Femme Fatales “Hack/Slash:” Cassie Hack by Diamond Select

I can’t remember what got me started reading Tim Seeley’s wonderful Hack/Slash comic. Chances are I just picked up an issue at some point while browsing a comic shop and got hooked. It’s precisely that kind of book where you can open any issue to any page and instantly want to know what the hell is going on. If you like offbeat horror comedy I recommend a look and a lot of it is still available in convenient TPB or Omnibus editions. Sadly, there hasn’t been a lot of Hack/Slash merch out there, which always struck me as weird since there are all sorts of obscure indie comics with action figures or statues.

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Ah, but it’s Diamond Select to the rescue via their Femme Fatales line. I’ve reviewed some of these before and it’s a weird little line of economy priced collectible statues that pulls its content from original designs to comic book properties and even something as big as Star Trek. Diamond seems intent on getting more mileage out of this line as they not only produced this Hack/Slash piece, but they just launched a wide reaching sub-line of DC statues based on the art of Bruce Timm, which I’ll start looking at next week.

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Getting back on topic, the statue comes in a window box with a deco more or less in line with the last three Femme Fatales statues I bought. The windows let a lot of light in and give you a great look at the statue, which will come in handy if you happen to be buying it off the shelf and want to check the quality of the paintwork. Everything is collector friendly and while I don’t think the deco here is anything to write home about, I’ve still kept all my Femme Fatales boxes just in case I ever need to pack them away.

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And here she is out of the box, all set up, and looking mighty fine. Cassie comes already attached to her base, all you have to do is attach her accessories. The bat slips into her left hand and Vlad’s mask hooks on the fingers of her right hand. This PCV sculpt is by Sam Greenwell, who has done some work for DC Collectibles and I think it really does a beautiful job capturing the character and straddling the line between simple comic style with out sacrificing detail.

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Cassie’s had some variations to her look throughout her adventures, but I would consider the outfit here pretty iconic for her. She sports a see-through one-piece with skimpy black bikini top and a low-slung skirt, complete with her FaQ belt. She has long striped fingerless gloves, a pair of high top black boots and athletic socks. There are some really nice examples of sculpted detail, like the laces on the boots, the knitting in the socks, and even the stripes on her gloves are part of the sculpt. The paintwork on the outfit is excellent for a piece in this price range. There’s a little slop between her boots and socks, but other then that there’s nothing else to pick at. I dare say that I’ve seen more flubs on far more expensive statues. I will say that I would have preferred they went with her plaid skirt, but apparently DST is saving that for an exclusive release.

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The portrait is beautiful and an interesting sculpt, with her sculpted hair eclipsing the right side of her face. If you look at Cassie dead on she has a determined expression, but if you get a little lower and look up at her, she look a tad more vulnerable. Either way she’s very pretty and here too the paintwork is excellent.

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The accessories are both welcome additions. The bat has a wood grain texture, sculpted tape on the grip, and several nails sticking out of the tip. There’s also a gruesome crimson wash at the end. It just wouldn’t be Cassie without a weapon. I would have liked it to have “Kiss It” painted on, but they may be saving that for the exclusive too. And then you have Vlad’s mask, which was, in my mind, a necessary addition to have the big guy’s presence felt even though this is a solo piece. The rather clever base is designed to look like the head of an axe, complete with silver paint on the edge and a hole where the axe handle would pass through. As much as I love the design here, it is a tad wobbly, which is really my only complaint about this entire piece.

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At approximately 9-inches tall, she fits in really well when displayed next to my Ariel Darkchylde. The statues in Diamond’s Femme Fatales line retail at around $40 and I have to say you’re getting a really nicely crafted piece for your money here. It’s true that most of this line doesn’t tend to hold their value very well. Indeed, this is the first FF piece that I paid full retail on and that’s just because I wanted to support the fact that someone was delivering on the Hack/Slash merch and I didn’t want to take any chances on missing out on Cassie. For any fan of the comic, this is a must-own piece, and I’m not just saying that because there’s nothing else out there.

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Transformers Generations: Bumblebee (IDW Comic Pack) by Hasbro

You know it’s been a busy couple of weeks here at FigureFan Central when I let a bunch of Transformers comic packs sit around unopened. Yes, I’ve had a lot of stuff rolling in and I’m trying to get to everything in a reasonable amount of time. Well, I’m starting to catch up a bit so let’s tear open another one of these today… hey, look it’s Bumblebee!

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Wow, this is an impressive piece of packaging. Bumblebee is carded in robot mode and between him and his weapons, he fills out the bubble admirably. You also get the comic book behind him with the exclusive Hasbro cover. This is award winning packaging. When I see it on the pegs, I want to buy it, even though I already have own it. I’m extra pleased to get the comic, because I wasn’t following this run when it was out. Bumblebee isn’t really in More Than Meets The Eye much, and I’ve only started reading Robots In Disguise where he’s been reformatted into a different body back on Cybertron. The comic is decent enough. It’s been tough for me to adopt the idea of Bumblebee as Autobot leader, and this issue addresses some of that a bit. On the other hand, it features two of my favorite Transformers, Thundercracker and Prowl, so I found it to be a good read even though it didn’t send me scrambling to Comixology to download more. Let’s start with Bumblebee’s alt mode.

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Drawing from the comic design, which makes some nods to the Bayformer design, Bumblebee is for all intents and purposes a concept Chevy Camero. The design certainly has some cool features, like the split spoiler in the back and the flared hood, which makes it look like a powerful machine. Little touches include the dual tailpipes, detailed headlights, and the rather nicely sculpted wheels. The clear windows and windshield are always a plus in my book, even if the rear window is painted on. I’ll also point out that Bumblebee is a nicely sized vehicle for a Deluxe. While he doesn’t dwarf any of the TF: Prime Deluxes, if you put him next to a figure like Cliffjumper or Bumblebee, he is noticeably bigger.

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While size has improved, I’m still not completely satisfied with the deco, or to be more accurate, the plastic. There’s something about the yellow plastic used here that doesn’t do it for me. It’s similar to the stuff used for Prime Bumblebee, but in this case it’s lighter and looks a little worse. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it kind of looks like it. More paint apps would have probably helped, and while this vehicle makes out a little better than Prime Bumblebee in that department, it still feels like it could have used a little more something in the deco.

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Bumblebee’s weapons can peg into the ports located on each side near his spoiler giving him some firepower while in his alt mode. I approve, but then I’m a pretty big fan of cars loaded out to deal damage. Your mileage may vary.

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Transforming Bumblebee to robot mode is easy. Getting him back into vehicle mode is a pain in the ass because of some subtle shifting that occurs with his rear window. Nonetheless, once in robot mode Bumblebee has his ups and his downs. Hasbro certainly did a nice job converting the comic design into a working Transformer. Yes, Bee uses some trickery. The chest, which is obviously supposed to be the hood is faked out, but I’m willing to cut them some slack for having to reverse engineer this guy. I like the proportions a lot. He’s a pretty clean looking robot. The head sculpt is very cool and very G1 inspired.

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My biggest issue here is the shoulders, in that I wish they were stationary. When you move Bee’s arms, the whole shoulder assembly moves with them and it’s kind of awkward. The way the doors become wings is a nice homage to the Bayformer design and to some extent classic Autobot design as well, but if the shoulders were fixed, this figure would have turned out a lot better for me. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with and posing most of the recent Transformers releases, but Bee here just isn’t one of them. On a brighter note, a lot of the deco issues I have with Bee’s alt mode are toned down in his robot mode. He has more black showing and grey thighs. It helps to break up the shabby looking yellow plastic a bit and make him a lot more interesting.

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Bumblebee’s weapons can be wielded in either of his hands, or you can clip them together to make one really cool looking cannon. Peg ports on the forearms would have been a nice option, but that’s OK, because I’d still probably prefer to display him with the big cannon.

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I’ve been up and down on this figure. When I saw the first official pictures of him, I thought I was going to love him. When I had the package in hand, I waffled a bit. Now that I’ve had him out and played with him a bit, I’m happy to say I’m a fan. The shoulders aren’t technical issues; they’re intentionally designed that way, so my attitude toward them is just a personal preference and not a flaw in the figure’s design. The plastic is what it is. Like I said, it doesn’t feel cheap, it just looks kind of cheap. But again, maybe that’s just me.

Zenescope’s Alice in Wonderland: Alice Liddle by CS Moore Studios

Ah, Zenescope, your comics are one of my favorite guilty pleasures. There’s nothing like a little gore, horror, and T&A to keep me coming back. I got hooked through Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but I think they really hit their stride with their Wonderland chronicles. That’s no small feat, since it seems like everyone and their mother has done a “dark and twisted” version of Lewis Carroll’s classic, but Zenescope’s treatment just scratches my itch. Enter the unique sculpting talents of Clayburn Moore and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Moore Studios is going to be producing a number of figures based on Zenescope’s books, and the first release in that series is Alice herself.

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That is some striking packaging! Alice comes on a very large card and in a sizeable bubble. The card is bright and colorful and further enhanced by the use of a reprint copy of Alice in Wonderland #1 as a backdrop to the figure. The included comic features an exclusive cover for the release of this figure with a big portrait of Alice and her white rabbit. The figure is mounted in her tray, slightly off center with her stand and accessories surrounding her. “Ages 14+” …really? The back of the card promises future releases of Sela, Calie, and Queen of Hearts. I’m rather surprised they didn’t start with Sela, the star of GFT, but I’m looking forward to seeing her.

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I’ve always been a fan of Moore’s sculpting talents. Sure, it helps that most of his subjects are gorgeous and half-naked chicks, but in this case he really outdid himself with the head sculpt. Moore managed to capture the beauty Alice from Robert Gill’s artwork and still add a modicum of his own personal style. It’s almost a shame that so much of her face is shrouded by her bangs, but it certainly suits the character design. I’m also pleased that they went with what appears to be painted flesh tones as opposed to bare plastic. As much as I love Moore’s figures, some of his past efforts have had a shiny, waxy look to the skin, but Alice here is perfect.

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Speaking of perfect, let’s migrate down below the neck and check out that body. Oh my! The pose is strategically chosen to show off… well, let’s face it: T&A. Her back is arched and her arms are out to her sides. Yes, Alice does indeed spend most of the book parading about in this outfit, and the figure’s costume lacks a couple of small details, like garters on the stockings and laces across her cleavage. This version of Alice also sports a pair of stilettos, as opposed to flats. Still, artistic license aside, it still manages to hit all the right spots quite well. The half-corset leaves little to the imagination and as for the skirt, well it might as well not be there. The ruffling on her tiny outfit is nicely sculpted and I really dig the almost metallic sheen used for the blue paint. In fact, all the paintwork on this figure is expertly applied with sharp edges, and little or no bleed or slop.

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If you’re familiar with Moore’s action figures, you know not to expect much in the way of articulation. Alice does little to buck that trend. She technically has six points of articulation, but the swivel cuts in her waist and neck are almost useless. She has swivel cuts up in her hips, so you can get her to do the splits, or sit in a rather suggestive way. But really, the most useful points of articulation here are the rotating cuts in the shoulders, and even those will only take you so far. Nope, this figure is primarily intended to stand there and look pretty, and she does that quite well.

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You do get some accessories with Alice. I’ve never met a Moore figure that didn’t come with a stand. In this case you get a very nice little splotch of bright green grass with some mushrooms. The paintwork on the stand is exceptional, particularly on the shrooms. You also get a croquet mallet, a “Drink Me” bottle, and Alice’s white rabbit. All are nice pieces, but apart from crowding them around the stand, you can’t really do much for them. Alice isn’t even designed to hold the mallet.

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Hopefully you can find Alice hanging around your local comic shop, along with some of Zenescope’s comics. If not, there are plenty of online alternatives, including Zenescope’s own storefront. Recently, they were doing a nice sale on their Wonderland titles, so I took the opportunity to upgrade my digital comics to TPBs and I tossed Alice into the shopping cart as well. At around $20, she is definitely a nice piece. If you’re a collector of Moore’s figures, you should find her a nice addition to your collection. If you read the Wonderland books, she’ll look nice on your Zenescope bookshelf. And if you just want a dead sexy figure celebrating Alice in Wonderland, you can’t go wrong here!

Sunday Funday: Hack/Slash!

Hooray for Sunday. This afternoon will consist of me, my patio, an H. Upmann Corona Major, a generous rock glass of Jameson, and the first three volumes of Tim Seeley’s Hack/Slash. This is the kind of stuff that makes slaving through the work week worthwhile.

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I’m actually not going to spend a lot of time talking about the misadventures of Cassie and Vlad. Suffice it to say, I love this comic. Last year, I read them all digitally and now I’m buying the TPBs for my bookshelf. I’ll probably do a proper feature on them some Sunday in the future. I’ve got many more volumes to go.

Nope, I just wanted to give a shout out to the Ebay Seller Rivalrycomics, because they’re so professional and awesome. I bought Hack/Slash Vol. 3 from them and they quickly messaged me to let me know that it had some light shelf wear and a bumped corner and apologized and said if I wanted to cancel the order or take a discount they’d be fine with that. I know where they’re coming from. I owned and operated a book shop for eight years. I did a lot of Internet business, and I know how hard it is to accurately represent collectibles when it comes to condition. Collectors can be crazy picky!

Anywho, I said it was Ok because I was mainly looking for a nice reading copy, it was a really good price on the book to begin with and the shipping was free. Well, they still tossed in some extra comics, including a super cool reprint Tales from the Crypt issue. They must have read my mind, because I don’t think they could have possible selected a cooler bonus comic. It’s awesome!

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And even after all that, the book I originally ordered was in great shape! So, it’s cool to see people who deal in collectibles who are so meticulous about condition. These guys get it. They’re professionals. They’re bros. They care. That’s the kind of people I love to do business with. I do a ton of business on Ebay, whether it be buying toys, comics, or old video games, and I’ve crossed path with my share of skunks and swindlers, so it’s all the better when you encounter some professionals. So, if you’re looking for some comics or video games, hit up their Ebay Store. Maybe they have something you’re looking for. I know I will be ordering from them again.

Sunday Funday: Grimm’s Fairy Tales Omnibus!

Arriving just in time for the waning days of my vacation, Zenescope has finally released their mammoth Omnibus collection of their always twisted and sometimes sexy take on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s actually been available for a little while as an exclusive from their booth at various conventions. Unfortunately, I live toward the tip of a peninsula where such conventions are mostly fairy tales themselves. See what I did there? If you haven’t delved into any of the 80+ issues of GFT and its rapidly expanding universe, here’s the deal: In what usually plays out like an after-hours Twilight Zone episode, characters are beaten over the head with moral lessons played out in Fairy Tales that usually draw to a delightfully gore-filled conclusion. Needless to say I’m spending a lot of time with this book this weekend and my cigar of choice this time is the always faithful, H. Upmann 1844 Special Reserve. Mmm… lovely.

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GFT was the first comic that I started reading digitally on a tablet, and I’ll confess I didn’t take to the book right away. It lacks the pithy dialogue or sweeping stories that I usually go for in my comics. The humor is more subtle and I sometimes wonder how many of the chuckles I get out of this book are intentional. The first story was rather predictable and seemed to go nowhere, but I downloaded the first 10 issues as part of a sale and I pressed on. Before long, things got more interesting, and before I knew it, I was buying more downloads to see what kind of twisted shit they could come up with next. As it turns out, it’s an insidious book that slowly draws you in, making the stories more complex, and eventually pulling back the camera and revealing the two narrators, Sela and Belinda, as characters in a struggle against each other over the souls of their target of the month. If this whole thing was planned out, it’s rather clever, but also a risky move, because I imagine a number of people were tempted to drop the book from their pull lists before it really started to get good. As such, I think it’s one of those comics that may be best experienced in collected editions. On the other hand, if you stick with it through the individual issues, reading GFT is like being in that proverbial pot of slowly boiling water. I was getting hooked (or is that cooked?), but I didn’t realize it was happening until it was too late. Of course, all the Zenescope branded T&A in the art doesn’t hurt either. Yaknowatimean?

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The Omnibus is an ambitious beast of a publication. At 1350 pages(!), it encompasses the first EIGHT collected volumes, meaning it contains the first FIFTY issues of the comic! I was a little concerned about how well a book of this size and weight would turn out, but I knew I wanted these collected in a print edition for my shelf, and getting eight volumes worth of comics in one book seemed like the easier (and less expensive way to go). It turned out to be a worthy gamble. The quality of the print is gorgeous and the binding seems to be of very good quality. Even at the center of the book, reading or enjoying the art near the binding is not a chore, and it doesn’t seem like creasing in the spine or loose pages will be a problem, so long as a modicum of care is taken while reading. Each reprinted volume retains the often heartfelt introductions, although individual variant covers are not included. While this could be a big deal to some, it’s understandable that some sacrifices had to be made. The variant covers alone would have added another 100+ pages to an already gargantuan tome.

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The cover price for the Omnibus is $59.99, but I had my copy pre-ordered at Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $37 and they actually had it to me a few days before its scheduled release. GFT started out as a guilty pleasure, but it’s evolved beyond that for me and this collection makes me glad that I was content with my digital downloads and didn’t start going after the individual trades.  At this point, the only downside is that if I fall asleep reading with this thing on my chest, I’m liable to wake up thinking I’m having a heart attack.

Images used are the copyright of Zenescope and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday: Bendis’ Moon Knight

Tomorrow starts my vacation in which I will embark on a great quest to see how little I can leave the house during the span of a week. I seriously plan on doing nothing other than lay around read comics, enjoy cigars and libation, and maybe play a video game or two. Well, I started a bit early this weekend by lighting up an H. Upmann Corona Major and re-reading Brian Michael Bendis’ Moon Knight in its collected TPB releases. I’m thinking of just renaming Sunday Funday Comics & Coronas.

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Almost every year it happens. That one book I love gets shit-canned. The year before last, I was still reeling from some of my favorite DC books falling victim to the reboot, but last year it was the end of Bendis’ short run with Moon Knight that cut the deepest. God, I loved this book! It took a character that I hardly gave two shits about and turned him into someone that got me to the comic shop for each new issue. Marc Spector, self-appointed Hollywood socialite works on a campy TV series about his life, while trying to establish himself as a West Coast Avenger and unravel the mystery of a new Kingpin and the sale of an Ultron head. The art by Alex Maleev is excellent. It’s gritty, it’s edgy, and it gives the book a serious undertone, which balances out the black comedy really well.

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Yes, I love comics for all sorts of reasons, but in the end, it’s the ones that make me laugh that usually get me coming back the most. Bendis’ Moon Knight is good with that. Marc Spector is batshit insane (but he would argue all costumed super heroes are!) and the book’s greatest selling point is the pithy inner dialogue between him and the voices in his head who take on the personalities of Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. Cap takes on the role of Spector’s moral compass, Spidey is his fun and impulsive side, and Wolverine just mercilessly berates him for everything he does and everything he fails to do. Toss in the self-deprecating humor found in the fact that Moon Knight can get no respect from friends and foes alike, and Moon Knight is dark comedy gold.

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Not being satisfied with just his inner monologue, Spector takes his neurosis to the extreme and even dresses up like his imaginary friends and in his mind, becomes them. Of course, eventually the real players show up, which leads to great moments like this…

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I could go on and on. There’s some great play between him and his reluctant partner, the sexy, deaf ex-Avenger, Echo. A priceless run-in with criminal hack squad The Night Shift. But easily my favorite part of any of the books is when Spector dresses up like Bullseye and beats the shit out of his newly hired consultant just to see if the guy was trustworthy.

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There’s no doubt, Moon Knight was one of my favorite books of 2012. In fact, it’s probably second only to IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye. I would have loved to see Moon Knight go on, but I can’t deny there’s something to be said for having a shorter, self-contained run. Moon Knight was canned after 12 issues. It went out on a high and it left me wanting more, and if you’re a comic book or movie, or just about any other kind of entertainment, that’s generally considered a success. As it stands, Moon Knight is the perfect length to pull out every couple of months and spend a lazy afternoon re-reading and I enjoy it every time.

Images used are the copyright of Marvel Comics and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday with Booster Gold!

It’s Sunday Funday, where I chronicle something I did over the weekend that doesn’t have to do with toys. This weekend, I kicked back with the Booster Gold TPBs: “52 Pick Up” “Blue and Gold” and “Reality Lost.” See, I told you the last three features of the week would synch up! Yes, Booster returned with his new Ongoing book in 2007, inevitably reprinted in some collected editions a couple years later. The series picks up exactly where the events of “52” left off. While not a complete collection, the three trades offer a cohesive (well, as cohesive as you can get from time travel fiction) storyline from the first 20 issues. To the uninitiated, these volumes are a great introduction to Booster, while fleshing him out as a more sympathetic character and offering a great tribute to his undying loyalty to and friendship with Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle. In some ways, this collection is almost as much about Kord and The Blue Beetles (plural) as it is Booster, but then the two have always been rather inseparable in my eyes.

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In broad strokes, a good part of the ongoing story plays out as a DC inspired tribute to Quantum Leap (maybe with a dash of Forrest Gump since Booster manages to hit a lot of important moments in the history of the DC Universe). Booster bounces through the personal histories of various superheroes and villains in an attempt to set things right. He’s on hand to keep Green Lantern Sinestro from meeting up with Hal Jordan before his time. He has a hand in making sure Barry Allen gets zapped into becoming The Flash. He teams up with Jonah Hex to prevent a herd of teleported bison (!) from falling out of the sky (!!) and crushing the Doctor that would deliver the ancestor of Superman’s adopted Earth father (!!!) all while drunk off his ass. And he dodges some rather awkward questions from Ralph Dibny about his future with his wife. Even Booster’s own timeline isn’t immune to his good-natured meddling, as he eventually teams up with himself to defeat the mysterious villains. For me, the culmination of all these time travelling adventures is the harsh lesson Booster learns while repeatedly trying to save Barbara Gordon from the infamous paralyzing attack at the hands of The Joker. The Doctor would have referred to that as a “fixed point in time!”

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And, of course, against all warnings and advice, he uses his time-traveling power to bring back his best friend, Ted Kord, to the land of the living. And therein lies the bulk of the second volume, “Blue and Gold.” It’s so great to see the two chums standing shoulder to shoulder against evil again, even if we suspect from the beginning that such a good thing can never last. And in an instance of truly tragic irony, before the third volume is complete we see Booster unknowingly save the life of the ancestor of Max Lord himself. Time travel… it’s a fickle bitch!

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If the underlying theme of “Blue and Gold” is all about Ted, than a big part of the issues that make up “Reality Lost” gives Goldstar the spotlight, as more time meddling shenanigans bring Booster’s sister, Michelle, back to life and sees her teamed up with her brother. Much like “Blue and Gold” it’s bittersweet because we know this can’t end well. Still, it’s a fun ride along the way as Michelle gets to pose for Leonardo DaVinci, cosplay as Batgirl, and help steal the Batmobile with Booster dressed like Elvis. Epic hardly seems like the right word.

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As the bulk of my comics are in storage, picking up these trades was a nice treat. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday evening than sitting out on the porch, enjoying a cigar and a couple belts of Jameson and getting lost in the pages. Granted, it’s only been a couple of years since I last read this run, but it’s still one of those books that I love to read even though I know what’s going to happen. The editors did a nice job cherry-picking the issues to present casual readers with a complete package, but as a Booster fan, I’d still recommend hitting all 20 issues if you can. Sure, the overall story is mostly time-travel cliches and nothing to write home about, but it’s the journey along the way that makes it so entertaining. These books feature solid art, pithy dialogue and they really do the character of Booster proud. It’s whimsical, silly, poignant, tragic, but I’ll concede that I was always more than a little disappointed that it ends with the status quo being reinstated. Still, any chance to see Booster and Ted Kord in action again is a great book for me.

Images used are the copyright of DC Comics and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday: New 52 Suicide Squad Comics!

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day and while work prevented me from taking advantage of it, at least I made lots of money to buy lots of comics. That’s almost as good. Anyway, the last time I talked comics on Sunday Funday, I got all ranty and kind of mean, and that kind of missed the point of the day, although I can’t deny it was fun. This weekend, a great deal of my downtime was spent reading the first two TPBs of Suicide Squad and then going back and re-reading some of Gail Simone’s run on Secret Six. I recently picked up two of those collected editions, “Unhinged” and “The Darkest House” as my individual issues inexplicably found their way into storage… at least I hope they’re in storage. 

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There were a lot of reasons to be suspicious and wary of the New 52 reboot, but when I look back to it, there was really only one thing about it that pissed me off: It signaled the end of Simone’s Secret Six. It was like being in a speeding car heading toward a brick wall and I couldn’t get out. Secret Six had grown to become one of my favorite comics of all time. Granted, that’s a long list, as I do love me my funnybooks, but Secret Six is a comic that I thoroughly savored. It hit on all the points that make me still an avid comic book reader, even as I enter that precarious point in my life called Middle Age. I can’t remember ever being so sad and disappointed as when I found out that it was wrapping up in favor of the impending reboot.

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As it turns out, I’ve been pretty happy with a number of the New 52 books. Some may call that sacrilege, but that’s where I stand. I can say that I read every first issue, I pursued a little more than half of them past the first issue, and since then I’ve narrowed it down quite a bit. But the ones that I’m still reading are entertaining enough and somewhat refreshing to me. I’ve got 30+ years of the crushing weight of comic continuity running through my head, and I constantly felt as if I was falling behind on the books I cared about and in some cases, getting caught up would be a lost cause. Reading comics started to feel like a frustrating chore, and that’s never what I wanted from one of my favorite pastimes. The New 52 made me feel like I had half a chance again. Maybe on some level the reboot was like killing the patient to cure the disease, but in the end I was glad DC did it.

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Anyway, one of the books I didn’t follow past the first issue was Suicide Squad. I was still bitter over Secret Six ending and I just thought DC was trying to use the Suicide Squad title as a cheap way to continue the popularity of Simone’s book.  Whether that’s the case or not, it’s hard to argue that it’s intended as the spiritual successor. I can remember flipping through that first issue violently and screaming, “YOU’RE NOT SECRET SIX… STOP TRYING TO BE!!!” Then I threw it down and ran out of the room sobbing while slamming the door as loudly as I can. Ok, that didn’t really happen. I did, however, want to stay mad and bitter, but ultimately, my love for King Shark and Deadshot sucked me in, and I picked up the first two TPBs while browsing at the comic shop a week or so back.

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A great deal of my resistance was worn down by seeing Adam Glass’ name on the cover. I really enjoyed Deadpool Pulp and Luke Cage Noir is still on my reading list. I can’t say I was instantly familiar with either artists’, Fernando Dagnino or Federico Dallocchio, work, but I can say that I’m a fan now because I really dig the look of these books.  Anyway, I devoured both volumes pretty quickly and then I flipped through them a second time to skim the good parts and it dawned on me that there was room to have both books exist in my good graces. Suicide Squad is fun, violent, crazy, and best of all I can get my fix of Deadshot and King Shark. Y’all know I’m not a big Batman fan, so this was one of the first times I really followed a book with Harley Quinn and I warmed up to her a lot more than I thought I would. Oh, and tossing Captain Boomerang in there never hurts either. It’s a far cry from the glory days of Simone and Secret Six, but a good time had at the FigureFan ranch this weekend, and I’m looking forward to October when I will most definitely pick up volume three.

Images used are the copyright of DC Comicsand are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday: Star Trek “Countdown to Darkness” Comic Prequel

During the build-up to the 2009 JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, I was one of the haters. Star Trek is something that is nearly sacred to me and the idea that it should be “rebooted for the masses” pissed me off. I’m not saying it is necessarily a bad thing for Nerd Culture to become popular. I love the fact that The Avengers is the top third best grossing movie of all time, but the property shouldn’t be compromised or beaten into submission to make it palatable to the average joe, and that seemed to be the mission statement behind the Star Trek reboot.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the movie a lot, but I find it ironic that it had the most baggage of any of the Trek movies to come before. Sure, it helped to have seen “Space Seed” before watching “Wrath of Khan,” but it wasn’t at all necessary to enjoy the movie. Abrams’ Trek, on the other hand, spun a tortured plot in order to shoehorn Spock Prime into the movie and make the reboot part of the story. Star Trek and Doctor Who are two of the major staples of my Nerd diet, I’m used to timey-wimey multiverse shit, and even I thought the story behind Abrams’ Trek was a jumbled mess. Nonetheless, the movie did very well, but I think that’s because the average movie goer experience may have started with “What the hell is going on?” but that confusion was quickly swept away by “Ooooh, lens flare! Oh, snap. He’s hiding that green bitch under his bed! Oooh, people are shooting and shit is blowing up!” I think a clean break would have been better. But in the end, I bought tickets, I bought the Blu-Ray, I bought some of the toys, and I am very excited for the sequel. So, congratulations, Abrams. You win this round.

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Which brings me to how I spent a chunk of my weekend… reading IDW’s four-issue mini-series, “Countdown to Darkness,” a series designed to build up to the new movie. Normally, I don’t read movie-comic tie-ins. There are way too many unread comics on my nightstand to add more. Besides, generally speaking they just aren’t that good. But the rabid supporters of the first movie would have you believe that if you read the comic prequel, “Nero,” you could have better understood the story. Yes, folks, the alleged “reboot for the masses” required you to read comic books prior to seeing the movie to fully understand what was going on! Brilliant! But this time, I thought I’d give it a whirl, because it was only four comics and most importantly a friend of mine lent them to me so I didn’t have to buy them. So how is Countdown to Darkness? How about Countdown to my Ass!!! This thing sucked on every level.

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Where to begin? It’s years after the events of the first movie and the Enterprise has logged some time doing all the boring shit that we don’t want to see in a movie, like scanning gas clouds and mapping stars. They wind up at an undeveloped planet that’s inhabited by bug people and protected by the Prime Directive. Their mission is to scan it and move on, but Kirk is tired of sitting around and decides to beam down to look at stuff. I realize that Kirk has always played it fast and loose with regulations, but he usually does so for very good reasons, not because he’s tired of sitting on the bridge. It makes this Kirk look like a whiny, spoiled brat who is willing to risk violating the cornerstone of Federation Law just because he’s bored. It’s a different Kirk, fair enough. But if I’m going to see movies about him, I need to like him, and I don’t like the Kirk in this book. Hey Starfleet, this is what you get when you recruit your commanding officers from drunks in bars.

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Of course, they wind up getting in the middle of a Civil War between two factions on the planet only to learn that the former Captain of the former Enterprise, Robert April, is stirring up the shit and that he’s in league with a femme fatale gunrunner, who happens to be the daughter of Harry Mudd. This is not professional comic book writing, this is late night Internet fanwank in its most basest of forms. But I’m more concerned with the continuity established here. There was another Enterprise 20 years before this one… and in the flashback panel it looks exactly the same as the one in the movie??? And I loved Robert April. I read two of the novels he appeared in. “Final Frontier” and “Best Destiny” were awesome. Now he’s a shitbag and we’re treated to snotty little Kirk lecturing him. Sigh. Anyway, April and Mudd take over The Enterprise and offer it up to the Klingons as compensation if they agree to name April the Governor of the planet and run it as part of the Klingon Empire. Holy shit, what? What? WHAT????? At that point, I had to stop and coif an entire tumbler full of Jameson.

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The real reason this mini-series got any notoriety is that it promised a sneak peak at the Abramsverse Klingons that we see ever so briefly (and tiny) in the trailer. The smart ones will just look at the cover to issue number four and be done with it. But, no. By now I’ve suffered through three issues of this dreck, featuring the whole rogue Captain who disagrees with the Prime Directive, which we’ve seen a hundred times before. Might as well keep going! In issue four the Klingons finally show up. They’re wearing battle helmets, they bluster, and they (*gasp!*) betray April. Kirk and Spock storm the bridge and Scotty resolves everything by rebooting (oh sweet irony!) the Enterprise so that Kirk can turn tail and warp away. April is in custody, Starfleet tells Kirk to dump him at a Starbase and forget about the entire thing, and in the last panels we’re treated to John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch in the film) accessing a computer in London. If that last bit is the only reason that this whole god-awful mess is an actual tie-in to the movie, it would be a crime for people who bought the comic for that very purpose. On the other hand, I hope it is the only tie-in, because if any of this other bullshit works its way into the movie, I’ll be seriously pissed off. Ultimately, I imagine that Harrison’s motivation for his terrorism will be because he disagrees with The Prime Directive and that will be the tie-in. We’ll see!

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Ok, so let’s quickly talk contributors. I’m not going to rag on writer Mike Johnson too much. I don’t know how much of this mess was forced on him by Roberto Orci to shoehorn it into a prequel, but I suspect it was a lot of it. Then again, Johnson’s resume doesn’t have a lot of noteworthy books in it. But hey, I guess you have to start somewhere. Besides a story that reads like bad fan-fiction, most of the dialogue just doesn’t suit the characters. Indeed, really the only writing that I found worthwhile was April’s monologue about The Prime Directive in issue four, as it was actually extremely well-written and even quotable. But even in the face of a good argument, Kirk just dismisses him as being crazy because he’s been away from Earth too long. HUH? And then just a few pages later he tells Spock that April made some good points. HUH????? Everybody wants to serve under Captain Indecisive… No way that’s going to get us killed at some point! At least it’s good to know this will continue to be the creative team behind IDW’s Star Trek ongoing book, as they will be adapting Original Series scripts into the Abramsverse. I can save a lot of time and money by not reading that book. Of course, if anyone is reading Ongoing and wants to convince me otherwise, feel free to have at it!

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As for the art, it’s passable, but nothing spectacular. There’s little resemblance in most of the portraits, but Kirk in particular looks nothing like Chris Pine to me. Some of the backgrounds are ok, particularly the bridge, but the Enterprise itself looks like minimalist garbage and if we see a Bird of Prey in the film, I hope to hell it doesn’t look like the piece of shit drawn in the comic. But, hey… lens flare! There’s plenty of lens flare! Just try comparing this book to some of the stuff coming out of Marvel and DC right now and it looks like hack work by comparison. It’s not to single out this book, I find it’s the case with a lot of IDW’s books (not including GI JOE). Hey, IDW… you need to open up that checkbook and get some noteworthy artists on the payroll! I usually pride myself on my comic book chops, and while the name David Messina was familiar, I couldn’t place him. A quick trip to Wiki reminded me that… yep, he did “Nero” the mini-series leading up to the 2009 Trek film. Apparently, he also did some Angel comics and… I shit you not… a bunch of “erotic parodies” including one of Harry Potter. Folks, it’s going to take half a bottle of Jameson to wash that out of my brain.

Ok so Sunday Funday wasn’t all that fun today. Unlike 90% of the Internet, I really don’t enjoy hating on stuff, but there was just nothing to enjoy here, and I’m kind of pissed at myself for taking the time out from reading the good stuff on my pile and detouring into this drainage ditch of a mini-series.

Ah well, I’m still really looking forward to the movie next month!

Images used are the copyright of IDW Publishing and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

Sunday Funday: Mike Danger Comics!!!!

What do I do on my day off away from work and toys? I usually play video games or read comics, because…. Well, I’m 40 going on 13. Today will be spent reveling in my find at the used book store yesterday:  A stack of Mickey Spillane comics that I never knew existed!

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I’ve been a big Mickey Spillane fan for as long as I can remember. I love all the hard-boiled pulps, but for my money nobody did it better than Spillane. As a teenager, I had nasty, dog-eared paperback copies of his classics like “My Gun is Quick,” “I, The Jury” (held together by a rubber band!) and “One Lonely Night” and I read them over and over again. They were such fun reads and Mike Hammer was such a bad ass. When I owned my own antiquarian bookstore, I started getting into collecting his books in First Edition, especially his lesser known mystery series with the deliciously ridiculously named, Tiger Mann.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Spillane once and having him sign a few for me. When I told him I owned a bookshop he offered to just do simple signatures, thinking I was going to sell them. I told him, “oh no, these are for me, and please make them as personal and specific as you want because I’m never going to sell them.” I think he liked that. Unfortunately, Spillane died back in 2006, but he left quite the legacy.

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But comics? Yeah, while most people who remember Spillane know him for creating the pistol-whipping P.I. portrayed on TV by Stacey Keach, Spillane dabbled in a broad spectrum. In addition to pulps, he wrote a very cool children’s book, but he started his career as a comics writer. He was also a big fan of science fiction, and so it should be no surprise that it all eventually got blended together into Mike Danger, a yarn about a hard boiled cop from the 40’s who wakes up in the future. Mike Danger was published by the short-lived mid-90’s company, Tekno-Comix, an imprint that signed on concepts by big names, like Gene Roddenberry, Neil Gaiman and Spillane, but the actual stories were written in-house. Isn’t that kind of a cheat? Maybe, but I’m just happy that these books exist.

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Honestly, I bought these more for their context in Spillane’s career and to round out my collection of his bibliography and influences, but having just finished reading through the first two-part story, I have to say what’s here is pretty good. Shamus Award winning author Max Allan Collins was on board for the entire run as writer and it was a great choice. The man really knows the P.I. genre and his familiarity to it really helps play to the fish-out-of-water aspect of Mike Danger out of time. He’s also a man that did his research and knew Spillane’s work, as he included some great nods back to Spillane’s novels, particularly to the aforementioned Tiger Mann in the superbly titled “A Woman Called Mann.”

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The artwork tends to swerve all over the place, as it’s the work of several different artists. There’s nothing here that I hate, but there’s definitely some highs and lows throughout the course of the book. Steve Irwin, who has some DC and Malibu books under his belt, kicked things off pretty well. He handed the torch off to Jose Delbo, a name I only know from some Transformers books. But my favorite art in the entire run are some of the covers done by Eduardo Barreto. He did my favorite in the bunch:  Volume 2, No. 1. Barreto did an awesome job capturing the sensational covers of the pulp novels in the 40’s and 50’s and he even did some strong references to some Mike Hammer covers.

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And there’s my day for you. I’m going to light up a delectable H. Upmann Corona Major, pour myself a glass of Johnnie Walker Black, and sit out on the patio and enjoy an overcast afternoon with the adventures of Mike Danger.

Images used are the copyright of Tekno Comix and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!