Comic Review: He-Man: The Eternity War

Published: 2014-2016
Written by: Dan Abnett, Rob David
Art by: Pop Mhan
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel

DC Comics, 341 Pages

Review:

I didn’t have the highest of expectations going into this massive story arc but I’m really happy to say that this was one badass read! I loved it! It also really reinvigorated my love of everything revolving around Masters of the Universe, which was one of the first franchises I went crazy for as a kid.

However, other than that fairly satisfactory reboot animated series from 2002 or so, there hasn’t been much that has really re-energized my love of the property. As an adult, going back to the original cartoon was met with some disappointment, as it doesn’t play well for a forty-ish year-old man.

Maybe I should have expected more, as I typically enjoy Dan Abnett’s writing, specifically his recent run on Aquaman, which included a segment of the larger DC Comics universe that one could say is similar to the universe of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Abnett impressed me greatly, as he really taps into the core of the MOTU mythos and really gives all of these characters life and purpose. I guess this is set after a previous story in the DC Comics MOTU canon but I didn’t realize that until after I already started this. But I’d like to go back and give that stuff a read, even though the earlier stories weren’t penned by Abnett.

Anyway, Abnett took a well-crafted world and expanded on it, adding a lot of really good context to the larger scheme of things while also weaving together these characters in new and interesting ways. It was cool seeing how their relationships and rivalries have evolved since this was presented in its original animated form. I especially liked how She-Ra was tied to Skeletor and Hordak and then the swerves that the villains kept pulling on one another.

This was a masterfully articulated story of epic proportions without a dull moment and with each issue building off of the previous ones, while never losing steam or getting too far ahead of itself. It was grandiose in the great way that great comics can be but it didn’t just become pointless spectacle like so many big event comics come across in the modern era. Frankly, it is one of my favorite things that Dan Abnett has ever worked on.

Additionally, the art by Pop Mhan is absolutely spectacular and stunning. His character designs were perfect, as was his dynamic action, backgrounds and use of color. There isn’t a single bad thing that I can say about the art.

This is a near perfect storm where everything kind of went right. This is a great example of how to make a great comic book based off of an intellectual property that isn’t directly owned by the publisher. The writers of I.P.s like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars should really take note.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other modern Masters of the Universe comics.

Comic Review: Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson, Vol. 3

Published: July 2nd, 2015
Written by: Frank Miller, Mike W. Barr
Art by: John Buscema, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

While this is the weakest of the three volumes that collect the Frank Miller run on Daredevil, it’s still a damn good book and it closes out the run, setting things up for a new creative team.

In the previous volume, we already dealt with the death of Elektra and the defeat of Bullseye. This one pretty much covers the fallout from that, emotionally, as well as how it effects the overall story and the primary characters within.

This collection also includes the graphic novel Love & War, which I will actually review as its own body of work at a later date.

The thing I really liked seeing in here was how Daredevil dealt with his grief, as well as how he and Black Widow sort of came back into each other’s lives after everything that happened to them previously, as well as the issues Daredevil is left to deal with after losing the love of his life.

The story also does a great job of fleshing out Foggy Nelson and giving him things to do, other than just being Matt Murdock’s best bud and business partner.

On top of that, we get a powerful moment between Daredevil and Bullseye, as well as some really interesting and character defining moments for The Kingpin.

This was definitely a worthy conclusion to the Frank Miller era, even if it wasn’t as exciting as the other two volumes. This is much more a story about human emotion and working through it than it is straight action and street level badassery. However, there’s enough of that stuff in here to keep the normie superhero comic book fan engaged.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Frank Miller’s run, as well as Ann Nocenti’s and the stories in-between.

Book Review: ‘Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce – The Annotated Version’ by Marcus Griffin, Annotated by Steve Yohe & Scott Teal

Fall Guys is a book that was written in the 1930s in an effort to expose the wrestling business. While it gets a lot of credit for pulling back the curtain, it wasn’t really the first piece written on the subject, as many magazine and news articles of the time had already delved into the behind the scenes stuff.

I think that this became somewhat legendary because it was released as a book and not as a series of articles in the paper or in a sports magazine.

If you’re going to read this and I feel like fans of wrestling history should, it would behoove you to pick up the annotated version by Steve Yohe and Scott Teal.

This was a great and solid read, as the new commentary on it served to correct some of the wrongs of the book and to clear up any misconceptions and faulty facts. Also, a lot of the examples and stories in the original book were fiction, used by the author to better illustrate his points.

The original piece of work is still an entertaining read and it does a superb job in painting the picture of what wrestling looked like in the 1930s, which in the wrestling world may feel like prehistoric times now. But it is certainly cool seeing what the business was generally like then in contrast to what it’s evolved into almost a century later.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other historical wrestling books available by Crowbar Press.

Comic Review: Earthbound: Between Two Breaths On Earth

Published: 2019
Written by: Narwhal
Art by: Narwhal

Narwhal Books, 148 Pages

Review:

I’ve backed a lot of crowdfunded comics over the last few years but this was one that I didn’t initially support. But after hearing a lot of praise for it, I figured I’d grab a copy after the initial batch had already been sold and sent out.

For the most part, this was pretty enjoyable and it’s hard not to be impressed with anyone who writes and does the art for their own creation.

While the story didn’t fully connect with me, I didn’t find it boring and actually thought it was interesting and I could see why so many people were fans of it.

Granted, this is the first of two parts and I don’t want to be too harsh as the overall narrative is still incomplete. But as its own standalone release, it builds up without a real satisfying payoff.

Additionally, the art is competent but it’s not my cup of tea. I did really like the coloring, however, and it gave this a very unique aesthetic that enriched the total experience.

I guess my biggest takeaway from this is that it is a good start but it needs more refinement. That should come with time, as long as Narwhal, this trade paperback’s creator, keeps plugging away at his craft.

It does leave me fairly enthusiastic about whatever else he could do in the future.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other recent indie sci-fi comics like Downcast, Gods & Gears, Eden, Exilium, and Feast or Famine.

Comic Review: V for Vendetta – 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Published: November 20th, 2018
Written by: Alan Moore
Art by: David Lloyd

DC Comics, Vertigo, 397 Pages

Review:

While I had several singles issue of V for Vendetta, as a kid. I’ve never actually completed the run and I’ve never read the ten-part maxi-series in its entirety.

That is until now, and because Comixology recently had a sale on the 30th anniversary edition, which was pretty pricey for a digital comic before the sale.

Being a long-time fan of Alan Moore’s work, most specifically Watchmen, and a fan of the V for Vendetta film adaptation, reading this was long overdue.

For the most part, I was really impressed with the story in its original form. It was more fleshed out than the film, which I can now say was a really good adaptation of the source material despite having limited time to fit as much in as possible.

The comic, however, was able to convey things in a deeper way while also showing things that couldn’t have been used in the film due to the differences between the two mediums and major studio Hollywood’s tendency to self-censor.

I can’t say that I was blown away by David Lloyd’s art style but that’s also pretty subjective and it does fit the tone of the story well. It’s just not my general cup of tea and it came across as pretty subdued with muted colors and action that didn’t feel as dynamic as it could have been. Still, it works for the story and I don’t want to sound like I’m just shitting on it.

If you’ve seen the film but never read the comic, the plot is basically the same. There’s just a little more meat and potatoes with the comic.

While many comics that have been labeled as “masterpieces” don’t live up to the historical hype, I’d say that V for Vendetta does. It’s a long read, packed with almost too much dialogue but it’s certainly not boring and it has solid pacing where every scene feels necessary.

Frankly, it truly is one of Alan Moore’s best.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Alan Moore’s Watchmen, as well as his more political work.

Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Devourer of Souls

Published: January, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: Jim Owsley
Art by: Val Semeiks, Geof Isherwood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian and other characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 476 Pages

Review:

The title The Devourer of Souls isn’t the official title of this story. In fact, this is just what I call the larger story arc that takes place from Conan the Barbarian issues 190 through 200, plus the 12th annual.

This stretch of issues is actually several smaller stories but they all connect into a larger narrative around the antagonist referred to as “The Devourer of Souls” a.k.a. Wrarrl.

Outside of the classic Roy Thomas era, this is my favorite section of the original Marvel Conan the Barbarian run. It was a real high point and this is actually where I started reading the series when I was a kid.

What makes this so good and actually kind of epic is that it features the best villain in the Conan comics, as well as bringing in other Robert E. Howard characters: Red Sonja, Kull and Thulsa Doom.

Fans of the villainous Thulsa Doom might really dig this, as he actually works alongside Conan and the other heroes in their attempt to defeat the super powerful and immensely dangerous Wrarrl.

The plot by Jim Owsley is well constructed with great pacing and clever twists that prevent this great tale from being predictable or too derivative of previous Marvel sword and sorcery books.

I also love the art by Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood, which was a perfect marriage of pencils, inks and colors.

Reading this entire saga might seem like a big undertaking but it’s well worth the time invested into it. It’s hands down one of the best stretches on the premiere Conan title and one of the greatest fantasy stories in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and Red Sonja stories from their classic Marvel runs.

Book Review: ‘Wrestling Record Book: Florida 1977-1985’ by Mark James

If you’ve read any of the stuff I’ve written about wrestling on Talking Pulp, you might be aware that I’m a Floridian and that I grew up attending Championship From Florida shows fairly regularly. I’ve also had a pretty deep love of the once great promotion that has only grown over the years due to the ever-powerful nostalgia bug and the fact that modern wrestling just isn’t my thing.

So when I was looking for wrestling history books on Amazon, I came across this record book for CWF. Being that it was written and compiled by Mark James, a great wrestling historian who I’ve been reading for awhile, made buying this a no-brainer.

What this primarily is, is a list of wrestling cards organized in chronological order. While that may sound boring to the layman, it allows you to see who was wrestling when and where, as well as being able to follow trends from guys getting pushed to the top of the card, to main eventing, as well as all the marquee feuds and how they played out from 1977 to 1985.

I liked the fact that I could go through it and find the cards that I saw in person. Additionally, there were cards that my dad or my uncle told me about that I could look up, see the date, the venue and who was there. I actually found several cards I was at, as well as the first card my dad took my stepmom to before they were married.

For fans of this specific promotion and wrestling from this era, it’s a pretty invaluable resource not unlike Mark James’ other similar books from other territories.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other historical wrestling books written and compiled by Mark James.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 3

Published: March 6th, 2014
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 247 Pages

Review:

Man, I’m really glad that I started reading Fantastic Four from the beginning. There’s just something unique and truly special about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations and collaborations. And while these stories are hokey and not as refined as they would become, it’s really cool seeing the earliest version of the Marvel universe take shape.

Each volume in the Masterworks releases really builds off of the previous ones and expands the larger universe more and more.

Here, we get to see stories with the Avengers, as well as the X-Men, bringing several core Marvel characters together in their earliest days. I also liked that the Hulk came back for a multi-part story arc. Although, this one was lacking in Spider-Man magic. But I also just love old school Spidey and FF stories.

This brings back most of the main villains from previous issues and even introduces some new ones like The Hate-Monger. I actually own that comic in its original floppy form, so reading it here means that I don’t have to physically touch my already weathered copy.

Stan Lee really seems to be hitting his stride with these characters and these stories while Jack Kirby’s art seems a bit more fine tuned and dynamic. Granted, Kirby was one of the most dynamic comic book artists in history but his work in this collection really shows how much he’s enjoying drawing these characters. It just has this little extra flair that’s hard to describe. I guess it’s like eating a meal made with love, as opposed to eating a meal that was just made out of necessity.

Overall, this was thoroughly enjoyable and it kept moving the story forward while constructing a very young universe that would grow into something massive.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Masterworks collections.

Comic Review: Spider-Man/Red Sonja

Published: 2007
Written by: Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi, Michael Turner (covers)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted to like this but it left me mostly, underwhelmed and baffled.

A long time ago, back when Marvel had the full-time publishing rights to Red Sonja, they did a one-off story about Mary Jane being possessed by Sonja and then had her team-up with her boyfriend, Spider-Man.

This longer, five-part miniseries is just a rehash of that story, as opposed to having Spidey actually team-up with the real Sonja in the flesh.

Still, it’s not the worst idea for bringing these characters together but doing it a second time seems lazy and uninspiring. But then, so does the rest of this story.

Red Sonja’s villain Kulan Gath shows up in modern day New York City to create havoc because that’s what villains do. He then uses Venom to try and take out Sonja and Spidey but ultimately, he steals the Venom symbiote for himself because this story is already cookie cutter as shit and aiming low seems to be what they were going for.

We also get suped up magical versions of well-known Spidey villains because why wouldn’t we?

I don’t know, more often than not, crossovers like this are really bad and half-assed schlock made to grab a buck from multiple fan bases. I guess this one didn’t strive to be anything different.

I mostly liked the interior art though and the covers were solid.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja crossovers or stories that put her in modern times.

Comic Review: Red Hood: The Lost Days

Published: June 28th, 2011
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Jeremy Haun, Pablo Raimondi

DC Comics, 145 Pages

Review:

I went into this with zero expectations but I’ve got to say, I was pretty enthralled with the story and it didn’t just fill-in the blanks between Jason Todd’s death and his reappearance as Red Hood but it gave so much extra context and meaning to the character.

Additionally, I loved how this tied into the Hush story arc and serves to set the stage for that epic tale while also leading into the Under the Hood plot, which saw Jason Todd come back into Batman’s life in a pretty badass way.

I wouldn’t read this story first, though. I’d save it for last because even if it is a prequel, I think it’ll read better with the knowledge obtained from the other two stories. Also, this might spoil those stories if you haven’t read them.

From  beginning to end, this was really engaging and it added new layers to Jason Todd’s redemption arc. It shows how he struggles with his new reality and how he is used and exploited in an effort to become a weapon against Batman. However, it also shows how well the character can adapt and how he doesn’t follow the paths that others have tried to lay our for him.

Additionally, the art in this was really good and it just added an extra sizzle to this already wonderful steak.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other early Red Hood stories, as well as his solo titles of the last few years.