Slight lows on the reading this past week since I didn’t manage to finish either of the graphic novels I started this week, and generally didn’t read as many singles either, but I did manage to get through 35 of them, so that’s something, yeah?
For this week, I’d say that the surprise hits are Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing, Catwoman #35 and Secret Origins #6 from DC Comics and Predator: Fire and Stone #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The comics that win the “disappointment of the week award” are Grimm Fairy Tales: Dark Shaman #1 from Zenescope, Arkham Manor #1 and Sensation Comics #11 both from DC Comics. Ongoings like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #8, Aquaman #35, Tomb Raider #9 and Nancy A. Collins’ prelude Vampirella: Prelude To The Shadows #1 were all first-rate comics this week, and quite satisfactory as well.
The graphic novels I’m in the middle of at the moment are Supergirl Vol.4 by Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves, and The Flash Vol.2 by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul.
One of the latest shows of the new Fall 2014 anime season, Lord Marksman and Vanadis starts off humbly enough, but it also sets up a grandiose story of kingdoms at war and magically-powered heroes duking it out on massive battlefields. Of course, being a fantasy harem anime, adapted from a seinen manga, it does some things that I’m not quite comfortable with and the focus on the female characters, or rather their T&A, means that I often struggle with the story since a lot of it seems so much fanservice, or what have you. Despite all this, the story is somewhat interesting, which is why I’ve lasted four episodes till now.
Episodes three and four continue the story of Lord Tigrevurmud Vorn, a young nobleman with holdings in the town (doesn’t really look like a city all that much) of Alsace, as he fights against a raiding army of fellow Brune noblemen with the help of the enemy of the Brune, the Warrior-Maiden Ellenora Viltaria of Zhcted. Lots to take in, I know, but the first couple episodes ease you into the world, and thankfully the next two episodes do a lot to expand on the world at large. Some cool battle scenes in episode three and more Warrior-Maidens with cool CGI in episode four are keeping me interested right now, but I suspect that I’m going to tire of this quite soon.
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.
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.
The Secret Origins is one where each issue contains three short stories, each about a different superhero and supervillain in the DC universe and their respective origins. I’ve been fairly interested in the series for a while now, though I haven’t really gotten into it as yet. There’s already so many titles I want to read every month that just managing any more is a super-task. But still, the concept of the series is a good one and it really does seem to give you a brief taste of different characters and titles in a single package, so why not check it out yeah? Least, that’s what my thinking was when I picked up this week’s issue.
Secret Origins #6 is the origin stories of Wonder Woman, Deadman and Sinestro, from the respective creative teams of Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark and Sinestro, with some changes. Each story deals with the earliest days of the respective characters, and each story is executed well with enough callbacks to later events in the characters’ histories or even their respective ongoing titles. There is a right crazy mix of creators here, and I can definitely recommend this one, for it is a great standalone issue given you a great brief look at three of DC’s greatest characters.
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.
With the Fall 2014 Anime season upon us, it is time to get cracking on a whole bunch of new shows. I used to watch a lot of anime in my college days, but then I fell off and only got back to them last year, and it has been a fun ride, with some really good stuff coming out in the last year and a half, and some bad stuff too. But it is definitely a great time to be watching anime I think, given that each season sees upwards of 50 new and/or returning anime series on television. And one of the newest is Lord Marksman and Vanadis aka Madan no Ō to Vanadīsu, based on a Japanese light novel series of the same name.
Despite being a rather odd title, Lord Marksman and Vanadis is a decent enough story about a young noble archer who is taken prisoner before a big battle, and then must confront some of his prejudices and rethink on his loyalties and his ties to his nation. Tigrevurmud Vorn is a decent enough protagonist, if a bit generic, and the female lead Ellenora Viltaria is the same, though she is thankfully quite a bit more of a badass. The first two episodes look very promising, but the animation sure can be quite basic at times and some of the camera angle choices make this an odd uncomfortable experience as well.
I started reading Django Wexler earlier this year and he has quickly become one of my favourite authors to read, thanks to his first fantasy novel, The Thousand Names and his cyberpunk-urban fantasy novella John Golden: Freelance Debugger. The latter is about a tech-guy named John Golden who pulls out pixies and other urban fantasy junk out of computer systems. Freelance Debugger was one hell of a story with a winning premise, and I loved it from the get go. Which is why I wanted to read the follow-up as soon as it was available, which happened a few weeks back.
Heroes of Mazaroth sees John tackle the MMORPG of the same name, the most popular such game in the industry. And the premise is simple: due to some pixie magic-wrangling and some idiocy at some point, Heroes has a pixie problem in that one of its greatest villains, the current top-end raid boss, has become self-aware and has left the game for a place where he isn’t repeatedly killed and looted by bands of adventurers. But things aren’t always as they seem and John has a really tough fight ahead of him now, one that only his masterful duo with his friend and partner Sarah can help him get through.
Stjepan Sejic’s Death Vigil has been one of the most fun new comics to come out this year, by far and it is also a comic that I absolutely love. Characters or story or art, Death Vigil is like a masterclass in storytelling in comics, and it is something that everyone should be reading. In the first three issues we’ve seen Stjepan bring together his main cast and introduce their enemies. The extra-length first issue helped immensely in that regard, the size of two issues really, and the following two regular issues have done much to expand on all of that.
Death Vigil #4 continues Stjepan’s excellent worldbuilding as we begin to learn ever more about the necromancers who have been causing all sorts of problems for the Death Vigil, a group of immortal guardians of the Veil between worlds who are led by none other than the Grim Reaper herself, Bernadette, alternatively referred to as Bernie or Dette in the comic. Aside from all the stuff we see about the villains, we also get to meet some old friends of the Vigil, whom we’ve seen before in small cameos, and that subplot here lends itself to some great drama, in typical Stjepan Sejic style.
After two straight weeks of reading 38 singles and 2 graphic novels, this week saw me lagging behind, with only 36 singles read and no graphic novels at all. Makes me kind of sad since there were comics that I was really looking forward to reading in GN format, but I just couldn’t get the time, and I’m seriously behind on my novel reading as well.
The surprise hits of this week were Brides of Helheim #1 from Oni Press, The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood #1 from Dynamite Entertainment and Gotham Academy #1 from DC Comics. The disappointing comics of this week were Fantastic Four Annual #1 from Marvel Comics and Green Arrow #35 and Green Lantern & New Gods: Godhead #1 both from DC Comics. Titles like Death from Wolverine #3 from Marvel, Angel & Faith Season 10 #7 from Dark Horse Comics, and Grayson #3 from DC comics continued to rock it.