Monday, 22 April 2013

Marvel Now! Nova #3

Well I finally got my hands on issue 3 of the new Nova series, so lets get right back it and look at

When we last left Sam Alexander had had been trying to teach himself to use the helmet that his father had left him (via Gamora and Rocket Raccoon) and had accidentally launched himself to the moon where he came face to face with The Watcher.

That is where this issue begins.

While trying to apologize to the 'Moon Man' (Sam is not yet aware that he is called Uatu, The Watcher) for bumping into his foot Sam is met with total silence.  Instead The Watcher simply points towards outer space which Sam takes to mean "..look out there."  Sam does but sees nothing, that is until the Watcher's eyes light up and in them Sam can finally see what the Watcher is pointing at.

A large amount of alien spacecraft coming towards them (and earth)

Realizing that this can't be good Sam says he will go and find some help from the Avengers or something, before informing the Watcher that his name is Sam Alexander, but then states that  "(Watcher) already knew."

As Sam then flies back to earth, the Watcher simply smiles.

With a brief worry about crashing, Sam lands safely back at his house and removes the helmet.  He wanders back inside and finds his mother waiting for him.  Sam lies to her and says he had been in his dad's (Jesse Alexander) garage to look for clues as to what happened to him and had fallen asleep.  His mother appears to buy this and reminds Sam that his dad tried to be there for him, but before he was born he sometimes used to go away for a while.  Both Sam and his mother ask each other if there is something they are not telling the other and that Jesse always told his mother and that Sam can to.

With his mother gone Sam returns to the helmet to see if it holds any more secrets.  Just then Gamora and Rocket Raccoon reappear.  Sam doesn't seem happy to see them and attacks Rocket, who effortlessly dodges Sam's attack and aims a gun at him.  He then reveals that he is also the reason Sam's dad is gone and that he is "stuck here talking to (Sam) ".

Rocket goes on to say how he and Gamora had been giving the helmet by Jesse to give to Sam and that it had instructions only for him.  Rocket then says that three billion people are now relying on Sam, but there is no pressure.  Sam tells them that until a day ago he thought his dad had made all his Nova stories up and that they should look for help elsewhere such as from the other earth based Nova. Gamora tells Sam that he was named Richard Rider and indicates, tho doesn't out right say it, that he and the rest of the Nova corps are dead and that Sam's behaviour is an insult to the memory.

Now considering what Sam had been through, his father disappearing, ending up in hospital, being shot at by a talking raccoon from outer space and flying to the moon...I think his "behaviour" seems pretty adequate.

Anyway Rocket and Gamora tell Sam that he is the last best hope and that they are there to train him.  Training of course means being shot at by Rocket while Gamora uses her awesome martial arts ability (which make her "the most dangerous woman in the universe") to attack Sam all the while telling him that if he fails the earth will be destroyed and that they themselves don't believe in him, but his dad did and that is good enough for them.

Gamora and Rocket then tell Sam that the reason he is going through all this training is because the Chitauri are coming to destroy the earth.  Their reason for doing so is that whenever a big hostile takeover happens in the universe heroes from Earth are always there to stop it.  The Chitauri are coming to destroy the earth to stop that from ever happening again.

Sam then reveals that the "Pointer" on the moon had shown him a large fleet of Whale like ships flying towards earth.  He is quickly informed that the "Pointer" is really named "The Watcher" and that he also should not have been able to see the Chitauri ships as they are "cloaked".  Rocket then remarks that the Helmet allowed Nova's to see things in space other people couldn't so that it is possible Sam could have seen them and that the helmet may have recorded their position.

So they change plans.  Instead of being a warrior they decide that Sam would best work as a scout.  Using the suits power to 'Space Jump' to the Chitauri ships so he can mark their location for Rocket and Gamora to send help.

Sam is happy that he doesn't have to fight or kill anyone and agrees to this new plan.

He flies into space and 'jumps' to where the Chitauri are, which turns out to be next to Jupiter, and says it is "like really bad".

The comic ends with a Chitauri ship seemingly firing upon Sam who is engulfed in a blinding flash of light.

Jeph Loeb's comic is finally getting moving and we are now getting to the action.  The enemy of this new story has finally been revealed and it is a great one for our new Nova to fight.  Instead of starting off easy with a few street thugs or something, Sam has been thrown straight into the deep end and tasked with stopping a Chitauri Armada, which I think makes a great change of pace and hopefully this will mean we get to see the full range of the Helmet's powers, and for Sam to shine using them, sooner rather then later.

The characters are as great as ever.  Sam is still trying to come to terms with everything that has happened in the last few days and so his emotions are running high.  This of course is not helped by the arrival of Rocket Raccoon and Gamora who basically tell him that he is useless and not the man his father was but that it is still up to him to save the day.

It is a shame that we don't get to see a bit more of Sam's family life in this comic, especially considering that it is hinted that Sam's mother was aware Jesse was a Nova and possibly that she also knows Sam is following in his footsteps.  Now I love action and as I said it is nice to finally get the story moving and actually introduce the villains for this particular story, but I also like family dynamic Loeb has going on in the Alexander household and am interested to learn just how much his mother actually knows about stuff.

Still that is just a minor nitpick because overall the story is just as great as ever.  Sam is still a great character to read and I absolutely love the straight faced Gamora and the more humorous Rocket and their attempts to train Sam to be a half decent Nova.  Sure their method of training seems a bit dangerous and their constant put downs are a bit demeaning (they remind me of drill sergeants from basically every army movie I have ever glanced at) but this method really suits the characters and makes for some great scenes in the comic.

The comic continues to be well paced with exciting action and touching emotional moments that really help pull the reader into Sam's world and make you care about the character and want to see what is next for him.

The art, once again provided by Ed McGuiness, with inking  by Dexter Vines and colors  by Marte Gracia still make this comic really stand out amongst the others.  The line work is still nice and clear with the colors being bright and colorful and yet not being too cartoony.  Really if you read my review of Nova #1 & #2 I don't have much more to add to what I said about the excellent art then.

To sum up

Nova continues to be an awesome read and should be on everyone's must read list.  The story continues to be good and the art is just as magnificent as ever.

4 Howling Wolves

Damn Good Read

Thursday, 18 April 2013

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (Ongoing) #1

Well I wasn't going to buy this issue as I really did not like the 6 part mini series that preceded it, but still I thought I may as well give it a chance.

So today we are looking at

The comic starts with Adam and Duncan (aka Man-At-Arms) getting dressed for some event while discussion the recently deceased Sorceress of Grayskull and how much Teela is like her.  As they then make their way to the event they come across Teela who is also in her best dress outfit and is now sporting red hair.  Adam tries to comment about it but she quickly stops him with a threat of physical violence.

So they get to this event which turns out to be in honor of the Sorceress who died helping to save Eternia from Skeletor.  While King Randor is giving a (very long) speech Adam once more tries to remark about  Teela's new hair and receives an elbow to the gut for his trouble, only for Teela to then lie and say that he is "overcome with grief".

Now I am not sure how it works on Eternia but I am sure that a civilian (because despite her status as Captain of the Guard that is what Teela is when all is said and done) elbows a member of roylaty, in this case the royal prince and heir to the throne...I am pretty sure that could be seen as a form of treason.  At the very least she should get severely reprimanded.  That is not even the worst part.  In one image we can clearly see that they are stood in front of a huge crowd of hundreds and are at least three to four feet apart.  This means that she had to move closer and then (in front of a huge amount of witnesses) blatantly elbowed him in the stomach.  Then she claims he was simply overcome with grief?  Man the population of Eternia must all be blind if she thinks people are going to buy that one.

Anyway back to the comic.

We then move over to a farm where a farmer and his young boys are tending to the crops, trying to make some sense of their life after the alternate reality that Skeletor created was all undone.  Suddenly there is a massive explosion and it appears that the boys are now dead.  The father desperately calls out for them to answer him but to no avail.  Instead he comes face to face with Despera, the adopted daughter of Hordak who also just happens to really be Adora, twin sister of Adam and the future hero known as She-Ra.

Despera beheads the man with one swipe of her sword and then orders the apparently still living boy to  be killed as "he suffers needlessly".  When this nasty business is concluded she contacts Hordak (who has quite possibly the worst redesign of any character ever in this entire DC series) and they do the whole "We have the element of surprise."... "I shall not fail you"... "No you won't or you will regret it" routine.  Blah de blah de blah.  Seen it all before, nothing new here to read...moving on.

Adam, Teela, Duncan and Dekker are making their way back to their rooms, the event now over.  Teela even stripping down to her underwear in front of them because... fan service?  I dunno, it is really quite stupid.  Still there she is, in her underwear while they discuss that the sorceress may not actually be dead and might have just transferred her essence into something else, but still (according to Teela) one less mage is probably not a bad thing.  Add this to the fact that earlier Teela said she never liked the Sorceress and pretty much states that she is glad her mother is dead... there is no easy way for me to say this so I just will

Teela is a complete and utter unlikable, irredeemable bitch with absolutely no good qualities whatsoever.  She is an ill-tempered, moody, self centered, violent, stupid little nobody who has this annoying air of superiority and quite frankly unless they do a MAJOR overhaul of this character...I hope she gets killed by the Evil Horde and just gets the hell out of this series.


Teela enters her room just as their is a big explosion.  Adam, Duncan and Dekker rush in to see if she is alright and find her trapped under a heavy piece of burning furniture.  Adam shows great compassion as he looks at her, pinned under this heavy piece of furniture and remarks "She's fine".

Now forgetting that she is a hardened warrior and she has been acting like a bitch to him all day, she is his friend so this seeming lack of compassion is a bit jarring to me.  He can't even use the excuse that he has to pretend to be the lazy, good for nothing Adam who has to act like this to hide the fact that he is actually the heroic He-Man.  Everyone knows he is He-Man, there is no secret identity.  This means that when Adam makes no attempt to help her (because he doesn't) then he really has no intention of helping her.  This is so totally out of character, because...hell even Adam would help her.  He wouldn't take his disguise that far.

So so far we have a bitchy Teela and an Adam who is happy to sit back and watch as his friends are pinned under burning furniture... what a great start to a MOTU comic.

Still Teela, Duncan and Dekker rush off to help the rest of the castle while Adam rushes to the roof to transform into He-Man, because apparently he needs the space due to the energy that is being released and...oh just go with it, it isn't the worst thing in this comic by far.

He is then joined by Teela who adds to her bitchiness with an amazing strong amount of bloodlust shown by her asking  "So who are we killing?"

The explosion was of course the start of the Horde invasion, lead by Despera who basically tells the Horde Troopers to kill everyone.  She then gets a power reading that Hordak warned her meant trouble.  She tracks the source to the signal and finds He-Man and Teela still on the roof.  Teela keeps on teeling He-Man to kill Despera ... sorry but this is totally out of character for Teela.  Even at her most arrogant bitchiness her first reaction to any villain would not be "Kill it, kill it, make it suffer, hurt it, hurt it...KILL...KILL...KILL"

Still Despera's mask is knocked off and Teela is shocked to see that it is non other then ADORA...wait how the hell does she know who Adora is?

...Oh I give up trying to make sense of this comic.

To sum up

This story, by Keith Giffen,   is full of unlikable character that really do the entire MOTU mythos and its fans a massive disservice because it make the once heroic and noble characters act like compelete asses.  This is especially true of Teela who is now so unlikable that I honestly think that her death would be a good thing.

Now in all honesty I think the invasion of the Horde was actually handled well and even though I am not (and never have been) a fan of Adora / She-Ra I do actually like what they are doing with her here.  In the Filmation cartoon series even when she was loyal to the Horde she was still basically a good person who just thought that the Horde was misunderstood.  But when she was shown what monsters they really were she turned against them and joined the great rebellion.  In this she is pure evil herself, yes I know it is due to magic brainwashing, but she has still done some deplorable stuff, acts that she will have to live with once she becomes She-Ra which will make her road to She-Ra and her subsequent feelings of guilt that much more heartfelt and genuine.

Mind you it is quite annoying that She-Ra gets this massive story arc to develop her character and all He-Man got was one origin issue in which he gets up in the middle of the night and has a chat with his uncle Skeletor about a tapestry...

The art of Pop Mhan is really where this comic shines (well except for Hordak).  The characters and scenery look great and except for that problem with Teela suddenly being close enough to elbow Adam, the action flows very nicely.  The faces of the characters are well drawn and ,while also looking fresh and new, still somewhat resemble those that we grew up with (those of us that grew up with MOTU that is).  They also show a great range of expressions and emotions (except for Teela who only has two looks: Angry and VERY ANGRY).

This is all helped by the great colors of Kathryn Layno that really brings Pop's art to life and captures the colorful word of Masters of the Universe.

The art alone increases the score of this by one howling wolf which means that this comic gets

2.5 Howling Wolves

Not really recommended, buy at own risk

Monday, 15 April 2013

Masters of the Universe #6 Digital Comic

Just a short and simple review today.

What can I say about this comic?  Well there isn't much of a story for one thing.  Now wait a second, don't get me wrong or misunderstand me (tho not sure how that is possible because I clearly siad what I meant).  I am not saying that the lack of a story is a bad thing, at least not in this case. 

Actually there is a story, it is just happens to be very a simple one. However,  it does serve the comic well and at least gives us a reason for what makes the comic great to even be happening.

Ok I am getting ahead of myself a bit.

So what is the story?

He-Man is racing towards Castle Grayskull on Battlecat where he discovers the Sorceress doing some kind of spell on a giant magical skull that He-Man had took from Skeletor, something that could doom Eternia if the Sorceress is disturbed.  But then Orko interferes while trying to show off some trick and he causes reality to go out of control.

This just happens to coincide with Skeletor and his minions trying once more to attack the castle.  So of course He-Man rushes out to try and stop them but reality is shifting so fast and so much into different animated styles that basically everybody stops what they are doing to just marvel at the mess going on around them.

Then Orko smashes the skull and everything goes back to normal.

As I said...not much of a plot at all. 

What makes this issue so much fun is seeing the MOTU characters done in different styles.  Things like Muppet MOTU, Calvin and Hobbes MOTU, Childish drawing MOTU and even Spongebob MOTU. 

To sum up

Jeff Parkers story is very simple but it is a lot of fun regardless with some great humor and most importantly it serves the main focus of this issue which is

Chris Cugliotti's art. It is wacky and surreal and just so much fun to look at.  Really you could just ignore the words (and what there is of a story) and just look at the images they are just so well done and really capture the look and feel of the different animations / comics / styles.

3.5 Howling Wolves

Good Fun

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Marvel Now! Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 & #1

While it was interesting to take a look at a DC comic for the last installment of my little review blog, I thought it would be fun to return to Marvel and take a look at yet another of their new space  based / cosmic offerings. 

Again, such as with my Nova review, this will be two reviews in one in order to play catch-up with the series, which today (as you can no doubt see from the title) will be


so of course we start with...

We open this comic to discover that it is set 30 years ago and some woman is sitting on some steps at the front of her house talking to someone on the phone.  Now while it isn't outright said who is on the other end of the line, I can only guess judging by the conversation that she is talking to her mother.  A mother who it seems is one of those overbearing types who believes her daughters life is not complete without a man, even if that man happens to be a jerk.

Still their conversation is cut short by the untimely (or perhaps for the woman's sake timely) crash landing of a space ship. The woman, who we later discover is called Meredith, is shocked to discover what appears to be a human emerging from the wreckage and after a small shock where he momentarily pulls a gun on her, she takes him into the house to recuperate.  When he is feeling a bit better he informs her that is name if J'Son and not only is he actually an alien but he is of the throne of Spartax.

Of course she allows him to stay while he tries to fix his ship and during that time the two fall in love.  He actually finished the ship faster then he let on but he wanted a few more days with her but realized that it was about time for him to return to his people and his responsibilities.  She asks to go with him but he tells her that he is returning to a war and that she and the people of earth are not yet ready for what is going on in the rest of the galaxy (tho considering this is the Marvel universe that is probably a load and was just used as some excuse to dump her after what is basically a slightly extended one night stand)

Of course it turns out she was made pregnant by him and we move forward another ten years, or as the comic says "Twenty years ago." Here we meet the future leader of the Guardians of The Galaxy...Peter Quill (who later becomes known as Star-Lord).

Peter is caught reading a comic by his mother which she says is "crap" (this is kinda ironic considering this is in a comic because...meta humor, you have to love it).  Somehow this turns into an argument about Peter's dad not being there with Peter insisting that he has no father and acting up quite a bit.

We then move scenes to Peter at school where he is talking about creating superheroes with a friend of his when he suddenly sees the school bully picking on some little girl just because she has darker skin or something (racism).  Of course Peter feels that he must stand up for her and, despite the bully being much larger then Peter, Peter kicks (well slaps) his ass to the ground and proceeds to beat him up.  Then a teacher arrives.

He returns home and while washing up for dinner some aliens called the Badoon arrive and kill his mother. They are in fact looking for him so they can put an end to the Spartax bloodline.  Using his mother's shotgun he is able to kill the aliens and then also just happens to find his father's gun.  He takes a few moments to wonder about where it came from when he suddenly sees a bright light.  Quickly he runs from his home just as...

His house explodes.

The force of the explosion propels him into a tree and knocks him unconscious.  He then wakes up a short while later in hospital where a nurse gives him back his "toy gun".

We then learn that this has all been a flashback / story being told to Tony Stark by the adult Peter who sums up the rest of his life by saying

"I lived the rest of my childhood in an orphanage and a couple of foster homes...but the second I could find a way off planet earth I took it...I joined NASA. I did everything. I got up here and here I am"

Which kinda glosses over the parts that come inbetween him losing his mother and eventually becoming "Star-Lord" a bit too quickly.

Anyway, Tony says that is all he wanted to know and that he "is in". Then the comic ends with the Guardians ship flying off into space

Now the inclusion of Tony Stark / Iron Man in this comic means that this comic is strangely both a prequel and a sequel to

This time the comic opens up on another planet on which we now find the adult Peter Quill in a cantina, not unlike the one from Star Wars, where he is talking to a female member of the Kree race.  Their conversation is cut short with the arrival of his dad, King J'Son of the Spartax Planetary System and his entourage.  J'Son has come to tell his son that a recent meeting with  a Council of Galactic Empires has decided to make Earth out of bounds so that it has a chance to develop on its own and join them as a part of their galactic civilization in its own time.  This means that nobody, including Peter, is allowed to return to earth any time soon.

Peter however points out that this has effectively placed a big target on the earth and has left it open to attack from entities that do not care about following rules.  Just then Gamora appears and takes out some of J'Son's guards under the false impression Peter was in trouble, but Peter tells her to stop and the two leave.  J'Son says to his son that he should "imagine what he could accomplish if 'he' was doing what he was supposed to be doing".  A slight smile on his face in the very next panel hints towards the idea that Peter rushing off to the earth's defense is EXACTLY what he is supposed to be doing.

We then cut to Iron Man who is flying around space in his new Godkiller Armor having decided in a previous Iron Man issue to leave earth and "seek his fortune" in outer space.  He quickly comes across a massive Badoon ship approaching earth and attempts, without success, to take it down by himself. It is just then that the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive which of course consists of; Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Drax the Destroyer and Rocket Raccoon.

The Guardians and Tony join forces to fight back the Badoon, with Groot and Gamora even boarding the enemy ship via the front windows which Rocket has blown to pieces using yet another of those super over-sized guns he is so famous for.

The Badoon, realizing that they are losing the fight, decide to blow up their ship in an effort to kill the heroes but not before telling the rest of the Brotherhood to avenge them.  Iron Man gets a bad hit from the blast and Groot is reduced to a single sliver of wood.

Back on their ship, Peter desperately tries to determine if Tony is still alive while more Badoon ships enter earth's atmosphere.  Gamora tells Peter that she believes his dad knew earth would be attacked and that Peter would try to save it, because if he can't have either "Then as far as he is concerned you can all go to hell together."

In these issue Brian Michael Bendis  has crafted a very simple and somewhat cliched tale.  The first half of issue 0.1 is a simple story of a lost alien stranded on earth who meets and befriends a lonely human, not unlike such movies as E.T., Mac and Me and, perhaps more apt, Starman.   This then moves into the cliche of the boy who grew up without a father and has become angry and resentful towards his absentee father (who he insists doesn't even exist) and even his mother.  Yet he is still a good boy at heart as shown when he defends the little girl.

In issue #1 it feels a lot more like Star Wars, at least at the start, and their is not really much character development but instead is more about getting the Guardians and, their soon to be new member, Iron Man into a fight as quickly as possible.

This doesn't mean there is not some.  While Gamora says she believes J'Son wants Peter and the Earth to both go to hell I think it is quite the opposite.  Knowing he could not oppose the will of the Galactic Council, even if he is King of the Spartax system, J'Son forbade his son from "interfering" with Earth because he knew that Peter would do the opposite (just as Gamora said), not because he wants them both to go to hell, but because Earth is important to him and he knows that Peter and his team will be the best people to keep it safe but he considering the new law he could not "appoint" Peter its protector and so had to use reverse psychology to make him do it on his own.

While this is a great introduction to the series has really makes you want to see what happens next there is actually one major flaw in how the story unfolded.

Considering that at the end of issue #0.1 Iron Man is on the Guardians ship and is alive and fine as it blasts off into space, yet they don't actually meet until part way through issue #1 (which is why I called #0.1 both a prequel and a sequel) it has already undermined any tension that the end of issue #1 might have created.  It ends with Iron Man possibly dead and the earth under attack but we have already seen in the end of #0.1 that both are fine (because I doubt Tony would be smiling and flying off into Space if Earth was in trouble)

The art by Steve McNiven is simply awesome.  The characters and locations look great and well detailed and their faces are full of expressions, especially Rocket who is a total blast just like he always is.  This is helped by the marvelous inking job done  by John Dell which really makes MCNiven's pencils stand out and pop from the page.  To finish the job is the excellent coloring job Justin Ponsor which is bright and colorful and really captures the fun (almost 80ishness) of the comic and yet does not cross over into being too cartoony.

To sum up

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1:

A fun if also a bit cliched story with great art and good characters but does gloss over Peter becoming Star-Lord FAR too quickly.

 4 Howling Wolves

Damn Good Read

Guardians of the Galaxy #1:

A fun read that quickly thrusts the reader right into some major action with the Guardians and Iron Man teaming up to save the earth from the Badoon.  It is only hampered by the fact the end of issue #0.1 has already spoiled the outcome of this still ongoing battle.

 4 Howling Wolves

Damn Good Read

Friday, 12 April 2013

Masters of the Universe: Origin of He-Man #1

Well today I thought I would take a look at a comic that has been out for a short while, a comic that had so much potential and yet... well just read on.

When DC comics once more began to create comics based on the 80's toy and cartoon phenomenon created by Mattel known as "Masters of the Universe" it was only a matter of time before they showed the world their own interpretation of the origin of the man who uttered (well shouted) the well known catchphrase "I HAVE THE POWER". 

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, with art by Ben Oliver, The comic itself opens with Adam trapped beneath a pile of rocks, Skeletor looming over him and the Sword of Power mere inches from his hand.  All seems hopeless until Adam first says those immortal words

"By the power of Grayskull..."

Now I have to admit that in media res is a good way to open this comic as it immediately captures the readers attention due to the drama of the situation and makes them want to know just how our young hero got into such a predicament.  It is just a shame the rest of the comic failed to live up to this great opening.

As always in these kinds of tales we are then thrust back in time where we see Adam asleep in bed until he is suddenly awoken by a loud noise.  Stumbling out of his room he makes his way to his parents room where he finds them frozen in fear. 

This should have been a powerful and dramatic moment however it was hindered by the poor dialog such as when Adam approaches the room of Randor and Marleena and  says  "Father? Is all well..."

Unlike my review of Thanos Rising, where I said the "proper" way of speaking used by the people of Titan actually worked for the comic as it helped emphasize the utopian society he lived in,  in this instance it just felt forced.  It seemed more like the way in which  a  young child would write people speaking in a fantasy story that many children are prone to start writing (and which frequently never get past the first few pages).  Unfortunately the result of this is to pull me out of the drama of the moment because instead of being invested in what is going on in the panels I can't help but be distracted  thinking "nobody talks like that."

Unfortunately that is where the next problem this comic suffers from rears its head when it jumps back to the fight between the newly emerged He-Man and the overlord of evil known as Skeletor..  As I said earlier, starting in the middle of the tale was a good thing as it grabbed the readers attention by making them interested in what had gone on before and if it then done the norm and showed the progression of events leading up to that event, then it would have been fine. However it seems that the writer instead decided to employ a more disjointed approach to telling the story.

Now this can and has work, such as in the well known movies Pulp Fiction by Quention Tarantino and the Christopher Nolan movie Memento.  The reason I find that it  fails in this comic is that, apart from the use of the single word "Before..." neither the art nor the layout of the panels on the page make it clear that these two events are happening at different times.  Simply looking at the pages as presented it would be easy to believe that Adam was descending a flight of stairs seeking the Palace Guards while He-Man and Skeletor fought somewhere else.  This has the very real problem of making the story somewhat difficult to follow, which is also not helped by the art (which I will talk about in my sum up).

Now luckily the writer did seem to see that there may be a problem and from here on in the rest of the comic does show the events leading to Adam becoming He-Man without any jumps forward or back in the comics timeline.

Still it has its own problems

Searching through the palace for the person responsible for his parents current predicament Adam comes across the hunched over figure of Skeletor.  Again this initial meeting between the two opposing main characters of the entire franchise should have been as powerful and dramatic (if not more so) as the moment when Adam discovers his parents under some kind of magical enchantment.  Oh and don't say that the two opposing main characters are HE-MAN and Skeletor. Adam is He-Man so that would just be splitting hairs.

Anyway we have the dramatic moment when Adam meets Skeletor for the first time, an event that will eventually lead to him taking up the Sword of Power and becoming the mighty hero He-Man.  This should have not only been the major defining moment of this comic but of the whole DC MOTU comic series in general.  But again the whole thing is dragged down by the incredibly childish (and downright annoying) dialog that really makes a mockery of the whole scene.

Seeking the sword, which he believes to be his "birthright", Skeletor tries to enlist Adam's aid in finding it citing the reason that Adam won't refuse him is due to Adam being a coward.  At first Adam seems to play along making it seem that Skeletor was right.  Adam presents a sword to Skeletor claiming that it is the one he wants, but Skeletor immediately sees through this lie. He knows it is merely an antique because it  has been on the wall since he was a "chi...".  He doesn't finish the word but it is blatantly obvious he was about to say "child" which is in regards to the fact he is actually the brother of King Randor and thus the uncle of Adam.

Now it could be that in his fear Adam simply didn't pick up on what Skeletor almost let slip, but this does not excuse what comes shortly...

After deflecting an attack by Adam, Skeletor suddenly begins interested in an old tapestry detailing the forging of the Sword of Power and of King Grayskull's battle against Hordak and the Evil Horde.  Again Skeletor drops not so subtle hints that he and Adam are related which Adam still doesn't seem to pick up on.

Drawn inexplicably to the tapestry Skeletor determines that the sword is hidden somewhere behind it.  Adam tries to use this moment to attack but again he is thwarted by Skeletor, who this time hits him with a bolt of magical energy from his famous Havok Staff.

Somehow this results in Adam's mind being projected to Castle Grayskull where he meets the guardian of the Castle known simply as The Sorceress. She reveals that it is Adam's destiny to take up the sword of power  and taht upon his death, King Grayskull foretold that two of his own blood would one day wage a war.  She also nearly reveals that Skeletor is his uncle but decides he is not yet read to know that and again, luckily for her, Adam fails to pick up on yet another incredibly unsubtle hint as to his relationship to the evil blue skinned sorcerer he has just been fighting.

What makes it even worse is that it is highly doubtful that someone as wise as the Sorceress would let information like that almost come out due to a simple slip of the tongue.

Now look as I said it could be due to the fear and the adrenaline or whatever, but this inability to grasp what is so obvious isn't just a problem with Adam.  Earlier in the comic Skeletor also has a similar moment.  This is when Adam can clearly be seen reaching out for the sword and then becoming He-Man for the first time.

Skeletor's response to this is simply to ask

"Who are you?"

It could also be argued that Skeletor meant "what are you?" That he was asking how Adam was able to transform like that and break free of the rocks that he was trapped beneath.  But the problem is that it doesn't read that way. Instead it reads like he believes they are two separate people and that He-Man has just appeared out of nowhere.

At best I could look at it as some strange homage to the Filmation MOTU cartoon where people were not able to recognize the fact that Adam and He-Man were one and the same person despite the fact they were conveniently never in the same place at the same time and the even more glaringly...they looked EXACTLY the same and both even had talking green tigers.

But this is not a look at the Filmation toon and the seriousness that this comic is seemingly trying to portray makes the idea that Adam's inability to grasp that Skeletor is his uncle or Skeletor seemingly not realizing that Adam and He-Man are the same person despite the transformation happening right in front of him is due to bad writing more then anything.

To sum up

What should have been an epic retelling of the origin of one of the most iconic characters from  the 80's, a character who still has a major cult following to this day, is instead reduced to a highly rushed, disjointed mess with terrible dialog that seems to have been written not by a well paid master of his craft but a first grader who has been told to write a fantasy tale in the style of such authors as Tolkien.

Unlike the excellent origin seen the 2002 MYP cartoon series, which had Skeletor's forces attacking King Randor's forces and which eventually lead to Adam, Cringer and Man-At-Arms (with Orko tagging along) making the first fateful journey to Graysull.  Adam is then presented with the sword and for the first time says that well known phrase and becomes He-Man just in time to save his friends and turn the tide of the battle.

Instead in  this story it has Adam getting up in the middle of the night, meeting Skeletor and having some vision in which he speaks to the sorceress.  It simply happens far too fast and really would have benefited from being prolonged over at least one more issue with Adam actually having to make his way physically to Castle Grayskull to claim his birthright and it is also not helped by the disjointed story.

Now the art style.

While the character models, as drawn by Oliver, are not bad (Skeletor actually looking quite terrifying and imposing in this) it is greatly ruined by the drab colors of Jose Villarrubia and Kathryn Layno which totally fails to capture the bright and colorful nature of the Masters of the Universe franchise that the vast majority of the fans are used to.

Another major problem I have with the art is the frequent lack of any clear background in most of the panels.  This makes it hard to follow where the characters are and this in turn causes the story to suffer.

This comic had some much potential and could have been great if a bit more thought and effort had been put into its creation.  Instead it simply feels like a boring rush job and because of this I have to give the Orgin of He-Man

2 Howling Wolves

Buy it if you must but don't expect too much.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Marvel Now! Nova #1 & #2

This time I decided to do a double whammy and review the first two issues of the (relatively)  new Marvel Now! series... NOVA

I have never read a Nova comic before.  The only time I had ever had any dealings with this character was in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series,  a series I REALLY did not like at all so it was certainly not the best introduction to Nova that I could have had.  Still when I saw that a new Nova series would be part of the Marvel Now! line I decided it was about time I gave this series a go.

The comic starts...IN SPAAAACE!!!! where we see Jesse Alexander (the future father of the books soon to be introduced main hero) working as part of the Nova Corps alongside fellow members Titus and Mr Z'zz.  The have been sent on a rescue mission to save two very important (and well known characters) who are very quickly revealed to be none other then two of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the dangerous green beauty Gamora and the awesomely excellent Rocket Raccoon.

Soon the five are fighting their way to safety until Titus suddenly orders Jesse to return to earth.  It seems that he has broken one of the rules of the Nova Corps and has managed to get himself married.  Not only that but he has a kid on the way.  This means he now has something to live for and shouldn't really be risking his life so recklessly.   So, promising to send back help, Jesse leaves.

This is a great introduction to the Nova Corps as it really shows how badass they are even if it...

Turns out this was all a story Jesse was telling his son Sam Alexander.

Sam is pretty much a typical teenager, at least for comics.  He finds himself having to juggle with his school life where he is being bullied, much like Peter Parker was many many years before him, while also having to take care of his father who has an alcohol problem.  This usually means doing his fathers job for him, which is being the janitor of the school Sam goes to, while also hiding the fact that his dad his currently sleeping in a drunken stupor from his mother and young sister.

While all this is happening he has to listen to his father talk about the glory days of when he saved entire galaxies as part of the Nova Corps.  Of course Sam doesn't believe him and thinks that they are just the rantings of a drunk and even seems somewhat resentful of his father.

But this all changes one night when his father simply disappears.  Sam immediately thinks he has ran off to some bar somewhere to get drunk and resolves to find him.  But he is so angry that he doesn't look where he is going while on his skateboarding causing him to have a nasty fall.

Waking up in hospital he is told by his mother that his father still hasn't come home.  Even later that night he is visited by two of Jesse's old friends,  none other than Gamora and Rocket Raccoon who say that they have to talk about his dad.  

Thus ends issue one of Nova

So now...

 When we last left Sam Alexander he had just woke up in bed to see two of the characters from his dads stories are not only very much real...but they are standing over him and want to talk to him about his dad.  Of course this is a bit much for young Sam to handle and in the ensuing chaos he accidentally calls Rocket a talking Raccoon which quite upsets the ill tempered Guardian quite a bit, for hilarious consequences.

Racing out into the hall for help he immediately bumps into a nurse, but when they get back to Sam's room it is empty, prompting the nurse to suggest it was all a dream and Sam at first insisting it was real but then accepting the fact she is probably right.  However he is soon shocked to discover that a  helmet his father owned, apparently from when he worked as one of the Nova, has somehow ended up under his bed.  But he puts it down to simply a prank by own of the kids at his school.

 In an attempt to get rid of it, claiming that it is all a joke just like his father, Sam ends up activating the helmet which releases a column of light.  Curious as to what will happen Sam cautiously puts it on and is shocked to find himself covered in the armor of the Nova Corps.

This also triggers a very well written and heartfelt message left be Jesse for his son in which he admits that he should have been a better father and been there more for his family and that he really loved his son.  I thought this was a good little moment between father and son, even if one of them was just a recording, because it showed that even if Jesse had longed to return to the glory days of being an intergalactic hero, this being no doubt what drove him to drink, he still deeply loved his family and had realized that he had failed them as a father and a husband due to his living in the past instead of seeing what he had right in front of him.  It also gives Sam a brief glimpse at the man his father truly was and not the alcoholic washed-up janitor he knew.

He is then very shocked to discover that he just happens to be flying and hadn't noticed up to that point.

Hiding his new found powers from his mother Sam decides to take his new suit out for a test.  He quickly determines that it responds to his thoughts.  Pushing himself to go faster and faster he notes that his father had been right all along and that the suit made him like a "Human Rocket"

Unfortunately Sam isn't able to work out how to stop himself and he ends up flying off into space and landing on the moon, where he is met by none other than Uatu, The Watcher. His only response is to meekly say "help."

So what is next for Sam Alexander....?

The story in the first issue, as written by comic scribe Jeph Loeb, was pretty good if not a bit cliche and formulaic.  We have all read about the teenager who is bullied in high school only to suddenly find themselves with power and part of something greater.  I am of course talking about Spider-Man, which I have already mentioned earlier (and in some ways the Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle over at DC).  But this isn't a bad thing in this case.  It does a good job of introducing us to Sam and getting to see the kind of kid he is.  He has a good heart but having to look after his drunken father is making him quite miserable.  He has had to grow up listening to his dad talk about how much of a hero he used to be, but the only dad he has ever known is the heavy drinking janitor and you can easily see why Sam has a hard time believing him.  At least until he gets a visit from two of the Guardians which leads him to discovering that the tales his father told him were not ficitonal at all.

The second issue had some decent character development when it comes to Jesse and Sam's relationship but not as much for the others as issue one did, but that was because it dealt more with Sam getting used to his new powers rather then introducing characters to the reader.  Sam learning how to use his new found abilities is very believable and again reminds me of the way Peter Parker or Jaime Reyes had to teach themselves to use theirs (tho Jaime did have some help from the Scarab that gave him his abilities).

In all Loeb's story was very well told and, whilst not very groundbreaking or original, nicely setup Sam's introduction to the Nova Corps.  After what I consider a poor run on Hulk (I just don't like the Red Hulk) I really think Loeb has hit his stride with Nova and is fast crafting a character that is fun and engaging to read.

Of course the story is helped beautifully by...

The amazing art of Ed McGuiness, with inking done ably by Dexter Vines and colors provided by Marte Gracia,  is honestly the kind of comic book art I really like.  It has crisp, clear lines and is bright, vibrant and colorful without being overly cartoony.  This means that the images really pop off the page, especially when we see Jesse as one of the Nova Corps and fighting villains in space alongside Titus, Mr Z'zz, Gamora and Rocket.  McGuiness is also a master when it comes to drawing faces, with each one being unique and full of expression.  Too often I have seen comics where characters all look the same and at best have two expressions (I am looking at you Rob Liefeld)

To sum this up

Nova #1: 

An excellent introduction to Sam Alexander and to the new Nova comic with a good story and excellent artwork.

4.5 Howling Wolves

Do Not Miss.

Nova #2:

While not as good as issue one when it comes to developing characters due to it being an even more simple tale of Sam trying to teach himself to use his new power it is still a good story and once again the art by McGuinnes, Vines and Gracia really shines through and brings the comic roaring to life

 4 Howling Wolves

Damn Good Read.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Thanos Rising #1 (of 5)

Now let me start off by saying I have never been a fan of Thanos.  No I didn't hate him, or find him boring or unlikable, I just found him okay.  He was a serviceable villain who did his job when the comic called for some big galactic enemy for some hero to fight against.  I know he has a lot of fans out there and, if any of you are reading this, I am really sorry I feel this way (actually I am not sorry as I don't see why I should be).  Still like I said I wasn't a "Fan" but that doesn't mean I didn't sorta like him.

Then this comic happened.

If the next four issues are even half as good as this then you Thanos fans can count me amongst your number because this comic ROCKS.  The story and art are simply sublime, both perfectly complementing each other in a way I haven't seen in a long time.  One issue in and I can already say that Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi can be classed as one of those rare perfect collaborative teams.

Now if you have looked at other reviews you will see that some of them have a problem with the way this comic presents our young "hero?",  that they made him a soft little geek, or, that it implies that he is not in charge of his future actions and is as much an innocent as the countless billions he will one day murder. Now both of these are valid points and I can see where they are coming from, but man don't let that distract you from reading this, because it is exactly those points that make this a 'must read'

Now I must warn you there will be some minor spoilers ahead, but I won't reveal anything big that happens, so if you haven't read it you can rest easy knowing I won't I have spoiled the major parts.

As I said earlier this comic shows Thanos in his youth, actually all the way back to his birth.  Well actually it starts with an adult Thanos walking through a ruined city on Titan to visit his mothers grave, something he does now and then to remind himself who he is and where he came from.  Already I get a sense that there is something deeper to Thanos then being a crazy powerful guy who is in love with death and the comic hasn't even really started.

Anyway his memories trigger a flashback and we see Thanos being born.  Now right away we get the feeling that something is not right, because instead of congratulating the parents that they have a new son one of the doctors says

"I'm I'm sorry A'Lars, but I'm afraid it''s going to live."

barely a minute old and the first thing someone says about the still innocent Thanos is that he is sorry that it is going to live.  Hell I doubt that doctor looked much better the moment he was born.

The drama is only further heightened when Thanos' mother asks to hold her son.  She takes one look into his baby black eyes and...immediately tries to knife him claiming that he is going to kill them all and he is a monster.  Amazing foreshadowing or extreme postnatal depression? you choose.  Either way she is declared insane and locked up.

We fast forward to a slightly older Thanos.  We see him just sitting outside while other kids are playing. What is our soon to be mass murdering genocidal madman doing with his spare time?  Why he is drawing, because he likes to draw sometimes.  Hell he is a damn good artist as well it seems.  Not just that, he is apparently also the smartest kid in the school, at least according to the other children and we later learn that he likes to grow flowers and that he wishes not to harm anyone or anything (he even vomits at the thought of dissecting a dead lizard), in short he is the polar opposite of what he becomes, which only makes his descent into evil all that more tragic.

I have heard (well read) people say that this is sort of like what Lucas did with Anakin in Star Wars and I agree.  The only difference is that after just a few pages Thanos Rising is already doing it FAR better.

But I digress.

Speaking of the other children.  Now usually you would think it would go like this.  A child who is different in some way to the other children is bullied mercilessly at school, he grows up all resentful and becomes a world destroying mad man.  Well yes he does grow up to be one of those but if you thought the first are so wrong.

The children of Titan seem actually interested by Thanos and genuinely want to be his friend.  Now it may even seem that they are simply pretending and setting him up to be the fall guy in some terrible traumatic prank, but no they just want him to play with them.  Even the girls think he is interesting because he looks different. As they say

"This is Titan, Everyone is cute. Cute is boring."

So already this comic is different, it shows the outsider, the person who is different from the norm, being welcomed and accepted by the average instead of being shunned or ostracized, which is what usually happens in these kinds of stories.

Still there are hints of what he will become, the first major one being his mother during his birth.  But then there is also a strange girl who, at least to me, looks uncannily like his mother (just much younger) and who says that Thanos has some kind of destiny.  Now I doubt I am the only one who thinks that young girl is "Death" and that she chose her appearance for a reason.

Speaking of his mother.  As I said earlier she was incarcerated in a mental institute for trying to murder baby Thanos, but apparently nobody told Thanos this is why she is there because he actually visits her and is nice towards her. He tells her that he wishes to ask a young girl named Cythera out on a date and that he will present her with a new flower he created because  "girls enjoy flowers".

On a darker note he also reveals that he has been having constant dreams of himself as a newborn, that there is someone with a knife trying to kill him and then years later he has that same knife and...

It is like a child describing a nightmare to their parents, but considering this is Thanos and his mother actually did try to stab him as a baby, this makes it seem more ominous.

His mothers response is to say nothing, she just sits with her head turned away from her son and cries.

And this is where I must leave you because we are already fast approaching the territory that I said I would not delve into, the major plot element of this story that I do not wish to spoil. The first glimpse we see of the killer that lies within Thanos' innocent young heart.  But, what brings it out may make some of you think "I may have done the same" which just makes it even more heartbreaking and tragic.

As I said at the start of this review the art and the story compliment each other beautifully.  Even the dialog, which I would usually be the first person to say "nobody talks like that" is just perfect for this book.  Everyone has this upperclass, proper way of speaking.  There is no slang or abbreviations here, but then Titan is supposed to be an Utopia, a perfect society, so this way of speaking just fits spectacularly.

The art of Simone Bianchi is just hauntingly beautiful. There is something magical and otherworldly to the way he draws Titan and its inhabitants, but yet something familiar as well. It really draws you into this world and holds you until the story can sink its teeth into you. Then I can almost guarantee you will be hooked and in for the long haul (well short haul as this is only 5 issues long)

Now the colors. The colors as done by Simone Perruzi are again just perfect.  They really capture the innocence of Thanos' youth, especially when he is playing with the other kids.  And yet there is also something dark about them.  It is something I find hard to put into words and I don't just mean they get "dark" when the story demands it, no there is something about the colors that you can almost feel the darker undertones of the comic.  It is bright and yet hiding something very dark, which describes young Thanos so well.

To sum this up

Thanos Rising #1 is a supremely excellent comic and should be on EVERYONE'S must read list even if they are or are not a fan of the Mad Titan.  Now if you pick up each issue individually or would like to wait for the trade is entirely up to you, but this is something you have to read.

5 Howling Wolves