Comic books and graphic novels


After Vertigo, Good Horror Returns to DC with The Dollhouse Family

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY is the first Black Label title from DC I've seen that wasn't in a prestige format size. This makes me happy for more than one reason, but mostly because i don't always have to pay the price point necessary for the oversized prestige formatted books.

This comic is also what Andy Khouri should have been courting to the Vertigo line before it became a corpse so decayed it can't even be used for good fertilizer. Or perhaps Chris Conroy should have been given the editor's position earlier. But, it's fruitless to become lachrymose over upturned dairy, so let's take a forward-looking approach, because THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY is a positive step forward for DC mature horror.


Villain vs Villain as Tynion Raises Hell at DC Comics

Hell Arisen 2

The fallout from METAL continues as the evolutionarily perfected Lex Luthor serves as a John the Baptist for the goddess Perpetua, paving the way for her conquest of everything. Only one person stands in his path -- The Batman Who Laughs, the evil Joker-fied Batman from the Dark Multiverse. TBWL has spread the dark infection to six heroes, five of whom attack Luthor at his safehouse -- which turns out to be one of his employee's apartments he long ago modified without her knowledge.

Lex is not only outnumbered, but he's up against the powers of Kara Zor-El (Supergirl), King Shazam (Shazam), Deathbringer (Donna Troy), Sky Tyrant (Hawkman), and Scarab (Blue Beetle). Anyone else would give up, but Luthor -- who was already the smartest man alive before his augmentation -- has already defeated all five of them while they were posturing. It's all over except for the actual doing of it, which proves to be simplicity itself.


What's in Bettie Page's Head? Giant Alien Wasps Want to Know.

Bettie Page Unbound 9

Bettie Page has seen her share of aliens, both from this dimension and from others.

Now she finds herself up against the Praesepods -- a race of giant wasps looking to take over the Earth (not to be confused with the Vyzpzz, a race of giant wasps looking to take over the Earth in another book). One has taken over the identity of her friend, Agent McKnight, and another has taken on the form of Bettie herself.


The Best Fight in Comics is in Batman #86 -- And It's All Off-Panel!

Batman 86 2020

It feels like it's been forever in the offing, but BATMAN #86 is a breath of fresh air after the prolonged storyline that bogged down the title for the past few years.

With his longtime confidante and manservant, Alfred Pennyworth, having been laid to rest, Bruce Wayne decides to take on a new mission to honor his friend, a mission presented to him on many past occasions and always turned down: a Gotham that didn't need Batman. To that end, Bruce has dusted of his plans for a revamp of the city and fast-tracked them through all the zoning commissions. With construction already underway, however, there are forces out there that want to see their own plans for Gotham come to light.


Action Comics 1018 Hits Bottom and Starts Digging

Action Comics 1018

It's been a while since I've poked my head inside the Superman universe of books, and with the news surrounding the impending release of Superman's self-reveal, I thought it might be a good idea to check in on the latest installment of the Man of Steel, by way of ACTION COMICS 1018.

To say the issue was a disappointment is to do a disservice to language.

Let's start with the cover. Advertising a guest appearance by the Justice League pretty much means that, in the background, you see their bodies strewn about as they have been clobbered. But that cover blurb is perhaps the best drawn part of the book's frontispiece. The rest of it is a sketchy mess, featuring Superman front and center and some hastily doodled Justice League members in the background -- plus what looks to be a frozen or electrocuted Starman in the lower left.

That should have been my first warning to back away, slowly, and put my wallet back in my pocket.


Soule and Saiz Give Fans a New Hope with Marvel's Star Wars #1 Comic

Marvel Comics Star Wars #1 2020

Over the last few years, the foundation of STAR WARS fandom has been a little shaky. We've seen one writer ignominiously ousted from the extended universe, several directors fired from the sequels and ancillary films, and controversy among the fandom over the way the final trilogy was handled from start to finish. Basically, if you're handed the reigns to do something with STAR WARS these days, you stand a good chance of slitting your own throat.


Voting Open for Best of 2019 Awards

Nominations for Best of 2019

Holy cow, is it 2020 already? 2019 seems to have gone by in a blur, with so much happening in the world of movies, television, and comics. It's hard to believe we've reached the point where we now have the unenviable task of deciding which was the best in every category to recognize the producers of entertainment for their efforts.

So below you will find the voting form, featuring our nominations for the best film, film actor, television series (which includes streaming until we come up with a word to replace television), series actor, comic book storyline, comics writer, comics artist, and -- last but certainly not least -- the selection of our Critical Blast Bombshell of the Year from the list of 2019's Bombshell of the Month candidates.


Turtles All The Way Down: TMNT's Centennial Issue Changes Everything!

TMNT 100

Many years ago, when the Earth's crust was just beginning to cool (also known as the 1980s), the ground sprang forth with the direct market. Shops that specialized only in comic books began to appear, and with them, access to titles that you simply wouldn't find in the spinner rack at your local 7-11 or discount store. Among those titles was an unassuming black and white title created by a couple of kids with access to a printer. Done as a lark--a spoof on Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL and RONIN runs--probably nobody was as surprised by its success as were its creators: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.


It's a Duel Identity Crossover in Absolute's White Widow #3

Gabby Garcia's problems have only multiplied since her father showed up and injected her with nanites right before being killed. Now the platinum blonde science student and volleyball athlete finds that she can manifest an exoskeletal armor that can alter its appearance at will.The result is, visually, Silver Sable with a symbiote, but the story bears no such similarities.

This chapter finds Gabby trying to find out more about The Group, the agency she believes killed her father, and discovering she has more untapped abilities. But when her solo investigations run into a dead end, her friend Regina talks her into approaching the city's resident superhero, Andromeda, for help. As luck would have it, Andromeda will be appearing at a masquerade ball, to which Gabby had previously found an invitation.


Nora Fries Finally Free, and Ready to Be a Villain

Detective 1015 Mr and Mrs Freeze Year of the Villain

Of all the DC Universe events to actually start crossing over into the regular titles, it had to be the unfollowably tendrilous merger of DARK NIGHTS: METAL and whatever it is going on in Justice League that involving Lex Luthor becoming "Apex Lex," both of which converge to cause the "Year of the Villain" theme.

In Detective Comics #1015, we find that Victor Fries -- aka Mr. Freeze -- has found a cure for his wife, Nora, freeing her from the cryogenic tube where she's been held in stasis for who knows how long. With her fate no longer a driving force, Mr. Freeze no longer has a reason to be a criminal. And yet, he's training his wife on how to pull heists using his cold weapons. Also, she's just as blue-skinned as he is now, so we can safely assume she is Mrs. Freeze.


John Carpenter's Spotlight on Mental Illness Brings Jarring Insight to Joker

Joker Year of the Villain

John Carpenter is a master of horror. Getting his name on the marquee of a DC Comic book about the brand's most notorious mass murderer and psychopath should have been headline news. Maybe it was and I just read the wrong headlines.

Regardless, it was enough of an impetus to bring me temporarily out of my comic book malaise to purchase this issue, despite the cover art -- which isn't bad, but which depicts the Joker as wearing bad makeup rather than physically looking the way he does. Red Hood? Ace Chemicals? Vat of acid? Any of that ringing any bells, Philip Tan?


The Wait vs The Worth -- CYBERFROG: BLOODHONEY

Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney

In all of comics history, there has perhaps not been a comic so divisive, so defended, and so derided as Ethan Van Sciver's CYBERFROG: BLOODHONEY. And all that before the book was even printed. Seen as one of the hallmark titles of the amorphous ComicsGate movement, the title and creator have taken heat over timeliness and finances. The book raised nearly a million dollars in pre-sales through multiple Indiegogo crowdfunding efforts, and arrived just shy of being one year late of its estimated release date.

This week, the book began arriving in the hands of those who had backed it, and almost immediately new rumors began to pop up: poor paper quality, water damage, digest-sized. None of that is true. CYBERFROG: BLOODHONEY is of standard dimensions, and over 80 pages. The cover is very sturdy, the paper is of better stock than your average floppy, and the ink is smear-resistant.


Spawn 300: End of the Beginning

Spawn 300

I remember seeing Todd McFarlane at the Chicago Comicon in the late 1980s. SPAWN was still a new thing, and Todd was talking up how the symbol would one day be as ubiquitously recognized as a black bat in a yellow oval.

I gave it a year, two at the max.

Thirty-plus years later, here we are, with the milestone issue of SPAWN, one issue away from setting the record as the longest-running creator-owned comic, with a wide array of supporting characters, good and evil, and a twisted morality play that treats Heaven and Hell as competing corporations.

I will say that one of the things that made SPAWN intriguing to me was that he had been giving a finite amount of infinite power. Starting wtih 9:9:9:9, every expenditure of eldritch energy caused the Spawn-o-Meter to decrement. Which meant that, at some point in the character's run, he was going to bottom out, and things would be over.


Better Read When Dead: DCeased Heroes Continue to Entertain

DCeased: A Good Day to Die 1

DCEASED is a comic series I can get invested in. Why? Because despite utilizing the characters of the DC Universe, it's self-contained. It doesn't promise to have any impact on the DCU as a whole -- unlike, say, books that have that promise stolen from them like DOOMSDAY CLOCK.

In this pocket universe, Darkseid has unlocked the much-sought-after Anti-Life Equation. But it has been corrupted, and turns whoever sees it into a mindless undead creature who can infect others into becoming the same. And with Darkseid's death, the equation gets broadcast through Cyborg to every television, computer, and phone in the world. An epidemic ensues, and even the world's greatest superheroes are not immune from its effects.


Deconstructing the Doomsday Clock #11: A Lifelong Mistake

Doomsday Clock 11

It's the penultimate issue of what was anticipated to have been a huge event in the DC Universe -- the culmination, in fact, of what began in REBIRTH.

It still is the culmination of what began in REBIRTH. Except REBIRTH doesn't mean anything any longer. The years of teasing the presence of Saturn Girl in the present day, the absence of the Justice Society, the return of Wally West, THE BUTTON... all of that is for naught, because the Legion of Super-Heroes is being introduced in a different fashion, the Justice Society has already returned in JUSTICE LEAGUE, and Wally West has been ruined by Tom King in HEROES IN CRISIS.


Vampirella and Red Sonja: Together Again for the First Time

Vampirella / Red Sonja 1

When I began reading VAMPIRELLA / RED SONJA #1, I was immediately sucked in by the artwork of Drew Moss. Set in 1969, Vampirella's style was appropriate to the era. There was a beguiling beauty to this retro-look that merited revisiting, and the highlights of Rebeca Nalty's colors really make the panels pop for this issue.

But this was no mere eye-candy comic. Jordie Bellaire has set up an adventure/mystery that brings Vampirella -- still a newcomer to Earth at that time -- to Russia, to investigate a decade-old mass killing that may or may not have been the work of a Yeti. Since the story is set nearly fifty years ago, Vampirella has to do the investigating without the benefit of the Internet, which is not only a refreshing read but must also be a challenge to write. Writing it this well is a testament to Bellaire's writing chops, and I look forward to more from him.


Gail Simone's Death-Defying Devil is "Lost"

Death-Defying Devil 2

In Gail Simone's debut issue of Dynamite Comics' DEATH-DEFYING DEVIL, we thought the almight Devil had been depowered, brought down to earth, and made into a street-level hero of the people. The Devil had come to the defense of a motley crew of residents of a ramshackle house who had been beset by street thugs and corrupt cops, and he had gotten his ass handed to him handily.

With the second issue, we get a little more of the curtain pulled back. The Devil is still in the house--drinking tea and eating coffee cake with the elderly former actress turned crazy cat lady. When he learns that she doesn't go to the market any longer for fear of the street gang members always waiting to pounce, he very gallantly offers her escort. And when the inevitable attack comes, he defends.

And that's when things get weird.


Block Chains and The Mary Sue’s Ethical Quagmire

Eyes Covered

ComicsGate and GamerGate. The boogeymen that allow the geek and nerd communities to partake in outrage culture continues to be the gift that keeps on giving in that regard, despite the fact that most of the world has forgotten what GamerGate was about (for which Zoe Quinn is no doubt grateful) and ComicsGate exists now largely as a hashtag to market the ideology behind the comics they produce and, yes, deliver.

Not that this stops Anthony Gramuglia, writer at large. In a recent piece for The Mary Sue, Gramuglia conducts “interviews” with a handful of people with axes to grind. The Spectre of Hate is raised more than once, and the fearmongering goes into high gear in order to gin up the clicks. He expands his reach from ComicsGate to the more recent AnimeGate, spun out of accusations against DragonballZ: Broly actor, Vic Mignogna, and the resulting defamation suit that followed.


Kid Crowdfunding Comics: Pillowman and Blanketboy

Pillowman and Blanketboy

When I was in first grade, I wrote my first play. At a school assembly, I saw that play come to life, thanks to the support of my teacher.

In eighth grade, we had to turn in a paper every week on any topic. I turned in episodic chapters of a monster adventure, and my teacher set aside time for it to be read, by the author, to other classes.

Mrs. Joanne Paul and Mr. Stanley White cultivated those early efforts, allowing me to realize the dream of becoming a professionally published artist.

Parker Davis is an eleven-year-old boy with a dream. Since the age of three, he has been expanding the universe of his own superhero creations: Pillowman and Blanketboy. And thanks to the advent of crowdfunding, he's close to seeing those heroes star in a published comic book.


Vampirella's Second Issue Beautiful to Look At, Impossible to Follow

Vampirella 50 Years #2

There's been a lot of hubbub and hullabaloo over the 50th anniversary celebration of Dynamite Comics' VAMPIRELLA. Getting Christopher priest onto the writing chores and having him backed up by Ergun Gunduz in the art department set expectations pretty high.

And while this new iteration of VAMPIRELLA has some intense scenes, and plays with some interesting notions and aspects of her life, all set to some absolutely brilliant and lush panel work from Gunduz, I can't help but feel that I'm jumping around to random pages from different stories.

When we closed out the first issue, Vampirella walked away from a plane crash, and we then see her baring her soul to some bizarre psychologist. In the last panels, we meet Vampirella's mother, Lilith.


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