Comic Review: Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Splice and Dice

Published: February 6th, 2018
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Chris Mooneyham
Based on: Predator by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, Alien by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and Pat Mills

Dark Horse Books, 101 Pages

Review:

Well, this was underwhelming. But most Alien Vs. Predator crossovers that include other franchises don’t ever seem to deliver.

The thought of Judge Dredd fighting Predators and Aliens got me excited. It looks damn good on paper but the execution here was pretty shoddy.

The biggest problem with the story is that there was too much strange shit going on. The main villain was a mad scientist that made animal/human hybrids and called them Ani-Men, which I’m pretty sure is the name of a supervillain team that Marvel has used as far back as the 1960s.

My gripe about this part of the plot is that it takes up most of it. This story arc is made up of just four single issues, there isn’t room to dillydally. We didn’t need this and while it was used to introduce the alien xenomorphs to the story, the plot didn’t need to get fixated on this other, unimportant stuff.

All you need to do to kick off this story is have a Predator ship crash in Mega-City One. The crash releases alien xenomorphs and Predators that were fighting on board. Judge Dredd shows up to investigate the crash site and BOOM! you now have Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens. It writes itself.

The comic dumps all this side story crap in your lap early on and it takes too long to get to the good stuff in a comic without a lot of room the breathe. Once the cool stuff starts, it feels incredibly rushed. There’s no real build of suspense or terror. Plus, Dredd and the Predators team up rather quickly and don’t have much of their own conflict.

This wasn’t a total dud but it just doesn’t live up to what one should expect from from these three badass franchises coming together.

I think that crossovers like this are typically rushed and looked at as a good way to make a quick buck but if the editors actually put a bit more care into these events, we could have better stories, slicker art and something that balances out multiple franchises in a way that makes more sense and respects their spirit.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: any Alien Vs. Predator comic series or Judge Dredd crossover.

Comic Review: IDW 20/20 – Star Trek: The Next Generation

Published: January 20th, 2019
Written by: Peter David
Art by: J.K. Woodward
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 36 Pages

Review:

It’s hard to believe that IDW Publishing has been around for twenty years already. In that time, they have published comic books for just about every franchise you can think of. While they’ve had some of their own in-house creations, it’s the intellectual properties that they’ve managed that has been their real bread and butter.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, they are doing this IDW 20/20 event, which sees many of the IPs they publish getting one-shots that either rewind or fast forward the clock 20 years. The first to come out is this one-shot for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

This one-shot goes back twenty years before The Next Generation television series and shows us an early career mission for Captain Picard. It’s pretty interesting, as it also shows how Picard and his long-time friend, Dr. Beverly Crusher, first met.

What’s really cool about this is that it is written by Peter David, one of the best comic book writers of the last few decades. I’ve always enjoyed David’s work, so seeing him take on the iconic character of Jean-Luc Picard was pretty neat.

Overall, the story was enjoyable and it showed a younger, much more flawed version of Picard. While it’s nice seeing him in a different light, before he evolves into the great leader he becomes, it felt kind of odd, as it comes off as a bit uncharacteristic. I get that he’s younger and probably more of a hot head but certain decisions, despite taking his age into account, seemed very un-Picard-like.

The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the art, which was also odd as I’ve liked the work of J.K. Woodward in the past. This comic does that thing that most comics of large IPs do, which is it takes existing reference photos of live action characters and either runs them through a filter or traces them. Here, we are given an art style that looks pretty, as it looks hand painted, but it is so perfect that it looks like PhotoShop filters or just paint enhanced photos. It’s just not a style I’m fond of and everyone from IDW to Marvel is guilty of it. I don’t want to come off as harsh on Woodward but it feels like maybe he was rushed on this project and had to wedge it in between his regular jobs.

In the end, this wasn’t memorable but it was a decent way to kill twenty minutes. I think a story like this could work but it should be something with more depth than you can get out of a one-shot.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other IDW Star Trek comics.

Comic Review: Wizzywig

Published: July 4th, 2012
Written by: Ed Piskor
Art by: Ed Piskor

Top Shelf Productions, 282 Pages

Review:

I may have been late to the game in discovering the work of Ed Piskor. I was introduced to him through his most recent work on X-Men: Grand Design and its sequel Second Genesis and then I really developed an appreciation for him through Cartoonist Kayfabe, a YouTube channel he runs with Jim Rugg (and sometimes Tom Scioli).

Being pretty impressed with his X-Men projects and his passion for the medium and the industry he works in, I wanted to go back and read some of his more personal, earlier work. A friend of mine highly suggested Wizzywig due to the fact that I love Mr. Robot and have always been intrigued by hacker culture and history.

My friend didn’t steer me wrong and I absolutely loved this graphic novel.

The main character, Kevin, is based on a few famous hackers from back in the day. His story is sort of an amalgamation of their stories but it is done really well and comes off as pretty damn accurate. I have to give props to Piskor for the research he did and how he weaved an engaging tale around a subject that can be difficult for the layman to follow.

Ultimately, you really care for the characters in this book and it is a sad and tragic story. In a way, it deals with the main character’s mania and obsession over what he can do and how he is a victim of his own compulsions.

I love the art style; it was clean and consistent on every panel. I also thought the lettering was fantastic.

This is a story that is basically this character’s life and there is a lot to unpack with it but it flows well, has a good energy to it and there isn’t a dull moment. Every panel deserves to be on the page and while that should be an obvious standard in this medium, so many comics spend too much time wasting away their real estate on pointless drivel.

Wizzywig is a solid piece of work by Piskor and it has made me want to go out and pick up some of his other comics that I’ve missed.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other work by Ed Piskor, as well as stuff by his Cartoonist Kayfabe colleagues Jim Rugg and Tom Scioli.

Comic Review: M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol. 2: Rise of V.E.N.O.M.

Published: December 13th, 2017
Written by: Brandon M. Easton, David A. Rodriguez
Art by: Andrew Griffith, Drew Moss, Juan Samu
Based on: M.A.S.K. by Kenner Products

IDW Publishing, 162 Pages

Review:

I really wanted this comic to be good, as I was a huge fan of the toyline when I was a young boy in the ’80s.

There are a few reasons as to why this just doesn’t cut the mustard but the biggest is that it doesn’t know what the hell it needs to be. This is the second and final volume in IDW’s run on the M.A.S.K. property but it sacrifices the property itself by wedging in G.I. Joe and Transformers characters, essentially being a crossover with those other Hasbro franchises.

And when it isn’t focused on other franchises, it just keeps giving us origin stories and nothing with any real meat to it. There is nothing here to make me care about M.A.S.K. on its own.

I feel as if IDW didn’t have any faith in M.A.S.K. and tried to draw more attention to it by throwing these characters into a G.I. Joe and Transformers story. It reminds me of when Marvel would have a new or struggling comic book in the ’90s so they had to throw Spider-Man in it and on the cover in an effort to generate more sales. It isn’t a tactic that worked a quarter of a century ago and it doesn’t work now.

The writing is a mess, the story is all over the place and then the art isn’t very good either. There just isn’t much here worth giving a crap about.

M.A.S.K. vs. G.I. Joe vs. Transformers story could be great but M.A.S.K. needs to swim on its own first.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other M.A.S.K. comics, as well as comics for other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

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.

Comic Review: Scud, the Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang

Published: June 30th, 2011
Written by: Rob Schrab, Mondy Carter, Dan Harmon
Art by: Rob Schrab, Jack Gray, Dave Hartman, Jim Mahfood, Zac Rybacki, Dan Streng, Doug TenNapel, Ashley Wood

Image Comics, 781 Pages

Review:

If you like comic books with lots of crazy action and offbeat humor, than this may be the title you’ve been yearning for.

I had a friend in high school that used to read Scud all the time. I wasn’t big into it but I would still often times read through the comics he brought to school. Over time, I grew an appreciation for the character and the style and it was one of the first indie comics to really show me what else was out there beyond the Big Two.

Over the years, I had picked up a few single issues but I really wanted to give the whole series a read since it was only 24 issues long and not some monster epic like Dave Sim’s Cerebus, which also steered me towards more indie work.

Luckily, the whole run of Scud, the Disposable Assassin is collected in a thick paperback called The Whole Shebang. It’s certainly worth owning for any serious comic book reader or collector.

This release is a big fat brick of nearly 800 pages but reading through it was a breeze. Scud is just entertaining as hell and I love the art, even if other artists came in from time to time.

There aren’t many comics that actually make me laugh out loud but Scud is one of them. While I understand that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, those people probably don’t like tea and can’t be trusted anyway.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: stuff by Doug TenNapel and 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.