Monday, August 31, 2015

You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) - A Book Review

It's a fair bet that most of the people who read You're Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) will find themselves nodding along at least once as Felicia Day pours out the details of her life. From her formative years as a home-schooled hippie-kid who didn't fit in with the rest of the "Thumper" children to her more recent adventures as an advocate for geek girl empowerment in the face of the Gamergate movement, there are many moments that are sure to elicit sympathy from the reader.

In my case, it went a bit further than that. I found myself reading this book as if reading a concurrent history of my own warped adolescence. I'm certain it will surprise no one to learn that, like Felicia, I was a bright child who was nowhere near as well-developed socially as I was intellectually and I didn't peak until well into adulthood.

Like Felicia, I found the friends I couldn't find in real life on-line. We both role-played on Prodigy, though I was into Quest For Glory and she was into Ultima. We both ran up huge phone bills we tried to hide from our parents - her by calling computer-game hint-lines and me by dialing-up out-of-state bulletin-boards to download Mystery Science Theater 3000 sound clips. We both volunteered at the library and we both showed up to the one high-school dance we ever attended dressed-up fancy for an event where everyone else was in t-shirts and jeans. But it goes deeper than a series of shared experiences.

I've also known the pain of depression and anxiety. I also respond more strongly to negative commentary than positive reinforcement because it's a better fuel for my passion. And while I haven't experienced nearly as much vitriol as Felicia has from on-line trolls, I also keep a folder of hate e-mail to remind myself, when I doubt the power of my work, that the fact that I am working at all pisses somebody off enough to try and make me stop.

Maybe I'm weird for relating to this book as strongly as I did. But that is Day's point in a nutshell. We, in our own little ways, are all a little bit weird. But weirdness isn't a weakness - it's a strength.

It's that little bit of uniqueness that let's us bring something into the world that nobody else can. That message alone makes this book worth the reading. Even if you never fantasized about being an orphan because orphans had all the best adventures in kids' stories and comic books or cringed in agony as your mother found your hidden fan-fiction journal.

Felicia, if you read this, thank you. Thank you for opening yourself up with this book. And for trying to make the rest of us realize that we can make ourselves great because of our weirdness - not in spite of it.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Starman Plays Blade Runner - Part Ten [NSFW]

In the grand tradition of Marvel Comics' "What If...?", we begin to explore some of the potential alternate realities of the Blade Runner universe, including...

* What if Ray spared Zuben the Chef?
* What If Ray were slightly more trigger-happy?
* What If you played with scorpions bare-handed?
* What If you read every bit of litter you came across?
* What If you just randomly stole proprietary corporate files?
* What If you just randomly hacked total strangers computers?
* What If Izo isn't a replicant?
* What If Sadik isn't a replicant?
* What If you poked around Early Q's office a little more?
* And finally... What If you cheated to get past the freaking rat trap in Act IV?

Batgirl #43 - A Review

Techies all around Gotham's Burnside district are dying from tiger attacks.  Even by the standards of Gotham City, this is a strange case. Unfortunately, between helping her ex-roommate plan her wedding and stopping her current roommate from taking to the streets to assist in Batgirl's crime-fighting, Barbara Gordon already has her hands full!

I enjoy Babs Tarr's art style. It reminds me of Bruce Timm's designs for the classic Batman: The Animated Series for all the right reasons while also maintaining an aesthetic that would not look out of place in a Shojo manga. Yet I have to praise her more than usual for her tigers, which are more realistic than I expected yet somehow blend in perfectly with the cartoonish people.

The story by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart is a hoot. We've seen this broad story before - the hero has difficulty balancing friends, work and heroism in the face of a case only they can solve. Yet despite the trope-filled plot, the execution is handled very well and the sheer absurdity of the concept of techies being assassinated by tigers does much to mitigate any sense of familiarity.

Sons Of The Devil #4 - A Review

There's never a good time to find out that your biological father was the leader of a cult and that you're one of a couple of half-siblings sired by said lunatic with his harem of sister-wives. But this information is something Travis would be ill-equipped to handle even if he weren't in the middle of trying to make amends to his girlfriend or coping with having been accused of murder. And unbeknownst to Travis, his dad is still out there, trying to find his lost children...

Brian Buccellato has been letting this story boil slowly and I must admit some frustration with that. While the flashback sequences centering upon two mothers seeking to escape the cult have been riveting, the scenes centering on Travis - which take up most of the issue - seem to have been treading water as we are reminded that Travis is an orphan, he has anger problems, the only good things in his life are his girlfriend and his dog and that he really doesn't care about his past.  Thankfully, Travis learning about his past - albeit in vague terms - seems to suggest some forward momentum and the argument with his girlfriend near issue's end reveals a wrinkle that promises some fresh drama next time.

The art by Toni Infante continues to impress, however.  Infante's sketchy style perfectly suits the neo-noir aesthetic of Buccellato's story. The coloring is particularly impressive, with a dominant tint on each page enhancing every panel.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Swords Of Sorrow: Red Sonja & Jungle Girl #2 - A Review

Sonja and Jana's confrontation with Mistress Hel was cut short, thanks to the actions of a trickster sorcerer named Bel'lok. Wounded and weary, the three make their way back to Jana's village. Unfortunately, Jana's people are less than tolerate of outsiders at the best of times. And with Hel's dark magic corrupting the already xenophobic tribal leaders, this is definitely not the best of times!

I think it's safe to say that most readers are more familiar with the world of Red Sonja than Jungle Girl. As such, Marguerite Bennett wisely uses this issue to explain the rules of Jana's world to both her new outsider friends and, by proxy, the readers. It's an effective decision and the action of the issue seems less like route exposition as a result. Indeed, it's quite enjoyable!

The artwork operates with similarly subtle efficiency.  I am hard pressed to find words to describe the light, airy style of Mirka Andolfo but I do know what I like. And I like this style!  Everything is smooth and sketchy, with an inherit quickness that keeps the story moving briskly.

Doctor Who: The Four Doctors #3 - A Review

The three Doctors and their companions have escaped from The Reapers but now they face a greater problem. Despite Clara's best efforts to stop them from walking into a trap, they've walked into a trap. Because regardless of the incarnation, The Doctor's first response to being told something is a trap is to find a big stick and poke it.

Unfortunately, this trap turns out to be a Continuity Bomb - a piece of Dalek technology that rips the victim out of space and time and deposits them in an alternate reality changed by a single decision. Thankfully, the bomb was unable to focus on one Doctor. Unfortunately, this still leaves everyone trapped in limbo, seeing a number or horrifying alternate pasts rush by as The Doctors must make a horrible and risky choice... choosing which reality to make real in the hope of escape!

The idea of The Continuity Bomb is precisely the kind of novel touch I expected Paul Cornell to introduce in this series. Such originality is Cornell's bread and his butter is an encyclopedic knowledge of the Doctor Who mythos. Fans of the show will be particularly interested in this issue's brief glimpses of the universe where The Tenth Doctor rules all reality as The Time Lord Victorious, the timeline where The Eleventh Doctor allowed River Song to save his life by making all of time happen at once or the dark future where The Twelfth Doctor has been driven mad by loneliness and distrust...

Neil Edwards continues to impress.  The artwork on this series has looked amazing in every respect, from the likeness of the established cast being captured to the panel flow of the action scenes. The colors of Ivan Nunes complete things perfectly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Swords of Sorrow: Pantha & Jane Porter

Egypt. 22000 BC. The shape-shifting priestess Pantha guards the faithful of Sekhmet from demons and monsters. Monsters like those in the thrall of Purgatori, who even now is invading a tomb right under Pantha's nose!

London. 1913 AD. Jane Porter - the newly dubbed Lady Greystroke - has just arrived in town, piloting one of Wright Brothers' new aeroplanes. She had been planning to use this new vehicle to deliver supplies to her husband in the jungle, but the sudden appearance of a pyramid over the skies of London changes her plans.

Two women warriors.  Separated by time and space. United by circumstance and the unusual swords that have been gifted to them by a mysterious man. The latest women to join a war that is being fought across all of reality...

Swords of Sorrow: Pantha & Jane Porter follows the standard team-up formula used in most team-up comics... to say nothing of most of the Swords of Sorrow tie-ins thus far!   The heroes meet, have a misunderstanding, fight and then join together against the real enemy before becoming, if not the best of friends, then at least allied acquaintances  Thankfully the script by Emma Beeby moves beyond such trite plotting, bringing out the personalities of both heroines.whilst giving them a chance to showcase their skills.

I've seen several comics that paired Rod Rodolfo with Nanjan Jamberi before and this is the best of the lot.  The overly heavy inks I noted before in previous works Roldfo drew are not as pronounced here. And the colors are much more vivid than in the duo's last pairing.  All in all this is an enjoyable slice of pulp fiction.

Superman #43 - A Review

As pointless as it may be to put a SPOILER warning on this review, given that the "shocking twist" at the end of this issue was revealed over three months ago by DC Comics' preview for this series, nevertheless I am giving a warning.

If you haven't read Superman #43 yet, know that I enjoyed this issue immensely and would recommend reading it for yourself. Abandon this article now if you would remain unspoiled!

At last we learn how it was that Lois Lane betrayed Clark Kent's secret identity to the world. And to the credit of Gene Luen Yang, the reason she has is a darn good one.  So what could drive Lois Lane to expose Superman's greatest secret?  It is not, as many suggested, a desire for the fame or glory attached to such a big story.

It is fear that motivates her.  Fear of what Superman might do to protect the people he cares about from a cunning blackmailer who is three steps ahead of him. So Lois does the only thing she can to save Superman and all that he stands for as Clark Kent elects to play along with the blackmailer's demands while waiting for an opportunity to free himself later.  She reveals everything to the world, thus making Hordr-Root's threats worthless and freeing Clark to fight back against the master hacker.

There is a subtle parallel here between the conflict between Lois and Clark at issue's end and the Superman fandom. Clark idealistically believes that, given time, he could have figured a way out of this mess whereas Lois, ever the realist, makes a difficult choice to prevent what she sees as the greater (or at least more immediate) of two evils. Consider how this mirrors the argument over the idea that Superman should always find a way to win in the end versus those who feel Superman is at his best when he is faced with emotional conflicts that require more than physical strength to solve.

Doubtlessly some will say that this story is terrible because Lois' trust in Superman should be absolute. Others will say that this story is well in keeping with Lois' nature to be a proactive figure who does what she thinks is right and damn the consequences if the world disagrees with her. I think there is a grand discussion to be held regarding those ideas and hope this issue provokes such conversation rather than inspiring an army of Super-fans to rage quit the series.

Regardless of how you feel about the story, the artwork is exquisite.  John Romita Jr. is in fine form. And one would never know that this issue featured a team of two inkers and three colorists, so well does the team work together in maintaining a uniform style throughout the issue.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Four #17 - A Review

As Harley Quinn, Billy Batson and Hippolyta take a slow boat to Tartarus, things are getting very interesting on Earth. Poseidon, apparently worried about Zeus' increased interest in the affairs of Man, has joined the War of the Gods on Superman's side!  Now the oceans themselves stand ready to destroy the Amazon army... but could another sea king somehow turn the tide?

Again, Brian Buccellato shows his gifts for grand stakes and high comedy.  The opening interlude with Harley being her usual friendly self on what amounts to the ultimate prison bus ride proves a welcome respite from the increasing darkness of this series in recent issues. And the final page is one of the best cliff-hangers ever - not only in this comic but in all comics everywhere!

Unfortunately, the artwork doesn't quite live up to the same standard.  Xermanico is not a bad artist, yet this issue does suffer somewhat in any scene drawn past the middle distance, with heavy inks obscuring the fine details of the original pencils.  The color art and lettering by Rex Lokus and Wes Abbott remain exceptional, however.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Starman Plays Blade Runner - Part Nine

The grand finale of the first play-through, in which we look for our missing dog, hunt down the last of the Replicants and maybe - just maybe - get as happy an ending as you can hope for in a radioactive cyberpunk noir future.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Doctor Who: The Four Doctors #2 - A Review

Clara Oswald's efforts to prevent a meeting of The Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors that would end the universe only seem to have brought it about. And a sudden short when Ten and Twelve touched one another has summoned The Reapers - the antibodies of reality, who eat paradoxes out of existence. Only for some reason they seem to be more interested in Eleven than anyone else...

It's no surprise that Paul Cornell's script for this issue draws deeply from the well of Doctor Who's rich mythology. After all, Cornell co-authored The Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide back in the BI (Before Internet) days and has a knowledge of the show's history that is second to none.  Yet Cornell also sprinkles the book with the goodly helping of humor common to his stories, finding unexpected angles such as the playfully loony Eleventh Doctor being forced to be the responsible one as Ten and Twelve start arguing and Twelve lamenting that he's now "Scary Doctor" to Ten and Eleven's Posh and Baby.

Neil Edwards proves a perfect playmate for Cornell.  This is a manic energy to Edwards' action sequences and he perfectly captures the likenesses of the characters from the show. All in all this comic is a must-read for all Whovians.

Black Canary #3 - A Review

Dinah Drake and the rest of the Black Canary band are still on-the-run from government agents that seem unusually interested in their guitarist, Ditto. It's shocking enough when D.D. finds out that one of the agents is her presumed-dead husband, Kurt Lance, but shocking is too weak a word to describe the revelation that Ditto was involved in the government program that gave Dinah her sonic scream! Worse yet, the government aren't the only ones after Ditto...

The artwork by Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge remains this book's strongest selling-point. Wu is an amazing artist with a true gift for artistic fight choreography and the opening car-chase sequence would not look out of place in a Mad Max movie.  Her art is further enhanced by Loughridge's colors, which subtly enhance and emphasize key panels with sudden palette shifts and tints.

This is not to say that the scripts by Brenden Fletcher are not as god as the artwork. They are good though they are more subtle in their brilliance. Fletcher has spun an engaging tale around Dinah's mysterious past, slowing unveiling it to the readers who might not be familiar with Black Canary. Or at least not with the New 52 version of her. The fake magazine articles reporting on the band offer further details as well as insight into Dinah's character.

Rick And Morty #5 - A Review

It's time for another fun summer at Camp Camperson - the summer camp that Morty has gone to every summer of his young life... yet never had this mentioned before!  And Rick is there too, working as a counselor... even though Rick hates all this outdoorsy, slice-of-Americana crap! And Morty is popular with all the other boys and all the girls - especially the cutest girl in camp, Lisa Kanoogian - all want to do things with him. Naughty things!

Just what the hell is wrong with this picture?!  

Alas, this is the first issue of Ricky and Morty to fall short of greateness. The script by Zac Gorman possesses a number of funny gags but you can only go so far with jokes about Morty overreacting to the weirdness around him without having Rick's reckless indifference as a balancing factor. That ingredient is largely absent since most of the comic has Rick acting decidedly out-of-character and actually giving a damn about something.  Granted that something is water safety, but still...

Thankfully, the artwork is still up to snuff. C.J. Cannon continues to capture the visual essence of the show in the main story while Marc Ellerby struts his stuff on the back-up comic showcasing Beth having an inter-dimensional adventure of her own. The inks of Cat Farris and the color art of Ryan Hill complete their work perfectly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Four #16 - A Review

The latest chapter of Injustice is primarily focused upon Ares, as he ponders his past, the natures of conflict and humanity and how he came to be The God of War.  This flashback serves as a prelude to the most recent events in the battle between Superman and The Ancient Greek Gods, as Ares plots with Superman and Lex Luthor as Wonder Woman confronts Batman.

For an issue focused on the God of War, this issue is surprisingly light on action. Yet Brian Buccellato's script does a fine job of exploring Ares motivations. And the final scene between Wonder Woman and Batman suggests plenty of action in the next issue to make-up for the lighter pace of this week's comic.

Tom Derenick was the perfect artistic choice for this particular chapter. Derenick's style lends itself well toward the epic scale and one doesn't get much more epic than dealing with the ancient gods!  His inks are a bit heavy at times but these moments are few and thankfully far between.  The color art by Rex Lokus and lettering of Wes Abbott prove equally skillful.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Starman Plays Blade Runner - Part Eight

In which we encounter the inevitable sewer level required by law for all video games, my editor Jeff does the most work he's done editing any video ever and I try to get past the most annoying puzzle in the game again and again and again and again...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #14 - A Review

The good news is that The Doctor was right all along - his current troubles are being caused by a group of aliens known as The Osirans and not, as a group of demented cultists would have it, Ancient Egyptian Gods.  The better news is that The Doctor has dealt with this particular band of aliens before and he personally saw the last of them destroyed several hundred years earlier. Or so he thought...

I had suspected this story by Nick Abadzis might eventually tie into the classic Doctor Who story Pyramids of Mars.  And don't I feel clever now that it has!  Abadzis should be commended for how masterfully he spun the story until this point and at how well he has utilized the mythology of the classical series while still expanding upon it with his own tale.

Two artists step in to replace Elena Casagrande in this issue but both of them are more than capable of matching her in terms of skill.  Rachael Stott proves as capable a starter as she was a finisher on Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor #3 and I hope to see more of her work in the future. And the artwork of Leonardo Romero also looks good.

Howard The Duck #5 - A Review

Disaster! The rogue Skrull known as Talos The Untamed has gathered the gems need to power The Abundant Glove - an artifact of moderate but ultimately limited cosmic power! Now Howard The Duck and his sidekick Tara Tam must race to get the heck out of there while the real heroes deal with it... or do they?!

Those who are as sick as endless cosmic crossovers as I am doubtlessly find Howard The Duck #5 to be an amusing treat. The whole issue is a send-up of every story-line that holds no other purpose than throwing a bunch of heroes at some random new villain in the hopes that you'll slap down your sheckles for a few pages worth of your favorite hero doing something awesome. And Chip Zdarsky milks the scenario for everything it is worth, complete with caption boxes telling you which comics the characters are referring to in their conversations- some of which are actually real!

This humor continues into the artwork itself.  There's a number of hilarious sight-gags built around various things the "real heroes" are doing in the background while the focus shifts to other characters.  Full praise to Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera, Paolo Rivera and Rico Renzi for a fantastic looking issue!

Constantine The Hellblazer #3 - A Review

The loss of the ghost of his friend Gary has John Constantine in a nostalgic frame of mind. As he remembers a concert from better days, he seeks out an old... let's say contact, who has made good and become a ghost-hunter for The Crown.  And she just happens to be having a problem with a succubus gone wild that John might be able to lend a hand with...

The scripts for Constantine The Hellblazer seem to be improving with every passing month.  This month's issue gives us our first in-depth glimpse at John's troubled past and show that John was trouble even before he knew enough to be dangerous. The dialogue by James Tynion IV and Ming Doyle is the high point of the book, with a good deal of wit and humor amid the horror.

The artwork for this month's issue is the best this series has seen yet.  Ming Doyle also provides the artwork for the flashbacks, establishing a unique timeless aura to John's punk past.  And the artwork for the present scenes, by Vanesa Del Rey, proves appropriately moody and dark - a perfect fit to the story.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Swords of Sorrow #4 - A Review

Becoming a harem slave to a wicked prince or dying under a much harsher form of bondage isn't much of a choice. Still, this is the offer the demon known as Purgatori brings before an assemblage of time-displaced adventurers. And it is an offer that is swiftly declined.  Now this odd assemblage of killers, criminals and vigilantes must traverse the whole of time and space and seek out "the trinity" spoken of in the prophecy - the princess, the warrior and the vampire who will lead them to victory!

Swords of Sorrow #4 works on several levels. It works quite well as an adventure comic of the old school, with thrilling and chilling action sequences. It also works quite well as a comedic piece, with Gail Simone showcasing her gift for ribald humor that rises below vulgarity throughout. There is also some subtle satire of the genre and industry, with Purgatori - a 90's bad girl heroine who served little purpose beyond being the poster-girl for cheap fan-service - offering safety to the women who break the mold and refuse to be exploited.

Sergio Davila's artwork equals Simone's scripts in quality.  Davila manages the neat trick of drawing women who are beautiful and scantily clad without the whole affair seeming exploitative or unnaturally posed. This is one of the best looking books in recent memory.

Descender #6 - A Review

The sixth chapter of Descender takes us into the not-too-distant past of the great robotics expert Dr. Quon. Or rather - the NOT so great Dr. Quon. For this flashback issue reveals the lie of his life and that all of his revolutionary ideas came about because of an ancient artifact stolen from his mentor - evidence that ancient civilizations had robots so advanced as to seem like organic life!

This issue beautifully builds upon last month's shocking cliff-hanger. It is a credit to Jeff Lemire's skill as a writer that this issue manages to be so gripping despite a lack of action until the final pages. Such is the tale that Lemire is spinning.

The artwork by Dustin Nguyen continues to impress.  Nguyen's style is uniquely streamlined yet simultaneously packed with detail.  The final scenes showcase Nguyen's talent for character design as we see even more uniquely modeled robots.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8 - A Review

This final issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl sees our heroine facing off against Ratatoskr - an evil girl squirrel from Norse Myth out to destroy the Earth. But enough of that. The real star of this book is Cat Thor!

You heard me. Cat Thor! It is a cat with the power of Thor! And it is the greatest idea ever!

Such is the power of Cat Thor that even proud Loki decides that from hence forth he shall be Cat Thor! He wields a hammer that is shaped like his own adorable and colossal head called Meowler - the most adorable and deadly weapon of all! All hail Cat Thor!

Of course the script for this book is wonderful, because it gave us Cat Thor. And the artwork is amazing - even the bits that don't involve Cat Thor!  But then, is there ever any way to have enough Cat Thor?  I say thee nay!

A new Squirrel Girl series will be starting up soon.  Alas, Marvel has yet to announce that Cat Thor will be getting his own book.  Maybe once Loki: Agent of Asgard ends?  Until then, pester Axel Alonzo with messages demanding a Cat Thor book as soon as possible. Cathoooooooooooor!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Starman Plays Blade Runner - Part Seven [NSFW]

[NSFW] In which we enter into the seedy underbelly of the Nightclub District, learn that sexy dragonfly costumes are a thing in the future and hunt down another Replicant.

Red Sonja/Conan #1 - A Review

Know O' Prince that some time has passed since Conan of Cimmeria and Sonja of Hyrkania last crossed paths, having united to stop the dreaded Thoth-Amon from unleashing the cursed plant called Blood Root upon the world.  Now the two have met again in the land of Kush, following rumors of war and a king in need of captains to defend against invasion. But little do they know that another wizard has a Blood Root seed and means to succeed where Toth-Amon failed!

Sadly, Red Sonja/Conan fails to live up to the promise of the mini-series it is meant to follow-up. And this is due almost entirely to artist Roberto Castro. I've noted before that I have little liking for Castro's sketchy style but some of his work here goes beyond being merely sketchy to seeming unfinished! A prime example of this is Castro's depiction of Sonja's armor, which frequently lacks support straps, leaving Sonja looking as if she is wearing chain-mail pasties for much of the book.

Another issue is Castro's unfortunate tendency towards posing characters awkwardly in relation to the dialogue. Consider the panels above, wheres Sonja is stroking Conan's chin and making dove-eyes at him as they are meant to be discussing combat tactics!

It's a shame because Victor Gischler's script does such a good job of capturing the flavor of the first Conan/Red Sonja mini-series. Gischler's take on Sonja is close to Gail Simone's lusty amazon, though I contend that Simone's Sonja would probably thank Conan for bringing her playmates for later in the above scene! Conan is similarly well treated, apart from some occasional incongruity in his speech speech patterns, which alternate between the crude eloquence of Robert E. Howard and the stereotypical speaking of himself in the third-person.

All in all, this isn't the worst Conan or Red Sonja comic ever. But it's nowhere near as good as the series it is following up.

Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler #3 - A Review

Irene Adler is returned to London and just in the nick of time!  For the alien beast Mycroft Holmes recruited her to track down is still on the loose. So is Dejah Thoris, who has really not enjoyed her time in London at all and would have words with the woman she thinks tried to assassinate her!

After two rather exciting and witty issues, the final third of Swords of Sorrow: Dejah Thoris & Irene Adler proves surprisingly weak.  Given how artfully Leah Moore had avoided the same-old-scenes where the heroes fight because of a misunderstanding, it's sad to see the sum total of this issue's action devoted to that cliche. And the conclusion involving the final fate of the wild Martian beast is a little too pat for my tastes.

The artwork by Francesco Manna seems seems somewhat rushed at times. There are a number of panels set in the mid-distance where there is hardly any detail at all on the individual characters and barely any inks separating the characters from the backgrounds. There are also some moments - like the top panel in the page above - where it seems a panel break would have been more efficient than layering one bit of the artwork on top of the other.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Four #14 - A Review

Hercules - The Lion of Olympus - lies dead!  As the newly enraged Greek Gods begin the fight anew against Superman, Batman and his team make ready to take down the rest of The Regime.  But Damian Wayne has other ideas and plans to prove he's better than his father at any cost!

The episodic fight scenes that have made up much of Injustice: Year Four run the risk of becoming tiresome at this point. Just how many times has the fighting stopped and started again since the stand-off between Superman and the Greek Gods started? Thankfully, Brian Buccellato keeps things interesting by switching the focus of the fight scenes and centering the story upon character interaction rather than fisticuffs.

Alas, the artwork this week is a bit of a mixed bag.  With two artists at work there's very little sense of visual continuity.  Additionally, there are a number of instances of over-inked panels and some generally strange body-posing.  At least the color art by Rex Lokus maintains the usual high standard but the majority of this book looks rather raw.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Starman Plays Blade Runner - Part Six

In which we talk to a variety of colorful stereotypes, ponder how this future still has video arcades but no portable phones and walk around the block a few times trying to find Lucy.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Batgirl Annual #3 - A Review

Batgirl Annual #3 is not really a Batgirl story. Or perhaps it would be more fair to say that this is not your typical Batgirl story. You see, Batgirl is the main character and this issue was written by her regular writing team of Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher. But the actual purpose of this issue seems to be to give some attention to the lesser-known Bat Family books, such as Grayson and Gotham Academy.

Under lesser writers this could be a recipe for disaster. But Stewart and Fletcher more than meet the challenge of making the patchwork nature of this sort of story engaging through liberal application of their famous humor. Perhaps the best portion of the issue details Babs' encounter with an overly-excitable Stephanie Brown a.k.a. The Spoiler.  Hopefully we'll be seeing more of these two heroines playing off of each other in the future.

This issue features a dream team of various artists and inkers.  They all do a wonderful job with their respective chapters and there's not a bum comic in the lot. This issue more than justifies its cover price, proving quite the bargain at $4.99 and its a wonderful introduction to the series for those who haven't given Fletcher and Stewart's run a chance yet.

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #10 - A Review

It's a hot night in Vegas 1964 as alien invaders move in to take control of the city from the Mob! Luckily The Doctor is on the case, with a former heavyweight contender backing him up. Meanwhile, Clara Oswald and the infamous Rat Wolf Pack try to wiggle their way loose from their alien captors.

As with the last issue, the biggest weakness this month is the disparity between the two artists working on this story-line.  Brian Williamson's work is great, perfectly capturing the appearances of the characters from the television show and offering vivid details and splendid inking.  Mariano Laclaustra on the other hand is merely competent, at best, with fine details being lost past the middle distance and many visible signs of sloppy shortcuts.

Thankfully Robbie Morrison's scripts are as strong as ever, though I still wonder if a legal issue required The Rat Pack to be changed into The Wolf Pack.  Never the less, Frankie, Dean-o and Sammy are enjoyable characters no matter what you call them. And as in the best Doctor Who stories, we see - through interactions with a boxer turned bodyguard - that The Doctor's greatest gift as a hero is his ability to inspire other people to heroism.

The Tithe #4 - A Review

Samaritan's final heist went badly for all parties involved. The raid on a corrupt mega-church resulted in a successful theft but also the death of Mike. And the civilian casualties caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out between The FBI and the mega-church's private security have resulted in Agents Campbell and Miller being taken off their case pending an investigation.

What follows next will forever change the lives of those involved. Those who survive, at any rate.

Perhaps the most miraculous aspect of this issue is that creators Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal had to change things at the last moment  in order to accommodate The Tithe expanding into a monthly series from a mini-series. You'd never know it from the artwork, which looks as fine as ever.

Matt Hawkins' script for this issue is a thing of wonder. With the exception of the corrupt preachers, the series doesn't have any real villains and the story avoids being preachy in regards to matters of religion. The friendship between the two agents is perhaps the best example of this, with both men finding common ground in their belief in helping others despite their disagreements on politics and religion.

All in all, this has been a rocking roller coaster of a story. I'm not quite sure how the series will progress from here but I can't wait to find out!