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

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.