Monday, October 20, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 10/15 and Special Digital Comics Review... From Earth

Daredevil #9
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee

The Purple Man, Zebediah Killgrave, is a creepy character. A man who can bend minds of others to his will, Brian Michael Bendis made him a particularly nasty guy in his run on Alias. So what can be done to make him even more creepy? Why make five Purple Children, of course! Yes, if horror movies have taught us nothing, there's nothing creepier than evil kids, and Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are playing on that fear in the new issue of Daredevil, as the children of Killgrave make their mark. While the Purple Children were introduced last issue, we see exactly what they can do this issue when they confront Daredevil. But that's the end of the issue. At the beginning, we get to see Matt Murdock, Daredevil, spending time with Kirsten McDuffie, his law partner and girlfriend, and a disguised Foggy Nelson, his best friend who faked his own death and is in disguise in the world's least convincing fat suit, which is the butt of several jokes from the others and gives the issue a touch of humor before things go sideways. Matt is talking with them about the proposition of writing his autobiography, something Kirsten's publisher father asked about last issue. Foggy makes a couple of valid points against it, most notably that Matt a) hates to write and b) Matt has lived a hard, nasty life, and maybe revisiting the darker moments isn't the best for Matt's sanity. But Matt shakes that argument off, confident that he is happy and can deal with it. Meanwhile, the Purple Children are stretching their metaphorical muscles by testing their powers and stealing a police car. It's a good bit of character that the kids act like kids. They don't start trying to take over the city or developing a cult, they just use their powers to get what they feel like getting. And when Daredevil stops their joyride and confronts them, Waid again does something very clever with Daredevil's particular skill set and limitations: despite knowing Killgrave is on the loose, he has no idea the kids are connected to him until someone else mentions their purple skin tone because Daredevil is blind. I've been reading Daredevil for a long time, and while every writer regularly mentions Daredevil is blind, and often play up the advantages of his heightened senses, Waid has been the best about playing on the way the blindness can hamper his abilities too. The battle with the Purple Children ends with them forcing Matt to face the darkness in his past that he's not faced since Waid took over the book, because the Purple Children don't just convince you of something, they make you believe it, a fine distinction, but one that makes them all the more powerful than their father. The issue ends with Matt in the darkest place he's been in years, proving Foggy might have been more on the nose about where Matt's head is, and with an enemy who might be an ally in this situation looming over him. It's a disquieting splash page, and the art uses shadow to add to the ominous tone. It's been nearly five years since Mark Waid took over Daredevil, and he still finds new things to do with the character month in and month out.

Justice League #35
Story; Geoff Johns
Art: Ivan Reis & Doug Mahnke

The prologue to the new arc on Justice League is an issue low on action, but high on character. It begins with a press conference announcing the partnership between Wayne Enterprises and Lexcorp that was established last issue. The scene does a great job of showing exactly how much the team trusts Lex Luthor, their newest member. The hero/villain team up is a trope in comics almost as old as the medium itself, but the twist here, that the heroes have to work with Lex in the light of day because the world now views Lex as a hero, is a nice twist. And it's not just like in the President Luthor years, where they could just avoid him. Nope, Lex is a full fledged Justice Leaguer. The whole team is on hand, ready to bust in and arrest Lex the minute Batman finds any evidence of Luthor doing anything illegal, which seems to be the razor's edge the team is going to be walking on for sometime. The press conference is a great showcase for how manipulative Lex can be, playing to the crowd, and just how much more clever Bruce Wayne is, invoking the death of his parents to slip in and undercut Lex in front of the media. During that press conference, we get to see what each of the Justice League members in the crowd are doing, and Geoff Johns uses the time to build the characters and relationships. We continue seeing Cyborg and Shazam as good friends, with Cyborg as the mature older brother figure to the more immature Shazam, who acts a bit more like a kid than he has in previous incarnations, where Billy Batson's teenage attitude doesn't creep through as much. Meanwhile Flash spends his time with Power Ring, who has at least for now mastered the evil ring that gives her the name, and I'm curious to see where the relationship between her and Flash goes. Batman then gets a guided tour of Lex Luthor's inner sanctum, one that again shows that the confrontation between Lex and the League is going to be a battle of wits between these two more than anything physical. Knowing what we do about Lex, it's clear he's sanitized the labs, since I can;t imagine he's not up to something even if it's not showing. We do get some insight into Lex's character with the appearance of his sister, Lena, before Neutron, the nuclear powered supervillain, bursts in to assassinate Lex, with a mysterious voice whispering in his ear, promising him his humanity back if he performs. We get a quick battle, where Aquaman jumps in and Johns once again proves that when written right, Aquaman can be a badass, and the issue ends with one of Lex's dirty little secrets being revealed, one that will set off the action of the arc, the titular Amazo Virus. Johns is firing on all cylinders on  this title, which continues to be the best it's been since the relaunch, nicely balancing character and plot, and giving just enough action to remind us what it's like when gods clash.

Spider-Man 2099 #5
Story: Peter David
Art: Rick Leonardi

Don't let that cover text fool you! Despite it saying that this issue is drawn by series regular penciler Will Sliney, it's not. Sliney has been doing a great job on this book, but this issue is drawn by Spider-Man 2099 co-creator Rick Leonardi, which deserves a call out. Now, I don't read anything else even tangentially related to Spider-Man, so my knowledge of the new "Spider-Verse" event is limited. This issue opens on one of the infinite earths (am I allowed to say that in relation to a Marvel comic?) where that world's version of Spidey 2099 is teamed up with Captain America, Wolverine, and the Genis-Vell Captain Marvel, whose series is one of Peter David's defining runs. Morlun, the Spidey-villain who eats the essences of Spider-powered characters, makes pretty short work of those guys, kills that universe's Spidey 2099, and moves on. In the traditional universe, good ol' Marvel 616, Miguel O'Hara, our Spidey 2099, still trapped in the present, feels a bolt of pain in his head when his counterpart buys it. In another universe, another Miguel O'Hara, this time the one who was a member of the universe hopping Exiles during Tony Bedard's run, is using his leftover tech from his time with the Exiles to try to reach Earth-616, the one reality Morlun fears since it was the site of his defeat. There are more Miguel deaths, and just as the Exiles Miguel is about to step through his portal, which 616 Miguel is watching, Morlun arrives. While Exiles Miguel falls, 616 Miguel gets hints of what is to come and heads off to find the person who might have answers. Peter David does a great job of explaining what readers might need to know about what is going on in this event without drowning the readers in details, or making them feel lost. David has always been a writer who knows how to take an event and do his best to make it show the strengths of a title he's writing without it interfering too much. He finds ways to work in the continuing plot lines going through the book in little scenes in between the big event scenes. I talked about Rick Leonardi's return to Spider-Man 2099 earlier, but I want to discuss it in context of the issue. Leonardi does spectacular work drawing Miguel in combat, both the alter-Miguel's fighting Morlun and 616 Miguel chasing bank robbers who are escaping in a helicopter. He has a sense of the way a body moves and that acrobatic style that works perfectly with characters like any version Spider-Man or Nightwing (a book he had a good long run on). I hope that Leonardi will come back to the book every now and then for a check in, especially if we get Miguel back to his own time; Leonardi really defined the skyline of 2099 New York. But for now, I'm happy to see him drawing Miguel in any era.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #0
Story: Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
Art: J. Bone/Phil Hester

It was announced not too long ago that Image Comics would be releasing series based on the two cornerstone segments of America's favorite new time podcast in the style of old time radio, The Thrilling Adventure Hour. I've written a recommendation for the previously released graphic novel, and made clear my love for the show in any medium, but knowing that we'd be getting even more comics from these worlds had me hugely excited. And last week, I discovered that there were on-line zero issues for both the series (so it's not really released on the 15th, but I'm putting it in here), and immediately bought them, which is rare for me as I'm a person who loves his comics in his hands, and will usually wait for print editions of digital first projects. But I'm glad I bought the digital release, because this is some great material. Each story is an origin story, about the meeting of the two series principle characters, stories we've heard referenced on the show but have never actually seen played out, at least as far as what has been put up in podcast form, so it's a real treat!

Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, is the story of, well, Sparks Nevada, who is a marshal. On Mars. Although, as he will tell everyone who he talks to, "I'm... from Earth." The story in this issue is Sparks dealing with his robot deputies going rogue, a flood, and picking up a Martian sidekick, Croach the Tracker, who is under onus to Sparks for saving his village. It gives new readers all the things they need to know about the Sparks universe, like robot rogues, martians, Sparks's usual problems with the ladies, and his love of paperwork. There's plenty of humor mixed in, with Sparks usual deadpan delivery. Knowing the show, I can hear the lines delivered by the actors (which makes sense, as the comic is written by series creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker), and it works perfectly in the different medium, with the cadence made clear by how the panels lay out the dialogue. J. Bone does a beautiful job rendering the red plains of Mars. His Sparks and Croach seem to have stepped right out of my imagination, and he does great design work on the rogue robot deputies. It's a charming story that will appeal to fans of space opera or Westerns.

Beyond Belief is the story of Frank and Sadie Doyle, toast of the upper crust, headliners on the society pages. And oh yes, they see ghosts. When we meet them in the show, Frank and Sadie are happily married, living in the Plaza Hotel and loving nothing more than liquor and each other, although they are regularly interrupted by supernatural things knocking on their door, often literally. But this story takes place when Frank is out hunting demons and Sadie is with her ne'er do-well boyfriend, Bobo Brubaker, running fake seances. But when they pull that scam in a real haunted house, Sadie's actual sensitivity to ghosts summons something nasty and Frank must sweep in to save everyone. It's love at first sight, and the bond between the soon-to-be-Doyles, one of the defining charms of the show, is apparent from the moment they see each other. Also apparent is their love of gin. So much gin. Bobo is not enamored with Frank, and so proves the heel he is, not surprising as Bobo has popped up as an antagonist of sorts on the show before (not that the Doyle's let much of anything actually antagonize them, just interrupt their drinks briefly), but Bobo is put in his place and the Doyle's are on their way to bliss by story's end. Frank and Sadie are my favorite part of Thrilling Adventure Hour, so seeing how they met was a real treat. It's paced well, and has all the hallmarks of a Beyond Belief, including an amusing twist at the end as to the origin of the supernatural nasty. Phil Hester does an excellent job crafting a truly creepy ghost and his hellhounds, not surprising if you're familiar with his horror work, but also does great likenesses of the Doyles, who more than any other character, feel like they look like the actors who portray them, comedian Paul F Tompkins and actress Paget Brewster.

If you're a fan of TAH you know you want to read these stories, and if you're someone who has heard me natter on about it endlessly since I discovered it, this is a great place to try it out. The two issues are available separately for $1.99 each, or together for $2.99, and you can purchase them right here. So check it out and be ready for the February releases of the new series!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

May All Your Wars Be Secret

Marvel loves Secrets. It also loves Wars. Put the two words together, and, as Carl Weathers told Tobias Funke, you’ve got a stew going.

Yes, one of Marvel’s biggest New York ComicCon announcements was a new Secret Wars event by Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic, due to start in May 2015. A teaser poster shows various versions of Cap, Thor, Iron Man and other characters whose movie rights are still in-house battling it out.

And, of course, because it’s called Secret Wars, a tidal wave of B-holes took to the comment threads to post in all caps about how Marvel has no original ideas but still clearly takes all their money.

But this isn’t the first time Marvel has published a Secret Wars title since the original Secret Wars in 1984. And it’s certainly not the first time Marvel’s published a title or event with either Secret or War in it. In fact, over the past decade, those two words have joined Amazing, Astonishing, Infinity, X-, Spider-Man, Ultimate, etc. in the pantheon of words that show up far too often in Marvel titles.

Herewith, a sampling of Marvel’s Secret Wars, Secret other things and other-thing Wars:

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: The original 12-issue maxiseries by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck and Bob Layton that ran from 1984 to 1985, in which Earth’s mightiest heroes and villains were pitted against each other on Battleworld by a guy who hadn’t been told disco was dead. Oh, and it was a crass attempt to sell toys. Besides the Mattel line, however, the series also gave us Spider-Man’s black costume, the second Spider-Woman, Julia Carpenter, and She-Hulk as the fourth member of the Fantastic Four, taking the place of the Thing (for more on alternate versions of the FF, click here).

Secret Wars II: In the 9-issue sequel by Shooter and Al Milgrom that ran from 1985 to 1986, the Beyonder comes to Earth in an attempt to understand the humans, pisses off Mephisto and hits on Dazzler and Boom-Boom, the latter of which is supposed to be a teenager, so gross.

Secret War: Leave off the last S for savings! Brian Michael Bendis wrote and Gabrielle Del’Otto drew this five-issue mini that started in April 2004 but didn’t wrap till December 2005 in which Nick Fury gathers Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Daredevil, Black Widow and Luke Cage for a top-secret mission in Latveria that goes pear-shaped. The story’s plot was incorporated into the second Marvel: Ultimate Alliance video game. And Lucia Von Bardas, the Latverian head of state created for the story, was referenced in a low-budget Fantastic Four musical that was part of the fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix.

Spider-Man and the Secret Wars: A three-issue mini by Paul Tobin and Patrick Scherberger from 2009 retelling the 1984 Secret Wars from Spidey’s perspective. CBR said the all-ages series poked fun at its namesake as a ridiculous, contrived excuse to sell toys.

Secret Invasion: The Skrulls’ long-simmering plot to colonize Earth carried our heroes from being divided by Civil War to being united in their hatred of Norman Osborn, the Spider-Man villain and Gwen Stacy killer who became head of the replacement agency for S.H.I.E.L.D. after he killed the Skrull queen at the end of the event and formed his own Illuminati of A-holes, including Dr. Doom, Namor, the Hood and the Noid, er, Void.

Secret Warriors: Nick Fury spent most of the first decade of the new millennium underground as a result of the Secret War, popping up only for certain people, including Spider-Woman, the Winter Soldier and his own personal strike team made up of the offspring of supervillains. These Thunderbolt Muppet Babies had their own series from 2009 to 2011, co-written by Bendis and Jonathan Hickman with art by Stefano Caselli.

Secret Avengers: Starting in post-Siege 2010, the Avengers formed their own X-Force in Secret Avengers, a black-ops team run by Commander Steve Rogers, who had just recently come back from the dead but hadn’t taken back the mantle of Captain America yet. Writers included Ed Brubaker (Captain America), Nick Spencer (Superior Foes of Spider-Man), Warren Ellis (Excalibur), Rick Remender (Captain America) and Ales Kot.

Secret Six: Just kidding. Secret Six is a critically and fan-beloved DC book by Gail Simone, whose work gets praised here on the reggy-reg.

Civil War: I feel like writing a synopsis of one of Marvel’s most popular crossovers ever, even snarkily and pumped full of gag hyperlinks, is like writing about the real Civil War as if people didn’t know what it was. Hey, have they brought back Bill Foster yet?

Revolutionary War: Unlike in U.S. history, Marvel’s Revolutionary War came after the Civil War. But it’s not a sequel, nor is it even a prequel, nor is there a Marvel’s War of 1812, which technically should have come between the two. Also the name is misleading, as it stars Marvel’s U.K. heroes as the good guys. But, hey, it’s got Pete Wisdom!

U.S. War Machine: A post-9/11 MAX maxiseries by Chuck Austen. One of the covers features an Iron Man suit wearing a Dum Dum Dugan-style bowler hat, because comics love uniforms that don’t make sense.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 10/8 (with Bonus Animated Discussions for Star Wars: Rebels)

Batgirl #35
Story: Cameron Stewart & Brenden Fletcher
Art: Babs Tarr

And now for something completely different... The beginning of the new creative direction for Batgirl has been anticipated since it was announced, and now having read the first issue, I can say that it's a success. It's a jarring difference for the first handful of pages, I admit, as it feels completely different than anything else coming out from DC right now, but once you settle in to the groove, it's a ton of fun. New writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher have moved Barbara Gordon out of Gotham City proper and into Burnside (Gotham's answer to Brooklyn), and we see a completely different life for Barbara, and see her fighting crime that is very much 21st century crime, with tech theft and on-line sleaze mongering factoring into this first story. So much of Gail Simone's run was about Barbara recapturing her identity, both as Barbara and Batgirl after regaining the use of her legs, that it's different to see Barbara struggling with normal twenty-something problems, like getting her stuff stolen, including all her research work for her new college research project, being broke, and losing her costume (well, not all of it is trypical). We do meet Barbara's new roommate, Frankie, and we still see Alysia, Barbara's roommate from the Simone run. Frankie seems like a more grounded character than Alysia, not going out and protesting and breaking and entering, but being a normal person, which will be a nice balance to the chaos around Barbara. Rounding out the supporting cast is Black Canary, who shows up on Barbara's doorstep after her place burned down. Her falling out with BBarbarafrom the end of Birds of Prey is addressed, and by issue's end, we get an answer to how that happened, and it looks like Dinah will be crashing on Barbara's couch for a while. It's fun to have the slightly older, and very caustic, Canary to balance out the jubilant energy of so much of the rest of the cast, and I'm glad Canary has a home after the end of Birds of Prey. I love the way that the writers use Barbara's photographic memory to help her solve the case of her stolen laptop, and the way she defeats the villain of the issue, Riot Black, the guy who runs an internet blackmail site, is perfectly Barbara, clever and tech savvy (and Black speaks with hashtags. Nine times out of ten, that's an excuse to smack a guy down on its own). Babs Tarr's artwork was equally different from anything DC is doing, and really grabbed my attention. Her art is heavy on the panels, in many cases working with something close to a traditional nine panel grid, instead of the more splash page heavy artwork that is the modern DC house style, and it works perfectly with the script she was given. Even the two pages spread where Barbara reconstructs the party at her apartment from the night before when her computer was stolen is not a sloppy two page spread used to fill up space, but is filled with detail and character. With it's quick wit, smart story, and excellent art, it's an auspicious beginning to this new direction for Barbara Gordon and Batgirl.

Batman #35
Story: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Art: Greg Capullo and Kelly Jones

On the other end of the spectrum from the hip, quirky Batgirl, this week's issue of Batman is full of superhero action. The issue opens with Batman having an internal monologue about the reconstruction of a theatre in Gotham after Zero Year, and the concept of deus ex machina, where the gods come down at the end of classic Greek drama to set things right. And in this issue, the gods do come down to Gotham, only they are wrathful gods ready to destroy Gotham's resident hero. The Justice League is attacking Batman, and we watch as Batman dons a giant suit of battle armor to defeat them. This is a story that plays with the now classic trope that Batman is prepared for everything. not only does he have this armor designed exactly for this, but he has a contingency to clear out a good part of Gotham to be able to fight the League without fear of collateral damage. The plans to take out Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman without lethal force are clever, and don't recycle the plans from the story that established the contingencies, Mark Waid's "Tower of Babel" from his JLA run. The non action sequences establish some of the post Batman: Eternal status quo for Batman without giving away too many of the details of the end of that series, and none of those details are shocking; I don't think anyone expected Alfred to remain locked in Arkham for the rest of his life. Still, some of those details are tantalizing, like why Bruce is living in a suite decked out in Court of Owls motif for one. Capullo hits the art for this issue out of the park, drawing a battle between Batman and the League that is second to none. The final page reveal of the villain of the piece, which the creators did a creators job of keeping a surprise and I won't spoil here if you haven't read it on-line yet, makes for an especially creepy splash page from Capullo. The issue also features a full on back-up story tied into the main plot, from Snyder collaborator James Tynion IV and classic Bat artist Kelly Jones. I won't say too much about it to not spoil the villain reveal, but it features five Arkham escapees abducting a doctor and over the course of this series of back-ups, will each tell a story. The first story comes from Ephram Snow, whose tale of devils is suited to Jones's horror style. It's a good coda to the main story, and if the first chapter is any indication, it looks like Snyder and Capullo have another hit Batman arc on their hands.

Birthright #1
Story: Joshua Williamson
Art: Andrei Bressan

Joshua Williamson is already writing two very strong creator owned series from Image (Nailbiter and Ghosted, which had a really good issue this week as well), and now he's hit the triple crown with the first issue of his new series, Birthright.  Birthright looks at what happens to the real world when a kid runs off to have a great adventure in another world, like in The Chronicles of Narnia or The Never Ending Story. The story opens with Mikey and his dad, Aaron, playing catch on his birthday. Mikey runs into the woods to retrieve the ball and never comes back. Pretty soon, the disappearance of Mikey tears his family apart. Aaron and Wendy, Mikey's mom, split up over the disappearance and the suspicion that Aaron had something to do with Mikey's disappearance, and Brennan, their elder son, is torn between his parents. But a year after his disappearance, Mikey reappears fully grown and with a big beard and dressed as a barbarian. He tells the story of his time in Terrenos, where he met an ogre named Rook and a flying girl named Rya, who said he was prophesied to defeat the evil God King Lore. The book zigzags between the real world tragedy of a missing child, the heart wrenching drama of what happens to his family, and the fantasy world he lives in, Williamson manages to keep these very different balls all in the air, and keeps them balanced. Andrei Bressan draws the story equally well, balancing a style that is grim and real with gorgeous fantasy settings and cool looking monsters. I have to applaud Williamson's talent for making each of his series feel distinct, because other than the high quality, I wouldn't know that each of his books were written by the same writer. With a great twist ending, an essay from Williamson explaining his inspirations, and a map drawn by "Mikey" in crayon of Terrenos at the back, the issue is packed with so much material, and yet you still set it down wanting the next issue to be waiting for you. Birthright is a stand out addition to Image Comics stable of titles, with its mixture of reality and fantasy and gorgeous art.

Grendel Vs. The Shadow #2
Story & Art: Matt Wagner

I don't know what I can say about this comic's awesomeness that's different from what I said about the first issue, but I'm going to try. Issue two of the series picks up precisely where issue one left off, with our two title characters about to do battle. If you're at all familiar with Matt Wagner's art, you know that this is the kind of scene he was born to draw. The fight scene is gorgeously fluid, one of those fights that, despite knowing these are static panels, you can actually feel the characters moving. After the battle, which ends in something of a draw with both of our protagonists surviving (although points to Shadow for capturing Grendel's fork, his weapon of choice), we see Hunter Rose and Lamont Cranston's orbits intercept as well as those of The Shadow and Grendel. Hunter spends more time consolidating his hold on the mob in his usual efficient and brutal fashion. We also see more of the female companions to the two, as The Shadow's constant companion Margo Lane continues to feel discontent with how The Shadow's single minded quest leaves her out in the cold and we get a better feel for Sofia Valenti, daughter of Don Valenti and the woman who has caught Hunter Rose's eye. Hunter is usually portrayed with an almost Sherlock Holmes-like lack of interest in women, as none can live up to the image of Jocasta Rose, the woman who seduced him as a teenager and showed him the possibilities of the world, so for any woman to draw his attention makes the reader take notice. The fact that she is also trying to get the best of Grendel makes her all the more interesting, and woe to the man who abused her friend, because I see a reckoning for him next issue that will go very much in Sofia's favor. There are so many beautiful scenes in this book that I can really only recommend that you read it, and get caught up before the final issue. The threads are coming together for a clash of the ages between our leads.

Star Wars: Rebels- Spark of Rebellion

At New York Comic Con this weekend, Marvel announced what will be there first Star Wars ongoing not set during the classic trilogy, Star Wars- Kanan: The Last Padawan. This series will tie in to the new Star Wars animated series, Rebels, which has its series premiere tonight. But last week, there was a one hour special movie that kicked off the series, introducing us to this crew of new characters, and I watched it over the weekend, and was very pleased with what I saw.

Set in the period between the prequel trilogy and the classic trilogy, Rebels follows a ragtag group of, well, rebels out to fight the Empire.We are introduced to the crew through Ezra, a street urchin who runs into the rebel cell as they try to liberate a cargo from the Empire. The cast feels like it's playing with a lot of the classic Star Wars character types. Kanan, the leader of the group, was a young Jedi at the time of Order 66 and the fall of the Jedi, so he has a touch of the Han Solo rogue, while having to be master to Ezra, who is strong in the force. Zeb is a Lasat, a big alien, but as opposed to Chewbacca, he can speak normally and has a harder edge, but seems to have a softer side underneath it. Hera is the Twi'lek hotshot pilot, and is the heart of the crew. Sabine is a Mandalorian, but seems closer to the warrior Mandalorians than the peace loving ones we saw in The Clone Wars, yet still has a heart and cares about the rest of the crew as much as blowing things up, which she seems top notch at. The crew is rounded out by Chopper, an astromech droid (like R2-D2) who has a sense of humor and seems to be the comic relief. Star Wars is also known for it's villains, and we seem to get two major players in this special. Kallus is an agent for the Imperial Security Bureau, who is tasked with bringing down the Rebellion before it takes off, and when Kanan is revealed as a Jedi, Kallus contacts The Inquisitor, the Empire's Jedi hunter, who only makes a cameo, but strikes a fearsome figure in the tradition of many dark Force users.

The plot of the movie starts out with a caper that turns into a speeder bike chase, leads to a trap, and ends with a big battle to liberate a group of Wookiee slaves. It's well paced, and feels like Star Wars. For good or ill, depending on the opinion, it does not have the darker edge of many of the better episodes of The Clone Wars, and feels very accessible to all ages and levels of Star Wars knowledge. Using the familiar character tropes makes for easy accessibility as well, but none of the characters feel cookie cutter; the crew of the show does a good job of making them unique and interesting in their own right. My only quibble is the animation isn't quite as clean as the later episodes of The Clone Wars; it feels like they were using the same modelling as the early episodes of that series. It's not bad, just not as crisp, and hopefully, the animation will grow as the show does. Still that is a small issue with an episode full of action, character, and spaceships, which is so much of what makes Star Wars great.

The series premiere is of Star Wars: Rebels is on Disney XD tonight at 9 pm.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday's Adventures at New York Comic Con 2014

I love comics, and I hate crowds. Those are two gross simplifications of two of the defining aspects of my life. My love for comics has been one of the driving passions of my life, and you get me in a big room of people just milling around, and panic attacks have been known to happen. So something like the mighty New York Comic Con tears at my very soul. Can my love of comics trump my absolute loathing of crowds? Well, sorta. I have found the best balance is to only do NYCC on Thursday, which is by far the least packed day. So yesterday morning, I headed into New York bright and early for a day of comic con excitement.

As a Dewey's employee, I got to go to the Diamond Comics Distributor Retailer Appreciation Breakfast. You don't go to this event for the food, but for the announcements. We got to see presentations form all the major publishers except for Marvel (they have their own retailer presentation on Friday) and Image. DC really just recapped other announcements, so nothing there. Titan, a first time presenter, announced a 9th Doctor mini-series in their Doctor Who line and Made Man, a new series from Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero, which is a sci-fi mobster story, so it sounds cool to me. Valiant gave some details on their new #1s, including The Valiant, their universe wide team-up mini-series, which I'm excited for , and Ivar, Timewalker from Archer and Armstrong original creative team Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry (more Van Lente news is never a bad thing). And Dark Horse announced Archie Meets Predator. Yes, in the grand tradition of Archie Meets Punisher, the alien that hunts the most dangerous game is heading to Riverdale. This mini-series will be drawn by Fernando Ruiz, one of the nicest guys I've ever met, Dewey's regular, and the first artist to give me a piece for my sketchbook, so I'm all over that.

So, with that done, it was time to enter the con floor. The Javitz Center is sprawling, and after walking quickly through the floor to get the lay of the land, I headed off the floor to my favorite part of any con: Artist's Alley. This is usually less crowded, and is your best opportunity to talk to creators.  And to get sketches. I've talked about my sketchbook before, but for those who haven't read about it, I collect sketches of Batman characters (a Batman themed sketchbook? I know, I was as shocked you are when I thought that would be a good idea for me). After walking for a bit, I found artist Jay P. Fosgitt, who wrote and drew the adorable all ages series, Bodie Troll for Red 5 Comics. Bodie is the world's cutest troll, who can't scare anyone. At Jay's booth, he had a friend dressed as Cholly, the waitress who is Bodie's best friend, and had a life sized Bodie puppet.

Isn't that cute? So I made my usual pitch to Jay, to draw whichever Gotham City themed character he wanted. While he worked, I got to wander around, talk to the Atomic Robo guys about my love of Robo and their Kickstarter, to Greg Pak about his work, congratulated Fernando on Archie Meets Predator, and picked up a little something as a gift form someone who might read this, so I won't show a picture right now. And upon my return to Jay's booth, he had this waiting for me!

Sorry that I'm not a better photographer with my phone, but that is a wonderful Poison Ivy sketch. It's the first Ivy I have in my book, so that makes it extra great. From Jay's booth, I headed over to Scott Hanna's, whose list I had already gotten on. Scott Hanna is one of comics' most accomplished inkers, and did long runs on Amazing Spider-Man and Detective Comics, so this is a guy I was sure knew his Batman characters. I had forgotten that he had inked my favorite Joker story of all time, the vastly underrated Devil's Advocate, so I got to talk to him about that, which made my day. With my usual  request made, I wandered off again, now hitting the floor. It's crowded, there's no ifs, ands, or buts about that, but I was able to get a nice stack of back issues. I also swung by the IDW booth and talked up Locke & Key to someone randomly, which is one of the great pleasures of a con: you can share your enthusiasm and everyone gets it. I also got to see the Kill Shakespeare Board Game, which I am waiting to arrive through Kickstarter, and it looks incredible. I'll probably be writing up a play experience post once I get my hands on that.

I also spent some time talking to David Campiti, the COO of Red Giant Entertainment, a company released the zero issues of their upcoming line of free comics on FCBD. It was interesting to hear about their business model, and the idea that they really want to help drive people into comic book stores. The free books start rolling out in December, including one called Tesla, so you know I'm in for that. Expect to hear more about Red Giant as we get nearer to that debut.

But eventually, I wandered back over to Scott Hanna, and what was waiting for me?

Another new character for my sketchbook, Killer Croc! Yup, that's a pretty sweet haul. I have to say, maybe I just got lucky and talked to the right people, but all the creators I talked to, the ones I mentioned here and some that I just got a few words in with, were all gracious and happy to be there. I love that feeling of camaraderie and excitement that everyone has some of at these cons.

With my sketches done, I made one more pass around the floor, and took a couple of pictures of cosplayers. You couldn't pay me enough to cosplay, it's not my bag, but I respect the time it takes to do it and the passion that requires, and I try not to be too intrusive, despite knowing that most cosplayers are more than happy to have their photos taken, but I stumbled across a couple people already posing, so I figured I'd snap a couple pics.

It's the baby Groot that really makes it.

You've got to love the commitment for a group theme.

So, that was it for me this year. Next year, I'm hoping to hit what was Asbury Park Comic Con, which is now East Coast Comic Con, and then if all goes according to plan, Baltimore Comic Con, which has moved the end of September, much better time for me. It's a great feeling to see the level of excitement that people bring to all of their fandoms, and how they're willing to share it with everyone, and discovering new creators and comics that you wouldn't have encountered otherwise. And thanks to everyone I talked to! See you again soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Second Look at a No. 1: X-Force (1991)

1991 was the most transformative year for the X-books since Len Wein and Dave Cockrum created the All-New, All-Different team in 1975. That fall, the books were revamped like a network’s fall TV schedule. Suddenly there were enough X-Men for two titles, X-Factor was now a government-run team made up of brilliantly written C-stringers, and Wolverine and Excalibur … OK, not every book underwent a huge makeover.

But two months before the Blue and Gold teams and Havok’s first gig as team leader, there was X-Force, the book that took a bunch of skinny, gangly-looking New Mutants and turned them into jacked weapon-wielding warriors under the direction of Cable, a paramilitary leader who looked like an AARP rookie on steroids.

Early X-Force followed the proto-Image format of the rockstar artist getting top billing and a writer, in this case Fabian Nicieza, who started working with Liefeld on New Mutants, scripting Liefeld’s plot. The same concept drove Chris Claremont from X-Men. Then the artists themselves – Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd MacFarlane, et al – left several months later to found Image Comics, leaving Marvel with a major talent drain on its hands and giving rise to the Scott Lobdell era of X-Men.

One of these trading cards was polybagged with each X-Force #1

This X-Force had a different relationship to the X-Men than the X-Forces of the past decade. Whereas the modern X-Force started as a band of killers and trackers within the X-Men, the original team were fugitives hunted by the government, putting space between them and Xavier’s school and even some of their former teammates in the New Mutants.

Gone are the whimsical trips to Asgard and colorful characters like the alien robot who bonds with a boy who can understand any language. Now, everyone looks like they went to the Van Damme/Segal/Lundgren school of acting, where even older gentlemen like Cable and SHIELD Commander G.W. Bridge are Mr. Universe specimens. Domino at one point calls both Cable and Cannonball “beef bags,” a phrase that could not be applied to the coal-miner’s son just a few years prior, when he was being drawn by artists like Bill Sienkiewicz.

Even the introductory tag line sounds like it fell out of an action movie: “Some would call them heroes. Some would call them rebels. They fight for a fading dream in a world of nightmares.” Now, imagine that being read by the late Don LaFontaine, accompanied by “Rated PG-13. Exploding onto a screen near you this fall.”

P.S.: Three guesses what the G.W. in G.W. Bridge stands for, and the first two don’t count.

Picking up from New Mutants #100, Cable’s group starts out small, with his confidante Domino (who is eventually revealed not to be Domino), ex-New Mutants Cannonball and Boom-Boom, former Hellion Warpath (brother of dead X-Man John Proudstar), and new, Liefeld-created characters Shatterstar (warrior from the Mojoverse with the double-bladed sword) and Feral (Morlock).

The book opens with X-Force planning a raid on the Mutant Liberation Front, the group of thugs run by Stryfe, who will go on to become the focus of a major X-Men event in a year’s time. In the meantime, enjoy muddling through an endless string of clues about Cable’s and Stryfe’s pasts.

And the first Sign That This is Not the New Mutants occurs on Page 9, when Shatterstar cuts off MLF member Reaper’s left hand. Reaper essentially reacts like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, holding his stump and saying, “Yeah, but you won’t kill me.” Feral then snaps Wildside’s jaw on Page 17. Note that the largest acts of violence are being perpetrated a) by the good guys and b) by the newest, Liefeld-created characters. As violent as they are, though, Cable’s rule is clear: “You can kill in self-defense, not for sport!” Because at this point, the Comics Code is still in effect. That said, he sees Stryfe two pages later and says, “You’re dead, end of story,” without Stryfe having attacked.

Meanwhile, in the B plot, former New Mutant and future Avenger Sunspot is training to run his family’s company – and take out assassins, or something – with his adviser Gideon, who clearly cannot be trusted because he is bald except for his long, flowing, green ponytail. The two prep for a hostile takeover by fighting robots, then end up getting taken over hostile-ly themselves by Black Tom Cassidy, leading to a pre-9/11 explosion at the World Trade Center that at the time was a novel idea.

Speaking of Gideon, there are at least three characters in this book – Gideon, Domino and Shatterstar – who are drawn with ponytails worn high on the head. And most of them are dudes. Now, I may have only been 11 at the time, but I do not remember this being a major fashion trend. There was never an episode of Saved by the Bell in which Kelly, Jesse and Lisa all wore high-on-the-head ponytails, and certainly not one in which Mr. Belding did. Thankfully, Liefeld apparently abandoned that fashion choice by the time he started pilfering his X-Force designs to create Youngblood for Image, but the ponytail menace didn’t start and stop with him. A Topless Robot post from 2013 points out that Omega Red, created by Liefeld compeer Jim Lee, and temporary Thor Eric Masterson also sported some sick ponies, though Masterson’s didn’t ride high on the head.

P.P.S.: Yes, that is my Gideon action figure. Maybe one day I’ll collect all the Externals.

Appropos of nothing: Bridge at one point refers to Cable as “the silent explosion.” Come on, guys. A fart joke? You’re better than that.

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 10/1

Gotham Academy #1
Story: Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher
Art: Karl Kerschl

High school isn't easy, and especially not if you live in a city like Gotham. Gotham Academy is the new Batman family title that mixes the DC Universe, high school drama, and the kind of mysteries you only get in spooky old buildings. The first issue does what a good first issue does: introducing the reader to the characters and the setting. Writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher cleverly use new student orientation to show us the lay of the land. Olive Silverlock, in her second year, is assigned new student Maps Mizoguchi as the student she must mentor. This sounds simple enough, except Maps is the sister of Kyle, Olive's soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, or so Olive thinks. It is a typical high school plot, but the book never sinks into the overblown, hand wringing that someone who doesn't know how to write teenagers thinks teenagers sound. There is something going on with Olive that is mysterious, as their are numerous references to how much she changed over the summer, and her own mysterious aversion to Batman and the Bat Signal. She is distant and angsty, but not in a way that makes someone who is an adult want to roll their eyes and throw the comic away. Maps, on the other hand, is a big ball of energy and positivity. They seem to be polar opposites, but they get along well and play off each other brilliantly. We get glimpses of some of the other characters, including Headmaster Hammer, who looks like he could be a horror host out of EC Comics, Kyle, who I'm curious to get to know more, plus a couple of classic high school tropes, including the mean girl and class clown/prankster. Oh, and I'm pretty sure Aunt Harriet from Batman '66. While some of these characters seem cookie cutter right now, the talent shown in the crafting of Olive and Maps makes me pretty sure they'll get more defined personalities once they get more pages. The action piece of the issue, with Olive and Maps climbing the decrepit belltower to get a view of some of the supposedly haunted parts of the Academy is amazing, both showing the bond between our leads and the ingenuity in Olive. Karl Kershl is an artist I've liked for a long time, and his style is dynamic and full of energy, perfect for this comic. With a brief appearance by Bruce Wayne to more firmly ground the comic in Gotham City, creepy eyes looking out through walls, and a vibe completely different from everything else coming out from DC, Gotham Academy is a something new and fun, and worth checking out for anyone wanting a break from the grim and gritty of much of The New 52.

Men of Wrath #1
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Ron Garney

Jason Aaron writes some seriously dark comics. His superhero stuff can be dark, but admittedly I haven't read much of it, so my experience is more connected to his other work; I'm a fan of his creator owned crime comics. Stuff like Scalped and Southern Bastards are my Aaron. So Men of Wrath, his new book from Marvel's creator owned ICON imprint was something I was going to check out one way or the other, and the fact that he's working with Ron Garney, who he's done a lot of super hero work with and who is one of those great comic utility artists, was icing on the cake. Men of Wrath starts out with the story of the protagonist's great great grandfather, who killed a man in an argument over sheep (a story, Aaron reveals in his text page after the main story, that is from Aaron's own family history). From there, we see Ira Rath at work, and that work is killing people. Hitmen are usually shown to have hearts of gold, or at least tarnished silver, who have a code of honor. That is NOT the case with Rath, something made very very clear by that first sequence; as a matter of fact, he performs an act so cold and repugnant I wouldn't be surprised if it turns some readers right off. From there, we see that Rath is dying of lung cancer, and he seems to feel little need to make any amends for a life of murder. And when a new contract comes his way, we don't know if he's going to take it or not, but we know it's something that will effect his last days. It's not hard to figure out the twist at the end; this first issue is very much Aaron playing in a lot of tropes that are common to stories that center of hitmen. But it's about how Aaron tells the story, how he crafts his characters and how the story flows, and does it flow. Aaron's dialogue is crackling as ever, with Rath and his compatriots sounding like the hardcases they are without sounding like stereotypes. Add to this Garney's art, and you get a great first issue. Garney draws a craggy, old Rath, the lines on his face seemingly carved there, and crafts the gritty world that Aaron's crime comics inhabit as well as any other of Aaron's collaborators; while Garney might be known for superhero work, he clearly has a taste for crime comics.. There is a softness in the coloring in the opening that sets it apart from the harder, bleaker later scenes, and colorist Matt Milla does a great job with that. It's a great launch to the series, and looks to be another gritty hit from Aaron.

Sherlock Holmes Vs. Harry Houdini #1
Story: Anthony Del Col & Conor McCreery
Art: Carlos Furuzono

The same week we get the final issue of the new Kill Shakespeare mini-series, The Tide of Blood, series creators Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery debut their new series for Dynamite, Sherlock Holmes Vs. Harry Houdini. For those of you who don't know, the real life Houdini had something of a rivalry with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, as Doyle was  an avowed spiritualist, and Houdini went out of his way to debunk psychics and spiritualists (it's interesting to me then that Conan Doyle, a devout believer in spirits and fairies, would create possibly the single most rationalist character of the 19th century or after). The issue immediately establishes a rivalry between Holmes and Houdini, for the reason that the arrogant Holmes can't stop from rudely revealing how Houdini's escapes are performed, as Houdini performs for Scotland Yard and Holmes sits in the drunk tank, having been brought in for winding up out on the streets in a drug addled haze. It's well within the bounds of Holmes's more antisocial behavior to be so rude, and Houdini, as you might imagine, does not take it well. But the mystery gets under way when spirits appear and threaten Houdini. Neither Holmes or Houdini believe they were real ghosts, and Houdini puts on his public show with Holmes as a witness, and while Holmes cannot figure out the trick, the spirits return to make a dark turn. I don't know enough about Houdini to determine if the writers have captured his voice properly, but they've made him an interesting character, and they have captured Holmes well, giving him the right amount of bite. Houdini's wife and Dr. Watson serve as sounding boards for our leads, and both are not taking the guff from their respective opposite numbers. Holmes is in one of his drug addled downward spirals at the beginning of this story, something that, while a minor element in the original texts, has become a major part of Holmes pastiche after Nicholas Meyer's famous The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, where Holmes met Sigmund Freud, making it a nice parallel to have Holmes using drugs heavily in a story where he meets yet another famous late-nineteenth/early twentieth-century figure. With these two characters as our leads, I'm sure the supernatural aspect of the story is a fraud, but I am very curious to see exactly how the magic is being faked. Del Col and McCreery have shown in Kill Shakespeare that they have a talent for merging different literary figures into one world, and now they've taken this a step further, merging the fictional world with the real world in this first issue. So the game is afoot, readers, and it's up to these two great rationalists, the detective and the escape artist, to solve case

And now, a review from Dan Grote of Jason Aaron's new Thor #1

Thor #1
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dautermann

I'm not gonna lie, folks: I bought this one specifically to spite the butt-hurt side of the Internet complaining about “forced diversity” and “my Thor has a weiner” (made ya look!).

Thor is the latest Marvel Now book to get rebooted with the same writer, following in the footsteps of Daredevil and Hulk (so basically just Mark Waid). And, of course, as you’ve heard everywhere from The View to the Wall Street Journal, this Thor has lady parts and is not actually the Odinson.
But before we get to lady Thor, there’s about 20 pages of story to get through.

The book opens with a Frost Giant attack on an undersea Roxxon facility armed with attack sharks that makes me miss Sealab 2021. The big guys from Jotunheim are led by Malekith the Accursed, fresh off his appearance in Thor: The Dark World. Artist Russell Dauterman draws some damn-fine Jotuns, reminding me of some of the creatures Fiona Staples has drawn in Saga.

Meanwhile, on the moon, which is apparently now orbited by Asgard, which is apparently now called Asgardia (Forgive me; the last time Thor and I hung out was during the J. Michael Straczynski run), original-recipe Thor is still trying to pull Mjolnir up off the ground, where he’s been since original-recipe Nick Fury whispered him unworthy during the Original Sin crossover. And Odin, like any loving All-Father, decides to berate his son and blame his wife for making the boy soft. Odin then tries to outmacho all of Asgardia and lift the hammer himself, remembering, “Hey, I put the enchantment on this thing in the first place,” but no dice.

Asgardia’s internecine strife is put on hold for the moment when Odin’s ravens arrive to report the Jotun attack on Midgard. Thor charges off into battle sans Mjolnir, while mother Freyja strokes her chin and has a think inspired by Odin’s verbal abuse. (Seriously, this issue makes me wish Odin had stayed dead.) Without spoiling, the battle with Malekith does not go well.

Back on the moon, as the book winds to a close, a mystery blond woman says “There must always be a Thor,” picks up the hammer and poses for a splash page. Obviously, who this person is – her winged helmet covers half her face – is a mystery for another issue.

So the book’s big controversy is actually its C-plot – some first-issue, not-enough-time-to-get-to-everything ish to be sure – but that’s most like because what everyone on the Internet is worried about and what more-than-competent writer Jason Aaron has planned are two completely different things. And if that’s the case, good.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Recommended Reading for 10/3: The Middleman- The Pan Universal Parental Reconciliation

I wrote a recommendation for The Middleman before, and did a little post about the crowd funding to get a new volume out. I contributed to the IndieGoGo for it, and on Monday, the fifth Middleman graphic novel (sixth if you count a collection of shorts of Middlemen through the ages) arrived on my doorstep, The Pan Universal Parental Reconciliation. And holy cow, was it awesome.

There are so many things about this graphic novel that are great, I don't even know where to start. The plot revolves around a classic comic book trope, characters from different realities meeting. In this case, it's the versions of Wendy Watson from the TV universe meeting her comic book counterpart. Only the comic series ended with the death of the Middleman, and so comic Wendy is travelling with her new boss: her dad, Wally Watson, who both Wendy's believed was dead.

Parents and children are the emotional core of the book. While Comic Wendy is dealing with her returned father, TV Wendy and Lacey Thornfield, her roommate, are getting ready for Art Crawl, where their moms will get to see the art they create. But when the stuff hits the fan, both Wendys deal with the return of their deceased father (even if he isn't the actual father of one of them) and both go through what feels like many of the stages of grieving, only in an odd reversal. It's also interesting to see how the TV Middleman reacts, as we learn a bit more of what he knows or has known about Wendy's dad, and exactly how he feels about Wendy. The Middleman never shied away from giving the hero an emotional side that many classic tv manly men don't have, so it's interesting to see Comic Wendy interrogate TV Middleman and see exactly how he reacts.

Peter Wallace "Wally" Watson is a great addition to the cast. He is still a Middleman, still this sort of jack of all trades superhero kind of guy, but doesn't affect the stiffness The Middleman we're used to. Exactly where he has been is very Middleman, a classic sci-fi trope that is kept fresh by exactly how it is used.  He also clearly loves his Wendy, and tries to build a rapport with TV Wendy. Even though Wendy and The Middleman have a parent/child relationship, it's very different when it's actually Wendy's dad, and seeing this other version of Wendy get her dad back opens up some old wounds for Comic Wendy.

There is, naturally, a plot to the book besides the alternate universe doubles meeting each other. Writer/creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach could just write these characters sitting around and talking for eighty pages and I would love reading it, but that wouldn't pack the kind of jam packed punch The Middleman usually does. No, before the story is out, there are other alternate universes, high tech vaccum cleaners, alien empires, and Noser, Wendy and Lacey's neighbor, playing a game of Stump The Band.

As with everything Middleman, while there is a great emotional heart, there is so much more on other, tremendously fun levels. I love the fact that they directly call out the far more multicultural cast of the TV show versus the much more Caucasian cast of the comic. TV Wendy, who has a hispanic mother, gets off a great line to Comic Wendy, who is white, about Hispanic women in her reality. There's a joke about Noser, who is white in the comics and not in the TV show, and some wonderful lines about trying to come up with a way to address the two Wendys without using race as the line of demarcation. This isn't a ham fisted attempt to "say something." it's just a funny bit of repartee that might get you to think. Oh, and like the TV show, this graphic novel does indeed pass the Bechdel Test.

Their are countless pop culture references, to everything from Ghostbusters to Star Trek to Lost, which is one of the trademarks of The Middleman. The story not only picks up right after the end of the third volume of The Middleman comic, so it's got references to that world, but to various episodes of the TV show. There are references to the cross dimension ep, "The Palindrome Reversal Palindrome" and the Clotharians, the alien race who popped up on a couple episodes of the show. There are some handy annotations to all the references in the back of the book, but you don't need to know any of that, or really much about the world of The Middleman to enjoy this book. Also, I have to call out the hilarious use of the captions that appear at scene changes. Trust me, these are the best captions you will EVER read.

The Middleman is a smart, fun, well told story that is a love letter to everything that I love: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comics, great characters, you name it. To get new material from it after years is exciting, and to see that the quality has not slipped in the least is even better. I can not recommend this book, or any of The Middleman comics or TV episodes, highly enough. Check them out, and fall in love.

The Pan-Universal Parental Reconciliation is now available for sale on, the internet home of The Middleman, along with all the other collections of Middleman comics.