Monday, September 29, 2014

Comics Capsule Reviews

Dawn/Vampirella #1
Dawn/Vampirella #1: Joseph Michael Linsner is one of the finest artists working in modern comics. Unfortunately, as a writer he makes an excellent artist. Linsner created the Dawn character, and here she crosses over for the first time with the long-running blood-sucker Vampirella. I don’t demand much from a story about two sexy women with big boobs (both incidentally created to be comic anthology hosts, not main characters). But making sense would be nice. Both ladies are captured by a well-dressed demon who wants them to catfight. The winner will have the honor of bearing his heir. Given no choice but to battle for their lives, Vampirella prepares to throw down. But wait! Dawn suggest they have a storytelling contest instead. Huh? Because the plot says he has to, the demon agrees. Dawn starts to tell a really boring story until the demon goes to sleep (with the reader) and they try to escape.

I’m not sure what was worse, the inscrutable maze of a plot or the awful, awful dialog. The art was fantastic.

Rating: *** out of 5 stars (for the art)

The Names #1
The Names #1: Writer Peter Milligan never seems to run out of tricks. For his newest project, he turns to the streets of New York City. When Walker commits suicide, his wife Katya doesn’t buy it for a minute. The more she digs into what happened, the more opaque things get. She discovers shady dealings, planted evidence, and a cryptic video Walker left for her that leads to more questions than answers. Tearing her way through Walker’s associates, all Katya wants is the name of the person responsible. She discovers not just a name, but that there may be more Names than she can handle.

Milligan sets up a wonderful mystery and another iconic character. Katya is a smart, kickboxing phenomenon who won’t stop until she gets the truth. And if she has to break a few eggs (or bones) to make the omelet, so be it. The art by Leandro Fernandez is a bit cartoony for my taste, but certainly not bad and fits the material well. A great start for what I hope to be a delicious mystery series.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Velvet #7
Velvet #7: This book gets better every issue. Agents Colt and Roberts have been dispatched to find Velvet and kill her. As they follow her from two different ends of the world, the evidence starts to indicate that she may be a pawn in the game, not the guilty party. It becomes clear that she was framed for murder, and she is backtracking events to discover the real culprit. And not in an OJ kind of way. One step ahead of her pursuers, she leads them straight back to London—all part of her plan. When they get there, they find Velvet has kidnapped the one person who can call off the witch hunt and find the actual killers. But will they? Velvet is running out of patience ...

From Steve Epting’s epic artwork to the 1970s setting to the behind-the-scenes letters pages, everything about Velvet works. This book gets Humble Opinions’ Highest Recommendation.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

The Bionic Woman Season Four #1
The Bionic Woman Season Four #1: Ohhh, I had such a crush on Lindsay Wagner when I was a kid. Of course I loved the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman television shows. I was so disappointed Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers didn’t stay together and have robot babies. I was even more disappointed when the Bionic Woman was cancelled after only three seasons. Now Dynamite tries to fill that childhood hole by continuing Jamie’s story with Season Four.  

Dynamite has a good track record with media adaptations—with the exception of Highlander, they have mostly been decent quality. Bionic Woman continues that trend. Leaving behind her former professions as a tennis pro and teacher, Jamie is now performing covert missions full time for the O.S.I. Oscar Goldman is still her boss. While on a mission to retrieve a downed satellite in Mexico, she runs into a covert U.S. military team who have decidedly unfriendly intentions toward her. The story is adventurous and fun, and ends on a cliffhanger that will bring me back next issue. Twelve year-old Jerry would have loved this.

Rating: ***½ out of 5 stars

Justice, Inc. #2
Justice, Inc. #2: Justice, Inc. teams three popular pulp heroes: The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Avenger. Movie producer Michael Uslan (producer of every Batman movie since 1989) is a bona fide comic book fan, but his writing leaves much to be desired. Taking place in the 1930s, Doc Savage from the present goes back in time to warn himself of something. The 1930s Doc takes off for Nepal, meeting an antagonistic Shadow there on a snowy mountaintop. An enraged Avenger joins them while searching for his missing family.

Uslan is no stranger to storytelling and pacing, he just doesn’t do them very well. His books may benefit from him plotting and turning the scripting chores over to a more experienced writer. I do like his penchant for putting historical footnotes regarding the stories in the back of his comics. Those are more interesting than the story itself. The art doesn’t help or hurt the story, as artist Giovanni Timpano gets the job done as an illustrator but is nothing special. I don’t mean to disparage it, everyone is obviously trying hard. It’s just good, not great. Any comic at a price point of $3.99 should be great. Love that Alex Ross cover, though.

Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Legenderry #7
Legenderry #7: This steampunk, kitchen-sink miniseries wraps up its first storyline. This massive crossover features steampunk versions of Zorro, Red Sonja, the Six Million (here Thousand) Dollar Man, Vampirella, the Green Hornet and Kato, the Phantom and others. This is the climax of the story, where our heroes track the army of the villains to their secret city and start a major war. Everyone has their moment to shine, especially Red Sonja, who turns out to be quite murderous when poked with a stick. As the good guys wrap things up, the villain Board of Directors escape without a scratch, and figure they are delayed but not stopped. They live to connive again.

Thus ends the first phase of Legenderry, a mash-up I quite enjoyed. Writer Bill Willingham leaves the door open for many more adventures—I hope to see Volume 2 soon.

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Weird Love #3
BOOK OF THE WEEK! Weird Love #3: My love for Weird Love knows no bounds. Stories are reprinted directly from classic romance comics without irony or comment. Why didn’t someone do this years ago? Creators Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni are forgiven, because they continue to provide humorous and high-quality entertainment. Let’s look at some of their latest gems:

- There’s No Romance in Rock and Roll (True Life Romance #3, 1956). Teenager Shirley loves that new Rock and Roll music, but it’s obviously turning her into a disobedient shrew. Her parents just can’t talk any sense into her! Anyone can see how evil it is! Enter the squarest joe who ever lived, Tom Simmons. Tom cares about hard work, sacrifice and getting to bed on time. I think Tom was Amish at some point. Tom convinces Shirley all that Rock and Roll stuff is just noise and she deserts her awful Elvis-loving friends. As it should be! Shirley later hung briefly with Charles Manson and helped L. Ron Hubbard create Scientology. Hey, she’s just trying to find herself and is very suggestible.

- Weep, Clown, Weep! (Romantic Secrets #27, 1952). Janie just started her new job as a secretary at the circus. Soon she is dating handsome co-worker Ben, but can’t figure out where he fits in at work. Then she makes a hideous discovery—Ben is a disgusting, repulsive, revolting CLOWN! The nerve! She immediately makes him promise to stop his degenerate activities if he wants to continue molesting her under the main tent. Torn, but horny, he agrees to give up his nauseating life’s dream. Later, at an office dinner party, Ben’s boss asks him to put on the greasepaint and floppy shoes and entertain guests. Seeing Janie isn’t around, he reluctantly does so. Guess who walks in? Hilarity ensues! If by hilarity you mean Ben’s heart gets broken! This leaves Ben free for the attentions of Jamie’s boss, Miss Howell. When Janie finds out, all the sudden Ben isn’t so disgusting. Well, maybe a little. But better some mild disgust than someone else having him! That a girl, Janie!

- Love, Honor and Swing, Baby! (Just Married #67, 1969). Dig those late ‘60s, man! This story opens with a dude and chick being married by a mad, mod Justice of the Peace. “And you take this chick to swing with, Daddy?” he asks. “She turns me on, man!” answers Buckie, which we’ll take as an “I do.” “I dig him the most,” says a strung-out Ruth, also passing for “I do.”  Through a fog of marijuana and LSD, they swing until Buckie gets bored. When he hooks up with Lyla, Ruth is put off by the violation of their sacred marriage vows. She asks Buckie not to swing, as they vowed to forsake all others. I think. Buckie rejects her request, saying, “Cool it, cutie! You married me, but you don’t own me!” A true encapsulation of the hippie manifesto. When Ruth further protests, Buckie loses his temper. “No one tells this cat when to swing, chick! Now split ... you’re buggin’ me, baby!” Way to keep it frosty, Buckie.

Crestfallen, Ruth returns to her parents (calling collect, of course) and they browbeat her into being a sober, productive member of society. Face it; it’s probably their fault she was messed up in the first place. Days later, an unhip, crewcut square in a suit knocks on the door. It’s Buckie! Probably looking for drug money. He has tickets to the honeymoon Ruth has always wanted in Bermuda. Now they can start their new careers as drug mules! And they lived ever after! Not a typo!

And finally, the fantastic Gangster’s Girl (First Love Illustrated #37, 1954). You have to read this to believe it—a nihilistic, cold and empty story. Annie is dating rich gangster Joe, but Phil is an up and coming honest politician for whom she falls hard. When he loses his election (I said honest, remember), Annie is forced to choose between an honest poor man and a life of jewels and furs. She looks at Phil, then at the fur coat, then back at Phil, then at the coat ... and makes her choice. Weird Love, how I love thee!

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment