Sunday, December 26, 2010

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

Title: Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

ISBN: 978159825612
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2010
Artist: Chris Samnee
Writer: Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon

Rating: 4/5

When I saw the first commercials for Firefly on television, I was excited to watch it. Finding the day and time it was on at any given week was sometimes near impossible, so I never actually got a chance to watch it first-run. My father had, and he enjoyed it greatly. When I hear that it was off the air, I was very saddened that I never got the chance to watch it.

Fast-forward to several years later, and I get the complete series and Serenity on DVD for my wife and she spends her entire Christmas break watching it. She draws me into watching it when I can, and I am sucked into the series. When I found out that Joss Whedon was writing more Serenity to fill in the gap between the series end and the movie as well as some things left open from the movie, I was all sorts of excited.
Shepherd Book has always been one of my top favorite characters from the series, and Whedon gave him a shady past that would have probably been examined closer had the series lasted for more than a single season.  In this trade, we learn about the secrets behind the man.

In the series, they elude to him having served in the Alliance at some point. The story in this trade works backwards from his death in the movie... going back several years at a time, and takes us clear back to his childhood to help us truly understand what makes Shepherd Book the man he is and was. This format works well if written well, and the Whedon’s write it well.

The art is a great compliment to the writing, but it’s not all that great. When I think of great artwork in comics, I’m thinking along the lines of Jim Lee or Marc Silverstri. Chris Samnee captures the essence of this trade, but I wasn’t pulled in our enthralled by it. The story makes this book was it is.

I would love to see something similar done to most of the cast of Firefly/Serenity… especially if it has a tie-in with a particular episode or the movie. I’m sure if Joss Whedon wanted to, he could make that magic happen. He may be doing it, but we don’t know yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and put this book in our collection.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds

Title: G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds

ISBN: 9781600107764
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2010
Artist: Howard Chaykin, Antonio Fuso
Writer: Max Brooks
Collects: G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds #1-5

Rating: 4/5

From the mind of the author of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, we now have G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds. When I first hear of this title, two thoughts came to mind: “Wow! Max Brooks is writing for G.I. Joe! I must have this.” –and– “Whoa! What kind of title is ‘Hearts and Minds’? This doesn’t sound like something Brooks would write.” Well… I read it, and it was good!

The title alone doesn’t really inspire a real G.I. Joe vibe, but then again, Max Brooks is not your typical G.I. Joe writer. With his previous work, you may think he’d throw in a zombie or two. Not the case. This trade dives into the thoughts of 5 different G.I. Joes and Cobra’s and gives you a glimpse of the types of people who work for each organization.

When I saw the line-up of characters Brooks was writing for, I thought that there were some better choices that could have been made. Perhaps a few more “popular” characters like Snake Eyes, Destro, Zartan or Storm Shadow. As I read through this trade, I realized that he had made the correct choices to start this new sub-genre of comic book writing. Besides, this title was not meant to help promote a cartoon series or line of action figures like the original G.I. Joe comic was.

Our cast of character include: Major Bludd, Spirit, Firefly, Tripwire, Deep Six, Interrogator, Dr. Mindbender, Doc, Recruits, and Blowtorch. Interrogator and Recruits would have been my choices to originally omit at the opening, but when I read their stories I was convinced they needed to stay. Of all the different tales, my favorite has to be Firefly’s. Once you read it and step back a little, it’s really kind of funny. I hope you see what I mean. My only clue to you is that this tale is a good example of social engineering at work.

There are moments in each story where the character starts to daydream, in a sense. This gives an insight into what goes on through their minds. To my knowledge, this has never before been done in the action hero style genre that we have with G.I. Joe. Sure, we’ve learned character’s backstory in the process of reading an issue or few, but nothing like this. If I am wrong, I am happy to read whatever previous incarnations there may have existed prior to this trade. I would like to see how they stack-up against the bar that I have put after reading this trade.

Being a fan of the current vision of G.I. Joe, I am used to Chaykin and Fuso’s work. This is also why I collect the variant or retailer incentive covers of all the G.I. Joe titles. They have different styles, but they work to help the story along.

No matter if you’re a fan of the writings of Max Brooks or a G.I. Joe fan from year’s past/present; I feel you will enjoy this trade. Hopefully as much as I did.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

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I have teamed-up with Lone Star Comics of Arlington, Texas to help generate a way to help support my efforts with this blog. They have an affiliate program where I earn credit for when people click-through my link and make a purchase on their website. They have fair prices, and this is where I've turned to to get certain issues that my LCS is no longer able to acquire... namely variant covers.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Family Man

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer: The Family Man

ISBN: 9781401219642
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2008
Artist: Ron Tiner, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Dean Motter, Kevin Walker, Mark Buckingham, Mark Pennington
Writer: Jamie Delano, Dick Forman
Collects: Hellblazer #23-24, 28-33

Rating: 2.5/5

When I saw the movie Constantine, I knew I would enjoy reading the series. I have always been interested in the occult and the supernatural. It wasn’t until recently that I actually sat down and started reading it. I started with the earliest trade I could find. I got this trade as a part of a birthday present.

The writing in this trade is interesting but odd because of the British accents being written. It did give the sense of being in Great Britain, but sometimes it would have been nice to be able to read what was meant rather than what was said with accent added. This is a change from trade to movie I’m glad was made. Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy listening to a good British/English accent from time-to-time, but reading it can be tedious at times.

Occasionally, the panels would also be hard to follow. On one page the flow is standard left-to-right and down a row. The next series is meant to be read across the entire two-page spread. A few time in this particular trade, this also lead to some particularly confusing dialogue. Whoever set the panels for these anomalies should have taken better care is making sure the reading knows where the flow of the story is going rather than just spilling the entire story across two-pages.

Because Hellblazer has been around since the late 80’s, the art is a throwback to that time. Before the popularity of artists such as Michael Turner, Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee, there was the 80’s and early 90’s. The style that had not changed since probably the 70’s is soon to get a facelift from the time the comics for this trade were published. It would have been nice if they only used a single artist for this trade, or at least used artists with similar styles. After the Family Man storyline, the art takes on a darker, harder to look at style. While this works with the writing, it’s not easy to look at and afforded me more time to set this trade down.

One of the last storylines in the trade deals with the spirit of a former inspector who has inhabited the body of a dog. This dog takes over a pack of (what I guess) stray dogs and they live in a salvage yard. How the main dog, Drummond, can actually speak is beyond me. If the reason was stated in this trade very openly, then I guess I must have missed it in the British accented dialogue that bogs this trade down.

The saving grace for this trade is that though the minor storylines lack in dialogue and art, the majority of this trade has a well thought out storyline that is actually engaging.  The precursor to the main storyline is intriguing and gives you a little taste of what could be coming from Vertigo in the form of the Fables series. The entire Family Man story kept me in a near constant state of anticipation. I could envision a similar serial killer on the streets of modern day America, or England. Jamie Delano did a great job scripting the plot for this story, even if the dialogue is sometimes lost.

If you’re already a Hellblazer fan, I think you may enjoy this trade. I don’t think it was the best one to start my readings into the life of John Constantine, but I will press on. My biggest wish for this series is that instead of publishing the trades as separate books, I would have appreciated if they would have published them as sequential volumes in a series so I know in which order to read them. Right now, I’m just looking at the indicia to figure out which book should be read in what order.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Title: Siege

ISBN: 9780785148104
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2010
Artist: Michael Lark, Lucio Parrillo, Oliver Coipel,, Jim Cheung
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Collects: Siege: Prologue, Siege: The Cabal #1-4, Avengers: The Way Things Are

Rating: 3.5/5

Finally, the Dark Reign is over. This trade represents the end of H.A.M.M.E.R. and Norman Osborn's Avengers. Asgard has been brought to Earth, and everyone's fearful of what that means. What few people know is that Loki is manipulating both Asgard and Obsorn.

No one could ever imagine what the Sentry would be capable of if properly (or improperly) motivated. How does a God fair up against the power of Bob? We find out when he and Ares go tooth and claw against one another. Only one remains standing at the end of their battle. What does this outcome mean for the future?

Through the Dark Reign storyline, we've seen the decline of Norman's mind. We've seen that internally he's been at odds with the Goblin, and it may be that the Goblin wins. I'd think that this wouldn't be a very good turn of events for the "reformed" Norman Osborn. He's professed that he's alright from the beginning, but was that all a ruse to get the Green Goblin into power as Osborn?

From Civil War to Secret Invasion and the Dark Reign, this story finally brings the world's superheroes back together under a single banner. To Hell with the registration act, and who cares that there were divides between long time friends. This story brings together a new set of Avengers, bridging the old and new. And we also have the return of Thor to the ranks of the Avengers.

As much as I enjoy reading Bendis' work, I've had a hard time truly enjoying the Dark Reign and Siege stories. I think that if I had stayed better connected to the events preceding these stories, I might have found them more appealing. It's no fault of Bendis, but more the actual storyline that I have issue with. In the 80's I was pro Marvel and I barely read anything else. In the 90's, I expanded my horizons to include other publishers, but I was first and foremost a Marvel fan. Any more, I would prefer to read stories from Vertigo or IDW over Marvel. What does that mean for my taste in reading? Have my tastes evolved or have the stories from Marvel become so hard to enjoy?

In any case, for those who have been enjoying the continuing Marvel universe storyline, this is well worth the time. I think that reading the companion volumes to this trade would also help the story as a whole.