In this post, from Dark Horse Comics: Once Upon a Time Machine, DC Comics: Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2, and from Image Comics: Saga Volume 1. Comic releases are always so few and far between the day before Comic-Con, so have one comic and two trades!
Dark Horse Comics
Once Upon a Time Machine [edited] by Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens
Genre: Fiction, fractured fairy tales, science-fiction, anthology
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This retelling of classic fairy tales from favorites like “The Three Little Pigs” to “Goldilocks” and even “The Three Musketeers” is all about the merging of classic literature and science fiction. It’s an interesting concept for an anthology that features short stories from a variety of artists and illustrators. Although since it’s sci-fi, most of them have the inclusion of robots or aliens. Goldilocks is now a little girl with silver hair who moves outside the colony’s encampment perimeter and wreaks havoc. Pinnochio is a machine created to hold all human knowledge and always tell the truth. You get the idea. Fairy tales plus rocket ships and space.
The problem this anthology suffers is the same fate of any anthology- not all the stories can be good. There is the same clear delineation of good stories, okay stories, and stories you hate but slog through to get to something better. Unfortunately, what makes this worse is that interspersed between the stories there are double spread illustrated re-interpretations of fairy tales (mermaids watching aliens, gingerbread men being marched into ovens, bionic girl in red hoods) whose concepts are often more interesting than the stories in the anthology itself. I wish I could read those stories. One the whole, they seem to be the more interesting takes on fairy tales, and also focus on much more popular/recognizable works. A slight misstep from the publisher, but a fun interesting new look at fairy tales nonetheless. Especially recommended for sci-fi fans! Blech (AKA not me).
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2 by J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein, illustrated by Adam Hughes, John Wiggins, cover by Adam Hughes
Genre: Fiction, superheroes, action, prequel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
One of the more inventive story lines in the series, this Watchmen prequel is all about how the blue skinned and schlonged Dr. Manhattan perceives time. From comparisons to Schrodinger’s Cat (the scientific one not the sassy one in Memorial) to literal skips around the time stream, Michael Straczynski needs to be commended for capturing the voice of the comics’ titular character and also being true to him. While Rorschach is also written with the same accuracy, this story is much stronger and not just about dissatisfaction and the de-evolution of the human race. Instead we get glimpses into what it’s like to be Manhattan, with all time and possibilities happening simultaneously.
The most intriguing part of the story is when we get to see the different parallel worlds play out. We see the Dr. living a real life and how minor decisions such as choosing left or right, red or white, etc. can have much larger repercussions on the world. Like Schrodinger’s Cat, all possibilities converge into one and anything is possible. Or as the Butterfly Effect would lead us to leave, the tiniest things can have worldwide effects. Combine these two ideas and you have the basis for this incredibly imaginative issue. This and Silk Spectre (mostly for ironic reasons) are the true standouts of the Before Watchmen series. Seriously, stop rolling around in that coffin you sleep in Alan Moore.
Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, cover by Fiona Staples
Genre: Fiction, action, romance, science-fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The newest series from Y: the Last Man creator Brian K. Vaughan is a high concept science-fiction take on Romeo and Juliet. AKA Amazeballs. Pairing winged Alana from the planet Landfall and horned Marko from the moon Wreath, this unlikely pair does the unthinkable, running off together to Cleave to save the life of their baby Hazel. The family is wanted by both planets, who are caught in a vicious war and worried about the repercussions of a multi-breed baby. Set on their track is a Freelancer named The Will and his Lying Cat who are hired to kill, The Will’s love interest and the world’s most feared hunter The Stalk, and Prince Robot IV, a dignitary with a television for a head.
It would be no small feat to top his last 10-volume masterpiece, yet Vaughan keeps doing just that in this amazing new series. His gift for telling a character driven story in an insane world full of rocketship forests, ghost nannies and sex planets is one to be admired, and is assisted by the gorgeous artwork of illustrator Fiona Staples. Staples gives a deft touch to this series, adding to to the story rather than detracting from it. Her gorgeous artwork is unique and brings Vaughan’s story-telling to life- You simply must see the beauty and horror she creates with her illustrations. Best new series of the year? Yes AND yes.