Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Captain America a Nazi?

As a long time Captain America fan (four decades of my life), how do I feel about the new storyline where Steve Rogers is actually a Hydra sleeper agent? I have seen far too many storylines that creative teams pull some as gimmicks for nothing more than shock value or some fabulous twists. I think this is the latter. As for Cap being Hydra. Nope. Don't think so. It's all Kobik following the end of Stand-Off. They should fix this. If not, then I can always junk the title, right? If I can junk the X-Men that for almost my entire life I said was my favorite comic (after what Bendis did to the title), then I can ditch another old time fave. But I have to see it through. For all we know this is just like the Winter Soldier storyline.

Future Quest #1 review: You can go home again

You can go home again: Jonny Quest, Hanna-Barbera cartoons are back in comic book geekland.
by rick olivares

The release of "Future Quest" from DC Comics has to be a feel good moment for comic book geeks like me this 2016.

"Future Quest" brings together those memorable cartoons from Hanna-Barbera including Bird Man, Space Ghost, the Herculoids, the Space Rangers and others into one comic with Jonny Quest as the book’s anchor. And the creative team of writer Jeff Parker and artists Evan Shaner and Steve Rude uncannily pull it off like some animation cells made it to the foul-color printed page. Reading the first issue elicited a smile, a broad one to be precise, from me. It had me running for my longbox and pulling out those old and treasured Jonny Quest and Space Ghost comics from the now defunct Comico. 

When stories to do that to a reader then you know you have a winner because you've it appeals to something deep within you. It’s like that moment in Ratatouille when Anton Ego remembers sitting in his mother’s kitchen and  savoring his mother’s cooking. You get the drift.

Apparently I am not the only one. On the day of “Future Quest” #1’s release, current Spider-Man scribe Don Slott tweeted: "Read FUTURE QUEST and last week’s DOCTOR WHO this morning. Both were knocks right out of the park. Can’t recommend these comics enough.” 

Jonny Quest was my James Bond. He was young Indy before River Phoenix gave life to Indiana Jones as a kid. Team Quest was way cooler than the Hardy Boys (just to be clear I was a fan of those teen detectives). The cartoon was sci-fi/adventure/mystery all rolled into one.

When I heard those beating rolling drums of this steamy jazz number that introduced the show, and that segued into the delicious brass that went “na na… na na na na na na… na na na na na na na… na na… na na na na na”, I dashed to the sofa. And Jonny Quest had my undivided attention for the next 20 or so minutes. I’ll say that was the best ever cartoon theme/intro song!

I was a fan of Race Bannon. In fact, I wasn’t sure who was more cool - Race or Modesty Blaise’s aide-de-camp, Willie Garvin.

The cartoon appealed to me just as Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury: Agent of Shield did (although minus the sexy women).

Yeah, I’m from Generation X and was weaned on Saturday morning cartoons, superhero comics, and comic strips of Modesty Blaise - now there’s a sultry and sexy strip that had me dreaming - and Prince Valiant.

So “Future Quest” was a nice homecoming. At first, I wasn’t so sure how the creative team would merge Space Ghost, the Herculoids, Bird Man, the Galaxy Trio, Mightor, and others with Jonny Quest. But they seem to have found a solution for this fanboy dream.

The Plot: The Space Force, sort of like an inter-galactic police force, are battling this energy being bent on destroying the world of Voranova. Their dying commander bequeaths a pair of power bands to their captain who joins the rest of the corps in a last stand. They succeed in stopping the energy creature but at the cost of their lives with only their captain the sole survivor. My bet is this captain is Space Ghost. The captain appears on the first page and if it is one and the same character, then in the last page for one heckuva cliffhanger. 

It appears that this energy being has been attacking different worlds — Holy Shades of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Batman! And because of what happened, these worlds appear in different vortexes on earth that Team Quest is investigating. The Quests’ old foe, Dr. Zin, is monitoring the situation and believes that the vortexes contain sources of power that he craves in his pursuit of world domination. And it seems that everyone — all the various heroic and perhaps, villainous characters — from the Hanna-Barbera set are converging on earth for the mother of all showdowns.

I am like seven years old again. Great pacing, scripting. Lovely art and the colors by Jordie Bellaire make every panel and page eye candy. And like that kid I was eagerly waiting for the next episode, the next issue cannot come soon enough.

That’s what good stories do to you.

Future Quest #1 is out (sold out I believe) but I am pretty sure you can re-order from your favorite comic book specialty shop. And watch out because the second issue is due pretty soon.

My copies of Future Quest #1

Future Quest #1 with the Steve Rude variant cover opposite the first Jonny Quest comic ever (Comico) with cover art by the late great Doug Wildey. Trivia: Doug Wildey was the mentor of Dave Stevens who created the Rocketeer. In fact, Wildey was the inspiration for the character of Peevey. 

Future Quest #1 next to my copy of Space Ghost from Comico (that featured dazzling art from Steve Rude).

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Loving Future Quest! Old time Jonny Quest fan!

I loved those Jonny Quest (the original ones) cartoons on television as a kid. I thought that they were a cut above every other Saturday morning cartoon for its level of sophistication. Action, adventure, sci-fi... it was awesome. When Comico published the Jonny Quest series in 1986, they were not available right away. Not until the advent of PDPI, the forerunner of Book Sale did they appear on local shelves. The trick was to get them before they got stickered! I mean who wants a sticker on the comic of the price, right?

Comico published 31 issues of Jonny Quest. Have a near complete set. I also have a copy of the unofficial documentary of the cartoons that is amazing for geeks like me. 

The publication of Future Quest is like revisiting childhood. Had a lot of fun reading it. And the Herculoids cover? Oh, yeah! Love the Herculoids.

Some of my fave cartoons back then were those old Marvel stuff, Jonny Quest, the Herculoids, Space Ghost, Wacky Races, and anything with Huckleberry Hound! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The new Micronauts is disappointing.

The new Micronauts is disappointing. 
by rick olivares

What more can you do with the Micronauts?

The original Guardians of the Galaxy were a disparate race of aliens fighting against the domination of the conquering Badoon. When it was relaunched some 40 years later, the new team was formed to fight off any Annihilation-type of foes from attempting to destroy the galaxy.

So how about the Micronauts. When first published by Marvel in 1979, they were a bunch of freedom fighters fighting to free the Microverse from the tyranny of Baron Karza. Succeeding incarnations published by Image and Devil’s Due used pretty much the same angle — fighting a dictator. 

Now under IDW and writer Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Harrow County), the Micronauts are back. 

However, there isn’t that magic that I experienced when I first read the first ever Micronauts comic (from Marvel) as written by Bill Mantlo that was co-plotted by penciller Michael Golden. When the Dog Soldiers and Acroyears cut down the forces loyal to the royal family, I felt bad. Arcturus Rann (Marvel’s version of Space Glider) was like Steve Rogers, a man out of time, as he was in suspended animation for a thousand years. He was shocked at the Homeworld that he returned to was under the heel of Baron Karza. Dispatched to prison, he met Acroyear and Bug. Both were such cool characters with the latter adding some levity in an otherwise serious comic. And for an element of mystery, there was the Enigma Force. There was immediate tension between Acroyear and his brother Shaitan. The Death Tank that was sent to destroy them was no automaton but was half alive! Then they left for Earth! The second issue couldn’t come soon enough.

Cut to years later. While I understand the constant reboots because the comic has changed hands so many times that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate any new direction even if I have this affinity for the old characters some who did not make the jump as they were Marvel owned. But I guess, whatever incarnations that followed never caught on. Image’s entire publication was for 11 issues. Devil’s Due had a mere three. The Marvel line consisted of 61 issues (including two annuals) so that is what everyone else is up against.

I was hopeful because Cullen Bunn was on board. I absolutely love The Sixth Gun except I think it lost steam by the 30th issue. Harrow County is a frightening and intoxicating read. Somehow, I am not enamored with his superhero writing. And I guess that carries over to this version of the Micronauts that feels like I am watching an episode of Serenity. I love Serenity but can we not diverge into something else?

There’s the old reliable, Acroyear. There is always something mysterious about a character with a mask or a helmet. Sadly not one of the new characters grabbed me. The leader of this band, Oz (Pharoid), felt like a cross between Jack Burton or Malcolm Reynolds. Unfortunately, those two are more interesting. 

I like artist David Baldeon’s stuff. I have a few of his other works and it is like a meld of Joe Quesada and Joe Madureira. I like the fact that an artist’s work evokes good feelings and memories. And the work here is all right. Not great but all right because why the heck do they have all these inkers? That messes up the art.

Am I disappointed? Yes, I am. 

Could have been something special. 

I’ll stay on for the first arc though. 

In the meantime, this is an excuse to re-read those old Micronauts comics.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Just signed a petition to Save Agent Carter!

I absolutely love the show. Nothing quite like it on TV at the moment. And I love the post-WWII setting. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A former officemate of mine gets my comics!

Pam, a former officemate of mine who is on vacation from the United States, picked up all my comic books! So cool!

Ups and downs with Fear the Walking Dead

Ups and downs with Fear the Walking Dead
by rick olivares

What I love about Fear the Walking Dead is that we are brought to two different environments away from backroads of The Walking Dead’s Georgia and Virginia. The urban setting of Los Angeles and now, the high seas during the zombie apocalypse make for vastly different dynamics.

The first season of the Walking Dead was a delightful slow tease that added many layers of suspense. The build-up to the explosive finale saw some wonderful characterization, a key element for viewers to latch on to the new cast. All these give or take a few more made the first season of FTWD slightly better than the first season of The Walking Dead. 

This second season that began two weeks after the end of TWD’s Season 6 is well… still another tease that is both good and sometimes, a little slow. You can be forgiven if you’re looking some carnage and mayhem as TWD S1 almost dived at it from the beginning and torpedoed into more mayhem when Rick Grimes’ not so merry band of survivors moved into Hershel’s farm.

In S2 E1 titled, “Monster,” the destruction of Los Angeles by the US military because of “Operation Cobalt” can be seen for 48 seconds. That alone is worth it with the ingenious shredding of a walker’s face using a engine Zodiac launch

Here’s what makes TWD a global phenomenon (borrowing some — not all — f the criteria outlined by Forbes magazine) and let’s see how it correlates to FTWD S2.

Good story (directing, writing, and acting) — You can say that S2 is still just as slow. It’s fine as this is literally days or a week or two after the firebombing of Los Angeles by the US military after Operation Cobalt was put in effect. We’re seeing the characters come to grips with this frightening new world where nothing is safe, sacred, or rational. 

But I am sorely disappointed in Episode 5 titled, “Captive,” where Madison makes a one-woman rescue/trade for Reed, the brother of the pseudo pirate Connor, for Travis and Alicia, who at the end of the fourth episode were taken captive.

Chris has reached new levels of annoying with his constant whining, not coming to grips with reality, and causing even more trouble by offing Reed that complicates the prisoner swap. And that swap was the dumbest ever. Connor’s goons go to the docks sans any guns! Really? After these guys shot up some skiffs they go to the docks unarmed? Really now. If in the days after the zombie apocalypse, Connor’s group has taken to some form of piracy then they would be a little more ruthless. They simply hand over Travis without bothering to ask if Reed is all right.

I’d say that it doesn’t all check out for FTWD this second season. Strand, Nick and Travis to a certain degree, seem to be to get it. Everyone else, after 11 episodes remain incredibly stupid. 

Risk of death (a story of survival where every episode every character is at danger). I think at this stage, I’d like to see some of the main cast shift this mortal coil not to move the story forward but because they are annoying. There’s the aforementioned Chris. And what the heck about Strand? I can understand that he wants to rescue his gay lover his motivations do not seem to be well thought out. He is one of the first cast members to figure out what is going on yet he probably should know that bringing a large number of people with him would compromise his ulterior motive of rescuing his lover and heading out to Mexico. 

Viewers are part of core survival group (attachment). During the first two seasons of TWD, we all immediately gravitated to Rick, Glenn, Daryl, Andrea, Michonne, and others (Carl was the annoying one so I figure if he’s around so would Chris to annoy more viewers).

The cast of TWD has grown on viewers who have had invested in the show that they get really upset when someone becomes zombie food. I think there are good characters. Nick’s recklessness or fearlessness is somewhat refreshing. Ruben Blades’ character of Daniel Salazar has a lot of potential. Travis and Madison have become the emotional centers for the cast. Now this lot has to decide whether they are a family or a bunch of disparate strangers.

Alicia, played by the beautiful Alycia Debnam-Carey, is finally adding more depth. But after five episodes in this S2, it's high time that the films writers and directors move not two steps back stupid but several steps forward.

I find S2 taking too long in its set up and for characters to become fully fleshed and attached. and they really need to ramp up the danger levels coming from the living.

Make no mistake, I enjoy FTWD. I look forward to every episode. As I wrote earlier, I feel that FTWD’s S1 was in some ways even better than TWD’s debut season. But this S2 for FTWD is taking too long to go where they need to go. No need to rehash S1, move forward in a bigger way. I think at this point the conflict is more from within than from the outside Connor’s poor real threat notwithstanding.

There are three more episodes before we hit a season break. Let’s hope that it picks up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Check out my custom Nexus (by Mike Baron & Steve Rude) Pop!

Ever since I saw the Nexus graphic novel I became a fan of this cosmic avenger. And to this date, I'd say that the creation of Mike Baron and Steve Rude is one of my top five favorite comic book characters ever. The others are the Rocketeer by the late Dave Stevens, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America. 

I have Funko Pops from the four aforementioned characters but there isn't any Nexus so I had one customized! And here's the design. Neat, huh? I should get it real soon! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Good stuff from Free Comic Book Day 2016

The best comics from Free Comic Book Day 2016
by rick olivares

The first Saturday of May is a red-letter day for comic book fans because it’s Free Comic Book Day all over the world. While previously, the free comics were literally old books that were rehashed, in the past few years, quite a number of them have featured original material some of which is more than filler stories. And quite a few of these actually tie up in many of the regular storylines.

Whether you’re an old-time fan or a newbie, here are some of the best comics that were given away for free this year.

Avatarex: Destroyer of Darkness
Grant Morrison will go down as one of the best comic book writers of all-time. This man’s mind is a mass of creativity and ingenuity. I for one can wait to read more about his stab at Indian mythology! His co-creator over at Graphic India, the legendary Stan Lee, released on FCBD 2015, Chakra the Invincible, his all-original Indian heroine. “Avatarex," written by Morrison with art by Jeevan Kang, is about an Indian superbeing who is awakened prematurely before a great war that will precede the end of days. As such, he has to deal with the mundane reality of life in modern India. 

A refreshing take on superheroes as it’s from a different culture.

Boom Studios Summer Comic Blast
Four new stories and previews from Boom and Archaia (the latter was acquired by the former in 2013)! What makes this a must have is the new “Mouseguard" story by David Petersen. Previously, Mouseguard was given away in solo form albeit in hardcover format. “The Tale of Piper the Listener” about a journey to understand the languages of otters, birds, and other animals by the mouse Celanawe is a stand alone story that will no doubt be collected later on as they have with previous stories. I love Mouseguard for the depth of Petersen’s imagination and creativity where mice battle for survival in a medieval-like setting. The artwork is intricate and gorgeous making every book a treasure trove to own and read. 

The other stories here are previews of upcoming books such as "Adventure Time," "the Lumberjanes," and "Goldie Vance." While offering a more humorous if not cartoony bent, they are both fun, somewhat irreverent ("Adventure Time"), and perhaps more importantly, fun.

Steve Rogers Captain America
Steve Rogers is back as Captain America again (for the nth time) and hopefully, we’ve had enough of these Steve-is-replaced/Steve-is-back storylines because this crappy gimmick really gets old. 

But this Cap looks like Bryan Hitch’s Cap from "The Ultimates" and Hydra resembles ISIS. Just wondering though why Sharon Carter, now head of SHIELD, looks old. Weird.

There’s a second storyline, “Dead No More” that is supposedly going to rock Spider-Man’s world. And these pages that show the Rhino and Gwen Stacy alive once more! What gives! What a cliffhanger.

Civil War II
“The Minority Report” — Marvel style. Stopping a crime or something evil before it actually happens. Always an intriguing point of debate. Not sure why we need another dust up between heroes especially after what happened the last time. While I am not enamored of Brian Michael Bendis’ penchant for destruction from within, it bears watching. 

Love and Rockets
One of the biggest indie comics of the 1980s will have new stories this coming July! For a modern audience that is largely unfamiliar with the genius of the Hernandez brothers. "Love and Rockets," are different stories, each penned and drawn by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, about the lives, trials and tribulations, and loves of a different cast of characters. “Love and Rockets" is why I enjoyed “Strangers in Paradise” and Craig Thompson’s works ("Habibi" and "Blankets”) and other similar stories. This freebie features classic works to get the a new audience acclimated to lives and loves of this incredible comic book soap opera.

Moon Cop
I so sought this! After I read “You’re All Just Jealous of My Jet Pack” from Scottish creator Tom Gauld, I had to get this. This is a preview of an upcoming graphic novel from Drawn and Quarterly about a cop on the moon! In this preview, he helps locate a missing dog on the moon. It’s absurd but absolutely fun and intriguing. 

I absolutely loved “Leave It To Chance” from James Robinson and Paul Smith that came out in the early 1990s from Homage/Image Comics. "Hilda,” written by Luke Pearson, is an all-ages story about a girl who finds herself in all sorts of magical and fantastic adventures in mundane settings. If you love Sean Koo’s “Jellaby” stories then check out “Hilda.”

The Space Knight returns. Rom was published by Marvel Comics in the 1980s and was about a cosmic hero who chased after aliens who infiltrated the earth. Now, under IDW’s banner, the character is rebooted for a modern audience. While the reboot offers nothing different or even something to knock your socks off, it is still worth watching or checking out where they are taking this classic character. 

Valiant 4001 AD
Valiant presents their universe in the 41st century; a prelude to their summer comic event. Five stories featuring Rai, Divinity, Archer and Armstrong, Faith, and Bloodshot. Very promising and exciting.

This is the meatiest of all the free comics! Forty-eight pages! Features a slapstick jab at Captain America vs Superman featuring Judge Dredd. There’s a feature about a job involving murder, galactic frontiersman Ajax Bloodthirsty, Nemesis the Warlock and more craziness from the company that pushes the morbid and brutal. 

Got my Giant-Man Pop!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cursed Pirate Girl is comic book treasure!

Cursed Pirate Girl is comic book treasure!
by rick olivares

Avast ye! Cursed Pirate Girl is like discovering literary treasure.

Written and drawn by Jeremy Bastian, Cursed Pirate Girl is about a young girl’s quest to find her father who is a dreaded buccaneer in the mythical and mystical waters of the Omerta Seas. Cursed Pirate Girl is accompanied by the parrot, Pepper Dice, and the Swordfish Brothers, in their incredible voyage of discovery.  

The story will bring to mind a nautical madcap version of Alice in Wonderland and will elicit a smile for those weaned on Mother Goose, the art of Arthur Rackham and Charles Vess, and the startling imagination of Neil Gaiman. It’s a high fantasy story on the high seas! 

There are two things that will strike you when you turn each page of Cursed Pirate Girl. First is the intricate and amazingly detailed black and white art that harkens back to a bygone age of illustrated fairy tales and nursery rhymes as well as adventure books by Jules Verne, HG Wells, and the like. Even with today’s comic book scene having no particular dominant art style, Bastian’s art will stand out as there is no one else illustrating comic book panels like him. And for all the “old style” it is a refreshing change. 

I can only imagine the long hours, days, and months for each comic book to be done. No wonder that the first three issues were released bi-monthly and independently by Olympian Publishing in 2009 with the latest, Cursed Pirate Girl Annual #1, that is Chapter IV, published six years after in October 2015!

That the four chapters are drawn over a period of time is also fascinating as you can clearly see the refinement of Bastian’s craft especially in the annual where it is more polished with the line work more defined.

And that leads me to the second that is the succulent writing. The appeal of pirate lore lies in the adventures of which one can add the adjectives “swashbuckling” or “grand” or untold treasures when in truth, these plunderers of the high seas were terrifying and murderous men.

Make no mistake, the world or the seas of Cursed Pirate Girl are deadly and violent. She actually pays for crossing the Governor of Jamaica by losing an eye. I love that fact that I cannot tell where the story is going with its twists and turns. Sure Cursed Pirate Girl is going from ship to pirate ship to find her father. However, along the way, it is journey to the increasingly weird.

Bastian’s prose never bores you. He is never verbose. There are morsels of conversation and interjection and lengthy monologues but you hang on every word as you want to understand and to get to know this zany if not frightening world of pirates, mythical creatures, monsters, and vengeful men. In fact, it’s hard to believe that Cursed Pirate Girl is a 21st Century creation and not something that was published in the 1800s!  

Right now, the original three issues have been re-collected into three trade paperbacks through the years with the most recent just a few months ago. After the original collection by Olympian Publishing, Archaia Studios Press printed the next two editions. Since Archaia was purchased by Boom Studios in 2013, the annual is now under the joint imprint of Boom and Archaia. And that means Jeremy Bastian’s modern-day masterpiece is available for all to read, love, and appreciate just as we did those nursery rhymes and fairy tales of our childhood.

Now walk the plank and check out Cursed Pirate Girl, mateys!

Cursed Pirate Girl is available for order at Comic Odyssey or FullyBooked branches in Manila.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Got my letter printed on the pages of Power Man and Iron Fist #3

Am loving the new Power Man and Iron Fist comic so I just had to write. Now, I'll never know if they'll print it given the thousands and thousands of letters Marvel receives on a monthly basis. So catching up on my reading tonight, I was pleasantly surprised to see my letter printed on Power Man and Iron Fist #3!

It's my fourth letter printed in a Marvel comic after Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and Groot! Now, if I can only get a letter printed on Captain America then I've got that ticked off my bucket list.