LIGHTNING REVIEW #50 (FINALE)

Welp everybody. We all knew this day would come eventually. Welcome to the 50th and final Lightning Review, where I give a brief review of all the comics I read this week. I’ve provided the good, the bad, and every shade of gray in between over the course of this article, and this one will be no different. New Spider-Man Homecoming trailer came out this week, as did one for Stephen King’s IT and Planet of the Apes. Legion ended and Riverdale has people reeling, but no spoilers because I’m still behind an episode on each. AMC’s The Walking Dead ends this weekend and I’m pumped! But this is all about the comics, and there is plenty of be excited for in this one, from DC crossovers to priming for ResurrXion. Without any further delay, I give you, for one last time… my Lightning Review!

PICK LIST

Animosity #6- PULL! Last issue was much more focused on the characters and the changes they are going through, but this one shifts back to a more action and suspense feel. Both are good and both are necessary to tell a good story. A group of men disguised in animal hides hunt down Jesse, Sandor, and their travel companions to appease their leader, the Dragon. Jesse is haunted by visions of her mother, but when her mind clears, she realizes they are the influence of the lammer-geier (lamb vulture) whom the others regard as the mythical beast. She rejects it’s offer to join them in return for her friends and even that isn’t enough to save them all. Since the beginning, this has been a phenomenal work by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre, with this issue proving no different. Truly remarkable stuff.

Biff to the Future #3- PULL! Biff Tannen is the stereotypical dumb bully villain everyone loves to hate and after an unsuccessful stint in Hollywood, he returns his focus to the one that got away. Lorraine now has three children with George McFly, but that won’t stop the super rich big shot from trying to get her by any means possible. He starts buying out the town and while George stages protests against his wrong doings, Lorraine begins to feel distanced from him. This issue, someone dies! Biff is written by Bob Gale and Derek Fridolfs very true to his movie self, which some will really loathe. Alan Robinson’s art has never been my favorite, but Back to the Future isn’t a property I’d put a realistic artist on, so it works. Hill Valley will never be the same, unless someone has a time machine… but what are the odds of that?

Booster Gold/ Flintstones Annual #1- PULL! DC and Hanna-Barbera released four specials this werk crossing over classic cartoons with comic heroes, and while I did not review Adam Strange/ Future Quest, the other three are included in this article. When an alien invasion threatens Booster Gold’s world in the future, he travels to prehistoric Bedrock to thwart them on a previous attempt at contact. The plot is a bit convoluted, but there are interesting moments blending the modern stone age family with a cocky time traveler. I was disappointed that the current Flintstones creative team didn’t work on this, but the product is still suitable. Also, each of these specials has a back-up story with other cartoon icons, and this one’s Jetson featurette was eye-opening and heartfelt. Maybe its own ongoing?

Deadpool and the Mercs for Money #9- PULL! Part 3 of the 6 issue crossover event pitting Deadpool and friends versus Shiklah and her army of monsters is not the low point I thought it would be. I’ve been critical of the Mercs title, but if there were a place for a such a unique team, this is it. Tasked with sneaking into Shiklah’s stronghold in Rockefeller Center, the Mercs are able to use their unusual looks to waltz in undetected, because robots and primates are definitely not human. It does address Deadpool’s mission to find Dracula with Spider-Man and Van Helsing, but this is mostly about the monsters and the mercenaries. Also, one of their roster proves unable to resist Shiklah’s control! Hastings, Coello, and Guru-eFX do a fine job blending this group into the event with humor, action, and purpose. Well done.

Green Lantern/ Space Ghost Annual #1- PULL! Team-ups that work together in a cohesive and natural setting truly make me happy. The similarities between the host of Coast to Coast and the ring wielding Hal Jordan are just too obvious to not ignore: both a defenders of peace and justice all over the universe with plenty of team support and accessories supplying much (if not all) of their power. So when a distress call is sent to the far reaches of space, these two heroes come the rescue. It follows a pretty standard plot format, with some twists, and overall I was quite pleased with the end result. Casual fans with pick this up and follow along with ease. Written by James Tynion IV and Chris Sebela, with art by Ariel Olivetti, this story is out of this world! Also, the Ruff n’ Reddy back-up story is bad comedy at its finest.

Hook Jaw #4- PULL! My wife is the one with the shark fixation; she’s terrified of them, yet loves watching Shark Week and movies about shark attacks. I started reading this to expand my knowledge of great white fiction, and I’m not disappointed. Basically, a group of scientists are captured by pirates looking for a very special crate containing an object of great value and have somehow gained the control of Hook Jaw, a massive shark with a harpoon through its cheek and insatiable hunger. This issue contains a great moment where one of the biologists is dangled over the water and Hook Jaw breaches to eat her legs off. Awesome. The writer includes a primitive monologue for the beast that I’ve enjoyed from the beginning. Only one issue left, and while it isn’t the greatest comic out now, it is the best shark comic.

Inhumans Prime #1- PULL! You know I care way more about what happens to mutantkind after the war over the Terrigen cloud than the inhumans, but that doesn’t mean I’m not curious where the future leads them. Three major developments in this ResurrXion prelude: First, a final standoff against Maximus and the Uncanny Inhumans, resulting in his banishment. Second, Queen Medusa relinquishes her title & transfers authoritative power to Iso. And finally, the secret of Terrigen rests with a character calling himself Marvel Boy (& also maybe Black Bolt, depending on what his brother’s final words were). The art is stunning, with a two page spread midway through that could make an awesome team poster. Moving forward, I doubt I’ll read much Royals but I am not against the Inhumans like I was either.

Justice League of America #3- PASS! New team books have to accomplish a lot in the first few issues, but one of the most important for me is seeing how they work together and how their individual personalities affect the whole. In this respect, JLA fails miserably. After brief introductions in the first issue, there has been zero growth for characters or as a unit. In a struggle for control over a country by big bad Havok, the team splits up to fight his followers one on one. Booooooo! There are good moments in this, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like Steve Orlando doesn’t care how they interact and is only focused on highlighting one hero at a time. And Batman. Diogenes Neves’ art is doing this book more justice than its writing deserves. On page 8, Lobo gets the star treatment that should be turned into a poster.

Man-Thing #2- PULL! R.L. Stine was my first introduction to the horror genre with his Goosebumps book series (and televised adaptations), so his debut in comics on a grotesque monster title was a stroke of genius. I had to catch up by reading the first issue, which provided an amazing origin refresher for new fans like me. This issue has Man-Thing fighting himself, literally and figuratively, only to lose part of his humanity. His struggle to regain his voice involves a blast from the past and will lead to unusual places. Stine incorporates humor and classic comic narrative methods (like asking the reader to stay tuned for answers next issue) into an introspective look at Marvel’s resident swamp dweller, paired with fantastic art by German Peralta. He also includes short scary tales at the end of each issue. Definitely worth your time & dime.

Mercy Sparx Year One #2- PULL! I first was introduced to this title at a convention where Devil’s Due/ First Comics had a booth of all their material. A sampler had Mercy Sparx and I thought it had potential. Well, I’m glad I requested this because it was a blast. A demon’s daughter with an angel fixation is stuck on Earth to kill rogue angels, but this “Year One” series develops her back story from childhood how she meets a companion top side. She’s a really cute devil child who grows up to be a hot devil lady, with fighting chops and tattoos. Think Hellboy (Dark Horse) meets Hellchild (Zenescope). There is swearing and nudity and all sorts of grown up stuff, but the fact that Mercy is a child really makes this a fun read too. The first issue wasn’t as enjoyable for me, so this was better than a bag of candy from a stranger.

Ninjak #25- PULL! If anyone had doubt that Roku wasn’t a conniving, cold-hearted killer, read this comic and educate yourself. She has promised each member of the Shadow Seven their deepest desire if they accompany her on a quest to kill Master Darque, but in actuality they are to be used as glorified cattle for the evil entity. Ninjak has an enchanted sword that can end the threat, but that might require a degree of faith and trust from Roku. Matt Kindt is a great writer, so I have really enjoyed Ninjak lately. I mean, they are attacked by a grizzly bear… in an aerial surprise attack. I mean, what?! Art duties are shared by Stephen Segovia and Ulises Arreola, who accomplish their task with a high degree of success. Back story and current plot were interesting and worth reading. Next issue concludes to arc!

Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #2- PULL! Annie, are you ok? Are you okay Annie? After the assassination attempt of President McKinley’s life, Vice President Teddy Roosevelt reassembles his team of specialists called the Rough Riders to solve what they believe to be a bigger conspiracy rather than a one man job. Edison has used the technology obtained in their first mission to bring Annie Oakley back from the dead, and she doesn’t seem the same to me… Monk Eastman is back for a chance at redemption and the team of Houdini and Jack Johnson is back! I was such a huge fan of the series (Read my full review HERE!) that I was worried this next chapter would be a disappointment, but so far, I’m very pleased by the work of returning creators Adam Glass and Pat Olliffe. Top to bottom, this book is fantastic. Unless this title gets totally derailed, I’ll read it indefinitely and I suggest you do too.

Saban’s Power Rangers: Aftershock OGN- PULL! I saw the film last weekend and one of the pressing questions on my mind was how Angel Grove would recover from the massive attack unleashed upon the city, with extensive property damage and a crippled population. Well, this graphic novel addresses just that. The town is in full emergency mode when a disaster aid crew arrives with more than the citizens on their to do list. Meanwhile, the Power Rangers are handling all the threats that arise in the aftermath, from putties and new monsters to the internal struggles within the team. This is a good filler story based in the newly imagined franchise by writer Ryan Parrott and artist Lucas Werneck. Also, two megazord-sized thumbs up for including material from the first Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series TPB. For the full review by fellow crusader Dodgy, click HERE! 

Suicide Squad/ Banana Splits Annual #1- PULL! I’d never heard of Banana Splits before today, so the idea of a bubblegum pop band comprised of anthropomorphic animals teaming up with deadly assassins seemed pretty ridiculous. It still is actually, but the absurdity is what made this fun to read. The band is thrown in Belle Reve and once Amanda Waller (Shot Caller, lol) sees them in action, they must extract the scattered Suicide Squad from a mission gone awry in return for their release. It’s a farce of a comic, with voice gags and silly set-ups, but a comic with Banana Splits would have to be, right? The art is just as ridiculous as the writing, so taking this seriously was out of the question. The Snagglepuss story was a bit of a let down, but you can’t argue its originality. Overall, the there crossover specials I read were quite entertaining, for what it’s worth.

Three Stooges April Fool’s Day Special #1- PULL! How could I turn down an April Fool’s comic? First impressions had me second guessing the decision to pick this up, but I was quite entertained. I loved the Stooges growing up, especially the cartoons, so this was right up my alley. Larry, Curly, and Moe find themselves in two wacky predicaments in this comic, and while both are very different, each captures the heart of the Three Stooges. The first has the boys at a Renaissance Faire, which they mistakenly believe to be actual medieval times, while the second is a western that has them play the role of both bank robber and deputies. I read this in their voices and felt each character got ample time to *ahem* express themselves. Nothing specifically about April Fool’s, but these fools are enough to make the point.

The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #2- PULL! Hellboy and the paranormal go hand in oversized hand, so we should not be surprised that he has a secret alien observer following him around in his younger years. Sent to kill the beast, he soon discovers that the demon child is a tabula rosa gaining humanity rather than destroy it. This issue has the visitor (assuming human form) watch Hellboy stop an armadillo monster in Austin and then dismiss another summoned entity on his own before going home to his own suburban life. We get some history of how he meets his human wife and see them interact candidly concerning his line of work, so at least it’s an honest relationship. This fits in perfectly with Dark Horse’s “Mignolaverse” with its classic art and writing style, and while it’s not flashy, it is enjoyable to read.

Voracious Feeding Time #4- PULL! Dinosaurs. Alternate dimensions. Exotic cuisine. These topics may feel unrelated, but this comic combines them in a crazy way that actually works. Nate is healing from the attack of an enraged dino cop who then stole his time jump suit and travelled to “our” world. Nate must team up with Gus (a triceratops) to go and get the now feral bandit before it’s too late! We also get some insight into his love life, which helps to break up the weirdness. I kinda miss the days when this story was all about serving prehistoric meats to unsuspecting people, but I’d be lying if I told you this wasn’t more exciting. Markisan Nato and Jason Muhr present a great original concept that never stagnates for too long before changing it up again, with each idea trying to one-up the previous comic.

X-Men Prime #1- PULL! The Children of the Atom are finally seeing developments that fans of the BEST team of superheroes can be proud of (come at me bro). While the direction of the X-Men Blue and Weapon X titles are addressed, this one shot is a homecoming for Kitty Pryde at it’s core. After returning from her adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy, she is approached by Storm who is trying to resign from the X-Men. This leads to a tour of the X-Mansion, where she has reunions with Colossus, Jubilee, and Illyana. While I was disappointed in the lack of Nightcrawler, I loved the direction of this comic. I felt something I haven’t in a long time: hope for the future. There is a sampling of the work of many creators working on upcoming titles, so my opinion is equally mixed but overall quite positive.

 

VARIETY LIST

Cosmic Scoundrels #2- PASS! Remember all the terrible stuff I said about the first issue? Yeah, well copy and paste it here. I honestly don’t feel like wasting the space in my last Lightning Review on this, but true to my commitment to share the good AND the bad, I must. The best part about this is the bright, psychedelic colors, but you can paint a turd and it is still just a turd. The two brothers steal a crate containing a baby and try selling it on the black market, but not before violating intergalactic law and causing major property damage. The line work is all scribbly and the writing is juvenile to the point where I’d only recommend this to stoners looking to maximize their high. Also, the tiny useless foot notes kill any rhythm this comic could potentially have. I’m so glad I never have to read this ever again.

Elf Quest: The Final Quest #19- PASS! As far as adventure fantasy stories are concerned, I’ve never been a huge fan. Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, and others are interesting, but not captivating like my other passions. Because of this, the nearly 40 year old comic series Elf Quest has never been on my radar until now. I’m no better off for having read it either. It amazes me that the same creative team of Wendy and Richard Pini have taken charge for the entire duration of its publication, and while that protects the integrity of their vision, it also dissuades change. If this was published now or 30 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to say if not for the digital art techniques employed. I can say the character physiology is iconic and the page layouts were not mundane, but the content was nothing to write home about.

Mayday #5- PULL! I hate reading the last issue of a series or arc that I have not invested in over time because the payoff is weak without the proper buildup. That being said, this comic had plenty to compliment even going in blind. Set in the San Francisco riots of 1971, operatives for Russia are trying to deliver a package in the midst of the confusion. This turns into a manhunt full of blood and high speed chases before Codename Felix finally escapes. This is a bare bones impression I got from reading, but I’m confident I has missed the finer plot points. I really enjoyed that this is written with a specific, period reflective soundtrack that is compiled in a Spotify playlist by Alex de Campi. This isn’t bogged down with useless text and relies on action sequences to move the story. Not great as a single issue, but I can tell it is in good company.

Because of my reliance on the PICK LIST this week, the overall rating was quite high! Only 3 of the 21 comics reviewed had negative spins, granting a score of

4.285 out of 5 Lightning Bolts!

That’s ELECTRIC! It feels great to have my last two Lightning Reviews end on such a high note, but it also makes me think I’m going soft. But trust me when I say these comics were fantastic, so long as you pay no attention of the VARIETY LIST, haha.

So, this is it. I know I’m writing this on April Fool’s Day, but this is no prank. The end of my year long commitment to providing hundreds of reviews a paragraph at a time has finally come. As I’ve said before, I love doing these, but in order to expand my horizons, I must shift focus and do new things. Concentrate on finding a new career path, other types of work for Comic Crusaders, and of course doing the No Prize Podcast. I will be recording my first session very soon, so keep on the lookout for that! This week we discuss over 35 comics released in the last two weeks, as well as the work of John Byrne and a character analysis of everyone’s favorite web-slinger!

It has truly been a privilege to write for you every week and from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I’m not going anywhere, so I hope you continue to read/listen to my other work. And who knows? Maybe in a few months there will be another kind of regular article that I write. Let me know if you have any ideas. There’s a link below to my review of Riverdale #1, out this week from Archie Comics that can tide you over until my next project. In the next month, I promise there will be at least one product review, one convention review (C2E2 baby!), and one podcast. Follow me on Twitter (@bamfingbob) to stay current with my work and for stupid, fun stuff all day long. Again, thank you for loyally reading every week like I have. God Bless. Until next time, bye and BAMF!

Riverdale #1

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