Author Archive

REVIEW :: BPRD: King of Fear #1-2

February 18, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

I’m a little ashamed to say that, although I’m an avid fan of Hellboy comics, I was never a reader of his “sister” book, B.P.R.D.

Yeah, I’m stupid. I know.

Well, last week I was looking for something new and just decided to read the first few issues of the current limited series — B.P.R.D.: King of Fear — and now I’m hooked.

What have I been doing for the last six or so years? B.P.R.D. — which stars Hellboy’s former brothers/sisters-in-arms at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense — is a tight, creepy, exquisitely paced series with a huge focus on characters and relationships. With engrossing scripts by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi and monstrously beautiful art by Guy Davis, B.P.R.D. provides a great foil to the standard action-centric superhero comic. I mean, here I am — a guy who’s never read an issue of a story line that’s been unfolding for years — and I find myself immediately drawn in and attached to incredibly fleshed out heroes and heroines on the page.

After reading “King of Fear,” I ran back up to Heroes in search of early issues in trade paperback form; luckily Dark Horse has done a great job of organizing the entire collection. I’m now tearing through the first book, “Hollow Earth & Other Stories,” and waiting anxiously for another edition of the series.

I’m gushing . I know. But it’s that good.

Carlton Hargro is Editor-in-Chief of Charlotte’s Creative Loafing weekly newspaper. You can read more of his comics reviews at the paper’s Comic Proportions blog.

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REVIEW :: Secret Six #18

February 11, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Opinion, Reviews

Sometimes, you’ve gotta wonder about the decision-making process of the bigwigs over at DC Comics.

For instance, why would they publish a comic book starring Magog — a character that most readers have never heard of … and others just hate.

Oh here’s another one: Why kill a ton of the members of the Justice League International only to bring some of them back in a bi-weekly series? Or why cancel Birds of Prey? Or why turn the Teen Titans into a cemetery? So many questions … so little time.

My latest “WTF DC?” moment came after reading the newest issue of Secret Six, which is the final part of the comic’s Blackest Night tie-in story arc. First thing I thought after reading the book — which co-starred the Suicide Squad and was co-written by former Squad scribe John Ostrander — is: Why doesn’t the Suicide Squad have its own book?Why doesn’t the Suicide Squad have its own book?

Back in the day, the comic — starring a bunch of villains and anti-heroes who are forced to be heroes — was one of DC’s best monthly reads. Seeing the Squad again in the Secret Six — DC’s current comic starring a bunch of villains and anti-heroes turned heroes — shows how interesting and viable this team actually is. Watching the sometimes-noble Bronze Tiger battle it out with Cat-Man, the morally complex Amanda Waller face off against Scandal Savage and the haunted Nightshade throwdown with Black Alice (among other cool moments), I was sold on the idea that these bad/good guys have story potential that could be mined for years.

And, yes, I know DC published a limited series starring the group a short while ago, but that doesn’t count because it was designed more as a way to clean up continuity. C’mon Mr. Didio — even Matt Murdock can see it’s time for an Ostrander-penned Suicide Squad ongoing.

Carlton Hargro is Editor-in-Chief of Charlotte’s Creative Loafing free weekly newspaper. You can read more of Carlton’s reviews at the magazines Comic Proportions blog.

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REVIEW :: Guardians of the Galaxy #22

February 04, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

I keep coming back to the Guardians of the Galaxy.

In 2008, I named the comic — the science-fiction superhero series that focuses on the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe — one of my favorites of that year. And now, with the Guardians hitting issue No. 22, I stand by my choice; it’s still consistently one of the best books on the stands month-in and month-out.

What’s so good about the title? Well, I’ll be honest: I have a thing for B- and C-list characters, and the Guardians team is populated by a host of beloved nobodies like Rocket Raccoon, Bug from the Micronauts and Jack Flag, among others. But this comic is way more than a guilty pleasure. Each issue, writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning pit their ragtag group of heroes against universe-ending threats and life-or-death situations. Sure, humor is a big part of the stories (I mean, you can’t take a talking raccoon too seriously.), but this fast-paced, action-packed series is anything but a funny book.

The other cool thing about Guardians is, aside from Nova and your odd limited series here and there, it’s the best place to find Marvel’s rich catalog of space-faring heroes and villains. Crack open an issue and you’ll get to catch up with folks like Moondragon, Drax the Destroyer, Adam Warlock, the Inhumans, the Starjammers, the Imperial Guard, and — coming soon — Thanos (the Infinity Gems can’t be too far behind) … and many more.

Yeah, I still dig the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sue me … but first check out an issue and judge for yourself.

Carlton Hargro is Editor-in-Chief of Charlotte’s Creative Loafing free weekly newspaper. You can check out more of his reviews at the paper’s Comic Proportions blog.

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REVIEW :: Wonder Woman #40

January 28, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

wonder-woman_040-fc_700pxAre you reading Wonder Woman? You should be.

As I stated about 10 months ago, under writer Gail Simone, WW has consistently been one of the best books published by the folks at DC. The latest issue sees Diana taking a bit of a breather after wrapping a fairly long story arc that saw her battling a bunch of cool new villains. But that doesn’t mean that things are slowing down. This month’s installment introduces us to a new group of bad guys with ties to the god of war Ares, shows us the condition of WW’s hospitalized BFF Etta and sets the stage for a battle with another popular DC heroine. And this lineup of events perfectly illustrates why Simone’s run on the comic is so enjoyable.

The writer crafts stories that perfectly blend all the cool things about Diana — the Greek mythology side of things, her humanity and the straight-up super-heroic side. WW succeeds when it offers read the best of all worlds, distinguishing her from iconic brothers like Superman and Batman — and it’s obvious that Simone knows this.

Oh and, I can’t say enough that artist Aaron Lopresti’s clean but incredibly kinetic work on the book is proving that he is a top-tier artist.

What are you waiting for? Trust me. It’s worth the cash.

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REVIEW :: Adventure Comics

January 14, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

adventure-comics_06-fc_150pxI got sad after reading the latest issue of Adventure Comics. Sad because the creative team of Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul will soon leave the book — along with the comic’s star Superboy.

I’ve really been digging what these guys have been doing with an otherwise lame character. I mean think about it: Here’s a hero who never really possessed much in the way of personality or unique traits — and then, just when Johns was making him interesting in the pages of Teen Titans, DC went and killed the guy.

Luckily, the Legion of 3 Worlds limited series came along and brought Conner Kent back from the dead. Since then, Johns has been doing a bang-up job of building an interesting world around Superboy (planting him firmly in Smallville, throwing in Krypto, reconnecting him with his old Titan pals and adding some relevant new supporting characters) and exploring the things that make him unique (like the emotional fallout that would come as a result of being the genetic “son” of Lex Luthor and Superman).

All that being the case, I’m not too happy about the idea of him losing his star status. Oh well, I’m willing to give the new Adventure — which will star the Legion and be written by the legendary Paul Levitz — a shot for a few issues. And I’ll pray that Superboy lands in the Teen Titans or something. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to pick up the rest of his Adventure run … and you should, too.

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REVIEW :: Digging Image

January 01, 2010 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

image-united_01-fc_500pxHas anyone else noticed that Image Comics seems to be on a roll these days?

The creator-centric comic company that was maligned in the past (like when they first launched in 1990s) for churning out crappy and late comics has been, as of late, publishing some really great books.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was reading so many Image books — or the last time I actually got excited about the company’s offerings.

I mean, I was digging The Walking Dead and Invincible (both written by Robert Kirkman) before, but my love for Kirkman’s work led me to his newest books: Murderer (part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season program) and Haunt (which he works on with Todd McFarlane). I loved Murderer, which got me interested in other Top Cow comics. And I fell for Haunt, which got me taking a second look at Todd McFarlane again — so I started reading Spawn after a looooong break. And that led me to Image United, the crossover blockbuster that’s drawn by all the Image founders.

Finally, to top it all off, my favorite comic of 2009 turned out to be an Image title — Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory; that’s the first time an Image comic landed that slot on my reading list — and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Looking at the solicitations for 2010, it seems they’ve got a lot of good stuff planned, such as: Fractured Fables, an all-ages book from Jim Valentino’s Shadowline imprint; Turf, a new sci-fi book drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards; 50-Girls by Frank Cho and Doug Murray; and much more.

All that said, if you’re one of those readers who swore off Image years ago, do yourself a favor and give the company another look.

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REVIEW :: Top Superhero Books of 2009

December 24, 2009 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

secret-warriors_fc_thumbLet’s skip the fancy banter usually found in my snazzy reviews and just cut to the chase: Here’s my list for the best superhero comics of 2009:

Invincible: While Robert Kirkman’s Brit and Astounding Wolf-Man bit the dust (Wolf-Man ends in 2010), Invincible still soared — and that’s probably because the book is a fun read with tons of action, vomit-inducing gore and humor.

Secret Warriors: Who knew that anybody — other than Jim Steranko — could make a viable comic about Nick Fury? Well, writer Jonathan Hickman proved it could be done. If you haven’t picked up this smart, mystery-laden series yet, please run to the shop now.

Wonder Woman: I talked about this book in my all-inclusive list of books for 2009 in the current issue of Creative Loafing, but I’ll say it again: Writer Gail Simone finally found the winning formula on Wonder Woman. She knows how to add just enough mythology, straight-up superhero slugfests and emotion to make it worth snagging every month. And artist Aaron Lopresti has turned in some of the best pages of his career for this comic.

Detective Comics: Batwoman: I talked about this comic over in Creative Loafing this week, too, but I stand by that decision. The first arc by Greg Rucka was not that compelling, but the engrossing second story line more than made up for it. And J.H. Williams is — hands down — the best artist on a superhero book right now.

Blackest Night/Green Lantern: OK, I talked about this one already as well. But both books were killer this year.

Captain Britain and MI13: Sadly, this comic was canceled. But while it lasted, it was intelligent, confidently paced and character-focused — a rarity for Marvel and the industry as a whole.

Dark Avengers: Marvel’s most entertaining Avengers book. Seriously.

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REVIEW JAMS :: Incorruptible #1, Dark Avengers, More

December 18, 2009 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

incorruptible_fc-01_variant_420pxI read a lot of comics every week — so many that I just don’t have time to fully review all of them in any given setting. So, every once in a while, I do a “jam” review with quick looks at several books I’m digging. Check it out:

Incorruptible No. 1: Are you a fan of superhero comics but would like to take a break from the spandex-clad bunch at the Big Two? Well, I’d recommend picking up Mark Waid’s Incorruptible. Starting with Irredeemable, Waid has been building an interesting world of heroes over at Boom! Studios, and this comic — which tells the story a villain “gone good” — is the latest addition to that steadily growing universe.

Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire No. 5: The perfect combination of humor, horror and extreme violence, it makes me sad to think that this is writer Jason Aaron’s swan song on Ghost Rider. Get your hands on all the issues before this limited series ends next month.

Dark Avengers No. 12: I’m shocked that this Avengers title turned out to be my favorite of the franchise. This team of villains is way more interesting than their heroic counterparts. I wonder what Marvel plans to do with them after Siege; let’s hope it’s something interesting.

Batman: Streets of Gotham No. 7: As much as I hate holiday-oriented stories, leave it to a writer like Paul Dini to craft a great one; it’s filled with terror and, unlike some one-off Christmas stories, ties into the continuity of the title.

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REVIEW :: Haunt #1-2

December 11, 2009 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

haunt_01-fc_420pxI’m digging Haunt — the new series from Image Comics by Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane … although, after reading the first two issues, I wasn’t so sure I would enjoy it.

Of course, the art in Haunt — a strange hybrid of Greg Capullo’s layouts, Ryan Ottley’s pencils and McFarlane’s inks — is clean, fluid, creepy and, in general, top notch. But, from a story perspective, issues No. 1 and No. 2 jumped a little too quickly into the tale of a spy who is murdered but comes back to the land of the living as a ghost with the ability to inhabit his living brother’s body. Sure comic book readers are willing to suspend disbelief a little more than the average pop culture consumer, but a few extra pages to flesh out such a paranormal situation would have been nice … and a little more believable.

With this latest issue, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that Haunt is best enjoyed over the course of a few comics. The main characters, who came off a little too two-dimensional at first, are starting to seem more human — and that humanity can do nothing but help a book that’s rooted in otherworldly stuff. The cast is also getting filled out a little more with heroes and villains, and that gives the two Haunt brothers some other folks to trade dialogue with on a monthly basis.

So, I’ll be sticking around this title for the foreseeable future. Pick a copy for yourself if you haven’t done so already.

Carlton Hargro is editor-in-chief of Charlotte’s Creative Loafing free weekly paper. You can read more of his reviews at the paper’s Comic Proportions blog.

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REVIEW :: Detective Comics #858-859

November 27, 2009 By: Carlton Hargro Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

detective_858-fc_420-pxI wasn’t too blown away by writer Greg Rucka’s first story arc on Detective Comics (the one that stars Batwoman, that is).

Well, let me qualify that statement: I liked Rucka’s plot and script on the comic’s second feature, starring The Question, but I wasn’t in love with the Batwoman side of the book.
As far as I was concerned, the draw on Detective was J.H. Williams’ scrumptious art — probably the best in the industry right now — not Rucka’s confusing story line. In the last two issues, however, the writing on Batwoman has finally started to match the quality of the art.

In the latest editions of the series — No. 858 and 859 — Rucka has started to roll out the secret origin of Katherine Kane, and it’s an incredibly engrossing read. The book’s first arc was all about delving into the supernatural trappings of the Crime Bible and a whole slew of animal/human hybrid villains. Batwoman’s origin, on the other hand, deals with realistic issues of human loss, sexuality, discrimination, honor, politics and more — in other words, tangible things that I’m able to relate to and connect with.

Oh and the art’s still pretty, too. In fact, Williams shows some different twists on his style for this multi-issue tale. (And yes The Question backup still rocks.) Buy it.

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