It’s late on a Wednesday evening as I finally get settled into rip though this weeks comics. Blame my wife’s need to drag me out from store to store as she spends my pay cheque on gifts for distant family members for some obscure item exchange ritual that apparently takes place this weekend. Oh don’t get me wrong, I do love Christmas just it shouldn’t interfere with an important day like New Comics Wednesday, damn it.
Sure, I did eventually make it to a comic store but it was late, we spent to much time finding the perfect oven mitts for old Aunt Mable (make sure they are brightly colored, her eyes aren’t so good anymore and you don’t want her trying to take a roast out of the oven with the cat again). When I finally made to one of my local comic shops I came to the realization that you can do about 96% of your Christmas shopping in one. Seriously. I am sure the shops you frequent are much like the ones I do. Yes they sell comics, but also so much more! They are part toy store, clothing shop, used book emporium, magic trick dealer, and just about anything else. If you still have some shopping to do, seriously, go to your local comic retailer and do it there.
I’ll admit, I nerd out hardcore come Christmas. I spend the free time fake killing people and acting out fantasies via video games (Boxing Day/Dec. 26th is my 1 year anniversary on DCUO), I will get at least one action figure and my lovely and thoughtful wife will usually clean out the (rather large amount) of books that linger in my pull file. Now, it is the season of giving so I spread the nerdy as well (heads up to any other nerd dads out there Fisher Price Imaginext and the Playskool Heroes, action figures for toddlers, you’re welcome), comic books make great stocking stuffers, the trades are great secret Santa gifts.
I guess my message is two fold this week. For one, hats off to the retailers out there. While I do dabble in buying digital comics, your stores will always be a wondrous haven, please keep packing them with anything and everything and being an eclectic source of awesome. For everyone else, give the gift of comics this year, you’ve got to have a kid on your list that needs to learn that Batman isn’t just a video game character, that Wolverine isn’t Australian (he’s Canadian, damn it). At the very least you can probably pick up a cheap GI Joe bobble head for Aunt Mable, her eyesight is bad, she won’t know its a misshapen Baroness that you paid 99 cents for.
Suppose we should get into some books this week, shouldn’t we. Ok, this time around I hopped out my comfort zone and picked books I really know next to nothing about. From Image I pick up a character I haven’t looked at since the early 90’s, Dynamite yields one I haven’t cared about since the very early 80’s and from the big two, their confusingly similarly titled obscure books that make think of an AC/DC song.
Ready? Reviews after the jump.
BIONIC MAN #5 – DYNAMITE COMICS – Writer: Kevin Smith with Phil Hester, Artist: Jonathan Lau, Colorist: Ivan Nunes
I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for, well… the past 5 issues. When I was a kid I loved the Bionic Man and I applaud anyone that wants to reintroduce the concept to future generations (yes, I am excluding all involved with that horrible Bionic Woman TV remake from 2007, you people should be ashamed of yourselves).
I’ll admit, I was a little worried but the stunt shemping of an Alex Ross cover on a book ‘based on a story written by Kevin Smith‘ but I couldn’t hold out any longer. What did I get? Something I was rather happy with really, a little confused since this is issue 5 and it really seemed like Colonel Steve Austins first mission back in the OSI. Is this suppose to be the Bionic Man as played by Lee Majors on TV? It kind of feels like it is, granted Steve Austin has a whole new pile of bionic powers to play with. Obviously I am missing issues 1 through 4, but honestly this book worked out well as a starting point. Austin is sent off on a rather basic infiltrate the Russian mission, using his new found bionic face, should be a cake walk, right? Well, then the bad Bionic Man comes in (his name is Hull and he’s a lot bigger than Austin), and well… punches through a mans chest. Yes I am really glazing over the story here, but to be honest it is really just that. However, it doesn’t read that basic. I honestly wonder how much Smith has his chubby little hands in here, since it has the halmarks of what he does good. Take something simple and make it great and entertaining.
There is some decent dialogue here that makes me think Mr. Smith had a good amount of work on the book, plus the whole idea actually reads like something that would work great on TV (for the 3 seasons they would let it last before canceling it for some lame TV talent show). I liked the general update without total reboot that we get here, hell I’m probably going to pick up the previous issues just to see how it all works.
VERDICT: Best thing I can say here is this book is clearly a great idea for a new Bionic Man TV show, but I might be biased since I’d love someone to finally remake something from my youth in a good way. For now, I think this book is a good enough. Thank you Mr. Kevin Smith.
THUNDERBOLTS #167 – MARVEL COMICS – Story by Jeff Parker, Art by Declan Shalvey, Colors by Frank Martin, Letters by Joe Sabino, Cover by Michael Del Mundo
Holy crap am I lost. Clearly Thunderbolts has a nice long history that I respect you to much to wikipedia and pretend to know. The best I have is I was once told they were ‘sorta Marvels Suicide Squad‘ which is cheap comparison. I want to repeat that this is the first time I have ever read the T-Bolts before I go much farther, simply because I don’t really get the T-Bolts.
I couldn’t quite latch on to any of the characters. I could see myself slowly warming up to Troll and Valkyrie and Boomerang had his moments, but I found the cast as a whole to read more like background throwaway characters from another book.
The plot was alright, they are back in the gaslight days of London, ol’Jack the Ripper, ha’pennys, scampy chimney sweeps, you know all that old Alan Moore stuff. The T-bolts have been apparently time hopping for awhile and are faced with a dilemma dealing with the worlds first serial killer and can not alter the time stream after they go an solve the case. A familiar plot that Jeff Parker didn’t really seem to twist in anyway. Page after page I kept asking the book to wow me a little, but it just didn’t seem to. That being said, the art was great. I am not overly familar with Declan Shlvey‘s work but the mood was set nicely and the art carried the story well.
VERDICT: I’m going to chalk this one up to wrong place at the wrong time. The Thunderbolts have a clear flowing and I don’t want to raise the ire of the fanboy, but this one wasn’t for me. It came across as a stock time travel story played out by filler characters. Maybe once they are back in ‘the now’ I’ll check back in.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS VOL 2 #2 – DC COMICS – Written by NICK SPENCER, Art by WES CRAIG and JERRY ORDWAY, Cover by FRAZER IRVING
With a history that spans decades and multiple publishers T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents have found a home at DC. I am pretty sure they are part of the DCnU? The book didn’t really make that clear and contradicted itself trying to maintain the pre-Flashpoint continuity of volume 1. Basically its superpowered United Nation agents fighting a secret war against the mole people. Ok, they call them the Subterraneans but I know a mole person when I see one.
Had a nice silverage feel to it, very 60’s in places and not just the flashbacks, of which there were plenty. That brings me to my first complaint. Nick Spencer spends a great deal of time in narration boxes schooling the reader on the history of the team/conflict. Useful story telling tool? Yes, but it gets a little tedious here. Maybe TV and the internet has eroded my attention span to the point where I see a block of text and I start to lose interest, or maybe it is that I would have rather seen the past unravel in panels rather than blocks. The other thing that irked me about this issue was the art. Nothing against Wes Craig, regular artist and here drawing the ‘now’ part of the story, but when it flashes back to the past, done by the legendary Jerry Ordway, it didn’t seem to flow very well, made the book feel like it was starting and stopping. I guess I would have prefered Ordway the whole way, but that’s just me.
VERDICT: T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents counts as another miss this week. It wasn’t a bad book, just missed the hook for me. The whole issues was a set up and explanatory tale, a little more action would have done wonders.
SAVAGE DRAGON #177 – IMAGE COMICS – Story by Erik Larsen, Art by Erik Larsen, Colors by Nikos Koutsis & Mike Toris, Letters by Tom Orzechowski, Cover by Erik Larsen
With this week feeling a little lackluster, the good news is we go out on a high note. Technically this was the first book I read, but I wanted to savor it and save it for last. It has been at least a decade and a half since I have read Savage Dragon, I liked what I saw back then but it was from that dark time called the 90’s that a began to lose interest in comics.
I have always liked Erik Larsen, way back when I first found him as an artist on Doom Patrol I started to enjoy his work and now that he is a full 177 issues into writing and drawing his own creation (a character he made as a child, FYI) I have the highest respect for him. Hell, at this point he could be handing in crayon sketches on the backs of Denny’s place mats and still be praised for sticking to a book that long. Luckily he’s still pouring all he’s got into Savage Dragon with no sign of letting up.
LOOK AT THAT COVER! Seriously, is that not one of the most awesome images to grace your eyes? The silver age feel really sold me, but then again I am a sucker for someone evoking the spirit of Kirby. Wait, did I just judge a book by its cover? Sorry, on the inside its better.
Now, as I said, its been awhile for me and the man with the fin. Clearly a lot has happened over the last 170 or so issues, but I had no trouble diving in here. His son is a teenager, his alternate-reality-adoptive daughter is too, but she is also a teenager that has s-e-x. Oh, yea, and he’s a ghost now that wears a costume that looks like what a superhero would wear on laundry day. We get a great deal of character interaction, done nicely with humor and realistic dialogue. We also get action in such a wonderfully written and rendered way. Here is a great example of the comic book in a near perfect state. If someone pitched an idea of a giant radioactive Osama Bin Landen attacking a city, I would assume it would be campy and tactless. Larsen pulls it off here with class and style. Oh and, spoiler warning, Osama gets his ass kicked.
VERDICT: Looks like I am off to find some trades or cheap digital comics, because I’m going to be carrying on with the mean green machine. Granted it really was his son and daughter that carried 95% of the story, but as far as I know The Savage Malcolm isn’t being published. Yet.
One last note, vaguely related to to the above issue of Savage Dragon. I actually read that while my wife was busy shopping and I was busy trying to find a happy place. So I bought it off Comixology on my iPhone with the intention of reading it later on my iPad, the way Jobs intended it. Boredom and desperation got the better of me and I tried reading a comic on my iPhone for the first time and hats off to the developers, it worked out pretty good. It tracks from panel to panel rather than page to page. Would I read comics on it always? Hell no, it was easy, but you don’t see the full page in all its glory. Plus, call me old fashioned, but I still like the feel of paper.
That’s it for AofNCW this week. Have a great holiday weekend. Stock up on some comic books, it will help ease the pain of all that family time. Join me once again nextweek and we’ll run through a few more.
Hell, I might even get next weeks finished ON Wednesday.