Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: Tarzan and the Golden Lion


A trained lion, secret treasure, a land ruled by ape creatures, an evil double and the hottest priestess Opar ever had adds up to another adventure for the Lord of the Jungle.

Returning to his home after rescuing his beloved Jane from the land of Pal-ul-Don (at the end of Tarzan the Terrible), Tarzan and his family find a lion cub that has just lost it's mother. Deciding to take pity on the cub, Tarzan adopts him and raises the lion-named Jad-bal-Ja as both a loyal pet and a fierce protector. After a few years through, the family finances have been strained due to rebuilding his African bungalow and helping the war effort and Tarzan decides it's time for another trip to Opar to get more gold. But another party has their sights on Opar as well. Headed by a former maid of the Greystokes-Flora Hawkes-the party has hired an actor named Esteban Miranda to impersonate Tarzan and help convince the natives to help them. But when the real Tarzan shows up they manage to knock him out thanks to some drugged coffee and leave him to be sacrificed to the Priests of Opar, now lead by Cadj. But La the High Priestess, still carrying a lust for Tarzan, helps him escape into a land known as the Palace of Diamonds where both discover it is ruled over by talking apes called the Bolgani. With no escape looking possible, Tarzan has to figure out a way to rescue La and return home. Jad-bal-Ja eventually shows up to help save the day but Tarzan's job isn't done yet as he still has to deal with the gold stealing Miranda and find a missing Jane before she makes a big mistake.

After reading and enjoying Tarzan's Quest, I decided to pick up another book in the series and give it a go. Published in 1922-23, Tarzan and the Golden Lion has the standard lost civilizations, backstabbing gold diggers, natives both noble-the Waziri and their leader Muviro-and savage, and the usual damsels in distress-in this case three of them. With all of this going on the narrative becomes overcrowded with the reader tossed between Tarzan and his attempts to escape the Palace of Diamonds, the distrust and betrayals of the greedy safari and in the latter sections Jane's confusion of Miranda for her husband and her capture by a native who has other plans for Lady Greystoke. Also underused is Jad-bal-Ja himself, who despite his build up is missing from most of the novel until he arrives in a deux ex machina moment to save Tarzan and La. The High Priestess also gets short service as she's more subdued in this entry-no attempts at seduction even though she still orders men around like the queen she is.

That being said, Tarzan and the Golden Lion does have its strengths. The novel may be a jumble of plots but Burroughs keeps it moving with a sure hand, compared to some of the later books where you could tell he was himself getting bored by his creation. Tarzan is also at his best here. In the latter books he was a carefree adventurer who had little care for others it seemed. Here he risks life and limb to find and rescue Jane and to restore La to her throne which shows how much he cares and wants to keep those human connections. Not to mention the fact that he can still kick a Bolgani's hairy butt and strike terror into the hearts of the bad guys-two conditions you want from a jungle hero. Plus the idea of Miranda almost becoming convinced he is Tarzan is a good spoof of Method actors taking their roles too far (even if the novel came before the Method style).

In the end this entry doesn't win points for originality but compared to what came later is still a fun read for Tarzan fans. Rating: *** out of 4.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Lord of the Jungle" Returns to Comics


Another bit of comic book news for the day. In this case Dynamite Comics has announced a December release for the first issue of Lord of the Jungle, a new comic book take on Tarzan http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=34497. The series will be written by Arvid Nelson (already a Burroughs vet with Warlord of Mars and Dejah Thoris) and the artwork is being done by Roberto Castro (Warlord of Mars-Fall of Barsoom) and will sell for a dollar starting out. With both John Carter and Tarzan on the comic book racks will Carson of Venus or Pellucidar be far behind? (Special thanks for the Blog in the Bowl http://thebloginthebowl.blogspot.com/ for the heads up.)

John Carter: The World of Mars Sneak Peek


I'll cut to the chase: Marvel has posted artwork for the upcoming John Carter movie prequel comic book at http://marvel.com/images/gallery/story/16684/images_from_john_carter_world_of_mars. The Tharks look cool but I still can't stand those tattoos but that's not artist Luke Ross' fault. So take a peek and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #9


Just as one adaptation begins another one concludes...

It's the big day for Sab Than and his reluctant bride. All of Zodanga has turned out but before they can exchange I do's, an uninvited John Carter objects and the Tharks turn out to be worse wedding crashers than Vince Vaughn. It's not too long before blood is spilled, swords clang and the reception is called off. Afterwards John and Dejah find happiness until the failure of the Atmosphere Plant threatens the entire planet of Barsoom and only John can save the day. But it may cost him more than he imagined...

At this point I have to admit I've almost run out of things to say about the series. Again this issue's strong point is the writing and the faithfulness that writer Arvid Nelson has shown towards the material. This issue he does make one change (BIG SPOILER: Kantos Kan Lives!) and adds to the epic air battle over Helium but these changes are welcome to help wrap up the storyline.

As for the art, I've admitted to my problems with Lui Antonio's artwork in previous reviews but now compared to the art for Marvel's John Carter-A Princess of Mars it's a step up. And with this issue's big action scenes he manages to sweep the reader along from panel to panel with ease. It's isn't the greatest John Carter comic book art (that honor goes to the original John Carter-Warlord of Mars series) but I've grown to like it over his run.

So I guess to wrap up, Dynamite has done a pretty good job adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs and I'm interested to see how they handle The Gods of Mars in the next few months after the three issue story arc that was announced at the end of this issue.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Comic Review: John Carter-A Princess of Mars #1


So...How is it you ask? Let me preface this with two warnings: first the standard spoiler warning and second this isn't going to be pleasant.

I'll skip rehashing the plot since I figure most of you guys and gals who come on here have either read A Princess of Mars or have been reading the Warlord of Mars comic books. Let's just say it's got the basics-John Carter arrives on Barsoom, is captured by Tharks, learns their ways and as this issue ends meets the Princess of Helium.

Beyond keeping to the basics though, writer Roger Langridge makes some subtractions starting with skipping John's time on Earth, instead opening with him already a prisoner of the Tharks and having communication problems-in this case he can read the Tharks' minds which comes out fine but the Tharks can't understand him verbally. Langridge also eliminates Sarkoja and quickly runs through John's learning of the Thark language and customs before seeing them attack the Heliumite ships and capture Dejah Thoris. Now I don't have a problem with condensing the story to fit into a 5 issue series. But some of Langridge's dialogue borders on both head scratching (would Sola and any other Thark really know the term "economy") and while I'm not a history buff I doubt Civil War era soldiers would belt out the whole "name, rank, serial number" speech that John does in the opening. But the most groan worthy line: "Get your filthy paws off me you damn dirty lizards!" I guess this series will end with John Carter discovering he's been on Earth the entire time? Why he felt the need to reference a line that has been quoted and parodied to death is beyond me (and you have to wonder considering the series is being aimed at an "all ages" audience how many of the youngsters out there will even get the reference.)

But the writing isn't the major problem. Nope it's the art. I admit I haven't seen any of the comics that artist Felipe Andrade drew before but I can't say this makes me want to run out to see any of his other work. I know some have had issues with the bulky Hulk-like Tharks from the Dynamite series, but here they look terrible. Either sporting what looks like hair or headdresses and helmets they fail to instill any fear or a sense of alien awe. They instead look like refugees from Jabba the Hutt's palace. Sola even looks like she's wearing lipstick! I also didn't care for the look of Woola who is drawn as a green brute who resembles those demon dogs from the end of Ghostbusters (or worse those Hulk dogs from the Ang Lee movie). The backgrounds are also bland and dull and don't stick out at all. And the Heliumite ships? They're flying saucers, not the air ships that Burroughs described. John Carter himself looks OK, and Dejah Thoris looks nice in the last panel but that is a small reward compared to the rest. Now I understand that an artist has the right to create his or her own vision of a world but that still doesn't excuse mediocre work. Why with all the artists out there Marvel chose Andrade or he decided to go with this style I don't know. I'm sure somebody will like it. I just don't.

I've said before it's hard and unfair to judge how a series will turn out based on just one issue. And before someone jumps up and accuses me of favoritism, I'm not bashing this just because I've liked the Dynamite series. I was willing to give this a shot and sadly it failed to impress, especially in the artwork which is what usually makes or breaks a comic book series. If anything it comes across more as something that was tossed off with little care for the final product, just to make a buck. I hope I'm wrong and that it will improve with the next issue and the bugs will be ironed out. Until next time then...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Marvel's A Princess of Mars Preview


I'll try to have a review up this weekend when I hit the comic book store but the site The Outhousers has posted a preview of Marvel's adaptation of A Princess of Mars http://www.theouthousers.com/index.php/previews/marvel-previews/15639.html showing the two covers and some art from the comic. So far I can't say I'm impressed with either the covers or the artwork shown but I'll give it a try before I pass final judgment. So check out the preview and let me know what you guys think.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thor Blu-Ray/DVD Preview


Yep tomorrow sees the release of probably the best film I saw all summer (tied with Rise of the Planet of the Apes) on Blu-Ray and DVD and Marvel has released a trailer showing off the film and the bonus features which seem to be the standard extras (deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurettes) and a sneak peak at next summer's Avengers film. Enjoy!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: Tarzan's Quest


It's been a long time since I last reviewed an adventure of the Lord of the Apes. So let's return to the hidden tribes, deadly animals and lost babes that makes up the fantasy version of Africa.

Instead of opening in the darkest wilds though, Tarzan's Quest opens at a party being attended by Jane Porter Clayton (aka Lady Greystoke) where she runs into an old acquittance, Kitty Krause and her much younger husband, Prince Alexis Sburov. While making idle chitchat, Jane mentions that she is heading out to Africa to visit her husband when the Princess reveals her own plans to visit the continent in search of a rumored formula to preserve youth. Jane agrees to go with the couple but a raging storm forces them to crash in the middle of the jungle. As the group-including the pilot Brown, butler Tibbs and maid Annette-attempt to survive, Jane takes charge but the suspicious death of one of the group and Annette's disappearance threatens to destroy the small group.

Meanwhile, Tarzan is busy investigating the strange disappearances of women from local tribes, attributed to a legendary group of barbarians known as the Kavuru. Finding little help from the tribe of Bukena who fear reprisals, Tarzan is ready to give up when the daughter of Muviro, the chief of the Waziri tribe and Tarzan's friend has also vanished. Tarzan takes up the hunt. And as you can guess it isn't too long before both parties find the fabled village of the Kavuru: a group of white barbarians who have remained young through the decades thanks to a potion involving the glands and blood of women. Tarzan ultimately has to match wits with the tribe's leader Kavandavanda to save the women from the sacrifice...and Jane from the usual "fate worse than death."

By the time Tarzan's Quest was published in magazine form between 1935-36, Edgar Rice Burroughs's jungle hero had lapsed into a formulaic series of adventures that usually involved lost civilizations, clueless expeditions and Tarzan saving the day. But for this entry, Burroughs decided to bring back Jane-who had been last seen in Tarzan and the Ant Men over a decade earlier-and streamline the narrative, resulting in a fun, pulp adventure. What makes the book fun is the return of Lady Greystoke, who has evolved from damsel in distress into an independent, clever and quick thinking heroine. She quickly assumes command of the small party of survivors, makes her own weapons and even takes down a leopard who threatens to take dinner from her. In fact she probably gets more pages devoted to her than Tarzan does, to the point that Burroughs could have left out Tarzan and the book would have still worked. As for the rest of the characters, well it's pulp so they're caricatures-a snooty prince and his whiny wife, a clumsy comedy relief butler and superstitious natives-even though compared to the natives from before they at least are presented more intelligently and the Waziri are written as a noble, proud group. As for the Kavuru, the idea of a group of deathless, young warriors who use the glands and blood of women adds a vampire motif to their actions, giving them a little more bite than the usual lost tribes in the other books.

That's not to say there isn't the usual chuckles to be had. Little Nkima is present and while he doesn't take up too much time can still be annoying. We also get another case of men lusting after Jane, first the snidely Prince and then later both Kavandavanda and another Kavuru warrior named Ogdli. What makes it especially hysterical is that Kavandavanda delivers a big speech about how women taint men and they would cause the Kavuru tribe to fall, yet two chapters later is ready to jump all over Jane: "I'll keep you. I'll tame you...I'll start now!" Talk about breaking your vows.

Beyond that though, this might be the most fun I've had with a Tarzan book. The only disappointment was with the next entry, Tarzan and the Forbidden City, the worn out formula returned and Jane was gone for good. She deserved more time and even her own adventure. Rating: ***1/2 out of 4.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #6


I know this week's been quiet on here. I guess chalk it up to lack of movie news and being busy. But now we return to the incomparable Princess of Helium's adventures as she goes up against the "Pirate Queen of Mars!"

Following the devastation left by the Colossus and the Jeddak of Yorn, Tardors Mors has been crowned Jeddak of both Greater and Lesser Helium and the people are attempting to rebuild their kingdom. But things seem to go from bad to worse when they discover that Helium's canals are drying up and attempts to communicate with the Southern Pumping Station have yielded no results. Dejah and a group of soldiers immediately fly off to investigate, unaware they have a stowaway on board. Once they arrive at the station in snowy regions of Barsoom, they find the station abandoned and a mysterious coin. Eventually they find the workers have been forced into a room and left to die with no reason given for the assault. Before Dejah can investigate a fire on her ship brings her out and she discovers the saboteur-a Moon Pirate who immediately knocks her out. When she awakes she finds herself captive of Phondari, the female pirate captain of the Jedessa's Revenge who has plans for the princess herself....

I don't know how those who weren't thrilled with the previous "Colossus of Mars" storyline will react to this one. But I have to admit at least this opening chapter has got my attention. This time the storyline by writer Arvid Nelson taps into one of the major themes of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels-the dwindling resources of Barsoom and the struggle to survive. In fact Dejah's mission here is similar to the mission she was on in A Princess of Mars-to save her people and the planet. I also like the idea of introducing the Moon Pirates and helping build up the rumors of their existence that was mentioned in The Gods of Mars. Again it's hard to tell how this well turn out and judging a storyline on one issue can be perilous but so far so good.

The artwork on the other hand by Carlos Rafael is again a knockout-but there are some things that will cause some head scratching. First the good-Dejah (even though I would think she would be freezing in the southern pole just wearing her skimpy coverings) is again a stunner. But she might have some competition in that department from Phundari. On the flip side we don't get a good look at the Jedessa's Revenge and there isn't any big action sequences to grab the eye. Also-and I'm sure this will cause some questions-the Pirates aren't black. Instead they're colored almost a bluish gray. Now I don't know if these pirates are supposed to be a different species or color from the Black Pirates of Barsoom but I'm sure some will be wondering about the color choice. (Even though this isn't the first time they were blue-DC's Weird Worlds version also had them a Smurf blue.) I guess we'll see how the story goes.

So in the end it's a toss-up. If you didn't like the previous storyline I suggest you take a look at the first few pages before you buy to see if you like it. If you enjoyed the last arc, then it's a no-brainer-snap it up and have fun.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Comic Review: The Mighty Thor #1-5


I should have started reviewing this back when it started but other things popped up. So better late than never.

As this series opens Asgard has fallen, the evil Loki has died and been reborn as a young child and Yggsdrasil-the World Tree-has been split following a devastating battle. As issue 1 "The Silence" opens the Asgardians have forged a fragile peace with the inhabitants of Broxton, Oklahoma where the World Tree was broken. But the Tree has gotten the notice of another god-like being,: Galactus the World Eater and his herald the Silver Surfer. While the Surfer flies toward Earth to investigate, Thor and the Lady Sif attempt to retrieve the "universal core" that the Tree grew from. However retrieving it Thor receives an injury that causes him to bleed a glowing light and causes him to express concern that the seed will cause more pain and suffering.

Issue 2 "Neighbors" opens with Thor and Sif training some recruits by pitting them against a "stone colossus." As they go through the training, Odin discovers that the seed is actually an egg and puts it into the protection of the Destroyer despite some concerns expressed by Heimdall. Meanwhile the town of Broxton gets a visitor in the form of the Surfer who immediately tells the townsfolk to run. Eventually he finds Odin and gets...well let's just say the Surfer doesn't take no for an answer...

As issue 3 "The Stranger" opens, Broxton's leading Pastor Mike has taken the Surfer's arrival as a sign that Christ is returning. And that the Asgardians have to go, which doesn't sit well with Volstagg who just wants breakfast. While Volstagg plans his own war, Thor and the Surfer duke it out until Odin steps in. Loki is also up to mischief, taking a lock of Sif's hair but gets caught. But that is forgotten as Asgard prepares for war with Galactus.

Or rather "To Duel Against Galactus" as issue 4 states. But first we pick up with Loki as he brings the lock of hair to three sisters who have plans of their own. After that we're off with the Asgaridans as the engage Galactus and Silver Surfer and Volstagg plans his own strategy. As the citizens of Broxton march, Thor and the Surfer crash land on Mars and the three sisters give Loki the gifts he wants...

And finally issue 5 "God of Carnage" finds Thor still hammering the Surfer (man that sounds dirty). But Odin-in his best Shatner impression has had "ENOUGH!" and injures Galactus, causing both of them to fall towards Earth. Meanwhile Pastor Mike and Volstagg have their face off-which ends with Mike asking to speak with someone else but that is put on hold as the impact of Galactus gets their attention and leads the pastor to believe that God has arrived. Also Loki has stolen the seed and jumps into the shooting beam of light which could save or destory Asgard. And we'll see how it wraps up next month.

Again sorry for the long winded breakdowns. But I figured this one way to get most of it out in one swoop. I have to admit it had been a while since I picked up Thor from the comic book store, but after seeing the movie decided to give the God of Thunder another try and so far have found this series interesting. Writer Mark Fraction has conceived an interesting story, pitting the gods of Asgard against a god-like being, showing off both sides' arrogance and their single minded determination to survive. It parallels hysterically with Volstagg's War-and how even the simple people of a Oklahoman town can't take him seriously-and the concerns and faith of the people of Broxton-to the point they are willing to go to war based on their beliefs which the Asgardians are doing as well.

Also making the series work is the artwork of Olivier Coipel, who captures the Asgaridans in an eye catching style. The characters come to life vividly, even the humans while he portrays the galactic battle scenes with a sure hand. It may not top Walt Simonson's run on the character but it manages to appease this old school fan. And he draws a sexy Sif-yes even in battle armor.

So if you haven't been reading this series, pick it up. I think old and new Thor fans will enjoy it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars-Fall of Barsoom #2


As you can now tell I don't have a snappy opening. So let's just jump in shall we?

After rescuing an unconscious red woman from a savage group of green men, scientist Tak Nan Lee heads to the Atmosphere Plant and again attempts to bring it on line. But a failure to infuse electricity to the Ninth Ray which leads to an unstable reaction causes him to shut it down. He also gets a less than friendly welcome from Anouk, the woman he rescued who reveals she is now tribeless and was a captive of the red men. While that is going on the Orovar army attempts to halt a band of green men at the city of Thark, leading to a full scale battle that threatens not only to obliterate the city but possibly the Orovar capital of Horz. But the Orovar King might be hiding something that could change everything...

Picking up after the excellent first issue, writer Robert Place Napton keeps the story going at a good pace while working in subtle homages to the novels-a discussion about using telepathy to open the doors of the Plant for example-that fans I think will appreciate. But the real draw is the artwork by Roberto Castro who stages the battle scenes with an energy that some of the previous John Carter/Barsoom comics have lacked. And he draws a mean looking Green Man who you would not want to meet and a pretty sexy Red Woman as well. There is still some artistic things that I'm having trouble with-the Orovar military and the king would look at home in Asgard-but these are minor quibbles.

So if you haven't picked this one up, do so and I'll think you'll enjoy it. I just wonder if Marvel's prequel series will be just as good?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Edgar Rice Burroughs Stamp


With today being his 136th birthday, here's something cool: The US Postal Service will be issuing a stamp celebrating Edgar Rice Burroughs, set for release next year as part of the 100th anniversary of the birth of both John Carter of Mars and Tarzan. You can read more info about the stamp at http://www.erbzine.com/mag36/3611.html