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: The Maxx (Original 35 Issue Run)

Published: March, 1993 – August, 1998
Written by: Sam Keith, Alan Moore, Bill Messner-Loebs
Art by: Sam Keith, Chance Wolf, Tony Kelly, Kell-O-Graphics

Image Comics, 840 Pages

Review:

I used to love The Maxx when I was a teenager. I never fully understood it, as I was young and it was a batshit crazy comic book at times but it always captivated me. I became an even bigger fan of the comic book after the animated TV series and because it was being put out by Image, which had my undying allegiance, at least in the first half of the ’90s.

What always drew me in was Sam Keith’s art. He has a style all his own and it was unlike anything I had seen before it. Sure, lots of people have come and gone and mimicked Keith’s style but no one has quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

Reading this now, I’m not as captivated by it but I still enjoyed it and it was like a trip down memory lane for me. It brought me back to where I was at 14 years-old when I first picked it up.

I think what initially made me fall in love with the comic was how dark it could be. I hadn’t experienced that in comics, really. But moving on from standard superhero books like the ones from Marvel, DC and the earliest titles from Image, The Maxx was where I came to understand that comics can be so much more than that.

This deals with some tough subject matter but it does so in an interesting and satisfying way.

I don’t think that Keith’s style will resonate with everyone that picks The Maxx up but for long time comic readers that haven’t given it a shot, it’s definitely worth a look.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s indie comics that were a bit out there like MadmanBoneScud, etc.

Comic Review: Watchmen

Published: September, 1986 – October, 1987
Written by: Alan Moore
Art by: Dave Gibbons

DC Comics, 415 Pages

Review:

After recently reading through all of the Before Watchmen stuff, I thought that I should give the original comic a re-read. It’s been a long time and even if I know the story inside and out, it’s always a good comic to revisit every couple of years.

Plus, I wanted it to be fresh in my mind before delving into the Doomsday Clock maxiseries that is finally close to finishing. Additionally, there is that HBO Watchmen TV series that starts pretty soon and even though I’m highly skeptical of it, I want to give it a fair shot.

While I do think that Watchmen is pretty close to being a masterpiece, it isn’t a perfect comic book despite what the hype says.

I love the story, the art, the characters and it really is close to being a perfect marriage between the writing of Alan Moore and the astounding art by Dave Gibbons. It is a neo-noir fan’s dream come true on paper.

However, sometimes I feel like it gets bogged down by its wordiness. Plus, even though the narrative flows along at a good pace and multiple character arcs are well balanced, it doesn’t do a great job of keeping your mind on the mystery that opens the big story. Sure, you reach a resolution and all becomes clear but what starts out as the main narrative, takes a back seat in most of the comic’s twelve issues.

I guess it works absolutely fine if that’s not your primary reason for reading the book. I’m also fine with nontraditional forms of storytelling but the opening is so good, presents a good mystery and then sort of just touches on it from time to time. My main issue with it is that by the time the pieces fall into place, the big reveal doesn’t have much impact.

This is an ensemble piece though and with that the book does each and every character justice. So Watchmen‘s pros certainly outshine it’s very few cons. Plus, Moore does a superb job at creating such a rich and lived in world in only twelve issues. By the time one is done with this book, you have a very intimate understanding of this universe. And its overall effect has been so strong that this book maintained its legions of loyal fans over several decades without any sort of follow up.

Granted, there have now been prequels, sequels, a movie and a television show. But for a very long time, this was all that existed under the Watchmen brand.

Watchmen‘s legacy can’t be denied. This is a piece of stellar work that will still touch people years after we’re all dead. It is a comic book but it is also one of the greatest pieces of literature from the 1980s.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and Mike W. Barr’s Camelot 3000, as well as the Before Watchmen stuff and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Moloch

Published: November 7th, 2012 – December 19th, 2012
Written by: John Higgins, J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: John Higgins, Eduardo Risso, Trish Mulvihill
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 52 Pages

Review:

I’ve finally gotten to the end of the Before Watchmen series. They didn’t need to be read in a specific order, so I started with the ones that I really wanted to read and then worked my way through the rest of them. I actually didn’t even know there was one for Moloch, as it was tacked on to the end of the volume that collected the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan’s stories.

So this was kind of a pleasant surprise, as I wasn’t expecting Moloch to be given any sort of character development beyond how small his role was in the original Watchmen.

This, like the other volumes, delves right into Moloch’s backstory and gives him a good origin. You understand why he is the way he is and how he became a criminal and eventually was used by Ozymandias, who exploited his desire to reform.

I really liked Matt Frewer’s portrayal of Moloch in the Watchmen movie and if they were ever going to adapt the Before Watchmen series into a live action format, I’d love to see him get to return to tell this story. In fact, I didn’t much care about Moloch until I saw Frewer play him, giving him more life than the original comic did.

And that’s also what I liked about this story, is that it gives the character merit and a purpose. I’ve yet to read Doomsday Clock, which is a Wathcmen sequel, but I hope aspects of this story carry over into that.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan

Published: August 22nd, 2012 – February 27th, 2013
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein, John Higgins
Art by: John Higgins, Adam Hughes, Laura Martin
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I’m almost through all of these Before Watchmen collections. While they’ve all been pretty good, this is one of the ones that fell just a bit short for me.

I still enjoyed it but it was slow and just wasn’t as interesting as the origins of some of the other characters. But Dr. Manhattan, as a a literal god, isn’t that interesting of a character.

My hopes for this were high though, as I’ve typically dug the comics written by J. Michael Straczynski and this also had the assistance of Len Wein and John Higgins, who did a lot of the art.

The problem with this story is that it didn’t feel like it had enough meat and potatoes to fill up four issues. But I guess they wanted to give Dr. Manhattan a story that was long enough to be equal to the other main Watchmen characters.

This was just lacking the depth and the intrigue I got from some of the better stories like Silk Spectre, The Comedian and Rorschach’s.

Still, for the Watchmen completist and for those who want to understand the characters better, this is certainly not a waste of time.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl

Published: June 27th, 2012 – December 26th, 2012
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein
Art by: Joe Kubert, John Higgins, Bill Sienkiewicz
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 110 Pages

Review:

I’ve only got a few of these Before Watchmen stories left but, for the most part, it’s been a fun ride so far, as this series has added a lot of context and depth to these characters. And while I was initially against this series when it was announced, I’m actually glad that it was made and was superbly handled by the creative teams involved.

The Nite Owl story is no different and this is one of the better ones. It focuses on Nite Owl as the title implies but it also has a lot of its focus on Rorschach and his history and relationship with Nite Owl.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski, who penned one of my favorite Thor runs, as well as the great Len Wein, we are given a story that understands these complex characters and presents them in a new way with great respect for the source material. It’s a rare thing to see modern comics have respect for the foundation and layers that have been built up before this decade.

The art in this is damn good too and it goes to show that DC Comics were really putting their best people on these books.

While these have been criticized as being cheap cash-in attempts, I don’t see it that way. DC wanted to do more with these characters that they own and they wanted to set up a richer mythos going forward, which would eventually lead to the Doomsday Clock event that merges the Watchmen universe with the regular DC canon.

I think fans of the original Wathcmen will always be split on whether or not these modern stories should exist but I think that they’ve certainly justified their existence.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre

Published: July 13th, 2012 – November 28th, 2012
Written by: Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins, Len Wein
Art by: Amanda Conner, John Higgins, Paul Mounts
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 126 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t one of the Before Watchmen books that I was anticipating when compared to the ones featuring the characters I like more: The Comedian and Rorschach. But man, I was pleasantly surprised by this and that has a lot to do with the writing.

Silk Spectre’s story was penned by Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins and Len Wein – a pretty solid team. But a lot of times, this many writers can create a clusterfuck. This wasn’t. It had a nice flow to it and it made Silk Spectre a richer character than she was if all you’ve ever read with her is the original Watchmen.

I also really dug Amanda Conner, John Higgins and Paul Mounts art. It fit well with the story and did the proper job of reflecting the era where this tale primarily takes place.

As much as I like Alan Moore’s original Wathcmen, this gives both Silk Spectre characters a deeper exploration and in fact, makes them more interesting. It’s also cool seeing how the Comedian is involved in a very pivotal moment in the younger Silk Spectre’s life.

This story is kind of tragic but it helps build more context to the character and her life. Granted, this wasn’t written by the character’s creator but I don’t think that it, in any way, diminishes Alan Moore’s overall vision. And this, like most of these Before Watchmen comics, seems to truly respect the source material while building off of it in a great way.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.