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September 29, 2023
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Bagh Chal Review

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Andi Lennon
September 28, 2023
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September 25, 2023
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Castle Panic Review

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Cult of the Old - Citadels

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Cult of the Old - Brass

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What COMIC BOOKS have you been reading?

05 May 2023 15:47 #339226 by Shellhead
Midway through Copra volume 3, an individual issue blew me away. The art was still somewhat crude, but the writing really impressed me. One of the squad members was on leave, and went home to visit family. Wir is a teenage delinquent who wears a big suit of powered armor designed by his uncle. He looks like an 8' tall gray mecha.


Warning: Spoiler!
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04 Jun 2023 23:21 #339583 by Cranberries
I placed orders for some collections at work and currently have the following in my TBR pile:

Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
Paper Girls
A large collection about a female spy and I am too lazy to go downstairs and see what it is called. When I do, I will edit this note.

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05 Jun 2023 13:10 #339587 by Shellhead
Now that I have found a site that offers extensive scans of old comics, I recently read a run of comics that I ignored back when they were originally published: All-Star Squadron (DC). I have always been a fan of DC's Earth-2, a retcon alternate reality that brought back the golden age (pre-1956, roughly) versions of DC super-heroes so they could occasionally interact with their silver age (1956-1975, roughly) counterparts. The most prominent group from Earth-2 was the Justice Society of America, and they showed up at least once a year in Justice League of America comics for a team-up event. All-Star Squadron takes place during World War II and spends a lot of time on the many golden age DC heroes that didn't join the Justice Society. It was also the launching point for a separate Earth-2 series, Infinity Inc, which took place in a modern-day Earth-2.

I enjoyed Infinity Inc at the time, because it did a nice job of aging the classic JSA heroes and rolling out a young generation of legacy heroes, who just happened to be about the same age as me. But All-Star Squadron was less interesting to me because of the WWII setting, the corniness of some of the old heroes, and the deliberately old-fashioned artwork.

So I finally gave All-Star Squadron a try, hoping that the writing by Roy Thomas would make up for my other concerns. Sadly, it did not. I tend to fast forward through standard tropes these days, unwilling to spend my remaining years on boring repetition, and A-SS was loaded with tropes. Since it was free, I did read the whole series, and even slowed down to normal reading pace at times, especially during the relatively enjoyable storyline featuring the Monster Society of Evil.

I was also curious to see how the series played out during the final year, while Earth-2 was retroactively destroyed by Crisis on Infinite Earths. That ended up being very disappointing. Roy got ahold of some old, unused golden age artwork featuring various solo adventures of JSA members, and re-wrote them as cross-dimensional adventures during Crisis. After a few issues of that, Roy switched over to simply telling origin stories of various Earth-2 heroes, before finally ending the series months after the Crisis ended.

As a palate cleanser, I am reading issues of Starman that are not covered in my incomplete collection of Starman trade paperbacks. The writing is significantly better than in All-Star Squadron, but there are a couple of references to that A-SS run, since the original Starman was from Earth-2. There was also a very surprising reference to a Swamp Thing story from the legendary Alan Moore run.
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06 Jun 2023 04:47 - 06 Jun 2023 04:50 #339590 by mezike
Coincidentally I also recently bought the Mind MGMT collection, I’m about halfway through the last book now. It’s really good, took me a bit by surprise actually at how the plot finds unexpected places to take you. Strong recommendations for this one.

I’ve also been working my way through the Metrobook collection of Astro City, which is my first time returning to the series since the initial run. It’s still great despite some of the stories not aging as well as the others.

I also picked up a slightly dented copy of Talbot’s Grandville L’Integrale for a third of the sticker price, it’s a hefty ‘ultimate edition’ tome that could break some bones by dropping on your foot. Maybe that’s how it got the dent. A steampunk anthropomorphic Badger solves crime in an alternate timeline where England has recently regained independence after generations of subjugation by France. The stories are a bit of a ‘Boys-Own’ lark, nothing particularly deep or innovative or surprising but a good selection of ripping yarns that keep pulling you forward.
Last edit: 06 Jun 2023 04:50 by mezike.
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12 Jun 2023 11:52 - 12 Jun 2023 11:53 #339652 by sornars
The new Spider-man movie made me jazzed up enough to check out some classic stories. I decided to read the Ultimate Spider-man run by Bendis and Bagley. I learned a few things through this experience.
1. Reading comics on an iPad is surprisingly nice
2. I don't understand comic book fans. The fact this was well regarded is a deep puzzle to me. It was merely fine for large swathes of its run plot wise. I found most of the art passable to bad for the majority of its run. Half of the stories featuring iconic characters felt like cliff notes versions of the stories I know. I know the character has entered the collective unconscious and we don't need to keep telling the same stories but if we are going to tell the same stories then we should do so competently.
3. I think I like the idea of superhero/villain stories more than I actually do.

To further drive home point 3, I recently read Azzarello and Bermejo's Joker and it did not have any impact on me beyond having a very good aesthetic. It also touched upon 2 because if this is one of the best Joker stories ever then I probably don't need to read any more. I have read The Killing Joke in the past and did find that enjoyable.
Last edit: 12 Jun 2023 11:53 by sornars.
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12 Jun 2023 12:11 #339653 by Shellhead
Aside from reading the first dozen or so issues of The Ultimates, I ignored Marvel's Ultimate Universe, even though I heard good things about the Bendis run on Ultimate Spider-man. The Ultimates were a modern (at that time) take on the Avengers, with the very crucial concept of What If The Avengers Were All Assholes? Oddly enough, the wildly popular MCU movies are in some ways closer to the Ultimate versions of various Avengers, except that they were made likeable instead of offensive.

I didn't like what Bendis did with the regular Avengers, so I wasn't interested in trying his Ultimate Spider-man. But he must have done something right, because Marvel finally ended the entire Ultimate setting (with a bad, dumb story) but salvaged Miles Morales from the Ultimate setting and put him in their main continuity setting (which Alan Moore famously nicknamed the 616 universe). I haven't ready any comics with Miles Morales, but found him delightful in both of the Spider-verse movies. I don't know how Marvel handled moving him to another universe, but it seems like the character would be gutted if he lost all of his family and friends from his original world. For what it's worth, I finally warmed up to the Bendis writing on his lengthy run on Uncanny X-Men. He used to take a lot of flack about his boring fights, disrespect for continuity, and the way he made every single character seem like a stammering ninny, but he learned and improved. By the time he was writing Uncanny, his characters had distinctive voices and he had a strong grasp of relevant comic history.
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12 Jun 2023 13:10 #339656 by Jackwraith

sornars wrote: To further drive home point 3, I recently read Azzarello and Bermejo's Joker and it did not have any impact on me beyond having a very good aesthetic. It also touched upon 2 because if this is one of the best Joker stories ever then I probably don't need to read any more. I have read The Killing Joke in the past and did find that enjoyable.

I will insist to my dying day that the best Joker story ever was Steve Englehart's The Laughing Fish. Was a two-parter in the 70s and perfectly encapsulated both the madness and the menace of the character. They even swiped it for a Batman: The Animated Series episode (without giving a credit to Steve; I asked him about it years later at a convention and he said he received an "acknowledgment payment" which was quite generous, so he wasn't bitching. Weird that they couldn't even do a "based on" or something like that, though.)

For your general impressions, I hesitate to put words in your mouth, but you might be a bit jaded on the whole superhero/villain thing. I know I got there sometime in the early 90s after I discovered that a lot of what I was reading was basically recycled stuff that I'd read when I was a kid, but with a few different villains mixed in. It's a weird thing having to hew to the model and not end up repeating yourself over and over. Also, I always credit Jim Shooter with pointing out that every issue of a regular series is someone's first read, even if it's issue #779. Unless you're going to do a wholly sequential story that has a beginning and an end, so you can tell people "Don't pick up issue #27 of Y: The Last Man and expect to know what's going on. Start from the beginning.", you're going to have to bend in the direction of that Shooter principle to suck in those new readers and make them feel like they know what's going on.

Both of those concerns are why, when we were running our studio, we didn't do superhero stuff and we made certain to loudly declare that all of our stories had a beginning, middle, and end and coming into the middle was not advised. Both of those concerns are probably why we never made it in the comic industry dominated by often incompetent superhero stuff, but you give the people what they want.
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12 Jun 2023 13:23 - 12 Jun 2023 13:25 #339657 by sornars

Jackwraith wrote: ... we made certain to loudly declare that all of our stories had a beginning, middle, and end and coming into the middle was not advised. Both of those concerns are probably why we never made it in the comic industry dominated by often incompetent superhero stuff, but you give the people what they want.

Funnily enough I chose the Ultimate run because it does have a beginning, middle and end! In it we get an origin and a conclusion to the character. In spite of that I feel like a lot of things were either resolved off screen or in other issues which I didn't know how to find.

I used Marvel Unlimited to view these and I find it fascinating that they haven't managed to crack the continuity issues that their cross-selling model introduces. They have things organised by series but sometimes things would happen in issues in other stories but those weren't sign posted in the app nor in the issue itself. I'd need to be deep in the lore to know that Spider-man meets the X-men in Ultimate X-men #blahblahblah. Not reading these contemporaneously made this all the harder.

I don't think your assumption re: superheroes is far off the mark but the odd part is that I've never had sufficient exposure to the source to get jaded about it. I also believe that super hero comic books fill the same niche that soap operas and harlequin romances do, just targeted at different demographics and none of those represent the sort of media I want to consume. (I also think sports hits the same space but for whatever reason I do enjoy that).
Last edit: 12 Jun 2023 13:25 by sornars.
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26 Jun 2023 20:10 - 26 Jun 2023 20:28 #339806 by DarthJoJo
Kieron Gillen’s Once & Future

It might be time to admit that Gillen just isn’t for me. There’s the occasional intriguing premise like The Wicked + The Divine, but his work never got me demanding the next issue.

Arthur is revived in Once and Future as an ultra-nationalist (not even Anglo-Saxons). He is opposed by a retired magic hunter and her grandson. Other legends return and are defeated by fulfilling their stories. It felt like Neil Gaiman by way of James Cameron. Pretty (absolutely gorgeous color work) and well told but lacking the intelligence.

Duncan was a an actual likable Gillen character. Decent guy dragged into a war he never knew existed but does his best despite being continually dumped on by everyone.
Last edit: 26 Jun 2023 20:28 by DarthJoJo.

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26 Jun 2023 21:27 #339808 by Shellhead
My only exposure to Kieron Gillen was part of his run on Uncanny X-Men, around the time of the Extinction Team and AvX. It was entertaining enough, but not one of my favorite x-runs.

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28 Jul 2023 13:25 - 28 Jul 2023 13:27 #340091 by DarthJoJo
Reading novels has been a struggle for me for a while. I think I’m just too exhausted by the time all the boys are in bed and pass out within three pages. Which has been a boon for comic reading. Just more to keep my eyes active, I figure.

I’ve never cared for the Fantastic Four, but Mark Waid’s run was a delight. The heroes actually enjoy being heroes (with the exception of Thing) and have appropriately weird adventures. Would have enjoyed more low key jaunts to weird places, but it feels like Waid was forced to rush to the fireworks factory. The explosions were great (Doom is sent to Hell after building a new armor from human skin, Mister Fantastic takes over Latveria, and the team meet God to save Thing), but Reed Richards following the science where it goes would have been great, too.

By the same token, I’ve never cared for Green Lantern. I have, however, cared for Grant Morrison. His run could have been twice the length to draw out the villain and the stakes. Otherwise it was plenty of Morrison imagination bursting out from the setting’s decades of history while constrained within a police procedural frame. It’s not All-Star Superman, Batman Inc., or even New X-Men but solid work still.

The real treat was a little indie recommended by the clerk: Do a Power Bomb! by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer. Girl’s mother dies in the ring. To resurrect her she joins with the man who killed her in an interplanetary single-elimination tag-team tournament hosted by a necromancer. Lariats, top rope jumps and finishers abound. A complete story in a single volume that touches the back with barbwire-wrapped folding chair and the heart with earned soul. Just amazing.

So the moral is that even though I’ve never paid a thought to the Fantastic Four, Green Lantern or professional wrestling, the respective teams made me care.
Last edit: 28 Jul 2023 13:27 by DarthJoJo.
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31 Jul 2023 12:19 #340111 by Shellhead
I finally read the entire run of Tomb of Dracula, a Marvel comic from the '70s that ran for 70 monthly issues. As a kid at that time, I was very focused on Marvel's superhero comics, but did pick up a couple of preposterous issues where Dracula battled Doctor Strange and the Silver Surfer. Those issues were not representative of the overall quality of the series, in part because the writer had to strain mightily to make it seem like Dracula was able to beat either the Sorcerer Supreme or a former herald of Galactus.

The series starts out rough, with changes in writer nearly every issue at first. Starting with issue #7, Marv Wolfman takes over the writing and stays until the end of the series. Though I am not personally a fan of the art of Gene Colan, with his sloppy and impressionistic linework, it was great that he stays for the entire run, because non-costumed comic characters can be harder to identify from issue to issue when the artist changes. That was one of my biggest problems with the popular Sandman series from Vertigo.

For much of the first two years, Dracula serves as a recurring villain, with a crew of vampire hunters getting the majority of the character development. Blade (best known for his trilogy of pre-MCU movies) debuts during this period, though he is sporting earth tones, wooden daggers, and an afro. Sometime around issue #21 or so, the focus of the series shifts to Dracula himself, showing more sympathy for his struggles and suffering. Dracula also comes into more frequent conflict with other evil-doers, such as a Satanic cult leader and the nefarious Doctor Sun, a Chinese mastermind reduced to a brain floating in a nutrient tank. Late in the series, Dracula marries a mortal woman, gets her pregnant (magic is involved), and is even temporarily turned back into a living human by Satan. All of these developments offer additional opportunities for character exploration and development for Dracula.

Is it worth your time to read Tomb of Dracula? Maybe, if you are a horror fan who is especially interested in vampires. Otherwise, probably not. The writing is decent for comics published in the '70s, but falls short in comparison to most other fiction. The artwork is stylized and not my preferred style, but it might be for you. And if you are a big fan of Blade, he is a very regular recurring character for more than half of these 70 issues.
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18 Aug 2023 11:11 - 18 Aug 2023 11:11 #340277 by DarthJoJo
Followed up my dip into Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four with Jonathan Hickman’s run of the same. There’s a panel early on where Reed Richards contemplates a computer screen of eight imminent world-ending threats and silently despairs at solving all of them. From then on it’s just set piece after set piece. A peace conference between New and Old Atlantis breaks down. The Negative Zone breaks through to New York. The Kree and Inhumans go to war. Alternate dimension Reeds build a god-killing weapon. Galactus fights Celestials. One would have been a great arc. All of it is too much. Nothing matters. Characters have no time to breathe. Two main characters die and return within ten issues. The Future Foundation of genius kids was great. The best parts were in the final volume and were a bunch of one-off stories, but even half of those were set up for coming arcs.

Tried Wonder Woman: Dead Earth on the strength of the team’s Do a Power Bomb!. She wakes up in a post-apocalyptic Gotham and does what heroes do: try to save it. Think it would have been better with original characters. Too much history to the heroes to make all their choices totally fit. Gorgeous art.

The winner of my recent reads was Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s God Country. Much a companion piece to their Buzzkill where the hero only gains his greatest powers while blackout drunk, here an old man with Alzheimer’s regains his strength and memory while wielding a magic sword. Just wonderful stuff that juxtaposes mundane struggles and suffering against the fantastic to bring triumph to the former and gravitas to the latter.
Last edit: 18 Aug 2023 11:11 by DarthJoJo.

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19 Aug 2023 11:51 #340282 by n815e
Just read Megatropolis, which is an alternate universe for Judge Dredd. It’s a what-if setting, where the apocalypse never happened and the Judge system wasn’t created. It features loads of puns in reference to Dredd and shows many of the characters living different lives. It’s still a crime story.
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12 Sep 2023 11:23 - 12 Sep 2023 12:12 #340503 by Shellhead
I have been a fan of the Elric series since I was a teenager, which is probably the perfect age to read the Elric books. The main character was originally conceived as the polar opposite of Conan. Instead of a tan, brawny barbarian who eventually seizes a throne, Elric is a sickly albino sorcerer king of a decadent demihuman empire. Elric eventually discards his throne for philosophical reasons. Early in the series, he makes a pact with a demon lord and acquires a powerful artifact sword that is capable of killing gods. Epic high fantasy with plenty of action and creativity, and the author Michael Moorcock has a knack for evocative names. The early books ('60s/'70s) are amazing, but the later books ('90s and later) of the are a bit drab by comparison.

For reasons that I can't quite fathom, Elric has never made it to the big screen or even the small screen, but his books have been handled decently as comics. First Comics covered all of the early books with some decent though highly stylized artwork by P. Craig Russell and Michael Gilbert. So when I recently learned that a French creative team is currently doing new Elric comics of the classic books, it just took one peek at the artwork to catch my interest. The writer is Julien Blondel, and the main artists are Didier Poli and Robin Recht. The publisher is Titan Comics, but I purchased a boxed hardcover set of the first four volumes via Amazon for the amazing price of $42.11.

Is it good? I have mixed feelings. The writing is decent, but it takes some liberties with the original text. It's the same story, so far, but Elric himself is written as more cruel and less intellectual. The art is also good, at least on par with Russell and Gilbert, but it is dark, bloody, and features quite a bit of nudity. So far, the art has a bit of a Sin City look, at least in terms of colors, mostly black, white, gray, and of course red. The artists depict Elric as having an athletic build, which seems directly at odds with most of his previous depictions as thin and sickly.

The overall tone is very grimdark, with overtones of s&m for much of Melnibonean society. The Elric of the books might lounge in an a therapeutic herbal bath while reading, but this Elric prefers freshly-killed servants floating in his bathwater, though his bath is more like a large jacuzzi. Another example... in the books, Doctor Jest was the highly-skilled royal torturer who subtly but relentlessly extracted information from his subjects. This Doctor Jest has short stumps instead of arms, with an array of spindly mechanical limbs mounted on a framework on his back, with each limb terminating in a different torture instrument, and he uses magic to suspend his subjects in the air while he separates their limbs from their torsos. This version is a bit too overbearing for younger readers, and lacks subtlety.

I am only partway through the second volume so far, but it appears that this first set will cover the events of the '70s paperback Elric of Melnibone. The first volume has an enthusiastic introduction by Michael Moorcock, and the second volume has an insightful and well-scribed introduction by Alan Moore. If you enjoy comics and Elric, this first boxed set is a very good deal, but it might not be your style.
Last edit: 12 Sep 2023 12:12 by Shellhead. Reason: set not sex
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