Jim Zub and Max Dunbar had a smash hit 2014 with their title Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate, the latest tie-in comic from IDW that sets up the stage for Dungeons & Dragon‘s upcoming expansion Tyranny of Dragons. Bringing back a fan-favourite character and also introducing a band of brave new adventurers, this new comics series has been pretty incredible so far, and we are only on the fourth issue yet, as of this past week. Each issue packs a great twist, has some great characterisation and comes with some really solid art as well. What more could you want?
Last week’s Legends of Baldur’s Gate #4 takes up from where the previous issue left off, namely Delina finding out that her missing brother Deniak isn’t so missing after all and that he is actually behind some of the more dire events happening in Baldur’s Gate of late. Of course, it is all even bigger than that and we truly see the goal of Deniak’s grand plans as he stands revealed as the big bad of the series, with a major twist at the end of the issue that really puts the subtitle of the meta-story forward, Tyranny of Dragons.
This week marked the return of two of CW’s best and top-rated shows of recent years, the superhero epics The Flash and Arrow. The Flash, a new entry to CW’s line-up last year, made its mid-season comeback in a grand way by bringing back one of the favourite villains of the young show and had the hero fight off against some big challenges, physically, mentally, and morally. It was the kind of writing that has seen the show become such a big hit in a short-amount of time, and for Arrow it is the same. The mid-season finale left things on a very grim note, with the titular hero having been killed by Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins, and the wait for the mid-season premiere has been long and hard.
But, it happened this week, and I’m quite happy to say that it was a pretty damn good episode in almost every way that mattered. The writers touched on pretty much all the major plotlines, whether set in the present time or in the flashbacks in Hong Kong, and they showed how Team Arrow is moving on and handling things in Starling without the aid of Oliver, presumed dead. “Left Behind” is a great episode in the finest tradition of the show, now in the middle of its third season, and shows the entire team taking on challenges that you wouldn’t have assumed they’d take so early. That’s what I love most about the show, in addition to all the new twists on classic things, and the mid-season premiere is definitely an episode to watch.
I’ve been a fan of Judge Dredd for a good while now, which for me translates into about a three-year period. It all started with the horrible 1980s movie with Sylvester Stallone, but then extended into the audio dramas range from Big Finish Audios, and then into the comics from IDW Publishing, and then the new movie with Karl Urban, and so on. Back in 2012 I also read the Dredd Omnibus from Abaddon Books which contained three stories from the perspective of a veteran Judge Dredd and which proved to be a really fun collection with some really strong stories.
And now we have this year’s Judge Dredd: Year One, which collects three more short novels, but the twist being that they focus on a Judge Dredd who is just a year out from the Academy, and is thus still finding his feet in the mess that is life in Mega-City One. Each novel does something different with the character, with the third one, Wear Iron by Al Ewing, which contains quite a bit of misdirection. But still, each novel here is pretty excellent and the stories told are definitely a lot of fun too, such as the first novel City Fathers which shows the Mega-City 5000 race. Great stuff!
I was hoping for a second Magic 40 week in a row, but turns out that it was just wishful thinking. Still, I managed to get up to 30 comics this week, though no graphic novels sadly.
There was only one surprise hit this week, Eternal #1 from Boom Studios, as pretty much all the other comics I read this past week were ongoing series I’ve been following for a while. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #2 from Marvel and Future’s End #33 from DC. And the ones that continued a great trend were the likes of Black Widow #13, Justice League #37, Catwoman #37, Supergirl #37, Wayward #5 and others.
Doing as many reviews as I do, especially for the holiday-themed Advent Reviews, things tend to slip through the cracks quite a bit, compounded by the fact that I tend to read somewhere in the region of three dozen comics each week. Or try to at least. Fast-Shot Comics Reviews is a way to cover many more comics than I’d usually be able to get around to, which is kind of ironic since there was a point some months back when I could do 12-13 reviews a week easy, but that time’s long gone. Hence, this new segment. Hope you enjoy this week’s offering, which might be the last for the year, depending on what happens next Wednesday on New Year’s Eve.
The picks for this week are: Bitch Planet #1, Django/Zorro #2, G.I. Joe #2-4, Scarlet Spiders #2, Spider-Woman #2, Batman: Eternal #36-37 and Justice League #37.
Vertigo’s latest, The Kitchen, proved to be a surprise hit for me last month. I originally found out about it through series co-creator Ming Doyle and then discovered that another favourite artist, Jordie Bellaire, was on the credits as well, so going in, I had some high expectations and they were most decidedly met. The story of three women, wives of jailed mobsters, The Kitchen is quite a moving story about women who want respect in the world, who work for that respect with all they go, and who are not going down without a fight.
This past week’s The Kitchen #2 is all about Ollie Masters and Ming picking up from where things left off the last time, with the three women putting another mobster in a coma by beating the hell out of him for interfering on their turf. Or rather, what used to be their husbands’ turf. In the new issue, the writers also show the women having some doubts about what they’ve been doing, which is good to have at this point in time. The writing is just as good as it was on the first issue, and the same goes for the art as well, all the way!
As the year closes out, you look back at all the new books from Marvel that have come out this year and you realize that in all of them, there’s one that stands above the rest: Ms. Marvel, starring Kamala Khan, an entirely new heroine created by G. Willow Wilson and Ian Herring who has gone on to create a buzz unlike any other. The fact that the title has been incredibly consistent all year is nothing short of amazing of course, and in recent months we’ve seen the creators step up the intensity on the title in a really big way as they delve more and more into who really is Kamala Khan and what kind of a hero she can be.
With her powers on the fritz recently, it was a tough job for Kamala to fight through all the challenges that presented themselves, not the least of which was discovering her true heritage as an Inhuman, which brought her into the wheelhouse of the Inhuman series and moving on after that, we see that she is not yet done with her arch-enemy, the Inventor. In the new issue, we see Kamala truly become a leader of her generation and confront the Inventor in a way she hasn’t before, just before the villain drops a bomb on her, figuratively of course.
As I’ve mentioned in several places this year, Zenescope’s Age of Darkness crossover event has been really good from all that I’ve read and it continues to be so as the event progresses. Going on for almost a year now, with a lot of prep before that, we’ve seen how the Realms have come under attack from all sides and how the heroes have been tested by their before enemies and how, for the moment, that villains have gained the upper hand. I jumped into the story in the middle of everything back in with the Grimm Fairy Tales #0 FCBD issue, and then carried on with some of the specials that came along, but I didn’t go back to read the whole story from the beginning until much later.
Age of Darkness Volume 1 collects issues 94-98 of Grimm Fairy Tales and also the Dark Queen: Age of Darkness one-shot that preceded the first of those, back in January. While the lead-up to the event had been happening before that, it wasn’t until the Dark Queen: Age of Darkness one-shot that things really kicked off when the Dark Queen made herself known to the Realm Knights. What followed after that in the flagship Grimm Fairy Tales was basically a bunch of one-shots that touched on many of the different things happening in the Realms as the heroes and villains made their moves and countermoves against each other. And in all of this, one thing was a constant: Lucinda is an insane evil queen and she wants what she wants, no matter who or what she has to destroy. Kind of fun!
DC’s Supergirl is one of the first titles I started reading when I got back into comics some two and a half years ago, having kicked things off with the newly-launched New 52 titles like Batman and Superman. Since those early days, the title has seen a lot of turnover of creators and along the way, I think that Michael Alan Nelson and Diogenes Neves made the best collaborators on the title by far, giving the title what it needed most at the time: stability and awesomeness, though sadly they were soon replaced by another creative team.
And now, just last month, Supergirl received another creative team change in the form of K. Perkins, Mike Johnson, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy and Hi-Fi. I gave up reading Supergirl following last year’s Krypton Returns crossover, and only just came back to the title last month, but I’m already feeling as if the old magic from Michael and Diogenes’ run is back. The new team is taking things in a very different direction for the character than previously established, and the art also seems to have taken an uptick, which is good.
Almost a month after the last time, I finally had a Magic 40 week! And not just any plan Magic 40 week, but one where I managed to read three graphic novels as well!
For this week, the surprise hits were Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1 from Vertigo Comics, Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #6 and Spider-Man & The X-Men #1 from Marvel Comics, Justice League #32-36 from DC Comics and The Valiant #1 from Valiant Comics. The comic (yes, the only one!) that proved to be rather disappointing, even unexpectedly so, was New Suicide Squad #5 from DC. Apart from that, a good run continued on several other titles like Hexed, John Carter: Warlord of Mars, Batman: Eternal, Birthright, Prometheus: Fire and Stone and others.
The three graphic novels for this week were: Grimm Fairy Tales: Code Red Volume 1, which is set during the recent Age of Darkness crossover event from Zenescope Entertainment, Mighty Avengers Volume 2 from Marvel, which is an effort by me to catch up on this mostly-good title, and Supergirl Volume 1, which is an older Supergirl title, pre-New 52.
Starting in the early Spring of 2012 with The Hunger Games, we’ve seen a new sensation in Hollywood, the adaptation of post-apocalyptic dystopian YA fiction, or thereabouts. It is the same kind of wave that happened in the wake of the incredible success of the Twilight movie adaptations, and as then, many such movies have come and gone with little in the way of any significant success. The Hunger Games made a star of its lead Jennifer Lawrence and the entire crew came back last year with Catching Fire, the sequel that really turned some heads and while it revisited some of the same concepts as its predecessor, the movie also promised a whole lot more, especially a war with the Capitol and President Snow.
This year’s Mockingjay Part 1 is the penultimate movie in the franchise. In a departure from the previous movies, it is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, though the adaptation is split into two movies, a decision I’m perfectly fine with, given the quality of the franchise. In this movie, we see how the rebellion against the Capitol really takes off as Katniss and the heretofore missing District 13 come together to oppose President Snow and the people of the Capitol and wage a war of intense propaganda. And in the middle of it all, the characters remain the focus as ever and we see some truly great scenes as the writers and the director explore what it is to live in this particular world, from both sides.
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.