Leave it to Geoff Darrow to begin a new issue (and a new series) with a trio of talking vultures. The triad is circling the remains of a huge battle to find their next meal. And they provide the most intelligent dialogue in the book.
Shaolin Cowboy’s latest battle, which nearly left him for dead, provides the backdrop for the vultures’ discussion of physiognomy, smorgasbords and cholesterol. Seeing a dead Asian combatant, one of the vultures declares, “It looks pretty fresh, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had any sashimi.”
Old Nemeses Hell Bent on Revenge
In The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign #1, Cowboy doesn’t have much to say. That leaves the vultures and less-intelligent humans to fill in the story. That plot revolves around a number of enemies trying to take advantage of Cowboy’s weakened state. Those include the vultures, a warden from hell, and a beer-guzzling crab-human hybrid. It’s quintessential Darrow. And that’s a beautiful thing.
But it’s detailed artwork that Darrow fans demand. And this issue doesn’t disappoint. While the book doesn’t have the decapitation by chainsaw on a rope that we’ve come to expect from the Cowboy, there’s still plenty to feast your eyes on.
There are impossible moves where the Cowboy propels himself into the back of a moving car. Bleak mountain landscapes complete with anti-Trump graffiti. And the generous use of two-page spreads with knife-legged dogs as a treat for the careful observer. Darrow creates a visual treat that will leave you coming back for the rest of this four-part series.
Few television shows inspire as much loyalty from die-hard fans as Firefly, Joss Whedon’s 2002 science fiction-Western hybrid. Capitalizing on the demand for new stories after the 2005 feature film Serenity, Dark Horse Comics has published several limited series. Its latest, Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse #6, concludes with bang.
In addition, the book has nailed the feeling of the beloved – but short-lived TV show. There’s the Western-style dialogue (“We put up a good fight for a spell.”). And the occasional Chinese curses (“Bi zui!”). Georges Jeanty’s realistic artwork lets us revisit our favorites characters. Capt. Mal Reynolds, mercenary Jayne Cobb, psychic River Tam all make appearances.
The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn
The new book takes place after the events of the Serenity movie. No Power in the ‘Verse sets the stage for a new uprising against the evil Alliance and its band of all-powerful psychics. Reynolds and his crew are caught in the middle forced to rescue River and other friends. This is also all happening while trying to figure out who are their friends and their true enemies.
However, instead of neatly wrapping up the story, writer Chris Robertson sets the stage for the next as-of-yet unannounced next limited series. The battle lines have been drawn–both within Serenity crew and between the crew and the Alliance. And the next installment can’t come soon enough.
Rebels: A Well Regulated Militia was released in 2015 to tell the story of Seth and Mercy Abbott. Set in 1775 colonial America, the series followed the newlyweds through the War of Independence. Seth was a volunteer in the militia who helped birth a nation.
Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1 picks up the story in 1794. Seth and Mercy’s son, John, has come of age. The boy is a savant who knows everything there is to know about ships and seafaring. He can readily identify any ship by silhouette alone, but has difficulty with social situations.
Barbary Pirates, George III, Birth of the US Navy
This is a historical period that saw danger to the fledgling Union from the Barbary Coast, Britain, and political infighting. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the Abbotts must decide what will be best for their odd son.
Writer Brian Wood (Aliens: Defiance, The Massive, Northlanders) transitions easily from the end of the first season into the beginning of season two. However, readers who haven’t read Militia won’t have any trouble jumping in with Independent States.
Wood’s script brings emotion and realism to stories that most people have at least a conceptual knowledge of. It can often be difficult to envision history as actual events with living humans who have feelings and relationships. While Wood makes it clear in his disclaimer that his characters never actually existed, they fit beautifully into historical context and give faces to an important era in American history.
You don’t have to be a history buff in order to enjoy Rebels. While the period details will appeal to history buffs, there is plenty of meat on the bone for action adventure fans.
Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods is based on the idea that where believers exist, their gods also exist. Immigrants to the United States bring versions of their gods with them. As long as believers hold their faith, the gods flourish.
The more believers in one place and the stronger their belief, the bigger and more powerful a deity. When a belief system breaks down, the forgotten gods lose their power and eventually disappear. Old gods are constantly fighting to keep their foothold in a society where new gods are constantly popping up. Ever wonder why the Old Testament God was so adamant about graven images?
American Gods: Shadows #1 introduces Shadow Moon, a convict who is released from prison a few days early to grieve. His wife was killed in an auto accident the week before Shadow’s scheduled release. On his flight home, Shadow has an uncomfortable meeting with Mr. Wednesday.
The grizzled old man offers Shadow a job after demonstrating impossible knowledge of Shadow’s past and present. Taking Wednesday for a grifter, Shadow declines and the two part ways. Unbeknownst to him, this isn’t the last time Shadow will encounter Mr. Wednesday. Shadow likewise has no idea how thin his perception of reality is about to stretch.
A Superstar Lineup. Neil Gaiman! P. Craig Russell! Scott Hampton!
P. Craig Russell is no stranger to adapting Gaiman works. Russell provided art for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, Coraline, and the Graveyard Book. This time he takes the reigns, writing the script with Gaiman available as a consultant.
Neil Gaiman has been involved throughout the adaptation process and is pleased with the comic series. “I’ve been watching P. Craig Russell breaking down the book into comic form, watching Scott Hampton painting the pages, watching Glenn Fabry create the covers, and grinning to myself with delight, because the American Gods comic is going to be an astonishing, faithful, and beautiful adaptation.”
American Gods: Shadowswill appeal to fans of the source novel, action-adventure, fantasy, horror, Americana, and mythology.
Comic book movies are big business. Marvel’s The Avengers made $623 million at the box office. DC’s The Dark Knight made $534 million worldwide. It should come as no surprise that Hollywood execs look to the pages of popular comics for inspiration.
More films than you might think began life as comic books/graphic novels. Some are obvious comic book adaptations, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s Extended Universe. Others, you wouldn’t know without having first been exposed to the printed source material.
In 1994, New Line Cinema turned Dark Horse’s The Mask into a film starring Jim Carrey. The premise of the film is simple. A lovable loser name Stanley Ipkiss finds a green mask. When he dons the jade mask, he gains extraordinary powers including shape-shifting, superhuman strength, and near invulnerability.
It’s Party Time! P! A! R! T! Y? Because I Gotta!
Along with the physical changes, Stanley undergoes a shift in personality. The mask takes away his inhibitions and pumps his Id into overdrive. He becomes a benevolent, mischievous sort of superhero. In the film, Ipkiss’ alter ego is referred to as The Mask. The backstory given is that the mask is a depiction of Loki, Norse god and trickster.
In the end of the film, Stanley gets the girl and ditches the mask in the river. The story ends up being a classic happily ever after, because Hollywood.
The comic book source material is much darker. “Big Head,” as The Mask’s main character is known in the early books, is based off black comedy characters like The Joker, The Creeper, and Mr. Hyde of Jekyl and Hyde. The movie is rated PG-13 for “stylized violence.” The comic is rated 14+ for comedic ultra-violence.
Don’t Put It On! Don’t Ever Put It On!!
“It doesn’t matter who you are. Once you put on the mask, you’re a homicidal lunatic with a bad taste for bad jokes and seriously deranged violence. And nothing–but nothing–can kill you!”
The comic book Ipkiss is a weak and neurotic character. He purchases the jade mask as an apology gift for his girlfriend. After the mask begins speaking to him, Ipkiss tries it on and transforms into Big Head. Stanley goes on a brutal killing spree, targeting people he believes have wronged him.
His nocturnal expeditions begin to take a toll on Ipkiss. He becomes verbally abusive to his girlfriend Kathy and she throws him out. Stanley breaks into her apartment and steals the mask, which she has kept. Technically, it belongs to her.
Later in the story, Kathy will shoot Stanley and take the mask, becoming the second Big Head. Later still, Lieutenant Kellaway will don the mask and become the third Big Head. After Kellaway, there are a string of other Big Heads. The mask itself is the character, regardless who is wearing it.
Which is Better?
Jim Carrey was an excellent choice to portray Ipkiss/Big Head/The Mask in the film adaptation. Many of the practical effects were created solely with prosthetics and Carrey’s ability to effortlessly twist his face inside out. The more spectacular effects were done with CGI that was cutting edge at the time the film was released. The CGI effects have aged, but not as badly as some of the other films from the same era.
With that being said, there are no restrictions on comic book effects. There are no budgetary constraints. There are no limits on how many explosions a sequence can have or how gory a sequence can be. There’s no struggle between using hokey practical effects or digital effects that look cool today, but may look awful in ten years. Technological advances in home entertainment are rarely kind to older effects.
The toned down horror elements in the movie allowed a larger audience to be exposed to the story. The movie evolved into a sort of violent comedy rather than a funny horror story. There are several scenes in the comic where Big Head appears to be wearing the skin of his victims as disguises. It’s hard to imagine Jim Carrey pulling off an Otis B. Driftwood (From The Devil’s Reject) on the silver screen.
Mediums are not Equal
Comparing mediums is difficult when talking about a movie adaptation of a comic. Fans who have read the book prior to seeing the film may be disappointed that their favorite scenes were condensed, changed, or simply omitted entirely. People who buy the book after seeing the film may be surprised by the darker tone and the hyped up violence.
It simply boils down to this: Movies aren’t books. It just isn’t possible to translate some material from graphic novel to live action. Conversely some of the material works better on screen than on the page.
So, the book is better. The book is always better. Except when it isn’t. But in the case of The Mask, the book is the winner.
“We’re telling the story that we’ve always told about society and how humans treat each other.” -Tom Araya, lead singer and bassist, Slayer
Slayer has dominated the thrash metal scene for nearly four decades. Then in 2015, the band teamed up with director BJ McDonnell (Hatchet III) to write and direct a music video for their song Repentless. The band was blown away by the resulting video. Repentless received an overwhelmingly positive public response.
The music video has over ten million YouTube views. Based on the reception of Repentless, Slayer went back to the well. They hired McDonnell to write and direct a prequel and a sequel video. The videos, in chronological order, are You Against You, Repentless, and Pride In Prejudice.
No Signs of Slowing Down or Showing Mercy
Slayer: Repentless #1 is an extension of the storyline that runs through the three music videos. Writer Jon Schnepp (Metalocalypse) offers a script full of violence, racial tension, and gore. And he brings depth to a familiar story and invites the reader to join him on a brutal and horrific journey.
In addition, artist Guiu Vilanova (Weird Detective, Twilight Zone) is well known for his diverse settings. In just the first couple pages, he takes the reader from a murder scene in suburbia through a peaceful foster home to a Neo Nazi rally. Scene transitions are seamless and easy. As a result, the action sequences, facial expressions, and body language are all spot on.
In Angel Season Eleven #1, Angel and his longtime associate Fred investigate a haunting in a Dublin hotel. However, the investigation soon leads to memories from Angel’s very dark past.
What do these memories mean and why are there so many bugs in them? These questions lead Angel and Fred on the mystery that forms the spine for the series’ first arc.
Angel and Fred Team Up
Angel’s past as the villainous vampire Angelus has always been ripe for story potential on TV and in comics. It’s a strong choice to make his backstory a cornerstone of this series. Angel is one of the most haunted characters in pop culture. Writer Corinna Bechko uses that to blaze forth a new storyline for him.
The other interesting thing about the book is the inclusion of the character of Fred. Viewers of the TV show know Fred’s body was possessed by the ancient demon Illyria in the final season. In this new series Fred tries to share her body with Illyria.
As you can imagine, a modern-day girl and an ancient demon don’t make the best pair of body-mates. However, with Illyria inside her, Fred is able to access powers important to revealing the truth about what’s going on in Dublin.
Angelhas always been a fan favorite character within the Buffy-verse. So, it’s nice to see him in his own series again. Based on this first issue it seems like a lot of narrative seeds have been planted. This makes for a large-scale adventure for the issues to come.
Lobster Johnson was first introduced in Hellboy in 1999. He has been a cornerstone of writer’s Mike Mingola’s supernatural world ever since. The Lobster, wearing his signature jacket and goggled helmet, continues to strikes fear into the hearts of both the mundane and paranormal.
In the standalone adventure Lobster Johnson: Garden of Bones, he stalks the streets of 30s era New York. The Lobster attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding a mob enforcer, And mobster Benny Jeunot may not be quite as dead as the authorities might wish.
We find The Lobster in a graveyard accompanied by one of his trusted allies, Harry McTell. Harry informs the titular hero about the enforcer in question and how he most certainly can’t be a zombie. Despite Harry’s litany of reasons, The Lobster remains stoically certain about the paranormal goings on.
An Imperfect Hero on a Mission
Our hero sends Harry away to search the caretaker’s quarters. Then, The Lobster’s suspicions are given terrifying form. He is assaulted by an enormous attacker that bears a striking resemblance to the late Benny Jeunot. Thankfully, Harry returns in time with a double-barreled surprise for the apparent zombie.
The duo follow the trail of their attacker and end up at table with three practitioners of a dark art called Fimbakonu. The result is a brutal struggle involving a pack of risen dead and Benny Jeunot. Harry’s quick thinking handily dispatches the revenants. That leaves three necromancers at the mercy of Lobster Johnson himself.
Garden of Bones is an excellent entry into the Lobster Johnson saga, providing paranormal action layered with the crime-noir that befits the time period.
Detective Linda Caruso’s job is usually a piece of cake. She works in Mariposa County’s Jail Crimes Division. Her cases are usually pretty cut and dried. That also means that she’s usually bored out of her mind. After failing the detective’s examination as a deputy, she was railroaded into taking a position in Jail Crimes.
Dead Inside #1 is a familiar feeling story of a broken down detective in a dead end job. Caruso is recently divorced and drinks more than she probably should. She fits the archetype further by having absolutely no clue when it comes to office politics. Her social game is defective, but easily relatable.
A Big Cover Up
When Caruso has to investigate a murder suicide at Bennett Pen, it doesn’t take long for her to realize this case is different. In a very short period of time, she has enough evidence to close the case, but something about the case is off. It’s too easy. It appears that someone is pulling strings to make sure that Caruso doesn’t get more than a cursory look at any of the evidence. She runs into solid brick walls any time she tries to dig any deeper. She is being seemingly directed by an unseen agency.
Artwork by Toni Fejzula is instantly recognizable. Fejzula’s clean lines, deep textures, and unique angles underscore the oddity and gruesome nature of Arcudi’s script. Andre May’s color choices work well and add to the underlying tension throughout the chapter.
Dead Inside is aimed at fans of crime procedurals, noir, mystery, and prison drama. Think CSI mashed up with Columbo and Wentworth. There’s also a hint of horror thrown in for good measure.
Bunn’s take on the Barbarian is reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s historically inaccurate (albeit highly entertaining) film portrayal of Braveheart’s William Wallace. Now Conan is hardly a mindless Barbarian roaming the countryside, indiscriminately butchering defenseless sheep.
Conan’s Complex Character
Rather, in the opening scenes of chapter one, Conan allows four pursuing Turanians every opportunity to turn back and leave him alone before finally sending the hunters to meet Crom. Diving deeper into the Blood In His Wake story arc, it’s clear “The Slayer” is only one facet of Conan’s surprisingly complex character.
By the time we reach the opening pages of Conan the Slayer #5, the wily Cimmerian has talked his way out his own death sentence. He’s also battled a sea hag and her offspring, become a trusted advisor to a Kozaki Hetman, and solved a murder mystery.
The art team does an outstanding job bringing Bunn’s script to the page. Sergio Davila’s artwork and Michael Atiya’s color beautifully capture the raw emotion and gore of the action sequences. Still there is room for vulnerable moments. The Slayer never looked better. Letters by Richard Starkings pay homage to the series’ origins, using typeface to set scenes. Conan’s dialogue is delivered in angular balloons, suggesting The Destroyer not speaking his native tongue.
Conan The Slayer has broad appeal. It’s familiar enough for devotees of previous incarnations of Robert E. Howard’s brainchild, while crossing new genre boundaries. Fans of fantasy, action/adventure, mystery, and occult comics will enjoy this new series.
Mark Millar turns his new series on its head this New Comic Book Day. Nightwing gets help with his nightmares, Doctor Strange starts a new arc, a new team of Renegades forms, and our magical cross country tour makes its first stop in Spell on Wheels. Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!
SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.
It’s common that after story arcs end, a single story issue provides some transition from one story to the other. It’s rare though that such issues are also character defining. Nightwing provides a bit of unseen backstory on Dick Grayson–namely that he has been haunted by nightmares for some time. In an attempt to help, Superman uses Kryptonian tech to enter Nightwing’s dreams. The adventure this takes us on shows not only how important Nightwing is (as the glue of much of the DC Universe), but also how this new Superman really is the back-to-basics version of the character fans have been craving.
Tim Seeley continues to prove his love for Nightwing. He captures the fun, but also underlying struggle the character has been having recently. It’s this kind of nuance that has always made Nightwing a compelling character. Marcio Takara’s art adds the layer of grit needed, but without this feeling like a typical dark Gotham book.
Personally, Nightwing is not anywhere near my favorite Bat-Family character, but with how well this book is, this has consistently been one of my favorite offerings from DC’s Rebirth. The balance of well-written stories with a large helping of heart hits this old comic fan right where it counts. I highly suggest you make this a regular pull. [Mikey N. at TFAW.com]
This is it folks. This is where the real journey begins. The glimpse of this realm that we received in the first issue does not prepare you for how fantastical everything is. Mark Millar, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, and Fco Placencia really made something special with this issue. At first, you start to see typical tropes from this type of story but then they immediately turn that on its head!
You get a proper explanation, a good look at the protagonist, a few great mysteries and a great segue into what I am sure will be an epic adventure full of emotion. Read on warriors! [Sean W. at TFAW.com]
Doctor Strange #14 By: Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo, Al Vey, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Antonio Fabela, Java Tartaglia
The newest issue of the Doctor Strange comic book lives up to its name–Strange. Get ready to go to “all-new all-different” hell and pal around with Satana, the devil’s daughter.
Wile the story reads like a quick scene in a larger narrative, I could see people really digging into this. Chris Bachalo’s art is whimsical and frenetic. He really shines when Strange takes on his astral form. Good stuff. Jason Aaron is taking a comical beat this issue and it’s rather fun to experience. I’ve had a lot of fun seeing Strange at his lowest, slowly dragging himself from the muck and rebuilding himself. [Josh C. at TFAW.com]
A brand new #1 from the team at Valiant Entertainment. Harbinger: Renegades #1 is a new team of heroes. What looks to be fragments of the old Renegades team with some new faces. Like most team-up books, this issue sets up not only who the team will consist of, even if momentarily, but also who the villain is.
Rafer Roberts’ writing is great; he creates a real world and gives the characters responsibilities and lives that fit within our reality more so than any other book I’ve seen lately. Darick Robertson does an amazing job with facial expressions–you really see the shock and awe in his line work. With the team just starting to come together, I’m anxiously awaiting the next issue. [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
When we last left our trio of witches, they were on a road trip to get back their stolen magical items. Their first stop: Massachusetts. This issue of Spell on Wheels picks up with the gang as they meet with an old artist who purchased one of their stolen pieces. Unfortunately the package hasn’t arrived due to, you know, shipping and all. So the girls wait there until the next day for the package to arrive. Little do they know however it’s not quite that simple.
I love the dialogue in this comic. It feels like I’m talking to a friend. Another thing I really enjoy about how Kate Leth wrote this is how strong these women are with or without magic. Next stop Connecticut! [Martin M. at TFAW.com]
Legendary Science Fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke famously stated: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This statement is the basis for Dark Horse’s new comic Ether.
Ether #1 introduces Boone Dias, a scientist exploring the magical realm of The Ether. Boone is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones. He’s an adventurer with the mind of a detective. In this adventure, he sets out to discover the scientific facts that will explain the existence of magic.
Ether has a clever and highly engaging plot that seamlessly blends the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Writer Matt Kindt creates a fascinating new take on the concept of a magical world, with a hero entirely unfazed and almost unimpressed by it.
Looking at Magic Through Science
Boone’s Holmesian-characteristics show most when he flexes his intelligence for citizens of the Ether. He seems to pity those who merely believe in magic. Meanwhile, Boone is tasked with solving a murder involving a sentient bullet and a giant magical library.
It’s fun to walk through this magical world treated with such a blasé’ attitude.There are baboon gatekeepers, giant snails that function as taxis, and songbirds that render people unconscious. All of these are simply accepted as just a normal part of everyday life. Nontheless, our hero has a mission and can’t get bogged down in the wonder of The Ether.
This story will appeal to the science lovers and the magic obsessed. It manages to get everyone involved in a compelling mystery. Boone is also a hero with the potential to intrigue readers for many issues to come.