Heroes and Villains – Reviewing Recent Comics 8-9-2017


This time on Heroes and Villains, we’ll be looking at a variety of comics out this week and last, from a variety of genres and companies. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on DuckTales #0, Shadows on the Grave #7, Spirit Hunters #9, Avengers #10, Freelance #1-4, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…


This Friday the new reboot of the DuckTales animated series debuts, so to celebrate that event last week IDW released a zero issue of the ongoing DuckTales comic series coming in September. Both the television reboot (starring former Doctor Who David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck) and the comic series are based on the original animated show from the 1980s, which was in turn based on the Walt Disney comics (and some cartoons) by Carl Barks of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I have to confess that even though I have never seen DuckTales, I am excited about the upcoming reboot, mostly because of the Who connection. I know, shame on me, a Disney podcaster.


Nevertheless, I’ll be watching Friday, and I did take a peek at the zero issue of this new comics series. We got two tales of Donald Duck and his nephews, the second much better than the first. I was surprised that Uncle Scrooge and other DuckTales characters were missing, but seeing how IDW also has a Uncle Scrooge comic out there, I kinda get it. I did wonder why these two stories might have been better included in Donald Duck comic rather than one called DuckTales. It was fun, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see the new show, and more comics.

Shadows on the Grave

Richard Corben is one of those artists who has a very distinctive and recognizable style. I almost grew up with the man. I remember horror magazines from Warren in the early seventies, and then as puberty crept in for me, Corben was there with Neverwhere and Heavy Metal magazine. The character Den, in altered form, even appeared in the Heavy Metal movie that I saw at a midnight show in the early eighties. I was pleased to see his style, and his name over the title, in Dark Horse’s Shadows on the Grave. This is a comic, albeit an adult one, in the tradition of the horror host anthologies of yesteryear. The stories are twisted, horrific, sexy, disturbing, and even humorous, a tour de force by Corben. This black and white comic made me smile for all the wrong reasons, and the right ones too.

Spirit Hunters

Again, Zenescope surprises me by giving me more and better than expected. Spirit Hunters is a delight, a fun cross between Scooby-Doo and a crime procedural, I really dug this a lot. When a voodoo master attacks a rock band in New Orleans, the Spirit Hunters, a team of young paranormal investigators visit the Big Easy to find out what really happened. This is tense, scary, well-written, and best of all a done-in-one issue story. Recommended.



People who know me personally, and read my work here at Biff Bam Pop! and elsewhere, know that I am a huge Avengers fan. Secret Empire, the line-wide event about an evil Captain America taking over the planet in the name of Hydra, has made it so I dread reading almost any Marvel Comic, including those I used to love. This is the case here, especially when it begins with a cover of the Avengers, wearing stylized Hydra costumes, and charging with its symbol. Even Alex Ross’ cover can’t save this, I’m sick before I even read the book.


The tenth issue, while draped in the Secret Empire trappings, is still by the creative team that gave us some great stories earlier in this run, Mark Waid and Mike del Mundo. These Hydra Avengers are an interesting line-up – Doctor Octopus, now seemingly the Superior Spider-Man from a few years back; Deadpool; the disgraced and unworthy Thor, now referred to as Odinson; the Taskmaster; the Black Ant, an evil Ant-Man; along with the Vision, reprogrammed to serve Hydra; and the Scarlet Witch, whose motivations are anyone’s guess, as she has at various times been the greatest heroine and the most dangerous villainess. A roster of villains, under Captain America’s thrall, wearing the title Avengers. The Kooky Quartet, they are not.

However, Waid crafts an intriguing tale with little to do with Secret Empire, as this team investigates an alien threat and disposes of it. These aren’t my Avengers, but he makes this team work, and de Mundo’s painted art has calmed down a bit, more realistic and less Picasso. Waid even brought Vizh and Wanda back together. I loved the interaction, especially the key phrase, one almost as integral as “Avengers Assemble,” and that’s “We don’t have to like one another to trust one another.” Priceless, and recommended.


In previous editions of Heroes and Villains, I’ve talked about Chapterhouse Comics’ building of their Chapterverse with Captain Canuck and The Pitiful Human-Lizard, and now with Freelance, the construction continues, reminiscent of the original Marvel Universe and the later original Valiant Universe. The great thing about the Chapterverse is that like early Marvel, you can pick and choose what parts of it you want to read about, but if you read them all, you get the bigger picture of that world, and the better comics experience.

Freelance follows a trio of adventurers, who at first glance appear to be a mix of Torchwood, Men in Black, and the Challengers of the Unknown, but they are much, much more. Superhuman Lance Valiant, aided by companions Tasha Kolchak and John Cabot, is not only superhuman, but a familiar name as well. Operating under the name Freelance, Lance Valiant fought Nazis during World War II in various Canadian comics of the Golden Age. I love that Chapterhouse has built some of Canada’s public domain superhero past into its universe.


Together, Lance, Tasha, and John work their way through the supernatural, the science fictional, and the espionage genres in their pursuit of an extradimnsional alien threat. The mix of these worlds is what makes this series tick, along with words by Jim Zub and Andrew Wheeler, and manga leaning art by Vaneda Vireak and Cindy Leong. The storyline culminates in a final battle with the big bad, Apollyon and the revelation of Freelance’s origins. I really dug this series, officially season one, which will be collected in Freelance Volume One: Angel of the Abyss. Recommended.

…and more…

Also coming out this week, and worth checking out would be Riverdale #5 from Archie Comics, set in the same universe as the CW television series, this issue spotlights Reggie and Josie. Then there’s First Strike #1 from IDW, teaming GI Joe, MASK, and the Transformers against a new COBRA. A new storyline begins in The Flash #28 with “Negative, Part One” introducing the Negative Flash – the problem is he’s really Barry Allen. Dynamite brings us another first issue for The Shadow, and this time the pulp avenger is hunting criminals in the present day. And finally things are spiraling toward the end for the Hydra saga at Marvel with Captain America #25 and Secret Empire, take a wild guess whether I’m recommending those two or not. Hey, they could be good, time will tell…

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