Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Conan the Barbarian #1-25 (2012-2014)



Conan the Barbarian #1-25 (2012-2014)
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Various
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

After I made my way through the excellent Kurt Busiek series, I was really looking forward to reviewing this series because I heard so many good things about it.  If you haven’t read my review of that series, check it out here.

I’ve heard so many good things about this series, but I’ve also heard some folks say they didn’t like it because it didn’t feel like Conan to them.  Admittedly, the tone of this volume is quite different from the last.  Busiek’s series followed a young, brash Conan who was fresh from his home in the Cimmerian hills.  It was a swashbuckling action-adventure that was full of savagery.  In contrast, this has elements of that, but it’s very much a love story at its core.  Some feel that’s an element that should be in a Conan story because it’s too sappy.  But I feel it humanizes the character.  Everyone has at least one true love of their life.  And once you’ve crossed paths with that true love, whether it lasts forever or is a brief moment in time, you’re changed forever.

This 25 issue tale is based on a short story called Queen of the Black Coast by Conan creator, Robert E. Howard and published in 1934.  It takes place shortly after the events of Busiek’s run.  So we still have a young, brash Conan who has that arrogance of youth and complete disregard of his own mortality.  Our tale begins with Conan, always looking for coin for women and ale, being hired to protect a boat from pirates in the area.  On the open waters, they do meet pirates.  And Conan, true to his word, fights with everything in his being to protect those on his boat.  But it’s all in vain, these pirates are savage and slaughter everyone, except Conan.  He’s the last man standing among this ill-fated crew, thanks to his fighting skill and brutality.  This same prowess and ferocity doesn’t go unnoticed, the leader of this band of pirates is a woman!  This woman is BĂȘlit, a Shemite who is queen to these pirates.  She has a reputation of being unparalleled in her ruthlessness in battle and everyone who knows her, including herself, know that she has no equal--until she meets Conan.  She knows immediately that she’s found a kindred spirit and the only man worthy of sharing her bed.  

What ensues is an odyssey that spans the course of a couple of years.  There are many trials and tribulations for the young lovers and comrades-in-arms.  Many times, their love is tested and, as the reader, you find yourself wondering “is this the breaking point?”  Just fantastic storytelling, Wood really puts on a showcase for his talents here and has crafted a tale that, in my opinion stands toe-to-toe with Busiek’s previous volume--a feat I wouldn't have guessed possible before I read this.

The art was by several different artist.  They range from just okay and quite acceptable to the story being told to being absolutely stellar.  None of the artists were terrible at all, but one of the shining points of the last volume was the consistency in artist.  It’s a minor issue, but it’s there.

The verdict:  Totally recommended.  The tone is different than Busiek’s run, but shouldn’t be discounted because of it.  The love story is told very well and it worth experiencing for yourself.  Preacher has the finest love story ever told in comics, in my opinion, but this isn’t too many notches below it.  You owe it to yourself not to miss out on this one.  It does get a slightly lower score than Busiek’s volume, only because I feel there were too many changes in artists.

The score: 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 26, 2014

5 Artists That Deserve More Exposure In Comics

5 Artists That Deserve More Exposure In Comics

There are a lot of really good artists out there.  But there are quite a few artists that should be recognized for the work they are doing on books that don’t get them the attention they deserve.  Here are the five I would like to see get to work on top tier books.


Walter Geovani-  
I was first introduced to Geovani’s art when I started reading Red Sonja written by Gail
Simone for Dynamite entertainment.  Geovani is not what is typically seen in Dynamite books, but it was very welcome.  With every issue of Red Sonja his art gets better and better.  If and when Red Sonja is done, Geovani would be a welcome addition any title.  He has a touch for drawing strong female characters.  And when the action gets going Geovani manages to bring the same beauty to even the most gruesome of battles.  His style would really work for a X-Men title or a Black Widow solo book.



Evan “Doc” Shaner-
Shaner was an artist I saw regularly on iFanboy.com’s Weekly Sketch-Up column before it got cancelled.  No matter what the sketch was Shaner made it impressive.  His style really calls back to the old comic strips.  Now every month I see him bring the adventures of Flash Gordon and his cohorts to life.  Shaner takes the great writing of Jeff Parker and infuses a flair of the comic strip history of the character.  It would be a shame if Evan Shaner never got the chance to work on a book like Spider-Man for Marvel or Superman for DC where he would get a lot more notice.


Emma Rios-
Emma Rios has a distinctive style that is easily recognized.  She has already gotten some decent notice from working on Pretty Deadly at Image and Dr. Strange Season 1 for Marvel, but I still don’t feel she is recognised for the talent that she is.  I first encountered her art when I was first getting back into comics.  A video podcast reviewed a book called Hexed.  The moment I saw her art I was hooked.  Rios deserves to be in the main spotlight at one of the big two.  


Ardian Syaf-
Syaf’s art can be seen on a lot of covers, mostly DC.  I first noticed his art on the covers of Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing.  The first two covers to the three part series had some amazing compositions.  And his line work was rough, but in a beautiful way.  When the new 52 started he did art for Gail Simone’s Batgirl.  Now you may think that Syaf has been pretty high up the list if he worked on Batgirl.  But he still hasn’t made it to where he deserves to be.  Most people still probably have to Google his name to figure out who he is and how good his art is.  I would really like to see Syaf get the chance to do some work on a Thor book, or maybe even a run on Daredevil if they ever go back to the darker tone.


Ibrahim Moustafa-

Ibrahim has mostly worked on smaller titles, but he really deserves to be in the spotlight.  He did some really fun art on a 3-issue mini for IDW called The Pound, and now he is tearing it up on a book for Monkeybrain called High Crimes.  I have had the pleasure of meeting him a couple times, and he is the most humble person I have met.  He will talk with any and everybody who stops by his booth, and will never complain for a second.  Even if it’s the last half hour of the last day of a con, he will make you feel incredibly welcome.  On top of his great personality, he has an amazing work ethic and a really great art style that evolves to fit the book he is working on.  Just take one look at an issue of High Crimes and you will see that his art has the feel of Sean Phillips.  But if you look at his style of art for The Pound it is a little more cartoonish, but the art still keeps it’s great qualities.  If Moustafa doesn’t eventually get his chance on a book with the one of the three big publishers than the industry is missing out.

There are more that could use more of a push, but these are the ones who I feel deserve it the most.  If you have any choices you can think of that you would like to see get a shot leave a comment for me. I am interested to see what some of the ones you would like to see move up.  As always thank you for reading and hope to see you again for my next post.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Double Marvel Claremont Issue Review- X-Men #1 (1991) and New Exiles #1 (2007)

This time around I am doing a double Marvel review.   And as it turns out a double Claremont review.   The first is an issue that my sister in-law bought for me at a garage sale, but I had seen it before enough to know exactly what it was when I saw it.  The other issue is part of a series that I have heard of, but I know nothing about the series.  So onto the first issue.



X-Men #1
 Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Jim Lee
Year of Release 1991

I have seen hundreds of copies of this issue while stocking the back issue bins at my local shop, but this is the first time I have read it.  But then again I don’t read a whole lot of X-Men books.  So this was a great issue for me to review.

It’s an okay issue, but feels pretty basic.  You have Magneto ruling over Asteroid M, and gives up on Earth until a small group of mutant terrorists hijack a shuttle and go looking for him to convince him to come back to Earth to help his people.  Meanwhile the X-Men are training as small squads to be ready for any threat that could arise.  The terrorist’s actions attract the attention of of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury, who reaches out to the X-Men to help.

Claremont does what he does best, writes good dialogue for the characters he gets to write.  He also jams the panels with thought balloons and narration boxes.  Unlike most people though I don’t really mind all of the narration Claremont uses.  None of it comes off as annoying or unnecessary.
in 2007
The art is really strong.  Lee delivers on a really good example or how nineties art can be beautiful.  It is a bit heavy on the cross hatch shading, but it works if you consider where he comes from artistically.  
Now for the second issue I read.  This one I grabbed at random out of the back issue bins at the local comic shop I frequent on a regular basis



New Exiles #1
Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Tom Grummet
Released by Marvel
Released in 2007

It’s an interesting concept for a series.  Heroes from different universes come together to defend against threats to all universes.  They gather at the Crystal Palace, a fortress in no specific time or space.  

The team is made up of Cat, an alternate reality version of Kitty Pryde.  Sage, a girl from the main Marvel universe who has all of the memories of the guardian of the omniverse stuck in her head.  Some of which are trying to take over.  The leader of the team, Sabretooth from the Ultimate Universe it appears.  Though it isn’t clear.  Psylocke, the one and only.  Rogue, it isn’t really clear which universe she comes from.  But she is only in a small bit of this issue. Mystiq, a male version of the villain Mystique.  And Morph, a shape shifter of some kind.

This is the typical first issue, it introduces the characters and the world they inhabit.  But it doesn’t make it totally clear what the overall story is.  The beginning of the issue insinuates that the core of the problem that is threatening the universes all starts with the famous trip into space by the Fantastic Four.  Though the only variance that appears to exist is that Sue is saved by Namor when the crew crashes back to Earth after their accident.

Claremont paints an interesting picture in this issue.  And he shows an ability to adapt his writing style to the modern era.  He still uses all of the thought bubbles and narration boxes, but they don’t seem to overwhelm the panels like his earlier issues.  The story, though not entirely clear, is really interesting.

Grummet’s art is impressive.  Each of the characters are easily recognizable from one another, and the backdrops of the world come to life beautifully.  Grummet’s Panel layouts are easy to follow.  The eye can naturally find where to go without getting lost.  

Ratings:
X-Men #1- 3 out of 5
New Exiles #1- 3.5 out of 5

These issues were both really fun in their own ways.  X-Men #1 because of the nostalgia of that era in comics.  All of the markings of the 90’s made it fun to revisit.  New Exiles for the interesting concept of a team of members from different universes, teaming to stop threats to all of the omniverse.

As always thank you for reading my review.  I hope you enjoyed hearing my thoughts on these two issues from different eras in Claremont’s career.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment on this post.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Special Edition Review- Dark Anna and the Pirates of Kadath




This review is a special Rose City Comic Con edition.  The book I am reviewing was only available for now at the con itself.   Though it will probably be available through other avenues in the coming days.


Dark Anna and the Pirates of Kadath #0
Written by Aaron Duran
Art by Ethan Slayton
Released by Geek In The City Comics

This comic was released as a Rose City exclusive by the creators Aaron Duran and Ethan Slayton with a special cover done by the original artist for the book, Kevin Stephenson.  


The story is an interesting mix of high seas pirate adventure and H.P. Lovecraft mythology.  I recently started dabbling in the writings of Lovecraft, but I am not completely familiar with all of his stories.  This makes it interesting, yet a slight bit confusing.  


The book focus’ on a pirate captain named Anna, who commands the crew of the ship Snabba Hamnden.  They sail the Baltic Seas, which are filled with Lovecraftian creatures.  And it is made clear that Anna and her crew show no quarter to any who are targeted by their crosshairs.  


It begins with some really good narration that gives you a little backstory on the world and the Snabba Hamnden, imposed over images of the sea and a ship chase.  The chase  and ensuing battle doesn’t last long, and soon Anna’s crew have boarded their query.  From the first panel that Anna appears you can tell she is a strong female who takes no crap from anyone.  And that if you cross her, there is very little chance for forgiveness.  


You get a little flash of what happened in Anna’s past to make her who she is, but it isn’t a lot.  Just enough to get you interested.  And by the end of the issue which is only 9 pages you get a teaser of where the story will be going.  


The characters all have strong voices that Duran manages to get across with only a little bit of dialogue.  And it is clear that he has a good handle on where he wants to go with the story.  


The art is black and white, which builds the darkness pretty well, but it makes it hard to discern some aspects of the book.  Especially when it comes to the crew of the ship that Anna captures early in the book. They are clearly supposed to be creatures of some kind, but I can’t tell for sure if they are Cthullu beasts or some other Lovecraftian creature.    The art could have really benefitted from some color or even just a little more subtlety with the balance of black and white with the inking..  But it is very understandable why it is black and white considering the cost of color printing.  And since the issue was released independently the cost was purely on the creators.


Rating:
4 out of 5


It was a good issue, that caught my interest.  But I wish the art were a little clearer at points.  That said I am fully on board to check out the next issue.  And I am actually anxious to see it.  I have full faith that their quality will only get better with the every issue.

Thanks for reading my review for Dark Anna and the Pirates of Kadath.  If you are interested in checking it out I will post a link to where it can be found when the creators give more information.  But if you would like to read something by Aaron Duran you can buy the first issue of his other book La Brujeria on Comixology. Or all four issues can be found on www.Drivethrucomics.com.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

What is the future for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

 




With all of the talk about how Robert Downey Jr. won’t return for Iron Man 4 and that Chris Evans wants to take a hiatus from acting it leaves a lot of questions as to what will happen with the Marvel cinematic universe.  Well I have some ideas on how they could continue the universe with only a soft reboot.  I figure I will break it down by  the three big members characters to make it easier to explain.  Plus I feel they are the ones that are important.

Captain America-
If Chris Evans wants to take time away from acting they could easily set up Bucky to take over as Captain America.  Use the third Captain America movie to bring him into a point of wanting to atone for his crimes in the past.  Then have Steve die in Avengers 3 setting up the need for someone to fill the spot on the Avengers.  I really liked Bucky as Cap in the comics and would like to see Marvel take a chance on trying to make it work in their movie universe.

Thor-
This one is a little more drawn out but, I have an idea on a way of moving on the movies with a new actor as the god of thunder.  They have set up a good opening for the Ragnarok story in the Thor movies, so you let it play out.  Have Loki bring upon the end of Asgard, but before the final fall have him realize all he really wanted was to better Thor.  That gives you the death of all of the gods of Asgard, and Loki getting a chance at a hero turn if they wanted.  So after Thor 3 they have Thor dead, which gives the chance at tapping into the JMS Thor story of Thor being resurrected and rebuilding Asgard.  And they
could recast Thor if they want to and it could be explained as he looked slightly different due to the resurrection.  And if they wanted to they could even have be Loki who resurrects him in an effort to fix the mistakes he made.

Iron Man-
This one is a little harder to navigate, because there isn’t a whole lot of history of anyone else being Iron Man.  You have the brief amount of time where Rhodey took over the suit and in Iron Man 2099 it was some kind of relative to Tony Stark.  But I guess you could  have Rhodey take over for a while. I just know that it would be hard for anyone to take over the role of Tony Stark after Robert Downey Jr. and be accepted.  

After those three they have plenty of characters to fill out the team.  I am sure that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver will be given spots on the team, and I wonder if that will be in place of Hawkeye and Black Widow.  Because it seems like they have no interest in developing them as compelling members of the Avengers.  I would like to see if they decide to incorporate some of the other characters that they are getting ready to introduce into the universe, like Ant-Man, Black Panther(rumored) or Dr. Strange.  But then you have the characters they are bringing in through the Netflix shows, and most of those characters, if done right, could become good members of the Avengers or even a off shoot team like New Avengers or Mighty Avengers.  Of course there are also the members of Guardians of the Galaxy that they decide to introduce, and who knows what bearings they will have on the Avengers series.  But with Thanos looming as a threat in the future of the franchise they will almost have to show up at some point.

Once again these are only my thoughts and theories.  I have no idea where the Marvel Cinematic Universe will go from here on out.  But I can’t wait to see how they surprise me next.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on the subject, if you have any thoughts or suggestions I would love to hear them.  

Teddy

Luck of the DRAWer Box!! #2- The Ray #1






I’m back again with another installment of Luck of the DRAWer box.  This time around I am reviewing.


The Ray #1
Written by Cristopher Priest
Art by Howard Porter
Released by DC Comics
Released in 1994


I  had never even heard of this character until I pulled this book out of a long box at I LIke Comics.  My first impression when I pulled this issue was “Oh my god it has a chromium cover.”  And I know you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover, but I have had some bad experiences with the gimmick covers of the 90’s.  So I have associated special covers as being just a flashy cover for a sub par book.  But I read on anyways in hopes of being proven wrong.


The Ray did nothing to impress me.  The main character, cleverly named Ray, comes off as a whiny twenty-something with nothing to like.  And his superpowered persona, The Ray, has a very ill defined set of powers.  From what little I could decipher from this issue he has some kind of power based on storing light and discharging it.  He can use the stored light to fly and shoot hard light beams as weapons.  And although they don’t make it clear, I think the source of his powers is a jacket.  But I could be wrong.  I think this because at one point he needs to become the Ray, so he has to take his jacket back from a girl who is borrowing it.  And the jacket is extremely stuck in the 90’s


The only part of the story that redeemed it slightly was the appearance of Superboy.  Though it was clear he was brought in an attempt to get more people to check it out.  The Ray and Superboy banter back in forth like a couple of spoiled little school kids arguing over who’s dad could beat up who.  The villain is some kind of weapon of Darkseid called Brimstone. Which from the editor notes it sounds like that was a mini event going throughout various books at the time.  But I didn’t really care.  


The art of Howard Porter is a bright spot to the issue.  Even his 90’s art shows much more talent than this book deserved.  Though Ray and his cousin Hank often look identical when the panel doesn’t show their hair color.


Rating:
1 out of 5


This is the first time I read a book and it was a struggle to get through it.  I won’t be reading anymore of this series.  It just wasn’t for me.  I really was hoping to discover a new character that would catch my interest.



Thanks for reading and I hope it helps to introduce more people to other interesting titles.  If you have any comments or suggestions please post them on this review.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Luck of the DRAWer Box!! #1- Shade the Changing Man #50






This is the first in a new style of retro reviews.  I work at a local comic shop called I LIke Comics.  Every other Tuesday I stock the back issue bins, so I decided that I will randomly pull an issue out of a random box of old comics.  This was an idea conceived by my buddy Tony.  So here goes my first edition of what I am calling “Luck of the DRAWer box”.

Shade the Changing Man #50
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham and Rick Bryant
Released by Veritgo
Released in 1994


I have read the first three trades of the Peter Milligan run and I have been a fan from the moment I read issue number 1.  I have also read the issues of Justice League Dark that Milligan did, which was pretty much Milligan’s goodbye to the character of Shade.  That said this issue was actually the key moment that made the character of Shade into the what he was.

Shade the Changing Man #50 is the sixth part to a story arc that I have read no other issues to.  You get the story of Shade and his girlfriend Kathy, who is now pregnant, holding up at a small motel with three others.  The group is mourning the death of a friend who died in a fire and there are angels looking to “recruit” Shade and Kathy’s baby.  

Two of the group, Lenny and Lilly, are the focus of a side story about reconciliation.  Lenny is Lilly’s mother, and from the way they talk they have been estranged for some time.  This story is part of what makes Milligan a great writer in my eyes.  The conversations they have remind me of conversations I had with my own father when I was finally getting my chance to move on from previous and unwarranted hatred of him.  The conversations feel real between the two.

The main story though focus’ on Shade trying to protect his girlfriend and unborn child.  The angels start to fight dirty to get their hands on the child.  Even going so far as possessing Shade and trying to get him to kill his girlfriend and cut the baby from her belly for them.  After the failed attempt to get Shade to kill Kathy, Shade goes to the devil thinking he can be trusted.  But lets face it, no deal with the devil is what it seems.  Shade’s deal goes sideways as you would expect and Kathy pays the price.  Their baby is made a new “ally” to the devil and Kathy dies.  

Even though there are multiple artists on this book, the art is beautiful.  And it transitions between styles flawlessly.  Only showing true style change when Shade’s madness gets more out of control.

My verdict on this issue is that it shows why Milligan’s Shade run is so highly praised by those who read it.  Another strong issue from one of my favorite lesser known writers.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Thanks for reading and I hope it helps to introduce more people to other interesting titles.  If you have any comments or suggestions please post them on this review.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pregnant Bitches of War #1



Writers: Clay Adams & Alexandre O. Philippe
Artist:  Dominike “Domo” Stanton
Publisher:  Fried Comics


If this first page doesn't get you ready
to see what happens next, nothing will!
Every once in a while, I’m guilty of trying out a book based solely on the title or the cover.  This is one of those times.  Can anyone blame me?  I mean, come on, look at that title!  Doesn’t it just scream “this is going to be awesomely bad”?  Thankfully, this was a pleasant surprise that was more awesome than awesomely bad.


Before picking this up, I’d never heard of Fried Comics or any of the creators on this book.  Maybe that’s the best way to approach a book from time to time.  Sometimes, preconceived notions for a book because of prior experiences with a creator can either hinder or add to your enjoyment of a title.


Adams & Philippe wrote a fun issue here.  The humor was crude, snappy, and most of all, fun.  The premise for the series, as absurd as it is, is laid down quickly and moves forward at a nice pace.  It’s like the light beer version of The Pro.


Stanton’s art, on the other hand, isn’t quite as polished.  Certain panels look really nice and others just look rushed and sloppy.  But I see some real potential.  After reading this book, I used my Google-fu to look up examples of his work and what I see seems to prove that I might be right about his potential.  I look forward to seeing his art progress.


The verdict:  Give it a shot.  I think I’ll be keeping an eye out for issue #2 and seeing where this series goes.

The score: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Velvet vol. 1 TPB



Writer:  Ed Brubaker
Art:  Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher:  Image


“Who is Velvet Templeton?”  That has to be what the people that screwed her over have to be asking themselves.  A seemingly innocuous secretary to the director of one of the premier spy agencies in the world, she gets framed for the murder of one of the agency’s top agents.  But Velvet has a past that not many know about, a past that could very well cause the men who framed her to consider that they may have bitten off more than they can chew!


This first trade collects the first 5 issue story arc called “Before the Living End”.  As with most Image trades, it has a very friendly $9.99 cover price.  Once they have you hooked (and I’m sure they will), they’ll raise the price of the next trade, the clever bastards!


The team of Brubaker and Epting already has a pedigree for fine storytelling.  They were behind the Winter Soldier storyline in the Captain America books that brought Bucky back from the dead and paved the way for him to take over the mantle of Cap.  You get that same high quality, cinematic storytelling here.  This story is a real breath of fresh air from your usual superhero-in-tights tale.  Not only is the protagonist a woman, but she’s a very empowered and capable woman in the 50s and 60s (which this story takes place).  And there’s no superpowered or supernatural element to this story--it’s just a great spy thriller with lots of action and suspense in the vein of James Bond or Jason Bourne.


The writing is typical Brubaker.  That’s not a slight in any way, just the truth.  When you pick up a Brubaker book, you’re going to get a taut thriller that has you turning the page, waiting to see what will happen next.  This is no exception.  The man apparently does one thing and does it extremely well!


The art duties are by Steve Epting with colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser.  Epting’s art is gorgeous, as usual.  His style is a perfect complement to Brubaker’s writing.  His linework is clean and beautiful.  And when a scene calls for dark and ominous, he brings it to life perfectly.  I don’t often mention colorists on books.  I’ve always felt that if you notice the letterer or colorist on a book, they’re doing it wrong.  Their skills should subtle, but add to the overall mood of the book.  But I always notice Breitweiser’s work whenever I see it, she manages to be an exception to that rule.  She doesn’t get noticed because she’s bad at what she does, quite the opposite, actually.  Her colors are vibrant when they need to be or dark and gritty when needed as well.  I became a fan of hers from her work on Parker and Hardman’s Hulk, and this work here keeps me eagerly awaiting her next work.


The verdict:  Highly recommended.  This trade is my first exposure to this series and you can be sure I’m going to catch this in issues from here on out.  I’m dying to see what happens next!  In my opinion, this series has nowhere to go but up.

The score: 4 out of 5 stars