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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – The Vision #8

Creative Team:

  • Writer:  Tom King
  • Art:  Gabriel Hernandez Walta
  • Colors:  Jordie Bellaire
  • Letters:  Clayton Cowles

Last month, the cover shown for this issue (shown in part above) seemed to indicate the arrival of the Avengers and the beginning of the final battle.  Well, as usual expectations are twisted.  There IS a new arrival, but it’s Victor Mancha, Runaway, former Avengers AI member with the Vision when he was not exactly this version of the Vision (long story), fellow ‘son of Ultron’.  He’s got an internship on the Hill, you see, and he’ll be staying with the Visions for a while.

Taken at face value, the issue unfolds with little excitement.  Victor has a moment with each family member, getting to know them.  It’s gotta be weird for him, finding a whole set of new ‘family members’ created and living this seemingly normal life.  Even with only being shown short interactions with each of the Visions, Victor can’t help but see that something is off.

Vision8Int

The reveal in the final pages will have you going straight back to read the story again, viewing the conversations in a new light.

I find my self dreading the end, because I’m afraid something might happen to Viv.  She’s seemed the most like a normal teen throughout this whole story, and has gone through a lot…and I can’t see anyone in the family left unscathed, with what we have been told all of this is building up to.  Kudos all around, especially to Walta and Bellaire for art this week.  I love the little details, like you see above, Virginia’s hand passing through the vase, the way she’s standing inside the coffee table.  Or the face on one of the other diners as they ‘eat’ in a restaurant, nervously looking over his shoulder.  The tension just keeps building.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever

The City on the Edge of Forever is often described as the best episode of the original series of Star Trek, and it’s hard to argue against that.  The script, written by Sci-Fi legend Harlan Ellison, won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1968, and also the Writer’s Guild of America award of the same name.  That those awards were actually for different scripts is where the comic book adaptation comes in (here is some background).  As you can see, Ellison – never one to stay calm in the face of even imagined slights – famously criticized the edits done by Trek’s writers to his story, a “fatally inept treatment”.  I remember discovering this after seeing Ellison doing his best ‘Andy Rooney of Sci-Fi’ in remarks on the old Sci-Fi Buzz show on the Sci-Fi channel, and being curious about what his story was like.

BlockQuoteCityEdgeForeverI no longer have to wonder, as IDW has published a faithful adaptation of one of Ellison’s drafts of the script.  (spoilers possible from here)  Many of the story beats are the same – Kirk and Spock must travel back to fix the timeline after a crewman screws it up – but the devil is in the details.  Here, a drug-dealing crewmember is the one who mucks things up, something that probably wouldn’t have flown with Roddenberry’s vision of the future.  His treatment also dealt more with the racism of the time, which was present but toned down in the TV episode.  Gone, also, on TV was the fact that the Enterprise changed after the crewman escaped to the past.  Ellison’s script actually has a rather badass picture of Yeoman Rand standing with the redshirts on this other ship in the changed timeline, phaser-blasting and elbow-dropping dudes to buy Spock and Kirk time to beam back down to the Guardian of Forever.

But the most intriguing change is to the end, with what happens to Edith Keeler.  In this story, the crewman (this vile drug-dealing killer) attempts to save Edith from the truck while Kirk stands dumbfounded.  Spock knocks the crewman away, and Edith dies as she is meant to.  It provides a bit for Spock and Kirk to ponder at the end, debating how good and evil can come from the same place.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  Scott and David Tipton ably adapted the story, and the JK Woodward art comes across as a series of paintings, expertly capturing the actors in their youth.  I could’ve used some smoother transitions from scene to scene or panel, but it does the job well.  Of course, this version would’ve been impossible to film at the time it was written.  Too long to film, too much stuff to make.  But hey, now you can see the story as Ellison meant it.

Thanks again to NetGalley for the early review copy.  Pre-order your own trade at Amazon.  Or check on the individual issues at your local comic shop.

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Random

Lightning Book Review – Itty Bitty Hellboy

It might seem like an odd combination, Hellboy getting the cutesy ‘Itty Bitty’ treatment, but if you enjoy HB and want to get your younger ones in early, this is a good way. The bright, simple shapes are indeed cute, reminding me a bit of the Powerpuff Girls. Art Baltazar and Franco do a solid job with the art and stories, most of which are a few pages long and have simple kid-friendly jokes (Johann sneezes himself out of his suit, jokes about Roger’s underwear, and so on).

I reviewed this TPB via NetGalley, collecting 5 issues of the comic.  You can pick it up now, at Amazon.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – Red Sonja: Queen of the Plagues

I’m the first to admit this isn’t my normal cup of tea – but I respect Gail Simone as a writer, and she’s a hilarious follow on Twitter, so when I saw this on NetGalley, it was a no-brainer.  The art by Walter Geovani fits the sword and sorcery style very well, and some of the alternate covers in this particular collection are great.

The story covers Sonja trying to help the one man she respects defend his plague-ravaged kingdom against a staggering invasion force.  Interspersed are bits of Sonja’s backstory, rising up from a slave pit, wrecking everyone in her path in gladiator duels and, with apologies to Kerrigan, being queen bitch of the universe.  There is blood, poison, betrayal and death.

Look, if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if a strong female writer took on the hot barbarian woman trope, check out Red Sonja.  Individual issues are out at your local store, or pick up this trade, with issues 1-6, a bunch of awesome covers from female artists, and the script for issue 1.

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Comics Review

Comic Book Review – 47 Ronin (Stan Sakai)

What, is this some sort of repeat?  Nope!  I got a copy of a totally different adaptation of the 47 Ronin story via NetGalley, this time drawn by Stan Sakai (of Usagi Yojimbo fame).  I won’t rehash the gist of the story but I will say I enjoyed this version quite a bit more.  It’s written by Mike Richardson, with editorial assistance by Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf and Cub, and the prose here seems clearer, with fewer abrupt shifts into stereotypical ‘shouty Samurai’ the previous version I read had.  The team included a few more character moments and a bit more insight into the pain and suffering the 47 endured while waiting for their vengeance, and it makes all the difference.  Definitely well worth the time and effort (the link above is to the forthcoming collection, due out on March 4th).

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Comics Movies

Ant-Man, Michael Douglas, and YOU

Casting news came down this week that Michael Douglas had signed on to play original Ant-Man Hank Pym in Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, due out in 2015.  However, this came on the heels of Paul Rudd signing on to play Ant-Man…so who is it going to be?  Both, if they do it right.

EMH Ant-ManLike many hero identities over the years, the Ant-Man name has been held by a few different people, with Hank Pym and Scott Lang being two of them.  Pym created the technology to change his size, as well as the snazzy helmet you see to the right that allows him to control ants (and other closely related insects).  He fought alongside the Avengers, but after a while it got to him.  Hank was a scientist first, and after some setbacks he puts aside costumed crimefighting and rededicated himself to research.  That’s where the second Ant-Man comes in.  Scott Lang steals the Ant-Man gear in order to rob banks.  The reason why has varied in media portrayals, but it usually involves saving his daughter in some way (on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which Edgar Wright watched for ‘Homework’ and is the source of this picture, Cassandra Lang had been kidnapped by a mob boss).

So where does that leave the movie?  Considering Michael Douglas’s age, the prevailing thought is he’s going to be a retired hero, possibly a SHIELD agent considering the group’s importance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  We know from The Incredible Hulk movie that research into new heroes continued long after Captain America was lost – it makes sense that we would’ve had a few active in the 60s or 70s.  Maybe we’ll see a young Fury, or an older Sharon Carter kicking some Cold War ass in a flashback.  Then, fast forward to the present day, where we have Scott Lang stealing the Ant-Man gear.  The Scott Lang story fits with Edgar Wright describing the movie as a ‘heist’ picture.

Changes are going to happen, when moving a character from comics to the big screen.  Many are wondering about Janet Van Dyne, Hank’s girlfriend/wife/ex-wife (it’s a comic book, it’s complicated).  Will she be in this at all?  She’s an Avenger too, as Wasp.  I can’t imagine them NOT wanting an attractive young woman in the movie – it’s Hollywood – but it remains to be seen if they have Janet involved.  I’ve seen Rashida Jones mentioned for the character, and I think she’s got a great look for Janet (see the comparison below).  Let me know if you have any questions, or comment below!

Wasp

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Comics Review

Classic Comics – X-Men: Days of Future Past

I’ve been on a comics kick of late, as well as a nostalgia high from Comics Alliance’s X-Men animated series recaps, so checking out some classic X-Men storylines seemed like a no-brainer.  Especially when I saw Comixology having a sale on several collections.  I bought the X-Men: Days of Future Past book as prepwork for the movie coming out this summer.

The first thing you notice is that most of what you get in that collection is NOT ‘Days of Future Past’, though the other issues ARE useful.  Nowadays, comics are collected into trade paperbacks like clockwork, and each one usually contains a storyline of 5 or 6 issues.  DoFP was only 2 issues.  The first issue is actually an epilogue for the Jean’s ‘death’ and Scott leaving after the Phoenix saga, and serves as a recap of X-Men history.  The next few issues introduce Kitty Pryde (a pivotal X-book character from here on out) and explore Wolverine’s history with Alpha Flight.  Also, he tangles with the Wendigo.

StormOldOutfitFinally, you get to the actual Days of Future Past story.  It begins in the deep dark future of mankind…2013.  Most super-powered people in North America are dead, the few that remain are in hiding or in chains, serving the Sentinels.  A desperate plan is in play by the remaining mutants – break free of the power dampening collars long enough to send Kate Pryde’s mind back into her younger self (who you just met in those previous issues).  She enlists the X-Men to stop Mystique from killing Robert Kelly (senator and Prez candidate) along with Professor X and Moira MacTaggart.

You know the outcome, of course, and it does involve a fun battle against Mystique’s version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  My favorite aspect of the art is how expressive the faces can be – Kitty especially.  Her squinting in concentration, arms behind her back in shyness.  Say what you want about comics of this era, they weren’t afraid to go nuts with costumes and character designs.  I have a soft spot for these looks.  The writing is good for the time, though Claremont and Byrne overuse the constant barrage of thoughts from the characters for exposition in the middle of fights.  I can’t wait to see what it looks like on the big screen.

The last issue in this collection is a Kitty Pryde ‘Home Alone’ story, with a scary monster loose in the mansion, and Kitty wrecking the place while taking it out on her own.  All in all, it was a fun look back into what comic books were like before they went full-on dark and gritty.  Wolverine joking around like an actual team member.  No one glancing twice at Storm’s dominatrix outfit.  Colossus’s, uh, side-abs.  Purple robot overlords.  WEN-DI-GO!!!

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Books Comics Review

Book Review – Runaways, Volume 1: Pride and Joy

What would you do if you found out your parents were supervillains?  That’s the basic question answered in Brian K. Vaughn’s (Saga) Runaways series.  Each year, 6 families come together for a meeting – the kids are told it’s to plan out charitable giving for the year.  “Good deeds should be done in secret, with no expectation of reward” Alex Wilder is lectured sternly before the guests arrive.  The other teens, and one pre-teen, cover the bases of typical kids, with a jock, a goth, nerdy girl, and so on.  There’s somebody for everybody to identify with.  Like any children surrounded by entertainment options, they get bored and decide to spy on their parents.  Things go south when they see their parents murder a young prostitute in some sort of dark ritual.  They just manage to avoid being spotted while spying, and decide together to try and find a way to stop their parents from doing whatever it is they are planning.  Seems like a tall order until they discover they all have some secret power of their own.  Gert has a telepathic bond with a dinosaur pet, Karolina is actually an alien with a superpowered physiology, Nico has magical abilities, Chase stole some high-tech gear from his parents, Molly, the pre-teen, is a powerful mutant, and Alex is a strategist.

If you think you know what’s going to happen from that, you don’t.  That’s the great thing about Runaways – there are some solid twists, and this first volume ends with a reveal that one of the kids is helping the Pride.  DundunDUNNNN.  Adrian Alphona’s art seems sunny and cheery, without the excessive details or heavy shadows of some modern comics, though you can feel the menace from the parents as they realize their kids know the secret of the Pride.

This volume covers the discovery of the Pride, their powers/gifts, and a daring rescue.  It’s a great starting point, and a good gift for a teen who has shown an interest in comics.

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Books Comics Review

Book Review – B.P.R.D.: Vampire

Spoilers, yo.

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has spawned a whole fleet of spin-off books and interesting characters, and the issues collected in BPRD: Vampire center around Agent Anders, a man haunted – literally – by vampires.  He has the spirits of two vampire sister locked away inside him, but the seal is weakening.  He becomes obsessed with killing vampires, and with Professor Bruttenholm’s reluctant help, he sets off in search of the vampires’ gathering place.

Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá and Dave Stewart combine on the art, and it’s haunting.  Gritty and monochromatic, save for the blazes of red from the bloody vampires.  Not my normal thing, but it works for this.  Story-wise there are a few twists I didn’t see, and I was surprised with where it ended and left Anders.  If you’re tired of friendly/sparkly vampires, check it out.

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Books Comics Review

Book Review: Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

Chalk this one up as a win for the Hellboy movie franchise!  I enjoyed both movies (and eagerly await a third, hint hint guys) so when this popped up on NetGalley, it was a no-brainer to check out.  (Spoilers from here on)  The Midnight Circus deals with young Hellboy at the BPRD.  He’s still not sure he fits in there, and one night, after overhearing Bruttenholm arguing with another man about the danger he represents, he runs away.  He encounters The Midnight Circus, and from here his story parallel’s the one in Pinocchio, if Pinocchio was even more dark and twisted than the original tale.  The demonic circus tries to relate his true purpose to Hellboy, and in trying to escape he gets caught up in a whale, hunted by the ghosts of child murderers, and attacked by evil circus animals.

Mike Mignola is at his creepy best here, and frequent collaborator Duncan Fegredo’s art is fantastic.  He contrasts the usual stylized grimdark Hellboy style with sunnier panels from the Pinocchio tale Hellboy read.  You really get to see how and why our young hero begins to see Professor Bruttenholm not just as his caretaker but a father figure.  If you enjoyed the movies or other Hellboy comics, or simply like a bit of horror now again, check it out.

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Comics Review

Book Review – Code Monkey Save World #1

I’m betting most of you reading this have at least a passing familiarity with Jonathan Coulton, even if it’s just from his song Still Alive from the end of the amazing Portal video game.  Code Monkey Save World is a graphic novel adaptation of some of JoCo’s music, written by Greg Pak (currently of Batman/Superman and Action Comics), drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa.  What’s it about?  Here’s the description:

The story follows a put-upon coding monkey as he teams up with a seething, lovelorn super-villain to fight robots, office worker zombies, and maybe even each other as they struggle to impress the amazing women for whom they fruitlessly long.

I feel lucky to have gotten a review copy as I missed the Kickstarter for it.  As for the book itself, it’s a lot of fun.  In a world of supervillains and giant robots, an intelligent monkey website coder working for an evil organization isn’t that far-fetched.  Charles just wants to do his job – and catch the eye of his beautiful coworker, Matilde.  An invasion of robot slavers interrupts things, and Charles gets roped in by his supervillain boss to try and track down the villain responsible.  Not your best day at work.  There is some funny stuff, but it’s hard to laugh at the parts that would be offensive to Charles – then again, if the job market is bad enough that I’m working for a villain, I might endure for the money.  The art is just the sort of style I enjoy, clear and expressive, with vibrant colors (from Jessica Kholinne).  The end panel is below, and still kills me.  Can’t wait to see what happens next.

CodeMonkeySaveWorldCurler

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Books Comics Review

Book Review – Arrow, Volume 1

I got a galley copy of the first collection of the Arrow tie-in comic (issues 1-6 and the #1 special edition) and while it certainly has the feel of the show down for the serious parts, it’s sorely lacking the humor and charm of Amell’s ‘hood’.  It also makes little sense unless you are keeping up with the show, as characters appear and disappear, and you have to know why.  Like, one day, Diggle is just there helping Ollie.  Where’d he come from?  We see a vignette from his time in the Army, but you have to watch the show to know where that fits in.

Each issue is a series of stories of Oliver marking names of the list and taking out crooks.  The art fits the ‘dark and edgy’ universe being built on the CW, though the dark part makes it tough to see what’s what and who’s who at times.  It’s an easily skippable series unless you are a huge fan of Arrow.