Comic Review: Strike!

Published: 1987-1988
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Tom Lyle, Romeo Tanghal, Don Gidley

Eclipse Comics, 203 Pages

Review:

My review here covers Strike! issues 1 through 6, as well as the Strike! Vs. Sgt. Strike one-shot that capped off the story.

I wanted to read this, as I used to see Eclipse titles a lot when I was really young but I never picked them up because I was a Marvel/DC snob. Also, I’m a fan of Chuck Dixon and this was something he wrote early in his career before achieving greatness with BatmanThe Punisher and his epic run on G.I. Joe, a few years ago.

This comic was entertaining, energetic and colorful. I really liked it and it made me disappointed in my nine year-old self for sleeping on the indies in an era where there were so many great titles to choose from outside of BatmanSpider-ManX-Men and G.I. Joe.

The story follows a teenager living in the harshest parts of Baltimore. One of his best friends has become a major drug dealer in the community and other gangs tend to be a problem for the law abiding good people of the neighborhood. When the teen finds a special belt, hidden in his attic, it gives him super strength and physical invulnerability. Initially, he uses his powers to steal money from his drug dealer friend in an effort to better his and his mother’s lives. But ultimately, he grows, matures and becomes a hero.

The comic is an attempt at creating a modern adaptation of a public domain comic book character from the 1940s: Sgt. Strike. This was given a youthful, urban twist and some of the dialogue is kind of cringy in 2019 with the over the top street slang and for some pages having “faggot” on them every other panel. However, this is also a product of its time and colorful, expletive language helped sell comics to kids that mostly just had family friendly superheroes to choose from.

Strike! is a fun, late ’80s, action, crime, sci-fi story. There are gangsters, aliens and flashback stories to World War II featuring the original Sgt. Strike. It’s maybe even a bit ahead of its time as it sort of fits with the ’90s “extreme” edgy boy shit that ran rampant through comics a few years later.

What this made me realize, is that I need to pickup and review more titles from Eclipse.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comics from Eclipse.

Comic Review: Kobra/Veszélyes őrjárat (Unofficial Hungarian Bootleg)

Published: 1986
Based on: Cobra by Sylvester Stallone and Paula Gosling, The Detached Mission by Yevgeni Mesyatsev

Filmsikerek Kepregeny Valtozata, 32 Pages

Review:

I don’t know Hungarian but I read through this as best as I could. I do have a Hungarian uncle and I asked if he’d translate this for me, as I thought scanning it in and redoing the lettering in English would allow me to share this with the English speaking world but my uncle when asked just said, “I’m not reading your damn comics for you!”

Anyway, this is an ashcan sized bootleg comic book from Hungary that is an unofficial adaptation of the Sylvester Stallone film Cobra. On the flip side there is a second comic book story, which is an adaptation of a Soviet military movie called The Detached Mission (in it’s English translation). I’ve never seen that film but I am a massive fan of Stallone’s Cobra, so I had to pick this up when I came across it, digging deep for obscure foreign movie adaptations in the comic book medium.

The Cobra half of this comic is 20 pages while The Detached Mission is just 12.

While this isn’t full of top notch art, the likenesses of the actors is pretty good. I mean, Stallone looks like Stallone. Brigitte Nielsen looks about the same and Brian Thompson, the Night Slasher, is pretty on point.

The only real problem with the comic is that it adapts the entire movie in 20 pages, which means that it speeds along pretty damn fast and this creates an issue with panel to panel transitions. The gist of what’s happening and the key points of the story are still conveyed but I can’t really speak on the writing, as I can’t interpret it.

This is high energy, full of testosterone and just a fun book to thumb through for hardcore fans of Cobra.

On the flip side, I gave The Detatched Mission story a read but without having seen the movie and due to the language barrier, I’m not sure how closely it is adapted. Still, it was also action packed and badass.

Tracking this down wasn’t easy and I did pay a fine penny for this but I have absolutely no buyer’s remorse. I love Cobra and Cannon Films, as well as obscure comics, so this is certainly my cup of tea.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other foreign comic book bootlegs of ’80s action movies.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Silent Option

Published: September 19th, 2018 – March 13th, 2019
Written by: Larry Hama, Ryan Ferrier
Art by: Netho Diaz, Kenneth Loh
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 151 Pages

Review:

This four-part miniseries is the latest G.I. Joe story from longtime G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama. It is also the first IDW G.I. Joe story that I’ve read in several months, as I was starting to get burnt out on the franchise due to how IDW has handled it since Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa left the series.

Larry Hama is still writing the regular ongoing series that started at Marvel in the early ’80s but it just doesn’t have the same magic it used to and so much has changed for the worse that I don’t much care for Hama’s ongoing continuity even though his work, decades ago, is what initially got me into buying comic books to begin with.

I wanted to check this out, though. The main reason is that I’ve been yearning for a good G.I. Joe story and this miniseries is centered around Helix, a modern character but one I came to love in the IDW rebooted continuity. I know, I know, these multiple continuities can get confusing but I believe that this is technically Helix’s first appearance in the original Hama continuity, so I wanted to see how it played out.

Overall, her story was good but this complete story arc was pretty mundane. I’m an old school fan, so the lack of Cobra in this story sucked, as did the lack of old school Joes. Sure, the story featured Firefly but the villain was generic and just had some red ninjas to do her bidding and on the Joe side we got Alpine and tiny cameos from Hawk, Cutter and Shipwreck but this was pretty much a new Joe team featuring characters that are poor recreations of iconic Joe members.

Hell, we get two new versions of Snake Eyes here but neither of them are even 5 percent as cool as the original. I don’t dig the girl Snake Eyes and it seems like a cheap attempt by IDW at trying to create their own X-23 type of character. For those that don’t know, X-23 was a female clone of Wolverine in Marvel Comics titles.

I thought the art was mostly good and this had a harder edge to it than most of Hama’s G.I. Joe stories, as it dealt with human sex trafficking, but it lacked in badass points when compared to the Dixon and Costa G.I. Joe stories from the IDW reboot continuity.

This wasn’t a complete waste of time but it didn’t do much to motivate me to give G.I. Joe a seventeenth chance.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: any of the Larry Hama G.I. Joe stuff at IDW.

TV Review: The Expanse (2015- )

Original Run: December 14th, 2015 – current
Created by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Expanse series of novel by James S. A. Corey
Music by: Clinton Shorter
Cast: Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shawn Doyle, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, Chad L. Coleman, Jared Harris, Francois Chau, Cara Gee, Elizabeth Mitchell

Penguin in a Parka, SeanDanielCo, Alcon Entertainment, Legendary Television Distribution, Syfy, Amazon, 36 Episodes (so far), 42-44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, this show really leaves you with a lot to unpack and process. And I mean that in the best way possible.

I had heard a lot of good things about The Expanse and it has been in my queue for a long time. But I figured the time to watch it was now, as it is getting ready to be resurrected by Amazon after it was recently cancelled by Syfy.

Having now seen this, I can’t imagine how it was cancelled other than the ratings just not being there. A show like this is expensive to produce but at the same time, it’s also one of those shows that’s special and you can see that it will find its audience. But maybe that just didn’t happen fast enough for Syfy, just as Halt and Catch Fire had its plug pulled by AMC after four seasons before it started to catch on through word of mouth and streaming services. Now I hear people talk about that show more than when it was on and that seems to be the same with The Expanse now that people feared its axing would be permanent.

I was immediately captivating by the opening sequence of the first episode of this show. It lured you in, was bizarre and it kicked off a big mystery. Little did I know that the mystery itself was just a tiny thread on a large tapestry that once pulled, would keep unraveling in surprising and shocking ways.

This show throws a lot of curveballs while hitting you in the feels and as turbulent as the narrative can be, it works and it keeps you hooked. In fact, this show starts out quite slow but it keeps adding new layers. This is meticulously crafted and I’m not sure if they knew what the long term plan was when they started writing this show or how closely it follows its source material but just after three seasons, this show has a mythos with a lot of depth and a richness that is missing in most television shows and films.

The show does an absolutely stellar job of developing its characters. Almost everyone is likable, even if everyone has very apparent flaws. Somehow, everyone is pretty relatable. Well, except for the human monsters that are doing terrible things behind the scenes.

Additionally, the show is superbly acted. Thomas Jane was a big factor in getting me to watch this in the first place but he’s just one of many talented people. The one person that just shines incredibly brightly is Shohreh Aghdashloo. I’ve always enjoyed her in other things but man, she was born to play the role of Chrisjen Avasarala. She is front and center of every scene she’s in and she makes every talented actor around her, just a bit better.

The world that this takes place in his a future where Earth has colonized Mars, the Moon, the asteroid belt and some of Jupiter’s moons. Things start with tensions at an all-time high and war could break out at any second. And while this features spaceships and space travel, I love that the weapons aren’t lasers and photon torpedoes but that the ships are decked out with Gatling guns, rail guns and nuclear warheads. It makes this world seem more plausible and closer to reality than stuff like Star TrekBattlestar Galactica or The Orville.

The Expanse may not grab your attention right away but it is worth sticking with into the second season where this show’s universe really starts to open up and expand in unforeseen ways.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s hard to say, really. There’s nothing like this show but the closest would probably be the modern reimagining of Battlestar Galactica.

Film Review: Captain America (1990)

Release Date: December 14th, 1990 (UK)
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Stephen Tolkin, Lawrence Block
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Barry Goldberg
Cast: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Francesca Neri, Michael Nouri

21st Century Film Corporation, Marvel Enterprises, Jadran Film, 97 Minutes, 124 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Assassination isn’t worth the trouble. It took me two years to find Sirhan. Three to find Oswald. The King job alone cost me over twenty million dollars. What do we get for our pains? Saints. Martyrs to the cause.” – Red Skull

Somehow this attracted the talents of Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty and Darren McGavin. Although, I’m not sure why. There couldn’t have been much money for them to make and had they read the script, they probably would have ran away. I mean, I can only assume that they didn’t read the script.

This movie has a terrible reputation and it is very apparent pretty much immediately, as to why. At the same time, it’s not that bad and is almost enjoyable for its cheesiness and its lighthearted, playful nature.

It is very clear that Marvel had no idea on how to make movies with their characters at this point in history. Granted, it’s not Marvel’s fault, as they didn’t have the control they have in modern times and they were just selling off the film rights to their key characters in an effort to stay financially afloat. But this was produced by one half of the duo behind Cannon Films and yet it didn’t even come close to matching their action pictures in quality, gravitas or fun.

Matt Salinger looked the part for Captain America but he wasn’t qualified for the role. Really, no one in the cast was qualified to do anything other than the three actors I mentioned in this review’s first sentence.

Red Skull at least looked cool when he was actually Red Skull. However, for the majority of the movie, he is just a scarred up looking Italian mobster guy. This film also has his daughter, known as Sin in the comics, but she is a poor version of the character that doesn’t amount to much.

The story is hard to follow but mostly just because it’s boring and paying attention is hard to do with this movie, as I’d rather mindlessly scroll social media feeds on my smart phone than try to stay locked on this picture.

I can’t say that this is as bad as Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four movie from 1994 but this makes the 1989 Punisher movie look like the 2004 Punisher movie.

This isn’t a film worth watching unless you enjoy torturing yourself or you love Captain America so much that you’ve tattooed his entire costume under your street clothes.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other terrible early Marvel films like 1994’s Fantastic Four and 1989’s The Punisher but at least that one was much better than this. Also, the ’70s Captain America live action stuff and The Incredible Hulk TV movies.

Comic Review: Captain America and Crossbones – One-Shot

Published: March 16th, 2011
Written by: William Harms
Art by: Declan Shalvey, Greg Tocchini (cover)

Marvel Comics, 34 Pages

Review:

This was a one-shot that came out with a few other one-shots that focused on Captain America’s villains. That being said, Captain America is only in this story through flashbacks. But that’s okay by me, as I’m a Crossbones fan, anyway.

These are also the kind of stories I really like.

Crossbones is removed from prison by a government agency and then dropped into the jungle where he is supposed to track down some young boy and bring him back. The bulk of this takes place in a derelict nuclear power plant that had a fate similar to Chernobyl. The really cool thing though, is that we see Crossbones have to take on a horde of rabid werewolves.

The vibe of this comic feels like a mix of the original Predator film and Dog Soldiers. That is certainly a winning combination and with the high level of testosterone and action flowing through this, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear.

Crossbones is underappreciated, in my opinion. My love of the character probably comes from the fact that when I first started buying Captain America comics, Crossbones was front and center, as he had just debuted. But I’ve also liked the character in the same way I like Bullseye, Deathstroke and Taskmaster. In fact, Taskmaster (along with Red Skull) have a small cameo in this story.

This was simply a badass, energetic, action packed read. Honestly, I wish that this was the first issue of an ongoing series.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other one-shots in this series, as well as The Death of Captain America storyline.

Comic Review: The Complete Maus

Published: November 19th, 1996 (the complete version)
Written by: Art Spiegelman
Art by: Art Spiegelman

Pantheon, 295 Pages

Review:

Growing up a fan of primarily superhero and action comics, I missed out on a lot of the independent stuff that has more of a cartoonist’s style to it than what was the norm from publishers like Marvel and DC.

I’ve known about Maus for a really long time, though. It might not have been my cup of tea when it came out in a big, collected edition in the mid-’90s but I really wanted to give it a read, as I’ve only heard great things about it and its imagery has been in my subconscious for decades.

To start, I love Art Spiegelman’s style. I especially loved it in the ’80s when he co-created the Garbage Pail Kids, an awesome trading card set that made my mum go bonkers. But as great as that franchise was, it can’t compare to this, which is a much more serious and human body of work.

Maus is a masterpiece. I went into reading this with skepticism because I’ve heard that for decades and usually things that are over hyped tend to underwhelm. This was actually better than what I imagined it would be. And I guess that’s because this is a very dark, very real and very human story, even if it stars mice in the place of people.

The plot is about a Jewish family and it shows a big chunk of their family history, as the story starts at the beginning of the Nazi rise in Germany. It then goes through their imprisonment, the Holocaust and life after all that tragedy. By using anthropomorphic mice in the place of humans, it makes the heinousness of the Nazis crimes a bit more digestible. The terror is still very much real, however. This makes it a bit more accessible though, especially in regards to younger kids that might want to learn about who the Nazis were.

For being nearly 300 pages, this is a very quick read. But it’s also a pretty emotional one. This saga covers a lot of ground and there are a lot of details to absorb. But every single panel has a real purpose and frankly, this is a meticulously crafted story that doesn’t rely on filler to beef itself up.

I loved this and it is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. It’s perfect in its execution, it touches you and it sticks with you.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other classic graphic novels and comics: American SplendorPersepolisWatchmen, the work of Robert Crumb, etc.