Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brave Old World Mini-Series Review

Brave Old World
DC Comics
Comic Book Mini-Series
32/ea. = 128 pages (2000)
$2.50/ea. = $10.00

Published: Brave Old World #1-4 (of 4)

Contributors: William Messner-Loebs, Phil Hester, Guy Davis, Kevin Somers, John Costanza, and covers by Paul Rivoche

Synopsis: It's the year 1999 and as the millennium approaches a group of computer scientists and former hackers work to solve the Y2K problem (caused by the abbreviation of four digit to two digit years in computer and mechanical systems).  They discover a planetary alignment in the solar system is converging at the same time as the turn of the millennium, interacting with the Earth's electromagnetic communications web, and causing a 'harmonic convergence' or feedback loop affecting space-time. 

They work to counter the effect by creating an area of stable time and then using the internet to spread the effects worldwide.  Their plans don't quite work and the group is hurtled back in time exactly 100 years to 1900.  Now they must use the primitive resources of the industrial age to fix the feedback loop, return to their time, and avoid changing the future. 

Unfortunately the limited health resources and stark social inequality of the time (racism, sexism) claim the lives and sanity of several members.  Add in periodic attacks from polluted techno-humans who have travelled to the past from a post-apocalyptic future caused by the group's tampering with the past. 

So that's what a steam-powered computer looks like!
Note: Above image is black and white, actual series is in color
The only thing going for the scientists is their keen knowledge of future technology - can they possibly cobble together a working computer to save the time-stream?  Can they persevere the backwards thinking of the past and avoid a fiery death aimed at them from the future?  Don't bet on a happy ending.

Pros: Some interesting steampunk ideas as the hackers try to build modern equipment with primitive machinery, mildly realistic events with historical references

Cons: Ending felt rushed, art didn't really jive with story (Hester's style), use of profanity felt out of place and just added in to make the story more 'hip' or 'Vertigo'

Mike Tells It Straight: This was part of the V2K (play on Y2K as Vertigo 2K) storylines put out in 2000 (along with Four Horsemen, I Die at Midnight, Totems, and Pulp Fantastic).  None of these books were major hits and will likely never be collected into trade format. 

The plot premise is ridiculously complicated and didn't make much sense.  Putting that aside I enjoyed some minor parts of the story, but overall it was a miss.  Hester's art didn't mesh and Messner-Loebs' scripting was off (especially the narrator).  I liked Rivoche's covers, but the interiors didn't match their grittiness.  The promise of cool steampunk fell short and you can leave this one in the quarter bins.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Miracleman Book One - A Dream of Flying Trade Paperback Review

Miracleman Vol. 1 - A Dream of Flying
Eclipse Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
80 pages
$9.95 (1990)
$29.95 (1990) Hardcover
ISBN 9780913035610

Contributors: Alan Moore, Alan Davis, Garry Leach, and Ron Courtney

Reprints: Miracleman #1-3

Synopsis: Michael Moran is a 40-something reporter stuck in a rut.  He suffers from recurring nightmares and migraine headaches.  During a terrorist incident at a nuclear power facility Moran collapses and is taken aside by one of the terrorists.  He suddenly remembers a secret word which transforms him into the god-like being Miracleman. 

He begins to recall his past and put the pieces of his shattered life back together, but they don't quite fit.  His origin and adventures sound like they're straight out of a comic book.  He begins to uncover the truth about himself and his two former partners - Young Miracleman and Kid Miracleman.  The horrific reality of his life may be too much for him to bear as a far-sweeping plot involving aliens, extra-dimensional space, mad scientists, and evil sidekicks is revealed.  Hang on to your seat for this dark ride!

Pros: Legendary writing by Moore, highly detailed artwork by Leach and Davis, plausible resurrection of marginal knockoff U.K. character originally based on Captain Marvel (aka Shazam!), set in the 'real' world without a bunch of superheroes in tights running around

Cons: Very expensive and difficult to lay hands on a copy, collected edition is missing the first few pages of the first story ('50s-style time travel story which ends with zoom in on Miracleman's eye), Evelyn Cream's sapphire teeth are a bit campy (too James Bond villainy)

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore's Miracleman is a cult classic which deconstructs the traditional superhero into the modern world.  It revives the Marvelman character originally created by Mick Anglo in the '50s as a replacement for U.K. reprints of Captain Marvel (Shazam!) from Fawcett Publications.  The character's name was changed to avoid copyright issues with Marvel Comics in the States.

This first arc remains one of Moore's earliest and best superhero stories.  At the time of publication he broke new ground in the superhero genre and cut his teeth for masterpieces to follow (Watchmen, Swamp Thing).  The deconstructionist era began in the '80s with Moore's work here, Rick Veitch's The One, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, and Moore again with Watchmen

Despite the modern twist the story still has a few campy bits which remind me of bad '70s movies - mostly espionage agents with gimmicks.  If you can't pick up the collection then get the individual issues - there's no telling when the material will be reprinted due to a morass of legal battles over the rights (including Mick Anglo, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane, and a host of others).  Marvel even faked a claim for the rights of the character in the last few years, but they merely secured rights from Mick Anglo to publish old black and white stories from the '50s/'60s. 

This book is quality and part of the sordid history of modern comics - it elevates the comic book medium and is an absolute must-read.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen Trade Paperback Review

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$19.99 (2008)
ISBN 9781401217815

Contributors: Keith Giffen, Pat Olliffe, John Stanisci, Hi-Fi Colour, Pat Brosseau, John Hill, Travis Lanham, and covers by Ethan Van Sciver

Reprints: 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: In the wake of the catastrophic events of 52 comes the return of the Four Horsemen (of Apokolips! - couldn't resist).  Bialya has been reduced to ashes after the near-genocidal rampage of Black Adam - who first battled and defeated the Horsemen after they killed the Black Marvel Family.  They're not so easily vanquished and rise from the ashes of the decimated nation. 

Superman vs. zombies?  Now that's 
going to be a quick fight.
Standing in their way are Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman along with the mad scientists of Oolong Island who were responsible for unleashing the Horsemen in the first place.  Now Oolong is led by Dr. Veronica Cale and she wants the Horsemen destroyed, but what are her true motivations?  Are the three returned heroes a match for a quartet of death-gods from Apokolips?

Pros: Great covers by Van Sciver, competent art by Olliffe, Giffen's dialogue has its moments

Cons: Felt like plot was rushed (whatever happened to the Bialyan president?), desperately needed character recaps/histories for lesser known players and Checkmate, Horsemen are generic super-tough baddies, ending was lame

Mike Tells It Straight: This story might as well be 52 weeks 53 and 54 - it's a direct continuation of the story, but this time the Big Three (Bats, Supes, and Wondie were absent from the DCU during 52) have returned.  I usually like Giffen's writing, consider Olliffe to be a competent artist, and dig Van Sciver's detailed art - not so much this time.

Wolfman has nards!?
The plot was a jumbled mess with zero setup to explain what is going on - prerequisite reading is 52, World War III, and the Checkmate series which spun out of Infinite Crisis.  If you don't read these then you'll be completely hosed on this book.  The Horsemen were already beaten by Black Adam during 52 with a much better story behind it.  This confrontation just didn't have the same impact - is there really any doubt Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman will prevail?  None whatsoever. 

Olliffe's art was passable, but somewhat inconsistent - I blame the horrible character designs of the Horsemen.  Same deal for Van Sciver's covers - the Horsemen just don't fit.  They're 100% disposable bad guys.  Even the ending was lame and felt like a cop out.  If you loved 52 and are compelled to read anything related then maybe, maybe buy this book - otherwise it's a forgettable read with no redeeming qualities (except maybe Snapper Carr).

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Black Adam: The Dark Age Trade Paperback Review

Black Adam: The Dark Age
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$17.99 (2008)
ISBN 9781401217860

Contributors: Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Norm Rapmund, Christian Alamy, Nathan Eyring, Nick Napolitano, and variant cover to #1 (and TPB) by Alex Ross

Reprints: Black Adam: The Dark Age #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: Following the catastrophic events of 52 and World War III comes the further adventures of the most-hated man on Earth - Black Adam!  After the death of the Black Marvel Family, Adam went on a mass-murdering rampage through Bialya and battled the world's heroes across the globe.  He was ultimately defeated by Captain Marvel who reset his magic word and left him in his human form - Teth Adam.

Will he end up like this?
Adam is now fugitive without powers, seemingly not without allies.  His mission is to resurrect his one true love - Isis!  She fell to one of the Four Horsemen loosed during the events of 52.  He will scour the globe searching for a way to bring her back to life and let nothing stand in his way.  A constant target of assassins, authorities, and heroes - Adam doesn't care who is sacrificed for lost love and knows no mercy.  His will is insurmountable, but what is his new magic word!?  Can a mere mortal prevail against the entire world? 

Pros: Great art by Mahnke, nice writing by Tomasi, interesting plot twists

Cons: Somewhat predictable, a few plot holes

Mike Tells It Straight: Everything you would expect and hope for a Black Adam follow-up to the conclusion of 52 and World War III - needless to say you must read one or both of these previous books in order to fully enjoy/comprehend events in this book. 

Great job by Tomasi and Mahnke - skillful writing and art.  A few surprises, some predictable parts, and a decent ending.  Black Adam has grown into a formidable character in the DCU under the guidance of Geoff Johns (JSA) and Tomasi handles him expertly. 

I always like a good story starring a villain with some depth and examining their motivations.  This book is a solid read and recommended, especially if you enjoyed 52.

TO BUY and Recommendations: