Collects issues 1-6
Writer: Cullen Bunn (Deadpool, Harrow County, Uncanny X-Men)
Artist: Sergio Davila (Red Sonja)
Reviewed by: Jarrett
Shout out to Penguin Random House Canada for the chance to read this book! You may recall that my previous review, also of the same character but from another series of his comics, was my introduction to the world of King Conan, the Cimmerian barbarian (who originally appeared in stories by Robert E. Howard in 1932).
Between reading that first comics collection, and getting more into the lore as well as rules for the new board game, I’ve come to crave the fast-paced, action-packed tales featuring Conan. Taking such an energetic, unforgiving character and putting it into the very capable hands of an author like Cullen Bunn produces this blood-soaked tome; a timeless story of trust/mistrust, jealousy, betrayal, and consequence, filled with equal parts sword and sorcery.
The tale begins in a most familiar way. I’m not sure whether just one other or many other Conan stories start this way, but I love how some of the very first text in this series perfectly sums up most of the Conan mythology: “…and burdened by a tremendous weight…not upon his shoulders but upon his very soul…hither came Conan…marching ever forward. Ahead of him, he knew, was his inescapable ending. Just as, far behind him, he knew…were only the uncountable dead men he had left in his wake.” These words are spread over several panels of art that match exactly what you envision in your head as you read them. Often enough, these books seem to start without really cluing the reader into where he’s coming from, but ultimately it doesn’t matter, and allows you to read them in any order you like for the most part.
Stumbling into an unfamiliar camp of raiders, Conan is spared and eventually befriends them. He earns the respect of the family who leads the tribe, learning they have similar convictions and codes of honour. As the plot unfolds, allegiances within the tribe begin to come apart at the seams and Conan is forced to follow his steadfast instincts, which have yet to fail in keeping him alive. The elements of subterfuge and betrayal lead to surprising revelations, not only for the characters but the reader; revelations not only regarding the plot, but also about the very “Hyborian” setting of Conan’s adventures.
The artwork by Sergio Davila serves the story well, filling any descriptive gaps with blood and motion. Again, as with my last Conan read, you can feel the intensity of the action and hear the fury of blades without the need for onomatopoeic words like “whoosh” or “clang” clogging the landscape. To that accomplishment, as I came to the story’s conclusion, I put the book down as if it had been a bloody weapon I was wielding, victorious and sated.
I found “Blood in his Wake” to be another great Conan instalment on all levels. Great writers like Cullen Bunn seem to have an easy time with this world, despite the fact in some ways it can appear overly simple at first glance. A good story is a good story, regardless of setting; which isn’t to say this setting is lacking! On the contrary: it is really beginning to reveal to me just how much action and intrigue can be woven from just such a world; a place where sorcery can allow for unknown or surprising elements where a story set in the real past (for example) cannot. The lack of technology and guns allows breathing room as well, prompting both plot and character development. If you’re looking to read something a little different from the most popular titles, and/or something that has a stellar creative team behind, this book will not disappoint.
Batman All-star volume 1
Collects issues 1-5
Writer: Scott Snyder (New 52 Batman, Wytches)
Artist: John Romita Jr. (Amazing Spider-Man, Kick-Ass)
Reviewed by: Peter (Produce Pete) McNeely
All-star DC comics (which no longer exists) was an imprint of DC comics which brought together some of the best writers and artists to create new stories using DC’s most popular characters. The main differences between previous All-star titles and All-star Batman is that All-star Batman’s stories are part of the current DC universe continuity. The series features the ever so popular writer Scott Snyder with a rotating cast of well known artists.
Scott Snyder is at it again with the help of John Romita Jr.. Together these two create one hell of a rollercoaster ride that jumps between the present and the past. The story, titled MY OWN WORST ENEMY, has Batman fighting his way across the state (498 miles to be exact) to cure Harvey Dent of Two-Face. Early into the story we find out that Two-Face has put out an open contract on Batman to try and stop him from reaching a house (we learn about this house later on) containing the cure. As the story progresses Batman’s relationship with Harvey Dent is explored, through multiple flashbacks, revealing the childhood interactions these two characters share. Even with over a dozen different villains trying to stop him, Batman with the help of Robin (Duke Thomas) and a few other members of the Bat family, prevail (SURPRISE!).
I really enjoyed the art in this book. It flows beautifully from panel to panel and does a good job of creating an obvious transition from past to present. There is a panel of Batman standing in a field, cape blowing in the wind, which is so simple yet still portrays Batman’s perseverance. Although, of all the characters in this book I would have to say that Two-face is drawn the best. The details of the scaring on his face are outstanding and the use of showing one side of the face to show who is in control is very well done. The colours used are not your typical dark Batman colours. They are brighter and more vibrant making the characters pop out from the background.
Even though at its core this is a very typical Batman story I still enjoyed reading this book. Snyder just knows how to write a good Batman story and John Romita Jr. backs it up with some wonderful art. The book (and I’m sure the rest of the series) will scratch that Scott Snyder Batman itch lingering since the end of his run on Batman New 52. The only unfortunate thing about this series is that the artist changes every story arc, something I am not the biggest fan of. If you can get past this I would recommend hopping onto the series. If you can’t get passed that issue I would still recommend picking up All-Star Batman volume 1 as it is sure to be an entertaining read.
All-Star Batman volume 1 was provided to us for review by Penguin Random House Canada.
Review by: Matt Larose
Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Scot Eaton, Brad Walker and Philippe Briones
DC Universe has now reached an end of an era with the New 52 wrapping up and entering the new phase of comics titled Rebirth. Everyone is beginning their relaunches starting at issue #0 and moving quite quickly into trade paperback format, today I get the privilege of reviewing one of the first with Aquaman. A lot of people give Aquaman grief mainly because they see him as the typical under water guy who talks to fish, sorry folks but if you actually took the time to read his books before passing judgements you’d realize that you’d be pretty wrong, I would know because I used to be one of those people. I started my journey with Aquaman while working at a local comic shop and got dared to try and read volume 1 from the New 52 storyline, my coworker at the time was and will always be an Aquaman fan so I took the dare. Man was I ever glad to be wrong because it was an amazing read and an incredible run for Aquaman. But now that that run is over with we get to start over, not going to lie, I’m quite excited to see where this title goes.
We begin this new tale exactly where the last volume of New 52 leaves off, Aquaman and Mera are pretty much trying to create peace between our society and Atlantis, who knew this task would be tricky, right? Not only do they find trouble with the surface world but there are a lot of citizens of Atlantis, even terrorist groups, that totally disagree with Aquaman when it comes to peace. It was interesting to see the differences and similarities between both cultures over this touchy subject. Differences were obviously how the world was treating the oceans as well as how society in general should be, but similarities in how both societies hated each other but also in how they both wanted change. To say that a lot of opinions were being thrown around would be a total understatement, but that’s what made this story interesting.
One thing I enjoy about relaunches in comics is the fact that characters get brought back in big ways, for this storyline one of my favourite villains was brought back and I couldn’t have been happier, that’s right folks one of our big baddies is back and goes by the name Black Manta! Now for those reading this and not knowing anything about this title or this particular character in general do not fear because in this story you get a brief history on both Aquaman and Black Manta and as to why they are hated foes, and I got to tell you it’s a pretty interesting tale to read. I loved seeing this character returning to the title, I find that Black Manta is a key player whenever telling any tale from Aquaman, he may have a ridiculous costume (depending on the artist) but he is a great villain and deserves some respect for that.
Story wise, it felt like I was watching an episode of a TV series, seeing as how i had just previously finished the last volume of the New 52 run. This volume pretty much picks up the pieces of the previous story line and just starts a new one. The ending of the book didn’t feel like much of an ending but that’s what I found intriguing. The way this volume ended made me want to read the next volume immediately because it didn’t have that finishing touch to it.
Now here’s my favourite part of this review, the art. In this volume we had artists Scot Eaton, Brad Walker and Philippe Briones. I enjoyed the art in this book very much it’s just for me I get pretty picky, I like when a story stays with one artist in general. I found the work of Scot Eaton to be what was needed in this book, detailed enough with facial expressions and not over detailing on say hair or Aquaman’s armour or clothing. Not to mention the covers for this book were very well done by Brad Walker, my favourite one being the issue with the cover of just Aquaman’s hands in handcuffs.
All in all I would have to say that this was a great story from beginning to end and that Aquaman does deserve a lot more respect than what he gets from the typical comic fan. He’s not just the guy who talks to fish, trust me if you read this book you get to see him go toe to toe with a big gun and he says a lot to them that makes you respect the man just a little bit more. So I say unto you good reader, find volume 1 of Aquaman and have a look see and maybe, just maybe you’ll break that chain of Aquaman hate like I did.
Thanks to Penguin Random House I was able to read Conan Volume 20: A Witch Shall Be Born, a collection of Conan the Avenger issues #20-25. Here’s a review of my introduction to the world of King Conan, the Cimmerian barbarian who originally appeared in stories by Robert E. Howard in 1932.
I was motivated to read this because I’d recently kickstarted a board game based on the same character (in part because of how cool the miniatures looked), and although I was vaguely familiar with him thanks to an old comic of my father’s (not to mention the obvious/obligatory Conan the Barbarian starring Arnie and James Earl Jones), I was curious to dig deeper into the mythos to give the game scenarios more meaning.
I could not have picked a better entry point. This trade concludes writer Fred Van Lente’s amazing run on Conan the Avenger. He has cleverly intertwined brief passages straight from Robert E. Howard’s Conan story “A Witch Shall Be Born” from 1934, making this adaptation very true to the original novella. I know this because it was so good I went back and started reading the original.
In case you missed it, the blurb of the trade reads: “Taramis, the beloved queen of Khauran, was born with a twin sister, Salome, but by an ancient doom placed on their bloodline Salome’s chest bore a scarlet half-moon birthmark: the mark of the witch! Left to die in the desert, Salome survived instead, and grew up to embrace her malevolent destiny…and now she’s back, to take vengeance on all of Khauran!”
I found this pretty interesting because Salome (pronounced Salomé as far as I know), daughter of Herod and Herodias, is biblically infamous for asking for the head of John the Baptist – and getting it. Sure enough, it is strongly implied that the witch in this story is an (earlier?) incarnation of the same evil. The “ancient doom” is like a blessing/curse ensuring a baby marked as the witch will be born each century.
Conan’s crucifixion, a fairly famous event in the Conan mythology and only a spoiler if you’ve somehow missed the cover, was therefore an interesting touch. Lente captured all of the required elements of the original story, most importantly the pace. Speaking of which, part of what makes this such a great read is how fast the action feels and how quickly story elements move along; though, you do also feel the brevity of his suffering.
The artwork by Jose Luis, Brian Ching, et al is captivating. The foremost aspect that struck me was the colour palette used in any given scene / series of frames. The setting at any given time is clear and omnipresent, as you’d expect for a desert landscape in the distant past. The dreariness is perfectly counter-balanced by the urgency and speed of the action depicted therein. The artists did an amazing job of capturing the pace set forth by both Howard and Lente, at times making it hard to not turn the page before you’re done reading.
I can easily summarize my reading experience as spellbound, fitting for a story that literally defines the “sword and sorcery” genre. I didn’t expect such a page-turner considering I’d overlooked the character so long – too long. It’s safe to say I’ll be reading and reviewing a couple more Conan stories in the near future! Check this book out; you will not be disappointed.
Written by Stephen Hopkins
Our copy of Scooby Apocalypse was provided to us for review by Penguin Random House Canada.
Scooby Apocalypse Volume 1
Published by DC Comics
I always found that Scooby Doo was kind of a hard pill to swallow, like, where does the gang get their money from? Why are there so many abandoned, haunted amusement parks? Why even keep Shaggy around? He literally doesn’t do anything but be scared and eat questionable food. So when I found out about Scooby Apocalypse I just had to see where they were going with it, and zoinks did they ever go for it.
Scooby Apocalypse brings us a new origin story for the crew of the Mystery Machine and gives each member of the gang a new background to work from. Daphne is a guerrilla journalist with Freddy playing her man slave/camera man, Velma is a high ranking scientist at a giant multinational corporation, Shaggy, a bearded hipster dog trainer, and of course Scooby Doo, the failed product of a government smart dog program.
The expository issues cover all the introductions and tell us how Velma has essentially helped in bringing about the end of the world, and ends up recruiting the rest of the gang to help her stop it… Which is weird because she’s a scientist, and she picked a journalist obsessed with ratings and getting her own show, her subservient cameraman, and a hip dog trainer and his rejected science project buddy to assist her. Smort!
As things progress we see the gang get back into the swing of things as the story jumps forward into full on apocalyptic mayhem, how they went from rag tag group of random people to armoured monster combatants is a bit of a mystery but hey, there’s a talking dog that wears a saiyan scouter to send people emoji’s so… let’s not worry about logistics here. We get plenty of familiar Scooby tropes throughout the book and even a reimagined mystery machine, replacing the old psychedelic VW bus with an Armored LAV. This book is for fun people, not anyone who wants to sneer at a lack of respect for the source material.
The art is well done for the most part with everyone looking more or less like themselves and keeping to the familiar colour schemes of each character, Velma is definitely the least changed character, while Shaggy is just…. Well he’s hipster Shaggy. Hipster Shaggy might be Produce Pete’s new nickname… Scooby is handled well for the most part as well and Freddy is as forgettable as ever (in a good way).
All in all, this is a very fun read and a good use of these classic characters, the story is as sound as literally any other Scooby Doo story and it’s pretty to look at, although some panels are a little too busy for my liking. The amazing “after credits issue” included at the end of this book will definitely get a few people excited about the return of a much beloved character from the show. If you’re like me and you like Scooby Doo and apocalyptic tales, then Scooby Apocalypse might just scratch an itch for you.
Future Quest vol. 1 Review
By: Ryan Arden
Would like to start by thanking Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with the chance to read Future Quest vol. 1.
Future Quest vol. 1 is a interesting and exciting introduction to the world that these classic cartoon characters exist in. I wasn’t familiar with most of the characters featured in this story. I knew who some of them were through pop-culture references and shows like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast (not the best background). Nevertheless I thought it was a fun story, and I was filled with nostalgia for the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons that I am familiar with and grew up watching on Saturday mornings like The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby Doo.
Vortexes are opening up all over the globe and bringing different times and dimensions together. While out looking for more of these vortexes for Dr. Quest, his sons Jonny and Hadji run into F.E.A.R who are also looking into these anomalies as well. With the coming of this vortex we also get introduced to Space Ghost, who appears to have been ripped away from something big. Though we only get a small glimpse of him with the other characters, we get to see something bigger might be coming. This is an exciting chapter and introduction to these characters as they come together to face impending danger.
This was a great introduction to the characters and this collection of classic universes that are being thrust together. Jeff Parker does a great job fleshing out the world in a way that won’t leave you wondering who’s who, or feeling overwhelmed with exposition and unnecessary details. The story is exciting, fun, and, easy to follow. At times it felt a little too light hearted, but the sense of danger isn’t completely lost. The storytelling is nicely complemented by the art of Evan Shaner who does a good job making this story come to life. The character designs are very clean and nostalgic.
If you were a fan of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, or want to start something new to jump right into, this might be a good choice for you. There’s plenty to get lost with and enjoy, especially if you have an itch for nostalgia. There are only a few moments or characters that came up just a little short for me, those being The Herculoids and The Impossibles introductions that didn’t click for me. However that didn’t take me out of the story. I would recommend Future Quest vol. 1 if any of those points hit for you. I know i’m looking forward to reading more.
By Jarrett Heale.
Thanks to @penguinrandom house Canada, I got my hands on an advance copy of DC’s Deathstroke Vol. 1: The Professional (Rebirth). I’ve always been intrigued by the character and was really looking forward to new material; the New 52 run had it’s ups and downs. The new creative team includes Christopher Priest and Carlo Pagulayan.
This story is a great in-roads to Deathstroke and his daughter the Ravager, not to mention other ties to his past. Though the plot feels a little too familiar, the incredible artwork and unpredictable twists keeps you turning pages.
Overall, as an aside (not related to this book specifically), I’ve learned that I’d had issues connecting with the character, but still enjoy the right stories. His motivation is unclear to me given that he kills for money, but already seems to have so much of it. It was nice to get a glimpse into his inner circle and see more of what makes him tick.
Volume one of Black Lines, called “Dodgy Pills” (released September 2015), is a creepy leer into the darker corners of the human condition. While purposefully uncomfortable at times, this read is as addictive as the pills the characters take. (more…)