Spaced Outré: Sci-Fi Comics Reviews

Reviews by Mike Clarke of bcrefugees.blogspot.com

STAR TREK COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS #1 (IDW, January 2013) Story: Roberto Orci and Mike Johnson. Artist: David Messina.

          The cover notes that this is “The Official Comic Prequel To Star Trek Into Darkness” (movie set to be released May 17, 2013).  STAR TREK COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS certainly reads like a movie script, and not in a bad way. It has a real cinematic feel to it, in the presentation and the pacing.

Things begin with a disturbing and reoccurring nightmare that keeps Spock uneasy. Simultaneously Captain Kirk is having trouble sleeping but not for the same reason = he’s having a conversation with ship’s computer which allows him to express his loneliness at the top, just part of a captains’ frustrated feeling that as much as he gets along with his crew – -his position and rank still isolate him. There is a warm flow to this book that gets the reader comfortable quickly through the familiarity of these characters and settings. It feels just like watching the television show or watching the last STAR TREK movie. The art reminds me of the old Gold Key Comics version of the original STAR TREK television show that I watched in the late 1960’s. The style is very functional and soothing in a subtle way, only bursting forth with some artistic flair in a few panels throughout the story.

The crew find themselves on a short mission to perform a scientific study on the rings of Phaedus, a seemingly backward planet with technology only advanced enough to be equivalent to the former Roman Empire on Earth. When an unusual high energy field interferes with the Enterprise broadcast system, Captain Kirk decides to investigate on site. To no avail, Spock reminds him of the Prime Directive not to disrupt the natural course of the planet’s evolution by mingling with the natives. They encounter the native life-forms in possession of primitive communications equipment and weaponry. The big surprise occurs when they find out who the benefactor is at the conclusion of the first issue. This seems like a good way to pacify STAR TREK fans that can’t wait for the official release date of the movie. By publishing a prequel, IDW avoids any spoilers (I assume).

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STAR WARS #1 (Dark Horse, January 2013): “in The Shadow Of Yavin” Part One of Three written by Brian Wood with art by Carlos D’Anda.

I guess collectors didn’t pay enough attention to the PREVIEWS advance notice on this book and comic book stores didn’t pre-order enough copies. The value of a first printing of this book has already shot up to $16, according to Comics Price Guide. Who knew a return to the original classic STAR WARS characters and settings in all-new stories would still be so popular?

Events here occur shortly after Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Based on what occurs in Issue #1, this is already much better (both story and art) than what Marvel attempted to do back in the late 1970’s with their between-the-movies storylines. Luke, Leia (you really don’t need their last names, do you?) and Wedge are piloting X-Wings and searching the edges of the Outer Rim for a new home base for the Rebellion. They are soon met by a large Star Destroyer and Tie Fighters. The dialogue free panels that show a desperate Leia crash landing her X-Wing are gorgeous to view.

After escaping and returning to The Redemption (the Alliance’s battle cruiserr) she is given a secret assignment and dispatched to assemble a team. Guess who she invites?  Before this ends we are re-introduced to the familiar and welcome faces of Han, Chewbacca, and 3PO.  She’s not the only one getting a new assignment. Darth Vader gets new marching orders from an angry Emperor. The images of Lord Vader are equally imposing and intimidating.

I’m not really excited by all of this, but I can’t fault the story or the art. Maybe I over-dosed on a big fix of Dark Horse STAR WARS comics back in the 1980’s and 1990’s and can’t believe they are still doing this. Guess I’m a little jaded by it all. This is a good beginning for the rest of you who don’t share my sentiments. I suggest you try and find a reasonably priced copy, or just wait for the first trade paperback.

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THRESHOLD #1 (DC, January 2013) “The Hunted” by Keith Giffen, writer and Tom Raney, artist. “Nine Tenths Of The Law” by Keith Giffen, writer and Scott Kolins, artist.

If you are looking for a new DC book to explore, this is not a bad place to start. THRESHOLD is a replacement for one of the four NEW 52 books that DC discontinued recently. THRESHOLD is meant to become a showcase for DC’s galaxy of spacey characters like Space Ranger, Tommy Tomorrow, Stealth and even the new Blue Beetle (his new home, perhaps).

Issue #1 begins with two multi-part stories featuring the newest Green Lantern (Jediah Caul) and Orange Lantern Larfleeze. So far, THRESHOLD seems more of a super-hero book than a science-fiction title with one big exception: the settings are definitely otherworldly. Also, the tales could be considered space-themed even though they feature cosmic super-heroes and probably would not work in other backgrounds. Future issues also promise new versions of second-tier DC characters like Star Rovers, Star Hawkins, Space Cabbie (I kid you not!) and The Omega Men. So far, the concept engages me more than the actual stories. With the imaginative Keith Giffen at the helm and some less-important DC characters to work with, the potential for a book where DC releases more artistic control and gives the creators more freedom is exciting. The art team surely doesn’t disappoint. Both Raney and Kolins do stellar work here.

The Hunted”  is reported to spin out of events in GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS ANNUAL #1 and is a little hard to follow if you haven’t read that first. ( I didn’t, and haven’t.) At least the rules of The Hunted game are explained over the “Glimmernet” as the story begins. Green Lantern Jediah Caul is on the loose on the planet Tolerance (nicely named!) and is the prey. Predators are expected to bring him back dead. There’s a giant payout and anybody on the planet can join the game and be a bounty-hunter. Some will say this is loosely based on the popular “Hunger Games”, but it owes more to Stephen King’s “Running Man” (a much better story also). You would think that cropping his long white tresses and ditching the mask and costume would make Caul harder to spot, but apparently not as every single person on the street seems to recognize him. He’s not sporting the tell-tale green ring on his finger since that is embedded in his chest. (That must hurt!) He’s saved from early termination by a slim and agile young woman who might be Stealth but isn’t identified (seems appropriate, considering the name).

After a one-page Glimmernet commercial the scene shifts and we meet two more characters including the actual identified-by-name Stealth, a former military commander presumed M.I.A. and D.O.A. She locates Ric Starr of the Space Rangers, another person on the run, and finds him just before a pack of bounty-hunters surrounds his place of hiding. So there are two “The Hunted” games going on at the same time, as the caterpillar –like Glimmernet media mogul (reminds me of Marvel’s Mojo) talks about needing more promo to focus on this unprecedented event, yadda, yadda. Lots of explaining to do here. I’m sure Giffen will sort it out in the next few chapters.

I’ve never met Larfleeze before, the major character featured in “Nine Tenths Of The Law”. Fortunately, through a clever plot device his origin is re-told albeit briefly (and perhaps falsely, considering who the narrator is). Larfleeze begins by dictating his biography to scribe using a most unusual writing device. We learn that Larfleeze is pretentious, pompous, greedy, arrogant and selfish. I’m already annoyed by this character, who came by the Orange Lantern power because he’s also a thief, and hope he gets embarrassed mightily before this story ends. A media story rubs his vanity and sends him off on a wild goose chase, resulting in embarrassment on his return. Oh, good! Now I hope he gets his ass kicked righteously. I may have to return to this title just to find out.

Dave

written by

A CBH customer from the early '80s forward, Dave's dream of working at his favorite place on Earth came true some years ago and he's never looked back. Dave is the marketing guy for CBH who does a bunch of content for CBH Online, is a comic book expert, avid reader, and is a featured player in the store (some say he is every customer's favorite). If you ever need anything comics-related, Dave is the one to ask.
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