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Archive for May, 2010

One-Shot At Greatness #9 Firestar

31 May

Because publishers want you to buy their product every month, comics are typically serial in nature. However, occasionally (and more often nowadays than ever before) publishers launch a comic title that is only meant to last for one issue. While ongoing series often have multiple chances to hook in new readers, the comics highlighted in this ongoing investigations only had One-Shot At Greatness!

Firestar vol. II #1Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 2010
Cover Price: $3.99
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Emma Rios
Cover Artist: Stephanie Hans

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Firestar (Angelica Jones) has used her microwave-controlling powers to make the world a better place as a member of the New Mutants. In recent years, she’s discovered that her microwave powers have encouraged cancer to develop early in her young body. In 2009′s Marvel Divas, she battled the cancer into remission but she’s currently undergoing chemo treatments to keep it in check. And, when duty calls, she continues to use her powers for good … even though it’s possible that they’re continuing to negatively affect her.

In this one-shot (her second solo title in 24 years!), she’ll have to help out Cassie Sandusky, a girl who used to pick on her in school. Cassie’s currently going through a difficult divorce and has developed a drinking problem. Angelica finds that, even though these are issues her powers can’t fight, she’s still got the ability to help someone in need.

As always, Sean McKeever delivers with his talented knack for writing believable and realistical dialogue. It’s engrossing and really helps the reader to feel for these characters. The artwork has a manga-inspired look that doesn’t quite deliver to the standards of past-McKeever-partner, Takeshi Miyazawa, but it doesn’t detract from the story. And, the cover doesn’t strike me as incredibly-inspired, either. (I mean, these things are what’re supposed to jump off the rack and scream “Buy Me!”) But, artwork aside, I really enjoyed this look at one of the few female super-heroes that I like checking in on from time to time.

Oh! And, what do you know? The last page says she’ll be appearing regularly in the an upcoming title written by Sean McKeever, the Young Allies. I’m there!

On Ebay: Firestar | Sean McKeever

 

Minimate Spotlight #4 A.I.M. Soldiers

29 May

Action figures have long been a perfect compliment to comic books, since every kid (or kid at heart) has that natural desire to act out adventures with their favorite heroes off the drawn page. Every so often, a unique style of figure comes along that breaks the mold, so to speak. Each Saturday, Donny B will be showcasing various offerings from Art Asylum’s take on the ‘block figure’, with a weekly spotlight on Minimates.

Henchmen are a staple of comic escapades. The hero needs a challenging fight before taking down the main villain, and what better way to provide that challenge than for the villain in question to hire, build, brainwash or genetically engineer a small army of goons?

When producing each wave of Marvel’s Minimate releases, Art Asylum plans out 6 distinct characters, with a 7th short-packed character as a variant (to appease the hard core collectors who enjoy the thrill of the hunt). Since all of Marvel’s waves (not including 4-character boxed sets or the relatively new trend of Toys R Us exclusive releases) are a standard set of four 2-packs, this inevitably results in the variant being packaged with a repeat character. Before long, a cry arose among collectors for this duplicate spot to be used as a chance for buyers to build armies of uniformed characters. The options were abundant, with available henchmen like Hydra, Hand Ninjas, even Sentinels being high on many wish lists.

Art Asylum listened, and in wave 25, we were given our first chance to build armies with the release of the A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) Soldier.

Behind the Image:

This photo required no Photoshop work aside from cleaning up some dust here and there. The real challenge of this image was getting all of those little punks to stay where I put them. You wouldn’t believe how many times one unguarded hand motion would knock down a single A.I.M. Soldier, which would in turn set off a domino effect and demolish 20 minutes of prep work. Still, This was probably one of my more enjoyable Minimate photo shoots to date.

On Ebay: A.I.M.

 

Retro-Read #8 Shadowhawk

28 May

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Publisher: Image Comics
Number of Issues: 4
First Issue: August 1992 ($2.50)
Last Issue: March 1993 ($1.95)
Writer: Jim Valentino
Artist: Jim Valentino

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

An arsonist is loose in New York City, paid to set specific buildings on fire by Ms. Boldd (also known as Vendetta). At the same time, a monster attacking people on the streets, liquefying its victims as it feeds. The star of the book, Shadowhawk, stalks the very same city, breaking the spines of criminals he catches in the act. He even manages to catch Arson, blowing him up by throwing a shuriken into his explosive, gas-filled “backpack”. And, in the next issue, Shadowhawk hunts down the Liquefier and tears his heart out. This take-no-prisoners vigilante has the police worried so they call in the “big guns” to bring him in: the Savage Dragon! Treating us readers to a big brawl, the Dragon and Shadowhawk engage themselves in a grand fight in the city. Luckily for Shadowhawk, he’s rescued by Blakjak another of Vendetta’s minions. Vendetta offers Shadowhawk a position in her crime cartel alongside her, Vortex (a wind-powered female), a mutated Arson and Blakjak but he declines the offer. Now that he knows the cops don’t approve of him … and the criminals do … Shadowhawk’s got a lot of self-analyzing to do.

The Bad: The vigilante super-hero has been done many, many times before and the art in issue one is pretty bad, compared to other work I’ve seen by Valentino.

the Good: Plenty of action to be had here and an appearance by the Savage Dragon as well as a cameo by Spawn (in issue #2). Fans of enhanced covers will be happy: issue one has a silver-foiled, embossed cover; issue two has a silver shine on certain parts of it and issue three glows in the dark! The art starts off ill-formed in many spots but quickly progresses to the level of quality Jim Valentino is capable of. But, really, the best draw of this series is that there’s a mystery brewing over the identity of Shadowhawk. The book introduces many characters that could be the vigilante but, it does not reveal who it is!

The Verdict: It’s an action-oriented, fast read that presents the mystery of Shadowhawk’s true identity. However, the script, plot and art are somewhat rushed. It seems to try to fit too much into this one mini-series. But, with all that said, I’m curious to find out the secret ID of the vigilante … so I’ll be reading the next series.

On Ebay: Shadowhawk | Jim Valentino

 
 

Famous Fan Mail #8 Shannon Wheeler

27 May

You may not be surprised to learn that most people in the comic business grew up reading comic books. However, you might be interested in knowing what they were reading. Here’s a look at “Famous Fanmail”!

Shannon Wheeler is best known as the creator of Too Much Coffee Man. With his roots in independent comics, Wheeler enjoys checking out other indy books, as we can tell from his letter to Diebold, A Silent Partner‘s Production, which was published from 1994-1995. You can read his letter below.

Diebold letters page with Shannon Wheeler

On Ebay: Shannon Wheeler | Diebold

 

Before They Were Stars #4 Ed Brubaker

26 May

Not every comic writer or artist starts at the top, working on books like Batman or X-Men. In fact, most don’t even start at Marvel or DC. Here’s a look at some work by comic book creators … before they were stars.

Pajama Chronicles by Ed BrubakerEd Brubaker won the Eisner Award for Best Writer two years in a row (2007 and 2008). His work on Captain America and Daredevil strongly encouraged sales and hype on those titles and his creator-owned work, Criminal & Incognito, have found large audiences, as well.

But, back in 1987, Brubaker launched an ongoing title that never even made it to the second issue. It’s hard to imagine that happening today but, at the age of 21, this was Brubaker’s first published comics work. He provided both the story and the art for the Pajama Chronicles, which was published by Blackthorne in 1987.

On Ebay: Ed Brubaker

 

Comic Book Cover Swipes Exposed #8 X-Men

25 May

After looking at hundreds of comic book covers, it becomes quickly apparent that not every cover is 100% original. Whether done intentionally or even underhandedly, there’s something about uncovering these “swipes” that adds a new element of fun to reading and collecting comics.

After a seemingly fatal plane crash into Jamaica Bay, Jean Grey erupted out of the waters … reborn as the incredibly powerful Phoenix. Dave Cockrum‘s cover to Uncanny X-Men #101 captures the scene as the other X-Men look on in shock. Years later, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman (II) of the West Coast Avengers, squared off against Pele and Sunfire in an oceanic battle off the coast of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Cover artist, Tom Morgan, felt this heated combat was a good opportunity to pay homage to another fiery (and much more well-known) female. I find it interesting, that just one year later, Tom Morgan swiped the cover of the previous X-Men issue (this swipe was exposed last week).


Uncanny X-Men #101
October 1976
Dave Cockrum

Avengers West Coast #71
June 1991
Tom Morgan

On Ebay: X-Men | Dave Cockrum | West Coast Avengers | Tom Morgan

 

One-Shot At Greatness #8 Assassins

24 May

Because publishers want you to buy their product every month, comics are typically serial in nature. However, occasionally (and more often nowadays than ever before) publishers launch a comic title that is only meant to last for one issue. While ongoing series often have multiple chances to hook in new readers, the comics highlighted in this ongoing investigations only had One-Shot At Greatness!

Assassins by D.G. Chichester & Scott McDanielPublisher: Amalgam Comics
Cover Date: April 1996
Cover Price: $1.95
Writer: D.G. Chichester
Artist: Scott McDaniel

When the DC and Marvel Universes merged in Marvel vs DC, a new one was created: the Amalgam Universe. This one-shot combined Wonder Woman and Storm of the X-Men into one concept.

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Dare (a female combination of Daredevil and Deathstroke) and Catsai (combining Elektra with Catwoman) have been hired to kill the criminal mayor of New Gotham: Enigma Fisk, the Big Question. They’ve got to fight their way up through dozens of floors on their way to his high-rise, each one armed with super-powered criminals sent to kill them. As the battle nears the boss villain, the question still remains: Who Hired Them? And, in the vicious final battle, it seems as if one of the girls might not make it out alive…

I really enjoyed Scott McDaniel‘s detailed and unique work and it was enjoyable to see the combos he came up with for the throw-away villains (Bullseye/Deadshot, Cable/Manhunter, etc). D.G. Chichester, the writer managed to throw in a bit of a twist by unveiling who hired the assassins but, the story seemed pretty self-contained and didn’t raise much interest for subsequent issues.

On Ebay: Amalgam | D.G. Chichester | Scott McDaniel
On AtomicAvenue: Amalgam Comics

 

Minimate Spotlight #3 Electro

22 May

Action figures have long been a perfect compliment to comic books, since every kid (or kid at heart) has that natural desire to act out adventures with their favorite heroes off the drawn page. Every so often, a unique style of figure comes along that breaks the mold, so to speak. Each Saturday, Donny B will be showcasing various offerings from Art Asylum’s take on the ‘block figure’, with a weekly spotlight on Minimates.

Everybody loves a good hero, but what is a hero if there are no formidable villains to fend off? Toy companies understand this concept, since no super powered protagonist can compliment an active imagination without a baddie to conqueror in an epic showdown.

Even big name Spidey villains such as Green Goblin or Doc Ock occasionally need a day off so they can recuperate from the massive butt-kicking they receive at the hands of everybody’s favorite wall crawler. That’s when Spidey’s B-list antagonists step up to try taking out our radioactive hero where the A-listers failed. One such mid level villain is the electrically charged Max Dillon, A.K.A. Electro.

Behind the Image:

The fun part of taking photos of super powered characters is doing the post production work to show off what their powers do. In this case, I used some basic glow effects/lightning tubes to heighten the appearance of electricity coursing through Electro’s veins.

On Ebay: Electro

 

Retro-Read #7 Sir Apropos of Nothing

21 May

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Publisher: IDW
Number of Issues: 5
First Issue: November 2008 ($3.99)
Last Issue: March 2009 ($3.99)
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Robin Riggs

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Our hero, Apropos, doesn’t quite fit the “hero image”. He’s self-serving, lame of leg and has not a thing to his name. Wandering in the desert, he unearths a shiny gold cross that also doubles as a weapon. Soon after, a freak storm produces a tornado that sucks up Apropos and deposits him in a forest where he accidentally saves a young gypsy from a Wolfman! Not one to take such things for granted, the girl takes him back to her camp where he receives a hero’s welcome. He’s then brought to the nearby kingdom of Intravania, where he’s thought to be their prophesied savior. It’s his duty to transform the wispy young prince there into a threatening ruler before the neighboring kingdoms discover the Intravanians are ripe for the pickings. But, he’s certainly got his work cut out for him … and time is short!

The Bad: There’s not much I can pick on in this series but the art and the coloring have a bit of a dull, unpolished look.

the Good: Fun. Peter David always manages to infuse his work with a lot of fun and humor. A host of pop culture references are sprinkled throughout this series that brought me plenty of smirks. He’s created a hero here that lucks into his victories but his self-awareness of the limitations of his abilities lend him an endearing quality.

The Verdict: Even though I’ve never read the novels this character originated from, I didn’t feel left in the dark while reading through this series. It was a lot of fun and the story took us on quite a few adventures within these five issues. The characterization was superbly done as the caption boxes allows us to get inside the main character’s head. Even though it’s clearly a satirization/parody of Dark Tower, Dracula and more … it doesn’t have the empty feeling that many parody stories can have. I’d gladly read a second series.

On Ebay: Sir Apropos | Peter David | Robin Riggs

 
 

Famous Fan Mail #7 Tom McWeeney

20 May

You may not be surprised to learn that most people in the comic business grew up reading comic books. However, you might be interested in knowing what they were reading. Here’s a look at “Famous Fanmail”!

Tom McWeeney has been working in the comics industry since the 1980s. Besides writing and drawing Roachmill, he’s probably best-known for a very wacky, three-issue run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (#38-40). But, before all that, he was caught up in the adventures of Marvel’s rampaging, green behemoth. He got a letter published in the Incredible Hulk #240 (cover date – October 1979) which you can read below.

Incredible Hulk letters page with Tom McWeeney

On Ebay: Tom McWeeney | Hulk