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Review: Galaxy Quest – The Journey Continues

I’m back from vacation and that means I read a lot of comic books. Here’s a review of one of them.

Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues

GalaxyQuest

Writer – Erik Burnham, Artists – Nacho Arranz, Roger Robinson

I was pretty excited when I heard this series was coming out, and doubly so when it was available on NetGalley. Galaxy Quest is one my favorite camp movies and we just recently watched it after the passing of Alan Rickman (probably not the most fitting tribute but to each his own). So perhaps my disappointment with this comic series is due to high expectations, but I’ll leave that for you to judge.

The comic series picks up several years after the events of the movie. The cast is still together and are doing the Con circuit in anticipation of the third season of the new show. The security guy is contemplating a spin off series, a move that is annoying some of the main cast, blah blah TV machinations.

The main story involves the consequences of using the Omega 13 in the movie. An alien race that managed to lead a successful revolt against a technocratic oppressive government, fails when the timeline is reset and the government is able to repel the rebellion. Members of the rebellion enlist the Galaxy Quest crew (plus the Apple commercial kid) to take down a super-weapon and correct the mistake they caused. I think this was an interesting set up premise, that then failed in execution.

This comic had several execution problems starting with a Deus Ex Machina ending. Apparently humans are immune to the death ray thingy for “reasons” and so are able to destroy it without a hitch (spoiler?). The B-plot of aliens posing as the main crew at the cons is underdeveloped and could have been a real source of humor which the comic largely lacked. Also, the lack of likeness rights made it difficult to tell characters apart (particularly when not in their makeup). And Burnham’s writing of Rickman in particular reduced that character to griping the entire time. Perhaps in the hands of Rickman the lines would have come across better, but he didn’t seem quite as pouty in the movie, at least to me.

The setup at the end for “continuing adventures” borrows the plotline from the beginning of the four issue arc, and seems like a rushed attempt to make this a continuing series, which I doubt it will be. BTW, the transporter body switching gag was not as funny as they’d hoped it was. Futurama’s return did a similar episode to much better effect (particularly Scruffy’s appearance at the end). The comic tried to do some callbacks (fan-service) to the movie, but these came across just as references and not as actual humor.

IDW’s doing a run of “nostalgia comics” from Ghostbusters, to Back to the Future, and Galaxy Quest, to varying effect. Of those three, I’d say this was the worst of the lot.

(2.5 Stars | I’ll give it a three on NetGalley, but you’re better off just re-watching the movie)

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Review: Rot & Ruin – Warrior Smart

Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart

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Writer – Jonathan Maberry, Artists – Alex Ronald & Tony Vargas

Continuing the adventures of the apparently popular book series, Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart finds a band of teenagers wandering the zombie infested countryside searching for a jet they may have seen (and that never comes up again) only to soon find themselves trapped on a farm with crazy breeders.

Let me back up a bit.

What looks interesting and cool about this series is the kid with the sword. We get the idea that this is going to be kind of a wandering samurai kind of book set in a zombie apocalypse (zombies here are called “rotters”). The other teenagers have some “backstory” to explain the various types: the city kid, the feral jungle girl, the crazy redhead, and the aforementioned sword wielding kid dealing with the loss of his brother.

This whole volume feels like it could have been an episode of The Walking Dead, and not in a good way. It is humorless, and adds little to the zombie canon (we still have to make ourselves smell bad and move slow to trick the zombies). I did like the idea of labyrinths and written instructions as a way to weed out zombies, and the idea that zombies only really move when there are brains to eat, but I suspect these aren’t really new ideas, just things I hadn’t encountered before.

But my biggest complaint is how much the story telegraphs a “shocking” plot-point, and then spends the rest of the volume dwelling on that point.

Our (heroes?) are saved by a pregnant young girl and are taken to a farm with a lot of strapping young men, no women in sight except for some in their 50’s, and very little visible animal life, including the mysterious “cows.” If you’ve been reading this genre for more than 10 minutes you know that the “cows” (*Spoiler alert I guess*) are going to be the pregnant young women, all locked in a barn, and sure enough we readers find this out maybe 10 pages later. Our main characters don’t realize it until a full chapter later, to the point that I thought the big reveal was going to be some other even more horrible thing these farmers were doing (not to say that the cow thing isn’t horrible, because it is).

What I object to most about the “cows” is that it is only in this story for shock value. There are a lot of interesting motivations to explore here, maybe even some parallels to human trafficking, but the writer treats the women like the cattle the farmers believe them to be. We get no personal narratives, no women making this choice for themselves, they’re just brainwashed and don’t want to leave. This isn’t what we thought this story would be about. Weren’t we going after some jet or something?

There are long drawn out and implausible fights. People fight, get captured, ramble a bit, escape, fight, get captured, and finally escape again. And the conclusion is that kids aren’t monsters I guess because they chose not to kill one guy, even though they killed many other people in trying to escape, and pretty much left the farm at the mercy of the rotters.

*Blecch*

You know what would be cool? Take the classic manga Rurouni Kenshin, steeped in Meiji era politics, and just add zombies. That would be the zombie samurai epic we deserve. That would add a whole new dimension to the whole “I’m not going to kill anybody” arc of Kenshin. Would Kenshin kill Zombies? Nobuhiro Watsuki, I’m looking at you.

Orororo.

(2 Stars | Even for zombie faire this was terrible)

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Being Happy Something Exists (Even If You Don’t Like It)

This probably started as a rant about the new Star Trek trailer, which I believe many of us are a little dubious about. But it has been pointed out to me by unnamed sources (i.e. a certain Little Red Haired Girl) that the trailer is 90 seconds, I’m reading a lot into it, and either way we’re going to see it and enjoy the movie on some level.

I feel the same way about the new Peanuts movie, which I have not seen, but the trailer really worried me. I’ve heard it’s good, and I’ve heard it’s not, and if/when it comes to the dollar theater or Netflix I will watch it.

Here’s what I am happy about.

The fact that these movies exist means merchandising (where the real money from the movie is made) and licensed projects.

IDW picked up the license for Star Trek comics a few years before the new movie series and has been going strong for nearly 10 years. The ongoing series that weaves in and out of the movie timeline passed issue 50 a few months ago. I have 100’s of comics and stories that wouldn’t have existed were it not for the new movies and their popularity.

This is my wallpaper at work. Don’t you love the artist’s reproduction of lens flares?

From Star Trek Ongoing Issue #50

From Star Trek (2011) #50

The release of the Peanuts movie also triggered DVD releases of more of the old specials that have never made it to DVD, and the two feature length movies Bon Voyage Charlie Brown and Race For Your Life Charlie Brown. I may have some quibbles about the fact that they were fullscreen movies cut down to fit widescreen, but considering they were only previously available on VHS, I’ll take it. Even if the new movie is lousy, these two movies are great and are now out there for everyone to enjoy.

Jurassic World was kind of a meh, but Lego Jurassic World with all four movies is a lot of fun (though sanitizing it so the dinos don’t actually eat anybody is weird).

The Star Wars movie sounds like it will actually be pretty good, but even if it isn’t we have new comics from Marvel, releases of classic series, and really expensive Lego sets that I can covet from afar.

There’s also a lot of crap that gets produced (I think my breaking point was the Star Wars Cover Girl ads). And honestly I don’t think the new Star Trek movies are suddenly going to get someone to go back and watch the show from the 60’s. But at least it’s an excuse to give the fans more to enjoy, and maybe even love.

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Transmetropolitan and sticking the landing

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Transmetropolitan is a difficult series to recommend and yet it’s one of the best things I’ve read in comics. There’s a lot of bad language, violence, sex, drug use, technological fetishism, bowel disruptors, two-headed cats and journalism. The main character is a bastard, and is also a deeply compassionate human being. If you stick with him, he’ll make you smile, then cringe, then smile again.

I’m a big fan of 50-60 issue series, long enough to develop a world, have notable side issues, and mysteries that are revealed gradually but not glacially. Transmetropolitan has a five year arc told over five years of comics from 1997-2002. In some ways it is very of its time, while in others it was quite prescient. But more than anything it’s a story that unfolds gradually, and that comes together to a satisfying ending, something difficult for any author, but doubly difficult in a monthly medium like comics.

Transmetropolitan tells the story of Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo style journalist in a 23rd century cyberpunk trans-humanist future. After five years away, Spider is called back to “the city” to fulfill the last two books of a five book publishing deal. The city is a mash of cultures, fetishes, technologies and architectures, constantly evolving and living in an ever present “now” with little memory of the past. Spider first decides to cover a transient movement in the Angels 8 district, a story that ultimately leads to his live coverage of police brutality bringing the riots to a stop. This earns him both fame from the public and the ire of city officials.

But the majority of the book’s arc has to do with two presidential administrations, the Beast and the Smiler, and Spider’s adversarial relationship with each. The Beast is a pragmatist who will only do the bare minimum necessary to keep at least 51% of the people happy and alive, and the Smiler is a man who wants power only so that he can use it for his own whims.

I don’t want to say a whole lot about the particulars of the conflict, but suffice it to say there are highs, lows, conspiracies and satisfying showdowns throughout. The best part is that ideas and concepts introduced in early issues are important and relevant to the conclusion. Everything feels like it has unfolded organically and inevitably to the conclusion Ellis and Robertson planned.

I’m not going to lie. It took me two reads of the first volume before I decided to go any further, with about six months between those readings. It took a deep discount and coke rewards points for me to buy the second volume, even after liking the first volume much better on a second read. There’s a lot of early world building. And the language and “colorful metaphors” (as Spock would say) are a barrier (though weirdly satisfying in later moments). This series is not for everyone, probably not even for most people. But you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try if it sounds the least bit interesting.

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Review: Supreme – Blue Rose, Stylish but lacks substance

Supreme: Blue Rose

Writer – Warren Ellis, Artist – Tula Lotay

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Diana Dane is an unemployed investigative reporter tasked by the mysterious information broker Darius Dax to uncover the mystery behind a golden arch that fell on the town of Littlehaven. What is the meaning of the word “Supreme” emblazoned on the arch, and who is Ethan Crane? And should Diana Dane trust Dax or the warnings she hears in her dreams?

This is a reboot of a reboot of a rebooted super-hero series. Yes, superhero. A little Wikipedia research reveals Supreme (a la Ethan Crane) to be a Superman analog first created by Rob Lefield and rebooted by Alan Moore. Diana Dane = Lois Lane, Darius Dax = Lex Luthor, etc. Moore introduced a meta element to the comic involving “revisions” that reset reality, in part to account for the different styles and approaches of the writers working on the title. There are many versions of Supreme, Dax, and Diana Dane. Some memories seep through to the current version, and some retired versions are taken to the Supremacy outside time.

Ellis maintains this conceit, revising the world into a much less heroic version (possibly a side-effect of Erik Larsen’s despised run of the comic). The latest revision has destabilized the boundaries between reality and powers from the distant future are trying to repair the damage either by triggering another revision, or removing key people into the safe future. The plot is largely disconnected and highly stylized, interspersed with scenes from a television show called Professor Night that somehow is connected to the revisions.

I’m okay with having to work to make sense of what’s going on. As a fan of Finder, I’m used to not all information being provided to me at once (though Carla does make use of extensive footnotes that do clear a lot up). You can do a stylized story as long as it crystallizes into something magical at the end. What we get from Ellis is a data-dump explanation and an abrupt unsatisfying and inconclusive ending.

Tula Lotay’s artwork is the highlight of the book, giving an ethereal sense to both reality and dreams. She draws a lot of ribbons and shapes interspersed with the story, like an old photograph with scratches or blurs. It’s really unique and gorgeous to look at. It reminds me a lot of the best parts of Fatale.

Ultimately this story fails to engage new readers to be part of the Supreme mythos. In a world where we can keep hitting the reset button, why should we care about these particular versions of the characters? But it’s Ellis’ execution that fails to captivate most, evoking a sense of the mysterious but lacking any real mystery.

(3 Stars | Hopefully Tula’s artwork can be applied to a better story)

Sidebar: My Wikipedia research did uncover a villain by the name of Televillain who apparently can enter the reality of television shows. He kills Monica Gellar in “The One Where Monica Gets Shot” and then is accosted in real life. Now that would be an interesting comic to read (Images from ComicVine).

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Review: They’re Not Like Us Volume 1

They’re Not Like Us Vol. 1: Black Holes For The Young

Writer – Eric Stephenson, Artist – Simon Gane

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Tabitha has heard voices all her life and she’s had enough. No one will believe the voices are real, not her parents, not her therapist, no one. After a failed suicide attempt, Tabitha wakes to the face of a man who tells her that not only are the voices real, but she’s not the only one with abilities.

But the man who calls himself “The Voice” doesn’t care about saving people. The world has done nothing to help people with strange gifts, so why should they help the world? With their abilities they can take anything they want, and they’re willing to kill for it. And the first thing Tabitha must do if she wants to be part of their group, after surrendering her name, is kill her parents.

Eric Stephenson does very stylized work. His other well-known comic Nowhere Men, imagined the fab four as scientists and brilliant engineers. He’s good at concepts, but not always execution. It’s clear that some of the characters are more or less evil than The Voice and there’s a fair amount of manipulation going on, but there’s really not anyone to root for. If you find out that all of the people in a room have killed their parents so they can beat people up for cool vintage headphones, you’re not going to like those people. Sure some of them are more broken up about patricide than others, but they all did the deed.

The majority of the plot involves Tabitha (called Syd by The Voice) trying to reconcile finding other people like her with the terrible things they do. She can understand some of the vigilante justice part, attacking perverts who can’t even see where the hit is coming from, but that’s not the same as saying that regular humans are somehow less than you. She’s angry that her parents subjected her to psychiatric treatment, that they didn’t believe her, didn’t try to understand her, but she doesn’t want them dead.

Jordie Bellaire’s colors evoke a period feel to the comic though it’s set in the present day, while Gane’s lines give most characters an angular feel, pointy chins. and smirking expressions. True emotion does come through for Blurgirl and Syd, but for most others the look is mostly self-satisfied even when it’s not supposed to be.

The final confrontation with Tabitha’s parents is a nice bit of closure, but the setup for the next arc doesn’t have me that interested. The Voice is just a manipulative bastard, and I’m not sure I want to hear him talk anymore.

This looked interesting, and chapter one ends with a good hook. But by the finish I was ready for it to be over.

(3 stars | Expected more from this)

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Black Science Vol. 3: A focused and emotional story

Black Science Volume 3

Writer – Rick Remender, Artists – Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Black Science Vol. 3 (Cover)

After the meandering second volume, Black Science comes back around with a bang for its third outing. This time the Anarchist League of Scientists find themselves stranded on a Roman-esque world which has been devastated by a plague. Their opposite number dimensionauts from this world brought the plague with them in their travels through the onion, only adding to the destruction and death that comes with traveling between planes of existence. Prime Grant McKay has been restored from his apparent demise at the end of the first volume, and is fighting for his kids, the way home, and to save this devastated world.

Remender has never been shy about killing off main characters. I said at the end of the first volume that I wasn’t sure how many people would be left standing by the end (probably just the two kids, I’d guess). By my count, at least four characters are killed or are near death at the end of this volume, by as McKay’s return proves, nothing is quite certain.

Family is at the center of this arc, from the other dimension’s Sara trying to protect the kids she’s seen die too many times, Grant fighting to restore his family, or Rebecca’s true motives for wanting to complete the pillar (hinted at in Volume 2). The narrative is tightly focused on loss, both the personal losses suffered by the characters, and the destruction their pursuit of science has wrought.

Despite these heavy themes, the book manages to be playful at times, the vaccination spreading machine in particular was quite amusing. Scalera’s designs area a little more muted than the beautiful first volume, but still quite engaging.

Kadir gets short-shrift, with very little page time, mostly spending it complaining that people don’t appreciate him enough. He was the most interesting thing in Volume 2, swearing to protect Grant’s kids as he dealt with the consequences of trying to sabotage the dimensional pillar. He was complex, layered, and pragmatic. In this volume he comes across as whiny, like the difference between how Loki is portrayed in Thor versus The Avengers (films).

As with the previous volumes, we’re left with a pretty significant cliffhanger. At this point there are so many forces trying to kill the dimensionauts, take over all the worlds, or just wreak general havoc, that it’s a wonder the body count’s been as low as it has. More than the previous volume, this ending has me waiting with great anticipation for when the series returns in November.

(4 stars | You might want to go back and read Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 if it’s been a while)

*I received a free ARC from NetGalley in return for an honest review

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