Sunday, November 16, 2014

Venom vs. Carnage

Title: Venom vs. Carnage

ISBN: 9780785115243
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2012
Artist: Clayton Crain
Writer: Peter Milligan
Collects: Venom vs. Carnage #1-4

Rating: 1.5/5

It's no secret that the Black Cat is one of my favorite Spider-Man character. I don't really have any kind of rational basis for this; it's probably just because I think she looks cool and she vaguely reminds me of Gwen Raiden from Angel, who I thought was equally awesome. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm constantly frustrated with what comic book artists do to her. There's actually no reason whatsoever for her to have been in Venom vs Carnage at all, and while added Black Cat is clearly a good thing, she really, really feels superfluous here.

And that's before you even take into account the fact that the artist has done some, er, creative re-imagining of her costume (she's wearing a skintight black catsuit already; how could you possibly feel any need to sex that up further?) and then completely forgot how to draw anatomy. It's not only the Cat that suffers from that last one, though - I desperately, desperately need to know what he did with Spider-Man's nose. It's creeping me out.

The good news, though, is that while Clayton Crain totally can't draw people, he can draw some pretty cool gloopy alien symbiotes. The fact that their anatomy doesn't have to be based on any kind of reality probably helps. Carnage, Venom, and indeed Toxin look properly weird, with fangy mouths, pumped up muscles and trailing squiggly bits falling off them, and though it's occasionally hard to tell what's going on in the symbiote battles, it usually looks stunning.

You might have noticed the mention of Toxin back there, and this book is about his origins. See, alien symbiotes reproduce in a slightly unusual way, and it's apparently time for Carnage to give birth. This new offspring, though, will be the 1,000th of the symbiote line, and while Venom wants to train it up, Carnage just wants to kill it. That's where the "vs" part of the title comes in, though Venom and Carnage don't spend all that long fighting each other, so it's maybe a bit of a misnomer.

Carnage's baby ends up bonding with a New York policeman to become Toxin, and then Spider-Man turns up to get involved with the fight. There's a bit of a story peeking through (if you think it's odd that I started off talking about the art before moving onto the story, you should take a look at this book, you'll see why) as Toxin and his human host struggle to come to terms with what they are and whether a normal life is possible any more, but it's soon back to flailing alien symbiote limbs again.

It's all kind of a mess. There's not enough story to make it worthwhile - and the dialogue is bloody dreadful - and the art is alternately very good and very bad, depending on whether there are people on the page or not, which isn't really a ringing endorsement. And... it's silly, but the childish part of me just wanted this to be a story about Venom and Carnage fighting one another. Like the cover image, only for a hundred pages. Ultimately, I can only conclude that this was a disappointment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What If... Batman Movies

As I was watching both Batman and Batman Returns on Netflix recently, I starting thinking to myself...

"Self. I wonder what kind of movies Batman Forever and Batman & Robin would have been if Tim Burton and Michael Keaton had stayed on instead of letting Joel Schumacher ruin Batman's good name."

I know this has probably been done on other sites/blogs, but now it's my chance to ask the question to you, my welcome and learned readers.

Who do you think would've made for a better cast if Time Burton was directing and Michael Keaton was still Batman?

Batman Forever-
  • Dick Grayson/Robin
  • Harvey Dent/Two-Face
  • Dr. Edward Nygma/Riddler 
Batman & Robin-
  • Poison Ivy/Dr. Pamela Isley 
  • Barbara Wilson/Batgirl
  • Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze
  • Bane
Also include any other changes (other than script, obviously) like say changing Batgirl from being related to Alfred to being Barbara Gordon like the comics.

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning

Title: Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning

ISBN: 9780785161721
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2013
Artist: Declan Shalvey, Kev Walker, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Neil Edwards
Writer: Jeff Parker
Collects: Dark Avengers #175-183

Rating: 2.5/5

Prior to reading this trade my knowledge of the Dark Avengers consisted of a few views of the Dark Avengers Wikipedia page so basically I did not know anything about the Dark Avengers. After reading this trade I still do not really know much about the Dark Avengers but my curiosity is very high.

The End is the Beginning on first reading was not a simple story to get my head around. A quick summary of the plot as I understood it is:
  • The Thunderbolts team are lost in history and are trying to get back to their own time; and
  • Luke Cage and Skaar, Son of Hulk and the Dark Avengers in the present day are on a secret mission in the nation of Sharzhad.
Although on the first read I found the story quite complex, on a second and third read I was able to get my head around what was going on and who each of the characters were. Jeff Parker the writer of the story did a good job of intertwining the two main stories as they were moving closer together.

My favorite panel both story and art wise came on the last page of the first issue in the trade. In this panel the Dark Avengers are re-introduced to Skaar after he threw them in prison. I cannot wait to go back and read some of the past issues of Dark Avengers.

The art in this trade looked great. There were quite a few different artists involved in this trade and it would take up too much space to name them all but in summary the pencilers were, Declan Shalvey, Kev Walker, Gabriel Hernandez-Walta and Neil Edwards.

If you are a new reader to Dark Avengers I would not recommend this as a jumping on point as although I have not read any past issues I think it will be more beneficial learning more about the Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers. I think I would have been able to appreciate this trade more if I knew more.

Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit

Title: Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit

ISBN: 9781401231385
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: DC, 2010
Artist: Andres Guinaldo, Jeremy Haun
Writer: Tony Bedard, Peter Calloway
Collects: Gotham City Sirens #14-19

Rating: 3/5

Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are about as close as three supervillainesses can get in a world full of danger and police, with the constant threat of being arrested. Finally, they’ve managed to find friends in this crazy world. And then, the ghosts of the men they love rear their ugly heads, and the Sirens come crashing down…

We start with Poison Ivy succumbing to an alien being and attempting to raze the world, before the remaining four issues deal with the fact that Catwoman knows who Batman is, and someone will stop at nothing to get that information. This leads Talia Al Ghul to ask Zatanna to remove these memories. But what is her real objective?

Despite the departure of Paul Dini, this series remains as strong as it has ever been. The use of the men in each of the Sirens’ lives is an interesting way to arrange these two stories, as well as the first arc of the next volume. It is easy for female characters to be defined by the relationships they have with the male characters, but that isn’t the case here.

The Strange Fruit arc is fairly straightforward until the final few pages, where Harley and Ivy share a heart to heart that snaps the latter out of her reverie. It’s here that we begin to realize just how similar that these three women are, and the parallels between their relationships with men. They can (and do) draw on each other for strength, whether it’s Harley trying to stay away from the Joker, or here Ivy fighting the influence of a plant-man. It cements the relationship that these characters have with each other by tying together their common plotlines.

The four part arc with Zatanna and Talia is deceptive. The first two issues seem like your standard “who is the mystery man” arc, but the second two issues turn this all on its head as you realize everything is not as it seems. The final issue especially shows that whilst some characters are tied to male characters strongly, Harley, Ivy and Selina are doing their best to get past this restriction.

I especially like how these tales bring our three heroines (anti-heroines?) together in time for the final pages of the last issue in which their relationship begins to show cracks and fall apart. This extends into the final two arcs of the series which will hopefully be collected, and when read together as a whole shows how the three evolve and change throughout the series. Given that the series then comes full circle by the time issue 26 comes around, I like how Bedard and Calloway have this story evolution in mind.

On the art side of things, Andres Guinaldo handles most of the work here and does a fantastic job. Harley, Ivy and Selina all have distinct body types and this extends to Talia and Zatanna when they appear, and this is essential with an almost all-female cast. He has a great grasp of scenery and how it should be arranged, and his depiction of Ivy’s powers is superb. The fact that he also requires a translator for his work (from what I’ve heard) is also testament to how good an artist he is.

I know lots of people jumped ship when Paul Dini left Gotham City Sirens, but the series has only gotten better under Bedard and Calloway’s pen. They develop the three main characters in their own ways, drawing them together to make their fall from grace even more terrible to behold. This is another action packed volume that fans of the characters should definitely grab.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part One

Title: The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part One

ISBN: 9781607068822
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2014
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Collects: The Walking Dead #115-120

Rating: 3.5/5

I must admit I was concerned with how the last one ended. I am worried for the group. The groups are banding together to take the fight to Neegan finally. I enjoyed the fact the Andrea came out on top of her battle with one of Neegan's men. While this book begins the battle we now know that the real drama will occur in Part 2. As always the work by Robert Kirkman is on point and the drawing of Charlie Adlard sucks you in as always. I agree with Kirkman this comic could never be in color because of the amount of blood.

Rick is nice enough to give Neegan a chance to surrender but we all knew that Neegan was going to refuse. I tip my hat to Rick being smart enough to use the Zombie Horde against Neegan. I am amazed that Neegan did not figure out that all the noise would attract a lot of Zombies. Also it is interesting to see how quickly the leader of the Hilltop sold everyone out and did not consult his community when he did. I must admit I did lose all faith in Maggie but she finally stood up joined the fight and I felt like a proud mother of her child winning the spelling bee when Maggie finally found her backbone.

Sadly Rick had one problem in his plan when Holly decided to sacrifice herself to Neegan. She ended up being made into a Trojan Horse sadly but at least we see that Neegan has more morals than the governor as he refuses to rape or let his men rape. I enjoyed seeing Michonne continue her relationship with Ezekiel and she was a great motivational speaker for him when he began to lose his way. Neegan's hit on Rick's town was quite explosive with some deaths but not enough.

I think Vol 21 Pt. 2 will be a blood bath. We only have 5 of the originals standing, Carl, Rick, Michonne, Maggie, and Andrea. Well, the people I consider the originals. Carl has lost an eye and Rick lost his hand. My question is will Kirkman kill off one of the originals or cause them to go on the run. They have been holed up in town for quite some time now. What are your thoughts and who do you think will die? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

5 Years Strong!

It's now been 5 years, and I'm still writing! At the time of this writing, I have reviews scheduled to publish into February... and I still have a large stack of trades still to review and many I have yet to read. Doesn't look like I'll be going away any time soon!

Looking back on this past year, it's had ups and downs.
  • We're at over 42k total page views! Considering that at this time last year we had just over 18k, I'm incredibly excited that more people have been looking at my site/reviews. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
  • Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer is now 1 year old, and we've been able to raise over $13,000 for the American Cancer Society! I hope to maintain this momentum into our 2nd year!
  • With regards to Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer, we've received a tremendous amount of support from some very talented artists. I'm so thankful that this project has been well received.
  • I was able to attend Emerald City Comicon, Cherry City Comic Con and Rose City Comic Con. Cherry City was Salem's first comic con, and they're already building-up for a bigger 2nd year. I'm also happy to report that I will be spreading the word about Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer at next years inaugural Northwest Comic Fest in August!
  • Back in March, I lost my job. Due to changes in the business, my position was eliminated to reduce expenses in the budget. At the time of this writing (September), I'm still looking for a job and currently have no source of income.
  • Because of the lack of income, I'm not confident that I'll be able to attend Wizard World Portland in January or Emerald City Comicon in March. As things change, I'll make sure to post updates.
As an update to this, I've decided to discontinue collecting comic books and begin the process of selling my collection in order to continue paying the bills. This action will not affect this blog and I'm not planning on selling my trades at this time. Here's hoping I get some decent $$ for my collection AND I get a new job soon before I am forced to sell too much of my collection... as I've been collecting for 30 years now.

Thank you for all your support!

-John "Zanziber" Rogers

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Walking Dead Volume 19: March to War

Title: The Walking Dead Volume 19: March to War

ISBN: 9781607068181
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2013
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Collects: The Walking Dead #109-114

Rating: 3.5/5

The world we knew is gone. The world of commerce and frivolous necessity has been replaced by a world of survival and responsibility. An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months society has crumbled: no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, the survivors are forced to finally start living. Rick. Ezekiel. Gregory. Negan. Each man holds the fate of their community in their hands... and WAR is on the horizon!

Rick and his crew are mourning the death of Glenn. Especially Maggie who has decided to stay on the Hilltop. Rick being Rick refuses to take it laying down and has joined forces with Jesus from the Hilltop and Ezekiel with the tiger. Yes the tiger.

This installment was overall really good. I enjoyed the interaction between Michonne and Ezekiel. It is nice to see that Michonne has a softer side. She is human and sometimes Rick forgets that as he forces her to pick up her sword once again to kill for him.

I respect Carl more and more after every single volume. He continues to prove how important he is to the crew. He may have pissed of Neegan but he basically showed everyone that Neegan can be easily affected. Carl is such a pivotal character and I am mad that they water him down so much on the show. But I digress, the novel was beautifully illustrated as usual. Seeing the death of so many characters and Andrea come so close to dying really brings Rick to the point that it is truly time to destroy Neegan.

The story ends on a cliff hanger as they are finally going to go to war. I really thought this novel would have the actual war but sadly we will not see the true war until the next volume, Vol. 20 All Out War Pt 1. The fact that it is a part one makes me concerned with how many people will walk away from this one. The original group only contains Rick, Carl, Maggie, and Michonne.