June 24, 2018
This latest “Groo” miniseries is a bit more on target than the last as it’s clear that Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier are making specific fun of something here. That would be Spain’s attempt to conquer, convert, and exploit the “new world” in the late 1400’s, early 1500’s. If you’re thinking that’s a remarkably… specific topic for the two of them to tackle, it at least makes for some decent fun as the title character ruins just about everyone’s ambitions. Groo, this time around, is infesting the land of Iberza who is having their own problems with an influx of immigrants who are also bringing their own religions to the land. Sounds topical, right? Well the plot quickly takes a left turn as everyone -- Groo, returning characters Ahax and Taranto, some clergy with impressive hats -- is shipped off across the ocean to claim the gold in these new lands, convert their inhabitants to follow the one true god, and to find the best cheese dip in all the world.
As has always been the case, Groo winds up making a complete mess of the plans of the schemers around him without any intent to do so at all. There’s some fun to be had in seeing how the natives react to the barbarian with a pretty great final page that showcases his ascension. You’ve also got Aragones’ fantastic art which is a joy to look at even when he’s illustrating a fairly half-baked plot. The problem with “Play of the Gods” is that it lacks the tightly-plotted fun of the done-in-one stories from “Friends & Foes” or the skilled social commentary of previous miniseries. It’s hard to tell if Aragones and Evanier are actually taking shots at the concept of colonialism or just wanted to have the Brainless Barbarian make a hash out of a specific point in world history. I’ve come to expect better from them after all these years. Appropriately for a miniseries where one of the plot points is about religious conversion, “Play of the Gods” is one for converted fans of “Groo” only.
Everyone else should go read “The Hogs of Horder” to see a “Groo” story with real satiric bite.
June 22, 2018
This volume is, for better and for worse, essentially what I was expecting after reading through the first one. That means you can expect to see more fantastic art from creator Daniel Warren Johnson as Thea and Rollo, cast out of the Roto by their father Jerome, have to find their way to safety in a place known as the Ancient Dark. It isn’t long before they’re rescued by the Essene, people who have forsaken the conflict that has riven the islands above. Said conflict hasn’t stopped because Thea and Rollo have been cast out as Jerome is working on a final gambit that will use the beacon he found to bring ruin to all of the Paznina. The leader of the Paznina, on the other hand, won’t rest until ALL of the Roto have been wiped out.
This leads us to getting some fantastic visuals of the cobbled-together city where the Essene have made their home, and the monsters they’ve tamed there as well. Most of the monsters living in the Ancient Dark aren’t the tame type, and while that’s bad news for its inhabitants, we get to see a genuinely thrilling escape sequence when something really big comes for Thea, Rollo, and their friends after they’ve been exploring down there. You can also expect to see some thrillingly chaotic battle scenes towards the end of the volume as the Roto and Paznina engage in their final conflict, more for vengeance than anything else.
So if you were in the market for a series that provided one more reminder that vengeance is BAD, BAD, BAD and leads to NOTHING GOOD then “Extremity” will certainly fit the bill. It does exactly that with all the expected speechifying, sacrifice, and loss on the part of the main cast. If you’re like me, however, then you’ll be bored to tears by all this and wonder why Johnson’s art couldn’t have been in service of a story that presented its message in a way that didn’t adhere so rigidly to convention. Or, if the creator was feeling particularly daring, served up an ending that went straight to pitch-black nihilism to show us how vengeance is bad for everyone. The ending we get is fine, a little dull, and one that left me hoping Johnson comes back with a more interesting story to tell in his next series.
June 20, 2018
“Angelic” is just your average coming-of-age story set on an Earth where humanity disappeared a few hundred years back and left the world to their genetically-engineered creations. Chief among them are a race of winged monkeys who are watching over what their makers have left behind though equal parts devotion and religious dogma. Most of these monkeys are content to go through the motions and wait for the makers to come back, but not Qora. She wants to know why they do the things they do. Specifically: why is it that when female monkeys come of age they go into a certain metal room with their mate and emerge pregnant and without their wings?
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June 18, 2018
The dragon was slain, Falin was rescued, and everyone got a great meal out of the ordeal. All that’s left is for our party to head back to the surface and call it a day, right? NOPE! It turns out that the party’s dragon-slaying attracted the attention of none other than the Lunatic Magician who lords over the dungeon they’ve been exploring. That the party survives the encounter shouldn’t surprise you, but the real question is will they listen to Chilchuck who’s had enough of this and wants them to give up their quest and head back to the surface? Meanwhile, the other party that our protagonists have encountered twice before (and both times post-mortem) also finds itself in some trouble when they awake from their most recent resurrection minus most of their supplies. They’re planning to head back to the surface too, only they’ll have to go through some fish-men and a sea serpent in order to do so. That’s a tall order for a party that’s been wiped twice, but it’s possible they might be able to pull it off with some help from one of our protagonists’ former party members.
After the epic dragon-slaying action of the previous volume it was inevitable that things would calm down quite a bit for this volume. So while vol. 4 isn’t as exciting as the previous volumes, it feels like that was done by design. I do regret the fact that we don’t get as many creative dungeon dishes in this volume, though the ones we do get are fun. Particularly in how a petrified Marcille is used as a pickling weight. What still makes vol. 5 a very worthwhile read is how we’re starting to get some real payoff for the plot and character details that mangaka Ryoko Kui has been setting up for a while now. Chilchuk’s actions regarding his fear of continuing further into the dungeon do come off as a little craven, yet it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from and the way he works things out with the orc leader is pretty cool. Then you’ve got the work being done with the other party, particularly their leader Kabru who is shown to be a rational, clever thinker who is without pity when it comes to dealing with evildoers. In that regard, he’s not sure what to make of Laios based on what he’s heard. But I’m sure they’ll overcome their differences and become best friends by the end of the next volume.
Why yes, I will take your bet against that...
June 17, 2018
Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker do their best to give some substance to all the style they demonstrated in the first volume of the series. Much of that comes from the plot thread involving NYPD Detective Theo Dumas and economics professor Dr. Tyler Gaddis. The doctor has found himself in a position to have the questions he has regarding the true nature of the market answered and he’s agreed to bring Det. Dumas along for the ride. This leads them to a meeting with Mammon himself underneath the federal reserve and, surprisingly, some answers as well. It’s a sequence that’s creepy and thrilling in equal parts, and leaves you with a better understanding of “The Black Monday Murders’” world.
As for the stuff that doesn’t involve the detective and the professor, it’s more of the same personal posturing and physical bloodletting that drove the first volume. Grigoria Rothschild continues to solidify her position at Caina-Kankrin, pitting her further against her brother’s murderer, Viktor Eresko. Grigoria also makes some moves to find the missing Wynn Ackerman, while her familiar continues to get her hands dirty with blood going about her master’s business.
Again, Hickman’s dialogue is razor sharp and Coker’s art is impressively slick, to the point where it’s easy to let yourself be carried away by these things to the end of the volume. It can’t quite distract from the fact that there’s not a whole lot of worldbuilding done in the parts of the volume that focus on Grigoria and Viktor, or the fact that some of the plot developments here feel a bit on the convenient side. I’m still curious to see where the creators are going with this, and the volume does end on a couple of developments that seem quite promising. Which, along with all that style, is enough reason for me to keep reading “The Black Monday Murders.”
June 17, 2018
The Bendis finale train at Marvel continues on with this volume of “Jessica Jones.” She’s arguably the most important character the writer has created during his time at the company. Not just because of the pretty good Netflix series that was based on her, but mainly because Jessica’s original series did something that’s still relatively uncommon today. “Alias” showed that a grounded female-led mature readers superhero series could work at Marvel and while series like Kelly Thompson’s “Hawkeye” have done their best to run with that setup (minus the mature readers bit) we still haven’t seen that kind of breakout since. So it’s been good to read “Jessica Jones” and see that Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos haven’t really lost a step with the character in the intervening years. “Return of the Purple Man” is a worthy farewell to Jessica from her creators, so long as you can overlook the issue with how her nemesis’ powers are handled.
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June 15, 2018
When two super-characters decide to tie the knot, the one thing you can expect to come from that decision is drama. Even if the two characters involved have no superpowers to speak of. So with Batman and Catwoman set to get married in two volumes’ time they’ve got to get their houses in order. Actually, it’s really just Batman who has to do that. He is the one whose ex is the master of the League of Assassins after all.
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June 13, 2018
I go back to our first podcast to give a full accounting of this strange and fascinating series that's maybe a bit too hopeful for its own good.
June 13, 2018
I go back to our first podcast to talk about some of the best licensed comics around. Mostly in the first omnibus.
June 11, 2018
The previous volume teased this one as promising the most “taboo” content yet. Given how this series has played out so far, that came off as much of a threat as a promise. While it’s hard to say whether or not this is the envelope-pushing-est volume of the series to date, following one that focused on a child serial killer is a tough act to follow, it did deliver a few scenes that managed to get under my skin due to their sheer unpleasantness. That takes a lot to do these days but the problem here is that the scenes in question don’t add a whole lot to the story at hand.
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