Saturday, February 17, 2018

Comics Lust 2/17/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/workin’ for the weekend Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Three day weekend, y’all, and dang if we don’t need it. Have you ever noticed how hard you work right before a vacation or time off to make dang sure all of your bases are covered and there will be no surprises while you are away or when you get back? Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks around the Donist World corporate office (Mom’s basement), but dagnabbit are we ready to actively relax or what? We are. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health, drink plenty of water (maybe a beer or two, I’m five weeks into a six-week Real Food Challenge and I’m allowed…I think), cherish the ones you love, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

The Whole Story (Part 1)

For both new and seasoned comic book aficionados, deciding where to hop in on many of the more popular titles can seem like a daunting task—see my previous post, “A Valiant Effort (Part 1)”. We all want strong stories told through beautiful art, but if you want to get into Iron Man, or the Hulk, or Superman, or—heaven help you—Batman, then there are going to be characters, backstory, and continuity that inevitably pops up requiring you to do some digging to fully understand what is going on. But what if someone wants to get a clean in-and-out on a series with a beginning, middle, and end? One with all new characters and places? The good news: there are tons of offerings out there in the comic book wild. Yes, there’s a treasure trove of OGNs (original graphic novels) gracing store shelves—we’ll get to some those another day. I’m talking about books that came out on a monthly(ish) basis, with twelve or fewer issues in the whole series. I’m happy to tell you, there are plenty of those, too.


(Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, published by DC Comics beginning in 1986)
I know, I know, there is a Before Watchmen event from 2012 (I need to get around to reading that someday), and there are thus far three amazing issues of Doomsday Clock that began in 2017. Also, there is a divisive movie and plans to make an HBO series of Watchmen in the near future, but when Moore and Gibbons originally created this industry-defining series, it was a 12-issue endeavor and that was supposed to be it. Regardless of your feelings on the prequel and the sequel, you still can read this monumental series and be as wowed, thrilled, chilled, and as mentally and emotionally messed up as I was after reading this series back in 1986. Watchmen is Moore’s response to the slow yet startling change in politics and American attitudes from the time of World War II through to the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war was a legitimate concern. It is within this setting that the creators added superheroes and how they too changed with the times, becoming increasingly more dangerous and tools the government could exploit to win wars, namely the Vietnam War. Then, a former “superhero,” the Comedian, is killed and a lone vigilante, Rorschach, sets out to solve the murder despite the illegality of roaming the streets in a costume and dishing out justice. What Rorschach begins to uncover is something much more than anyone could have ever predicted as the Doomsday Clock clicks ever closer to the world’s demise. I won’t say anything more than this comic messed up sixteen-year-old Donist something fierce, and I was the better for it. Watchmen should be required reading for everyone, not just the college students who have this hallmark of comic book excellence required in their studies. “Who watches the Watchmen?” You should, that’s who.


(Written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Goran Parlov, published by Image Comics beginning in 2014)
Wow. I don’t know about you, but after Watchmen, I could definitely use a pick me up. Starlight is definitely the book to do just that. With only six issues in this fantastic, uplifting story, but with the possibility of prequels and sequels that may or may not surface someday, Starlight is a love letter to the pulp sci-fi stories of yesteryear. Even if you never read a Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers comic strip in your life, there is plenty to embrace in this beautiful and exciting series of love, loss, purpose, and a life well-lived. Starlight follows the elderly Duke McQueen, a recent widower whose kids have never really believed that Duke was once a spacefaring adventurer who fought and won intergalactic wars. No one believes the fantastic quests Duke undertook before giving it all up forty years ago so he could spend the rest of his days with his beloved wife. More alone than ever, Duke’s life changes the day a former ally from another world and a lifelong thought past arrives seeking Duke’s help. Dang. Just writing this brief intro is bringing tears to my eyes, but not of sorrow. No. Rather, it’s the touching joy of following Duke on what may be his final exploit that reminds him of why he matters. Couple this with Parlov’s Moebius-esque illustrated tapestries and I know exactly what’s up next on my reread list. My goodness, this series is beautiful.


(Written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Frank Quitely, published Vertigo/DC beginning in 2004)
I love animals, especially dogs, which makes this next three-issue comic book series somewhat of a challenge, but one completely worth embarking upon. So, yeah, I’m basically saying let’s bring the mood back down into the realm of anxious despair …with a side of hope. We3 tells of what happens when the government decides to replace human soldiers with weaponized pets. Bandit (a dog), Tinker (a cat), and Pirate (a rabbit) have all been outfitted with an impressive exoskeleton that not only allows them to speak, it arms them with massive strength and a lethal barrage of guns, missiles, blades, and everything that turns each of them into weapons of mass destruction. But when the three see an opportunity to break from their human oppressors, they make a dash to find their way home. Unfortunately, the government does not like its property leaving unannounced and will stop at nothing to get the three back. Again, this story is brutal in parts, but it is compelling throughout and thrilling to say the least, especially given Quitely’s oh-so-gorgeous line work. You can easily finish We3 in one sitting, but I suspect you’ll be thinking about it for days and weeks afterward.

Tokyo Ghost

(Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Sean Gordon Murphy, published by Image Comics beginning in 2015)
The year is 2089. Led Dent and Debbie Decay are constables enforcing the laws created by entertainment gangsters to instill upon a hopelessly tech-addicted society that will stop at nothing to get their next fix. Debbie is a tech “virgin” having no implants whatsoever, but Led is loaded with the stuff to the point of loving the virtual over reality. When the opportunity arises to purge Led of his tech to better infiltrate the Garden Nation of Tokyo, a tech-less society, Debbie sees a chance to escape the iron grip of their bosses, make a run for their freedom, and a return to the love the couple once shared. Okay, Denizens, this one’s going to be a bit rough, too, but the world of Tokyo Ghost is one well worth immersing yourself in. It should be clear by now that Rick Remender is one of my favorite comic book writers, and this 10-issue commentary of the perils of too much connectivity and where we all might be headed is one that may as well have been tailor-made for me. We have hopelessness and hope, beauty and decay, oppression and freedom, love and codependency all presented through Murphy’s stunning vision of both dystopian and utopian societies. Although a mostly serious comic, Tokyo Ghost has its humorous moments and the lovely art is oftentimes loaded with sight gags and social commentary. You get a beginning, middle, and end, but I can’t help wishing there was more to go around of this grand story.

The Private Eye

(Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Marcos Martin, published by Panel Syndicate beginning in 2013)
Speaking of the digital age…not all comics begin their life on the printed page, bound by two staples through the middle, and folded, oftentimes with a cover of differing paper stock. In the age of retina displays and iPads, comics can come alive on the screen way before they appear—if they ever do—in a store. Such is the case with Panel Syndicate, which released all 10 issues of The Private Eye as free downloads. Now, only a heartless monster would take such amazing comics and not kick down some cold hard cash for the privilege, and Vaughan and Martin give downloaders the option to give a voluntary contribution; I gave them a minimum of $4.00 per issue, of which they pocket the majority of the proceeds. If you know a little about comics, then you should be aware of Vaughan as he writes some amazing comics (Y the Last Man, Saga, Paper Girls) and The Private Eye deserves its place amongst the best of his creations. Set in the future, at a time after everyone’s private information is exposed for all to see, privacy becomes one of the most sacred of rights. Everyone is disguised and there is no longer such a thing as the internet. P.I., a private eye who exposes secrets if the price is right, is hired to investigate a murder but stumbles upon much more than he ever bargained for. Timely, predictive, action-packed, The Private Eye is a wonderful sci-fi adventure certain to thrill and to leave you wondering just how long we have before the events of the comic actually come to pass. Don’t worry though. If you hate reading on a screen, there’s a hardcover, landscape-formatted version of this must-read tale waiting for you at your LCS. Pick it up before our tech-addled society crumbles.

This Week’s Reading List

I’m out of time, and I haven't even had a chance to make it to my LCS this week. I’m also not quite ready to mention the biggie I'm close to finishing, but maybe that will be the topic for next week. Hmmmmm. See you next week.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Comics Lust 2/11/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/stress denier Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). The weeks continue to be nutty, but mostly in a good way. That said, my puppy executive team and I could sure use some downtime. We definitely need to do some reading,  TV watching, and maybe spend some hours putting together a puzzle; heaven forbid we take a moment to breathe and smell the hypoallergenic flowers. We are committed to embracing our inner chill. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health, drink plenty of water (no beer, I’m four weeks into a six-week Real Food Challenge), cherish the ones you love, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

A Valiant Effort (Part 1)

So many comics, so little time. But as lovers of the medium, we not only have a reverence for the old—that which we have read, reread, and hold to the highest esteem—we also tend to stick with the things we love. We want to check in with what Batman is up to, or what’s currently going on with all things cosmic in the Marvel Universe. But we also have a need to experience something new, something different and thrilling. There’s definitely more out there than just the Big Two, which I have found with the “indie” publishers like Image—who receives most of my money month in and month out—and, to a lesser extent, Dark Horse. Still, there are many other worlds to explore.

Now, I bought a couple issues from the newly spawned Valiant back in the ‘90s, but that was at a time when I was growing weary of gimmick covers, variant covers, and a marketing-over-content and the “EXTREMEizing” of the comic book publishing world. Frustrated, I abandoned comics altogether for about five years. After the speculative bubble burst, consuming many publishers in its wake including Valiant, I returned to an industry desperate to stay alive and one with a renewed interest in telling great stories. In 2012, Valiant rose from the ashes bringing back most of their properties beginning with X-O ManowarMagnus Robot Fighter and Solar Man of the Atom, both originally Gold Key properties, were scooped up by Dark Horse, end ended up with Dynamite. After a few years of hearing some great buzz around many of the titles in Valiant Entertainment’s resurrection, and along with a need to try something new, I dipped my toe into the Valiant pool.

Archer & Armstrong (First Published May 2013)
Going in order of my reading beginning in August 2015, Archer & Armstrong was my first real foray into the Valiant Universe. A digital sale prompted me to drop some coin on Archer & Armstrong #1–25 and the special Archer & Armstrong: The 1% #1, which I quickly blew through after loving the first issue. Basically, Armstrong is an immortal poet and lover of life (ie, a drunk) who has been targeted by a cult (the Sect) for assassination by an impressionable young man, Archer, who is the near opposite of Armstrong in every possible way. Archer soon learns his life and upbringing were a lie, and the two become quick friends committed to stopping the Sect once and for all. The book is essentially a humorous “buddy cop” story with heart that immediately makes you fall in love with the title characters and cheer them along on their many adventures. Other characters from the Valiant Universe come in and out of the series (including Geomancer, Bloodshot, and Armstrong’s brother, Gilad, the Eternal Warrior) and although it was slightly confusing not knowing too much about the series guest stars, I just went with the flow and everything worked out just fine. Archer & Armstrong is mostly written by Fred Van Lente and features a host of artists, but as much as I loved this series, the act of jumping into the rest of Valiant’s offerings seemed a bit daunting…until a particular writer prompted me to give it a shot two years later.

The Valiant (First Published December 2014)
In late 2017, Valiant had another digital sale that caught my eye, but it was the fact that my current favorite creator, Jeff Lemire (Descender, and Royal City) had actively been working with the company which was all the excuse I needed to dive back into this publisher. Co-written with Matt Kindt and illustrated by Paolo Rivera, and featuring the character of Bloodshot on the cover—who I remembered from back in the ‘90s—I decided this was the book to start with. Now, The Valiant is pretty much an event miniseries that at various points brings in most of the Valiant characters, and it is safe to say I knew practically none of them. That’s fine. The writers do a decent job of mostly letting you know who is who as they thrust you right into the action. The story opens with The Eternal Warrior, Gilad (the guy who appeared in many issues of Archer & Armstrong as he fights The Immortal Enemy across 10,000 years). Gilad has failed to stop the ever-evolving creature only three times, but each time resulted in the death of the Earth’s Geomancer. Now, The Immortal Enemy has returned and even though Gilad has the aid of Bloodshot and many other heroes, it might not be enough to stop the monster. This series is definitely accessible to new readers and it successfully roped me in within the first few pages. I dug the main characters, was interested in knowing more about the others, and with the brutal ending knew I had to jump directly into…

Bloodshot: Reborn V.1–4 (First Published May 2015)
Bloodshot: USA V.1 (First Published October 2016)
Picking up where The Valiant left off, Bloodshot: Reborn finds Bloodshot a shell of the unstoppable killing machine he used to be. He has a dead-end job, he’s taking drugs, he’s boozing it up. He’s also starting to see things. He’s without purpose until the day he sees news footage of a ghost-white man with a blood-red circle on his chest mercilessly slaughtering innocent bystanders. Jeff Lemire is the sole writer on this exciting and thrilling series that shows exactly why Bloodshot is one of Valiant’s main heavy hitters. The character is reminiscent of the Punisher only with nanites flowing through his blood that heal him from most any wound no matter how grievous. You have the shadowy organization that created him, lost love, new love, camaraderie, betrayal, post-apocalyptic awesomeness, and further glimpses into other characters within the Valiant Universe. To put it mildly, Bloodshot: Reborn is fantastic as is the follow-up, Bloodshot: USA, and I fully intend to dive into the currently ongoing Bloodshot: Salvation. If you’re new to Valiant, then getting your bearings with The Valiant and diving in with the amazing Bloodshot: Reborn run is definitely enough to get you hooked.
*Note: In the ’90s, Bloodshot ran for 52 issues (#0–51), then, after Acclaim Entertainment bought Valiant, Bloodshot returned for 16 issues before the company filed for bankruptcy. In 2012, after Valiant had returned to the world of comics, Bloodshot saw new life with a 26-issue series (#0–25) before appearing in The Valiant, where I decided to begin.

Secret Weapons (First Published June 2017)
Secret Weapons is the most recent comic from Valiant and is one that has had much buzz. Written by Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter of the hit sci-fi film Arrival, and illustrated by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, the comic focuses on three characters with abilities that some might call worthless, but to Livewire—one of Valiant’s toughest characters—these three have much more potential than anyone ever gave them credit for, which is probably why the youngsters are in the crosshairs of a murderous beast known as Rexo. Let’s just say, I freaking love this series, but I have to admit having almost no knowledge of Livewire other than her brief appearances in The Valiant and Bloodshot: Reborn. I’m honestly still a bit confused about her as I’m sure those who have read Harbinger and Unity fully understand the character and her powers, but with Secret Weapons she is somewhat enigmatic…and someone I definitely want to know more about. It also seems as if the three main kids of the series have appeared previously, but I’m not certain where; looks like Harbinger and Unity might be the next place to look? Still, despite not fully knowing the histories of the pivotal characters, Secret Weapons is a fun, thrilling, intense comic that has me hoping for more and wanting to read the recently released zero issue, as well.

Everything I have read from Valiant thus far has been great. I definitely want to read more, but I’m not sure if I will first immerse myself in the mythos of the epic X-O Manowar, or check out Harbinger and Unity, or go super cosmic with the three Divinity miniseries. Knowing me, I’m pretty sure the answer will be “all of the above,” and I’ll be discussing them in “A Valiant Effort (Part 2)” at some point down the road. Bottom line: Valiant is very much deserving of your attention. You should give it to them.

This Week’s Reading List

I’m out of time, but then again I only had two items in my pull this week, and I’m not yet ready to mention the biggie I am close to finishing. See you next week.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Comics Lust 2/3/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/unapologetic relaxer Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). It has been a nutty week this week. Lots of intense work-related stuff and lots of work get-togethers and parties. On the Donist World front, there was renewed focus around the corporate office (Mom’s basement) by my puppy executive team and me on maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. Today, however, we are on mandatory relaxation time and may not bother getting up off the bed to relax on the couch; we’ll see how it goes. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health, drink plenty of water (no beer, I’m three weeks into a six-week Real Food Challenge), cherish the ones you love, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting (Part 1)

When you mention the ‘70s to someone who was alive during that time, many things come to mind. For me, I picture summers at the swimming pool with breaks of miniature golf during the day, and countless hours at the roller rink going nowhere fast while shooting the duck and loving every minute of it. It was disco and Queen, ABBA and KISS, cassette tapes and 8-tracks, and a multitude of radio stations that actually played a variety of music. You could play video games on your Atari 2600 in the comfort of your own living room, or head out to the arcade to line your quarters atop the local Space Invaders or test your skills as a pinball wizard on some of the truly gorgeous machines (I’m looking at you Gorgar!).

Then there was Karate and Kung-Fu.

The martial arts were something most people had zero training in, yet a few jumps off the couch and a few poorly performed—and possibly property-damaging and/or self-injuring—spin kicks in the living room and you were on your way to becoming a master. The ‘70s were also the start of the much loved Bronze Age of comic books and if you were to flip through any Marvel or DC comic of the time, you would find a wealth of ads offering to teach you the martial arts via pamphlets or posters, mainly Karate or Kung-Fu. Oftentimes, you read those ads in some amazing comics that showed you exactly what a martial artist could do. So, let’s take a look at some groovy and radical Kung-Fu comics.

The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu
If you’re going to talk about martial arts superheroes, the master of Kung Fu, Shang-Chi, must be a part of the conversation. First appearing in Special Marvel Edition #15 (written by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, illustrated by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom, published by Marvel, 1973), Shang-Chi is the son of the notorious Fu Manchu, a man who Shang-Chi believes to be a benevolent scientist, that is until the day Shang-Chi is sent to assassinate a man who turns out to not be an evildoer at all. Now, on the run from his own father in the foreign land of New York City, Shang-Chi pits his hands and feet against strange foes and colorfully-costumed heroes alike as he tries to thwart Fu Manchu’s diabolical machinations. Special Marvel Edition #16 proved to be the last of that series, but not because of lackluster sales. In fact, the series was such a hit the title changed to The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu keeping the numbering at issue #17, and ran to issue #125 in June of 1983, with an annual and four issues of Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu and numerous appearances in other Marvel titles. I only had a couple handfuls of Shang-Chi’s adventures growing up—so many comics, so little money—and for many unfortunate years rights issues to the Fu Manchu character prevented any reprints or collections from being published, but no more! You can pick up the four omnibus volumes today—I have the first one thus far!—and Marvel looks to slowly reprint the run in trade format in the coming years. With additional talents like Doug Moench, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, and Roger Stern on writing, and Paul Gulacy, Walt Simonson, Mike Zeck, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and many others on art, you can’t go wrong with this martial arts powerhouse. Spoiler alert: in one issue Shang-Chi Karate Chops a shark. You don’t get cooler than that.

Iron Fist
Iron Fist, one of my favorite Marvel characters, also began life in a comic series not initially named after him. Marvel Premiere #15 (1974) saw the introduction of Danny Rand, a young boy who, through tragic circumstance, came to be raised in the mystical city of K’un-Lun, where he was taught to become a living weapon and where he gained the power of the iron fist after defeating the fierce dragon, Shou-Lao the Undying. Danny returns to the regular world to seek vengeance upon Harold Meachum, the man who originally left Danny and his family to die upon the frozen wasteland. During his time in New York City, Danny meets both superheroes and supervillains alike and eventually becomes a hero himself. Marvel Premiere ran through issue 25 before graduating Danny to his self-titled Iron Fist, which ran for 15 glorious issues. Written by such greats as Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Doug Moench, and ultimately with Chris Claremont, and illustrated by Gil Kane, Larry Hama, Pat Broderick, and ending with the beautiful line work of John Byrne. Iron Fist cemented his place in the Marvel Universe and his series even saw the first appearance of Sabertooth (Iron Fist #14) and a guest appearance by the X-Men (Iron Fist #15) that totally rocked my world. Equally impactful was Marvel Team-Up #63–64 which saw Iron Fist and Spider-Man facing off against Danny’s arch-nemesis, Davos, the Steel Serpent—as a kid I only had issue #63 and had a painful decades-long wait to get ahold of the concluding issue was totally worth the wait! He also teamed with none other than Luke Cage, Power Man, in the 1978-debut hit series Power Man and Iron Fist. Starting with issue #50, Power Man and Iron Fist, which sprang from the pages of Luke Cage: Power Man, which sprang from the pages of Luke Cage: Hero for Hire ran to issue 125. Also, you know I love the Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja run on The Immortal Iron Fist, but that love would not be as strong without the earlier work, primarily that of Claremont and Byrne.

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu
The mid-‘70s had some Shang Chi, it had some Iron Fist, but in true chocolate and peanut butter two great tastes that taste great together fashion why not combine the two, which is exactly what Marvel did with The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu black and white magazine series that started in 1974 and ran for 33 issues. Now, I have never read this series, but there are two omnibus editions on my radar. The series not only features many of the same great writers and artists who worked on Iron Fist and The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu but also introduced and focused on lesser-known martial arts heroes and saw Shang-Chi and Iron Fist cross paths from time to time. In addition to what looks to be some amazing comic book material, the magazine also featured martial arts movie reviews, prose pieces about martial arts, and step-by-step, fully-illustrated how-to pieces so you too could become a Kung-Fu master. Sign me up. Time to get to some couch cushion Karate Chopping.

Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter
Marvel didn’t have a monopoly on martial arts characters. DC comics had a few up their sleeves as well with 1975’s Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter 18-issue series. Predominantly written by Denny O’Neil and mostly illustrated by Ric Estrada, the series followed martial arts expert Richard Dragon who was originally a thief but decided to walk the more honorable path of using his phenomenal abilities for good. Dragon is touted as the best martial artist in the DCU, but even that prestigious honor was not enough to stave off cancellation. Richard Dragon would not have to stay in the shadows for too long, as O’Neil later made Dragon a supporting character in his ’80s series, The Question. I have not read this series, but after having a clear memory of seeing the first issue and now having my eyebrow raised by the second issue (put some pants on, why don’t cha?!), I totally need to bargain bin dive to find what looks to be one heck of a fun series. Something else to note is that Richard Dragon springs from the pages of the novel Kung-Fu Master, Richard Dragon: Dragon’s Fist by Denny O’Neil and Jim Berry written under the pseudonym Jim Dennis.

Karate Kid
Determined not to miss out on the Kung-Fu fervor of the ‘70s, DC didn’t let flagging sales of Richard Dragon Kung Fu Fighter stop them from spinning Karate Kid out of The Legion of Super-Heroes and into his own series. The series, sadly, only ran for 15 issues and featured writing by Paul Levitz and David Michelinie and more martial arts art from Ric Estrada as Karate Kid travels from the distant future to the 20th century to take down an escaped Nemesis Kid. This is another one I have not (yet) read, but Karate Kid has guest appearances from The Legion, Superboy, Kamandi, and others. I loved seeing Karate Kid every time he popped up in the pages of The Legion of Super-Heroes and especially in the first six issues of the 1984 revamp Legion of Super-Heroes—a series that thoroughly traumatized me, but you will just have to read it to understand why. Val Armorr (Karate Kid) first appeared in 1966’s Adventure Comics #346 and was trained to be a master of the martial arts, and eventually took to the stars to find new styles of fighting with which to master. He eventually returned to Earth to find the Legion of Super-Heroes looking to add to their roster; Val made the cut. I will also be combing the depths of the bargain bins for copies of this series.

Now before anyone starts griping, I am very well aware of the VERY popular heroes who are accomplished fighters (hint: rhymes with “Matban” and “Aptain Camerica”), and instead wanted to focus on the lesser-known heroes riding that Kung-Fu craze of the ‘70s. Can…you…dig…it?

This Week’s Reading List

I honestly had nothing in my pull this week, and the books I have been reading will actually be part of next week's “Comics Lust” post. See you then.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Comics Lust 1/27/2018

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/negotiator of normalcy Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Finally, a week that was relatively normal. The 101 freeway opened up again after a two-week closure. I was able to work at my office. No fires. No mudslides. No illnesses. No toxic air. Although, you can’t go swimming because of the high amounts of fecal matter as a result of the mudslides, but it’s winter and I’ll take what I can get. Tulip and Reverse Obie are happy to have taco truck service restored despite my doing a Real Food Challenge which doesn’t allow cheese or corn, which means no tacos for me. I’m just glad to see my puppy executive team happy for once. Anyhow, be kind to each other, mind your health, drink plenty of water (no beer, I’m two weeks into a six-week Real Food Challenge), cherish the ones you love, and read some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

The Scene of the Crime (Part 1)

A comic book genre that took me a long time to work up the interest to dive into was the “true crime” genre. I guess my rationale for the delay was that comics served as a means of escape, a trip to the fantastic through superheroes, dragons, monsters, hand-wringing supervillains, colorful outfits, and barely-there costumes. If I wanted reality, I could turn on the television or step outside my front door and stare in awe at the audacity of the thieves who smashed the back window of my neighbors’ white ‘70s van, crawled into it, exited on the front passenger side, and stole the front passenger-side door…2017 was a weird year. Anyhow, we all know there are literally tons of comics out in the wild, many of which were calling my attention, but certain titles kept coming up and again and again. Okay, I thought, I’ll give this crime comics thing a shot. Good thing the book I settled on was…

Criminal (Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, now published by Image Comics)
I picked up the first trade of Criminal at a Borders Bookstore (RIP), after the temptation of a burning-a-hole-in-my-pocket gift card coupled with the desire to read something new had become too great; I settled on Criminal: Coward. When I got home, I read the first few pages, and I could not put it down. This first trade follows Leo, the man with the plan. Leo is the go-to-guy if you need to plan a heist, but—and this is a big ‘but’—only if he can be sure the job is void of risks. Unfortunately, for Leo, other criminals are more along the lines of thinking that “The rewards outweigh the risks.” After breezing through the first volume, I immediately went to the second trade, Criminal: Lawless, and began picking up the series as floppies from that point on; I was hooked. Here’s the beauty of the Criminal series: each trade follows a different set of characters and different crimes, and you don’t need to read them in any order…although I would suggest you do, as it’s exciting when characters from previous volumes pop up or are mentioned. Thus far, there are seven volumes of Criminal, each worthy of your attention. Volumes three through seven are as follows: Criminal: The Dead and the Dying, Criminal: Bad Night, Criminal: The Sinners, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (a masterpiece of a crime comic and the best of an already great series, btw), and Criminal: Wrong Time, Wrong Place. Brubaker’s writing perfectly displays a deep understanding and love of film noir and the pulps, while Phillips’s flawless character acting and storytelling—both vital components of a crime comic—combined with heavy shadows set the mood and make this series THE starting point for those interested in the genre. A warning: you will most likely become hooked like I have.
*Note: Criminal originally started as an Icon/Marvel series, and there are six trades floating around under this publisher. The creators then switched to Image comics where they published the first six volumes, complete with new trade dress, and released two “specials”—available in regular comic size and magazine size!—with those being collected in the seventh volume.

The Fade Out (Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, published by Image Comics)
One thing I began to figure out years ago, is that despite all the glitz and glamor Hollywood projects on the outside, what it has buried deep on the inside, what it oftentimes tries to sweep under the rug, is something much darker; something troubling. There’s no shortage of deaths, murders, scams, cheats, and abuse in all its myriad forms than when it comes to Hollywood. Brubaker and Phillips draw from that sordid past and craft one of the best Hollywood tales I have ever read. Set in 1948, The Fade Out has it all: a dead starlet who might not have committed suicide, an inconvenient alcohol-induced blackout, a screenwriter with a devastating secret, another screenwriter blacklisted for being a “communist,” a powerful studio mogul and his brutal chief of security, the new starlet, and so much more. Everyone has something to hide, and some are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden. The Fade Out is a beautiful series in both writing and art as can be expected from these tremendous creators. Haunting and sad with a glimmer of hope—as well as a fair amount of fear and desperation that propels some of the characters—this series is a great follow-up to Criminal or as an equally great starting point for those new to crime comics. Originally a 12-issue series, The Fade Out is available in three trades or a gorgeous hardcover.
*Note: Brubaker has said that, like Criminal, The Fade Out will return with a new story and new characters, with old characters flowing in and out from time to time; I can’t wait.

Gotham Central (Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark and Brian Hurtt, published by DC Comics)
Now, you might be thinking, Enough with the Brubaker, already, and if that is the case, then that tells me you don’t understand just how strong a hold this creator has as one of the top crime comic book writers in the industry—don’t even get me started on his spy/soldier works. But before Criminal and before The Fade Out, Brubaker teamed with spy/international intrigue novelist and comic book creator Greg Rucka on the amazing Gotham Central. Given the popularity of the television franchises NYPD Blue and Law & Order, these creators decided to tell their own police drama, with one writer handling the day shift detectives and the other the night shift detectives. The exceptionally cool thing about this idea is that it takes place in Gotham City, home of the Batman. The even better thing is that Batman rarely even appears in this book, leaving the series to focus on the police and detectives who attempt to stop Gotham criminals and supervillains alike, while shining the light on crooked cops and those attempting to climb to the top with little regard for who they step on. Gotham Central shows what happens behind the scenes of a city plagued by supervillains and how normal men and women try to keep Gotham’s citizens safe. It is also one of the best things DC Comics has ever published, which is saying something.

Southern Bastards (Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, published by Image Comics)
This is a series about crime and college football. It’s a story of legacy, corruption, people reaching their breaking point, and of those who’ve become numb to it all. Did I mention it involves football? A sport I loathe for countless reasons? Even though this series heavily involves a college football team coached by the diabolically wicked Coach Boss, it is a massively addictive read. I’m not going to spoil the first chapter shocker that I in no way saw coming and which left me stunned for days afterward, but I will say that the creators succeed in making one of the vilest characters I have ever read in a comic. The crazy thing is that despite how much you hate this Coach Boss, they at one point manage to get you to sympathize with this monster at least for a moment. Coercion, drugs, violence, revenge, complicity, and cruelty rule Southern Bastards, and because of this we have a handful of characters looking to set things right and the reader desperately wanting to see Coach Boss finally get what’s coming to him; unfortunately, these “good guys” might not be all that willing to work together. This series is already slated to become a television show, so jump in now with the three available trades (a fourth in February 2018), or the lovely hardcover of the first two trades.

Somerset Holmes (Scripted by Bruce Jones, co-plotted by April Campbell, co-plotted and illustrated by Brent Anderson, published by Pacific Comics then Eclipse Comics)
Of course, I had to hit you with one that you’re going to have to do some digging in the bargain bins in order to read, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. When a woman awakens on the side of the road with no idea of where she is or who she is, her life becomes infinitely worse when a helpful doctor she meets is murdered. Shortly after, a disturbing telephone call sends the woman on the run with little more than a mysterious key and her temporary name of Somerset Holmes to aid her on her quest to find her missing identity while avoiding those seeking to do her harm. Holy moly, it has been a while since I read this series and I now need to reread it more than ever. A true gem from the ‘80s and one that is captivating whether you are specifically looking for a crime comic or just want something good to read. Beautiful art that’s indicative of the time with the flat colors I love so much, and an amazing story—I need to give Jones his own section someday—will make Somerset Holmes a comic well worth seeking out whether you buy the six floppies or the possibly more elusive trade.

Trust me, Denizens. I am well aware that I omitted a powerhouse writer/artist from this list, but I figure he will headline when we get to “The Scene of the Crime (Part 2)” at some point this year. Meanwhile, you have PLENTY to keep you busy for a good, long while.

This Week’s Reading List

Doomsday Clock #3 (Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Gary Frank, colored by Brad Anderson, lettered by Rob Leigh, back matter design by Amie Brockway-Metcalf, published by DC Comics)
I am 100% in on this Watchmen sequel. One character returns to dish out some revenge, one character betrays another, and the couple that slays together stays together in this, dare I say, fantastic event comic. Trust me, I had my doubts, too, Denizens, but then I read the first issue. Also, the Mime and the Marionette are probably my favorite new villains of the past decade. You need to be reading this.

Southern Bastards #19 (Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics)
Coach Boss continues his rampage and will stop at nothing to get his Running Rebs college football team the win Craw County so desperately wants. Unfortunately, those he’s wronged care less about football and more about getting revenge for past grievances. Releases of this phenomenal crime comic (see “The Scene of the Crime” above) might have been spotty over the past year, but every time I start to think of switching to trades, a new issue comes out that reminds me that enduring the wait for a trade is just too painful of a prospect to consider.

Black Science #34 (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, published by Image Comics)
Ignore the $4.99 cover and rest comfortably knowing that this concluding chapter is double-sized and every bit worth the increased price tag. Grant McKay and his family are scattered and shattered as the world faces a giant millipede death cult, invading ghosts, a mighty witch, and a betrayal that spans the many worlds of the onion. With doom falling from every direction, it honestly can’t get any worse for our heroes, and all I will say is that the wait for the next chapter is going to be a rough one indeed.