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IDW has always had a bad habit of taking their dirty franchise-licensing thumbs and jamming it into my pie of childhood nostalgia (terrible metaphor, but go with it). Every time I hear that there’s going to be a new comic based on something from my youth, I get super-excited until I see that it’s coming out on IDW. I don’t know if it’s because most of it seems a bit rushed (why does everybody in Jurassic Park look like a PS1 character?) or if it’s fear of the realization that, inevitably, they will shove zombies into it, but I seem to be constantly let down. This is why I had a sort of “aw, goddammit” moment when I learned that IDW had secured the rights to publish a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic (in partnership with current owners, Nickelodeon Studios/Viacom International). Even the promise of Kevin Eastman’s involvement wasn’t a guarantee (I think I’m one of the five people who read his TMNT: Bodycount).

First off, contrary to what every initial article about the series stated, this is not a continuation of the Mirage Comics stories (probably because, towards the end, Peter Laird had the turtles in their early-30s), but a reboot of the franchise. As with the first story arch of every other comic/TV show/movie incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this deals with the origin of the heroes. Unlike every other incarnation, however, this one seems a little different. April O’Neill is back in a lab assistant position (and a yellow jumpsuit!) working for Baxter Stockman (not a cyborg!), doing some sort of psychotropic drug testing on four turtles and a rat under the watchful eyes of the mysterious General Krang. The issue cuts back and forth between this story and the main one, involving Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello fighting Old Hob, a mutant alley cat, and his gang while Raphael broods elsewhere.

Kevin Eastman (o.g. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Tom Waltz (Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward) do a wonderful job of making this feel like the old first volume issues. The dialogue is spot-on, straight down to the constant barrage of crappy one-liners which seamlessly segue in to more dramatic scenes. This series also blends the mythos of both the original Mirage run and the Archie Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, utilizing characters from and multiple references to each. The newcomer artist Dan Duncan does a great job of calling back to the style of the Eastman/Laird days (unlike the anime-look that most Ninja Turtles publications seem to use nowadays).

For the first time since 8-year-old me was let down by the abomination known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, I am genuinely psyched to follow my favorite childhood heroes again and, if you are a child of the 80’s, you should jump on this book immediately.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to buy a comic every Wednesday that I know nothing about. Considering how much I enjoyed last week’s Who Is Jake Ellis?, this has actually been a pretty good plan. On this week’s Wednesday pilgrimage, I came across Infinite Vacation by Nick Spencer, a guy whose previous efforts (Forgetless, Morning Glories) have been pretty great and is slated to have some pretty big superhero titles coming up (taking over Supergirl, Iron Man 2.0). So what the hell is this Infinite Vacation thing?

The concept of a multiverse in comics is nothing new, but what about capitalizing on it? A company has created a smart phone application which taps into a parallel dimension and allows a person to buy their way in to another version of themselves (or, if they don’t wanna do that, hang out with them). With every decision made by the user, no matter how mundane, they can go in and see exactly what would have happened if they’d done something else. And Mark has kinda become addicted to the whole thing. Averaging about 10 changes per day, Mark is clearly not happy with himself (himselves? Is that a word?). To make matters worse, his parallel selves start to die at an alarming rate (and before you ask, yes, they point out that if there’s an infinite number or yous, you’re always dying somewhere). Also, he’s suddenly fallen head over heels for a Deadener, a person who finds it morally repugnant to jump into another universe’s you.

Nick Spencer’s writing here is damn good, and only a tad bit confusing (but what story involving hopping universes isn’t?). For a book starring an infinite number of the same dude, it’s a cinch to figure out which Mark you’re rooting for. Plus, he does a great job of making sure that any skeptical questions are answered immediately by Mark’s narration, giving the reader no room to go, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense.” While not being particularly fast-paced, he whole issue had me engaged (with the exception of a four-page live-action parody which only lost me because it was missing Cameron Ward’s fantastic art).

Speaking of Ward, where the hell has this guy been? With a style this similar to Alex Maleev’s, you’d think this guy would be everywhere. All I can find is that he lives in London and took part in the Totoro Forest Project. His art in Infinite Vacation is fucking beautiful to look at, though. There are a pair of two-page spreads throughout the book that I spent way too long staring at (and I normally hate two-page spreads). Here’s hoping we see more from Ward, and soon. [Edit: Upon doing, like, a minute’s more research, I discovered he had another Image series called Olympus. I’m a dumbass.]

Anyways, this book is definitely worth picking up. Hell, I’d even go so far as saying it’s the best single issue out this week. I eagerly await picking up the rest of this five-issue miniseries.

Much like the old characters from Charlton, Fawcett, Milestone, and MLJ Comics, DC has recently acquired the full rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents team and is folding them into the DCU in their own title. Before I get into a review of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, however, I should probably tell you a bit about their extremely convoluted history.

Created by artist Wally Wood, the team originally appeared in November 1965’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics. For a while the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) Agents consisted of NoMan, Dynamo, Lightning, and Menthor, four heroes who were given powers by an invisibility cloak, a strength-enhancing belt, a speedster suit, and a telepathy helmet respectively. Only problem was that the power-granting items also slowly killed their users. Other heroes came and went (like Sea Devils rip-off sister team, U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agents) before the series ended at issue #20 and Tower Comics folded.

For years, the team remained dormant (aside from a British publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., reprinting the original issues in black and white sometime during the mid-70s) until John Carbonaro bought the rights in 1983 and planned on rebooting the series (with the aid of David Singer) on his own JC Comics. Unfortunately, he and Singer had a serious falling out and Carbonaro only got as far as two issues before JC Comics fell through. That same year, Texas Comics released Justice Machine Annual #1, the only issue they ever produced, which featured a team-up story between the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their in-house superhero team, the Justice Machine.

In 1984, Singer and Deluxe Comics claimed that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were now in public domain (bullshit!) and began releasing a series under the name Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with a fantastic line-up of artists including George Pérez, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, and Jerry Ordway. Unfortunately for him, Carbonaro still owned the rights and sued the shit out of Singer and Deluxe Comics, ultimately winning the suit and putting them out of business in 1986.

In 1987, Gary Brodsky, son of Marvel legend Sol Brodsky, attempted to release a four-issue black-and-white limited series through his own Solson (Sol’s Son, get it?!) Publications. One issue was released before the company went belly-up (probably because most of their books were either right-wing propaganda or anti-feminist screeds). FUN FACT: Following the demise of Solson Publications, Gary decided to make a series of videos teaching guys how to pick up women with titles like “Alpha Up and Rock Her World” and “How to Be a Prick Women Love.” Seriously. Look at his fucking website.

Rumor has it that in the 1990’s Rob Liefeld claimed the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and wanted Dave Cockrum to release a series on Liefeld’s Extreme Studios before it fell through. If that’s true, it’s a bit strange considering that Carbonaro still owned the rights to the superhero team, going so far as releasing a final story in 1995 in Penthouse Comix’s (yup, that Penthouse) OMNI Comics #3.

Finally, some time during the early 2000’s, Carbonaro and DC Comics struck a deal and a DCU T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book was in the works. Well, it would have been, except Carbonaro shot down every idea DC presented to him. See, DC really wanted to shake things up for the team while Carbonaro decided that nobody from the original team should die (despite the fact that the whole point of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was that their powers would ultimately kill them). Aside from a few DC Archive hardcovers and a couple of statues, nothing really came of it.

On February 25, 2009, John Carbonaro died. July 2009, DC Comics announced at SDCC that they were moving forward with a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book. Yesterday, it came out.

So, how is it?

Written by Nick Spencer (Shuddertown, Existence 2.0), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 tells the story of the United Nations scrambling to replace the recently deceased Lightning and Dynamo following a trap set by S.P.I.D.E.R. (the villains from the original Tower Comics run). Without explaining too much about the original team, it sets up the premise that the original NoMan and the new replacement members must save Raven (another Tower Comics character) from S.P.I.D.E.R. It’s surprisingly engaging, considering that the team hasn’t had a proper canon story since the 80’s outside of Penthouse (man, how I wish I were joking). As odd as it sounds, the book does a good job establishing the team without giving the its members a proper introduction, instead focusing on the staff behind the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (so, I guess whatever “The Higher United Nations” is). Plus, the art by the single-named duo of CAFU (Vixen: Return of the Lion) and BIT (Batman and the Outsiders)  is pretty damned good (if you can overlook the fact that everybody looks like they’re wearing crazy amounts of eyeliner).

Here’s hoping that where the Red Circle books kind of petered out, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents can take a seat next to the rest of the DC Comics greats.

Ever since the Superman panel at SDCC 2010, my interest about Jeff Lemire’s Superboy had been piqued. After all, he’s proven with Essex County, The Nobody, and Sweet Tooth that he’s best writing about what happens in small-town America and, well, it doesn’t get more small-town America than Smallville.

Directly following his stint as the headline act of Adventure Comics, Superboy has finally come to terms with the fact that he’s a composite of both Superman and Lex Luthor’s DNA. For right now, all he wants to do is get back to his roots, figure out what it is that makes Superman great, and support the widow Kent. Unfortunately, where there’s a superhero there’s bound to be supervillains popping up from time to time. With a little help from the Phantom Stranger (yesss) and Krypto, it’s up to Superboy to protect this small town from whatever it is the DCU decides to throw at it.

This is only Jeff Lemire’s second foray into the superhero genre (the first being his Atom back-up in Adventure Comics) but, in a familiar setting, it seems to work well for him. His teenagers actually talk like teenagers and, more impressively, his Phantom Stranger speaks just like he did in his 1969 John Broome series. And, as weird as it sounds, his own excitement for this title is at kid-on-Christmas levels (seriously, when Jon and I ran into him on the SDCC floor and asked about it, he immediately turned into the happiest guy in the convention hall).

Pier Gallo’s (Batman Confidential, Dark Reign: Hawkeye) art is gorgeous as well. Not only are the characters able to convey emotions well, but his backgrounds are amazing. While reading the story I actually felt like I was back in the Midwest, looking out over miles and miles of lush nothingness. Plus, as with the above panel, he manages to make lots of small actions take place in each panel without making it look ridiculously busy.

This book is definitely worth checking out, if not for the superb art, then for the what-the-hell worthy twist ending. Needless to say, so adding this title to my pull.

It always kind of bums me out when two great things come out at once and only one of them gets a lick of attention. After twenty minutes in my local shop, it seemed like everybody was singing the praises of Kick-Ass 2 and nobody was talking about (or picking up, for that matter) BOOM! Studios’ Soldier Zero #1. And, for reals, those folks are missing out.

Soldier Zero is the story of Stewart Trautmann, a former Army captain who was paralyzed after his convoy ran over an IED in Afghanistan. Attempting to go about his post-war life with his brother and prospective lady-friend, Stewart finds himself in another freak accident when a dying alien crashes into him. He gets Abin Sur’d (yup, that’s a verb now) and develops superpowers (including the ability to stand) and an admittedly bitchin’ looking suit. But the question remains, what was the alien doing near Earth in the first place?

Soldier Zero was created by Stan Lee and is the first in a series of three books from BOOM! Studios produced under his guidance (the other two being The Traveler and Starborn).Soldier Zero follows Lee’s tried and true old formula for a superhero origin: take an underdog and make him realize his full potential. Paul Cornell (Captain Britain and MI-13, Action Comics) is the man in charge of making a book out of this character and he does so eloquently, quickly fleshing out our hero’s civilian life while simultaneously showing the alien’s dramatic final space battle. Plus, Javier Pina’s (Suicide Squad, Manhunter) art is visually spectacular as well (particularly the space action shots).

For what is more or less a quick origin story, this book is a damn fine read. If you have a love of all things Green Lantern Corps or Guardians of the Galaxy related, I have a feeling that this book will be right up your alley.

OH SNAP, PREVIEW PAGES.

Oh god, another Spider-Man/Howard the Duck team-up book? Well, if that ain’t a bit of déjà vu, I dunno what is. But considering how awkward that old Steve Gerber/Darick Robertson issue was, how much better can Stuart Moore (or really anybody other than the late Gerber, for that matter) do?

The Service Organization of Philanthropic Individuals (or SOOPhI) has received the backing of Mayor J. Jonah Jameson to, uh, be super vague about whatever it is they’re out to do. Instead of explaining what their deal is, they use a brainwashed Howard the Duck and Bev Switzler to bombard the people of New York with “Jersey Shore” quotes (SOOPhi’s slogan? “It is what it is, bro”) and LOLspeak (“I can haz brainwashing?”) until they’re mindless enough to join them. Looks like it’s up to Spider-Man to swing in, deprogram everybody, and save the day.

Stuart Moore (The 99, Namor) does a surprisingly good job of writing for Howard, a task which (and I’m sure Ty Templeton can attest to) is harder to pull off than it seems. He’s really got a knack for Gerber-style dialogue and seems to embrace the same goofiness without getting completely nonsensical, a problem a lot of other writers seem to have writing for Howard. Plus, despite the fact the book is a bit of a satirization of mainstream media, Moore doesn’t outright beat you over the head with it.

The art is another story. For the first twelve pages of the story, Mark Brooks (Dark Reign: Young Avengers) does penciling and damn, the characters look fantastic. Then, in the middle of a scene, the artist suddenly changes to Ray Height (Noble Causes) and Howard spends the rest of the book looking like he’s slowly melting. Oh well.

In the back of the one-shot is a eight-page Man-Thing back-up also written by Moore with art by Joe Suitor (Marvel Apes). It’s a short story about a guy who feels that he has to take on Man-Thing to prove to his girlfriend that he’s good enough for her. While the story itself is nothing to write home about, the art is gorgeous.

Anyways, this book is much better than I’d feared. Hell, I’d go so far to say that under a creative team of Moore and Brooks, I’d be more than willing to actually pick up a Howard the Duck limited series. This book would do Gerber proud and is most definitely worth checking out.

I have a bad habit of hyping  something up for myself so hard that when it finally rolls around, I can’t help but give it a resounding “meh.” After digging Straczynski’s run on Thor as much as I did (and being admittedly unenthusiastic about Gillien’s short stint), I was ecstatic when I heard that Matt Fraction was slated to take over with artist Pasqual Ferry (Ultimate Iron Man II) starting with issue #610. I mean, aside from a few sluggish issues, Invincible Iron Man has been pretty damn solid. For god knows what reason, it wasn’t until issue #615, released yesterday, that he actually began his run. So, does it get “meh” status?

Well, first, let’s back up. In Norse mythology there are nine realms including Asgard, Midgard (Earth), Hel, and six others I can never pronounce. In Thor Vol 3 #2, Thor stuck Asgard in the middle of Broxton, Oklahoma, essentially cramming one realm inside of another. Later, in Siege, Asgard is destroyed by the Sentry. So, yeah, you got the space for nine realms but only eight remaining. Basically, the book revolves around the Asgardians taking on horror vacui (Aristotle’s theory that “nature abhors a vacum”). If Asgard is gone and there is nothing in it’s place, it makes sense that some entity will try to fill it and, being a comic book, chances are pretty good it’s some big evil alien son of a bitch. And it is! Enter the Ano-Athox and Uthana Thoth, a bunch of big red guys who are basically the antithesis of everything the Asgardians stand for.

Everything Matt Fraction writes seems to have the same sort of dialogue and tone in it. While it works well for Iron Man and Power Man (and, I will admit, works well for the Warriors Three), it seems weird having the argument between Thor and Dr. Blake sound just like the bickering between Tony Stark and Maria Hill (doesn’t help that those two ended up doin’ it, either). His plot is very different from any other Thor storyline, though. While Straczynski spent his whole run dealing with the politics of Asgard, the absence of Asgard allows for Fraction to have Thor deal with things a little more identifiable to the modern reader.

Pasqual Ferry’s art is more cartoony than that of Oliver Coipel or Marko Djurdjevic which is actually a good thing. Ferry’s pencils seem more playful than the crisp art of Copiel and Djurdjevic and, well, the change is welcome. It gives more of a fanciful sci-fi twist to the characters and it works.

It’s also worth noting that this issue was lettered by John Workman, who is perhaps most famous for lettering most of Walter Simonson’s Thor run (we at High Five appreciate a good letterer).

Overall, I’d say that Fraction and Ferry’s Thor is worth at least giving a chance. Besides, how long has it been since Thor forgot about Asgard and dealt with a more Simonsonesque out-there style adventure?


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