Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 3: Sojourn

Published: January 13th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 142 Pages

Review:

Each chapter in this series seems to get better. While this one wasn’t a well defined story collected into one volume, it introduced a few different plots and characters that helped greatly with the world building. I felt like I needed that having never read anything featuring Drizzt Do’Urden until I picked up this comic series.

This pretty much has the same art as the previous books and while it’s okay, it still feels like a step down from the level I’ve seen Tim Seeley work at before. It’s a bit basic and the colors aren’t superb but it’s fine for an indie comic about dark elves and monsters. There’s certainly much worse out there, even from publisher IDW.

This chapter is fairly action packed but it’s more about developing the character of Drizzt, as well as those he comes in contact with. Many of the characters in this have their preconceived biases against dark elves but Drizzt proves that he doesn’t quite fit the stereotype.

All in all, this isn’t great or all that memorable, but the series does feel as if it is improving and it gives me some hope for the final three volumes now that I’ve reached the mid-point.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Book Review: ‘Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 2’ by Roy Thomas

The first volume of this book series covered issues 1-51 of the original Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian series. This volume covers issues 52-100.

These two books are written by Roy Thomas, the legend that wrote the Conan comics. These basically serve as his commentary on his stories.

In fact, when I go back and read old issues, I’ve picked these books up to read his insight before revisiting them.

Thomas has always been one of my favorite comic book writers and the Conan franchise has always been one of my favorite IPs. So having these books is pretty damn cool and I’m actually pretty thankful that something like this was written, compiled and published.

I already reviewed the first one and all the positives I had to say about it also ring true for this volume.

All in all, these are great, resourceful books that allow you to understand Thomas’ inspiration, his stories and these characters on a level much deeper than just the comic book page.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Roy Thomas’ historic run on Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 1

Published: August 9th, 2017
Written by: Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 197 Pages

Review:

In the spirit of all those Conan the Barbarian stories that sent the title character into modern times, as well as the awful but enjoyable film Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time, we have finally gotten a Red Sonja tale that sends her into the future a.k.a. our present.

Granted, this did come out in 2017. I just got around to reading it though, as I’ve read through a lot of other Red Sonja runs since I started this site and started reviewing comics.

I liked that this story really just got right into it and sent Sonja to present day New York City pretty much immediately while she was in a major scuffle with the evil sorcerer, Kulan Gath.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story, most of the characters Sonja meets and the art was pretty damn good.

My only real complaint was that there was a lot of things that were done for plot convenience. In comics, I can look away once or twice but there was just too many instances of it that I was like, “Oh, c’mon!”

Still, I liked this in spite of that. I just feel like this would have been a much better experience than it ended up being had those conveniences been less common and figured out within the story in a logical, believable way.

I still plan to read the other volumes in this series, anyway, as I love Red Sonja and this is a fun, fresh take on it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite, as well as the Conan comic book stories that put him in the modern world and the second Beastmaster movie that sent the hero to 1990s Los Angeles.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants’ by Rob MacGregor

This second book in the ’90s Indiana Jones novel series was better than its predecessor and Rob MacGregor seems to have found his groove a bit more with this one.

Like its predecessor, it feels more like an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as opposed to feeling like a story as epic as the film series. That’s fine but I hope these start to get more grandiose in scale.

This book also goes to less places than its predecessor, as the entire story is confined to the United Kingdom, only seeing Indy in London, rural Scotland and Stonehenge.

That being said, if you ever wondered what it’d be like for Indy to have a story take place around Stonehenge, well… this is it!

Even more than the first book, I liked the characters in this a lot. Especially, Indy’s returning college buddy, who got to be much more involved this time around. I also liked the love interest and her role in the bigger picture.

What I really liked, though, was the villain. He was a young, ambitious but evil member of British Parliament. He had his eyes set on unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge and Merlin in an effort to rule the world.

This story takes place after Indy has left college as a student and started his first teaching job in London. This aspect of the story was cool, as you get to see him uncomfortable and a bit out of his element, even though it’s well-known that he becomes a successful archeology professor. It’s these parts of the books I like though, as they serve to enrich the character and fill in some of the blanks from his long, adventurous life.

All in all, this was a lighthearted and exciting read.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Book Review: ‘The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Book 1)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the first of three collected editions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian tales. I’m reading these as they’re numerically numbered and I assume there’s at least a loose chronology to the placement of the stories over the three volumes.

This one features several of the famous Conan short stories that I’ve also read but about 40 percent of it was new to me.

Covering nearly 500 pages, this is packed full of a dozen or so stories, as well as alternate draft versions of many. The main part of the book has The Frost-Giant’s Daughter, The Tower of the Elephant, The Phoenix and the Sword and Queen of the Black Coast just to name a few.

Overall, this was a hell of a lot of fun to both revisit and discover stories I hadn’t yet read. Some of these were also stories I knew from the comics but hadn’t actually experienced the source material for myself.

All in all, a great, beefy book packed full of sword and sorcery adventure, heroism and monsters. What the hell isn’t there to love?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 2: Exile

Published: August 19th, 2015
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Tim Seeley, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 150 Pages

Review:

I thought that the first volume of this series was both fairly enjoyable but also pretty weak. This volume kicks things up a bit, as it moves on passed all the origin shit and gets Drizzt Do’Urden out into the world, where he has to survive without the help and protection of his own people, who are now hellbent on making him pay for his betrayal.

In this, Drizzt makes a friend and the two of them have to work together to survive the storm that’s coming. In the end, Drizzt has to basically fight a zombie version of his father, who trained him to be the warrior he is.

Beyond the story, the art is just okay.

I generally like Tim Seely’s work, as I loved the earliest Hack/Slash stuff a lot. However, when I see these Drizzt comics, it looks like he was either rushed by the publisher or he was stretched too thin over multiple projects and couldn’t give this series his full attention.

Overall, this is better than the previous installment but it’s also not living up to what I hoped this could be.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

TV Review: Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974–1975)

Original Run: September 13th, 1974 – March 28th, 1975
Created by: Jeff Rice
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Kolchak Papers by Jeffrey Grant Rice
Music by: various
Cast: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage, Ruth McDevitt 

Francy Productions Inc., Universal Television, ABC, 20 Episodes, 50-51 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve wanted to work my way through all the classic Kolchak material for quite some time. After reviewing the two television movies, I knew it was time to watch the television series, which only ran for a single season of twenty episodes.

Overall, I prefer the two films but the show is where the character and his world really come to life and start to develop its own mythos.

The show is a mixed bag of some great and some mediocre episodes. None of them are bad but some are a bit slow and felt like they were interesting concepts or ideas that didn’t live up to the level of the franchise at its best.

The episodes I dug most I truly loved, though.

Darren McGavin was born to play the role of Carl Kolchak and it’s hard to envision anyone else in the part, even though it was rebooted thirty or so years later with Stuart Townsend. I’ve never seen that version but I may track it down in order to review it. That show failed pretty quickly though and has less episodes than the original.

I think that the quality of the episodes being a bit shaky didn’t have so much to do with the monsters featured but had more to do with the creative teams that worked on them. Some stories felt rushed, some felt slow and the craftsmanship was sometimes lacking. For instance, in one episode the cinematography could look superb for 1970s television while in the following episode, it could look really pedestrian and half assed.

That’s not to say that the show didn’t have a consistent look and feel, it did. It’s just to say that it really stood out when a director would go the extra mile or when a writer took time crafting a solid, more fleshed out script. You could gauge which episodes were made with actual passion and love for the material.

Faults aside, I dig the hell out of this show and the two main characters within it. I love McGavin and Simon Oakland brought an extra level of gravitas. Plus, the two men have incredible chemistry.

While this is a franchise that seems almost forgotten in the early part of the 2020s, it is still historically significant. Without it, we probably wouldn’t have gotten other great, similar shows like The X-Files.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Kolchak movies before the show, as well as the reboot and The X-Files.

Comic Review: The Saga of Solomon Kane

Published: August 18th, 2009
Written by: Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, various
Art by: various
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, characters by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics (original printing), Dark Horse (reprinted), 416 Pages

Review:

Man, this was one hell of a buy! A great value in fact! I was surprised that I found one in pretty pristine condition on eBay for about twenty bucks.

This collection is pretty special, as it is magazine sized and all in black and white. It’s also over 400 glorious pages! It reprints all of the Solomon Kane magazine format stories from the original Marvel era when they had all the Robert E. Howard publishing rights from the ’70s into the early ’90s.

I’ve read probably half of these stories before, as I own a lot of the issues these tales appeared in but it’s been a really long time and about 50-60 percent of this was new to me.

It seems like this is mostly in chronological order and it allowed for it to read much better as a broader body of work, covering the large passage of time over Kane’s many adventures.

Being that this was made by Marvel, it features some great crossovers with the Marvel version of Dracula, as well as another Robert E. Howard character, Conan. There’s even a story in here that features Frankenstein’s castle.

A lot of the stories here are adapted from Howard’s literary Solomon Kane tales. Having recently read the definitive collection of the literary work, it was really cool seeing some of the same tales brought to life with great art.

All in all, this is now one of my favorite things in my graphic novel collection. It’s a beast of a collection but it’s also something I know I’ll go back to and revisit again and again for the rest of my life.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other comic stories that were featured within the pages of the original Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

Book Review: ‘Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi’ by Rob MacGregor

I have always wanted to own all the Indiana Jones books that Bantam put out in the ’90s. Well, now I do, so I figured I’d start with the first one.

This book takes place just after Indy leaves college. In fact, it starts in 1920, as he’s leaving college and then fast-forwards to 1922 when he’s living in Paris and furthering his education there. Pretty quickly, his attractive professor sweeps him away to Greece to assist on a major archaeological discovery.

Of course, things are not what they seem and his professor has her own agenda that Indy isn’t immediately privy to.

The book really encapsulates the spirit of the Indiana Jones franchise but this adventure does feel a bit small and confined, as it primarily settles in, in one location and doesn’t move away from there.

This actually reads more like an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles than it does one of the movies. That’s totally fine but I was hoping for something the scale of the films. Maybe the books will build towards that.

In the end, this was a fairly decent start to the series of twelve novels and I look forward to continuing on my quest of reading and reviewing them.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones novels from Bantam Books’ run in the ’90s.

Film Review: Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha’ Hood (2003)

Also known as: Leprechaun 6, Leprechaun 6: Back In Da Hood (working titles), Leprechaun 6: Back to Tha’ Hood (alternative title)
Release Date: December 30th, 2003
Directed by: Steven Ayromlooi
Written by: Steven Ayromlooi
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Michael Whittaker
Cast: Warwick Davis, Tangi Miller, Laz Alonso, Page Kennedy, Sherrie Jackson, Donzaleigh Abernathy, Keesha Sharp, Sticky Fingaz, Shiek Mahmud-Bey

Lions Gate Entertainment, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you presume to tell me right from wrong. You compromised all you believed in once you got the gold, just like all those before you. Your kind is weak, and will always give in to your selfish yearnings.” – Leprechaun

So I was not looking forward to watching this after reviewing the previous film in the original Leprechaun film series. However, I was pleasantly surprised and this somewhat redeemed the series and at least brought it back to the quality level of the first three movies.

That’s not necessarily high quality but they’re at least pretty palatable for horror fans that like the occasional laugh.

The five previous films were made by Trimark but this one was made by Lions Gate, who ended up absorbing Trimark after the atrocious fifth picture. With that, I feel like Lions Gate wanted to salvage this series and make a decent sequel.

I feel like they succeeded, even though this ended up being the last installment of the original string of films. They’d be rebooted later, twice, but no one cared either time because without Warwick Davis, you don’t have the Leprechaun.

Anyway, this film was actually funnier and the jokes mostly landed. Also, it felt a bit more grounded, as the Leprechaun can’t just summon any random spell for plot convenience, essentially being omnipotent.

It’s not specifically shown or stated that the Leprechaun’s magic has limitations in this film but he seems severely powered down and acts more like a supernaturally strong slasher when he kills. He almost feels like a miniature, festive Jason Voorhees with the ability to teleport.

Another thing Lions Gate did was that they updated the Leprechaun’s look. And they did a good job, as he looks a lot cooler, menacing and more serious in this installment.

Additionally, compared to the previous movie, the cast in this one was a lot more likable. I especially loved Page Kennedy in this, as he made me smile every damn time he was onscreen. He has tremendous charisma and even though he’s had a pretty good career since 2003, more people should hire him.

My only big gripe about the movie was the the Leprechaun’s death scene was heinously weak. Especially considering that this is his final sendoff.

Still, this fixed the damage created by the two previous chapters in Warwick Davis’ six-film Leprechaun run.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.