Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conan The Barbarian #19 - A Review

If I had to pick one word to describe Conan The Barbarian #19, it would be uninspired.  The story, centering around Conan and Belit's efforts to ransom a stolen holy object back to its' owners, is as uninspired and lifeless as the book's artwork.  Paul Azaceta's artwork is far too static and posed for what is mean to be an action & adventure book.

The script by Brain Wood seems more like an H.P. Lovecraft story than a Robert E. Howard one.  There's precious little action and far more weird babbling by strange priests about dark secrets than there is honest bloodshed.  Hell, the most exciting moment of the comic comes when Belit stabs a man who asks Conan about buying her.

Dave Stewart's muted coloring is another strike against this book.  His muted palette made sense in the issues set in the gloomy land of Cimmeria but it seems dull and drab here.  There are splashes of color here and there, primarily in the few moments of action.  While it's an interesting stylistic choice, it would have been far more effective for the artist to make the action scenes exciting rather than trusting the colorist to define everything. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Justice League Dark #23 - A Review

The artwork of Mikel Janin would be reason enough to pick up Justice League Dark #23, even if one had not read a single book in the Trinity War crossover before now.  Janin delivers a number of single-page splashes and double-page spreads that, on this rare occasion, do not feel gratuitous.  You welcome every glorious page, rejoicing at how clearly the action is depicted and how amazing everything looks.  

Jeff Lemire's script is equally impressive.  Commendably, he recaps the entire storyline thus far in the first few pages, not presuming for a moment that the regular Justice League Dark readers are reading the rest of the crossover.  As in the other Trinity War books, the best moments in this chapter have little do do with the combat over Pandora's Box and more to do with the interplay between the characters.  The greatest of these moments has the group of heroes being lead by Superman and Martian Manhunter learning just how far Amanda Waller went in her plans to pit the various Justice Leagues against one another.  Lemire's take on Superman, who is unwilling to put the lives of others before justice for himself, is particularly gratifying. 

I hadn't been reading Justice League Dark before this crossover.  I think I may have to reconsider that once it is over.  I've been enjoying Jeff Lemire's writing on other series and the artwork of Mikel Janin is some of the best on the shelves today.  That may change once the book goes back to more magic-based storylines but for now this is a must-read title for all fans of good superhero stories. 

Red Sonja Unchained #4 - A Review

Red Sonja Unchained #4 finds our heroine in dire straits.  Twice cursed by the demon Bhamothes, Sonja awakens to find herself trapped in his hellish domain.  It will take all her cunning and courage to win free of the demon's clutches and escape with her soul.  Can even Sonja's indomitable spirit win free of a realm of pure thought and will?

Peter V. Brett lends the proceedings the same drama and pathos he did earlier in the series.  His take on Sonja has been a powerful one and has offered some real insight into the character.  Brett's Sonja has survived much and made hard choices that she hates herself for but will not waste breath justifying.  Unfortunately, the final confrontation between the amazon and the demon seems somewhat rushed and one wishes there had been another issue to allow for a truly epic final battle.

The art of Jack Jadson seems oddly rushed as well.  Jadson's streamlined style - somewhat reminiscent of Bruce Timm - has been a fitting match for Brett's scripts so far.  Yet this issue has Jadson depicting far more detailed and disgusting violence than we've seen so far and the gore looks odd next to his lightly inked, cartoonish figures.  It doesn't look bad per say, but it seems at odds with what we've seen so far. 

Still, if you've come this far in reading this series, you'll want to see the conclusion.  And Red Sonja fans old and new would be well advised to give the whole of this story a try.  It is not the ending I had hoped for but it's not a bad one at all. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Batman #23 - A Review

Batman: Zero Year continues to impress even as it renovates.  Curiously, this series is doing less to define the past and character of Batman than it is to explore the history and motivations of his rogues' gallery.  Then again, perhaps that isn't such a surprise given that Batman is defined as much by his enemies as he is by his history.

If there were any doubts that Scotty Snyder's new take on The Red Hood was intended to be The Joker before he became The Joker, they were eliminated with this issue as we learn the nihilistic philosophy behind The Red Hood's crimes.  I'm uncertain how to feel about how Snyder has tied The Red Hood's origins, albeit indirectly, to the same incident that inspired Bruce Wayne's war on crime.  I do, however, approve of Snyder's revamped Riddler, who begins his career as a consulting criminal ala Jim Moriarty in the BBC Sherlock series. 

The back-up story by Snyder and James Tynion IV is brief but memorable.  Another flashback tale of Bruce Wayne's travels around the world, this one finds Bruce Wayne learning the art of combat in what is meant to be a battle-to-the-death pit fight.  "The Queen" who oversees the arena means to teach Wayne a lesson in how one must be ready to kill to be a warrior.  Yet Wayne learns another lesson and teaches one of his own by issue's end.

The artwork is amazing in both stories.  Greg Capullo and Danny Miki give the greater part of the comic their usual stunning neo-Noir aesthetic.  American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque goes even darker for his flashback tale, which almost looks like it was taken from a Conan The Barbarian comic.  This book looks as well drawn as it is well-written and it should be required reading for all comics fans.

Doctor Who #12 (IDW Vol. 3) - A Review

WARNING: The following review does contain spoilers for Series 7, Part 2 of the Doctor Who TV Series. It might also contain spoilers regarding the upcoming 50th Anniversary Special. Read no further if you wish to remain unspoiled and know that this comic is bloody brilliant and well worth reading, even if it is read a few months from now.

This month's issue of Doctor Who will be of interest to fans of the show for one reason above all others. A flashback at the start of the comic seems to confirm what, so far, had only been speculated - that the Time Lord we saw at the end of The Name of The Doctor was an incarnation of The Doctor from the time of The Time War.  One who refused the name of The Doctor and who fired the metaphorical bullet that removed The Time Lords from the universe. 

Ignoring even that factoid, there is much to admire in this issue.  Writers Andy Diggle and Eddie Robson have built upon Diggle's story The Hypothetical Man and created a villain truly worthy of The Doctor.  More, they give a depth of character - and dare I say, a level of sheer awesomeness - to Clara Oswald that she did not receive in the television program.

If this issue has a weakness, it lies in the artwork of Andy Kuhn.  Khun's style is good and a worthy fit for the Steampunk aesthetic of this story but his work in this final part of the Sky Jacks storyline does seem somewhat rushed and uneven at times compared to previous issues.  Still, the overall affect is a good one and this issue has more good than bad and a few parts that are honestly great. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The N00b Chronicles: Episode One - A Review

To my mind, Video Games are like Sports and Sex -  they are best experienced personally.  I think that's why I've never been much for Let's Play style videos.  With few exceptions, I'd much rather play the game than watch someone else in action.   Well, you can now add Jessica Mills' The N00b Chronicles to my list of exceptions.

What separates The N00b Chronicles from other Let's Play videos is its' focus on the player rather than the game.  Jessica is an inexperienced but enthusiastic console gamer, who is still finding her way around.  There's something amusing about watching her work her way through the introduction to a classic game - in this case, the original Bioshock - and commenting upon how unclear the objectives are while trying to figure out which items can be picked-up and manipulated, as we all do when we're playing a new game for the first time.


The late Roger Ebert once said that his greatest wish would be to watch his favorite movie of all time like he had never seen it before.  I think that same desire lies at the heart of what makes most geeks so open about sharing our favorites with other people and what makes The N00b Chronicles so enjoyable.  We may not be able to recreate that magic moment when something first captured our heart and imagination but we can remember the sensation as we see another going through the same experience for the first time.  Through Jessica's eyes, everything old is new again and that alone differentiates this from the common clay of Let's Play videos.  

Bottom Line: Check out The N00b Chronicles.  I loved it.  I think you will too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us #32 - A Review

Tom Taylor has accomplished many impressive things with Injustice: Gods Among Us yet I think he may have topped himself with Issue #32.  Why?  Because he's made Captain Atom into a likeable character without changing the character at all.  I normally find the jingoistic heroes who place duty before idealism annoying in the extreme but this issue presents a side of the Captain I don't think any writer has ever captured before.

The battle between Superman and Captain Atom outside the Fortress of Solitude takes up the main portion of the issue.  The rest involves a subplot that sees the Fortress of Solitude collapsing in on itself and Green Arrow caught on the inside along with Martha and Jonathan Kent.  The way Taylor writes both Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen makes me nostalgic for the good old days and I dearly hope he can find some way to bring the two of them together again on Earth 2 when he takes over that title in a few months.

Jheremy Rappack's artwork perfectly complements Taylor's story.  He does over-indulge on the inks in a few panels, which causes some of the details of his pencils to be lost.  Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and this tendency actually proves effective in his depiction of Superman, whose face seems lost in shadow as the character himself is lost to a spiritual darkness.

This is a good comic but it is not an ideal jumping-on point for new readers.  This should come as no surprise given that this issue is the second chapter of a three-part storyline.  Check out last week's issue before getting this one, should you be a newcomer to the wicked world of Injustice

Monday, August 19, 2013

Green Lantern Corps #23 - A Review

While the creative team for Green Lantern Corps may have changed recently, one thing remains the same.  GLC remains the strongest of the books in the Green Lantern family of titles, despite an increased association with the plots of the other books in the line.  Hopefully writer Van Jensen will be given a freer hand to focus on his own scripts once the new status quo is more firmly established. 

As it stands, the interaction between the characters remains the strong point of this series.  There are many subplots for Jensen to balance, assisted by co-plotter Robert Venditti, but we never feel that any one regular character is getting preferential treatment over the others.  Indeed, this issue sees the return of some long-neglected characters from Peter Tomasi's run on the book!

Bernard Chang's artwork is excellent as always.  With a keen creative mind and a vivid eye for detail, this is a book Chang was born to draw.  I've sore missed Chang's work in the waning days of Demon Knights and am relieved to see him working on what remains one of my favorite books.

World's Finest #15 - A Review

World's Finest #15 continues the on-going battle between Power Girl and Huntress against the mysterious villain Desaad.  The issue opens with Power Girl seemingly emerged on the hellish world of Apokolips, having chased Desaad and a hostage Huntress through a strange portal.  The two heroines will have their hands full fighting and evading Desaad's demonic minions!

The artwork by the new creative team is a vast improvement over the past few months.  Inker Guillermo Ortego does a fine job of defining and enhancing the pencils of  Emanuela Lupacchino.  Most recently seen on X-Factor and a number of DC Comics' Ame-Comi specials, Lupacchino has a splendid sense of design and a fine eye for detail, as can be seen in the above scan of a Parademon horde inspired to panic in the face of Power Girl's onslaught.

Under Lupacchino's pencils, Power Girl lives up to her name, looking as strong as she should.  Her Huntress is lither, but still looks like an athlete in a mask rather than a fetish-ware mode with a crossbowl.  This is an especially important consideration given that Huntress spends a good portion of the comic in bondage and the scene with Desaad torturing her could easily have come off as exploitative under a lesser artist.

Thankfully, Paul Levtiz's scripts are as strong as his heroines.  Though our protagonists are in peril throughout the comic, they are never presented as being incompetent and are always confident in the face of danger.  The action doesn't let up for a moment and the climax of this issue builds to an honestly surprising ending.

If you like books with good female protagonists and classic superheroic action, you'll love World's Finest! If you haven't given World's Finest a shot, now is the time to give it a try.  Or if you were driven away from this title by the poor artwork of previous issues,  now is the time to give this book a second chance. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Justice League of Ameica #7 - A Review

As with the previous chapters of The Trinity War, the best moments of Justice League of America #7 are those brief character moments unconnected to the main plot. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the opening scene where Pandora confronts an imprisoned Lex Luthor.  Lex is his gloriously snide self and Pandora is... well, a living plot device with no purpose but to push the story forward.

The action of the issue plays out well enough but the moments readers are most likely to find memorable are the quieter scenes where the characters are allowed to talk and play off one another.  Yet Johns and Lemire do find ways to sneak character-development into the action.  Consider the scene where Question's team of League members confronts Dr. Psycho and Martian Manhunter is given a chance to distinguish himself from Superman in terms outside of his super powers.  

The artwork of Doug Mahnke continues to amaze.  His pencils are clear enough and offer a goodly portion of detail without becoming cluttered in the smaller panels.  The book's inking continues to be it's biggest flaw, with a team of five inkers with differing styles rendering the final look of the book inconsistent despite there only being one penciler.

Constantine #6 - A Review

The cover of Constantine #6 is a load of bollocks.  While the plot does find John Constantine trapped outside of his body with only a thin silver cord connecting him to the world of the living, he does not face the spirits of every friend he's ever sacrificed.  Merely the surly spirit of Chris, the psychic whom died back in Constantine #1.

Despite this, Ray Fawkes does deliver another exciting script and there's nothing at all wrong with this story save that it doesn't match up to the cover.  The drama builds beautifully as John's many enemies begin closing in to finish him off.  There's also a set-up for two new mysteries for John and the readers to explore in the coming issues.

The art of Renato Guedes seems to be getting better with every issue.  John Constantine hasn't had an artist who could depict the inhuman horrors of the world of magic with such detail and clarity in quite some time.  Of particular note is a two-page splash sequence in the center of this story that, for once, justifies taking up so much space. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Demon Knights #23 - A Review

As far as conclusions go, Demon Knights #23 is satisfactory but not particularly successful.  The final chapter sees the recently recovered Holy Grail healing the ailments of The Shining Knight and The Horsewoman with a grand Deus Ex Machina.  Yet there is little time for celebration, for an army of the giants from whom our heroes liberated The Grail is laying siege to the city of Al-Wadi, having been tipped off to their location by Vandal Savage.

Robert Venditti tries his best to make this issue engaging and the battle with the giants from whom our heroes liberated The Holy Grail is an interesting one.  Yet the issue can't help but feel like something of a cop-out.  How can our heroes possibly top recovering The Holy Grail?  There may have been a way but an issue-long battle against an army of giants was not it.  

What makes this ending particularly vexing is that after months of inconsistent appearance at the hands of multiple artists and inkers, this book finally gets an artist worth of its' concept with the final issue.  Phil Winslade has proven his skill in depicting magical settings before on titles such as Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis and Shadowpact.  His work here does not disappoint and will leave you cursing this book's cancellation all the harder.

Rest well, Demon Knights.  You were enjoyed.

Batgirl #23 - A Review

Let me start this comic with a Tommy Wiseau impression.

*clears throat*


In all seriousness, Batgirl #23 will pull out your heart like Mola Ram and stomp on it like it was the floor at a Lord of the Dance concert. 

We knew things were going to get bad with Commissioner Jim Gordon developing a mad-on for Batgirl in the wake of his son James Jr's death at her hands.  Yet I don't think anyone anticipated Gail Simone finding a way to bring nearly every new villain that's emerged since this series started back under the command of the violent vigilante Knightfall with orders to kill Jim Gordon after his hunt for Batgirl leads him poking into her business.  Things go from bad to worse when Babs' new boyfriend Ricky is fingered by the police as a Batgirl accomplice at the same time Ricky is called back into play as a gang-banger with the lives of his family at stake.  Barbara, no longer Batgirl, finds herself under attack from all sides and if this issue doesn't pull on your heart-strings, you'd better see a doctor... for your heart is dead.

The artwork of Fernandon Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion matches Simone's script in quality.  The action is well displayed as are the few quiet moments of drama leading into the action-filled finale.  This book is Eisner-worthy on all fronts and should be a must-read for all fans of quality comics.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Gamers: Hands Of Fate - A Review

Cass is an old-school table-top gamer, with little patience for card-gamers, LARPers and... well, pretty much anything and everything that interferes with his weekly game night.  His tune quickly changes after he sees Natalie - a gamer grrrrrl who is as skilled with a card deck as she is at dealing out snark to any man who dares question her cred.  When Natalie rebuffs his advances and sarcastically agrees to go out on a date if he can win the Romance Of The Nine Empires tournament at GenCon, Cass embarks on a quest to learn the game, build a winning deck and secure a place in the national finals. 

At the same time in the magical land of Countermay, the warrior princess Myriad has become troubled.  Her land is besieged by armies of the undead and dark forces seem to plague her people, ruining corps and blighting the land itself.  More, she can't help but shake the feeling that her life is continually repeating itself, as if she were living the same day over and over.  Most disturbing of all are the visions of her own death and the destruction of her kingdom - visions that seem more like memories half-forgotten than dreams.

What is the connection between Myriad's troubles and Cass's quest?  Will Myriad save her father's kingdom from the enemies that surround her and the increasingly fickle nature of her reality?  Will the stubborn Cass find something worth fighting for besides bragging rights?  Only the Hands of Fate know for certain...

Those who enjoyed The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising will not be disappointed by this latest entry in the series.  Despite the shift in focus from role-playing games to card-games, the basic plot of the movie will still be accessible to those (like Cass) who are more familiar with Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons than Warlord and Legend of the Five Rings as well as gaming noobs.  While the plot this time is a bit more serious and focused on the real world drama between those who play for prestige and prizes versus those who play for the love of the game, there's still plenty of humor - both in-jokes for the die-hard gamers and situational humor involving furries, conventions and the usual random madness one should expect in a Gamers movie.

Bottom Line: If you're a geek or gamer of any stripe, you should give The Gamers: Hands Of Fate a view.  The film will be available through instant streaming for free starting August 15th through August 31st at

Injustice: Gods Among Us #28-30 - A Review

Irony abounds in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Consider how this comic is based on a video game made by the people responsible for Mortal Kombat – a game series better known for excessive violence than complex characterization. Yet writer Tom Taylor has offered some truly deep character analysis over the course of this series. There is also irony in the fact that Taylor’s take on the characters involved seems more like the classic, pre-New 52 versions of many of DC Comics most popular characters despite the series being set in the dystopian future of an alternate DC Universe.

There is a further irony in how well Taylor balances the horror of this setting with several moments of genuine humor.  Consider how Superman and his Regime are able to find a way to expose Batman's secret identity to the world after Batman disables all the broadcast media in the world through the power of social media in Injustice #28 and contrast that with the terrifying battle between Superman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter in Injustice #29.  Given a setting in which all the rules can be broken and where many of the characters are acting contrary to their nature, Taylor paradoxically allows us to analyze the core of what each character should be.

A good example of this analysis can be found in Injustice #30 - a comic I'll gladly place besides Joe Kelly's What's So Funny About Truth, Justice And The American Way? and Grant Morrison's All Star Superman as one of the greatest Superman stories of all time.  The story is told through the eyes of an ordinary teenager in Metropolis as he recalls the hero Superman used to be and the man he became later.  I don't know if Taylor wrote this as a response to the recent Man of Steel movie but I definitely agree with the sentiment of preferring the Superman who will stop to help a boy with his broken bike over the man we see in the comics of Scott Lobdell. 

The artwork is as excellent as the writing.  Tom Derenick, Mike S. Miller and Bruno Redondo have completely different styles but each delivers epic-worthy artwork in their own way.  In a better world of tomorrow, perhaps we'll see them working on other books with Tom Taylor?  My preferences would be Justice League, some manner of Superman title and a classic Green Arrow book.

Green Lantern #23 - A Review

The previous issues of Green Lantern have set up a number of problems for newly appointed GL Corps leader Hal Jordan to deal with, including a new batch of rookie Lanterns that seemed ill-equipped for service, a new recruit who died before anybody found out who he was and where he was from, a mysterious energy fluctuation that causes their power rings to deactivate at random and an escaped prisoner.  Being a man of action and simple tastes, Hal wants to deal with the prisoner first since that seems to be a problem he can solve.  As usual, things are more complicated than Hal knows and what seems to be an easy capture will prove to be anything but simple.

There are two ways Green Lantern has traditionally been written in the past.  One way is as a cosmic space opera, with gigantic enemies and the colossal power of the Green Lanterns emphasized.  The other way is to view it as a cop drama that just happens to focus upon a police force with superpowers whose beat is the entire universe.  Geoff Johns took the former view and it seems Robert Venditti is taking the later.  Venditti's script does a fine job of revealing the personalities of the various Lanterns casually through their conversations and there's a good balance between action, drama and humor.  One can almost hear Nathan Fillion's voice reading Hal Jordan's dialogue.

Green Lantern demands much of an artist but Billy Tan seems capable of meeting and exceeding those demands.  Tan easily depicts the exotic aliens and unusual ring constructs that the story requires.  Praise must also be paid to inker Rob Hunter, who does a fine job of highlighting Tan's original pencils and enhancing the mood of the story without obscuring the action in ink.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Batman Annual #2 - A Review

Some of the best Batman stories ever told came from the perspective of a character other than our Dark Knight Detective.  Batman Annual #2 is such a story.  Our P.O.V. character is Eric - an idealistic new orderly who has an encounter with both the legendary Batman and the first inmate Arkham Asylum ever housed on his first night on-the-job.

The script by Marguerite Bennett (co-plotted by Bennet with Scott Snyder) is wonderful on all fronts.  The idea that Batman bears some responsibility for the creation of many of the villains he faces has been explored before but I don't recall any Batman story that proposed that his presence created a philosophical shift from treatment to punishment as the villain/victim of this piece suggests.  Said victim/villain, The Anchoress, is a worthy addition to Batman's Rogues Gallery, with powers enough to be difficult for Batman to face in a direct fight and a psychological defect unlike anything we've seen in previous Batman baddies. 

Would that the artwork of this issue matched its' story in quality!  The pencils of Wes Craig (most recently seen in World's Finest) are skillful enough and his character designs are clear as are his depictions of the action.  Yet with six inkers having worked on this issue, there is a certain lack of continuity to the artwork as the story progresses. 

Thankfully, the artwork never looks bad - just uneven.  Any who doubt the power an inker has to make or break a comic would do well to read this issue and observe the differences in inking technique on various pages.  Regardless, the inking issues do not detract from the story itself and this comic was a most enjoyable read. 

Green Arrow #23 - A Review

The plot thickens in Green Arrow #23 as we discover more about the mysterious group known as The Outsiders who have apparently been manipulating Ollie since birth and his family for generations.  We also learn the full story of the mysterious assassin Shado and her relationship with Ollie's father.  We even get another check-in on the crime bosses of Seattle, where it seems another classic figure from the martial arts world of the old DC Comics universe has finally made an appearance in The New 52.

It's odd how Jeff Lemire has taken a number of the trappings of classic Green Arrow and used them to forge something that is entirely new yet feels like the the classic Mike Grell comics of old.  This version of Oliver Queen may not a perpetually pissed-off aging hippie and his relationship with Shado may be complicated in an entirely different way, yet the complication is still there.  Shado is much the same as she was under Grell's pen, even if the son she would risk all for is now a daughter. 

Andrea Sorrentino's artwork also reminds me of Mike Grell's work, yet Sorrentino has an aesthetic all his own.  Like Grell, Sorrentino is a master at fitting the maximum amount of detail into some surprisingly small panels.  Both artists are also skilled anatomists.  Yet Sorrentino separates himself from Grell through some clever coloring choices that throw the realism of his character designs into sharp relief one panel at a time. 

King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon #3 - A Review

The tale of Zenobia is a literal rags-to-riches story.  Born and raised to serve in the harems of royalty, she had a strength and fire that seemed incongruous to her position and upbringing.  Despite this, Conan placed her in his affections as highly as his other great love - the pirate queen, Belit - and this issue of King Conan showcases precisely why a simple slave girl earned such fierce devotion.

What Tim Truman has written here in his adaptation of the classic Robert E. Howard story is a true romance in every definition of the word.  Howard's writing is Romantic in the classical sense, with his reoccurring themes of Nature vs. Civilization, a focus on individuals over society and an emphasis on strong emotions (i.e. the "gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth" of Conan).  Yet this chapter also satisfies the modern definition of a romantic tale, with Conan cast as the bare-chested epitome of passionate manliness and Zenobia as the strong-willed heroine.  Thankfully, the action of the story keeps the characters from slipping into cliche and the story does work on both levels.

The artwork by Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia equals the quality of Truman's script.  Giorello's pencils are naturally clear and he's a maste rat using his inks to obscure the visuals in just the right way to leave things appropriate moody and threatening without drowning the page in ink.  Colorist Villarrubia offers a surprising subtlety in his palette, using brighter colors in his depiction of Zenboa relative to the rest of the art.  Is this symbollic of the ray of light she brings to Conan in his darkest hour or merely a reflection of the colorful attire standard to her life?  Either way, the visual is effective.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Earth 2 #15 - A Review

For all the hype Trinity War, Forever Evil and Batman: Year Zero have received, I think the only story DC Comics is telling right now worthy of the name epic is being told in the pages of Earth 2.  The vast collection of New 52 titles read like disparate stories forced together unnaturally into a shared universe.  Earth 2 is different, making the reader believe they are being given a glimpse into a vibrant, preexisting world.

This month's issue may seem like a collection of unrelated super-powered battles on the surface but writer James Robinson gives the material a depth rarely seen these days.  The plot of the issue deals with four separate groups of heroes combating a second invasion by the super-powered villains of Apokolips but Robinson's subplots and complex characterization make the action all the richer.  Robinson is one of the few writers I think who could balance such huge story concepts as the romance between Mister Miracle and Big Barda, the revelation that Gotham City is now a savage land roamed by dinosaurs and a battle with Wonder Woman's brainwashed daughter all together in a single scene.

Nicola Scott is similarly underrated.  Her character designs for every character in this series have been gorgeous and unique, conveying the basic idea for some long-established characters while still remaining true to the basic concept   Big Barda's armor, for instance, looks more like real armor than ever before yet the basic form of Jack Kirby's design remains intact.

Earth 2 is one of DC Comics best-hidden treasures.  It's a great read if you like dynamic stories full of action and the artwork is always excellent.  However, what will keep you coming back month after month is the relationships between the characters and the sensation you are truly peeking into another complex universe.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Blackbeard Legacy - Part One

Avast, ye swabs!  'Tis clear to your Captain that ye be too stout of heart to be properly traumatized by the likes of Power Of The Valkyrie. 'Twas a bad comic, to be sure!  Yet for all the problems that book had, at least it's characters looked broadly human - save for the ones that were demons, of course.

This next bit of swill has no such blessing.  The Blackbeard Legacy be another cursed book from the dirty seas ironically named Bluewater Productions. The art be by a scurvy lubber by the name of  Mike Maydak, whose artwork looks to have been hurriedly painted by a blind man. This might be crime enough, save Maydak also has a fondness for drawing womenfolk in scanty dress, yet seems to have never seen a woman before in his life.

And lest ye had any hopes that the story might be amusing though the art be bad, it be co-written by Captain Darren G. Davis.  Captain Davis be the CEO and Publisher of Bluewater Productions and was half the creative team behind Power Of The Valkyrie.  This time his First Mate on the writing duties be Scott Davis, who serves as Captain Davis' Media Manager.   Two writers and no editor - a sign of doom as sure as red skies in morning!

Let's be to it, then!  Spy yon the cover of the cursed book!

Not a bad sort of cover, in truth.  Trying for a Luis Royo look, methinks.  I'm a bit perplexed as to where this pirate wench's nipples have wandered off to, given the size of her chest and where her shirt be opened up.  At least she looks human if a bit underfed.  And lest ye think Captain be going soft in his old age, known I mean it looks decent only compared to the rest of this book.  This cover be the best bit of artwork in the whole cursed thing.

Don't believe me?  Behold the chapter page!  

Insert your own joke about "booty" and "treasured chests" here.

Worry not about the tentacles in that first page, mateys!  There be no Hentai in this work, though it may be as unpleasant as octopus rape by the time we reach the end of our journey.

Our first page opens by telling us what kind of tale this isn't going to be and also establishes our setting as Free Port Township of Grand Bahama in May 1718.  That groaning noise you just heard came from a thousand pirate history scholars, who know that Free Port Township of Grand Bahama wasn't founded until 1955. Those who were hoping for a pirate story with some broad historical accuracy best turn back now.  The seas only get rougher from here. 

What does it say about Bluewater Productions that I'm not altogether sure if  the sentence "Well, this ain't of them stories." is an honest grammar mistake (Methinks there should be a "one' in there somewhere) or if it's just the writer half-assing his pirate dialect  Both possibilities are equally likely.  I'll just assume it was a mistake - that's always the safest bet when Bluewater be involved.

With the turn of a page, we see our heroine for the first time... having freshly serviced some jaundiced specimen of what I can only assume to be humanity.  His general shape and skin-tone suggests there may be a bit of Deep One in his ancestry.  Or it would if we were in Innsmouth and not Free Port.. 

All appearances to the contrary, Hannah is no whore.  Her only reason for making all cozy-like with this scum was to steal his logbook.  Unfortunately for him, he wakes up in the midst of Hannah plundering his charts and he gets an amazing view before getting a headache, as Hanna brains him with a candlestick.

Hurriedly dressing and giving us a view of her ample ass-cleavage as she does so, Hannah thinks of her mother - who saw her get a proper schooling - and her father, who she says is an adventurer and pirate like herself.  More of the pirate from what we've seen so far but she does show her adventurer roots as she goes downstairs to where all adventures begin - a seedy tavern.

And suddenly we find ourselves in a Conan The Barbarian comic...  

Actually, this DOES look familiar... but it isn't Conan.  Something pirate themed with a bunch of bizarrely misshapen characters with odd skin and eye colors?  What does it look like?

... no.  That looks more realistic.  Even with the monkeybird.

Hannah is spotted - somehow - by a blind bounty hunter - an equally busty pirate wench sporting two cutlasses and a blindfold.  Hannah convinces her that it would be more profitable to work for her since the log book she just stole leads to a fortune beyond imagining.  Unfortunately it's at this point that the captain's minions notice what's happened and sound the alarm.   

Now, I know I already warned ye about the artwork on this cursed book.  And yet, even steeling himself, your Captain can't help be be astonished by this last page.  Hannah's suddenly turned into a cyclops and it took your Captain about a minute of squinting to realize the odd panels were meant to be saying "KILL HER!"

The blind bounty hunter proves good at her craft, killing all the underlings.  She and Hanna scamper for the docks as Hannah considers how the log book doesn't really lead to a treasure.  It DOES recall everyplace the captain she stole it from had been and who he had met, which could be more valuable - at least to Hannah.  This be all the explanation we get for the moment as Hannah busies herself with planning on how to overcome their next difficulty - stealing a ship with only two people to do the stealing.

Hannah sketches out the plan in the dirt, despite her new bodyguard pointing out she's blind and can't see it..  She also draws herself and the bounty hunter as stick figures with cartoonishly huge boobs, for no readily apparent reason other than so we know who they are.

Thankfully, Hannah's intricate and silly-looking plan proves unnecessary, as she comes to depend upon that noblest of all pirate traditions - greed winning out over good sense and loyalty always going to the highest bidder.  Particularly since the ship she's taken a shine to - The Vengeance - belongs to the same captain she waylaid earlier in the evening and the crew on-board are anxious to find new employment.

Unfortunately, the current captain has recovered and somehow taken command of a fortress overlooking the bay.  Fortunately for Hannah, his cannons are set up directly in front of a large collection of powder kegs.  All it takes is one good shot with the canons to blow the fortress up in a display to make Michael Bay green with envy. 

And so, with the loyalty of her new crew assured and their rivals blown to the four winds, this chapter of our tale ends as Hannah tells us more of her father.... and why she's questing in the first place. 

Don't think this is so bad, me hearties?  It gets worse.  Much worse.