4001 A.D. / CINEMA PURGATORIO / THUNDERBOLTS / KINGS QUEST [Reviews]: The Future Imperfect.
New Japan, the 41st century, the remnants of the once Pacific Nation State now orbit the forgotten Earth in a satellite monolith. The authoritarian government, controlled by an Artificial Intelligence Deity shrouded in mystery known only as “Father”. Recently infected with a crippling virus, Father struggles to keep his grasp over an awakening and restless people. The freedom fighter branded a terrorist, Lulu, is in hiding and on the run. Rai — the cyborg creation of Father, to act as a ghost guardian for the people of New Japan — is nowhere to be found, last seen struggling with the turmoil of his purpose and own humanity. Will the guardian of New Japan return in time as his people begin to rise up? What will come of the infected Father? And who will come out on top as the struggle for power and balance begins to reach its Apex?
In a continuation of the critically praised Rai series, 4001 A.D. leaps off the page with an epic start and sets in motion a gargantuan crossover event in the Valiant Universe. New York Times best selling writer Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT, Super Spy) and the rest of the Rai team are back and in form; the story, the perfect blend of engrossing drama, high stakes action and mystery– all coupled with the imagery of a sci-fi fans wet dream. The art is where the book pops, sizzles and comes to life in a profound way. Clayton Crain (X-Force, Ghost Rider) brings back his trademark style, which articulates the sci-fi dystopian tone of the book and blends digital painting and illustration.
In all, 4001 A.D. does a wonderful job of engrossing new readers into the fold and is epic jumping-on point into the Valiant Universe. It is packed to the gills with hard sci-fi content, stunning wall-to-wall art, and a fascinating storyline that will have you turning the page and leaping back and forth to follow the adventures of New Japan. 4/5 Cyborg Ghost Guardians.
The long awaited, multi-titled crossover for Valiant is here, and I had the distinguished pleasure of getting my hands on 4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1. A solid kick off effort written by Robert Venditti (Green Lantern), where in an alternate future, the long dormant “Father” advanced AI lifts Japan into space and ushers in a new age of technology and prosperity for the people of “New Japan”. This isn’t something the rest of the free world can tolerate apparently, and an all-out assault consisting of a multi-national force of the Manowar weapon systems (think the Jaegers from Pacific Rim). In a well-scripted turn of events, the legion of super mechs essentially get completely schwacked, essentially showcasing the immense power and resources of The Father AI and New Japan. A solid outing by the creative team. And while this may not seem like much, the final panels– set several thousand years after the XO massacre–plant seeds of potentially great things to come. 3/5 Bibliotecas.
Cinema Purgatorio is the first issue of a new anthology series featuring some of the best writers working in comics, both past and present. Of the five stories presented, my favorites are from Garth Ennis (Punisher MAX, The Boys), and Alan Moore (Watchmen, Swamp Thing), who each tease larger tales of weird fiction and horror, with their signature off-beat, dry humor (and was that Russ from Ennis’ Punisher run featured in his tale?) Each story is lusciously illustrated in black-and-white, rendering it bleak and simple. However, each tale feels like it needed another page or two to feel complete (yes, these are teases; but they feel like a Bond movie that ends just after the opening credits). Perhaps these will read better as a trade paperback, as opposed to a monthly anthology. Still, with the talent involved… 3.75/5 Black-and-White Bibles.
I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons for more than a decade, both as a player and as a Dungeon Master. The universe of D&D is rich and expansive so it seems that it would be a perfect fit for comic book adaptations. Writer Jim Zub (Skullkickers, Wayward) has crafted a fun little yarn here but it is punctuated by some serious moments as well. This issue follows the adventures of Minsc, a super happy Ranger, a tiny Giant Space Hamster named Boo and their fellow companions which includes a Rogue and a Cleric (they have a well-rounded group). The party ends up in Ravenloft, which is D&D’s misty gothic realm full of the undead, vampires and worst of all…werewolves! This could have went a much darker route but Zub manages to keep the tone light when it needs to be.
Nelson Daniel’s (Judge Dredd) art is very dynamic and appealing, with his forte being facial expressions. I love how thick his linework is and it’s an interesting contrast to the ultra-detailed fantasy art that usually litters Player’s Guides and Monster Manuals. The entire story plays out like a session with your buddies and will definitely appeal to fans of the tabletop game. Readers who are not familiar with the source material will still find it enjoyable as well. Overall, this is an excellent start to the series and it sets a wonderful tone to the narrative. 4/5 Bibles.
You know how a big criticism with The Walking Dead is that the episodes are: “Big hunk of meh; then the last few minutes are OH MY GOD!”? That sums up my feelings on Thunmehbo.. I mean Thunderbolts #1. As a whole, it feels completely.. adequate. Nothing is really wrong with Skullkickers scribe Jim Zub‘s Winter Soldier-centered script, but nothing is really right either. Not unlike that Tinder date that you stretch out for a few weeks? Maybe a month? Then just say “So this isn’t doing anything for either of us, is it?”
Jon (Youngblood) Malin‘s artwork is ok. Don’t have anything to outright shoot down, but there’s nothing about it I can say I love. The team dynamic is stale; but then again it’s only the first issue, so I’m hoping things will get better (I was looking forward to this read). The one plus I will give it is the relationship between Kobik (nutty lil’ tike from the “Stand-Off at Pleasant Hill” and the group — by far the most interesting aspect of the read. That ending though.. Dammit, guess I’ll read the next one (and now I’m having TWD flashbacks). 2.5/5 “In Good Condition” Bibles.
Holy shit. Okay, does everyone remember an 80’s cartoon called Defenders Of The Earth? It featured Phantom, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, and a “Caribbean ninja” named Lothar fighting the interstellar forces of Ming the Merciless? Ringing any bells? Well, to my (overjoyed) surprise, Kings Quest #1 – a comic I knew nothing about prior to receiving it – is basically exactly that. It appears that Dynamite Publishing have gotten their mitts on the old classic King Features Syndicate heroes, and it’s about time someone made good use of these characters.
Wildly plotted by Ben Acker (Thrilling Adventure Hour) and Heath Corson (Bizarro), Kings Quest #1 is fun for all ages; with dense, inky, and gritty art from Dan McDaid (Doctor Who Magazine, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) giving every panel a frenetic energy that makes this book stand apart from the usual cartoon adaptation fare. Other than that, it’s basically a modernised Defenders Of The Earth. I mean, the Phantoms (plural – I know, right?) are different, and I don’t remember Prince Valiant being on the original team; but the classic Saturday morning adventure cartoon vibe is present in a big way in this crazy mash-up of all the biggest King Features Syndicate heroes. Kings Quest could be Dynamite’s most fun licensed property yet. 4/5 Old Testaments.