Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Orchid #1

Bought this one when it came out in 2011. Finally got around to reading it. 

Title: Orchid
Issue: 1
Date: October, 2011
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer:Tom Morello
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimo Carnevale
Editor: Jim Gibbons, Patrick Thorpe, Sierra Hahn, Dave Land

I went into this with high hopes for Tom Morello as a comic book writer. While I haven't listened to too much Rage Against the Machine, or The Nightwatchman, I have enjoyed Morello's collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, and he did have that time when he awesomely told off Paul Ryan in the pages of Rolling Stone. The guy is essentially a member of the E Street Band at this point, and so I feel some obligation as a huge Springsteen fan to give him props.

So I really wanted to like this. It had an awesome cover, by the way (actually, this is apparently the variant cover; regardless it's pretty awesome).

Unfortunately, that was about where my liking of it ended.

The story is set in a postapocalyptic world featuring a mostly submerged Earth (not explained, although there were vague references that the dumping of chemicals in the oceans was somehow to blame) inhabited my mutated animals right out of, well, right out of a postapocalyptic world. A postapocalyptic world writting in 1983 or so, that is. We're talking serious Gamma World style creatures.

So the setting is a bit goofy, although the plot, involving the last survivor of a failed rebellion on the run, seems to take itself completely seriously. The silly setting was not the main issue.

The main issue was misogyny, which is pretty much the unintentional main theme of the story here. Look, I get it. The setting is supposed to be horribly dystopian. The villains are supposed to be horrible human beings and we will cheer for them getting their comeuppance in a future issue. At least the readers who stick around long enough will. I will not be one of them.

Women forced into prostitution with the word "property" tattooed onto them was just too distasteful for me to want to continue reading this. That sentence was going to start with "Sorry, but". I'm not actually sorry. This story was loaded with violence against women, both implied and explicit, and it was woven into the society of the setting. It was done excessively, and unnecessarily for the purposes of the story Morello was trying to tell. That is not a story I want to read and it's not a series I want to support. No apologies.

I had a hard time finding any reason to care about the characters, even as horrible things happened to them.

Dystopia is a tough sell for me. I am not a fan of harsh and dark settings, but when I think of an example of a Dystopian story that I like, I realize that before The Hunger Games had fully revealed how truly terrible its setting and society were, the story had given reason to care about Katniss and several of the supporting characters.

All that Orchid gave me in the first issue was reasons to stop reading.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, February 17, 2014

GI Joe Vs. Transformers: Black Horizon #1

Another random comic from the backlog. No idea how I ended up with this.

Title: GI Joe Vs. Transformers: Black Horizon
Issue: #1
Date: January, 2007
Publisher: Devils Due Publishing
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Andrew Wildman
Colorist: Wes Ozioba, Art Lyon
Letterer: Brian J. Crowley
Cover Art: Mike O'Sullivan

Scorecard definitely needed here.

Basically, the setup is that there is a race of monstrous creatures living an a lost city in the Himalayas called Cobra-La. No, really.

Anyway, back in ancient times, they defended the Earth against Unicron. Well actually, what they really did was to negotiate to sell out the Earth to Unicron at a later date. Which has arrived.

Now it's up to Optimus Prime, Hawk, and Flint to stop them. Oh, and joining them is "G.I." Joe Colton, an original member of the Adventure Team, who has been held captive in Cobra-La since 1978, and who has conveniently just now figured out how to pick a lock.

There is also some other stuff going on. Destro is doing some generally evil things. Lady Jaye gets a cameo. Snake Eyes gets a cameo. Various other good guys and bad guys show up, and if you're really into this stuff, then it probably makes more sense than it did to me.

But even if you are really into this stuff, this story was still trying to do too much at once.

Rating: 4.5/10 (And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ravenstar Mini Zine

Another random minicomic from the backlog.

Title: Ravenstar Mini Zine
Publisher: Jessica Shea
Date: 2013
Writer: Jessica Shea
Artist: Jessica Shea

Minicomic preview of Jessica Shea's steampunk graphic novel.

A princess vanishes mysteriously from her room. Possibly kidnapped. Or possibly not.

There were only three pages of story here, plus a few pieces of concept art, so not a lot of plot to go on. The artwork was full color, with a watercolored look, and was quite lovely. I definitely like the look of this book and its characters.

It will be interesting to see where the full version goes with this setup.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ultimate Spider-Man Premier Comic #1

Random freebie book from the backlog.

Title: Ultimate Spider-Man Premier Comic
Issue: 1
Date: May, 2012
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Chris Eliopoulis, Paul Dini
Editor: Jordan D. White

This is a freebie-edition comic adaptation of the first episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man animated TV Show, which runs on the Disney Channel.

This is primarily a reboot. It doesn't cover the traditional origin story, although it does mention those events in several places. Instead, it is set about a year into Peter Parker's career as Spider-Man, and the main plot point is an offer for Spider-Man to join SHIELD.

This is very much set in Marvel's cinematic universe, and there are plenty of references dropped throughout the story.

I liked most of the characters in this. Flash Thompson comes off as a bit one-dimensional (though no more so than in his early appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man). But otherwise, the characters were fleshed out nicely. Even Aunt May was given some good details to work with.

The villains were the Frightful Four, and they were not particularly effective. Fortunately there were some bigger threats lurking in the background.

The book is illustrated with cells directly from the episode, and it's a bit hit-or-miss, especially in the fight scenes. There were a few moments in the climactic fight that really needed a big panel, and a few moments where it was hard to tell what was going on.

Rating 5/10

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Saga #1

Random comic from the backlog,. Turned out to be pretty good.

Title: Saga
Issue: 1
Date: March, 2012
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks, Steven Finch
Cover: Fiona Staples
Editor: Eric Stephenson

Two star-crossed lovers, quite literally since they are on opposite sides in an ongoing interplanetary war, have a child together, and are now on the run from the forces of both sides.

This is definitely R-rated material, just to be clear. That being said, the opening scene was absolutely awesome, capturing the wonder of the birth of the baby without leaving out any of the mess and sprinkling in some spot-on humor.

The story gets the main characters on the run, establishes the background, and gives some insight into the villains from two different factions that will be pursuing them.

Both lead characters are flawed, possibly broken, but both come across as powerful personalities in their own ways. The baby get a bit of caption narration that adds flavor and serves to fill in a few details here and there. The world mixes gritty space opera with fairy-tale and mythological imagery. The two warring races could be described as traditional demons (one with wings, the other with horns, and their baby with both), but the culture they are part of is original and interesting.

The story and images go for shock value in a few places, which is usually a turn-off for me, but I was hooked into the story from the opening page, and I found myself enjoying it all the way through.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous

Well, yesterday was the first day I missed in 2014. Not a bad run to start the year.

Here's a minicomic that was sitting in the massive stack of unread comics, but probably didn't come from a comic show. I have a friend who did some work for the band Rilo Kiley in the early 2000s and I've been to one of their shows in New York, and I also went to see Blake Sennett's band The Elected in Boston once, so I'm guessing I picked this up from my friend or at one of those shows.

Title: Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous
Publisher: Sina Grace
Date: 2004
Writer: Sina Grace, Rilo Kiley
Artist: Sina Grace

This is a fan minicomic based on the almum More Adventurous by the band Rilo Kiley. It consists of a set of illustrated vignettes accompanying the lyrics of songs from More Adventurous. Some have complete lyrics and others just show a piece of the song with accompanying artwork.

The featured songs include "It's a Hit", "Does He Love You", "Ripchord", "Accidntel Deth", "Love and War", and "It Just Is".

A lot of the illustrations are reduced down to a pretty small size to fit the minicomic format, so some of the detail work gets lost, which is too bad because artist Sina Grace does a nice job with images that reflect the feel of the lyrics.

I only got to see Rilo Kiley perform once, but they were a lot of fun. This was a nice sample of their songwriting talents, combined with some good artwork. It's obviously going to have extra appeal for fans of the band, but I enjoyed this book just on the level of interesting words and pictures.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, February 3, 2014

Archipelago #2

Random minicomic from the backlog.

Title: Archipelago
Issue: 2
Publisher: Sharon Furgason
Date: 2004
Writer: Sharon Furgason
Artist: Sharon Furgason

Minicomic anthology of 1-3 page stories. The opening piece was a nice slice-of-life story about life in a family of junk hoarders. The other serious segment was a wordless comic that captured post-9/11 fears in an intense and emotional vignette.

In between were some shorter and more humorous comics, including the 10th grade latin teacher as one of the possible results of a nightmarish wheel of misfortune, the Pirates of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Region, and a wonderful schematic of the artist's dream house.

This was a nice, eclectic mix and I loved the details work in the art. I also really liked the front and back covers.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, February 2, 2014

13 Assassin #4

No idea how I ended up with this. It's from TSR (the company that originally published Dungeons & Dragons) during their short-lived foray into comics. Let me assure you, there were reasons why it was short-lived.

Title: 13 Assassin
Issue: 4
Publisher: TSR
Date: 1990
Writer: Mike W. Barr, Scott Haring
Penciller: Robb Phipps, Frank Springer
Inker: Alfredo Alcala, Steve Mitchell
Letterer: Pete Iro, Teresa R. Davidson
Colorist: In Color, Les Dorscheid

So at some point in the early 1990s, among a number of bad business decisions, game publisher TSR (the folks who brought us D&D) launched a line of comics. This particular issue ties in with their espionage roleplaying game, Agent 13. Now if you played any roleplaying games in the 1980s, you might be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute. I thought that TSR's espionage roleplaying game was called Top Secret". Did I mention that TSR was making bad business decisions around 1990?

So this is a comic based on a game that pretty much no one ever played, and it includes a card-game tie-in that you can cut out and play, which I doubt that anyone ever did.

Two stories here. First up is the conclusion to the ongoing main story. It was complicated. There were disembodied spirits and various henchpersons involved, but basically it came down to a villainess named China White and a magical emotion-manipulating crystal that she finally got her hands on and planned to cause mayhem with. This alien artifact could be used to project emotions. For instance, when a group of soldiers try to arrest her at one point, she points it at them and gets them to start fighting each other. Following so far?

So her plan is to put the thing at the top of the Sears Tower and use it to make the whole United States emo. More so than it already is.

To illustrate this, there is a scene that is so unintentionally hilarious that it may have actually been intentional satire. If that was the case, my kudos to writer Matt W. Barr. It goes like this: In order to show that the gem is causing chaos, the scene cuts away to Washington and the Senate Subcommittee on the Environment, where the Senators are ripping up and burning the important paperwork they had been working on, making paper airplanes, and demanding booze and loose women.

Get it? Clearly the crystal has absolutely no effect at all on members of our government! Well, thank goodness for that, because the good guys weren't being to successful at stopping China White up to this point.

Eventually, 13 (the hero; I hadn't mentioned him so far because he's not very interesting) does indeed save the day, and it can be assumed that the Senate can go back to their normal business of making paper airplanes and demanding booze and loose women.

The backup story involves three people from different secret conspiracies all on the run together. Eventually they begin to suspect that this might all be one big conspiracy.

There were actually a lot more plot developments in both stories, including a few interesting moments and one pair of characters who were actually quite likable (a henchwoman who has fallen in love with one of the disembodied spirits), but so little in this was done effectively that the effort put into plot falls flat along with the rest of the book.

The game, by the way, is a card game of good and bad emotions that looked pretty simplistic, but had a fortune-telling vibe to it that was at least interesting in flavor.

TSR was heading toward serious financial problems when this was published. And this definitely was not helping them.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, February 1, 2014

DC Universe Presents #5

Here's another book from my initial foray into DC's New 52.

And just because I am feeling proud of the accomplishment, this comic review is my 31st for the month of January, 2014. Comic a day indeed. We'll see how February goes.

Title: DC Universe Presents
Issue: 5
Date: March 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Jenkins, Bernard Chang
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Wil Moss
Cover: Ryan Sook

Boston Brand has his final confrontation with the goddess Rama. He wants a new deal, or at least an adjustment to the terms of the old deal. To pay for it, he has a question that a goddess would not think to ask.

Seems like a fair trade.

This issue revolves around a fairly specific philosophical point, and then comes full circle with a cute variation on that point in the ending line. The conclusion is satisfactory, if a bit neatly packaged, and there is even a gun battle thrown in at the end for the readers who weren't digging all the mysticism.

The confrontation with Rama is longer and more wordy than it needs to be, but the visuals are pretty nice.

This issue apparently concludes the Deadman run for this title. Next issue will feature the Challengers of the Unknown. Who will be doing what they do best: Challenging. The unknown.

Rating: 7/10