Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 1: Homeland

Published: February 25th, 2015
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 145 Pages

Review:

I’ve known about the character of Drizzt Do’Urden for a few decades. In fact, I own a few of the Forgotten Realms paperbacks with him on the cover but I never got around to reading them because I wanted the whole saga.

Well, many of those stories were adapted into comics by IDW, who have the publishing rights to the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. So, I figured that I’d read them and get a taste for the character and his pocket in the larger D&D universe.

This first volume serves as Drizzt’s origin story and while it’s interesting and pretty unique, it’s not super exciting. However, his story had to start somewhere and it’s important if you want to actually understand the character, his motivations and what kind of struggle he’s gone through before evolving into a legendary hero.

Reading this, I appreciated the level of world building that went into the story, as originally penned by the great R.A. Salvatore. This goes deep into the culture, beliefs, politics and history of Drizzt’s people, setting up a lot of potentially good stories to follow.

Still, this first volume didn’t captivate me in the way I was hoping but that’s fine. I still plan to read the six volumes that IDW put out because I already own them and because this character can now leave the nest and grow into the great character I’ve been told he is by many.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 15

Published: August 1st, 2012
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 232 Pages

Review:

I have finally reached the end of the classic Marvel Comics G.I. Joe run, which was almost entirely written by Larry Hama.

Most of it was great but the last four or five volumes are pretty shitty, this one being no different, which is sort of sad, considering how great this franchise was in its prime, back when Larry Hama still cared about it and when Hasbro was making great toys and not corny ones that pushed fans away.

To be fair, most of the loyal G.I. Joe fans were also more into girls by the early ’90s.

Anyway, this final collection of issues is a wee bit better than the previous lot but the series still went out with a whimper.

This is also plagued by awful art that is well below Marvel’s quality standards in the ’90s.

Most of the half dozen or so artists here were trying really hard to be the next Rob Liefeld and I don’t say that complimentary. They sort of adopted the worst parts of Liefeld’s style and gave us stories littered with bad physics, weird anatomy and messed up looking faces.

All in all, I still love this series. But everything went to shit after about 100 issues and never recovered.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe comics.

Book Review: ‘The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane’ by Robert E. Howard

I have only read a few Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard and that was a long time ago. I’ve always loved the character, however. Especially, when he appeared in issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, as well as his own classic comic book series from his original Marvel run. I also like the film adaptation, quite a bit, as it has grown on me since I reviewed it for this site a few years back. I may need to update that, as I have a higher opinion of the movie now than I did after my original viewing of it.

This nice, thick book collects a lot of the iconic Solomon Kane stories that Howard wrote. I’m not sure if this is all of them or most of them but it does feature the stories I’m either familiar with from the comics and from what I’ve learned about the character’s history.

I enjoyed this pretty immensely, which I kind of expected to, but it exceeded those expectations and as far as a big collected body of work, this may be my favorite book I own by Robert E. Howard. Granted, I plan on reading the collected editions of Conan soon, as I have only read about a third of his short stories.

Solomon Kane is a very different hero than either Conan or Kull, however, and it was cool seeing Howard writing what I still consider to be sword and sorcery but quite unlike his better known “barbarian” heroes.

I love that this takes place on Earth in a historical time and that it connects to the real world closer than Howard’s prehistorical fantasy stuff.

Additionally, every story here had purpose and serious gravitas. I also liked all the colorful characters that weaved in and out of these tales, as well as the monsters and the Lovecraftian influence on them.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane should definitely be in anyone’s library who enjoys fantasy, action and horror. It’s a perfect blend of these three things, written by one of the greatest American authors that ever lived.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Film Review: Silent Hill (2006)

Also known as: Centralia (fake working title), Terror en Silent Hill (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela)
Release Date: April 20th, 2006 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Written by: Roger Avery, Christophe Gans, Nicolas Boukhrief
Based on: Silent Hill by Konami
Music by: Akira Yamaoka, Jeff Danna
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland

Silent Hill DCP Inc., Davis-Films, TriStar Pictures, 125 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Special Edition Blu-ray, Canada only)

Review:

“When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world.” – Dark Alessa

When this came out, it was the film that seemed like it bucked the trend of video game movies being shit, as far as adaptations and overall quality goes.

The Resident Evil films were their own thing and before them we had the Street Fighter movie, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. I would say that the film that actually bucked the trend first, though, was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. However, Silent Hill is a much better film than that one and it works without having knowledge or appreciation of its video game series before seeing it.

In fact, I know several people that saw this film first, which then served as a gateway into the games due to the effect this movie had on them.

I used to watch this quite a bit after I bought it on DVD when it was first released that way. It’s probably been a dozen years since I’ve seen it but my fondness for it was still really strong and I wanted to revisit it. I also want to playthrough some of the earlier games too, which I might in the very near future.

Seeing this now was kind of cool because I was separated enough from it to see it with somewhat fresh eyes. I definitely see the flaws in it more than I did in 2006 but that could also be due to me not being as obsessed with the franchise as I was back then. Subpar sequels in both video games and film took the wind out of this once great property’s sails.

The film adapts elements of the stories from the first two games and sort of merges them while also doing its own thing. So it’s familiar enough for fans to immediately recognize but also takes some interesting turns that allow it to breathe and evolve in a different way.

I like the film’s story quite a lot, even if it does change some key things. Those things don’t break the film as its own body of work, though.

My biggest gripe about the film is the dialogue. It’s not terrible but there are some weird lines and some weird delivery, here and there. I’m not sure if that’s due to a language barrier due to the director, who also co-wrote the film, being French. I don’t know enough about him outside of his finished films that I’ve seen, which aren’t many.

However, the child actress delivers some lines with weird inflections on certain syllables that sound unnatural and a bit off. I don’t necessarily blame her, I blame the direction and the takes that were chosen to be used in the final film.

Overall, she did well essentially playing two different characters that were polar opposites of each other: one being good and innocent and the other being the absolute embodiment of evil. The requirements of her role aren’t easy for most adult actors and she did rather well considering her age and experience.

Moving on, some of the CGI effects look a little dated but for the most part, the film still looks great. There are just a few shots that look kind of weird.

The film as a whole looks incredible, however. Gans has a stupendous eye and from a visual standpoint, he captured the tone and aesthetic of the video game series phenomenally well. I am still really impressed by the scenes where the purgatory world dissolves into the Hell world.

Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of the ending but it fits well within the framework of what Silent Hill is. I guess there is a part of me that wanted something more optimistic but the ambiguous and strange ending leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Also, that’s not a bad thing, some of my favorite movies do that but after the literal hell that the characters went through, it felt like more of a reward was needed.

I liked the cult aspect of the story and I definitely loved their end. As violent and incredibly fucked up as the climax was, it was also satisfying as hell after learning who these people really were. This movie doesn’t simply provide you with sympathy for the Devil, it makes you root for him… or in this case, her.

The last thing I want to mention is the music. The film recycles the score and iconic songs from the video game series. That might not work in the case of most film adaptations but it really amplified the effect of the film and its brooding, disturbing atmosphere. I think that I appreciated it even more now, as I kind of forgot how good the games’ music was.

Silent Hill is, hands down, one of the best horror movies in its decade, which was unfortunately a terrible decade for horror. But I think it would’ve been just as great in earlier decades, regardless of the higher quality of the genre.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: it’s absolutely shitty sequel, I guess. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.

Comic Review: The Witcher, Vol. 4: Of Flesh and Flame

Published: July 30th, 2019
Written by: Aleksandra Motyka
Art by: Marianna Strychowska
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski

Dark Horse Comics, 106 Pages

Review:

I have reached the last comic story in The Witcher saga. Well, at least for now.

I’m sure that Dark Horse or eventually another publisher will do more in the future, as it continues to be a hot property, especially with the Netflix show and I’m assuming, future video games and maybe even novels.

While this wasn’t my favorite of the four stories I’ve read, it was still entertaining and a good amount of fun.

This also brought Dandelion into the comic book continuity and he’s a favorite character of mine from the only game I’ve played in the series, The Witcher 3: Blood Hunt.

This was done by a different creative team but they did just fine. The story was energetic and exciting while the art was also really good and pretty much consistent with the volumes that came out previously.

The plot was well constructed with a pretty good twist that I didn’t predict and it leaves you smiling with an amusing, satisfying ending.

All in all, for those who enjoy The Witcher mythos, this shouldn’t disappoint. Honestly, if you want to read the comics, I’d just buy the omnibus edition, as it includes all four of the volumes that have been published, thus far.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Witcher comics.

Comic Review: Deathstroke: The Terminator, Vol. 3: Nuclear Winter

Published: October 17th, 2017
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Art by: Steve Erwin, Will Blyberg, Art Nichols

DC Comics, 257 Pages

Review:

I was really high up on this series after reading the first two volumes. Sadly, this one was a big step down and I’m hoping it was just a minor hiccup, as I continue to read on beyond this one.

I think the big issue with this was that Marv Wolfman felt the need to crossover Deathstroke with the Teen Titans, as the anti-hero has had a deep connection with those characters since he debuted in their comic a decade before this.

However, in this era, the Teen Titans title had gotten really weird and the team was full of a bunch of D-team noobs undeserving of their spots, at least in my opinion.

That being said, this collection of issues was a clusterfuck and that mainly has to do with this just collecting the Deathstroke issues within a larger crossover story. Additionally, this tacks on a completely unrelated story at the end, which was just chapters taken from the Showcase anthology series.

Overall, this just felt like a bunch of random ass shit thrown into one beefy, double-sized trade paperback because they needed to dump it all somewhere.

Hopefully, volume four doesn’t do this and it gets back to kicking proper ass.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.

Comic Review: Red Sonja and Cub – One-Shot

Published: April 2nd, 2014
Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Jonathan Lau
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 40 Pages

Review:

I’ve liked Lone Wolf and Cub stories since first discovering Lone Wolf and Cub as a kid in the ’80s. While the most popular version of the story for modern audiences is the Disney+ show The Mandalorian, Jim Zub wrote a Red Sonja version of the story a half decade prior.

This was written as a digital exclusive one-shot, which kind of sucks, as I’d like a copy in print to go along with my hundreds of other Red Sonja single issue comics.

I also wish that this was more than a double-sized one-shot, as the story really could’ve been beefed up into a miniseries.

Regardless of that, Jim Zub does quite a bit with limited space and I enjoyed this story, nonetheless.

I thought that the art was good and the action flowed really well.

In the end, this was a good, quick read that left me wanting more. For a low-priced digital exclusive, it’s definitely worth the price.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite, as well as other sword and sorcery comics written by Jim Zub.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 10

Published: May 18th, 2017
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, John Romita Sr.

Marvel Comics, 289 Pages

Review:

Here we are, at the end of the legendary 100-plus issue run on Fantastic Four by the truly dynamic duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And man, they really went out with a bang, as this final volume was packed full of many of the great characters that have been in the series since its beginning.

Now Kirby exited the series with one issue left in the final story arc that he worked on but John Romita Sr. slid right in and gave us some pretty stellar art as well. But other than the final issue, collected here, this is all Kirby and Kirby really at his best.

This is also Stan Lee at his best, as he finds a way to work in so many classic characters without this turning into a convoluted mess. The only noticeable omissions from this beefy volume were Silver Surfer, Galactus and Black Panther but just about every other character that debuted in Fantastic Four, up to this point, shows up, even if it’s just a quick cameo. Most of that happens in the 100th issue.

Beyond that, this is full of good stories and we even see the brief return of the Frightful Four, one of my favorite villain groups that gets no love in modern times.

Overall, I’m glad that I read this entire run and this was a nice cap off to a great series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 14

Published: March 21st, 2012
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 256 Pages

Review:

At this point, the classic Marvel G.I. Joe comic had gotten so bad that I’m pretty sure the publisher knew it. And I really hate besmirching the great Larry Hama but I really don’t think he was giving a shit about these characters anymore.

So I guess going ninja heavy wasn’t enough to keep kids interested, so this volume went ahead and threw the Transformers franchise into the mix, as well.

Now it’s been pretty well-known since the beginning, really, that both of these franchises exist in the same universe. However, how they come together and fit has always been a bit wonky and inconsistent.

In this one, Cobra helps a disheveled but vengeance seeking Megatron get his mojo back. As part of this sinister partnership, Cobra is given Cybertronian tech to give them the edge in their quest for world domination. The story featuring some of the Transformers characters is fairly short, though.

This collection of issues, the penultimate collection in the original series, features multiple story arcs. None of them are all that interesting, sadly. Even seeing Megatron and Cobra Commander working together just didn’t do enough to peak my interest and redeem the series.

I’d say that this was a bit better than the previous volume but it was still mostly bad.

Well, only one more to go. I hope Hama at least goes out with something good. Probably not, though.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 14: Order From Chaos

Published: June 1st, 2016
Written by: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz
Art by: Michael Dialynas, Ken Garing
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

This volume of the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ IDW run looked a little bit different, as the artists changed. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the art in this collection of issues was still pretty good and fit well within the tone of the series.

The writing was still very good and honestly, more than anything else, that’s what’s kept me reading this series for well over a dozen volumes, at this point.

This story is the first one after the defeat of Shredder and the landscape of the TMNT-verse is now very different. There is a new threat and we also get to see how the core characters are adjusting to major changes in their lives.

Master Splinter now runs the Foot Clan and with that, there are new challenges and a new female student that I know will go on to have a pretty big impact on this series going forward.

All in all, this was another good, action packed volume and the series still hasn’t lost steam.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles run.