Book Review: ‘Cerebus the Barbarian Messiah: Essays On the Epic Graphic Satire of Dave Sim and Gerhard’ Edited by Eric Hoffman

As a Cerebus fan, this was a really cool book to pick up.

It’s a collection of essays regarding the character, his world, the various narratives, their evolution, as well as the life and beliefs of writer Dave Sim.

If you like Cerebus, this adds so much context to the stories and the series’ overall progression and multiple transformations that you should probably give it a read.

It’s well organized and certainly well thought out and researched. There wasn’t a dull essay in the lot and while some of them were quite long, they all kept my attention.

I still haven’t read the later, more controversial, stories in the 300 issue run of Cerebus but this kind of prepared me for the tonal and stylistic shifts that are going to happen.

I can’t say that I agree with Sim on everything but having gotten through the first two big phonebooks of material, this book made me excited to continue on.

Cerebus is an interesting and unique comic that changed the self-publishing game for the better. This book just enhances the aura around the series and makes you appreciate the years upon years that Dave Sim and Gerhard put into this world.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the epic 300 issue Cerebus comic book series.

Video Game Review: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (PlayStation 4)

I enjoyed the first game in this series, so I figured I’d jump on this one, especially since I found it for twelve bucks.

It adds a lot of new things to the gameplay and gives you about half a dozen maps, instead of a measly two like the first game. So it gets some points for that.

However, this just gets to be really repetitive and I didn’t care about the story on the same level that I cared about it in the first chapter.

To be frank, this becomes kind of a dud after you’ve played it for awhile. I just got bored and about halfway through the game, I stopped playing it. I didn’t just quit like I would a bad game, I just didn’t have much urge to fire up the PS4 after awhile and once I got my hands on another game, this got stored away on the game shelf.

The graphics are solid and the gameplay mechanics are tight for the most part.

Although, flying the dragon was a bit clunky and took some getting used to. But that’s my only complaint regarding the game’s controls. But still, flying a dragon should be the greatest thing in the game and it’s far from that.

Maybe I’ll finish this on a rainy day but I’m in no rush.

It was a decent continuation with great care given to the mechanics and gameplay additions but it’s like they left no creativity for the story. It’s only fun to a point and then you’d rather just leave the house and get an ice cream sandwich.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the game before it: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Comic Review: Camelot 3000

Published: December,1982 – April, 1985
Written by: Mike W. Barr
Art by: Brian Bolland, Bruce Patterson, Terry Austin, Tatjana Wood

DC Comics, 320 Pages

Review:

I used to see Camelot 3000 in the back issue bins all the time when I started out collecting comics. I was a dummy that only bought superhero comics and toyline tie-in stuff, so I never gave it a chance.

However, over the years, I’ve heard great things about it and I’ve since gone out and collected all twelve issues of this DC Comics maxiseries.

Having now read it, I thought that all the hype was pretty justified. It was an energetic and exciting read. I crushed the whole thing out in a cross country flight and it made the time pass with ease, even if my seat was smaller than a can of corn.

Mike Barr’s story was stupendous with lots of layers, superb character development and also, one of the most original takes I’ve ever seen on the King Arthur legend.

Furthermore, the whole comic is visually stunning thanks to the fantastic art of Brian Bolland, who is a legend in my book.

Also, it touches on some social issues a few decades before those issues started to be addressed in mainstream entertainment. It’s certainly a comic book ahead of its time and it presented these things with care and respect.

I love that this tapped into great fantasy storytelling, mixed it up with solid science fiction and ultimately gave us something that truly feels epic. And I’m not one to throw the word “epic” around, as it is used too often like “awesome” and has lost its intended meaning.

Camelot 3000 is most definitely a classic in the comic book medium and one of the best series to come out of the outstanding ’80s.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: ’70s and ’80s fantasy comics, as well as other DC maxiseries from the era like Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

Comic Review: Cerebus, Book 2: High Society (Issues #26-51)

Published: May, 1981 – May, 1983
Written by: Dave Sim
Art by: Dave Sim

Aardvark-Vanaheim, 532 Pages

Review:

The High Society story arc actually ends at issue 50 but I tacked 51 onto this, as it serves as a one-issue bridge between High Society and the first part of Church & State. And it felt more natural to tack it into this big string of issues, as opposed to reading it at the front of Church & State.

Having just come off of reading the first twenty-five issues of Cerebus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from High Society. I’ve read a few issues from this large arc in the past but never have I read it in its entirety or in order, for that matter.

This really takes Cerebus to the next level and I understand that Dave Sim probably grew tired of the series just being a parody of ’70s sword and sorcery comics, as well as Howard the Duck, in some regard, but I personally loved those earlier issues.

But this is more mature, looks at life a bit deeper and Sim starts to ask bigger questions and reveal deeper things about himself.

High Society steps out of the formula of not having a formula. It fine tunes things and thus, gives us a more interesting, more cohesive and more meaningful tale to digest.

I really dug this story, its tone and I’ve got to say, I don’t really disagree with Sim’s commentary on politics and high society. This is a good critique on that stuff and even though it’s done with caricatures and in a somewhat fantastical way, it’s all very real.

The high points of the book for me channel back to the earlier stories though. My favorite bits are where Jaka returns and Cerebus is faced with his love for her while trying to maintain the status he’s achieved since they were last together. Has he changed for the better? Has he changed for the worse? How can his life be different but his love for her is still the same? Has his relationship with Astoria created a love triangle? How does Astoria really see Cerebus? And why the hell can’t Cerebus be nicer to the Elf?

High Society still delves into parody though. The Roach is used pretty heavily in this and we even get to see him take on a new form that is a parody of Marvel Comics’ Moon Knight.

This was a fine followup to Sim’s early Cerebus work and frankly, it’s made me excited to get into the next big epic, Church & State. Plus, Sim’s art really is more detailed and alluring here. This is a fantastic comic to look at and drink in. High Society is a great example of how powerful just black, white and grey can be in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Cerebus story arcs, especially the earlier stuff.

Film Review: Dragonslayer (1981)

Release Date: June 26th, 1981
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
Written by: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins
Music by: Alex North
Cast: Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam, Peter Eyre, Sydney Bromley, Chloe Salaman, Ian McDiarmid

Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Productions, 109 Minutes

Review:

“[to Galen] It’s a shield. I made it. Might keep the fire off of you, might not. You know, you’re an idiot. You’re going to die tonight. You’ll be ripped, limb from limb. This is the last time I’ll ever speak to you!” – Valerian

I never saw DragonSlayer, which is kind of odd, as it is in a genre I watched a lot of as a kid. I think that I saw trailers for it but it never excited me enough to rent it from the video store.

I wanted to check it out now because I’ve been watching a ton of sword and sorcery and fantasy films from this era. Overall, this wasn’t a disappointment but for the most part, it was pretty drab and uneventful.

But on the flip side of that, I was pretty impressed with the special effects, especially for 1981.

All the dragon stuff comes off remarkably well for the time. I thought the final battle was really entertaining, even if it was pretty hokey and had some noticeable flaws seeing this almost 40 years later in HD. But they’re the sort of minute visual flaws that would’ve been hidden by the technology of the time and I can’t really come down on the film for that. But I find it to be worth mentioning, as this is one of many films that has had its magic ruined or exposed by finding itself remastered in high definition for modern eyes.

The scenes that employ large dragon props and animatronics all work really well though, even today. The scene where the dragon is stalking the virgin in his lair towards the beginning of the film is still pretty chilling and effective.

I also liked Peter MacNicol in this. He was charming and it was fun seeing him much younger than the role I most associated him with, which is Dr. Janosz Poha from Ghostbusters II. Also, the Emperor himself, Ian McDiarmid, shows up in this. And here, he’s actually using the light side of the Force.

DragonSlayer is fun in parts and it was imaginative and the effects were superbly executed. However, it’s slow moving with lots of unnecessary banter and a plot that is too simplistic to be stretched into a 109 minute motion picture.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy and sword and sorcery films of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Film Review: Conquest (1983)

Also known as: Mace the Outcast (working title), El Bárbaro (Mexico)
Release Date: June 2nd, 1983 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Gino Capone, Carlos Vasallo, Jose Antonio de la Loma Giovanni Di Clemente
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Jorge Rivero, Andrea Occhipinti, Conrado San Martin, Sabrina Siani

Clemi Cinematografica, Clesi Cinematografica, Conquest Productions, 88 Minutes

Review:

“When a man meets a man, you never know which one will die. But when an animal meets a man, it’s always the animal that dies. I’m on the animals’ side.” – Mace, “Isn’t this an animal you’re eating?” – Ilias, “[shrugs] I didn’t kill him.” – Mace, “That’s a pretty strange law.” – Ilias, “Not when you’re hungry.” – Mace

By the time 1983 rolled around, everyone was making sword and sorcery movies, especially the Europeans, who just wanted to make their own version of Conan the Barbarian. Since most of these movies were made in Italy and Spain, it seems natural that Lucio Fulci, mostly known for his horror pictures, would direct his own.

What’s interesting about Fulci doing one of these movies is that he got to tap into his horror skills, adding in some interesting monsters and a darker tone to this sword and sorcery tale.

For the time and the budget, the special effects are pretty decent. The evil sorceress’ henchmen are basically  barbarian werewolves, which was a neat idea. Granted, they look like the lovechild of Joe Dante’s werewolf from The Howling and Chewbacca but still, werewolf barbarians is a cool enough concept to carry its own movie.

On the downside, however, this is a very cheap film and it looks it. I like the practical effects but that’s something I personally have an appreciation for and if you share that sentiment, the hokiness of the production probably won’t bother you. But for most people, this picture won’t cut the mustard. It also doesn’t help that it’s dark, dreary and always looks foggy or as if there is a haze over the camera lens.

That being said, I think the visuals of this film will turn most people away, as it’s not pretty to look at, especially when compared to bigger budget sword and sorcery pictures from the same era, mainly the Schwarzenegger Conan films, Red Sonja and the first Beastmaster.

I still like the movie though, but I have an affinity for these sorts of things. Plus, the one dude shoots light arrows, which is neat and reminds me of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which is odd because this movie and that TV show came out in the same year.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Lucio Fulci movies, as well as other European sword and sorcery pictures from the early ’80s.

Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection II: The Heart of Yag-Kosha

Published: April 16th, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, Timothy Truman
Art by: Cary Nord, Greg Ruth, Timothy Truman, Eric Powell, Mike Mignola
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 504 Pages

Review:

Since I really dug the hell out of the first volume of the Kurt Busiek run on Conan, I wasted no time jumping into the second Epic Collection.

This carries on with the same quality in writing and art as the previous massive collection and was also a really awesome read.

I ended up liking the first one just a bit more because it seemed to have more action and longer, deeper stories but there isn’t much to complain about with this one. There seemed to be more dialogue and a lot of new characters added into the series but it still captured the right tone and spirit.

This volume also adapts some of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories. It was really cool reading the comic book version of The Tower of the Elephant for the first time, as I always enjoyed that story in its original medium.

Mike Mignola also did some of the covers and wrote some of the stuff in this collection. I really liked seeing Conan in Mignola’s artistic style.

Ultimately, this was another solid outing and something that I’m sure I’ll go back to and read again in the future.

This was over 500 pages in length but I feel like I ripped through it in no time, as it was hard to put down.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.