Comic Review: Fatale – Book Four: Pray For Rain

Published: February 25th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

I have really enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s Fatale series. However, this was the low point of the series for me. Although, I still haven’t read Book Five.

It’s not that I didn’t like this story, I did, but it was lacking when compared to the books that came before it. Especially, the first two story arcs that were pretty incredible.

Maybe it’s that this has lost the film-noir touch that really made me fall in love with the first two stories. It’s not that this is completely different, tonally. It’s just that this one takes place in the 1990s, sees Josephine shacking up with a bank robbing grunge band and overall, just doesn’t seem to fit cohesively with the other stories. But maybe Book Five will somehow tie all these stories together in an amazing way. I still don’t know how this will all come together in the end.

The art is still great, the story is interesting but there really isn’t a single likable character in the entire book. Jo has amnesia and is pretty much just in the story to create tension and drama between a group of shitheads. There is also a murderous cop but he’s nowhere near as interesting as other antagonists in this series.

I don’t know, I was disappointed with this outing. Maybe Book Five will help this story make more sense but I feel as if it should still stand strong on its own outside of the larger context.

But for now, I feel my interest in this series slipping away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: The Savage Dragon Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Published: June 30th, 1993
Written by: Erik Larsen
Art by: Erik Larsen, Rob Haynes

Image Comics, 28 Pages

Review:

This was the first real crossover to feature Dragon but sadly, this was just a one-off issue and not a larger story arc. Also, the Dragon and TMNT battle and then team up only really takes up half of this single issue, as the second half deals with another character entirely.

This story was quick and not all that important to the big scheme of things other than having a reason to throw two hot comic book titles together in the most gimmicky, cash cow way possible.

I don’t fault Erik Larsen for throwing the Turtles aimlessly into this book, as Dragon was already in New York City but it just felt kind of random and soulless.

Granted, it was cool seeing five green badasses on the same page together, even if there didn’t seem to be much of a point to any of it. And at the time, crossovers like this weren’t as common, so it was really cool in the early ’90s when I first read this book. I was also in 8th grade.

I don’t want to call this a total waste, as it probably contributed to crossovers becoming more common. Image Comics would go on to do that big crossover with Valiant Comics called Deathmate, which was also kind of cool when I was fourteen.

Still, this was fun to revisit, even if it was an extremely quick read and not much happened.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other comics starring the Savage Dragon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, especially the really old school stuff.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Three: West of Hell

Published: July 9th, 2013
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

This third out of the five chapters in the Fatale series is really cool. It doesn’t follow the story arc style of the previous two books, which showcased Josephine and her power over a lead male character, as the forces of darkness closed in on them. Here, we see Josephine throughout history, not knowing what exactly she is, seemingly immortal with the power to easily enchant men.

This is the shortest of the five books, as it collects four issues, as opposed to five. It is also very different in that it jumps around and tells different stories about Josephine throughout different times. This is really an origin story but you still don’t get all the details, just some necessary history.

The first issue in this collection sees her go to the home of a comic book writer who created stories that speak to Jo, as they reflect her experiences and what she sees in her dreams. Ultimately, she wants answers as to what she is. Then we go to the Dark Ages, see her burned at the stake and then taken in by a religious knight that tries to keep her out of the public eye by giving her a place to stay in his cabin in the woods. The third story takes place during the time of the Old West. The fourth and final chapter take place during World War II and sees Josephine in Romania dealing with occult Nazis.

Now I should clarify that the Josephine character goes by different names in different time periods and they could be different incarnations of the same woman or totally different women. We aren’t yet sure what she is and how this all works by this point but answers are certainly coming after this book. At least, one would assume. But all the characters are very much a version of Josephine.

I loved this book and I love this series. Ed Brubaker really wrote some marvelous stuff here. It’s just sad that I’m now more than halfway through the series’ entire run.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Documentary Review: Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (2013)

Original Run: October 8th, 2013 – October 15th, 2013
Directed by: Michael Kantor
Written by: Michael Kantor, Laurence Maslon, J. David Spurlock
Music by: Christopher Rife
Cast: Liev Schreiber (host), Mark Waid, Stan Lee, Adam West, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrision, Lynda Carter, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Straczynski, Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Tim Daly

Ghost Light Films, National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, 3 Episodes, 55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

A few years ago, PBS did this three part documentary series on the history of comic books. It was hosted by Liev Schreiber, which was really cool, and featured a ton of creators, as well as notable celebrities who have played some of the iconic comic book characters in television and film.

The history of comic books is incredibly vast. Narrowing down what to cover in three episodes, each of which ran just under an hour, couldn’t have been easy but the people behind this did a good job of focusing on the important stuff. I wish there was more time given to the challenges of the Comics Code Authority but that’s probably boring subject matter to most modern fans.

Superheroes spends a lot of time talking about the creation of Superman, Batman and the early heroes that would be at the forefront of DC Comics. They then spent some time talking about Stan Lee and his creations, which helped to put Marvel on the map. To my surprise, even though they didn’t spend much time on it, they covered some of the story that lead to the formation of Image Comics in the ’90s, which was the biggest thing in comic books during my most formative years as a comics fan.

I wish that this would have been bigger than it was. Three episodes just weren’t enough. This could have easily been one of those 10-part Ken Burns style documentaries with two hour episodes and they still wouldn’t have run out of material. I’m hoping that someone does do a comic industry documentary like that at some point; it’s long overdue.

But at least we live in a time where this wonderful medium isn’t considered low brow shit. It’s become a respected art form and format for storytelling. A lot of that has to do with the success of comic book movies the last few decades but at least fans don’t have to feel like they need to hide their fandom when out in public anymore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics and recent comic book documentaries Chris Claremont’s X-Men and The Image Revolution.

 

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Two: The Devil’s Business

Published: January 15th, 2013
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart

Image Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Since I really enjoyed Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale – Book One: Death Chases Me quite a bit, I didn’t want to waste time jumping into the second of the five installments.

Like its predecessor, there is still a healthy amount of noir and Lovecraftian horror in this tale.

I really loved this book. It took what was established in the first, expanded on it greatly and upped the ante as well.

With this volume, you really feel connected to Josephine and her “curse” or whatever the hell it is, we still don’t know exactly by the end of this tale. We just see more history on how her appearance in men’s lives causes severe pain and human wreckage. You also still aren’t sure if she is wholly innocent, a victim of her condition or if there is something more sinister in her past.

This story takes place in ’70s Los Angeles and the antagonists are a Hollywood cult similar to the Manson Family but much more evil and expansive. In fact, the story makes reference to Manson and how even he was speechless in the presence of the cult leader in this tale.

While this is set further away from the traditional film-noir era than the previous book, it feels more in line with a true noir. The darkness of noir and horror merge seamlessly in this and from a stylistic standpoint, this volume is more fine tuned than its predecessor.

The story is dynamic, entertaining and you care about these characters, even though you know that most of them won’t live beyond this dark tale.

Brubaker has really found his groove with Fatale and I absolutely love Sean Phillips artwork.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Four

Published on: June 12th, 2012
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Dan Leister, Erik Larsen

Devil’s Due Publishing, Image Comics, 300 Pages

Review:

It has been a really long time since I first picked up Hack/Slash and even though I’ve read through the first three omnibuses a few times, I hadn’t picked up the fourth and fifth until recently.

I forgot how much I enjoyed this series. It’s perfect for fans of ’80s era slasher films and it brings me right back tot hat special place where I was a young kid perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores looking for the next low budget slasher flick.

Where something like this could easily run its course and get repetitive, Tim Seely keeps things fresh and new and knows how to write complex and interesting characters.

The stories in this collection start to steer the series in new ways. Cassie decides that her and Vlad need to go it alone, as all their allies are constantly in danger due to their association. Also, we learn much more about the Black Lamp Society and Samhain. Additionally, some of the classic villains from earlier stories start to return to be thorns in Cassie and Vlad’s sides.

I wasn’t sure if this collection would have any cool crossovers in it and they don’t come till the end. There is a really well done crossover with Victor Crowley of the Hatchet film series. That one is then followed up by a crossover with Zombies vs. Cheerleaders, which I don’t know much about but it is a comic series and a card game. I’ll check out some of the comics in the future.

I liked the stories collected here and things felt new again with some of the narrative shifts.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Hack/Slash omnibuses. But They should be read in order.

Comic Review: Invincible, Vol. 2: Eight is Enough

Published: May 10th, 2004
Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Cory Walker

Image Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

I’ve only read the volume before this one, so my knowledge of the broader Invincible universe isn’t very deep.

So far, I like what I’ve read, including this volume, which covers the second story arc in the series. Where the first volume is essentially the origin and backstory of the character and his family, this one serves to kill off the already established heroes of the main characters’ universe, leaving a gap for new heroes to grow up and enter the fray.

The old heroes, who we barely meet before they are murdered, are parodies of Justice League characters. They’re not too imaginative or exciting but I guess it was to symbolize a killing off of old heroes (in this case, a shot across the bow at DC Comics), in an effort to establish younger and more hip characters (a.k.a. Image Comics new breed of superhero titles that were coming out at the time). There is even a few shots thrown at Marvel, most notably in the form of the ridiculous villain Bi-Plane, who is a parody of the Spider-Man villain Vulture.

I do love the lightheartedness of this series. It is reminiscent of classic Spider-Man in the best way possible and also has a sort of charm similar to classic Superman. I talked about the similarities to both those long running series in the last review though.

This chapter also sees the disbanding of the teen superhero team that Invincible got pulled into in the previous story arc. It may feel too early in the series’ existence to start changing some things but I feel like it is in a state of flux with this chapter, as Robert Kirkman was still trying to find the proper footing for the series and was refining the details a bit.

Not a whole lot happens, other than the changes I’ve discussed already. But we do get to see cameos from the Savage Dragon, Super Patriot and Shadowhawk, who have all been a part of Image Comics since it launched in 1992.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Invincible collected editions that follow this one.