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All New Fathom #1 [Review]

all_new_fathom_0001All New Fathom Part 1 of 8

Writer: Blake Northcott
Pencils: Marco Renna
Digital Inks: Mark Roslan
Colors: John Starr
Letters: Zen
Editors: Vince Hernandez, Gabe Carrasco
Design & Production: Mark Roslan, Peter Steigerwald, Gabe Carrasco
Cover: Marco Renna, John Starr
Cover Date: February 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

I don’t usually go for comics like this. I’m not a fan of these scantily-clad female leads, running around in bathing suits and–from the outside looking in–seeming to be more flash than substance. But, having followed the writer on social media for a number of years, I’d decided when it was announced that she’d be writing a new iteration of the series, I’d at least check it out…all the more as a female such character in this case being written BY a female, and not just another book to be lumped together, written by a guy about some visual/eye candy.

I then managed to forget the thing was due out this week, until–via social media–I saw her post about it being out, which brought it back to my attention…and I was ok with paying out $3.99 for the issue, as it’s at least NOT DC or Marvel and all that.

So what did I wind up with, for that $3.99?

For one thing, I felt like this was a lengthy read. I did not feel like I just turned a couple pages and was at some to-be-continued or like the issue was too short.

I had no idea what to expect, really…having never (That I can recall) read an entire issue of Fathom or Soulfire or such. The opening page puts us right into the heart of the action, as our heroine–Aspen–is mega-uppercut-punched out of the ocean into the coastal city and does battle with the guy doing the punching. While she fights him–and his mysterious weapon, trying to keep any civilians from being killed–we learn that the narration is from AFTER the battle (so she won), telling her friend about the fight. Finally, she reveals what she’s learned about the mysterious weapon that had been used against her, and how that plays into stuff going forward.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the cover, as I’m not really familiar with even the title character, let alone any supporting cast (new OR long-since-established). The main cover’s not bad, but seems rather generic to me (as opposed to indicating the battle that took place in the issue).

Visually, the issue felt like what I would expect from "an Aspen book" even if I can’t quite quantify what that is, exactly…except that I suppose this looks like it belongs with or fits right in with prior books from the publisher, and so does not look like an oddball or out of place piece that happens to be published by Aspen. The characters all look quite believable, and as much as is possible for a woman basically in a bathing suit, I felt like the issue avoided unnecessary or overly-gratuitous imagery…I didn’t feel "dirty" paging through the issue! I was also reminded a bit of Witchblade, and will be interested to see how coincidental (or not, or far off) that works out to be in coming issues.

Story-wise, I enjoyed how down-to-earth this felt. I figured as a #1 issue, new series and new story, this would feel like just some opening chapter, and just throw a bunch of introductory stuff at me and leave me not really knowing what the heck was going on. However, I found that I got a complete story, really, even as stuff is thrown wide open for subsequent issues! We’re introduced to the title character, her situation, others involved with her, a bit about her background/where she comes from, while seeing the character in action and interacting with her friend. There’s a healthy dose of real-world commentary…particularly in "seeing" how the character is reacted to across various media.

Ultimately, I just enjoyed this issue, and I’m quite glad that I bought it. I checked it out solely based on the writer, and I’m left with an honest interest in getting the next issue to see how things play out.

While it by no means gets into over a decade of "history" with the title character and such, this is still an excellent jumping on point, and one of the stronger, most complete and worthwhile first issues I’ve read in quite awhile.

If you’re a fan of Blake Northcott‘s writing, or Aspen (the character), or the publisher or such, I suspect this will be a fitting bit of enjoyment as well. I’m looking forward to the next issue, and seeing how stuff advances and continues to play out!

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The ’90s Revisited: Spawn #25

spawn0025Tremors

Writer: Todd McFarlane
Pencils: Marc Silvestri
Inks: Batt, Billy Tan
Copy Editor & Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Color: Brian Haberlin
Computer Colors: Brian Haberlin, Tyson Wengler, Ashby Manson, Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Background Assist: Nathan Cabrera
Production: Dennis Heisler
Production Assist: Peter Steigerwald
Big Gun: David Wohl
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: October 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Like seems to be the case for me with what (relatively) few Spawn issues I’ve read, I don’t have an easy time summarizing it. This one, Spawn seems to have been “outed” in the media–the world now knows he exists–and so he has to deal with that. He’s living in the alleys amongst a number of other Homeless, serving as a protector to them, though he seems to be less than thrilled at their growing “reliance” on him. After being attacked by a rogue demon, he confronts the entity and learns its backstory–it’s not actually a demon, but a man who was experimented on, resulting in his current form. He seeks vengeance on a gangster named Tony Twist, and given the situation, Spawn sees more benefit in helping than opposing, if his people are left alone as a result.

I bought this issue with a number of other “quarter books” at a Half-Price Books earlier this year…and I suppose for that price, it was worthwhile. I have another copy–my original–of this somewhere in one of my too-many longboxes, but was interested in this issue this time the same as when I originally bought it: the cover, and it’s Spawn #25, one of those “special number” issues. I also remembered there being something else about this, like it being part of some “creator swap” month, but on reading this couldn’t tell if it was part of that or not.

The story is typical Spawn for me…I’m not really sure how else to put it. I recognize Spawn himself of course, Al Simmons; his (former) wife Wanda, and at least know of the man Wanda is married to here. I remember (vaguely) the sense of–at the time–having no clue what Spawn was ‘about’ aside from being this disfigured entity with a huge cape, apparently back from the dead with some sort of “deal with the devil” thing involving his powers and some kind of amnesia that resulted in his living with the homeless/street people.

The art is good overall…which I pretty much expect from Silvestri‘s work. I’m not overly familiar with it, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that I associate it with 1990s/Image stuff (as well as the Grant Morrison New X-Men story Here Comes Tomorrow back in early 2004). The art fits the book…though after reading the story itself and getting into some of the text/backmatter stuff, I gather that Silvestri was NOT the series artist at the time, and so that was probably the creator swap–the creators maybe kept on plot/writing, just swapped books for art duties or such. Whatever it was, it was over 21 years ago, and for Spawn, nearly 240 issues ago as of Spring 2016.

I was impressed with the cover’s visual as well as the physical issue itself–not quite a cardstock cover, but hardly some flimsy paper, and the interior pages seem good quality as well. Thus, for the physical product itself, the 25 cents I paid was mostly worthwhile. Though I read the issue in isolation, it brought back slight memories of having read it back in 1994, and given my attempting to follow recent/current issues of the title, I’d consider my money well spent…though I maybe appreciated the issue/reading experience more for the backmatter than the story content.

Among other things, while knowing the title has been notoriously late in its time, this issue seems to have come out at a time the book had had some major issues in timing, shipping in this order: 18, 21-24, 19, 25, 20, 26. There’s even an ad explaining things a bit, as well as a “cartoon” image “Todd Can’t Count” trying to poke fun at the situation. I find that morbidly amusing in a way at present, given recent complaints of books RE-numbering and such, and continued amazement that this title is presently–in 2016–the highest-numbered (legitimately) comic that I can think of published in the US (Regardless of returning to “legacy numbering,” Detective and Action from DC lost that designation in the 2011 New 52 reboot). I somewhat recall seeing mention somewhere of Spawn having shipped issues out of order, in some online discussion years ago, but didn’t recall exactly when that was, so coming across it hear piqued my interest, and I’d actually be somewhat interested in working on tracking those issues down. I actually already have the first 12 or 13 issues of the series, so can’t imagine it would be terribly hard to find the rest of the run up to this point; nor overly expensive given what a “hot” book Spawn was at this point in the ’90s. But I suppose that’ll be a back-issue quest for some other time, if it even still holds my curiosity by the time I’d get around to it.

All told…this was an ok issue, though not anything I’d encourage hunting down. If the cover strikes your fancy or you want a similarly randomish reading experience, it’s worth the 25-cent purchase, but I wouldn’t recommend paying more than $1, possibly $2 and absolute most for this (and it’s a 21+ year old issue with a $1.95 cover price).

Batman Annual #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Dead Man’s Run #s 0 & 1 [Review]

Full Circle; Man Down
Written by: Greg Pak
Illustrated by: Tony Parker
Colored by: Peter Steigerwald; David Curiel
Lettered by: Josh Reed
Covers 0C, 1A: Tony Parker, Peter Steigerwald
Published by: Aspen Comics

I came into Dead Man’s Run having no honest idea what it was about. The title itself suggested maybe someone dies and comes back, or has some fatal countdown looming and they have some mission to carry out despite knowing death is imminent.

Turns out there’s this prison, with guards and all that…and what they’re guarding is Hell. Like…THAT Hell. Their prisoners belong there, and they basically just make sure they stay put. There’s a warden who seems to be something more, and some plot seems to be in motion.

The zero issue sees the death of a guard who with his last breath as a live man requests another. In the premiere issue, we meet Sam–a doomed cartographer who finds himself stuck in Hell at the side of the deceased guard, who seems poised to show Sam a whole different world than he ever dreamed existed. Meanwhile, we get a hint at the nature of the warden, and some of Sam’s motivation (the car wreck that he died in and woke up in Hell also left his sister in Hell–something he’s not going to take lying down).

This #0 and #1 really feel like the pilot episode of a tv series, more than just the premiere of a new comic series. The story–what’s set up so far and where it seems it might go, and the execution–seem very cinematic in a tv sort of way. I’m not entirely thrilled with that, because I don’t know that I want to READ a tv series.

That said…the story’s got a couple interesting hooks that leave me curious for the next issue. The art is very solid and in general makes the story flow. Stylistically it doesn’t seem at all like a super-hero comic (which is good, because this most certainly is not of that genre) nor does it seem hyper-realistic. It just has a comfortable feel that carries things alone.

The writing is solid…I know next to nothing about these characters, but there’s enough there for the potential to shine. It’ll be interesting to find out more about Sam’s past and the relationship with his sister–and if there’s anything special about either of them that’ll play into things. The prison guard, too, has a glimmer of something more. The glimpses we get of the warden suggest a lot more to her as well, that COULD wind up being cliche, or could provide something that might make for an interesting (eventual) comparison to the Hell we find in Gaiman‘s The Sandman: Season of Mists.

I made the reference above about this being like a tv series. Using that comparison….this puts me in mind of the first season of Prison Break if the imprisoned brother arranged for the other to be jailed, but dealing with a prison of hellfire and brimstone rather than steel and concrete.

Aside from the story and art, there’s also the fact that this is backed by Gale Anne Hurd’s studio…so I’m inclined to give this a bit of time to take shape if someone who helped to get The Walking Dead from comic to tv endorses it.

I received these two issues free as review copies, so the only up front cost to me was the time taken to read these. I don’t see a price on the #0 issue, but #1 is listed as $3.50…which earns points from me for being $.49 cheaper than most Marvel comics. As something cheaper than a standard Marvel, I’m more apt to buy #2 than I am one of those $3.99 Marvels.

The story so far seems to be–as said–like a pilot episode, so I’m not entirely sold on the singles, but reading these has me definitely interested in either picking up the next issue when I notice it on the shelf, or at least checking back before too long for a graphic novel collection.

You could certainly do much worse than this book…and it’s not off to a bad start at all.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 8/10

Action Comics #890 [Review]

The Black Ring, part one

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: David Finch, Joe Weems & Peter Steigerwald
Asst. Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with Luthor strung upside down over the edge of a building…many, many stories above the ground, being threatened. He takes it in stride, though, knowing that if they wanted him dead, he’d already be so, and that his captors want something else. While he waits to see what that is, he reflects on how he wound up in this position…from his deputization as an Orange Lantern during the Blackest Night, to his growing obsession with learning the secret of the rings–any ring, but particularly the black ones–as reflected in a conversation he has with “Lois” before he gets ready to suit up (remember, he has that goofy purple and green battlesuit) and head off in search of a ring.

The story is fairly reasonable…after having access to such incredible power, Luthor naturally would not want to give it up…and being stripped of it, would naturally seek to get it back. That it was an orange ring (avarice/greed) makes this all the more fitting. And as Luthor is supposed to be this evil genius, one of the smarter men on Earth in the DCU, he’s likely to find a way to at least get close to a ring again. This makes for an interesting status quo, and a show of actual repercussion from the recent event. Though I’ve yet to see any numbers or time-frames…no one has said “for this arc” or “for the next year” or anything regarding how long…Lex Luthor is presently the star of Action Comics for awhile, as Superman is embarking on a lengthy walk across America in the main Superman book under Straczyinski‘s direction.

The art is familiar…I got fairly used to Woods‘ work during the New Krypton stuff. Something about the style works a lot better for me here with the Luthor cast than involving Superman/Kal-El. And even apart from comparisons…it looks good here. Nothing to really complain about.

Though this is issue #890 of Action Comics, it’s essentially Lex Luthor #1. As first issues go, it’s not bad…though one jumping in totally fresh might lack info about Blackest Night, and one should note that this takes place–apparently–after the events of July’s Superman #701 which I assume is when Superman will leave everything behind to walk across the country. This is very much a “spin-off” of Blackest Night and not just some arbitrary “new title.” It continues Luthor’s story and does not try to reinvent it. The cover even sports the Blackest Night trade dress, albeit with the word “Aftermath” added.

If you’re a fan of Luthor, this is a good point to jump on and dig in. However, if you’re “only” a fan of Superman and only want to read about the adventures of Superman himself, this is not a book for you.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Batman #700 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Brightest Day #0 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 4.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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