On this week’s Lightning Review, we have over two dozen comics and trades that I was happy to read and give my opinion on. Normally I prattle on in this section about current comic stuff, but honestly, this week I think it’s best to just dive right in. But, to summarize, comic book TV shows are killing it right now, from Legion to Flash to Walking Dead and even Powerless. I finally finished Daredevil Season 2 and started Luke Cage on Netflix. Plus, I am very pumped for Logan next month. Okay, now onto to comics! Enjoy!
Beauty and the Beast #1-4 (1984)- PULL! I read many back issues this week because I pulled some overtime, but I thought I’d discuss this limited series in honor of the upcoming film by the same name. Funny thing is this came out almost a decade before the hit Disney animated feature was released. This actually a story about Beast (as in X-Men, Avengers, Defenders, etc.) and the beautiful Dazzler who has recently been outed as a mutant and it being exploited in an underground mutant fighting ring. There is romance, action, and drama throughout this series, plus Doctor Doom has a role that is fully revealed in the final issue. A very good story, considering it couldn’t steal ideas from the movie. But speaking of movies, now that I’ve read this, I would have loved a moment in X-Men Apocalypse where Hank sees a poster of Dazzler and comments on how pretty it/she is. They missed a serious opportunity with her. Anyway, back to the comics, this was very fun to read and I recommend it, regardless of whether you are a fan of these characters or not. It has plenty of heart.
Champions #1.mu- PASS! Most of the Monsters Unleashed one-shots have been really enjoyable, which made this an embiggen disappointment. The Champions is one of my favorite new team books, so of course I want to see them fight giant monsters! Unfortunately, most of the fighting is against the Freelancers, a group of powered pawns hired by Roxxon to start a fire at a pipeline protest and frame the “rioters” for the destruction. The teen heroes come to the rescue, but before victory can be claimed the forest is hit by not one, but two different monster meteors! The enemies must team up to defeat the common foe and even though the land is laid to waste, the civilians are saved. I hated this because the monsters took a backseat to low level villains. Not written by Mark Waid, this team just loses its spark and I hate to admit that I even prefer Ramos’ artwork. This just proves that without the proper people in place, any great work can suffer in no time.
Curse Words #2- PULL! The first issue was magical and hilarious and colorful and a total blast to read, so I would have to be an idiot not to pick up this comic. While not quite as good as the first issue (because let’s face it, when you start the race at a sprint, you’re bound to lose a bit of momentum), I had no complaints about this whatsoever. We learn what happens to everyone who witnesses Wizord’s defeat of Cornwall and what he must do to ensure they don’t unknowingly endanger planet Earth with that knowledge. There is also some insight into his former crew of baddies led by Sizzajee and of course, Margaret the talking koala. Wizord’s deal with a former warlord takes a splendid twist and the end of the issue is not a good sign for the upcoming battle with his former lover. Charles Soule and Ryan Browne have a hit on their hands.
Deadpool the Duck #4- PASS! Yeah… still can’t like this. Howard is still stuck in the negative zone battling for some control of the strange hybrid that is Deadpool the Duck and Rocket is in a vat that will hopefully cure his space rabies. Roxxon breaks in, but so does S.H.I.E.L.D. and a shocking familial revelation makes the showdown that much more dramatic. Deadpool gets a short turn in the negayive zone and we get the final villain for the last issue. And it’s… Doctor Bong. Thanks for pulling the lamwst villain ever out of the attic, Marvel. Really, great job. I am just so done with this series and thank God there’s only one more issue. Also, I need to say this: how in the feathery f**k is having Howard in a Deadpool costume an accurate hybridization of the characters?! Scars or size proportionality could have changed the game a bit, but this? It’s cosplay.
Extraordinary X-Men #19- PULL! I can’t vouch for Uncanny X-Men, but Extraordinary X-Men is doing these IvX tie-in issues the right way. Set within the events of the conflict, each issue focuses on individual members of the team and their struggles. Issue 17 was Storm, 18 was Forge, and this issue is all about Magik. After her young protégé Sapna became the World Eater in the last arc and was slain, her soul was absorbed by the Soulsword, whose history in the X-Men runs deep. In the midst of battle, Sapna is able to suck Illyana’s spirit into the sword and hopes to keep her there forever. Magik finds a compromise and I feel it will be good for the character in the future, whatever that my be after ResurrXion. The writing by Jeff Lemire was great, but what I was really impressed by was the art by Eric Koda inside the Soulsword. It looks as though space and time were drawn on a chalkboard, with negative space doing most of the work around white highlights. It’s truly stunning and worth picking up just for those panels.
Harbinger Renegade #4- PULL! How do you stop a man who can see and adjust to future event probabilities? Well, you don’t. Alexander Solomon lures the Renegades into a trap where he targets Kris, rather than the obvious choice of Peter. He expresses that she will help him eventually and gives her information that will likely be used to that end. Peter finally gets a shave and a haircut (two bits), Torque is back to his bulky self, Jay has a big decision to make, and we get an origin story of sorts for Solomon. Faith still gets drawn like her chin is a water balloon by Darick Robertson, but aside from that everything looks good. Also, shout out to Juan Jose Ryp for the great prologue pencils. Rafer Roberts ends this first arc on a hopeful note, which is a relief for me. The story has some rough patches in the first four issues, so having this end like it does leaves a smile on my face.
Hook Jaw #3- PASS! This series is not going to win any prizes, but it has a standard that it meets every issue, which can’t be said for every book. I wanted to tell you to pull this issue, but there are too many problems for me to overlook. The great white shark scenes are by far the best aspect about this, with Hook Jaw’s primal monologue and bloody action beneath the surface. Everything else is pretty disappointing. It could be a number of factors, but my interest in scientists escaping or Somalian pirates or military missions just fall flat next to Hook Jaw ripping this comic to shreds. Either give me more sharks or make the rest of the story better. For great white shark action, you won’t find much better on comic shelves. However, if plot or art are important to you, I wouldn’t bother. Watch Shark Week instead.
Inhumans vs X-Men #5- PULL! Ain’t teamwork great? Yes, there is still plenty of fighting and feuding between the two races in this issue, but the more gratifying parts are where they put aside their differences to actually fix the problem they have gone to war over. We all knew Karnak would eventually escape “the World” and his captors Jean Grey and Fantomex, but the pleasant surprise of Black Bolt’s release gives major credit to the better Summers brother Havok (yeah, I said it). Also, Colossus defeats Gorgon one on one, so yay us. But, as I said before, it is the inhuman/mutant alliances that make this a fulfilling comic. It may be a hit to his pride, but Forge needs Moon Girl to solve the Terrigen cloud crisis and Cyclops fighting for the Inhumans shows just how different he is from his deceased older self. No Nightcrawler (again), but this comic event is a wonderful one nonetheless. Concludes next issue.
March Book Three (2nd Half)- PULL! The climax of the trilogy and the Civil Rights Movement, the last 100 or so pages of this graphic novel covers the events of Selma, Alabama and the march to Montgomery. The culmination of years of protests, marches, sit-ins, beatings, arrests, and struggles of the black community, 1965 saw our nation reach a very low point and rise up to make sure the injustices are never endured again. Obama’s inauguration is woven into the narrative and comes full circle when John Lewis tells Andrew Aydin “I was thinking about that comic book idea.” Nate Powell’s art is so impactful and the fact that this is a first person account from a leader of this movement is just groundbreaking. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you read this. Not because it is a great graphic novel, not because it is a great book in general, but because it is simply GREAT. (Also, side note: I’m writing this on President’s Day, so reading about Obama and then watching Not My President’s Rallies on the news was a real emotional rollercoaster). Well, this finishes off Black History Month in the best possible way, so I hope you enjoyed my covering this over February’s Lightning Reviews. P.S. My full review of March Book Three can by found HERE!
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic #51- PULL! It’s no secret that Twilight Sparkle kinda gets on my nerves, but this issue definitely does the princess justice. A thief breaks into the castle and steals some select history books, so to make her feel more comfortable, the Mane Six have a sleepover. In the morning, they use a tracking spell to hunt down the books (and the culprit), only to find him in the public library, turning pages blank and summoning monsters from classic pony literature! Pinkie Pie gets some great moments in this, like a surprise party within a party (party-ception?) and having a hey day in a candy shop. This is James Asmus’ first MLP comic (as I can remember anyway) and I must say I was thoroughly impressed by how well he portrayed each character. Having Tony Fleecs on art duty definitely helps because he is one of my favorites. This was a real page turner, but let’s just hope those pages don’t end up blank.
Rough Riders: On the Storm #1- PULL! Rough Riders was one of my first reviews for Comic Crusaders and my very first 5 Star, if memory serves, so you know I had to jump on this comic. The first series involved Teddy Roosevelt’s team of Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini, Jack Johnson, and Thomas Edison stopping an alien threat in Cuba, but left plenty of room to continue the story. On The Storm picks up a few years later after Roosevelt becomes Vice President and the assassination attempt on President McKinley forces the team back together. This includes Monk Eastman, who washed out the first go round, and a surprise member that anyone who read Rough Riders will see coming. By the same team of Pat Olliffe and Adam Glass, it picks right back up and I loved it. Definitely read the first volume of Rough Riders, but this a great place to jump on if you missed that train.
Teen Titans #5- PULL! Bringing the first arc to a close, we see a major shift in the opponents to the young heroes. Damien is in a jail cell dying when the Titans arrive to rescue him, and when confronted by the League of Assassins hopefuls, he tells them that their fates can still be their own. They turn against Ra’s Al Ghul and fight his ninjas alongside the Teen Titans, sharing some fun dialogue (or annoying in the case of Beast Boy). Robin must confront his father Batman afterward and makes clear that his place is not in Gotham but alongside the Teen Titans. We finally get to see the Titans’ tower too! The comic comes together very nicely, with two thumbs up on all counts. This is not the line up that made me love Teen Titans (we have the original cartoon to thank for that), but adding Damien and Kid Flash is a nice substitution for Dick Grayson and Cyborg. Not thrilled about seeing Aqualad next issue though… we’ll see.
Uncanny Avengers #20- PULL! Deadpool versus Red Skull, mono y mono. Well, not really. With every other member of the Uncanny Avengers under telepathic control, Deadpool must stop his teammates in a non-lethal fashion. With the help of Spider-Man and Wong, he is able to temporarily evade the attacks of Wasp, Human Torch, Quicksilver, Synapse, and Brother Voodoo. He formulates a loose plan to take out his two biggest obstacles, Rogue and Red Skull’s daughter Sin, but even an immunity to mind control won’t save him from Rogue’s strength. I loved this cover and how unafraid the artist is to get gory with Deadpool, because I feel like many of his “team” books shy away from the fact that he is regenerative, not invulnerable. A very serious comic though, as it should be. After 3 (yes, three) different iterations of this title in the last 5 years, I will be so pleased to finally be done and over with this Red Skull/ Xavier’s brain arc.
Agents of P.A.C.T. #1- PASS! If this sounds to you like a knock off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you’re right. I’m not am expert on Captain Canuck or any other Chapterhouse property, but the similarities to some of Marvel’s heroes and stories are pretty obvious. PACT, or Paranormal Activity Containment Team, handles Canada’s affairs involving aliens and superhumans, and strange happenings worldwide have demanded their involvement. With a field agent who controls a sort of cosmic liquid gold and a former Olympian as director, PACT must handle it before their American counterpart H.A.L.O. does, because they opt for elimination over acceptance. This just felt very cookie cutter, uninspired and bland. Also, this statement is directly for Chapterhouse: learn to compress your files! Apparently, they claim to wanna retain quality, but this standard comic was 779 MB! Absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary. Marvel and DC never exceed 100 MB as .cbr files, so there is no excuse for Chapterhouse to not follow suit with their .pdf files. I had to screenshot the file page by page and delete the main file just to have room in my Dropbox folder. Okay, rant over.
Black Eyed Kids #11- PASS! This horror comic has some unnerving aspects, but since I don’t read issue to issue I am not very interested in this as a single issue. The master of the B.E.K. is hunting for young Michael who is under their persuasion yet unable to kill his family as all the others in their group have. Meanwhile, Michael’s uncle is getting the bad news from his estranged brother and ex-girlfriend (who is now in a relationship with his brother) and he’s pretty skeptical until a B.E.K. gets shot in the head in his yard. What I first thought was a very eerie idea of kids killing their families has turned more into a gang initiation/ brainwash story that loses it’s mystery as it develops. Kids killing their families is still creepy though. Just watch Sinister.
Black Road #7- PULL! One of the most frustrating things as a reviewer of so many comics is that sometimes I receive an issue well into the series and have to make due with just what I’m given, no background or context or anything. This can be either a downfall for the story or an advantage, but on this comic I just want to know more about what happens in the last 6 issues (minus #4 which I read 3 months ago but had very little to do with the current plot). What I read here was really good, with characters I was interested in and art that reflects the bleakness and simplicity of the Crusades. The slave that is practically an ox was admirable and the plan to use the sword the pierced Christ’s side to slay in the name of God is one I’d definitely read. Brian Wood was smart to write this with several pages lacking dialogue, as it lent credit to the stealth of the young female archer. But like I said, I wish I could read this series as a whole, rather than in bits and pieces because I feel like that would make it even better.
The Creators #4- PULL! A hybrid of Harry Potter and the newest Marvel character Kei Kawade, this comic is about a school for teens that show potential creating monsters by drawing them. The main character Maya has created a “Role Creation” which has been taken away by the headmaster and is the source of Maya’s frequent headaches. I’m not sure what Role Creations are or what purpose they serve, but we know they are important. Also, the teachers are monstrous and adults aren’t able to create due to brain physiology, so there is definitely shady stuff happening in the teacher’s lounge. At this school, students are judged solely by their creative ability, which makes the hierarchy unique from the normal jock/nerd cliché. Also, I love that the art is in greyscale with occasional pops of color because it makes the idea of the blandness of schoolwork versus the vibrance of imagination more significant. Published by Alterna and executed by Michael S. Bracco, this comic not bad at all.
Detective Comics #951- PULL! Normally this series goes below my radar, but I got it at random and let me tell you it is pretty heavy on the “detective” aspect. This is the second comic this week to feature the League of Shadows as the villain, which surprisingly didn’t feel redundant or tiresome. Batman discovers the mayor of Gotham murdered as the police arrive and he is now public enemy #1. Shortly after, the town is plagued with Joker’s laughing gas and the citizens are under some strange influence besides. Now, it is up to the world’s greatest detective to deduce whether this is a string of unrelated events or a plot orchestrated by the elusive League of Shadows. Batman was drawn superbly by Christian Duce and I already know James Tynion IV knows his stuff when concerning the caped crusader. Although Batman-centric, there are a number of supporting characters, especially Batgirl, that make this comic dynamic and less broody. Good job.
Freelance #1- PULL! Chapterhouse rolled out both this and Agents of P.A.C.T. in their first wave of a new era of their line (kinda like DC’s Rebirth), and this is definitely the better of the two. Not so much of a superhero team as they are a group of friends who happen to right wrongs, Lance, John, and Tasha are called out to a dimensional rift in Nunavut, Canada to reseal it like Tasha’s mother did once before. However, the results are disastrous when they discover their Breach Key is a fake. The actual artifact is held by a sorceress called Apollyon who is beautiful yet wicked. Written by Jim Zub and Andrew Wheeler, the plot flows nicely with the talents of artist Vaneda Vireak that resemble an Anime style of illustration. Each character is unique and worth developing, so if I got the next issue to review, I wouldn’t complain unless Chapterhouse doesn’t compress their freaking files! (FYI, this file was also WAY too big at over 400 MB)
Jackboot & Ironheel- PULL! I had doubts about this going in, but Nazis getting tormented by demons, zombies, and monsters was quite satisfying. But enough about American politics, lol. An English football player nicknamed Ironheel gets drafted as a pilot in WWII and is the sole survivor when his craft goes down. The Nazis keep him in a castle shared by nuns that has a bell with no hammer that rings in the night. The bulk of the graphic novel focuses on the various characters and builds up the suspense of the supernatural, but once the ball starts rolling it picks up serious momentum. Max Millgate handles all but the lettering, so it’s essentially his and he should be proud of the work he’s done. I’m surprised IDW published this instead of a company more drawn to dark stories. Honestly, it doesn’t matter so long as it gets into the hands of those who can appreciate it.
Jay Drisbow’s Monster Invasion- PULL! This comic pioneer is one that I’d never heard of until I read this collection of his works, but man is it good. By modern standards, his short stories would be characterized as hokey or overly simplistic, but these are the pulp comics that paved the way for horror in this medium. When I picture vintage, pre-code horror strips, this is the type of thing I recall even though I’ve never read them. Off-color people drawn roughly the same way in every single comic with monsters that follow a general template would seem monotonous and repetitive, but his writing was a hoot to read. Ghosts, ghouls, demons, and an array of hairy ape-like creatures grace each 6-8 page tale and it’s just good creepy fun. The collection is compiled by IDW and includes an in-depth interview with the 90-year-old writer/artist that encouraged the things that make your skin crawl.
Monsters Among Us #0- PULL! I probably shouldn’t give this the same credit as I would these other entries, considering there are only 5 pages of actual comic book, but I feel this is something I could really enjoy reading. This is a preview of the first issue by Tidal Wave Productions, a newcomer that deserves a fair chance. This story will be about a group of monsters consisting of a sasquatch, witch, chupacabra, moth man, and a lizard man who are captured and caged by an organization looking to study/exploit them. Apparently they break out and this comic follows them as they escape those that hunt them. The preliminary artwork and character sketches look promising, with several artists doing their take on Monsters Among Us in the bonus materials. The quality isn’t up to the standard of some established indie publishers, but that adds to the appeal a bit for me. I hope this turns out as good in the first issue as it looks here.
The Power of the Dark Crystal #1- PULL! From what I’ve heard, being a fan of Labyrinth and not seeing The Dark Crystal is a cardinal sin, and after reading this comic I’m starting to think they’re right. I have the unique perspective of reading this with no knowledge of the source material, but even I know that this will be an intriguing continuation of the hit Jim Henson movie. One hundred years after the events of The Dark Crystal, a young member of a race of fire people travels to Thra in a last-ditch effort to save its’ dying planet. To do so, he (I’m assuming it is male) must take a shard of the crystal back home, but what will that mean for all those who depend on its light? Fantastic and beautiful, I was gripped by this story. Simon Spurrier and the Matthews artists bring this to life and I look forward to reading issue #2. I may have to watch the movie before continuing this comic series though, just to be safe.
Sink #1- PULL! I actually felt scared in less than 32 pages. Like, legitimately creeped tf out. This comic is an urban horror story set in Glasgow, Scotland and the best way I can describe it is if the Purge was every night and you missed the bus. The main character is a 20-something year old guy who gets stuck in Sinkhill, the worst part of town, and has to walk home through the shadows that hold psychopaths and monsters. He gets saved from a gang of loonies with knives by a man in a fox mask brandishing a shovel by the name of Mr. Dig. However, that’s not the end of his nightmare, as what comes next is even more terrifying. Methinks we won’t see much more of him. Mr. Dig is drawn as a bloody, completely unhinged vigilante that reminds me of a real life Foxy from Five Nights at Freddy’s. Congratulations to John Lees and Alex Cormack for officially scaring the piss outta me.
Valor Volume 1- PASS! Originally printed in 1955, these five issues collected by Dark Horse are a testament to the shift that occurred between the Golden Age and the Silver Age of comics. Published by EC, Valor was a magazine featuring 3-4 stories set in various historic eras that are commonly associated with warriors and empires. Plenty of Knights, Romans, and revolutionaries in this 160 page volume, as well as some less conventional stories like Asian and Egyptian powers. What drove me nuts about this was how dense and boring it was. It felt like a curriculum to teach kids about history, only it’s historical fiction at best! Big blocks of speech and narration with no humor and very little romance dominate most pages and compared to modern comics, the action is hardly action at all. Oh, and any story not featuring white people is extremely racist. I’d only buy these as bedtime stories because they put me to sleep.
The Visitor How and Why He Stayed #1- PULL! A Hellboy comic roughly following his origin, yet Dark Horse’s most popular character doesn’t even make the title. This was a pleasant surprise for me, but could this be a dumb move to not highlight Hellboy in a Hellboy comic? This is called “The Visitor” because when the young red demon arrived on Earth, there was an alien sent here to eliminate him to prevent the destruction he would bring. However, upon seeing he was just a boy, the visitor decides to refrain from his task until the child shows indication that he is the threat they suspected him to be. Year by year, the visitor watches incognito as Hellboy grows and learns, discovering he could be a force for good rather than evil. A pure Mignola creation, this is a wonderful addition to the Hellboy mythos and I recommend it. Also, on a related note, Guillermo Del Toro announced the third Hellboy movie is officially dead, which is a real bummer but not unexpected. The longer it was delayed, the worse the odds became.
Yohance & The Ekangeni Crystal- PULL! This was a pretty cool comic, drawing inspiration from science fiction movies like Star Wars, Tron, and Guardians of the Galaxy to present a technologically driven heist story. Yohance is a mix between Han Solo and Iron Man, with advanced engineering capabilities and the heart of a kleptomaniac, a dangerous combination. Travelling on a spacecraft manned by his own robotic creations Chuba and Nyabi, he is on a mission to steal a crystal of great value which may prove difficult if his gadgets keep malfunctioning. Published by Midas Monkee and created by Paul Louise-Julie, I get the impression that this is a one man operation and if that is the case, I’m incredibly impressed. He’s got a half-dozen projects with a variety of themes that all focus on black characters, as well as his own online retail shop and plans to adapt these stories into film. Both art and writing are solid so if you have the chance, please check this out.
Twenty-one of the 27 comics I reviewed had positive impressions, resulting in a weekly score of 3.9 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!
That’s SPARKY! Not only that, but in case you missed the link above, check out my review of Nightcrawler’s guest star role on Spider-Man/ Deadpool #14 ~~>HERE<~~. Follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) and check out all the great reviews, new, and previews featured on ComicCrusaders.com! Only 5 more Lightning Reviews left until my hiatus (for info, check out the end of LR 44), but that just means this will be a March to remember! Until next week, buh-BAMF!