ACTION COMICS #974

Written by DAN JURGENS

Art by PATRICK ZIRCHER, STEPHEN SEGOVIA and ART THIBERT

Cover by CLAY MANN

Variant cover by GARY FRANK

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“MILD MANNERED” part two! The mystery of the human Clark Kent unravels! Lois stalks Clark’s trail, but all signs point to something big on the horizon. Even the relative safety of their upstate farm can’t protect Superman and his family from the threat they never expected: Clark Kent?!

I'm glad to see that the mysterious mystery of the mysterious Clark Kent mystery isn't going to mystify much longer. There's only so much mysterious mystery I can take!

This is only part two of a potential reveal, but I don't think the story can end without a reveal. The gang can't continue to ignore this guy's impossible presence -- because he's become a threat. He's fixated on Lois Lane, and that threatens to expose all the secrets of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," who have a lot of them. (Not just Mr. Smith being Superman, but that he, Lois and Jon are from the pre-New 52 universe.)

The story is decent, and the art's OK. For me the draw is the solution to this mystery, which could result in the return of this reality's Superman ... and if so, what then? And if not, who the heck is this guy?

ALEX TOTH'S BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE ARTIST'S EDITION (HC)

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer/Art: ALEX TOTH

Of every comics story Alex Toth ever drew, the only one that he kept the complete original art to was Bravo for Adventure. This Artist's Edition is a virtual "how-to" course in drawing comics the Toth way. We see how he would draw all the detail in a scene, only to black it out in order to focus the reader's eye on what really counted. "Simplify, simplify, simplify," he said. Also included are variant versions of the Bravo saga featuring Noah Chance and the experimental aircraft called Condor, plus dozens of never-before-seen pencil roughs, preliminary drawings, and story fragments, as well as all twelve pages of Toth's own coloring for an edition that never saw print, and-freed from storage after 40 years -- all of the coloring for what was intended to be Bravo's original 1975 first printing in France!

Weirdly, this is like an alternate version of this week's Astro City -- another version of Errol Flynn as a young Howard Hughes type, this time as a barnstormer instead of a space explorer. Maybe both will be included in the next version of Multiversity, along with Howard Stark of the Marvel movies.

Anyway, if you have any familiarity with Alex Toth, then you know what to anticipate here. Let me warn you, though, that if you have any hope of being an artist, this book will talk you out of it. Toth just never seems to put a line down wrong. Even his mistakes are perfect. His lines are simple and clean, but the power and talent behind them are ferocious, and worth a jillion scritchy-scratchy cross-hatches by less talented people. (Looking at you, Todd McFarlane.) He even removes gorgeous backgrounds that you and I can only dream of drawing when he feels they are a distraction from the narrative!

This is one artist that truly deserves the loving Artist's Edition format.

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: LIFE AND DEATH #3

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writer: DAN ABNETT

Artist: BRIAN THIES

Colorist: RAIN BEREDO

Cover Artist: DAVID PALUMBO

FC • 32 pages • Miniseries • $3.99

The Alien hordes descend in a desperate attempt to repossess their fetus queen from the escaping Colonial Marines. Even with the help of the Predator clan, survival for the humans doesn’t look likely.

The birth of the queen means death to the squad!

I've reviewed this series a lot lately. That's because I'm enjoying it.

This issue features humans and Predators vs. Aliens. That's one strange team-up! And one in which the humans play only a support role (and aren't mentioned in the title) because, as one Marine says about staying out of the main battle, "We're not as physically ... resilient as the [Predators]. In that blitz, we'd just get in the way -- and we wouldn't last a second."

Yeah, this is a pretty grim book, as the humans are in a pretty grim situation. I don't want to spoil the details, but there's no reason for any of the humans to believe they will live through this.

But for all that, they don't give up. The determination of the Marines and their civilian allies is one of the strongest themes in this book, with the other being the sheer spectacle of alien races involved in enormous mayhem. I'm rooting for these guys, although none have any plot armor and I have no illusions.

That brings me back issue after issue.

ASTRO CITY #41

Publisher: DC COMICS

Writer: KURT BUSIEK

Art: BRENT ANDERSON

Covers: ALEX ROSS

48 pg • FC • $4.99

It’s our 100th issue celebration! This 40-page extravaganza introduces Astro City’s most revered hero — the Astro-Naut! Learn his secrets! See him in action! And in the heat of World War II, see the stunning sacrifice that inspired a grateful populace to rename a city after its greatest hero. Also featuring the All-American, the Lamplighter, Zootsuit and the debut of the Gentleman, as our tour through Astro City’s history continues!

This amazing anniversary issue features two covers: one by regular cover artist Alex Ross, and the other by the great Alex Ross!

I've fallen waaaaaay behind on Astro City, which I prefer to read in big hardback chunks. I read this one cold, though, because A) I didn't know Astro City was named for anyone, and B) Errol Flynn playing Howard Hughes standing on a fighter (space) plane wearing a space suit. I mean, come on, I gotta read that!

That's really all the review an issue of Astro City needs, innit? It's a known quantity. Those who love it will read every issue until the staples fall out. Those people don't need a recommendation. And those who don't like Astro City? I assume you exist, and if you do, I pity you, my friend. That's like being allergic to fine wine and steaks. Sad.

Incidentally, the variant cover is an homage to the first Astro City cover. Evidently this is the 100th issue of Astro City to be published, when you include all the miniseries and one-shots.

THE BELFRY (ONE-SHOT)

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Writer/Art/Cover: GABRIEL HARDMAN

32 PAGES • FC • M • $3.99

AN ALL-NEW HORROR ONE-SHOT FROM GABRIEL HARDMAN!

When an airliner crashes in a remote jungle, everyone walks away unscathed only to find you can't escape the lush, brutal world of the Belfry. From Logan storyboard artist and Hugo Award-nominated writer/artist GABRIEL HARDMAN (INVISIBLE REPUBLIC, KINSKI, Star Wars Legacy), THE BELFRY is a self-contained one-shot that may just strip you of your humanity.

This is exactly what it looks like: A one-shot vampire story by a master of his craft.

I'm not sure when I became aware of Gabriel Hardman's name. Maybe on Agents of Atlas, or Star Wars: Legacy (one of my favorite SW books at Dark Horse). Whenever that was, it took even longer for me to realize that all these different books I liked were all drawn by the same guy.

That ability to draw in and draw from an eclectic range of styles and influences, plus astonishingly good storytelling, make everything Hardman touches potentially formidable. Currently that involves Invisible Republic for Image, a layered, thoughtful SF story that shows yet another arrow from Hardman's quiver.

In The Belfry, I think I see some Gene Colan, and some Bill Sienkiewicz, and maybe a nod or two in the direction of 1970s Warren magazines. Not that it matters, because it all flows together in a singular story that makes you forget you're reading a story at all.

And what a story! Sure, it's a vampire story, so certain imperatives must be observed. But otherwise I know of no other vampire story quite like this, one that rushes forward on its own nervous energy and that stringy feeling you get when you know things are spiraling out of control and you're about to panic.

So, yes, a vampire story. And a damn good one.

DARKNESS VISIBLE #1

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writers: MIKE CAREY & ARVIND ETHAN DAVID

Art/Cover: BRENDAN CAHILL

Variant: FRAZER IRVING

Subscription Variant: DAVE KENDALL

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

When the demons came, humanity reluctantly learned to share the world with another sentient race. Eighty years later, this uneasy co-existence has spawned an endless terrorist conflict. Detective Daniel Aston, charged with being the thin blue line between the two sides, is tested to the limit when a demon sets up house inside his soul. But to save his daughter, he’ll pay any price — including genocide.

From bestselling author and screenwriter Mike Carey (Unwritten, Lucifer, Girl with All the Gifts) and Arvind Ethan David (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) comes an all-new, original world of darkness and demons.

World-building is hard. The necessary info dump is always difficult to work into the story without people walking around babbling expository dialogue, telling each other things they already know. Darkness Visible does a pretty good job by working in what we need to know as a father (a cop) explains to his daughter why she can't trust the demons that have taken up residence on Earth -- and in some humans who let them in for various gifts (like immortality). By the time the action starts, the readers knows the necessaries.

I can't say the premise really grabs me. Once you introduce something as rule-breaking as demons into the picture, I can't imagine life would continue normally. Cops? Really? With demons who can kill with a glance or toss you out a window or rip you limb from limb? They'd be running this world, like the vampires in True Blood should have been.

I bring that up because it illustrates my point. I remember a scene in True Blood where a cop -- a single, solitary cop, with no partner or back-up -- stops a car in vampire country for speeding in the middle of the night. Really? And sure enough, the cop is hypnotized, turns over his gun and is sent on his way (naked, I think). He was lucky to be alive. But the point is that the scene in question demonstrated why vampires could not and would not work in our world without huge, wholesale changes -- the least among them, traffic stops. That scene underscored that life would not continue as normal once vampires were revealed to be real. That's when I stopped watching True Blood, because it pretended that human civilization would continue with no serious alterations after man was displaced at the top of the food chain by a bigger alpha predator.

That should be true in Darkness Visible, too. But sure enough, everything remains normal, except for the random human-demon hybrid walking down the street. And the cop is forced to respond to a demon attack at an office building (with his daughter in tow), because sure, send in a cop with a handgun instead of, I dunno, the military to fight demons. He survives -- barely, raising the question again of why anybody does, but whatever -- and then there's a nasty twist ending, leaving the status of the cop and his daughter in serious question. It's a nice cliffhanger, because the cop is likable, and so is his daughter, who is precocious in a charming way, not a TV-sitcom way. And it bodes really badly for how things will go for our friends in subsequent issues.

Which is cool. One of the writers on this series is Mike Carey, who used to be an A-list comics writer, or close to it, when he launched a career writing novels about a private eye in a world where magic works. So he brings bona fides to this sort of story.

My favorite part is the art. It's clear, clean, slick and professional. The demons aren't particularly scary, but they look plausible and mean. There's at least one reveal, involving a girl in a trench coat, that shows just how in command of anatomy and design -- and storytelling! -- this Brendan Cahill is. (And, frankly, no guy reading that scene will ever hit on a girl in a trench coat again.)

So I'll be back next issue. I'm not hooked yet, though. I still need to be convinced that this world Carey and David have built deals appropriately with the game-changer they've dropped into it.

DIVINITY III: STALINVERSE #3 (of 4)

Publisher: VALIANT COMICS

Written by MATT KINDT

Art by TREVOR HAIRSINE

Cover A by JELENA KEVIC-DJURDJEVIC

Cover B by TOM MULLER

Variant Cover by JEFFREY VEREGGE

Variant Cover by GREG SMALLWOOD

Variant Cover by ADAM GORHAM

$3.99 • 32 pgs. • VALIANT PRESTIGE • T+

Red rebellion!

Across continents, the world bows to the oppressive and ruthless might of the global Russian regime. Former Russian intelligence officer Colin King, however, knows that this reality is not his own. With the truth on his side, Colin King is about to mount a resistance with aid of the world’s most feared undesirables…and release the classified asset known as Abram Adams from a prison guarded by the CCCP’s greatest super powers. But when Myshka — the divinely powered enforcer of the Soviet Union — comes to crush their uprising, will the man once known as Ninjak live long enough to discover the sinister reason that the Stalinverse came to be?

The truth behind Valiant’s shocking new reality will finally be revealed as New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (X-O Manowar) and blockbuster artist Trevor Hairsine (Divinity II) pull back the iron curtain and reveal the insidious mastermind who will stop at nothing to preserve this twisted world order!

Well, I didn't see that coming.

A twist ending changes the game in the Stalinverse, which -- thankfully -- has NOT been the regular lineup of Valiant heroes fighting each other. (We've seen enough of that lately, thank you.) Instead, the Stalinverse has created several new characters which are surprisingly well thought out -- usually when comics writers create a whole bunch of characters at once, several are little more than one-dimensional stereotypes or throwaways (most of the Global Guardians, for example). I hope the likes of Deathless and Baba Yaga continue when the Stalinverse returns to our regular programming.

If it will. This issue takes the rebels' biggest gun off the table, and there's no clear path to victory. Who knows -- maybe the Stalinverse will continue indefinitely.

Ha ha! Of course not. Somehow the Reset Button will be hit. But it's not obvious how, and that's why we read the stories.

THE EC ARCHIVES: VALOR (HC)

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writers: CARL WESSLER, OTTO BINDER, others

Art: BERNIE KRIGSTEIN, GRAHAM INGELS, WALLY WOOD, AL WILLIAMSON, JOE ORLANDO, REED CRANDALL, GEORGE EVANS

Colorist: CARLOS BADILLA

Cover Artist: WALLY WOOD

FC • 168 pages • HC • 8'' x 11'' • $49.99 • Age range: 14

Timeless tales of daring combat and deeds of honor set throughout world history! This archive collects the EC series Valor from the heroic and legendary artistic talents of Carl Wessler, Bernie Krigstein, Graham Ingels, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall and George Evans. Includes the complete run of Valor (issues #1-5) in full color.

Includes a foreword from P. Craig Russell!

The "New Trend" books are what made EC famous, and they're what always get reprinted. I have read very few stories from the "New Direction" (which was the result of the 1954 Comics Code). This book will change that.

And, in a sense, changes nothing else. It's the same EC crew, but doing a different genre. Instead of downbeat, twist-ending horror and SF, in Valor they try their hands at historical action/adventure. I haven't read the whole book -- I'm saving that for when I get the big, glossy version from Amazon -- but skimming through I see the usual beautiful artwork (see the names above) and a lot of stories focusing on the Roman Empire and King Arthur. There's other stuff, too, but those two seem to be the favorites.

Anyway, as we know, the "New Direction" didn't fare very well, and this book contains the entirety of Valor. That's a poignant thought as you inhale these stories. But don't let that stop you!

ELEKTRA #1

Publisher: MARVEL COMICS

Writer: MATT OWENS

Art: ALEC MORGAN

Cover by ELIZABETH TORQUE

Connecting variant COVER by MARCO CHECCHETTO

Artist Variant by COVER BILL SIENKIEWICZ

HIP-HOP VARIANT COVER BY KERON GRANT

VARIANT COVER BY Pasqual Ferry

YOUNG VARIANT COVER BY SKOTTIE YOUNG

32 PGS. • Rated T+ • $3.99

CASINO BATTLE ROYALE!

Running from her tumultuous past, ELEKTRA attempts to lose herself in a vibrant sea of neon, noise and anonymity: LAS VEGAS. But how long can a former ninja assassin really hope to escape the vortex of violence that encompasses her life … especially when there’s a new player in Sin City that has her in his sights for his newest game? Enter: Arcade.

Here's a heads up for a new Marvel #1. Hopefully Randy or someone will review it.

GHOST IN SHELL DELUXE VOL 1 (HC)

Publisher: KODANSHA COMICS

Writer/Art/Cover: SHIROW MASAMUNE

$29.99

This deluxe edition will mark the first time the book has been published in its original Japanese right-to-left format in English. Supervised by the creator, this will be the definitive edition of The Ghost in the Shell. Deep into the twenty-first century, the line between man and machine has been blurred as humans rely on the enhancement of mechanical implants and robots are upgraded with human tissue. In this rapidly converging landscape, cyborg superagent Major Motoko Kusanagi is charged to track down the craftiest and most dangerous terrorists and cybercriminals, including "ghost hackers" who are capable of exploiting the human/machine interface and reprogramming humans to become puppets to carry out the hackers' criminal ends.

I ordered this to bone up before the movie, and I got my copy last night. I'm fast, but not that fast, so I can't provide a review.

I can provide this heads up. After all, you folks have to bone up before the movie too!

HIGHLANDER: AMERICAN DREAM #1

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer BRIAN RUCKLEY

Art: ANDREA MUTTI

Cover: FRANDESCO FRANCAVILLA

Subscription Variant; CLAUDIA GIRONI

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

The cult-classic franchise makes its triumphant return! In the thirty years since its release, Highlander has inspired a cult following and numerous spinoffs with its epic clashes between powerful immortals. Now, The American Dream follows Scottish swordsman Connor MacLeod as he navigates through the American Civil War and 1950s Manhattan toward The Gathering in 1986. Reunite with familiar faces, such as Connor’s secretary Rachel, and meet new immortals, such as Osta Vazilek, but remember. ... There can be only one!

• The cult phenomenon returns!

• Written by Scottish fantasy novelist Brian Ruckley (The Godless World trilogy)!

• Interior art by Andrea Mutti (Rebels)!

• Covers by Eisner Award-winning artist Francesco Francavilla!

• Subscription covers by Italian artist Claudia Gironi!

• Ask your retailer about the foil cover featuring Connor’s original sword!

I know I read this a few days ago, but I remember nothing at all about it.

That's probably because I'm not the target market. I watched Highlander, the movie, when it came out in 1986 and found it mildly entertaining (especially Sean Connery's bits). But that was it. I never watched the TV shows, or read any comics or novels, or watched the cartoons, or anything. For all I know the Christopher Lambert character is dead, or is "The One." (I'm told there can only be one. I'm also told one is the loneliest number. Make of that what you will.)

All of which goes to show that this book is probably for the hard-core fan, not the casual reader. If you're a Highlander buff, this will undoubtedly be something you've long pined for. If you're more like me, well ... we can watch the movie again. It was pretty good. Especially Sean Connery's bits.

JUGHEAD #13

Publisher: ARCHIE COMICS

Script: RYAN NORTH

Art: DEREK CHARM, JACK MORELLI

Cover: DEREK CHARM

Variant Covers: BEN CALDWELL, RYAN JAMPOLE

32-page • full color comic • $3.99 U.S.

Reggie has won KING FOR A DAY! And it turns out his first act as King is to demand ... that everyone else to form a band with him? Okay that's actually not so bad; I was expecting way worse from Reggie. Wait, never mind, I'm getting word that DESPITE this very enjoyable and conflict-free premise, when Jughead plays around with the new music video for "The Reggies" and accidentally uploads an altered and embarrassing clip to the internet, everyone becomes enraged at our favorite crown-wearing hamburger-loving pal! Even Betty, and she's the greatest! She doesn't get mad unless it's really important! ANYWAY: Jughead will face CONSEQUENCES, but at least they'll be interesting AND HILARIOUS to read about!

I generally feel like I can draw better than Derek Charm.

I know that's all kinds of arrogant and rude, but ... he really doesn't seem to be trying very hard. Some panels look like he might have knocked them out while waiting for the bartender to bring his drink. HIs eyes are usually two dots and a couple of lines. His mouths are the same for all characters, and it's not a pleasant-looking mouth -- more of an off-center smear of jelly. Jughead's nose looks like it was drawn by a child. It really makes me pine for Samm Schwartz, who would have knocked this story out of the park.

Which, I have to say, is a short distance, since the story carries you at least to the outfield. Jughead is genuinely funny. North provides funny dialogue, situational humor, ongoing comedic tension and some plain ol' slapstick. He's very good, and I'm sorry he's being replaced soon ...

... by Mark Waid, in case you haven't heard. So I'm not that sorry. But I hope North finds another title to enliven with skills soon, and one at Archie would be my preference. Maybe he could help Adam Hughes get Betty & Veronica out more than a couple times a year?

JUGHEAD VOL 2

Writers: CHIP ZDARSKY, RYAN NORTH

Art: DEREK CHARM & JACK MORELLI

Cpver: DEREK CHARM

$14.99/$16.99CAN • 6 5/8 x 10 3/16” • TR • 104 pp • Full Color

In the grand tradition of comic book reboots like ARCHIE VOL. 1, Archie Comics proudly presents … JUGHEAD VOL. 2 — from the super team of Chip Zdarsky (HOWARD THE DUCK), Ryan North (THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL) and Derek Charm (REGULAR SHOW)! JUGHEAD VOL. 2 features bears, witches and pranks — oh my! You won’t want to miss a minute of the hilarious action!

As you may have heard (like on the previous entry), I don't much care for Derek Charm's art. But the strength of the writing carries these stories. I especially enjoyed what may be the best depiction of a bad date I have ever read.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1

Written by STEVE ORLANDO

Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO

Variant cover by MARK BROOKS

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

Blank variant cover

This issue will ship with three covers.

Meet the Extremists — self-proclaimed saviors from another Earth, they thirst for peace, prosperity and total submission to the will of their leader, Lord Havok! How can the newly assembled JLA stop this group of misguided maniacs before the Extremists unleash their own unique — not to mention dangerous! — brand of law and order on our chaotic world?

When The Extremists first came along, I felt like I was missing something -- that there was part of the story I wasn't getting, and a vague sense of deja vu. Finally it dawned on me: They were Marvel supervillains! The rest of you probably figured it out instantly, but for those unfamiliar with The Extremists, it breaks down like this:

Lord Havok = Dr. Doom

Dreamslayer = Dormammu

Dr. Diehard = Magneto

Gorgon = Dr. Octopus

Tracer = Sabretooth

Carny = Arcade

Barracuda = Tiger Shark

That doesn't mean I enjoyed their appearances, though. I found them, like many parodies, to have no real foundation outside of their antecedents. They were flimsy, one-dimensional constructs that had no business in a serious story. (Also, what kind of a villain name is "Tracer," anyway? Is that a joke I'm not getting?)

They were all right in Multiversity -- as you'd expect from Grant Morrison -- in that the whole story they were in was sort of a Dr. Doom vs. the Fantastic Four parody. They worked in that context. But every other story they were in always felt like more of an in-joke than a story. Plus  they were far too powerful -- ridiculously powerful -- for any group of heroes. Further, the Extremists' "continuity" got hopelessly muddled with robot counterparts and such over time. Plus, every time I think of them I picture them drawn by Bart Sears, and and I wonder why supervillains go to the gym so much.

So if they're going to be used in this new Justice League of America, I hope some adjustments have been made. Like giving them personalities and backstories (which are not just Marvel swipes). Like powering them down so they don't extinguish the JLA in the first two pages. Like giving me a reason to care about them.

Of course, first I have to care about this new JLA. What an odd bunch. What was Batman thinking?

THE OLD GUARD #1

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Writer: GREG RUCKA

Art/Cover: LEANDRO FERNANDEZ

40 PAGES • FC • M • $3.99

Eisner-winning writer GREG RUCKA (LAZARUS, BLACK MAGICK, Wonder Woman) and critically acclaimed artist LEANDRO FERNANDEZ (THE DISCIPLINE, Deadpool, Punisher: MAX) team up together to introduce THE OLD GUARD, the story of old soldiers who never die ... and yet cannot seem to fade away.  Trapped in an immortality without explanation, Andromache of Scythia — "Andy" — and her comrades ply their trade for those who can find — and afford — their services. But in the 21st century, immortality is a hard secret to keep, and when you live long enough, you learn that there are many fates worse than death.

Obligatory Image First Issue Review No. 1:

The premise of this series is refreshingly simple: Four immortals (no explanation for that yet) have been working as mercenaries (they regenerate in literal seconds from fatal wounds) but someone has figured out their secret, and have video proof. Now what?

Actually, I have no idea "now what," and that's good. After 50 years of reading comics, I find not having any idea what's next pretty exciting. And given that the writer is old pro Greg Rucka, I expect I'll have a good ride finding out "now what."

The art is interesting. Fernandez has been around a while, and has worked with Rucka before (Queen and Country). So his art is usually relatively slick -- his use of shadows sometimes reminds me of Mike Zeck, to give you an idea -- but sometimes he'll try an odd bit of art-school trickery that looks amateurish or just weird. Either he's stretching on this title, or it's literally foreign to me, as Fernandez is from Argentina. At any rate, I appreciate his straightforward storytelling, including weird noses on the three men so that they are instantly distinguishable from each other. It's cartoony, but it works, and I'm glad of it -- too often in new books that are a bit artsy or murky, the artist forgets to help the reader distinguish between characters that they don't know as well as he or she does.

At a guess, I'd say The Old Guard is more screenplay than comic book, with eyes on the real prize, a movie or prestige TV series. But while it's still confined to panels on a page, I'll probably follow it -- at least until I find out how to be immortal. That would be aces.

PIX VOL 1: ONE WEIRDEST WEEKEND (TPB)

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Writer/Art/Cover: GREGG SCHIGIEL

128 PAGES • FC • E • $12.99 • 6" x 9"

NOW FROM IMAGE COMICS!

Make way for Pix, the teen superhero who believes herself a fairy (and princess, no less). In her first original graphic novel, behold: attacking electronics, secret crushes, a magic 8-ball monster, cell service issues, a dragon war, a bad date, worried moms, a furtive frog, a malevolent monkey, all making for ONE WEIRDEST WEEKEND! Thrilling, energetic superhero action! Lively, funny teen dynamics! If Spider-Man were a Disney princess, you'd have Pix!

Obligatory Image First Issue Review No. 2:

Pix is the daughter of a fairy king (she says) and has super-powers and some really loyal friends. Being who she is (if that is who she is) a great many odd things happen to her, including dragons attacking, bad dates with famous actors, getting shrunk in a bathroom sink, getting turned into a big rabbit, and suchlike. She battles these things with the aforementioned loyal friends but primarily her super-powers and cheerful, perky personality. Otherwise, she leads an ordinary teenage life.

The art is cartoony but attractive, sunshiney and bright, like the lead character. Sort of like Electric Girl, for those with long memories.

It's cute. I'm not really into cute, but if you are -- and/or a tweenage girl -- you could do worse than Pix.

STARSTRUCK: OLD PROLDIERS NEVER DIE #1 (OF 6)

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writer: ELAINE LEE

Art/Cover: MICHAEL KALUTA

FC • 32 pages • $4.99

A glorious Starstruck mini-series of Lee & Kaluta’s classic space opera! A rollicking adventure featuring Harry Palmer, the Galactic Girl Guides and other favorites from this classic series. This re-mastered and expanded series features approximately 50 percent all new artwork by legendary comics illustrator Michael Kaluta. Each episode includes a single chapter as well as a glossary written by Lee and illustrated by Kaluta.

I remember reading Starstruck when it came out in 1982, and dismissing it with "I can write better than this." And I wondered why a guy like Michael Kaluta, who never stuck with a monthly series, would agree to the tremendous amount of work entailed by this marginal project, until I saw a picture of Elaine Lee, and thought, "Oh, I see."

Well, it's 35 years later, and I am not quite as cock-sure of my own abilities, nor am I still hormone-driven enough to think that all decisions are made below the belt.

But I am still completely unimpressed with Starstruck, which began life as an off-off-off-Broadway production written by and for what I can only assume is a B-list actress. The story -- a breakneck, throw-it-against-the-wall, atonal, punny SF story --  was about a decade too late in 1982, when the Baby Boom hippies and stoners that were its ideal audience had grown up, gotten married and curtailed their recreational drug use. So it's 45 years too late now, as its target market approaches retirement and votes Republican.

The art's nice, though.

SUN BAKERY #1

Publisher: IMAGE COMICS

Writer/Art/Cover: COREY LEWIS

48 PAGES • FC • T • $4.99

The sold-out indie hit returns through IMAGE COMICS!  SUN BAKERY comics anthology features the following stories: "DREAM SKILLS," about a city where guns are obsolete and the social culture is swordplay; "AREM," a space adventurer on a quest to photograph the most beautiful galactic vistas; and "BAT RIDER," a supernatural skateboarding comic.

Obligatory Image First Issue Review No. 3:

I don't usually review books I dislike. But as the intro states, first issues are sort of obligatory. So, reluctantly, here we go.

I say reluctantly, because nobody deliberately creates something bad. I don't like to attack work that was no doubt done with great effort and sincerity -- it's rude. Further, all criticism is by definition subjective, and any book, no matter how much I might dislike it, will appeal to someone else -- someone with entirely different tastes than me.

That being said, I'm not sure who will find Sun Crazy entertaining. The stories are simplistic, and the manga-esque artwork, to my eyes, borders on amateurish. Skateboarding? Instagram? These are middle school topics, conveyed with ragged, unpolished artwork that also belongs in roughly eighth grade.

The author says in an afterword was that this was his attempt to create an American Shonen Jump, complete with that book's energy and eclecticism. I've actually read a few issues of Shonen Jump, and while it was not my cup of tea, it was leagues better than Sun Crazy. Lewis gets the energy right, but both art and story need more sophistication.

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Astro City #41 - We get the story of how Astro City got it's name.

Even though this is issue #41, it's officially the 100th issue of Astro City, and it's a darned good one. The Astro-Naut is a lot of fun, and using the Mayor as a viewpoint character works quite well.

Blue Beetle #6 - Showdown blah blah blah, Ted Kord hiding secrets, blah blah blah. Dr. Fate shows up.

I so want to like this book, but I just can't. It seems the magic of the Giffen/Rogers/Albuequerque run just can't be reproduced with only Keith Giffen. Also, I didn't like the art.

Amazing Spider-Man #24 - Ben Reilly figures out his next move.

Gotta love an issue of Amazing Spider-Man with no Spider-Man. Anyway, this whole Clone Conspiracy thing has worn out any welcome it had in the first place if you ask me.

Avengers #4.1 - The Avengers battle the Frightful Four and discover that their newest member is not on their side.

It's solid. Apparently Cressida has some interesting powers to work with, and she's a good match for the Kooky Quartet.

Champions #1.mu - The Champions fight a Roxxon sponsored team of super villains in California, then have to take on two giant monsters.

As the vast majority of this criminally underhyped event has been, this is a lot of fun. It's hard to go wrong with heroes punching monsters--Marvel should remember this.

Great Lakes Avengers #5 - Good Boy leaves, and Bertha gets suckered into a trap.

As always, there are moments in this book, but this issue they're kind of few and far between. It's not bad, it's just not that great either.

Prowler #5 - Hobie helps contain the escaped clones aided by Kaine, Spider-Gwen and Julia Carpenter.

I think this is the last Clone Conspiracy tie-in, and I'm glad. Let's just move on.


Regarding Elektra #1 I didn't buy it but I have seen some scans. I'm not fond of the redesign of her costume, nor am I a fan of the art. Additionally, I don't really think anyone's written either Elektra or the Hand well since Frank Miller. 

Got some bad news, Randy -- next week lists Clone Conspiracy: Omega.

Also, I wouldn't call Monsters Unleashed under-hyped. I got about the same amount of PR I usually do for events, although this one is shorter than, say, the interminable Civil War II so the flood stopped earlier. I posed a lot of it on the Facebook page.

Further, while I agree that heroes punching monsters seems like a can't-miss, early reports are that it isn't selling very well. Cross your fingers.

There may have been a lot of press, but I don't think a lot of comics fans knew about it. It surprised me when it started. Perhaps now that Civil War II is over it will get a little more attention, as the comments I've seen have been quite positive. One can only hope.

Captain Comics said:


Also, I wouldn't call Monsters Unleashed under-hyped. I got about the same amount of PR I usually do for events, although this one is shorter than, say, the interminable Civil War II so the flood stopped earlier. I posed a lot of it on the Facebook page.

Further, while I agree that heroes punching monsters seems like a can't-miss, early reports are that it isn't selling very well. Cross your fingers.

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