Friday, May 31, 2013

Magician's End - A Review

How can I sum up this book - the final in a series that I've followed since I was a teenager?

Single words come to mind.  Disappointing?  Only because this is the final chapter.  Unsatisfying?  Only because there is so much left unresolved.  Bittersweet?  Yes, that seems the most fitting word of all, for there is much to admire and much to be annoyed about in this final volume of The Riftwar Cycle.

There's little I can say about this book to one who isn't already familiar with the world of Midkemia.  Those who aren't, I would advice tracking down a copy of Magician: Apprentice and starting from the beginning.  Or, if you're more the gaming sort than a reader, download the Betrayal at Krondor RPG based on Feist's novels.  This game served as my introduction to Feist's world and a darn good one it is too!

For those of you who are familiar with Midkemia and the series, I will say this.  The title is a spoiler and it promises exactly what you'd think.  We get to see many of the series' most popular characters again in some form or fashion and most of those we don't see get name-dropped at some point.  Many mysteries regarding the cosmology of Feist's universe are explained in a satisfactory manner and even what does not get explained can be written off as being the result of our characters' understanding being limited.  In that respect, the series ends The Riftwar Cycle quite well.

The points upon which the saga does not end well are the personal storylines of some of the characters - minor in the most recent round of books but major foci in the previous series.  So if you were hoping a certain warlock and his demon-smiting ex might reconcile and get back together?  Sorry.  They're both barely in this one and only in a few battle scenes.  Anyone hoping for a grand reconciliation of all the various elven clans?  It doesn't happen, though there is some suggestion that things will be different between them in the future.  And even as tribute is paid to certain characters, some go unmentioned.  Surprisingly, Pug fails to name his first son William and adopted daughter Gamina as he talks about all those he misses dearly in one speech.  And while references are made to many of Feist's earlier works, there's little said about others.  I was particularly grieved to see no mention of the characters from The King's Buccaneer - still my favorite of Feist's books to this day!

Still, that is fitting in a way.  For one theme of this book is that life goes on, with or without you.  And while many of our favorite heroes are dead and unable to act as our lens into the world of Midkemia anymore, we do know that the story will go on, though we may never hear it.  Either way, reading this book made me wish to reread all the Raymond Feist books I've ever enjoyed again.   And perhaps that is accomplishment enough for this book.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Red Sonja #76 - A Review

I had thought the Red Sonja series was ending with Issue #75 in anticipation of the upcoming Red Sonja series by Gail Simone.  And now, having read Red Sonja #76, I wish it had ended at #75.

Be warned fans of the She-Devil of Hyrkania - this is not a Red Sonja tale.  Red Sonja stories feature a strong, bold woman standing up against monsters, both human and inhuman, striking a blow against all who would oppress the innocent and enslave the weak.  This comic centers around a hapless victim, who could be replaced with a house plant without the plot having to be changed one iota.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Apparently this story is meant to take place immediately after the events of a crossover mini-series called Prophecy, which I did not read.  I didn't find this out until I sat down to write this review and saw the credits page, where there is a note mentioning that fact.  It would have been nice if there had been a Stan-Lee style text box ("AS SEEN IN PROPHECY #6, TRUE BELIEVER! - SMILING STAN") telling people that somewhere in the actual comic. 

As it is, the only reference to Prophecy in the actual book is a one-page montage that does little to clarify matters.  The text talks about the rumors of what happened to Sonja while she was disappeared from the world but doesn't tell the reader what actually happened.  The artwork depicts several characters (the only one of whom I can identify is Vamperella) whom I assume were also in Prophecy, but does nothing to name them either. 

This page of exposition comes after an opening prologue that has nothing to do with the rest of the action of the book.  Things truly start with Sonja waking up tied to a stake with a fire at her heels.  She breaks free easily enough and is confused when the townsfolk who were burning her seem terrified of her.  She is then rescued from the lynch mob by a group of mysterious men on horseback.

I will repeat that again, because I think it's rather important - Red Sonja has to be saved from a lynch mob of peasants by a group of mysterious men on horseback

It gets worse.  The only reason these men saved Sonja was because they somehow know more about current events than the oddly amnesic Sonja.  Apparently Sonja has been turned into a vampire of some fashion and it is the hunter's intent to use her to curry favor with another prominent hunter and use her as bait for the vampire lord who created her, who naturally wants Sonja as his eternal bride.

It's at this point that I must take artist Sergio Fernandez Davila to task.  Davila is a far more competent artist than his predecessor Marcio Abreu, but, sadly, that competence has been turned toward cheesecake.  Sonja is unnaturally posed throughout and the most prominent splashes in the comic involve her being in some form of bondage.  Ignoring that, there are instances of certain characters and objects being over-outlined or under-inked - sometimes on the same page! 

This comic is terrible on every front.  Perhaps it makes more sense if you've read Prophecy but I doubt it.  In any event, it would have been better off being directly marketed as a sequel-series rather than published as part of the regular Red Sonja monthly book.  When a long-time reader like myself is unable to follow the story without going on-line, you have a problem.  When your Red Sonja storyline features Sonja  being treated as an object to be used rather than a bold heroine, you have many problems.  And when your artist seems more interested in drawing women in bondage than women in battle, you have a whole mess of problems.  And the largest of these problems is this - this doesn't feel like a Red Sonja story and it's not any kind of Red Sonja story I want to read. 

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle - A No Flying, No Tights Review

For over a dozen novels and a goodly number of short stories and novellas, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files have delighted millions of readers around the world. It’s fair to say that Harry Dresden may be the most famous supernatural detective in modern fiction. A fully ordained Wizard of The White Council, Dresden is also an accredited private investigator and the Chicago Police Department’s go-to guy for any supernatural weirdness that the cops can’t explain away as business-as-usual.

The series is full of comic book references, such as Harry’s car, an oft-destroyed and oft-rebuilt Volkswagen Beetle, being named after the superhero “The Blue Beetle.” As a character, Dresden himself seems to be a mix of Marvel Comics influences – think “What If Peter Parker Had Become The Sorcerer Supreme Instead Of Doctor Strange?” It’s no surprise, then, that Jim Butcher recalls his love of comics as a kid and their influence on his writing in the introduction to this volume, the first original graphic novel starring Harry Dresden.

The plot centers upon a murder at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Harry is brought in to investigate the death of a night watchman who was beaten to death by something much stronger than he was. The best theory the police have is that one of the gorillas somehow escaped its locked enclosure and turned savage. It’s a flimsy theory, but it’s enough to make the city demand the accused gorilla be put to death, despite the protest of the zoo’s primate experts that gorillas are docile and attack only if threatened. In order to save Moe the Gorilla’s life – to say nothing of the lives of any future victims – Harry must put all his skills as a detective and a wizard to the test.

This story is set in the early days of Dresden’s career, so comic readers unfamiliar with the novels don’t need to worry about references to the books that they won’t understand. Indeed, Butcher does a masterful job of introducing all the established players besides Harry himself. These include Lieutenant Karrin Murphy (Harry’s main contact with the Chicago PD), her skeptical partner Carmichael, and Bob The Skull – a spirit of knowledge bound in a human skull who acts as Harry’s research assistant and comedic foil. On the other side of the fence, fans of the Dresden Files who aren’t regular comic readers will be glad to know this graphic novel reads just like one of Butcher’s regular novels, despite the inclusion of some pretty pictures.

The pretty pictures are provided by the always excellent Ardian Syaf. Syaf’s character designs perfectly capture the look and spirit of each of the established characters. Harry is a tall, lanky man who resembles an unshaven Peter Parker. Karrin Murphy is a short but powerful-looking woman with hard eyes that don’t seem to fit the rest of her pretty face. And Bob – well, he looks like a skull with glowing orange eyes. More importantly, Syaf is an excellent visual storyteller who can match Butcher’s scripts for tone and pacing. The action scenes are laid out well and flow naturally from panel to panel.

If this is your first exposure to the world of the Dresden Files, you are in for a treat. If you’re a long-time Jim Butcher fan who has never read a comic before, I think you’ll see the appeal of the medium by story’s end. And it should be obvious to all why this story was nominated for a Hugo Award and why it made the ALA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens list in 2010. This novel is wholly appropriate for teenage audiences, containing nothing worse than a few curse words and some mild violence. Despite this, I would still recommend librarians place this series in their adult fiction collections (assuming you don’t have a separate adult graphic novels section), where it may be more easily discovered by Dresden Files fans who don’t usually read comics.

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle
by Jim Butcher
Art by Ardian Syaf
ISBN: 9780345507464
Del Rey/Dabel Brothers, 2008
Publisher Age Rating: (13+)

Arrow #34 (Web Comic) - A Review

One of the best things about the Arrow web comic is that it gives the writers of the show a chance to tell stories that might not work within the confines of the show.  It also gives them a chance to answer questions that nit-picky fanboys like me might ask regarding the specifics of certain questions.  Questions like how Oliver Queen was able to get a plane to jump out of, in full costume, with no questions asked, when he rescued Walter Steele.  Now, we could just assume that he found a discrete pilot, paid cash and had Felicity scramble the paper trail with the FAA after the fact... but where's the fun in that?!

'You Owe Me' tells the previously untold tale of how Ollie was able to procure said pilot's services.  More than that, it's a rousing adventure tale that offers much beyond pleasing continuity hawks like me.  Indeed, this story offers another step in Oliver's development from a mere avenger into a proper hero and champion of the oppressed.  Props to Marc Guggenheim for the story and Ben Sokolowski for the excellent script.

Victor Drijiniu and Juan Castro do an equally impressive job on this issue's artwork, which is much improved from their last outing on this book.  Ollie's appearance is much more consistent and a good caricature of Stephen Amell.  Eveyrthing is shaded in a manner that is atmospheric without deluging the page in darkness.

Bottom Line?  Buy this book!

Injustice: Gods Among Us #20 - A Review

One might think that with the Injustice game released and the storyline largely outed to the world at this point that there would be little in the tie-in comic that might be surprising.  One would be wrong, for Injustice #20 offers us several honest surprises as well as some fine drama.  Tom Taylor has done it again!

Taylor's story this time is light on action but high on suspense.  The story centers around a mysterious distress signal coming from the heart of the ruins of Metropolis.  Naturally The Justice League is convinced this is a trap but Superman is still determined to protect the people of his city... even if there's only one left.  And in the midst of this they are being watched by an unseen observer - a mystery for another issue to explore. 

Tom Derenick's artwork is as clear and crisp as ever.  His character designs are impressive and naturally posed.  Everything is well-inked.  The only problem I have with the artwork is a coloring mistake by Alejandro Sanchez, who renders Hal Jordan's brown hair as black throughout the issue.  Apart from that, this is a great issue sure to please long-time comic readers and fans of the game who have yet to get into the comics that inspired it. 

Aquaman #20 - A Review

When Geoff Johns first introduced the idea of The Others during his second big Aquaman storyline, I wished that more time had been spent developing the team and showing their adventures.  Made up of a variety of unique characters whose only common bond was possession of a magical Atlantean artifact. The Others represented something I feel that The New 52 was largely lacking - history, diversity and something we hadn't seen before.  Guest Writer John Ostrander takes a closer look at these characters while introducing a new team member in this interlude issue, which shows the surviving Others taking on a mission that Aquaman can't, due to all the things that currently have him busy in Death Of A King.

Those familiar with Ostrander's work on Suicide Squad will find much to enjoy with his script here.  Like The Suicide Squad, The Others are made up of people who do not always get along with one another but are professional enough to put aside their disagreements for the common good - one way or the other.  Ostrander also deserves some credit for further diversifying the team, introducing a new Native America hero, who avoids being stereotypical despite her mystic origin.  Ostrander also reveals something of Ya'wara (the only jungle-princess character I can think of in modern comics who isn't a blonde-haired Caucasian) and her romantic preferences that further sets the character apart from the common cliche.

Sadly, the art fails to live up to the script.  Manuel Garcia's pencils are competent enough and his figures are crisp and clear in places.  The problem lies with the inkers, of which there are four.  Anyone who doubts the power of an inker to make or break a comic would do well to take a look at this issue and take note of how the inking in this book is far from uniform.  The inking is too thick in some places, too thin in others and just right in a rare few moments.  I applaud DC Comics efforts to give work to as many artists as possible but it would be nice if this book had a single inker or greater effort was made to ensure a more consistent look. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Doctor Who #9 (IDW Vol. 3) - A Review

Whovians may find themselves confused at first by Doctor Who #9 - the first story in this comic series to feature Clara Oswald as The Doctor's companion.  There's quite a lot here that doesn't seem to match up with what we know of Clara from the second half of Series 7.  Chief among the problems are Clara's staying on The TARDIS over-night when the series depicted her only going on day-trips with The Doctor.  Also, the library of The TARDIS doesn't match its' recent appearance in Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS.

Thankfully, the fans who can work past these problems or think of a clever hand-wave (The TARDIS can easily have more than one library or the desktop could have changed) will discoverer a wonderful story with a steam-punk theme.  The focus is upon Clara along with a crew of WWII-era American Air Force pilots.  All of them have been stranded in the same strange pocket dimension, whose weaker gravity allows steam-powered engines to be practical. And where is The Doctor in all of this?  Spoilers. ;)  

The artwork by Andy Kuhn is simple but serviceable.  Kuhn's style is sketchy and highly stylized.  Normally, it wouldn't be the sort of art I'd enjoy but I think it fits the dark and dirty setting well enough.  It may not be pretty but it does set the mood effectively. 

Constantine #3 - A Review

 There is much to admire about the new Constantine title.  The writing by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes is stellar, of course.  The artwork by Renato Guedes is among the finest you'll find on the shelf today.  But it's the little things about this book that I like the most.  Small touches like how the first page of every issue so far recaps the action of the story thus far while still giving us some of the ol' Constantine snark.

A nice touch specific to this issue is the writers subtly addressing one of the more frequent complaints about John Constantine in The New 52 and doing so in a way that makes perfect sense while opening up avenues for future stories down the road.  In this case, we finally learn why John has been globe-trotting so much and not spending any time in London.  It seems a curse lain by some unspecified baddie in the past has left John with a severe allergy to his adopted hometown.  Even if John can find a way to temporarily shield himself from the city literally sucking the life out of him (as he does in this issue) he still has to contend with synchronicity finding a way to kill him through a traffic accident or some other random disaster.  

If you're a fan of Hellblazer who has resisted the enchantment of Constantine thus far, I urge you to give this book a shot.  Let it work its' magic on you.  I'll think you'll find it as enchanting as I do.  No bollocks. 

Star Trek (2009) - Live Tweet Commentary

My friend Keith, after learning that I still hadn't seen the 2009 Star Trek reboot, loaned me his copy.  I live-tweeted my thoughts as I watched it.  Here's the transcript of that night.

PG-13 for Sci-Fi Violence? Well, I'd bloody well hope so!

Yul Brynner is Captain Kirk -

Hot undocking the shuttle action!

Jeez. The Spaceballs evacuated their ship with more dignity.

(As the shuttle leaves the ship through a tunnel as Kirk is born)
Heh. Don't need to be Freud to figure THAT one out.

I swear, this music was also in Forest Gump!

(As young Kirk is being chased by the cop on the hoverbike)
And suddenly I'm having Warrior of the Lost World flashbacks....

Young Kirk is dressed like Marty McFly Jr.

You'd think a purely logical Vulcan youth would have better sense than to poke a bee-hive.

Just goes to show, regardless of species, teenagers are always dicks.

Half-Vulcans may not have invented sarcasm but they did perfect it.

I was thinking "Their quota for new recruits must be down" just before Kirk said it. Ha!

Insert "DAMN YOU MAVERICK!" joke here.

Anyone else get the urge to make cracks when they say Kirk violated Star Fleet directives?

Things went all B&W news-reel there for a moment.

So... any reason why skirts are still required on female military uniforms in the future? Especially in space?!

(To Sulu failing to start the ship properly)
.. did they just make a bad Asian drivers joke?

 (After we hear Chekov's accent for the first time)
Was it a Womulan Ship? Was theiw leader named Bigguth Diccuth?!

(After getting a good look at Nero's forehead tattoos)
Meanwhile, on the Last Airbender's ship...

@GeekyGeekyWays don't call him that, you would not like him when he is angry....

@MayhemComics Oh yeth. I'm sure I wouldn't want to wouse the wetched Womulan warlord's wath!

I am Newo the Womulan!

The Romulan ship looks like a Shadow Vessel from . I mean... Shadow Wessel.

Huh. Music went all John Williams there for a moment....

(After the guy in the red suit falls off the drill)
There went the one person in Star Fleet more reckless than Kirk.... .

(As Kirk lands on the drill)
And now, to remove my helmet so everyone can see my perfect hair and handsome face!

Not to be difficult but... that's not fencing, Sulu.

Pike looks like he's thinking "God, just kill me. I don't want to hear your life's story...."

Nero has the same voice as the Hudzen 10 android that was sent to replace Kryten on .

I believe Mr. Spock to be in violation of Directive 40.09. No Vulcan is allowed to give oral sex in zero gravity.

I see why the Trekkies didn't like this, for the most part. This plays more like a episode than .

Of course he's Scott! What else could he be with that outrageous accent, you silly Vulcan!

Kirk gets his ass kicked a lot in this reality.

Ok. That was all pretty damn good.

Here, we see your red blood cells in action....

Heh... customary departure self-serving.

And the movie that does everything that was done before ends with a line about boldly going where no one has gone before.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Justice League #20 - A Review

 Justice League #20 is something of a mess, in terms of both story and artwork.  Reportedly, the main story was laid out by one man and then illustrated by three different pencilers and three different inkers.  Art by committee works even less often than writing by committee and it really doesn't work here.  Even accounting for the differing styles at work, everything looks horribly uneven.

The story by Geoff Johns, focusing primarily upon the newest members of The Justice League as they fight the telepathic powerhouse Despero, isn't much better.  Johns does his best but the underdogs fighting outside of their weight class story has been done to death.  Not helping matters is that much of the "charm" of this issue depends upon your enjoyment of the flighty bimbo that is Element Woman or the continual squabbling of the two teenagers who make up Firestorm.  And given that Fury of Firestorm was cancelled this month, it appears that the vast majority of comics fandom find the antics of Ronnie Raymond as tiresome as I did when they played this exact same conflict out during Brightest Day

There's only two things that save this comic at all.  The first is the Shazam back-up story, which finally seems to be gaining some legs or maybe I'm just viewing it more sympathetically now that Billy Batson is beginning to act like the hero he should be.  The other bright side in all this is a scene involving several of the Justice League founders and Superman having a talk with Batman about his creation of protocols to take down every other member of the Justice League... including himself. 

This book seriously needs one artist, one inker and one person deciding its' look.  The multiple teams working on the main story this time around do not work well together.  And Johns would do better to develop his new characters alongside the established crew for a time rather than throwing them all into a spotlight that none of them deserve yet. 

Dallas Comic Con ~ The Other Pictures

I didn't mean to sit on these for so long, but I did want to wait for official permission from the photographers before I shared these pictures with you all.  Note that I'm not sharing every single picture I was later tagged in on Facebook - just the few that I thought were unique enough to be of interest.

Prince Eric with Black Canary and Green Arrow. Photo by Sarah Muller. 

Hawkeye vs. Green Arrow.  Hawkeye portrayed by Brendan Spano.  Photo by Vicki


Green Arrow vs. The Joker.  Photo by Jonathan Nguyen

Green Arrow with Boxing Glove Arrow.  Photo by Jonathan Nguyen.

Green Arrow and Black Canary also made the gallery of photos for the local ABC affiliate.  My thanks again to Lill Miss Whovian for being my Pretty Bird for the day.  If you're on Facebook, go check out her page. 

Red Sonja #75 - A Review

Though the last pages of Red Sonja #75 declare this the end of the lost Nemedian Chronicle of Sonja The Red, we know that Sonja's adventures will continue shortly in a new series written by Gail Simone.  I hope some of the readers Simone will no doubt attract to this title are inspired to take a look at the preceding volume.  For Eric Trautmann has ended this volume and his run on Red Sonja with an epic to end all epics.

Even now, the issue opens with a splash-page detailing the action thus far - a rare thing in comics these days and even rarer in the final issue of a long-running one!  Describing the action thus far past an epic battle between an established villain and the forces Sonja raises up against him seems pointless, given the complexity of the tale so far.  Besides, Trautmann does a fine enough job summing things up on his own.  By issue's end, all the outstanding story-lines are settled and all of Sonja's debts are repaid.  Trautmann even revives one plot-thread I had foolishly thought resolved - the matter of Sonja's evil twin, created through a dark magic mirror. 

Sadly, the artwork doesn't come close to living up to the story.  I've complained in my past reviews of Marcio Abreu's failings as an artist and my previous complaints still stand.  His faces look odd and his characters poses are forced.  He also has a curious habit of magically manifesting white schoolgirl panties about Sonja's loins whenever he decides the artwork requires an upskirt shot.  That is something I shall not miss in the coming volume of Red Sonja

Perhaps Trautmann might come back to the Scarlet She-Devil in a mini-series at some future date?  We can but hope.  Still, if this is the last time he ever writes Red Sonja, at least he went out on a high note.

Justice League of America #3 - A Review

Justice League of America #3 is the kind of story Geoff Johns writes best, in my humble opinion. Johns is best known today for his grand space epics yet my favorite Johns' stories were always his smaller, more character-driven works.  Our main story here reminds me quite a bit of Johns' JSA and Hawkman, featuring a lot of small scenes which unveil more of our less-developed cast members as the team continues to investigate a secret society of super-villains. 

My favorite moment, perhaps out of an obvious personal bias, involves Stargirl and some discoveries regarding her family and home-life that definitely set her apart from the character Johns created for Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. as a fledgling writer.  I still want to know where her Cosmic Staff came from since there isn't a Ted Knight on this Earth to have built it.  Is there?  Maybe? 

David Finch does his usual excellent job on the pencils, with Richard Friend offering a friendly assist on the inks.  Finch's style approaches photo-realism without seeming traced or posed.  His inks subtly shade the surroundings in a way that adds to the drama of Johns' script.  Consider in the above page how Stargirl is always in the light while Walker's face is always half-shadowed or turned away from the reader, symbolizing both their roles on the new Justice League of America team - The Star and The Shadow.  Face and Hand.

The back-up story by Matt Kindt is a rousing good read as well.  This story focuses upon Martian Manhunter performing a mind-scan on Catwoman to confirm her motivations and trustworthiness before she is allowed to join The Justice League of America.  This sequences serves as a far better introduction to Catwoman's character than anything else I've seen in the New 52 thus far.  It reminded me somewhat of Jim Butcher's descriptions of a wizard's soul-gaze in The Dresden Files books even before the bit where Selina is somehow able to stare back into J'onn's mind and gets a glimpse of just how alien he truly is.

This second story is ably illustrated by Manuel Garcia with inks by David Beaty.  The team does a fine job of depicting both the dark alleys and urban sprawl that makes up most of Catwoman's memories as well as the otherworldly forest that make up J'onn's memories of hunting on another world.  It is a perfect complement to Matt Kindt's story.

Justice League of America is everything you could hope for in a JLA book.  If you haven't started reading it already, it's not too late to catch up.  I think you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Green Lantern Corps #20 - A Review

I delayed my review of Green Lantern Corps #20 for two weeks, since this issue was meant to be an epilogue to this week's Green Lantern #20.  I wanted to read that issue before I commented upon this one, which is to be Peter Tomasi's last.  Surprisingly, given the fanfare over Johns' departure, there has been no similar outcry for Tomasi's leaving this series.  To my mind, this is a shame since Tomasi had an important role in developing the Green Lantern books over the last few years as well.  If Geoff Johns can be called the architect behind the revival of Green Lantern over the last decade, I think Peter Tomasi should be considered the engineer.  Johns made the plans but Tomasi frequently put the pieces together and made things work.

Sadly, Tomasi's conclusion is a mixed-bag of sorts.  Most of the non-Earthling Green Lanterns this series focused upon are absent, with drill sergeant Kilowog and major domo Salaak showing up just long enough to confirm that they're alive.  Even John Stewart - forced into an afterthought of a storyline trying to revive Mogo for most of the last year - is treated like a footnote, as he and long-time enemy Fatality have a sudden whirlwind romance that comes out of nowhere.  Thankfully, the majority of the issue - focused upon Guy Gardner's efforts to save his family from an alien killer with a grudge - is more enjoyable.  

I'll miss the artwork of Scott Hanna and Fernando Pasarin on this title as much as I'll miss Tomasi's writing.  I've long been of the opinion that Pasarin is one of the most underrated artists working at DC Comics today and this issue showcases Parasin's unique talent for drawing constructs as well as unique-looking aliens.  Hanna's inks perfectly walk the line between definition and shading, looking picture perfect in every panel. 

Conan The Barbarian #16 - A Review

Your enjoyment of this month's Conan The Barbarian may be dependent on your feelings on psychodrama in a sword-and-sorcery story.  Those who have disliked Brain Wood's more spiritual take on Conan in recent months will find little to like in this month's issue.  Similar to recent issues which had our heroes experiencing psychic dreamscapes and prophetic dreams, the focus of this issue is upon Conan and Belit - currently at leisure in the Ophirean equivalent of Plato's Retreat - deciding to drop yellow lotus together and experience a shared dream. 

Whether it's because Dark Horse Comics refused to show something positive coming of recreational drug use or because a comic showing two stoned barbarians dry-humping each other while having a shared erotic dream would be rather difficult to keep within the parameters of a 16+ series, things do not go smoothly.  Conan starts having a bad trip, including visions of the zombie corpses of the companions he betrayed to join Belit's pirate crew.  And that's just the first of many waking nightmares for our favorite Cimmerian as the issue progresses.  Wood's script is well-written but I suspect that many Conan fans would like to see Conan and Belit face a foe of flesh and blood, who cannot be outwitted or bargained with.  Let us see the blood and thunder a story set in Hyboria should have - not another psychodrama!

Thankfully, the artwork of Davide Gianfelice is enjoyable even if you are sick of these story-lines based around battles in the mind.  The artwork is a perfect complement to Wood's script.  I enjoyed Gianfelice's work on Daredevil: Reborn and his work here is similarly dark and atmospheric.

Personally, I found this to be an enjoyable issue of Conan The Barbarian.  I dare say this would be a good jumping-on point for new readers, though I would warn away those who turn to Conan expecting mindless action stories.  There's very little action to be had in this issue and there's nothing mindless about it.   

Green Lantern #20 - A Review

With Green Lantern #20 Geoff Johns has done for the Green Lantern mythos what Alan Moore did to Superman with Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?  Told in a distant future through the frame story of a newly appointed Green Lantern wanting to hear the story of the final battle of  The Dark Ages, this story - titled simply The End - marks the end not only of Johns' nine-year run on the main Green Lantern book but also the end of many of the innovations he brought about during that time.

Backed by a team of several fine inkers, Doug Mahnke pencils most of this issue with his usual flare.  A large number of guest artists take up the art duties on the book's penultimate pages, which depict the final fates of most of the major players of the Green Lantern universe.  Everything is beautiful and I have nothing further to add regarding the artwork.  What more can I say? 

If the quartet of Green Lantern-related comics currently published by DC Comics were to cease publication forever after today, this would - for the most part - be a great way for the saga to end.  For the most part?  Yes, I do have a few complaints and here comes the part where I warn away any who do not wish any spoilers of this issue's story.  So SPOILERS AHEAD!  You have been warned.

I have no complaints about the better part of the issue.  Johns writes a space epic like nobody else and the brunt of this issue is devoted towards one heck of a cosmic battle.  Damn near everyone in the series' history gets involved in the final fight with The First Lantern.  There's even a few-fan favorite characters who show up that I don't think ever appeared during Johns' tenure, like G'Nort.  My issues come with what comes before and what comes after the action of the issue.

The beginning of the issue gives us a quick recounting of Hal's back-story, depicting his fall into madness, death and subsequent rebirth.  Johns glosses over the details between Emerald Twilight and Rebirth, leading me to wonder if - in The New 52 reality - these events happened in a slightly different manner.  Both Grey Scherl and Russ Burlington discussed this problem and how it relates to Kyle Rayner's new background in greater detail on their respective sites, but the ultimate problem is the same.  It feels a tad disingenuous to advise newer readers to pick-up Green Lantern: Rebirth  in the back of this issue (along with the dozens of other books making up the Geoff Johns oeuvre) to see how it all began when it didn't really happen that way.

My other problem with this story, ironically, deals with how certain things were spelled out and resolved.  While some of the endings we see seem quite fitting (Guy Gardner's in particular is a hoot), there are some that appear to have been forced in order to give certain characters a happy ending even if it is one that doesn't seem to suit them.  John Stewart's marriage to Fatality in particular seems incredibly forced, though I'm not sure if the blame for that lies with Johns or Green Lantern Corps writer Peter Tomasi.

Still, the future is hardly written in stone.  Nor, it seems, is the past.  So while the Kyle Rayner fan in me is annoyed that Kyle apparently dies alone, content with having become DC's equivalent of Adam Warlock, I take comfort in the fact that what we see is not necessarily what will happen.  And with the multiverse being what it is, odds are that my own idea of Kyle Rayner finding a way to bring back Alex DeWitt and retiring to teach elementary school art classes on Earth probably happens somewhere.

Well done, Geoff Johns.  Well done, indeed.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation Squared - A No Flying, No Tights Review

The cross-over has been a speculative fiction tradition since at least the time of the first pulp novels and magazines. The Green Hornet radio show established that The Lone Ranger was the great uncle of The Green Hornet and had a hand in inspiring the younger hero to take up the role of an outlaw hero. Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft worked elements of one another’s stories into their own work, with Lovecraft outright saying that Howard’s Hyboria was the long distant past of the Earth where his stories took place. And of course the idea of shared universes and inter-company crossovers – rare as they are now – is part and parcel of the superhero genre and comic books as a medium.

That brings us to this series: Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who – Assimilation Squared. The longest running American science-fiction franchise and Britain’s longest-running science-fiction franchise, together for the first time. An unlikely pairing? To put it mildly. Trekkers and Whovians tend to be very different breeds of fan, though both are equal in their fanaticism. Trekkers tend to be obsessive about details and realism and knowing how everything in the universe works. Whovians, by contrast, are generally more concerned with a ripping yarn and will gladly accept a hand-wave that something is caused by time going wibbly-wobbly so long as there’s a good story at the heart of it.

However you may feel about one franchise or the other, it cannot be denied that Assimilation Squared is a good story and that Trekkers and Whovians alike will find it enjoyable. Astonishingly, so will casual readers who might not be familiar with one series or the other. The script by Scott and David Tipton takes great pains to establish the settings of both worlds before colliding them and thrusting both sets of heroes together against a common (and uncommon) enemy. Indeed, the entire first chapter of the first volume of this mini-series depicts a typical adventure of both Captain Picard and his crew and The Doctor and his current companions. The cast is fleshed out and we get a number of good character moments for all involved, allowing new readers the chance to get to know The Enterprise Crew as well as The Doctor, Amy Pond, and Rory Williams before we are thrust into the action.

And what action! The plot concerns an alliance between The Borg and The Cybermen – both technology-based species (the former from Star Trek, the later from Doctor Who) who depend upon the assimilation of organic life in order to propagate their species as they work toward their goal of universal domination. Thankfully, the Doctor’s transport – The TARDIS – manifests on-board The Enterprise as Captain Picard becomes aware of the new threat. It will fall to both teams of heroes to work together to save not only their own dimensions but perhaps all dimensions!

Fans of both series will no doubt love the interplay between the characters. The meeting between The Doctor and Guinan – The Enterprise’s mysterious, seemingly all-knowing but rarely all-explaining bartender – is quite a treat. So is trained nurse Rory discussing advancements in medical technology with Dr. Crusher. For my money though, nothing quite tops Rory’s response to Worf’s recitation of the classic Klingon saying “Today is a good day to die!”

The artwork is equally impressive, with J.K. Woodward having painted nearly every panel of the entire eight-part mini-series in a photo-realistic fashion that perfectly captures the likenesses of all the actors involved. The one exception to this is a brief flashback sequence in Chapter Five, rendered in a more traditional sixties comic-book style by The Sharp Brothers. This scene depicts an earlier story, just discovered among the Enterprise’s records, where the crew of Star Trek: The Original Series once encountered the Cybermen and a smiling, long-scarf wearing man who called himself The Doctor.

In the end, Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who – Assimilation Squared is that rarest of all crossovers – one that will please everybody. Trekkers and Whovians alike will appreciate how their respective franchises have been handled and the story, while steeped in the mythology of both series, will prove accessible to those unfamiliar with Star Trek or Doctor Who. I dare say this mini-series could create a number of new Whovains and Trekkers.

Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation Squared, vol. 1 & 2
by Scott Tipton, David Tipton
Art by J.K. Woodward, The Sharp Brothers
Volume 1 ISBN: 9781613774038
Volume 2 ISBN: 9781613775516
IDW Publishing, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: (13+)

Demon Knights #20 - A Review

It was perhaps inevitable that Demon Knights should come to focus upon Sir Ystin's quest for The Holy Grail.  I had just hoped it would be further down the line and that the series would continue to focus more upon the DC Universe in specific rather than retreading such a well-worn storyline.  Even having the clue for to the Grail's location be hidden in the library of the Amazons (who are portrayed as the crazed, man-hating ice-queens of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman) proves an insufficient twist to make this tired storyline seem new. 

As ever, the unique cast of characters created by Paul Cornell are the book's greatest strength but Robert Venditti lacks the confidence to go over-the-top as Cornell did.  His Vandal Savage seems much more the calculating conqueror we're used to in the modern DCU rather than the crazed cousin of Conan The Barbarian we saw under Cornell's pen.  Once depicted taking bites out of dragons roasted alive by fireballs, Vandal's savagery is limited toward flirting with the Amazons and requesting a copy of the Kama Sutra from their librarian.  The humor of much of the other characters is similarly muted.  Indeed, there is much that may be said to be muted under Venditti's pen.

The same complaint could be made of the series' new art team.  Chad Hardin is a competent enough penciler, whose designs for the characters are distinct, but he's no Bernard Chang.  Hardin's figures seem far too stiff and posed.  There is little life to any of his fight scenes.  Of more concern is inker Wayne Facher, whose work is uneven throughout.  Many figures have a thick outline around them yet they receive almost no definition to their interiors.  One wonders if Facher just did enough work to make sure the characters were distinctive from the background and then called it a day.

Demon Knights #20 is a good point for new readers to jump on to this series but I hesitate to recommended it.  The book isn't bad but it's nowhere near as good as it once was and I'm not sure I can justify continuing to buy a half-assed version of what was one of my top five favorite books.  I'll give it some time to change my mind but this book is officially on notice.   

Friday, May 24, 2013

Batgirl #20 - A Review

When Gail Simone returned to Batgirl, we knew she would return with a vengeance.  Yet never in our darkest dreams did we imagine that she'd create something this horrible, this terrifying, this... unholy.  Even those of us familiar with Simone's work on Secret Six never imagined that she'd dare to unleash a villain as spine-shiveringly freaky as the new Ventriloquist. 

You may laugh at that opening paragraph, dear reader, but the horror contained within goes far beyond the way in which all large dolls and ventriloquy figures are a little unnerving.  This new Ventriloquist is Peyton Riley run through the wringer with Stephen King's Carrie - an abused young woman finally given the power to fight back.  What is her power?  That's a mystery that will carry over into the next issue but whatever else she may be capable of, she's very good at throwing her voice and impersonating voices.

The artwork is excellent, save for one small glitch.  Inker Vicente Cifuentes helps out with two pages of this issue and it would be obvious precisely which two pages even if the credits page did not note them specifically.  Cifeuentes is not a bad inker but his style is much more heavy-handed than regular inker Jonathan Glapion and the artwork is visibly different as a result.  The difference isn't really bad but it does prove a distraction during a particular action scene.  That being said, the pencils by both Daniel Sampere and Carlos Rodriguez are good and the story flows smoothly despite the sudden change in the inking. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Batman #20 - A Review

Are there any who doubt that the Batman monthly title is the best of all the many, many, MANY books starring The Dark Knight Detective at the moment?  If so, then Batman #20 should be the book to convince them otherwise.  Well worth the $3.99 price tag, this book gives us not one, but two separate stories by two A+ creative teams.

Our first story pits Batman against a newly empowered Clayface.  Evolved past his simple shape-shifting and mass-manipulation powers, Clayface now possesses the ability to replicate anyone he touches right down to their DNA.  While this new twist proves disturbing enough, Bruce Wayne has bigger problems that being framed for multiple criminal offenses by his dirty doppelganger.  Clayface's evolution also removed most of his old weaknesses, meaning all the usual Bat-Gadgets are totally ineffective!  It will take all of Batman's cunning to cope with the enhanced muddy menace.

Greg Capullo and Danny Miki top themselves, crafting one of the most gloriously gross Clayface designs I've seen in any issue ever.  The rest of the artwork is great, of course, but their Clayface character takes the cake.  Writing-wise, Scott Snyder deserves credit for upgrading Clayface into a more serious threat while making the change plausible.  Despite being all about a changed villain, this story retains the feel of a classic Batman story throughout.  More impressively, Snyder manages a few honest surprises toward the end of the issue.

The issue's second story is also a treat, placing both Superman and Batman in a situation far beyond their usual comfort zones.  Nominally about Batman and Superman dealing with a botched demon-summoning, this story by James Tyrnion IV is really about the friendship Superman and Batman share and what they mean to each other.  The artwork by famed Daredevil artist Alex Maleev also proves to be of the highest quality.

There is only one reason not to get this book and that is if you are unable to get a copy of Batman #19 to go with it.  Good as the stories contained within this volume are, they are both Part Two of a two-part story.  You don't really have to have read the previous issue to enjoy this book but you will get more out of it. 

Arrow #33 (Web Comic) - A Review

Roy Harper is probably the least defined member of Arrow's cast of characters at present.  Small wonder given that he came into the show over halfway through the first season and most of his character arc has involved him pushing Thea away and reluctantly hinting at a troubled past he wants to put behind him.  Arrow #33's story, Potential, strips away some of this mystery as it tells a tale of Roy Harper's life three years earlier.

The story by Marc Guggenheim with script by Drew Z. Greenberg centers upon Roy shortly after he gets his first job.  Ironically, the job at a sporting goods store is presented to him after he is honest about why he was fighting in the alley behind the store and having turned to car theft to take care of his cash-shy mom.  Complications arise when another thief Roy knows wants to take advantage of Roy's new position, despite Roy's objections that his new boss doesn't deserve such treatment. 

The script does a good job of laying out Roy's internal conflict.  This story explains why Roy has been so resistant to Thea's attempts to make him change for the better up until his life was saved by The Hood.  It also lays out some more references to the Roy Harper of the original Green Arrow comics, such as a newspaper clipping about Roy's exploits as a Track and Field star.  Roy is speedy.  Get it?

Xermanico's artwork proves the equal of the script.  Everything is atmospherically shaded and inked in a fantastic way, particularly the night scenes when Roy breaks into his new place of employment.  My only real complaint about the artwork is that some of the coloring is a bit off, with some panels after the alley fight appearing as if Roy overdid it on the rouge rather than being heavily bruised.

Bottom Line: This comic is a must-read for all fans of Arrow and the Roy Harper character.  It's a bargain at 99 cents to download.  Good story.  Good art.  Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us #19 - A Review

Injustice #19 is the first issue to feature art by the great Kevin Maguire.  On the off-chance you're unfamiliar with Maguire's previous work (see my reviews of World's Finest for some of his most recent work), know that he's probably most famous for his work on Justice League with Keith Giffen & JM Dematthias.  He's also, in my opinion, the greatest artist working today when it comes to drawing facial expressions - a specialty that we see showcased throughout this issue.

The script by Tom Taylor switches between two different stories.  In half the story, we see Billy Batson, Boy Blogger interviewing various people on their opinions regarding Superman and his regime taking more drastic actions to insure world security.  In the second half, we see the incident that prompted this questioning - a battle between the Justice League and Black Adam.  The battle leaves Billy questioning both his own judgement as well as The Wisdom of The Solomon, leading to a surprising conclusion.

If you haven't read an issue of Injsutice before now, this is a fine one to start with.  The story is well-paced and the interweaving of Billy Batson's interviews with the big battle proves an effective conveyance for both this issue's stories.  The artwork is as grand as you'd expect from Kevin Maguire. Overall, it's worth far more than its' 99 cent asking price.

Star Trek: Into Darkness - A Review


Star Trek: Into Darkness is a standard popcorn movie - enjoyable, if a bit shallow.  The ensemble cast is all-around excellent, though the script leaves most of them with little to do as the movie progresses and there's little exploration of the relationships between most of the major players.  Still, apart from some blatant fan-service and a few cheesy bits that try a little too hard to appeal to long-time fans of the franchise, there's little to actively dislike about this movie.


Demoted after a major violation of The Prime Directive not to interfere with less-developed cultures. James Kirk finds himself quickly re-promoted to chase after the fugitive John Harrison - a terrorist waging a one-man war against The Federation, who has taken refuge on the Klingon home world.  It's an assignment that Kirk's all too eager to accept, as Harrison is responsible for the death of his mentor, Captain Pike.  Yet there is much about the assignment that troubles the Enterprise crew, from the orders to assassinate a criminal rather than bringing him to trial to the mysterious experimental torpedoes they've been equipped with.  There's also the question of what caused John Harrison to turn on The Federation in the first place and what secrets he may yet know... 



* The cast is top-notch.  I can't think of a bad performance in the lot.

* Of particular note is Zachary Quinto as Spock (who does a fine job subtly playing the conflict between the human emotions and Vulcan upbringing of the character), Simon Pegg as Scotty (who manages to be convincing as both the comic relief AND the super genius who saves everyone) and Zoe Saldana, who plays Uhura as a tough, competent and no-nonsense officer.

*Benedict Cumberbatch proves a most effective Khan.  I know there's been some protest about Cumberatch's casting, given Khan's status as one of the most prominent minority characters in the last 50 years of science fiction.  The irony of this is that the original show undercut the potentially dodgy issues of discussing eugenics by making the genetic superman villain a man of vaguely Asian heritage and casting a Latino actor to play him.  This film dodges the issue completely, referring to the purpose behind Khan's creation in only the vaguest terms possible while still affirming his status as a super-soldier created for some unspecified war in the past.

* The action of the movie is well-paced and well-shot. 

* The special effects are all great.

* There's quite a few clever jokes for the long-time Trek fans.  My favorite involved the few seconds of worry crossing Chekov's face as he is given a potentially dangerous assignment and instructed to change into a red shirt.


* I think Zachary Quinto is a fine actor, but his yelling of "KHAAAAAN!" was just ridiculous.  

* The script suffers from the same problems as the 2005 The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie - there's a lot of in-jokes for the fans of the franchise but many of them don't make sense within the context of the universe and any die-hard fan who gets the joke will be unwilling to ignore the inaccuracy for the sake of the joke.  For instance, In Hitch-Hiker's Guide, the movie showed Ford desperately looking for a towel in the wreckage of Arthur's house and later using said towel in a variety of ways and yet the importance of towels in Hitch-Hiker culture is never explained.  Similarly, we see Dr. McCoy - using a dead Tribble (a fictional animal in the Star Trek universe known for being born pregnant and reproducing like rabbits) as a test-subject in his lab - a point that I heard had many Trek fans livid given the volatile nature of the species.

* While the cast does the best it does with what they're given, the script gives some members of the cast more to work with than others.  Karl Urban in particularly is criminally underused as Dr. McCoy and Sulu is confined to the bridge of the Enterprise with little to do save give one impressive speech.

* On that note, there's little exploration of the relationships between most of the characters.  Most of the focus is firmly upon the Kirk/Spock bromance, with Spock and Uhura's relationship getting a little bit of discussion but no resolution. 

* The sexism in the script, unintentionally as it may have been, is still noticeable.  It runs even deeper than the now infamous and pointless (by admission of the writer) scene of Carol Marcus stripping down in the same room as Kirk - a scene made worse by the conversation leading into it, in which Carol confronts Kirk about his womanizing ways and his treatment of a friend of hers.  What real woman is going to risk taking her clothes off in a room with a man like that and trust him not to peek?

* Case in point, re: sexism.  Carol Marcus is supposed to be a weapons expert.  Granting that she's more of a designer than a soldier, you'd still expect her to be somewhat capable in a fight, particularly coming from a military family.  Explain to me then why she spends most of the combat scenes sitting on the floor and gasping in shock like she's auditioning to be the model for a pulp sci-fi cover?  Hell, even three of the four images on Google Images when you search for Carol Marcus depict either Alice Eve in her underwear or Alice Eve screaming in terror.

* Even Uhrua is not immune from this, I fear.  She insists on being allowed to *gasp* do her damn job as a communications expert and try and talk to a group of Klingons, appealing to their sense of honor.  Is this a powerful scene?  Yes.  Does it make Uhrua look tough and capable?  Yes.  Is this completely undercut by her needing to be saved by the men when it doesn't work?  A wee little bit, yes.  It also doesn't help that her major character motivation, when you get right down to it, is wanting to get her boyfriend to open up more about his emotions. 

*The biggest problem in the script is that we've seen this all before.  Literally, all of the best dramatic moments in this movie were taken from The Wrath of Khan.  While Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto prove capable of putting a unique spin on the material - the tragedy now that of a young man dying before seeing his full potential and Spock confronting his own newly realized fear of death - it still feels like we're getting J.J. Abrams' rendition of The Best of Trek, Volume 2.

* So... genetically altered super-soldier blood is a magic cure all for radiation poisoning as well as whatever that little girl at the beginning had?  Kinda puts a darker spin on Khan being "put back to sleep" along with the rest of his people.  For all we know, The Federation may be shipping them off to a blood bank and start slowly sucking them all dry.


I'm conflicted.  Upon first viewing, I generally enjoyed the film while being troubled by some of the blatant sexism and the shallowness of the script.  On further reflection, I'm more troubled by how poorly the ensemble cast was utilized and some rather large plot holes.  Still, I've had quite a few good conversations as a result of this movie and that, ultimately, made it worth the viewing.  Go see it with a group of friends - preferably a mix of Trekkers and non-fans - and then get ready for some spirited discussion over a Romulan Ale afterward.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Classic Fantastic: Starman - A No Flying, No Tights Review


My first exposure to Starman came about when I was first getting into comics.  As I recall I was in my local comic book store fishing through The Quarter Bins.  Primarily the final resting place of whatever Bad-Girl books with a dozen variant covers the owner had over-ordered the previous year, The Quarter Bins still yielded the occasional treasure.

It was here, digging through several dozen copies of Danger Girl, where I stumbled across a copy of Starman #29.  With a cover painted – yes, painted! – by Tony Harris, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before in a comic and the interior work was just as impressive.  I must have starred at it for quite some time, broken from my reverie by the scornful snort of one of the shop employees – the one whose tastes were diametrically opposed to my own.

“You WOULD like that one.  The main guy?  He sounds like you.”

His disdain was all the invitation I needed to spend 25 cents.  Thankfully, Starman #29 turned out to be a prefect jumping-on issue, aimed at bringing new readers up to speed on The Story So Far.  And as promised the main character, Jack Knight, did indeed sound like me.

Jack was a self-proclaimed geek, “more in love with yesterday than tomorrow.”  Jack’s humor tilted in favor of heavy sarcasm and obscure pop-culture references that went over most people’s heads.  He was verbose, inclined to using a dozen words when one would do.  He was also, I realized sometime later, a bit of a jerk.  That revelation helped me to recognize my own character flaws and inspired me to correct them.

Even without that, I can honestly say without any hyperbole that Starman changed my life.  While other series brought me into comics, Starman kept me in them.  It gave me a penname and a nickname.  Jack Knight was my first cosplay.  And after a decade of reading comics and writing about comics, it’s still my favorite series of all time.

What’s it about?

Our story begins in the gloriously Art Deco town of Opal City.  We’re introduced to Jack Knight – a Bohemian artist and collectibles shop-owner who never got along with his scientist father, Ted Knight, or his athletic older brother, David Knight.  Jack was just as happy to stay out of the family business of protecting Opal City using his father’s starlight-fueled inventions as David was happy to take up their father’s mantle as the superhero Starman.  But when David is killed and Ted left hospitalized as a result of a crime spree orchestrated by The Mist – Starman’s arch-enemy – Jack reluctantly assumes his father’s role as Opal City’s protector.
Aiding Jack in his new job are The O’Dares – a quintet of cops, all the children of legendary local beat-cop Billy O’Dare, who was the closest thing Ted Knight had to a partner.  Guiding Jack in his assumption of the hero’s mantle is The Shade – a mysterious immortal and sometimes super-villain, who makes his home in Opal City and wishes to see it well protected… so long as nobody expects him to do the protecting.  As the series progresses, Jack will grow into his father’s shoes, become a true hero, find the love of his life, meet the other heroes who bore the name Starman, journey into space, travel back in time and even become a better person.

Notable Notes

There are many reasons why Starman is notable but I’m going to focus upon three of them – the colorful cast of characters, the wonderful creative teams and the theme of transformation.
I’ve already spoken a bit about how unique Jack Knight was as a protagonist but that difference extends to the rest of the supporting cast.  Jack’s mentor The Shade is an unapologetic villain yet he aids Jack in protecting Opal City because of his personal vow to commit no crime there and see to the peace of his own home – presumably even super-criminals want a nice neighborhood to live in!  Each of the five O’Dare cops have a unique personality.  And that’s just the main cast.  I could write for pages about all the interesting incidental characters like the ghost pirate John Valor or Rat-Pack loving bank robber Jake “Bobo” Benetti.  Even the random thugs break the mold, arguing over which Sondheim musical was the best instead of the more usual sports-related minion chatter.

Artistically, Starman has a unique aesthetic, thanks to the efforts of some truly legendary creators.  Like Metropolis and Gotham City, Opal City has a unique feel to it that makes it as much a character as the people who inhabit it.  This is due to the Art Deco designs of artist Tony Harris.  Harris also painted the covers for most of the issues of the original comics as well as crafting original paintings for most of the soft-cover and all of the hard-cover collections of the series.  Though he only penciled the interiors of a little over half the series, Starman is as much Harris’ child as it is James Robinson’s.  Tribute must also be paid to David S. Goyer, who assisted Robinson with writing several issues.  Goyer is most famous today for his work as a screenwriter on various superhero movies, including Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Man of Steel.

Thematically, the book is all about the ability we all have to change ourselves for the better.  This is virtually unheard of in superhero comics, where most of the characters are static and their personalities unchanging.  The series is primarily about Jack’s transformation from a self-absorbed fanboy into a hero and a decent human being.  And yes, there is a difference between the two.  As one of Jack’s ex-girlfriends notes, “You may be a hero, Jack Knight, but that still doesn’t make you a nice person.” This theme also extends to most of the series’ main characters, who change for the better as the story progresses.
I’m hard pressed to think of one story arc out of dozens to hold up as the best or most memorable.  But if I had to pick one, I’d say Sand And Stars – an arc collected in The Starman Omnibus: Volume 2.  I picked this one for two reasons.  The first is that this is the arc that won Robinson and Harris an Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story.  The second is that this story contains a line, thought by retired superhero Wesley Dodds (a.k.a. The Sandman) as he watches Jack Knight fly into battle, that I think sums up the appeal of adventure fiction in three short sentences.  “He’s in danger.  He may die.  And I envy him the thrill of it.”


Starman came about because writer James Robinson wanted to establish a common mythology for every character published by DC Comics who ever used the codename Starman.  When the series started in 1994, there had been six separate heroes who had used the name and only two of them had any link to one another.  Starman was meant to create those missing connections.
Starman was also significant for promoting the glorious past of DC Comics at a time when the American comics industry seemed to be abandoning their roots in favor of books centered upon violent anti-heroes.  As part of the series, James Robinson penned a number of flashback stories known as Times Past, which told epic tales in a modern style using the characters and trappings of yesteryear.  This proved the value of the early superheroes and the relevance of their morality to the modern world.
In many ways, Starman predated Kingdom Come in rejecting the values of The Dark Age and introducing the storytelling techniques common to The Modern Age.  If it hadn’t been for Starman, it’s unlikely we would have had a revival of the Justice Society of America and the heroes affiliated with that group in the pages of JSA.  There’s also a chance that Geoff Johns – DC Comics current Chief Creative Officer – would have had a markedly different career path as his first professional comics work – Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. – was created with input from James Robinson and spun out of Starman.


It’s difficult to suggest an ready-made audience for Starman as the people I know who enjoy the series besides myself are as eclectic as the series itself and defy easy classification.  It’s a superhero book but it’s unlike any other superhero series I can think of and I can’t see your average X-Men fan seeing the appeal.  Fans of Golden Age comics will find a lot to enjoy, though.  There are elements of the series that will likely appeal to fans of science-fiction (particularly the Stars My Destination arc) but it isn’t entirely a science-fiction series, being closer to classic Doctor Who in tone than Star Trek.
I would instead recommend this series to fans of quirky dialogue and unusual characters in general.  If you enjoy Jerry Seinfeld’s talking about nothing, Christopher Moore novels, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Michael Stipe’s music or Chuck Klosterman’s essays, there’s a fair chance you’ll enjoy Jack’s dialogue and adventures.  I’d also recommend the series to anyone who is a collector, whether it be of comics, tin signs, baseball cards, Barbie dolls or anything that anyone might consider cool and put on a shelf.  You’re likely to find a kindred spirit in Jack Knight as I did.
I consider this series a must-read for all graphic novel enthusiasts 16 and up.  That age restriction is due less to the content (though there are a few graphic deaths, a fair bit of innuendo and suggested nudity) and more to the fact that a certain level of maturity is needed to appreciate the growth of the characters as well as some of the dramatic situations and most teenagers lack the patience to muddle through the talky bits between the action scenes.

Why should you own this?

Historically, Starman is an important series for students of the genre to study.  It’s an award-winner, frequently held up as a source of inspiration by many of today’s most popular graphic novel writers and artists.  It’s also a damn fine read on its own terms.  With the recent Omnibus collection of the series – currently available in its entirety in Hardcover with paperback editions on the way – there’s no excuse for a library NOT to have this series in their adult graphic novel collection, in my professional opinion.
Starman Omnibus (hardcover)
  • Volume 1 – 9781401216993
  • Volume 2 – 9781401221942
  • Volume 3 – 9781401222840
  • Volume 4 – 9781401225964
  • Volume 5 – 9781401228897
  • Volume 6 – 9781401230449

Batman: Arkham Origins Trailer

Well, I'm sold.  Even without the recent announcement that Kevin Conroy WILL be doing the voice of Batman again, despite previous reports.

What do you all think?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dallas Comic Con 2013 - Sunday, Part Three

And now, the last of the last day's pictures...

Dallas Fan Girl as a crossplay Hawkeye. 

Raven from Teen Titans.

Lara Croft from the recent Tomb Raider reboot.

Mrs. Incredible.

An interesting trio: Black Widow, Black Canary and crossplay Comedian.
I'd met the Black Canary the day before, when she was a crossplay Hawkeye.
She was disappointed I wasn't Green Arrow for another day.

Crossplay Loki.

Rainbow Brite.

 Black Widow and crossplay Captain America.

 Aqualad vs. Deathstroke.  This won't end well.

Crossplay Eleventh Doctor. 
Thanks again to everyone who posed and to the staff of Dallas Comic Con and The Irving Convention Center!