasons I think I’ve always found it so inaccessible – it takes a commitment to read the stuff.

There is a better understanding of these characters to be had though, with a lot that I expected as well as some character development perhaps I hadn’t expected. Cyclops, who I generally find insufferable, is far more 12961466_1162340123810409_5544198016137198592_ninteresting in these stories – there is more to him than the stuffed shirt we get so used to in the 90s Era. It’s interesting to see characters like Yukio The Ronin show up here. I know her from the early Phalanx prologue with Storm, it was an issue I originally bored because I thought I saw Jubilee on the cover. You can hardly blame me for making this mistake can you? I mean take a look below at the image of the way Yukio is drawn in this issue compare it to how she is drawn in essentials number four. I’ll chop them up and put them side-by side.

I swear she has de-aged… Honestly, I like the way Paul Smith draws her better – there is more character on her face, she’s not as pretty, but still has that impish Full-of-life attitude and it’s far more evident in her face and body language. I’m looking at that later issue now, and she still looks like Jubilee to me.

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As I read on, it occurs to me to wonder if the success of X-Men during this period is about Claremont or about how well they fit into the 80s. Kitty is a quintessential 80s girl. I’m not even sure what it is about her, she’s not a stereotype but everything about her screams 1980s – her posture, the body of her hair (no Aqua net, not high owolverinejackmannew3-thumb-504x800r teased or anything like that, just the body and shape), The way she carries herself, her drive and her attitude – the same is very true of Jubilee, who is a quintessential 90s slacker girl. The problem with these characters however is that they root themselves or the stories and the team in that particular time frame. Still, they work so well in that time frame. More then any other era, Wolverine’s cowboy hat looks right at home here, cyclops is large glasses work better here, The technology juxtaposes better against the warm wood furnishings of the 80s mansion and it feels more fantastic… a period before high-technology became commonplace in our lives.

These days it seems like X-Men bounces between trying to be relevant, and trying to be familiar to those who have only seen the films. There are still fun periods, in particular I was enjoying the run about eight years ago where things have kind of reverted to a simpler adventure format – coming out of the Grant Morrison run. It was fun, and simpler and we were seeing the best elements of the best costumes rolled into modern interpretations.

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Today, it seems we have gone in the other direction – that continuity that I spoke 13010797_1162357293808692_3447845574088106483_nof earlier? Today it’s wound so tightly across the titles in the series, that much like the avengers books, it becomes insular and difficult to drop in and out of. Over the years, we’ve picked up so many different characters along the way that it feels like they need to shoehorn them all into the series at some point or another as well focusing on a cohesive team that works well together and has chemistry. It’s hard for me to get into the X-Men comics of today.

Perhaps that’s why I’m looking to the past.


More FCBD reviews

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STK634540_TNNot a really important post, but I’ve made a little more of a dent in that FCBD stack and had a few more thoughts to share.

The Transformers vs G.I. Joe was a big dissapointment. The art alone just wasn’t my style, but the story itself felt really dumbed down. Perhaps that was what thye were going for….something like the mini-comics you used to get with certian toys like He-Man, but it’s really not my style. I really had high hopes for this too, because I loved the crossover that Devil’s Due did back in 2006. I just don’t STK634508_TNunderstand how no one seems to have been abel to get this right since then.

Jelleby was a huge surprise. I got it because it looked fun and interesting. it’s cute, and really addictive. There’s some great heart in this tale of a boy who finds a monster and made it his pet. This issues does exactly what it is meant too. It makes me want to check out the rest of this series and I recommend you do too.

Intrinsic and Entropy on the other hand, they kind of fail in this purpose. They both give us a taste, but not enough to get me into STK634537_TNthe series. A shame too, Intrinsic in particular shows promise with good chemistry between the characters but not enough story to get me interested.

Courtney Crummin was excellent as always. I’ve followed this series off and on for years and it never fails to entertain. There’s more to this story than the FCBD issue though and they may have me hooked enough to finish this arc out.

You know what? The Donald Duck comics were way STK634111_TNmore fun than I expected. My friend Ben from Pop! is a huge Uncle Scrooge fan and I have always enjoyed hearing him talk about the character. I’ve also enjoyed Disneys FCBD offerings. This is a straightforward Disney story, the main feature bing about Donald and Uncle Scrooge cursed  and their personal gravities messed with…it’s fun and FEELS like classic Disney.

Buck Rogers was a bit of a dissapointment. I really wanted to see more of Buck and less of Wilmas Nephew. I really like stuff like this and the Donal Duck comic STK633237_TNthough, collections that look like they are straight out of a newspaper.

Then there’s Scratch 9.

I don’t know why I like this so much. I’ve been hooked on this story since I got the issue at FCBD last year. The cats have great chemistry and it has a funny tone to it….I really just can’t explain it. Just find the series and STK633238_TNpick it up.

Uber has a good concept, what if WW2 went differently….and it’s a lot of reading. Less of a comic and more of a magazine telling the story in prose with some pics.

I read Scam Crosswords mostly for the art. It’s got a STK633793_TNgreat dynamic Image house style.  wasn’t planning on liking it but it’s got a good vibe. For some reason it really makes me feel like a Bruce Willis movie. I’m not entirely sure what I just read, kind of a hit man with some underworld connections…? I do want to see more of this, but I think I want to read more of it before I commit to buying some.

There’s a few others that don’t really warrant much discussion. Steam Wars was interesting but pointless. The over sized Street Fighter issues was STK634108_TNexcellent, but I think I’m too far out of the loop with these characters to really make this work. Catian Midnight was finally my chance to check out the character….though he dosen’t bear a lot of resemblece to the character my father told me stories about . THey kind of hit the nail on the head when they say his super power is that he has an airplane….

All in all I’ve really been enjoying the FCBD stories and can’t wait untill next year! Until then though, I’ve got to head out and get some Violent Blue done for tomorrow!

 

 


FCBD : the comics

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STK634548_TNI’ve managed to make a good dent in my Free Comic Book Day comics and thought I’d share some of my observations. It’s not a proper review, but then again, they aren’t all proper comics….

The Guardians of the Galaxy book was one I was interested in seeing. It’s a good introduction to the characters and explains a little bit of why Iron man wasSTK634411_TN in the book for a most of last year. I like the idea of Venom hooking up with them, and the framing sequence of Tony telling Venom all about the guardians makes for a good intro, but also meas we don’t really see enough of them in action and almost feels a little anti-climatic. The Rocket raccoon book is actually a better one, with plenty of action.  It’s a fun book, but that skottie young cover made me STK634618_TNexpect a little more craziness. Not complaints though.

Bongo’s Simispon’s issues is always a FCBD must. This one is no exception. Tehre are times when the comics are better than the show….

I LOVED the DC offering – a futures end for the New 52 featuring Batman Beyond. I’m not a huge fan of BB, but this was a great story for him… leading into the futuresSTK634560_TN end series coming this summer.

THE tick is another great intro to the character and this was a fun alien story, spoofing the Braniac and Bottle City of Kandor ideas. I laughed and this left me in a surprisingly good mood. I remember the Tick from when it came out back in the mid 80’s, and though I’ve never been a rabid fan, I do enjoy him here and there and the free comic book day issues have always satisfied.

STK634561_TNFUBAR feels like a missed opportunity. Not a terrible story, but it seems like it ‘s slow. It takes too long to get to the zombies, and when you do there’s not enough. Good ideas though, what if Saddam Hussein was creating zombie viruses instead of chemical weapons? Interestingly, the soldiers here remind me a whole lot of the ones in ALIENS.STK634619_TN

I was also presently surprised by the Teen Titans GO! book. Unlike a lot of kids books and FCBD offerings, this was pretty much a full TT book, rather than a complication of different stories smushed together.

Archie comics released a Sonic the Hedghog / Megaman flip book. The Mega STK632582_TNMan section looks very much like screen grabs from a cartoon, while the Sonic section claims to be an origin story. It kind of is….talking about how his team came together. I’ve enjoyed previous FCBD sonic issues better.

Valiant released a handbook this FCBD, an I love this. I’ve always had a thing for reference books, ever since DC’s Who’s Who back in the 80’s. This is a nice slick mglooking guide to Valiant characters and it really keeps me jazzed about the current Valiant universe. I can’t wait to dig into my X-O issue.

That’s about all I’ve gotten through. Mouseguard was excellent as usual and I really only got the Avatar : The Last Airbender issue for the Itty Bitty STK634432Hellboy story (which I was dissapointed only clocks in at two pages!).

It’s been a fun haul…but the weekend didn’t end with the comics did it? A certain movie opened over the weekend too….

but more on that later.


Young Cynics Club

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The Young Cynics club is a fascinating examination of that weird time right after High School, and maybe before College. It’s a time when things that were SO important to us in High School change, and priorities begin to shift. A time when we find out who is going to drift away and who will stay with us. Diane Cary once wrote that you change more between nineteen and twenty two than any other time in your life and this plunges us right into the middle of that .

It’s a weird thing, because what strikes me most about this story isn’t the characters, as much as the atmosphere, the attitude and really, that time-of-life. It’s a feeling we tend to forget about because it’s a traumatic shift, and we want to look back at our twenties through rose colored glasses – almost as much as we do our high school years (perhaps not so much in this post-modern age, but nevertheless). It reminded me of a lot of things I was going through at the time, particularly with my writing and art.

There’s only one issue of this so I don’t really want to get into plot points. You can generally find it for cover price or less. Give it a try, this is a great example of what comics can be if they break free of the bonds of superheros and become truly indie.


Halloween Comicfest

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As I mentioned yesterday, we did the Halloween Comicfest over at Carol and John’s Comic shop.

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hcf_logoLike on Free Comic book Day, publishers release special editions with the Halloween Comic Fest logo on them and these are distributed for free at participating retailers. It’s a way to especially get kids into comic shops these days. I’m still plowing my way through the stack of free comics I got, along with a couple I bought while I was there (I hate just showing up, grabbing the free stuff and leaving. Same as on Free comic book day, we make it a point to buy SOMETHING – even if just a couple issues from the quarter bin or dollar boxes), but here are some of my favorites so far….New_STK621002

Batman : Lil’Gotham.

I really haven’t been into this series. I suppose it’s fair to say it’s not aimed at me. Even worse, Damien is still alive in it and I hat him with such passion it’s unreasonable. There’s also something just ….wrong about cute gothamites. Batman villains just aren’t supposed to be…chibi.

This has some great moments in it though. Damien being completely unfamiliar with trick or treating so he goes and attacks kids in costumes….

it works as a fun kids book and was naturally one of the centerpieces of this years selections.

New_STK622248There was a My Little Pony book this year. I actually made a point to get to the comic shop kind of early In the day just to make sure I could snag this for my girls. Bronys are unpredictable and I could have easily seen this one getting sold out before we could manage to get in the shop. Thankfully, not only did both of my girls get a copy, I even got one myself.  It’s a reprint of one of the stories form earlier this year, but it’s a good bit of the story and nicely scary – appropriate for Halloween.

Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the only pony book out there this year.

New_STK621297Another book called “Vamplets” was out with a kind of “Ghostly Pony” look to it. I almost missed the thing entirely until Maddie pointed it out to me. This and the My Little Pony books are bothe mini comics – about half the size of a normal one. Ashcans we used to call them.  A lot of the kids stuff was set up this way.  Still, fun books and perfect for Halloween.

Next up is Art Baltazar’s new book. I know, I keep gravitating towards the kids New_STK621021stuff, but Ity bitty Hellboy is just not to be missed. I really loved Tiny Titians, and this is just more of the same only with different characters. In fact, I’m not always into Hellboy that much, but this book was too much fun for words.

I did get through the Thor issue they had available and would actually really like to hear someone else comment on it. I’m not a big fan of Thor in the first place – he appeal has always mystified me, and lately a lot of his titles really seem to emphasize the elements of him that I really don’t like in the first place- most notably the big dumb football player personality with the big chin and no neck….and this issue is no exception. It sets up a new story arc about someone or something who is going around the cosmos killing small “g” gods. It’s an interesting enough concept, but with no investment in the character and STK622037_TNa general dislike for beings who refer to themselves as gods or pantheon mythology in general this one really didn’t do a whole lot for me. Sorry guys. Like I said, I’d love to hear someone who’s a Thor fan chime in on this one. If I find something elsewhere, I may reblog it.

My last pick from the pack was Ultimate Spider-Man. This isn’t the actually Ultimate Spidey as in the Ultimate universe, or the Bendis run, this is more based on the cartoon that Disney and Marvel are currently running. I’ve watched it with my kids, it’s okay, and a good attempt to bring Spidey in to the Avenger’s universe. The book is divided into New_STK622038two features, beginning with an origin story, told as Spidey fights off the Shocker. Meh. The second feature where Spidey is shadowing an LMD of Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury is much more fun. Inside are also a couple of one page gags where they’ve taken a page from the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko comics and redone the text pull things completely out of context. A really fun book.

Carl and John’s went the extra mile as well, also handing out candy and bookmarks and buttons (with Itty Bitty Hellboy on them). I’m really enjoying Halloweenfest, and I love that it makes Free Comic Book Day come twice a year now!

 

 

 

 


Last Week’s Pulls

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green_hornet1Okay, I tried to do one of these earlier in the week, this time we’ll see if I can get through it without getting distracted!

First up is the new Green Hornet book. This is a good re-introduction. It’s a self-contained story with a good resolution, though we get one page at the end that suggests this will be part of a lager arc to come. It’s not only a good jumping on point if you’re already intrigued, it’s also a good sampling issue for folks who aren’t familiar with the Green Hornet but might have been recommended. It’s got everything that makes the character great. We’re back in the 30’s, and that’s cool. While I do think that the Hornet lends itself better to modern updates than other characters indexlike The Shadow. Back in the NOW day, they really ran with it and I loved what they did. Dynamites wasn’t bad, they incorporated some very good ideas like adding the Motorcycle and the mechanic, but I never completely warmed up to the costume and things just never quite fell into place. I’m not bothered by it going away. The whole Green Hornet : year one series had been far better done anyhow. the art was beautiful, moody and dark, much like the Bendis era of Daredevil, and it suited what they were doing with the character.

Speaking of Year one series, I did try out The Shadow : year one. It was pretty much what I expected…..it’s an origin story and that just rubs me the wrong way. I think one of the strengths of The Shadow is that he doesn’t have 2013-02-17-shadow_year_onean Origin. Of course it’s possible that this is just one of his misdirections. After all, we have three other distinct origins – the One from Chaykn’s 80’s series, the Shamballa origin. This however contradicts the origin from the ’95 film, and neither really meshes with the one presented at the end of the 90’s series “The Shadow Strikes”. However, in that story, the Shadow does acknowledge, “One day I might tell you the story of Shamballah” suggesting that all of his potential origins are fake stories.  That’s cool. I can deal with that, but if that’s t he case, i’m not going to waste my time on stories that don’t really develop the character because they’re misdirections.

shadowI’m not complaining about this mind you – having a Shadow Year One series just shows that Dynamite is willing to exploit the license to it’s fullest. That was my biggest problem with Dark Horse when they had the character, they never put out any material. A couple of mini-series. A one shot. A team up. That’s about it. At least when DC had the Shadow, they were putting out a title every month. Dynamite has my enthusiasm because they are running two Shadow series simultaneously,  not to mention specials, annuals and the team-up book Masks, which continues to be the most exciting crossover of my lifetime (getting a little crowded though. I’d rather see more Shadow and Green Hornet, and les Ms. Fury and Black Terror). This is nothing but good news, and the further we get away from the Ennis series, the better The Shadow has been. He’s fighting a lot more masked villains lately though and that feels a little unusual. It’s taking some getting imagesused to, but it’s not a bad thing inherently. NOW managed to make that look good when they were doing the Green Hornet in the 80’s and 90’s, but then again, at that time period EVERYONE was wearing masks and spandex and armor….not so much in 2013. Still, it’s a fun book and I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Not a lot has changed in t he last few months. The DCU is still practacly unreadable to me,  I just don’t recognize these characters anymore. Grifter is losing his title, which was one of the only new 52 ones I was keeping up with. We caught my impressions of the bat titles earlier this weeks so let’s move on to Doctor Who.

doctorwho7cI started back up on these based on the high recommendation from my friend Don Smith. The art has improved since the Tennant series, I recognize all of the characters this time. My impression of the stories themselves however have just been……meh. It’s not bad. It really isn’t. It’s just not great….it’s not even as good as the TV series (and that’s a fair criticism. There are tons of Star Trek comics that I could point to that are superior to a bunch of the shows or films). Average isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not usually enough to keep me following it. This issue features the return of the Vash’narada (from silence in the library) but it really feels like I’ve seen all of this before.

On the other hand, IDW is also publishing the 40th anniversary series “Prisoners in idw-prisoners-of-time-3Time”. This is featuring all of the previous Doctors in order. I skimmed the issues with one and two. I’ve just never liked those incarnations. I can sometimes enjoy Hartnell in the Target novilizations, and Trouton was fine in the two Doctors, but really they both just irritate me, and I’ve never understood why Trouton is the favorite Doctor for so many of the actors that came later.

This issue hwever…..this is the one featuring Jon Pertwee. The third Doctor. MY Doctor. He has always been my favorite, always been the one I think of as the REAL Doctor, and I’ve never seen him portrayed better in the comics.

There really aren’t that many comics featuring him in the first place and most of the ones that do exist are standard newspaper comic strip kind of art. He’s never gotten the dynamic Image Comics kind of treatment that the modern Doctors peroidiclly enjoy. I loved the art in this. It’s stylalized, kinetic and modern. Even better, it features Sarah Jane Smith as his companion (My favorite of the Thrid Doctor’s companions. Funny, I still think of her more as Pertwee’s companion than Baker’s) and they’ve got Liz Shaw back as well . Nowere to be found is that dolt Jo Grant, but the Brigidier is here as well and the story is very much an action one. I really love this piece.

Doctor Who

There were more pulls last week, things like Red Team, which is a good series, especially if you’re a fan of procedurals like Law and Order or Criminal Minds- it deals with a group of cops turning vigilante, but I suspect there’s a bigger picture going on here. All Star- Western is another great idea series, and it seems to get better. Some people have criticized it for taking place in western era Gotham, but I’ve actually been enjoying some of that and throwing Vandal Savage in there fighting against Jonah Hex was a good idea. Still it’s another average book , and hard to generate a lot of enthusiasm about. Finally there’s Justice League Dark and Constantine. I think the whole issue with John Constantine deserves some further examination – I may revisit that once we’re a few issues into the new series. JLD on the other hand – this is a really interesting series….and too interesting to survive. I expect cancellation any day. We’ll see. For now, I’m heading off to do some Violent Blue. See you tomorrow.

comcis


Requiem

comics

RequieumThis started off as a last week’s pulls article, but I quickly found myself off-track. You see, I’ve been reading a lot of the Batman titles lately. The Requiem storyline caught me a little off guard, but let’s face it – I’m not reading this because it’s great storytelling, I’m reading it to make sure the little creep is really dead.

The truth is, I’ve wanted Damien gone for a good long time, but really I didn’t want him dead so much as I wanted him to never have existed. Damien gives me problems.  It’s not just the age thing, though four (or five) Robins in, it makes it a little difficult to believe Bruce Wayne is in his late 20’s or early 30’s. It also makes it seem like he has a Robin for a cruelly short period, six months to a year and then discards them. All of these are problems Damien creates or exacerbates. There is however, a much bigger issue here.

I see what they are going for here. Bruce lost a Robin and he’s sad and things will never be the same….and that worked really well.

In 1988.

lWhen Jason Todd died it was shocking, and the repercussions of that event reverberated over the decades. That case with Jason’s uniform in it? We first saw that in “The Dark Knight Returns” years before this happened. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy and that Frank Miller had the foresight to see this might happen sooner or later was chilling. Batman really never WAS the same. the idea that Robin could die was unthinkable and it changed the way he operated. When Tim Drake became Robin he noted “Everything Bruce has done is to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to me that happened to Jason”.

You could really argue that Jason’s death wasn’t Batman’s fault. You could equally argue that it was indeed his responsibility. Either way, you could forgive him.

In 2012/13 this doesn’t work the same way – not with Damien. We’ve seen it before…in fact, we’ve seen it to many times. Damien is the THIRD Robin to die. You can’t debate this any more – putting a kid in that suit after two or three other deaths, that’s tantamount to child abuse. It’s reckless endangerment. DC has played the dead Robin card too many times to the point that if you give any thought to it, Batman is reflected badly.

untitledI’d argue something similar when Stephanie Brown put on the Robin costume. It was even more insulting then because she was just tossed in to that story line to be thrown away. It cheapened the mantle. The fact that Jason Todd is back (Steph too for that matter,  though I haven’t actually seen her around much in the new 52 so she’s easier to ignore) essentially invalidated twenty years of pathos generated by his death.

Killing off Damien doesn’t fix this. It just muddies the water further.

With Jason, I and a lot of other folks transferred a lot of our affections from Dick to him. He was a little annoying, but it was actually a cool idea that someone else could step into the role of Robin. The problem of course, was he felt a little TOO contrived, too much like Dick and when they went back to retcon him, they actually made things worse.  Jason’s greatest contribution to the Batman storyline was his death. He became an honest-to-God martyr.

Damien never had my affection from the word go. It’s like Morrison went out of his way to make him unlikable. I never got the chemistry he was supposed to have with Dick (perhaps I would have bought into it more if we didn’t all know Bruce would be Batman again in a year or so….done as an Elseworlds story this might have worked better). It felt forced, like they were trying to hard to recreate the relationship Dick had with Tim.

Moreover, I missed Tim. I really do wish they hadn’t aged him. He was far more interesting at 14 than he was at 19 (in fact, in Teen Titans, he does look a little younger again, but not quite young enough – Robin always worked better for me at Jr. high age). I knew from his introduction Damien was going to become Robin and I was fairly certain he was going to be killed off as well. None of this ever worked for me. It just didn’t.

They could have fixed this. If Damien had ceased to exist in the new 52, I would have been the happiest boy in the world. I could have dealt with Dick back in the Robin suit even (though I would expect him to be back to Nightwing soon). The way they choose to handle this feels very wrong to me….and I’m not sure where Batman goes from here.

I think I’ll go work on some Violent Blue and think about how I would fix this.

Robin-costumes-from-Batman-dc-comics-17152392-596-400


Last Weeks Pulls

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Spawn_224_pdf_000This week I dipped my toe in a bunch of titles that I haven’t been reading in a long time. The problem with doing this however, is you can feel like you just walked into the middle of a story and end up quite lost.

Spawn manages the feat of making me feel like I’m in the middle of a story I don’t quite understand while at the same time feeding me more of the same old same old. It’s more “Who do you work for????” “Jason Wynn!” “Wynn’s coming for you!” Chains, power  countdown timer, menace. I’ve seen all of t his before. On  the other hand, it’s been a long time since Spawn has been cutting edge. The most revolutionary thing they’ve done in the 21st century was to change the identity of the title character from Al Simmons to ….I don’t even know his name. Perhaps if I cared more….

On the plus side though, this has spectacular art. It’s very similar to Tim Bradstreet, very much like the dark noir look of the best modern Daredevil stories. Last week I mentioned that Jerry Ordway was one of my favorite artists. I’ve always favored a more realistic look to the dynamic, hyper stylized feel of a Liefield or McFarline drawing. This works really well. I’d love to see this guy do a Hellblazer or a Hellraiser.armyofdarkness700

Army of Darkness is always a fun title, but you have to understand, this series has strayed miles from the movies. That makes it easy to feel lost. The thing is though, they haven’t really done any world building. This isn’t a tight continuity. They seem afraid to move far from the established characters and continuity of the films, so we just wander from situation to situation without ever really creating a narrative.

When a female Ash arrived at the cabin (now floating in another dimension, at a causal nexus of some sort), I was really hoping they were making an attempt to integrate the new Evil Dead movie into this series. It would have been a smart move and all this talk of multiverses seemed to point that way. The cliffhanger makes it h01001nothingnovusclear that it’s not.

Finally there was Hawken : Genesis. Despite the fact that there are several gamers in my Violent Blue comic, I’m not one. I built myself a Pac Man Machine and decided I never had to buy another platform.

The point being, I had no idea this was based on a video game. It’s a great idea though. The art is stunning and the concepts are fascinating. I can absolutely see how this would completely flesh out a game world. These are very short stories, about half the size of a regular comic, but well worth it if you can track them down. I ended up having to go online to find the previous entry in the series.

Yd0v_UI also grabbed Extermination. This really seemed like just indie superhero fare, but seemed to get a little dramatic towards the end. I haven’t read enough of this series (this was the first time I’d noticed it) to know if it had earned that kind of theme. I think I’m too lazy to go back and find previous issues though.

I happen to love Sherlock Holmes. My grandmother introduced me to the character when I was a child, but I only really started to appreciate him when I was a teenager and rediscovering it in reading class. I wasn’t this comic to be good. i really do. It has Cwvz_Za beginning and and ending t hat both catch you, but the middle of this book just slogs on. It’s part one of a story so you almost want to give it some slack, but it just doesn’t keep my attention enough and the art in it is awful. Technically good drawing I suppose but it completely misses the soul of the characters and the era. I’m just not into it. I will probably get the second part of this, but it better get real good real quick or I’ll be dropping it.

Speaking of dropping, I think I’m done with new Valiant’s Bloodshot for a while. It’s not a bad book, it just isn’t my thing. I didn’t really get way into the original series and that may be having an effect on me. Archer and Armstrong on the other hand, continues to be a fun ride and genuinelyn_O2_Vl better than it’s predecessors. I like how they are trying to ease some world building into this series by introducing the Eternal Warrior and t he idea of the Geomancer in through this series – and it’s the perfect place for it. Armstrong always put me off a bit in the old Valiant, but I like him quite a bit in this incarnation. Maybe it’s the hair or the better dress sense. I don’t know.

The Green Hornet on the other hand….I do believe they have the shark in their rear view mirror, having jumped it about the time Britt jr and Mulan Kato started gettin’ busy. Now with an attack on the home base…I know these are all classic comic book tropes, but this tc_stw_01_000ikilmseries is only like, two years old. Isn’t it a bit early to be hitting these cliches already? I like some of the extra elements they’ve come up with and the expanded cast, and I’ll keep reading as long as it runs, but I don’t think I’ll really miss it when it’s gone.

I saw there was a new Crow series out and thought I’d give that one a try for old time’s sake.

Why do I keep doing that to myself?

Actually the idea of a Crow at a death camp in Nazi Germany isn’t a bad one, but it’s just not enough for me to care. This concept has gotten so watered down over the years, it almost seems like anyone who dies violently comes xK5L2back as a crow. I half expect batman’s parents to come back as the Crow!

Grifter is still a good series. I’ve heard this one is getting cancelled and that really does make me a little sad. I’m liking it and really enjoying the newer take on the character. This issue has him facing the Suicide Squad which is pretty much just flat out fan service aimed directly at me….or it would be if it were a Suicide Squad I recognized. Still, it’s actually a better handling of most of those characters than I’ve been seeing in thier own book.  I love how he describes them : “Everyone in t he squad is dangerous.They’re Black Ops criminals with nothing to lose”. I’ve never really heard them referd to in that manner before and I love it. This story also establishes a prior working relationship between Grifter and (the new 52 character who isn’t anything remotely like) Amanda Waller. This particular comment alone is enough reason to get this book.

waller

I miss fat, middle-age Amanda Waller. I totally believed that character WAY more than I do with this young, slim imposter.

Anyhow. Can I talk about She-Ra now?

Bp_C7_K

adora 1First and foremost, we don’t see She-Ra in this series, we don’t get the entire Secret of the Sword treatment either, but rather we get just before that. This character and series is apparently going to be intergrated into DC’s MOTU series eventually and I can’t wait.

It’s itneresting, they address something I had felt for years – Adora’s costume. In t his she is still aHorde Force Captian, just like in Secret of the Sword. However, in that cartoon, she was wearing the same Adora costume that she wore for the rest of the series (which is fine. I get limited animation and all of that). Essentially a jacket and a nice confy cotten shirt. Everyone else in teh Horde wore armor and bats and sigils and she just didn’t fit. This changes that… and her horde armor is stunning, not to mention the name : Despara. Just great stuff. She fits in better with the Horde here, rather than coming off like a princess wandering through adora 2the halls of evil treading on rose petals all the way….now, she looks evil. Moreover, when she takes that helmet off….she looks damaged. You can see the brainwashing in her eyes, the chopped hair just adds to it all. I love this.

When we open, it mentions that we are on Etheria – in the dark dimension of Despondos. That tells me that we aren’t throwing out all of the previous continuity from the failed MYP series in 2002, and that’s a good thing. While there were elements I really didn’t like about that series (most notably the designs for He-Man and the Sorceress) That series worked very hard to add some mythology to this world that had never been as well developed as it’s contemporaries in Transformers and GI Joe. It added a great deal to the MOTU story and I had feared most of that would have been thrown right out the window since that series was now out of favor.

skeletor1thegroup001That was in fact, enough of a boost for me to finally crack open that copy of the Origin of Skeletor I’d had laying a round for months.

Seriously. We’d gotten what I thought a spectacular origin for him in the MYP series and I was heartbroken that someone was going to come in and just re-write it. It turns out they didn’t exactly re-write it after all.

This story explores Skeletor’s past. Yes, we knew he was actually Randor’s brother Keldor. We had even expected that he was really his half-brother. And we see him treated as the Half-brother by his parents. Always out of favor, always passed over. Interestingly ( and heartbreakingly) enough, Randor is the one standing up for him. He is perhaps the only person ever to really love Keldor. Interesting but predictable. We probably could have guessed most of this.

What no one ever considered before, was that Keldor was the older brother.

Seriously. This changes everything.

Before, he was just some megalomaniac. He was just a James Bond villian who wanted to take over the world. Now….he’s the elder. He has a legitimate claim to the throne….perhaps even a more legitimate claim than Randor. His madness is what now makes him unfit to rule, but before losing his face and submitting to Hordak’s magic and apprenticeship?

This is a whole new dynamic. It took the MYP series to make this into a generational story. DC has taken it and turned it into a generational drama. I love this. I haven’t been this excited about MOTU in a very long time and it’s just great.

That wraps up this week. Christmas is coming. I hope you all survive it…I’m going to go look for He-Man shaped presents under the tree.


Last Weeks Pulls

So let’s start off with Youngblood, shall we? Actually I think this title has begun to hit it’s stride. It was nice to see the team seriously being heroic for a change, and the subplot with Jeff Terrel and the dead vogues has begun to shape up nicely. I’m actually looking forward to each next issue of this series. A little surprising considering…well it IS Youngblood.

Grabbed the Shadow Annual as well. This is a lot closer to what I want to see in the character. Gangsters and New York. Not sure how I feel about the supernatural element though. I supposes it could be explained away as TK and delusion if I want to approach it from a Skeptic point of view. That’s the thing about the Shadow though, he’s not really about ghosts and demons, he’ more about human monsters. I’d have no problem with him fighting Leatherface or Michael Myers, but I don’t want to see him against  Freddy or Pinhead.

Speaking of Pinhead…..

I don’t know why I keep reading Boom Comic’s Hellraiser series. No, that’s not true. I know exactly  why. I have a deep emotional connection to the series. I absolutely adore the first two movies, and I still like the later ones. I have workprints of two of  them and I own all of the Epic Comic series. Those are hit and miss, but when they hit…they are amazing.

I liked that Boom made it about Pinhead and familiar Cenobites. The Hellraiser movies of the last decade show us precious little of that and the Epic comics really used the established Cenobites as supporting characters to their newly created comic characters. The problem is Boom almost immediately strays. Hell is referenced as the Christian Hell rather than a transdimensional realm of order and torment. Clive Barker himself has stated in the past that the Hell of Hellraiser is not the Christian hell…it’s just a place. We call it Hell because that’s the closest description we can find.

Speaking of Clive, I know that the series professes to be written by him, but lets be honest. “Writing” those comics probably involves handing over an outline initially and coming into the office or teleconferencing once every few months to approve the plot. Whatever. Attaching Clive to the project doesn’t impress me anyhow. He did the first movie. He wrote the novella. Since then, he’s had virtually no involvement with teh series. Peter Atkins, Gary Tunicliffe and even Rick Bota have had far more influence on Hellraiser and would be more accurately described as it’s creators. When they talk about the series, I listen. When Clive talks about it, I honestly don’t think he understands what Hellraiser is. The mythology has grown far beyond that short story or that one off movie.

But I digress.

The idea of Pinhead and Kirsty trading places probably seemed like and interesting proposal, but it’s been drawn out far too long and meanders without direction. We’ve spent three issues of Kirsty uncovering Pinheads past when one could do. Back on earth, a newly human Elliot Spencer seeks other avenues of power to take over the world. None of this feels like Hellraiser. Even if it weren’t ridiculous, they missed what makes Hellraiser scary. It’s a small quiet story, destroying the lives of just a couple of people. When you try for a grand scale, it just doesn’t work – look a the third nad fourth movies. A million deaths is a statistic. A single death is a tragedy.

I can’t drop this book as much as I want to….but I just don’t know what to do….

Still loving the Anime-Con Girls digital books. I really want to read these with my daughters. I think they’d have fun with them. It’s still just anime action with slightly familiar faces and no real story, but it’s fun fluff.

I also grabbed the next Masters of the Universe digital edition. I’m glad to see Orko is still a loveable little scamp in this series. It was an interesting idea, a different art style for every page, but somehow it just didn’t work for me. It came off as annoying rather than cool. Still, this series has earned enough goodwill from me to get a pass on this one.

I jumped back on a couple of bandwagons this month just to test the waters a bit. First was Steed and Peel – the Avengers.  The art’s gotten better in this book, I’ll admit that. Steed and Mrs. Peel look a lot more like they should. unfortunately, the rest of the book  has a very 21st century look to it.  I almost hate to say it, but these days, The Avengers NEEDS to be a period piece. You just can’t update these characters, they fit so perfectly in the 60’s. Indeed, I’d rather watch an episode of The Avengers to any James Bond movie of the same period. So when you do a period piece, it has to look like a period piece. Steed and Peel aren’t the only ones that need to look like they are coming out of the 60’s, so does everyone else….and they don’t. The hair is wrong, the lines of the clothing is all wrong, the monsters look very 2012. It pulls me right out of the book. I suspect this is a hard book to create and there may be bumps in the road still to come.

I also picked up the Green Hornet. I like this series, I really do, but somehow, it seems to fall right off my radar pretty frequently and I really shouldn’t let that happen.  (Same thing keeps happening with the Walking Dead) On the other hand it is nice to grab the trades and just read an entire arc at once….

This one looks to have potential, a little light hearted but a cool superhero look and I really feel a nice familiarity with the characters that makes this title fun to return to.
I also decided to try out a couple of titles I’ve never read before. The first was Phantom Lady. I was thinking to myself as I grabbed it that this was a mistake. I don’t mind the character. I fond memories of first seeing her in old issues of All Star Squadron, but she never seemed like the kind of character that could successfully make the transition to the modern age. I may have been wrong about that . I like the costume, the action was fun and the repurposed black light is actually a little scary…the idea that it chills you, makes you feel empty. I like that. I also love the time limit on her phantom form and the banter between her and Dollman is actually quite entertaining. In fact they had me untill the last page where this villain appeared.

Worst.

Name.

Ever.

Just saying. This will likely be one of those titles I occasionally borrow a friends copy of to keep up on, but probably will never buy.

Also got Idolized. I think I’m the wrong audience for this. It’s basically “American Idol” for superheroes. The main character’s family was murdered by a super villain, she has powers and goes on this show to become a real superhero and avenge them. It’s just so full of Teenage High School-like drama and that’s just wasted on me. I would kind of like to know where this goes, and might take another look in a few months. I don’t know.

Higher Earth on the other hand was a pleasant surprise. The cover made it look a bit like a postapocalyptic story, but the inside felt more like Lost. We have a refugee society on an island, with one character making raids for food and supplies on parallel earths through a portal in a cave….it’s really more compelling that that sounded, I promise. I really didn’t even see the cliffhanger twist at the end coming.

That’s it for last week. I’ve got a stack of comics that just came out yesterday waiting for me and no time to read them (which is why you probably shouldn’t expect this to be a weekly feature on the site!)….busy weekend, cons, work, and a haunted house, not to mention I got to get some Violent Blue done too.

Sleep? What’s that?