Thursday, May 11, 2017

On The Shelf: Ruminating on Free Comic Book Day '17 and other things

By the time Free Comic Book Day ended on Saturday, I had stopped at 2 stores and a library, and came away with a nice haul for the day. Let's take a look:

Idea & Design Works (IDW), perhaps inevitably, is setting up a Star Trek: The Next Generation line, launching with an adaptation of a classic Star Trek episode, "Mirror, Mirror". The original episode had been previously adapted for comics a number of years back, during Marvel's 2nd go-round with the franchise. This time, it is Capt. Jean-Luc Picard's Enterprise in the mirror universe. Lush, realistic artwork, which suggests an Alex Ross influence. Definitely for fans of the Trek franchise. Also previews other Trek projects from IDW.

Rating: A+.

IDW also offered up a preview of a forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arc. I don't follow the series, so we'll pass on a rating, though I can tell that the art seems to be close to a homage to co-creator Peter Laird.
Scholastic has gotten into the comics business, but Time Shifters, while it might entertain the target audience, looks a little out of focus. Parents may need to take the time to discuss with the kiddo's.

Rating: C.

ABC's hit series, Fresh Off The Boat, has transitioned to comics, as the family gets into the hero business, with chaotic results. The artwork isn't great, though the story will resonate with families.

Rating: B-.

American Mythology may just give Dynamite, IDW, and other license-centered indies a run for their money.

The company started off with obtaining the rights to The Three Stooges in 2015, then added The Pink Panther last year. This year brings no less than Total Television's canine crimestopper, Underdog, whose previous ports of call in comics have included Charlton & Gold Key.

AM's preview issue introduces a new villain to Underdog's rogues gallery in Phoney Baloney. The plot, though, recalls the episode, "The Phoney Booths", but with the newbie replacing Simon Bar Sinister as the villain of the piece. Good way to reintroduce Underdog and friends to a new generation. Watch for references to other TTV properties, including Tennessee Tuxedo, hinting that AM may also make a run at the other TTV series. AM also has acquired Rocky & Bullwinkle, which will debut later this year.

Rating for Underdog: A.
Titan Books has gained a license for Mattel's Monster High line of figures for young ladies. Looks like a lot of fun, even for the boys in the audience. If the writers of Rick Moranis at Gravedale High had this kind of imagination 17 years ago, that series might've gotten more than 1 season.

Rating: B+.

Titan also is previewing a forthcoming Doctor Who arc, but as with the Turtles, there won't be a rating, as I don't follow the series.
DC previews the next DC Super Hero Girls graphic novel, "Summer Olympus", continuing the change in Wonder Woman continuity that has the Amazing Amazon as the daughter of Zeus AND Hippolyta, rather than having been formed out of clay. Bumblebee, currently appearing in Teen Titans, has been repackaged as more of a clone of Marvel's Wasp with her size changing powers. Bear in mind that the graphic novel will retail for $10. but will keep the young ladies entertained until the start of next school year, along with Monster High.

Rating: A.

One local shop was giving away copies of the 1st issue of the current twice-monthly Wonder Woman, with the store logo imprinted on the cover. Writer Greg Rucka makes a triumphant return to DC, but rebooting Diana as, well, bi-sexual at best, may be just for the sake of addressing the growing LGBT audience. I can't really say for sure. For what it's worth, I think the reason they made Zeus Diana's biological dad was to go right along with the similar rebooting of Cassie "Wonder Girl" Sandsmark a few years ago.

To all that, I say, meh.

Rating: B.
We talked last week about Marvel's Secret Empire miniseries event. Flipping through the FCBD special, I see no reason to change my opinion on it at all. All this does is build toward the inevitable climax of the Captain America, Agent of Hydra arc that began a year ago, and has made Nick Spencer one of the most polarizing figures in comics today. This is an idea that should never have left the former "House of Ideas".

Rating: C--.

Meanwhile, Marvel has also hit the reset button with All-New Guardians of the Galaxy, although with the Marvel Legacy project rumored for later this year, the beancounters will have to do the math to figure out how many Guardians issues have been published since the 90's.

Anyway, in keeping in line with the current movie, Groot is now little more than a youth, although growing back to adult should happen before the year is over. Star-Lord has blond hair and a beard, which will confuse folks who have not been buying the books and have only seen the movies. Again, I say, meh.

Rating: B-.

The backup features, though, in each of the above books offer more promise.

41 years after the original series launched, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, returns. I get that Marvel wants to pimp out the webhead with the new movie coming up, and the kid-friendly Spidey was a victim of poor sales last year, so this is your replacement. Given a choice, I'd rather read the ongoing Renew Your Vows book.

Rating: B.

With a Netflix series coming in August, The Defenders gets dusted off, but the big diff between this book and the upcoming show is that Luke Cage & Jessica Jones are husband & wife, and have been for a while now. That would make Willis "Diamondback" Stryker Jessica's, ah, 1/2-brother-in-law, and he ain't kind to anyone associated with Luke, as we'll see in the first arc. The Judas bullets used on Luke in his Netflix series come into play in the preview. Uh-oh. I'm sold.

Rating: A.
For all I've written & said about Riverdale, which wraps its freshman season tonight, Archie Comics' 1-shot prequel, released in the winter, offered some backstory leading into the series, which bowed in January. The current monthly debuted last month, but I can't recommend it, despite some nice artwork. Dark? Subversive? Check & check. Archie purists will hate it for sure. And I don't think writer/creative director Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has done due diligence to address the issues thus far ignored, including the off-air death of iconic teacher Geraldine Grundy, whose ID was co-opted by a 30-something music teacher in the show. Said identity thief pulled a vanishing act within a month.

Rating: C--.
CW has added a 6th Greg Berlanti entry, as Black Lightning has been picked up for likely a January launch. The question is what night will it air? Cress Williams top-lines as 40-something retired hero Jeff Pierce, who is now a high school principal, which wasn't his original vocation (he was a teacher) when Tony Isabella & Trevor Von Eeden introduced Pierce some 40 years ago. Cue the inevitable Black Lightning: Rebirth from DC, preferably written by the inestimable Mr. Isabella, whose Bloggy Thing is a must-read.

Fox has finally gotten around to renewing Gotham for a 4th season. Lucifer will return for a 3rd season, but they'll now be joined by The Gifted, a X-Men series that Fox will introduce next season. Cable cousin FXX has picked up an animated Deadpool series for 2018, with plans to couple Deadpool with Archer. More details when they become available.

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