Comic Review: The Monster of Frankenstein

Published: 1973-1974
Written by: Gary Friedrich, Bill Mantlo, Doug Moench
Art by: Bob Brown, John Buscema, Val Mayerik, Don Perlin, Mike Ploog
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Marvel Comics, 533 Pages

Review:

After reading the first big collection of Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, I wanted to check out some of their other horror titles that are based off of classic monsters. So naturally, their ’70s Frankenstein series seemed like the next one I should read.

From the start, this was a pretty cool series. It initially starts way back in the original era of Frankenstein’s Monster but it moves through time with each story arc, bringing the lovable brute into more modern times by the end.

My favorite arc within the series was near the middle and it featured the Monster meeting Dracula. Now I wasn’t 100 percent clear as to whether I was supposed to interpret the character as Marvel’s Dracula or not. I’d assume so, despite the ending making me question it. But the reason why I see him as the same character is because Frankenstein’s Monster also crosses over with the Marvel superhero universe, which links the characters and puts both of them in Marvel canon, officially.

The only real down side to this series was that it switched artists and writers a lot. Now most of the stories were good and the art was always cool but it felt like it lacked cohesion and fluidity because of this. Three writers and five main artists over just eighteen issues is a lot.

Still, if ’70s Marvel horror is your thing and you haven’t read these comics yet, you might want to pick them up at some point.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula series, as well as Werewolf by Night and The Living Mummy comics.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 2

Published: July 6th, 2011
Written by: Arvid Nelson
Art by: Jackson Herbert
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 140 Pages

Review:

This volume in the Queen Sonja saga was a huge step up from the first one.

By the start of this, she is already queen and she’s been ruling for a bit.

The bulk of the story revolves around a young man, very similar looking to Conan or Kalidor from the Red Sonja movie, but if he were younger and not as buff as Schwarzenegger. This character also has a little sister and a demon possessed sword that bites off the fingers of others who try to use it.

Sonja and the young man are at odds with each other, due to a history between their peoples. However, she soon takes the man and his sister in and shortly after, starts to fall for the guy romantically.

There is more to the man than what is apparent at first and everything is tied to his demon sword and to his backstory, which saw his mother sleep with a demon beast to help her family survive after the death of her husband.

The story is fast paced, well written with likable characters and a romantic angle that is believable for the Sonja character. She struggles with her emotions, a defeat and has to learn how to balance all that with being a monarch to a kingdom that has some major issues and cultural biases.

The art is pretty good and I found it to be better than the first volume as well.

In the end, I enjoyed this Red Sonja tale a lot and it makes me look forward to the third volume, which I should read and review in the near future.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Film Review: The Gate II: Trespassers (1990)

Also known as: Gate 2 (informal title)
Release Date: June, 1990 (Italy)
Directed by: Tibor Takacs
Written by: Michael Nankin
Music by: George Blondheim
Cast: Louis Tripp, Pamela Adlon (as Pamela Segall)

Vision PDG, Alliance Entertainment, Epic Productions, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Who needs chicks when we got demons?” – John

The Gate is a film that I have a lot of love for. I remembered not liking the sequel nearly as much but it had been so long since I’d seen it, that revisiting it was something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. It’s been a hard movie to track down though, at least in the streaming era.

In fact, I could never find it, even to rent. But within the last month it popped up for free on Amazon Video for people with a Prime membership. So I figured now was my chance to watch it because it could disappear tomorrow and never return.

So seeing it now, I like it better than I did when I saw it circa 1992. It’s not as good as the first movie and it lacks Stephen Dorff but it adds in a more comedic tone and is kind of fun, even if it feels slow at points.

Terry, the heavy metal wizard kid from the first movie is the only cast member to return. He wants to help his dad, who has fallen on very hard times, so he tries to reach out to the demons that plagued the first movie. Apparently, he didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

However, while Terry is calling upon the forces of Hell, his occult ceremony is interrupted by Pamela Adlon, who I love in everything, along with her doofus dickhead boyfriend and his lacky dipshit friend. All four teens get involved in the demonic shenanigans and we get a movie that is actually fairly original and not trying to rehash what we already saw in the first picture.

Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable, cheesy horror film. It has a few slow bits and they probably could’ve lobbed off ten minutes of the film and made it better, even thought it’d just be 80 minutes then.

I thought that the effects were mostly pretty good, especially since this didn’t have a hefty budget. The stop motion animation, while dated, still works really well. There are also some scenes where they had to composite things visually and they did a fantastic job. For example, the bits where the little demon in the cage is a guy in a rubber suit and he’s interacting with regular sized humans in the same shots came out impressively well.

An interesting thing about this film too, is that it was shot almost immediately after the original came out. It was slated for release in 1988 or 1989 but got delayed due to the studio folding. The film was sold off and eventually released in Europe in 1990, finally making it to the U.S. in early 1992, which is when I saw it.

The issues with its release probably hurt its performance and thus, what could have been a nice, low budget horror franchise, never got to live beyond its second chapter.

However, there have been talks of remakes for years. In fact, Alex Winter, at one point, was slated to direct a 3D remake. But that was nearly a decade ago and now Winter is working hard on resurrecting Bill & Ted for the big screen.

The Gate II is a sequel that didn’t need to be made but it does justify its existence by taking things in a fresh direction. A third film could’ve been cool and may have made more money as a straight-to-video release in the ’90s. But alas, The Gate‘s story ended here.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, The Gate, as well as Brainscan, Pet Sematary Two and other early ’90s teen demon movies.

Comic Review: Vampirella: NuBlood – One-Shot

Published: February 27th, 2013
Written by: Mark Rahner
Art by: Cezar Razek

Dynamite Entertainment, 37 Pages

Review:

This one-shot Vampirella comic basically takes the concept of the TV series True Blood: introducing the world of Vampi to synthetic blood that is commercially produced in an effort to get vampires to drink that instead of people.

Beyond that, this is a total True Blood parody, as within the first few moments, you see Vampirella working in a bar full of characters that closely resemble the bar and characters from the HBO show. And it all takes place in a rural Louisiana town that is overrun with supernatural weirdness.

So I guess this is an unofficial Vampirella and True Blood spinoff? Maybe the license for True Blood was too expensive but this comes so damn close to the source material I’m amazed that it didn’t run into some legal issues, parody or not.

There is a twist here though, as some of the characters you will recognize from that TV show end up being shitheads and not the versions of the characters you’re familiar with.

In any event, this could have been somewhat cool, as a longer story with more room to breathe but its all wedged into a single issue that then has to make room for an additional story that’s tacked on at the end. And that extra story was completely forgettable.

Overall, I felt like this was a waste of time and it just made me want to see what would actually happen if Dynamite actually were able to crossover Vampirella and True Blood. Maybe, eventually, that can and will happen, as she’s been crossed over with every other property under the sun.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella comics from the Dynamite era.

Book Review: ‘The Art of Vampirella – The Dynamite Years’ by Various

Like all the other large format art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment, this one if full of spectacular pieces from my favorite artistic medium: comic books.

Plus, it also features one of my favorite indie comics characters of all-time: Vampirella.

While the Warren Years Vampirella art book blew my f’n mind, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book to own for fans of the character and comic art. However, I’m a much bigger fan of the ’60s and ’70s classical art style of the other book. That era was full of work by great fantasy painters from Spain and Italy and it had a totally different vibe.

This collection features modern comic book art. I do like most of it but it doesn’t blow my socks off like the old school stuff.

If these are the sort of books you like to collect, this one shouldn’t disappoint. The art styles have changed over the decades since the original Vampirella stories but there are still great pieces to enjoy here.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment that features the history of the characters they publish.

Comic Review: The Tomb of Dracula – The Complete Collection, Vol. 1

Published: October 4th, 2017
Written by: Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin
Art by: Gene Colan, Alan Weiss, Gil Kane (cover)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics, 518 Pages

Review:

This was an interesting collection, as it not only featured the first few story arcs of The Tomb of Dracula comic book series but it also featured issues of the black and white comics magazine Dracula Lives!

Additionally, this features the first appearance and first story of Blade, the character made most famous by Wesley Snipes in the film trilogy that kicked off in 1998. It also has a story that pits Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane against Dracula, capitalizing off of the popular sword and sorcery trend in comics at the time.

Overall, this is a pretty neat comic and since I love the Dracula character in many of his incarnations, it’s cool seeing Marvel’s take on him. I also like that Dracula exists within Marvel canon, as well as Robert E. Howard’s canon, because it opens up a lot of possibilities. Sadly, I don’t think we ever got a Dracula and Godzilla crossover even though both of them existed at Marvel at the same time.

I absolutely love the art in this whether its the stuff from the Tomb stories or the Lives! ones. But I do kind of wish that they would’ve made this a beefier collection of just The Tomb of Dracula while also making a collection just for Dracula Lives!

Both series are great but they’re also very different in that the Dracula Lives! comics didn’t have to adhere to the Comics Code Authority and therefore, were a lot darker, more violent and much sexier.

Anyway, I enjoyed both halves of this huge collection and I look forward to delving into the second volume in the near future.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the later Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.

TV Review: The Witcher (2019- )

Original Run: December 20th, 2019 – current
Created by: Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski
Music by: Sonya Belousova, Giona Ostinelli
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Eamon Farren, Anya Chalotra, Joey Batey, MyAnna Buring, Royce Pierreson, Mimi Ndiweni, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Anna Shaffer, Mahesh Jadu

Netflix, Pioneer Stilking Films, Platige Image, Sean Daniel Company, One of Us, Cinesite, 8 Episodes (so far), 47-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As someone who has never read any of The Witcher books or played any of the video games, I went into this pretty blindly. But I really wanted a dark fantasy television show that worked for me, as I was never a fan of Game of Thrones but have always loved the genre apart from that show. Also, I like Henry Cavill and he seemed pretty excited for the world to finally see this.

I wasn’t too keen on the first episode, I thought it was alright and I might not have watched beyond that if the first season wasn’t a short run of just eight episodes. But I’m glad I did because about midway through, everything sort of clicked and I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

The show starts off with a weird pace, as different characters exist in different timelines. That’s not made clear until episode four or so but once you come to that realization, things flow better.

I thought that the world created for the show was pretty cool. The environment changes quite a bit as they travel and it doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in the same place.

The acting is superb, especially the scenes that feature Henry Cavill. However, Anya Chalotra steals just about every scene that she is in, which is impressive as she doesn’t have a whole lot of screen experience and frankly, I didn’t know who she was before this.

It’s hard to say how good this will be going forward but the first season does a good job of setting up the universe for these characters to play in. Plus, it’s made me want to try out one of the games.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy action television shows. Some would say Game of Thrones but I never liked that show and this is superior.