Monday, July 25, 2011

The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot Review

The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Dark Horse Comics
Oversized Softcover Trade Paperback
80 pages
$14.95 (1996)
ISBN 9781569712016

Contributors: Frank Miller, Geof Darrow, Claude Legris, and Bill Spicer

Reprints: The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot #1-2 (of 2)

Synopsis: Japanese scientists unwittingly unleash an unholy monster from the Earth's distant past on the unsuspecting populace of Tokyo.  The creature is the size of a skyscraper, possesses the combined multi-species memories of the dinosaurs, an accelerated bio-manipulation power, and is bent on subjugating mankind to its will.  Japan's only hope is the untested boy robot Rusty and his nucleoprotonic power source. 
The unstoppable creature rampages through the city and bats away the insignificant boy robot as if he were a gnat.  The Americans send in the last line of defense for the planet -- the Big Guy!  Can even the power of the "robot" champion of Earth prevail against raging primeval fury?  Will Rusty break out of his depression over failure for long enough to help?

Pros: Larger format offers better viewing of Darrow's incredibly detailed artwork, Miller's writing remains pulp, very well done

Cons: Simple story with few surprises, no sequel (although a 26-episode television cartoon aired in 1999-2001)

Mike Tells It Straight: Miller and Darrow follow up on their smash hit Hard Boiled  with this very well-received two-issue series.  The collected edition comes in two flavors - this oversized color version and an even larger king-size edition in black & white.  This edition is by far the more appealing and improves on the original standard comic issues with superior page size to appreciate Darrow's incredibly detailed artwork.  The king size version loses points for being B&W without Claude Legris' wonderful color work (although preferable for those focused primarily on Darrow's artwork). The story, action and dialogue are very simple - showcasing the widescreen comic format before it became a widespread panic with Warren Ellis' The Authority  or Planetary.  The animated series was pretty good too and gives much more detail on the characters than this incredibly brief intro story.  Recommended for the stunning artwork and be ready for a quick read!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Full Moon Fever Review

Full Moon Fever
AiT/Planet Lar
Softcover Graphic Novel
88 pages
$12.95 (2005)
ISBN 9781932051353

Contributors: Joe Casey, Caleb Gerard, and Damian Couceiro

Synopsis: A routine trip to the Intercorp station on the moon by a waste disposal unit (space plumbers) goes awry as the team discovers the station in complete disarray with no crew in sight.  Zeke Kirby dreamed of being an astronaut, but found out some astronaut jobs aren't very glamorous.  It pays the bills, but he misses his daughter and ex-wife during the lengthy cleaning missions. 

Now the team must uncover what happened on the station before falling prey to the same disaster.  What happens when full moon fever takes an extreme turn?

Pros: Werewolves on the moon - haven't you ever wondered?

Cons: Black and white, story is incredibly predictable, art is mediocre

Mike Tells It Straight: This story can only be described as a b-movie attempt with a d-movie result.  It borrows heavily from Ridley Scott's Aliens and mixes in Universal Studio's werewolf, but the resulting story is predictable and bland.  Sadly, this kind of crap movie is playing on the Sci-Fi channel 24/7.  At least now we know what a movie about werewolves on the moon would be - terrible.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

City of Others Review

City of Others
Dark Horse Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
112 pages
$14.95 (2008)
ISBN 9781593078935

Contributors: Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson, Jose Villarrubia, and Mike Thomas

Reprints: City of Others (2007) #1-4 (of 4)

Synopsis: Stosh Bludowski is a professional killer with no memory of ever feeling human emotion.  Remorseless and cunning, he is very successful at what he does, until two clean kills won't stay down.  Perplexed after discovering clues to a greater mystery, he embarks on a journey which ends at a mountain fortress populated by vampires.  They are surrounded by an army of undead zombies and his only hope is to side with the greatest enemies of mankind against even greater enemies.  This gruesome killer is still only human - can he stand against the unholy powers of the undead and will his capacity for feeling finally awaken when it's too late?

Pros: Wrightson's art is always top notch, some interesting concepts, vampires vs. zombies, main character is a major badass

Cons: Story ends abruptly, antihero just wasn't interesting enough

Mike Tells It Straight: Niles and Wrightson are legendary horror comics creators and their pairing could only prove ruthlessly magical.  Alas, this is not the case as their creation feels as hollow and empty as the antihero starring in it.  Despite quality art and some captivating story elements this book goes by too quickly and you never really get to care about any of the characters.  The main character is the problem - I just couldn't buy his sudden change from an unfeeling killer into a fledgling vampire discovering emotions for the first time.  Great concept on paper, but it didn't translate to reality.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

300 Hardcover Review

Dark Horse Comics
88 pages
$30.00 (1999)
ISBN: 9781569714027

Contributors: Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Reprints: 300 (1998) #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: In the year 480BC, the Persian god-king Xerxes sets his sights on Greece and demands the submission of King Leonidas of Sparta.  Leonidas kills the messengers and an invasion of Sparta begins as hundreds of thousands of  Persian troops mass to the Grecian shores.

Leonidas brings 300 of his best Spartans to stand against the invading Persian forces (additional troops from nearby city-states reinforced the Spartans including Thespians, Thebans, and Phocians).  He chooses Thermopylae (translated Hot Gates) as the site of the battle for it's strategic benefits - the tight pass rendered the superior Persian numbers ineffectual against the well-trained Spartan hoplites. 

The Spartans hold off Xerxes' army against impossible odds and incredible challenges.  A traitor to the Spartans tips the balance of the battle and gives Xerxes the key to winning.  Leonidas is faced with inevitable defeat, but proves he and his 300 are worthy of their legend.

Pros: Gritty and modern retelling of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, great art and story by Miller, painted colors by Varley are amazing, hardcover collected edition reads much better than the original comic format (staple, folded pages) with landscape pages

Cons: Historically inaccurate on many counts, incredibly quick read due to the landscape page spread format, movie is better

Mike Tells It Straight: Miller retells the Battle of Thermopylae as a pure and gritty pulp drama.  Critics and even Alan Moore blasted Miller for the historical inaccuracies of his story, but it succeeds in being both powerfully symbolic and wildly entertaining.  The story earned three Eisner awards and was later adapted into a visually impressive movie. 

The movie was another wild success and expanded on the original story with some additional, captivating scenes.  Leonidas' wife literally has one line in the book - "Come home with your shield or on it", but an entire political sub-story was depicted in the movie - along with a racy sex scene.  The book was used as a literal storyboard for the movie and fully brought it to life. 
If you watched the movie and are curious to check out the original graphic novel -- don't bother.  The movie is actually superior to the original due to the additional story and visuals.  If you own the comics then you should trade up to the hardcover due to the better format for the landscape pages.

TO BUY and Recommendations: