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Bullet Reviews #30: A Long Time Ago, In A Marvel Universe Far, Far Away…

BR 30

This week we welcome Star Wars from Dark Horse to Bullet Reviews joining Marvel titles!
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Russia #1, Captain America #3, Conan: Road Of Kings #8, Daredevil #4, Heroes For Hire #12, Star Wars: Dark Times #2 and Star Wars: Invasion #3 are all covered this week!

B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH – RUSSIA #1 of 5 (Dark Horse):B.P.R.D.
The scope of Mike Mignola and John Arcudi’s continuing B.P.R.D. epic continues to grow. This latest miniseries not only relocates the action to Russia, but the scale of the threat facing the earth is shown to have grown once again. Given how central the figure of Rasputin is to Mignola’s Hellboy universe, this is a good storytelling choice. The book opens with an officer in heavy-duty protective gear – spoiler, it’s not going to help – exploring a series of subterranean tunnels. When he encounters the requisite eldritch horror he is far from alarmed, much to the concern of his team back at base. “And there hasn’t been anybody so well prepared for it in Mother Russia since the last Czar”. Meanwhile B.P.R.D. members Kate and Johann are en route discussing the fate of Abe Sapian, who still has not revived. As the resident expert on all things spiritual – not to mention a walking, talking suit of ectoplasm – Johann explains that while Abe’s soul is still present, his conscious self is sealed away inside his own body. It’s not all doom and gloom. The story hits some suitably Russian notes of black humour – “Don’t to worry. Excalade is fireproof” – and Tyler Crook’s art is equally suitable for the gruesome body horror, as well as comedic moments. B.P.R.D. as a franchise is being managed in a very smart way. These miniseries continually shift the tone and settings, but maintain the overall story arc so that it does not become tired or played out. I am eager to see where Mignola and Arcudi are taking us next on their whistle-stop tour of hell. –Emmet O’Cuana

Captain AmericaCAPTAIN AMERICA #3 (Marvel):
This was a confusing issue in the first story arc of Captain America’s next chapter. Amidst Cap’s fight with Lyle Dekker’s automaton, the real plan comes together. And the target: to get Steve Rogers into Jimmy Jankovicz’s Nowhere. Overall this was a very fast-paced issue, but with some strange peculiarities. First, we still don’t know why Baron Zemo has joined up with Bravo; what will he get out of this arrangement? Second, at this point, it doesn’t make sense why Bravo wouldn’t just kill Steve instead of tricking him into Nowhere. Third, some of the art in this book is odd at best. Sharon goes out of her way to make awkwardly sexy poses in the middle of battle. Strange. Moreover, Brubaker has done well yet again with his Captain America saga, but he does tend to give away a few details that are still left up in the air during Fear Itself. His shield for one… Still, with all the working parts and unresolved plot-threads the book stands out as one of this week’s best. -The Andy Kirby

CONAN: ROAD OF KINGS #8 of 8 (Dark Horse):Conan
By Crom! Crom me! You Cromming Crommer, from Cromtown…don’t worry, this latest Conan book does not resort to anything as ridiculous (anyone else bothered that the Smurfs movie took a single joke from Family Guy and ran it into the ground?), but writer Roy Thomas does have the occasional bit of fun with the mighty barbarian’s most pronounced exclamation/expletive. It is moments of levity like this in amongst the soldiers, zombies and giant insects – oh my! – that remind the reader just why Thomas is still so highly regarded in the industry. It’s been decades since the Kree-Skrull war storyline in Marvel comics, and they’re still riffing on that classic saga (if imitation is the highest form of flattery Thomas must be feeling pretty good – Marvel are even publishing a retelling of the storyline in trading card form by Sean McKeever). It is only fitting that a writer of such classic comics should be overseeing the continuing adventures of Robert E. Howard’s iconic creation, the finished product doubly rich. In this issue Conan is lumbered with a young child whose mother seemingly abandoned her to join a group of conspirators. The barbarian’s gruff sentimentality is handled well and the scene where the two race through a tunnel of chitinous horrors with only a torch and sword between them hits all the right notes. Thomas delivers to the point, no-nonsense storytelling, which a certain barbarian would no doubt approve of. -Emmet O’Cuana

DaredevilDAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel):
I was pleasantly surprised by this issue of Daredevil. And while I’m not that fond of Waid on the title (and the art is a huge drawback for me) I’ve found myself falling into the story that is growing here. I like the idea of Matt not being able to openly help his clients. After Bendis’s amazing stories it’s no secret that writing the Man Without Fear is a chore and a half. If you follow the storyline of the writers before you, it can be a real bear. But Waid pulls it off by changing the character’s attitude and direction, instead of the past. We are treated to an exploration of Daredevil’s tricks of the trade–his super-human abilities that we take for granted. But we also see the cleverness of his insurmountable spirit. Waid has brought him back to the street-level hero that Daredevil is. And the fun is just beginning! -The Andy Kirby

HEROES FOR HIRE #12 (Marvel):Heroes For Hire
I just love this book. The art is crisp and the story-telling is extremely enjoyable. Sure, most of the time it’s used as a tie-in book and the writers are restricted to the current event that is taking place, but that’s the price you pay for the events. But when Misty and her team get the chance to strike out on there own, they are solid-gold comic books. At first reading this issue you may wonder why it is so jumpy and why Abnett and Lanning are introducing characters 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the way into it. But when you get to the end you see that the whole idea is that the individual heroes are not the team. The team is control and the mind of Misty Knight behind each moving piece in an effort to make the streets a better place. I mean, she strong-armed Namor for goodness sake! I hope this book lasts for a good long time. As I said before, this type book is risky as it is used as filler for the so-called main events. And in that role, is susceptible to the whim of the audience and the sales numbers. But as long as this book keeps showing us the little parts of the whole and showcasing as many players as it has been, I’m totally in! -The Andy Kirby

Star WarsSTAR WARS: DARK TIMES #2 of 5 (Dark Horse):
This storyline is titled ‘Out of the Wilderness‘ and is set somewhere between the end of ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ and ‘A New Hope‘. Star Wars as a franchise continues to have numerous book, comic and animated spin-offs designed to further explore and elaborate upon events from the original series of movies and the prequels. So for example, here we have a story featuring a Jedi on the run from Vader’s purge of the order. Going by the climactic montage sequence from ‘Sith’ when the clone troopers execute Order 66, audience members were left to believe the Jedi were entirely wiped out by a group of gun-toting soldiers. In Mick Harrison’s story, the pseudonym of writer Randy Stradley, we meet Jedi Beyghor Sahdett – who resembles a giant grasshopper; and Jedi Dass Jennir, who has become the personal obsession of Vader himself. Harrison has gone on to create an entire crew of intelligent animal smugglers, helping the samurai-with-a-laser-sword Sahdett (just calling it like I see it George), as well as a conniving female companion for Jennir and yet another comical droid H2. Star Wars trades on familiarity. Creators who add their work to the franchise do not have to explain what the Force is, or the mechanics of a lightsabre – that is all taken as read. As such these spin-offs face the challenge of trying to tell an original story set within a restricted universe (oh Jaxxon, we hardly knew ye). The real treat here is artist Dennis Wheatley. This book looks incredible. It opens with Jennir and H2 enjoying a sunrise, which the reader will too. Wheatley’s work helps the book rise above any sense of over-familiarity, or Star Wars exhaustion. Keep an eye out for him, he should go places. -Emmet O’Cuana

STAR WARS: INVASION #3 (Dark Horse):Star Wars
This series has some really great talent behind it. Tom Taylor is a Melbourne-born writer responsible for an impressive selection of work – including two great new books for Gestalt Publishing available now The Deep and Rombies – and he’s taken the Star Wars universe and made it his own here. Along for the ride is the legendary Colin Wilson, who lends an enjoyable hint of grit to the setting with his art. The Galfridian siblings, Kaye and Finn are caught in the middle of an impending invasion by the Yuuzhan Vong. They are an implacable enemy that cannot be reasoned with or demoralized like the conquering Imperial Forces from before (kill one Emperor and everybody goes weak at the knees…). Oh and Kaye has just discovered her mother is herself Yuuzhan Vong! Taylor’s script handles the swashbuckling and humourous aspects of Star Wars well (“more diversioning!!”), but also introduces intrigue and a degree of pragmatism. Kaye’s mother Nina is a great character, forging an alliance of Imperial and New Republican to combat the invasion in a great montage sequence. This story is building up to a big climax. Well worth catching. -Emmet O’Cuana

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