Nov 012014
 
Four-Color Bullet

Four-Color Bullet

Welcome to another Four-Color Bullet, the only comic book review column not afraid to give out comics on Halloween. Thanks for joining me on Saturday as I race through the best comics in the Multiverse. Two more weeks, and we’ll be back to our regular Thursday slot. For now, though: COMICS!

From Marvel this week, the new Deathlok is here, in Deathlok #1; Steve Rogers and Deadpool team up to keep Logan’s DNA from falling into the wrong hands, in Death of Wolverine: Deadpool and Captain America #1; and the final chapter of what really happened in the Cancerverse, in Guardians of the Galaxy #20.

From DC Comics this week, the last time Deacon Blackfire took control of Gotham, it was almost the end of Batman. What happens now that he’s wielding unspeakable power? The answer, in Batman: Eternal  #30. The House of Mystery and the House of Secrets take human form, and the team is hard-pressed to contain the chaos, in Justice League Dark Annual #2; and it’s changes aplenty for the Amazonian Warrior in the grand finale of Brian Azzarello’s epic run on Wonder Woman in issue 35.

From IDW this week, the fate of the multiverse lies in the hands of Samurai Jack, the Powerpuff Girls, Dexter, and Ben 10. And if they can’t beat Aku and his League of Extraordinary Villains, hope may yet be found in the unlikely team up of Mojo Jojo and Ed, Edd, and Eddy, in the fifth chapter of Cartoon Network: Super Secret Crisis War! 

And the folks at Dark Horse Comics proudly presents Mike Mignola’s Baltimore: The Wolf and the Apostle #1

 

Students with mysterious powers. Mythical monsters lurking in the shadows. Enemies poised to make their move. Welcome to Weird Japan.

Writer: Jim Zub Artist: Steve Cummings Colorists: John Rauch, Jim Zub, and Tamra Bonvillain IMAGE

Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Steve Cummings
Colorists: John Rauch, Jim Zub, and Tamra Bonvillain
IMAGE

Wayward just continues to freaking chug right along on the tracks of awesomeness,and I am almost ready to name it as Four-Color Bullet’s Book of the Year, and it’s still just November. We’re on issue three, now, and there’s no sign of slowing down. Every month, writer Jim Zub reveals a little more of the mystery. There’s no getting buried in plot details, no stumbling over character introductions … at least not in this issue. Everything is seamless and happens naturally.

Rori continues to deal with her powers, on top of being gaijin, and trying to figure out where she fits in the puzzle. We meet a new character named Nikaido, who will likely join our intrepid band of teenage monster hunters, after a quite accidental introduction. And we get a glimpse of the villains of the story. Not too much though. Just enough to give us a taste and how they’re going to get tangled up in the lives of our intrepid young heroes. And toss in a wicked cliffhanger of an ending, and readers will have little doubt that Wayward is going to deliver some pretty good things.

Steve Cummings’ art and his intimate knowledge of Tokyo makes Wayward more believable, and his action scenes are just fantastic. And with John Rauch and Tamra Bonvillain as part of the artistic team, the pages are eye-popping and visually pleasing, Regular readers of this column know how much I loved IDW’s Ghostbusters. Wayward is the replacement for that book. It’s just a really, well-done, can’t-wait-to-read-every-month book.

And that will wrap up the best comic book review column in the Multiverse for this week. Email and comment, if you choose. I hope everyone had a safe and scary Halloween.

It’s a great time to be a comics fan. See you next Saturday!

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Oct 312014
 
SpaceShipTwo Tail Section. Photo: Laura Davis
A tail piece from SpaceShipTwo debris field. Photo: Laura Davis

A tail piece from SpaceShipTwo debris field. Photo: Laura Davis

by Laura Davis, managing editor

It’s been a bad week for things that fly. I was just finishing an update, earlier today, on the explosion of Orbital Science’s Antares 130 rocket earlier this week, when I got the even-worse news that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo had crashed during a test flight, and one of the pilots had died. The second pilot was able to eject, and parachuted to the ground. He or she was airlifted to Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California. At this time, there’s no official word on that pilot’s condition, just that he or she was “seriously injured.” Both pilots were employees of Virgin Galactic partner, Scaled Composites, which has played a vital role in developing and testing SpaceShipTwo.

The crew was testing the rocket engine of SpaceShipTwo for the first time in nine months. Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey explained that a new type of fuel had been in testing on the ground since January, and this was the first flight using the new plastic-based mix, which they’d hoped would boost the hybrid rocket engine’s performance. The final pre-flight qualification ground test took place earlier this month and, said Mickey, “we expected no anomalies with the motor today.”

SpaceShipTwo was slung underneath WhiteKnightTwo for launch, and released when the planes reached an altitude of about 50,000 feet. Approximately two minutes later, SpaceShipTwo fired its rocket engine. Eyewitness accounts as to what happened next vary wildly. Stuart Witt, the CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port said at today’s press conference, “There’s usually a certain cadence, and you see things occurring, and the thing makes a contrail and the like. Because of the very light cirrus clouds, I was eyes on, but I didn’t see any anomaly. In fact it was when I wasn’t hearing anything that I became concerned. And I looked over at my colleague, and then there was a radio call, something about a chute.”

Photographer Ken Brown, who was covering the test flight, reported that he saw an explosion high in the air and later came upon SpaceShipTwo debris scattered across a small area of the desert.

While it’s clearly too early to tell exactly what went wrong, WhiteKnightTwo and its pilots made a safe landing, and SpaceShipTwo crashed, leaving a 5-mile-long debris field near Cantil, California: a part of the Mojave Desert so desolate that even joshua trees won’t grow there.

After leaving the press conference held at the Mojave Air and Space Port, I headed up to Cantil with a heavy heart. As I turned off to the road nearest the crash site, traffic was stopped for road construction (unrelated to the crash), and I found myself in the middle of a convoy of Kern County Search and Rescue (S.A.R.) vehicles, headed to the scene. When the flagman waved us on, it felt like a funeral procession. I stopped at the S.A.R. staging area, which was also being used as a base for the helicopter which was searching the debris field, and for Kern County Fire and Sheriff’s Department personnel on scene. This staging area was near the end of the debris field where the pilot who died was found. The surviving pilot was found a couple of miles away, near where I photographed a piece of the plane’s tail. I watched as the S.A.R. team deployed its fleet of quad-runners and set off for their assignments. They’d been instructed not to talk to the press, but as a former S.A.R. team member, I suspect their primary task was to help secure the site, and possibly to help locate and mark debris for collection.

Farther down the road, I found another access point to the boundary of the debris field, manned by a pair of Federal agents. They told me that the site would be manned 24/7 until the debris field was mapped and all the needed pieces collected. When I left, it was still daylight, winds gusting to about 50 MPH, and the temperature had already dropped to 55F, with a storm was quickly approaching. It’s going to be a long night for everyone out there.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in a statement, “Our primary thoughts at this moment are with the crew and family, and we’re doing everything we can for them now. I’d like to recognize the work of the first responders who we work with in the Antelope Valley for their efforts on behalf of the team. We’re also thinking of the team members that we have at the companies that have been working on this program.

“Space is hard and today was a tough day. We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today. We’re going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard days like this, but we believe we owe it to the team, that has been working so hard on this endeavour, to understand this and to move forward. And that is what we’ll do.”

I think Witt summed the feeling up best at today’s press conference: “We are human, and it hurts. Our hearts, thoughts, prayers are absolutely with the families and the victims.”

VIrgin Galactic representatives have issued a statement that Richard Branson is on his way to Mojave to be with his team, and that there will be another press conference tomorrow. We’ll keep you up to date as more information becomes available.

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Oct 252014
 
fourColorBullet1

fourColorBullet1

Welcome to another week of Four-Color Bullet, the only comic book review column that kicks butt and doesn’t need the Super-Soldier Serum to do it. As you may have noticed, it’s Saturday, and the best comic book review column in the Multiverse will be coming to you on Saturday instead of Thursday for the next four weeks. So bear with me, and we’ll back to our regularly scheduled day soon. The reason for the move is classified, but stay tuned to Krypton Radio for hints as to my whereabouts.

And now  … COMICS!

On the DC comics side of the fence, catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, and the inmates have to be housed somewhere else, plunging Batman into an eerie murder mystery, in the first issue of Arkham Manor; Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke kicks off his new solo book by being hunted by someone who may have the skills to actually bring him down, in Deathstroke #1; and after an amnesia-stricken Power Girl crashes into Coney Island from space, it’s Harley Quinn to the rescue, and she’s only too happy to remind PG that they are best friends, and a crime-fighting team, in Harley Quinn #11.

From Marvel this week, the hate hits the fan as Axis continues with its third issue; X-23 reflects on the life and death of the man who gave her purpose, in Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #2; and Kamala Khan a.k.a. the new Ms. Marvel helps Spider-Man take on a powerful and angry Kree warrior, and a backup story features Mayday Parker in a fight unlike anything she’s ever been in before, as Spider-Verse inches closer, in Amazing Spider-Man #8.

From IDW, Mulder and Scully’s investigation of an abortion clinic bombing leads them to a teenage girl who claims to talk to God, but whose actions are far from heavenly, in Part Two of Immaculate, in The X-Files Season 10 #17; and Cow and Chicken join the multi-dimensional cartoon fracas known as the Super Secret Crisis War, in Cartoon Network: Super Secret Crisis War!: Cow and Chicken #1.

 

The most famous enemies of the paranormal have just been killed on live television. Their kids are next.

Writer: Jacob Semahn Artist: Jorge Corona Colorist: Gabriel Cassata IMAGE

Writer: Jacob Semahn
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Gabriel Cassata
IMAGE

So let’s say that your parents are famous hunters of the paranormal, in a world where the paranormal is known and feared. And let’s say that you’re watching your famous parents live on television as they’re working on a case. Then, let’s just say that you watch your parents get killed on live TV by the beasties they’re hunting. And then the beasties come for you. That’s the premise behind Image’s new horror comic, The Goners. Zoe and Josiah Latimer are watching their famous parents in action when they’re killed on live television. Now, with the most powerful paranormal hunters out of the way, the things that go bump in the night are targeting their children.

This first issue by Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona is all about mystery, intrigue, and thrills as we see the kids try to survive, and we the readers are wondering what the heck just happened. Was it in inside job? Did someone set the Latimers up? There are a lot of questions and few answers by the time we get to the end of the issue, leaving us waiting for next month.

Artist Jorge Corona and his colorist comrade Gabriel Cassata provide some great visuals, and is probably the best part about the book. It’s got a Saturday morning vibe that seems to work well in this story of kids, creepy creatures, and spellslinging/powers.

Not much bad to say, except the book moves quickly, and you have a brief instant to get emotionally attached to the characters before all heck breaks loose.

Image just keeps churning out hits, and this one I’ll keep checking on. It’s obvious that Semahn has a story to tell about the end of the Latimer family and what happens next in the vacuum, and he wants to tell it. This is definitely one to watch.

 

Something strange in the neighborhood. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Writers: Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz Artists: Charles Paul Wilson III, Cory Smith, and Dan Schoening. Colors: Luis Antonio Delgado and Ronda Patterson IDW

Writers: Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz
Artists: Charles Paul Wilson III, Cory Smith, and Dan Schoening.
Colors: Luis Antonio Delgado and Ronda Patterson
IDW

Finally. Two of the most popular franchises of the ’80s are teaming up. Erik Burnham of Ghostbusters (which sadly ended its series, a fact I’m still lamenting) and Tom Waltz of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are collaborating to bring readers the team-up of the millennium. Well … at least for me. But this first issue was still really good and worth the wait. As most team-ups tend to be, this isn’t a day-in-the-life story. Both sides are just doing something on a Saturday morning, then, team-up occurs. It feels more like a TMNT story because what’s going on in the current series has a lot to do with what happens here, but not so much that you have to be a reader of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to get it. It’s very easy and accessible for new readers, thanks to a well-done introduction that gives you all the info you need.

It also happens to be drawn by three different art teams: something I usually can’t stand. But as a friend of mine and I were discussing earlier, it works well in this case because each creative team deals with a different time, dimension, etc. Charles Paul Wilson III handles the first five pages, which is our  dark and spooky intro that takes place in ancient Japan; Cory Smith and Ronda Patterson take the next four, which takes place in the New York of the Turtles; and finally, Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado, who impressed me every month with their work on the Ghostbusters ongoing, handle the last 10 pages, after the Turtles end up in the Ghostbusters’ New York and do some ghostbusting of a different sort.

Everybody gets time in this issue, from Venkman and crew on the job, to Leo and the gang doing their thing, until the end when the awesome happens.

Burnham and Waltz have done amazing jobs on their respective titles, and to see them come together for the first time for this crossover is nothing short of exciting. I had very high expectations coming into it, and I was not disappointed. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see where this could be nothing more than a chance to make money with flashing dollar signs in the eyes of all concerned. But once you read it, or if you’re reading (or have read, in the case of Ghostbusters) either of the titles, you’re going to see how much the writers and artists care about the characters they’re writing about. While it’s very satisfying if you’ve been following along with either series, new fans will be able to read with minimal being-in-the-dark. This was my pick of the week. Seriously. You’re going to love it.

And that wraps Four-Color Bullet for this week. Don’t forget to find it on Saturdays for the next three weeks, then we’re back on Thursday. Thanks for checking in!

It’s a great time to be a comics fan. Really. It is. Did you see that Avengers 2: Age of Ultron trailer? See? It is.

See ya next Saturday!

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Oct 112014
 
comet C/2013 A1, also known as Siding Spring, as captured by Wide Field Camera 3 on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
comet C/2013 A1, also known as Siding Spring, as captured by Wide Field Camera 3 on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

comet C/2013 A1, also known as Siding Spring, as captured by Wide Field Camera 3 on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Mars and Earth are both looking to the skies, for a once-in-a-million-year visit from an Oort Cloud comet. NASA held a press conference last evening with representatives from the various teams who are preparing for the close approach of comet Siding Spring to Mars on October 19, 2014. “Close” is a relative term: at its closest, the comet will be 88,000 miles from the center of Mars. Although the comet itself is “only” 5 miles in diameter (about 109 tons of material), its tail would reach half the distance from Earth to the moon. This is the closest any comet has come to Earth in the past 500 years, and with NASA, ESA, and ISRO having so many instruments on and around Mars, mankind has a ringside seat for this rare event.

The comet was discovered in January 2013, at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, by astronomer Rob McNaught. Scientists believe that the comet formed in the first million years of our solar system, somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune, and was then thrown by some force out to a multi-million-year orbit. It was knocked into its current orbit by the passage of a star near the Oort Cloud, where the comet had been traveling.

This is the first opportunity we’ve had to image an Oort Cloud comet. A huge variety of scientists and instruments are coordinating to “maximize the science” from this encounter. Preliminary studies of the comet show that it’s made up of about half rocky dust and half volatile organic ice, made of volatiles like methane. As the comet came closer to the Sun than ever before, the intensity of light from comet increased, then dropped. Scientists hope to find more evidence to explain this, but one current hypothesis is that some of the hypervolatiles may have burned up when the comet got closer. As one scientist explained, “kind of like nitrous oxide would behave in a car engine.”

So, NASA, ESA, and ISRO are preparing their planetary instruments on Earth and Mars and orbital instruments to capture every shred of data possible. They’ll gather a x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared images; collect data from Mars’ ionosphere, upper and lower atmosphere, and surface. The Hubble telescope is already observing the nucleus of the comet and the dust coming off of it, while the Spitzer space telescope observes the dust and carbon dioxide. NASA’s Swift satellite is observing the water molecules in and around the comet; about half the ice had come off by June 2014). The NASA ISRF telescope on Mauna Kea is preparing to make daytime observations of the comet’s composition, and its effects on the Martian atmosphere. The Chandra x-ray Observatory will monitor the ions and neutral particles around Mars, looking for changes as the comet approaches. About 25 hours after the comet’s closest approach to Mars, the Kepler Observatory will be able to make unprecedented observations with its photometer.

Graphic courtesy of NASA

Graphic courtesy of NASA

It’s a mind-boggling cooperation, and it doesn’t end with the professional scientists at the various space agencies. A group called Coordinated Investigations Of Comets (CIOC) has enlisted and organized the efforts of “a global army of eager amateur and pro-amateur astronomers.” A NASA representative explained, “amateur photos provide the legacy data and reference system against which to place hi-res images.” They also provide global coverage for the event.

What is the comet’s nucleus really made of? Will there be meteors as a result of its passage? How will the Martian atmosphere react? We don’t know, but it’s going to be really exciting to find out! Stay tuned for lots more coverage, and updates on planned “comet social” events on line and in person.

 

Want More?

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