Richard Corben adapts Edgar Allan Poe’s poem in The Conqueror Worm. The poem, reprinted at the end of the comic, doesn’t have much narrative (if any). So Corben stitches the poem his own narrative, which feels a little like Hamlet, but it all fits. Corben does well with angry men and forbidden lovers.
There’s a lot of design to Worm. Corben meticulously composes the panels–one can tell, without even reading the afterword, he feels strongly about Poe and wants to do it right. There’s a lot of mood to the comic, but not necessarily the space; Corben uses smaller panels for mood and action.
The end of the story comes with a morale… or at least the implication of one. The poem itself does not and Corben has a complicated finale, which leaves Worm to sit with the reader after he or she has finished.
It’s an excellent comic.
Writer, artist and colorist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon, Shantel LaRocque and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.
Adequate is probably the best word for this issue. Stokoe doesn’t actually do much with the idea of space monsters. It’s just a big monster fight issue–Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, Ghidorah and Gigan–with a little of the protagonist. He pilots Mechagodzilla, which should work but he’s too busy fighting monsters to narrate.
And Stokoe doesn’t do much interesting with the art. Giant monsters fighting in Antarctica actually doesn’t give him a lot of opportunity for his level of super detail.
Still, Half-Century War is now the stick by which to measure Godzilla stories, comic or otherwise. Stokoe cracked the formula. Danger and fear. He doesn’t even worry about scale–why would Stokoe’s somewhat realistic Mechagodzilla have glove attachments instead of the systems being internal?.
As for the ending… Stokoe goes for cinematic and doesn’t have the pacing. He wastes pages, doesn’t have good time progression.
Like I said, adequate.
The End of the World, 2002; writer, artist and letterer, James Stokoe; colorists, Stokoe and Heather Breckel; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.
Stokoe turns it all around. He brings in two of the silly elements–Mechagodzilla and Space Godzilla–but sells them through a combination of great art and great characterization of the protagonist.
The protagonist is now bitter and middle aged–a “glorified weather man” who anticipates the monsters’ landfalls and tries to get people out. Stokoe does contrive a way to combine the two monsters appearing opposite Godzilla. All he had to do to make it sell better was make the Godzilla appearances rarer.
It’s a small compliant though. Otherwise, he turns in a fantastic issue. And he’s got a great soft cliffhanger.
Stokoe does two things with Half-Century–he streamlines the Godzilla franchise (it’s like Ultimate Godzilla for the familiar fan) and tell the story of one guy’s experiences with the monster. Marvels for Godzilla.
Sometimes he gets the mix wrong, but not here. This one’s perfect.
Bombay, 1987; writer, artist and letterer, James Stokoe; colorists, Stokoe and Heather Breckel; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.
Stokoe plays up the human element too much here. He’s got a bunch of monsters–it turns out Godzilla was the only one until last issue–but they’re not getting the attention. Instead, the issue’s more a combination of exposition about what happened at the end of the last issue and off-panel after the first issue and then a human chase scene.
The characters are all weak and there are a lot of them. Almost uncountable but probably fifteen, with five or six having significant speaking parts. It’s just too much for the comic, which doesn’t really have a narrative purpose.
Stokoe draws a bunch of monsters should be great and it is when he draws them, but they don’t get too much intention. Solving the mystery he created this issue is a lot more compelling,
It’s still okay and the art’s fantastic, but Stokoe really fumbles the story.
Ghana, 1975; writer, artist and letterer, James Stokoe; colorists, Stokoe and Heather Breckel; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.
Wow. Stokoe does great work here. Except for the ominous soft cliffhanger, this issue of Half-Century War speedily surpasses what I thought was possible for a Godzilla comic.
This issue is set in 1967, in Vietnam. Though Godzilla (and possibly other giant monsters) roam the planet, the U.S. is still trying to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. They just have to do it around Godzilla and Anguirus.
Stokoe does get in some giant monster fighting–probably three or four full pages of it–but he’s got lots of human stuff. There’s the funny scientist who makes the silly weapons to fight Godzilla. He introduces the idea of trying to bore through his hide to cause damage makes a lot of sense; I’ve never heard it before.
The protagonist doesn’t have a lot to do. Stokoe’s just using him for narration and that move’s perfectly fine.
Vietnam, 1967; writer, artist and letterer, James Stokoe; colorists, Stokoe and Heather Breckel; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.
James Stokoe starts Half Century War with an adaptation of the original Godzilla. A tank commander keeps the monster busy while people evacuate. It’s an interesting approach and really does humanize the whole thing. Later, the tank commander gets the chance to fight giant monsters exclusively, hence the title.
But the concept, while good, isn’t as good as the execution. Stokoe mixes styles a lot. Everything is exceptionally detailed, of course, but his protagonist is a traditional manga standard and his Godzilla is nineties style, not fifties. The issue’s action is quickly paced, which is totally different from the source film. Stokoe’s going for breathtaking action.
There’s some humor, a little drama, no real horror. Stokoe raises a lot of questions but they aren’t about the protagonist. Rather, one wonders how he’ll continue the series.
The series is off to a strong start. It’s already better than I ever expected.
Japan, 1954; writer, artist and letterer, James Stokoe; colorists, Stokoe and Heather Breckel; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.
Once, not listening to the black lady leads to disaster. Even if it’s realistic, Nelson’s playing the passive racism card a little too often. Not for the dumb white characters, but for the black lady. At least half her scenes are just her saying something smart and being ignored.
This issue’s a complete downer. It’s another fast read, with Jane in Wisconsin about to be married off (maybe her father’s unlikable because he’s more her pimp–Nelson’s inability to reconcile this situation is probably Jungle’s greatest failing)–and Tarzan showing up to save the day.
But the reuniting doesn’t go particularly well and Tarzan’s left alone. I guess the U.S. setting makes more sense now. Nelson’s going for an adventure comic, but a “reintroduction to British royalty” comic.
It’s particularly impressive how sympathetic Nelson makes Tarzan in just a single issue of him talking.
It’s a good issue.
The Height of Civilization; writer, Arvid Nelson; artist, Roberto Castro; colorist, Alex Guimaraes; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
Making Jane American seems like a weak move, but Nelson makes up for it with Tarzan learning French. There’s something awesome about the scene with Tarzan speaking French at the end of the issue. It just seems so contradictory yet perfect–like Tarzan is the French idea of noble savage, not the British one.
The issue is fairly predictable, down to the Western viciousness in killing off the female ape monsters and their young, even after the sailors were victorious. Nelson and Castro don’t show it, however, which seems an oversight. It doesn’t seem like Nelson really has intentions for the story’s implications, just good adaptation instincts.
One thing Nelson doesn’t spend time on is Professor Porter. He’s unlikable, even if he is Jane’s father and cutely visualized. He’s not smart; Nelson might be making a joke about the scientist being a buffoon, but he doesn’t commit.
Still, fine stuff.
Lost Treasure; writer, Arvid Nelson; artist, Roberto Castro; colorist, Alex Guimaraes; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
Nelson introduces D’Arnot this issue, brings in the hollow Earth ape men, turns Clayton into a bad guy and has a lame interlude with Tarzan and Jane.
The interlude’s lame because Nelson hasn’t done the groundwork for Jane to immediately fall for Tarzan. He could have–Tarzan bringing her gifts, saving her multiple times–but he didn’t and it’s actually excusable. If one can believe Tarzan taught himself to write–that accomplishment is straight from Burroughs–Jane immediately going gushy for him is passable too.
Most of the issue is action. The fight with the man apes is lengthy and good. Castro has some problems this issue (D’Arnot is a basically redheaded Clayton) and the faces are occasionally weak, but he sells the action. The battle is so fierce, one assumes tepid little Professor Porter must die (he doesn’t).
Jungle’s problematic, sure, but it’s still a decent Tarzan comic.
The Village of Torture; writer, Arvid Nelson; artist, Roberto Castro; colorist, Alex Guimaraes; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
Nelson continues to impress. Even though his characterizations are definitely too late–Jane’s father is a classic buffoon character but not 1909 classic–but he does come up with some interesting developments.
He also doesn’t shy away from the time period’s realities. Jack Clayton isn’t reminding the Porters of his (higher) station and Professor Porter isn’t above dismissing the black cook’s (intelligent) ideas because she’s a black cook. The first element is 1909. The second is still relevant, but Nelson uses it to turn his lovable buffoon into a less lovable character. Same goes for Clayton being a jerk about money.
As for Tarzan? He peeps on Jane–Castro does cheesecake for her, which is a somewhat interesting decision and maybe Jungle’s most ambitious (to juggle the two approaches)–rescues her from a fellow member of his tribe, then drags her off into the jungle.
It’s surprisingly engaging stuff.
The Call of the Primitive; writer, Arvid Nelson; artist, Roberto Castro; colorist, Alex Guimaraes; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
My Tarzan is a little sketchy, but I’m pretty sure Tarzan’s dashing cousin doesn’t come looking for him. His royal dashing cousin. I’m equally sure said royal dashing cousin isn’t courting Jane. I’m positive, however, there wasn’t a fetching black maid accompanying Jane.
Nelson and Castro are sexing Lord of the Jungle up a bit, which is an odd choice. Who do they think is going to be reading a Tarzan comic? It’s got limited appeal to regular comic readers, but as a crossover title? Forgot it.
But what do I know.
Odd additions aside–and a wasted full page spread introducing Tarzan–it’s not a bad issue. Nelson’s dialogue seems a little modern for 1908, but it’s perfectly acceptable.
There are a lot of loose plot details; I wonder if he’s incorporating them multiple Tarzan novels. Some annotations would be nice.
While somewhat less so, I’m still pleasantly surprised.
The Forest God; writer, Arvid Nelson; artist, Roberto Castro; colorist, Alex Guimaraes; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
Besides moving way too fast, Lord of the Jungle’s not bad at all. Arvid Nelson puts the Tarzan origin in the political context of what’s happening in the Congo contemporaneously. I’ve never seen a Tarzan story make that effort. It’ll be interesting to see if Nelson maintains it.
Otherwise, it’s a summary of Tarzan’s parents’ adventures after being shipwrecked. They are not happy adventures. Roberto Castro makes the castaways visually appealing–she’s beautiful, he’s heroically rugged–and Nelson quickly makes them sympathetic.
The story of Tarzan’s adoption takes about half the issue, since Nelson has to establish the apes. He does fine with that task, even gives them interesting noises for communicating.
It’s impossible to say how the series will go. The titular character doesn’t even have any lines this issue.
I’m pleasantly surprised; I had no expectations for this one. Nelson and Castro both do rather good work.
The Savage Home; writer, Arvid Nelson; artist, Roberto Castro; colorist, Alex Guimaraes; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.
The One Trick Rip-Off isn’t a failed heist story. Paul Pope plays a lot with that genre, updating it to Los Angeles street gangs. Pope’s Los Angeles setting is an entirely different subject, one I’ll get out of the way. One Trick’s setting is lush–both in Pope’s lines and the colors–always urban, but still somehow organic. Pope’s use of the stars and the city skyline are both great ways to make it breath, especially the stars. The first star scene has the protagonists talking about constellations. They obviously aren’t visible, but Pope convinces the reader to look anyway.
All right, setting out of the way. Back to the genre. One Trick was originally serialized; some of the chapters are more obvious than others, but it also shows how Pope’s unveiling events. It opens with a classic heist planning scene and then Pope does whatever he can do make that scene impossible in the narrative. He later brings it back, which is something of a genre standard. But then Pope breaks One Trick out of the genre with the finish. It’s like he acknowledges what the genre’s limits and bypasses it.
Pope deftly prepares the protagonists for the transition. He spends a lot of time on his characters; the protagonists are actually the least jazzy. They’ve got a good story, especially with the genre shift, but Pope saves the flash for the supporting cast.
As for the art? It’s concurrently sublime and frantic.
It’s a great book.
Writer and artist, Paul Pope; colorists, Jamie Grant and Dominic Regan; letterer, Michael Neno; editor, Bob Schreck; publisher, Image Comics.
Instead of going for a subtle, gothic horror style finale, Strnad goes obvious. The entire issue–from Lovecraft-type tentacle monsters fighting with dinosaurs and giant living rock people–is oversized, but those scenes work in their context.
The epilogue, which features a somewhat grounded Ragemoor, is just plain cheap. It did require me to look back and confirm some events, but it’s not thought provoking. Actually, it would have been a better setup for a sequel than anything else.
There’s a lot of gross stuff in the issue, beautifully illustrated by Corben. But two big visual surprises in such an otherwise restrained comic are a little much….
The series peaked relatively early and, for the most part, the ride downhill is okay (except the final drop). A four issue series isn’t enough for all Strnad’s ideas. He does manage to make the unlikable protagonist sympathetic though.
Ragemoor‘s okay enough.
Writer, Jan Strnad; artist, Richard Corben; letterer, Nate Piekos; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.