Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5

By Juan C Pineda

Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5

Writer:Andrew Chambliss, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon
Penciller: Cliff Richards
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorist: Michelle Madsen

Another Whedonverse property has been given the comic book treatment, Dollhouse. If you were young and foolish, you probably are not aware of the TV show this comic book is based on because it aired Friday nights at 9pm on FOX. If for some reason you were home on Friday nights then you might have blinked and missed it, it aired from February 13, 2009 until January 29, 2010 for a total of 27 episodes.
Let’s say you are like me and you just got some fancy new DVR technology and decided to watch a few episodes because: a) it spawned from the mind of Joss Whedon b) it stars Whedon stalwart and nerd goddess Eliza Dushku c) Eliza Dushku d) see b and c So for the benefit of those who aren’t like me and actually had a life on a Friday night or didn’t waste precious hard drive space on a DVR, let me sum up the premise of Dollhouse. The Rossum Corporation runs several establishments called Dollhouses. Inside a dollhouse are “dolls”, people who have temporary personalities and skills imprinted into their brains for hire. Wealthy clients would go to Rossum to hire a doll for different purposes…from what you would automatically assume would be the first thing you would do to a doll that looked like Eliza Dushku to other nefarious purposes. When dolls are not on the job, their minds are wiped cleand and they live in the Dollhouse as a blank slate, just wandering around like a little child until the next gig comes along.

People volunteer to become Dolls for five years in exchange for money and other incentives while their original personalities are stored on hard drives. Dushku’s character is named Echo, prior to being made into a Doll she was Caroline Ferrell. She uncovers Rossum Corporation’s shenanigans and tries to bring down Rossum until she was captured and made into a Doll. Echo then becomes their most popular Doll. However, since she is the hero of the show, she develops self-awareness and is able to retain skills and memories after supposedly being wiped clean. She then tries to bring down the evil Rossum Corporation and their Dollhouse operations around the world. I didn’t stick with the series long enough; I just wasn’t hooked on the premise. I thought that if our hero is trying to bring down the evil corporation and would be successful then how long can these shows last? If there is no more Dollhouse, then no more Dolls and no more show, right?

So when I got the chance to review Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5, I was really lost. I had to read it twice. The first time to just read it…then realize I don’t know what the heck was going on or who half these characters were…then the second time after doing some research and refreshing my memory on the characters and plotlines on the show. I was still lost though. Dark Horse’s Dollhouse: Epitaphs comic book series bridges events between the main tv series and two TV episodes; “Epitaph One,” an
unaired episode that was released only on the Season One DVD and “Epitaph Two: Return” which served as the series finale. It turns out that Rossum’s imprinting technology led to the Apocalypse. In the year 2020 the technology has gone viral, turning everyone into mindless killers. The fifth and final issue of the series opens with Wash and Trevor finding Echo. Wash was the main villain of the TV series but now he is a good guy, as he explains to Echo. Trevor is a little kid that Wash implanted with technology to block any imprint attempts. Meanwhile in Hollywood, another group is trying to bring down the broadcast tower that is behind the Hollywood sign. It really isn’t fair for me to comment on the writing team because I came in so late. It would be like criticizing a movie based on the last 20 minutes. The dialogue was natural even though I had no idea what they were talking about. The artwork however I can comment on. Cliff Richards can draw Eliza Dushku as Echo, sometimes Alan Tudyk as Wash and Felicia Day as Mag but it really seems like he is copying their likenesses from headshots. Sometimes it doesn’t quite hit the mark on a medium or long shot. There isn’t any real distinction between male characters on a long shot, they all look generic unless in a close up. A couple of panels, I couldn’t distinguish between Wash and Paul Ballard even when close up. But then again…I’m lost because of being unfamiliar with these guys.

The art team is tasked to draw a post apocalyptic world, but their backgrounds don’t have much weight or substance to them. It looks like they are running around in an Ed Wood movie with cardboard cut outs for scenery. I was surprised where Whedon (Jed, not Joss) and wife Maurissa and Andrew took the premise of Dollhouse. If I had known they were going towards an apocalyptic disaster, maybe I would have stuck with the TV show until the end. Dollhouse had decent ratings, averaged about 4 million viewers the first season, 2 million the second season, which is way more than most comic books so there has to be a market for this series out there. So there has to be a Dollhouse fan out there that doesn’t know that there are further adventures in comic book form. I think they would totally love to see what happens. If you know of any, give them a heads up. Fair warning though, from what I gathered Echo doesn’t appear until the last couple of issues of “Dollhouse: Epitaphs” so they might be disappointed. If you’ve watched the entirety of Dollhouse but didn’t know about the Dark Horse series, pick it up and
the back issues, I think you will dig it. And feel free to email me any smacks upside the head for missing out on it. However, if you were like me, a casual Dollhouse TV show watcher but a hard drive full of Eliza Dushku pics, you may skip this series. Otherwise you’re going to be wandering around the wasteland with a blank slate like I was.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine #3 “Firefall Part III” review

By Juan C Pineda

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine #3 “Firefall Part III”
Script: Andrew Chambliss
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Michelle Madsen

I like Joss Whedon’s work. I may even consider myself  a Joss Whedon fan…wait, is there a name for Whedon fans? Whedoners? Whedonites? Whedonoes? Either way, I would faithfully run home to watch “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” on Mondays and then Tuesdays nights on the WB and loyally jumped to the UPN when Buffy switched networks. Life was difficult before DVRs, my friend. But when the series ended after seven seasons in 2003, I didn’t keep up with the Scoobies in comic book form, despite the fact Dark Horse had been publishing BtVS comics since 1998. Fortunately for ardcore…Whedonists…Dark Horse continued the TV show in a comic book series they called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight”, providing the further adventures of Buffy, Dawn, Xander, Willow and others. It picked up where the TV show ended in stories that can be considered canon, because fans love it when things are officially canon.
But somehow I missed all 40 issues. I am not making a strong case for myself as a…Whedonologist.
Lucky for me, Dark Horse is still creating Buffy comics in a new series called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine” and now I can find out what has happened to my favorite slayer family since the end
of the TV series. Let’s see what I can gather from reading “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine” #3 “Firefall, Part III”…magic is gone from the world because Buffy destroyed something called the Seed in Season 8, therefore Willow is powerless as are all the other slayers and they all hate Buffy. Xander and Dawn are now romantically together. Buffy is continuing to slay vampires but this attracts the attention of the San Francisco Police and now she is a wanted fugitive and no one is willing to hide her. Wait! What? Xander and Dawn are now together? Ew. I missed a lot. So Buffy has to slay vampires in a world where vampires are cool (thanks Twilight!) and people are volunteering to become fanged. But
with the lack of magic, the newly sired vampires are more vicious, so Buffy calls a Scooby Gang meeting to figure out how to deal with the consequences of her actions from Season Eight. Although Buffy may now be alone, she may get help from Severin an enigmatic dude with seemingly magical powers.
Oh and look, Spike is here too. He hears that someone is going after Buffy…really Spike? That shouldn’t be news to you.
BtVS:S9 #3 did a good job of bringing me up to speed on the status of the Buffyverse, color me intrigued. The story, despite it being part 3 of a 4 part storyline, is a good jumping on point for those familiar
with the TV show. The dialogue could have easily been filled with exposition but it flows. Sometimes it reaches for that familiar Whedon trademark of quick quips and witty banter, however writer Andrew
Chambliss (Dollhouse, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Vampire Diaries) keeps his own voice and is able to keep a good rhythm throughout the issue.

Handpicked by Joss Whedon, Artist Georges Jeanty has been working on Buffy since Season Eight, so his likenesses of the characters are spot on to their TV counterparts. This is especially important to a licensed property and it added to my enjoyment of reading the series. This particular issue didn’t have any fight scenes so I can’t comment on how he handles those but for a story where it’s mostly people
talking, Georges did an excellent job of storytelling.
So for me, a Whedontot and a Buffy fan, I was intrigued and entertained to see how Buffy had been doing (not so good actually, life is rough for her, as usual) Season Nine is set to run 25 issues so get in on it while it’s still early. I recommend picking this up if you are a Buffy fan, it still maintains the feeling of the show. If you’re not familiar with Buffy, give it a try. She still is a strong character, fleshed out and re-boot free. Although I would probably recommend one of the trades from Season Eight so you can read a complete story arc. However if you are expecting some gratuitous T & A, move on folks…nothing to see here. So get it, read it and pass it on, if you have a friend who is a big Buffy fan but they never read Buffy comics, or comics in general, this would be a great way to introduce them to the medium.

Defenders #1 Review

Defenders #1

By Rob Base

Even the D-team can become the A-team!

One comic series that I was always a huge fan of was The Defenders mainly because of Dr. Strange, the master of black magic. I’ve always felt that when reading a comic series like The Defenders that you were different. Who would read a comic series with a list of basically unknowns? With the exceptions of The Incredible hulk and Namor, The Defenders’ lineup was pretty minimal with the likes of Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Hellcat, Gargoyle, Beast, Daimon Hellstrom and Power Man taking up the remainder of the team slots. This never bothered me. In fact, it made the comic book seems so unusual. The strength of this title has always been on “how do you run a superhero group without guys like Captain America or Ironman?”

Marvel’s newest incarnation of the group redefines what we once understood. So, what makes this book ready to read? First, it is written by Matt Fraction (The Invincible Iron Man, The Immortal Iron Fist Casanova, Uncanny X-Men) and drawn by Terry Dodson (Harley Quinn, Uncanny X-Men, Wonder Woman, vol. 3). This, to me, is a perfect matchup on its own. What was said about the new book is that Doctor Strange, Red She-Hulk, Namor, Hulk, the Silver Surfer and Iron Fist join forces with a number of other Marvel heroes on a globe-trotting, dimension-hopping adventure to stop an ancient conspiracy that threatens the unimaginable.

Does that explanation set up what we read in the first issue?

The first few pages show some messed up imagery and story that can only be said as “what if nightmares come true?” This sets the stage very quickly, wasting little to no time re-establishing the characters and getting right to the blunt of it. Doctor Strange is in bed after having a “Barney Stinson one wild-night stand!” These pages show Strange in a different light, seemingly complaisant and maybe even a little lost in his life. He, then, is approached by the Incredible Hulk, who comes to the aid of his former Defender allies. With this, Strange sets out to get his group together. This group brings back The Sub Mariner: Prince Namor and a very “Doctor Manhattan like” Silver Surfer. The rest of the group is filled with first timer Red She Hulk, and no group would be complete without Iron Fist. Even though it seems as if Iron Fist is being used for the super cool jet, he is in as the team heads off to Europe in search of Wundargore Mountain.

Issue #1 really brings back the old fashion team book. The premise of “we need to hook up, help stop the ghost of the Hulk” or something like that, and BAM superhero action a plenty. If I can be negative about anything is that the comic’s pacing seems a bit rushed, but is made up for by sheer wonderful dialogue and good ol’ non-stop action.

This book is a must buy. Comic book teams tend to be so convoluted nowadays that the Defenders seems like a breath of fresh air! Any book that has Doctor Strange as the leader of the group is a book that will always be on my buy list.

#0 Dead Man’s Run-Review

By Bill Liston

Dead Man’s Run is a new series by writer Greg Pak (The Incredible Hulk, Magneto Testament, Red Skull:Incarnate) and penciler Tony Parker (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) The Comic is brought to you by Aspen Comics and Valhalla Entertainment.  Aspen sums up the story as a “Jailbreak from Hell”.  “Hell” is set at Andrew Jackson Federal Corrections Facility in California. Wasting no time, we are quickly introduced to Captain Romero (the lead guard), The Warden (a mysterious woman ten miles below “the pyramid”), Sam Tinker (the cartographer) and Juniper (Sam’s only sister).  Captain Romero (who has a dark past) has orders to get to the first level under the pyramid known as the “City of Corruption”.  While Romero dominates this issue, Tinker and Juniper will have a larger role as well.  The set up from Apsen’s site mentions that Tinker’s goal will be to rescue Juniper who is the only innocent in Hell.

Issue #0 is a short 12 page book but sets up the basic premise of the series quite nicely.  Pak’s writing is excellent delivers an issue that will want you wanting more.  Another real highlight of this issue is the artwork of Tony Parker.  The “reveal” of hell is absolutely beautiful as are the rest of the Hell scenes.  I haven’t seen any of Parker’s other work, but his artwork is vibrant and stunning.

Issue #1 hits your local comic store on Jan 4th.  I highly recommend you pick up this preview issue to get you up to speed. One thing is certain.. it will be one “Hell” of a ride. You can preview this issue here

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Milk and Cheese – Dairy Products Gone Bad Hardcover Review

By Chuck Suffel

Milk and Cheese – Dairy Products Gone Bad Hardcover by Evan Dorkin

From the Dark Horse site: “A carton of hate. A wedge of spite. A comic book of idiotic genius. The Eisner Award-winning dairy duo returns in this deluxe hardcover collecting every single stupid Milk and Cheese comic ever made from 1989 to 2010, along with a sh*t-ton of supplemental awesomeness. This has everything you need! Don’t judge it–love it! Or else!”

This is another one of those books I’d heard of but never got my hands on, so getting the chance to review the new hard cover from Dark Horse was ideal. I’d love to be able to give some sort of parallel with another humor book or strip but Evan Dorkin really has created something unique. Milk and Cheese have been around since 1989, the two anthropomorphic dairy products gone bad are rude, offensive, angry, violent and more than a little deranged. It’s one of the strangest books I’veever read, the humor is rough, the visuals are intensely violent. They attack and destroy everything they hate and they seem to hate everything. There’s a ton of social commentary here but it is really hidden well within the stupid jokes and violent outbursts. If you’re already a fan of Milk and Cheese this book is a must, it’s 240 pages of madness! You’ll want to leave this beautiful hardcover on
your coffee table to amuse your friends and annoy your family.
A small word of warning though, if you’ve never experienced Milk and Cheese before, if you aren’t familiar with their signature style of eye gouging brick throwing blunt object wielding lunacy proceed with caution, and be prepared to witness something the likes of which you’ve never seen before.

They are Milk & Cheese!

“We bust up a lot of stuff and accomplish nothing.” “It is swell” (Milk and Cheese “War on Drugs” copyright 1989)

Evan Dorkin is a comic book writer best known for “Milk and Cheese” and Dork. He has also written for animation called Welcomd To Eltingville on Adult Swim check him out on Twitter @evandorkin, His Blog http://evandorkin.livejournal.com/ or the website he shares with his wife Sarah Dyer http://www.houseoffun.com/

Just for you fans here is Welcome To Eltingville Pilot

Publication Date: November 23, 2011 Format: B&W w/ 24 color pages, 240 pages, HC, 7″ x 10″ Price: $19.99
Age range: 12 ISBN-10: 1-59582-805-2 ISBN-13: 978-1-59582-805-7

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Usagi Yojimbo #141 Review

By Chuck Suffel

Usagi Yojimbo #141 Created, Written & Illustrated by Stan Sakai

This issue is quite a milestone as it marks the two hundredth appearance of Usagi in his own comic illustrated by Stan Sakai. I’ve read this title once or twice in the past but until this issue I don’t think I ever gave it the chance it deserved. Sakai drafts a simple yet compelling story one we think we’ve read before, it feels so familiar, but in lending it his voice he changes it, makes it mean something different. It’s a very personal and symbolic issue and one I’m sure it felt wonderful to write.

For the un-indoctrinated Miyamoto Usagi is a Ronin (masterless samurai), traveling the “warriors pilgrimage” as yojimbo (bodyguard for hire). He is also an anthropomorphic rabbit. As I said the story is quite familiar, a town being terrorized by a
gang. A gang who takes what they want and kills whomever they wish. We all know how those stories play out, there’s a girl to save and her father. There were several interesting differences this time, the supporting character Masa a stone carver who has set himself to the task of carving 200 statues of Jizo (a deity who relieves suffering) in order to rid his village of this blight. And his daughter, Tomiko who despite being a beautiful damsel in distress does not become the hero’s love interest. Another interesting shift in the story away from the formula is how the bad guy gets his comeuppance. I won’t spoil it here but lets say it was more satisfying than a straight dual would have been. When you finish this issue you realize that this story has been a tribute by Sakai. To his fans to Usagi to the craft. Masa is asked if when he reaches his goal will he continue to carve his reply? “Of course– Until my hands can no longer hold the tools of my craft.” I hope that’s true Sakai because you are a master of the craft and I hope you continue it for many years to come.

Check out Stan Sakai on Facebook here  and his website here

Also a quick bio on Stan:

Name: Stan Sakai
Born: May 25th, 1953 – Kyoto, Japan. Age of two, family moved to Hawaii where he lived for the next 22 years.
Current Residence: Pasadena, California
Occupation: Cartoonist/Letterer
Training: University of Hawaii, B.F.A.; Art Center College of Design
Credits: Art/Story – Usagi Yojimbo, Nilson Groundthumper, Space Usagi, Ten Little Critters. Lettering – Groo The Wanderer, The Legend of Kamui, Spider-man Sunday Strips
Favorite Pen: Kohinoor Art Pen
Favorite Movie: Satomi Hakkenden
Major Influences: Steve Ditko, Sergio Aragones, Milo Manara, Moebius, Jack Kirby, Bill Stout, Walt Kelly, Carl Barks, and (of course) Akira Kurosawa.
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Star Wars Crimson Empire III – Empire Lost

Star Wars Crimson Empire 3 is a series that started a long, long time ago. The story was pitched in 1983 but at the time Lucasfilm didn’t  want to do any stories about the Empire’s Royal Guards. So, it was ultimately rejected.  After publishing some other Star Wars comics, in 1997 Lucasfilm finally approved the Crimson Empire Trilogy.   This book is the first of a six part series that will conclude that story.  For the final series Dark Horse brought back the original creative team to finish the job.

The Crimson Empire starts off explaining that Emperor Palpatine is dead and the last surviving clone body guard, Kir Kanos is out out to avenge his death.  We start off with The New Republic (led by Leia Organa Solo) tracking down a ship that looks to be landing on a seemingly inhabitant plant… but nothing is as it seems and it ends in a nice action panel.  We then switch to Kir Kanos being ambushed in a town which ends in confrontation and the introduction of an old friend in the Star Wars Universe.

I have to say that the pacing of this comic is nicely done in that there is a small setup,an action scene and then cuts to another part of the universe.   The transitions between each of these different aspects are the story are quite nice.  In one of the final stories, we cut to Leia being warned of impending rebellion, but she is distracted by her kids (with Han Solo) and the scene ends with Leia seemingly not taking the threat seriously.  The issue ends with Mirith Sinn (Leia’s bodyguard) trying to hand in her resignation, something that Leia rejects.  Mirith has a connection to Kia Kanos who is looking for revenge on Leia and Luke (who also makes and appearance training  young Jedi’s). So it will be interesting seeing where this story goes.

The end panel shows Kia Kanos and sets up the story for issue two. This book has everything any Star Wars fan would want and is bound to introduce characters you know and love. This series lives up to the Star Wars name.  My only criticism, so far, is that we have Luke and Leia, but even though he is mentioned, we haven’t seen Han Solo yet.(a comic book without the universe’s greatest smuggler is like Sand people not walking single file!).  I Can’t wait for his appearance in the series and will pick up issue 2 as soon as it is released.

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Bendis and Bagley’s Brilliant

Multiple Time Eisner Award Winner Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley are working on an ambitious new comic called “Brilliant”.  It is an interesting concept in that some super intelligent college kids who have cracked the code and developed superpowers.

We start off with “Amadeus” one of the college kids walking in a bank to test out his superpowers by him hypnotizing the teller into giving him all the money in the bank.  He gets the money but really has to use his powers when the bank security guard shoots him and the bullet is deflected off his cheek.  After getting shot again Amadeus retaliates and we see alarms and a “hear” the guard cry out for help.  The attack happens off screen, so I am not sure what exactly happened but it can’t be good.

We are then introduced to a dude returning to school  (after a break) called Albert.  It is Albert’s birthday and all he really wants to do is go in and relax.  Albert’s friends have other plans and are having a party for him, and we are introduced to Kindred, Izzy, Marie, and of course Amadues.

The rest of the party panels seem like just filler and really didn’t do much for me.  There is a scene where two guys in robot costumes fight that just seems really out of place and pop culture references galore from Blade Runner, Wall Street, Apple, Barbarella, which was all just kinda distracting and didn’t add much to the story.  On the plus side, even the filler panels are drawn very well.

Overall this comic is just OK,and has been compared to “Kick Ass” with college kids but with them actually having superpowers.  Good concept and I will give it another try in issue two, but when you title your book “Brilliant” you are really setting yourself up for high expectations.. and so far this book didn’t hit the mark for me.  That said, Brian Michael Bendis is highly praised.. and at least has me interesting in his other work.   I will probably search out his earlier work “Powers”,  until the next issue of “Brilliant” hits stands.   But I really hope the next issues lives up to the title.

Issue 1 is out now and issues 2 is expected to be released Nov. 23rd.

B.P.R.D – Hell On Earth Russia # 2

By BIll Liston

Even though I am a huge fan of the Hellboy franchise,with my love of the films and animation. I am fairly new to the Hellboy Series as a whole.With this issue being my first book that I have read in the B.P.R.D series.The introduction page does a great job of brining you up to speed on the story thus far . Hellboy has quit the B.P.R.D, Abe Sapien has been shot and is in a coma and Liz Sherman has gone into hiding. The issue quickly picks up where issue 1 left off, with Kate Corrigan & Johann Kraus in Russia for a meeting with IOSIF.

IOSIF needs to speak with Kraus to discuss some “business”. We get a couple of pages bringing the reader  in the know about IOSIF’s background and are then introduced to a man who is being tied up and examined in a holding cell. Apparently IOSIF needs Kraus’s help with this mystery man.

Overall, it is an enjoyable book and the ending of it definitely makes me want more. Without knowing the back story leaves a new reader a little confused about what is  going on.. or if I should have read some back issues to get fully up to speed (This is what back issues are for!).

My only big criticism is the art work. There are only a few panels that really stand out. leaving you wanted more.  Regardless, I am still looking forward to issue 3 and continue with my introduction to the HellBoy Universe.

You can preview the issue here

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The Thing – The Northman Nightmare

By Bill Liston

Well the prequel of “The Thing” opened this past weekend.

I haven’t seen it yet,as I am not a big fan of the John Carpenter version. I figure it is a movie I can wait for on DVD. I recently saw that Dark Horse and Universal wrote a prequel to the new movie. I figured I would give it a try and read it.

It is set in 1121 AD in Greenland and follows a group of Vikings who’s boat is stuck in ice and they need to find shelter at a nearby village. When they arrive at the village, they discover it in shambles and only the women are around and in typical “Thing” style chaos will surely follow.

Overall this three part series is pretty good. It has an awesome cover, solid  art that fits the style that we come to expect from Dark Horse comics.And a story that actually makes me want to see the movie in the theater. The series also has great stopping points which build up into the next issue. I highly recommend you read it (especially if you are a Thing fan)

The best news is that you can read it online for free by signing up for a Dark Horse account.

Check it out here

Issue 1,    Issue 2    Issue 3

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“Movies never read this good!”