Monday, December 21, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 12/17

Batman '66 #30
Story: Lee Allred
Art: Mike Allred & Laura Allred

All good things must come to an end, alas, and this week marks the final issue of the regular Batman '66 title. But its a phenomenal way to go out. This issue, written by Lee Allred with art by his brother and sister-in-law Mike and Laura Allred, is everything you'd expect from the wonderful oddness attached to the Allred name, as the story finds a way to put all those random funky images from the opening credits from the TV show and works them into a story. The basic plot is simple: Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman have set up a convention for all of Gotham's villains. All except Riddler, who they're just sick of because he "might as well be working with Batman" giving away their crimes. So, of course, Riddler decides to send clues to the police about the location out of spite, so this might not have been the best villainous plan. Arriving at the movie studio where the convention is taking place, Batman and Robin work their way through a gauntlet of villains, with the different images from the credits representing the defeat of the villains. The Batmobile gets a remote controlled spotlight moment, and Batgirl sweeps in for a last minute save. Pretty much every villain from the series, and most of the new ones introduced in the comic, pop up in the villainous crowd scenes, and some make their first appearance, like King Cobra (who's in the opening credits but never in the show or this comic before) and (despite being unmasked the whole time), the Terrible Trio, If that weren't enough cameos, as Batman and Robin climbing the studio, they find a legitimate meeting going on, and out of the window pop... Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen right out of the classic George Reeves Superman TV series, and the final press conference also happens to have Clark Kent, Billy Batson, Jack Ryder, Vickie Vale,  Nelli Majors (a reporter from an episode of the TV show), and "Ritt Bried" since they can't use Britt Ried, the Green Hornet, without the license. It's a great send off to a fun series. This isn't the last we'll see of this universe, with Batman '66 Meets the Mn from UNCLE starting this week, and Batman '66 Meets the Avengers (the Steed and Peel ones), already announced, but for now, I'm glad this big, flashy issue is the final on.

Grampa Simpson's Unbelievable Adventures #1
Story: Max Davison
Art: Hilary Barta, Andrew Pepoy, & Art Villanueva

The Simpson comics One Shot Wonders series have produced lots of interesting and fun comics. While many have been anthologies featuring that issue's spotlight character, but others have been more experimental, such as the McBain one shot that was a comic that folded out into a poster. This issue, focusing on Abe "Grampa" Simpson, is one of those more unusual issues, as it is what us kids of the '70s and '80s know as a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story, where at the bottom of each page, you get to choose what happens next by turning to one page or another. You'd think with only 22 pages to work with, that would really limit the potential, but it works exceptionally well. If you've ever watched The Simpsons, you know that Grampa has a habit of telling some... colorful stories (and by colorful I mean completely crazy and rambling), so if there's any character that works with this format, it's him. Page one has Grampa in a spaceship, and from there it just gets crazier. Depending on your choices, Grampa can fight aliens or pirates, become a jazzman, take up his professional wrestling career one more time, become a wheelman for Fat Tony, and more. It's all the fun of "Choose Your Own Adventure" with none of the logic!

Lumberjanes #21
Story: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Art: Carey Pietsch & Maarta Laiho

Every issue of Lumberjanes is a collection of fun, character, and excitement; there are very few other comics on the market that pack more all ages wonder into its pages. Opening with the greatest beach volleyball scene ever in comics, and maybe in pop culture, what starts out as seemingly an easy merit badge accomplishment for April turns into a crusade when it turns out every one of the Roanoke Cabin has to succeed before any of them get the badge, and April, still stinging from last arc where her she put her own goals above her friends for a while, feels like councilor Seafarin' Karen has implied our lead aren't a good team, and she has to prove her wrong. And because this is Lumberjanes, it turns out Karen's boat has been stolen by selkies (mythological women who can turn into seals and back), and so April figures the best way to prove to Karen that they're a great team is to help Karen get her boat back. And so Roanoke Cabin split up: Jo, April, and Mal go to work out a plan with Karen, while Molly and Ripley, along with Ripley's raccoon friend Bubbles, head into the woods to find the Bear Woman, figuring they might learn some more about shape-shifters from her. The Bear Woman is her usual... pleasant self, grumping at Molly and Ripley and indicating there's a difference between what she can do and what the selkies can. Meanwhile, we learn the selkies believe Karen stole one of the seal skins that allows one of their friends to turn back into a seal, something Karen denies, and won't return the boat until they get it back. And we also learn a secret about Karen at the end of the issue I won't reveal here, but I have to say: with two weeks left in the year, Seafarin' Karen is the character find of the year for me. She's gruff, tough, has scars and wears an eyepatch, and that last page reveal? Well, read the comic, and if you've read this blog for a while, you'll know what I think is so awesome. The charm of the issue is in the determination our leads show, and how they really want to help Karen. We see lots of little character beats, like Ripley being excited to hug a seal, which shows that she is just the most innocent and wide eyed of the cast, a reminder of Mal's fear of the water, and April really trying to show her friends that she learned her lesson. I can't say enough good things about Lumberjanes; it's a comic about friendship and mythological monsters, which is a combination that works beautifully.

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer Versus the Vampire Zoo
Story: Van Jensen
Art: Dusty Higgins

It really is one of those ideas that's so perfect, you're surprised nobody thought of it before: Pinocchio, who's made of wood and whose nose grows every time he lies, is made to slay vampires. Just break off the nose and instant stake! After four graphic novels, the Pinocchio Vampire Slayer series ended last year, and I'll be honest, it's waiting for the full recommended reading treatment, because it's great. This one shot, though, is a lost chapter, based off what felt like a throw away line in one of the later volumes about a vampire gorilla. The title really says it all about this comic. Pinocchio, along with his friend Carlotta, a group of other living wooden puppets, and the blue fairy and the woodsman Cherry (this book draws from the original Carlo Collodi novel, not the bowdlerized Disney version), run across a zoo populated by vampire animals, led by a glasses wearing, intelligent gorilla; basically it's Grodd if he were a vampire, which is pretty damn terrifying. If you've never read any volume of the series before, this issue gives you a good feeling for who Pinocchio is, as well as all the commedia dell'arte influenced puppets of the Great Puppet Theater. If you're looking for a fun comic that has a lot of action and some creepy vampire animals drawn beautifully, well this is a comic that was made for you.

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