Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands review

Continuing my goal to write about comics I'm currently reading, I herein give you my take on the latest Black Lightning comic from DC.

Image result for black lightning aparo
I know very little about the character Black Lightning. The only comics I remember reading that he was in are the first year or so of Batman and the Outsiders. I'm not sure what the origins of the character are, other than he was created by Tony Isabella, who writes this series. With all the reboots in DC continuity, I'm not sure if Black Lightning even has a current origin story. And speaking of Mr. Isabella, I promise not to be prejudiced because Tony is one of my Facebook friends, an Ohio resident, and a guy I've talked to at many comic cons going back to when I was a teenager. I will admit I might be prejudiced by Tony being a super nice guy!

Image result for black lightning comic  cold dead hands

By the way, Black Lightning has electrical powers--which should be obvious--including being able to hurl lightning, having a force field, and manipulation of electromagnetic forces, which allows him to somewhat fly and levitate heavy things. He's also a teacher when he isn't in costume, which is a big part of his personality and I, of course, approve!

Anyway, the first issues centers on a group of thieves called the "Weathermen" who are using high-tech guns to rob places in Cleveland and cause all kinds of mischief. You read that right, by the way. Unlike most DC heroes who are based in fictional cities, BL isn't patrolling the streets of "Laketown, Midwest" or some such, but is in the real city of Cleveland. Anyway, over the course of the issue or hero, of course, does his job and stops the bad guy (I leave out details to encourage everyone to go buy the book!) but it isn't easy. First, because this is all part of a master plan by a big bad guy. And second, because the local law enforcement is split on whether they want BL to help, or BL to go to jail.

Image result for black lightning comic  cold dead hands

This latter plotline is what gives this story more depth than your typical super-hero affair. As the cover says: "A hero for today's headlines" ,and our hero has to deal with the attitudes of police and public towards BL and his actions. There's real tension and the question of if that tension is caused by anti-vigilantism feelings alone, or is there some racism thrown in there to boot?  And it looks like things will only get more heated as the series continues.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book. One of my favorite comics I've read this year and a great example of how to write a good super-hero story!  And the art by Clayton Henry is very nice! Slick and exciting and great storytelling!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Champions

So I thought I'd take a look at some of the comics I'm currently enjoying, starting with my current favorite Marvel, the Champions!

I think what I really like about the Champions is that it is about the next generation of Marvel heroes. This is interesting because the characters are young and trying to be heroes in a world where super-folks are well established. This reflects the classic Marvel comics of the 60's that it deals with people new to being heroes, but it also deals with this as a continuation of the classic Marvel comics, not a reboot. I'm not a big fan of reboots because they always end up telling the same stories that were told originally all over again. And that's just not very creative, I think.

Cast-wise I am enjoying everyone, but I think I can kinda rank them as to my preferences. I know there are some more characters recently joined, but here's the ones I have opinions about so far:

I'm probably least interested in the new Hulk, Amadeus Cho. He's the smartest and can Hulk-out and become strong and invulnerable. No real downside to this.

The  Viv Vision is okay, but doesn't really differ much from the Vision. Still, she gets into some interesting situations, and I think this is a good example of doing well with a rather dull character.

Cyclops is more fun than I thought he would be. This is Scott Summers as a time-displaced teen. Much more interesting than the adult character has been in years.

Spider-Man, Mile Morales is almost as interesting as Peter Parker was as a teen.

Nova is a blast. He's very unsure of himself despite being very powerful. I always thought the original Nova character was fun, and since he never became more than a B-level hero, he's a good character to revisit by having the legacy passed on to a younger character.

But by far my favorite is Ms. Marvel! Kamala Khan is just amazing! She's powerful, but not overly so, and she's very optimistic usually, yet she encounters a lot of hardship. Mostly her interactions with Nova and Spider-Man make the Champions such an entertaining book.

Kamala Khan.jpg

Okay, I know that's brief. Maybe I'll add more as I catch up reading the Champions. I  have a couple issues in my "to read" stack.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Comics I'm reading

Gotta start talking about something. I haven't been reading a lot of new comics that come from the "big" publishers, but I do really enjoy the series I am reading. These currently include:

The Champions

Justice League


Astro City


Resident Alien

The Komandi Challenge

Star Trek: New Visions

I am planning to check out the new Waid-written Captain America series, also. Perhaps you have a suggestion? You could comment below.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers

I recently picked up the Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers collection. I'll be honest, I only bought it for one reason: It feature the Great Lakes Avengers. Also, it was on sale. And, of course, Steve Ditko! If you're counting, that isn't really one reason. But this is Squirrel  Girl we're talking about, do you think I'm going to even try to be serious here?

But let me start being a little serious about Ditko. Steve Ditko helped launch the Marvel age of comics, specifically with his creation Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Ditko even plotted most of the stories that were scripted by Stan Lee, and the combo was fantastic. Ditko is the "other artist" who launched the Marvel age, due to the unequalled brilliance of Jack Kirby, the King of comics. Some people even like Ditko better than Kirby, though even if you don't, being second to Kirby is no insult!

So, anyway, when I was deciding whether or not to buy the collection, the inclusion of the Ditko plotted and drawn origin story was the decider for me. The origin story establishes Squirrel Girl as a determined though goofy character, who manages to defeat Dr. Doom and save Iron Man! It just takes guts, some luck, and a bunch of squirrels.

The Great Lakes Avengers were created by my favorite comic artist, John Byrne during his run on the West Coast Avengers. (JB's WCA is okay, but not his best work. Some really good ideas, but it always seemed off.) The Great Lakes Avengers were created as a team of heroes with goofy names and powers that would eventually become straight-up super heroes. But JB's run on the title was cut short and the idea never finished. So they've stayed a goofy group since. But I like them. Despite the incorrect naming. You see, they say they couldn't be the "North Coast Avengers" because the USA doesn't have a north coast. However, anyone living on the Great Lakes knows that the lakes ARE the north coast. Anyway, the name is just to sound like the JLA. At least I think so.

The ongoing theme is that the GLA don't do much because nothing in the Marvel universe ever happens in the mid-west. Galactus always attacks New York for some reason. And Squirrel Girl makes a good addition to the GLA because she's extremely respected and successful at the heroing thing, whereas the GLA just kind of show up and try but never do much. Most of the stories in the collection are written by Dan Slott, who is a very good writer, and I like his stuff the best. He writes some modern Marvel books, and I don't read too much of those, but I do need to seek out more of his work. The weakest stories in the collection, in my humble opinion, involve Deadpool. I don't know why, probably because just don't like Deadpool. He does nothing at all for me. Yeah, I know he's popular and all, but I just don't get him. I did love the appearances of Speedball, another Ditko creation. I have almost all issues of Speedball's original series. It's quite fun, I think!

I ordered the next Squirrel Girl collection, so if I like it I'll post more later!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Live Entertainment Review- Including Lights, Camera, Action!

I wasn't going to post about this, but it's going through my head and I might as well get it out. I've written a few things in the past about live entertainment, and how much I think it is enjoyable to watch people on stage. It isn't that I don;t like movies or internet videos or such, but there is definitely something special about live entertainment, whether it is in the form of nationally acclaimed acts, local bands, or even grade-school musicals!

Anyway, I was reflecting on the entertainment at the local amusement park, Cedar Point, and I realized how fortunate I we locals are. Not only do I get to see the acts many times over the summer and fall, but I get to see some really talented performers! (Yes, I also love roller-coasters, but I don;t limit my enjoyment to JUST roller-coasters!) And it's really amazing to me that we get such talented young people at Cedar Point. I mean, yes it is s pretty big deal in the amusement park world, with rides people come from all over the world to see. But when it comes to singing and dancing, well...it isn't New York or L.A. after all. It's middle-of-Lake-Erie Ohio.

Let me squeeze in one example from this year, and this isn't to denigrate any of the other fine acts, it's just the show I got to see the most. Last year I commented on how much I enjoyed the watching the cast of Bandstand, USA, the show at the Jack Aldrich theater at the front of the park. So this year the theater had an all-new show with an all-new cast. Did I enjoy it as much? Well....I don't think the new show was better...or worse. It was just different. I think this year's show, Lights, Camera, Action, was technically more difficult (and maybe the most complex of these musical review shows I've seen at C.P.) especially some of the complex vocal numbers. The performers really sounded great! And I really looked forward to seeing everyone each time I visited the theater.

So big kudos to all the live entertainers out there, and special thumbs up to the cast of Lights, Camera, Action as they go on to other projects! I anxiously await the next round of shows this fall. (As well as some high school band performances!)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Painted Avengers!

Some more examples of my acrylic paintings.

When I get around to it, I may do Hank and Janet next!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Marvel Team-Up

I'm going to talk a bit about a comic series I have been reading lately. That is, the classic Marvel Team-Up comic, mostly featuring Spider-Man. I picked up the Essential Team-Up Vol. 1 & 2, and am just about finished reading Vol. 2, and I had some thoughts.

First, this is a hard series to recommend unless you are a real completist for the adventures of Spider-Man or the Human Torch. There's much potential in a team-up style comic, but it takes a while before Marvel Team-Up gets its legs.  The original concept of the book was just a Spider-Man/Human Torch buddy book, but that was scrapped early on in favor of Spider-Man and a different guest-star every month, with the occasional issue featuring the Human Torch and a guest. Still, the stories were pretty pedestrian and the really reads at first like the 2nd or 3rd tier Spider-Man book that it was at the time. (Spectacular Spider-Man premiered in 1976.)

As I said, there is some potential in a Team-Up book. I think the best team-up stories involve characters that are B and C listers that could never maintain their own titles, but are interesting to visit. The team-up book is never going to have the most important events in the main character's life, and doesn't involve the key villains either.  For instance, Peter Parker won't get a new job or a new girlfriend or have a showdown with the Green Goblin, but it CAN have important events in the guest-star's life.  Personally, I think Marvel Team-Up really takes off when Bill Mantlo comes aboard as writer. He takes Spider-Man to some starnge places and times, and teams him with the likes of the Scarlet Witch and Moondragon, instead of Iron Man or Thor. Plus you get great art by Sal Buscema, who could always draw any character in any story and had impeccable storytelling skills!

There are some classic runs of Team-Up including early Chris Claremont/John Byrne and a great run written by J.M. DeMatteis. This is the first I've read the early issues, and though it hasn't been as much fun as other Essentials, its interesting seeing the evolution of the comic as it found its way and became a true classic. I did read the end of the original run, which lasted 150 issues, and I was sorry to see the title end.