HAPPY SEMIVERSARY! Lightning Reviews have run for 26 consecutive weeks, a full half year, so to celebrate, I’m including some interesting extras! For starters, I’ve got the links to my review of the Cincinnati Comic Expo and my interview with Todd Nauck ready to go for those who haven’t read them yet. Next, I’m gonna throw in the link to my very first Lightning Review, so you can see just how far we’ve come! Lastly, since this is my 26th Lightning Review, I’m including 26 comics! I was going to read some back issues and a couple freebies from the convention anyway, so why not? I’m really doing anything for NYCC this weekend, but all the news and teasers have me hyped for the coming year! Valiant! Power Rangers! Defenders! Deadpool the Duck? Anyway, put on half a party hat because this is one to remember!
Champions #1- PULL! This is what I like to see! A great young hero comic, pulling members from all over the place to make a dynamic, experienced team that deals with life’s problems as only teenagers can. I’m not crazy about Humberto Ramos’ work (especially after Extraordinary X-Men), but Mark Waid’s fantastic writing makes up for that. This issue has three different unrelated action scenes, relatable characters, and the beginning of a revolution for the champions of their cause- to rebuild the broken world they’ve inherited. There’s still room for the Teen Titans on my shelf, but after reading this, it isn’t my top young adult team book. Make Mine Marvel!
Deadpool Back in Black #1- PULL! Not an incredibly strong recommendation, but a good read nonetheless. Cullen Bunn weaves a very complex story around something as simple as “Deadpool + symbiote = hijinx” which has its pros and cons. The comic is set in the 80’s right after the first Secret War event (that Deadpool was totally there for) and the comic pulls stylistic cues from that era, including increasingly obnoxious footers spouting comic nonsense. The art was pretty good as well, even if Nightcrawler was excluded from the SW cover throwback. I’m intrigued, though not entirely sold.
Deadpool: Too Soon? Chapter 7- PULL! I love this series! Not only does Todd Nauck make this incredibly fun to explore panel by panel with his kid-friendly art style, but writer Joshua Corin is doing an amazing job on his comic debut, nailing each character’s mannerisms and personality perfectly. I don’t want to spoil anything (which is hard this late in the series), but I will say that just because Nauck’s style has appeal for a younger audience, this is 100% Deadpool- gross, violent, and a bit unhinged. But, you know… in a fun way. The finale drops in a couple weeks, just as the first print comic hits shelves, and I guarantee the trade is going into my collection.
Death of X #1- PASS! An important story for clarification of the events between Secret War and All-New, All-Different, but not very well executed. This tells me Marvel just doesn’t care about X-Men anymore. The story plays out on two separate fronts: the Inhumans in Japan fighting Hydra over new members undergoing Terrigenesis and the X-Men on Muir Island discovering fallen mutants, including Maddox the Multiple Man, after experiencing a cloud. The art just doesn’t live up to the hype and the writing team includes Jeff Lemire, who really disappointed me on Extraordinary X-Men. This deserves better.
Rough Riders #6- PASS! So, I love this series and wish that every issue was of the same caliber, but unfortunately, this one is not. Each of our characters, especially Teddy Roosevelt, experiences visions that skew their reality thanks to an alien parasite in their brains. This brings to light their flaws and fears, from Edison’s betrayal of Nikola Tesla to Houdini’s childhood abandonment. Sure, this builds the characters in a way we haven’t seen until now, but I was honestly fine with what they’ve already provided. There’s some action, but it’s mostly delusion. Art and writing were still on par, but I’m hoping this is just the lull before the grand finale.
Spidey #11- PULL! The title of this story is “Missing out”, and it has several different meanings. Spider-Man is unable to team up with some of Earth’s mightiest heroes fighting Galactus, instead being side-tracked by a rage-fueled Scorpion! Meanwhile, he misses out on a date with Gwen because Flash causes Peter’s test to need retaken. Finally, if you haven’t picked this title up yet, you’re the one missing out because it reminds us why we love the ol’ webhead. Thompson and Stockman are great in their portrayal of both sides of the character. The series ends next issue with a throw down with the Sinister Six, so… don’t miss it!
Uncanny X-Men #29- PULL ! I thought I’d balance out Death of X with a comic I picked up a few weeks ago, a significantly marked down Alex Ross variant from almost two years ago. The cast of Giant-Sized X-Men #1 grace the cover to celebrate Marvel’s 75th Anniversary. The interior story by Bendis and Bachalo is completely unrelated, but is still an extremely well done comic showcasing why these creators worked so well together. At its core, it deals with time travel, coping with being a killer, and a mutant with reality-altering powers that threaten mankind. Definitely a good read.
Army of Darkness/ Xena Warrior Princess: Forever… and a Day #1- PULL! I’m not well versed in either universe, but this was a pretty good crossover between two vastly different franchises. Xena and her dying lover summon Ash as a last resort by ripping a page of the Necronomicon, thus pulling him through time and space to their rescue! Or at least, that would be the case had he arrived at the proper time instead of before their first encounter! The story is kinda hokey, mostly from Ash’s contribution, but the art is decent and the characters are nothing if not true to themselves.
Blood and Dust #3- PASS! This is not a bad comic in some respects, but I personally wasn’t a fan of this. Maybe if there had been a short recap to set up the issue, I could appreciate it more but I just have so many questions about the mother! Basically, a swamp monster is sucking the life force out of a boy and his Grandfather, so his siblings must free their demonic (I think) mother from captivity to save them. What commences is a monster fighting vines until things get worse and the monster catches fire. All but the Swamp Thing survives, but the mother flees into the village, another threat to be stopped. Art is very scary, but the concept just wasn’t for me.
Cannibal #1- PASS! The concept of this comic is that a virus is making people hunger for human flesh, while retaining their humanity entirely, including remorse for their killing. Interesting, but I feel like that the premise isn’t driven home hard enough. Set in a small southern town, the real story is about the people coping with the outbreak. This may be a slow reveal into a much larger problem, but I was more interested in the man who murdered a 14-year-old busboy than anyone else. The art feels kinda like Southern Bastards, which I have no complaints with. Just needs more blood and guts, less talking.
Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Ongoing #6- PULL! This incarnation of the Doctor isn’t my favorite, but that doesn’t matter when the story is good. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for giant monsters and gargoyles. I could do without all the government garbage with the Unit and all, but everything else is top notch. Normally I’m thrown off by time travel paradoxes and alien species and other Whovian lore, but I totally get rampaging monsters and the villains who control them. The art does them justice too, blending artistic license with real life models. Just plain cool.
Dungeons and Dragons #5- PULL! Ending the “Shadow of the Vampire” story, I found this issue to be almost entirely action and very little plot. I really liked Strahd, Lord of Ravenloft, whose prowess as a vampire proves too powerful for our heroes to overcome. Usually, I frown upon books with such little plot progression, but the fighting is dynamic and shifts focus regularly, keeping the reader invested. The ending also sets up the next D&D series “Frost Giant’s Fury” nicely, but leaves this one unfinished. This is frustrating as a reader, but at least keeps the door open for further development.
The Flintstones #4- PULL! It’s ironic that a comic about cavemen is so progressive! This comic is mostly about the “new” concept of monogamy and marriage, and how weird the idea seems. In addition to that, animal domestication/utilization and gay marriage are also prominent topics. By looking at these institutions from a different point of views, we can really gain so insight. What makes this even better is the humor, affection, and modern references thrown into a classic cartoon. When they announced the new Hanna Barbera comic line from DC, I suspected this would be my favorite and I was right.
Grimm Tales of Terror #13- PASS! For as much build up as this comic offered, the final result was not near as scary as it should have been. It’s about this artist whose bully classmate is much more successful. He reveals after some drinks that his secret is the entrance to Hell in the tunnels beneath his house and that he uses real demons for the models for his frightful paintings. Backfires when they eat him and the starving artist assumes his place. A good story with okay art, but nothing about this was enough to stir any fear or terror, which means it failed to live up to its namesake.
Harley Quinn #5- PULL! This may be the beginning of a very interesting arc for Harley. In order to stop a punk rock band that has been moonlighting as thieves, she must assemble her own merry band of misfits to form their own rock group to infiltrate their ranks and take them down from the inside. That means the pigtails are being traded in for a mohawk (with strange Rabbi sideburns)! Red Tool has an interesting subplot and the best line in the comic. Added drama from the fact the criminal rock stars have acquired a token of affection from the Joker intended for Harley, so it’s sure to get interesting real fast. Good showing with both art and writing on this one. Great jump off point for new readers.
Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me #2- PULL! This, on the other hand, was very suspenseful and chilling. A small town cop commits a double homicide and sets it up to look like a lover’s quarrel, but things don’t turn out as flawless as he’d planned. The mental methodology of the killer is straightforward and completely logical, making the reader root for the “bad guy”. I love the sub cover by Robert Hack, I totally dig the art style, and the relatable murderer reminds me of Dexter, in a way. I’m very surprised the fact this is an IDW book, rather than an edgier publisher.
He-Man/ Thundercats #1- PULL! While I have a much closer relationship with the characters of the last crossover with art by Freddie Williams II, this one blows Batman/TMNT #1 out of the water! DC and Boom! Studios have done it again, this time blending two beloved action cartoons of the 1980’s into a very logical and well thought-out plot by the villains of the respective universes to defeat our heroes! This first issue is full of action and lore, with some moments building character and a couple jokes. Writing and art both get extremely high marks, and the nostalgia will overwhelm any fan to pick this up.
Lord of Gore (Preview)- PASS! So, while at Cincinnati Comic Expo, the folks at Devil’s Due gave me this as a precursor to the comic coming in October, but honestly I wouldn’t invest in it if the quality and story continue this route. It’s a murder mystery revolving around a fictitious film franchise called Lord of Gore, based on cheesy cult classics of the 70s and 80s. The preview is a lot of back story and history of the films, but has little to do with the comic from what I’ve gathered, except maybe to set the stage. If you dig this sort of thing, check it out, but I won’t be.
Mix Tape 2016- PULL! Also a freebie from the Devil’s Due table, this is a sampler they put out on Free Comic Book Day this year and I really liked a couple of the comics provided. While Badger fighting Vladmir Putin was kinda weird and “How to Dragon Your Train” was even stranger, Mercy Sparx Year One and Squarriors were both really fun to read. One deals with a little devil girl in a monster world and owning it, and the other is exactly as it sounds: squirrel warriors. As with most samplers, you take the good with the bad, and this one delivers on the good. Check those two out.
My Little Pony: Crystal Empire- PULL! If you are unable to watch My Little Pony Friendship is Magic on television or Netflix, and would like to appreciate the stories contained in that series, this graphic novel is the way to go! The Crystal Empire is a two-episode arc that opened season 3 of the popular children’s show, and is converted into comic form for the first time. Twilight Sparkle and Spike must retrieve the Crystal Heart to the kingdom to bring its residents back to their rightful condition, but can they pass the test put forth and defeat King Sombra? It’s a good story, no matter how you consume it.
No Mercy #10- PASS! I honestly hove no idea what is happening in this comic. The story jumps around many different locales and characters that are unrelated, from my perspective anyway, and no matter how good these snippets are, the lack of cohesion makes flow hard to achieve. I can admit the bit in the middle about a guy tripping major balls after overdosing on mushrooms was entertaining and the fact that the writer added a footnote stating “Selena Gomez > Demi Lovato. FIGHT US!” just made my day. The coloring lacks vibrance, but the art is reasonably good. The plot just felt jumpy and hard to follow, so it’s a no from me.
Ragnarok #10- PULL! Okay, so I figured it out. This comic is nothing like Marvel’s Thor by Walter Simonson and by comparing the two will leave this title wanting. However, if you think of Ragnarok as something completely different, with little in common with the popular hero, you can appreciate this for its unique art and story. Thor’s appearance is still very off-putting to me, but at least his personality is not so, offering kindness, insight, and vengeance appropriately. Had I not had the first acquaintance with the title last month, I probably would have told you to skip this title. Consider it an acquired taste and you may really enjoy it.
Red One #4- PULL! Though I wasn’t as keen on this issue as I was the last, the spirit of the story and characters are firmly intact, making it a home run once again. Dorison and the Dodsons have such a fun, mature concept that I am all for. A Russian spy becomes a public superhero to influence political happening in Soviet favor, while also campaigning for a pornographic spoof of a film that has spawned a religious cult. It’s sexy, dangerous, and thought-provoking. This series operates under a “book-a-year” format, so we won’t see the next installment until next year; disappointing yet a good chance to clear our palette until then.
Rise of the Black Flame #2- PULL! While I’m slightly disappointed this wasn’t a pirate story (judging by the cover art), I am far from disappointed in this comic. A group of explorers venture into the jungles of Burma to find a tribal cult that has been kidnapping young British girls for rituals of dark magic. The German guide is especially interesting to me, but the mixed team dynamic is great for storytelling. The art is definitely right for Dark Horse and with Mignola and Roberson writing, you have a certain expectation of quality which, by the way, they meet. The dead animals scene was very creepy. Enjoy this BPRD feel without actually investing in that universe.
The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #5- PASS! I don’t know much about the Shadow, but if this comic is any indication, I’d rather not explore it further. The daughter of our hero’s deceased enemy has seemingly brought the Shadow’s lover back from the dead and has brainwashed her into killing him. Matt Wagner, the writer/artist of this title, just rubbed me the wrong way in several aspects of his work. The art lacks any appeal in character design, making otherwise normal or attractive people look ugly. Also, the theme of mind control stretches into relationship abuse, which is good to discuss but a touchy subject nonetheless.
Skyward Volume 2- PULL! The second of three volumes gifted to me by Kelly Dale at CCE, this is another great set of comics. In these comics we are introduced to many new, interesting characters including Rom, Mia, Skerrigan the assassin, and a tribe of warrior hares known as Rabites. These comics contain great coming-of-age stories for several protagonists, from coping with loss to feelings of inferiority, not to mention unrequited love. Not a very humorous series, but incredibly fun to read. Dale nails the fantasy elements without laying them on too strong, instead building upon the characters at every opportunity.
Eighteen of these 26 were worthy of my praise, giving a rating of
3.5 out of 5 Lightning Bolts
A score deserving of the rank SPARKY! I just wanted to take a moment a thank every one of you who tune in every weekend for my opinions and input. Whether this is your first time (Hi Mom!) or your 26th, I appreciate your support. It can be stressful meeting my own self-imposed deadlines and frustrating for my wife when I just gotta get it done by a certain time, but I do it because I love it and I love the feedback you give me. I hope I’m still doing this on week 52, but forgive me if I take a week or two off. I’m only human (or am I?). Follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) as well as @ComicCrusaders who posts all my content and way more. Check out the links below for extra goodness. And as always, keep on BAMFing!
P.S. There was a review of Autumnlands #13 that posted on our site this week that got a ton of attention and criticism on Twitter, making tensions high and content creators upsets. I threw in my two cents, meaning no harm and/or disrespect, and got my share of backlash. While I do apologize if anyone was offended by my comments, I would also like to point out that our job is not to cater to the egos of publishers or creators. If we do not like a comic, or any aspect of such, our team makes a point to share that with our readers. This is very apparent in all of my posted content, and that of the CC team. Sometimes the honesty we pride ourselves on can be blunt (and yes, even rude) but it is oftentimes very complimentary to those making creative decisions. Unless a reviewer crosses a line that is totally unacceptable, I support the assessments of the CC team as they are all very capable writers. However, I also welcome feedback from readers (as have mentioned in numerous Lightning Reviews in the past), so please feel free to create a dialogue with me about my content. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff, regardless of its reception, and I hope my transparency is well received.