Dr. Strange Season One

Doctor Strange Season One
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Emma Rios
$24.99

Pre-Conceived Notions: After a series of mundane releases Hulk Season One redeemed the Season One line due in no small part to the creative team of Fred Van Lente and Tom Fowler. Strange’s creative team could quite possibly equal if not exceed that book. Pak has a great catalog and Rios has never let me down so lets get to the magic (sorry)!
SPOILERS!

We are thrown right in with Stephen Strange finding the Ancient One, who is said to be able to heal. They have some pithy back and forth and Strange decides to stay with him and train. We are treated to a few flashback pages — or rather, collages — on how Strange’s hands were mangled and how he found the Ancient One. We are also introduced to Wong, who thinks Strange is evil. The Ancient One decides Wong and Strange should team up, 80’s buddy cop style. Wong has great power and heart but no form or discipline, while Strange has amazing form and discipline but no heart. How will these two ever get along? What could possibly bring this odd couple together to learn about themselves? Enter the girl with the problem (80’s buddy cop style, remember).
Our crew travels all over the world searching for three magic rings that controls a magic something-or-other when all are brought together, and it pretty much goes the way you would figure. Each ring brings another obstacle and battle, with our heroes learning what they need to get where they need to be. It’s not as bad as all that. It’s actually not bad at all. It is rushed, however. The actual origin of Strange is told in less than two pages. It doesn’t give you a great sense of what a giant dick he was before his accident or why a man of science would turn to  the mystic arts to heal
him. That’s one of the most pivotal (and forgotten) parts of Strange. He harnesses magic so supremely (sorry) because he respects it more than anyone; it gave him a life again.

Without expressing this, his journey in this book has almost no impact. He just becomes a dude who goes on an adventure because he really doesn’t have anything better to do. Like I said though, this book isn’t bad. Rios’ art is wonderful. Her ability to capture fluidity and psychedelic images really shines here. Her full page magic stuff really
portrays grandiose things. It really looks like magic should, and makes you feel so small for being a mere mortal.

If you are a fan of Doctor Strange this book will do. If you aren’t, it won’t make you one. It’s not a great origin story, and it’s definitely not a Sorcerer Supreme story, but it is one of the better Season one stories and possibly the last, as Marvel hasn’t announced any up coming releases.

Andrew
Robotsandpenguins.blogspot.com

Saturday Morning Comics

After weeks of empty pull lists and a hurricane that delayed books, it’s time once again to sit down with an important part of your complete breakfast and review the comic books.

Hypernaturals #3 written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; art by Tom Derenick and Andres Guinaldo; published by BOOM Studios. In spite of having the feel of a middle parts story, this issue is pretty solid. The middle parts are happening quickly enough and feel engaging rather than stalling. Add to this a heaping helping of enjoyable character interaction, including a scene in an isolation cell in prison at the heart of gas giant’s storm, and you’ve got yourself a good solid read. Hypernaturals is easily my favorite book right now because DnA know how to tell a story in both long form and short form. They’ve also created an interesting and rich world in which their stories take place. To help in fleshing out this world, Abnett and Lanning include a short supplemental text piece at the end. These have been interviews with the characters or other “in world” documents. They’re short and interesting reading. It’s still early days for you to jump on. This is a book you should be reading.

Transformers Regeneration One #83story by Simon Furman; art by Andrew Wildman (p) and Stephen Baskerville (i); published by IDW. When the solicits for this new series came out, I was apprehensive. I don’t like IDW’s Marvel Continuity GI JOE book, so I was worried that the TF book would suffer from similar problems (namely feeling too silly and cartoony). So far it hasn’t. For the last three issues I’ve thorough enjoyed everything about the series except Optimus Prime. The art is fantastic. There’s always something to punch or shoot. Soundwave is sneaky, Megatron is frightening, Kupp is cranky, and the Wreckers are wrecking. But Prime has been sitting on his robo-ass whining and pontificating like he’s about to take a walk across America with JMS. This issue changed things. Furman gives Prime a reason to move again; he does everything except write the line, “Megatron must be stopped. No matter the cost.” Hells yeah!

The Boys #70 written by Garth Ennis; art by Russ Braun. This penultimate issue was a nice breather from violent explosions of the last several issues. Ennis ties up some loose ends that didn’t need tying, but they were enjoyable none the less. We also have a nearly literal cliff-hanger set up for the next and final issue of this series that both Jesse and I have been following and mostly enjoying since the beginning.

Also this week:

Action Comics (vol. 2) #0 was okay. There’s a nice moment in Perry White’s office that reminded me of the time John Byrne taught Jesse and I how to draw a Superman symbol, and there’s a purple derby.

Earth 2 #0 was slightly better. I’m still not 100% convinced that the red headed man purporting to be Terry Sloane isn’t actually Lex Luthor. This issue is a flashback to the war with Steppenwolf. 

The problem for me with both of these books is that they feel like generic brand soda. I enjoy Dr. Pepper, and Dr. Thunder is close, but it’s missing something. I pick up a DC book and I see slightly unfamiliar and dull/ flat versions of characters I know well. It’s missing something. I feel a grumpy post about the New 52 coming on.

Muppets #3 maintains the high quality of the last issue, telling a story focusing on Pops. I’m going to miss this when it’s gone.

From Last Week

The Goon #41 by Eric Powell; published by Dark Horse Comics. With this issue we’re given a look at where things are headed and indications that Powell wasn’t floundering in those last three (enjoyable but fluffy) issues. Everyone’s favorite top hat sporting witch doctor takes the spotlight. I suspect that it’ll be knife to the face time before too long. Yay!

This week’s covers

Saturday Morning Comics

This week I’m settling down with a bowl of Cookie Crisp and taller than usual stack of comics. It’s a big week, and it’s a good week for comics. With that in mind, I’m going to keep most of the reviews brief.

The Muppets #2 story and art by Roger Langridge; published by Disney Comics (a Marvel imprint). With no color problems this go-round, the issue is much better. It’s summer and the Muppets take a crazy trip to the beach. What keeps this arc from being perfect are the damned covers. Kermit and Fozzie are horrible to look at here. Why? Why? Why?

Action Comics vol. 2 #12: written by Grant Morrison; art by Rags Morales, CAFU, Rick Bryant, Bob McLeod, and Andrew Hennessy; published by DC Comics. Yeoman’s work. After 12 issues we finally have a real clues as to the over arching conflict…and it involves the 5th Dimension.

 Love and Capes: What to Expect #1: by Thom Zahler; published by IDW. I’m so glad this is back. It’s still fun and a joy to read. As suggested at the end of the last arc and the title of this arc, we can expect a super birth by the end. It works well if you’ve never read any of the previous Love and Capes stories, but there’s an extra layer for those familiar with the world and the established character dynamics. Check it out; it’s clever with winks and nods to comicdom’s goofier moments.

Transformers: Regeneration One #82 story by Simon Furman; art by Andrew Wildman (p) and Stephen Baskerville (i); published by IDW. HOLY MOLEY! Hang on to your butts because Megatron is back and he’s more of a bad-ass than he’s been in a while. If your jaw was on the floor when we saw what he’s done to Earth in the last issue, this issue tops that.

Hypernaturals #1&2 written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; art by Andres Guinaldo, Brad Walker, and Mark Irwin; published by BOOM Studios. Easily the greatest thing about this week’s shipment. When I saw that DnA had a new superhero book out I thought I give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The great strength of these first two issues is that they are fast paced, yet everything necessary to understand the world and the characters is apparent within the first four pages of the issue. Unlike the team books of Distinguished Competition, we’ve got a whole team in issue one and we know the threat. The characters are familiar but interesting. Math is used like magic and a villain leaves his fingerprint on an entire planet.

I’m reticent to make a comparison because it will make the book sound misleadingly too derivative, but there are shades of the JLA, the Legion of Superheroes, and the Guardians of the Galaxy throughout this book. Maybe it’s more fair to say that DnA have taken the best BIG concepts and feelings from these three titles and woven them into an original and enjoyable work.

If you’re a fan DnA’s work on titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion of Superheroes, or your a fan of good story telling where real stuff happens before the sixth issue, this is the book you need to be reading. It’s one of those books that will make you feel you as when the Earth was new.

In other news, Rasl is out this week with a final issue. I’m missing a couple of issues so I’ll get back to you on how it is. Also, I’m reading James Robinson’s Earth-2. It’s James Robinson; it’s the Justice Society; who are you to judge?

THIS WEEK’S COVERS

Sunnytime Review Show: Adventure Time #5

Adventure Time’s sixth issue came out last Wednesday, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time talking about Adventure Time #5

It’s rare that we get surprised anymore.  Usually books are previewed and spoilered all over the Internet (and make no mistake there will be SPOILERS here, too) so that by the time you get it home and in front of you, you usually know exactly what you’re going to get when you crack open the cover.  Past that, once a few issues have been released you get to know the tone and approach of the book, so even with a great title the latest issue tends to feel like  just the most recent installment of an excellent run (see also Jeff Parker’s books, or Jason Aaron’s, or Jonathan Hickman’s). 

And so it’s been with Adventure Time, the comic anthology of Cartoon Network’s hit (I have to assume) show.  Written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics) with art by Mike Holmes, it’s been a pretty consistent book.  Fun, zany mayhem with the characters you love, chock full of anthropomorphic candy and fist bumps, it’s a breezy read that somewhat betrays exactly how funny it is.  I mean, there’s a joke in almost literally every single panel.  Plus hidden messages!

When I brought home issue 5 I figured I knew exactly what I was into.  In this issue Jake the dog and Finn the human visit their pal BMO, who offers them a cupcake, but since they can’t decide how to share it a contest is devised: whoever can walk in a straight line the longest wins.  It doesn’t take long for their friendship (and most likely, laziness) to override their competitiveness so they can work together.  Then they stumble across Adventure Tim –a Finn/Jake composite — and his friend ALN.  They discover that their friends and adventures are almost exactly the same, but just a tad askew.  The Mice King attacks, they team up, and Finn and Jake return home having learned how to share.

Which is amazing.  I mean, it just works on all levels.  A kid could pick this up and get a funny, self-contained story (it’s a standalone issue) with a nice moral about teamwork and sharing that doesn’t feel overworked or preachy.  An adult can read it and stay happily delighted by the gags. 

But then — and I apologize if every other reader got this immediately and I’m just slow to arrive — North surprised me.  The entire issue was a love letter to fandom. 

Finn and Jake’s race in a straight line?  That’s a pretty straight homage to the first Superman/Flash race from Superman #199.  Adventure Tim is an admitted mashup of Finn and Jake, but it’s also a nice reference to the Composite Superman/Batman.  And Tim’s friend?  There’s been a long-time theory that when Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, the insane computer HAL 9000 was a reference to IBM because those are the letters you get when you subtract one from each letter of IBM.  And when you subtract one letter from BMO it equals ALN.

None of this is done with an overt nod and a wink, but it’s there if you choose to see it and otherwise completely transparent, as it should be.  This is an exceptional and amazingly-crafted book, and that’s just the main feature.  The second backup is by indie legend Paul Pope, who manages to tell a short four-page story that’s true to both the characters and his own sensibilities.  Finally, the last story is a one-pager by Superman savior and Monkeybrain founder Chris Roberson and his 8 year-old daughter Georgia, with art by Lucy Knisley.  It’s a nicely-told story, but  the involvement of actual children along with their professional parents is such a charming touch I hope kaboom! continues to utilize it.

These days there are so many comics out there that just don’t know how to package and deliver entertainment.  All too often a story gets split into 6 issues and winds up stretched so thin that each part feels like the middle, or is bogged down in needless continuity, or frustratingly ignores any continuity whatsoever.  It’s so REFRESHING to pick up a comic where every single one of the 22 pages is packed with content, where there are no extraneous panels and every one is a delight.  Seriously friends, this is a perfect comic book. 

Saturday Morning Comics

Once again it’s time to settle in with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and peruse this week’s comics offerings. It’s a strong showing with the return of The Goon and a couple of monthly favorites.

Wolverine and the X-Men #14by Jason Aaron (w); art by Jorge Molina (p) and Norman Lee (i); published by Marvel Comics. This issue was a huge improvement over the previous one. Although it’s tied to the A vs. X story, it’s more relevant to the book as a whole. We see that the school is woefully understaffed thanks to the war. There’s some Toad-related disturbing humor and a date that doesn’t go so well. Kitty and Colossus are written well here, and their discussion seems to show the direction for the ending of the overall crossover. The only down side to this issue is that gag of Deathlok spouting probabilities is a little over played. Relegating him to a C-3PO type of role is a waste.

Manhattan Projects #5 by Jonathan Hickman (w); art by Nick Pitarra; published by Image Comics. This alternate-history is equal parts wonderful and deeply disturbing. The way Hickman handles Earth’s first contact is interesting and surprising. One thing I really appreciate about the series as a whole is the cover design. It’s spare. This series stands out on the comic racks because of its covers.

The Goon #40 by Eric Powell; published by Dark Horse Comics. While waiting for another long-form story, fans of Eric Powell’s Goon are treated to three short tales related to prohibition and fast cars. The second of the tales stands out; it’s a spoof on The Dukes of Hazzard complete with Waylon Jennings style narration. The problem with these last several issue (and problem is a relative term) is that these are stories that, while featuring Frankie and the Goon, don’t need either of the book’s two main characters. Why not end The Goon and pick up with an anthology of weird tales? These last three issues have shown that Powell has the chops to do something like that without being shackled to a specific character.

This Week’s Covers

Sunnytime Review Show

After something of a dry spell, it’s time to go in-depth with some recent releases.

I’ve been somewhat lamenting the loss of Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts lately, even before it morphed into Dark Avengers.  The frequency of releases just made me feel like it had been missing the characterization and craziness from the start of his run.  Picking up a few issues of Dark Avengers was pretty much Marvel’s last shot to keep it on my pull list.

DA is a direct continuation of T-Bolts, don’t get me wrong, but the title seems re-energized with the new name.  The real proof here is Thunderbolts Dark Avengers #176, where the team finally seems to be putting itself back together.  Perhaps the most striking aspect of this is the return of Man-Thing to the team, and a few great lines I won’t ruin here, but it seems like where the title goes astray most is when MT or Luke Cage aren’t around; they’re the ones who make the book most interesting for me.  Now that our favorite swamp-monster is back, perhaps I’ll be able to stick around for a while longer.

It wasn’t until I was writing my Previews column that I discovered Garth Ennis is writing the Shadow now, which is probably a good sign that Dynamite needs better PR.  I snagged issues Shadow #1-2 from my LCS and enjoyed them, but as introductory issues they fall flat.  I think Ennis makes the mistake of assuming that everyone knows The Shadow’s story already, but to a guy like me, who may have just seen the old Alec Baldwin movie and not know much else, at least a LITTLE bit of an introduction would be a good idea.

Still the book is a fun read, even if you’re a little puzzled.  There’s action, adventure, travel, mystery, and oh yeah, a guy with a couple pistols who blends into the darkness.  Ennis makes The Shadow  feels like an old serial, and it’s well worth picking up if you’re a longtime fan of the character or <ahem again> not so much.

In contrast, The Spider #1-2 makes an excellent introduction to a character I’ve never read before.  All the characters are laid out and introduced (in both issues!) and the mystery is clear and well-defined while the character interactions are complex but easy to follow.  The art by Colton Worley appears rotoscoped at it’s best (not a complaint, just my best attempt at a description), though inconsistent at worst, though whether that’s due to his work or the colorist’s is up for debate.  I found it to be a much stronger book than The Shadow, I’m surprised to say, although between them I’m just getting worked up for Chris Roberson and Alex Ross’s new Masks series, which will team up the Dynamite pulp licenses.

Meanwhile, over at Image comics I’ve come to a revelation: I’m a Spawn fan.  Oh, I didn’t set out to be, but I don’t know what else to call myself.  I check in with the book periodically just to see what’s up, hit up new issues, storylines, or creators when they start.  I don’t find myself picking up every issue, but since that’s essentially the same relationship I have with Superman, I guess I have to go ahead and declare myself a fan of the character.

Spawn #220 — the 20th anniversary issue, and friends, does that make ME feel awkward! — promised some surprises and some cool homages to the original Image lineup’s covers, but then Todd McFarlane really surprised me.  Just about everything in the book is different these days, from the man in the uniform, to the mission, to the powers.  McFarlane then did something I’ve never seen before: he performed a “cover” of Spawn #1.  In this instance, I don’t mean the outside page of a comic, but rather like a cover song.  You see it all the time in music, and occasionally in movies, but I’ve never seen it in comics.  And he did it right, too.  Rather than recycling the plot points (or even worse, the art) he had artist Szymon Kudranski do what in another situation would be called an homage, but for the entire book.  McFarlane wrote the story just as if it were the next issue so it would fit in place with the story they’re telling.

Does it work?  Well, if I hadn’t been somewhat up-to-date on the Jim Downing story I would have said no.  There’s too much back-story and continuity you have to been versed in for a new reader to jump in at this point.  But as an experiment or for a semi-regular reader?  Hell yeah it does.  I fear that we’ll see too many of these cover comics now that the idea is in the wild, but damn is it a great idea, well executed.

Lastly, it’s time to apologize to Erik Larsen.  <SPOILERS Supreme ahead!>  When I discussed Supreme #64 I mentioned my disappointment with the book, but scaled some of the first draft’s rhetoric down when I realized  I had mis-remembered a few key plot points, so it never really came across just how let down I was.  Original asshat Supreme depowered all the Alan Moore members of the Supremacy and it ended with Supreme flying off, ostensibly to soldier on with his own dickish adventures. 

I was happy enough to leave it there, a bad end to a great era, but then on a whim I read an interview Larsen gave to comicbook.com and this grabbed me:

“The Mean Supreme isn’t replacing the Moore Supreme. He is in addition to him. The idea here is that the surviving five will become something akin to the Hulkbusters in the old Hulk comics.”

So then it all clicked for me: Larsen ALSO considers Original Supreme the villain, and isn’t just discarding the Moore characters as I thought.  So I went ahead and picked up #65, still a bit wary, but I’m glad I did.  Larsen really does take the Moore stories as a jumping-off point for his and doesn’t just do away with them so he can move forward with his own.  He treats them as canon, and with that in mind suddenly the whole story feels more organic.  While I feel my misunderstanding is justifiable, I’m glad I came back and I’ll be keeping new Supreme on my pull list for a while longer.