Category Archives: Comics Reviews
I’ve said before that this is a really busy year for Jim Zub, and that couldn’t have been truer last week when he rolled out Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing. Given all the other tie-in work he does for Pathfinder and Samurai Jack, he’s also a busy man with some original work, the latest of which has really impressed me. Pairing up with Steve Cummings, Wayward has rocketed up to the list of my favourite monthlies, and it is easily one of the best new comics of the year as well. Japanese urban fantasy with spirits and ghosts and what not? Definitely aces.
Wayward #1 introduced us to the characters of Rori Lane and Ayane, and Wayward #2 introduced us to Shirai, while also moving the overall plot forward a little bit. Now, Wayward #3 introduces us to yet another character, Nikaido, even as the heroes all team-up to fight against a spirit-monster in a really cool action scene. And as I expected and wanted to see, the issue also introduced some of the villains of the series. Jim’s writing and Steve’s art top out once again and I have to say that this was an issue even better than the previous two, which just boggles the mind. The entire team of Wayward seems intent on pulling out all stops!
Coming in at the tail-end of the 1980s, Predator stands as one of the best contemporary action-horror SF movies I’ve seen to date. Sure, the movie has a rather thin plot and the characters are archetypes for the most part, but come on, it had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers trying to out-bicep each other and the whole concept of an alien tribal hunter stalking a special forces unit in the jungles of Central America. I think it is pretty great, personally, specifically the second half, which I think is fairly strong on its own. Though, must be said that most Arnie action movies are awesome. Its Arnie!
Going along with Dark Horse’s recent revival of the Alien and Predator franchises, this week saw the release of Predator: Fire and Stone #1, which is set after the events of Prometheus: Fire and Stone #4 (not yet released) and Alien vs Predator: Fire and Stone #1 (released). The timeline juggling is interesting, but the great thing is that Joshua Williamson focuses on the immediate story and gives the reader just enough about the previous stuff that it is not a crutch. This is a great survival horror story, or the start of one, and artist Christopher Mooneyham does an incredible job illustrating all of it.
A lot of the things that today we take for granted in epic fantasy wouldn’t really exist if it wasn’t for Dungeons & Dragons four decades ago. Sure, the genre has existed for much longer and J. R. R. Tolkien gave rise to many of the staples and tropes of the genre, but D&D basically revolutionized the genre, and here we are in 2014, where that one tabletop RPG has spawned countless comics, video games, novels, and ever more expansions, even a couple of movies. And this is the year for the 40th celebration of Dungeons & Dragons, so it makes sense that Wizards of the Coast would do something special for that anniversary.
And one of the many ways in which the celebration begins is by a new Dungeons & Dragons comic, Legends of Baldur’s Gate, written by popular fantasy writer Jim Zub. Jim, who also writes Dynamite’s Pathfinder and IDW’s Samurai Jack tie-in comics, among many other titles, delivers a really easy-going, cheeky and fun story in Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1, creating an interesting mystery of missing siblings and magic gone haywire. Max Dunbar’s visuals are also very impressive though a bit simplistic at times, but all things considered, this was definitely an aces issue.
In the wake of the Age of Darkness event, when the Realms were finally brought down in Grimm Fairy Tales #100, the Grimmverse has been chugging along on various legs as Zenescope introduced lots of new titles and mini-series, and even jumped forward in time to a year after the fall of the Realms to continue on its flagship Grimm Fairy Tales title. The series has progressed well in the last couple months with a new cast of characters and some returning old ones, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, for sure.
In the previous two issues we’ve seen some bonding between the different characters, as Sela and Shang bring in the next generation of Realm Knights, with one of them being Sela’s own daughter Skylar, and the other being Violet, Calie’s daughter from Neverland. It has been a fun outing, and now it is time for a different direction as some of the rivalries and biases start to make themselves felt. Belinda used to be an assassin for the Dark Horde, for example, but now she is a teacher at Arcane Acre, reformed and willing to lead a new life. It is a mostly good issue, with some good art, and that’s downright good for me.
Truth be told, I don’t have much of an experience with the Catwoman title, apart from a couple issues I read as part of a couple of mini-events at DC. Ann Nocenti’s much-maligned run has put me off quite a bit from checking out her run from the get go, but with some recent changes in Selina’s status quo, particularly the fact that she currently stars in Gotham as her younger self, means that I’m much more interested in Catwoman than I ever was before. I’m generally familiar with her from various animated appearances, but that’s really it. And I think it is great that as of this week Catwoman has a new creative team.
With writer Ann Nocenti moving off to the new series Klarion, Genevieve Valentine is brought in to take the reins of Catwoman and shepherd the titular character to a new phase in her life, where she is no longer Catwoman but is instead Selina Kyle Calabrese, the heir of the Calabrese mob-family, given that her father is its patriarch, Rex Calabrese. Much of this was told in some recent issues of Batman: Eternal, and Valentine takes all of that and just runs with it, delivering a really great story. And the art by Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge is just as exciting as you can expect.
IDW’s Samurai Jack has been a great continuation of an animated series that I feel had an entirely too short a life. I’ve said many times before that the animated series was one of the best programmings that did Cartoon Network did in the early 2000s, easily borne out by the fact that the show went on to win quite a few awards. Jim Zub and Andy Suriano’s run, along with the occasional guest artists, have continued in that same award-winning tradition, making Samurai Jack one of the best comics on shelves right now, which really is all that anyone could have asked for when the series debuted last year.
Recently, Jack’s war against Aku has taken a dramatic turn. His sword lies broken and useless, and with its loss has come a time of ascendancy for Aku since the Jack is divested of his greatest ally and instrument. It was a heartbreaking moment indeed and in last month’s issue we got to see some of the consequences of this. Samurai Jack #13 is more of the same but it also moves the story forward in a great way, and I really liked what Jim did here. Andy Suriano is back on pencilling duties for this arc, with additional art by Ethan Beavers here, and this is another strong installment in a really strong series.
After the end of the 2-parter arc in late summer that focused on Deadman’s past, last month we got to see a future vision of the Justice League Dark, a future in which The Demon has joined the team and Zatanna is fighting some of the biggest battles of her life. It was a fairly good issue, but it didn’t really satiate my desire to read more of the JLD in the present DC timeline, since the current team dynamics are really excellent and writer J. M. DeMatteis has been dong some great work on the series, focusing on particular characters every few issues, and the art has never been better either.
In this week’s Justice League Dark #35, J. M. DeMatteis presents a story where Zatanna and Constantine have cast a really powerful spell that has torn the fabric of reality and sent the entire team hurtling through the multiverse. Separated from the others, Zatanna ends up on a world unlike any she has seen with monsters unlike any other either. And she meets someone completely unexpected, setting off a great story that explores Zatanna’s past and provides some great emotional moments. Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna are the guest artists on this issue along with Chris Sotomayor and they absolutely knock things out of the park.
With three great episodes in the bag so far, CW’s The Flash is powering on to some really great things, especially since next week is going to see the debut of one of Flash’s greatest villains, Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold in all his parka glory. Fun yeah? And to go with that, the current Season Zero comics are also doing their bit to expand Barry’s villains roster. The previous issues have all been leading up to this particular one, out a few days ago, and the journey to this point has certainly been great, with a nice simplistic villain like Strong Man leading the charge on that front.
Previously we’ve seen that there’s a criminal mastermind at work within Central City, who is targeting the “enemies” of a local traveling circus, and that Barry has already gone up against some of the circus workers. Team Barry manages to suss out the identities of these new villains, leaving it to the hero to confront the big bad, and it is a great moment filled with some wonderful stuff that can only be possible in comics and not in television. The writing is mostly consistent with what we’ve seen already on this title, and the art is as great as it has ever been, so The Flash Season Zero #4 is a good installment altogether.
Thanks to CW’s Arrow, the character of Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke has enjoyed a great surge in popularity in recent years. Manu Bennett’s portrayal of DC’s greatest mercenary/assassin has enchanted people everywhere and when he stepped up as the big bad of the show’s second season last year, things really kicked off for him in a major way. However, the character hasn’t enjoyed as much popularity in the comics, with his most recent run ending rather unceremoniously, though not as abruptly as some of the other of DC’s New 52 books. I never read that first series, mostly because I wasn’t interested in the character so much back then.
But now things are different. Now I want to read more about Slade Wilson and the reins of the new series are given in the hands of writer Tony S. Daniel who is also the artist on the series. I’ve never really enjoyed any of Tony’s previous work for DC, mostly because there’s always something lacking in his stories or his dialogues, though his art is usually good. Deathstroke #1 however, is a departure from the former. It is quite an interesting story of a man as skilled and talented as Slade Wilson is supposed to be and Tony does a fairly decent job with him, though some of his deficiencies do show up here.
James Robinson’s deconstruction’s of Marvel’s First Family has seen the Fantastic Four go through some really troubled times of late. Old villains coming back. Interdimensional invasions. Getting thrown out of the Baxter Building by the Avengers and SHIELD. The children of the Future Foundation all being taken away from Sue and Richard. Sue taking on the Avengers by herself. The falling out between Ben and Johnny. And so much more. It has been a trying time for the family team of late, and with the Original Sin event these bad times certainly didn’t go away, especially not once James Robinson began to revisit the plot-threads he had introduced in the very first issue a few months back.
To be honest, this review is kind of me catching up to this massive backlog I built up for this series. As such, there are a ton of things to unpack here. But suffice to say that after laying down a lot of groundwork in the first seven issues, James Robinson finally moves forward with the “real” story progression as he touches on concepts that plots that were hinted at back when the series started and that we continue to see how the Fantastic Four are fracturing up, divided as they are because of various reasons like Johnny losing his powers, Ben arrested for murder and so on. Robinson’s writing gets ever more heart-breaking with each issue, even as the art teams switch in and out over the course of these four issues.
Though Future’s End has been one of my favourite series of this year, some of the recent decisions story-wise have made me feel as if the writers are more intent on just prolonging the inevitable and also because the long run is kind of taking its toll on me. Except for an odd title here and there, especially Future’s End #22, the title has been great, but I think some cracks are beginning to show and I would love it if the writers got the series back on track with characters who’ve been missing for a while, and for the “proper” storylines to come back to the fore.
In Future’s End #23 and #24 we see the tale of the survivors of Stormwatch and the reluctant recruits of SHADE as they continue to battle against the power of Brainiac and his legions of robots. We also see, at the same time, the troubles that Tim Draka is having in his love life and how Madison is struggling to get over his past as a Teen Titan, a dead one no less. And in the midst of this we also get to touch base with some characters we haven’t seen in a while, like Fury, Scott Free, Constantine and Superman in some really amazing sequences, both in terms of the story and the art.
Despite having a star-cast, Ridley Scott’s 2012 venture Prometheus was a complete dud for me, as I’ve mentioned in my review of the movie from more than two years back. It stands as one of the worst movies I saw that year, and does an incredible disservice to the the Alien franchise, more so than the later sequels of the same name. However, it cannot be denied that there are indeed some interesting narrative points in the movie worth a second look, and that’s what Dark Horse Comics is intending to focus on its new series, Prometheus: Fire and Stone, part of a new age of books in the Alien, Predator and Aliens vs Predator franchises.
Prometheus: Fire and Stone takes place many years after the end of the movie, some hundred and twenty-six years in the future, when one of the neighbouring worlds to the moon designated LV-223. It follows a new crew, following in the distant footsteps of the Prometheus, intending to recover some valuable salvage from LV-223. But what they find on the planetoid/moon surprises them, and they inevitable run into a horde of aliens, setting off a great story that is quite typical of the franchise. These two issues are really great and I liked the art as well, worth making a movie about, actually!