Comic books and graphic novels


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.


Sons of Chaos a Lushly Illustrated Look at Ottoman War

Sons of Chaos hardcover

The average  person today, when asked about Greek history, will probably recall the days of Plato and Socrates -- as though the country leapt straight from the days of philosophical and mathematical breakthroughs and went straight into the 21st century.

So when I read that SONS OF CHAOS was about the Greek war for independence, I was at a loss. When did Greece belong to someone else? When did this war occur?

Surprisingly, the war was relatively recent, as historical epochs go: the 1800s, in fact. When, you know, there actually was an America, so the fact that I did not know about this is a bit embarrassing. However, when it was explained that this was one of the wars of the Ottoman Empire, that, at least, was something I had heard of, so I felt a little better.


For Comics Fun, Monster M.D. May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

Monster MD preview

Dr. Wyatt Black has an unusual practice. Actually, the practice is quite normal -- he's a medical doctor. Doctor Black's patients, on the other hand, are far from normal. Many of them are beyond the pale (and, sometimes, beyond the veil). And they usually aren't the kind who can make an appointment to come into his office.

Fortunately, Dr. Black makes crypt calls.


Family Feud: Van Helsing vs Dracula's Daughter

Van Helsing vs. Dracula's Daughter

Throughout the course of her career, Liesel Van Helsing has run up against her share of foul creatures. But now she may have met her equal, in a battle that has been generations in coming.

When her safe house is burgled, Liesel finds herself on a two-week tear through the city, following clues and taking out demons while trying to recover that which was lost.

But while the thief has a personal connection to the stolen property, Liesel herself finds herself serendipitously in the possession of a lost family artifact when she busts up a demon-run fencing operation.

The titular conflict of VAN HELSING VS. DRACULA'S DAUGHTER doesn't quite happen in this first issue, but that doesn't mean either lady isn't in the thick of it. While Van Helsing has her hands full of hellspawn, her future opponent is making herself known to two of Liesel's friends -- visiting newlyweds, Jonathan and Mina Harker!


Blood in Riverdale: Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica #3

Red Sonja Vampi BandV 3

Once upon a time, Riverdale was Main Street USA -- the perfect place, frozen in a perfect time. But for the past several years, the home town of Archie Andrews has become a magnet for violence and horror -- and the fans are eating it up!

The latest is this jointly-licensed property through Dynamite Comics, RED SONJA AND VAMPIRELLA MEET BETTY AND VERONICA. When the She-Devil with a Sword and the Darling of Draculon chase a chaos cultist thorugh dimensions, they are brought to Riverdale, where they must go undercover as high school students. Holy 21 Jump Street, Batman! Fortunately, they have some help blending in -- which is even harder than you might think -- with the assistance of Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, who are just as keen to find the serial killer who has been plaguing the Riverdale Police Department.


Gail Simone Brings the Death-Defying Devil Back to Street Level

Death-Defying Devil #1

The last time I saw the Death-Defying Devil in Dynamite Comics, he was a spirit on the level of The Spectre, able to stride down the street while looking over skyscrapers. Quite a leap from his time as Daredevil (yes, that's his real name, much like Shazam's real name is Captain Marvel, and like Captain Marvel he also had the name first), when he fought in the streets and had a band of feistly little kids as his entourage.

Well he doesn't have the entourage, but he's definitely back down to street level in this newest series, DEATH-DEFYING DEVIL, by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani.


Roman Dirge's Lenore Returns with New Number 1 Issue

Lenore 1 2019

When I read that this was the first LENORE issue in five years, my first thought was, "Gosh, I must have read a reprint, because I know it was only just a few months ago when I reviewed LENORE." So I looked up the review. And I looked at the date.

Tempus fugit. Which is Latin for "Life comes at you fast." The hip Roman kids used to carve #TEMPUSFUGIT on the columns of the coliseum.

So for the past five years, Lenore -- the cute little dead girl -- has been holed up in her home with her demon friend Pooty, trying not to get eaten by an insane pickle hat (not a typo) just waiting for them to open the door. Needless to say, she's very hungry now. But food will come in some of the most unexpected places.


Jody Houser: Taking the New Doctor Who Through All Time and Space

All of time and space? Something for your bucket list--especially if you get to travel it in the company of the immortal Doctor Who. Over the show's fifty-plus year history, the regenerating Doctor (a plot device used to cover the change of actors as the show progressed) has gone through a number of unusual and dramatic changes. But none have been more dramatic than when we met the Thirteenth Doctor, when former Doctor, Peter Capaldi, ended his tenure on the show giving way to Jodie Whittaker, the first time we have seen the Doctor regenerate as a woman (even though we knew it was possible, when the Doctor's longtime foe, the Master, regenerated as "Missy").


Ikari Press's Brand Has Trouble Picking a Plot

Brand 1

BRAND is one of many new independent comics coming from the crowdfunding trend that has grown up over the past two years. The brainchild of writer Antonio Brice and artist Caanan White, the comic book is mostly impeccably drawn and colored, and each individual scene is compelling in its narrative.

It's when looking at the book as a whole where things suffer.


ROM: DIRE WRAITHS Miniseries Reveals the Terrifying Truth of the Moon Landing

ROM Dire Wraiths

SAN DIEGO, CA (July 25, 2019) – IDW Publishing is proud to debut Rom: Dire Wraiths, a three-part comic book miniseries about Earth’s incomparable heroes – the astronauts whose mission among the stars brought them face-to-face with the Dire Wraiths, the shape-shifting scourge of the universe!


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