Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin team-up for the Hard Case Crime series’ first graphic novel, Normandy Gold.
A love-letter to 70’s thrillers, this six-issue miniseries reads just like you’d expect — hard hitting, hard drinking, and completely over the top. In short, it’s a blast…if you’re in the right frame of mind for it.
When her stripper sister goes missing, Normandy Gold heads to D.C. to find out what really happened. What she finds is a vortex of lies, deceit, and underhand dealings that extend the highest levels of power.
A fun, entertaining ride that reminds me of just what it is about the Hard Case Crime series I enjoy so much.
Collecting a dozen or so issues of the original run of The Amazing Spider-Man, this may represent the most memorable stories of the Gerry Conway era. Starting off with the epic two-part story that “changed comics forever,” “The Night Gwen Stacey Died” set a new tone for the Peter Parker and his secret identity. It’s one of the few comic book deaths (outside of Uncle Ben) that has really stuck, though Marvel has certainly tried to mess with this by having clones of Gwen come back and then later revelations that Gwen and Norman Osborne were hooking up while she was off in London.
The two part story that features the end of Gwen and the original Green Goblin has been retold and given homage in multiple re-tellings of the Spider-Man story. But few are better than what Conway does in these two issues. Knowing the ending allows you to sit back and really examine how Conway and the creative team on ASM toyed with readers of the day, building up and foreshadowing the two major deaths to come.
As if that monumental two-part saga weren’t enough, we also get the introduction of the Punisher to the Marvel-verse and the Jackal to the Spider-verse. And both of these introductions occur in the same issue. The sad part is that said issue isn’t necessarily much to write home about. The Punisher is an interesting force to be reckoned with, but in his debut, he’s pretty much a one-note character. The backstory that we associate with the character comes later. Continue reading
When the best thing you can say about a comic book cross-over event is — well, at least the art was nice, you know something isn’t quite working. Or maybe that this particular cross-over event isn’t your cup of tea.
Collecting the six-issue run of Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War, this limited run series is not two great tastes that taste great together. In one reality, the Green Lantern corp has just been wiped out by some evil force. Rings of various colors hop over to the JJ Trek verse and assign themselves to familiar faces in the final frontier.
Adventure ensues. Along the way, there’s a massive battle between all the various colors of the spectrum and the planet Vulcan comes back from the dead, complete with zombie Vulcans.
And yet for all of this, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d arrived late for the party and missed some important details that reduced my enjoyment of this crossover event. It could be that my familiarity with Green Lantern is limited to what I’ve seen in the DC cartoons and the big screen version of the character with Ryan Reynolds. I hope that those who are more versed in Lantern lore will get more of seeing why various rings chose certain characters that I missed here. And I suppose if I recognized any of the Green Lantern pantheon of foes beyond Sinestro, I might have felt a bit more drive and drama to the battle to save the universes.
Instead, what I felt for much of this collection (beyond the first issue) was confused and uninterested. The third issue does little more than tread water as we set up things for the return of zombie Vulcan and Scotty inventing his own power ring.
In all honesty, I can’t necessarily recommend this one to a casual fan. It feels like we’ve got a shoehorning of the JJ-verse Star Trek characters into a Green Lantern event mini-series. And it’s one that left me as cold as General Chang’s bones in space at the end of this story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this comic book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
View all my reviews
Sure she can leap tall buildings in a single bound and defeat deadly ninjas, but what about things like accidentally shrinking your cape in the wash or leaving your mask on and accidentally revealing your secret identity by the tanlines it leaves? Or how about trying to find the money for rent or sitting in the shadow of your big brother, Kevin, who also has superpowers?
These are just some of the dilemmas facing Katie aka Superhero Girl.
This collection of comics following her adventures is a pure delight. Faith Erin Hicks strips are clever, skillfully rendered and, best of all, funny. As Superhero Girl struggles with the quest to find love all while trying to defeat space aliens, ninjas and her self-appointed nemesis, Hicks tells an entertaining story but also offers up some sneaky commentary — both on the nature of comic book superheroes and social commentary.
In the end, it’s a funny collection that left me wanting to spend more time in this world. Luckily, I’ve found that there are more strips featuring Katie and her adventures on-line.
In anticipation of the upcoming Avengers sequel, I decided to delve a bit into the comic book history of Ultron and his battles with the Avengers.
So when I saw my local library had a collected edition called “The Age of Ultron” I figured it might be a good starting point to get ready for the upcoming film.
Four-hundred or so pages and more issues than I can count later, I can only hope that Joss Whedon isn’t using this as inspiration from the upcoming film.*
*Based on the trailers I don’t think this is an issue, but you never know.
Comprising a ten issue mini-series and various one-offs featuring various parties battling against an army of Ultrons, this convoluted story drops readers in once the destruction has happened and the Earth is in the hands of our robotic Ultron overlords. As a last ditch solution, the team sends Wolverine and Sue Storm back in time to take out Hank Pym and prevent him from invented Ultron in the first place. Continue reading
The X-Files: Year Zero
Between Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files and news that Fox is getting ready to re-open The X-Files, my interest in one of my favorite shows has been renewed. I’ve read a couple of the season ten installments of this new comic series and felt they were hit or miss. So I approached this collection of the five-issue series focusing on the establishment of the famous X-Files with an open mind.
As Mulder and Scully look into a case in the current time-line, we’re given flashes back to the beginnings of the case and the two FBI agents assigned to investigate it. It’s a fairly entertaining, well told little story that checks a lot of boxes for continuity fan and is full of Easter eggs for long-time obsessive fans of the show. But if you’re not a huge fan or dropped out around the time Mulder left the show, you’ll still be able to jump into this one and enjoy what’s going on here (unlike some of the stories from year 10 that require you to be more than passingly familiar with the mythology from the later seasons of the show).
Of the recent X-Files comics, I have to admit this is my favorite of the bunch, simply because it’s a stand alone story. I’m not sure I’d necessarily pick up a whole series of stories set in the early days of the X-Files but I’d be interested enough to read one or two more stories featuring these new characters. Continue reading
In the wake of The Avengers, it seems like every character included on screen is being given his or her chance to star in their own series. That includes Natasha Romananov or as you might know her better Black Widow.
This collection of the first six issues of the new series is an interesting take on a character that I didn’t know much about beyond what we’ve seen in the Marvel movie universe. Haunted by her past, Natasha puts her services out for hire between saving the world with SHIELD. But instead of profiting by the missions, she quietly gives the fees she earns to the families of her victims. She also refuses to allow herself to grow close to anyone around here, even to the point that she struggles to adopt an adorable kitten who clearly has taken a shine to her.
As a member of the Marvel-verse without any powers (well, besides the ability to kick gluttous-maximus and take names), Black Widow’s story presented here is a surprisingly human and grounded one. While it’s fun to see her take on various threats and to see missions go awry, the more intriguing parts are the moments of self-reflection by Black Widow. These six issues of the comic book series have a loose arc (it’s more defined in the last couple of installments), allowing you to enjoy the character work without having to worry you’re missing a story-altering detail in issue one that will be of vital importance to the saga in issue six.
I’m intrigued enough by this that I will be on the lookout for the next collection of issues.
Strong Female Protagonist
One of the best aspects of NetGalley is that I get to try things that are a bit outside of my wheelhouse or that I wasn’t previously aware of until I skimmed the latest offerings. It led me to discover the sublime Sex Criminals, Volume I last year and now I’ve come across another gem with Strong Female Protagonist.
This web-comic takes ingredients from some of the main-stream comic publishing events (Marvel’s Civil War springs to mind) and the sensibility of Buffy and other Whedon-verse shows to offer us the story of Alex Green. Once known as Mega Girl and part of an elite fighting force of superheroes, Alex publicly unmasked and is trying to live a normal life. As a freshman in college, Alex struggles with the remnants of her fame, including a professor who holds an obvious grudge against her (and when it’s revealed why, it’s one of the most heartbreaking and moving moments in a story filled with them) and the fact that she can’t stop at fast food place to enjoy a burger and fries without being recognized.
As a deconstruction of super hero stories, Strong Female Protagonist works extremely well. But more than that, the story is a compelling, fascinating character examination of not only Alex but also others affected by the realization that they have super powers. It’s a world where these powers have consequences, both negative and positive. One haunting aspect is a former super villain who has come up with an interesting way to use her powers to atone for her sins. There’s also the fourth chapter of the book that fills in details of Alex growing up and her relationship with his family and the family’s favorite pet. The fourth chapter alone is worth the price of admission for this book, but I’d say it’s far more affecting having spent the first three chapters getting to know Alex and her world. Continue reading
Considered by many to be the finest hour the original Star Trek ever produced, the televised version of “City of the Edge of Forever” is very different from the initial storyline submitted by Harlan Ellison. Ellison has been famously unhappy ever since his story was re-written by various Trek staff members including Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon and Dorothy Fontana, even going so far as to publish the original script and various drafts a decade ago, along with a long rant about how terrible Gene Roddenberry was.
As a long time fan of Star Trek, I read the book though I’ll have to admit that I find reading a television script a bit dry. Years later, IDW got Ellison’s blessing to adapt the original script as a comic book and give fans a taste of what the story might have looked like visually had it gone before the cameras as Ellison intended back in 1967.
The result is the five-part mini-series collected in this volume.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t find a lot in Ellison’s original draft that is any better or more nuanced than the final version of “City on the Edge of Forever.” In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that the televised version is a better episode of Star Trek than what we see either in the script book or in this comic book adaptation.
Just like its predecessor, there are a lot of Peanuts cartoons collected here that I don’t recall reading in my younger days. How much of that is that the memories of those collections are lost to the ravages of time and how much of it is that these particular cartoons weren’t included in previous collections, I can’t really say. What I can say is that reading the entire creative output of Charles M. Schulz from two years is a fascinating journey.
In this second collection, the characters and characteristics of those characters are starting to come into better shape. Snoopy still acts like a regular dog, only occasionally talking to the audience and rarely having the flights of fancy that will later define him. Lucy comes to the fore a bit more and feels like the showcase star of this collection — from her being a fussbudget to her dissatisfaction with going to nursery school. There are hints of the Lucy that many of us associate with the character developing here, though I’d argue she has a gentler, more human side than we see in later years. (This may be something that I will have to observe as I continue to read these collections).
Over the course of two years, you can see Schultz refining his technique, his humor and his characters. There are some characters who make appearances here that will slowly fade into the background, while others are just emerging. Schroeder has his love of Beethoven and serves as a sounding board for budding cartoon artist Charlie Brown. Pigpen makes his debut toward the later half of the collection, with various observations that you can kick up a cloud of dust everywhere you go and still be happy and well adjusted. One of the more intriguing introductions toward the end of 1954 is Carlotta Brown, who essentially looks like Charlie Brown, drawn in a dress and with curly hair. Her other defining characteristic is that she talks in a loud voice (think Monty Python’s guy who likes to shout). It will be interesting to see how long she stays around and if and how Schultz fazes her out. I’ll be honest that I’ve never come across her in previous collections — and there may be a reason.
The book remains a fascinating look at an iconic comic strip as it develops. It also continues to show that Peanuts is never static.