Thursday, May 21, 2015

Comics Capsule Reviews

Empire: Uprising #1
Empire: Uprising #1 – A supervillain with all the trappings; cruel, bloody and evil, has taken over the world. And everyone must bow down to him. This miniseries continues the original Empire series from writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson. Waid brings his characteristic wit and superior storytelling to the book and Kitson is a terrific artist. Together they continue exploring the world dominated by one of the worst superpowered bad guys. Kind of like modern America. Kidding! 

World dictator Golgoth continues to consolidate his reign of terror. He starves South Africa until they submit. When they do, he brings in food for the starving populace. People can eat their fill, as soon as they sign their loyalty pledges. Meanwhile, the underground resistance attacks Golgoth’s palace wearing masks of the villain’s dead daughter. Golgoth teleports back just in time and things get bloody. What he does not know is that he has high officials in his own administration who are plotting against him—but is their ultimate goal to give people back their freedom, or just become worse dictators? 

Waid grabs the reader’s attention by the throat, as usual, and won’t let go. I anticipate a lot of carnage before he’s through, and I’ll be there for every bit. 

Rating: **** out of 5 stars 

Convergence: Shazam! #1
Convergence: Shazam! #1 – There is every reason not to buy a Convergence book. It’s a cheap and creatively bankrupt way for DC to flood comic shops with meaningless paper while they move their offices from New York to the West Coast. Plus, it contains elements of the New 52, the bane of all coherent storytelling. However, Evan Shaner might be the finest comic book artist working today. So there’s that. 

Jeff Parker does a good job with the plot, even working within Convergence’s dumbed down parameters. He even manages to avoid pointing out that DC moronically changed Captain Marvel’s name to Shazam, one of their most ignorant corporate moves. I have to admit it is fun to see the classic cast; the entire Marvel family, Uncle Dudley, Sivana and even Talky Tawny. I’ve mostly sworn off DC comics, but I would consider buying a monthly Captain Marvel book by this creative team. Regardless, it’s great to see Captain Marvel back in action. Even if DC doesn’t know his real name. 

Rating: *** 
Art Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Alex + Ada #14
Alex + Ada #14 – The government has discovered that human Alex has activated the sentience of his android companion Ada, a capital crime. On the run and hunted by the authorities, A + A manage to stay one-step ahead. Now their adventure is almost over, as the police track them down on the beach to which they’ve fled. As they consider their options, if any, things take possibly the darkest turn of all. This cliffhanger will lead to the next, and last, issue of the series. I will be incredibly sorry to see this book finish. Alex + Ada has been top-notch science fiction from the first issue, dealing shrewdly with themes such as humanity, friendship, artificial intelligence and love. I believe the days of these themes becoming reality are just around the corner. Let’s hope real world events turn out better than the ones in this book—so far. One more issue. I can’t wait to see what happens. This book does everything a good comic should. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Afterlife With Archie #8
Afterlife with Archie #8 – This comic still has no right to be this good. Who would have ever thought mixing vicious, flesh-eating zombies with the happy go lucky Riverdale gang would result in one of the best horror comics of the year? But that’s precisely what happened. In this issue, Archie has a few beers with the ghost of Jughead (in a scene inspired by Kubrick’s The Shining), Archie has heart-to-heart talks with his mother (not mentioning his much-dead zombie father) and Cheryl Blossom, and folks sing Christmas carols to remind them life goes on. There is a marriage proposal between two major characters, if they live long enough to actually get married. I never thought straight up horror would with mix with the Archieverse ... but it works, mostly thanks to writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Francesco Francavilla’s moody and expressive art doesn’t hurt. An excellent book. 

Rating: ****½ out of 5 stars 

We Can Never Go Home #2 
We Can Never Go Home #2 – After a spectacular first issue, cool girl Madison, who has glowing eyes and super strength, and weirdo Duncan, who can kill people with his mind, go on the run after a horrific event. Problem is, they’re just high school kids who have no idea what they’re doing. Duncan gets the bright idea to use their powers to rob a local drug dealer for some road money. In and out fast, no one gets hurt. That’s ... not quite what happens. Turns out the dealer has an empty safe, a mountain-sized bodyguard and an armory full of firearms. Violence ensues, leaving Madison and Dunc in a very vulnerable place. Add a cliffhanger ending and the result is one thrilling book. 

Rating: **** out of 5 stars 

Joe Frankenstein #3
Joe Frankenstein #3 – Dixon and Nolan keep the quality high in this continuing tale of Frankenstein’s monster revealing himself to and protecting a Frankenstein descendant—a guy named Joe. All sorts of ghoulies are after Joe for some reason; so many the monster can barely fight them off. The deceased-looking villain Golgatha is particularly powerful and Frankie falls into their hands. Joe gets away, but how long can he stay on the run? The leader behind the entire plot is revealed to be ... well, I won’t spoil the wonderful surprise. Let’s just say she has two white streaks in her hair and a big streak of evil ... right through her heart. 

Kudos to writer Dixon and artist Nolan for a vastly superior, high concept horror adventure comic! 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Birthright #7
Birthright #7 – There really are some fantastic adventure comics out right now, and Birthright is at the top of the list. Mikey, the kid who grew up in the fantasy dimension Terrenos and learned how to fight monsters, is hiding out in the woods with his older (now physically younger) brother Brennan. Mikey says they are seeking magical weapons to slay monsters who have bled over from Terrenos, but his story is a little fishy ... Everyone from the local hunters to the sexy female Trading Post owner suspect them of being the people stealing food from campsites in the area (mostly because they are). Mikey and Brennan break into the Trading Post to steal the magical knives about which the pretty owner has no idea. When she shows up in the middle of the theft, things go horribly wrong. 

A sub-plot deals with a winged fairy from Terrenos coming to Earth in search of Mikey. She just happens to pissed, pregnant and looking to lay a beating on Mikey for deserting her. There’s a lot going on in this book, which is full of fresh and mad fantasy ideas. I love it. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

Darth Vader #5
Darth Vader #5 – What is so surprising about Marvel’s various Star Wars books is that they are actually good. That was unexpected. Salvador Larroca is an artist with a long string of brilliant work, but writer Kieron Gillen is not someone whose work I usually enjoy. He’s doing a great job here, as Vader is using a suicidal, geeky IT grrrrrl to help him track down some enhanced mercenaries who are rivals for the Emperor’s affection. Unfortunately, they find them. Vader is doing this behind the Emperor’s back, and stuff hits the fan as these mercenaries challenge Vader as the Emperor, their invited guest, looks on. Expect an epic battle next issue, along with Vader probably being spanked by the Emperor for his impertinence. There’s something you don’t see every day. It is fun to read original and creative Star Wars tales again. I’m not sure I’ve experienced one since The Empire Strikes Back

Rating: **** out of 5 stars

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