Comic Book Reviews (6/18/2014)
Wonderland: Age of Darkness One-Shot (Zenescope Comics)
Story by: Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco
Written by: Eric M. Esquivel
Art by: Vincenzo Riccardi
Color by: Ben Sawyer
Step into a dimension where the Wonderland you thought you knew, shares borders with Oz and Olympus. Now imagine that everyone has magical powers and wicked weapons, interested yet? This comic is only a snippet of a glance into that world. Even if you haven’t been current with Wonderland comics, you are made aware that this mother/daughter team is weak and drained. And like every good adventuring or role playing game, it’s wise to rest up as soon as possible. That is where we begin; Calie Liddle and her daughter Violet lay down to rest. Calie falls asleep first as she is emotionally at ease after what I’m sure was a painful and strenuous test to find her daughter.
Meanwhile, a lurker in the shadows creeps up on the sleeping pair, a jester with the creepy visage of theater masks for headwear. And like any jester, expect trickery.
Once again, the strong mother needs to make wonderland changing choices, in order to save her daughter again (I don’t know much about the other books in this series, but I assume that’s a common theme). So after proving herself strong enough and denying one of the ultimatums, Calie is threatened as soon as she wakes up.
The art in this comic is bold and flashy, and isn’t afraid to show the scantily clad physique of the women, along with costumes and outfits that I would assume are hard to fight in (Luckily this is in a made up dimension so the common rules of physics don’t apply to things like combat and costumes). Aside from their garb and interwoven story line thick with blackmail and treachery, this was a great example of the storylines you will expect to see from the entire series. And keep in mind this was only a one-shot glimpse at an oversized mushroom grove, there’s an entire wonderland to explore and read about.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Michael Hague
Art by: Michael Hague
As you turn to page one, you immediately notice the incredibly high level of detail, background scenery deserving recognition by itself, and a growing sense of curiosity in this fantasy world. Those are all the initial thoughts I had on just the first page itself. A world full of dragons, guilds and wizards, we follow along as an apprentice, Newt, gets his final lessons and pointers from his wizarding teacher before he is to take the trials.
Like every great RPG or Dungeons and Dragons character, you need to build up a great backstory. And that is what the first of this four chapter series starts. Throughout the read, you see Newt warned of various locations, given incredible magic items belonging to fairy queens and hinted at a future antagonist(s) in a different witch showing her apprentice the same locations. It is unclear yet who is actually evil or good, or even if that is the case.
With the main quest for Newt being finding an element for his staff’s headpiece, you know you are in for some wonderful fantasy. His mentor wishes Newt good luck, but also mentions “the stronger the element, the stronger the staff–the stronger the staff the more powerful the wizard…I’d rather see you die in the netherworld, than have you return with less than the most powerful headpiece.” Basically meaning if he were to die going after the most powerful element, it would be a proud feat, and better than coming back with a weak one.
By the end of this first issue, you have seen Newt listening to his master wizard explain the dangers of the world, the vastness of the world and each time, Newt has a personal experience with both. You should be excited to see where this epic fantasy mini-series takes you and Newt as through only a handful of pages you will have explored uncharted caverns, flown on the back of a dragon and seen the inside of a wizard’s private library.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Jeremy Barlow
Art by: Juan Frigeri
Color by: Wes Dzioba
Now that Darth Maul and his troops have retreated to regroup and plan a counterattack, Count Dooku plans his next offensive. The chess game between the Separtists and Mandolarians continues in Star Wars Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir #2. Dooku is determined to destroy Maul’s forces and capture Mother Talzin the witch. It’s with her guidance that Maul sets a trap for Dooku in return.
Writer Jeremy Barlow does a fantastic job of showing the strategic mind games behind the battles and proving how formidable both leaders are. Sure, they’re on the Dark Side and Maul is the protagonist of the series but there’s a lot of intelligent maneuvering going on that blurs the lines between villains and heroes. It really is an exploration of gamenship and galactic warfare.
Juan Frigiri does a really job of the penciling but what is concerning is the limited color palette by colorist Wes Dzioba throughout the issue. Some scenes become washed out in a range of gray hues. Whether in space on the ships or on the ground in battles. There are some flashes of yellows and reds for explosions but it seems like the colors were kept to a minimum and subdued.
Still, issue #2 builds up to a great climax just when think it’ll be about exposition and strategy the creative team follows through on their set-up providing one of the most exciting Star Wars series to date.
*Review by Enrique Rea
Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Ethen Beavers
Color by: Josh Burcham
Just like the Cartoon Network show, of the same name and plot; you are given an opening monologue from Aku, an ancient evil, who is thwarted in every era by a vengeance seeking Samurai named Jack. What this comic lacks in words (literally there was less than two full sentences combined) it makes up for in the drawn panels. You don’t need to have an inner dialogue from Jack to know his dilemma or his never ending battle with Aku.
So like the previous 8 comics, and the show itself, Jack is in a new place and time, with the same struggle to find and stop Aku. This week, he is in some ancient site filled with ruins. As he reads the carvings on the wall telling that whoever these people were they had been ruled by Aku, which obviously angers the samurai.
As soon as he is finished reading (like every good trap) the ground starts to collapse as his obstacle to overcome is revealed. Through inner strength and perseverance, the hero always finds a way to overcome Aku’s attempts to end his life. As already described, no words are needed to see how Jack struggles, suffers and fights back. A quick and simple read, but still just as satisfying even if you never watched the 2001 cartoon series.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Paul Allor
Art by: Ross Campbell
Color by: Bill Crabtree
With the success of the Nickelodeon cartoon, the main storyline of the comics have experienced some great arcs and even begun introducing characters from the original material. So where else to take inspiration from but a great and memorable video game. Jumping right into the action, we begin issue #1 in the Jurassic period.
The turtles encounter one of their many villains, the Utroms, as they interrupt operations on what looks like capturing dinosaurs for villainous use, as well as unexpectedly capturing one of the turtles. It wouldn’t be a Nickelodeon product or a ninja turtles’ adventure without Mikey being the orange bandanna wearing, party dude we expect. He tries to stop a fight with a large carnivore, but only causes the ninja brothers to be chased further.
With a brief hope for the turtles to return to their time (and a cameo by a certain movie’s ancient Japanese staff/lamp) the turtles push on and make attempts to save their brother and come riding to the rescue, mounted on dinosaurs.
The cover work, like all TMNT comics is poster worthy. It is detailed, action packed and nicely colored. Whereas the actual comic’s art is much softer, more colorful and reserves the high level of detail for important and epic panels like; time traveling informationalists, flying dinosaur riding turtles and Raphael with his young dinosaur sidekick.
Just the title alone had me sold and sent 10 year old me running for my parents looking for quarters to put into the arcade. Twenty year old me was trying find anyone with an old SNES turtles game to play, and (nearly) 30 year old me popped in the blu-rays. Nickelodeon fans, nostalgic fans, or new comers should make the time to read this because with the turtles, you’re sure to go on many, fun and crazy adventures IN TIME!
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: Harlan Ellison
Adaptation by: Scott Tipton & David Tipton
Art by: J.K. Woodward
If you’re not reading this comic (based on the original teleplay from 1967, but not a direct copy) in your best William Shatner voice, you’re doing it wrong. When a crewman almost damages the Enterprise because he is under the effects of a drug he has become addicted to, he understands the consequences and confronts the drug dealer, which causes Beckwith (drug dealer) to flee.
Meanwhile, the Captain and crew have been following a radiation trail of time altering energy to a dead planet. It is here that the chase for Beckwith is sent. As the narration by Captain Kirk lists the away team; made up of Rand, Spock, himself and 6 enlisted crewmen, I can’t help but notice he didn’t take the time to name all the crew, who happen to also be wearing red shirts (if you know this reference, you know they’re predetermined fate)
Soon, the away team loses Beckwith’s trail, but they find the source of the radiation within a city, giving the episode and comic it’s name. The gates to the city are guarded by the “Guardian of Forever” and the inquisitive Spock inquiries into their Time Vortex and its capabilities (No matter how determined Kirk is to call it a Time Machine). This is all key information that you need to be aware of so you can understand the ramifications of messing with a time stream. Which if you’ve seen the episode or read the final pages to the comic; you know why they hammer home the finer points to time travel.
If reading an original teleplay from 1967 doesn’t make you think of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, the art surely will. Very realistic and like watching still frames of the original series, it is done so well you can almost see the emotions and thoughts printed on the crews’ faces. Even though I know how the episode unfolds from here, it is just different enough, and still just as intriguing to get me to read the next comic.
*Review by Cory Anderson
Written by: David Lapham, Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Art by: Mike Huddleston
The Strain is a trilogy of novels written by acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Torro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim) and author Chuck Hogan (The Town, The Standoff, and Devil’s in Exile). If you haven’t heard about it yet, there is a chance that you’ll hear about it soon, as The Strain is now an upcoming FX television series and comic line for Dark Horse Comics.
The first half of the premier issue explores the backstory of the series, taking place in 1920’s Romania. The backstory may be unexpected to those who have seen press footage for the upcoming show, but we learn that it’s essential as the past is routinely used for callbacks throughout the series. The creative team managed to convey the atmosphere of the novel in its paneling; which is dark, mysterious and violent. After the setup, the story then jumps to current day New York City opening the story for Eph Goodweather, the head of CDC’s rapid response team. He is contacted when a plane is discovered with all of its passengers dead for unknown reasons. Officials are not sure if the plane is an act of terrorism or the result of a foreign contagion. The press picks up on the story, leading the rest of the country to watch the events unfold on their television screens, which ties the current situation with the flashback that the issue opened with.
There is a clash of mediums in The Strain. The most gripping moments of the novel, when the plane first lands and is first discovered is omitted, but may not have worked with the pacing of comics. The characters sound as they do in the novel, but most of their dialog from the source material has been scaled back a bit. But again, it works well with the pacing of the comic.
Most of the artwork in The Strain is colored either monochrome or contrast, which adds to the atmosphere of the story, as the look is dark and features a decent amount of shadowing. The detailing in the artwork is also there when it’s needed. There were a few gruesome panels on the opening pages, which is just a small taste of what’s to come.
Though the series is fun, most of the subject matter is dark; the issue seems to have that balance. The Strain will be a series to follow. It features an array of developed characters, entertaining subject matter, gory moments, and a few scares. It would make a great companion to both the novel or television show, but is also completely enjoyable on its own merits – which is really what counts.
*Review by Tommy Surette