The Force Is Strong With This One

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Star Wars #1

Written By Jake Garner

With the imminent release of Marvel’s Darth Maul this week, not that I am excited or anything, I thought it might be worth looking back to the very beginning. Star Wars is primarily built around its ‘Skywalker’ saga of films, alongside the recent introduction of the standalone films, two of which we have yet to see. For a lot of people, Star Wars starts and ends with the films, but for those who want to explore Lucas’ galaxy a little more, they turn to the endless choice of comic books and novels available. Over the years, many of the comic books based on the franchise have fallen into the ‘legends’ category rather than being classed as official canon.

For the majority of fans out there, this isn’t really a problem. Both lines of space based histories are rich with good story telling, in the novels available, and most importantly here, the comics! As of recent, Marvel Star Wars publications, since the commencement of the 2015-present run, have been deemed by the overlords as official canon, in other words, this stuff actually happened!

So, Star Wars comics, where did it all start? It is probably fair to say it officially started with the name Charles Lippincott, who during the pre-birth of the film in 1977 was Lucasfilm’s publicity supervisor. Lippincott approached the man himself, Stan Lee, a few years prior to the film’s release in 1975. Suggested was a Star Wars comic book in preparation for the film, principally to boost the hype before its release. At first, Lee rejected the offer, preferring instead to wait until the film’s completion. But even Stan Lee couldn’t resist the charm of Star Wars and, even before it hit the big screen, decided to publish a six part series by the same name that would work from the storyline and script for the film.

Being the business man he was, Lee made the arrangement final when it was agreed that no royalties would be paid to Lucasfilm until sales exceeded 100,000. Star Wars #1 was consequentially published in early April of 1977. Due to its popularity, the series ran for 107 issues, from 1977 until 1986. Fans couldn’t get enough. Oh, and there are three annuals as well. Lee took the gamble, I’m sure he doesn’t regret it now. It’s almost as if he plotted it all like a true Palpatine.

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Since Planet Of The Apes, Chewie Finds A Lot Of Work

The first six issues are loosely based around the script from Episode IV. Due to the comics release over a month prior to the film, it is true but fair to say that there are some noticeable changes. The storyline is essentially the same as the film. Dark Lord wants to torture a gorgeous Princess. Princess is rescued by a bearded dude, his protégé, a big ape like creature and his waist coated mate, all alongside two droids. They wage war, joining a rebellious movement, on a huge battle station. Result, they blow the holy hell out of it. Oops sorry, spoiler alert by the way. Get out of here! The changes from comic to film are minor, but in some ways disturbing.

For me, one change sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe, just maybe Jabba should have been shut down from the beginning. His story in regards to the first film is somewhat fragile. Originally he was a large human that was cut from the film entirely. In 1997, for some unknown reason, maybe Lucas was high, Lucasfilm introduced a strange CGI version of the space slug based on the one seen in Return of the Jedi. This was the stuff of nightmares. In the 2004 rerelease, Lucasfilm improved on this, probably due to the fan hate for the 97 version. Anyway, back to the comic. In the 1977 Star Wars series, Jabba appears much the same as bad LSD trip, a tall, thin yellow guy with huge white sideburns. Yes, I could have chosen to talk about anything in the Star Wars comics, but this really sticks in my mind. I mean, just look.

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Jabba The What?

Marvel’s interpretation of the script isn’t perfect and by no means is it as thrilling as the films themselves, but despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed them. The series ran beyond the films scope at the time, allowing for fans of the first film to carry on the adventure with their favourite galactic team. If you are a fan of Star Wars, I would almost certainly, at least, take a glance at the first six issues.

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Repentless

wyatt-has-such-a-friendly-face

Wyatt Has Such A Friendly Face

Written By Jake Garner

Yes, oh yes. It’s quite true. Slayer, yes, as in the awesome thrash metal band fronted by Tom Araya, have delved into the world of comic books with their new three part series titled Slayer Repentless. The comic is published by Dark Horse Comics and is certainly not for the light hearted. Everything you would expect from a Slayer comic book is in fact in there, and some more after that. Repentless is loosely based around Slayer’s trilogy of music videos that accompany three tracks from the 2015 album of the same name. These three headbanging tracks include Repentless, You Against You and Pride in Prejudice. For those of you out there that have witnessed Slayer’s music videos, well then you know exactly what to expect.

At the helm of the three part project is writer Jon Schnepp. Schnepp is no newbie to the metal scene having served as director on adult cartoon Metalocalypse. In more recent years, coincidentally, around the same time as the Repentless album was released, Schnepp directed the documentary film, The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? which looks closely at the axed Tim Burton film. Schnepp brings to the Repentless comic what the video trilogy is not capable of; a narrative to the violence. Essentially that’s what the videos are on face value, a mass of vengeance driven slaughter that revolves around the issues of race and fascist politics. On the surface the videos can be seen as unclear in their message, but Dark Horse Comics has certainly done well to clear this up. Schnepp writes to explain the ‘story’ behind the crazy brutality of the music videos.

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Slayer Really Enjoy Their Strawberry Jam

In some ways I am still trying to work out which version is more blood fuelled. At this point I would have to sway towards the comic. Why? Well because the violence in the video trilogy is very quick and soon over, an image stays frozen in time forever. Artist Guiu Vilanova is no stranger to the gory nature of slasher comics, perhaps more known for his work on Dynamite’s Rise the Dead. He works to bring the video trilogy to life in the comic, bringing over every pool of red sticky stuff with it. All in all, I can’t guarantee that this comic will be for everyone. I am sorry I can’t vouch that much for it, but for the older Slayer fan, well you will not be disappointed. Repentless is packed with as much nostalgia as it is violence.

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Slayer In Comic Form

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Thanos Returns!

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Thanos Now!

A Message From The Commander: Thanos Returns…

Or so it would seem, but for how long? Yes, Marvel have brought Thanos back into the spotlight with his very own ‘Now!’ series. Only three issues deep, fans of The Mad Titan are starting to see their galactic menace in a whole new fashion. At the helm of this cosmic endeavour is writer Jeff Lemire. As far as current writers are concerned, Lemire is a staple member of the contemporary Marvel scene. Other recent projects headed by Lemire include Old Man Logan, Extraordinary X-Men and Moon Knight, to name a few. Alongside Jeff Lemire storytelling, Mike Deodato works to bring Thanos back to life through his vivid art. Deodato is recognised for his morose style of art which can be seen within his run on The Incredible Hulk, alongside writer Bruce Jones. Deodato is also renowned for his time on The New Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man.

So, what has become of the big purple guy? Thanos, wherever he has been hiding out, returns to the Black Quadrant, his little private corner of the universe, so to speak, to find his long term associate Corvus Glaive ruling in his absence. Glaive has created a new order in Thanos’ nonattendance, entirely changing the way the Black Quadrant is governed. As you can imagine, Thanos no-likey. To quote issue one, ‘And then… thoom’. That should at least give you an idea. Masterlord, Mad Titan, Master, Thanos Rex, Overmaster, or just plain Thanos, whatever you want to call him, he’s back and still as mean as ever. But there is a change in Thanos. Something out of the ordinary is happening to the galactic troublemaker and he is determined to fix it. Additionally, we get to see the return of some other Thanos-esque players including Nebula, Eros and Mentor. No spoilers here though, get out and pick up the first three issues of Thanos. I recommend it.

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Glaive Talks To The Mad Titan

In the past, both myself and the rest of the ComiCommand team have taken a liking to Thanos as a character. He has a diverse and rich history of villainy under his belt and is arguably amongst the biggest baddies out there. To get up to date on your Thanos ‘know-how’ I would recommend taking a look at one of our previous posts: https://comicommand.com/2016/03/23/the-infinity-storyline-key-issues-checklist/ Here you will find a checklist concerning the core titles surrounding Thanos’ history. Ok, so there is a fair bit to catch up on in that list, and some more after, but not to worry.

Thanos fanatic or not, any comic book reader, new to the scene or not, can enjoy his latest comings and goings in Lemire and Deodato’s most recent series. That sullen artistic style that Deodato so often uses if reflected in his latest project and encompasses the Mad Titan’s imagery with brilliance. This isn’t puppies and rainbows after all, this is Thanos. Let’s keep it that way. Thank you Mike, and thank you Jeff for a story that isn’t written like Marvel felt the need to give this guy some page-time, but is a genuine, modern revival of one of our favourite villains.

Until next time, keep those pages turning.

Yours truely,

The Commander

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Thanos At One With Nature… Yeah, Right

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V For Vendetta

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Demigod – Alan Moore, Creator Of V

Written By Cadeem Lalor

I first watched V for Vendetta (2006) when I was living in England over a decade ago. Hugo Weaving’s performance was a highlight, which compensated for Natalie Portman’s dodgy English accent and some weak dialogue from the supporting characters. Weaving’s performance, the cinematography and the film’s finale are the main reasons I still remember the film fondly. I became aware of the source material a few years later, when one comic reader after another said the film was a poor adaptation.  With consistent disdain directed at the film, I decided to finally check out the comic to make the judgment for myself.

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta (1987-1988) takes place in the late 1990s Britain. After a devastating nuclear event in the 1980s, Britain’s society crumbled, making way for the Fascist Norsefire Party to claim power. All racial, religious and sexual minorities were moved to concentration camps, leaving only heterosexual whites in England. Amidst this environment, a masked freedom fighter named V attempts to topple the government. Along his journey he saves a young girl named Evey Hammond and enlists her help for his mission.

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V

Like any film, V for Vendetta suffers from being an abridged version of a tale that is more complex and verbose. The biggest contributor to its verbose nature is V himself, who delivers several poetic passages throughout the series, mainly centered on his relationship with Jesus, personified as a mistress that left him for fascism. The film’s alliteration speech might convince some people (not me) that long bouts of poetry can’t work in film, but they can work if they reveal something about the character’s view of the world. V’s terrorist acts may be directed at the government, but he ultimately feels betrayed by the people he is trying to help. While he tries to save them, he also blames them for giving power to an organization like Norsefire.

Another change is Evey’s age and occupation. While she is apparently in her 20s in the movie and works as a “runner” for a news station, she is a teenaged prostitute in the comic. This change struck me as one of the most unnecessary ones since it also detracts from Evey’s arc. Hammond is caught in a sting operation the first time she propositions a client. Her entire backstory captures the hopelessness of someone growing up in this fascist society. She loses both her parents and grows up in a youth hostel. Poverty leads to her foray into prostitution, and I feel like this element of desperation and misfortune was toned down in the film.

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Evey Hammond / Natalie Portman

This also makes her transformation into V’s protégé less satisfying. Both versions of the character go through a boot camp of sorts, where V leads them to believe they are captured and then tortured by police for days on end. V also provides Hammond with a letter he received while he was staying in a concentration camp. In the letter, a lesbian named Valerie recounts her life story and provides motivation to fight against the system. Once Hammond demonstrates she is no longer afraid of torture, or death by firing squad, V ends the torture. While both versions are initially angry at the betrayal, they realize the purpose of the test and channel their anger into their fight against Norsefire. Comic Hammond transcends one misfortune after another before taking up V’s mantle, making it the ultimate story of triumph.

Additionally, many of the scenes from the comic were changed to enhance the action. Most notably, a solitary showdown between V and Detective Eric Finch becomes a fight between V and multiple men, with slow-motion for good measure. While Weaving is still amazing as V, I can understand why some fans of the comic were disappointed with how V was interpreted for the big screen. V for Vendetta is a great film, but a weaker adaptation.

To hear more from Cadeem, visit moviegrapevine.com

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V For Vendetta

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Bringing Annville to New York City

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The Punisher Vs. The Russian

Written By Jake Garner

Every Marvel Comic’s fan knows the Punisher as that one character that, over all others, really teeters on that very special ‘super-hero’ periphery. One thing the Punisher does above all others is kill. Frank Castle, aka ‘The Punisher’, kills like it’s going out of fashion quicker than a pair of crocs shoes. Nonetheless, pushing the whole mass murder thing to one side, the majority of Punisher fans will inevitably find themselves rooting for the ex-soldier as he takes on the criminal underworld of New York City.

On first impressions, Franky boy might come across as a complete case of the nuts, but for those that have stuck with him throughout the years, right from his early 70s first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #129, we know and understand the motives behind his ‘punishing ways’. No, this isn’t a punishing spank across the palms with a length of cane, this is a full arse-load full of lead, and that’s just for starters. On what seemed like an average day in the park with his family, this war veteran soon vowed to forever wage a war against the criminal underworld when his family were accidentally slaughtered in a bodged-up mob hit. In a nut shell, crime only pays in New York City until you find yourself looking down the end of one of the Punisher’s many barrels.

Now, personally speaking here (not as die-hard Punisher fan or anything), there has never been a disappointing Punisher series, including the various ‘Journals’ and ‘War-Zones’. I mean sure, there have been a few less favourable issues here and there, but as far as standalone character series go, the Punisher’s tend to be mighty awesome. Perhaps more than any other series, and only by a smidgen, the Punisher’s twelve part series that started in 2000 remains one of his most brilliant to date. As part of Marvel’s ‘Marvel Knights Imprint’ range, this series of Punisher is known by fans as The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank. It was written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon. What? Written by Ennis and illustrated by Dillon? Nah, you must be pulling my leg, surely? Not so, believe it, the very same duo that brought us Vertigo Comic’s Preacher.

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Punisher #2

What Ennis and Dillon have done in this limited series of Punisher is to pack everything Preacher had to offer in one hell of a suitcase and send it up from Annville to New York City, by means of first class delivery of course. The writing style provided by Ennis is of a similar tone to that of Jesse Custer, in fact I would go as far to say that Frank and Jesse were separated at birth. Please don’t take this as a criticism though, I mean it in the best way possible, it rocks!

Alongside this awesome use of gritty dialogue within the comic is of course the artwork of Dillon. The two stories, both Punisher and Preacher could coexist within the very same book itself! The similarities between the two are uncanny, but no need to call in the X-Men here, relish in its delights. Yes, I admit it, it sounds like I am maybe a little excited over this Punisher series. Ultimately, if you are a fan of Preacher (I mean who isn’t, really, you would have to be blind not to be, or just have really bad taste) then I wholly recommend looking into it. On the other hand, if you have read this stretch of Punisher but not Preacher, then equally, give that a bash too. Comic book satisfaction guaranteed, alongside plenty of blood.

One more thing I thought was worth a mention here is a lengthy rooftop scene between Murdock and Castle. Those of you who are familiar with the Netflix series DareDevil will know that Castle keeps the lawyer on his toes for the duration of Season Two. I can’t help but feel the writers extracted a decent amount of inspiration from Ennis and Dillon’s series. Again, as you will see, there is one scene in particular between Murdock and Castle that supports this theory unswervingly.

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Murdock’s All Tied Up

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Kill Or Be Killed

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Kill Or Be Killed

Written By Cadeem Lalor

I first came across Ed Brubaker’s work with Incognito, a short but interesting series about a former supervillain in the witness protection program. Kill or be Killed (2016) frequently popped up in any discussion of Brubaker and I was quick to add it to my reading list.

The series follows Dylan, a college student who is visited by a demon after a failed suicide attempt. The demon advised Dylan that he spared his life, but must now kill one person a month in order to continue living. After the demon breaks his arm and uses host bodies to assault him, Dylan begins his quest to eliminate people who deserve to die.

Dylan’s father committed suicide when he was younger, which indicates he may have inherited certain dispositions from that side of the family. What makes the story so interesting is that Dylan has committed suicide previously, so we know that he is mentally troubled. For all we know, his vision of a demon is all a part of his own delusion: a sort of split personality that prods him to begin his quest. The series is only on its fifth issue so there is still plenty of time to see if this theory is right.

Dylan may be mentally troubled but many of his struggles are universal. He is yet another student trying to figure out his life, and who struggles with girls. His best friend, Kira, is dating his roommate and he mostly sees her only when she visits her boyfriend.

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People Who Deserve It

Even though the protagonist is relatable, the story can fall apart if the transition to crime-fighting is handled poorly. Brubaker excels at creating a realistic portrait of attempted vigilantism that reminded me somewhat of Kick-Ass. Dylan is able to get a gun pretty easily, since his deceased father had one buried in his possessions. This plot point might seem too convenient but it fits since we know Dylan’s dad committed suicide, he is likely carrying out his mission with his father’s murder weapon.

The toughest part for Dylan is finding people who deserve to die. He realizes that he can’t rely on movies as a blueprint, knowing that muggings and other crimes don’t routinely happen on subways or dark alleys when he is present. He finds his first target because he remembers that one of his childhood friends was molested by his older brother. He already knows the person’s name, and Facebook gives him everything else he needs, including the person’s work place.

When he’s successful with his first hit, he can’t remember if he said something to the target before he shoots him. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t, and his mind is retroactively adding in a cool one-liner that one of his favourite movie characters would say. Dylan faces success, but he also faces plenty of failure. His actions escalate, bringing more consequences for him. As the story progresses, we’ll likely see consequences for his loved ones too.

Kill or Be Killed is a deconstruction of vigilantism, a love story and a story of mental illness. Brubaker deftly handles Dylan’s development and I am eager to see how the series ends his journey.

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Kill Or Be Killed #1

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Memorable Comic Book Character Deaths!

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Bye Bye Gwen

Written By Desi LaSalle

Recently a very interesting story-line began in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man called ‘Dead No More!’, which I highly recommend. It brings to the forefront dead characters that we have seen and loved for many years throughout the pages of Spider-Man. Back in the day, the death of a comic book character was not only a major event but it was also done in a way that the character that died would stay dead for the long run. These days for some unknown reason, that I can not comprehend, comic book characters just don’t bite the dust anymore. They ‘die’ and six months later they re-appear as clones, by magic or any other crazy reason that DC and Marvel can come up with, eliminating the mystique that a death of a comic book character used to have. I mean let’s face it, back in the day it was a major event when somebody died in a comic book! So now looking back at years of comic book history I have compiled a top ten list of very major and memorable comic book characters deaths which of which I will explain the chronological order shortly, here we go:

10) Captain America

9) Norman Osborn

8) Blue Beetle (Infinite Crisis)

7) Sue Dibny (Elongated Man’s Wife)(Identity Crisis)

6) Professor X

5) Supergirl & Flash (Crisis on Infinite Earths)

4)Bucky

3) Jean Grey

2) Gwen Stacy

1) Captain Marvel (Graphic Novel)

Honorable Mention: New Warriors (Civil War), Wolverine and Spider-Man

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The Death Of Captain Marvel

I would like to explain as to why Captain Marvel is number one on my list, and the reason is simple, I truly believe that the story of The Death of Captain Marvel is undoubtedly one of the best stories in comic book history. At the time the death of a major Marvel superhero to cancer was a big deal! The story had the elements of a real life sickness, such as cancer, put into a situation with a comic book character and a major Marvel hero in the Marvel Universe, a timeless classic! Next on my list is Gwen Stacy, the beloved girlfriend of Spider-Man, his one true love and a fan favorite. The death of Gwen changed the tone of The Amazing Spider-Man comic forever and at the time it came out of nowhere and thankfully remained dead for a very long time until Marvel messed things up bringing her back several times. Jean Grey is another character whose death had an incredible impact felt throughout the Marvel Universe and was done masterfully. Bucky made a splash with the whole ‘story-line within a story-line’ thing. It made huge impact due to the fact that it happened in the early years of the Captain America comic book. I put the next two characters together because both their deaths had a major impact in the same story-line within the DC Universe, which is the case of Supergirl and the Flash in the very memorable Crisis on Infinite Earths series.  I am sure many will disagree with me and have your own list. The fun is in the debate, but the one thing that I am very sure of is that hopefully we can go back to the era of comic books when a character’s death was a major and permanent event that would have lasting effects for a very long time, let the debate begin!

 

 

 

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