Posts Tagged ‘Sam’

SamJack_03-pr-2This was originally posted at Word of the Nerd on December 20th.

You know you’re in good hands when the opening of every comic includes the insanely awesome and informative opening sequence from the cartoon! Yes, the fan favorite/cult classic/just plain classic cartoon, Samurai Jack, has returned to us in comic book form.

Written by Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and drawn by Andy Suriano, the new Samurai Jack comic stays true to the episodic nature of the cartoon while giving Jack a specific goal in his quest to return to his home and proper time period so he can vanquish the demonic Aku. The “Threads of Time” arc sees Jack gathering threads from the broken Rope of Eons, which Aku frayed when he mastered time travel. Once Jack has recovered the threads, he’ll be able to rewind the rope and rewind time. In the first issue, Jack faced a group of gladiators fighting in an underground arena overseen by a malicious spider. While in the second, he went up against twin cats named Dis and Dat who used their thread to synchronize their attacks. Besting all of them, Jack prevails, but he’s not without his setbacks as each new foe challenges and pushes him further. No matter what, Jack is still a warrior possessed with determination to complete his quest.

Samurai JackIssue three finds Jack in the village of Grantus, a peaceful place under the protection of the affable Gloer the Great who grants Jack shelter, food and a little sparring practice. All in good fun though. The only downside seems to be that the people of Grantus ignore Jack, but Gloer assures him that they’ve been encouraged to ignore strangers until they’ve been around long enough to not be strangers. Everything changes, however, when Aku’s robotic forces attack Grantus and Jack learns the shocking truth about Gloer.

The issues thus far have been worthy successors to Genndy Tartakovsky’s cartoon. Jim Zub has crafted an arc that stays true to the character and his motivations while also giving Jack ample reason to show off his impressive fighting techniques. The shift in medium obviously makes the storytelling process a bit different, requiring more narration and dialogue in cases where the cartoon would have relied on atmosphere and silence. Not that this can’t be accomplished in a comic, but Zub has to work a bit harder to retain the spirit of Jack’s character and the world he inhabits. Thankfully, Zub keeps Jack’s dialogue to a minimum when he can, relying on the dialogue of other characters to fill in the blanks or letting the art of Andy Suriano speak for the comic. Suriano, by the way, knocks it out of the park with his work, which makes sense since he worked on the Samurai Jack cartoon as a character designer. But in the pages of the comic he gets to bring the epicness of Jack’s quest to life. You never doubt this is Samurai Jack and if I can’t have the cartoon, then at least I can have the comic.

Final Thoughts: If you love Samurai Jack, then you should be reading this comic. Try and read the opening segment without hearing the voice of the late Mako as Aku. I dare you!

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Cover 1This was originally published at Word of the Nerd on December 18th.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that James Bond, in all of his adventures, never once used protection when he managed to find some spare time for some frolicking with his female companions and adversaries. What’re the odds that Bond has a slew of kids out in the wings just waiting to meet daddy? In The Illegitimates #1 Taran Killam and Marc Andreyko imagine such a scenario, only our Bond surrogate, Jack Steele, doesn’t exactly get to meet the family.

While on a mission in Ukraine, Steele comes across one of his oldest foes, Dannikor, atop a speeding train. They fight, as per usual, only this time Dannikor finally comes out ahead, so to speak. Distracting Steele long enough, the agent meets his unfortunate end when his head is splattered into gore and grey matter when the train enters a tunnel. Knowing that Dannikor is planning something big, something that would have required the skills of the recently deceased, Olympus, the organization operating under the dual partnership of British and American special forces, fast-tracks Operation Sire. Seeing the potential in Steele’s illegitimate children, Olympus carefully nurtured their hereditary skills. We have Vin Darlington, an American expert marksman, Kiken Kaze, gear head and son of a Yakuza assassin, Saalinge M’Chumba, a South African spy, Leandro Caliestas, a Mexican martial artist/model, and Charlie Lordsley, the brainy daughter of a former temp at Olympus. All of them are ready to be recruited, Olympus just has to make a team out of them. Unfortunately, Dannikor is already aware of the potential threat.

Taran-Killam-Illegitimates-Part of the fun of The Illegitimates are the various scenarios that could very well have been pulled from actual Bond movies. Obviously Killam and Andreyko have done their homework because Steele’s multitude of missions carried out from the ’60s to the present are pitch perfect. Foreign locations, bad guys in need of killing, clever one-liners, scantily dressed women, adversarial women, mercenary-type women…let’s just say there’s a lot of women. I was surprised, though, by how restrained the humor was in this book since Killam is a well-known comedian who most people would recognize from Saturday Night Live. Then again, Killam is credited as the creator and co-writer of the book, so the restraint might be coming from Andreyko, which is smart since a premise like this could easily fall into parody without having any real substance. And there’s no real sense of how the book is going to progress since the first issue is all set up. Steele’s promiscuity is established, he dies, and then we get a splash page per bastard child to explain their skills, the women Steele impregnated, and some beautiful illustrations by Kevin Sharpe depicting milestones in each child’s life. Well, everyone except for Charlie. Sharpe’s art is especially important given the rapid-fire pacing of the story. He conveys movement and action very well with the inks and colors by Diana Greenhalgh and Peter Pantazis, respectively, making the illustrations pop. The cinematic style of the art really reinforces the James Bond homage.

Final Thoughts: It’s time for the family to meet and oh to be a fly on that wall. I can’t wait!

This was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 27th

Oh, Saga, you certainly do know how to make a girl’s jaw drop one minute and squeal in delight in the next. Saga-16

Continuing their search for the truth regarding Alana’s possible kidnapping/defection, the intrepid reporters Upsher and Doff confront yet another of Alana’s former commanders, Special Agent Gale of Secret Intelligence. While Gale is reluctant to speak with them, which is putting it mildly, when they show him a picture of Alana snagging her poncho from a clothesline while wearing her wedding ring, he ushers them into his apartment and reveals to them that Alana never defected. She’s a spy for Landfall, one of the best, according to Gale. However, if Upsher and Doff continue digging for the truth, it could endanger millions of lives. He then undercuts a reasonable request by blackmailing the homosexual journalists who’re considered criminals on their home world of Jetsam and calls for a hit on them once they’ve left.

Unfortunately, the best man for the job of taking the two out isn’t returning anyone’s calls because he’s be brutally stabbed by a little girl high on the opiates produced by a planet’s ecosystem. Which I’m sure happens all the time. Gwendolyn, while searching for Sophie with Lying Cat, falls prey to the same hallucinations when she sees the woman who took her virginity calling to her. Thankfully, Lying Cat lets her know that the woman isn’t really there and Gwendolyn figures out that Sophie and The Will are in trouble. When she discovers the damage done to Will, she knows there’s only one person who can save him: Marko. On Quietus, the family of fugitives are still soaking in the restful few days they’ve had in Heist’s lighthouse, giving Marko and Alana some time to think more about how they’re going to earn a living and raise Hazel. The solution appears to be putting Alana in Circuits – Saga‘s equivalent of television – since she does have a previous background in acting, which she tries to downplay. The illusion of luxury, however, disappears quickly when the plot catches up with itself and Prince Robot IV shows up.

Alana SpySixteen issues in and Brian K. Vaughan has managed to create a menagerie of fleshed out, nuanced characters and suddenly he’s put the motivations of one half of the romantic duo into question. A lot of time and effort has been put into showing Marko and Alana’s romance, building it up like a science-fiction version of Romeo and Juliet. The lovers meet, quickly fall for one another, and run away together, though their actions have significant consequences. Now, Vaughan is setting up a new wrinkle in the story. Is the love between the two real? It certainly looks that way on Marko’s end, but the scenes involving Upsher and Doff uncovering Alana’s past, as well as brief scenes of Alana and Marko meeting for the first time and supposedly falling in love over Heist’s book can be viewed in a new light with this information. Vaughan reinforces our suspicions of Alana when she and Marko discuss her possibly becoming an actor on the Open Circuit. Alana says there’s more to acting than what Marko briefly saw and when Marko suggests he’d rather Hazel grow up around actors than soldiers, Alana quietly implies that he’s never been around actors enough to make that call. All of this is meant to keep us guessing about Alana’s true allegiance and Fiona Staples does a remarkable job of making Alana’s expressions as cryptic as possible. She’s becoming less of the open book she was at the beginning of Saga, which is almost uncomfortable to look at because Vaughan and Staples have made us care so much about Alana and Marko as a couple.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope that Alana’s defection was real for the reasons we think. Hazel’s narration implies that she was raised by her parents, so if Alana was a spy, perhaps she truly did fall in love with Marko over the course of their time on the run that resulted in Hazel being conceived. There’s also Hazel to consider. That’s some pretty deep cover for Alana to risk getting pregnant just to somehow spy on the enemy when it seems Marko isn’t all that involved in his people’s affairs. There’s also the possibility that Special Agent Gale said Alana was a spy to throw the journalists off, though his call for a hit on them a clear indicator that they’re getting to the bottom of something. All I know is Vaughan is going to do his damnedest to keep us guessing until some sort of reveal occurs.

Final Thoughts: It’s Vaughan’s story to tell and though Heist he proclaims that stories always follow a formula, but the best stories break all the rules for the fun of an adventure. Considering what the next issue has in store, this adventure is only getting started.

october 1963 beatles manager brian epsteinThis was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 27th.

For as long as I can remember The Beatles have been a part of my life. My mother was a child of the 60s and 70s and when I was growing up this was the music she’d play for me and my sister. Chief among all the records, cassettes, and CDs played in our house was the music of The Beatles. I could devote entire articles to my favorite Beatles songs and what they mean to me as well as the history of the Fab Four themselves and never miss a beat. But like many people, the history or rather the story of one such member has never been fully revealed. We know about Pete Best’s break with the band, we know about George Martin’s brilliant instincts as a musical producer, but how many people really know, or paid attention to, Brian Epstein? Manager of The Beatles from 1961 until his death from an accidental overdose in 1967, Brian Epstein took an unknown and only mildly popular Liverpudlian band performing cover songs of black music and turned them into the artistic powerhouse of pop music and experimental rock we know today. It’s because of Brian Epstein that The Beatles are the standard instead of the exception. It’s because of Brian Epstein that The Beatles exceeded all expectations and took the world by storm. And it’s because of Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker that Brian Epstein’s story can be told.

Fifth Beatle CoverThe Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story is the mostly linear, slightly exaggerated, but predominantly emotional story of Brian Epstein. The manager of his family’s record store, North End Music Store (NEMS), in Liverpool, Brian is relatively well off but he’s, by all accounts, a stranger in a strange land. He’s Jewish in a time when Britain was very anti-Semitic, he’s a homosexual in a time when homosexuals were thrown in prison if they were caught, to say nothing of the violence and intolerance he received, and he’s a man with high cultural ambitions in a working class city. Only when his assistant, Moxie, takes him to the Cavern to see The Beatles perform does his life change. He sees in them something special, something that could change the world. He doesn’t just become their manager, he becomes their biggest fan, intent on making them, in his own words, “Bigger than Elvis!” in the eyes of the world. The toll this takes on him is enormous: anxiety, exhaustion, pills, and an abusive “relationship” left him feeling like a failure despite his success and unloved despite the supportive circle of friends and family. Brian Epstein was a flawed and tragic human being, but he was possessed of an overabundance of confidence and hope in the band he built from the ground up. He was instrumental to The Beatles’ rise yet he still remains a footnote in their history.John and Brian

Tiwary, by his own admission, approaches Epstein’s story from a personal connection to The Beatles and Epstein himself. A first generation Indian-American in the film, media, and comic book industry, Tiwary found a kindred spirit in Epstein and approached his story from the perspective of the perpetual outsider. No matter what Brian does, he always feels as if he’s alone. The pressures he puts on himself to succeed and ensure that The Beatles succeed, as well as the continued trappings of his personal life, lead him to seek refuge in pills. But Tiwary also shows exactly how essential Brian was to propelling The Beatles into stardom. His hard work, his business savvy, and the risks he took at his own expense paid off in the long run. Everything we know about the early Beatles, what made the youth of Britain and America fall in love with them, comes from Epstein’s management of, as John Lennon says in the book, not just their gigs, but their digs as well. From their uniform clothing and haircuts to the emphasis on their Liverpudlian roots and humor, Epstein cultivated them into a package, but unlike Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker, who we see through Epstein’s eyes as a devilish figure of greed and gluttony, Epstein wanted what was best for his boys. He fought for them every step of the way and the continued references to the real and symbolic nature of bullfighting and matadors give credence to that fact.

The-Fifth-Beatle-2Framing the story within the changing times of the 1960s also gives Tiwary and artists Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker an artistic avenue with which to get inside Epstein’s head without the hallucinatory or non-linear elements feeling out of place. Robinson is the predominant artistic presence and his illustrations are gorgeous. While this is Epstein’s story, it’s also the story of The Beatles and Robinson depicts the energetic pull of the band so beautifully that you can almost hear their music jumping off the page. When Brian sees and hears them we share in his experience. He also brings out the absurdity of Epstein’s position within the world of music and media. I mentioned the scene with Colonel Parker, but Epstein’s negotiations with Ed Sullivan to have The Beatles headline three shows with reduced pay is a thing of surreal beauty. Sullivan refers to The Beatles as a “novelty act” so Tiwary and Robinson choose to depict this discussion by way of Sullivan using a ventriloquist dummy. True or not, it’s a symbolic and dramatically ironic way of looking at the world from Epstein’s perspective. Robinson seems to understand Epstein’s struggles just as much as Tiwary, which affords him the ability to depict his pain and hope simultaneously without either emotion overshadowing the other. It’s fitting, then, that the book opens and closes on both notes. Kyle Baker’s solo work showing The Beatles’ tour of the Philippines and their actual harrowing experience is reminiscent of a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon with Brian desperately trying to fend off the bull that is Imelda Marcos and the Philippine regime. Though the style looks out of place, it actually works within the context of the story as Brian’s psyche takes on different forms.

Final Thoughts: If you’re a fan of The Beatles, then this is a definite read. It’s a story that needed to be told and thankfully Tiwary, Robinson, and Baker were the ones to do it. There’s also a movie on the way based on the book, so look for that in the future!