Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Charmed #9 Review (SPOILER ALERT!)

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Paul Ruditis
Artist(s): Dean Kotz
Release Date: May 2011

A family member lost. The Elders under siege. An unstoppable force about to wreak havoc on the world! Leo must reveal an ancient secret to The Charmed Ones about the very source of their craft and the true origins of the magic they possess if they have any chance of defeating their latest threat.

After a frustratingly long wait, Zenescope has finally released issue nine of Charmed which picks up immediately after the events of Issue #8. Overall this was a good issue, which had a good mixture of story and action. The sisters (sans Piper who was sent to an unknown location by villain Neena at the end of the previous issue) are receiving a (much overdue) history lesson from Leo about the origins of their magic. The origins of the sisters' magic has always been thought to have started with Melinda Warren in the 1600's, however we find out in this issue that ALL magic comes originated with the first witch, who was revealed at the end of last issue, as Neena. I think that this was not only a very brave thing to do as it delves much deeper into the origins of magic than the TV show ever did, but also creatively is quite cleaver as we get a play on the Adam and Eve story. I don't know if it will be explored further in the next issue(s) but I liked how Paul Ruditis put a spin on Adam and Eve in a similar vein to that of how Charmed often put their own stamp on popular stories and fairy tales.

The cliffhanger we are left on is quite possibly the best of the entire series so far. It is revealed that the Adam to Neena's Eve is none other than Cole Turner, who appears to Piper in the final panel of the issue. This was one of the biggest surprises so far and I am happy that it wasn't spoiled for me before I read the issue because it wouldn't have been the same. What this means for the sisters, I don't know, although considering that in Cole's last appearance on the TV series he was unable to be seen by Phoebe and Paige, I am not expecting him to return to the real world. I am wondering how he will factor into Neena's eventual destruction by the sisters, if of course they do destroy her. There is still so much we do not know about her so at this point so it will be interesting to find out how Cole reacts to everything which has been happening with her.

Artwork wise, the art was much better than Issue #8's art which was horrendous in most places. Dean Kotz's work wasn't the best art the Charmed series has seen but it was an improvement on the last artist and by the end of the issue I felt like he did a good job, particularly on the scenes involving Piper in The All which were also coloured beautifully. There were some really nicely drawn scenes, The All was impressive as was a scene in the manor where Leo looked out of the window. Character likenesses were okay, I think Piper was the sister who looked the most like her TV counterpart (although the artists generally do a good job with Paige as well). I wasn't overly keen on character poses, especially when someone was pointing and there's a really awkward image of Paige standing in the first panel of the comic. But the art definitely improved as the issue went on, and as I understand this artist is returning to do another issue, so hopefully when he does come back the art will be more like his good work than his bad.

Overall, Charmed #9 offered up some amazing revelations, answered some questions but also offered up more. I loved the pacing of this one, it was very explanatory heavy but the issue seemed to move fast without skimming on any important details. The artwork was better than I had expected from looking at the previews Zenescope released last week but there were still several issues I hope will be overcome the next time we see this artist. If you haven't been following the Charmed comics then now would be a good place to start as after quite a slow build up, the comics are finally starting to come into their own and I hope this is a sign of things to come.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Grimm Fairy Tales: The Dream Eater Saga #0 Review

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer: Raven Gregory
Story: Raven Gregory, Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco
Artist: Anthony Spay
Release Date: 4 May 2011

Issue 0 of 12. Calie's back! Along with the rest of your favorite heroes and villains from Wonderland and Neverland, Salem’s Daughter and Sinbad…and the rest of the Grimm Universe. The Zenescope Crossover event of the year starts off here in this low priced prelude issue that kicks off the biggest event in the history of the Grimm Fairy Tales universe. What is the Dream Eater? Where does it come from and what does it want? The answers will change the foundation of the Grimm universe forever and not everyone will make it out alive. The first ever Zenescope company crossover that goes through ever single Zenescope title begins this month!!! Don't miss out on the biggest event of the summer! (From

Grimm Fairy Tales: The Dream Eater Saga begins here with Issue #0 and will run throughout various other Zenescope titles. I have never read an issue of the publisher’s main title –Grimm Fairy Tales – although I am currently following the title’s spin-off Myths and Legends. However this issue appears to be a perfect introduction to new readers as we are introduced to the mythology of the story, such as the Dark One and the Book which demons are seeing out for a reason we do not know yet. Also, the character of Baba Yaga is introduced, who from scanning the character bio section at the back of the comic appears in the Grimm Fairy Tales series as seeing revenge for the events which happened in this issue – the murder of her mother and village.

Story wise there is a lot going on in these 12 pages. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting so much to happen and I was prepared for a lot of backstory and set-up however both of these are dealt with in this issue while not bogging down the pace of the story and we are quickly introduced to the mythology of this world – The Realm of the Mist – and its characters, namely Baba. There are some things which are set up for the rest of the story however at this particular moment it is difficult to predict where the story will go next as we have yet to actually meet The Dream Eater. Although he is mentioned, he is never seen but it is revealed that a page that Baba’s mother tore out of the book which was eventually stolen from her contains information on The Dream Eater, so hopefully we will get an appearance in the next issue.

The artwork is brilliantly done, and fits perfectly with the mythical nature of the story. There are a lot of soft colours and vivid purples and reds which work really well. Also the artist Anthony Spay does a stellar job with the pencils, characters are well drawn and their expressions particularly of Baba on page four when she finds the book are executed perfectly. The action scenes are clear to understand and dramatic enough, there’s one particular image on page 8 in which Baba looks upon her dead mother which is horrifying but drawn perfectly to give such an impression. One thing that did slightly annoy me was the way in which Baba’s mother was drawn to be wearing very revealing clothing and had a very large chest. I know Zenescope are famous for their sexy and often over the top presentation of female characters, but I just felt here it was not appropriate or needed.

Overall, this book offers up an abundance of fantasy, action and a dramatic introduction to a major cross-over event which is sure to be a hit with readers – and it’s only the prelude. As a relatively new reader to the Grimm universe I am excited to see where this story will go and how other characters will factor into the story. If the rest of the issues can retain the momentum of this one in terms of story and artwork, then I think, as predicted by Zenescope, it could be one of the most exciting comic projects of the year. If you like fantasy and magic and you don’t mind women with ample chests and very little clothes gracing your comic pages, then I’d recommend picking this one up.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, 16 May 2011

True Blood #6 Review

Publisher: IDW
Writer(s): Mariah Huehner, David Tischman
Story: Alan Ball with Kate Barnow, Elisabeth Finch
Artist: David Messina
Release Date: 29 December 2010

Sookie, Bill and co. have been trapped inside Merlotte's by a demon who forces them to admit their deepest, darkest secrets because he wants to feed on their shame. At this point in the story, Sookie, Sam, Eric, Tara, Jason and Lafayette have all shared their secrets, and now its Bill's turn who reluctantly agrees to tell of how he killed an innocent midwife in 1866 shorty after he became a vampire.

I realise that this review is somewhat out-of-date now considering IDW is currently publishing its new monthly True Blood series, however I only finished reading this issue last night, after what has been an arguably difficult read to get though. While I love True Blood, it's one of the best things on TV at the moment, especially in genre TV, this first comic series based on the show for me has always been quite stiff and forced. I frequently got the impression that this comic was being released simply for the sake of it, rather than it being anything that enhanced the True Blood universe. Now, I know publishing a comic based on a TV series that is as serialised as True Blood could be difficult because of how closely linked the episodes and seasons are, but all the way through this comic series, there was nothing which I felt was gripping enough or as interesting as it could have been. Which is a shame considering that the story allowed for a lot of exploration into the characters' pasts.

However, regarding this issue, things do pick up slightly as we reach the conclusion of the story. Bill finally tells his most shameful secret and Ted the Imp Shaloop which has been holding the group hostage also lets us into his past which reveals a surprising link with Eric which allows for a dramatic attack on Eric before the group are finally released from the bar. The ending then comes (very quickly) which seems to spring out of nowhere almost as if the writers knew they were running out of time and needed to finish up. Ted agrees to let them go, but Sookie being Sookie does a bit of sticking her nose in and discovers that Ted is also fearful of another Imp Shaloop. This was one of my favourite moments of the comic because it was very true to Sookie's character, she's never afraid to confront anyone even if that person is some kind of "squid thing" and she does it with sass and attitude.

Which is one thing this comic does well - the characters always appear to be in-character, a commendable feat for this book because often in tie-in media, characters can sometimes slip into acting out-of-character due to other writers not knowing them well enough. However, everyone here acts and talks like they do on screen (although Bill's old fashionedness is often over exemplified and Tara does drop as many F-bombs as you would expect). It's just a shame everything ends as quickly as it does because just as we get some interesting information about Ted and the fact that another Imp Shaloop is after him, the story ends. Although it does so with a cliffhanger (just as the TV show always does) and I'm wondering if this will factor into the TV series or future comics at all.

How the characters look on the other hand is another matter. The art in this book was not something I ever connected with, especially with how Sookie has been drawn, I hope poor Anna doesn't see this because Sookie is draw pretty much always looking very manish. The colouring is also distracting and it does the book no favours, it's very plastic looking at times. There are flashback scenes included which are draw with much more style which vary from cartoonish to quite dark and rough. I was instantly more impressed with the art of the flashbacks than I was with the main art.

Overall, this was a book which I had, and still do after completing this issue, mixed feelings about. While I love the fact that True Blood is further being explored, I think IDW need to consider stories which actually are fun and fit with the campy, over the top nature of the show because while an interesting read which delves into the characters' pasts, this series has not being that thrilling and missed a lot of what makes the TV show good. However, if you are a fan of True Blood then I think it is worth a read even if it just serves as a filler while you wait for the new season. And as the book in its entirety is now available in Trade Paperback form you can sit down and read it from start to finish and get the whole story at once, which I think would be more beneficial to the story as it it set over one night so reading one issue each month probably didn't do the pacing of the story any favours. The artwork isn't necessarily the best I've seen, and the story is fairly weak, but I am happy that True Blood is getting the comic treatment and having more insight into the characters' backgrounds is always nice, despite the fact that I doubt anything will ever come of it on screen.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Brimstone #1 Review

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Michael Kent, Brian McCarthy
Artist: Hyunsang Michael Cho
Release Date: 11 May 2011

I had very little idea of what this comic was about prior to reading it, however as it was being published by Zenescope Entertainment, a company who I have grown somewhat fond of since it began publishing the Charmed series, I decided to give it a go. And I was very happy with myself for doing so, because Brimstone #1 is a fantastic introduction to this new series.

The basic premise of the story involves a group of miners in 1864 who are located at the Brimstone Mining Oupost in Nevada during the Civil War. The miners then wake up some kind of Native American spirit which inevitably leads to their deaths. Enter our 'Men of Action' - a group of men each involved in some kind of criminal activity of one sort or another who are sent to Brimstone in order to answer a cry for help from the miners.

Before I go on to review the story, I want to mention the artwork of Brimstone #1. It is stunning, with each panel looking more like a painting than a scene from a comic book. The artist Hyunsang Michael Cho has complimented the story brilliantly with the art. This style of artwork really fits with the rustic, old West feel of the book and it is some of the most innovative and beautiful art I have ever seen in a comic. The characters are captured with detail and the action shots are wonderfully rendered which makes the action scenes very easy to follow while at the same time looking incredibly impressive.

Moving onto the story, again I was impressed. Each of the characters are introduced fairly quickly, and we get a small snapshot of who they are and what their backgrounds are, although I fully expect some strong character development, particularly with 'The Viper' who appears to have taken lead of the group. The characters work well together and they each bring a different 'skill' to the table. However, as this is the first issue there is a lot of introductory ground to cover, so just as the story gets going we are hit with the 'To Be Continued' although after this issue's impressive set up, I imagine a lot of readers will return for Issue #2 due out next month. The cliffhanger we are left on is a suitable one, introducing our final character, who I am assuming is the woman on the front of Greg Horn's cover (see above image) but I guess we'll find out next month.

Overall, Brimstone #1 is a stellar introduction to a story which appears to be unlike anything Zenescope have ever published in the past. The gritty, rustic nature of the story is reflected perfectly in the artwork and I suppose my only gripe with this issue is that there could have been more of an insight into what exactly was awoken by the miners at the start, although that is likely to be something which will be revealed over the course of the series. Brimstone #1 comes with high recommendations, especially if you are looking for something slightly different to what else is on offer by the publisher.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, 13 May 2011

Charmed: Volume 1 Review

Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Writer(s): Paul Ruditis, Raven Gregory
Artist(s): Dave Hoover, Marcio Abreu, Novo Malgapo
Release Date: 15 February 2011

Debuting in 1998 on the now defunct WB Network, Charmed went on to become one of the most popular and long-running fantasy television shows of recent times. The story focused on a simple premise; three sisters who were also witches whose destiny was to protect the innocent and combat the forces of evil as The Charmed Ones. Charmed eventually came to an end after eight years in 2006, but now after quite some time in the pipeline, Charmed is back in comic form thanks to Zenescope Entertainment.

Charmed seems to fit with Zenescope’s brand of beautiful women and fantasy with ease and the only surprising thing about this release is that nobody thought of it earlier. As this book shows, although on screen Charmed appeared to have run its course, in comic book form the series has been given a new lease of life and the adventures of the Halliwell sisters looks to be far from over yet.

This volume contains the following issues:

Issue #1 - Charmed Lives
The sisters are enjoying their lives away from fighting demons, however magic still remains a part of their lives with Piper and Phoebe's daughters coming into their powers and Paige teaching at Magic School. Meanwhile, two mysterious enemies Neena and Hogan begin their plot to resurrect The Source.

Issue #2 - No Rest For The Wicca
Phoebe and Piper attend the funeral of their first innocent, Brittany, who has mysteriously died and reverted back to the old age she was after being attacked by the demon Javna the sisters rescued her from. Phoebe has a premonition which shows her that all of The Charmed Ones' past innocents are all in danger.

Issue #3 - Innocents Lost
The sisters attempt to figure out who is after their past innocents which leads them to Tyler Michaels, a firestarter they once helped. As the realise that they must return to fighting demons, Neena and Hogan successfully resurrect The Source.

Issue #4 - Mortal Enemies
The sisters' innocents turn against them after The Source casts a spell, sending the sisters to Magic School in order to devise a plan to stop him. Meanwhile, Piper searches for the place to open her restaurant.

Issue #5 - Unnatural Resources
The sisters go up against The Source after devising a clever plan to vanquish him forever. However, as Neena's plan comes together it appears that this is only the beginning of The Charmed Ones' return to fighting evil.

Also included is Issue #0 a recap issue which came out before Issue #1 which quickly explains the characters and all major events and storylines throughout the series. A special extra story is also included "To The Warren Born" which is a prequel story set during Charlotte Warren's pregnancy with Melinda. It appears that this may have some larger ties to the overall story than simply being an extra, but we'll have to wait and see if it is indeed part of a larger story.

Written by author Paul Ruditis, who has close connections with Charmed after writing two official guides and a handful of novels based on the series, his knowledge of the universe has to be commended. He has a firm grasp of the characters as well as the intricate history of the show something even the writers of the show often had trouble remembering. This volume has the job of reintroducing us to the sisters after the events of the series finale, Forever Charmed, which did an impressive job at wrapping up any loose ends and even giving us a glimpse into the sisters’ futures. The way Ruditis does this is by bringing back one of the sisters’ most troublesome foes, The Source, who for many seasons was one of the main Big Bads of the show. By reintroducing The Source not only does this give Ruditis the opportunity to introduce the Charmedverse to newcomers, he also manages to set up the bigger story that continues (at least) into the next arc/volume.

Although initially the story starts of fairly slow with very little happening in the first issue, once things heat up the story actually becomes very fast paced and ultimately when The Source is destroyed, impressive as the eventual execution was, seemed rather abrupt happening over the course of a single issue. That was perhaps my only gripe with this volume, in terms of story, that after a slow build up, the ending seemed to be over just as it was beginning. Luckily the return of The Source was somewhat of a foil for the even bigger Big Bad of the series who appears to be unlike anyone (or anything) the Charmed Ones have ever faced.

Artwork wise, this volume offers a mixed bag of artwork. The first three issues are done by Dave Hoover whose art when good was pretty good but when bad (which was quite often) just did not work for this comic. However, after issue three the artwork is handled by Marcio Abreu whose slightly more pencil-y style really works in the context of the story and his likeness of the actors is usually very good for a comic book adaptation of a television series. The colouring however is much more inconsistent, changing almost every issue. At first the colours were very bright and cartoonish, and then they get slightly darker before going quite soft and light again before going back to darker shades. This was something that annoyed me, especially when the colour of the characters’ hair would change colour in some cases from page to page. Hopefully this is something that will become more consistent in future issues.

Overall, Charmed: Volume 1 serves as a very good introduction (or reintroduction to fans such as myself) to the world of The Charmed Ones. Although the artwork is often mixed, the story really goes from strength to strength as the issues progress and I think Charmed could potentially be a very successful on-going series.

Rating: 3.5/5