Dark Horse Comics Roundup – 9/4/2013

Once again, Vincent was lucky enough to have a pal who had nothing better to do than read and review comics for the blog. Here’s Dark Horse’s offerings for New Comics Wednesday (every nerd’s favorite weekly holiday).

The Star Wars #1

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Alright nerds, buckle up. This book is advertised as being “Based on George Lucas’s Original Rough Draft Screen Play.” Load up your insulin pen, stab it into your gut, and get ready to have a diabetic fit, because this is some full on Star Wars deep cuts. “Longer ago, in a galaxy even FURTHER Away…”

Some of you are probably tenting at the description so far, but for me this was boring. I honestly feel like Star Wars has been flogged and flogged and flogged that maybe going to the creator’s original draft isn’t a great idea. There are names that are similar in this story, and themes that are similar, but it’s just different enough to make it… well, different. But that’s all it’s really got going for it, in my opinion. As a story, it just feels kind of familiar, but nothing too exciting or new.

The art from Mike Mayhew complimented with colors from Rain Beredo is fantastic, but as a story conceptualized originally by George Lucas, and re-written here for print by J.W. Rinzler, it can’t be ignored that this story was eventually developed and edited to the story that we eventually got. So this is, in my opinion, just an extraneous unnecessary story that doesn’t really carry any value in the overall universe of Star Wars comics. But, I guess there is an audience for this kind of stuff, and I honestly liked a lot of “Elseworlds” stories in the superhero arenas of comics. This isn’t so dissimilar to that idea, but it just held no interest for me at all. Grab it for the novelty and the art, but it just didn’t feel like it was heading in any direction that would carry my interest.

Vincent’s Viewpoint: I can’t in all good conscious let this philistine get the last word in. I’m all in. Saying that this comic is an “extraneous unnecessary story” is basically describing all Star Wars comics in a nutshell. I can only think of a few titles or series that add any significant value to the world of Star Wars. That being said, I love else worlds type stuff and I’m also a bigger fan of Star Wars than Matty is, so I’m probably biased towards liking it more so than he is.

Matty is right about how the story is diluted in a way because it was re-written for print. I wonder how close it is to the original script by Lucas, but I’m too lazy to look it up. It doesn’t seem like this would work as a movie in that it introduces so many characters and concepts at one time. It’s like David Lynch’s Dune. As much as I love that film, it’s ultra confusing for those unfamiliar with the book.

Basically the story so far seems more like the prequels than A New Hope, but if the prequels were handled a lot better. There’s some business about a trade embargo (blech, Phantom Menace), but it’s not as long and as drawn out as it is in the prequels.

One aspect I really enjoyed was seeing the Star Wars universe even closer to the old school Buck Rodgers design that it originally based on, particularly in costuming, but also with some technology.

I dug the slight twist near the end, though I should have seen it coming. Also, it’s interesting seeing a helmetless Darth Vader.

Basically, if you’re a big Star Wars fan and want to see Star Wars in a proto-form, this is worth checking out. If you’re not as big of a fan or really have no interest in an alternative look at very familiar territory, skip it. I’ll probably end up getting this one in trade if the next few issues hold up.

 

Baltimore: The Infernal Train #1 (of 3)

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I had no prior knowledge of this book before this week’s batch of comics, but hot damn I got excited when I saw the list of creators on the cover. Mike Mignola is one of my all time favorite creators in the history of comics. His teamups with Christopher Golden have been fantastic; I own and have greatly enjoyed all of their Hellboy novels. Dave Stewart is one of the best colorists in the business. I wasn’t familiar with illustrator Ben Stenbeck, but as far as I was concerned, this was already going to be a home run and I was on board this Infernal Train.

Stenbeck’s cover was one that would have drawn my eye on the shelf. It’s got a Mignola quality to it without being too derivative, and it features some badass dude with a wooden leg dispatching some gross looking vampires in front of a steam engine. Yes, please. (I’m a simple man). Plus, I lucked out, because this is the first issue of this story!

I am a little behind on what’s going on in this series, as this is part 16 of the story so far, but the book quickly establishes the setting as Budapest in the 1800’s, based on expository dialog and beautifully illustrated set pieces from Stenbeck. Lord Henry Baltimore, the titular character, is in Budapest hunting an ancient vampire, amid a city that has been ravaged by a plague, but he is diverted in his mission by a judge that is bent on stopping him. Baltimore is tipped off that the judge plans on intercepting him in Budapest, but because he is a man of honor, he doesn’t plan to run from him or avoid him; he instead waits to confront him. Knowing very little about the character beyond the surface, this act is telling of the type of man he is. In this issue, we never get to meet the judge that wanted to confront Baltimore, but we are introduced to a mysterious woman who arrives in the city by train, promising her invention will be the salvation of the city, but is quite possibly an evil worse than the plague and monsters roaming the streets.

We get a bit of history, a dash of mystery, and a sprinkling of action in this introductory issue for this story arc. This book feels like a Mignola/Golden book in every way and fits nicely along side books like Hellboy and BPRD. I’m definitely interested to see where this story is heading, but this is admittedly the type of material I’m usually drawn to. I really like the occult mystery they’ve set up in this book, and the creators have a great track record with these types of stories. I think it goes without saying that I really enjoyed this issue and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. I’m actually going to check out the previous fifteen issues in Baltimore’s story line.

Catalyst Comix #3

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Yet another book I’m completely unfamiliar with, and admittedly would have passed by on the shelf due to the slightly boring cover art. A standard brawler type character against a white background over a white logo doesn’t really jump out at me, but if I would have taken the time to look at the creators credited at the bottom of the cover, I would have definitely grabbed it.

Joe Casey is a bit of a prolific writer, having penned stories for all of the major publishers, most notably for myself with his work for Image Comics. He’s made his mark with superhero books in the late nineties and with all of the indie publishers since then. He’s worked with some creators I’m glad to call friends, and this book is one such example, because I was excited to see the third credited creator on the cover is Paul Maybury, whom I’ve known for over ten years. It’s been awesome to follow his career in illustration and see his skills develop, and a pleasure to see his name pop up randomly on my list of books to review for the week. Before reviewing this book, I wasn’t familiar with the two other contributing illustrators, Dan McDaid and Ulises Farinas, but both of them fit quite well with Paul’s loose often cartoony style (although I will say that this is perhaps the tightest linework I’ve seen from Paul).

The issue is broken up into three separate story arcs, each with their own graphic style, but carried through with the same writer and colorist, Brad Simpson, who really brought a lot to this book. The combination of illustrative styles and colors throughout the book gave it an almost Heavy Metal Magazine feel to the story. The first story, illustrated by Dan McDaid, is an existential journey for a hero and his spiritual guide. It actually felt almost reminiscent of Marvel’s old Secret Wars II book for me. The story gave an interesting peek at a brawny super hero named Frank Wells who seems to be responsible for saving the world, but following that, he is now on a journey to understand who he is and why he does what he does. He saves some people and gets back to his root understanding of what it means to be a hero. It has a great nostalgic feel, for me, reminiscent of the comics I read as a kid in the way it was presented; being very aware that it is a comic book, and drawing attention to this through narration. The art is a great fit for the nostalgic feel of the story, and the colors finish out the art with a collaborative effect.

Paul Maybury’s story picks up with a guest from another world looking to meet up with the superhero Amazing Grace, who was being hospitalized for reasons unknown or explored in this issue. She has a teleportation power, but it doesn’t seem to be working as well as usual due to her diminished state. She uses her power to lure the alien visitor away from the city, and Grace’s the inner monologue narration provides us some incite into how her interaction with this being will proceed. This piece of the book was light on story, but it was much shorter than the previous Frank Wells story. It gives us an interesting piece of a puzzle and a taste of this character Amazing Grace. I’m a fan of Paul’s work and this is a great example of his stuff. He really gives each character an individual look and nothing ever really feels generic.

The third piece of Catalyst Comix is a strange piece of storytelling called Agents of Change, illustrated by Ulisis Farinas. There are three storylines all happening within the same few pages of story, none of which intersect with each other in shared space or characters. One piece is a drugged out vision with an almost Pink Floyd-ish vibe. Another is a random bit of action with a seemingly throw away character. The third is a conversation between a hero and a puppet master of sorts. The action bits had some great moments which really make Farinas shine. The characters are cool and well designed and the art is actually just kind of fun to look at. As I said earlier, and I think this story in particular, the quality of the art and type of storytelling shown are really reminiscent of Heavy Metal Magazine. It has a kind of European quality to it. For me, this third piece really gets its draw from the characters. I found the storytelling in this bit to be a little confusing as a single peek at the story, but I’m sure it makes more sense in the overall storyline.

The Victories #5 (of 5)

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Michael Avon Oeming provided both the art and story for this book which I found very well done, even for jumping aboard the last issue and into a story I have no context for.

The gist of the story, I’m gathering, is that a virus broke out that created a great deal of new super powered people, but also wiped out an enormous number of non-powered people. Death tolls were in the thousands and the government has created measures to put the powered individuals into concentration camps. There are double crosses and unlikely allies in the fight scenes in this issue, and a very emo character that chooses to hide and do nothing while the world crumbles around her.

I’m a fan of Oeming’s artwork, and the story seems interesting. It’s territory that has been explored before, like with the sentinel program in the X-men universe, but it doesn’t feel too “been there, done that.” There are interesting characters, a bit of mystery/intrigue, and the story is left open to expand in “Posthuman.” I found the most interesting piece of this issue was a character named “Robocalypse.” He only appeared for a moment, but his character design and dialog roped me in to wanting to find more about this guy. This seems like good stuff, so I’m going to go back and check out how we got to the events in issue five.

See you next week!

  • Chris Piers

    Baltimore looks really interesting.