A review excerpt on the back cover of I Am a Hero states that it is “The greatest zombie manga ever.” Yes, “IAAH” joins the ranks of great zombie manga such as “Maho Shojo of the End,” “Living Corpse,” and “Tokyo Zombie.” And when I say “joins the ranks,” I mean “blows them out of the water.”
Kengo Hanazawa’s genre-bending series is collected in soft cover omnibus by Dark Horse, is about the size of a thick paperback novel, and maintains the Japanese reading format, (our) back-to- front, and right-to- left. As stated in the back/front, this helps maintain the artwork’s visual orientation. (Note: Most manga reads this way, but it’s worth stating in case this is your first foray into the style.)Speaking of the cover, its use of color images laid over a black-and- white background gives it the feel of an animation cell and gives a real pop to the titular hero.
Hideo is a delusional manga artist who lives alone, save for the yurei he sees; they don’t care about all the locks on his door, his security system, his magic circles…or his shotgun. Yes, Hideo is in possession of a shotgun, a rare thing in Japan. One of the reasons Japanese (and most foreign) zombie stories are so compelling is that every character doesn’t have an assault rifle with apparently endless ammunition. In this case, you have one milquetoast failed artist with a target-shooting permit and a shotgun.
The story takes its time ramping up to the zombie apocalypse, the suspense building on each page, but it spends that time developing characters just enough to make them relatable and realistic, yet without demanding an exhausting amount emotional investment. As his world starts crashing down around him and he becomes “free,” Hideo is forced to decide what kind of person he wants to be.
An early conversation in the book is between Hideo and his fellow artists at the manga studio about the essence of manga and its place in Japanese and global pop culture. It’s a telling dialogue that Hanazawa unpacks in the course of “IAAH.” The artwork is amazingly realistic, while at the same time maintaining a manga flair and sensibility. One of my chief complaints about zombie comics is that as good as the story and artwork might be, the nature of the medium negates the “BOO!” moments, those sudden little scares that you can get in filmed works. This book actually had images that creeped me right the hell out, which would be enough of a selling point to me if I didn’t already own it and was reading this review.
I Am a Hero Omnibus 1, publisher: DARK HORSE, written and drawn by: KENGO HANAZAWA, price: $19.99.
Review by Robb McKinney.
While attending the same high school in 1933, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began developing an idea for a new kind of comic. Superman started out as the story of a bald drifter who was involved in experimental drug trials. The trial drugs gave the man super abilities, including telepathy, which he used for his own profit. Eventually the drugs wore off, and the man became a drifter again.
Eventually, the idea evolved from an evil hobo into a new kind of heroic figure whose abilities would be used for the good of mankind, fighting the social injustices of the day. This new Superman still didn’t have the super abilities we’re familiar with today. He was an amazing specimen, able to “leap 1/8th of a mile, hurdle a 20 story building, raise tremendous weights, run faster than an express train,” and “nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin.” He doesn’t fly yet, but there are a couple of scenes where he appears to float. Still, not the nearly invincible Superman we see today.
After submitting their strips to several newspaper syndicates, the pair were finally able to sell their first Superman story to Detective Comics in January 1938 for $130, ten dollars per page. This story would be printed in Action Comics #1, June 1938. The Superman story was undoubtedly the star of the issue, and a decades-long relationship between the author, artist, and Detective Comics was born. Superman has been in continuous print since.
Superman, The Golden Age collects the covers and Superman stories from Action Comics #1-12, Superman #1-4, and World’s Fair Comics #1. None of the other stories from Action Comics or World’s Fair Comics are included. There are a few unintentionally funny ads that have been included because they fill out the layout of a final page of a couple of the stories. One of the ads advises the reader that he can achieve “Super Strength” by clenching his fists as hard as possible and then sharply jerking his fists in various directions. There is also a teaser ad at the end of Action Comics #12 that advertises a “new thrilling adventure strip,” The Batman, coming in the May 1939 issue. (The Golden Age of Batman, TPB vol. 1 releases on August 10, 2016.)
The Superman that is represented is not the same hero that you have read before in comics or seen on television and movie screens. This Superman is callous and stern. He doesn’t flinch before throwing goons out of a skyscraper window to their presumed deaths.
Some of the means Superman uses to achieve his ends are also questionable. There is a story in which Superman needs to go undercover in a professional football organization, so he drugs and kidnaps one of the players who bears a slight resemblance to himself so he can assume the player’s identity. You read that right. Superman sneaks up on an innocent guy, injects him with a sedative, kidnaps him, and leaves him drugged in bed for several weeks so that he can pretend to be him. He also bilks a couple of con men out of a cool $1 million ($16,425,347.22 in today’s currency), which he presumably keeps, before destroying their business. The police aren’t quite sure what to make of Superman, so he frequently finds himself running from the cops.
An original copy of Action Comics #1 sold at online auction for $3.2 million in 2014. Most of the other comic books from which this collection is gleaned are worth tens of thousands of dollars each. As I will likely never be within 10 feet of an original copy of any of these books, I found the opportunity to view this collection of stories fascinating. Almost 80 years after his first appearance, right on the heels of the Great Depression, Superman continues to be relevant and is arguably the standard bearer for the whole genre.
Review by Brendan Allen.
Doctor Steven Strange has been battling, and losing the battle, against Empirikul who seek to destroy the very existence of magic, everywhere. Earth has more than a few powerful magic-users in the Marvel universe, and even their combined magical-powers are seemingly no match for the science-based and science-powered Imperator and his “army” called Empirikul.
In this issue, number seven, we are given a bit of the backstory of Empirikul, which, like many other hero and villain backstories, starts with the murders of the parents of the Imperator. On his homeworld, when he was younger, magic-users who worshipped the elder god Shuma-Gorath were killing anyone anyone practicing science there, including the Imperator’s parents.
The tables have now turned and Empirikul is now doing the reverse in hunting down and killing magic-users. To that end, Empirikul binds Doctor Strange, Scarlett Witch, and other magic-users of Earth to trees and make preparations to burn them all alive, not unlike those accused of witchcraft in our own non-fictional history.
An old magician named Monako appears in attempt to save the day. Monako is an old magic-user who made his first appearance in Daring Mystery Comics #1 in 1940 and who wears a stereotypical, and awesome, black top hat. While he may not have the power to eliminate the Empirikul threat, he DOES manage to teleport all of Earth’s magicians to safety. Just before doing so, he instructs them all to look for magic in “all the nooks and crannies.” Apparently *some* magic still exists, possibly nearby.
Doctor Strange and the other magicians safe, at least temporarily, in some sort of subterranean cavern, but they have been left with no magic. Monako, unfortunately, suffers the burning-at-the-stake fate that he helped all of his friends to avoid. The noblest of self-sacrifices.
Now underground, the remaining magicians, including Magik (Illyana Rasputin, sister of Piotr Rasputin, X-Men’s “Colossus”) have an outlook that is quite grim. With hardly a way to even get out of the cavern, they are pretty well convinced that even gathering up every scrap of magic in the world, as Monako instructed, will not be nearly enough to defeat Empirikul.
Jason Aaron’s uniquely creative writing of this storyline has been nothing short of superb, up to this point. Furthermore, I expect that it is about to kick into high gear as we follow what intriguing weirdness is happening in Doctor Strange’s home “the Sanctum Sanctorum.” This perfect pairing with Chris Bachalo’s wildly artistic visual storytelling makes for one of the best comics to hit the shelves in years. Not that there haven’t been a lot of good comic-book stories, lately, because there HAVE, but this one is the cream of the crop. See for yourself.
Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic: Part 2, written by Jason Aaron, art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend. Published April 27, 2016.
Review by Steve Oatney.
Hulk, or “The Incredible Hulk” has been a universe leading icon and world-recognized superhero of wildly dangerous proportions, for decades. Since his appearance in May of 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creation has become every bit the force to be reckoned with, in comics, and out.
From the comic-books of the 1960s continuing all the way to present day, two 1970’s television films, a TV-series into the 80s, and his appearance in many cartoons and movies, The Hulk is one of the top figureheads of the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man is arguably the only more recognizable character in Marvel’s catalog of fictional heroes.
Too many articles have been written about Hulk to even begin to count. Why does this big green character endure? Why are we so interested in reading about this monster? Well, I think it is because he is all of us. Or, at least who we all wish we could be, at times. He’s a good person who is so full of rage that he becomes the ultimate Mister Hyde to Bruce Banner’s Dr. Jekyll. Banner “Hulk’s out” into a huge monster capable of destroying huge cities, or even possibly small worlds, but his good hearted nature often keeps him in check. Well, sometimes, anyway.
So, who is THE TOTALLY AWESOME HULK? And, well… is he?
T.T.A.Hulk was created by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa and first appeared in Amazing Fantasy volume 2 number 15 in 2006. This Hulk is not Bruce Banner, however. This Hulk is Amadeus Cho, a young genius whose intellect brought the attention of Pythagoras Dupree who had Cho’s house and parents blown up, sending Amadeus on the run.
With much ado in multiple Marvel storylines, we come to the “All-New All-Different” Marvel event in which The Totally Awesome Hulk storyline lives. Amadeus Cho became the Hulk after the Secret Wars storyline, wherein the original Hulk was affected by a lethal amount of radiation. In order to prevent a potential killing of the masses meltdown, Amadeus used nanites to pull Hulk out of Banner and put Hulk into himself. Now, Amadeus and his sister, Maddy, have begun seeking out dangerous monsters on Earth, though his questionable tactics and containment strategies are still developing.
So, why did I pick up the first five issues of T.T.A.H.? To be frank (heh heh), it was Frank Cho’s incredible cover and interior artwork on issues 1-4, continued cover art on issue 5, and hopefully beyond. I have met, and spoken with, the über talented artist over the years at Comic-Cons and have loved his art-style for almost two decades, ever since being introduced to his work in Liberty Meadows.
Mike Choi has taken over the interior art, in issue 5, and is doing a bang up job of it. Now, with the intriguing introduction of The Enchantress of Asgard, into the story, I don’t plan to stop reading this series any time soon, and recommend these comics to Hulk fans, the world over, new and old!
The Totally Awesome Hulk #5, written by Greg Pak, art by Frank Cho, pencils by Mike Choi. Published April 20, 2016.
Review by Steve Oatney.
Civil War again errupts on in the Marvel Universe, DC reboots and merges classic Hanna Barbarra cartoons. Our favorite new sleuth Goldie Vance and Dept. H hit their second issues, and we see a mix of Deadpool and Strange for New Comic Book Day. These are a few of this week’s new releases that stood out from the crowd. Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment and share on Facebook and Twitter!
SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.
Future Quest #1
By: Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner
DC’s titular start off point of the new era Hanna-Barbera. Future Quest is a team up book of several Hanna-Barbera teams. Think of it like if the Justice League teamed up with Teen Titans, He-Man and Suicide Squad. Here we get an unnamed Space Team, Johnny Quest, Birdman (not an attorney at law in this series). Glimpses of the Humanoids, and the big guy himself, Space Ghost.
This first issue does a great job in setting up why all these properties come together. Most of the issue is spent with the Quest family. Jeff Parker does a fantastic job giving Johnny and Hadji their adventurous youth-filled voices.
It’s an interesting concept, bringing all these different characters from completely different universes together — that’s what makes this issue fun. Something that at first I thought “isn’t going to work,” does, and I’m ready for the next issue! [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
Civil War II #0
By: Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel
Civil War II starts out exactly the way an issue #0 should. It gives you what came before, and leaves you wanting for what comes next. It looks like the second war between heroes will be a more spiritual successor, rather than a direct sequel to Millar’s Civil War. Bendis fills the book with very real and often poignant character moments. She-Hulk’s closing arguments in court are especially good. War Machine’s job offer is something I hope to see pursued further. The art is the typical great character work and incredible layouts by Coipel.
There’s a lot packed in the book and its full of potential. It’s easy to think this is just an event book cash grab, to capitalize on the release of the Captain America: Civil War. Instead Bendis and Coipel have a great hook of a story and two weeks seems like a lifetime to wait for the next chapter. [Dustin M. at Universal TFAW]
Goldie Vance #2
By: Hope Larson, Brittney Williams
When we last left off in the first exciting issue of Goldie Vance, we saw our wunderkind solve the case of the missing necklace. Using another guest’s car to race one of the town’s street thugs to win back said necklace. During all that, she still found time to help out her friends.
In this second installment of Goldie Vance, we find out that they can’t return the necklace. The owner is now mysteriously missing. Will Goldie be able to crack this case? Through out issue two, we learn more about Goldie and her family. We see a person from her past comes back, to find that things aren’t the same as they would like them to be. It’s hard to believe that they’ll be able to wrap this story up in only four short issues. I’m so excited to see what happens next.
Hope Larson, as she always does, brings her unique style and fun dialogue to this project. Brittney Williams’s beautiful art brings the world of Goldie Vance to life. [Steve M. at Milwaukie TFAW]
Deadpool: Last Days of Magic #1
By: Gerry Duggan, Scott Koblish
Two words for this issue: Poor Deadpool! If you are up to date with Doctor Strange series, You understand that Empirikul is destroying all sources of magic. This unfortunately includes Deadpools wife, Shiklah. Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Commandos are under attack and it’s up to Deadpool, Michael, and Benjamin Franklin to save her! I loved this issue because it showed that Deadpool is more than a goofy mercenary. The cameos and references were a great homage to the previous Deadpool runs from Daniel Way and Brian Poshen.
If you love a darker side of Deadpool, wait until you read the last couple pages! I give it 3 sad faces 😥😥😥 and five chimichangas🌯🌯🌯🌯🌯. [Darcey M. at Universal TFAW]
Dept. H #2
By: Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
The game is afoot. Mia has begun her investigation and EVERYONE is a suspect! In addition to the mystery, you learn some very important and interesting things about Mia, her brother Raj and their relationship.
Matt and Sharlene Kindt deliver again with astounding colors and panels that make you feel as trapped as our main character. The story continues to pull you in as you realize that there is a lot more going on than a simple murder mystery. With fantastic, designs, writing, colors and lettering, by Marie Enger, Dept. H remains on my must read immediately list. [Sean W. at Milwaukie TFAW]
What did you think of these books? What should we review next week? Let us know below!
Any parent will tell you that all of the hard work and all of the challenges in rearing a child is well worth it. What about when your daughter is one of the most powerful beings living on planet earth? What happens when THAT kid rebels? What happens when THAT kid decides that her parents are wrong, and she decides to hang out with “the wrong crowd?”
That is exactly the situation in which Superman finds himself in Dark Knight III The Master Race #4, with regards to his daughter Lara. She is all grown up and is one of the most super of all super-beings on this planet, if not THE most! With the Kandorian people of Krypton now seeking control of our world, Lara has chosen to take their side. Yes, this is a bit of a worldwide social-commentary that humans are not treating the earth well, but be that as it may, just because Lara and the Kandorians are multitudes stronger does not give them the right to take over our little blue planet.
Superman is standing on the side of we humans, as will Batman, we hope, to the best of his ability, in his state of overused and overwrought body-parts. Wonder Woman has yet to join the fray, and seems hesitant to do so. Here’s hoping that she’ll side with the Boy Scout and the Bat to once again form their formidable hero trio.
However, if Superman won’t join Quar and the rest of his Kandorian’s campaign to seize the earth and its inhabitants, and will therefore oppose them, then how WILL he fight his own daughter? Or will he? This issue addresses these questions, and more, and has me on the edge of my seat, so to speak. Apparently, things have to get worse before they can get better, and things… just… got… worse!
While young Carrie is not Bruce Wayne’s daughter, he is definitely passing her the torch in this issue. He gives her “hope,” some sort of pill that we will soon learn about, to be sure. Plus, Bruce gives her a gift which looks to be her new costume as BATGIRL!!! As Bruce has already touted her skills and intelligence as being better than even his own, it will be more than interesting to see how she takes on the mantle of The Bat in this world ever-filled with peril and superpowered Kandorians about to knock down earth’s door and claim our castle as their own. Quar, to be more specific, is demanding that Gotham City hand over Batman in thirty-six hours or they will lay waste to the city so long protected by our beloved Bat.
Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello’s intense story, paired with Andy Kubert’s stylized and bold artwork are quickly making this one of my favorite reads, these days. Oh, and did I mention the enclosed mini-comic titled ‘Batgirl #1,’ containing the appearance of one water-based superhero of earth? No? Well, remind me to do that, won’t you?
Words and pictures, my friends.
DKIII: The Master Race, Issue #4, written by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello, pencil work by Andy Kubert. Published April 27, 2016.
Review by Steve Oatney.
While Black Panther was a great new addition to the Marvel pantheon with his appearance in the entertaining Captain America: Civil War, hardcore MCU fans have known about T’Challa since his introduction way back in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52 from 1966. Okay, maybe you bumped into him a bit more recently, he has been involved with a bunch of different groups including not just the Fantastic Four, but also the Secret Avengers, the Avengers, Pendragons and Queen’s Vengeance.
Still not sure about T’Challa? Here’s his thumbnail bio, according to Marvel:
T’Challa is a brilliant tactician, strategist, scientist, tracker and a master of all forms of unarmed combat whose unique hybrid fighting style incorporates acrobatics and aspects of animal mimicry. T’Challa being a royal descendent of a warrior race is also a master of armed combat, able to use a variety of weapons but prefers unarmed combat. He is a master planner who always thinks several steps ahead and will go to extreme measures to achieve his goals and protect the kingdom of Wakanda.
Turns out that all these years after his initial introduction, Black Panther is popular. Really popular. In fact, sales of Black Panther #1 in the industry have been terrific, over 250,000 copies sold at $4.99, producing over $1.2 million in retail sales. So successful that you can’t get it any more!
Congrats to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artists Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin for a huge success with this re-introduction of Black Panther to a new generation, and if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of this terrific comic, what’s holding you back?
Black Panther #1, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, art by Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin. Published April 6, 2016. We don’t have this particular issue in stock, but we’ve got quite a lot of other Black Panther comics to feed your zeal, including Black Panther #2 and Black Panther #3.
This past Friday during a press release I learned that Darwyn Cooke was starting treatment for an aggressive form of lung cancer. I hoped for the best for him—as I’m sure we all did. Then, by the end of my workday, rumors were swirling around that he had passed. I pushed them to the side waiting for an official announcement, which came during the morning of 5-14-16.
Cooke’s passing hit me especially hard. In my life of comics, Darwyn Cooke was one of, if not the most important artists and storytellers.
Without knowing it you’ve likely seen his work many times over. He started out in comics with a five page non-verbal story in DC’s New Talent Showcase #19. After that with little money coming in from comics he left to work in advertising and animation. In the early 90’s Mr. Cooke answered an ad for Warner Bros. Animation studio. The ad placed by none other than Bruce Timm. For the next few years Darwyn worked with Bruce Timm as a storyboard artist on many projects. You’ve likely heard about Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Sony’s short lived Men in Black series and the one that melted into my brain: the opening title sequence for Batman Beyond.
I didn’t learn of this until I started researching his work after finding a new Crime/Noir graphic novel published my IDW; Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter. After learning about his past work I couldn’t help but notice his influence over what I loved in comic art.
Between the ’90s and ’00s, Cooke worked on numerous projects — comics that to this day are top reads on many DC Lists: his 4-part Catwoman story with Ed Brubaker, the 6-issue The New Frontier mini series, The Spirit, and lots of Batman pieces. He gave us so many more great projects during that span of 15 years.
His art and storytelling style was for the ages. He told stories from and in the style of the past, making them relevant and interesting to present day audiences. In late 2014, he was charged with creating special variant covers over 20 DC Comics’ titles. It was a delight to see what he came up with every week for titles like Justice League Dark, Teen Titans, Green Lantern, Batgirl, and He-Man: The Eternity War.
Darwyn Cooke will be missed by people throughout the comics community, including many of us around the TFAW offices. Though he his gone, his life’s passion lives on in every panel that he ever put on the page. Thank you for everything, Mr. Cooke.
I love it when the cover of a comic invites closer inspection, when you’re drawn into the art without the hassle of turning a page. Such is the cover of Negative Space #4, whose cover art by Owen Gieni is as clever and detailed as it is graphically violent. You have a villain blowing his brains out, the ejecta is comprised of other villains, and where there was once a head, there is now – wait for it – negative space.
Guy’s detonation of the happiness bomb destroyed the Evorah in the same way a thrown rock destroys a hornet nest, and they are swarming towards land to harvest negative emotions the hard way. Meanwhile, the telepathic blast Guy unleashed at the end of issue #4 has resulted in a significantly smaller amount of staff members at Kindred.
In the Kindred tower, Guy watches the Evorah army turns the city streets into a nightmare as Rick explains what Kindred is, why they do what they do, and what they’ve done in the past that has led to the current state of affairs.
The line between good and bad, hero and villain, tragedy and victory are blurred masterfully, in that awesome-but-aggravating way that makes you realize you’ve already told yourself how the story will end, and now you have to rethink the whole storyline with the new perspective in mind. In particular, Guy’s character evolution and newly discovered powers might not lead where you think, and his place in the world – if has one – will be in question.
Negative Space #4, writer: RYAN K LINDSAY, artist: OWEN GIENI.
Review by Rob McKinney.
If you’re familiar with The Shadow from pulp magazines or radio dramas of yesteryear, you know the basic premise: a vigilante fighting crime using other agents, his wit, and a ninja-like stealth (or hypnotic ability, in the radio shows) that allowed him to get up close to criminals and teach them that “the weed of crime bears bitter fruit.” If you’re only familiar with one format or the other, the story can get a bit discombobulated.
In radio, The Shadow is, in reality, Lamont Cranston, “wealthy young man about town.” In the magazines, he is Kent Allard, a WWI aviator who faked his own death to come fight crime in the States, and Cranston is a separate character, although Allard impersonates him whenever he is abroad. When you unravel the whole Shadow universe, it can get a little confusing.
Enter The Twilight Zone, where “a little confusing” is about as much of an understatement as you can make, and where the “reality” of these characters’ intertwining storylines becomes even murkier when it encroaches on our reality (read: the “real world”).
I’m admittedly not a huge fan of Dave Acosta’s art, but his work in this title is solid if not awe-inspiring. I wish the art was more representational of the original pulp and comic art to pay more respect to the roots of the story. Davis Avallone’s story is a mystery within a mystery, intriguing enough and with an ending to hook you into the next issue. This promises to be a fun storyline for fans of The Shadow!
The Twilight Zone: The Shadow #1 (of 4), writer: DAVID AVALLONE, artist: DAVE ACOSTA, colors: OMI REMALANTE, letters: TAYLOR ESPOSITO, cover art: FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA.
Review by Robb McKinney.