Lightning Review #43

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! Whether you’re single, taken, or forever alone, comics will always be there to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, and this week you can feel plenty of love. Deadpool came out a year ago today and LEGO Batman came out this weekend, but I did the whole Fifty Shades thing instead, to appease my loving wife. Totally plan on seeing it soon though. Marvel fans also got a lil sneak peek of Avengers Infinity Wars, as well as the cover to Secret Empire. Great Comics this week, and I hope you enjoy my Lightning Review!

PICK LIST

Alters #4- PULL! My transgender co-worker no longer works with my company, and while I cannot say I miss her necessarily, she did leave an impression on me that people are all different. What makes an impression about this comic isn’t specifically how Charlie (Chalice) must cope with being trans (even though it does play a role) but rather how she must play to each audience in certain situations: as a son and brother to her family, a strong heroine to the public, and a supportive teammate to the Gateway Army. They make her the “face” of the Alters, which acts as a coming out of sorts where she can tell everyone about differences and change and acceptance, all themes that also relate to her transition period. Her father is supportive of Chalice’s bravery in her speech, but this doesn’t mean he’ll feel the same when Charlie does tell her family. More than the art or story or anything is the great social commentary and social parallels this comic provides.

Deadpool the Duck #3- PULL! Better than last issue, but not as good as the first. Howard has grown tiresome of playing second fiddle in his own body, so he somehow isolates himself in space and let’s Wade take the wheel. He is a much better character in this issue, having his own version of Wilson the volleyball to converse with in addition to himself and us, the comic readership. The artist takes a Donald Duck approach to the character, which I enjoyed. Meanwhile, Deadpool the Duck is carting Rocket all over the place trying to cure his space rabies and Roxxon is the key. He needs help from extremely minor character Agent Mary and even when the answer to his problem is staring him in the feathered face, he still needs Howard to tell him what to do. This is not a great comic, but it is a gimmick that fans of these characters are sure to enjoy.

Dollface #2- PULL! The very first page has three naked virgins being sacrificed, so that definitely makes a statement. This issue mostly consists of the origin of the spirit possessing a sentient sex doll developed by college students and why she is so inclined to kill witches such as Zombie Tramp, who provides commentary along the way. Apparently, she was one of the virgins in the sacrifice but the ritual to animate the doll pulled her spirit through time and into “Dollface”. As the daughter of a famous witch hunter in Salem during the witch trials, Dollface now seeks vengeance against those who killed her family. Plenty of swearing and sexiness and violence in this issue, but I’m really glad I got more back story on what makes our title character tick and why she looks less curvy now than the original design. Still no explanation of why Ivan is a sperm-shaped ghost. I enjoy this comic quite a bit though and will probably be reviewing it for a while.

Infinite Seven #1- PULL! When I read about the premise of this book from the pages of another Danger Zone publication, I was immediately drawn to it and knew it would be something I’d enjoy. The Infinite Seven is a group of fighters and operatives who can only be replaced by whoever is able to kill them, thus always retaining 7 members. Enter Anthony, an average teenager who, by unfortunate circumstance, shoots Smash Brannagan and must accept his mantle. The team is much like X-Force, but less theatric despite having a small robot and an imp as sidekicks. Written by president Doug Dwonch, this is a new and darkly humorous entry in their adult-aimed comic collection that I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy. However, you’ll find that this is much less sexual or verbally crude as some of their other titles. Makes for a nice balance.

Inhumans vs X-Men #4- PULL! This is making out to be a great event, much better than Death of X to be sure. Two major things happen. Mosaic, one of the newest Inhumans, infiltrates the X-Men’s base and attempts to inhabit Magneto, due to his extensive strategic knowledge and his helmet protecting from mental probing. This backfires and he must possess Scott (young Cyclops) to steal a Blackbird and return to the NuHumans. The story jumps the gun on his character development in the solo title, but solicits have told us enough to not be too spoiled. The second big development is the Inhuman Royals utilizing their talents to escape their Limbo prison and return the threat against mutantkind. Their only opposition: Colossus. No Nightcrawler this issue, sadly. I love how the story is evolving and while the art isn’t as good as I’ve seen in the past, there is still plenty of talent going into this. My favorite line occurs at the very end, when Ms. Marvel learns why the X-Men are making a final stand and she asks “Who are the good guys?”

Justice League of America #1- PULL! Characters often make or break any superhero team, and I feel there is a lot of potential with Batman’s rebranded, relatively down to earth Justice League of America. The plot is one we’ve seen many times before: a known hero recruits people one by one to join, some of which are reluctant and difficult. As a huge X-Men fan, I can’t help but compare it to Charles Xavier travelling around the world to collect mutants in Giant Sized X-Men #1. This line-up really does look interesting though. We got Ray Palmer’s student assistant acting as the Atom, a reformed Killer Frost, the energetic Ray, that bastich Lobo at odds with Black Canary, the animal channeling Vixen, and of course Batman to connect the dots. No real action in this comic, but it looks as though there will be plenty of drama and battling to be had. We even get a sneak preview of issues down the line. This is my kind of JLA…

Justice League Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2- PULL! I love the Power Rangers, but truthfully, in a real fight with zords and everything, the Justice League wins every time. This comic gives the reader a taste of what that would look like, and I must say there are some cool moments. Flash phases Jason out of his T-Rex, Superman flies alongside Kimberly’s pterodactyl, and several zords break one of Green Lantern’s shields (which I call BS). However, once the Lasso of Truth is able to clear up the situation, they discover much BIGGER fish to fry: Lord Zedd has teamed up with Brainiac and unleashed giant monster octopi around the world! Tom Taylor writes an interesting story, even if it resembles some other current crossovers from DC, and Stephen Byrne could easily be another artist for the solo book of the Power Rangers (but not so much for Justice League). I hope the next issue features individual team members pairing up against Zedd’s creatures. In fact, I’d bet money that’s what’s up.

Khaal #2- PULL! After a clear opposition, Khaal rallies his human followers against the Psicogs and Ethereals in this space power struggle. Khaal’s father approaches him with the shocking news that his slaves that empower him are actually his brothers and that if any of them die, they all do. In the midst of battle, a completely different race called the Xenopsyllians attack the E.T.H.E.R. with intent on making Khaal the King to their already powerful Queen. However, his power renders the queen obsolete and now he can control many more than before. The art is gorgeous; science fiction at its finest. Alien races and terrain and weaponry have so much spirit and life that it could be based on realism.  Khaal is the type of villain you love to hate and hate to love.

March Book Two- PULL! Continuing the trilogy, I read the second book of March in honor of Black History Month and, like the other two graphic novels, it was moving. John Lewis details his battle in the segregated south as leader and chairman of the SNCC, from his beatings and arrests to his speech at the March on Washington in 1963. Movie theater stand-ins, freedom riding, and meetings with President Kennedy fill these pages. Read them. Please. Because those who ignore their history are doomed to repeat it. Nate Powell’s art is breathtaking, using a lack of color to his full advantage by utilizing every piece of every page to spread this message. Provocative yet absolutely necessary. It even includes two different versions of John’s speech in Washington. So you know, I’m breaking up March Book Three into two halves for the rest of the month because it’s 240 pages and I have already reviewed it in full HERE.

Motor Crush #3- PULL! After making a deal that could cost her freedom, Domino Swift is now required to win the World Grand Prix while running low on Motor Crush, which is just as vital to her bike as it is to her body. She gets her mechanic ex-girlfriend on the team to help her win, but that’s not enough to compensate for her deficiency. While street racing, Dom still struggles and is thrown from her bike, certain of her demise, when a mysterious figure races up and provides an MC inhaler refill, stating “I know what you really are.” This is seriously a great comic with high speeds, romantic tension, and stakes that are life or death. Fletcher, Stewart, and Tarr are so impressive as the books creators. I’m loving the social media aspect and the Road Rash video game style of violence. For a book that started so good, I’m amazed that it has only improved over time.

Ninjak #24- PULL! When last issue revealed Ninjak was the secret last member of the Shadow Seven, I couldn’t just leave a revelation like that hanging. Thus, I picked up this issue and it did not disappoint. After sparring with all 6 other members, Colin King agrees to join their band of assassins to Scotland, where he gets some particular attention from their employer, Sandria. She opens his mind to remember how he grew up and became the seventh member of the Shadow Seven, all done in an amazing newspaper comic strip style narration one line at a time. A very nice touch. She gave him some secret knowledge (that the reader is oblivious to) and his mind is settled to kill the man Sandria requires. This is just a great comic all around, with villains playing allies and mysterious magic in full motion. Kindt and the artists are totally on top of it. Keep killin’ it, pun intended.

Superior #1-7 (entire run)- PULL! This week in back issues, I read two complete mini-series. The first was X-Men Noir, which was an interesting take on the characters and had an entertaining story. The second I’ve opted to include in this Lightning Review because it’s worth discovering. Superior is a seven issue story about a teenager with multiple sclerosis who is transformed into a popular superhero. While his parents worry about their son’s disappearance, “Superior” becomes a phenomenon who saves the world from disaster after disaster and grabs the attention of a beautiful reporter. I won’t spoil the ending, but things are not as they seem and he must choose between life in a wheelchair or life in the limelight. Mark Millar is a genius (I read this because I loved Huck so much) and Leinil Yu brings his vision to life. I know it was released six years ago, but I still recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Totally Awesome Hulk #16- PULL! This went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, but it still had an interesting story. The Asian American heroes must fight the aliens of Seknarf Seven that threaten to conquer Earth and consume humanity (literally), but their victory is merely a diversion to the real plot. The aliens teleport everyone in the general area to a floating island in space, millions of lightyears away, to act as a food source (you know, like a cattle farm). The heroes won’t stand for this and while their technology and some powers aren’t working, they are not alone in wanting to combat the captors. Way less heart and personality in this comic, instead favoring action and sci-fi. Some good art moments, but the best parts are thanks to writer Greg Pak. The dialogue about Avengers vs Champions vs other team affiliation was great, and they decide to be called Protectors for this mission. Quite appropriate.

 

 

VARIETY LIST

All New Fathom #1 (of 8)- PULL! The star of Aspen Comics, Fathom is a member of a race of sea people (think more Namor than Ariel) that lives on the surface as a marine biologist, but sometimes uses her powers for the good of mankind. This story plays out as a recap between friends of the events that day. An underwater prisoner with great power threatens San Diego and aptly named Aspen must stop him. I really liked the nature of the story in this comic because, like in normal conversation, the recollection is interrupted by other matters like social media and afterthoughts. She is a very sexy character, despite not being very sexual. Skimpy superhero attire is addressed though, and I respect that. Since the premise is so water-centric, I’m quite pleased with the artist’s excellent job with water elements throughout the comic. A good, fun read. Johnny Hughes’ full review is found HERE!

Angel City #5- PULL! Some comics just flow better than others, and I felt this was a great example of that. Oni Press presents this crime drama that has surprisingly little crime in it, aside from evading the police. A woman is framed for murder and runs for her life, confiding in her fellow troublemaker friends to help. I missed the first four issues, so I’m probably missing a lot of set-up, but the comic by itself was a quick entertaining read. Dialogue never felt choppy, with simple segues and no “narration” that often clogs up the page. Set prior to World War II, this comic has a classic noir look, only with color, and incorporates as much of the 30’s as possible. Normally, such basic plots bore me, but the pace and setting kept me wanting more.

Black #4- PULL! I missed last issue but read the first two, so I have a general idea of what’s going on here and I’m pleased with the direction it’s going in. Kareem is on the run from the Project, a group specializing in protecting and training members of the black community with incredible abilities, and he ends up releasing many of these people who’ve been contained/imprisoned for their threat risk. This comic still has many quirks that could be construed as racist, like speech patterns and jail breaks, but I enjoyed several of the ways writer Kwanza Osajyefo incorporated culture into superpowers. I especially loved the feral Lion (think African version of Sabretooth) and Bass, whose vocal beatboxing powers proved ground-shaking, literally. Also, huge kudos for this political cartoon cover and the statements concerning patriotism on the opening page.

Black History in its Own Words- PASS! You must be thinking that I am a terrible person for telling you to pass on a table book about black history during Black History Month, but let me explain. This book contains short biographies and illustrated quotes by many notable and influential African-Americans, but I felt underwhelmed by how much was actually included. I’d never heard of many of these people, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but many people who you’d think would appear in this do not. Black Panthers have multiple appearances, as do entertainers, but we get no Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Obama, or Malcolm X. Also, there were quotes that felt out-of-place and irrelevant to what I felt was the point of the book. And for a $16.99 cover price? Please… Love is Love was only ten bucks and featured much more creators, content, and heart. Read March instead.

Death be Damned #1 (of 4)- PASS! This comic has the makings of something I’d really enjoy, but the art just doesn’t click with me and the content has balance concerns. A woman’s family is murdered by an outlaw, so she travels to a nearby town to exact revenge. When things go sideways and she ends up shot, it is up the local undertaker who dabbles in mystic arts to bring her back to life. The Wild West is a cool backdrop for many a story, and this incorporates brothels and gunfights and other popular parts of cowboy culture. However, the scenes I was most interested to see more of (the initial tragedy and the afterlife) were far too brief while interludes took precious pages away from the real story. Addressing the art, I just didn’t like Hannah Christenson’s facial portrayals because the line work was overkill in many panels. Distracted from the stuff I liked about the comic.

Divinity III: Shadowman & the Battle for New Stalingrad- PULL! Another one-shot of the “Stalinverse”, Valiant focuses on Shadowman in his fight to resist Russian rule here in the United States. I love these alternate reality stories (like X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse) because we get to see existing characters in radically different circumstances and how they adapt accordingly. After a nuclear explosion in New Orleans, Shadowman moves north to New York (which has been renamed New Stalingrad) to make a final stand against the Russians. Fighting for Putin is Komandar Bloodshot and X-O Manowar, who are both merciless and cruel, and the replacement of Lady Liberty with Joseph Stalin is a real slap in the face for the resistance. This is a great story all around. Plus, the back-up story about the origin of Baba Yaga is creepy and uneasy.

Empowered and the Soldier of Love #1 (of 3)- PASS! I’m all for sexuality in comic books, even in superhero comics, but this is just so overdone that I have a hard time taking it seriously (not that this is a very serious story). After a short intro to inform the reader of characters and basic relationships, we are presented with what can be boiled down to heroic hook-ups and Emp trying to figure out why. Superheroes all over the city are publicly pairing up with multiple others, sometimes simultaneously. This is also kinda bilingual, and despite growing up in Texas, most Spanish is over my head. The characters are brightly costumed and full of personality, but there is inconsistency from panel to panel with Empowered’s supersuit damage which she admits is fragile and in constant disrepair. There were fun elements throughout, but the big picture was a let down.

John Carter: The End #1- PULL! After years in isolation, John Carter and Dejah Thoris are found by inhabitants of Barsoom, where their son (whom Dejah believed was long dead) has become a tyrannical warlord of Mars. They travel back to save their son and the citizens he are ruling, but now trust has been broken, so their relationship suffers. What I really liked about this comic was how the creative team of Wood, Cox, and Sherman understand how dialogue is not essential on every page and that those silent pages can tell just as much story as those covered in text. The art is not smooth or realistic, rather taking on a more crisp, angular approach that I sometimes dislike but really enjoy in this instance. Even though there is some assumed knowledge of the legend of John Carter, this was very easy to jump on board without any backstory. Lovely job from Dynamite. For Andy Hall’s full review, click HERE!

Steven Universe #1- PULL! Sometimes I may come across as cynical when it comes to adapting Cartoon Network programming into comics, but this issue of Steven Universe proved that not every kids show is beneath my respect. I’ve never seen it, but I always assumed it just fell in with rest of their dumb shows, but this comic had plenty of heart and humor. When Steven and his pals find a baby bird fallen from its nest, they do everything they can to return it home. When that fails, they end up raising the chick as surrogates, which proves quite sweet and educational for the kids. There is some bittersweet feelings when the bird is grown, but they have a new appreciation for birds after the issue ends. Art seems very similar to the show, though I can’t vouch for the writing. But either way, I really enjoyed this.

Van Helsing vs the Mummy of Amun-Ra #1- PULL! Zenescope and their sexy heroines, I swear. Liesel van Helsing works as a freelance agent for the NYPD on any supernatural or monster-related cases, and she does a fine job, but she is restless if not hunting. She is prompted to not storm into a hostage situation involving politicians, so of course she does just that. The plot is led by the Mummy of Amun-Ra (or a woman closely connected with her), which leads into some back story and Egyptian elements. Not always a fan of gender-bent heroes, but this is Van Helsing’s daughter, so it works. She’s sexy and powerful and fearless, so the stories are really fun to read. Next issue promises a fight with a manticore, which should be an exciting, action-filled adventure.

The Walking Dead Comics Companion- PULL! There are plenty of coffee table books and magazines about the Walking Dead television show on AMC, with actor interviews and zombie make-up tutorials and inside scoops on popular episodes. Well, this does that for all the comic fans out there. I will admit I didn’t read this in its entirety because it contains mostly text, and I ain’t about that life. Plus, I read the comics, so I’m good on my lore. However, this has a ton of discussion points: character spotlights, creator interviews, splash page impact, secret diaries of walkers, top quotes, Image spotlights, story development, and much more. How Titan Comics made this instead of Image, I’ll never know, but this is for the ultimate Walking Dead (comic) fans among us looking for a deeper look into the hit series. I’m personally just inclined to take the comic one issue at a time. Dawn of Comics did a review that mirrors mine HERE.

 

Twenty-one of my 24 reviews were worth checking out, giving this week rating of 4.4 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!

This week was ELECTRIC! Sure, there was some padding with March and Superior, but my article, my rules. I hope you enjoy your Valentine’s Day, because I sure plan on it! Gonna play hooky and go into the city, where drinks, games, crafts, books, and a total disregard for my diet awaits! Follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) for the things I deem worth sharing and above all, love one another. Also, I know I didn’t review it here, but in honor of Valentine’s, I highly recommend to check out Love is Love which I have read multiple times and has a great review by Johnny Hughes HERE. Until next week, remember to visualize a place you’d rather be and then BAMF!

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