Whatever it Takes to Get 15 Minutes of Reading Time...

Whatever it Takes to Get 15 Minutes of Reading Time...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Book Reviews: Lightning Round Edition

I write music reviews for Blabbermouth.net, the CNN of heavy music.  Thus you can expect I have a lot to say when discussing an album as I do when profiling a lone comic book issue here.  I'm old school and write like the music journalists I read as a teenager.  Comic book reviewers, I've noticed, are chatty at-large, which is a good thing, assuming you can handle the risk of spoilers.  I love the passion involved to break down a 22-page body of work as painstaking as possible in the interest of celebrating this medium and its creators.

Still, I feel the need to challenge myself.  Brevity can work if you give enough of the goods to entice a reader or the very least be informative.  So let's put it to the test and have a lightning round review edition of new comic books hitting the market:

DKIII:  The Master Race  # 6
Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello
DC Comics

Does anybody really know where this eight part series is going?   Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello just might've bitten off more than they can chew here, or they might've been holding back all this time, waiting to dropkick their readers after a slow-cooker that's finally starting to boil.  It all seems subtly accountable to Batman v. Superman,  which of course hoisted some of its omelette-like plot to Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.  A lot of what's been presented to this point has been abandoned as the armor-plated, senior-aged Bats and Supes wage war (along with the denizens and police force of Gotham City) against the marauding Kandorian Quar and his band of Kryptonian hellraisers.  As a standalone, Issue 6 is pretty damned intense, yet it's all over with so quickly, even with the Lara-Diana scrum insert story.  Where the hell is the rehabbing Flash in all of this, and how much of a role does Carrie Kelley, escalated from the "female Robin," stand to play in the final two issues, which presumably blows the roof away?  Is Batman, with nothing to lose as an old fart, about to cross over, as the ending implies here?  Oh, wait, he still needs to be around in the future to train some kid with the last name of McGinnis to take over the mantle...

Rating:  7.5

DC Rebirth:  Aquaman  # 9
Dan Ebnett and Scott Eaton
DC Comics

If Greg Rucka wasn't kicking his peers' asses on Wonder Woman, this would the series to beat in DC Rebirth.  Dan Ebnett and Scott Eaton have been electrifying on this series and the rotating coloring and inks teams have sucked me down into the realm of the sea with their astounding grandeur.  "The Drowning" being one of the most epic story lines in modern Aquaman history, we find ourselves in "Unstoppable," as Arthur leads the forces of Atlantis against a seemingly impervious monstrosity set loose by the new Black Manta, who has usurped control of N.E.M.O.  While this plot rings alarm bells of a Doomsday in the sea, the differentiating factor has us forced to watch Aquaman take one hell of a beating in an effort to prove himself worthy independent of the Justice League.  He is, for all intents and purposes, estranged from them given prior events including a showdown against Superman in issue 6.  How Arthur wins the day despite the dogging protests of his man-at-arms, Murk, is a doozy.  This, and Wonder Woman  are my DC drug books, and the reason I don't balk at the capitalizing bi-weekly release schedule.

Rating:  8.5

Archie  # 13
Mark Waid and Joe Eisma
Archie Comics

Mark Waid is a man possessed.  How he goes from All-New, All-Different Avengers  to Champions  to Strange Fruit  to Archie  and the other titles he's responsible for is a lesson in commitment for all would-be comics creators.  Picking up the aftermath of Archie and Veronica's brutal separation in Issue # 12 of this stellar re-brand, the story focuses largely on Ronnie's assimilation into a boarding school in Switzerland, where she's set to cross paths with none other than the ruthless redheaded bombshell Cherry Blossom.  Waid writes their new-gen meeting as two reality t.v. stars from different seasons relocated across the seas.  What's been nice about Waid's interpretation of Veronica Lodge is how he's quickly evolved her from a rich girl snot into an empathetic creature who just so happens to have money.  Archie in this series has completely grounded Ronnie to this point and their agonizing pining for one another (along with Betty's disrupted life from her own affair with Sayid) is deeply moving.  The opening few pages of Archie going through the ruts imagining Veronica is still with him is wonderfully written.  With the introduction of Cherry, you just know nothing good's going to come about and sure enough, she's a royal bitch with designs on tearing Ronnie down as early as next issue.  Mark Waid has taken the core adolescence of the original series along with the maturing intrigue of The Married Life  and perfectly re-envisioned the series to the same effectiveness as Afterlife With Archie.  No zombies to be found here, but there's still no getting enough of Waid's hip new Riverdale.

Rating:  9

Han Solo  # 4
Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks
Marvel Comics

I've been on the fence with this series the whole time and I confess much of it has to do with the fact I always had  to be Han Solo during playtime in 1977.  Han's always been my man--may Kylo Ren burn in every single frame of Episode VIII.  I hold the character to such a high standard to the point I recall even snarling here and there while reading Brian Daley's Han Solo paperback trilogy from 1979 and '80, though through adult eyes, I admit Daley did a wonderful job.  I like the premise of Marvel's Han Solo.  I'm totally down with Han and Chewie running the dangerous Dragon Void race in the Millennium Falcon as subterfuge for a mission for the Rebel Alliance.  Princess Leia having minimal faith of success in Han, yet fighting the romantic urges swirling inside her, it's Star Wars  101 captured accurately.  We're in Issue 4 and Han has already made not one, but two points-of-contact while dodging obstacles that make a run through the hedge maze in The Shining  look like amateur hour.  Still, despite a run-in with the Imperials and a lesson in humility from the race's shining star, the four-armed, amphibious Loo Re Anno, I'm not feeling that edge that makes Han Solo the scruffy-looking, nerf-herding scoundrel he is.  Marjorie Liu knows when to drop the right spots of humor and the art team of Mark Brooks, Sonia Oback and Matt Milla create terrific backdrops and colorful character interplay.  I'm just not sure about that tiger-headed Dorae, much less who the real spy upon the rebellion is.  Whatev, I'm more interested in seeing how many parsecs its takes for Han and Chewie to dust Loo Re Anno.

Rating:  7

Peepland  # 1
Christa Faust and Gary Phillips
Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

I came to this title lured both Hard Case Crime, which released two of my favorite contemporary Stephen King novels outside of Under the Dome, Joyland  and The Colorado Kid.   Likewise, I was hooked by UK-based Titan Comics (aka Doctor Who Central), who has rapidly become one of the best indie publishers in the world with great stuff like Death Sentence, Sally of the Wasteland  and Tank Girl:  Two Girls, One Tank.  I'm always up for giving their books a shot and thus I tripped over Peepland.  Ironic I had heard The Tubes' "She's a Beauty" and Alcatrazz's "Stripper" the same day I grabbed the debut issue, since I firmly believe in kismet.  Cutting to the chase, Peepland  follows the misadventures of a Manhattan-based peep booth diva, Roxy, circa 1986.  Roxy has a suspicious videotape dumped upon her by a regular who ends up killed on the subway rails, victim of a group of goons trailing him.  The video in question appears to be a soft porn tape for Roxy and her reunited ex, Nick to grind to, but there's something amiss as the show rolls...an unintentional, real death scene.  Here's where we're left as the mystery behind Peepland  begins.  The first issue is vulgar (as are most of the Titan books I've dived into) and focused mostly on exposition until the shock drop at the end.  I'm feeling cautiously optimistic where this thing's headed.

Rating:  7.5

DC Rebirth:  Superman  # 8
Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke
DC Comics

Alright, so Issue # 9 came out this week, I know, I know.  There's only so many hours in a day.  I feel compelled to flag the eighth issue following what was the most wonderfully simplistic Superman story I'd read in ages, "Our Town" in Issue 7.  I don't know how everyone else feels, but I'm loving the maturation of this new Super-fam Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have gestated.  This is everything we'd hoped for in a marriage between Lois Lane and Superman.  Jon is exactly the prodigal son DC needed in order to raise a believable Superboy-in-the-making--particularly since he has the real Man of Steel (at least an alternate world's version) for a papa.  The series' opening battle with The Eradicator was decent, but more absorbing for the development of this lovable family.  "Our Town" gave Clark Kent a purported day off, spent with his family at a local state fair with the promise of no crime busting.  The punchline was delicious and Lois' reaction a gut-buster.  So when "Escape From Dinosaur Island Part 1" dropped in Issue 8, I'll admit to feeling flat about it.  There have been enough scraps against dinos in Superman's life that I was automatically skeptical about this issue.  I shouldn't have worried.  In fact, I was downright jubilant by the last page.  The story is equally simplistic as Issue # 7 and that put me into a secure place as a reader:  Jon's goofed science project sends himself and his dad into a war-torn version of Dinosaur Island.  Superman and his child continue to learn how to work together as they're attacked by giant fish and pterodactyls, all the while finding remnants and corpses from a huge battle, circa World War II.   What took my breath away was the primary casualties on Dinosaur Island was The Losers!  If you grew up reading war comics like Sgt. Rock  and The Losers, you no doubt had a geek out moment as I did here.  K, excuse me now, gotta read Issue 9 pronto.

Rating:  8

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