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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shattered With Curve of Horn

by Max Miller Dowdle (Author)

Publisher: Artagem Graphic Library; First Edition (2014)

Hardcover, 154 pages

Amazon Listing

On the eve of a major exhibition of new paintings, prosperous artist Matthew and his wife Caitlin, a pharmaceutical company researcher, encounter an old friend, a philosophical ex-con named Pierce. Pierce confronts the couple about the enigmatic experimental drug they took eight years ago, and the puzzling circumstances that led to his incarceration. In light of Pierce's revelations, Matthew must fight to keep his marriage and career secure, for the secret of all of his success may have sprung directly from Pierce's tragedy.

This is the first work by the author and illustrator, so I tend to go a little easy. Essentially this is an interesting story with sci-fi overtones - a drug that allows a person to share dreams with others, which the protagonist uses to steal inspiration from others and literally paint their dreams. The problem with this story is one of pacing. The story easily could have been told in half the time and much of the action takes place in a bland motel room - which doesn’t really allow the artist to show off his full range of skill.

Additionally at the end of the book, there are various bits and pieces - fake police reports, autopsy, various other personal effects of the characters- which probably would’ve been better used scattered throughout the story as hints of what was coming and the eventually big reveal. Again, this isn’t a bad book. It had some great ideas, but it doesn’t live up to its potential, especially when it comes to the dream sequences.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Daredevil: Ultimate Collection

By Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark

Publisher: Marvel (February 8, 2012)

Softcover, 304 pages

Amazon Listing

Collecting Daredevil 82-93 from the second volume of the series. I haven’t read much Daredevil recently. To be honest, I stopped reading it after the Fall of the Kingpin storyline in the 1980s, because most of the time any new Daredevil stories were just the Frank Miller stuff rehashed. Or worse they brought back dead old characters, Elektra & Bullseye, and just revamped the same old stories. The title had been stagnant for quite a while. The only new elements have been the names and hair colors of the women Mathew Murdock has hooked up with who eventually end up dead.

So what do you do, when real innovation will be frowned upon, but you still want to do something decent with the character? Follow what the authors here did and toss it all in together. Every major character, every major arc, has a part to play in this story. And it works! It works damn well. The Kingpin, Bullseye, Elektra, The Punisher, The Owl, Tombstone, Ben Ulrich, Dakota North, Foggy Nelson, Turk, plus a few others I’m not too sure about, all make appearances, and all seem to fit in well with the ongoing mayhem of this great story. I assumed I would be underwhelmed, but I was wrong.

Matt Murdock finds himself behind bars, a victim of a governmental conspiracy, and essentially charged with being the vigilante Daredevil. Behind the scenes, the most vicious of his adversaries are relocated into his prison, in the hopes that they will kill the hero and the Kingpin, thus saving the government a trial. A copycat Daredevil turns up and Foggy Nelson is murdered while visiting Matt in prison. And behind it all a shadowy character cackles as the superhero twists and turns. A great comic.

      For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War

by Roy Thomas  (Author), Sal Buscema (Illustrator), Neal Adams (Illustrator), John Byrne (Illustrator)

Publisher: Marvel (January 15, 2019)

Softcover, 208 pages

Amazon Listing

If there ever was an early 70s story that had weight, it's the story arc in issues 89-97 of The Avengers. This is the big one. It reintroduces every element of the Kree and Skrulls from every previous appearance, going back to Fantastic Four issue 2. The writing duty is broken up between Neal Adams and Roy Thomas. Both of whom added to the overall arc, but neither can agree on the specific details on who initially came up with what.

It contains nearly every Avenger at that time Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the Vision, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Goliath - which is Hawkeye when he was taking Pym particles to grow. With brief appearances by Ant Man, the Wasp, the Inhumans, Annaihlus, Ronan the Accuser, The Supreme Intelligence, Carol Danvers. With special guest appearances by Rick Jones and Captain Marvel - this is pre-Starlin Captain Marvel. What a freaking cast.

The long lasting effects of this story is well known, but the reader may be surprised when they are shown very little of the actual war between the Kree and Skrulls. It is mostly a series of independent stories that time together in an overall arc. Each story could be read independently, yet had leads to the issue previous and the following one.

Essentially the plot revolves around the aforementioned war where Earth is a perfect beachhead for either side. Thus what begins as a cold war between various espionage agents turns into a life or death fight for the preservation of Earth.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.

Friday, June 26, 2020

S.H.I.E.L.D. by Lee & Kirby: The Complete Collection

By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Publisher: Marvel (October 20, 2015)

Paperback, 256 pages

Amazon Listing

This book collects issues 135 - 150 of Strange Tales, plus issue 78 of Tales of Suspense and issue 21 of the Fantastic Four. These issues date back to the beginning of Marvel blossoming out of mobster books and taking the comic world by storm. In the early sixties D.C. ran supreme but with the new interest in revamped Superhero titles, Marvel started to catch up. However, due to publishing problems, Marvel was limited in the number of titles it could publish. Thus they often doubled-up titles to hedge their bets. Thus the stories here are truncated as they were spilt between The SHIELD stories and those of Dr. Strange.

Nick Fury was already part of the Marvel Universe as part of the Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos title which took place in World War II. He was brought into the modern times (of the 60s) with Fantastic Four #21 , where he is a colonel in the CIA. Starting with Strange Tales # he is inducted into the newly created SHIELD to fight the menace of Hydra.

Hydra's origins would later be retconned (Marvel's first retcon in fact) so as to be created by Baron von Strucker with Nazi gold and the remnants of the Odysessa organization.However, for these issues it was started by Arnold Brown, an unobtrusive nobody in real life. He is eventually accidentally killed by his own agents. Later on we see the origins of A.I.M and the Secret Empire, both wings of Hydra - though the Secret Empire isn’t used much anymore.

The stories are what you expect from Lee and Kirby. Over the top. Crazy material. Loaded with kinetic energy. Each had a distinctive style that added to the 60s elements of wild spy agencies with acronyms names. Loads of retro fun. Additionally, despite what the title states, several of the issues are drawn by John Severin instead of Jack Kirby. That's okay in my book, Severin was just as good an artist as the King.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Essential Power Man and Iron Fist, Vol. 2

by Chris Claremont, Kurt Busiek, Denys Cowan, Kerry Gammill, Ernie Chan, Mike W. Barr, Steven Grant, Greg LaRocque 

Publisher: Marvel (2009) 

Softcover, 624 pages 

Amazon Listing

This collects Power Man & Iron Fist issues 76 - 100, and Daredevil # 178. Just a reminder to all you comic fans, most of these were written in the 1970s and as such the demographic for such material was much younger than those written today.

Power Man and Iron Fist, two heroes with cancelled series, who were then packaged together in a sort of buddy-superhero title. Obviously, Luke Cage has super strength and steel-like skin, while Iron Fist is the world's greatest martial artist and able to summon his chi to create the titular iron fist - a massive destructive force. While they don't work on their own, the characters play off each other well.

We see the runs of three writers through this book. Mary Jo Duffy who took a light touch to the tales, many of them filled with tongue-in-cheek moments. Denny O'Neil with his grounded flair and ability to mix real world issues with superhero realities. And Kurt Busiak who, in his characteristic style, offers tons of throwbacks to earlier issues - not just of this series but Power Man and Iron Fist's original series- to build on the mythology presented.

The art stays steady throughout the book. If there's a problem with this title it's that most of their villains are forgettable. Do you remember Shades and Commanche? Or Fera? Or Montenegro? Or Black Mariah? Of course you don't. The best villains they had was one issue which featured Constrictor and Sabertooth - this was Sabertooth pre-Wolverine related times, when he was just a random villain. To sum up these issues are fun and well done, but not great.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.


Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Complete Elfquest Volume 5

by Wendy Pini  (Author, Illustrator), Richard Pini (Author)

Publisher: Dark Horse Books (November 27, 2018)

Softcover, 792 pages

Amazon Listing

This large tome collects the remainder of the Hidden Years series, numbers 16 through 29, plus the Metamorphosis one-shot, and The Wild Hunt storyline from Elfquest volume 2, all of which were first published in the mid to late 1990s, when the Elfquest creators turned their indie comic into a franchise, creating at least a dozen titles (mostly limited series) dealing with the Wolfriders and their kin. Now that they’re collecting those stories which they consider cannon, a lot of those titles have been left in the trash. The only way to experience them is to pick up some back issues. Still, this volume is close to 800 hundred pages, so it should fill your Elfquest itch for a while. 

Volume five focuses on Ember, Cutter’s daughter, and her trials in leading a separate tribe from the main Wolfriders pack. The Hidden Years stories take place at the same time as the Shards storyline - where Cutter leads an attack against a warlord to gather the remains of the broken castle. These stories deal with Ember’s inexperience at being chief and her growing pains, as the new tribe look for a place to call their own in a world that is rapidly shrinking and filling up with their natural enemies, humans. 

The Wild Hunt stories take place after Shards, and focus on a more experienced Ember dealing with the final few monsters created by Winnowill. They then become embroiled in a series of back and forth raids with the remaining humans warriors, which eventually force the Wolfriders to become more nomadic than they like. This causes stress amongst the group, challenges to Ember’s leadership, and introduces a new antagonist - a ranger type who knows the ways of elves and knows how best to hunt them. 

Like certain portions of the previous two volumes, none of the issues here were drawn by Wendy Pini, and most of the stories were written by others as well, with the Pini’s acting in an editorial capacity. This is not to say the stories are bad, but they are different stylistically than early Elfquest volumes where they were only two people working on them. In fact I like the stories quite a bit. 

Out of necessity, Elfquest had to switch venues to where the human would pose a greater threat. They were always sort of menacing in the past, but not much more than a passing problem. In these stories, they represent a monumental threat. Which leads to the basic philosophy behind all of these stories, how much will the Wolfriders have to change in order to fit into the new world? Will their “way” be compromised or abandoned completely? Well worth a look. 

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


by Brian Wood  (Author), Ryan Kelly  (Author, Illustrator)

Publisher: Oni Press; First Edition (September 10, 2013)

Hardcover, 384 pages

Amazon Listing

This is a collection of twelve interconnected stories of a woman (and sometimes her family members) traveling across the United States, living on the bum, sometimes sleeping in her car, and never staying anyplace too long. Whenever trouble starts up or things become too real, she bolts to another city six states away. Some have called her a complex character, all I see is a young girl with standard growing pains, having difficulty metamorphosing into an adult - like we all do. She often deals with it by running to another city, which is unusual, but metaphorically standard. The character does grow though and we follow her across several years and finally into her organically changing into an adult - like a comic version of Hayden Caulfield.

Together the stories paint a great picture. However, individually they are hit and miss. There are some fascinating ones dealing with Megan and her brother's memories of their deceased mother.  One was the beloved child, while the other was abused. The low point of the book is a story centered around a recently broken up band, returning to Richmond, where the vocalist gives a boring and pretentious interview about music and its importance and blah, blah, blah. Masturbation and a waste of ink.

Most of the credit for this book success must go to the artist. The bold black and white drawings, captured the flavor of each setting, each locale. They come alive in each panel, and much of the nuance of the book and subtext are deftly placed by the artist. Normally I would’ve go for a prestige format of a book, being much too frugal. But they are going cheap now on Amazon, and they are beautifully put together, with at least fifty pages of annotations, sketches, and other additional material.  

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.