Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ocean Trade Paperback Review

DC Comics - Wildstorm
Softcover Trade Paperback
176 pages
$14.99 (2005)
$19.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401208493

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Michael Golden, Tony Avina, Wendy Broome, Randy Mayor, and Wildstorm FX

Reprints: Ocean #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: In one hundred years humankind has begun exploring the interior of the solar system.  The next frontier is interplanetary mining and of particular interest is the moon Europa orbiting Jupiter.  This unique moon is covered in ice and is thought to have an actual ocean beneath its surface.  The space station Cold Harbor orbits Europa in order to study its surface and interior.  What they discover beneath the moon's surface is a secret so large it could destroy the entire human race.
Nathan Kane meets the crew of the Cold Harbor

Expert weapons inspector Nathan Kane is immediately dispatched to Cold Harbor orbiting Europa.  His specialty is identifying weapons of mass destruction yet he abhors gun violence.  An expert at hand-to-hand combat and master strategist, he narrowly survives an assassination attempt on Mars.  Someone doesn't want him to reach Europa alive.

The Cold Harbor station is a remote outpost with a small crew of boring scientists.  These include station commander Fadia Aziz, engineer Siobhan Coney, field scientist John Wells, and analysis expert Anna Li.  The crew are completely freaked out by their discovery and the implications it has on the origins of human culture.  Kane assesses the situation and comes to the conclusion that the entire human race is in grave peril.

The scientists are not alone in their orbit of Europa and another space station is run by the mega-conglomerate, DOORS.  This company uses technology to subjugate the personalities of its employees into a hive mind during their lengthy work contracts for optimum efficiency and loyalty.  The higher up the corporate ladder you climb the more draconian the upgrades.  Commanding the DOORS station is a ego-maniacal corporate officer who prizes the capture of the alien technology over all else.  His only thought is to gain this ancient race's secrets to further his own self-serving agenda and he doesn't care who pays the price.

Warren Ellis redefines 'corporate lackey'
Only Kane and the Cold Harbor's crew stand between the technology getting into the hands of those who would exploit it to the detriment of humanity.  Can one skilled pacifist and a group of scientists repel the advances of a legion of corporate zombies?  The human race stands upon a precipice of destruction as the secrets of our origin unravel.

Pros: Great sci-fi concept and setup, some interesting characters and personalities - Nathan Kane is a confident badass, lots of witty banter and one-liners, idea of a future corporation rewriting their employees' minds was absolutely spot on, a few clever tech advances to combat on space stations, very clean art by Chris Sprouse, and excellent covers by Michael Golden

Cons: Story resolution doesn't answer all the questions raised from the setup, things wrapped up a little too neatly, a few jokes that fell flat (burned food in the microwave on a space station, right!), they use a saucer-shaped shuttle to smash through the ice surface of Europa repeatedly - no way is that feasible, felt like a straight-up sci-fi comic book vehicle to get a movie made (which has not happened yet)

Mike Tells It Straight: Warren Ellis (Supergod, Switchblade Honey) writes an interesting sci-fi story with a really great setup.  Chris Sprouse's (Tom Strong Vol. 1) art is superbly clean and he's a master of cinematic storytelling.  These two are a great creative team and produce a solid story.  Michael Golden provides some excellent covers.  It felt like I was reading the storyboards for a movie  and I could easily see this story being adapted to live-action (it's been optioned for a movie).  I'd say the story would make a fairly good, mainstream sci-fi film.

Ellis writes the best witty banter
We get a cool protagonist in Nathan Kane with clever one-liners and a knack for always coming out on top (think Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher).  Kane doesn't want to fight, but he'll kick your ass if you cross him.  The crew had the stereotypical personalities of your cliche international scientist group and the ending was suitably exciting.  Ellis and Sprouse add a few cool futuristic advances to technology (like guns that shoot special bullets on space stations) and the corporation that subjugates employees through technology was fairly brilliant.  

Despite a neat setup I felt the second half of the book didn't deliver the goods.  We get a frantic race between the two groups and an exciting confrontation in a unique environment (space station), but too few questions were answered about the discovery on Europa.  The conflict wrapped up too easily as with most standard sci-fi movies.  I'd say this book is a good, quick read which will peak your interest, but leave you a bit flat at the end.

A little sneak preview of what they discover beneath the surface of Europa

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Extinction Event Mini-Series Review

Extinction Event
DC Comics - Wildstorm
Comic Book Mini-Series
32/ea. = 160 pages (2003)
$2.50/ea. = $12.50

Published: Extinction Event #1-5 (of 5)

Contributors: Robert Weinberg, Brett Booth, Sal Regla, John Layman, and Wildstorm FX

Synopsis: The contents of a secret tomb in Texas threatens to rock the world when proof of sentient dinosaurs is revealed!  An unknown breed of technologically savvy dinosaurs is found in suspended animation amid the ruins of their incredible civilization.  They apparently safeguarded themselves from the extinction level event of a falling meteor which wiped out all the other dinosaurs on the planet millions of years ago.  Now a group of soldiers, scientists, and cowboys explore the silent halls of the dinosaurs ancient sanctuary.

The secret cave is located on the Double Bar Ranch owned by tom-boy heartbreaker Samantha Gonzalez.  General Steele calls in two specialists for the operation including retired ace pilot Colonel Benson and computer specialist Lieutenant Cornelius.  Alicia Vaughan is a reporter posing undercover to figure out the secret of the dig site and reveal it to the world.  Chief paleontologist Dr. Melissa Cyre is the dinosaur expert, but her knowledge could be lacking when the dinosaurs are actually alive!

It becomes apparent the dinosaurs had an incredibly advanced civilization after examination of their machinery shows it to still be functional.  Discovery of the creche triggers the process to awaken them and the dinosaurs are not impressed with the pathetic mammalian civilization which has supplanted their dominance over the planet!

When the dinosaurs awaken it becomes frighteningly clear the humans are not prepared for their arrival.  Equipped with powerful technology and psychic abilities the dinosaurs begin their destructive assault.  Only our intrepid group of specialists stand in the way of total dinosaur domination!  Humans have enjoyed mastery over nature and the planet for millennia, but what happens when they become the next endangered species?

Pros: Reminded me of Jurassic Park crossed with Aliens, some decent and mildly inspired art by Brett Booth (he draws good dinosaurs), unique sci-fi story premise

Cons: Short mini-series at only five issues, ending begs for a sequel which will never happen, Booth seemingly excels at rendering humans with tiny bodies and overly extended appendages, overall weak plot

Mike Tells It Straight: I came across this set of books in a bargain bin and decided to try them out.  The mini-series had a few interesting moments which mainly dealt with the discovery of the suspended dinosaurs, but was overall a mediocre book.  Don't expect this to be collected anytime soon.  While the premise seems mildly interesting and Weinberg does his best Jurassic Park interpretation the story ends up being far-fetched B-movie fodder.

Booth's art was a big draw for me since I was a child of the 90's during the formation of Image Comics.  The character Backlash and Booth's early work on Stormwatch were particularly memorable to me.  I'll always hold Backlash/Spider-Man in high regard, but it becomes obvious the artistic evolution of Image proteges doesn't include fundamental art principles when you get right down to it.  Despite the flash and style, Booth's anatomy is wonky (disproportionately long torsos and limbs) and backgrounds are spotty.  He's still a great artist with a lot of potential, but the art is awkward here.

I would let this one fade into obscurity.  It will never be collected and that's a sign.  I won't discount the obvious hard work involved in producing the series - the creators did a good job, however it's not a truly memorable story and won't be coming to a cinema near you.

TO BUY and Recommendations: