Captain Comics' collection reviews from the Comics Guides

I'll be reposting Cap's Comic Guide collection reviews to this thread to make them easier to link to for the index.

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Posted in the June 03, 2015 Comics Guide

FLASH GORDON OMNIBUS VOL. 1: THE MAN FROM EARTH (TPB)

I managed to get hold of a review copy of this, and quite enjoyed it. I expected the usual "Heroic Earthman" model, but instead Flash is a little green, and doesn't get into all these situations out of heroism, but out of excess enthusiasm and overconfidence. Meanwhile, Dale and Zarkov are more than spectators (or hostages), each having their own set of skills and reasons to tag along. Overall, a well-thought-out premise that provides a canvas for the fun stuff.

Posted in the July 15, 2015 Comics Guide

THE 6 VOYAGES OF LONE SLOANE

Writer/Artist: PHILIPPE DRUILLET

72pp, HC, FC, 9” x 12”

Price: $17.99 U.S. / $20.95 CAN / £13.50 UK

BRAND NEW MASTERPIECE LIBRARY SERIES!

I read random parts of "Lone Sloane" when it came out (gulp!) 43 years ago. It was one of the reasons the young Captain began regarding Heavy Metal as Euro-drivel with pretty pictures.

Four decades later, I have all of "Lone Sloane" in one place, and I have to admit it makes a bit more sense now. But there's a lot of pompous, sci-fi gibberish, and the story's primary purpose seems to be to allow Druillet to indulge his unquestioned imagination and baroque design sense. In other words, Euro-drivel with pretty pictures.

And they are pretty pictures. Druillet really is one of kind, as the preview below indicates. Strangely, his people are a bit derivative (of early Conan the Barbarian Barry Smith, later to be Barry Windsor-Smith) and some of his effects, like Kirby Krackle, are pretty familiar. Also, a lot of Druillet's signature design extravaganzas have lost some of their ability to stun, given four decades of other artists lifting the best bits. 

For some, like the Captain, that adds rather than detracts. Because now "Lone Sloane" has historical importance, as we creaky oldsters scan pages looking for "inspiration" for swipes in later works. And even after four decades, "Lone Sloane" is an amazing work by a gifted designer.

Posted in the July 15, 2015 Comics Guide

DIVINITY (TPB)

Written by MATT KINDT

Art by TREVOR HAIRSINE

Cover by JELENA KEVIC-DJURDJEVIC

$9.99 | 112 pages | T+

From New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (THE VALIANT, Mind MGMT) and blockbuster artist Trevor Hairsine (X-Men: Deadly Genesis) comes a shocking new vision of 21st century science fiction!

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that ... changed him.

Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback. The few that have been able to reach him believe him to be a deity – one who turned the scorched desert into a lush oasis. They say he can bend matter, space and even time to his will. Now the rest of the world’s powers must decide for themselves – will the enigmatic Divinity offer his hand in friendship, or will Earth’s heroes fi nd themselves helpless against the wrath of the divine?

Collecting DIVINITY #1–4.

I read the first four issues, not the collection, but I presume the content is the same. And I'm a bit puzzled.

The above description isn't what I read. Instead -- and I hope this isn't a spoiler -- the world's powers are alarmed by a being they know nothing about who is capable of terraforming, and bending time and space, and reading minds, and so forth. And they send in The Avengers Unity to bring him to heel -- despite his being overtly benevolent.

I won't spoil the rest, but that's the "A" story, while the "B" story is finding out more about Divinity himself, as he views different parts of his life. (It's implied he's actually there, although he doesn't change anything.)

For the most part those two storylines are entertaining, but Divinity isn't nearly as engaging as I'd hoped.

For one thing, I cannot swallow the idea of a black Cosmonaut in 1960. Would. Not. Happen. The Soviets were just as racist as we were, and their early space program was as lily white as ours was.

Secondly, the ending felt a bit flat.

I just have to live with the first complaint (and it may seem trivial to some, but whitewashing history isn't trivial to me). However, since the book is continuing after issue #4, perhaps that ending isn't an ending at all.

Posted in the July 22, 2015 Comics Guide

THE ADVENTURES OF DR. MCNINJA VOLUME 3: KING RADICAL (TPB)

Writer/Art/Cover: CHRISTOPHER HASTINGS

Colors: ANTHONY CLARK (C)

FC, 312 pages, $19.99

I haven't read the first two volumes of Dr. McNinja, so I was a bit confused reading Vol. 3. I think, however, that I might have been confused even if I had read the first two volumes -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Dr. McNinja incorporates virtually every genre at some point or other in essentially a stream-of-consciousness narrative. No doubt all this is going somewhere, but in the meantime we've got ninja doctors implanting guns in innocent bystanders' hands to shoot bad guys, and other implausible nonsense that is, honestly, a lot of fun to read. It's like a dream, only it's yours, and there's a narrative, but only if you really need one.

Best of all are the tiny remarks at the bottom of each page, commenting on the action above. Sometimes it's just a joke, or a counterpoint, or a wry observation. But what could be annoying -- it could easily be annoying -- is instead genuinely funny, so it adds to the experience. It also makes speed-reading Dr. McNinja impossibe, so you're forced to slow down and do the same yourself.

I don't think Dr. McNinja is for everybody. Heck, when I started it, I didn't think it was for me. But it is genuinely off-beat fun that doesn't take itself too seriously. And that's a pretty good descriptor for what comics ought to be.

Posted in the July 22, 2015 Comics Guide

SOMETHING AT THE WINDOW IS SCRATCHING

Writer/Artist: ROMAN DIRGE

128pp - FC - 7"x10" - $18.99 / $21.95 CAN / £13.99

RE-COLORED! RE-MASTERED!

I chuckled enough while reading this collection of weird, short thoughts, illustrations and poems by "Lenore" writer/artist Roman Dirge that my wife started looking over my shoulder. She started laughing, too, because Dirge is a delightfully morbid cartoonist, a cross between the "Family Circle" guy and Charles Addams.

My only complaint is that there's not enough material here to justify the price. The book essentially alternates between a page with a cartoon with a page with some short prose or poetry. That's pretty skimpy, which I'm not sure is entirely outweighed by the funny.

Posted in the July 22, 2015 Comics Guide

TIM GINGER

Publisher: TOP SHELF

Writer/Art/Cover: JULIAN HANSHAW

TPB • FC • $19.99 • 160 pages • 6.5" x 9"

This is a hard book to describe, much less review.

It's got elements of mystery, of sci-fi, of slice-of-life, of middle-age romance. The lead character, by design and by temperament, is an enigma. The story is reluctant to go anywhere, even when events try to force it to (just like the lead character). It occasionally involves cricket, because ... wow, cricket? Really?

The story doesn't climax as much as it sorta grinds to a halt. But at that point, I had to decide if I liked the book or not. And ... well, like the lead character I don't really seem to feel much. Did I like it? I don't know. Just another unsolved mystery, in a book full of them.

Posted in the June 24, 2015 Comics Guide

REXODUS (TPB)

Writer: JAMES FARR

Art/Cover: JON SOMMARIVA and various

FC, 112 pages, $12.99

I've been reading a review copy of this the last couple of nights. It's a long story, but if it was compelling enough I'd read it straight through, but instead fell asleep two nights in a row.

The story is that the dinosaurs were intelligent, and weren't wiped out -- they escaped to another planet in our solar system because of a world-threatening monster called "the Black Blood." Then they rained asteroids down on Earth (which they call Solus Prime), killing all life and hopefully the Black Blood. 

Obviously, they failed, since Earth has lots of life. One dinosaur survived on Earth in suspended animation, and he hooks up with now-to-be-expected spunky tween girl, escapes to Solus Secondary (Mars? Venus? A moon of Saturn or Jupiter? Unclear.) to warn his race about the Black Blood. Which they don't believe, of course.

It isn't bad, despite my comments above. The story's all right, and clips along pretty fast. I have to say I don't care for the art, which is sorta manga, but not very pretty and a little too cartoony -- there's very little to indicate depth. Occasionally I have trouble distinguishing dinosaurs not only from each other, but also from the background. (Maybe it's the coloring I have trouble with.)

It's not my cup of tea. Still, I can imagine that fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or similar might enjoy it more than me.

Posted in the July 29, 2015 Comics Guide

CONAN/RED SONJA (HC)

Writers: GAIL SIMONE, JIM ZUB

Art/Cover: DAN PANOSIAN

Colors: DAVE STEWART

Pencils: RANDY GREEN

Inks: RICK KETCHAN

FC, 96 pages, $19.99

I read every single appearance of Conan and Red Sonja in their Marvel days, which is a lot of pages -- none of which matters here, in a new continuity that pays no attention to what came before. You'd think that would annoy me, but I'm not that kind of fan: I want a good story, not one that is a slave to a continuity that isn't consistent with these two characters' source material anyway.

And this IS a good story. So go read it.

If you want particulars, I can't give you much. Hey, it's a Hyborian book -- there's lots of cursing, smiting and bawdy humor. It's not Shakespeare. But it's done well, and that's all that's important.

Plus, it's got the only two characters from this world that I really give a fig about, doing what they do best. Which is killing, pretty much. But they also usually stumble into doing the right thing, and that happens here, too.

And, best of all, they are both kept in character. That's tougher than it sounds, because both characters are committed to their own personal brand of sex and violence which is more likely than not to result in one killing the other. That both survive without implausible plotting or mischaracterization is a remarkable feat.

Is that a spoiler? Well, so be it: Both characters do in fact survive to continue making money for their respective trademark holders. Duh. But doing so in a rousing adventure that doesn't require either to act out of character is pretty brilliant. Oh, and the art's good, too.

So, as I said, it's a good story. And you should read it.

Posted in the July 29, 2015 Comics Guide

IMPERIUM VOL. 1: COLLECTING MONSTERS (TPB)

Written by JOSHUA DYSART

Art by DOUG BRAITHWAITE

Cover by RAUL ALLEN

$9.99 | 112 pages | T+

The title is accurate -- Toyo Harada spends these four issues collecting his core "team" of monsters. That's good and bad. Good because it gives us a chance to know each one, instead of having them all introduced at once (a trick that never works). Bad because it slows the story to the point that not much happens in this trade.

It's a slow build, as they say, so I'm really not disappointed. And the Braithwaite art is its usual goodness -- he seems to be establishing himself as the company's "house style" -- so I'm satisfied that reading Collecting Monsters was time well spent, and I'm looking forward to the next trade.

Posted in the August 5, 2015 Comics Guide

CHRONICLES OF LEGION VOL 4: THREE FACES OF EVIL (HC)

Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writer:  FABIEN NURY

Art: TIRSO, ZHANG XIAOYU, MARIO ALBERTI, ÉRIC HENNIOT

56 pages / $15.99

As I pointed out in the last Chronicles of Legion review, the art on this series is extraordinary. It's vaguely reminiscent of Barry Windsor-Smith in places, with Raphaelesque renderings on breathtaking landscapes and some figures in repose. (Not that I think this is a swipe. I think both artists are lifting from the same fine-art sources.) Where Legion goes for a modern or action feel, the art is flawless there, too, both beautifully rendered and clear.

That can't quite be said of the story. After two readings, I'm still not really sure what has happened here. I had that feeling with the last couple of books, but hey, there were more books coming, which I thought would explain things. Nope. This is the last book, and I'm left scratching my head.

Which is not a terrible thing, if it leaves the door open for more stories of the Dracul brothers. The way vampirism is conceptualized here is really quite interesting, and I'd love to see more of it. But, honest, I could use some Cliff Notes on this one.

Posted in the August 5, 2015 Comics Guide

LION OF RORA (GN)

Publisher: ONI PRESS INC.

Writers: CHRISTOS GAGE, RUTH FLETCHER GAGE

Artist: JACKIE LEWIS

$24.99

Being a sucker for all thing historical, I loved this book for all it taught me about a piece of European history I knew nothing about.

Chances are most people reading this don't know much about it either! In brief, there was a Christian sect that started in the 1100s or so that sort-of anticipated the Protestant Reformation, in that they thought the Bible should be translated into the common tongue, and that people didn't need a priest as an interlocutor between them and God.

This, of course, went over very poorly with the Medieval Roman Catholic Church, who branded them all heretics and tried to kill them all off in the 1600s. (This mostly took place more or less in or near the Duchy of Savoy, which is located in what is now parts of Eastern France and Northwestern Italy, and historically answered to the French crown.

Mother Church failed to wipe out these folks, called the Waldensens or Waldensians, largely through the remarkable military pluck, luck and cunning stragegy of a farmer named Joshua Janavel. He is the Lion of Rora of the title, and this is his story.

Despite my fascination with that story, I have to note I wasn't thrilled with the art, which seemed not only a bit cartoony but also a little amateurish, especially when foreshortening or perspective are needful. 

But it's serviceable and clear, and if you're into history, you might not mind.

Posted in the August 5, 2015 Comics Guide

THE PHANTOM: THE COMPLETE DAILIES VOL 8 1947-1948 (HC)

Publisher: HERMES PRESS

Writer: LEE FALK

Art/Cover: WILSON MCCOY

$50.00

As I've said before, these books are surprisingly good, despite being more than 60 years old and beginning years before the superhero boom that imbedded the concept in the entertainment landscape.

But it could be argued that a lot of what made the superhero concept both workable and fun started with "The Phantom" (and a few other comic strip adventurers), from the costume, to the secret identity (of a sort), to the infectious joy of using one's power and skills to defeat evil, such as in early Superman. Going with the Superman theme, Diana Palmer is no wilting flower, just as early Lois Lane showed courage and wits. (Someone should write a book about how the courageous career gals of the 1940s turned into incompetent and petty I Love Lucy clones in the 1950s, with Lois Lane the poster girl for this transformation.)

Anyway, these Phantom stories are still fresh after all these decades, perhaps because of the aforementioned joy the Ghost Who Walks brings to the table. It's easy to like this guy, and to engage in a little wish fulfillment. Also, the adventures are quite rousing, going to exotic parts of the map that were still largely unknown in the '40s -- an option no longer available to today's writers, alas.

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