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Somebody’s First Comic Book-Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1

June 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

CREDITS:

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art:
Dale Eaglesham
Colors:
Andy Troy
Letters:
Joe Caramagna
Editor:
Tom Brevoort
Cover Art:
Carlos Pacheco, Tim Townsend & Frank D’Armata
Publisher:
Marvel Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Dude definitely has a “Captain America” vibe to him… hey, wasn’t his name “Steve” in the movie?

IMPRESSIONS: Ah, he is Captain America. Or… he was. But he’s not now… looks like he’s a super-spy, and the grandson of the guy who turned him into Captain America in the first place is in some sort of trouble, so he has to save him.

Okay, I can work with this.

The book actually gives us just about everything we need to know. It recaps Captain – um… Steve’s origin pretty succinctly, and it shows us why that’s relevant today, as there are evidently enemy spies trying to recreate the experiment that made Steve a super-soldier in the first place. The fighting is cool – whether he’s wearing the mask or not, Rogers kicks a lot of butt in this issue. It’s a trifle confusing why he’s not Captain America anymore, or why he’s just going around with no mask on and everyone knows who he is, but there’s enough to go on to make the story comprehensible and enjoyable.

But man… “Steve Rogers” has got to be the worst superhero name ever.

Really? There was somebody called “Maggot” in the X-Men?

Never mind.

GRADE: B

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage #10

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: The Day God Came From the Machine

CREDITS:

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Pencils:
Al Davison
Inks:
Al Davison
Colors:
Ian McKie
Letters:
Todd Klein
Editor:
Ed Polgardy
Cover Art:
Bryan Talbot & Angus McKie
Publisher:
Tekno-Comix

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: “Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage.” None of these words mean anything to me. Maybe if it was “Neil Diamond’s” or something, I dunno. Still, it looks like there’s a giant lizard, so how bad could it be.

IMPRESSIONS: Well… there’s a giant lizard, all right, but that’s about as much of this issue that I comprehend. We’re in a skyscraper in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by birds, bugs, and flying machines. Inside, the lizard – whose name is “Henry Phage” and who wears a snazzy red jacket, throws a bunch of people into a giant vat of green goop. And they turn into a blue thing.

It’s all… it’s kind of… what the hell is it?

Okay, I get that the people Phage sacrifices turn into this blue amalgam entity that kinda-sorta takes vengeance on him, but so what? I have no idea where we are, who these people are, why he’s killing them or why there’s a giant lizard wearing a snazzy red jacket in the first place. Quite frankly, this book is completely absurd, and the only reason it doesn’t rank lower is because I at least follow a little of the internal consistency. There’s a clear cause and effect here, but there’s no context to allow any of it to make sense. I know this issue the tenth issue – says so right on the cover there – but couldn’t they have included some sort of note to let people know what was going on? I’m utterly lost.

GRADE: D

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Superman (1939 Series) #299

March 25, 2012 Leave a comment

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TITLE: The Double-Or-Nothing Life of Superman

CREDITS:
Writer:
Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin
Art:
Curt Swan & Bob Oksner
Editor:
Julius Schwartz
Publisher:
DC Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Superman I know – but why is his suit empty? And who are these guys surrounding him?

IMPRESSIONS: Evidently, Superman’s next-door neighbor is an alien. But not a nice one, like Superman is. He’s the sort who is planning an invasion or something and has gone about it in a ridiculously roundabout way – somehow he’s found a way to remove Superman’s powers whenever he changes to Clark Kent. Superman has decided to test this out by spending an entire week only as Clark, then a week only as Superman. After his time is up, he’s about to decide on which life to stick with full-time (for some reason), when his alien adversary rounds up nine of – as Superman puts it, “the most fearsome super-villains [he’s] ever fought!” I don’t know about how fearsome they are. Lex Luthor, sure. The Parasite and Brainiac look pretty formidable too, and I’m sure I can understand why he’d be afraid of someone named Kryptonite Man. But we’ve got a dwarf in a derby hat called Mr. Mxyzptlk, a chubby guy in a plaid coat called the Prankster, a weirdo called the Toyman, a goofy cowboy called Terra-Man, and someone named Amalak who doesn’t do much but stand around looking purple. (A lot of Superman’s enemies seem dedicated to a purple-and-green color scheme for some reason. Five of the nine wear those colors exclusively, and only Toyman doesn’t have any of them at all.)

Anyway, Superman goes out to round up these guys in a fashion that comes so easily one must seriously question how tough the rest of the criminals in Metropolis are, if these are the most fearsome of the bunch. Then we get an explanation for Superman’s power loss that makes you wonder why the hell it took him three weeks to figure it out, and then he beats the alien using an even more convoluted series of events.

There’s a bold proclamation on the first page of the issue: “The greatest hero the world has ever known in his most magnificent adventure of all time!” I’m hoping this was mere hyperbole, because as far as adventures go, this wasn’t particularly magnificent. I understood this just fine. That didn’t make it less silly.

GRADE: C

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man (1982 Series) #50

March 4, 2012 Leave a comment

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TITLE: Vows

CREDITS:
Writer: Gerry Conway
Pencils:
Rafael Kayanan
Inks:
Mike Machlan, Pablo Marcos, Rodin Rodriguez
Colors:
Nansi Hoolahan
Letters:
Carrie Spiegle
Editor:
Paul Kupperberg
Cover Art:
Denys Cowan & Klaus Janson
Publisher:
DC Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: I don’t know who he is, but he’s got a cool look…

IMPRESSIONS: Wow, does this book turn you around a dozen times. We start off with someone polishing a gun while he looks down at a wedding announcement. We come to find out that the guy getting married is Ed Raymond, father of Ronnie Raymond, who’s kind of the hero “Firestorm,” and that Ed’s fiancé just recently dropped a lawsuit against Firestorm. I say Ronnie is only “kind of” Firestorm, because apparently he can only become a superhero by fusing with one of his college professors. Anyway, things seem to be going okay until somebody kidnaps Ed and tries to kill Ronnie during a football game, but instead winds up crippling one of his teammates, a sort of beefy dude with a heart of gold called Hugo.

Oddly enough, the superhero stuff (in which a college student merges with a professor to turn into a flying man whose head is on fire) is the part of this comic that’s easy to comprehend. The comic goes into all kinds of backstory, including stuff that’s happened to Firestorm in the past and an old World War II superhero called the Aviator, who turns up out of nowhere with a sort of convoluted soap opera explanation for what he’s doing in this story.

Firestorm himself is actually pretty cool. He’s got an interesting hook and a great visual. All the stuff around him is a mess, though, and it makes me less likely to want to read any more of his comic books.

GRADE: C

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Atomic Robo Vol. 1-Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne

February 26, 2012 1 comment

Wondering what Somebody’s First Comic Book is all about? The explanation is on this page!

TITLE: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne

CREDITS:
Writer:
Brian Clevinger
Art:
Scott Wegener
Colors:
Ronda Pattison
Letters:
Jeff Powell
Publisher:
Red 5 Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Never heard of him. I’m guessing “Atomic Robo” is the robot with the gun who looks like he beat up the bigger robot with the skull head.

IMPRESSIONS: Holy crap, this book is insane.

In six chapters, we’re introduced to the world of Atomic Robo, an 83-year-old robot who has apparently fought in World War II, battled monsters and mad scientists for decades, and owns a company called Tesladyne with which he and a group of “action scientists” protect the world from ludicrous menaces, such as that pyramid in Egypt that got up and started walking away, blowing stuff up in the process.

I’m using words like “insane” and “ludicrous” here to describe the book, but you’ve got to understand I intend that in a totally complimentary way. The stuff Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener have come up with to populate the world of Atomic Robo are wild, out-of-this world kinds of menaces that work well in contrast with the hero himself. It’s like somebody mashed together Indiana Jones, Doc Savage and Buckaroo Banzai, then turned the result into a robot. Everything about this property reminds me of the blatant toy commercial cartoons of the 1980s, except that this is actually really good.

To be fair, it is kind of confusing. It’s obvious that Robo has a pretty rich history here, but we don’t see very much of it. Even the flashback sequences (such as the time his trip to Mars was sabotaged by Stephen Hawking, of all people) only give us glimpses to his past adventures. We know he was active in World War II because he gets a letter from the granddaughter of an old army buddy telling him that his friend has died. Beyond that, we don’t know much – where did he come from, who invented him, what’s his origin?

Fortunately, these questions are more tantalizing than frustrating. It would be easy to load a book like this one with a ton of things that are left unresolved and leave the audience unsatisfied, but that isn’t the case here. The questions that are raised are never central to the plot or the character’s role in the story, so we feel like we’ve got a complete, satisfying tale in and of itself, even as we want to know more.

And you’re telling me there are five more books in this series? So far? Awesome. Give me more Atomic Robo.

GRADE: A-

Somebody’s First Comic Book: Roger Rabbit #1

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

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TITLE: The Trouble With Toons & Good Neighbor Roger

CREDITS:
Writers:
Kate Worley & Doug Rice
Art:
Rick Hoberg, Dave Simons & Bill Langley
Editor:
Len Wein
Publisher:
Disney Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: I know Roger Rabbit! He was framed, if my memory serves me correctly.

IMPRESSIONS: The comic seems to pick up shortly after the end of the movie. Roger Rabbit goes down to the Ink and Paint Club to find that it’s been trashed and rushes to his buddy, Detective Eddie Valiant, for help in solving the case. But Valiant has been swamped with business ever since he and Roger defeated Judge Doom (in the movie), so he sends Roger to his buddy Rick Flint. Roger and Flint set out to find the man who destroyed the club, and a new partnership is born.

This comic book felt like the first episode of a movie-spinoff TV show where the producers couldn’t get the original actors in for more than a cameo. Flint isn’t really that interesting a character – he’s a generic old-school detective who doesn’t seem to bring anything to the story that couldn’t have been served just as easily by using Eddie Valiant. I can understand how, if this had been a TV show, getting Bob Hoskins would have been rather difficult. But we’re looking at a comic book here. Why couldn’t they draw Valiant instead of coming up with a low-rent substitute?

The second story, “Good Neighbor Roger,” is much better. This one is set in Toontown, where Roger is upset to learn his new neighbor is a weasel. (Remember them from the movie? Roger, understandably, has a bit of an aversion to weasels.) Roger decides to make nice, though, and hilarity ensues. This one feels like an old-fashioned cartoon with more modern writing, and I liked it a lot on that level.

Not a bad comic book, I guess, but I’d be more interested in reading more of Roger’s Toontown adventures than the Adventures of Rabbit and Flint.

GRADE: B-

Somebody’s First Comic Book: The Ferret #1

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

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TITLE: In the Midnight Hour

CREDITS:

Writer: R.A. Jones
Pencils:
Dean Zachary
Inks:
Ken Branch
Colors:
Keith Conroy
Letters:
Tim Eldred
Editor:
Roland Mann
Cover Art:
Dean Zachary, Mike Miller & Albert Calleros
Publisher:
Malibu Comics

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Not only have I never heard of this “Ferret” individual, I’m struggling to figure out exactly why this comic book is in the shape of his head.

IMPRESSIONS: The story here is actually relatively simple. We meet the Ferret, a superhero who seems to be a bit hampered because he’s a member of a group called the Protectors, and because of that the criminal element of the city knows he won’t kill them. So he has to find alternative ways to brutalize the hell out of them. Meanwhile, in a hospital somewhere, a big ugly green dude called Toxin wakes up and intends to kill the hell out of the Ferret. We encounter the Ferret in his secret identity of Cal Denton, a rock singer wearing clothes he stole from 1972. Despite this, an attractive woman called Midnight Blue (seriously) starts hitting on him after one of his shows and immediately before Toxin attacks him.

Despite the rather silly synopsis, the book isn’t too difficult to understand. I’ve really got no clue who the Ferret is or what he’s about, but as a generic superhero fighting a generic supervillain, he seems straightforward enough. None of these characters seem particularly deep, so I don’t even feel like I’m missing out by not knowing anything about who they are. Heck, the only reason I’m sure that the “Protectors” are a superhero group is because there are a few ads for their own comic scattered throughout this one.

The writing is so-so, and the art is really weak. Nobody poses in the positions these characters routinely employ, and Cal Denton looks dated as hell, even considering that this comic book was published in 1993. And I still can’t figure out why the book is cut in the shape of the Ferret’s head. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story, it adds nothing to the reading experience, and it actually makes it a little difficult to hold the book without fear of accidentally crumpling it up. I’m starting to understand why this guy didn’t become a superstar some time in the last 18 years.

GRADE: C+