Monday, 24 April 2017

Star Trek: Boldly Go #7 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 7, April 2017
Appearing far too similar in narrative to D.C. Fontana’s November 1967 “Star Trek” television story "Journey to Babel", Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott’s script for this “two-part whodunit” contains little in the way of any action, except perhaps Jaylah’s wholly unwise rescue attempt of Shev at the magazine's conclusion. Indeed, considering that this twenty-page periodical features both the ever distrustful Romulans and Commander Valas’ return to Federation space, this book’s audience must have felt remarkably cheated by the comic’s endless diplomatic dialogue.

Equally as disconcerting is the writing team’s frustrating attempt to replicate Spock’s infamously strained relationship with his father, Sarek, with the wilful Cadet Shev and the Andorian Ambassador. Angered by his son’s readiness to put his “responsibilities at the academy” ahead of those of his “family and our race”, many of this franchise’s long-running fans must have struggled not to hear actor Mark Lenard’s voice speaking the Babel-bound politician’s unoriginal lines as he scolds his blue-skinned offspring for daring to forget he is an “Andorian first”, and threatening to “revoke your place at the humans’ school” if he embarrasses him “in any way” at the conference.

Fortunately, whilst not having all that much positive impact upon this particular edition, Issue Seven of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” does at least suggest the title’s subsequent edition may at least involve the U.S.S Endeavour engaging in some much-needed space combat. True, Captain Kirk’s temporary command of the Federation starship adds very little to the pacing of this particular comic’s prose on account of the character being disappointingly confined to simply scanning the Stellonian asteroid belt for the jettisoned escape pods of an “unregistered vessel”. But it soon becomes clear “there’s no way” the fleeing spacecraft will be able to outlast the NCC-1805 forever, and that a taut confrontation between the hunter and the hunted is ‘just around the corner’; “If they think a few rocks are going to stop us, I’m happy to prove them wrong.”

Despite making a good job of capturing the crew’s ‘Silver Screen’ likenesses with her ‘clean style’, Megan Levens’ somewhat cartoony breakdowns also appear as disconcertingly disagreeable as the comic’s trite writing and resultantly seem a little at odds with a supposedly tense tale of subterfuge and treachery. In fact, the Savannah College of Art and Design graduate’s illustrations would seem far more suited to a fun-loving, humorous adventure, such as one inspired by “The Trouble With Tribbles”, than this book’s dialogue-heavy political drama…
The regular cover art of "STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO" No. 7 by George Caltsoudas

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1 - Marvel Comics

Presumably Editor Nick Lowe never bothered to inform writers Dan Slott & Christos Gage that one can only get so much blood out of a particular stone, otherwise the former “intern at Marvel Comics” would surely never have agreed for this painful one-shot dedicated to the aftermath of “The Clone Conspiracy” mini-series to have been printed. Indeed, “Collateral Damage” genuinely doesn’t seem to actually bring anything new to the “Dead No More” story-arc, unless it was published simply to show a surprisingly affectionate bond developing between Spider-Man and his former arch-enemy, the Rhino; “I’ll check on you soon, Aleksei. See how you’re doing. That’s a promise.”

Admittedly this anthology’s seventeen-page lead adventure does contain at least one magical moment, as arguably the creative collaboration’s handling of Sytsevich, docilely slumped, knee deep in the ashes of his beloved wife one moment and then formidably enraged the next, imbues the narrative with a genuinely gut-wrenching pathos. But sadly, such emotional storytelling is soon sidelined by the Berkeley-born author’s usual obsession with Peter Parker ‘beating himself up’ over both the immoral machinations of another, and his persistent failure to protect all those he cares about, such as Jerry Salteres, Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson and Anna-Marie.

Certainly, there seems little for this book’s dedicated audience to have enjoyed when it comes to Peter David’s astoundingly contrived subsequent ‘short’ concerning Ben Reilly’s successful attempt to convince old friend Doctor Clarkson to give him some much needed money, having first set her up to be murdered by some disgruntled clients. Just why S.H.I.E.L.D. would simply release the criminally-responsible New U scientist to enjoy a drink in her regular bar after all the chaos she has caused is utterly unfathomable… Yet in “Give Us A Wink” the “espionage, law-enforcement, and counter-terrorism agency” have purportedly done just that despite Rita having “had a hell of a day.”

Equally as bizarrely penned is Slott’s solo contribution “King’s Favour”, which sees Stuart Immonen doing his level best to illustrate Spider-Man trashing a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco so as to confront the Kingpin, and make it clear that “You don’t come to me, Fisk. I come to you!” Dark and gritty, dynamically-charged and pulse-pounding, this four-pager’s breakdowns are undoubtedly the best thing about “The Clone Conspiracy: Omega”, and must undoubtedly have whetted the appetite of the wall-crawler’s readership when “Marvel Worldwide” announced the Canadian comic book penciller was to become the regular artist for “The Amazing Spider-Man” ongoing series.
Writers: Dan Slott & Christos Gage, Artist: Cory T. Smith, and Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Captain America: Steve Rogers #6 - Marvel Comics

Despite Nick Spencer’s clarificatory preamble for Issue Six of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” explaining that reality had “been secretly rewritten by Kobik” in order for the ‘First Avenger’ to have shockingly become an Agent of Hydra, many of this comic’s 49,111 readers were probably thinking that something equally as messed up had probably occurred to them too. For whilst this twenty-page periodical’s disinteresting narrative clearly still depicts the ‘Sentinel of Liberty’ manipulating his former team-mates such as Captain Marvel and Iron Man, in order to ensure that his world-wide subversive organisation achieves its aim for global domination, the former politician’s script genuinely seems to bear little resemblance to the publications preceding it.

True, this particular edition is very much a “Civil War II” tie-in, which relies heavily upon events as depicted by writer Brian Michael Bendis in the crossover’s own limited mini-series, and resultantly finds the super-soldier deeply troubled by the “new inhuman who can see the future” because he can “expose Steve’s secret [that he works for the Red Skull] at any moment.” But that shouldn’t mean that the book’s author can automatically assume its audience knows precisely what is taking place elsewhere within the ‘Marvel Universe’, and therefore comprehend why the titular character is pencilled by Javier Pina one moment fighting some unseen enemy alongside Star Lord in The Triskelion, and then in the next panel drawn paternally speaking to a partially-masked Miles Morales, and suggesting that the distraught Spider-Man “go home.”

Fortunately, Spencer does at least repeatedly return to the super-hero’s altered past when as a boy Elisa Sinclair abducted him from his murdered mother’s side and subsequently had the infant indoctrinated by Doctor Sebastian Fenhoff. Gaunt-faced, deeply unhappy, and yet admirably strong-willed, as well as imbued with “considerable academic ability… in areas of problem solving and strategy”, the ‘undersized asthmatic’s attempts to survive an encounter with murderous sharp-toothed hounds, a momentarily tense confrontation with the formidable Kraken, and being kept locked in a dingy-looking cell, all prove welcome returns to this title’s familiar, long-term story-arc of Steve somehow graduating from “a school that trained Hydra soldiers" in the Late Twenties.
Writer: Nick Spencer, Penciler: Javier Pina, and Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Star Wars: The Force Awakens #6 - Marvel Comics

Having literally romped through Han Solo’s infiltration of the First Order’s headquarters in its previous instalment, those 33,455 followers still purchasing this motion picture adaption, must surely have been wondering just how Chuck Wendig was going to populate a twenty-two page periodical when so little of J.J. Abrahams’ ‘silver screen’ story remained to be told. Perhaps predictably the answer was simple, the Pennsylvania-born writer would just draw out Kylo Ren and Rey’s lightsaber battle for as long as Luke Ross’ artistic talent allowed, and pad out the rest of the publication with plenty of wordless X-Wing battle sequences as Black Leader ‘gives the target everything he’s got’…   

Unsurprisingly, such an unimaginative approach to the narrative for Issue Six of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” badly slows down what should have unquestionably been the most exciting element of this mini-series' cataclysmic conclusion, and so rather than racing headlong through the trenches of Starkiller Base in an S-foiled Starfighter, or following Finn’s pulse-pounding confrontation with the dead smuggler’s treacherous son, much of this comic’s pace is instead bogged down with numerous poor-pencilled panels depicting the likes of Chewbacca repeatedly firing his bowcaster at Snoke’s protégé or holding, and then triggering, the detonation activator to a plethora of explosive devices dotted about the First Order’s facility; “It isn’t working! What do we do?”

To make matters worse though, despite this edition’s evident desperate need for additional material, the “Star Wars” novelist still fails to provide any extra insight into the events taking place, and arguably (once again) squanders the perfect opportunity to include at least one of the cinematic release's ‘deleted scenes’, such as Finn and the Jakku scavenger’s desperate flight from Solo’s death scene on board a stormtrooper skimmer. Indeed, there’s even the odd feeling that every now and then Wendig still feels he’s somehow running out of room, and subsequently his script seemingly omits important facts like Poe Dameron spotting an opportunity to fly straight inside the enemy oscillator in order to destroy it, General Hux realising “the fuel cells have ruptured” before facing his Supreme Leader, and Rey tapping into the Light Side of the Force in order to steel herself during her duel with Ren.
Writer: Chuck Wendig, Artist: Luke Ross, and Colorist: Frank Martin

Monday, 17 April 2017

Conan The Slayer #7 - Dark Horse Comics

CONAN THE SLAYER No. 7, March 2017
Considering that at the start of this twenty-two page periodical Cullen Bunn reaffirms that as a result of “their former [dead] leader’s intervention” during an attack by Turanian assassins, the titular character has become the horse-riding Kozaks new hetman, the GLAAD Media Award-winner’s swashbuckling sea-based script for Issue Seven of “Conan The Slayer” arguably makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Indeed, in many ways this particular tale, initially situated within the cursed ruins of an ancient island and then later entirely focused upon two sea-faring vessels sailing across the Vilayet Sea, would seem far more in keeping with the Cimmerian’s time alongside “his demon Queen of the Black Coast” than during his tenure championing Taraslan’s tent-dwelling, desert raiders.

Admittedly, this opening instalment of “The Devil In Iron” story-arc does seemingly appear to fit in quite well as a forerunner to the 1934 Robert E. Howard penned adventure of the same name, by depicting the well-muscled barbarian once again turning his hand to the grim “business of killing Turanians” and looting their ships. But even if this publication’s audience are appreciative of the tale acting as a sort of prelude to “one of the [franchise’s] original stories”, it is hard to imagine many were particularly enthralled by its somewhat simplistically contrived plot of having the former pirate battling a silverback gorilla, who just happened to have “lived as a caged novelty” below decks.

In fact, in many ways the “Superstar” writer’s narrative is painfully unremarkable, and brings absolutely nothing new to the leather-booted adventurer’s party, except perhaps Conan’s melancholic acceptance that the formidably-sized royal pet should simply be allowed to escape its captivity by drowning, just because he feels “the beast has suffered enough.” Certainly, the Cimmerian has been seen many times before battling the savagely dangerous inhabitants of the natural world and triumphantly leading boarding actions against a well-armed foe; “You seem to know your way around a ship. Have you sailed before..?”

Quibbles as to the unremarkable nature of its penmanship aside however, this comic does boast some terrific illustrations by Admira Wijaya. Lank-haired, sinewy and scar-crossed, the Indonesian artist’s excellent pencilling of the lead antagonist genuinely imbues him with all the deadly ‘pantherish’ grace Howard’s numerous descriptive texts speak of, and one can truly feel the raw power of their contest when the man later matches his might against that of an enraged primate.
Script: Cullen Bunn, Artist: Admira Wijaya, and Colors: Michael Atiyeh

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Star Trek: Boldly Go #6 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 6, March 2017
Despite its script hardly featuring the "powerful new threat to the Federation” advertised by “IDW Publishing”, the contents to Issue Six of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” certainly does suggest that the addition of Ryan Parrott as the book’s co-writer will cause the title to turn in something of a different, possibly more episodic, direction. In fact, the self-contained, somewhat “surprising story” about “two of the U.S.S. Endeavour’s crewmembers” is undoubtedly far more reminiscent of the franchise’s Sixties television series than the comic book series’ preceding editions under the solitary pen of Mike Johnson; whose lengthy “encounter with the deadly Borg” conveyed a distinctly ‘summer blockbuster’ feel to its storytelling.  

For starters, although the twenty-page periodical does initially dwell upon the aftermath of Captain Terrell’s slow recovery from having been assimilated by the cybernetic organisms, as well as Mister Sulu’s acceptance to become James Kirk’s First Officer, its narrative predominantly focuses upon the Federation’s discovery of the “long theorized. Never seen” White Hole and excited scientific probing of the “monumental discovery!” Admittedly, this spatial phenomenon and its “very unusual readings” does eventually endanger the Concord and its interim Captain. But the comic’s real “bang for their buck” is actually an Andorian lieutenant’s crippling of the starship and subsequent rescue from the Brig by Communications Officer Murica.

Sadly, just why two of Kirk’s current bridge crew would commit so calamitous “an act of sabotage” as to doom the entire vessel, and additionally ‘end their Starfleet Careers’, is disappointingly soon revealed to be simply another in a long line of well-meaning extra-terrestrials which exist “apart from your three-dimensional reality” and wish merely to “better observe your species”. Yet, so unoriginal an explanation, alongside Hila’s last minute self-sacrifice in order to collapse the white hole, is precisely why this comic book proves so evocative of Gene Roddenberry’s ‘space western’ vision for the original “Desilu Productions” programme. Indeed, the tale even arguably concludes on a humanitarian highpoint as Chris Pine’s celluloid character dwells upon the realisation that “in all of the time I’ve been out here investigating the unknown… We might be investigated too, by species more advanced than ourselves”, and positively determines that “far from being an unsettling thought” “the urge to learn, the urge to understand, crosses all boundaries and unites us all.”
Writers: Mike Johnson & Ryan Parrot, Artist: Chris Mooneyham, and Colors: J.D. Mettler

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Star Wars: The Force Awakens #5 - Marvel Comics

Covering an incredible amount of story from Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt’s screenplay, this tumultuously superficial film adaption must have mortified many of the comic’s 39,329 readers in October 2016, with its brief account of Finn’s reunion with Poe at “the Resistance Base on D’Qar” and all-too sudden demise of Han Solo at the hands of his troubled son, Benjamin. True, Chuck Wendig’s narrative for Issue Five of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” does manage to exude plenty of pace and action, as Rey makes her escape “from the evil clutches of the First Order” and Black Leader is subsequently given “full authorisation to attack” Starkiller Base. But all these 'key' sequences are over so quickly that anyone within the book’s audience who were unable to previously watch the motion picture would surely have been scratching their heads as to just what was taking place…

Indeed, arguably crucial components of the franchise’s celluloid plot are seemingly just glossed over in order for the Goodreads Choice Award-winner to ensure that his script concludes with Kylon Ren’s treacherous killing of the Millennium Falcon’s captain and resultantly, the twenty-page periodical never explains just how Dameron helped his former stormtrooper friend end up briefing General Organa on Armitage Hux’s “hyper-lightspeed weapon built within the planet itself’, nor how precisely the Jakku scavenger convinces her guard to “remove these restraints. And leave the cell. With the door open… And you will drop your weapon!”

Just as clumsily handled is actor John Boyega’s sporadically humorous portrayal of FN-2187. Somewhat amusing on the silver screen, the character’s over earnest desire to demonstrate that “I’m in charge now, Plasma” is utterly lost in translation on the printed page due to Wendig disappointingly not penning for the elderly Solo to paternally advise the ‘kid’ to “bring it down.” Likewise, the duos’ “surprisingly honed comic timing” during Finn’s 'intense' attempt to later locate Rey deep inside the First Order’s base is similarly poorly realised, and disappointingly doesn’t convey any of the impressive interplay found within the 'aborted rescue scene' whilst watching “the direct sequel to 1983's Return of the Jedi.”

Perhaps providing the final nail in this comic’s coffin though, is the flat, oft-times wooden and inconsistent artwork of Luke Ross. Clearly able to occasionally delight, such as expanding upon Captain Plasma’s unceremonious journey down a garbage chute by actually pencilling the Commander's fall into the trash compactor, the Brazilian artist frustratingly struggles to imbue any semblance of life into the likes of the story’s silver-haired smuggler or his long-time love interest, Leia…
Writer: Chuck Wendig, Artist: Luke Ross, and Colorist: Frank Martin