Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Comics Capsule Reviews

Joe Frankenstein #1
Joe Frankenstein #1 & 2: Four-dollar comics just kill me. While I love comics, with all of the entertainment choices available, four bucks for a 5-10 minute reading experience continues to have diminishing returns. Welcome to that rare comic book worth the cover price. 

Master adventure writer Chuck Dixon and extraordinary artist Graham Nolan have crafted a thrilling tale of monsters and slackers. Joe Pratt is a kind-hearted foster kid, currently delivering pizzas to make a buck. When he is trapped by a coven of nasty vampires on a routine delivery, he is rescued by a large, hulking presence in a hoodie. A presence that tells him of his true legacy as ... Joe Frankenstein. 
Joe Frankenstein #2

The story speeds up from there, introducing several unsavory, supernatural business types that are after Joe. The monster sits back and deals death to any and all murderous stalkers. Joe has a hard time adjusting to all this, but sobers up to the truth quickly enough when his foster family is threatened and is forced to leave town in a bit of a hurry. The monster is a mystery man, introducing Joe to a lair more suited to a rich librarian than a village fiend. 

Joe Frankenstein is filled with action, brilliant characters and an intriguing plot that Dixon keeps fresh and moving. The remarkable storytelling of the much-missed Graham Nolan doesn’t hurt. Nolan’s layouts tell the story in a clear, flowing narrative that leads the reader’s eye smoothly from one scene to the next. I can’t wait to see where this goes. Why can’t all comics be this good? 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars
Alex + Ada #13
Alex & Ada #13: Sadly, I just found out this series is only running 15 issues. As one of the best comics of the last year, I’m incredibly disappointed to hear that. Especially with the events of this issue. The government is beginning to close the net on suspected androids who have their sentience activated. The secret 3D forums Alex and Ada frequent are shut down, with users tracked back to their home addresses. Alerts are all over the news. Black helicopters fill the air. Most of their friends who have violated the laws are in custody or in the process of being tracked down. Alex and Ada see no choice but to run. And not a moment too soon. 

With only two months to go, I expect some major explosions in the next two issues. Will Alex & Ada actually escape? Or will she be caught and destroyed, with Alex receiving a lengthy prison sentence? Or will they make it to some as yet unknown sanctuary? I suppose we’ll find out.  

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 
Southern Bastards #8

Southern Bastards #8: The last part of the origin of football coach Euless Boss. I’ve never read a more stark, violent past of a character. Commentary on the letters page suggest some people are so stricken by Boss’s past that they have some sympathy for him as a character. Not me. Shedding light on the character’s backstory is interesting (and at points terrifying), but he’s still a monster. He could have taken all that hate and pain and used it to do something good, or make the world better. He didn’t. We also learn that Alberta Tubbs is leaving the army and coming home from Afghanistan. Hopefully that will be the beginning of the end for Coach Boss. 

Southern Bastards lives up to its name as few other titles do. 

Rating: **** out of 5 stars 

We Can Never Go Home #1
We Can Never Go Home #1: This sleeper from Blackmask Comics caught me by surprise. I read a positive online review the day it hit the stands and thought I would take a chance. I’m glad I did. 
Duncan is a nerdy underclassman, while Madison is a popular and pretty senior at their local high school. Passing by while Madison throws her gropey boyfriend into a wall, Duncan and Madison make a pact that he will keep quiet about her super strength. On the walk home, Duncan confesses he has a secret too—a deadly one. Madison is sure he’s nuts. Smitten, Duncan makes a mix tape for Madison and her friends do not let her hear the end of it. When Maddie visits Duncan’s house to try and cool his ardor, she ends up saving his life but committing a terrible act with her strength. Duncan says he will protect her, but they have to leave now. And they can never go home. 

This book was such a pleasant surprise. Writer Matthew Rosenberg has a great ear for dialog, and the excellent art by Josh Hood contains some creative layouts and characters who tell the story through their body language as well as the dialog. The characters have distinct personalities and surprise readers with their actions. An outstanding first issue, I look forward to more. 

Rating: ****½ out of 5 
Weird Love #6

Weird Love #6: Ahh, the cream of the reprint comic crop. Who knew people were insane in the 1950s? Some of this month’s treasures: 

- Love Slaves (First Love Illustrated #36, 1954). This is an especially weird one. Jan and Julia are lovers of some undetermined ethnicity. Their country is attacked by some undetermined Communist power and they are taken to the same work camp in an undetermined area. The nameless thug in charge develops a crush on Julia and decides to have his way with her in front of Jan. They escape, but the thug and his cronies track them for miles over an undetermined landscape. They reach the border and escape. Love ... triumphs, I guess? Was that vague enough for you? 

- I Was a Waterfront Girl (Love Letters #3, 1950). Sal Benson used to be big time. A hot dancer with the world famous Dick Ryan and His Chicago Cuties, she was on top of the world. Until they came to the island of Tralu and the act fell apart. Now she’s a torch singer at Beachcomber Bill’s (not part of an existing franchise). Feisty and bitter, Sal sings at Bill’s her way. In her time. In a really slinky dress. When she meets millionaire Bart Carroll, it’s love lust gold digging at first sight. She makes Bob forget all about his current, fiancée, uh, whatshername, but as soon as said fiancée gets a whiff of home wrecking, Sal is thrown back into the trash heap. On his yacht when Bart dumps her, Sal knocks him overboard to the sharks (literally). Luckily, said fiancée is a trained sharkfighter, so she jumps in with a knife in her teeth, kills several sharks, and drags Bart back onto the boat. This really happens. Who said romance is dead? 

- Heart Clinic (Confessions of the Lovelorn #114, 1960). Here’s one for the feminists. A somewhat clinical looking fellow who refers to himself as the “Mender of Broken Hearts” explains to Kate why women are so unreasonable and hysterical. He takes her through the Phases of Female Romance, A thru F. Phase A is Puppy Love, all the way through Phase F, which I can’t reveal on a family blog. Turns out women are just looking for a strong, square-jawed man to make all their decisions and order for them at restaurants. Gee, wish I’d read that in high school. Would have saved me a lot of heartache in life! 

- I Married A Monster (Just Married #81, 1971). Darn that Howard! Actors are so sensitive. He won’t tell his new wife Millie about the role he just procured on a new TV show. Is he replacing James Arness on Gunsmoke? Becoming the new Tarzan? Partnering with William Shatner in a buddy Western that will be cancelled after three episodes? No. Turns out he is the monster on a ... gasp ... children’s show. Yes, Howard is the lead in Wally the Wolf. With his polka dot pants, wolf makeup and propeller beanie, Howard is howling his way to the love of millions! Of small children. What’s worse, he’s a success! He is mobbed by kids everywhere he goes. Friends ask him to howl at dinner parties. And chicks want to see if he’s leader of the pack, if you know what I mean. Millie is scandalized! How dare Howard lower their social status by making millions on a, a kiddie show! Then comes the day when little Johnny crosses the street to see Wally the Wolf (on the sidewalk in full makeup). When Johnny is hit by a car, he screams for Wally instead of his negligent mommy. When Millie sees how much Wally the Wolf means to Johnny, Howard drops the kid’s head on the concrete so he can embrace Millie and live happily ever after! Or until the residuals run out. Howard is now doing summer stock in Poughkeepsie and Millie is dating Bruce Jenner. 

Other stories in this issue include Stay Away from Married Men and I Was a Child Bride! Why is no one serving time for creating this comic? The authorities must be alerted! 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

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