Saturday, July 24, 2010

Giant Sharks, Mutated Animals and Dinosaurs

I am currently reading the (so far) wonderful Art in Time, which features reprints from comics the editor, Dan Nadel, finds to be interesting for one reason or another.  The stories aren't ones that have been reprinted often in the past, so reading them has been a rare treat.  One of the more pleasurable stories in the group has been from Kona issue three, and features Kona, the white-haired caveman, trying to find a solution to a very vexing problem.  He is in a cave with some travelers from the present time period (Sixties).  This cave is quickly filling with water.  The waters have some toxin in them that has caused the sharks in the water to grow bigger than the dinosaurs that populate the cave.  This, of course, spells trouble for Kona and his people.  He does remember, however, that there is a cave nearby that has been blocked off because the other side of it contains hideously mutated animals. 

You have to love these comic book premises.  Could a book throw in anymore of the kitchen sink?  Cavemen, dinosaurs, giant sharks, mutated animals (like giraffes with bull bodies or some such insanity).  When you think those kinds of storylines wouldn't fly today, remember that just recently the Uncanny X-Men has these weird alien predator things dropped onto their Utopia island by a wayward mutant in a plane.  Perhaps not as outlandish as what Kona faced, but the concept is the same.

Reading the old stories is a lot like watching old movies.  The dialogue sometimes doesn't sound right, and the ideas sometimes seem almost quaint, but you are witnessing a product from a bygone time.  They, quite honestly, don't make them like that anymore.  Is that a good or bad thing?  I don't know.   More people read comic books back in those days, and while few would argue about the quality of our stories today, where are the readers?  Perhaps they want those crazy stories from the days of yore where logic took a backseat to ... just about anything else.

Me?  I like both periods.  And to be frank, we wouldn't be where we are at today without those stories from decades ago.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Vampire Verses #2

CFD Visual Anarchy's The Vampire Verses issue 2 came out way back in 1996.  Its creators are the ever controversial Joe Monks and Hart D. Fisher.  Helping out here was also artist Frank Forte, Mike Bliss and Bob Murdock.  As to be expected with anything associated with Monks and Fisher, there is blood ... and bare breasts ... and bodies torn in half.  Throw in lots of cursing, sacrificed babies and threats of rape, and you have a comic that earns its mature readers label.

But is it any good?

If black and white art is something you run from, you will hate this.  The cover is the only bit of color.  If vampires who look like those kids in Twilight are your thing, you'll also hate this.  There are no cute teens in the stories presented here.  Just vampires, thugs, demons and razor blades run down tongues.  Obviously, it's not for the weak-of-heart ... and nor is it for discerning tastes.

The art is appropriate for the types of stories presented here.  The stories, however, are full of usual genre trappings you've come to expect, as well as cookie-cutter dialogue and characters.  It often seems that the only thing original here is the gleeful love of violence that permeates nearly every single scene.  (That said, the baby sacrifice is not exactly shown.  It seems that even these creators have limits.)  Heck, the text piece has a character named Lucien.  Have you ever read a good story with a character named Lucien?  Doubtful.

When this was first published it had a $2.95 cover price.  The cover alone probably sold quite a few people on it.  Today I suspect it is in the dollar boxes at best (if retailers aren't too timid to carry it).

In 2001, Asylum Press was re-releasing the 12 issues of this maxi-series.  If you go to the website you will find some of the original issues still for sale, though this issue has sold out for some reason.  It should be noted, too, that as of this writing, eBay had several issues of the series up for grabs.  Whether or not there are any takers remained to be seen.

Vampires are hot right now.  In 1996 they weren't nearly as universal in their appeal.  It wasn't exactly a guaranteed sale to do this type of comic, so the creators deserve some credit.  Unfortunately, they took what could have been a stand-out series and made it almost a replica of all that has come before it ... only with more gore and boobs.  That may work as a distraction, but as a story device it falls awfully short.

Perhaps people should stick with Twilight.  At least that has werewolves.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

He's Dead, Jim

It is no longer news.  Nighcrawler is dead.  (Well, as dead as dead can be in the comic book world.)  I have some mixed feelings about this.

As of late, Uncanny X-Men, the only X title I keep up on, has had this feeling of dread hanging over it like diseased mistletoe.  Ever since Scarlet Witch uttered those infamous words that wiped out most of the mutants, things have been tense for the ones who remained alive.  The phrase "kill or be killed" has never felt more real.

There were going to be casualties.  There always are.  The X titles are not immune to it.  The X-Men have died individually and in groups.  They usually come back.  In time, Nightcrawler will be back, too.  Nobody stays dead for long.

Nightcrawler has always been my favorite mutant.  Honestly, it had everything to do with his look at first.  The visual appeal of the character got me into him.  As I read stories with him in it, I grew even fonder of him.  His first limited series in the 1980s was utter crap.  It captured his freewheeling attitude, but boy did it suck.  It was actually fairly embarrassing.   At least at the time Uncanny didn't suck, too.

About the only writer whom I felt ever really had a good grasp of the character was Chris Claremont.  It seemed like over the years other writers have shown an appreciation for him, but rarely seemed to get him right.  Of all the mutants on that core team, he was the one who had the best outlook on life, but who also hid great pain.  He was the optimist, but held onto that glimmer of realism if only to never forget how bad people could be.

And now he's dead ... for now ... for right now.

Yeah, his death means something in the comic, but it strikes me as hollow.  It's not that I expected it (I've been expecting it for years, and then kind of thought it would never happen).  It is because I just didn't expect to feel so unmoved by it.

Nightcrawler will be back.  There will be controversy.  There will be celebration.  But for comics it will be business as usual ... and then he'll be killed again.

It's never the ones you hate, is it?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cover Review: Satanika #11

I've never been a fan of this series, but I have usually enjoyed the covers.  This one, for issue eleven, is, quite simply, boring.

Jason Blood is the artist, and his artwork here looks like something you would find in his high school chemistry notebook.  It tells you nothing about the comic, the character or the story, and nothing screams, "Read me!"  In fact, the only new reader I can see picking this up is the one who is interested in naked demon chicks.

Unfortunately, the naked demon chick pictured here lacks any kind of erotic appeal, and she sure as hell doesn't appear to be "evil."  The guy behind her looks a little more threatening ... in a He-Man villain sort of way.

I've seen more of Blood's artwork and remain unimpressed by what I've witnessed.  This cover being no exception.  Lackluster in art style and even color, it summons not demons, but boredom.