I’ve got to hand it to Eisner-award winner Eric Shanower. He’s taken the mythology of L. Frank Baum, the creator/writer of The Wizard of Oz books, and turned it into a nice niche business for himself. And he does it with such loving care, that you’d think he was somehow related.
Shanower’s off to see the Wizard again in his newest project, an 8-issue Limited Series from Marvel Comics (yup, that Marvel) called The Marvelous Land of Oz. Billed as “a sequel to The Wizard of Oz” and “being an account of the further adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman” the series starts off with Tippetarius, a young boy who lives “in the country of the Gillikins, which is at the North of the land of Oz.”
Sorceress Mombi has been caring for the young, seemingly abandoned Tip, but she’s hardly a candidate for Mother Of The Year. Grumpy, cantankerous, and demanding, she treats Tip more like a servant, and she’s clearly had enough of having a child underfoot. When she takes off to buy some potions, Tip carves a pumpkin and sticks it on a wooden body to scare Mombi when she returns. But she’s too clever and uses one of her potions to bring Jack Pumpkinhead to life. He’ll be a better servant than Tip, most certainly, and she won’t need to be bothered by the boy anymore. She makes plans to use another potion to turn Tip into a marble statue for her garden. Tip believes it’s a good time to hit the road, and he takes Jack Pumpkinhead along with him – and off they go towards Oz where the Scarecrow rules the Emerald City.
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I love the old Rankin-Bass holiday classics, but my favorite is Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. It used to be appointment TV, but then along came DVD and the ability to watch it anytime.
Now that I have kids, we watch it pretty much year-round. In 2009 so far, I’ve racked up at least 20 viewings. And when you watch something that many times, you start to notice some things that escaped me when I would just see it once a year. Here’s my list:
Mrs. Claus: She’s a chubby chaser and an enabler. Santa finally gets his weight down during the off-season - which no doubt would help his cholesterol and blood pressure and help him live longer - and yet she can’t wait to start stuffing him again, upping the ante by reminding him that everyone loves a fat Santa, including her I’m guessing.
Santa Claus: First off, he’s a jerk. Rudolph is a super-achiever compared to the others in the Reindeer Games, and Santa’s too worried about the red nose thing. Since no one on Santa’s route will ever actually see Rudolph, this is really all about Santa’s issues.
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I’ll get this out of the way early: I don’t like Mickey Mouse as a character. I find him the most irritating one in the Disney cartoon universe and his high-pitched voice makes him the Jennifer Tilly of animation for me. So I was all poised to not like the new Boom! Kids comic with him as the star.
Naturally, I’m wrong, again. Mickey Mouse and Friends #296 kicks off Boom!’s launch of the title with a tale by Stefano Ambrosio (translated by Saida Temafonte) and artists Lorenzo Pastrovicchio, Roberto Santillo and Marco Giglione that ties in with Sorcerer’s Apprentice continuity (from Fantasia). Mickey’s still the apprentice to the sorcerer Nereus and still not doing a good job, magically speaking. When Nereus leaves for an emergency, Mickey is tricked out of the drought-suffering village’s magic crystal by Peg-Leg Pete.
Before Nereus returns and realizes what a dope his apprentice is, Mickey has to join a sorcerer’s team in the far-off city of Grand Haven and enter a tournament to try to win the crystal back. Fortunately, he’s found Goofy, a sorcerer who really wants to be an alchemist and herbalist, and Donald Duck, a sorcerer with a pet dragon. Together, the three form their own sorcerer’s team and set out to defeat Pete, who’s determined to stop them (and he’s got Disney’s classic Beagle Boys on his side).
I was happy to see that Boom! Kids has an Uncle Scrooge title in their Disney line-up as a companion to their Donald Duck title. The Ducks are my favorite Disney characters, partly because of the way they look (c’mon, they’re ducks!) and partly because they’re the ones that are most likely to take off on some wild adventure.
In “Uncle Scrooge And The Ghostly Carriage,” writer Per-Erik Hedman (and translator Stefania Bronzoni) and artist Wanda Taggino have Uncle Scrooge gathering up his usual crew - Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie - and his lucky dime. They’re off to Germany to check out “another moneymaking venture,” a castle Scrooge bought “for a steal.” As luck would have it, the castle is haunted and Scrooge’s recurring nemesis, Magica De Spell, sees this as an opportunity to grab that dime. What follows is a ghostly, madcap, door-slamming style French farce of trap doors, hidden staircases, secret bookcase doors, and a ghost.
Taggino draws in the classic Carl Barks/Don Rosa style and infuses the pages with great energy. Hedman’s script is fast-paced and he wraps the whole thing up in 16 pages. The same team has a second story in the issue, “Salt And Gold.” Continuity-wise, it picks up where the previous story ends - Magica is still after the ducks who are now joined by Gyro Gearloose for an adventure in alchemy, a subject near and dear to Scrooge’s greedy heart. It’s a cliffhanger, to be continued next issue.
There’s a cover variant for this issue with a Don Rosa cover. I don’t have that one, but if you’re a collector, I’m sure you’ll want it.
[Artwork: a panel from Uncle Scrooge #384, ©Disney]
I’ve always liked the Disney comics, whether they were published by Gold Key, or Gemstone or Gladstone or Gearloose or whomever. I always thought they were fun comics for kids. I love what Carl Barks did, and the same with Don Rosa. I also like the ones that aren’t by them. I even like the sillier ones like Moby Duck. I liked all the expensive hardcover and trade collections too, but I always wanted to see the comics targeted more towards kids because I think they can help grow a new generation of comic readers.
So I was glad when Boom! picked up the license for their Boom! Kids line of comics (which already includes The Muppets and the Pixar titles). They’re putting them out on a regular schedule, picking up with the old numbering and pricing them at a good $2.99 – aiming them squarely at the kid market. It’s a good, smart play on their part.
I’m an idiot. When I first read about this book, I made a mental note to grab it right away. Then I brain-farted it out of my head.
Why did I want Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth? Because I’m a huge fan of writer Victor Gischler, that’s why. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. Vampire A Go-Go. That Victor Gischler. I’ve been reading his books ever since I grabbed Gun Monkeys off the rack because it contained this opening line: “I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should’ve put some plastic down.”
That’s Gischler. And it continues now that he’s writing Deadpool for Marvel Comics. At the start of this series, Deadpool’s been hired by A.I.M. (those guys in the great yellow outfits with the squarish hats) to retrieve a secret bioweapon from the Savage Land. The weapon turns out to be Deadpool’s severed, zombified head from another dimension. Gischler’s got a thing for the headless, but I’m okay with that!
Since I missed the first four issues, I’m coming into the middle of the story which pits A.I.M. against Hydra, with Deadpool in the middle with a hot scientist and lots of firepower. But I picked up the action with ease - Deadpool has the zombie head to deliver to A.I.M. in space but Hydra has other ideas and those ideas mostly involve guns and killing. Gischler’s dialogue is sharp, funny and breezy - and it takes a lot of hard work to make it feel that way and still keep the story on point. Listening to Deadpool discuss Star Wars with a nameless A.I.M. employee made me LOL.
Batman is dead, you see, but when you’re DC Comics, the publisher of Batman, and you have a lot of companies that have paid $$$ to put his licensed image on toys and cups and action figures, you still have to publish some Batman comics with the Dark Knight Detective actually in them.
Hence, Batman: Unseen, by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, which is sub-titled “A Lost Tale of Bruce Wayne as Batman.” That way, we all know that the story took place, but not while Batman was supposedly dead. Moench and Jones have previously collaborated on Batman And Dracula: Red Rain and Batman: Haunted Gotham and several other Batman-related products and it’s great to see them return.
The Unseen part of the title refers to Batman’s new nemesis, a variant on The Invisible Man named Nigel Glass who’s succeeded in creating a liquid that renders him, well, invisible. His transformation by Jones is horrifically beautiful. The uber-villain (the leader of the newly revived Black Mask Gang) who financed Glass’s invention wants this formula for himself, Batman wants to stop Glass, and Glass is out for vengeance against all those who harshed his crazy. One other small story detail: it appears that Bats is worried he’s losing his ability to strike fear into the hearts of men (and with good reason).
Another amazing issue that will have everyone’s jaw drop by the time people reach the end. Sometimes the conclusion to a comic book story does not live up to the way it started - that is not the case here. Grant Morrison hits a big home run with the conclusion to his Red Hood story arc. The only drawback for me once again is Philip Tan’s artwork. Some of the artwork in the panels seemed rushed and murky, but Morrison saves the day for me with this amazing story. I read the preview that was released and I couldn’t wait to read this issue. After reading this issue, I’m now salivating for more.
Eduardo Flamingo proves to be a very dangerous character. When we last left off in the story, Flamingo had taken a shot at the Red Hood. The shot doesn’t kill him, which causes Flamingo to try harder to finish the job by shooting the side of Jason’s face off. He also tries to pull the mask off of Scarlet’s face (if you’ve been reading the title you know her face is attached to the mask).
Batman and Robin escape from the trap that the Red Hood put them in and they try to assist Hood and Scarlet in taking down Flamingo. Morrison writes a great line for Robin when they confront Flamingo, “I was expecting scary, not gay.” Very funny. The character appears to die at the hands of the Red Hood, but this is the comic book world, and we know that he probably isn’t dead.
Rating: *** 1/2*
This issue was a lot of fun. It was fast paced and it had non-stop action, which is good for the final issue of a comic book storyline. I also enjoyed the artwork this time; maybe I just grew accustomed to it, but the artwork didn’t bother me as much here in this issue as it did in the others.
Well, I called it in my last review when I said that Kaine would interrupt the stand-off between Peter Parker and Raptor so Peter wouldn’t have to reveal his identity; however, Kaine is there to assist the Raptor - not Peter. We also the flashback to the time when Ben Reilly confronted Raptor (then known as Damon Ryder) in his house - the same house that we know will burn down and kill his family. So we have a two fights playing out back and forth - Kaine showed up during that fight as well. Writer Marc Guggenheim does a nice job of jumping back and forth between the past and the present as well as building up a suspense to final outcome of both stories.
Screwball also shows up again as Spider-Man sets her up for a fight, but it really was a planned diversion for his confrontation with Raptor. This distraction enables Peter to free Harry Osborn and his cousins so that he can change into Spider-Man. Raptor is curious as to why Spider-Man continues to show up to help “Ben Reilly.” Kaine answers that question by pulling off Spider-Man’s mask. The clone situation is explained to Raptor, but Kaine says that Peter is the clone. I think Kaine explains it this way as an excuse for Raptor to take out his revenge on Peter. Raptor may not want to attack Peter if he knew that Ben was really a clone. Just my theory on this situation.
Wow! Fantastic! For someone who didn’t grow up reading the Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes stories, I have nothing to compare this issue to. However, I must say that this is a great story that I think longtime fans of those stories will agree that it can stand alongside those classic tales. If you didn’t read issue one, first off, go now to your comic store and get it; second, this issue can stand alone as a great story with some amazing art work. The creative team once again is Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. They introduced us to a teenage Clark Kent living in Smallville adjusting to his super powers and discovering where they came from. We’re also introduced to a teenage Lex Luthor who has an abusive, alcoholic father whom Luthor tries kill in the beginning of our second issue.
The issue opens with Lionel Luthor driving down a highway. There is rubble on the road and he tries to swerve and hit the breaks - unfortunately the breaks are out thanks to Lex. Lionel’s car goes over the side of the highway and is about to plunge into the water when Superboy saves the day. A beautifully drawn scene by Frank, but my one complaint is that I think Superboy looks more like a 10 year-old than a teenager in that scene. Lionel survives, but not for long as Luthor is successful in murdering his father at the end of the issue.
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