Saturday, August 16, 2014

Majestic Vol. 2 Meanwhile Back On Earth Trade Paperback Review

Majestic Vol. 2 Meanwhile, Back On Earth...
DC Comics - Wildstorm
128 pages
$14.99 (2006) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401209896

Contributors: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Neil Googe, Georges Jeanty, Scott Iwahashi, Carlos D'Anda, Richard Friend, Sandra Hope, Trevor Scott, Jonny Rench, Carrie Strachan, and Phil Balsman

Reprints: Majestic #8-12

Synopsis: Majestros is a Kherubim warlord who came to Earth millennia ago while fighting an interstellar war with another alien race called the Daemonites.  Immensely powerful, he is the pinnacle of Kherubim physiology, mental prowess, and technology.  In modern times Majestros has assumed the guise of a superhero and calls himself Mr. Majestic.  The war with the Daemonites has ended, but Majestic remains on Earth to protect his adopted planet.

Majestic was shunted through the Bleed (an interdimensional passageway) to an alternate Earth where he briefly took the place of Superman when he disappeared from Metropolis.  Eventually Majestic was able to return to his Earth with Superman's help, but he found the planet and humanity in great peril.  He put things to rights and finally returns to an Earth in proper order, but he's been away for so long that things have changed.

Zealot shows up, but is she friend or foe?
His old partner, Desmond, a kid genius stuck in a wheelchair (a super-wheelchair at least), has used Kherubim technology to start a world-class cellphone company.  Majestic stops an ancient Kherubim war-robot from killing Desmond, but how can there be ancient technology on Earth which predates Majestic's arrival?  Can his former partner Desmond be trusted?  A massive plot emerges which shakes the foundation of the origins of both humankind and Kherubim.  This one's got it all - Zealot, Savant, Spartan, Majestic's old pal Javen from the Shaper's Guild, and even the return of the wicked Helspont!

Pros: Good follow up stories by writers Abnett and Lanning, art is fairly decent throughout, Majestic teamed up with some old allies (Zealot and Desmond), very nice use of bad guys - especially Helspont's return, very interesting origin for the Kherubim race and the war with the Daemonites

Cons: Majestic's new costume design is simplified...and boring, several artists work on this storyline with slightly different art styles, Desmond's character is mistreated

Mike Tells It Straight: The second volume of Abnett and Lanning's Majestic series started off very slowly and I thought it was going to a disappointment after the two thrilling stories from the first volume.  Needless to say it delivered an interesting story with a major cliffhanger ending.  I liked their reintroduction of Desmond (although why he was still young was a mystery) and the revelations of the Kherubim species' origin was well done.  The writers made Majestic a true step forward for the character with this series and didn't hold anything back.
Who or what is Biomass?

DC purchased Wildstorm from Jim Lee (originally published with Image Comics in the 1990s when all the A-list artists at Marvel defected to start their own company).  Lee stayed on as creative director for the publisher and DC allowed a bold crossover between Majestic/Superman in actual DC continuity (see Majestic: Strange New Visitor).  This series spawned from the crossover which followed into a mini-series.
The art was very competent in this book, but several artists contributed and they had slightly differing styles.  Neil Googe was the exclusive artists of the first book (he continued to improve), pencils the first issue in this volume and then is spelled by Georges Jeanty until returning for the final issues.  Overall good art and no major complaints.

The final image of the book absolutely begs for the reader to continue to the next volume.  I'll definitely bite and the third volume is the last of the series which seems like a shame.  Majestic started out as a knock off of Superman and Abnett/Lanning make him a great alternative to the classic icon.  More violent/mature, exciting, and with a less cumbersome history/supporting cast.  Stay tuned for the final review to this series.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Majestic Vol. 1 While You Were Out Trade Paperback Review

Majestic Vol. 1 While You Were Out
DC Comics - Wildstorm
176 pages
$12.99 (2005) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401204839

Contributors: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Neil Googe, Juan Santacruz, Sal Regla, Trevor Scott, Tony Avina, Randy Mayor, Carrie Strachan, Phil Balsman, Dexter Vines, Josh Middleton, and covers by Ed McGuinness

Reprints: Majestic #1-7

Synopsis: Majestros is a Kherubim warlord who came to Earth millennia ago while fighting an interstellar war with another alien race called the Daemonites.  Immensely powerful he is the pinnacle of Kherubim physiology, mental prowess, and technology.  In modern times Majestros has assumed the guise of a superhero and calls himself Mr. Majestic.  The war with the Daemonites has ended, but Majestic remains on Earth.  He has saved the planet many times over, but his methods are strategic and calculating.

He has never assumed a human guise until recently when he was shunted through the Bleed to another dimension's Earth.  On this Earth he briefly took the place of another powerful hero named Superman and helped save a city called Metropolis.  Majestic gained the respect of Superman and followed his advice to try living among the humans to gain a new perspective.

  • Superman and the Eradicator escort Majestic back to his home dimension, but things on Earth have gone awry.  The entire planet appears deserted and a legion of mechanical automatons are hiding in the shadows.  The three heroes confront them, but Superman and the Eradicator must return to their dimension before being trapped on Majestic's Earth.  He bids them farewell and continues the search for the missing population.  What could kidnap an entire planet's lifeforms and then disappear without a trace?  The most powerful hero on Earth must solve the mystery.  The faint trail leads him across the stars where he encounters a truly cosmic adventure.  Will the reality be too big for even Majestic to conquer?
  • Majestic returns to a world where everything appears normal, but then a horde of Daemonites manifests from the onlooking crowd to attack him.  Something is wrong, seriously wrong.  The Daemonites have somehow taken over the world while he was gone and are using humanity as cattle (hosts).  What happened to the heroes of the Wildstorm universe and how could this atrocity occur?  Expect the worst.  Now he's alone and hunted by an entire planet.  Can even Majestic overcome these odds and how can he possibly salvage a situation at this scale?
Majestic builds a spacecraft using himself as the power source 
Pros: Genuinely good stories by writing team of Lanning and Abnett, Majestic is truly put to the test, nice follow up to the two previous Majestic stories, Superman lends a little credibility to the title, decent art by Googe who gets better with every issue, Majestic's powers/capabilities get fleshed out some more (stealth suit and power damper)

Cons: Googe's art (particularly the faces) can be rough, some far-fetched sci-fi themes, convenient ending

Mike Tells It Straight: When DC first crossed Majestic into the mainstream Superman title (Majestic: Strange New Visitor) I thought it was a bold move and great way to maximize their acquisition of Wildstorm from Jim Lee a few years before.  Having these two powerhouses meet and actually avoid the typical superhero misunderstanding brawl was a credit to the writing team of Abnett/Lanning.  The pair of writers had a fantastic take on the character and were known for their cosmic adventures from Legion of Super-Heroes.
Majestic pulls out some Kheran toys to do battle

DC used the momentum from Majestic's Superman crossover to launch a new solo title for the character.  The title featured multi-issue story arcs which differed from the original Mr. Majestic series by Joe Casey (which had one-shot stories strung together).  I much preferred the longer stories as they built suspense from issue to issue.

Coming on board for this series was relative newcomer Neil Googe who started out rough with a lot of potential and improved with every issue.  The art was detailed and competent despite having some initial trouble with facial expressions.  Overall I enjoyed this book and recommend it if you like the Wildstorm Universe.  The writers kept me guessing and I'm looking forward to the next volume.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ocean Trade Paperback Review

DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
176 pages
$14.99 (2005)
$19.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401208493

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Michael Golden, Tony Avina, Wendy Broome, Randy Mayor, and Wildstorm FX

Reprints: Ocean #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: In one hundred years humankind has begun exploring the interior of the solar system.  The next frontier is interplanetary mining and of particular interest is the moon Europa orbiting Jupiter.  This unique moon is covered in ice and is thought to have an actual ocean beneath its surface.  The space station Cold Harbor orbits Europa in order to study its surface and interior.  What they discover beneath the moon's surface is a secret so large it could destroy the entire human race.
Nathan Kane meets the crew of the Cold Harbor

Expert weapons inspector Nathan Kane is immediately dispatched to Cold Harbor orbiting Europa.  His specialty is identifying weapons of mass destruction yet he abhors gun violence.  An expert at hand-to-hand combat and master strategist, he narrowly survives an assassination attempt on Mars.  Someone doesn't want him to reach Europa alive.

The Cold Harbor station is a remote outpost with a small crew of boring scientists.  These include station commander Fadia Aziz, engineer Siobhan Coney, field scientist John Wells, and analysis expert Anna Li.  The crew are completely freaked out by their discovery and the implications it has on the origins of human culture.  Kane assesses the situation and comes to the conclusion that the entire human race is in grave peril.

The scientists are not alone in their orbit of Europa and another space station is run by the mega-conglomerate, DOORS.  This company uses technology to subjugate the personalities of its employees into a hive mind during their lengthy work contracts for optimum efficiency and loyalty.  The higher up the corporate ladder you climb the more draconian the upgrades.  Commanding the DOORS station is a ego-maniacal corporate officer who prizes the capture of the alien technology over all else.  His only thought is to gain this ancient race's secrets to further his own self-serving agenda and he doesn't care who pays the price.

Warren Ellis redefines 'corporate lackey'
Only Kane and the Cold Harbor's crew stand between the technology getting into the hands of those who would exploit it to the detriment of humanity.  Can one skilled pacifist and a group of scientists repel the advances of a legion of corporate zombies?  The human race stands upon a precipice of destruction as the secrets of our origin unravel.

Pros: Great sci-fi concept and setup, some interesting characters and personalities - Nathan Kane is a confident badass, lots of witty banter and one-liners, idea of a future corporation rewriting their employees' minds was absolutely spot on, a few clever tech advances to combat on space stations, very clean art by Chris Sprouse, and excellent covers by Michael Golden

Cons: Story resolution doesn't answer all the questions raised from the setup, things wrapped up a little too neatly, a few jokes that fell flat (burned food in the microwave on a space station, right!), they use a saucer-shaped shuttle to smash through the ice surface of Europa repeatedly - no way is that feasible, felt like a straight-up sci-fi comic book vehicle to get a movie made (which has not happened yet)

Mike Tells It Straight: Warren Ellis (Supergod, Switchblade Honey) writes an interesting sci-fi story with a really great setup.  Chris Sprouse's (Tom Strong Vol. 1) art is superbly clean and he's a master of cinematic storytelling.  These two are a great creative team and produce a solid story.  Michael Golden provides some excellent covers.  It felt like I was reading the storyboards for a movie  and I could easily see this story being adapted to live-action (it's been optioned for a movie).  I'd say the story would make a fairly good, mainstream sci-fi film.

Ellis writes the best witty banter
We get a cool protagonist in Nathan Kane with clever one-liners and a knack for always coming out on top (think Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher).  Kane doesn't want to fight, but he'll kick your ass if you cross him.  The crew had the stereotypical personalities of your cliche international scientist group and the ending was suitably exciting.  Ellis and Sprouse add a few cool futuristic advances to technology (like guns that shoot special bullets on space stations) and the corporation that subjugates employees through technology was fairly brilliant.  

Despite a neat setup I felt the second half of the book didn't deliver the goods.  We get a frantic race between the two groups and an exciting confrontation in a unique environment (space station), but too few questions were answered about the discovery on Europa.  The conflict wrapped up too easily as with most standard sci-fi movies.  I'd say this book is a good, quick read which will peak your interest, but leave you a bit flat at the end.

A little sneak preview of what they discover beneath the surface of Europa

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Extinction Event Mini-Series Review

Extinction Event
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Comic Book Mini-Series
32/ea. = 160 pages (2003)
$2.50/ea. = $12.50

Published: Extinction Event #1-5 (of 5)

Contributors: Robert Weinberg, Brett Booth, Sal Regla, John Layman, and Wildstorm FX

Synopsis: The contents of a secret tomb in Texas threatens to rock the world when proof of sentient dinosaurs is revealed!  An unknown breed of technologically savvy dinosaurs is found in suspended animation amid the ruins of their incredible civilization.  They apparently safeguarded themselves from the extinction level event of a falling meteor which wiped out all the other dinosaurs on the planet millions of years ago.  Now a group of soldiers, scientists, and cowboys explore the silent halls of the dinosaurs ancient sanctuary.

The secret cave is located on the Double Bar Ranch owned by tom-boy heartbreaker Samantha Gonzalez.  General Steele calls in two specialists for the operation including retired ace pilot Colonel Benson and computer specialist Lieutenant Cornelius.  Alicia Vaughan is a reporter posing undercover to figure out the secret of the dig site and reveal it to the world.  Chief paleontologist Dr. Melissa Cyre is the dinosaur expert, but her knowledge could be lacking when the dinosaurs are actually alive!

It becomes apparent the dinosaurs had an incredibly advanced civilization after examination of their machinery shows it to still be functional.  Discovery of the creche triggers the process to awaken them and the dinosaurs are not impressed with the pathetic mammalian civilization which has supplanted their dominance over the planet!

When the dinosaurs awaken it becomes frighteningly clear the humans are not prepared for their arrival.  Equipped with powerful technology and psychic abilities the dinosaurs begin their destructive assault.  Only our intrepid group of specialists stand in the way of total dinosaur domination!  Humans have enjoyed mastery over nature and the planet for millennia, but what happens when they become the next endangered species?

Pros: Reminded me of Jurassic Park crossed with Aliens, some decent and mildly inspired art by Brett Booth (he draws good dinosaurs), unique sci-fi story premise

Cons: Short mini-series at only five issues, ending begs for a sequel which will never happen, Booth seemingly excels at rendering humans with tiny bodies and overly extended appendages, overall weak plot

Mike Tells It Straight: I came across this set of books in a bargain bin and decided to try them out.  The mini-series had a few interesting moments which mainly dealt with the discovery of the suspended dinosaurs, but was overall a mediocre book.  Don't expect this to be collected anytime soon.  While the premise seems mildly interesting and Weinberg does his best Jurassic Park interpretation the story ends up being far-fetched B-movie fodder.

Booth's art was a big draw for me since I was a child of the 90's during the formation of Image Comics.  The character Backlash and Booth's early work on Stormwatch were particularly memorable to me.  I'll always hold Backlash/Spider-Man in high regard, but it becomes obvious the artistic evolution of Image proteges doesn't include fundamental art principles when you get right down to it.  Despite the flash and style, Booth's anatomy is wonky (disproportionately long torsos and limbs) and backgrounds are spotty.  He's still a great artist with a lot of potential, but the art is awkward here.

I would let this one fade into obscurity.  It will never be collected and that's a sign.  I won't discount the obvious hard work involved in producing the series - the creators did a good job, however it's not a truly memorable story and won't be coming to a cinema near you.

TO BUY and Recommendations: