Category Archives: Comic Books

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn (Book Review)

Written for and published by Forces of Geek November 2019

We’re about forty days away from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters. The conclusion of the Skywalker Saga has everyone wondering about his or her favorite characters.

Author Rebecca Roanhorse is new to a galaxy far, far away, but that doesn’t stop her from producing a tale that firmly outlines the grim state of affairs for the Resistance led by General Leia Organa.

Resistance Reborn starts days after the Resistance’s harrowing escape from Crait, seen in The Last Jedi.

Once the band of wounded soldiers, led by Leia Organa, find shelter, three simultaneous missions commence to not only restock on weapons, ships, and supplies but to gather soldiers and leaders to take the fight to The First Order.

The ending of Episode XI made it abundantly clear our heroes have their work cut out for them. Rebecca Roanhorse, however, fills in the details on how far the Resistance is behind the eight ball.

The First Order expeditiously took over the galaxy due to star systems hoping to avoid the same fate as the Hosnian System. There is no narrative jump between episodes seven and eight, so this horrendous act of murder is still fresh in everyone’s mind. One of the little nuggets of information revealed in the book is why Leia’s message on Crait went unanswered. It’s a logical explanation, which I’m not going to spoil here.

Roanhorse does a fantastic job outlining how demoralizing it is for the Resistance to start from scratch. No world is willing to take them in, and anyone even allowing them to land will face deadly reprisals as The First Order is everywhere. Shelter is eventually found on the Twi’lek homeworld of Ryloth. However, the Resistance is on the clock as the longer they stay; the more likely The First Order is going to find out. Leia struggled with this because of the substantial risk involved, showing the real sign of a leader.

Finn, Rey, Rose, and Chewbacca all have roles in the book to varying degrees. However, this is Poe Dameron’s story.

Poe is haunted by the lives lost at his command during the evacuation of D’Qar, and his defiance of Vice Admiral Holdo aboard the Raddus. Poe doesn’t want their sacrifices to be in vain, and it fuels him to become a better leader. Learning to think things through makes Poe realize he must be more than a hotshot pilot who blows things up. This comes with its own set of challenges as Poe learns and grows throughout the story. By the end of the book, Poe has a better handle on what leadership truly means; however, there is still some emotional baggage, which could be part of Poe’s character arc in The Rise of Skywalker.

Leia and Rey have some short but sweet moments together. While Rey’s time in the story is limited, there’s a sense that she’s still trying to “find her place in all of this” as she put it when training with Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To. Leia can’t put her finger on it, but she knows there is something special about Rey beyond the obvious. Leia urges Rey to embrace what makes her unique. In many ways, their developing kinship with one another provides Rey with the solace she hoped to obtain with Luke. There are some allusions to Leia’s medical condition, due to her time spent in the vacuum of space, which could be expanded upon further in the upcoming film, giving readers a trail of bread crumbs regarding a possible narrative fate.

One of the criticisms of the new Star Wars canon is that the connection between films, cartoons, comics, and books that were promised is few and far between…Not this time!

Rebecca Roanhorse produces a full-on love letter to the current canon with significant connective tissue to various forms of content. Poe’s journey picks up directly after the Poe Dameron comic book series. Zey Versio and Shriv from the Battlefront II video game serve as major characters coming off their mission at the end of the game’s single-player campaign.

They are also connections to previous novels, most notably, Bloodlines. Roanhorse incorporates these elements to create a story that is full of well-executed fan service that augments the book. Readers will appreciate the story, whether they’re familiar with these characters or not. This is where a large part of the narrative’s strength lies. Zey and Shriv’s bond is explored without exposition, which will ensure the uninitiated won’t feel left out.

While I mentioned earlier that Poe is the main protagonist, the returning Wedge Antilles is very much the heart of the story. Wedge and his wife Norra Wexley are retired and everyday farm life suits them well. Wedge recognizes he’s was lucky enough to survive the galactic civil war while so many of his brothers in arms paid the ultimate price. Duty calls Wedge back into the fight, and this is done with a delicate sense caution since Wedge has earned his rest. Wedge is a character fans have been hoping to see in the sequel trilogy. His inclusion and the way his story ends suggest he could make an appearance in Episode IX.

There is one thing in the book that’s disappointing while another was kind of boring. The Maz Kanata we got in The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi came off as two different people. Unfortunately, we get the Rian Johnson version of the character who is more zany than wise and does something rather disgusting with cat feces. Yep, you read that correctly. We also meet a new character who is an administrative records keeper for The First Order. The whole getting to know him phase was a chore to read since there were way more exciting things happening elsewhere. Things pick up with his story once it’s revealed how he tied into the overall plot.

The three Resistance missions are fantastic, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Two of them occur on Corellia, with teams led by Poe and Wedge. The third mission is led by Shriv and takes place on planet Braka, which will play a large role in the upcoming video game Jedi: Fallen Order. Roanhorse goes back and forth between missions seamlessly as each one has its own highly satisfying stakes.

If less is more, Rebecca Roanhorse didn’t get the memo as she packs a lot of content in a rather short book of 298 pages. Nothing about the narrative felt rushed, and every story, subplot, and character got ample time to marinate.

The events of the book occur the week following The Last Jedi, which means there are still 51 weeks of Resistance activity that we don’t know about leading up The Rise of Skywalker. This week was hell for Leia and company, and it will give readers more of an appreciation for how the Resistance can rebuild their ranks come December 20th.

I wouldn’t call this a must-read book to get ready for the upcoming movie. I would, however, call it the book you’ve been waiting for if connections to the overall canon is something you crave. While this was Rebecca Roanhorse’s first step into a larger world, I hope it’s not her last. It’s obvious she has a lot of love for Star Wars, and I’d be interested to see some of the other stories she might tackle in the future.

DC’s Event Leviathan Flounders with Finale

Event Leviathan #6 | Written by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Alex Maleev | DC Comics

The biggest mystery plaguing the DC Universe reaches its conclusion. Who is Leviathan? We finally get our answer.

“I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you,” unfortunately, encapsulates the magnitude of the reveal when Superman used his x-way vision to peek under the hood.

Unmasking the villain needs to be a shocking experience.

Instead, Bendis used the moment to bring an obscure character to prominence.

That could have worked.

However, we never saw Leviathan actually do anything. Explosions, weird energy fields, and the collapse of the intelligence community wielded massive results.

Yet, Leviathan is never seen pulling the trigger himself or getting his hands dirty. He talked a big game and had people do his bidding. If Leviathan was going to roll up his sleeves finally, this was the time to do it. Instead, he retreats once he realized Superman would never join his cause.

I’m sorry, but how many times has Superman been fed the “Tear down the world to make it better” speech?

A lot would be the answer.

Its as if the characters in the book failed to realize something the reader has known about Earth’s greatest hero. I thought something different would have presented itself. Perhaps an argument that was fresh and compelling. Something to make Superman waver, even for a few fleeting seconds, would have given readers something to chew on.

Leviathan was portrayed as someone who is always five steps; however, he put all of his eggs in one red and blue basket. That doesn’t sound very smart al all.

The leaks that appeared online last month regarding Leviathan’s identity were correct.

I hoped they were wrong; however, it seemed too apparent after really thinking about it. The ending of the book is the beginning, as there is more to come from Leviathan. That would have been cool if I actually cared about the person in question. Leviathan peaced out once Superman turned him down.

Why would I be intrigued about any threat he could pose to Supes or the Justice League going forward?

Bendis is in the Leviathan business for the long haul. I hope he can bring something that will have an impact because, unfortunately, this wasn’t it.

Mera: Tidebreaker – Review

Written for and published by Forces of Geek March 2019

Mera: Tidebreaker is the initial offering from DC Comics’ young adult readers imprint, DC Ink. New York Times bestselling author, Danielle Paige, and animator Stephen Byrne collaborate on this tale featuring the future queen of Atlantis.

Yearning for a life that is truly her own, Mera sets out to bring peace between Atlantis and her home of Xebel.

She has to kill an unsuspecting Arthur Curry to accomplish her goals.

The reimagining of the Aquaman mythos doesn’t stop there. Arthur is sans the blonde hair, the inhabitants of the Trench are no longer monstrous creatures, and the beginning of a particular origin story underwent some minor alterations.

However, every change that was introduced is in service to the journey of the titular character.

Not to be stereotypical of the YA genre, but Mera and Arthur’s blossoming kinship was a given before the first turn of the page.

Strong character building by Danielle Paige established clear motivations that made the antagonists and protagonists earn every narrative inch. Obviously, Mera wasn’t going to kill Arthur; however, her observation of his kindness slowly chipped away at her cold murderous intent.

Make no mistake about it, Mera oozes teenage royalty. Still, while another princess might be overly concerned with their ensemble for the next big gala, Mera makes it clear that she is more than just a pretty dress. Light comedy sprinkled throughout the book such as Atlantean vernacular, “You got to be sharking me,” will bring about a few smiles along with some fish out of water hijinks.

It would have been easy for Mera to get lost in her own story, but Paige gives the multitude of subplots plenty of time to breathe and marinate. The final act is chock-full of revelations, but it is beautifully synchronized with the main story.

Stephen Byrne’s artwork exhibits a submersible pallet serving as a constant reminder of the books oceanic backdrop. Mera’s hair stands out like a red rose in a black and white portrait. This creative choice augments her presence, especially if the reader remembers nothing about Mera’s heroism and convictions.

Despite Aquaman being massively popular right now, producing a Mera-centric story was a gamble. Mera is a secondary character who doesn’t have a celebrated story such as Supergirl, Catwoman or even Black Canary. Geoff Johns made Mera an essential part of Aquaman’s New 52 run. However, no one has ever talked their favorite Mera moments on the playground.

Danielle Paige’s story is a big leap in that direction. The exploration of duty, love, valor, and liberty through the eyes of underwater royalty works exceptionally well. If the goal of this graphic novel is to make the reader a bigger Mera fan than they were going in, mission accomplished.

Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1 Review

                                     Written for and published by Forces of Geek October 2018

Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1 | Writer: Mark Russell | Artist: Rick Leonardi |
Publisher: DC Comics

An image of the KKK waving hello to Huckleberry Hound as they drive by his house on a Mississippi evening utterly conveys the edgier settings of the critically acclaimed Hanna-Barbera/DC Comics one-shot crossovers.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the early 1970’s, John Stewart, a rookie in the Green Lantern Corps goes home to Earth where the political upheaval of the Vietnam War and the violence of the Civil Rights movement confronts him at every turn.

Many of us have probably wished at some point in our lives for a superhero to leap out of the comics and fix the world’s problems.

Russell examines the pros and cons of this real-world scenario as for whether Stewart, who wields the most powerful weapon in the universe should use it to stop racial atrocities.

The narrative uses a struggling Huckleberry Hound as the voice that is begging for the power ring to be used, while other plot elements argue the opposite.

Stewart’s struggle to resist smacking down those who worship evil’s might is what brings everything together to produce an entertaining and provocative story. Artwork checks all of the boxes and makes excellent use of expressive character work to convey what word balloons can’t.

It can be hard to take these one-shot comics seriously because the Hanna-Barbera side of things is a far cry from what we used to know. Putting that aside makes a pairing such as Green Lantern and Huckleberry Hound an exceptional way to approach serious issues without trivializing them while using a unique hook to provide enough of the escapism readers look for in comic books.

Rating: A-

Border Town #1 Review

Written for and published by Forces of Geek September 2018

BORDER TOWN #1 | Writer: Eric M. Esquivel Illustrations: Ramon Villalobos | Publisher: Vertigo 

What if your town has a problem with otherworldly monsters, only to bring upon its victims a most gruesome death?

Think about it long and hard.

Now, imagine the cause of that problem being blamed on those “dang illegals” because isn’t everything their fault?

Racial tensions with a supernatural twist ushers in the ongoing weirdness that ensues in Border Town’s setting of Devil’s Fork, AZ.

Part social commentary and part horror story leaves the subtlety at home as writer Eric Esquivel delivers a hyperbolic memoir of his teenage years in Arizona.

The story is told primarily through the lens of a bi-racial Mexican/Irish teen, Francisco Dominguez, who goes by Frank.

Frank is the new kid in school and finds himself in trouble rather quickly due to the complicated relationship he has with his ethnicity.

Being biracial is not as simple as some may believe. Speaking as a biracial African/Irish person, some might feel consumed by the world at large. Society will look at someone in one light while the individual will see themselves in another. Along with his straight hair, Frank’s completion is light enough where he passes as Caucasian until the other half of his ethnicity is revealed.

From there on, his confrontation with a skinhead automatically makes him one hundred percent Mexican. Socially speaking, it’s hard not to have a say in your own ethnicity. In this maiden voyage, however, Frank seems to take it in stride. We meet Frank’s new friends including…well, imagine if Sloth from The Goonies was a masked luchador.

Political themes woven with the narrative’s eerie setting is unapologetic with its staunch conveyance. “Make America Great Again” is vigorously uttered by some Alt-right types while the tear in space and time that allows the monsters to invade our world is literally on the Mexican/American border.

That is the kind of irony that slaps you right in the face.

“What kind of Mexican is that?” asks a border patrol agent, in reaction to a sombrero-wearing, green hulking monster, which encapsulates Ramon Villalobos’ esthetic throughout the book. The style of illustration perfectly matches the story. The color palette of warm orange skies and peaceful desert landscapes highlights the beauty atop the abhorrent nature of things. Some would say this is the perfect way to describe Arizona today considering the state’s political climate.

Vertigo titles tend to make readers think more than your average cape and cowl book. Eric M. Esquivel’s script is as thought-provoking as it is ludicrous.

Observations, winks, nods, bloody imagery along with fun and insightful character development serves as a reminder that everyone has their fight in these politically charged times. Despite the very real message, it’s the ridiculous chronicle of events in this first issue that takes center stage. A skeleton monster demonically screaming, “…you fucked up!” made me wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into…and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Rating B+

Does Krypton Soar?

Krypton debuted on the SYFY channel this week with a family story where the past and the present collide to dictate the future. Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El, learns of an impending threat to destroy Krypton, all to prevent the birth of his future grandson.

When I first learned of this new series, I wondered if it would only appeal to die-hard Superman fans.

I’m a die-hard Superman fan, so, that wouldn’t bother me. However, for this show to succeed long-term, it can’t just rest on the laurels of its mythology.

Continue reading

Street Fighter V: Wrestling Special – Comic Book Review

Street Fighter V: Wrestling Special | Writer: Ken Siu-Chong | Artists: Jeffrey Cruz & Hanzo Steinbach | Publisher: Udon Capcom

Another Free Comic Book Day is in the books. Once again, I journeyed to Silver Moon Comics & Collectibles to peruse all of the offerings. One book in particular immediately grabbed my attention and as someone who grew up on WWF and the Street Fighter II video game, this was a must.

Our first of two stories focuses on the over the top master of “strongest style” Dan Hibiki and his professional wrestling debut. Dan is the comic relief of the series and wears a pink gi similar to Ken and Ryu.

Continue reading

Star Wars – Thrawn is a Triumph

Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror when the mouse officially declared that the stories in the Star Wars expanded universe as non-canon. There was a glimmer of hope when Lucasfilm stated that aspects of what is now deemed “Legends” could be brought into the new canon. At that moment, fans in unison, all wanted one character more than anyone… Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Famed author Timothy Zahn brought this character into our consciousness in 1991 with the novel Heir to the Empire, the first installment of what would become known as the “Thrawn Trilogy.”

Thrawn’s reputation as a master military tactician is legendary. Now, the character’s creator Zahn returns to the Star Wars universe and gets reacquainted with an old friend.

Thrawn serves as an origin story of the blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss warrior, while detailing his rise to power in the Empire. Most of what we know about Thrawn is pretty much intact. Various characters that served under Thrawn in “Legends” become canon, except for Captain Pellaeon. Instead, a new character named Eli Vanto is introduced and carries the essence of Pellaeon in a younger form.

Vanto is an imperial cadet from the outer rim who talks with what could be a southern accent and is considered a “wild space yokel.” He vies for simplicity until fate brings Thrawn into his life and changes it forever. Zahn sets up Vannto as the listener’s window into how he helps Thrawn adjust to a career as an Imperial while marveling at his cunning and reserved disposition.

Click here to read the entire review at Forces of Geek.com

WWE Books the Impossible with New Comic Book

WWE: Then. Now. Forever. #1 | Writers: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs | Artists: Dan Mora, Rob Schamberger, Rob Guillory, Daniel Bayliss, Derek Fridolfs |Publisher: BOOM! Studios | Release Date: November 9, 2016

 

Two years ago, when Seth Rollins’ shocking heel turn put an end to one of most prevailing factions in wrestling history, The Shield, fans were treated to the typical answer when such things occur in the world of WWE. It all added up to Rollins being tired of splitting the glory three ways and wanted it all for himself. Continue reading

Boom Studios Unleashes ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Vol. 1

Normally, a comic book series based a popular television show delivers more of the same at best while often providing a watered down version of the source material.

Kyle Higgins makes BOOM! Studios’ run of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a compelling exception to the rule by using familiar elements to serve the narrative in a fashion that triggers nostalgia while touching on things that the kid-friendly show ignored.

Here, Higgins and company sprinkle in safety concerns and protocols that remind, or perhaps, enlightens the reader that no sane person would want to live in Angel Grove due to the amount of monster activity that plagues the city.

Also, how come no one ever attacked the Rangers at home? Why is it that only Jason and Tommy’s Zords saw one on one combat? All of these things and more come into play throughout the book.

Click here to read the entire review at Forces of Geek.com