(Click title to go directly to the review)
IRON FIST Netflix Series/IRON FIST #1
AMERICAN GODS #1
SUPER SONS #2
REBELS: THESE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES #1
FUTURE QUEST #11
Raiders of the Long Box: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (2005-2007)
IRON FISTING with Humphrey LeeHello boys, girls, lovers of eye-roll inducing entendres everywhere; Humphrey Lee here to do double-fisted reviewing of everyone’s favorite white bread Kung Fu master in Danny Rand, aka The Iron Fist, in both television form and his brand new comic book volume debuting this past week. IRON FIST has been one of my favorite second (third, whatever) tier characters for a long time now, coming from a deep rooted love of white saviors who happen to also be in a fish out of water situation. I say this meaning not a damn word of that (at least not the first part), but since the entire conversation that has been around this show since basically the day it was announced was a bunch of people on the internet with itchy trigger fingers yelling at each other, I had to go for that comment. But no, seriously, I like the character because I like the character. I like Martial Arts everything, regardless of the races starring in them or producing them, and I love things from the “Exploitation Era” that spawned the likes of Danny Rand and Luke Cage and Shang Chi and on and on. I love the genre, the retro chic of the source material, and I like Danny’s personality and how awkward he tends to be given his doubly sheltered back-story and on and on. I likey the IRON FIST, so I was just happy to see a bit of a mini-renaissance for the character with his own TV show (mired in controversy as it has been) and getting a new comic book series with a creative team that also seems to have a love for the source material. So, with that out of the way, let the Iron Fisting commence!
Marvel’s IRON FIST Season OneStarring Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Rosario Dawson, David Wenham and many others
Produced by Marvel Studios
Distributed by NetFlix
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
Since this is the comic book section of this website I’m going to feel safe in assuming anyone reading this is at least somewhat familiar with the character known as Iron Fist, but a crash course is probably in order for at least this rendition of him (which is pretty close to the original take. Basically, the multi-billionaire Rand family consisting of Wendell Rand, wife Heather, and son Daniel, crash in the Himalayas leaving Danny’s parents dead and him on the verge of it himself before being saved from the elements by some monks. These monks belong to the ancient city of K’un Lun, where Danny (played by Finn Jones in adult form) then trains to become the martial arts force known as “The Living Weapon”, the Iron Fist!! He then comes back to New York City fifteen years later to regain his life, name, and the heritage that ensues. Also, he looks like a dirty hippy upon his return so no one believes who he is, even childhood friends Joy and Ward Meachum, spawn of Wendell Rand’s corporate partner, Harold Meachum. Second also, no one believes he’s a master of the kung fu arts, especially after thirteen episodes of this show.
I guess this could be called an early digression from the normal way these pieces would pan out, but I’m going to skip to getting blunt with this show. Overall, I actually liked this production, though it’s just ever so slightly into that “like.” Despite all the heat it is getting, which I have mostly ignored, it is a pretty solid tale of a twenty-something with a focus on the PTSD he has rolling in his brain due to the trauma he suffered before becoming a supposed badass. It ties in well with what the NetFlix/Marvel shows have been establishing up to this point with Madam Gao, The Hand, and everyone’s favorite Night Nurse, Claire, reprised by Rosario Dawson. And it tells a pretty interesting story of a fucked up family dynamic between Danny, the Meachum siblings (Joy and Ward) he grew up with almost like his own brethren, and the issues they all deal with due to a dynamic of Harold’s supposed death but really being alive due to the machinations of The Hand for the siblings and Danny’s loss of his parents at such a young age.
ALL THAT SAID, though, Finn Jones’ rendition of Danny Rand is a drag on the show. The guy is a decent enough actor overall, sometimes flashing enough charm as the spastic outsider who doesn’t know how the world works and then putting out some okay dramatics when he’s having his spurts of trauma and frustration he’s feeling from his past and current circumstances. As I said above, it’s a pretty good rendition of a young man who has grown up with loss and trauma. On the other hand, it’s also the show about that same person being the ultimate badass in hand-to-hand combat with some supernatural power backing it up. Yeah, I think Finn is a pretty alright actor, but two things he doesn’t have here are the presence of a man who is called “The Living (Fucking) Weapon” and he just doesn’t have the physical acumen you expect from action stars these days. In a world inhabited by John Wicks and, hell, Marvel’s own product on the big and small screen these days, you have to do better than what was on display during this show’s season. I have watched a shit ton of martial arts films in my time on this earth - even American product that doesn’t have the speed and timing as Asiatic productions - and you can tell just by the way the action sequences are cut in this show that Finn either didn’t have proper training to be the lead, or didn’t take to it well enough, or both. Given when Finn was cast and when the show went into production, I’m leaning toward believing the guy only had a few weeks to get into a form most actors would need three or four months to be, but regardless there was a mistake on the production end with his casting. With the glimpses of some Rand charm and a couple of the sequences we see in the choreography with Finn on camera I think they may have gotten the right guy for the role eventually, but the form he presents here is in no way up to snuff, especially compared to his contemporaries on DAREDEVIL, JESSICA JONES, and LUKE CAGE.
The reason why all of that rambling of mine the past two paragraphs is a big downer is obvious; a show that is altogether pretty okay from a pacing and plotting standpoint can’t really break past the mediocre mark without a lead that can bring them to the promised land. Again, there are flashes of him reaching this level, even right up front in the very first episode when Danny comes home. He arrives at Rand tower and is immediately forced into some decently choreographed confrontation with a group of security guards and then spends most of the episode trying to convince the Meachum siblings of his truthfulness when he says he’s their childhood comrade (though more foil to Ward) back from the dead. Finn goes through the motions okay with some stunt actors and general throws and disarmaments in the fight and is somewhat boyishly endearing in his attempts to convince Joy mainly of his identity, and that is pretty much the best we get out of him for twelve more episodes. The things that should be lifted by a better presence from him – especially the fight sequences – never really get there, leaving the duration of the show to be somewhat even on the fanfare scale, never hitting the highs of the best of the other Marvel programming like the first seasons of DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES, or even the first half of the first season of LUKE CAGE. Instead, we’re left with a show that rarely hits the adrenaline surge you want out of something that should be wall-to-wall kung fu chicanery, at least not from our lead.
The other reason things come back to Finn being the weak link of this show is that the remaining cast is actually pretty good in what they are presenting on screen. Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey as Joy and Ward Meachum respectively do admirable jobs in their roles as dysfunctional rich kids with their own spectrum of problems. Joy is doing her best as a high powered executive learning the ropes in the absence of her role model father and has both soft and vicious sides on display when it comes to running the company and dealing with the returned Danny and the flux this causes with her life and Rand Corporation. And Tom Pelphrey as Ward may have the deepest cut on the show, as he’s juggling his own brand of daddy issues, the dark secret of knowing his and Joy’s father is actually still alive and has been influencing their lives from the shadows, a heavy dose of drug abuse, and then some violent turns that are kind of shocking. Yeah, sometimes the focus on Joy and Ward are very much in the “white people, amiright?” and especially the “rich white people, amiright?!?” vein, but for the most part it just shows them as two broken people who lost their way due to the same circumstance in the ‘loss’ of their father.
Then there is Jessica Henwick, Finn’s costar and female ass kicking counterpart, who in her turn as Colleen Wing is the standout of the show, as you may have heard by now. This further exacerbates the main problems with the show because she looks and acts way more comfortable in the role than Finn does his as both a martial artist and a highly trained warrior struggling with living up to reputation and destiny. You can tell by how her main, solo fight sequences are shot that she had her moves down more and took to her training better or just had a better background in the stuff. Likewise, she just has a bit more charm and charisma in the skin of her character mirroring a good deal of the same angst and drive Danny is supposed to be having living up to the legend of the Iron Fist. She just puts the world on notice on how this kind of role is to be executed and, hopefully, gives Finn something to work off of now that they’ve spent several months on set playing off of each other (and, admittedly, they do have a decent amount of chemistry together, but she just outclasses him overall). And Rosario Dawson is as loveable as always being the one-time nurse that has been destined to fall in with all these Defenders and be the inevitable magnet that pulls them all together for that show.
From a storytelling standpoint, I actually did dig what IRON FIST was doing, mainly because a lot of it was due to being the payoff the rest of the NetFlix lineup has done for this show and leading into THE DEFENDERS as the next project. Essentially, all the work done by DAREDEVIL to present us with this universes rendition of The Hand and their machinations as Madame Gao is using the Rand Corporation to funnel heroine into New York and run shell games for The Hand. The show runners and writers do well to incorporate the legacy of the Iron Fist into this version of lore by making its role in the world to be the force that is to stamp out The Hand, as well as tying the organization into Colleen’s upbringing and training and how Harold Meachum is alive and a role player from the shadows. The background of this show is made completely possible due to the setup of the previous shows, unlike something like a DAREDEVIL Season Two which suffered a bit by being the place where a lot of this groundwork needed to be laid and sacrificing the development of characters like the Punisher or taking time away from the relationships between the main trio of Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, and Matt Murdock himself. It’s actually a nice little bit of intertwining that results in some turf war fights and corporate espionage that adds a couple box cars to the daddy issue train that’s about a third of the show otherwise.
Again, though, to pummel this drum with some fists of iron, this story being presented is interesting enough, but that’s it. Without something to put it over the top besides Henwick, it just stays at that “this is fine but I wish some asses would be kicked better” level. This is the motherfucking Iron Fist! These fights should be epic, stylish Kung Fu affairs. This is also Marvel Studios on NetFlix, producers of the two hallway fights on DAREDEVIL that had everyone full of the hype for what it meant for the action on this show. THE MOTHERFUCKING RZA EVEN DIRECTED AN EPISODE!! But in general the fight sequencing was eh. Finn has a couple moments – mainly in the pilot, episode eight, and Rza’s episode – where he looked comfortable in the sequences, but for the most part you could tell just from his eyes he was going through memorized motions and not really feeling a particular flow to the action. When it came to a single shot of sidestepping and using the momentum to flow or kick a combatant and doing a pose, Finn was okay. Anytime there was a multipart sequence of punches, kicks, counters, throws, etc, the quick cuts spoke for themselves. Henwick herself has a couple pretty solid cage fights that were better than the norm, and there is one fight in episode eight where Danny fights Lewis Tan (who was apparently up for the role of Danny at one point) doing a Drunken Kung Fu style that works solidly because I think Tan’s acumen rubbed off on and helped carry Finn, but that’s really about the most we get. Shame needs to be felt on this end somewhere in production, whether it be on the trainers not prepping Finn enough or the schedule not giving them the time to train him properly or just Finn himself. Though, I’m going to cut the man a little bit of slack, work is work, and unless he just was willingly obtuse in learning the stuff, when the powers that be saw he wasn’t cutting it something should have been changed either from a casting standpoint or pushing back shooting until he was ready.
I’m going to harp on the action one more time on the way out, but it is the real, inexcusable fault in IRON FIST, despite what a certain contingent usually referred to by three capital letters would have you think (and who I legitimately do usually walk lock step with when it comes to most societal issues) because that should have been the top peg for show to use for hat hanging. The story is solid and in line with the quality of its peers, though it lacks from a strong central villain like Wilson Fisk and The Purple Man, making due with an okay combination of Harold Meachum and Madame Gao. The characters each get their moment in the sun (and Ward surprisingly has a really good arc over the whole season) and deliver solid to good performances. But my god is that action just so bland. I watched INTO THE BADLANDS after consuming season of IRON FIST in a weekend and, man, that production had more excitement and style in its very first fight sequence then I got in the three best showdowns IRON FIST presented to me. And INTO THE BADLANDS is an absolute pile of nonexistence story wise, but it charmed me nonetheless just based off of energy and choreography. Shit, Danny even barely uses the Fist itself other than to break some walls and doors into shards and max out the shows’ CG “shard budget.” If IRON FIST just had half the quality of BADLANDS in fighting on top of a pretty solid overall story and cast, it could have been something I felt okay with saying was B+ quality aspiring to A grade if Finn had a little bit of a better hold on the personality of Danny as he battled his childhood trauma and the dual legacies to which he’s aspiring. Instead, this is some middling production that while avoiding the lows of the lowest the Marvel NetFlix shows have hit (looking at you second half of LUKE CAGE season one) but comes nowhere near the highs the same studio has produced for us up until this point. It’s just a missed opportunity on something that should have been the slam-dunk focus of the show, which brings us to the real deal….
IRON FIST #1Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Mike Perkins
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
This time around we’re playing the reintroduction and reinvention card with Danny since he’s, y’know, been around for nearly forty-five years. Not a novice coming to grips with his powers but a full-fledged badass who is flailing around with the loss of them. Playing off the destruction of K’un Lun in IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON (which I admittedly did not know about because I’m both a bad Iron Fist fan and not much of a Kaare Andrews one), writer Ed Brisson and artist Mike Perkins are taking Danny Rand down a darker, more desperate path as he struggles with loss of access to the Iron Fist power well in the aftermath. The Champion of K’un Lun has no city to defend and no power to defend anyone beyond his normal means of fist and feet of fury and it is weighing on him. So he’s traveling the world taking that burden out on fighter after fighter hoping, I assume, that he’ll rekindle the lost power of the Iron Fist by channeling all the ultra-violence he can muster, but to no avail.
Ironically, this first issue for this volume and creative team is kind of working in opposite world from the Iron Fist show I just spent a couple thousand words being wishy-washy on due to it being somewhat plot light but kicking a whole lot of ass. But, that’s fine, because it shows that first and foremost Brisson and Perkins understand that the Iron Fist, even without said Fist, is a hero that kicks ass first and then finds a blend of practicality and ass-kicking second when just kicking ass doesn’t solve the problem up front. With the problem identified up front and then all the asses being kicked not resolving the central conceit of being cut off from his powers, we then move onto the glimmer of hope that is Danny encountering a very talented fighter named Choshin. Choshin plays up Danny’s ability and desperation by fighting him mostly to a standstill but then promising a glimmer of hope at the end of a rainbow of haymakers and thrust kicks that Danny has been chasing thus far. One ominous boat ride later and it looks like Danny is about to be neck deep in mystical cities again.
Basically, there isn’t too much to say about this debut, as it is a case of the creative team showing that they understand the essence of an IRON FIST story: Danny Rand kicking a lot of ass, a mystical power and city and some sort of struggle involving the two, and promises of a grand adventure featuring it all. I honestly have not read really anything by Ed Brisson before this but it’s obvious he wanted to write the book and have it do what the Iron Fist do. Likewise, Mike Perkins has always been a top tier artist with a hell of an eye for detail and expression in his line work and in this issue shows off a great action presence with all the fury flying panel to panel. This new number one may be an overall breezy affair given the emphasis for action over plot, but it still strikes true in selling the team as the right fit for the character and book. It cements a better feel for the character of Danny Rand and how he copes (or fails to) with what life throws at him in twenty pages than the TV show featuring the same character did in approximately twelve hours.
Both medium renditions have to show me a little more, but I’m a lot more confident in what this book is going to deliver in three weeks as a follow up than what the live action Danny Rand will look like in a few months when THE DEFENDERS hits, but both are still high on potential. In the case of this comic, I just need the story to go with the action, show wise I’m hoping that Finn Jones has done nothing but live and breathe Kung Fu training between shoots. This isn’t as overall an exciting time as I thought it would be to be a fan of the awkward yet oddly charming Cracker who Kung Fu’s with the best of them, but if this book progresses like it promises to and Finn Jones and the show runners of the TV show adaptation learn from their mistakes before the next outing, this could still turn out to be a banner, break out year for the little Fist that could and who has spent almost his entire existence in the C-tier.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
AMERICAN GODS #1Story/words: Neil Gaiman
Script: P. Craig Russell
Art: Scott Hampton
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Neil Gaiman is a legend in the literary world. From comics to novels, Gaiman is a true master when it comes to storytelling. I’ve read quite a few of Gaiman’s comics such as THE SANDMAN (obviously) and MARVEL 1602. And while I’ve read Gaiman’s STARDUST, I never really got into any of his other novels. Because of that, I know very little about AMERICAN GODS, outside of the fact it was an award winning novel for Gaiman.
That novel has now been turned into a comic series and it is being published by Dark Horse. The release of the AMERICAN GODS comic coincides with the TV series of the same name, which is set to premiere on the Starz network on April 30th. I recently saw a trailer for the show which is created for TV by screenwriter Bryan Fuller (WONDERFALLS, PUSHING DAISIES) and screen/comic book writer Michael Green (HEROES, SUPERGIRL). The trailer is the perfect combination of weird and amazing. It also has me really excited to check out the show, which could be a Game of Thrones type of hit for the Starz Network if it’s as good as it looks. The trailer also got me interested in checking out the comic, AMERICAN GODS #1.
For those who don’t know, in the AMERICAN GODS story mythical creatures and gods exist because the people in the real world believe in them. In the story, Old Gods like Odin, Thoth, and Anansi exist in real life. But so do new goods like the god of computer/internet, the goddess of television, and the gods of the stock market. It’s a really interesting combination of folklore both old and new.
The comic is written by both Gaiman and P. Craig Russell (ELRIC, NIGHT MUSIC) with art by Scott Hampton (BATMAN, SIMON DARK). Both Russell and Hampton have worked with Gaiman before and the familiarity clearly shows. Russell has previously adapted Gaiman’s CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK into graphic novels. Hampton has previously worked on Sandman. The main story has the artwork by Hamilton and the “Somewhere in America” sequence at the end has the artwork by Russell. Like their previous work with Gaiman, this book looks fantastic.
As far as the story, the first issue focuses on Shadow Moon, who is serving the final days of this prison term. Shadow is left out a few days early when his wife dies unexpectedly. On his trip home, he has a strange vision while he’s sleeping and then comes across the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who has a job offer for him. This first issue fits a lot of text/story into it and really serves as an introduction to our main characters. I’m sure the novel gives you much more depth, but the first issue really works in terms of setting up the story. While Shadow is in jail, the pacing is slow and deliberate. You truly sense the storm is coming and the first issue does a great job at establishing Shadow as a character. It also gives you just enough of a taste of what’s to come.
The “Somewhere in America” sequence at the end of the book focuses on the character Bilquis the Queen of Sheba. She’s portrayed as a prostitute whose vagina devours her client. The tone of the book shifts drastically at the end and it makes it very clear that some crazy stuff is about to happen in terms of the adventures of Mr. Shadow Moon.
After reading issue #1 of AMERICAN GODS and researching what the story is about, I am extremely disappointed in myself that I never read the novel. I give the first issue 5 out of 5 buffaloes. Part of me still wants to read the novel, however I hate reading a book after I’ve already seen the show/movie. And since I will probably see the show before I get around to reading it (although I don’t have STARZ, so who knows), I may be out of luck. Regardless, I suggest checking out AMERICAN GODS in your preferred medium. If you prefer your stories in comic book form, check out the comic. If you prefer the novel, then read the novel.
SUPER SONS #2Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Fucking Peter Tomasi, man. Do you think I want to be doing this? Do you think I want to be here, gearing up to spend roughly nine hundred words praising a book about the goddamn kids of Batman and Superman? The only thing that trumps my love of The Caped Crusader and The Man of Steel in life is my hatred of all children everywhere. I’ve arranged my entire life so that I encounter as few of them as possible in the every day world, saving me hundreds, potentially thousands, of dollars in antibiotics to combat all their germs and lawsuits for slapping their parents for not corralling them properly. But here we are, talking about a book featuring the not even a teenager son of Superman and the sociopathic son of The Bat, and feeling as dirty about it as I have anything in recent memory, like when I recently had to admit to myself I was actually enjoying a rendition of Archie where he’s so super cool he’s banging his music teacher and Luke Perry is his dad.
Now, part of my enjoyment of this book should be no surprise; Peter Tomasi’s rendition of Damian Wayne is responsible for probably 95% of the best material and personality development of the character since his reintroduction into the canon, holy shit, about a decade ago (he types as his joints suddenly ache about 50% more than normal). Between this book and his run on SUPERMAN since REBIRTH, Tomasi seems to be making the sole case for the tiny Jonathan Kent as a struggling, coming of age Superboy who is as timid and awkward as he is potentially powerful. That’s why he makes such a great companion character to the bold and brash Damian; they’re such an odd couple of different unchecked emotions that their differing and defining traits that it creates a special brand of mischief they get each other into and out. And in this issue that trouble comes in the form of Kid Amazos and breaking into LexCorp.
Lex Luthor makes the absolute best adult foil for this adolescent Dynamic Duo. He’s the ultimate stick up the pooper adult for them to bounce off of while Damian puts his arrogance on full display and Jonathan constantly laments being dragged along with his special brand of crazy. And somehow their constant bickering and one upsmanship never steps into the land of irritating because of just how well Tomasi’s script plays off their dichotomous personalities. Every time Damian’s braggadocio gets the better of him typically Jonathan makes him look dumb with a bit of that Superman “folksiness” and common sense. Anytime Jonathan starts to get a bit irritating with his whining or apprehension, Damian puts him in a (usually hilarious) put up or shut up situation or just gives him the old “shut up, we’re superheroes” pep talk. It’s just a constant barrage of entertainingly clashing temperaments and over-the-top situations that ends up being more endearing than a devout tiny person hater such as myself wants to admit.
Jorge Jimenez is not just another in the long line of Jiminez’s in the industry making it impossible to keep up with (and rivaling the amount of Moore’s there are as well), but he’s the perfect artistic choice for this series. His line style just bursts with energy befitting a book featuring all the ADD you’d expect out of highly trained and super powered juveniles. Everything is on point from an expressiveness standpoint and how Jimenez’s tendency to over exaggerate with his line work helps drive the hyperactive nature of these two super kids. It also hits home perfectly personality aspects like Damian’s cockiness or Jonathan’s apprehension with perfect facial and body ticks, let alone sell the comedic timing of some of their little clashes. All in all it ties up a package that I shouldn’t be surprised is as good as it is given the talent involved but exceeds all expectations for a sad, bitter man as myself who is almost on a Henry Gyrich level of disdain for these guttersnipe.
AVATAREX #3Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Edison 'Manu' George
Publisher: Graphic India
Reviewer: Masked Man
First off, to make it clear, Grant Morrison is actually writing this comic for Graphic India. Unlike 18 DAYS, which he just set-up for them. In some ways, AVATAREX is the sequel to 18 DAYS. You see, Avatarex is the god Vishnu in a 'human' avatar form. The belief goes that Vishnu will come to Earth ten times. Depending on who you are counting as avatars, he will appear one more time (Avatarex) and his last appearance was as Krishna, in 18 DAYS.
Of course, Grant Morrison messing around with India mythology is just an awesome idea. Relatively speaking, India mythology is crazier than most. And something Morrison can totally dig into and serve up as fresh and original for us westerners here. As seen in Marvel's THOR movies (although Morrison beat them here), Morrison turns the supernatural and magic of the myth into super, tech-out, science. As Vishnu hangs out in a crazy space station, and more.
Getting into the plot, with spoilers. Avatarex has been awoken for Earth's final cycle/age (when Shiva will dance, waking up Brahma, destroying all of creation- which was Brahma's dream). But something went wrong, and Avatarex has been activated too soon. There are no Armageddon armies for him to fight. So instead he slips into the role of superhero. To make matters worst, he is bonded to a human. Someone he must make physical contact with every 24 hours (how Silver Age is that!), and he must, more or less obey that person. As they are his mortal council, in this mortal world. This person is also a moron and a loser, Varun Chandra. This issue has Varun trying to use Avatarex to win a bet at a bar. Hopping to win a date with the “Daisy Dukes” wearing bartender. Avatarex is dumbfounded, and he's even more dumbfound when he loses the arm wrestling match! It turns out the arm wrestling old man is a left over from a former age, and quite possibly another avatar of Vishnu (only Morrison knows for sure). He warns Avatarex that the world is not ready from him, and he might break it if he is not careful. Even worse, Vishn's super arsenal has been broken into, and there is no telling what these super-weapons will do. Although, we get a taste as the issue comes to a close.
This is just a really cool issue. I love how Morrison takes this simple tale of Varun being the petty dork that he is, and uses it to unleash a ton of mystery, and spark off a ton of b@d@$$ery. I can't wait to see how this all plays out.
Morrison is joined by a new artist “Manu”, for this issue. And the first thing that jumped out at me was how much this guy tries to mimic David Finch. To his credit he can draw like a son-of-a-b!t. So fair every artist on AVATAREX has been quite impressive. Unfortunately, I got to give him bad marks on story telling. His layouts are so bad at times, it's like he's mimicking comic book drawing, without fully understanding it. But to be fair, it's decent work though. If he ever does get a good grip on storytelling, look out. This guy will be dynamite!
So as 18 DAYS is struggling to be a good comic, AVATAREX is just building steam, like a freight train! Anyone into epic plot driven stories should be giving this series a shot. It should be a hell of a lot of fun!
REBELS “THESE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES” #1Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
During my brief stint working the retail side of things at my local comic book store, (shout out to JAF Comics in Bethlehem, PA!) I used to tell new customers thinking about getting into comics that there was a book out there for everyone. Simply put, if you enjoy reading, there is a comic book out there that is perfect for you.
Like the Three Stooges? Well there’s a comic from American Mythology. Are you into roller derby? Then check out the comic SLAM from Boom Studios. Do you love Conan the Barbarian and are also a huge fan of 44th President of the United States? Well Devil’s Due Publishing put out a BARACK THE BARBARIAN comic back in 2009… You get my point. Me? Well I can't get enough when it comes to learning more about world history. In fact one of my favorite things to do is watch old history documentaries on Netflix. From American history, to documentaries on the hermit kingdom of North Korea, I enjoy it all.
So naturally when a good historical fiction comic book series comes around, I check it out. One of my favorite recent series was Brian Wood’s first REBELS run, which was published by Dark Horse Comics in April 2015. I really enjoyed Wood’s passion project which focused around America’s first militia and our country’s fight for independence. Sadly however I didn’t see many people, at least at my shop, subscribing or talking about it. Which is a shame because I thought it really was a fantastic historical series. However the series did well enough to get a second series called REBELS: THESE FREE AND INDPENDENT STATES.
This second series is again written by the talented Brian Wood (DMZ, BRIGGS LAND) who is one of my favorite comic book writers. DMZ was a great story and BRIGGS LAND is only going to get more popular once the TV show comes out on the AMC network. In addition to the first REBELS, Wood also wrote NORTHLANDERS for DC/Vertigo, which are fictional stories set in and around the Viking Age. Writing good historical fiction stories is right in Wood’s wheelhouse.
In REBELS: THESE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES #1, we see Seth Abbott who fought to win America’s independence in the original REBELS run. This time however, it’s his son John Abbott who will be the main focus of this new series. It’s also now 1794, and while Americahas gained its independence it still faces many threats including aggression from the British and ships being destroyed at sea.
We get to see Alexander Hamilton argue for a putting together a US navy while fighting with the Federalists, who do not support establishing one. You don’t learn as much about certain parts of American history as you do others; and the establishing of the first US Navy is one that falls is the “lesser known” categories. In this series, Seth’s son John is going to play a major part of the building of America’s first navy, which will have been set up by Congress’s Naval Act of 1794.
The artwork is by Andrea Mutti (CONTROL, DAKEN DARK WOLVERINE) with colors by Lauren Affe (FIVE GHOSTS, THE REVISIONIST). Mutti did the art on the original REBELS and his work here is just as good, if not better. The first panel you see when you open the book is of the American merchant vessel Anne Talbot being destroyed off the Barbary Coast, and it looks incredible from both a color and art perspective. Like the first series, Mutti does a great job making the comic book feel like the 1700’s and he has a keen eye for detail when it comes to the period.
You won’t need to have read the first REBELS series to enjoy this book; however you may enjoy the series a little more if you have. I do really appreciate the continuity in terms of both the story and the artwork. If you’re an American history buff, this comic (and the first series) is a must read. I give it 5 out 5 USS Constitutions!
FUTURE QUEST #11Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Evan “Doc” Shaner
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Anyway, DC's only Hanna-Barbera series that actually looks like the Hanna-Barbera shows is coming to a close. Just one more issue left, as the epic climax kicks off in this issue.
First off it's nice to see Doc Shaner step back into the artist chair. I hope he finishes off the last issue as well. While not a perfect artist, he is very good and much stronger than many of the fill-in artists on this series (of course, I'm not talking about Steve Rude!). In this issue, it seems he's gone the extra mile. As even the blob Omnikron looks cooler here than it has in the past ten issues.
Bringing you all up to speed, with spoilers: So an intergalactic threat, Omnikron (a big blob creature, a bit like Parallax from Ryan Reynolds' GREEN LANTERN movie), absorbs every living being on a planet, then burns off massive to create worm holes. This is how it travels to another planet, to repeat the process. The next planet on it's diet, Earth. As it was testing Earth out, Dr. Quest and Dr. Zin (the greatest minds on Earth) got involved. Soon other Earth heroes got involved too: Birdman, the new Mightor, the new Frankenstein Junior, and the Impossibles. Omnikron on Earth also drew the attention of cosmic heroes, who failed to totally defeat Ominkron in the past: Space Ghost and the Herculoids. So over these passed ten issues, everyone has been slowing coming together, even Dr. Zin and the Quests are now working together. For the final showdown, they plan to trap Omnikron in the Grand Canyon, tamper with it's mind, so it won't escape, and then destroy it for good. But the mind tampering backfires and it seems Omnikron is taking control of our heroes’ minds!
While this series has been a bit rough on the edges (hey, bring all these characters together in a single shared universe is a herculean feat alone), Parker has done a great job of it (the late great Darwyn Cooke helped out in the planning stages too). Seriously, any fan of these cartoons should be picking this up. Parker didn't try to rewrite these characters or change them, to make them more culturally relevant or anything. He just ran with them. Although there are some changes: Mightor (is a new legacy hero for modern day), Frankenstein Jr. (new body, built by the Mom), the Impossibles added a new member, and they are reality stars as well. But most of it is to fit everyone together, so it's forgivable.
Overall, Parker is just writing a superhero comic book the way they used to be written. Heroes overcoming impossible odds to save the day, with flare and excitement. Each character has had nice character moments and nice action moments. While the blob of Omnikron can be less than interesting at times (or at least I'm not much of a fan of blob villains), Parker has still managed to keep the action interesting. As I've mentioned before, my only storytelling complaint is, they needed a frick'n who's who in the back for new readers (like what DC's Young Animal series are doing). Even though Parker does a great job introducing each character, it's just that there are so many of them.
Now, for all you non-fans of these geezer cartoons, I still recommend you try it. It's a really nice action and adventure book, and each hero has a cool concept. Which Parker and Shaner make sure to showcase.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (2005-2007)Writer: Mark Wade
Art: Barry Kitson
Publisher: DC Comics
Guest Reviewer: Saint Saucey
What am I doing reviewing a 12 year old book? The truth is there wasn't a book out this month that I wanted to review that wasn't already taken. (I presume) I am looking forward to discussing SUPER SONS #2 in the talk back along with WILDSTOPRM #2 and the latest issue of GREEN ARROW. I know certain members of the podcast have expressed a strong disinterest in all forms of the Legion Of Super-Heroes so this is my attempt to sway them.
I love the art in this series Kitson's cover of #1 gives us our first introduction of some of the members. Brainiac 5 front in center with Element Lad and Princess Projectra to the left and Ultraboy and Chameleon to the right. Light Lass, Karate Kid and Phantom Girl all appear in the logo. Kitson will ape this cover two more times over the course of his tenure as the books artist with alternate members of the team.
This run of the LEGION is affectionately known as the three-boot. It spun off of the TEEN TITANS/LEGION SPECIAL (Nov 2004). I'm not certain, but this may have been the first #1 issue I picked up when it originally came out. I was still very new into comics. As you can see the logo was still the one DC had used since 1976. I was quite upset when they debuted the following logo later that year. Little did I know it would get worse.
I still remember picking issue this up at Comic Carnevale West (r.i.p.) in Indianapolis. I either didn't have a working car or license (maybe both) because my dad drove me there and back home. Now a days my dad despises my comic habit. He calls it an addiction. He's probably right but my bills get paid so what's he care. I read this first issue on the way home sitting in the passenger seat and remember being extremely pissed because the issue had a huge mistake on page 7 and then again on page 10.
The book opens with a history of war. The Romans in a full page panel on page one. What looks like Robin Hood and Joan of Ark in two separate panels on page 2, then on page three, three panels. Jesse Owens at the Olympics, Sergeant Rock and the DC heroes fighting an epic battle. But then all war ends and in the 31st century for 3 generations all they have known is security, stability and order. And the Legion are so sick of it they could scream.
That may be the books one flaw, the idea of being bored of order. And in fact there isn't really order. There are still criminals being pursued by the Science Police but the Legion aren't willing to sit by. They want to help in their own special way. Dawning capes and cowls they are the cowboys of the 31st century.
On the bottom of page 7 comes the first flaw. Amidst a conversation about the Legion between two men communicating via video messenger there is a stray word balloon that seems to be sliding off the page.
But if you look closer it's not a stray. The word balloons are distinguished buy the white balloon comic from the person in the room and the blue kind of static-y balloon being used to portray speech coming from the person on the view screen. The problem is the stray balloon is white and repeats the text from the blue static balloon in the same panel. Clearly some slacker editor hadn't done his job.
But in the very next panel on page two more bubbles sliding off the page repeating the conversation we see on the other side of the panel. We get an explanation in the following panel. The two men are in the same room communicating via video screen. It seems in the 31st century it is seen as uncouth to communicate face to face even while in the same room. And that was where this book hooked me. Because as prescient as that was when you look at the youth of today. Even back then it struck a cord. I can recall being in my bed room and communicating with my mom in the living room via instant messenger. We lived a one story house. She was 3 rooms away. It was just simpler. Now a days of I am in a crowded room of 5 or more people I have no compunction against sending one of them a text to avoid the awkwardness of breaking the flow of conversation for personal needs. It's just easier. Being new to comics back then I wasn't aware they could have a message that wasn't punch the bad guys and send them to prison.
The book too a chance by not actually showing the Legion in action till page 12. We get a nice single page splash of 6 members of the team taking down a giant robot. Shadow Lass, Colossal Boy, Light Lass, Ultra Boy, Sun Boy and Star Boy (the token black character) The heroes take a few science police helmets and the giant robot head back to their base as trophies all the way engaging in witty banter.
On arriving to their not so secret base surrounded by 1000s of adoring fans, the team meets the newest member. Invisible Kid. An earthling who gave him self powers and was recruited by Brainiac 5. He gets introduced to the team and the head quarters while the leader deals with politics from paper pushers. In today's politically charged climate it is hard to believe this book wasn't more popular. It covers war, politics, perception, media blackouts. It encourages the youth to question authority and to fight for what they believe is right. And that's just in issue one. Hit has humor and whit. It has a f*ck you moment near the end and then a touching wrap up at the very end of the book.
It could have ended there and been a great one shot. But it continued to dazzle me while exploring the members’ origins and machinations for thirteen more issues before being converted to Super-girl and the Legion Of Super-Heroes during the 1 year later push post INFINITE CRISIS. The book lasted 21 issues under that title with Tony Bedard taking over on issue 31 and writing 6 issues before being replaced by Jim Shooter after Supergirl got sent back to her own time line. We got 15 issues by Jim Shooter and Francis Manapul and John Livesay . The series ended with issue #50, in which the script was credited to "Justin Thyme", a pseudonym previously used by uncredited comic book artists.
The numbering never waivers so it's LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1-15, SUPERGIRL & THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #16-36 and LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #37-50. 37-50 is such a sharp change in tone and art it killed my interest in the book and I am pretty sure I dropped it before it wrapped up.
Okay I've rambled on for far too long. If you like politics and drama. If you like teen super hero books. If you like cool costumes and corny code names. Give this book a go. Scour the back issue bins at your local comic shop or half priced books for these fairly cheap, easy to find issues. At least the 36 issues and the Titans/Legion launch special. Unless you are an old fogey
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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