Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY 35

AstroCity35Image © Juke Box Productions.

What a nice surprise to find the art of Ron Randall in this (and the next) issue of ASTRO CITY! I’ve been a fan and friend since we worked together in the early 1980s.

The story this time is about the family who are behind the hero named Jack-In-The-Box, one of the more flamboyant characters in the series. It’s told from the viewpoint of Ike Johnson, the grandson of the original Jack, and the son of the second Jack. Ike’s dad has passed on the hero identity to a friend, leaving Ike to wonder where he fits in, but Ike’s early attempts at heroic work didn’t go so well. Ike’s dad, meanwhile, has become the head of a successful toy company, and is using some of his money to investigate the crime scene where the first Jack fell for the last time. As always, it’s a story with depth and emotion as well as action. Writer Kurt Busiek and Ron Randall deliver a fine issue. I particularly liked the looks of the villain shown on Alex Ross’s cover, Mister Drama.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE FLASH REBIRTH #1

FlashRebirth1Image © DC Comics.

Like the WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH I read yesterday, this is sort of a prologue to the upcoming relaunch of the Flash series, but it does have more of a story. Wally West, Kid Flash, has been missing from the DC Universe for a few years, and has been brought back, first in the pages of the main REBIRTH title, now here. As with Wonder Woman, Barry Allen in this book is having visions, this time of his enemy Zoom. Barry takes his troubles to his father, and we learn in the story that continuity here is rather like the Geoff Johns reboot, also mirrored in the Flash TV show, though they’ve gone to weird places with it there. Wally West as Kid Flash appears to Barry, who can’t remember him at first, but once he does, things change and Wally is alive and well again. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but it’s kind of an obvious one.) Then the plot gets into other elements from the main REBIRTH comic I won’t describe here. I like the writing of this book by Joshua Williamson, and the art too, which has a looser advertising art feel than most DC hero comics, and reminds me a bit of Carmine Infantino’s Flash. The artist’s name is Carmine Di Giandomenico.

I wouldn’t call this an easy read for someone who has never followed The Flash, but it would make sense to someone who has at least watched the TV show, so it might well work for new readers. Recommended.

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH #1

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 1.12.08 PM

Image © DC Comics.

Greg Rucka is back as writer on the new WONDER WOMAN book, and having enjoyed lettering his previous run, I thought I’d try this. It’s not the first issue of the new series, though. Instead, it’s kind of a prologue, I guess. Mostly it’s Wonder Woman thinking about herself, about contradictory personal histories that she remembers, about who she was, who she is now, and who she will be. There’s a sketchy plot of sorts, as she rescues some captive women in the beginning, but mostly it’s flashbacks, and Wonder Woman confronting herself, then moving on to Olympus, which is deserted except for some robotic guardians, who provide action at the end.

The confusion of the character mirrors my own. What we’re getting in Rebirth is not exactly a reboot, it seems, but a character who is choosing what she wants to remember from her many past versions and long history, and deciding what she wants to be going forward. It’s all rather nebulous at this point, and on the final page we learn that there will be two alternating story lines in the new series. One will focus on the present, the other on the past,  beginning with issues 1 and 2 respectively. Since I haven’t been following the character much, it will all be relatively new to me. I’m going to give the series a try, assuming DC sends me digital copies to read. Has the weight of past history become too much to allow a new series to feel fresh? Will it make sense to someone like me who doesn’t read a lot of the DC Universe books? Will it be good? We’ll see.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: THE MAGICIAN OF HOAD by Margaret Mahy

MagicianofHoad

Cover art © Gene Mollica.

Margaret Mahy is a New Zealand fantasy author whose works are full of complex characters and plots, always rewarding reading. She has won the Carnegie Medal twice as well as the Hans Christian Anderson Award.

Heriot Tarbas is a troubled boy living on a remote country farm in the land of Hoad, far from the capital city of Diamond. His mind and even his body are subject to strange pains, odd visions, frightening dreams, and the feeling that another mind is there with his own, and one that means him harm. Through a long and eventful life he strives to solve these mysteries as well as the puzzle of his own magical powers, which come along unbidden and at first unwanted.

Hoad has a King and royal family, and also a Hero, equal in power to the King, who lives on an island just over the hill from Heriot’s farm. What Heriot experiences there as a boy almost ends his life, but also begins the growth of his own abilities. Those in power in the King’s household are somehow aware of Heriot’s magic too, and try to gather him in, but after an attack by the Hero, Carlyon, Heriot flees the farm and ends up on a battlefield where Hoad and their rival neighbor Dannorad are trying to negotiate peace. Wounded and ill, Heriot is rescued by the King’s third son, Dysart, and a strange connection is revealed between them. Before long, Heriot is living in the royal palace in Diamond learning about his powers, but still troubled, and uneasy about the struggle for power all around him. At times the friendship of a street orphan boy, Cayley, is the only solace he can find.

That’s just the first third or so of this engrossing book, and I enjoyed reading it, though at times the many mysteries in the main characters’ lives make understanding them difficult. It does all get sorted out in the end.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: DOCTOR FATE #11

DoctorFate11Image © DC Comics.

With a cover like this and a story titled “Great Caesar’s Ghost,” we know exactly what we’re in for from writer Paul Levitz and artist Sonny Liew, and they deliver it brilliantly. This ghost is more powerful than most, and yet is under the command of an Egyptian general, the one who caused all the trouble for Khalid’s friends in New York. As usual, Khalid has taken his role of Doctor Fate into a situation he doesn’t really know how to handle. Therein lies the charm of this series, how will the hapless youth deal with the new trouble he’s put himself into? Meanwhile, his neglected life back home is getting more and more precarious. Fun story, charming art.

Recommended.