Chris’ Comics: Nightwing #1

Nightwing-1Nightwing #1

Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, Chris Sotomayor, Carlos M. Mangual

DC $2.99

Nightwing is back this week, as we see writer Tim Seeley and artists Javier Fernandez and Chris Sotomayor start the “Better than Batman” arc. This arc appears to be a nice blend of the espionage elements introduced by Seeley in Grayson, mixed with some super heroics. It’s not as strong as the Rebirth one-shot, but there’s some enjoyable stuff in this issue.

Where this book really shines is in the writing. After barely allowing Dick to interact with the Bat-family for 2 years in Grayson, Seeley fully embraces it here, using characters like Damian and Batgirl for Dick to bounce off of. As someone who loves both those relationships, and is a known Dick X Barbara shipper, I dig it, as Seeley does a great job writing these characters talking to each other. And I really like Dick’s open defiance while working with the Court of Owls, keeping him a heroic character while working with/for the NTW_1_1enemy. As for Raptor, Dick’s new partner/ “mentor”, the potential for some cool stuff to be done with the character is there. But the writing is not without its share of flaws. The pacing feels off with this issue, as Seeley trips up a bit during the constant switching scenes between Gotham and Europe/Russia. And while Seeley uses Batgirl to voice that there are some weird similarities between Spyral and the Court of Owls, I hope he can steer clear of re-trending the same ground with the whole double agent thing as the book progresses.

With the twice shipping schedule Javier Fernandez, who isn’t bad, but isn’t as strong of an illustrator as Yanick Paquette was in the previous one-shot. While there’s nothing wrong with the bulk of his work (especially when it comes to drawing establishing shots and backgrounds), he seems to struggle with the title character. There were too many instances where Dick’s mask or Nightwing emblem on the costume is drawn too thin or small. It’s an odd complaint sure, but seeing it vary in size and thickness from page to page really took  me out of the story. Also Dick ends up with a Peyton Manning forehead way too many times in this issue. A shame, because Chris Sotomayor’s color are great in image-82this issue, and I love the design that letterer  Carlos M. Mangual has come up with for the Nightwing narration box.

Nightwing #1 isn’t a bad comic, but it’s disappointing, especially when compared to the Rebirth one shot that leads into it. That being said, there’s plenty of potential and time for the team to step up their game and tell a solid story. Seeley already has worked on a dozen or so GREAT Dick Grayson stories, and now that we’ve been introduced to the main players, he can go forth and tell a good story. And all Fernandez has to do is tweak his Nightwing and we’re good on the art. Again it’s a bit of a bummer that this comic isn’t the best, but it does enough things to be a interesting read and give readers hope for the future.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #10 & X-Men ’92 #5

RCO001_1469630922The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #10

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Tom Fowler, Rico Renzi, Kyle Starks

Marvel $3.99

Readers, please take note of the wonderful cover that graces this month’s issue of Squirrel Girl, as I’m sure it will be winning whatever fake internet award I’ll be handing out come December.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a book that has never fails to impress me in some manner, and this issue continues that streak. Our lead has to deal with a love-stricken Mole Man, who’s abducted key landmarks around the world in order to get Doreen to go on a date with him. Squirrel Girl dealing with toxic masculinity may not some like a good premise for a comic, haha that is a joke, it totally is, and the execution is nothing short of genius. I saw this as the ending for this issues sees our hero do the unthinkable, yet manages to not undo all the effort done by this team to make her an unstoppable and incredibly well rounded force for good. Also there’s another scene involving squirrels in Iron Man armor, which is something I’ll never grow tire of.

SQGIRL2015B010_int2_2-932x1414Ryan North. Erica Henderson, & Rico Renzi are a creative team I adore & adding Tow Fowler as an inker was fantastic move. This month we see Kyle Starks of Sexcastle (aka the greatest comic) swing by for a 3/4th page cameo, continuing the trend of a guest contributor knocking it out of the park. As per usual, the writing and art are impeccable, as North and Henderson continue to offer dialogue and art that are beyond unique.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #10 is another fabulous issue that once again says something important while being an incredibly fun read. This may very well be my favorite arc to date, and even as a dude in my early 30s, I’m glad this book exist for the lessons it attempts to teach it’s young audience.

 

 

 

portrait_incredibleX-Men ’92 #5

Chad Bowers, Chris Sims, Cory Hamscher, Matt Milla

Marvel $3.99

Speaking of surprises, this issue of X-Men ’92 ends by bring back some characters who haven’t been seen since the 90s. Chris Sims and Chad Bowers continue to do a bang-up job of making references to some of the most obscure corners of the 1990s X-universe, including a X-men board game I remember begin advertised like crazy in the back of Marvel comics when I was a wee millennial.

Issue 5 checks in with Cyclops and Jean Grey, whom haven’t been seen in the title since the Secret Wars mini-series. The couple are quasi-retired, but that makes for a boring super hero comic, so they find themselves dragged to the future by Rachel Grey. For long time X-fans, Scott + Jean + Future usually means one or two other character showing up, and they do. But Sims and Bower embrace the hell out of it, making for a strange but be873c68c1f206db75af43465f803c1b._SX640_QL80_TTD_wonderful read that riffs on a few different 90s X-stories.

Cory Hamscher is on art duties this month, and his style is a great fit for this tyle. He riffs on the Kuberts/Whilce Portacio look that was so famous in the 90s, while being a competen story teller in his own right. It’s good stuff.

X-men ’92 is another fun installment a series that’s been a constant delight. It’s the type of book that both satisfies readers looking for a less complicate super hero book, while giving long time X-fans plenty to enjoy.

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Val’s Toy Chest- San Diego 2016 DC Toy and Media News

San Diego Comic Con was over this past weekend and there was plenty of awesome toy news. This week I will look at the DC figures and notable items that were announced at the show from DC Collectibles, Diamond Select Toys, Mattel, Hot Toys and whatever else I can fit in the column. Also a couple of brief thoughts on DCTV and the Wonder Woman trailer.

DC Collectibles has even more characters joining their ICONS line including figures for Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, a Jim Balent styled ’90’s Catwoman, The Demon, Deadshot, Shazam, Sinestro and Nightwing. Each figure comes with several accessories and full articulation. I mentioned the DCTV line in the last column and there were no additions there. The Batman The Animated Series line will be joined by a Superman The Animated Series two-pack featuring Superman and Lois Lane, plus New Batman Adventures versions of Catwoman and the Riddler. Announced but not allowed to be photographed were TAS versions of Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. DC continues their Designer Series with a line by Ant Lucia, featuring everyone’s favorite DC Bombshells. Articulated versions of Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy make up the initial assortment. All figures mentioned above should start appearing in stores sometime in 2017.

Diamond Select Toys is continuing their line of DC Vinyl figures and Busts based on the classic Batman, Superman and Justice League Unlimited animated series. Characters announced for the vinyl figure line include JLU’s Power Girl analogue Galatea, this author’s favorite, Black Canary, plus the Huntress and many more. Shazam, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Aquaman and John Stewart will all get the animated bust treatment.

Mattel is really stepping up their game with the multitude of reveals at San Diego this year, including a few retailer exclusives announced as well as the normal series. Figures announced include TV versions of Jay Garrick, King Shark, Zoom and Hawkman, Comic versions of Batgirl, Jim Gordon Batman, Batman Year 2 villain, The Reaper, Rebirth Batman, The Finch Wonder Woman from the end of her New 52 run, Damian Wayne, Cassie Wonder Girl and Dr. Psycho. Some will be exclusive to specific retailers, while others will be widely distributed. Again, these should be out starting sometime in 2017.

Hot Toys announced and displayed several figures from the forthcoming Suicide Squad film. Characters shown include Harley Quinn, The Joker and Deadshot. These will come with the usual cloth costuming and character specific accessories related to the film. Harley looks pretty darn awesome. Notable other DC products include Cryptozoic’s Bombshells blind box toys, Mezco’s newly announced comic-style Red Arrow, Deathstroke, Darkseid and Joker One:12 figures, plus the debut of their first announced female One:12, Harley Quinn from the Suicide Squad movie.

Finally- DC Live-Action Media made some interesting announcements over the weekend, including the line-up for the Justice Society of America and Legion of Doom debuting on Legends of Tomorrow, the effects of Flashpoint on the Flash, Superman’s arrival on Supergirl, as well as the return of Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance(not necessarily resurrected, BTW) across all of the CW series. That last bit got me excited as that means we’ll continue to see some iteration of Black Canary in the larger DC TV Universe. If you’re a fan of the DC Extended Universe, the trailer for Wonder Woman dropped and it is GLORIOUS.  Gal Gadot proved she has what it takes to play the Amazing Amazon in Batman V Superman and this solo movie should solidify her status as an action star. Can’t wait!

Next week: Marvel Toy Announcements from San Diego Comic-Con- see you then!

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Chris’ Comics: Green Arrow #3

GA_Cv3_dsGreen Arrow #3

Benjamin Percy, Juan Ferreyra, Nate Piekos

DC $2.99

As excited as I’ve been for the DC Rebirth titles, I’ve also been extremely wary of the fact that some of the titles ship twice a month. Green Arrow is one of those books, and it’s the first of these double shipping titles to fall victim to the various problems of a comic series coming out twice a month.

Juan Ferreyra joins writer Benjamin Percy for this arc, which sees Green Arrow go on the offensive after being betrayed and left for dead. Meanwhile, Black Canary and John Diggle begin their own separate quests for revenge, unaware that Oliver Queen is still alive. It’s not a bad comic per say, but feels very light, and uninspired. Uninspired as in I’ve definitely read this story before.

Ferreyra’s art is very good in some areas, but it feels like he can’t maintain a consistent style throughout the comic. The book is at its best early on, when Ollie breaks into his own building, which allows Ferreyra to do some cool things with the layouts. And his fight IMG_0130scenes are solid enough, though lacking the dynamic feeling that Otto Schmidt brought to the title. But his female characters look like something you see airbrushed on the side of a van at a KISS concert in Jersey. Yes, I’m aware that is a very specific example.  Also, why this isn’t something that’s only ever been done by this artist, I generally dislike the pencils to color choice, as the lack of ink here makes the art feel rough and unfinished. It also doesn’t help that the colors and lighting are all over the place, making the book glow in some really weird areas.

On the writing sides of thing, Percy isn’t much better this issue. Some of these panels suffer from way too much dialogue, covering up entirely too much of the art. And some of the stuff that comes from the characters mouths is painfully bad. Also a criminal organization called the Ninth Gate lead by a man name Dante isn’t exactly the strongest story-telling. And like I said, above, you’ve read this comic before. The similarities between this story arc and very recent Batman comics like “The Court Of Owls” and “Year Zero” are beginning to pile up. IMG_0131I’m sure they’re not intentional, but it definitely feels repetitive are certain points. And while there’s a chance that it’s just some serious misdirection, setting up Black Canary for the damsel role is someone that irks me intensely.

Green Arrow #3 is a comic that is the very definition of mediocre. There’s some good bits sprinkled about, but also a ton of stiff artwork, just plan bad dialogue and numerous moments of uninspired writing. It’s not enough to drive me away from the title, but it’s disheartening to say the least. Also as someone who plans on supporting the also twice a month shipping Nightwing, it has me worried about how double shipping will affect that book as well.

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Chris’ Comics: Snotgirl #1

STL011624Snotgirl #1

Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung, Mickey Quinn, Mare Odomo

Image $2.99

Snotgirl #1 is not only the first time Scott Pilgrim/Seconds creator Bryan Lee O’ Malley has delved into a monthly comic, but it also marks the first time someone else is drawing his work. Making her comics debut is Leslie Hung, who teams with O’Malley to tell the story of one Lottie Person. Lottie is 25 year old Fashion blogger who lives in L.A., and is crazy popular on the internet. Her personal life is a bit of a mess though as her friends are constantly flaking out on her, her love life is  a mess, suffering from serious allergies. Also she’s not exactly the nicest person, as O’Malley and Hung have made her a very shallow and self absorbent lead who at times deserves the hand she’s dealt. Having a unlikable character as your lead is a risky move, but it works, thanks to the talent involved.

If there’s anything that you can compare Snotgirl to, it’s shoujo-manga (I.E. manga that’s aim specifically at women). Both the dialogue and manga feel very breezy and flowery, which Snotgirl03I’m sure is intentional; after all given o’ Malley love of manga. It’s also an incredibly smart comic, hidden behind a paper-thin lead. Aside from Lottie dealing with her problems, this book serves as both  commentary and a critique on social media careers while examining the duality of having a online and offline personality.

I absolutely adore the art team of Leslie Hung and Micky Quinn. Hung’s art is gorgeous, well except for the parts where our lead is dripping excessive snot from her nose. It’s manga with a touch of Babs Tarr, meaning it looks VERY 2016. My only nitpick is that there’s a pair of panels at the end of the comic that’s very vague, and I can’t tell if that’s intentional or not. Quinn’s colors are fantastic; very bright and clean, capturing the LA feel of the book exceptional well. Bryan Lee O’ Malley comics always look good, and Snotgirl is no exception to that. I also don’t want to over look Mare Odomo, who handles the letters. Odomo isn’t the first letterer who’s had to work emojis/text messages into a comic book’s narration, but this comic is some of the best use of it I’ve seen in awhile.

Speaking of O’ Malley, I love what he’s down with this debut. He manages to make Lottie snotgirl01-review05really polarizing, but also someone you’ll want to read about. Every time the character has a moment that makes her the least bit tolerable, O’ Malley makes sure there’s a moment that completely undoes that. That’s not to say that there’s nothing endearing about the book’s cat, but O’ Malley throws out a last minute twist that puts and end to that.

Snotgirl is book unlike anything else out. It’s hard to explain why it’s such a amazing read without spoilers, but given the fact that it’s Bryan Lee O’ Malley’s first attempt at a 20 page comic, that’s all you need. But the book doesn’t succeed due to his talents alone,  as Hung, Quinn and Odomo all excel at their respected roles. Snotgirl #1 is fantastic comic with a unique premise, and it’s something you should be reading now versus waiting for the trade.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Batgirl & the Birds of Prey #1

tumblr_o4ysvnCGRp1rm4afao1_1280Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth

Julie and Shawna Benson, Claire Roe, Allen Passalaqua

DC $2.99

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve enjoyed a Birds of Prey comic. The Chuck Dixon and 1st Gail Simone runs on the title are some of my favorite DC comics, starring a bunch of my favorites like Barbara Gordon and the Huntress. The less said about the live action TV series it’s inspired however, the better.

DC Rebirth has lead to the revival of the title, re-teaming Batgirl & Black Canary with Huntress, again, for the first time. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen DC flirt with BoP as a title since the new 52 debut, but it is the first time we’ve seen the iconic line up together since 2011.

Speaking of the CW and BoP, while I didn’t bother reading the New 52 incarnation of BoP, I have been watching The 100 over the last few years. Julie and Shawna Benson are writers on that show, and are now writing this title. There I have explained the segue, let’s continue with this . Their dialogue tends to lend on the dramatic side, but it’s still solid enough. They do a good job of tying together events from the past and upcoming Batgirl run, Black Canary’s recent series, and the events the unfolded during Grayson/Nightwing Rebirth. They also give Babs an New 52/Rebirth origin for Oracle, which sadly undoes the 5330745-bgbopreb_1_4attempts to write out The Killing Joke. The Bensons do a good job of setting up their arc in 20 pages,  with this book working at break neck speed. Hopefully the can tone down the dramatic dialogue in future installments, as I found myself saying “No one speaks like that” several times.

On the art we have Claire Roe and Allen Passalaqua. Clare Roe isn’t a bad artist, and the potential for her to be a great fit for this title is there. Her body language and layouts are pretty strong, it’s that she struggles a bit with the faces. Batgirl is the biggest victim of this, as occasionally her eyes or teeth are too big for my liking. Allen Passalaqua’s colors are good, especially in the scene introducing Huntress in this issue. Also I’m not sure who designed Hunteress’ new gear, but man it looks great. It’s a good art team, and I’m sure the more familiar Roe gets with this cast, the better it will be.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is your all purpose set up issue, and it’s a perfectly fine one at that. The Bensons do a fine job of introducing these characters to new, lapse or returning readers, and do fine job of giving each Bird their own distinctive voice and motive. Impressive work for their comics debut. And again, while Roe’s art didn’t really do much for me with this debut, the potential for improvement is definitely there. I do think that it it’s pretty cool that we have an all-female writer and artist team on this book, which is the first time it’s happen since the Simone/Nicola Scott days. Batgirl and the BoP is off to a good enough start, and the book is interesting enough to have me coming back next month.

 

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Val’s Toy Chest- A Legendary Week /SDCC Preview

As I write this column, we have already burned through most of our newly received Spider-Man Marvel Legends action figures. Spider-Man Peter Parker, Spider-Girl Ashley Barton, Hobgoblin and Electro are all that remain from the wave as of today. Each figure in the wave has a piece to build Space Venom and the two sold-out figures were Silk and Spider-Man Miles Morales. We should hopefully get more of these in the future. Arriving this week will be the heavily anticipated X-Men Legends wave and these will definitely not last very long either. X-Men merchandise isn’t as heavily marketed as it was during the 90s and 00s, so there’s definitely a collector’s void that needs to be filled. The previous wave of X-Men Legends ended up being a shared Toys R Us/Diamond exclusive and command some pretty impressive after-market prices. (I still need you Mohawk Storm!) So my advice on this wave is- if you want it, jump on it fast. Seven of the figures in this series have a piece of the Juggernaut so you can build your own Cain Marko. The seven figures needed are: Brown Costume Wolverine, Cable, Phoenix, Rogue, Havok, Kitty Pryde and Iceman. The final figure in the wave is Deadpool, hot off his movie star turn earlier this year. I rarely buy complete Marvel Legends waves and this wave is definitely calling to me. My personal must haves are Rogue, Phoenix, Kitty, Iceman and Juggernaut. Wolverine is rumored to be the best action figure version of him yet, so proceed with this information as you will. We’ve also gotten restocks on Taskmaster, Mockingbird, Agent 13 and Captain America with the Wolf Head.

San Diego Comic Con is this week and although I won’t be there in person, you bet I will be following all of the latest toy reveals and news. As has been tradition the past few years, DC Collectibles has started showing off their new product before the show. Earlier in the year, I lamented that the DC TV line didn’t have a strong enough presence at Toy Fair. This was a mere few weeks before I disowned Arrow as a show, though there are still characters I would want in a DC TV line, particularly from Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and Supergirl. DC Collectibles is about to give us a good portion of the DC TV verse in action figure form in a big way. From the worst season of Arrow, we will see figures of Matt Ryan’s Constantine and Megalyn E.K.’s Vixen, both awesome guest stars and welcome additions to my live-action DC heroes shelf. Flash sees Zoom, while the inaugural Supergirl season gives us figures of Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl and David Harewood’s Martian Manhunter. Legends of Tomorrow‘s first three offerings are Ciara Renee’s Hawkgirl, Brandon Routh’s Atom and Franz Drameh’s Firestorm. Though I quit the one TV series, I am down for all of these figures, particularly since I enjoyed Vixen and Constantine so much in their guest roles. All I need now are for Speedy, Black Siren and White Canary figures to be announced. These newly announced figures are scheduled to start appearing on store shelves sometime in 2017.

Sideshow Collectibles has been announcing new figures and statues in the lead-up to SDCC and this includes some cool new items including a beautiful Premium Format statue of this author’s favorite super-heroine, everBlack Canary. Fellow FP employee and Kaijuly author, Pablo is thrilled to see that the Main Man, Lobo is getting his first 1:6 scale poseable action figure. Sideshow’s retail partner Hot Toys has also teased Back to the Future 2 toys, including Doc Brown, Marty and a new movie-accurate Delorean car, plus a teaser for the older Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

NECA is sure to have some interesting figures on display at SDCC this year, including horror based action figures such as Freddy and Jason, stuff from their Aliens and Predator lines and more. One surprising announcement made prior to the start of the convention is a very interesting action figure two-pack. Based on the treasury-sized special released in 1978 is a two pack of Muhammad Ali and Superman. Each figure is fully articulated and is done in a stylized manner to evoke the art of Neal Adams as seen on the famous cover. NECA doesn’t usually have the license to make DC figures in this scale, but they must have found a similar loophole as they’ve used in the past to make their Toys R Us exclusive DC figures.

That’s all for me this week- next week- we’ll take a gander at what was announced at San Diego Comic Con! Catch you next time!

 

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The Wicked + The Divine #21

TheWickedAndTheDivine_21-1The Wicked + The Divine #21

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

While The Wicked + the Divine has definitely had its share of fight scenes in the past, I can’t recall there being an arc that has been this heavy on action. That’s not a critique mind you, as artist/co-creator Jamie McKelvie’s ability to draw pretty people hurting each other, with breathtaking colors from Matt Wilson, is something I enjoy immensely.

WicDiv #21 sees bitty demi-goddess Minerva returned to Ananke and Woden, which is less than great for her, as the duo has some less than great plans for the wee deity. Obviously this does not sit well with Laura/Persephone and her allies, which means fighty time, fighty time, blood blood blood! This is not exactly the deepest issue of WicDiv, but again, McKelvie and Wilson excel at drawing fight scenes, and writer Kieron Gillen does a Wicked+Divine21_01damn fine job with the dialogue that it’s still a super fun read.

“Fun” may be the wrong word to use. Two minor characters meet their untimely fates in this issue, but since they weren’t exactly the most fleshed out nor beloved, their deaths seem to serve no purpose other than a reminder that Ananke isn’t a nice lady. But this more restrained Kieron Gillen thrives with his abrupt, straight to the point, dialogue, Baphomet and Baal have been bitter opponents throughout this arc, but their beef may finally be squashed when Baphomet drops 16 words that completely changes his opponent’s views. Dionysus finally has a break out moment, and it’s a less than 20 word affair. And my personal favorite is an exchange between Ananke and Woden, in which she #micdrops him in 10 words. It’s quick brutal and and a fine example how good Kieron Gillen’s dialogue is. Clayton Cowles also deserves props for his lettering contributions, especially when it comes to font choices and word balloon placement. Letterer’s are often the unsung heroes of the medium, and considering what Cowles brings to this book, creators like him deserve more recognition.

That being said, McKelvie and Wilson’s art is the real selling point of this issue. McKelvie once against manages to draw some brutal fight scenes, mixing what he did with Young Avengers with a heavy manga influence. And Wilson is incredible this issue, from his ability to set scenes with his palette choices, to incorporate some many effects into the art. Wicked+Divine21_03As well choreographed as Dionysus’ scenes are by McKelvie, Wilson’s colors bring those pages to a different level, injecting a level of energy very few colorists are able to. Woden and Dionysus alone are proof of that, but when you factor in the other 4 characters with their own signatures palette and visual effects, it speaks volume about Wilsons talents. Also best nicks and bruises in the business.

The Wicked + The Divine #21 is a VERY good fight comic which some fantastic visuals. It’s the type of comic that really takes advantage of the medium, overloading the reader’s eyes with fantastic and colorful visuals. It also feels like working towards an endgame of sorts, which is odd, because the end of the book hasn’t been announced. It’s the type of comic that will leave you both satisfied with what you got, but will leaving you dying for more.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Nightwing Rebirth

NTWREB_Cv1-1Nightwing Rebirth

Tim Seeley, Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn

DC $2.99

 

Nightwing Rebirth is not only the return of Dick Grayson to spandex, but it also reunites writer Tim Seeley with the title character after a brief absence. Seeley, who has spent the last 2+ years co-writing Grayson with Tom King, has done some wonderful things with the character, and wastes no time in saying goodbye to one cast of supporting characters while having Dick returning to the familiar streets of Gotham & the Batman family. Joining Seeley for this one-shot are artists Yanick Paquette and Nathan Farbairn, who are as suited to drawing costumed fisticuffs as Mikel Janin was to drawing sexy spy stuff.

While the bulk of this comic is spent closing one door while opening another, Nightwing Rebirth makes for a terrific read due to relying some great emotional beats Dick Grayson has with the characters he encounters. Longtime fans will enjoy Dick shooting the breeze with Damian, his former Robin, and Bruce Wayne, their mutual father figure. Those who Nightwing-Rebirth-1-spoilers-preview-dc-3know the character from the previous Grayson status quo get to see Dick wrap up his relationship with Spyral, with a hint of things to come with Helena Bertinelli and the Midnighter. And the mega-fans who’ve read everything from Batman and Robin Eternal to We Are Robin finally get some follow up to the Robin Wars crossover, with some Court of Owls related content. It’s a comic that can be easily enjoyed by new fans, but the longer you’ve been following the character, the more you’ll get from it. For me, it’s rewarding to see a light-hearted and “fun” character interact with grumps like Batman and Damian, who lighten up solely due to Grayson’s presence. Also, as someone who’s HYPED for the upcoming Batgirl and the Birds of Prey series, this comic does a fantastic job of setting up the new Huntress. It’s also crazy impressive that the creative team manages to do so much in the span of 20 pages.

Like I said above, Yanick Paquette was the perfect guy to draw this comic. Given his experience from working with Grant Morrison on various Batman comics, and his ability to draw beefcake exceptionally well makes him an all too ideal fit to draw the exploits of Richard Grayson. His backgrounds are stunning as well, and it’s impressive to see him nail the constant change of locations so effortlessly. My only real issue with the art is that Nathan Fairbairn water color-esque coloring feels muted on this book. To be fair though, that could Nightwing-Rebirth-1-spoilers-DC-Comics-Rebirth-4be a result of the book’s printing, and not on the colorist himself. But between the dynamic body langue use to convey emotion during the talking head scenes, to the sprawling layouts of the fight scenes, it’s very hard to speak ill of this book’s art.

As for Tim Seeley,  I think I’ve run out of ways to praise the dude. His take on Nightwing is stellar, as he continues to nail how complex and fascinating the character is. It’s the ideal blend of humor, action and drama that he refined on Grayson and has perfected for this comic.

As a big fan of the character, Nightwing Rebirth justifies the return from spy to spandex. For the first time in awhile, it’s justifies the existence of the Nightwing role, in a way we haven’t seen in years. While I’ll certainly miss Dick’s time as a spy, I’m more than ready to read about him as Nightwing once again.

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Chris’ Comics: Paper Girls #7 & The Fix #4

PaperGirls_07-1Paper Girls #7

Brian K Vaughan,  Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher

Image $2.99

What I like about this current arc of Paper Girls is that it’s taking a lot of time travel cliches and having fun with them. So many stories involving time traveling embrace a certain set of rules (Don’t interact with your past/future self, don’t tell people things that haven’t happen yet) that it feels like there’s a certain checklist you have to embrace to tell they type of story. Luckily the team of Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson and Jared K. Fletcher play by their own rules, and it makes for a fascinating read.

As anyone who’s read Saga or anything else BKV has written, you know that he’s quite capable of doing emotional moments well. There’s two in this issue that are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but they’re both written so incredible well. Of course the credit due is split between Vaughan and artists Chiang and Wilson who excel at body language and mode coloring. Their pacing is great, as one scene goes from super cute to pretty funny in a blink of an eye, while the other drags out just the right amount of time for maximum devastation.

While I was pretty hit or miss on the initial arc, Paper Girls #7 is a great read by a creative team that can’t seem to do any wrong this time around. Everything from the art to the dialogue to the placement of the word balloons seems perfect and significant, and it’s proof that these creators are onto something truly special with this title.

TheFix_04-1The Fix #4

Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber,Ryan Hill, Nic J Shaw

Image $3.99

Sadly, the events on that rad as all hell cover do not take place in this issue.

Mac Brundo is the lead for this issue, a nice change of pace from the last few Roy-centric issues. While he’s no angel, Mac is a little more likable then Roy, and this issue does a good job of making the reader emphasize with him. We also get introduced a character who may or may not have something to do with the events of the last issue, as well as checking in with character find of the year, Pretzels.

Also it’s the first comic I’ve read in recent history where FAP is used as a sound effect, and yes, if you know what that refers to, it’s for those exact reasons. Props to Nic J Shaw for making those fonts large enough for extra comedic effect.

Steve Lieber‘s art thiis month is a little more exaggerated than usual, and it works well for this issue. It never clashes with Lieber’s more realistic style, and when paired with some great sights gags and razor sharp dialogue from Nick Spencer, it results in laughs.

The Fix #4 is another hilarious read from a team of creators who excel at the ridiculous. Between genital based humor, pets, and several threats of violence, it’s hard for me to not love this comic.

 

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Val’s Toy Chest- Heroes and Villains Day 2/New Arrivals

There’s toy news this week as well as the second part of my Heroes and Villains experience- let’s dive right in!

The second day at Heroes and Villains was as awesome as the first, this time I had subscription goddess, Julia, as well as our friend/FP regular, Tony and the three of us walked around the floor, while deciding which actors we were going to meet that day. Julia got a photo with Hawkgirl, Ciara Renee, while I opted for a photo with Colin Donnell, who played Tommy Merlyn during the first season of Arrow. Super nice guy and not bad to look at either. He was very into talking with fans and was all around pleasant.

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Next up was the gorgeous Katrina Law aka Arrow‘s Nyssa Al Ghul, Tony had met her the day before and was definitely won over by how friendly she was. She was definitely into making the fans feel loved and tried to have as much interaction with us as we could during a setting like this. She also decided to let those getting a photo at her table get two- one serious, the other funny. Julia got to meet her too and was as enamored with her as it seems every fan there was. I congratulated her on her new CBS series and then was off, trying to figure out what I would do next. IMG_0644

I decided that I would go and get an autograph from Katie Cassidy this time, since I had gotten a photo with her the day before-then while I was waiting in line, I decided I’d rather just get a second photo with my live-action “Pretty Bird,” so that is what I did instead. I spoke with Katie briefly and went on my way with Julia and Tony. IMG_0647

All in all, Heroes and Villains was a positive experience and reaffirmed for me that even though I hate what Arrow has become as a TV show, especially for mistreating my all time favorite character, I still LOVE and support the majority of the actors that brought these characters to life- I would definitely return for a second NY/NJ Heroes and Villains Fan Fest if the lineup of talent is as solid as this year’s was. My next convention stop, if all goes as planned will be August’s Monster Mania, featuring guests from my favorite A Nightmare on Elm Street movie, The Dream Master!

Now on to the toys for the week- It’s been a while since I mentioned Hot Toys, but we’ve got some new ones in the store- last summer’s blockbuster- Avengers: Age of Ultron still has product in the pipeline, and one of those has finally reached our shelves with the release of the main villain of the film- Ultron. Ultron has a newly designed android body and features multiple points of articulation as well as LED lighting. Coming soon from the same film will be the new Iron Man Mark 45, which should be here within the next week or so. If DC films are more your speed- we’ve also received the first piece from the Batman V Superman film, Superman! This figure features the likeness of actor Henry Cavill as seen in this film, as well as a fully detailed costume and accurate body type for the character as seen on the silver screen.

Fans of Marvel Legends will be pleased to know that we have received the new Civil War box set, featuring Captain America, Iron Man and Spider-Man, all with movie accurate costuming. Both Steve and Tony have battle damage, while Spidey has Cap’s shield. I think these will be hot, especially considering how well received Tom Holland was in the movie.  Speaking of Cap, Gentle Giant’s line of oversized action figures recreating the toys of the 80’s and ’90’s has branched into the Marvel and DC universes. Five releases will hit our store shelves this week- Captain America from Secret Wars, The Flash and Wonder Woman from Super Powers and The Joker and Robin from Batman: The Animated Series.

Finally- Star Trek: Beyond POPs have started making their way in. Our initial shipment features Chris Pine’s Kirk, Karl Urban’s Dr Bones McCoy, Simon Pegg’s Scotty and John Cho’s Sulu. This will mark the first Star Trek line that Funko has done that will have all seven bridge crew members as Uhura, Spock, and Chekov will be released as well.

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Chris’ Comics: Kim & Kim #1, Future Quest #2

STL009948Kim & Kim #1

Mags Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, Claudia Aguirre

Black Mask, $3.99

When it comes to reviewing books, I try to keep my personal beliefs/politics from affecting the review….is a lie that I won’t tell you. Comics has a history of doing certain things wrong and treating certain under-served audiences poorly, so when a book does something RIGHT, I want to sing its praises. Which brings us to this review

NOTE: The copy of Kim and Kim #1 I used for this review was purchased straight from the creator in June at Heroescon, and I’ve played no role in the upcoming signing happening in the store.

Kim and Kim #1 is a wonderful comic that reminds me a lot of the criminally underappreciated Dirty Pair comics by Adam Warren. Written by Mags Visaggio, with art by Eva Cabrera and Claudia Aguirre, the book tells the story of two bounty hunters, obviously both named Kim. They’re young, broke, queer, and full of piss and vinegar, making them 2 of the most relatable lead characters in quite some time. I absolutely love Visaggo’s dialogue, which is incredibly over the top at times, but then completely natural sounding in that Brain K Vaughan way at others. But the 2 styles never clash, making for an enjoyable reading experience that ultimately reminds me a lot of Edgar Wright’s work.

As for the visuals, a lot of folk will call Eva Cabrera’s art manga-influence, which it definitely is, but I definitely get more of a Steven Universe vibe from it. Not that either answer is incorrect mind you, as its excellent. Expressive, clean and brightly colored by Aguirre, its looks great, and gives the book a ton of character.

Kim & Kim #1 is another brilliant comic from new kids on the scene Black Mask . I’m glad to see a lot more quality creator owned comics coming from non-Image publishers, especially ones with Queer leads. Buy on sight, it’s a fun read that has me jonesing for more.

FutQue_Cv2_56fc234731d577.65151099Future Quest #2

Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner, Roc Rhandall, Jonathan Case, Jordie Bellaire

DC $3.99 

It’s been a hot minute since Future Quest #1 dropped, but this past week saw the debut of issue #2. This time Doc Shaner is joined by Jonathan Case and Roc Rhandall on art duties, who manage to channel so well I couldn’t tell where one artist begins and the next ends. Jeff Parker is still on scripting duties, which means this series continues to read as good as it looks. And Jordie Bellaire‘s color, especially with what she does with Space Ghost’s translucence cape, are stellar.

Future Quest #2 starts off by explaining why Space Ghost was threatening to DESTROY at the end of issue one. From there we get a great chase scene, a lot of action, and hints towards the arrival of several new characters. This book run entirely is all action, which is fine, as the trio of artist assigned to it couldn’t be more suited for the script.

Also that cover does not lie and does indeed give us a panel in which the various pet sidekicks all interact. Glorious it ain’t but it’s certainly good for a laugh.

Future Quest continues to be the action packed crossover event it was marketed as. You don’t need to completely familiar with all these characters to love this book, as it’s amazing creative team give you plenty of other reasons to. As much as DC Rebirth has been solid, Future Quest may just be the most exciting and innovative title coming out from the publisher.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: Spider-Woman #9 & Green Arrow #2

Spider-Woman_Vol_6_9_TextlessSpider-Woman #9

Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Alvardo Lopez

Marvel $3.99

MOTHER #$@#$%^& WENDIGO!

As I said last week in my Captain Marvel review, Civil War the second is upon us, which means tie-ins issues. And since Carol Danvers has been a supporting character in this title for awhile now, Spider-Woman is getting dragged into this mega-event, like it or not. I feel you J-Drew, lord knows that I feel you.

And while the (gorgeous and simplistic) cover implies hella Civil War action, this issue of Spider-Woman feels like like a tie-in and more like an issue of that delightful Jason Aaron run of Wolverine and the X-men from back in the day. While there’s definitely some Civil War: The Two related stuff in this issue, the bulk of this sees Jessica and friends IMG_0127in Canada dealing with Wendigos! Wendigo is one of my favorite C-list Marvel villains, and I love the way it’s used in this comic, especially when the grizzly twist drops.  As this all goes down, Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman bond, and by bond I mean yell at and insult each other. Good times.

The team of Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, and Alvardo Lopez continue their hot streak on this title, with some hilarious dialogue, paired with gorgeous art. The arguing between Jessica and Carol is super entertaining, and readers new and old can feel the history between the two characters. Rodriguez’s facial expressions, acting and page composition are spectacular. I love how we’re guaranteed at least one impressive double page fight scene per issue Lopez’s inks are out of the world, as he and letterer Travis Lanham continue to excel on this book.

Spider-Woman #9 is a very smart tie-in, one that brings Carol into the larger Marvel universe without betraying its mission statement. It’s nothing new for this great creative team, but you still can’t help but get excited reading this sort of comic.

 

GA_Cv2_ds-e1467817721597Green Arrow #2

Benjamin Percy, Otto Scmidt, Nate Piekos

DC $2.99

This series continues to be great for Oliver Queen, who’s just been betrayed, arrowed, tossed into the ocean and left for dead. Hey wait.

Green Arrow #2 resolves the cliffhanger ending of issue 1 by making things MUCH worse for our lead believe it or not. We also get a name for the creepy, homeless-stealing Draculas, and the reintroduction of a character who originated on the Arrow TV show. And while she gets less screen time this month, Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt gives some rad as hell Black Canary moments, complete with narration boxes with fishnets. Nate Piekos is the secret MVP of this book for that move.

There’s a lot to like in this issue of GA, which is heavy on the action. Schmidt’s art is gorgeous, and I love the splash pages where a boat is positioning, and the imagery he creates on another page that shows Ollie descending into hell (figuratively) is spectacular.  IMG_0129The book is pretty light on the action sadly, but it makes up for it with a tone of gorgeous visuals.

In terms of the dialogue. Percy’s stuff is “like a Michael Bay movie, but smart and good.”. So the opposite of a Michael Bay movie really. But it’s solid none the less, as he does some clever stuff that reference’s Dante’s Inferno, which is super symbolic of what Ollie’s going through.  The Dinah stuff is great, but I love how he basically manages to remix several older GA stories and do something new with this book. It’s compelling as hell, even though it’s a real bad day for Oliver Queen.

I know a lot of folk like/liked Oliver Queen in Arrow, but this is the first time I’ve really been able to get behind the character and enjoy him in a starring role. Green Arrow #2 is a RAD comic, and it’s arguably one of the biggest successes coming out of Rebirth so far.

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Chris’ Comics: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #9

5283868-sqgirl2015b009_dc11-0The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #9

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, David Malki, Tom Fowler, Rico Renzi

Marvel $3.99

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is that it’s a book that always keeps the readers on their toes. Issue 9 is no exception, as an arc that started off about DATES has turned into a story about a love smitten Mole Man who may have goes full “Nice Guy”. It’s something you wouldn’t see in any other Marvel book (well okay maybe Howard the Duck or Gwenpool, but no where else!), yet it makes sense in the pages of Squirrel Girl.

Joining the Unbeatable team of Ryan North, Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi this month is inker Tom Fowler, who’ s a great fit for this title. With Henderson working on this book, finishing up her run on Jughead, and working on the upcoming Squirrel Girl graphic novel, it makes sense that she get’s some help with something on this title. Fowler is great, covering Henderson’s pencil in nice crisp inks, and giving the pages a more finished and 5283872-sqgirl2015b009_int2-2less rushed look. Fowler compliments Henderson well, and I hope he sticks around on the title for awhile. In addition to Fowler, David Malki comes by to draw a page to explain why Mole Man is mad this month. The best way to describe that page is “Old Timey” and it’s something that you need to understand WHY it’s so great.

Speaking of great, Ryan North and Erica Henderson continue to be pair of amazing creators. North, who already has written the best Kraven the Hunter story since the classic “Kraven’s Last Hunt” story, does the same for Mole Man. His ability to turn the Fantastic Four’s first villain into a sympathetic character is crazy impressive, and it’s a very clever interpretation of the character. I thoroughly enjoyed Mole Man talking like someone from the silver age, and North commenting on it via Doreen Green, and the alt text on the bottom of the page. We also get more of Brad, the Super Hero truther, who’s my new problematic fave. Henderson’s art is fabulous as always, and it’s great to see her work her magic on some old Kirby monsters.  And it’s neat to see how expressive she can get with a character who’s’ eyes and 5283874-sqgirl2015b009_int2-3constantly blocked off by glasses. With Inks by Fowler and great colors as per usual by Rico Renzi, Squirrel Girls continues to read as good as it looks.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #9 continues to be the most unique comic on the stand. Romance in super hero books usually plays out in the most clichéd ways, but here North and company provide some solid commentary on how NOT to treat someone, while casually mentioning a sad mutant killing robot. Given how young some of the book’s readers are (see the genuinely wonderful letter section), it’s an important lesson to be taught. Also, for an issue that’s smack dab in the middle of an arc, it’s impressive how accessible the comic is! The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continues to be the golden standard of Marvel comics, and by far the company’s most constantly amazing title as far as I’m concerned.

 

 

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Val’s Toy Chest- Heroes and Villains Day One

Way back in January, I was excited to go to the inaugural NY/NJ Heroes and Villains Fan Fest held at the Meadowlands Convention Center. I had purchased my ticket to the show on Black Friday the year before- and was anticipating two days of meeting and greeting the stars of my then favorite show. Then- Arrow Season 4, Episode 18 happened and I was DONE. I had been spoiled about the events of that episode prior to them unfolding, but I was hoping that the producers were putting out false spoilers to hide someone else’s fate. Regular readers of this column know how upset I was(and still am) about the unnecessary death of Dinah Laurel Lance/The Black Canary on Arrow earlier this year, so going to Heroes and Villains after breaking up with the show was going to be an interesting experience for me. Of course, since Arrow is part of the CW DC TV Universe, actors from that show, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow were going to be in attendance at the con. I still like the latter two shows, though LoT has me a little upset with the decision to can Hawkgirl and Hawkman. And speaking of Hawkgirl- actress Ciara Renee was one of the biggest draws for me at this convention as I’ve enjoyed her portayal of Kendra Saunders throughout the three series. I headed on over to New Jersey on Saturday with my friend Kim and we met Ciara first thing that day. She was very lovely as we chatted briefly and I told her that I was going to miss seeing her as Kendra on a regular basis. She also loved Kim’s shirt. I got an autographed 8×10 from her(which ended up being the only one I got the entire weekend), as well as a picture at her table with me and Kim in the shot.

hawkgirl2

We spent a lot of Saturday walking around as everyone I wanted to meet had massive lines. I managed to luck out and get on Caity Lotz‘s line during one of the rare times where she wasn’t bombarded with a long queue of people. Caity, for those of you who aren’t fans of the different shows, plays an original character named Sara Lance, sister of Laurel Lance, and in the show continuity, was the inspiration for the Black Canary. Sara portrayed the Canary, a League of Assassins member during season 2 of Arrow, before she was killed off to launch Laurel towards her Black Canary destiny. Sara returned to life via the Lazarus Pit and joined LoT as the White Canary, who is a rather enjoyable character. I decided just to get a picture since I owned one of Caity’s autographed Arrow season 2 trading cards already. She was a doll during our brief meeting and I definitely want to meet her again. IMG_0633

Much like her TV sister, Katie Cassidy had a huge line all weekend. Now I’ve met Katie before, but she’s one that I could meet over and over again, especially since she was the live action version of my favorite comic book character. Since I’ve met her before and got an autograph in person and on a trading card, I opted for the photo- a little blurry, but you can tell its us.

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After the picture was taken, I mentioned to Katie that I was annoyed about Laurel’s death and that I wasn’t going to watch Arrow anymore. Katie told me that I still should, but I told her that I wouldn’t until they announce that she’s coming back. She thought that was sweet of me. Great experience with her as always.

My final picture for Saturday was with Willa Holland, whom I will miss seeing as Speedy/Thea Queen, unless she is in a crossover episode. Very brief encounter with her as well, but she seemed really into her fans, which was nice to see, I definitely wouldn’t mind meeting her again either. She also had a massive line all weekend.IMG_0639

Briefly- new Star Wars: The Force Awakens POPs are in, including Maz Kanata, General Leia, FN-2199, Kylo Ren Unmasked, Snap Wexley, ME-809 and the Guavian. Luke is almost gone, though we should be getting more and Rey and Hux haven’t arrived as of this writing. New Marvel Comic-based POPs are also here including Dr. Strange, Doc Ock, Spider-Gwen and the Falcon. These join the previously released She-Hulk and Captain Marvel. Next time: Part 2 of my Heroes and Villains Con experience! See you next week!

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