2013 Graphic Novel reading challenge

Collects the miniseries Season Zero issues 0-12. The story line starts two years before the miniseries which launched the TV-show and ends just before it starts.

Writer: Brandon Jerwa
Artists: Stephen Segovia, Jackson Herbert, Charles Carvalho, Chris Bolson
Publisher: Dynamite

This series explores the corruption inside the Colonial military.

The series starts with Adama taking command of Galactica. He and the ship are set on their first mission together. An expedition fleet ship has gone mission on the Neutral Space between Human and Cylon borders and Galactica is sent took find it. The ship is commanded by former Admiral Julian DiMarco. Adama used to serve under him and thinks highly of him. When the ship’s transponder signal is found from a planet Adama himself leads the rescue mission (of marines) down to the planet. The team finds a group of humans and DiMarco but before Adama can demand answers, Cylon centurions attack.

After the attack, DiMarco tells Adama that the Expedition Fleet turned out to be just a cover for Black Ops missions and that when they found this planet, DiMarco was ordered to bomb it. He didn’t find out until later that there was a small but thriving separatist settlement on the planet and that the bombing killed all of them. DiMarco is depressed and fatalistic but Adama swears that he will get to the bottom of it. Adama was supposed to take DiMarco and his crew back to answer false charges but Adama allows them to stay on the planet. This decision will come back to haunt him.

In the next issues, Colonial Intelligence agent Nolan comes aboard and essentially takes control of Galactica. At first he seems to have legal authority but that isn’t the case. Nolan put Adama and Tigh into the brig but Galactica’s crew fights Nolan’s orders covertly.

In later issues we see Adama trying to get the Admirals to take responsibility for destroying that settlement and running other Black Ops that the citizens would likely not approve of. The Admirals in turn try to blacken Adama’s reputation by using Starbucks, and other pilots’, bad behavior as an example of how Adama fails as a leader. We also see some citizens rallying against the Colonial Government and calling for a governmental reformation. One reporter notes that this the first time that the government has allowed such an open demonstration.

In tone, this series is quite different from the show because the enemies are other humans, terrorists and rebels, instead of Cylons, even though we get to see some of the human Cylons plotting. The Colonies are shown as far from perfect. We got to see some of that in the show, too, but here it’s very clear.

I rather enjoyed this series even though it contradicts some canon. The most obvious error, or change, is that Adama and some of his people see the new Cylon centurions on the Neutral Space planet even though it’s said in the series that humans haven’t seen any Cylons in 40 years.

I also enjoyed the art more than in the Origins series. Here the characters are clearly recognizable. I would recommend this to fans of the show who want to see more of the Colonies.

Collects Battlestar Galactica Origins issues 1-11 and Zarek 1-4

Writers: Brandon Jerwa, Seamus Kevin Fahey, Clay Carmouche, Robert Place Napton
Artists: Adriano Batista, Jonathan Lau

This series focuses on some of the (main) characters of the TV-series. It was apparently written before the final season of the show. But even so, there are some continuity problems in it and I think the stories here must be an alternate vision of the characters. The stories aren’t bad but they aren’t particularly great, either.

However, my biggest complaint is the art. Perhaps I’m the last one to moan about it, but this comic is based on TV-show where the actors are quite recognizable. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recognize the characters in the comic. For example, the Cylon women don’t look like the actresses and even worse, they look exactly the same. The only way to recognize the characters is when someone calls them by the name. Argh!

Zarek’s story starts the collection. I thought it was the most interesting one. I don’t think it was ever stated in the series what Zarek actually did, just that he was either a terrorist or a freedom fighter, depending on you point-of-view. Here we’re shown the terrible conditions that some of the Sagittarions must labor under, as pretty much slaves. They don’t have sick days and they don’t make enough money to buy medicine once the work makes them sick. Zarek’s parents went into politics to change things but even in some 20 years, the workers’ conditions didn’t really change. When Zarek’s mother is murdered, he turns into terrorism.

Zarek is shown as a brilliant manipulator and a very charismatic leader who can even turn jaded prisoners into his followers and essentially take over the prisons where he’s sent. The only thing which I found to be very strange was a scene where president Adar and education secretary Roslin are meeting with Zarek. So Roslin met Zarek before the war? Just no.

Then it’s Baltar’s turn. The story follows him from his childhood in a farm on Aerilon to the Cylon attack. Throughout the comic he’s arrogant and self-absorbed, just as the TV-version.

It seems that the Cylons have been influencing him long before the attack. Caprica Six and the other Cylons scheme to get Baltar appointed as the Director of the Navigational Program project. The human Cylons have apparently captured quite a few humans and done some hideous research on them right in the heart of Caprica City. I found this problematic. The story also gives Baltar a family which is never mentioned in the series.

Next up is Commander Adama’s story. I enjoyed this one the most and I think it most closely follows canon. It even has scenes which were seen as flashbacks in the series (some as deleted scenes on the DVD) where Adama meets Tigh and when they work together.

The story starts with Adama as a young, hot-shot pilot on his first mission which goes wrong and haunts him for the rest of the series. We’re also shown how the armistice with Cylons causes many of the officers to be mustered out of the military because the military budget was cut. (I’ve sometimes wondered why the Colonies would bother to fund the building of battlestars if they don’t have an enemy to fight.) Then Adama meets his wife and has the boys. But soon his wife starts to resent Adama’s devotion to the Fleet and their relationship sours. The rest of the story is quite sad and right before the ceremony Adama is thinking of resigning which doesn’t really fit my idea of Adama.

Otherwise, the story was good. However, for a while Adama’s commanding officer was Captain Alexa Caine, Helena’s mother, which felt more than a bit forced.

The last story stars Starbuck and Helo. They met as cadets. Helo tries to help Kara a bit and she rejects every kind of help fiercely. Then they are sent on their first mission together. It goes wrong, of course, and they start their friendship when they try to struggle back to civilization.

Starbuck is even angrier in this comic than in the series. She obviously has a lot to prove to herself and she takes it out on everyone around her. Helo is his understanding and patient self. Unfortunately, there are still moments which I think are wildly out of character, such as when it’s suggested the Kara and Karl had sex. They also come into contact with Cylon prisoners who almost tell them about the human Cylons.

It seems that I’m (once again) picking on the faults. However, I did enjoy these stories even though I can’t really consider them canon.

Collects X-Men vol 3 issues12-15 and Giant X-Men 1

Writer: Christopher Yost
Artists: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Dalabor Talajic

This is an interesting attempt to retcon new villains into the X-Men continuity. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it, either, which is a good thing because I usually end up hating the retcons. Sadly, it ended up being more of an “meh”.

Scott is the main view point character in this story and we see a most of the plot through his eyes.

He wakes up in the Utopia island with Emma but dreaming of Jean. It turns out that a group of Neo has attacked the island and Emma is so “worried about Scott’s blood pressure” that she doesn’t want him to know. But of course Scott runs out to join the fray. The Neo are holding their own against Magneto, Storm, and Namor so they are an actual threat against the combined mutants on the island. Then Scott has a sort of seizure and remembers things about his past which have been suppressed. When the original X-Men fought Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, they were interrupted by three armored beings calling themselves the Evolutionaries. They offer to kill of all humans everywhere in order to protect the mutants and ensure that their mutation will continue. Apparently (Avengers Forever notwithstanding) the humans are an evolutionary dead-end and need to be wiped out. When the Evolutionaries offer this to Charles Xavier, he’s horrified, of course. Then we get back to “now”.

One Evolutionary appears with sidekicks.. He declares the Neo a threat to the survival of Homo Superior and kills them all. Everywhere. Cyclops protests and Evolutionary turns against him, claiming that he isn’t fit to lead mutants. Fighting starts and Scott remembers more and more about his past dealings with the Evolutionaries.

The Evolutionaries are searching for the one man who leads all of mutantkind. This seems mightly weird because humans have never had that sort of leader. So why should mutants have? They’re also extremely powerful but they only want to use their power in an extreme way, so it’s very hard to negotiate with them.

We get to see the original X-Men is action when they talk about the Evolutionaries’ offer and fight them. We also see the original, evil Magneto, which is always fun. However, this didn’t really add anything new to the X-Men’s world.

Collects issues 1-6.

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Publication year: 2011

Batman is dead and hasn’t appeared in Gotham for about a month. However, Dick Grayson feels that it’s his duty to take over from Bruce and Bruce’s 10-year old son Damien takes over as Robin. So, once again Batman and Robin patrol Gotham City. The collection contains stories “Batman Reborn” and “Revenge of the Red Hood”.

The collection starts with a flying Batmobile which is, of course, very cool as Dick says. (“I’d have killed for a flying Batmobile when I was Robin.”) Unfortunately, the rest of the story wasn’t as cool. Dick is trying to teach Damian teamwork and how to be a “proper” Robin. Damian is arrogant and convinced that he knows everything there is to know and Dick is somewhat ambivalent about taking over as Batman. In fact, he might not have continued it without Alfred’s advice. Alfred was great! Dick’s and Damien’s personalities are quite different and their bickering is the highlight of the comic. I also admired Commissioner Gordon’s initial distrust towards the new Batman. Because, you know, he could be anyone under the mask.

But the villains! They are pretty bizarre, especially in the first story. Pyg is the main villain in the first story and even though he’s clearly mentally disturbed he could be a great Batvillain with his Dollotron’s and the Circus of Strange. However, the villains in the second story are very bloodthirsty and I don’t feel like they fit well among other Bat-villains. The Red Hood wants to kill criminals and does so with a lot of blood. Then, the mafiosos send their master killer to Gotham, a lobotomized former good guy called Flamingo. Now, I almost think we’re in Criminal Minds territory, not in Batman’s.

However, I enjoyed the collection in the end.

Collects Uncanny X-Men #199-213; New Mutants Special Edition #1; Uncanny X-Men Annual #9; X-Factor #9-10; New Mutants #46; Thor #373-374; Power Pack #27

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr., Barry Windsor-Smith, Arthur Adams, Rick Leonardi

This another collection full of classic issues; people and events which still affect story lines. The collection starts with Mystique meeting with Val Cooper, the president’s adviser, and so the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants becomes Freedom Force, who works only for the president. Rachel Summers visits her mother’s parents’ house (in this universe), she touches Jean’s memory crystal and apparently gets a power boost. In later issues, the Beyonder gives her even more power and the X-Men wonder if Rachel will be the new Dark Phoenix.

Next up is Magneto’s trial in Paris. During the story, Xavier has a heart attack and is teleported away by the Star Jammers. Xavier makes Magneto promise that he will take over and teach the kids in his absence. Unsurprisingly, some X-Men are skeptical about that. The trial ends without a clear sentence. Instead the judge says that Magneto and all mutants will be judged by public opinion instead of any judges. Also, Madelyne and Scott’s son is born, making it clear that this isn’t Rachel’s universe.

Then, perhaps my favorite issue in this collection: Cyclops and the powerless Storm duel over the leadership of the X-Men. Cyclops loses and Storm is now the acknowledged leader. Cyclops disappears for a while from the comic, presumably to live with his wife and son. I remember when I read this comic for the first time and how amazed I was that Storm was such a badass without her powers. Also, I think Rick Leonardi’s art was perfect for this issue.

Then we have two issues which focus on one X-Man: first Wolverine and then Nightcrawler. Wolverine’s issue introduced lady Deathstroke but otherwise these issues, and the next one, where the X-Men fight Freedom Force in San Francisco, are pretty average.

Then comes issues focusing on Rachel’s mental problems which are only heightened by her great supernatural powers. Rachel is a tortured character who comes from a tortured future, and she wants to do anything to keep it from happening. The problem is that she’s also just one person and she can’t know what to do. She sees that some things are the same, like the way humans hate and fear mutants more and more, and wants to change that. This time her hatred for the evil mutants boils over and she infiltrates Hellfire’s Club and attacks their Black Queen, Selene. However, Wolverine confronts Rachel and begs her to leave instead of becoming a murderer. Rachel refuses and Wolverine wounds her grievously. However, Rachel’s powers keep her wound closed, just barely, and she escapes. Both the X-Men and Hellfire’s Club search for her and fight in the Central Park. In the end, the two groups have to join forces against Nimrod, and Rachel is lured by Spiral into the Body Shoppe where all her memories would go away. I believe she isn’t seen again until in the first issue of Excalibur.

Poor Rachel. She has suffered so much and feels out of place in the past. She doesn’t even tell Scott that he’s her father but just keeps an awkward distance. This time her actions also case friction among the X-Men. I feel that this is classic Claremont where he mixes super powered fights with tortured characters and heroes arguing amongst themselves about pretty big issues (this time what gives anyone a right to kill someone else) and teams up villains and heroes against a bigger threat (one of my favorite troupes!).

Next up is an aftermaths issue with foreshadowing. Kitty gets to tell off a bunch of racists who are attacking Kurt because of his appearance. Mutants are compared to the Jewish people and other oppressed minorities.

Then the Marauders attack! That kicks off the Mutant Massacre storyline which continues for the rest of the collection. Storm loses (briefly) confidence in her ability to lead, a lot of Morloks are killed, and gentle Colossus becomes a killer, as well. The collection ends with three X-Men out of commission: Colossus is paralyzed, Shadowcat is stuck in an intangible state, and Nightcrawler is seriously injured. On the plus side, Psylocke is introduced, in her original body as a young British girl, and she goes toe to toe with Sabertooth and survives.

In New Mutants Special Edition, the New Mutants and Storm are kidnapped to Asgard by a vengeful Loki. In X-Men Annual 9, the X-Men follow in order to rescue the kids and Storm. I remember enjoying this story quite a lot when I first read it. Many of the kids get more confidence in themselves and each other as a team. Also, Dani Moonstar becomes a Valkyrie and get her winged steed. Illyana’s evil side is also established pretty firmly.

Overall, this is a great collection and I really enjoyed myself rereading these stories.

Collects Fantastic Four issues 503-508.

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Howard Porter, Norm Rapmund

In the previous collection, Unthinkable, the FF banished Doctor Doom into Hell, literally. However, this left Doom’s country Latveria in a bad place. Doom has ruled the country for decades ruthlessly; while he took care of the people, they were like pets to him. The countries surrounding Latveria also want to conquer, er, annex, it.

Reed decides that the situation is his fault. He takes the team to Latveria and at first they simply protect the Latverians from outside threats. However, the team gets to find out the hard way that Doom has been telling his people that the FF are the real threat. Reed decides that the team has to stay and help the Latverians become really free and democratic. The other members aren’t too sure about some of it. Of course, they are happy to destroy Doom’s arsenal of weapons and the Doombots but they aren’t so happy about trying to control an entire country. And Reed seems to be become more and more self-absorbed. The UN aren’t too happy about this, also, and they send out Colonel Fury to lead their troops against the FF.

This was pretty intense story and addresses somewhat the problems of having superheroes (who supposedly defend individual freedoms) in the same world where tyrants rule countries. Also, the FF have lots of internal conflict which is always interesting to see. The story shows off the characters’ different personalities well and I think all of the FF are in character here. And Reed is still treating the others like children, no matter how much he protests this in his letter.

At first the Latverians clearly hate the FF. They think that the FF will set themselves up as the new tyrants and even throw rocks at them. However, their opinions changed completely during this storyline. I think that’s a bit too quick but I guess happened because of the limits of the story arc. The ending changed the FF in lots of interesting ways but some of them were reversed quickly rather than let the FF stay changed.

Collects FF issues 67-70, 500-502

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Mike Wieringo, Karl Kesel, Casey Jones

Waid’s start on the FF was relatively “usual” (maybe he was lulling us readers into expecting nothing unusual. I did enjoy them too (collected in Imaginauts)) but then came Unthinkable. The multi-issue story starts with an issue focused on Doom. Victor is in US, among fortune-tellers and psychics whom Victor scorns but at the same time, he needs their help to find his early sweetheart Valeria. He talks about his life and their brief life together, about how his accomplishments haven’t given him what he really wants. We’re lead to believe that he just wants Valeria back and life in peace with her. Wrong! On the last page, Victor sacrifices Valeria to demons in exchange for becoming a powerful sorcerer. In fact, what he wants is to utterly defeat FF. To do that, he turns his back on science and becomes a magician who can rival Doctor Strange.

In the next issue we find out the awful truth: Susan and Reed’s little girl Val is Doom’s familiar. He uses the connection to attack the FF with magic and in consequence, Franklin is sent to Hell. The FF attack Doom, trying to force him to get Franklin back.

The last two stories about Franklin and the FF trying to cope. Poor little guy is catatonic after his experiences and Reed is blaming himself.

The story focuses on FF as a family and especially on Reed who is forced to leave his comfort zone, science, behind and accept that he doesn’t know everything. That’s very hard. However, I have to agree with some other reviewers who have said that this Doom is out of character. He’s certainly not the same Doom in Byrne’s run. He wouldn’t have put kids in danger. This Doom deliberately frightens Val and traumatizes Franklin just to get back at Reed. He also accepts help. From others.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed this story and it will have repercussions.

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