Sunday, October 27, 2013

Batman vs. Predator

Title: Batman vs. Predator

ISBN: 156389092
Price: $5.95
Publisher/Year: DC, 1993
Artist: Andy Kubert
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Collects: Batman vs. Predator #1-3

Rating: 3/5

Predator, the big-screen alien hunter licensed to Dark Horse, made a leap into the DC Universe and Batman's Gotham City in this highly successful crossover tale. Appropriately grim and gritty in its art, Batman vs. Predator is a monumental showdown between champions.

But the Predator doesn't make a beeline for the Batman, of course. Seeking the most powerful prey, it first targets the city's celebrated prizefighters before setting its sights on crimelords and politicos (and one hapless junkyard dog). Soon, however, it realizes where the real power in Gotham lies -- the Batman.

The Batman usually makes crimefighting look easy, but he's more than met his physical match here. Severely injured in the first round, Batman is helpless as the Predator cuts a vicious swath through Gotham's powerful elite. The alien beast eventually focuses its attention on one of the city's best take-charge kind of guys, Commissioner Gordon -- and that threat signals Batman's return to the ring.

The tale laid out by Dave Gibbons, illustrated in vivid darkness by Adam and Andy Kubert, is a masterpiece of the genre, one of the best company crossover books I've read. More than a decade after its initial release, Batman vs. Predator is still at the top of its game. Prepare yourself for a fight to remember.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

3 Online Comic Book Retailers

With the recent release of The Walking Dead #115, I wanted to get some of the blank covers for use in the Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer (#CBC4C) project.

Fortunately, my LCS was able to secure 4 copies for me... but with the news that #115 was selling out everywhere, I thought I should get as many as I can for the project. So, I turned to the internet to help me and I used 3 different online retailers that I've used in the past.

Within 30 minutes of making the decision to procure more blank covers, I had placed orders with Things From Another World, Midtown Comics and MyComicShop (aka Lone Star Comics). I thought this would be an ideal time to critique each service. All orders were placed on Friday, October 11th.

I've only ever had 1 issue with TFAW, and that was all because I misunderstood their policy about multiple covers.
  • The order I placed for #CBC4C was for 5 copies of The Walking Dead #115 (bagged and boarded). 
  • I received confirmation on October 14th that the package was shipped. 
  • I wasn't able to use the track # provided to find out where this package was.
  • Received October 17th. (To be fair, TFAW is less than an hour away from me... but I did not drive to pick-up the order.)
  • I placed an order for 3 copies of The Walking Dead #115 for #CBC4C. 
  • I tried for 5 copies, but either they didn't have the inventory or there was a set limit on how many I could purchase. 
  • There was no additional charge for bagging and boarding. 
  • I received confirmation on October 14th that the package was shipped. 
  • The tracking for this package said that it was projected for delivery on October 21st.
  • Received October 19th.

As regular readers of my blog already know, I have an affiliate account with MyComicShop so that I can earn credit on orders placed using my affiliate link.
  • I was able to order 1 The Walking Dead #115 and 2 copies of Wonder Woman #19 (bagged and boarded). 
  • The up-side is that I was able to use the remaining credit that I had accumulated.
  • I received confirmation on October 17th that the package was shipped.
  • On October 21st, tracking indicated that packed would be delivered on October 23rd. 
  • Received October 22nd.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2: Invasion

Title: X-Treme X-Men Vol. 2: Invasion

ISBN: 0785110186
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2002
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Writer: Chris Claremont
Collects: X-Treme X-Men #10-18

Rating: 2.5/5

While the first volume of X-Treme X-Men had its qualities it felt a lot like Chris Claremont wasn’t entirely sure where to go with what he’d written, like he’d put himself into a corner. The idea of the diaries was good in theory but the villain Vargas was just too ill defined to be taken as a true threat and the plot kept veering off in directions it didn’t need to go in. Thankfully Claremont’s decision after tying up things in Australia was to put that plot on the backburner and limited himself to the much more direct plot of an alien invasion. Which drastically improved the quality of this arc.

Having linked up with the team after dealing with the events in Australia, Gambit approaches Storm apparently knowing something about a jewel in her possession as they lay low. Well no sooner can you say the words “MacGuffin” than it’s revealed the jewel is key to an invasion and as is Gambit. As both are taken by the invasion’s advanced guard, the X-men pursue the kidnapper to Madripoor, arriving just in time to be trapped inside as it’s cut off from the world by a force-field. With legions of technologically advanced troops storming the island nation, the X-Treme team find themselves as Earth’s only line of defense against an unknown foe. Seven mutants against an armada capable of enslaving entire dimensions.

As with before, Salvador Larroca’s art remains consistently excellent from beginning to end. While there are definitely some problems when it comes to one action flowing into another, they’re still beautifully drawn and inked. Even for characters which have been around for decades this is the best they’ve looked in a long time. The only time it ever has any problems is with the character of Lifeguard (yes they do make fun of the name) with a changing appearance, but that could easily be put down to her powers.

The story itself has much more of the focus, pacing and concentration upon the action which Volume 1 lacked. While there are breather moments in combat and quiet bits, these are installed at key points within the plot and you never feel they’re out of place or getting in the way of things. Many actually offer some surprising moments of characterization such as one newly activated mutant beginning to regret his choices and asking if the X-Men’s lives are “always like this?” It adds moments of humanity which tend to be missing in a lot of stories or are mishandled by certain authors (Millar, Bendis, looking at you) even if it can come across as slightly hammy at times.

Unfortunately at the same time it could be argued that it sometimes moves too fast. There is a very abrupt beginning in which we have information both delivered via flashback and as events move, which doesn’t seem to gel very well. While it goes a considerable way to get the story moving quickly the start can be jarring at first and is unlike something you’d expect in a modern comic.

For the majority of the book the action with the X-Men trying to stem the tide really works well. You get a sense of the sheer power and scale of the invasion very early on. While only running battles are seen rather than full blown engagements, the local military is thoroughly beaten down every time and the victories the X-Men make never seem to do enough impact. Well, at least up to the point where Rogue cuts loose, but explaining that bit would ruin one of the story’s major highlights and shows just why the X-Men are quite capable of taking on alien invasions without serving as backup to the Avengers.

The 80s style writing continues here, giving it the same sort of clunky charm the last book had but it feels far more appropriate and as if the style is being used well. Some noticeable flaws remain such as many newly introduced characters being ill defined, especially in light of how strongly the main team-members are written in this. While the recently introduced Lifeguard and Slipstream actually come off well, many of the similar villains seem extremely generic or we are given little more than a name. This is especially unfortunate because the main villain, Khan, has an interesting idea behind him and feels like he could have been truly fleshed out into an interesting reoccurring villain or at least someone who could be remembered for a few years. When much what little of his motivations the comic delves into are revealed, he comes across like some lesser version of Warhammer 40,000’s Emperor, leading his forces on a continual crusade for unity. It’s just a shame a lot of this is put to one side to emphasize upon a possible relationship with Storm.

The final thing to truly note is that the arc actually ends on something of a positive note. While it’s made clear that their victory is a costly one, and affected some of those involved more than others, it doesn’t try to crush any feelings of positivity to make what happened feel as grim and pyrrhic as possible. The comic still makes it clear there’s been a victory and their adventures will continue rather than endlessly beating the heroes into the ground and trying to make the universe darker and darker at every turn.

This isn’t an arc I’d recommend to everyone but if you’ve got some basic familiarity with the franchise and are willing to ignore a few unexplained details this is an okay read. While definitely not something to seek out at all costs it’s definitely worth picking up at least once, reading over a few hours and then (probably) forgetting about it. If you’ve disliked how the X-Men have been portrayed as villains constantly of late and how Marvel seems to be trying to force every single last outcome to an event to be as bleak as humanly imaginable this one might be worth looking up.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Walking Dead 100 Project

Title: The Walking Dead 100 Project

ISBN: 9781607067993
Price: $12.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2013
Artist: Charlie Adlard, Rafael Albuquerque, Kristin Allen, Gabriel Ba, Art Baltazar, Ben Bates, John Beatty, Jon Bogdanove, Dan Brereton, Steve Bryant, Talent Caldwell, Daniel Campos, Richard Case, Anthony Castrillo, Victor Castro, Ron Chan, Matthew Clark, Ryan Cody, Nelson DeCastro, Mark Dos Santos, Kevin Eastman, Cat Farris, Walt Flanagan, Tony Fleecs, Autumn Fredrickson, Jenny Frison, Agnes Garbowska, Chris Giarrusso, Ian Glaubinger, Ben Glendenning, Sina Grace, Rob Guillory, Fred Hembeck, Christopher Herndon, Edwin Huang, Chris Ivy, Casey Jones, Ken Jones, Derek Fridolfs, Joe Jusko, Tim Kelly, Sam Keith, Tom Kelly, Dale Keown, Karl Kesel, Leonard Kirk, Scott Kolins, Rich Koslowski, Peter Krause, Andy Kuhn, Steve Kurth, Ken Lashley, Jeff Lemire, Steve Lieber, Menton Matthews III, John McCrea, Ted McKeever, Mark McKenna, Mike McKone, Shawn McManus, Rodolfo Migliari, Albert Morales, Chris Moreno, Marat Mychaels, Todd Nauck, Mike Norton, Ryan Ottley, Tony Parker, Don Perlin, Khoi Pham, Sean Phillips, Whilce Portacio, Gordon Purcell, Tom Raney, Jason Reeves, Paolo Rivera, Darick Robertson, Jimmie Robinson, Gabriel Rodriguez, Tone Rodriguez, Scott Rosema, Riley Rossmo, Hainanu Saulque, Alex Saviuk, Stuart Sayger, Tim Seeley, Sajad Shah, Skinner, Andy Smith, Mark Sparacio, Fiona Staples, Arthur Suydam, Ben Templesmith, Ty Templeton, Mark Texeira, Mark Torres, Jim Valentino, Michael Walsh, Jonathan Wayshak, Doug Wheatley, Shannon Wheeler, Charles P. Wilson III, Marc Wolfe, Jim Zubkavich, Chrissie Zullo

Rating: 5/5

This is the project that inspired me to begin the Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer (#CBC4C) project, so when this trade was released I had to have it.

This is a collection of all the covers from The Walking Dead 100 Project for the Hero Initiative. They were able ro raise over $111k for the Hero Initiative. My hope is that I can raise some decent money for cancer research.

These covers are wonderful to look at. If you couldn't afford to purchase the originals, you can have this trade in your collection. My plan is to collect the artists signatures in my personal copy.

For more information about Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer, please like us on Facebook.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Powers Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl?

Title: Powers Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl?

ISBN: 1582401837
Price: $21.95
Publisher/Year: Image, 2001
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Collects: Powers #1-6

Rating: 3.5/5

How do the police operate in a world where superheroes exist? It’s a question that’s been answered by various comics and graphic novels over the years, from Gotham City (do the best they can and hope Batman doesn’t turn up to spoil things) to Alan Moore’s Neopolis (construct your police force out of costumed heroes too). In Powers, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming come up with their own variation on the theme: set up a special division to investigate the superhero side of things.

Christian Walker is one of the cops in this Powers division who, in classic cop story style, has just been assigned a new and fairly raw rookie partner called Deena Pilgrim. As we watch them get to know each other, we the readers can get to know them too, which is a handy if hackneyed mechanic. Walker’s help has arrived just in time though, because someone has murdered Retro Girl, one of world’s most respected superheroes, and it’s down to Walker and Pilgrim to track down the killer.

As they work their way through their list of potential subjects, secrets are uncovered and the world of the superhero starts to appear less polished and more murky, as alliances between heroes appear increasingly shaky, and the difference between the heroes’ external images and what they’re actually like behind their masks starts to diverge. But then the police in this story have a few secrets of their own too, making it a complex, character-driven drama, that’ll appeal to those who like the more sophisticated end of the TV cop show, while maintaining an interest in super-heroics.

Bendis’ dialogue is snappy and tense, giving the characters an economy of conversation that feels authentic. He also lets the dialogue take a back seat in the action and let Oeming’s visuals do the story telling, in places where action or expression can do more for a scene than words alone. Oeming’s style is deeply characterized, with the pared-down simplicity of an animation, but swathed in depth and shadow. It serves to enrich the dialogue and maintain the narrative flow without taking over. It also has more panels per page than you might normally be familiar with, giving the feeling of speed and pacing.

Bringing superheroes into police drama actually works quite neatly, since the raison d’ĂȘtre of both parties is to serve and protect. They do it in different ways though, which is a contrast brought sharply into focus in this book. You probably don’t want to visit it if you find superheroes a turn-off but, if you’re comfortable with your inner superhero fan and like a cop drama too, it’s well worth a try.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

First series of #CBC4C auctions!

We have our first series of auctions to help raise money for the American Cancer Society, and we need your help. Check out the auctions here:

Stay updated on everything for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer (#CBC4C) on our Facebook page:

A big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped to make this possible!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Star Wars: Dark Empire II

Title: Star Wars: Dark Empire II

ISBN: 9781593075262
Price: $19.95
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2006
Artist: Cam Kennedy
Writer: Tom Veitch
Collects: Star Wars: Dark Empire II #1-6, Star Wars: Empire’s End #1-2

Rating: 1/5

I loved the Star Wars movies, for all their faults (particularly in episodes 1-3). Still, I have studiously avoided the various novel and graphic excursions into the post-film era, so I've remained ignorant of the changes that have been wrought in the lives of Luke, Leia, Han and all the rest.

Dark Empire II obviously follows hard on the heels of Dark Empire I, but for some reason Dark Horse sent me only the second book in the series. So much is confusing for a neophyte like myself that the book is fairly incomprehensible -- but let's assume that most of the people reading this book had previously devoured every iota of text printed in the Star Wars line.

OK, so Emperor Palpatine is back from the dead, his spirit inhabiting a youthful clone of his dead body -- for a second time, apparently, since Luke seems to have killed the emperor already in the previous book. Let's accept that the emperor has the power to imbue countless people and creatures with his "dark force," giving them Jedi-like abilities without lessening his own strength at all. And let's pick up the flow as Luke seeks out the few surviving and potential Jedi’s in an attempt to restore the Old Republic. Oh, and Boba Fett, the bounty hunter killed badly in Return of the Jedi, has been resurrected, too, and he's still chasing Han Solo for the late Jabba's reward.

Accepting the storyline as is, I still had a few problems with this book. First, the art is terrible. Luke, Han and Leia never look like Luke, Han and Leia. Implied motion is static. Postures are awkward. And the color palette seems to have been limited to the extent that numerous pages are almost monochromatic; with the exception of a few details, everything is greenish on one page, orangeish on another, and so on.

Second, the dialogue sounds clumsy and forced. George Lucas could write better dialogue than this, and if you saw Attack of the Clones, you know that's saying something.

And, third, the action zips by so quickly that you might start wondering why they even bothered. There's not much drama or suspense when a conflict takes only a page or two to resolve.

In scouting around, I've seen much better Star Wars comics on the shelves. While Dark Empire II might make more sense after reading Dark Empire I, I'd still call this one a book worth skipping.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer - UPDATE

To date, we have 25 different artists who have donated or are donating their work to this project. I'm so happy with the response we've received so far, but we could really use your help.

So far, I've primarily been funding this project out of my own wallet. We're going to need your support to keep this running. I have setup a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to help pay for shipping to artists and acquiring new inventory so we can have a steady stream available for auction. Presently, I only have a handful of books available for artists to work on. The positive side is that we have partnered with my LCS, Tony's Kingdom of Comics, and he has been giving me blank covers at a discount to help support the cause. Without Tony's help, I know this project wouldn't be as successful as it is turning out to be.

October 12th will be the start of the first series of auctions for #CBC4C. I have 5 covers to offer-up right now, and look forward to receiving more finished covers over the next few weeks and months. The auctions will run in the middle of the month. I will post updates primarily on the #CBC4C Facebook page, but will send-out tweets throughout the duration of each auction as well. My Twitter handle is @ZanziberPoV.

Please Like us on Facebook as this is the best way to communicate. Spread the word. Share and tweet this post. We're looking to help end the threat of cancer, but we can't do it without your help.

If you would like to learn more about the #CBC4C project or have any questions, please check-out the dedicated #CBC4C page I have on my blog: or you can email me at zanziber AT gmail DOT com.