Lightning Review #46

Welcome to this week’s Lightning Review which kicks off March Madness! And no, I’m not talking about basketball… this is the last month I’ll be doing Lightning Reviews as we know it AND we have some amazing comic book happenings. Logan came out this weekend to rave reviews (with a Deadpool teaser) and I plan on seeing it this weekend if all goes well. I still have yet to see LEGO Batman, so maybe a double feature? Then, in two weeks, we got Saban’s Power Rangers and it looks dope! Not to mention ResurrXion kicks off and Deadpool’s “Till Death Do Us” story and all the AMAZING television this spring. Gah, so much nerdiness, so little time. So, that being said, thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope you enjoy it!

PICK LIST

Animal Noir #1- PASS! Curiosity killed the cat on this comic. I was skeptical going in but decided to give it a shot anyway, only to have my fears confirmed. In a much darker version of what Zootopia put on the screen, a giraffe on the police force gets a tip from his uncle that some “hunt porn” tapes were stolen and that his aunt is featured in one. To protect her from the repercussions should that leak, Manny has to use his connections to track down the tapes. His first big lead is a hippo mob boss, whose son is mentally handicapped and a friend of Manny’s. The plot is sure to thicken, but I don’t plan on finding out. The art is dark and not what I would have gone with on a story like this. Also, the idiot son in a noir narrative? Cliché much? You may like this, but I sure didn’t. The comic overall was too silly to be taken seriously but too serious to be funny. Elephantmen is a much better comic in this genre of animal cops.

Champions #6- PULL! Paintball must be this team’s equivalent to the X-Men playing baseball! As a team building exercise, our teen revolutionaries have a 3-on-3 shootout to improve field tactics and enjoy themselves after a seemingly non-stop stream of wrongs needing righted. It’s a great scene that fills the first half of the issue. That’s where it starts going downhill when the focus shifts to the Freelancers, who you may recall from last week co-starred in the Monsters Unleashed tie-in with the Champions. Mark Waid catches up the readers who missed that flop of an issue, and I still don’t think they are worthy foes for Cyclops, Ms. Marvel, and the rest. A couple have cool powers, but I’m not a fan overall. I know it’s good for them to have an actual antagonist, but I haven’t had any complaints up until now. However much I may dislike the Freelancers and their upstaging the Champions in the second issue in as many weeks, the paintball battle makes up for it. It’s a teenage wasteland, lol.

Complete Tales from the Con TP- PULL! I own an issue of Tales of the Con, so I knew I’d want to read and review this 112 page collection. Written by Brad Guigar and with art by Chris Giarrusso and Scoot McMahon, this array of comic strips take a comical look at the convention culture in all it’s glory. While there is plenty of material about fans, there is a viewpoint from the other side of the creator table that is refreshing for me as a fan. Everything from collectibles, cosplay, commissions, food, and fans get attention, as well as material specifically about the heroes and villains we love taking part in observational comedy. I love conventions large and small, so seeing the ridiculous truths put on page is a very fun read. The style is cartoony, and I’d have it no other way. Definitely pick this up, and at under ten bucks I personally think it’s a bargain.

Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special- PULL! This came out last year, but because of my immense enjoyment of Kill or Be Killed by the same creative team, I thought I’d pick this up out of a bargain bin. Any expectations I had were not only met but exceeded with flying colors. Instead of being all about mobsters and gunfight’s and the usual crime fare, this is actually focused on the criminal’s son who is forced to tag along on a mission to make him seem less conspicuous. Set in 1979, he is gifted a comic called Deadly Hands featuring Fang the Kung Fu Werewolf, as was the style of the mid-seventies. There are bits of the comic throughout, a la Tales of the Black Freighter in Watchmen, and it looks like an authentic book. Also, “Mike” befriends a local girl while his dad disappears for his business and while he knows it can’t last, he relishes being a kid and forgetting the circumstance of his visit. Yes, there is crime like assault, robbery, and murder, but the real story is in the characters. I can’t recommend this enough.

Deadpool #28- PULL! Like most celebrity marriages, the union between Wade Wilson and Shiklah with be short. The tensions and marital disputes have been building for some time now, and the Til Death Do Us Part event will be the culmination of that hostility. Deadpool’s three titles are sharing a six issue crossover pitting the Merc with a Mouth against the Monster Metropolis! The final straw for Shiklah is when an old monster wanders into a subway and is killed by scared New Yorker’s. The justice system fails to provide any retribution so she decides enough is enough. Deadpool wants to support her but has an obligation to the safety of humanity and, you know, to not die. There are a few jokes, but overall this is a lover’s quarrel with dire consequences. Honestly, divorce is the best case scenario. I will be reading the entire crossover, but since I am only doing Lightning Reviews for another 4 weeks, I will only write about the first three parts. But I’m excited to see how this goes.

Dollface St. Patrick’s Day Special #1- PASS! Holiday oriented comics generally involve a stretch from the norm to accommodate the particular celebration, and this is no different. Sadly, this story is stretched a wee bit too far for my tastes. I’ve really enjoyed Dan Mendoza’s newest creation of Dollface, both for his writing and artwork, but both suffer in this issue. They utilize guest artist Marcelo Trom, which was a definite downgrade. I prefer Mendoza’s art style, which put this at an immediate disadvantage.  On top of that, the story is fittingly about a leprechaun trying to kill Dollface, for whatever reason, and how her team is about to take out the pint-sized Irishman. They rely on common folklore like four leaf clovers and pots of gold (no rainbows though) to defeat him and honestly I felt like this was a cheap ending. They literally teleport to Ireland to defeat him, which takes the fun out of the unique predicament they begin in. I like Dollface and her regular title, but this is just shenanigans.

Faith #9- PULL! For the first time, this series has abandoned its two issue arc format and given us a one and done story. It also shifts the focus from Faith’s first person point of view to the different members of the cast that know her secret identity. When a new intern arrives on a day especially in need of a hero, “Summer” has to leave the office while her boss Mimi and coworkers Jay and Paige must cover for her. This is easier said than done, considering the intern is really just after the scoop on Zephyr! Jody Houser writes as usual, but I gotta mention new artist Kate Niemczyk. I never had anything critical to say about the regular artist, but I think I might enjoy Kate’s work more. She draws everything with a subtle beauty without being too obvious about it. Also, I’m glad Jody took yhe time to write each character with different personality and voice. Just another successful entry in the Faith series. What more can I say?

Green Hornet Reign of the Demon #4- PULL! I almost missed this conclusion, but thanks to a review by Andy Hall (CLICK HERE) I was able to squeeze this review in last-minute. After the realization that the new police commissioner is not also the Swashbuckler, a vigilante hero like Green Hornet, I was eager to find out who was wearing the purple hat and what Commissioner Cline had to do with it all. Turns out, it was the Nazis all along! No, seriously. Demon and Cline were in cahoots to have mutilated and brainwashed Chicagoans tear the city apart from the inside to cause chaos and pave the way for a simpler German takeover. It is up to Kato, Swashbuckler, and Green Hornet to stop the traitors and save the city before it is too late! And the last bit of dialogue is sure to be a factor in later Green Hornet series. I still hate his stupid mask, but I must say this miniseries was very enjoyable. Too bad I can’t say the same for the Green Hornet movie with Seth Rogen…

Hard Case Crime: The Assignment #3- PULL! I didn’t have the pleasure of reading the first issue of this gender-reassignment comic (yet) but after the second issue I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see how Frank Kitchen’s story gets resolved, by tragedy or revenge. In a nutshell, a hitman kills the loved one of a psychotic surgeon and undergoes the surgery against his will as punishment. Now a man trapped in a woman’s body, Frank must track down the doctor by killing his associates one by one. I liked that the writer addressed some transgender topics and the mental rollercoaster he has to go on (even though the review by Johnny Hughes HERE claims it’s a glossed over plot device). From the very beginning, we know the doctor survives and is being evaluated in a prison, but the how is very interesting, as is the fate of poor Ms. Kitchen. This could be called Hard Core Crime for the sexual scenes and frequency of topless women, but it truly is about the crime and I liked seeing the story unfold. Now I just need to get my hands on Peepland…

Midnighter and Apollo #6 (of 6)- PULL! Polishing off the six issue limited series, it all comes down to the two heroic lovers pitted against Neron in his home turf of Hell. We all know that if DC killed off either of these prominently gay characters there would be rioting in the streets and social media, so spoiler alert: they live. However, that isn’t to say Apollo and Midnighter don’t have their work cut out for them in escaping Hell, with an army of demons hot on their tail. Once home, the couple have a reunion with their friends who helped make the daring rescue possible and can completely relate to the unconventional relationship, as two of them are a gay sorcerer-shapeshifter couple. This is easily the most progressive DC comic as far as sexual orientation, and I applaud the fact that they never, ever portray their love as different, wrong, or negative in any way. For a comic blending romance and superheroics, this was at the top of the class.

Monsters Unleashed #4 (of 5)- PULL! When this event was announced, I thought to myself “great, yet another gimmicky Marvel event.” Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and I have been very pleased by how Cullen Bunn has written new characters and returning favorites, as well as explaining the events thoroughly. With the mother of monsters sending all she has at Earth, it is up to Kei Kawade to supply his creature creations to aide the heroes fighting them across the globe. This issue has Moon Girl connecting with the new inhuman and a number of interesting team-ups that would only be plausible in a crisis like Monsters Unleashed. When Kei gets targeted for destruction, it is fight or flight for all his protectors and his fate seems to hang in the balance (but April solicits spoil any suspense). It is Salvador Larroca’s turn to do pencils and I think he did a great job. The final issue comes out soon, and it’s gonna be BIG by the looks of it.

Moon Knight #12- PULL! Marc Spector has a real knack for getting into pickles, so we really shouldn’t be surprised the comic opens up with Mr. Knight strapped to a table for evisceration by some Egyptians. Luckily, this dimension didn’t completely erase his alternate selves and he is saved by Steven, Jake, and Moon Knight. Together, they rescue Anubis’ wife from slavery and buy back Crowley’s soul. What comes next in the series will incorporate one of his oldest and most popular foes, and if Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood continue their respective brilliance, I have no worries he will get the proper treatment. I know I am constantly praising Smallwood’s art but I cannot deny him the respect he has earned over the course of this series. I’m still amazed this character has not made it into movies or television because he is badass and complex, with a great character design. Make it happen Marvel!

My Little Pony Annual 2017- PULL! Subtitled “The Guardians of Harmony”, this 48 page annual contains six 8-page stories about different members of the pony community dealing with the threat of Chrysalis and her Changlings. We’ve got Rainbow Dash racing Shadowbolts, Pinkie Pie teaming up with Cheese Sandwich, Shining Armor and Twilight Sparkle trading roles, a Wonderbolt roundup, and everything tying together in the end with Spike reaching great potential. Individual stories have their own creative teams, with Jeremy Whitley and Christina Rice doing the words while Jay Fosgitt, Andy Price, and Tony Fleecs covering art. Heather Breckel does colors across the board. While some bits were better than others and there were a couple of inconsistencies between creators’ assignments, this was a very successful way to treat readers to MLP variety without sacrificing a double-sized plot.

Riverdale #1 (One Shot)- PULL! When the new CW hit show based on Archie Comics premiered last month, I was not expecting it do be so dark and dramatic. I always thought it was a happy-go-lucky story about teenagers in a small town. Even though it is different, I am really enjoying the show. Naturally, I wanted to read this for a little backstory and creative interpretation. The stories are by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who has done both the comics and the show, but each of the four main characters’ spotlights have different creative teams. I’m glad Jughead gets his obsession of burgers back in this and that we have a view of everyone’s summer before the events of the show. We get Veronica’s former life and Archie’s budding passions. I’m glad this isn’t ongoing though because it’s nice to get different experiences from television and comic books. Still well worth reading though if you love the show.

Rough Riders Nation #1- PASS! Adam Glass and Patrick Olliffe deliver a wonderful historical fiction comic in Rough Riders and now the second volume On The Storm, but this is not even worth flipping through. It starts with a bogus statement from 2009 declassifying information about how Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” never really ended, instead living on through his daughter Alice and recruiting notable celebrities in each decade. The comic continues in double page spreads displaying a group photo and information about each member. Unfortunately, it’s full of redacted information and goes into no detail of missions or highlights. Rather, it details criminal records and possible harmful associations. The art is ok, but Pat only does the original 1910’s team. Some decades are better than others, by their team roster, and the 1990’s are skipped altogether. No story or dialogue or anything interesting about this. The cover art is really all you need. However, you should definitely read the main titles because they’re awesome.

Slapstick #4- PULL! First, we had the warrior cartoon. Then, Smurf/pony hybrids. Now, Steve Harmon  (aka Slapstick) has accidentally animated all sorts of non-living items in his house during an attempt to open a gateway to Ecch. His best friend (and pivotal plot point) Mike channels his inner Looney Tune and shuts off the machine, but not before the War D.O G.S. cross over to un-animate the real world. They are a canine version of G.I. Joe and are possibly my favorite visitors from Ecch yet. There is a battle between cats and dogs that results in the abduction of Mike and our motley crew of heroes must travel to Dimension Ecch to save him (and hopefully get Steve’s junk back). What I like about this series is how unashamedly ridiculous it is, just like if cartoons actually invaded our world. Reilly Brown, Fred van Lente, and Diego Olortegui bring the outrageous to the page every single month. Also, Space Jam was a great movie, just saying.

Spider-Man Homecoming Prelude #1- PASS! I can’t believe I’m telling you NOT to read a book drawn by Todd Nauck about the my second favorite wall-crawler Spider-Man, but at least I’m being objective. The writer and artist did everything they were assigned to do, and did a good job. The issue is that this is literally a condensed retelling of Captain America Civil War with a slight focus on Peter Parker. There are a total of 3 pages of original content and the rest is regurgitated straight from the movie. When I got this, I was under the impression it would be an actual prelude to Spider-Man Homecoming, all about Peter and his friends and his new powers, but no. This should be retitled “MCU Civil War: Spider-Man” because that’s all it is. Worst part is a pre-ordered both issues so I’m throwing my money away on comics I don’t need. True, I collect Todd Nauck stuff, but this is just uninspired and disappointing. Take my advice and just watch the movie.

The Walking Dead #165- PULL! This is my third comic from this series in five weeks and honestly, even that’s not enough. Every issue delivers horror, action, suspense, and humor (in a sick kinda way). Eugene’s radio has been discovered, Rick has Negan’s back in zombie conflict, Carl leads a charge, the Saviors make their first move, and the horde resembles lemmings falling from a cliff into the sea. This is seriously a jam-packed issue, using 16 panel pages at times to include as much content as possible, ending in a cliffhanger that I think has as much impact for the comic as when Carl was shot in the eye. I could go into way more detail, but that would take the fun out of reading it. Kirkman and Adlard never fail to entertain. Also, both this issue and last week’s episode have plenty of Eugene who I’ve loved so far, but the show has got me all wound up questioning his loyalty and endgame. AMC and Image got different things going but they both have me captivated. Read, watch, discuss.

 

VARIETY LIST

Brave Chef Brianna #1 (of 4)- PULL! There’s just something about unusual cooking comics that really piques my interest. I guess it’s because I like food, comics, and unusual stuff. Go figure. Brianna is the only daughter of a terminally ill yet wealthy restauranteur who must compete against her many older brothers for the family fortune. She does so by opening an eatery in Monster City, full of creatures and no humans. This makes her spot the only place for a decent meal, despite the city laws against “human food” like flour, sugar, and cooked meats. Brianna’s doubts and insecurities constantly plague her, which grounds this otherwise far-fetched idea. Created and written by Sam Sykes, it’s a brilliant concept with cute art by Selina Espiritu and an underdog story that is sure to delight. Kaboom now has its own culinary masterpiece that I can read alongside the likes of Voracious and Space Battle Lunchtime.

Cosmic Scoundrels #1- PASS! Imagine Tek Jansen plus Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and you will have a rough idea of what this comic is all about. Two notorious space adventurers infiltrate an alien craft and steal a very important crate before being ejected into the void. Luckily the AI enabled ship rescues them and alerts them to a trespasser on board. We get some minor origin story before opening the crate and discovering  just how precious the cargo is. Bad jokes and over the top art just made this a chore to read, especially with every single page containing a footnote that acts more as needless commentary than actual information. I did like the coloring, even if the pencils were not to my tastes. This almost belongs on SNL’s old TV Funhouse cartoons alongside the Ambiguously Gay Duo. There are so many better space adventure comics out there that this is a joke, concerning both quality and the parody nature of the story.

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Three #3- PULL! I know I gave Doctor Who plenty of criticism during the Cybermen crossover, but I think that was because it was so overwhelming. This story returns the focus where a casual reader like myself can actually enjoy it. The Doctor and Alice are stuck with a Sapling who has stolen half their memories (he’s a cute Groot wannabe) and Alice decides to return home for a photo album to remember her mother. Upon arrival, they find her landlord is surrounded by multiple versions of himself and time has been converted to space, if that makes sense. For me, this was back to basics. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey and the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver have significant roles, so the essence of the show comes through the comic. Obviously, there is much more to it than what I’ve described, so if Doctor Who or alternate universes interest you, pick up this issue.

Evil Dead 2: Revenge of Evil Ed #2 (of 4)- PULL! Short and sweet, this chapter has Ash in Hell fighting Evil Ed’s minions, who just happen to be some of history’s greatest villains. Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, and Grigori Rasputin all gather in a tank seeking to stop the chainsaw-handed hero, but they fail to grasp just how insane Ash really is as he takes them out one by one. There is something truly gratifying about seeing people who’ve done unforgivable things get their comeuppance, let me tell you. I honestly thought this was gonna be terrible because Evil Ed is drawn hideously on the cover, but it actually turned out to be quite fun. I’d say this is about a third of the normal length of a regular comic book, so it’s a quick story by Space Goat Productions that is bloody and humorous. The next part has Las Vegas in Hell, so that should be interesting too.

Flash Gordon: King’s Cross #5- PULL! Having read some of the King’s Cross comics this year by Dynamite, I have a fairly secure grasp on who the characters are and how they all work as a team to defeat Ming the Conqueror. Everyone has been captured and Ming makes a deal with Flash Gordon: rule Earth in Ming’s name and the world will be spared his tyranny. He accepts, but Mandrake the Magician has secured Merlin’s sword, giving birth to a plan to save Flash and ultimately the planet! Everyone plays their part, from Jungle Jim and Phantom to Prince Valiant and Zarkov, and they are able to thwart the overlord! Honestly though, I think Ming is a lame villain for letting them all go in the end, but that gives him a chance to fight another day, so whatever. It’s ties the series in a nice little bow with action, plot twists, and a little romance thrown in. I just hope with John Carter joins the fray thanks to the developments in this issue.

Grimm Fairy Tales #3- PASS! The awesome magical elements of this issue were just not enough to tilt the scales in its favor, which is a shame because genies are the monster of the month. These lamp imprisoned beings are being collected and their power harnessed for a grand evil scheme, so it’s up to Skye Mathers and her posse to uncover the truth and end their progress. This comic was going quite well until Zenescope fell victim to Disney’s influence and had Jasmine and Ali show up. Again, the there is a very scantily clad female for no reason besides eye candy and an easy fixes saves them from certain death. The costume of the villain on the final page is just terrible and the writing is okay, but not great. I will say that they left this conflict unresolved with loose ends to address, so at least the reader is given something to invest in and look forward to next month. Overall though, this title still does little to impress me. For the full review by The Machine, click HERE!

Santeria: The Goddess Kiss #3- PASS! Either the two issues prior to this has an abundance of plot development and explanation or this one made leaps and bounds beyond my comprehension, or both. There is short summary of previous events, but because it covers both ancient and present events, I got little from that. The best part was the first five pages, detailing the experience of a young slave boy who is betrayed and must use his powers granted by a goddess to save himself from pirates. I could have read that whole comic, but it switches over to a modern police drama with a car chase and some supernatural intervention. I just think the writing was not very interesting, and with a concept this promising to boot. Maybe I needed to read the first two issues to appreciate this, but as is I just wasn’t invested or entertained.

Eighteen of the 25 comics I reviewed were pulls while seven were passes, giving this week a rating of 3.6 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!

That’s SPARKY! Although there were a few let downs, this is why I love reviewing comics. There is so much variety and hidden gems on the comic rack, so try something new! Go to your local comic book store and choose a book from my list or take some employee recommendations or just pick something at random. I drive an hour to go to Discount Comic Book Service because their pre-order system saves me money in the long run. (By the way, this is why some weeks I have a generic photo as the headline because I only go about twice a month.) In this digital age, supporting print helps the economy by supporting local jobs, not to mention adding to your collection!

Since I’m wrapping things up with Lightning Review #50 (because it’s a great number), I was curious what you would like to see from future content from me? Best and Worst? Listicles? More of the usual Comic Crusaders content? Let me know in the comments or by mentioning me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) and I will give you a shoutout in an upcoming article. Until next week, BAMF!

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