Welcome once again to Lightning Reviews, my weekly comic column about my picks (and passes) of the material out August 10th. Man, have you been watching the Olympics? USA is dominating and I love watching these incredible athletes take the world by storm! Now, if they would only put on capes and masks, we’d be in business! A lot of reading got done this week, and lucky for you, I have all the details! Enjoy!
Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1- PULL! I’m a huge fan of this movie mostly due to all the whimsical characters by Jim Henson, so this comic that focuses on Ludo, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, and many other supporting cast members is just a delight. The medley of creative teams is spot on, but serious kudos to Cory Godbey whose stories are wonderful with art to match. Didn’t like “Humongous Two” but overall this is just amazing and nostalgic. I was slightly disappointed in the lack of the Gareth the Goblin King, but I doubt they’d do him justice. This oversized, glossy cover is definitely a collector’s item that I’m proud to have.
Spider-Man/ Deadpool #8- PULL! After two consecutive issues outside of continuity by different creative teams we’re back to the Kelly/McGuinness story that got me hooked on this title. This issue really elevates the idea of the dual identity because Deadpool is friends with Spider-Man even though he just killed (and brought back) Peter Parker, but now Spider-Man is exploring his darker side due to his hellish experience. I love his new costume (or at least it’s new to me) as it represents the shift in tone for the book. Part of me just wants to yell at Wade “Peter is Spidey!” but the tension is building up to that in the future, I feel. So glad the dream team is back!
A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong #6- PULL! Now that Bacchus is back in the bag, our heroes are on a road trip to find Armstrong’s long lost wife. Instead, they find themselves at a traveling circus that seems to be composed of Armstrong’s children or clones or something, and once again they are caught up in another crazy adventure. The writing is a blend of juvenile humor and self discovery, with some action thrown in for good measure. I like that they integrate Archer’s relationship with Faith Herbert (aka Zephyr) into the plot, but I did not like the short story tacked onto the end of this comic. This is another strong installment by Valiant.
Birthright #18- PULL! Jumping into this head first and mid-story, I was pretty lost at first. Once I gathered context and a feel for the book though, I really enjoyed this. Hard to cover all the bases in a short review like this, but it’s essentially about a family of varying age, skill, and heritage that must overcome mystic and demonic forces that are out to destroy them. The art in this is really epic, having lightning and smoke accompanying battle scenes with red and blue tones dominating. We got aliens and robots, but also plenty of brotherly love to drive the story. I still don’t have a clear concept of the big picture here, but I liked what I read and that’s what matters.
The Flash #4- PULL! May the Speed Force be with you! And you. And you. And everyone else. After a Speed Force storm, many citizens have become speedsters and Barry Allen takes the role of teacher. I really like all the different characters that are supercharged and the conflict it creates, not to mention potential future villains and heroes. The art relies on classic super speed drawing techniques but seeeing so many characters move this way is quite interesting, especially the coloring when several heroes are fighting the villain of the issue. Big reveal in this comic is similar to an Iron Man reveal of the past decade. My only worry is this: if everyone is fast, does the world need the Flash?
The Flintstones #2- PULL! I was skeptical of the Hanna Barbara reboot in DC Comics, but Flintstones was my most anticipated and for good reason. A very different design take on the original cartoon, this still captures the spirit of the prehistoric family. Two themes are addressed in this issue: the formation of religion and materialism. It sounds boring, but both are very funny. There are also allusions to the popular Flintstones vitamins and the origin of a lovable purple dinosaur (not Barney, the other one). This brings the Flintstones to the next generation in a funny, family oriented comic. Yabba Dabba Do!
Harrow County #15- PULL! I regret not jumping in this title last year when it launched, but that was before I was a contributor for Comic Crusaders, therefore limiting my reading options severely. Up to this point, we know young Emmy is the reincarnation of the powerful and deranged Hester, and it has fallen upon her gifted brothers and sisters to guide her to escape that fate. The character art was probably the biggest turn off for me, although it does provide a rural setting and aesthetic that is perfect for this story. Cullen Bunn is a great writer and hooks the reader in this comic nicely by building tension and suspense. Horror meets supernatural meets a coming of age tale in Harrow County.
Johnny Red #8- PASS! This final issue was very close to being a “pull” this week, but while I give credit where credit is due, this comic is not something I’d put in my personal collection. This is a war comic through and through, which is why I’m not a fan, but that doesn’t mean this is not a well made comic book. I appreciate how the story focuses back from this extended war flashback to the present day because it provides a reason for understanding the history of WWII from this man’s perspective. The art is harsh and graphic, while the language is what you’d expect in a military situation. Not really my cup of tea, but a successful comic nonetheless.
NVRLND #1- PULL! This is unlike any reimagined fairy tale I’ve ever read, with an original modern twist. Peter is lead singer of The Lost Boys and runs an underground party scene known as Neverland, but that all gets threatened when a drug linked to his raves called Pixie Dust is killing kids. Tiger and Wendy are the teen daughters of the Police Chief and District Attorney, respectively, and the Pirates are a gang lead by the sleazy tattoo artist Hook. Just because this has no real magic to speak of doesn’t mean it isn’t full of that magical spirit. The art isn’t what I would’ve gone with, but the writing is captivating enough to compensate. Be warned there are some mature themes like language and nudity.
Rivers of London: Night Witch #2.5- PASS! This was way more trouble that it was worth to download the comic, if I’m gonna be completely honest. This issue is about a kidnapping and the ransom that has been rigged via magic. The overwhelming majority of this comic is dedicated to police drama that just missed the mark, so to speak. The one cool scene is the escape of a very powerful villain that felt much like the Magneto prison break in X-2. The artist makes the character “Peter” a spitting image of Barack Obama for some weird reason. This was a pretty big let down and isn’t worth your time.
Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man #2- PULL! With Steve Austin on the run from his many enemies, including the O.S.I., what are the odds that those who find him hold the key to restoring his humanity to its fullest? Their revolutionary technology and biological studies may do just that, but Steve must go to Berlin to secure the key to that outcome. What we get is an array of clones, monsters, and the self-proclaimed superior to the Six Million Dollar Man. A really good read, with expressive art and creative concepts that break the mold of the television show without corrupting the essence of it. This comic carries it’s own weight, even if it does retain some of the shows weird sound effects (Ne Ne Ne Ne Ne!)
Sonic Universe #88- PULL! The last Sonic comic I read was a major disappointment, so my expectations were low when approaching this one. Glad to admit I was wrong. This captures the fun and spirit of the Sonic Universe I’ve grown up with, even if Sonic and Tails are absent. There is plenty of cool action scenes with explosions and lasers, a storyline centered on collecting emerald shards, and a worthy villain for our heroes. The art is on point and the characters are true to their origins. Also, was I the only one who got the sexual innuendo on the opening page? That was either bad phrasing or Rouge is a freak. Anyway, this is a pretty awesome comic for the gaming geeks out there, and anyone else really.
Sons of Anarchy Redwood Original #1- PULL! Yet another television show I don’t watch, but a comic I’d happily continue reading. Just because our cast is full of outlaw bikers doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with the same things us regular folks are. Well, that and the thousands of dollars worth of crack cocaine they intend to sell. The characters are identifiable with their TV counterparts without being a carbon copy, while the color scheme uses a variety of palettes based on lighting yet based in realism. Boom Studios did a great job adapting this to a readable monthly comic for fans and newbies alike. Like the show, it has mature themes and language.
Space Battle Lunchtime #4- PULL! Seems like a dorky premise, but Oni Press has an interesting quirky comic in their hands with SBLT. An intergalactic cooking competition with a human woman against many alien chefs is riddled with drama and mystery when Chef Peony must team up with her main competition. The art has a cartoony quality without being absurd and writing isn’t too advanced for kids to enjoy this. It reminds me of the comic Octopus Pie with less mature themes. I enjoyed the unusual choices for competitors and the conflict that arises after the current round. A quick read with no strings attached, you’ll be sure to enjoy it.
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo & Boomerang #1- PULL! Yet another comic riding the coat tails of the movie, but this one is actually pretty good. Two full stories that are very different yet enjoyable in their own rights. The first explores the pyrokinetic gangbanger and his need to go home to protect his turf, while the second involves the bulk of the movie cast of Suicide Squad before breaking off to focus on Boomerang. Each of these are not one-and-done stories, so expect follow-up issues. Both contain interesting new villains and heroes, with great artwork to match. I was pleased with how these characters stood out from their other, more popular teammates, and from their film counterparts.
Symmetry #6- PULL! There’s really nothing in this comic I didn’t like, aside from a lack of humor (which isn’t well suited for this anyway). In a world finally at peace thanks to the intervention of artificial intelligence, Julia and her companions are on a journey to understand how the world became this way, despite numerous obstacles. I love the representation of the African culture, the integration of a benevolent AI, and Matt’s inclusion of a sociological breakdown of the themes discussed in this comic. Art is stunning and futuristic, and the several pages setting up the story is necessary, so I’m glad it was provided.
Trespasser #4 (and Epilogue)- PULL! I’m assuming this is the final issue of a four parter due to the addition of an epilogue and the state of the issue’s ending, but I feel like there is much more story here. The bulk of the comic is about the father of a young daughter who is at the mercy of alien invaders and him pleading to spare her. I love the simplicity of this comic, with the man speaking to beings that may not even understand him, let alone communicate back. The epilogue ties up a loose end and provides bonus material. The art focuses on the rural nature of the comic and the sci-fi elements are exceptional however unoriginal. Never heard of the publisher “Alterna” but a good showing from them.
V-Wars: Shockwaves Prose Novel- TL;DR! I shouldn’t admit this, but I just skimmed this 372 page novel and wasn’t interested enough by what I read to dive deeper. I generally review comics, so switching gears to a novel with no artwork and nearly twenty different writers is just too big an undertaking to juggle around my other commitments. This book reads kind of like World War Z, with many different stories and situations with a common theme, but lacks cohesion due to having so many authors. More like Chicken Soup for the Vampire Soul. Bloody. and sexual, this book surely has appeal for many readers but I am not into it. I just find it strange that IDW would publish this, versus the dozens of publishers who specialize in these genres.
Voracious Volume 1- PULL! This was so good! When a chef in a slump moves back to his childhood home, he inherits his late uncle’s estate, complete with a time travelling suit which he uses to bring back dinosaur meat to serve to unwitting diners! Romance, science fiction, and FRICKIN DINOSAURS! Markisan Naso writes all the characters as relatable and situations believable, despite the fantastic nature of the story. The artist, Jason Muhr, captures both the modern and the prehistoric with equivalent skill and has fun with the craziness of this title. I love that the main character is Native American and the diversity of the cast overall. Definitely check out this trade, as it is arguably the best item in the variety list this week!
Weavers #4- PASS! Four issues into a six part miniseries leaves this reviewer with a ton of unanswered questions. From what I’ve gathered, arachnid-like bugs are controlling people and giving them power at the price of their free will in a world dominated by drugs and crime. This is a very dark comic with supernatural themes, but surprisingly enough, curse words are censored throughout. The artwork is defined by long, angular faces and shadows. I did like the integration of text messaging into the dialogue of the story and some of the spider effects were pretty cool, but I wasn’t fond of the comic as a whole.
Wow! This is the best week yet in Lightning Reviews, despite the very short pull list. I am not counting the somewhat negative review of V-Wars in my ratings because a) it is not a comic book and b) I did not read this in its entirety. That means I gave 16 recommendations of the 19 comic material this week, yielding an incredible
4.2 out of 5 Lightning Bolts.
Keep on the lookout for my advanced reviews of Angel Catbird Volume 1 and Black #1, both of which will be featured on Comic Crusaders in the near future. Also follow the site (@ComicCrusaders) and me (@bamfingbob) for all the latest content and updates. Keep crusading and when all else fails, BAMF!
P.S. Sorry this is so late this week. My sister-in-law’s birthday was this weekend and between kayaking trip and the day at the zoo three hours away, my whole Sunday was spent recuperating. I will try my hardest to have it done by Saturday on #19.