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Check out what I checked out over the past two weeks.

Whether the comics are inspiring or disappointing, I read them all.

Welcome to The Pull List.

And, as always…Spoilers ahead!

Baltimore: The Play (One-Shot) (Pick of the Week #1)
Writer: Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
Art: Ben Stenbeck
Colors: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.50

Have you ever read something that was so good, you didn’t want to finish it because the story would be over?

That was my experience while reading Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s Baltimore: The Play, which is a perfect example of horror done right for the comic genre.

It’s almost impossible to scare people these days with traditional horror elements.

Characters need to have more depth and the story has to be more involved to the point where ghosts, goblins and vampires serve as a backdrop to a much larger picture.

The title character, Lord Baltimore, is on a search for Haigus, the vampire who took his leg, and it brings him to Verona, Italy where the dead outnumber the living due to a plague.

The story flashes back to two weeks earlier to a theater production that Haigus is overseeing with his sights set on the beautiful leading lady who has captured his heart. Little does he know, the words of Edgar Allan Poe influence everything that occurs behind the curtain creating a romantic tension that builds toward the bloody finale.

There is elegance and brilliance in every facet of the story being told. Whenever you start feeling any type of sympathy for Haigus, Mignola and Golden remind you that he is the bad guy with the images of suffering due to the plague he caused. Ben Stenbeck is an artist with remarkable talent. Items that would come off as ridiculously dismissive have an ambiance that seems normal for the story. His depiction of emotion and body language is something you don’t see in comics on a regular basis and it superbly adds to the story.

What else needs to be said about the coloring of Dave Stewart?

He is the standard for a tale such as this and his work enhances every panel on every page. In a world where capes and cowls dominate the market, this type of story could be lost on some people. Those who will try anything once are in for a real treat while those who are familiar with the series will be impressed to no end.

Grade: A

Masks #1 (Pick of the Week #2)
Writer: Chris Roberson
Art: Alex Ross
Colors: Alex Ross
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Dynamite Entertainment has been putting out some highly entertaining books over the last couple of years.

Despite this, they don’t get too much love compared to the other independent publishers.

There have been so many titles over the last twelve months that were razor close of being my pick of the week and it’s only fitting that the collaboration of Roberson and Ross finally brings Dynamite to the forefront.

This book has an amazing story coupled with astounding artwork that only Alex Ross could produce.

You look at any Ross illustration and it screams epic and this is a story worthy of his touch as each panel looks like a fine painting that belongs in a museum.

The plot is centered on how the law has become a crooked mechanism for the corrupt to mold and frame to their satisfaction. When the law no longer serves the public and has lost their trust, there is only justice. The joining of forces by these masked heroes is the perfect shield of protection. The story is constructed in such a way that all masks have a real stake in the events that are unfolding and that are not being brought together just for the hell of it.

Green Hornet and Kato’s interaction with the Shadow perfectly set the tone for what we can expect to see. You have the usual initial distrust between the protagonists until they realize they are fighting the same fight.

This goes without saying, but you need to buy this book ASAP!!! If you have a tablet, the work shines just a little bit better on the screen.

Grade: A+

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #2
Writer: Steve Niles
Art: Bernie Wright
Cover: Bernie Wrightson
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $3.99

The first installment of this series was one of the best comic books I’ve ever read.

Steve Niles really has something special here as his portrayal of the man inside the monster gives life to the monster inside the man.

Everyone knows who Frankenstein is as he’s one of the most iconic horror film characters of all time. It’s ironic that his origins are from a genre that frightens people and yet that is the last thing he wants as normalcy is his end game. He wants it so bad that nothing else will do. He tries to bring his life to a grim finality, but the impervious nature of his being makes that impossible.

During his travels he meets a companion who treats him as an equal which is all he ever wanted. However, Frankenstein soon realizes that one of the drawbacks of a normal life is that all good things must come to an end.

The script produces a lot of sympathy for the title character.

They may not be the Frankenstein the masses want to read about, but it’s all well founded in Niles’ approach. Nothing is forced or convoluted and everything feels appropriate. Bernie Wright’s art brings soul to what people believe to be a soul-less creature.

One of the scenes showing Frankenstein getting lost in a few good books perfectly conveys his desire not just to be normal. How can he expect anyone to understand him if he can’t take time to understand the world around him?

If you are looking for something different, make this a top priority on your next trip to the comic book store. You’ll be glad you did!

Grade: A

Clone #1
Writer: David Schulner
Art: Juan Jose Ryp
Colors: Felix Serrano
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99

Skybound Imprint’s newest offering makes readers ask the existential question: who are we?

For Dr. Luke Taylor the answer was simple. He was a regular guy with real world problems until identical versions of himself came into his life and they all want the same thing, his pregnant wife.

Clone stories are a dime a dozen but this one is done with style and guile. A lot occurs in this book but we don’t know why anything is happening at this point.

Sometimes, those are the best stories.

Juan Jose Ryp’s art has a lot of detail in it which magnifies the intense action throughout the book.

This was an outstanding first effort with more to look forward to next month.

Grade: B+

Voltron #9
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Art: N. Stevens Harris
Cover: Sean Chen
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99

The moon has been destroyed and the planets Earth and Doom face a threat so dangerous that Voltron might not be able to stop it.

Brandon Thomas has done a fantastic modernizing this series.

Things are more complicated as politics are involved in almost everything that occurs. Commander Keith knows with every fiber of his being who is behind the attacks.

Of course, he can’t prove it. Decisions are made and consequences will be had. The frenetic pacing of the story keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The art is what you’d expect from a comic book of this nature. There is nothing to complain about at all.

Overall, this series shines on several levels because the tension is so thick that not even a Lion can cut through it.

Grade: B+

Red Hood and The Outlaws #14
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Art: Pascal Alixe
Colors: Blond
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

Jason Todd is a character with an incredible amount of baggage, but I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.

The boundaries of his resentment towards people in general are tested when Superman pays his team a visit.

Batman vouches for him but that is not enough to put Todd’s mind at ease. People with less power than the Man of Steel have literally taken everything away from him. Fear of what could happen if this powerful alien turned to the dark side is something no one wants to imagine.

Sometimes, good guy vs. good guy confrontations seem to happen just to happen for the sake of selling more comic books.

However, Superman maintains his New 52 status quo of being a dick, so the angry feelings are organic.

After the business of the day is concluded, Todd heads home to Gotham City with his new girlfriend in tow until a meteorologist named Jack Napier crashes the party.

Oh, I hooked you with that Tim Burton reference, didn’t I?

Pick this up and trust me, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.

Grade: A-

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire-Hard Targets #2
Writer John Ostrander
Art: Davide Fabbri & Christian Dalla Vecchia
Colors: Wes Dzioba
Cover: Stephane Roux
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99

Johan Cross has a knack for getting himself into the thick of things.

In the last ”Agent of the Empire” series he prevented a virus from compromising all droids in the galaxy and now, his next assignment: galactic filibuster.

An interim Count Dooku needs to be elected since his heir can’t assume the role until he becomes of age.

Agent Cross is sent to the planet Serenno to ensure the results are in the Empire’s favor. Cross assassinated the previous Count Dooku in the last issue which makes this more of a personal endeavor considering as his doubts about the Empire are on the rise and he has to deal with a family member who is heavily involved in the election process.

John Ostrander put together a gripping three act production that starts and ends strong. The constant references to “the cleansing” in the beginning builds to a flashback sequence that shows how the current noble houses came into power.

Later on in the story we get our fill of action as a sneak attack from a group of bounty hunters threatens everyone’s interest which is never good for business.

The artwork and coloring set an adventurous tone in the third act as the aristocratic vessel, The Windfell and the Bounty Hunter’s ship battled each other in a confrontation that is reminiscent of two pirate ships exchanging cannon fire as members of both crews swing to the other ship to take down the opposing vessel.

Jahan Cross is a different kind of Star Wars character. The characteristic comparisons to James Bond are well founded and a breath of fresh air. While Jedi and Sith are always fun to read about, the exploits of an Imperial Intelligence Agent opens itself to a wide array of possibilities.

An incarnation of this character could be well suited for the Episode VII movie scheduled for 2015.

Grade: B

Bionic Man #14
Writers: Phil Hester & Aaron Gillespie
Art: Ed Tadeo
Colors Thiago Ribeiro
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99

There is never a dull moment when reading Phil Hester’s take on The Bionic Man.

There is no deep mystery to uncover or complicated plot lines to untangle. It’s just pure high octane action and excitement.

After several issues of backwoods brawls, Steve Austin has found a new best friend in the form of Bionic Bigfoot.

Their investigation into a villainous plot brings them to Russia where they come face-to-face with a new adversary that is extremely dangerous and so mind-blowingly bizarre that it could only be found in a comic book.

While fighting and explosions are common place in comics, the detail in Ed Tadeo’s artwork makes you further appreciate the subtleties of someone getting shot in the head or the terrified look on the face of two henchman as they are thrown through a window.

So sit down, put your feet up and enjoy the comics newest tag team.

Grade: B+

Deadpool #2
Writer: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn
Art: Tony Moore
Colors: Val Staples
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

Marvel came out with so many good books last week that it was hard to narrow it down to a couple for the sake of The Pull List.

In the end, the hilarity that is Deadpool reigned supreme.

More dead presidents have risen from the grave with the objective of cleansing the United States in order to save it. S.H.I.E.L.D. is growing impatient of Deadpool’s lack of results, but fear not.

The Merc With a Mouth has the historic cover model of the one hundred dollar bill on his side.

This series has been blessed with an incredible creative team and it is the art of Tony Moore that puts it over the top. The dialogue reeks of silliness from the usual verbal gems from Wade to the banter between the dead presidents that reference their most popular quotes.

Some runs have a strong first issue and so-so issues after that. I don’t think that is going to be a problem with this series.

Grade: A-

The Flash #14
Writer: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Francis Manapul
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

One of the great things about this particular run of The Flash is the passion that Francis Manapul brings to the table.

There is a level of characterization with Barry Allen that you don’t see with most of the DC Comics stable of heroes.

Manapul stated in April at Boston Comic Con that he wanted to bring Wally West into the fold but for some unknown reason, the powers that be won’t allow it. He said he snuck him into issue six to test the waters but DC caught it and made him change it.

This time, we may have seen our first sign of Mr. West.

He is under a different name right now but the way they bring this person into the mix may be a sign this beloved character is finally making his way into the New 52.

The meat and potatoes of this issue shows Gorilla Grodd’s harnessing of the speed force and chasing down Flash, on foot, all over Central City. The art perfectly illustrates how intense this chase is because it looks like the Flash is running for his life……because he is.

All Flash has is super speed while Grood has super intellect and super strength to go along with his new super speed.

What will come of our beloved speedster? Tune in next month. Same Flash time. Same Flash channel.

Grade: A

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1
Writer: Katie Cook
Art: Andy Price
Colors: Heather Brecket
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $3.99

I wasn’t going to read this book.

I mean, I’m 32 years old, but I’m also a child of the 80’s!

There was zero intention on my part to read the Pony’s tale of light and woe until the buzz on the internet began. I was intrigued, but not convinced, until I walked into the comic book store and the clerk told me she placed something into my pull list that I had to read.

I removed the glittery book from my folder and decided to give it a try.

The end result: multiple laughs and multiple smiles.

The younger ponies of Ponyville are trying to get their “cutie marks” in various activities. Before you know, every pony is being replaced with some zombie like entity.

Yes, not even the world of My Little Pony can’t escape the popularity of the undead as Rainbow Dash instructs Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Pinkiee and the rest of the gang how to properly act, drool and walk like zombies in order to go unnoticed.

Katie Cook did a wonderful job not only establishing distinct personalities for each pony, but also giving them their own voice. Andy Price’s art brings the story to life with vivid and fun detail. Facial reactions displaying all emotions from laughter, shock and anger made the story more effective.

Being an 80’s baby, I kind of grew up on this franchise. I never had the luxury of brushing the tail of a My Little Pony, but it was hard not to notice how popular this franchise was with younger girls.

Maybe there is a deeper appreciation on my part because of my year of birth, or maybe I just never knew how much I liked ponies.

One thing nobody can deny is that this series has had a strong first showing.

Grade: A-

Peanuts Vol. 2 #4
Writers: Charles Schulz, Mona Koth, Shane Houghton & Vicki Scott
Art: Matt Whitlock, Mona Koth & Vicki Scott
Cover: Vicki Scott & Paige Braddock
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Price: $3.99

I’m jealous of my thirteen pound Boston Terrier, Pug and Chihuahua mix dog named Yoda.

After his morning walk, he gets to crawl back under the covers and go back to sleep while I have to finish getting ready for work.

Sometimes, I think all dogs have it made. Then, I read Shane Houghton’s “Food For Fraught” and realized I might be wrong.

Snoopy is having a great day until the cat next door deprives him of his supper.

What is a dog to do?

This along with the other four chapters in this issue are excellent examples of why the Peanuts are the timeless classic.

Charlie Brown using math to calculate his chances of finally kicking the football and Pigpen expressing his affection via playground chalk are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The creative team BOOM! Studios put in place has done an amazing job of making something old feel like something new.

I’ll certainly think twice the next time I see my cat, Batman, headed towards Yoda’s food bowl, that’s for sure!

Grade: A-

Fatale #10
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips
Colors: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50

The masterpiece that is Fatale knows no limits.

The captivating nature in which Brubaker sucks you in to the story is awe inspiring.

The work of Sean Phillips is the exclamation point to the captivating nature of this series.

Considering all of this, it is not surprising that Image Comics announced Fatale will be an ongoing series! Josephine’s power over men has been the one thing no one can figure out.

A lot has gone down over the last ten issues and the plot centers around her but yet, we still don’t know why.

We get a little more insight into the nature of her seductive power.

There is also a clever back story which brings Nicholas Lash back into the mix. He is on the hunt for a missing manuscript that his godfather, Dominic Raines wrote and Josephine is in possession of it.

I’m not going to spoil the ending but let’s just say that it makes you realize how important that manuscript has been, and it was right under our noses all along.

Grade: B+

All New X-Men #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Stuart Immonen & Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors: Marte Garcia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

The idea of time travel is nothing new to comics, but the idea of time travel with the X-Men brings about all kinds of possibilities since it has been done before with the “Days of Future Past” story arc, which will be the focus of the next X-Men movie.

Brian Michael Bendis puts a new spin on the time travel scenario that brings about a bunch of shocking “What if” moments.

For example, will the younger Scott Summers slap around the present day Scott Summers for killing Xavier?

How will present day Wolverine react when he sees old school Jean Grey?

What happens when young Jean Grey sees the Xavier Institute that now bears her name and finds out that she is no longer among the living?

How will the Hank McCoy of the past react to seeing the fur coat he will wear in the future?

The overall story goes beyond these pivotal moments as the world is on the brink of a mutant revolution.

Grade: A

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