Saturday, June 27, 2015

Retro Comics: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #25


As the cover says, He's Back! And playing a game of "Hide-'n'-Seek" with the Guild of Assassins!

Still using his guerrilla tactics on Tal Modrin and his killers, John Carter and Tars Tarkas manage to whittle them down to size, eventually bringing Carter and Mordrin together in a duel to the death. Meanwhile Helium's royal family grows concerned about Carter and Dejah Thoris' long absence unaware of the planned assault by traitorous Guild members. Can Carter save them in time? Will Dejah become ulsio food? And why does Mors Kojak have a mohawk?

After a short break, the series comes back with a surprisingly subtle pace as Chris Claremont and company have Carter play cat and mouse with the Guild, creating several suspense set pieces and some rousing action, especially in the duel between the two master swordsmen. The growing tension of waiting for the assault on Helium is also well handled and makes the reader anxious for the next issue, always a sign of a successful story being well told.

One interesting note is the presence of both Tardors Mors and Mors Kojak's wives in the story, mainly due to their complete absence in the original novels. In fact outside of vague mentions in A Princess of Mars neither character make an appearance in any of the novels so their appearance here is unique in helping establish the family history.

As usual strong art for the series from Vosburg and Villamonte (as they are listed on the first page).

With three more issues to go we're about done with Marvel's adventures with John Carter and company. Next time prepare for "Night of the Long Knives!" and until then Kaor!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Comic Review: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #8


More comic review action as John Carter and Dejah Thoris face a "Man-Made Monster!"

Still on their quest to save Barsoom, John and Dejah discover massive carnage on a farm near the fabled ancient palace of Ishak. When they meet some of the locals they discover they are being menaced by a predator that is slaying their livestock and causing massive disappearances of the local populace. Dejah vows to fly back to Helium and summon aid the next morning but before that happens her and Carter meet the force behind the attacks, a creature whose motive remains mysterious and frightening.

With this story Ron Marz brings on co-writer Ian Edgington and the two create a cracking opening, from the suspenseful opening of a family being stalked and terrorized by an unseen force to the confrontation between Carter and the "predator" it's a fast paced tale that manages to combine the best of comic book adventure with the pulp sense of ERB himself. I don't want to spoil too much so let's just say I'm eager to see the next chapter.

Handling art duties this time out is Ariel Medel, who does a good job capturing the creatures of Barsoom-from thoats to the new threat-with skill. Medel also delivers some rousing action in the fight near the end, along with nice handling of the characters. Some will be disappointed by the change of artists but if anything I always welcome a new artist if they deliver and Medel does so just give the art a chance.

With a new story arc and threat, we once again are in capable hands so fans of the Warlord of Mars just have fun and enjoy the ride. Until next time faithful readers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Comic Review: Darth Vader #2


Still playing catch up, so let's dive in shall we?

Showing off his skills as a pilot, Lord Vader captures a pirate corvette that is involved in a series of raids. But that isn't the major problem. Instead it's being bossed around by Grand General Taggee (who some might remember as the one voicing concerns about the Death Star's vulnerability before it was destroyed) and an adjutant that is appointed to Vader. It isn't too long before Vader finds the raiders, discovers the traitor in the Empire's midst and keeps his hunt for the x-wing pilot who caused his current situation quiet. In short all in a day's work for a Dark Lord of the Sith.

Having enjoyed the first issue, I really dug into this issue since it showed the many facets of Darth Vader-expert fighter pilot, combat general and supreme tactician-along with his way to keep even those who believe they are in charge in their place. All the while writer Kieron Gillen keeps the character compelling without losing his menacing side (which also surfaced in the recent season two premiere of Star Wars: Rebels). In fact this series and the recent animated appearance are helping to reestablish Vader as a frightening villain, not the fallen Jedi (or whiny teen) we saw in the prequels.

Also have to give props to artist Salvador Larroca, who captures the looks of the characters and designs from the Star Wars universe with style and a nice sense of layout without losing sight of the story being told. This series is Star Wars in look and feel and Larroca nails that aspect better than some artists have in the past.

If you have not dug into this series, give it a shot. This is the Darth Vader you have been looking for. Tomorrow another space adventure comic review so stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

'Star Wars: Shattered Empire' First Look


As you can tell things are going kaboom here. The official Star Wars site has posted this glimpse of cover art for Star Wars: Shattered Empire, the comic book series that will bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. So far Marvel's comics have generated big sales and controversy (hello Mrs. Solo?) so we'll have to wait and see how this one turns out in September. For more info-including comments from writer Greg Rucka-check out http://www.starwars.com/news/the-battle-of-endor-looms-in-star-wars-shattered-empire-1s-variant-cover-exclusive-reveal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Retro Comics: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #24


As we head into the home stretch of this series, we find our heroes facing "BETRAYAL!"

When we last left off, John Carter and Dejah Thoris were captives of the Guild of Assassins and their mysterious leader Tal Mordin. With Carter chained and Dejah facing an evil looking Thark all seems lost...until it's revealed that the masked Thark is Tars Tarkas, whose quick actions releases Carter and the trio seem to escape in a flier, only it's actually Dejah flying off to warn her family about the coup d'etat that waits for them. Carter and Tars meanwhile engage in "guerrilla warfare" against the assassins but all may be lost as Dejah discovers treachery in Helium...

Packing in narrow escapes, devious villains and a fast paced plot, this issue finally recaptures the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs that got lost in the Orovar story arc. Chris Claremont shows here a nice flair for the characters and the story that makes this one of the best of this series, capturing the pulp fun while maintaining a sure hand that prevents it from sinking into comic book silliness or chaos. The ending is also a corker, especially with the ominous words that this might be "THE END?" (for those who don't know Marvel's deal with ERB Inc. had hit a few speed bumps and this was the last issue, until a deal was worked out.)

Art duties for this issue are handled by the duo of Mike Vosburg and R. Villamonte and they do a good job balancing the action and helping the story move. Some of the art choices are different from what has gone before-like the over-dramatic designs of Tal Modrin, as well as the first appearance of the "Hulk" Tars Tarkas that later comic book series would adapt. We also get Dejah's Barbarella outfit and well she wears it well. Otherwise it's a solid A for effort.

With four issue left to go (and three Giant Size Annuals) we're about done with our 1970s visit to Barsoom. Until next time faithful visitors, Kaor!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

'Star Wars: The Heart of the Jedi' Now Online


With  a new "canon" to follow, here's a look at one that fell by the wayside. Back in 1992, author Kenneth C. Flint was hired by Bantam Spectra and Lucasfilm to pen a new novel that would take place shortly after Return of the Jedi. Sadly The Heart of the Jedi was pushed back constantly and finally never published...until now. The web site Star Wars: The Expanded Timeline has posted the first eight chapters of the book in two sections with the remaining chapter coming soon. I read the first part and fans of Star Wars will enjoy it. Also fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs might get a good chuckle out of some of the names as the Rebel Alliance has to fight High Admiral Tharkus and his underling General Kantos, so head over to http://starwarstimeline.net/The%20Heart%20of%20the%20Jedi.htm and read it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

'Tarzan: Return to Pal-Ul-Don" Coming Soon!


Real soon, like this month. Publisher Altus Press has announced the upcoming Tarzan: Return to Pal-Ul-Don, written by Will Murray for release. The novel is fully authorized by ERB Inc. and based on the plot description will pick up after Tarzan and the 'Foreign Legion':

"During World War II, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke has just completed flight training with the Royal Air Force when his superiors assign him to a secret mission: Locate the enigmatic British Military Intelligence operative codenamed Ilex, whose plane has gone down in a vast primeval wilderness that only Tarzan of the Apes dares brave. Flying Officer Clayton does not suspect that his superiors harbor an ulterior motive for assigning him this dangerous mission. Before it’s all over, the Lord of the Jungle will plunge into his wild past and confront dangers both familiar and unfamiliar in the prehistoric lost land where carnivorous triceratops and saber-tooth tigers roam."

For more on the upcoming novel check out http://www.altuspress.com/new-tarzan-novel/ and stay tuned.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Retro Comics: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #23


With only six issues to go in the original Marvel series, let's return and meet "The Man Who Makes Murder!"

Leaping from the pan to the fire, John Carter and Dejah Thoris have just escaped their winged Orovar captors when they are taken in by the Guild of Assassins, the very men who tried to kill Carter weeks earlier. However they believe Dejah is the assassin Daria and eventually Carter discovers Dejah's true mission besides avenging his "death"-to stop a takeover of Helium by the guild and the slaughter of the royal family! If that isn't enough we also meet Tal Mordin, the legendary master assassin, who knows Dejah is not Daria and decides to pit her against a green man to the death.

With this issue Chris Claremont and company dump a lot of information on us-from Mordin's near historic status to the plot to kill Tardos Mors and his family to Carter's discovery of another secret Dejah is hiding, that's a lot to go through in a short space. Thankfully the story moves smoothly and Claremont provides enough moments to keep it from piling up. In short no long winded speeches or scenes of Mark Strong explaining his master plan Dr. Evil style.

The artwork team also delivers, with rousing sword fights, skilled designs and enough eye-catching stuff to keep your eyes glued. Granted some of the design choices are bizarre (like Mors Kojak's mohawk look) or just eye candy (Dejah's one piece outfit near the end-why couldn't Lynn Collins had worn that?) it's a colorful piece well done.

Next time will our heroes survive? Will Helium fall? Find out in "Betrayal on Barsoom!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

'Tarzan and Jane' Head to Netflix


Talk about coming out of the blue. Today Netflix announced they will be streaming Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and Jane, a new eight episode animated series that will premier next yet (around the same time that Warner Bros.' new movie will debut). The series reportedly sees Tarzan taken out of his jungle home and being raised in boarding school in England. It's there he meets Jane and the two solve mysteries and "environmental injustice." For more info check out  http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2015/06/03/tarzan-and-jane-among-four-animated-series-swinging-into-netflix/ and leave any thoughts below.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Comic Review: John Carter, Warlord of Mars #7


As you can tell this issue show what happens on a romantic getaway on Barsoom. Only with with bloodthirsty creatures trying to kill you.

Following the defeat of Kahori and their forced exodus, John Carter and Dejah Thoris plan some away time to explore the ruins of Gulondra. Leaving Kantos Kan in charge and a despondent Woola, the pair head off, find the ruins and begin exploring and enjoying their time alone. But of course this is John Carter, Warlord of Mars we're talking about and before too long they have unwelcome company seeking tribute. Let's just say they find a princess who does not take to having her romantic weekend ruined lightly...

A stand-alone tale after the epic six-issue "Invaders of Mars" tale, "Excursion" is a fun tale that provides a nice breather between tales. In a recent interview Ron Marz related that he wanted to do single or two-issue tales and I for one embrace that since it can grow wearying keeping up with multi-issue tales. Here Marz does a nice balancing act of setting up a potential new storyline (Carter expressing concern about Barsoom's future) while giving us a nice short story that delivers a quick snappy read.

Handling the art duties this time is Ariel Medel, who brings a good style to the characters and creatures, as well as the action sequences later on. Some will miss Abhishek Malsuni's work-which was really growing on me-but Medel does keep balance with the series and the designs established.

A nice change after the epic stories of past Barsoomian comics, "Excursion" gets a solid rating here folks. Until next time faithful readers.