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Ultraverse Revisited: Firearm #2

ultraverse_revisited

firearm_0002American Pastimes Part Two

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Cully Hamner
Inker: John Lowe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Colorists: Foodhammer
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: October 1993
Cover Price: $2.50

It seems like such a long time since I covered the first issue of this series, and here I’m only at the second!

The cover’s a bit generic–I truly don’t think I’ve really paid it much attention over the years. I’d had the issue originally solely for the RUNE coupon, and just recognize the overall image with the trade dress as the second issue of Firearm. Looking at it more closely this time and actually "taking it in," it’s Firearm fighting a couple of armored suits, aiming one’s weapon to blast another upward where the title falls. It’s also interesting to me the "design" stuff I’m seeing, that have always been there, but with a class I’ve been taking, there’s a lot that I’m really "seeing" for the first time or at least in a new light! And I’ve always liked and easily recognized the way the Ultraverse titles’ trade dress started with the inner border, the ULTRAVERSE logo across the top with the actual title logo under, and the upper left corner logo and issue info/price.

Getting into the issue itself, we find Alec Swan waking up, feeling the results of the previous issue/recent events. He follows up on some information, and is led to Hardcase…who he finds in the midst of a fight with some thugs in high-end power/exo-armor suits. He gets involved ostensibly only because Hardcase may have information he needs. Among other things, part of Swan’s contribution is grabbing one and aiming its blaster at another…different angle, but showing that the cover actually depicts something from within the issue itself! (A true rarity as of 2018). After the fight, he and Hardcase talk–and neither likes the other, but at least they don’t–themselves–fight. While Hardcase doesn’t consciously have any recollection of the guy Swan’s trying to find information on, he does say something that gives him a lead. As he parts ways from Hardcase to follow up, he’s attacked by another ultra…and saved by still another…which is something he’s getting really tired of.

The story itself is good, and follows well on the first issue. This also reads relatively decently on its own–it’s been weeks since I read #1 and I didn’t remember much concrete detail from it, but didn’t have much problem getting into this issue. We see Swan continuing to work the case he took on in the first issue, and the continuing repercussions from stuff begun in the first issue. We see a bit more of him at work, and in action, solidifying the "codename" Firearm, as well as the fact that he hates that name. Though it’s in no way advertised as such and there’s no cover indication, we see him interact with Hardcase. It’s not an "event" or "crossover," it’s just a natural thing of Swan living in a world of ultras, which includes Hardcase. Though we still don’t have resolution, we can surmise that Swan’s getting closer to his goal, with continued attacks, and now being saved by an ultra…hints that something bigger is going on that he hadn’t bargained for, but now finds himself immersed in. I think my main problem with the story/writing is that though Hardcase mostly looked like Hardcase and is supposed to BE Hardcase…his appearance here made him feel like just some impersonal plot device, with a different sort of "voice" and lacking the sort of "heart" from his own title or the crossover with his title and the Strangers in the September issues.

Visually, this wasn’t a bad issue on the Firearm end…but I really strongly noticed some weirdness in the visual interpretation of Hardcase. The face especially just looked weird, with odd lines around the mouth and generally carrying the basic core visuals, but looking more like "a version of" Hardcase rather than a singular THE Hardcase. Otherwise, the art’s good and no real complaints from me…it fits this title and the main character and carries the story.

rune_0iRune [I]: The Hunted
Plotted by: Barry Windsor-Smith & Chris Ulm
Drawn & Colored by: Barry Windsor-Smith
Scripted by: Chris Ulm
Inked by: John Floyd
Computer Color by: Albert Calleros
Lettered by: Patrick Owsley
Text Pages Designed by: Jim Chadwick
Edited by: Steve Gerber

As Rune gets closer to a goal–a power source his stones have foretold, we find someone investigating another death from the vampiric creature. This investigator apparently is an ultra, able to sense things…though he’s not quite finely-tuned enough in use of his power to realize that his sensing Rune was because the creature was right there. As Rune attacks, the folks on the other end of the agents connection are helpless to do anything.

We’ve continued to see a bit more of a development in the Rune story, from just brief glimpses at the creature in different time periods, to seeing him attacking various ultras for power, as well as discovering Aladdin and moving in on this secretive agency. Including this chapter, we’re at 27 pages now–the full Rune #0 is a 33-page thing, making it about the equivalent of a 2018 Marvel Annual with 32-ish pages. Except here it’s serialized on the backs of each of the 11 October 1993 Ultraverse titles.

Something to this chapter has a bit of a different look than earlier chapters seemed to–probably the darker, rain-soaked setting of the chapter. We do have a panel with one of the more horrific glimpses of Rune…clearly an image out of a nightmare. Same creative team as all the other chapters, so despite the darker tone visually, this is still quite consistent with previous chapters!


This is not a standalone issue of Firearm…though it works well despite not having a recap page and I didn’t remember much in the way of specifics from the previous issue by the time I read this, with going through around 16 other issues between.

The Rune chapter is somewhat on its own, yet builds on earlier chapters.

As with the other issues from October 1993, there’s nothing really to make this an issue to single out in isolation. Especially as only a second issue, if you’re going to get this, I highly recommend ALSO getting the first issue, and probably also the third.

Firearm #2 is a solid Ultraverse issue, moving Alec Swan’s story forward, showing us that he really is in the same universe as the other Ultras thanks to the Hardcase appearance, yet still manages to stick to itself, not really drawing on nor impacting other titles.

This is certainly worth 25-50 cents as a purchase in isolation or otherwise, and like other "early" Ultraverse comics, I wouldn’t suggest spending more than $1-$2 on it unless it’s an elusive issue to fill a specific gap. It’s good quality, just not something that should command any significant pricing.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Firearm #1

ultraverse_revisited

firearm_0001American Pastimes Part One

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Cully Hamner
Inker: John Lowe
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Paul Mounts
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

I feel like this is the first time I’ve read this issue, and yet, knowing I’ve had the issue quite a long time, and remember a fair bit with the character…it’s hard for me to believe I "jumped in" with the start of the Rafferty Saga around #13 or so "cold." Then again, having acquired the VHS with #0 at some point, and realizing how much I actually HAD missed, and considering there was a LOT I could have picked up from the likes of Wizard Magazine, the Ultrafiles pages, and whatnot, I suppose I could have gotten in "cold."

We open this issue on a boring office with a boss pestering someone for the time. We find out he’s waiting on someone he’s hired to bring someone in…if the guy isn’t brought in, the boss is out $25k. Two figures crash into the office, and after a brawl in the office, "the bad guy" is subdued. The guy that was hired is Alec Swan, and he hates being called "Firearm." We get a lot of exposition from Swan conversationally, speaking to the reader; and then he moves to his office where he checks on messages, and has a lead for another case. He winds up taking the case, and after a night trying to track the person down, he’s ambushed. Being trained as he is, he winds up on top…though it’s messed up the rest of his plans.

I really enjoyed this issue…much more than I expected to. NOW knowing James Robinson‘s name as a writer, I had decent expectations of this issue. That it exceeded my expectations is definitely a good thing! I certainly didn’t know him by name in 1993/1994, but now knowing his name especially from his Starman run at DC, I’ve looked forward to getting to this series.

Visually I really liked this. I recognize Hamner‘s name as an artist who has done stuff I’ve presumably liked in the past, though I can’t put an exact finger on or cite a specific example at the moment. The art here conveys the action quite well, along with the quieter moments, and there’s some nice use of shadows to give effect. One panel showing Swan in shadow with just his eyes and scar visible put me in mind of Bloodshot. A panel in Swan’s home includes Ultra Monthly #1 as well as a paperback copy of Jurassic Park (this was originally published around the time the original Jurassic Park film would have been either still in theaters or very recently in theaters!). Easy details to miss, but the fact I happened to notice them really ratcheted up my enjoyment!

Story-wise, I liked this. We got a look at "normal people" that might interact with Swan; we see him in action at a disadvantage; we see him at home, we see him at the start of a new case, and how he gets cases…and we get a bit of an info-dump (better this way than having to wait a number of issues) on his past and how he feels…the internal monologue of sorts. That he’s essentially addressing the reader is a nice touch that builds connection and familiarity. We then see the character in action with some preparation. My big complaint would probably be that the issue just sort of ends, with no real declaration of it ending, or that it’ "To Be Continued" or whatnot…and we’re dumped into a 4-page ad for the Firearm video/#0 package. It’s an appropriate ad given it’s tied to this title, but I’m not sure all 4 pages were needed.

Knowing the character’s from England, it’s easier to read this with a bit of an accent…or try to "hear" it in the reading. And something about the whole thing makes me think that Jason Statham would be an excellent actor to play Alec Swan/Firearm in live-action at present.

I look forward to getting to the next issue, as well as getting to know this character better. Still, at "only" month #4 of the Ultraverse in general, we’re still getting to know a handful of Ultras and get used to the idea of there being so many of them all of a sudden…so it’s a LITTLE "early" to be introducing this character on a premise of being the normal guy facing off with Ultras. Then again, it’s likely moreso that we see the "descent" into dealing with more Ultras.

As with the other Ultraverse #1s, this is bargain bin fodder for sure…so I’d recommend paying $1 or less for it. But I’d definitely recommend checking it out. This is part action-hero flick, part film noir…and a very solid issue. We’ll see how the later issues seem, but on strength of the first issue, if I didn’t already own the whole series and if this was a modern comic, I’d be coming back for the next issue!

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Earth 2 #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: World of New Krypton Part One

Superman begins his new life on New Krypton by getting to know a bit of his new surroundings as he is tasked with choosing a Guild to belong to.

supermanworldofnewkrypton001 Writers: James Robinson and Greg Rucka
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Gary Frank with Brad Anderson (variant by Ladronn)
Publisher: DC Comics

We open this issue on Superman’s solo journey from Earth to New Krypton. Arriving, Superman is confronted by locals informing him that Zod wishes to meet with him–Superman declares that his family comes first and proceeds to his Aunt’s home. Here he declares his intention to live amongst his people on New Krypton as a Kryptonian, leaving Earth behind. As such, he must choose a guild and in general adjust to Kryptonian customs as just another guy in the crowd, since he’s nothing special on a world where everyone has his super-powers. After exploring a bit and meeting with Zod, his guild is chosen and we’re left with a Superman facing a future as a Kryptonian with other Kryptonians.

The art here is not bad, but I’m not terribly thrilled with it. It just lacks the detail/feel or something that I get from other artists like Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens, and Gary Frank (That the cover is a Frank image allows for that much more an immediate comparison). The story is conveyed, we can see a range of expression in characters’ faces where called for and so on, so the art is simply not to my personal taste/preference.

The story is solid. While I haven’t entirely bought into the seeming suddenness of Superman’s decision to pursue this course of action–it’s felt fairly forced/arbitrary like plopping playing pieces where-ever one decides on a gaming board and then throwing some almost arbitrary reasoning to the placement–I can’t deny the potential this story has. It’s been nearly two decades since we last had a story exploring a world without a Superman–but that story was a world which had lost its Superman to death, not one “deserted” or “abandoned” by its hero. Either way, this is the series that follows Superman as he deals with leaving Earth behind in order to live with his people, seeking to protect them from a threat that they don’t want to acknowledge.

On the one hand, this may not be the best point to jump on-board without the context of Brainiac or the branded New Krypton story, if one understands simply that Superman is beginning another “quest” that involves his going to and living on this planet of Kryptonians, this shouldn’t be too bad a point to start into things.

As only the first issue of twelve, it’s hard to say where things will go. For now, I’m taking this simply as another Superman book, and do look forward to seeing how the character handles this new year-long status quo.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Superman #700 [Review]

The Comeback
Storytellers: James Robinson & Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
Editor: Matt Idelson

Geometry
Writer/Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J.P. Mayer
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson

So…Superman hits #700. I still remember when Action Comics hit this number nearly 200 months ago, waaaaay back in 1994.

Of course, this one somehow doesn’t seem quite as special. For one thing, it doesn’t seem nearly so special, what with Batman #700 being out a couple weeks back, and Wonder Woman #600 about to hit, and being aware of those other titles and the anniversaries.

Plus, while perhaps after 16 years I’m forgetting…right now, I’m recalling that Action Comics #700 was simply its own story, part of the single, ongoing story of the time. An extra-sized issue celebrating the anniversary, but other than the length and the tease of a wedding…just another issue.

Superman #700 is just another issue, but not in the good way.

We have 3 partial-issue stories, making this just another “anthology” of sorts, of Superman stories. The first story features Superman’s reunion with Lois, after having been away so long on New Krypton…that creative team making their exit. The middle story by Dan Jurgens is a fairly fun throwback to the days of lighter stories, and is a fairly welcome return…unfortunately, just for this story as part of the anniversary issue. The final story is a prologue to the incoming creative team.

Frankly, I’m rather tired of things jumping all over the place with the Superman books of late. If multiple issues were all advancing different sides of a story fairly equally and on a consistent basis…sure. But lately–particularly the Last Stand of New Krypton–things have seemed outright disorganized to me. Better to have one issue focusing on this element, one issue focusing on another, one issue focusing on yet another element of the story, in terms of expanding beyond a “core.”

This feels like it should be an “annual” given the anthology nature. Incoming readers jumping on for #700 may not really have any sense of the past year and a half or so of stories, so that first segment won’t mean much; and those looking to get the conclusion to the story they’ve followed for over a year and a half are stuck with material for an entirely different creative team and story that on the whole is likely to be an entire disconnect from the last couple years’ worth of stories. And the Superman/Robin story–while enjoyable and entertaining enough, being disconnected from both the other segments, would also itself seem better-suited to be a special issue all its own.

I can’t help but compare The Comeback to the sequence from Adventures of Superman #505 back in 1993 that provided the official reunion between Superman and Lois after Superman’s death and the Reign of the Supermen epic. Though now nearly 17 years in the past, I prefer that to this…this one seems somehow arbitrary, and lacked the feeling and depth of the 1993 story. The art’s not bad, but when compared to the Jurgens/Rapmund that follows, it pales significantly for me.

Geometry is a nice little tale from Superman’s early years, and shows a situation which winds up being a Superman/Robin team-up between Clark and Dick, while Bruce is unable to do the Batman thing due to an essential Wayne Enterprises function. Robin strikes out on his own for the night, having realized that an arms transaction was going to go down sooner than he or Batman had thought. Superman had already dealt with the individuals in Metropolis, and follows up on the Gotham City side, where he winds up being in time to save Robin, who got in over his head. The two share the friendly bond of being out of their element/not having Batman in the mix…though the conclusion provides a nice extra touch. Jurgens is just about my favorite Superman artist, and working with Rapmund, the art for this segment is a huge treat with some of my favorite Superman art featured in the current titles in quite awhile.

The final 10-page prologue for Straczynski‘s Grounded serves as a true prologue–setting up the story to come. Still freshly returned from a year on New Krypton, Superman has been before governmental bodies explaining what happened and his role in what recently transpired (in War of the Supermen). He is confronted by a woman whose husband recently died of cancer, and she blames Superman for not being there to save him–that his powers surely could have allowed him to “operate” where actual doctors could not. This leads to Superman brooding over the situation, blaming himself, and through a flashback to a conversation with Pa Kent, he comes to the conclusion that he’s been keeping himself above things, in a comfort zone, and must change things up and put himself back into fertile soil, wake himself up from how he’s been, to do what he really needs to do.

The visuals for this story–as provided by Barrows & co.–isn’t quite up to Jurgens/Rapmund‘s style in my eyes, but is still good quality work, and enjoyable in and of itself. No real complaint to it, and if this quality is maintained for the entirety of the Grounded arc, I’ll be a pretty happy camper.

Overall, this is the second anniversary issue this month to be more disappointment than not, though. If you’re interested simply in having the anniversary issue with a big, round number…sure, you could do a lot worse than this issue. But if you’re not an ongoing/continuing reader, the Superman/Robin story (not tied to previous nor upcoming story) is only 16 pages and certainly not worth the $4.99 cover price by itself.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this issue, as exact interests/tastes vary in what may be desired in such an issue. But I don’t specifically recommend this, either. Ratings below based on the issue as a whole.

Story: 4/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 5.5/10

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Action Comics #888 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Action Comics
Story: 2/5
Art: 2.5/5

Captain Atom
Story: 1.5/5
Art: 2/5

Overall: 2/5

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