Posts tagged Comics
Comic Review: The Star Wars by Rinzler, Mayhew, et. al
Review by Prof. Jenn
So this is a comic trade that is based off of George Lucas’ original-original rough draft of the screenplay for The Star Wars. That is, Star Wars before it got edited for quality and way before it got re-purposed for less quality and more busy unnecessary additions.
I have my opinions, more as a literature expert than an old-school Star Wars nerd, though I must confess I am equally both. It’s important that Han shot first, but I can actually explain to you literarily why. The scene at the Millennium Falcon added in w/Jabba? Completely unnecessary. But I’ve got the literary chops to explain why, beyond my nerd rage.
Now, it seems that several geek-culture favorites these days tend to fall into the trap of the fan-service. The fan-service is the thing that happens in the story of a new episode of a thing that does nothing for the actual plot except show a thing that will make fans squee. See: the entire movie Phantom Menace. See also: the ending of Doctor Who episode “Deep Breath.” (We can talk about this later if you like.)
This comic story is based on Star Wars before it was Star Wars: we’ve got snippets of images of all three of the older movies (Tatooine, betrayed youg’uns, snippets of Yavin and the Wookiees very similar to the Ewok uprising in RotJ, a Leia and, well, Annikin romance but he’s really the Luke character in this story), some themes and dreary plot points from the newer movies (politics, trade embargoes, wily and lying politicians, overly ornate headgear for the Princess/Queen), and all the art smacks of the concept art all us Star Wars nerds know and love from the pen of Ralph McQuarrie. The oddly androgynous C-3PO, the Luke Starkiller with the buzzcut mullet, the green-skinned amphibious Han Solo, and the oddly bug-eyed Chewbacca all come from McQuarrie’s illustrations we all know and love.
Thing is, when you read this, you can really appreciate the changes made to Episodes 4-6. You really can. You can appreciate the available charm of its characters, its streamlined Hero’s Journey of an action-based plot, and its iconic tropes buffered to a new sheen. The story of this comic is tired, too complex, too wordy in ways no one speaks (okay well all the movies are like this too) and, well, basically, nothing really…happens.
What this is is fan service: for those of us who were obsessed with this epic series and who wanted more from the prequels, those of us who appreciated the streamlined storytelling before Lucas got the tech and was allowed to add in extraneous whatever-he-wanted, this is a window into the writing process and indeed the creative process itself.
It’s not a great comic.
Bottom line: I don’t recommend this to anyone but the most completionist collector or the most die-hard Star Wars fan. It’s a dreary, plodding, clunkily-drawn peek into an early draft of a movie series we’re glad got edited from it. It’s fun to see McQuarrie’s creations in a sort of action, though.
Dark Engine by Ryan Burton and John Bivens is a new comic that plenty of my friends have been waiting on, and after reading it, I’m reasonably certain that no one has been or will be disappointed. First of all, the cover art is really nifty, portraying the focus of the comic, a girl who looks fierce and incredibly intimidating with a giant sword. I’m certainly not an artist, but I really like the style of art being shown in this comic. It’s very otherworldly, and definitely helps to transport you into the chaos within the story.
From the beginning, this comic throws you into a world that is unlike anything that we are used to. There are a surplus of creatures that somehow fall between prehistoric and alien in appearance. We meet the girl from the cover rather quickly. As expected, she quickly starts slaughtering things, presumably because she’s a total badass. Directly following this, we start to see some other new characters talking about the girl, who we now learn is called: Sym. There is talk of the magic and sacrifice used to create her, and we are informed that she has been made to kill some enemy.
It’s divulged that she was fitted with some sort of engine (I’m assuming a Dark Engine, but that could just be me being presumptuous) by one of the characters. This character seems haunted by this engine, which we find out is being used to send Sym back in time in order for her to kill this enemy before they could ruin the world in the way that they did (which is only being expressed through the art at the moment). We learn that the engine is sending Sym into various periods of time until it can somehow right itself, and we’re given a glimpse into the possibility that the engine might actually think for itself.
The comic ends with plenty of mystery after a character nonchalantly states that Sym will likely kill anything she comes in contact with across these time periods (and we actually see her brutally slaying something). Already, I want to know more about how Sym and how she was created. I’m definitely interested in learning about the inner workings of this engine, and what it is capable of. I also want to know exactly who this enemy is and what he used to destroy the world. Really, I just want to know more about everything, and I’m really hoping that the next one comes with a little insight into this interesting world.
So, uh, read this. It’s a good one.
Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed #1 by Edginton, Cosentino, et al Review by Prof. Jenn
Imagine my delight when I saw this title pop up on BOOM!’s forthcoming comics list! I didn’t know they were making comic versions of this old favorite of mine! Now these, kids, are the real Avengers, as far as I’m concerned, and I had high standards going into this first issue. The TV show was a delicate combination of weirdly out-there almost sci-fi and taut spy thriller/detective procedural, which is a difficult balance to get right (*cough* the 1998 movie *cough*). This writer/artist combo has nailed it.
We begin issue #1 by seeing a murder, not knowing who is involved or why, only that there are dollhouses about. Then we are introduced to our two heroes the way every Steed/Peel episode did on TV: the phrase “Mrs. Peel, we are needed” revealed in a cute and clever way. The story in this first issue unfolds and by the time we get to the end of the issue we definitely are clamoring to see what will happen next. Which is the way the TV show was, too.
The art is colorful and rather “mod” in style, which is perfect for the setting and characters. As you’ve heard me say many times before when reviewing Doctor Who and Firefly comics, it’s a special trick to comic-book-ize a live TV show, as you don’t want to do just an actor portrait, but you don’t want to draw the characters so unlike their actors that they are unrecognizable, either. This issue nails it, again.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed (why aren’t they calling it The Avengers? Copyright w/Marvel?) and can’t wait for the next issue.
Comic Review: Serenity, Leaves on the Wind #6 by Whedon, Jeanty, et. al
Review by Prof. Jenn
The Leaves on the Wind series concludes with this tying up of loose ends and opening up of new ones for, we can assume, the next phase of the story. The conclusions of Zoe’s rescue and that of the Alliance-stolen-girls-a-la-River is actually pretty brief, truth be told. We had such build up of preparation in the previous issues that the culmination is just a little…well just a little disappointing, that’s all. Though there is a new potential (major!) problem introduced at the end…
The story, beyond being a bit brief as I have mentioned, boasts the same familiar character quality I have admired about the previous issues, and the art has the same weakness of character portrayal I have mentioned in earlier reviews. This issue is no different, though it is nice to have a little more about our new fighter character and be introduced to yet another character who looks as though she’ll be recurring at least, if not a major player in the battles to come.
Bottom Line: This issue is recommended, with the same caveats I detailed in the reviews of previous issues.
Comics Review: Batman Classics–the Silver Age Newspaper Comics vol.1 by Ellsworth, Moldoff, Infantino, et. al
Review by Prof. Jenn
What a fun collection of vintage comics featuring everyone’s favorite dynamic duo! It’s a trip into the cheesy one-liner past of Batman’s late 1960s appearance in newspapers. This collection begins with a wonderfully detailed rundown of the history by Joe Desris, and is enlightening to read just before plunging into the series of snippet-length strips.
These are not old comic books, they are comic strips from newspapers 1966-67, so they are all brief, cheesy, sketchy, mid-low quality art, with a little joke or a PSA at the beginning of each (“Never fight with a smiling fortune-teller.” “Unless you want to strike a happy medium!”). We meet several of our favorite villains, with some I’ve not heard of before. And yes, there is some material here not appropriate for a modern audience, in the realm of sexism, and racism especially. Any of you Batman nerds remember The Laughing Girl? Ugh…
For all its vintage kitsch, this volume is a pleasure to read, and certainly anyone who collects Batman should have this in their library, even if they prefer the dark Nolan variety of the Caped Crusader. It’s a funny, refreshing collection that is a nice reminder of where Batman was before his gritty reboot.
Bottom Line: This collection is highly recommended, old chum.
Comics Review: Rocky and Bullwinkle Classics vol. 1 by Al Kilgore
Review by: Prof. Jenn
This first volume of Rocky and Bullwinkle comics is a compilation of comics from 1962-1963, and are the same fast-paced, vaudevillian satire replete with puns that we all remember from the TV show. All four story worlds from the show can be found there: the eternal struggle between Rocky and Bullwinkle and Boris and Natasha, Dudley Do-Right the unflappable mountie, Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman the time-travellers, and Fractured Fairy Tales.
This is a delightful, highly entertaining collection: the stories are just as silly and back-and-forth and laden with wit as the TV show, the art is blocky and colorful and looks lifted straight from the show, and the dialogue is such that it’s impossible not to hear the voice actors as one reads. Which only makes sense, as these were created during around the same time as the show, by one of its creators. A fun addition to each issue is a faux gossip/news column at the end, sort of a goofy take on fun facts and news of the day: a pre-Soup interlude.
With the more recent reboots of this wonderful franchise, it’s refreshing to get the real thing instead, not made PC or nicer, but sharp, silly and brash as it was. Surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly?) the humor remains timely, and while the collection is appropriate for children, it isn’t in any way dumbed down–it’s as highly entertaining as the TV show.
Bottom Line: Rocky & Bullwinkle Classics is highly recommended. I want a volume 2!
Comics Review: Serenity, Leaves on the Wind #3-4 by Whedon, Jeanty, various
Review by Prof. Jenn
Serenity continues on its merry way as our favorite crew in the ‘verse faces an old adversary, and gains the help of another. Zoe was captured by Alliance in #2, so we have that problem to deal with, and River is beginning to…remember things. Oh, and Kaylee has a serious BAMF moment early in #3, which is a delight.
As far as story is concerned, Serenity rollicks along at a clip, appropriate for its TV show origins. The framework on each page guides the eye right along at the pace necessary, and as I have said before, the dialogue has that unique cadence we have come to know from TV Serenity‘s ‘verse. It’s also nice to see the couples that were dancing around the fact that they dug each other in the show actually acting couple-y. It’s a nice little thing to add to the richness of the continuation.
Art-wise, as I mentioned just now: the frames are well made and placed–they dictate the pacing of the plot quite well. The style is comic-book-y without being too childish, and the color schemes are earthy, Western-y, just as we would want from the show. One hitch: most of the characters don’t really look like themselves as we know them. This is a balance I have discussed when reviewing Dr. Who comics: that delicate line between creating actor portraits and representing the character. This series falls into the latter camp to a degree that at the big reveal (the powerful man from our past we have found and recruited to help), I actually didn’t know who the character was. I had to read on and get it from the dialogue.
Bottom Line: I would recommend Serenity, especially to those Browncoats who miss the show. It’s a solid continuation all in all.
Comics Review: Samurai Jack Classics vol. 2 by various
Review by: Prof. Jenn
The second volume of Samurai Jack Classics is a series of short, snappy, bright, and all around cheerful snippets from the world of Samurai Jack vs. Aku. As in the wonderful animated TV series, each episode is a standalone story (origin/backstory not necessary, though it is fascinating). This volume collects a passel of colorful tales not immediately in the timeframe of the TV “canon” but set in that abstract future time when a time-displaced samurai must end the evil that brought about the downfall of his time and the empire of Aku.
This collection includes the variety of diverse characters and themes from the show, and boasts the same bold black outlines and stylized art that made the TV show stand out. Samurai Jack’s stoic nobility and Aku’s gleeful evil stand true. The art shows the fantastic action scenes’ movement in a dynamic fashion, showing the almost superhuman martial arts of Jack without having too many “jump cuts” or busy-ness to obscure the action.
The one and only (and, IMO, important) drawback to this volume is the lack of the Zen-like sublime that made the show so unique and entrancing. Each episode in this collection seems structured around a joke, ranging from the bright and humorous to the downright silly. This to me isn’t really Samurai Jack: though of course there were myriad moods in the show, the subdued minimalist art and the long stretches of quiet, coupled with the moments of slow zen is what made the show so much richer than just a cool swordfight heavy show made for children. This collection feels very child-directed. Although the one episode where Jack has hiccups that won’t go away is admittedly pretty hilarious.
Bottom Line: I would recommend this volume only to kids or to completist collectors.
This is it, the final chapter in the Mars Gambit series. Sage is going to confront the Cray family about the military activity on Earth. If you remember from the previous two issues, there was a bounty on her head, but the hunter agreed to let her prove what she claimed to be true. Well she may have succeeded there, but now there is a second hunter on her tail. Can Sage find the proof she needs and get it to the right people? You’ll get a partial answer but the rest continues in a new storyline called “Equinox”. In the meantime you get some very deep stuff and a little twist at the end. I definitely encourage you to read this issue (if you haven’t already) but be prepared, because it doesn’t end like you think it will. You can download your copy on their website today.
When I did my first review of this comic, it was the little indie engine that could. I am very pleased to be able to say that through the power of the internet, they have been picked up by ComiXology. They will be putting out the next series in about 2 months. Stay tuned folks, because I definitely want to report on this story as it develops.
Comics Review: Serenity–Leaves on the Wind #1-2 by: Zack Whedon, various
Review by: Prof. Jenn
…and if the title of the new comic series set just a little while after the events of Serenity doesn’t make you cry, go back and watch the whole series of Firefly, then the movie. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Tragically, it won’t take long…
Also: SPOILERS if you’re not a Browncoat, so be warned.
The first two issues of Dark Horse’s new series Serenity–Leaves on the Wind takes up just a little while after Serenity the movie left off: River is still odd but much stabler in her new role as pilot, Zoe is about to have her baby (and is haunted by the ghost of her beloved husband), and everyone’s favorite Firefly-class ship and its denizens is in hiding. The ‘verse is reeling from the exposure of what the Alliance had done to Miranda, and rumors (and rebellions) abound. Some of the spunkier rebels will do anything to lasso Mal and co. into joining their cause, including conscripting Jayne (who’s not still on the ship but doing who knows what when we encounter him again, though apparently money still talks when it comes to Jayne) to run Mal to ground.
The storyline is engaging of course–I mean, who hasn’t been wanting to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT in the ‘verse–and the dialogue is written masterfully, with that same unique cadence heard in the television series. The art is what I would call “posh-comic” style: a semi-realistic look with muted colors amid the dark outlines. Overall as a sweeping statement, I would say the series is very high quality, and is shaping up to be an excellent mollifier to all of us still wanting to live in “the black.” One teensy little nitpicky thing I can mention is that sometimes the characters don’t look, well, like them. It’s a tricky balancing act, the comic based on a TV show, as I’ve been saying about the Doctor Who comics: there’s a fine line between doing actor-portraits and just portraying the character himself. In this series so far, it works most of the time, but every once in a while when we look at Mal or Simon especially we get yoinked out of our suspension of disbelief. This is a minor point, however, in light of the exciting tension and warmth of character continuing in this series. I cannot wait till #3!
Side Note: such a cute moment when Zoe reveals what her newborn daughter’s name is. That scene could have been right out of the TV show, if it had continued (/sniff).
Bottom Line: This series is highly recommended, though I would not start on it till after you’ve enjoyed Firefly in its entirety, including the movie Serenity. You’ll get spoilers and just won’t understand what’s going on unless you do.