Comic Review: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

Published: June 17th, 2008
Written by: Gerard Way
Art by: Gabriel Ba

Dark Horse Books, 178 Pages

Review:

It’s been over ten years since I’ve read this six issue miniseries but I wanted to revisit it (and it’s sequels), as the television adaptation is premiering on Netflix in a couple of weeks.

From what I remember, I was really fond of this series a decade ago. Having recently read some of Grant Morrsion’s run on Doom Patrol, I can see how that series had some influence on this one. Now this is not a knockoff or a wannabe Doom Patrol but it shares some narrative bits and kind of takes some stylistic cues from it.

Also, Gabriel Ba’s art style reminds me a lot of Mike Mignola’s work on his Hellboy comics. It’s not a replica of Mignola’s style but it hits some of the same notes.

This story arc introduces us to this team of heroes and their complicated personal lives. It explores their relationships well and, thankfully, doesn’t get bogged down by lengthy origin stories. That’s something that is really refreshing about this comic’s plot.

In a short amount of time, you understand the key players, their personalities and you end up really liking them. When I first read this story, I really wanted to jump into a second one but there was about a year’s wait for it. I definitely want to revisit that one soon, as well.

Also, The Umbrella Academy is now in the middle of its third story arc. It took almost a decade to get to it but I can’t wait to read it. I’m holding off though because I want all the single issues to come out first.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Umbrella Academy stories, as well as Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol and the BPRD comics by Mike Mignola.

Retro Relapse: The Soon-To-Be Forgotten History of Star Wars

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015. And looking at this now, I think I was right.

Tonight is the night where Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters. With the release of this film, everything we know changes for this franchise going forward. There is a lot of hype, a lot of hope and a lot of apprehension from those of us that never recovered from the awfulness of the Prequel Trilogy.

Fact is, there isn’t a single Star Wars fan that doesn’t want this to be as amazing as the original films. But we all thought The Phantom Menace, without question, was going to be an amazing film before we saw it. There really is no way to know if The Force Awakens will be as great as the Original Trilogy until we experience it.

Films with this much hype usually fail to live up to it. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams, the director, has a pretty crappy track record. He did destroy Star Trek for those of us who liked it when it was boring and mostly a bunch of talking to avoid conflict. But I get it, we can’t all be smart and Abrams catered to the broader, dumbed down audience. And well, he admitted that he wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and was really just a fan of Star Wars. Good for him.

But this isn’t about J.J. or my “lack of faith” in him. It is about what this film and Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm has done to the vast wonderland that is the universe Star Wars exists in.

I was a huge Star Wars fan and I still am, even though I feel a bit of betrayal. Reason being, everything I have invested in the universe is mostly moot now, at least in regards to what the new owners of the intellectual property say.

Thirty-plus years of reading all the books I could get my hands on, playing all the video games I bought at hefty price tags and collecting all the toys and other random memorabilia and now, none of that fits into Disney’s vision of the franchise.

When they announced that they would be making Star Wars films yearly from now until the end of time, I knew that the Expanded Universe was dead. They didn’t come out and say it immediately, but knowing that an Episode VII just wouldn’t fit in anywhere with what was established in the books and video games of the Expanded Universe, I knew that Disney would take extreme liberties, ignore all that established mythos and just do what they want.

I understand why they have to do it but with as much as I love many of the stories and what the EU has become, there is that part of me that feels a stronger allegiance to it than to Disney, who really doesn’t give a crap about it. And this is the same Disney that keeps making mediocre Marvel films after buying them a few years earlier. They are on a mission to own and reshape my childhood. Once they acquire Hasbro and Nintendo, they will own the souls of every young boy who experienced childhood in the awesome ’80s.

If The Force Awakens is a stellar movie, I will accept it as the new canon. If it sucks, I will completely dismiss it and always consider the Expanded Universe to be my canon. I don’t have to turn my back on the EU just because Disney says so. It isn’t just Star Wars history, although soon-to-be forgotten, it is history for the millions of people who invested their time, heart and money into the Star Wars brand for several decades. And whether it is fair to Disney or not, people with knowledge of the EU will always compare Disney’s work to the tales they’ve held dear for years.

The EU fan base is certainly a small percentage of Earth’s population and Disney has to look at the bigger picture. And I guess all of us hoping for more movies one day, knew that something like this would have to happen, it just kind of sucks.

And it doesn’t suck in that the EU will be ignored and washed away, it won’t be for those of us who love those stories and characters, it sucks because there will be no new stories in the EU. It isn’t dying because Disney has to ignore it, it is dying because it can’t continue to live and grow going forward. What exists within the EU is all that it will ever be now. That world is cemented. That’s the hardest pill to swallow.

I know that a lot of the stuff in the EU was pretty awful. Many books were just bad or too bizarre or didn’t fit within the established mythos. Some of the earlier attempts at expanded fiction tales went in strange directions. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, one of the first Star Wars books ever written, doesn’t make much sense. But it is the great stories and great characters that people cherish and there was a lot more good than bad in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

So even if I dismiss the new movies, as I have dismissed the rebooted universe of Star Trek since J.J. Abrams took over that franchise, I still have nothing new to look forward to in the EU. Even if I were to treat the EU as my personal Star Wars canon till the end of time, it is dead. No more books to read, no more games to play and the fate of many characters will be unresolved.

Despite my reservations, I am going into The Force Awakens with an open mind. I am trying to keep my expectations at bay. I just want to sit there and experience it. And yes, it will certainly drum up some nostalgia, because that’s the point of carrying this franchise on, but I’m going to be as objective as possible.

I want this new movie to be good. I want everything Star Wars to be good going forward. But I remember how I felt waiting for The Phantom Menace to start and how I felt after it and the next two films ended. Again, films with this much hype typically can’t live up to it but we shall see.

And maybe I will be pleasantly surprised to the point where the blow of losing the EU won’t sting as bad. I guess I’ll know in about twelve hours.

Talking Pulp’s Pull List – 1st Quarter, 2019

This is my personal pull list as it stands, right now. From month to month it changes, as I read a lot of limited series stuff but I figured that doing a quarterly update would be cool for my readers that keep up with current comics.

So this is what I have my local comic shop pull for me each month, most of which I will review every time I get to the end of a story arc.

I’ve broken them out by publisher and alphabetized the list to make it flow easier.

And if there’s anything you like that I’m not reading, tell me in the comments.

Strikeouts are what I removed and a double asterisk** means I just added it.

Marvel Comics:
-Conan the Barbarian**
-Daredevil
-Dead Man Logan
-Guardians of the Galaxy (upcoming Donny Cates run)
-The Immortal Hulk**
-Infinity Wars
-Infinity Wars: Sleepwalker
-The Invaders**
-Killmonger**
-Man Without Fear**
-Marvel Knights 20th
-Marvel 2-In-One
-Mr. & Mrs. X
-The Punisher
-Return of Wolverine
-The Savage Sword of Conan**
-Superior Spider-Man
-Typhoid Fever
-Venom
-Wolverine: The Long Night**
-X-Force**

DC Comics:
-Batgirl
-Batman: Damned
-Batman: Kings of Fear
-The Batman Who Laughs**
-Deathstroke
-Detective Comics
-Doomsday Clock
-Drowned Earth (all related crossover titles)
-Electric Warriors
-The Green Lantern
-Justice League Dark
-Justice League Odyssey
-Nightwing
-Red Hood: Outlaw
-Sideways
-The Silencer
-Suicide Squad
-Suicide Squad: Black Files

Dark Horse Books:
-Mystery Science Theater 3000
-Stranger Things
-Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion

Dynamite Entertainment:
-Battlestar Galactica Classic
-The Shape of Elvira

IDW Publishing:
-G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
-New Upcoming Transformers**

Image Comics:
-Murder Falcon
-Spawn**

Valiant Comics:
-Bloodshot: Rising Spirit

Comic Review: Stranger Things

Published: September 26th, 2018 – January 2nd, 2019
Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Stefano Martino, Keith Champagne, Lauren Affe
Based on: Stranger Things by The Duffer Brothers

Dark Horse Books, 93 Pages

Review:

When I heard that a Stranger Things comic was coming out, I wasn’t sure how it would work, as I didn’t want it to conflict with the canon of the show. But this was a clever idea and it was nicely executed, even if the tension didn’t work, as you knew how this would turn out based off of events in the show.

This isn’t a story that bridges seasons or tries to give the kids a new adventure, this is simply the tale of Will Byers while he was in The Upside Down during season 1.

The story was spread out over four issues and the comic was at least a nice way to get my Stranger Things fix, as there were no new episodes in 2018. It certainly wasn’t a replacement to a lack of live action episodes but at least 2018 wasn’t completely devoid of this cool franchise.

I loved the tone of the comic, it perfectly matched the show. The art was also damn good. I think what was coolest about this though, is that it felt like a real marriage between the styles of Stranger Things and Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse really does a superb job with the properties that they are commissioned to turn into comic book form and this is no different. In fact, it’s a solid reminder of just how good Dark Horse is when given the trust of a large and popular IP. While IDW has a lot of IPs under their banner, it is still Dark Horse that is at the top of the comic book publishing heap when it comes to adapting large franchises.

This is a really good companion piece to the first season of Stranger Things. And as far as I am concerned, this is canon, as it doesn’t contradict anything and it shows familiar events from a new perspective.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the first season of the Stranger Things show.

Talking Pulp’s Pull List – 4th Quarter, 2018

*This is a feature I had planned to launch in 2019 but I figured I’d actually start now because why wait?

This is my personal pull list as it stands, right now. From month to month it changes, as I read a lot of limited series stuff but I figured that doing a quarterly update would be cool for my readers that keep up with current comics.

So this is what I have my local comic shop pull for me each month, most of which I will review every time I get to the end of a story arc.

I’ve broken them out by publisher and alphabetized the list to make it flow easier.

And if there’s anything you like that I’m not reading, tell me in the comments.

Marvel Comics:
-Daredevil
-Dead Man Logan
-Guardians of the Galaxy (upcoming Donny Cates run)
-Infinity Wars
-Infinity Wars: Sleepwalker
-Marvel Knights 20th
-Marvel 2-In-One
-Mr. & Mrs. X
-The Punisher
-Return of Wolverine
-Superior Octopus
-Typhoid Fever
-Venom

DC Comics:
-Batgirl
-Batman: Damned
-Batman: Kings of Fear
-Deathstroke
-Detective Comics
-Doomsday Clock
-Drowned Earth (all related crossover titles)
-Electric Warriors
-The Green Lantern
-Justice League Dark
-Justice League Odyssey
-Nightwing
-Red Hood: Outlaw
-Sideways
-The Silencer
-Suicide Squad
-Suicide Squad: Black Files

Dark Horse Books:
-Mystery Science Theater 3000
-Stranger Things
-Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion

Dynamite Entertainment:
-Battlestat Galactica Classic
-Elvira
-The Shape of Elvira (upcoming)
-Turok (upcoming)

IDW Publishing:
-G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Image Comics:
-Murder Falcon

Valiant Comics:
-Bloodshot: Rising Spirit

Comic Review: Star Wars: The Last Command

Published: 1999
Written by: Mike Baron, Timothy Zahn (original story)
Art by: Edvin Biukovic, Eric Shanower, Ellie DeVille, Pamela Rambo, Mathieu Lauffray (covers)
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse Books, 149 Pages

Review:

This is the third and final installment of the comic book adaptation of Timothy Zahn’s fantastic Thrawn Trilogy. And just like the previous two entries into this series, this adaptation was well done and breathed new life into these stories.

Overall, this is probably the slowest of the three chapters. I find that surprising as it is the conclusion. But don’t get me wrong, the last issue is action packed and a great finale with a solid space battle and the defeat of one of the greatest Imperial threats of all-time, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

This also sees Luke and Mara’s story evolve past her wanting to murder him. She finds a peace that she has never had and eventually relents in her dark side fueled drive and decides to train and become a Jedi.

Additionally, this is a good resolution to the Noghri story, which I loved. They get their just desserts, just as we, the audience, did in seeing them get justice against Imperial oppression.

This is also the first appearance of the Jedi twins, Jaina and Jacen Solo. For fans of the Expanded Universe, you know how pivotal these characters were to the future of the franchise before Disney came along and said, “Screw these well developed, great, dynamic characters! We’ve got Kylo Ren now!”

Like the two previous adaptations of The Thrawn Trilogy, this one has some great art and looks fantastic and timeless. I love the art style that Dark Horse had in these ’90s Star Wars comics.

The Last Command is a great read for those of you who still prefer the EU to the new Disneyverse or whatever you want to call the new “official” continuity. I call it “poop” but I guess some of you like the new stuff for some reason.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Dark Horse Star Wars comics from the same era: the two other Thrawn Trilogy stories, as well as The Shadows of the Empire TrilogyThe Dark Empire Trilogy and the Rogue Squadron series.

Comic Review: Star Wars: Dark Force Rising

Published: 1997
Written by: Mike Baron, Timothy Zahn (original story)
Art by: Terry Dodson, Kevin Nowlan, Ellie DeVille, Pamela Rambo, Kilian Plunkett (covers)
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse Books, 149 Pages

Review:

Dark Force Rising is the second chapter in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. It’s kind of like his Empire Strikes Back, as it builds off of what he established in Heir to the Empire and pushes things forward before the big crescendo that is The Last Command.

It’s really cool revisiting these stories and in comic book form for the first time. I love all the plot threads in this tale, especially in this chapter. I forgot how awesome the plot where Leia, Chewie and Threepio go to the Noghri homeworld was, as well as the team ups of Han and Lando, as well as Luke and Mara. Everything here is just a lot of fun. Plus, you get to see Thrawn up the ante on how sinister he can get.

I also forgot how much I liked the characters of Gilad Pellaeon and Talon Karrde, two men far from the New Republic side but, through this story, find ways into the former Rebellion, where they become strong leaders going forward.

A big part of the story here also deals with politics. There is a plant in the New Republic that is working to disrupt and distract them while Thrawn moves in against them, squeezing his fist of power around the fledgling government. I would point to how politics are handled and presented here, as a better use of political storytelling than what everyone complains about with The Phantom Menace, which had a convoluted political narrative that made most people want to hit their heads against the theater chair in front of them.

The art in this was solid and I liked it better than the work in Heir to the Empire. Also, the lettering was much more legible, as the writing style of the letters in the previous chapter had stylized “H”s that looked like stylized “U”s, which slowed you down as you read.

I like this act in the trilogy better than the previous one but just slightly. Things start to feel more real with this chapter, the ante is upped and you truly start to see why Thrawn is such a formidable foe for the heroes and maybe more so than any other Grand Admiral in the history of the Galactic Empire.

In all honesty, it’s just a delight to revisit these stories, as Disney has pretty much created a new canon that I don’t want anything to do with. This is and will always be my official canon.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Dark Horse Star Wars comics from the same era: the two other Thrawn Trilogy stories, as well as The Shadows of the Empire Trilogy, The Dark Empire Trilogy and the Rogue Squadron series.