Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Punching The Clock and Terrorbads

One of the reasons I started this blog was to get the opportunity to showcase comics you, dear reader, should check out.  Sometimes, those comics will come from friends of mine.  So you could call this a plug, but these are regular webcomics from some of my friends back in my beloved Traverse City, Michigan.

If you're thinking "where?", well, after I say "shame on you," I would point you to northwestern lower Michigan and the beautiful aforementioned area where TC sits.  And don't look now, Traverse City is becoming a positive force in the world of comics through its ever-growing Cherry Capital Con and now its budding comic talent.  Seriously, the Traverse City Film Festival has gotten bigger in each of the seven years it's been going.  The Cherry Capital Con has been growing since its inception in 2009 and is someplace top talent wants to go for a stellar convention experience.

So speaking of talent, three friends of mine who reside there have joined forces to produce two very funny webcomics.  From writer Rob Humphrey and artist Jeff Manley comes Punching The Clock, about what it's like to work in a big box retail store and oh, can I identify with that.  Follow new guy Ryan as he is shown the ropes by grizzled vet Jeff, who may or may not have lost his hold on his sanity from working in said big box retail store.  Pop culture references galore, which I always enjoy, and a snappy sense of humor highlight this strip.

Then, from writer Chris Meeuwes and artist Manley comes Terrorbads, a strip about the most unlikely group of supervillains trying to make their mark on the world.  They're just not very good at it.  Bizarre character design and an underdog appeal make this a series to watch.  Will they work well together?  Will they break out of prison?  The series is up to ten issues now, so it's a great time to catch up and see how main character Mick fits in with the other supervillain "wannabes."  You can catch Terrorbads at the Two for One Comics site along with The Bait and Filler Friday.  Keep your eye on these two writers and on artist Manley, whose clean lines deliver a lot of comedy and expression - you know exactly what each character is thinking or feeling.

This won't be the last time I feature Traverse City in my column, whether it's about what the city offers or about my friends there.  And I can tell you, in the realm of comics, keep an eye on this area.

Until next time, folks, happy reading!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whoa, Animal Man and The Shade

Y'know, the DC Comics reboot has spawned some pretty good titles, but two I'm absolutely thrilled to have picked up are Animal Man and The Shade.  Two completely different ends of the spectrum, two great examples of writing/art chemistry.

Animal Man is written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman, bringing us the new adventures of someone familiar with the weird in the world, Buddy Baker a.k.a. the titular Animal Man.  Long story short, Buddy can tap into the morphogenetic field and take on the abilities of any animal.  Say he needs the strength of an elephant.  Done.  Maybe he needs to fly like a bird.  Done.  Quickness of a fly.  Done.  You get the picture.  Animal Man's always had one foot in the stranger adventures of the DC Universe - as when he was written by Grant Morrison - and he's experienced some more light-hearted journeys in the Justice League.  At the core of Buddy Baker's life is his family, the most important thing he knows.  That's also at the core of the new series.  When Buddy experiences strange bleeding and suddenly-appearing tattoos, he's concerned, but hey, he's a superhero.  Comes with the territory.  When his daughter begins displaying a new, disturbing power (controlling dead animals) and he has horrifying dreams, Buddy knows something has to be done.  What he doesn't know is that the demonic, scary-as-hell Hunters Three are on his trail as he and Maxine set off to find something called The Red using the tattoos as a map.

Lemire, who writes the critically-acclaimed Sweet Tooth, scores huge with Animal Man.  It's superhero adventure meets horror with the tale of a family struggling to be normal at the center.  Foreman's art is perfect for the tone of the series, subtle when it has to be, terrifyingly disturbing when it needs to be.  This series is going to be one strange ride.

The Shade is set to be a 12-issue limited series but the way it began, I'm thinking 12 issues won't be enough.  Writer James Robinson, who wrote the main character in his acclaimed Starman run, returns to familiar territory with the great artist Cully Hamner (who was the artist on Warren Ellis' RED, now a major motion picture).  The Shade is Richard Swift, a true Golden Age character created way back in the 40's to be a villain for the original Flash.  In Robinson's hands, Swift is neither hero nor villain, playing by his own rules - which usually place him on the side of the heroes.  He is intelligent, articulate, and can use shadows for his own purposes.  When this story opens, Swift has lost a little of that "spark" and is urged by his girlfriend, policewoman Hope O'Dare, to seek out an adventure.  And so he does, but there's something underlying that seems to be bothering him.  Something we don't know about yet.  While this is going on, German private detective and possible superhuman Von Hammer battles enhanced beings and discovers that The Shade is in trouble.  By the time the ending of the first issue comes around, a special guest villain appears and...well...I don't know how they're going to start the second  issue, but I can't wait.

Robinson can be a divisive writer.  A lot of people hated his turn on Justice League, but his work on the aforementioned Starman and the heartbreaking, realistic Golden Age are considered classic.  For what it's worth, I really enjoy his writing.  It's dramatic and gritty with affinity for the older characters.  Hamner's art is always pretty to look at.  His characters have distinctive appearances, and everything is laid out so perfectly.  The quiet scenes are just that, and the action sequences rival any big screen fare.

Two great titles and two of the best of what DC is doing with their reboot, in my opinion.  Can't wait to see what's in store.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Assessment of DC's New 52...At Least The 19 I Got

Arguably the biggest story in the world of comics over the last few months has been the "reboot" of the DC Universe.  Hoping to bring aboard new readers and give the continuity a shot in the arm, DC Comics put together a storyline (Flashpoint) that rewrote the universe, giving us younger characters, redone histories, and a fresh new setting.  It's been done several times before, with my first experience of the "reboot" being the amazing Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series from 1985.  Like that storyline, Flashpoint essentially reset the timeline, either erasing, condensing, or re-writing major events of the past.  I could write a whole blog or three about how this changes things, story- and character-wise, but I'll refrain...for now.  This entry's going to be more about what I thought about what I bought.

There were 52 new titles (hm, and 52 parallel universes in the DC Universe...but I digress) and I ended up with 19 of them.  Wish I could've gotten all 52, but it just didn't fall that way for me.  I'll grace you all with a capsule assessment of each title I picked up, little droppings from my brain that might compel you to go pick up a few.  Maybe more than 19, but that's your choice.

I'll list them in no particular order, title first with the writer/artist combo in parentheses. They're all #1's, so I'm not putting the numbers in...call me lazy.  And away we go...

Legion Lost (Fabian Nicieza/Pete Woods) Seven Legionnaires from the 31st century track a menace back to the 21st century and are stranded when their time sphere blows up.  Decent beginning but new readers might be lost on the Legion of Super-Heroes.  They're a great team, but admittedly not an easy thread to follow.  I always give writers props when they tackle the mythos.  Still, this might have some good potential.

Suicide Squad (Adam Glass/Federico Dallocchio/Ransom Getty) We're introduced to Task Force X, which has the unfortunate titular nickname.  I was a HUGE fan of John Ostrander's original Suicide Squad during the 80's so I usually will check it out whenever it's put out.  The book was an interesting way to introduce the characters, some familiar (Deadshot, Harley Quinn) and some not (Voltiac).  I'm intrigued about where they'll take the book, so I'll continue to pick it up.  Usually has a high body count as well, so it could get wacky.

Action Comics (Grant Morrison/Rags Morales/Rick Bryant) Superman as a younger man makes his mark in Metropolis as Lex Luthor makes plans to capture him for study.  If you don't know me, Morrison is my favorite comic writer so of course I'd pick this one up.  And it was very good.  Morrison loves writing Superman so this will get even better as it goes.  Definite pick up for the second issue.

Batgirl (Gail Simone/Adrian Syaf/Vincente Cifuentes)  Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl.  The mystery of how hasn't been revealed, as she was crippled after being shot in the spine by The Joker in Killing Joke (which happens in the new universe).  After fighting crime as information broker to the superheroes, Oracle, she's back in the Bat-family.  Loved the new villain, The Mirror.  Super-creepy with a relentless modus operandi and a just-back Batgirl.  Simone writing Batgirl is a sure-fire treat.

Justice League International (Dan Jurgens/Aaron Lopresti/Matt Ryan)  The United Nations puts together its own Justice League - one they can easily control - to investigate the disappearance of a team of scientists.  A very diverse group from multiple countries led by the easily-swayed Booster Gold and mentored by Batman (without UN approval), this has good potential.  Jurgens never wows me with writing, but he's solid and knows how to write good, entertaining stories.

Stormwatch (Paul Cornell/Miguel Sepulveda)  Stormwatch investigates a strange and gigantic horn that has signaled something ancient and angry, all while trying to recruit a massively powerful superhuman to their ranks.  I've been a longtime fan of Warren Ellis' version of Stormwatch/The Authority and I think I can trust Cornell to bring some good ol' weirdness to the title.  I'm hoping it pulls out all the stops.  Jury's still out on the artwork, though, but that's not a dealbreaker.

Justice League Dark (Peter Milligan/Mikel Janin)  Where one League operates in the light, this one not so much.  Gathering the weirdest, magic-based heroes together to face a mad Enchantress, Milligan might have a hidden gem here.  I mean, come on...a tornado made of teeth?  What's not to like about that?  I think this title will be loads of fun when it gets going.

Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang)  Princess Diana is a tough character to write apparently, but Azzarello gets off to a fantastic start here with a chilling tale that is going to pit Wonder Woman against powerful and depraved gods while protecting a young woman carrying the unborn child of...Zeus?  Definitely going to keep up with this one.

Aquaman (Johns/Ivan Reis/Joe Prado)  Johns strikes again with a really nice restart of Aquaman, who, I have to agree, never got the respect he deserves.  His powers are more complex than you think, and they cover that in a little segment during the issue.  Neat setup with the voracious creatures called The Trench as well.  This is another that will be fun to read.

Resurrection Man (Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning/Fernando Dagnino)  Mitch Shelley dies...a lot.  Every time he dies, he resurrects with a new power.  And it seems he's become the main attraction for a massive hunt for his soul and the target of two hot bounty hunters (The Body Doubles).  I trust "DnA" as a writing team, and they created Mr. Shelley, so I think this is headed in the right direction, too. 

Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder/Yanick Paquette)  One of the darlings of the first set of issues, and I can see why.  Snyder's crafted an eerie yet low-key beginning, and the art by Paquette is gorgeous.  Strange things are afoot, and what's this?  Alec Holland is not Swamp Thing...well, at this point...although he was...don't worry, it'll all come together nicely, I believe.  Plus, zombie flies and dead men walking with their heads turned backward...*brrrr*

Green Lantern:  New Guardians (Tony Bedard/Tyler Kirkham/Batt)  Set sometime in the past - I think - Kyle Rayner becomes a Green Lantern and is blamed for stealing several other color Lantern rings.  A pretty fair setup but I'm not sure I'll keep this one yet.  I may stick with a couple other Lantern books, but this one's not bad, just not up to par with the others I'll mention.  Still, a team with all the color Lanterns is pretty intriguing.

Red Lanterns (Milligan/Ed Benes/Rob Hunter)  The Red Lanterns are based on rage and are led by Atrocitus, and here we get some insight into his former life and present life as leader of the animalistic Red Lanterns.  It's interesting, but I'm not sure I'll keep up with it.  Love Milligan's writing, but I'm not sure it'll be enough to keep me on this one.

Green Lantern (Johns/Doug Mahnke/Christian Alamy)  Whaaaaat?  Sinestro re-instated as a Green Lantern?  Hal Jordan stripped of his ring?  Something's up with Sinestro's old crew, the Yellow Lanterns and Jordan tries to adjust to non-powered life.  Lots of fun, and with pretty art by one of my favorites in Mahnke.  Definitely a keeper.

Justice League (Geoff Johns/Jim Lee/Scott Williams)  The flagship title goes back five years to the formation of the League.  This beginning issue focuses on Green Lantern Hal Jordan meeting Batman for their first team-up to track down a creature that - and I really hope it goes somewhere - may be from Apokolips.  Another thing I love in comics:  Jack Kirby's Fourth World stuff.  Neat issue with sweet art from Lee, I'll keep this one for sure.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (Jeff Lemire/Alberto Ponticelli)  Indie darling Lemire shows he has great chops here as Frankenstein leads a super-team of monsters into a small town to rescue survivors of a demonic invasion.  Great script and I'm staying with this one, even if I'm not totally sold on the art yet.  But that won't stop me from picking it up.

Batman (Snyder/Greg Capullo/Jonathan Glapion)  Batman investigates grisly murders while Bruce Wayne proposes big changes for Gotham City.  Snyder goes two-for-two with another great book.  The ending sets up a bit of a shocker that will be interesting for the mega-detective to solve.  Great script here, too, along with some sweet art.

Green Lantern Corps (Peter J. Tomasi/Fernando Pasarin/Scott Hanna)  Guy Gardner and John Stewart try to adjust to their lives on Earth, then are made part of an investigative team sent to find out why Green Lanterns are being murdered.  Tomasi put together a fun script with a setup that will likely reveal some nasty villains, and I really enjoyed the art as well.  The second of the two GL books I'll likely keep.

Legion of Super-Heroes (Paul Levitz/Francis Portela)  Legionnaires touch down on a planet for an investigation while there's strife on the homefront.  This book got a lot of thumbs-down, but I actually thought it was OK.  Levitz knows the characters better than most and the art wasn't that bad.  I'm willing to give it a little more of a chance because I trust Levitz with these complex and numerous Legionnaires.

And there you have it:  my look at 19 of the 52 first issues of the rebooted DC Comics line.  There are some I'll end up dropping, and others I still want to read, but they were sold out.

I regret not putting these on the list right away:  Animal Man, O.M.A.C., Demon Knights, All-Star Western, and I, Vampire.  I'll check them out with reprints and update my thoughts on those.

All in all, a decent reboot.  I'm interested to see where they go with it.  Maybe in another write-up, I'll discuss the ramifications and random theories about the new look.  Is this a permanent thing?  Did you catch all the hints at a "back door" to the previous universe?  And how about that strange hooded woman who appeared in the last issue of Flashpoint appearing in EVERY single issue that came out?

Four-color me intrigued.

In the meantime, dear readers, go support your local comic book store and pick up a few of these titles...and titles from other companies.  Ain't gonna play favorites here...just buy some comics!  If you want to check out more from DC Comics, click the links on the sidebar and catch up on the news.

Stay heroic, people!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

...And A New Universe Is Formed

Or just a new blog.

Welcome to Born In The Silver Age, a place I hope will be a good, informative read for comic fans, old and new.  In this introductory piece, I'll offer up a look at what brought me to comics, where I presently blog other than here, and what I expect out of this little corner of the comics blogosphere.

I've been reading comics for a very, very long time.  Like the title of the blog says, I was born in 1967 during the Silver Age of Comics, which ran to around 1970.  I can remember reading comics as far back as 1973, immersing myself in the worlds of the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Justice League of America.  My reading skills advanced with adventures written by guys like Stan Lee, Jim Shooter, and Roy Thomas.  My eyes marveled at the power-packed lines drawn by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and George Tuska.  Comic books were worlds I would never leave.

I do write other blogs geared towards film, most notably my horror genre blog, The WGON Helicopter.  I often wrote about comics over there, but really felt like devoting an entire space to the medium I love so much.  Also keep an eye out for another blog to which I contribute, Cinema-Geek, a place where I was invited to join other horror bloggers to write about non-horror movies.  I have some other guest blogging opportunities down the pike, but I'll mention those more on the WGON Helicopter site.

As this blog begins, there are some ground rules and other tidbits I want to make clear:

*  I'm aware of how opinions can differ in the world of comic fandom.  If you don't like my opinion on something, there are two ways to handle it:  leave a respectful comment expressing your difference of opinion using friendly language with a courteous tip of the hat to my views, or - if you feel the urge to play Angry, Arrogant, and Rude Comic Book Fan - you can find another place to engage in mudslinging, poo-tossing, and other reindeer games of which I want no part.  This is a place to relax, a place to share thoughts on the world of comics, to share information, to say "oh, hey, you should read this"...and ultimately, it's my blog.  I reserve the right to write what I want to write about, to express my opinion on something, and to not approve comments or outright ban someone from leaving comments.  This is the same set of rules I have for my other blog and I'm happy to say there are some really great people who leave comments over there.  To sum up:  play nice at all times.

*  Basically, I tend not to bash things or people here.  I want to write about what I like.  There are plenty of critique sites out there who specialize in reviews that go both ways, positive and negative.  A great deal of them are well-thought-out and well-written.  This is another "Zen Master Dod" site:  positive energy, friends, positive energy all the way.  Unless I want to write about a wrong that needs attention...but I can't think of anything along those lines now.

*  I love reading new stuff.  If you have created a comic you'd like me to check out and review, get a hold of me.  I'd be happy to take a look at it and give an honest opinion about it.  If you want me to read something you enjoy, tell me about it.  Word of mouth is still a great tool in the world of comics.

There will likely be other guidelines, thoughts, and ideas I'll want to share, but to start off, that's good enough for now.  So welcome, dear readers and fellow comic book fans...sit back, relax, and pop open a fresh comic book.

Let's have some fun.