Comic Review: Red Sonja/Claw: The Devil’s Hands

Published: January 24th, 2007
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Andy Smith, Jim Lee (cover)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, Claw the Unconquered by David Michelinie, Ernie Chan

Wildstorm, Dynamite Entertainment, 112 Pages

Review:

Yeesh! This was bad.

I thought a story that brought together Red Sonja and Claw the Unconquered would be pretty damn badass. Well, it should have been but this certainly wasn’t.

The Jim Lee cover was really damn cool, though.

I also thought that Andy Smith’s art throughout the comic was pretty good. There were a few spots in the action sequences that I had to examine, though, as the transition from one panel to the next seemed to be off.

As far as the story, it was pretty schlocky. While I like schlock of a certain caliber, this was just lowest common denominator crossover bait, which is something that companies like Dynamite and IDW have become famous for over the last several years. Granted, this is about fifteen years old now but this is also where I noticed IP crossovers really starting to become far more common.

At least this didn’t bring the characters together through magic portals, which has been a bad trope in stories like these.

Anyway, you can totally skip over this unless you’re a Red Sonja completist. But if you are, maybe read this last after all the other stuff.

Rating: 4/10

Comic Review: Deathblow – The Deluxe Edition

Published: March 25th, 2014
Written by: Brandon Choi
Art by: Jim Lee, Tim Sale

Image Comics, Wildstorm, DC Comics (reprinted), 292 Pages

Review:

Back when I was pretty hardcore into Image Comics, the company was still fresh, new and helmed by the coolest creators of the early ’90s. I used to buy everything I could get my hands on.

Jim Lee’s Deathblow was one of those titles and I remember first seeing the title character in the Darker Image one-shot, which was used to introduce a few characters with a darker or harder edge about them.

Deathblow really stood out, even though most people remembered that comic for bringing Sam Keith’s The Maxx into the mainstream.

There was just something super cool and brooding about this character, though. He felt like a much darker version of a Stallone or Schwarzenegger character with a bit of Punisher sprinkled in for extra flavor.

However, Deathblow’s solo series never really resonated with me like I had hoped but as I got older, I thought that it might have had a lot to do with my age at the time. So I always wanted to go back and read it to see it with fresh eyes and a few extra decades of life experience.

Unfortunately, this didn’t blow me away and I actually found it kind of boring once I got to about the midway point of this beefy collection. It just didn’t captivate me and it felt too much like a product of its time, embracing certain tropes, but not really offering up anything unique or different.

However, I have to point out that the artwork is absolutely stupendous and some of the best work I’ve seen from Jim Lee, a real legend in his field. I loved the muted colors and the high contrast and it was the cool art that at least kept me engaged where the story waned.

Looking back and also having read some of the Image Comics stuff as an adult, I think that this was really the issue with a lot of their comics. The art was always top notch and incredible but the stories were always kind of lacking. Maybe this is why Image never became another Marvel or DC, focused on superhero stories, and eventually moved well beyond that genre with things like The Walking Dead, East of West, Paper Girls, Chew and Saga.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other comics from Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe.

Comic Review: Batman: The Complete Hush

Published: October 8th, 2013
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Art by: Jim Lee

DC Comics, 298 Pages

Review:

Batman: Hush is highly regarded as one of the best Batman stories of its era and honestly, it doesn’t disappoint. I hadn’t read it for over ten years but after recently watching the animated film adaptation, I wanted to give the source material a read again.

I’m happy to say that this lived up to my memories of it, as it’s just a great, well-layered story, where even if you figure out the big mystery, it doesn’t wreck the plot because there are so many surprises still woven in.

This features a lot of characters from both sides of the law but it doesn’t become bogged down by it and everyone truly serves a purpose with how they’re all tied to the main plot.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is good, simply because Jeph Loeb wrote it and he teamed up with the great Jim Lee, who provided some of the best and most iconic art of his career for this tale.

Hush is a solid comic book on every level. Saying too much about the plot might ruin things and this is a book that I definitely recommend. I’d rather people read it and discover its greatness for themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other major Batman story arcs from the late ’90s and early-to-mid ’00s.

Talking Pulp: Rest In Peace – DC Comics – 1934-2020?

I’m glad I’m no longer a customer of AT&T. I left them behind a few years ago and I have been really happy not giving them my money anymore. But since buying Time Warner, they’ve been going through everything with a fine tooth comb and shutting down divisions that they don’t deem as profitable enough.

I was first directly affected by this back in November of 2018 when they pulled the plug on FilmStruck, a streaming service that was a joint effort by Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection to present classic and historically significant motion pictures from all eras. It was also, by far, my favorite streaming service out of them all. In fact, I wrote about that dark day here.

When FilmStruck was struck down, I knew that it was only a matter of time before AT&T took the ax to other divisions within their entertainment sectors. Looking across the board, it was easy to ascertain that DC Comics’ days were most assuredly numbered.

The writing has been on the wall forever and not just for DC but for Marvel and the entire comic book industry, as a whole. Sales are terrible, comics are too expensive and most importantly, above all else, the creative side of the equation is mostly deplorable.

The comic book industry (like the rest of the entertainment industry) has had an agenda-driven ax to grind for several years now. It’s turned people away, as has the behavior of many of these “creators” on social media.

In fact, many of these big entertainment juggernauts actually don’t do anything to stop the despicable behavior of those they employ. They’ve even brushed this shit off, claiming that they’re just independent contractors and entitled to their own opinions. I’ve written about these “creators” and companies’ bullshit before though, which you can check out here and here.

The point of this article, though, is to point out that DC Comics, in its current form, is beyond repair and that AT&T is most likely pulling the plug.

Now nothing has been officially announced, as of yet, so take this as rumor until more comes out.

However, it looks like this is possibly happening sooner rather than later, based off of some texts I got from an intermediary with an insider, who has worked at DC for over a decade. Who they are doesn’t matter but it’s not hard to see the forest for the trees.

What I’ve been told is that this was planned before COVID-19 made things a lot worse and that this viral event has actually sped up the company’s demise.

I felt that this should come as no surprise after their publisher Dan DiDio “stepped down” on February 21st of this year with no one being announced to step in and fill that void. I guess it made Jim Lee the top guy by default but what has he done since this happened? He’s done a Kickstarter for a backpack and he’s hosted art auctions.

Additionally, DC Comics’ 5G initiative has been met with severe backlash and it hasn’t even started yet. It was scheduled to kickoff this summer and it was DiDio’s newest and latest big plan to save the industry and get sales booming again.

Well, when you’ve rebooted your universe multiple times in the last decade or so, people become sick of these sort of half-assed and short-sighted shenanigans. Plus, no one really wants to see core DC characters get replaced by diversity characters. This bullshit hasn’t worked for Marvel but apparently these comic book companies can’t learn from past mistakes, have no real fresh ideas and apparently don’t care about profit.

This all boils down to profit. Especially, when you have been absorbed by a massive corporation that only cares about their bottom line, a line which DC Comics is definitely below.

The rest of the information that made its way to me says that COVID-19 was the deathblow for DC and that AT&T is planning on making an official announcement in June. They also said that it is doubtful that they will wait until June now, as the damage is quite severe. Plus, people working for DC will most likely get pissed and start leaking more information between now and then. AT&T will most likely want to stay ahead of that or they’ll do what companies do in these situations and deny it until their hand is forced to be more transparent. That’s the beauty of publicly traded companies.

The plan is for DC to release what is already in the pipeline over the next few months but there will be no new books after what is currently finished. With Diamond, the comic industry’s “monopoly” distributor, falling apart due to COVID-19, DC is looking for other distribution avenues. But this is probably just a short-term thing to get these last comics out and to try and turn some profit while they still can.

While this may feel like a punch in the gut, it doesn’t mean that characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are gone.

AT&T still owns the IPs to these characters and those IPs will most likely always be lucrative, as they will continue to produce movies, television shows and merchandise till the end of time. This really just effects the comic book division itself.

This also doesn’t mean that we will never have comic books of these characters again, either. AT&T could license these characters out to other publishers in the same way Hasbro licenses out G.I. Joe, Transformers and other IPs to IDW Publishing. Hell, all major IPs that aren’t specifically owned by DC or Marvel are mostly produced by indie companies like IDW, Dynamite, Dark Horse, Boom! and a slew of others.

Side note: Marvel has already licensed their own characters out to IDW for their kids line of comics, despite still being in business themselves.

Plus, the monthly model of people buying floppy physical issues of comics doesn’t seem to be the best model anymore. Yet, crowdfunding comics has been blowing up and creating a boom in that sector of the industry. The mainstream tries to ignore it and brush it off but just look at how well a lot of the Comicsgate creators’ books have done.

The mainstream wants to paint Comicsgate as their enemy and well, they are. They’re defying what has become the mainstream industry’s standard and are pulling fans away from failing publishers like DC and Marvel while reinvigorating comic book readers who walked away some time ago. But it’s easier for the mainstream to demonize and act catty than to just do better and look at competition as a good thing.

So while Comicsgate and other crowdfunders are the enemy of the mainstream, they’re also the savior of the comic book industry because they’re keeping it alive and growing it by bringing in new readership.

While I am not a fan of labels, I am a fan of prosperity, success and in regards to the comic book medium, quality. It’s that quality thing that the mainstream publishers are having a hard time with, as they flood the shelves with comics people don’t want by “creators” who wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the industry just a decade ago. And that’s not to say that all Comicsgate books are great but the cream of the crop is much better than anything Marvel or DC has put out in quite awhile. Excluding Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman stuff, though, as his White Knight comics are, by far, the best things put out by the mainstream in years.

Again, take this information as rumor but with everything that’s happened just in the last few months, DC Comics, in its current form, is probably not going to be here by year’s end.

Update:

Apparently, IDW Publishing started laying people off just minutes after I posted this article. It’s not looking good, folks.

Update #2:

I was told by someone close to the situation, that some sort of official decision will be made following the July 4th weekend.

Update #3 (8/10/2020):

It’s not looking good for current DC employees, as layoffs are expected according to Bleeding Cool and Variety, which estimate 650 layoffs from Warner Bros. companies, as a whole, in addition to HBO, which is expected to lose 175. Bleeding Cool article here.

Documentary Review: Moebius Redux: A Life In Pictures (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Germany, France)
Directed by: Hasko Baumann
Written by: Hasko Baumann
Music by: Aaa
Cast: Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Dan O’Bannon, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal

Arte France, Avanti Media, Morag Loves Company, 68 Minutes

Review:

I’ve admired Moebius’ artwork for years. However, I sadly didn’t know much about the man until this documentary.

Sure, I knew that he was an artist’s artist and that he has been praised longer than I’ve been alive but I never delved beyond just his art. But I guess that’s my crime and I missed out on not knowing more about Jean Giraud, the man behind the pseudonym.

This short film interviews a lot of iconic people from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Stan Lee to H.R. Giger to Jim Lee to Mike Mignola and they all give their two cents on Moebius and the impact of his work on the comic book and film mediums, as well as his influence on their own work.

Most importantly though, this spends a lot of time with Giraud, as he gives his story, in his own words. He talks about his influences and how Moebius evolved over time, working in the western genre and then sci-fi, fantasy and other styles that come with their own sets of tropes.

This was just a cool documentary about a guy that’s cooler than most people.

Moebius is an extremely talented artist and on top of that, his life is compelling and fascinating.

I’d say that this is definitely a must see for those who love the comic book medium and intriguing creatives with a hell of a lot of passion and imagination.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic artist documentaries. I’ve reviewed a ton of them here, already.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Genesis

Published: 1991
Written by: Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Fabian Nicieza, Whilce Portacio, Peter David, Len Kaminski
Art by: Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Kirk Jarvinen, Tom Raney, Terry Shoemaker, Paul Smith, Andy Kubert, Jerry DeCaire, Ernie Stiner, Steven Butler, Art Thibert

Marvel Comics, 437 Pages

Review:

I’m pretty excited for the current Jonathan Hickman run on the X-Men titles. I haven’t started reading them because the two miniseries that are coming out are doing so just about weekly. So I want to wait to have all twelve issues before giving it a read. But from what I’ve heard, it’s absolutely solid and quite refreshing.

However, before getting into the new stuff, I wanted to travel back to the height of my time reading and buying X-books: 1991.

The reason I wanted to go back there was because it was a transitional period, as the original X-Factor team came to an end, the New Mutants became X-Force and two new X-Men teams formed, each with their own ongoing monthly series. It was also a transition from the Chris Claremont era into the era of Jim Lee.

This thick trade paperback collects multiple story arcs but all of the arcs are unified in their purpose, which was to end an era and to create a new one.

Here we have the final stories of the first X-Factor team, as well as stories involving the newly formed X-Force and New Warriors, Freedom Force and the X-Men team as it existed when Claremont moved on from the series.

This almost feels like an omnibus.

It also features a lot of great creatives on the writing side and art side.

Ultimately, this was a hell of a fun read that flew by despite its meaty 437 pages.

We get dozens of heroes and a whole slew of major X-villains like Magneto, Apocalypse, the Shadow King, Proteus and Fabian Cortez, just to name a few.

While a lot of the ’90s comics I go back to don’t have the same effect on me as they did when I was twelve, this is a solid f’n read. Seriously.

And what’s really surprising is that it has all these creatives working on it and it still turned out to be a really well managed and fully realized vision that brought an era to its end, quite epically, and generated real excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the era: X-Tinction Agenda, X-Cutioner’s Song, etc.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 10 – Spotlight on Jim Lee (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Jim Lee

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 51 Minutes

Review:

Well, I think I have found my favorite installment of The Comic Book Greats video series!

This episode was stupendous and Jim Lee was such a treat to see on this show. He has a great rapport with Stan Lee and he does an fantastic job of talking the audience through his method for creating comic book art that it works even for the most inexperienced layman.

Jim Lee, as I also said about Todd McFarlane, would be a great teacher. He is thorough in his lessons here and covers a lot of ground in a limited amount of time.

I also liked the interview segment of this episode a lot, as Jim Lee gets very personal about his life up to the point when this was recorded and it’s just an interesting story, as comic books weren’t where he originally intended to end up, career-wise.

Lee would go on to be one of the most prolific creators in the history of the comic book industry. Seeing him so young and this early in his career is a real treat for anyone that’s a fan of the medium.

Jim’s got a great personality, a real love for what he does and he still does all these years later. This is why I watch his YouTube channel where he live streams periodically and talks to his fans as he works on new art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Documentary Review: Jack Kirby: Story Teller (2007)

Release Date: June 5th, 2007
Cast: Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Tim Sale, Walter Simonson, Bruce Timm, Len Wein, Barry Windsor-Smith, Marv Wolfman

Marvel Studios, Sparkhill Production, 20th Century Fox, 64 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching through a lot of comic book documentaries on YouTube, lately. I came across this one that discusses the work and legacy of Jack Kirby.

I’m not sure if this was made as a special feature on a DVD, as it was produced by Marvel and 20th Century Fox. Maybe it was included on one of the Fantastic Four DVD releases a decade ago.

Anyway, if you appreciate and admire the great work of Jack Kirby, this is a really engaging documentary.

It is rather short, considering the long career of the man but it does cover a lot of ground. It also interviews a lot of other comic book greats that worked with Kirby or were inspired by him.

This feels like a quickly thrown together low budget fluff piece and if I’m being honest, Jack Kirby deserves a proper documentary or a real biopic. As much as this does talk about how much Jack did, I still don’t feel like it captures the real importance and scale of it all.

But this is still a worthwhile watch because there really isn’t anything better… yet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book industry biographical documentaries.