Review Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Continuity vs. corporate synergy in ‘Ant-Man’ Vol. 1

ant-man v1Before picking up Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas’ Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man, the last time I had seen its star Scott Lang was in the pages of FF.

There he had a sleek Mike Allred-designed costume — perhaps the best Ant-Man costume of them all – and was Reed Richards’ hand-picked choice to lead a temporary, back-up Fantastic Four and a school for young super-geniuses, The Future Foundation, in case something should happen to the team while they were exploring (something does). Ant-Man began dating Johnny Storm’s ex, the beautiful young pop star Darla Deering, and went on to plan and execute the defeat of Doctor Doom, the world’s greatest villain.

Wait, scratch that. That was the last place I saw Ant-Man Scott Lang in comics. The actual last place I saw him was at the movie theater, where he was a down-on-his-luck, good-hearted ex-con trying to do right by his daughter using his shrinking powers.

Guess which one of those two takes the new Ant-Man comic more closely resembles?
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The road to Hell is paved with Godzilla intentions: ‘Godzilla In Hell #1′

godzilla in hellGodzilla has starred in 30 films, two animated TV series and more books, comic books and video games than I can count. Despite all of the stories in all types of media that Godzilla has appeared in for over 60 years now, I’ve never once seriously considered the question of where Godzilla might go when he dies.

The latest IDW series Godzilla In Hell makes me do just that, however, and the publisher, editor Bobby Curnow and writer/artist James Stokoe deserve some serious respect for doing something completely new and completely original with such a well-traveled pop culture character.

Not that thinking of something new, fresh and original to do with the giant monster is the only virtue to Stokoe’s return to the King of the Monsters, of course.

Stokoe’s previous Godzilla comic was the 2012 Godzilla: The Half-Century War, an epic adventure that doubled as a sort of meta-commentary on Godzilla’s film career, and the evolution of the monster and the world’s perception of him during that time.
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Meet the All-New, All-Different, All-Good ‘Archie’

archie coverIn 22 pages, Mark Waid and Fiona Staples completely reinvent Archie comics, coming up with a take on the character that should appeal to a whole new and extremely wide audience.

That’s some stunt.

For quite a while now, publisher Archie Comics has been engaged in an ongoing campaign of stunt comics, all seemingly calculated to secure the most mainstream media coverage. They introduced characters that made the notoriously conservative comics more representatively diverse. They had a same-sex marriage. They married Archie to Betty…and they married Archie to Veronica (In alternate future timelines, of course). They killed Archie. They had the gang from Riverdale meet Kiss, President Barack Obama and then-Governor Sarah Palin, and even a Predator. They even launched an honest-to-God, mature-readers horror comic in which Archie and friends battle to survive a zombie apocalypse.

But relaunching Archie with a new #1, a new creative team and a new direction has got to be their best stunt yet. Certainly, the move boasts some of the same calculation that went into those mentioned above (many of which did produce some good comics, no matter how cynically you want to view the decisions behind them). Hiring Mark Waid, one of the more popular and maybe the most reliable of superhero writers, and Fiona Staples, an immensely talented artist who achieved superstardom via creator-owned Image series Saga, is every bit as attention-getting as setting the issue counter back down to #1, or having an ungodly 21 (Twenty-one!) covers, or divorcing the book from its long-time house style.

It works though, and it works for the most simple of reasons: The new Archie #1 isn’t just new and it isn’t just different, it’s also very good.

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Kate Beaton crosses into picture books with ‘The Princess and the Pony’

cover of patpHere are five words that, to my knowledge, have never been spoken or written in this particular order: “I don’t like Kate Beaton.”

This being the Internet, there very well may be someone somewhere who does not, in fact, care for Beaton’s work, but I’ve never run across that person. Similarly, it’s difficult to find a cartoonist whose work is so widely enjoyed and championed that affection for it approaches universal.

From her long-running online comics about historical and literary figures (collected in the Hark! A Vagrant books, a second volume of which is due soon) to her online-only, more-doodled-than-drawn strips about visiting her family, Beaton’s work is always engaging and easy to share.

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All of June’s DC You launches, reviewed

section 8Twenty-one new series launched in one month. All reviewed and graded on a curve. Are YOU ready?

All Star Section Eight #1
By Garth Ennis, John McCrea and John Kalisz
Grade: A

Did you like Hitman, the best series DC Comics ever published? Well, good news! It’s back … kinda. The Hitman creative team reunites for this miniseries starring the few surviving members of the title.

The premise is that Sixpack, the delusional alcoholic leader of the most dysfunctional superhero team ever created returns from the dead (i.e. being sober) to combat a threat that only Section Eight can stop. Because most of Section Eight is dead, he needs to put together a new team, and he can only come up with seven, so he needs to recruit one more hero. Like Batman, maybe.

Batman doesn’t bite, of course, but Ennis and McCrea have come up with a premise that allows them to make fun of the DC Universe, continue the story of a handful of their characters without having to reconcile continuity differences on either side of Flashpoint, or worry about taking away from the tale they so completely and perfectly told in the pages of Hitman.
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IDW crosses the streams with ‘Ghostbusters: Get Real’

ghostbustersThe last time IDW Publishing’s Ghostbusters comic was involved in a crossover, it was a very weird pairing with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For the new event, the Ghostbusters are teamed with a more natural, but perhaps weirder franchise: another version of the Ghostbusters.

Specifically, The Real Ghostbusters, the 1986-1991 animated series that spun out of the 1984 film and spawned a popular toy line two comic book titles. The oddly applied adjective “Real” came about to further distinguish these Ghostbusters from those that starred in a 1986 Filmation cartoon based on a mostly forgotten 1975 Ghost Busters TV series.

That’s why this series is called Ghostbusters: Get Real. Get it? (Now that I think of it, maybe the weirdest of all possible Ghostbusters crossovers would be one involving those from the ’84 film with those from the ’75 TV show.)

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True-ish Detective: Rick Geary’s ‘Louise Brooks’

lousie brooks detectiveCartoonist Rick Geary owns the genre of true crime comics, having produced some 15 volumes of his Treasury series since 1987, chronicling the most famous and sensational murders of the Victorian era, and continuing toward the present.

His latest original graphic novel is a departure, a work of fiction telling a story that has, at its heart, a rather complex pair of murders. But it’s not much of a departure. Not only is Geary’s visual and verbal style unchanged, his interest in history, reality and ready-made characters is in tact. In Louise Brooks: Detective, Geary writes about a fictitious crime, but he uses a real protagonist, and sets the invented events within her biography.

That real protagonist is, of course, Louise Brooks, an actress from the dawn of the American motion picture industry, who is today probably best remembered for popularizing bangs and the bobbed haircut (in fact, that’s in the first sentence of her Wikipedia entry), and for the grip she holds on the imagination of comics artists like John H. Striebel, Guido Crepax and Hugo Pratt, all of whom based characters on her.

And Geary, of course, who here uses her as a character.
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B is for Batty: ‘Bat-Mite’ #1 and ‘Bizarro’ #1

batmite-bizarro

DC Comics returns from its two-month Convergence break with a reinvigorated line, including more than 20 new series, new directions for existing titles, a new “DC You” promotional campaign, and a brief commercial message from Nick Lachey.

Among the most notable changes evidenced this week is the wildly increased diversity of the publisher’s offerings. Over the past 43 months or so of the New 52, DC was particularly daring in the oddball titles, characters and concepts launched, likely the result of having a set goal of 52 books (and the knowledge that they had some 75 years’ worth of IP to exploit). But while the publisher toyed with twists of the superhero genre (superhero war comics, superhero horror comics, superhero Western comics, etc.) and went surprisingly deep into its character catalog (Dial H, The Green Team, Infinity Man and The Forever People), there wasn’t much diversity in terms of tone or visual style.

That’s no longer the case. This week’s new releases include comedy miniseries starring Bat-Mite and Bizarro — two particularly fun Silver Age characters – and featuring intentionally cartoony styles that are as far removed from Jim Lee-derived New 52 house style as one can imagine.

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Five ‘Convergence’ tie-ins worth reading, even if you didn’t read ‘Convergence’

atom hand

Concluding this week, DC Comics’ Convergence put the big in “big event”: There were 89 individual comic books – a nine-issue weekly miniseries and 40 two-part miniseries – created by more than 75 writers and pencilers, plus a comparable legion of inkers, colorists and letterers.

Because of the sheer size, it’s difficult to review the event in its entirety, so I’m not going to bother picking it part here. The main series wasn’t particularly good, while the 40 tie-in series varied from terrible to excellent, with most of them falling somewhere in between.

In case you’ve watched this leviathan of a superhero event passing by without reading much – or any – of it, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some of those excellent books, the ones that you should read if you decide to pick up any of Convergence, regardless of your interest in, or affection for, particular characters.

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What’s the plural of Vertigo? ‘Injection,’ ‘Mythic’ & ‘Strange Sports Stories’

shalvey

I’ve heard it said more times than I can count, “Image is the new Vertigo.”

In 1993, when DC Comics founded Vertigo around a handful of more adult-oriented titles, mostly featuring faded properties reimagined by British creators as horror, sci-fi and fantasy comics, the imprint was one the relatively few games in town for high-production-value genre comics for adults

That same year Image celebrated its first birthday, and although it was a sales juggernaut, the publisher was at that point little more than a vanity press for a handful of creators doing pastiches of their favorite DC and Marvel superheroes.

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Sometimes the sequel is better: ‘Batman: Earth One Volume Two’

batman earth 1Well, this is more like it.

I wasn’t a fan of the first volume of the Geoff Johns-written original graphic novel series that attempts to reinvent Batman for a new generation (to put it somewhat mildly). In addition to being wholly unnecessary — the Dark Knight is almost constantly being reimagined for mass audiences — Johns made a series of strange changes to the basic story and cast, seemingly reflective of a desire to be different for the sake of being different. That, and, ultimately, he  presented a story that contradicted Batman’s idealistic “no guns, no killing” philosophy by having another character save Batman from certain death by killing the villain with a gun.

Given how confounding I found that first volume, I was surprised – and happily so – to find this sequel is a much stronger work. Johns, penciler  Gary Frank, inker Jon Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson return to their very particular story of the beginning of Batman’s crime-fighting career … or, at least, a Batman’s crime-fighting career. It’s a distinction likely lost on the intended audience, but this is the Batman of the current, post-crises alternate Earth designated “Earth One.”

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Review | A crisis of infinite Multiverse stories

Yes, yes it must stop.

Yes, yes it must stop.

I hope it was by design that DC Comics released both The Multiversity #2 and Justice League #40 on the same day the two-month Convergence event reached its halfway point. However, it’s difficult to identify a plan in the publisher devoting the bulk of its output for the final week of April to three unrelated stories about the Multiverse. DC released 18 comics this week, and, of those, just five had nothing to do with its Multiverse.

If you haven’t been reading any of those titles — and if you haven’t, I’m afraid you’re not going to find this review terribly engaging — here’s a quick reminder of what’s going on in those three stories about the Multiverse:

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Review | IDW gets its ducks in a row with ‘Uncle Scrooge’ #1

uncle scroogeThe famously miserly Scrooge McDuck always refused to buy his own newspaper, preferring instead to find one discarded on a park bench. It’s therefore awfully difficult to imagine the World’s Richest Duck parting with $3.99 for a comic book. Why, that’s almost 40 whole dimes!

Naturally, Uncle Scrooge isn’t the target audience for the debut series from IDW Publishing’s new line of Disney comics, but he is the star. Absent from new-comics racks since BOOM! Studios lost the license four years ago, floppy comics starring the original Disney cartoon characters are now making their return. This month brings us Uncle Scrooge #1 (which is also being parenthetically numbered as #405, keeping the original numbering), and each of the next three months will add another title: First Donald Duck, then Mickey Mouse and ultimately Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories.

It’s appropriate that they start with Scrooge, as he’s the rare Disney character who got his start in the comics and later transitioned to animated stardom, rather than vice versa. And, of course, Scrooge has been a fixture of American comics, the longtime subject of his creator, master cartoonist and storyteller Carl Barks.

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‘Archie Vs. Predator’ #1 doesn’t fall prey to one-off gag

avp coverWell, Archie Meets The Punisher no longer seems that weird of an intercompany crossover, does it?

In Archie Vs. Predator, the unstoppable killing machine of the sci-fi horror franchise that’s previously taken on such comic book tough guys as Batman, Tarzan and Judge Dredd sets his triangular laser sighting mechanism on all-American teen Archie Andrews.

The title, and the premise it suggests, is this comic’s very best gag. Really, the only thing funnier than the thought of an Archie vs. Predator miniseries is knowing that it actually exists.

But is there anything to it, beyond the central joke that’ so wonderfully told on artist Fernando Ruiz’s cover to the first issue?

Surprisingly, yes.

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How Lulu got her groove back: ‘Lulu Anew’

luluThe story of a deeply unhappy and unfulfilled middle-aged woman — or, more occasionally, middle-aged man — who makes a spur-of-the moment decision to break routine and embark on a  journey of self-discovery is a staple of popular fiction.

With few exceptions, these sorts of feel-good stories about vanquishing ennui don’t feature compelling, can’t-put-‘em-down mysteries with life-and-death stakes, which goes a long way toward explaining what makes Etienne Davodeau’s Lulu Anew such an unusually suspenseful graphic novel.

It’s the story of Lulu, a mother of three, the wife of an alcoholic lout and the center of a large and supportive circle of friends. Her tale begins at a wake at her house, as her friends try to make sense of what exactly transpired to bring them all to the terrace, avoiding going inside, where the body is.

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