Robb McKinney

Originally from Kansas, and now living in NOVA by way of Seattle. When I have the combination of time, motivation, and cogency, I write about being a stay-at-home-dad of twin toddler boys, mental health, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Besides that, I'm a big C survivor, lover of comics, running, movies, whiskey, and acerbic humor.

Latest stories

  • ,

    Review: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #8

    Review of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

    unbeatable squirrel girl #8The aloof humor and loose, almost juvenile art in “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” are matched only by the wonderfully illogical storylines and strong feminist lead. Issue #8 begins with love in the air as Squirrel Girl faces the fact that not acting on her feelings for Tomas has – for some reason – resulted in him not knowing that she has feelings for him, which has in turn resulted in him going on a date with someone else. (Not to worry, though, as she’s “Super cool with this!”)

    Deciding that action needs to be taken in order for S.G. to find a soul mate, her friends convince her to try online dating. She reluctantly agrees, and everyone pitches in to help her create an online dating profile for her. Group-sourcing a dating profile for a girl who has a secret identity as a super hero with the powers of squirrels is exactly as challenging and humorous as you’d expect.

    The interested male suitors are as absurd a mix as can be: there is a sprinkling of super villains, heroes, and guys who are weirdly anti-squirrel. Date after date is a failure, and while out with her last potential Mr. Squirrel Girl (a super hero “truther”), things go from bad to disaster when a typical B-list “USG” super villain bursts onto the scene. Or maybe that’s an improvement, rather than a disaster?

    This issue ends with a cliffhanger that promises some action, but knowing this title, the next issue could consist entirely of Squirrel Girl mowing the lawn, which is exactly the kind of thing I keep coming back for.

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #08, Written by: Ryan North, Artist: Erica Henderson, Trading card artist: Chris Schweizer, Marvel $3.99

    Review by Robb McKinney.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: Saga #36

    Review of Saga #36

    saga #36There are few comics that compel the reader to return, issue after issue, in the way that “Saga” does. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing and Fiona Staples’ emotive artwork invite you back to the space opera at the end of each chapter.

    Picking up from all of issue #35’s cliffhangers, issue #36 starts right up with Noreen, Hazel’s teacher in the Landfall detention center, is helping her escape when she is stopped amid heightened security measures.

    Meanwhile, on Quietus, Ghüs comes across The Will as he is throttling Prince Robot’s son. Ignoring the advice to kill, well, everyone from his hallucinatory companion The Stalk, The Will neutralizes Friendo, raising the ire of Ghüs, who makes sure The Will remembers their encounter to the tune of Klara’s ax. Returning to the young Squire, The Will is stopped from any wrathful actions by another imaginary guest.

    Back in the detention center, Marko shows up to rescue Hazel and return her – along with a stowaway – to the rocketship tree, where Alana and Sir Robot are busily trying to repair damage to the ship. Mother, father, and daughter are reunited at long last, and we are left with a cliffhanger that will surely launch an entirely new arc.

    This issue brings to a head the relationships we have built with the characters of the “Saga” universe; Marko’s embrace of his daughter and her sighs of “Daddy, daddy, daddy…” into his shoulder has an emotional impact that reminds us why we’ve continued reading, and the final panel reminds us why we will continue reading as long as Vaughan and Staples keep allowing us to be part of the family.

    Saga #36, Written by: Brian K. Vaughan, Artist: Fiona Staples, Publisher: Image, $2.99

    Review by Robb McKinney.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7

    Review of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7

    unbeatable squirrel girl #7Those of us in a certain age demographic might look back fondly at a series of juvenile lit books called “Choose Your Own Adventure.” The breakdown is that you would read the story, and at certain points, be faced with a choice, turn to the page of denoted by your decision, and carry on.

    If there is a comic title in which the “CYOA” format fits right in, it’s probably “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!” Well, probably “Deadpool” as well, but we’ll have to settle for the Merc with the Mouth’s recurring role in “USG” by way of his “Deadpool’s Guide to Super Villains” card series. In issue #7, this handy-dandy card introduces Swarm, the telekinetically-controlled swarm of bees in villain form.

    As you help guide Squirrel Girl through the issue, you’ll be responsible for helping her and her friends make the decisions that will allow her to save the day. Will she stay home to study calculus, or go investigate that strange buzzing sound? Will she go it alone or call in Koi Boy for backup? Will he ignore her call, only to later learn that Swarm has taken over the entire world through the unstoppable power of bees?

    Most importantly, will you live up to the game’s judge, Galactus? At the end of the day, what’s at stake here is the fate of the planet. If you don’t make the correct decisions, if you aren’t the best Squirrel Girl you can be, our planet will, of course, be devoured.

    So choose wisely.

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #07, Written by: Ryan North, Artist: Erica Henderson, Trading card artist: Joey Ellis $3.99

    Review by Robb McKinney.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: I Am A Hero Omnibus #1

    i am a hero omnibus #1A 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.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: The Twilight Zone: The Shadow #1

    The Twilight Zone: The Shadow #1If 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.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: Batman #51

    Batman #51Batman #51 is one of the best stories from the title since its rebirth in DC’s “New 52” launch. It is also – perhaps not coincidentally – Scott Snyder’s and Greg Capullo’s final collaboration for one of the most iconic titles in the comic universe.

    In a title as storied as Batman, epic cover art seems to come less and less frequently. The collaborative piece created by Capullo, Miki, and FCO Plascencia features the cape and cowl enveloping an oddly bright Gotham City, the Bat Signal in its sky taking the place of the iconic symbol on Batman’s chest. It’s a brilliant blend of the dark nature of the Batman character in juxtaposition to the brightening character of Gotham.

    The unspectacular nature of this story is what’s so spectacular about it. We’ve seen stories of the Dark Knight on night patrols since forever, and at its heart, this story is just that. Driving on the empty streets outside Gotham, Batman experiences a minor earthquake that knocks out power to the city. Suspecting (with undeniably good reason) that this is some form of attack, Batman visits some of the usual suspects, but the culprit is far less expected and far more revealing than you might expect.

    The art reflects the usual quality of Capullo, Miki, and Plascencia, and the narration is conducted in a Book Antiqua-ish font, which adds a nice flavor to the story, especially when the narrator is revealed. Worth picking up even if you’re not following the Dark Knight’s crusade on a regular basis.

    Batman #51, writer: SCOTT SNYDER, pencils: GREG CAPULLO, inks: DANNY MIKI, colors: FCO PLASCENCIA, letters: STEVE WANDS, cover: CAPULLO, MIKI, & PLASCENCIA.

    Review by Robb McKinney.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: Saga #35

    saga #35Like in most issues of the space opera Saga, the characters and storylines in issue #35 can seem to be scattered and disjointed. And, like in most issues of “Saga,” Brian K. Vaughan manages to keep the reader engaged in the story and invested in the characters throughout the intertwining storylines and character arcs. As always, Fiona Staples draws some of the most unique and expressive characters in the industry, and the way Hazel’s look continues to progress so organically continues to be one of the outstanding aspects of her work.

    Picking up from issue #34, Doff and Upsher are coerced by The Will to find out Robot IV’s probable whereabouts from the less-than-savory nightclub owner Zlote. Robot IV, however, is on board Marko and Alana’s as an unwilling participant in their plan to get to Landfall to rescue Hazel. Meanwhile, Noreen has recovered and plans to help Hazel escape from the Landfallian detention center, but she and Hazel must convince Klara that it is in the girl’s best interest.

    The Will arrives at Robot IV’s hideaway and discovers the prince’s son Squire. As he contemplates what to do with the young Robot, Ghüs shows up to intervene…

    Saga #35, written by Brian K. Vaughn, art by Fiona Staples. Published by Image Comics.

    Review by Robb McKinney.

    Please follow and like us:
  • ,

    Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6

    unbeatable squirrel girl #9 cover artThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has been around the Marvel Universe since the ‘90s, but has come into her own since the release of her own series. The art by Erica Henderson is as – always – playful with a vintage feel. Ryan North and Chip Zdarsky clearly have a love for comics in general and Marvel Universe canon in particular, and prove it once again in “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” #6.

    We are immediately taken back to “Months ago… (i.e. after ‘Squirrel Girl’ #8, but before ‘Squirrel Girl’ #1!) (Comics, everybody!),” where Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl) and her friend Nancy are discussing making a new costume for Squirrel Girl (not to fear; the utility belt is staying!) when the universe’s greatest investigative water fowl, Howard the Duck (whose own comic was revived by Zdarsky more or less just to tie in with this story arc), steals Nancy’s cat in what turns out to be a case of mistaken cat-dentity.

    As Squirrel Girl and Howard are sorting out the mix-up, a van with an A-Team body and an Ed Beard-ish airbrushed scene on the side (van art actually by Joe Quinones) roars up to them. Kraven the hunter steps out of the – wait for it – Kra-Van to collect one Mr. The Duck to deliver to an as-yet-unnamed villain.

    Squirrel Girl tracks them to a “weird creepy mansion in the middle of nowhere’s attic,” where we meet Ms. Sugarbaker, a cosplayer who is as crazy as she is wealthy and who has a “Most Dangerous Game” plan in mind for our heroes as well as some other recognizable Marvel folks. In future issues, I’ll be especially looking forward to some action from newbie Weapon II, a squirrel survivor of the Weapon X program!

    The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Written by Ryan North and Chip Zdarsky, Art by Erica Henderson. Published by Marvel Comics.

    Review by Robb McKinney.

    Please follow and like us: