Hey everybody! With Thanksgiving behind us and Black Friday weekend sales underway, the Christmas season is in full swing! AND the Dallas Cowboys are an impressive 10-1! Can you believe it? I sure can’t… but, the one thing that remains constant year round is new comic books every week! So, naturally, my Lightning Reviews are as well! This week has a surprisingly low comic count, possibly due to the holiday weekend, so I’m throwing in a back issue to round it up to twenty comics. I hope you enjoy this week’s article more than you do the next 3 weeks of turkey leftovers!
Bloodshot USA #2- PULL! In my opinion, the first issue of this limited series was better, but you still get a great ensemble comic that has plenty of action and drama. The nanites that made Bloodshot a killing machine are turning all of NYC into a horde of mindless murderers, including those who’ve come to help like Ninjak and Livewire! The Bloodshot Squad Is a fun group, like the Howling Commandos, and there is one scene that is kinda humorous in context. I’m interested to see how everything gets resolved, from Deathmate hopefully seeing redemption to Project Rising Spirit getting their comeuppance. Jeff Lemire once again provides some great writing and Doug Braithwaite does the story justice for the most part. Valiant has been on top of their game lately, with this being no exception.
Civil War II #7- PULL! I’ve heard some people say this was a very blah issue, but I really enjoyed it. Sure, it lacked all the cool cameo characters, big action, and shocking revelations, but I think this is a great lead up to the final issue. Ulysses taps into a different aspect of his abilities by projecting his astral form into the future, where Old Man Logan says the desolate wasteland that was the world is all thanks to Captain Marvel not backing off Tony. Cut to the present where, surprise, Carol is butting into things and Iron Man makes his final stand. I think the writing and art are both just fantastic, humanizing the superhuman in a way that makes empathy inevitable. Plus, Cap and Spidey squaring off is a highlight for me. Get ready for a finale that I am sure will cause a big stir, however it turns out!
Death of X #4- PULL! Now this is how you pull off a twist ending! And the cover art is to die for (Both regular and classic homage to X-Men #94)! Over the course of this series, I’ve bitched and complained about how the art is not great and the writing is far from it, with bad character names and stupid decisions by Scott Summers. Stupid Cyclops ruining everything! Now everything makes sense. Something seemed off since issue one, and now we all know why. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but I will say that I have never been an Emma Frost fan and this comic exposes her as a downright villain (as I’ve always believed). Don’t trust these hoes! Also, we all saw it coming that Alchemy wouldn’t become a full fledged X-Man, but damn they just ruined this guys life! Cold-blooded…
Hellboy and the BPRD 1954: The Unreasoning Beast #1- PULL! This one shot featuring Hellboy and Agent Xiang is concise, yet complete and I appreciate being able to enjoy the character without having to invest in a series, lest I feel out of place. The story builds quite nicely, with a man plagued by a spectral monkey who apparently died in the fire that also took his brother, Robert. As all the pieces come together, the reader can appreciate all the little details and no stone is left unturned by story’s end. The art is great and Chris Roberson impresses as always as writer. Plus, you know how I love monkeys and this does justice to the simian spirit. Highly recommended.
Marvel Holiday Special #1 (1991)- PULL! As I mentioned, the holiday season has officially kicked off so what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to read this 25 year old medley of seasonal stories! I bought this because it has a great classic X-Men tale by Scott Lobdell and Dave Cockrum that I had to have, but every story in this 80 page wonderland is original and true to the Marvel brand. Even dark characters (Ghost Rider and the Punisher) and obscure ones like Captain Ultra get some attention. It rounds out with Captain America, Thor, Spidey, and the Fantastic Four. This is a great addition to my collection and I may find myself singing Merry Mutant Melodies instead of the classic songs! If you’re hunting back issues and come across this gem, pick it up. You won’t regret it.
My Little Pony Friends Forever #34- PULL! The long awaited return of Cheese Sandwich! It should come as no surprise he teams up with Pinkie Pie and that their situation is party related. A house under a magical spell grew legs and gobbled up our guest star during a birthday party for a 10 year old filly, along with some partygoers. They get the house to abduct Pinkie and together, they must work to escape the hustling home. It’s quite a sweet story, with flashbacks throughout the comic explaining why this is happening. Thom Zahler and Agnes Garbowska did a great job on this story, although Pinkie didn’t have the comic awareness I’ve loved in the past. Reading this makes me want to see Weird Al Yankovic reprise his role in the cartoon.
NVRLND #4- PASS! I felt totally ripped off reading this comic! Not only was the bulk of the comic focused on the Darling family and secondary characters, but content didn’t nearly live up to the first three issues. I’ve stated before that the characters suffer from what I call “squish face” because the artist apparently thinks everyone suffers from Down Syndrome, but this still isn’t the worst of it. I feel cheated because the final issue of this limited series didn’t contain an ounce of closure. In fact, it leaves the reader with blue balls, getting us worked up and ready for a happy ending just to be teased and disappointed. The cover states “Everything will be okay in the end…” but the final page finishes by saying “If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Look, if they wanna continue the story, by all means they should; but don’t sell me on a story with a definitive end just to have it end on a cliffhanger. Dick move.
Teen Titans #2- PULL! Turns out, this roster of Teen Titans is not as arbitrary as I suspected. Writer Benjamin Percy does a great job of integrating Damien’s unique backstory and heritage into the basis of the plot and I think it’s a great move to have his evil roots directly attack his new teammates. All the match ups seem a bit too convenient/cliché, but at least the fight scenes are cool! We get a hint of Beast Boy and Kid Flash joking around, but this is a serious comic for the most part. Neves totally kills it on the artistic side of things, portraying all the emotion he can into each facial expression. I have never been a huge Batman fan, but this comic makes me want to dive into Damien’s strange lineage more. I hope this title continues to impress as the story progresses.
Marvel Tsum Tsum #4- PULL! The battle royal commences! With the real Ultron now manipulating Tsum Tsum and the kids with very few options, all seems lost. But alas! The calvary arrives in the form of the real Avengers! It’s Tsum vs hero vs villain vs kids vs more Tsums! Meanwhile, the Collector must wait patiently for the retrieval of his lost package (namely, the stars of the book) and Bert’s mom is stuck with Collector-sitting duty. As I’ve stated many times, this is a kids comic and by that standard, a huge success. It’s fun, action-packed, and full of some of Marvel’s top heroes and villains in their cutest form. Just don’t take it too seriously or you’ll miss out on what makes this marvelous.
Chew #60- PULL! The final issue of the acclaimed series goes out on a very odd note. Much like Deadpool 2099, this is set many years in the future when Tony Chu is an old man and his daughter is now an agent fighting the most sinister of food related crimes. This is a whole new frontier of weird, from a partner who is impervious to harm while on psychotropic drugs, to a villain whose incredible edible powers grow and evolve with each defeat. I loved the first few pages, when Tony bites his fingernails to give a full flashback of his life for himself and the reader. This comic ends with the arrival of aliens on Earth and a huge cliffhanger which leaves the reader wanting more. Congratulations to John Layman and Rob Guillory on their exemplary work on the series.
Dept. H #8- PULL! Matt Kindt writes so wonderfully in this underwater expedition comic that I have a hard time critiquing his art, which I will say works for the story but is a bit sketchy for my tastes. There are four scientists aboard a submarine that is quickly taking on water and two of them must navigate a way to save the others who are trapped in a slowly filling compartment. To pass the time in the watery tomb, the female is told a story about her father, and it is both beautiful and heart-breaking. The story and the escape action are executed in tandem, which I thought was brilliant, even if I separated them page by page after a while. Matt’s wife, Sharlene, is the colorist and her utilization of the basic colors red, blue, and green are simplistic in the best way. If you think it sounds boring, you couldn’t be more wrong.
GI Joe: A Real American Hero #234- PULL! After the last GI Joe comic I read was a let down, this redeemed my opinion at least in part. There still wasn’t a big, military team action scene like I was hoping for, but everything included in the issue was exciting, interesting, and relevant. Bombstrike has some revenge against Black Major, an undercover agent foils a robbery, and a tech operative hacks into Dr. Mindbender’s mainframe. Although there were some artistic oversights like eyeholes on a skull-shaped aircraft’s shadow, I was pleased with the tone of the comic as a human interest piece rather than a high-octane action comic. Quite enjoyable. Also, from the ads, I see IDW is releasing a regular “GI Joe” comic in December, so maybe that will have the team book feel I’ve been expecting…
God Country #1- PULL! My grandmother had late stage Alzheimer’s and I am from West Texas, so this comic hits home for me in several aspects. This comic is a narrative about a family whose grandfather has been slipping more and more since his wife died, but when a terrible storm brings a demon to their doorstep, he is reinvigorated by a magical 12 foot sword that restores his mind and enables him to defeat the interloper. It is written as though this happened long ago and was the beginning of something much bigger, so I have no clue how this will evolve over time, but needless to say I’m intrigued. The art has so much depth, with the complimentary colors playing a major role in that. I loved this comic. Read it and you’ll see why.
The Great Divide #3- PULL! Judged the book by its cover on this one and totally got the wrong impression. This is not a WWE knockoff or a skimpy fighting comic featuring steroid-fueled body builders. No, this is actually about a world that has experienced an event that has rendered everyone illiterate and susceptible to a form of brainwashing. Two of the main characters are trapped in a modern gladiator ring until Maria saves them and they start travelling north. I like that they retain intelligence and ability despite losing the comprehension to read. Overall execution of the book is average to above average, which I consider a success. Plus, brownie points for being meta and including an issue on Vampirella as a bargaining chip within the confines of the story.
Judge Dredd #12- PASS! The very first page was a dead giveaway that I wasn’t going to enjoy this comic. I didn’t read the last issue, but the events are apparent by the grave marker of my favorite character to open the final issue! Already depressed, the story continues to explain why Mega City has disappeared and our young sisters who have been lead by Judge Dredd have a family dilemma to work through if we have any chance of returning the world to how it was before. The pencils are not flawless yet have the proper quality for a Judge Dredd comic, but the colors leave me unimpressed. The final page is a cliché one liner by Judge Dredd, which feels anticlimactic to me. The character is hit or miss, and he’s seen better days in my opinion.
Lumberjanes #32- PULL! To be honest, Lumberjanes has never really appealed to me despite me general acceptance of the crossover with Young Gotham. The art is a bit too cartoony and the premise too teen drama. However, this threw me for a loop that I have to admit was unexpected yet delightful. I had no idea the character Diane was really the Greek goddess Artemis, so jumping into this issue as a mythical party game relay was outta left field. The problem solving, the weird monsters, and the portrayal of Zeus all had me smiling. The final cure for the petrification of various campers was a bit hokey, but honestly, it doesn’t detract from the solid plot and fun style. If you’re gonna catch me off guard, this is how to do it.
Masked: Anomalies #1- PASS! This is another case of me hating on a comic, not because I didn’t think it was poorly done or uninteresting, but because of the false pretenses of the title/cover. After a lengthy flashback about a military combat Catch 22, we are given a glimpse of a modern Paris where technology is being used to spread inescapable propaganda and messages to French citizens. One of the only survivors of aforementioned military situation is located and apparently needed to neutralize “anomalies” plaguing the city. My problem is that, aside for a single panel with a hint of a cape and a shadow, there is not one reference of anything remotely “superhero”, despite every cover featuring one. As a Sci-Fi or Military comic, sure, cool. But I felt I expecting anything about masked heroes and got way disappointed.
Sonic the Hedgehog Book Four: Control- PULL! My first Sonic comic from several months ago threw me for a major loop and I resented it. Why change the high-speed hedgehog into a feral, stretchy armed werehog? Well, it actually works with the greater narrative that I couldn’t appreciate from a single issue (that took place after the events of this trade, fyi). The book focuses on the newfound gift/curse bestowed upon Sonic, who must learn to accept himself and control the beast that he becomes at night. Meanwhile, the Sky Patrol falls into a trap by Dr. Eggman that doesn’t turn out well for our heroes. The gang’s all here, the art and writing are solid, and there are extras in the back for fun. I won’t recant what I’ve said in the past, but in context I realize my previous critique may have been hasty.
Ultimate Spider-Man vs Sinister 6 #5- PASS! I know this is intended for kids and it is based on a television show, but I felt this was fast paced, even for kids with ADD. Marvel must think Spider-Man is not enough to carry a book on his own anymore, because this issue has web warriors like Agent Venom, Iron Spider, and Scarlet Spider as well as Agents Fits and Simmons from the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show and the Heroes for Hire, Iron Fist and Power Man. Plus, for a book titled “Ultimate Spider-Man”, there is very little Miles Morales who I associate most with that moniker. The comic is action-packed, with decent art and writing from the creative team, but this could have been fleshed out way more with exposition and drama. It feels rushed and while this may be a good model for their young demographic, I’m not a fan.
Venom #1- PULL! Spider-Man has always one of my favorite heroes, but I never really jumped on the Venom train. Could be that my first exposure to the character was in Spider-Man 3, but I never found the character that interesting. However, this brand new take on the alien symbiote is well done, supplying proper back story and turmoil to understand why this Venom is a villain. Even so, you can sympathize with Lee and his motivations, being orphaned due to a mutant accident and a (barely) handicapped war veteran with no prospects. Marvel doesn’t water down the content either, aside from language. Venom is just as vicious as ever, killing all who stand in the way of his best interests, including a long time friend. The art is dark and totally suitable for this series, while the writing is fair but did nothing to wow me. This is a good first issue, but was it enough to get me to continue reading? Probably not. Just not invested enough.
A pretty good week, if I do say so! Only four passes out of twenty review makes this week
4 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!
That’s SPARKY! Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) and to check out next week’s review of the upcoming trade of web comics called “ELF” (no affiliation to the Will Ferrell film) that seems pretty good from what I’ve read so far. Now, just a heads up: Next week, my Lightning Review will probably be either late or threadbare (or both) because my employer is having an audit, which means they’re cracking down on “distractions” like reading and phone usage. I’m still planning on writing my article, but my apologies in advance for whatever condition that may be in. Until then, stay safe, warm, and geeky! BAMF!
PS: The Geekery Magazine Kickstarter has been live for over one week and has over $1200 pledged so far! However, it has a long way to go, especially if we wanna hit those stretch goals! Remember, you pay nothing until the goal has been met, so your bank account is safe until year’s end! With rewards like copies of the magazine, signed sketches and pictures of celebrities, and advertising space, it’s a great deal for all you comic fans! Jump on now! CLICK HERE!