Archive for the ‘CBO: Comic Book Opinions’ Category

Graphic Novel Review- “V-Wars: Crimson Queen

January 25, 2015 Leave a comment

V-WarsWhen it comes the horror genre Jonathan Maberry is like a master bartender. He can serve horror to you straight or he can blend it with other genres creating a wide variety of refreshing and fantastic literary cocktails. If you’ve seen my other reviews on this blog you know how much I love his Joe Ledger series of novels which mixes horror, military thriller style action, and different genres to create stories that I look forward to reading every year and never disappoint me. And I did not get a chance to review Maberry’s first stab at fiction, the Pine Deep trilogy of novels, but it’s epic. If you haven’t read it yet you should. It’s almost a non post apocalyptic version of “The Stand.” Yes, it’s that good and that epic.

I first got to know Maberry’s writing via his work on Marvel Comics where he told a number of exciting and high action stories. My personal favorites were “Doomwar” and “Captain America: Hail Hydra” both of which are available in collected edition. So I was curious to see what he could do with comics where he was building his own universe.

That curiosity lead me to pick up the first collected edition of his “V-Wars” series, “Crimson Queen” from IDW Publishing which features art by Alan Robinson. It was not what I was expecting and that’s part of what made it so great. What I was expecting was a story about valiant humans waging a war against people who had been transformed into bloodthirsty evil vampires by an ancient virus. If it was that the story it would have been fun and quite thrilling.

Instead though “V-Wars: Crimson Queen” takes readers to a much more fascinating and complex world where the 250px-JonathanMaberryenemy is not vampires or humans, but war itself. That’s because in the world of “V-Wars melting arctic ice might has released an ancient virus that reawakens junk DNA which transforms people into a wide variety of vampires; some look completely human, some are more monstrous. So the vampires are not inherently evil and human beings are not paragons of virtue. The skirmishes of “V-Wars” are often the results of human prejudice towards vampires and vampires reacting. Or some vampires believing they need to dominate human beings. There’s also a greater mystery going on that suggests human and even vampire forces are perhaps interested in fanning the flames of the war for sinister purposes.

That setting means “V-Wars” is the best type of entertainment. It allows you to escape to an exciting and dangerous world, but while you’re there you’re given something timely to think about and use to consider in real world conflicts. It makes the series both poignant and powerful.

A great setting is only half the reason why “V-Wars” is so entertaining. The other component is of course the compelling character who we watch navigate this complex world. The chief character is idealistic college professor Luther Swann, an expert on vampire folk lore who finds himself thrown into the terrifying (and for readers exciting) world of Special Operations when he’s tapped to be an embedded advisor for a team of soldiers tasked with combating vampire terrorists and soldiers.

Luther’s politics bump up against some of the soldiers who see him as a bleeding heart and naïve liberal, which of course made me not like them at first, but Maberry shows the reasons why these soldiers feel the way they do and also illustrates how honorable and committed they are. There’s a great scene where the leader of the Spec Op Victor-8, or V-8, explains to a mob of humans that he’s not going to let them harm the vampire community he’s been charged to protect. It felt real, it made you respect the character, and once again illustrated how complex the world of “V-Wars” is.

Some of the other characters I found fascinating include reporter Yuki Nitobe, Corporal Taurus Harper a soldier that Luther bonds with, and Martyn a mysterious vampire who brings Yuki deeper into the world of vampire communities and the enigmatic Crimson Queen.

Earlier I mentioned illustrating, and I need to take some time to praise the work of the illustrator of “V-Wars: Crimson Queen,” Alan Robinson. Robinson’s work reminds me a lot of the great Humberto Ramos, especially in the way he draws characters and emotions, but he’s got a style all his own. He’s great with action scenes and he also makes you feel the visceral pain, power, and destruction of war; something that’s incredibly important in a story like this. In “V-Wars: The Crimson Queen” Maberry lays the building blocks and foundation for a fascinating and complex world, but it’s Robinson who fully realizes that vision and brings it to life.

So as you can guess, I’ve become hooked on another one of Maberry’s horror franchises. I’m eagerly awaiting the next “V-Wars” collection and I’m also going to seek out some of the prose anthologies. There are two collections of short stories where Maberry opens up the world of V-Wars and allows some of his friends who are equally talented writers to come play in the sandbox he’s created.


An Undead, Dragon Riding Punisher

I first discovered the Punisher when I get into comics in 1984. His weapons and take no prisoners attitude appealed to the kid in me and I’ve been a fan of the character ever since. I’ve been with him through bad stories and good stories. And quite honestly I think the Marvel Universe incarnation of the Punisher is going through one of his best eras of stories in a long time and possibly ever.

I’m not talking about “PunisherMAX” in this post. That book is all about the gritty, real world adventures of the Punisher. In that book he wages war against mobsters and other criminal scum. That book is also a compelling read, especially now thanks to writer Jason Aaron’s current epic Kingpin saga, which promises to plunge Frank Castle into a long, brutal campaign against Wilson Fisk.

I’m here today to talk about writer Rick Remender’s take on the Punisher, which is firmly set in the fantastic world for the Marvel Universe. Now some of you might think that the Punisher has no place in that world, which is perfectly valid opinion and you have “PunisherMax” to read if you feel that way. Remender’s “Punisher” title (which will soon morph in “FrankenCastle”) does exist in the Marvel U though, so the question becomes how do you make the most of it?

Do you just have the Punisher continue to fight organized crime? Or do you take a chance and have him run up against some of the weirdness of the Marvel Universe? It strikes me the latter is the way to go. and that’s what Remender has been doing ever since he started his run on “Punisher”

The series kicked off right as Marvel’s “Dark Reign” storyline was beginning and found Frank Castle deciding that he needed to change his war against crime and start going after bigger targets like the all powerful Norman Osborn and his associate the Hood, the boss of a super villain crime syndicate.  So that he would have a fighting chance, The Punisher stole an arsenal of high tech Marvel weapons and for about a year we got to see the Punisher utilize super technology in creative and brutal ways.

But wars have consequences. If they didn’t, Remender’s story would just be repetitive and trust me I’ve been a fan of the Punisher for over 20 years, and I’m tired of repetitive Frank blows away the bad guys type stories.  Remender brought the consequences to the Punisher in the pages of his recent “Dark Reign: The List-Punisher” one-shot, which had Norman Osborn sicking Daken, the villainous and psychotic son of Wolverine, on Frank Castle. The end of the conflict had Frank Castle chopped to pieces.

Now admittedly when I first heard where Remender was taking the Punisher after that I had stop and pause for a second. That’s because what happened to the Punisher after that was that he was pieced back together and resurrected as a Frankenstein style monstrosity. I had bought the ticket though for the rest of Remender’s work so the feeling was why not take the ride and see where it goes?

I’m glad I did. Because in the past few issues Remender and his artistic collaborators have been giving readers a wildly bizarre and creative book, that still is, at its  heart ,  a Punisher book. In the current arc of the series Frank Castle or FrankenCastle as he’s now nicknamed has been paying off a debt to the people who brought him back to life, The Legion of Monsters. Paying off that debt means killing a whole lot of people, specifically a legion of insane high tech monster hunters who want to destroy all monsters regardless of whether they’re innocent or not.

Current issues of the “Punisher” series have seen Frank Castle wield his new found undead physical abilities in brutal and creative ways and he’s also brushed up against some strange things.  He’s also used some of his tried and true methods.Like in the current issue, #15, the Punisher battles the monster hunters on a back of dragon, while armed with a gatling gun. Later in that issue he cuts through a horde of Nazi zombies that the Monster Hunters resurrected to stop him.

What makes this story truly great though is that it’s still a Punisher story. Frank Castle may have transformed physically but his perspective is still that of a man and a highly trained soldier. And that’s why I took to the Punisher in the first place. His state of mind and perspective on the world was different from any other Marvel character.

The coming issues after the Punisher’s battle with the monster hunters sound pretty promising too. They’ll find the Punisher getting back to what happened to him in the first year of Remender’s title and using his new found undead strength and endurance to get  revenge on the enemies that cause him so much trouble when he was among the living like Daken.

Another plus this book has going for it is the art team. Currently Tony Moore, Roland Boschi, and Dan Brererton rotate on art duties on this book. These are three of the best horror action artists in the comics business.

So yeah the idea of an undead, dragon riding Punisher may seem a little strange at first, but embrace the fun of it! You’ll be glad you did.