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The Star Wars
The Star Wars
by JW Rinzler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.64
58 used & new from $8.72

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Force is not with this story, August 1, 2014
This review is from: The Star Wars (Paperback)
It's a shame that, after over 20 successful years, Dark Horse is losing the Star Wars license to Marvel Comics. It's an even bigger shame that one of the titles they're going out with is THE STAR WARS. When I first saw the solicitation for this 8-issue miniseries, I could barely contain myself, but now that I've read it, I can see why this version of the story never made it to the big screen. It really is that bad.

With THE STAR WARS, writer JW Rinzler and artist Mike Mayhew have adapted an early draft screenplay of George Lucas' first Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope) into comic format. Now that word "draft" should have been a huge red flag, but fans will be fans, and I was more interested in seeing what George had in mind early on. As far as the plot goes, there are plenty of similarities and plenty of differences. For 100,000 years, the Jedi-Bendu had served as the muscle behind the Emperor, but they have been almost exterminated by the Knights of Sith, who serve The New Empire. Kane Starkiller brings his son, Annikin, to Aquilae in the hopes that Annikin will be taken as a Padawan by his old comrade General Luke Skywalker, who serves the royal family. Aquilae is the last holdout against the New Empire, and when a mysterious space fortress attacks the planet, General Skywalker, Annikin, a pair of bickering droids, and other characters must get Princess Leia and her brothers Biggs and Windy to their allies on Ophuchi. We get lightsaber-wielding Stormtroopers mounted on ostriches, R2-D2 with arms, and Wookiees that resemble the Orcs of Middle-Earth. Some characters, such as Han Solo, are almost unrecognizable, while others are so similar to each other that they'd eventually be combined into the ones we love, or love to hate, from the movie. Despite all of that, some scenes, and even whole chunks of dialog, remain unchanged. So, from a completely historical perspective, it's an interesting diversion.

But then there's the story itself. As I said, I knew this was based on a draft, but I was hoping that Rinzler would be able to smooth things out and make it work as a comic, at least. Alas, not so. The plot is all over the place and is unnecessarily complicated. The dialogue is awkward, the humor is lame, and the romance is so ham-fisted that it had me laughing. The cast of characters is enormous, which leads to them being poorly defined... well, except for General Skywalker, who dominates the narrative - he's so astonishingly competent that it's a wonder he doesn't take on the entire New Empire by himself. The actions of some characters are unexplainable, and the conclusion, which should have been uplifting, had zero impact.

The only thing that saves THE STAR WARS from a 1-star rating is the art. I've been a fan of Mike Mayhew even since his days on Zorro for Topps Comics, and his work here is superb - even better than I could have expected. This is some beautiful work that captures the spirit of Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, and colorist Rain Beredo gives the characters and scenery a depth that brings everything to life. Unfortunately, great art on its own doesn't make a great comic.

I'll be happy to forget about THE STAR WARS and instead re-read my omnibus volumes of Star Wars : A Long Time Ago.... Suddenly, a green 6-foot-tall talking rabbit doesn't seem so ridiculous.

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (A Game of Thrones)
The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (A Game of Thrones)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.97
66 used & new from $8.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As a fan of the Game of Thrones TV show, I enjoyed this, July 8, 2014
George RR Martin's stories of The Hedge Knight have been adapted to comic form under several publishers over the years, and Amazon doesn't seem to differentiate between them where reviews are concerned; therefore, this review is for GEORGE RR MARTIN'S THE HEDGE KNIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL trade paperback, published by Jet City Comics in 2013.

I stopped reading epic fantasy some time ago, but HBO's Game of Thrones has held my attention for the last several years. It's a pretty sure bet that I won't ever get around to reading Martin's original novels, but when I recently became aware of the Hedge Knight comics, I figured that was a good way to get my fix until the next season of the show begins. These comics were originally released from 2003 - 2007, shuffling from Image to Devil's Due to Marvel during only a twelve issue run (plus various collected editions). Due to the interest generated by GoT, The Hedge Knight is back on the radar, and the comics are now kept in print by Jet City Comics in two affordable softcover collections - with more to come, supposedly.

GEORGE RR MARTIN'S THE HEDGE KNIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL collects the first six issues of the story, set about 100 years prior to the events depicted in GoT. Dunk, squire to the recently-deceased Ser Arlan of Pennytree, has taken his master's belongings and intends to compete in a tournament to make a name for himself. Along the way, he reluctantly acquires a squire, Egg, who is much more knowledgeable and wise than any stable boy has a right to be. Once they reach the tournament, a series of encounters puts Dunk on an unexpected path with questionable results, and there are plenty of surprises, as well. Writer Ben Avery does a good job with these adaptations, though I can only assume that he stays true to Martin's work. I enjoyed what I read, as there are plenty of mentions of the noble families of Westeros, and with a bit of research, it wasn't difficult to figure out how these characters were connected to GoT. As with the show, many of the characters in this graphic novel have questionable motives and moralities, and as you can probably guess, death comes when they least expect it.

Mike S. Miller's artwork is perfect for the story - while I initially considered his style as somewhat simplistic, it grew on me, and he certainly has a talent for illustrating arms and armor. His combat scenes were excellent and quite exciting, and his painted covers were especially impressive.

This edition includes a preview of Volume 2, a heraldry chart, character designs, and original layouts, plus all covers (standards and alternates). For $14.95 retail, this book is a good deal.

Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale
Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.52
70 used & new from $9.81

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The gangrene from Riverdale, June 27, 2014
I've read quite a few Archie Comics over the last several years due to their attention-grabbing storylines, but nothing could have prepared me for AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, in which creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla bring a zombie outbreak to the idyllic town of Riverdale. Surprisingly, it stands firmly in the horror genre, even featuring the warning label "rated teen+, violence and mature content". The best part is that Aguirre-Sacasa's story actually makes sense in terms of the Archie universe, as the reason for the outbreak has been there for over 50 years.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE VOLUME 1: ESCAPE FROM RIVERDALE collects the first 5 issues of this storyline, plus a hefty section of alternate covers and sketches. While it's priced higher than most Archie releases of comparable size, the quality of the product makes it worth every penny. There are even two covers available: a standard edition featuring zombie Jughead (from issue #1), and a direct market edition featuring Archie hiding in a graveyard (from issue #2). Aguirre-Sacasa paces the story very well, starting off quickly and keeping the characters constantly on the run, while interspersing small bits that show what's occurring elsewhere in town. While it features the standard Archie characters, there are some twists where their behavior and relationships are concerned. It's nothing cheap or explicit, but this comic is not rated teen+ just for the gore.

Instead of Francavilla making this look like a standard Archie comic, he goes for a more realistic style, and it's an appropriate choice. While his old-school alternate cover from Life With Archie #23 (included in this collection) is excellent, the classic artistic style of Archie just wouldn't work with this type of story. The shadows are heavy, the contrasts are stark, and the coloring is slightly washed-out. Visually, it's very striking.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is a definite home run for Archie Comics, and it's a well-earned feather in Aguirre-Sacasa's cap. I was content with the publisher's prior releases that had made Riverdale a much more interesting place after 70 years, but this one really shook things up.

King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon
King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon
by Timothy Truman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.47
58 used & new from $10.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the first half of the story, but thrilling nonetheless, May 11, 2014
Under the title KING CONAN, Tim Truman and Tomás Giorello have been adapting stories of the barbarian adventurer after he had taken the throne of Aquilonia. It's been a great read from volume 1, and KING CONAN VOLUME 3: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON is no exception. You've read this type of Conan story many times before, even if you haven't read *this* particular one: Conan is captured by his enemies and faces certain death; however, a beautiful girl frees him, enabling Conan to crush said enemies. It's a standard outline for numerous Conan stories, both in comics and in prose. The difference here is that The Hour of The Dragon was written by Conan's creator, Robert E. Howard. What's more, it's the only novel-length original Conan, later published under the title Conan the Conqueror. In the story, Conan's kingdom of Aquilonia is threatened by conspirators who are backed by the sorcery of the resurrected Xaltotun, high priest of Set. With his army defeated, Conan is locked away in a Nemedian prison while his predecessor's heir claims the throne. Aided by the loyal harem girl Zenobia, Conan escapes, fleeing back to Aquilonia with the intent of reclaiming his throne, no matter how many people he has to kill to do it.

Truman has been writing and adapting Conan stories for quite some time now, and with THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON, he pulls out all the stops, giving the reader a thoroughly entertaining adaptation of Howard's novel - or the first half of it, at least. Normally, I'd complain that a writer was taking 12 issues to adapt this story, but Truman's attention to detail, while maintaining a steady pace, was amazing. I've read the original novel numerous times, as well as adaptations in comic format, but that didn't matter. Truman kept my attention from the first page, and when I reached the end of the sixth chapter, I was dying to read more, even though I know exactly what happens next.

Giorello... honestly, what needs to be said? This guy was born to illustrate Conan. Especially effective is the framing sequence of the story, featuring a Conan well into his sixties: gray-haired, bearded, wrinkled, and covered with scars. Even Conan's depiction in the main story looks older than usual. The supporting characters are easily differentiated, settings are carefully rendered, and details abound - this is no rush job. Also, Giorello doesn't hold back during the more violent scenes of the story, with plenty of crushed skulls, dismemberment, and splattered blood to offend the squeamish. Of course, colorist José Villarrubia gives every scene just the right touch.

While Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord were a dream team on Conan, Truman and Giorello have more than proven themselves with the character, and I would be happy with these guys on Conan ad infinitum, especially if we could get more stories of him as king. In fact, this book got me wanting some adaptations of the non-REH novels Conan the Avenger, Conan of Aquilonia, and Conan of the Isles. While L. Sprague deCamp, Lin Carter, and Bjorn Nyberg have their share of detractors, I enjoy their contributions to the saga of King Conan and would love to see more adventures of the character at this period of his life.

Massive Volume 2: The Subcontinental (The Massive)
Massive Volume 2: The Subcontinental (The Massive)
by Brian Wood
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.13
67 used & new from $6.31

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh, it's a "crash", all right..., April 8, 2014
THE MASSIVE VOLUME 2: SUBCONTINENTAL continues the adventures of the environmental activist group Ninth Wave as they search for their sister ship The Massive, which has gone missing after the global catastrophe known as "The Crash". In writer Brian Wood's series, the poles have shifted, melting glaciers have left once-thriving coastal cities under water, and geologic upheaval and mass extinctions have become the norm. It's anyone's guess as to how humanity will survive. This book collects issues 7 through 12, which comprise two 3-part storylines. While I loved Volume 1, this Volume didn't do much for me.

Subcontinental - Callum Israel and his crew venture into the Indian Ocean, encountering a seemingly Utopian society composed of oil rigs, and getting themselves into a bad situation. Garry Brown, the primary artist for Volume 1, illustrates all three chapters. This storyline had some entertaining parts but was far too drawn out. Also, it's very confusing, as Wood doesn't explain what's going on until the final panel of part 3, where he dumps the answers into the reader's lap almost as an afterthought. By that time, I had lost interest and was pretty annoyed.

Polaris - The Kapital is receiving an intermittent signal from what appears to be The Massive. Chasing it ever northward, they face a possible mutiny, encounter a swarm of sharks (plus a prehistoric surprise), and eventually risk their ship and their lives in the Arctic. These three stories are stand-alones, illustrated by Gary Erskine, Declan Shalvey, and Danijel Zezelj. They contain some interesting ideas that unfortunately didn't seem fully-realized, and by the end of the final story, I felt as if I actually had less of an understanding of where this series is going.

With Volume 1 of THE MASSIVE, I thought I'd found my next must-read series, but Volume 2 has undone that, somewhat. It reads as if Wood is tiring of writing about these characters and events, and surprisingly, the premise is already showing signs of losing steam. While I feel that the series as a whole is still as good as or better than most others being published, it's definitely lost something. I'll give the third volume a shot, but I won't be expecting much.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2014 8:05 AM PDT

Fatale, Book 1: Death Chases Me
Fatale, Book 1: Death Chases Me
by Ed Brubaker
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.63
92 used & new from $5.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You got horror on my crime fiction!" "You got crime fiction on my horror!", April 5, 2014
You may not think that HP Lovecraft and Mickey Spillane would have hit it off if they'd met, but after reading Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' FATALE BOOK 1: DEATH CHASES ME, I think that the two literary legends might have sketched out some pretty interesting ideas. Perhaps having this story presented in comic format is the extra step that makes it work. Whatever the case, Brubaker and Phillips have combined ancient horror and hard-boiled crime fiction in an engrossing story that has left me wanting more, and as I've gotten into this title fairly late in the game, there are already three additional softcover collections to keep me busy.

Nicolas Lash has a problem: he's become inextricably involved with Josephine, a beautiful woman with a dark secret. His second encounter with her almost costs him his life, yet he can't get her out of his head. Through some investigating, he learns that Josephine was also involved with a friend of his father way back in the `50s, as well as with a G.I. in WWII (and possibly even further back), and all the while never looking any different than she does now. As the narrative jumps between the various time periods, it is slowly revealed that Jo is on the run from something horrible, and as things never seem to end well for the men in her life, Nicolas may not make it to the next volume.

Ed Brubaker has risen to the top of the writers' field due to his work on high-profile superhero titles, and part of what makes his style so popular is how he eschews the standard theatrics in favor of stripped-down storytelling that gets to the root of the character. It's something that is much more obvious in his crime titles, and it's on brilliant display in FATALE. This is some smooth writing, and there were many instances in reading this softcover where I completely forgot about the supernatural angle, as I had sunk so far into the basics of Brubaker's writing. While the story involves cults, human sacrifice, immortality, and all kinds of other occult topics, it's grounded in the easygoing West Coast postwar noir of Sunset Blvd. or LA Confidential. There's a lot of jumping between scenes, as well as time periods, and references that cross from one to the other, but Brubaker handles them well and keeps things clear for the reader. The best part is that, even though FATALE is an ongoing story, this first book ends on a solid note that at least tides the reader over until the second.

As for the art, Sean Phillips excels at drawing realistic people and settings, so when he injects the occasional monster or horror scene, it is made all the more shocking. What really made these pages stand out was Phillips' reliance on small panels, rather than excessive splashes or half-pagers. Aside from the discreet chapter notifications in the occasional upper left panel, it wasn't obvious as to when I'd moved from issue to issue; therefore, this volume comes across as a whole story, rather than parts of one.

FATALE BOOK 1: DEATH CHASES ME is an excellent example of genre blending that really captured my imagination. It's two great tastes that taste great together.

Jan's Atomic Heart and Other Stories TP
Jan's Atomic Heart and Other Stories TP
by SImon Roy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.33
47 used & new from $8.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touring the universe with Simon, April 2, 2014
The material collected in JAN'S ATOMIC HEART AND OTHER STORIES is completely written and illustrated by Simon Roy. Most of it was produced prior to his collaboration with Brandon Graham and others on the hit series Prophet, and while Roy's solo work also features strange worlds, aliens, robots, spacecraft, and the like, the mood is more mundane. After a friendly introduction by "Astronaut Simon", we get seven stories, the majority of which are science fiction: The Cosmonauts, Jan's Atomic Heart, Good Business, Shipwrecked with Dan the Gorilla, Bar Fight, Homeward Bound, and Hunter Killer. I'm wary of purchasing anthologies, as it seems that most creators don't have a good handle on how to write a short story, but on the whole, this collection works well. Most of them have conclusions with a bit of a punch; however, a couple of them didn't have much of a payoff - more like they were just presenting odd situations.

Roy's art shines, despite the fact that just about everything has a grungy feel, similar to the space junk aesthetic of the original Star Wars; in fact, the cover even brings that movie's famous cantina scene to mind. He excels at depicting exobiology, technology, and even exploding humans. The art has been reproduced very well, to the point that the texture of the art board can be seen on occasion.

Considering that Image has been releasing some great introductory softcovers over the last couple of years for $9.99, I was surprised that this book retails for $14.99. It's not in color, and it's a pretty quick read; however, I did enjoy it.

Prophet Volume 3: Empire TP
Prophet Volume 3: Empire TP
by Brandon Graham
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.33
55 used & new from $8.54

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So refreshing, March 2, 2014
If not for Brandon Graham, I wouldn't be reading comics anymore. I was on the cusp of giving up on them when signs indicated that I should check out Graham's revitalization of Rob Liefeld's Prophet. The reviews and commentary sounded so interesting that, despite some horrifying flashbacks to the dark days of '90s Image, I gave it a shot. Two years later, Prophet keeps me interested in the medium (for better or worse) and encourages me to check out independent publishers and titles, 'cause who knows what I might be missing?

PROPHET VOLUME 3: EMPIRE collects issues 32 and 34 - 38. The story so far, in brief: the far future Earth is occupied by various alien races, and innumerable clones of John Prophet are awakening from hibernation across the galaxy in order to reclaim it, but it appears as if the real John Prophet is walking straight down the middle with plans of his own. In Volumes 1 and 2, Graham spent plenty of time building a dense galaxy-spanning backdrop for the story - history, events, locations, characters, and the like. He set up various situations that seemed related, but it was hard to tell exactly how. With EMPIRE, artists Simon Roy and Giannis Milonigiannis join Graham on writing duties as we learn more of what has happened to the Earth, as well as humanity, over the past thousands of years, plus what the Prophets have been up to in the 11 months since the G.O.D. satellite signaled the restart of the Earth Empire. We also get a couple of excellent solo Prophet adventures. At the same time, the original Prophet seeks out more of his former companions, though they are in forms that are strikingly different from what readers may recall (if you're not familiar with Liefeld's various Extreme Studios characters, some research couldn't hurt). There's also the introduction of a threat that *could* have serious implications for the entire series, but really: with this title, who knows if a plot point will evolve into something big, or just be one of Graham's crazy one-off ideas? Having gained all of this welcome information, my perspective on the events of the previous two volumes has changed. I thought I had a pretty good idea of how everything stood up to this point, but Volume 3 reveals that some characters aren't quite so black and white.

Of course, Roy and Milonogiannis continue their sterling artwork, depicting some truly inspired, if not outright bizarre, places and things. The entire creative team works very well together, resulting in a comic that reads and looks like nothing else out there. This most recent volume continues the amazing world-building and wild adventures of the previous two, with more on the horizon.

newuniversal, Vol. 1: Everything Went White (v. 1)
newuniversal, Vol. 1: Everything Went White (v. 1)
by Warren Ellis
Edition: Paperback
69 used & new from $1.88

4.0 out of 5 stars A much better approach, but still no dice..., February 28, 2014
I only picked this up because the hardcover was in a bargain bin for $5. I'd never planned on purchasing it, as the original comic run tanked pretty quickly, but I enjoyed this book enough for a re-read and will hang on to it.

In 2006, Warren Ellis was given the go-ahead for a 20th anniversary revamp of Marvel's New Universe. Oddy enough, the New Universe was a well-intentioned yet failed celebration of Marvel's 25th anniversary from 1986. Ellis was a promising choice to bring it back; unfortunately, his revamp got even less attention from modern audiences, though I suppose I'm part of the problem for only now getting around to reading it. NEWUNIVERSAL: EVERYTHING WENT WHITE streamlines the multiple series of the original New Universe into one introductory six-issue miniseries. It retains many of the same or similar characters & events from the original, with the story focusing on Ken Connell - the Star Brand, John Tensen - Justice, Izanami Randall - Nightmask, and Jennifer Swann - Cypher, after their lives are transformed by The White Event, a flash of blinding light that is seen the world over. At the same time, a lost ancient city is revealed in Latvia, a city which has a mysterious connection to the four main characters, as well as to a one-shot character from Marvel's early Bronze Age. This particular part of the story took me completely by surprise and ends up working quite well. I have to give Ellis a thumbs-up for providing this Earth-555 with a fully-realized alternate history (the setting of the original stories always struck me as pretty bland), as well as his detailed explanation of the White Event and why it affected these individuals as it did.

Salvador Larocca's painted artwork is consistently impressive throughout the entire book. His redesigns of the characters look great, and everything looked alive.

The story also includes doses of Ellis' standard fare, such as fringe theory and metaphysics, and as such, he's really made this failed `80s concept into his own thing. It was a fun read, but it's too bad that it didn't continue, as it set the stage for bigger things. Marvel did release some subsequent one-shots that provided some more detail on this world, but that was it. Who knows... maybe in 20 years, they'll give it another try.

DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia
DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia
by Steven Korté
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.16
51 used & new from $2.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for kids AND adults!, February 6, 2014
With a bit of fatherly encouragement, my three pre-K daughters have been familiarizing themselves with the standard DC superheroes, but what they're especially keen on is DC's Super-Pets (to be fair, this is something that my children discovered and brought to *my* attention, which proves that I'm never too old to learn). The Super-Pets line pulls together the various animal (or animal-like) sidekicks or characters from DC Comics' long and rich history, repackaging them as a line of books for kids; however, I have found the books to be just as entertaining as my children have. Artist Art Baltazar and a host of writers have turned out some wonderfully entertaining stories that are perfect for pulling a new generation of readers into the DC Universe, and they're a great trip down memory lane for longtime fans.

My appreciation for the Super-Pets line increased substantially upon purchasing the DC SUPER-PETS CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA, which gathers all of the Super-Pets from the various books, plus some special entries from other sources. Written by Steve Korte and profusely illustrated by Baltazar, the book contains over 200 entries. Each consists of an illustration of the animal in Baltazar's recognizable style, plus statistics, fun facts, a list of allies and foes, and an associated DC character. Also included is a historical essay, a double-page spread group portrait, a size chart, index, and other treats. The creators draw not only from the standard heroes and villains, but also the Super Friends, the Zoo Crew, and even some characters with ties to DC's Vertigo imprint. From the obvious to the obscure, the DC SUPER-PETS CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA is a reference that comic fans of all ages can enjoy.

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