Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows of the Vampire

Published: November 23rd, 2016
Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Nelson Daniel, Max Dunbar
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

This is the third story in Jim Zub’s run with these characters and it follows up those Baldur’s Gate stories quite well, leaning into the strengths of the series and making these incredibly likable characters even more likable.

Also, this continues to develop these characters while also strengthening their bond.

In this story, we get werewolves, other creatures and ultimately, a showdown between these awesome heroes and a powerful vampire lord.

Like the previous volumes, this is fun, energetic and thoroughly entertaining. Jim Zub has the right sort of vibe for sword and sorcery, especially the more lighthearted stuff.

I also like the art, here, and it’s consistent with the other two books before it.

All in all, these continue to be great and fans of action fantasy with a bit of humor should just give them a read.

Rating: 7.25/10

Book Review: ‘The Untold Legend of the Batman’ by Len Wein, Jim Aparo & John Byrne

This was a paperback book I had when I was a kid and it may have actually been the first Batman comic that I read, as I got this when I was really young.

This paperback is a collection of a three-issue comic book miniseries of the same name. Except, here, the comic is in black and white and reformatted to fit this medium, having just one-to-three panels per page.

The Untold Legend of the Batman is a bit strange, as its details differ from the continuity of the actual comic book series. Events in Batman’s past are slightly altered but it was still a fun read and the origin of the Caped Crusader wasn’t so different that it wrecked anything. At worst, it’s still more accurate than many of the film and television versions of the hero’s backstory.

I really dug the art in this, especially with it being presented in black and white, as it allowed the linework of both John Byrne and Jim Aparo to really standout on its own.

This was a really fast read but it was still worth hunting down and giving it a look again.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt

Published: April 25th, 2018
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer
Art by: Mark Bagley, M.D. Bright, Rich Buckler, Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Al Milgrom

Marvel Comics, 495 Pages

Review:

Well, this is probably the greatest string of Captain America issues that I have ever read. The first few were a bit shaky but they laid the groundwork for the start of the two primary stories, here, The Bloodstone Hunt and the Captain America portion of the Acts of Vengeance crossover and its fallout.

The Bloodstone Hunt was pretty incredible and a hell of a lot of fun. It was like an Indiana Jones story as Cap and Diamondback, now essentially his partner, raced against Baron Zemo, Batroc and their crew to try and hunt down five magic gems. It wasn’t clear why Zemo wanted them until the end, where he attempts to use them to resurrect his father, the original Zemo. However, he resurrects the powerful soul that was locked in those gems instead.

That story also features the debut of Crossbones and John Jameson (a.k.a. Man-Wolf) becoming Cap’s pilot. Sadly, we don’t get Man-Wolf action but this series of issues drops some hints that Jameson might not be able to suppress his cosmic werewolf alter ego for much longer.

After that, we get a two-issue arc that sees Cap and Crossbones fight for the first time. Man, I forgot how much I loved Crossbones in these early stories. He’s such a good sack of shit and a perfect rival for Cap. I really wish they would’ve used him better in the MCU movies, especially with Frank Grillo in that role.

Following that, we get the Acts of Vengeance stuff, which sees Cap have to fight Namor, his ally, as well as The Controller and Crossbones, again. There are also side plots about The Hellfire Club being raided and Magneto kidnapping and burying Red Skull alive in a tomb due to his ties to the Nazis, which a young Magneto and his family were victims of.

There’s just so much in this volume and all of it is damn good, once the story gets rolling.

Mark Gruenwald might be the best Captain America writer of them all. Additionally, the art throughout this stretch was superb. I still remember buying a lot of these single issues off of the racks, many of which I still own, and I remember loving back in 1989. I’m glad to say that this aged exceptionally well.

Rating: 10/10

Comic Review: Nightwing, Vol. 8: Lethal Force

Published: November 20th, 2018
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Rick Burchett, Staz Johnson, Trevor McCarthy, William Rosado

DC Comics, 243 Pages

Review:

Well, this is the end of the lengthy Chuck Dixon Nightwing run.

With that, I was a little underwhelmed by this. The reason for that is because I anticipated some of the major plot threads being wrapped up, such as the stuff surrounding the Blockbuster character but he doesn’t even appear in the issues collected, here.

Still, I did mostly enjoy this.

It all just felt kind of random, though, and there wasn’t a thread that tied this all up like in previous volumes.

Like some of the other volumes, this also has the problem of too many artists, which makes the book visually inconsistent, throughout. It’s not as jarring as it was in some of the earlier volumes but it’s still noticeable.

In the end, this just felt like the series had become directionless. I’m not sure if the blame for that lies on Chuck Dixon’s shoulders or the brass at DC Comics, who were going to keep the Nightwing title going while handing it off to other people.

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: The Expendables Go to Hell

Published: October, 2021
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Richard C. Meyer
Art by: Graham Nolan, Jason Johnson, Kelsey Shannon, Butch Guice, Daniel Brown
Based on: The Expendables franchise by Sylvester Stallone

Splatto Comics, 50 Pages

Review:

Out of all the comics that I’ve backed through crowdfunding, this is one of the few that I anticipated the most. Not because I’m a massive Expendables fan but because it was really neat seeing Sylvester Stallone work with comic crowdfunding maestro Richard C. Meyer a.k.a. Ya Boi Zack and writer Chuck Dixon, who wrote some of my favorite G.I. Joe stories. Since G.I. Joe is very similar to The Expendables, it makes Dixon a pretty solid choice for this project. Plus, he had already worked with Stallone before.

Additionally, I really liked that this featured art by Graham Nolan and a sweet as fuck cover by Kelsey Shannon. There were other variant covers as well but the Shannon cover just nailed it for me and he’s also a hell of a nice comic creator in an industry full of psychotic, narcissistic shitheads.

So while I might not be a massive Expendables fan, I still enjoy the hell out of those movies because they feature so many badasses from the action films of my childhood. Also, they’re just fun, insane movies with a bunch of likable alpha males trying to out alpha each other while also being brothers on the field of battle.

The story is pretty self-explanatory, as it sees the Expendables actually go to Hell. Once there, they learn that Hell is constant war and they find themselves at odds with tyrants of the past while also having some historical heroes becoming their allies. Also, some of their deceased friends and foes appear.

The comic is pretty straightforward, doesn’t waste time and just gets to the action. It’s a pretty cool comic if this stuff is your cup of whiskey.

All in all, I was really happy with it and thought it was certainly worth the wait.

Now if we could only get an Expendables and Jawbreakers crossover or that long-awaited sequel to Stallone’s Cobra that I’ve been dying for since 1986.

Rating: 7.25/10

Comic Review: The Black Widow: The Coldest War

Published: 1992
Written by: Gerry Conway
Art by: George Freeman

Marvel Comics, 66 Pages

Review:

This was one of those old school magazine-sized graphic novels that Marvel used to do when they were still really f’n cool. I also think it’s the first solo Black Widow story that I’ve ever reviewed here. But it’s also a really good one to start with.

The Coldest War is written by comic book legend Gerry Conway and like a lot of his other work, it’s action packed, face paced and when it isn’t, it provides you with some solid dialogue and character building.

At this point, fans knew Black Widow well but I feel like this was a real turning point for the character and really allowed her to stand on her own, as she faces adversity, has doubts about herself and stares a hole into her past but then eventually learns to move forward, trust her instincts and kick ass.

I liked the story, here, a lot. However, I wasn’t keen on the art. It’s a strange style, even for a more experimental Marvel graphic novel. I think my real gripe with it is that Black Widow is one of the most sexually attractive women in the Marvel universe but this art style made her look like Conan O’Brien.

All in all, though, I was able to look past that and enjoy the adventure and watch her work out her personal issues.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: Tyrants Rise, Heroes Are Born

Published: February 17th, 2016
Written by: John Ney Rieber
Art by: Jae Lee
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero & The Transformers by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

It’s kind of strange that I didn’t know about this until recently but once I saw it pop up on Comixology Unlimited, I added it to my queue.

I’m a big Jae Lee fan so the fact that he was doing the art for something associated with G.I. Joe was enough to get me to check this out.

This is a crossover between the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises but since they both exist in the same universe, it’s not the first time this has happened.

However, this is unique, as it takes place during World War II and with that, it was kind of a fresh way to cross these two properties over again.

The story was decent and I enjoyed it, as all the characters came off as pretty close to how they should be.

The art was really what put it over the top, though. I loved seeing Jae Lee do WWII era stuff and being able to mix that aesthetic in with two properties I love was pretty damn cool. In fact, this is now one of my all-time favorite looking G.I. Joe and Transformers stories.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: The Evolutionary War

Published: 1988
Written by: Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, Mark Gruenwald
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 704 Pages

Review:

It has been years since I’ve read this giant crossover event that happened in the Marvel annuals over the summer of 1988. I really dug the hell out of it when I was a kid and I’ve always liked the High Evolutionary as a big villain, even though this was really his only major story.

Being that I still own the physical copies of all these issues, I figured that taking them out of their protective bags and boards and thumbing through them once again would be a fun experience.

Overall, this is one of the best large crossover events that Marvel did in the ’80s, where these things started to become the norm. I think I liked Atlantis Attacks slightly more but I’m going to revisit that one in the very near future, as well.

This is spread over eleven issues and there are two others that tie into this but aren’t a part of the main arc. However, the main arc is sort of a loose one, as the scheme of the High Evolutionary weaves in and out of these issues without most of the heroes coming into contact with one another. In fact, it isn’t until the final issue where a group of former Avengers come together and realize what’s happening and with that, they foil the High Evolutionary’s plans.

Sometimes the main arc is just very minimally wedged into a story like with The Punisher annual, which sees Frank Castle fighting drug lords in Latin America. Knowing what we know already, we see Castle fight a robot that we know is associated with the High Evolutionary and we know that the drugs being pushed by this specific cartel is tied to the High Evolutionary’s experiments.

Being that these are annuals, there are always main stories and then shorter backup stories tacked on to the end of the issues. The backup stories in these tell the origin of the High Evolutionary and recap everything he’s been involved with up to this point. These were all rather good and interesting and it shows the character as a sort of high-tech Dr. Moreau from the famous 1896 H. G. Wells sci-fi/horror novel The Island of Doctor Moreau.

In the end, this was a hell of a lot of fun to revisit. The writing and art were handled by a team of Marvel’s best creatives from the era. I dug the art a lot and it was damn consistent throughout.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Superman: Funeral for a Friend

Published: April 5th, 2016
Written by: Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Art by: Jon Bogdanove, Brett Breeding, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice, Doug Hazlewood

DC Comics, 366 Pages

Review:

There are five acts to the death and rebirth of Superman. This is the second act, which follows The Death of Superman and sets up the third act, Reign of the Supermen.

Funeral for a Friend is definitely emotional in spots and it does show how great of an impact that Superman had on the DC Comics universe. However, even with every major hero coming out and paying their respects, this collection is bogged down by some smaller, side stories that don’t really need to be there.

This reads more like an anthology, as opposed to one coherent narrative and that hurts the overall flow of this chapter in the larger saga.

I did like the parts that dealt with the fallout of Superman’s death in regards to those who were actually closest to him from Lois Lane, the Kents, Jimmy Olsen and even Lana Lang. I also liked seeing how his former friends and allies in the Justice Leagues of the past and present came together to honor him and reminisce.

Overall, this isn’t bad, it’s just somewhat of a mess that tries to wedge in short stories of D-level characters that don’t need to be there.

Rating: 6/10

Comic Review: X-Factor – Epic Collection: Genesis & Apocalypse

Published: March 1st, 2017
Written by: John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras, Bob Layton, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Art by: John Buscema, John Byrne, Jackson Guice, Bob Layton, Rick Leonardi, Paul Neary, Keith Pollard, Terry Shoemaker, Marc Silvestri

Marvel Comics, 457 Pages

Review:

This is a collection of the lead up to the original X-Factor run, as well as the first nine issues of the series, along with an Iron Man and a Spider-Man story that tie into it.

Since I’ve never read this stuff, I wanted to check it out, as X-Factor was one of my favorite series when it was near the end of this team’s run, before the Havok-led team took over and forever became the squad that most people think about when they think about X-Factor.

I’ve got to say that I was underwhelmed by this first stretch of issues and it doesn’t really find its footing. While Apocalypse’s debut appears here, it was also underwhelming considering how iconic he becomes. I assume that his stories after the original one are better because when I started picking up the series, as a kid, when the issues where in the fifties, I thought Apocalypse was cool and intimidating as hell.

This is interesting as it shows you the earliest stories involving Cameron Hodge before he revealed himself to be an anti-mutant Hitler-like dictator behind the events of the massive X-Tinction Agenda crossover event. Also, it gives you the last days of Angel before Apocalypse turns him into the tortured Archangel. I believe that story comes in the next volume.

The story was clunky and I think that’s because these early X-Factor appearances were spread over multiple comics with multiple writers. Its like Marvel was trying to force the team on everyone and with that, it makes the tone inconsistent and the overall narrative disjointed.

I did enjoy the art, though. I always dug ’80s Marvel’s common style and it’s a big reason as to why I really jumped into these comics back then.

This earliest X-Factor collection didn’t do much for me but it also didn’t dissuade me from wanting to read later editions, as I remember how solid this series was a few years after this debut.

Rating: 5.5/10