No one’s more surprised than me that I’m writing a post about not one, but two Archie books I love, but that just goes to show that I was previously being close-minded about this company AND that they’re pretty awesome right now. Continue reading Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator
My most recent batch of random comics turned out to be surprisingly good, which was a nice treat. First up, I perused Tomb Raider Journeys Starring Lara Croft #3 from Top Cow. The book came out in 2002, was written by Fiona Kai Avery, and drawn by Drew Johnson and for a video game tie-in comic, it was a lot of fun. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Tomb Raider franchise, but I did play a few of the games for the original Playstation and enjoyed them as much as those blocky, awkward games can be enjoyed.
But the basic concept of a sexy, British lady version of Indiana Jones running around, finding treasure and being awesome is a wonderful (and broad enough) one that it actually makes perfect sense for the world of comics. This issue, which seems to be a one-off story (this is my first Tomb Raider comic, so I’m not sure about how Journeys fits in with whatever else was coming out at the time) where Lara takes a job that will allow a pair of archaeologists to prove whether a potential development site is the original location of Gomorrah or not.
The comic comes packed with some historical intrigue, a few fantasy elements (skeleton army!) and an interesting way of accomplishing her goal that isn’t super obvious, but best of all, it’s all told concisely in a single issue, something you don’t see much of these days. You need to know absolutely nothing about Croft aside from what’s right there in the title to enjoy this comic, but you also get the added bonus of Johnson’s somewhat angular artwork that reminded me of mosaics or stained glass at times. Are there other Tomb Raider comics or trades worth checking out?
Much like Web Of Spider-Man #81, which I read a few weeks back, Flash #88 (1994) written by Mark Waid and drawn by the amazing Mike Wieringo is an example not of a bad comic book story, but one I’ve read plenty of times in my comic reading career. In this case, the mostly carefree Wally West comes face to face (literally) with a woman who got injured while he was working to save other people. This snaps something in him and Flash spends much of the issue pushing himself way too hard to save as many people as possible. It’s the kind of issue where, while reading (and assuming you’ve experienced a story like this before) you get it after a few panels or pages, which makes flipping through the rest of them kind of boring.
But, they’re not THAT boring because damn if Wieringo wasn’t one of the best, most interesting and dynamic artists around. I haven’t read much of his run on Flash, just issues and trades here and there, but I think this is the first book I ever experienced his artwork on. He not only kills Wally (and all the emotions he goes through both in and out of the mask), but also puts the same amount of effort in the small army of normal folks found in this issue. Sure, I wish everyone in the book had cool powers or a fun costume so he could really show off, but you can really feel Wally’s sadness when he collapses in Linda’s arms at the end as well as the emotions flowing through the surrounding crowd.
As an added bonus, this book is jam packed with house ads for DC comics I was reading at the time and will make for a ton of fun Ad It Up posts!
Of the three books, the one I was least enthused about was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 from Valiant (1993). I have not had great luck with the few Valiant issues I’ve read over the years (including Archer & Armstrong and Solar Man of the Atom issues from The Box) and know nothing about this property, but I wound up really enjoying this comic written by David Michelinie and drawn by Bart Sears.
I should note, that I had very little idea what was going on. Even though this is a number one issue, it is steeped (some might say mired) in whatever had just happened before this, which I think was the big Unity crossover that Valiant did around this time. However, even with a pretty low level of comprehension (they try to explain what’s going on, but I think it was all just too big to absorb as a new reader) I kept reading and had a fun time with a book about a Native American with a sci-fi bow hunting talking dinosaurs.
The comic is frontloaded with the continuity stuff, so once you’re done with that you can enjoy the story of a warrior finding a place he feels at home in for a while before his past catches up with him. It’s a standard part of the hero’s journey, but it’s told well and looks awesome as drawn by Bart Sears. I’ve mentioned before that the Valiant books were colored in a way I’m not as familiar with where it looks like they were finished with colored pencils or possibly water colors. That is done the best I’ve seen in this comic. I’d be very interested in reading more Turok comics by this team, any suggestions?
My continued adventures with the longbox of comics my pal Jesse sent me for my birthday from Cardsone took me back into the world of Bloodlines, the history of one of the coolest G.I. Joes around and into the first of many CrossGen comics I’ll be reading.
My first pick up was Lobo Annual #1 from 1993 written by Alan Grant and drawn by Christian Alamy. It was actually a pretty interesting one as it’s an early chapter in the saga that would become Bloodlines, an effort to bring some new, edgy blood into the DC Universe by way of some aliens based on the seven deadly sins who eat people with the metagene. Back when Bloodlines was actually coming out, I didn’t have enough cash to purchase annuals at their whopping $3.50 cover price. Add the fact that they had no real real importance on what happened in the ongoing series’ and I skipped out.
The interesting thing about this issue, in addition to teaming Lobo up with a female character named Layla who took no guff from him, this issue explains how the invading parasite aliens wound up getting their human looks: by mimicking the looks of some L.E.G.I.O.N. agents they took out.
Lobo’s the kind of character you either dig or you don’t, I do so this was a fun issue. I’m also a bit of a fan of L.E.G.I.O.N. and R.E.B.E.L.S., though it’s more of a curiosity since I didn’t read the books when they came out. On it’s own, the issue actually works pretty well and it also holds some sort of importance on the oncoming Bloodlines story, but it was worth the read, though maybe a little long as these things tend to be.
Up next came Snake Eyes: Declassified #2 from 2005 which I did not have nearly as much fun with. The Devil’s Due book was written by Brandon Jerwa with art by Emiliano Santalucia and Robert Atkins. I had a pair of problems with this comics not including the fact that I’m not a die hard G.I. Joe or Snake Eyes fan. First off, the story is very obvious. The man who would become Snake Eyes winds up hooking up with a guy who is clearly using him. As a reader you get this nearly immediately, so the following pages wind up being kind of pointless. My other problem is one that I’ve had with several comics and that is that the art just doesn’t feel up to snuff. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not as good as you would expect from a professional comic book you theoretically would have paid three bucks for. The backgrounds are boring, the figures vary between strong and weak and the coloring feels very faint which makes the characters feel less bold and imposing.
At it’s heart, though, this is basically just a comic about two dudes running around committing crimes. That’s all well and good, but when you know one of them is going to become the greatest ninja warrior around, you kind of don’t care and just want to get to the good stuff. One of the problems with prequels is that we all know the foregone conclusion, so we know when risks are involved. This felt like it could have been told in a simple flashback instead of taking up an entire issue.
Lastly I came out of the box with CrossGen’s Crux #6 by Mark Waid and Paul Pelletier. This was a bit of a difficult issue to pick up on out of nowhere because it directly deals with an important event that happened at the end of #5. It’s well recapped–as are the characters and their abilities thanks to a recap page on the inside cover–but you do miss a bit of the emotional impact of something when you’re reading about it in text or in recap.
Of course, this is an ongoing comic book and that’s the trick to them. I was filled in enough to understand the story and follow along. This book is about a bunch of super type beings waking up on an Earth that’s empty and they’re trying to figure out why. There’s a few revelations that pop up, but again, since I’m not as invested in the characters or the story, they don’t hit as well for me.
Probably the most confusing element of this book and most of the other CrossGen comics I read, though, comes from the fact that a very disparate number of books on all kinds of different worlds are supposed to be connected by the sigil symbol some of them sport that looks unsurprisingly like the CrossGen logo. I still feel like CrossGen could have been a success had they not flooded the market too quickly and labored so intensely to connect all these comics that didn’t need to be connected.
By the way, Paul Pelletier is an awesome artist.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: THE BEGINNING OF TOMORROW (DC)
Written by Tom McCraw, Tom Peyer & Mark Waid, drawn by Lee Moder, Jeffrey Moy, Brian Arthorp, Scott Benefiel, Stuart Immonen & Yancy Labat
Collects Legion Of Super-Heroes #0, 62-65, Legionnaires #0, 19-22
Even though I had a few Legion comics in my collection coming up, it wasn’t a concept that captured my attention. Honestly, if I hadn’t gotten a few issues in a random DC 10- or 12-pack from Toys “R” Us in my youth, I probably wouldn’t have even heard of the book until they eventually crossed over into the regular books I was reading. At the time I wasn’t intimidated by the vast, X-Men like continuity of the franchise because I didn’t know about any of that. They’d just gotten a reboot during Zero Hour which made the Legion surprisingly accessible. Since then I’ve read some comics from the original Legion run, specifically An Eye For An Eye (I’ve got my eye on that new Great Darkness Saga hardcover), really liked Mark Waid’s reboot that lead into Supergirl And The Legion Of Super-Heroes and even kind of sort of enjoyed Geoff Johns bringing back the originals. That was mostly because he was writing them and the amazing Gary Frank was drawing them. Aside from that I didn’t see the point in jumping backwards and making things even more confusing, though I guess that won’t be a problem moving forward with DC’s line-wide relaunch.
What I’m saying is that I’m nowhere near a Legion expert, but I’ve read bits and pieces here and there. And the great thing about this collection is that you don’t have to be. Like I mentioned, this trade features a newly rebooted Legion. The collection shows Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Live Wire (formerly Lightning Lad) meeting for the first time and eventually becoming the first three Legionnaires and the team getting put together. From there, it’s adventure time and, with one exception, I thought they were actually pretty boring.
I’m left feeling very uneven about this book having just finished it. I like how the writers handled such a large cast. I don’t know everything about all of them, but that’s fine, those are things that should be revealed in time. I want to learn more. The problem is that missions they go on felt very familiar, in fact, two of them were basically Alien take-offs, one with an actual slime-spitting alien on an abandoned space ship and another with the kids trying to hunt down a killer on an artificial space station. I’m not much of an Alien fan because I’ve only seen the movie a time or two, but I absolutely despise Alien rip-offs that don’t change much up.
But then, the collection ends with a pretty great story showing the Legion trying to save a prison full of the galaxy’s worst that’s set in the center of a star. The systems are failing and when they do finish off, the whole prison will be destroyed. I haven’t seen this kind of story a million times and the solution wound up being pretty smart, so all that was fun. The problem is that the art in those last three issues gets far too loose for my tastes. I get that the artists involved were trying to replicate the look and feel of a place that’s completely surrounded by a sun, but it just didn’t work for me. The lines were too squiggly and loose for my tastes. It’s kind of like a director throwing in an effect in a movie that has good intentions but winds up distracting from the story.
While The Beginning Of Tomorrow has a lot of good and bad elements within it, the biggest disappointment for me is that DC did not follow this collection up with any more (until the recent Legion Lost book which I also want to read). I assume, like all things, this decision came down to money. Considering that this version of the Legion hasn’t been mentioned in a decade aside from their appearance in Legion Of Three Worlds (a comic I adored as it came out and really want to get back to in the near future) I would assume their run will not be collected in the near future unless that Legion Lost thing sells gangbusters and raises interest. It’s a run that my buddy Ben Morse considers underrated as well as overlooked, so I want more! Maybe I’ll just keep an eye out for them in the cheap boxes. This trade alone probably isn’t enough to earn a spot in my permanent collection, but if it was the first in a series of increasingly improving comics, I’d be keeping it.
Oh, also, one last thing I liked: the writers were really forward-thinking in their tech. Brainiac 5 and some other people in the books were essentially using tablet computers!
DIE HARD YEAR ONE (BOOM Studios)
Written by Howard Chaykin, drawn by Stephen Thompson
Collects Die Hard Year One #1-4
I think it’s fair to be skeptical of any and all comic book continuations of beloved movies or TV shows. Sure there’s some good ones here and there like Buffy Season 8, but many of them turn out to feel either like boring retreads of familiar material or sequels that pale in comparison to even the worst ones on film. After watching the first four Die Hard flicks in relative quickness over the past few months (I’m kind of surprised I didn’t blog about them actually) I figured checking out this prequel in comic book form might be worth the risk. I hadn’t heard anything one way or the other about the book, but I know that Howard Chaykin can turn out a pretty good yarn. So with that, plus a healthy dose of skepticism, in mind, I jumped into Die Hard Year One. And you know what? I’d put this in the Buffy list of continuations (calling them adaptations doesn’t seem accurate).
The story is set in New York City in 1976, it’s the bicentennial and the hot, dirty, corrupt city is filled with tourists. It’s also got some corrupt cops, a woman witnessing a murder and a plot to make some money dressed up as a bit of eco terrorism. Oh, it’s also got a young John McClain, who’s back from Vietnam, but now a rookie on the NYPD. In what would turn out to be the first of many similar events, McClain finds himself swept up in something much larger than he expected and has to rely on his wits and toughness to ensure the safety of innocents.
What I like most about this book is that it actually feels more like a movie from the 70s than a Die Hard movie crammed into a 70s setting. I was worried they’d try and shoehorn all these elements from the first movie into this prequel and thankfully they didn’t. There wasn’t even a “yippee ki yay,” but there were cowboy references which I thought was a really nice and subtle touch that I didn’t make the connection right away. Though it has the feel of a gritty, dirty NYC movie from the 70s, Chaykin still utilizes the comic book form by offering up narration along with showing us what McClain’s thinking here and there.
I really don’t have any complaints when it comes to this book. The story flew by at a great pace and feels like it works equally well as a comic and a Die Hard story. Stephen Thompson’s art looks great and conveys the grittiness I can’t seem to stop mentioning, though I wouldn’t say the Bruce Willis likeness is really on the page. There’s bits here and there where the eyes look exactly right, but I wouldn’t say it’s like looking at Willis circa 76. Overall, I’m okay with that and think it might have been distracting if he did really look like Willis in every panel. Either way, the art is consistent which makes the story move along well.
I went in very skeptical, but now that I’m done with Die Hard Year One I can suggest it for Die Hard fans along with people like me with a penchant for 70s flicks like Dirty Harry, Death Wish and the like.
IRREDEEMABLE VOLUME 1 (BOOM Studios)
Written by Mark Waid, drawn by Peter Krause
Collects Irredeemable #1-4
I just realized I was apprehensive about reading Irredeemable too, but for different reasons. With this book, I wasn’t really interested in reading another book about a Superman-type character gone bad because I feel like I’ve been there and done that enough times to not have to go back to that particular well. But this is Mark Waid we’re talking about here, one of the most solid comic book writers around. With the exception of his more recent Flash stuff, I can’t think of a book this guy’s written that I haven’t enjoyed. Hell, he wrote Kingdom Come, one of the most influential comic books I ever read. I love that book. So, I decided to discard my misgivings and jump right in. Once again, I was happy with the results.
And yes, the story is about a Superman-eque character, called the Plutonian going bad. Well, not really going bad, he’s already bad by the time our story picks up. Going in, I thought the book would show his decline into madness or what have you, but instead Waid flips the script a bit and makes these first four issues all about other heroes trying to figure out the Plutonians history and weaknesses to varying degrees of success. We’ve got a dandy-ish potentially intergalactic being called Qubit who has a history with the Plutonian and also seems to be leading the charge against him by sending the surviving heroes out to find the hero-turned-villain’s former girlfriend and other people he cared about to try and figure out a weakness to the ridiculously powerful character.
I really like how Waid mixes various elements with this comic. There’s the obvious superhero conventions, but more interestingly the idea of a group of heroes working under the radar and risking their lives, plus the added mysteries with people trying to figure out who the Plutonian is and what might kill him. I’m also a big fan of the fact that the story doesn’t start at the very beginning with the hero going bad, but well into his reign of craziness. Everything isn’t presented on a platter right away which adds to the mystery. I like that. In that way, the book feels kind of like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, another comic book universe I’ve had a lot of fun with, especially as the creator plays off of well known comic-book tropes but also does some novel things with them.
I look forward to reading more Irredeemable books and seeing where Waid takes the character, whether the resistance can put a dent in the Plutonian’s seeming invulnerability and finding out the answers to some of the questions I have like why the Plutonian didn’t kill Qubit when he had the chance too. Is he just messing with him? Is there something more sinister going on? I can’t wait to find out which is good because there’s four more trades for me to get and read through.