Sunday, May 25, 2014

Turok: Son of Stone #1, #2, #3, and #4 (Dark Horse Comics)

Turok has been my go-to favourite comic book character since 2002, so as you can imagine, I get pissed when I read a shit Turok comic (I'm lookin' at you, Dynamite!), and I'm overjoyed when I read a great one. With Dark Horse's failed Dark Key line, I was actually hoping Turok, Son of Stone* would suck massive donkey balls, as then I wouldn't feel bad that it only lasted for four issues, but this is actually a really good read!

*This is thankfully called Turok, Son of Stone. Being called Dinosaur Hunter really does limit what you can do with the series, as it means your character must almost always be fighting dinosaurs.

A band of maurauding Aztecs have attacked a village and are about to sacrifice a boy, Andar, when he is freed by Turok, a Native American Indian. The two escape, but they, as well as the Aztecs, are caught in a strange storm that whisks them all away to the Lost Valley, a place of dinosaurs, a lost Aztec city, and people from the present and the future...

1-Out of Time

This issue is a very good opener. It introduces the characters, the villains, and the Lost Valley, with good writing to boot.

We know nothing of Turok this first issue, but due to his actions, we care for him more than Dynamite's boring chip-shouldered Turok. And Andar gets pretty good characterization. The villains are brutal and interesting, and that's all there is to them for now.

One moment I found funny was when the escaped slave who teams up with Turok and co. for a few pages dies. Not wanting to die a horrific death at the hands of the Aztecs, Nadahende screams "I beg you...!", and Turok strikes an arrow through his heart! I don't think that's what he meant, dude!...I kid, I kid, although I do wish that the writer had had Nadahende say more, like "I beg you, please kill me".

The artwork isn't great, but you'll soon be transfixed by the story enough that you won't notice the subpar illustration.

The cover's ok, albeit a little non-indicative. Speaking of, there are prints of the #1's of the Dark Key line that say '48 page bonus first issue!' and stuff like that, which is a borderline lie! Yeah, these first issues are 40 to 48 pages, but that's not because they're longer, but because the first issues of the original Turok/Solar/Magnus/etc. are included. This is appreciated, although I wish those covers'd be a little more honest and a little less deceptive.

There's one moment (in the above image) where either speech bubbles come from the wrong character, or that piece of dialogue is just really poorly written. This only happens just the once, thankfully.

This is a fine opening issue, and the end really leaves you craving more!...

2-God and Goddess

Just when I was expecting this to be a purely historical series, BOOM, laser guns!

While we still know almost nothing of Turok's past, he's still a likeable lead. Aasta, a woman sucked into the strange valley from the future, is introduced this issue, and she has a pretty good character. I like that she's Norwegian, rather than English. It's less cliche, and it makes it believable that she and Turok can converse (albeit with some minor difficulty), as vikings went to the America's back in the day. Andar does and says barely anything this issue, but that isn't too bad, as it's got plenty of other stuff to establish.

The Aztecs make for great, brutal villains, and there's good characterization for the Aztec emperor, who may be an evil psycho, but is willing to give his life on the sacrificial altar when they run out of slaves to appease their gods with. Not that it comes to that though, as things get in the way, which is good, as we wouldn't have a main villain otherwise.

The artwork in this second issue is better than the previous one. It's decent, but not great. But just like the previous issue, you'll likely get too drawn into the story to care. The cover's pretty cool, too.

This issue has a real sense that things are coming to a head, and boy do they do just that!

3-Blood for the Sun

This issue suffers badly because of the art, which has taken a severe downturn. The artists of #1 and #2 left for whatever reason (probably the Dark Key schedule slip), and have been replaced by the jackasses here who had the hilarious delusion that they could draw. Characters are poorly angular and sketchy, while anything in the distance is terribly underdrawn.

This issue also misspells divine as devine, and spells magic with a 'K'. Now that I'm willing to be a bit more lenient on, as Magick is an archaic spelling...But I'll complain anyway, because anyone who spells it that way not from the 12th Century comes across as annoying to me. And there's one briefly appearing character named Nomsa who is really hard to understand due to her broken 'English'.

The cover is pretty awesome, thankfully. It's good to know there's at least one piece of good art here.

The bad artwork really throws you off, but this is still a very good issue. There's not much plot or character, as it's a lead-in to the grand finale...

4-Death from Above

This is a great ending to the story! This plot hasn't been perfect, and it's not exactly deep, but it's action packed, got great villains, and entertaining protagonists.

I only have two problems with this comic. One is what Turok calls Aasta at one point when attacking a dinosaur trying to kill her-"Let go of my woman!" Jesus, is there little wonder why I think Jim Shooter is responsible for a lot of the horrible sexism in Avengers #200?! Whether it be in Valiant comics, or here, he's constantly having characters talk about 'their women'! At least it's lampshaded here by Aasta.

And my other problem comes in the final fight. Turok, Son of Stone really must be made of stone, as near the end, a large stone pillar is toppled down onto him, and he's perfectly fine!

Andar's really been floundering as a character after the first issue! But there is a lot going on, so I can understand his character not advancing much. I'm sure it would have had the series gone on.

Thunder Hand, a space guy from the future has been a pretty entertaining character these last few issues, and added something different into the mix.

The art still sucks, as the jerkoffs from last issue are still around. The cover's pretty cool though. Thankfully other people were responsible for the covers in this series.

The plot here ends with great bookendings, plotwise ('honour their sacrifice', and dreams), and character-wise with Thunder Hand.


It truly is a shame that this is the Turok series that only lasts four issues, whereas Dynakey's is still ongoing. I wholeheartedly recommend Turok, Son of Stone, in hindsight a graphic novel, and the fact that all Dark Key comics are available digitally for only a dollar each on Dark Horse's website is even better! If you're interested, go forth and enjoy!

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom-Magnus, Robot Fighter: Free Comic Book Day (Dark Horse Comics)

Currently publishing their own incarnations of Turok, Doctor Solar, Magnus: Robot Fighter, and Doctor Spektor, Dynamite has spent the last few months building up their own Gold Key universe, remaking these properties from the original GK ones from the 60's. And they're not the first to do so in recent years. Before Dynamite tried, there was Dark Horse, and they screwed up, big time! Out of the four or so runs they were publishing, Solar was the only one that wasn't cancelled at only four issues was cancelled come issue 8.

Whether the Dark Key line was cancelled entirely due to mismanagement, or money troubles, or just plain lack of popularity, I'm not entirely sure. What I do know is that the company pulled a Liefeld, and the series' came out very sporadically, sometimes bi-monthly if the schedule even held.

As well as the 20 issues in total I mentioned above, Dark Key also released a Free Comic Book Day special for Solar and Magnus. I've no idea what their placement  is, but if these were given out for Free Comic Day, then I imagine they're tailored specifically to pull in/attract readers, so it's not like these'd be random stories ten issues into the run.

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom

Phil Solar (Wow, who'd you kill to come up with a name that original!) has recently been imbued with superhuman powers over energy after an accident at a nuclear plant, which has also caused strange anomalies all over the world...

Fallout is ok. It tells a pretty complete story in only ten pages, which is something I've got to give credit for, as most comic book writers nowadays can't even find their bearings unless they have four issues to tell one story.

Solar doesn't really have much character too him, and we have no idea who he is, and only the vaguest of idea of what happened to give him these powers. On one hand, this is understandable, as this isn't an origin story or an Issue 1, but on the other hand, how is this meant to pull readers in if we don't know anything about the title character. Though while we don't get to know Phil Solar, we at least see how his mind works, which is a bit of a plus.

One weird aspect is the comic's dating. Do we really need to know that it's 5:15 on a Sunday during August? Just saying what year it is, maybe the month too, would be good enough for me.

The artwork is ok , but a little sketchy. Literally sketchy. And sometimes underdrawn. The cover is ok. Solar's way too over-muscly, but the bigger problem is how clashing its art style is to the rest of the book. Though it's nowhere near as egregious as other comics of this line.

Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom FBCD is decent, and it makes me mildly curious to see what the rest of the series is like. It's not great, but it's a serviceable little read.

Magnus, Robot Fighter

In the year 4000 AD (AD, not CE comic! It's been AD for the last 2000+ years and I'm not changing it now, no matter what archeologists and historians here and there say!), there are just as many robots as there are humans. Magnus is a citizen of massive mega-city North Am, and it's his duty to protect the innocent from rogue evil robots...

Magnus is a super tough hero, who for some reason wears an initial monogram belt, and a mini-miniskirt. Thank god he's not from Scotland, otherwise the last thing Magnus' enemies would see is his taint!

Unlike Fallout, Eyes to the Blind actually does a pretty good job showing us who Magnus is and what he does. The story is a 'day in the life' type, showing Magnus' powers, how he operates, his moral stance, who his allies and associates are, etc.

The dialogue from the robots is really the weak link of this story, as they may as well be labelled Exposition-Bots. And there's one moment at the climax when a robot literally yells 'Oh no!' when he's about to be attacked.

The artwork is ok. Sketchy, like with Solar, and characters frequently suffer from what video comic review Linkara calls Youngblood's Disease, which is when the artist can't be bothered drawing eyes.

Another art problem is that characters look pretty dead-eyed at times, and in one such moment, the character's eye can be seen through their hair. And there's one moment where a speech bubble isn't coming from who it's meant to, but is instead just hovering in mid-air

All in all, this is decent, although this Magnus series seems like it's a repeat of what's come before, and may not put anything different on the table...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Solar, Man of the Atom #2 (Dynamite Comics)

Ghostbusters II is not the fucking bad one!

...Ok, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's dig into Solar, Man of the Atom #2

Hospotalized after a nuclear catastrophe caused by her father's unstable atomic power, Erica Seleski is suffering from no apparent maladies, although she keeps having warped flashback dreams. Things start getting weird when her wing of the hospital is attacked by a mysterious and destructive robot, with an off fixation on Erica...or whatever now lies within her...

Turok impressed me for zero issues, Magnus did for one, and Solar has for two. I guess I now know which is my favourite DynaKey series then! The latest issue of Solar is pretty good. Not great, but it's definitely on top in terms of quality out of the other three DynaKey lines.

The plot is interesting, albeit drawn out, as is the norm for comics nowadays. If they're gonna take four issues to tell just one story, you'd think they'd at least make this a weekly/fortnightly series!

While we still don't know why she and her father are estranged (which is annoying), we at least get to know Erica a bit, as she's the main focus of this comic...In fact, there's extremely little Solar in this issue of Solar! That's lousy!

The alien villain(s) have nothing to them yet. All we've seen is an alien in a spaceship surveying the Earth, and sending in a robot for some reason. We've no idea who he is, what he is, or what he's up to, and why it concerns Solar.

And speaking of villains, the issue namedrops Nuro, a classic Gold Key and Dark Key Solar villain. And I just noticed, Erica-Like Erica Pierce (Mothergod) from Valiant comics! I'm guessing that's not a coincidence, although they're likely just using the name, rather than recreating that character.

Just like the previous issue, the artwork is very good. There are some bad aspects though. As well as having the same all-encompassing horizontal panel problem the previous issue had, there are also two pretty pointless two-page spreads, and a splash page! The cover sucks too. It's a muddled mess.

I've no idea what compelled the artist to do an upskirt shot of kid Erica! What the hell, dude?! Also, there's a confusing moment of conversing dialogue boxes of Colin and a worker-They're all blank, and there's no clear pattern. Can you figure out who the hell is talking? I'm pretty sure all those last four are Colin, but how the hell could one be sure?

If this series really is going to be about Solar, Woman of the Atom, I wonder how the title will fare. Will they change it four issues in (which makes it pointless to have even called it Man in the first place) or will they keep it as Man of the Atom, get decried as sexist, claim that they meant 'Man' as in the species collective sense, get that bluff called, and end up switching it to Woman of the Atom anyway?...Whichever it is, this is a pretty entertaining comic, and whether you're interested enough to get it now, or wait 'till the first story arc is over, either way is good.

Solar, Man of the Atom #1 (Dynamite Comics)

With three out of its four series' out, Dynamite's Gold Key line is getting bigger and bigger, and if they play their cards right, DynaKey will last longer than Dark Horse's massively failed Dark Key line.

A gang of thieves try to rob a bank, and are stopped by The Man of the Atom, a mysterious vigilante with superhuman abilities. Everything seems to go off for Solar without a hitch until he suddenly loses control of his powers, blowing the bank up. Meanwhile, Colin Seleski, CEO of Atom Valley Industries is wondering what his scientist father Philip is up to, as he's been cooped up in his laboratory for months, and has barely contacted Colin at all. Elsewhere, an associate of Phil's approaches his estranged daughter Erica about an accident...

Rather than starting from the start, Solar begins with the titular hero already established. He's been a superhero for some months now, appearing sporadically to stop crimes and whatnot. This is annoying, as we know nothing of Phil Seleski, why he'd want to experiment with these powers, or why he wanted to use them for superheroics. Given some concept art of the series on the internet, it seems that unless they're just dicking around, or Philip is gonna get a Transgender op, Erica will take the series mantle, which seems like a possibility.

The characters aren't very well established yet. Phil Seleski doesn't even appear as himself, we know nothing about Atom Valley CEO Colin Seleski, and as for Erica, we know that she wants nothing to do with her father and brother, for reasons we barely know yet.

While possibly a few too many pages are spent on Solar simply stopping a bank robbery, at least it shows Solar's power range, and how he fights crime, rather than taking eight issues or something like that (as of #4 of Turok, Dinosaur Hunter, the title character has yet to actually be a dinosaur hunter, or in fact have any reason to harbour ill-will against them!).

One weird aspect of the plot is-Have people seriously not made the connection between 'Man of the Atom' and 'Atom Industries'?! Eh, maybe there was an inquest offscreen. Let's give the comic the benefit of the doubt.

Solar's powers seem to be tied to scientific mathematical equations, which is pretty nifty! As for the constant equations shows when Solar's using his powers, either it's a bunch of gibberish, or the writing team had a mathematician on hand.

The cover is decent, and the artwork is very good (the best in the DynaKey line), though some of the angles are terrible! When Dr. Preston is talking with Erica, my head was being done in! And the other time this happens is when Preston is talking to Colin...Hmmm, maybe he could be the first supervillain of the series-Angle Man!...

You know, in the original Solar series, that'd probably be an actual possibility, knowing the Golden and Silver Ages! It's a shame The Dark Knight Rises didn't feature the terrifying evil of...Calendar Man!

The majority of panels are horizontal ones that go from one end of the page all the way to the other, which is partly why so little story is told in this issue.

This is a pretty good first issue of Solar, Man of the Atom, and I know firsthand that the series gets better, so I recommend it...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Secret Weapons #3 (Classic Valiant)

Eddie 'Stronghold' Sedgewick and Amanda 'Livewire' McKee, two Harbingers (superpowered beings) are called to action when their friend Geoff McHenry tells them that Gilad, the immortal and nigh-invincible Eternal Warrior has been kidnapped by the sinister Iwatsu corporation , which gave power to the hero Bloodshot, who escaped them. Desperate to successfully repeat the Bloodshot procedure (which currently produces only Speedshots, who lack most of Bloodshot's abilities, and have an extremely short life expectancy), the ailing Iwatsu has horrific plans for the Eternal Warrior...

As the first issue to take place after the first story, this shows just what the protagonists of Secret Weapons are-A superhero team, or just a bunch of bro-skis and gal-skis who hang out and just so happen to get embroiled in superhero stuff. It's the latter.

The artwork here is good, although there's heavy inking for a lot of dialogue, and one panel that's blurry! The title page, like all Valiant comics, is a splash page, and while it is wasting space, it looks pretty stylish. And there's one almost two page spread which gets really lazy, and just uses a cityscape photo with a bit of filtering.

The plot is dull, minute, and the climax, or lack thereof, is unforgivable! The guest Valiant character Archer (of Archer and Armstrong), having somehow followed the speeding train the Speedshots are on with only a motorcycle, makes a ridiculous jump on it, and is about to land in the specific compartment with Gilad and the Speeds when!....The comic cuts to several hours later, when the problem has been defused already, and it's never shown, or explained what the hell happened! The narration just says that the good guys won!

Ok, not only does having Archer do everything take away from the series' own heroes, but reading this comic is akin to going crazy blackout drunk just before the last act of an action movie!

Oh, and if you think that everything will be explained in Bloodshot #11, given the 'To be continued in' tag, no, only the Iwatsu having a heart attack plot point carries over.

The Speedshots are annoying, because they talk like a Mr. Spock comedy double act.

Stronghold and Livewire are pretty dull here, and have banter which very much falls into the territory of failed attempts at humour. Livewire's powers are always vague in this series, which is quite an accomplishment given this issue actually says what they are! Is she a Technopath? Is she a female Magneto? How can she fly? No idea, and I've read the whole volume.

Gilad spends the issue fighting, and being unconscious. By the way, this issue (and other ones) explain his immortality and super-strength/durability by saying he has a denser cell structure than normal people. I'm not a scientist, and while that sounds bullshit, I could be wrong, and it could very well be a perfectly legit reason, so I'll give the comic the benefit of the doubt. What I do know to be bad science though is when Archer blows up a plane simply by crossbow-firing an arrow at the fuel tank! Not even if it was coated in gasoline, buddy!

As for the Geomancer (earth seer) Geoff, he's a little shit! He also narrates and exposits constantly, which is pretty unwelcome and annoying. Just let the story tell the story!

The biggest question on my lips is-where's Bloodshot in any of this? He's probably absent because the writers knew that he could instantly solve this problem.

I'm sad to say, this series just keeps getting worse and worse as it goes on! The length doesn't help, nor do the lacklustre stories, or the lack of character from Eddie and Amanda! I like them, but this series is doing them no favours.

Uniity #5, #6, and #7 (New Valiant)

Dr. Augustus Silkowski is a mad scientist and head of Webnet, a mysterious organization, who's created a virus that turns people into rabid maniacs, controlled by him. Meanwhile, Unity team-member Amanda 'Livewire' McKee is captured when investigating a crashed alien ship in Taiwan. The rest of the team (the immortal and super-strong Gilad, the tough and resourceful British spy Ninjak, and XO Man-O-War-Aric of Dacia, an out of time Visigoth in an extremely powerful suit of sentient armour) go to Taiwan to rescue Livewire, and soon find themselves in way over their heads as the evil Dr. Silk begins to enact his masterplan...

Standing as the first 'post-crisis' story, this arc shows the now-complete Unity in action on their first routine assignment. The plot here is pretty interesting, and not only is Dr. Silk an intriguing villain, but his way of propagating is a neat touch too. I wish he would have gotten more to do though, as the only thing present-day Silk does is talk about his plans, and that's it.

Come the end, the story is technically resolved, but it ends really abruptly, and given the next arc is the company-spanning event Armour Hunters, I don't know how or if there's going to be a bridging gap between the two arcs (as 20-page comics can't waste time with resolving character moments from the previous story easily).

There's one moment which I thought was terrible at first, given the collateral damage the heroes cause, but as Silk's virus is irreversible, they wouldn't have been able to save those workers no matter what. So no, I don't really mind.

The characters are all decent. Some reviewers feel that Livewire doesn't appear enough, but I don't think that. She appears enough as far as I'm concerned. Though I wish we would have at least seen her capture at the start, rather than it abruptly cutting away, and her getting found and caught entirely off-panel. Livewire doesn't get anything in the way of characterization, but she is very proactive in stamping out the Webnet threat, and a certain something is implied about her heritage (but never touched on again).

Aric gets some nice development concerning his use of force and the high collateral damage it can cause in a situation like this. Gilad is basically just a big tough guy with an axe, who can shrug off bullet wounds. He doesn't get any development. When the characters go to Silk's base in Mexico, there's a pointless flashback to his times in the ancient Aztec era, which only serves to use up two pages, and tell us that 'Yes, Gilad HAS in fact been in Mexico in the past 600 years.'.

Ninjak is pretty amusing, and totally badass. No development either, but he has more character here than Gilad.

Despite the problem I mentioned above, Dr. Silk makes for a very good villain, with some creepy backstory. The guy's a twisted maniac, who's done a multitude of terrible, sick things, and given certain aspects of his body, and how deep Webnet runs, simply killing Silk would get Unity nowhere.

One almost problem is when he monologues abut his past and masterplan to Livewire. Even though the scene acknowledges the cliche, it's still using it. Thankfully it's not a cliche I'm particularly hard on as long as it's used well, which is is here.

Also, speaking of Silk's past, it Just So happens to be connected with a superpowered team from World War II that Gilad Just So Happened to have brought up earlier on a completely unrelated note. And Silk Just So Happens to have created the first Bloodshot prototype. To me, that felt like a cheap continuity reference for the sake of a continuity reference.

There's a certain ally that the Unity team meet in #7, and who they were was a genuine surprise to me, so kudos! They barely do/say anything after their first monologue though, so hopefully they appear again next issue.

The artwork is all very good! Nothing to complain about here! In fact, it's better than in the first Unity arc, which was pretty liney and gritty. There is one touch to the artwork that I didn't like, however-A pretty unsubtle moment when Silk is talking about creating utopia, and a statue of the Thinking Man is in the background. I GET IT.

As for Silk, I really appreciate the way he's drawn, as in Classic Valiant, he was drawn so repulsively ugly that he was annoying to look at. Thankfully Silk isn't drawn that way at any point in the story arc (not even with his original body), even if the covers to #5 and #6 would have you think otherwise.

The covers are decent. The ones for #5 and #7 at least show plenty going on (although the robots on #5?! What?!), whereas #6's cover is just of Dr. Silk's face...a face that he doesn't even resemble in any comics not 20 years old.

While not perfect, Unity's second story arc is highly entertaining, but definitely not worth the three months I waited for the issues to all come out...

Unity #2, #3, and #4 (New Valiant)

A man out of time, Visigoth Aric of Dacia wants to take back the ancient land of his people-Romania-and with the XO armour, he has the power to do so. Unfortunately, this causes a huge international incident, with Russia being especially furious, ready to send a nuke at Aric after he obliterates a small army of theirs. Entrepreneur and founder of the Harbinger Foundation Toyo Harada assembles a crack team of experts and superpowered individuals (Gilad, the immortal Eternal Warrior, Livewire, who can control machines, and Ninjak, a crack British secret agent [with a stupid name]) to defuse the situation before full blown nuclear war breaks out...

Along with the first issue (which I'm not including here as I've already reviewed it), #2, #3, and #4 of Unity make up the series' first story arc, and it's quite good, even if it did get off to a bit of a shaky start.

The plot is not without problems, but it's still well-written. The scope is good, and you can really feel the urgency of the situation. Its biggest mistake is having this one story be told over four issues (four months), but that's just the way the industry is now. Practically gone are the days where one issue tells a complete self-contained story.

The biggest problem I have with this first arc of Unity is that Aric is barely in it, and when he is, he's only there for fight scenes. His role in this story is expanded in the tie-ins in XO Man-O-War, but I haven't read them, nor should they need to be required reading to get into this series.

Livewire is the only character here who gets any development. The faux-hero Harada makes for a decent villain to end the arc on, while Gilad is just a tough guy who helps the team out. The same goes for Ninjak.

Speaking of, there's a retcon in-between issues with him! In this particular scene in the first issue, Aric impales Ninjak with his sword, but in #2, it shows that Aric punches Ninjak, who blocks the blows fatal force with his own sword, before the punch's remaining power knocks him out cold.

The character of Rene Rousseaux (a blogger advocate for Aric) is annoying! Not only does she not know a goddamn thing about the Unity team, denigrating them as 'arrogant mystery men, bent on controlling our lives' who are unjustifiably mistreating the great Aric of Dacia, but her total hero-worship of the amazing MAN Aric, leading her to completely throw away her old life is borderline sexist! And said hero-worship doesn't even make sense, as  Aric has brutally killed countless people, and completely evaporated an entire Russian army! Hell, Rene, it was a soldier fighting against your 'hero' who saved you from his disintigrator blast!

And the fact that Rene hasn't appeared since #1, and the fact that she's only narrated thus far, and hasn't actually interacted with anyone makes her character even weaker. Hopefully she has a bigger role soon, and the judgmental bitch can actually realize that Unity aren't bad guys.

At the start of #4, we get some story with a guard and his relation to his teammates-the first Unity team, now deceased. It's a short scene, but it works well, adds a bit of depth to this guard (who could have just been a random mook), and allows a little more depth to spring from the first Unity team, rather than having them appear in #1 for a handful of panels before being abruptly killed and never spoken of again.

One minor issue with the plot is that #3 opens with Livewire narrating about how she was controlled by Aric once she put the XO armour on, and attacked her teammates. I guess that happened in a tie-in comic, which is a bit of an annoyance, but understandable. Speaking of #3, the ending is pretty great! Some great mirrored dialogue.

The ending, I think, is slightly spoilt by the same reason I mentioned above. After what he's done in his bid to take over Romania, Aric is so not worthy for the armour like the comic seems to think! If he'd only disabled the weapons of the Russian army in #1, then it'd make sense, but as it stands, he's killed a whole hell of a lot of people, which doesn't exactly endear him in my eyes. He'd still be seen as an immemsely powerful threat, and that, along with the millions of dollars damage that would cause would more than be enough for the Russians to still want Aric's head. And as it stands, if Aric's killed an entire army, I doubt that the Russians would ever stop until he's a thousand feet under. They wouldn't be happy that he's just in lockup somewhere.

One last thing, I kinda wish that they'd had a few issues of XO with Aric living without the armour, while Livewire would be XO in Unity. For one, no matter what this comic makes her say, she has earnt it, and two, that could potentially make for a very interesting story aric for Arc*. Not that the lack of that is a complaint, but that would have been nice.

The artwork is gritty and liney, but still good. Though there's one moment where the art is pretty bad, when the alien ship is taking off. The blurriness does evoke a sense of 'HOOOOLLLYY SHHIIIIIIITTT!' as the ship is flying off at like a billion G force, but unfortunately it's also just plain hard to look at, hurting your eyes if you look at it for more than a split second. And one moment in #3, it makes Aric look pudgy, which he obviously isn't meant to be.

#4's uses of sound effects are so frequent, that it really feels like the artist was having a ball, like a kid on a sugar high-'And then he goes WOOOM, and then a BOOM, and then she hits him with a KRAK-KAADDOOOOOMMM!'!

The covers to #2 and #3 are very good, but #4's is very blank, and the speech bubble doesn't need to be there. Plus, what happens on the cover is a bit of a non-sequiter.

Overall, this is a very good opening arc to Unity, and I definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shadowman #1 (New Valiant)

He is the walker between the worlds, immortal Voodoo warrior. He is...The Shadow Man!...

Jack Boniface is living a normal life in New Orleans when he finds records convicting his parents of multiple violent crimes. Angry, Jack discards a family amulet he's always won around his neck, which turns out to be a bad mistake... Elsewhere in the city, a gruesome monster is born into the world of the living, in servitude to the sinister Master Darque...

Before I talk about the latest iteration of this character, I've one thing to talk about first.

I don't actually know what to think of the Acclaim era Shadowman. From what I've read in some previews on Comixology, the writing seems crap, and the artwork is terrible for about a dozen issues, but Acclaim's Bloodshot and XO Man-O-War are both really good, and easily surpass their original Valiant counterparts, so who knows, maybe it's a good series. I'll give it a shot someday.

As for New Valiant's Shadowman, there was no room for interpretation. I knew I hated it!...After a phase of sorta liking it, followed by indifference. So for several months, I had zero interest in reading this series, but you know what? I think I've flip-flopped back around, and actually don't think it's too bad now. So in other probably can't trust my opinion at all when it comes to this comic. Although I'm definitely glad that I like it a bit more than I previously did, because I absolutely want to like Shadowman, and I'd be a pretty sorry case if literally the only entry in the franchises I enjoy is the N64 game*!

*As for the sequel, I've no idea. I got it off of eBay, but I've never played it due to Sony's 'Fuck you, give us money' tactic of removing backwards compatibility (that is, the ability to play PS1 and 2 games) from the PS3...and it's not even on their virtual store...Granted, most things aren't on there, which makes the FYGUM tactic even more infuriating.

The story in this opening issue is minimal, but serviceable. It introduces the lead character decently, but that's practically all it does, as we don't really know anything about Deadside, Master Darque, the Abettors, or what they're fighting for, or what a Shadowman even is. That was what originally made me hate this issue, but now, I find it a bit more tolerable.

One positive is that at least we know a bit about what's going on here, as opposed to Classic Valiant's Shadowman, which started off with much less. There, Jack is a guy who suddenly feels badass at night, and becomes a vigilante. And vigilante is the only V word that the supposedly voodoo themed series ever had, whereas this Shadowman's Voodoo might actually be Voodoo, go fucking figure! (Since New Valiant lacks the character of Solar, that means there's no death of the first universe stuff, hence no 'death energy' from the event to seem like magic, but really be science.).

As well as Jack, this issue also introduces the characters of Dox and Alyssa, two members of a group called the Abettors, who have something to do with the Shadow Man lineage (it's not explained in this issue). I think Dox is meant to be a little person, but I can't be sure if that's the case, or if the artwork's perspective is just not very good with him. As for Alyssa, so far, she seems like a pretty generic psychic chick.

This issue does have some pretty goofy stuff happening, and I would say that having a meat demon named Mr. Twist who makes jokes about chicken and later wears a white tux is way too stupid...but frankly, this isn't the goofiest the Shadow Man franchise has ever gotten...

He may be goofy as all Deadside, but Jaunty is awesome! The same can also be said for Marco Cruz.

While my recommendation of anything Shadowman is always first and foremost for you to track down the game, this series so far is a decent take on the character. And I've certainly seen worse done with the franchise...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Secret Weapons #1 and #2 (Classic Valiant)

Starting as a crossover between various characters in the Valiant Comics shared universe, Secret Weapons has been described by some to be the company's answer to The Avengers. Although I can hardly say a Valiant crossover is anything special, as there's practically a crossover every second issue of every series! It was way too common for this company! Thankfully the revived Valiant knows this, and crossovers are occasional, and part of big events.

The question is, is this series as good as any incarnation of The Avengers? Avengers #200 maybe!

Fred Bender, a villain that superhero Solar left in the middle of Death Valley (What an upstanding hero he is!), finds evil necromancer Master Darque, and is turned into a necromantic monster, hellbent on getting revenge on his one-time enemy. Meanwhile, Geomancer (Earth seer) Geoff McHenry senses the birth of Bender newly anointed as 'Dr. Eclipse'. With Eclipse's existence threatening the world, Geoff recruits various figure in the Valiant universe to help defeat the new evil...

This story's biggest problem is by far the length. While a good comic writer can tell a massive single story in only twenty pages, an embarrassingly large amount of writers can't, and they manage to tell so little story each issue, sometimes by having issue long fight scenes, or by taking multiple pages to show something as simple as someone jumping off a motorbike! At forty comic pages long, Secret Weapons' opening story could have been a packed piece of awesomeness, but instead the damn story is over before it gets a chance to even start! The first issue is all setup, and the second issue has the heroes going up against the villains and winning. No first fight, second-act loss, then final battle, and not even any story developments! Instead they fight the villain, and they win. The End.

And come the end, the character of Eclipse is instantly subdued by Darque, and is used as a gateway for an even greater evil. So much for building up Dr. Eclipse as a terrifying new evil, when all you're going to do is undermine his character by ignoring him at the end and introducing an even more powerful enemy into the fray. And as for this 'demon' that Darque communes with the whole story, the final page reveals that it's not a demon, but a certain villain in the Valiant universe. This plot point was never followed up on, or even mentioned again, probably because everyone involved realized that she was already the main villain in an 18 issue long miniseries and didn't need to appear again, especially so soon.

There is a tie-in issue to this storyline of Solar, Man of the Atom, but it's just largely an extended version of the fight scene in Secret Weapons #1, so it's not required reading. And of course, there's the fact that it's not an easy feat to get a hold of Valiant Solar comics, given the rights are nestled comfortably in Copyright Hell, and are not leaving anytime soon.

The biggest plot hole to this story is why Darque doesn't endow more people with the power he gives Fred Bender. Dr. Eclipse is so powerful, he can easily beat Solar, who is basically a god! It seems like Darque can do this to anyone, so, why doesn't he do this to everyone? If we assume that it's such a difficult trial that only someone faithful to him would go through with it, well he's got hundreds of devoted followers. And if he doesn't turn them all in-case they all decide to gang up on him, well, he seems able to control Eclipse when things get dicey, so that wouldn't be an issue, I would think.

As for the man himself, Fred Bender first appears as Dr. Eclipse in this story. While insane at the start when in Death Valley, and talking like that Eclipsey we all know and love, following then, he seems pretty sane. Huh?! The guy was gibbering crazily, having crawled all the way through Death Valley, and he later becomes the gibberingly crazy villain Dr. Eclipse, yet in the interim, he was a calm and sane individual?! This is all because of Valiant's month-by-month 'real time' dating system for their series'. Why else would it have taken Bender a friggin' year and a bit before approaching Darque.

Also, the Dr. Eclipse on show here is not really the Dr. Eclipse that later issues would define. He's been described by some as "BWAHAHAHAHA insane", and that he indeed is, constantly fast-talking, and mouthing off crazy stuff, all while darkly joking around. Eclipse is an extremely one-note villain, but his insanity makes him entertaining. That personality, however, just isn't on display here (at least, not as much as in later appearances). However, Eclipse's first scene in Issue #2 is fantastic-the stuff great comics are made of!

There is one kinda stupid scene in Issue #1. Eclipse has morphed into an exact duplicate of Phil Seleski (Solar), and gone to Solar's house, where his girlfriend Gayle is. She distrusts him right away and bolts, because he used pet names, and 'Phil would never use pet names!' So what if 'Solar' were to use pet names? He could just be being playful, or joking around. Although given what Solar describes her as shortly after, I assume he's a wifebeating prick who never has time for fun and love.

Your what?! Your fucking what?! Urk, having Avengers #200 flashbacks again!

Onto the other characters, Solar is dispatched the moment he appears, Shadowman cameos at the end of Issue #1, then fights with the others when they show up at Darque's estate at the end of of Issue  #2, and both Eternal Warrior Gilad, and Bloodshot fight zombies, but not much else. The supposed main characters are Stronghold and Livewire, two renegade Harbingers (like mutants from X-Men), but given the amount of characters present, they don't do a whole lot. They do enough though, given the circumstances, and they at least directly save the day, unlike in later issues of Secret Weapons, where guest stars frequently stole their thunder and resolved the situations themselves.

Aric of Dacia (XO Man-O-War) is a total dickhead here. Despite Geoff's desperate plea for help, Aric doesn't care, and wants to go hunting instead ("So it's my problem when Solar can't handle his own battles?")...Until Geoff tells a white lie and says that "Aw, what's the use. Gilad doesn't think you can handle it anyway." Then XO is all ears. And whether it be snapping at his teammates like an asshole, or complaining that young people are leading him into battle, he is not making me want to read his series.

No characters ever have any sort-of development or arc here, aside from Stronghold (and even then, it's not much at all)-they just exist. Bloodshot is a guy with a gun who can help, Gilad is a guy who can help, and Shadowman ends up tangentially involved.

As a first issue, this should be accommodating to new readers, and it is to an extent. You'll have very little idea who many of these characters are, but there's at least not many huge continuity dumps that'd screw with first-time Valiant readers, and Stronghold and Livewire are decent audience surrogates.

The artwork is decent, and while Issue #2's cover (a wraparound) is fine, #1's is very good!...Unless you look at it for too long, and you begin to think things like 'Solar's in a pretty silly position', and 'What the hell are the weird geometric backgrounds?'

Couple the complete lack of character with the ultra-short plot, and I can't say I recommend this story. It's not bad by any means, it's just deeply flawed. A better writer could've done wonders with this story...