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The Massive #s 1-3 [Review]

A couple months ago, give or take a week or so, I was at a semi-local comic shop that I get to every now and then, but no great regularity. I don’t recall now what I was looking for at the time, but I wound up buying two issues apiece of The Massive and Mind the Gap, figuring I’d “try” a couple new series. But the way my luck goes–spend full price on something, and got distracted by other stuff.

So I only just a week or so back finally read The Massive. And, being labeled on the front cover as parts 1 and 2 of 3, I went ahead and bought the third issue this past weekend to finish out the first arc.

Written by: Brian Wood  /  Art by: Kristian Donaldson  /  Colors by: Dave Stewart  /  Letters by: Jared K. Fletcher  /  Covers by: Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, Rafael Grampa, Dave Stewart, J. P. Leon  /  Designer: Justin Couch  /  Assistant Editor: Jim Gibbons  /  Editor: Sierra Hahn  /  Published by: Dark Horse Comics  /  Cover Price: $3.50

The basic premise of the series as a whole seems to be that a series of huge environmental disasters happened that have screwed up most of the world’s governments and such, leaving the world in an everyone-for-themselves-or-their-power-base kind of state. Central to the story are several characters on the ship Kapital–one ship of a 2-ship fleet, as they seek out their sister ship (the larger of the two)–The Massive.

Mixed in with the ongoing events–evading pirates, restocking material resources for survival, etc.–we get flashbacks to see where the characters have come from, the stuff that makes up their relationships now.

The art isn’t bad–it’s got a nice style to it, conveying these “normal” humans going about their lives in this world. I use “normal” as opposed to the depiction of super-heroes and the flashier sort of thing you’d expect for that sort of comic. While the world they live in has changed drastically, these are just normal people getting by in somewhat extraordinary situations.

The story itself is a solid premise, and the characters seem like real people, with real lives, histories, and all that. Giving backstory as well as present story allows the exploration of two periods in characters’ lives, with plenty of depth for both periods and a lot of room to juxtapose things.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I just don’t find myself terribly engaged with anything in this first arc.

I find myself comparing this to the likes of a new tv show. If the Buffy season 8 & 9 comics can use each small arc as an “episode,” then this 3-parter is definitely a pilot episode. Yet, because it’s a comic series, it’s also already 3 issues in. I’m interested, yes, even though not really engaged…but like most tv shows these days, I’ll wait for word of mouth and reruns or the dvd (or in this case, collected volumes).

There’s something in general about The Massive that puts me in mind of stuff like Y: The Last Man or DMZ, where I have this feeling this is going to go somewhere, and have some strong character development, world-building, and generally be a great overall work. It’s just not working for me in the single-issue format; I’m not interested in (even though it’s less than my hated $3.99 point) paying $3.50/month to get tiny chapters of one greater whole. Assuming this goes on to be one of these longform finite stories, I’ll probably come back to it someday.

While it’s no $9.99 “bargain priced premiere volume” a la Vertigo or some of the Image stuff, I gave this just over $10, and while it’s not the greatest $10 I’ve ever spent, it’s a far cry from the worst.

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Dr. Horrible #1 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Dr. Horrible

When Captain Hammer foils Dr. Horrible’s plan to blow up parking meters, Horrible must find a way to balance things out to take on his noisy new nemesis.

drhorrible001 Story by: Zack Whedon
Art by: Joelle Jones
Colors by: Dan Jackson
Letters by: Nate Piekos
Cover art by: Kristian Donaldson
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve been a fan of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog since the first time I saw it with a friend last year. It came across as a great "origin story" of sorts, introducing a number of characters, their relationships, and motivations…especially for Billy himself–what it was that changed him from a fairly cheesy wannabe-villain into a much darker figure able to run with the most evil group of villains known–the Evil League of Evil.

I’d read a really brief "short story" that was done for some online project (MySpace Comics?) featuring the good Doctor and his nemesis, Captain Hammer; it seemed like more of a tease than anything else, and it seemed such a shame that there wasn’t a "real" comic for the character.

Several months ago, I was quite pleased to learn that as part of a series of one-shots Dark Horse was putting out, there would be a Dr. Horrible issue, written by Zack Whedon, that would show some of Billy’s backstory, and things that led to the story we got in the musical.

So of course, there’s all this expectation driving the standard quite high, even before ever holding the issue in my hands. Normally this can be pretty disastrous for a comic, as expectation almost always outweighs actuality by a large margin.

However, this issue measured up quite well. We begin with a scene from Billy’s youth, as he’s bullied by a kid who doesn’t "get" that Billy is smarter than him. The young Billy also sees the fall of a hero to the genius of a scientific mind, and learns from that man’s failings (though he defeated the Hero, he was unable to unite people to his Cause). 20 years later, Billy is feeding explosives into the city’s parking meters–the destruction of which will disrupt funding and bring the government to its knees. This leads to the first meeting between Billy and Captain Hammer, and a cameo of Bad Horse (and the "terrible, death whinny"). There’s a brief interlude as Billy does his laundry, and "meets" Penny, the girl of his dreams who he has yet to connect with. Meanwhile–knowing he can’t match Hammer’s brawn on his own, Billy creates a potion to give him matching strength…but the potion has unintended side-effects…and from here we see the beginnings of the Freeze Ray.

Everything’s here, really…the personalities of Billy and Captain Hammer shine through nicely, the "minor" characters carry their own presence, and the general situations feel like they’d fit well into what we already know in the musical. The primary drawback of this comic is that it lacks audio.

Particularly as this is specifically a one-shot, and a "prequel" of sorts, this is a great piece for fans of Dr. Horrible. The story elements are a particular draw, getting what ought to be "canon" regarding the characters.

At the same time, the art plays a huge role, and Joelle Jones manages to bring a look to the characters that is both its own thing–they look and feel like comic characters–and yet captures a look that evokes the appearance of the actors that played the live-action versions.

All in all, I definitely would recommend this to any fans of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It may be of some enjoyment to those unfamiliar with the original property, but much of the charm and "in-knowledge" that informs this issue would likely be lost. Then again, if one reads this and goes to the source material, it may make for a much different viewing experience.

Ratings:

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

Dr. Horrible #1 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

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