Comic Review: XO Manowar #1

XO Manowar #1 came out yesterday, a relaunch by Valiant comics who already relaunched the 90s property in 2012, which from my cursory look on the internet met with great reviews. I’ve actually never read either prior incarnation of XO Manowar, and am coming at this as a new reader, which probably is most helpful in a review for potential new readers.  My cousin had the #1 variant back in the 90s, shiny cover as I recall (I could be wrong, it was the 90s) but I never picked it up, already having my budget in comics extended far more than it should have been. I’m not sure why I missed the original relaunch, but I did, and it looks like it had a pretty successful run.

This new incarnation is written by Matt Kindt and drawn by Tomas Giorello, neither of whom I knew much about before yesterday and doing a cursory google search. Frankly, I think the time is ripe for Valiant to be doing a relaunch of something anyone might have remotely heard of from the 90s. Going into comic shops lately has left me scratching my head. I’ve been STARVED for something new to read that catches my eye. I saw the work via Twitter that Valiant was doing by supporting local comic shops and really getting out there for retailers, and, as the former owner of a comic shop myself, that impressed me as well. The team looks like good, intelligent people. The kind I like to support. The question is, how is the actual comic itself?

What drew me in was the cover. The bright yellow with the huge logo and a Star Wars/ Princess of Mars style art on the cover that screams classic adventure sci-fi to me. It’s gorgeous, bright, fills me with anticipation to open up the book.

Inside, it starts with a scene of a guy who’s kinda “retired” from adventuring, farming, just doing his thing. It reminds me a bit of Rogue One’s opening where the bad guys flood in and force the guy back to work. This had the guy forced into military service. We see within the first few pages the guy is strong, cautious, wise, has a history of adventuring with some weird gadget thing, is alpha and good at getting the girl (even ones with tails…) and someone you generally want to root for as a reader. The army looks like a cool sci-fi group, further reminding me of Princess of Mars or classic adventure fiction.  I like how the aliens refer to him as “Aric of Urth” which if you say it out loud makes sense how it would be twisted like that by a foreign culture.

Adventure ensues, as our hero goes into a hopeless suicide mission of a military situation, people dying all around him, he runs a gauntlet of death and cool sci-fi devices against aliens, with a hopelessly undermatched group. He uses both his wit and strength to guide him through the situation, totally as a solo individual and without some powers, which I assume are going to come later through the mysterious orb that was introduced in the book. It’s somewhat decompressed like modern comics, building to a trade sized story for sure, but at the same time I feel like I did get a full helping of story, unlike a lot of comics these days. It helps that they did a 40-page issue—and my first thought was how are they going to make money at $3.99 with this any pages?  Perhaps it’s meant to be a loss leader, but I was happy with how much I got on the story front. Kindt did a fantastic job of providing real adventure, bringing me back to the golden age of sci-fi storytelling that makes me yearn for more.

The art is great as well. I would say this is completely top notch, far better than I would have expected from a small publisher. It outdoes most Marvel/DC books I saw on the shelves. Good expressions, great detail work, wonderful shading and lighting effects. The artist drew some super creative gadgets and aliens too which look fantastic, unique and memorable. I really couldn’t have asked for better on this book.

Overall, it’s just a teaser of a story. We have our hero operating without his powers, running the gauntlet, being called back into action, and we’re still waiting for more. It’s a little tough to judge until the full arc comes about, but if Kindt continues with the brilliant adventure fiction as this book gave us a glimpse of, with homages and respect for the past pulp era, I think we may have 2017’s best comic book on our hands. As a new reader who’s never looked at Valiant or XO Manowar before, I was given enough info for this to be a perfect starting point, and the story gripped me from there.

Appendix N and #PulpRevolution people – this is the horse we should bet on. I think XO Manowar may be right up our alley, and highly suggest you take a look for yourself. Even though I said in past blogs I’m done with pamphlet comics with the way trades have taken over, I can’t wait for #2.

Comic Review: The Invisible Republic Vol. 1

UPDATE: After I leave a positive review of their book, both @GabrielHardman and @CorinnaBechko blocked me on Twitter. Very weird. Do they not want positive reviews of their book, or people reading them? Do they just block reviewers? Is there a worse intention of that blocking there because of my whistleblowing of the comics industry’s bigotry? If someone would like to message them and ask, I’d like to clear that up before leaving endorsements of them up! 

A fun fact is I used to do a series of comic reviews on the website True Believer Reviews, and had interviewed a lot of great comic writers from 2009-2013 or so. My own writing took precedence at the time, but now I’ve learned to knock out reviews pretty quickly, and with a comic-based audience, I figured I’d pick that back up again, true believers, so we can discover fun and interesting reads together. I’ll be doing trade paperbacks only for the most part, as I find pamphlets to be mostly pointless in comics these days.

But you’re here to hear about Image Comics’ invisible republic by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sarah Bechko, which I picked up after seeing a positive review on my favorite reviewer, The Injustice Gamer’s, blog. Continue reading

Retro Review: Tarzan Of The Apes

I’ve been promising a review of this book on social media since before the weekend. This is the original Tarzan Of The Apes, Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic 1912 novel that spawned more than twenty sequels, endless comic books, a ton of film adaptations over the years, and for the crime of being a true man’s adventure novel, erased from modern literary discussions. Like most of the old pulp adventures, instead of celebrating what they did for the culture, they’re treated like theyr’e worthless. Tarzan was, in the 1910s-1940s, bigger than Superman, bigger than Batman. Those future writers were influenced by ERB’s works.

It drives home the point that the #PulpRevolution and #AppendixN crowd has been beating on their incessant drum for months: having action adventure in a man’s world has been held down purposefully for decades.

I picked up the “Barnes and Noble Classics” edition of this at a used bookstore going out of business for a low low price (as well as about 10 other Tarzan books).  In this, it’s almost like they didn’t want to admit it was a classic or something worth reading. First of all, look at the cover:

If you’re familiar with my blog, you might have seen me post this as a “worst cover ever” consideration when I bought it. It says nothing of the book. It evokes images of someone sitting around drinking mint tea and farting about how literary they are. This is not Tarzan.

Then there’s the introduction in here, by a woman who is a sociology professor or something of the sort. The whole intro is devoted to slandering and talking down regarding Edgar Rice Burroughs — she even does the ridiculous internet argument tactic of tying him to Nazis. Ironic, as he spent most of the war as a correspondent writing about American patriotism, after he survived the Pearl Harbor bombing. It also talks down about pulp fiction and how it “differs from” literary fiction, of which she gives a long list of negatives that are anything but. The introduction is a disaster and a disgrace. Between that and the emotionless cover, it screams to readers “DON’T READ THIS BOOK WE ONLY PUBLISHED IT CUZ HISTORY!”

Dear Readers, read this book. There’s a reason it was history. This was some of the most fun reading I’ve ever done. It grips you from the start. Tarzan’s parents have a great backstory that begins. As he battles for his life and place with the apes, it’s fantastic. As he deals with savage cannibalistic tribes it’s sensational. As he meets stranded Englishen and the classic, iconic Jane Porter, it gets even better. the lengths that Tarzan will go for his love is romance in the truest sense, in the most passionate. And oh, the ending doesn’t wrap up neatly at all. It demands a sequel immediately.

The characters are great and distinct. You can’t put it down once you start going. It’s unbelievable that this came from 1912, and goes to show that there certainly was no such thing as some enlightenment in the 60s-70s to produce better fiction. The people of this time were not dumber, no less of worthy writers than now. In fact, ERB’s vocabulary seems leaps and bounds above the treetops of most modern works of fiction.

I have been reading Princess of Mars to my son, and compared. While Princess of Mars has a lot of cool world building elements that really show the depths of ERB’s imagination, I think Tarzan as a character and tale actually exceed the work. It’s tighter, it’s more gripping, it’s more ageless.Were it not for the historical revisionists of the poo-poo literary establishment getting rid of all pulps out of sight out of mind, propping up degeneracy like Lolita or utterly dry boring realism that Steinbeck, I think this may actually be the seminal, Great American Novel, or I should say, I think this certainly is the seminal, Great American novel.

I’m not going to detail it through, as though you are vaguely aware of many points of the stories, I believe that the details should be discovered for yourself. It’s short, and it’s worth reading immediately. It’s certainly bumped some off the list of my Top 10 favorite books of all time.

Retro Review: Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson

Once more I delve into my own study of the works of Appendix N and the #PulpRevolution, hopefully not to be too redundant with Jeffro Johnson’s wonderful analysis of the works, as I’m more interested in exploring a literary genre to see what I can pull of value for my own storytelling and reading edification, rather than tapping into the roots of gaming and what it brings to the table in that regard. I mentioned last week that I had read Poul Anderson’s Fire Time, which I found to be an extremely compelling book, so much so that I put aside other reading for a quick romp to follow up on Mr. Anderson’s work – as this book clocked in at about 160 pages, and I happened to have a copy.

Three Hearts and Three Lions follows the trope of someone in a traumatic situation getting thrust into a medieval fantasy world. Poul Anderson is pretty self aware of what it’s doing, the main character even referencing A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court at some point. The work blends some of the later sarcastic humor of genre tropes that one would expect to see from the 1970s-1980s even though this was originally published in 1951, which I give Mr. Anderson credit for.

I’m interested to see how many times Poul Anderson uses the “story within a story” concept, as both Fire Time and this have it in common, layering something at a later time to go into the tale of how the characters arrived there. I actually enjoy seeing that in the prologues and epilogues, as it makes them feel like a different aspect of storytelling, which is what those words are supposed to do, rather than just a “before” and “after”.

Holger finds himself in a fantasy world where he goes from one town/quest to another. If this were written in the 80s, I would say this is someone’s loose D&D one off compaigns strung together into a single book, and as I said, a lot of these stories hit on tropes that you’d expect to find in such books. It reminds me of when Robert Jordan meanders into Rand doing X or Y in some village and completely putting his main story on hold to explore their problems in the Wheel Of Time, or rather I should say that annoying bit of epic fantasy there is an extrapolation of this.

The character of Holger is worth reading, however. I like how he holds to some morality, gives into base sins at times which would be hard to avoid (I mean… let’s be honest, anyone would give into the hot faerie chicks from time to time), and I also appreciates how he holds the real woman he cares about to a higher standard to where he won’t simply frolic with her, even though she’s more than willing – the sign of a true relationship and partnership. Very real characterization from a 1951 book at that.

You’ll find pretty standard things in the book: dragons, werewolves, obscene magics, trolls, and the like. That it’s a quick read makes a lot of those readable and redeemable. If this book were double the length I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it, and though I’m talking it down somewhat, I did enjoy it. Out of 10 (as Amazon’s five star ranking really leaves little room for differentiation) I’d still call this a 7.5 overall.

Jeffro pointed out that this book probably gave the inspiration for alignments, as there is a greater battle between Law and Chaos going on in the book, with people choosing sides. He also mentioned that the troll as a monster and the way it’s handled in the D&D game likely stems from here as well. And that historical context makes it pretty neat.

It’s worth a read if you need to kill some time in between books, but I gather there is better Appendix N work and Poul Anderson work worth exploring first.

Thoughts on Rogue One (Trying Not To Spoiler)

I’ve had a few hours to think about Rogue One. I went in skeptical, because Force Awakens was such a Hollywood soft reboot it was insulting to our collective intelligences, as well made as it was, and I was expecting this movie to be a member berries-filled ride as obnoxious as that. Starting as a prequel where we know exactly where the plot goes (spoiler: someone steals the death star plans and they find a weakness in its construction!), it’s very easy to have low expectations on the film, with the assumption that it would be filled with the same member berries that made Force Awakens so disappointing after time to process it.

Continue reading

Terry Moore’s Motor Girl #1 Review (Spoiler Free)

419411-_sx1280_ql80_ttd_

Last week marked the release of Terry Moore’s new comic, Motor Girl #1. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this since the end of Rachel Rising, which is my favorite comic book series of all time, which you should check out the omnibus here.  I’m a bit late in reviewing because of other obligations, but here goes!  Continue reading