Wednesday, July 15, 2015

This Week's Comics 7.15.15

Small week this time, but every penny was well spent!

Black Canary #2 hit this week and I almost skipped on it.  Not because I didn't like the first issue, clearly I did, but I was thinking about being a bit more frugal with my comics dollar, and Black Canary was one of those that was good, but maybe not sponge-worthy.  I'm glad I went ahead and picked it up anyway.  This comic is a lot of fun, and it's very well written.  The approach is fresh and it makes me feel like I'm reading something hip, which probably means it isn't hip at all.  I like the traveling band angle, and all of the mystery surrounding our heroine (remember, all I know about BC comes from the Arrow TV show and tidbits here and there).  I'm not sure how long they can keep this up, but I'm happy to be along for the ride.  Next month, I'll not eye it with as crucial an eye.

And while Black Canary was confirmingly good, the real treat of the week was another "out on a limb" selection: Death Head.  I saw a solicitation for this comic last week that featured a few preview pages and found it intriguing.  I've never really read any horror comics, so I had no idea if I was going to pick this up or not, but I liked enough of what I saw to pay attention for it on the shelf.

If you read one comic this month, make it Death Head.  Again, I don't know from horror comics, but if they are all like this, then the genre is sorely under-represented.  For the first time ever, a comic book has creeped me out.  I really, really don't want to spoil the fun for you, but let me just say that there are several real moments of suspenseful dread.  No character feels safe, even if it seems like they are set up to be the protagonist for the series.  Best of all, the dialogue is as realistic as it comes.  Everyone wants to heap praise upon Brian Michael Bendis for writing realistic teenager dialogue by giving us hundreds of empty panels only broken by the occasional "hmm" and "uh" and "yeah," but as I've said before that's realistic dialogue no one really wants.  The dialogue in Death Head is both realistic AND entertaining. Bendis could take a few notes from these guys.

The art is great, creepy where it needs to be, but also bright and colorful to break the monotony of doom and provide contrast.  I think that contrast is part of what creates the tension and the feeling of insecurity.  You feel like at any moment the story is going to turn dark, really dark.  It's just smartly done all across the board.  It gives you just enough monster to keep you curious, but doesn't devolve into gratuitous gore or violence.  It is well paced and despite juggling a few storylines, it keeps everything clean and clear.  Best of all, these guys clearly know their horror.  They understand why movies like Alien and the first (and ONLY the first) Paranormal Activity work.  They also understand why the original (and ONLY the original) Poltergeist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre work.  All of that is very clear, just from this first issue.  I would say the feeling I get from this comic is similar to what I get when I watch TCM. (that's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, not Turner Classic Movies, that's a different feeling)

I enjoyed everything about Death Head and I am super excited for the next installment.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loves horror movies, but has never tried a horror comic.  This one is it!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

This Two Week's Comics! July 1 & 8

Yeah, so I went on a mini-vacation last week and missed updating you on the comics I bought.  Now you get two weeks worth and I get to tell you about some really great comics!  Let's not waste time, let's get right to it!

We'll start with the second issue of A-Force.  I was pretty interested in where this was going and the second issue didn't really disappoint.  I think the weakest part of this series is Battleworld itself.  The A-Force team is very interesting, but the "rules" of Battleworld both set the stage for the action and restrict the potential for what the team could be.  Super-hero teams need to work in a world that is grounded with known rules and status quo.  When the world that serves as the backdrop is still very new and a jumbled mix of other worlds, it makes it hard to fit the new team in a proper context.  I think I'll like A-Force more post-Secret Wars, but I'll stick with the team until we get there.

Next up, another second issue, Starfire #2.  If you recall, this was another "wait and see" comic that was going to be purchased solely on the value of the cover.  Well, obviously the cover was good enough to warrant a purchase and the interiors don't disappoint either.  If you are looking for a lighthearted alien super-hero comic, this will scratch that it.  I'm in.

Back to Secret Wars action with what might be the best mini-series of the lot.  1872 is the Old West, Marvel style, but very low on the steampunk or super-powers that you might be worried about.  Based on the first issue, this is a straight Western, just with characters you know.  Steve Rogers is the Sheriff, Tony Stark is the local inventor, and the Kingpin is the Mayor.  Things get dicey when Red Wolf wanders into town with a mission.  This might be the best comic I have bought in two weeks.  Highly recommended!  Can't wait for the next issue!

And before we leave the realm of Secret Wars satellite titles, let's take a look at the let-down of the week: Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.  The first issue was a little shaky, but I was ready to give it a chance.  The second issue didn't honor that chance.  I am now more convinced than ever that Dan Slott has no idea how to write Spider-Man or Peter Parker.  And, just like with A-Force, the fractured world of Battleworld is far too strange to provide a reliable background for really good storytelling.  Even so, this comic went from rocky to disaster in two issues.  This was a chance to really see the Peter Parker everyone wants, the one with a wife and child and the burden of still being Spider-Man.  Slott kind of gives us that story, but Battleworld complicates things unnecessarily and anything Slott may have been trying to do doesn't stand a chance.  Couple that with his failure to understand the characters he is working with and you've just got a mess.  I've committed to my comic shop to buy this entire series, but I'm going to see if I can get out of it.

With that out of the way, we can now turn to a couple of winners.  First, Princess Leia #5.  A great finish to a great series.  This story reaches it's conclusion in a very satisfying way.  Unlike the other two Star Wars launch titles, this comic simply set out to tell an adventure starring Leia Organa, not shock you with its incredible "Star Warsiness." I'll say no more and suggest you go out and read the whole thing start-to-finish and enjoy!

And when you've finished Princess Leia's series, pick up Lando #1.  In the exact same vein, this series seems to be satisfied to tell a great Lando solo tale (well, Lando and Lobot...).  Basically, this is a heist story with tons of Billy D level suave and smooth.  I had confidence in Charles Soule, one of the best writers in comics today and he did not betray that confidence. Staying very true to the character and not shoving Star Wars up your nose at every turn, this comic looks poised to pay out big returns!  Go get!

Which brings us back to "Do." And by "Do" I mean Secret Wars #4.  This is a big issue in the series.  With the set-up concluded in issue #3, we finally get some action and important action at that.  Since most of what happens is a big spoiler, all I will say is that the core series is far better than most of the satellite series I have read.  Secret Wars is a big event and it has everything a big event needs.  Thus far it has been pretty satisfying.  I see what Marvel was going for with the whole company-wide mega event, but now that we are into it, maybe this would have been better as a maxi-series that relaunched the entire universe, rather than taking the universe with it.  But, that's a bigger discussion.  On the small scale, the Secret Wars series is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the Marvel Universe.  (I opted for this really cool Captain Marvel, or is it Ms. Marvel, who can tell these days..., alternate cover because I thought it looked way spiffier than the original cover)

And that will do it for these two weeks.  Some pretty good stuff overall.  If you are looking for solid reads, go get 1872 and Lando #1, and maybe chase it with Starfire.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

All-New, All-Different Reaction to Marvel's New Line-Up

I'm reading all kinds of inside-the-industry responses to Marvel's 45 title post-Secret Wars line-up this week.  All most all of it glowingly positive.  Everyone seems to be excited about this creative team's take on this, or the mixed-up roster for that X-men team, or esoteric character Y getting his/her own comic.  And while I admit the information dump is a lot to take in, this old school comics fan isn't quite so ready to ask Axel Alonso to marry him.  (I have a few emails from Axel from back in my letter writing days when he was getting started at Marvel, so I feel like I have an "in" if nuptials are in order).

My initial reaction was almost entirely negative, jaded skepticism.  One discussion with my local comic shop owner and that skepticism has been tempered with some guarded optimism and a slightly more open mind.  Listen, I'm going to be honest with you, long-time readers know that I have lost a LOT of faith in the past 10 years.  They absolutely destroyed my favorite character (Spider-Man) beyond recognition, and they seem to have no idea how to handle the rich history or their universe.  It is VERY hard for me to have a completely open mind for anything Marvel does.  When you have been burned as badly as I have, you're just not going to get unbridled enthusiasm.  I think anyone who honestly sits there and tells you that you are looking at 45 issues of pure gold is lying to you.  There are dogs in this lot.  I promise.

So, in the interest of doing more than just writing a bitter, scathing critique of Marvel's new line-up, I decided to wait a few days and chew on the big picture, then give you a quick-hit review of my first impression of each of the 45 titles.  I know it sounds like a lot, but all we really have to go on are some covers, some blurbs, and a couple of interviews, so some of these are going to be pithy at best. At the very least, maybe I will be able to provide some much needed counterpoints to all of the industry cheerleading that is going on out there.  You'll also notice that I am far less up the butts of the creators involved than most of the people out there.

Carnage:  Why does Carnage get his own comic book?  I know he's been a bit of a fetish for Marvel lately, but I just don't see this character carrying an entire comic, even with the legendary Gerry Conway at the helm.

Venom: Spaceknight:  I am so over Venom there really isn't much more to say.  Honestly, the character lost something the minute he became the Lethal Protector.  Larsen ruined him with the tongue and once he left Eddie Brock, there was no reason for him not to just become Carnage.  Now, he's off in space doing god knows what?  Is he still Flash Thompson?  I'll pass.

Ultimates:  Galactus and Black Panther are together on a super-hero team and you expect me to pay money for that?  No.

Web Warriors:  I'm going to call it now, this book does not see an issue #5.  Peter Porker?  In a universe with "real" human people, we have a Fred Hembeck cartoon.  Never mind the rest of the "Spider-verse" nonsense that is here, Spider-Ham is the final straw.  I don't even think the fan-ravenous Spider-Gwen can save this mess.

Spider-Man 2099:  I would be all over this one, actually, but the "Smack to the Future" blurb is so blowful that any excitement I had gets undermined.  I am hoping Peter David will prove me wrong.

Spider-Woman:  If you are 8 months pregnant and you even think about doing anything super-heroic, then you are a bad person.  Shock value will get everyone in the door, but I'm not convinced that there is more here.

Daredevil:  DD is one of those characters where I honestly feel that every story has already been told for Matt Murdock. Unless you just drop him back to street level and let his heroics be the outlet for his need for justice that is not met by his lawyering by day, you really can't do more to DD than has already been done. There is some intrigue that results from the Gambit-esque protege, but that's about all.

Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.:  This one is so bizarre it will either work like nobody's business or it will be done before Christmas.  I like the line-up of monsters, but I'm not convinced the premise works.

Amazing Spider-Man:  Like with Daredevil, all of the good Peter Parker stories have been told.  All of the best ones were told before issue #401.  Marvel has finally admitted this and they've just gone ahead and made him Iron Man, down to having Spider-Man be PP's body guard.  Yes, it's that bad.  I'm already working out the retcon for this one.  Dan Slott has had a long run on Spider-man comics, but he's done very little that demonstrates he understands the character at all.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but they should have left Doc Ock's mind in there.

Spider-Man:  Our only hope for a good Spider-Man comic lies with Miles Morales.  He's still a kid, I think, and he's still street level, I pray.  This is the only chance we have.

Ant Man:  I'm ready to skip over this one, but the supporting cast of C-List villains is giving me pause.  If it's handled correctly, this might be the dark horse of the lot.

Silk:  I know nothing of Silk.  I gather she is a shining beacon of goodness that emerged from the smoking pile of crap that was "Spiderverse," but I honestly know nothing.  It's the taint of Spiderverse that keeps me from seeing what this is all about.  I'm sure I'm missing something, but again, the taint.

Uncanny Avengers:  Let's reach into our character grab bag and the first 6 characters we pull out, we'll team with Deadpool and Spider-Man because those two sell a LOT of comics.  No.

Uncanny X-men:  Pick 4 mutants that no one cares about (sorry Psylocke) and let's team them with Magneto.  No.

All-New Wolverine:  Never mind the fact that, if this comic book makes it, a name change will be in order in a couple of years, I've never cared for X-23 in any way, but I am heartened to see a status shift handing the Wolverine mantle off to a different character, even if it is a full grown daughter from another universe, time line, dimension, something.

All-New X-men:  Again with the name thing, but honestly if an X-men comic has a chance, it's this one.  The 60's X-men were an interesting gamble when they were brought into the current Marvel U, and they were a fresh commentary on how dumb the X-men had become.  Can they avoid the same fate as those they came to mock?

Extraordinary X-men:  Look pretty ordinary to me.  And Ramos cartooning up the art chores will not help.

Old Man Logan:  This one is likely worth reading.  Everyone is nuts over this grizzled older version of the furry runt, so there is probably something here worth seeing.  At the very least it's a fresh take on a character that has been done to death.  (why no Old Man Peter Parker?)

Nova:  He's never been able to carry a book before.  Why now?

Karnak:  Another book that is so unlikely that it will work or flop right out of the gate.  Warren Ellis is capable of doing some great stuff here, but I'm not sure Karnak is the right platform.  It will take Paul Jenkins level work to breath life into this character.

Hawkeye:  This is another case of "50 million Elvis fans can't be wrong."  I'm willing to give this one a pass just on the fan excitement.  Will I read it?  Probably not.

Sam Wilson: Captain America:  I don't know why we need the "Sam Wilson" part of this, but I'm pretty excited to see a real successor to Steve Rogers that makes sense.  I only hope they commit to it and really give Sam a chance to be the great Cap I know he can be.

New Avengers:  You know who's counter-culture popular right now?  Squirrel Girl. Can she carry a team comic?  Maybe, but just in case, let's toss in Hawkeye and the Young Avengers.  No.

Illuminati:  Bendis so loved the Hood that he made him way cooler than he ever should have been.  But he had his day in the 00's.   This one doesn't get into the double digits.

Scarlet Witch:  And the Vision also gets his own comic.  Neither one should be able to carry a solo book.  Untapped potential?  Maybe.  Riding the coattails of House of M and hoping for a popularity resurgence?  Likely.

Star-Lord:  Guess who's red hot popular right now:  Guardians of the Galaxy.  Guess who the leader is?  Star-Lord.  Let's stretch the readership extra thin by giving him his own comic.  If they make him Space Han Solo, they have a chance.

Guardians of the Galaxy:  The curse of Venom ruins this for me.  I liked the "original" new team back in '08, but this has morphed into something I cannot recognize.  And the original original Guardians fan in me is screaming for justice.  No.

Spider-Gwen:  I know the fans are all hot and bothered about this, but for me, Gwen Stacy fell off a bridge and died in EVERY MARVEL UNIVERSE ever.  Having her become Spider-Man (woman?) is the dumbest thing I can think of, apart from her having kids with Norman Osborn.  She wasn't anywhere near the accident that created Spider-man, alternate universe or no.  And calling her Spider-Gwen is incredibly stupid too.  Fans are hungry for more Gwen Stacy, I get it.  That's what caused the whole clone saga which, in light of the past 20 years, now looks like a Marvel Masterwork.  It may be well written, it may be popular, but to me any thing that resurrects Gwen Stacy diminishes both her and Peter Parker.  I just can't go with you on this one.

Ms. Marvel:  I know next to nothing about this one, but I give Marvel props for trying to shake up the status quo.  Not enough there for me to be interested though.  It's possible this one just isn't for me.

Drax:  Maybe this is the new Silver Surfer comic for those looking to get their cosmic fix?  None for me thanks.

Angela:  Asgard Assassin:  The best thing Marvel has done in the past decade is acquire a new character they hadn't already written every possible story for.  Now they've mixed her in with Marvel's resident, accessible godhead? I'm in.

Howard the Duck:  Didn't work in the '80's.  I see no reason why he works now.

Deadpool:  If there is one character who defines all that is wrong with Marvel Comics it is this one.  Ever since they decided he would break the 4th wall and be a commentary on comic books, he became a never ending Jay Leno monologue: not quite actually funny, but funny enough to keep going long past the natural end of the gag.  Any attempt to actually develop the character is undermined by his self-awareness.  People will buy this for the same reason plenty of people watched Leno, but that doesn't mean either one are actually worth watching.

Squadron Supreme:  Has this long suffering team finally found a regular comic they can call home?  Maybe, if you like D-List Avengers who walk the line between super-hero and anti-hero.  In the past that has been hardly anyone...

The Mighty Thor:  I am so glad this isn't called "She-Thor" or something miserable.  Still, it's Thor, just the title passed to Jane Foster.  Probably worth a look in the post-Secret Wars era.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I can't wait to read a boring comic book based on a boring TV show.  Oh, wait.  Turns out I can.

The Vision:  I like the Vision more than I like the Scarlet Witch, but I haven't really followed the character in years. Is he still a kid?  I'll probably thumb through this and then make a call.

Uncanny Inhumans:  I like Charles Soule.  I'm bored of the Inhumans.  For my money Paul Jenkins had the first and last word on this group.  But I still like Charles Soule.

Contest of Champions:  If this is what it looks like, then the Maestro is going to pit Marvel characters against one another in gladiator style combat.  If that's what this is, and that's all there is to it, I'm in.

Captain Marvel:  Just not a character I have ever had much affinity for.  If she's your favorite, then I hope they do her justice.

All-New, All-Different Avengers:  Why is Miles Morales on this team of otherwise heavy hitters?  Because the Avengers cannot exist without a Spider-Man, dammit.  Spider-Man means sales.  Otherwise this is a strong team.  But Miles has school.

Doctor Strange:  If I had to pick a hyper-stylized artist to like, it would be Chris Bachalo.  I've liked his Doctor Strange in the past.  Let's hope the Sorcerer Supreme can make another go at a regular comic.

Totally Awesome Hulk:  I hear it's not Banner.  Speculation is that it's Amadeus Cho.  As long as we are done, done, done with all of the Red Hulks, Purple Hulks, Yellow She-Hulks, and so on, I'm willing to give the Hulk another look.  But you have to promise me we are done with all of that.

A-Force:  I'm kind of liking this during Secret Wars, so if I still like it when Secret Wars is over, I'll likely keep going.

Invincible Iron Man: We already have an Iron Man book in this announcement.  It stars Spider-Man.  This book is redundant at best.

So all in all I'm looking forward to about 4 of these books, Spider-Man, Contest of Champions, Angela, and Captain America.  There are a lot of iffy titles, and plenty of outright "no thank you" books out there.  It will be interesting to come back in a year and see what still stands.  My bet for first blood is Web Warriors.  That thing has Slingers written all over it.  If you haven't seen all of the covers and blurbs for all 45 announced titles, you can check them out at CBR here.

The Original All-New, All-Different...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Week's Comics 6.18.15

A bit of a random sampling this week:

 Let's start with Black Canary #1.  We've been watching the 3rd season of Arrow this past month and it is Black Canary heavy (and man, is it the very best show on TV right now), so seeing this on the shelf was timely.  I don't know all that much about the character (like Starfire last week), but there was sufficient interest to get curious about what comic book Black Canary was all about.
Apparently this reboot is something of a new take on the character, but that's ok, I have no historical bias with which to take umbrage.  In this version "Black Canary" is the name of a rock band and the lead signer is the hero of the group who keeps bringing her crusade into the venues and essentially destroying the band's career.  In this issue, there is a polarizing event the solidifies the band into a team against some strange alien monsters.  It might sound like it's all a bit much, but honestly, it works.  The characters are interesting and likable and there is a good balance of action and character work.  Best of all, at no time does it feel like the rock n' roll/punk music aspect is patronizing.  Black Canary is a punk rock group and that's the backdrop for the action, but there's no heavy handed "look how hip and modern this is" stuff to put you off.  I am much reminded of Dazzler comics or the New Mutants stuff with Lila Cheney.  Best of all, this issue is a complete story. Unlike Starfire last week, this comic tells a full story AND makes you want to see what's next.  That's how you do comic books!
I'll be back for more Black Canary for sure.

Meanwhile, the third installment of Archie vs. Predator was on the rack this week.  This time the Riverdale gang is being picked off one-by-one as the Predator works his way toward Betty, whose possession of a sacrificial knife sparked the killing spree to begin with.  The full juxtaposition of the gag plays out this issue as the gang reacts to the gruesome acts of violence in the best way they know how.  There is a certain amount of disbelief as well as they fall back into some standard gags about Jugghead always eating or Archie being Billy Everyteen.  It's continuing the fun, but not quite as entertaining as the previous issue.  Even so, I'll be picking up the final issue so we'll see how well the gag finishes.

Finally, so as to not let Marvel have all the fun, IDW launched their own $1 comic series this week. Called "One Hundred Penny" comics, like their Marvel predecessors, these are reprints of first issues of IDW's most popular titles.  In addition to Star Trek #1, they offered comics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers.  I picked Star Trek because I've never read any Star Trek comics before and I was interested to see how they were handling the modern version of the crew.  I am pleased to report that this issue feels just like a classic episode of Star Trek.  Best of all, the scripting is nearly perfect.  The characters sound like they should and they say things that you would expect to hear them say if this were in fact an episode of the show.  In essence, this comic perfects translates the show experience onto the printed page.  At this point, I'm more sorry I failed to jump on years ago when this comic started.  There are collected editions, though, so I can catch up!  Looks like IDW's plan worked perfectly, even if it was Marvel's plan first...  If there is an IDW title you've been interested in, this is your chance.  It will also be interesting to see if DC and Image follow suit...

That's it for this week.  What comics are you reading?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The PURGE: Marvel Comics Presents #49

I still recall purchasing this comic book.  It could not have been more exciting.  My (then) favorite artist drawing my all-time favorite hero and a popularity-juggernaut mutant.  The cover alone was staggering to my teenage brain.  Well balanced, striking, with both characters large and bold against a background of webs, this thing practically leaped out into my hands.

The interiors were equally awe-inspiring.  Honestly, apart from a few issues during the Return of the Sinister Six storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, this might be some of Larsen's best work from this era.  I'm going to spend this entry gushing about the art, so be forewarned.  The story (and the additional stories in the comic) are really secondary to the quality of the artwork put out in the feature.  Briefly, some bad guys have kidnapped a young mutant and it is up to Spidey and Logan to liberate her.

Maybe it's Joe Rubenstein's inks, which are a perfect compliment to Larsen's pencils, or maybe Larsen was just on fire at this point in his career, but in these scant 8 pages are some of the best drawings of Wolverine and Spidey I have seen from this era of comics.  Check out this panel of Wolverine and Spider-Man bursting into action:

Spider-Man's anatomy is absurd, a trademark of Larsen's tenure on the character, but it's a good absurd.  It's dynamic and spider-like, only with half the appendages.  And check out Logan at front.  Sure, that left thigh is kind of crazy, but man, what a splash!  He's mad, he's ready for action, and he's just busted through the ceiling of a seaside warehouse.  This one panel alone tells you this is going to be one hell of a rumble.

Since Marvel Comics Presents is basically Wolverine's comic at this time, the web-head takes a back seat in the action, but he does get one exceptional solo panel that is less exaggerated and more traditional, but no less striking and awesome:
It should be noted that Larsen also wrote this story and honestly handled the webslinger's zany dialogue without overdoing it, or relying on instantly outdated topical humor, something so many writers seem incapable of doing.  But that shot of Spidey above is classic.  As a kid I would have given anything to have drawn a Spider-Man that good.

Again, the real focus here is Larsen's Wolverine.  It doesn't matter whether it's larger action shots like these:

or smaller incidental panels like this one (I apologize for the dreadful lighting):

Larsen really nails the character.  The costume is exaggerated a bit as is the anatomy, but never so much that it becomes the over-stylized mess that permeates the work of artists today, like this:
Sure, Larsen likely opened the door for travesties like the one above (sorry Ramos, you are capable of better work than this, I've seen it), but his work had more restraint and skill.  Those action panels of Logan fighting the claw woman, whose name escapes me, are exciting and dynamic.  I wasn't a huge X-men fan at the time, but work like this got me really excited about the Wolverine character.  Larsen just made him look so cool!

And while we are talking about Erik Larsen art in MCP, check out his amazing inks on the legendary Steve Ditko's pencils from this Human Torch story from MCP #83.  Honestly, this is as good as Ditko art had looked in years.  Larsen manages to add the dynamic touch that Ditko's plush dummy figures need to really pop.

I'm not trying to ding a true legend, I mean the man is responsible for Spider-Man, but his later stuff has trouble holding up to the work of the then-masters like Larsen, Lee, and McFarlane.  Look at that last panel, the close-up of Moth's face.  That is only possible through Larsen's inking skills.

I've always thought Erik Larsen was one of the best, most consistent talents in the industry and looking back at his work in Marvel Comics Presents only confirms that belief.  Needless to say, I'm keeping this run of comics.  Thanks for looking back with me!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

This Week's Comics 6.11.15

Small week this week.  I picked up one comic and that one on a whim.   Honestly, I bought Starfire #1 based on the cover alone.  I mean, look at that:
It's a thing of beauty.  Not just because Starfire is an orange skinned alien princess, but the composition and coloring is scientifically designed to sell comics.  This is one of those covers that jumps off the shelf at you.

I have no idea who Starfire is really.  I laugh at her character on the Teen Titans Go! cartoon when my son is watching it, but other than that I know very little.  So, with this amazing cover and the also scientifically designed #1 tag, I figured this might be a great starting point for a new reader.

Well...the actual comic provides some of that opportunity, but it also falls victim to some of the common failures of modern comics.  There is a very nice and succinct expository moment at the very start of the the comic that explains all you need to know about who Starfire is.  That part is exceptional.  It gets you right into the action with knowledge of who the character and what her deal is.  And since it does in the course of 2 pages, you have the entire rest of the issue to tell a complete and compelling story that gets me anxious to read more.

But that's not exactly what we get.  What we get instead is yet another set-up issue.  Instead of being a self-contained story, this issue sets Starfire up and leaves us with a cliffhanger introduction to what appears to be the villain of the story.  Oh, sure there is conflict in the form of Starfire needs to fit into society and do things like find a job and a place to live, but those pedestrian concerns, while humorously written, are a bit mundane even by juxtaposition for the character we are meeting.  They also do not make for an interesting first story.  Finding a job and a place to live as PART of a full story wherein Starfire might also do something heroic, like save some innocents from peril or battle a villain would be a full, well-rounded story worthy of a single issue.  This used to be standard procedure for new comics once upon a time.  But all too often these days, the first issue is designed purely to set up the series or the next issue.  This is comic book extortion in a way, giving you half a product and charging you full price in the hopes you will pay full price again for the other part of the story.  It's ugly.  Marvel perfected this strategy in the early 2000's.  And honestly, it's part of why I left the hobby.  So at the end of this issue, Starfire appears shocked at the appearance of someone or something called "X'Hal."  I am going to assume this is a bad guy to be fought next issue.  A complete comic book would have told me...

That said, Starfire #1 does have a saving grace.  Despite being a set-up issue, it is very well scripted and its tone is upbeat and fun.  Starfire herself is smartly naive and cheery and her supporting cast provides a nice, not overdone, human contrast to her alien nature.   She is instantly likeable in her Mork-ness without it being cliche or forced.  This is good as her supporting characters need to like her and want to help her as much as we do.  Since we don't get a full story this issue, we don't get to see too much diversity in her characterization, but what we do see holds a lot of promise.   Amanda Conner clearly has a talent for scripting and I'm willing to bet plotting as well.  Set-up issues are generally an editorial decision dictated by the accounting office.  I honestly believe good writers want to write full stories.  I hope we get to see the full brunt of her talent as the series goes on.  From what I read she is getting rave reviews on the Harley Quinn comic.

I'm still waffling on whether or not I pick up issue #2.  Maybe if I get another eye-catching cover, I can be more easily persuaded.  There is certainly something here worth considering...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

This Week's Comics 6.3.15

A surprisingly large week for me, just getting back into the hobby.

We'll start where we left off last week with Archie vs. Predator #2.
And I'm proud to say that my fears of last week have been alleviated.  Page 2 of issue #2 pays off the entire set-up from issue #1.  Juxtaposition is the heart of comedy and this page proves it.  The rest of the issue continues to pay it out in a very bizarre way.  The Riverdale gang is thrown up against something the likes of which they are totally unaccustomed to, but rather than just freak completely out and cower in the malt shop, like maybe they totally should, they take the offensive and try to figure out just what is hunting them down.  Can they do it?  I'll be picking up issue #3.

Next up is Secret Wars #3.  You may recall I was looking for this issue to also pay off a couple of issues of set-up.  I'm not yet sold on the entire premise of Battleworld, mainly the Doom is God stuff.  It just seems a bit much.  BUT, issue #3 FINALLY introduces the surviving heroes from the original and Ultimate Marvel universes into Battleworld.  Since they are really the only characters we have any history with, it is refreshing to have them as anchors in what has otherwise been a mad, mad world.  There are some interesting revelations and thankfully enough steam to keep me going for a few more issues unless something gets really stupid.  Marvel needed a save here, and they managed to eek it out.

While we are on Secret Wars related comics, the first issue of Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows hit this week.  This is the only Spider-Man comic I have had any interest in for years.  This is supposed to be as close as we are going to come to the real Spider-Man starring in a comic again.  (for those of you who don't know, Amazing Spider-Man #400 was the last issue to star the real Spider-Man, after that Marvel just simply lost all notion of how to handle the character and spent the next 300 issues systematically destroying the character.  It's like the Simpsons...)  I was extremely nervous about reading this as my faith in Marvel's ability to handle my favorite character has been betrayed like my faith in Star Wars to have meaningful movies beyond the original trilogy.  And despite a few bumps: the Parker child is named Annie for some reason, not May, this issue delivered a good story about Peter Parker in a post-baby era.  There are rumblings that the overall story is going to take a galactic-level bent, but for at least this issue the story was kept pretty street level with Venom showing up to attack the Parker family and Spider-Man giving him a beat down the likes of which we have never seen.  Being a parent DOES change you.  Will future issues hold up?  I'm in for #2 and I'll let you know.

Finally, we come to Princess Leia #4, the penultimate issue in the limited series.  This comic has delivered every single issue.  The story is tight, the art is great, and it manages to stay true to the original characters and universe.  Issue #4 continues that trend and ramps up the story as we build to next issue's presumably awesome climax.  If you've not been reading this, and you like the REAL Star Wars, go catch up.  You will not be sorry!

One critical note:  take a look at the panel below.  While the art has been solid every issue, this one panel bugs me.  It looks like Artoo was originally drawn thinner, more narrow (hence the hatching shade like along his backside), but somewhere along the line someone said, "he looks too thin," so someone went back in and made him thicker.  He doesn't look quite rounded.  He looks a bit lumpy on the back side and the inking isn't quite a smooth.  It's a minor detail in an otherwise wonderful comic, so I'm not busting too many chops, but it does look off.

So those are this week's comics.  All in all, a good week.

Friday, May 29, 2015

This Week's Comics 5.28.15

This week I went off the beaten path a little bit and picked up Archie vs. Predator #1.  (this is a four issue limited series that is already on issue #3, but for the sake of starting at the start, I picked up #1 this week).  Since, I'm coming back to comics, I thought it worth the time to stretch my mind a little bit and pick an occasional comic that is nothing like the super hero comics that dominate my collection.  Archie vs. Predator is perfect in that capacity.

As juxtaposition is the heart of all comedy, the premise is absolutely solid.  However, the actual comic itself falls victim to one of the chief ills of modern comics:  failure to deliver a full story.
Basically, the Riverdale gang goes on vacation in the same exact place where a Predator ship has landed.  The gang runs afoul of the obligatory Betty vs. Veronica conflict, has an encounter with the snobby prep school kids, and then decides they like staying in Riverdale better than going on vacation so they go home.  That's it.  They never encounter the Predator.  Oh, sure, the Predator stalks them and it appears kills the two prep school kids and strings them up, but even when the gang has fresh human blood dripped upon them from above, they blithely march on, completely ignoring the waiting horror above.  Maybe this is the joke?  Maybe the payoff comes next issue (as the Predator seems to have stowed away in some of Veronica's luggage to make the trip back to Riverdale), but I paid $4 for a comic called Archie vs. Predator and the titular claim is never validated.  I hate paying for the set up of a joke and then paying separately for the punchline.  That is NOT cool.  It's like if the movie Predator ended when Arnold's team caught the girl in the village.  NOT cool.

So, while I really like the concept here, the execution falls very flat.  I am on the fence about picking up issue #2.  I still kind of want a payoff to issue #1, but I'm not ready to shell out another $4 on the chance that the story actually happens in issue #3.  This is what happens sometimes when you branch out...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

This Week's Comics 5.20.15

Two years ago, I stopped buying comic books.  My son was just born, and time and money were in rapidly decreasing supply.  Likewise, the quality of the comics I was buying was also in decline.  So, in a move I couldn't have fathomed a decade prior, I quit buying new comics.  I started living on a steady diet of back issues and that is what lead to my current PURGE project. (see recent entries related to comics)
I kept my eye on the comics scene during my absence from partaking and honestly, I didn't get the impression I was missing much.  Then came Marvel's announcement of their upcoming (now current) Secret Wars event.  Secret Wars promised to fix everything that was wrong with the Marvel Universe and return the Marvel Empire to its previous glory.  Being a die-hard Marvel fan who quit in disgust, this naturally intrigued me, so I started following along by reading great comic book news sites like CBR. At the same time, the lovely wife was really getting into classic Disney Duck Comics, the collected works of Don Rosa and Carl Banks specifically (with big help from CBR Pipeline writer Augie De Blieck Jr.).  As luck would have it, Disney was about to launch new Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck comics.  So I took this as a sign that the universe wanted me to take another look at my beloved hobby once again.

Long ago, I used to do a feature called the Comic of the Week, or something, that no one ever read. In that time honored tradition I am going to start sharing with you the comics that I am buying and let you know how my return to comic readership is going.  I'll likely not buy comics every week as I am only getting a very few, but whenever I pick some up, I'll share my insights with you.  Maybe this will help inform your own comics purchases, maybe not, but either way, my opinion will be out there, which is honestly where it needs to be.

So without further ado, here are the comics I bought this week and some thoughts to go along with them:

First up, is A-Force #1.  Marvel's Secret Wars all female Avengers team!  My fear is that this is a gimmick comic that will sell strong for four or five issues and then vanish, but based on the first issue it is worth at least a look.  I have no idea which universe these characters are pulled from, but it can't be the main Marvel U because there are all kinds of crazy things going on.  So if you aren't overly familiar with She-Hulk or Loki or Captain Marvel, that's ok.  You'll get all you need from the story itself.  The first issue is a better-than-average set-up issue that delivers a full story and does a better job of explaining Secret Wars than Secret Wars #1 or #2 did.  I'll get issue #2 and see where this one goes.

Spawn #252.  I was super excited when Paul Jenkins was named the writer taking over for McFarlene, but he's off to a bit of a slow start.  We are two issues in, and while I get the general gist of the plot, the finer points are being lost on me, mostly because I've been out of the Spawn universe for about 8 years and I'm not sure why he has Venom teeth or what his relationship with Malebolgia and the rest of the cast is.  I'm trying to stick with it because I believe in Jenkins' ability to tell awesome, character-driven stories, but this one needs a kick in the pants to get going.  I'm good for about two more issues if things don't pick up.

Finally, True Believers:  Age of Apocalypse #1.  Marvel is doing something really smart here for once.  The True Believers line is a series of one-shot issues that spotlight some of the biggest storylines in Marvel history.  For instance, this issue, Age of Apocalypse #1 is a reprint of X-men: Alpha #1 which launched the now legendary Age of Apocalypse story.  There won't be an issue #2, but there are smartly placed ads for the trade paperbacks that collect the whole story, so if you like what you see, you know where to go.  The best part:  these comics are just $1.  That's right, $1.  And what's more, there are NO ADS, except for the ones in the back for the trades.  It's a genius way to celebrate the rich history of the Marvel U, introduce new readers to classic stories, and get everyone geared up for Secret Wars.  It is no coincidence that each True Believer comic spotlights a Marvel Era that is represented in that story. Again, smart for once.  I have seen TB one-shots for things like the Infinity Gauntlet, Iron Man: Armor Wars and Ultimate Spider-man.  So I'll probably be picking up a few more of these.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ultimate Guide to Tutankham for the Atari 2600

NOTE:  I am attempting to port over all of my old "Ultimate Strategy Guides" from the old site (circa 2002).  The site is archived somewhere deep in the annals of the internet and that is my only resource for retrieval.   I apologize that for right now these will be text only, but I hope to migrate them all over at some point and revitalize them for everyone's enjoyment!  Thanks   

Ultimate Guide to Tutankham 
by yer ol’ pal Stan
This game gets a lot of flack from arcade purists because the poor old VCS cannot handle a true arcade port; however Parker Bros. Tutankham is an excellent game if you don’t care about its arcade origins. The premise is fun, the action is faced paced, and there is enough of the arcade carried over here that the spirit of the game is not totally lost in the translation (on top of all of that, the manual is very well written and gives you lots of neat Egyptian stuff to read about) You don’t have to like it as an arcade port, but if you approach it as a game on its own merits, Tutankham can be a very enjoyable run-and-shooter.
But enough! You did not come here to have me defend the game; you are looking for tips and tricks, so let’s get to it! Tutankham is based on a very cool idea: you are a tomb raider (before such a thing was cool) exploring the secret chambers of King Tut’s tomb (all 4 of them). As you race through the ancient tunnels you are ambushed on all sides by creatures trapped in the catacombs for thousands of years, and man are they hungry (ahem). All you have in your defense is a gun and a handful of flares! So let’s talk basics.
1. Do not get killed.
2. Find the Key that will unlock the door to the next set of catacombs.
3. Find the locked door and proceed to the next level.
4. Along the way, claim as many ancient treasures as you can!
Sounds simple, right? Well its not! Creatures pop out of nests at the worst times, usually just as you grab that sacred ruby or some such. Your supply of bullets gets used up quickly as you fend of the monsters on your way to the exit. The labyrinth is a true maze and if you are not looking you can get trapped. Each catacomb is a maze full of secret passages and carefully guarded relics. So to help you out, yer ol’ pal Stan is going to give you a guided tour of each Burial Chamber so you don’t get lost and you can rack up the big scores! So put on your hat with the little flashlight thingy on top, because we are going in search of the lost tomb of King Tutankham (and maybe we’ll find out why they misspelled his name: see also Tutankhamen?)
(SPOILER WARNING: This is a COMPLETE walkthrough of this game. If you don’t want something ruined, please read ONLY the GENERAL TIPS section at the end.)
(COOLNESS ALERT! If you would like to view the ENTIRE map of each Burial Chamber at once, please visit (PLEASE NOTE:  This link is from 2002 and is, sadly, dead.  Ben had an amazing map) Pitfall Harry’s Map Room here: Ben Valdes has worked incredibly hard to create these beautiful maps for Tutankham and they are definitely worth a look. I could not have compiled this guide without the help of these maps! Enjoy!)

(Please consult the manual for creature and treasure images, I will be referring to them by the names given there)

You start out right in the thick of the action. Directly beneath you are a creature nest and the all too important key. This is as basic as you get, blast the critters, nab the key and get out of there! Your only escape is the not-so secret passage below the starting point.

The next two treasures will require a little more skill. You can run right over and grab the Silver Crown, but a creature will sprout from the nest below! Quickly run back to the left and the creature will pursue in the tunnel below. Suddenly reverse direction, drop into the tunnel with the creature (usually a Scorpion) and blast it! Then drop down and pick up the Royal Ring. As you come back up, another creature will generate (usually a Royal Cobra), blast it and proceed to your right.

Now you will build on the strategy you just used to nab the Ruby. The Ruby is dead opposite you in the tunnel, but two creature nests below will make getting any further very frustrating! Run left as fast as you can, a creature will pop out of the nest on the left (often the Giant Bat). If you move fast enough, the creature will follow you left in the tunnel below and become “stuck” in the nest. Grab the Ruby and head down the central passage. Blast any chasing creatures and get below as quickly as possible.
The giant bat is stuck in the nest and will not pursue when you drop into the tunnel
Things get a little trickier! You can see the Gold Chalice just ahead, no sweat! Problem is, it’s a trap! As soon as you grab the Chalice a monster will spring from an unseen nest below. There is no way to get into the large room and shoot the beast in time, so do this instead. Stand in front of the room’s doorway as the creature approaches. When it gets close, lure the creature into the tunnel with you by running right. Blast it! Now try to enter the room. If a new creature spawns, repeat the above “lure” trick. Keep doing this until you can safely enter the room (there is a 2 or 3 second gap in creature generation after every five or six releases). Enter the room and bear left as fast as you can. This will put you in the alcove with the Gold Crown. (A creature may be chasing you as you enter the alcove, blast it before you get the Gold Crown). Now pop out of the alcove, and blast your way across the room to freedom (well kinda’).

You are almost out! All that lies between you and the exit is a secret passage and a creature nest. Zip through the passage, a monster will spawn, blast it and make for the door! Open it, take the Map, and proceed to Burial Chamber 2!!!

All of the skills you just picked up will be used in the second catacomb, only things will get much harder quickly!

When you start out all looks peaceful, but there is a creature nest dead ahead that will give you headaches! As you move left, a creature will spawn from the nest below left (they generally spawn in this order: Turtle, Jackals, and finally Blue Condor, usually after several Jackals). DO NOT ENTER THE TUNNEL WITH IT!!! Instead lure it up into the upper tunnel with you by moving back right. Blast the creature. If another spawns use the lure trick again. Finally, when that “generation gap” occurs make your way into the lower tunnel, but be quick, you need to grab that Gold Crown from the lower alcove as you run. If any creatures spawn while you are in the lower tunnel, blast them of course. (Don’t worry about the nest on the right, it will be inactive for at least the first 3 rounds). After grabbing the Gold Crown, run right and grab the Ring from the upper alcove.

Do not rush down into the next set of passages, wait until a new creature spawns from the nest at the start of the game, (don’t wait to see the creature, hearing the “slurping” sound is enough), then run down through the zigzag passage QUICKLY! If done correctly you will miss the first creature that will spawn from the new nest below. (Do not worry about the nest on the left it will be inactive for several rounds) You may need to blast a creature before you continue down the zigzag passage.
Ok, so the screenshot made my guy disappear, but stand right above the downward path and wait for the enemy to spawn, then dash down

It’s the KEY! Carefully tucked away in an alcove right above a nest! A tight spot indeed! Drop into the tunnel with the nest and start shooting. Hit the creature as it leaves the nest, grab the key and then get out (blasting behind you as you run). This is a true hit and run situation, timing is of the utmost importance. Drop into the lower alcove and access the secret passage. Take a breath.

Directly below you is a very large room. Along the left wall lies the Emerald. Bottom-center of the room sports a nest and a very narrow exit. A tricky spot, but you can use a trick of your own to reduce the danger: Get in, get out! Wait in the alcove at the top of the room. Drop down ever so slightly and allow a creature to spawn. DO NOT go any deeper into the room than the first step once the creature appears! The creature will come straight up at you. As it comes, run to the niche in the left or right wall (If you run left, the creature will follow you up along the wall, if you run right the creature will continue straight up and then come at you). When the creature is on your level, blast it and make for the emerald. If a new creature spawns, repeat the above niche trick, if not grab the Emerald and make for the exit below. (If a creature is generated after you grab the Emerald its best to repeat the niche trick again to access the exit). Creatures will still generate after you leave the room, but few can manage the narrow gap to get at you, mostly they will get stuck. (The Turtle is the exception; he will pursue you into the catacombs below!)

Believe it or not, you can grab the Goblet without shooting anything or having to look over your shoulder! But you are about to begin the mad dash to the exit! In the tunnel below, a creature will spawn from the nest in the center and start to hunt you. VERY CAREFULLY, lure the creature into the tunnel you are in and blast it! (Don’t let it get “stuck” in one of the holes in the top of the tunnel or you’ll have to drop into the tunnel to blast it, not a good idea) Drop into the tunnel, grab the Bust and start blasting as creatures pop out of the central nest again! Head right and drop into the tunnel below!

Four Nests and a Vase are all that’s left! A creature will spawn from the right nest in the tunnel below (the left nest is inactive) and start hunting you. If you are fast you can run left and drop into the tunnel with it and blast it. If not, you will have to lure it up into the uppermost tunnel and then make your way down. Once you are in the middle tunnel keep blasting any creatures that may spawn. When you reach the right side, DO NOT drop into the lowest tunnel! Wait for a new creature to spawn from the nest right next to you (Again, don’t wait until you see the creature, just listen for the “slurp”), as soon as it generates, drop into the lowest tunnel and run left as FAST as possible. When done correctly, you will NOT encounter a creature in the lowest tunnel.

Open the locked door, take the Vase and proceed to Burial Chamber 3!!!

Now things get hard! Chamber 3 is a much tougher ride and you will have to combine all of your skills and wits to survive and grab ALL of the treasures! Here we go!

You will start in a passage on the left. Both the Trident and the Ring are available for pick-up and are well guarded by a hyper active nest, but if you start out with a plan, getting both can be very easy. Try this: Drop into the tunnel with the nest and shoot the Snake. Run left and grab the Ring from the lower room. Pop up and blast the Lion. Run right. Turn and shoot the emerging Moth. Run up and grab the Trident. A new creature will spawn and wander. Sit in the Trident tunnel until it wanders away, then drop into the tunnel and blast it! You may run left or right, but get down to the lowest hallway. Creatures rarely chase you any further. (Creatures spawn the way I listed above 95% of the time)

There is only one passage to the tunnel below in the center of the hall. A creature will spawn from the right nest below (the left is inactive for now). If the creature is a MOTH, lure it up into the tunnel with you and blast it, then try again. If the creature is NOT a Moth, run to your left and the creature will follow you in the tunnel below. Quickly reverse direction, drop into the tunnel and blast it. Be ready to blast any other creatures that may spawn as well. Run right and access the secret passage.
Here the lion is tracking you, but he is too slow to catch you if you reverse direction and drop down and shoot

You can pick up the Herb no problem. The next section is made of two parallel tunnels. The top tunnel holds the Diamond in an upper alcove. The bottom holds two ACTIVE nests (that usually spawn Moths and Lions). You can use the two passages between the tunnels to your advantage. Drop into the upper tunnel. When a creature spawns, lure it up and blast it. Make your way to the Diamond and then work your way down into the lower tunnel. Drop through the exit in the center. CAUTION: A creature may follow you, keep your eyes open.

The next room is very odd. The entire right side, the larger chamber, is completely empty (there are a few inactive nests on the right wall). The narrow left side holds the Key and the game’s first invisible nest in the upper middle. The best way to get from the right side to the left is a small crevice in the center of the broken dividing wall. A moth will spawn (95% of the time, the other 5% usually sees a Lion). DO NOT enter the left side with the Moth, draw it into the right side with you, and then blast it. (More ideally, shoot the creature just as it enters the crevice in the wall, while running at it!) After killing the Moth run into the left side and up into the alcove with the Key. Head straight down very, very quickly. If done fast enough, you will dodge the monster spawning on your heels. If not you may have to waste a flare or run back into the right side of the room. The new monster may follow you through the passage below, keep your eyes open and shoot behind you as you move.
Moths tend to spawn one right after the other, but there is often a gap between other creatures.  Kill all of the moths and when something new spawns, kill it and make your move on the key.

The final section is very unusual and features one of the best “cheats” in the game! The upper tunnel features a series of long dead ends and terminates in a final down passage on the far right. This is where the cheat comes in. Straight down that passage is an active nest (note: both nests in that tunnel are active!) that will spawn the moment it is visible. DO NOT waste a flare! Instead, sneak down the passage until you hear the “slurp” of a creature being spawned. IMMEDIATELY reverse direction and head back up the passage. The creature will not appear if done correctly. Reverse direction again and head back down the passage. If you do not hear a “slurp,” all is clear and you may descend into the lower tunnels. If you do hear a “slurp,” repeat the “cheat” again. Once in the lower tunnels, keep your ears open. Creatures can spawn from either nest and come at you. 

Make your way over to the Candelabra and then down to the locked door. Grab the Cat Statue and get ready for the toughest Chamber yet!!!

This is the toughest chamber by far. You will have to use all of your old tricks plus learn some new ones if you plan to reach Tut’s tomb! And we start off with a bang!

Be ready for action the minute you start the Chamber. Immediately make your way to the secret passage in the center of the maze and zip to the other side. Quickly hide in the annex below the secret passage. A Virus will usually spawn first and slowly follow you into the annex. Blast it and run up so that you stand directly left of the nest. A Monkey will usually spawn, SHOOT IT! Then run past the nest, snag the Key from the alcove and be ready to shoot another Monkey. Make a break for the secret passage again and zip back across (because a Mystery Weapon can pop out of the nest and kill you).
Get here immediately and then wait to kill the virus when it comes down, then haul ass for that key
The large room below hides an invisible nest in the upper right corner. This nest LOVES to spawn those Mystery Weapons. Be ready at all times. You will need to blast the creatures that spawn, grab the Neck Ring and make a break for the central exit (the nest lies directly above the Neck Ring). Rarely will they be able to squeeze through the crevice to pursue you. 

The next series of tunnels can be tough. Drop into the tunnel with the two nests. The left nest is inactive, but the right nest and the nest in the right passage below it are both active! Something will spawn from the right nest and come for you, blast it! Run right and up into the annex above. Grab the Amulet, and get back down, quickly. A new creature will spawn, blast it and head down the right passage. (If you are not fast enough, a creature can spawn from the lower passage nest and you will have to lure it out or waste a flare.)

Zip through the secret passage, and a creature will spawn from the nest above the passage. This is the ONLY time in the game you should use a FLARE. (This is the only way I know of to get the Fan) Use a FLARE, snag the fan from the hallway, and run down the passage. A creature may pursue if you are too slow. Lure it down into the tunnel below and blast it.
If you don't use a flare, your timing will have to be perfect to get the fan
The next treasure will take some skill to get. The nest in the center of the maze will spawn mostly Monkeys and Weapons and often two at a time. When a creature spawns, run just right-of center in the tunnel above. The creature will follow in the jagged hallway below and get “stuck.” Get the Crystal while you are at it. If a second spawns you can “trap” it the same way (occasionally it will “stick” in the nest itself). Once you have trapped the creatures, return left and make your way down to the Zircon. This next bit is VERY tough. Carefully lure the “trapped” creatures into the small hallway with you and blast them. No new creatures will spawn until both are destroyed (95% of the time). When both are destroyed, drop down the right passage and into the final room.
If you stand here, the enemy will get stuck where that monkey is and you can pursue from the right without (much) fear.
There are only two nests in this giant room, both are active and both are in the worst possible place. The only treasure is the Dagger, but it’s worth the trip! The left nest is the most active but the right nest can surprise you at the worst times, so don’t dally around it! Here’s how I get the Dagger and get out safely: Follow the right most passage past the right nest. Go all the way down and out of the main room. Travel past the locked door at the bottom of the Chamber and start back up the left passage (if you unlock the door, the Chamber will be completed and you will not get the Dagger). QUICKLY, move toward the Dagger. Grab it and immediately reverse direction. A creature will spawn from the nest above (99% of the time it’s a Mystery Weapon). As fast as possible, return down the left passage. The creature will usually get stuck along the way and be unable to follow.

Now you are free to unlock the final door and claim Tutankham’s Mask for yourself! But don’t rest on your laurels, you are about to embark on the quest again, only this time its MUCH more difficult.

Here are some things to help you along the way.
TIP: You don’t have to see a creature to shoot it. Once you hear the “slurping” sound that precedes creature generation, SHOOT! You won’t see the creature, but you will see the “explosion” from its destruction. This can save you a lot of time in tight situations and get you a few extra points once you learn the generation routines.
TIP: Creatures generate in sequence. Usually one or two will spawn, followed by a 2 or 3 second gap. Then more will generate. Occasionally the number will increase to 4, 5 or 6 between the “generation gap.” You can use this time to slip by dangerous nests. As the game difficulty ramps the number released will increase.
TIP: Some nests are inactive early in the game, but become active more regularly as the difficulty ramps. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times each round. Be ready for unpleasant surprises!
TIP: Nests usually cannot spawn if they are off screen. You can use this to your advantage to keep troublesome nests quiet. There are exceptions, though, so use with caution.
TIP: If a creature leaves the screen, it is usually gone. If you run fast enough up and down you can run creatures off the screen and not have to worry about them. Of course, this could also get you in bigger trouble. Know your catacombs well before running around all willy-nilly.
TIP: You will get an extra FLARE each time you complete Burial Chamber 4. Budget your FLARE usage carefully. To avoid wasting FLARES during movement, remember that you CANNOT shoot up or down; therefore there is no reason to press the red button if you are moving thus. Lay off the trigger finger. Learn when and how to use your gun effectively, plus you will conserve ammo. (Important later in the game!)
TIP: You probably won’t have to worry about conserving ammo in the first two rounds, just blast away. Once you get to the third or fourth round of searching the tombs, your bullets will really drain. Conservation of ammo can make or break you.
TIP: The collision detection in this game is not the best. Avoid close calls at all costs. You may think you can blast a creature as you run past, but too often the creature will get you first. When possible, shoot from a distance. I call this shoddy collision detection “Tut’s Curse.”
Questions, comments, tips of your own? Let me know! I’m always happy to answer feedback and include your stuff!
Final note: The above guide is for the cart version of Tutankham; the information may be inaccurate if you play the game on an emulator.
My best score on Tutankham is 2610