Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two helpings of Flash Gordon plus some Marvel-ous books

Hawkeye: Blindspot#1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): In many Avengers fans, Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye has always been "the man". He's brash, cocky, has one of the best costumes in comics, and in a world of high-tech machinery and sorcery, he's still manages to take bad guys down using a bow and arrow. Though what happens when the world's greatest marksman learns he is losing his sight? That's what we dive into in this mini-series. Jim McCann has been striking gold with these Hawkeye minis as of late. He captures the glory days of the Hawkeye series back in the 80's with bold adventures that remind somebody like me why I still love comics. McCann backtracks a little with some of Barton's circus days as we see the Swordsman and Trickshot and Barton learning the ropes, so to speak. We see his reformation and joining the Avengers, which leads to another encounter with an old ghost from the past. Pico Diaz is just marvelous here. I'm not too familiar with any previous work of his, but I'm officially a fan. He has that 70's vibe in the vein of Neal Adams and Gil Kane, with a slice of George Perez in his rendering. I just wish Tomeu Morey's colors wouldn't have dampened the art. IT's not bad per se, but everything seems to have an extra bit of orange to everything and just looks not as sharp as it could be. Hawkeye: Blindspot hearkens back to a simpler age of storytelling, but is hardly "simple". If you're itching for something that the current Avengers books might not be scratching, look no further than this.


New Avengers #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): These days I tend to lean towards more Vertigo and independent titles, but I found it hard to turn down a chance to read something with Howard Chaykin's name attached to it. Especially when his art pertains to Nick Fury hunting Nazis in the 1950's. Going back and forth between Nick's backstory and present day with the Avengers surveying a small remainder of HAMMER are looking to make more trouble. As usual, Bendis gives a solid read with bits of humorous dialog that he's known for that always gives the impression that these people aren't just team mates, but actual friends. It's an interesting contrast to see Chaykin and Mike Deodato work together because of their contrasting styles, but nothing distracting that takes one out of the story. Since this is the beginning of a new arc, it's not quite clear on what to expect, but I am sure Bendis and company will deliver


The Wheel of Time #8
Written by Robert Jordan and Chuck Dixon
Art by Andie Tong and Nicolas Chapuis
Lettering by Bill Tortolini
Published by Dynamite
Review by Lan Pitts

"Whatever the Dark One wants I oppose , so hear this, and know it's true -- before I let the Dark One have you, I will destroy you myself." -- Moiraine Sedai

Nothing spoils an adventure more than pesky Draghkar following you.

Leaving their home of Emond's Field, after it was destroyed by a Trolloc invasion, Rand al'Thor and his friends Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara and his somewhat unofficial girlfriend Egwene head towards the to mystical nation of Tar Valon, guided by Moiraine, and her Warder, Lan. Along the way, the boys learn how to use a bow as Lan trains them to fight Trollocs and other shadowspawn. Rand finds himself in a sort of adventure he has only read about in stories or told as tall tales. The realization really hits home is when Egwene decides she wants to become an Aes Sedai.

I think it would be helpful for anybody unfamiliar with the franchise, for Dynamite to include a glossary. Then again, these books are made for the fans, and I feel at times, would be hard to get into, especially if you look at the sheer volume of the actual books themselves. Then on the other hand, I'm sure that is how it is with most comics these days. I digress.

Dynamite was fortunate enough to nab this title from the Dabel Bros line, and from what I've read, have done a good job with it. Chuck Dixon's years of experience guides the story well and doesn't throw too much of you at once. I love how he includes excerpts from the books themselves, giving that feeling of the books and you can see how true to the source material he's making it.

As long as the book has been around, I've been a critic to Chase Conley's style and how he handles the characters. Here, we have artist Andie Tong (Tangent: Superman's Reign, The Batman Strikes!) and I find his style more suiting and appealing on how the "Rand Band" look. You can definitely see an almost-anime influence with how the characters stand and talk, but Tong reels it back just when you think he's gone too far. I guess the odd fact of the matter is that, when I think "Wheel of Time", I think high-concept fantasy, not just comic art. The thing is though, Tong can be really good. I don't think he's there yet with these characters.

I guess my biggest complaint are the colors. Half the time, Nicolas Chapuis soaks you up in this realm with it's lovely shades of green and other miscellaneous earth tones, but when he works on the purples and darker colors, it looks muddy and rushed. I'm not saying you need a Laura Martin-like coloring job on the book, but the separations towards the end come across as incomplete and flat.

The Wheel of Time series means a heck of lot to this reviewer, and while I am grateful that there is a comic adaptation, the art department needs to kick it up a notch.


Flash Gordon: The Mercy Wars
Written by Brendan Deneen
Art by Paul Green
Lettering by Richard Emms
Published by Ardden Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

"Please...enough. I've had enough. There's only one person who can find Zarkhov...a professor at Yale...Gordon..."

Now before I continue, I need to make something clear: I know very little about Flash Gordon. I know there was a movie made in the 80's about him, he was in a cartoon with the Phantom and Mandrake (Defenders of the Earth), and that he was once a comic strip. That being said, I can honestly say I am open to any interpretation of the character since I have seen him handled in a few ways. Ardden's take is something more up my alley, playing up the sci-fi/fantasy angle and making Flash not so muscle-bound and unintelligent, though Flash still appears as athletic as ever.

Other characters appear from Flash mythos, including sometimes love interest Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkhov, the latter having gone missing and is being looked for by the former as he is suspected to be building a WMD. The story goes back and forth between Flash and the rebellion on Planet Mongo against Ming the Merciful (yes, there was a time he called himself that). Eventually, Flash, Dale, and Zarkhov become separated. Dale is seduced by Ming's wiles, Flash lands in the jungle and befriends Eldun, a jungle warrior who is not who she appears to be, while Zarkhov is taken prisoner by Ming. The three stories culminate to a fierce battle with all allied forces standing together for Mongo.

At first, Paul Green's style seems like J. Scott Campbell, but a bit more rounder and not as sharp. You can see the influence definitely, especially in the way Green constructs women's eyes and heads. While the art is easy on the eyes, some conversations seemed boxed in and restrained. Panels are made to where it feels as though it's constantly made of close up shots of eyes and mouths and soon becomes pages of "talking heads". It doesn't start off this way, in the beginning there is a sense of being open, but later while more characters are introduced, it just feels claustrophobic.

Green's use of colors and designs are something great as well. The colors have that perfect level of saturation that gives everything a smoother and polished look. Ming reminds me of Mr. Sinister from the X-Men, but with a more gothic flair (if that's possible). Though, going back to the Campbell influence, I kept doing a double take for Dale as Sydney Savage from Danger Girl.

Brendan Deneen has taken a classic character and relaunched it for a new generation. Some of the dialog comes across as bit cliche at times, but isn't too far out there to not warrant a read. He handles Flash like I've always seen him, and put a nice twist on Ming. For some reason I heard Jason Isaacs when I read Ming's dialog in my head. This is my first real foray into the world of Flash Gordon, and I can easily say I'd check out more. This mini-series is a few years old, but finally collected into one trade, and for Flash fans, a new way to experience and old favorite.


Flash Gordon: Invasion of the Red Sword #1
Written by Brendan Deneen
Art by Eduardo Garcia and Jok
Lettering by Richard Emms
Published by Ardden Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

Flash Gordon is not having the best of days.

When a planet Mongo's Universal Translator goes out, it's up to Flash Gordon and Professor Zarkhov to repair it. Too bad Dale Arden's former commandos have the idea to strike a rebellion against the kingdom. And just when you think Flash and CO. have figured it out, Ming comes along to spoil it.

With Flash Gordon and the Mercy Wars fresh on my mind, I didn't mind a second helping of what Brendan Deenan brought to the table. Now while, Deenan does mention past adventures and occurences, I feel as though a "Previously On..." page would have been helpful. I can see where a new reader might feel lost or confused on things. Especially character relationships. While it's obvious of Flash and Dale's connection, other relationships might not be so understanding.

Eduardo Garcia brings the best of what Paul Green did in Mercy Wars. There's definitely still a J. Scott Campbell vibe, but not as much here. The panels aren't so concentrated on close ups and allows the page to breathe. Garcia still has a cartoonish look to the world, yet definitely has a strong grasp of action shots and motion.

Deenan still the same problems that he had in Mercy Wars which is concept of pacing. The pages come across as very busy at times and I feel it would have been slightly better if there wasn't something happening everywhere. While the dialog is still strong and interesting, I found myself just rushed the entire time. The last few pages of the book is where it finally got to a better speed and not crammed. Flash Gordon: Invasion of the Red Sword
was a strong crash course in the world of Flash Gordon and company, and it is a good read. Though some parts of the story, I feel, could have been executed better.

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