Tag Archives: Dave Stewart

Aliens Fire and Stone TPB Review

Aliens Fire and Stone 3

by Chris Roberson, Patric Reynolds, Dave Stewart, Paul Lee

Like most Sci-Fi fans, I’m familiar with the Aliens franchise although I’m much more partial to the Predator series. I was convinced I had seen everything that could be done with Xenomorphs and chestbursters, but I was pleased to be wrong after reading this.

The crew of Hadley’s Hope (the colony from Aliens) mounts a desperate escape after being overwhelmed by the Xenomorphs. People are dying left and right, but about 24 people make it to a surface-to-orbit mining ship. Cale is charged with loading cargo onto the ship, but allows a small number of Xenomorphs into a container out of fear he would be left behind if this was discovered too soon.

The Hadley’s Hope crew make it to LV-223 (the planet in Prometheus) and find it lush with plants and organisms. Cale’s mistake is quickly discovered, as they open the cargo hold and are swarmed. Most of the crew make it into the woods, at the cost of having few supplies. Russel, an engineer, becomes obsessed with the remarkable changes on LV-223 while everyone else argues over how best to survive. His journey of discovery becomes the main crux of the story, and one more interesting than the story in Prometheus.

My main experience with Roberson’s comes from his Doc Savage maxi-series for Dynamite. His writing here is crisp and concise, introducing characters that I care about and ramping up the tension throughout the book. The tone is not unlike The Walking Dead in that the survivors of Hadley’s Hope are in a losing situation and their existence is a temporary state. The key difference is that the Xenomorphs are more deadly and cunning than zombies, and Roberson understands this very well.

  Reynolds’ pencils are perfect for this book, shadowy and bleak but also instantly recognizable to the related films. Most impressive is how he makes all the characters (even the ones about to die) look distinct from each other. There is also good use of landscape scenes and birds-eye views of the environments.

The final story is a short one that fits into the beginning of Aliens and caps off that story’s direness.

Despite the great writing and art, there are a few hiccups. The Hadley’s Hope crew makes the odd choice of landing on a new planet, walking onto the surface and then remarking on their surprise that the atmosphere is breathable. Even if they scanned it beforehand and decided it was safe, this is not inherently clear and underscores why so many characters (even scientists) die in the franchise. The plot also uses a human/Alien hybrid twice, with only emotional impact resulting from the second instance. Despite the potential, I don’t think hybrids of any kind work in the Alien/Predator franchises.

Overall, this is a great horror/sci-fi story that should appease fans of the movies or even causal comic readers. The writing is on par with The Walking Dead at it’s best and the art in both stories captures the look of the films without sacrificing style.

Rating: Poor. Fair, Good, Great, Excellent

Banana Stand Special: BPRD #118

 So this week I’ve decided to do a more in-depth review for The Banana Stand.  I’m a huge fan of the BPRD books, and the Mignolaverse in general, so I thought this was good book to start with.

21532          Overview: Issue #118 is the penultimate issue in “The Reign of the Black Flame” storyline, and it has been one of the best all-around BPRD arcs in the series as a whole.  For starters we get more James Harren artwork–which is just fantastic–but we’re also getting an exciting culmination of the last year or so of stories.  Everything has been leading to this, basically since the Russia arc, and Arcudi, Mignola, and Co. have delivered in spades.  New York City has gone to shit, and it’s up to the Bureau and it’s Russian counterpart to save the day and keep the entire world from being overrun with monsters.  We get great character moments with Iosif, Johann, and Fenix; as well as a showcase of how badass Liz Sherman can really be.  This issue does a fantastic job of being completely gripping, while setting things up for the ultimate reckoning next issue.  So now I’m going to dive into some specifics, if you haven’t read the issue or are trade waiting–what’s wrong with you!–fair warning, ****THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD***** Continue reading Banana Stand Special: BPRD #118

Frankenstein Underground #1 Review

Frankenstein Underground 1

by Mike Mignola, Ben Steinbeck, and Dave Stewart

The Frankenstein monster from Hellboy in Mexico gets his own miniseries.

Traveling around the world, he ends up near some Aztec temples and meets a witch, with whom he shares his story. Unbeknownst to our hero, a collector covets Frankenstein and sends a demon to abduct him. He fights her off, but the witch dies. Frank demands the Gods resurrect her, but then falls through the floor. Meanwhile, the Collector punishes the demon for failing to capture Frank.

Steinbeck’s art is good for this series. It’s remencient of Mignola’s own style, but has its own personality.

If I had one complaint with this issue, its that Mignola seems to make Frank more like Hellboy instead of a Frankenstein monster. It turns out he’s existed for centuries, hunted by a devious person with magic powers, always having bad luck, these aspects make the book seem less original and compelling.

That said, the book has enough action and humor to make the story worth reading. For those anxious about the current Hellboy mini ending, this series should soften the blow.

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent

Hellboy & the BPRD #4 Review

Hellboy BPRD 1952 4

By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Alex Maleev, and Dave Stewart

This issue comes as close to possible as being a classic Hellboy story as it can, in the best way. Hellboy and the agent who went into the collapsed building to save him, find a tunnel leading into the castle outside the village. Entering the castle they find more mechanized monkeys, cadavers, and Frankensteins. Each character faces off against a Frankenstein monster, then learns the mastermind behind it all is Herman Von Klempt.

The issue is full of irony and action. The irony comes from Hellboy’s reaction to events, he’s put off by the strange monkeys and Von Klempt’s appearance, however in 40+ years this will all seem normal to him. Another source of irony is Von Klempt himself, once again building monsters to a cause that has left him behind (in more ways than one). Irony is but a tool for fate, and Von Klempt is doomed to repeat these plots until the events of Conqueror Worm.

The art this issue is superb, with Maleev stretching the muscles he built up on Marvel’s Daredevil with Brian Micheal Bendis. He also recreates some of the famous scenes from Hellboy’s origin, but without sacrificing his personal flair. Indeed, Maleev was a great artistic choice as it naturally fits in with the first volume of Hellboy’s style. Adding to the sense of continuity is Dave Stewart’s colors, rich when needed and subdued when appropriate.

Overall, this is the penultimate issue of the mini and it ratchets up the tension. It is a satisfying read on its own, but sure to lead to a just as satisfying end.

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent.

Review: Rumble #1

img010              Overview: The first issue of John Arcudi and James Harren’s new creator owned series drops us right into a strange, yet somewhat familiar world.  We’re left to figure it out as we go, but the setting is interesting, and the characters are intriguing. Combine that with the always phenomenal artwork by James Harren, and you get a pretty solid debut issue that warrants your attention.

          Story: The basic premise is a mysterious figure with a mysterious weapon arrives in a city that appears to have seen better days. We meet Bobby, a local bartender, and presumably our POV character; and by the end of the issue we only learn some tidbits to chew on until next issue. This mysterious–and gigantic–sword will attract the attention of weird monsters, and the owner of this sword appears to be supernatural in some way himself.

img011           Part of me wishes we were given more context to work with, but I’ve been reading Arcudi’s stuff long enough to trust he’s taking this somewhere awesome, and the hints at something very creepy and supernatural going on are enough to hook me. What worries me, is if there was enough of a hook for the uninitiated. I was pretty smitten with this book based on the creative team alone, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I may be in the minority. A first issue really needs to grab our attention, and story wise I don’t know if Rumble was quite successful in that regard. For some readers, being left a bit in the dark is not satisfying, and figuring out the mystery $3.50 at a time, month after month just doesn’t cut it.

I really hope those new to this creative team will give it a chance, because I think this is going to be a very cool book. Though even I cannot provide an explanation for what is supposed to happen beyond the fact that there will be visceral action, creepy-rad monsters, mystery, and probably some laughs along the way.  If that’s enough or you–and it should be–then welcome to the party! If not, then at least stick around for some of the best art in comics, and the story will become more clear as we move along.

          img012Art:  For anyone not happy with the amount of story context, the artwork should more than make up for it.  James Harren has done amazing stuff in the Mignolaverse, so the excitement of getting to witness he and Arcudi’s carte blanche vision of an entirely new world is something I can barely contain.  Harren has built a name on frenetic, palpably intense action sequences, that shatter expectations of what can be done with static images. Here we get to see him showcase his equally brilliant ability to world build.

The cityscape is reminiscent of others we’ve seen in fiction, but maintains it’s own personality. I referenced 1970’s NYC meets Mad Max in my indubitable issues recommendation, but so far the Mad Max is only apparent in the dystopian-feeling spirit of the place. The streets are barren, filled with more fog than people, and it seems like a city where you’d lock your doors even when you’re home; hell, especially when your home 🙂

Harren’s character work is also given a chance to shine, each person is different, and you get a real sense of who they are, just based on their clothes and faces. Features are exaggerated, but with a fair amount of realism still intact, and his expression work is fantastic. If this is your first exposure to Mr. Harren’s work, then I’m sure this issue blew your socks off.

I have to mention Dave Stewart, who as always, colors this world to perfection. Using purples, blues, oranges, and reds to really give a pop to the mood of each scene, or paint the action with an urgent flash of bright background. He’s familiar with Harren and Arcudi from their work at Dark Horse, so the transition here is seamless.

          img013Conclusion:  Despite some concerns over it’s ability to hook new readers with the story, Rumble #1 is a solid debut from a polished and very talented team.  As a huge fan of everyone involved I sincerely hope this venture with Image attracts new readers to the brilliance of both Arcudi and Harren, and I can’t wait to learn more about this strange new world in the coming issues.

I urge anyone on the fence to check out a couple more issues, because I know the mysterious nature exists with a purpose; John Arcudi is one of the best writers working today, so if you’re looking for a wild, fantastical ride, you’ve come to the right book.  The art of James Harren, and the chance to witness this team build a world from the ground up should be enough to warrant your patience.

So what do you think NBC! faithful? Did you enjoy this issue? Was I completely wrong in my assessment? Let me know in the comments, and as always thank you for reading!

 

Review of Lobster Johnson #5 (of 5)

by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Tonci ZonJic, and Dave Stewart

A fitting end to another great romp with the Lobster.

Lobster Johnson and his crew catch the last surviving criminals of the current arc. It proves to be an interesting chase and compelling enough to fill the 22+ pages.

This mini has proven the price of admission 3 times over in my mind, slowly moving the Lobster’s tale forward while giving him plenty of criminals to hunt and shoot. It’s been pulp fun in every sense of the word. Although the cover is somewhat misleading, very little of this issue is set in the daytime; much less the main action.

I cannot say enough about Tonci’s art, it is perfect for this mini and the era itself. Doc Savage would be so lucky to be drawn by this guy, instead a homage created by Mignola gets drawn in all his glory by Zonjic’s confident and expressive lines.  Nothing feels off, or out of place. Stewart is himself a stalwart component of the Mignolaverse; complementing the pencilers despite so many having different styles.

It’s hard to estimate someone’s joy just jumping in on the final act of this mini. If you’ve been patiently following “Get the Lobster” then you’ve no doubt been pleased by the twists and turns its taken. By itself this is a fun chase book about a Pulp hero going after an evil scientist. I cannot wait for the next mini to see what Mignola and Arcudi reveal about the Lobster or the depraved villain he faces next.

Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent.

Abe Sapien #13

          img094Overview:  This issue we journey with Abe and his new companion Grace, whom Abe rescued from captivity last issue.  Together they meet, and join up with, a couple desperate to save their ailing son.  They all end up at a strange property, where a man is supposedly able to heal visitors with a special clay and some holistic practice.  As usual in this “Hell on Earth” things don’t always go as planned, and the harsh realities of this new world come crashing down on the group of travelers.

img095          Art:  Sebastian Fiumara is on art duties this issue, and he does a brilliant job.  The issue starts with, and contains, a few flashback sequences throughout, Fiumara takes this opportunity to differentiate them with rough, free-hand panel outlines.  It’s a subtle choice, but I really appreciate when an artist does something like this; often it’s left up to the colorist to modify things to provide a visual cue that a scene is from the past, but Fiumara proves that’s not the only creative way to get the point across and it’s the kind of choice that shows how much the artist “gets it”, which is nice to see.

img096 Sebastian’s style is all his own and I’ve become a big fan since he debuted on this title.  To me his work feels like Richard Corben, filtered through Sean Phillips, with hints of Guy Davis, and his action sequences are right up there with James Harren.  He also does a fine job channeling Mignola in his layouts and sequencing.  This issue there is a thematic constant of a mysterious bell tolling; from the cover, to various key moments during the issue it appears, often in sillhouette, and provides an ominous presence; this is a tool Mignola has nearly patented, and Fiumara uses it to great effect.  Every page of this issue has a visceral quality, you can almost feel the dread and weariness of every surface and character.  The mood will morph into a calmness, but then like a time-bomb something clicks and….BOOM! The page is awash in mayhem and violence.  It’s not often that an artist is well rounded enough that an issue can jump from such extremes without some discernible change in quality, but Fiumara has a firm grasp on both action and character, and it’s awesome to experience.

        img097 Story: This issue was interesting story wise, but for me the art really propelled the ambiance and lifted things beyond a so-so episode.  I’m still not sure what to make of Grace; it’s obvious she is deeply traumatized, but she seems to jump back and forth between catatonic and aware; often shifting only to complicate situations,  like a child who’s aware they can manipulate people with their behavior.  I’m not sure if this is done on purpose to shape her character, or if she’s becoming a plot device.  This also seems apparent when Abe describes his need to protect her, and his belief that he can do so.  I trust Allie to develop this further, because it does make sense for Abe, who’s lost control of nearly everything in his life, and is grasping for something he can help or alleviate in the face of a crumbling world.

          The parents of the ailing boy suffer from this as well, I feel like they were unnecessary, and the story could have happened without their existence.  They’re around mostly to be a device for us to feel sorry for, both before, and after their demise.  I think if you can remove a character and still achieve the same story, then you should consider removing them all together, or modifying their role; that is just my take though and it’s a minor thing in the long run, but it’s something I think Allie needs to consider for future arcs.

           I’ve enjoyed this series and it’s measured approach to dealing with the end of the world through a zoom lens.  It separates itself from BPRD, by focusing on the rest of the population, and the powerless nature of their plight.  Abe is wandering through the madness, knee-deep in tragedy and suffering, searching for answers , or at least signs, that there is something left for him in the world.  This journey is complicated by his desire to help others, and his resemblance to the very monsters infecting and destroying the world around everyone.  I believe Allie and Co. are doing an admirable job conveying the melancholy and seemingly insurmountable odds facing everyone, in the same way John Arcudi is doing with our intrepid agents of the BPRD in the main title, but on a scale that reflects the abilities-or lack thereof–of the civilian population.

          Conclusionimg098: If you’re looking for a rosy good vs. evil story, where the white knight always wins, then look elsewhere. This book is taking on the apocalypse on the ground floor, and it’s anything but rosy–unless you count the shade of all the blood.  The art by Sebastian Fiumara alone demands your attention, and I trust Scott Allie is building things that will reward us throughout the series, that is as long as you don’t mind rewards in the form of frog-monsters, mayhem, and a frightening look at the end of the world as we know it. If that’s your jam, then dig in, because there’s plenty to go around 🙂

          Just for fun here’s a Pull list Playlist suggestion for this issue: The Partisan, By Leonard Cohen If you’ve never heard this song then please give it a listen, in my opinion it’s one of Cohen’s best.

Abe Sapien #12

23884          Overview: A stand alone issue that focuses on a pair of lost souls Abe stumbles upon in his wanderings.  Choosing prose over dialogue, Scott Allie weaves a tragic and affecting tale of the collateral damage caused by the rampant destruction of the world in the wake of the “Hell on Earth” reality. Combined with gorgeously rendered art by Max Fiumara, this issue separates itself dramatically from the previous 11 issues with it’s almost poetic approach to storytelling.

          img061Art: Max Fiumara burst onto the BPRD scene in 2012, with his debut on “The Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell”; since then he’s joined forces with brother Sebastian to rotate art duties on Abe’s solo series. Max has a surrealistic style that works very well with the monsters and mayhem that usually occur in a Mignolaverse book, but this issue he showcases a wonderful ability to depict regular people in a surreal setting.  His characters still have rather wide-set eyes and large heads, but not so much that’s it’s a distraction.  I was very impressed with Max this issue, because of how the story is structured. Every page has three page-wide panels that jump from past to present, character to character, with no specific segue narratively. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, but Fiumara pulls it off adeptly, and Dave Stewart aids this process by using distinct color palettes to differentiate time and place.

          There are really three stories taking place this issue, and they are presented in a rotating montage fashion. The first, at present, has Abe wandering upon an farmhouse inhabited by a couple of people not keen on company–especially anyone looking like Abe–and the consequences of that encounter. The other two provide an explanation of who these two new characters are, and how they ended up in their current predicaments.  The stories are anything but uplifting, and the team of Fiumara and Stewart do a magnificent job keeping with the melancholy feel of the narrative, allowing us as readers to immerse ourselves in this world.  I don’t know how many creative teams would be able to pull of a task like this with such proficiency, it shows that the trust Mignola and Alllie put in them is well placed, and bodes well for future issues.

         img062 Story: I was caught off guard at first by the choice to exclusively use narration boxes to tell this story.  It was a bold decision by Allie, but in the end I think it was a wise one.  Despite not fully absorbing it all upon first read, I was deeply moved by the story, and spellbound by the language and it’s ability to create a discomforting ambiance.  At times it felt a bit verbose and indulgent, but after reaching the last page I was overcome with an unease and sadness that made me reconsider my previous notion.  After going through it a second time I was more comfortable with the style, and therefore, was able to let it really soak in and transport me to this place. This would not be the best approach to take with multiple issues, but for a special episode it worked very well.

          Allie has definitely molded a very different kind of book for Abe than I was expecting, but I enjoy the surprise of that.  In some ways I wish we could attain more insight into what exactly Abe’s mindset is at this point in the story, but maybe he doesn’t even know himself.  To me it seems as though he is loosing more and more of the man he used to be, and slowly morphing into the beast he may have always feared he could become.

          Conclusion: This has been an interesting year for Abe so far, I know after all he has been through, adaptation is inevitable; especially with all the physical changes he has experienced.  I’m not sure where it is all leading to, but I’m intrigued, and I want to continue to see where it goes.  While the story has me pondering, the art has been phenomenal, and this issue particularly shows just how remarkable Max Fiumara’s storytelling is.  This series is not the home run BPRD has become, but it’s doing a great job of showing the other side of the coin during Hell on Earth.