Comic Review: X-Force – Epic Collection: Under the Gun

Published: March 22nd, 2017
Written by: Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Todd McFarlane, various
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Mike Mignola, Mark Pacella, Darick Robertson, Terry Shoemaker, various 

Marvel Comics, 463 Pages

Review:

Man, oh, f’n man… it’s been ages since I’ve read the Rob Liefeld era of X-Force. When I was a kid, I thought that this was the greatest new series Marvel had but I also think I was convincing myself of that, as Rob Liefeld was a hot commodity and I was also a fan of The New Mutants, which this was born out of. Besides, there was just so much hype at the time and I was at a pretty impressionable age.

Reading this now, I still found it really enjoyable and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

However, I also know that the story essentially came from Liefeld like bullet points and then it was handed to ace writer Fabian Nicieza, who actually wrote all the dialogue and massaged Liefeld’s notes into a usable script. After Liefeld left the series to co-found Image Comics, Nicieza stayed on as the writer and worked with other greats like Greg Capullo and Mike Mignola.

Now looking at the other side of this, creatively, the art isn’t great and even if I loved Liefeld when I was in 7th grade, I see the issues with his art much more clearly now. However, I don’t want to shit all over the guy like everyone else has done for years. I just notice the issues he has with anatomy and perspective.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the art did improve once Liefeld stepped away, which happened about two-thirds into this collection.

As far as the story goes, I really got reinvested in this and want to keep reading it. Possibly beyond where I stopped when I was buying this month-after-month, which was about four or five years into the series.

Additionally, this also reminded me of how much I liked some of the long forgotten characters that were so cool in 1991. Characters like G.W. Bridge, Garrison Kane and the other people associated with them and Cable’s past.

Rating: 7.5/10

Comic Review: Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure

Published: 1989
Written by: Walt Simonson
Art by: Mike Mignola

Marvel Comics, 49 Pages

Review:

I have never read this comic and for that, I feel ashamed.

I love Wolverine, especially his solo adventures of this era, and The Jungle Adventure just features him and Apocalypse duking it out in the Savage Land. Well, there is a big twist to that fight but yes, Apocalypse is in this.

Also, it’s really damn cool seeing a Wolverine comic drawn by Mike Mignola, which wouldn’t have meant as much to elementary school me in 1989. However, I like looking at Mignola’s earlier work and seeing how its grown and evolved since, as he has one of the most unique and patented art styles in comics.

This is also written by Walter Simonson, who did a lot of great comics that I’ve loved for decades. Many of which I’ve returned to and re-read multiple times.

Additionally, this was one of those Marvel graphic novel one-shots. Those always had a harder edge to them, as they did things that they couldn’t do in the regular monthly comics.

All that being said, this is a near perfect storm of a lot of great things coming together in a very satisfying way.

This is a quick but engaging read. However, I still took my time with it as I wanted to absorb Mignola’s art.

In the end, this is now one of my favorite Marvel one-shot releases during their ’80s and ’90s graphic novel run. 

Rating: 8.25/10

Comic Review: The Sword of Solomon Kane

Published: 1985-1986
Written by: Ralph Macchio
Art by: Bret Blevins, Steve Carr, Mike Mignola, John Bogdanove, John Ridgway
Based on: Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 157 Pages

Review:

The Sword of Solomon Kane was a six-issue miniseries that Marvel Comics released from 1985 to 1986. All of the stories were written by Ralph Macchio and adapted from the original Robert E. Howard stories.

Each of the issues had a different artist but they featured some of the best up and coming artists of that era, most notably Mike Mignola. One of the covers was also done by Bill Sienkiewicz.

I had a lot of fun reading these. I already knew the stories from their source material but it was really neat seeing them come to life in a different medium. Some of these stories are ones that I had hoped would’ve been adapted if there were ever more Solomon Kane films after that first, solid one with James Purefoy. But alas, it wasn’t a hit despite it being good.

While I wasn’t as blown away by this as I was the collection of black and white Solomon Kane comics that appeared in The Savage Sword of Conan magazine, this was still a hell of a fun read, had the right energy and felt pretty close to the source material.

Even though the art changes from issue-to-issue, I liked all of it and the general tone and visual aesthetic worked unlike a lot of modern comics that switch art styles frequently, which can be a bit jarring when reading a collection or larger story arc.

It would’ve been cool if this opened the door for a regular Solomon Kane series like other Robert E. Howard properties the first time they were at Marvel. Sadly, it didn’t but the stuff we did get between this series and the character’s stories from Savage Sword were all top quality.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Solomon Kane comics, as well as other comics adapted from the works of Robert E. Howard.

Comic Review: The Witcher, Vol. 1: House of Glass

Published: October 7th, 2014
Written by: Paul Tobin
Art by: Joe Querio, Mike Mignola (cover)
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski

Dark Horse Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Witcher comic book but I’m glad that this didn’t disappoint and was a pretty cool read.

While the cover was done by Mike Mignola, the interior art was not. However, it does have the same sort of vibes even if it is less stylized.

The story here was enjoyable and there’s a mystery to be solved. While things aren’t what they seem, the story isn’t predictable and the ending is pretty satisfactory.

Most of the story takes place in and around a haunted house but there are a few characters that come into this tale, as well as some neat monsters, many of which you’ll recognize from The Witcher games.

The story here was interesting and well written with fairly rich and well developed characters that you end up caring about.

All in all, if you are a fan of the franchise, this is definitely worth your time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Witcher comics.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment

Published: July 1st, 1989
Written by: Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Gene Colan, Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan

Marvel Comics, 154 Pages

Review:

I heard a rumor that the second Doctor Strange movie would possibly include the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Doctor Doom and that the story for the film would borrow heavily from this story, one I haven’t read since the early ’90s. After reading this, I don’t know how they’d pull it off but I would kind of like to see them attempt it.

Reason being, this is a stupendous comic book. In fact, it’s pretty fucking perfect.

This was originally released as one book in a series of Marvel Comics’ graphic novels. Back in the ’80s and through the early ’90s, Marvel had a graphic novel series that were printed in a larger format than regular comics and also had roughly twice the pages. They sold for more money than regular comic books but they rarely disappointed and usually the stories had a more adult edge to them, which was definitely cool for my pre-teen brain. They also had some of the best artwork of the era, as more time and care were put into these releases.

This story was one of my favorites out of the Marvel graphic novels I read and I’m glad to say that it didn’t just live up to my original opinion of it but it exceeded it. I think that’s because I was able to grasp this more as an adult and the emotional weight of the story really took hold of me.

It also doesn’t hurt that Doctor Doom is my favorite Marvel villain of all-time and I’ve always loved Doctor Strange and the mystic side of the Marvel mythos.

But this story is just so perfect. It brings these two characters together and in regards to Doctor Doom, it really displays his human side and how there might be a good man trapped underneath all that armor, emotional baggage, narcissism and borderline madness.

Doom and Strange unite and take on Mephisto in an effort to free the imprisoned soul of Doom’s mother. It reads like a dark fairy tale but it is packed with lots of action, great magical moments and all sorts of hellish beasts. It’s also all presented with exceptional art.

While this is longer than a regular sized comic book, it is still a quick, easy read. But it shows different sides of these characters and it made Doom a lot more interesting and complex, overall.

It’s also one of the best stories to feature Mephisto and what it is he can do when he’s not just sitting on a throne giving monologues and devising sinister plans.

I read the version that is currently up on Comixology and it also had a few other stories tacked on to it. It’s probably the coolest version of this to be released, if you don’t mind reading comics digitally.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s & ’80s comics featuring Doctor Doom or Doctor Strange.

Comic Review: Hellboy In Mexico

Published: April 26th, 2016
Written by: Mike Mignola
Art by: Mike Mignola, various

Dark Horse, 151 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trade paperback but I like Hellboy and I like stories that take place in Mexico. Add in some lucha libre elements and I’m definitely sold!

This is an anthology collection of short stories that cover a five month period where Hellboy was in Mexico.

Overall, each chapter is a pretty cool and amusing tale. We see our hero enter the lucha libre world, as well as battling all sorts of supernatural monsters.

You don’t really need to read this in any sort of order with the regular series of titles, as it sort of happens on the side. But for fans of the series, this is certainly worth a look, as it features that great Mike Mignola art and writing style and the setting makes this a pretty unique and refreshing read within the larger Hellboy tapestry.

This did fly by though, at just 151 pages, and it made me wish that there were more Hellboy in Mexico stories to tell or that some of these would’ve been expanded upon more.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Hellboy comics.

Comic Review: Joe Golem: Occult Detective, Vol. 2: The Outer Dark

Published: June 5th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola
Art by: Patric Reynolds, Dave Stewart

Dark Horse, 137 Pages

Review:

Overall, I’d have to say that this chapter in the Joe Golem series is pretty consistent with the first.

This comic book has several things I love in it and while I do enjoy it, I’m not digging it as much as I had hoped. Still, this is kind of cool and unlike just about everything else on the comic store shelf.

The story here follows a new case but looking at the bigger picture, it reveals more about the main character, as well as his dream-state flashbacks.

What’s strange, is that I find the flashbacks to be more interesting than the main stories in this series. I want to know what the visions means and how they are going to play out.

Sadly, the cases the detective works kind of get in the way of the parts of the story I enjoy more.

That being said, this is a cool, original idea and despite not being fully on board with it, it’s better written than most comics in the modern era.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Joe Golem comics, as well as Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series.

Comic Review: Joe Golem: Occult Detective, Vol. 1: The Rat Catcher and The Sunken Dead

Published: 2015-2016
Written by: Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola
Art by: Patric Reynolds

Dark Horse, 138 Pages

Review:

I’ve been wanting to read the Joe Golem comics for quite awhile. I figured, what better time to start than the month of Noirvember?

What really attracted me to these comics is that they have a really old school pulpy vibe to them that taps into two major pulp magazine genres: horror and crime.

Add in the fact that Mike Mignola was involved in the creative process and I was already sold.

Overall, this was pretty enjoyable and a good introduction to the character and the world he inhabits, which is a version of New York City that is halfway underwater. It’s also full of all types of occult threats, which see our title character, a private investigator, go toe-to-toe with some weird stuff.

I love that this has some Lovecraftian flavor to it in subject matter, visual style and narrative tone.

This chapter in the series sets everything up but it is still two tales that are both entertaining and engaging as standalone stories.

This didn’t set my tits on fire, if I’m being honest, but it did make me want to read beyond this first installment. So I’m hoping that as the Joe Golem series movie forward, it finds its footing a bit more and gives me a series I can happily return to every time a new story is published.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Joe Golem comics, as well as Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series.

Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection III: Return to Cimmeria

Published: October 2nd, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Timothy Truman
Art by: various
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 494 Pages

Review:

I’m glad that Marvel’s ego isn’t so big that they didn’t care about putting these collections out.

The stories collected in these Conan Epic Collections are the stories from the character’s era at Dark Horse. It’s exciting to read, at least for me, as I didn’t read the Dark Horse stuff until now. Mainly, due to not reading a lot of comics in the time that these were originally published.

These stories are mostly written by Kurt Busiek and this picks up from his run that was collected in the two previous volumes of the Conan Epic Collections.

This string of tales adapts some of Robert E. Howard’s classic literary stories but it also has some stories that happen before or after famous Conan tales.

For the most part, this is nearly as good as the previous volumes but there seems to be more of a mixture of art styles. While most of the art is good, some of it becomes visually jarring when going from chapter to chapter in that the styles differ greatly in parts. But this tends to happen with Epic Collections and other large collected works in the comic book medium.

Ultimately, this was still a good read and I’m most likely going to pick up the fourth volume when it is released in a few months.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.