robocop_vs_terminator_galleryWe’ve talked a lot about Robocop in the past week or so thanks to the rebooted movie version and the associated kinda crappy comics. However, Robocop has long been a subject here; literally in our first week of publication, I wrote a short review of Dynamite Comics’s Terminator / Robocop: Kill Human #2, where I bemoaned writer Rob Williams’s decision to have Robocop scream, “You motherfuckers!” (Shut your mouth! I’m just talking ’bout Robocop…), and pined for the 1992 Dark Horse Comics miniseries Robocop Vs. Terminator, which was written by Frank Miller, drawn by Walt Simonson, and never, ever reprinted.

Well, it seems that all this current excitement about the Robocop reboot (likely to be followed by disappointment, ambivalence, and eventually denial) has lit a fire under Dark Horse, because they have announced that they are finally reprinting the series. And not just in a quickie cash-grab trade paperback version (although as I recall, the story was good enough that even that would be worth your time and money), but in a recolored hardcover edition.

And if that isn’t enough to make you want to shout, “Shut up and take my money!” (which is still closer to authentic Robocop dialogue than Williams wrote in Terminator / Robocop: Kill Human, but that’s not the point), Dark Horse will also be releasing a “gallery edition” of the book, featuring Simonson’s original, uncolored line art.

tmp_serenity_leaves_on_the_wind_1_cover_2014-1366752312If you are a geek in the 21st Century, it is almost a prerequisite to be a fan of Firefly. The only question is when and how you got involved in the show. Here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives, we either stayed in on Fridays to watch them or we set the VCR to tape them (note for the kids: back in 2000, TiVo was a toy for the rich. The rest of us had devices called “video cassette recorders,” which could record television if you set a timer, left your cable box on the correct channel, and remembered to insert the appropriate magnetic analog physical media. Next time, I will explain the concepts of “cable box” and “magnetic analog physical media.”), and not only saw the movie Serenity twice in the theaters despite being unemployed and broke at the time, but convinced my parents to go, despite the fact that they believed that “Firefly” was a form of designer synthetic amphetamine.

So I’ve been watching Firefly since the beginning, but honestly, a lot of the comics based on the show have left me a little cold. Sure, it’s always fun to hang out with the crew again for a little while, but the stories in the comics have always felt a little disconnected from the general goings-on of the main storyline. They’re flashbacks or side jobs or something like that, so while they’re fun to read, the stakes always feel a little lower because, since they’re not part of the main throughline, you kinda know that everyone’s gonna get out all right. And it ain’t a true Joss Whedon Firefly story unless anyone could wind up dead at any time.

Well, enter Serenity: Leaves on The Wind, written by Zack Whedon with art by Georges Jeanty, which, after nine years, is the “official” sequel to the movie Serenity. It takes place weeks or months after the crew broadcast proof of the Alliance’s role in creating the Reavers at the conclusion of the movie, which means that the Alliance has resigned in disgrace, the frontier worlds have been distributed all the supplies they need to become civilized, and Malcolm Reynolds and crew have been lionized as heroes, right?

Yeah, not so much.

2012-12-30-star_wars_01Remember a little more than a year ago, when The Walt Disney Company bought the license to Star Wars from George Lucas? Who had owned the rights since its creation as a concept in 1974 through 2012, and had spent years made sure that the people creating stories in that universe were of the finest possible calibre? You know, except when he forgot to vet that rotten hack who wrote and directed Episodes 1 through 3, which nearly steered the entire franchise into a ditch? Yeah, Lucas should’ve eviscerated that rotten bastard… but I digress.

Anyway. At the time, there was a lot of speculation that Disney would take the Star Wars comic book publishing license away from Dark Horse Comics (who has held the license since the very early 1990s, when they published Dark Empire and when the only people who gave a shit about Star Wars were unfuckable members of Generation X – Hi, Kevin Smith and me in college!) and return it to Marvel Comics, who had the original license back in 1977 and held it until the late 1980s, when it was no longer cool or needed to save the company when it was in danger of going down the shitter in 1976.

However, that was all speculation, and year-old speculation at that. And it would be laughable to revisit that speculation if it hadn’t turned out to be completely and utterly true: Marvel will be the sole comic book publisher of Star Wars as of 2015.

tmp_the _shadow_vs_grendel_promo_2013313739154Since taking over The Shadow license, Dynamite Comics has come out with what seems like a Bakers Dozen worth of Shadow titles, some good, some only okay. And I have taken or left them on a title-by-title basis without really getting excited about too many of them after Garth Ennis’s initial few issues… up until now.

Dynamite and Dark Horse Comics have announced that they will be producing a crossover: The Shadow Vs. Grendel. Colt .45-wielding Vigilante Lamont Cranston versus Wagner’s fork-bladed staff-swinging master criminal Hunter Rose.

Jesus. This idea is such a gimme that I’m almost okay with it being yet another project between Wagner and Mage: The Hero Denied.

tmp_kiss_me_satan_1_cover_2013-2042378796I would like to start off my review of Kiss Me, Satan by asking a question: why is every urban fantasy hero named like an urban fantasy hero?

Seriously: other than schlub-sounding Harry Dresden (and even his last name brings images of a massive firestorm to mind) and Anita Blake (who sounds like the female lead of a 70s Norman Lear sitcom), every urban fantasy hero sounds like Mom and Dad named them in a fashion that would make them unemployable in profession that didn’t end with a hyphenated “hunter.” There’s Anton Strout’s Simon Canderous, Mark Del Franco’s Connor Grey, and even Matt Wagner’s Kevin Matchstick all sound like the kind of English language music one normally only hears in the roll of 20-sided dice. Seriously: if someone handed you a job application with the name Calliope Reaper-Jones on it, you’d thank her for her interest and call the local bunco squad as soon as she cleared the front door.

Which brings us back to Kiss Me, Satan, and its protagonist: Barnabus Black. Seriously. I mean, that’s the kind of name that you come up with after you settle on an alignment of Chaotic Neutral. Just once I’d like to see a fearless vampire hunter with a stupid sounding name, you know what I mean?

What’s that? Buffy who? Oh. Okay, nevermind.

the_star_wars_cover_1_2013989091429Reading Dark Horse Comics’ The Star Wars, the adaptation of George Lucas’s first draft of the Star Wars screenplay from back in 1974, is, if nothing else, a strange experience.

And it is strange on a couple of levels; first, there’s the simple cognitive dissonance that occurs seeing an old dude with a white beard named Luke Skywalker, a dude with a greasy Guy Gardner haircut named Darth Vader, and small two-man fighter ships called Star Destroyers. Second, it is strange because this comic is coming out about 18 years into the Internet age, and any movie fan worth a damn has already long ago downloaded one of the early drafts of the Star Wars script from Drew’s Script-O-Rama (at one time or another, the first four drafts were out there for the taking), and already knows at least some of what’s coming in this comic.

And third, having glanced at those early drafts, we know that what is coming really isn’t all that great, at least compared to the real Star Wars. After all, this is a story originally written by George Lucas, who based on the prequels, clearly caught lightning in a bottle with that final revision of the shooting draft for Star Wars, and if this was a just universe, he then would have immediately had the language center of his brain scraped away in a lobotomy-like procedure.

And you will see a lot of elements of the prequels in this comic book, with some of Lucas’s worst instincts in Star Wars storytelling on display… including a little blond moppet shouting, “Yippee!”

But on the positive side, unlike in the prequels, you will also see that little blond moppet die like a pig in a chute.

the_deep_sea_one_shot_1_cover_20131784141047If you are a fan of Lovecraftian fiction, The Deep Sea one-shot, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Tony Akins, will utterly fucking infuriate you. But not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

If you are, in fact, a fan of Lovecraft, you know the general basic tropes of the classics: a group of explorers go someplace unseen by human eyes. They find a weird city. They do something that awakens a slumbering elder god of some kind – Cthuhlu is always a favorite – whose visage and presence in the world is so utterly alien and wrong that it drives men mad to simply witness it. And then there is the implication that this awakening means the probable end of the human race. If you take that general summary and chuck in the odd racist comment, and you might as well be living in H. P. Lovecraft’s Medulla Oblongata.

Well, The Deep Sea hits all of those elements, save one. And it is the one that is the most common of those elements, and the one that makes the concluding implication of humanity’s doom a satisfying ending. And weirdly, it is the elimination of that element that makes The Deep Sea fresh and interesting despite following almost all the tropes of Lovecraftian fiction, and which will make the end of this comic book irritating to you.

Because you’re gonna want more.

shaolin_cowboy_1_promo_cover_2Artist Geoff Darrow is a personal favorite here at the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office. We’ve got a first print copy of Hard Boiled with a sketch by Darrow in it from the Boston Comic Con a couple of years ago – I walked up and waited while he was talking to somebody else, and he grabbed the issue out of my hands and started sketching in the front cover to illustrate a point to the guy, without even having to be asked – and we also have a big inked sketch of Nixon from Hard Boiled, the Big Guy from Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot, and Shaolin Cowboy.

Sadly, Shaolin Cowboy was the big gap in my actual reading of Darrow’s books. We missed it when it was initially released by Burlyman Comics back in 2005 (only one store in the area carried that imprint in any numbers, and it wasn’t our local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to stop begging the paying clientele to show me their Burlyman), and it has been pretty out of print for a while since.

However, that is now a thing of the past. Dark Horse Comics announced this week that they’ll be releasing a new installment of the story this coming October.

There aren’t a lot of details available at this point beyond that, but Dark Horse has release the first two variant covers to the series, which you can check out after the jump.

black_beetle_1_cover_2013I’ve always believed that the difference between a superhero comic book and a pulp hero story is a gun, and the willingness to use it for its intended purpose. Sure, they have costumes and gadgets and secret headquarters in common, but in the end, the gun’s the thing. Batman has a batarang, The Shadow has a gun. Iron Man has repulsor rays, The Spider has a gun. Everything else is just setting, antagonist and motivation.

If you accept that fine, bright line – and there’s no reason you necessarily should, since my own acceptance of it varies depending on what I’m reading and how much whiskey was involved beforehand – then writer / artist Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle, despite having the word “pulp” on the cover, is very much a superhero comic. The hero has a Beetlemobile, a gyrocopter backpack, and a secret headquarters… but he also defines himself as not being a killer, and he uses tranquilizer darts instead of bullets.

But he has a gun. Two of them, actually. Sweet-looking Colt M1911s that he wields and shoots two handed, like, well, The Shadow. So while this doesn’t technically meet my definition of “pulp,” it’s close enough. And it is one hell of a lot of fun… if a little light on some of the details.

2012-12-30-star_wars_01Just a few hours ago, in a town, not so far away…. I picked up my copy of Brian Wood’s Star Wars at my local comics shop, where they know me by name and keep begging me not to bring Rob there, ever again.  Getting the issue is apparently no small feat since even our fearless leader Rob couldn’t get his hands on a copy of this mutha.

Wood is tackling an interesting time in the Star Wars timeline. His focus is on the original characters during the several years between the destruction of the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, and where Empire picks up on Hoth. It truly surprises me that this period is rarely addressed, with the absolute breadth and depth of expanded universe novels, comics, cartoons, and slashfic. There’s an awful lot of un-addressed character development that takes place off-screen between the movies. Luke has gone from whiny farm boy to a confident and able fighter. Han has shed his “only looking out for number one” attitude, and emerged as a real leader within the rebellion.  Leia has transformed from a mouthy princess to… well, a mouthy princess.

Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe in spoilers…