Comic Review: Hellboy Vs. Lobster Johnson in the Ring of Death – One-Shot

Published: May 29th, 2019
Written by: Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson
Art by: Paul Grist, Mike Norton, Dave Stewart, Paolo Rivera (cover)

Dark Horse Comics, 24 Pages

Review:

I’ll be honest, I bought this strictly for the cover.

Still, I’m a Hellboy fan so I at least knew that I’d most likely enjoy the whole comic.

For the most part, this was a good read. It doesn’t seem to mean much in the grander scheme of things but it entertained me for a bit and it even threw in a bit of lucha libre to sweeten the pot.

The art was good throughout and the story was energetic and fun.

But man, I just couldn’t take my eye off of the cover and I’d buy a poster print of it in a heartbeat.

And that’s it. This is a one-shot. There’s not much to say without ruining the story. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem important and maybe this should have felt like it had more of a reason to exist but whatever.

So I’ll keep this one short and sweet because the comic was short and sweet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy comics.

Comic Review: Michael Allred’s Madman, Vol. 1

Published: July 23rd, 2008 (collected and reprinted)
Written by: Mike Allred
Art by: Mike Allred, Laura Allred

Tundra Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics (reprint), 294 Pages

Review:

I’ve had a few issues of Mike Allred’s Madman in my comic collection since the ’90s. I never had a complete story arc, however, so I never got to give it a real read.

I figured I’d check out the first collected volume, which collects his first two miniseries.

The first story is in black and white with nice grayish blue shading. The second arc is in full, vibrant color. Regardless of the presentation, both stories that were included here were a lot of fun and the art was pulpy and terrific.

Allred has a good sense of humor that works well for the character and this series. In some ways, it reminded me of the experience I had reading Rob Schrab’s Scud: The Disposable Assassin or Doug TenNapel’s Creature Tech.

While Madman is a product of the ’90s comic book industry, it feels timeless. I let my friend’s kid read this as well and she thought it was pretty damn funny even for modern teenager standards.

Madman is energetic, endearing and just a really cool comic. I dug the hell out of it and plan on completing it by collecting all the floppies out there.

But that could take some time and I don’t want to hold off on jumping into volume two, which I will do in the very near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: later Madman collections, as well as other work by Mike Allred. Plus, Rob Schrab’s Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Doug TenNapel’s Creature Tech and Bigfoot Bill.

Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection II: The Heart of Yag-Kosha

Published: April 16th, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, Timothy Truman
Art by: Cary Nord, Greg Ruth, Timothy Truman, Eric Powell, Mike Mignola
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 504 Pages

Review:

Since I really dug the hell out of the first volume of the Kurt Busiek run on Conan, I wasted no time jumping into the second Epic Collection.

This carries on with the same quality in writing and art as the previous massive collection and was also a really awesome read.

I ended up liking the first one just a bit more because it seemed to have more action and longer, deeper stories but there isn’t much to complain about with this one. There seemed to be more dialogue and a lot of new characters added into the series but it still captured the right tone and spirit.

This volume also adapts some of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories. It was really cool reading the comic book version of The Tower of the Elephant for the first time, as I always enjoyed that story in its original medium.

Mike Mignola also did some of the covers and wrote some of the stuff in this collection. I really liked seeing Conan in Mignola’s artistic style.

Ultimately, this was another solid outing and something that I’m sure I’ll go back to and read again in the future.

This was over 500 pages in length but I feel like I ripped through it in no time, as it was hard to put down.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.

Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection I: Out of the Darksome Hills

Published: February 19th, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza
Art by: Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, Greg Ruth, Tom Mandrake
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 496 Pages

Review:

Few things in life are actually “epic as fuck”. This hefty collection of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run is one of those things.

This collects twenty comics worth of Conan stories and even throws a Fabian Nicieza one in for a little extra cherry on top of this badass sundae.

Every story in this collection is good. I’m not just saying that. Busiek understands the character of Conan, his world and really goes to great length at penning some fabulous story arcs.

This even gives us a good story featuring Thoth-Amon, one of Conan’s biggest villains over the years.

Kurt Busiek should be proud of his run here. He has written several stories that are good enough to stand alongside Robert E. Howard’s original work. Busiek gets Conan and the character’s audience.

Additionally, most of the art in this is perfect. There are a few single issues mixed in that have art that isn’t as good but those were mostly filler issues where the main artist was probably off working on another title.

All in all, this is a great Conan collection and the first part of one of the absolute best runs on the character in the comic book medium.

I have the second collection, which I will read and review in the near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.

Comic Review: Star Wars: Empire’s End

Published: 1995
Written by: Tom Veitch
Art by: Jim Baikie, Dave Dorman (covers)
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse Books, 54 Pages

Review:

Well, this is the final part in the Dark Empire trilogy.

Sadly, this is also the weakest installment. I think that the reason why this doesn’t live up to the greatness of the two previous story arcs is because this one was limited to two issues, as opposed to six like Dark Empire I and II.

This does wrap the trilogy up, though. It gives a pretty definitive conclusion to the resurrected Emperor Palpatine story, even if his fate here is bizarre and underwhelming.

Tom Veitch did a good job with the trilogy as a whole but this final chapter kind of felt like it was just thrown together to end the whole thing. It also read like this script was written rather abruptly just to get the final chapter of this trilogy out of the way.

It lacks the personality and depth of the previous ones and it relies heavily on the reader to have read those. So if you picked this up and it was your first Dark Horse Star Wars comic, you probably would have been confused by it. Granted, a resurrected Emperor should inspire the reader to go back and get the previous story arcs.

The art this time was done by Jim Baikie but it matches the previous two Dark Empire books pretty well.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Dark Horse Star Wars comics from the same era: the two other Dark Empire Trilogy stories, as well as The Shadows of the Empire TrilogyThe Thrawn Trilogy and the Rogue Squadron series.

Comic Review: Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction

Published: 1994
Written by: John Byrne, Mike Mignola
Art by: Mike Mignola

Dark Horse Comics, 130 Pages

Review:

It’s been a really long time since I have picked up a Hellboy comic, even though I’ve been a massive fan of the character since the ’90s. This was also the first time that I read his debut story.

This four issue story arc was the basis for the plot of the first Hellboy film. While it’s not the exact same story, it features Rasputin as the villain, as well as large, tentacled, Lovecraftian monsters and a very similar origin story for the title character.

While it may sound as if I am trying to oversell this, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is perfection in the comic book medium.

Featuring the incredible duo of comic book legends John Byrne and Mike Mignola, this earliest Hellboy story was superb on every level. The writing was terrific, the dialogue was fantastic and Mignola’s art style creates a perfect tone for this tale.

When things are this good, I want others to experience them fresh. So I don’t want to spoil too much and would rather others go pick this up, read it and be as surprised and impressed by it as I was.

Now this may not be everyone’s cup of tea and my opinions are my own but I think it’d be hard to deny that this is a solid comic book, through and through, and it does exactly what it set out to achieve.

That being said, I can’t wait to jump into volume two.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy and B.P.R.D. related comics.

Film Review: American Splendor (2003)

Release Date: January 20th, 2003 (Sundance)
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Written by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Based on: American Splendor and Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar
Music by: Mark Suozzo
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Judah Friedlander, James Urbaniak, Donal Logue, Molly Shannon, Josh Hutcherson, Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, Toby Radloff

Good Machine, Dark Horse Entertainment, Fine Line Features, HBO Films, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Why does everything in my life have to be such a complicated disaster?” – Joyce Brabner

Even though I grew up burying my head in comic books, I wasn’t really aware of Harvey Pekar until my late ’20s. Initially, his comic book style wasn’t something I sought out. I was more into superhero comics and sword and sorcery style fantasy epics.

However, I would say that I found Pekar (and Robert Crumb) at the right time in my life. Both men’s work captivated me and spoke to me in a very human but amusing way. Crumb was attractive to my deviant sensibilities, while Pekar spoke to that cynical observational part of myself that’s always watching and analyzing the shit show around me.

I’ve seen a lot of Pekar in interviews and things over the years and I’ve got to say that Paul Giamatti’s performance as Harvey Pekar is fantastic. While he might not exactly look like Harvey, which is actually joked about within this film in a fourth wall breaking critique by Pekar himself, Giamatti just captured the right type of charm and charisma and did this role justice.

Additionally, Judah Friedlander was absolutely spectacular as Pekar’s best bud Toby Radloff. Friedlander was so good, in fact, that even though I saw his name in the credits, I didn’t realize that it was him playing Toby until really late in the film.

All the other performances are also great. Especially Hope Davis as Joyce, Harvey’s wife, and James Urbaniak, who played Robert Crumb in a few key scenes.

The film covers the important parts of Pekar’s adult life quite well. It’s a film that has a lot of time pass in its 101 minutes but nothing feels rushed and every scene seems pretty vital, as the narrative hits the points it needs to in showcasing what was most important.

For someone that’s a professional creative and pretty grumpy on most days, it was easy for me to relate to Pekar and this film. It was a moving picture that tells a sweet story, even if the main character isn’t someone that would be likable by most people on a first impression.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Crumb and Basquiat.