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Review: Mighty Avengers #12 (Ewing and Land)

The Mighty Avengers keeps on trucking with good solid stories and character-driven adventures, and one hopes the freshly announced relaunch as Captain America and the Mighty Avengers will not take this book out of the mold into which it has put itself: simply the best of the franchise now on the stands!

With writer Al Ewing continuing at the helm, I won’t worry. Yet.

As to Mighty Avengers #12, as a son my sympathies are certainly with Luke Cage as we learn the whys and wherefores of his father’s distance all these years … especially since we see that Dad was a bit of adventurer himself, hobnobbing with Blade, Blue Marvel, etc etc. And the most unusual thing about the situation between Luke and his father is that the explanation is so believable, so logical. Yet like Luke, we are thrown for a loop! At least I was.

The Deathwalkers as villains are truly enjoyable given their difference from most of the “fighting shadows” stories we find in many modern comics. There is definitely a retro feel to this issue – and to this book – and that is a good thing, believe me.

And BEAR!!!

For those who dislike Greg Land’s art, it is beyond my understanding. The action is crisp and clear, not murky and covered with patches of purple, and the facial expressions could not be better unless one could resurrect the late Gene Colan. Land’s panel arrangements in action and in quiet moments carry Ewing’s story well.

I have worries about this book – or its relaunch – going forward. But right here, right now, this is the best Avengers title for your hard-earned bucks.

‘Nuff said!

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Review: Storm #1

There are fans who have been waiting almost 40 years for this book. Greg Pak does not disappoint as he and artist Victor Ibanez put together the first issue of Storm.
 
Hearing Pak’s plans for bringing back Callisto in issue #2 and the subsequent reappearance of Forge, I feel Ororo’s solo adventures are in good hands indeed.
 
Storm is a complex character. Goddess, thief, queen, ruler of the underground Morlocks: she’s had more roles than almost anyone to the Marvel Universe. And always underlying those roles was an elemental woman of great will, great passion, great beauty and great power.
 
As leader of the X-Men and headmistress of the Jean Grey School, we know Storm seems to know more than anyone that, yes, with great power comes great responsibility.
 
Ibanez is every bit equal to Pak in #1’s success, as this first issue rolls off with such strength of character for Storm that you wonder why it took Marvel four decades to bring this great character a book of her own.
 
This is a Storm I discovered and grew up with in Chris Claremont’s X-Men books. This is a Storm I have waited to see return for many years.
 
I cannot tell you how excited I am about this new book … but I’ve tried.
 
Pick it up!
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TV Review: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. — “Planet Leader”

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“Planet Leader” lets us get a great look at Skaar’s home world as we see a father/son bonding between the Hulk and Skaar.
 
The Leader has fled Earth and the Hulks have followed, only to wind up slaves in the mines of Sakaar. They also learned that through technology the Leader has the entire population of that area, maybe that world, enslaved.
 
Unfortunately, the Hulks are enslaved by the same device.
 
Hulk and Skaar team up when they are thrown into a seemingly bottomless pit. Meanwhile, She-Hulk must endure the company of the Leader as he makes her his queen.
 
Rick offers rescue to Jen after he and Red Hulk escape the mines, but she believes she can do more damage to the villain from within.
 
Soon in the battle dome, it is a recaptured Skaar vs Hulk. At stake, of course, is “the girl,” She-Hulk. Shades of the 1960’s!
 
After Skaar proves himself to be a hero, there is a monster revolt and the Leader’s technology is overthrown.
 
Skaar and the Hulks head home,  but the Leader has the final say. He screws with their navigation system and the Hulks wind up … lost in space!
 
A funny, sometimes poignant toon.
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Review: Justice League United #3

Jeff Lemire brings the latest chapter of his first arc to a penultimate shocker in Justice League United #3.
 
Manipulating these B characters of the DC Universe in a wild but very interesting adventure between Alaska and the cosmos, Lemire has satisfactorily assembled a new arm of the Justice League franchise complete with boss (Martian Manhunter), serious and comedic relationships, and a very interesting new character (Equinox).
 
While everything has yet to come together, I really appreciate the retro route that Lemire is taking with these adventures. Shades of Len Wein or, going back, Gardner Fox and the feel of these stories as we have enough modern character scrutiny while at the same time a lot of superheroes going after the big-bads.
 
Of course, said battles have been brilliantly portrayed in the art and storytelling abilities of Mike McKone. The heroes are dramatically heroic, the aliens are very alien and I am loving being in DCU space.
 
This book is delightfully separated from the rest of the DCU and especially its Justice League franchise, and I couldn’t be any happier. Marvelously fun read!
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Review: Detective Comics #33 (Buccellato and Manapul)

I have always loved the detective aspects of Batman stories, but they’ve taken on a new meaning and a greater importance under creators Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.

In Detective Comics #33, the story is riveting and we are in on every clue Batman picks up along the way. I specially like the way the characters interact and I’m falling in love with Bullock.

It is the small things that add up to so much: the very active participation of Alfred behind the scenes, Batman hanging upside down Spidey-like in the midst of his detecting, the confidence of Bullock who isn’t afraid of even “the bat-man.” So much gained from little things.

I was a big fan of The Black Bat series Brian did for Dynamite Entertainment. It is wonderful to see him teamed with Francis on Detective Comics.

What can I say about the art? Experimental, wonderful and you never get confused like you do during the works of some other storytellers who try to take this tact. Simply wonderful work.

This creative team has made Detective Comics a better book that has been, and I didn’t think that was possible. Very involving and intriguing.

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The Wayback Machine: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

 

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Everyone is back these days in comics: Flash Gordon, the Phantom, Doc Savage, Tarzan, John Carter and, for a while, the Black Bat.

I may be misinformed but I think Buck Rogers is losing out!

Not so in the late 1970s; Buck was everywhere! So let’s dial the ol’ Wayback Machine to 1979 and away we gooooooooo

Inspired by the massive success of Star Wars, Universal began developing Buck Rogers for television, spearheaded by Glen A. Larson who had a production deal with the studio. Initially, Larson and Universal had planned on making a series of Buck Rogers TV movies for NBC. Production began in 1978. The pilot for Larson’s other sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica (1978), had been released theatrically in some countries and in key locations in North America, and had done well at the box office. Universal therefore opted to release the first Buck Rogers TV movie theatrically on March 30, 1979. Good box office returns led NBC to commission a full series, which began on September 20, 1979.

The production recycled many of the props, effects shots and costumes from Battlestar Galactica, which was still in production at the same time the pilot film for Buck Rogers was being filmed. For example, the “landram” vehicle was made for the Galactica series, and the control sticks used in the Terran starfighters in the pilot movie were the same as those used in Galactica’s Viper craft. The Terran starfighters were also concept designer Ralph McQuarrie’s original vision of the Colonial Vipers.

The new series centered on Captain William Anthony “Buck” Rogers, played by Gil Gerard, a NASA pilot who commands Ranger 3, a space shuttle that is launched in May 1987. Due to a life-support malfunction, Buck is accidentally frozen for 504 years before his spacecraft is discovered drifting in space in the year 2491. The combination of gases that froze his body coincidentally comes close to the formula commonly used in the 25th century for cryopreservation, and his rescuers are able to revive him. He learns that civilization on Earth was rebuilt following a devastating nuclear war that occurred on November 22, 1987, and is now under the protection of the Earth Defense Directorate.

The series followed him as he tried to fit (not always successfully) into 25th-Century culture. As there were no traceable personal records for him, he was uniquely placed, due to his pilot and combat skills and personal ingenuity, to help Earth Defense foil assorted evil plots to conquer the planet. In many respects, this version of Buck Rogers was more similar to James Bond or Steve Austin rather than Nowlan’s original character, and Buck would often go undercover on various covert missions.

Buck is aided in his adventures by his friend and semi-romantic interest, Colonel Wilma Deering (played by Erin Gray), a high-ranking officer and starfighter pilot. He is also assisted by Twiki, a small robot or “ambuquad” as they were known. Twiki was played mainly by Felix Silla and voiced by legendary WB animated voice artist Mel Blanc (who had previously voiced Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers in spoofs of the early Buck Rogers and other SF serials). Twiki became Buck’s comic sidekick and tended to express himself with an electronic noise that sounded like “biddi-biddi-biddi” often followed by a 20th-Century catchphrase or slang, many of which he learned from Buck.

Also aiding Buck was Dr. Theopolis or “Theo” (voiced by Eric Server), a sentient computer in the shape of a disk, approximately 9-inches wide with an illuminated face. He was capable of understanding Twiki’s electronic language, and was often carried around by him. Theo was a member of Earth’s “computer council” and one of the planet’s scientific leaders. During the first season, Buck and Wilma took their orders from Dr. Elias Huer, played by Tim O’Connor, the head of the Defense Directorate. Some episodes suggested Huer was the leader of the entire planet, though this was never made completely clear.

The series’ chief villain (at least in the first season) was Princess Ardala (played by Pamela Hensley) whose goal was to conquer the Earth whilst making Buck her consort. She was aided by her henchman Kane (played in the pilot film by Henry Silva and in the series by Michael Ansara). All of these characters were featured in the original comic strip, except for Dr. Theopolis and Twiki (whose closest counterpart in earlier versions would likely be Buck’s human sidekick Buddy Wade). Kane (or Killer Kane as he was then known) was also featured in the 1939 film serial and was actually the chief villain himself, rather than Ardala’s henchman (Ardala did not appear in the film serial).

The pilot film depicted human civilization as fairly insular, with an invisible defense shield that surrounded the entire planet, protecting it from invaders. Civilization was restricted to a few cities, the main city seen in the pilot and weekly series was New Chicago, which was also known as the Inner City. Travel beyond the Inner City was hazardous, as much of the planet was said to be a radioactive wasteland inhabited by violent mutants (as Buck discovered when he visited the derelict remains of old Chicago).

Ratings dropped significantly after its second season premiere. NBC canceled the series at the end of an eleven-episode actor strike-abbreviated season. No finale storyline was produced, with the final episode broadcast being a normal standalone episode.

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Brew’s Crew: Han Solo

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All the news is Star Wars these days and everything (and –one) old is new again. So is the pre-Indy Harrison Ford.

Introduced in Star Wars (1977), Han Solo is indebted to Jabba the Hutt after the loss of valuable cargo.

On Tatooine, Solo accepts a charter to transport Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, C-3PO and R2-D2 to Alderaan in his vaunted (and junked) Millennium Falcon spaceship for a payment which will help him clear the debt. But when the crew and passengers arrive at the planet’s coordinates, they discover that Alderaan has been destroyed by the Death Star.

The Falcon is then captured and held within the battle station, however Han Solo, Chewbacca and his passengers evade capture by hiding in the ship smuggling compartments. While trying to find a way to escape Luke Skywalker discovers that Princess Leia Organa (Bond fans?) is being held captive aboard the station. Enticed by the likelihood of a large reward, Solo and Chewbacca help Skywalker rescue the princess and escape from the Death Star.

After delivering Skywalker, Leia and the droids to the Rebel Alliance, Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot receive payment for their services. Unfortunately the Millenium Falcon has been tracked to the Rebel Alliance moon base by the Death Star. The rebels plan to attack the space station and exploit a weakness in the space station’s defenses. Solo initially does not want to get involved in the planned attack because,”What good’s a reward if you ain’t around to use it?” Solo leaves with his reward and the rebels attack the Death Star.

However, Solo has a change of heart and returns to save Luke’s life during the film’s climactic battle scene, ultimately enabling Luke to destroy the Death Star. For his heroics, Solo is presented with a medal and is appointed a Captain of the Rebel Alliance.

In The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Han Solo continues to assist the Rebels against the Empire.

Han once again risks his life to save Luke Skywalker by braving a snowstorm on the ice planet Hoth to rescue his wounded friend. When the Empire attacks the Rebel base, Solo transports Chewbacca, Leia Organa and C-3PO to Cloud Citywhere his old friend Lando Calrissian (Cloud City’s administrator) operates to hide from Imperial agents.

When bounty hunter Boba Fett tracks the Falcon to Cloud City, Darth Vader forces Calrissian to help capture Solo who is then sealed in carbonite (that scene still hurts me) for delivery to Jabba the Hutt. Lando is able to free Vader’s other captives but their rescue attempt of Solo fails and Fett is able to escape with Solo’s frozen body.

During Return of the Jedi (1983), Han Solo is still frozen until Leia, Jedi Knight Luke and Lando infiltrate Jabba the Hutt’s palace and free him but they’re caught by Jabba before they can escape. When Jabba orders them to be executed, Solo helps Luke, Leia, and Lando in defeating Jabba and his henchmen before escaping and defeating Boba Fett.

Reunited with the Rebels, Solo is commissioned as a general. Along with Leia and Chewbacca, he goes to the forest moon of Endor and leads a team deactivating the force fields protecting the Empire’s second Death Star, in which they are aided by the Ewoks while Luke fights the Emperor on the Death Star.

When the Death Star is destroyed, Solo sees Leia’s concern for Luke and offers to step aside for the young Jedi to court her. However, Leia reveals to Han’s surprise that Luke is her brother, and thus will obviously have no objection to his friend’s relationship with her.

At the end of the classic film, Solo joins the Rebels in celebrating the destruction of the second Death Star and the Empire. At the end, he and Leia declare their love for each other while reuniting with Luke and Lando as well.

What will Han Solo be doing in the new Marvel comic or in Episode VII? We’ll find out!

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Review: Thor, God of Thunder #24

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

With great power comes great responsibility.

The latter quotation may have been coined by the Smiling One, Stan Lee, for his beloved webhead, but it (and tghe preceding) has never been more true than in this wrap-up to Thor, God of Thunder’s “Last Days of Midgard,” a particular issue in comics (the epilogue) at which Marvel has always excelled.

No spoilers here, gentle readers. Nope, for those who have been following writer Jason Aaron’s superb and non-stop adventure in the pages of Thor, it would be too cruel. This issue, as the old Marvel covers used to say in the Silver Age, “has it all, true believer!” And indeed it does.

How Aaron can touch upon so much – the major, major ramifications the Roxxon battle has had and will have on this mag, the emotions of a god and the outstanding moments of other characters, mention of things coming in this book’s future and hits of greatness to come – and keep it from being neither maudlin nor feeling like a “set-up” issue is beyond me.

That is why Aaron is writing one of the greatest cosmic comics to hit stands in quite a while and I am writing this review, lol.

Since its first issue, the art crews of Thor, God of Thunder have been knocking it out of the park with Esad Ribic the standard-bearer among them. Herein in #24 Agustin Alessio does the lion’s share of illustration and does it well. (If you saw his work on Star Wars, you know whereof I speak.) The facial expressions are right-on with Aaron’s script and mood, and in many places Alessio IS the storyteller. Simply breath-taking!

I hated to see some of this issue’s developments come to fruition, but it is where Aaron has been heading. That said, there is a lot of excitement about the Thunder God’s road ahead. As long as the writing credit says “Jason Aaron,” I will be along for the ride! 

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Review: Green Lantern #33 (Venditti and Tan)

Movie companies own both of the Big 2 comic companies. Need proof? Submitted for your approval, as Rod Serling used to say: Green Lantern #33.

Chapter 5 of the “Uprising” event is an action-packed slobberknocker the likes of which summer theatre audiences crave. No Bendis talking heads here (well, not many). Instead, we are treated to real movement of plot through the great artistry of Mr. Billy Tan as the Corps arrives and forms “The Wall.” (Hey, teacher …)

When writer Robert Venditti told me in his first interview with Cosmic Book News that he realized he would be playing with Geoff Johns’ toys, but he would not be playing the same games, he really knew what he was saying. This scribe took a mammoth (feature film at the time) bull by the horns and has made his own vision of this franchise. Admirable.

While this “Uprising” event for me has been on-again, off-again, this issue of Green Lantern shows the best of what there is as the Lanterns gather together in a last stand of sorts.

And oh those Venditti one-liners!

Tan is a master of this sort of battle, and has really honed his craft in this book. When he was with Uncanny X-Men a few years ago, you could see the promise in his pencils but like Brad Walker this artist has really grown as far as these space battle scenes at DC. Beautiful!

If you are tired of your comics reading like your grandma’s soap operas (hour long soap operas), pick up Green Lantern #33. It is very reader friendly.

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TV Review: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. — “Monsters No More”

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Just as the Hulks become heroes in the eyes of the world, the Leader pulls his last card out of his deck and a long-planned plot goes into play.

A number of their foes go up against the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and the Hulks nearly destroy “their” town, Vista Verde, in its defense. The rub: No one can see the enemy, under command of the Leader, and the town thinks the Hulks have gone berserk.

U.S. military forces come in and the Hulks must go on the lamb to protect the village that has always loved them, as well as the populace. But back at S.M.A.S.H. HQ, the Leader is using their gamma energy source to blow the state to smithereens.

The Leader escapes through a gamma wormhole and the Hulks toss in the gamma machine in after him. Unfortunately, their momentum carries all the Hulks into the aperture as well.

They awake on the other-dimensional planet of Sakaar, home of … Skaar, son of Hulk and one of the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Continued, natch!

This one began slow but became really interesting once we (the viewers) learn the Leader’s minions are invisible and begin seeing things from the public’s POV. Awesome toon, and next week: Planet Hulk?

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Brew’s Crew: C-3PO

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The coming Star Wars: Episode VII has all the franchise’s fans excited, so let us take a look at one of my faves from the original three films … and beyond, actually.

In Star Wars, C-3PO is introduced to the audience when C-3PO and R2-D2 are aboard the consular ship Tantive IV when it is attacked by Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer Devastator. When R2-D2 leaves the ship to deliver a secret message to Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO follows R2-D2, eventually to the planet Tatooine. There, C-3PO and R2-D2 are captured by Jawas and taken to be sold. In the process of being sold to Owen Lars, C-3PO convinces his new owner to buy R2-D2 as well.

Throughout the film C-3PO is a foil to R2-D2’s jokes, even when C-3PO translates R2-D2’s machine speech for the audience. C-3PO was the property of the captain on the Tantive IV, but seems to follow R2-D2 in a relationship akin to those between human children; C-3PO often following R2-D2 around, and R2-D2 needing C-3PO to translate for him. When R2 is damaged in the Battle of Yavin, C-3PO offers to donate any mechanical parts helpful in his repair; but this transference is never confirmed.

In The Empire Strikes Back, C-3PO is responsible for identifying the Empire’s probe droid, alerting the Rebels to the Empire’s awareness of their location on the 6th planet of the Hoth System. C-3PO escapes with Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia in the Millennium Falcon, while R2-D2 joins Luke in his search for Yoda. During this time C-3PO and Solo are often shown as foils; C-3PO quoting odds and Han defying them. After a chase through the Hoth asteroid field, the Falcon escapes to the CloudCityon Bespin.

While exploring a room in CloudCity, C-3PO is blasted by an off-camera stormtrooper. In search of Threepio, Chewbacca heads to the Ugnaught recycling facility where he finds the dismembered parts of the droid. When Darth Vader reveals his presence to the group that same day, Chewbacca is sent into a holding cell, but is permitted to rebuild the droid, which he does poorly. Thereafter, Chewbacca carries the partially rebuilt C-3PO on his back during Han Solo’s encasement in carbonite.

With the help of the city’s administrator, Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO escape the city. Having C-3PO on Chewbacca’s back proves to be beneficial, in that when Boba Fett escapes the city with Han Solo, C-3PO notifies them of pursuing stormtroopers. After successfully escaping Vader’s flagship Executor, C-3PO is fully repaired by R2-D2.

In Return of the Jedi, Luke commands C-3PO and R2-D2 to deliver a message to Jabba the Hutt, whereby C-3PO is used as Jabba’s translator while R2-D2 serves on his flying “sail barge.” C-3PO’s first translation for the crime lord is of the bounty hunter BoushhLeia in disguise — claiming the bounty for Chewbacca. Later, Luke infiltrates the palace and kills Jabba’s rancor in a duel, whereupon Jabba transfers his court to the sail barge with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca as food for the Sarlacc, while Leia serves as Jabba’s slave.

When Luke attempts escape, R2-D2 tosses him his lightsaber, with which he attacks Jabba’s guards. In the midst of the battle, C-3PO is attacked by Salacious Crumb, who pulls out his right photoreceptor before being driven off by R2-D2. Thereafter the two escape the sail barge and are retrieved by the protagonists. C-3PO accompanies the strike force to the Forest Moon of Endor to disable the shield generator protecting the second Death Star.

When he, Han Solo, Luke, Chewbacca and R2-D2 are captured by the Ewoks, C-3PO is perceived to be a god by the latter. When the human prisoners are threatened by the Ewoks, Luke levitates the droid above the crowd as demonstration of the supposed god’s ability, so as to prompt release. Later that night, C-3PO narrates the history and intentions of the Rebels to the tribe, convincing them to help the Rebels at the Battle of Endor.

It will be curious to see what role C-3PO (and R2-D2!) plays in Episode VII.

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Review: Larfleeze #12 — FINAL ISSUE!

So it is bon voyage to one of the most entertaining mags in the DC pantheon as Agent Orange, Larfleeze himself, bids goodbye to his own title with issue #12 this week.

While admittedly not a regular reader (maybe that is the trouble?), I frequently “peeked” at the fun and humorous cosmic shenanigans writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were having along with the always-appropriate drawings of Scott Kolins.

And while not on any regular pull list, I can never recall saying or writing or thinking anything bad about this book, which is certainly not the case with Threshold, where this strip started as a backup.

I have really been enjoying Giffen and DeMatteis’ dip into Larfleeze’s psyche and past, his battle with greed, and the supporting characters – humorous and otherwise – have been, well, out of this world!

Larfleeze has never been at the top of my list, but it has never been a disappointment when I did check it out either.

Maybe a backup for the Orange Lantern in one of the current Green Lantern books is in order. Yeah! DC?

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Review: Flash #32

If Flash #32 proves anything, it is that longtime fans who welcomed Barry Allen back to the print present can take a breath of relief. It appears that with the team of Venditti, Jensen, Booth and Rapmund, the book is in capable hands for the future (when and wherever that DCU future might be).

While not the burst of creativity it once was at the dawn of the New 52, the stories being turned out by writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen are keeping the tales of the Flash very involving and extremely entertaining for new readers and old. As a matter of fact, there has probably never been a better time than issues like #32 for new readers to jump aboard the Flash Express.

A trio of stories really occupies this issue: the thief with the Rogues’ tech hunting down a group of people; Future Flash trying to turn back time; and the Barry Allen/Wally West bonding hour. Threads run and crisscross between them all in a tight job of plotting, but the character and depth the writers reach with the Allen/West portion of this issue is a long-awaited little gem in its own right. Great characterization, especially for readers invested in the relationship.

The point is that everything is moving forward (sometimes TOO forward) in the life of Barry Allen and the writing team that helped freshen up the Green Lantern franchise are doing just fine here in Speed City as well.

Fun, involving issue and a great jumping-on spot for newbies.

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Review: New Avengers Annual #1

All these many decades, the one character trait that had Doctor Strange standing apart from other characters was the tremendous restraint, the personal control he maintained over his awesome powers. He often suffered for this, especially in his relationships with the fairer sex, and his angst was part of his charm.

No more.

In this unique solo Stephen Strange story in New Avengers Annual #1, it’s no holds barred for the Sorcerer Supreme as he displays the new power he has sacrificed for so much in New Avengers. And it is quite a different Doctor we see in writer Frank Barbiere’s wonderful take on this character.

Strange’s origin is one of the best and most prophetic in early Marvel history, and during this 75th anniversary of the House of Ideas it seems especially timely to take it out of moth balls and add to its brilliance. This Barbiere does in this issue, using it as a framing sequence to give personal meaning and depth to the character in the world of “Now.”

Believe me, if you are a new reader and do not know Doctor Strange, you will be well introduced – to the character we have known, to the new iteration of Marvel NOW – in this spectacular Annual.

Not only is the script mesmerizing and the penalty for such power as Doc has poignant, but the issue is visually stunning under the wonderfully mystic and wacky artwork of Marco Rudy. The swirling panel arrangements reminds this old timer of the creative use of same by Colan & Palmer in the late 1960s, a treat which still withstands the test of time if you ever read those Doc tales. It is hard to do in and out of time sequences without captions, and a dangerous thing, but the artwork of Rudy guides the reader through this tale of urgency and, let’s face it, like Colan this artist does great people!

And that shot of Doc performing the Blood Magic? Spectacular!

I give this annual my highest recommendation, and hereby call for more solo Doc tales by the same team.

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Review: Silver Surfer #3

The time artist Michael Allred and his wife color artist Laura Allred must put into this brilliant new book staggers my mind, as a former artist. It is not your granddaddy’s rendition of the Silver Surfer, and yet the book comes complete with that Kirby “feel” to the art and that amazing burst of creativity and excitement that helped build Marvel and carry it over the heads of its Distinguished Competition decades agone.

That said, the credit for this new Surfer obviously goes to Dan Slott, who shucked the brooding allegory of our space-spanner and instead allowed an unknown and mysterious Earth girl’s angst and confusion become the emotional crux of this new entertainment.

Slott and the Allreds tie up arc #1 this issue in a rather zany (in keeping with keeping it light and entertainment) and yet drastically urgent way as Norrin Radd and new companion Dawn battle to save the Never Queen. This whole thing has been such a jump down the Rabbit Hole that it is almost like reading about a new character … and maybe we are, although to my mind with bows to Steve Englehart’s great version of issues past.

Cool comic. Fun comic. Cosmic comic! 

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Review: Thor, God of Thunder #23

Past and future, the Odinson proves positively in Thor, God of Thunder #23 that he is one of the best creations ever to come from the House of Ideas.

In the present, our powerful Asgardian has been halted by a foe that he cannot hammer away; namely, the lawyers of Roxxon. And the most enjoyable part of these proceedings is that Agger, whether businessman or beast, makes such a wonderfully cerebral foil for Thor, something not often seen in this book when Loki is absent.

Meanwhile, also in the present, the SHIELD agent and femme fatale Roz Solomon fights every fiber of her being as she becomes one of the most interesting new characters in the Marvel NOWera. A one-woman-band stand against the mighty Ulik and his trolls immediately launches Roz into the care and concern department and she ceases to be the lady love du jour.

In the far future, I as a reader of this book and this arc am absolutely blown away by King Thor and Old Galactus. The good news is that there is a satisfying conclusion for this story part as well as its present-day counterpart, and oh that Esad Ribic art. His Galactus is awesome indeed, and a fine homage to the King (Kirby, not Thor, lol).

What more can you ask for in one monthly book? Simply cosmic, man!

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Brew’s Crew: Luke Skywalker

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No rummaging in long boxes to find out about this character. You know him, I know him. But since everyone in movies and comics is discussing his franchise now, what the heck!

Luke Skywalker, a come-to-comics-from-film favorite, was intro’d in the 1977 film Star Wars. Luke’s character represents the hero archetype who is the young man, called to adventure, the hero going out facing the trials and ordeals, and coming back after his victory with a boon for the community.

Luke Skywalker lives a humdrum existence as a moisture farmer on Tatooune with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru that have kept his father’s true history a secret from him. He initially wants to join the ImperialAcademyto become a pilot with his childhood friend Biggs Darklighter, but is held back by his uncle who ostensibly needs his help on the moisture farm (while it was to hopefully prevent Luke from following his father’s path).

He takes his first steps toward his destiny when he finds the two droids C-3PO and R2-D2. After delivering R2-D2’s message to hermit Ben Kenobi, Ben tells Luke that his father was a Jedi and presents him with his father’s lightsaber and then tells him that his father was murdered by a traitorous Jedi. Ben offers to take Luke to the planet Alderaan and train him in the ways of the Force, but Luke rejects his offer.

However, Luke changes his mind when he discovers his aunt and uncle have been killed by Imperial stormtroopers. He and Ben obtain passage with the smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca on their Millennium Falcon ship, only to find that Alderaan has been destroyed by the Death Star (the Empire’s new superweapon). Luke and the group sneak onto the Death Star and rescues Princess Leia Organa (James Bond homage? lol); as they are escaping, Ben sacrifices himself.

Three years later in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker is now a lieutenant commander in the Rebel Alliance and in command of a fighter squadron.

While on a mission on the ice planet Hoth, he is nearly killed by a Wampa but escapes with the help of the Force and his lightsaber. In the frozen wasteland, he sees Ben Kenobi’s spirit telling him to travel to the planet Dagobah and complete his training under the exiled Yoda then is rescued by Han Solo. When the Empire discovers the Rebel base on Hoth, Luke leads his squadron to cover the evacuation. In the battle, Luke, after being shot down, is able to bring down one of the Empire’s massive AT-ATs single-handedly.

Escaping Hoth in his X-wing, he travels to Dagobah instead of regrouping with the Alliance. There, he meets Yoda and undergoes rigorous Jedi training, quickly increasing his power in the Force. However, he is warned that the Force is a double-edged sword; its dark side is seductive and could corrupt him into an agent of evil if he gives into his anger and aggression.

His training is interrupted by a vision of his friends in pain. Against Ben’s and Yoda’s advice, he travels to CloudCityto save them, only to be lured into a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader. As his mentors warned, Luke proves to be no match for Vader and his nemesis severs his right hand, causing Luke to lose his father’s weapon.

Vader offers him the chance to turn to the dark side of the Force and rule the galaxy at his father’s side. Horrified by this unexpected claim and the powerful temptation before him, Luke chooses to die rather than be corrupted and throws himself into a deep reactor chasm. However, he is sucked into a garbage chute to the underside of CloudCityand left hanging onto a weather vane. Leia, flying away from CloudCityin the Millennium Falcon, senses Luke’s peril and turns the ship around to save him. Aboard the medical ship after rejoining the rebel fleet, Luke’s missing hand is replaced with a prosthetic one.

One year later in Return of the Jedi, Luke is now a Jedi Knight and has constructed his own lightsaber.

He helps Leia, the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and Lando Calrissian save Han Solo from gangster Jabba the Hutt. Luke offers to negotiate with Jabba, but instead is forced to fight a fearsome monster known as the Rancor. When Luke kills it, Jabba sentences him to be thrown into the Pit of Carkoon to be eaten by the Sarlacc. Luke escapes with R2-D2’s help, saving his friends and destroying Jabba’s barge with the aid of his new lightsaber.

During his return trip to Dagobah, Luke learns from Yoda that Darth Vader is indeed his father, and from Ben Kenobi’s spirit that he has a twin, which Luke immediately realizes is Leia. Ben warns him that his instincts “Do him credit, but could be made to serve the Emperor”. Yoda tells Luke that although he requires no further training, he will not truly be a Jedi until he confronts his father. Luke insists that there is still good left in Vader, and pledges to bring him back from the dark side. Ben, however, believes that Vader has completely consumed Luke’s father, and must be destroyed in order to defeat the Empire.

Arriving on Endor as part of a Rebel commando squad, Luke surrenders to Vader in an attempt to bring his father back from the dark side of the Force. Vader rebuffs his entreaties and brings Luke to the second Death Star in orbit around Endor. The Emperor attempts to turn Luke to the dark side with promises to save his friends from certain death. When that fails, the Emperor goads Luke to strike him down to save the Rebels’s losing battle with the Empire and over the forest moon of Endor. Luke momentarily lashes out in anger but Vader blocks his strike, and father and son face each other again in a final duel.

Luke keeps his emotions under control until Vader senses Luke’s feelings for his sister and threatens to turn her instead. At this threat, Luke snaps and attacks with full fury. Vader loses ground as Luke lands blow after blow; Luke knocks Vader to the ground and severs his father’s mechanical right hand, in a reversal of the battle from the previous film. With the Emperor ordering Luke to strike Vader down and take his place, Luke glances at his own bionic hand and realizes he is on the verge of suffering his father’s fate. Luke regains composure, deactivates his lightsaber and throws it away, proudly declaring his allegiance to the Jedi.

Enraged, the Emperor attacks Luke with Force lightning, nearly killing him. When Luke calls out to Vader for help, his father becomes Anakin Skywalker once again then seizes and throws the Emperor to his death down a reactor shaft but is mortally wounded by the Emperor’s lightning in the process. As Rebel fighters race toward the Death Star’s main reactor, Luke removes Vader’s mask and looks upon Anakin’s eyes for the first time. Anakin assures Luke that there is good in him after all before his redeemed father dies.

On Endor, Luke burns his father’s armor on a funeral pyre (a Jedi tradition). During the Rebels’ victory celebration, Luke sees the smiling spirits of Ben, Yoda and Anakin, all together.

There has been another trilogy with another on the way, as well as comics and novels galore.

Above is who Luke Skywalker is. It will be interesting to now see who he will be!

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TV Review: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. — “Inhuman Nature”

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In the long history of Marvel’s animated superheroes, you can always bet that at least one episode will revolve around the hero/team discovering the hidden home of the Inhumans.

That brings us to Sunday’s episode of Hulk and the Agents of Smash on Disney XD, as Rick Jones happens upon a very enthusiastic and flirty Crystal and the two seem to quickly form a bond.

A cloaked Triton spoils the fun for the young folks and Rick is accidentally transported via Lockjaw back to the hidden land of Attilan (in this case , the realm is in the Himalayas).

The Hulks track Rick to Attilan and chaos ensues as Maximus preaches about the prejudice of humans while Medusa mouths endless homilies about how Inhumans are “nothing like mankind.” The irony here is that it is the Inhumans who continually treat the Hulks like yesterday’s garbage while the Green Team stays their power to “not be seen as jerks.”

Crystal and Rick, meanwhile, discover Maximus’ secret stash of weapons and the Royal Family of the Inhumans and the Hulks team up to stop the traitor.

It is a most enjoyable episode and one that speaks to the dangers of isolationism. The scene wherein Skaar is scratching an ear of his new “puppy” friend, Lockjaw, while the big dog’srear leg goes up and down is priceless. Skaar’s leg is going up and down too!

Imagination, creativity and some great humor are found in this episode, one of the most enjoyable Inhuman Marvel toons of all time.

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Review: Justice League United #2

Jeff Lemire continues his old school, feel-good DC heroes adventures in Justice League United #2, and I as a comics reader, 1960s comic book fan and cosmic maven could not be happier.

For a bit of fun, the adventures are really nail biting and the relationships take the complexity of the characters’ pasts and are built upon here. We have seen that since the Zero Issue, with the Green Arrow/Animal Man ongoing squabble taking center stage.

Bringing a breath of fresh air to the cosmic side of this unusal team, Supergirl arrives this issue. Also an old-time slabberknocker as Hawkman and Lobo square off. As Kara might say (or not): super!

And the New 52 coming of Ultra under the parenting, if you will, of Byth has been nothing but superb in an old-school way.

With all the time traveling, rebooting and villainy in the DCU, it is good to read a plain-old fun comic book.

Innovative, eh?

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Review: Mighty Avengers #11 (Ewing and Land)

Readers of Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers series and the 1990s Cage series get rewarded when the old school, continuity-minded Al Ewing brings us Mighty Avengers #11 and the secret of Luke Cage’s father.

There is a certain art to continuing an ongoing comic today with its own identity and plots (and subplots, remember those!) while the emphasis is on the big, the overall and the “event.” This has ruined many a beautiful book for Marvel and DC, and to save his X-Factor Peter David refused to even participate in most, to his book’s improvement and continuation.

But this volume of Mighty Avengers was born as part of an event and has actually had more issues connected with events than not. This time around, the book is part of the ongoing Original Sin event, and Ewing dances expertly through the dangers of tie-in hell with his customary ease, actually using the events of the Watcher’s death to accentuate and further his own story ideas.  Simply amazing!

This issue, we learn of the 1970s Mighty Avengers run by Luke’s dad and listing Blue Marvel, Blade and Kaluu in its number. The big bad are the Deathwalkers, whose storyline has been beautifully back-burnered in Mighty since issue #1.

Those with patience now reap the reward without having to go through the often drier issues of Jonathan Hickman’s own long-term writings. Ewing, like Rick Remender, is slowly bringing back Mighty Marvel (if allowed to).

Greg Land, it goes without saying, has never been better and brings life to Ewing’s script. His flashbacks are wonderful as are Blade’s torture scenes, but the real meat is the sit-down between Cages Sr. and Jr.

Again: simply amazing.

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