Lightning Review #42

What is the answer? 42! Welcome back to Lightning Reviews, comin’ at ya every week with new comics and charged up reviews summed up in a paragraph! Other than comics, this week has plenty to cheer about, despite what the news has to say. Happy 25th Anniversary to Image Comics! The Super Bowl is Sunday, and since the Cowboys got knocked out of the playoffs, I’m all about the Falcons to upset the Pats. Rise up! Even if you hate football, the commercials are worth the time, although from what I understand there won’t be much in terms of superhero trailers. But they did announce the cast for Hulu’s “Runaways” show and NBC’s Powerless came on Thursday… what did you think? Okay, enough delays… on to the fun stuff!

PICK LIST

All New X-Men #1.mu- PULL! Gambit is a character that in recent years has gone into full backburner mode. His solo film is forever on delay, he is all but nowhere to be found in comics, and even his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine had its fair share of critics (even though I found that was one of the few awesome parts of the movie). He is long overdue for the spotlight, and this Monsters Unlimited tie-in is a great place for it since there is no real commitment by Marvel to make him a regular. The All-New X-Men (minus Cyclops, who I’m assuming is preoccupied with the Champions) go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras because Remy needs Wolverine’s help with a swamp killer. While everyone is soaking in the culture and festivities, a crayfish monster crashes down and it is up to Gambit and the teen heroes to save the day! Great one-shot that addresses every character, has exciting fight scenes, and gives Laura some more depth. Gambit fans rejoice!

Champions #5- PULL! Speaking of the Champions and guest stars, Gwenpool is in this issue as both a help and a hindrance to correcting a town that is drowning in hatred for all minorities. This is sadly right on the nose with current events, as the story begins with a mosque being burned down and involves a newly elected sheriff who does nothing but stoke the flames of prejudice, knowing his lawyer can bail him out. This was written before Trump took office, but it feels prophetic and that is terrible. Gwenpool adds a little humor and meta moments to an otherwise dark issue, but it is important that we discuss things that concern us through comic books. Mark Waid is still just knocking this book out of the park and into the parking lot on this one. Truly a magnificent book that points out that “there are more good people… than bad people, I swear. It’s just that the bad people are LOUDER.” Bravo.

Classic X-Men #1 (1986)- PULL! I read several back issues this week, but I’m including this one because I would be a terrible fanboy to not discuss this. This comic is a unique blend of the first appearance of the Uncanny X-Men in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 and new content by Claremont and John Bolton. (Correct me if I’m wrong and you get brownie points, since I’m unsure whether this content appears in an issue of UXM or not). I got to reread Nightcrawler’s origin for the hundredth time, along with Storm, Colossus, and Thunderbird, but more importantly I got some new content. Claremont draws from his 10+ years of writing the mutant team to plant little seeds foreshadowing future events like Jean and Logan’s romance. Plus, Nightcrawler juggles and gives Iceman a stern lesson on bigotry. A blast from the past, this was a hoot to refresh myself. I need to reread GSXM #1 now.

Darth Maul #1- PULL! Even though looking back at it now, the Phantom Menace has serious flaws, I loved it as a kid. It took the movies I watch with Dad on VHS and rebranded it for my young, impressionable mind. But even now, I love the pod racing and Darth Maul, who I think is up there with Darth Vader in the “cool Star Wars villains” category. I even got to see Ray Park last year at CCE, which was a highlight. Well, now Cullen Bunn writes his comic and I really enjoyed it. Most of the story happens with Maul operating in silence, but with an ongoing internal monologue that grants insight into the mind of the seemingly one-dimensional character. Luke Ross and Nolan Woodard freakin rock this art and there are plenty of variant covers to go around. We have him plotting schemes against his master Darth Sidious as well as some sweet action scenes with both his double-bladed lightsaber and a scythe. There is also a cute second comic in the back involving droids that was very sweet. This fan is totally gonna keep you posted from now to the last issue.

Deadpool #26- PULL! Leave it to a Deadpool comic to have an actual heart inside a Valentine’s heart-shaped box. This issue has a lot going on. Deadpool and Shiklah have plans that get interrupted by a murder that is totally committed by Madcap to lead Wade on a search for the victim’s kidnapped brother. Preston gets involved and we finally get to see the deformed, almost fully regenerated Madcap. Gerry Duggan does great as always, but I want to talk about artist Scott Hepburn. Some moments/details/characters feel a bit off at times, but overall I was very pleased with his work on this. The way he draws Deadpool in costume is fantastic. With the “Till Death Do Us” arc/event coming up, I’m glad Shiklah’s marriage to Wade got some attention and while I hate to see things end so soon, I can appreciate the journey Marvel is taking with the couple. Next week, Hydra Cap!

Deadpool: The Mercs for Money #7 & 8- PASS! I discovered Nightcrawler was in these at the last-minute, so I read both issues at once. Luckily for me, the events do not take place during the actual Inhuman/X-Men war so there are no continuity issues. I do enjoy this mercenary line-up better than the last one, and yes it does have some key X-Men and Inhumans, but overall I was underwhelmed by this. SPOILER ALERT! It takes place 5 years in the future after Negasonic Teenage Warhead alters the Terrigen Mists to be safe for mutants, but fails to Deadpool’s daughter Ellie. After a couple fights and some discussion,  Negasonic decides to undo everything by going to the past and telling herself to not change the cloud. Pretty weak story if you ask me… just a way to include this title in the event without making it relevant whatsoever. No problem with the art (and the story has good moments) but not cool Marvel. You got my hopes up.

Faith #8- PULL! The reason I enjoyed this comic in particular is how writer Jody Houser tied in everything that has happened up to this point in her limited and ongoing series, as well as referencing the current reunion of the Renegades. Haunted by demons of her past, Faith Herbert confides in her horror-holic co-worker just to be sure she isn’t crazy. After a pep talk and some sleuthing, Faith discovers who is behind these apparitions. In doing so, we see the beginnings of a super-villain team-up against the bubbly psiot. The pop cultures references in this include Supernatural, Ghostbusters, and musicals, proving once again that Faith is a nerd through and through. Joe Eisma’s art isn’t my favorite on this title so far, but he does a good job nonetheless. I think Faith is the most down to earth character by Valiant, which will keep me coming back for each issue.

Green Hornet Reign of the Demon #3- PULL! As the tapestry of the Swashbuckler’s secret identity unravels, I was right on the money until BAM! Curveball! I don’t want to spoil too much, but the last 3 or 4 pages turn the direction of the comic in a complete U-Turn. The new police commissioner and Britt Reid (Green Hornet) each conduct their separate investigations of the plot involving Demone in both their personal and professional lives, but when they intersect, Green Hornet and Kato find themselves in serious trouble. I commend the writer for incorporating Casey as more than eye candy, although it is still quite sexist to match the time period. After the twist at the end, now I’m even more interested in how this will all play out in the issues to come.

March Book One- PULL! In honor of Black History Month, I purchased the March Trilogy and plan to read all 500 pages before month’s end. Written by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, this graphic novel is the shortest of the three and focuses on the beginnings of his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, starting with his childhood. It includes his live for chickens and religion, the influences he had growing up, and the first sit ins at white restaurant counters, as well as his introduction to Martin Luther King Jr. All of this is woven into a narrative happening on Obama’s first inauguration day back in 2009, where America saw the culmination of equality personified. Nate Powell handles all the art, including lettering, which gives this book a raw and beautiful feel. I can’t wait to read the next one!

Monsters Unleashed #2- PULL! Well, you can’t accuse Marvel of false advertising on this one, that’s for sure. Battles against monster happen on all fronts, from outer space to your own backyard, and heroes have rallied to rectify it as fast as possible. However, they are coming at a rate faster than even Marvel’s finest can handle. Meanwhile, notorious monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone has tracked down the apparent cause of the invasion, an 11-year-old kid in Missouri named Kei Kawade. The final pages see a standoff between teams of heroes and a crowd of well-known monsters including Fin Fang Foom. This is Cullen Bunn’s second great comic this week for me, and while I sometimes think he is spread way too thin across a dozen titles, he’s at least doing his job. Greg Land is on pencils, which is also very fulfilling since I haven’t seen much of his work lately. Great stuff.

Moon Knight #11- PULL! Did I mention how glad I am that Greg Smallwood is the sole artist again on this title? God, I hated that last arc… which means I can appreciate this one that much more. We dive further into this iteration of Marc Spectre’s past in this issue, occurring as flashbacks while Mr. Knight fights for the soul of his friend Crowley. Who knew it would take him jousting on a giant bug? The real story happens, for me anyway, in the flashbacks of his family, military, and fighting history before meeting his “sidekick” Frenchie. Jeff Lemire is gaining redemption. Then there’s Smallwood. His art is seriously some of the best I’ve seen in comics in the modern era. The fact we never have a dark outline on a single panel shows how he understands the whole point of the story: that everything can blend together and nothing is concrete. Issues #6-9 were enough to make me give up on Moon Knight, but I’m glad I stuck with it for this.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #50- PULL! Wow, has it already been 50 issues? I have over 100 MLP comics at sitting in a long box, but those include the Annuals, Micro-Series, Friends Forever, and Fiendship is Magic titles as well, so it is hard to believe almost half is composed of this comic series. Let me tell you, this is a wonderful 50th issue. Not only do we get an amazing finish to the Accord story by Anderson and Price, but there is also another back-up story by Whitley and Fosgitt. Both heavily feature Discord, who is my favorite non-pony character in the series. The unexpected hero of the main story is Starlight Glimmer, which goes to show just how far the series has come since issue one. The final page (of the main story) is a grand display celebrating Friendship is Magic and their 50 issue milestone. This brony hopes there are fifty more!

Slapstick #3- PULL! Keeping with the theme of knock-off cartoon characters from the eighties, a horde of Taurs (a hybrid of My Little Pony and the Smurfs) are terrorizing a mall and it is up to Steve (aka Slapstick) to save the day! He pulls all sorts of weapons from his pants that store an unlimited supply of garbage and, with the help of his friend and craft store employee Mike, overcomes the miniature threat. This earns him a pardon for his past, which he is enthusiastic about repeating. Cartoons in comic form have never been this meta, and I love it. This is the type of comic that it’s okay to not get invested in, as there is a fun quality to it and it does not really tie into anything else in the Marvel Universe. I already got the next issue as an infinite comic, but I’ll save that review for when the print comic releases.

The Walking Dead #163- PULL! In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Image Comics, TWD is releasing two issues this month. This is the first and has a very special price of only a quarter! It’s designed to act as a jumping on point for new readers and as a thank you to loyal fans (Invincible is doing the same for issue #133). In the literal wake of the Whisperer War, a horde unlike anything we’ve seen thus far is threatening Alexandria and our group is doing everything they can to stop or deter the wave of the undead. Michonne and Jesus go to town on some walkers, while Andrea, Dwight, and Eugene lead the detour crew. Rick gets saved by… Negan? So much action and chaos in this issue that you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal on a great comic, even at a garage sale. Thank you Kirkman and Adlard for all the wonderful stories you’ve told. Seriously, even if you aren’t a fan of the show or comic, this is worth picking up for full price, let alone the great bargain.

VARIETY LIST

Adventure Time #61- PASS! This is Christopher Hastings’ last issue to write, so he ties everything together in a bow so the next writer can start fresh instead of piggybacking off his work, which I liked. However, I have never been a fan of Adventure Time. I think it is ridiculous garbage that turns your brain to mush. Oh my God. I’ve become my father. In all seriousness though, the last few issues must have been a crazy ride to end up with old man Finn on the moon training his alternate self Penelope to wield a magical sword against giant world-eating monsters. Most of the issue consists of them trying to defeat their foes and end the paradox they create, but the last few pages were quite enjoyable. The art feels in sync with the cartoon, which is probably what they were going for. This just isn’t for me.

Blood Blister #1- PULL! For a horror comic, the tone was much more subtle than expected in the beginning, only to escalate very quickly at the end. A lawyer who is notorious for screwing over the little guy and neglecting his family for work is in for a rude awakening in a small Oklahoma town. Once he returns home, his life starts to take a downward spiral into Hell that he has trouble accepting. There are plenty of religious themes in this, which makes for great creepy moments, especially concerning Lexi, the obese vegetable child of a farmer. I thought this was going to play out more like Stephen King’s “Thinner” than Dante’s Inferno, but it seems like we get elements of both. Phil Hester and Tony Harris hit the ground running in Aftershock’s newest thriller that is sure to make your blood boil.

Donald Quest #4- PASS! IDW is trying so hard to take classic Disney characters and make them exciting for their audience, which is heavily reliant on cartoons and action comics directed towards kids. Honestly though, there are plenty of outlets for them to enact a space battle scenario and various shenanigans without using Donald, Mickey, Pete, and other Disney staples. All the titles and names of villains, places, and heroes are lame and uninspired. The art is true to Disney fashion, but to me this just says there was very little artistic freedom to be had. Good thing the story is very different from normal Donald Duck fare, lest it be confused with all the other DD comics. I adore Disney, but this just fell flat for me. (Also, if Disney owns Marvel, explain to me why IDW still releases these. Seems counter-productive to me…)

Death of Hawkman #5- PASS! In short, this didn’t appeal to me because I have very little interest in Hawkman or his origins, so I could care less about his death. This is odd because Angel is one of my favorite X-Men, so wings on heroes are no issue. Not only that, but since I missed the first four issues of this six issue title, I am far from invested in how we got here or how Hawkman finally bites it. Apparently this week, Al decided I’m a huge Green Lantern fan because all 4 DC books I got have elements of the colorful crusaders. This issue does have good elements (especially when an unlikely cast member is chosen by a power ring), but all in all, this was just over my head. No shame in admitting that. The villain is a pretty gnarly character though, so it makes sense that he could kill a superhero.

Green Lanterns #16- PULL! This comic, however, I can totally get into. I’m neither a diehard fan of the Green Lantern Corps or Batman, but this team-up really works for me. Batman calls in Simon and Jessica for assistance with a slew of rage-fueled crimes directed toward Batman. Obvious villain choice is Scarecrow, but the world’s greatest detective thinks it is more likely the work of Yellow Lanterns. The actual perpetrator is interesting, for sure. One thing I really loved about this is the heated argument between Batman and Simon over the use of firearms in Gotham. He is a Green Lantern, but apparently he needs a back-up gun? Sorry, but I’m Team Batman on this one. Awesome art and writing that doesn’t feel like they forced the inclusion of a more popular character makes this a great read. First issue of the arc too, so it’s a nice jumping off point as well.

Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me #5- I didn’t read this because I didn’t realize it came out this week, but judging by what I’ve read and the review by Dawn of Comics, it’s definitely worth the read. Sorry I missed it. To read that review, click HERE!

Josie and the Pussycats #4- PULL! First impression was terrible because the comic felt like all text and no art to compliment it (as in negative space, large panels, etc) but after settling in, I’m glad the writers gave us plenty of bang for your buck. This is very much about girl power, from the rock ‘n’ roll to the crime fighting, but there is also plenty of romance and drama. I don’t necessarily want to label this as a comic for girls, but to be fair, it doesn’t play to the male audience as fervently. There were parts that felt corny to me, but it is Archie after all. Marguerite Bennett is an inspired choice for this title, paired with Cameron Deordio and with art by Audrey Mok, this definitely will appeal to fans new and old alike. On a similar note, I’m not sure why Riverdale decided to make the Pussycats an all-black group (maybe to increase diversity?) but as long as they are true to character, I’m cool.

Kaijumax #1- PULL! This dollar reprint of Oni Press gold is original, fun, and a delight to read. I read an issue a while back that involved the main character Electrogor looking for his children and I was a bit confused about the comic as a whole. Well now I understand. Kaijumax is an island prison for giant monsters of all types for the protection of humanity and the world, but Electrogor just wants to go home to his babies who are hungry, alone, and worried. The island feels very much like a penitentiary, with exercise equipment simulating city destruction and prison fights of gigantic proportions, but at it’s core, the story is about persecution and rounding up groups based on race/species (sounds familiar to current events, no?) Zander Cannon does a great job on this and I’m so glad I got this first issue in my mental file cabinet.

Lesbian Zombies from Outer Space Volumes 1 & 2- PULL! Warning: this review is of an EXTREMELY MATURE series of comics. I had Comic Crusaders send me this out of morbid curiosity, but I couldn’t bring myself to add it to my “pick list” because it sat alphabetically next to March Book One. I would dishonor that by association, lol. This kickstarter is about as ridiculous as it seems: a naked lesbian falls from space, infecting women into bombshells who seek to have all-girl orgies and eat the genitals of men. (Ladies clearly have the better deal in this *shudder*) It is up to a porn-addicted virgin and an actual, normal lesbian to save the human race! It’s cover to cover boobs, sex, dirty words, violence, and humor that makes Zombie Tramp look like Nancy freaking Drew. I enjoyed reading it, but my mother would be so ashamed… not to mention my wife. Please don’t tell her.

Planet of the Apes/ Green Lantern #1- PASS! Having just come off of a Planet of the Apes crossover with Tarzan, I’m ready for a break from the franchise. If that wasn’t enough, I am not a Green Lantern fan, not have I ever been. The movie didn’t help. So this comic has Cornelius discovering a ring in a crater caused by a plot by the Orange Lanterns, which he takes as an artifact but soon uses as a weapon. Meanwhile, the Green Lantern Corps goes up against some Red Lanterns and Sinestro. A cross-chronal disturbance is dismissed by the Guardians, but Hal and Sinestro still end up on the beach where the Statue of Liberty lays in ruin. This crossover just seems unnecessary and stretching for something worth reading. As a casual fan of only one half of this pairing, the comic did nothing for me. Stay in your lane, Green Lantern. (Andy seems to agree. For his review, click HERE!

Planetoid Praxis #1- PULL! The long-delayed follow-up to his comic Planetoid, Ken Garing’s “Praxis” is the science fiction comic I didn’t know I wanted. You see, I never read Planetoid, so when I read this I thought it was it’s own thing and really enjoyed it. When a visitor arrives from another world known for its cruel treatment of others, the inhabitants decide to kill him. The caveat is that he has been nothing but peaceful, befriending children and not bearing any weapons. The opponents of the lethal actions toward O-Hom fear this is only the tip of the iceberg. The first eight pages have no dialogue, which made me think this would be a quick, easy read. It turns out to be a very complex, at times mirroring real world conflicts (like the recent “Muslim Ban”). This is some quality sci-fi here.

Red Agent: The Human Order #3- PULL! This issue… someone DIES! Full disclosure, I sort of requested this comic, just to see if the series holds up or if the last issue was a fluke (and the same goes for Spirit Hunters below too). Even though I am not as pleased with this as I’d hoped, it still lives up to the general premise of the comic. Red Agent and her team respond to a report of a ship under attack that is carrying medicine that can suppress the powers of highborns (supers). What they find is that the attacker is not an enemy seeking the chemicals for evil purposes, but rather an Ursula wannabe out to defend the seas from trespassers. Her back-up is even more terrifying than she is and in the end, their team has a casualty. Still all about the sexy badass heroes, but that’s to be expected from Zenescope.

Spirit Hunters #4- PULL! Instead of the team of paranormal experts featured in Spirit Hunters #2, this installment focuses on Ellen the traveler of the “other side” and her mentor Michael scanning a newly reopened prison for residual spirits. What they discover is that prisoners have gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Ellen collapses and is led by a murdered inmate to the truth, all while a standoff between scared convicts and their jailers threatens everyone’s safety. Joe Brusha seems to be involved in writing both of these Zenescope titles, which explains why I enjoy each in their own way. This comic does a great job building the characters and making you care about their well-being, as well as providing supernatural thrills. I preferred the carnival issue, but only because I’m such a clown, lol.

Super Powers #4- PASS! I like Art Baltazar and Franco on some things, but this ain’t one of em. I understand it’s for kids, but there comes a point where the premise is just freaking ridiculous. The Legion of Doom is amassing members, with Black Manta, Brainiac and Superboy Pryme joining this issue. The Justice League confronts them and a fight commences, but it is uninspired and hokey. Then, an alien mind controlling eye comes down and takes over the League, but even that doesn’t last long. Green Lantern is a squirrel for crying out loud. Unless you’re a small child, this will prove to be a very disappointing comic. I’m not a big fan of DC, but I’ll take almost anything in the Rebirth line or Hanna Barbera over this flimsy fail.

The Assignment #2- PULL! Under the publisher Hard Case Crime (by Titan Comics), this French comic is being adapted into English for the first time, and I must say I loved it. A hitman named Frank is surgically turned into a woman (and a stunningly attractive one at that) after killing a plastic surgeon’s loved one. Hence the title, referring both to the criminal assignment and the gender reassignment. Now (s)he must start from scratch with nothing to his (her) name and with a totally justifiable vendetta against the mad scientist. The art is simply delightful, with a foreign flare that I recognized even before confirming this was an adaptation. This is sexual and violent and a deep look at some unusual struggles. This comic is twice as long as the standard, which I did not mind at all, and if I didn’t know any better, this could pass as a first issue rather than a second because of how seamless the story feels. Definitely recommended.

Uncle Scrooge #23- PULL! As a reprint of a foreign cartoon, part of me feels this is way overpriced. However, considering it is double-sized and the content is actually kinda entertaining, I’ll give IDW a pass this time. The main story has Donald, Scrooge McDuck, the boys, and Prof. Ludwig von Drake going on an expedition to find the “third Nile”, an extension of the Nile River that leads to great treasures. One of the Beagle Boys masquerades as their travel guide in an attempt to steal the gold once they find it, but when his bros crash-land in dangerous territory, it soon turns into a rescue mission. The bonus story in the back is short and sweet, playing off the running gag of how cheap Scrooge is. Overall, this is not a new original comic by popular creators, but it is fun and entertaining for the kids.

I was a reading machine this week! Out of twenty-nine reviews, six were not worthy of a PULL from me, giving this week a score of

3.97 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!

SPARKY! I’m not going to say much here at the end this time, besides to follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) and to remind you all to spread love, not hate. Oh, and keep an eye open for my Maatsuyker Island article, if I ever decide to actually publish it. Until next weekend, Bye and BAMF!

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