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Darth Vader (2015) #5 [Review]

darthvader(2015)005Vader part V

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Assistant Editor: Heather Antos
Editor: Jordan D. White
Executive Editors: C.B. Cebulski, Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

I intended to drop this. I don’t like the lack of dialogue, and captioning, and how quick it is to read. The speed at which I can blast through an issue makes it a REALLY HORRIBLE “value” for what I spend. But DARN IT…this thing is great to look at, sure is pretty. And I already got the first FOUR issues, the first 2/3 of the arc, and I just had to go and look inside to see if this was a new story or still continuing the existing one, and it’s part 5. So…I bought this, against conscious prior intent…and so help me, I’m really enjoying this title when I get past the conscious, principled complaints.

It ALSO certainly did NOT help that I just re-watched the original Star Wars films, so have these characters–and this time period in the Star Wars canon–front and center in my mind, craving whatever else there is that looks good, looks like it fits, and…in some ways, perhaps I’m just a “sucker” for this stuff right now. The fact that as I sit and type this I feel like I have a stupid, silly grin on my face accentuates that.

Of necessity, we already pretty much know the ultimate fate–or lack thereof–that will befall most of these characters. These droids aren’t around come Empire Strikes Back–they’re not even significant enough to be referenced. Ditto Doctor Aphra. But that doesn’t excuse the feeling they matter right now, in this story, as it is presently unfolding.

I don’t care for the Doctor Who comics, and shoehorning in of new/different/”extra” Companions…yet I’m ok with this for Star Wars comics. Aphra is unlikely to survive, but she’s cool right now, and likeable, and written well and modern despite being set in a story between movies that saw initial theatrical release more than three decades ago.

There’s not a LOT of story in this issue, and I have to keep going back to the art as what makes this. I’m aware of Gillen having done a fair bit with the X-Men title/characters some years back, but largely have yet to read that run, so there’s nothing to the story itself here that I can look at as seeing/feeling this is a Gillen story. But the consistency of the characters and the witty one-offs (Triple-Zero being what he is yet having concern for politeness made me grin) and such give this a modern, contemporary feel while Larroca‘s art (though actually, credit’s gotta go to the ENTIRE visual team) really makes this book. And I don’t usually care about the art enough to gush like this.

I’d love to simply not like this book, because it’s published by Marvel and I’ve not been thrilled with Marvel for awhile as well as the fact that Star Wars and Dark Horse have been pretty much synonymous to me for basically the entire time I’ve been reading comics until just a few months ago.

But despite myself, it’s enjoyable and a fun read and quite worthwhile in and of itself. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, and Darth Vader…I highly recommend this. If you haven’t followed the single issues, it will definitely be worth checking out in the inevitable collected volume.

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Star Wars (2015) #2 [Review]

starwars(2015)002Skywalker Strikes (part II)

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Artists: Cassaday & Martin
Assistant Editor: Charles Beacham
Editor: Jordan D. White
Executive Editors: C.B. Cebulski & Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

On the surface, I’m not at all impressed with this issue. This is a #2, so it’s not the first issue, it’s not MY first issue, nor my first-issue-since-I’m-not-sure-when, and it reminds me that it’s just one chapter in an inevitable graphic novel/collected edition (I’m 99% certain it’ll get a shiny hardcover edition–possibly oversized if not a “premiere” edition).

On the surface, there’s not really a lot covered in this issue: Luke fights Vader; Han and Leia stomp around in a Walker; C-3PO is captured by the scavengers dismantling the Falcon; Though Han and Luke proved to be more of a threat than expected, Vader rallies and vows to personally deal with Luke.

The issue is mostly action, with a lot of little details to the fighting and such, to where if I tried to do a more detailed recap, I might as well write a “novelization” of the issue. The story itself is solid, with enough to the interactions to recognize the characters and get a feeling of authenticity that I definitely appreciate, feeling like this is truly stuff that (could have) happened between the films. Along with that authenticity, there’s an element of knowledge of stuff that comes later, sort of wink-and-a-nod toward stuff we as readers are assumed to know (but if one doesn’t “know” nothing is actually lost).

Visually, this is a strong issue…I definitely like Cassaday‘s work, though I can’t imagine getting more than one arc with it, for now (see above about the graphic novel). Still, taken in and of itself I like the art and have no real complaint…I flew through the issue without trouble being able to tell what was going on, and simply enjoyed the experience without anything in the art tripping me up.

But this isn’t the first issue, a first issue–it’s very much a second issue. While the opening page recap is good and reminds me of key stuff from the first issue, and I like the style, it’s also of necessity a bit briefer than I’d prefer. Having read the first issue, it works well; but trying to consider the recap and then this issue’s contents by themselves, the brief recap doesn’t quite work for me.

My lack of being impressed comes primarily from this not being a standalone issue as well as being able to “see” how it’ll fit quite well into a collected volume as part of a longer, continuous reading experience. Additionally, I can’t imagine many in this day and age actively seeking this issue and reading it without the context of the first issue.

That aside, the quality feels consistent from the first, though I don’t have that issue handy for comparison. If you enjoyed the first issue, and don’t mind (functionally) getting the graphic novel in 6 or so chunks, this is well worth getting. If  you missed the first issue and don’t already have an interest in seeking that out, I’d suggest waiting for the collected volume or such. With this being a $3.99 comic, I definitely do not recommend seeking out #2 as a one-shot/standalone thing.

Star Wars (2015) #1 [Review]

starwars(2015)001Skywalker Strikes

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Artists: Cassaday & Martin
Assistant Editor: Charles Beacham
Editor: Jordan D. White
Executive Editors: C.B. Cebulski & Mike Marts
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $4.99

I truly was not going to buy this. I don’t like that the license was–in my eyes–“taken” from Dark Horse, and envisioned this being like the “taking” of the various Disney-based books from Boom! Studios. But Marvel‘s immediately gotten into things rather than letting the license(s) languish, so here we are.

Another factor is the cover price–$4.99 is way, Way, WAY too much for a single regular issue of a comic. Where I’d intended to boycott this on principle, it occurred to me that it might just be an extra-sized debut issue…so I asked, and the store owner looked it up, and a later issue is solicited at $3.99, so I decided to step off that particular “moral high ground” and check this out.

It’s been several years since I’ve read a Star Wars comic. I’ve bought ’em here and there through the years, usually one-shots or full mini-series after the fact; though I dabbled for a few months back in 2005 with a couple series post-Revenge of the Sith

This has a completely different feel to me. I don’t know what it is–perhaps the Marvel branding, perhaps the hype; maybe something subconscious with the art and associating Cassaday with Astonishing X-Men and/or Aaron with Wolverine.

The art–by Cassaday–is quite good. I dig the way the characters have a good likeness of my memory of the actors’ portrayals. Yet, while the likenesses are obvious, they don’t feel gratuitously so to me. The characters are thus quite recognizable without feeling stylized or like effort was put into making them more comic-book-like than likeness-based. 

The story itself is solid enough; I know there was time between the films, so there’s room to play with and insert new story content that fits continuity without detracting from the films, so I can accept this. At the least, whether this is being pushed as “canon” or not, I can very readily accept it at face-value on the premise of being set between films; Canon or Extended Universe or New Extended Universe or whatever label might be appropriate.

The classic characters are here; the primaries. The issue opens on Han with a disguised Luke and Leia infiltrating a weapons factory as negotiators. The negotiator they’re to meet with, though, proves to be far more dangerous and certainly no lackey to simply be fooled…resulting in deadly combat and plenty of action throughout.

The issue FELT thick and heavy; though I was discouraged to find a SEVERAL-page “preview” of the upcoming Darth Vader title or one of the other related Star Wars books), this issue itself still manages to carry 30 story pages. If 20 pages are $3.99, then technically this could’ve been a $5.99 book for that page rate; but it’s “only” $4.99, so that makes the price point SLIGHTLY more “tolerable.” We also have a page of credits, as well as a very effective OPENING sequence of pages.

I say effective because I actually sighed and rolled my eyes at the first page and that classic line

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

I thought to myself: Really? Had to go back to that again, huh?

Then I turned the page, and I swear I heard the opening strains of the familiar, classic John Williams score…and found myself smiling.

A fact that certainly lent itself to enjoying the issue overall.

I’m not convinced this issue is worth that $4.99 any more than any standard comic is worth $3.99. But the issue made me smile, I enjoyed reading it, I MIGHT actually try subsequent issues and/or the other titles…I’ll give this round of Marvel‘s take a chance. Issue by issue.

If you’re a die-hard fan of Star Wars, I expect you’ll enjoy this; if you’re thoroughly invested in what’s come before (besides the films) you may be disinclined to enjoy this. Either way…this felt to me like something special in spite of resisting the hype (and for BEING so hyped).

On a buy/borrow/pass rating scale…this definitely gets a “borrow,” and something closer to a “buy.”

Amazing X-Men (2013) #1 [Review]

amazingxmen(2013)001The Quest for Nightcrawler part 1 of 5

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colors: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: McGuiness & Gracia
Assistant Editor: Xander Jarowey
Associate Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

I bought this because of Nightcrawler, and because of the cover. Well, the regular cover, anyway–the wraparound/double-page-spread-sized image (see below). I usually hate the “return” of dead characters, but given recent indoctrination to the “well, how LONG are they gonna STAY dead?” thing I’ve simply been waiting for this; knowing it WOULD come about, just not sure which year it’d be (turns out, 2013 into 2014). And darn, that’s a nice cover!

My expectation for this issue was pretty low going in, despite recognizing the potential, and “knowing” this is the “return of Nightcrawler,” from snippets I’ve spotted online–that I’ve come across without specifically seeking out. I figured hey, I’ll give this issue a shot. ONE issue, a first issue of a new series…a few pages to “convince” me to come back for another issue, without leaving me further disillusioned with Marvel Stuff.

The issue opens with an extremely basic summation of Nightcrawler, then picks up with Nightcrawler himself, and the beginnings of this grand adventure. Some demons launch a raid on the edge of this afterlife realm, and Nightcrawler fights back. Turns out his father–Azazel–is leading the campaign. Of course, Nightcrawler opposes him, a yet-unfinished task before he can “move on.” Back on Earth, Angelica Jones (Firestar) arrives at the Jean Grey school as a new member of the staff…but finds things are not nearly as simple as she’d expected. Amidst other goings-on, the staff–led by Beast–find that the Bamfs infestation is much more significant than they’d thought, and leads them to realizing something rather big is touching off.

Now, my first thought, slightly tangential: if there are plus Bamfs for sale anywhere, I totally want a blue one! I don’t know when these things showed up, but I think I was only just aware enough of their existence that I’m not scratching my head here…maybe I’m drawing on some metatextual knowledge as well that made ’em amusing…and Really Darned Cute!

Visually, I highly enjoyed this, from the cover on through. As said above, the cover “sold” me on this issue, and the art fit the cover and the story, and I was never once taken out of the story by some weird panel or not being able to follow what’s going on. (And darn if those Bamfs aren’t cute lil’ critters!) I don’t care for Storm’s look, but that’s the mohawk and such, not the art itself. Despite Beast’s relatively new look, I had to remind myself that it WAS his new look…he just looked like Beast. And I couldn’t help but grin at Nightcrawler getting the swords and swinging into action…the cover isn’t itself an exact scene from the issue, but it conveys some of the spirit of what went on.

Story-wise…The characters themselves are not (yet) reunited with Nightcrawler, sure. But we (the readers) get the first few pages of this issue to spend with him, before being “stuck” with the non-Nightcrawler characters of the title. We get Firestar brought into things, some context of her past with the characters (including Iceman), and stuff like that; context that Bamfs have been around the Jean Grey School for awhile and not a major problem til now. And by issue’s end we can see what’s coming, and left off with a cliffhanger that I don’t HAVE to see the resolution to…it’s a cliffhanger I WANT to see the resolution to.

The issue begins the return of Nightcrawler. We get Nightcrawler IN THIS issue–no waiting for #2 or #3 to so much as see the character. We get a great cover that fits the issue. We get immediate gratification while being primed for more to come. It’s a great balance. We get exposure to other characters that will feature in this title, despite also being featured in other titles…we get setup for coming issues.

I had planned to skip this issue. I’m tired of $3.99, I’m tired of double-shipping books (no clue offhand if this is going to be a double-shipper or just an old-style once-a-month title), but couldn’t resist checking this out. And for this first arc at least, I’m on-board. The story’s good and gives plenty I like in my first-issues; the art’s very much to my liking (and I don’t remember specifically liking McGuinness‘ work this much previously), so all in all I’m quite satisfied with the issue and definitely looking forward to the next issue.

All in all, you don’t really need to be up on a lotta current continuity, I don’t think. Knowing all the recent goings-on throughout the X-books will surely lend a richer experience and contextual knowledge. But the core stuff is given in this issue and/or looks likely to be able to be picked up further as the arc continues. Especially if you’re a fan of Nightcrawler, whatever you thought of his demise in Second Coming, this is very much an issue to get. And even taken alone, this is a solid first issue if you want to jump into an X-book fresh with a #1 issue. Highly recommended!

amazingxmen(2013)001(full)

Uncanny X-Men (vol. 3) #1 [Review]

uncannyxmenvol3001The New Revolution

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler/Colorist: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza and Al Vey
Lettering & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Associate Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this debut issue for a number of weeks now…pretty much since I learned this third volume would focus on Cyclops, Magneto, and their group of mutants; particularly after getting a taste of things in the pages of All New X-Men.

The issue has a framing sequence, of a man in shadows speaking with SHIELD about Cyclops, explaining why the mutant leader needs to be taken down. In the “core” of the story, we see Cyclops’ group continuing to reach out to new mutants, and facing off with a group of sentinels–something that once would have been little trouble for Magneto in particular–but the veteran mutants’ powers have been altered due to the recent Phoenix incident…and they struggle to “re-learn” how to use their own powers while looking to train the newly created mutants. The revelation of the shadowed man’s identity is a bit of a twist, sure to introduce further conflict, but not entirely surprising.

Story-wise, there’s plenty of potential for this title. While I’m not a fan of the “villainization” of Cyclops, for what times I’ve “checked in” on X-stuff over the past few years, this current place the character is in seems rather logical and makes sense, given everything we’ve actually seen the character go through–losing his wife, seeing the vast majority of the mutant population wiped out, struggling to protect what mutants remained against a world that still feared/hated them, finding hope and finally seeing a return to numbers and being in a position to reach out to these new mutants now from the start, proactively acting to solidify their place in the world.

I missed out on the re-introduction of Magneto, but have thoroughly enjoyed seeing his place with the X-Men of late; and it’s his character growth and evolution that has struck me almost as much as Cyclops’. That these two men–once bitter enemies–are now working together says a lot for both of them; and I’m interested in seeing where their alliance goes.

Again…there’s plenty of potential for this title.

Visually, however, I am extremely disappointed. From the start, I’m put off entirely by Cyclops’ “new costume” (mask). Going to the red on the outfit doesn’t bother me so much as wrapping red bands around the face as an “X” where the visor has always been. Maybe the X will be explained/become apparent as we learn more about Cyclops’ modified powerset…but visually it’s an atrocious look that I don’t like one bit. If I don’t like the redesign of Cyclops’ headpiece…I don’t entirely mind Magneto’s–though his is far from ideal as well, seeming to fit a more abstract, stylistic imagery that reminds me of how the character might be depicted in a nightmare interpretation (see 1993’s Wolverine #75).

As far as the issue’s art in general…just a couple pages in–having initially ignored the credits page–I stopped in my tracks. “This is Bachalo, isn’t it?” I thought to myself. Flipping back to the credits, I confirmed that–though in this case, recognizing an artist’s work in and of itself is no positive. I’m not a fan of the visual style, and often have trouble trying to truly follow the action, what’s actually going on.

Despite the stylized take on the characters, for the most part they don’t look all that bad; and the double-page introduction of the sentinels reminds me of what I think is a similar shot from 2004’s Astonishing X-Men #1, and is fairly impressive–perhaps simply for the “space” the image has to breathe. In the introduction of the new mutant the group was after, though, I had no idea what was going on, what his powers were, or were doing–I sorta figured out a bit from just reading and the extra curiosity, but it really put me out of the story.

So while the story holds up and leaves me fairly interested yet in where things go–the art is a near-complete turn-off for me. The “AR” stuff holds zero interest–I’ve been “burned” too many times with the smartphone app having trouble actually loading whatever it’s trying to load, and it seems that more often than not, all I get is a transition from “pencils” to the “finished image”–something I have virtually NO INTEREST in…while the AR content might be intended to be “bonus” or “add value” or such to the issue, being more annoying than not with so little worthwhileness, I don’t even bother anymore…even for writing a review.

This is yet another relaunch–the 2nd Uncanny X-Men #1 in 18 months. Where the original numbering was scrapped to put Uncanny and Wolverine and the X-Men on “equal footing” numbers-wise…THAT logic has been thoroughly scrapped now as well.

Worst of all, this is a $3.99 book, and presumably will be mostly double-shipping…which is a pricing strategy I just cannot keep up with. Priced at $2.99 I would give this a few issues; but as-is, I tried this first issue, and I have every intention now of passing on subsequent issues, at least so long as I’d be paying “full price.” I’ll simply have to keep an eye out for these in bargain bins, snagging a collected volume (if still interested by that point) from Amazon, or “going digital” should these fall under a 99-cent sale from Comixology.

All-New X-Men #1 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

AvX: Consequences #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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