Comic Review: Star Wars: Shattered Empire

Published: November 18th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka, Greg Pak
Art by: Marco Checchetto, Chris Sprouse
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Marvel Comics, 123 Pages

Review:

This came out just before the first Disney Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. It was meant to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and the new sequel trilogy.

It’s a complete failure of storytelling though.

Does it bridge the gap? Sort of, I guess.

The story follows the events of the Battle of Endor but focuses on Poe Dameron’s mom, a character we’ve never heard of but is suddenly a hero known by everyone, even Luke Skywalker who basically bows before her presence, alerting us of a character propped up as an infallible Mary Sue. And I hate having to go there but Mama Dameron is the exact definition of a Mary Sue character.

Then she goes on an adventure with Leia to Naboo and they meet the current Queen of Naboo. Then there are only three starfighters, so these three women, two of which are fucking royalty, take off into space to fight a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers all on their own.

This is heavy handed girl power nonsense and a blight on Star Wars, which is why I don’t consider this Disney bullshit to be canon. It’s not that having strong, heroic women is the problem, it’s that they’re thrown into situations that are nonsensical and pointless other than making some sort of social or political statement.

Frankly, Star Wars: Shattered Empire is a prime example of why modern Marvel has been so widely criticized. I like to give each comic a fair shot and look at them as individual bodies of work judged on their own merits but this comic makes it pretty damn clear why the mainstream comic book industry is shrinking and has nealt lost its entire audience.

This was absolute horseshit.

But the art was really good, to be fair.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: I guess the other recent Marvel Star Wars comics and the Disney sequel films.

Comic Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Published: May 20th, 2015 – August 5th, 2015
Written by: Nico Lathouris, Mark Sexton, George Miller (story)
Art by: Peter Pound
Based on: Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

Vertigo Comics, DC Comics, 151 Pages

Review:

Typically, movie adaptation comics aren’t very good. Sometimes one will surprise you. But I guess that this one is unique in that it isn’t an actual adaptation of Mad Max: Fury Road but is instead, an anthology prequel that follows some of the main characters, establishing their backstories before the events of the film.

Also, these stories come from George Miller himself. Now I’m not sure how involved he was with this, as he could’ve written a very detailed outline or this could have just been taken from his notes when he wrote the film. Either way, the finished product is damn good for fans of the movie and the franchise.

This also confirms that this Max is the same Max that Mel Gibson played and that all the films do share continuity. It delves into Max’s previous tales to add context to where the man is by the time Fury Road starts. And with that, his story here also comes with some extra tragedy to help set the stage for Fury Road.

What’s also interesting, is that this comic has ties to the video game continuity, as the big bad from the 2015 game is seen within the pages of this comic and is referred to by name. You even have an understanding of where he stands in the bigger picture alongside Immortan Joe.

The plots of all the stories here are intriguing and I’d say that this is a must read if you want a fuller experience than just what you get with the film. I love added context and none of this seems like it was done just to cash in on the film’s success, as the people behind this cared about the movie and the world its characters inhabit.

I really dug the art style too, as it felt in tune with the movie but also had an older, grittier pulpy feel to it. I liked the muted colors and the high contrast. Emotions were conveyed well on the faces of the characters and while it may feel somewhat understated, it’s pretty damn perfect and gets the job done.

Sadly, I bought and read this digitally, as I was unsure about it. Now that I’ve read it and loved it, I’m going to round up the single floppy issues.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Mad Max movies, specifically Fury Road. Also, the 2015 Mad Max video game.

Comic Review: Vampirella Master Series – Omnibus

Published: September 20th, 2017
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Carey, Warren Ellis, Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, James Robinson
Art by: Amanda Conner, Gary Frank, Joe Jusko, Louis LaChance, Mike Lilly, Mike Mayhew, Tim Sale, Mark Texeira

Dynamite Entertainment, Harris Comics, 545 Pages

Review:

I’ve kind of dug Vampirella my entire life, even if I hadn’t read many of her stories until more recently. She always looked like a cool, badass character and I’ve always enjoyed horror, especially vampire fiction.

Being that this is the 50th anniversary of the character and because I’m stoked for the new series that Christopher Priest is writing, I wanted to dive deep into Vampirella lore.

This gigantic omnibus was put out recently by Dynamite but it collects stories from the ’90s when Vampirella was being published by the now defunct Harris Comics.

What makes this collection special, is that it is a compilation of Vampirella stories from a ton of A-list creators in a time when comics were allowed to be harder, sexier, edgier and darker: all things that make Vampirella who she is.

Overall, most of this was entertaining. The only low point was the Kurt Busiek story because it was a bit slow when compared to the pacing of the others. I did like Busiek’s tale overall but it was also the largest and kind of took the wind out of the sails for me.

I wish that some of the other stories were larger or expanded on more, though. There were a lot of cool ideas tossed around and a lot of what was considered Vampirella canon was experimented on and retconned. Typically, I’m not big on retcons but with Vampirella having a rocky history, as far as being published regularly and with any sort of long lasting narrative, it doesn’t bother me. Plus, by the ’90s, a little reinvention wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In the end, I was glad to have finally read these stories and they’re certainly better than what was the standard in the early to mid-’90s.

I also loved most of the art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella stories, as well as comics featuring Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt

Published: October, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Art by: Mike Zeck

Marvel Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

Kraven’s Last Hunt is considered to be one of the best Spider-Man story arcs ever written. I’ve gotta say that I agree with that assessment and frankly, it’s near perfect minus a few minor things that hinder it.

The art by Mike Zeck is superb though. And even if the story wasn’t as exceptional as it is, the art in this book really takes it to another level due to its grittiness.

This story came out at the end of Spider-Man’s black costume era. The fact that he’s wearing that costume in this story really adds to the tone and gives this a brooding atmosphere that it wouldn’t have had were he wearing his traditional blue and red outfit.

For Kraven fans, this is a must read, as it’s the most important story to feature the character. It also sees him get the best of Spider-Man, by burying him alive for weeks, as he takes over the mantle, becoming a “superior Spider-Man”. So really, Dan Slott through Doctor Octopus pretty much just recycled this concept with his Superior Spider-Man comic book series. But I can’t knock Slott for that, as I enjoyed the series and he definitely made it his own.

Getting back to this story, it also features the minor villain Vermin. The Vermin stuff is very important to the plot but I’ve never been a fan of the character, as he’s pretty one note and generic. Vermin’s inclusion is one of the things I wasn’t keen on in the story but they do include him in a way that makes sense and enriches the story overall. I feel like a different angle would’ve been better though, as so much time is devoted to the character that it detracts from the larger, much better story. Frankly, I just want this to be 100 percent Kraven.

This six issue arc ends in a pretty dark place but it’s almost a perfect conclusion to this rich story. And in a lot of ways, it foreshadows the darkness that is soon to come into Spider-Man’s life in the form of Venom.

Kraven’s Last Hunt absolutely deserves its praise. It’s a true high point to one of the best eras in Spider-Man lore. It’s also one of the reasons I became a lifelong fan of Marvel’s most popular hero.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: late ’80s Spider-Man comics, especially the David Michelinie/Todd McFarlane era on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Comic Review: William Gibson’s Alien 3

Published: August 6th, 2019
Written by: Johnnie Christmas, William Gibson
Art by: Johnnie Christmas, Tamra Bonvillain
Based on: William Gibson’s unused Alien 3 script

Dark Horse, 138 Pages

Review:

I’ve heard great things about William Gibson’s original script for Alien 3, which was drastically different than the film we got in 1992. So when news came out that it was going to be adapted in comic book form, I was pretty stoked to check it out.

As far as the story goes, I like it more than the film. It was a lot more interesting and took the franchise in an interesting and very different direction. However, some of the more bizarre parts of the script were then used in the 4th Alien film a few years later.

But even though the story was good, the execution in this comic book was not.

It lacked suspense for the most part and the story is really a thriller more than it is a horror movie for the first two acts. In fact, we don’t really get some solid xenomorph action until the fourth of these five issues.

Also, the story seems like it would work better in the film medium. It’s a very wordy story with lots of dialogue, plotting and scheming. Not to mention a great deal of science stuff. It’s interesting but it doesn’t make for an interesting comic book when that’s mostly all you get for the first 60 percent of the tale.

Additionally, the art isn’t very good. It’s not terrible and it is mostly competent but it doesn’t feel as good as it should be on a book of this caliber.

Overall, this is worth giving a read if you are interested in the original idea for the film but you could also just read the script. I know it’s floating around out there, somewhere.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Alien comics from Dark Horse.

Comic Review: The Death-Defying Devil (2008 series)

Published: 2008
Written by: Alex Ross, Joe Casey
Art by: Edgar Salazar, Alex Ross (covers)
Based on: Daredevil by Jack Binder, Jack Cole (revamped)

Dynamite Entertainment, 92 Pages

Review:

Before there was Daredevil, well… there was Daredevil.

This isn’t Marvel’s Daredevil who debuted in the 1960s. This is the Golden Age Daredevil, who was a hero published by Lev Gleason Publications starting in 1940. Nowadays, due to copyrights, he is referred to as the Death-Defying Devil.

This is a review of his first series by Dynamite Entertainment back in 2008. I wanted to check it out because he has a new series debuting later this year.

However, despite the fantastic Alex Ross covers, there wasn’t much here to keep me wanting to read beyond this story. It sets up the universe for the Death-Defying Devil and other golden age heroes he calls allies but the story was weak and mostly uninteresting.

The interior art also wasn’t fantastic and the whole idiom about “don’t judge a book by its cover”, works in reverse too.

I may read the follow up story to this but I’m not sure when. Maybe on a rainy day when I’m caught up on all the other comics in my queue.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern adaptations of Golden Age superheroes.

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars, Vol. 1

Published: October 12th, 2011
Written by: Arvid Nelson
Art by: Lui Antonio
Based on: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Dynamite Entertainment, 275 Pages

Review:

I never was a big fan of the Barsoom stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That’s probably because I never read the books and have just had vague knowledge of the characters John Carter and Dejah Thoris. However, since Thoris has been appearing in lots of crossovers with other characters I’m a fan of, I wanted to check out her earliest stories. Also, with the Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises putting out a lot of bullshit the last few years, maybe it is time to give the Barsoom franchise a shot.

This was a cool story and I like the world that these characters live in. I also recently watched Disney’s John Carter for the first time, as I wanted to compare two different versions of this same story. Both this comic and that movie are adaptations of the first Barsoom novel, A Pricess of Mars.

For the most part, the film and this comic are pretty close, narratively. There are some small differences and I’m not sure which is closer to the novel but I definitely prefer the look of the Martians in the comic and the more adult tone. Here, the Martians look like four armed Hulks with orc-like heads and tusks. In some ways, it reminded me a lot of the Planet Hulk storyline.

The story is well presented and it flows nicely. My only real complaint about this was the art. It’s not terrible but it feels rushed and a bit overly fantastical. Also, Dejah Thoris is basically naked minus her pasties and loin cloth. I’m not sure if that’s how she appears in Burroughs’ book but it felt a bit unnecessary and I’m no prude. I’m a fan of boobies for sure but I felt like an old perv reading this while waiting for my order at Five Guys.

Warlord of Mars was amusing and entertaining though. I’ll probably check out more of these stories by Dynamite, in preparation before reading some of Dejah Thoris’ crossovers with Vampirella and Red Sonja.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Dynamite’s other Barsoom related comics.