Sunday, September 6, 2015

Avengers: Rage of Ultron

Author:  Rick Rememder

Artist:  Jerome Opena, Pepe Laraz, Mark Morales

Publication Date:  March 2015

Publisher:  Marvel

Graphic Novel Challenge #16

I enjoyed the latest Avengers movie (“Age of Ultron”).  This original graphic novel was a much better story.  The art of Jerome Opena was near perfect.  The Avengers have had many great artists and Opena deserves to be on that short list.  His art was a perfect fit for Rick Remender’s story.  Remender seems to be channeling the spirit of one of my favorite Avengers writers-Steve Englehart.  The characters seem to be similar to a team that Englehart would assemble.  And the ending was heartbreaking.  Great characterization, great plotting, and great art combine to make this original graphic novel a classic addition to Marvel’s line.  The downside to this is that I want to see where Remender would take the story next.  Unfortunately he is not doing any work for Marvel over the next 12 months.  

Highly recommended.


Creators:  Ryan Ferrier & Valentin Ramon

Publication Date:  Sept. 2015

Source:  Netgalley

Publisher:  IDW

Graphic Novel Challenge #15

The opening of this story is more like classic science fiction.  Mankind creates robots to serve them, the robots rise up, revolt and wipe out humanity.  Then what are they left to do?  The robots decide to imitate their creators.  They take humanity’s place complete with marriage, family, and corporate jobs.  D4VE was the hero of the revolt.  He was the master strategist of their army.  Now he is struggling to fit in to a 9-5 desk job with a family.  The creators do a good job of showing how the robots imitate humanity.  The story kicks into high gear when an alien race shows up.  I do not want to give away any more of the story.  Pick it up.  

Highly recommended.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive

Authors:  Scott and David Tipton

Artist:  Rachael Stott

First Publication:  August 2015

Source:  Netgalley

Publisher:  IDW

Graphic Novel Challenge #14

One of the best words to describe this book is fun.  From the title “The Primate Directive” through the interaction of two of my favorite franchises (for more years than I care to remember) it was an entertaining mix of both universes.  The story is set during the time of the Organian Peace Treaty from the original Star Trek series.  The Klingons are frustrated by the non-violence pact they were forced into by the Organians.  Now their scientists have discovered an alternate reality that contains the Planet of the Apes.  True to form, they start supplying weaponry to a militant group of apes to enable them to conquer this Earth for the Klingons.  Kirk and crew discover the Klingons plans and follow them through to the other universe.  It makes for an entertaining story as the “good” apes team with the Federation to stop the “bad” apes and the Klingons.  One of my favorite parts is a connection between this series and the Apes movies.  I do not want to ruin it for other readers.  The artist does a good job of capturing the likenesses of the numerous characters.  They are easily recognizable.

Highly recommended if you are a fan of either series. 

Birthright Vol. 1: Homecoming

Writer:  Joshua Williamson

Artists:  Andrei Bressan, Adriano Lucas

First Publication:  March 2015

Source:  Comixology

Publisher:  Image

Graphic Novel Challenge #13

I read many comics each year.  This one stood out from the rest based on the first issue alone.  By the time I turned the last page, I had become a fan for life of “Birthright”.  It starts off like a somewhat traditional fantasy story.  A father and son are playing catch near the woods when the ball gets away from them.  The son goes after it and vanishes.  He ends up in a fantastical world.  The inhabitants tell him that he is the savior they have been waiting for.  Time runs faster back in the real world.  The loss of the son has a devastating effect on the family.  And that is where the story really catches the reader’s attention.  I will not reveal any more of the story.  It is best experienced when you read it.

The art is the other high point of the series.  At times, it reminds me of the classic John Byrne and Terry Austin team.  It perfectly complements the great story.

Highly recommended.  Once you start it you won’t be able to stop.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lazarus Vol. 2

Writer:  Greg Rucka

Artist:  Michael Luck

First Publication:  August 201

Source:  Comixology

Publisher: Image

Graphic Novel Challenge #12

Volume 2 is similar to the first volume but even better.  We get to see more of the life of the non-privileged members of this world.  A select few get picked to be “lifted” to a higher status.  Most are excited by the opportunity but some see it as a chance to strike back at the Carlyle family.  As much as I raved about volume one, I thought this one was even better.  I can’t wait to read the next collection.

Highly recommended.


Lazarus Vol. 1

Writer:  Greg Rucka

Artist:  Michael Luck

First Publication:  October 2013

Source:  Comixology

Publisher: Image

Graphic Novel Challenge #11

A good friend kept raving about this series until I broke down and tried it.  Now I can’t get enough of this Greg Rucka and Mike Lark masterpiece.  The world is divided up by regions controlled by families.  Each family has a protector called a Lazarus.  This tells the story of the Carlyle family and their Lazarus.  First off, Lark does an amazing job of bringing this dystopian/future world to life.  The characters look stunningly realistic.  Unlike some artists, Lark makes this story flow.  You can have an enjoyable experience just by looking at the art.  But you will be shortchanging yourself if you don’t read the words.  Rucka has obviously put a lot of effort into building the backstory.  The story takes longer to read than the average comic but I never felt like it was a slow read.  The details he puts into it also helps to make it seem more realistic. He tells a great science fiction adventure/political intrigue story with one of my favorite female lead characters of all time.

Highly recommended.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Godzilla: Cataclysm

Writer:  Cullen Bunn

Artist:  Dave Wachter

First Publication:  March 2015

Source:  NetGalley

Publisher: IDW

Graphic Novel Challenge #10

When I see Dave Wachter’s name on a book, it goes on my must buy list.  In this case, I received a review copy from NetGalley but will also be buying a copy.  Wachter is the perfect artist for this book.  His classic art style combined with the monsters’ designs made for a very good looking book.  I would pause to stare at individual panels even though it would interrupt the story flow.  Even though I was interested based because of Wachter’s art, the story was up to the level of the images.  All I will say is that it is fitting that humanity brought this on themselves.

Highly recommended.


Writer:  Mark Millar

Artist:  Duncan Fegredo

First Publication:  May 2015

Source:  NetGalley

Publisher: Image

Graphic Novel Challenge #9

Mark Millar has been on a roll with what I have read in recent years.  He seems to be focusing more on blending the emotional content with the action/adventure.  MPH is his take on the speedster mythos.  A gang member ends up in jail.  While there he ends up trying a drug that gives him super-speed.  And that is only the start of this epic.  He puts new twists and turns into this tale.  And I continue to enjoy the fact that his series have a beginning, middle, and end.  The wrap up to the story is classic.  I can’t wait to read more of Millar’s work.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever

Writer:  Harlan Ellison

Artist:  J. K. Woodward

First Publication:  February 2015

Source:  NetGalley

Publisher IDW

Graphic Novel Challenge #8

This is a very interesting book.  Back in the sixties Harlan Ellison wrote what is often called one of the best original Star Trek episodes.  It is one of my favorites.  Then it was revealed by Ellison that Roddenberry rewrote his manuscript.  Now I finally get to read the original manuscript.  I see the merits of both versions of the story.  And the additional bonus of having one of the top Star Trek artists, J. K. Woodward.  He perfectly captures the images of the original cast.  

The combination of a great story with amazing art makes this a highly recommended book.  It is a must have for fans of the original Star Trek.

Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol. 10: Victory

Writer:  Kurt Busiek

Artist:  Brent Anderson

First Publication:  September 2014

Source:  Comixology

Publisher:  DC Comics

Collects issue #s 7-10, Visitors Guide #1

Graphic Novel Challenge #7

Busiek ups his game with the story of an insidious attack on his version of Wonder Woman (Winged Victory).  Winged Victory has been a champion for equal rights.  She has established facilities to help women in trouble.  Now one of her enemies has revealed that everything was staged.  The villains she has beaten were paid by her.  She has been framed but all of the evidence has put doubt in the peoples’ heads.  It is a race against time to solve the mystery and restore her good name.  

An excellent book that gets a high recommendation from me.

Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol. 9: Through Open Doors

Writer:  Kurt Busiek

Artist:  Brent Anderson

First Publication:  April 2014

Source:  Comixology

Publisher:  DC Comics

Collects issue #s 1-6

Graphic Novel Challenge #6

Great covers?  Check (artist Alex Ross does fantastic covers).  Great Writing?  Check (Kurt Busiek is one the best-his run on Thunderbolts was amazing).  Great Art?  Check (I have been a big Brent Anderson fan over the years-some of the highlights were his work on X-Men:  God Loves, Man Kills, Somerset Holmes, Ka-Zar the Savage, Strikeforce:  Morituri, and many others).  This creative team, along with inker Willie Blyberg, launched the Astro City series.  

In the latest volume, Anderson began to ink himself.  While the art is still excellent, I miss Blyberg’s inks.  Busiek begins with a more metatextual story.  The main character of the first story breaks the fourth wall to talk to the readers.  The team turned in a great beginning to the latest volume.  It’s a can’t miss for fans of character studies set in the world of super heroes.  

Highly recommended.

Batman Beyond: Justice Lords Beyond

Writers:  Kyle Higgins & Christos Gage

Artists:  Thony Silas & Iban Coelo

First Publication:  March 2015

Source:  Comixology

Publisher:  DC Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #5

Kyle Higgins continues to write some of the best traditional style comic books with this crossover.  This time he builds upon a story about the evil version of the future Justice League of a parallel Earth.  The plotting is perfect as the characters from two very different Earths collide.  

Highly recommended.

Batman Beyond 2.0: Rewired

Writer:  Kyle Higgins

Artist:  Thony Silas

First Publication:  November 2014

Source:  Comixology

Publisher:  DC Comics

Collects issues #1-8

Graphic Novel Challenge #4

When I saw that Kyle Higgins was writing this series, I knew I would enjoy it.  Higgins is one of the best Nightwing writers and his handling of the rest of the Bat-verse is spot on.  Now he gets to show what he can do with the future Batman.  

“Rewired” is classic comic book storytelling.  Terry McGinnis is dealing with going to college, being disenfranchised from Bruce Wayne (due to events in the previous series), and building a working relationship with Dick Grayson and Commissioner Barbara Gordon.  A mystery villain keeps you guessing as the story builds to its finale.  

Highly recommended for fans of classic comics or the Batman Beyond series.

Ant-Man #1

Writer:  Nick Spenser

Artist:  Ramon Rosanas

First Publication:  January 2015

Source:  Comixology

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

Graphic Novel Challenge #3

With the trailers for this summer’s movie starting to show, it makes sense that Marvel would want to start a new series.  I am guessing the first collection will be available in time for the movie.

This story follows the efforts of Scott (Ant-Man) Lang to get a new job and a fresh start.  Writer Nick Spenser does a great job of capturing the voice and characterization of the main character (and the other characters).  The theme of this issue was new beginnings.  Scott’s ex-wife says that he cannot have their daughter stay overnight until he gets a better place.  The sequence of Scott competing against the other candidates for the Head of Security opening at Tony Stark’s company is a classic.  Once again showcasing his grasp of characterization, Spenser nails the personality of Tony Stark.  I would like to see him do a stint on the Iron Man title.  

Highly recommended. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Nightwing Volume 4: Second City

Author:  Kyle Higgins

Artists:  Brett Booth, Will Conrad, Norm Rapmund

First Publication:  July 2014

Source:  NetGalley

Publisher:  DC Comics

Collects issues #s 19-24

Graphic Novel Challenge #2

From NetGalley: Kyle Higgins sends Nightwing to the Windy City to track down his parent's killer!

After the Joker's attack on the Bat-family, Nightwing finds himself in a new setting with an unlikely ally, The Prankster. Together they are being hunted by the mysterious Mask Killer while Dick tries to find the man who killed his parents, Tony Zullo. Twists and surprises are at every turn in this exciting new chapter of Nightwing! 

Kyle Higgins, my favorite Nightwing writer, took him out from under the shadow of Batman and made Nightwing into his own hero.  The struggles with finding out that Tony Zucco was still alive and tracking him down helped define Nightwing.  The additional change of moving to Chicago also gave him a whole new environment to make his own.  Higgins is a master of plotting and characterization.  Dick Grayson sounds right when his dialogue is scripted by Higgins.  And the art is amazing.  Booth, Rapmund, and Conrad all do a fantastic job of bringing the scripts to life.

Highly recommended.  If you are any kind of Nightwing fan, pick up and read all of the Higgins collections.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Secret Origins Volume 1

Authors:  Peter Tomasi, Jeff Lemire, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Robert Venditti, Scott Lobdell, Jeff Parker, Ray Fawkes, Tony Bedard, Kyle Higgins, Greg Pak

Artists:  Ian Bertram, Bill Sienkiewicz, Denys Cowan, Stephane Roux, Tyler Kirkham, Trevor McCarthy, Martin Coccolo, Jeremy Haun, Tony Parker, Dustin Nguyen, Paolo Siqueira, Doug Mankhe, Lee Weeks

First Publication:  February 2015

Source:  NetGalley

Publisher:  DC Comics

Collects issues 1-4

Graphic Novel Challenge #1

From NetGalley:  At last, the SECRET ORIGINS of the World's Greatest Heroes in The New 52 can be revealed! The beginnings of the most popular characters in the DC Universe are finally told here, in stories that fans have been clamoring for since September 2011. Included here are the origins of The Last Son of Krypton and Kara Zor-El, Supergirl, plus the first Robin, Dick Grayson.

Like most anthology titles, I found that I enjoyed some stories more than others.  On the average I would rate the art as good and the writing as average.

My favorite story was the Superman story written by Greg Pak.  Pak is currently doing a great job on DC's "Aquaman", "Superman/Batman" and "Action Comics".  This story showcases his mastery of characterization with the parallel stories of Lara on Krypton and Martha on Earth.  The handoff of the narrative viewpoint is masterful.

I want to point out that fans of great art will enjoy the skillful rendering done by Lee Weeks.  Weeks has been a quality artist for many years but I found his art in this collection to be his best.

I would recommend this to people who want to get an overview of the DC characters.  Especially newer readers.