Ok, so that was pretty great. Things are all coming together (or is that all falling apart?) in this part of the storyline in ways that have4.5 stars
Ok, so that was pretty great. Things are all coming together (or is that all falling apart?) in this part of the storyline in ways that have me excited for what’s coming next. I knew I was invested in these characters when I read the lines from Hazel (who I’ve neglected to mention is the overall narrator of the story): (view spoiler)[ “This is the story of how my parents split up" (hide spoiler)]. My shock and disappointment at reading that told me just how much I cared about what happened to Alana and Marko.
Once again we have an arc with a seemingly placid domestic background: some time has passed (I think a year or two) and Marko and Alana have put down roots (literally) on the planet Gardenia where Marko is a stay at home dad and Alana has a job as an actor in the ‘Open Circuit’ (a live-action holographic entertainment where all of the characters are superheroes living out melodramatic soap opera lives). Things are not all white picket fences though: Marko is having a tough time coping with Hazel’s rambunctious ways and both he and Alana are dealing with her long work hours in different ways, both of which may end up driving them apart.
Elsewhere Prince Robot IV is ‘recuperating’ on the pleasure world Sextillion while his wife is murdered and newborn son stolen by a robot commoner who hopes to incite rebellion against the ruling bluebloods. Gwendolyn and Sophie, meanwhile, have now become a team with Lying Cat and are searching for a way to help The Will heal from his apparently permanent vegetative state. Add the ex-wife of an old friend, someone’s sister, and the usual gathering of interstellar misfits and weirdos and you have the recipe for a really great story.
I don’t want to give away too many details (than I already have) and spoil it: suffice it to say that the way things gel (or do they break down?) really worked well for me. When I saw the unexpected image on the last panel of the last page I was like “Alright!” Now can someone please tell me when the next trade is being issued for this?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So the adventures of Alana and Marko continue as they try to evade everyone who wants to see them dead and the product of their union hidden away…if nSo the adventures of Alana and Marko continue as they try to evade everyone who wants to see them dead and the product of their union hidden away…if not worse. They find Alana’s author-guru and hole up with him on the planet Quietus with Gramma and the undead nanny. Meanwhile The Will and his expanding team of misfit bounty hunters are temporarily stranded on a seemingly idyllic planet while they await repairs to their ship. A team of tabloid reporters have gotten wind of the scandal that both sides of the war want to keep secret at all costs and Prince Robot Douchebag IV is still on the trail.
This volume of _Saga_ starts off relatively slowly: both Alana & Marko and The Will and his team seem to settle into almost homey routines, getting to know each other better before things start going off the rails…and of course they do. Alana and Marko settle into domestic life with Heist and want to find a way to provide for Hazel that will let them stop living their lives on the run; The Will is starting to think that life after The Stalk may be livable after all, especially now that Slave Girl - er Sophie - and Gwendolyn are in his life. Of course neither group is destined for peace and quiet regardless of what they may want, and both of them will find that their pleasant little corners of paradise are easily disrupted by tensions both within and without their little enclaves.
Vaughan does a good job in using the quiet moments to let us see more of the ‘real’ characters, not just the personae they wear when they’re ‘on the job’ and in the middle of the action. Sufficient twists and turns in the plot occur to keep us interested and Vaughan shows that while he may not quite have George R. R. Martin levels of sadism when it comes to putting his characters through the ringer, he’s still more than willing to drop them down a few mine shafts and see how they land.
I like the pacing that Vaughan has established with this story: enough action and surprises to keep us interested, but enough lulls to allow for expansion on the characters and their relationships. Nothing feels predictable or safe and we still see reasons to root for almost all sides of the story (except for Prince Douchebag who, despite his ‘issues’ is still a douchebag…but at least he’s an interesting douchebag). These characters make mistakes they have to live with as much as they perform daring actions that save their lives. I also like that each member of the teams (or families really) that have formed have shown themselves to be useful. No one is simply a prop or superfluous, though of course that doesn’t mean that they might not end up being offed in the end…they’ll just be missed that much more.
I don’t really see how anyone could be disappointed with this series up to this point unless you don’t like interesting characters, well done storytelling, and really rather nice art. If you’re one of those people I really don’t know how to help you....more
Well, this series is still going strong…lots of fun and highly recommended! This time around we get a glimpse into what filled young Marko with such hWell, this series is still going strong…lots of fun and highly recommended! This time around we get a glimpse into what filled young Marko with such hatred for the Landfallians (hint: mom and dad might have had something to do with it), Alana gets to meet the in-laws (umm, gulp), and we get to see the first meeting between our two love-birds (hey, Marko only lost one tooth by the looks of it!)…oh yeah and Marko’s former fiancée arrives on the scene to team up with one of the Freelancers sent to kill him and his wife. This story is just full of awkward moments isn’t it?
I have to say I think one of this series’ strengths is the way that Vaughan manages to make all of the characters interesting. None of the stories are ones I want to skip over, whether it’s The Will and Gwendolyn attempting the rescue of ‘Slave Girl’ in the midst of tracking down Alana and Marko, Marko’s dad bonding with his granddaughter and daughter-in-law and dropping some heavy-duty news on them, Marko trying to calm down his furious warrior mother while they search for the ghost-nanny that *she* sent MIA, or even that douche Prince Robot IV dealing with his PTSD as he combs the galaxy for his prey. Everyone’s got issues, no one is simply good or evil, and they all display a wide range of strengths and weaknesses that go towards making them interesting people.
The crazy galaxy that Vaughan has come up with is also pretty great. He’s deft at mixing his space opera sci-fi setting with his fantasy tropes in a way that doesn’t seem patchwork. On top of that he throws a hearty helping of weird (planetoids that hatch into galactic monsters, tree ships, teleporting crash helmets, and one-eyed pulp fiction authors that I swear remind me of Samuel R. Delany). In short it’s always an enjoyable trip, both for the company and the scenery. I don’t really know what else to say: details will just ruin the fun for you, so dive in and enjoy it yourself already!...more
Ok, first of all an admission: when I initially read the preview pages for Saga when it first came out I was, well, underwhelmed would be a good word.Ok, first of all an admission: when I initially read the preview pages for Saga when it first came out I was, well, underwhelmed would be a good word. I had already started hearing buzz about the title, but for some reason the preview left me unimpressed. Maybe it just seemed a little too weird to me and I didn’t really think it would gel. Well, mea culpa. After the implicit pressure of all of the good reviews many of my GR friends have given it (some of whose opinions I even trust!) I decided what the hell…might as well give the title an actual shot. I’m glad I did. Let me say I was right though: it is weird. But it’s good weird.
Do I need to give a general run down? Probably not, but here you go anyway: The inhabitants of the planet Landfall and its moon have been waging war against each other since…well, for a long damn time. They have developed such a hatred for one another that the war has spilled out from its initial confines and has now more or less engulfed the galaxy as other planets have been taken over and primarily used as staging grounds for their battles with the inhabitants being forced to ally with one side or the other in the conflict. Oh yeah, and the Landfall natives all have wings of some kind and use sci-fi-ish high technology while the ‘Moonies’ all have horns and can use magic (often referred to as ‘exotic matter’ in the comic). And there is a ‘race’ of TV-headed robots who are part of some sort of royal family allied with the people of Landfall. Weird, right? Yeah, well strap in for the ride.
Marko and Alana are young newlyweds expecting the arrival of their first child. Sweet, right? The only problem is Alana is from Landfall and Marko is a ram-horned Moonie…awkward. Turns out neither of their people are pleased with the possibility of the product of such an unprecedented ‘miscegenation’. Also, Marko was a POW and Alana was one of his guards at the prison camp. Again, awkward. Turns out these two kids decided they didn’t like the war or the irrational racial hatred behind it. Now, unfortunately, they are public enemy number one for both sides who don’t want word of the mixed race baby getting out and causing who knows what trouble. Can you say crazy highjinks as they are on the run trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers? I knew you could.
Throw in several ‘freelancers’ (read contract bounty hunters) one of whom has a talking cat who can detect lies and the other a half-woman/half-spider ‘centaur’, forests that grow rocket ships, ghost nannies, and all sorts of other craziness and you start getting an idea of the ride you’re in for. Let’s be reductionist for a bit: Romeo & Juliet meets Star Wars meets Smoky and the Bandit meets some mild bizarro. It’s a lot of fun. ...more
Ok, so, The Sandman. Ground breaking comic series from the early days of DC’s innovative Vertigo line. One of the many comics of the era3 – 3.5 stars
Ok, so, The Sandman. Ground breaking comic series from the early days of DC’s innovative Vertigo line. One of the many comics of the era that was trying to do new (or at least different) things with the medium and even went so far as to not only NOT be primarily a superhero book, but one that had elements that hearkened back to the old days of anthology comics in addition to telling the serialized life story of the ‘hero’. I know I’m in the minority here, and I will admit that my opinion is based on one bad experience and a subsequent lack of desire to make further attempts, but to me The Sandman series of comics represents the apex of Neil Gaiman’s writing. As far as I can see it was in The Sandman that Gaiman not only made his name in the industry (a name that would ultimately pave his way out of comics and into not only the world of prose, but also as something of a genre celebrity), but it’s also where he developed the style, preoccupations, and motifs that would come to characterize, in one form or another, all of his later works.
“Preludes and Nocturnes” is the first storyline of the comic, taking up the first eight issues of the monthly run. In it we have Gaiman starting with the name of a golden age superhero and creating a new character based on its mythological antecedents. Taking a cue from Zelazny’s Amber chronicles Gaiman then built up a backstory for Morpheus, the godlike king of dreams, and made him part of a fractious and dysfunctional family known as ‘the Endless’…though most of that is (with one major exception) only alluded to in hints and asides in the first story arc and will be developed more fully later in the series, ultimately becoming the lynchpin of the tale of this version of the Sandman. What Gaiman does centre on in this arc are the horror anthology roots of his story as well as the set-up for Morpheus’ quest to regain his lost place and powers. It appears that some naughty occultists of the early 20th century (think Aleister Crowley and his Golden Dawn cronies) want to capture Death and rule the world. Instead they end up trapping her younger brother Dream, with disastrous results for many people who are no longer able to sleep, dream, or hope. Unable to extort power or promises from their silent victim they instead steal from him the artifacts he carried and leave him imprisoned both physically and spiritually on the mortal plane. Of course, things can’t remain thus and through the passage of time and loosening of vigilance Morpheus is finally able to escape and wreak vengeance on the mortals that dared imprison him. The next step is a standard quest narrative as the Sandman, weakened by years of imprisonment and the loss of his artifacts (into which he had poured much of his being and power…shades of Tolkien there), travels from the mortal plane to the realm of hell in an attempt to regain his tools and place in the cosmos. Standing in his way are both the triumvirate that rules hell and its legions of demons and the demented mind of a minor supervillain whose tinkering with the vast powers of Dream could end not only one of the Endless, but the world as we know it. We also get a coda to Morpheus’ quest in which we meet his older sister Death (an ironically upbeat reaper and perennial fan-favourite for the duration of the series who spawned a few spin-offs of her own) and get a glimpse into the role this strange family plays in the cosmos.
I like what Gaiman has done here, inserting many easter eggs and call outs to various elements of the DC universe (and the more esoteric aspects of our own), but still bringing to it his own point of view and building upon it his own mythology. Whether it’s a sly call-out to the origins of Morpheus’ golden age hero namesake, a visit to the JLI embassy to intrude upon the lives and dreams of two of its members, or the insertion of a pair of characters from an old horror anthology comic as members of Morpheus' retinue in the now shattered land of dreams, Gaiman has done his homework and incorporated it into some admirable worldbuilding. I definitely noticed that this first arc of The Sandman was fairly heavy in its use of horror elements with many gruesome deaths and a lot of macabre imagery (as opposed to the strong fantasy flavour that came to dominate the later story arcs). Knowing where the story is heading also made this read an interesting one, as references to characters and events that will come to loom large in the story of Morpheus are things that I certainly missed my first time around, though they now give an added depth and reality to what Gaiman has penned. Why only 3 - 3.5 stars? Probably because the more gruesome aspects of the story didn’t appeal to me as much and I know things are going to get even better. This was a good start, but Morpheus has a long, and interesting, road ahead of him. Also, even this early it’s obvious that Morpheus is a bit of a prig so I don’t always sympathize with him as the protagonist. He’s ultimately much more interesting as a vehicle for the stories of others than as the ‘hero’ of his own. Of course, given his role in the multiverse that is altogether appropriate....more
Ok, so as Hawkeye’s number 1 fan it’s a little surprising that it’s taken me this long to get to this critically acclaimed series starrin3 – 3.5 stars
Ok, so as Hawkeye’s number 1 fan it’s a little surprising that it’s taken me this long to get to this critically acclaimed series starring comicdom’s greatest archer (shut up Ollie!) Matt Fraction and David Aja make a great team as they take a peek into the ‘everyday’ life of a superhero…a superhero who can’t shoot lightning bolts, fly, or bench press a city bus. What does an average Avenger do on his days off?
The story starts by letting us see Clint Barton, aka the Avenging archer Hawkeye, having a pretty bad day (which seems to be the norm for him): he’s just gotten out of the hospital after sustaining pretty major injuries during his ‘day job’, runs into a track suit mafia that wants to evict all the tenants from his low-rent apartment building, and becomes responsible for a dog that got hit by a car, partially due to Clint’s intervention. Things don’t really get much rosier from there. We then get a list of every bad decision Clint is capable of making in one day (for the record it’s nine this time) – along with a running tab on his arsenal of trick arrows, both the whacky and the wonderful: boomerang, respect it. Finally we follow Clint on his quest to wrest an incriminating video tape (yes, tape) from the clutches of a cadre of rich supervillians intent on getting some dirt on one of the Avengers. Ultimately we see how trying to do the right thing can lead to all sorts of complications, misunderstandings, and just plain bad luck. It’s not always easy being Clint Barton. In fact it’s probably never easy.
The other major player in the series is Kate Bishop a privileged young heiress whose defining attributes seem to be an overabundance of sass and world-class archery skills. These make her more than qualified to be the de-facto protégé of Hawkeye, a hero known to be pretty good with a quip and a bow himself. Kate plays the hip sidekick to Clint’s somewhat in over his head mentor and it’s here that I ran into a few issues with the series. Please allow my inner-geek to vent a bit: granted one of the great hooks for this character has always been his low self-esteem and the fact that he was a ‘mere’ human who sometimes felt in over his head working on the premiere Marvel super-team peopled by gods and monsters; also granted that having the whole protégé-teacher dynamic turned on its head in various ways is a clever and entertaining idea. Despite these things, though, it sometimes felt like Fraction was leaning a little too heavily on the ‘Clint’s an all-too-human screw-up’ side of things. I mean by now he’s proven himself time and again and has even led both the Avengers and the Thunderbolts fer crissakes! And Fraction has him being led around by the nose by Kate freakin’ Bishop?! Is it really that likely that Clint is such a mess that he has to have his supposed protégé telling him how to act on a mission? I can accept the snarky banter between them: she wants to sass Clint and he plays along? Cool. But to think that she’d be the real backbone of the partnership just kinda rubbed me the wrong way. It was a bit too extreme. Ok, end of rant.
The art by David Aja in issues 1-3 is awesome: reminds me of Mike Allred’s stuff, which is always a good thing. The art by Javier Pulido for issues 4-5? Um, not so much. The additional story in the back from the pages of the Young Avengers was ok, it certainly showed Hawkeye as less of a screw-up and more of a mentor, but it was definitely a change in pace and style from the rest of the book.
All in all this is good stuff. I totally understand the love this title gets…I just wish Hawkeye got a little more respect. The poor guy deserves a break every now and then.
Oh and Dan? Apropos of nothing: Hal Jordan is still better than crab-face guy!...more
The government ups its game against Hyperion, attempting to discredit him in the eyes of the public and attack him where they feel he is2.5 – 3 stars
The government ups its game against Hyperion, attempting to discredit him in the eyes of the public and attack him where they feel he is weak. They also seem not to have learned anything from the fiasco that has been their involvement in metahuman affairs up to this point and still think they can play god with inhumanly powerful pawns. Not too bright, but I’m afraid the estimate may not be too off the mark for how governments would respond to the possibility of controlling ‘easy’ power that superheroes (and villains) present.
All in all I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the lack of pay-off in this concluding volume of what I think is the first story arc of Supreme Power. So we have Hyperion coming to some important decisions about who he is and how he will relate to his adopted world at the same time that the government thinks they can use some old school methods to rein him back into the fold. He certainly leaves them with a message that they can’t ignore, but I still feel like the story didn’t move very far forward from where it began, though I guess what we didn’t get in plot we did get in world building and stage setting. Most of the other characters are still pretty peripheral at this point and merely serve to point out the different ways in which superhumans are willing to relate to their world and the ‘normal’ people it contains.
I’m curious about the ultimate end to which all of these ‘heroes’ are headed, and the fact that they’re riffs on some of the most iconic superheroes in the industry adds a level of interest, but I have to admit that having been given so little pay-off in what has amounted to 18 issues of the monthly series (which now branches off into character-specific volumes that may or may not continue the ‘main’ storyline to any great degree) is making me dubious. I will likely come back to see what’s up, but right now I think I need a bit of a palate cleanser from the ‘dark age’ of superheroes. ...more
Ok, in this volume the shinola hits the fanola. Turns out alien superbeings don’t like being lied to or manipulated in the way they were raised3 stars
Ok, in this volume the shinola hits the fanola. Turns out alien superbeings don’t like being lied to or manipulated in the way they were raised…who knew?! Hyperion now knows that the government sponsored fiasco that he calls his childhood was all just a scam so the US of A could have a super-weapon in its back pocket. He’s not impressed. Add to that the awakening of a possibly schizophrenic super-woman who wants to help Hyperion take over the world and the fact that the government’s only other superhero, Joe ‘Doc Spectrum’ Ledger is MIA and given to comatose periods when some other force seems to be controlling him, and things do not look good for the Earth. Oh yeah, we also have an opportunistic speedster who wants to cash in on his powers with the biggest pay-cheque available and a psychopathic vigilante who wants to settle race relations his way.
Things aren’t looking good for a world with superheroes. Volume 2 of the ‘Supreme Power’ series moves on from the set-up to the beginning phases of the pay-off. Hyperion isn’t happy, but at least he hasn’t gone crazy-town-banana-pants on humanity yet…though that may change if the newly awakened Zarda has her way (let’s just say she’s a lady who doesn’t take kindly to her shopping sprees being interrupted by mere mortals). The Blur is doing endorsements like they’re going out of style until he’s reprimanded by millionaire Kyle Richmond (aka Nighthawk) for being a sell-out opportunist and is recruited to help the vigilante track down and contain a serial killer apparently augmented with super powers by a secret project within the secret project that was responsible for Hyperion and Doc Spectrum. Also, Amphibian keeps acting weird (but I guess that’s normal when you’re thrown into the ocean as a baby and somehow raise yourself). The interwoven threads of the stories are starting to come together, but this was very much a ‘middle issue’ in the series and thus leaves one wanting more. Maybe that’s a good thing…it all depends on when/if the pay-off occurs. ...more
I guess you could consider J. Michael Straczynski’s _Supreme Power_ the bastard child (or perhaps grandchild) of books like Alan Moore’s3 – 3.5 stars
I guess you could consider J. Michael Straczynski’s _Supreme Power_ the bastard child (or perhaps grandchild) of books like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in which the four-colour superheroes of old get a more ‘realistic’ make-over and are shown for the dangerous psychopaths they would all-too-likely be in our world. In this case we have Marvel’s Squadron Supreme coming under the deconstructive microscope. The Squadron is an interesting case even without the post-80’s Dark Age of comics lens being applied: back in the day they were Marvel’s thinly veiled version of DC’s League of Superheroes, thus Hyperion = Superman, Nighthawk = Batman, Doctor Spectrum = Green Lantern, Power Princess = Wonder Woman, etc. Also, the Squadron was brought to initial prominence (at least in my view) by Mark Gruenwald’s mid-80’s miniseries that has them trying to set-up a Utopia in their world by taking the reins of political power into their own hands. So now we have what was effectively an homage to another company’s flagship characters, who had already been used in a pre-Watchmen comment on the dangers of superheroes, turned into an even more deconstructed comment on the violence inherent in concept of the metahuman.
We start with a familiar scenario: an alien baby is put into an escape pod and sent on a trajectory that sends it to Earth where it will be met by a childless couple in their battered farm truck. Things diverge pretty significantly from the expected version from this point on. The government gets involved and what in the Golden Age of comics would have been a happy story of love creating a saviour for mankind, instead becomes a view into what happens when fear, greed, and hunger for power are allowed to raise a super-weapon under supposedly controlled conditions. Things do not turn out as anyone expected or hoped.
Suffice it to say that not only our alien baby (soon to be christened Hyperion by his handlers), but a plethora of others who are affected by the changes his ship introduced into our ecosystem begin to emerge and the world finds itself in the undesirable position of having to deal with uncontrollable people with unimaginable powers. This first volume centres on the defining moments of a handful of these: the aforementioned Mark Milton aka Hyperion around whom the story revolves and whose childhood as a government experiment lays the groundwork for everything that is to come; Joe Ledger, a military professional exposed to an alien power source that turns him into perhaps the second most powerful man on the planet; the Atlanta Blur, a mysterious and some think apocryphal speeding ghost; Amphibian, a strange aquatic human; Nighthawk, a young African-American boy who witnesses his parents murder and vows vengeance on all those responsible; and a mysterious myth that seems to live in the underground temple worshiped by a group of would-be Amazons.
I like this kind of alternate reality take on established characters since it gives the writer greater freedom than the powers-that-be at comic companies are likely to allow with their flagship properties, but the characters often still retain the resonance of their antecedents. There isn’t too much surprising here: it’s pretty much by-the-numbers deconstructionist superhero fare, but if you like that kind of thing take a look. Beware: there’s lots of violence and nudity....more
This was an interesting comic from back in the day when black-and-white was a big trend and various fantasy titles were hitting the market. The premisThis was an interesting comic from back in the day when black-and-white was a big trend and various fantasy titles were hitting the market. The premise is pretty basic: a group of adventurers from a fantasy world use a portal to escape from their enemies and end up in modern America, in a bowling alley no less, and hilarity ensues.
The adventurers are very much a take-off of the basic D&D party: the dour spellcaster, slightly unhinged cleric, a do-gooder Paladin, the halfling and gnome thief duo, and they are all led by a pretty tough version of the fantasy princess (she brow-beats the owner of the bowling alley into selling it to them). Despite the heavy use of gaming archetypes the characters were all fairly interesting and had some pretty intriguing reactions to apparently being stranded in our world. Each of them obviously had a back-story that sometimes peeks through and it's too bad that the series only lasted a few issues and didn't have time to develop, I would have liked to have seen where it was going.
The art was very nice and black-and-white suited it admirably (not always the case back in the day). I also liked the humour in the book: upon noticing that somehow one of the thieves was caught in a pin-setting machine after their arrival the Paladin dryly asks "Why are you torturing the halfling?"...well, I thought it was funny.
Sadly just as things were getting interesting (in the form of some actual personal conflict and the appearance of a bad-ass sorceress-assassin) no more issues were produced. *sigh* The travails of an indie-comic lover....more