It was a bunch of punching: Heroes Return roundtable, the big finale

Lo! There shall be an ending!

This is it! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! The final chapter in Marvel Comics’ spectacular summer event, Heroes Reborn comes to a close in Heroes Return #1.

Tom Bondurant, Shane Bailey, Carla Hoffman and the jovial JK Parkin bask in the final faceoff between the Squadron Supreme of America and the remnants of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for the answers to all our questions! Who will win? Who changed reality? What was Mephisto’s secret purpose? And why were these books $4.99??

Grab your copy of the finale and read on!

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‘Fantastic Four’ #33 provides ‘the greatest reaction page in the history of comics (this week)’

Carla Hoffman offers a quick review of the second chapter of Doctor Doom’s wedding.

So I love superhero weddings almost as much as I love pro wrestling weddings, and the two genres have a lot in common.

After all, none of us are coming to the nuptials to see love triumph or watch people slow dance at the reception; we want to see the carnage. If there’s a big cake, we want someone to go through it. If the officiant asks for anyone to “speak now or forever hold your peace,” there should be at least five people jumping to their feet to object. 

It’s drama, it’s fashion, it’s a comic book wedding for Fantastic Four #33.

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Sunday with ‘Sandman’ | Looking back at the earliest issues of the beloved series

Shane Bailey cracks open ‘Sandman: The Deluxe Edition V1,’ journeying back to the late 1980s for a look at the influential series.

Last week I decided to start a massive reread of the Neil Gaiman-written Sandman family of books, starting with the Deluxe Edition v1, and honestly I forgot how great these books are. Over the years I’ve come to take them for granted, but they are really top of the class in terms of subject and craft.

Reading these books again I see how heavily it leans into horror, which I had forgotten. It has that creeping horror feel down, the kind that starts the hairs on the back of your neck to signal that something isn’t quite right, rather than in-your-face shock horror.

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How many TVs was that again? The Heroes Reborn roundtable, week 3

Carla, Tom, Shane and JK assemble once again to discuss Marvel’s latest comics event.

Time for round three of our Heroes Reborn roundtable, where we break down the latest Marvel crossover issue by issue. This week Shane Bailey, Tom Bondurant, Carla Hoffman and I talk about Heroes Reborn #3, which puts the spotlight on the super-speedster, Blur, and the more mystical elements of the Marvel Universe.

You can read part one of our roundtable discussions here and part two here.

So grab your copies and let’s jump in …

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Comics Lowdown | Zunar is in trouble again

Plus: A new graphic novel looks at Japanese Americans who resisted internment.

Zunar’s cartoon critiquing the minster of the state of Kedah, who canceled the festival of Thaipusam. The cleaver says “No Thaipusam” and the caption on the right reads “Kedah’s inhabitants lived in peace until he came.”

The Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar is in trouble with the law again. Police in the state of Kedah have summoned him to appear before them on May 7 (the original date, given in the linked article, was May 2 but it was rescheduled) for violating the country’s sedition law, a much-criticized relic of its colonial past, with a cartoon criticizing the Kedah state minister’s decision to cancel the traditional Tamil Hindu festival of Thaipusam.

Zunar got into lots of trouble during the tenure of Prime Minister Najib Razak, whom he mocked endlessly for his corruption; Razak was not amused and his government repeatedly raided Zunar’s studio, confiscated his books, banned him from traveling, and brought charges against him that could have led to lengthy prison sentences. The pressure eased once Najib was voted out.

Ironically, Zunar’s latest skirmish coincides with World Press Freedom Day, which was Monday; several national and international groups have criticized the Malaysian government for its repressive stance.

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Bendis and Marquez jump-start the Justice League

A new era begins in ‘Justice League’ #59, which ‘includes a number of familiar, welcome elements, all deftly executed.’

[Note: This post contains spoilers for the lead story in Justice League #59. The issue also includes a Justice League Dark installment, which was creepy and suspenseful, but won’t be discussed here.]

Last year’s trip through the Justice League’s 60-year history got as far as the start of the “Snyder Era.” (No, not that Snyder — Scott Snyder.) Because some of us still have a slight Death Metal hangover, a post on those years is still TBA. Regardless, the “Bendis Era” began this week with May 2021’s Justice League #59. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by David Marquez and colored by Tamra Bonvillain, it includes a number of familiar, welcome elements, all deftly executed.

Chief among them is the notion that the Leaguers have lives outside this book. At the risk of being redundant, the point of an all-star team is the interaction of characters who can each carry their own features. Sure, you can craft a perfectly entertaining adventure by dropping a handful of heroes into a standalone story, but the best League runs have incorporated larger DC continuity to one degree or another. (Somewhat ironically, the Bendis Era begins just as DC has decided to have free-range continuity.)

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Review: ‘Count’ puts a science fiction spin on a classic novel

Ibrahim Moustafa’s new graphic novel from Humanoids adapts ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ into a science fiction story, but ‘the magic is in what Moustafa and team add to it.’

When I was in school I was asked to read a lot of books deemed “classics.” Some I thought were okay, some I had to pull myself through even though I hated them, some I grew to love over time, but there was one book that had me hooked from the very first chapter. That book is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

I absolutely adored it. It had an interesting hero, wrongly accused and searching for revenge, it had a daring escape from prison, and an interesting message. I had the pleasure of reading an adaptation of this wonderful story, this time with it turned into a science fiction tale. To say I was ecstatic to read this is an understatement, and this book lived up to that excitement.

Retitled simply Count, it’s written and drawn by Ibrahim Moustafa (High Crimes, Mother Panic) along with Brad Simpson as colorist and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou as letterer. And they all brought their “A” game here. It’s a faithful retelling of the story with a new skin to all the characters and settings.

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Review: ‘Nocterra’ #1 brings an ‘explosive, exciting’ start to the new series

Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel’s new series from Image Comics begins with an impressive debut.

Nocterra, the new title by Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel, began life as a Kickstarter project last year that raised more than $200,000, thanks to more than 4,000 backers. The plan, though, was to always publish it through Image Comics at some point, and this week the first issue arrives like a burst of light in a dark world.

I have to say I went into this book a little skeptical, as the creators involved have been hit and miss with me the past few years with their DC projects. But I’m a fan of both creators, and their independent projects resonated with me in the past. I’m happy to say this is one of those hits.

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‘The New Mutants’: The kids are alright

Carla Hoffman reviews ‘The New Mutants,’ the film based on the classic comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz.

I was terrified, you know.  Despite having it marked in my digital calendar (a few times, really), despite my overblown excitement at seeing a lobby poster at the end of last year (‘this time, for sure!’ listed as the date), sitting on my couch in excitement through an online SDCC panel, I still couldn’t find myself to be excited, let alone relieved, that The New Mutants was finally going to be viewable to the public and streaming online.

Repetitive disappointment can do that to a person; the constant backstage chatter, the infinite new release dates, the literal fall of Fox Studios as an independent movie production company, mergers and major misspeaks by the director regarding casting, this movie felt destined to fail.  It was Schrodinger’s Movie: as long as we didn’t see it, the film was either a hit or bust and for a long time, it was just better not to know.

So what was The New Mutants?  Is the cat alive or dead?  Is this the secret savior of the Fox-X Franchise or an ugly cousin they had every right to keep hidden from prying eyes?  Keep reading and let’s see what we can make of it.

(SPOILERS: to discuss the movie means that we have to talk about the movie and all the twists and turns it takes.  Find your own online digital copy and watch and read along!)

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Make Mine Mini: Kraftwerk saves the world

The indy comics festival MoCCA took place last weekend, and as usual, it was a glorious event, with lots of great people and great comics. Here are three minicomics that I picked up that I particularly enjoyed. You can view or purchase each one at the link in the title.

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Smash Pages Review: The Monster Book of Manga: Steampunk

HarperCollins has been putting out these nicely produced manga-characters books for years, now, and they keep coming up with new subjects and genres.

The Monster Book of Manga: Steampunk
Edited by Jorge Balaguer

HarperCollins has been putting out these nicely produced manga-characters books for years, now, and they keep coming up with new subjects and genres.

Like all the Monster Books of Manga, this book focuses on one thing: Character design. If you’re interested in the basics of anatomy, draftsmanship, and storytelling, this is not the book for you. That said, it may be helpful for the artist who has mastered the basics and is ready to develop some new characters. It’s not so much a how-to book as a collection of examples, though. Balaguer has designed 39 different characters, from a robot to a firefighter to a Victorian lady, and he has given each of them a name and a paragraph of background information. There’s a lot of story in these little paragraphs, and he clearly has a lively imagination, but there’s no information on how to grow your own.

Balaguer takes us through seven steps for each character, from stick figure to finished drawing. Unfortunately, his step-by-step instructions suffer from a common problem: The distance between step 1, a stick figure, and step 2, a fleshed-out drawing of a realistic looking person, is vast. To the beginner, it’s like magic. Everything after that is basically finish—inking, shading, coloring, and adding rivets. Getting from a few sketched lines and circles to something that looks like an actual figure is the hard part—and this book is no help. (The solution is to spend a lot of time drawing from live models, but a book won’t help you there.)

Furthermore, for a book that’s supposed to be about steampunk, there’s precious little talk of how the characters are designed from the inside out, nor is there any attempt to make them seem logical. There’s more to steampunk than drawing rivets on every surface, but you won’t learn that here. Not only that, the rivets don’t even make sense—in some of the figures they not only don’t fasten anything, they would actually get in the way.

While these factors limit its usefulness, this book may provide a helpful toolbox for artists who are interested in the elements of different characters, or the details of how to ink, shade, and color different types of steampunk characters—and it’s certainly enjoyable to browse through it and see the different characters Balaguer has created.

Monster Book of Manga - Steampunk