Comic Review: Florida Man – The Graphic Novel

Published: May, 2021
Written by: Mike Baron
Art by: Todd Mulrooney, Elias Martins, Marcelo Salaza, Val Mayerik, Ichsan Ansori
Based on: Florida Man – The Novel by Mike Baron

Braly Image Group Studios, 64 Pages

Review:

I read Mike Baron’s Florida Man novel not too long ago and reviewed it. I enjoyed it and thought it did a good job of capturing the batshit insanity that my home state and its locals are known for.

The graphic novel covers part of the story and its pretty condensed but that works due to the difference between the two mediums.

I liked seeing these characters come to life in comic book form and the art was really damn good. I especially liked the colors.

Most importantly, this kept the spirit and vibe of the novel alive and it had a great balance of humor and action, as these characters continually tried to scheme their was to legendary greatness in the Sunshine State.

Sadly, there wasn’t a cameo by Ron DeSantis flying an Apache helicopter that dropped alligators on New Yorkers moving to my state but hey, this thing’s probably got a sequel coming and you can’t shoot your biggest load in the first story.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the novel it’s adapted from, as well as Mike Baron’s other comics and literary work.

Comic Review: Ravage – Kill All Men!!, Issue #1

Published: 2019
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Benjamin L. Henderson, Mike Baron
Art by: Jimbo Salgado, Bryan Arfel Magnaye, Eric Weathers

Cautionary Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Ravage – Kill All Men!! is one of the first comic book projects that I backed on Indiegogo, a few years ago. I was excited to get my hands on it, as I’m a fan of Chuck Dixon and Mike Baron’s work and because the art looked great from the sample pages I saw.

Unfortunately, there were problems with the physical copies I ordered and after a lot of back and forth with the publisher and emails about the book being on its way to me, I never actually got it. I did get a refund and a digital copy but I really wanted to own the physical copy and never got one in my hands.

I downloaded the digital file and had it on my computer for awhile before reading this. I realized that I hadn’t reviewed it, so I decided to give it a re-read to freshen my memory and give it a proper critique.

Overall, this was fun and Dixon’s writing reminded me of his G.I. Joe work, as he conveyed great camaraderie between the two main characters and also gave us a tale of high adventure in a beautiful and exotic setting. Plus, his ability to write action has always been top notch and this just has a good flow and a good balance between developing the characters and setting up the story.

This really is just a single issue, though, so it ends very abruptly without any real conclusion. I’m not sure how many issues this was going to stretch over but based off of everything at Cautionary Comics kind of falling apart, as several others didn’t get their comic as well, I’m not even sure if this is going to continue on or if this is it for the story.

If more came out, I wouldn’t back them based off of my experience with this campaign. While I did get a refund, I didn’t back it to keep my money; I backed it to support the campaign, the comic, the creators and this new company, who looked to be putting out some cool stuff.

I’d like to be able to finish the story and review it as a total body of work but the future of Ravage doesn’t look good. If I did get a future release, at this point, I’d rather just get the whole story in a larger trade paperback.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other adventure comics that emphasize sex appeal like Jungle Comics.

Book Review: ‘Florida Man’ by Mike Baron

Being that I am a true Florida Man and a fan of Mike Baron’s comic book work over the years, I wanted to give this a read. However, when it was first announced, I thought it was going to be a comic book and I think that version of this story is still forthcoming but what this is here is a novel.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the story, Baron’s humor comes through on every page and he does a pretty solid job of encapsulating the characteristics of good ol’ boys form the Sunshine State.

Honestly, Gary and his pals remind me of some of my uncles that were always in and out of my life, up to one scheme or another, as I grew up on the edge of the Everglades on both coasts of Florida.

There is a lot that happens in this book and it all happens at a pretty rapid pace. That being said, I thought that the general pacing was fine and there weren’t any dull moments but some things felt like they didn’t need to be wedged into the story.

For a comedic tale about the Florida Man, a lot of this feels ripped from the headlines but I don’t feel that every bonkers scenario was necessary. This is a pretty long book, as it comes in at 470 pages. But I’m also saying this as someone without a lot of free time on their hands and who has de-evolved into having the attention span of a chihuahua on speed. But that’s my personal problem and I blame the whiskey, beer, Colorado edibles and all the red meat.

I like good, quick reads. However, my personal preference might not be yours and you might want to delve into this for a longer period of time.

In the end, I still enjoyed it cover to cover. Florida Man is a pretty amusing tale that could honestly happen to just about any real Florida Man in my home state.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Mike Baron’s comic book work.

Comic Review: Godzilla vs. Barkley

Published: December, 1993
Written by: Mike Baron, Alan Smithee
Art by: Jeff Butler, Keith Aiken, James Sinclair, Dave Dorman (cover)
Based on: Godzilla by Toho Co. Ltd.

Dark Horse, 22 Pages

Review:

I have this weird obsession with collecting product tie-in comic books. This one is based off of the famous Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley Nike commercial.

Here we have a story that was penned by Alan Smithee, meaning that it was written by someone that didn’t want their real name on it. However, comic book great Mike Baron left his name in the credits, as he wrote the dialogue and did the fine tuning.

While this isn’t Baron’s best work, his humorous side comes out and it seems as if he enjoyed the project and made the best of it, giving us a pretty amusing tale with some charismatic characters, despite the ridiculous premise.

I thought that the art was also good. Charles Barkley’s likeness was captured well and the action panels of Barkley and Godzilla going head-to-head on the court were pretty dynamic and fun to look at.

The story is about a boy that’s given a special coin. The coin has magical properties that make Charles Barkley grow to kaiju size when he touches it. Frankly, this is all the plot that you really need because you don’t buy something like this for a compelling story, you just want to see these two behemoths throw down.

I’ve wanted this comic for awhile, so I’m glad that I finally got my hands on a copy. No buyer’s remorse here and I was pretty satisfied seeing my favorite monster go up against one of the greatest sports personalities of the last few decades.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other product tie-in comics, as well as all the other Godzilla comics put out by various publishers over the years.

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.

Comic Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Empire

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Mike Baron, Timothy Zahn (original story)
Art by: Fred Blanchard, Olivier Vatine, Mathieu Lauffray (covers)
Based on:  Star Wars by George Lucas

Dark Horse Books, 150 Pages

Review:

Heir to the Empire is the first story in what has come to be known as The Thrawn Trilogy. It was also the first story to follow the events of Return of the Jedi. This was the first true sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy and it was so good that it really spawned what became the Expanded Universe or EU. However, it was originally released as a novel along with it’s two followups: Dark Force Rising and The Last Command. This comic book adaptation came a few years later and this is the first time I have read these stories in this medium.

I have to say, this is a great adaptation. Sure, it lacks the details of the novel but everything you need to know is really here and it represents Zahn’s story well.

It also has a great art style that has actually aged well but now has a more pulpy vibe to it than it would have had in 1995.

The story picks up five years after the destruction of the second Death Star over Endor and the death of Emperor Palpatine. We discover that the big victory wasn’t the end of the conflict, as there are segments of the galaxy still ruled by factions of the Galactic Empire. It doesn’t matter that the Rebel Alliance evolved into the New Republic, there is still work to be done and wars to fight.

This story is really important and significant because it was the debut of two major characters that would have a massive impact on Star Wars canon before Disney bought the franchise and threw the EU away. Those characters are Luke’s would be wife Mara Jade and the powerful Chiss and new leader of the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Luckily, Thrawn has been made a character in Disney’s new canon. However, Mara Jade still doesn’t exist in the Disney-verse.

Since this is the first part of a trilogy, there isn’t a real resolution. We do get an exciting battle at the end and the story itself is also engaging and does a good job of building tension between Luke and Mara as well as just about everyone and Thrawn.

This is just such a great Star Wars tale and certainly better than any of the films that Disney has put out. This is one example of why the EU will always be what I perceive as canon, as opposed to whatever the franchise’s new owner says.

And reading this now, makes me remember how I felt about Star Wars when there were just three movies and still not a lot of books and comics.

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 Trilogy, The Dark Empire Trilogy and the Rogue Squadron series.