Sunday, September 29, 2013

Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 13

Title: Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 13

ISBN: 9781613770825
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2011
Artist: Andrew Wildman, Rurik Tyler
Writer: Larry Hama
Collects: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #124-134

Rating: 2/5

There are equal parts goodness and stupidity sprinkled throughout the issues in this book. Some ideas, like Firefly being a ninja, are totally stupid. Others, like the assault on Cobra Island, are great fun. There are no hard and fast rules on where the goodness and suckiness occur.

Issue 125 was a split issue not unlike what John Byrne did back in Fantastic Four #277 in 1985, where he used two existing subplots and assigned them a top and bottom arrangement throughout the issue. Issue 124 was split in three parts across each page in much the same way. Larry Hama is a good writer when he is allowed to cut loose and have fun like he did in those two issues.

There are some ideas in these issues that really, really suck, such as the G.I. Joe Eco-Warriors and Cesspool and his sludge weapons. There are some good ideas, too, like shifting the focus on the series to Snake Eyes again. Snake Eyes was the first G.I. Joe doll that I got back in 1982 at age 9 (I'm talking pre-swivel arm battle grip Snake Eyes, folks), and was always my favorite. The only problem with him is that he cannot speak so you need someone such as the now-good guy Storm Shadow to relay what he is thinking or meaning to say to others. It gets tiresome quickly.

There are some fun action sequences, but much of this book was marred by the Image influence in the artwork department. Image was a big deal at that time, and every artist was scrambling to incorporate that razzle dazzle into their style. I blame the Image artists for the speculation boom that nearly destroyed the entire industry.

So yeah, the series is going down the tubes by this point, having long since lost its focus and is weaving and bobbing about. I am well into Volume 14 as I am writing this, and it is apparent that the train has gone off of the rails. Will things get back on track by the time that the original series end in Volume 15? Time will tell. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

RCCC 2013 - Goodies and extras

Over the past couple of years, I've been collecting various prints that I find at conventions from a variety of different artists. This year, I went very light in my print buying. I also didn't buy as many trades as I would have liked to, but due to my schedule, I only ended up going to 1 dealer to pick-up what I did buy.

Jamie Tyndall- I have a fondness in my heart for G.I. Joe and Star Wars, since I grew-up with both of these influences. I have to admit that I really like the faux magazine covers. There were so many other prints I would like to have of his work, but these were my choices from RCCC:

I Like Comics- The past 3 con's that I have seen these guys at, they always have their trades discounted. This time, they were 70% off. I couldn't resist getting some additions to my collection. The more they feed my addiction from trades, the more I will continue to write reviews here.

Bob the Artist- I liked what I saw at his booth. Unfortunately, what I picked-up is going to be Christmas gifts for some friends, so I'm not posting what I bought. Check out his website to look at what he has to offer. Nice guy. I'll keep an eye out for him at future con's.

Charlie Donkin- Last year, I bought a great looking Twilight print from him as a gift for a friend. This year, I decided to treat myself to one of his many fine pieces. Such a great artist. (Apologies for the blurriness of the picture.)

Brandon Seifert-  I saw Brandon's booth at Stumptown this year, but I didn't get a chance to stop by. I made sure that I dropped by to pick-up the trades for Witch Doctor. I'm looking forward to reading these. I've heard good things.

That's it for this year. Now to get ready for next year. Wizard World Portland is coming at the end of January.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Experiences @ Rose City Comic Con 2013

As I begin to write this, I'm sitting in my hotel room across from the convention center, giving my feet and back a rest while my friends who traveled with me are taking a well-deserved nap.

We've been here since just past 9am, and the con opened at 10am. Call that good or bad timing, I was okay with it.

This year, Rose City is at the convention center... which is a huge improvement from last year where it was in a much smaller venue. I think I can safely suggest that this was in no small part due to the new partnership with Emerald City Comic Con. No mater who gets the praise for the change, you have my thanks!

With the larger venue, of course they were able to bring in a larger selection of guests and exhibitors. As those of you who are frequent readers of my blog know, my primary motivation for going to comic cons are the collection of signatures to add to my horde. (Yes, that's what I'm calling it now.) I have a new backpack this year as my old one was getting very threadbare, and it's performing it job quite well.

Brian Pulido- I was disappointed when I missed him at ECCC this year, but him being at RCCC made up for it. I did ask him about the status of Lady Death, and he gave a few hints that I can't actually publish openly. Suffice it to say, Lady Death will be returning.

When I saw Pulido at ECCC last year, he wasn't charging for autographs. This time around he had a price list depending on the comics you brought... though he doesn't charge for comics that you purchase directly from him. The price is well worth it because he also includes a certificate of authenticity with each comic he signs.

Adam Hughes- As I was standing in line, waiting for Adam to be free to sign my pile of comics, I was witness to watching him do head sketches for 2 different people. It's always nice to see a professional at work. I was hoping to get a sketch for #CBC4C from Adam, but it always seemed as though I was either too late or too early.

Pete Woods- I didn't have much for him to sign, but the woman who was with him (sorry, I didn't get her name) gave me a great compliment. She said that I had a great smile. Never heard that before, and I was incredibly flattered.

Tim Sale- As much as I enjoyed his work on Batman: The Long Halloween, I didn't care for the 30-45 minute wait for 2 signatures from him. I came at the wrong time, while he was doing a sketch for someone. I think I wouldn't have minded nearly as much as I did if the line didn't get moved every few minutes. Otherwise, Tim seemed like a nice enough guy.

Kelly Sue DeConnick- I only know Kelly from her work on the recent incarnation of Ghost from Dark Horse. Imagine my surprise when I went to have her sign my books that every other person there had issues of Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble. She was wonderful to talk to, and gave me a little insight on the new Ghost series coming out in November. I CAN'T WAIT!

Brandon Jerwa- I felt like I was at a 2-man comedy act when I visited Brandon to have him sign several of my Vampirella issues. He was sat next to fellow Vampirella writer Eric Trautman, and they played well off each other. Had I realized that Eric was also in attendance, I would have brought some of his Vampirella issues as well. I think that would have provided additional ammunition for the "comedy" duo.

Benjamin Kreger- Warrior Innkeeper Comics is one of the local small presses that I like. Benjamin put's out a great product, and I highly recommend checking his work out. He does have digital versions of his comics... for those of you who prefer to read your comics on your computer or tablet. It's conventions like these and events like Free Comic Book Day where I get to have my physical copies. Benjamin is a great guy to chat with and I can't recommend enough to keep your eyes on his work.

This year, I have a secondary (but equally important) mission for this con, and that is to sign-up new artists to work on the Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer (#CBC4C) project. If you're not familiar with what I'm referring to, please click the link for more information (and please Like Us on Facebook.) and hopefully we can also gain your support.

While I wasn't able to connect with some of the artists I had contacted prior to RCCC, I did make connections with several others. I will be posting updates through our Facebook page and via my Twitter; ZanziberPoV.

As I have mentioned previously, I had originally intended to actually cosplay/costume as Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I decided against it, but this weekend confirmed to me that I made the right decision for me. As you can generally tell from the few pictures I actually have of myself on Facebook, I'm a fairly big guy. When I get a little overheated, I sweat like nobody's business. I caught myself wiping my forehead of perspiration several times in the first hour I was there. That would not have been good if my face was covered with yellow make-up. Deciding not to costume is not a judgement on anyone else, but rather the best choice for me. I think the closest I will come to doing that for future conventions will be to keep a hand towel with me like Craig Robinson and Kevin Smith.

I had a great time at Rose City Comic Con, and look forward to next year's event. One suggestion I would pass along to the event coordinators is that it would be nice to have a few additional chairs along the walls where there was open space. While I appreciated having the option to sit and rest in the gaming area, it would have been good to be able to do that closer to the exhibitors. Other than that, keep up the great work!

I'll be posting a follow-up with pictures of all the goodies I picked-up. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 12

Title: Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 12

ISBN: 9781600109720
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2011
Artist: John Stateman, Rod Whigham, Herb Trimpe, Andrew Wildman
Writer: Larry Hama, Herb Trimpe
Collects: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #111-123

Rating: 2.5/5

I love what Larry Hama did on the title when I was growing up. It pains me to write this, but I have an obligation to be honest and to call them as I see them. This title has gone from lovable fun to loathable stupidity. Gone are nearly all of the semi-realistic military angles; in are high fantasy elements such as the G.I. Joe Ninja Force and Battle Force 2000. Not to be outdone, Cobra has Slice and Dice, a pair of evil ninjas.

Longtime fans will be happy with the reintroduction of Zartan, Tomax, Xamot, and Billy (Cobra Commander's son). Undoubtedly inspired by the events of Operation: Desert Storm in January, 1991, the Joes become involved in conflicts in the Middle East in fictitious countries such as Quagmahr, Benzheen, and Abysmia. I got a kick out of those names.

Storm Shadow gets a Wolverine claw for his right hand during the all-out ninja stupidity. Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander get new costumes without any fanfare or acknowledgment. It's like Hasbro sent them the new action figure designs and then they were integrated. The clearest sign of this title “jumping the shark” is the introduction of the Eco-Warriors, which are the dumbest elements introduced into the G.I. Joe universe thus far.

New costumes for Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander are unveiled here with no mention of how or why.

The G.I. Joe Dossiers from Issue 111, 113-118, 120-123 (2 pages each), are omitted. You would think that they would've included those in the back of the book as DVD style extras, but no. IDW has repeatedly dropped the ball with this line of trade paperbacks, from omitting issues that crossed over with G.I. Joe Special Missions to the poor restoration in many of these volumes.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Heroes of Cosplay

Over the past year, I've taken a great interest in the world of cosplay. I love watching people in their various costumes. I have to admit that I appreciate more of the female coplayers than male... but who can blame me. As I watch Heroes of Cosplay, I have a better understanding of what some of these people go through in order to look they way they do. I had no idea how competitive it was.

This year, I had seriously contemplated doing a cosplay/costume of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. I decided not forgo it because I was having a difficult time (with my schedule) finding the proper body make-up I would need at a price I could afford.

To be quite honest, I have done Live Action Role Playing (LARP) for several years and I have recently come to the conclusion that costuming is not something that I'm passionate about. I think the last time I really enjoyed being in costume was when I was a child at Halloween.

Riki: I loved her Hell Girl and Betty Page Rocketter costumes. She's very creative but seems a little too uptight. I didn't care for the fact that she blamed her husband for the screw-up on the Rocketter backpack.

Yaya Han: The queen bee of all the cosplayers in this series. She is who initially got my interest into watching cosplay. In the episode where she is working with Monika and Riki, I see her getting into diva mode. I feel she's better as a judge and giving the occasional piece of advice rather than as a competitor.

Monika: I like the fact that some of the cast are trying to turn these competitions into a career, but Monika seems like she's got her ego a little to inflated for her age and experience level. She needs to start being a little nicer towards her mother and other competitor's/friends.

Victoria: I don't understand how people who are doing cosplay for competition don't plan farther than about a week in advance. It seems like Victoria is constantly unprepared, but the dates for this conventions are scheduled several months in advance. Anyone ever heard of planning? She needs to take responsibility for her own mistakes.

Chloe: Of all the members of this cast, I have some of the greatest respect for Chloe. I don't see her complaining or waiting until the last minute for her costume. She's in it for the fun and I like that.

Jessica & Holly: These ladies are a great team, but it obvious they are trying too hard to make an impact. I would NEVER wear something I knew would cause me to be ill during a competition. I loved their D&D costumes from the first episode. They do some great work.

Becky: I really wished that the scoop from her car for the Taffyta Muttonfudge costume wouldn't have come up missing. The costume alone was too bland to compete with, IMHO. I think it would have been a better choice to not compete with that piece missing.
Jesse: I may have a personal bias for the only person on this cast who is local to me, but I think Jesse does a great job on his costuming. I wasn't thrilled with his costume from Wizard World Portland, but his steampunk stormtrooper and Assassin's Creed costumes were incredible!

As much as I like this series, I'm not confident that it will return for a 2nd season. We'll see.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 11

Title: Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 11

ISBN: 9781600108754
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2011
Artist: M.D. Bright, Lee Weeks, John Stateman, Ron Garney
Writer: Larry Hama
Collects: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #101-110

Rating: 2.5/5

G.I. Joe isn't very realistic at this point in the title, with the far flung fantasy elements (science fiction, ninjas) getting as much attention as the military elements of the series. I was admittedly a sucker for this back when I played with the toys and read the comic books. I was no longer buying comic books when these issues were originally published, so these were all new to me. There is a sense of fun amidst all of these goings on. There is also a sense of reality, as seven Joes meet their maker in issues 109-110. And no, I'm not referring to Hasbro.

Larry Hama's writing is a precursor to modern comic book storytelling. Unlike his contemporaries, Hama did not use third party narrative captions to set scenes. He would list a location or a time and then cut to the dialogue. This is pretty much standard operating procedure at Marvel over the last decade, but Hama might very well be the first to have done it. I'm not a comics historian so I can't say for certain. The artwork is done by a rotating crew, and is solid throughout the book. Clear, concise, competently done artwork. Mark D. Bright does the bulk of the book (101-106 and 108), and I enjoyed his run on Iron Man.

This was a fun escapist read. I'll admit that G.I. Joe is pure nostalgia for me, as I played with the toys, watched the cartoon series, and read the comic books in the '80s.

There is a marked improvement in the overall restoration in this book over previous volumes. While there are a few IDW-created typos found in the word balloons, greater care seems to have been taken this time around than with the previous volumes. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of pixelated lines. The strangest thing is the uneven lines on the top of the panels on some of the pages. My best guess is that these were scanned from floppies that were stored in extremely humid conditions and had the rippled warping that accompanies said humidity.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 9

Title: Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 9

ISBN: 9781600107061
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2010
Artist: Marshall Rogers, Don Hudson, Ron Wagner, Paul Ryan, Tony Salmons, M.D. Bright
Writer: Larry Hama
Collects: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #81-90

Rating: 3/5

There’s a reason why IDW refers to their collection of the Marvel Comics run of G.I. Joe as “classic”. First of all, it’s a nice tag that sells the book and differentiates it from the myriad of other Joe titles they’re currently publishing but more importantly, these are the definitive tales of G.I. Joe. Unless you’re an aging baby boomer with a collection of 12-inch Joes, when you think A Real American Hero, images of Cobra Commander, Destro and Snake Eyes immediately spring to mind. And it goes without saying that Larry Hama’s excellent work on the series is the reason why both the toy line and comics were so successful. In this day and age, Hama is finally getting his just rewards and readers are coming out of the woodwork to admit that yeah, this was a pretty damn good series that definitely surpassed our expectations of a toy tie-in. And I would argue that this volume is one of the best examples of that excellence.

We see the continued battles between Joe and Cobra only now Destro has branched off to form his own terrorist organization, the Iron Grenadiers. It’s a three-way battle for superiority that builds off the events of the previous volume. The Cobra Civil War is over and new evils are introduced, including Darklon, another outlandishly costumed terrorist from some unheard of country that wishes to buy weapons from Cobra. The origin of the original Cobra Commander is more thoroughly explored, as is his connection to Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow which dates back to the Vietnam War. Eastern philosophy mixes with the excruciating and often comical training exercises that take place in boot camp and as usual, a bevy of new Joes and Cobras are introduced. And in a 25th anniversary issue (from way back in 1988), we meet the original G.I. Joe.

As to why I feel this is one of the best examples of Hama’s work on the series... I should first admit that the stories contained here actually aren’t among my favorites. As a long-time Joe fan, my personal favorites are the early issues, when the cast of characters was much smaller and every new secret and twist that was revealed was a real shocker. By the time 1988 rolled around, both the Joe and Cobra teams had expanded to a point where those characters that we’d come to know and love as real people were beginning to be shoved into the background. Obviously, the point of a comic that promotes a toy line is to sell toys and when new figures and vehicles are introduced every year, they all need to get some face time in the comics. But what’s amazing about this volume and what separates it from earlier ones is that at no point does it ever feel forced. By this point in the game, Hama had it down to a science and introduces new elements with such ease that you never realize that his hand is being guided by editorial or the folks at Hasbro.

In previous volumes of the series, a story would be chugging along at a nice, even pace when all of the sudden, something like the Star Viper would appear completely out of left field, only to have the story resume in the next issue. You definitely got the feeling that after three or four issues of the story Hama wanted to tell, you’d have to read one that he was obligated to tell. It often felt very forced and unnatural and definitely took me out of the overall story. Not so with this volume. Perhaps it’s a result of better communication or perhaps he just developed his skills but either way, it works. There’s not a bad story in this book.

Okay, the Battle Force 2000 story wasn’t that great, but you can’t really fault him for that one, can you?

And that’s why, as a huge G.I. Joe fan who read a lot of these issues when they were originally released and is re-living his childhood now, I feel that this is such a perfect example of why Larry Hama deserves so much credit for this series. I hadn’t read these comics in two decades, and I didn’t know quite what to expect when picked it up. This is the era in which I was growing out of G.I Joe and not following it as much as I used to. This is the era in which the toy line was becoming more and more outlandish and had lost much of what I considered to be its “realistic edge”. Would I be as interested with all of the new developments and new characters?

Turns out my answer is a big “hell yeah”. These are just really great stories of a highly advanced military organization fighting crazy bad guys of an almost super-villainous variety. It’s true that there isn’t quite as much character development as in previous issues due to the large cast, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely absent. In addition to the more adventurous and exciting stories, we also get a lot of insight into Zartan’s background as well as a great deal of mentoring Billy receives from Storm Shadow. The action is big and bombastic and there’s even a little social commentary and humor too. Lawyers and politicians are subtlety (and sometimes not-so subtlety) skewered and the stories are played for laughs almost as often as not. And there’s ninjas, dude. Who doesn’t love ninjas?

Overall, it’s just plain fun, something often seems missing in many comics these days. This is a book that knows exactly what it is and what it’s supposed to be, but still manages to surprise you with some great characterization and scripting. If you were into G.I. Joe back then and you’re wondering how the book held up over the years, do yourself a favor and pick this volume up. In fact, pick all of them up. There are a lot of great new G.I. Joe comics on the stands right now (and some not-so-great), but this is the real deal right here. Kudos to IDW for getting these back into print and in the case of this volume, collecting them for the first time.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Marvel Zombies 4

Title: Marvel Zombies 4

ISBN: 9780785139188
Price: $16.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2010
Artist: Kev Walker
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Collects: Marvel Zombies 4 #1-4, Tales of the Zombie #1

Rating: 2.5/5

After the A.R.M.O.R. base in Florida is nearly overrun by the zombie plague, two zombies escape to a remote Caribbean island.  They are Simon Garth aka 'Zombie' and zombie Deadpool from the alternate dimension where the zombie plague originated.  Morbius and Jennifer Kale vow to stop the plague and form a new team including Jack Monroe aka 'Werewolf by Night' and Daimon Hellstrom aka 'Hellstorm'.

Meanwhile The Hood, who is an agent of Dormammu on Earth, is offered to purchase a super plague to hold the world ransom.  Dormammu is interested because the plague can remove the superheroes as opposition for when he takes over our universe.  The Hood brings the Night Shift to the buy meeting, but things get out of hand - they always do.

This fourth installment of the Marvel Zombies saga just didn't have the same story quality or character draw as the rest.  Essentially a Midnight Sons resurrection with a boring plot and too conveniently wrapped up finish.  I would pass on this book unless you're either a big fan of the old Marvel horror characters or absolutely must have the complete set of Marvel Zombies books on your shelf.