With Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories, Dark Horse embarked on a bold strategy where the classic Conan stories were shaped anew, with writer Kurt Busiek putting together a continuous narrative that charted the rise of Conan from a simple Cimmerian warrior to the King of Aquilonia. With the addition of fantastic artists like Cary Nord and Dave Stewart, the series began well with the first volume, establishing a clear frame of reference for the characters and his adventures in a way that would always leave you wanting more.
In Conan Vol.2: The God In The Bowl and Other Stories we see more of the same as Conan now sets out for the Nemedian city-state to learn more of the world, to hone his skills as a thief and see more of what the world at large could offer someone like him. Kurt’s writing is very much on point in this volume, as it was in the previous one, and now that the Cimmerian is in more familiar circumstances, the story becomes all the more enjoyable. And along the way, artists Tom Mandrake, Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates and Dave Stewart add a particular vividness to the visual aspect, enhancing the story in every way possible.
Of all the heroes over the years who have left their mark on the wider world of fiction, few if any come close to the pedigree of Conan the Barbarian. Multiple movies, hundreds of comics, numerous novels and short stories. Decade after decade goes by and he is always there in some form. Dark Horse Comics, who have held the license for the comics on the character for several years now have done a great job of shepherding Conan through various iterations, whether as a young warrior first stepping out in the world, or as an aged king. That is where we start with here.
Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories is a collection of some of the earliest Conan stories, chronologically speaking, where we meet Conan as a young adventurer who barely knows of the world outside of Cimmeria but is eager and willing to explore. Writer Kurt Busiek weaves the many stories together into a stunning narrative that is enhanced by artists Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, Dave Stewart and others. The story is a little fuzzy here and there, but the creatives here have captured the essence of Conan really well and delivered a stunning package.
Marvel’s Agent Carter has been building up to a climactic finish for a couple weeks now, introducing some really great twists in order to flesh out the story of how the ignored Peggy Carter became one of the SSR’s top agents and how the SSR eventually transforms into SHIELD. For me, last week’s episode “Snafu” managed to deliver some really big moments, and promised a hell of a lot for this week’s season one finale, at just a measly eight episodes, so going in to it, my expectations were pretty huge.
And having watched the episode yesterday, and having had more than 24 hours to mull it over, I’m still not sure whether I liked the finale or was disappointed with it. Both of them maybe? In many ways, the climactic finish was just that, climactic. But in many other ways, it was disappointing because there was essentially a story reset and things kinda went back to normal and some of the characters did some really stupid things. Some decent action, some decent revelations about the characters, but ultimately, kind of forgettable I suppose.
And so here we are. Six episodes of Marvel’s Agent Carter have really primed me up for the unfolding history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as told through the eyes of the people who were there in the earliest of days: Peggy Carter and Howard Stark. Last week, Peggy was put in a really bad position when Agent Sousa finally connected the dots and identified her as the blonde-haired woman who had been interfering with the SSR’s hunt for Howard Stark. It was a rather emotional episode that also saw some great action, and it just made me all the more excited for this week’s episode..
Titled “Snafu“, this week’s episode delves into the whole “myth” of Agent Carter the war-hero as Chief Dooley and Agents Thompson and Sousa grill Carter over her involvement with Stark and his missing weapons. It is a really touching extended sequence since Carter gets to throw their misogynistic BS in their faces at every single opportunity and forces them to confront the fact that they were all full of themselves whenever it came to dealing with her. And then there’s the whole great stuff with Dr. Ivchenko and Dottie, both revealed as Leviathan agents last week, and with the finale next week, they are finally going to make their big move.
Things have really been heating up on Marvel’s Agent Carter of late. Starting with the revelation two weeks ago that Peggy’s fellow Griffith resident Dottie was a Leviathan agent and then Peggy going to Russia with an SSR team and her old friends the Howling Commandos to kick some Red-butt, it has been a whirlwind of things. And we’ve finally started to see Peggy “grow up” a little and become more forceful with her colleagues at the SSR, which has actually been quite a revelation since she usually accepted the patriarchal behaviour and put it out of her mind. Now she’s fighting forcefully in the big leagues!
The new episode this week, “A Sin To Err“, really takes things to the next level, and the journey getting to that is rather tragic. Last week Agent Sousa finally figured out that the mysterious woman who had thwarted the SSR’s efforts to capture some of Howard Stark’s supposed criminal contacts was actually Peggy, and so the agency goes after her, even as we see what exactly is happening with Dr. Ivchenko and Dottie in their respective stories here. The tension is definitely getting even more so, and the show is headed for a really big showdown that can only be called explosive.
Marvel’s latest television offering, Agent Carter, has been a great addition to comics-related television, and it has indeed been more spectacular than expected. Some of the gender politics-related condescension has rubbed me the wrong way in the last couple of episodes, but at the same time I have truly enjoyed what the show has to offer in terms of the titular character and the effect she is going to have on her colleagues and the MCU at large. Peggy Carter was an underused character with potential in Captain America: The First Avenger but in Agent Carter she definitely has come into her own I’d dare say.
This week’s episode, “The Iron Ceiling“, is perhaps the best episode of the young show so far. This one deals with more of Dottie’s past and how she was trained as an agent of Leviathan, while at the same time also turning Chief Dooley around on the idea of Howard Stark actually being a traitor, and it also has some butt-kicking action by Peggy as she finally teams up with her WWII friends, the Howling Commandos and their ranking officer Dum Dum Duggan. This episode firmly put Peggy on top as a highly-capable field agent, and if more of the show is like this, then I’m along for the full ride.
Last month saw the start of a new arc on Dark Horse’s Tomb Raider. Lara is currently starring in a small stage production of Pride & Prejudice by her friend Jonah, a character carried over from the Tomb Raider game. In the midst of it all we also got to see some more fallout from the previous arc, something that earned her a major nemesis, a man with a real drive to find her and destroy her, someone who is as afraid of her as he wants to kill her. It was a fairly good issue in most respects, and I definitely liked the overall change in pace as well.
Tomb Raider #11 picks up a bit after the previous issue left off, and we see that Lara is back in London and working with her friend Jonah in a theatre production, Pride and Prejudice no less unless I’m mistaken, and things are not working so well for her since she’s a terrible actor. All of this sets in motion some new stuff for the character, which brings in another villain in her orbit, and it remains to be seen whether this new villain is going to be the all-out crazy variety or something else.
The first three weeks of Marvel’s second live-action television show Agent Carter have been quite spectacular. I fell in love with the show from the get-go and the writers and producers have certainly not disappointed. And the highlight was when the network defender the show’s initial low ratings, showing that the powers-that-be had full faith in the show, especially since it is just an 8-episode mini-series. Hopefully the show gets renewed immediately since I’m loving everything that is going on (up to a point), and the twists that keep coming are just spectacular.
This week’s episode, “Blitzkrieg Button“, we see some more of the moral moral and emotional conundrums that Peggy has had to face of late, especially once she learns that her friend Howard Stark, a close friend she otherwise trusts implicitly, deliberately lied to her and misled her. The psychological impact of it all is pretty scary as a viewer, and to see the show focus more on the character development and less on the action was certainly a nice change of pace too. Though, I have to admit, the character of Dottie Underwood just became way too awesome.
Last week’s debut of Agent Carter, with the airing of the first two episodes of the new show, proved to be a great experience. A period piece set in the post-WWII 1940s but with a Marvel Cinematic Universe touch, it worked really well as social commentary and as an action drama, exploring what happened with Howard Stark and Peggy Carter after the war ended. There were some intriguing mysteries introduced, some fun new characters such as Howard’s butler Edwin Jarvis and SSR Agent Sousa, and in general Peggy Carter kicked ass up and down, proving to be as much of an action star as any other male hero in the setting. Probably more since she is working in shadows right now.
In this week’s “Time and Tide” we see how Peggy continues to deal with the widespread sexism and misogyny of the time, while also continuing to help her friend Howard clear his name with regard to all the inventions that were stolen from his secure vault at his mansion. This time however, we are also witness to some incredible backstory with Jarvis, and the interactions between him and Peggy do a lot to flesh them both out as characters, though Carter inevitably takes a metaphorical hit for helping Jarvis against her fellow SSR agents. Building on the episodes from last week, this week’s installment is a hell of a lot of fun, by any account.
Captain America debuted in Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The First Avenger back in summer of 2011, bringing to a new generation of fans a new look at one of Marvel’s greatest heroes and also a new look at HYDRA and the Red Skull, two villainous mainstays of Marvel’s villains line-up. It was a decent movie, though it had some pacing and acting issues that prevented it from being really good. And in all of that, there was one character who rather flew under the radar so to speak, Agent Peggy Carter. In the last year or so she has taken on an entirely new dimension and Haley Atwell has become the first female Marvel actor to get her own live-action story in the form of Agent Carter.
Set in the years since the end of the Second World War, the new show is a prequel to Agents of SHIELD, though the time-gap separating the two of them is something like 70 years or thereabouts. A lot has changed since then, and as the first episode of the two-hour special premiere started, it was apparent that we were definitely not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been developed over the last decade or so. Agent Carter has a very distinctive feel to it and though it is starting off as a decent procedural and is often riddled with tropes of the noir-era, it also has a great charm to it, not to mention that Haley Atwell and James D’Arcy are absolutely superb in their roles as Agent Carter and Edwin Jarvis, the latter being the butler to Tony Stark’s father Howard Stark. Great potential here.
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
The last week of 2014 and I hit my Magic 40 number. That pleases me immensely. I was hoping I’d be able to make it to this number, and I did, especially with 2 graphic novels in the mix a well!
For this final week of 2014, the surprise hits were: Jungle Book: Fall Of The Wild #1 from Zenescope and Transformers: Drift: Empire of Stone #2 from IDW Publishing. The disappointing comics of the week were Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #7 from Marvel and Secret Origins #8 from DC. The regular greats like Aquaman, Catwoman, Sensation Comics, Secret Avengers, Godzilla: Cataclysm and others struck once again in the final tally.
The graphic novels for this week were Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 3 by Dan Abnett, Pop Mhan, Mark Roberts, Deron Bennett and Stjepan Sejic.