Comic Review: Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby

Published: November 28th, 2017
Written by: France Herron, Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby, Rosalind Kirby, Marvin Stein, Wally Wood

DC Comics, 321 Pages

Review:

Most comic book fans know that Jack Kirby left Marvel after the booming ’60s and went to DC for a few years to create the cosmic side of their universe, as well as other cool comics like The Demon and Kamandi. However, few people seem to be aware of the fact that he did some work for DC in the ’50s, as well.

Challengers of the Unknown is a really interesting series and honestly, because the art is so Kirby and because it features several large monsters, it feels very much like it was created for Marvel before Stan Lee started writing about superheroes.

Back then, Marvel had a lot of monster comics and Jack Kirby was the king of that genre. Being a fan of that stuff made me really want to check this out, as it sort of mixes his monster stories with the action hero genre.

This book is about a team of cool dudes that go on grand adventures and often times find themselves faced with Kirby-style monsters and robots. This is very pulpy like the comics of the era, as well as the film serials that were inspired by them like Flash Gordon and The Phantom.

Most importantly, this is just a cool series and I always love Kirby’s iconic art style so it’s a win-win all around.

Now I can’t say that this is as good as his best Marvel (or even DC) stuff but it’s still an enthralling read for those who appreciate the guy and his patented style.

All in all, this is a superb, engaging read with great, vibrant art and cool monsters. There’s not much of anything to dislike.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Jack Kirby’s other work for DC Comics.

Comic Review: Django/Zorro

Published: November 11th, 2015
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Matt Wagner
Art by: Esteve Polls
Based on: Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, Zorro by Johnston McCulley

Dynamite Entertainment, 306 Pages

Review:

Not gonna lie, I was really curious to see how this crossover would play out, especially since it was branded as “The official sequel to Django Unchained.” I’m sure this will be water under the bridge if Quentin Tarantino actually ever does a proper cinematic sequel but for now, I guess Jamie Foxx’s incarnation of Django exists in the same world as the legendary Zorro.

And that’s fine… in fact, it’s really fucking cool. Granted, I would’ve rather seen Zorro team-up with the original Franco Nero Django but I still really like Foxx’s version of the character even if I wasn’t in love with the film he was featured in.

Anyway, I thought the story was just okay. It’s not bad and this was entertaining, accomplishing what it set out to do. However, it still just feels like one of a gajillion comic book IP crossovers just made to cash-in on combining multiple franchises. But at least this one sort of fits together well unlike Transformers and Star Trek or Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles.

Additionally, I also liked the art and overall style of the book. It felt like an homage to old school western comics while still being modern.

Overall, this was a neat experiment and an amusing read. However, it’s still kind of forgettable and will most likely slip down the memory hole fairly quickly.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent western comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Comic Review: Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

Published: October 28th, 2015
Written by: Hunter S. Thompson
Art by: Troy Little
Based on: Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Top Shelf, 172 Pages

Review:

This has been in my Comixology queue for quite some time, so I figured that reading it was long overdue.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, as it appeared to just be a comic adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous book and most famous movie based off of any of his works.

And frankly, that’s exactly what this is. But that’s also not a bad thing, as I love the story in both of its previous forms and seeing it come alive in the comic book medium was pretty cool.

If you know the story, there isn’t much here that deviates from it. It’s just cool seeing it in a different medium.

Additionally, I really liked Troy Little’s art and it was sort of its own neat thing, even if it did draw some inspiration from the Ralph Steadman art that typically accompanied Thompson’s literary work.

All in all, for fans of Hunter S. Thompson, this is a worthwhile ride.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the book it’s based on, as well as Hubter S. Thompson’s other books and films that have been based on them.

 

Comic Review: Downcast, Vol. 2: Wrize & Fall

Published: 2020
Written by: Clint Stoker
Art by: Ignacio Lazaro, Damian Penalba, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Sweet Comics, 56 Pages

Review:

I’m actually glad that I got the two graphic novels for Downcast at the same time, as it helped me retain the plot details due to not waiting months between the volumes.

Although, I still shouldn’t have slept on this when the first one came out because I like the series a lot.

This one concludes the story but I hope that Clint Stoker and the same creative team eventually get back together to tell us another tale in this universe.

This picks up where the first one left off and it resolves all the issues that our heroes were faced with.

Ultimately, they are in over their heads due to stumbling on a unique power courtesy of a MacGuffin. I don’t want to spoil it because I’d rather people read this. Using that MacGuffin, they try to free their father who was imprisoned by a fascist government. All the while, they piss off that government and find themselves on the run while still trying to complete their difficult objective.

The story maintained its quality and the satisfying ending makes this volume a little bit better, overall.

As with the first one, I also really dug the art style and the look of the book.

If you’re still able to get this, you should definitely give it a shot.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other crowdfunded indie comics.

Comic Review: What If Thor Battled Conan?

Published: June, 1983
Written by: Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Ron Wilson
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 37 Pages

Review:

I’m planning to review many of the classic What If? stories but in doing so, I wanted to start with the ones featuring Conan first. This is the second of the four Conan stories.

While Conan briefly crossed over with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in his first What If? tale, it was just a small cameo by Spider-Man and his future wife and the characters didn’t actually interact. This story, however, is the first time that Conan actually has fisticuffs with an iconic Marvel character.

The comic also features Conan villain Thoth-Amon, a brief appearance by Loki and a strange, bonkers appearance by Crom, who shows that he just doesn’t have time for Thor’s shit.

The comic’s title is somewhat misleading, as Thor and Conan do actually battle but it’s pretty short and they start working together to try and figure out how to get Thor back home, as he’s trapped in Conan’s realm and time.

The setup for this is pretty basic. Thor follows Loki into a cave and ends up in a different time and place. Part of me was kind of hoping to see Loki team up with Thoth-Amon but that didn’t happen.

Overall, this was a pretty cool read but the scene with Thor meeting Crom felt really out of place, strange and as if the writer didn’t really know much about Conan lore. Crom isn’t like Odin, just chilling on a throne for anyone to confront and chat with.

This isn’t my favorite of the Conan What If? stories but none of them are bad and they’re all amusing and entertaining in their own unique way.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the three other What If? comics featuring Conan.

Comic Review: Batman R.I.P.

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Tony S. Daniel, Lee Garbett

DC Comics, 213 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty sure I liked this when I read it back when it was current, about a decade and a half ago. However, I found it just weird and wonky this time around. But I’ve also aged quite a bit and in that time, read some truly incredible comics.

I was probably really into this, as it came out at the height of my Grant Morrison love. Plus, back then, I was more into weird shit and experimental storytelling. However, I don’t feel like any of that necessarily benefits the most mainstream of all mainstream comic book titles.

Having now recently read a good amount of Grant Morrison’s Batman run, my opinion on it has soured quite a bit. It’s stuck in this weird limbo where it’s too weird to feel like it fits within the top Batman title and it isn’t weird enough to truly feel like Grant Morrison, unrestrained. 

This feels like watered down Morrison and by trying to sit on the fence between mainstream acceptance and Morrison’s typical narrative style, it’s really just a boring, baffling dud of a comic.

The art is good, damn good. However, that’s not enough to save it from how disappointing it is, overall. Besides, this is a story from the pages of the most popular comic book in the medium and if the art isn’t up to snuff, DC Comics should close up shop.

This kind of wore me ragged, honestly. I don’t want to read anymore of Morrison’s Batman work and I consider it to be overrated, at this point. I also say that as someone that once liked it.

In the end, Morrison shouldn’t have his hands creatively tied but he also shouldn’t be allowed to go into Batman with reckless abandon. That’s what DC’s Elseworld Tales are for and frankly, that’s where Morrison’s Batman work should be.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s Batman run.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 6

Published: February 23rd, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 240 Pages

Review:

I feel like it would be hard to top the greatness that was the previous Fantastic Four – Masterworks volume but this did follow it up pretty nicely and also expanded the Marvel universe by introducing the world to Black Panther and his enemy Klaw.

The earliest arc in this collection focuses on Black Panther and his home of Wakanda. It also brings in the Inhumans, as well. While I love this story, it’s somewhat overshadowed by the epic tale of Doctor Doom stealing Silver Surfer’s powers and cosmic surfboard.

It also features some other Fantastic Four villains sprinkled in but it’s the Doom story that really takes the spotlight, here.

As is the norm for these early Fantastic Four – Masterworks editions, the stories were written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby. While I’m now sixty percent of the way through their 100 issue run, the series hasn’t gotten dull or even really tapered off. Everything is still damn solid and Kirby’s artwork seems to still improve with each volume, even if he was a long-time veteran by this point.

All in all, this is still a great collection that lives up to the hype and only serves to make me appreciate Lee and Kirby’s partnership on this title even more.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: PANdemIC

Published: October, 2020
Written by: Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Renzo Rodriguez, Jason Johnson (cover)

Splatto Comics, 24 Pages

Review:

I was surprised to see this show up in my mailbox the other day, as I wasn’t aware that it had started shipping and because I hadn’t seen a dozen other people on Twitter posting pictures of it. Usually, others start getting their crowdfunded comics a week or two before mine show up.

I jumped into this pretty quickly, though, and it was an entertaining, quick read that did the job it set out to do while laying the foundation for a bigger story and some other tie-ins that I’m now excited for.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how this would go, as it is the first comic I’ve gotten from Richard C. Meyer (a.k.a. Ya Boi Zack) that wasn’t a Jawbreakers or Iron Sights title. It’s very different from the work he usually does but it still has the energy he’s known for and wastes no time getting to the point and throwing us into the action and excitement.

First and foremost, even though I barely know this character, I like her. That’s a far cry from what’s the norm in comics lately but Meyer did a superb job in establishing who she is, even if, right now, it’s just on a minute level due to this being a one-shot the size of a standard floppy comic book.

This is also tied to what is going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic but this doesn’t get political and just sort of exists in current year. Sure, it shows that there is some sort of conspiracy afoot and that this will lead to bigger things in the future but it’s lack of trying to take some sort of partisan stance is refreshing, especially in a year where one can’t escape the narrative spin of everything going on in 2020.

Beyond the story, the art is really good. I was impressed by Renzo Rodriguez’s work and since I’m currently looking for an artist to work on a comic book I’ve written, he’s now a guy that’s on my list.

Overall, this was a worthwhile purchase and it has me pretty stoked for what’s to come. It’s short, sweet, badass and most importantly, fun.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comics by Richard C. Meyer, specifically those that will be tied to this story.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 10: New Mutant Order

Published: February 25th, 2015
Written by: Kevin B. Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Mateus Santolouco, Cory Smith
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 105 Pages

Review:

Ten volumes deep and I still like IDW’s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a lot.

In fact, overall, from top-to-bottom, this may be my favorite long-running comic series IDW has ever done. Granted the Chuck Dixon run on G.I. Joe is still my favorite overall run but it didn’t last anywhere near as long as this series, which is still being published even in a post-COVID world and recently exceeded 100 issues.

These volumes collect four issues, which is fairly scant but the series is written almost like it’s structured for four issue mini-arcs. However, this one starts with an issue that is really a single issue story but it is also my favorite single issue I’ve read in the series, thus far.

The first chapter (or issue) in this collection sees Shredder and Krang meet to discuss a possible union while on a battleship at sea. Things go awry and the two go to war with each other. I thought it was pretty f’n spectacular and it really made me like these two characters, in this incarnation, so much more. It definitely showed Shredder as a calculating, smart villain, thinking many steps ahead. This is a very stark contrast to what fans of just the cartoon series would expect. Overall, this is my favorite version of Shredder that I’ve gotten to know.

The rest of this collection builds off of some of the earlier and still ongoing plots. Here, we see the Turtles working with Hob, their former enemy, at trying to build a mutant army to fight the evil mutants that have been appearing throughout the series.

We also get to see a really good battle between the heroes and Bebop & Rocksteady, who might still be kind of dumb but they’re actually presented as legitimate, extremely dangerous threats.

I like seeing how the larger story has expanded and grown over time. I like that there are a lot of characters and that, for the most part, they’re all well developed. I especially like the constant escalation but how this series still doesn’t go over the top with it. This is how you build towards something unlike the more recent mainstream comic publishers’ mega-events.

Massive kudos to Kevin Eastman. The dude has proven that he’s still got it and that he truly loves working on his most famous creation more than three decades later.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.

Comic Review: Michael Allred’s Madman, Vol. 3

Published: May 5th, 2010
Written by: Mike Allred
Art by: Mike Allred, Laura Allred

Dark Horse, Image Comics (reprint), 260 Pages

Review:

I love the style of Mike Allred’s art and I also dig his style of humor.

However, by this point, I felt like this series had ran its course for me.

It was amusing and fun but it’s honestly more of the same and I didn’t feel as if the series was building towards anything worthwhile.

Sure, there are some things that link into a bigger arc but this felt more episodic and kind of aimless.

Overall, it’s a solid looking, fun comic. And I’m probably being harsher than it deserves but while reading this, I realized that my brain’s interest in it was out of gas.

If you are a massive fan of the series, you’ll probably like this. I liked the first two volumes but as I flipped each page, I just thought to myself, “Yeah, yeah… I got it.”

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other early Madman collections, as well as SCUD: The Disposable Assassin, the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics and The Goon.