Dragon Prince #3 & Body Bags Reviews

bodybagsoneshot_coverMy review for the second last issue of Ron Marz and Lee Moder’s Dragon Prince is up at Broken Frontier. It’s proving to be an all-ages romp with dragons and the men who hunt them. Medieval castles, old men in robes – it’s got it all!

Jason Pearson’s Body Bags One-Shot from Image is an entirely different kind of sensibility. The tale of a father/daughter pair of hired assassins is a romp too, but one filled with multiple (and humorous) deaths, roof top action, gunfire, explosions, and profanity. It will bring a guilty smile to your face, and then you’ll need a bath afterwards. Review here.

Obviously Body Bags isn’t one for the kiddies, but Dragon Prince is. Choose wisely.

Flash Gordon #3 Review

fg3Along with Radical, Ardden are my favourite new publisher. Both companies seem committed to wisely selecting original titles, rather than flooding the market with more spandex wannabes. Flash Gordon is a great licence for any company to have, and the decades old sci-fi hero hasn’t always been treated with the respect he deserves. Ardden look set to change that by putting the focus unashamedly on the hero’s swashbuckling roots but with a contemporary shine that makes it hard to resist. The recent announcement of the company’s new series, The Stand-In, by writer Jim Krueger (DC’s Justice, Dynamite’s Project Superpowers) makes an intriguing second series for this new publisher.

The third issue of Alex Raymond’s classic hero begins with Dr Hans Zarkov (who inadvertently dropped Flash, and FBI agent Dale Arden knee deep in their current predicament) on the Penance Wheel before soon cutting to Flash and his new hot blonde friend Eldun, an Aroborian Ranger. The captured pair are being taken to Mount Karakas by Prince Thun, leader of the lion men. Then it’s another cut to Dale as she’s being given a city tour by the oddly accommodating Ming.

These three main developments occupy the bulk of the story and through some smart exposition we learn that there was once a civil war on Mongo. King Jugrid, Prince Thun’s father was negotiating a peaceful resolution, before he vanished, leaving Ming to take control. Of course, Ming tells Dale his version of the story. His words seem dipped in honey and poison, but Dale appears swept up by his charismatic ways, so much so that she manages to curb an assassination attempt on his life. Meanwhile, Flash and Eldun are thrown into the arena against Thun, thanks to Flash putting his foot in his mouth and insulting the lion men. Finally, Zarkov faces his own threats, namely at the hands of Prince Vultan who demands Zarkov’s help in breaking the slave collars from himself and his winged brothers-in-arms. Dale and Zarkov aren’t the stars of the show in this issue however, and as the title suggests, it’s Flash all the way, joined by Eldun. At issue’s end we learn Eldun’s real identity, but the two sub-plots centred on Flash’s friends leave them in a place where they must decide who can be trusted. On the weird, cruel world of Mongo, everyone wants something from these strange new visitors.

The fast moving plot, quick cuts at pivotal points, and constant action reminded me of Star Wars (the original trilogy). That’s high praise, to be sure, but this series has all the hallmarks of George Lucas’ greatest creation-rogueish characters, separated friends on their own missions, strangers in a strange land, different alien races and cultures, and hints of drama and romance along the way. Of course, Star Wars was inspired by Flash Gordon, and other old-timey adventurers of the past, but Flash has been out of the cultural lexicon for a long, long time. Ardden know that and are smart enough to give Raymond’s characters a fresh paint of ink that will resonate more with today’s pop culture lovers.

Brendan Deneen’s scripts give enough back story to fill the gaps if this is your first Flash issue, but as the title continues and the story becomes more involved, a “Previously in Flash Gordon” page may be a welcome contribution. The only real misstep in the script is the unclear nature of Thun’s relationship to King Jugrid, as ‘explained’ by Eldun. Are they father and son? In the same sentence she seems to offer opposing truths. Paul Green’s slick art retains its manga-lite flavour and is as simply dynamic as ever. In a few panels it’s obvious that some are simply copied, with new word balloons, but it’s not distracting, and as he continues to hone his craft he’ll hopefully become quicker and bolder, allowing for more risk taking in his page designs. I must also mention Richard Emms’ lettering. Along with Deneen, Emms is the main force behind Ardden, and shows what a great job he can do with some creative text design. Flash’s captions and Ming’s speech balloons have enough flourish to give them a distinctive look.

I’m glad Ardden are having success with this series and presenting, or re-presenting, Flash Gordon to a wider audience. Now that the main characters are all introduced, things on Mongo are starting to heat up. If you are, or know a Flash Gordon fan who also happens to be a comics collector, then you can also grab a great Christmas special from their on-line store, consisting of all 13 variant covers to the first three issues for only $US 45.

Dark Horse’s Christmas Gifts

Those lovely people at Dark Horse have put together a list for easy shopping for their products for friends, families, neighbours and pets. They’ve even included pictures, product info and prices (in $US). Isn’t that generous of them? There are 6 broad categories, including their most popular licences such as Buffy and Star Wars and perhaps less well-known properties, such as Umbrella Academy and Domo. Go here for the full list. What’s below are what leapt out at me when I cast my peepers on their selections. It’s always a good idea to give something comics related to a newbie on your gift recipient list, and there really is something at your local comics shop for everyone.



Batman #681 Review-Kinda

10341_180x270Every comic fan with a blog (and many without) will be talking about this issue, so I’ll make this brief. Grant Morrison is a great writer and has done more than his fair share of ground breaking work in the medium. This isn’t the best example. The entire R.I.P story arc, which has had flashbacks, alternate identities, the Black Glove and all manner of (hopefully) red herrings has been self-indulgent and meandering. Surely, this ignoble demise can’t be the death of Bruce Wayne. I can only hope that, like Jason Bourne in the last film, Wayne swims away to start life anew. The Batman identity will go on, after a “Battle for the Cowl,” involving his assorted partners over the years, and the too-obvious choice of Dick Grayson (the first Robin) in a full page spread holding the cape and cowl seems like another trick to us poor readers. I am excited about the future of this book though, especially with artist Andy Kubert working with writer Neil Gaiman as well as legendary writer/editor Denny O’Neil’s return to the Bat mythos, for two issues before then. O’Neil has crafted some of the best Bat tales ever and has expanded the Dark Knight’s world in a way no-one else since really has. At least his books should be enjoyable.

11116_180x270Basically R.I.P has been a drawn out storyline and this has been an unsatisfying conclusion. Granted, Joker seems scarily cool again, and Tony Daniel’s artwork has finally gotten somewhere above average, but that’s nowhere near enough. It may make sense when all the issues are read as a whole, but Bats deserves better. I’d like to hope that the new Owlman lookalike on the cover of the new Outsiders #15 is Wayne in a new identity though. In the meantime, if you want good Morrison Batman, check out the trade of Batman and Son. Or if you haven’t been following the R.I.P stuff, don’t bother buying back issues.

I think the growing pains are over and Bat-fans can breathe a sigh of relief now that the worst is behind us. Please tell me I’m right, DC. Please.

Jim Krueger’s New Series at Ardden

Jim Krueger’s one of my favourite writers. His work on Justice with superstar painter Alex Ross showed the vintage Justice League in a bold new light, and his awesome Earth-X book showed that he was the only man on earth smart enough to make sense of Marvel’s history, and give it a unifying naturalism. He’s simply a great story teller with big ideas, and his current work (again with Ross) can be seen in the Project Superpowers series at Dynamite. Now, he’s moving away from superheroes for his intriguing new series with Ardden Entertainment. They’re the guys behind the fantastic and faithful Flash Gordon title, which is definitely worth a look. Press release for The Stand-In below.
stand-in_coverArdden Entertainment is proud to announce that bestselling AVENGERS/INVADERS and SUPERPOWERS scribe Jim Krueger has joined the Ardden team and will be penning the four-issue spy thriller mini-series THE STAND-IN, with art by Alex Cal, who has worked on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FAMILY for Marvel and drew the NORTH WIND mini-series for Boom! Studios.

THE STAND-IN chronicles the adventures of Dexter Laumb, a talented but troubled and out-of-work actor who’s desperate for money. When he’s offered a job to “stand in” for a low level Senator who has double-booked two events for the same evening, Dexter is excited by the prospective paycheck and thinks the job will be a breeze. Hair dye and make-up transform Laumb into a virtual double of Senator Joe Murphy. However, he soon realizes that he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he’s partnered with one of the Senator’s senior aides, beautiful but acid-tongued Jennifer Forsythe. The two quietly go at it like cats and dogs while Dexter acts the part of the Senator, schmoozing and boozing as necessary. However, when a bullet rips through Dexter’s shoulder and the crowd scatters, he soon finds himself on the run with Jennifer, attempting to unravel the truth behind the assassination attempt, and finding himself in the middle of a conspiracy with earth-shattering consequences…

Brendan Deneen, Ardden’s co-publisher, comments, “It is a huge honor to be working with one of the most successful comic book writers currently working in the medium. I’ve known Jim for years and we’ve been trying to find something to work on together that whole time. THE STAND-IN is the perfect collaboration and I feel privileged that he’s publishing it through Ardden.”

Ardden will be debuting THE STAND-IN #0 at the New York Comic-Con in February 2009. The issue will feature an action-packed story that takes places before the events of the mini-series. Alex Cal’s cover for THE STAND-IN #0 was inspired by John Byrne’s classic cover for UNCANNY X-MEN #141.

Thor #600 Preview

The Norse god celebrates 600 issues of hammer throwing, resurrecting, Old Testament speaking mirth and mayhem. Below are a few pages from the milestone issue, to be released on January 21. The 100 pager is written by J. Michael Straczynski (the current scribe), Stan Lee (yes, that guy) and Chris Giarrusso. The magnificent covers are by Gabriele Dell’Otto, Marko Djurdjevic and Olivier Coipel. The work of the latter two can be seen below, along with some pages from interior artist David Aja, who’s pencilling Lee’s story. Aja is an odd choice but for what is obviously an old-school tale set in Thor’s early days with The Avengers, it works.






Yo Joe!

I stand firm that the ’80s was the best decade ever. Best music. Best cartoons. Best toys. Best fashion. Um…yeah. The middle of the decade was the high time for pre-pubescent dreams in the form of Robots in Disguise, Masters of the Universe and Real American Heroes. Now there’s a resurgence. The Transformers film did rather well at the box office, and while we wait for He-Man and Thundercats, we get the live action G.I Joe movie hitting screens next year. Now’s the time to familiarise yourself with these great characters at IDW. The Joes have been the hot potato of comic franchises, and have had homes at Marvel, Dark Horse and Devil’s Due. Well, here’s my interview with Andy Schmidt, the editor at IDW discussing the company’s bold publishing plan, which includes three different series and legendary writer Larry Hama. Cool.


IDW Film Prequels Galore

terminator_color_rungeIDW has some impressive TV and film licences, including CSI, Angel, Ghost Whisperer and Doctor Who. Come Januray, they’ll also be launching three different mini-series that will effectively act as prequels to some of 2009’s biggest  films. They include January’s Terminator Salvation Movie Prequel #1 by Dara Naghi and Alex Robinson, and two different series for the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Movie Prequel. Alliance starts next month, with art by Alex Milne and Defiance begins in January, with art by Dan Khanna. Both series are written by Chris Mowry. Perhaps their most exciting movie prequel is the one tying into the new Star Trek film. Official press release below, as is the cover, and if you haven’t seen the fantastic new trailer for the film, beam down here.

IDW Publishing has joined with Paramount Pictures, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, Kurtzman/Orci Productions and CBS Consumer Products to publish a four-issue limited comic book series tied to next summer’s new Star Trek movie, which will be released in theaters on May 8, 2009.

The first comic in the series, Star Trek: Countdown #1, will be released in January 2009 to the comic book direct market. The story is presented by Abrams and plotted by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. It is written by Mike Johnson (Superman/Batman) and Tim Jones, and features stunning art by David Messina (Star Trek: Mirror Images). Messina also provides covers for the series.

“There was a lot of back and forth about doing this project, how to do it, what it would be about, but what all parties agreed on was that we needed the right story and that it needed to matter. It had to count both on its own merits and when read in conjunction with the new movie,” said series editor Andy Schmidt. “I couldn’t be happier with the project and what it means to the overall Star Trek franchise!”

“Star Trek: Countdown lays the groundwork for what happens in the movie,” said Roberto Orci. “It’s our way of passing the baton from the Next Generation characters and their movies to the new film.” Star Trek: Countdown is sure to be in huge demand as eager fans look for a sneak peak into director J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek vision! Star Trek: Countdown #1 (Diamond item code NOV08 4113), a 32-page, $3.99 comic, premieres in January 2009.


Masks #1 Review

masks01p1Septagon Studios launched in 2003 with the aim of becoming a company priding itself on diversity and creator freedom. Their output has been minimal but judging by Masks, their quality hasn’t. For fans of Dave McKean (frequent Neil Gaiman collaborator) or film-maker Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) writer/artist Aaron Rintoul’s debut effort with the studio is a class act and bodes well for his future. If he can continue to showcase his unique talents like this, he can’t help but be noticed.

Masks is a 3 issue mini-series that seems tailor made for those whose comic book tastes are a bit less obvious; for readers who prefer films with subtitles and going to art galleries on the weekend. Fanboys who live on a diet of spandex and multi-part epics-beware, Masks isn’t for you. But it should be. I’m a follower of superheroics from Marvel and DC just as much as I am of indie black and white books from smaller publishers. It’s only been the last three years in particular that I discovered the world behind the spandex curtain though, thanks to Craig Thompson’s Blankets, and I continue to be entertained and inspired by what small press publishers bravely create. I’m also glad I can discover hidden gems like this. Despite themes involving murder and abuse, there is no overt adults-only vibe in Masks, although the aforementioned stripper shows some brief nudity. Masks will mainly appeal to mature readers and for regular comic readers looking for a different flavour in their habits.

This is the kind of creative endeavour that can only be told in a comic format. With vague thoughts of the films The Fountain and MirrorMask in the back of my brain after I read this, I realised that pair of arty, meandering films are probably the closest cinematic equivalent. With a focus on fantasy and imagination rather than any linear narrative it’s not soon before you realise the story, as such, isn’t the highlight. This is billed as a photographic poem, and that description fits like a glove. Not that Masks needs any focus other than the gorgeous art. Let me say that again-gorgeous.

At times the photographic elements are obvious, and at others Rintoul’s keen skills as an illustrator are given the spotlight, with a diverse array of collages and pretty pics. His work also exhibits the clean textural quality of Adi Granov, and in a brief strip club flashback it looks like stills from a basic CGI film. The page layouts are simple enough and retain a simple pace.

Rintoul’s strength here clearly lies in his skills as an artist rather than a writer and has wisely put his effort into the latter. There should be more multi-media books like this on the shelves instead of even more flashy pencillers. Our medium has a greater sense of variety than the top sellers each month indicate. Granted, it’s easier to use phot-manipulation when you stories don’t centre on superheroes throwing skyscrapers at each other. What story there is focuses on Sara, and is told from her perspective as she apparently tracks a killer through his victims dreams. This isn’t particularly clear but will presumably become so in the remaining two issues of this mini-series. This introductory ish has minimal exposition, with captions more about building a broad gothic atmosphere rather than leading to a climactic showdown between Sara and the unknown killer. With typical genre shots of owls, clocks and masks the pages flash between rust coloured scenes straight from the set of the latest Saw film, to something out of a brightly lit 19th century masquerade. If you were to grab 3 random pages from this issue you’d swear they were form three different, and very talented, artists. Yet there is a great unity through the twenty two story pages. Septagon have wisely given Rintoul a blank canvas and appear to stand by their mission statement in giving creator’s unlimited freedom to display their wares.

If you’re unsure about giving this series, watch the moody trailer or better yet, download the entire first issue for free at Wowio. Your eyes will thank you for it.




Pretty Pics

Three very different arty offerings from Marvel below. The cover for Thunderbolts #126, a perfect jumping-on point for new readers, by artist Francesco Mattina. After that is Marvel’s surprisingly classic take on Frank L. Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with a cover by J. Scott Campbell. So cute. Even cuter (maybe) is Arthur Adam’s ape-arific riff on a classic Avengers cover for Marvel Apes #0.




Gearhead Film

Following on from the news of a cinematic adaptation of Arcana’s awesome Clockwork Girl, Gearhead will be the next adaptation. Official press release below.

hurd_gearheadGale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Motion Pictures has closed a deal for the film rights to produce the graphic novel GEARHEAD which Hurd will produce.  GEARHEAD was created by Dennis Hopeless and Kevin Mellon and published by Arcana Comics.

In GEARHEAD, a young woman teams up with a group of rebels to fight the corrupt superheroes who govern the United States.  She must rise to the challenge of her destiny and become GEARHEAD.

“We are excited to bring GEARHEAD to life.  It’s a terrific character-driven story set in a unique and compelling world,” said Hurd.

“To work with Gale on Gearhead is simply fantastic.  We couldn’t have found a better partner.”, Arcana Studio’s Sean O’Reilly commented.

Gale Anne Hurd and Valhalla Motion Pictures most recently produced the blockbuster feature The Incredible Hulk for Marvel Studios which was released by Universal Pictures this summer.  Valhalla is continually developing a broad range of projects, including Marvel’s Punisher:  War Zone for Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Entertainment which stars Ray Stevenson and is being released on December 5, 2008.  Hurd has produced more than two dozen feature films that have generated billions of dollars of revenue.  Her other credits include The Terminator, Aliens, Armageddon, Aeon Flux, The Punisher, Terminator 2:  Judgment Day and Terminator 3:  Rise of The Machines among others.

Arcana Comics has published over 150 original comics and books and is a division of Arcana, an award winning transmedia company founded by CEO and owner Sean O’Reilly.  Arcana establishes new brands and intellectual properties with engaging storytelling and compelling visuals through comic books, graphic novels, animation, short-form live-action, video games, toys and now, feature length films. Arcana has created original brands they control such as The Clockwork Girl and Kade, and have further developed existing brands for Disney, Sony, Capcom, HBO and more.

Leviticus Cross #1 Review

prv1078_covI always like to give the under dog a go. In the comic book field, that means new publishers. It’s a tough market, with even tougher competition, but I admire any creator that puts their creative and entrepreneurial work out there for the world to see.

Newcomer Hays Entertainment’s launch title, Leviticus Cross certainly gets points for a catchy title. If you think it’s vaguely biblical you’d be right, judging by this issue. The prologue recounts for us the story of man’s early days, including the Nephilim from Genesis 6. Created by Seth Hays, and written by Josh Torres, the pair take this often misunderstood verse and run with it. The world explored in this issue is one where mortal Giants and immortal Angels and Demi-gods appear to be feuding relatives. Angels acted as divine caretakers of the earth and its occupants until curiosity got the better of some, resulting in a new breed of humans with angelic fathers, who then decide to recede from the world of man and build their own city, Asgard.

This mythology at the centre of the series is described with much detail here, but serves as an effective backdrop to the main story. If this series is a success, a prequel recounting these events seems likely. The title comes not from some mythical hero, but the capital city of the empire, where the second half of the issue is set.

We are introduced to more than a few characters here, including the blonde Thor, also known as Stormbringer; a revered general who managed to keep the monstrous Nontai Dag at bay a century ago and his lover Princess Jarnsaxa. The main character towards the end of the book is shown to be Naitia, the daughter of a prominent trader in the city, who hides a secret from the superstitious populace.

It seems tailor made for fans of manga and anime and the rapid fire Japanese styling that goes with them, rather than for readers of American superheroes. The art by Hector Sevilla is great, but won’t stand out from a crowded manga market. The character designs are worthy of Street Fighter IV and he draws monsters and men with equal skill. He also manages to render the bustling medieval city with great detail and personality, and the variant covers for the series look fantastic.

This is a 5 issue series and it hasn’t hit its stride yet. There’s some big concepts and a wealth of characters who have yet to be fully utilised, though it’s obvious Naitia and her secret abilities will become prominent in the remainder of this title, especially considering the last page of this ish. It appears that Hays and Torres have thrown in too much in this first issue, but hopefully focusing on Naitia as she welcomes her abilities, rather than hides them, this series will steam ahead. It’s just too much to take in at the moment, with new characters and exposition thrown at the reader on almost every page. With greater handle on pace and substance over style, this series could definitely go somewhere exciting.

Lost Kubrick Signing At Meltdown

Here’s the skinny on a signing at one of LA’s best comic shops for the new Lost designer toys on Wednesday November 19. If I lived there, I’d be there.

Medicom Toy Japan and Diamond Comic Distributors unite with Meltdown Comics to host the world premiere and signing event of the BE@RBRICK and KUBRICK collections based on the hit television series “Lost,” in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Fans will have the opportunity to buy one event exclusive BE@RBRICK per person, and have it signed by the show’s creators and executive producers.  Series-one Lost KUBRICKS will be sold (no limit) until Meltdown sells out.
Also showcased at the event, will be a limited edition (three made in the world) 1000% BE@RBRICK which includes signatures from the cast and producers of “Lost.” This 1000% BE@RBRICK will be auctioned off at a later date with proceeds  going to The Children’s Defense Fund. Exclusive Lost art by executive producer Jack Bender will also be featured.

Scheduled to appear at the event are “Lost” co-creators and executive producers J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, and executive producers Bryan Burk, Jack Bender, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz and Carlton Cuse.  Also scheduled to attend are writers Elizabeth Sarnoff, Paul Zbyszewski, Melinda Hsu Taylor, Kyle Pennington, and Brian K. Vaughan.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7:00 – 11:00 p.m./PST
Line for purchase and signing will start at 4:00p.m./PST
Only one Lost/Meltdown event BE@RBRICK per person may be purchased and signed, no exceptions.

Meltdown Comics & Collectibles
7522 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Savage Surrogates

savagedragon140_1My review for Savage Dragon #140 is now up at Broken Frontier. I haven’t read that title in a long time, but it felt like I was welcomed right back. It’s a good, old timey adventure. Gotta love Erik Larsen for sticking to his guns with this series.

I was also fortunate enough to interview Robert Venditti, the creator of The Surrogates, an awesome dystopian tale from Top Shelf that is in the process of becoming a film. Not bad for a first time writer who once worked in the mail room! The film should be interesting. It has a lot of great material to use, with its concept of citizens living vicariously through their robotic representatives, while an anti-tech uprising takes place. The film starts Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw a few more action scenes in for good measure.