Posts Tagged ‘Dynamite Entertainment’

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I know, I know — it’s a slow pitch right over the middle of the fucking plate. When a character like Dr. Herbert West, the Reanimator (or Re-Animator, as the film would have it) is brought back from cold storage, the headlines for a review are just too easy and too obvious — “Reanimating ‘Reanimator,'” “Back From The Dead,” “Dynamite Breathes New Life Into Cult Favorite ‘Reanimator,'””Herbert West — Reanimated!,” the list is endless. Honestly, I tried to come up with something a bit more original, but I’m not even sure it can be done.

Fortunately, the creative team for Dynamite’s new Reanimator ongoing monthly comic book series doesn’t seem to suffer from the same lack of creativity as yours truly. Writer Keith Davidsen and artist Randy Valiente jump right in head first, introducing us to new supporting player Susan Greene as she finds herself immediately out of her depth in a “drug deal gone bad” situation, only to be rescued, and then offered employment by, the not-so-good Dr. West himself, who quickly catches us up on what’s been happening  in his life — or maybe that should be lives, since our recap is an amalgamation of events  originally detailed by our guy Herb’s  creator, H.P. Lovecraft, then expounded upon cinematically by the trifecta of Jeffrey Combs, Stuart Gordon, and Brian Yuzna, and finally encompasses the works of various creators who have tried to get something going with the character in various and sundry licensed comics prior to this one — before our anti-heroes, along with a shambling undead sidekick known as The Valusian, find themselves smack dab in the middle of a war between rival New Orleans voodoo gangs. Throw in a bit of mystery surrounding the perhaps-not-so-accidental meeting of West and Greene in the first place, and what you have is breakneck-paced debut installment that never takes its foot off the gas and provides more smiles-per-page than any right-thinking person with even casual exposure to “spin-off” comics of days gone by would dare hope for.

Then again, Dynamite has been absolutely killing it with their Shaft series, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they appear to have assembled a group of creators (although I guess it’s only a “group” if we count the cover artists — yes, there are no fewer than 13 variants for this issue; I went with Jae Lee’s, as pictured at the top here) ready to knock this one out of the park, too.

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Valiente’s art style may be a bit more “cartoony” than hard-core horror fans would either hope for and/or expect, but seeing as how Davidsen is clearly taking his tonal cues for this book from Stuart Gordon’s film — which was at least as much a comedy as it was anything else — I think it fits perfectly, and everybody looks like real people, warts and all. It’s not super-stylistic and doesn’t dish up a tremendous amount of “eye candy,” but it certainly works, and has a kind of free-flowing dynamism to it that is actually quite engaging. For my part, I dug the look of this issue quite a bit.

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Still, I gotta say that it’s the story that really grabbed me the most. Davidsen, whose prior work I confess to being unfamiliar with, really nails it here, and most of the lines he feeds West are the sort you can clearly hear Jeffrey Combs delivering with relish. Overall the impression of the Reanimator that we’re left with is of a guy who’s obviously nuts, completely lacking in morals and ethics, and single-mindedly obsessive in his pursuit of less-than-noble goals — but he’s just so awkwardly charismatic that you can’t help but follow him wherever he’s going, even though you know it’s nowhere good. Bravo to our intrepid freelancer for a job very well done indeed.

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Die-hard Lovecraft fans should find plenty to like here, as well, seeing as how tantalizing hints are dropped that the larger Cthulhu mythos will be playing a significant role in the proceedings going forward, and while I don’t expect them to be dealt with in the same “high-brow” intellectual manner that we’ll no doubt be seeing in Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ forthcoming Providence series from Avatar Press, it’s a safe bet that Davidsen and Valiente won’t be playing it all strictly for laughs, either. There are some decidedly treacherous undercurrents in these waters, and we’re pretty much assured a bumpy, but ultimately pleasing, ride. I’ve seen enough already to convince me that it would be wise to stick around for the duration — and to hang on really tight.

 

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You know what they say, friends : if at first you don’t succeed —

Look, I don’t think it’s any great secret that Dynamite Entertainment’s first attempt to resuscitate Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers came up well short of being either a critical or commercial success (the same can also be said of Silver Star and Dragonsbane), but I give them points for both recognizing what was wrong, and taking steps to steer the course of the ship in the proper direction. The end result being, of course, yet another first issue for our titular Captain Victory along with Major Klavus, Orca, Mister Mind, Tarin, and their ilk — with the added advantage that this time, so far at least, they seem intent on doing right by this remarkable cast of characters by resisting the urge to rest on their laurels and simply “update” things.

Full disclosure : I don’t give a shit what anyone says, C.V. and his crew are among my absolute favorite of The King’s creations, and I think their original Pacific Comics outing is a remarkable run packed to the gills and beyond with more heart and imagination than any 20,30,40, or even 50 comics you’ll find on the racks these days. Yeah, sure, it was largely slagged off at the time of its release, but a dedicated few did seem to “get it,” and those numbers have grown in recent years thanks to insightful critical reappraisals popping up all over the internet (special nod here to James Romberger for leading that charge). In short, Jack’s Captain Victory is not just a good comic, but a great one, and if you don’t believe me, pick up the back issues — which are easy enough to obtain at reasonable prices — and find out for yourself.

When Dynamite first relaunched the book in the wake of their highly-successful Kirby : Genesis a couple years back, then, I was generally optimistic about the series’ prospects — but it quickly ran out of gas and devolved into pretty standard space-opera fare. Everyone’s heart seemed to be in the right place, but they were too busy walking on eggshells trying to “modernize” Jack’s work for a contemporary audience while being careful not to rock the boat too much and thus upset the old-timers. It was a no-win situation for all involved, and when the book disappeared after less than a year, it was no great loss. But some things are just too fucking awesome to remain on the sidelines forever.

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Enter Joe Casey, a guy whose work I generally find to be up-and-down,  quality-wise (for two recent cases in point I offer up the fact that I thoroughly enjoy Sex but found The Bounce to be an unfocused, nearly-unreadable mess), but who at least seems to understand that the real root of the Kirby ethos isn’t about fealty to the past, but about always pushing yourself in new directions, even if you sometimes fail. Jack was a consummate innovator to his last breath and in order to do right by the fruits of his boundless imagination, you have to be willing to keep pushing and prodding them in new and unexpected ways.

Without giving away too much, suffice to say that the story for the first issue of the new Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers, which marks the opening salvo of a who-knows-how-may-part epic entitled “Fire Bomb Kill Dead,” does exactly that. It’s bold, brash, and big, in the best Kirby style, but apart from some fun dialogue-based cues and the like in the script and some nifty homages in the artwork, it’s all about breaking entirely new ground with these characters and concepts. It’s full-throttle from the word go, and while the action does, in fact, pick up precisely where the last C.V. series left off, no knowledge of that book is necessary to enjoy the proceedings here — just an ability to re-connect with your heart and mind to the child-like sense of wonder and awe that all of Jack’s works inspired (and still inspire).

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As far as the art goes, it’s a pleasing smorgasbord of contrasting styles from three different ,and equally talented, penciller/inkers recruited to the project by Casey himself. Nathan Fox handles the majority of interior pages and provides the cover, while a couple of shorter scenes with different story emphases are  handled by Jim Rugg and Ulises Farinas, respectively. All these artists have a decidedly “non-mainstream” approach and no apprehension whatsoever about bringing their boldly different visual stylings to a world that less ambitious folks would probably try to render in as uniform a manner as possible (see the previous series).  All in all, everyone involved with drawing this book seems to understand that the best way to honor Jack’s legacy is by being unafraid to be themselves. In other words, they know that imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery when it comes to The King — innovation is.

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This week was a rarity in the world of comics these days — there were actually a lot of good books released from all the major and minor “players” in the industry (yes, even Marvel, since this is the week that both Moon Knight and Superior Foes Of Spider-Man came out). Alan Moore has two comics on the racks (okay, yeah, one of ’em is a reprint, but so what?). The third issue of Howard Chaykin’s new Shadow hit the stands. Nightworld look like a fun homage to Kirby in its own right from Image. But this new take on Captain Victory is easily the best thing to come down the pipeline this week, and as long as Casey, Fox, and their other collaborators keep firing on all cylinders like this, I feel very confident in stating that will continue to be the case month in and month out for as long as this series is running — which will hoefully prove to be quite awhile. Hold on tight! This! Is! The! Big! One!

 

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I’ll admit, I was as psyched as anyone when I heard that Dynamite Entertainment had acquired the rights to the dormant Gold Key characters, and that they were assembling an “all-star roster” of creators to helm the various titles they were planning — and I guess my inner nerd is still looking forward to the debuts of the new versions of Magnus, Robot Fighter and Doctor Solar — but if the premier  issue of the range’s first title, Turok:Dinosaur Hunter is any indication, we could be in for something of a bumpy ride here.

It’s not that writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak have fired off an actively lousy opening salvo here, mind you, it’s just that — well, it’s hard to fathom exactly what’s going on in the book, and characterization is so minimal that we’re left to scratch our heads about why exactly we should even care. It’s a very scant piece of work, all in all, that drops us right into the middle of a situation with no backstory , and the skeletal plot is miles away from providing us with any reason to keep shelling out four bucks month after month to obtain answers to any and all of the questions that will inevitably arise when actual details are this absent from the proceedings.

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As near as I’m able to discern, here’s what’s happening : at some unknown point in the past, Turok finds himself on the outs from his unnamed Native American tribe for reasons that are entirely unspecified. Then some flying dinosaurs apparently known as “thunder lizards” attack and Turok has to decide whether or not to help out the very people that have banished him. Then real trouble arrives in the form of European settlers. The end.

I assure you, the actual issue itself doesn’t take much longer to read than that “quickie” synopsis did. I get that minimalist dialogue is a hallmark of just about any Greg Pak script, but come on. At least clue us in as to why our giving a shit matters.

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On the art front, Colak’s pencils and inks aren’t by any means bad, but there’s nothing too terribly special going to distinguish them from much of the bog-standard super-hero and action/adventure fare weighing down the shelves at your LCS. His works achieves the level of “competent enough” from the outset and never really rises above that throughout. It’s clean and reasonably sharp and easy enough, I suppose, on the eyes, but so is most of what’s out there these days. I believe “thoroughly uninspired” is a fair summation of the state of artistic affairs here.

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This being a Dynamite publication and all, 1,001 variant covers are the order of the day, and I’ve reproduced the ones done by Bart Sears, Jae Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Sean Chen, respectively, to give you some idea of the multitude you have to choose from, but then, I have to admit that I’d be hard-pressed to offer up any actual reason to buy even one of these, much less several. Turok:Dinosaur Hunter was a strictly “one and done” purchase on my part, unless some seriously positive buzz begins emanating from some other quarters about how good successive issues end up being. I’m not holding my breath.