If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Other than the obvious grammatical issues with that sentence, its reflective common-sense implication should be apparently obvious. One of the problems with creative people is the tendency to re-invent the wheel. A lot of the characters and story settings in the comics chosen for this week’s pull list are either classic characters/ titles or are based on fairly well-used premises.
The trick is to make them relevant for modern audiences. The success criteria for the selected titles listed below is how well the artists are presenting them for comic readers familiar with these iconic characters and properties and also to new audiences.
Mandrake the Magician #1
Mandrake was a King Features Syndicate character that used to run in newspapers in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Talk about revisiting old properties? This is definitely one with a lot of heritage.
Sadly, perhaps it needed to stay where it belonged: in the past.
As much as I really admired the effort, the basic premise of this book is that after a thwarted invasion by the planet, Mongo (Flash Gordon fans?), the world has been reduced to a point where the internet doesn’t work yet money, charity galas, and newspapers still do. So, to restore the world to its former glory, in a press conference Mandrake the Magician offers to hold a charity performance to raise money from the wealthy level of society.
It was a difficult premise to swallow, simply because the world didn’t seem too bad to me. I have to say, I was actually expecting something from the 1940’s – or some tale that brings Mandrake into the 21st century. In fact, the awesome cover by Darwyn Cooke seemed to suggest that. What we got was a pale imitation of those expectations.
While the story had some moments of elevated dialogue, they were reduced by the nature of the art. It didn’t fit. It was too unrefined and rough to be taken seriously.
Star Trek/Planet of the Apes #3
The highpoint for me in this issue is seeing likenesses of William Shatner and Charlton Heston go to town on each other. Not being a Heston fan and most assuredly a Shatner one, could the outcome ever be in doubt?
It’s a weird mash-up to be sure, but it’s one that works. Give the Tiptons some credit here … this is a fun book to read and definitely one to collect.
Star Trek: New Visions #5 – “ A Scent of Ghosts”
Absolutely a thing of great wonder to read. If you are not aware of these and you consider yourself to be a Star Trek fan, then turn in your phaser.
John Byrne has painstakingly crafted these amazing new re-visitations of the original Trek characters by re-using their images and other stock still footage to new purposes. In this issue, we see the character played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry in the pilot episode of Star Trek – Number One to Captain Christopher Pike – re-introduced thirty years later as a Star Fleet Commodore. Not only does Byrne use characters from Kirk’s iteration of Trek, but also those of Pike’s.
And to great effect. The story is as engaging and flavourful as if you were watching an episode from 1967. Byrne has truly re-invented himself and delivered a perfect homage to not only the actors of the series but to the set designers, costumers and other skilled tradespeople who worked on the show.
As a bonus, there is an extra short story included that explores a little of Spock’s Kohlinar experiences from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This story is dedicated to Arlene Martel, the actress who played T’Pring who passed away in 2014. Though the story is dedicated to her, the loss of Leonard Nimoy this month makes this an even more poignant story.
This is my all-time favourite Star Trek medium right now. For $7.99 a book, it’s really pricey, but Byrne delivers an amazing Star Trek experience that demands to be enjoyed.
Rat Queens #9
Kurt Wiebe does a great job of putting together a novel approach to the D&D meme-type story. What Wiebe does that is different is something that should have been done all along, namely the inclusion of strong female characters in a milieu that normally sees male ones. The addition of Stjepan Stejic’s art is truly wonderful and is a great choice to continue the artistry in this book.
But the added twist on this book is the humour. It’s fresh, inviting and makes you truly accept the rat Queens as fully-fledged and capable adventurers who are ready to kick ass with the best of barbarians. One of the best memories of growing up was playing Dungeons and Dragons at a female classmate’s house. Her mum made the best snacks, her basement was totally comfortable in true nerd fashion and her half-elven cleric was a force to be reckoned with.
The flow of this issue’s story seemed a little abbreviated as Hannah and the girls go to rescue Sawyer. There is no resolution to the story arc in this issue, which is a shame, as it seems like we’ve been waiting a while for it to conclude. But the image of little Betty slicing hamstrings and ankles is probably one that will stick out in my mind the most for this week’s books! Never underestimate a magically-deluded Halfling thief!
This is probably one of the most enjoyable books on the market right now.
All New Hawkeye #1
Yeah … I don’t know why Marvel is re-inventing the wheel here, but why do we need an All-New Hawkeye?
As it goes though, it’s actually not bad. Jeff Lemire is really good with retrospective storytelling, and that’s what we get here. This issue is a look at Hawkeye’s past and builds upon that foundation for future stories. The obvious typo in the letter column aside, I think it’s funny that Lemire remarks that the gauntlet has been thrown down in attempting to fill Matt, David and Annie’s big shoes. After all, a challenge suggests that you have to surpass what has been established. All Lemire and Perez have done is provide us with sort of the same action, dialogue and intensity that we’ve become accustomed to in this comic.
Still, that’s a good thing. A wise man recently said to me that when he came in as the new boss, he wasn’t looking to change things – just make them better. That means that you don’t rock the boat too much and ease change in gradually. When Lemire says that they have great things in store, you sort of just have to take his word for it.
Princess Leia #1
I love Terry and Rachel Dodson’s art. The cover really blows you away. This is yet another one of the Star Wars offerings and I am really excited that Marvel decided to make one of them focused on the only female character in the franchise.
One of the great things about previous Star Wars extra-canon sources was the exploration and development of other characters. Leia grew more in those media than in the films. Sadly, we are only left with the three films as all that extra canon is gone but that’s clearly the goal with this book.
We see a Princess without a throne in this story and looking for new direction. Leia is looking to redefine herself in the aftermath of the Death Star. I liked this book. Marvel can’t lose with all of this rich material they can draw on and the A-level talent is just too good to pass up.
The only criticism I can offer is that there is very little thought to continuity. If all of these titles begin at the same point in time, then why are the characters engaged in different activities?
When I think of the former glory of this team, I weep for the future.
The proliferation of X-titles has reduced the integral worth of these rich characters. In fact, I’ve completely lost track of this particular title. But I have to confess, this story arc didn’t draw me in. It was hard to maintain any interest, especially given that the space of time in between issues was flooded with other X-titles. No disrespect to G. Willow Wilson’s talent, but this is a difficult comic to sell.
So the choice comic for this week has to go to:
IDW’s Star Trek: New Visions #5 –“A Scent of Ghosts”
Wow. Just wow. I have gone into length describing this awesome book in the past but five issues in, and every one of them is a winner. Kudos to IDW for having the guts and the vision (no pun intended) to run with this title.
Also, with the death of Leonard Nimoy, this book also reminds us of the pivotal and iconic image of Spock. Nimoy crafted that image for us and it shall always be used in every iteration of Trek stories from now until … well, forever. Perhaps people will grow tired of Star Trek, but until that moment, Leonard Nimoy lives along with Deforest Kelly and James Doohan in those stories.
Byrne has adopted a stance of not discussing his previous work. That’s fine by me, as long as he continues to put out books like this and continue his love affair of Star Trek. As a fan of both his previous work and of Star Trek, I’m just happy to see him continue to create comics of a subject that I love. Well done, Mr. Byrne; I think Mr. Nimoy would appreciate the homage you continue to pay to him.
With that, it just goes to show that old stories are still relevant and appealing – even in a new package. Byrne succeeds by holding to that notion. It’s hard to imagine a world without the X-Men or Star Wars or Star Trek, but thanks to creators like John Byrne or the Dodsons, these properties and the characters they include continue to live on and entertain us, and with any luck, our children.