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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.

Harbinger #15 [Review]

harbinger015Writer: Joshua Dysart
Penciler: Barry Kitson
Inks: Stefano Gaudiano and Mark Pennington
Colorist: Ian Hannin with Sotocolor
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover Artists: Khari Evans, Barry Kitson, Trevor Hairsine, and Rian Hughes
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I really enjoy seeing heroes’ downtime. Seems like just about every issue of (especially team-books) a title “has to” have lots of action, so I quite appreciate just seeing the characters be themselves, NOT fighting villains, NOT on some huge quest, NOT repelling invasions or facing life-or-death situations, etc.

So this issue was quite up my alley, seeing the kids decompress from the events of Harbinger Wars. They recognized a functional loss, but escaped with their lives, and so take some time in this issue to just be kids, to have fun with each other and the advantages their powers bring. I could enjoy an entire issue of single-page scenes just showing the kinds of stuff the group as a whole would be up to as well as what happens when the characters pair off for activities, the way they relate not just as a group but in the one-on-one interactions.

I’m especially interested in seeing the growing friendship between Faith and Peter, and while I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever read the first few issues of the original ’90s series, that was a good 14 years ago and I don’t recall much of anything at this point…though from “meta” info about that title I’m vaguely aware of a character death early in the series that I’ve been glad to see did not happen here (I sorta expected it to play out in Harbinger Wars).

While we start the issue on a relatively “light” note (all recent events considered), and get plenty of fun and potential as the issue continues, I got a sense of foreboding toward the final few pages. Despite this, I had an honest moment of shock when my fear played out…the end of the issue opens up a whole different potential for this title and the Renegades moving forward.

More and more I find myself considering this the cream of the crop of the current Valiant titles…and with the mythology Dysart‘s building, the character-building and realistic (for a comic starring super-powered psiots) settings and interactions and amount of story actually fit into a single issue, there’s little better out there.

If you like super-hero team books, I definitely recommend this title!

Archer and Armstrong #10 [Review]

Archer & Armstrong (2012) #10 [cover]Mystery Hole

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Pere Perez
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Covers by: Clayton Henry, Juan Doe, Matthew Waite, Andrew Robinson
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I’m enjoying the standard covers on this series lately. They fit the characters, and are rather amusing given context OF the characters. This one–Armstrong, Archer ,and some alien caught sneaking by, guns pointed at them…something about it just works for me.

Inside the issue, we don’t see this scene exactly…but we do see our heroes breaking into a Project Rising Spirit facility/Area 51 (there’s our tie-in: it’s Valiant, so of course PRS is involved). They’re looking for info on Archer’s past, true info rather than what he’s been told all his life by manipulative parents–but things don’t go quite as planned. We’re also reintroduced to Mary-Maria, whose status quo was left a bit in question recently, and see what she’s now dealing with…holding a lot of potential for quirky situations and interesting character development as we continue on.

I’m honestly not entirely sure where I stand with this title, in a way: I certainly enjoy it, but like Shadowman, I sometimes feel like I’m playing catchup, as its story details don’t often stick with me outside the actual reading of the issues. I guess that puts me as a more generalized or casual fan than a die-hard, for whatever that says about me.

As usual, the story and art work well together. I can follow along without issue, I’m not left scratching my head or finding myself taken out of the story by some weird, stylistic art bit, and I don’t pick up on any great plot holes or such.

In short, I read the issue, I enjoyed the issue, and I expect to be back for the next issue.

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Meeting of the Minds

The Leader and his group of intellectual villains work behind the scenes through Marvel’s history to assemble the lost knowledge of the Library of Alexandria.

fallofthehulksalphaWriter: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists: Guru eFX
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover: Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer, Dave Stewart
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Associate Editor: Nathan Cosby
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this issue, except perhaps a jumping-on point in preparation for the coming Fall of the Hulks "event." What I did not expect was what seems to essentially be an "Illuminati" of intellectual Marvel villains and their "backstory" throughout Marvel’s past.

This issue basically follows The Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Egghead, The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, The Red Ghost, and Dr. Doom as they assemble the contents of the formerly-believed-lost contents of the Library of Alexandria through the years. Their first mission is an incursion into the home of the Eternals. Here the protagonists discover there are other locations around the planet with further Alexandrian contents, including Wakanda and Atlantis. Bucking the silver Age trend of simplicity, here we see that it takes months and years for the protagonists to prepare to actually launch a mission to gain the knowledge they’re after, as well as the explanation that allows for what we’ve already seen in the last half-decade of continuity regarding these characters. As the issue closes out, we get some info regarding the Red Hulk, which actually intrigues me after never before this having any interest in even the concept of that character.

The story is pretty good in and of itself. It’s not spectacular, and I’m not a huge fan of retcons…but for my understanding of things, the backstory that is here inserted into existing continuity seems to work. Additionally, I feel like I have a better understanding of who The Leader and The Red Ghost are now than I ever did before.
The art is also quite solid…while keeping its own feel, it also evokes some of the feeling of the different eras the story touches upon.

Though I came to the issue familiar with little more than the characters’ names and visual representations (excepting Dr. Doom), everyone was quite recognizable, and I really enjoyed the visuals.
Even though I’ve not followed the Hulk side of the Marvel Universe since World War Hulk ended, I still really enjoyed this issue and found that I didn’t need to know recent events. I’ve often enjoyed stories that flesh out villain characters and give them depth and motivation, and true explanation for why they would door act as they do, and this is one such issue.

I expect this is little more than set-up in the grand scheme of things, but if you want a Leader story involving a teaming-up of supervillains (including death and betrayal) reminiscent of 1980s stories but with a modern feel, this is a great issue for that.

Ratings:

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

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

Fall of the Hulks: Alpha [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

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

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