Sunday, May 29, 2005



Sentinel #1-6 (June - November 2003)
Writer: Sean McKeever

Sentinel was one of the Tsunami titles that Marvel put out a couple of years ago, and like most of the other titles it was canceled incredibly fast. Sentinel made it to issue 12 before cancellation, though I suppose it's possible that it did well in digest format.
Juston Seyfert is just some nerdy kid. He lives with his dad and his brother in a junkyard (their mother left them) and they're dirt poor. Juston's just started high school and he's getting picked no constantly by the jocks. Brutal.
So what does he do? He hangs out with his two friends and they build battlebots to fight with (I wish I knew how to do that) and he pines after a girl who's a couple of years older then him and who, shock horror, talks to him.
Juston also has a sentinel in a shed behind his house.
It's broken and barely working, but he's fixing it up (using skidoos and other parts) because who wouldn't want a robot of their own? At first he's not sure what the robot is, but eventually he finds out that it's a mutant hunting robot. Pushed too far by the bullies at school he's going to use it for his own purpose.
McKeever does a good job of making most of the characters believable, to a certain extent. There are some parts in the high school that just don't make sense to me, perhaps because it's set in a US school. There's a separate corridor for older students? That doesn't parse with anything that happened to me in high school. Similarly hanging out with people in other grades wasn't that big a deal. Another problem I had in relation to this was that the art made the ages of the characters hard to judge. Juston's a first year at high school, so that makes him... 15? 16? What age are the bullies? They can't be older then 18 or so, but they look a lot older and bigger then Juston and his friends. Speaking of the bullies they seem ridiculously mean, more like something you'd find in fiction (heh) then something in real life. Maybe some of these problems just come from a lack of understand of American high schools, I don't know.
Apart from that I thought the writing was good. The issues usually ended on a cliff hanger that made me want to read more. And hell, I wanted to read more, I wanted to see what happened next to the characters. Their actions seemed fairly believable and the ways that Juston interacts with Jessie (the girl Juston has a crush on) and his friends and family are pretty good. There are a few bits where the technological aspects fall down (it's just a circuit board, there's piles of them lying around in the garbage) and how the hell do you rebuild a sentinel with junk anyway?
The art was pretty good, UDON studios have a nice sort of anime feel to most of the art, though I found the difference between the characters and some of the backgrounds to be sort of jarring. I wonder if there were different people assigned to drawing different aspects of the comic. That'd be interesting at least. One other complaint I have about the art is only sort of about the art and is a pretty ridiculous niggle. At one point Juston's holding up printouts from news websites about sentinels. While I'm glad that the text in the stories isn't just nonsense it has just been stolen from a news article. Kind of sketchy...
Also, sort of amusingly, while this story is set in small town Wisconsin Juston uses (ie. Google) to look up stories, and ends up printing out a story from the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail's website. Well I found it amusing...
Overall I found Sentinel to be a good read and I'll be on the lookout for the final six issues. I can't quite see how this would be an ongoing though. In a small town Juston's going to be found out to be the person controlling the sentinel fairly soon and even then I can't imagine there being that much for a boy and his robot to do in small town America (he could always go and fight supervillains, but that's not really the mood the series creates). Perhaps it's for the best that the series ended after only twelve issues.


Sunday, May 22, 2005


Fantastic Four

Recently the local library got a couple of Fantastic Four collections. They're pretty random collections, but that didn't really bother me much. With the Fantastic Four movie coming out this summer I thought it might be a good time to see how good some of the supposedly best Fantastic Four comics were.

Fantastic Four Visionaries volume 4
Written and drawn by John Byrne (except for that issue of the Thing, he only wrote it)

John Byrne is currently kind of insane, and many fans believe that he's lost his touch and the work he's currently producing isn't that good. However the comics this trade collects came out in the early eighties, when Byrne was still supposed to be good.
The back of this volume says that John Byrne did the best Fantastic Four since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had worked on the title. Pretty high praise (though, admittedly I haven't read those early issues, despite meaning to pick up the first Essential collection). However overall I was pretty underwhelmed by the stories appearing in this volume.
Perhaps it's just because I was thrown in half way through stories meant that I wasn't really seeing any of the buildup that Byrne had created. Or perhaps it's just not as good as people say it is. I won't blame this all on Byrne or anything, I mean for one thing he had to deal with the Secret Wars crossover and had to spend a couple of issues dealing with setup and fallout from that.
Overall though I'm just not that impressed. Dr. Doom shows up at least, but it didn't really seem like Doom for some reason. I'm not sure why. I do think that when Doom starting protecting the Fantastic Four from the horror he had unleashed upon them because Reed Richards wasn't there to see them fail was... ridiculous, but also sort of in character.
One part that was completely ridiculous was during the trial of Reed Richards issue. The idea is pretty good, putting Reed Richards on trial for the crimes of Galactus because Richards saved Galactus's life, and for the most part it's okay. However why do all the aliens know who Odin is? Why do they care? Odin is, at best, some Earth god who didn't create the universe or anything (I mean they're discussing Galactus who came from the previous universe), and at worst just some shape shifting alien who landed on Earth. There really doesn't seem to be much reason for the Shi'ar empire to listen to him.
The art's okay, I didn't think it was that great or anything. I think it suffers from having been recoloured and put on good paper. The garish colours of old comics just don't work well on glossy paper.
If this is the best since Lee and Kirby there must have been some pretty terrible Fantastic Four stories published for years. I will give Byrne one thing though, he was able to work fast and competently. At the time this volume came out he was writing and drawing at least two books a month (Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight, which has one issue reprinted here), that's a lot of work to do every month.
Fantastic Four volume 5: Disassembled
Writers: Mark Waid and Karl Kesel
Artists: Paco Medina and Mike Wieringo

Meanwhile Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's run on Fantastic four has been said to be the best run on the book since John Byrne's. If only I had some of the Lee Kirby stuff to compare both runs too.
Anyway, this stuff is far more recent and ties in (vaguely) with the Avengers Disassembled storyline from last year. This volume contains two distinct stories and I think that I enjoyed both of them a lot more then Byrne's work on the title.
The first story is co-written by Waid and Kesel and drawn by Medina. It deals with the Frightful Four, as led by the Wingless Wizard. What an incredibly stupid name, the Wizard is fine, but the Wingless Wizard? Who thought that up? Anyway the appearance of the Frightful Four leads to one thing I thought was pretty amusing, the Trapster (aka. Paste Pot Pete) is the only character not a member of the Fantastic Four to show up in both of these volumes.
The Wizard is sort of similar to Dr. Doom in terms of motivations. "Reed Richards has wronged me horribly in some way and I must get my revenge on him, but I must do it in a way that is fair and equitable." They're both crazy. This time the Wizard has recruited Hydroman, the Trapster, Salamandra and their daughter (five? but I thought it was the Frightful _Four_? Well, it is...). The story's pretty good for the most part, though I thought that the powers of the Wizard's daughter were just stupid. It also left a horrible dangling plot thread which I hope has been cleaned up.
The second story once again deals with alien races trying to stop Galactus. The aliens have developed technology that makes planets invisible to Galactus, but they're afraid that Galactus will use the Invisible Woman's power to counteract their technology. Okay, that's fine, but there's probably tons of other people who have invisibility powers in the Marvel Universe (I can't name any right now, but I bet there are loads!). So just killing Sue Storm won't really solve your problems that easily.
This storyline has "a great sacrifice!" and a nice twist at the end that made me curious about what's going to happen next. I don't really know enough about heralds of Galactus (or Fantastic Four comics in general I guess), so it's got me curious.
The art doesn't do much for me. I'm not that fond of the styles that either Medina or Wieringo use, so the art, while competent, doesn't really capture the Fantastic Four to me. Wieringo draws awesome tiger headed people though (see Tellos).

Overall I'd probably read more of either Byrne's or Waid's runs on the Fantastic Four if the library got it. If I had to choose I'd go with Waid (I do want to find out what happens next at the end of this volume), but I didn't like it enough to want to pay money.


Friday, May 13, 2005


Shonen Jump

Aiee! I haven't updated in forever. Not that I haven't been reading comics (or watching movies and tv shows based on comics). I just haven had spotty internet access. Hopefully I'm back now and will be updating, um, at least once a week.
Not that anyone reads this...

Anyway! The main library here just got a ton (and I mean a ton) of Shonen Jump collections. So I've been getting them out and reading them. I alrady buy Naruto from Shonen Jump (it's so good!) and enjoy One Piece whenever I read it, but I was curious about reading larger chunks of some of the other stories in Shonen Jump and some of the comics that go straight to graphic novels.

Bleach vols 1-2
by Tite Kubo
This was pretty cool. I like the art style and the story is told well. It seems really similar to, uhm, Shaman King. Ichigo Kurosaki is a sort of "tough guy with the heart of gold" that you see in manga a lot. However his family also has the abilty to see ghosts. Because he's pretty nice he ends up helping ghosts when he sees them (usually just preventing people from knocking over their graves and stuff). However his family is under attack from a Hollow (an evil spirit) and there's nothing he can do. Who can do something? Rukia Kuchiki, who fights the hollows on behalf of the soul society. Unfortunately she gets injured and tries to give Ichigo some of her power. He gets it all and must replace her and fight the Hollows until she regains her strength. The idea of fighting bad ghosts and helping good ghosts is similar to both Shaman King and Yuyu Hakusho, but I think it's done so much better here. I have only read the first two volumes, but I've got another three to read, so we'll see if it keeps up the quality. It's still not good enough to buy though...

Hikaru no Go vols 1-3
by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata
I wasn't that impressed by this the first time I read some of it in Shonen Jump, however reading the individual trades I've become addicted to it. I want to read number four! Hikaru Shindo finds an old go board in his grandfather's attic and sees blood stains on it that nobody else can. He then becomes possessed by a ghost who loves to play go. However Hikaru doesn't care about go at all, which makes the ghost incredibly sad and causing Hikaru to vomit. To prevent himself from vomiting Hikaru has to play go to appease the ghost. Starting from the begining is a lot better in this comic, Hikaru has no idea about go and neither do I, so we're both learning the rules as we go along. I can see why this comic made go incredibly popular amongst kids in Japan again. I think this reads a lot better in larger chunks like this too. However, like Bleach, I do want to keep reading it, but don't really want to keep paying for it. Hopefully the library will get more in as it comes out.

One Piece vols 3-4, 6
by Eiichiro Oda
One Piece was probably my second favourite out of all the Shonen Jump manga in the first four issues that I read. Monkey D. Luffy has a goal to become the best pirate ever, but to do that he needs a crew. One Piece is pretty silly and has Luffy running around and being an idiot ("How was I supposed to know which way North was?!") but accomplishing his goals in the end. The comic is really sort of strange though, as the "bad guy" pirates are all shown as evil and blood thirsty and so forth, clearly the villains, but Luffy, who aspires to be the greatest pirate ever, is really nice and good. I guess Luffy just wants to find buried treasure, but it still seems kind of odd. The often ridiculous character designs (characters dressed up as cats for no real reason, a guy who walks backwards all the time) and powers (stretching! splitting into parts!) only add to the appeal of this series. However I didn't think it was good enough to buy the volumes as they came out. These volumes just added to that. It's good (better then all the Shonen Jump stuff I've read other then Naruto), but not good enough. If only it was cheaper.

Saint Seiya / Knights of the Zodiac vol 1
by Masami Kurumada
This was, um, okay. I remember I saw part of the animated version on tv once and was very amused that the themesong was "I ran" (I ran so far away, I ran all night and day, I couldn't get away) as covered by... Bowling for Soup or something. The art is incredibly 80s and the plot doens't really make much sense. Why does this armour exist? What's going on? How on Earth does this comic go on for like twenty something volumes? I'm sort of curious as to where the story is going, but not enough to even bother reading the comics. I just sort of want to read plot synopsises of each volume.

Shaman King vols 1-3
by Hiroyuki Takei
I quite liked this when I first read it, but reading these three volumes in row made me lose interest. The quest to become the best shaman in the world and be able to follow communicate with spirits (like Buddha and Jesus!) is pretty interesting and the art style is awesome. But! The comic seems to degenerate quickly into a "gotta have the all" type thing of catching spirits, which I don't find that interesting. There are some cool characters (a samuraii, a Chinese warlord, a Hong Kong action movie star who mysterious died at 30 and was then reanimated to be a zombe fighter), but the way the story is told doesn't interest me that much. The comic has a gap of six months (I think), where the main character goes off and trains, but doesn't show any of the training. I'd much rather see the training then more random fights and stuff. I won't be reading any more of this.

The Prince of Tennis vol 1
by Takeshi Konomi
Wow, this was bad. It's really popular, and has at least one imitator (The Prince of Bowling), but I just didn't care. While most Shonen Jump comics are about some kid trying to become the best something (pirate, ninja, shaman, fighter, go player, whatever) in the world this one is slightly different. The main character is already the best player around. He's only twelve or something, but everytime he plays he just crushes whoever he's playing. I just don't find it that interesting. Add to this the fact that he barely even seems to be the main character (he doesn't really speak much, we dont' reallly know anything about him and he's usually shown as not that nice ) and the lousy storytelling (there are times when it seems like a page or a panel was skipped, making it hard to follow what's going on) mean I don't care what happens next.

I think that's all the ones I read recently. I avoided Yuyu Hakusho (didn't really care for it based on what I've read so far) and they didn't have vol 1 of Rurouni Kenshin, but I'll check that one out later.

There's still some Shonen Jump comics I want to check out (Mar for instance), but I wish they'd fix they're Canadian prices. They were pretty good for a while ($7.95us -> $10.95can), but now they've gone back up to $11.95. Argh! They should only be like $10! They're fun, but they read so quickly that $12 is too much. Stupid grumble grumble.

Soon! Reviews of the free comic book day comics. Or tune in today (Friday) from 4-5pm nst to hear me talk about them.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005


an apology

Wow, I haven't updated in forever.
I will blame exams, my girlfriend going to Labrador, disease and fire for this and will hopefully have more reviews soon.
You can always tune in Fridays 4-5pm nst (2:30-3:30 est) to hear reviews from myself and Rodney though.

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