Sunday, September 29, 2019

Superman: Earth One Vol. 2

Title: Superman: Earth One Vol. 2


ISBN: 9781401231965
Price: $22.99
Publisher/Year: DC, 2012
Artist: Shane Davis
Writer: J. Michael Stracynzsk

Rating: 4/5

Superman: Earth One Vol. 2 continues where the first volume left off; shedding light on the transition of Clark Kent into Superman.  The first volume re-imagined the creation of Superman in an updated world (as did Man of Steel No. 1 by John Byrne in 1986) and gave readers a look into the "why" he chose to don the symbolic "S" on his chest.  The second volume depicts his battle with Parasite, a serial-killing super-powered human that gains strength as he steals energy from humans, electrics, cars and even Superman himself.

Stracynzski does an excellent job of adding his own touch to the Superman franchise.  He has taken the Perry White character and developed him into a mentor for Clark Kent the journalist, as opposed to sticking to the tough boss we've seen in past comics.  He has also made the Superman story even sexier--enter Lisa Lasalle, Clark's redheaded next-door neighbor who is so hot she might have superpowers of her own.  While Lisa is Clark's love interest for this storyline, Lois Lane is also mentioned in the book--Lois is investigating Clark's past to uncover his secrets.

Shane Davis and Sandra Hope have phenomenally drawn this comic.  The book is edgy and colorful and both Parasite and Superman look tremendous--although, at times, Superman does look almost villainous with those red eyes.

The battle scenes in Earth One Volume 2 may seem short-lived and quick, but their point is made and drawn beautifully.  But, the main focus of the book is to explore Clark Kent's mind and give readers a look into his past and what went into his becoming Superman.  The book does this very well.  Readers are drawn in by Clark's human feelings, which were developed by his life in Smallville.

Stracynzski, Davis and Hope creatively modernized Superman like no other previous attempt has managed. I highly recommend this comic book to anyone who enjoyed "creation of" and "evolution of" superhero storylines in the past, as this one is right up there with the best and well-deserving of your hard-earned money.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1

Title: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1


ISBN: 9781401271503
Price: $16.99
Publisher/Year: DC/IDW, 2017
Artist: Freddie E Williams II
Writer: James Tynion IV
Collects: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-6

Rating: 4/5

Instead of just trading on nostalgia or phoning it in, James Tynion IV takes the time to tell a genuinely interesting story.  The plot, at times boilerplate though it may be, actually unfolds at a believable pace. Things aren’t rushed, which makes the stakes feel real, and there’s enough action to punctuate the story without feeling derivative or tiresome.

Put simply, the story finds the Ninja Turtles in Gotham City, teleported there by the Shredder’s experimental dimensional transporter.  In a race to get home, and beat the Shredder there in the process, the Turtles team up with Batman to discover how they can get back.  There are several genuinely shocking twists along the way, not the least of which is when Shredder purposely destroys the portal that would take him home just so he can trap the Turtles in this dimension.  It was unexpected and great for that very reason, and it worked well with Tynion’s “ticking bomb” scenario: because mutagen doesn’t exist in Batman’s universe, the transformative ooze is slowly leaving the Turtles’ bodies.  Eventually, they’ll revert to being simple turtles… or worse.

The way the collection unfolds the story is interesting, in that it all flows as a single narrative.  There aren’t any chapter breaks or indications that an issue is ending or beginning, which makes for some seamless storytelling.  In that regard, I quite enjoyed it, as it felt like one whole story rather than six smaller chapters.  The price that was paid for that is a lack of credit pages, though, which are often just as much an artistic expression as the story itself.  It would have been nice if they had included the “unedited” title pages, even in the cover gallery at the end.

As good as the storytelling and plotting are, it’s the characters that truly shine.  No joke, this was the book that actually sold me on Tynion being the right man for the job on Detective Comics.  There’s tons of heart and humor, and the title characters feel like unique individuals.  Even secondary characters like Damian, Alfred, and Casey Jones make an impression in their small roles.

Some of the Turtles get more of a focus than the others, especially Michelangelo and Raphael.  Considering they are the emotional core of the group, that’s not really surprising; Mikey is each and every one of us, all wide-eyed and in awe of the world of Batman, and Raph is his usual tempestuous self.  Because of that, he’s central to the best scene in the book.

After storming off in a fit of rage, Raphael is intercepted by Batman.  Bruce takes Raph to Crime Alley, hoping to see that he truly empathizes with their situation.  It’s dialogue-heavy, yet there isn’t a single word that feels out of place.  When far too many people speak instead of listening, Batman reaches out to Raphael for understanding.  It’s a beautiful, quiet scene, and one that elevates the whole story in its effectiveness.

There needs to be some sort of technological expositor, so of course Donatello does the heavy lifting there.  As for Leonardo, he’s an unfortunate blank slate.  His stoic leadership isn’t much of a match for Batman’s more commanding personality, and he’s the first to feel the effects of the dissipating mutagen.  Leo does have the thankless role of the straight-laced leader, so his getting the short end of the stick isn’t exactly surprising, but disappointing just the same.

What’s nice about reading the series as a whole is seeing Freddie Williams’ pencils evolve and improve.  Strong as the storytelling was, the first issue was pretty rough from a visual standpoint: from the odd bodily proportions and the unclear perspectives, the look was just off.  Thankfully it got better as the story went along, to the point that it was genuinely good artwork overall.  I’m thinking animals and other beastial characters are his strong-suit, as the Turtles look consistently great.  Even from the start, when Batman looked a little weird, the Ninja Turtles were illustrated marvelously.  That skill pays off, too.

As bonkers as it gets at the end (and really, Batman’s Turtle-Bat armor still looks so incredibly silly), the book earns its ending.  Tynion took the time to tell the story he wanted, moving at a deliberate pace and focusing just as much on character as he did on the plot.  That makes the inevitable showdown between Batman and Shredder all the sweeter, with a brilliantly rendered fight that carries genuine weight.

Even veering into silliness, the story remains tonally consistent to the end.  Making a story where the Penguin turns into a literal penguin a genuinely moving experience is no mean feat, and suffice it to say this creative team accomplished that goal.

A massive cover gallery and sketchbook are included.  The gallery contains every cover and variant, along with some pencil drafts, and the sketchbook has some nice breakdowns of the character designs.  My personal favorite is the study page that shows the Turtles in proportion to Batman, along with detailed descriptions of the Turtles’ different head shapes.the cake.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness

Title: Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness


ISBN: 9780785127437
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel/Dynamite, 2007
Artist: Fabiano Neves
Writer: John Layman
Collects: Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

I thought Marvel Zombies was a trip—but this crossover is something else. For those who have not read the prior volumes, the basic rundown is in a parallel universe to the normal Marvel Universe, all our beloved Superheroes still exist…but as hunger-crazed denizens of the undead. Instead of using their superpowers to protect and serve, the zombies lured innocent victims into their chomping jaws, until they had exhausted the entire food supply on the planet, finally resorting to…other techniques to gain sustenance.

Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness picks up following Ash’s story arc in Army of Darkness #13. I have not had the pleasure of reading any of the Army of Darkness comics, but I didn’t find myself lost with this graphic novel–basically, if you have seen the Evil Dead and/or Army of Darkness films, you should be fine. Ashley Williams, boomstick and chainsaw wielding S-Mart clerk and deadite banisher, lands in a New York City dumpster. Immediately, he is harassed by a deadite baglady (yes, a deadite baglady) who warns Ash that Earth 2149 will soon be destroyed. Ash, showing the finesse and lady skills that only Ash can, responds by punching deadite bag lady in the face. Soon, however, Ash realizes that he should have listened to the bag lady, and tries to enlist the Avengers for help. Once again, Ash’s particular brand of communication skills prove wanting, and lead the Avengers to think he’s a complete nutjob. Soon after, however, chaos ensues when Ash turns out to be right–when he crash landed in the dumpster, a zombie version of The Sentry came with…and has been hard at work, making more deadite Avengers.

With superheroes zombified, Ash takes matters into his own hand and decides that finding the necronomicon is the only way to end the reign of deadites. He runs into a few familiar faces (Spidey, the Punisher), but ends up hooking up with Dazzler and Scarlet Witch (naturally) to find the nasty book of the dead. More chaos, universe bending/time travel occur, more superheroes make appearances, and best yet–fans of the Marvel Zombies franchise get some questions answered concerning Reed Richards and how the zombie infection took hold (there is some cool role reversal stuff going on with Doctor Doom), and the origin of the infection.

This is a complete win-win scenario–if you love Ash J. (G.) Williams, you will be pleased, and if you like some black comedy with your Marvel heroes, you’ll be pleased. Heck, if you just like zombies, you’ll be ecstatic. This crossover has everything a fan could want. The writing is hilarious and captures the perfect blend of slapstick comedy with wonderfully disgusting zombies going to town on their unlucky colleagues. Another cool plus–as with the first graphic novel, this release contains more zombified classic covers (Ash included, naturally).

I didn’t think there could be much topping the hilariousness that was Marvel Zombies, but this volume takes the cake.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Secret Invasion: Amazing Spider-Man

Title: Secret Invasion: Amazing Spider-Man


ISBN: 9780785132707
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2009
Artist: Marco Santucci, Mike McKone
Writer: Brian Reed, Mark Guggenheim
Collects: Secret Invasion: Amazing Spider-Man #1-3, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

Rating: 2.5/5

Tie-ins can be tricky things to write, because you have to tether your story into the core issues without stepping all over them. The tie-in Amazing Spider-Man issues during Civil War did a nice job of inserting Peter into the main story, replicating what parts they could of the main issues but also adding other layers of depth to Spidey's tale where Civil War chose to focus on other characters. It's a good blend and, together, the main Civil War story and the Amazing Spider-Man issues help tell a rounded story about the Web-Slinger. These issues are...not as good.

Written by Brian Reed with art by Marco Santucci, the first issue begins with a splash page explaining pretty much everyone the story’s going to follow: new red-headed hero Jackpot; a Super-Skrull with the combined powers of six of Spider-Man’s enemies (Rhino, Venom, Lizard, Electro, uhm…well, that’s honestly all I can tell from any of the images); Daily Bugle owner Dexter Bennett; Daily Bugle employees Robbie Robertson and Betty Brant; and police officer/Spider-hater/Peter's roomie Vin Gonzales.

The problems with the story begin immediately, and one caption on this page even acknowledges that fact. Highlighting Robbie Robertson, the caption claims he’s a “one-time street racer, which is not something anyone knew before today.” When a writer gives a character an ability they never possessed before because a situation demands someone have that specific ability, it’s called “plot convenience.” Acknowledging it as a plot convenience within the story doesn’t help make it any better, sorry.

The tale follows Jackpot confronting Dexter Bennett at the Daily Bugle offices because of libel printed against her in their paper, when a Skrull shows up disguised as Spider-Man looking for the actual Spider-Man. Not sure what the point of the disguise is, but he soon reveals himself as the Super Skrull and starts fighting Jackpot, screaming about wanting to know where Spidey is (hint: it’s the Savage Land, but nobody knows that). From there, Jackpt battles him and helps staff members of the Daily Bugle—Bennett, Joe Robertson, and Betty Brant—escape with Joe’s convenient driving skills. Oh, and Vin Gonzales joins them, seemingly out of nowhere.

At the same time, we’re treated to Harry Osborn and his girlfriend Lily Hollister, who themselves get attacked by various Skrulls masqueraded as Doctor Strange and Giant Man, except they’re still Skrulls, just dressed as superheroes. This part’s actually cool, in a visual sense, since it shows us what these aliens would look like if they combined with our favorite heroes. It’s a clever idea that, visually, looks really neat. Artist Leinil Francis Yu does a fantastic job crafting these Skrull/superhero mash-ups in the main Secret Invasion story, and the event is worth taking a look at if only for his illustrations and the big brouhaha at the end, which brings together all our favorite heroes against a Skrull army. This part of the story I do enjoy.

Stakes get raised as Harry and Lily are separated in an accident that Harry presumes has killed his girlfriend, and Jackpot is snatched away from the rest of Spidey’s supporting cast by the newest Goblin-foe, Menace. They battle in the air as the Super-Skrull nears the car. Now, this is one decent aspect of good writing in this miniature story arc: the Skrull believes one of these people is Spider-Man—and was initially drawn to the Bugle—because they all carry Spidey’s scent. This is a really good idea, considering they’ve all interacted with Peter Parker a lot—Betty is his friend, Bennet his former boss, Robby his editor, and Vin his roommate—and so of course all carry traces of him (which does make one question how well they all shower). Cool as this is, the Skrull can’t do anything about, as Jackpot kills two birds with one stone by directing Menace’s Goblin glider into the monster. Menace is gone, but the Skrull is left still standing. Another fight breaks out between the two, and Jackpot finally stops the rampaging monster by driving him into a freezer, where he’s turned into a popsicle.

Spidey finally shows up at the end of the story, to congratulate Jackpot for beating the Skrull. He also makes an appearance as Peter with his friends, where it turns out everyone’s okay, even Lily, who wasn’t actually killed. Now, one can argue this is Jackpot’s “baptism of fire” story, which if it is, then it’s fine. She does something heroic on her own and comes up with the win. Cool. However, it’s just told in a really clunky manner, with too much coincidence and forcing together of plot points and characters to feel coherent. I guess it just seems weird to hide this kind of story within the pages of a crossover tie-in, rather than in the main ASM line of stories itself. Granted, we’ve had one other tale focusing on her at the beginning of Brand New Day, but for a new character who’s supposed to be mysterious and is intended to make fans wonder “Is Mary Jane a superhero now?” it’s kinda sad she gets sidelined like this.

Jackpot returns for the next story in this volume, which is Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, by Marc Guggenheim and Mike McKone. Until I started writing these blogs, I never realized how much Guggenheim did with these stories, and it almost disappoints me that he wasn’t handed the reins to write ASM as a solo act when the Brand New Day era was said and done. While I’ve read better writing in comics, he seems to be very passionate about Spidey and probably would’ve had some good stories to tell. This story is definitely better than the Secret Invasion tie-in, centering on Jackpot as she investigates a corrupt mogul named Walter Declun. Peter Parker, after an interview between Declun and Betty Brant, is suspicious of him too, but he’s even more suspicious of Jackpot, since a secret identity she gave him earlier, “Sara Ehret” turned out to be false. Breaking into her apartment, he comes into conflict with her before learning the truth: there is a Sara Ehret who got powers and should’ve been a hero, but decided not to be one, so the fake Jackpot bought her identity and started injecting herself with drugs to replicate her powers. Spidey, being the hero he is, stresses the dangers of drugs and delves into Declun, finding a connection between him and a supervillain named Blindside. He attacks the villain and is, ahem, blindsided by the guy and his supervillain girlfriend Commanda until Jackpot rescues him. Unfortunately, she’s touched and blinded by Blindside, and the chemicals he releases when his uses his power mix with the ones in her system and kill her. Cause that’s how science works, yep.

It’s not a terrible story. I really like the idea of someone wanting to be a hero so bad they purchase a heroic identity in order to do it, even though I can’t condone the drugs. And while I’m glad Jackpot’s story got fleshed out through the Secret Invasion issues and this Annual (considering how packed with subplots the regular ASM issues are already), the revelation of who she is and her sudden death seem quick. The story would have worked better if, somehow, it could have been included in the main tales. Admittedly, that stuff is packed to the brim already, but her inclusion in the stories more often (maybe further team-ups with Spidey) would have added a lot to her character. Granted, the story ends with Spidey giving the real Sara Ehret the opportunity to adopt this identity and become a hero on her own, which she will do, and that’s a great way to end it. However, it just seems that a story that began with “Hey, let’s have a red-headed hero who calls herself ‘Jackpot’ and really, really seems like Mary Jane with powers” turned into “Let’s have this hero turn out to be someone completely different because plot twists.” If Jackpot was more prominent in the Spider-Man world and didn’t just die like she did, it might have been a quality idea. Sadly, this seems like the real first misfire for the Web-Heads: a character with a lot of potential who doesn’t go anywhere, except for under the ground.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Rose City Comic Con Announces Features for 2019 Convention


Rose City Comic Con Announces Features for 2019 Convention

Oregon Convention Center Filled with Highlights from Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, University of Oregon and more from September 13-15



Portland, OR (September 6, 2019) –  Oregon’s premier comic con, Rose City Comic Con, is thrilled to announce exclusive offerings and unique features from partners for the 2019 show taking place at the Oregon Convention Center September 13 - September 15.  Attendees can start planning their Rose City Comic Con experience and view the full schedule of activations at https://rosecitycomiccon.com.



With a focus on comics, comic creators, and the creative process Rose City Comic Con partners with Oni Press and Dark Horse Comics to give attendees an inside look at the art a chance to meet fan-favorite creators. Convention goers can visit Dark Horse Comics on the convention floor all three days of the show for exclusive releases, signings with creators, and snap a picture in their photobooth. Oni Press will also release Rick and Morty #41 and Invader Zim #46 exclusively at Rose City Comic Con. Both editions will be available at the merch booth at the show while supplies last. Portland artist, Ben Dewey, artist and author of I Was The Cat, published by Oni, will also be at the Helioscope booth on the show floor throughout the weekend to meet fans.



The University of Oregon will also have a large presence at the show. Unique to the university is their interdisciplinary Comics and Cartoon Studies minor. First in the country of its kind, this field of study offers an international, historical and critical perspective on the art of comics from across the artistic discipline. This diverse minor allows students to understand the art, visual media, and linguistics from a unique disciplinary lens. Prospective students and their families can meet with staff to ask questions about student life for local Ducks.



Stumptown, the highly anticipated ABC drama set in Portland and based on the graphic novel series premieres 9/25 at 10/9c. Join us for a special advance screening of the first episode followed by a Q&A with cast members Michael Ealy, Camryn Manheim, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus, Adrian Martinez, graphic novel author Greg Rucka and executive producers.



Those looking for a local beer throughout the weekend can stop by the Ninkasi beer garden and get a taste of Portland’s finest! Java Monster will be serving complimentary Java Monster, Espresso Monster, and Caffe Monster inside and outside the expo all weekend long!



Rose City Comic Con’s longest running sponsor Rainy Day Games returns for 2019 to present table top games while Portland Retro Gaming returns to offer classic arcade and console games filled with nostalgia. A full schedule of the gaming tournaments is available at https://rosecitycomiccon.com/gaming/



Potterheads have a unique opportunity to gather with other fans with the help of LeakyCon. LeakyCon is the world’s largest unofficial convention for fans of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Lions, badgers, eagles, and snakes can meet new friends and house meet ups throughout the convention. There will also be a Charity House Cup Challenge benefitting the Harry Potter Alliance. Fans can also get their shopping done at their Wizarding Alley on the show floor and meet makers and craftsmen that love all things Harry Potter too.



Back again for 2019, is the ever-popular costume contest. Get dolled up in your best cosplay and show off your design skills to compete for cash prizes. Participants are limited, but all are welcome to attend and watch. Convention goers can register for the content at https://rosecitycomiccon.com/costumecontest/.



The party doesn’t stop at Rose City Comic Con when the convention floor closes for the night. Friday the 13th is sure to bring all things paranormal to the forefront on the haunted tour of Portland with Northwest Ghost Tours. The two hour walking tour will cover the most haunted 40 blocks in Portland. Those easily scared can instead opt into The Wizards Beer Festival at The Melody Events Center. A ticket to this magical after party includes tastings of over twenty magical beers, multiple magical photo ops, wizardy vendors, and live music from the Slytherin Sisters and DJ Dumbeldore.



WEBSITE: https://rosecitycomiccon.com/ is updated regularly with new guests, exciting exhibitors, and special programming.



SOCIAL MEDIA:


About Rose City Comic Con

Founded in 2011, Rose City Comic Con quickly became Portland’s largest and most diverse comics convention. Building from the strong, independent creative community in the city and combining well-known creators, celebrity guests, and cosplay enthusiasts in a family-friendly atmosphere, RCCC brings together a variety of passionate fans in one epic weekend.



About LeftField Media

LeftField Media, LLC is an events company focused on developing face-to-face events in a range of communities rooted in contemporary culture and shared passion. LeftField was formed in 2014 by Greg Topalian (President, LeftField Media) and is now owned by Topalian and Clarion Events Ltd. With a keen sense of the evolving needs of businesses and their consumers, as well as new opportunities created by change, LeftField takes a clean slate approach to its work. LeftField’s portfolio includes Awesome Con (awesomecon.com), Washington D.C.’s Comic Con; Rose City Comic Con (rosecitycomiccon.com), in Portland, O.R.; Big Easy Con (bigeasycon.com), in New Orleans, L.A.; and Anime NYC (animenyc.com), a Japanese pop culture festival in New York City. LeftField Media is headquartered in historic Trumbull, C.T. (leftfieldmedia.com).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Chew Vol. 4: Flambé

Title: Chew Vol. 4: Flambé

ISBN: 9781607063353
Price: $12.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2011
Artist: Rob Guillory
Writer: John Layman
Collects: Chew #16-20

Rating: 4/5

This series is bizarre but and filled with seriously dark humor but in such a fun way. The gist of the initial plot is that in the aftermath of bird flu (or possibly a government conspiracy) poultry meat is banned and chicken is a hot black market item. Tony’s psychic ability is triggered by whatever he ingests or tastes. He definitely tastes some strange and downright gross stuff along the way.

If the third volume was something of set-up for the future, then this volume puts a few more pieces into play behind the scenes as Tony and his partner John Colby continue to look into food-related crimes.  The problem for Tony and John is not only does their superior keep sending them on the most dangerous missions possible, but the alien writing in the sky, writing that no one can actually read (well….), is having the U.S. government shift money from the FDA and to NASA.  Hey, guess where Tony’s twin sister works?

But the bigger movements are with Tony’s various enemies, in the form of the “vampire” and his original FDA partner Mason Savoy.  So, while Tony and John deal with different types of food psychics, like the high schooler who can put mind control type stuff into food or the North Korean general who has some sort of bioweapon prepped that the USDA (a much more paramilitary type of group made up of women and animals), Savoy is looking for allies among people Tony knows and the vampire is doing…something else.

The added complication in this volume is the appearance of fiery writing in the sky in an unintelligible language. This makes the regulation of poultry meat rather unimportant but Tony Chu and his partner still have plenty of crime to investigate.

Tony’s family members continue to play increasingly more important roles. His sister was a great addition to this volume. There are also more food related special powers introduced. One character is brilliant but only as long as he keeps eating.

No doubt about it, this series just keeps getting better with every trade. From NASA, Tony’s sister assists him with a special case & it’s not wise to piss off Poyo.

The artwork by Rob Guillory is colorful and fun and manages to present some bizarre stuff in a way that isn’t completely gross.

I know it sounds a bit disgusting but I definitely encourage you to give this series a try.