Author Archives: AJ

Witchblade #179 (Comics Review)

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.

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Black Widow #12 (Comics Review)

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.

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Fantastic Four #13 (Comics Review)

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.

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Hardship by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

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.

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Hellfire by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

The third novel in Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not To Reason Why series of military space opera was published last year in the summer and it proved to be almost as good as the two novels before it, which is saying something since both A Soldier’s Duty and An Officer’s Duty stand as some of the best MSF books I’ve read to date. The fact that the protagonist Ia is also an uber badass is just icing on the cake and should there be a day when a movie series on these books is released, I’ll be the first to line-up in the theaters to watch it. The series has that kind of potential in it. Hellfire also made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 2” list last year as one of the best novels I read last year.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Jean Johnson’s A Soldier’s Duty got me heavily invested in the SFvision she had created and when I came back for the sequel, I was astounded by the consistency of pretty much everything, whether character or plot, pacing or action, or what have you. Being how good it is, An Officer’s Duty made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 1” list last year as one of the best novels I read last year. Together, these two novels offer something very different to the norm, and I do recommend them most highly.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Jean Johnson is a writer who wears many different hats, and writes in different genres, one of them being military space opera. Her series Theirs Not To Reason Why is, for me, one of the best such series out there, with a protagonist that I absolutely love and a setting that I absolutely enjoy, no matter what I read of any of it. For me, A Soldier’s Duty was one of the best novels I read last year and it would have made it to be “best of the year” lists if I hadn’t read the sequel soon after. All the same, I highly recommend this novel (and indeed the series).

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Predator: Fire and Stone #2 (Comics Review)

Last month Dark Horse kicked off yet another Fire and Stone crossover book wih Joshua Williamson and Christian Mooneyham’s Predator, that is the tail-end of the stories being told in this crossover. With Galgo sacrificing his crew yet again to get out of a tight scrap, it was a very fun issue that also showcased the utter deadliness of the Predator and it seems that both the writer and the artist have the monster alien hunter down pat, since they imbue him with all the hallmarks of that which made the original films so good all those years ago.

This week’s Predator: Fire and Stone #2 continues Galgo’s story as he tries to fight against the Predator who took over the Perses in the last issue. Well, more like ineffectual resistance since the Predator pretty much caught by the end of the issue and now Galgo is basically Ahab the Predator’s servant. Of sorts. It is pretty awesome. Joshua really ups the stakes with this issue, giving us some background on the Predator early on, and then launches off on a really fun story. And the art? It is pretty damn perfect too!

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Trinity of Sin #2 (Comics Review)

Last month DC launched Trinity of Sin, a title that brought together three of the biggest ancient mystics in the DC-verse, a union not seen since The Phantom Stranger #0, when Phantom Stranger, Pandora and Question were brought before the Council of Eternity to face judgement for their sins, the greatest in all of history. The first issue was a pretty good one and it set the stage for a really epic story that drew on some of the most weird supernatural elements of the DC-verse.

Trinity of Sin #2 picks up from where the first issue left off, and it continues the story of Nimraa and his three special servants as he seeks to bring back the great days of his race, of which he is the sole survivor following some dark calamity. As with the first issue, this one too has some really great moments and the action scenes are really good as well, drawing on the powers of all the different characters. The art has some missteps though, which felt really weird, since there are clear precedents and the changes just don’t make sense, but still it is pretty damn good

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Spider-Woman #1 (Comics Review)

Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman has faced quite an uphill battle in recent years. There was the whole “boob-window” controversy last year during the Infinity event, when her space-suit had a boob window for some inexplicable reason. And then there was the utterly horrible Milo Manara variant cover a few weeks back for her debut issue, released this week. Despite being an Avengers stalwart for a number of years, she has had a tougher time in recent years with her own books than many other characters, though she has still come out on top with others like Black Widow and Ms. Marvel and others in getting a brand-new series this year.

Spider-Woman I had quite high expectations for, I’ll admit. I love Jess as a character, thanks largely to some of Brian Michael Bendis’ work with her and what Ales Kot has been doing this year in Secret Avengers. Despite the controversy, I was really looking forward to this book, but unfortunately, things just don’t work out at all. Writer Dennis Hopeless dumps you straight into the middle of Spider-Verse without any kind of context at all and it is more an ensemble title rather than a Spider-Woman title. Most disappointing.

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Arrow Season 3 Ep 7 (TV Show Review)

Last week we got to see something spectacular in Arrow. Ted Grant embraced his history as a vigilante, known as the Wildcat, and we learned that he was taking care of the Glades before Oliver Queen ever came back and started taking on the villains of Starling City. It was a pretty emotionally-charged episode with lots of action as well that also segued into the growing relationship between Ollie and Roy as mentor and apprentice, mirroring that of other character pairs on the shows such as Ted-Laurel and Malcolm-Thea. It was a great episode, and it only left me wanting more.

In the new episode, “Draw Back Your Bow“, we see the debut of Cupid, a woman super-obsessed with the Arrow who wants to become his lover, someone who can take care of him since he takes care of all of Starling. She made her debut by killing of Isaac Stanzler, who used to be the Arsenal to Ted Grant’s Wildcat a few years ago and who was the villain last week. As is usual on the show, we got to see some real-time commentary on how things are with Team Arrow, and we also see that Ray Palmer has some really big designs for what he is going to do with Queen Consolidated and its tech resources. Not a mind-blowing episode per se, but this one can easily fly under the radar, and I’d caution you against dismissing this one off-hand.

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Comics Picks For 12.11.2014

Getting on a roll again, this week I managed to repeat the “Magic 40″ with 2 graphic novels and 38 singles, with many of the latter being absolutely new series, so that was a lot of fun for the most part.

My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Archer & Armstrong: One Percent #1  from Valiant Comics, Deep State #1 from Boom Studios, Django/Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Vertigo Comics, and The Kitchen #1 from Vertigo Comics also. The most disappointing comics of this week were  Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #1 and Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #4 both from Marvel Comics, New 52 – Batman #36 from DC Comics and Grimm Fairy Tales: Cfinderella #1 from Zenescope Entertainment. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Hexed, Fables, New Suicide Squad, Red Sonja and Unity all proved to be immensely fun.

The graphic novels for this week were King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon by Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello and Jose Villarrubia, and Fables Volume 5 by Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, Jimmy Palmiotti, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, James Jean, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha.

Anyway, here’s another edition of “Comics Picks For…”. Full reading list, as always, is available here and all my comics reviews are available here.

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