Comic Review: Vampirella: 2018 Halloween Special

Published: October 24th, 2018
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Blake Northcott
Art by: Rapha Lobosco, Anthony Marques

Dynamite Entertainment, 27 Pages

Review:

I recently backed Blake Northcott and Scott Lobdell’s crowdfunded comic book Everglade Angels because I’ve followed Northcott for awhile on Twitter and I’ve been a fan of Lobdell’s work for years. Plus, I live and grew up in the Everglades, so I have some invested interest in the comic’s setting.

But I didn’t realize until this week that they had worked together previously on this Vampirella Halloween Special from last year. So being that it is Halloween week, I figured I’d give it a read.

And since I dig the hell out of the Vampirella character anyway, that was even more incentive to check this out.

So this was a single issue comic but it had two short stories in it. Both were pretty good and amusing and I enjoyed them as shorts.

The first tale has to do with Vampirella taking care of some major baddies on Halloween. She also receives help from some other characters but I don’t want to spoil any of the details.

The second story is more comedic and has Vampirella trying to get back at some trick or treaters that TPed her house. It’s a pretty fast read but it was still pretty entertaining.

Both stories had different artists with very different styles but I enjoyed the look of the book throughout.

Overall, this achieved what it set out to do, which was provided a couple of fun stories themed around Halloween.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella titles from Dynamite, as well as the Harris Comics era.

Comic Review: Alpha Flight: True North – One-Shot

Published: September 4th, 2019
Written by: Ed Brisson, Jed MacKay, Jim Zub
Art by: Max Dunbar, Scott Hepburn, Djibril Morissette-Phan, Nick Bradshaw (cover)

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I used to read Alpha Flight back in the day but they were always sort of C-list heroes. Maybe it’s because they were Canadians and always seemed overshadowed by the A-list teams, as well as all the X-Men spinoff teams that monopolized the late ’80s and early ’90s. But I always had a soft spot for them, even if they only showed up in other comic titles when a hero or team would find themselves in Canada for some reason.

That being said, it’s been awhile since I read an Alpha Flight comic book, so when I saw this on the shelf of my local comic shop, I decided to give it a shot at $4.99.

Lately, I’ve only seen the team appear in the Old Man Logan and The Immortal Hulk titles. So maybe there are plans to dust them off and give them a new ongoing series considering that Jonathan Hickman is steering the X-Men ship now.

Anyway, this was an anthology that featured three short stories crammed into this slightly bigger than normal single issue.

I would have rather they just chose one of these stories and fleshed it out more into something bigger than a tapas meal. Still, each story was okay and engaging enough, they just felt skeletal, rushed and if I’m being honest, there didn’t seem to be much care put into them, except for the middle story about an event from Puck’s past.

Maybe this was made to test the market to see if there was still interest in a standalone Alpha Flight title. If this did go on to bring us a new series, I’d give the duties to Ed Brisson, as he seems like the one writer that has a good grasp on the characters, especially after using them in his Old Man Logan stories.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Alpha Flight comics, as well as other recent Marvel one-shots and anthologies.

Comic Review: The House of Secrets, Issue #92 – First Appearance of Swamp Thing

Published: June 30th, 1971
Written by: Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby, Virgil North, Len Wein
Art by: Dick Dillin, Bill Draut, Alan Weiss, Bernie Wrightson

DC Comics, 26 Pages

Review:

While this issue is mostly widely known because it is the first appearance of Swamp Thing, I can’t review it just based on that story. This is an anthology comic and I have to review this issue as one body of work.

That being said, the Swamp Thing story was far and away better than the other chapters in this. But I’m also not a big anthology fan, as I’ve stated many times. And this issue is an example of why I’m not big on anthologies, as it features one great story while the rest fall well below the mark of this issue’s only memorable tale.

However, these old school ’70s horror comics still resonate with me and luckily, the Swamp Thing story resonated enough with other people that the character would go on to survive for decades and even get multiple films and television series.

I think the reason it really had the lasting power it did was due to the artwork of Bernie Wrightson. The art is spectacular but I also have to give credit to Len Wein’s writing. But when you put two superb talents like this together, magic often times happens, as is the case with this character and his first story.

For fans of Swamp Thing, it is really worth going back and checking this out. Luckily for all of us, DC just released a facsimile edition. But you can also read it digitally on Comixology for just a few bucks.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other early Swamp Thing stories, as well as other issues of The House of Secrets anthology comic.

Film Review: The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

Also known as: Blood Zone (Japan English title), Method for Murder, Waxworks, Sweets to the Sweet, The Cloak (segment titles)
Release Date: February 21st, 1971 (UK)
Directed by: Peter Duffell
Written by: Robert Bloch, Russ Jones
Music by: Michael Dress
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot, Ingrid Pitt, Jon Pertwee, Joss Ackland, Nyree Dawn Porter

Amicus Productions, Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 102 Minutes

Review:

“That’s what’s wrong with the present day horrorfilms. There’s no realism. Not like the old ones, the great ones. Frankenstein. Phantom of the Opera. Dracula – the one with Bela Lugosi of course, not this new fellow.” – Paul Henderson

I know that I’ve stated a few times before that I’m not a big fan of anthologies but sometimes there are those rare exceptions like Creepshow. Well, this is one of those rare exceptions.

Amicus is often times confused with Hammer Films, as they were another British studio that made horror pictures in the same era and used a lot of the same stars. They did have a tendency to make a lot of anthology pictures though, where Hammer focused more on classic monsters in the same vein as the Universal Pictures horror films of the ’30s and ’40s.

This one might be the best of Amicus’ horror anthologies, which are really hit or miss for me.

love that we get to see Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in another film, which happened over twenty times in their careers. They don’t share screen time here, unfortunately, as both men star in different stories within this anthology framework. But each is the star of their own segment.

Additionally, we get to see a segment starring Denholm Elliot a.k.a. Marcus Brody of Indiana Jones fame, as well as Jon Pertwee, most famous for playing the third incarnation of the Doctor on Doctor Who. It doesn’t stop there though, as we also get to enjoy the wonderful Ingrid Pitt, a true British scream queen, and Joss Ackland, who I love in just about everything.

While this stacked cast does a lot to make this film work and to legitimize it in a sea of horror from the era, it is the stories and the actual connection that they have that makes this a really enjoyable feature.

This is a small and confined feeling film, as just about every scene takes place in the same house. Each segment focuses on a different owner of the house and how this haunted property finds a way to effect them and bring out their fear.

We have a story about a writer going insane, seeing his imagined killer coming to life. We then get a story that involves a wax recreation of a dead love. Then there is one about a young girl that is a witch who terrorizes her overbearing father. And finally, we get my favorite segment that sees a legendary horror actor come into possession of a mystical cloak that turns the wearer into an actual vampire. There is also a chopped up segment that strings all the tales together.

I wouldn’t say that this is the best horror film put out by Amicus but it is the best one I’ve seen in awhile. That being said, it is in the upper echelon of their pictures and pretty damn enjoyable all around.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other British horror films from Amicus and Hammer from the late ’60s/early ’70s.

Comic Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Series)

Published: 1976-1977
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby
Based on: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick

Marvel Comics, 180 Pages

Review:

This comic book series took me a really long time to track down. There are ten issues and they’ve never been reprinted and probably never will be due to the fact that Marvel hasn’t owned the comic book publishing rights to 2001: A Space Odyssey since… well, 1977 when this series ended.

But who the hell wouldn’t want to read Jack Kirby’s version of what happened after the movie finished? And this is all Jack Kirby. He wrote it, he did the art and he had a love of the Stanley Kubrick film that was truly a masterpiece.

This comic follows up the adaptation Kirby did of the film earlier in 1976. This series sees Kirby take the concepts and ideas from the movie and apply them into new stories. This really is an anthology series in the beginning but larger, multi-part story arcs come out after the first four issues.

Now those first four issues are different versions of the same story. Each follows an ancient character that comes into contact with the Monolith. Then they flash forward to one of their descendants in the future, usually an astronaut, and show what happens when they also come into contact with the ominous Monolith. Many characters evolve into a different version of the Star Child or as Kirby refers to them, “Seeds”.

The fifth and sixth issues deal with a larger arc and starts as a bit of a superhero story featuring a heroic character named White Zero and a villain named Death Master. There are twists to the plot but this is where Kirby really finds his footing and starts turning 2001 into something closer to his work for DC Comics on The New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle; collectively known as his Fourth World saga.

The seventh issue is really interesting as it follows the journey of a Seed through the cosmos, space and time. It’s bizarre, it’s cool and it’s 100 percent Jack “The King” Kirby.

In the final three issues, we get a big surprise. Well, it was at least a big surprise for me, as this three-part arc is the origin story of the character that would go on to become Machine Man in the regular Marvel Universe. Which, I guess makes Jack Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey part of Marvel canon, even though I didn’t see it that way for the first seven issues.

This was a solid series by Jack Kirby. It’s not quite a masterpiece, as it is a bit bogged down by the first four issues and their repetitiveness but once it found its footing, it was some of the best work that Jack Kirby has done.

And I can’t end this review without mentioning how dynamic and beautiful the art was. You could tell that Jack Kirby put a lot of passion into this and I’m glad, as a Kirby fan, that I now own the complete saga.

Now I just have to track down a copy of his film adaptation.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Jack Kirby works that dealt with the cosmos.

Comic Review: Mars Attacks the Holidays

Published: October 31st, 2012
Written by: various
Art by: various
Based on: Mars Attacks! by Topps

IDW Publishing, 49 Pages

Review:

I’ve had this in my collection for a few years but it got buried and I didn’t find it until recently, so I finally gave it a read. Plus, it was the right time of year.

Sadly though, this was pretty lackluster.

It’s an anthology of four short stories crammed into just 49 pages. Each story has a different creative team on writing and art duties and there isn’t a consistency between the styles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but the first story had the worst art and really got this thing off to a poor start.

It isn’t just a Christmas themed book, which I initially thought. Each story covers a different holiday: Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Yes, you read that right… Veterans Day.

The Thanksgiving chapter was the only one I really enjoyed because it was kind of clever and had a sequence where Thanksgiving Day Parade floats basically came alive to fight off the Martian invaders. It’s hokey and goofy but so is the Mars Attacks property. It works for the story and I thought it was definitely the highlight of this anthology.

The other three stories didn’t do much for me but they weren’t a waste of time as this trade paperback was really short and luckily, wasn’t too expensive when I bought it.

I really like Mars Attacks but the comics can be hit or miss. This was mostly a miss but I certainly don’t have buyer’s remorse over it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Mars Attacks comic book releases.

Comic Review: Batman: Secret Files

Published: October 31st, 2018
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 39 Pages

Review:

Other than Detective Comics and White Knight, I haven’t been a big fan of Batman comics as of late.

I hoped that this was better than the current run of the regular Batman title but it mostly wasn’t.

This is an anthology. I’m not sure if this is a one-off or a miniseries but I won’t pick up the second issue if there is one.

Anthologies are always a mixed bag but this one was pretty pointless and most of the stories didn’t resonate with me at all. In fact, I only liked one tale in this and it was the one that co-starred Detective Chimp.

I can’t knock the art though, most of it was pretty good but it doesn’t necessarily blend together well, as each chapter in this already short anthology is done by a different creative team.

But hey, I’m only out $4.99 and the foil cover is a nice piece of art to add to my comic book collection.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: modern Batman stuff.