Sunday, May 24, 2009

Issue #55: Catch Up Week #11!

I finally made it back to my comic book store, Acme Comics on Saturday, May 23, 2009. So I have a few weeks to catch up on. Let's not waste any time and get to work.

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, May 6, 2009:

Superman: World Of New Krypton #3 (of 12) (New Krypton #24) (DC) * * * * *

Last issue ended with the potential of civil war breaking out on New Krypton. General Zod has a choice to make: either solve it by force or give Kal-El a chance to negotiate a settlement. Later, Superman shows that having super powers is not the end-all of being a good soldier. What makes me give this title 5 * 's continues to be how Superman's unique character shines through the plot. This title continues to make me say, "Thank goodness Superman was raised by Kansas farmers." This story cotinues to show that what makes Superman unique is as much his midwestern ethics as it is his super powers. What makes Superman Superman comes from Earth, specifically the midwestern farm belt, as it does from Krypton. And Pete Wood's art is excellent as usual, and puts him on my list of great Superman artists, along woth cover artist Gary Franks.

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, May 13, 2009:

Terry Moore's Echo #12 (Abstract Studios) * * * * *

Ivy follows the trail of destruction after Julie's clash with the crazy old man with the metal hand, and the aftermath with Julie and Dillon. We also return to Julie's sister Pam in the mental institution. These issues are quick reads, but in this case it's not a bad thing. The action is quick and to the point,yet still able to pack in plenty of character development. Plus, there is always at least one scene that adds another layer to the mystery as it resolves a plot point from the last issue. This developing story is greater than the sum of its pages.

Action Comics #877 (New Krypton #25 / World Without Superman) * * * *

We see Lois' reaction when she realizes her "stepson" Chris Kent is back. And we also learn that there is more to Lois Lane than we realize. We also see more machinations of General Kent. Let's not forget Ursa, not to mention a new version of Bonnie and Clyde. The World Without Krypton story, especially in Action, is developing into a very complex story that more than makes up for the absence of Superman from Earth. I'll be glad when Superman returns to Earth, but until then World Without Krypton in Action Comics will fill his boots.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6 (of 6) (Dark Horse) * * * * *
My Chemical Romance is not my style of music, but lead singer Gerard Way does write a great non-super hero comic book. This title might be too bizarre for some, but it's not as explicit as some, even thought there is some blood and gore. The adult Umbrella Academy try to save President Kennedy from being assassinated by an alternate version of one of their own. The character development and interaction is the foundation around which the action revolves. And, like the original mini-series, the story concludes in a melancholy fashion for them. Gabriel Ba's art is excellent as always, and fits the unusual story being presented. The back cover was a great imitation of a yellowing back cover of a '50's or '60's cheap paperback action novel. After reading this, I'm looking forward to the next mini-series. And that's what a comic book is supposed to do, make me want to read the next issue.

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, May 20, 2009:

Fantastic Four #566 (Marvel) * * * * *

What kind of person would be a mentor to Dr. Doom? Why, a very frightening creature. His new pupil is still a mystery, as well as his mentor, but his interaction with Doom is unforgetable. Val's blog which serves as the introductory page sumarizing the last issue is a very clever plot device. Doom meeting his master is not the only shocker. The issue opens with another shocker. And there is an interesting scene with Ben and his fiance Debbie. Who would have thought that there would be a menace to the Fantastic Four greater than Dr. Doom himself? Continued next issue (the greatest phrase in comics).

Supergirl #41 (New Krypton #26) (DC) * * * *

This issue concludes the Who Is Superwoman? storyline running in recent issues of this title. The previous issue ended in a shocker with the revelation of Superwoman's identity, but this issue ends in an even greter shocker. Also, Lana's health crisis leads her to the emergency room. The name of the hospital was a cool "easter egg" as the name of a past DC Comics editor. I was left wondering if Cat Grant was drawn too uncomfortably to Lana's real relationship with her "neice" Linda Lane (who Cat doesn't know is secretly Supergirl). I'm left wondering what the repercussions will be for not only Supergirl, but for Gen. Lane as well. I had originally thought about dropping Supergirl after this story's conclusion, but I think I will continue to collect this title until the end of the New Krypton title. This is the way to do a crossover. While Supergirl, Action and Superman are not necessary to enjoy the World Of New Krypton mini-series, they have separate stories that are related to NK but all of them tie together to tell a great multi-layered story. While I am obviously collecting all of these titles, the stories in each title can be enjoyed separate from each other for those who are not interested in all of the titles, or can only afford certain titles.

Invincible #62 (Invincible War: Aftermath: Conquest Part Two) (Image) * * * * *

Invincible gets no rest for the weary, as an old and grizzled Viltrumite has come to Earth to test him on the heels of the war against alternate Invincibles. Judging from the next issue teaser it does not promise to go well for Invincible. The tension builds even more, pointing to an even more brutal next issue. We also discover what happened to the bodies of the dead alternate Invincibles. Robert Kirkman is not afraid to put his main characters through the grinder. Playing it safe is not in Kirkman's style of plotting. That's what keeps Invincible one of the titles I save to read last every month to savor it even more.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Issue #54: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, May 13, 2009 & A Review Of STAR TREK!

Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6 (of 6) (Dark Horse)
Action Comics #877 (DC)
Terry Moore's Echo #12 (Abstract Studios)

I am having to wait until next week to go to Acme Comics , when payday comes, so for this issue I will share my thoughts on the latest Star Trek movie. My wife and I, and our daughter, saw it on Thursday, May 14, 2009. My wife was wanting to wait for the DVD, but her friends at work had such glowing reviews about it she had to see it at the theater. I knew I wasn't going to be able to wait for the DVD, especially after hearing a number of podcasts have an almost unanimous praise for the movie.

When I first heard that the new Star Trek movie would be a prequel about a young Kirk, Spock and crew, it left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed that it could be another disastrous example of movie executive logic, which is an oxymoron. But being a trekkie I held out a little hope that my first impression might be wrong. The early trailers and TV commercials were more hopeful, and early preview reviews added some more hope. But I was still cautiously optomistic because past movies have looked great in previews but have not held up well after being released, like the Star Wars prequels or Superman Returns.

After buying our tickets and sitting in the theater I was looking forward to seeing the movie. I was not disappointed. In fact, I would put this movie as my #3 favorite Star Trek movie, after Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The story was an almost perfect balance of action and character development. The early scenes showing the growth of Kirk and Spock as boys did a good job of setting up the characters. It moved quickly through their Star Fleet Academy years, but spending enough time developing them as cadets. After showing them as seniors, and then jumping into the main plot of the movie, it's almost non stop action, yet as the best Star Trek episodes and movies do, the development of the stories open a window into the development of the characters, and shows them maturing through their actions.

The cast did an excellent job of portraying younger versions of the Kirk, Spock, McCoy and crew we have become so familiar with. They weren't as polished or assured, except for Kirk of course, because they are shown as younger Starfleet officers. And this prequel also does a great job of not rendering the past episodes and movies as meaningless or saying "This didn't happen." It honors past Trek, with many "easter eggs" for old fans, while taking this new Trek in a new direction that old fans like me can still enjoy.

My favorite actor in this movie was Karl Urban, who channeled DeForest Kelley as Dr, McCoy perfectly. He combined the irascible and blunt McCoy, who let the young Kirk and Spock know what he thought, with his medical genius. It wasn;t until the next day when I realized that he also played a Rohan prince in the Lord Of The Rings movies.

Leonard Nimoy as the elder Spock fit in the movie without making it feel as if the movie stopped to spotlight a popular Trek character, which Star Trek: The Motion Picture did ad nauseum. How he fit into the plot of this movie was also well done.

While the original Enterprise, and the bridge, equipment and uniforms were updated it was still similar enought the the original series design. It was apparent with all of the visuals and story elements and dialogue that the producers respected the source material. They did a tip of the hat to all that has come before in Trek while taking it into a new updated direction. It was not necessary to know anything about Star Trek to enjoy this movie, and it will be a perfect vehicle to hook new Star Trek fans and add new blood to the Star Trek franchise.

J. J. Abrams has set the bar high for the inevitable sequel. This movie shows he has the potential to carry the Star Trek franchise into the 21st century. I'll be among the first in line to buy my ticket to the next Star Trek movie, and it won't be soon enough.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Issue #53: Comic Book For The Week Of Wednesday, May 6, 2009: And A Review of TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER / UNDER THE HOOD

Superman: The World Of New Krypton #3 (of 12) (DC)

After Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 2, 2009, I had spent my allowance from the next week's paycheck, so I am going to have to wait until the next payday to go to my comic store, Acme Comics . In the meantime I will use this issue to review the direct-to-DVD release Tales Of The Black Freighter / Under The Hood. It was released on March 24, 2009.

I had definitely planned to buy it when it came out, but I went to work the week of its release to find a new and unopened copy at my desk. Needless to say, that made my week.

Having read the Watchmen trade paperback a number of times over the years I was very familiar with both features in the mini-series. In the comic book mini-series, The Tales Of The Black Freighter was the comic book being read by the boy who would sit next to the newsstand. Under The Hood was the fictional autobiography of the original Nite Owl that appeared in the first few issues of Watchmen.

In the DVD, Tales Of The Black Freighter is an animated file. It follows the story exactly from the mini-series and fills in additional scenes to make it a decent length animated short film. The added scenes aren't padding, but do manage to add to the story, not that Alan Moore's original needed improving. The film found an interesting way to attempt to introduce the voice of reason to the determined mariner. This film is full of horrific and disturbing images, so it is not appropriate for young viewers, or those of a weak stomach. But it is an excellent film that fits the theme of the main Watchmen story.

The second feature, Under The Hood, was my favorite. The original fictional autobiography from the mini-series was my favorite of the back story features that appeared in most of the issues, except for the last one. These were added to fill in the pages that were originally reserved for advertisements and letters pages. These features filled in parts of the back stories of the various characters. They were not necessary for the plot of the story, but they added depth to the individual characters and the story as a whole. In the DVD the story was presented as a TV news interview documentary program, and the actors from the movie reprised their roles for this feature. The only part of the print autobiography that isn't included in the DVD version is the story of Moe Vernon. Otherwise it is another excellent adaption. This feature is more all ages appropriate, since it is presented as a 1970's news program.

The DVD release of the Watchmen is scheduled at the moment to happen around the end of July of this year, 2009. As far as I know both the theatrical release and a Zack Snyder director's cut will be released. How, or if, the features of this direct to DVD release will be included is unknown, but, as a Watchmen fan, I'm glad I didn't wait until the movie DVD release. It's not necessary to enjoy the movie itself, but it is a cool addition.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Issue #52: Comic Books For The Week Of Wednesday, April 29, 2009, And Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 2, 2009!

This week I waited until Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 2, 2009, to get my regular titles, since I have about a 45 minute drive to Acme Comics in Longwood. The store opened at 10:00 a. m. and I got there about 15 minutes later. I needed to get there early because I was having family over to my house around noon to grill burgers and hot dogs, plus I wanted to make sure I got the Free Comics I wanted, after looking at the available selection at the Free Comic Book Day web site . I thought I would get to the store before the crowd, but people must have been waiting for the store to unlock the doors. 15 minutes after opening, the front parking lot was almost full, and a line of people were looking through the $1.00 comic boxes outside the front of the store. Inside the store was even more crowded. They already had several artists setting up for their store appearance that afternoon, as well as super hero face painting for children. The adult daughter of the store owners had Wonder Woman's gold tiara painted on her forehead. It was nice to see all of the children in the store. I was able to get the FCBD titles I had picked and I will review them at the end of this issue. I also picked up two Superman issues from Acme's 25% off sale during Free Comic Book Day.

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, April 29, 2009:

Justice Society Of America #26 (DC)
Superman #687 (New Krypton #23 / World Without Superman) (DC)
Final Crisis: Legion Of 3 Worlds #4 (of 5) (DC)

After Watchmen ... What's Next?

Saga Of The Swamp Thing #21 (DC)

From The Back Issue Bin:

Superman #349 (July 1980)
Superman #407 (May 1985)

Free Comic Book Day Titles:
Impact University vol. 5
Blackest Night #0
Love and Rockets

Comic books for the week of Wednesday, April 29, 2009:

Justice Society Of America #26 (DC) * * * * *

This is the last issue by writer Geoff Johns and penciller Dale Eaglesham. I picked it up just to see how they would finish their run on JSA. There were no super villains or super battles in this issue but this was an excellent story. It begins after the end of the JSA's battle against Black Adam, which interfered with one character's birthday. This issue is almost entirely about a surprise party given to this character. This is a "quiet" book, full of character interaction, which is just as compelling and interesting as an issue full of fisticuffs. I know, I'm showing my age. The last page is one of the best ways I've seen of a creative team saying goodbye to their readers in a title.

Superman #687 (New Krypton #23 / World Without Superman) * * * *

Being a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes, it is fun to see the development of the Science Police in 21st Century Metropolis. The Guardian continues mentoring Mon-El in being a super hero, and in protecting his secret identity. Reading the exploits of both Mon-El and Supergirl, showing their inexperience makes the silver age Superman, keeping that Supergirl's identity secret from the world while he trained her, seem like a wise idea. Several interested parties seem interested in Mon-El's exploits, and there are two interesting cameos by John Irons and Jimmy Olsen.

Final Crisis: Legion Of 3 Worlds #4 (of 5) * * * * *

Upon first reading this issue the ongoing battle was a bit wearing, not because it was boring or pointless, but because of the epic scale of the battle as the combined Legions battle Superboy Prime to stop him from destroying the future Earth. And that's the way it's supposed to be. There are more Legion casualties in this issue to add to the toll. George Perez's art is excellent as always, and this is a typically dense Perez issue. It will take more than one reading to soak in all of the details in the story. There are two surprise twists at the end of the issue, which set up what looks like a fantastic conclusion to this mini-series. This Final Crisis tie-in mini-series looks like it will outshine the main event series. I hope the final issue will come out on time, not only to see how the story will end, but also for the new Adventure Comics and the new Legion to start up as soon as possible. Along with the Superman titles, the Legion is one of the handful of titles I will always read, no matter what.

After Watchmen ... What's Next?

Saga Of The Swamp Thing #21 (Vertiogo / DC) * * * * *

I didn't notice this title last week when I bought the first issues of Preacher and Transmetropolitan that were reprinted with the above banner, so I couldn't pass up the chance to read this classic issue of Swamp Thing. I have only read a few issues of the original Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson run, and none of Alan Moore's. This issue did not disappoint. Ihave yet to read an Alan Moore story I didn't like. This issue of Swamp Thing began Moore's transformation of the character from its origins. It does not ignore or disown the original Wein / Wrightson version of the character, but to add to it and take it in a new direction. It adds to my respect of a comic book writer who respects the work of past creators while taking the character where he wants to go. and I have the utmost respect for Alan Moore as a storyteller.

Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 2, 2009:

Imapct University volume 5 (Impact Books) * * *

This is the third issue of Impact Book's FCBD series of how-to tips of comic book creation. The articles inside, with lots of art samples, are excellent, but this issue didn't seem as dense as past ones. That was why I didn't rate it as high as the others. But it doesn't take away from the excellent information inside. I just wish they could have squeezed more of it inside the covers.

Blackest Night #0 (DC) * * * *

This issue is a teaser to the upcoming Blackest Night mini-series long publicized by DC Comics. While I don't read Green Lantern stories, only because of budgetary reasons, especially with Geoff Johns writing the series, I wanted to read this just to get a peak into the story. It's another title I'll have to put on my list of stories to hopefully collect in trade paperbacks. Otherwise I would be picking up this title every month. Geoff Johns is another one of the few comic book writers who I want to read because I haven't seen them write a bad story. Alan Moore is another. Johns should write DC's next big event series. That would grab my interest. This #0 issue did not disappoint. The story only filled the front half of the issue. The remainder was pin-ups of the various colored Lantern groups, with some information on their names, powers and weaknesses. It shows the depth of Geoff Johns imagination.

Love And Rockets (Fantagraphic Books) * * * *

I've head of the title Love And Rockets but had never read any of the stories. I wasn't about to pass up a chance to read a sample of stories by the Hernandez brothers. This issue is filled with mini-stories that show their range of storytelling from typical Hispanic life to more fancifal tales, as well as super hero stories, and they make it work. I look forward to some day picking up the collected stories of Love And Rockets.

From The Back Issue Bin:

These two issues got my attention when I was doing research for my Superman Fan Podcast episode on Mr. Mxyzptlk, #68 . When I found them in Acme Comics' back issue bins, at $3.00 before thier 25% off FCBD sale, I couldn't pass them up.

Superman #349 (July 1980) (DC) * * * *

This was the most interesting of the two back issus. Plus, being drawn by Curt Swan didn't hurt either. Superman returns from space to find all of his friends at the Daily Planet and the Justice League changed to the opposite gender. There is even a Superwoman, whose secret identity is Claire Kent. And Superman is the world's greatest villain. How he figures out who is behind everything is very clever. I always enjoy a Superman story more when it shows him using his brain as much as his brawn. The issue also answers the question of whether or not Mxy knows Superman's secret identity.

Superman #407 (May 1985) (DC) * * *

This story appeared near the end of the original run of the golden and silver age Superman. Another Jerry Ordway cover is always nice to see, and the picture of a powerless Superman watching Perry, Lois and Jimmy fly away is intriguing. This story shows Mxy having Superman losing a portion of his powers when he touches one of his Daily Planet friends. Mxy's plans backfire when Superman is knocked unconscious while battling this issue's threat. How Mxy saves Superman is interesting, and it shows he is more mischievous than malevolent.

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