Showing posts with label super-powers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label super-powers. Show all posts

Friday, November 2, 2018

Phase Two by Chris Wyatt


Rating: WORTHY!

This is an audio retelling of the wildly successful movie Guardians of the Galaxy that came out in 2014. Read pretty decently by Chris Patton, it was pretty much a word-for word copy of the script, with some minimal description tossed in, but unlike the movie, it isn't even PG-13 rating - it's more like a Disney animated film rating, so all questionable comments and references are omitted or re-worded. Other than that it's a pleasant listen for anyone interested in the Marvel universe.

I'm not sure there's anyone out there who is even moderately media-aware who doesn't have an idea what this movie was about, but if there is, then briefly, the story is an origin story of the formation of the Guardians, from a rag-tag band of misfits, disaffected revenge seekers, con-artists and thieves, into a genuine family of caring team-mates who don't actually save the galaxy (that comes in volume two!) but who do save a planet and defeat a brutal psychopath known as Ronan the Accuser.

The story starts with the young Peter Quill, so terrified by his mother's impending death that he won't hold her hand. Instead he runs out of the hospital only to be 'beamed up' into a space craft. The story then resumes twenty years later with that same Peter, now a mature (or maybe not) man who calls himself Star Lord, and who is on a mission to recover an artifact, which he tries to sell outside of the outlaw group who captured him all those years ago. His mission fails.

Oh, he gets the artifact, but he's captured when he tries to offload it, and he's tossed into a brutal space prison with three other villains, two of whom are the bounty-hunting team of Rocket and Groot. Groot is an alien species superficially resembling a tree, but who has legs and arms and the ability to speak and regenerate, although all he ever says is "I am Groot" in various tones which represent what he really means. Rocket, created by Marvel writers based on an old Beatles song (Rocky Raccoon) is a genetically-modified talking raccoon, whose experimental test designation was 'Subject: 89P13'. Now he's highly inventive, agile, scheming, and dangerous.

The third party is Gamora, another alien who was adopted by super villain (or is he?!) Thanos, whose self-appointed mission is to wipe out a random half of the universe in order to provide better living conditions for the other half. He adopted Gamora after killing her parents, and she became his trained assassin, but she's now decided to betray him to bring his murderous scheme to a halt.

These four meet the final member of their team in the prison. He's Drax 'the destroyer' (although he looks nothing like a navy ship...) who has a personal vendetta against Thanos and Ronan because they killed his family and he wants to kill Gamora, but Peter talks him out of it and the five of them join up to sell this artifact that Peter recovered, which turns out to be one of the six Infinity Stones which have been in existence from the start of the universe. Thanos wants them to complete his mission, Ronan steals it to pursue his own mission, and the Guardians are the only people who can stop him!

No one ever explained, neither in the movie nor in this novelization, why it is that Thanos isn't smart enough to know that with all six Infinity Stones, he can remake the universe however he wants without killing anyone! I guess he doesn't have the stones.... It's a pity one of these stones wasn't called the Smart Stone - with the ability to make people think critically and rationally.

So, fun stuff and a lot of laughs. The audio doesn't have the same magnetism and charisma of the movie, but it's a decent substitute and I commend it.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Silk Sinister by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Veronica Fish, Tana Ford, Ian Herring


Rating: WARTY!

Okay, one more and then I'm done with this disaster! This was one more in a trilogy of Silk graphic novels I had from the library and they were universally disappointing.

The story was pathetic and the plot non-existent, but talking of sinister, as in left-handed, the artwork was even worse. It had so many hands all over it that it was itself all over the place from simplistic, but passable art to downright juvenile efforts that a child might have drawn - or at least that you expect to see in children's books, not graphic novels at this level. I don't consider myself to be an artist by any means, but having seen this work I now believe I could do a graphic novel if I chose to and not feel inferior - not to these artists anyway! For someone as critical of me as I am, that's saying something.

In the extra pages at the back, which feature variant covers and which I normally have little time for because they're so self-indulgent, I was arrested by a portrait done by Woo Dae Shim. It was listed as a 'hip-hop variant' although I didn't get the connection, but it was nothing short of amazing and if that had been the art standard for the entire graphic novel it would have been awesome even as the lackluster writing and the sad plot let it down. And you have to wonder about a comic book that has people work on it by the name of Fish and Herring. Do they work for scale? Just asking!

In this story Silk is working for villain Black Cat, but you know she really isn't, so no surprises there. The thing is that Black Cat really isn't evil here, so no surprises there, either. Of course petty Peter Parker has to poke his prying proboscis into her affairs yet again despite her telling him to leave her alone - and more than once. So, uninventive, unoriginal, and creepy in parts: nothing to see here folks. I DNF'd it and didn't look back. It's more sick than silk and not in a good way.


Silk The Clone Conspiracy by Robbie Thompson, Irene Strychalski, Tana Ford, Ian Herring


Rating: WARTY!

Given what a huge clone Silk is of Spider-Man and all the other spider 'heroes' Marvel has cloned, is this title an in-joke at Marvel?

I've pretty much said all I had to about this trilogy of graphic novels written by Thompson, illustrated by Strychalski and Ford, and colored by a Herring. This particular novel was about people being cloned, so there's nothing new there. I couldn't figure out why it was an issue. I mean I can see how it can be an issue in real life, but I'm talking about why it was so in this comic book world, because the only one whose story was gone into was J Jerk Jackass Jamison, and he was thrilled to have his wife and kid back.

I readily admit that I was not paying sufficient attention because I was bored with the comic, so maybe I missed something, but I finished the comic without feeling like I missed nothing but he time it took me to page through it. It wasn't inventive, fresh or new and it offered nothing to excite the senses. I saw this as another good reason why this series was cancelled. The only Clone Conspiracy here is the cloning of Marvel heroes instead of inventing new ones, and the regurgitating of tired Marvel villains instead of creating new ones.

Silk is Spider-man with tits, period (that too, which never seems to affect female super heroes does it?!), and even then the real Spider-Man is stalking her all over the place. If you're going to give a series to a female hero, then for goodness sake let her have her own series and don't keep pointing out how weak she is by showing how she has to be shored-up, demeaned, and validated by peter parking or the Spastic Four.

And finally, if you're going to draw an Asian, make her look Asian! I have no idea if Silk, aka Cindy Moon, actually is Asian, and the reason for it is that she looks so westernized that the pretense that she's in some ethnic group other than your standard comic book Caucasian super hero, is farcical. The Chinese are a sixth of the Earth's population! The Indians are another sixth. Non-whites are the overwhelming majority of Earth's population! Deal with it Marvel (and DC)!

I do not recommend this series at all. And there's still one more volume to go!


Silk, Volume 0: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Annapaola Martello, Tana Ford, Ian Herring


Rating: WARTY!

This was a classic example of Marvel's cluelessness in comic books. While building a powerhouse of a movie industry, in their comic books, once a sterling example of inventiveness and original story-telling, they have faltered and slipped, and tripped and fallen. In my opinion, the reason for this is simple, and it's the same problem DC has: that inventiveness and original story-telling has gone. Instead we get the same villains over and over and endlessly over again, matched up against a different super hero to the one they originally danced with, like this is somehow going to make everything new and fresh. No, it really isn't. It doesn't help at all that none of these collections have anything on them to identify in which order they should be read.

Worse, Marvel is introducing ridiculous new characters with no originality whatsoever. Instead of coming up with brand new super heroes, they present clones of existing ones which are warmed over cookie-cutter non-heroes and which offer nothing for the reader that hasn't been done to death already.

Did Marvel's universe really need yet another spider character to add to the half-dozen spider characters already out there? No! Yet regardless, Marvel brings us Silk, which I am happy to report has been cancelled, and deservedly so because it's a classic and shameful example of Marvel's increasingly rampant self-cannibalization. The blurb tells us that writer Thompson "fills this new story with his unique blend of antics and feels" No. He doesn't. He gives us the same warmed-over garbage.

Here's how clueless Marvel is: Marvel's senior vice president of print, sales, and marketing, David Gabriel reportedly said, "We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against." Let's not get into his own inability to create intelligent dialog as judged by that mangled sentence, and note that he also said, "That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked." There's a reason for that: the characters are not really new, David, and the stories sure as hell are not! Then he lied: "And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere!" - except into the trash can as this series has proven!

New? No! Exciting? No! Ideas? No! Silk is Spider-Man with tits and that's all she is. How is she different from Lady-Spider...or SP//dr...or Spider-Girl...or Spider-Girl of Earth-11...or Spider-Gwen...or Spider-Ma'am...or Spider-Woman...or the Jessica Drew's Black Widow spider character? The short answer is that she isn't. So she lived in a bunker for ten years. Was it ten? Who knows! It's hard to say with comic books.

She was bitten by the same Spider that bit Peter Parker. Wait, wasn't he bitten in August 1962? That would put Cindy Moon, aka Silk, in her sixties, but instead, the decade-in-a-bunker seems to have rejuvenated her so she looks like a seventeen year old! But wait, if she's seventeen now, that would have made her seven when she was bitten! How then could she had been on the school field trip with Peter Parker who was in high school? Or is she twenty-seven now? See what I mean? It's an insanely confused world and it contributes nothing to original story-telling or to original super-heroics.

As if that wasn't bad enough, instead of getting a female writer to write this, we get the usual white male writing an ethnic female and IT. DOESN'T. WORK. MARVEL! That's not to say that no white guy can ever write about women of color or vice-versa, it's just to say that having a house rule (which is the only explanation I can think of that fits the facts) that their comics are almost exclusively written by white nerds is a recipe for disaster - a disaster that Marvel is reaping with the failure of titles like this one.

Getting the same old guys to write the stories means we get the same old stories. Getting new writers with new perspectives and original ideas means better stories - we would hope. It would certainly mean more original stories. You can't judge by looks admittedly, but Robbie Thompson, the writer here, I have to say looks exactly like a stereotypical comic book geek! At least the artists were women so that helped avoid hyper-sexualized female characters. Instead we just got sexualized ones.

And the story was tired. We got old villains in this series (yes, Doc Ock, I'm looking at you, when I'm not looking at Black Cat), and Peter Parker poking his peck of pickled perspectives in every few pages which stunk of stalking. Can you not let the girl be? Oh, and how original, new and exciting this is: it's set in New York City! Where all the other Marvel heroes are.

I have to ask, seriously, how can there possibly be any crime at all in NYC, home of Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, the Fantastic Four, Hellcat, Sam Wilson, She-Hulk, Captain America, Wasp, Cloak and Dagger, Misty Knight, Moon Knight, Hawkeye, Silk, Punisher, Daredevil, Iron Fist (I'm surprised Deadpool hasn't weighed in on that name), Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, et al? Even Howard the Quack lives there. It has more super heroes than ordinary people. There can be no hope for a villain there. Why are all the villains not going to Miami or Chicago where there are no super heroes whatsoever?

What's that I hear? It sounds like crickets, Marvel. Now there's an idea! Cricket Girl! She lives in Tucson and is an Eskimo woman. Her Nemesis is Termite Tomboy and she hails from South Africa. No, wait, a cricket versus eusocial insect story was already done in A Bug's Life....

I can't recommend an unoriginal story like this. Unfortunately, I got three of these volumes from the library so I still have two more to plow through. Wish me luck!


Monday, October 1, 2018

She-Hulk. Vol. 1, Deconstructed by Mariko Tamaki, Nico Leon, Dalibor Talajić, Matt Milla, Andrew Crossley


Rating: WORTHY!

This is where my understandably one-sided love affair with Mariko Tamaki began! She wrote this and it was illustrated well by Nico Leon and Dalibor Talajić, and colored beautifully by Matt Milla and Andrew Crossley. This comic book was a worthy read. She-Hulk was problematical and a potential disaster when she was first conceived, apparently by Stan Lee during the TV run of The Hulk, so copyright would stay with Marvel and not with some TV production company in case they decided they wanted a female version!).

Lawyer Jennifer Walters (what is it with Marvel and super heroes who are lawyers?!) became a rather more subdued version of the original Hulk when she had a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (who was the original Hulk of course). By subdued, the effect in her is to become stronger and to turn green, but to retain her own personality and smarts, something which the Hulk isn't known for.

Despite it being named volume 1 (I wish they would not do that), this is not the original run of the comic; this version is well-along in the overall life of She-Hulk - post Civil War 2. With Bruce dead, his cousin trying to cope with that and find her place in the world. Her own original comic ran only for two years at the start of the eighties and after that she was reduced to guest appearances in other comics until more recently. It's nice to see her revived, and with a female writer who happens to be one I've grown fond of lately.

She-Hulk took a few pages out of Deadpool's book in one of her later incarnations, breaking the fourth wall, and mimicking cultural icons such as Demi Moore's bare-bodied, pregnant-and-in-the-magazine-cover pose. She-Hulk wasn't pregnant but held a beach-ball strategically! In this volume though, she's well-behaved and quite subdued. That doesn't mean it's all Jennifer all the time, by any means. The comic told an intelligent and believable story and I enjoyed it. I commend this one and will look for more of this series.


Invincible Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Kate Niemczyk, Taki Soma, Kiichi Mizushima, Marte Gracia, Israel Silva


Rating: WORTHY!

So I read the second volume of the Ironheart graphic novel - this is the one featuring a female (a young female - she's only fifteen, but already a brilliant student at MIT). I had some minor issues with this volume. It's supposed to be about this girl who is replacing Ironman, so I was disappointed to discover that the title made no mention whatsoever of Ironheart!

The first volume at least had the title as "Invincible Iron Man Ironheart" which was bad enough (it made no sense for one thing), but volume two excludes the Ironheart bit altogether, like the comic isn't even about her! WTF, Marvel? There really is no point in promoting a female super hero if all you're going to do with her is render her as an appendage of the previous male hero to hold that title. It defeats the purpose, you know? For goodness sake let her fly solo. And don't treat your readers like idiots who would have no clue that Ironheart is a female incarnation of Iron Man without you spelling it out on the cover - because clearly you have no faith in the cover illustrations accomplishing that aim! LOL!

That aside, the overall story wasn't too bad, although it lapsed a bit here and there. Tony Stark's AI presence is nothing but an annoyance to me. If it was amusing, that would be something, but it isn't, and having so many types of speech balloon (one for Riri suited-up, one for her out of suit, one for Tony, one for Friday?) means it's a mess. Clean it up!

At one point I actually wondered if I'd be able to give this a favorable rating, but then it picked up and it saved itself enough that I'm willing to pursue this at least as far as volume three. One of my problems with it, and this applies to more than this one comic, is Marvel's lack of imagination in creating new villains. DC is just as bad. Let's resurrect the Joker again why don't we? Never mind how many times we killed him off, let's really keep digging back into the ancient past and bring out the same villains over and over instead of going to the trouble of using our imagination and creativity. Barf. The Joker is a joke. The Riddler is ridiculous. Catwoman is a pussy and the Penguin is for the birds. Find a new shtick!

This volume did change it up a bit in that the two main villains were females, but they were female versions (in effect) of male villains. Instead of the endlessly returning Doctor Doom, we got a female clone: a psychotic despot who was queen of Latveria of all places. Seriously? Get a new shtick, Marvel. At least, as temporary queen of Latveria, after defeating this idiot non-entity of a villain, Ironheart shone. Later Ironheart went up against Lady Octopus (and to her credit made fun of her title - this was one of the things which amused me and brought the novel back into my favor.

I'm happy to say that despite the lack of any female writing input, the art wasn't appallingly genderist, perhaps due to the presence of Kate Niemczyk and Taki Soma on the team, but it's still not enough. I am still hoping for better, but for now this isn't too bad.


Invincible Iron Man Ironheart by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia


Rating: WORTHY!

I tend not to read many super hero comics because they often rub me up the wrong way and the poses the artists put the characters into all-too-often seem utterly unnatural when they're not uninventive, and the sexualization, particularly of females is not acceptable to me. Plus the dialog is a bit lame - especially when the heroes are exchanging smart-ass remarks in the middle of a fight. It's thoroughly unrealistic - even given the premise that superheroes exist - so it's not my cup of gamma ray-infused kryptonite, but once in a while I do read one for better or for worse. This one was for better as it happens, although there is still much to be done here.

This one threatened to annoy me from the cover alone because despite it being about Iron Man's replacement (in this comic world Iron Man is dead - at least as much as any super hero or villain is ever dead in these things), the female who is taking over still doesn't get top billing, although her 'real' name curiously appears on the cover at the bottom of the page. Normally I pay little attention to covers because the author has little or nothing to do with them and the artist typically hasn't even read the novel, as judged by how irrelevant or clueless the cover art is, but in graphic novels it's different: the cover does matter.

J Scott Campbell's risible (if it were not so serious) 2016 cover that caused such a controversy when it was revealed is almost as inexcusable as his being in total brain-dead denial about what an inappropriate cover it was. Marvel seems to have learned a lesson from that, but there are more they still need to learn - like hiring an artist who is a black woman maybe to draw Ironheart instead of yet another white dude? Was Nilah Magruder not available? Yona Harvey? Anyone? Ferrous Jewels?! There have to be scores of young black female artists who would love a shot at this. Afua Richardson? Taneka Stotts? It's important - it just needs to become important to the comic book corporations: not important to say, but important to actually do!

And what's with the name Ironheart? It was the name of a Japanese soft-porn knock-off of Iron Man and the content was certainly not appropriate to link to a fifteen-year-old black woman who's set to become a hero. What was wrong with Iron Girl? Was it ever considered? Tony Stark is cleared to be an Iron Man, but Riri isn't cleared to be a girl? Well, I guess not according to J Scott Campbell she isn't!

The story shows Riri - who is purportedly a genius, creating her own suit and starting out as a self-made woman, finally being mentored by Tony Stark's AI, and befriending Pepper Potts who is also a super hero now. The story was upbeat, fun and enjoyable, but there's much more to this incarnation of the Iron Hero. I enjoyed this comic and felt that Riri had a voice worth hearing, but maybe others will disagree. Pre-orders for this comic series slowly fell after issue one. I can't help but wonder if this was because the female wasn't quite so sexualized after that outcry or maybe it was something else. Maybe the writing isn't there. Maybe the plotting isn't, but I intend to read more of this story and see where it goes. I commend this issue at least.


Mister Miracle by Tom King, Mitch Gerads


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I was truly disappointed in this. I tried to overlook the juvenile naming conventions which were put in place long before this volume was created: the 'super hero' being named Scott Free, and the abysmally brain-dead 'Apokolips', and focused on the story which was supposedly about escape artist 'Mister Miracle' being able to escape anything. The story began with an interview about how he had escaped death and this, despite telling us nothing, was the most coherent part of the story. After that it became a two-hundred page nonsensical drag.

The artwork and coloring was a mixed bag and the story boring, meandering, and directionless. The blurb informed me that there would be no ending (THIS IS AN INCOMPLETE PROOF OF THE BOOK ONLY CONTAINING CHAPTERS 1-10). I'm not sure why they would put it out there with no ending, but I was willing to accept that. I'd never read anything about Mister Miracle or his wife 'Big Barda' before, so I thought it would be interesting to me, but it really wasn't. Other than the fact that the hero is married, there was nothing new or different here. There was oddity which I speculated was explained by his purportedly cheating death, but the artwork which I think was supposed to convey this really wasn't pleasant to look at.

There were parts of it that were blurry with the colors not registering correctly and after a short while I realized this was deliberate, but it wasn't appreciated, and was nauseating to look at. I do not know what sort of effect the creators were going for here but it was a fail with me. There were also panels which appeared to be from a TV transmission, and far from giving us "a new take" here, we got the same ridiculous representation with scan lines on the image - like this was a low-res cathode ray TV and not a modern one. I've never found that appealing, not remotely. It's not even intelligent and it certainly isn't new. Instead, it's trope and it's tired.

I can't tell you what the story was about because despite reading all of it, I couldn't tell myself. I can tell you it was disjointedly all over the place, and it made no sense. There was endless talk of raging battles and frequent scenes of massed people fighting, but these were interspersed with laughably domestic scenes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Big Barda is so pregnant that the baby is due, and then we got endless pages of the delivery which was tiresome. I have no idea where that came from since there was no lead-in to it.

The leader of the fighting forces for which Mister Miracle and Big Barda fought was a psychotic and the fact the Miracle and wife (who was very much secondary to him) failed to see this, told me they were profoundly stupid; far too stupid to successfully raise a child. The kindest thing I can say about this is that maybe it represents one long dream sequence somehow induced by Miracle's supposedly escaping death (or while he's in process of escaping it), but that trope is so tired it's pathetic, if that's what it was. Even if that's what it was, it lacked any kind of a pretense at coherence and so made for tedious reading.

We're told in the blurb that Mister Miracle "even caught the attention of the Justice League, who has counted him among its ranks." That's not only poor grammar, it's irrelevant to this story in which (or should I say in who?!) I saw no redeeming feature at all. Miracle's costume makes him look reminiscent of Iron Man, and since the latter precedes the former by almost a decade, some serious thought ought to be devoted to giving Mister Miracle a makeover. That would have made this story at least a little bit different. As it was, all it was, was more of the same and that's not good enough. I can't rate this positively.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alitha E Martinez, Roberto Poggi


Rating: WORTHY!

Is it just me, or did anyone else find it rather amusing that a writer named Gay tells a story here of a lesbian couple? Okay, just me then! Sorry! But Roxane Gay is bisexual for clarification and she was the lead writer here with Coates. This was a graphic novel and I was quite taken by it. The art (Martinez, Poggi) was glorious and the story was engaging and inspiring. It tells of earlier days of Dora Milaje than those depicted in the monumentally successful movie - days when Ayo is newly arrived in the guard and undergoing training. She and her trainer, Aneka, fall for each other and have to fight their confusion as well as each other when training.

Full disclosure: I was in love with Ayo before Aneka was! Not that it will do me any good, but after I saw that scene in Captain America: Civil War in which she says - to Black Widow of all people! - "Move or you will be moved" I was solid gone and wanted to see more of her. She had little to do in Black Panther unfortunately and less to do in Avengers: Infinity Wars, but at least I get to see her in this comic!

This story tells of the two's transition from Dora Milaje to their current comic persona as vigilantes known as Midnight Angels. Gay and Yona Harvey, who wrote a short story depicted in the back of this volume, are the first two black women to write a series for Marvel. Sadly the series was cancelled, so as far as I know, this is all there is. It's well worth a look.


Valiant High by Daniel Kibblesmith


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a lightweight and fluffy story of some of Valiant's superheroes as they were in high-school, but it's not Superboy - far from it. It was fun and light, and active, and well-drawn and scripted, so I had a good time with it. It was really nice to see Faith in her element and to see her respected and treated as a human being, not as a weight problem, which I've never seen her as anyway. The other characters I confess I was not familiar with - or if I ever was, I've forgotten them.

The nice thing about this is that it's a PG-13 kind of a story so anyone can read it. There's some high-school jinks, some kissing, some action, and cartoonish violence, the occasional oddball fantasy creature, but there's nothing I wouldn't let my kids see. Not that they're very much into comic books! The main protagonists are Amanda "Livewire" McKee and her best friend, Faith "Zephyr" Herbert, and Faith never looked more present than she does here bringing hope and charity wherever she goes. Amanda is pretty cool too, but I'm a Faith fanboy what can I say?! I recommend this if you're into the Valiant hero world at all.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Accell Volume 2: Pop Quiz by Joe Casey, Damion Scott, Robert Campanella


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I read the first volume of Accell and quite enjoyed it, but this volume simply did not resonate. It was all over the place, and the artwork was indifferent, so there nothing that special to look at or to read. Accell himself isn't a very impressive character. He's very self-absorbed and self-important, and he objectifies women (maybe it should have been titled Pop tart given the female character who's introduced?). On the other hand, given his jackass of a girlfriend, maybe some of this is understandable.

She was an unrelenting nag, and yet he had no spine to ask her to back-off or to lay it on the line that if she doesn't quit this endless complaining, he was going to be getting out of this relationship; then we get this other girl who's presented as stereotypically evil, but she's not really. It appeared to be a ham-fisted change of wind in relationships, but even that went nowhere. Overall the story was like a day in the life of a superhero, but it was a derivative and boring day.

This character borrows too much from DC's The Flash, and brings nothing new. The guy is supposed to be faster than sound, but there's never a sonic boom when he takes off, and never any complaints about one! And where are the other heroes in this world? Do none of them ever show up to help out a fellow hero when a bad guy turns up? I guess not. I wasn't at all impressed by this outing and I cannot recommend it. I'm done with this graphic novel world.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Black Panther Doomwar by Jonathan Maberry


Rating: WARTY!

Drawn and colored by an assortment of evidently uninspired and certainly unimaginative artists, this was several volumes in one compendium and I wasn't impressed. I picked it up at the library because I'd loved the Black Panther movie and the wealth of strong female characters. When I saw that this book was about Shuri - the Black Panther's kid sister, who was now filling the role of the Panther after her brother had been injured, I thought it would be well-worth reading, but written and drawn by largely, if perhaps not exclusively male writers and artists, it turned out to be yet another disturbing and lackluster venture into boring objectification of female super heroes.

The villain is Doctor Doom. How utterly tedious! Can they not find a new villain? If not, then could they not at least find a villain from Black Panther's own history to resurrect? One of the biggest problems with comic books and a good reason why we see them tailing off is the total inability of their creators to bring something truly new to the table. They keep resurrecting - often literally - vanquished villains from ancient history, and it would be laughable were it not so tiresome.

Worse than this (and don't even get me started on the kitchen sink cameos from other 'heroes' of the Marvel stable), Shuri's form-fitting black costume makes her - a black woman - look like she's naked, and her unnatural postures in far too many frames seemed drawn by adolescent boys for no other purpose than to titillate rather than inform or impress.

It is truly and honestly tiresome to see this kind of unhip-dysplasic and scoliosis-ridden posing from female characters affecting stances that would be downright painful to strike were a real person to attempt them, with hips and asses thrust out unnaturally, and deliberately provocatively. When we see nothing remotely like those poses from the male super heroes, you know this is pure objectification. It's outright genderist and it's to be shunned and boycotted in my opinion. I dis-recommend this entire series.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Feros by Wesley King


Rating: WARTY!

Here's yet another from my overblown collection of print books that I've picked up from all over the place. This one was bad, folks. Really bad! It's yet another middle-grade (or maybe young adult but it read like middle-grade) story of kids with super powers. I believe it's book two of a series but this wasn't apparent from the book cover. I guess they're trying to hide that secret!

I could not make it past the start of chapter two which began: "Lana sprinted down the long hallway, her legs pumping beneath her." Her legs were beneath her? Whoah! What a mid-blowing concept. I guess that's her super power - having her legs are beneath her. Hey author, why not simply, "Lana sprinted down the long hallway"?

That was bad enough, but there was another gem to come just one more sentence later: "When she approached the opening, she burst through." Not when she reached the opening, not when she arrived at the opening, not even simply, "She burst through the opening," but when she approached the opening she burst through! That's her superpower! She can burst through something before she actually gets there! She only has to approach it!

I've written like that - when I'm parodying stories like this (Baker Street comes to mind), but I don't expect to actually read that in a purportedly seriously-written book. I stopped right there because I know when I have this much of an issue with a novel and I'm barely started on chapter two, that me and the novel are not going to work out.

It's better to make a clean break so both sides know it's over, so I said "Let's part as strangers," and I walked away. I'm going to apologize up front for inflicting this book as a donation to this little village library near where I live, but maybe someone who hopes for less in the writing than I do, will like it. Maybe someone, somewhere, somehow, will approach it and burst through it. I know I can't.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Justice League Vol 1 Origin by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair


Rating: WARTY!

This was as poorly executed as the DC movies have been, although the recent (as of this writing) movie of the Justice League was much better and far more amusing than this comic was. The comic precedes all of the ill-conceived DC 'universe' movies (which officially began with Man of Steel in 2013), and you can see some of the ideas in this (or similar DC comics) have made it into the movies, such as Wonder Woman's love affair with 'ice cream' from her own movie, which for me is still the scintillating gem in the sadly tarnished DC movie crown. The 'demon' flying characters in the Justice League seem to have also been lifted from this or a similar story.

This story is an origin tale - not of the individual characters in it, but of the Justice League itself, and it's a pretty sad and dysfunctional story. We have Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, and Wonder Woman joining forces (or in the case farces) to defeat Darkseid the laughable villain featured in the movie.

The drawing (Jim Lee), inking (lead by Scott Williams), and coloring (lead by Alex Sinclair) were actually not bad at all, but the story honestly sucked. It begins with Batman and Green Lantern fighting, then they go find Superman and fight him; then Flash arrives and fights Superman. Aquaman shows up and starts bitching about Green Lantern who bitches about him in return. And so on, rinse and repeat. It's boring. It's juvenile. It's not a story at all. It's more like watching little kids play with their 'action figures' (read dolls - we all had them!), which is all this writer is doing, apparently.

The problem with this comic is that Geoff Johns wrote the entire story as one of endless fighting (between the super heroes), and of sniping, bickering, whining, and complaining, and it's not pretty and it's not entertaining. It makes these super heroes look like kids in a playground. Wonder Woman here is depicted as she traditionally has been, which means either in a skimpy skirt, or in a pair of bikini briefs. In this case it's the briefs and she looks idiotic. She didn't look that much better in the movie, but at least she had an excuse for her all-too-brief costume there.

Supergirl dresses exactly the same way, and that's one reason why I never did start watching that dumb show after I saw the pilot. Skimpy skirt, thigh high boots, and dark panty hose? Seriously? Is she a super hero or a dom? God forbid, after all the prattling about DC liberating the female super hero with Wonder Woman, that we should bring any other females to the big screen like Supergirl or Bat Woman! Not that Marvel is any better, but at least they do have a cadre of kick-ass females prominently featured in the movies they have released, especially after Black Panther brought us four who could hold their own in a movie (or four!). And god forbid we have the same characters on the TV and in the movies! Now they have two flashes? Two jokers? This is one reason I'm not overly fond of the DC world.

The only one who looks good as depicted in this comic is the Flash, who I've always thought has a really cool costume, which was ruined in the DC TV series. That's another DC comics TV representation that I actually watched for a while until I grew bored with the repetitiveness of it. Every season became exactly the same as the previous season: flash has to go up against some dude who's faster than he is. How pathetic! How boring!

In Arrow there was never-ending kung-fu fighting every single episode which was so ridiculous. If they'd taken a gun (even a stun-gun!) to a kung fu fight they would have been done with every fight in thirty seconds, but no, we have to stage the same fight sequences over and endlessly over again and let the villains escape. And the villain is always Damien Darhk. Barf. What's with these dumb-ass spellings? Darkseid? Dahrk? Give me a break! These are juvenile.

Worse, we have to have mind-numbingly endless flashbacks to the boring time Oliver spent on the island? Barf squared. Get a clue DC! Get some originality into your shows and movies. For my money, the only DC TV shows worth watching are Legends of Tomorrow which is hilarious and has kick-ass characters and fun plots - despite the Damien barf Darhk never-ending villain crap, and Gotham, which is just plain awesome. Apart from that, you can keep DC for me.

This comic is symptomatic of that lack of a clue - or that is symptomatic of the boring same-old, same-old world the comics purvey. Or is is Saiym-Ohlde, Saiym-Ohlde? One or the other. I cannot support this clueless puerile crap, and I will not recommend it. DC seriously needs a new shtick and they need it badly. The new 52 ain't cutting it. I'm forced to conclude that 52 is its IQ.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Gamora: Memento Mori by Nicole Perlman, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa


Rating: WARTY!

I wanted to like this - I really did, but from the unnecessarily sexualized full first page image of Gamora, my stomach started turning. One reason I picked this up was because it was written by a woman (Nicole Perlman who co-wrote the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie); the problem was that it was drawn by a guy (Marco Checchetto). Maybe it if had been the other way around, it would not have been so bad? Once that first image was done though, the depictions did seem to improve, but the story never really did.

Gamora is given a 'gift' by her adoptive father: the knowledge of where the people are who wiped out her own people. After she slaughters all of the royal lineage, she seems to think the job is done but she's not fulfilled. Why killing the royals would destroy their society is a complete mystery which is never gone into in the writing which is sadly very sketchy. Would they not simply appoint a new lineage or open elections? It's not like if the British royal family were all wiped-out Britain would simply fall apart and come to an end! Ad how does she know she's got them all? They all look exactly alike - how do you tell royalty from commoner?

As it happens, she didn't get them all. Gamora discovers that this highly patriarchal society has a princess - the last of these supposedly crucial people of the royal bloodline, and so after torturing one of the lizard people, she embarks on her own crusade to kill this last royal. It's all downhill from there. The story made zero sense. If these people - the green lizards, literally do smother all female children at birth as we're told, then how do they ever procreate? It made absolutely no sense whatsoever! With whom did the king mate to produce this princess? Apparently the author doesn't care because she never mentions it.

I loved Guardians of the Galaxy, but now I find myself wondering what parts of it, exactly, did this author write because it was far more entertaining, thoughtful, and provocative than this graphic novel ever was. The story could have been a truly engaging one, but it got lost somewhere along the way and never improved. I cannot recommend it.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo


Rating: WARTY!

This is the first book in a series of four novels (not graphic!) based on DC icons. I don't know all of them, but I believe two of the others are Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas (author of the execrable Throne of Glass which I panned) and Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (author of the execrable Legend which I panned!). The rule here seems to be that if you write a really bad YA romance trilogy, then you can get a contract from DC comics! This is why I favor Marvel!

Leigh Bardugo is of course the author of the execrable Shadow and Bones which I also panned, so why am I reading (read: listening to) this? I admit I thought twice about picking up this volume precisely because of the author, but I was curious to see how she would handle something which wasn't her own creation. She mishandled it badly, making Wonder Woman look like some clueless, air-headed teenager. Wonder Woman Warbringer? Crappy title as well! Not that the 'warbringer' referred to WW.

At this point I am convinced that Bardugo simply cannot create intelligent female characters, but I started out by being honestly curious as to what she would do with such a being (and especially so, now Wonder Woman's profile has been raised so high by the excellent Patty Jenkins movie). This novel came out in 2017 - the same year as the Wonder Woman movie, and what a contrast here is between the two! Bardugo has another disaster on her hands.

This one started out seeming like it was just another origin story, and it completely contradicted the one told in the movie, which as far as I'm concerned is canon at this point - especially since the comic books are always retelling their stories. Seriously? If there's one thing we really do not need more of, it's super hero origin stories!

I don't know how the author came into this: did they hire her and tell her to write this particular story or did they hire her and ask her to write a story about Wonder Woman, leaving the actual choice up to her? Or did she send them a story outline that she wanted to do and they agreed? I don't have those answers, so all I can do is base this review on what I read - or in this case listen to, since this was an audiobook.

Audiobooks are very experimental for me. I listen to them while driving, so my attention is most often on the road, not the book, but I can still follow what's going on. Since I'm a captive audience several times a week, I get through quite a few of these and I also take more risks with what I select to listen to, and therefore run the risk of more failures in finding things which please me, but I also find many gems this way.

The novel was read by Mozhan Marnò who didn't do too bad of a job except that her pronunciation wandered at times. She pronounced Themyscira for example, as thought it were "Them is scarier" which, given Amazons, perhaps isn't too far adrift, but all it did was make me laugh every time she said it. Themyscira (Greek Θεμίσκυρα) was a real place and it's pronounced with a soft 'th' sound as in 'thought' not in 'this'. It should sound a bit like Theh-mees-keer-a, with equal stress on all syllables but maybe a touch more on the 'mees' part - as far as I know. This begs the question as to why they got a woman of Iranian descent to read this rather than one of Greek descent?

This book began with Diana, aka Wonder Woman to be, taking part in a foot race. Normally the princess doesn't do this, but in this case she wants to assert her growing womanhood and take what she believes to be her rightful place as an Amazon woman rather than a cosseted royal. unfortunately, a sinking schooner on the coastline distracts her, and she ends up diving in, pulling out a woman, and saving her life.

This is where the first confusion rose because one of her friends on Themyscira is an Irish woman, yet when she pulls this (almost-) drowning victim from the sea, she talks of her as human. Was the Irish Amazon not human? If she was Amazon and not human, then how is she Irish? This made no sense to me at all. I thought all Amazons were human, except Diana, who was fashioned from clay.

The problems with the writing began here because Diana is in fear now of being punished because of her transgression in saving this woman's life and bringing her onto the island, yet Bardugo forgets that Diana is a princess of royal blood. She has this fellow Amazon bullying her with absolute no blow-back, and she has Diana living in fear of failure and of being punished!

Diana did not read as royal at all, not remotely, let alone heroic! She was just another Bardugo schoolgirl character. This was when I realized that it was Bardugo, not Diana who was out of her depth here. She simply cannot write an engaging story, period, not even when it's handed to her on a plate like this.

The story did not improve, it got worse. Diana had a critical deadline to meet regarding this woman she had rescued, and yet she spent so much time lollygagging on the way until it became a last minute thing. In short, Bardugo made Diana look like a moron, not heroic at all, and I can't forgive her for that. She made Diana into a man with tits instead of telling the story of an amazingly powerful, yet restrained woman. There was no gentility or even femininity here. It was all brawn and power, not compassion and smarts, and the villain was telegraphed right from the start of the story such that even I could recognize them. I'm done with reading anything else by this authors, and I cannot recommend this story.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: WARTY!

This is the second in The Reckoners series: Steelheart, Mitosis, Firefight and Calamity. Mitosis is a short pointless story available for free online. I read Steelheart and rated it as a worthy read even though I had issues with it. I'm not a series fan, and I picked this one up used, 'on spec' not knowing if I would like it or not, and in the end, I grew bored with it; with the tiresome first person voice, with the tedious bad metaphors which the author apparently thinks are hilarious, and with the total lack of anything happening for hugely-long periods. The novel takes so painfully long to get anywhere at all that it became tedious to read. I took time away from it to read a couple of library books and when I got back to it, I did not have the heart or the interest to read any more of it.

The story is removed from the abysmally named Newcago where Steelheart reigned, to New York City which is equally irritatingly renamed and where a different "epic" - which is what the super villains are called - reigns. She is known to the professor - an epic who avoids going bad by using his powers not for himself, but through others for good. So the author basically tells the same story over again, but switches everything around to pretend it;s really different, which is all an author can do in a series, isn't it? So, new location, but still a large North American city. This one instead of being covered in steel, is covered in water for no good reason other than that the author couldn't use metal again, right?! Instead of the villain being male, it's female. Oh wow, what a change up! Instead of it being personal for the main character, this time it's personal for the professor.

In short, there's literally nothing new here, and on top of that it was slow as molasses in mid-winter Alaska. I cannot recommend this and I am so tired fo series now that I feel like I never want to try even the first volume of another one.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Captain Canuck Vol 1 Aleph by various writers and artists


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Captain Canuck evidently has a long history, but I was truly disappointed in this outing, which collects issues 1 through 6 and which was my introduction to this character. I should have realized from the cover image that it was going to be confused and unrealistic. Giant savage mutant polar bears are very much in the realm of fantasy and the disrespect for the polar bear itself was nauseating. As the name of the graphic novel suggests, this is essentially a rip-off of Captain America with sufficient changes made to avoid a lawsuit from meg-conglomerate Disney, and it was not a very good rip-off.

The artwork and coloring was fine enough, but the writing and the overall story was really and truly confusing. Worse, it was all violence and gore with no humor or humanity in sight. Even having read fifty percent of this before I gave up in disgust, I have absolutely no idea what this story was supposed to be about. Chapter one started out strongly with a man who evidently has no super powers but is augmented by technology, going in to rescue people from a burning oil facility. He encounters what appear to be zombies and as you know, anything like zombie is inevitably violent and irrational. This is a tedious trope.

if the man had no super powers, but merely uses technology, this immediately begs the question as to why there's only one of him! Why not train several people like this and make a team? That story would have had a much better dynamic than this one did, but that question (why only one of them) wasn't even asked much less answered.

This was clearly a comic designed for print and not for electronic distribution which begs the questions as to why the review copies are electronic. I'm about ready to quit reviewing comics unless I can get a print version or unless the comic is specifically aimed at the ebook market. Publishers and comic book creators simply have not got their heads around the ebook concept, and graphic novel publishers who ought to be all over it seem slower than other forms of publication for reasons which escape me.

Thus pages 11 & 12 are a double page, but there's no obvious indication of this, so I'd started reading straight down the page before I realized it went over two pages. The amusing thing was that it made just as little sense whether you read down each page individually or read right across both pages and then down, which involved a lot of swiping back and forth on a tablet reader.

The fact that some panels seem to run off the edge of the page is no guide because on page 12 there's one that runs off the edge and looks like it might go to a second page, but it doesn't! Logic? You're not welcome in this layout! Readability? Thou art banishéd! The same kind of thing happened on other pages. Clearly the designers were so focused on trying to make the individual pages look so 'edgy' and 'kewl' that they completely forgot that actual people have to read it and make sense of it. If they so obviously don't care about the whole reading experience, much less about the electronic version of it, why should I care about what happens in their comic? Really?

The story quickly became lost in itself, with Captain Canuck blundering around blindly trying to find the people he was supposed to be rescuing, little progress made towards any actual story-telling. Their only escape seemed to be down a toxic waste chute, which begged he question, what toxic waste? This was an oil refinery, They're so mercenary in such places that there is no waste. They use literally everything for something to reap every buck they can from the oil, and while oil and gasoline are toxic, it's not the kind of toxic that was suggested here. And any word on the environmental impact of such a fire? Nope. Who cares about the environment? And this is Captain Canada in effect? That was a bad miss.

Chapter two was worse. We got a confused flashback which brought the story to a screeching halt and contributed nothing to it except to add a meandering and unnecessary backstory. I detest flashbacks for that very reason. I plowed on gamely for another couple of chapters until I was halfway through this, but gave up because the story wasn't getting any better and it wasn't remotely entertaining. I cannot in good faith recommend this.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Incidentals Powers, Lies, and Secrets by Joe Casey, Larry Stroman, Rob Stull, Snakebite Cortez


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This continues the ongoing story of a meteorite storm, and the super powers some people evidently developed as a consequence. The titles are rather variable in appeal and quality because they're all done by different teams, and while some have been great, others have been lacking. In short the whole series has been a bit patchy and this one just squeaked under the wire into the safe zone, based on the fact that it was a decent story by Joe Casey that melded well with the others I've read.

In terms of the graphics, I was less thrilled, but it was hard to pin down exactly what the problem was. From the illustrations in the back, it looks like Larry Stroman's pencil work is up to par, but perhaps these demo illustrations aren't the same quality as the ones actually employed in the panels. I don't know. The images looked unfinished in many panels. Fortunately, graphics to me are not everything. I mostly fread books that are all text, os to me the story is most important. There has to be an engaging and coherent story, and while good graphics can't make up for a tale poorly told, less than stellar images can get by with a good story behind them.

In this one we meet a team which is dedicated to 'rescuing' the enhanced humans from the selfish clutches of those who would employ them for less than altruistic purposes, shall we say. For this they use an enhanced who has the same power which Jamie Chung's character, Clarice Fong aka Blink, has in Marvel TV's The Gifted. I would really like to see this series distance itself from The Gifted, but it continues to parallel it in terms of the powers which these enhanced people have.

That said, it makes for a worthy read for the most part and this particular issue, artwork notwithstanding, is a welcome addition to the series.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Marvel's Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl


Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook fail that I found at the library. It was not what I hoped for at all. Black Widow is very much a comic book character, but she was really brought to life for my by Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel movies. She's going to have appeared in more of them than Samuel Jackson by the time she's done! The problem is that this novel isn't really about Black Widow. Instead, it's Ava Orlova (which you might find funny when you realize that reader Julia Whelan pronounces that last name as 'all over'!). It's about her and Alex Manor, not about Natasha. She appears, but pretty much as a minor character, so the book is rather a bait and switch deal and it's really not well written for someone who is supposed to be a best-selling author.

We're promised in the blurb that we're getting "the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time," but blurbs lie! In an introductory portion, Natalia Romanova goes to assassinate her mentor Ivan Somodorov, and ends up rescuing Ana. She unaccountably promises to be there for Ana, but then avoids her for a decade. Meanwhile Ana seems to have been doped with something right before she was rescued, so maybe she has super powers, maybe not.

Ana begins falling for Alex, who she meets by accident, but feels drawn to since she'd dreamed of him without knowing who he was. Inevitably Ana and Natalia come into contact again, but by this time I was so tired of this limp story that I quit listening, and I returned it to the library to make someone else suffer it instead of me! Mwahaha! Ivan Somodorov has nothing on me when to comes to torture!

So everything I loved about the movie Black Widow was missing from this book. The action scenes were perfunctory and unimaginative, and the story was pretty pathetic. I can't recommend it.