No “Magic 40″ this week since I wasn’t able to get around to a lot of the comics I wanted to get through this week, largely because I am traveling and in India for a cousin’s marriage. These things always take up a lot of time. I haven’t even had a chance to work on my NaNo novel these past two days!
Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Batman ’66: The Lost Episode #1 and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were Amazing Spider-Man #10 and Spider-Woman #1 from Marvel Comics. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Black Widow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 , Future’s End, Predator: Fire and Stone and Witchblade all proved to be immensely fun.
The graphic novels for this week were Aphrodite IX v2 Volume 2 by Matt Hawkins, Stjepan Sejic and Troy Peteri, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 by Dan Abnett, Rafael Kayanan, Kathryn Layno, Deron Bennett, Yildiray Cinar, Randy Mayor, Michael S. O’Hare, Frazer Irving, Pop Mhan, Tom Derenick, Tony Avina, Ken Lashley and Ryan Sook.
Next week we are going to see what the last six episodes of The Flash and the current season of Arrow have all been building towards, an epic crossover between CW’s two greatest shows to date, bringing together two of the most prominent superheroes of recent years, Barry Allen aka The Flash and Oliver Queen aka Arrow. But before that, we have seen a lot of things happen on The Flash as the mysteries surrounding Harrison Wells deepen and Barry starts to learn all of the cool little things he can do with his speed powers.
Before we get to the crossover next week, we have this week’s episode which brings together two different supervillains for Barry to take down. But it is not going to be easy since he loses his powers against one of them early on, and the rest of the episode is all about him coming to know who he is and what he wants to be and what he believes. It was quite an excellent episode and a good primer for the crossover too. The best that can be said about this episode is that all bets are off regarding Harrison Wells, and I find that a great approach.
Last week I started off a new feature on the blog, Fast-Shot Comics Reviews, in which I will be reviewing some of my comics read from that week that I wasn’t able to get to in terms of reviews. And these can be comics I liked or comics I hated or anywhere in between really. Last week I did six comics, all of them among my top picks for the week, and it was a pretty fun experience, trying to reduce my usual 700+ words reviews into something like half that number. Quite challenging too since I usually write so much more.
The picks for this week are: Grimm Fairy Tales #104, Grimm Fairy Tales 2014 Holiday Edition, Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program #2, Inhuman #8, Storm #5, and Wonder Woman #36. The picks are a bit heavy on the Big Two this week, owing to how much I read from them, and also since most of my reading was confined to them only this week. An interesting bunch certainly and there are quite a few really good books in here, though not all are what I’d call “Pick of the Week” material, even though they skirt the line.
Batman ’66 stands as one of the best examples of superhero television done right. The show was quite phenomenal in its time and I remember watching reruns as a kid in the late 90s, and getting all excited whenever the action directions lit up on the screen with “BAM!” and “KAPOW!” and what not. Oh and Adam West was absolutely brilliant on the show as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Not to mention that the show introduced us to the whole firefighter-style changing room that the hero used to change into his “work-clothes”. It really was quite incredible and has enjoyed a renewed surge in popularity in recent months as well thanks to DC’s Batman ’66 comics.
The latest issue of the hit series is the adaptation by Len Wein of an unfilmed episode of the show that saw the debut of none other than Two-Face, the Duke of Duplicity himself. Borne out of something that Harlan Ellison wrote for the show but which was never picked up unfortunately, this issue explores how Two-Face would have been like on the show, from both a writing perspective and an art perspective. It really is a most fun issue and while sometimes the campiness got to be a bit too much, it was nevertheless quite entertaining all the way through and Two-Face rocked it all.
Last month we got to see Jim Zub’s unique take on the Forgotten Realms lore with his new mini-series Legends of Baldur’s Gate, which is intended as a tie-in effort by Wizards of the Coast for the upcoming expansion Tyranny of Dragons. The first issue, right out of the gate, was an excellent one and stands as one of my favourites all year. Both Jim and artist Max Dunbar did a pretty awesome job with the issue, and the adventures of Minsc, Delina and Boo proved to be very entertaining and fun, in all the right ways. Plus there was a nice larger mystery that involved the characters and that helped set the pace for the story.
This past week’s Legends of Baldur’s Gate #2 continues the story of Minsc, Delina and Boo as the three of them meet up with a couple of thieves who are willing to help them find refuge from Baldur’s Gate’s Watch. Last issue we got introduced to the primary characters, and while this week we get to meet many more characters, we also see the narrative move forward as the mystery of Delina’s twin brother’s disappearance deepens, and we see some of who and what the mysterious cabal operating in Baldur’s Gate is like. As with the first issue, Jim and Max do an awesome job once again.
A whole lot of different things are happening very quickly now on Sleepy Hollow as Henry aka the Horseman of War, prepares to unleash his master Moloch the Horrid King on the world, and bring about the Apocalypse. In the last few episodes we’ve seen how Henry has brought Moloch into the real world, using Katrina as the unwilling agent of this demonic birth, thereby demoralising the two Witnesses a great deal. But the heroes bounce back from this setback, as they are wont to do and that’s what I love about the series so much, that there’s always hope.
This week’s episode is titled “Magnum Opus” and that’s pretty much true of the story. This really is a magnum opus
kind of episode since this one has the Witnesses searching out a new weapon to fight off Moloch and his agents, the fabled Sword of Methuselah, and everything that happens in this episode is top-notch, without a doubt. With some really intense stories and plenty of flashbacks to happier days, this mid-season penultimate episode pretty much has everything I want in this show, and then some. Can’t argue against that!
As it moved towards its mid-season finale, Gotham introduced viewers to a new version of ADA Harvey Dent, one of the most classic of all Batman villains, known also as Two-Face. It was a fairly good episode, though also quite filler in some ways, so not all that exciting. But still, the job done with Dent, both acting-wise and visually, was good, and it made me really like Harvey. A very different take on the character than what we’ve seen before, especially since the Batman: The Animated Series cast him as an of-age friend to Bruce Wayne, but either way, this guy is going to have a big influence on the future Batman and this week’s new episode proves why.
This week saw the mid-season finale of Gotham. Building on from plot-threads introduced in last week’s “Harvey Dent” this week’s “Lovecraft” finds assassins infiltrating Wayne Manor to kill Selina Kyle and all the adventures that result while on the other side of Gotham Don Falcone tries to find out who it was that raided his armoury and stole his money and all that. This was a much better episode in a lot of ways than some of the previous ones, more so because this one actually gave us an interesting angle on the Waynes’ murder other than just “Selina Kyle saw the murderer”. Definitely a recommended watch.
Dwarfs and Gav Thorpe have a long relationship since some of the earliest days of Black Library’s Warhammer Fantasy fiction, much as is the case with him and the Dark Angels in Warhammer 40,000. I’ve read some of his Warhammer work to date, though not all, and his Time of Legends: The Sundering series stands as some of the best books I’ve read from him to date, though they don’t quite hold the same fascination for me as does his Warhammer 40,000 or Horus Heresy works. Still, whenever Gav writes something in WHF, I do sit up and take notice since he happens to be one of my favourite writers.
And his latest is The Doom of Dragonback, a novel set in a post-War of Vengeance Old World where the dwarfs are still recovering from their decades long war with the elves, who have themselves withdrawn from much of the land and are nursing their own wounds in their homeland, Ulthuan. Following the adventures of various dwarfs of Ekrund, The Doom of Dragonback is the story of how a mighty dwarf hold can fall to orcs and goblins, and how tenuous and fleeting life can be in such an environment. As has been the case of late for me with Gav’s work, the novel is among the best of his works, for he does lots of things here that are different from the norm.
Ron Marz and Laura Braga’s soft reboot of Witchblade last year made it one of my absolute must-read titles each month and the two creators continued along that path with their following issues, each of which did something different and ended up being really good for the most part. In recent weeks however, we have seen the beginning of something different as matters seem to ramp up for the protagonist Sara Pezzini, who is working hard at being the kind of Sheriff that the people of Saratoga County need her to be with all the strange goings-on.
At the end of the last issue, we saw that there was some new unforeseen complication for Sara in the form of a couple new characters. In this past week’s Witchblade #179, we see a glimpse of what these plans entail, given that Sara and Kate’s new case has them investigating some horrific cattle mutilations in the backwaters of Saratoga. This is mostly an action issue with little in the way of character development, but that’s fine since this is just the opening spell of a brand-new arc and Ron does take a while to get going. The art is good too, as I expected it to be since I’m not pretty used to Laura Braga’s unique style and the monster introduced is pretty cool as well.
Marvel’s Black Widow has undoubtedly been one of the publisher’s bigger success stories from among all the new titles launched this year. While not reaching the heights of titles like Ms. Marvel, it hasn’t been down in the doldrums with titles like She-Hulk either, being more of a balancer towards the high side of the numbers. And that’s well and good since it makes a solid addition to the overall line-up and the work done by writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto has been quite phenomenal, especially of late, with more to come I’m sure.
This week’s Black Widow #12 sees the comics debut of noted television news anchor/journalist Anderson Cooper as Nathan Edmondson writes a really charged issue that explores Natasha’s dual nature. Being on SHIELD’s payroll and also a prominent Avenger, her work often brings her into conflict with things she can’t control, such as international political red-tape and the label of “necessary evil”. Nathan delivers a rather astounding issue this time, even as Phil Noto goes all out with the star-cast of this issue that also includes quite a few prominent Avengers and other high-profile Marvel characters.
Just about three weeks ago, we got to see something amazing happen in James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Fantastic Four, when we finally got to learn who was orchestrating the team’s grandiose downfall, chipping away them one by one. We still don’t have all the answers, but damn, it was a huge issue, a major turning point. With everything that was happening, things seemed to be moving towards a conclusion finally, and I reveled in that since it was something I’ve been wanting to see from the series for a couple months now. The wait is now over.
Fantastic Four #13 is yet another turning point for the series, and the cover is pretty much a dead-giveaway for what is going to happen here. Last time, we saw that Ben was planning a break-out with the Sandman, and we see that happen in glorious detail in this issue. After all the misery of the previous issues, there’s finally some hope for the team, even though they are all still caught in a dark circle that is going to take some time for them to break out of. The issue is a bit too fast-paced for my tastes, but the story and art are both as excellent as they could have been.
My first experience with Jean Johnson was back in 2012 when I heard her on the SF Signal podcast with host Patrick Hester. During the podcast she talked about her military SF series Theirs Not To Reason Why that features a female protagonist who happens to have some powerful natural abilities such as pre/post-cognition, telekinesis and the like and who is on a quest to save the galaxy from an extinction-level threat that will not occur for hundreds of years yet. I read the first three novels in the series last year and they all happened to be quite excellent stories that made me a Jean Johnson fan for life. And now, with the fifth and final book in the series just days away from publication, here’s my review of the fourth novel, which I read last month.
Hardship was originally intended to be the fourth and final book in the series, titled Damnation at the time. But as I learned from Jean herself lately, the final volume ended up being too big and the decision was made to split it into two parts. So Hardship is technically the first of a 2-part finale for Jean’s highly ambitious and grandiose story of Theirs Not To Reason Why. And it is just as excellent as the previous books. With things moving towards a conclusion, there’s a sense of finality in the novel and that there is a big confluence of events happening, so the novel checks off on all the things I wanted to see from it, and more.