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Aliens: Defiance #1 [Review]

aliensdefiance0001Episode One: Derelict

Script: Brian Wood
Art: Tristan Jones
Colors: Dan Jackson
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimon Carnevale
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Editor: Spencer Cushing
Designer: Cindy Calcerez-Sprague
Digital Art Technitian: Conley Smith
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Date: April 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

My earliest exposure to Aliens was the final battle with the Queen at the end of the 1986 film, that I saw accidentally, wandering out one time to where Dad had fallen asleep watching it or whatever preceded it. Several years later, I came across and read the novelization of Alien3, which led to me seeing that film (my first-ever R-rated film sought out!), and in turn led to “backtracking” to the others. I also recall at some point realizing I had read the novelization of the first film at some point without ever realizing when I read it that it had anything to do with any movie. I also came across the novels that expanded the Aliens universe, and which I eventually came to learn were themselves based on comics. It would be a few more years before I ever got around to getting to read those original comics–particularly the first ‘trilogy’. While I’ve “lapsed” over the years, the last few years I have been quite interested to learn of any Aliens comic series, and occasionally lament that it’s not a truly ongoing property (while realizing that it works better with finite stories). As a gamer, I’m pretty lax, and have not played the recent game with Ripley’s daughter, though I’ve been told a fair bit of the story (sadly, not consciously retained). But hey…comics, right?

So here I am…brand new long-form Aliens story kicking off, its cover putting me a bit in mind of a/the video game, and intrigued at what I BELIEVE to be at least a 12-issue saga–perhaps the longest single Aliens story I’ve been a part of as a fan (not getting into the comics until about a decade ago). I know Brian Wood‘s name from some prior stuff I’ve read/sampled–Northlanders, DMZ, The Massive–and been aware of his name on stuff like Star Wars more recently…so that’s a welcome factor for a new Aliens series. Icing on the cake is art by Tristan Jones, who I became aware of with his work on the Tales of the TMNT title from original TMNT publisher Mirage a few years back, and have loved seeing his work on various other projects since…and whose visual style seems a perfect fit to me for the Aliens property.

This issue is a first issue, giving us basically a brief paragraph of context/setup before we’re launched into the thick of things. We meet Zula Hendricks, a private involved in a mission to a derelict spacecraft. She and her fellow marines encounter Xenomorphs, and the situation does not go well. She and a synthetic survive, though she quickly learns that the synthetic is acting against programming, and her own world is changing as a result.

The story is good, for what it is. Which is not meant to be a negative statement…but this is only the first chapter of a multi-issue arc, that I believe is a year-long, so this is hardly going to be a full story in and of itself, nor is it giving everything away. And a single issue isn’t really enough space to re-introduce readers to a property, introduce new characters and detail their history, recent past, and present while also showing the scope of the property and of space and the horrors of the Xenomorphs. But we do get a fair bit packed into this, with Zula’s introduction and some flashbacks, a cameo of Amanda Ripley (which I believe thusly situates this time-wise somewhere between the first and second films), the synthetic Davis, some context for Zula and her place in things, and the final-page reveal of what seems to be the “mission” of this particular series…piquing my interest such that I almost wish this was a weekly series, because waiting another month for the next tidbit seems far too long. It’s not a cliffhanger in and of itself, but more a concept that promises a lot of great stuff, and I want to see it developed and played out, and be along for the ride.

Jones’ visuals are a great fit for this story, providing a great overall feel for this issue. His style is–as said above–very well suited for this property, and gives a gritty, dark, creepy look to the Xenomorphs and their brand of violence. The humans/humanoids come across as I would expect, while exuding whatever it is that just FEELS like they’re in an Aliens story. The linework and layouts are impressive, giving a sort of cinematic flow to the issue…and I’m pleased at the lack of full or double-page spreads, which often feel like cheats and wastes of space when they’re the bulk of an issue. Only one page is a single/full-page image, and that’s the ending of the issue, where after all those pages crammed full of panels, it provides a stark contrast, and really drives home the importance of the “moment” that it conveys.

The cover is also a fantastic piece of art, and for me quite iconic and recognizeable. It’s also all the more impressive to me as it’s the only cover image I’ve seen for this, allowing it to stand as itself and not be just one in a sea of variant covers diluting the thing. While there may be a variant or two out there specific to someone, I don’t believe there are any alternate covers from Dark Horse in and of itself as a push.

Plenty of questions are opened up here, and the apparent premise of this series now holds a great deal of potential. I look forward to learning more of Zula as well as Davis, and seeing what sort of interactions the two have. I’m interested in how their ‘mission’ will play out, and play into the larger scope of the Aliens universe. While we get the cameo of Amanda Ripley, I believe her story is told in the videogame, and more of an “Easter egg” tossed in for fans as well as being an indicator of the time this is set in. I look forward to seeing and learning more about the Aliens, and seeing these characters grow in their own knowledge and understanding of same.

It will be interesting to see how this is paced, overall as a series…but I almost wish this was already a completed work. As a first issue, this works well overall. I don’t know that this is something that in and of itself right now as a singular issue will pull anyone “new” into Aliens or be necessarily the greatest introduction to the property…but whether long-time fan of the Aliens comics or just now checking them out being familiar with the films and/or video game, I think this is a great start into the comics side of things.

I’m not particularly enamored with the cover price, but will suck it up, given this is Aliens . I’m definitely on board for this series, and definitely recommend checking it out if you’ve any interest already in the property.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of March 09, 2016

This has been a HUGE week for me with money spent, well beyond any usual “preference,” purchasing the DC: The New 52 Zero Omnibus for over $100 cheaper than cover price, as well as the hardcover Graphic Novel + BluRay + Digital editions of The Death of Superman and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

And of course, some “regular” stuff in the mix.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160309

After last week’s huge bargain-bin haul of Green Lantern stuff, I also tracked down a newsstand edition copy of GL #81–the “funeral” issue for Hal Jordan, that had (at least via quarter bins and price I was willing to pay) eluded me since its release some 19ish years ago.

This week, curious if the usual LCS had a non-barcoded newsstand edition or better condition copy, I found that they did not…however, they had the “Collector’s Edition” for “only” $6. For only $2 more than a contemporary comic, coming with the bag and board, cardstock cover with enhancement and being a nearly two-decade-old comic that I have NOT seen all over the place…I barely hesitated.

My actual pull-list books for the week consisted of the three TMNT books here–the series based on the animated cartoon series; the final issue of City at War done in color, and the latest issue of the Batman/TMNT 6-issue mini (clearly a DC-driven product, as IDW doesn’t seem capable or willing to do anything longer than 4 issues at a time for anything “current”/”new”).

And seeing my obvious interest in the ashcan, I was given the Aliens: Defiance ashcan, previewing the upcoming Aliens series with art by Tristan Jones (whose work I’ve enjoyed on a number of other projects, chiefly Mirage TMNT stuff before the sale to Viacom).

If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know I’ve groused in the past about multi-page “previews” of upcoming books “padding” whatever the current issue is that I’m reading. I’ve also suggested I’d rather companies do some separate “preview issue” each week or month rather than stuff a quarter of an issue into other books so that if I buy a new book it feels extra thick and is disappointingly short, and when I buy something that was previewed, I’m only getting 3/4 the value sine 1/4 was already given away.

Ashcans are a great way to get around that, and I’d fairly willingly pay for some, if only for the novelty. If they can be just given away, all the better! This one I actually read cover to cover, and enjoyed the art–one of very few times the art is more of a draw for me than the story. (Though being an Aliens project, I’d’ve already been interested; Jones‘ art ensures my monthly purchase of the thing).

We’ll see what next week holds, I guess…though hopefully it’ll be a far cheaper week…

Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

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

Tales of the TMNT #64 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: The Burning Man

The turtles race all over the city to deal with a number of threats, and ultimately, a demon-from-a-bottle released in a botched attempt to stop the Foot from stealing its container.

talesofthetmnt064Script: Tristan Jones
Pencils: Jim Lawson
Inks: Steve Lavigne
Letters: Dan Berger
Cover: Jim Lawson & Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Published by: Mirage Publishing

Michelangelo narrates this issue, as we find out that he and his brothers wound up fighting some sort of demon. This demon was released after Leonardo accidentally broke an urn the Foot was trying to steal. We go from the turtles’ lair as Leo chews Mikey out for stuff going wrong; then see Mikey’s side to things. With the urn broken and the demon having disappeared, there wasn’t much for the turtles to do, so they went about usual business; these distractions led to Mikey being the one to come across the demon again first, and thus Mikey confronts it alone. The others are brought into things in their own way, as the motivation of the demon is determined and attended to. While Mikey won’t take the blame for everything that went down, we do find out at the end of the issue the one thing that he WILL take responsibility for.

Visually, this is the version of the turtles I tend to enjoy most, and the visual style that I’ve come to primarily associate with them over the past 7-8 years or so. It is a bit stylistic, and detail seems to vary a bit, as dictated by the story and what we’re to focus on as the story progresses.

The story itself is quite good, and I really enjoyed a lot of the verbal and visual cues provided by having the story from Mikey’s point of view. I could almost hear the voice of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series Mikey recounting these events, and that just made it all the more fun.

Jones has written some of my favorite issues of Tales, and I find it a real shame that this will be his last issue, given the change of ownership of the TMNT property and uncertainty of where things go from here.

This is not a dense book…the story is a nice little done-in-one, mainly focused on Mikey but still involving the other turtles such that it is by no means a solo issue. If you can get the issue, it’s very much worthwhile.

Ratings:

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

Tales of the TMNT #61 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Sometimes They Come Back

While helping to investigate the destruction of several buildings in the city and rising violence of an ongoing gang war, the turtles find more of their past back to haunt them.

talesofthetmnt061Script: Tristan Jones
Art: Andres Ponce
Letters: Eric Talbot
Cover: Andres Ponce & Steve Lavigne
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Publisher: Mirage Publishing

This issue picks up on a story thread that’s been touched on at a few points in recent years. The introduction on the inside front cover provides a quick recap to give context, and then we launch into the story. One of the turtles makes contact with a police detective investigating a collapsed building. As we continue on, the turtles all find pieces of the “puzzle” that comes together in a fairly fast-paced piece of action before quickly winding down as the turtles find themselves facing the small–but terrifyingly plentiful–mousers they’d faced years ago.

It might just be the immediacy of having just read the issue, with its enjoyment fresh in my mind…but this is one of the most enjoyable TMNT reads I’ve had in awhile. Jones builds a story that is both fresh and yet drawn from existing continuity. The result is that the reader is provided not just a peek into a random moment in the turtles’ lives, but a growing story, and (dare I say it) continuity within the “gap” presented when TMNT vol. 4 launched nearly 8 years ago.

The story moves at a pretty quick pace…in some ways, I’d certainly like to see more build, as we do largely just get snippets of stuff as the scenes move along from one turtle to another with the occasional moment from the police throughout. At the same time, the story in this one issue could probably be stretched to at least 2 and maybe 3 issues without feeling padded…but rather than have to buy 3 issues, we get the entirety of the given story right here. Reading through the issue, I get a distinct feel of the turtles being older and rather independent (no Splinter found nor referenced), and the way they’re shown interacting throughout the issue shows where they’ve grown up from the earliest TMNT issues.

Ponce‘s art gives me the impression much of this book takes place at night–there’s a certain feel to the imagery with shadows and overall tone giving that feeling. Unlike a lot of other black-and-white books, where the art looks like it’s ready for color, here it almost appears to have been done in color and printed in greytones. The overall style puts me in mind of the animated series–this certainly does not duplicate that series’ style, but is somewhat similar, and that works very well for me here, as I can easily see the action of this issue being animated.

Probably because this issue is the latest of a several-part ongoing “arc,” newer readers may not get much from this. I think this issue is more for longer-time readers (whether just of this volume of Tales of the TMNT, or going back to the 1990s or even the mid-80s when the turtles first appeared). As one of those longtime readers, this issue was a blast, and very much worth its price.

Ratings:

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

Tales of the TMNT #56 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Hun

As the turtles and April help Casey clean, they come across some old newspapers that reveal another glimpse into Casey’s past–and the man who helped make him who he is today.

talesofthetmnt056Script: Tristan Jones
Art: Paul Harmon
Letters: Eric Talbot
Frontispiece: Michael Dooney
Editor in Chief: Peter Laird
Managing Editor: Dan Berger
Design: Eric Talbot
Cover: Paul Harmon and Steve Lavigne
Publisher: Mirage

In brief, this issue shows us Casey’s past run-in with Hun, then moves into the “present” (in that time somewhere after TMNT Vol. 2). Having his past brought into discussion with April, Casey takes off to blow off some steam, and finds himself face-to-face with the man who hurt him so many years ago…but with the fight just a little more “fair” this time around.

Normally I’m not a huge fan of bringing a character from “other media” into the “source material,” but the way that Hun (created for the TMNT animated series that debuted back in ’03) has been handled here makes perfect sense, and works REALLY well in tying into Casey Jones’ life–getting to the core of the character.

The writing here works quite well for me. There aren’t a lot of pages–just this issue–for delving into stuff, so it’s not like we have a multi-issue arc to introduce stuff; we just kinda jump into stuff and see both flashback and “current” events. But everyone seems in-character; at the least, I have no problems with how the characters are depicted in this book.

Visually I feel that for the most part, the art orks quite ell with the story; but other times something about it seems almost unfinished and sketchy, like we’re seeing pencilwork minus any inks.

All in all, though, especially for fans of Casey Jones, this is a very worthwhile issue. While this issue does bring Hun into TMNT comic continuity, it’s not forced, and is done in such a way that he can be picked up by others as they choose–or not, and it’s not like he’s gonna be force-fed to readers month after month.

Not sure non-TMNT fans would find this issue all that wonderful; but at least for the story and learning more about Casey, this issue ought to be a good read for TMNT fans new and old.

Recommended.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 2.5/5
Overall: 3/5

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