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Vampirella/Aliens #1 [Review]

aliensvampirella001Writer: Corinna Bechko
Artist: Javier Garcia-Miranda
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colorist: InLight Studios
Cover Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Cover Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Cover Date: N/A (September 2015)
Cover Price: $3.99

In twenty-seven years, throughout the entirety of the ’90s and the ‘bad girl’ craze and all that…I never bought even one single issue of Vampirella. That impressive run has now come to an end, thanks to a cover and crossover…with Aliens.

Some cloaked/hooded figures in some sort of underground temple on Mars are attacked by Aliens, and quickly revealed to be vampires. Even their enhanced abilities are no match, and they’re wiped out. Some time later, a ship arrives at the station on the surface, carrying an individual with special expertise…Vampirella. She and the station crew investigate stuff and–of course–encounter the Aliens. They also learn that vampires are not the cause of the strangeness but victims. After fending off an attack that left most of the group unconscious with creatures having attached themselves to faces…we see that even Vampirella isn’t immune to Aliens and their larval Facehugger forms.

I don’t honestly know what I expected from this. I’d known the series was coming up, probably even knew this first issue was due out, but I forgot about it all the same, until I saw it on the shelf.

Despite the presence of Vampirella…the cover looks like an Aliens comic. Aside from the ridiculously unnatural near-lack-of clothing on the female, this could be any Aliens comic, by the looks of it. And that suits me just fine, simply being interested in something new with Aliens. I also like the way the two publishers’ logos are…neither one seems out of place, and the way they appear with the issue number and creator names, if one didn’t know better it’d be quite possible to think that one’s an imprint of the other rather than two “competitors.”

I’m not familiar with the creative team, so nothing prior to compare this to in that regard. But in terms of being “an Aliens story,” this is pretty formulaic and familiar…which I actually appreciate and enjoyed as I read this. (That’s what Aliens crossovers ARE, too, to me: something entertaining despite formula…because it’s Aliens vs. ______ [insert character/property]!) So there’s not much story-wise, to me. I’m aware OF Vampirella but know basically nothing about the character or her past stories/continuity. Ok, so she’s a vampire? Cool…that means she’s at least “tougher” than “regular humans” (as we see in this issue). I don’t really “need” anything else…I’m entertained at “Aliens vs. Vampires” here.

Visually…I like the art. This looks and ‘feels’ like an Aliens comic. And that’s more than good enough for me. I’m especially impressed with the cover, though. Different artists, but the styles work well together–the interior art isn’t a match to the cover, but it’s not a jarring difference or anything. And surprisingly–almost shockingly–despite one particular glimpse of a “classic” look to Vampirella herself, we’re treated mostly to a far more feasibly-dressed female figure that doesn’t make me feel dirty for buying an issue with Vampirella in the title.

I’m not sure if this is 4 or 6 issues for the mini-series, but right now (particularly given the issue’s cliffhanger) I’m very interested in the next issue, and will be keeping an eye out for it next month, whether or not I stick with the single issues for the entirety.

Not being entirely familiar with Vampirella, I don’t know if fans specifically of the character will enjoy this (at least for this issue alone), though I can’t imagine (so far) that it particularly contradicts basic stuff with the character. As an Aliens fan, coming to this because of that side? I really enjoyed this.

The $3.99 for one story chunk is off-putting as ever, put I’ve been pretty much beaten into submission on the fact that all the comics I buy are basically $3.99. While this is certainly an issue worth picking up to try the series, to get to read the story now and as it unfolds, and whatever other usual motivations are present for buyiing a $4 single issue.

Based on this first issue alone, I suspect the eventual collected edition will be of definite interest to Aliens fans, and as we get further into the mini, I won’t be surprised if there’s more material with what will appear to be a distinctly Vampirella tone, for those fans.

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Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Dynamite) #1 [Review]

turokdinosaurhunterdynamite001 Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mirko Colak
Colorist: Lauren Affe
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Cover: Bart Sears
Turok Logo Design: Rian Hughes
Packaged/Edited by: Nate Cosby
Published by: Dynamite
Cover Price: $3.99

It wasn’t all that long ago that I learned of Dark Horse relaunching several former Gold Key titles, which grabbed my attention as former Valiant properties that I recognized from the 1990s. I saw it as a good point to jump aboard, as presumably the closest I was gonna get to a Valiant rebirth. Those titles only lasted a few months, and while I rather enjoyed them at the start, my interest trickled off with ’em. SINCE then, though…

Since then, Valiant‘s back, with a number of great titles proving the characters and universe have an audience…and are still going strong nearly 2 years in (a rather large accomplishment, to me, in an age of mini-series and things generally just not lasting).

So it’s with my enjoyment of the Valiant books that I’m checking out Dynamite‘s relaunching of the Gold Key titles. If Valiant itself can do well…then hey, here’s hoping Dynamite can hold it together for a couple years.

Outside of the names and basic premise (that is, humans existing in a world with dinosaurs still around), this seems a wholly fresh start. Where I recall the Dark Horse run being a closer re-telling (and those premiere issues included a reprint of the original series’ first issues), this seems much more like I expected based on the above Valiant comparison.

We’re introduced to a father vowing to protect his child, before being killed. Flashing ahead 16 years, we find that child an outcast, bullied but surviving on his own…to the chagrin of the others. When confronted he refuses to give in–it’s better (to him) to be alone. The latest confrontation is broken up by a surprise attack by large lizard creatures, which Turok and Andal (a name I recall from the Dark Horse iteration) barely survive as we learn what caused the attack.

Along with the general “strength” of the Valiant titles serving as influence to my buying this, I recognize writer Greg Pak from other stuff I’ve enjoyed…most recently Planet Hulk as well as Valiant‘s own Eternal Warrior. This issue and title benefits from my still relative unfamiliarity with Turok and cast–I only remember reading the first issue of the Dark Horse run and can’t honestly recall if I read beyond that.

I appreciated the use of “time” in this issue, seeing the past, present, and the flashbacks…actually following what was going on to pick up on a tone I feel I miss in a lot of comics. As a first issue goes, this definitely hits points I look for: we’re introduced to the main protagonist, to other characters, learn something of the protagonist and their status quo, and are introduced to the conflict. In less generalized terms: We meet Turok, we meet other characters including Andal, we get dinosaurs, and we get Turok fighting dinosaurs. Maybe more importantly to me…there’s no pretentious last-page spread/cliffhanger “revealing” that dinosaurs exist, as if the very title Dinosaur Hunter doesn’t tell us that.

There were several panels I had some trouble following who was who and exactly what was going on at first glance, but that was mainly during a fight sequence and I can’t imagine it being any worse than trying to visually parse out a fast-moving camera sequence for a movie or tv series. By and large the art is good, and I like the look of the characters, and there’s nothing particularly off-putting or distracting to me.

My primary problem with this issue is the variant covers–I’m used to there at least being some sort of notation on the cover declaring it a variant or not so had some frustration at determining exactly which cover of several was the “regular” or “standard” edition…ultimately identifying this by matching the front cover image with the interior cover (only later at home discoverng a 3-page gallery of thumbnails showing off all the variants for the issue). That identification is part of my preference for standard covers: I prefer the cover that is acknowledged in marketing and such and “fits” the issue and story. If a cover image is going to double up incorporated on the interior, I want the aesthetic of matching, not recognizing a difference.

Other than that and on the whole…I enjoyed this issue. As soon as I saw it at the shop, it was the main thing I wanted to get into and read, and it definitely measured up. The aforementioned issue with variant covers makes me hesitant to put it on a pull list, as I don’t want to get stuck with a variant, and I have a far lower tolerance for that with Dynamite than I do Valiant.

You need not have read anything involving Turok before to get in here, though there’ll undoubtedly be familiar elements if you have. This is functionally a new title and character, there’s no pre-existing continuity to know, you only need one copy of this issue to get into the story-so-far.

Definitely recommended.

Highlander #0 [Review]

Quick Rating: Average
Story Title: Untitled

Russell Nash–AKA Connor MacLeod–gets called into events springing from the death of the Kurgan, tying his story in to the Chernobyl disaster.

highlander000 Writers: Brandon Jerwa, Michael Avon Oeming
Artist: Lee Moder
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover Art: Gabriele Dell’Otto
Special Thanks to: David Abramowitz, Peter Davis, Sharon Jenings
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

For as much as I consider myself a Highlander fan, my first reaction to this is not quite knowing what’s going on. I’m sure there are nuances I’m not picking up on, or missing, for not having recently watched the original film, nor knowing exactly what sort of continuity this is, given the confusing "continuity versions" throughout the Highlander universe: Movie, TV Series, Cartoon, Endgame

This zero-issue takes place shortly after the events of the original Highlander film, and sets us up to see that there may have been more to the struggle between Connor and the Kurgan than was let on. I’m not familiar with the other characters offhand, and the flashbacks–assuming that’s what they were–left me confused, not entirely certain if they’re flashbacks or what.

However, I think this might need to be approached both from the angle of one approaching a new tv series–things and characters may be shown that don’t make much sense yet, but will later on, and a later re-reading will let the earliest chapters make far more sense in context of what’s discovered as the arc progresses. This should probably also be approached with the realization that it’s based out of a story two decades old, a core that has seen multiple different continuities sprung from it.

I’m most familiar with Duncan MacLeod–the starring character of the live-action Highlander: The Series. However, through watching the original Highlander film several times the last few years and seeing/reading things discussing how great that film was, I’ve been swayed a bit to have a further interest in Connor.

All that said, this series seems geared to the Connor MacLeod fans, who want more of the character than just the trilogy of films, a guest-star role in a tv-series and a debatable role in a fourth film.
The art seems to work well for the issue, though it doesn’t feel overly detailed–which is NOT a bad thing. Everything’s clear and visually not hard to see what’s going on–confusion there comes simply from not knowing certain characters and such terribly well. Visually, we get a Russell Nash/Connor Macleod that is recognizeably based on Christopher Lambert, but given his own "feel."

Having been excited about this series since it was first announced (last year?), I may be judging this a little too harshly for "just a zero issue." After all, this is just a 12-page introduction, for a single shiny quarter (U.S.), and doesn’t begin to have room to flesh much of anything out or get into any meat of a story. It’s a definite teaser, showing us a couple characters that presumably will be focii in the series itself, and teases the motivation for what the story itself presumably entails.

Perhaps just from looking at it in solicitation/advertising materials so much, the Dell’Otto cover is an awesome Highlander image–if there’s not a poster, there should be one with this image. We get a nice, iconic image of Connor and the Kurgan; the two ready to enter combat, all divided by Connor and The Quickening.
This probably has the most appeal for Highlander fans who’ve been into things for awhile, but certainly doesn’t rule out new readers. There’s a lot that’s steeped in Highlander continuity, but at the same time, one has to start somewhere, and should quickly be able to pick up on things. Again, 12 pages is hardly enough to truly judge any story–or creative team–on.

If you’re a fan of Jerwa (former writer on G.I. Joe) and/or Oeming (Thor: Disassembled/Ragnarok, Stormbreaker: Saga of Beta Ray Bill) or just Highlander in general, for a mere quarter this is NOT one issue to miss (plus, there’s a 5-page Lone Ranger preview and ads for other Dynamite books).

We’ll see how things go once the series proper begins–I anticipate enjoying that more than this preview issue.

Ratings:

Story: 2.5/5
Art: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

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