Comic Review: The New Mutants – Epic Collection: Renewal

Published: March 8th, 2017
Written by: Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo
Art by: John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Ron Frenz, Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Paul Smith

Marvel Comics, 520 Pages

Review:

As big of a fan of The New Mutants as I am, it’s been a damn long time since I’ve read the original graphic novel and their earliest stories. I got into the series around it’s midpoint and because of that, didn’t have all of the earliest issues until more recently. This collects that first year of the regular comic books series, as well as the characters’ appearances before it started.

This was neat to revisit and it brought me back to where I was in the late’80s, as a young kid just discovering comics. Back then, I really liked the youth superhero teams like Teen Titans and New Mutants.

This collection had a few stories I hadn’t read before. It kicked off with Karma’s debut story, which happened in Marvel Team-Up and featured Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

Additionally, I had never read the story that served as the debut of the Hellfire Club’s Selene and New Mutants member Magma.

Everything else here I’ve read but it was nice checking it out again and refreshing my memory, as my brain gets older and forgets more than it remembers now.

I loved the art style of this series, early on, and the Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo stories were solid.

Now I do have to say that this isn’t as good as the series would become. This is early on and it hasn’t found its grove, here.

However, this is the foundation of this group and they would eventually be faced with some really intense, life-altering storylines that would take this from just being a “Junior X-Men” comic to something unique and very much its own series, standing on its own strong legs.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 5: Streams of Silver

Published: October 12th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Val Semeiks, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 136 Pages

Review:

The fifth of the six Drizzt Do’Urden comic books stories picks up where the fourth one left off. If you read my review for that one, you already know how much I liked it, after starting to lose a bit of faith in this series after the first three entries.

I had high hopes for this series before starting due to how popular the character of Drizzt Do’Urden is and because I’ve heard great things about his literary stories.

While I didn’t like this one as much as the fourth, it’s still damn good and made me excited for the sixth and final installment.

In this one, we see Drizzt and his allies travel a great distance on a new adventure after having just survived a war in volume four. He has his enemies in hot pursuit and draws the ire of another baddie, who forces an alliance with the evil man trying to hunt Drizzt down.

So the villains form a group to rival Drizzt and his allies and the stakes and danger are pretty high. I like that this had an unstoppable golem in it, which had to be outsmarted and taken out of the picture because you can’t actually kill it.

This story ends badly and not every hero comes away unscathed. Drizzt loses allies and it sets up what should be a worthwhile and heavy-hitting finale.

Shit, I got this far and didn’t even talk about the heroes having to fight a big ass dragon that’s hoarding treasure.

There’s just a lot of cool stuff in this volume and there isn’t a single page that’s a bore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Comic Review: Marvel 1602

Published: February 10th, 2010
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: Andy Kubert, Scott McKowen (covers)

Marvel Comics, 246 Pages

Review:

This started out as a really cool story and I enjoyed it a lot from the get go. However, it did lose steam after a few issues and wrapped up pretty weakly. I also thought the big reveal/twist was fairly predictable and that this didn’t live up to the high hopes I had for it and the past work of Neil Gaiman.

Still, it piqued my interest enough to make me want to check out some of the other stories that take place in this odd, alternative version of the Marvel universe.

I liked the setting and I really liked most of the character designs. I did, however, feel like too many characters and subplots were forced in for the sake of trying to make this a big deal, big event. A lot of the extra fluff was unnecessary and narratively cumbersome.

I don’t know if that was an issue with Gaiman’s writing or Marvel instructing him to throw in every major old school character. I feel like all the extra characters could’ve been saved for their own interesting spinoffs of this.

Beyond the rickety story, I thought that Andy Kubert’s art was pretty damn impressive. Artistically, this is one of my favorite things that he’s done and the style he used here fit with the story really well.

Also, the covers by Scott McKowen are some of my favorite from this comic’s era. They’re actually framed poster worthy and while staring at them, I thought about seeing if I could buy some.

In the end, Marvel 1602 was a fun experiment and it captivated me early on. But it was too dragged out and overloaded and with that, became more of a chore to read in the back half.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel alternative timeline stories, as well as other comics written by Neil Gaiman.

Book Review: ‘The Conquering Sword of Conan (Book 3)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the third and final installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan collections in this series. It’s been a fun ride reading his Conan stuff in its entirety and this book didn’t disappoint.

After reading all three books, the quality between all these stories is pretty damn consistent and the ratings on these reviews only really reflect my own personal preferences of the stories collected in each one.

Out of the three, this one fits in the middle for me. It’s not full of just short stories and poems like the first volume or just collects a few novellas like the second, this book collects a handful of stories that fit somewhere in the middle.

The stories collected here are The Servants of Bit-Yakin, Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, The Man-Eaters of Zamboula and one of my favorites, Red Nails. There are some other miscellaneous things tacked on at the end.

With these stories you pretty much get what you’d expect. Conan kicks the crap out of monsters, goes on epic adventures, hunts treasure and wins over the women. Most of these, if not all of them, have been adapted into comic book stories. While I love both versions of these tales, there’s just something really cool reading them as Robert E. Howard originally wrote them.

Reading through all the Howard stories was a great experience and I’m glad that it’s a mountain I decided to finally climb in its entirety over the last few months.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Comic Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Forgotten Realms – The Legend of Drizzt, Vol. 4: The Crystal Shard

Published: June 29th, 2016
Written by: Andrew Dabb, R.A. Salvatore
Art by: Val Semeiks, Tyler Walpole
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR, characters by R.A. Salvatore

IDW Publishing, 135 Pages

Review:

Finally! This is the Drizzt Do’Urden comic book story I had been waiting for! This one pretty much lives up to the hype I’ve heard about this character for years and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The story is my favorite in the comic book adaptations of R.A. Salvatore’s iconic novels, as it is really the first truly epic tale featuring the dark elf.

The main story in this surrounds a war between a network or small villages and a growing, tyrannical empire led by a wizard with a powerful crystal shard that gives him immense power and control of a powerful demon.

We also get to see the expansion of this universe, as new core characters are introduced and the politics of this part of the world take shape.

This obviously features Drizzt Do’Urden but it also gives the reader their first experience with another great Forgotten Realms character, the warrior Wulfgar. This also serves as his origin story, which was surprisingly good. In fact, I’d call it damn good.

The art also looks much better in this volume and this started to feel more like the better Conan comics, tonally and quality-wise, than something that looked overly indie. And I don’t mean that as a knock against indie comics, as obviously I’ve loved and reviewed many, but the art of the first three volumes was below the standard I felt these stories deserved.

This series was losing steam with me but now I am reinvigorated and pretty excited to read the final two volumes following this one. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Dungeons & Dragons comics, specifically those with the Forgotten Realms banner and more specifically, those featuring Drizzt Do’Urden.

Film Review: Color Out of Space (2019)

Also known as: The Color from Out Off Space (working title)
Release Date: September 7th, 2019 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Based on: The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Colin Stetson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Elliot Knight, Madeleine Arthur, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tommy Chong

SpectreVision, ACE Pictures Entertainment, XYZ Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What touched this place cannot be quantified or understood by human science. It was just a color out of space. A messenger from realms whose existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the gulfs that it throws open before our frenzied eyes.” – Ward

Many films are called a “mindfuck” but that might actually be an overstatement when those films are compared to Color Out of Space, which takes the viewer on a maddening ride into a very unique and different Hell.

This movie is absolutely batshit crazy but I loved it. It’s a modernized adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story and it was directed by Richard Stanley, who was a pretty accomplished indie filmmaker before leaving his craft after the drama that was 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I’m really glad that Stanley came back to making cinematic art, though, and I’d have to say that this is his best movie. That’s kind of incredible when you think about it too, as it’s his first picture in a quarter of a century!

This movie also has both Nic Cage and Tommy Chong in it, which just adds to the bonkers story and the performances it needed to pull out of its cast. That being said, everyone in this is pretty damn good and I especially liked Cage and Chong, as well as the actress who plays the daughter and the actor who plays the scientist that’s trying to save the family from their bizarre and horrific fate.

It’s actually kind of hard to define the story or give it a proper synopsis and I also don’t want to spoil too much. However, in a nutshell, a strange meteor lands in a family’s front yard and with it, strange things start happening to the people and the Earth around the meteor site. Unfortunately for the family, they are a dozen or more miles away from anyone else.

This film is also visually stunning, almost unbelievably so. Richard Stanley brought this twisted, strange tale to cinematic life and everything he did from the lighting to the special effects that he managed, just turned out perfect. As unbelievable and surreal as the picture is, you’re never really pulled out of it and that’s a testament to Stanley’s skill and how well this was all executed.

Color Out of Space, at times, can feel like sensory overload but there’s still a vibrant beauty about it all.

Going into this, I was pretty sure I’d enjoy it, but it exceeded those expectations a bit and I found it hard to look away. Also, this film just flew by.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Richard Stanley’s earlier films, as well as Mandy with Nicolas Cage.

Book Review: ‘The Conan Companion: A Publishing History and Collector’s Guide’ by Richard Toogood

If you remember the review I did for the book Paperbacks From Hell, this book is a lot like that one. Although, it’s focused specifically on Conan titles.

What’s cool about this, though, is that it doesn’t just go through the history of the original Robert E. Howard stories and books but it also covers the books that were written by other authors later on. It also explores the comic side of things to.

This is part history book, part reference book and part art book. Well, mostly art book, as it showcases so many great covers from the nearly century long literary history of the Conan franchise.

I loved thumbing through this as I was reminded of many book covers I had long forgotten and even more that I had never seen. When I was a kid, it was seeing these book covers in the library that really drew me to the character, even more so than the original 1982 movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Granted, the comics pulled me in too but there was just something about the paintings that adorned the covers of the paperbacks I’d come across that really captivated my imagination.

This is a pretty cool book to own if you’re a fan of fantasy art or the Conan mythos. If you’re a big fan of both, even better. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Paperbacks From Hell, as well as other Robert E. Howard related non-fiction books, many of which I’ve reviewed here.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 4: The Blade of Skath

Published: June 12th, 2019
Written by: Erik Burnham, 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, 120 Pages

Review:

I’m not sure why this series is still carrying the Worlds Away banner, as the story of Sonja traveling to modern Earth has been over since the second volume of this series. But whatever, you do you, Dynamite and Amy Chu.

This final volume in the series started out really strong and it was becoming my favorite volume in the series. But then it ended in the middle of the fucking story! What the fuck?! Why?!

I would’ve been infinitely more pissed if I had bought the trade paperback of this and not just bought the digital version during a big Comixology sale.

This started with Sonja discovering that her sword belonged to a great warrior king that lost it after killing a deadly dragon. She then seeks out this hero to return the sword only to find out that he’s a drunk and pretty useless now. As the land she’s in prepares for a big battle, she has to try and get this former king to return to his former glory and win the day. He continues to fail, drinking himself into a coma by the start of the battle. Then I don’t really know what happened because the story got prematurely cut off!

I bought and read through four volumes of this series and this is how it goes out?

Thanks, Dynamite!

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 3: Hell Or Hyrkania

Published: September 26th, 2018
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, 144 Pages

Review:

The main selling point of this Red Sonja series was that it took my favorite female hero and put her in the modern world. I like fish out of water stories, especially those that are part of the sword & sorcery genre. However, this third volume in Worlds Away sends Sonja back to her world. So I guess she’s no longer “Worlds Away”.

Each volume in this series has fallen off in quality. Now that the whole premise for its very reason to exist is now wiped away, it just doesn’t work for me anymore.

Additionally, the more cartoony style of narrative especially doesn’t work.

Frankly, this was just pretty weak, overall, and a disappointment after how cool the first volume was. And even though the second volume wasn’t as good as the first, it at least kept Sonja in the modern world and sent her on a cross country road trip, which was kind of cool.

Here, she goes back home and helps the guy from the modern world get back. Also, she finally beats Kulan Gath in this version of the Red Sonja mythos and all seems resolved.

Granted, there’s a little seed planted at the end to extend this series into a fourth volume. It makes me wonder if this was intended to be an ongoing series and that by this point, it kind of faceplanted and got cancelled shortly thereafter, only giving us enough issues for a fourth and final volume.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Book Review: ‘The Bloody Crown of Conan (Book 2)’ by Robert E. Howard

The Bloody Crown of Conan is the second collected edition of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories. Unlike the first one, however, this isn’t chock full of short stories, poems and unfinished works. This one primarily features three full-length novellas: The People of the Black Circle, The Hour of the Dragon, and A Witch Shall Be Born. There’s some bonus stuff tacked on at the end but these three stories are the focus of this volume.

For the most part, I liked the stories included here. Before this, I had never read Robert E. Howard’s original versions of them but I do recall two of them from comic book adaptations. Knowing Roy Thomas and his run on Conan comics while writing them at Marvel, I’m sure he adapted all three of these at some point.

I enjoyed the first volume a bit more, as that collection offered up more variety and featured more well-known secondary characters in their original literary versions. Still, these bigger stories were fun, adventurous reads.

The benefit of these novella length tales is that Conan feels more realized and complete. His character is able to develop and breathe a little bit more. This is where you really feel like you get to know him beyond just his already well-known basic traits.

For fans of the character and Robert E. Howard’s work, this is definitely something that should be read. If you’re like me and haven’t experienced these stories in their original form, you need to.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.