Comic Review: The Tomb of Dracula – The Complete Collection, Vol. 2

Published: October 3rd, 2018
Written by: Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, Gary Friedrich, Tony Isabella, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman
Art by: Gene Colan, Ross Andru, John Buscema, Dick Giordano, Don Heck, Mike Ploog, Gil Kane (cover)
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Marvel Comics, 512 Pages

Review:

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot of the ’70s Marvel Comics stuff. I dabbled in some of these stories when I was a kid but they were before my time and weren’t as easy to get when I really started collecting comics circa 1990. Plus, my attention, at that time, was focused on superhero stuff, as well as G.I. Joe.

I enjoyed the first volume in this massive collections of The Tomb of Dracula, so naturally I wanted to check out this one too. In the end, I liked this one even more. I think a lot of that has to do with this taking place more in the modern world, which allowed Marvel’s incarnation of Dracula to interact with some of Marvel’s famous superheroes.

In this collection we get to see Dracula meet Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night and Marvel’s version of Frankenstein’s Monster. We also get a small cameo by the Human Torch, as well as the debut of Dracula’s daughter, Lilith. This even had a swashbuckling tale in it.

Now this had a ton of different writers and artists, as it bounces around to different titles that featured Dracula, at the time. Despite this, the book feels consistent, which is a testament to how great Marvel’s editorial was in the ’70s. As far as that company has fallen in recent years, they wouldn’t be able to pull this feat off in 2020.

Most of the stories here were good, it was an energetic read with great art by several legends and it is a fantastic example of ’70s Marvel horror at its finest.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Marvel Dracula stories, as well as other ’70s Marvel horror titles.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 6: Heavy Is the Crown

Published: April 30th, 2014
Written by: Luke Lieberman
Art by: Milton Estevam
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 248 Pages

Review:

This is it! The grand finale of the Queen Sonja series and also, the beefiest volume of the lot.

This probably should have been broken out into two volumes though, as it covers two different main story arcs.

However, out of the volumes written by Luke Lieberman in the Queen Sonja series, this is my favorite of the lot. Although, I don’t like it as much as the volumes written by Arvid Nelson, because those seemed to have more energy and were just more exciting, overall. Granted, he had the benefit of using Thulsa Doom in one of his stories.

This brings everything to a close though, as events happen to bring peace throughout the larger empire. There are those that don’t want to unify under Sonja’s rule and that is the main focus of the larger story here. However, Sonja also steps down as Queen/Emperor after leaving multiple kingdoms in what she feels is, the right hands.

Ultimately, this brings the story full circle, ends on a fairly high note and also brings Sonja back to where she started, as a nomadic warrior fighting for truth, justice and the Hyrkanian way.

The Queen Sonja series was pretty enjoyable from start to finish, as even the lowest points were still engaging and helped propel the story forward. I feel as if it may have been cut short due to Dynamite feeling a need to do a soft reboot once they brought in Gail Simone to write the character, which immediately followed this series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Video Game Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)

I’ve wanted to play this for awhile but I put it off for so long. After seeing the television show, however, I was inspired to finally play the most recent game in the franchise. I was also told by several people to just play this, as I didn’t need the previous two games for context due to this game pretty much filling you in on everything you need to know.

Even though this was the third game, it was the first one released for consoles. That’s another reason why I played it. Also, it was on sale on the PlayStation Store just after the TV show proved to be a massive hit.

While I’ve heard people debate for years as to which is better, this or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there are some stark differences between the games despite many similarities.

To start, this is much more character and story driven. That works for it in that regard but I kind of like the anonymity and mystery of your Skyrim character and also the customization options the game gives you. But I don’t want to write up a comparison, I’ll just say that I still prefer Skyrim but this is a very worthy game in the action fantasy genre.

The graphics are incredible, there doesn’t seem to be any major glitches and it runs and plays really smoothly with mostly great mechanics. Although, I think the horse riding is a bit wonky and I mostly preferred to run around on foot. It was also easier to fight random things in the wild when you aren’t on horseback.

I thought the story started strong but about two-thirds of the way through the main quest, I was growing tired of it and I dipped out of it to catch up on side quests. Now while a lot of these are fun, some of them get to be repetitive after awhile. In fact, I mostly enjoyed hunting down and killing beasts. The rest of the missions felt more like busy work or wastes of time. And then there are just so many side quests. Every time I cracked out a half dozen, I’d have triggered more new ones than ones I’d completed.

Still, this is a great game. I’m mostly done with it but I’ve put in so many hours that I started to get burnt out. I know that some people want the games that they love to go on forever but this feels like it is overloaded, which isn’t a criticism I’ve ever had for an epic RPG.

My only other negative is that there isn’t enough diversity in the environments. One thing I loved about Skyrim and even Conan: Exiles was that different parts of the map were completely different biomes. With The Witcher 3, most of it all looks the same.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other epic fantasy action games of the modern era: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls: Online, Conan: Exiles, etc.

 

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 5: Ascendancy

Published: April 10th, 2013
Written by: Luke Lieberman
Art by: Fritz Casas
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 139 Pages

Review:

After coming off of the really satisfying previous volume, this one is a bit of a step down. But, as I’ve said in my reviews of the previous installments of Queen Sonja, the creative team keeps changing from book-to-book and that’s usually not a good way to maintain quality, plot coherence and momentum.

Luke Lieberman returns to write this one and I feel like he just steps in when another writer couldn’t be locked down and the publisher didn’t want to go on hiatus.

Overall, I’ve liked this series and its highpoints have been really good. But it is very topsy turvy and incredibly inconsistent. While Lieberman understands the character, as his family owns the trademark, his writing style tends to move slower. While that’s fine, the installments of Queen Sonja that he didn’t write, move at a brisker pace.

I did like this story but it lacked the feeling of scale that the previous story did, which featured Thulsa Doom and a supernatural beast that was posing as the god Set.

This story involves throne politics, which is the focal point of most of this series. It shows Sonja deal with new challenges and trying to balance them with those who want to usurp her. By this point, however, it’s getting somewhat repetitive.

There is only one volume left in the Queen Sonja series, so I am looking forward to reading it. Plus, it’s the beefiest book of the lot.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Film Review: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Release Date: August 11th, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Leo Howard, Bob Sapp, Ron Perlman, Nathan Jones, Morgan Freeman (narrator)

Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Cinema Vehicle Services, 113 Minutes

Review:

“I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.” – Conan

I put off watching this for a really long time. But finally, after nine years of ignoring this movie, I said, “fuck it!” and fired it up because it was free on Prime Video and because I’m a hardcore fan of the Conan franchise. Also, I believe that this is the only film based off of Robert E. Howard’s literary work that I hadn’t seen.

It’s actually not as bad as people led me to believe but it is far from a good movie and it’s honestly, really fucking boring.

Jason Momoa was a decent choice for the role of Conan but I feel like he was chosen a few years too early, as he hadn’t reached the level of fame that he has now and because he hadn’t developed more as an actor. He’s got some of his charm here but it is nowhere near as much as it was in 2018’s Aquaman.

That being said, if they made a Conan movie with him now, I’m pretty sure it would do really well. And hopefully, it would be better than this was, as it didn’t seem to understand what it needed to be to be successful.

The main issue with this movie is it doesn’t feel larger than life. It relies so heavily on CGI and green screen that it lacks the scope and scale the Schwarzenegger Conan movies had. Hell, 1985’s Red Sonja looks much more grandiose than this digital cartoon that looks more like a syndicated television show than a blockbuster movie featuring one of the biggest and greatest literary and comic book heroes of all-time.

Adding to that problem, Conan only really tangles with one monster in this movie. Now it doesn’t need to be overflowing with mythic beasts but it should take more cues from the books and comics, which saw Conan come face to face with big creatures a lot more often than he does in this picture.

Now I did like the casting of Rachel Nichols as the female love interest of Conan and I thought that Nichols and Momoa had pretty good chemistry but overall, they didn’t get much to work with between the mundane script and uninspiring story.

On the other side of the coin, the villains felt completely wasted.

I just wasn’t feeling Rose McGowan as the witch character and her performance here borderlined on cringe, which I found surprising as she is typically pretty good. But I think that the script failed her, as did the overall look of the character.

As far as Stephen Lang goes, how do you take the guy that stole the show and was really the only good thing about Avatar, and make him so lame and generic? Who the fuck was this guy? Why the fuck should I care? He just looks like a boss from the second level of a side scrolling beat’em up game from the ’80s.

I also thought the mask was stupid and they could’ve come up with a much better MacGuffin than that. I mean, there are countless books and comics to pull material from and you basically come up with Gran Naniwa’s crab mask? For those that don’t know, he was a goofy comedy wrestler from Japan in the ’90s: Google that fucker. Side note: he was actually really entertaining, unlike this movie.

Conan the Barbarian was hard to get through. I wanted to turn it off just about every three minutes. I had to watch it in spurts of twenty-to-thirty minutes because it was dreadfully slow, terribly lame and didn’t feel as badass as something with the Conan name on it should.

But I am definitely not against giving Jason Momoa another shot as the character. The studio just needs to get their shit together and give fans something worthy of the Conan brand.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern sword and sorcery films.

Comic Review: Conan: Serpent War

Published: April 22nd, 2020
Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Vanesa R. Del Rey, Scot Eaton, Ig Guara, Luca Pizzari, Stephen Segovia, Carlos Pacheco (cover)
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

Conan: Serpent War is kind of a neat idea.

It probably shouldn’t give top billing to Conan though, as it is a miniseries that features four heroes: the others being Dark Agnes, Solomon Kane and the one non-Robert E. Howard creation, Marvel’s Moon Knight.

The story is about this guy who has a psychic link to all four characters, regardless of their place in time and space. He brings them all together to help stop the two serpent-like gods who are going to war with one another.

My biggest complaint is that the story is pretty thin and wonky. And also, you never really get to see them all come together in any meaningful way.

Still, it’s a mostly entertaining story, that’s a pretty quick read.

I can’t say that it failed to meet expectations, because I didn’t have any. But it certainly doesn’t exceed them either. It mostly felt like a wasted opportunity to make an actual team that’s pretty interesting and could’ve made for some compelling developments.

However, with Conan’s involvement in the Savage Avengers title, this feels pretty weak by comparison.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Conan comics Marvel has done since getting the license back.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 2: God Killer

Published: March 1st, 2016
Written by: Tony Salvador Daniel
Art by: Tony Salvador Daniel

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Hands down, this is one of the coolest and most fun Deathstroke comics that I have ever read. Kudos to Tony S. Daniel for crafting something so damn energetic and enjoyable!

The story follows Deathstroke, as he is given a special weapon that has the power to essentially kill a god. It also controls its wielder and can change shape and morph into whatever is needed to win the battle. Slade is sent to Wonder Woman’s island and tricked into resurrecting an evil god that can bring destruction to the world.

Initially, he gets into fights with Wonder Woman and Superman, while using his new, magical weapon, but the three figure out that they had better work together if they’re going to bring this evil god down.

The story is very mythological based, which is kind of neat for a Deathstroke tale. It goes into new and exciting territory and also pairs him up with two iconic heroes that he seldomly interacts with. Within this story, I like the dynamic of the three working together and it feels like DC’s holy “Trinity” but with a darker, harder edge.

This is fantastical, action packed and badass.

On top of that, Daniel’s art is superb and I like his style quite a bit.

Man, this was just a blast and it completely caught me off guard.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.