New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 2/21/18

Ninjak vs The Valiant Universe #2 (Valiant)

Continuing on from last months issue #1, Ninjak has been blackmailed into stealing an item from MI6 and Neville has requested that LiveWire activate Unity (for which Ninjak is apart of) to hunt him down. Neville still doesn’t know that Ninjak is doing all of this because his ex-wife and child have been kidnapped. The only thing stopping Ninjak from telling him, when he was escaping MI6, was the nanites that Roku had injected into Ninjak, which she was listening in on. Cut to now and Bloodshot is the first person Ninjak goes up against. Points deducted from Bloodshot for trying to sneak up on a Ninja and getting caught in a reflection. He does get a piece of him and from that Bloodshot can verify that Ninjak has nanites in his blood, which he shouldn’t have. Meanwhile. Ninjak goes up against X-O Manowar, barely getting away, only for The Eternal Warrior to find him and try to talk him down from what he is doing. It is Bloodshot though, scoring those deducted points back, who has the final action of the issue by firing on Ninjak, which leads us into a cliff hanger for the next issue. Was Ninjak shot? Knocked out? How did the nanites relaying info to Roku go down? Was it some sort of EMP that Bloodshot fired?

This series is of course the adaption to the coming web short that will supposedly be released in April (crossing my fingers). It’s a good intro to the characters of the Valiant Universe and issue 2 here has one of my favorite covers of the year already. So pick this up because this is some good stuff!!!

The Amazing Spider-man #796 (Marvel)

I haven’t read this one yet but it is selling like hot cakes due to bad speculation. So much so that shady local comic shops (LCS’s) are jacking up the price from day 1 on loyal customers. I know, this doesn’t hurt me because I’m all digital, but it is another reason I’m happy to be done with buying physical copies. The reason I’m highlighting this issue is because this is yet another awesome cover this year. With this cover, the Ninjak cover above, and a coming X-O cover (I’ll be posting that when it hits stands), I’m loving the cover art that is being put out there this year. This is an Alex Ross cover, so you know it is awesome just based on his name alone. Just look at it… Simply marvelous!!!

New Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 2/14/18

Ninja-K #4 (Valiant)

There’s this trend happening throughout Valiant and I’m hoping it comes to an end soon… That trend is what I call: The Set Up. It seems like month after month each book is doing a set up. Recently it has been set ups for the bad guy or group (Bloodshot – Rampage, X-O Manowar – A bad guy group). In Ninja-K it has been a set up for each ninja of the alphabet that MI6 has used. In this issue, it is Ninja-G, a black woman betrayed by MI6. The entire book is her history so basically Ninjak just stands around listening. Thankfully, by the time I got to the end, the blurb said that this arc will conclude next month. This volume started out well enough but it is really no match for the prior volume. It really does feel like Valiant is spinning its wheels and doesn’t want to let anything get started before the coming of the Harbinger War 2 event. It’s been frustrating to say the least. Art was once again beautiful but the story and direction don’t live up to the “Ninja Spy” tales we had been promised so far. Ninjak is a character with so much more storytelling potential, hopefully it moves in a direction more like the last volume and less like what we have been getting.

 

Bloodshot Salvation #6 (Valiant)

Bloodshot takes his baby to the Deadside in this issue, in the hopes of finding some way to save her life. This issue flies by mainly because you are hypnotized by the beautiful artwork that is on every single page. Oh yeah… and at least we get some more Ninjak here!!! There really isn’t much action in this one and I’m already dreading issue #7 because it is the “blind issue” where every panel but the last page is black. I don’t feel like skimping on artwork next month, at $3.99 an issue, is a nice thing to do, but I will give them credit for the art in this issue which again, was beautiful in every panel.

 

Scooby Apocalypse #22 (DC)

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… Scooby Apocalypse is way better than The Walking Dead. Same premise… monsters instead of zombies, but a much better and humorous story. The art is always fun to see and the bickering between the members of the team are hilarious. In this issue, they want to finally settle down and take over a mall as a base of operations. It was brought up in the last issue that that is the major mistake that happens in every zombie movie, but hey… why not? Daphne and Fred go into the mall to scope it out and they see two different sides of warring monsters, but because they are warring on each other, none of the monsters from outside are trying to get in. So Thelma thinks it’s still a good idea to take over some part of the mall and fortify it while these two groups kill each other off. I’m still happy with this series. It’s an enjoyable read. I do wish they would kill of the backup Secret Squirrel story and devote more pages to Scoob and the gang but… oh well…

Spawn (Full Series Review)

Spawn issues 1 – Current (282 as of this writing)

Spawn has had about 4 iterations in the series so far. There was the beginning with Al Simmons and the deal with Malebolgia that started everything off. He was more of a superhero back then. Then came the Jim Downing version which took the series into a very dark and occultish place. Then the return of Al Simmons in a soft reboot that reveled in inconsistencies, and now Al Simmons de-powered and human fighting crime as a superhero, which is thankfully moving back toward the occult and horror genre. As an FYI, Todd McFarlane has had total control over the character since issue #1. While there have been creative teams on the book, McFarlane has always had a say in how the book goes. When Spawn hits issue #300 it will officially be the longest running independent comic book on record. That in itself is a great achievement. How it got there is a tangled web filled with action, horror, drama, and so many inconsistencies that if you read it straight through, you have to scratch your head. Even so… You’ll love every minute of it.

Al Simmons Makes a Deal

The First Iteration: #1 – #185

It all started off easily enough… Al Simmons is killed on a mission, makes a deal with a devil (Malebolgia), is sent back to Earth 5 years later in a time jump, and sees that his wife has remarried and has a child, he can’t change into himself and instead transforms into a white man, and his whole life has been changed. We get the introduction of Sam and Twitch, the two detectives that this series utilizes extensively and then from time to time just forgets. We get Al’s wife Wanda, her husband Terry (Al’s former best friend), and then their daughter Cyan. Al/Spawn is confused throughout this run and routinely hides away in the shadows of the city’s alleyways. When Spawn does leave the ally’s, you as the reader kind of rejoice because a lot of time is spent in those ally’s, maybe too much time. You jump from occult evil villains to mistreated gorillas becoming cyborgs, and then everything in between. I kind of felt that for at least the first 100 books Spawn has an identity crisis of what it should be. Are they 90’s superhero or occult horror? In a way, it makes sense, because Malebolgia is basically screwing with Al the whole time and he is being made to be confused about his surroundings. Taken in monthly… it probably plays out better. Taken in a binge read… You can feel and see the fight for what the book should be.

When the book reaches a box, the twins are brought in. These twins, born to Wanda in a miraculous and accelerated birth end up being God and the Devil. From there, there is a massive fight between Spawn and the twins which supposedly results in the gateways to Heaven and Hell, to and from Earth, being closed. I say supposedly because all of this is forgotten later. From the Twins, locked away in their heaven and hell, to the gateways being locked. We end up coming to our first soft reboot when Al blows his own head off with his powers and the mysterious Jim Downing wakes up from a coma.

The Downing Files

The Second Iteration #185 – #250

The mysterious Jim Downing wakes up from a coma in a hospital and a whole new cast of characters are introduced. The book goes full on occult and horror and guess what? It works. The art style becomes one where it looks as if every panel is painted. It’s dark, Spawn is more terrifying, and the foes of Spawn are actually quite scary. We have the introduction of the Catholic church and Vampires even. Don’t get attached to these storylines though (I did), because they end up being left unanswered. This section of Spawn ended up being the best story so far. It had a great set up, it was very in depth, it felt like it had a direction and was leading somewhere. Sure we missed Al but then we had also found out that before Al offed himself, he had abused Wanda and took the life of their unborn child in that abuse. So in a way, it was easier to get over him and move onto Jim Downing.

When issue #250 hits and Jim’s story is rapidly ended in another soft reboot, it is a jolt and not the good kind. What happened with the cast that was helping Jim? What happened with Marc Rosen’s girlfriend who was being inhabited by a demon? What happened between the two sects of vampires? What happened to Clown’s plans? Even the build up of the vampire Bludd and his ultimate plan to use the Spawn symbiote to breach the gates of Heaven is left to wither in the wind. None of these are answered because “Al just decided to come back.”

Al’s Back…

The Third Iteration Issues #251 – #262

Al comes back and Jim Downing is in a coma again. We get a new artist who is not very good (thankfully he is not around for very long!!!) and we get books that revel in inconsistencies. I could forgive the whole gates to Heaven and Hell being closed inconsistency in the last iteration because hinging it all on the suit and the dead zones are partially acceptable. But now, those gates are no more. The twins of Wanda and Terry are back (????????). I’m not sure how since the twins were God and the Devil and they both went to their respective homes. Doesn’t matter apparently. The unborn soul of a son of Al and Wanda is a factor, even though in Al’s previous tenure as Spawn, he fought a person named Morana who was the unborn daughter of Al and Wanda. It turns out this soul is now Al’s soul (???????). God and Satan are now the visage of an old man and a demon though God does turn into Granny (???????) and a dog (????????)… Seriously, this third iteration felt like Twilight Zone Spawn.

Al finds out that Wanda burned alive in a car accident and since Heaven and Hell go even/odd on where souls go, Wanda was unlucky and went to hell. So Al is going to go to Hell and save her. This sets up a massive battle where Wanda is ultimately sent to Heaven, Satan is defeated, Spawn is made human and gives up his symbiote suit (keeping but a piece of the living suit secretly), and once again, the gates to Heaven and Hell are closed and locked on Earth… Again.

Honestly…. I didn’t really like these issues. From art to story they just felt like flimsy tangents after the depth of the Jim Downing story. It was a retread of the battle against Malebolgia and had no meaning other than to make Al realize that his wife, who he formerly abused, loved him and wanted him to become a superhero to protect the children of the world… Ugh… Wanda should have stamped the hashtag #MeToo on Al’s head and sent him to hell while she emerged as the new Spawn. That would have been preferable even.

Al is Superhero Spawn…oh wait… maybe…

The fourth Iteration Issues #263 – #275 (and possibly the fifth iteration with #276 – #282)

Al has no powers, a fragment of the symbiote suit that must grow, and a storage locker of money and guns so he can become Batman/Punisher on the streets and stop crime. Yes, we are now a superhero in tights book again. I really felt that this stretch was just searching for an identity again. It’s with issue #276 that we start to feel like we are at home again with the “Dark Horror” arc. This arc is once again that dark and creepy painted style and the horror aspects overtake the superhero. I’m not ready to split this iteration up yet because this arc just ended and I’m not sure if it will stay with the good occult slant or revert to superhero stuff again next month. However… I do like that Cyan now has a dark power and it seems she may be getting here very own monthly, which I think is pretty cool. Issues #276 – #282 were simply beautiful to look at and read because it did feel so much like the Downing/Spawn. With luck, this current creative team can stick around awhile!!!

For all of the inconsistencies, soft reboots, and retcons… I still loved reading through every issue (not so much #251 – #262 but I digress…). Spawn at its best is a dark adult comic that deals with the occult and horror situations. When it shrugs off the “superhero” moniker it pulls the reader into a world that is truly frightening and yet exciting at the same time. When the full cast of characters are being attended to (and not forgotten for issues on end), we get a very dynamic book with much depth and drama that makes you want more. I’ve got the first 30 issues from when the comic originally came out and then I’ve re-bought them and have the whole series in digital via Comixology, and new issues are subscribed too, so I’ll be continuing down this dark path with Spawn and I can’t wait to see what is coming for #300 and beyond!!!

The BEST of 2017 Year End Wrap!!!

BEST Movie of 2017

For me, it was without a doubt Spider-man Homecoming. Marvel did right by me in bringing Spidey to life in a way that was very true to his early (and Ultimate) comic book form. The wise cracks were great, the action and adventure were on target, and updating the suit with “Hey Suit lady.” was a great addition. I can’t wait to see ole web head in Avengers Infinity War and the next Spidey movie.

Runners up:

Wonder Woman

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Justice League

BEST TV Show of 2017

The BEST TV show of 2017 was without a doubt Mr. Robot. Season 2 saw this show fall from my top 10 due to the slow pacing but season 3 rocketed this excellent show back to the top spot with its intense tension that filled each and every episode this year. There were moments where I found myself just holding my breath for what was to come next because the tension was so damn high. I’m super excited for the 4th season in 2018!!!

Runners up:

Game Of Thrones

Humans

Blood Drive

BEST Comic of 2017

The BEST Comic for 2017 was Ninjak (a second volume just started as Ninja-K) from Valiant Comics. Think Tony Stark crossed with Batman for a hi-tech Ninja that contracts with MI-6. The art is extraordinary, the stories are adult and in depth, and it’s an all around fun read.

Runners up:

Spawn

X-O Manowar

Scooby Apocalypse

*I didn’t read any new release books from 2017 as I’m still digging into older books such as Game of Thrones and some cyberpunk stuff from back in the day. Nor did I actively play any video games much in the last year, so that’s why both of those are not on this list. I’m trying to keep to things that were released or happened in 2017.

Most Anticipated Movie of 2018

Avengers Infinity War

Most Anticipated TV Show of 2018

Mr. Robot

Most Anticipated Comic of 2018

Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe (companion comic for the coming web movie release)

And that’s the wrap… Here’s looking forward to 2018!!!!!!!!!!

If you had the power of Superman, would you be Good or Bad?

 I was just thinking about this today. If you had the extreme powers of Superman would you use them for good or for evil?

 I’ve got to say….power corrupts and ultimate power will ultimately corrupt and I would be so corrupted it would not even be funny. Seriously…the world would be bowing to me and I would take that title of Emperor of the world. I mean…really…there would be no one to stand in my way and even if there was I could pretty much end them quite easily. Heat vision, freezing cold breath, a good uppercut…

 I’d have a state of the art castle built on every continent…forget that whole ice sculpture fortress of solitude stuff; I’d be living in style. The suit would be out too… I’d have to have something in a menacing black to strike some fear into the hearts of the little people.

There wouldn’t be any wars because there wouldn’t be anyone else taking my power from me…so I’d be a benevolent dictator… maybe… maybe not… The world could be run in a very Libertarian and free market kind of way except for in instances where I want what I want…then its dictator time!!!!
I mean….if you have the power you might as well use it…

 

Comic Book Universe’s by Decade Instead of Retcon

Instead of retcon after retcon, Marvel, DC, Valiant, Image, and any other comic book company should do 10 year blocks of a universe. For example: In 2020 the universe starts completely over. New origins, new ideas for characters, and completely new stories. The company can map out the 10 year arc and give the universe a huge ending in December of 2029. On January of 2030, it’s all brand new and has no attachment to the last decade. Doing it this way you create demand too. People who are introduced in a certain decade feel nostalgia for that run. They will be more likely to collect every comic and TPB that comes out of their generation. Others will be interested in how one decade changes from another. So they will continue on into the next decade knowing that it doesn’t change the history of their favorite run but has a whole new story line to follow. I bet you would even get creative teams that would want to craft their books for the full 10 years. The only rules, no mention or overlap with another decade. Books in various decades would also see increased value as that decades readership ages. New readers may also want to go back and see how their favorite characters from previous decades were different, so they would buy back issues. At the same time, new readers wouldn’t be confused by a massive past history and they could jump on easily to their current decade.
 If you did it this way then you could have Peter Parker as THE Spider-man in one decade and Miles Morales could be THE Spider-man of another. Then you wouldn’t get people hating a character that they feel is basically a rewrite from what they know. It’s a new decade and for that 10 years, that is the character.

Movies made in those decades could even take advantage of current lines or play on nostalgia and use the previous decade. Really, if you think about it, it’s just like movies currently that have new versions and reboots. Instead of just piling on the same universe over and over and having to come up with events to explain age and continuity, this fixes everything and endears the current generation to the decade they are living in, increasing nostalgia and sales for complete runs.

If any of these companies do this… Maybe throw me some credit!!!

 

 

Spider-man #1

 It’s hard to believe that this comic is now 27 years old. I remember, when I bought it (them), that it was a time when comics were booming. Todd McFarlane was THE artist of the time (still one of the greatest today) and this was one of the most eagerly anticipated comics in modern times. 

 I met Todd McFarlane at the big yearly comic show in Atlanta. In 1990, that show was actually bigger than the now massive Dragon*con which was just a small little affair across the street. After Todd had signed tons of books, he stuck around for awhile and my friend and I were able to talk with him for a bit. We had asked him, if he knew how many spiders he had drawn on the number 1 cover, and he wasn’t sure. So he told us to count them, and then give him our answer and addresses and that he might see if he could make a contest out of it. I’m not sure if it ever became a contest, but it was very cool to meet my artistic hero of the time. He was very cool, answered all of our questions, and joked around with those that had stayed after the signing. 

 Spider-man number 1 had several variants. The sealed version, the regular version, the black and silver version, the black and gold version, and then there may have been a few more. I got my “regular version” signed by both Todd McFarlane and Jim Salicrup (editor). As far as prices… They  can go from anywhere from $45 – thousands depending on signatures and CGC grading quality. Honestly… I probably wouldn’t even bother trying to sell a comic without getting a CGC grading for it. The market for comics is way down and at least a CGC grading will give you some leverage in selling. Like anything, you will most likely not get retail, so don’t even think about that. You will get under the top speculated pricing because the retailer will need to make money selling it to someone. Having said that, no, these comics are not for sale!!! 

 Another cool thing about this Spider-man #1 is that the cover recently became a shirt which can be found at Target. I think that out of all of my comics collection this one still brings back the most memories. Seriously hard to believe it is 27 years old now!!!