comics


Collects Black Cat’s ongoing series issues 1-6.

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Writer: Jed Mackay
Artist: Travel Foreman, Nao Fuji
Publisher: Marvel

Finally, Felicia Hardy alias the Black Cat has her own series! I wasn’t sure what I expected from it but luckily, it’s lots of fun.

In almost every issue, Felicia and her small crew of two men steal something. There’s also a developing subplot with her nemesis Odessa Drake who is leader of New York’s thieves guild.

In the first issue, Felicia goes to a party and while the security guys are obsessed with her, her crew steals a painting. However, the thieves’ guild’s ninjas are after her as well. The issue ends with Felicia’s old mentor, the Black Fox appearing.

The Fox is an old thief and he talks her into the heist of a lifetime. This, of course, requires her to steal lots of other stuff, first.

In the second and third issue, Felicia and her crew steal something for Dr. Strange. That’s right: they break into the Sanctum Sanctorum while the doctor is away. However, they need a ”merlin”, someone to magic the doors and their mistake is to hire Xander the Merciless, or well, the depowered Xander. Hijinks ensue, of course.

In the fourth issue, Felicia goes on a date with Johnny Storm. Of course, she intends to steal something from the FF headquarters. Of course, an old FF enemy breaks into the FF headquarters at the same time.

On the sixth issue, Felicia goes on a date with Batroc, just taking a breather and having a good time. Meanwhile, the Black Fox is having a terrible time because mysterious enemies pursue him.

We also see some of the Black Fox’s background and how he trains Felicia.

The single issues on Marvel Unlimited have three fun short stories, too.

The only complaint I really have is Felicia’s cleavage being constantly front and center. I could have done without so much cheesecake.

Her crew I don’t know. Doc is a gadget guy (who doesn’t believe in magic, by the way) and Boris is the muscule. But they grew on me. The Black Fox freely admits that he’s a coward and avoids conflict as much as he can.

So, I enjoyed this a lot and I want to know how their big heist will go, especially after the cliffhanger ending of issue six.

Collects Trinity issues 7-11.

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Writers: Cullen Bunn, Francis Manapul

Artists: Clay Mann, Francis Manapul, Emanuela Lupacchino

This collection starts with a “Dark Trinity” of Lex Luthor, Ra’s Al Ghul, and Circe. They are drawn to Pandora’s Pits which spew forth a terrible monster, forcing the three to work together.

In the next issue, Clark talks with Diana and Bruce. Clark has nightmares where he is battling himself and only one Superman will survive. Bruce scoffs that it’s just his nerves but Diana believes him and together they’ll wonder what has changed in the world they live in. No doubt, this is also a continuing storyline.

The last three issues have a space adventure! Diana, Clark, and Bruce are teleported suddenly from near Smallville to the Watchtower. The tower itself and The Green Lanterns have been infected with an alien virus and Cyborg’s arms and legs have been ripped off and he’s dying. Diana, Clark, and Bruce must work together to save their friends. The virus looks like a monstrous head over the head of the infected.

This was an entertaining collection. I really enjoyed Manapul’s art in the last three issues and he also pulled a little twist at the end. I think the two first issues are set-up for future stories. But it was great to see Lex, Ra’s, and Circe together. They have such different motivations so I’m sure they’ll create lots of problems to our heroes.

The last story had also some small uplifting moments, reminding me why I read these stories in the first place. Looking forward to the next ones.

Collects Trinity issues 1-6.

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Writer: Francis Manapul

Artists: Francis Manapul, Emanuela Lupachino, Ray McCarthy, Matt Santorelli, Clay Mann, Seth Mann

Superman is from another Earth and as much as he seems like the original Superman, Batman is suspicous while Wonder Woman wants to know him. So, Clark’s wife Lois calls Bruce and Diana over for dinner, without telling Clark.

The collection starts when everyone is trying to get to know each other. Clark’s and Lois’ son Jon is, of course, a complication. He has inherited his father’s powers and that’s why Jon and Lois live in a secluded farm. Of course, old enemies interfere.

This isn’t an epic story. It’s more character driven. In fact, the interaction between the trio are the best parts. The trio is thrown to Clark’s past where Clark has the painful chance to talk with his dead dad without altering history. Bruce must, once again, confront the darkest day of his life and Diana finds her way back to Themiscyra and her mother but must make a painful choice.

This was a good beginning to the series, as long as you don’t expect fistfights all the way through. The art is very nice and the splash pages which incorporate our heroes emblems are wonderful.

Looking forward to the next one.

Collects issues 1-4 of the ongoing series. Includes a huge cover gallery.

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Writer: Greg Pack

Artist: Dan McDaid, Anthony Fowler Jr., Tim Lattie

Publisher: Boom studios

I was delighted when I realized that the Finnish library system has these new Firefly comics. But when I saw the name “Unification War” I cringed because I thought it would set during the war time and only Zoe and Mal would be present. Happily this isn’t the case.

This story is set during the TV-show. Jayne still wants to turn in Simon and River. Mal and Inara can’t speak a civil word to each other.

The story starts when Serenity’s engines burst to fire because of faulty spare parts. Then an old but powerful Alliance cruiser starts to bomb them. Wash manages to evade it and land. But Mal needs money to fix the ship. In a bar, he, Jayne, and Zoe, er, meet the Pilgrims of Moriah who hire the crew to escort them to the Pilgrims’ holy place. They’re traveling with horse-drawn carriages. Serenity needs to stay grounded because the warship is looking for it.

This was a good Firefly adventure, I could even see this as an episode, depending on how it ends. Good banter between the characters and excellent mix of Old West and Scifi. The Unification War parts are the warship (of course) and the people in it and also the brief flashbacks that both Zoe and Mal have.

Mostly the characters are in character and the story had Firefly-like twists. However, there are a couple of points where I think both Wash and Zoe weren’t in character, but it happened later in the collection so I don’t want to spoil it. Also, the commander of the warship accuses Zoe and Mal of being war criminals. I don’t mind them having a few (or more than a few) skeletons in their closet but neither character denied it, which really surprised me. I hope that gets cleared up in the later issues. Also, the collection ends is a huge cliffhanger. I’m also not too fond of the artist; the characters look too generic and not like the actors.

However, I was entertained enough that I’ll get the next part.

Collects Thanos issues 13-18. (2016)

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Writer: Donny Cates
Artists: Geoffrey Shaw
Publisher: Marvel

Considering what 2020 has been like, I thought it would be appropriate to close my reading year with this collection. I guess you could even say it was inevitable ;).

It’s pretty much what it says in the title. Thanos has just conquered the savagely terrible “warrior” race of the Chitauri when Cosmic Ghost Rider arrives. Thanos tries to simply kill him but can’t. Instead the new Ghost Rider takes Thanos to a ride to the future. They arrive to a dead world where only one person lives: old Thanos who has killed almost everyone.

The younger Thanos isn’t impressed. He thinks the older version has given up and is just a shadow of himself now. Of course, there are lots of battle scenes, both about old Thanos’ previous battles and a couple of current ones. One issue tells the story of this new Ghost Rider. The collection ends with an Annual which is itself a collection of short tales over the millennia of Thanos’ life.

This turned out to be a bit too depressing read so I won’t be reading the rest of the Thanos series. But an appropriate ending to the reading year.

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Collects Excalibur (2018) 7-11.

Writer: Tini Howard

Artists: Wilton Santos, Marcus To

This collection is clearly divided to two story archs. The first one is a hunt but this time Excalibur is hunting Warwolves, the wolf-like silver beings from the first volume in 1990s. I believe they’re originally from Mojoworld. Then we’re solidly back in Otherworld and dimension hopping, reality altering stuff.

Apocalypse needs the skulls of Warwolves in order to establish a gateway to Otherworld. The Warwolves are imprisoned in London Zoo so our heroes head there. Except that the Warwolves aren’t there. Cullen Bloodstone has acquired them. Betsy goes to see him and he invites our heroes to his manor, to hunt the Warwolves. Then Excalibur talks a bit about if it’s okay to kill intelligent beings. But since Warwolves have killed innocent people, they decide it’s ok. Of course, the hunt doesn’t go as planned.

In the next story, people in London hate mutants. They burn images of Jean Gray and professor Xavier and the gates to Krakoa. Kitty and Rachel come to the rescue with a flying ship. However, Betsy needs to go the lighthouse and she heads to the Starlight Citadel which used to be the home of the Captain Britain Corps. But Opal Luna Saturnyne, who commanded the Corps, doesn’t like Betsy. So she sends her own, new battalion of priestesses against Excalibur. Fighting ensues!

Meanwhile, Jame Braddock with his reality-altering powers is getting bored so he creates his own realities!

A lot is going on in this series. It also uses the Hickman style of storytelling giving us a page of backstory at least once an issue.

The second story is weird. But I love weird X-Men stories. Is it one of those… maybe? I’m mostly enjoying it. I still don’t care about Rictor or Apocalypse. And Gambit is weirdly grumpy all the time. And it ends clearly in the middle of a story, in a cliff-hanger. Also, I think the upcoming crossovers probably limited the storyline and the characters available.

Some characters from the original Excalibur comic make an appearance. Most noticeably Peter Wisdom who is Britain’s agent and works as a liaison between the team and the Queen. Kitty and Rachel’s appearances are way too brief.

I am rather excited about the strange new reality and how our Excalibur is going to react to meeting their counterparts.

Another cancelled Marvel show which I’m hoping might get another home at Disney’s own channel is Cloak and Dagger. This duo was created in 1980s and it showed in their stories where they mostly battle drug dealers. Truthfully, I was a bit worried that the show would be too teenagey for me, because the characters are teenagers.

But it’s not. It feels like a very well done update. It’s set in New Orleans.

Tyrone Johnson (Cloak) is more typical US teenager. He’s in a private High School and in the basketball team. He’s interested in a black girl whose family is into voodoo. However, when he was a child he witnessed a white cop shooting his older brother, whom he adored. He tried to tell people but nobody believed him. The death of his brother deeply impacted the family. His picture is still up and Ty is partly in the team because his brother was an excellent player and Ty wants to live up to his memory. Yet, when we see young Ty around his brother’s death, he’s trying to steal cars and hustle people for money.

Tandy Bowen’s life is a mess. She hustles young rich jerks for money. Her mother is an addict and she must hide her money from her mom. At the start of the show, her mom has a new boyfriend, a lawyer, and Tandy is convinced that he’s just using her mom. Tandy has a boyfriend who is also a hustler. Tandy’s dad died the same night as Ty’s brother. Tandy adored her dad and both she and her mom are broken up about his death. Her mom is still trying to prove that the company he worked for, Roxxon, is responsible for his death. Yet, when we see young Tandy, she’s a little ballet dancer whose parents obviously have money.

This isn’t a regular superhero show. No costumes or masks. The first season revolves around Tandy and Ty getting to know each other, getting to grips with the powers, and solving the deaths of their family members.

Their connection is a mystical one from the start: when Roxxon Oil’s oil rig explodes, a cop startles at the explosion and shoots Ty’s brother. Ty dives in to save him. At the same time, the car where Tandy and her dad are has an accident and ends up in the water, too. Tandy and Ty find each other in the water right after the explosion. They’re washed to the shore but Tandy wakes up first and just leaves.

The show also has voodoo elements.

What I really appreciated is that Tandy and Ty aren’t romantically linked, at least in the first season. In the comics, the Cloak needs Dagger’s light and that’s why they have no choice but to be together. Hopefully, that element isn’t brought to the show.

A third character from the comics is Detective Brigit O’Reilly. She’s in the show, too, as a reluctant ally to the duo. She’s a world-weary cop who tries to advice the youngsters that world isn’t a fair place.

The show tackles race and class issues, as you might expect with a black man and a white woman as the leads. It’s also very character-driven, exploring the past and present of Ty and Tandy and they developing friendship.

Their powers aren’t clear from the start and have been changed somewhat from the comic.

The first season has ten episodes. The end of the season isn’t a cliffhanger but some things are left unresolved.

I enjoyed this show a lot.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 61, 62, and 63.

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Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1987-1988
Titan publication year: 2011

I finally got my hands on an English language MB album. Funnily enough, the second story is one of the first I actually ever read.

The first story is “Butch Cassidy Rides again” where Modesty and Willie are riding an old outlaw trail in the US. They come to a town where the locals are reviving the spirit of Western films for tourists’ enjoyment. However, during a mock gun battle, Modesty realizes that one of the shots was real. She noticed the young man whose thigh has been shot and with her quick action, saves his life. Meanwhile, Willie goes after the shooter. However, Willie is surprised from behind and the shooters get away. Also, the shooters looked like Butch Cassidy and his gang, so the local sheriff doesn’t believe Willie’s account. He dismisses Modesty and Willie as nutcases looking for celebrity.

The next day, Willie and Modesty meet a girl who is helping her grandparents against local ruffians – who look like Butch Cassidy and his gang. Willie and Modesty decide to stay and help the girl and her grandparents.

The next is “Million Dollar Game” which starts many years ago, when Modesty had just disbanded her criminal organization the Network and retired. She has taken up a new hobby: rescuing abused donkeys. The vet she calls to care for them, Greg Lawton, becomes her lover but they part ways after a few weeks. Then we move to the modern day. Someone is leaving short love notes to Modesty at her hotel. Outside the hotel, Modesty witnesses someone attacking a man. She saves him. He turns out to be the vet Lawton who is a bit peeved that Modesty didn’t recognize him. He also left the notes. Lawton is currently working for WWF trying to catch poachers.

When his airplane burns, Modesty offers to fly him and help him against the poachers.

The poachers are ruthless and well-armed. They are shooting rhinos and elephants for money and have killed game wardens before. As soon as they see that Modesty is helping Greg, they plan to kill both of them.

The last is a fun and intense adventure “The Vampire of Malvescu”. Willie and Modesty are traveling in Transylvania by foot. They have a bet about which of them will arrive first to the castle of Malvescu which is owned by one of the men who were in the Network. However, when Willie arrives to the castle, he’s astonished to find out that the former bachelor has married a very innocent girl. When Modesty arrives to the local town, she’s told that she shouldn’t go to the castle because a vampire hunts there. The vampire has already killed one girl. But Modesty heads to the castle anyway – and a vampire attacks her!

When Romero took over, the comics got more nudity. Especially in the third story, the former Network man’s wife spends a lot of time topless. I’m surprised the British newspapers allowed it. It’s also a bit strange because Modesty and Willie think that she’s very innocent.

These were all fun stories, first in a Western theme and the last set in the rocky Transylvania. The last two stories bring out Modesty’s love of animals, especially of donkeys.

Collects Star Wars Annual 1 and issues 15-19.

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Writers: Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron
Artists: Ángel Unzueta, Mike Mayhew, Lenil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel
Publication year: 2016

This collection has three stories and only the last one has the “Star Wars adventure” feeling. The first two explore a darker side of war and for me they didn’t really gel.

The annual is the story of the best Rebel spy, Eneb Ray. He is a tax collector in Coruscant and that work emotionally really hard. But he carefully maintains his cover and sends vital info back to Princess Leia. He isn’t in contact with any other rebel, for security reasons. It’s very lonely work.

Then Leia asks him to save Senators who are accused of being rebels and are in danger of being executed. Of course, things don’t go as planned.

The next issues are the Rebel Jail part. After then events of Vader Down, Leia and a smuggler called Sana are escorting a dangerous prisoner to the Rebels’ jail, Sunspot prison. But while Leia is there, a masked man with a robot army invades the prison and starts killing the prisoners. They are “War criminals, Imperial spies, Mercenaries, even a Moff or two”. Leia tries to talk the man down and defend the inmates.

Both of these stories are, in fact, fine if they’d been in another franchise or original stories (well except for certain timing problems and secrets in the longest story. Keeping secrets for purely plot reasons is… frustrating to say the least). But for me they were just too dark as SW stories. I’m also a bit hesitant to believe that the Rebel Alliance has resources to act as the galaxy’s police and keep a secret jail with hundreds of inmates indefinitely. Leia… defends them. This is the woman who shoots Stormtroopers on regular bases and in the previous comic ordered everyone she had to kill Vader. Rebels have died under her command. She knows she’s fighting a war. Also, I didn’t care for the resolution of the story for our prisoner. Nope. Can’t see Leia doing that. On the other hand, I enjoyed most of the banter. I also enjoy stories where enemies are forced to work together and this one delivered that!

I actually enjoyed the brief side plot far more. Han and Luke have been sent to buy supplies for the Rebels. Han wants to double their money at a sabacc table but instead loses. Now, Luke finds something to smuggle in order to get the money back. This is exactly the sort of shenanigans I expected Han and Luke to get into between movies. It lightens the mood of the main story a lot.

The final issue is another tale from Kenobi’s notebook. He’s doing the gloomy hermit thing while watching over young Luke on Tatooine. Luke is learning how to fly but after a near accident, Uncle Owen forbids it. However, Kenobi has a feeling that Luke will need to learn how to fly.

This was fun, if somewhat depressing read. Uncle Owen is not a sympathetic character because we know that he’s so wrong.

Yu’s art is gorgeous, as usual.

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Original anime: Gainax
Original publication year: 1995
Finnish translation: 2006

NGE is a classic giant mecha anime and manga. It was originally an anime which I haven’t seen. The manga has 14 volumes and I believe it’s a reimagining rather than a faithful adaptation of the anime. It has also a series of movies which I believe are again different.

The story is set in year 2015. Fifteen years earlier, in 2000, a meteorite hit Earth and half of humanity died in the resulting events. Now, a giant mechanical thing, called an Angel, attacks Japan. Fortunately, the UN has a secret organization NERV which has built a giant mecha to fight it. The mecha requires a human pilot which in the beginning of the comic is Rei, a 14-year old girl.

Shinji Ikari is a depressed 14 year old boy. He feels that nobody cares if he lives or dies. He feels that his father abandoned him 10 years ago and his uncle has raised him.

However, one day his father sends a message that he wants to talk with Shinji and is sending a gorgeous woman to get him. But at the moment he’s supposed to meet her, a city-wide alarm is given and the citizens are evacuated. However, Shinji stays in the rendezvous place hoping to see his dad again. Instead, he sees a giant mecha battling an Angel. Then the woman arrives and, after dodging the fighting giants, manages to drive him to the headquarters of NERV.

The woman is Captain Misato Katsuragi and she brings Shinji to see his dad, who is the head scientist at NERV. He wants Shinji to operate the giant mecha, EVA-01. At first Shinji refuses. But then he sees the young girl who piloted EVA just moment ago. She’s badly hurt but willing to go to battle again. Shinji agrees to take her place. Everyone thinks it’s madness to put an untrained boy in the mecha but Shinji and EVA manage to repel the attack.

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In the second volume, Shinji feels even more down. His father won’t talk to him and he feels that the only value he has is as a pilot. He goes to a new school where one of the boys claims that Shinji is responsible for people who got hurt during his fight with the Angel. Shinji keeps to himself and even runs away.

While the manga has giant robots fighting, the main theme is relationships, especially between Shinji and Misato. Shinji’s dad has just one conversation with him, but he has profound impact on Shinji. Shinji is left yearning for his approval and love but it seems that his dad is incapable of giving them. Shinji’s uncle doesn’t appear. Shinji ends up living with Misato because she’s worried about his mental state, but Shinji thinks she’s just being charitable which seems to worsen his depression. On the one hand, this is a prime example of “Chosen one” trope because Shinji is able to “bond” with EVA quickly and on a very deep level. On the other hand, Shinji hates that he doesn’t have value as himself, just as a pilot. Duty is another strong theme.

The manga is quite dark and depressing. Things aren’t explained. If I remember correctly, the angels are never explained. However, it does have a few comedic scenes, mostly with Misato’s pet penguin.

Stylistically, it’s striking and cool. The NERV HQ is underground and EVA rises on a platform to do battle. But I didn’t care for the way that the few women characters are quite sexualized. Misato is shown in the shower and her cleavage is pointed out with arrows. Yes, the main character is 14-year old boy but still. However, Misato is good character: she’s competent in her job and has a fun side, as well. But she’s also Shinji’s superior so she must be hard on him when he disobeys her.

The first two volumes are a good start to the series, introducing the characters and the setting and diving into the relationships between the characters.

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