Saturday, April 27, 2013
Judge Dredd would probably give IDW's JUDGE DREDD, VOLUME 1 five years in the Iso-Cubes.
Writer Duane Swierczynski certainly seems to be trying, but his stories have a bland, instantly forgettable feel to them. His voice, to be fair, does seem to improve with each successive issue, but this is still real low-level Dredd, to be sure. The art is capable, if sometimes underwhelming, but my main beef was with the way that each issue featured a few short, interconnected stories that continued on into the next issue. It seemed as if IDW were trying to capture the feel of 2000 AD's shorter stories, but it just came off as annoying. (This may, for all I know, not be an issue in the collected edition: IDW provided a digital review copy, which consisted of the first four issues, without any of the print edition's bells and whistles.)
This is not a terrible book.....Dredd newcomers may find it perfectly acceptable. Longtime Dredd fans will have seen much better.
Friday, April 26, 2013
I am, however, intrigued by The Borg, the spacefaring Hive-Mind that seeks to assimilate every race they come into contact with. (Kirk would eat them for breakfast, btw.) Being almost totally unfamiliar with nearly everything presented in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION- HIVE, oddly enough, did not present any obstacles to either my understanding or enjoyment of the book.
Based on a story by Brannon Braga, the guiding light behind much that is modern-day Trek, Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett bring us yet another Borg invasion, except this one is destined to succeed. The story flips between the start of the current Borg plot, and its aftermath 500 years later, when The Borg have assimilated everything, Time-travel ensues, with all of the attendant time paradox confusion, but the creators still manage to tell a ripping, straightforward tale that sees Picard, Data, and Seven of Nine deliver a Borg ass-whooping that would do Kirk proud. The book ends with what, I assume, would be a fairly huge event (Or two...) in Star Trek continuity, which really took me by surprise. HIVE was a fun, accessible read, even for someone whose Star Trek interests start and stop with the original crew.
IDW provided a review copy that included issues 1-3, and I purchased issue #4 digitally.
IDW's GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR has a great premise: Ota Murakami, a young Japanese Soldier, is unfortunate enough to be on the front lines when Godzilla makes his first appearance in 1954 Tokyo. Murakami's heroic stand against the monstrous lizard gets him noticed, and he's asked to join a Monster task force, which enables the series to unfold over the next half-century with Murakami as the readers' eyes, as he is front-and-center for not only all of Godzilla's rampages, but also the arrival of other creatures of Godzilla's ilk, including a new breed of Monster lured to earth by a madman's demented invention.
A big tip of the hat to Writer/Artist James Stokoe. I've been watching Godzilla movies, and reading Godzilla comics, practically since birth, and I've never fully appreciated the sheer enormity of Godzilla, until now. Stokoe's art masterfully showcases The Big G's massive dimensions, and makes you really appreciate how terrifying it would be to be at ground-level while he rampaged around Tokyo. Stokoe's destruction is wonderfully detailed, and really delivers a realistic vibe. At least as realistic as a Godzilla story can be. His Writing is also above average. He understands that, while we all want to see giant Monsters fighting, without a Human viewpoint to anchor us into the story and give us someone to identify with, it'd become boring and repetitive almost immediately.
I'm a huge Godzilla fan, and this is probably the best Godzilla comic I've ever read, alongside IDW's excellent GODZILLA: GANGSTERS & GOLIATHS. Highly recommended.
(IDW provided a review copy of issues 1-4, which were good enough to get me to buy issue 5 digitally.)
Monday, April 22, 2013
That said, I love Sharks. As long as I'm not in the water with them.
So Richard Ellis' SHARK ATTACK: MANEATERS AND MEN seemed right up my alley. The book is, theoretically, Ellis' case for the Shark as a integral part of the food chain, a noble creature that rarely harms people, and has no taste for our tender, tasty flesh.
This point tends to get lost in the chapters where Ellis catalogs dozens and dozens of grisly Shark attacks, some by Sharks large enough to BITE PEOPLE IN TWO!!!!!
So, while his chapters on the wholesale slaughter of Sharks by Asian fishing fleets who catch them by the hundreds, slice off their fins, and toss the still-living, helpless, crippled Shark back into the Ocean to die are heartbreaking, he doesn't exactly succeed in making this guy
Ellis has crafted a gripping, thought-provoking book, and hopefully it can, in some small measure, help the cause of Shark conservation. As for me, as long as they stay off of land, I'll stay out of the ocean, and it'll all be good.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
"Vampires (Werewolves/Zombies/Demons/etc.) again?? Where's the originality? Give me something new!"
Well, put your money where your collective mouths are, Horror fans. Here's something new.
While not overtly horrific, E.B. Hudspeth's The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black created and managed to maintain a distinct air of unease and dread, almost from page one. I read a lot, and I read a lot of Horror, and I have to tell you, it's not often that I get that delicious feeling of chills crawling up the back of my neck. Hudspeth delivered that feeling, and delivered in spades.
The book is presented in two parts: The first part is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, a renowned Surgeon whose life takes a turn for the strange in the late 1800's. Black becomes obsessed with the notion of mythological creatures, specifically with the idea that beings such as Centaurs, Dragons, Harpies, and others, did exist...He not only posits their existence, but suggests that they were offshoots of Humanity, and the secrets to their return could be locked within the Human body, waiting to be coaxed out by the right man...
Black shuns the Medical world, and begins to work in secret....work which eventually leads him to a traveling sideshow, where he creates his own bizarre, chilling exhibits.
The second portion of the book is comprised of "The Codex Extinct Animalia", which features a long-lost book that Black had published toward the end of his life, which catalogs his thoughts, complete with his extensive, painstaking illustrations, on a host of mythological (Or were they real....?) beasts.
I was expecting a jumped-up high-concept book that would be heavy on art (Which it is...), but I was really taken aback by Hudspeth's writing ability. He presents the first half of the book as a straightforward, if somewhat bizarre, biography, and never wavers from that format. It's what happens between the lines, what he implies, that carries the full weight of the Horror that Black's life is becoming, and Hudspeth does a phenomenal job of making the reader aware of his intent without bludgeoning his points home. I can think of few, if any, seasoned Horror Authors that could have done a better job. His artistic renderings of Black's creatures is nothing short of breathtaking...You almost feel as if Hudspeth had them on a table, in various states of dissection, while he created the sketches.
The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black is a rare treat for horror fans, and I can't recommend it enough.
Quirk Books provided a review copy.
It's a rather slim (80 pages) volume, and there's a lot of repetition within the book, as Cho presents full-page concept sketches, pencils, and finished/colored art for many of the illustrations, which means one picture often takes up three pages, which seems like a waste of valuable space to me. The book is broken up into sections, including Cho's cover illustrations, a chapter devoted to Brandy, his cult Liberty Meadows character, and a section of nudes. The art, it should go without saying, is wonderful. Cho is one of the all-time greats, and his work here certainly shows it. He also manages to sneak his trademark sense of humor into almost every illustration in the book. My only complaint with the volume was that it was too short. Let's hope it doesn't take another seven years until we get Volume Three...
Image Comics provided a review copy.
Friday, April 19, 2013
I say "fairly decent" because Artist Ron Adrian isn't really up to snuff as a storyteller. His art is nice enough, but he's not very good at conveying the rudiments of sequential storytelling, and there were a lot of pages that made me feel like I had missed something, a page, or a panel, something.....He really needs to worry less about the big splash pages and get the basics of good storytelling down, and he could be one to watch.
Scott Beatty's story is a fairly straightforward "This guy was a lunatic since birth!!!" type of Super-Villain origin, but it's well-done enough that I didn't really mind. I know next to nothing about Flash Gordon (Who does not appear in this book, in case you were wondering...), aside from the campy 1980's movie, the cartoons from when I was a kid, and a paperback that reprinted some Al Williamson strips, so this was all new to me. Beatty's Ming is an unrepentant, power-hungry loon, and that's just the way I like him. It was great fun seeing Ming's rise to power...This guy has enough inventive kills to give Jason Voorhees a run for his money, and you have to love a guy that orders everyone on his Planet to shave their heads just because he has a receding hairline.
MERCILESS: THE RISE OF MING collects all four issues of the Dynamite mini-series, complete with covers, and an Alex Ross sketchbook. (One other thing: Ross' Ming looks exactly like Sinestro. It was really weird seeing a yellow Sinestro plastered all over a Flash Gordon book.)
Dynamite provided a review copy.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Kudos to Dark Horse Comics for bringing Hermann's brilliant AFRIKA to American audiences. Hopefully, it'll be the first of many such beautiful hardcover presentations. I won't spoil the plot of the book, which centers on Dario Ferrar, caretaker of a Tanzanian wildlife preserve, but I will say that the book provides enough mystery, intrigue, and chase-oriented action to satisfy most mature comic-book readers. The art is gorgeous, and the book would be worth the cover price just to see Hermann's lush representation of the African wildlife. Highly recommended.
HEMLOCK GROVE treads closer to Bizarro territory than I'm generally comfortable with. I'm not averse to the occasional odd or unusual element in my reading, but Brian McGreevy crosses over the "That's just a little too much" line almost immediately. The book is ostensibly about a small town plagued by murders that seem to be the work of a Werewolf. The main suspect, according to the local gossip mill, is a newcomer named Peter Rumancek, who, oddly enough, IS a Werewolf. McGreevy populates the small town of Hemlock Grove with a weird cast of characters, each more unusual than the next, but the one that almost made me put the book down is teenaged Shelly Godfrey, a Frankenstein's Monster-esque girl who stands over seven feet tall, glows in the dark (!) and wears huge plastic cubes filled with potting soil on her feet. (I can take a lot, but even I have my limits!) Peter and his sidekick, Shelly's mind-controlling Brother, Roman, become Hemlock Grove's Hardy Boys, setting off on a mission to find and destroy the murderous Werewolf before it can kill again. The book plays out as a Horror-tinged teen soap opera...I can totally see this novel coming to the CW network as a series...complete with unrequited teen love, a questionable immaculate conception, a mad Scientist conducting a bizarre experiment that is never fully explained, hints of an ancient evil lying beneath the town that is also never fully explained, and loads of parent/teen angst. HEMLOCK GROVE is not a bad book, but I've gotta tell you: Brian McGreevy has a writing style that sometimes verges on impenetrable. There were sentences that I had to read four or five times, sometimes OUT LOUD, before I could get a rough idea of what it was he was trying to say. I couldn't decide if these passages were amateurishly written, or pretentiously written. I tend to lean towards pretentiousness. He does manage to pull off a stunning last twenty pages, taking the various story arcs to some unexpected places, despite leaving a few story threads dangling in the wind. I'm sure there will be a sequel, and I'm just interested enough to give it a try.
Dark Horse Comics is certainly to be commended for it's steady production of Star Wars material geared towards younger readers. I have a three-year-old Son who is crazy about Star Wars, and I wouldn't hesitate to give him a book like STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS- THE ENEMY WITHIN to read in a few years. It's a decent entry-point into comic books for a younger reader, but it was substandard from an adult point of view. I realize that it may be unfair to judge it from such a jaded perspective, but I've read plenty of Dark Horse's Clone Wars comic digests that were intended for younger readers, and enjoyed them quite a bit. This one just didn't cut it. The story was beyond predictible, the art was nondescript, and the entire package just didn't work for me.
DC and IDW absolutely knocked this one out of the park. I'm a casual fan of both STAR TREK and THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, but I thought this was a phenomenal, clever, perfectly executed book. Chris Roberson's script is great, and really evokes the feel of a lost episode of classic TREK (The only one I can actually say that I enjoy....), as well as Levitz/Giffen era LEGION, circa THE GREAT DARKNESS SAGA.
Roberson's deceptively simple story find the crew of The Enterprise and a small group of Legionnaires shunted into an alternate universe, ruled by a despot that fans of both franchises will find very familiar. (The way that Roberson handled the identity of the villain was extremely sly....I had a guess, which turned out to be right, but also turned out to be wrong. Well played!) There are appearances by characters from both the DC and TREK universes, and enough action to satisfy fans of both franchises. Roberson manages to keep all of his cast acting in-character, and I can even forgive him for leaving Scotty on The Enterprise this time around. The art, by Jeffrey and Philip Moy, suits the script well....everyone looks right, and their storytelling is spot-on. I never had to stop reading and try to puzzle out what was going on because the Artist couldn't tell a story worth a damn, which happens quite frequently with more well-known Artists.
My only complaint with the series was how abruptly it ended. Granted, it ended exactly how it needed to, but I would have been happier if the ending had a bit more "Oomph!" to it, and if the characters had a few pages together to decompress and compare notes at the end. A small complaint, but one that keeps STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES one digit shy of being a perfect 10.
The STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES hardcover collects all six issues of the DC/IDW mini-series, as well as all covers and alternate covers. IDW provided a review copy of the first issue, which was good enough to make me run out and buy the hardcover. Very sneaky, IDW...very sneaky, indeed......
Brian Freeman (Whose excellent collection, MORE THAN MIDNIGHT was reviewed by yours truly right here) also posts links to free or discounted Horror and Mystery e-books. I've already benefited greatly from his alerts, so I figured I'd spread the word. He's going to be relaunching the e-Mystery Bargains site in a few weeks, and you can sign up for e-mail updates here. Mystery fans are bound to find signing up well worth their while.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Having never read the source material, I can't really say how faithful this adaptation is, but Writer Arvid Nelson and Artists Stephen Sadowski and Lui Antonio have really done an outstanding job. There are some things that are intrinsic to the John Carter story that just seem, to me, anyway, patently ridiculous.....The fact that almost everyone on Mars exists in a state of nudity or near-nudity, for instance, Carter's Superman-esque abilities, I could go on and on.....Nelson makes all of these things go down easier by telling an enjoyable, straight-forward story that reminded me why comics are so much fun. The book is INCREDIBLY Gory, so I wouldn't recommend this for younger readers. In addition to the first nine issues, WARLORD OF MARS, VOLUME ONE also features a complete gallery of every regular and variant cover, a small design gallery, and an extensive section featuring John Carter's journal entries regarding Martian life and civilization. An excellent read all around.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
But did I listen to my inner voice?
So here we are, nearly a year after I bought it, and I've finally read this graphic novel, which was presented as a "Done-in-one" adventure, only to find out that it's basically a prologue to a movie that will, in all likelihood, never get made.
DINOSAURS VS. ALIENS is the brainchild of MEN IN BLACK/ADDAMS FAMILY/WILD, WILD WEST Director Barry Sonnenfeld, who, in not so many words, tells you in his foreword that he was instructed to create a graphic novel by The William Morris Agency, so they could sell it as a film. The idea was handed off to Grant Morrison, who wrote a graphic novel (Of which this must surely be the barest fraction of...) and a screenplay. The graphic novel is illustrated, beautifully, by Mukesh Singh, which is a real bright spot and kept me from tossing this in the trash out of frustration when I encountered the cliffhanger ending. Singh's art starts out amazingly detailed, but gets less so as the book goes on...You get the impression that Dynamite wanted just enough done that they could package it up and sell it as a graphic novel. I have a suspicion that this was a casualty of the death of Virgin Comics, and was left unfinished as a result, and Dynamite picked up the leftovers, which they, for one reason or another, could not manage to get finished.
What's here is good, mainly due to Singh's art. Morrison presents Dinosaurs like we've never seen them before, and he raised a lot of questions that don't get answered, such as how the Dinosaurs manage to make such nifty, intricate headdresses....
without the benefit of opposable thumbs.
This could have been great stuff, if it was a complete story, which it's not. If this were a film, this book would probably represent the first twenty to thirty minutes.
As a stand-alone graphic, it's incomplete, and a rip-off, especially since there has not been a peep uttered about providing a conclusion. Fool me once, Dynamite......
Luther Strode is a scrawny, bullied teen who sends away for a Charles Atlas-esque self-help book that's more than an ad for an exercise program: It's a manual designed by an Eons old murder cult, designed to recruit, train, and unleash promising candidates on an unsuspecting world. Luther soon becomes a paragon of physical perfection, and like any good nerd worth his salt, decides to go out and fight crime. To say any more would be to do this book a serious disservice. I'll just say this: It gets really dark, and incredibly violent. And it blows KICK-ASS out of the water.
The book starts off in the middle of the action, with a character named Josiah, who can extend his nerves out of his body and use them as weapons, killing his enemy, Ogam. Then we zip over to Istanbul, where Ogam recruits Josiah's Brother, Horace, in a plot to kill a man named Leyke. Leyke and Horace team-up and kill Ogam. Leyke dies in the battle, as does Ogam. Horace, who can kill people just by being around them, hits the road with Leyke's girlfriend, who can bring life to dead things. Meanwhile, Josiah has abducted a washed-up Singer named Minnesota Flatts, and taken him on a road trip to sing to his ailing Mother. Interspersed with all of this are interludes about a guy named "The Fish Man". There's a big flood, and Josiah, Minnesota Flatts, and The Fish Man are attacked by giant, Psychic, sentient Shellfish, who give them all mysterious powers.
That's the first half of the book.
I didn't leave out any characterization, plot, backstory...nothing.
We are given no backstory, no context, no reason why these people act the way they do, what they want, where they're going, nothing. There are no descriptions of the characters, so they're all blank slates....Josiah and Horace are written young, but then Horace is described as old, bald, and fat. Why is this guy called "The Fish Man"...? Where did these Fish, who seem to be Lobstrosities that have wandered out of Stephen King's Dark Tower books, come from? Where did the FLOOD come from? Why do characters just drop their existing lives and go on dangerous road trips with crazy, violent people they've just met? If some guy that was just attacked by talking Fish told me "Come with me!", chances are I wouldn't go.
I have honestly never read such a perplexing book.....I was constantly flipping pages to see if my copy was misprinted, or printed out of order. It literally seemed like there were three or four books that preceded Nerves, and I was totally in the dark. It was amusing seeing how crazy Palisano could get with the characters and the situations, but after hundreds of pages of escalation without explanation, it really got tiresome.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Addendum: I posted this review on Amazon.com last Summer, and a few months after I posted it, I received an e-mail from Amazon alerting me that Monolith co-creator Jimmy Palmiotti left the following comment about the review:
"To correct, it is over 80 pages of story since the first issue was a double issue. It is printed in a larger size for feature the artwork and has the highest quality printing and cover stock . The rest will be collected in Volume 2 and without Batman, since the story has been reworked. The price point is equal and even less than other hardcovers of this size and page count."
For some reason, the Palmiotti post vanished from Amazon the next day.....I'm not sure if Amazon took it down for some reason, or if Mr. Palmiotti himself removed it. Either way, I don't see anything wrong with his comments, and I certainly appreciated his response. I still stand by my initial review: I thought it was extremely overpriced for the page count. To date, there has been no Volume 2, so I'm probably not alone in my thinking. Interested parties can get the back issues dirt-cheap on Amazon or e-bay.
Thumbs up to Dynamite for collecting Smith's entire ten-issue run in one volume, rather than going for the cash-grab (Which they did with GREEN HORNET...) and splitting it into two volumes. This is a massive book, and includes all ten issues, all of the covers and variants, and a good-sized Alex Ross sketchbook in the back. That said, the story didn't do much for me. I was a little taken aback by seeing all of the gratuitous cursing and extreme violence that Smith included. I would have expected a more PG-13 type of book, considering how THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN used to be a very kid-friendly show. It seemed very out of place. Smith's story is almost slavishly by-the-book, hitting all of the beats of the TV show, and including a ton of winking in-jokes. I had a real problem with Jonathan Lau's artwork.....he is NOT a very good storyteller, and there were quite a few times that I found myself staring at the art unsure about what was going on. His figures and faces all have a sameness to them that makes it difficult to tell characters apart at times. Kevin Smith's BIONIC MAN wasn't a terrible book, but it veered closer to terrible than it did to readable. Mediocre stuff, at best. A talented Director could have made a good film out of this....on the page, it just kind of lies there, a book barely alive, wishing it could be rebuilt into something better, stronger, faster.....
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Beneath the beautiful painted cover (By Vincent Chong), you'll encounter five short stories, all previously published between 2003 and 2011, that showcase Freeman's mastery of the form. (While all of the stories have already seen print, Freeman has revised them all for this collection.) Each story features an accompanying illustration by the great Glenn Chadbourne, who is probably best known for his work on Stephen King's illustrated SECRETARY OF DREAMS volumes, also published by Cemetery Dance. Freeman's stories run the gamut from Ghost stories ("What They Left Behind") to dark revenge fantasies ("The Final Lesson" and "Pulled Into Darkness"), but they all feature Freeman's usual excellent characterization. His characters are not just pawns moving through the stories, but living, breathing people that you can't help but care about, which is a real accomplishment for stories that average about twenty pages each.
Cemetery Dance published MORE THAN MIDNIGHT in two states: A 750 copy hardcover limited edition, and a 26 copy lettered edition; Both states are signed by Freeman, Chadbourne, and Michael Koryta, who provides the introduction. The book is sold-out from the Publisher, but Amazon currently has 2 copies available, and you may be able to find some for sale by Bad Moon Books or Camelot Books.