It is all well and good to have your hero triumph over villains who just aren’t on the same level as him. It is always thrilling to have Superman go up against low-key baddies, for example, but the true thrill only comes when he goes up against Darkseid, Brainiac or Lex Luthor, say. The same holds true for John Carter as well. It is awesome to see him fight against rogue Tharks and the other dangers of Barsoom, but when he is faced with another superhuman like Captain Joshua Clark, that’s when things get really interesting.
Having seen how their rivalry came about in the previous issues, and just why Clark hates Carter so much, issues #5 and #6 get down into the nitty-gritty of their final battle against each other, to decide who is the better man after all. And writer Ron Marz certainly doesn’t pull any punches in that regard. He keeps everything focused on the end-goal, and ends the first arc of the series on a great note. Similarly, artists Abhishek Malsuni and Roberto Castro do their best and the art on the series is as good as it was in the beginning.
Just as Dynamite is no stranger to crossover event comics, it is also no stranger to team-up style comics, of which the publisher has done quite a few in recent years. Masks is once such title. It came out in 2012-2013 and it brought together many of the publisher’s various pulp action heroes such as The Shadow, Green Hornet, The Spider, and others. I never read the title then, as I wasn’t really into either pulp comics or Dynamite in general back then, and that’s kind of something I regret at this point, given how strongly some of these characters are in their solo series.
Masks 2 came out last month with its first issue, and it kind of proved to be a slam dunk for me. I’m of course familiar with Green Hornet and Kato from the unfortunate Seth Rogen movie, and the other characters like Shadow and Spider I’ve read about in some other titles like Justice Inc. and The Spider, whereas the others are all new to me. And that’s part of the fun of this first issue, that you get to see and meet so many different personalities. Cullen Bunn does some great work setting up the main conflict of the story here, and Eman Casallos’ art seems to hit the mark as well, capturing the feel and tone of the era quite well.
Dynamite Entertainment is not a publisher to shy away from doing crossovers and events every now and then. Sometimes you have crossovers such as Tarzan and John Carter, or Red Sonja and Witchblade or even Sherlock Holmes and Red Sonja and Vampirella all together fighting against a Hyborean villain of all things. I love reading crossovers and event books, primarily for the reason that they always have an exciting cast of characters where I’m not really familiar with many of them. Tarzan? Nope. Witchblade? Not at first. Vampirella? Not really. And Dynamite has a good track record with these things, so it makes for a much better experience that way too.
And the latest crossover/event from the publisher is Swords of Sorrow, a massive event that brings together heroes and villains from across worlds and timelines in an all-out battle. You have characters such as Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, etc fighting to defend all of reality against Hel, Purgatori, Chastity and others. This could all be easily summed up as a feminist crossover given the incredible number of (great) female characters represented, and both the writing by Gail Simone and the art by Sergio Davila is absolutely top-notch.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
One of the newest kids on the block, John Carter: Warlord of Mars has turned out to be pretty impressive, reminding me of Arvid Nelson’s first arc on Warlord of Mars, which totally made me fall in love with the characters and the setting, though the movie John Carter had done that already to a great extent. The comics were just icing on the cake. In the soft-rebooted world of the new series, writer Ron Marz goes forward in a great way, touching on things we haven’t seen before, and artist Abhishek Malsuni has contributed well, creating some really strong visuals.
From this past week, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4 finally touches on the animosity between John Carter and Captain Clark by giving us a flashback to the battle that set off their rivalry in the first place. And it makes for a really great read since that first meeting was under banners of war, much as their reunion in the present is going to be. Captain Clark has slowly developed as a major villain for John Carter, and this issue adds some much-needed backstory, not to mention that the artwork as a whole continues to be good.
Last month Dark Horse and Dynamite finally launched their collaborative new series, Conan/Red Sonja, which brings two of the biggest swords-and-sorcery heroes together once again. The first issue detailed the first meeting between the two of them, and it proved to be all-out fun, beating my expectations of the title, whether we talk about the story or the art. Collaborative projects can’t be easy to pull off but if Conan/Red Sonja is any indication, then things are going to go great for this series, which is great as far as I’m concerned.
Conan/Red Sonja #2 is the second meeting between the two titular heroes, and an interesting meet-up it is too. And more than just the titular heroes, we also have two of their greatest allies as well, Belit for Conan and Annisia for Sonja. The two sides meet together in a naval battle, and the story involves some really hard-hitting action from both sides while the art portrays that to the fullest. This issue is another example of the finest that you can expect from a creative team that includes the likes of Gail Simone, Jim Zub, Dan Panosian and Dave Stewart.
As part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of Dynamite publishing Red Sonja comics, the publisher last month launched a new series with the character, Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle, which explores the character when she is way past the prime of her life and has taken to opening an academy where young women are given weapons training and are prepared for war. The first issue was excellent, with Nancy A. Collins and Luke Lieberman displaying a great grasp of what makes the character who she is while artists Fritz Casas and Adriano Lucas nailing the visual feel of the book.
Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle #2 from this past week carries on from where the first issue left off and it deals with Sonja and her students bringing the priest Sefkh back to the Academy to question and interrogate him about the demon Sonja dealt with back in the city. Set’s son Sutekh has been let loose in the world and he has made war on the entire world, intent on bringing it all down and then offering it to his god-father. The writing here was even better than it had been in the first issue, and the art is pretty much on par, so I had a blast reading this issue as well.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.
Last year Dynamite closed out its Kings Watch mini-series, which brought together three of the greatest pulp-era comic-strip heroes Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician in an effort to combat an invasion of Earth by Ming the Merciless of Mongo. The extra-dimensional war took its toll on the heroes and the villain alike, and by the time we were done with it all, Earth had been saved, but the planet’s technological level had been set back considerably and while the resultant Flash Gordon series has been moving along at a very good clip, we haven’t seen anything with either Mandrake or The Phantom. Until now.
King: The Phantom #1 deals with the immediate aftermath of Kings Watch and we see how Lothar deals with carrying on The Phantom’s legacy in Bangalla. Before the end of Kings Watch, Lothar Kehwabe was a friend and ally to the twenty-second Phantom, and following his friend’s death, he became the next Phantom although only temporarily, until the actual Walker heir can be found. And writer Brian Clevinger does a great job with portraying Lothar as Phantom. A really incredible story of how Lothar carries out his duties as The Phantom, and the art by Brent Schoonover and Robt Snyder follows that incredibleness.
With two solid arcs behind them, writer Gail Simone and artist Walter Geovani kicked off their third arc on Red Sonja last November in a story that revisited the character’s roots and also shed some light on the most defining moment of her life, the murder of her family and the rest of her village. Of course, going back to the roots doesn’t mean that it is all a song and dance because there’s actually a dark twist to things here, and that’s where Red Sonja #13 really excelled. It paved the way forward for yet another superb engrossing story and I’ve been waiting for the second installment ever since.
In Red Sonja #14, coming some two months after the release of the previous issue, we see what is happening to Sonja with the curse that has been placed upon her by a dying necromancer, the curse to never be able to forgive anyone and to take serious offense at the lightest insult, even a perceived one. Suffice to say, things are tough, and as the big baddy of the arc makes his own appearance, it is clear that with all that the character has faced recently, her true troubles are just getting started.