Meet Me At Graham Crackers Comics On February 18th

we-can-be-heroes-flier

It is my distinct honor to appear at Graham Crackers Comics in Normal, IL, on Saturday, February 18th.  I’ll deliver a brief talk entitled “We Can Be Heroes!” followed by a reading from my science fiction novel, Andropia.

If you have not yet visited Graham Crackers, this is the perfect opportunity.  I am consistently impressed with the clean, friendly atmosphere and the incredibly helpful staff.  This will be a family friendly event, so bring the kids!

Hope to see you there, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Learn more about Graham Crackers Comics HERE.

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Captain America: Civil War – A Movie Review

(Spoiler-free)

When it comes to Marvel movies, I am pretty good at remaining objective.  DC movies …  not so much – I’m a fanboy.  I can honestly tell you that if you’re a fan of the super hero genre, it just doesn’t get much better than Captain America: Civil War.  This movie absolutely satisfied on every level.

As you probably know, the premise of the film hinges on the fact that the United Nations wants to oversee the Avengers due to the consequential collateral damage that ensues after their actions.  Tony Stark, due to the series of mistakes he’s made over the last eight years, thinks it’s a good idea.  Steve Rogers, after the Hydra fiasco, only trusts those in his inner circle.  Thus, factions arise.  And when the Winter Soldier, Rogers’ childhood friend, seems responsible for more carnage, those factions go to war.

I won’t go into greater detail than that for fear of spoiling the plot, but rest assured the movie is far more complex than the above synopsis.  There are deeply motivated characters in this film, and each believes their actions are justified.  I think this movie succeeds primarily because there has been a lot of groundwork and characterization developed over the years with these men and women – their conflict feels intensely personal and legitimate as a result.

Furthermore, their conflict is handled with both grace and dynamism.  Everything you want to happen when they fight happens – it is a delight.  And while the movie is deathly serious at times, and while there are real consequences to the level of power displayed, the film, like Shakespeare, knew when it was time to lighten things up.  The one-liners in the movie are hilarious, and certain characters provide the levity needed to keep things fun.  (I’m sure you can guess who those characters are.)

What I also loved about the movie is that every character got a moment to shine.  It’s amazing they were able to cram so much in so deftly.  I know this movie is called Captain America, but this also truly Iron Man 3.5, Avengers 2.5, and Spider-Man 0.5.  They left so much for future movies to explore – I can’t wait!

The amazing action, the emotional turmoil, the “wow” moments, the hints at the future, and the fantastic humor made Captain America: Civil War a joy on every level.

The Death of Captain America: Volume I – A Graphic Novel Review

I’m a guy who waits for the collected editions of my favorite comic books, so my knowledge of the death of Steve Rogers arrived long before I read the actual volume in which it occurred. And you want to know something? It didn’t lessen the impact one iota.

This is because Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is masterful. This is not a title looking to shock you in one-and-done scenarios, this is a title where each issue builds off the prior and the author clearly has an epic plot in mind. The story progresses organically and logically.

Collecting issues #25-30, Steve Rogers dies in the first installment and then his supporting characters take center stage. Brubaker gives us a level of richness and complexity with Tony Stark, Sharon Carter, the Falcon, Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and Bucky Barnes rarely seen in comic books. The fact he keeps Captain America just as intriguing and captivating without Captain America is proof enough as to why this man won the Eisner award.

Now we all know who the current Captain America is, and this volume, as well as the preceding issues of this series, really sets up the events leading to Barnes donning the Captain America mask. It makes total sense and it didn’t feel at all forced.

In fact, I’d like to briefly congratulate Brubaker for reinserting Barnes into the Marvel Universe in a seamless, rational, and consistent manner. Unlike another once-thought-dead partner, Barnes has been handled with care and intelligence.

Furthermore, Steve Epting’s art is the perfect compliment to Brubaker’s realism. While cinematic in execution, Epting delivers characters and action that are believable yet extraordinary. His angles and layouts please the eye while strengthening the overall story.

Brubaker’s Captain America has been a delightful and unpredictable joy from the get-go, and I look forward to seeing where he takes us next!

New Avengers, Vol. 5: Civil War – A Graphic Novel Review

I had the distinct advantage of reading this collection well after I read the unified edition of Civil War, so I must admit my perspective would be different from someone unfamiliar with the outcome of Civil War and its fallout.

That said, knowing what I know about Nick Fury, Iron Man, and Captain America’s current storylines, this volume of New Avengers was incredibly insightful and pertinent.

Though Brian Michael Bendis is the writer throughout, each separate issue making up the larger volume is drawn by a different artist and focuses upon a different character from the New Avengers.

While I don’t believe any of these issues are “must-reads” in order to understand the larger storyline of Civil War, they certainly help illuminate character’s motivations and set up plots to come in New Avengers and Mighty Avengers.

I’d also like to say that there is a component to this volume featuring Sentry drawn by Pasqual Ferry that alone makes the entire volume worth buying. I could take or leave Sentry as a character, but Ferry’s rendering of Sentry interacting with the Inhumans is an absolute delight. Certainly Dean White’s colors add to the beauty of Ferry’s art, and I really hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. In my opinion, Ferry is the go-to guy when it comes to interplanetary adventure, as I first learned with his stunning art in Adam Strange: Planet Heist.

New Avengers: Civil War is a great volume if you’re looking for different artists interpretations of some of your favorite New Avengers; it’s enlightening if you desire further character motivation during Civil War; and finally, it’s a nice springboard to new plots in New Avengers.

Had I read this in “real” time I don’t know I would have enjoyed it as much, but with 20/20 hindsight, I thoroughly relished New Avengers: Civil War.

The Ultimates 2, Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters – A Graphic Novel Review

Basically an updated version of Marvel Comic’s classic Avengers lineup, The Ultimates is the closest comic book out there to a big budget action movie. The art is hands down astronomical. Bryan Hitch can draw anything and make it look both dynamic and realistic at the same moment. And Mark Millar (whom is often hit or miss for me) writes snappy dialogue that really sets the characters apart from one another. While his overall plots are nothing terribly original, his new takes on classic characters like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk have been tremendously entertaining. We now have heroes in very much the twenty-first century, with all the neurosis, greed, naiveté, and self-doubt that comes with being a denizen of the modern day.

As I said, the overall plots are predictable, but it’s the subplots where the genius rests. Each character has their own story, and it’s those personal stories and interactions that prove captivating. However, when it’s time for the big action of the overall plot’s climax, strap yourself in. That’s where Bryan Hitch saves the day with his art and Mark Millar makes it fun with his dialogue.

If you want to experience super hero comics at their <ahem!> ultimate in terms of action and art, the Ultimates is what you’re looking for.