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.

TV Review: Doom Patrol (2019- )

Original Run: February 15th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jeremy Carver
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Doom Patrol by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, Grant Morrison
Music by: Clint Marshall, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Joivan Wade, Alan Tudyk, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Phil Morris, Curtis Armstrong (voice), Ed Asner (cameo)

Berlanti Productions, Jeremy Carver Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 15 Episodes (so far), 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this show before seeing it. For one, the Titans TV show put out by the same streaming service, DC Universe, was pretty shaky and had a lot of issues. Plus, Doom Patrol is such a bizarre comic, especially during its Grant Morrison run, which this is based off of, that I didn’t know how that would translate to screen.

So I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this show and then some. It exceeds my expectations, which is rare in the realm of TV superheroes where the field is dominated by inconsistent and now cancelled Netflix shows, as well as the CW wing of the DC TV universe, which has mostly turned to crap after some solid starts on a few of those shows.

Doom Patrol, however, feels more like AMC’s Preacher or FX’s Legion but without the mental clusterfuckery of the latter.

What makes this so damn solid is the ensemble. Everyone here truly feels at home in their roles and they have stellar chemistry as a group. Plus, adding in Timothy Dalton was a real win for the show.

I’m really glad to see Brendan Fraser in this, as his career has felt like it’s been on a hiatus for quite some time. He is the glue that holds this group together. He plays a conflicted, complex character going through some serious shit but he’s just so good at it.

Also, Diane Guerrero, who I liked on Orange is the New Black, steals the f’n show in every scene that she’s in and that’s a true feat considering how good everyone else is on this show. She plays a character with 64 different personalities and she shows incredible range and talent in her ability to pull them all off and sometimes switch from personality to personality on a dime. It’s very similar to James McAvoy’s character in Split and Glass but Guerrero is really impressive in that she has to pull this off over 15 one hour episodes.

I also really love April Bowlby on this show. I’m mostly only familiar with her role as Kandi on Two and a Half Men, where she was a real highlight of that show. I’ve seen her here and there over the years but man, she shines on this show and I’m glad to see her working on a project that lets her do some real dramatic and emotional work.

The show takes some liberties, as all superhero shows do, but it does feel close to the source material and the spirit and camaraderie of the group is alive and well. While it’s not yet as nutty as Grant Morrison’s material, I think the show does a good job of keeping its bizarreness more palatable for the normies that don’t read the comics.

Unfortunately, being exclusive to DC Universe works against the show. It makes it hard for casual viewers to find it and just six months into its existence, the streaming service is already in trouble. So despite how good this show is and the mostly positive response I’ve seen from others, it’s future is probably in doubt because its home’s future is definitely in doubt.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Legion, Preacher and other TV shows put out by DC Universe, such as Titans and the upcoming Swamp Thing.

Comic Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Published: 1989
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Dave McKean

DC Comics, 220 Pages (25th Anniversary version)

Review:

I bought Arkham Asylum in 1989. I was ten years-old but the first Tim Burton Batman movie had just come out and I was buying Batman comics like they were fresh hotcakes and I had a serious case of the munchies. By the way, no one batted an eye at a ten year-old buying a comic like this in 1989.

Anyway, at ten years-old, this shit was totally over my head. As a forty year-old, this shit is still totally over my head. I’m not saying that it’s tough to absorb, it’s just batshit crazy (pun intended) and reads more like Grant Morrison’s nightmares than a coherent or worthwhile Batman comic book.

While I really am in awe of Dave McKean’s art, it just doesn’t resonate with me in the way that I feel it should. I’m not keen on his character design, even if I like the overall style. But this book looks like Batman and his villains trapped within the pages of a Nine Inch Nails CD booklet from 1994. My teenage self probably saw that as cool but my older self thinks it is a weird mashup that doesn’t really fit no matter how dark you try to make Batman appear.

Getting back to the story, it is a mess. Morrison is a good writer when he’s focused and has more real estate to tell a story. For instance, his run on Doom Patrol was strange as hell but over the course of that lengthy run, there is a glue that binds it all together in a neat way. Maybe if Arkham Asylum was an intro to a larger story, it could have spread its wings and flew. But honestly, the story feels stifled and confined like the inmates in the Asylum itself.

Also, Batman does not feel like Batman here. But then neither does the Joker or Two-Face. As far as these characters go, Morrison misses the mark. But he was young when he wrote this and maybe he sacrificed character continuity for trying to be a hip edgy boi. I hate to say it but this feels like edgy boi bullshit.

This isn’t a total waste though. It certainly is a work of art and it helped steer Morrison’s career in the direction it needed to go. Plus, his Batman stories a decade and a half later were damn good.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Grant Morrison’s runs on Batman and Doom Patrol.

Documentary Review: Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (2010)

Release Date: October 9th, 2010 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Sequart Organization, Respect! Films, Halo-8 Entertainment, 80 Minutes

Review:

I have really enjoyed the comic book documentaries that Patrick Meaney has made. However, this one was kind of a dud, which is unfortunate, as I have liked some of Grant Morrison’s work over the years.

This was also Meaney’s first documentary, so there’s that.

What I mean, is that this felt amateurish and the editing wasn’t as good as it became in his later films. This was mostly talking head interviews and even then, most of them were just one or two sentence blurbs that came out pretty rapidly. Also, this was definitely a puff piece where everyone interviewed just praised Morrison like he was the second coming.

A lot of this felt insincere. And I don’t mean that to knock Morrison but this wasn’t a good documentary or very interesting. I anticipated really delving into the man and really getting some insight into his best work. Instead, this is just a bunch of people trying to sell you on Morrison, a guy you probably already know if you’re taking the time out to watch this.

I don’t care that he’s an alien abducted wizard and how “cool” this “rockstar” is, I want to know more about his creative process and why he did certain things a certain way. There’s a lot of “Oh, yeah… that was great! And then so and so stole it for this movie!”

This was just a lot of people giving Morrison a community wide handjob, telling us he’s great but not actually telling us what makes him great and why his work is great.

This was a real bore to get through but I’m glad that Meaney’s documentaries got better. Check out the one on Image Comics and the one on Chris Claremont. Those were infinitely more engaging than this was.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Patrick Meaney’s other comic book documentaries but his later ones are much better.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 3: Down Paradise Way

Published: 1990-1991
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, Kelley Jones

Vertigo Comics, 185 Pages

Review:

While I’ve really enjoyed getting this far into Grant Morrison’s legendary run on Doom Patrol. This volume didn’t hit the mark quite the same way for me. But that could also be due to the luster and newness of this bizarre series starting to run dry.

I wouldn’t say that I’m bored with it but it’s so far out there that the stories are overly fantastical and it is hard trying to ground this in any way that gives it some sort of emotional weight. I like the characters but the proceedings are too surreal, all the time.

The first volume took me by surprise and was so unique that it was hard not to get drawn into it. The second volume brought the Justice League into the mix and it grounded the craziness somewhat, as the well-known DC Comics characters almost became the eyes and ears of the reader.

Here, it’s just Doom Patrol once again, as they are thrown into another dreamlike sequence that isn’t very easy to follow or grasp. I’ve always loved surrealist art but it exists well as its own thing and I dare anyone to try and make a narrative that can string together all the scenes Salvador Dali painted in some sort of coherent way.

Granted, art and the effectiveness of storytelling are all subjective but, at this point, I’m not sure what I’m reading and if there is even any sort of plan with Morrison’s Doom Patrol or if he’s just throwing really colorful shit on the canvas and hoping the reader somehow connects the dots for him.

I like Morrison’s imagination but this was also really early in his career and not as refined as his work would become with more experience. However, this is still a really unique experience and the fact that this exists within the larger DC universe is kind of interesting and sort of cool.

At the end of the day, no one can say that Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol wasn’t ambitious. I just don’t know if this ambition is going to pay off in any meaningful way. But again, that’s subjective and this may speak to a lot of people.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris

Published: 1989-1990
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, John Nyberg

Vertigo Comics, 228 Pages

Review:

I’m really digging the Grant Morrision run on Doom Patrol.

While the first volume was better overall, the first half of this collection was probably the high point for me, thus far. The second half of this is mostly filler and comes off at a slower pace but there are still some things of importance within it.

The first half is the story arc that gives this volume its name: The Painting That Ate Paris. And while the name may sound metaphorical, it isn’t. This is Grant Morrision’s Doom Patrol and a painting literally eats Paris. And with that, the Doom Patrol has to find a way into the painting in an effort to save the city. All the while, the Justice League shows up and stands idly by, staring at the painting, confused by the whole ordeal.

I feel like the Justice League here represents the more casual comic book reader, who would probably be baffled by the insanity, absurdity and surrealism of Morrison fully and creatively unleashed.

Richard Case’s art is some of my favorite from the era and man, it just lures you in and is a perfect compliment to Morrison’s writing. Case’s art is clean, crisp, colorful and fluid. I love his character design and the life his style gives every person in these stories.

This was just a really exciting comic to read. It loses steam with the second half but it is still entertaining and serves to setup what’s to come after this.

If you’ve never given Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol a shot, you really should. It’s a superhero team book but it is so unique that you really should experience it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 1: Crawling From the Wreckage

Published: 1989
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case

Vertigo Comics, 186 Pages

Review:

I knew all about Doom Patrol back when Grant Morrison was writing it in the very late ’80s and into the ’90s. It’s something that the older, cooler kids talked about but I was more into Batman and Spider-Man at the time, as comic books were still kind of new to me and I hadn’t yet expanded too much beyond that.

Over time, I collected a few issues of Morrison’s run but I never completed it and never actually read a full story arc. I’m trying to rectify that now, as I want to better understand these characters with the Doom Patrol television show starting in a few weeks on DC Universe.

I can’t quite say that this is a legendary comic book run, as I need to read Morrison’s entire Doom Patrol catalog but this is certainly off to a very solid start.

Morrison does a fine job of throwing characters at you and finding something within them that allows him to connect with the audience. I cared about every character in this story and I really hope that maintains as I get deeper into this series.

This serves to set up Morrison’s take on Doom Patrol. Even though I don’t know what happened before his first issue, it is very clear that this is a new group, forming out of the ashes of whatever happened to the previous one and even if you don’t know what their motivation is, you care enough to stick with this and find out.

I only hope that this run has a definitive start middle and end and doesn’t just sort of limp forward without any real follow through, which is a trap that so many new creators fall into.

Solid storytelling, really nice, robust art from Richard Case and all around, this was a really engaging and entertaining introduction to what is considered one of the high points of late’80s/early ’90s comics.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.