Advent Review #16: Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #3 (Comics Review)

Jim Zub and Max Dunbar have kicked off IDW’s new Dungeons & Dragons series, Legends of Baldur’s Gate in great style recently, with a story that ties in to the setting’s newest lore-gaming expansion, Tyranny of Dragons. The first two issues have proven to be rather spectacular, focusing on characters old and new alike, and presenting readers with a pretty damn fantastic mystery as well, one that draws the characters into a much larger story than it at first apparent, and all I can say that it is a blast right now.

Legends of Baldur’s Gate #3, out last week,sees the characters take the next step in their search for Delina’s twin brother Deniak, who went missing in Baldur’s Gate some time back. With the help of the Beloved Ranger and social outcasts Krydle and Shandie, Delina has faced up to some interesting adventures of late, and the latest is a roof-top chase across the city that brings her face-to-face against someone she didn’t expect, even as the other characters face up to their own unique challenges and predicaments in a most fun way.

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Advent Review #15: EVE: The Empyrean Age (Book Review)

I’ve long wanted to play EVE Online, a game that many friends over the years have recommended to me on various levels, but I’ve never been able to get around to it. The expansive scope of the game, the concept, the visuals, the mechanics, everything is very intriguing and compelling, and any time I come across something to do with EVE Online, I get a hankering to play the game. But sadly, no time for a game requiring as much investment in time and effort as EVE. That’s actually one of the reasons I stopped playing World of WarCraft a few years back, to my continuing regret since I still have a great amount of nostalgia for that game, which I try to get around by reading the books that are published, which is where EVE: The Empyrean Age comes in.

From a bit of googling I did a while back, EVE: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales is a tie-in to the EVE Online expansion The Empyrean Age. In it, the writer covers the rise of the Caldari Providence Directorate, the return of the Minmitari Elders, the return of Jamyl Sarum to the Amarr Empire, the fall of CONCORD (in a way), and several other things besides. Since I know very little of the world of EVE Online, I was initially wrong-footed by the novel, but as the pages went by, I discovered a riveting tale of interstellar politics and wars and economics that really drew me in and instilled in me a fascination for all sorts of EVE lore, making it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, even though it wasn’t published in 2014.

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12 Days of Best Covers of 2014: Day #2

The second book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Michael J. Martinez’s The Enceladus Crisis which is the second novel in his Daedalus series. Michael debuted last year on a very strong note with The Daedalus Incident and he carries forward almost all of the same energy and excitement of the debut, telling a new story with characters I’ve come to really care about, in a setting that is wildly creative unlike any space opera I’ve read before.

And the second set of comic covers I pick this year are for Tomb Raider #1 by Gail Simone and Nicolás Daniel Selma, with the cover done by Dan Dos Santos, and the second one is for Harley Quinn #3 by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Chad Hardin, with the cover done by Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson (corrected!). With Gail on Tomb Raider, it was an instant pick for me as part of my reading for the month and since I loved the direction that Amanda and Jimmy were going with on their brand-new top-selling title, that too was pretty automatic, especially given how they twist the concept of Valentine’s Day for their titular character.

So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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Arrow Season 2.5 #8 (Comics Review)

The previous issue of Arrow Season 2.5 was a pretty rough one for Oliver. It turned out that during his escape from the Church of Blood, the new Count Vertigo (played in the season 3 premiere by the amazing Peter Stormare) had dosed him with a dangerous hallucinagen and that made him fight his friends, and the memories of his family. As an exploration of Oliver’s damaged and tortured psyche, it was a fairly good installment and though it was a surprise to see Count Vertigo debut in the comic, it also made for a rather thrilling read toward the end so no complaints there.

In this week’s Arrow Season 2.5 #8, we see the consequences and lead-off from Oliver’s big fight against his memories and friends while dosed up on the drug from the new Count. It turns out actually that Sara is indeed in town on some assignment and she helps the team get back on its feet and beat-off the after-effects of a rather terrible night, a mission gone totally wrong. And on the other side, we have Waller continue to position her pieces with the Suicide Squad, preparing them to go to Kahndaq on a mission to kill a local warlord.

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The Valiant #1 (Comics Review)

Valiant Comics currently possesses a great team superhero book in Matt Kindt’s ongoing Unity, which launched last year in the Fall and has since become one of my favourite comics across the board. In that title, we see various heroes come together to battle it out with an alien menace in the present timeline, and win through with some big handicaps along the way. The title has wavered a bit here and there at points, but the end result is that it is still a damn good book, one that I recommend fairly highly for all readers.

And this week the publisher launched The Valiant #1, which is the start of a new team superhero book, though along different lines and also focusing on slightly different characters, though there is indeed some overlap between the books in terms of the characters featured, such as Gilad Anni-Padda aka Eternal Warrior and Aric the Visigoth aka X-O Manowar. Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt tell a riveting tale of Gilad’s past failures in this debut issue and artists Paolo and Joe Rivera do their utmost to make it a visual feast. Read the rest of this entry

Advent Review #14: Grimm Fairy Tales #105 (Comics Review)

After the end of a first arc involving an evil Genie released in Arcane Acre courtesy of the silly curiosity of Wulf and Hailey, last month writer Pat Shand kicked off a new arc, a 2-parter that delved into Hailey’s origins in Neverland and explored why and how she came to study at Arcane Acre with the new Realm Knights-in-training. It was a fairly good issue since while I’m familiar with most of the other characters, Hailey and Wulf are among those I know nothing about and the new arc helped me get familiar with them.

At the end of last month’s issue we saw that Sela managed to intervene on Neverland and get the kids back to Arcane Acre, all except Wulf who got left behind, through no fault of his or Sela’s or anyone else. Pat Shand picks up the story from the get go after that and launches straight into the action after that. This one is quite the action-packed issue, by a good margin, and we get to see Wulf become a badass hero, even as Hailey’s life is completely turned around once again. Pat Shand certainly doesn’t relent on the narrative front and Andrea Meloni’s art fares pretty well under the pressure too, not as much as I’d hoped for.

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12 Days of Best Covers of 2014: Day #1

Last year I started a seasonal “Best of…” list that focused on some of the best covers I saw that year, whether for novels or comics. And now, it being the same time of the year in the new year, it is an opportunity to bring the list back, more so since it was really popular when I started it.

The first of these “Best of…” book covers is actually a tie between William King’s Terrarch Chronicles #2: The Serpent Tower and Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns #1: The Thousand Names. None of these two are 2014 publications, which is usually how I do these lists, but I wasn’t particularly taken with the covers of the two 2014 books I did read, so here we are (Though, it should be mentioned that the mass paperback of The Thousand Names came out in July’14). I’ve long been a fan of William’s work for Black Library, and Terrarch Chronicles was his first self-published work, the first novel in the series being one of my favourites last year. And with Django’s debut from last year, I’ve become a big fan of his work too and will be reading the sequel in a few days, hopefully. Looking forward to that!

The first of these “Best of…” comics covers is another tie, owing more to how many more comics I began to read this year compared to previous years, each week. And the picks are the covers for Witchblade #172 by Stjepan Sejic and for Black Widow #2 by Phil Noto. The Witchblade is a character I’ve long been a fan, specifically its bearer Sara Pezzini and with Ron Marz coming back on the title last year, it proved to be a new fun era for the title in all respects. And on Black Widow, I’ve seen some of the best content from Marvel all-year, with the new title being matched in consistency only by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel.

So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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Advent Review #13: The Magdalena: Seventh Sacrament #1 (Comics Review)

Top Cow has been running a Talent Hunt for two years running now, and this is the third year of them doing it yet again. They’ve found some really incredible creators in the last two years as a result of this search, as evidenced by the fact that the winners have had their stories and their art printed in Artifacts series, which kind of started off as a long-ish mini-series or such, but then went on to become a mammoth ongoing that has seen some big moments since Jackie Estacado and Sara Pezzini changed the whole world.

And now, this past week, we had The Magdalena: Seventh Sacrament #1, which is written and drawn by creators found during last year’s talent hunt, Tini Howard and Aileen Oracion. What this issue, which I think might be a one-off actually, does is explore the origins of the warriors known as The Magdalena, daughters of Christ who are chosen to become guardian angels over the Earth and fight the dark enemies of the Church everywhere. It is a fairly interesting story in most respects, with some good art, but it is also a bit too “freshman” at times, with some rather rough edges.

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John Carter: Warlord of Mars #2 (Comics Review)

Last month Ron Marz and Abhishek Malsuni breathed some new life into Dynamite Entertainment’s John Carter franchise with the release of their John Carter: Warlord of Mars #1 which is the first new comic to come out in the post-settlement era (between the ERB estate and Dynamite). And it was a pretty awesome start to the series, packed with all the action and character I could have asked for, especially with the establishment of a new villain for John Carter to eventually face off against.

This week’s John Carter: Warlord of Marz #2 continues the story of a Barsoom under siege by an alien species led by an Earther, Captain Joshua Clark who fancies himself as a nemesis to John Carter, having fought opposite him during the Civil War back in America. Ron Marz starts off the new issue on a very strong note, by showing John facing off against a White Ape of Mars, and continues in the same vein as we get even more character development with the cast, and as Abhishek Malsuni continues to impress with is energy-packed visuals which really capture the wild and ferocious nature of life on the Red Planet.

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Samurai Jack #15 (Comics Review)

Recently, there have been signs on IDW’s Samurai Jack that Jim Zub and Andy Suriano’s current arc, The Quest of the Broken Blade, has been moving towards a big, epic showdown. In a story that saw Jack’s trusty blade broken during a powerful ritual to send him back to his own time, we have seen Jack being a hero, being a desperate refugee, and having his worthiness in being the keeper of an ancient sword tested by some truly god-like cosmic beings. With each issue of the arc, I’ve been more and more impressed by the team, and the last issue ended on a pretty big cliffhanger.

The way I read it, Samurai Jack #15 is the end of the current arc, and it is an explosive showdown all the way. Just 2 weeks ago, in Samurai Jack #14, we saw that three cosmic deities tested Jack’s devotion to his beliefs, and his worthiness of being a warrior of the light. And just as the test was drawing to a close, Aku found the hero, setting up a huge confrontation. Now, we see how this big battle plays out as Jack proves himself yet again, proves that he is indeed a worthy successor to his father, who possessed that self-same sword before him. Both Jim’s writing and Andy’s art is incredible here in a way that I have not yet seen on the series before.

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Advent Review #12: Sensation Comics #17-18 (Comics Review)

A couple weeks back the awesome writing/artist team of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman came together to do the current three-part arc on Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman. After somewhat of a glut of good stories on the title, the pair told a really fun story that had Diana travel to Apokolips to exfiltrate two Amazons who had gone missing on a mission to the death world. Corinna and Gabriel are among two of my favourite creators and to see them do a Wonder Woman story proved to be as exciting and satisfying as I expected, probably a bit more too.

In the first issue of the arc, we saw Diana travel to Apokolips, face off against some of Darkseid’s Furies, lose, and then get tossed into the inner fires of the death world. In issues #17 and #18, we see how she gets out of that particular mess, and how she ends up completing the mission, with a fair few complications and twists involved along the way. With these two issues, Corinna and Gabriel bring their three-parter to a close, and they do it in really great style, showing off how Darkseid and Diana interact in particular and what this can mean for the “relationship” between Apokolips and Themiscyra, moving forward.

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Advent Review #11: Arrow Season 3 Ep 9 (TV Show Review)

As with The Flash last week, we got to see some incredible things happen on Arrow as well when Team Flash came calling and ended up helping Team Arrow with apprehending a villain, Digger Harkness (future Captain Boomerang). It was quite a solemn and sombre episode broken up with the occasional humour from Team Flash, and I loved it to bits, especially the ending when the two heroes decide to do a friendly rematch of their fight in Central City from the eighth episode of The Flash, to see who really could win a fight between the two of them. No conclusions either way, but still a damn good episode.

And now, this week’s Arrow was the winter finale that finally saw Sara’s killer revealed and brought Oliver into direct confrontation with the League of Assassins, specifically the Demon’s Head Ra’s al Ghul himself. After some of the lightness of the last week, this time there is no such thing and it is Mood Serious all the way as the tension between all the characters got ramped up over and over. And Oliver didn’t have a good time over in the flashbacks either since we learn a rather game-changing revelation about his time in Hong Kong, one that I’m hoping isn’t directly carried over, personally speaking.

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