This time on Heroes and Villains, we’ll be looking at a variety of comics out this week and last, from a variety of genres. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Zodiac Starforce: Cries of the Fire Prince #1, Patriot-1, Wonder Woman #25, The Flash #25, All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1, Secret Empire #5, and The Rook Archives, Volume 2… be warned, there may be spoilers…
These high school girls aren’t just studying for their math tests, they’re saving the world from alien invasions and giant monsters. That’s the premise of Zodiac Starforce from Dark Horse Comics. In this return of the series, the team, fresh from defeating a former member and her bad girl force, face new big bads in the form of demons. It’s an American try at manga, looking a lot like it, feeling a bit like Sailor Moon meets Power Rangers, but trying a lot harder, and producing in the end a fine product.
Just a few pages in, the story and the characters pulled me in. I loved the simple straight forward art, which in hindsight is more Silver Age than manga, and the colors are vibrant. This comic is a solid reminder to a lot of folks out there in the creative end of this business that comics should be in color. This is a great jumping on point for the series, but I would also heartily recommend the first series, Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra as well.
This graphic novel from TJ Comics has been out for a while, but what better time to take a look at Patriot-1 than the day after we’ve celebrated American independence? Now I’ve talked about war comics before, and of course, nobody does it better than BBP’s own Ensley F. Guffey, both here and over at FreakSugar, but my point is there aren’t many war comics out there that aren’t really period pieces. Patriot-1 by Kevin Powers and Dexter Wee is a modern day war comic that pulls no punches, without being bloody and graphic. It’s violent, yes, but it’s war.
This is real. This feels real. Seriously, Homeland and 24 should take notes. I was impressed by the cinematic feel, the quick read, and the investment I had in the characters. These days when I hardly know characters I grew up with any more, I felt attached to the cast of Patriot-1. And all of that before this becomes a superhero comic, and that transition, well over a hundred pages in, is smooth and feels real. At a time we can neither trust Captain America nor our President, we have Patriot-1, highly recommended.
After making over $400 million worldwide with her film incarnation, I thought it was time to check in on Wonder Woman, and last week’s issue #25 of her DC Rebirth run. I kind of dug the opening with Diana and the Justice League facing off against the Shaggy Man, it pulled strongly on my nostalgia. From there the tale moves on. We are in the middle of a story, but the writers, as was done back in the old days slowly bring the reader around so we’re all caught up. This is how Marvel used to work back in the day. They would give you enough story to lure you in while giving you a complete chapter. I dug this a lot, and despite my misgivings about Diana’s Rebirth origins, I might give it another try, just as most of the world is giving her film a first try.
While I miss the television series The Flash, and cannot wait for its return in a few months (it just started shooting its fourth season this week), I thought I would check out the comic. Since Rebirth, it has been a bit different, with its status quo mirroring its TV counterpart, as well as pulling continuity from the New 52 as well. Admittedly I haven’t been following it, despite the Barry Allen Flash being a favorite since before I could read the comics I had with him in it. I have sampled the title only intermittently since Frances Manapul left it.
This issue concerns the Reverse-Flash, a villain that one might think folks would be tired of at this point. If I was a TV fan and picked up a comic with him in it, I might put it back, so sick of the character from the show, and as a comic fan, being beat to death with the character’s actions in the Flashpoint storyline, I’d be sick of him too. As a comics and TV fan, if I ever hear the words Reverse-Flash and Flashpoint again, I might scream.
Still, this issue, the first part of a new arc called “Running Scared,” is really quite good, and plays on themes and stories that we have, granted, seen before in both media, but not like this. We have been brought a new version of the origin of the Reverse-Flash, one that is visually fluid because of the nature of time travel, and could quite possibly continue to change. I liked this, and would like to see more. Flash #25 is recommended.
Guardians of the Galaxy
With so much talk of changing continuities and reboots and rebirths, it was both refreshing and frustrating to read the All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual. While I could dive right into this with only my knowledge of the two Guardians movies, there were continuity glitches. The characters are right out of the movies, even more simplified than they are in even the animated series, and notably changed from the last comics I had seen them, but also they were dragged into that nasty Secret Empire crossover event business… and that’s where the trouble starts.
As I said, these are streamlined movie/cartoon versions of these characters, vastly different from the Guardians of the last event, Civil War II. They are approaching the Marvel Universe as those happy-go-lucky space bums who happen to save the galaxy occasionally, and are struck with the harsh reality of Secret Empire, and still take the humorous route. Yes, it is amusing, yes, it is fun, and yes, once again I hate their portrayal of Mantis, but in the end, it feels icky, like laughing at an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.
Anyone paying attention knows how I feel about Captain America being Hydra, I won’t beat the dead horse, or even link to it. Secret Empire #5 had some moments, had a few beats that were good, but in the end I think all of us have to ask – is it worth the damage done to the character of Captain America in the public perception to tell this story? That said, I also think it has gone on too long, and that’s not to be sarcastic and say I can’t wait for it to end, but because I think writer Nick Spencer himself is tired of it. His work in the past year on this storyline, even though I did not like what was going on, was quite good. Secret Empire on the other hand is a drop in quality, nowhere near as good as his writing in Captain America; Steve Rogers. I think even he is ready to put this horse in the ground.
As I said, there are moments. The bit of intimidation with Mjolnir and the Beast, Hercules fighting Gorgon, the Black Widow negotiating with Madame Hydra (or Viper, or whatever she’s calling herself these days), how the Avengers are controlled, and yes, the revelation of the Hulk at the close of the issue, but is any of that worth it? Back in the day, when a writer wanted to tell a story like this, Marvel had a comic called What If?, maybe it’s time to bring it back, before any more characters are destroyed…
Until I got my hands on this collection, The Rook Archives, Volume 2, now available from Dark Horse, I had never read any of the title character’s adventures, but I had heard about him, and what I heard was wild. Originally published by Warren in the late 1970s, The Rook was Restin Dane, the grandson of the man who traveled through time and told his story to H.G. Wells, inspiring The Time Machine. He was also a wicked cross between Doctor Who and Doc Savage, dressed like an old west gunslinger and travelled through time in a giant castle shaped like a rook in chess, thus the name. Some have said he may even be the inspiration for Stephen King’s Roland Deschain. This is mad eclectic scifi-horror of a bygone era, and highly recommended.