Book Review – Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880

  • Title: Steampunk Battlestar Galactica 1880
  • Author: Tony Lee
  • Artists: Ardian Syaf, Aneke
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: Dynamite Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/03/2016

This is a wonderfully fun graphic novel. Based on the late 1970s/early 1980s version of the television series Battlestar Galactica but given an awesome Steampunk twist – it’s a joy from start to finish. The only negative is the book is too short.

The characters from Battlestar Galactica are slightly changed to fit with the Victorian/Steampunk design – Adama is an Archduke, Apollo is the crown prince. Athena really kicks ass – going practically on her own to find and rescue her brother (Apollo) when he disappears in battle and is presumed dead.

Starbuck, back to being a guy as he was in the original series, has been banished – and is a free trader, aided by his half-daggit (half-human) partner, Muffit. He’s in trouble with two pirate queens – Cassiopeia and Sheba. Athena approaches him to help rescue Apollo.

Meanwhile, Baltar has destroyed Caprica with his Cyclonic automatons, then launches an attack on Gemini. Adama takes the Aethership Galactica to protect the remnants of Caprica’s population, and joins Commander Cain of the Aethership Pegasus to defend Gemini – only to discover it’s a trap, the Pegasus has been destroyed, as has Gemini.

However, Starbuck, and Athena discover Apollo, on a prison planet as well as Jolly and Boomer, now cybernetic after Baltar’s surgeries to save their lives. They also discover Iblis – who with Athena and Baltar created the Babbage Machine Lui-c-fer that controls the Cyclonics. Since Jolly and Boomer can plug in and control the giant automaton Cyclonics, and Ibilis and Athena designed the Babbage machine – they decide to take the fight to Baltar.

Meanwhile, on the Galactica, Adama is thrilled to learn his son is alive, and even welcomes Starbuck, Jolly, and Boomer back (after they were exiled by the Quorum of Twelve). Adama agrees with the plan to take the fight to Baltar.

The battle actually goes well, even though Ibilis betrays them by uploading himself to Lu-c-fer. Athena – who had designed the Babbage machine – hacks it to melt down the machine and destroy Ibilis, the Cyclonics and Baltar. She also approaches the Oviod, an insectoid species and the Colonials former enemy, and forms an alliance with them to take out the Cyclonics.

This is a highly enjoyable graphic novel, suitable pretty much for all ages. The Steampunk aesthetic and costumes are great. Tony Lee’s take on the classic characters is more in fitting with those characters than Ron Moore’s recent television remake.

The art is good, but at times very, very busy – with panels that almost seem crowded. But, on the other hand, the ship designs and the costumes are really, really good. I’d love to see another volume of this story, or to see it made into an animated film. Highly recommended.

Book Review – Star Trek The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 2

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 2
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Tom B. Long
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

**spoiler alert** Star Trek: the Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation² vol. 2 picks up where the previous volume left off, with the Borg asking Picard to help them against the Cybermen. Picard’s answer is “no, absolutely not,” The Doctor and even Amy try to change Picard’s mind, to no avail. Finally, the Doctor takes Picard in the TARDIS to a tour of his (and the galaxy’s) future if he doesn’t stop the Cybermen. After this encounter, Picard agrees to try it his way. Picard and company, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory beam down to a planet to meet the Borg. They are introduced to The Conduit, a Borg incapable of assimilating other species, who becomes an ambassador. The Conduit explains how the Borg were approached by the Cybermen, their alliance, and how the alliance broke down. He explains that the Cybermen have destroyed the Borg’s executive library, thus most Borg are now inert.

The Doctor lets Picard know that gold (especially gold dust) is deadly to Cybermen. Picard goes to get gold from the mining planet that’s home to fish people as seen at the beginning of the first volume (the Doctor does tag along on the trip and shows off his negotiating skills with the natives). Then the Doctor, Amy, and Rory return in the TARDIS to the battle of Wolf 359 – they materialize the TARDIS on a Borg ship and manage to acquire a copy of the executive library, then return to the Enterprise.

The Doctor then leads Worf, an Enterprise Security Strike Team, Amy, Rory, Picard, Data, and the Conduit on a mission to install the Executive Library back in to the Borg aboard a Cyber Armada ship. Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Geordie works to increase the Enterprise speed, and as we find out later, to develop a gold-based weapon that will work in space. Despite difficulties and an encounter with the Cyber Controller – the Doctor’s mission to restore the Borg is successful. However, they return to the TARDIS to discover the Conduit has merged with the alien intelligence of the TARDIS herself and is attempting to control it. Data stops this by briefly merging with the TARDIS and the Conduit is thrown out the TARDIS doors and into outer space. Data recovers. The TARDIS returns the Enterprise crew to their ship. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory leave the Enterprise.

I enjoyed this graphic novel. The art is beautiful, and has a painted quality. Everyone is in character, though with so many characters, some of them only get one good scene. I thought Rory was underused in this novel for example, though I liked the scene between him and Dr. Crusher where they discuss Rory being a nurse. One good point about this novel is that, although their are a lot of action scenes, they aren’t solved by fisticuffs. The security strike team does shoot at the Cybermen with specially adapted phasers, but cleverness is more highly valued throughout the story than mere violence. For example, Data helps Picard and company escape at one point by forcing open a door and holding it while everyone goes through then jumping through himself – it’s a fit of strength that reminds one of Data’s abilities. But everyone – Amy, Rory, the Doctor, Worf, Geordie, Dr. Crusher, Deanna Troi, Commander Riker, and especially Picard all get to use their talents in service to the story. Some only briefly, but they are there – which is important in a crossover.

Recommended.

Book Review – Star Trek: The Next Generation – Doctor Who Assimilation 2 vol. 1

  • Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² vol. 1
  • Author: Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Tony Lee
  • Artists: J.K. Woodward, the Sharp Bros., Gordon Purcell, Shawn Lee, Robbie Robbins
  • Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, ST:TNG Crew, Classic Trek Crew, Fourth Doctor, the Borg, the Cybermen
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Publisher: IDW Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/25/2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation crossed over with Doctor Who? Well, why not? I enjoyed this two-part crossover event graphic novel when I originally read it, and I just re-read part 1 and really enjoyed it. the ST:TNG portion of this novel starts with an attack on Delta IV by Cybermen and Borg. Meanwhile, The Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory are in Ancient Rome, in the midst of a chariot race. They survive that and return to the TARDIS, where the Doctor promises to take the young couple to San Francisco. However, it turns out the three are not in San Francisco, but in the Holodeck of the Enterprise. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken by Worf and Cmdr. Riker to Capt. Picard, and are only just starting to talk when the Enterprise receives an audio-only distress call. When the ship arrives, they are in the midst of a combined Cybermen/Borg attack. The Enterprise escapes.

The Doctor starts to have strange memory flashes, and when the Enterprise crew researches the “Cybermen” that Picard has never heard of – they find one entry from the original Enterprise, under the command of James T. Kirk. The resulting flashback features the original Star Trek crew, the Fourth Doctor, and Cybermen on a research station.

Back on Picard’s Enterprise, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are taken to Guinan. The Doctor and Guinan seem to have some sort of relationship – even though they both know they have never met, previously. And both the Doctor and Guinan are time-sensitives who seem to know something is very wrong.

In the midst of the Doctor, Guinan, and Picard’s conversation they are again called to the bridge. Data explains they had thought the combined Borg/Cybermen fleet was heading towards Earth, but it seems they are now heading in the opposite direction, having changed their minds in the middle of assimilating a planet. Sending a away party to said planet, which includes the Doctor, Rory and Amy, they find a battlefield where the Cybermen and the Borg have turned on each other. The Borg contact the Enterprise, offering a truce against their common enemy, the Cybermen. The Doctor warns against this, and Picard agrees.

To Be Continued in volume 2

The artwork in Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who Assimilation (2) is wonderful. It has a wonderful painted look, that, though not often photo-realistic, has at times an impressionistic quality – while at other times is more realistic-looking. It’s beautiful, and engaging. In short, I loved the art style.

Book Review – Batman/Superman vol. 3: Second Chance

  • Title: Batman/Superman vol. 3: Second Chance
  • Author: Greg Pak
  • Artists: Jae Lee
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Superman (Clark Kent), Dr. Ray Palmer (The Atom), Kaiyo the Chaos Demon, Catwoman (Selina Kyle), Alfred Pennyworth
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/30/2016

DC Comics New 52 book Batman/Superman has proved to be such a disappointment that I’ve decided not to continue to purchase this series, or to look-up the rest of it that’s already available. This book had two stories both with intriguing plots – and I can’t fault the series on plotting. It’s the characterization that just isn’t quite there.

I did like the first story, Batman and Superman return from wherever, and Batman collapses. Superman scans Batman with his X-ray vision and discovers a microscopic society and city in his brain. He immediately calls in Dr. Ray Palmer (in this story just becoming The Atom), who gives Superman a “shrink belt”, acknowledging himself that it needs a better name, and they, “The Incredible Journey”-style go inside Bats to safely remove the city and it’s people – and to save Batman as the city is pressing on his brain causing a coma. Inside Batman, they meet a alien woman who’s fleeing another alien dictator. They rescue her and toss the villain out, then remove the city. The story had a light touch, and with Ray there, even some appropriate humor. Superman was reticent and unemotional about Bruce’s condition – one of the problems with New 52’s take on Superman in general. Clark and Bruce are, or should be, great friends – not colleagues who can barely take working together.

The second story has Batman and Superman sent back to Earth-2 by the Chaos Demon Kaiyo, there they are merely ghosts – until they make a single choice to act, then they get the opportunity to try to change something. Naturally, these changes don’t have the effect they want. But, upon returning to regular DC Universe Earth, both Batman and Superman completely lose their respective memories. As total amnesiacs, they also have completely different personalities. Bruce is light and carefree. Alfred tells him, because he asks, what made him become Batman – but to Bruce, it isn’t something he experienced – it’s like hearing a story or watching a movie. For Alfred, he sees Bruce happy and is glad for it. Bruce then takes up the mantle of Batman again – as a duty, almost a job, a career – something he wants to do, but not an obsession – something he’s driven to do.

Superman is less successful in adapting to his new amnesiac status. He takes up with Catwoman (out of serendipity – she’s being attacked and he rescues her when he first arrives). Superman has no memory of Lois. And he has no family. (Sidenote: What happened to the Kents? This series keeps referring to Clark as a complete orphan and the Kents being killed in a car crash, presumably when Clark was still quite young. This makes no sense.) Superman also doesn’t hold back in the use of his powers. Eventually both Bruce and Superman get their memories back – Alfred is sad to see the Batman/Bruce he has known for so long head into the Cave.

I did like the full-page panels, one for Batman and one for Superman, of several images visually representing the two getting their memories back – it’s both a wonderful static image and yet something that represents each person experiencing a rush of memories. Well done. The rest of the art in the book is also good, though the characters have a less photo-realistic or even painted look than other series in the DC line.

Again, I’ve decided to not continue buying this series. I’m loving DC Rebirth , and there are collection series reprints from the 1990s (Chuck Dixon’s Nightwing and Birds of Prey) as well as a couple of New 52 series (Birds of Prey, Justice League Dark) that I enjoy much more. I loved the Superman/Batman series from the 1990s, it was well-written, at times brilliant, and I have all or nearly all of it (I might be missing one volume); Batman/Superman is disappointing.

Book Review – Batman/Superman vol. 2: Game Over

  • Title: Batman/Superman vol. 2: Game Over
  • Author: Greg Pak
  • Artists: Jae Lee, Brett Booth
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Superman (Clark Kent), Wonder Woman, Hiro (Toyman aka Toymaster), Mongul, Warworld, Jochi, Supergirl, Steel (John Henry Irons), Red Hood (Jason Todd), Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Power Girl (Earth-2, Karen/Kara), Huntress (Earth-2, Helena Wayne)
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/10/2016

Batman Superman Vol. 2 – Game Over is the second volume in the New 52 graphic novel collections of Batman/Superman stories. Though this series is not as good as the Superman/Batman graphic novel series from a few years ago, because: New 52, it’s still a pretty good series and one I plan on continuing to buy. This volume consists of two stories.

In the first story, Hiro, the new Toyman (or Toymaster) has come up with the “ultimate videogame”, having hired a woman to help with the computer programming. He brings in three game testers – but as they play the game, Hiro realizes it’s real and that Batman and Superman have been really dragged into the “game”. The entire story is presented in landscape format – meaning one has to turn the graphic novel to read it. I found this approach annoying. I could see that the horizontal layout was meant to mimic a widescreen video game – but with the graphic novel being bound, now on the top, even turning the pages was annoying. Nice idea but stick with vertical, OK?

The second story, which is linked to the first one has Mongul and Warworld showing up. Batman and Superman are able to defeat Mongul (perhaps a bit too easily) but then are dragged into a conflict with his son, Jochi. Batman and Superman must then each bring two allies in essentially a no-holds-barred cage fight to determine the new ruler of Warworld. Superman brings Supergirl and Steel (John Henry Irons) as his seconds, though Wonder Woman had offered – he told her to stay on Earth and defend it. Batman brings Jason Todd, aka Red Hood of the Outlaws, and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon who is no longer the paralyzed Oracle). During the fight, of course Superman and Batman are forced to fight each other. Batgirl messes with Warworld’s computers, Jochi is defeated, and when the entire planet is about to crash into the Arctic (which would be an extinction-level event – though no one notices this in the story) Superman transfers the entire planet into the Phantom Zone.

The third story has Kara (or Karen) – Power Girl and Huntress – daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle from a parallel Earth show up on the New 52 Earth. Kara’s powers are out of control and Batman and Superman must help her. The encounter with alternate versions of the characters they know stirs Batman’s and Superman’s surppessed memories of travelling to an alternate Earth – and learning of the threat of Darkseid. This story had a bit more characterization, and was less of a slug-fest than the other two.

Similar to the classic Superman/Batman series – this series includes thought bubbles for both Superman and Batman, so the readers can see how these characters think. However, Batman is extremely distrustful of Superman. Bruce and Clark are not friends, and certainly not best friends, which is a pity. One of the best aspects of the classic series was seeing the friendship of Clark and Bruce. They had their own ways of doing things – but they were still friends. In this series, as in all of New 52 – no one trusts anybody, which is just a stone’s throw from everyone hating everyone else – and that’s a problem. If I wanted to read about distrustful, hateful, “superheroes” who don’t get along I’d read Marvel. This is DC. DC Heroes work together, they cooperate with each other, they trust each other, and they are friends. This doesn’t mean “they are singing kumbaya” or that the stories are unrealistic or not relevant. By showing how a diverse group can work together – the DC Heroes can inspire readers. This is a major problem with New 52 – and it’s why I’m so happy that Rebirth is bringing back the old, traditional approach to DC – making comics fun, and showing the reader a group of people working together for a common goal of bettering and protecting the planet.

Anyway, I do plan on buying the next volume of the Batman/Superman series. And this story had some unique story points to it. I like seeing Hiro as more of a hero – or at least someone that works with the heroes to supply their gadgets. I really enjoyed seeing Helena, Huntress, and Power Girl – a couple of favorites that were killed off when New 52 started. The trope of Batman and Superman commenting on each other gives the reader new insight into these well-known characters. Also, the art is fantastic – and I liked the mirroring between Batman and Superman a lot. But the New 52 “attitude” is really, really annoying.

Book Review – Batman/Superman vol. 1: Cross World

  • Title: Batman/Superman vol. 1: Cross World
  • Author: Greg Pak
  • Artists: Jae Lee, Brett booth, Ben Oliver, Yildray Cinar, Norm Rapmund, Paul Siqueira, Netho Diaz
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Superman (Clark Kent), Wonder Woman, Kaiyo (Darkseid’s Agent of Chaos), Lois Lane, Catwoman (Selina Kyle)
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/10/2016

I ended-up reading Batman/Superman, Volume 1 – Cross World twice because although I liked it the first time – I found it very confusing. The second time through, again, I enjoyed it but parts of it were still very confusing. The art in some places was truly inspiring – the double spread showing the parallels between Superman’s origins (including the deaths of Ma & Pa Kent in a car crash???) and Batman’s (the oft-told story of the death of Bruce’s parents – here reduced to 5 stunning panels) was incredible. When Wonder Woman arrives on her Pegasus holding a sword – that was awesome. But I could not, for the life of me, figure out who was who when it came to the two versions of Batman and especially the two versions of Superman. One version of Batman was married to Selina Kyle. The other was not. One was much older, the other younger. For Supes – one was older, much more powerful, and a bit arrogant. The other younger – leaping not even flying, and possibly wearing jeans and a T-shirt with the S-shield. The panels and art tended to be small and close-up, thus we couldn’t see who was who based on the different uniforms. On the other hand – the art was stunning, just stunning.

The story has an agent of Chaos (I thought at first it was Klarion the Witch-boy nemesis of Doctor Fate – it wasn’t. It was Kaiyo an agent of chaos from Apokolips bent on destroying Darkseid.) However, this isn’t really clear until towards the end of the book, and the final chapter tells Kaiyo’s story as well as giving the history of Darkseid. On my second read-through, knowing who Kaiyo was helped. She also had the power to possess people – taking over Catwoman, Lois, even Wonder Woman for brief periods.

Kaiyo – because she can, brings the heroes of two Earths together. Thus we have two Supermen and two Batmen, and a Wonder Woman. And on one Earth, the army has developed a weapon to take out Superman because they think he’s “too strong”. Kaiyo tells the Supermen, the Batmen, Wonder Woman, Lois, and Catwoman about this – after they’ve figured it out. She tells them they must choose – destroy the crystal, or keep it to destroy Darkseid. Needless to say because she’s an agent of choas she’s not super-clear about explaining this – but everyone had figured it out by the time she starts to explain it. When the crystal is destroyed – Kaiyo wipes the minds of everyone involved – thus they won’t be warned of Darkseid’s coming.

So that’s the storyline, but the fun comes in seeing two Supermen and two Batmen not only interacting with Superman and Batman but with the alternate universe versions of themselves. It’s fun – confusing – but fun. This is also a beautifully illustrated book. And the bonus section consisting of a “page to screen” with pages of dialogue and information explaining how it was then translated to the page by the artist were fascinating, and even explained the book a bit better (only certain pages or spreads were commented on – not the entire book). It was a fascinating look at how the process of pulling a graphic novel together works.

Book Review – All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder vol. 1

  • Title: All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder vol. 1
  • Author: Frank Miller
  • Artists: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, 
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/05/2016

All Star Batman and Robin – the Boy Wonder is intense, really intense and the art is breath-taking. It brings to mind the classic Frank Miller graphic novel, Batman The Dark Knight Returns. However, that is also part of the problem with this book. In All Star Batman and Robin – Batman is a dangerous psychopath. He’s catching and beating up murderers, rapists, and thieves not to put an end to crime and corruption in Gotham City but because he enjoys it. And he kidnaps Richard Grayson not because after watching Dick watch his parents die he sees a kindred spirit – but because he selfishly wants a protégé, and this Batman will torture a twelve-year-old to get what he wants.

The Justice League also make appearances in this graphic novel – we see Black Canary become Black Canary (which was awesome, if violent), Wonder Woman (another violent psychopath who hates men), Superman (who Batman hates), and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern (who Batman also hates). The argument and then fight between Batman, Robin, and Hal takes place in a yellow-painted room, because Batman wants to mess with Jordan. Yet, Jordan’s arguments make sense – Batman’s violent actions are and will bring down official wrath on all the masks – all the heroes (who at this point aren’t acting that heroic). Plus, Batman’s anger at Hal seems fueled not by anything concrete but by mere jealousy.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns when I read it in the 80s, and the dark, apocalyptic view of Batman, Gotham City, and the world in that book made sense (as well as shaking up the comics world at the time which was much, much more light-hearted). However, even in The Dark Knight Returns Batman has honor – knowing he’s gotten too old to fight, he hangs up his cape and cowl. When the gang violence and everything else erupts, he comes out of retirement – having lost everything to death or simple abandonment, and he becomes the hero.

Here, Batman is at the beginning of his career – but he isn’t a detective, he isn’t the caped crusader, he isn’t an honorable knight – he’s a psychopath who cares for no one, who manipulates Dick Grayson into being a killer like himself, who doesn’t even care for Alfred. This isn’t my Batman – and all the breath-taking art doesn’t change that.

I read graphic novels for character – and the character of Batman was way off in this graphic novel. It felt like an Elseworlds or alternative reality Batman – maybe, but not my Batman. Not how Batman has been consistently written by those who seem to know the character best and write the character consistently the best. You’ll notice I never refer to him as Bruce Wayne – that’s because in this book, he’s always Batman – and he’s never Bruce. For once, he needs a little Bruce.

This book will haunt me (that his dying mother saw him as a psychopath, as does Alfred is downright frightening), so that speaks to the power of the story. But it’s not a likeable story, and nothing can take away the fact that Batman is simply out of character. This is too extreme and too unlikable – and I wish I hadn’t read it in some ways.