Welcome to another edition of the BLOG EXTRA. This week, part two of our long look at recent releases from Dynamite Entertainment!
DARKMAN VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS #1 is written by the veteran combo of Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern and drawn by another vet, James Fry. This first issue is really mostly a Darkman tale, which is a pretty smart idea; the character isn’t currently being published in his own series, so by re-introducing his character and cast, the readers who have been buying the AOD series get necessary knowledge. And Darkman fans will be happy to see the “screen time” Dr. Westlake gets. But what makes this a worthy read for anyone who picks it up is the old school way that Busiek and Stern present the tale, and the sturdy art delivered by Fry. I’m on record as not really enjoying the ARMY OF DARKNESS book, but I was completely sucked in to what was going on here. This is precisely how to put together a crossover of this nature and looks like it should be a lot of fun over the course of the series.
Over at the main site, I made pretty good sport of SAVAGE RED SONJA: QUEEN OF THE FROZEN WASTES’s first and second issues. I found Frank Cho and Doug Murray’s story to be a little on the silly side, and the lesbian text (no subtext to be found) was extraneous. But issue #3 is a distinct improvement over the first two. Why? The writers step aside and let artist Homs cut loose with page after page of Sonja in action. Whether she’s battling yetis, or armored warriors, Sonja reads much more like the character we have come to know in her regular book, and the story gets streamlined into something that makes a bit more sense. The Ice Queen is still hot to put Sonja on her side and in her bed, but the focus comes on breaking the red headed warrior’s spirit and putting an end to her attempts to free herself and the Queen’s slaves. With one issue to go, I’m not sure whether or not the series as a whole will turn out to be a worthy effort, but I credit this issue for a fine go at turning it around.
Speaking of the main RED SONJA title, issue #16 continues the strong run by writer Mike Oeming and artists Mel Rubi and Stephen Sadowski. Part five of “The Return of Kulan Gath” sees Sonja and her allies drawn back together for a large-scale battle versus Gath’s agents on Hyboria. Gods, beasts, bards… all are in the fray, and Sonja finally faces her foe’s worldly agent, to boot. What continues to impress about SONJA is how well rounded a character she has become; Sonja isn’t just a fighter without purpose or drive here. She’s a woman on a quest, but that quest is just as much spiritual as it is physical. Oeming also shows some smarts in keeping the pace moving along quickly, as a story of length always runs the risk of becoming tedious and drawn out. There are still two chapters to go in this current saga, but it feels like we’ve gotten to them quite quickly. The art and production quality remain top-notch as well, and when you throw in the amazing covers, you understand why this is the company’s flagship title. Good stuff.
John Layman writes, and Fabiano Neves draws, XENA #4, the conclusion of the book’s opening story arc. When last we left off, Xena’s old foe Callisto had killed her and her ally Autolycus, leaving Gabrielle and Joxer alone with the villainess and stuck in the middle of a war between two pantheons. But as to whether or not even the clutches of death can hold Xena… well, she is the star of the book, after all. Snark aside, you could fairly guess at the end of issue three what was really going on, but that doesn’t mean that Layman doesn’t make the journey damned entertaining. As someone who didn’t watch the show or have any investment in the characters, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed this book (editorial admission: Layman is a friend, but you couldn’t pay me to read, say, THUNDERCATS); Xena and the cast really come across as dynamic and intriguing personalities. I’d read a comic about these people stopping to drink a beer, let alone an action extravaganza like this one. Take into consideration Neves, who is one of the best finds of the year, and this one is simply a keeper.
That’s it for this week. Check back Monday through Wednesday for main site updates (we’ll be off for the long weekend), and be here next weekend for another CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!