Comic Review: “William Gibson’s Alien 3” #1

“William Gibson’s Alien 3” #1 Review

By Dave Whiteman

On May 22, 1992, fans of 20th Century Fox’s Alien franchise flocked to theaters to witness the fate of Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, Newt, Corporal Hicks and Bishop the android after the events of 1986’s “Aliens” (directed by James Cameron) in what would turn out to be one of the most reviled installments of the now “Alien Quadrilogy” that even director David Fincher disowned and stated that “to this day, no one hates it more than me.” Due to the many changes made by the studios, character deaths and reshoots, the director actually walked out of the production.

Along with the original screenwriters, David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson and Vincent Ward, award-winning science fiction author William Gibson, who is credited as one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre with 1984’s “Neuromancer,” wrote a very early version of the script, of which a few elements survived in the final version.

As Dark Horse Comics has been publishing the line of comics in the Alien and Predator universes since 1989, it seemed only fitting that they would release this official adaptation of his original screenplay. Taking place after the events of “Aliens” (1986), the spaceship Sulaco, which is carrying the sleeping bodies of Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop, is intercepted by the Union of Progressive Peoples. But when they board the ship, they encounter a stowaway in the form of an alien face-hugger, which soon starts a chain reaction of events in the midst of a Cold War between two world powers, bent on the creation of a weapon of mass destruction.

With art by Johnnie Christmas, the co-creator of Margaret Atwood’s “Angel Catbird” and creator of Image Comics’ “Firebug,” and colors by Tamra Bonvillain, “William Gibson’s Alien 3” presents a very different version of the story that many fans of the Alien franchise have come to hate, but many consider to be a much superior script. I’m looking forward to seeing how this story plays out and hope to have a whole new outlook on the Alien story.

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Dave “Chernobog” Whiteman was born in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is a life-long comic book collector, metalhead, part-timer writer, Funatic and a die-hard Star Wars fan!

Comic Review – DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1

DC Nuclear Winter Special #1 Cover

An anthology collecting stories involving the end of the world and the holidays may well be the strangest concept for a comic book I’ve seen in my many years of reading illustrated fiction. Yet the idea has an odd merit, as one could draw parallels between the mindless hordes of consumers and the desperate masses warring over resources in the face of nuclear Armageddon, as we ponder what is truly important in life.

Given that, it’s surprising none of the tales in DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 involve Black Friday shopping. In fact, some of them don’t involve the holiday season and some of them don’t really involve the Apocalypse so much as they involve alternate futures and potential endings of different characters’ stories! And while I may be a bit of a Grinch for pointing this out, despite their appearance on the cover neither Harley Quinn nor Wonder Woman have stories in this special book. Thankfully, all arguments over the subject matter aside, DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 is no lump of coal.

Mark Russell (The Snagglepuss Chronicles) and Mike Norton (Battlepug) handle the frame story for the issue, in which Rip Hunter: Time Master finds himself cornered by cannibal tech geeks in the ruins of Silicon Valley while recharging his time machine. To stall for time, Hunter entertains the cannibals with stories of the many superheroes he’s worked with in his journeys across time and how they survived various end-of-the-world disasters and how those tied into the holiday season. Because it just so happens to be Christmas Day.

As with most anthologies, your enjoyment of DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 may ultimately come down to how much you like the characters, artists and writers involved. For instance, if you don’t care much for Kamandi, you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of Phil Hester’s story centering around The Last Boy on Earth and how the stories of Hanukkah and Christmas are remembered and honored by the intelligent animals ruling the Earth following The Great Disaster. It’s a darn good story with great art and a worthy tribute to Jack Kirby but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

It is worth mentioning that Aquaman fans will want to check this issue out, as it features a story that it says will be continued, despite being set in a dark apocalyptic world. Fans of the Injustice series will also want to pick this book up for Tom Taylor’s Supergirl story, which could be seen as an unofficial conclusion to the Earth of that reality. There’s also stories involving Batman 666 (the future version of Damian Wayne who sold his soul to the devil) and the future of DC One Million, though that particular story may be confusing to those who haven’t read the original event.

Despite this, most of the stories here can be enjoyed by anyone. Chief among these is “Last Christmas” – a Firestorm story written by Paul Dini with art by Jerry Ordway. Seemingly set in a darker version of the reality of the Justice League Action cartoon, the story pits Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein against The Nuclear Family in a surprisingly touching story of togetherness and putting aside differences in the name of peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men. And robots.

Personally, my favorite story in the bunch is the last – “The Birds of Christmas Past, Present And Future” – and I can think of no reason for this other than it is a Green Arrow story. And not just any Green Arrow but a story involving an old-school, aging-hippie, George Carlin-with-a-bow, Old Man Ollie, who – in this reality – quit the Justice League, broke up with Black Canary and spent most of the last five decades trying to save society while the Justice League degenerated into a bunch of spoiled kids. I won’t say more beyond that, save three things – I want writer Dave Wirlgosz on the monthly Green Arrow book, the artwork by Flash artist Scott Kolins is perfect and you should have Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne on in the background as you read it.

So is DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 something you want stuffed in your stocking? On the whole, I’d say yes. Despite not all of its stories fitting its theme, there’s not a dud in the lot. At worst, some of the stories are inaccessible, being based on other books you might not have read. Still, there is far more good than bad here, making this book a wonderful holiday treat.

7/10

DC’s Nuclear Winter Special #1 releases on November 28, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Titans Episode Review S01: E07

Episode 7 of Titans — or “Asylum” — is a strange product. Along with “Together”, it’s probably a pretty good representation of what the show will be if it ever decides to actually be a show about the Titans, rather than a show about Dick Grayson. Yet it’s also more evidence for how truly thin the show’s plot is, despite it having so much potential.

The episode starts off on the right foot. We get a bit of insight from Adamson concerning what he and his group want with Rachel, as well as the knowledge that her mother (original, not adoptive) is alive and being held captive in a secret facility. Following this, mistakes are made, and the quartet find themselves captured and subjected to various types of torture.

This is where the episode starts to devolve. Kory and Gar are once again shortchanged in favor of a larger focus being placed on how these events affect Rachel and Dick, the prior of which at least makes sense in the context of the episode. We’re starting to see glimpses of what a confident Raven looks like and how her powers can be more than just a cloud of evil smoke. The methodical evolving of her character into a quietly terrifying force of nature is truly gripping and probably the high-point of the episode, if only because Gar’s development didn’t have the proper foundation leading into it. In fact, Episode 7 is a true testament to just how much Beast Boy has been neglected by the writers, squandering a truly devastating character arc for him in the process. The result of his torture is tragic and will likely last past the end of the first season, but the gravity of this is at odds with how little attention is paid towards it.

It’s still better than Kory being merely relegated to the body-horror portion of the proceedings. She gains nothing from the pain she endures, except for possibly the knowledge that she can heal quickly; but this isn’t “character development”, it’s “power development”. In reality, she’s just laying on a table for the majority of the episode. It’s like if Eli Roth did a “made-for-TV” movie; there’s no ultimate rhyme or reason for this character to suffer the way she does. That’s not a larger point being made either — like “sometimes there is no reason” — because everyone else has some sort of an attempt at character development accompanying their imprisonment. Even if Dick’s is the same thing they’ve been telling us for what seems like A THOUSAND EPISODES, there is still an objective at play.

And while all of this results in a neat climax, it kind of feels like any of the build we had for the show’s antagonist — what little there was — was just tossed aside. This seems like a definitive end to a story arc, which is incredibly confusing and unsatisfying. The show needed to have started really hammering us with a true villain two weeks ago, and instead, it looks like we’ll be starting from square one next week. I am legitimately stumped as to how we’re expected to have any sort of investment in a singular villain going forward. Why even bother at this point? If the show is really supposed to be what I felt like last week’s episode was (“Monster-of-the-Week”), then it should just lean into that. Don’t attempt this quasi-vacuum experiment in which the larger narrative only matters occasionally because, the fact of the matter is, the season isn’t long enough to do that.

Titans has so much potential, and every episode offers passing moments of that potential being realized. Which makes it so frustrating when the show continues to waste it so wantonly. This feels like such an easy fix, but it’s so ingrained at this point that it would take drastic measures to properly course-correct. For crying out loud, Dick Grayson is the main character of ANOTHER EPISODE next week! This show is called Titans, right?

5/10

Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!

Titans Episode Review: S01: E06

Another week, another new episode of Titans. This episode, titled (rather unceremoniously) “Jason Todd”, picks up immediately after the closing moments of the last. Focusing almost entirely on the new and strained relationship between Old-Robin, a.k.a. Dick Grayson, and New-Robin, a.k.a. Jason Todd, the episode follows the duo as they attempt to track down a serial killer who has a penchant for acid-baths, and as luck would have it, his sights are set on Dick. Kory, Rachel, and Gar make minimal appearances, though they do contribute a few good laughs.

First, let me just say that I did, overall, like this episode. It focuses on one major conflict, with that conflict being character driven, and nearly every action serves the purpose of pushing that conflict to its logical conclusion. It’s well-crafted, it’s evenly-paced, and it’s engaging. Curran Walters turns in a performance as Jason Todd that is decidedly his own, albeit a tad cheesy. The character is clear foil to Dick Grayson, and Walters uses a style that is both energetic and laissez-faire to accentuate that idea. While Dick is generally contemplative and solemn about his upbringing as Bruce Wayne’s ward, Jason is outwardly excited and grateful for it. Whether or not Bruce does more harm than good with his adoption and subsequent use of orphans in his fight against crime is not a new line of debate, but it’s still effective and, in this instance, boiled down to the important talking points.

All of this introspection, however, is to the detriment of the episode’s villain. He serves no purpose other than to continue the “Monster-of-the-Week”-formula that is still severely crippling the show, and the climax of the whole thing is such a one-note affair that you could practically sleep through it without missing a beat. This isn’t anything new to the narrative strategy that the writers have taken with the show, but at least with earlier episodes it was still vaguely connected to the overall plot. With both the character development and active threat being almost entirely removed from the show’s main story, what exactly does this episode contribute?

At this point, the show is on its second half, and as such, we should be building towards a central threat and, ultimately, a satisfying conclusion. Yet, I find myself asking this week, “What purpose does this serve?” Why is it that, with no proper antagonist other than the vaguely defined “Them” referenced by Anderson in Episode 5, we’ve devoted a whole episode to saying, once again, “Dick doesn’t like Batman.” That is, perhaps, an oversimplification of the internal struggle that Dick goes through when faced with his replacement and what it means to him; but at the end of the day, it’s a development that doesn’t fit in the spot it’s been given. This would have worked better either earlier in Season 1 or at the beginning of Season 2. Make no mistake, in a vacuum, Episode 6 is one of the better episodes of the series thus far. However, as a piece of a larger story, it never manages to become anything more than filler.

7/10

Titans is released every Friday only on DCUniverse!

Comic Review – Books of Magic #1

As part of the relaunch of DC Vertigo’s Sandman Universe, another one of Neil Gaiman’s memorable creations returns to comics with the long awaited “Books of Magic.” First published by DC Comics in 1990 as a mini-series, fan-favorite Tim Hunter began his long journey to becoming the world’s greatest magician, with the help of several mystical DC Comics alumni such as Phantom Stranger, Doctor Occult and John Constantine. The series was ongoing until it was discontinued after the short-lived “Books of Magick: Life During Wartime” in 2005. With this latest relaunch, the story catches us up (whether the reader be a longtime fan or a newcomer) in a fairy tale-like collage retelling of his origin:

Once upon a time…there lived a boy named Timothy Hunter. He seemed like a very usual sort of boy. Except.”

 Then we find Tim Hunter asleep in class, as a seemingly normal student who tries to impress girls with his amateur magic tricks. Getting bullied and of course getting into fights, he is pulled into one of his teacher’s office and we learn that Tim has “lost” his mother. But his teacher Dr. Rose is apparently has a connection to magic and knows that Tim is destined to become the greatest magician. As she gives him a book that appears blank to him at first she advises him to start reading and when he is ready, the magic will be visible to him. Despite his frustrations, Tim is certain he is ready, but as the book soon reveals its first lesson:

“Magic is neither good nor bad. Only its use determines its character. There are always consequences for its use.”

And upon opening his first book, we are given a glimpse of three mysterious cultist figures that are apparently watching him from afar as they decide that steps must be taken…and that some books must not be read.

Written by newcomer Kat Howard, known for her novel “Roses and Rot” and illustrated by Canadian artist Tom Fowlerm with colors by Jordan Boyd, the new “Books of Magic” has a promising start. While sharing the spotlight with other titles in the revived Sandman Universe, such as “The Dreaming” and “House of Whispers,” the new “Books of Magic” hopes to recapture the “magic” of a series that unfortunately fell into obscurity 13 years ago as it soon became marred by its similarities to the popular Harry Potter franchise in which tabloids claimed that Gaiman had made accusations of plagiarism against J.K. Rowling, which he went on the record denying. But hopefully time will tell if fans will return to this series as we see what the fates have in store for Tim Hunter.