Comic Review: He-Man: The Eternity War

Published: 2014-2016
Written by: Dan Abnett, Rob David
Art by: Pop Mhan
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel

DC Comics, 341 Pages

Review:

I didn’t have the highest of expectations going into this massive story arc but I’m really happy to say that this was one badass read! I loved it! It also really reinvigorated my love of everything revolving around Masters of the Universe, which was one of the first franchises I went crazy for as a kid.

However, other than that fairly satisfactory reboot animated series from 2002 or so, there hasn’t been much that has really re-energized my love of the property. As an adult, going back to the original cartoon was met with some disappointment, as it doesn’t play well for a forty-ish year-old man.

Maybe I should have expected more, as I typically enjoy Dan Abnett’s writing, specifically his recent run on Aquaman, which included a segment of the larger DC Comics universe that one could say is similar to the universe of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Abnett impressed me greatly, as he really taps into the core of the MOTU mythos and really gives all of these characters life and purpose. I guess this is set after a previous story in the DC Comics MOTU canon but I didn’t realize that until after I already started this. But I’d like to go back and give that stuff a read, even though the earlier stories weren’t penned by Abnett.

Anyway, Abnett took a well-crafted world and expanded on it, adding a lot of really good context to the larger scheme of things while also weaving together these characters in new and interesting ways. It was cool seeing how their relationships and rivalries have evolved since this was presented in its original animated form. I especially liked how She-Ra was tied to Skeletor and Hordak and then the swerves that the villains kept pulling on one another.

This was a masterfully articulated story of epic proportions without a dull moment and with each issue building off of the previous ones, while never losing steam or getting too far ahead of itself. It was grandiose in the great way that great comics can be but it didn’t just become pointless spectacle like so many big event comics come across in the modern era. Frankly, it is one of my favorite things that Dan Abnett has ever worked on.

Additionally, the art by Pop Mhan is absolutely spectacular and stunning. His character designs were perfect, as was his dynamic action, backgrounds and use of color. There isn’t a single bad thing that I can say about the art.

This is a near perfect storm where everything kind of went right. This is a great example of how to make a great comic book based off of an intellectual property that isn’t directly owned by the publisher. The writers of I.P.s like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars should really take note.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other modern Masters of the Universe comics.

Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Devourer of Souls

Published: January, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: Jim Owsley
Art by: Val Semeiks, Geof Isherwood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian and other characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 476 Pages

Review:

The title The Devourer of Souls isn’t the official title of this story. In fact, this is just what I call the larger story arc that takes place from Conan the Barbarian issues 190 through 200, plus the 12th annual.

This stretch of issues is actually several smaller stories but they all connect into a larger narrative around the antagonist referred to as “The Devourer of Souls” a.k.a. Wrarrl.

Outside of the classic Roy Thomas era, this is my favorite section of the original Marvel Conan the Barbarian run. It was a real high point and this is actually where I started reading the series when I was a kid.

What makes this so good and actually kind of epic is that it features the best villain in the Conan comics, as well as bringing in other Robert E. Howard characters: Red Sonja, Kull and Thulsa Doom.

Fans of the villainous Thulsa Doom might really dig this, as he actually works alongside Conan and the other heroes in their attempt to defeat the super powerful and immensely dangerous Wrarrl.

The plot by Jim Owsley is well constructed with great pacing and clever twists that prevent this great tale from being predictable or too derivative of previous Marvel sword and sorcery books.

I also love the art by Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood, which was a perfect marriage of pencils, inks and colors.

Reading this entire saga might seem like a big undertaking but it’s well worth the time invested into it. It’s hands down one of the best stretches on the premiere Conan title and one of the greatest fantasy stories in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and Red Sonja stories from their classic Marvel runs.

Comic Review: Spider-Man/Red Sonja

Published: 2007
Written by: Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi, Michael Turner (covers)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted to like this but it left me mostly, underwhelmed and baffled.

A long time ago, back when Marvel had the full-time publishing rights to Red Sonja, they did a one-off story about Mary Jane being possessed by Sonja and then had her team-up with her boyfriend, Spider-Man.

This longer, five-part miniseries is just a rehash of that story, as opposed to having Spidey actually team-up with the real Sonja in the flesh.

Still, it’s not the worst idea for bringing these characters together but doing it a second time seems lazy and uninspiring. But then, so does the rest of this story.

Red Sonja’s villain Kulan Gath shows up in modern day New York City to create havoc because that’s what villains do. He then uses Venom to try and take out Sonja and Spidey but ultimately, he steals the Venom symbiote for himself because this story is already cookie cutter as shit and aiming low seems to be what they were going for.

We also get suped up magical versions of well-known Spidey villains because why wouldn’t we?

I don’t know, more often than not, crossovers like this are really bad and half-assed schlock made to grab a buck from multiple fan bases. I guess this one didn’t strive to be anything different.

I mostly liked the interior art though and the covers were solid.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja crossovers or stories that put her in modern times.

Vids I Dig 352: The Attic Dwellers: ’80s Movies We Haven’t Watched Since Childhood

From The Attic Dwellers’ YouTube description: Tig & Eric binge a handful of their favorite 80s movies, most of which they haven’t seen since childhood. The Beastmaster, The Black Hole, The Last Starfighter, The Secret of NIMH, Time Bandits, Ice Pirates, and MORE!

Vids I Dig 345: Comic Tropes: John Buscema: More Than a Jack Kirby Clone

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: John Buscema is one of the all-time great illustrators in Marvel Comics’ history. He worked on over 200 issues of Conan comics and had celebrated runs on Avengers under three different writers: Roy Thomas, Steve Engleheart, and Roger Stern. Yet there are critics who will say he’s simply a clone of Jack Kirby. I believe this accusation is unfair and in this episode we look at Big John’s history and techniques. We pay close attention to the evolution of his artwork including key turning points in the Silver Age and on Silver Surfer #4.

Film Review: The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

Also known as: The Warrior (Germany)
Release Date: September 7th, 1984
Directed by: John C. Broderick
Written by: John C. Broderick
Based on: a story by John C. Broderick, William Stout
Music by: Louis Saunders
Cast: David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis, Harry Townes

Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, New Horizons Picture, 81 Minutes

Review:

Just when the world thought that there were enough re-imaginings (or ripoffs) of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, Roger Corman’s New Horizons made a sword and sorcery version of the tale.

Sadly, this is terribly boring and like many of David Carradine’s lower tier schlock flicks, he doesn’t even really seem to care too much about performance in this one.

While that is a knock against Carradine, the guy was truly great when he wanted to be. But maybe he’s one of those guys that needs good motivation from the director.

I don’t think that Carradine got that direction here and all of the other actors just sort of seem to be dialing it in. This feels more like a community theater rehearsal than a legit motion picture. That could be due to the inexperience of the director or simply because the script and story are uninspiring and overly derivative.

Additionally, the special effects are subpar, even for a foreign made Conan ripoff. Although, I did enjoy some of the sets. But to be fair about that, it really isn’t hard creating a sword and sorcery world. I have an ex-girlfriend whose house looks like half the sets in this film because she’s a witch and never cleans up after herself or her pets.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it is simply boring. Yes, I already pointed that out but it can’t be stated enough. I can look past some of the faults I already listed if I can be engaged or energized by something. This film, to its extreme detriment, just drained my battery dry.

If you are a big fan of cheap-o sword and sorcery flicks, you’ll probably still want to pass on this one. That is, unless you’re a David Carradine completist. If that’s the case, I don’t envy you, as he’s starred in some really dreadful shit.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other cheap sword and sorcery movies of the early ’80s.

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 (PlayStation 4)

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.