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Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Huge Dissapointment - PGX

This is a follow-up from my experiences with PGX from 2016, which can be found here.

Sometime in 2019, CBCS Comics offered a discount on their grading services, and I decided to send a couple comics from my collection to get encapsulated for preservation. As my loyal readers can probably attest to, I don't typically send comics to get graded to sell... or at all. There was a cover that I had created by artist Robert "Floydman" Sumner, and signed by "Weird Al" Yankovic. I felt that having this preserved would be a great idea.

I also felt that I wanted to have both the Stan Lee and Larry Hama signatures authenticated on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #50 that I had sent to PGX years ago. For whatever reason, even after I have asked to have Hamma's signature authenticated when I sent it to PGX, they failed to do so. This always bothered me... so, away to CBCS.

As you can read in my previous post about my original experiences with PGX, I paid good money to have this issue, that has so much sentimental value to me, signed by Stan Lee and encapsulated. I had this issue signed by Larry Hama at Rose City Comic Con in 2015.

I have had the pleasure of working with CBCS Comics before, and have never been disappointed. The entire experience was excellent, and I feel that their customer service was excellent and their service was on time.

When I got the books back, I was both happy and upset. Here's why I was happy:

This is the reason I was upset:

Here are the notes from CBCS on this book:


Verified Sig: LARRY HAMA.

"Stan Lee" signature unverifiable by BAS.


spine stress breaks color

light edge & corner wear

many crinkle bends to front & back cover

When I reached-out to Beckett Authentication Services for further comment, this is unfortunately all they would comment:


Because we deemed the autograph inconclusive, we can no longer give information regarding the signature.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Thank you,


I was devestated when I got this book back. I don't have issue with CBCS, of course. My outrage is directed at PGX for apparently grading this too high in the first place, and possibly sell me an unauthentic Stan Lee signature.

I have sent PGX an email to comment on this issue, and have given them 5 business days to respond. If they don't respond by next weekend, I will provide an update here.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 4: The Then and the Now

Title: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 4: The Then and the Now

ISBN: 9781782767428

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Titan, 2016

Artist: Simon Fraser, Warren Pleece

Writer: Si Spurrier, Rob Williams

Collects: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

The fallout of the Last Great Time War is perhaps more interesting than the Last Great Time War itself. There, I’ve said it.

That’s not to say that the concept and narrative thrust that the War has given post-2005 episodes of Doctor Who is not brilliant – it most certainly is – but sometimes it’s better to look at characters in the dust once it’s settled, rather than when it’s blowing upwards and outwards; it can lead to brilliant character development.

That’s partly why The Then and The Now is such a wonderful volume of Eleventh Doctor comic strips, it deals with a crime that the Doctor may or may not have committed during his War incarnation. One that he can’t remember and vehemently denies, as best as he can with his memories from the era somewhat hazy.

Cue a TARDIS chase across the Universe with a very different kind of bounty hunter on the crew’s tales and no, that’s not Abslom Daak: he’s already aboard the TARDIS and ready to kill just about anything in sight. The eponymous villain of the piece, The Then and The Now, is quite a terrifying creation. A being that is not a being. Something that does exists and doesn’t at the same time. It can’t be stopped or reasoned with or even outrun, it would seem. Which gives the Doctor one choice, to prove his innocence.

This takes us to the Time War, or to be more precise, the fallout from it, and it’s handled extremely well. There’s a lot for continuity for fans to sink their teeth into here. Fleeting glimpses of the War Doctor, sneaky cameos from other familiar faces, new Sontaran threats and, at one point, a truly wonderful visual realization of the Time Lock bestowed upon the Great War.

But fear not, those who worry when it comes to the handling of continuity in Doctor Who, these nods and asides to the past are handled pitch perfectly and serve the story well. There’s no overbearing here; all mentions of the past are used gracefully and for a reason.

And reason there is. The Then and the Now is a mystery thriller making use of all of Doctor Who’s best qualities when it comes to storytelling. The intrigue held by the Doctor’s still mysterious as a blood ridden soldier is superb. The mystery regarding the Squire, a companion he cannot remember travelling with, is tantalizing. The redemption of Abslom Daak and the effect the Time War had on him helps to create a more three dimensional version of the character than ever encountered. And the locations… just you wait until you read it!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor Vol 1: A Matter of Life and Death

Title: Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor Vol 1: A Matter of Life and Death

ISBN: 9781782767534

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Titan, 2016

Artist: Emma Vieceli

Writer: George Mann

Collects: Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

The Eighth Doctor will be, for all but devoted Whovians, a blank slate, because he was initially featured in just one film, a failed attempt to relaunch the Doctor Who series in the 1990s.  Devoted fans may have heard the many audio dramas featuring Eighth Doctor Paul Gann, or read some of the novels, but most American fans will not.  Thus, his personality and quirks are not already built into the consciousness of American comics readers.

The problem is handled fairly well in this collection, a miniseries revolving around a mystery.  The Doctor returns to an old home and finds an artist living there, one whose paintings mysteriously come to life.  Over the course of several stories, not only is the mystery solved, but several apparent digressions finally come together into a single story.

Some fans won't be as interested in this unfamiliar incarnation of The Doctor, but the ones who stick around will be in for a good adventure.  The artwork of Emma Vieceli is very good, showing itself best when portraying the nearly real and the nearly human on the various worlds of the story.

The complexity of the tale aims this story at teens and adults, but it is good enough to be attractive to Doctor Who fans willing to try something different.  It would be a poor jumping-on point for readers unfamiliar with the show or the comics.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol. 2: Fractures

Title: Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol. 2: Fractures

ISBN: 9781782783017

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Titan, 2015

Artist: Brian Williamson, Mariano Laclaustra

Writer: Robbie Morrison

Collects: Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #6-10

Rating: 3.5/5

After their adventures in India, the Doctor and Clara return to her present – but danger is slipping through the cracks between universes, and London (and UNIT!) have no defence against the Fractures! Will the Doctor risk all of reality to reunite a family – or sacrifice a good man to keep the multiverse spinning? Then, the Doctor gambles with his life in 1960s Las Vegas, as he and Clara must team up with gangsters in order to defeat an intergalactic crime syndicate – but is this one too many spins on the Doctor’s roulette wheel?

The second trade collection which badges up Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor comic run issues 6-10, following on from the previous ‘Terrorformer’, the second volume ‘Fractures’ collects three distinct stories of The Doctor and Clara Oswald, set roughly during the eighth season of Doctor Who when Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord took to the galactic stage, and on the whole the collection is a delightful mix of some very different, and very modern Whovian tales.

‘The Fractures’, covering issues 6-8 of the comic and from which this trade collection takes its name, is the longest central story from writer Robbie Morrison and artist Brian Williamson, which sees the Doctor and Clara in modern day London (modern day as in 2014), investigating a case very close to Coal Hill School, where of course Clara teaches. Morrison’s tale feels in the vein of S8’s ‘The Caretaker’, with the Doctor as the eccentric school employee who Clara hangs around with and drags schoolgirl Lisa Foster, one of Clara’s students, into battling the titular Fractures; creatures who exist within the void between the so-called ‘multiverse’, acting when the fabric between universes is breached.

Morrison’s reason for such a breach is a very human family story, in the best traditions of Who, and he manages to balance a great depiction of the more severe, alien Doctor played by Capaldi and his dynamic with Clara alongside some genuinely interesting monsters (though they’re variants on what nuWho has done before), throwing Kate Stewart and UNIT into the mix (as Steven Moffat tends to do in most present day stories) and even manages to get callbacks to the Battle of Canary Wharf in nuWho S2 in there. All in all, it’s a really fun, well written and often gorgeously drawn three issue tale which captures the essence not only of modern Who, but also S8 and Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor.

The second story in the collection is ‘Gangland’, again written by Morrison and drawn by Williamson alongside Mariano Laclaustra, covering issues 9-10 of the comic run, which turns out to be a fun and frothy romp through the 60’s. You know what this one reminded me of? Star Trek fans will appreciate this – the Deep Space Nine episode ‘Our Man Bashir’, with its fusion of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. style kitsch and an added dose of alien invasion in the mix. The Doctor and Clara arrive in Las Vegas to see Frankie Seneca & the Wolf Pack play (there must have been a contractual reason why the Rat Pack couldn’t have featured here, as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr. absolutely show up, just with different names), only to get caught up with Mafia mobsters, disgraced boxers and the octopus-like Cybok Imperium who have a very powerful Time Lord weapon and a stranglehold on the 60’s American underworld.

Amidst lots of Vegas glitz Williamson & Laclaustra clearly have a whale of a time drawing (including the Doctor in a Mad Men-style hat), Morrison himself enjoys throwing in lots of references to the 60’s, easy listening, sports and playing on the Doctor’s enjoyment of gambling & trickery, playing games he’s pretty certain he can win. It lacks the emotional depth or scare factor ‘The Fractures’ had, but that’s fine – ‘Gangland’ is one of those nice, throwaway, fun Who episodes you can sit back and soak up, and when it’s as well written & drawn as this, you’ll almost wish they could have actually made it into an episode of the show.

This trade collection is completed by ‘The Body Electric’, written by George Mann, drawn again by Laclaustra and printed in the Free Comic Book Day 2015 compendium rather than being an issue in the ongoing series. It still features the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, but it’s a much much more smaller ‘minisode comic’, if you like, which begins with Clara questioning – what sort of companion is she? It’s a nice little opening query which Clara answers neatly by the end of this short but sweet piece about a Quartz planet, unscrupulous miners, and sentient beings which may unwittingly be the victims of electricity. Laclaustra has fun depicting a planet made out of Quartz while Mann manages to deliver a told story, replete with villain, all in just a few pages – no mean feat. It caps off ‘Fractures’ as a collection quite nicely.

Altogether encapsulating two really strong outings for the Twelfth Doctor and Clara, set roughly during the eighth season of Doctor Who, ‘Fractures’ is a trade collection well worth your time if you want a memorable, and genuinely really well characterized dose, of the Doctor and Clara, especially now their partnership is no more (SPOILERS!). If you haven’t been picking up the Twelfth Doctor’s comic adventures weekly, do yourself a favor and grab this trade – you can jump in and enjoy them as you would most standalone Who episodes.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Red Sonja: Unchained

Title: Red Sonja: Unchained

ISBN: 9781606904534

Price: $19.99

Publisher/Year: Dynamite, 2014

Artist: Walter Geovani, Jack Jadson

Writer: Peter V. Brett

Collects: Red Sonja: Blue, Red Sonja: Unchained #1-4

Rating: 3.5/5

Red Sonja: Unchained collects the Blue one-shot and the four-issue Red Sonja: Unchained series from last year. Blue sets up the Unchained storyline, so it’s great to have all of these issues in one spot.The Red Sonja: Unchained

Red Sonja rescues a tavern owner’s son from a demon sacrifice, but falls into trouble when – in true Sonja fashion – she makes an outfit for herself out of the demon’s pelt. To be fair, he did break her chain mail bikini, but clothing oneself in demon pelt is probably never a good idea, especially when there’s a lot of blood flying around oneself as a rule. Sonja’s on the run and has to figure out how to break the curse before it’s too late and she ends up donating her own body to Bhamothes, the demon whose fur she wears.

I came in on the tail end of this storyline when I started reading Red Sonja last year, so I was very happy to get the full story here. Peter V. Brett, writer of the Demon Cycle, is great here, giving us a solid supernatural bent that puts the “sorcery” in “sword and sorcery”. He also knows his stuff – there’s a great smack at Conan – because Red Sonja wouldn’t have it any other way – that made me snicker with appreciation. Walter Geovani’s on art duty here, and he knows how to create atmosphere, whether it’s in a mead-soaked tavern or a creepy dungeon. I love his work on Red Sonja.

In addition to the 5 issues, there’s a cover gallery featuring all the covers from Geovani and Mel Rubi, who creates some amazing Red Sonja art. The book is a great companion for Red Sonja fans, and fans of sword and sorcery fantasy.

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