Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Majestic: Strange New Visitor Trade Paperback Review

Majestic: Strange New Visitor
DC Comics
168 pages
$14.99 (2005) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401204839

Contributors: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Karl Kershl, Ed McGuinness, Renato Guedes, Oclair Albert, Richard Horie, Tanya Horie, Carrie Strachan, Phil Balsman, Rob Leigh, Ken Lopez, Nick Napolitano, and Dexter Vines

Reprints: Action Comics #811, Adventures of Superman #624, Superman #201, and Majestic #1-4 (of 4)

Synopsis: Majestros is an immortal Kheran warlord stranded on Earth for millennia while battling a secret war against another alien race called the Daemonites.  Super-intelligent, immensely powerful, wielding ocular energy beams, and the ability to fly, in the modern era he goes by the superhero moniker, Mr. Majestic.  The war ended and Majestic remained on Earth.  While investigating a long-abandoned Daemonite science-base he stumbles upon an apparatus which opens a gateway into The Bleed.  Something causes him to fall in and he disappears from reality.
McGuinness gives us a Majestic version
of an old favorite!

"Strange New Visitor" - Superman has gone missing from Metropolis and a devastating reality storm is raging above the city.  Lois Lane is worried about her husband Clark Kent (aka Superman).  The other heroes of Metropolis band together to deal with the storm, but they're having a very difficult time.  They include Dr. John Henry Irons (formerly Steel), his daughter Natasha Irons (the current Steel), Superboy (Kon-El), and the Eradicator (an ancient Kryptonian machine which takes a semi-humanoid form).

Rumors emerge of a new hero who strikingly resembles Superman and saves innocent people caught in the storm.  Lois investigates in the hopes it's Superman, but discovers the hero is actually a stranger named Mr. Majestic.  He is displaced from his own reality and doing what he can to help people in immediate danger.  Lois presents Majestic to the other heroes, but they meet him with varying degrees of skepticism.  Is his reality-displaced presence causing the storm somehow?  The group of heroes don't know what to make of Majestic, but they can all agree on not trusting him.  When they turn on him it could mean the end of Metropolis!

"Grounded" - Majestic is trapped on a parallel Earth, but he doesn't stop being a hero.  His methods are deemed too harsh by this world's heroes including Superman and the two have a discussion.  Superman suggests Majestic gain some perspective as a regular human and he takes it to heart.  The next day Jim McArest rents a room in a small suburb outside of Metropolis.

Superman and Majestic have a chat over coffee
He befriends Ellen and her son Elijah, but finds it hard to assimilate into regular life and keep his superhero identity a secret.  How can he hold back when witnessing an injustice and do nothing?  Not only that, but something followed him from The Bleed and it threatens to destroy the small bit of real life Majestic has made for himself.  Will he be able to protect it?  Then the Eradicator shows up wanting to settle the score with Majestic after the events of the reality storm in Metropolis. It's not looking good for this fish out of water.  

Pros: Abnett and Lanning nail Majestic's character and give him much-needed depth as a hero, Kershl's art is surprisingly detailed and excellent, the book has the same creative team throughout, McGuinness turns in some good covers, very nice Wildstorm/DC crossover which is actually in-continuity, classic meeting between Superman and Majestic in a diner, character progression for The Eradicator

Cons: Actual plot is very basic and follows the typical crossover formula, Kershl's Lois Lane was not very metropolitan and appeared to wear over-sized (baggy) clothing, no noteworthy villain in either storyline, no Superman vs. Majestic battle
We get to see Majestic's memories
from Khera

Mike Tells It Straight: I found the Majestic crossover in Superman to be a daring move which predated the consolidation of the Wildstorm Universe into the DC Universe by seven years (it happened in the New 52).  At the time it was unheard of having an in-continuity crossover and  the writers, Abnett and Lanning, worked hard to make it unique.  They did a great job nailing Majestic's character while adding some much-needed depth. The two are known for their cosmic superhero stories and really did a great job here.

Kershl's art was highly competent and shone in several areas.  Great storytelling and lots of detail.  I really liked that the main creative team was consistent throughout the two storylines.  My only gripe was his baggy clothes-wearing Lois Lane.  A far cry from the cosmopolitan reporter I've grown accustomed to.  I guess it was a little disappointing to not have a big brawl between Superman and Majestic, but the crossover wasn't typical and I wouldn't trade the diner scene with the two for anything. It was classic.

We get to see some of Majestic's origin on Khera when he falls in love with a beautiful princess named Elan (that's the name he keeps calling Ellen).  I felt the only thing really missing was a worthy villain in the story.  The focus was on characterization more than anything else and the writers validated Majestic as a true hero (instead of just a Superman knock-off).  I liked the momentum they built for the character which launched him into a regular series.  I'll post a review for it soon!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Promethea Book Three Hardcover Review

Promethea Vol. 3
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
150 pages
$24.95 (2002) Hardcover
$14.95 (2002) Trade Paperback
$99.99 (2010) Absolute Edition Vol. 2
ISBN 9781401200947

Contributors: Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray, Jeremy Cox, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Promethea #13-18

Synopsis: Sophie Bangs is a college student in a future New York City where technology has advanced at a faster rate due to the influence of science-heroes.  Modern society prizes its sophistication, but Sophie learns of a deeper philosophy which has existed since the beginning of time - magic.  She seeks information on a forgotten heroine and falls headfirst into the underlying tapestry of the universe by becoming that heroine!  Now Sophie shares an existence with Promethea, a demi-goddess of imagination who lives in the Immateria.  Many incarnations of Promethea have existed throughout history and their spirits educate Sophie in her newfound abilities.

Barbara Shelley was the previous Promethea and passed the torch to Sophie.  The two became friends for a brief time, but Barbara succumbed to a mortal wound.  All of the former mortal hosts of Promethea appear in the Immateria after death, but Barbara doesn't.  Sophie decides to find her spirit in the after-life to make sure she's all right.  She leaves the material world behind in search of Barbara and sets up her best friend, Stacia, as her replacement while she's gone.  Stacia bonds with a former Promethea and the two become the new protector of New York.
Sophie says goodbye to Stacia before setting off on her journey
Sophie has been studying magic with a prominent wizard named Jack Faust (for a price, oh, what a price!) and has learned many secrets to expand her perceptions.  She manifests into Promethea and moves through the various planes of reality in search of Barbara.  The journey begins in the lands of the dead, but changes to something more profound as Promethea elevates.  Will she find Barbara amid the myriad levels of reality or will she succumb to their strange mysteries?  Why did Barbara bypass the Immateria and head into the after-life?

Meanwhile on the physical plane in New York Stacia is picking up the slack where Sophie left off.  The only problem is the former Promethea she's paired with is proving to be too powerful to control.  Despite battling crime and keeping the city safe from villains Stacia is helpless to curb the violent tendencies of her Promethea counterpart.  This Promethea teeters on the edge of becoming a greater threat than the menaces she thwarts.  Can the Five Swell Guys reign her in before it's too late?  If Sophie survives her tour through the universal architecture she may come back to a complete disaster!
Sophie and Barbara get stuck on an infinite loop - I'm still dizzy!
Pros: Complex and varied art by Williams, high concept writing by Moore and the infinite loop sequence was particularly imaginative, Stacia's real world actions are a good balance to the metaphysical stuff Sophie is exploring,  origin of Sophie's mom and Barbara was good, no more creepy sex with old magicians

Cons: Majority of the book is high concept and preachy metaphysical themes from Moore, Williams' art can be difficult to visually read (it's complex after all), book ends without resolving the story arc (to be continued...)

Mike Tells It Straight: In this third volume of Promethea the partnership of Moore and Williams gels together and the two hit their stride.  Moore perfectly balances his existential lectures on planes of reality with exciting action in the real world.  Williams' art hits a new high as he channels various styles and truly shines.  Impressive work and I'm beginning to see why this series got the Absolute treatment (over-sized deluxe hardcover format).
The pair stumble into the devil's web
The storyline slowly progresses with Sophie taking us on another tour of reality with each issue dedicated to one plane of existence.  Each one is intriguing and Moore does a nice job of educating us to the true workings of the universe.  This topic is obviously a labor of love for him and this book felt a lot less like an academic lecture than the previous one.  Stacia's predicament is entertaining and I liked how the two storylines intersected.
Trade Paperback Cover

Promethea is a unique series which deals with a lot of theories on the universe and how reality works.  Both the art and dialogue are densely imaginative.  I'm enjoying it so far, but the issues dedicated to one heavy concept after another can get tedious.  The quick action scenes with Stacia's Promethea are a welcome respite from the constant intellectual concepts.  The series already feels like a classic and has a lot of replay value as certain parts can strike a different chord depending on the readers' maturity levels (as we're all perpetually maturing).  It certainly breaks the mold of traditional 'superhero' stories.  I might be jaded to the philosophical ideas Moore emphasizes after so many issues dedicated to them.  It's a lot to take in hence the high replay value.  Highly creative and thought-provoking - I'm looking forward to the next volume.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Possessed Trade Paperback Review

The Possessed
DC Comics - Wildstorm - Cliffhanger!
144 pages
$14.95 (2004) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401202927

Contributors: Geoff Johns, Kris Grimminger, Liam Sharp, David Baron, and John Layman

Reprints: The Possessed #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: A very secret war is being raged between the real world and what can only be called Hell.  Innocent people are being possessed by vicious demons who only care about causing destruction and corrupting humans.  The Church is aware, but lacks the tools to truly make a difference.  Only one group has stepped up to make a difference in the struggle.  This motley band of exorcists are possibly scarier than the demons they face, but all share a common bond - they were possessed as children and rescued from their fate.
From left to right: Burroughs, Walt, Christian, Holly, and Trixie
The team is led by Christian whose ultimate goal is to defeat the Devil himself, but most consider it an impossible task.  Burroughs is a tough-as-nails priest who is even more devout.  Holly bears the scars from her possession as a sign of strength and is perhaps too sentimental towards the innocent victims the team rescues.  Walt is Holly's father and he was absent for most of her life and especially during her possession as a child.  He's making up for lost time and disapproves of her and Christian's relationship.  Trixie doesn't rely on faith when there's firepower available.

Burroughs uses his faith as a weapon
during an exorcism
Employing the latest gadgets and tactics against their cunning prey, the group exorcises demons and sends them back to Hell.  Christian has uncovered a pattern to the possessions which may very well lead to his ultimate goal - the Devil!  Is he being tricked by the ultimate trickster?  Can even this group of hardened exorcists hope to stock the

Pros: Demon-killing action, mildly interesting premise, the team of exorcists use some cool tactics, Sharp's art is hardcore and suits the book very well

Cons: Plot is very simple, Sharp's art gets less detailed as the series progresses, characters are flat

Some cool covers by Sharp
Mike Tells It Straight: This book feels like John Carpenter's version of The Exorcist!  I was surprised to see Geoff Johns involved since he's known almost exclusively for mainstream superhero comics with DC.  I've been a fan of Sharp's art since his Incredible Hulk days and he's gotten better over the years.  The first few issues have some highly detailed art, but he cuts corners in later issues.  The book is definitely a one-off for the two big names attached.

Johns' and Grimminger's plot is fairly simple and they progress through it respectably.  Each chapter gives a nice hook leading to the next and overall it's a competent effort.  The book remains mediocre due to flat characters and can't be saved by Sharp's art.  He shows some great chops early on, but I think everyone lost steam by the end.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A God Somewhere Graphic Novel Review

A God Somewhere
DC Comics - Wildstorm
200 pages
$24.99 (2010) Graphic Novel
ISBN 9781401226831

Contributors: John Arcudi, Peter Snejberg, Bjarne Hansen, and Wes Abbott

Synopsis: This is the story of three friends who grew up together and would be torn apart when one of them became a god.  Eric and Hugh are brothers, but complete opposites.  Hugh was good with studying and ended up mildly affluent while Eric was always a trouble-maker.  Both of them had good hearts and befriended Sam when they were kids.  More like saved Sam from getting beaten up for being the only black kid in school and an easy target.  They've been close friends ever since.

Now they're older and Hugh has a beautiful wife named Alma.  He lives in a nice house and has a high-paying job while Sam and Eric work at UPS.  Eric is happy, but Sam feels like he's missed his potential in life.  Hugh starts to feel like an outsider because of his higher social status.  The three plan to buy a boat together so they can reconnect.

Eric exhibits some extraordinary abilities
One night a meteor hits Eric's building and he's the only one left unhurt.  During the rescue operation to find survivors he shows incredible powers.  Some kind of miracle has changed him into a superman.  The media descends on him and his friends are unable to see him except in brief encounters.  Eric turns to religion to understand what has happened to him and begins doing good deeds.  He gains immense and unwelcome fame while losing touch with his family and friends.

A gap forms between Eric and Hugh which causes them both irreparable harm.  Sam ends up as a kind of sidekick to Eric and rides his coattails to fame.  What happens when a normal man becomes something beyond humanity?  Eric begins to change as his newly gifted powers set him apart from normal society.  What human authority can stop him when he's no longer human?  Is the world organized by God or by chance?  All that is certain is nothing will ever be the same.

Pros: An interesting take on the 'superbeing', good characters, competent art, suitably dark and shocking, definitely makes you think, Snejberg nails the emotional expressions of the characters

Cons: Snejberg's art is not particularly realistic, a few events were a little corny (like the LA showdown between a militia group and the police), probably offensive to people who are serious about believing in God

Mike Tells It Straight: John Arcudi writes a lengthy graphic novel to explore the moral crisis and resulting destruction a normal person would produce if randomly given superpowers.  This book reminded me of Arcudi's cult classic series Major Bummer where a slacker gains superpowers.  That series was funny while this story is grim and philosophical.  I enjoyed both and you know I love a good deconstructed superhero story!
Eric becomes a god-like figure

Arcudi focuses on the relationship between the three friends and its eventual breakdown once Eric becomes a demigod.  We see Eric, an essentially good man and a Christian, imbued with power that sets him apart from humanity.  He slowly questions why he needs to conform to human rules and society any longer.  The rift between brothers is particularly difficult to witness.

I really liked Arcudi's possible explanation for Eric's powers and the name of the book.  I won't give it away, but it's an interesting take on God and could be highly offensive to religious types.  Snejberg's art is pretty good.  He's done work on The Sandman with Neil Gaiman and is highly competent.  His art is fairly simple and I almost would have liked a more realistic artist, but he really draws great expressions on the characters' faces.

I suggest A God Somewhere as a mature alternative to superhero comics which gives a unique take on what happens when a regular person receives great power.  It's not pretty and I have to say it's more believable than someone putting on a costume to fight crime.  Despite being 200 pages the book is actually a fast read.  Check it out!

TO BUY and Recommendations: