Skullkickers vol. 5: A Dozen Cousins and a Crumpled Crown

October 31, 2014

I have certain expectations when it comes to this series.  Most of what’s on display in this volume is along those lines.  Dwarven snow swimmers, Rex attempting dwarvish ventriloquism, the means by which Rolf is “purified” and absolved of all crimes, and the way he’s poured in order to obtain the singular title object all deliver on the goofy fantasy comedy front.  The bickering between the narrative captions offer some clever fourth-wall-breaking laughs, while the title’s amusingly specific sound effects reach new heights of awesomeness as they break out into -- obviously metal -- song in the final chapter.  We also get a story that (mostly) hangs together as Rolf faces Dwarven justice for past offences and we find out the (short) history of his people as they face an impending attack on their capital.  The “Tavern Tales” shorts in this volume are also on good form, featuring amusing contributions from the likes of Adam Warren and Stjepan Sejic.

Yes, there’s certainly a lot to like here.  Which is why I’m confused as to why writer Jim Zub is muddying things up by throwing in these different versions of protagonists Rex and Rolf.  In this volume we now have “Rex With Hair,” “Silent Blond Rolf,” “Human-Sized Rolf,” and “Dwarf-Sized Rex” running around with little-to-no explanation as to why they’re here and characterization to match.  Yes, it does look like Zub is building to some kind of cross-dimensional climax, as hinted at by Thool in his story, but I’m far less interested in that right now than seeing the Rex and Rolf we know blunder and bludgeon their way through this fractured fantasy world.  Which is why the “shocking” ending here left me cold rather than eager to find out what will happen next.  I’m sure there will be plenty of the things I do love about “Skullkickers” in its next volume.  It just looks like they’re going to have to compete for space with something I’m not all that crazy about at the same time.

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Comic Picks #170: From the Screen to the Panel

October 30, 2014

Where I talk about the comic adaptations of "Noah" and "Django Unchained" and say a few more words about "Alien: The Illustrated Story" and "The Star Wars."

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Indestructible Hulk vol. 3: S.M.A.S.H. Time

October 29, 2014

In case you haven’t heard, time is currently broken in the Marvel Universe and everyone in it is lucky that they’re still living in a linear timeline.  Most creators have stayed the hell away from this particular development, content to leave Bendis and Hickman to work it out for themselves in their titles.  Mark Waid, however, sees this as the perfect opportunity to have the Hulk careen through the timestream to punch a dinosaur in the face and have the character do a whole lot of other things he wouldn’t normally get a chance to.  Things kick off when an airport disappears and a plane missing for almost seventy-five years tries to land where it was.  As Bruce Banner and Maria Hill are helpfully informed by the captive time-travelling criminal Zaarko, a.k.a. “The Tomorrow Man,” these and other time distortions are the work of a group known as the Chronarchists.  They’re planning to re-shape time to their liking and only the Hulk and a floating computer with Banner’s personality stand in their way.

This leads to the aforementioned punching of dinosaurs (which takes place in the Wild West), along with the Hulk meeting up with King Arthur and the Knight-Exiles of Lost Camelot, and finding his way back to the site of the gamma bomb that created him.  If it sounds incredibly crazy and over-the-top, that’s exactly how it reads on the page.  The problem is that by the time the Hulk gets double-nuked by the bomb things are happening so fast that it’s really hard to care about what’s going on.  Even though the book’s three artists, Matteo Scalera, Mahmud Asrar, and Kim Jacinto, are certainly up to giving this craziness the energy it needs to work I finished this volume feeling more exhausted than anything else.  All of the time-travel paradoxes gumming up the volume’s climax didn’t help either.  I’m sure that there are some who would say that when you’re tired of seeing Hulk punch a hole through time, then you’re tired of life itself.  I say that when everything that has come before is pitched at such a high level of intensity that such an act winds up being one of the least interesting things about the book, it’s a real sign the story has missed the mark.

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Knights of Sidonia vol. 11

October 28, 2014

The definition of “tsundere” that comes up when you Google it goes like:  a Japanese character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing his or her warm side over time.  I’m bringing this up because it perfectly describes the newest addition to “Sidonia’s” cast.  Teruru Ichigaya is an android that was created by a scientist who belonged to the separatist pacifists that left the ship some volumes back.  Now, the Sidonia has intercepted her S.O.S. and Tanikaze, Izana, Ms. Hiyama and a few other crew members have volunteered for a low-tech rescue mission to slip by the Gauna in the region and get Teruru out.  Problem is that the android has a major beef with the hapless Tanikaze as she was led to believe that his emergence from the bowels of Sidonia is what triggered their latest troubles with the Gauna.

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DC Previews Picks: January 2015

October 27, 2014

The mystery surrounding DC’s two-month event that will cover their move from New York to Burbank continues to deepen.  Right now the word is that it will consist of twenty two-part series and one weekly title to tie them all together.  As to what it’s actually going to involve, that’s up in the air at the moment.  Most think that Brainiac discovering the multiverse at the end of the “Superman:  Doomed” crossover is going to lead to versions of DC characters from other continuities (including the one that existed prior to the New 52) battling it out.  Why?  Because that’s what superheroes do when confronted with versions of themselves from alternate realities.  

With regard to the creators involved in this event, Scott Lobdell’s name has been thrown around as the writer of the weekly title and Tim Truman announced that he’ll be working on a two-part DC title involving a character that he’s worked on before.  That most likely means Hawkman, but I’m hoping it’s actually Jonah Hex.

In other news, I think that DC’s announced film schedule is WAY too ambitious considering they have yet to score an unqualified success outside of Christoper Nolan’s stand-alone “Dark Knight” trilogy.  If “Batman vs. Superman” turns out to be a significant improvement over “Man of Steel” then maybe I’ll start feeling better about things.  My main hope here is that with the announcement of a “Suicide Squad” film, we’ll finally see John Ostrander’s legendary run on that series collected in full at last.

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Dark Horse Previews Picks: January 2015

October 26, 2014

It’s finally here.  After following it for a good portion of my adult life,* one of my all-time favorite series reaches its conclusion this March (because Dark Horse advance-solicits collections two months ahead in their solicitations).  “Blade of the Immortal vol. 31:  The Final Curtain” brings the series to a close fifteen years after I first started reading it.  Though I’ve talked it up a good deal here over the years, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon right when it came out.  I was always curious about it after the monthly issues kept getting mentioned in Wizard’s manga section but never found copies for sale at my local bookstores.  Then some time later an acquaintance at one of UCR’s anime clubs offered to sell me the first two volumes and I found out what I had been missing out on.  (This was around ‘99 because the first volume I bought afterwards was vol. 4 “On Silent Wings.”  Yes, I did buy vol. 4 before I bought vol. 3 -- this was back in the time when I considered the now-defunct Virgin Megastore to be the best place to get graphic novels.  Before I discovered Amazon and started getting in good with my local comic shops.)  Long story short, I was immediately hooked and have remained so ever since.  I’ll be re-reading the ENTIRE series once the final volume comes out next year.  There is a certain bit of anticipation there as I’m wondering how everything will hold up after I do that.  I guess we’ll all find out then.

*You know, for a given definition of the term “adult.”

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Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2: Angela

October 25, 2014

I can appreciate Neil Gaiman obtaining ownership of Angela, a character he created for “Spawn,” and then subsequently selling that ownership to Marvel as a means of trolling Todd McFarlane.  But what about her actual merit as a character?  That remains to be seen here as Bendis, with Gaiman on board as a consultant, does his best to try and sell the dimension-lost angel as a worthwhile addition to the Marvel Universe.  He doesn’t really succeed here as her character is mostly defined by fighting -- first against the title characters, then against Thanos’ death cult, and then with the title characters.  All through this Angela is shown to be a female warrior who is very good at fighting, of relatively few words, and all the personality of a well-polished rock.  I know she’s getting her own series at the end of the year co-written by Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett and based on what I’m seeing of the character here they face an uphill battle in making her interesting.

Meanwhile, the rest of the action continues on as an outer-space romp with Peter, Tony, Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and Groot celebrate sticking it to Peter’s dad, dealing with the fallout of “Age of Ultron,” and tying into “Infinity” as well.  Most of the good parts in this volume come in little bits, such as Tony hooking up with Gamora (and having it go badly), Drax wanting to know what a captured Badoon looks like when it’s telling the truth, Peter having a heart-to-heart with Thanos, and Gamora showing up at the right time with a rocket launcher.  The proceedings hum along well enough even though the focus on Angela for most of it doesn’t do much to enhance things.  Sarah Pichelli contributes some very appealing art in the volume’s first half with Francesco Francavilla bringing his moody style to a sci-fi action setting in part of the second half.  That should’ve resulted in a garish mess, but the whole “Halloween in Space!” look to things wound up growing on me due to its uniqueness.  The high point, however, is the final issue which is illustrated by Kevin Maguire and the expressiveness of his art goes really well with Bendis’ verbosity as the Guardians work to break up a Badoon slave camp.  It’s great fun as well as an example of the potential of this series finally being fully realized.  Let’s hope for more instances like this in the next volume.

glickscomicpicks@gmail.com

Moon Knight vol. 1: From the Dead (by Ellis and Shalvey)

October 23, 2014

Warren Ellis best work at Marvel has come when he does two things.  One is when he gets to work with obscure characters who nobody remembers or really cares about.  The other is when he focuses on telling one or two-issue stories.  Both of these traits were present in “Nextwave:  Agents of H.A.T.E.” and the volume of “Secret Avengers” he did.  Ellis returns to this approach with this latest relaunch of “Moon Knight” with Declan Shalvey on hand to provide the art for these six issues of former mercenary/current crazy superhero Marc Spector’s exploits on the nighttime streets of New York.  Though this approach results in a very readable comic, it also shows that diminishing returns are setting in as well.  Unfortunately, the reason for that is part of a larger problem I’m beginning to have with the writer’s style.

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Fairest vol. 4: Of Men and Mice

October 22, 2014

I figured this would be worth mentioning this while “Fables” is still fresh around here for now.  Though I haven’t gotten to reading the “Cinderella” spin-off titles, as they were not written by series creator Bill Willingham, this story by Marc Andreyko actually makes me want to go and give them a shot.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with “Fables’” interpretation of Cinderella, she’s basically the James Bond of Fabletown as she travels the world and takes care of any threats it might face from without.  Here, the problem turns out to be more personal to her after a group of mice-men attack Snow White and her kids, and a suicide bomber tries to take out Cindy’s shoe-salesman friend Crispin as well.  The woman’s first instinct is to question someone who knows a thing or two about turning mice into men:  her own fairy godmother.  Yet FG’s involvement is only the tip of the iceberg in this adventure that has Cindy trekking across the globe once again to find the source of this magic-gone-awry.

To get my criticisms out of the way first, this story runs a bit too long at six issues and its choice of villains feels remarkably arbitrary in the end.  Andreyko is clearly trying to give his story stronger ties to the main series by using them, but they don’t add a whole lot to the narrative by their presence.  Aside from that, this is a fun adventure that’s worth reading just for the little touches the writer brings to the proceedings.  Whether its Cindy taking out a slave ring run by trolls, FG’s brief stop in an Amsterdam hash bar, the mouse whose many, many loves keep him human, or the final fate of Cindy’s most evil of stepsisters, there’s ultimately just enough here to hold your attention until the story’s end.  You’ve also got Shawn McManus providing the art with his lively and cartoonish style proving to be a perfect fit for the madcap proceedings.  Being a “Fables” spin-off book, that makes this story one for the fans.  “Of Men and Mice” also happens to be one they’ll actually like this time around.

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Vinland Saga vol. 5

October 21, 2014

I wasn’t expecting this volume to match the utterly gripping drama of its predecessor.  The setup, payoff, and twists in between that were delivered in vol. 4 represent one of the most satisfying comic book reads I’ve experienced all year.  To try and top that, well, it’d be a tall order from even the best of creators.  Fortunately Makoto Yukimura let us know with the final two chapters of that volume that there was going to be a de-escalation of drama with the title’s new status quo.  With all that in mind, does this latest edition of “Vinland Saga” still represent a satisfying reading experience?  Indeed it does.


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