Thursday, February 07, 2013
Batman/Tarzan: Claws of The Catwoman, published by Dark Horse Comics, 96 pages.
When it comes to comic book stories, I’m a sucker for crossovers. It’s very basic: when a fan has formed a respect and admiration for two characters, intrigue at the thought of throwing them together naturally follows. And, having grown up on cartoons featuring Batman and Tarzan, the “little guy” in me had the most to say about plunking down the cash for Batman/Tarzan: Claws of The Catwoman.
I never like to give away a good story, so suffice it to say that the adventures of Tarzan always seem most “at home” in a lost city of some sort. This story is no different, as the Lord of the Jungle and the Caped Crusader find themselves drawn into an adventure which leads them to just such a locale. The exploit is fast-paced and entertaining, thanks to writer Ron Marz.
Marz keeps both characters true to their essences, bringing to light common characteristics, as well as glaring differences between the two. And, while any self-respecting fanboy enjoys a good throw-down (“Who do you think would win in a fight between…..?”), Mr. Marz creates instances in which varying philosophies which define the characters cause a different kind of sparks to fly. He also gives readers intriguing variations on the characters Harvey Dent/Two-face, and Catwoman in this Elseworlds-type story.
Artist Igor Kordey lends his lavish and detailed art style to this period yarn. Not that I (obviously) don’t already consider the medium of comics art worthy of respect, but Kordey is one of those artisans whose work seems to lift an already-unique art form to a higher level. And while there are more talented storytellers in the field, some of Kordey’s panels would seem at home hanging in a museum. The Dave Dorman cover art is icing on the cake.
Batman/Tarzan: Claws of The Catwoman is highly recommended for all but the youngest readers. Find it at comics shops, conventions, or online auctions and retailers. But, try your local comics shop first.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Ghostopolis, published by Graphix, a division of Scholastic Inc., 266 pages, $12.99.
It is difficult today to find comics works dealing with the darker side of the supernatural which do not employ a fair-to-massive amount of gore, or a fascination with the occult. This could be due to the fact that comics have become much too focused on adults (and that the creators assume adult readers WANT such material). Or, it may just be that most creators are not as talented as Doug TenNapel.
TenNapel’s graphic novel Ghostopolis puts the creator’s immense talent on display, presenting fortunate readers with an engaging story containing a dark, ominous tone, moments of cut-able eeriness as well as laugh-out-loud humor, frightening villains, and heroic protagonists who maintain their realistic feet of clay. All of this is wrapped up in the big bow that is TenNapel’s wholly distinctive art style; you’ve probably never seen monsters and machines like these.
Furthermore, those who are familiar with TenNapel’s work may find the form itself to be his brand of inimitable material. While the story is clearly reminiscent of the Ghost Buster movies, the presentation, the “twist” if you will, is truly unique. TenNaple has given the fictional world of “ghost catching” a whole new dimension. And it’s a fun place to hang out!
Perhaps best of all, by the end of Ghostopolis, characters are rounded out by the experience: fears are overcome, potentialities are realized, and each of their “worlds” are better for what they have endured. TenNaple gives readers a sense of closure and contentment, both as individuals enjoying a great yarn, as well as taggers-along, living vicariously through his charming characters.
Contentment may escape the reader in one sense, however; after reading Ghostopolis, you may have a gnawing desire for more TenNapel work. Well, it’s out there. And it’s recommended for all but the youngest readers.
Find it at your local comics shop, comics conventions, or online retailers and auctions. But, try your local comics shop first.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born, published by Apostle Arts, LLC (2011), 32 pages, $5.99.
Despite the controversy which some have managed to build around the holiday, Christmas remains an important, cherished time for most people world-wide. And one story from which the season will never be divested (nor should it), is that of the birth of Jesus, the Christ. Now, families who treasure that annual retelling can have one of the most beautiful representations of it I have ever seen. Whether they are comics fans or not, I believe most would appreciate A Child is Born, by Billi Tucci.
Tucci, a well-known comics artist with an ultra-realistic style, does what may be his best work ever on this ancient, yet still-timely tale of the birth of a Savior who offers hope for all the world. Everything associated with the account is here: Mary and Joseph, the magi, the shepherds, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, angels and even the threatened monarch, King Herod. This 32-page offering seems as complete as any such limited version can be, and could potentially become a treasured part of the celebration of Christmas, especially for families with small children.
Paul Mounts provides interior colors for Tucci’s pencils and inks, and Mark Sparacio finished the cover. Each have helped deliver a quality to this comics work which is equally akin to high-quality art one would expect in a fine gift store. Those who enjoy the work of such artisans as Warner Sallman, Akiane Kramarik, Greg Olsen, Simon Dewey, etc. will find plenty to be amazed by within these pages.
Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born is recommended to anyone who relates to the Christmas message of potential hope, peace and joy for all. It contains the reason that Christmas is more than just another holiday, and is therefore ALSO recommended to those who desperately seek those qualities in their own lives. Find it at www.achildisbornbook.com, your local comics shop, conventions, or online retailers and auctions.
And, Merry Christmas.
Review by Mark Allen
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Outlaw Prince, published by Dark Horse Comics, 80 pages, $12.99.
As in all media, there are works in comics which seem to elevate the potential of the form. These are the stories that you read and then think, “Why can’t MORE comicbooks be like this?” Here’s another occasion to ask yourself that question: a four-color tale called The Outlaw Prince.
The first of a set of four volumes planned, Prince begins a retelling of The Outlaw of Torn, a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you have never read the novel, however, this graphic “cousin” will seem quite fresh to you, and that much more entertaining.
As one who never read the source material, I cannot comment on the loyalty of writer Rob Hughes’ adaption. However, I can say that the work does not “feel” like an abridged version, but rather boasts a sense of completeness, and a well-paced course of events. It reads nothing like an adaption, and enjoys a feeling of originality. That, along with engaging characters, possessing believable motivations, are all credit to Mr. Hughes’ talent as a writer.
The visuals are provided by two men whose talents are known in and beyond the world of sequential art, and for good reason. Michael Kaluta provides layouts, over which Thomas Yeates lavishes gorgeous pencil completions and ink work, turning out a product not unlike those considered the cream of the adventure strip era. These facts alone would convince me that this is one of the best graphic works produced in 2011. The colors provided by Yeates, Lori Almeida, Steve Oliff, and Gloria Vasquez make that opinion a conviction.
No work produced in the last year is more complimentary to the art form. Find it at your local comics shop, online retailers or auctions, or the next convention you attend. But, try your local comics shop, first.
The Outlaw Prince is highly recommended for fans of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, enthusiasts of stories from the Middle Ages, or readers who just like a rip-roarin’ good yarn!
Review by Mark Allen
Go Here for more information about The Outlaw Prince.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Star Trek – Assignment: Earth, published by IDW Publishing in 2008, 136 pages, $19.99.
Growing up, I was a fan of the original Star Trek series, which had long since begun its run in syndication. Many years later, I learned a now-well-known piece of Trek trivia: the final episode of Season Two, “Assignment: Earth”, was originally meant to herald a spin-off series of the same name. Whatever appeal and potential fans may believe it had, network bigwigs passed.
Enter, IDW Publishing, who ran with the idea and main characters, Gary Seven and his assistant, Roberta Lincoln, in a six-issue miniseries in 2008. Written, drawn and inked by long-time comics pro John Byrne, the story offers solid, lighthearted entertainment, despite dealing with subjects such as potential nuclear devastation, covert military cloning operations, the prospect of earth’s destruction by a hostile alien race, and more. “How can that be lighthearted”, you ask? Easy. Like the sci-fi series from which it sprung, “Assignment: Earth” doesn’t take itself too seriously. Oh, the drama is enjoyable, and the plots, characterization, motivations and mysteries are interesting. But with its neatly tied-up storylines, along with a fair dash of optimistic humor, Byrne manages to keep things cheery.
The art of John Byrne is one of the most recognizable in the business, and for good reason. A staple of superhero fare, his style is at home in the thick of action and drama, but he is equally adept at expression and characterization, which are of no small import to more subdued subject matter. In short, Byrne is a master of comics art. And, while not delivering his “Mona Lisa” as it were, “Assignment: Earth” is thoroughly enjoyable as the fulfillment of at least some Trek fans’ wishes: the “fleshing out” of an idea which Star Trek execs let go by the wayside.
For all of the above reasons, Star Trek – Assignment: Earth is recommended for fans of Star Trek and/or John Byrne. Look for it at your comics shop, trade shows, or online retailers and auctions. But try your local comics shop first.
Review by Mark Allen
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Suspended Animation Reviews For the Weeks of September 24th and October 9th: The Incredibles and Amazing High Adventure
The Incredibles: City of Incredibles, published by Marvel Worldwide, Inc., 96 pages, magazine format, $5.99.
Fun. It’s what comics were all about when I was a kid. Pure, unadulterated, action-oriented, and sometimes even laugh-out-loud fun. It’s what I wish more of them were about today. But, until such a day comes, I’ll be content with the occasional such offering, like Disney and Marvel’s The Incredibles: City of Incredibles.
The story begins with the birth of Jack-Jack, the youngest member of the family. Of course, in the world of this extra-normal group, the event is required to be anything but typical. Before the little Incredible can be born, the family has a dust-up with a band of villains. Bad guys get dispatched, and the crime-fighting brood welcomes their newest member. But, what’s with that odd canister the Confederacy of Crime was after? And, how might its contents affect Jack-Jack…?
Mark Waid sets readers up with an intriguing prologue, then he and Landry Walker deliver a breakneck-paced, engrossing story which contains entertaining characters, an engaging plot, a twist or two, and a few laughs, just for good measure. Without giving too much away, Jack-Jack’s power-transferal method is simple, yet hilariously in character. Short of the movie itself, this is the best material employing these characters that I’ve seen.
Marcio Takara and Ramanda Kamarga handle the art chores, and churn out a visual feast which is true enough to the look of the movie, while portraying action, drama and comedy in superior form. I very much enjoyed their villains’ character designs, (my personal favorites being Mr. Pixel and Centsus) and the storytelling was also top-notch.
All-in-all, The Incredibles is a magazine-sized comic book that can be enjoyed by every member of the family. Now that I’ve finally read and reviewed it, I plan on passing it on to my own kids.
Find this recommended work at your local comics shop, or online retailers and auctions. But, try your local comics shop first.
Review by Mark Allen
Amazing High Adventure, published by Marvel Comics, 48 pages, cover price, $2.00.
Back in the mid-eighties, Marvel Comics published a five-issue series that gathered some of the industry’s top talent. Purveyors of superior sequential goodness such as Mike Baron, Steve Englehart, Mike Mignola, John and Marie Severin, Val Mayerik, Mark Wheatley, Al Williamson, Bill Mantlo, Steve Bissette and John Bolton collaborated on this project, appropriately entitled Amazing High Adventure.
This anthology series would probably be considered a major undertaking in comics today, and is certainly worthy of inclusion in anyone’s collection. However, it almost never seems sought out or reviewed by anyone. “Why is that”, you may ask? In answer, let's look at some of the laudable characteristics of this series.
Diversity of subject material. Stories from Napoleonic times, 19th-century American West, and the American Revolution share page-space with tales of early paleontology, modern-day Indonesia, Genghis Kahn's unification of Mongolia and others.
Diversity of art-styles. I could just put a "see above" indicator here, but it's worth pointing out again that the cream of the artistic crop is represented within these pages. From the beautiful painted style of Bolton to the sketchy, yet quite detailed pencil/ink work of Alan Weiss, as well as the highly-expressive and moody work of Steve (Swamp Thing) Bissette, the series is an eye-popping cornucopia of wonderful art. When you consider the differing techniques represented, nothing highlights the unique approach of each like sharing space in an anthology. If you are fans of these artisans, my guess is that this series will remind you of why.
Price point. Forget the $2.00 cover price. These exceptional works can be picked out of dealers’ .50, or even .25 cent boxes, or acquired cheaply online. In times like these, when everyone is pinching pennies, it’s always a joy to find entertaining fare for a pittance.
Amazing High Adventure is highly recommended for readers of all ages who love great stories, beautiful artwork and..., well..., high adventure. Find it at your nearest comics shop, comic conventions, or online retailers and auctions. But try your local comics shop first.
Review by Mark Allen
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier, published by Abrams, 226 pages, $45.00.
It’s a rare thrill when a book about a comic creator’s career actually does justice to said career. And, in the case of Jack Kirby, the wise author begins the task knowing it will be a monumental challenge. But, Mark Evanier did so, to the joy of fans and pop culture history buffs alike, with his 2008 offering, Kirby: King of Comics.
Giving every stage of his career proper coverage, Evanier presents a well-balanced and fulfilling relation of “The King’s” phenomenal four-color foray. Additionally, he brings a unique insight which few others could match, due to time spent as Kirby’s assistant, confidant and friend. As a result, the production is more than an academic retelling of a man’s time spent drawing funny books; it is a project born of love, respect and admiration. And it shows.
With plenty of art and photos, as well as a Kirby gem from 1983 called “Street Code”, first published in Richard Kyle’s Argosy, the book is worth the price tag from a strictly visual standpoint, alone. Combined with Evanier’s intimate knowledge of his former mentor, and his knack for making this type of project almost as engaging as the subject matter itself, you have something in which diehard fans may immerse themselves…., and then feel a slight pang of regret upon finishing the last page. Sorry, but Kirby: King of Comics is that good.
A word about “Street Code”: Based on Jack’s experiences as a boy, this ten-page story deals with the street gangs of that time. Published right from Jack’s pencils, fans that have not seen this work have missed some of the purest craft of his career. It is bold, powerful, visceral and unspeakably Kirby.
Kirby: King of Comics is recommended for fans of Jack Kirby, natch, as well as comic book history enthusiasts. Find it at your local comics shop, bookstores, and online auctions and retailers. But, try your local comics shop first.
Review by Mark Allen
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
A few days ago, a question was raised over at comicvine.com. The question: "Would the Joker be a good villain in the Marvel Universe?" I found it an interesting premise, and set about supporting my answer in the affirmative. I decided to post it here, as well as a photo mishmash of my proposed team for the Clown Prince of Crime. I hope you enjoy it.
Of course the Joker could work in the Marvel Universe. Here’s how.
First, start with a one-shot publication; bookshelf format would be best. Here’s the story.
The Joker decides to play a “joke” on the Marvel Universe. He locates Axel Asher (Access), and forces him to allow him to cross over into the M.U. After gathering some henchmen, establishing a secret base of operations, and stashing a drugged Axel there, DC’s Crown Prince of Crime goes on a talent search…, by getting himself admitted to the local insane asylum.
While there, he encounters Mary Walker, whose “Typhoid Mary” persona falls “in love” with the Joker’s insanity (as the Joker falls head-over-heels for the brutal “Bloody Mary”).
He also enlists Madcap as a lieutenant, being attracted to the indestructible inmate’s philosophy that life has no reason, and his ability to drive people insane with his stare. “The kid has talent, and a great outlook on life, and since I can’t kill him, I might as well take him under my wing!” (Cue maniacal laughter.)
Lastly, the Joker solicits the aid of Dr. Faustus, believing his skills in psychological combat will be useful. Faustus’ desire for mastery of men’s minds also leads to an interesting internal power struggle between the two.
Having formed his team, the merry band of psychos busts out, in search of a bigger, better lair. The target: Arcade’s Murderworld.
Not giving up his creation without a fight, Arcade and his team are, nonetheless, outmatched. And, when it comes to competitors, the Joker takes no prisoners.
“Tweaking” the facility to match his own twisted persona, the Joker now has a haunt and a team, and goes about making plans to “introduce” himself to the heroes of the M.U.
I see him adding additional villains to his crew; some that I think would be a good fit would be Mr. Hyde, The Corruptor, Carrion, and Styx, of Styx and Stone. (Spidey villains.)
Notice that none of these are big players, but all potentially VERY deadly and/or powerful. Not to mention creepy. Suddenly, the Joker has come to the Marvel Universe, and formed a new criminal force to be reckoned with. Let the mega-crossover events begin!