Lightning Review #41

It’s that time again for the weekly Lightning Review, where all the comics I read are compacted into one easy-to-digest article! That is, if you don’t mind digesting a lot all at once. This week was loaded with comics that I requested in my pick list. In fact, it may be my biggest stack yet! First issues, final issues, one shots, and everything in between! Also, this week saw the premiere of Riverdale on the CW, based on Archie comics, and a teaser for an upcoming Avengers game by SquareEnix. What a time to be a comic book fan! Without any more delay…… BEGIN!

PICK LIST

Animosity: The Rise #1- PULL! Like “Fear the Walking Dead” on AMC, this title acts as a spin-off title of the wildly popular comic by Aftershock, only focusing on different characters on the other side of the country. Still written by Marguerite Bennett, this story follows Adam North and others that have proven kind to animals during the Wake as they try to form a new society where all beasts can coexist. Juan Doe does the art and complements the events taking place very well. From a seaside massacre to being watched in the dark by a giant bat, each scene grips the reader much like Animosity does. I thought this was truly a One Shot, but it looks like there is much more story to be told. Well, I’m down. Both Animosity and The Rise play to the same audience, so if you like one, be sure to check out the other.

Back to the Future: Biff to the Future #1- PULL! In short, I loved this comic. I have always felt that Biff getting the Sports Almanac in Back to the Future Part 2 was a great device for creating an alternate timeline, and that it could have been a spinoff all on its own. Well, now thanks to IDW and the magic of comic books, fans can see what really happened to Biff back in 1955 after old man Tannen travels back and gifts his younger self with fame and fortune. This first issue covers the basics of how things set in motion, which includes murder and fake documents and a few “buttheads”. Alan Robinson’s art isn’t exactly top shelf material, but it’s passable in a comic where story is most important. Bob Gale and Derek Fridolfs excel in that area. Can’t wait to see what happens when Biff hits Hollywood next ish.

Bloodshot USA #4- PULL! Even though last issue was a dud for me, this finale to the four-part event hits all the right notes. Even though it does slightly utilize the kid version of Deathmate, it mostly picks up where #2 left off. The Bloodshot Squad is trying to suck the nanites out of afflicted citizens while Ninjak is fighting a hoard of them to no avail. Bloodshot does all he can as one of their number dies, but it is Kay (aka Deathmate) who must save the day in a Dark Phoenix-like display. By the end, everything seems to work out for the best (aside from Project Rising Spirit getting away with it). Heck, even Ray and Magic and even their dog seem to get a happily ever after, for now anyway. Jeff Lemire and Doug Braithwaite do an amazing job on this and I’m interested to see how it moves forward from here.

Deadpool #25- PASS! I don’t think I’ve liked a single installment of “Deadpool 2099” so I’m glad this is the last on, for now anyway. 82 years in the future, Deadpool’s daughter with Shiklah is hellbent on finding her mother and killing Wade, but she’ll have to go through Agent Preston, the Immortal Iron Fist,  and Ellie (who is a mutant also going by her dad’s moniker). I am not a fan of Scott Koblish’s art in this, nor do I like Gerry Duggan’s futuristic story. The only good to come from this is the insight as to what is happening in the present. We find out what Ellie’s power is, the fate of Shiklah, and some hints as to why everything goes wrong in our near future. Probably going to be relevant during Monsters Unleashed or the upcoming “Till Death Do Us” arc involving Deadpool and Shiklah’s marriage. Regardless, I still didn’t like the comic.

Extraordinary X-Men #18- PULL! This title seems to be handling the event tie-ins perfectly. Last month had a secondary story with a focus on Storm preparing for war and this one has a character study on Forge, one of the most underrated and underappreciated X-Men. Only four characters in this entire comic: Storm and Cerebra are planning their assault on New Attilan while Logan and Forge transport a machine to Alberta that will eliminate the Terrigen cloud before it disperses worldwide. We get to see what Old Man Logan’s timeline held for his version of Forge and the relationship Ororo had with Forge is also addressed. It’s a great tie-in because there is nothing essential to the big picture of IvX that a reader would be missing, yet 100% of this comic relates directly to the event. The mainstream will probably skip over this, but I really enjoyed the intimacy that has been missing from the X-Men lately. Also, that cover art is so freaking good!

Hellchild the Unholy #3- PULL! For a half-vampire daughter of Hades, this badass chick sure does like playing the hero! With the spirit of a reptilian tyrant finding its way into a proper host, what should have been an easy $100,000 job turns into a real pain in the neck. She needs the money from her benefactor Jezebel since she’s on the verge of eviction, but Hellchild keeps getting strung along. I really like this comic because it is about an anti-hero whose motivations are always in flux, much like many of the popular heroes today like Suicide Squad and Deadpool. The art by Renzo Rodriguez is quite gory and nails every demonic aspect. Only two issues left for this title, and by the looks of it we are going to see Hellchild’s true nature reveal itself as she must make some tough choices. Can’t wait!

Inhumans vs X-Men #3- PULL! Well, if it seemed the X-Men had the upper hand up until now, this is the issue where we begin to see the crack in their plan, literally and figuratively. The battle is waged on many fronts, most of which focus on strategy than power. Karnak tries to find the flaws in his uncanny prison, the Royals need to escape Limbo, the mutants need to regroup and execute their plan, and Ms. Marvel must assemble as many Inhumans as possible to fight back. Oh, and Logan gets roasted from the inside out by Inferno, which was pretty damn awesome. It sounds cluttered, but the story is structured in a way that doesn’t feel too cluttered or rushed. It is easy to see each campaign’s point of view, but I do hope the X-Men “win”. From solicits for the spring though, we all know that both races end up just fine in the end…

Justice League vs Suicide Squad #6- PULL! Great ending to a unique and exciting crossover event. Once the Heart of Darkness diamond fully transforms Max Lord into Eclipso, he is able to snuff out any light inside those he can control and release their darkest desires. This includes almost all of our heroes, villains, and reluctant heroes. It is up to Batman, Lobo, and Killer Frost to rally together and save the day using Superman’s power to their advantage. We also see Max and Waller discuss the cause of the whole situation and the beginnings of the new Justice League of America, led by Batman, which I totally intend on reading. Creative team of Williamson, Porter, and Sinclair did an excellent job on this. You know I’m a Marvel fanboy and that won’t change, but I really wish they would adopt DC’s ideology concerning events and crossovers. Less is more, and in this case the more, the merrier.

My Little Pony Friends Forever #36- PULL! Rainbow Dash is my favorite pony, as can be proven by several pieces of merchandise including a pair of giant Rainbow Dash footie pajamas. #BRONY. So I was quite pleased that the fastest flier is featured in the rescue of fellow Wonder Bolt, Soarin, who has taken it upon himself to run deliveries for Mount Everhoof to prove his mettle. The comic is mostly full of pegasi doing some awesome and dangerous flying stunts in a snow storm, and Tony Fleecs draws them perfectly, with Heather Breckel’s colors never-failing to impress me. All the ponies make a brief appearance, but we all know who star is. It’s not a very deep issue, but Christina Rice accomplishes her goal of an entertaining story.

Reborn #4- PULL! Frosty’s revenge! Heh, there’s a tagline for ya. So, Bonnie and her father are all  surrounded by an army of brutes including a 30 foot ogre, but her extreme fighting skills kick in and she straight up mows them down. Her faith in people leads her astray though and she confronts not only the terrible Il Mago and his wife Ruby, but also her pet cat (General Frost aka Frosty) from years past whose vendetta about getting fixed has only increased in the afterlife. Mark Millar is a master storyteller who is in a league of his own when it comes to original comics. (Side Note: I found all seven issues of Superior in a bargain box for 50 cents a piece, so I’ll read that soon enough if I ever catch up with my self-inflicted workload from Comic Crusaders). The art by Greg Capullo is as good as ever, as anyone who has seen the final page of this issue can confirm. Fantasy at its’ finest.

Savage #3- PULL! There are so many good things about this comic that I have a hard time believing anyone could dislike it. Told as a series of present events and flashbacks that cooperate to build an evolving narrative, Kev is a child who has adapted to an environment that blends a prehistoric jungle with the dangers of being hunted by a biker gang. It sounds strange, but it’s really good. This issue also introduces the element of portals, which would explain why modern elements are appearing on a deserted island. It also give me hope that maybe this Savage character could appear in the regular Valiant universe, rather than be confined to this four issue series. He could be one of their new mainstays in the same vein as Ka-Zar, Turok, and other wild warriors. B. Clay Moore weaves a comic that utilizes a different artistic team for both past and present, each of which does a killer job. Jump on it.

Space Battle Lunchtime #8- PULL! Not the ending I was expecting, but the ending that is fitting for sure. After all the near misses, sabotages, and hiccups, the final round of SBLT is finally underway between Peony and Melonhead as they prepare a signature dish… in zero gravity! Since I’m pretty sure no one reads these Lightning Reviews expecting to not be spoiled, I’m just gonna tell you how it ends: Chef Peony loses after choosing to save Melonhead over her cake in a fiery kitchen malfunction, but he feels so bad that he gives her the prize check (but retains the title). She uses the money to open a food truck on a moon somewhere and she gets to live happily ever after with her love and fellow competitor, Neptunia. Oni Press delivers the goods serving up SBLT on a silver platter and I’m left feeling satisfied.

Spider-Man Deadpool #1.mu- PULL! I considered avoiding as Monsters Unleashed comics using “#1.mu” but I gave this one a shot because a) I already read Spider-Man/ Deadpool and love their dynamic and b) Joshua Corin wrote this and I loved his work on Deadpool: Too Soon? with Todd Nauck. As an ongoing, I don’t have faith in it, but it was a very entertaining one-shot. A coven of young witches in Toronto is trying to summon Shiklah using Deadpool’s blood, but summon Spidey instead. Apparently, he is Wade’s “heartmate”, lol. They then proceed to battle a giant eggplant demon monster while juggling schoolgirls, civilians, and a possession of Spider-Man’s body by an evil sorceress. Tigh Walker’s art was a blast and I hope this artist goes far (I’m assuming they’re relatively new to the industry considering I’ve never heard of ‘em). Reading this may have softened me up for other one-offs like Champions #1.mu or All New X-Men #1.mu. You’ll know soon enough!

Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes #5- PULL! The focus and plot of this title have shifted so much that I’m glad we finally settle in the time of the original Planet of the Apes movies, but of course with the addition of Tarzan, Caesar, and a timeline-hopping Milo. The series finale boils down to our two brotherly main characters trying to convince the simians that despite their differences, man and ape must coexist in order to preserve life as they know it. This doesn’t go without plenty of fighting and conflicting opinions, but even if Tarzan and Caesar make a little difference, that could go a long way. This team of creators do a very nice job, but I have to give colorist Sandra Molina special kudos for her watercolor-like backgrounds. Overall, I’d say this is a fine crossover title to check out, assuming you’re okay with all the twists and turns. For a full review by Andy Hall, click HERE!

Teen Titans #4- PULL! Damien has decided to join his grandfather Ra’s Al Ghul in return for sparing the other Teen Titans, but must prove himself against his cousin Mara for that honor. Robin’s honor is actually what proves his biggest disadvantage against such a ruthless adversary. Meanwhile, the other Titans rally together to save their new leader and I am so glad Beast Boy got the spotlight for a pep talk. Also, is dissension in the ranks of the Demon’s Fist? Some great moments in this issue, especially from Damien who walks a fine line between good and evil. That last splash page was great. I know I gave last issue crap about feeling too similar to Marvel’s Champions and their campfire scene, but this issue definitely differentiates to two teenage teams and I can enjoy them both in their own unique ways.

Totally Awesome Hulk #15- PULL! This is one of my favorite issues of the series yet, right up there with the Civil War II stuff in the wake of Banner’s death. I thought the hook of bringing all the Asian superheroes together was going to be cheesy or gimmicky (like the last arc with Jeremy Lin) but this is actually a wonderful and diverse comic. They all come together to promote the bone marrow donation of the Asian American community, but hang out after for Korean Barbecue and Karaoke. Sure, there are plenty of ethnic themes, but this gathering actually reveals how different they can be. Religion, family life, interests, and even sexuality are topics of discussion. Greg Pak and Mahmud Asrir absolutely nail this issue from beginning to end and I highly anticipate the next issue. Also, the cover art for this and next issue are poster worthy, no joke.

 

VARIETY LIST

Betty Boop #4- PULL! While my opinion stands that this character and story work best as a cartoon rather than a comic due to the reliance on musicality and singing, I was actually quite pleased by how well this comic turned out. Betty gets fired for doing a musical number while she should be waitressing at a fundraiser, so everyone else quits too. Meanwhile, Lenny Lizardlips and his goons pose as Hollywood folk to fool Grampy into signing over his house! In the end, everything works out and there’s another big song. You’ve got some comic awareness, but a couple small plot holes too. Overall, a fun comic with old timey artwork and language that will please Boop fans everywhere. I will reiterate though, comics about music aren’t very appealing to me since, by their nature, they are read and not heard.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 11 #3- PULL! Dark Horse sure does take advantage of their rights to Buffy (and by extension Angel) in a creative and entertaining way. As I’ve noted on multiple occasions, I never watched much BtVS growing up, so I gotta take this in with what little background I have. In this third issue of Season 11, magical and supernatural beings are rounded up into camps after an attack that destroyed much of San Francisco, and while Buffy’s cohorts aren’t exempt, they aren’t going without some resistance! There is one really good first scene, but the majority of the comic involves the emotional toll of avoiding or excepting internment camps for loved ones. I’m a fan of the art and the story is not so exclusive that I couldn’t enjoy myself despite the limited scope of my involvement. Buffy kicks ass in this!

The Dregs #1- PULL! In Vancouver’s not-so-distant future, the homeless and downtrodden population has been confined to only several square blocks that slowly get developed by those wishing to capitalize the real estate. In one such instance, a squatter of a demolished building goes missing and his friend Marlowe suspects the man has been killed in the wreckage. What begins as a simple mystery evolves into a pattern, and Marlowe finds himself deep in a conspiracy that is sure to consume him. Nadler and Thompson do some excellent world building in this debut issue, addressing homelessness in a painfully real manner, with drug abuse and the casting aside by society. Artist Erik Zawadzki also proves a competent and essential piece to this puzzle, providing subtle yet important details that really make or break this comic. Black Mask isn’t always the most reliable small publisher, but this one is pretty damn good. For Johnny Hughes’ 5 star review, click HERE!

G.I. Joe #2- PULL! “The Crown Jewel of the Hasbro Universe” proves to play into all the expectations of a comic such as this while still being able to incorporate new characters and situations we haven’t seen before. Sure, I’m far from an expert on the military specialist team, but even I can tell this is different and is trying a somewhat new direction. Gung-Ho and Lady Jaye discover young rebels in Athens are using COBRA’s insignia for their own, while Roadblock leads a team in Mongolia to stop the Dreadnoks! Back at base, Scarlett tries interrogating a prisoner and the tech specialists have troubles with calibration and an impatient Transformer. I really like the general tone and structure of this comic, throwing in some robots and cool fight scenes. Other than the very small eyes on the characters, no complaints about art either. GO JOE!

Grimm Fairy Tales #2- PASS! I requested the first issue a few weeks ago and wasn’t all too impressed. This week, I received this randomly and my opinion remains unchanged. The adventure continues when Skye Mathers and her friend Lance happen upon the first Snow Queen, who is freezing people and making blizzards and ice monsters just because she can. This comic is reliant on easy solutions, which makes for very weak storytelling. Skye’s magical book of Fairy Tales has a quick fix for everything from needing proper (yet skimpy) fighting attire that seems to rip off Wonder Woman to summoning forces that are able to defeat the Snow Queen and her minions. She does very little, and Lance does even less. I do like the art, but if you want a meaningful plot or characters, look elsewhere.

Hellboy Winter Special 2017- PULL! Most Christmas comics come out in December, but Dark Horse decided to release this as a “Winter Special” because it really is. Only one of the three stories involve a guy in a Santa suit and that is the only tie to any holiday in this whole comic. This truly is about the season, involving cold weather as a main theme. The first is about an insane snow storm that hits under mysterious circumstances and two supernatural investigators venture to the heart of the blizzard to discover its’ cause. The next is Hellboy vs possessed Santa. The last involves the core of BPRD searching for two missing girls that is more eventful than one would expect. Three different teams worked on this (for each segment) and all turned out winter wonderfully with an eerie edge that Dark Horse is known for.

Loose Ends #1- PASS! I hate to have to say this, but I just was not a fan of this comic. Jason Latour is a hell of a writer on Southern Bastards and this is apparently his baby 10 years in the making. The art is gorgeous and vivid in its expression of action and color. I should really like this title. Unfortunately the subject matter and abrupt change of gears at the end did not sit well with me. Most of the comic deals with a drug dealer making amends with his baby momma in the redneck heartland when shots are fired in a bar after a waitress is assaulted. Then, as all that comes together, the story shifts completely without notice, which killed any interest that was building up. I just couldn’t latch onto the concept as I hoped I would, but trust me when I say it is NOT a “bad comic”. It is very well executed; just wasn’t for me.

Micronauts #9- PULL! You remember when the X-Men played out more like a science fiction space drama than a superhero comic? Well this comic reminded me a lot of those amazing works. Even though I recognize many of the characters from the original Marvel series from the 80’s, this feels new and fresh and wonderful. The Micronauts find a miniature ancient city run by time travelers through the entropy cloud that could be of great use in getting our heroes back home, if only they can escape the humans who look to capture them! I like pretty much everything this comic has to offer: interesting characters, substantial plot and mythos, and art that blows you away. Written by Cullen Bunn (how does he do so much?) and Jimmy Johnston, with art by Max Dunbar and Ander Zarate, this is way better than what I expected. Serious Kudos.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Pink #6- PULL! I prefer the main MMPR title by Boom, but this is a very good issue to wrap up this 6-part miniseries. With the current Power Rangers stranded on an alien planet without their zords, it is up to Kimberly’s team of alumni and newcomers to the Morphin grid to swoop in to their rescue. With pink trim, they help save the day (even though Kim reluctantly still plays second fiddle to Tommy’s leadership role) and they must go their separate ways. I loved seeing all the different cast members at once, blending the original series with the first movie to create a Mighty Morphin extravaganza! Kim gets the spotlight, but this is definitely a team effort. This title is strictly fan service for all those who love the Pink Ranger but felt she never got enough credit, and I think they did a pretty good job.

Templars #9- PASS! Some of these Assassin’s Creed titles are pretty good, but I had difficulty being immersed in the comic, ironically. In the past, our main character’s ancestor is being initiated into the Templars and the Black Cross; meanwhile, the present day is involved with a murder mystery and still doesn’t know where an important diamond artifact is being held. These comics are confusing enough without missing the first 8 issues and never having really played the video game. I know it goes with the aesthetic, but I’m not digging all the shadows throughout the story despite change in setting. Look, for what it is, it’s an okay comic, but when I think Assassin’s Creed, I think of a lot of action and historic references. This comic has neither and still doesn’t deliver on story. Is the movie out yet?

Wonder Woman ’77 meets the Bionic Woman #2- PASS! Sorry folks, but I missed the 70’s which means this comic holds zero sentimental value. This means I can see it with fresh eyes, and I wasn’t that impressed. It does pull a lot from both shows, from supporting cast to quirks about their powers, which makes sense in this very specific interpretation of these two characters. They address the invisible jet, Diana’s spinning quick change, her lack of flight, and the bulky technology of the era. The plot might be clearer if I’d caught the first issue, but again I am not the target audience. The art is quite enjoyable, fashioned straight from ’77. DC and Dynamite combine forces to give us this somewhat flimsy team-up that does Wonder Woman no justice, but Walt Flannigan from Comic Book Men absolutely loves it. Johnny “The Machine” Hughes agrees with me in his review HERE!

 

Twenty-two of these got “yay” while five got “neigh”, so the verdict for the week is…

4.07 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!

That’s SPARKY! Note that 15 of my 16 picks were recommended, which I’m sure is padding the week’s score. But hey, I like what I like… no shame in that. Speaking of being shameless… follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) for all the stuff I feel the masses should see, from comics to movies to politics and more. Also, I’ve been working out and dieting a lot since the new year and I am happy to report I am losing weight slowly and surely (don’t call me Shirley). Hopefully I can keep this up until I drop the 35 pounds I initially set as my goal. One week into Trump’s presidency and already things have drastically changed. Without getting too political, I sure hope his supporters are happy because the majority of people worldwide are pretty pissed… just saying…

One last thing. Last week, I started a poll on my Twitter page asking if you could live on an island in isolation for six months without TV or internet, would you do it? Well, the results are in and it looks like many of you would, some of you wouldn’t, and quite a few needed more details before giving a definitive answer. Well, I wrote a separate article concerning this, which will be online in the near future if it isn’t already, but here’s the sitch: Maatsuyker Island, off the coast of Tazmania, needs caretakers year round in six-month increments. They want couples (my wife and I) who can maintain the island, take weather readings, and be self-sustaining. There is a big house with electricity and water, but it is in total isolation. Arrive by copter with all food, supplies, entertainment, etc. We are seriously considering it, as the island is beautiful with temperate weather, teeming animal life, and a gorgeous view. There are many factors to consider though and we aren’t taking it lightly. It is still a far off possibility, but we are gonna give it a shot. I will let you know when and how the prospect develops. Once in a lifetime opportunity, if you ask me…

Well, that’s it for this week (and month). Love each other and until next time, BAMF!

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