(Click title to go directly to the review)
NANCY DREW & THE HARDY BOYS #1
18 DAYS #21
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #18
BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY #8
INHUMANS VS. X-MEN #6
NANCY DREW AND THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE #1Writer: Anthony del Col
Artisits: Werther Dell’Edera
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
I’m not sure what spurred this recent rise of saccharine, wholesome entertainment turned hard-boiled and dark. Since when did Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett become vogue again? We’ve got RIVERDALE on TV, somehow successfully pulling off a murder-mystery story told in the Archie universe. Now there’s NANCY DREW AND THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE, which takes another youth classic and matures the characters and situations.
It isn’t that the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew haven’t had noir features before. Both series were written through the decades by dozen of different writers and their tone changed in accordance. But for the most part, the characters are not associated with such topics as suicide and police corruption (incompetence, yes, illegal activity enacted by the police, not so much).
Writer Anthony del Col wastes no time in establishing his particular take on the sibling sleuths. Frank and Joe Hardy’s lives in Bayport are destroyed after the death of their father, whose passing is placed on the boys. While in custody, the police attempt to pit the brothers against each other. While their relationship may be more tumultuous than past incarnations, some character traits hold true and blood runs thicker than water in this story. While neither can be pinned down for their father’s murder, the cops suspect they are not revealing the full story. The story a little birdie told them.
THE BIG LIE #1 straddles the line between an attempt and success at a serious murder-mystery tale. There is an uneasy balance at play between the traditional stories and the new. Artist Werther Dell’Edera provides us with page after page that could be plucked out of context and fit perfectly into a mid-century Hardy Boys books… until a cellphone pops up in a panel. The modern world seems out of place when Frank is providing his narration, his witticisms degraded by jokes like “Collig’s not the smartest app on the phone.” The other brother, Joe, is not designed as a hybrid of these two time periods, but is firmly set in the present, and therefore has much more realistic dialogue and actions. I like Joe, he’s a typical angsty teenager, while Frank just comes off unnecessarily cocky.
Despite receiving top billing, Ms. Drew is hardly featured in the comic at all. Perhaps this will help the balance. Most film noirs don’t really take off until the arrival of the femme fatale anyhow.
What we have here is potential and just enough intrigue to skate by. Maybe it’ll be like RIVERDALE, that hadsuch a horrible pilot I have no idea how it got picked up and yet immediately improved come episode two. The first issue of NANCY DREW AND THE HARDY BOYS is hardly as bad as that so the chance for improvement is that much higher.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at Michigan Tech pursuing a doctorate in Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
MAN-THING #1Writer: R.L. Stine
Art: German Peralta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
I was six years old when R.L. Stine’s first Goosebumps book “WELCOME TO THE DEAD HOUSE” was released. And while The Bernstein Bears started my love of reading, Goosebumps took it to another level. From the Scholastic Book Fairs at Lehigh Parkway Elementary School to my trips to Waldenbooks, I felt like I had to get my hands on as many of the books as I could. Having a bookshelf full of the colorful Goosebumps books, with their incredible cover art by Tim Jacobus, felt like a real status symbol for an elementary school-aged kid. I showed them off and talked about them the same way I would show off a new video game or action figure. All of my friends read Goosebumps too, and I literally didn’t have a single friend who didn’t have at least a couple books. Without question, R.L. Stine shaped my generation. After Goosebumps, I graduated to the Fear Street series. Eventually I felt like I outgrew R.L. Stine. He was replaced by Tolkien, Fleming, and then eventually George R.R. Martin. I also continued reading comics and would occasionally think to myself, “I would love to see R.L. Stine try to write a comic book one day.” I never thought it would happen, but I’m glad it finally did.
When Marvel announced back in December that Stine at age 73 would be writing his first comic book series, I was ecstatic. And then when they announced a few days later that he would be doing a Man-Thing mini-series I immediately thought to myself, “What a perfect choice.” And after reading MAN-THING #1, I believe my intuition was correct as Man-Thing was made for a writer like R.L Stine.
For those who don’t know, Man-Thing debuted in 1971 in Marvel’s ADVENTURE INTO FEAR series as a scientist turned swamp monster whose touch burns you. Man-Thing existed before DC’s Swamp Thing, but never achieved anything close to Swamp Thing’s level of popularity. Besides being a cult character, Man-Thing may be best known for the first appearance of Howard the Duck in the ADVENTURE INTO FEAR series. R.L. Stine wrote quite a few Goosebumps stories that involved Swamp-type monsters, so that’s one reason why this is a great fit. Another reason is that with Man-Thing being one of Marvel’s minor characters in terms of popularity, Stine could really put his own spin on the series, which he has. Man-Thing in this series can actually talk, which is a first for the character.
In MAN-THING #1 we find Man-Thing struggling to make it as a Hollywood star. On screen, he’s at an all-time low in terms of likeability with audiences. Off-screen, he disgusts or frightens people in the streets of Hollywood. In the middle of this adventure we also get the back story of how Ted Sallis became Man-Thing. This first issue is a good introduction to the character, and in typical R.L Stine fashion, the book does a great job of mixing horror elements with humor.
The art in Man-Thing is by German Peralta (AGENTS OF SHIELD, MOON KNIGHT) with colors by Rachelle Rosenberg (SPIDER-MAN 2099, GAMBIT). Peralta’s artwork is sharp and Rosenberg’s colors help bring out the character, especially Man-Thing’s eyes and “skin”.
I’m already disappointed that this is only a 5-issue mini-series. I really hope Mr. Stine decides to do another comic book series after this because I can already tell I want more. Really the only thing that could have made me love this debut issue even more would have been if Marvel was able to get Mr. Jacobus to do a cover (though I do like the Francavilla cover on this #1). This series already feels like a classic 1950’s horror anthology ala TALES FROM THE CRYPT. And just like those anthologies, each book will feature a short horror story written by R.L. Stine and a guest artist.
This first issue has the short story “Put A Ring On It” which is illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson (EXTREMITY, SPACE-MULLET). It’s darker than the Man-Thing storyline, but I really enjoyed it. It was like the cherry on top of an amazing ice cream sundae. Not only am I excited to finish the Man-Thing series, I’m excited to see what other short-stories will be included.
I love the fresh reboot that RL Stine has given Man-Thing. Hopefully this is the series that brings a criminally underused character in the Marvel universe to the forefront. Goosebumps fans will enjoy a familiar tone, but I give this first issue 5 out 5 Slappy the Dummies, so check it out!
18 DAYS #21Writer: Sarwat Chadda
Artist: Francesco Biagini
Publisher: Graphic India
Reviewer: Masked Man
Been a while since I talked about my favorite Hindu myth (The Mahabharata), in its current comic book form. But they have made some changes to the book lately at that seem to be sticking, and all for the better.
As I always do, here is a break down of the myth: Two sets of cousins are fighting over their kingdom. The petty Kauravas vs the honorable Pandavas, 100 brothers vs five brothers. The five Pandavas brothers have an advantage though. Their father was unable to have children, but his wife had the ability to summon gods to her bed, so all of the Pandavas are half brothers and demigods (of course, no one knows this except their mom). 18 DAYS is about the climactic battle, that lasted 18 days.
As you may have noticed, Grant Morrison's name is on the cover of the comic. Well, he set this adaption up, telling the story with high tech super-weapons. But that's about all he's done for this. Originally, he was tapped to turn the Mahabharata into a b@ll$ out scifi flick. Plans fell through, and Graphic India scooped up the concept for a comic book. Anyway, for a while now, the comic had become a revolving door of artists and writers It really messed with the narrative and feel of the book. Now they seemed to have settled on a creative team, which has been going strong for a while now. And the series is making much more sense. Plus much more pleasurable to read!
Spoiler time: First off, as someone who knows the myth, I find it odd that Chadda is focusing on characters who I consider lesser characters, the sons of the main characters. So actually, if you like teen heroes, this will be right up your alley. Abhimanyu, the son of the main hero Arjuna, has been trying to take a more active roll in the war. Against his father's wishes. To this end, he discovers an ancient @$$kicking sword, giving him tremendous killing power. His charioteer, and good buddy is Gatok. The half-demon son of Bhima. Gatok is in disguise, as his father doesn't want him fighting as well. The two end up getting into all kinds of blood shed and mischief. This draws the attention of Ashwathama and Durma. Sons of the Kauravas, and social outcasts. So they have become assassins, and have been stalking Abhimanyu and Gatok. In this issue, Abhimanyu can take no more of his blood lust sword and leaves it on the battle field, where it is picked up by Ashwathama. Spelling bad news when the four should fight again!
While I prefer to spent more time with the main heroes, Chadda do a fine job writing this tale. I assume he wanted to take the story some where different, and it's working out rather well. My words to artist, Biagini, are not so kind. While he has brought unity to the book, which is an overall improvement, his interior artworks is on the average side. His covers are much nicer. His story telling does nothing to heighten Chadda's drama and his figures can get mighty clumsy looking at times. His scene with Krishna here is rather unimpressive.
So I think this book has a little way to go, before it becomes as special as it was mention to be. But I'm very happy to see it improving.
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #18Writer: Ryan North
Artists: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
While I appreciate being brought up to date on Tony Stark’s status after Civil War II, I’d much rather have a recap that provides me with context for the comic title I am about to read. Since in the introduction to SQUIRREL GIRL #18 writer Ryan North would rather remind us of the fun that could be had on Twitter in days of yore, I guess I will provide an “in a nutshell” recap sans those very handy, dandy footnotes.
The newest storyline has got Doreen Green aka Squirrel Girl exemplifying the need for street smarts in conjunction with school smarts. Somehow, she’s missed all the clues as to why her new mentor, Dr. Melissa Morbeck, is an evil genius. Anyone that attends “secret engineer ceremonies,” befriends outspoken youths, and then provides that adolescent with priceless technology is probably a bad guy… or Tony Stark… so my point stands.
But this does not compute for Ms. Green. Instead, Squirrel Girl involves her friends with Dr. Morbeck’s plans to “assist” the Adolescent Animal Avengers. But not all of Doreen’s friends are so easily wooed. While Nancy Whitehead provided readers with a cool little comic last issue, this time around she is providing Doreen with some common sense. And just like last issue, the inevitable “nature of serial storytelling” takes place. It is an obvious turn of events, but well-developed characters can make even the most predictable of plots palatable.
Another way to avoid boredom from the telling of a typical narrative is pacing. While I have come to enjoy the lack of clutter that comes with relying on digital issues, I recommend reading issues of THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL as hard copies. It is so easy to scroll past the lightly-colored, small printed footnotes at the bottom of most pages. While the formatting of such is poor, the actual writing features some of the issues better jokes. It is also the absence of these annotations that make a difference to the pacing. Their appearance or absence do not necessarily control the flow of action, but do supplement the writing and art.
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL continues to be the light-hearted break that Marvel fans needs while Secret Empire continues to come up with new ways to destroy firmly held beliefs about our favorite characters.
BATGIRL & THE BIRDS OF PREY #8Written by Julie and Shawna Benson
Art by Roge Antonio
Publisher: DC Comics
Guest Reviewer: Saint Saucey
First off that variant cover is gorgeous. Steer clear of the main cover and pick up this beauty. Roge Antonio does great work on the interiors as well. I much prefer this art to Claire Roe with whom Roge shares art duties on this book. That said this book was a bit frustrating. It gives all indications that it is a new story arc and a great jump on point but they clearly expect you to have previous knowledge of a story that takes place in Nightwing. (A book I don't read).
Nightwing has conscripted the Birds to help him go after Gemini, a particularly ruthless killer who has severed all personal ties in Blüdhaven and traveled to Gotham to do the same. It seems she is being mentored by Blackbird a mysterious teacher who helps meta humans reach their full potential and increase their powers. Gemini, who was just an elongator, can now manipulate the cells in her body to make her self look like other people.
But what the teacher giveth, the teacher taketh away. The issue ends with Blackbird stripping Gemini of her powers and leaving her in a puddle of Blood and her own useless elongated limbs. It seems Blackbird is only helping other metas to increase their powers so that she can then use them her self. The plan seems familiar but I can't quite remember where I have seen it before.
Mean while the new oracle who still has unknown issues for which he is popping pills clues the Birds into a meta human fight club (one of my least favorite tropes in the scifi/super-hero genre) Dinah insists on going in undercover alone with out a way to call for back up and after some convincing Roulette agrees to put her in the next match.
Frankly I don't think the story is at any way ground breaking. All of the plot points, from the new team member keeping secrets from the team, to the super powered fight club, to the stealing of powers are ones we've seen before. The book even fails as a jumping on point since it seems to be a continuation of events from Nightwing.
I did like that Babs and Helena had a nice little chat about how awkward it is that they both dated Nightwing. Helena says she is way above fighting over a guy. She points out Dick and Babs are clearly meant to be together but Barbara is aware he is in a serious relationship with someone named "the Defacer" Clearly Kitty Pryde was right about all the good names being taken.
The mystery of Blackbird will get me to come back for the next issue, as will the fabulous art. The art is a 5/5 But the story is at best a 2/5.
REDLINE #1Writer: Neal Holman
Art: Clayton McCormack
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
The new Oni Press comic REDLINE is written by Neal Holman, producer and art director of the animated sitcom Archer. The Previews solicitation of it said, “Holman’s REDLINE takes the best parts of his ARCHER experience and gives us a twisted, hilarious addition to the annals of cult sci-fi in the spirit of TOTAL RECALL and STARSHIP TROOPERS.” So naturally I was sold on checking out the first issue.
The story takes place on Mars in the near future. Mars has been colonized and it seems as though the Martians living there aren’t happy about us colonizing their planet. Now this may sound like your average run of the mill space story, but its not.
What really separates this book from other sci-fi books is the sharp, dark comedy dialogue. The dialogue is dirty and could be offensive to some, but it is at times really funny. That should be no surprise because Holman is known for working on shows with great dialogue like the aforementioned ARCHER, and also one of my favorite Adult Swim shows ever SEALAB 2021. Fans of either of those shows will recognize a very similar sense of humor, and I think they’ll enjoy this book. The dark comedy works here and especially feels natural in regards to the banter between members of the military unit on Mars.
The story however really jumps right into things, and at times it seems a little less focused. Or maybe this first issue is just a bit too focused on the dialogue/banter? This almost feels like an issue 0 to me, instead of an issue #1. The dialogue is there, but the story itself really didn’t draw me in until the end. I won’t spoil it, but what happens on the last page did make me a little bit more invested in the story, even if I’m still not sure of exactly what’s going on.
The art is by Clayton McCormack (HEAVY METAL, STAR TREK: DEVIATIONS) with colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick (BATMAN 66, SNOWFALL). The duo paints a familiar yet contemporary picture of Mars. It looks like the Mars you’re familiar with from all the sci-fi stories. Yet you’ve never seen it like this before with its buildings, occupants, and creatures.
Oni-Press has been doing an incredible job on both the RICK & MORTY and INVADER ZIM books. If REDLINE can build off of this solid debut, Oni could have another cult hit on its hands. This comic absolutely is not for everyone, especially those who don’t enjoy some boorish humor. However, I have a feeling that those who like the style will absolutely love this book, as long as the story can keep up with the dialogue. I give it 3.5 out of 5 Martians.
INHUMANS VS X-MEN #6Writers: Jeff Lemire & Charles Soule
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
So Marvel's latest crossover event comes to a close. As Lemire and Soule try to give us more than a simple slug-fest ending. Leinil Francis Yu also returns as the artist. I wish he could have drawn the whole thing, as I feel his scratchy style fits the chaotic nature of the book.
First I want to start by saying, I know the Inhumans are getting a lot of hate these days. As it appears Disney is trying to replace the X-men with them. I'm totally against that myself, but that doesn't mean we have to burn down the whole concept of the Inhumans. Like most of the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, they are pretty great. So don't just write-off anything having to do with the Inhumans, because you don't want them replacing the X-Men (probably not even going to happen).
OK let's get to the spoilers: So, the so-called Nuhuman (sic) have discovered why the X-men are attacking the Inhumans: The Inhuman's Terrigan Mist is making the world uninhabitable for mutants. And since the X-Men figured the Inhumans wouldn't allow them to destroy their birthright to superpowers (which is what the Mist does to Inhumans), they attacked without warning. To this, the Nuhumans have joined with Forge and have recreated the Terrigan Mist destroyer. Before they can use it, the top brass of the Inhumans and X-Men have show-up, and it's hammer time. Fueling the fight is a pissed off Emma Frost and Medusa. Eventually, Medusa learns why the X-Men attacked. So, as Queen of the Inhumans, she pushes the button that destroys the Mist and saves the X-Men. Fight over? Nope, Frost doesn't want peace and both the X-Men and Inhumans have to take her down. And as we've come to expect from Marvel, a big part of this issues sets up the next chapter of Inhuman and X-Men.
Overall I enjoyed this ride. The slug-fests have been decent and I appreciate everything Lemire and Soule did to make it more than a slug-fest. Storytelling wise, I feel the biggest complain I can make is, some issues came off a little bullet-pointy. Instead of allowing us to enjoy and really sink into a moment, we had to rush around a bit. Since AVX had 12 issues and a ton of filler, you'd think Marvel would have given IVX a few more issues to really sell the story. Now the story does have one fatal aftermath flaw- the same one AVX had, oddly enough, but I'll get to that in a moment.
Artwork wise, every issue has looked great. With Yu's issues being the strongest, as I mentioned above. The Ennilux airship attacks in this issue were really cool, as was the Inhuman hunting Sentinels. And a lot of nice @$$ kicking overall here.
Now to that fatal flaw, the thing that stops me from raving about this book. On some level this whole thing was to set-up Emma Frost a villain again. While I personally don't have a problem with Emma being a villain, it just smells like an editorial mandate. Opposed to a natural progression of the story. Just like how Cyclops at the end of AVX jumped up with a big red 'x' on his face and became the new big bad for the Marvel U. Now Emma Frost is wearing the big red 'x' on her face and – lame! Lemire and Soule did a great job with a story filled with shades of gray- and end it by turning a shades of gray character into a mustache twirling villain- I hate to repeat myself, but lame!
That said, on the Masked Man's scale of Crap, Poor, Decent, Good, & Great, I still score INHUMANS VS X-MEN: GOOD.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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