Tag Archives: Comics

Your Essential Star Trek Beyond Comics Checklist

Star Trek Beyond comes out later this week, and all this week on the blog I will be celebrating my life-long love of Star Trek (as if I really needed the excuse).

Did you know that Star Trek comics are canon? To be specific, we’re talking about the Star Trek Ongoing and Countdown related series which are supervised by Roberto Orci. Gone are the days of having to ret-con a recovered Spock off his own ship back to mind-melded confusion (re: the effect of Star Trek III and IV on DC’s Star Trek Volume 1). We even occasionally get a mention in the new movies of events in the comics. Did you hear that throwaway line about “The Mudd Incident” in Into Darkness? That was for the comics nerds. All one of us.

Who knows if any of this stuff is going to affect Beyond. Probably not, but here are some comics that should at least get you in the mood for the new movie.

The Legacy of Spock (Star Trek Ongoing Issues 55-58): This is a fitting elegy to Leonard Nimoy, bridging the gap between the end of the 2009 Star Trek movie and the establishment of the new Vulcan colony. Turns out the Vulcans want to colonize Seti Alpha V, which prime Spock knows is a bad idea because it’s going to become a hellish wasteland when Seti Alpha VI explodes (see TWOK). But the Vulcans aren’t too eager to listen to Spock as there are more than a few who blame him for failing to stop Nero and the destruction of their home. Spock becomes an exile and is forced to rely on unlikely allies to save the last of his people from themselves, and from two remaining members of Nero’s crew who get their hands on the last few drops of red matter. There are some great cameos from characters from both TOS and TNG and the last few pages of 58 might even bring a tear to your eye. (The latest issue, 59, has new Quinto Spock waking up in Nichelle Nichols Uhura’s bed. Scandal.)

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Star Trek Manifest Destiny: A limited series similar to the two countdown series that preceded the prior two movies. The events of this will probably have little affect on the plot, but the tone appears similar with a vicious enemy taking over the ship. You can read my review from a few weeks ago here. Read 53-54 on Ongoing as well to get a lead-up story to the Kai character.

Star Trek Starfleet Academy: I’ll probably review this later this week, but this series bridges two timelines, the early academy days of Uhura, Spock, and Kirk and a crew of new recruits competing in the academy’s 100 year celebration a few years later. In the past Uhura stumbles across a transmission from a lost NX class ship and risks her academy career to find out the truth about a possible mutiny. In the present a Vulcan student is torn between her desire to join the rest of her people to preserve her race, and her wish to continue a career in Starfleet. She’s teamed up with a diverse set of students, including a race that is just learning verbal communication which leads to some great comedy. The new team stumbles upon Uhura’s research and possibly even the lost ship. The series explores the early ups and downs of the Spock/Uhura relationship, and does a nice job of integrating NX ships and Star Trek: Enterprise into the Ongoing series (both these elements look to be explored in Beyond as well).

Star Trek/Green Lantern – The Spectrum War: Hear me out on this one. Even though the reviews of Beyond are turning out to be favorable, it’s probably wise to not let your expectations get too high. If the movie is only so-so, at least you’ll be able to say it was better than this sin against nature. Sadly at some point I still need to review this for NetGalley.

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Star Trek Vol 9: The Q Gambit: Another run I’ve previously reviewed. The high-water mark of the whole Ongoing series. Much better than their frankly disappointing attempts at Mirror-Mirror. Check out my review here.

If you have time for only one, read Starfleet Academy. It’s tonally the most fun, and serves as a nice bridge between all parts of the current new Trek Trilogy.

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Ben’s guide to too much Star Trek Comics goodness

HumbleStarTrekBundle

IDW and Humble Bundle have teamed up to deliver 50 Star Trek Trade Paperbacks for the 50th anniversary. Whether you’re a casual fan, or an avid collector like me, there’s a little something for everyone. Humble Bundle works on tiered payment system, some comics for $1, some for $8, some for $15, and even greater bonuses for $25. It can be a little difficult with a bundle this size to really know what’s worth your hard-earned money. That’s where my years of collecting Star Trek comics are here to help.

Should I spend $1?

The Good

Both the TNG collections here are pretty good stories. Ghosts is a classic TNG tale with a little of the supernatural thrown-in. Hive shows a world in which the Borg are finally victorious, and details a rebellion led by Locutus to change the past using post-Voyager 7 of 9. Countdown serves as a nice bridge between the old and the new, filling in some of the background before the first Abrahms Star Trek movie (and firmly establishing Data’s resurrection after Nemesis). It also sets up Nero as a relate-able and complex villain, more so even than the movie.

The 3 Classics volumes are just that, some of the best work that came out of the DC Wildstorm era of Star Trek comics. I covered one of the stories in the second collection a few weeks ago. The three volumes are a mix of Voyager and TNG tales. Voyager’s Avalon Rising in Volume 3 is an unexpected treat. The Gorn story isn’t my favorite, but the artwork is beautiful.

The Bad

Ever wonder what the first comics page of Star Trek looked like? Probably not what you’d expect:

PlanetOfNoReturn

The Gold Key collections are sometimes beautifully drawn, but lack an understanding of Star Trek technology, how the characters act, or Starfleet values. Issue 1 ends with a mass genocide of an entire planet encouraged by Spock. These comics do sometimes fall into “so bad it’s good” but not often.

DS9 Fools Gold isn’t much better. It’s set between seasons 3 and 4 of the show, but lacks any tie-in to the larger mythology of the show. Sisko (and many others) look comically angry at many points, and the story meanders and retreads to a bland conclusion. Nicely drawn, but little there.

Star Trek Ongoing Volumes 1 – 3 are largely retreads of classic TOS episodes with the new cast. Often it’s a direct retelling of the episode with maybe one minor detail changed. Outcomes are occasionally different, but few of these tales rise above the source material. And the two issue per story format feels at times too short and too long.

The Meh

The Movie Adaption is okay. The artwork is typical of the brothers Tipton of whom I’m not a big fan. The 6 issue format gives the story room to breathe, but nothing is really added.

Countdown to Darkness doesn’t live up to the previous Countdown series. It’s a depiction of the Mudd incident (which would be more appropriately named the April incident, but whatever), which basically explains how the crew got that one weird ship the flew during Into Darkness. Not bad, but not great.

Bottom-line: Spend the $1 if you like trek. There’s definitely something for you at this level (the Classics if nothing else). And it can be fun to make fun of just how bad the Gold Key stuff is.

Should I spend $8?

The Good

The Classics series continue with the first TNG comics series and the finale arc of the first DC TOS series. The TNG series is a mixed bag, but does feature the only Christmas Star Trek episode I’ve ever read. It also portrays a human Q long before the series did. The “Who Killed Captain Kirk?” story is Peter David at his prime. It’s funny, well-drawn, there’s a wedding, a trip through hell, what more could you want?

The Archives line is similar to Classics, but covers more of the DC run. I’ve written about volumes 1+2 before (as part of my hidden Amazon Star Trek Comic gems). The quality in the Humble Bundle coloring is better than the Amazon transfer. The 3rd collection is two Gary Seven stories, the excellent Peacemaker, and the so-so Convergence arc (in case you wanted to know more about the aliens from TNG: Time’s Arrow).

Star Trek Ongoing Volumes 4-6 tell more original and character-driven stories. We get individual stories on Uhura, Chekov + Sulu, Bones and, Scotty that provide some background on how these characters came to Starfleet. We get a neat tale from a redshirt’s perspective (loosely based on The Apple). We learn more about Keenser, Scotty’s littlest assistant. More personal and less epic, and much better than the first three volumes.

The Bad

Nero is terrible. It completely undoes the good work by Countdown. It has V’Ger, and Nero stuck in Rura Penthe for 20 years. Enough said.

The Meh

New Visions is a great idea. They’re photo-novel episodes of Star Trek, made with a combination of CG sets, and stills from the original series. Some of the stories are quite inventive, but the art is lacking. And given Byrne’s excellent artwork on other Star Trek tales, I always find myself wanting him to have drawn these rather than photoshop.

The Gold Key stories get better. The Enterprise Mutiny is actually a pretty good tale.

Spock Reflections goes back over significant moments in Spock’s life, as he makes the decision to go to Romulus. It’s another brothers Tipton tale, and kind of melancholy, but better than some of their other work.

Bottom-line: IDW steps up its game on Ongoing, there’s a ton of the best of DC here, and New Visions is entertaining if not perfect. Plus this is the level where you’ll probably be getting New Visions Vol. 2, Ongoing 7-9 (which includes a fabulous Q arc) and Doctor Who crossover vol. 1. $8 is probably a good investment.

Should I spend $15?

The Good

The two Year Four volumes are great, particularly The Enterprise Experiment which features the return of the female Romulan from The Enterprise Incident and is written by DC Fontana. Assignment Earth tells lost tales of Gary Seven by John Byrne at the top of his game.

The Bad

I’ve written before about Harlan Ellison needing an editor. This version of City on the Edge of Forever is definitely not better than the original. Artfully done, yes, but badly structured.

The WTF?

So yeah, crossovers. Star Trek with Doctor Who, Green Lantern, Legion of Super Heroes, and Planet of the Apes.

The Doctor Who cross isn’t as good as you’d think. They make Picard kind of petulant, and frankly the Doctor having to convince Picard of the right thing to do rings wrong for me. There’s a nice bit with Doctor 4 and the TOS crew, and the artwork is great but otherwise this is long and kind of less then I thought it would be.

The Green Lantern arc is … weird. Want to see which crew-members get which rings? Want to see General Chang from Star Trek VI? Then this is the book for you… I guess?

Haven’t read Legion of Super-Heroes, but the cover art is cool.

Planet of the Apes is an equally weird premise, but think of this. What would it be like if Shatner and Heston acted in a scene together? That might make this worth-while.

New Visions Vol. 3 is really okay, but we do see TOS encounter the Borg which I think is almost as stupid as when Enterprise did it. And is that Scott Adsit from 30 Rock in the last story? Yes it is.

ScottAdsit

Bottom-line: $15 dollars is a lot of money. The Ongoing volumes are good, but not as good as 4-9. Year Four is great, but these cross-overs are kinda painful. Why IDW doesn’t cross Star Trek with another property it owns like Ghostbusters, TMNT, Back to the Future, or Galaxy Quest I’ll never know. There are still gems here, but maybe only for hard-core fans. And if you like Green Lantern? Hey man, you do you.

Should I spend $25?

Ask your mom.

Seriously, I’m not sure if this story will appear later in a less expensive cheaper form. If you’re willing to spend $15, then it’s only another $10 to get this one-of-a-kind artifact, but I think most of you will be just happy with $8. Or going outside if you’re weird like that.

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Manga Madness

Well, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, and finally have a good morning to sit down and do it. As I’m typing my fingers are being gently massaged by my vibrating keyboard as my laptop does burns. Again, these are all books I received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, including Pride and Prejudice which I actually had to request (more on that later).

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Anomalby Nukuharu

51uYmefdybLThis is actually a collection of stories from indie Japanese Authors, published by Gen Manga Entertainment. The cover story is so-so, featuring a man with a hundred eyes all over his body helping a man to see, but then holding that gift over him. “You know those eyes I gave you? Pretty great huh?” We’ve got a detective who solves crimes by reenacting the actions of the murderer and victim with his male partner (so if you like a little yaoi action there you go). The later stories are more interesting, in part because they stray into weirder territory that seems very distinctly Japanese.

Next is a man falling in love with a demon (yokai), who he’s known since childhood. She mainly loves for him for the delicious spells he utters, and even gives him the chance to turn back the clock when he is nearly killed by demon spirits, to live his life again happier. But my personal favorite of the collection is the girl who wants to hug demons (even if they don’t want to be hugged). To accomplish this goal she tries to become head of the demons with the help of her guide, who also happens to be her schoolmate. In this case the demons possess a human carrier, and manifest by being vaguely ghostly creatures with cute pig eyes, a jagged mouth, and little horns. What’s not to love?

The translation on a few of these might be a little rushed, and admittedly none of this is top-grade material. But the art is excellent and varied between the different authors, and the dialog is punchy in spots. There’s probably something for everyone to love in this collection. Most of the stories have a pretty light touch, so don’t expect horror in the traditional sense as you might have assumed from the product description. (4 out 0f 5)

Outlaws of the Marsh (Volume 1)by Wei Dong Chen

51TAHRbPsBLThis is a manga adaptation of an ancient Chinese epic (which is sometimes also known as the Water Margin). This is an epic in every sense of the word (the Amazon copy of one of the more well-known translations of this story is 2008 pages, the sample alone feels like a book). 108 spirits are let out into the world and must be defeated.

The main story revolves around Jin Shi, as he goes from being a brash young man to a trained and disciplined fighter. There have been many inspired manga adaptations of this story, including Outlaw Star (a sci-fi Anime in the vein of Cowboy Bebop). This title does not live up to some of the other works in this genre. It is clearly aimed at children, and the dialogue is painful. Just about every awful foreign film trope is in here. Presumably the original is in better shape, though it’s hard to tell.

The artwork is blurry and again looks like something out of a child’s picture book. Even in the action sequences, you get little sense of the motion of the characters, and their expressions rarely vary. The main benefit to this story is making me aware of the longer epic which I might read some year when I have the time. (2 out of 5)

Pride and Prejudiceadaption by Stacey King

815KJlGdCKLI’m giving this book three stars, which if anybody knows me is like someone else giving it five. I’m not particularly a fan of Jane Austen’s work, but as is the case with a lot of NetGalley stuff, this seemed too weird to pass up.

The artwork is more in the style of Revolutionary Girl Utena, with pointed chins and sour expressions, though I swear the father is cribbed from the dad in Fullmetal Alchemist. The adaptation is pretty straightforward, with bits of humor in tipping the mother into full anime stereotype, with stars for eyes as she dreams of marrying off her daughters into money. The book proceeds in chapters which I assume correspond roughly to the chapters in the novel (though I’ll admit I didn’t pick it up to verify).

Probably the best bits are the little four panels comics in between chapters, that adapt more humorous or speculative scenes from the book. Even as I found myself wondering what the hell any of these people would want to do with each other, these comics gave me a chuckle. Again, if I was going to read Pride and Prejudice, this would be the way to do it. (3 out of 5)

Kamen (Volume 1) – by Gunya Mihara

81W48sIDyrLI actually caught a snippet of this in the Gen Manga collections sold on Amazon and had been intrigued, so I was pleased when I saw this on NetGalley. A man wakes up wearing a talking mask. If he takes it off, he will die, and because it is covering his mouth, he cannot speak. Throughout the whole volume, we learn only about the man through his actions, and the commentary of the mask which can sometimes be kind of funny.

The man is captured and brought into servitude in a castle under siege. The female leader of this group has challenged an outside opponent because of their corrupt ways and now faces the potential annihilation of her people, all while dealing with her uncle and his own political machinations. The masked man takes to protecting a young nearly dead girl and at one point fights off dozens of opponents while carrying her in one arm.

Much more of an action comic, this does fight sequences very well, and the design of the mask is intriguing and even vaguely familiar. I would suggest skipping to the back of the book for the character descriptions and some background information on the time period and geo-political situation. I found this a little confusing just from the information provided in the story. Overall, I’m interested to see where this is going, and was pleased to find Volume 2 now available on NetGalley as well. (4 out of 5)

 

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Batmen and Bastards*

*Bastards is used here in the literal sense as you’ll see from my review of The Illegitimates. Actually, for that matter, Damian was born out of wedlock too unless you think Bruce Wayne’s marriage to Talia Al Gul is actually binding.

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Running a bit late on getting a manga NetGalley post together so maybe next week. Probably one of the only ways I’m going to read Jane Austen though. More on that next week. In the meantime I’m pleased to share my review of a couple of hero titles, all featuring the sons and daughters of well known heroes.

First up…

Damian: Son of Batman (Deluxe Edition) by Andy Kubert & Grant Morrison

91lK2HiBbeL._SL1500_Despite growing up with Batman via the animated series and some of the movies, it’s really only been recently that I’ve taken the trouble to read the comics in any serious way. I’ve quickly learned that not only are some titles better than others, but some require you to do a little homework before even being able to read them. Hence, I’ve developed a set of criteria for a good Batman tale that I’ll use to evaluate this book.

Stands Alone: To me, a good Batman tale doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of the current Bat continuity (which has gone through several iterations as a result of the crisis and The New 52). This book gets about a medium grade on that score. I was vaguely familiar with Damian from Batman: Son of the Demon (which apparently is only half in the continuity since it is an Elseworlds tale) and the first volume of Batman and Robin (new 52 variety). This book stands outside current established continuity (since Damian died sometime last year in the comic though you know how these things go, since there seems to be an event to bring him back this year). It didn’t do a great job of clearing up for me that Dick Grayson (the original Robin and later Nightwing) was Batman at the beginning of this tale. So when Batman is killed and Damian is avenging his death, for a long time I thought we were talking about good old Bruce (who shows up later). My understanding of this tale was greatly helped by reading Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son (though issue #666 seems apart from the rest of the material and only makes sense if you know the Batman and Son context).

Keeps the DC Universe out of it: I’m a bit of a purist. I know Batman lives in the same world as the likes of Superman and Green Arrow, but I don’t think it helps a good Batman tale when they show up (an exception being The Dark Knight Returns). The Long Halloween is a great example of a Batman only tale. Damian stays entirely in Gotham, where he should be.

Violence has a cost: Batman does not kill, but Damian as Robin sure does. It makes a little sense since he was raised by the league of assassins, but his violent tendencies force Bruce to come out of wherever he was hiding (seriously thought he was a ghost for a second) and challenge Damian’s right to wear the Robin or the Batman costume. It takes understanding Batman’s creed to really make Damian a worthy successor, though truthfully in Morrison and Kubert’s portrayal he still seems willing to kill. He just gets a little more upset about it and feels guilty when he has to.

Except no substitutes: Just as Damian is taking on the mantle of the Batman, someone is taking up the purple coat of the Joker. Bet the real Joker’s not gonna be too happy about that.

Summary: Like Morrison’s work, Kubert’s telling seems to leave out some crucial information, and makes some jarring plot leaps at times. But some of the humor, particularly in giving an origin story to Alfred the cat, does help to lighten the tale. Kubert’s work is the better part of this collection. Not a very good collection for people who aren’t more familiar with Damian or Grant Morrison’s Batman work. (3 out of 5).

DC provided me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Illegitimates by Taran Killam and Marc Andreyko

81kn9lt0gAL._SL1500_You might recognize Taran Killam from SNL (or from being married to Cobie Smulders), but apparently he is also quite the James Bond aficionado. So much so that he’s written his own “tribute” comic.

With a title like The Illegitimates I wasn’t expecting very much, but Killam displays a surprisingly good knowledge of Bond pastiches, even in his choice of mothers for his five … er …  successors to the Bond franchise. Well, okay not Bond, but Jack Steele, but you get the point. Agent Steele is killed by his arch enemy Viktor Dannikor in what I have to say is  unfortunately gruesome fashion given the tone of the rest of the book (think fighting on top of a train with a sudden stop from a tunnel and actually seeing the results). Now Olympus (Steele’s MI-5) must replace Steele with his five children out of wedlock, because his skills are genetic apparently.

Given Steele’s jet-setting lifestyle we’ve got a good ethnic variety of progeny, and most fall into particular stereotypes. We have the country hick\marksman, the Mexican Mama’s boy, a Japanese car enthusiast, an African espionage agent, and a computer expert because y’know, the story needs at least one techie. Can this team of misfits live up to their father’s legacy and defeat Dannikor? And who is the mysterious traitor inside their ranks?

Actually, quite enjoyable except for the bits of uncharacteristic violence, and a few unfortunate incest attractiveness jokes, but these are more than made up for with smart nods to the whole scope of Bond films including dams, space stations, and gadgets. (4 out of 5).

Have a good weekend!

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Parallel Worlds

At the risk of you guys thinking all I do is read comic books these days, here’s another roundup of NetGalley comic and graphic novel titles. Most of these have a deep science fiction or fantasy bent (which is probably why I enjoyed them a little more than last week’s bunch). Half of these titles I actually knocked back during a power outage at work last week (the third this year, thank you AEP). Hopefully you’ll find something to pass the time while you’re sitting in the dark 🙂

Black Science – Volume 1 by Rick Remender

BlackScience_01_Cover_3rdPrinting_If you’re looking for an action packed imaginative space pulp drama, than this title is for you. Grant McKay has done the impossible, created a device called the Pillar that allows him to punch through the barriers of reality and travel through the eververse (nice alternative to the multiverse). Each time a choice is made a new world springs forth from all the possible options for that choice, adding layers to the onion. At the center of the onion may be the very first being in existence, the one who created the universe.

But McKay and company have no time to worry about that when the pillar is sabotaged and sends them jumping at random intervals into all sorts of parallel worlds. As a narrative technique this gives the author the freedom to do just about anything, and he definitely takes that opportunity. From mecha-indians fighting nazis, to frogs with electric tongues, creatures and cultures of all sorts of imaginative sorts are sprung throughout. And of course other versions of our main characters. And believe me, no one is safe. If Remender keeps killing off characters at the rate he has been so far, the title will only be able to run for about six more issues.

The beginning can be a little tough to get your orientation, especially with a number of female character names thrown at you all at once with their relationships to main character unclear. But with a few helpful flashbacks and a lot of color you can get right on track. I tore through this in a single evening and can’t wait for the next installment. Just pure fun and adventure. (5 out of 5)

Gate-Way: A New World by Joe Halpin Sr.

STK640914Gate-Way reads a lot like a post-apocalyptic novel, though in this case the barren landscape is purgatory rather than a post-nuclear hell-scape. Our main character is an undercover cop who’s killed in a drug bust gone bad. He awakes to find himself and the dealer’s dog in an alley, seemingly unharmed. But soon it becomes apparent that something is wrong when one of the dealers he shot turns into something called a dark soul, with dark black eyes, and an animalistic nature.

The world of purgatory is tough. All of the buildings and supplies pass into that world through the dead (though the exact method of this is unclear). One group has created a city called Hopetown, designed to protect its citizens from the Dark Soul menace, and to find out whether they all are really dead or just somewhere else. Anyone who has committed suicide, or is into drugs, prostitution or unsavory activity is banished from Hopetown out into the wastes, and Hopetown’s opposite city, Freedomtown. Our cop isn’t really interested in becoming a part of any of these communities, just in finding a younger brother who may have passed over after getting in with the wrong people, and finding out more about the dark souls.

The tone is gritty and fast-paced. Every panel is drawn with muted colors. The artist has a decent command of facial expressions and a variety of diverse characters. The architecture all looks grey and brown and busted out, filled with abandoned warehouses, boarded up windows and busted cars. The most redeeming character in the narrative is the dog, who serves as faithful companion and partner to our main character. Otherwise the tone is grim, and likely to get grimmer. Comic books can serve as an escape, or to highlight an important message about something in today’s society. This story seems to do neither, unless the author things that all of humanity is destined to descend into our baser instincts. In short, violent, dark, grim, etc. (2 out of 5)

The Bunker by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari

cover47107-mediumWhat if you knew that you and your four friends would bring about the end of the world (or at least the deaths of most of its population)? And what if that future had to happen or everyone would die?

That’s the basic premise of The Bunker. A group of five friends goes into the woods to bury a time capsule, only to find a capsule from 15 years in the future, with messages from their early selves telling of them of the path their lives will take, and how each of them will critically shape the world. The letters also reveal secrets each of the friends has been carrying and forces them to confront some of those challenges earlier in life in the hopes of bringing forth a brighter future (though still one in which most people in the world are dead).

The whole comic is drawn in almost blurry flashback. This can make the characters lack definition and be difficult to tell apart at moments. Also, the lettering of the letters is done in cursive which can be equally difficult to parse, especially given that this is where a lot of the critical details of the story are given. The colors are a lot of pinks and blues contributing to the washed out look of the present and future. As a narrative choice it conveys tone, but also makes the comic harder to actually read.

It does raise some interesting questions though, particularly when one character allows some people to die in an explosion so that he can be seen as a hero saving the others. Should future events be allowed to play out as they already did, or should you fight to change them, given the new knowledge you have. I have a feeling this title will get better as it grows the world. The transition between present and future events is handled well, revealing details at a pleasing pace. (3 out of 5)

Umbral – Volume 1 by Antony Johnston

cover48671-mediumDescribed as “The Dark Crystal meets Saga” (though thankfully not as filthy), Umbral takes you through a dark fantasy world where the kingdom is being invaded by shape-shifting creatures with grins wider than their faces called Umbral. During a rare eclipse a young thief named Rascal attempts to steal a magical artifact called the Occulus and comes upon the Umbral who’ve just killed the king and queen and aim to take their place. Rascal steals the Occulus from out in front of them and finds herself in the world of the Umbral, a dark and dangerous world running parallel to our own. If you ever played either of the Soul Reaper titles in the Legacy of Kain series you’ll get an idea of what this is like.

Rascal then journeys between the Umbral world and the real world to discover the true nature of the Occulus and to expose the Umbral invasion of the kingdom. Along the way she acquires a variety of amusing companions who aim to escape and regroup. She also discovers that people can manifest differently in the Umbral world, and takes her first tentative forays into magic, which she despises.

This title has a good sense of humor, and a great pace for world building. The creatures are dark and creepy but not in a gross way (though they do have a lot of teeth in those grins, kinda reminds me of the rat creatures from Bone). Little by little we find out more about Rascal, and the world in which this drama is unfolding, and the origins and legends of magic. And the end leaves us with a bit of a cliffhanger, not knowing who to trust. An enjoyable fantasy adventure with a diverse and funny cast of characters. (4 out of 5)

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Tales to Suffice

One of the perks of being a member of NetGalley is being able to read tomorrow’s books today. But admittedly I’ve been kind of a bum and I don’t always get around to reviewing the titles until long after they come out. Luckily, NetGalley has a pretty wide array of comics and graphic novels available and I tend to actually get time to read those before the deadline. So here today are three new books that have either just come out or will be coming out in the very new future. Hopefully there’s a little something for everyone (and I can alleviate some of my guilt over free ARCs 🙂 )

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

prettydeadly-01There’s been a trend in comics lately for end of the world apocalyptic tales with western trappings and well … Pretty Deadly is another of those. If you like Image’s East of West this might be for you, but it honestly wasn’t really my cup of tea. Action scenes, particularly those involving hand to hand combat, come across as blurry and confused. There’s some interesting imagery, including an opponent who dissolves into thousands of butterflies upon being defeated (and if you liked that you’ll get to see that same person killed twice this way). One character in particular, a young girl who wears a vulture on her head, is drawn very inconsistently, and I was finding it hard to pinpoint her exact age.

The story itself seems drag in some places, and move too fast in others. We spend a lot of time with a man in a whorehouse and only a few pages explaining the actual goal and objectives of all players involved (one of whom is Death). There are a few twists and turns that may interest readers who are more invested in this genre, but for me it seemed like a lot of blood and running around for a being just trying to put off the natural cycle of succession (or somehow eliminate Death entirely which is a bad thing…?)

Maybe this title will evolve with more issues, but it’s debut arc (issues #1-5) didn’t work for me. (2 out of 5)

I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin

cover47201-mediumAs a cat owner it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Burma, the talking cat protagonist/antagonist of this graphic novel, has spent his nine lives trying to take over the world. Allison Breaking, a blogger and journalist, is recruited by Burma (who absolutely swears he’s done with the whole taking over the world thing) to write his memoirs, as a way of introducing the talking cat to the world, and revealing his influence over key figures throughout history. Basically each of his tales are a power behind the throne story for some of the world’s greatest (and infamous) leaders, from Good Queen Bess, to Napoleon to Blofeld? (James Bond).

After a while I found this narrative style repetitive, only serving as way to increase the unease of Breaking and her friend with whom she’s staying. Burma’s real plans don’t really kick up until the back half of the book, though I must admit some of his plans for world conquest are innovative. The artwork is excellent and gives a good differentiation between the historical periods being discussed and modern day London. And some of the talking cat moments are funny, particularly when someone pulls his whiskers.

Overall there are a few points of interest but it could have used to lose about 40 pages of filler. An enjoyable enough read, but not one you’ll probably return to again and again. (3 out of 5)

Super Ego by Caio Oliveira

cover47106-mediumThis was definitely my favorite of the bunch. A psychiatrist takes on the job of trying to help super heroes work out their problems, from drinking to survivor’s guilt, to just figuring out how to talk to a girl. We’ve got stand ins for just about every super hero trope, from the Power Rangers to Iron Man (who in this iteration is a man who pilots a giant Mexican wrestler robot complete with mask, El Lucahdor De Fierro)  to even Hawkeye.

But the toughest of Dr. Ego’s patients is Lester, a young kid born of a brief liaison between the Wonder Woman and Superman equivalents. Accepted in neither world, Lester has the power to juggle planets, but he just wants to be able to go on a date with a girl. He’s thin and lanky because he’s never able to exert himself enough to build up muscle mass.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when he has to fend off an alien invasion and instead of just attacking sends them a resume of his previous battles, complete with quotes from other races saying that Earth just isn’t worth it. “Why doesn’t anybody ever read the resume?” he thinks as the aliens inevitably attack and are defeated.

Dr. Ego’s own motives and back story become relevant toward the back part of the book and may make you question whether he’s a force for good or evil. But either way, he’s the only one the suits can talk to. The artwork is imaginative and colorful, and the different superheroes are both recognizable and engaging. I found myself tearing through this one, and wishing there was more (sequel maybe?) (4 out of 5)

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PS. The title for this post is drawn from another series of comics I picked up from StoryBundle. Mostly not very good, but they did have one gag I liked, which was a poster for a new movie entitled “Oh S&*t, Bees!” though they may have cribbed the idea from “Oh F%!k, Zombies!”

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Life without the internet

So I just gobbled up the six publicly available issues of Brian K. Vaughan’s “The Private Eye“. Vaughan can be a difficult man to savor. I read Y: The Last Man in about two weeks (and it only took that long because I was waiting for a couple of trades to arrive through the mails). All of Saga was devoured in a couple of sittings, and the only reason I haven’t read all of Ex Machina is I’m waiting for Kindle to put out more of the deluxe editions for $9.99 a piece (new one coming in May). Hell, even the first three volumes of Runaways are gems.

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Vaughan speculates a world in which the Internet no longer exists. This is due to the “cloud burst” in which every piece of private data stored on the web became publicly available to everyone. Your deepest darkest secrets and more scary, your search history. To combat this people now wear masks in public, especially when they’re doing something that might be embarrassing. You can even switch genders or skin color, assuming any “nym” you desire.

The story follows a paparazzi, this world’s equivalent of the Private Investigator (so private eye has two meanings, eh? plus the guy’s symbol on the door is the number Pi, very deep no?) as he reluctantly tries to solve the murder of a client.

One of the joys of this comic (besides its DRM free, pay what you want, money goes directly to the creators model) is the comments pages at the end. They hearken back to the letters pages I remember reading in my old Star Trek comic books. Funnily enough, since I was buying lots and lots of back issues, these letters were never even remotely current, and often referred to issues I hadn’t found yet, but I enjoyed reading people’s perspectives on the series and more long form reflection.

The Private Eye features smaller compliments and messages though you can still get an idea for the people who are tuning in, including a not too surprising number who wish Brian K. Vaughan and company would have more social media outlets for their data to be mined and handed over.

I hadn’t really thought about it in a while, since I’ve been mostly reading trades, but the comics letter page is a great artifact of a mostly bygone era. Whenever we consume something we go immediately to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever. Sometimes we blog, but our consumption of what other people think is largely based on our own personal preferences and perspectives. The comics letter page is slower, gives you perspectives you might otherwise not read, and helps you to get to know some of the other people who love the thing you love. I’m not saying that can’t happen in today’s society, though it happens a lot less as long as we continue to be able to wear our masks on-line.

I’m not sure that the Internet would crumble away if everyone’s private data became publicly available. Its too important for international trade and convenience. We value privacy, but we also over-share anyway. Still it’s an interesting notion to think about a post-Internet world, especially through a comic you can only get on-line.

My only complaint (and this is a small one) is that it doesn’t read perfectly on my 7″ screen. The lettering seems designed for iPads and the like, though most is readable and the rest can be zoomed. Since they give you the CBR and CBZ versions of the book as well, however, I have the original images that I can try to shrink down to a more optimized size so really this is no big worry.

Now just come out with issue #7 already!

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