Sunday, December 30, 2018

East of West Vol 4: Who Wants War

Title: East of West Vol 4: Who Wants War

ISBN: 9781632153814
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2015
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Collects: East of West #16-19, The World one shot

Rating: 3.5/5

East of West Vol 4: Who Wants War has a slightly shorter story arc, as this volume also contains the East of West: The World one shot, which is a helpful little guide that gives a little bit of back story for each of the seven different factions involved in the main narrative.  It also provides a timeline that spans several pages that gives a brief overview of what happened to lead up to the current conflict.  Once we get past that, the story picks up immediately after the end of Volume 3, with the “Beast” and his mentor on the run following their escape.  They meet another interesting character in their travels, and the Beast is forced to learn some very difficult lessons… It’s getting harder and harder to write these without giving anything away…

Jonathan Hickman takes a different approach in this story arc and chooses to focus the narrative predominantly on one character rather than what is happening in the world at large.  We get a few glimpses here and there of a large scale war going on between two of the factions, but for the most part the focus remains more intimate, which leads me to believe that Hickman is telling us this story is not so much about the big action itself, but more the characters that manipulate and steer the action to where they want it to go.  It still works, but it makes for a slightly slower story, especially when he’s given us three volumes chock full of intrigue and backstabbing leading up to this one.  Ultimately, the story still moves, but it took a little bit of a detour in this volume to add some life to one of its secondary characters, who appears to be working his way into a much larger role.

Nick Dragotta’s artwork is just as solid as it’s always been.  No major complaints in this area.  I will point out that it’s quite interesting to see the Beast’s perception of the world, as shown to him by his mentor, vs. the way the world actually looks.  He does a great job with the juxtaposition of the two perceived “realities” … I guess you could call them that.  One other really bright spot in this issue is the killing fields that the horsemen War, Conquest, and Famine encounter early on on the volume.  The art is conjunction with some of the dialogue in that particular segment is actually kind of chilling to read and see.  It’s like seeing something out of the machine ruled future of the Terminator movies.

All in all, this volume won’t blow your mind, but it does accomplish the task of moving the main story along (just a little), while simultaneously giving us a much deeper look at a character who had kind of been on the sidelines up to this point.  It certainly was not the best of most interesting volume in the series so far, but it’s still a worthy addition to one of the best series currently on sale.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

G.I. Joe: Deep Terror

Title: G.I. Joe: Deep Terror

ISBN: 9781613775110
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2012
Artist: Will Rosado, Alex Cal
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Collects: G.I. Joe Season 2 #13-17

Rating: 3.5/5

In this book, we see a G.I. Joe team (led by Scarlett) become captured by Cobra and sent to their mines for forced labor. Mainframe, stows away on the mission and it is up to him to try and save the woman he loves and his teammates.

For the most part, the bulk of the story is a bit mundane and seems like it would have made for a decent cartoon episode in the ’80s but it wouldn’t be one of the more memorable ones. The Joes in the mine and some of the other captives attempt an escape, led by Stalker, while Scarlett is dealing with the Cobra leaders at the facility.

This collection encompasses five issues but the main story is concluded by the end of the fourth issue. The fifth and final issue here, serves as a bridge to the next story: G.I. Joe: Target Snake Eyes. In this issue, Scarlett discovers that Snake Eyes is actually still alive and she confronts Helix, who she feels lied to her about Snake Eyes’ fate.

This isn’t a bad chapter in the IDW G.I. Joe franchise. It just serves as filler and as a much needed break from the intensity that was back-to-back-to-back major events: Cobra – The Last Laugh, Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.

Deep Terror is fairly fun and it gives you time to breathe before the Joe team sets off to hunt down Snake Eyes, who is now in league with Storm Shadow and the Arashikage ninja clan.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Considering A Change

To all my loyal readers that have followed me over the past 8+ years 
(Yes, it has been just over 8 years for this blog now.)

I have been giving some strong consideration about changing the format for my reviews. As much as I thought changing the style of my blog or including additional features would help, I now believe that I want to go with an actual change of format. I would love to bring you more reviews and updates on geekery, but I find I have a difficult time putting thoughts to words when I have the time. Yet, I have not problems talking about them... even if it's to myself.

So I am now doing research on taking Zanziber's Point of View to the next level.
That's right. I'm working to change gears from the written word to the verbal. I'll continue with my reviews, and make sure to post the information about each trade along with a link to the episode it is reviewed right here. I also want to expand with interviews and provide recordings I make while I am at events such as Rose City Comic Con. I hope to expand the range that I have been working on for the better part of a decade, and with that be able to provide a better range of topics covered and a more in-depth view of what I experience.

It's been one thing to be able to relate the tales of meeting various artists and creators over the years. It will be another to be able to bring you closer to my experiences. I look forward to being able to go to events and perhaps schedule time with a variety of people who help make the comic book industry great.

So stay tuned for more info about when my podcast will be available for your listening pleasure. If you happen to have some experience in podcasting and have some tips, please feel free to share them here in the comments section.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Evil Ernie: Youth Gone Wild

Title: Evil Ernie: Youth Gone Wild

ISBN: 1563980401
Price: $10.95
Publisher/Year: Malibu Comics, 1992
Artist: Stephen Hughes
Writer: Brian Pulido
Collects: Evil Ernie #1-5

Rating: 2/5

So the story here is of Ernie Fairchild, a psychotic killer who murders for the love of Lady Death. He is in a mental institution and ends up being the guinea pig for a new device called neurotech. His current doctor, Dr Price, who has treated Ernie since he was a child objects to this. He even tries to stop it telling everyone Ernie has a mindlink with Lady Death and this could make it stronger. I'm not sure how Dr Price knows about this or why he believes its true and not just a delusion on Ernie's part. But it turns out Dr Price is correct and the machine blows up which turns Ernie into an undead killer powered by Lady Death's magic. He has to ability to kill and create an army of zombies that obey him and at Lady Death's request he seeks to kill all the living. Ultimately he is stopped by Dr Price. When Price manages to blow Ernie up all of his zombie followers collapse, no longer animated by his power.

This actually wasn't that bad. This reads like a pretty fun interesting horror movie that never got made. It has an interesting premise, Dr Price fills the role of the square jawed Bruce Campbell like hero who saves the day, and it even has a moment at the end in which Ernie can return for a 'sequel'. The art looks a little, I guess amateurish is the best way I can describe it. But it's amateurish in a charming way, kinda like the original TMNT comics. The relationship between Lady Death and Ernie is pretty interesting, it's almost like a low brow version of Thanos and Death in Marvel.

It's main flaw however is Ernie himself. Ernie is too ridiculous to be all that scary and too annoying and stupid to be all that funny. He's like the moron you knew in high school who wore a leather jacket even when it was hot and took Insane Clown Posse WAY too seriously. In a blurb on the back cover Tony Timpone, then Editor-in-Chief of Fangoria magazine, compared Ernie to Freddy Krueger. The difference is Freddy was actually funny. Hell even in the Freddy movies that sucked Robert England was able to bring a certain magic to that character. Ernie's just annoying. I actually thought Lady Death was the real star of this book.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pax Romana

Title: Pax Romana

ISBN: 9781582408736
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2013
Artist: Jonathan Hickman
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Collects: Pax Romana #1-4

Rating: 3/5

Time travel has long been used as a vehicle for creating alternate history.  Mark Twain did this in his classic novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  L. Sprague de Camp also did this in Least Darkness Fall, the novel that inspired Harry Turtledove to study Byzantine History.  I bring this up because it relates to the comic that we're going to be taking a look at today.  We're taking a look at Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman.

Pax Romana starts off in with a framing story in the megacity of Constantinople.  The Gene Pope, the bioengineered leader of the Catholic Church comprise of the genetic material of 1026 holy men and women, is telling the young emperor of the Holy Roman Empire the story of how the empire came to be.  Ah, but this isn't the Holy Roman Empire you're probably thinking of.  It is a Roman Empire that never fell, and where church and state are attached at the hip.

 It all start in the year 2050 of an alternate timeline.  Most of Europe had gone secular, and Islam was on the rise due to mass immigration.  The Church was losing support by the day, and might be on its last legs before long.  In a last-ditch effort to fix this, the Church sent a paramilitary force of 5000 individuals back in time to the year 312 AD.  The goal was to set up a stronger foundation for the Church and prevent the mistakes of the past from ever happening.

The forces were led by Nicholas Chase, the Pope's own nephew.  Well, technically, Caridnal Beppi Pelle was meant to be the leader, but Chase killed him shortly after the team arrived in the past.  Chase and his team decided to implement their own plan, while trying to stay true to the spirit of the original.  They were tasked with creating a better future, but can utopia ever be created by mere mortals?

I think I'll start by talking about the art.  I can best describe it as stylized minimalism.  You don't really get any true backgrounds, just some splashes of color and maybe a couple bit of furniture.  The characters themselves tend to be drawn mostly white with a few splashes of color.  I have to admit, I was rather skeptical at first, but it kind of won me over in the end.  There were times I did wish to see some more detailed backgrounds, but the minimalist style actually kind of works for this comic.

Let's talk about themes.  The description of society in the 2050 is actually a red herring for the true theme of the comic.  Namely, can a perfect society be run by imperfect beings?  As the old saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  We see this from the very first issue when Nick assassinates Cardinal Pelle.  Of course, it goes beyond that as Nick's fellow mercenaries begin to develop their own plans and ambitions.  Still, in the end they're still pretty successful.  The technologically advanced future of the framing device, completed with colonies on Mars, is reveled to be the year 1492.

Just as a side note, when I first read this comic, the 2050 scenes seemed laughably unlikely.  These days, however, they seem eerily prophetic.  The socio-political part, not the Vatican developing time travel part.  Side note, why does the pope order all evidence of the time travel plot destroyed?  History is going to be changed so, one assumes, all incriminating evidence will be wiped away.

I thought that the Romans were all well written.  Constantine is more than happy to receive help from the time travelers, but at the same time, he's no medieval moron.  He has his own plans and ambitions.  The Romans might be less technologically advanced than the future humans, but they're no less intelligent than them.  Although, when Constantine declares that the church will incorporate beliefs from many different religions, including heretical strands of Christianity, there is springily little push back.  He basically goes "I'm the Emperor and I say we do it this way, so there!" and beyond a token resistance, everyone is cool with this.  As far as Constantine himself creating such a syncretic religion, I can buy that.  He's often credited as the first Christian emperor of Rome, but he was a major devote of Apollo throughout his life, and his wasn't baptized until he was on his deathbed.

The Catholic Church in this alternate world is very catholic in the small-C sense of the word.  The Gene Pope's official titles include the Black Rabbi, the Last Caliph, the Panchen Lama, the Pratyekabuddha, the Eternal Priest of Amun-Ra, the White Shaman and, of course, the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ.  It's hinted that this is only a fraction of his full list of titles.

I will say it is a bit odd that Last Caliph is part of the list of title, since there's a good chance that Mohammad was never born in this alternate timeline.  There's brief mention that the positions of Gene Pope and Emperor of Rome have historically been one and the same.  This is likely a nod to how, starting with August, the Emperors of Rome also served as Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Ancient Roman religion.  This position is where the pope gets the title of pontifex from.

Okay, I've been putting it off for long enough.  This is, overall, not a bad comic.  That having been said, it's considerably overhyped, in my opinion.  If you look at a lot of the mainstream reviews, you'll see people gushing about how this is the next big thing, and how it's going to revolutionize the world of fiction.  These people obviously have not read much alternate history, or else they'd know that it's been done before.  Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South has a very similar premise to Pax Romana.  As do SM Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time series, Eric Flint's 1632 series, John Birmingham's Axis of Time series, and you could even go all the way back to the novel's I mentioned at beginning of this review.  That's not even getting into all of the online alternate historians who have tried their hands at such a scenario.

None of this makes Pax Romana a bad comic, but it does go to show that it's premise wasn't quite as groundbreaking as many professional reviewers would have you think.  The big problem I had was just how short the comic was.  We get some very tantalizing glimpses of the history of this alternate Roman Empire that are just begging for elaboration.  This really feels like one part of a much bigger story that never materialized, and overall it just feels incomplete.  As far as I can tell, Hickman never intended for there to be sequels, thus compounding the issue.

Granted, there is a timeline towards the end that chronicles some events in the history of this alternate universe, but it just isn’t the same as being able to see all of that in comic book form.  I know that Syfy has expressed interest in adapting Pax Romana.  If they do, I sure hope they expanded it into a full-series, rather than just a miniseries.  It worked wonders when Amazon did it with The Man in the High Castle.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine

Title: Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine

ISBN: 9780785185178
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2015
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Collects: Bitch Planet #1-5

Rating: 4/5

Bitch Planet is a gem of a read, that is not only fascinating but important especially during the time we’re in now where women have become more vocal about their roles and rank than ever. This comic book pays homage to everything women face daily and the problems surrounding this. A lot of issues we see in this comic book relate back to the ideology of gender roles; how women are expected to behave, speak, dress, and conduct themselves for the opposite sex. In Bitch Planet, we get to witness women rebelling against the cultural norm.

Now, I will admit, I’ve only read a few graphic novels in my life, but never a comic book. I’d also like to point out the fact that if it weren’t for my professor who recommended I take a class about this comic book a few months ago, I probably would have never known of its existence. Lucky me!

The story of Bitch Planet is quite simple: it’s about non-compliant women who are sent off to another planet to serve their time. The planet is essentially a prison controlled by old men behind screens and a holographic woman that orders inmates around. However, it’s the way in which these inmates are categorized as non-compliant that makes this story so relevant to the mistreatment and criticisms women face today. In Bitch Planet, we notice one woman being seized for merely appearing upset in response to her husband’s infidelity, and we witness a mother being taken away from her 8-year-old daughter when she’s deemed to be dangerous for unprecedented reasons only to learn that her daughter, too, has been sent away to Bitch Planet for being “too violent” after lashing out when a customer calls her too fat and animal-like. Then, there are women who are punished and sent to Bitch Planet for having to kill men solely for their own protection.

Throughout the story,  every “non-compliant” woman’s background is unveiled. As readers we are able to see  exactly how these women ended up on Bitch Planet in the first place.  As we take a peek through their lives before imprisonment, we then realize that every single one of these women stepped outside their boundaries to rebel against what people (or I shall say the authorities) expect of them and instead, stood up for and embraced their own actions and emotions. This society is not afraid to put women in their place whenever they want to and they have no trouble doing so as authorities lack sympathy and reasoning. Extraditing these women who had natural reactions to their particular situations is a way for the government to validate their political power.

If we take the content we read in Bitch Planet and apply it to our reality, there really isn’t much of a difference, as it is a cultural norm for women to be viewed slightly different than men in a negative perspective. If we flip the situations from Bitch Planet and make men face these same issues, it wouldn’t be a problem at all because that’s just how our culture accepts it (and this really needs to change).

For example, let’s say a husband gets upset after finding out his wife cheated – people will feel sorry for him and negatively look down on his wife. If this actually happened, people would instead help the husband, perceiving him as “the good boyfriend”, and leave the wife in the dust.  If the roles were reversed where the husband cheated on the wife and the wife reacted badly, she would then be viewed as “the crazy girlfriend.”

Although Bitch Planet is an exaggerated and extreme version of what happens to non-compliant women, our life today is really not too far from that life. Therefore, we should consider Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story a warning about where our lives could potentially end up.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Red Wing

Title: The Red Wing

ISBN: 9781607064794
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2011
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Rating: 1.5/5

Jonathan Hickman confuses concept for plot and leaves the fantastic concept of The Red Wing floundering and incomplete.  Hickman apparently cannot decide if he is more interested in telling a story about the pilots who navigate both time and space in a war that crosses eons, or if he wants to tell a story about a war that stretches over eons and happens to involve some pilots.  Either way, he fails on both accounts and we are left with a “graphic novel” that is heavy on the graphics and light on the novel.

Dominic Dorne and Valen Redd are new recruits to fly the Red Wing Tac II, a fighter that is designed to destroy the enemy across time and space.  Both Dorne and Redd are legacies; their fathers flew in the original Red Wing squadron and were killed on a mission.  Now it is up to the “sons and daughters of the Red Wing” to continue the fight.

That is a great premise.  But, you will notice that there is a major gap in that description: Who is the enemy and what do they want?  Hickman decides to skip over that minor detail in order to provide the reader with a SHOCK twist at the end of the second issue.  Now, shock surprises work best when there is some explanation why the reader should be shocked.  Just giving the reader something to look at without any explanation doesn’t make fore very good storytelling. Let me give you an example that is similar to The Red Wing, but will not contain any spoilers:

It is Christmas time. Little Timmy and Tina see Santa in their living room.  He turns and sees them and then rips off the fake beard to show his kids that he is, in fact, their father, not Santa.  The kids, both firm believers in Santa, are horrified to find that their belief in the jolly old elf has been shattered.  To make matters worse, the father just stands there without giving any explanation why he would do such a thing.  Did he do it to be mean?  Did he do it because he did not want to lie to his kids?  Did he do it because he had a horrible itch on his chin and had to remove his beard right then?  No explanation.  He just stares at the crying kids, and recites The Night Before Christmas.

Now, that may be surreal as hell, but it is not a good story.  It is a good scene that needs to be explained or at least further expanded upon for it to make sense in a larger context.

Hickman does not do that with his reveal/twist.  Instead he rambles on for another two issues, all the while, another character (and the reader!!!!) begs the antagonist to explain himself.   But, Hickman assumes that this is all self-evident and chooses to jump to another scene which he leaves half-explained a few pages later.

The only thing The Red Wing has going for it is the lovely art.   Nick Pitarra and Rachelle Rosenberg give life to an otherwise stark and linear future.  Their art is reminiscent of Frank Quitely yet they managed to keep the lines clean and sharp when needed.  The color palette shifts from muted colors in the future, to lush colors in the past, making the crazy time-travel elements of the story easy to follow.

In addition, the characters are remarkably easy to identify, despite the fact that several of them have helmets covering half of their face for several pages at a time.  This is a pleasant change from other artists who Hickman has partnered with (including himself) where the art is often murky or difficult to follow.

I really wanted to like The Red Wing.  I was ready to herald Hickman’s triumphant return to creator-owned independent comics.  Instead I am left shaking my head at how such an exciting and rich concept coud be short-changed by a writer unwilling (or unable) to give it the kind of length and development that is needed to take it from concept to plot.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

CHEW Vol 1: Taster’s Choice

Title: CHEW Vol 1: Taster’s Choice

ISBN: 9781607061595
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2009
Artist: Rob Guillory
Writer: John Layman
Collects: CHEW #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Well let’s start by saying that this graphic novel is for mature audience. And it can be really gross and bloody at times. You have been warned.

With that out of the way let’s get into the review!

The story in itself was very interesting and intriguing – I couldn’t stop reading it at all. And I ended up finishing it in one sitting. The revelation at the end (which I am not going to go into, because spoilers) was shocking – I didn’t see it coming at all. It made me want to pick up the next volume right away!

I feel as if this first volume was more of a character introduction and preparation for the future story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing at all. Things did happen, it just felt as if it was creating the world and presenting the characters. That is the only reason why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5.

Another fantastic thing were the powers – I find books (and graphic novels) with extraordinary powers to be very interesting. These especially, as they all concentrate around food, in one way or another, and I have never read something like that before. I can’t wait for more of them to be introduced, as I have heard that will happen in future volumes.

The art. I absolutely adored the art. It was dark and edgy. It gave the whole story an fantastic atmosphere. I don’t think this art is for everyone though, so I would check it out first before getting the graphic novel.

All in all I would highly recommend this graphic novel, if you don’t mind mature and gross themes that is. I am very much looking forward to picking up the next volume!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

2 Past Midnight

Title: 2 Past Midnight

ISBN: 9781616554408
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2014
Artist: Eduardo Francisco
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Collects: 2 Past Midnight #1-5

Rating: 3/5

Two Past Midnight meet up in the first crossover of Dark Horse’s superhero comics. A book that’s too good and rare to pass up not reading. Who wouldn’t want to see Ghost, X, and Captain Midnight all together in the same series? All three still ongoing and have their own thrilling tales to connect to. It was nice to see that Duane Swierczynski covered writing this book. Does an excellent job with X and the premise of this story is right up his alley.

twopastmidp1What you like about this right away is the fact that neither of these heroes have met each other. Some of them aren’t even aware of the things others out there are able to do until they meet each other. It creates intense moments of confrontation between them and everything about it is natural when most of them aren’t too used to the concept of team-ups. In fact they’ve never had such a reason to team-up like this. That’s what made it fun to see the brawl which broke loose between them because of a misunderstanding. It’s always a misunderstanding, but you have to give credit to Duane Swierczynski that he doesn’t pull punches to let them actually go for the kill. They aren’t like the golden heroes you see on TV and that is captured throughout this book.

The plot is fairly straightforward as we know a madman is on the loose. His goal is to create shock, awe, panic, and hysteria.The mystery behind the villain is very necessary for keeping everyone on their toes about the possibilities of what could happen next. Seeing things from his perspective as well is very engaging. Having an idea of what makes him tick as he acts creates that dark atmosphere in which you like the sick things he does or you might find it a bit cringe-worthy.

When things really picked up, see how this investigative specter,  psychopathic vigilante, and time-traveling genius operated was interesting. The differences between them really stand out. Meaning that there is an awareness of who these characters are at their core to display how they would act to find this terror-focused sociopath. Those differences makes this intense enough that you are left questioning just how they could possibly get out of this unharmed. Their personalities clash and the trust between them is far from strong enough to hold up against a threat that attacks them mentally. With that said, there was some humor between them which was hard to ignore, especially when it was at the expense of X.

Eduardo Francisco’s style really fit this story. The detail and way he handled drawing everything made it feel gritty. The way it should as when most of Two Past Midnight book takes place in Arcadia, a neutral atmosphere is the last thing you should expect. The light of use of colors also added to this. Could be that a lot of this also took place at night, but it was a good use of it nonetheless.

Two Past Midnight is a great story that has a lot to offer as a first crossover of Dark Horse’s new superhero comics. We know we will see more stories like this to come and of a larger scope. So if it’s anything like Two Past Midnight, it’s definitely worth picking up. For 130 pages you aren’t left feeling like this isn’t worth the money or time. From beginning to end you are left at the edge of your seat with this dark tale.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol 1: Terrorformer

Title: Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor Vol 1: Terrorformer

ISBN: 9781782761778
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Titan Comics, 2016
Artist: Dave Taylor
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Collects: Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor, Vol. 1: Terrorformer collects the first five issues and initial story arcs of the comic series starring actor Peter Capaldi. Alongside companion Clara Oswald—played in the show by actress Jenna Coleman—the Doctor first journeys to an ice world recently terraformed into a tropical paradise by a money-obsessed developer, and then pops in to twenty-fourth-century India to investigate the death of a friend.

Storywise, Morrison does as one would hope to expect with a Doctor Who comic: create adventures that would be far beyond the budgetary restraints of the live-action series. And he does that very well. The two-part “Terrorformer” gives us the aforementioned tropical paradise and introduces us to the Hyperion, a race of sentient suns that the Doctor’s race, the Time Lords, had to put down when they became a threat to all life. Walking, talking suns laying waste to planets? Yeah, that’s a little outside the BBC’s special-effects budget. The three-part “Swords of Kali” brings a new menace: the Scindia, a family of demonlike aliens that seeks to revive their goddess, Kali.

Morrison’s one stumbling block is in his depiction of the Twelfth Doctor, whose characterization in “Terrorformer” doesn’t seem to gel with his TV counterpart; based on the comic-book Doctor’s speech pattern alone, one would think this was originally written with Matt Smith’s energetic Eleventh Doctor in mind. I can only assume that, because this comic series had to go into production while Capaldi’s first season was in the works, and no one outside of the BBC had any clue as to Twelve’s personality, Morrison had to devise his own approach to the new leading man and hope for the best. Still, it’s a small distraction in comparison to the engaging storylines, and his Doctor becomes more Capaldi-like by the time “Swords of Kali” reaches its conclusion.

As for the art, Dave Taylor brings a clean, Moebius-like quality to the sci-fi elements of “Terrorformer,” and the appropriate scary shadows to “Kali,” considering its bad guys look like monsters. His depictions of the Doctor and Clara are a little off-model, but by the time we reach “The Swords of Kali,” you can tell he’s become more comfortable in reproducing Capaldi’s and Coleman’s features. Together, he and Morrison make for a strong creative team.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 1 - After Life

Title: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 1 - After Life

ISBN: 9781782761747
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Titan Comics, 2015
Artist: Alice X Zhang, Boo Cook, Simon Fraser
Writer: Al Ewing, Rob Williams
Collects: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

Where Revolutions of Terror with the tenth Doctor followed two main story arcs, After Life follows four. There’s a main arc for the novel, as well as 3 smaller stories that have little nods and connections to the main storyline. The main companion is Alice, though two other companions pop in throughout the story (none from the television series). Alice is someone whose life is going down in a spiral. Deaths in the family, lay-offs, bills; there’s just a lot going on that she can’t handle. In steps the Doctor. She inadvertently helps him solve a case and he offers to let her join him on his travels.

The writers, Al Ewing and Rob Williams, have a lot going on here for the length of the novel. The pacing seems off, except in the final two sections where it slows down and you really get the chance to connect with the characters and the main conflict. Smith’s Doctor is captured really well, as he’s somewhat of the childish iteration of the Doctor; very exuberant and speedy, but thoughtful.

doctor-who-comic-11-page-2-The artists, Simon Fraser and Boo Cook, seem to struggle with how to capture Matt Smith’s face and mannerisms. Some of them are on point, but there are others where the art just looks awkward. They have a much easier time creating their own characters and aliens than dealing with ones that have already been established. Their artwork shines in the creation of the alien “ARC” towards the end of the novel.

The colorists, Gary Caldwell and Hi-Fi, do some great work here as well. With the plethora of different settings and adventures that this novel goes on, they have the opportunity to knock it out of the park on multiple occasions. Jungles, theme parks, high-tech facilities, etc; they all jump off the page with their color. Even the characters, and again, especially “ARC,” look fantastic. The shading particularly is exceptionally well done.

After Life suffers from some pacing issues, but is still a worthy outing for The Doctor. His companions each have their own quirks and strengths, and the novel really shines when all four of them are working together. The novel is a fitting one for the eleventh Doctor. There’s lots of optimism throughout and lots of child-like wonder and joy. As we learn from the Doctor himself, “Aliens are cool.”

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Rose City Comic Con 2018 - My Experiences

Another RCCC has come and gone, and I was again fortunate enough to be able to attend... albeit in a more limited capacity than I was intending. (More about that later.)

As my loyal readers know, I take it as a source of personal pride to be able to say that I have attended every single Rose City Comic Con to date. I hope this continues as with each passing year the events gets better. And I am again so appreciative that the event spans 3 days instead of just 2.

Past events I have planned a vast array of items to be signed by a variety of individuals or collect covers being donated to my non-profit, Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. Even though I was excited at the prospect of getting more of my collection signed by the likes of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Adam Hughes, I didn't go overboard like before.

My first stop of the weekend was to pick-up a copy of The Deathbringer Prophecy, vol 1: Sinners and the Sinless from #CBC4C contributing artist and friend Gene Guilmette. I always like picking-up something new to read, especially from those who have supported me and my cause to begin with. The art in this graphic novel is phenomenal, and I am greatly looking forward to reading it. I was doubly fortunate that Gene was also giving a limited print with the purchase of each of the books. You can get your own copy at RLT Press.

It took me quite a while to get into backing projects on Kickstarter, but have done a few since 2015. There have been those that have been well worth the time and money, and a few that were a dismal waste of both. Fortunately, Ron Randall's KS for Trekker: Chapeltown fell into the former category. I count myself among the Trekker supporters that has been able to collect every published piece of work, and also they are all signed by Randall. You can get your own copies of the trades on Etsy.

Not included are all the single issues and the ashcan that originally brought my attention to Trekker and Ron Randall.

I also spoke with Ron about his next Kickstarter campaign for Trekker: The Darkstar Zephyr, which is scheduled to run October 22 - November 15. I appreciate the fact that he... unlike others I have known to run KS campaigns... has everything completed for the trade before launching. This means that the turnaround from the end of the campaign to the moment you receive your rewards is very short compared to other campaigns. Yet another good reason why he'll have my continued support.
I like being able to go on Friday because there aren't nearly as many people there until later in the day. I'm able to move around freely and without bumping into others, and I feel like I can afford to speak with people at their tables without developing a crowd waiting for their face-to-face moment with the individual. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that there are a lack of people attending Friday. There are just fewer people on Friday than Saturday.

Before the doors officially opened on Friday.

Before the doors officially opened on Friday.

After the doors officially opened on Friday.
Unlike years before, I actually was able... and had the presence of mind to take photo's on the show floor this year.

This year there seemed to be more things for children. I was surprised that Playmobil actually had a presence at this years event. It makes me hopeful that RCCC will continue to thrive as a family friendly event.

DC was one of the few publishers representing themselves.

And of course, RCCC would not be complete without Dark Horse.
I have to admit that I am a little disappointed that I didn't see an Image or IDW area this year. Both publishers have moved part of their business to Portland, so it would stand to reason that they would want to promote themselves at RCCC. I would hope that they think hard about this idea for next year.

Even though I am not a fan of Dragonball Z, I have to admit I did enjoy the DBZ are that they had on site. I felt in awe of the huge dragon looming over me when I came upon it. The statues were amazing to look at.

I even managed to get a couple photo's of some cosplayers.

It's been several years since I have been able to take in a panel at any comic con, but Friday was so relaxed that I found myself in the Tolkien and Gaming panel. As much as I am a fan of Tolkien, I was not nearly the level of fan that were represented at the panel. It was primarily about the Adventures of Middle Earth RPG by Cubicle 7 and discussing aspects of Tolkien's world that were are weren't represented by it. I was already interested in giving Adventures of Middle Earth a try before the panel, but after I felt the desire to do so. Something that was brought-up was the fact that Orc's in Middle Earth live until they are slain. This is because they are essentially corrupted Elves. This was discussed because someone had asked why it is that Orcs in D&D are easily slain by level 1 characters, and those of Tolkien's world have so much more depth and were actually fearsome.

When Saturday came, I actually had an agenda. My roommate had procured autographs for both David Tennant and Felica Day, and while he was in Jamaica, I agreed to get a couple of his Funko Pop figures signed. I was fortunate enough to be first in line for David Tennant.

First in line for David Tennant! So excited!

This was the view from behind me at the head of the line for David Tennant. Be jealous. :)

The product of being first in line for David Tennant. Well worth it.
I have to say, I don't find the idea of standing for a long period of time in line very appealing. Fortunately, David didn't keep us waiting very long, and his line was moving at a rapid pace.

Do you remember when I mentioned that this year I attended in a limited capacity? This is where I explain why I said that.

When the original autographs schedules were published online, David Tennant and Felicia Day were scheduled to sign at the exact same time. My plan was to get through Tennant's line as quickly as I could, and then queue-up in Felica's line. My hope would be that I could get through both quickly so I could work on the rest of what I had planned.

Before I left for Portland on Saturday, I checked the schedule online. They had pushed Felicia Day's autographs to 11am. I thought, "No problem." The closer 11am came, we received updates from staff that Felicia was either on her way or just getting parked. By 11:15am, we were informed that she was actually stuck in traffic. It wasn't until 11:33am that she made her appearance. By 12pm, I had finally gotten through the line and obtained the 2nd of the 2 autographs I had been requested to procure.

A few years back, I made special arrangements with my photographer friend Rita of {Chrysalis Rising Photographic Studio} to be my photographer for Rose City. I thought that having some professional photographs to include in my review would be wonderful. (I wasn't wrong.) This was also the year that I met Wil Wheaton, and was looking forward to taking a photo with him and the comic cover I had him sign for #CBC4C.

When we arrived at the celebrity area, one of the volunteers informed us (strongly) that there was absolutely no photography permitted in the area. I questioned that we may have permission because of the fact that we were part of the media covering the event, but was informed otherwise. No photo of Wil admiring the cover presented to him to sign. It was very disheartening.

Since then, I made sure that I and my photographer do not cross that line. I'm sure that it I was caught taking candid photo's in the celebrity area that I may get asked to leave, and I would never be allowed to attend as a member of the media. I don't want to ruin the relationship that I have built with RCCC.

This year, while waiting for Felicia Day to arrive, I noticed several people taking candid photo's with both their phones and small digital cameras. This upset me, but I am not one to create conflict so I didn't say anything. The lady in line right in front of me was actually approached by one of the volunteers when they saw her taking photo's of David Tennant. His response was "You're really not supposed to be doing that." She put her camera away until Felicia arrived. There were no repercussions and volunteer who was working the front of Felicia's line saw the lady taking photo's and did nothing.

I know that some of the celebrity guests have started to offer selfies for an additional fee, and I appreciate that. It upsets me to the core that there are those that would willfully take advantage of the fact that the volunteers can't monitor everyone and have to be on guard for people taking candid photo's where they shouldn't be. I'm not sure if I'm in the silent minority or majority on this, and I am unsure on how to prevent this from happening at future events.

I have made mention in the past of my physical limitations. Those that know me know that I am a big guy. Gabriel Iglesias classifies my physical being as "Fluffy", which I embrace the term. The standing in line for so long took it toll on my feet, legs and back. As I am writing this (4 days removed from when it began), I am sitting at my computer and my back is still tight and pained. I decided I was going to go back to my car, drop off what I didn't need any longer and take a short break.

But then... on the way to my car...

I noticed that Kelly Sue DeConnick was at her table and signing. I had brought some comics and trades from my personal collection for her to sign, and I felt the need to make sure I got them signed before going any farther. There was a short line, but it seemed like every fan before me had to relate a lengthy story to Kelly Sue. I love the fact that she's willing to talk and listen to her fans, but at that time, my entire body was telling them all to hurry-up and move along. Fortunately, my mouth stayed quiet.

By the time I got in front of Kelly Sue, I felt like I was speaking a bit of nonsense to pass the time while she kindly listened and signed my books. I didn't realize that I was babbling until after I had left her table. My body was in so much pain that it was difficult to think straight. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind enough to make it back to my car for a bit of respite.

After loading my bags into the back of my car, I decided to sit for a while to try and relax before going back in for the rest of the day. That's when my body started to revolt against me like never before.

My legs threatened to cramp as I got in to the car. Once seated, my back informed me that it had no intentions of allowing me to get out until I was safely home. I took some time to consider my options, but ultimately had to succumb to the merciless demands of my aging body.

This episode made me realize how fortunate I am to have my friends to come with me to these events. It was a huge eye-opener, and the lesson has been learned. I don't typically go to comic con's for the media guests, and I have never been a huge fan of waiting in lines... though I am a very patient person when it comes to such things when I have a mission.

At the end of last years Rose City, I said I wanted to get a table/booth for my non-profit at the 2018 event. Due to circumstances, that was not going to happen. I will renew this goal for 2019, though. By that time I hope to not only have a variety of prints to be able to offer, but also I hope to have a book of covers that have been donated to #CBC4C over the first 5 years.

I look forward to next year, no matter what happens. I want to thank the staff for being great as always, and especially Ron & Paula Brister for allowing me to attend.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Rose City Comic Con 2018

Again, I have been allowed the privilege of attending Rose City Comic Con as a member of the press. In years before, I haven't been the greatest at taking lots of photo's when I don't have a photographer with me; but I am going to challenge myself to do so this year.

I'm going totally solo this year, so I have not made any huge plans regarding covers for my non-profit; Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. That may be a blessing and a curse as we are dry on covers for the next series of auctions which are scheduled either the first Saturday of November or December... all depending on how many completed covers we receive before November.

While I don't usually go for the celebrity guests (except for last year when I got to meet "Weird Al" Yankovic), I am looking forward to the possibility of meeting Felicia Day. I hope she doesn't cancel at the last minute like last year.

I know that I have been lax on my posting anything this year, and I deeply apologize. The next step in my personal life is that we are trying to get my parent's house ready to sell. They've lived there for almost 30 years, and the house is about 100 years old. There are a lot of things that need to be done, but between the hot weather and physical limitations, we have not been able to give the house the attention it needs. Once this is done and over with, I will have nothing but myself preventing me from from tackling the ever-growing shelf of trades to be reviewed.

As per years past, I am looking forward to visiting the I Like Comics area to raid their selection of cheap trades!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Status Update

I know it has been several months since I've posted a new review or anything of substance here. I would like to take this time to both apologize and explain.

This year has been a bit of a roller coaster for me, personally. At the end of 2017, we started looking for a new house that we could move into with my parents. They're in their 70's and the house they're currently living in is not suitable for them any longer. So, the first several month of 2018 were looking for houses that would accommodate all of us (5 adults total) and suit the mobility needs of my parents.

When the home we mostly thought would be perfect for us was denied, we changed our strategy to renovating our existing house into a more suitable location for all of us to live. Needless to say, this project has taken away much of what would normally be my "free time" to be able to write. Between making changes at my current home, and helping my parents with getting ready for the move, I have not only had lack of time available to me, but lack of energy/motivation to do so as well.

For this, I have only one thing to say to my loyal readers/followers...

Around the middle of July, everything should be back in order and I should have more time to devote to my writing and posting here. I hope that I can earn your forgiveness.

The positive changes that are coming from this:
  • I now have my very own office where before I was sharing a small room.
  • In the office are additional bookshelves so I have a better place to store/queue the trades that I have to review.
  • The additional bookshelf space also means I have room for more trades to add to my collection!
Additional updates to what has been going on the past few months...
  • As loyal readers/followers/supporters know, I was gifted with a booth at this years Oregon Coast Comic Con in Tillamook, OR for Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer. The event was an interesting experience, and once I have more time to devote to it, I will post a full recap.
  • In May, we had our Spring/FCBD series of auctions for #CBC4C, which helped to raise additional $$ for the American Cancer Society. We are currently at just over $9,000 raised since 2013.
For the rest of 2018, here's the plan:
  • Get writing reviews for the large group of trades that I've got sitting on my shelf.
  • I have submitted my press applications to Rose City Comic Con and Renton Comic Con.
  • I'm currently toying with the possibility of requesting a booth/table for #CBC4C at EUCON this year, but that will solely depend on finances.
  • At the beginning of August, #CBC4C will hold our Summer series of auctions. The Winter series will be held either at the beginning of November or December (I still haven't figured-out which is better).
  • Beginning in July, I will start a new feature on the #CBC4C Facebook page to call-out one of the great artists that have donated to our cause over the past 5 years. I hope this will help to generate more visibility to both the featured artist and #CBC4C.
What about 2019?

Who knows right now.

Thank you for your continued support. If you have any suggestions on what else you may want to see here, please do not hesitate to contact me. I'm always open to new ideas.

-John "Zanziber" Rogers

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Empress Book One

Title: Empress Book One

ISBN: 9781302902070
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2017
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Writer: Mark Millar
Collects: Empress #1-7

Rating: 4.5/5

Don’t let this somewhat evil looking woman on the cover fool you — Empress is an epic space opera in every sense of the word. Multiple planets explored, various aliens, tons of action, incredible spacecrafts, romance, and death loom on every single page. Add to that Millar and Immonen’s pedigree and you have a must read title if you ever saw one.

The art is simply great. If you’re a lover of science fiction or just like expressive characters this is the book for you. Immonen infuses every panel with life and creativity to the point where you wonder if he has some kind of magic mirror to see other worlds. In a panel focused on a protagonist walking in a city square you might have aliens observing a statue in the foreground simply there to add a bit of life to a scene. A lot of this book’s ingenuity stems from Immonen’s clean and gorgeous work. One could argue scenes are reminiscent of Blade Runner, but when you look closer you notice clever details in colors or graphics amongst the crowds. Credit is due to Ive Svorcina’s colors which are bright, but in a realistic sort of way that keeps the action edgy and dramatic. Inker Wade von Grawbadger keeps Immonen’s lines honest and clean adding a dimension to clothing that’s just beautiful.

Having read and loved Mark Millar’s Starlight series I had very high expectations for another science fiction story and he surpassed them. There’s a slight similarity between the protagonist in that series and the queen’s protector Dane in this book, that being they’re both rugged Flash Gordon types who are great at fighting and kicking alien butt. Outside of that, the setup and cast of characters is unique and intriguing.

The book opens on Earth 65 million years ago and surprisingly it’s filled with aliens and incredible technology. We quickly learn Earth’s ruler King Morax is a tyrant who Queen Emporia wants nothing to do with anymore. From there, Emporia flees with her children and Dane and the book follows their exploits to escape Morax for good. Along the way Dane implores a friend for aid, compelling abilities of alien life are introduced (you can switch bodies with an alien, eat all you want on a resort all the while they work out your original body!), and worlds are explored. In a somewhat Star Wars like fashion Millar has even integrated a cute robot you’ll grow to love. There’s a lot to enjoy in this book due to the colorful science fiction elements laid upon a breakneck plot.

Once about halfway through this volume it’s rather easy to see why it’s being adapted into a film and that’s due to all the action. There are family issues brought in via Emporia’s daughter–who disagrees with their fleeing and is strongly opposed to her mother falling in love with Dane–allowing strong character work throughout strung together via giant action scenes. Teleportation mishaps, spaceship chase sequences and incredible getaways continually keep the pace up and the fun very high. Each character seemingly has a function and a purpose in the volume (with a fantastic surprise to finish the book too) making every moment important.

The romantic arc between Emporia and Dane is somewhat confusing. Avoiding spoilers here, but over half of the book leads you to believe their relationship is strictly business and then…well it’s not. Unless I didn’t pick up on visual cues, it leaves you feeling a bit misled though certainly not dissatisfied.

This is a nitpicking sort of gripe, but the cute robot friend of the heroes named Ship is a somewhat annoying plot convenience to say the least.

Empress is incredible in so many ways you’ll be left in awe of how well it all comes together. There are moments where you can’t turn the page fast enough, though you still linger longer than you need to in order to enjoy the incredible art. If you’re a lover of Star Wars or simply love science fiction in general you will love every page of this book.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Occultist, Volume 2: At Death’s Door

Title: The Occultist, Volume 2: At Death’s Door

ISBN: 9781616554637
Price: $16.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2014
Artist: Mike Norton
Writer: Mike Richardson, Tim Seeley
Collects: The Occultist series 2 #1-5

Rating: 3.5/5

As I’m sure you probably gleaned from the title, this graphic novel is centered around mystical powers. And if that’s all that The Occultist, Volume 2: At Death’s Door had going for it, it would still be a darn fine read. But fortunately for us, there is more going on here than you might first think. This is not your typical supernatural story, not by any means.

Since this was a miniseries originally, it is exceptionally nice that the writers included a couple of pages of back story to help new readers. Most of the time we don’t get that luxury. The premise here is a young man named Rob Bailey has been given the power of an ancient tome entitled The Sword. Following the loss of his trusted friend and mentor, Rob teams up with a local detective to stop the demons and the undead from seizing power and killing innocents. And that leads us to the current chain of events in this five issue series.

Keeping in mind, this is a young man still finding his way through life and trying to unlock the secrets of his powers, so he makes a few mistakes along the way…and some of them are potentially life altering. despite this, our hero is still hard at work protecting humanity and keeping the creatures of the underworld from harming others. From enraged baby spirits to Occultist-eating demons, this poor college student has his hands full. Even his new mentor has a few secrets of his own. But the main event of this comic run is the trio of witches and warlocks that seem to be able to move through the ethereal plane at will. But as with many things, not everyone is who the appear to be.

Mike Richardson and Tim Seeley are together here. They have penned a wonderful story that reaches beyond the average superhero comic and stays interesting and action-packed the whole way through. Mike Norton‘s art is bold and distinct, lending itself to the story rather than trying to outshine it. This comic is the perfect marriage of the visual and the literary.

Much better that volume 1, there is 1 item that makes me look forward to possibly more Occultist: They touch on the other supernatural "superheroes" in the Dark Horse universe. I would love to see an Occultist/Ghost crossover.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Occultist Vol 1

Title: The Occultist Vol 1

ISBN: 9781595827456
Price: $16.99
Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2012
Artist: Victor Drujiniu
Writer: Mike Richardson, Tim Seeley
Collects: The Occultist #1-3, Dark Horse Presents #11-13

Rating: 2.5/5

Robert is a momma’s boy in college. Worse, he is a momma’s boy nerd who just got broken up with because all he does is play video games and read books. I sympathize. Luckily, Robert can go get some good advice from Mr. Elder, the owner of the rare book shop Robert works at. Surely Mr. Elder has better advice than Robert’s mother who merely said that the girl was evil and a temptation? But before we learn any valuable lessons, Robert notices a strange book which Mr. Elder tells him not to touch while walking out of the room. Robert is then chosen by the book, The Occultist, to become the Sword. This stellar quote about sums it up, “Man does not choose to wield the sword. The sword chooses to wield the man.” p. 16

Predictably it is right after this scene the benevolent Mr. Elder is murdered while trying to hand off the book to the sketchy dudes sent to pick it up. Subsequently, we learn two things: these sketchy dudes work for Aiden Beck, an evil shaman, and the sketchy dudes are substantiated evil crow spirits. Now all of their talk about shiny things, pecking out eyes and the great cornfield in the sky make sense. Thankfully, we don’t have to listen to them blather on about who gets to peck out Robert’s eyes because “The Occultist” reveals their true form and Robert is able to destroy them. While I quite like the concept of Native American shamanism and evil spirit animals, etc. I didn’t entirely like the way in which mid-battle the book reveals a Wikipedia-like page detailing the origin of the enemies and how to kill them… It was kind of cheesy. However, I feel like this method of explanation is not going to go away and the reader should prepare themselves for the narration to be paused mid-action scene in the future so we can understand the “true nature” of the evil spirits Robert, aka the Sword, is attempting to vanquish.

Immediately following the defeat of those damn, dirty crows, Robert is confronted by the ghost of Mr. Elder, who sets up the classic superhero, “with great power comes great responsibility” clause, except he adds the caveat that it really doesn’t matter how good Robert’s intentions are: he’s doomed to eff everything up… Great, the reader is in for Robert’s ride up shaman sh*t creek. At this point I’m waiting for both Robert’s mother and his ex girlfriend to be murdered by eye pecking crows, while he’s engrossed in his pity party of thinking, “Poor me, why was I chosen as the sword? I didn’t ask for this. *sob*”. This seems an even more likely scenario as Aiden Beck, who is dressed like a hobo who found a suit, summons all of the, “hit mages”, to kill Robert. Again, I like the concept, but the shirtless Native American hit mage bro who has a vagazzled happy trail is really a little much… And the fact that they are called hit mages. Do some research and find the bad ass ancient shaman name for assassin. And for the love of god please do not reveal the origin of Native American bro’s vagazzling and how to “vanquish” it…

The second chapter of “The Occultist” opens with a hooker. Literaly, a prostitute. About time… We didn’t get to see any boom shakalaka during the college scenes because Robert was too much of nerd, but now we get to see the shaman summon spirit animal python? Samuel L. Jackson would be proud. Oh scratch that; the shaman is brutally murdered by the hooker aka the disguised “Sword-breaker”. The reasoning behind this seems to be because Aiden Beck wasn’t a nature shaman anymore, hew was a techno-shaman… I’ll be honest, I was glad to see Beck go. He was really stressing me out by “sacrificing” iPhones in bizarre rituals, and jamming his fingers into USB sockets. Plus what kind of pussy-ass shaman has to hire hit mages? It seems that the “Sword” has a new bad guy to deal with… The “Sword-breaker”!

Luckily Robert seems to have come to terms with his new powers, by casting a love spell on his ex girlfriend, and well… Someone is summoning spirit animal python if you know what I mean. Craziness ensues as the local detective comes to question Robert about the death of Mr. Elder. The hit mages conveniently show up at the same time. Vagazzled Native American Bro (VNAB) hasn’t shown up yet, but there is Pandora, and something seems to be up with her “box”. Yes, there is definitely some sexual innuendo going on here. Anyways, the second chapter ends with Robert facing off against the hit mages, setting us up for the third chapter which is where things get interesting.

Robert finally gets to test out the Sword’s power against the hit mages and it is a pretty epic battle, which is thankfully not interrupted by any freeze frame background info on the hit mages. The Sword dispatches all of them pretty easily, stuffing Pandora back into her box, shaving VNAB and pretty much leaving an all round bloody mess. It looks like Robert is going to come out on top when the “Sword-breaker” shows up, and the one hit Mage who doesn’t seem like a complete mongoloid actually saves Robert.

What follows is a lot of cheesy dialogue, but the writers seem to be cognizant of this, and use the cheesy dialogue as a distraction to help Robert escape, while reemphasizing that he is a nerd extraordinaire. However, I see this self aware irony on the part of the writers as a massive cop out, and this is really where the comic lost me again. They bring up some deep issues, but they do it in an ironic or shallow way, almost as if they only want this comic to be an entertaining read. But if that was the case, they should’ve cut out all of the “deep” dialogue to begin with and kept it a fast paced narrative. An example of this shallowness is when it is revealed why Robert was chosen to be the sword in the first place… He has, “walked the line between life and death” thanks to his crazy Christian-scientist of a mother who refused to take him to a hospital when he was a kid suffering from Meningitis. What. The. F**k. You can’t just casually throw that out as an explanation for the crux of the plot line and then not bring it up again at all in the following 3 chapters!

I’m not even going to bother summarizing the last three chapters of the trade paperback of the Occultist. All I’m going to say are two words: vampire prom.. Yes, the book ends with Robert crashing a vampire prom. In my mind this is one of the numerous examples of the authors skirting around issues of substance, and unnecessarily adding “marketable” vampires and demons for Buffy-esque slaying. There are some plot twists that occur in the last chapters, but again they seem cliche. Do we really care what happens to Robert as he goes to college and is tutored on how to use his new powers by the secretly resurrected Aiden Beck? Aiden Beck’s reappearance also serves as a way for the authors to silence the friendly ghost of Mr. Elder who has been getting dangerously close to some deep issues in his dialogue… Thank god we don’t have to listen to that geezer drone on about values, and what it is like to mature in a world where you have very little control. Kill more vampires, please! Oh and yes I would love mid battle to know the origin of the demons he is trying to exorcise back to hell! I missed the freeze frame Wikipedia articles!

In summary I would say that the Occultist had potential, but the authors tried to draw in too many disparate plot elements and decided to focus on what seems to be marketable action scenes versus saying anything of value. Maybe I’m being too harsh in my judgement, and the authors have really just been foreshadowing the deep issues that will be explored later in the series. But the vampire prom made me not really care if that’s the case. And while the sword has kick ass powers, they seem too hodgepodge. It is like the authors were trying to decide what type of monsters fans would like, as opposed to what would really work well for the plot. They should’ve stuck to spirit animals and shamanism instead of running the whole gamut of mythological beasts from Druids, Pandora, Indiana Jones to demons and vampires. Oh yeah and let’s not forget Native American Vagazzled Bro.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

John Constantine Hellblazer: Rare Cuts

Title: John Constantine Hellblazer: Rare Cuts

ISBN: 1401202403
Price: $14.95
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2005
Artist: David Lloyd, Sean Phillips, Richard Piers Rayner, Mark Buckingham
Writer: Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison
Collects: Hellblazer  #11, 25-26, 35, 56, 84 Vertigo Secret Files: Hellblazer #1

Rating: 3.5/5

This selection of six issues from one of Vertigo's longest running series brings together a few of the morally ambiguous stops on John Constantine's journey through the bleak heart of humankind. The episodes, originally published from 1988 to 1994 and reprinted here for the first time, begin with Constantine's bitter memory of a time "before hell impaled and toasted us, writhing over the roaring fires of our own inadequacies."

The series is legendary for its combination of political cynicism, magical exploration and occult horror. Constantine bends demons to his will at times, gets trounced by them at others, and always wonders if he and the rest of humanity are worth the effort. Marvelous storytelling from three of the series' best writers-Delano, Ennis and Morrison-will make the collection hard to resist for fans and a great way in for new readers.

Morrison's two tales, "Early Warning" and "How I Learned to Love the Bomb," are especially riveting as a parade of suppressed human desires released by a combination of nuclear frequencies and pagan ritual threaten Constantine. Hyper-realistic art by Lloyd, Philips, Rayner and Buckingham gives powerful expression to the varied horrors of demonic force and human weakness. A timeline and map of "Constantine's London" at book's end is an appealing bonus.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

No Review This Week

With my deepest of apologies, there will be no review posted this week due to the fact that I am at Oregon Coast Comic Con representing Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer.

Normal reviews will resume next week and expect a post about my experiences from this years event as well.

-John "Zanziber" Rogers

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Game of Thrones Vol 1

Title: A Game of Thrones Vol 1

ISBN: 9780440423218
Price: $25.00
Publisher/Year: Dynamite, 2012
Artist: Tommy Patterson
Writer: George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham
Collects: A Game of Thrones #1-6

Rating: 4/5

Adapted by Daniel Abraham and lushly illustrated by Tommy Patterson, the graphic novel opens with an ill-fated ranging beyond The Wall of handful of the Night’s Watch and ends with Daenerys discovering bit by bit her own power and personal strength thanks to her new position within the Dothraki Khalasar. Volume One compiles the first six issues (out of what will be a total of 24 at 29 pages a pop) which cover the trials and tribulations of the Stark family of Winterfell, King Robert Baratheon and his manipulative Lannister kin, and the cruel fallen lord of House Targaryen and his enslaved sister who may not be as innocent as she looks. Where the books were split into sections — In the Seven Kingdoms, On the Wall, In the East — and each chapter devoted to a single character, Abraham and Patterson jump from different perspectives by color-coding the text blocks (Tyrion gets red, Arya goldenrod, Bran grass green, etc.). Comics are all about show don’t tell, and they’ve done a good job of it.

Abraham has worked with Martin before, both directly in adaptations of Fevre Dream and “Skin Trade” and indirectly with Martin’s ongoing Wild Cards series, and it shows. While it’s obvious that a lot of the first book was left out of the comic (a 720 page book becomes a 7200 page graphic novel if you illustrate every damn thing), what remains is beautifully written. Obviously the writing credits go to Martin, but by not butchering the text with a cut and paste job, Abraham has abridged the novel in a way that isn’t clunky or confusing. It’s easy to edit something down and cut out a seemingly quiet scene that holds the key to the rest of the story’s secrets, but by the end of it I could still follow the story and start guessing at future plot lines. Not even the characters lost personality; what was left unwritten about them came out in the illustrations.

Patterson has no Martin-related experience, but he’s worked extensively with studios as an illustrator, and that gives this comic much more of a cinematic quality. He isn’t playing with the medium here. There are no awesome comics moments. He really is an illustrator rather than a comics artist. Really, that was the only disappointing aspect of the book. I wanted to read a comics version of A Game of Thrones, not an illustrated novel. But disappointing doesn’t mean bad, just not what I was expecting. Patterson suffers a bit from the dreaded Liefeld syndrome, sometimes giving his men muscles waaay oversized for their bodies and women teensy tiny waists (see Khal Drogo and Daenerys as the worst offenders).

In the intro to the graphic novel Martin talks about how he used to read comics during the Comics Code’s heyday, and how there was a huge debate over whether or not Classics Illustrated were “a good thing, seeing as how they helped to introduce kids to ‘real literature.’ Others insisted…that these adaptations did violence to the great books they were based on, cheapened them, robbed the reader of the delights of the original…They were right, of course. But they were wrong as well.” That’s pretty much how I feel about reading the graphic novel of A Game of Thrones before reading the book or watching the show. In a way, I kind of feel like I cheated, like I’m reading the CliffsNotes version before struggling through the “real” thing. On the other side of the coin I feel like I’m reading something that stands apart from the book and show, something that exists in its own right and has its own artistic validity and worth. And trust me, this graphic novel is full of both of those things.