Monday, May 1, 2017

COMICS READING FOR APRIL: “The Borrower”



* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      Zenith, New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

WE LOVE libraries in our household. Despite owning thousands of books we still go regularly to our local library and borrow more. While the kids are the primary users, I’ve started frequenting the graphic novel section a bit in recent months. It’s a good opportunity to borrow books that I would NEVER buy but still want to read. Here are a selection of library books that I read this month.

1. The Sacrifice (Allen & Unwin, 2008) ***¼
Writer/Artist: Bruce Mutard
I’ve known Bruce Mutard for a long time – in fact, the veteran cartoonist once contributed a two-page strip to my zine Betty Paginated in the mid-90s. While he’s done graphic novels before (such as The Silence and The Bunker), The Sacrifice is his most ambitious project to date. I’m not sure it was entirely successful but it was a  noble effort and truly feels like a “great Australian novel” rather than a graphic novel. It’s the story of Robert and his struggle to balance his pacifist, Communist ideals with the reality of a looming war in Europe. He befriends Austrian Jewish refugees, including their talented daughter Mata. Too much of the first two thirds of the book is filled with unwieldy, unrealistic dialogue that explains the cultural and political climate in Australia in 1939, but it’s hard to wade through. The book really picks up in the final third when Robert eventually joins the army and enjoys a final weekend of leave before being shipped abroad. He finds his mentally fragile mother living in squalor in her house, while a precocious Mata has run away from home, having developed a teen gal thing for men in uniform. Robert’s journey through the sleazy underbelly of Melbourne while looking for her makes compelling reading.
The Sacrifice was meant to be the first in a trilogy detailing Robert’s life, but sadly there have been no more graphic novels forthcoming. Which is a pity – after a shaky start, The Sacrifice eventually blossomed into a legitimately impressive novel and, possibly, the finest work in Mutard’s career to date.

2. Whatever Happened To The World Of Tomorrow? (Abrams ComicsArt, 2009) ***½
Writer/Artist: Brian Fies
This graphic novel made me sad. The exotic ideals of 70-80 years ago of what the future would look like – and the excitement of the Space Race of the 1950s and 60s – turned out to be a fallacy driven by commercial opportunism and Cold War one-upmanship. Optimism fell victim to cynicism and scepticism. Man’s dreams of looking outward to the universe was dropped for a more financially practical plan of looking inward. Instead of jetpacks we got iPhones. Fies makes a case for mankind to return to that optimism, but I’m not optimistic that will ever happen. We are a mean-spirited, narrow-minded, short-sighted race. Travelling to the stars is not on the agenda, and never will be again. Man, I felt so bummed after reading this book.

3. Squirrel Girl’s first appearance in Marvel Super Heroes #8 (Marvel, 1992) ***¼
- as reprinted in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2015)
["The Coming of...Squirrel Girl!"] Writers: Steve Ditko and Will Murray/Artist: Steve Ditko
A hefty 22-page introduction to a chick who only 13 years later would join The Great Lakes Avengers and, a mere 10 years later, star in her own mega-huge series. This tale isn’t great, by any means, but it’s fun. And it’s Ditko.
4.-7. The Books Of Magic: The Deluxe Edition (Vertigo, 2013) ****
- originally published in The Books Of Magic #1-4 (Vertigo, 1990-91)
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artists: John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson
8.-13. Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet (Dynamite, 2015) ***½
- originally published in Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet (Dynamite, 2014)
Writers: Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman/Artists: Ty Templeton and friends (interiors); Alex Ross (covers)
14. MirrorMask (Bloomsbury, 2008) ***½
Writers: Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean/Artist: Dave McKean
Technically, a children’s book but it contains soooo many of Dave’s beautiful illustrations that I’m going to take a liberty and call it a graphic novel. Anyhoo, this is basically an inferior version of Neverwhere. Still good, but not as good as the original. The book also includes stills from the movie, which I now have to watch.
15.-26. Guardians Of The Galaxy Complete Collection by Abnett and Lanning Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2014) ***¾
- originally published in Guardians Of The Galaxy #1-12 (Marvel, 2008-09)
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning/Artists: Paul Pelletier (interiors #1-7), Brad Walker and friends (interiors #8-10); Wesley Craig (interiors #11-12); Clint Langley (covers #1-10); David Yardin (covers #11-12)
Funny to see Wes Craig of Deadly Class fame doing his “cosmic superhero” thang here.
27.-31. Giant Size Little Marvel AvX (Marvel, 2016) ***
- originally published in Giant Size Little Marvel AvX #1-4 (2015) and A-Babies vs X-Babies (Marvel, 2012)
Writer: Skottie Young /Artists: Skottie Young (AvX #1-4); Gurihiru (A-Babies vs X-Babies)
Urrrgggh. I tried to ignore Secret Wars and the whole “Battleworld” schmozzle at Marvel last year. However, I love Scottie Young’s artwork and the “Marvel babies” concept, so I grabbed this book to read. Hey, it was FREE...but it was forgettable fluff.
32.-36. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: The Interconnectedness Of All Kings (IDW, 2016) **
- originally published in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency #1-5 (IDW, 2015)
Writer: Chris Ryall/Artists: Tony Akins (#1-2), Ilias Kyriazis (#3-5) and friends
Douglas Adams wrote one of the great sci-fi comedy trilogies (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe and Life, The Universe And Everything) and three other books that added nothing to the series. He then moved onto the Dirk Gently book series that, frankly, sucked balls. I hated the books when I first read them 30 years ago. It was twee claptrap that meandered along for 200 pages, then resolved the plot at a breakneck speed in the final 30 pages. Utter tosh that wasn’t a patch on Hitchhiker. This comic adaptation only reaffirmed my distaste for Dirk Gently. Nice art, but I want bit more in my comics than that. Anyway, true Douglas Adams fans should avoid this graphic novel.

37.-42. Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More (Marvel, 2015) ***
- originally published in Captain Marvel #1-6 (Marvel, 2014)
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick/Artist: David Lopez
Not sure what the fuss is all about. This series was average at best.

-----------------------

43. Where Bold Stars Go To Die (SLG Publishing, 2009, 2013) ***½
Writer: Gerry Alanguilan/Artist: Arlanzandro C. Esmeña
A poignant tribute to the Philippines’ soft-core erotic film starlets of the 1960s and 70s. The story is made more poignant by the fact that the lovely good-girl art was Esmeña’s first and last published work before his untimely death from cancer.
44. Battlefields: The Green Fields Beyond #1 (Dynamite, 2012) ****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artists: Carlos and Hector Ezquerra (interior); Garry Leach (cover)
45. The Creeps #2 (Warrant, 2015) ***
Writers/Artists: various
A nice homage to Warren Magazines’ Creepy, with talent on board such as Rich Buckler, Ralph Reese, Roger McKenzie, Mort Todd and Australia’s own Jason Paulos. It’s topped off by a gorgeous painted cover by Sanjulian.
46. Jungle Action featuring The Black Panther #5 (Marvel, 1973) **½
Writer: Roy Thomas/Artists: John Buscema and George Klein
47.-48. WWE Kids #118-119 (DC Thomson & Co, 2017) ****
Writers/Artists: various
The strips suck, but I looooove this magazine, especially for the beaut tip-ons.


49.-54. Saga Vol. 7 (Image, 2017) *****
- originally published in Saga #37-42 (Image, 2016-17)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Fiona Staples
Arguably the most powerful book I’ve read this year and easily the best volume of this incredible series to date. Volume 7 is a damning indictment on racism, governments’ callous treatment of refugees, blind faith and the way innocents are the ones who suffer most in times of war. A couple of beloved characters die brutally in this story arc, but the most poignant scene comes on the final few pages when Hazel loses her best friend in the most futile, tragic way possible. It was painful to read. It was beautiful. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have excelled themselves in this arc. I’m not sure how Saga could be any more heart-achingly wonderful.
55. Albion Origins (Titan Books, 2007) ***¾
Writers: various/Artists: various (interior); Brian Bolland (cover)
I didn’t think much of the Albion miniseries written by Leah Moore, but it was because of that misstep that Albion Origins was released. When I was a kid I adored the House Of Dolmann, a 1960s strip that was reprinted in British weekly Valiant and Lion in the mid-70s. In it, a brilliant scientist called Dolmann invented a bunch of deadly puppets to fight evil. There was a super-strong sumo wrestler Togo, A British commando with different guns at his disposal called Raider, a clawed digger called Mole and many more. Making it even kookier, he would throw his voice to make his puppets “talk”. Anyway, the series rocked and it’s been collected in this book, which also includes other oddball British supernatural series such as Kelly’s Eye, Cursitor Doom and Janus Stark. I scored this cheap on eBay and it’s pretty damn cool.  

56.-62. Fear Itself: The Home Front #1-7 (Marvel, 2011) ****
Writers/Artists: various
Surprisingly, the best yarn in this maxiseries from the otherwise mediocre “event”, was the Speedball tale (Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Mike Mayhew). There were also good yarns about Agents Of ATLAS (#1-4) and the Great Lakes Avengers (#6).
63. Secret Empire #0 (Marvel, 2017) ***¼
Writer: Nick Spencer/Artists: Daniel Acuña and Rod Reis (interior); Ben Butcher (Marvel Collector Corps cover)
64.-65. New Avengers #15-16 (Marvel, 2011) ***½
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Mike Deodato
Bought these because I am a Squirrel Girl completist. This was part of the Fear Itself storyline, which was a kinda lame “event”.
66. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #23 (Image, 2017) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
67.-72. Surgeon X Vol. 1 (Image, 2017) ***
- originally published in Surgeon X #1-6 (Image, 2016-17)
Writer: Sara Kenney/Artist: John Watkiss
I expected much more from this series after reading a preview a few months back. But I found the series a chore to get through. The late Watkiss’s art has a nice David Lloyd’ish quality to it, but Kenney’s quirky, unconventional storytelling technique didn’t work for me.
73.-77. Cage! (Marvel, 2017) ****½
- originally published in Cage! #1-4 (Marvel, 2016-17) and Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1 (Marvel, 1972)
Cage!: Writer: Genndy Tartakovsky/Artists: Genndy Tartakovsky and Stephen DeStefano
Hero For Hire: Writer: Archie Goodwin/Artists: George Tuska and Billy Graham/“Creative contributions”: Roy Thomas and John Romita
78.-81. Cannibal Vol. 1 (Image, 2017) ***½
- originally published in Cannibal #1-4 (Image, 2016-17)
Writers: Brian Buccellato and Jennifer Young/Artist: Matias Bergara


82. Logan’s Run Annual (Brown Watson, 1978) ***
Writer: Steve Moore /Artist: David Lloyd

I read an interview with V For Vendetta artist David Lloyd recently and he talked about how his very first paid job was doing all the art for this annual. Naturally, I tracked it down on eBay and found a very good quality, cheap copy. For a novice, Lloyd’s art is already well-defined and not too dissimilar to what he’d create a few years later alongside Alan Moore in Warrior magazine. The British annual is a mixture of strips, short stories, puzzles and articles about the short-lived TV series. Moore’s stories are perfectly acceptable. In fact, probably better than the quality of the actual scripts in Logan’s Run.

FAIR ENOUGH
BY ACCIDENT, I learned about the Adelaide Toy and Comic Fair while visiting the city in late April. So I dropped in on the Saturday morning and bought a ton of cool comix from local creators. I was informed that Adelaide has a vibrant comics scene, which is obvious from the high-quality material I picked up (and even the stuff that I’ve bought previously in Sydney from dudes like ComicOz, who publish DECAY and Retro Sci-Fi Tales).
My thanks to Anthony and Miranda for the long, friendly chats we had on the day. You guys are all very talented folks.

83-85. In For The Krill #3-5 (Panic Productions, 2010-16) ***¾
Writers: Jill Brett and Greg Holfeld/Artist: Greg Holfeld
A crime noir tale involving penguins? Hey, it works for me. There’s a conspiracy happening on the ice floe, but who’s gonna believe the son of a cannibal, who’s main claim to fame is terrible haikus? Murder, mayhem and tenpin bowling...this entertaining series has it all. Holfeld’s art is amazing, even though I found it hard sometimes to distinguish between all the main penguin characters.
Find out more about the series at http://inforthekrill.tumblr.com/.

86.-88. Sovereign’s Dread Book 1 (Comics On Demand, 2016) ***¼
Writer/Artist: James Wilkinson
I’m listing this as three comics as this classy-looking, A5 graphic novel – the product of a successful Kickstarter project – is broken into three issues by Wilkinson. His Photoshop-enhanced artwork is a bit hit’n’miss, but is spectacular at times and the lush paper it’s printed on doesn’t hurt either. A young guard, a cynical warrior and an arrogant royal from different kingdoms are thrown together when a supernatural army invades their world. I first saw the idea of magic being like a drug explored in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Sovereign’s Dread explores that theme as well. Contact James on how to get your copy at wilkinson.peter.james@gmail.com.
89. Dappled (New London, 2016) ***¾
Writer: Anthony N. Castle/Artist: Chadwick Ashby
I got talking to Anthony at the fair and he was a really nice guy (as I’m sure is Chadwick, but I didn’t really chat to him as much as Anthony). Anyway, these guys strive to produce work as good as anything you’d see from Image, and I’d say they’re succeeding. Dappled is a stark, B&W horror tale that touches on the taboo subjects of suicide and self-harm in teenagers. It’s pretty damn good.
90. Rag Doll (New London, 2015) *****
Writer: Anthony N. Castle/Artist: Chadwick Ashby
Dappled cost $6 but the guys struggled to find change for my tenner. I told them to keep the change. Instead, they gave me Rag Doll – and I’m so glad they did. This is a wonderful tale about a discarded old rag doll trying to find a new home before making a brave and heartbreaking decision in a rubbish tip. The story is whimsical, sad but ultimately uplifting while the art would fit nicely into a children’s book. In fact, Rag Doll could be reformatted as a children’s book and I think it would sell very well. I enjoyed it a helluva lot.
Anthony and Chadwick are a formidable team. Check them out at www.newlondoncomics.com and www.facebook.com/newlondoncomics.
91.-93. Hail #1-3 (self-published, 201?) ***¾
Writer: Miranda Richardson/Artists: Rosanna Lam and friends
I chatted with Miranda for a while and had a lovely discussion about the Adelaide comix and zine scene. I picked up the first three issues of Hail and it turned out to be another revelation. Hail is superficially a superhero tale, but it’s also a story about a woman with severe anxiety problems and her battle to deal with them. But she’s not alone in her fight. Lena literally shatters like glass and falls to pieces when under duress. Friends encourage her to take this crippling disability and turn it into a positive by fighting crime. By the end of issue three, Lena is a fully functioning superhero with an amazing support team. It’s a very uplifting story and I found the characters extremely likable. Rosanna’s art is part-manga, part-realistic and all good. Support this great local comic by heading to www.hailcomic.com.

And on a related note...
I’M ALWAYS happy to support the local comic scene, especially those that make it to newsagency shelves. So...naturally, I grabbed this mag when I spotted it on the stands.
94. Kid Phantom #1 (Frew, 2017) ***½
Writer: Gabriel Henriquez/Artist: Paul Mason
So this is The Phantom’s version of Superboy ,essentially: how a young Kit Walker became the Phantom. Interesting kick-off issue with FREE stickers (which I’ll never complain about). The story wasn’t the strongest, but I enjoyed Mason’s art and I love the idea that it’s an ongoing series, so readers can see how young Kit blossoms and grows into the masked hero we know and love. So, it’s a cool A5 full-colour comic, but will anyone buy it? Who knows, especially at AUD $7.95? There are a lot of loyal Phantom fans who buy the regular comic, so maybe Frew have hit a home run here. We’ll know for certain if and when a second issue appears.


FAIR ENOUGH: the Adelaide comix scene is vibrant!




BY ACCIDENT, I learned about the Adelaide Toy and Comic Fair while visiting the city in late April. So I dropped in on the Saturday morning and bought a ton of cool comix from local creators. I was informed that Adelaide has a vibrant comics scene, which is obvious from the high-quality material I picked up (and even the stuff that I’ve bought previously in Sydney from dudes like ComicOz, who publish DECAY and Retro Sci-Fi Tales).
My thanks to Anthony and Miranda for the long, friendly chats we had on the day. You guys are all very talented folks.
In For The Krill #3-5 (Panic Productions, 2010-16) ***¾
Writers: Jill Brett and Greg Holfeld/Artist: Greg Holfeld
A crime noir tale involving penguins? Hey, it works for me. There’s a conspiracy happening on the ice floe, but who’s gonna believe the son of a cannibal, who’s main claim to fame is terrible haikus? Murder, mayhem and tenpin bowling...this entertaining series has it all. Holfeld’s art is amazing, even though I found it hard sometimes to distinguish between all the main penguin characters.
Find out more about the series at http://inforthekrill.tumblr.com/.
Sovereign’s Dread Book 1 (Comics On Demand, 2016) ***¼
Writer/Artist: James Wilkinson
This is a classy-looking, A5 graphic novel, broken into three sections by Wilkinson. His Photoshop-enhanced artwork is a bit hit’n’miss, but is spectacular at times and the lush paper it’s printed on doesn’t hurt either. A young guard, a cynical warrior and an arrogant royal from different kingdoms are thrown together when a supernatural army invades their world. I first saw the idea of magic being like a drug explored in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Sovereign’s Dread explores that theme as well. Get your copy at https://www.facebook.com/sovereignsdread/ or https://sovereigns-dread.myshopify.com/.


Dappled (New London, 2016) ***¾
Writer: Anthony N. Castle/Artist: Chadwick Ashby
I got talking to Anthony at the fair and he was a really nice guy (as I’m sure is Chadwick, but I didn’t really chat to him as much as Anthony). Anyway, these guys strive to produce work as good as anything you’d see from Image, and I’d say they’re succeeding. Dappled is a stark, B&W horror tale that touches on the taboo subjects of suicide and self-harm in teenagers. It’s pretty damn good.


Rag Doll (New London, 2015) *****
Writer: Anthony N. Castle/Artist: Chadwick Ashby
Dappled cost $6 but the guys struggled to find change for my tenner. I told them to keep the change. Instead, they gave me Rag Doll – and I’m so glad they did. This is a wonderful tale about a discarded old rag doll trying to find a new home before making a brave and heartbreaking decision in a rubbish tip. The story is whimsical, sad but ultimately uplifting while the art would fit nicely into a children’s book. 

In fact, Rag Doll could be reformatted as a children’s book and I think it would sell very well. I enjoyed it a helluva lot.
Anthony and Chadwick are a formidable team. Check them out at www.newlondoncomics.com and www.facebook.com/newlondoncomics.


Hail #1-3 (self-published, 201?) ***¾
Writer: Miranda Richardson/Artists: Rosanna Lam and friends
I chatted with Miranda for a while and had a lovely discussion about the Adelaide comix and zine scene. I picked up the first three issues of Hail and it turned out to be another revelation. Hail is superficially a superhero tale, but it’s also a story about a woman with severe anxiety problems and her battle to deal with them. But she’s not alone in her fight. Lena literally shatters like glass and falls to pieces when under duress. Friends encourage her to take this crippling disability and turn it into a positive by fighting crime. By the end of issue three, Lena is a fully functioning superhero with an amazing support team. It’s a very uplifting story and I found the characters extremely likable. Rosanna’s art is part-manga, part-realistic and all good. Support this great local comic by heading to www.hailcomic.com.

And on a related note...
I’M ALWAYS happy to support the local comic scene, especially those that make it to newsagency shelves. So...naturally, I grabbed this mag when I spotted it on the stands.


Kid Phantom #1 (Frew, 2017) ***½
Writer: Gabriel Henriquez/Artist: Paul Mason

So this is The Phantom’s version of Superboy ,essentially: how a young Kit Walker became the Phantom. Interesting kick-off issue with FREE stickers (which I’ll never complain about). The story wasn’t the strongest, but I enjoyed Mason’s art and I love the idea that it’s an ongoing series, so readers can see how young Kit blossoms and grows into the masked hero we know and love. So, it’s a cool A5 full-colour comic, but will anyone buy it? Who knows, especially at AUD $7.95? There are a lot of loyal Phantom fans who buy the regular comic, so maybe Frew have hit a home run here. We’ll know for certain if and when a second issue appears.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2: The Unboxing


Hey, Marvel Collector Corps... 

 ...WOW ME!

 Patch and pin. Not bad...
 Like the box art.
 Not a fan of the Secret Empire premise, but the variant cover designed for this box is pretty cool from Ben Butcher.

I knew this was coming, but DAMN! This Pop! Vinyl of Rocket Raccoon with Baby Groot is sweeeeeet. :)

 Whoa. Nice Dorbz. Big and chunky, too. That was a bonus I was *NOT* expecting. :)

FUCKING HELL! This T-shirt is AWESOME!!!!
In fact, so good that I've worn it two days straight and refuse to take it off. It smells, but I don't care. Deal with my Funko funk, people!

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Easily the BEST box put out by Marvel Collector Corps. A big thumbs up. 10/10


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

REVIEW: Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 (Dark Horse, 2017)


 

THIS is an intriguing first issue – a space station picks up a signal from a seemingly abandoned space freighter and sends a team over to investigate it. They find three crew in cryo-sleep…and something else. As it’s told in flashback, we know that a nasty alien is going to turn up very soon and its first appearance on the final splash page is a heart-stopper. Dark Orbit starts slowly, but it appears business is going to pick up pretty bloody rapidly with the next issue.


Canadian writer/artist James Stokoe – of Orc Stain fame – gives proceedings a gritty, dirty feel. Everything he draws looks like it’s covered in motor oil, rust and coffee stains.


Dead Orbit gives off a vibe that’s more Alien than Aliens: claustrophobic, paranoid and downright scary. I look forward to where Stokoe takes us next.



Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is published by Dark Horse and retails for US$3.99. It goes on sale April 26.





RATING: 7.5 out of 10

Saturday, April 1, 2017

COMICS READING FOR MARCH: “Bits and pieces”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      Zenith, New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1. Once And Future Queen #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***¾
Writers: Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride/Artist: Nick Brokenshire
See review HERE.
2. Shadows On The Grave #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***½
Writers: Richard Corben and Jan Strnad/Artist: Richard Corben
A perfectly fine-if-perfunctory return to Corben’s underground horror and Warren magazine roots.
3. American Gods #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***¼
Writers: Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell/Artists: P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton, P. Craig Russell and Lovern Kindzierski (interior); Glenn Fabry (cover)
See review HERE.
4. 1st Folio #1 (Pacific Comics, 1984) ***
Writers/Artists: various
Various EC-style short strips from various students at the Joe Kubert School, including sons Adam and Andy Kubert. The best strip is a Sgt Rock-style two-pager by the master himself.
5. The Vesha Valentine Story (SLG, 2011) **
Writer/Artist: Des Taylor
This homage to vintage Hollywood and cheesecake glamma has some lovely artwork, but it’s ruined by the clichéd, by-the-books storyline and HORRENDOUS editing: spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, constant switching from past to present tense. It’s shoddy, amateurish work that ruined my enjoyment of the book. SLG should be ashamed of their efforts on this one.
6. Motor City Comics #2 (Rip Off Press, 1970) ***
Writer/Artist: Robert Crumb
The main story is a relatively dramatic, longer tale about feminist activist Lenore Goldberg being targeted by the government as a threat to its authority. The comic’s rounded out with several shorter strips , including the highly offensive The Simp And The Gimp. Same old, same old from Crumb.

7. Grendel Ashcan #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) ***
8. Batman/Grendel Ashcan #1 (DC/Comico, 1993) **
9. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Ashcan (Malibu, 1993) **½ 
I grabbed what I thought was a Grendel Ashcan comic from a dollar bin at OzComicCon in Melbourne a few years back. I opened it up recently to find it contained two other ashcan comics, plus a bunch of trading cards and other bits’n’pieces that typified the early 90s. Tons of embossed cards and artwork by guys who crashed and burned during that period. A time capsule.

10. Angel Catbird Vol. 1 (Dark Horse, 2016) **½
11. Angel Catbird Vol. 2: To Castle Catula (Dark Horse, 2017) **
Writer: Margaret Atwood/Artist: Johnnie Christmas
I PLANNED to write big reviews of these two graphic novels on my blog and send the link to Dark Horse (and plug it on Twitter), but I won’t now. Having read them I can honestly say they’re DRIVEL. Beautifully drawn drivel. Quirky drivel (considering the author is a 70+ noted author). But drivel all the same. Half-cat/half-human heroes. Rat people. Owl people. Cat-bat vampires. I’m flabbergasted this faux-Silver Age drivel got green-lighted by Dark Horse. Volume two, in particular, is interminable with a meandering storyline, bad plotting, awful cat-related puns and characters I do not give a SHIT about. It’s dumb. Yes, that’s the perfect word for Angel Catbird: DUMB.
Still, nice art.

12. Stratu’s Diary Comix January 2017 (self-published, 2017) ****
Writer/Artist: Stratu
Review HERE.
13.-18. Future Quest Vol. 1 (DC, 2017) ****
- originally published in Future Quest #1-6 (DC, 2016)
Writer: Jeff Parker/Artists: Evan Shaner, Steve Rude and friends
I was never a fan of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons (they were so cheaply animated), but their “adventure” toons seemed to suck the most. Worst of them all was The Herculoids, a story about a bunch of xenophobic nutbags who would kill ANY aliens who landed on their backward planet. Seriously, that was the plot of EVERY FUCKING EPISODE. Aliens land on planet. Herculoids attack them and kill them. End of episode. Seriously, this series probably sahped Steve Bannon and Pauline Hanson’s attitude to immigration as youngsters.
As for other HB toons, I was vaguely aware of Johnny Quest due to its reincarnation as a comic published by Comico in the early 80s. In the late 90s I’d seen a few eps of the post-ironic Space Ghost Coast-To-Coast on Adult Swim and I even possess a Space Ghost action figure.
But I heard good things about Future Quest – DC’s reimagining of the HB adventure line – and it’s pretty damn great. Parker is one of my fave writers of light-hearted action-adventure, while Shaner, Rude et al really capture the spirit of the original animated series (only giving them more life and vigour than they ever had on TV). All in all, I was pretty impressed with the first six issues.

19.-23. Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2: Civil War II (Marvel, 2017) ***¾
 - originally published in Power Man and Iron Fist #6-9 (Marvel, 2016) and Sweet Christmas Annual #1 (Marvel, 2017)
Writer: David F. Walker/Artists: Flaviano (#6-9 interiors); Sanford Greene (#7-9 interiors and #6-9 covers); Scott Hepburn (annual interior); Jamal Campbell (annual cover)

24.-25. Reese’s Pieces #1-2 (Eclipse Comics, 1985) **½
Writers: Otto Binder, Jerry Siegal and friends/Artist: Ralph Reese
Sub-Warren horror tales “with a twist at the end” drawn by the competent Reese (one of Wally Wood’s many assistants) and written by an eclectic mix of writers. Most of the tales are average at best, although “The Skin-Eaters” (written by Terry Bisson) in No. 2 has an unexpected sting in the tail that lifts it above the others.

26. Soldier X #1 (Marvel, 2002) ***¼
Writer: Darko Macan/Artist: Igor Kordey
I’ve never been a fan of Cable from the X-Men, but this random first issue of a new Cable series was kinda intriguing, as it seemed to be focusing less on the X-Men and Cable as a superhero and more of Cable as a war-weary soldier. Kordy’s Corben-esque artwork was a revelation. However, it’s still Cable – and I don’t give a shit about Cable.

27. The Red Ten #0 (Comix Tribe, 2013) ***½
Writer: Tyler James/Artists: various
A nice little Free Comic Book Day taster for the full series, a homage to Agatha Christie’s thriller novel And Then There Were None, only using superheroes this time. Watch the JLA get bumped off in a bloody murder mystery. Intriguing.

28. On The Line (Image, 2011) ***
Writer: Rick Wright/Artist: Rian Hughes
I picked this up at a Kings (http://www.kingscomics.com/) sale for five bux. It’s a short-lived newspaper strip that Hughes (one of my fave British artists) illustrated for England’s The Guardian in 1995-96 and it’s a fascinating time capsule of the Internet Stone Age. The toon was paid for by Compuserve and is full of passé jargon (like “electronic mail” and “ten hours of free surfing the web”) and extolling the virtues of communicating with “22 million people around the world…while steadfastly ignoring the fact that most of those people were using it to access porn.
Fascinating – and more than a little weird – to see The Guardian running advertorial from a company that raved about a future where people could read their news online. Like the rag didn’t believe that the net would one day leave them – and the rest of the newspaper biz – on the precipice of oblivion.
Anyway, a fascinating curio and Rian’s blocky b&w art is a treat, even though the gags are woefully lame (in that “we’re-trying-to-be-funny-while-advertising-Compuserve” way).
29.-37. Survivors’ Club (Vertigo, 2016) ***½
- originally published in Survivors’ Club #1-9 (Vertigo, 2015-16) 
Writer: Lauren Beukes and David Halvorson/Artists: Ryan Kelly (#1-3, 5-7, 9 interiors), Inaki Miranda (#4 interior), Ryan Kelly, Mark Farmer and Peter Gross (#8 interior); Bill Sienkiewicz (covers)
You can see that this was a promising ongoing series that was cut short and wrapped up in nine issues. So it feels rushed and not completely satisfying.
38.-43. Godland Vol. 1: Hello, Cosmic (Image, 2006) ***¼
- originally published in Godland #1-6 (Image, 2005)
Writer: Joe Casey/Artist: Tom Scioli
44.-61. The Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor And The Bogus Identity (Vertigo, 2010) ***½
The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man (Vertigo, 2010) ***½
The Unwritten Vol. 3: Dead Man’s Knock (Vertigo, 2011) ***½
- originally published in The Unwritten #1-18 (Vertigo, 2009-10)
Writer: Mike Carey/Artists: Peter Gross and friends (interiors); Yuko Shimizu (covers)

62.-63. WWE Kids #116-117 (WWE/DC Thomson, 2016) ***
Writers/Artists: unknown
As wrestling magazines go, this is kinda fun – mainly for all the cool tip-ons in each monthly issue. But the cartoon strips SUCK. There’s a page or two of untitled gag strips that aren’t even punny, they’re just LAME. And then there’s the ongoing two-page strip Superfan!, about an obnoxious brat whose whole world revolves around WWE. Obnoxious, destructive, mean – he’s the sorta kid you want to see get hit by a car. It’s like someone decided to produce a WWE-themed Dennis The Menace strip devoid of any charm, wit and talent. Amazingly successful in that regard, then.

64. Bricktop A1 Special (Atomeka, 2004) ***
Writers; Glenn Fabry and Chris Smith/Artist: Glenn Fabry
This one-shot reprints an old Fabry strip from 1992. It’s wonderful to see some early Fabry and his B&W linework is exquisite, but the story is laaaaame. It tries to be weird and quirky, but it fails on every level. Uninteresting characters, needlessly bizarre plot, bad pacing and a flat ending that hangs on a naff visual gag. Blah.

65.-69. Animosity Vol. 1: The Wake (AfterShock, 2017) **
- originally published in Animosity #1-4 (AfterShock, 2016) and Animosity: The Rise (AfterShock, 2017)
Writer: Marguerite Bennett/Artist: Rafael De Latorre
OK, the moment I saw tortoises with cannons strapped to their shell, I realised that this series was STOOPID. If this tale of animals gaining sentience and seeking revenge on humans was going to be truly chilling, then they should just be animals. But seeing pandas waddling around with rifles is just DUMB. Can’t believe I wasted so much money on this book.

70.-74. Deadly Class Vol. 5: Carousel (Image, 2017) *****
- originally published in Deadly Class #22-26 (Image, 2016-17)
Writer; Rick Remender/Artist: Wes Craig
After the shocking end to the previous volume, we get a whole new class of newbies trying to learn how to be assassins Kings Dominion School Of The Deadly Arts. Marcus is dead – and to be honest I’m not that sad. He was an arsehole. This new group look like way more fun, with plenty of dark secrets that emerge in shocking fashion at the end of the volume. I’ve always enjoyed reading Deadly Class but Remender has taken it to new levels in the past two volumes. Highly fucking recommended.

75. Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***¼
Writer/Artist: James Stokoe
This is an intriguing first issue – a space station picks up a signal from a seemingly abandoned space freighter and sends a team over to investigate it. They find three crew in cryo-sleep…and something else. As it’s told in flashback, we know that a nasty alien is going to turn up very soon and its first appearance on the final splash page is a heart-stopper. Dark Orbit starts slowly, but it appears business is going to pick up pretty bloody rapidly with the next issue.
Canadian writer/artist James Stokoe – of Orc Stain fame – gives proceedings a gritty, dirty feel. Everything he draws looks like it’s covered in motor oil, rust and coffee stains.
Dead Orbit gives off a vibe that’s more Alien than Aliens: claustrophobic, paranoid and downright scary. I look forward to where Stokoe takes us next.
Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is published by Dark Horse and retails for US$3.99. It goes on sale April 26.

76. The Red Ten #1 (ComixTribe, 2012) ***½
Writer: Tyler James/Artists: Cesar Feliciano (interior), CP Wilson III (cover)

77. Dead Inside #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) ****½
Writer: John Arcudi/Artist: Toni Fejzula (interior) Dave Johnson (cover)

78. Stratu’s Diary Comix Feb. 2017 (self-published, 2017) **¾
Writer/Artist: Stratu
Stu’s obsession with following people (and being followed) on Instagram reaches a manic peak this issue. While holidaying in South Korea he apparently spent all his time on Instagram or buying chocolates at convenience stores. Well, that’s the impression I got from reading this zine. If you’re expecting some in-depth analysis on what it’s like to visit South Korea – or even a superficial several-panel list of places of interest for prospective tourists – well, you’ll be disappointed. If Stu keeps serving this up for the rest of the year, it’s gonna make for a pretty dull diary comic.

79. Heroes For Hire #6 (Marvel, 1997) ***¼
Writer: John Ostrander/Artists: Pascual Ferry and Jaime Mendoza
I had this entire series on my pull list back when it first came out and enjoyed it at the time.- although, in hindsight, it was mainly ’cos obscure villain Killer Shrike made a guest appearance in one issue. Always liked Killer Shrike. Anyway, this isn’t Ostrander’s finest work and the art is very post-Liefeld. I can see why this series didn’t last long.

80. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #22 (Image, 2017) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham

81.-85. Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier Vol. 1 (Lion Forge Comics/IDW, 2016) **
- originally published in Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier #1-5 (Lion Forge Comics/IDW, 2016)
Writers: Mike Baron, Adam Beechen, Barbara Randall Kesel, Fabian Nicieza and Martin Pasko/Artists: Leonardo Romero, Lucas Werneck and Nelson Pereira
Man, this was like an updated version of Mr T and the T-Force. That ISN’T a compliment. A douchebag recast as a noble, Luke Cage-style superhero. Ugh. This is one for my MMA/wrestling comix curio collection.
86.-89. 30 Days Of Night: Eben And Stella (IDW, 2007) ***¼
- originally published in 30 Days Of Night: Eben And Stella #1-4 (IDW, 2007)
90.-94. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Like I’m The Only Squirrel In The World (Marvel, 2017) *****
- originally published in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #12-16 (Marvel, 2016-17)
Writers: Ryan North (with Will Murray)/Artists: Erica Henderson (with Steve Ditko and friends)
95.-100. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!: Don’t Stop Me-ow (Marvel, 2017) ****½
- originally published in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #7-12 (Marvel, 2016-17)
Writer: Kate Leth/Artists: Brittney Williams and friends
101.-106. Karnak: The Flaw In All Things (Marvel, 2017) *****
- originally published in Karnak #1-6 (Marvel, 2015-17)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Gerardo Zaffino (#1-2); Roland Boschi (#3-6)
Great things are worth waiting for – even if it’s EIGHTEEN months.
107.-110. Seven To Eternity Vol. 1: The God Of Whispers (Image, 2017) ****½
 - originally published in Seven To Eternity #1-4 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Rick Remenda/Artist: Jerome Opeña
111.-116. The Flintstones Vol. 1 (DC, 2017) *****
- originally published in The Flintstones #1-6 (DC, 2016-17)
Writer: Mark Russell/Artist: Steve Pugh
117.-121. Heartthrob Vol. 1: Never Going Back Again (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Heartthrob #1-5 (Image, 2016)
122.-126. The Vision Vol. 2: Little Better Than A Beast (Marvel, 2016) ****½
- originally published in The Vision #7-12 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Tom King/Artists: Michael Walsh (#7 interior), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (#8-12 interiors); Mike Del Mundo (cover)
127. Merchants Of Death #2 (Eclipse, 1988) **½
Writers/Artists: various
A misfire of an anthology, mainly featuring short stories by unknown Spanish creators. The only thing of interest is the ongoing serial “Ransom”, written by a young Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Dan Brereton. It’s pretty ordinary, though.

128. The SuperFogeys #1 (Th3rd World Studios, 2009) DUD
Writer/Artist: Brock Heasley
Mocking nursing home residents and dementia sufferers, rape jokes…..hmmmmmmmm, what else was offensive about this “slice-of-life” comic about old-aged superheroes? How about the poor spelling and grammar, and the fact that it’s unfunny from start to finish? Yeah, that’ll do it.

129.-130. Sundowners #5-6 (Dark Horse, 2015-16) ***¼  
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artists: Jim Terry (interior); Chris Brunner (cover)
131. Ei8ht #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***
Writers: Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson/Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

132.-144. Mystique: Brian K. Vaughan Ultimate Collection (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published in Mystique #1-13 (Marvel, 2003-04)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artists: Jorge Lucas (#1-6 interior); Joseph Michael Linser (#1-6 covers); Michael Ryan (#7-10,13 interior); Manuel García and Raul Fernández (#11-12 interior); Adrian Alphona (#7 cover); Greg Horn (#8 cover); Mike Mayhew (#9-13 covers)
145.-149. Hulk: Hulk No More (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published in Hulk #10-13 and Incredible Hulk #600 (Marvel, 2009)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Ed McGuinness

Back-up piece writer: Audrey Loeb/Artist: Chris Giarrusso