Comic Review: Age of Conan: Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast

Published: September 18th, 2019
Written by: Tini Howard
Art by: Kate Niemczyk, Sana Takeda (cover)
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

It’s actually been years since I’ve thought about Bêlit. However, I did remember her from the old Marvel Conan comics. She wasn’t as memorable to me as Red Sonja or Valeria but she did go on some grand adventures with Conan.

This series re-establishes her in the Marvel Conan mythos, which I guess is the regular Marvel universe now, considering Conan has now had multiple crossovers with other Marvel characters.

I’m assuming this series was made in order to set Bêlit up to re-enter Conan’s life. I’m also assuming that the same is true for Valeria as she was also given her own Age of Conan miniseries.

So since I’ve been enjoying the Conan comics since Marvel got the character back in January, seeing that universe expand is kind of cool.

That being said, this comic started out pretty strong but it kind of just limped along after the introduction to Bêlit.

The plot itself isn’t bad but the comic tries to cover a large portion of Bêlit’s life in just five issues.

What I had a problem with though was how certain things in the comic are prioritized. When something happens and you would traditionally expect a massive action scene, the shit is resolved almost instantly so that characters can go on and bicker with Bêlit while this self-proclaimed queen talks about how she’s the best at everything.

Not to be that guy but Bêlit is written like a disposable Mary Sue character. There are moments where her character starts to develop or we see her being challenged by something and it is just kind of brushed aside or dealt with like it wasn’t a big deal to begin with.

Every time something happened in the story that made me go, “Oh, okay… here we go!” I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me.

This was a pretty boring comic that gave glimmers of hope that it was going somewhere badass but it never did. And if I’m being honest, anything remotely associated with Conan should always be badass.

Additionally, the art was pretty weak and doesn’t live up to the caliber of art that should be associated with a Conan comic.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Age of Conan: Valeria and other recent Marvel Conan comics.

Video Game Review: The Goonies II (NES)

After recently playing through the first Goonies game for the original Nintendo, I wanted to revisit Goonies II, which I thought was the only Goonies game when I was a kid. I just assumed the title implied that the game was a direct sequel to the movie, since it had a different plot altogether.

This should have been a better game than its predecessor and it had a lot of new additions that certainly gave it more potential. However, it’s bogged down by some things that made me enjoy it less.

To start, the game is literally a f’n maze! While it’s easy to work through as you progress to new areas, it becomes a bit of a clusterfuck when you are forced to backtrack to previous locations to revisit certain rooms you couldn’t access until getting specific items later in the game. While this is something that is common in video games, they could’ve made it easier to return to previous areas instead of trying to remember your way back through the overly complex level design.

Also, the graphics seem like a step down. They aren’t too dissimilar from the previous Goonies game so maybe it is the weird color choices that bother me like Mikey having hot pink pants and hair.

Other than all that, this is still a fun game to play and there is a lot to explore.

I kind of wish that this would’ve spawned a video game series that still released stuff on later consoles because these games had the makings of a cool franchise that sadly, didn’t grow beyond this entry.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Goonies game for the NES.

Video Game Review: The Goonies (NES)

In the late ’80s, my friends and I used to play the original Nintendo game Goonies II. As far as I knew, it was the only game and it was titled that because it was supposed to serve as a sequel to the film.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out that there was actually a Goonies I that was released in Japan. And it is mostly tied to the plot of the movie, even though you have to rescue all the other Goonies from the Fratellis, as opposed to all the Goonies just having to evade them on their way to One Eyed Willie’s treasure.

This is a much shorter and straightforward video game than its sequel. You simply work your way through six different levels: one is the Fratellis’ restaurant, four are caves and the last level is One Eyed Willie’s ship. In each level, you look for keys and other items but your primary goal is to rescue whichever Goonie is being held captive there.

The level designs are pretty good, even if the game is a bit confusing and easy to get turned around in. It all sort of clicks after you’ve been playing it for a bit though. But each level is timed, so if you don’t hit all your objectives and exit the locked door, you die.

This is mostly a pretty fun game that doesn’t take much time to master or really, much time to beat. The timer, if you get yourself lost, is the only real enemy, as everything else in the game isn’t too hard to deal with.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Goonies II for the NES.

Film Review: Space Adventure Cobra (1982)

Also known as: Space Cobra (working title), Cobra (Norway, France, Finland)
Release Date: July 3rd, 1982 (Japan)
Directed by: Osamu Dezaki
Written by: Buichi Terasawa, Haruya Yamazaki
Based on: Cobra by Buichi Terasawa
Music by: Osamu Shoji

TMS Entertainment, Toho-Towa, 99 Minutes (original), 85 Minutes (video cut)

Review:

I never knew about Space Adventure Cobra or the Cobra character until fairly recently. It must have flown under the radar when I was a kid or it was on a secret adult shelf in the video store due to it having boobies and butts in it.

Delving deep into anime space operas and cyberpunk films that I’ve missed, I did find this pretty quickly down the rabbit hole and thankfully, it was free to stream with Prime.

Had I discovered this as a kid, I would have loved it. Not just because it’s pretty racy but because the main character is cool as hell, this universe is cool and I loved the hell out of the animation style.

Tonally, it reminds me of Arcadia of My Youth while also having an aesthetic that reminded me a lot of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s style in Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku and Ninja Scroll.

It’s part space opera, part swashbuckling and a whole lot of kickass with a character that feels like the best parts of Han Solo and James Bond merged into one being. Plus, he’s voiced by the same actor that played Roy Fokker in Robotech and the character also has a similar look. So that really tapped into my lifelong love of all things Robotech and Macross.

This was just a really cool find and it immediately became one of my favorite anime pictures from its era. Now knowing that there are manga, a television series, other films and OVAs, I want to check them all out. Hopefully, they aren’t too hard to find.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Space Cobra television series, Arcadia of My YouthGalaxy Express 999 and Venus Wars.

Film Review: The Goonies (1985)

Release Date: June 7th, 1985
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Mary Ellen Trainor

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket.” – Mikey

Cyndi Lauper sang that the “Goonies ‘r’ good enough” and frankly, I have to agree with her.

This is a perfect movie for kids… and adults, really. It’s fun, funny, full of adventure, danger, treasure, good feelings, friendship, imagination, wonderment and a bit of swashbuckling.

On top of that, every single person in the cast is absolutely perfect, top to bottom. This was just a special movie where everything seemed to go right, especially in regards to the actors chosen for each specific role.

On one side, you have the kids and their hulk-like ally Sloth. On the other side, you have the Fratelli crime family.

Every kid in this is great and they had spectacular chemistry. You believed that they were all friends and it was impossible not to root for them. With the Fratellis, you had another group that worked damn well together. Honestly, as a kid I kind of wanted a Fratelli spinoff movie. Sadly, Anne Ramsey died a few years after this but I’ve always wanted to see Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano come together as gangster brothers again.

Apart from the casting, you had a wonderful script penned by Chris Columbus from a story written by Steven Spielberg. With Richard Donner directing, it’s kind of hard to imagine this failing, even before seeing the picture.

It’s very rare that I come across someone that hasn’t seen the film. It’s reputation precedes it and for good reason. It has stood the test of time and it’s not something that loses steam the more you watch it. In fact, at least for me, it’s a film that I appreciate more with every viewing. It’s hard to peg as to why that is but man, it’s a film that just brings you to a special place; it’s magical and it is full of optimism when most entertainment, at least in modern times, is pretty nihilistic.

The Goonies gives one hope because it is exactly what entertainment needs to be, pleasant and enjoyable escapism that leaves you with a positive feeling despite whatever crap your day threw at you.

It’s perfectly paced, there isn’t a dull moment and every frame of the film… hell, every line spoken, has a purpose and has real meaning behind it.

The Goonies also benefits from its stupendous score by Dave Grusin, a guy who isn’t as well known as John Williams, James Horner or Alan Silvestri but was still able to create a theme and a score that was good enough to rival the best work of those three great film composers.

For what it is, The Goonies is absolutely perfect. If you don’t like it, you probably aren’t human or at least don’t have a heart.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The Monster Squad, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Explorers.

TV Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978-1979)

Original Run: March 14th, 1978 – February 13th, 1979
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Rintaro
Written by: Haruya Yamazaki, Shozo Uehara
Based on: Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Seiji Yokoyama

Toei Animation, 42 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is probably where I should have started with Space Pirate Captain Harlock but I actually started with the prequel film Arcadia of My Youth. So I guess it’s okay that I watched them in chronological order instead of release order but I do often times find it is best to experience things in the order that they came out in like the Star Wars films or The Chronicles of Narnia books.

Regardless, I loved Arcadia of My Youth and it made me want to delve right into the Harlock show, which I was able to, as it is available to stream for free on Tubi.

Now the animation in the show isn’t as fantastic as the prequel film but it is still fantastic for the late ’70s and it reminds me a lot of another Leiji Matsumoto creation, Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

However, unlike Yamato, this takes the space opera genre and adds in a little swashbuckling. In a lot of ways it is similar to Star Wars or at least the early films. It has space exploration, interesting worlds, an epic quest and the type of action you can only associate with proper sword fighting duels.

What I love most about the Harlock stuff I’ve now seen is the tone of it. It’s often times dark and bleak, giving the universe these characters live in the proper setting: the coldness and emptiness of space. Still, it is lighthearted and hopeful and it doesn’t dwell in darkness, in fact, it brings light to it.

In the end, this is just a damn cool anime television show with cool characters, a sweet spaceship and great character and vehicle design. I love Matsumoto’s ability to world build, especially in a visual and tonal sense.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

Comic Review: Fantastic Four – Masterworks, Vol. 1

Published: February 25th, 2009
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, various

Marvel Comics, 265 Pages

Review:

I’ve really wanted to go back and read the earliest collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. So since I noticed that a lot of the Marvel Masterworks stuff is free for Comixology Unlimited subscribers, I decided to start with the oldest comic, the Fantastic Four.

Man, this was a really cool comic to read. In the past, I had read the first Namor issue and the first appearance of Doctor Doom but reading these early stories, complete and in sequence was a real treat.

Marvel was very different in the very beginning. While the company had existed under different names before this, this was their first attempt at doing superheroes. And Stan Lee took the bull by the horns and just wrote the comic he wanted, thinking he was soon to be fired.

Luckily, this was a hit. Reading the first issue now, I can see why. I mean, there were superhero comics before Stan Lee wrote this but this was very different than what people were familiar with in the forms of Batman, Superman, Captain America and Wonder Woman.

This comic was about a team and not just a team, a team that is pretty much family. It also gave us characters with bizarre and refreshing powers. Sure, the Human Torch existed in another form in the 1940s but this team, as a complete unit, had a lot of unique tools.

These earliest issues are also interesting as you can see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby trying out things and modifying them as they go, as they hadn’t quite figured what this was. But as the series rolls on and as they released other superhero titles, things just came together like they never had with superhero comics before this.

It is these ten issues here that are the real genesis of what Marvel would become.

I love that this was way over the top and often times hokey. It showed two of the greatest creators in the history of the medium trying to develop a solid formula for visual storytelling. Plus, this has so much heart in it that it’s hard to not grin from ear to ear while reading it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel Masterworks collections.