Tag Archives: comic books

Review: Angel City #2

angelcity-2-marketing_preview-1Frances Faye and Dolores Dare were best friends, once upon a time; small town girls with cardboard suitcases and dreams of Hollywood stardom. But that was the past. Now, Frances has been murdered, and the crooked Los Angeles cops don’t care enough to solve the crime. Dolores hunts for the murderer everywhere, from high-end studio lots to seedy gambling dens. But as she gets closer to unraveling the mystery, she also nears a betrayal that hits close to home.

In Angel City #2, writer Janet Harvey brings in a lot of Dolores’ backstory. The issues explains how Frances and Dolores met in a Depression era boarding house which adds a lot of depth to the series. It does a solid job showing why the two of them grew to be friends with dreams of Hollywood. The present contrasts this some by showing off Doleres’ attempt at deception to get the answers she wants. It’s an interesting switch from the wide eyed character we see dreaming of stars.

The black and white color choice used to depict flashbacks works really well for this series. It manages to contrast well with the more colorful present. I won’t spoil the odd standout scene in this issue but, it does do a good job of merging both the past and present. It shows off some of the acrobatic skills Doleres’ learned in her when she was in the circus. Artist Megan Levens delivers with the art mixing fun action with a noir story.

Story: Janet Harvey Art: Megan Levens
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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President Luthor and President Trump are More Similar Than You Think

lex-luthor-for-presidentThe most controversial election of all time!” That was a marketing line for the storyline run by DC Comics that saw Lex Luthor elected President of the United States in the DC Universe. Collected in the “President Lex” trade paperback, the story ran through the various series of the time from an impressive collection of creators. Having recently reread the collection, it’s a frighteningly prescient story far ahead of its time, primarily because it could have easily been talking about the recent election of Donald Trump.

Opening up with “The Why” by writer Greg Rucka and artist Matthew Clark, we get the motivations of Lex Luthor’s run as he makes an announcement about his decision to run. Surrounded by the Superman logo, we’re presented with a Lex Luthor whose ego has clearly been hurt and driven by a need to be in the spotlight. In a mostly wordless six pages we get a sense that Luthor is driven for his competition with the Man of Steel and needing to be in the spotlight and in charge. That sound familiar?

In 2012 it was reported that Trump’s decision to run was made partially due to his humiliation at a White House Correspondent’s dinner. According to Republican trickster Roger Stone, Trump’s motivation was partially an “I’ll show him” attitude to President Obama and the shade thrown Trump’s way at the event. It’s ego to him, and we’ve seen from his outbursts and Twitter tirades, the man is all ego. But that simple coincidence isn’t all when it comes to the Presidential run, and win, for the two celebrity businessmen turned politicians.

One of the biggest decisions a Presidential nominee can make is their Vice Presidential choice. In Trump’s case, it was Indiana Governor Mike Pence. In Luthor’s it is former Kansas Senator Pete Ross. In a weird coincidence, a real life Pete Ross ran for Shadow Senator for Washinton, DC. So, in both cases we have a “big city” businessman choosing a mid-west politician as their running mate.

As part of the story Luthor is accused of harming Atlantis with some technology and after “going to trial” he talks his way out of it with a settlement and offers to pay reparations for the damage done. Trump has at least 75 lawsuits against him and his businesses and infamously settled the Trump University case during his Presidential run.

While lots of empty talk continues, action hasn’t been taken to help the people of Flint, Michigan and the water crisis occurring there. Due to neglect and outright criminal action, the water is poisoned for the people and damage done to those who have already ingested so much of it. The people of Suicide Slum in Metropolis too have been hurt with water poisoned from Luthor’s upgrading of the city with alien technology. While some areas benefit, Suicide Slum is left behind by those in charge, the people left to rot.

Luthor’s business is much like Trump’s as well. Lex Luthor has Lex Tower, Trump has Trump Tower, both ruling out of it. Luthor turns over his company to Talia Head (actually Talia Al Ghul), but he doesn’t really give up control instead dealing with Talia directly.

The election itself has many parallels. The outcome isn’t a blowout, resulting in a close election going on well into the night, a reality of the Trump/Clinton race. Luthor, like Trump, plays the media to not just make over his persona but deliver his message to the people with free air time. Perry White on the other hand, ponders if there was more they could have done as the fourth estate during the election itself, a similar introspection that existed within the media after Trump’s election.

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That hand-wringing extends to Superman and Batman. Both at a point debate if they should intervene to dig up dirt on Luthor. Superman is the the one who doesn’t want to, believing in the process and letting it play out, an attitude reflected by many who say we need to “stand with the President” and “give him a chance.”

aquaman-head-of-statePost election there are similarities. Luthor’s election is met with protests and he threatens to out Batman and his allies’ identities by using the NSA, FBI, CIA, and more. While we haven’t seen Trump directly do that, there’s some oddness concerning the current issues between the Trump administration and the intelligence community.

But, there’s a foreign policy move that’s odd. In one issue as part of the collection, Aquaman tells Superman that Luthor is the first world leader to reach out to Atlantis and take it seriously as a nation. The extended hand is something reminiscent of current talks with Russia and Trump’s willingness to praise the country so many see as an adversary. It’s a break in the previous foreign policy and one might argue, the right policy. Today, it would be easy to see the parallels, but this was originally published in 2000 and 2001.

What does the story tell us about President Trump’s future? President Luthor was impeached due to his going insane and trying to kill Superman. This was after a fairly competent run though. We haven’t seen that same competence out of President Trump, but talks of impeachment swirl about a month into his Presidency.

Valiant Presents Icons – Beginning in 2017

Valiant Entertainment has released a new teaser from artist Felipe Massafera. “Icons” is a “new dawn for Valiant’s greatest heroes,” including X-O Manowar, Faith, Bloodshot, Shadowman, and Harbinger Wars 2.

“Icons” begins in 2017.

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Kieron Gillen and Antonio Fuso Take on James Bond this May

Dynamite Entertainment introduces an all-new take on the icon of espionage in an upcoming oversized James Bond special, James Bond: Service, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Antonio Fuso!

In contemporary politics, where Britain’s world standing is often more zero than 007, an assassin plans to exterminate the “special relationship,” and lead Britain and the United States into a very dark place…especially when he does so by aiming down the sights of an ancient Enfield rifle! It’ll test Bond’s deadly talents to their limits, in order to defeat the assassin and avert certain geopolitical disaster…

James Bond: Service will be released as a 48-page special and slated for release in May.

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Opening the Doors to Comics in the Classroom

As a life-long comics fan, I’ve always tried to remove the blinders from people’s eyes and make them see the value of comics, to open the doors that prevented them from entering into this new and wonderful world. In grade school, I strong-armed my friends into taking trips to the comics store with me. In middle school, I took a brief detour and closed the doors on comics–finding yourself and accepting yourself in middle school is hard enough without having to embrace the label of “Comic Geek,” especially since most people’s frame of reference for comic fans at the time was The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy.

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Eventually, in high school, I grew tired of having this secret identity and would proudly proclaim my love of comics, shoving comics into the hands of friends based on interest. A friend liked the action, intrigue and conspiracies of the Bourne books–check out 100 Bullets. A friend already liked Neil Gaiman’s prose work–check out Sandman. A friend and I connected over our shared love of the 90s X-Men cartoon series–check out this other cool X-Men thing from the 90s called Age of Apocalypse. The doors were starting to open again, but I had more than a few friends who slammed it shut in my face.

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Now that I’m a high school English teacher, I still want to open the doors so more people can enjoy the great world of comics, but I have some different methods. At first, it started off as offering Maus as an alternative to another concentration camp book, Night. Then, it branched into having students use online comic creator programs like Pixton to showcase knowledge of theme in a text we read. But these only opened a few doors for the few students in my class who wanted to explore new rooms. It was time to try something else.

Three years ago, I decided that it was time to propose a graphic novel class. I’d had a taste of the engagement that comics can build in students, and I wanted more, but I wanted to see this happen every day for every student in a class. I spent a frenetic weekend poring over my district’s new course proposal requirements, filling out the documents, asking for feedback from other teachers who had proposed a class before, and then revising those documents based on their feedback. I might have been dead to the outside world, but I was creating a new world for a new classroom. Unfortunately, for various reasons having to do with district politics, all of our English department proposals were rejected, graphic novel included. I’d glimpsed some light through a crack in the door, but just when I was about to cross the threshold, the door was slammed in my face. Again.

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Two years ago, I made slight changes and then sent it to be approved. But our district had changed the course proposal requirements, allowing only one department to add new classes per year, and it was again rejected, because it wasn’t our department’s turn. The door remained closed.

Finally, a year ago, they opened the door (not just to my class, but to our department’s eight other new classes). I spent that year ironing out any kinks any the course, and so that I could speak more to the creative process of making a comic, I started self-publishing my thriller comic Rebirth of the Gangster (shameless plug–it’s on sale on Amazon, and it’s like Breaking Bad meets The Wire with a shot of Shakespearean drama and debt to Othello). The year passed, I’d adjusted some of the choice texts for the class, and I’d released the first three issues of my series, and I entered my classroom doors at the beginning of September, ready to unlock student’s passion for comics.

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But that didn’t pan out quite like I hoped.

Sure, there were students who had read plenty of comics (especially manga, often from students who were in the anime club I advise). And those students entered my class with the same curiosity and commitment I would’ve entered a similar class if it had existed when I went to high school. They saw something worthwhile in every comic we read, even the more abstract Understanding Comics that tripped up many other students. They poured sweat into every Behind the Scenes activity we did, even if they only cared about the writing part of the comic creating process or if they only cared about the penciling, inking, coloring, or lettering we focused on in other BTS lessons. They would often offer insights in class discussion that I hadn’t thought of, prompting other students to become more engaged in the stories we read. And when the end of the semester came, and they had to create some aspect of a 6-page comic, they worked for their own growth, not for a grade. They created something that not only earned an A; it earned my gratitude and pride. These students saw an open door and jumped through it, never looking back.

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But these students only counted for about ¼ of my class. The rest of my class didn’t care about comics, and even more worrisome, didn’t care to put in work when asked. They took my class because they thought it would be an easy A. “It’d be less work, and even if I have to read, reading comics is easier” is what they all told me. Comics might have become legitimate enough to have a class all their own, but people’s perceptions weren’t changed that quickly, and comics still weren’t seen as legitimate or as deep as other media. At least they were honest.

Sometimes this didn’t matter. My students who had opened the door and started exploring every nook and cranny of these new rooms would often carry discussion, pulling some of these students in. And even when they didn’t pull other students in, talking with those students about comics–learning from them as they were learning from me–often made my day. But on those days when they didn’t carry conversations, class would drag, and it would weigh on me more than any of my other classes. I began to dread this class.

And I think my students could tell, but they didn’t change. In fact, many students got even lazier. It got to the point that one of my students lost their job, because his parents wouldn’t let him work when he was failing my class. I’ve taught for seven years, and that was a first for me. This student even admitted he only failed because he didn’t care enough about the class to try, but his behavior didn’t change. He closed the door, and even when he was standing in a hallway on fire, he refused to open it.

I got so sick of this that I had an extensive heart-to-heart with my class. I talked about how I had more Fs in that class than the rest of my classes combined. I talked about how comics were my greatest passion, but that this class’s attitude was making me dislike my greatest passion. I talked about how something similar had happened when I taught a hip hop class, and that I needed to take a break from teaching that class because of the lack of passion from my students, not because I didn’t love hip hop. And I told them that unless things changed, the same thing was going to happen here: I’d teach this course for a year and then abandon it in the same way I felt that most of my students had abandoned my jewel, the class I had worked harder on than the AP classes I teach.

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I don’t know if it was this talk, or if it was just that many of my students put in a last-ditch effort to avoid an F for the semester in this class. Whatever it was, over the last two months of this class, I began to see more effort and curiosity from my students. Part of this could have to do with reading a choice graphic novel in the last part of the semester: as much as I love Kuper’s Metamorphosis, Spiegelman’s Maus, and Satrapi’s Persepolis, I definitely know that other comics would draw them into this world of panels and gutters more effectively (choice texts like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Wandering Son, Nausicaa, March, and more). Once they got their hands on a graphic novel they chose, they creaked open the door and took a few steps into this new room: not everybody, but more than I had seen up to that point.

Ultimately, by the end of the semester, I no longer dreaded teaching this class. But I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would when I’d spent the previous years and summer hammering away at a keyboard, chiseling out curriculum. It had become like any other class I taught: full of some fun heights and some frustrating lows and a whole lot of boring middle ground.

Yes, I found a way to open the door to a new generation of comics readers, but I didn’t figure out a way to have them walk through that door. But then again, isn’t that the case with any subject in school? And if many of my graphic novel students are treating my class like they do other classes, that surely should be a sign that comics are gaining that legitimacy I always wanted. As it is with any other subject, the doors are open, and it’s all on the individual if they decide to explore that room or not, if they decide to make this pit stop or continue on their path. Finally, no one will slam these doors in their face like I had them slammed in mine. And that’s a step in the right direction even if the finish line still isn’t in sight.

CalExit is Coming from Black Mask, Matteo Pizzolo, and Amancay Nahuelpan

What if a fascist, autocratic President took over the United States? And what if that President lost California, the sixth largest economy on Earth, by nearly 2-to-1…a margin of almost 3 1/2 million votes? What if the day after that President took power, the largest mass demonstration in history occurred, and the state with the largest turnout was California. And then, the following week, two of the largest international airports in the world, California’s LAX and SFO, were blockaded by protesters? What if California refused to be ruled?

This is the world of CalExit, the new ongoing comic book series launching this May from Black Mask Studios. Together, writer Matteo Pizzolo and artist Amancay Nahuelpan, the creators of Young Terrorists, have created a timely title about resisting oppression, punching Nazis, protecting each other, kicking ass, and demanding liberty for all.

In CalExit, the citizens of California will struggle to seize power back from an autocratic government. The ongoing series tells the story of Jamil, a 25-year old courier (aka smuggler), and Zora, a 27-year old leader in the Pacific Coast Sister Cities Resistance, who escape together from a prison camp in Occupied Los Angeles, where martial law has been in place for the past year — ever since America’s demagogue President signed an executive order to deport all immigrants, and California responded by proclaiming itself a Sanctuary State. Each issue of CalExit will also include non-fiction material about local sustainability and grassroots campaigning for 2018 elections.

The first issue of CalExit will be available from Black Mask Studios in May 2017.

CalExit is the real world secession movement that involves first a citizen’s initiative in 2018 and then 2019 referendum. Yes California, a leading organization behind the movement, has ties with “anti-globalist” Russian groups and received funding from the Kremlin leading to speculation it is a part of a destabilization movement.

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Around the Tubes

the-wild-storm-1It’s a new week and that means new comics, new interviews, new reviews, and more! This past weekend was Toy Fair and we’re continuing our coverage today. What have you seen so far that you’ve liked? Sound off in the comments below.

While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

ICv2 – BOOM! Offers Retailers ‘Guarantee’ Program – This will be interesting to see its impact.

Comichron – More comics shipped in January 2017 than any January in 20 years; U.S. Avengers #1 leads pack – Interesting stat considering those percentages…

The Outhousers – Scalped TV Show Casts Alex Meraz As Dashiell Bad Horse – Awesome!

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Death Be Damned #1

The Beat – Dr. McNinja: Rule of Cool

Talking Comics – Green Arrow #17

Atomic Junk Shop – Sunstone Vol. 1- 5

Talking Comics – The Wild Storm #1

Here Comes Solar Flare from Scout Comics

Scout Comics and Entertainment has announced the April release of Solar Flare, part of their expanding line of comics. The series is written by James Haick with art by Branko Jovanovic and cover art by Song Ye.

Solar Flare is a modern-day story where a massive x-class solar flare hits Earth wiping out all electronics and electricity. The comic is based on real science and focuses on Jake Clifford and his friends as he attempts to road trip it in an electronic-less world to reunite with his daughter. There’s also a scientist who’s attempts to get to a secret military base, ground zero in re-establishing the country’s electrical infrastructure.

With society unraveling, the journey is perilous.

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Review: Alien vs Predator: Life and Death #3

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The Alien hordes descend in a desperate attempt to repossess their fetus queen from the escaping Colonial Marines. Even with the help of the Predator clan, survival for the humans doesn’t look likely.

Writer Dan Abnett gives us a situation that’s growing desperate for both sides in Alien vs Predator: Life and Death #3. Chris’ alien queen wants out of her, as both her human and Predator protectors attempt to keep the Xenomorphs from getting to her. The colonial marines haves yet to arrive, which leads to Chris something suicidal to attempt to save everyone. Will her plan work?

There is a lot of action going on, and a lot of fire- power and all of it is beautifully rendered by Brian Thies. The predator group is doing a lot of up close fighting with both their trademark spears and claws and Thies captures the awesome detail. In contrast to this, the humans are using a more modern version of firepower. Despite the contrasting forms of combat, Thies’ art shows off that neither side are to be trifled with.

Story: Dan Abnett Art: Brian Thies
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

DollFace #1 Sells Out At Diamond, Second Printing Coming Soon

With a combined print run of over 20,000 units across multiple covers, DollFace has struck a chord with fans and retailers alike. DollFace is the story of Lila, a 17th-century witch hunter whose soul is brought forward in time into the body of a ball-jointed, 3-D printed doll.

With only a few remaining copies of DollFace #1 trickling into the market, Action Lab has announced a second printing of the over-sized book, and offer their partnership to comic retailers with limited edition retailer exclusive variants.

Orders for the second printing will be available through Diamond soon.

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