Thursday, May 29, 2014


Whenever I take some time off from this bloggy thing of mine, the “waiting to be reviewed” piles multiple. Let’s see how much I can reduce one of those piles today.

First up is Batman Li’l Gotham Volume 1 by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfa [DC; $12.99], one of the weirdest Bat-books of them all.These stories were originally published online and then reprinted in Batman Li’l Gotham #1-6. These stories feature chiba versions of Batman, his friends and his foes in holiday-themed adventures that are funny and suitable for all ages.

The child-like versions of these characters made me smile.  I was even more delighted by the realization the Bat-villains in these tales don’t seem to be mass-murdering sociopaths. I don’t have anything against mass-murdering sociopaths per se, but I don’t think every villain has to be one of them and I don’t think every Batman story has to include, you know, mass murders.

The “regular” Batman comics pretty much stopped being fun quite a while ago when the amateur psychologists at DC decided Batman was crazy as a bedbug. The comics used to be more exciting. The writing used to be far more clever. The art was more realistic and the artists could tell stories. I miss those Batman comics.

Batman Li’l Gotham is sort of a return to the kind of Batman comic books I used to enjoy. It’s a kind of Batman comic book I would never have conceived of in my wildest moments. But it was enjoyable and, even with my limited ability to retain memory of the countless moronic story elements which have crept into the Batman mythos before and since the “New 52,” it was pretty easy to follow. I’m not sure who the kid with the Bane-like power is, but he was the only character  who threw me.

Batman Li’l Gotham isn’t a classic.  It’s just goofy fun and that works for me. Give it a try.

ISBN 978-1-4012-4494-1


I didn’t know what to expect from Marvel’s All-New Ghost Rider by Felipe Smith (writer) and Trado Moore (artist). I was hooked after reading the first of the three issues published to date. You know how comics companies proclaim something is “all-new” or that “it’s unlike any (fill in name of hero) you’ve ever seen before.” Which usually means it’s just really the same old same old with maybe a little more sex and violence and lousy art by some “new thing” who can’t tell a story to save his life. That isn’t the case with the all-new Ghost Rider.

Maybe “all-new” is a tiny stretch. The comic is still called Ghost Rider. Robbie Reyes still has that flaming skull and pretty much the same outfit Johnny Blaze wore back when I was writing the book before (I’m guessing) Smith and Moore were born. Everything else? It’s new and it’s truly unlike any Ghost Rider we have seen before.

Robbie is a teenager who lives in East Los Angeles, takes care of his disable younger brother, goes to school and works nights at an auto shop. The neighborhood gang torment the Reyes brothers. Those scenes are painful to read.

The gang are far from the only predators in the comic. The guy who Robbie works for tries to short his pay. There are drug dealers and other gangsters. Calvin Zabo aka Mr. Hyde is up to some incredibly nasty business. And Robbie gets caught in the crossfire and dies, only be to revived and transformed by a vengeful spirit that haunts the car he’s been working on.

Smith’s writing brings Robbie and brother Gabe to life and gets the reader solidly in their corner. He crafts other characters who are possible allies, definite thugs or uninvolved bystanders trying to keep their own heads down. Moore’s art and storytelling propel the action scenes. When the new Ghost Rider is driving that car, when the fights break out, it feels like the pictures are moving across the pages. Kudos should likewise go to colorist Val Staples, who manages to keep up with the frenzied movement, and to editor Mark Paniccia because he brought these creators together.

I had a blast writing Ghost Rider back in the 1970s. Now I’m having almost as much fun reading it. This is how to reinvent a character and it earns my highest recommendation.


All-New Invaders reunites four members of the World War II group in modern times. Writer James Robinson tries to juggle all the recent continuities of these characters - the original Human Torch, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Bucky “Winter Soldier” Barnes and Captain America - but that means reminding me of some of the horrible things some of these characters have done in recent continuity. That said, his opening storyline is pretty cool.

During World War II, the Invaders came into possession of the Gods’ Whisper, a device which could control gods. The device was created by the Kree and, all these decades later, that expansionist alien empire wants it back. Though I admit to confusion about who is or isn’t a “god” in the Marvel Universe and how the device can command those it considers gods, it’s been an exciting story and made even more so by the appearance of the original Vision. Can the Whizzer be far behind?

The “Whizzer” question is not to be taken seriously. I just enjoy saying or writing “Whizzer.” Because I’m twelve years old.

Artist Steve Pugh draws heroic characters that actually look like themselves. His storytelling is equally dynamic. Colorist Guru-eFX does a terrific job with the hues, though I wonder why his or her parents would give their child such a name.

There’s a handy “what has gone before” introduction at the start of every issue. There’s good, easily readable lettering by Cory Petit. It’s another solid series and creative team put together by editor Mark Paniccia.

All-New Invaders is not an award-winner and it’s not a classic. It is an enjoyable super-team series and, in this day and age, that’s not common. I’m sticking with it.


No Marvel continuity is more confusing than that of the X-Men and those titles are the main reason I try to read every Marvel title as if it were the only one being published. Crossovers make that a lot more difficult..

All-New X-Men has a crazy/intriguing premise. Seeing how badly the X-Men have fallen, Hank McCoy retrieves the original team back from when they were young teenagers. It was a monumentally stupid thing to do and, lately, it seems like the presence of the teen mutants in the present time may have altered their time line considerably. Attempts to return them to the past have failed.

“The Trial of Jean Grey” is a six-part story that ran through All-New X-Men #22-24 and Guardians of the Galaxy #11-13. The Shi’ar, fearful that the young Jean may again become the Phoenix, have put her on trial. Which is more of a formality than anything else since they clearly plan to kill her for crimes she hasn’t yet committed and may never commit. Because the Shi’ar are intergalactic dicks.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, the story had more characters than I could track. But it had some fun moments, a satisfying conclusion and some surprises. Because nothing goes quite like you expect when it comes to these time-misplaced teenagers. That’s a major reason why I keep reading the title.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another thrilling installment of my JULY 1963 series. See you then.

© 2014 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. On the new Ghost Rider: I don’t buy new ongoing comics, but I have to wonder - is there any tie-in to Johnny Blaze or Dan Ketch in this new series (or Carter Slade for that matter)? One “rides” a horse or a motorcycle…It sounds like this book would be more aptly titled: Ghost Driver.