Monday, November 30, 2009

This Week's Comic Stack

A big week and Thanksgiving means no pics, sorry.

So here we go!

The Good:

  • Green Lantern #48

  • Blackest Night #5

  • Superman: Secret Origin #3

  • Guardians Of The Galaxy #20

  • Avengers: The Initiative #30

  • Invincible Iron Man #20

  • Incredible Hercules #138

The Alright:

  • Justice League of America #39

  • Amazing Spider-Man #613

  • Superman #694

  • New Mutants #7

  • Uncanny X-Men #517

The Bad:

  • Fantastic Four #573

  • Justice Society Of America #33

  • Justice League: Cry For Justice #5

So the tally- Good: 7 (3-DC, 4-Mv); Alright: 5 (2-DC, 3-Mv); Bad: 3 (2-DC, 1-Mv)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Black Panther Rundown

This is a look at the entire run of the Christopher Priest Black Panther series.

First, a little 101-

The Black Panther is both the king of all the tribes of Wakanda as well as the head of the Panther Cult its major religion. He was set to marry Monica Lynne an American singer and political activist. Due to unrest in Wakanda he was forced to enact an ancient tradition that made the marriage impossible. A woman from each tribe's chief family would be selected as a "Dora Milaje" or "adored ones". They would serve as chaste companions and bodyguards to the king. If the king were to show favor to any one, the other tribes would take it as a declaration of war. Neither could the king marry another, for that would also bring civil war. Two Dora Milaje were known at the start of the series, Nakia and Okoye. A third was hidden in the U.S. by her parents who didn't want that life for her.

The Series

#1-5 "The Client"- Everett K. Ross, an agent of the State Department fills in his boss/lover on how a simple investigation into a murder led to a coup d'etat in Wakanda. It's a long complicated story involving a children's charity that became a money laundering operation, T'challa's adopted brother and leader of the Wakandan secret police (the White Wolf), a psychopathic rebel with religious fundamentalist support, and the devil's pants. All issues have art by Mark Texeira. #3 had a variant cover by Bruce Timm.

#6-12 "Enemy Of The State"- In exile, the Panther discovers that certain U.S. intelligence agents and assets helped engineer the coup d'etat. This arc features Kraven the Hunter (hired by the White Wolf to keep T'Challa in shape); the Avengers learning that the Panther initially joined to spy on them; and the retaking of Wakanda. Several artists work on this arc. Joe Jusko did issue #6-8 with Amanda Connor contributing five pages in #8 that retell Captain America #100 and are Kirby-esque. Mike Manley did #9-10 and Mark D. Bright did #11 and 12.

#13-20 "Killmonger's Rage"- Killmonger (from Don MacGregor's Jungle Action #6-18) returns to disgrace T'Challa using several pawns including Hydro-Man, Nightshade, Stiletto, Cottonmouth, Boss Morgan, Cockroach and the Hulk. Showing up to aid the Panther are Justice, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, the Falcon, Brother Voodoo and Bill Foster Goliath. This arc introduced Queen Divine Justice who would be a central character for most of the run. Sal Velluto took over the art as regular artist however #18 was done by Kyle Hotz (late 90's Hulk and Spider-Man)

#21-22 "Quest for the Panther"- Brother Voodoo and Moon Knight search the spirit realm for T'Challa who was defeated and put into a coma by Killmonger. #22 had a homage to Batman.

#23-25 "Cat Trap"- crossed over with Deadpool #44 and reintroduced the insane Nakia as Malice. #25 was a tie-in to the Maximum Security event. This arc killed off a character close to both T'Challa and Ross.

#26-30 "War"- Storm showed up to comfort T'Challa over the aforementioned death and that led to a series of events that threatened a war between Wakanda and Deviant Lemuria dragging in Atlantis, Genosha and the U.S. Meanwhile the White Wolf freed Klaw (see Captain America v2) to instigate war. Namor, Magneto and even Doom counsel T'Challa to prevent this war in #27-28. In #30 there was hearing on whether to end US diplomatic ties to Wakanda. Priest, through Ross, stated the case as to just who the Panther is (or rather should be) and how people have gotten the wrong impression about him. [it's a mission statement for the book really]. #30 also had a flashback to the meeting of Cap and T'Challa's grandfather in the 40's. Norm Breyfogle did the art for that issue.

#31-33 "Seduction of the Innocent"- Malice returned to kill T'Challa and Monica Lynne. T'Challa hired Dakota North to protect Lynne while he laid a trap for Malice. Meanwhile, Man-Ape showed up and abducted QDJ.

#34-35 "Gorilla Warfare"- While the Panther fought Man-Ape with Henry Peter Gyrich, Ross tried to convince the Defenders to help him get his body back from Mephisto. Yes the devil was running around in Ross' body while he was in Mephisto's. QDJ is revealed to be the third Dora Milaje the one from Man-Ape's tribe. The big shock was discovering another Black Panther frozen in ice. Jim Califiore did the art for this arc.

#36-37 "Once And Future King"- Showed a possible future for T'Challa and his allies. This picked up on the Batman homage from #21 and ran with it. #36 was a 100pg Monster with reprints of FF#52-53 and Jungle Action #8 along with a 3pg character study and info on Wakanda from OHotMU entries.

#38-40 "Return Of The Dragon"- The Black Dragon turned out to be the one who switched bodies with Ross. Nightshade resurrected him, but put a poison in his body to control him so he switched it for Ross'. T'Challa faced a mind controlled Iron Fist and was nearly beaten to a pulp before breaking Black Dragon's hold on him. [an important plot point in future] Nightshade revived the other Panther who talked like the Panther from the Kirby run. That Panther's mere presence ended a tribal war in Wakanda while Priest Panther tricked Black Dragon into switching back to his own body and defeating him (not before we got some 1998 Godzilla movie action). #39 was part of that " 'Nuff Said " event.

#41-45 "Enemy Of The State II"- T'Challa (Priest Panther) recruited Wolverine to help uncover a conspiracy to take over the governments of the world. It involved a claim on a Canadian island, the sale of trucks, and time displaced duplicates. Meanwhile, the other Panther (Happy Pants Panther) sought out his former associates in the search for the Golden Frogs of King Solomon. Iron Man/ Tony Stark was brought in as a false antagonist to Priest Panther so he could be warned that the conspiracy was targeting him. Although, there was a fight between a Stark duplicate and a Panther(not telling which) in #45 that was epic.

#46-47 "Saddles Ablaze"- The main cast was transported by the Frogs into the past of America's west. There they ran into Thor, Loki and The Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid. This referenced a previous Thor story, but I can't recall what number (#190's). Jorge Lucas handled the art for these two issues.

#48-49 "Death Of The Black Panther"- Happy Pants Panther succumbed to a seizure and forced T'Challa to deal with his impending death by talking to visions of Monica Lynne and Magneto while ending the war with the gorilla tribe. A mistake in battle almost led to QDJ dying. The book ended with T'Challa having released QDJ from her duties and abdicating the throne pretty much.

#50-56 "Black And White" -Introduced Kasper Cole a NYPD narcotics officer who found a Panther costume (from "Seduction Of The Innocent" storyline) and because it saved him from being shot when the rest of his team were killed or injured he earned a suspension and had his loyalty called into question. First the White Wolf then T'Challa aided him as he sought who set his team up and why his corrupt superior wanted to own him. #50 was drawn by Dan Fraga, #51-54 were Jorge Lucas and #55-56 were Jim Calafiore.

#57-58 "Coming To America" was a terrible filler arc written by Joe Torres and drawn by Ryan Bodenheim. Don't bother with it.

#59-62 "Ascension"- A frustrated Kasper Cole wanted to go through the Rite Of Ascension to gain the powers of the Black Panther, but when Killmonger came out of his coma it changed things. Offered a synthetic version of the heart-shaped herb Cole took it and the promise of information on criminals. Cole then raced to find the info himself while he adapted to his new senses. He did so, earning the Panther's respect and the title of White Tiger. Patrick Zircher did the wonderful art this arc. This was the final arc as the book was relaunched by Hudlin. I don't think that either Ross or QDJ have showed up again which is both good and bad.
A greatly underappreiciated nearly forgotten run. Only the first two story arcs and the Kasper Cole arcs were collected into trade (a Wolverine story arc stole it's name from one) in the US. However, Spanish trades reprinted the whole run (in Spanish of course)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This Week's Comic Stack

Comics out November 18, 2009

The Good:

  • Adventure Comics #4- Superboy-Prime deals with Black Lantern Alexander Luthor(Earth-3) and the Blackest Knight crossover in the "real" world. There is some great poking fun of the BN event here. The Legion story is about two Legion couples and their love. I'm enjoying these smaller stories featuring a few Legionnaires at a time.
  • Flash: Rebirth #5- So a bunch of reveals in this issue. First, Wally's new suit. Pretty much the same except his lightning bolt symbol has two zig-zags instead of three. His daughter Iris absorbs her brother's speed force and becomes Impulse wearing a variant of Bart's suit. And for those of you who wondered why Barry's mom was murdered when he came back, that is revealed too. A great issue, even with the publishing schedule taking away all the suspense.
  • The Mighty Avengers #31- The Avengers back as a team! For this issue at least. The combo team allowed for some great moments. Hawkeye (Clint will always be Hawkeye)and Stature reenact the famous Ant-Man arrow cover. Clint lets Hank know that "Wanda" isn't Wanda, who then reveals that he knows. Pietro's "it was a Skrull" ploy works with everyone except his daughter Luna...who will always love him, but never respect him.
  • Zorro #17- Continuing the tales of various people's encounters with Zorro. A great way to have done-in-one stories.
  • The Stand: Soul Survivors #2- Larry meets Joe and Nadine. This issue was a lot better than last issue in getting a flow to the scenes.

The Alright:
  • Supergirl #47- This issue focuses on Allura and her feelings about the now captured Reactron. Not done with her political "dirty tricks" yet, she publicly defends him against vigilante mob and advocates a trial and eventual execution. Then fakes his murder to gain intelligence on the humans after Kryptonians (watch out Gen. Lane)
  • Amazing Spider-Man #612- Electro reinvents himself as a anti-corporate corruption activist.
  • Dark Reign: The List-The Amazing Spider-Man- One of the better one-shots in the batch. It's really a combo effort to get the goods on Norman out. It's as Peter that he gets to confront Norman giving a Capra-esque speech (yeah that's from the comic, but true). There is also a backup featuring Luke Cage and Jessica Jones and the aftermath of the Goblin's attack on her. Not too good, I wasn't a fan of Alias(comic). The art is good though, it's Bagley.
  • Realm Of Kings- Quasar investigates the Fault and finds a world where the Avengers are possessed by Lovecraftian Elder God types. He makes it back..., but is it the really the evil Quasar?
  • Realm Of Kings: Inhumans #1- The royal family deals with an attack by Negative Zone forces and Kree and Inhuman political scheming. Then Devos the Devastator attacks, but the Mighty Avengers drop in to interrupt him. Although, their visit is a little different in their own title.
  • The Outsiders #24- Black Lanterns go after the team including a repentant Terra, but given her history is she truly repentant? I am intrigued by this issue. The team seems to be a good one, with good writing and art. This may be worth giving a few chances after the BN crossover ends.

The Bad:

  • Justice Society Of America 80 Page Giant #1- The best of the seven stories is the Jerry Ordway Wildcat(s) one. Meant to be a look at the new members and reveal something about them while contained in a bookend/interstitial story. They are just too disjointed to flow well.

The Verdict:

Five good, six alright and one bad.

Book Of The Week: The Mighty Avengers/Flash: Rebirth (a tie)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Star Trek BlueRay Review

I am a huge Trek fan.

From watching the reruns of the original series, seeing The Wrath Of Khan in the theatre to watching the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine on Saturday nights instead of going out while at college and even trying to get into Voyager and Enterprise. You will find quite a few Star Trek books in my library. Novels, series companions and even technical manuals (a look at the Enterprise as a ship).

So when it was announced they were rebooting the franchise I was less than thrilled. Even when the crew and cast had been announced, I was still wary. Though I had enjoyed pretty much all of J.J. Abrams' work, it seemed wrong. I grew curious to see it as little details started leaking out.

Which the producers went to great lengths to discourage. When I saw it I was relieved and nearly overwhelmed. Not only was this a great Trek film, it was a great film. It was the best of the summer blockbusters and the best movie of the year (so far).

The movie and the actors really capture the feel and emotion of what makes good Trek. Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban shine as Spock and Bones. Chris Pine took a little bit more to get used to. I felt his performance was a lot better after seeing the movie a second time. All of the new crew take aspects and qualities that the original actors put into the characters and make it their own. The plot is pretty strong, flowing well and at a good pace. The lens flares that bothered me in the theatre is not as prevalent at home.

One thing though. It's not really the same Trek. That's not a such bad thing necessarily. However, I do have a feeling they "threw the baby out with the bathwater". While the old Trek certainly was circling the drain, the right set of circumstances could have saved it. The success of this movie probably killed any studio interest in the old Trek universe. I still feel that if the DS9 people had been given a shot to do a movie they would have surprised many. This IS the Star Trek universe now.

Now, I don't think it surpasses Wrath as the best Trek movie, but it comes in second. Here's a ranking of how I think the movies stack up against each other.

1} ST II:Wrath Of Khan (1982)

2}Star Trek (2009)

3} ST: First Contact (1996)

4} ST IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

5} ST VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

6} ST: The Motion Picture (1979)

7} ST III: The Search For Spock (1984)

8} ST: Generations (1994)

9} ST: Insurrection (1998)

10} ST V: The Final Frontier (1989)

11} ST: Nemesis (2002)

The BR disc set comes loaded. The first disc is the movie and it has a commentary with Abrams writer Roberto Orci and producer Damon Lindelof. The second disc is full of featurettes about the production of the movie. From writing and casting to designing ships, props and costumes. The deleted scenes are cool and most add to the story and could be re-edited into a director's cut. Victor Garber (Jack Bristow) shows up in an entire cut sequence, with effects and all, as a Klingon interrogator. [Please J.J., bring him back as the villain in the next film] There is a gag reel, a little featurette on the vision of Gene Roddenberry and a "interactive" tour of the Enterprise and the Romulan ship. Last disc is the digital copy for iPods and computers.

A great movie made better for all the extras. Buy it for yourself or as a gift for someone.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Essential Showcase Of Masterworks 2

This time I'd like to go over one of my favorite runs on Iron Man.

I'm talking about the run of Denny O'Neil. Sandwiched between two of David Michelinie's runs on the book it is often forgotten that he wrote the book at all. Of course, most readers know about his work at DC on Batman (as writer and editor) and Green Lantern. Yet, even my humble self had totally misremembered that he was responsible for a good chuck of Iron Man.

Although he does start his run much earlier, he really gets going with #170.

Picking up on the classic issue "Demon in a Bottle", O'Neil explores the problem of alcoholism further. With it being too big a problem to be solved in just one issue, a long story arc unfolds. Under pressure and under attack by corporate rival Obidiah Stane, Tony relapses. He gives up being Iron Man, loses his company to Obidiah Stane and descends into alcoholism.

Meanwhile Rhodey has reluctantly taken over as Iron Man. Although inexperienced he manages to beat some of Tony's oldest and deadliest foes, particularly the Radioactive Man and the Mandarin .

Tony becomes lost among the homeless in NYC, hitting rock bottom when he's discovered by Cap in some sleazy motel in a chance rescue.

The woman that Tony has hooked up with in his drunken stupor turns out to be pregnant (he's not the father). She gives birth in the middle of a snowstorm and dies from exposure. Her child lives, his survival provides Tony with both a responsibility and a goal to achieve. This marks a turning point in Tony's alcoholism. He commits himself to rehab and regaining control over his company.

He starts by joining a new company, Circuits Maximus, to compete with Stane but quickly realizes that he doesn't want the company back just the prestige, challenge and satisfaction of running a business.

Meanwhile, the cybernetic interface that was designed for Tony to use has affected the brain of Rhodey in an adverse way. Clouding his judgement and make him increasingly violent. This prompts Tony to dig out his original (Mark I) armor to fight a rampaging Rhodey in the classic (Mark IV) Iron Man suit.

Tony stops Rhodey and comes up with a fix for Rhodey to operate the armor safely. Reluctantly, Rhodey resumes his Iron-ing [sorry] till he can convince Tony to come back. At this point Stark has effectively made his comeback both personally and in business. This sends Stane over the edge. So, what else is there to do besides orchestrate an all out assault upon Stark.

Striking out at the friends and loyal employees that Stark has garnered over the years including Pepper and Happy Hogan (who have two kids...where the F did they go?) Stane is determined to break Stark by any and all means. With both active armors damaged beyond repair Tony starts on a new version. It ends in a confrontation between the two in battlesuits. Stane in his Iron Monger suit and Stark in his new "silver centurion" (Mark VI) armor.

Thus began a new chapter in Tony/Iron Man's history.

About twenty issues later, during the second run of David Michelinie, the classic "Armor Wars" story started. I will probably have another installment focusing on that storyline sometime in the future.

'Til next time...

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Week's Comic Stack

Comics out November 11, 2009-

The Good:

  • Strange #1 W-Mark Waid; A-Emma Rios
  • Booster Gold #26 W-Dan Jurgens; A-Dan Jurgens/Mike Norton
  • Green Lantern Corps #42 W-Peter J. Tomasi; A-Patrick Gleason

The Alright:

  • Batgirl #4 W-Bryan Q. Miller; A-Lee Garbett
  • Realm Of Kings: Imperial Guard #1 W-Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning; A-Kevin Walker
  • Action Comics #883 W-Greg Rucka/Eric Trautmann; A-Pere Perez -Captain Atom: W-James Robinson/Greg Rucka; A-Cafu
  • R.E.B.E.L.S. #10 W-Tony Bedard; A-Andy Clarke

The Bad:

  • Amazing Spider-Man #611 W-Joe Kelly; A-Eric Canete
  • Batman & Robin #6 W-Grant Morrison; A-Phillip Tan

The Verdict:

A reasonably good week only stained by two comics. First issues for Strange and RoK:IG were good enough to keep me coming back. The R.E.B.E.L.S. issue was bought to get the promo ring, but surprised me. So I may add the book to my pull list.

Book Of The Week: Green Lantern Corps #42

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Essential Showcase Of Masterworks 1

This series of blogs is going to showcase the single issues, runs of an ongoing series, limited series, trade paperbacks, hardcovers and deluxe editions that I feel every comic book reader should have in their library. They are sometimes groundbreaking stories or masterpieces of an artist. Others are particularly emotional stories or just plain fun. And not all of them involve superheros (although a majority do).

So where to start...

It's the Death of Captain Marvel. The first actual original story Graphic Novel for Marvel printed in 1982. It tells the story of the Kree Captain Mar-Vell's death from something that the whole Marvel Universe can't beat...cancer. And that is why this story earns this distinction.

I read this story fairly recently in 2002 when it was reprinted as The Life And Death Of Captain Marvel along with several issues that were relevant to his history including his struggle against the mad Titan Thanos and the issue where he was exposed to the carcinogen that made him sick. The collection gives an overview of the character with only his first appearance being a puzzling omission. (check out Essential Captain Marvel Vol 1 for that)

All the issues are drawn and written by Jim Starlin who was at the top of his game with both. The issues get a beautiful recoloring, however the original Death was magazine size and the art suffers a little because of the reduction to a smaller size.

The true value is the emotional tie the story creates. It is a fairly personal one too. Anyone who has lost someone to cancer will have an immediate connection to the story. For me, it was my mother. She fought a long hard battle and after a brief period of remission finally succumbed to the disease that had metastasized throughout her body. That loss was with me for a long time and never goes away. Reading this story made me feel better (even with it being five years after her death).

Though it involves a story about a character's death, it is about his life, his accomplishments and his spirit. The story shows how he lived as friends (other heroes, gods and aliens) and enemies reflect upon his terminal state. His acceptance of his death is another key moment that resonated with me. The story presents Mar-Vell with a physical manifestation of that existential battle. He is led through this "world" by Thanos as Virgil led Dante through Hell and Purgatory. In the end he accepts Death's embrace. It may sound like this is a downer, but as Thanos says "this is not the end...only the beginning".

Now, maybe sterner hearts can resist. Even just thinking about it, my eyes have welled up a bit. When I first read this I completely lost it. That was the first and only time a comic did that to me. (I have felt regret when a favorite character dies, not full out grief) This is a story that uses the comic book medium to deal with a larger theme than the standard good vs evil ones that are the norm. It's a theme that some of the greatest writers through thousands of years of history have broached and others will continue to in the future. It is an eternal question. "Is there life after death?"

Is it on par with some of those great works about that subject? Probably not. But for me it is , making that heady subject instantly accessible. Maybe I'm just stupid.

So, the personal connection the story makes and the successful tackling of that eternal question are what makes this story a must for any comics fan.

I promise the next entry will be a little lighter in tone.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today is the first of what I hope to be many blogs. Mostly these will be about the silly little things that either annoy or excite me within comics, TV, movies, books, toys and video games. The only way to become a bigger geek, was to start opining about stuff on the Internet. So here I am.

For now this blog will be kinda basic bare bones. I'm gonna learn as I go along, so look forward to photos, links to web sites and even videos. Please stick with me as there will probably be lots of changes in the appearence of the page layout and design.

Enjoy these pics of my DC Universe Classics collection. (that was pretty easy)

I have a few ideas for "segments"(all titles subject to editing):

The Essential Showcase of Comic Book Masterworks- I look at comics that I think every comic book lover should have
Weekly Pull List- comic book titles I bought that week
TV Wrap-Up- All the shows on TV that I want to talk about

Also look for video game and movie reviews as well as any other stuff that crosses my mind.

If you haven't already...Check out my YouTube channel.