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.

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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.

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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.

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