I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
There's nothing wrong at all with a good ongoing series, but if anyone were to ask me what my favorite form of comic art is, I would immediately answer "The One Shot". Within the framework of a single issue, the creative team is challenged to give us everything we need to enjoy a story. They're pretty much forced to swing for the fences. Here are 5 random single issues from my collection read and reviewed for your consideration. Are they home runs or foul balls? Let's find out!
Dark Horse (1997)
Script: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Henry Flint
Space pirates wanting to salvage a downed cargo ship before the rightful owners beat them to it discover that the ship is crashed near an alien hive. They decide the best way to clear the nest is with a nuclear device strapped to the back of a pig. Hilarity ensues. . .
So what we have here is a one shot set in the grim Dark Horse Alien expanded universe, but written in a lighter, more comedic tone. Dixon does a fine job balancing action, horror, and comedy here as everything that CAN go wrong DOES go wrong.
Unfortunately, the art drags an otherwise good little standalone story down into "okay' territory. The artist is one of those who can't seem to draw a straight line. . .everything is squiggly and twisted. I understand that in the Alien universe, things are dark and twisted, leaving a lot of room for artist interpretation. . . but this is a straightforward character-driven comedy of errors. Pretentious indy art isn't really called for.
Overall, I really liked the story, but hated the art. I'd definitely suggest this one for the Alien completionists out there.
Script: Sean O'Reilly
Pencils: Vincente Cifu (Cifuentes)
This one shot about a group of journalism students investigating the murders of local business leaders focuses on a Japanese racial angle and plays like an adult version of an after-school television special. The assassin, sort of a post-modern geisha, wears white face make-up and kills people with her hair ornaments.
So basically what we have here is a sort of manga Scooby Doo without the talking dog.
The presentation of the book itself is outstanding! The cover is fantastic, the paper is heavy and glossy. This comic has some serious heft to it and I can appreciate that. The interior art is very nicely done, with a heavily-inked, but cartoony manga style that I really liked.
Unfortunately, the story is overly-wordy, filled with exposition dumps, and the twist (the aggressive killer is a split-personality shy student) is telegraphed and wouldn't have been that much of a surprise even if it hadn't.
Overall, this is a book with great art and a nice presentation brought down by amateurish writing.
BATMAN: SEDUCTION OF THE GUN
Script: John Ostrander
Pencils: Vince Giarrano
Batman and Robin confront gun violence on the streets of Gotham and discover that it's a problem that can't be solved by punching people.
FAIR WARNING: IF YOU ARE A STRONG SUPPORTER OF GUN RIGHTS, THIS COMIC BOOK WILL MAKE YOUR HEAD EXPLODE.
Okay, now THAT'S out of the way, let's take a look. . .
In 1990, the adult son of one of the Warner Brothers executives who worked with DC Comics was killed in a random shooting. In response, we got this comic book, which is strongly anti-gun from first page to last. The message is extremely heavy-handed and there are parts where it seems to quote directly from government anti-gun statistics and literature.
That's not to say that the story is BAD. It's actually a pretty straightforward tale of gangs and illegal gun sales with a grim tone and extremely unhappy ending. It's just that the simple, lean story at the heart of this book is padded to the extreme with anti-gun propaganda (or information, depending on your point of view). It SHOULD be a 48 page story, but ends up being too long at 64 pages.
The art is very nicely done in an awesome 90's-tastic way. A scene where the daughter of a snitch Robin is assigned to protect gets shot in the head right next to him is particularly memorable and brutal, but the entire book, from the great Dorman painted cover to the last page is very nicely illustrated.
Overall, this isn't a bad story, depending on your tolerance for anti-gun messages. It's too long and the 90's street lingo (one thug actually says "Word to your mother") is extremely dated, but it's well drawn and it's nice to see a Batman story where he doesn't win.
AGE OF CONAN: HYBORIAN ADVENTURES
Dark Horse (2006)
Scripts: Joshua Dysart & Timothy Truman
Pencils: Tone Rodriguez & Cary Nord
What we have here is a one shot giveaway comic that ties into the (then new) Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures PC MMORPG that had you playing as an adventurer during the time Conan was King of Aquilonia.
First off, the Cary Nord King Conan cover is absolutely fantastic and frameworthy on its own!
Inside are two stories. . .the first (Age of Conan) is a King Conan story and what seems to be a direct tie-in to the video game. The art is pretty good, but nothing special. The story is actually two stories in one. King Conan dealing with the fallout from an attempted coup, with the other story about a village attacked by supernatural forces. Neither tale is that interesting, but they're not bad either. Both are just sort of. . .there.
The second story (The Road of Kings) takes place earlier in Conan's life and involves Conan first rescuing, then robbing a group of priests. It's short and sweet, with great action. Not much to it, but it's better than the main story. It's also very nicely illustrated by main (at the time) Conan artist Cary Nord, and the visuals stand head and shoulders above the opening story.
Overall, for a freebie, this one shot delivers the goods. It has two decent stories and a fantastic cover. What else could you possibly want for free?
And last, but not least. . .
PREDATOR: JUNGLE TALES
Dark Horse (1995)
Scripts: Ian Edginton & Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Rick Leonardi & Enrique Alcatena
What we have here is a one shot reprinting 2 stories previously published in Dark Horse Comics (issues 1-2 & 10-12), with the connecting theme of the Predator aliens in Africa.
The first story (Rite of Passage) is the tale of a young tribesman encountering and barely defeating a Predator, and then leaving to hunt another decades later. The story is told wordlessly and so the art does the heavy lifting here since there isn't a single word of spoken or caption dialogue. I have to say that, although the backgrounds are sparse to nonexistent and the Predator itself is a bit odd looking, the artist manages to pull off the silent story very well.
The second story (The Pride at Nghasa) is told in a more traditional manner. It's set in 1936's British colonial Africa and involves a group of hunters brought in to deal with a lion terrorizing railroad workers. . .except it isn't a lion. It's a Predator. It's a good story that moves along at a brisk pace and is fantastically illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Enrique Alcatena. His dark, heavily-inked style and intricate panel borders really elevate this story.
Overall, I highly suggest this one shot to Predator fans that might have missed either of these stories in their original publication in Dark Horse Comics.
Overall, not a band handful of one shots at all! I'd say the best of the bunch was probably Predator: Jungle Tales. None of them were really BAD, but if I had to pick one for the bottom of the list, it would probably be The Assassin for its weak story and amateurish writing. But to tell the truth, it wasn't THAT bad.
Up next. . .
Hey, remember LAST time Marvel brought back the original Captain America in his original costume and went back to original numbering because fans didn't like the swerve they took the character on and they felt a course correction back to a more traditional Captain America was called for? Here's one of the small handful of mini's Marvel put out to say "No, Really! It's the REAL Cap now! We promise!" Oh how comic history repeats. . .
Captain America & Iron Man 3 issue mini.
Be there or be square!
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