Last week Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver wrapped up their 2-part arc “Gothamazon” on Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman where they showed how Wonder Woman would tackle Gotham’s various villains and anti-heroes in place of Batman. It was a really fun arc with some of Gail’s best writing that showed off a Wonder Woman who was less about smash-smash-smash and more about turning villains around. Ethan also got in some great artwork, making me wish that he had an ongoing right now with Wonder Woman. But, now it is time for a new team to take to the title and do their own spin on it.
After the opening 2-part arc on the title we are now into single-shot territory as writer Amanda Deibert and artist Cat Staggs come along and tell a self-contained story of Wonder Woman fighting off Circe and her magical villainy. And villainy is right because this issue had a great classic feel to it, very different from the current Wonder Woman print ongoing and I loved it as much as I loved Gail and Ethan’s issues. Amanda seems to get what makes Wonder Woman so special and important on her own, and Cat Staggs art, with John Rauch’s colours is equally amazing.
Marvel’s Original Sin event is coming to a close imminently, with the final issue of the main event series landing tomorrow I believe. Or next week at the latest. This has been a most fun event, especially once you delve into many of the tie-ins and the crossovers that have resulted, such as the story arcs in Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil, among others. Part of this event was the launch of the Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm mini-series which saw Thor learn about his long-lost and believed-dead sister and then set out on a quest to bring her back. The first issue back in early July was a promising read, and I expected that to continue, for the title to get better.
Being on a holiday, I wasn’t able to review the previous two issues of the mini-series, but with the 4th issue landing this past week, I thought it was a good time to get down to it. What Jason Aaron and Al Ewing started in the first issue continued on in the second through fourth issues, with each providing a new and unexpected turn of events the likes of which I just couldn’t imagine. Whether it is Thor and Loki breaking down Odin’s realm-locks to the Tenth Realm, or Loki turning on Thor to side with the Angels of Heven, or Thor’s sister Angela beating him down or even more, this story has been one of the best “short” stories from Marvel I’ve read in a while. The artists also turned in a great effort, though I got confused between all the different pencillers put on the project.
The first time I ever ran into StarCraft was in one of the two gaming magazines I got as a kid, many, many years ago now. I recall reading a review of the game in the magazine and thinking, “I’d like to play that”. But that didn’t happen until I got into college. And you know what, I loved the game. It was sort of similar to WarCraft (strategy games were all similar to me back then) but more nuanced I suppose. Then the obsession went further in junior year of college when my friends and I played the StarCraft board game on weekends and had a ton of fun playing it. It wasn’t until just three years ago though that I read my first StarCraft novels, Graham McNeill’s I, Mengsk and Keith R. A. DeCandido’s Nova that I truly fell in love with the setting.
And that brings me to Firstborn, the first novel in Christie Golden’s Dark Templar Saga, which I finished reading a couple days ago. It is my first StarCraft fiction in three years, and it was as great an experience as I, Mengsk was. It isn’t as rooted in the original lore or even the games as that novel, but it does some amazing work to expand on the setting and the lore. I haven’t kept up with the game unfortunately, so I don’t know how the bits of lore in this novel came about and whether Christie has shepherded it all, but I don’t care either way, because Firstborn was ultimately a fantastic novel that much to increase my fascination with the Protoss and the mysterious Xel’Naga.
For me, one of the best things about Aquaman is his nature and his heritage. In his initial run on the title in the New 52, that is one of the things that Geoff Johns focused on to great success, and it is what his successor Jeff Parker has done as well. Both of them have done much to expand on Arthur’s Atlantean heritage and make him into a fully-fledged hero with a great supporting cast and some really mythology. The fact that Geoff and Jeff’s runs have synched up so well is a testament to their writing skills I’d say, and the experience has certainly been great..
Late last month we got Jeff’s Aquaman Annual #2 which was an interlude between Aquaman #33 and #34. It was a great story as you can read in my review, but the story arc of shark-bitten underwater diver Jeffrey Coombs becoming Chimera was what I really wanted to read about. This was a story that Jeff was building up to since he started this run and we finally get to see Chimera meet up with Aquaman and have some of the best fights in comics in recent history, as far as I am concerned. Jeff excels yet again with this arc, which isn’t over yet, and so do pencillers Paul Pelletier and Carlos Rodriguez.
I recently started reading Tim Seeley’s works with his now-ended run on Top Cow’s Witchblade, his new series Grayson for DC Comics and his work on the multi-author Batman: Eternal weekly series. He is certainly among one of my favourite writers, though I haven’t always liked his work but regardless, he is one of those writer-artists that I want to experience more of. His Revival series for Image is a title I’ve long had my eye on, and will hopefully be getting a start on soon enough. In the meantime however, I have his brand-new series for Dark Horse, Sundowners, to tide me over.
This new book has to be the trippiest book I’ve read since Max Bemis’ Polarity from Boom Studios (last year, I think). It presents a world where superheroes are real, but not in the sense that they actually have powers, they just are regular people acting as vigilantes in most cases. And they dress up of course. There are five main characters here in this issue, and each offers something different to the reader. In many ways, the trippy nature of this comic makes it one of my favourite Tim Seeley reads to date, and the art by Jim Terry and Sean Dove is also impressive, really getting across the dirty and gritty nature of the world.
Peter Capaldi’s much-anticipated turn as the Twelfth Doctor began last week with the start of the 8th series of Doctor Who‘s 2005 reboot. It was an interesting episode, certainly, with a lot of intensity to Capaldi’s performance and that of his co-actor Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara. But, it was all still a bit silly in the end, with a rather lackluster villain thrown into the bargain, and that didn’t help matters. If, like me, this was your first proper introduction to a Doctor, then it wasn’t a very good one but the thing is that it showed promise and that’s why I came back this week for the second episode.
This week’s episode, “Into The Dalek” sees Capaldi’s Doctor and Coleman’s Clara take a space-jaunt to meet a “good” Dalek, a Dalek who wants to kill all the other Daleks. Answering the question of why and how this happened is what the protagonists deal with, aside from their usual conundrums which, in the Doctor’s case involve recreating his identity, and in Clara’s case involve her normal life at the school where she teaches. Overall, this was a much better episode than last week’s, though I felt that some of the negatives were still in effect. Not as bad as before, showing there is some improvement, but still there.
Space opera is a genre that I really love reading about. Space opera mixed in with horror however isn’t exactly something that I run into a lot. In recent times, the only such story that I recall reading is Caliban by Garth Ennis and Facundo Percio, and that is pretty damn good. Last month’s Deep Gravity #1 started off on a very science fiction-y note with a very strong space opera outlook, but there was always an element of horror there, of mankind fighting off against monsters that went bump in the day. I loved the first issue, which I read last week, and was looking forward to reading the second issue.
At the end of Deep Gravity #1, we saw something really shocking happen. Deep Gravity #2 picks up right from there and tells the story of the crew of the Vanguard as the survivors try to make sense of what has happened, even as the ship continues to break down around them. The story is all about confronting limitations and beating them. Mike Richardson’s story, with Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s script, is as compelling here as it was in the first issue, and the art by Fernando Baldó is similarly excellent here, really capturing the horror and desperation of the situation the characters find themselves in.
Next month, almost all of DC’s titles are going to jump forward five years from their present timelines, to bring them to parity with the on-going Future’s End weekly series. It is going to be an interesting month, though I can’t help but groan at the massive time-jump, and part of that interest is what is going to happen to characters and titles that I love, such as Justice League Dark. Since the end of Trinity War last year, the title has really stepped up to become one of my favourite titles with the JLD crew being among my favourite titles. J.M. DeMatteis has shepherded the supernatural Justice League quite nicely in the last year, and the recent issues bear that out.
Boston Brand aka Deadman has kind of operated on the fringes of the Justice League Dark since he joined up back in 2011. Most of the stories told so far have focused on the other members and he didn’t really get a chance to shine until quite recently with the Forever Evil: Blight story arc that saw him possess the Sea-King from Earth-3. With Justice League Dark #33 and #34 however, DeMatteis has changed that around and even delved into Boston’s history and his time at Nanda Parbat. As ever with the writer, the story is well-told and artist Andrew Guinaldo has finally settled into the title as well.
The Ultramarines are the premier Space Marine Chapter in Warhammer 40,000. Over the years, they have been built up as a Chapter that other Chapters aspire to be like, for they are the best example of everything a Chapter should be and could be. Sometimes that has been executed well, sometimes not, and often times the fandom has portrayed them as far too… vanilla, too boring because of their straightforward nature, whether in the lore or in the tabletop gaming rules. And designers and writers have often tried to change that around as well, to mixed success.
In 2012, if I recall correctly, Black Library launched its first Space Marine Battles novella, Catechism of Hate, which focused on one of the Ultramarines’ defining hero, Master of Sanctity Ortan Cassius, and the story focused on one of his missions against the Tyranids. And then late last year we had Spear of Macragge, which continued the story of the Second Company and its efforts to defeat the Necron legions on the world of Damnos as told in the Nick Kyme’s novel Fall of Damnos. Having just recently finished reading both novellas, I can say that they are both fantastic,and well worth the time spent reading them. They portray very different attitudes to war among the Ultramarines, and cover a broad range of characters, mixing some really great stories with really good execution.
When Grimm Fairy Tales #100 ended on a big damn cliffhanger in which all the magical realms of Wonderland, Oz, Myst and Neverland merged with Earth to create an altogether new realm, my jaw pretty much dropped. It was a monster ending to a landmark issue of one of the most fun titles I’ve read in the last two years. Zenescope’s Age of Darkness event was all building up to this in the last 9-10 months, and it was gratifying to see a big ending like this. But of course, this was just the start of something new, for while the villains had been ascendant up until this point, now it was the heroes’ turn to put their best foot forward.
Realm War: Age of Darkness #1 and #2 deal with the fallout of Grimm Fairy Tales #100. The heroes were beaten back at great cost to themselves and both Lucinda the Dark Queen and Malec the Dark One proved the power of their Dark Horse decisively and without any real contest. Now, they consolidate their rule on the merged realms and much of these two issues deal with what has happened since the cliffhanger, bringing us up to date with all major surviving characters and creating new story tangles in a way that is intrinsic to Grimm Fairy Tales. Read the rest of this entry
War stories and DC Comics haven’t mixed so well in the New 52. Back in 2011, the publisher launched Men of War and G.I. Combat as part of the new line-up but the books were cancelled in short order. The reasons are many of course, and not necessarily just that the titles plain didn’t sell well on the shelves. But then that’s the thing, and has become part of the larger problem of the entire New 52 launch. Still, war stories and comics, they mix together fairly well I think and numerous attempts have been made over the years to bring to them a mass-appeal.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, two of the best writers in the business, launched Star Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie last month with a new #1, and I’d say that they are off to a great start. The title mixes in a zombie soldier with a D.O.D agent, sent on a mission to track down a bunch of gunrunners. The first issue starts off right in the middle of the story, with the big twist halfway through being excellent (never read something with G.I. Zombie before), and the story continues on in the second issue to be a whole lot of fun. Writing is far better than I’d thought it would be, and the (painted-ish) art by Scott Hampton is also impressive.
Black Library has had a fairly strong audio range for several years, thanks in part to the excellent work done on the Horus Heresy audios. Two years back the publisher began releasing short 8-10minute audios as well, in addition to its longer range, and they too proved fairly successful. First with Big Finish and then with Heavy Entertainment, several characters and stories have been brought to audio life by the publisher, whether we talk Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and it has been a truly great experience, with very few missteps along the way.
Joining the publisher’s ever-growing audio catalog is this month’s The Tranzia Rebellion radio play. Where this is now audio format differs from the usual audio dramas and audiobooks is that there is absolutely zero narration. Everything is with the characters with no narrative commentary or some such. The first two episodes, penned by C Z Dunn (formerly editor at Black Library and now working for the parent company Games Workshop) and produced by Heavy Entertainment, are really good. They are scene-setting installments of course, but still they quickly establish the characters and the story, with the voice-acting being diverse and enjoyable.