Wednesday, 15 May 2013

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (Ongoing) #2

Well as the title says it is time to look at "The Adventures of Teela: Super Bitch" by which of course I mean

We start this comic where the other one ended, with the (not very) shocking revelation that Despera is none other than... ADORA.  Who is this Adora person? (I hear none of you ask) why she is in fact...Teela's imaginary friend???? wait...what?Oh well, yep apparently she was Teela's imaginary friend and apparently Adora recognizes Teela from a dream as well, which must mean she has a damn good memory seeing as she was took as a baby and possibly never even met Teela and... no I don't get it at all.  Also it is very confusing as to who exactly He-Man is talking to when he asks

"You know her?"

Still Teela's reaction to meeting her old imaginary friend is exactly as you would expect from one as warm and lovable as her.  She basically insists that He-Man kill her as quickly as possible, because nothing says "hello old friend" to Teela like breaking their spine or something.

Well anyway there is a bit of banter between the three young people and eventually Despera does what a lot of people probably want to do, she throws Teela off the roof of the palace.  He-Man of course, being the hero that he is, immediately jumps after her and (if the image is to believed) gets hit by Despera's cape with a very audible THWOK.

Still he needn't have bothered as Teela, despite how far she had seemingly been thrown which should have catapulted her quite some distance from the roof, had landed safely on a ledge just below them because... she is a boomerang woman?  Honestly this comic makes less and less sense the more I read it.

Well, with some helpful advice about where and who to land on from Teela, He-Man soon makes it down to the ground floor in record time.  He is quickly followed by Despera who it seemed had the good idea to knock Teela off the ledge to her doom, an idea she unfortunately chose not to act upon (it may be becoming apparent that I do not care for this new version of Teela)

Well down on the battlefield there is some friendly banter between brother and sister in which Despera hints that He-Man and Teela are an item, a fact that He-Man doth contest a bit too strongly.  But this fun is ruined by Teela (who else) who for some reason thinks it would be a good idea to jump off the roof and break her leg on Despera's back.

It is then that Stratos appears and announces that Randor has ordered everyone to retreat to Castle Grayskull.  He picks up a cursing Teela and flies off with her, leaving He-Man and Despera alone (no counting the countless people around them of course).  Then, in an admittedly bad-ass scene, He-Man turns his back on Despera and sheathes his sword.  She believes he is giving up  Out of nowhere Battle Cat arrives and just about takes her face off with his claws... SWEET

He-Man then gets on to his trusty steed and rides off to Grayskull as Despera demands aid from a restoration mage... because she wants to fix the palace up before she moves in???

Oh she wants a healer...that kind of restoration mage.

We then cut to Castle Grayskull where Teela is horrified to learn that Mekaneck has survived the assault on the castle.  Without making light of the whole scene and ignoring the fact I don't care for Mekaneck myself, this entire outburst from Teela just firmly cements into my mind that she is and will always be... THE MEGA BITCH.  Instead of being thankful that she and her friends survived at all she goes on a tirade that the poor guy doesn't deserve.  In past incarnations of MOTU he has been shown to be a very able fighter and has earned his place amongst the masters, his neck stretching is just an added bonus.  But apparently Teela (and the god awful writer Keith Giffen who pens this crap) don't seem to have remembered that fact.

This would have been the perfect moment for He-Man, Duncan or, well anyone, to have slapped her hard across the face and told her to shut her vile harpy mouth.

Alas this doesn't happen and she just carries on about how all he does is stretch his neck.  Well all she does is act like a bloodthirsty bitch but people still seem happy she survived (tho I really don't know why)

Randor then makes a speech and reveals that it is Hordak that is behind the attack and that he was almost kidnapped himself by Hordak when he was younger.  Oh yeah..and Hordak is now a vampire.  Really we are not learning anything we didn't already know so...moving on.

Cutting to Despera briefly, she is informed that there is a lareg group of people in Castle Grayskull.  She tells the Horde Troopers under her command to form a perimeter and make sure that nobody leaves and that He-Man and Teela are hers alone to fight and kill.

Back at the castle, He-Man goes to speak with his father who is in a library.  He tells his father that while the others don't think he is mad, they also don't really believe that it is Hordak that is behind all of the trouble.  He-Man of course has trouble believing in pan-dimensional vampires and armies of Darth Vader wannabes

The stupidity of this is pointed out by Randor who reminds his son that he rides around on a giant green tiger and knows a guy made of moss who can control pants.  Randor then goes on to reveal that it was Keldor who saved him from being kidnapped as children (something readers of Skeletor's origin comic would already be aware of)

They are then interrupted by Teela's butt who informs them that the bad guys have sent an emissary who turns out to of course be...Despera.

Big shock

Another big shock is that she demands them all to surrender and they can all continue to live.  Except He-Man who must fight her to the death.  It seemed that when she had her face healed she decided to have one scar left so that she could heal it with He-Man's blood, also Battle Cat will be slaughtered and He-Man will sign his admittance of defeat in its blood which is kinda of a harsh thing to do to a little helpless kitty.

Well of course the "heroes" are having none of it and tell Despera to shove her demands.  Despera tells them to make their peace with their gods and vanishes.

He-Man then asks Teela just who this imaginary friend of hers is as Randor ends the issue by simply saying

To sum up.

Once again Keith Giffen shows just why he SUCKS as a writer for Masters of the Universe.  The characters are increasingly unlikable and this goes extra for Teela who is just a foul mouthed little annoyance who disrespects everyone around her.  In the last one it was the Sorceress who saw the biggest brunt of her bitchiness, but in this one it seems to be aimed mostly at Mekaneck.  Pretty soon people won't be reading this for the epic battle between good and evil but simply to see who is next on Teela's list of people to act like a stuck up cow to.  If this is what he wants then I must congratulate him on a job well done. 

The rest of the story was not that interesting.  The fight between He-Man, Despera and Teela had a bit too much talking and not much action and the big reveal by Randor that Hordak was behind it all was not that shocking considering we already knew that. 

On a plus side, the art of Pop Mhan still continues to be good. The characters and scenery still look very good and he still knows how to draw action that flows at a good pace.  Also like last issue, his pencil work isably helped along by Kathryn Layno's fine colors which helps to bring some light to this dark version of MOTU.

Once again the art increases the score of this, however in this case I think it is only worth giving it half a howling wolf extra.

This means that issue #2 of the ongoing Masters of the Universe comic series gets

1 Howling Wolf

Just don't bother

Friday, 3 May 2013

Thanos Rising #2 (of 5)

Well it has been some time since my last review and for that I am sorry, still I am back now and today (as you can no doubt see from the title) I am taking a look at the second issue of the comic that started this little blog.

Today we look at

You know what? I am just going to say this right now and get it out of the way.  It is not as good as #1.  However do not take this to mean it is terrible or that I hate it, I just wasn't as drawn into the world as I was in the first issue, but more on that later.

Okay if you have read #1 you will no doubt be aware that it ended with Thanos killing a bunch of lizards who had killed his friends while some creepy girl looked on (and who is probably death or works for death or....something)

This comic starts years later with some teenage Titans dissecting lizards so they can label their organs.  Of course being the little genius Thanos has not just already done this but he has detailed what it had eaten, how it had died and what age it was.  He then declares he has no more time for these lessons or the teacher and just walks out.

He meets the creepy "Death" girl and takes her back to his secret lab where he is about to dissect a still living cave ape, simply for the pursuit of knowledge, which apparently is quite bloody messy (as in it is full of blood and very messy).  While he does so we are told briefly the other wonders that Thanos has performed in the years between issues #'1 and #2, such as walking on the burning core of Titan at age 13 and mapping the stars of a thousand galaxies by the time he was 15.  This along with an earlier comment he makes about learning faster then people can teach him really helps to show how intellectually gifted he truly is.

However, after the incidents of the first issue there is a very strong sense that this desire for knowledge has started to take a darker turn then just creating new flowers.

When he is finally finished his work, Thanos is quite upset that the ape has yielded no answers to his questions.  This is when the girl suggests he may be "looking in the wrong place"  which you just know is going to lead trouble pretty quickly.

Oh and it does.

Well right after Thanos first  tries to kiss the "Death" girl, who pushes him away and says that isn't what she meant and then tells him to "Open your eyes haven't even begun looking"

Now I personally found this to be quite a sweet and yet also a disturbing scene as it is really starting to show how far Thanos has fallen from the sweet innocent child who just wanted to draw pictures and not hurt anything to a sullen teenager who confuses love and death, seeking the mystery behind who and what he is both with the blade of a scalpel and the attempted embrace of the only person on Titan who understands him.

Anyway, back with the story we are now introduced to two young Titans named Sogarth and Loktus who are on a date and judging by the off panel dialogue we get when we see Thanos sneaking up on them, they are probably trying to create more little Titans.  Well that doesn't last long because Thanos soon captures them, strips them naked and straps them up in his lab.  This makes them the first people that Thanos ever kills (and we all know they will not be the last).  Still at least Thanos tells them "I will remember this moment forever" because I think these two kids, who had their whole lives ahead of them, would be very upset if their psychotic murderer would be rude enough to forget them.

Thanos then goes to dinner where his father A'Lars is discussing the disappearances of the Sogarth and Loktus with his father Kronos (which makes him Thanos' grandfather).  Kronos says that they have probably been murdered, but A'Lars doesn't think that is possible because murder does not happen on Titan and that most of the people there do not even know what murder is. 

But then Kronos replies with what is probably my favourite quote from the entire comic

"Everyone knows what murder is. Every being in creation that has blood of its own that can be spilled. They don't have to be taught that there's such a thing as spilling someone else's. They all know it, like they know how to breathe"

All said while Kronos looks down at the Thanos, the very murderer that they have been discussing who simply sits and says nothing.

Thanos' mother is also there, having seemingly been released from the mental institute she had been placed in after attempting to murder the newborn Thanos.  She tells Thanos that she knows what he is, to which he responds "No you don't...And neither do I"

The scene then jumps to Thanos burying the bodies of possibly Sogarth and Loktus, or maybe even some new subjects he has been experimenting with, it's not really made clear. This actually works to heighten the suspense because it leaves it open to just how far he has fallen, made even more heart wrenching when Thanos declares that he will never kill again, a promise he has already broken by the very next panel (or two weeks later in the comic) for the simple reason that he "enjoyed it", something he admits to his shame.   

The "Death" girl tells him that he shouldn't be ashamed of what he is and that he is being true to his nature, but the question he?  This dark side of Thanos only emerged after she told him to take his friends into the cave and then later told him to kill the green lizards who had eaten them.  Is this really the Thanos that he was born to be or simply the one that she is turning him into?  Still the fact that his own mother always viewed him as a monster could also be seen as proof that this is the true nature of Thanos (or the rantings of a crazy woman).

Again Thanos tries to embrace the girl and asks her to run away with him. Again she refuses telling him that love is not for the weak. When he says he could make her love him she tells him "Not me you couldn't"  The matter of fact way she states this and the look on her face really give you the feeling that there is a hidden power inside this girl, a power that even Thanos should be in awe of. 

She then goes on to put Thanos in his place, saying he is nothing but a "lonely little boy-god frightened of (his) own shadow"

Now like I did with #1 I am going to leave it here and not spoil the rest of the comic other then to say that Thanos goes to a much darker place and we really get to see the emergence of the Thanos that we all know and love.

This is an awesome comic with Jason Aaron spinning a rich and multi layered story that really delves into the background of one of comicdoms biggest monsters and really helps to show the reader what makes him tick and perhaps understand why he does the things that he does.  He is simply looking for love and acceptance and in his brilliant warped mind, death holds the answer to these for him. 

Still if you remember what I said at the start, this comic is not as good as #1.  This is for one reason...pacing.  Things happen too quickly that we never really got to see the emotional turmoil butchering all those lizards had on Thanos straight after the fact.  Instead we are thrust several years later where Thanos now sees dissecting animals as nothing and will even do it to living ones.  Remember this is the same Thanos who vomited at the sight of blood in the previous issue.  Now while it is nice to see a bit more of the bloodthirsty Thanos I can't help think that it just occurs to quickly to really have as big an emotional impact as it should have had.  I think if we had even just a page or two to show young Thanos' reaction to what he had done after the bloodlust had faded, that this descent into animal torturing and eventual murder wouldn't seem so jarring. 

Still as it stands it is still a very well told story, just with the small problem I just detailed above, and once again I find that I must compare it to young Anakin Skywalker's transformation from sweet child to the iconic evil character Darth Vader.  The difference is that this time I am not comparing them to say that Thanos rising handled it better, instead I would actually have to say here they were about equal.  Both plant the reasons for their "heroes" downfall, and this is quickly followed by their first actual murders, but in both cases this is also the problem. The writers rushed to that point far too quickly that something just seems missing in the story, that somehow the character went from A to C and missed out B which was actually a very important step in their journey.

Once again the artwork is fantastic with that same hauntingly beautiful look to it that helps to draw you into the world.  Simone Bianchi does an excellent job of capturing the characters, especially Thanos and even the few odd times the panels become a bit loose with the pencil work and "sketch" like, I find that it helps bring the story to life because it is like a visual representation that this "utopia" is starting to fall apart.

This time on colors we have Ive Svorcina and they do a decent job of keeping the tone of the comic that previous colorist Simone Bianchi had so lovingly created in issue #1.  This time the hidden darkness that was hidden behind the bright colors of Thanos' youthful romps with his friends has been dragged to the forefront.  This is no longer the sweet Thanos who would never kill anyone, this is the darker Thanos who happily kills for his own pleasure and to further his studies.  Now that the darkness inside Thanos has been brought to the surface so to have darkness hidden behind the colors.

To sum this up

Thanos Rising #2 is a great sequel to #1 which expands upon the story extremely well, albeit perhaps a bit too quickly in certain areas.  Still that doesn't mean that this mini series still shouldn't be on everyone's must read list.  The artwork and story still compliment each other in a way that I rarely see in comics, even in those comics which have artwork that I would actually have to admit I like better then this.  This is because, while they may be more pleasing to the eye, they do not have the same depth that the art in this comic does, they are more style then substance and thankfully this comic has both

For me this once again elevates Thanos Rising above the rest

4.5 Howling Wolves

Do not miss

This could have been another perfect score if it wasn't for the fact things progressed just a little bit too quickly and we never got to see the aftermath of Thanos killing those lizards at the end of issue #1