Thursday, March 21

Dynamite Comics – April 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the Dynamite Entertainment comics that were released during February (mostly) that I received near the beginning of March. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Link to previous month.]

Masks #4 of 8

Cover B (25%) by Jae Lee

Well, this marks the halfway point, and the story skips right along. There are no new heroes introduced, but Rafael Vega ducks into a costume and prop shop to evade the Black Police, then kills his pursuers with a sword and seems to be outfitting himself as Zorro. Also, the Spider in Albany discovers that the governor is the lackey of a Man in the Mirror called the Master. Green Hornet, Kato, and the Black Terror terrorize the mayor of New York into revealing the existence of the Master as well, for which the Master remotely kills him. Green Lama and Miss Fury fight the Black Police, then are picked up by the Shadow and Margo Lane. And D.A. Quinn discovers that he can see in the dark when he's attacked by the Black Police, giving him the advantage.

My wording above was deliberate, “the story skips … along.” Again, there's considerable sketchiness to the narrative. Not the art, which is just fine. Perhaps only because I have the “proper” mindset and background for this, I'm loving it. I wondered what those without the background would make of it, and my fears were more or less confirmed by talking with a colleague who is also getting it. He's kind of regretting picking it up. He's largely not familiar with the characters (except the obvious ones), and he hasn't read The Spider versus the Empire State.

The Shadow: Year One #1 of 8

Cover B by Alex Ross

In 1929 Lamont Cranston returns to New York City, but there are hints that Cranston is not the same man as who left some time before. Which is a nice call-back to the original pulp magazine where he is not – the “Lamont Cranston” who appears there is actually the Shadow impersonating the real Lamont Cranston who is out of the country. Cranston is just one of the Shadow's many personae, and although in a later adventure the Shadow's “real” identity as Kent Allard is revealed, I for one wouldn't bet the farm on that being his true identity either. Of course, I've not read any of the later adventures, including the one “revealing” the “truth.” Anyway, it's Margo Lane who sees the discrepancy here, as well as a snooping reporter whom I'm sure will play a roll in future issues. Margo is introduced as a gangster's out-of-favor moll who turns up pregnant, an inconvenience the gangster is going to get rid of by “aborting” mother and unborn child. The Shadow as such appears twice – at the very beginning of the book in Cambodia, and at the end to save Margo. Neither time does he look like the stereotypical Shadow, which makes sense because this is the beginning of his career.

I picked this up mainly because it's written by Matt Wagner, in the quasi-pulp element I have enjoyed from him before in Dynamite's Green Hornet: Year One, DC-Vertigo's Sandman Mystery Theater, and even DC's Batman: Full Moon Rising two-volume containing retellings of two of the Batman's first adventures from 1939-1940 Detective Comics. And I really liked it, but I'm strongly leaning toward dropping this title as a monthly and waiting for the collection. I'll have more to say about that at the end of this round up.

Lord of the Jungle #13
The Return of the Jungle Lord, Part 5 of 6: Through the Valley of Shadow”

So we're five of six parts through a considerably altered retelling of the second Tarzan novel. It's still entertaining, but frankly I had hoped for something more canonical, more of an “expandaptation” à la Dynamite's main Warlord of Mars title. I'm around for a while longer, at least, but the deviation makes it much more likely that I'll bail.

Anyway, here the main development is that Cecil is murdered by Rokoff, but confesses to Jane that Tarzan is the real Lord Greystoke.

Warlord of Mars #23
[Warlord of Mars,] Part 3 of 5: The Carrion Caves”

Cover A (50%) by Joe Jusko

I'm really glad these continue to be closer to Burroughs' original, although maybe it's must my impression looking at the issue number we're up to, but it sure seems to me like the adaptation of the third John Carter novel is going quicker and being told more sketchily than especially the first back at the beginning of the series. Even so, I'm still enjoying it immensely. And the use of the “northern magnetic pole” of Mars as literally that, and as a weapon jerking attacking fliers out of the air, never fails to tickle me.

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #22

Cover B (50%) by Fabiano Neves

Concluding the “Assassins/Metal Men of Mars” story arc.


Moving on....

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #23

Cover A (50%) by Paul Renaud


The main interesting development is a sense of continuity from the first story arc, “Colossus of Mars,” through the just past couple of issues and this one picking up another thread from the fallout of the defeat of Yorn. Not enough to keep this interesting enough, however, and I really figure Dejah Thoris is about to be on my discard pile.

It's a pity, because I really want to like it, and really did like the first dozen or so issues. And some readers do still like it, as does blogger JCOMReader whom I enjoy reading and depend on for my “referral” reviews since my new “one-stop shopping” site Comic Book RoundUp doesn't have pages for these ERB titles from Dynamite, at least any recent issues. Can it be a good sign that CBRU doesn't seem to pick up any reviews for these? Are they that low selling that no comics review sites that feed into CBRU bother with them?

Dejah Thoris and the Green Men of Mars #1 of 4 – no, of 8, it was recently announced?! – because it's such a good story....

Main cover by Jay Anacleto

Immediately after the Warlord of Mars Annual #1, Dejah Thoris is abducted by some Green Men and sent to a chop shop … to be literally chopped up and auctioned off piece by piece, to satisfy the still-present taste for Red Martian flesh among the Greens despite the newly forged alliance between Helium and the Tharks.

And at one point after Dejah Thoris has been taken, unsuspecting John Carter (mysteriously sandy-brown haired) waits in a tavern: “Hmph. / Where could she be?”

Someone thought this was a good idea to publish? – good enough to EXPAND?!

Even JCOMReader has mixed feelings about it.

* * *
It really looks like Dynamite is about to be getting less of my money each month. Of the ERB titles, only Warlord of Mars is really still delivering for me. Dejah Thoris itself has been frankly wretched in my estimation for the last several story arcs. I don't begrudge those who are enjoying it – why would I? – but they are just not doing it for me. As Lord of the Jungle varies further and further from the original stories by ERB, I'm losing more and more interest.

In the case of The Shadow: Year One, I've pretty much decided I'd rather have this in a collected format, and while having the issues library-bound is an option, eight issues is rather slim for that.

Masks is, of course, a special case, and as I've said before I fully expect to double-dip on it. I'm enjoying it month-by-month, and I am pretty much set on buying the collection – hopefully hardcover.

The only other thing I have coming from Dynamite is Mark Waid's Green Hornet, which hasn't even appeared – at least for me, perhaps because of the monthly mail-order time-lag. I like Mark Waid as a writer, I like the original Britt Reid Green Hornet, but I don't like everything Mark Waid does, and his increasing fascination with deconstructing the super-heroic character, which recent pre-publication information seems to indicate this new Green Hornet title to be, is not really up my alley. So, even though I've got at least the first issue pre-ordered, I'm most likely going to leave it at that. Unless it turns out to be amazingly good, and even then, waiting for the collection is always an option.

And I'm really feeling the need to cut back at least some on my monthly order. It's unfortunate that a small company like Dynamite is going to bear the brunt of my cuts, but that's just the way it looks to be shaping up.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading.

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