Sunday, April 27, 2014

Comics Capsule Reviews

4/9/14 Books
Savage Dragon #194: I admire Erik Larson for what he has achieved on this long-running superhero book. One of the few original Image books still running, the numbering on Savage Dragon is now ten times most Marvel and DC books, because of their endless and frustrating relaunches. Larsen says he’ll do the book until he dies if economically possible, and I believe him. The book has always been entertaining, with explosive action and characters aging in real time. So much so that the original Dragon, the alien with no memory who woke up in a burning field on Earth and ended up fighting super-villains, has retired. He has handed the reins of do-gooding over to his teenaged super-powered son Malcolm.

From what little I remember of my teenage years, Larson writes a convincing teen. Malcolm is trying to balance fame, girlfriends, groupies (he has no secret identity) and his dad’s old enemies who are trying to kill him. Not to mention the new villains who are trying to kill him. In issue 194, Torment, a villain who has his good and bad consciences on his head, each convincing him to do good/evil, goes a few rounds with Malcolm and causes some major property damage before running away. And then coming back, forcing Malcolm to dispatch him, possibly permanently. I’m sure next issue he will deal with his own conscience.

Savage Dragon #200 is up in six issues, and, like me, Larson loves to celebrate anniversary issues. I can’t wait to see what tale he cooks up for this one.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1: I can’t believe it!!!! A new #1 issue from Marvel!!! Such a rare and unusual occurrence. Let’s see if it is warranted. Writer/artist Kaare Andrews takes the character in a new direction. And that direction is awful.
First, Andrews repeats Iron Fist’s origin for the nth time, putting his own spin on it. He changes it just enough to be annoying and destroy what made it work originally. Then he turns Danny Rand into a depressed, amoral jerk who picks up superhero groupies for one-night stands. In this first issue, Iron Fist is attacked by some group resembling military ninjas and fights them. That is about all that happens. Talk about decompressed storytelling. The art and coloring are confusing, murky and too cartoony. And in a long line of Marvel martial arts writers, Andrews knows nothing about martial arts or hand-to-hand combat. Just once it would be nice to see Iron Fist or Shang Chi do some real Kung Fu, instead of whatever goofy shorthand the artists decide to use. Really, guys, Karate magazines are not that expensive. Buy one. In the end, Andrews gives readers no reason to care or buy issue #2.

In an editorial at the end of the book, Andrews seems to have true enthusiasm about working on Iron Fist. I appreciate that. I just wish the book was better.

Rating: * out of 5 stars

Shotgun Wedding #2: More vengeance-based fun by writer William Harms and artist Edward Pun. Chloe is getting closer to tracking down her erstwhile fiancĂ© Mike and his new bride-to-be, with a planned wedding gift of bullets rather than a new toaster. Flashbacks show Mike and Chloe’s relationship before he left her at the altar. She turns out to be crazier than we thought, but very good at hiding it from Mike. Harms presents an engaging story that slowly and deliberately tells how everyone got to this point, and Pun’s art and layouts show a unique understanding of visual storytelling. The man would be a great cinematographer. I love where this book is going. Highly recommended.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars
Flash Gordon #1: Dynamite takes another shot at updating comic strip and movie serial hero Flash Gordon. This is how a first issue should be handled. Parker includes the familiar main characters: Flash, here a bored daredevil spending his family’s money for thrills, Dale Arden, a no-nonsense television reporter, and Dr. Zarkov, an arrogant rocket scientist. After brief introductions of each character, the action flashes to the planet Mongo, with the three in a rocketship, fleeing from Mongo’s authorities. Writer Jeff Parker makes me want to know how they got there and why—I’m sure he’ll explain as the story progresses, but my interested is piqued. Going from one misadventure to another, the three end up crashing in the jungle, surrounded by a hostile tribe of blue aliens. This book was a perfect set up for issue #2, I look forward to see what trouble our heroes get into—and get out of—next.  

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

4/16/14 Books

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Six #2: Licensed books are tough to do, and the more obscure the property, the harder to make fans care and the stories matter. The Six Million Dollar Man was a hit when I was a kid in the ‘70s—the audience must be middle-aged fans like me who remember the series fondly. Is anyone else interested? Dynamite must think so, licensed properties aren’t free. 

While the reruns of the show don’t hold up well—the microbudget was just too small to make a sci fi show—the comic is not bad. Writer Jim Kuhoric obviously knows the show and does well portraying specific character personalities and speech patterns. The plot deals with the attack of the Maskatron, a robot version of hero Steve Austin that was featured in the 1970s toy line but never on the show (see microbudget). The espionage plot moves quickly and is more action packed than the show ever was. Steve ends up in a Russian research facility trying to steal some bionic technology, while Maskatron is hunting him down for some hot robot action. Fights, I’m assuming. A welcome addition to the television show’s mythology.

Rating *** out of 5 stars

Haunted Horror #10: This is such a fun book. Comics auteur and historian Craig Yoe has put together all kinds of collections of pre-Comics Code stories, including horror, romance and other genres. Haunted Horror is a gathering of the some of the best and most unusual non-EC horror comics. These stories are first-rate. “The Cult of 13 Ghosts” (from This Magazine is Haunted #3, 1952) tells the story of Semple Ridgedon, a Scrooge-like slumlord without the eventual redemption. When Semple finds a murder cult having unauthorized meetings on one of his properties, he tells them to skedaddle or he’ll whip them with his cane. The murdering ghost-Thuggees don’t respond as well as he had anticipated.

In “The Monster’s Ghost,” (from Dark Mysteries #2, 1951) despite a stranger’s warning, tough guy Bruce Gibson buys a house so haunted even that spikey-haired guy from Ghost Adventures couldn’t clear it out. Bruce is upset when he then finds the stranger living in his basement, summoning demons with his minions. Who wouldn’t be? A total skeptic, Bruce gives the stranger some of his blood to prove the villain can’t summon a demon. Um, sorry Bruce, turns out he can. Bruce isn’t actually killed by said demon, but he does have a magic sword stuck through his heart for the rest of his life. It’s funny, that happened to my cousin too.

In “Epitaph” (from Weird Mysteries #9, 1954), Edgar has recently lost his new bride Mariam. He can’t stop grieving because their relationship was so perfect. He wanders into the graveyard to visit her grave, which just happens to be the night that corpses rise from their graves to write their most horrible secrets on their tombstones (unknown fact: this happens all the time, just not around where you live). When he gets to Mariam’s grave, Edgar faints with shock as he finds out Mariam may not have been as perfect—or as faithful—as he thought.

There are several more stories in this issue, and they are all utterly charming. The presentation is fantastic, as they are printed on crisp, white paper and each issue has a thick page count and numerous stories. An amusing look at a bygone age of comics.
Rating: **** out of 5 stars


  1. Six million dollar man on the cathode ray tube and a hungry man dinner on the TV tray. That was living. And the one year ABC ran a special that involved Steve Austin saving the day by getting the new Saturday morning cartoons to the network in time. That was beyond awesome.

  2. Don't forget when Lee Majors saved Santa, Christmas, and all that was holy in the movie "Scrooged." An all-around hero for the ages!

  3. Nobody watching that movie with me realized how they were satirizing the old cross-promo's the networks used to do. I remember watching a 30 minute Love Boat special that had all the stars of the new ABC series on board. Santa pulls out the M-16 to defend Christmas.

  4. Can a bionic woman comic be far behind? And how hot was Lindsay Wagner circa 1976?

  5. Hey, Jerry! Remember me? I do work for Yoe Books and Yoe Comics so Craig sent me your Haunted Horror review. Glad you like it! Isn't that Cole cover amazing!

    Haven't seen you in maybe 20 years. Hope you're well!

  6. Steven, so great to hear from you! I'm glad we hooked up on Facebook! And I'm so pleased Craig found and enjoyed the review. I love his stuff. Kudos for living the dream!