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Dynamite Entertainment

Written by Rick Remender and Drawn by Carlos Rafael

In the wake of the success of the new GALACTICA incarnation comes this little bit of resurrection: the return of the 1970s original to comics. There have been at least two previous takes on the classic: Marvel produced one in conjunction with the airing of the original episodes, and Maximum produced a number of miniseries in the mid-to-late 90s that featured the characters continuing their adventures after the last episode vanished from ABC. This version from Dynamite starts by having more in common with the Marvel version; the story picks up (if my memory is accurate) shortly after the end of the pilot movie. Serina is still alive, so the crew’s ill-fated journey to Kobol hasn’t happened yet.

Instead, Galactica has journeyed back towards an occupied colony, in the hopes of sneaking past the Cylons by using a stealth device, and retrieving a series of books that may offer up a path to Earth. And in the vein of the show itself, Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer have been assigned to make it happen. Of course, everything goes completely wrong, there is some crashing… you know the drill. By the time we reach crunch time, Starbuck is a warrior alone, but that sort of thing never lasts…

I give credit to Remender; he does a pretty decent job of capturing the voices of the classic cast. I could “hear” Dirk Benedict whipping out Starbuck’s dialogue, no problem. And Carlos Rafael, while not being strict about likenesses, does a very good job of making these characters easily recognizable. So this has a nice, comfy feel for the fan of the original.

My one qualm is that new BATTLESTAR closed its first season and opened its second one with a very similar plot. Starbuck is sent to a Cylon-occupied world in order to recover an object that could lead the fleet to Earth, gets stranded, and must fall in with the local resistance to save herself. It is entirely possible that Remender’s story will turn wildly from that direct comparison, but certainly, reading this first issue, you can’t ignore it. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.

Marc Mason

Written by Roy Thomas and Drawn by Pablo Marcos

It doesn’t get much more old-school than this: Roy Thomas and Pablo Marcos are, together, bringing about 80 years of comics experience to party when they team up to produce a book. They also bring a storytelling philosophy and style that you don’t see very often anymore, which makes MONSTER ISLE a rather rare treat.

The plot: she of the chain-mail bikini books passage on a ship for an ocean journey, but the sea isn’t feeling forgiving; a storm sends the boat to the bottom of the ocean, and Sonja and the captain are marooned on a strange island. With lush jungles and strange animals surrounding them, they soon figure out that all is not what it seems and soon they will have to fight for their lives against a madman. In short, think of the book as Red Sonja landing on the Island of Dr. Moreau.

While the plot is fairly simple and predictable, that really isn’t the point here. MONSTER ISLE exists in good part exactly for the purpose of that old-school thrill. Marcos knows how to tell a story; he doesn’t need a lot of bells or whistles. Even with some lovely computer coloring effects, it is the way he lays out the pages and gives depth and realism to the characters that captures your eye. And while many artists focus on Sonja’s amply displayed assets to the detriment of the script, Marcos makes her armor feel like a natural part of Sonja’s body. Rascally Roy Thomas, delivers a very classic “sounding” Sonja, and one who actually has a pleasant component to her personality. In short, these guys created a comic that was fun. No more, no less. And in this case, that was plenty good enough for me.

Marc Mason

Written by Frank Cho and Doug Murray and Drawn by Homs

Red Sonja leads a band of mercenaries to the far north in this miniseries, but that doesn’t mean she gets any smarter: neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will stop the redheaded ass-kicker from wandering around in her chain mail bikini. So if you were wondering if this would be the first fully-dressed SONJA series, fear not: Frank Cho is involved, and boobies will rule the day.

To be fair, though, Sonja’s mercenary army arrives on the frozen tundra bare-chested and burly themselves, proving that the Hyborian age wasn’t home to either high IQs or Gore-tex.

Suffice it say, there’s danger up north, and it comes in two forms: a monstrous crew of yetis that seem a bit more advanced than your typical snow beast, and a woman calling herself the Ice Queen who controls the savages. She also likes to engage in other evil acts, including feeding humans to her pets and keeping slaves. But her evil doesn’t stop there; skipping lesbian subtext and going straight to text, she would like to use Sonja for mating purposes and tries repeatedly to stick her tongue down the redhead’s throat. She also manages to wear an even smaller outfit than Sonja… but being born hundreds of years ago and having never been in a sorority and gained any sort of Sapphic curiosity, our heroine isn’t interested in becoming a kept carpet cleaner at this stage in her life.

She digs the sword, you understand?

But since that’s as close to subtext as we’ll get, it’s best to shut off your brain and enjoy SAVAGE SONJA for what it is: ludicrous, silly, violent fun. There’s nothing genius here, and any truly critical look at the book forces it to collapse in on itself. But sometimes you don’t want to think too hard about anything, and for that purpose, this book succeeds well enough.

Marc Mason

Written by Brett Matthews and Drawn by Sergio Cariello

Having never been much of a western fan, nor a fan of the character in general, I went into LONE RANGER with fairly low expectations. The character’s history is steeped in goody-goody crap, and that kind of hero holds little interest for me. So it was with more than a little surprise that I found myself appreciating this revival of the classic icon.

This new take acts as an origin for the Ranger, which allows readers unfamiliar with the masked vigilante to get in on the ground floor and understand who he is and why he does what he does. It isn’t very original, though; John Reid is the highly intelligent, youngest child of a veteran lawman. His older brother gives him a lot of grief. But after a stint back east getting a higher education, he returns to the American west to follow in his family footsteps, except on that bloody day, the Reids are fated to run into tragedy, leaving John an orphan with a hankering for justice.

Sort of a mix of Batman and Brisco County, Jr., if you will.

No, it isn’t the story by Matthews that sucks you in to the book. It’s the art of Sergio Cariello that does the heavy lifting. Damn, does this book look good. The art director for the book is the outstanding John Cassaday, and whatever he’s doing with Cariello, it’s nothing short of genius. This is one of the best-looking books I’ve seen in a while, and with some extraordinary colors by Dean White, LONE RANGER is a visual feast. So if you posit that Matthews has lots of room to work with on shaping a stronger story, this becomes a book to keep an eye on.

Marc Mason

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Drawn by Lee Moder

Last weekend, I saw to the theatre and saw the film CRANK. When somebody asked me to describe it, I said it was “Big, loud, violent, and completely without any socially redeeming value. I loved every minute of it!”

Which brings us to JANE #3, the conclusion to this mini-series. Having dropped many stories out of a building in order to kill a crooked cop, Jane wakes up after a nine-day nap ready to kill everyone else involved in the plot she’s been trying to stop. A nasty family had been importing women for the depraved pleasures of their men, and bad cops have been keeping it out of the books. But the titular heroine just isn’t having any of that, as you can imagine.

So Jane kills cops on the take. She tortures another in horrible fashion for information. She kills old guys. She kills younger guys. She kills middle-aged women. And she even kills an older woman in wonderfully gruesome fashion. At one point, I decided that she kept sending her allies away not so they wouldn’t see her do her dirty duties, but because she was afraid she’s lose track of who they were and kill them, too.

Therefore… JANE is big, loud, violent, and completely without any socially redeeming value. And in the end, I really loved it. Jimmy Palmiotti has a sick, twisted imagination, and he really cut it loose here. But the book really works because Lee Moder draws the hell out of it, depicting every gruesome moment with grisly adoration for the script. This book probably turned out better than it had any right to be, and you have to respect that. Should be a trade worth owning.

Marc Mason

Written by Greg Pak and Drawn by Nigel Raynor

Picking up from the #0 issue, we last left Galactica in the middle of a rescue mission. However, this had turned out not to be any sort of regular rescue mission. Instead, the medical ship that the crew found in the middle of nowhere contained a whole lot of people who were supposedly already dead… including Zak Adama, the commander’s son and Starbuck’s fiancée.

Now comes the hard part for the crew. Torn between being thrilled and wondering what sort of Cylon plot this could be, loyalties and allegiances are strained as the debate over what to do with these “survivors.” Should they be quarantined? Blown out of the sky? Or should they be given a chance to provide a rational explanation for how they can all be alive and this far out in the galaxy? This being GALACTICA, of course, no answer will be easy.

While issue one strained to get the characters’ voices right, Pak has a better grasp on things this time around. I’m still not completely sold on his Lee Adama, though. However, he does deliver a solid Starbuck here.

Raynor is still shaky in his action sequences, and seems to try a couple of shortcuts that don’t work, especially towards the end of the issue where the plot begins to truly kick into gear. But his work on the quieter scenes shows some promise, and that tends to be where younger artists struggle. So I’ll take that as a positive.

The one thing this book does to absolute perfection? It makes you realize how long it’s been since the show’s Season 2 cliffhanger hit screens last spring, and how much you can’t wait for Season 3. Thankfully, it’s just a few weeks away.

Marc Mason

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