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The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #8 – Beyond the Sea (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

Beyond the Sea is more than just the best episode of the first season.

Beyond the Sea is one of the best episodes that the show ever produced. Airing half-way through the first season of The X-Files, Beyond the Sea demonstrated exactly what the show was capable of doing at that point in its run. It was a television masterpiece, and remains one of the very best episodes of an extended nine-season run. More than Ice, more than E.B.E., more than Darkness Falls, Beyond the Sea is the unqualified success story of the show’s first season.

Sea change...

Sea change…

This makes the decision to adapt it as part of the Season One line a relatively risky endeavour. The last two episodes adapted as part of the series – Space and Fire – are unlikely to rank highly on any fan’s assessment of the show’s first year. This was not a bad strategy. If the comic book adaptations were good, like the adaptation of Space had been, then it was a success story for everybody involved. If the comic book adaptations were not great, as was the case with Fire, then it seemed unlikely that anybody would care too much.

Adapting the season’s strongest episode was a bold creative decision. It seemed highly unlikely that writer Roy Thomas and artist Sean Scofield could compete with the episode written by Glen Morgan and James Wong and directed by David Nutter. The best case scenario for an adaptation of Beyond the Sea would be to serve as a reminder of just how wonderful the television episode had been, rather than a comic book that was memorable in its own right. It was very much a situation where the best possible outcome was not messing it up.

Haunting visit...

Haunting visit…

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Star Trek: Alien Spotlight – Tribbles (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

There is something delightfully gonzo about trying to write a comic book from the perspective of a bunch of Tribbles.

IDW’s Alien Spotlight series did not always work as well as it might, but the delightful done-in-one format of stand-alone stories told from the perspective of iconic Star Trek aliens allowed for a bit more versatility and flexibility than the line was normally afforded. Alien Spotlight: Cardassians was set after the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Alien Spotlight: Borg featured a delightfully clever logical paradox and a Borg invasion. Alien Spotlight: Klingons allowed Keith R.A. DeCandido to work his magic with the Klingons. Alien Spotlight: Romulans served as a springboard for John Byrne towards his Romulans saga.

You think you've got tribbles?

You think you’ve got tribbles?

There were more than a few disappointments along the way, but the Alien Spotlight series stands as one of the highlights of IDW’s Star Trek licensing. Alien Spotlight: Tribbles is a very odd piece of work. It is the kind of high-concept story that might feel like a gimmick and feels stretched over a single issue, let alone an arc. However, it is just silly enough that it works. Telling the story of a conflict between a bunch of Klingons and a human freighter crew through the eyes of the Tribbles is a fascinating idea.

While there is a sense that writer Stuart Moore occasionally has to stretch to get the story to where it needs to go, but Alien Spotlight: Tribbles is a delightfully charming (if perhaps a little too light) Star Trek diversion.

Laugh it up, fur ball...

Laugh it up, fur ball…

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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: The Juggernaut – Something Can Stop the Juggernaut (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is a bit of an oddity in the grand scheme of The Gauntlet, if not the larger scheme of Brand New Day. One of the stated goals of Brand New Day was to present readers with a thoroughly modernised version of Spider-Man, an iteration of the character who had been distilled to his purest essence, unburdened by the weight of decades of character development and continuity.

As the “new” in Brand New Day suggests, a large part of the editorial stance on Brand New Day was the opportunity to do something novel with The Amazing Spider-Man. It was a conscious break with the old, and an attempt to push the character in new directions. After all, the early issues made an effort to shuffle new characters into the established ensemble and to feature new villains and threats for our hero to face.

Leaping into action...

Leaping into action…

(To the point where the emphasis on classic foes was one of the selling points of The Gauntlet – a sense that the comics were finally trying to bring many of these iconic baddies into the twenty-first century alongside a reinvigorated and re-energised Spider-Man. Indeed, it’s interesting how much of The Gauntlet makes a point to reference or mirror Peter’s continuity reset into Brand New Day. Much like Peter in One More Day, many of his classic foes lose their new-found families to reset them to villainy, except without the benefit of a magical reset button at the end.)

So drawing back in celebrated creator Roger Stern to craft a sequel to a beloved eighties Amazing Spider-Man story feels rather surreal. The three-part Something Can Stop the Juggernaut exists as an explicit to Stern’s deservedly beloved classic Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, right down to classic flashbacks to the comic, follow-up references to various characters, and the fact that events spiral from that story.

Spidey is a little tied up...

Spidey is a little tied up…

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is crafted as a celebration of vintage Spider-Man, which works very well in the context of The Gauntlet. As the on-going epic spirals towards its climax in Shed and Grim Hunt, it’s nice to hace a reminder of a classic Spider-Man story. After all, Grim Hunt makes a point to stress the perfection of another classic Spider-Man story, albeit in a very different way.

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut seems to exists to assure readers that the legacy and history of Spider-Man is still valid and meaningful, not rendered moot by the continuity-tinkering shennanigans of One More Day.

The Juggernaut who fell to Earth...

The Juggernaut who fell to Earth…

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Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis, Mike McKone & Jason Keith (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

Warren Ellis is one of the great comic book writers. Ellis works in a bombastic larger-than-life style that is never too beholden to the current continuity of whatever company for which he is currently working and which remains accessible to just about anybody who might want to pick it. His Extremis remains the perfect introduction to Iron Man, while Ultimate Human is the most syner-tastic marketing tie-in ever written, its release coinciding with that of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.

At the same time, Ellis’ work-for-hire can occasionally feel a little reigned in, a little too relaxed and too casual – lacking the energy and enthusiasm of his stronger work. Sadly, Avengers: Endless Wartime is a book that never quite measures up to its potential. An original graphic novel written by Ellis and illustrated by Mike McKone, Endless Wartime has a wealth of clever ideas, but never manages to get too excited about any of them.

Some men just want to watch the world...

Some men just want to watch the world…

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Superman: The Action Comics Archives, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

It’s interesting to look back that the early Superman stories in Action Comics. Given that Superman has picked up a reputation for being boring or predictable or safe or conservative, it’s amazing just how radical and inflammatory some of these very early Siegel and Shuster adventures are. These early Action Comics strips were undeniably and overtly political, presenting a strong-willed and proactive version of Superman completely unafraid to impose his will on the citizens of the world.

It’s a dramatically different take on the character than the version we’ve come to accept in popular culture, the benign and well-meaning boy scout who plays by the rules. Even Grant Morrison’s affectionate throwback to these early adventures can’t quite capture the same sense of subversive radicalism which presents us with a version of the iconic superhero who does just flaunt the authority of law enforcement or legislature, but often directly challenges it.

Smashing!

Smashing!

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 2 (Review/Retrospective)

Join us the December as we take a dive into the weird and wonderful Will Eisner Spirit Archives, the DC collections of the comic strip that helped define the medium.

With this second collection of six months worth of strips, we can see Eisner’s vision of The Spirit really cement itself, as well as the true beginnings of the more experimental work that the writer and artist would do with the newspaper strip. While a lot of people would argue that Eisner truly hit his stride in the postwar era of The Spirit, I think we can see him beginning to truly hone his craft here, and can get a sense of an artist slowly testing the horizons of an eight-page newspaper comic strip. It might not be his best work on the title, but it’s still fascinating stuff.

Accept no substitutes…

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Flashpoint (Review)

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” I’ll be starting with the most recent one, Flashpoint, following a week full of Flash stories.

Our world is in a violent transition of great change.

– President Obama tells us how it is

I really liked Flashpoint. I liked Flashpoint almost as much as I enjoyed Blackest Night, and far more than I enjoyed most big blockbuster “event” comic books. I think that Flashpoint buckles under the weight of the relaunch that followed – I find it quite sad that so many fans initially ignored the event only to jump on at the last minute because it was “suddenly important.” Does Flashpoint offer a fitting send-off to a version of the DC shared universe that dates back to Crisis on Infinite Earths? It doesn’t really, even if it offers some compelling arguments in favour of the relaunch that followed. Still, it’s a fascinating story about the icons who populate this shared universe, and what makes these enduring characters such heroic figures. Or, rather, what doesn’t make them heroic figures.

Flash sideways…

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