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Sunday, December 30, 2018

East of West Vol 4: Who Wants War

Title: East of West Vol 4: Who Wants War

ISBN: 9781632153814

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Image, 2015

Artist: Nick Dragotta

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Collects: East of West #16-19, The World one shot

Rating: 3.5/5

East of West Vol 4: Who Wants War has a slightly shorter story arc, as this volume also contains the East of West: The World one shot, which is a helpful little guide that gives a little bit of back story for each of the seven different factions involved in the main narrative.  It also provides a timeline that spans several pages that gives a brief overview of what happened to lead up to the current conflict.  Once we get past that, the story picks up immediately after the end of Volume 3, with the “Beast” and his mentor on the run following their escape.  They meet another interesting character in their travels, and the Beast is forced to learn some very difficult lessons… It’s getting harder and harder to write these without giving anything away…

Jonathan Hickman takes a different approach in this story arc and chooses to focus the narrative predominantly on one character rather than what is happening in the world at large.  We get a few glimpses here and there of a large scale war going on between two of the factions, but for the most part the focus remains more intimate, which leads me to believe that Hickman is telling us this story is not so much about the big action itself, but more the characters that manipulate and steer the action to where they want it to go.  It still works, but it makes for a slightly slower story, especially when he’s given us three volumes chock full of intrigue and backstabbing leading up to this one.  Ultimately, the story still moves, but it took a little bit of a detour in this volume to add some life to one of its secondary characters, who appears to be working his way into a much larger role.

Nick Dragotta’s artwork is just as solid as it’s always been.  No major complaints in this area.  I will point out that it’s quite interesting to see the Beast’s perception of the world, as shown to him by his mentor, vs. the way the world actually looks.  He does a great job with the juxtaposition of the two perceived “realities” … I guess you could call them that.  One other really bright spot in this issue is the killing fields that the horsemen War, Conquest, and Famine encounter early on on the volume.  The art is conjunction with some of the dialogue in that particular segment is actually kind of chilling to read and see.  It’s like seeing something out of the machine ruled future of the Terminator movies.

All in all, this volume won’t blow your mind, but it does accomplish the task of moving the main story along (just a little), while simultaneously giving us a much deeper look at a character who had kind of been on the sidelines up to this point.  It certainly was not the best of most interesting volume in the series so far, but it’s still a worthy addition to one of the best series currently on sale.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

G.I. Joe: Deep Terror

Title: G.I. Joe: Deep Terror

ISBN: 9781613775110
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: IDW, 2012
Artist: Will Rosado, Alex Cal
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Collects: G.I. Joe Season 2 #13-17

Rating: 3.5/5

In this book, we see a G.I. Joe team (led by Scarlett) become captured by Cobra and sent to their mines for forced labor. Mainframe, stows away on the mission and it is up to him to try and save the woman he loves and his teammates.

For the most part, the bulk of the story is a bit mundane and seems like it would have made for a decent cartoon episode in the ’80s but it wouldn’t be one of the more memorable ones. The Joes in the mine and some of the other captives attempt an escape, led by Stalker, while Scarlett is dealing with the Cobra leaders at the facility.

This collection encompasses five issues but the main story is concluded by the end of the fourth issue. The fifth and final issue here, serves as a bridge to the next story: G.I. Joe: Target Snake Eyes. In this issue, Scarlett discovers that Snake Eyes is actually still alive and she confronts Helix, who she feels lied to her about Snake Eyes’ fate.

This isn’t a bad chapter in the IDW G.I. Joe franchise. It just serves as filler and as a much needed break from the intensity that was back-to-back-to-back major events: Cobra – The Last Laugh, Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.

Deep Terror is fairly fun and it gives you time to breathe before the Joe team sets off to hunt down Snake Eyes, who is now in league with Storm Shadow and the Arashikage ninja clan.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Considering A Change

To all my loyal readers that have followed me over the past 8+ years 

(Yes, it has been just over 8 years for this blog now.)

I have been giving some strong consideration about changing the format for my reviews. As much as I thought changing the style of my blog or including additional features would help, I now believe that I want to go with an actual change of format. I would love to bring you more reviews and updates on geekery, but I find I have a difficult time putting thoughts to words when I have the time. Yet, I have not problems talking about them... even if it's to myself.

So I am now doing research on taking Zanziber's Point of View to the next level.

That's right. I'm working to change gears from the written word to the verbal. I'll continue with my reviews, and make sure to post the information about each trade along with a link to the episode it is reviewed right here. I also want to expand with interviews and provide recordings I make while I am at events such as Rose City Comic Con. I hope to expand the range that I have been working on for the better part of a decade, and with that be able to provide a better range of topics covered and a more in-depth view of what I experience.

It's been one thing to be able to relate the tales of meeting various artists and creators over the years. It will be another to be able to bring you closer to my experiences. I look forward to being able to go to events and perhaps schedule time with a variety of people who help make the comic book industry great.

So stay tuned for more info about when my podcast will be available for your listening pleasure. If you happen to have some experience in podcasting and have some tips, please feel free to share them here in the comments section.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Evil Ernie: Youth Gone Wild

Title: Evil Ernie: Youth Gone Wild

ISBN: 1563980401

Price: $10.95

Publisher/Year: Malibu Comics, 1992

Artist: Stephen Hughes

Writer: Brian Pulido

Collects: Evil Ernie #1-5

Rating: 2/5

So the story here is of Ernie Fairchild, a psychotic killer who murders for the love of Lady Death. He is in a mental institution and ends up being the guinea pig for a new device called neurotech. His current doctor, Dr Price, who has treated Ernie since he was a child objects to this. He even tries to stop it telling everyone Ernie has a mindlink with Lady Death and this could make it stronger. I'm not sure how Dr Price knows about this or why he believes its true and not just a delusion on Ernie's part. But it turns out Dr Price is correct and the machine blows up which turns Ernie into an undead killer powered by Lady Death's magic. He has to ability to kill and create an army of zombies that obey him and at Lady Death's request he seeks to kill all the living. Ultimately he is stopped by Dr Price. When Price manages to blow Ernie up all of his zombie followers collapse, no longer animated by his power.

This actually wasn't that bad. This reads like a pretty fun interesting horror movie that never got made. It has an interesting premise, Dr Price fills the role of the square jawed Bruce Campbell like hero who saves the day, and it even has a moment at the end in which Ernie can return for a 'sequel'. The art looks a little, I guess amateurish is the best way I can describe it. But it's amateurish in a charming way, kinda like the original TMNT comics. The relationship between Lady Death and Ernie is pretty interesting, it's almost like a low brow version of Thanos and Death in Marvel.

It's main flaw however is Ernie himself. Ernie is too ridiculous to be all that scary and too annoying and stupid to be all that funny. He's like the moron you knew in high school who wore a leather jacket even when it was hot and took Insane Clown Posse WAY too seriously. In a blurb on the back cover Tony Timpone, then Editor-in-Chief of Fangoria magazine, compared Ernie to Freddy Krueger. The difference is Freddy was actually funny. Hell even in the Freddy movies that sucked Robert England was able to bring a certain magic to that character. Ernie's just annoying. I actually thought Lady Death was the real star of this book.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pax Romana

Title: Pax Romana

ISBN: 9781582408736
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2013
Artist: Jonathan Hickman
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Collects: Pax Romana #1-4

Rating: 3/5

Time travel has long been used as a vehicle for creating alternate history.  Mark Twain did this in his classic novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  L. Sprague de Camp also did this in Least Darkness Fall, the novel that inspired Harry Turtledove to study Byzantine History.  I bring this up because it relates to the comic that we're going to be taking a look at today.  We're taking a look at Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman.

Pax Romana starts off in with a framing story in the megacity of Constantinople.  The Gene Pope, the bioengineered leader of the Catholic Church comprise of the genetic material of 1026 holy men and women, is telling the young emperor of the Holy Roman Empire the story of how the empire came to be.  Ah, but this isn't the Holy Roman Empire you're probably thinking of.  It is a Roman Empire that never fell, and where church and state are attached at the hip.

 It all start in the year 2050 of an alternate timeline.  Most of Europe had gone secular, and Islam was on the rise due to mass immigration.  The Church was losing support by the day, and might be on its last legs before long.  In a last-ditch effort to fix this, the Church sent a paramilitary force of 5000 individuals back in time to the year 312 AD.  The goal was to set up a stronger foundation for the Church and prevent the mistakes of the past from ever happening.

The forces were led by Nicholas Chase, the Pope's own nephew.  Well, technically, Caridnal Beppi Pelle was meant to be the leader, but Chase killed him shortly after the team arrived in the past.  Chase and his team decided to implement their own plan, while trying to stay true to the spirit of the original.  They were tasked with creating a better future, but can utopia ever be created by mere mortals?

I think I'll start by talking about the art.  I can best describe it as stylized minimalism.  You don't really get any true backgrounds, just some splashes of color and maybe a couple bit of furniture.  The characters themselves tend to be drawn mostly white with a few splashes of color.  I have to admit, I was rather skeptical at first, but it kind of won me over in the end.  There were times I did wish to see some more detailed backgrounds, but the minimalist style actually kind of works for this comic.

Let's talk about themes.  The description of society in the 2050 is actually a red herring for the true theme of the comic.  Namely, can a perfect society be run by imperfect beings?  As the old saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  We see this from the very first issue when Nick assassinates Cardinal Pelle.  Of course, it goes beyond that as Nick's fellow mercenaries begin to develop their own plans and ambitions.  Still, in the end they're still pretty successful.  The technologically advanced future of the framing device, completed with colonies on Mars, is reveled to be the year 1492.

Just as a side note, when I first read this comic, the 2050 scenes seemed laughably unlikely.  These days, however, they seem eerily prophetic.  The socio-political part, not the Vatican developing time travel part.  Side note, why does the pope order all evidence of the time travel plot destroyed?  History is going to be changed so, one assumes, all incriminating evidence will be wiped away.

I thought that the Romans were all well written.  Constantine is more than happy to receive help from the time travelers, but at the same time, he's no medieval moron.  He has his own plans and ambitions.  The Romans might be less technologically advanced than the future humans, but they're no less intelligent than them.  Although, when Constantine declares that the church will incorporate beliefs from many different religions, including heretical strands of Christianity, there is springily little push back.  He basically goes "I'm the Emperor and I say we do it this way, so there!" and beyond a token resistance, everyone is cool with this.  As far as Constantine himself creating such a syncretic religion, I can buy that.  He's often credited as the first Christian emperor of Rome, but he was a major devote of Apollo throughout his life, and his wasn't baptized until he was on his deathbed.

The Catholic Church in this alternate world is very catholic in the small-C sense of the word.  The Gene Pope's official titles include the Black Rabbi, the Last Caliph, the Panchen Lama, the Pratyekabuddha, the Eternal Priest of Amun-Ra, the White Shaman and, of course, the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ.  It's hinted that this is only a fraction of his full list of titles.

I will say it is a bit odd that Last Caliph is part of the list of title, since there's a good chance that Mohammad was never born in this alternate timeline.  There's brief mention that the positions of Gene Pope and Emperor of Rome have historically been one and the same.  This is likely a nod to how, starting with August, the Emperors of Rome also served as Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Ancient Roman religion.  This position is where the pope gets the title of pontifex from.

Okay, I've been putting it off for long enough.  This is, overall, not a bad comic.  That having been said, it's considerably overhyped, in my opinion.  If you look at a lot of the mainstream reviews, you'll see people gushing about how this is the next big thing, and how it's going to revolutionize the world of fiction.  These people obviously have not read much alternate history, or else they'd know that it's been done before.  Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South has a very similar premise to Pax Romana.  As do SM Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time series, Eric Flint's 1632 series, John Birmingham's Axis of Time series, and you could even go all the way back to the novel's I mentioned at beginning of this review.  That's not even getting into all of the online alternate historians who have tried their hands at such a scenario.

None of this makes Pax Romana a bad comic, but it does go to show that it's premise wasn't quite as groundbreaking as many professional reviewers would have you think.  The big problem I had was just how short the comic was.  We get some very tantalizing glimpses of the history of this alternate Roman Empire that are just begging for elaboration.  This really feels like one part of a much bigger story that never materialized, and overall it just feels incomplete.  As far as I can tell, Hickman never intended for there to be sequels, thus compounding the issue.

Granted, there is a timeline towards the end that chronicles some events in the history of this alternate universe, but it just isn’t the same as being able to see all of that in comic book form.  I know that Syfy has expressed interest in adapting Pax Romana.  If they do, I sure hope they expanded it into a full-series, rather than just a miniseries.  It worked wonders when Amazon did it with The Man in the High Castle.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine

Title: Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine

ISBN: 9780785185178
Price: $9.99
Publisher/Year: Image, 2015
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Collects: Bitch Planet #1-5

Rating: 4/5

Bitch Planet is a gem of a read, that is not only fascinating but important especially during the time we’re in now where women have become more vocal about their roles and rank than ever. This comic book pays homage to everything women face daily and the problems surrounding this. A lot of issues we see in this comic book relate back to the ideology of gender roles; how women are expected to behave, speak, dress, and conduct themselves for the opposite sex. In Bitch Planet, we get to witness women rebelling against the cultural norm.

Now, I will admit, I’ve only read a few graphic novels in my life, but never a comic book. I’d also like to point out the fact that if it weren’t for my professor who recommended I take a class about this comic book a few months ago, I probably would have never known of its existence. Lucky me!

The story of Bitch Planet is quite simple: it’s about non-compliant women who are sent off to another planet to serve their time. The planet is essentially a prison controlled by old men behind screens and a holographic woman that orders inmates around. However, it’s the way in which these inmates are categorized as non-compliant that makes this story so relevant to the mistreatment and criticisms women face today. In Bitch Planet, we notice one woman being seized for merely appearing upset in response to her husband’s infidelity, and we witness a mother being taken away from her 8-year-old daughter when she’s deemed to be dangerous for unprecedented reasons only to learn that her daughter, too, has been sent away to Bitch Planet for being “too violent” after lashing out when a customer calls her too fat and animal-like. Then, there are women who are punished and sent to Bitch Planet for having to kill men solely for their own protection.

Throughout the story,  every “non-compliant” woman’s background is unveiled. As readers we are able to see  exactly how these women ended up on Bitch Planet in the first place.  As we take a peek through their lives before imprisonment, we then realize that every single one of these women stepped outside their boundaries to rebel against what people (or I shall say the authorities) expect of them and instead, stood up for and embraced their own actions and emotions. This society is not afraid to put women in their place whenever they want to and they have no trouble doing so as authorities lack sympathy and reasoning. Extraditing these women who had natural reactions to their particular situations is a way for the government to validate their political power.

If we take the content we read in Bitch Planet and apply it to our reality, there really isn’t much of a difference, as it is a cultural norm for women to be viewed slightly different than men in a negative perspective. If we flip the situations from Bitch Planet and make men face these same issues, it wouldn’t be a problem at all because that’s just how our culture accepts it (and this really needs to change).

For example, let’s say a husband gets upset after finding out his wife cheated – people will feel sorry for him and negatively look down on his wife. If this actually happened, people would instead help the husband, perceiving him as “the good boyfriend”, and leave the wife in the dust.  If the roles were reversed where the husband cheated on the wife and the wife reacted badly, she would then be viewed as “the crazy girlfriend.”

Although Bitch Planet is an exaggerated and extreme version of what happens to non-compliant women, our life today is really not too far from that life. Therefore, we should consider Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story a warning about where our lives could potentially end up.

WANTLIST - Hasbro SDCC 2024 G.I. Joe Classified Series: Cobra Commander (Once a Man) Figure

  When I first started my action figure collection, I tried to keep it within the 3.75" realm because that's what scratched by nost...