Going into this series, even the creative team must have known that Princess Leia would be a hard sell. She is a beloved character by most fans of Star Wars, but also in very few fan’s lists of favorite characters. Instead the relatively dour character is one that has fulfilled the role as the main heroine in a functional way, but not in a way that most people would ever really consider to be fun. Her role of main character has still often mostly been that of sidekick, and so a series about her own adventures might have seemed a bit out of place. That she was given a chance to shine on her own is a risk which has paid off for Marvel, the more so that these stories are considered to be official canon of the Star Wars universe.
As the previous issue left off, Leia has promised to group together all Alderaanians who have survived the destruction of their home planet, and this has taken Leia to the extreme of exchanging herself for the traitor in their midst, Tula, the former agent for the Imperials. While the reader will know than Star Wars canon set between episodes IV and V featuring Leia means that the character has to live, her fate still feels very much in the danger as she steps into the hands of the Imperial officers, eager to rush her off to the fate which they think that she deserves. Things do not exactly transpire like this, but the end result is that Leia is able to somewhat fulfill her goal, even to a degree which she had not thought possible, moving beyond prejudice to find a commonality for all.
Though it has been less talked about than the main Star Wars series, this series likely should have been. It got off to a slow start, but it picked up steam quite quickly, and the entire five issues story reads better together than monthly. With this final issue, it would also be nice to see the return of Evaan, the rare female character in the universe that is written like what most modern comic readers expect from a female character. With this fifth and final issue, Leia proved two things as a character, first of all that she can carry a series, and secondly that she should probably given the opportunity to carry one or two more.
Story: Mark Waid Art: Terry Dodson Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
In its endeavors to create humor related titles, DC Comics has gone to what are undeniably its zaniest two characters who have something to do with the mainstream universe – Bat-Mite and Bizarro. The problem with humor in the main universes is that superhero comics try to maintain a degree of seriousness. Although Bizarro has been around for a while and has factored into some serious stories does not stop him from being a funnier character. Bat-mite on the other hand is a bit more of an anomaly. First appearing in the silver age as Batman’s version of Mr. Mxyzptlk, he was not kept around as long. The match was never a good one for the character who has always been a bit darker than Superman, and so while always kind of around, the character has also been mostly ignored. In the past forty years he has only shown up a handful of times as writers try to keep Batman’s stories a bit more organic and gritty.
That all changes with the release of this issue, as the Bat-Imp is thrown into the DC spotlight with his own title. Though it is not really described in full detail here, the character is actually one that is somewhat powerful, more or less as capable as Mr. Mxyzptlk at reality bending. He ends up involved with Dr. Trauma, the world’s pre-eminent and most nefarious plastic surgeon, skilled at full body swaps. She toys around with Bat-Mite as does he with her and her assistant, and he ends up jailed in her dungeon waiting for someone interested in swapping out their brain for his. There is an interesting tie-in to the mainstream DC Universe as well at the end of the issue, which gives this story a bit more grounding as to what is going on outside of the humor title.
A humor title has to above all be funny, and this is where this issue fails to deliver. Although it is whimsical in outlook, there are not really any moments that will cause the reader to laugh out loud. At the same time although there are not any real hilarious moments, the story is held together a lot better than one might think, with the structure of a decent plot to drive the action in this series forward. This first issue ends up being defined by those two facts, as the humor is mostly missing, even while the zany plot holds this together.
Aspen’s rollout of the previously printed Big Dog Ink materials continues with this second issue of Shahrazad. Earlier this year Aspen acquired the rights to the entire range of BDI characters, and in a bit of a surprise move decided to lead the way with this series that left a lot of readers a bit confused. After the story of Shahrazad as told by BDI was a short one and one that was confusing at times as opposed to other BDI properties like Legends of Oz or Penny for Your Soul. Shahrazad might have been the last big push by BDI to establish a mainstream character but based on the first issues it evidently didn’t really work.
As much can be seen from the plot in this story. It is somewhat incongruous as the titular character is taken through a sequence of almost non sequitur events, some of which transpire in the past and some of which occur at present (whenever that present it?) The underlying concept behind this series is a fascinating one, that the narrator of the One Thousand and One Nights became an immortal and lived not only her own stories, but the stories of many others, across multiple genres and time frames. As shown here the majority of that focus is on her time as a pirate, even if this is poorly explained as it deals both with mermaids and giant flying bats among other parts of its story.
The underlying concept behind this series is also where it gets lost. The character and setting are never really explained and thus as numerous flashbacks are shown to other times and places it is hard to put together the story of the overall narrative as the mixing of genres and inspirations is hard to keep track of. If there is one thing to be said for this issue it is the artwork, which is unfortunately far more enticing than the story. For instance, the second page tells a story in itself through a relatively simple presentation of the main character. Interestingly enough, there is also one scene which is fairly exploitative, but the writer addresses this in the comments at the back. The art ends up being the best part of this issue, which is a shame because of the story was a bit more logical is its approach, the art might compensate for the muddied approach. As it stands though, this ends up being confusing, and raises again the question why Aspen led with this particular BDI property.
Story: Kim Hutchison and Kari Castor Art: Mike Krome Story: 6.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 6.7 Recommendation: Pass
Of all of the Zenescope characters, Robyn Hood is perhaps the one which is the most approachable. Although she is heavily based in the overly confusing Grimm Fairy Tales universe, she is still based on a widely known legend and is being introduced at a time when bow wielding heroes are at an all time high for popularity (for both Green Arrow and Hawkeye.) Making Robyn a female fits with the company policy of taking any character and giving them more sex appeal (often including swapping the gender to female) but aside from that, the character is still more realistic than many superheroes. Her background is more complex, and she bears the scars of that on her face. Her costume is also much more conservative than the attire of most superheroines.
The series gets a little bit off the tracks when it actually gets put into practice. Part of the appeal of the character is that she is a bit more edgy than the typical heroes. She doesn’t mind resorting to violence, but she is still fighting for the good guys. So too is her best friend a complex character, as instead of making Marian into something else, they decided to make her into a relatively dour lesbian sorceress. This issue explores some of these aspects of the characters as Robyn faces down with the demon called forward by the cult, and as Marian deals with her evil mentor while trying to enjoy her first date with a new girlfriend.
There are some good moments in this issue, but in the end it doesn’t really have what it takes. Robyn’s ability to overcome the demon cult is fun, and so too are parts of Marian’s battle, but the problem here is mainly one of storytelling. The story bounces back and forth without much reason and it leaves the reading somewhat choppy. This issue would have been better off choosing one focus and not two, and letting the story be told in a more logical manner. Frustratingly, this issue shows that the series has what it takes, only that the storytelling let it down here, mixing with the narrative in a way that didn’t do justice to what lay within.
Story: Pat Shand Art: Roberta Ingranata Story: 6.8 Art: 6.8 Overall: 6.8 Recommendation: Pass
Except for die-hard Spider-Man fans that were planning on buying every single issue of Spider-Verse, there are very few who though that launching the first issue of Spider-Woman into a large company-wide crossover was a good idea. Now two issues later the series is still dealing with the same burden. The obvious pratfalls of such an approach are numerous. Among the most prominent of these are the fact that the character doesn’t get a chance to start on his or her own without being overshadowed by guest stars and that for the fans interested in the character or series and not the crossover, that each issue has to stand by itself. Looking at this individual issue in this light reveals that it succeeds in the first sense but fails in the latter.
There is some good here, and that is the characterization of the main character, almost overflowing with life as she tries to break out of the confines of her own series. The story opens with her in a cat-and-mouse game with someone that is keeping her captive just happens to love an alternate version of her. Her dealings with him are humorous and do the character justice, and her depiction in a Victorian era gown (with a bit of dark gothic thrown in) throughout the issue is also a fun representation of the character. Where the problems come from is from the other half of the equation and that is in the storytelling. For the non-reader of Spider-Verse, it is hard to make sense at times of what exactly is going on here. There is a mansion, which leads to a pocket dimension with a friendly spider-god and then there are pirates (?). Where any work of fiction depends on either strong characters or a strong story, this issue is almost there with the strong character, but she is hopelessly lost in story which has no firm direction. Truly, based on previous success of this character, the series is likely to succeed by siphoning off Spider-Man fans, but there are other fans too, and it seems as though this is forgotten.
What the reader is left with is a mess, kind of parallel to when one watches a horrible movie that is well acted. The characterization is wasted here on an incoherent mess that loses sight of its own goals in being able to hold this together. There is still a lot of potential for this series and this character, only it seems as though won’t be realized until the Spider-Verse is wrapped up and pushed aside. Until then, readers will continue to get a glimpse of what could be while trying to decipher the rest.
Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Greg Land Story: 6.5 Art: 8 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Pass