Good lord, it's Thursday already! Time to pop out the Captain's Comments for March 22, 2017, while they're still timely! This week's offerings:

ACTION COMICS #976

ANNO DRACULA #1

ARCLIGHT

BLACK HAMMER #7

  BLOODSHOT REBORN #0

BRUTAL NATURE: CONCRETE FURY #1

DETECTIVE COMICS #953

DOLLFACE #3

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS' PELLUCIDAR: AT THE EARTH'S CORE

EMPOWERED: SOLDIER OF LOVE #2

THE FLASH #19

FUTURE QUEST #11

• GHOSTBUSTERS 101 #1

• HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #17

HELENA CRASH #1

• IRON FIST #1

• JUDGE DREDD: DEVIATIONS #1

• MAGDALENA #1

MONIKA VOLUME 2: VANILLA DOLLS

REBELS: THESE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES #1

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #24

SUICIDE SQUAD #13

TREASURY OF XXTH MURDER COMPENDIUM

UNDERWINTER #1

WONDER WOMAN #19

X-O MANOWAR #1

Some  photo spoiler-1.gif involved. You are warned!


ACTION COMICS #976

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by DAN JURGENS

Art by DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA

Cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY

Variant cover by GARY FRANK

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers each.

“SUPERMAN REBORN” finale! As this epic tale wraps up, Superman’s life is drastically changed ... and that’s all we are saying for now -- except that you won’t want to miss it!

* The covers by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray and the variant covers by Gary Frank for SUPERMAN #18-19 and ACTION COMICS #975-976 will connect to form a single vertical image.

I'm a bit baffled.

This story seemed to be hurtling toward a very dramatic conclusion, possibly the re-introduction of Superman-Red/Superman-Blue. In fact, going back over the four issues, there were definite, specific clues to that conclusion. Heck, check out Cover A, which literally depicts two Supermen, one red and one blue. So one must conclude that was a deliberate red (and blue) herring.

Because that didn't happen. What did happen ... well, I can't spoil it. But it was less dramatic than I was expecting. Perhaps as we see how this permutation unspools, it will prove to be more important than it seems to be here.

I'm also a bit put off by the New 52/Rebirth Mr. Mxyzptlk, who is neither funny nor dangerous. He's just ... ugly. And annoying. And needy. Yechh.

The good news is that this four-parter probably dropped more clues to Mr. Oz and his mysterious antagonist than all other books combined. And it sure seems like the former is Ozymandias, and the latter Dr. Manhattan -- the "camera" even zeroes in on Mars when Oz is talking about his unnamed opponent.

Of course, Superman-Red/Superman-Blue seemed like a lock, too. I don't trust anything any more!

ANNO DRACULA #1
Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writer: KIM NEWMAN

Artist: PAUL MCCAFFREY

COVER A: PAUL MCCAFFREY

COVER B: TOM MANDRAKE

COVER C: BRIAN WILLIAMSON

COVER D: JEFF ZORNOW

COVER E: MIKE COLLINS

FC • 32pp • $3.99

1895. Prince Dracula has ruled Great Britain for 10 years, spreading vampirism through every level of society. On the eve of Dracula’s Jubilee, radical forces gather to oppose the tyrant. Kate Reed, vampire journalist and free-thinker, takes a seat on the revolutionary Council of Seven Days, though she learns that the anarchist group harbors a traitor in its midst. The Grey Men, Dracula’s dreaded secret police, have been ordered to quash all resistance to the rule of the arch-vampire. With intrigue on all sides, the scene is set for an explosive addition to the Anno Dracula series.

Titan Comics is pleased to share the covers and an extended art preview from ANNO DRACULA #1 - an all-new comic mini-series based on the best selling ANNO DRACULA novels, written by creator Kim Newman with art by Paul McCaffrey (The Third Doctor).

The Anno Dracula series depict an alternate 19th century history where the characters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fail to prevent Count Dracula’s subjugation of Great Britain, creating a world where vampires are living amongst humans and a central part of society.

Titan Comics' brand-new Anno Dracula #1 comes with five spectacular variant covers to collect from top industry artists including; Paul McCaffrey, Tom Mandrake (The Mummy), Brian Williamson (The New Avengers), Jeff Zornow (Halloween), and Mike Collins (Batman).

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I found this a fun read.

As I have mentioned before, my feeling is that if you introduce superior beings like vampires into regular society as a permanent feature, human culture would collapse. Regular policing would be unrworkable -- unless the police were vampires. Political leadership would be irrelevant -- unless the politicians were vampires. All athletic competitions would be overshadowed by the abilities and feats of the new head of the food chain. And so on. (And the psychological impact would be profound -- apathy, depression and despair would overtake the bulk of humankind.) The "life goes on as normal" approach taken by stories like True Blood I find to be preposterous.

In short, if vampires existed, either they would have to be exterminated, or we would become their slaves -- and their cattle.

The latter is the case in Anno Dracula, but it is set near the beginning of this challenge in 1895, in what would be the Victorian age if Queen Victoria wasn't dead -- and prior to her death, married to the former Count Dracula of Wallachia. In this world, Dracula defeats and destroys Van Helsing's group in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Then, free of any obstacles, marries (and evidently disposes of) the queen and becomes the master of all England. Many of the upper class have been turned, as have leaders in every field of endeavor. Lord Ruthven -- remember him? -- is Prime Minister. It's the 10-year anniversary of Dracula's rise, and his power is only growing.

As an aside, I'll mention that Ruthven isn't the only public domain character seen here. An attempt by the Continent to invade England and depose the vampires includes a few famous faces, including the Phantom of the Opera and Thomas Edison. I don't think this will turn into an Elizabethan showcase like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Penny Dreadful. But the cameos are fun as Easter eggs.

And as I mentioned somewhere else, Fah lo Suee of Fu Manchu fame is a major character, although the Devil Doctor himself will apparently not be named, and is only referred to as "the lord of strange deaths" or "the Dragon." (Which is strange, since "Dracula" means "son of the dragon." Perhaps that will be a plot point.)

Anyway, there is a homegrown resistance to Dracula, which is the focus of the first issue -- which goes to pot pretty quickly. I'm pretty impressed that an actual plot was inserted and moved forward, despite all the required scene-setting and world-building. The dialogue probably isn't accurate to the era, but is just stilted enough to get the flavor without becoming impenetrable.

The art, too, gets the period right enough without getting in the way of the story. Clean and easy to follow, it reminds me a bit of The New Deadwardians, which I also enjoyed.

Like I said, a fun read.

ARCLIGHT (TPB)

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Writer: BRANDON GRAHAM

Art/Cover: MARIAN CHURCHLAND

SRP: $14.99

A lady of the blood house has had her mind trapped in a strange alien body. She was hiding on the outskirts of her kingdom until she learns that an alien monster pretending to be her has taken her place. BRANDON GRAHAM (KING CITY, PROPHET ,ISLAND) and MARIAN CHURCHLAND (BEAST) bring you sharp genderqueer knights, blood magic, death gods, astral projection and a goose. Collects ARCLIGHT #1-4.

Graham is building a world here, a one with areas given over to blood people, and death people, and so forth, that is not Earth. Each culture has its own type of magic having its own rules, rituals and avatars. And, despite not being Earth, there is still a sort of D&D/Medieval culture with knights, ladies and lords, kingdoms and suchlike. It's pretty elaborate ...

... and is completely overshadowed by (as stated above) "genderqueer knights." I confess I'm not up on the current terminology, and had to look up "genderqueer." Mr. Wiki says "denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both or a combination of male and female genders," and that sounds about right. Most of the younger characters -- generally knights -- are so sexually indefinite that it takes close scrutiny to figure out what gender they are (and even then you might not be accurate). There is, of course, no gender-specific (according to our culture) behavior.

As an old codger, I find this distracting, and not in a good way, since I don't see the point -- Elric of Melnibone covered a lot of this ground already, and I don't see how the ambiguity aids the narrative. But the young 'uns and the LGBTQ community (which may become terms without distinction in a generation or two) are probably delighted, and I guess that is the point.

So this isn't really for me, despite my appreciation for the ingenuity in the world-building. But maybe your mileage will vary.

BLACK HAMMER #7

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writer: JEFF LEMIRE

Artist: DEAN ORMSTON

Colorist: DAVE STEWART

Cover Artist: DEAN ORMSTON   

March 22, 2017

FC • 32 pages • Ongoing • $3.99

Featuring the origin story of THE BLACK HAMMER!

Joe Weber: the Black Hammer. A hero from the Spiral Slums. A husband. A father. Gone without a trace.

A visitor from the outside world arrives on the farm, looking for the Black Hammer and bringing news of Spiral City to its Golden Age heroes. Her arrival stirs up old memories and awakens new hope in the marooned heroes.

“One of the best superhero books on the stands.” -- IGN

I've bragged on this book before. It uses superhero archetypes to tell a different kind of story, or a variety of stories. And it's not clear even yet where it's going, and what other types of stories are waiting to be told.

Some of that starts to become clearer with this issue. As regular readers know, Black Hammer is the story of a group of Golden Age heroes who have been mysteriously removed from our world, and are living in some sort of Twilight Zone farming community. They cannot leave, while the townspeople are strangely content not to leave and seem not to know who their new neighbors are. They don't know where they are, how they got there, why they got there or if there's even a home to go to.

This issue someone from home (Spiral City, a made-up Golden Age-type metropolis) manages to find her way to the ... let's call it "the zone." She brings a couple of answers and a passel of new questions. Our heroes finally have some facts to work with.

And I'm almost sorry. The weird, nebulous nothingness of the characters' lives was almost a story unto itself, as each accommodated their new existence in different ways -- and not always good ones. That was fascinating.

But we're done with that now, as the central mystery takes its proper place in the tale. So be it. Let's get crackin'!

BLOODSHOT REBORN #0

Written by JEFF LEMIRE

Art by RENATO GUEDES

Cover A by JUAN DOE

Cover B by KANO

Cover C by DAVE JOHNSON

Cover D by LESLEY-ANNE GREEN

Variant Cover by PETER BAGGE

Top-Secret Spoiler Variant by ROBERTO DE LA TORRE

$3.99 • 32 pgs. • T+ • FINAL ISSUE 

Perhaps the most important issue in Jeff Lemire’s continuing Bloodshot epic. Don’t miss this very special story … as we unveil a shocking new revelation in the Bloodshot saga. The next chapter of Bloodshot starts here!

This issue acts as a coda to Lemire's run on the book, which I loved. This self-congratulatory episode, where everything's tied up in a neat bow, and there's a happy ending for everyone, I do not love.

BRUTAL NATURE: CONCRETE FURY #1 (OF 5)

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer: LUCIANO SARACINO

Art/Cover: ARIEL OLIVETTI

Subscription Variant: ARIEL OLIVETTI

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

In the future, glistening buildings line the city’s skyline. In the future, rich and powerful men wish to exploit power they don’t fully comprehend. In the future, a new warrior emerges … a shapeshifter that will help the people rise against the forces of oppression! Luciano Saracino and Ariel Olivetti return to the savage world of Brutal Nature!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

This entire issue takes place during the conquistador era in Latin America, so the blurb above doesn't make any sense. I did like what I read, even though every white man is vile beyond belief. Perhaps many were, but all? Anyway, our hero -- a native with a variety of masks that allow him to transform into different animal forms -- is set to square off against an inquisitor from Spain who is 20 kinds of vile.

It should be full of surprises ... because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

DETECTIVE COMICS #953

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by JAMES TYNION IV

Art by CHRISTIAN DUCE

Cover by EDDY BARROWS and EBER FERREIRA

Variant cover by RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“League Of Shadows” part four! Help arrives from a surprising — and unwanted — source … one of Batman’s greatest foes!

I wondered if I should stop commenting on this book every week, but I've come to believe it's currently my favorite DC book. This issue is no exception.

DOLLFACE #3

Publisher: ACTION LAB

Writers: DAN MENDOZA & BRYAN SEATON

Art: DAN MENDOZA

Cover A: DAN MENDOZA regular cover

Cover B: DAN MENDOZA (Tattered & Torn variant cover, limited to 2,000)

Cover C: BILL MCKAY (Pin-up variant cover (limited to 1,500)

Cover D: BILL MCKAY Pin-up Tattered & Torn variant cover (limited to 2,000)

Cover E: VICTORIA HARRIS Pin-up variant cover, limited to 1,500)

Cover F: XENIA (Pin-up variant cover, limited to 1,500)

32 pgs. • M  • FC • $3.99 (reg.)/$4.99 (var.)

DollFace and company finally arrived to their destination of the mystical necronomicon book. But will Zombie Tramp hand it over without a fight?

I'm not sure what to make of this book.

I initially dismissed it as appealing to some subculture of which I was not a member. (People for whom sex dolls are a major part of their life, perhaps?)

But the recent Valentine's Day special made me realize there was more to it, so I tried this one. It's part three of the story that began in the first issue (which I also read), and guest stars Zombie Tramp, who possesses the Necronomicon (that book gets around!), which Sex Doll Dollface needs for some reason. (I think it's to restore her dead friend, who is currently a ghost.) This issue runs on two tracks -- a battle with a witch (evidently witch-finding and -killing is Dollface's raison d'etre) and a flashback to how the dead friend became a ghost.

And it was pretty straightforward action/adventure. Except that it stars a life-size doll whose skirt keeps getting blown up to reveal her underwear. I genuinely don't get that part -- for whom is that titillating? -- but there's also no dearth of female nudity and dirty words, and that part I do understand.

Now, I won't say that the nudity is gratuitous -- well, not entirely. The witch's back story shows nekkid boobery, as doing witchy things apparently requires some of that. OK, I'll buy that, as nekkidness is traditionally associated with witchery (see the recent movie, The Witch). And her boobery is on display in the present, too, as her clothes get torn off in the fight with Dollface. That's buy-able, too, as the fight was pretty violent.

Except that it also plays into the adolescent male fantasy about girls fighting. (I don't remember what movie it was in, but I remember a girl asking a guy why guys like "cat-fights," and he says, "The possibility that someone's shirt might come off." And my wife said, "So that's it" and I just nodded.) So yeah, it's kinda plausible, but it's also fan service. And really more the latter, since if the villain was a warlock, the percentage chance of his shirt getting torn off in combat would have been pretty close to zero.

All of which is to recognize that I have mixed feelings about Dollface. I think it could stand on its own as a clever adventure story without laying down a welcome mat to sweaty mom's-basement dwellers. But having said that, the "adult" stuff doesn't feel gratuitous -- it seems more like "we don't care if a shirt comes off and we will show it if it does" rather than "let's find a way to make a shirt come off."  Plus, I'm on board with a comic book that uses the F-bomb, which I must hear 500 times a day -- it's how people talk nowadays. That feels non-gratuitous as well. 

But, of course, all of it is planned and gratuitous. Do the creators just not feel their story would be interesting without the naughty bits? (I think it would be.) Or is this kind of material just Action Lab's stock in trade, as similar stuff is found in Vampblade and Zombie Tramp? (Which I find too gratuitous for my tastes.)

Well, I've described my reaction. What you do with it is up to you!

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS' PELLUCIDAR: AT THE EARTH'S CORE (TPB)

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Penciller: MIKE KALUTA, DAN GREEN, ALAN WEISS

Cover Artist: MARK SCHULTZ      

FC • 104 pages • TPB • 7'' x 10'' • $12.99 • Age 12+

In a story originally conceived of by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a group of explorers find a land inhabited by prehistoric reptiles, strange creatures, and beings enacting dark rituals. But most importantly, they discover the beautiful Dian, queen of Pellucidar, who captures their hearts and leads them on a wild adventure to aid her and win her trust. This collects selected stories previously published in Korak, Son of Tarzan #1 and Weird Worlds #1-7 from DC Comics.

I had really fond memories of this material, up until Tuesday night, when I read it again.

These are the Pellucidar stories from when DC Comics had the ERB franchise in the early '70s. It was quite a coup when DC obtained Tarzan, Dejah Thoris, Korak, John Carter, John Innes and the rest from Dell in 1972, and they put their biggest gun on the main Tarzan title: Joe Kubert. It was very pretty, and the critics were thrilled. Still the publisher only held the franchise for five years -- whereupon it moved to arch-rival Marvel Comics. Oh, the ignominy.

At any rate, at the time I found the off-brand ERB stuff the most interesting -- especially Pellucidar, with its oddball art. It was initially by Alan Weiss, a member of the Crusty Bunkers whose facial expressions were unmistakable. Clearly he labored over them, but they always seemed a little out of place, over the top and often looked like they were grafted onto bodies drawn by someone else.

And in some cases, they were. Weiss was evidently a slow artist, or one with a lot of other stuff going on. He rarely was a series artist; he usually did fill-ins or helped out as one of the Bunkers. In fact, I can't think of a series other than Pellucidar he ever did. And even there he didn't last long (and was obviously getting some help making deadlines toward the end). He was replaced, briefly, by Mike Kaluta -- another Bunker, but with an entirely different style -- and then by Dan Green, a newcomer at the time who didn't look like either of his predecessors. It was a strange ride.

Which I always remembered as a good one, until I re-read these stories as a middle-aged man instead of as the callow youth I was 44 years ago. The golden tinge of nostalgia had apparently infected my memory, as they don't really hold up very well.

However, you've got to give props Schultz's magnificent cover. He was always good, but this is maybe the best single cover I've ever seen him do.

EMPOWERED AND THE SOLDIER OF LOVE #2

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writer: ADAM WARREN

Artist: KARLA DIAZ

Cover Artist: KARLA DIAZ             

March 22, 2017

FC • 32 pages • Miniseries • $3.99

While Empowered struggles with a superhero community turned upside down by rampant romance, her mercenary “magical girl” opponent, the Soldier of Love, escalates her fanatical “down with love” campaign to an apocalyptic new level! Meanwhile, Ninjette wisely stays well hydrated with a beer or three! Or four! (Gotta have priorities, folks.)

• 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of Empowered!

• Story by series creator Adam Warren!

• Spectacular art by web comic superstar Karla Diaz!

I may have to re-evaluate this series: A whole issue without any naughty bits! (Nothing past first base, anyway.) 

It's mildly amusing, but the fanboy in me wonders why our star (and her pal Ninjette) are unaffected by the bad gal's love power. Also, there's too much Spanish for my poor poderes españoles to translate (that would be one class I took in ninth grade). Have mercy, please! Or "tengo compasión, por favor!"

THE FLASH #19

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by JOSHUA WILLIAMSON

Art by NEIL GOOGE

Cover by CARMINE DI GIANDOMENICO

Variant cover by DAVE JOHNSON

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“SINS OF THE FATHER” finale! Wally’s quest for knowledge about his villainous father takes him and Barry Allen to the Australian outback and into the debt of Captain Boomerang, one of The Flash’s oldest enemies and the last person to see Wally’s father, Reverse-Flash, alive.

Clearly I have lost track of my Reverse Flashes. Are there two? Three?

There seems to be one who is Kid Flash's father, who was killed in Suicide Squad Annual #1. And there's another who was killed in Flashpoint. Then there's another who's been locked up in Iron Heights for a while, who escapes (Spoiler) and talks like he's the dead one from Flashpoint. Que esta pasando aqui?!? I mean, what's happening here? Can anyone explain?

FUTURE QUEST #11

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by JEFF PARKER

Art and cover by EVAN “DOC” SHANER

Variant cover by RYAN SOOK

32 pg • FC • $3.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

City after city falls as Omnikron razes planet Earth! With  no way to evacuate in the face of attack, the only course is to make a stand! Space Ghost assesses his new allies and forms the boldest plan yet to stop the terror of the galaxy. Robots, monsters, kids and mad scientists are the only hope for the future!

This is how much I love this book.

After reading the first 10 issues, which was effectively the "gathering of the heroes" that happens in the first few issues of a new team book, and guessing the first storyline would culminate with issue #12 (convenient for trades), I had a pretty good idea what would happen in issue #11 -- and I was right. And I figured out how issue #11 would likely end -- and I was right. I even guessed what the final words of the issue would be -- or darn close to it (I predicted "It's not working!" but the final line was actually "It didn't work!!!").

Having read a lot of comics, I had a feeling I'd watch all the characters come together, set up a plan (one where every single character had a role to play), execute the plan, see the plan start to work, and then shout in dismay ("It's not working!") as something goes wrong at the last minute so there's a cliffhanger.

And that's (Spoiler) exactly what happened. But it was so much fun watching these particular characters go through these time-honored motions, and the sense of Saturday morning vibrancy Parker brings to the series is so cool, that I had a blast anyway.

That's how much I love this book.

GHOSTBUSTERS 101 #1

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer: ERIK BURNHAM

Art/Cover: DAN SCHOENING

Subscription Variant: TIM LATTIE

Variant: ERICA HENDERSON

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

“Let’s Do The Space-Warp Again!” Before they began investigating the supernatural, most of the original Ghostbusters were teachers... and they’ve decided it’s time they start sharing their knowledge again. But when their first batch of students start poking around the firehouse and accidentally set in motion the merging of two universes (it’s easier than you’d think) Venkman, Stantz, Zeddemore, and Spengler will need all the help they can get to put things right! And who do you think will Answer The Call? (If you guessed Holtzmann, Yates, Tolan, and Gilbert... you get a gold star!) It’s a brand new inter-dimensional meeting of the minds, starting here!

• Straight outta the 2016 film, the Answer the Call Ghostbusters make their comic book debut!  Abby, Patty, Erin and Holtzmann join forces with Winston, Egon, Ray and Venkman for some bombastic ghostbustin' insanity!

• Written and illustrated by the fan-favorite and critically-acclaimed creative team of Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado.

• Featuring the first of six-interconnected covers by Schoening and Delgado.

• Retailer incentive covers feature photos of the Original and ATF Ghostbusters casts!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

I didn't read this, as I have no interest in the Ghostbusters franchise. But here's a heads up for those who do.

HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #17

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI

Art and cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER

Variant cover by KEVIN NOWLAN

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“QUEST FOR THE BLUE LANTERNS” finale! As both the torchbearer of the Green Lantern Corps and the White Lantern of life, Kyle Rayner’s proved he can wield the entire emotional spectrum. But when forced to choose, which ring will he don -- and which Corps will he join for the oncoming threats facing all of time and space?

Why ask the readers what corps Kyle will join when the cover tells us? Sheesh!

But I'm glad they've found a way to give all the Earth Lanterns a role to play, so that the Kyle fans get their guy back. And for those who might be miffed that he's no longer the White Lantern -- be real. He was too powerful that way, so the only way you were going to get him back is if he "only" has the power of a single Lantern -- not seven of them!

HELENA CRASH #1 (OF 5)

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer: FABIAN RANGEL, JR.

ArtCover: WARWICK JOHNSON-CADWELL  

Subscription Variant: ANDREW MACLEAN

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

From writer Fabian Rangel Jr (Space Riders) and artist Warwick Johnson-Cadwell (Tank Girl) comes a new pulse pounding, caffeine fueled, sword swinging, machine-gun firing, car crashing sci-fi adventure comic! In a future where coffee is illegal, Helena is a courier, delivering black market goods to anyone who can afford her services. When Rojo, a ruthless crime boss, asks her to assassinate his rival, the alien mobster known as White Demon, Helena finds herself in the middle of a gang war! To survive, Helena must use all of her skills, and seek help from her friends to stay ahead of her enemies!

• Pour yourself a cup of coffee and get ready for HELENA CRASH!

• With a variant cover by HEADLOPPER’s ANDREW MACLEAN!

• Variant cover by Warwick Johnson-Cadwell!

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

Sometimes I fear that I am simply not expansive enough in my tastes to be a good reviewer/recommender. This book is a case in point: I dislike the art so much that the story could be Shakespeare level and I'd still despise it.

Which isn't fair to the artist or the book. I know the artist is doing his best. I know he's working in a valid "school" of art, that I imagine has many devotees. I know that his writer and editor and whoever else worked on this project probably think it's the bee's knees. And maybe one or two Legionnaires like it, too.

But I think it's not only bad, I find it literally repulsive. I forced my way through the issue, but I cannot and will not go back through to get pointers for a discussion of the storyline. I think my head would explode.

IRON FIST #1

Publisher: MARVEL COMICS

Writer: ED BRISSON

Art: MIKE PERKINS

Cover: JEFF DEKAL

Variant: ALEX ROSS

B&W Variant: ALEX ROSS

Variant: MIKE PERKINS

Hip-Hop Variant: TBA

32 PGS. • Rated T+ • $3.99

THE GAUNTLET STARTS HERE!

K’un Lun is in ruins. The chi fueling Danny’s fists is wavering. Is there a future for the Iron Fist? Danny Rand pushes himself to the breaking point, finding fights to prove his worth. But a bigger fight than he can handle may have found him…

FIRST ISSUE ALERT!

Heads up for a first issue of a Marvel book I'm not reviewing!

JUDGE DREDD: DEVIATIONS

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer/Art/Cover: JOHN MCCREA

Mash-Up Variant: ANDREW CURRIE

FC • 40 pages • $4.99

In a world where Judge Dredd turned into a werewolf ...  and stayed that way! The legendary creator of Dogwelder, John McCrea, takes a sideways look at one of the more celebrated Dredd stories, “Cry of the Werewolf” by John Wagner & Alan Grant and the late, great Steve Dillon. Brace yourself for ... “Howl of the Wolf!”

• Check out the Mash-up variant!

• Find out what happens in a world... where Judge Dredd turned into a werewolf—and stayed that way!

• Part of IDW’s Deviations five-week event!

• Variant cover by Ryan Brown!

There's a Judge Dredd story where he's turned into a werewolf. I've never read it, but it's being reprinted this very week as a 48-page special for $5.99 titled Judge Dredd: Cry of the Werewolf. It's written by John Wagner and Alan Grant and at the end (spoiler) Dredd is cured.

That's significant, because this "Deviations" book is a "what if" taking off from "Cry of the Werewolf." Specifically, it explores what happens if Dredd isn't cured.

And if you've read "Cry of the Werewolf" already, you can probably guess how this one's going to go. For one thing, Tony Stark will die -- that happens in all "what ifs." Wait, what? Wrong company? OK, OK, fine, Tony Stark doesn't get offed. (Yet.) But the original story gives you an idea what happens to were-judges, and that's exactly what does happen to Dredd, and it pretty much ends the way you'd guess.

So the story isn't the most original you'll ever read. But it does have two things going for it. One is the John McCrea artwork, a good artist who always seems to rise to "great" when he handles Dredd. And two, you get to see Dredd as a werewolf. A lot. And that's just plain fun.

MAGDALENA #1

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Story: RYAN CADY, TINI HOWARD

Art / Cover: CHRISTIAN DIBARI

32 pages • Full Color • T+ • $3.99

The Magdalena has always defended the world from demonic evil, empowered by the blood of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene in her veins. But when a brush with death leaves her gravely wounded, Patience decides to seek out the next in the bloodline and train her replacement. The replacement, meanwhile, is having enough trouble with finding her purpose even without the whole holy-warrior gig.

So Magdalena is passing the torch. Hands up anyone who thinks her replacement will be white.

No takers? Good call. The new one is Hispanic, which is pretty predictable these days. But it makes just as much sense as a white Magdalena, since Jesus wasn't caucasian -- he was a Middle Eastern Jew, after all. Probably pretty swarthy. But after 2,000 years, the gene pool gets  thoroughly stirred.

So I have no complaints there. I do wish the new Magdalena was less of a cliche. Haven't we read the "reluctant, whiny teen hero learns the ropes" story about a jillion times? I'm bored already, and it's only the first issue. Why not do something wacky, like a middle-aged character? Or one who already has a responsible job they can't abandon, like firefighter or school teacher? Or a dog?

OK, maybe not a dog. But c'mon. The gene pool isn't the only thing that needs stirring now and then.

MONIKA VOLUME 2: VANILLA DOLLS

Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writers: THILDE BARBONI

Translator: EDWARD GAUVIN

Artist: GUILLEM MARCH

HC • FC • 64pp •  $16.99

In the epic conclusion to this sensual, political and psychological thriller, Monika must make her choice! It's either the Vanilla Dolls or her own sister. … At the behest of Theo, Monika takes to the erotic stage alongside the Vanilla Dolls, but this new masked charade troubles her and much as it exhausts her. The Crucis Brigade lie in wait, their seductive dream of a new of a new West edging ever closer ...  and Monika is the only one who can stop her murderous sister, Erika!

I had this on the list to review, then realized it was the second part of two-parter, and dug up Monika Volume 1 to read first.

Now, it was late, I was tired. I didn't finish it. You can blame the fatigue if you like.

But unlike the slightly silly and occasionally charming Dollface, I found the nudity here too serious as well as too gratuitous. This is a book, I imagine, that wants to be described as "sexy." To achieve that, the lead character -- a beautiful twentysomething woman, 'natch -- is shown naked a lot. But it's not plot-related. We are introduced to her naked, because she apparently sleeps naked, and the story chooses to start, and for her to have her first inner monologue, as she awakes and walks around her apartment sans apparel. She gets naked a few more times -- the creators never miss a chance to show Monika changing clothes -- and has actual sex almost immediately. (She goes from seeing a guy on TV and remarking "he's rather handsome for a politician" to being in his bed in a matter of pages.) Oh, and naturally there's the rich-people-having-masked-sex-party scene that is almost required post-Eyes Wide Shut.

Now, I enjoy seeing beautiful girls naked as much as the next guy. (Maybe more.) But for it to be sexy and not just porn, I have to be engaged. But the narrative here wasn't strong enough, or the nudity too porn-like, for me to stay in the story. Instead of falling into the story until I forgot I was reading one, I kept getting chased out by Monika getting nekkid and, essentially, posing for me. It reminded me of Guido Crepax's graphic adaptation of The Story of O, and that's not good for a GN that's not adapting an erotic novel.

And all of this delivered with as much European self-seriousness as possible. Monika is an artist whose subject matter seems to be, without irony, mainly herself. She's given to saying things like "The 'Monika Project' is a comprehensive approach to art" and "I want to overhaul the concept of performance" with the utmost gravity. This is almost a parody of the smug European artiste, but it's presented as a demonstration of Monika's depth.

Having said all that, the art is inarguably gorgeous. With or without clothes, March's Monika -- and his Monika -- is a work of art. I will undoubtedly get around to looking at, although not necessarily reading, Monika Volume 2

REBELS: THESE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES #1

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writer: BRIAN WOOD

Artist: ANDREA MUTTI

Colorist: LAUREN AFFE

Cover Artist: MATTHEW TAYLOR              

FC • 32 pages • Miniseries • $3.99

In 1775, Seth Abbott fought to win his fellow Americans their independence. In 1794, his savant son, John, comes of age as their new nation faces multiple threats: high seas terrorism, fresh aggression from Britain, and intense political division at home. When Congress authorizes building America’s first navy, the famous “six frigates,” John Abbott signs up.

From best-selling writer Brian Wood (The Massive, DMZ, Northlanders).

“Entertaining. Enlightening. Enrapturing. Buy this book!” -- Comic Spectrum

“Brian Wood has resurrected an era of American history that will satisfy the history buff and the lover of good comics alike.” -- The Latest Pull

I loved this book in its first go-round, when protagonist Seth Abbott was a young man in the Revolutionary War. Now the narrative picks up 19 years later, when Seth's son is a young man -- and, evidently, autistic. That's an interesting story choice, and I don't know enough yet to say whether it's a workable choice as well as an interesting one.

Given the track record, though, I'm on board for whatever Rebels wants to throw at me.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #24

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by SHOLLY FISCH

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED E

An unknown warlord calls for all aliens to rise up against the Earthlings, which means bad news for dozens of heroes. It’s up to the Martian Manhunter, Scooby and the gang to expose the truth before every alien hero on Earth is rounded up by the mysterious Men in Plaid! 

OK, I confess I read this just to see Martian Manhunter in his Silver Age outfit again. Call it nostalgia, but I still think it's his best. (Or at least his least ugly.)

And I'm glad I did! Because not only does Fisch give us a full-throated Justice League Unlimited Martian Manhunter, but he also gives us the blue Starman, J'emm, Son of Saturn, and Ultra the Multi-Alien!

And at the risk of spoiling, I have to give Fisch extra credit for this exchange:

Fred: I thought Starman was a young hipster guy.

Starman: That's the other Starman.

Fred: You're his father?

Starman: That's the other, other Starman.

Fred: An Earthling with a mullet?

Starman: The other, other, other Starman.

Fred: An alien prince?

Starman: The other, other, other, other Starman.

Hilarious. And then, of course, Daphne and Starfire get into the Starfires.

SUICIDE SQUAD #14

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by ROB WILLIAMS

Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA JR. and DANNY MIKI

Variant cover by LEE BERMEJO

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T+

Retailers: This will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.

“BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE” part four! Consumed by rage following the brutal murder of one of her Suicide Squad comrades, Harley Quinn goes AWOL on a one-(psychotic-)woman mission of vengeance against Rustam and his unstoppable new ally, the most dangerous foe Harley has ever faced: Deadshot.

I don't really have anything to say about this book, other than what I've been saying since the Justice League crossover, that I'm enjoying far more than I expected to. I'm sorry, John Ostrander, for cheating on your Suicide Squad! I still love it, but I love this one, too! I'm just shallow that way!

TREASURY OF XXTH CENTURY MURDER COMPENDIUM (HC)

Publisher: NBM PUBLISHING

Writer/Art/Cover: RICK GEARY

Mature $27.99

Witness the most controversial and famous true crime cases that shook the 20th century!  These 240 pages retell the love affair that ended the life of prominent architect Stanford White, then dubbed the crime of the century; the New Orleans' Axe-Man and his gruesome killing spree; and the abduction (and resulting media circus) of aviator Charles Lindbergh's son, all collected in a handsome quarter-bound omnibus. These carefully researched presentations of true crime stories, each including bibliographies of research sources, present true facts about famous murders in an entertaining fashion.

I've been bragging on this series since it commenced, and I'm not stopping now. Rick Geary does a phenomenal job of research, and again on neutral presentation, leaving it to the audience to decide innocence or guilt on the available facts. His faux-woodcut art, often inappropriate for other projects, is pitch-perfect for this one. It projects an old-timey vibe without sacrificing a modern sensibility.

If you haven't read any of these stories before, here's a good chunk for a measly $28.

UNDERWINTER #1

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Story/Art/Cover A: RAY FAWKES

Cover B: JEFF LEMIRE

32 pages • Full Color • M • $3.99

“SYMPHONY,” Part One Critically acclaimed creator RAY FAWKES launches his new monthly horror series: UNDERWINTER, twisted portraits of our dark world, beginning with the perverse, topical SYMPHONY — a beautifully painted tale of music and cruelty in the modern age.

This was pretty creepy, all right. My one complaint is that the art -- which I really like -- is a bit too un-specific for what I think were some visual cues that I missed. To wit: Four people are asked to put on color-coordinated clothing and to sit in a certain way, so I'm guessing that some shape or idea or suggestion was supposed to imprint itself on my retinas. But the art is a pen and watercolor mix that occasionally crosses the line from murky right on into expressionism and I coudn't tell what I was missing, or even if I was missing anything.

Regardless, I'll be back next issue. This is well done.

WONDER WOMAN #19

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by GREG RUCKA

Art/Cover: LIAM SHARP

Variant cover by JENNY FRISON

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This will ship with two covers.

“The Truth” part three! Diana, Steve and Etta come face-to-face with their newest foes — the deadly group known as Poison! But what do they have to do with the plot to unravel Wonder Woman’s life?

I enjoyed this title immensely when it debuted, with two terrific artists on the alternating stories. But it's been 19 issues and we haven't resolved anything about Diana's new (yawn) origin. Let's get on with it. I'd like to read a Wonder Woman story once in a while that ISN'T an origin story.

X-O MANOWAR (2017) #1

Publisher: VALIANT COMICS

Written by MATT KINDT

Art by TOMÁS GIORELLO

Cover A by LEWIS LAROSA

Cover B by KENNETH ROCAFORT

Interlocking Variant Cover by MICO SUAYAN

X-O Manowar Icon Variant by J.G. JONES

Brushed Metal Variant Cover by MONIKA PALOSZ

$3.99 • 40 pgs. • VALIANT PREMIUM • T+ •

WAR IS COMING!

Born under the oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire, Aric of Dacia learned warfare at an early age. It was amid such violence that he was abducted by an alien race. Forced into slavery, he survived where others perished. His escape would come from bonding with a weapon of immeasurable power: the X-O Manowar armor. With it, he returned to Earth…only to find himself stranded in the modern day.

But that was a lifetime ago.

Now, far from home on a strange and primitive new world, Aric has begun a new life. Liberated from his past, he tends to his crops. Free from war. Free from violence. Free from the armor.

But the machinery of death marches his way once again. Conscripted into an alien army and thrown into an unforgiving conflict, the fury inside him finds voice as he is forced to embrace the armor once more. With it, he will decimate armies, topple empires and incite interplanetary warfare as he rises from SOLDIER to GENERAL to EMPEROR to VISIGOTH. They wanted a weapon. He will give them war!

A stunning new beginning for Valiant’s most enduring icon starts here as New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (Divinity, Ninjak, Mind MGMT) and a rotating cast of powerhouse interior artists spanning the series’ first year – including Tomas Giorello (4001 A.D.: War Mother, Bloodshot Reborn), Doug Braithwaite (Armor Hunters, Bloodshot U.S.A.), Clayton Crain (Rai, Carnage), Ryan Bodenheim (The Dying & The Dead), and Mico Suayan (Bloodshot Reborn) – present the biggest Valiant debut of all time…and unleash the brutal opening salvo of the ultimate X-O Manowar tale ever told!

The art on this book is spectacular. I'm not familiar with Giorello, but he is another terrific Valiant find. You will not be disappointed.

As to the story, we've seen this kinda thing before, where a hero has a great weapon at his disposal but spends the whole issue not using it because ... well, I dunno why. Aric goes through a battle on an alien world that is incredibly lethal, but does not use the X-O armor because ... well, I dunno why. By luck or skill he survives, and THEN decides to put it on. Because ... well, I dunno know why. He seems to have some sort of grudge against it or something ...? I guess we'll find out down the road, but just like when the Silver Age Green Lantern would forgo use of his power ring and get into fistfights with crooks, it just seems suicidally stupid.

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If you'll pardon a quibble, Western (Gold Key) held the Tarzan and Korak license/s before DC. Mark Evanier's account of the relationship between Dell and Western is here. Briefly, for a long period Western produced Dell's line. Many Dell titles used licenses held by Western. In 1962 the arrangement ended and Western started the Gold Key line.

Tarzan was one of the Dell titles that continued as part of the Gold Key line, so Western was probably already the license-holder before that. Korak was commenced by Gold Key, in 1963. Gold Key also published a few John Carter comics, in 1964. The GCD says they were reprints of Dell ones.

Blue Beetle #7 - Arion and Dr. Fate fight over the Scarab.

The magic is gone, and so am I.

Doom Patrol #5 - Let's see, Casey saves Danny and all the others at a great cost, and Larry is re-merged with the Negative spirit.

This is...odd, and requires some extra thought to follow. We do finally nail down exactly what Casey's powers are, plus there's some other stuff that happens that's interesting. I'm still recommending this one.

Iron Fist #1 - Danny travels the world looking for a worthy opponent, and gets invited to a special martial arts tournament.

To be perfectly honest, this just doesn't feel like Danny Rand to me. The character presented here is certainly atop fighter, but he's also a drunk and extremely unsure of who he is and what his purpose might be. While there are some parallels to Saitama, that doesn't ring true to me of Danny--admittedly, I haven't read every Iron Fist story, but I feel like I've read enough to have a good reading on his character. I get the feeling that this is another instance of someone with a story to tell shoehorning a character into place whether he fits or not. Also, the premise doesn't make sense for a superhero who routinely fights characters stronger than himself.

Prowler #6 - Hobie tries to figure out what's next in his life.

So this is the series end (not surprising) and ti's, well, it's an end. Id' hoped that once the Clone Conspiracy stuff was over that there would be a new focus, but there you go. Basically, it's been a mediocre series, and I don't think I'm really going to miss it.

The Ultimates 2 #5 - The Ultimates defeat the Troubleshooters only to realize that there's a much bigger threat to deal with.

I like Ewing's writing but I'm really just not into this. I plan to finish off this story, but I doubt I'll continue reading much longer.

The Unworthy Thor #5 (of 5) - The Odinson chooses not to take the Ultimate Mjolnir, but still manages to drive off the Collector and Thanos' thralls.

Well, that was...disappointing. I don't have a problem with how things wrapped up, but I just felt the storytelling could have been much better. As it turns out, probably the best part of this mini-series was the return of Thori.

As you know, Luke, I don't mind the "quibble" at all -- accuracy is what's important, not my ego. My Dell shorthand wasn't accurate, so thank you for the correction.

Luke Blanchard said:

If you'll pardon a quibble, Western (Gold Key) held the Tarzan and Korak license/s before DC. Mark Evanier's account of the relationship between Dell and Western is here. Briefly, for a long period Western produced Dell's line. Many Dell titles used licenses held by Western. In 1962 the arrangement ended and Western started the Gold Key line.

Tarzan was one of the Dell titles that continued as part of the Gold Key line, so Western was probably already the license-holder before that. Korak was commenced by Gold Key, in 1963. Gold Key also published a few John Carter comics, in 1964. The GCD says they were reprints of Dell ones.

Skipper, re: Anno Dracula, do you perhaps means "Victorian", and not "Elizabethan"?

The sub-title of the Anno Dracula series is a play on the name of a 1964 movie, Seven Days in May.

Newman commenced his Anno Dracula series in 1992, so it partly predates The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. According to Wikipedia the books and stories in the series are set at various dates from 1888 to 1999.

The "General Harkaway" in the preview is probably Jack Harkaway. Von Kronhelm is probably General von Kronhelm from William Le Queux's The Invasion of 1910. My best guess is Von Bayern is Gregory von Bayern, a vampire character from John M. Ford's The Dragon Waiting that makes an appearance in Newman's The Bloody Red Baron. My hat-tip to Google for helping me make these identifications.

ACTION COMICS #976: “[I]t was less dramatic than I was expecting.” That about sums it up for me as well.

FUTURE QUEST #11: “The first storyline”? Do we know for sure that this title will continue beyond #12? Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be pleased if it does, but what will be the impetus for this diverse group of characters remaining together after the immediate threat is dealt with?

And a few of my own…

BATMAN ’66 MEETS WONDER WOMAN ’77 #3: I was disappointed when I learned the Batman ‘66 series was “cancelled,” but it wasn’t really. It’s just converted to a series of “team-up” mini-series. The first issue of this series depicted a WWII-era meeting of Diana and Bruce Wayne as a child. The story broaches area undreamed of by the television series it’s based on (Paradise Island, Ra’s al Ghul), but it all seems to fit, somehow.

CAPTAIN AMERICA (STEVE ROGERS) #14: As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this board, I’m about ready for this “Captain Hydra” storyline to wrap up. I’ve waited long enough for “my” Captain America to return. (Frankly, Sam Wilson is my Captain America at this point.) Much of the story each issue is a flashback to Steve’s false memories of WWII. To be perfectly honest, I skip those pages. AFAIAC, they have no bearing on the story whatsoever. Although writer Nick Spencer would certainly disagree with me, I hate to see him devoting so many pages to scenes that never “happened” as will soon, I assume, disappear after the “reset button” has been pushed. I hope after the upcoming “Secret Empire” story that the status quo will be re-established.

KISS #6: I’ve dropped so many titles lately I question why I’m still reading this one. Maybe because it’s based on a single album, the band’s worst-selling ever, a science fiction concept album. I don’t see this series lasting beyond the first arc, but I’ll probably stick it out that long.

STRAY BULLETS: Such a good series! I can hardly wait until it’s collected and Mark Sullivan resumes his discussion thread. I’m eager to read this latest arc again!

Skipper, re: Anno Dracula, do you perhaps means "Victorian", and not "Elizabethan"?

I do, and I even looked up the dates of Victoria's reign to match them to this story -- and still typed "Elizabeth." I blame all those movies about Elizabeth. It's fixed now, so thanks for the correction.

The sub-title of the Anno Dracula series is a play on the name of a 1964 movie, Seven Days in May.

It's a good pun, but it also serves a story purpose. The leaders of the resistance are seven people who use the days of the week as code names. The lady whose story we follow to meet these folks goes by Wednesday. The leader, Sunday, is a hugely fat fellow whose name is unrevealed, but I suspect it might be Mycroft.

The "General Harkaway" in the preview is probably Jack Harkaway. Von Kronhelm is probably General von Kronhelm from William Le Queux's The Invasion of 1910. My best guess is Von Bayern is Gregory von Bayern, a vampire character from John M. Ford's The Dragon Waiting that makes an appearance in Newman's The Bloody Red Baron. My hat-tip to Google for helping me make these identifications.

I suspected virtually every character in the invasion fleet whose name we were given was a cameo, but I didn't look them all up. since it's likely they're all dead now. Thank you for doing so!

FUTURE QUEST #11: “The first storyline”? Do we know for sure that this title will continue beyond #12? Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be pleased if it does, but what will be the impetus for this diverse group of characters remaining together after the immediate threat is dealt with?

Jeff Parker tweeted Jan. 18 that Future Quest #12 isn't the last issue. Now, he may be referring to next week's Adam Strange/Future Quest Special #1, but let's cross our fingers for more.

And if it does continue, I don't expect all those characters to continue hanging around. Future Quest, if it continues, will probably focus on the Quest family, with occasional guest stars. The Adam Strange special did just that, with the Quest family (and Strange) being the focus, with characters like Birdman and Mightor making brief guest appearances.

Captain Comics said:

The leaders of the resistance are seven people who use the days of the week as code names.


That might be a nod to G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.

Apparently more than one of Newman's books have annotations at the end. Previews of some of his books can be found at Google Books.

The Flash comic is at an all time low IMO.
The constant arc's on speedsters is to the point where I am speed reading the book just to get to the next comic on my pile.
A new writer with a fresh take is needed badly.

at last! There's one I can take OFF my Wish List.

That's the first/most negative comment I've seen on Rebirth . 
 
Thomas Lupo said:

The Flash comic is at an all time low IMO.
The constant arc's on speedsters is to the point where I am speed reading the book just to get to the next comic on my pile.
A new writer with a fresh take is needed badly.

Eh, I think Flash is much better than it was pre-rebirth. The first 8 issues (the multiple spesters arc) wasn't the strongest,  but it was still leagues ahead of the previous run. And since then it's gotten a lot stronger.

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