Welcome one and all to the FINAL Lightning Review of 2016! That’s right, next week I will be taking my first every week off to travel and enjoy the holidays with my family, so this is the last you’ll see of me until the new year! While the year as a whole has been sub par in most areas of my life, I am glad the material I’ve read and reviewed for Comic Crusaders has been very enjoyable on the whole. This week’s Pick List is relatively small because of the holiday season, but rest assured my next one will be JAM PACKED! Enjoy everybody!
Alters #3- PULL! After an attack by Matter Man, one of the members of the Gateway Army has been critically injured and Chalice, our main character, feels responsible. However, when a new “alteration” starts to emerge, it is a tug of war between alliances for who claims the powerful youth for their side. The superhero aspect of this comic is great and all, but for me the real reason to pick this up is Charlie aka Chalice. If you’ve kept up with my weekly articles for a while, you will know she is a trans woman who is still closeted and must also deal with her emerging powers. This issue has some amazing moments with her struggling to open up to her loved ones, and I felt so included in these moments. Her disabled brother in particular is a wonderful character profile and I’m glad Paul Jenkins included him. For a full review by Andy Hall, CLICK HERE!
Animosity #4- PULL! War is never something to take lightly and even though this is a comic about talking animals, this is far from Looney Toons. Sandor and his 10-year-old charge Jesse are caught in the middle of a conflict where animals and humans struggle to reach a balance in the new society after the Wake. Even though there are turtles with rocket launchers and wolves with bear trap muzzles, my fixation with Animosity is the relationship between our two main characters. Jesse never exhibits any ownership or superiority to her bloodhound and Sandor protects her as though she were his everything, because she is. The opening scene is a discussion about whether love preceded intelligence or vise versa, which sets up the comic beautifully. This title is taking a short break, but Marguerite and Rafael will be back in no time! Also, congratulations to Aftershock on their first anniversary! They’ve published many wonderful titles with no sign of slowing down. You ROCK!
Bloodshot USA #3- PASS! The concept of this limited series – a world overrun by Bloodshots- is a great read with many moving parts, but this issue was less about the action and excitement I’ve come to expect from it. Instead, Ray and Kay (formerly Deathmate) are stuck inside their own heads after an attempt to restore Kay to her old self. The majority of the comic turns into Bloodshot Babies, with the two reverting to young childhood and having to solve their problem in that state. Granted, Kid Bloodshot is something I never thought I needed until now, I felt the momentum of this issue slowed significantly for the sake of story. I feel like the finale is going to finish with all sorts of excitement, but this issue just acted as a primer, which I’m considering as such.
Ether #2- PULL! Once again, Ether blends the scientific with the fantastic and I am digging this big time. Boone is a discredited visionary who travels between Earth and Ether, a magical dimension where their champion has been murdered by a seemingly sentient bullet. Along with a large purple apelike guardian of the Ether, Boone journeys to locate the man who made the bullet and learns some of the history of the Blaze. The art is full of beauty and color, but I find the segments about his home life to be just as vivid as the Ether is, but in different ways. Matt Kindt is doing a great job building the world, from unique modes of transport to interesting characters. Boone is still the most interesting though and as the plot thickens, so does my admiration for this comic.
Harbinger Renegades #2- PULL! That first issue was a tough act to follow, but I am so glad I got some clarification on the prologue that felt so out-of-place for me. You truly can’t appreciate this comic without reading the first, even though the introductory page does help. A former advisor of Harada is creating his own army of psiots and the former Renegades feel responsible for associated teen deaths yet are reluctant to enter the fray once again. This comic is just great, both in the diverse cast developments and the art by Darick Robertson (who didn’t draw much Faith, thank goodness). Rafer Roberts is doing great as well, and this series is a delight to read. For the Tag Team Review I contributed to for the first issue, CLICK HERE!
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #49- PULL! With Discord now transformed into Accord, Ponyville and all of Equestria is at the mercy of the bringer of ultimate order via mind control! While most of the ponies flee his orderlies (badum chh!), Princesses Luna and Twilight Sparkle enter Accord’s mind in hopes of reawakening Discord’s persona and ending the chaos, or lack thereof. What they find is a bland, endless block of cubicles and the only way to restore Discord is for his other self to wish it so. Andy Price and Ted Anderson are doing a great job on one of my favorite characters from the pop culture phenomenon, and I especially appreciate Price’s little artistic touches like making Fluttershy run while Rainbow Dash carries Pinkie Pie, who assumes the Superman “flying” position. Next issue is the big 50th, so I’m hoping for plenty of extras and an outstanding finish to this arc!
Power Man and Iron Fist Sweet Christmas Annual #1- PULL! What this comic did right outshines what I wasn’t a fan of and that’s probably the best way to put it. I didn’t hate this comic, but the art didn’t jingle my bells and the superhero sayings were hokey as ever. Coming from Power Man, that’s saying something. However, this comic made a point to include Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, but focused in the Christmas toy market. In this annual, Krampus uses popular toys to attack everyone on Christmas, but Damien Hellstrom is there to cut off the assault! I also enjoyed the fact that Danny and Luke just happen to be at the right place at the right time (as well as Spider-Woman). The assault is widespread, so we get to see heroes like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man fighting as well, so it works as a big Special, but focused on the Heroes for Hire. Not bad, not bad…
Back to the Future #15- PULL! Man, talk about an identity crisis! After Marty has a very hard time dealing with who he is or was or could have been according to time travel and confiding in a scientist claiming to be aligned with Dr. Emmett Brown, our Marty is attack by several duplicates of himself! Doc Brown arrives in the proverbial nick of time, to discover Professor Irving’s engineering prowess extends beyond flux capacitors! Nothing can stand up to the original trilogy, I know that, but IDW is doing a great job bringing the reader new and original stories within the BTTF universe. While the art is not how I would have envisioned it, I can’t hate on the decisions made here. I hope the arc ends next issue cuz I’m dying for a scientist showdown! My money’s on Doc!
Dead Inside #1- PULL! Two men are found dead inside a prison and Detective Linda Caruso is on the case! But while everyone is all too quick to call an open and shut murder-suicide, Caruso sees more that could prove to mean much more. I do not like this artwork, mainly due to how some characters are drawn with shadowing that makes them look like burn victims, but the general idea comes across well enough. What sets this above the rest is the writing courtesy of John Arcudi. He totally sells the main character and in a single issue, I feel like I know her better than many mainstream comic characters. Her motivations, flaws, and hopes are all laid out on the page. It’s both relatable and believable, yet a situation most will never even come close to. I will happily look past any artistic flaw to read more of this story.
Festive Thrillpower! 2016- PULL! An exclusive holiday special for Thrillmail subscribers, 2000 AD has compiled some of their best Christmas comics from the past few years in one place for your reading pleasure. I’ve had my criticisms of Judge Dredd and other content by this publisher in the past, but this is a solid entry of dark holiday comics from assassinating Santas to demented TV specials, snowmen that steal and severed hands taking revenge, and even a showdown between Old Saint Nick and a goblin-type character called Stickleback. Many stories play off of existing carols and tales of the holidays, but the resemblance ends at rhymes. Not every comic was a winner for me, but this is definitely representative of what 2000 AD has to offer this Christmas.
Green Hornet: Reign of the Demon #1- PULL! Aside from the hornet logo on the mask which I’ve always hated, this was a surprisingly good comic. My opinion of the Green Hornet has improved significantly due to this comic for two reasons: first, our “heroes” repeatedly iterate that they are not heroic and should not be considered as such, but rather an enemy of the real enemy, a new masked crime lord called Demone. Secondly, a new mayor has come to Chicago and the whole issue has the reader questioning his loyalty and involvement in the crime world. However, by the end there is really no question and I absolutely love the last page. Green Hornet is still a poor man’s caped crusader, in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean shit because I enjoyed this comic more than I enjoy many Batman comics.
Hero Cats #14- PASS! The best parts about this comic had little to no involvement by the Hero Cats and that is a real disappointment. Even more so is that only two cats, Midnight and Rocket, are featured and play second fiddle to Cosmic Girl who almost single-handedly take down Mr. Crook and his murder robots. She kicks butt, has a high-speed chase, and saves the day while the Hero Cats literally just reprogram a broken bot and hijack another to free some hostage cops. They are the sidekick of their own freaking book. Sad thing is, I liked reading this. The D-bot is super cute and for a kids comic, the action is acceptable (even if there is next to no humor) but for heaven’s sake, don’t sell Hero Cats and deliver Cosmic Girl. Classic bait and switch. Not cool.
Homies: A David Gonzales Retrospective- PULL! Full disclosure, I did not read this cover to cover, but hear me out. This is a collectable, coffee table book that is over 275 pages long and includes a history of the Homies franchise, early artwork and comics for Low Rider magazine, and a ton of pictures of merchandise, as well as a “Character Bible” of every Homie and a short bio. I hail from a predominantly Hispanic area of the country, so Homies were everywhere and yes, I had some of the vending machine figurines. I’m sure Gonzales’ retrospective is insightful and well written, but the real reason to get this is all the wonderful pictures to browse through and reminisce over. The $35 pricetag is a bit expensive, but is still a great gift for fans of the Chicano cartoons.
Invader Zim #16- PASS! The idea of this comic is not terrible: Zim gets scared by Dib, so he tries everything he can to scare him back to no avail until everything backfires. However, both the show and the comic fail to impress me in any way. The art is consistent with that of the show, as is the writing; too bad I don’t like any of it, lol. I feel like the whole comic is a constant scream of stupidity and the amount of dialogue in the issue could comfortably fill a graphic novel. For a “kids” comic, the reading involved on many pages is incredibly dense, as I assume the readership is as well. I can say it is a very busy comic, so at least there is plenty to take in, but if I’d rather consume nothing than a load of garbage. And for the record, Recap Kid is pointless and poorly done in every damn issue.
Klaus and the Witch of Winter #1- PULL! Unconventional, sure, but this is one-shot offers a great Christmas story just in time for December 25th. Santa Klaus, who had a good story over five issues last winter, comes to the aide of a man whose children are abducted by the evil Witch of Winter. He and his allies Lolli the wolf, Gepetto, and his creations must fight against the coldness that is being spread to the hearts of her foes. The art isn’t joyful, with bright toy soldiers and gingerbread men, but instead taps into the gritty, primitive feel Klaus had. I like that our hero is a holiday Hercules that is fierce yet full of joy in his mission to save all who threaten Christmas cheer. Grant Morrison writes and Dan Mora does the art, both doing excellent work. I also recommend you check out the Klaus trade paperback this Christmas.
Peter Panzerfaust #25- PULL! Everyone knows I’m a sucker for fairy tales and classic children’s fiction like the Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan, so this was a delight for me to read. Even missing the first couple dozen issues, I immediately felt encapsulated by the story woven by author Kurtis J. Wiebe. The son of WWII hero Peter Panzerfaust is on an investigative mission to find his long-lost father through talking to his cohorts. The art has a wonderfully light quality to it and feels refreshing in today’s comic culture. Blending Peter Pan into historical fiction is no easy feat, but it’s done flawlessly. I do not know if this is the final issue or not, but it could easily conclude the title and there would be no complaints. I was expecting a let down, but this was just amazing. I’d read the trades if given the opportunity. Check it out.
Silver Surfer #8- PULL! The plot of this comic was fairly weak, but the art by Michael and Laura Allred and the tales of Tiny Harold are just fantastic. No way I could tell you to pass this up. Swallowed by a space whale, Dawn and the Surfer encounter miniature beings that act as antibodies for another small race that, if released, could wipe out a galaxy. Dawn distracts them all be telling stories of Tindly Hardlesnop (aka Harold) who has been instrumental to the success of the Silver Surfer. These stories by Dan Slott (Spider-Man) are just great, with meaning and substance. The artwork is just to die for to, with bold cosmic colors and a style that emphasizes each character’s features wonderfully. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this much, by these short order tall tales are just what I needed from this comic.
Solo #3- PASS! Look y’all, Mercs for Money was an okay idea. I like the Foolkiller and Slapstick spinoff series well enough. But I just feel like this is an unnecessary title. Solo is a gun for hire who is the real reason Deadpool got famous (spoiler) but now is doing side projects for S.H.I.E.L.D. under the direction of Dum Dum Dugan. His task to extract an agent turns into a chance to play with gadgets and turn of large gunrunning operation against itself when the agent in question dies. Solo does very little in this aside from use an image inducer to fool some bruisers into killing each other. And why Dum Dum Dugan? Gotta pull from the bench on this type of series I guess. Nothing against the creative team though. Is Solo a cool character? Sure, in the right situation. Does he deserve an ongoing Marvel title? Heck no!
Spirit Hunters #2- PULL! Rollercoasters? Check. Malevolent ghosts? Check. Twist ending? Check! I was very pleased with this comic about a group of paranormal investigators (minus the camera crews) traveling across the country solving cases involving the unknown. Much like Scooby Doo, the cases are different on a comic to comic basis, so I can’t vouch for the series as a whole, but I really liked this one since it is about a traveling carnival. Not only did we see some cool scary moments involving popular attractions, but many carny stereotypes are used that showed how misunderstood those workers are. It has a great story with art to match and a crew that has chemistry. My only beef is that the ghost story was more believable to me than a traveling circus assembling a full rollercoaster (with a loopty loop) on a regular basis. Loved the comic though. For a full review by Kittie Pop, CLICK HERE!
[SIDE NOTE: Having a BS in Mechanical Engineering, I love analyzing things like this in comics. Plausibility of tech and machinery and whatnot. I also aspire to become an engineer at a theme park/attraction, so if you know of anyone looking for entry-level engineers, please let me know or pass my resume along. I can get it for you. Especially interested in California, Florida, and the southeast US with a focus on nuclear power and thrill rides. Thanks!]
Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron #3- PULL! Entering this comic with absolutely zero idea of what to expect, I was hesitant considering the seemingly complex backstory on the intro page. However, the comic is full of action and cool, sci-fi characters/themes that I found very entertaining. Sure, most of the plot was out of context and over my head, but it does justice blending a monarchal governing atmosphere with futuristic war. Space battles, mechanical suits, and a gallery of rogues that feel like they came here straight from eighties cartoons, I found very little to criticize given my limited knowledge. They waste little time on strategy and discussion, instead loading the comic with some amazing action sequences. Pick this up for cool explosions and stuff.
World War X #1- PULL! A strange take on alien invasion, WWX is a comic about sleeper aliens who awaken around the globe (and a moon base) just too late to do anything about. The only scientist smart enough to try to seize and desist is arrested by the government and locked away. I love the storytelling structure, as the narrative cuts from location to location in a fairly chronological fashion as the elements unfold. There are also flashbacks to previous eras and empires that were destroyed by these extraterrestrials who look surprisingly like Xenomorphs. It is only set on February 2017, so everything feels modern and plausible, making this all the more unnerving. And what’s with that Helius guy? I would pick up the next issue, for sure.
The X-Files X-Mas Special 2016- PULL! A little before my time, I never watched more than an occasional rerun of X-Files, but this comic does a great job of setting the scene, establishing characters, and providing a holiday story with alien/unexplained material integrated in. Agent Molder is the focus of this interpretation of A Christmas Carol, with only minimal inclusion of Agent Scully. A strange woman puts on a Holiday Pageant with the lyrics commercialized and Molder discovers how dangerous the situation really is while also revisiting the last Christmas with his abducted sister Samantha. I liked how the commercial aspect of the season is a plot point and reflects many viewpoints I’ve seen in regards to Christmas. A unique direction for this comic that remained within the parameters of X-Files without resorting to goofiness.
So, with 18 of 22 comics getting the Bamfing Bob seal of approval, 2016 ends with a weekly rating of 4.1 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!
SPARKY! So, as I said, next week is a down week, but my fairly long Pick List released December 28th will be included in Lightning Review #38 the first week of January. This includes a New Year’s Eve Special, a couple more Christmas issues, and the end of Civil War II! You do NOT want to miss out! Look everyone, I’ve enjoyed doing this and will continue to do so. Thank you so much for your readership and support, and thanks to Comic Crusaders for making this all possible. Follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) and check out the rest of the site! I wrote this on Christmas Eve, so I hope everyone has an amazing holiday, from Hanukkah to Christmas and into the New Year. God bless us, everyone! And until 2017, bye and BAMF!