REVIEW BY MATT MORRISON
Curious about Captain Marvel? Here’s the book to start with!
“Defenders: The Best Defense” #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciler: Joe Bennett
Inker: Belardino Brabo
Color Artist: Dono Sánchez-Almara
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Classic Marvel Comics fans have been awaiting the return of one of the most unique teams in the Marvel Universe, the original Defenders, which have finally reunited after almost 20 years and several incarnations. Created in 1971 by comic writer Roy Thomas, the original team lineup consisted of the trio of Dr. Strange, the Incredible Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner. The Silver Surer, Valkyrie and others joined later as the team progressed. For the last couple of years, both comic book readers and Netflix watchers have known the current Defenders which comprised Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist. But now as the original team reunites to battle a powerful cosmic force, Marvel has released five titles as a non-crossover event featuring Dr. Strange, the Immortal Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor the Sub-Mariner, with all four coming together in “Defenders: The Best Defense” #1.
“Doctor Strange from Earth’s cataclysmic future burned out his physical body to throw his astral form back in time to contact the Immortal Hulk, who came across his body inn a barn, and recovered the Eye of Agamotto from a homeless man. Meanwhile the Silver Surfer arrived at an impossible cosmic train of planets, hoping to find one life worth saving so Galactus would look elsewhere or sustenance. Before he could depart, his board raced off to the rescue Namor the Sub-Mariner, who’d traveled to the planet Vodan to seek reinforcements for his war against the surface. His entreaties ended violently, with both Namor and the King of Vodan cast into the void of space outside the cosmic train. And inside the train itself, something in a bedsheet seems to be murdering a lot of people…”
Although advertised as a “non-crossover,” all of the four individual books tie together in “The Best Defense” #1 as the finale to this mind-bending story. And while some of the story elements may seem farfetched, the finale promises to bring all of these story elements, including the lost Atlanteans and the Cosmic Train, together. If you are an original 70’s Defender’s team or a fan like me who better knew the other incarnations such as the “New Defenders” or the “Secret Defenders” of the 90’s, you will be enthralled in this large-scale cosmic-themed story which Marvel has always been best at. Featuring a very Jack Kirby-ish style splash page of the first issue, readers will know they are going to be in for a ride. While “Defenders: The Best Defense” may be a limited series, the tragic tale of the Silver Surfer and Galactus continues in the newly rebooted “Guardians of the Galaxy” #1. “The Best Defense” contains several variant covers from artists such greats as Sal Buscema and Ron Garney.
Amanda McKee is Livewire, a psiot (Valiant’s version of a mutant or metahuman) with the power of technopathy, the ability to control technology, from a cellphone to advanced networking and computer systems. She is also someone who above all else tries to be a guardian, protecting her fellow psiots in any way she can. Livewire is Valiant’s most powerful technopath and one of it’s most popular characters who, before now at least, has never had an actual solo title series. The story is a direct continuation of the events of 2018’s Harbinger Wars 2 miniseries and some references to it will be made in this review.
During the aforementioned HW2 miniseries Livewire took on the United States government as well as other Valiant universe heroes during her efforts to protect her follow psiots from being hunted down and killed as tensions between normal people and psiots escalates. One of her first actions towards that goal was to shut off power across America and in Livewire #1 she finds out that something done with the best of intentions can have unexpectedly horrendous consequences.
Livewire #1 opens with her using her abilities to save a plane from crashing, further emphasizing her desire to protect people and showing that she’s not just interested in protecting her fellow psiots. As soon as she makes it back to her safe house you see her using her abilities to find a safe place for her fellow members from her Secret Weapons team, which is also the name of the miniseries where the team was formed, stressing again that this is someone who is not out to harm others. As you see throughout the issue though the feeling is definitely not mutual as she is now public enemy #1. The issue concludes with a battle between her and what appears to be a new group, naturally leaving her in a perilous situation and making you wish #2 was already out.
The story by Vita Ayala is very well written and brought to life wonderfully by the artist team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. They do a great job designing the different settings the issue takes place in. The fight scenes are well rendered and have a nice tight style that makes it easy to follow and see exactly what’s going on.
If you’re looking for a new title by a great publisher who many overlook then you can’t go wrong with Livewire #1.
Livewire #1 releases on December 19, 2018!
Written by John Sprague. He is a fan of Valiant, Green Lantern, Daredevil and too many other comics and characters to mention, but trust us, it’s a lot.
With the long-awaited Aquaman movie finally coming out this week and scoring rave reviews, doubtlessly many new Aqua-fans will come to the comic shops hoping to read more about this awesome hero who, it turns out, does a lot more than just talk to fish and breathe underwater. The good news is that a new creative team just took over the monthly Aquaman comic book and their first issue is a perfect place to dive in (see what we did there?) to the world of Aquaman. The bad news is those hoping to see more of Mera and Atlantis will be sorely disappointed.
Last month saw the end of The Drowned Earth – a crossover event between the Justice League and Aquaman titles. To make a long story short, three rival ocean gods once imprisoned by a jealous Poseidon flooded the Earth, transformed most of the world’s population into fish people and set about summoning an abyssal kraken that would eventually devour all life in the universe. Thankfully, Aquaman was able to stop them and restore everything to normal, though he seemingly sacrificed himself to do it. The final pages of the crossover revealed, however, that Aquaman had survived, though he was washed ashore on a strange beach in another dimension.
This is where Aquaman #43 picks up, with an amnesiac Arthur Curry having integrated himself into the hamlet known as The Village of Unspoken Water as an odd-job man. He’s taken the name Andy but has no memory of his past or the powers at his command. The woman who found him, a priestess of sorts named Caille, believes “Andy” to be a champion created by the ocean itself. It is a belief none of the other villagers share, though there is another secret to The Village of Unspoken Water that Andy has yet to learn.
While this is radically different from what regular readers of this book have experienced in past months and what movie-goers will expect, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s script is phenomenal and grips the reader immediately. Those who are familiar with DeConnick’s previous work on Captain Marvel (which, it might be noted, inspired much of the upcoming movie) will find themselves on familiar ground here. Despite knowing nothing of his own past, Arthur Curry’s personality as an agreeable man who wishes to help those around him still comes through in the narrative. Though the tone and nature of this story is different, it matches the previous quality of writing by Dan Abnett perfectly.
The artwork is similarly engaging. Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques most recently worked together on Green Lanterns and Supergirl and the symbiosis between inker and artist is apparent throughout the book. Rocha sports an intricate, heavily-lined style that Henriques outlines with a light touch. Teamed with the colors of Sunny Gho, the final effect only hints at the darkness of the ocean surrounding the town and the mysteries of The Village of Unspoken Water while offering a crystal clarity to everything else.
If you’re curious about Aquaman, this comic is a fine place to get your feet wet. Just bear in mind that you won’t get to see Arthur Curry fighting the likes of Ocean Master and Black Manta this month. Those seeking a more traditional Aquaman story would do well to check out the new Mera: Queen of Atlantis collection or the recent Aquaman: Rebirth volumes The Drowning and Underworld.
Aquaman #43 releases on December 19, 2018!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A highly advanced dystopia where the corporations own everything and technology is indistinguishable from magic. A dying Earth where life is cheap and humanity’s best days are behind it, despite the zeitgeist being built around the next big thing. A misfit struggles to get by, wanting to be more than just another cog in the machine, despite society being built around destroying the squeaky wheel.
It cannot be denied that fans of the cyberpunk genre will find themselves in familiar territory upon opening Goddess Mode #1. Comparisons to various Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve movies will be inevitable. Doubtless some will describe it as a feminist answer to Ready Player One in a desperate attempt to summarize its plot. The more well-read will reference Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson. All of this will ignore Goddess Mode #1 for what it is at its heart – a damn good read.
Cassandra Price is a brilliant young coder whose talents are wasted in the most lowly position possible at Heremeticorp – tech support. While other hackers are crafting brilliant new artificial intelligences that build off the Azoth Network that powers the planet, Cassandra is stuck patching up old code and taking out the trash. It’s not glamorous but it pays for the nanotech that purifies the air and water she ingests so she isn’t killed instantly by the polluted slum she lives in and provides the healthcare that keeps her father in cryogenic suspension until a cure is found for his condition. Then one day, Cassandra’s alterations to her personal network are noticed by her boss, who decides to promote her rather than fire her. This leads to Cassandra being sent to meet with the elites of her society and a stunning truth about the reality of things in a world where nanotechnology alters everyone’s perceptions.
Zoe Quinn’s script leans heavily on the usual cyberpunk tropes yet it does so in a way that will be pleasantly familiar – at least to those who remember the old Shadowrun game fondly. What makes Goddess Mode #1 seem like something brand new despite this is the character of Cassandra Price, who is far from the usual riot grrrl or manic hacker dream girl we usually see starring in this kind of story. Cassandra probably doesn’t even own a pair of leather pants or spiked platform boots.
As for the artwork, it is phenomenal. Spider-Gwen co-creator Robbi Rodriguez creates an image of cyberspace and the dystopian world Cassandra lives in that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This unique imagery is further enhanced by the colors of Rico Renzi. The final effect is a neon-filled hellscape that looks uncannily like what I imagined the first time I read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
In short, Goddess Mode #1 is a brilliant read and a must-have for your subscription if you enjoy vivid artwork, dystopian fiction, magic girl anime and manga or just want something different this week when you pick up your comics.
Goddess Mode #1 releases on December 12, 2018!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.
MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
WRITER: Steve Orlando
ARTIST: Riley Rossmo
COLORIST: Ivan Plascencia
COVER PRICE: $3.99
J’onn J’onzz aka The Martian Manhunter is a superhero’s superhero. Since arriving on Earth in Detective Comics #225 (1955), this red planet native has helped save his adoptive blue rock time and again, earning him a place on the Justice League as well as the respect of champions from around the globe.
The newest maxi-series from DC Comics is bringing one of the greatest unsung heroes of their Multiverse to life: The Martian Manhunter! This first of 12 issues gives us a horrific look at the detective’s life on Mars through a series of flashbacks as he investigates a homicide scene in Colorado with his human partner, Diane. The memories seem to connect with his current investigation, however, and the parallels trigger something similar to a PTSD event with a detrimental outcome. Something has him rattled – the presence of “fright foam” on the Earth.
The publisher has done a terrific job of forcing their readers to question what they thought they knew about the straight-laced Martian Manhunter up until this point. Insinuations that J’onzz may be a corrupt cop on the take push against the grain of our psyche in a way that any telepath would pick up on from a block away. Depictions of J’onn dealing with the seedy underbelly of the Sehne’mhoo’t slums will further congeal the crooked visage of our hero. We find an egocentric Manhunter shaking down drug peddlers, doling out beatings to the insolent with no apparent restraint. Implications of prostitution, betting on illegal fights, money laundering… the narrative does not leave much of a good name to besmirch.
The intimate look into martian home life shows us that families mean the same thing on Mars as they do Earth. J’onn tries to leave the darkness of his career outside the walls of his home, but when you hail from a telepathic species your wife knows when you’ve blocked her out of a section of your mind.
The mastery of Rossmo’s artistry becomes apparent in this book. Not just in the subtle dichotomy of the subdued tones and vibrant colors, but his ability to bring entirely alien concepts to life. The jaw-dropping, face-squinching scene of J’onn making love to his wife M’yri’ah in the kitchen is straight out of a horror film. And it’s freakin’ awesome!
Make no mistake, the book finishes asking more questions than it answers, but the questions are far more exciting than the answers you received. Orlando’s creativity is expertly executed by the pacing of the story. He doesn’t let you wade too far into the waters of uncertainty, throwing you just enough line to get you back to the next “what the heck” moment. If the first issue is any indication, this series is going to build up to some amazing stuff.
Just because Harvey owns The Multiverse doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about. Most of his good ideas end up as silly songs he sings for his kids once before being lost forever. Whatever’s left, well, ends up here.
When it comes to superheroic alter egos, Billy Batson may have the most confusing real-world history of any comic book character in existence. Originally created as Captain Thunder for 1940’s Thrill Comics #1, his origin story was reworked and he was renamed Captain Marvel for Whiz Comics #2, later that same year. For a time Captain Marvel was the most popular superhero in America, until the declining popularity of superheroes and a copyright infringement suit from the owners of Superman led to Fawcett Comics ceasing publication of Billy’s adventures in 1953. Despite this, Captain Marvel still had a major influence on American culture, inspiring both Gomer Pyle’s catchphrase and Elvis Presley’s stage costumes.
Marvel Comics would later acquire the rights to the name of Captain Marvel in 1967 and DC Comics would license the Captain Marvel characters at about the same time. For the better part of four decades, DC Comics published the comic book adventures of Captain Marvel but was forbidden from using the title Captain Marvel, with all the comics of the time sporting titles like The Power of Shazam! This led to an entire generation of casual readers growing up thinking that Captain Marvel was called Shazam, even though that was the name of the wizard who gave Billy Batson his magical powers – not Billy’s code name.
In 2011, DC Comics decided to embrace the popular misconception, and created a new origin for Billy Batson as part of their New 52 revamp of the DC Comics line. The new origin changed very little of the key details, beyond modernizing Billy Batson’s background to reflect the modern reality of foster homes over orphanages and a more involved history regarding the magicians of the DC Universe. Apart from that the story was exactly the same. Billy Batson was a good-hearted orphan, chosen by a wizard to inherit a measure of his power and use it to fight evil and protect the innocent.
Thankfully, new readers do not need to know any of this going into Shazam #1 and I mention it only so as to educate you dear readers so as to prevent the confusion that is likely to erupt in early 2019 regarding both Captain Marvel movies. Everything you need to know is explained within the first three pages of this book, along with the events of the original Shazam mini-series, which inspired the upcoming film. That would seem to make this comic series a sequel to the movie that isn’t out yet but new readers shouldn’t have any trouble regardless.
There’s two stories within this issue, both written by Geoff Johns, who organized the original Shazam reboot. The first story reintroduces us to Billy and his foster family and sets up two big mysteries for the series to explore. The second is a more personal tale focused on Mary, the oldest of Billy’s new siblings, and how she came to enter the foster care system and form a family with the rest of the kids in their foster home. Both stories are engaging and Johns proves to have a real gift for writing child characters who act like real kids. (i.e. arguing only seconds after seemingly getting along just fine.)
The artwork for this issue is as great as the story. Dale Eaglesham handles the first story with colorist Mike Atiyeh, presenting a heroic style that still allows for fluid slapstick and comedic expressions along with classic superheroic action. Those who are familiar with Eaglesham’s previous work on Villains United, Green Lantern and JSA will find themselves in familiar territory. The second story features artwork by Mayo “Sen” Naito and sports a shojo manga style well suited to Mary’s story. I dare say that should DC Comics decide to take another stab at producing original manga again, they would do well to have Naito illustrate a solo series devoted to Mary’s adventures as a superhero.
The Bottom Line? Whether you’re a fan of the classic Captain Marvel, know Billy Batson as Shazam, or are a total newbie when it comes to the magically empowered superheroes of the DC Comics universe, this first issue of the new Shazam series will get you up to speed. It’s a darn fine book and family friendly to boot, though younger kids may need help with some of the bigger words. Still, whatever your age, this is one magical read!
Shazam #1 releases on December 5, 2018!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.
DEAD MAN LOGAN #1
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics
WRITER: Ed Brisson
ARTIST: Mike Henderson
COLORIST: Nolan Woodard
COVER PRICE: $4.99
Old Man Logan is DEAD…again, sort of…but not really. Ever since the Old Man Logan character was introduced as a self-contained story arc written by Mark Millar and with art by Steve McNiven, the character very became popular with fans and gained an ongoing series within the Marvel Universe after 2015’s Secret Wars, where he found himself in a new world. But now it seems as though the Old Man Logan series may be coming to an end, but it seems as though the elder Wolverine’s story is not finished as he has returned to his own timeline.
“Transported to the present from an alternate timeline where villains triumphed and the world devolved into lawless wastelands, Logan used his second chance at life to rejoin the X-Men and avert catastrophes like the ones that befell his world. However, his advanced age has caught up with him and his famed healing factor is severely reduced, leaving him slowly dying of adamantium poisoning…”
If all of this sounds familiar, it should because much of the premise was used in the 2017 movie Logan directed by James Mangold, which became a record-breaking release that surpassed all other X-Men movies (except Deadpool). Which saw an aged Logan/Wolverine in a very bleak near future, where his healing factor has weakened and he cares for a mentally ill Charles Xavier, while also defending a young mutant named Laura, who just so happens to be (SPOILER ALERT!) his cloned daughter, also known as X-23 or the All-New Wolverine in the comics.
In the beginning of this 12-issue limited series entitled “Sins of the Father” we are shocked to see Logan face down in the snow in Canada and very near death after a violent battle with the future version of the Hulk, Maestro and found by fellow/former X-Men, including Forge, Cecilia and Glob, who take him back to the X-mansion. There he recovers and learns that he has been unconscious for 11 days and explains to him that his system has overloaded and his healing factor can’t keep up. Therefore, he has only 12 months left to live. Despite the warning Wolverine heads out to find Mysterio and get revenge for tricking him into murdering the X-Men in the other universe.
This year has certainly been a busy one for Wolverine, after dying in the “Death of Wolverine” in 2014 and “Hunt for Wolverine” this summer, Wolverine has now returned from the dead, but there is also this alternate timeline version of him. For those who haven’t been keeping up (and I’ve really tried!) this series follows the Old Man Logan series which takes place in Earth-807128 while the main timeline is the Earth-616 universe (I think?). While Mysterio (who is usually a Spider-Man) villain had made Wolverine think that he was protecting the X-Men when he made it seem like the mansion was being attacked, Logan’s rationale is that if Mysterio could use his illusions to do that in the other timeline, then he could also do it in the current timeline.
While Marvel has certainly had their share of alternate universe troubles, but since there are two “main” ones in the comics Earth-616 and Earth-1610 that include the bulk of the Marvel story lines. There is also Earth-199999, which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Written by Canadian (appropriate) comic writer Ed Brisson (Old Man Logan, Cable and Iron Fist) and with art by Mike Henderson (Daredevil), for X-Men and Wolverine fans alike, Dead Man Logan is going to be an interesting story as the two universes come together in what will no doubt turn out to be an adamantium slaughterfest! SNIKT!!!
Dave “Chernobog” Whiteman is a life-long comic book collector, metalhead, part-timer writer, Funatic and a die-hard Star Wars fan!
After watching Episode 8 of Titans — titled “Donna Troy” — I can only ask myself one question. Where has this quality been all season? Why have we been flip-flopping between “plot episodes” and “character episodes” when, as made clear by this week’s episode, an effective combination of the two could be so easily accomplished?
After some much needed recouping from the hell that was the Asylum, the team has to move on from squatting in Batman’s safehouse. Dick is feeling a little lost at this point, so he decides to head off on his own for a little while, with the rest of the group migrating to a house that may or may not belong to Rachel’s birth-mother. From there, the story is divided between two paths — one in which Dick pals around with Donna Troy and one in which everyone else is stuck on a train for the majority of the episode.
Character-building is the best it has been all season with everyone getting something concrete and interesting added to their identities. Even though Gar gets the short-stick again, the subtle nuance in his body-language and mood is a prime example of the old adage, “Show don’t tell.” It’s executed so effortlessly that, again, it’s a shame it’s so underutilized. Rachel’s development is a tad stagnant, but it’s exploring what seems like an earnest relationship between her and her birth-mother. This will most likely end badly for Rachel, but the show is investing time into that relationship to make that eventual turn much more effective — you know, how you should generally build character dynamics.
Conor Leslie as Donna Troy is great, and her friendship/ confidante-role with Dick is something new for the brooding hero. The main issue with Dick’s character so far is that it’s pretty one-note; beyond being angry or sad, we haven’t seen Dick really be a person. Donna helps show how much of a character Dick can actually be. He’s inquisitive, he’s vulnerable, and — gasp — funny. There’s a throw-away gag about a well-known Batman villain that not only had me chuckling but also further illustrated Dick’s inability to just live life. He’s constantly in “vigilante-mode” due to Bruce’s own obsession, and this kind of multipurpose story-telling is littered throughout the episode. It’s simply a breath of fresh air.
This leads into Kory’s portion of the episode, and on it’s own, it’s a fine internal character struggle. I derided her treatment in the last episode as serving no purpose, and I’ll be the first to admit that some patience would have benefited my viewing (though the show has mustered very little goodwill in that department). We do see that Kory has by no means escaped her torture unscathed, with the experiments sort of unlocking PTSD-laden memories from her past. Kory struggles with these new, painful memories that exacerbate her worst tendencies — paranoia and violence — and that makes sense. It’s when her seemingly unrelated narrative coalesces with Dick’s that everything really clicks. It’s bit of a deus ex machina, but it ultimately serves the a purpose and is, frankly, fun.
Episode 8 is, so far, the best Titans episode to date. It expertly weaves plots, character motivations, and relationships that would normally all be relegated to separate episodes. It’s exactly what a show about a team should be — all of our heroes being connected even when they’re apart. It’s a little late in the game to say this will be the turn-around for the show as a whole, but it’s a shining example of what Season 2 can aspire to be.
Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!
“William Gibson’s Alien 3” #1 Review
By Dave Whiteman
On May 22, 1992, fans of 20th Century Fox’s Alien franchise flocked to theaters to witness the fate of Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, Newt, Corporal Hicks and Bishop the android after the events of 1986’s “Aliens” (directed by James Cameron) in what would turn out to be one of the most reviled installments of the now “Alien Quadrilogy” that even director David Fincher disowned and stated that “to this day, no one hates it more than me.” Due to the many changes made by the studios, character deaths and reshoots, the director actually walked out of the production.
Along with the original screenwriters, David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson and Vincent Ward, award-winning science fiction author William Gibson, who is credited as one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre with 1984’s “Neuromancer,” wrote a very early version of the script, of which a few elements survived in the final version.
As Dark Horse Comics has been publishing the line of comics in the Alien and Predator universes since 1989, it seemed only fitting that they would release this official adaptation of his original screenplay. Taking place after the events of “Aliens” (1986), the spaceship Sulaco, which is carrying the sleeping bodies of Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop, is intercepted by the Union of Progressive Peoples. But when they board the ship, they encounter a stowaway in the form of an alien face-hugger, which soon starts a chain reaction of events in the midst of a Cold War between two world powers, bent on the creation of a weapon of mass destruction.
With art by Johnnie Christmas, the co-creator of Margaret Atwood’s “Angel Catbird” and creator of Image Comics’ “Firebug,” and colors by Tamra Bonvillain, “William Gibson’s Alien 3” presents a very different version of the story that many fans of the Alien franchise have come to hate, but many consider to be a much superior script. I’m looking forward to seeing how this story plays out and hope to have a whole new outlook on the Alien story.
Dave “Chernobog” Whiteman was born in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is a life-long comic book collector, metalhead, part-timer writer, Funatic and a die-hard Star Wars fan!
An anthology collecting stories involving the end of the world and the holidays may well be the strangest concept for a comic book I’ve seen in my many years of reading illustrated fiction. Yet the idea has an odd merit, as one could draw parallels between the mindless hordes of consumers and the desperate masses warring over resources in the face of nuclear Armageddon, as we ponder what is truly important in life.
Given that, it’s surprising none of the tales in DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 involve Black Friday shopping. In fact, some of them don’t involve the holiday season and some of them don’t really involve the Apocalypse so much as they involve alternate futures and potential endings of different characters’ stories! And while I may be a bit of a Grinch for pointing this out, despite their appearance on the cover neither Harley Quinn nor Wonder Woman have stories in this special book. Thankfully, all arguments over the subject matter aside, DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 is no lump of coal.
Mark Russell (The Snagglepuss Chronicles) and Mike Norton (Battlepug) handle the frame story for the issue, in which Rip Hunter: Time Master finds himself cornered by cannibal tech geeks in the ruins of Silicon Valley while recharging his time machine. To stall for time, Hunter entertains the cannibals with stories of the many superheroes he’s worked with in his journeys across time and how they survived various end-of-the-world disasters and how those tied into the holiday season. Because it just so happens to be Christmas Day.
As with most anthologies, your enjoyment of DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 may ultimately come down to how much you like the characters, artists and writers involved. For instance, if you don’t care much for Kamandi, you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of Phil Hester’s story centering around The Last Boy on Earth and how the stories of Hanukkah and Christmas are remembered and honored by the intelligent animals ruling the Earth following The Great Disaster. It’s a darn good story with great art and a worthy tribute to Jack Kirby but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
It is worth mentioning that Aquaman fans will want to check this issue out, as it features a story that it says will be continued, despite being set in a dark apocalyptic world. Fans of the Injustice series will also want to pick this book up for Tom Taylor’s Supergirl story, which could be seen as an unofficial conclusion to the Earth of that reality. There’s also stories involving Batman 666 (the future version of Damian Wayne who sold his soul to the devil) and the future of DC One Million, though that particular story may be confusing to those who haven’t read the original event.
Despite this, most of the stories here can be enjoyed by anyone. Chief among these is “Last Christmas” – a Firestorm story written by Paul Dini with art by Jerry Ordway. Seemingly set in a darker version of the reality of the Justice League Action cartoon, the story pits Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein against The Nuclear Family in a surprisingly touching story of togetherness and putting aside differences in the name of peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men. And robots.
Personally, my favorite story in the bunch is the last – “The Birds of Christmas Past, Present And Future” – and I can think of no reason for this other than it is a Green Arrow story. And not just any Green Arrow but a story involving an old-school, aging-hippie, George Carlin-with-a-bow, Old Man Ollie, who – in this reality – quit the Justice League, broke up with Black Canary and spent most of the last five decades trying to save society while the Justice League degenerated into a bunch of spoiled kids. I won’t say more beyond that, save three things – I want writer Dave Wirlgosz on the monthly Green Arrow book, the artwork by Flash artist Scott Kolins is perfect and you should have Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne on in the background as you read it.
So is DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 something you want stuffed in your stocking? On the whole, I’d say yes. Despite not all of its stories fitting its theme, there’s not a dud in the lot. At worst, some of the stories are inaccessible, being based on other books you might not have read. Still, there is far more good than bad here, making this book a wonderful holiday treat.
DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 releases on November 28, 2018!
As part of the relaunch of DC Vertigo’s Sandman Universe, another one of Neil Gaiman’s memorable creations returns to comics with the long awaited “Books of Magic.” First published by DC Comics in 1990 as a mini-series, fan-favorite Tim Hunter began his long journey to becoming the world’s greatest magician, with the help of several mystical DC Comics alumni such as Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult and John Constantine. The series was ongoing until it was discontinued after the short-lived “Books of Magick: Life During Wartime” in 2005. With this latest relaunch, the story catches us up (whether the reader be a longtime fan or a newcomer) in a fairy tale-like collage retelling of his origin:
“Once upon a time…there lived a boy named Timothy Hunter. He seemed like a very usual sort of boy. Except.”
Then we find Tim Hunter asleep in class, as a seemingly normal student who tries to impress girls with his amateur magic tricks. Getting bullied and of course getting into fights, he is pulled into one of his teacher’s office and we learn that Tim has “lost” his mother. But his teacher Dr. Rose is apparently has a connection to magic and knows that Tim is destined to become the greatest magician. As she gives him a book that appears blank to him at first she advises him to start reading and when he is ready, the magic will be visible to him. Despite his frustrations, Tim is certain he is ready, but as the book soon reveals its first lesson:
“Magic is neither good nor bad. Only its use determines its character. There are always consequences for its use.”
And upon opening his first book, we are given a glimpse of three mysterious cultist figures that are apparently watching him from afar as they decide that steps must be taken…and that some books must not be read.
Written by newcomer Kat Howard, known for her novel “Roses and Rot” and illustrated by Canadian artist Tom Fowlerm with colors by Jordan Boyd, the new “Books of Magic” has a promising start. While sharing the spotlight with other titles in the revived Sandman Universe, such as “The Dreaming” and “House of Whispers,” the new “Books of Magic” hopes to recapture the “magic” of a series that unfortunately fell into obscurity 13 years ago as it soon became marred by its similarities to the popular Harry Potter franchise in which tabloids claimed that Gaiman had made accusations of plagiarism against J.K. Rowling, which he went on the record denying. But hopefully time will tell if fans will return to this series as we see what the fates have in store for Tim Hunter.
Normally I try and review the first issues of new series or the starts of runs by new creative teams on long-running series. This is for the good and simple reason that, typically, that’s when people need a critic’s advice.
I’m making an exception this week for Injustice 2 Annual #2 for two reasons. The first is that the core of this book is an incredibly good Superman/Batman team-up story that stands on its own. The second is that this is said to be the final comic set in the world of Injustice and I felt the need to talk a bit about this little comic that could.
A quick bit of background for those who aren’t video game fans. Injustice was a fighting game utilizing various DC Comics characters, created by the same team responsible for Mortal Kombat. The series was set in a timeline divergent from the core DC Comics reality, where The Joker put his belief that “one bad day” could push anyone over the edge to the test on Superman. The end result was a dead Lois Lane, a Metropolis burned in nuclear fire and a Joker who laughed his last laugh as Superman punched through his chest. The action of the game opens five years later as the Batman of this world, one of the last free heroes left, summons the Justice League of another reality to help him retake his Earth from the army Superman formed to force peace upon the world.
Nobody expected much of the Injustice comic that was created as a link to the games. There’s a long history of terrible superhero video games and equally terrible tie-in comics. I myself ignored the title until an associate, who knew of my love of Green Arrow, said I had to check out Issue #5 of the digital edition. It was there that I read a silly little story that involved Green Arrow hunting down Harley Quinn and I instantly fell in love.
It is worth mentioning that Injustice: Gods Among Us first came out at the height of The New 52 revamp, when DC Comics was busily trying to remake Harley Quinn into their version of Deadpool and Green Arrow into their version of Tony Stark. The book’s presentation of the classic Harley Quinn and Oliver Queen attracted many fans who were turned off by DC’s latest reboot and it is hard to say how much seeing the classic versions of the characters at a time when they were sorely missed may have boosted the titles’ sales in addition to its clever writing, which was both touching and hilarious in equal measure.
Writer Tom Taylor spun a five year saga plausibly detailing how a grief-stricken Superman might slowly transform himself into a tyrant in a bid to stop anyone from suffering as he had. He also explored many questions the video game didn’t cover, such as why Earth’s magicians or The Green Lanterns didn’t step in to try and stop Superman before he went over the edge. (The short answer is that they did and things did not end well for anyone.) Yet in the middle of all this, Taylor wrote flashback stories that showed a great understanding of Superman’s character and many critics called Taylor’s “For The Man Who Lost Everything” the best Superman story of the past decade.
The story of Injustice 2 Annual #2 is a similarly retro story, showing Superman and Batman in happier times. After Bruce Wayne is nearly assassinated on behalf of a nationalist Intergang cell unhappy with Wayne’s sponsorship of a refugee assistance program, Clark offers his teammate a place to rest and recover while he and the rest of Bruce’s friends and family hunt down those responsible. It’s not much of a plot, but it does afford Taylor the chance to tell the sort of story he excels at, playing off of the reader’s expectations as he uses his knowledge of these beloved characters to bounce themselves off of one another in unexpected ways.
To say more than that would spoil the game, so I’ll simply say that Bruno Redondo, Rex Lokus and Wed Abbott – Taylor’s artistic partners for the better portion of the runs of both Injustice comics – do a fantastic job on this issue, making it a worthy capstone for the series to date. If you want a good, old-fashioned World’s Finest team-up with solid writing and artwork, give this book a try. Then go back and see what you’ve been missing with the earlier Injustice comics. Even if you don’t care much for video games, they are well worth your time as one of the most interesting and well-developed Elseworlds in comics’ history.
Injustice 2 Annual #2 releases on November 21, 2018!
X-Men comics are a daunting thing to comic book newcomers. The franchise has one of the most extensive mythologies in history. There have been as many as a dozen X-Men books being published at any one time every month. And there are literally hundreds of characters, heroes and villains, making up the continuing saga of people born with genetic mutations, who use their powers to protect a world that hates and fears them.
Where do you start in all of that? It’s a fair question and everyone has their own opinions on the subject. The obvious answer is “at the beginning” but the classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby X-Men is a totally different beast than what came after Chris Claremont and John Byrne revived the series in the 1970s. And even their stories are totally different than the more recent Morrison/Quietly or Whedon/Cassady runs often held up as the “Best X-Men Ever!”
(You just read that in the Comic Book Guy’s voice, didn’t you?)
Unfortunately, for all that Uncanny X-Men #1 does right in trying to present a good-old-fashioned X-Men story, it also falls into the same traps that have plagued the series for most of the last two decades. If you are a newcomer and don’t already know who all of the characters are, you’ll quickly become lost trying to keep track of all the players. If you’re already an X-Fan and –do- know who all the characters are, much of what you see in this issue will be old hat.
Case In Point: The credits page for this issue explains the basic idea of the X-Men and how there is one team of superheroes led by Jean Grey and a school for young mutants run by Kitty Pryde. There is a roster of character names and pictures, but this won’t help much as there are characters in the story not listed on the roster. Indeed, the very first page of the main story introduces Jamie Madrox (aka Multiple Man) and shows multiple copies of him running around trying to avert some disaster. The fact that Madrox has had access to a time machine since the Multiple Men mini-series last year is not explained.
Herein lies the biggest problem with Uncanny X-Men #1 – it assumes too much of the reader and doesn’t allow for the possibility of a newcomer seeking entry into its world. This is something of a problem for a #1 issue!
Ignoring that, there’s way too much going on in this issue, with three separate plot-lines and 20 characters. And that’s just in the main part of the book! There’s also three back-up stories, which eventually meet and turn into a large single story. All of these stories are full of action, but there’s little chance to get to know any of the characters as being more than powers and a codename. Heck, some of the characters don’t even get that much and spend the story standing in the background!
Established X-Fans will fare slightly better, but may not find anything new here. The ideas of a vaccine to cure mutation and an anti-Mutant Senator turning the populace against mutants have been done before in the comics and the movies. Heck, even the characters themselves seem to be snarking on how “been there, done that” the story of this issue is.
The artwork is competently executed throughout. Unfortunately, like the stories, there’s little that is truly fantastic that stands out or grabs the eye. The one exception to this is the Jean Grey story written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Ibraim Roberson. Brief though it is, Thompson manages to convey everything you need to know about who Jean is as a person in one monologue and Roberson draws the most gorgeous Jean Grey I’ve ever seen, while fitting an amazing amount of detail into every panel without losing any sense of clarity.
In the end, X-Men fans will find Uncanny X-Men #1 to be more of what they like. Newcomers looking for an entry point into the world of Marvel’s Mutants would do better to check out X-Men: Red, which I think may well be the most friendly X-Men comic in years, as well as one of the best. And bonus – the first TP just came out last month.
Uncanny X-Men #1 releases on November 14, 2018!
When you think about it, Green Lantern is one of the more awkward superhero ideas in existence. It makes a little more sense if you consider it in the context of the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who was originally going to be Alan Ladd as a modern take on Aladdin. (His name became Alan Scott after it was decided they couldn’t risk a lawsuit from a screen actor with that name.) From there we get the idea of magic rings and magic lamps and suddenly the idea of a ring and lantern that allow you to wish whatever you want into being makes perfect sense.
It became somewhat stranger in 1959, when the concept of Green Lantern was revamped with a science-fiction twist, to capitalize on the increasing popularity of science-themed comic books. In the wake of The Space Race and the increasing emphasis on science in the schools at the time, the comic publishers flipped the arguments of censors who said that comic books encouraged juvenile delinquency and started marketing comics as educational material.
While one could make a case for the “Flash Facts” in The Flash teaching some basic scientific principals, Green Lantern was not quite so scientifically minded. Though his ring was now powered by alien science instead of magic, the basic principal of a ring and a lantern that enable its wielder to create whatever they willed into existence remained the same. Hal Jordan’s greatest contribution to the efforts to teach science were largely limited to inspiring kids to look to the stars and acting as a role-model to those kids who wanted to fly as a test pilot rather than a superhero. Of course the idea of a group of alien space cops was pretty awesome, even if it wasn’t all that educational.
I mention all this history because I found myself pondering the origins of Green Lantern as I read The Green Lantern #1 and how writer Grant Morrison said that he was going back to basics. No more of Geoff Johns’ mythology regarding a whole spectrum of Lanterns who drew power from emotions! Say goodbye to Peter Tomasi’s sprawling military epics! The Green Lantern would be a police procedural in space, with a thin green line separating law from chaos as Hal Jordan found himself trying to be a lawman in a cold, indifferent universe, while Morrison explored just how a simple Earthman could enforce local laws that he couldn’t even understand because of his inherently limited viewpoint.
Such ideas are bread and butter for Grant Morrison, who has a reputation as a brilliant writer when he can carry his ideas off. It remains to be seen if he will be pulling this one off in the end, but this much can be said after a single issue – I want more!
Morrison is well-matched in this endeavor by Liam Sharp, whose work was most recently seen in the DC Rebirth Wonder Woman series. Sharp’s artwork is simply amazing, managing to be smoothly streamlined yet heavily detailed without feeling at all cluttered. Steve Oliff’s colors provide the perfect vivid finishes to Sharp’s pencils and inks, making this one of the most beautiful books in recent memory.
The only real weakness to The Green Lantern #1 is that it doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of its writer or the pre-release hype. We were promised Grant Morrison doing things with the concept of the Green Lantern Corps that would be wholly inconceivable. Not only was most of The Green Lantern #1 conceivable but I can tell you precisely where some of the wilder ideas in this book (such as X-Ray Lanterns and Microwave Lanterns and other Lanterns for wave-lengths of light that do not have a color) originally came from.
It is entirely possible, however, that Morrison is merely establishing a world for the sake of the newcomers before he starts to rebuild it. And even if his talk about redefining Green Lantern was just that, Morrison still spins a perfectly serviceable story here. Couple that with Liam Sharp’s art and there’s plenty of reason to give this series a shot for a few months to see how it develops. Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of the Green Lantern Corps or an old hat when it comes to the ring-slingers, this book is guaranteed to light up your life.
The Green Lantern #1 releases on November 7, 2018!
There is a long history of comic-book tie-ins being poor-quality products. For every amazing series like Tom Taylor’s Injustice: Gods Among Us that perfectly captures and expands upon the world of the television series, movie or video game it is based upon, there are a dozen like Malibu Comics’ Street Fighter or the Family Guy comic from Devil’s Due Publishing that fail to exist as anything other than a cheap cash grab.
Thankfully, Titan Comics has avoided this since taking over the license for Doctor Who in 2014. The publisher created a number of series and mini-series set at different points in the story of Doctor Who, crafting a complex mythology that easily grafted onto that of the show. Now, one month after the start of the newest season, Titan has released the first issue of a new series based around the 13th incarnation of The Doctor.
At this point, a quick explanation may be needed, for those who don’t know the show.
Doctor Who centers around the adventures of The Doctor – an alien time-traveler who wanders the universe in an intelligent machine called a TARDIS – Time And Relative Dimension In Space. A natural hero at heart, who dislikes bullies and tyrants, The Doctor frequently engages in battles to help people in need, from lost children to oppressed societies. The Doctor also frequently adopts companions, who travel along with The Doctor and enjoy exploring the wonders of reality.
While The Doctor appears to be human, The Doctor possesses an amazing alien power to regenerate the body after moments of great stress or injury. When this happens, The Doctor’s physical form and personality will change, literally creating a whole new person with all The Doctor’s memories and knowledge. Currently on Incarnation Number 13, this is the first time (that we know of) that The Doctor has regenerated in a woman’s body.
The title page of the book explains all this and more, as well as introducing us to The Doctor’s current companions – aspiring mechanic Ryan, rookie cop Yasmin and retired bus-driver Graham. The action of this first issue is largely concerned with setting up a larger adventure, as The Doctor and friends encounter a mysterious portal and a figure seemingly stuck inside of it.
(Click To View The Full Image In Another Window.)
Writer Jody Houser, best known for her work on Faith for Valiant Comics, Mother Panic for DC Comics and various Star Wars books for Marvel Comics, proves a perfect fit for telling a new series of tales for The Doctor. Houser knows how to spin a strange sci-fi yarn like few others and the story she starts here is an intriguing set-up that evokes the spirit of many a classic Doctor Who episode, in which we were introduced to a whole new world and new characters before The Doctor arrived to start stirring things up. The only point in which the script falters is that we don’t get much of a sense of personality from the companions, with the high-action quotient of the issue not allowing for the moments of introspection the show often takes.
The artwork, however, is simply astonishing. Rachel Stott was rightly acclaimed for her previous work on Titans’ other Doctor Who comics but has also worked on DC Bombshells and IDW’s Star Trek comics. Beyond capturing the likenesses of the actors from the show perfectly, Stott is a tremendous choreographer and the many moments of action in this book are well-blocked. The colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini are simply brilliant, perfectly chosen and guiding the eye easily as the story progresses.
If you’re a Doctor Who fan who has never read the comics, this is the perfect time to start. If you’re a comic book fan who never got into Doctor Who, this book will smoothly guide you into one of the greatest fictional universes in existence. Either way, this is one book newcomers and old fans alike are sure to enjoy.
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #1 releases on November 7, 2018!
For generations, a war has been waged for the soul of America. On one side are The Architects – men of good faith (and only men), who have shaped the nation to establish a design they call The Natural Order. The other side has no name, being made up of a coven of witches, continually reborn across the ages of man, who use their blood magic to thwart the designs of The Architects, primarily by empowering other women to stand against their designs.
With their shadow war slowly being lost and their numbers dwindling, The Architects need a solution – one that will not result in the bloodshed that only serves to deplete their numbers and empower the witches. Thankfully, one Architect has a plan. One which will turn the witches’ own magic against them, and bind them and their power according to The Natural Order.
Much like how Vertigo Comics’ new series Border Town might be compared to Stranger Things, so too can Hex Wives be broadly compared to The Stepford Wives. Both stories share a common theme of women being forced into the role of a “domestic goddess” but in this case the impetus is magic rather than science. Ben Blacker’s script runs wild with this idea, where the wildest stereotypes about church-going conservative men and feminist lesbians are cranked up to 11 and every conspiracy theory about “what they really want” is true. In this, the story manages to balance the political aspects so that neither side is “the right one.”
Ignoring the social commentary, Hex Wives also works as a straight-forward horror story, from multiple angles. It is notable for putting a spin on series such as Charmed, presenting a less heroic group of witches who are, from their perspective, trying to save the world from The Patriarchy. The hell of it (pun intended) is they have a point in that The Architects are just as harmful in their manipulations of society as the witches are in their destruction of societal norms.
The artwork is, in a word, gorgeous. The pencils and inks of Mirka Andolfo (most recently seen on DC’s Bombshells, Ms. Marvel and Harley Quinn) prove a perfect complement to Blacker’s script. Andolfo draws beautiful, active women better than most and is skilled enough an artist to accurately depict the different scenes and costumes as we move through time from the first battle between The Architects and The Witches at Salem (of course) to their apparent final battle at the height of the Katrina flooding in 2005. The action sequences are all well-blocked and the colors of Marissa Louise leave a glow upon the page that makes it seem like actual light is pouring from the book during the many scenes that are lit by fire.
While it may not appeal to those who prefer their comics free of heavy subtext, those who enjoy a good supernatural ripping yarn and a bit of dark comedy will find Hex Wives #1 to be the perfect treat this Halloween. Once again, Vertigo Comics knocks it out of the park with one of their new revival series. Here’s hoping the rest of the new line continues along in this vein.
Hex Wives #1 releases on October 31, 2018!
Across the multiverse, a story is played out continually. An intelligent teenager is bitten by a mutated spider. The bite gives them the proportionate strength and speed of a spider as well as an adhesive touch and a precognitive awareness of danger. They go on to use their new powers to try and help others.
In this time and this place, the teenager is a young woman named Gwen Stacy.
Gwen has done a lot and seen a lot more in her short life. As Spider-Woman, she contended with super-spies, mad-scientists and ninjas. She’s fought the government and even traveled to other dimensions. She’s also a recently released criminal, who did time as penance for when she failed to use her powers responsibly and felt she needed to pay the price for it.
Now, Gwen is trying to figure out what to do with her life. With the whole world aware of her once-secret identity (and, annoyingly, calling her Spider-Gwen instead of Spider-Woman), she’s not sure if she can go back to being the hero she once was. Unfortunately fate (and a pushy little pig-man from another reality) aren’t giving Gwen any choice in the matter. The world-spanning evils she fought once before have returned and Gwen will be ready to face them. She just wish she had a better code name to take into battle.
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 is that rarest of all gems – a comic-book event tie-in that doesn’t require any previous knowledge of the character or the events of at least three other comics. That is doubly impressive given that this is also the start of a new Spider-Gwen series and the first not to be handled by Spider-Gwen’s original creative team.
You would never know it, however, as Seanan McGuire and Rosi Kampe pick up right where the last Spider-Gwen volume left-off. So if all you know about the character comes from her appearance in the trailers for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, rest easy. This one volume will give you everything you need to know about Gwen Stacy and Spider-Geddon in one handy book. They even explain Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham, who somehow manages to not be the strangest thing in the book by a long-shot.
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 does everything a first issue should. It introduces us to Gwen, revealing her as a funny, brilliant and self-depreciating hero. It gives us the broad particulars of her life since the last series but doesn’t bog us down with continuity. And like all great the great Spider-Man comics of yore, it gives us a bit of action and a little drama amidst the punchlines while setting up one heck of a cliff-hanger. The artwork matches the story beat for beat, flowing smoothly from panel to panel. The colors are suitably eye-catching and there’s one heck of an awesome new villain who should prove quite the interesting foil for Gwen in the coming issues.
Bottom-Line: Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #1 is a fun, easily accessible superhero book that is as friendly to kids as it is to new readers. It’s well-written, well-drawn and you’ll want to beat the rush to get it now. Face front, True Believers! This is the real deal.
Spider-Gwen: Ghost Spider #1 releases on October 24, 2018!
Fans of the NETFLIX original series “Stranger Things” get a new insight into the experience of the character of Will Byers, who was mysteriously transported into the Upside Down by the demonic creature, which would be known as ‘the Demogorgon.’ The latest 4-issue limited series from Dark Horse Comics is written by award-winning comics veteran Jody Houser (Valiant Comics’ “Faith”), with pencils by Italian artist, Stefano Martino, inks by Keith Champagne (IDW’s “Ghostbusters”) and colors by Lauren Affe ( “Buzz Kill” Image).
The comic series picks up right after the first 10 minutes of the first episode “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers.” Although throughout the first season of the show we merely get glimpses of Will’s time in the alternate-version of his world, which is similar in almost every way, except for the ever-present darkness and the rotten, poisonous atmosphere. As he realizes that he is no longer home, his journey is compared to his adventures with his friends in their Dungeons & Dragons campaign, in which he plays the wizard, Will the Wise, as he wanders the dark forest of “Mirkwood.” But just as in his D&D adventures, the party of adventurers have been separated, and as he knows, splitting the party can have disastrous consequences!
Although the first issue is somewhat shorter than expected, at only 20-pages, it does add much more to the story of Will’s dilemma in the Upside Down, as the show focuses mainly on the powerful, young girl Eleven, with whom he encounters briefly. But the first issue ends on a heart-pounding cliffhanger, as Will tries to seek the safety in the alternate version of his bedroom, while the terrifying ‘Demogorgon’ is stalking him! I’m looking forward to this limited series, which is a must for any “Stranger Things” fan, as well as a good jumping off point for new fans too. The series also comes in a standard cover and three variant covers, including a photo cover that features scenes from the show, as well as some very surreal art covers by various talent. The first issue also includes a two-page preview of the new “Mystery Science Theater 300 the Comic.”
NOTICE: The management of The Multiverse would like for it to be stated that we do not support the activities of the being commonly known as Lucifer, Satan and/or The First Of The Fallen. We are not members of his fan club, although he’s apparently responsible for most of the music we like. Regardless, we would remind everyone that the comic which is about to be discussed is a work of fiction and this review is not meant to be an endorsement of any sort of Satanic activity, foreign or domestic, ethereal or substantial. Thank you.
The greatest strength of Lucifer #1 is also its greatest weakness. A new reader who is completely unfamiliar with the rich history of the character from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman can pick this book up and have no trouble understanding its story. This is because, apart from one off-hand reference, none of the character’s history comes into play.
This is the odd paradox of Lucifer #1. Fans of the character who have read The Sandman, Mike Carey’s spin-off series Lucifer, the short-lived Lucifer revival by Holly Black and Richard Kadrey and even viewers of the Fox television series Lucifer (which is VERY loosely based on Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer character) are more likely to be confused than new readers. This is because there’s no apparent relation to the stories we see here and any previous incarnation of Lucifer.
I’ll spare you any spoilers about the earlier series. They’re all well worth reading and tracking down and I won’t rob you of the pleasure of reading them for yourself. (For what my opinion is worth, Seasons of Mist, the fourth Sandman volume in which Lucifer figures prominently, is the best of the series.) But anyone hoping for a true crime police procedural about a charming bar owner/detective who just happens to be a fallen angel should abandon all hope before entering here. There’s nothing of the kind in Lucifer #1.
Instead, we are treated to two stories. One depicts how Lucifer, once the angel Samael, has become imprisoned in some other realm, blinded himself and gone mad trying to escape what seems to be a Hell designed to hold him. The other depicts John Decker, a police detective with a terminally ill wife, who seems to be trapped in an entirely different kind of hell he wishes he could escape.
It’s unclear precisely where writer Dan Watters is going with any of this. While Watters is to be commended for making one of Vertigo Comics’ most complex series easily accessible to newcomers, there is as little here to grip new readers as there is to confuse them. I suspect this series may ultimately read better in trade-paperback format than as a monthly comic.
The artwork by Max and Sebastian Fiumara is more engaging and suits the story perfectly. The style of Lucifer is vividly detailed and melancholy, with an foreboding aura prevalent throughout. Colorist Dave McCaig tints the two stories differently, with washed-out blues depicting the depressing life of John Decker and bright oranges and yellows dominating Lucifer’s story, slowly shifting to red as he becomes more angry.
Established fans of Lucifer may be upset that, so far, the new series bares little resemblance to any that has come before. Taken on its own merits, however, Lucifer #1 has a lot of potential. This issue marks an interesting entry point into the shared universe of Vertigo Comics if nothing else, and the artwork is worth the price of admission alone. This is a series to keep an eye on.
Lucifer #1 releases on October 17, 2018!
Over-sized comics were a treasured rarity back in the good ol’ days of comic books. It was one that DC Comics attempted to make into a regular thing with the publication of the first 80 Page Giant in 1964. Though these specials often reprinted a lot of older material, they still gave kids more than double a standard comic book (32 pages, at the time) for double the price of what you normally paid for a comic – 25 cents vs. 12 cents.
Ah, for the pricing of the good ol’ days!
DC Comics tried to revive the idea with 80 Page Annuals in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but the idea largely fell out of favor after 2003. The company still publishes over-sized anthology specials on occasion and that brings us to Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1, in which the 80 Page Giant and the horror anthology rise from the grave like an undead monstrosity. Just in time for Halloween!
The great thing about anthology books like Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1 is that there is something for nearly everyone and if you don’t like the writing or art on one story, you can just skip it and move on. There are quite a few of DC Comics most popular characters here and a few oddities like Green Lantern Guy Gardner. There are also several characters like Superman and Wonder Woman who you’d never expect to see in a horror anthology that starts with a traditional Swamp Thing story and ends with Zatanna, as she puts a little magic back into the life of a young girl who is scared of Halloween.
That’s the thing about horror, though. It can be found anywhere. And while there’s little surprise in finding a Batman story where The Dark Knight is pitted against a psycho-killer called Gorehound who is replicating the killings of the greatest slasher movies of all time, you wouldn’t expect to see a story about Superman being haunted. Or Wonder Woman fighting an urban legend. Or Guy Gardner fighting zombies.
There’s a wide variety to the stories here and all of them make good logical sense, within the context of their respective universes. The Outsiders story, for instance, has Katana asking Black Lightning for help in stopping a demon who preys on children. He asks why she didn’t get someone like John Constantine. Katana replies that she would never allow John Constantine near an innocent child and that she thought Black Lighting, being a teacher in his secret identity of Jefferson Pierce, would know how to comfort a disturbed child should things get bad.
While there’s plenty of traditional horror for those who like Swamp Thing and The Demon Etrigan, where Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1 truly shines is in the unexpected stories. My favorite was a far more psychological piece centered on Green Arrow, which is all about how a person can be haunted by the ghosts of the past as easily as any literal specter. It was a fascinating examination of PTSD and the only time I’ve ever seen anyone suggest that Oliver Queen, logically, should suffer from it, apart from the first season of Arrow.
Bottom Line: Cursed Comics Cavalcade is the perfect book to get you ready for Halloween, whether your tastes run to traditional horror, psychological thrillers or seeing superheroes confront the supernatural.
Cursed Comic Cavalcade #1 releases on October 10, 2018!
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