Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 (IDW)

TF vs GIJoe1
CREDIT: IDW Publishing

Rating: 3.5/5 – Scioli’s Stylized Art Stands Out.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Transformers vs G.I. Joe is a new take on the popular Hasbro universes by Tom Scioli and John Barber. This isn’t related to anything that’s happened from the previous and current Transformers and G.I. Joe series being published by IDW and is free of the complex history and continuity. If you’re familiar with Scioli’s work on Godland or American Barbarian, that same loose, but creative Kirby-esque style is here in all it’s glory. Scioli co-writes, draws/colors and even letters this first issue that picks up right where the Free Comic Book Day zero issue left off and delivers on exactly what you’d expect him to in terms of the art and style, but missed the mark for me when it came to the storytelling.

The story opens with a splash page that immediately sets the tone for those that may not be familiar with Scioli’s style. Snake Eyes with his red dash tattoo is being protected from an upset General Flagg by his pet wolf Timber. You can see all of Scioli’s lines in the detailed character work and backgrounds and you instantly come to understand that Scioli is taking the time to pay respect and acknowledge the finer details of the characters from the G.I. Joe and Transformer universe. Small details are found throughout this first issue as Scioli makes each character stand out, embracing, rather than diminishing their colorful and vibrant looks. The character designs are simplistic, yet detailed. You can see Scioli’s passion for the characters and this world in each page. There’s definitely a look to this book that’s like nothing else out there and what may seem simple in line, is anything but when you look at the overall package. Each page is as fun to look at as the last, and the pages that include the Joe team vs. Soundwave are worth the price of the book alone.

As good as the art is though, the story isn’t as coherent or sequential as it could be. After the opening splash page involving Snake Eyes, we immediately jump to an all-out battle taking place in Springfield without any description or time reference. This happens a few times within this first issue and makes the story feel unnecessarily chaotic at times The story also makes multiple references to the zero issue that unfortunately many fans may have missed. Not only that, but the Transformers have zero dialogue in this issue which makes this first issue seem unbalanced in it’s approach The first two points could have been easily fixed with a recap page and description boxes, while the latter would rectify itself in future issues. On the plus side, the back of this issue has five pages of story commentary that fills in a lot of the creator’s thoughts and process, proving their passion for the project once again.

This is a book that because of the stylized art involved won’t appeal to everyone, but for those that it does appeal to, it will exceed expectations. The art is as crazy, creative, and fun as it should be when combining these two storied franchises. This is just the start of the series that Scioli has big plans for and plans on staying with for the foreseeable future. Scioli and Barber are doing what they want with these characters and enjoying the freedom of a clean slate. As long as he and Barber can tighten up the storytelling, then this book should have the bright future that they, and fans both desire.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Cap’n Dinosaur #1 (Image)

Cap'n Dinosaur #1
CREDIT: Image Comics

Rating: 4/5 – A Fun Romp Through the Silver Age of Comics
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

I picked up Cap’n Dinosaur on a whim this week while scanning the wall of new releases at my local comic shop. Mostly, it was the cool, retro looking cover, but I also liked that it boasted a “complete story,” so I didn’t have to invest anything more than a single reading. Top it off with an Image logo in the upper left-hand corner of the cover and I figure that’s as good a reason as any for taking a chance on a new comic. And whether through some arcane formula (art + one-shot + Image) or just good fortune, I found a comic I really enjoyed!

With Cap’n Dinosaur, writer Kek-W pays homage to the Silver Age of comics by crafting a story that could be taken back in time and seamlessly dropped into a spinner rack in the 1960s. In one corner is our hero, Cap’n Dinosaur, an amalgamation of classic comic characters, whose “dino sense” tingles at the thought of danger and who can be reached via “bone phone.” In the other corner is the Carnevil of Crime, a rouges list of villains based on classic comic advertisements (sea monkeys, monster size monsters, etc.). Together, they form an issue with all the zaniness of an episode of the classic Batman television show. It’s a fun romp through a time long forgotten. Artist Shaky Kane further accentuates this Silver Age tale with illustrations that mirror classic Jack Kirby or, more recently, Mike Allred. It’s a timeless style that never gets old, particularly with source material like this.

If you’re a fan of Silver Age comics, or just comics that are fun, zany, and don’t involve a five-issue story arc, then Cap’n Dinosaur may be for you. It’s a completely original idea and a nice change of pace from the comic norm of today. And while one of its selling points to me was that it was a one-shot, I wouldn’t mind seeing this as a regular title.

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Princess Ugg #2 (Oni Press)

Ugg2
CREDIT: Oni Press

Rating: 5/5 – Fun, Funny, Witty… A Classic in the Making!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Barbarian Princess Ulga, child of the wild mountain kingdom of Grimmeria, is sent to a ‘finishing school’ for ladies of good standing (e.g., other princesses) down in the valley and merriment ensues.  That’s a capsule summary that is woefully inadequate at describing how truly fun, funny, witty, and charming this series by Ted Naifeh really is.  In issue #1, Ulga was sent to the Academy, here in #2 she really gets down to the business of interacting with her classmates, and what results is a classic-in-the-making.

Naifeh makes Characters with a capital C.  Ulga’s Scottish brogue adds a layer to her brash no holds barred personality.  The narration perfectly complements the passages of dialogue, they wryly counterpoint one another deftly spotlighting the differences in the worldview of Ulga and her mountain people vs. that of the ‘lowlanders’.

This issue focuses on introducing the Academy, it’s students, some staff, the various courses of study and ancillary activities.  Not heavy on high adventure but I was wrapped up in the world from the first page to the last.  There was not a single thing I didn’t like so how can I give it anything less than a “5”?  Naifeh’s storytelling grabbed me by the brain and didn’t let go until I hit the “next issue” page and I wanted more story NOW!  We had just hit a teaser for court intrigue to come!  Come On Ted, I WANT MORE!  Well, I guess I’ll wait another month, you have me hooked, sir!

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Salvagers #1 + #2 (Hound Comics)

Salvagers #1 Salvagers #2
CREDIT: Hound Comics

Rating: 3.5/5 – A Solid Start to a New Series.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Adam Alamo.

In the distant future, planets throughout the galaxy are connected by trade routes that allow them to share and profit from natural and artificial resources. It is a time of big business, but also piracy. It is a time of relative peace, but there is still plenty of violence and warfare. Whenever conflicts leave damage and destruction in their wake, interested parties hire licensed crews to salvage abandoned starships and space stations. These crews are known as Salvagers. This is the story of one of these crews.

The premise of this story is interesting enough. In space, we’ve seen superheroes, aliens, Gods, and even the embodiment of the universe. But a specialized crew whose business it is to salvage abandoned starships adrift in space? Someone has to do the job! The crew appears to be pretty standard fare as teams go. You have the level-headed human leader, the techy female, the muscle, and the raunchy and comical alien. You can almost see the Guardians of the Galaxy here, if only the raunchy character were a raccoon instead of a little green alien. The opening issue doesn’t do much for character development, but instead sets up the narrative and promptly dives into the action. Writer Robert Salley has a good sense of pacing and I had no trouble getting into the book or understanding what was going on. That’s not always an easy thing to do when world building. It’s the second issue that I found to be the real gem, instead of continuing the action of the first issue, the narrative takes a step back to explore Brig, the little green alien. In doing so, it not only gives us a motive for the latest dangerous mission, but also fleshes out one of the characters. I think this was definitely a step in the right direction. Another gem here is the art by George Acevedo and colors by DeSiKa, which are really quite beautiful at times and do a lot to set the tone in the book. They can paint a gritty picture when needed, but also produce bright colors and clean lines.

Overall, Salvagers is off to a good start. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the characters and other than the opening narrative, we don’t have a sense of history yet in this universe. This can make it difficult to connect with the story and the characters. Still, the character piece on Brig was a good start and I’m hoping we continue to get more backstory intermingled with the main narrative. It would go a long way to help Salley world build what is sure to be an interesting story to come.  If you don’t see this comic at your local shop, you can also check out the Hound Comics web-site at: http://www.houndcomics.com/salvagers_comic.php

Reviewed by: Adam Alamo
(adam@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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The Creeps #1(Warrant)

Creeps1
CREDIT: Warrant Publishing

Rating: 4/5 – Upholding the Warren Tradition of Terror!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

“All new Tales of Terror in the Warren Tradition” is the tagline at the bottom of the first issue of The Creeps. This first issue is a love letter and a tribute to Warren’s Creepy and Eerie magazines in the best possible way. You will feel as though you’ve taken a step back to the 1960s as the whole magazine models exactly what Warren was producing at the time. Amazing and beautiful cover by a legendary artist…check. Inside cover image done by another famous artist that offers up a historic account of a monster…check. Table of Contents and a letters page that’s exactly how Warren did it…well, you get the picture. The Creeps is a tribute to some of the best black and white magazines of it’s time and you can tell that it’s a labor of love.

Starting with the cover, the famous fantasy artist Ken Kelly shows that he’s still just as good as he was back in the day with an image that sets the mood for this brand new book. It’s great to see that Editor and creator Rich Sala has gone back to find the same artists that were working on the Warren Magazines from back in the day. Turning the page and you find a haunting yet sexy image of a Succubus by the talented and underrated Frank Brunner. Not only do we get Brunner and Kelly, but we also see works by Joe Rubinstein and Rick Buckler as well. It’s such a pleasure and treat to see these creator’s works again, and it’s great to see this magazine embrace their talents.

The stories inside are not all consistently as good, but there were a few standouts including the first story called Vengeance. It’s written by editor Rich Sala and illustrated by Artie Godwin and absolutely reads like an old EC or Warren story, with the corniness to match. The final story titled “The Scream Queen’s Secret” with art by Shawn Van Briesen and Godwin that not only gets the Warren feel in the writing, but Van Briesen even nails the panel borders, word balloons and thought bubbles. You’d be hard pressed to tell if this was cut and pasted into an issue of Creepy from the past or if it was created today, and that’s high praise.

Overall, Warrant Publishing has achieved the goal they set out to do by creating a book that’s true to the look and feel of the original Warren magazines. Right now you’ll have to go to www.thecreepsmagazine.com to order a copy as you won’t find this in stores. If the talent they got for this first issue is any indication of what’s in store for future issues, then I can’t wait for more. Warrant has already announced that a second issue issue is in the works so make sure you jump on board now, or else you may get a visit from the Old Creep himself.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Groo vs. Conan #1 (Dark Horse)

groovconan_cvr
CREDIT: Dark Horse

Rating: 4/5 – I Was Grinning Ear to Ear for the Entire Issue!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.

Fans have been waiting for this epic meet-up for years and it’s finally on the stands!  Who will be triumphant?  Who will slay?  Who will get all the cheese dip?  Only Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragonés know at this point, we’re still in very early stages of this crossover so far.

If you want to know how they can pull off a meeting between these 2 characters, check out the preview pages here.  The preview worked REALLY good for me, with Thomas Yeates illustrating the more serious world of Conan and Sergio obviously doing the Groo sequences.  The blending of the styles/worlds worked nicely too, including the nod to the stylistic differences as villagers from Groo’s world wander into a Yeates drawn landscape.

What I was not expecting was the large amount of framing sequence starring Sergio & Mark themselves (9 of the 22 pages in this issue).  Fans of Mark/Sergio should eat up the humor and situations, reveling in Sergio’s signature art style and the plot device that gives an explanation of exactly how Groo and Conan can actually meet up in the first place.  In talking about this comic at their “Sergio & Mark” panel at Comic Con International: San Diego on July 24th, Aragonés  and Evanier addressed the need to be able to come up with exactly this kind of framing sequence to make the “impossible” meeting come across as plausible in the context of the story.  Evanier’s story does just that.  It was also interesting to hear Yeates discuss how he followed Sergio’s layouts almost exactly even though he was given the freedom to do whatever he wanted.  “They were perfect”, said Yeates.

This first issue was a nice setup primarily showcasing Sergio’s art with a nice integration of Thomas Yeates more realistic style on 7 pages of the issue.  Groo and Conan don’t actually meet in this issue, but the epic meeting of the sword-wielding barbarians is coming.  This is highly recommended, if you’ve never read a Groo comic or Sergio’s other work give this a try.  If you like the humor and the art then you have a LOT of back issue bin diving ahead of you, there are over 150 issues of Groo out there and most are relatively inexpensive.  I was grinning ear to ear the whole time I was reading this issue.

Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
(bob@comicspectrum.com
)
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego #1 (DC)

Harley_Quinn_Invades_Comic_Con_International_San_Diego_Vol_2-1_Cover-2
CREDIT: DC Comics

Rating: 4.5/5 – A Self-Referential Romp of Psycho-Sexy Fun.
by guest reviewer Kevyn Knox.

I must admit that I pretty much like anything that involves Harley Quinn. I mean, she’s my kinda woman. Sexy, psychotic, but with a real love for the down-trodden. I am currently loving her New 52 series written by husband and wife team, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. So far that series, much in the same vein as Marvel’s current Deadpool run, has been a fun and thoroughly batshitcrazy, fourth wall breaking romp of a comic book. Now here we are at San Diego Comic Con (officially named Comic-Con International San Diego, thus the title of this comic), and the overzealous antihero-cum-psycho killer is wanting in on the fun – and she’s brought there by Conner, Palmiotti and a large cast of artists for an oh-so-wacky, no-holds-barred adventure.

Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International: San Diego 2014 #1 (now there’s a title for ya) has the same fun and flair that the regular series has going for it. While I have never had the pleasure of attending San Diego Comic-Con, I have been to other cons throughout the years, and therefore can only imagine what goes on at the biggest Comic Con of them all.   So, I have decided to imagine it as being just like Conner and Palmiotti describe it within the pages of this overstuffed comic book adventure. We get to see Harley go all gaga over all the big name stars walking around the convention, getting into all kinds of inappropriate, but wholly expected fisticuffs, and rubbing pretty much everyone the wrong way, all the while trying desperately to get any kind of editor to look at her portfolio, so she can become a big comic book star.

Sure, this may not be the next coming of Watchmen or The Dark Knight, but Connor and Palmiotti (along with guest artists, such as Paul Pope, John Timms, Damion Scott, and many others, taking a page or two each) make this funny book (as my grandmother used to call them) a silly take on a fun-filled event. This is a fun book full of sight gags and sly, winking cameos (Conner did used to write for Mad Magazine after all), as well as witty meta humour on the world of modern comics, including nods and shrugs to Harley’s origins. Hell, we even get a shot at DC’s own TV universe. Harley Quinn, a character I find strangely sweet, is all kinds of psycho kitty fun here, and the roomful of Jokers scene is worth the price of admission alone.

Reviewed by: Kevyn Knox
(kevynknox@gmail.com
)  www.allthingskevyn.com

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