Monday, April 28, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 4/28

All Star Western #30
Story: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art: Staz Johnson/ Jose Garcia-Lopez

It's not good to be a love interest for Jonah Hex. After burying the girl who he brought back from his brief sojourn to the 21st century, Jonah heads to town to find a room and finds Tallulah Black. For those of you not in the know, or who have only experienced that character through the unfortunate Jonah Hex film, Tallulah is a female bounty hunter Jonah trained initially to hunt those who killed her family, and became his recurring love interest and partner throughout the initial Palmiotti & Gray run on Jonah Hex. This issue is a good jumping on point if you're not familiar with either character, since Jonah has to establish his identity because his historically scarred face was fixed in his time in the future. You see that they are both coldblooded killers with little regard for pretty much anyone else. You see the fireworks between them, the perfect chemistry, and the final page of their story sets up what looks to be a bloody beginning to the next issue. This issue is also the first issue of All Star Western in a while to have a back-up story, something that was a regular feature when it debuted, and this issue features the New 52 introduction of Madame .44. A more obscure old DC western character, the origin is slightly altered, but still features most of the original aspect: father who was a miner, seeks revenge on those who wronged him, but it also adds a supernatural aspect that wasn't there originally. The extra big draw on that back-up is art by living legend Jose Garcia-Lopez, who hasn't lost a step in portraying the old west.

Duffman Adventures #1
Story: Max Davison/ Ian Bootby
Art: John Delaney/ Jacob Chabot

OH, YEAH! Bingo's Simpsons comics are consistently fun, but I have gotten a real kick out of these "One Shot Wonders," single issues focusing on single characters. This issue clearly focuses on Duffman, the pitchman for Homer's favorite beverage, Duff Beer. The issue features two stories, both of which are parodies; they're pretty on the nose, not very subtle, but are so full of in jokes and well put together, who needs subtlety? In the lead story, mild mannered Kyle McKagen is called by an extraterrestrial beer can to join the galaxy's leaders in partying, the Duffman Corps. Not only do we see Duffman versions of such legendary Green Lanterns as Kilowog, Salaak, Tomar Re, and G'Nort, but there are also Duffmen from the Rigellian species (Kang and Kodos of The Simpsons), and Nibblonians and Decapodians (Nibbler and Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama respectively). When you factor in Vinostro, king of the buzzkills, you get a fun Green Lantern parody. In the second short, we get previews of shows on the new Duff Network, including "CSI: Duff," "Duffton Abbey," and "DuffTales." "DuffTales" was my favorite, with Duffman in a Scrooge McDuck costume and bill, and three of the Seven Duffs as the Beagle Boys. If you watch The Simpsons, you know that Duff Beer is from a corporation so corrupt it would only fit in Springfield (or Wall Street), and so their product placement ads work as a good lampooning of corporate greed. And the next one shot features Kang and Kodos! Nothing better than wacky tentacle aliens!

Eternal Warrior #8
Story: Greg Pak
Art: Robert Gill

I haven't talked about Valiant Comics as much as I probably should have since their return, and I feel bad that I'm only now hitting on Eternal Warrior with its last issue. This arc finds Gilad Anni-Padda, the titular immortal warrior, aged and in the year 4001, a world that has returned to an almost Middle Ages level of technology. There, he has been on a quest to find a cure for radiation poisoning to save the village he has been living with an most importantly his grand daughter, Caroline. Gilad must lead a group of men and women to defeat a death cult that has claimed the bunker that holds the cure, and to do it, must teach them how to use weapons from the old days, including mechanical war suits and laser blasters. Gilad knows that teaching them to use the weapons could again bring about the destruction that was brought about by the high technology. In the end, while Gilad wins and saves his people, he also loses, as Caroline, enchanted by the technology, seems to be the one who will bring it back and doom the world again. This theme, that of the cycle of destruction and rebirth, is important in apocalyptic literature, and Pak adds the extra personal punch of Gilad seeing it's his own blood who will bring it about again. The series ends with this issue with some plot threads left dangling, and I'm hoping to see some of those dealt with in Valiant's new future set series, Rai. But Gilad is the eternal warrior, so I can only expect to see him back.

Herobear and the Kid: Saving Time #1
Story and Art: Mike Kunkel

A couple weeks ago I did an advanced review of the new Scratch 9 series, and said how glad I was to see another great all ages back. And now here's another of the best all ages comics I've ever read back with a new series! Herobear and the Kid is the story of Tyler, a young boy who got a very special inheritance from his grandfather: a pocketwatch that tells Tyler of someone is good or bad and a stuffed bear that, when Tyler presses his nose, turns into a full size flying, talking, superhero polar bear called Herobear. This new series takes place not too long after the first series, at Tyler's first New Year's since his family moved into the house his grandfather left them. He and Herobear have an adventure doing battle with a crocodile, and when he arrives home, he learns the secret of his butler, the always punctual Henry: Henry is Father Time, one of whose jobs it is to aid Santa Claus in his deliveries (oh, did I forget to mention that Tyler's grandfather was Santa, and Tyler is in line to be the new Santa?), and once a year, on New Year's, he turns into Baby New Year, and it's up to Tyler to protect him or there will be dire consequences. Of course, Tyler isn't even a teenager, so you know he's going to get distracted, and the evil Von Klon is waiting in the wings. Herobear and the Kid is the product of cartoonist Mike Kunkel, whose gorgeous black and white art is a major draw to the series. This is a well written comic, with plenty to read; I would be surprised if there were any books from either Marvel or DC that took as much time for me to read. That is not to say it is overwritten; nowhere does the book feel like I'm slogging through too much narration or dialogue. Kunkel really gets into the mind of a child who still can experience the magic of the world in a way we adults can't, while still keeping the stakes high and the action and humor coming. If you have a kid, or are a kid at heart, then you should be reading Herobear and the Kid, and this issue is the perfect time to come on board.

The Manhattan Projects #20
Story: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Pitarra

This is it, the issue I've been waiting for since the series began. Early on, Albert Einstein discovered how to open a gate between worlds and dimensions, only to be left trapped in another dimension by his alternate self, Albrecht Einstein, who took the place of the great thinker. I knew Albert would be back, and now we get pay off on that long dangling thread. This issue is the story of what Einstein had to do to get back to his home world, and of what he experienced. We see exactly the kind of world Albrecht escaped, a crazy fantasy world where they believe science is magic and magic is science. We see Einstein passing through numerous other alternate Earths. And we see him having a conversation with his alternate self. Now, Albrecht has fit in pretty well with the narcissists and maniacs who make up the Manhattan Projects team, and no doubt he's not a very nice guy, but seeing the world he's from not only clearly makes him the lesser of many evils, but even Albert understands why he would do anything to escape it. And the reasoning behinds Albert's immediate assassination of Oppenheimer a couple issues ago becomes very apparent, and I feel is going to important as the series continues. I've always felt like Jonathan Hickman's strength as a writer has been his big crazy plots, but this issue does a nice job of giving us a character piece with a character who isn't a lunatic. And who could pass up a comic titled "Einstein the Barbarian"? Not me.

And a little additional recommendation. One of the seemingly exponentially number of podcasts I listen to is NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, a weekly discussion of different pop culture topics. Occasionally, host Linda Holmes will have a fun quiz that the panelists have to take, usually to their shagrin. Well, this week, she handed the quiz duties over to Glen Weldon, their resident authority on comics, who happens to be writing a book about how Batman intersects with pop culture, and so naturally his quiz was about Batman. It's multiple choice, but pretty darn tricky; I wound up getting eight out of twelve. Check out the episode and see how you do.

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