Graphic Novel Review – Saga: Volume One

Graphic Novel Review: Saga: Volume One 

Collecting: Saga #1-6

Original Release Date: 2012

Publisher: Image Comics


Characters:  Alana, Marko, Hazel, Prince Robot IV, The Will, Izabel, The Stalk

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Fiona Staples

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 10
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 9
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 10


 Imagine if The Hobbit, Firefly and Star Wars had monkey sex and left a wet spot in the form of a comic. Saga is one of those rare gems that comes once a generation. Writer extraordinaire Brian Vaughn, of TV’s Lost, and comics, Y: The Last Man is paired with Fiona Staples, total hottie and penciler of books like North 40 and Jonah Hex. The result is a space opera like none you have seen before. If you can envision what all of your 5th grade, overly sexualized pictures would look like if they had space ships and laser pistols, you’d have Saga.

Volume one is the trade version of issues 1-6, originally published in 2012. Once again, Image Comics pushes the boundaries, almost as often as they push back release dates, and gives us a comic worthy of fan-boy argument and minimum orders at your local comic shop.
The story follows two lovebirds born on opposite sides of a galactic war. Take away the horns and wings and Marko and Alana are Kirk Cobain and Courtney Love, or a less violent hipster version of Mickey and Mallory.
Plot Alert!
Our heroine, Alana is from a planet called Landfall and Marko is from a planet called
Wreath. The two planets have been at war longer than anyone can remember. They fell in love and had a mixed species baby. This baby is the reason why they are being hunted by both species.
Our interstellar lovers begin their adventure with the birth of their daughter and our narrator, Hazel.  Its probably the most kick-ass birth ever in a comic. Immediately, they are confronted by an army of angry elk dudes and another group of guys that look like the cops from Demolition Man with wings.
If I sound a little gushy, it’s probably because Fiona Staples single handedly kept my faith in comics alive last year with this title.  Hell, she damn near created a whole new religion, fully equipped with sister-wives, Kool-aid flavored arsenic, and snake charming. So pardon me if I sound a little fanboy while reading my signed copy. This comic doesn’t answer the question, did Greedo shoot first? But it does stir a pot of middle school giddiness once you read a page or two.
There is a post war, atomic era feel to Staples work. Saga is reminiscent of Dan Stevens Rocketeer epic. Vaughn’s humor compliments her sarcastic facial expressions and the book reads like a still frame sitcom.
Magic is a common weapon and spells are often cast to thwart enemies in this universe. But there is also a healthy dose of light-saber’esk swordplay.
The Will, a freelance bounty hunter hired to find our couple, looks like what Han Solo would have if he’d been played by Bruce Willis.
Our thrift-shop, Gluten-free heroes find themselves in more trouble than they can handle and end up befriending the half torso ghost of a dead emmo-girl named Izabel. Zoinks!
I can only empathize with Mr. and Mrs. Staples having to explain to little Fiona why her art wasn’t suitable for the fridge. The opening scene in chapter four with Will walking through Sextillion is disturbing, but you won’t stop smiling all while trying not to feel guilty about it. There are plenty enough dicks and tits to make you feel like your comic should have come sealed in a plastic bag and sold behind a black curtain.
Overall the story is simple, but the humor is hard to deny. This book is vulgar, sardonic and voguish and I bet George Carlin would have loved it. Volume one has more than enough to keep the reader interested and in anticipation of more Superbad inspired notebook doodles of dicks and spaceships. Bravo for Saga.

      Related Books: Saga Volume Two, and all comic Issues #1-13 

      More by the writer: Brian Vaughn is an official Bad-Ass. He has written for everything you like. The list is too long to do justice. It includes Captain America, X-Men and Spider-Man.  He has even crossed universes and written for the guy with the cape and cowl and the other dude with the green bling. Not to mention Y: The Last Man is one of the best titles of this decade and has won numerous awards. Oh, and then there is ABC’s Lost.

More by the artist: Fiona Staples is pretty much the best thing in comics right now. She has worked her way through the industry and is co-creator of one of the most popular titles on the market, Saga. She has done a ton of cover art for multiple titles, including, The Walking Dead, Red Sonja and Superman/Batman. Watch out comic-book heads! This inkstress is already making a big impact on the industry, and this is only the beginning!  Cue spooky villain sound track.

Written by John Soweto

Lego Batman: The Movie Review

When I played LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes for the first time, it was probably the most fun I’ve ever allowed myself to have playing a videogame. You run around collecting coins, breaking bad guys to pieces and building miniature LEGO sets in fast forward time. Well, the movie is more of the same experience, but the only thing you have to do with your hands it press Play!

Before we get started, let’s clear up one thing: if you have played the game, you know the story. Except for a few added scenes to smooth everything together, the movie is essentially comprised of all the cutscenes in the videogame. That being said, the storyline of LEGO Batman: The Movie is absolutely awesome. It’s the classic tag team power match-up of Batman and Superman (and Robin – everybody forgets Robin) going against Joker and Lex Luthor. Ultimately, as the lesson is learned, Batman realizes that it is going to take more than just the two of them to defeat the duo, and the Justice League is called into the mix to fix off the baddies. In fact, my only knock of the film is that the Justice League isn’t featured more in it. I know that it would have taken focus off the relationship between Batman and Superman, but it would have been great to see more Easter Eggs like Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet made with clear LEGO pieces. Overall though, it’s a story that would translate into pretty much any format and the writers should be very proud of themselves for creating an experience that both three-year olds and their nerdy parents can enjoy.

Quite possibly the best part of LEGO Batman: The Movie is the LEGO. LEGO Everything. Nub-heads, cheap cloth LEGO capes, and a ton of other LEGO translations that I won’t spoil are really proof that the small things matter. Somehow, with all the malarkey of  exploding LEGO chickens turning into LEGO drumsticks, the movie somehow is able to remain true to form. The Danny Elfman Batman: Returns tribute of an introduction, along with the absurd need to play John Williams’ Superman theme everytime he does something cool makes the characters feel bigger than LEGOs.

That isn't rock candy...
That isn’t rock candy…

Batman is arrogant and stoic, while Superman is a total bro. It’s a great yin-yang relationship that the Superman/Batman comics explored and I think that it translates well to a 71 minute film. While it can be a bit corny at times, the charm injected to each and every moment will have you secretly wishing for more. It’s basically your inner child’s imagining of the Dark Knight. If you’re not too cool for school, you could be in for a great time. Take your pants off in the comfort of your own home and enjoy!

Batman secretly wears Superman pajamas around the Batcave...
Batman secretly wears Superman pajamas around the Batcave…

“Listen to your… listen to your Batman” and buy this movie. It’s noticeably cheaper than the usual DC Animated movie and it includes an awesome Clark Kent LEGO piece.

Category Explanation Score
Plot While not Oscar-worthy, the story has enough substance that it will keep you wondering what will happen next and the ending fits. 8/10
Voice-acting All voices are fitting of their characters and LEGO Batman knocks it out of the park with experienced but relatively unknown actors. 9/10
Representation of Source Material The buddy cop bromance between Batman and Superman is in full effect in this film and it pays off in the end. 9/10
Animation Again. LEGO EVERYTHING. In a good way. 10/10
Sound Effects and Music The themes that Danny Elfman and John Williams made famous return in classic form. 10/10
Captivity There are a lot of slow transitions here where you can tell it was pieced together from previous material that kind of mess up the flow of the film. 7/10
Overall awesomeness The movie does a great job at being cute versions of the things we love about the DC Universe, especially Batman. 10/10
Creativity Anytime LEGO does a project, they go all out. Half the fun is finding little details they tweaked for the sake of being LEGO. 9/10
Replayability It’s a fun movie, but I’m pretty sure it will find it’s way to the back of the collection 6/10
Special Features There are a couple of cute stop-motion shorts, and extra vault episodes are always nice, but nothing really to write home about. 5/10
Superman-Batman: Public Enemies
Justice League: Doom
The Flashpoint Paradox, based off Geoff John’s awesome Flashpoint run (Flashpoint #1-5), out July 30, 2013 . I personally cannot wait for this. It has an All-Star cast, led by director Jay Oliva (The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1 and 2), and an incredible take on Batman’s orgin. I’ve attached a teaser below.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Review

When Part 1 of DC’s animated version of The Dark Knight Returns was released in late September last year, fans were pretty upset that they would have to wait four whole months for the second half to drop. Well the wait is finally over and the entire story is now on DVD for your eager minds to digest. For those of you new to comics, the films are based off of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, a 1986 story arc set in a futuristic 1980’s Gotham where government control is almost as bad of an issue as the youth’s grammar is. Bruce Wayne had been retired as Batman for ten years when some punk group of degenerates called the Mutants force him to pull a Michael Jordan and come out of retirement to kick some serious ass.  In short, Part 1 ends with Batman defeating the Mutants and bringing attention to himself in a major way; the media, the President, newly appointed Commissioner Ellen Yindel, and unfortunately, the Joker.

This story arc is widely considered one of the greatest of comic books ever – and it is not without reason. Considering that comics up to that point (at least mainstream comics like DC and Marvel), were for the most part very happy-go-lucky and very politically correct. They just wanted to stay in their little bubble – tell their story, catch the bad guy, get the girl. Rinse, lather, repeat. Frank Miller comes along and uses one of the most loveable characters in comic history to entertain the idea of fighting the government. It’s paramount to the Batman mythos that we follow today and asks us to question whether authority is just or not. One of my favorite quotes from this movie (and believe me, there are quite a few quotables and inspirational speeches in this one) is “You say you answer to some sort of authority. They only want me dead because I’m an embarrassment. Because I do what they can’t. What kind of authority is that?” That’s a damn good question, Batman. Part 2 is not only the more introspective of the two parts, but the most action-packed, as well. Not only does Batman battle the Joker in this movie, but he also takes on: Gotham City PD, a chaotic Gotham City, the United States government and their tool of a soldier, Superman, and untimely arthritis. The Superman part, to me, was the most intriguing. This back-story of an “agreement” for superheroes to cease being is one that I always wanted to see in full and I wish they could go into more detail (Note: For more stories exploring the government regulation of heroes, try DC’s “Kingdom Come” or Marvel’s “Civil War”). Miller also comments quite a bit on the human condition. Through a series of telecast interviews, it is pretty apparent that just about everybody in Gotham is a total asshole! Even Batman gets his Donald Trump on by repeatedly threatening to fire Robin. Half the people in the interviews make you feel like punching them in the face, and it’s a good reason the world is “going to hell in a handbasket (that quote is via Adrian).” Hopefully, both will be read and reflected upon. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns has really changed the game in comics and helped turn them from children’s books to being some of the most cerebral works of literature out there.

As far as comparing the movie to the graphic novel, director Jay Oliva and writer Bob Goodman have done a terrific job of figuring out which pieces of the book need to be cut out or elaborated on to really captivate what Frank Miller was trying to get across. You can tell that he and his team really appreciate the source matter. What seems to impress me most is how the team was able to take a four-chapter novel and turn it into a 2½ hour long film while not really adding anything unnecessary or leaving out anything vital. One of my biggest gripes about DC Universe Animated Original Movies’ last Batman adaptation (Batman: Year One) is that it too close to the source material. This is unfortunate because it keeps fans new to comics from really enjoying the comics as much as they could have. The Dark Knight Returns: Part II does not have this issue; I feel that somebody could watch both parts to TDKR and still thoroughly enjoy the novel as a new experience. One of the biggest pieces missing from the animated show is the internal thought-process that Batman has. One of the biggest recurring themes of the novel is that Batman is no longer the bulletproof God that he once was. Every panel is full of  “stupid old man” this and “senile fool” that. It really helps build the concept that Batman is a true hero, and there is no sure bet that Batman will emerge victorious.

Animation-wise, the visuals are very clean. They somehow manage to take Frank Miller’s art, which has very unique and manic style, and make it into something that translates into a strong animated movie. The fight scenes are incredible – drawn out in the interest of brutality. Both of the epic battles, one against the Joker, and one against Superman, are terrifyingly exciting and either match or exceed the impact of the ones in the original. The voice-acting is also superb, with the one exception being Michael Emerson’s Joker. As far as voice-acting goes, the bar is set at Mark Hamill every time and the performance of the actor playing Joker is based on how close to the bar he can reach. I believe that Emerson tried hard, but is cursed with sounding too much like Seth McFarlane’s Roger from American Dad. However, Peter Weller’s old man Bat’s was perfect for the image Frank Miller painted him in, and Mark Valley’s Superman was very reminiscent of the Animated Series.

Overall, my recommendation is to go out, buy both parts of the movie, and the graphic novel. It’s a special piece of history put into a format that the masses can truly appreciate it. The great thing is, you don’t need to be a comic book whiz to appreciate it. With all the small details that Miller and Oliva alike put into the final product, fans new to Batman comics will find themselves wanting to dig deeper in the catalog. Trust me, you need to give this a go!

– Dave Endorcrine, the show host that guest stars the Joker at the beginning, is a parody of Dave Letterman, and is played by Conan O’Brien.
– Corto Maltese, the island that the Russians try to invade through the movie, is actually based off a1960’s Italian comic book of the same name
Category Explanation Score
Plot This movie is full of plot twists and surprises! The film goes by so quickly due to the superb pacing of the story, sectioned off in multiple parts. 10/10
Voice-acting Although the Joker sounds like a Seth McFarlane character, the rest of the cast more than make up for it, as fans could probably name most of the characters with their eyes closed. 9/10
Representation of Source Material Jay Oliva and crew do a great job of portraying Frank Miller’s vision, knowing what to keep and what to cut out or expand upon. However, it would have been nice to get the internal monologue that Batman and Superman had throughout the novel. 9/10
Animation TDKR Part II excellently portrays the gritty, 80’s style art that Frank Miller originally had. There is an obvious difference in animation between The Dark Knight Returns and the other DC animated movies. 10/10
Sound Effects and Music Every bone-jarring punch, every slice-n-dice stab, it’s all in there. Background music also helps build suspense and intensifies emotion. 10/10
Captivity I found myself glued to the screen for the entire film. Also, the characters really grow on you. You easily find yourself loving and hating a few by the end. 10/10
Overall awesomeness The action and fight sequences were really enjoyable. Batman really goes all out against his foes. 10/10
Creativity Gotta dock a point just for the fact that it’s a remake of a book. That aside, the creative team does a good job keeping the movie and the source material distinctly different. 9/10
Replayability This is the type of film you can watch over and over. Especially when coupled with the first part, it makes for one, long entertaining show, again and again. 9/10
Special Features Where these DC movies really make it or break it for me are the Special Features.  This movie is packed with goodies: When Heroes Collide examines the fascination of a Superman-Batman showdown, a documentary about the Joker’s character, and a good explanation of scenes that differed in the movie from the novel. 9/10
Batman: Year One
Superman-Batman: Public Enemies
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Superman: Unbound follows Geoff John’s Brainiac storyline. We’ve attached a trailer below.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

DC’s New 52 #0’s

It’s been just about one year since DC Comics re-launched almost their entire line in an effort to freshen up their product. Aside from a few missteps, they’ve been relatively successful – bringing new light to a their staple franchises, such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Batman, as well as delving into some more obscure characters, like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and the Justice League: Dark characters.They even managed to make Aquaman look like a badass, a feat which speaks volumes on it’s own.

With a bunch of new followers and a kick-ass creative team, The New 52 has done a great job of paying homage to predecessors while still opening up a lot of new doors to go through. The Zero Issues will mark the end of Resurrection Man, Voodoo and Captain Atom, the last of which I was really into, initially, but became this entangled, spiritualistic vomit of a comic that I eventually stopped reading. More importantly, though, they serve as prologues to stories that foreshadow soon-to-be events or just stories that the writers wish they could tell, but don’t have the means for an entire six-issue arc.

Regardless, I’m very excited for many of the Zero Issues (complete listing found here) and these are the ones I will be looking at closely:

Art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH
“Meet Calvin Rose, the only Talon ever to escape the grasp of the Court of Owls. This former assassin just wants to live a normal life…but that’s impossible, since he’s being hunted by his former masters!”

This series, I am especially excited for. The Court of Owls arc was one of the best Batman stories. Ever. The thing I struggled with most during the story was the conflict of these assassins, called Talons in the book, between their bred duty and their personal feelings. Good thing the Owls live past the pages of Batman.


Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by GARY FRANK
“Billy Batson takes center stage in this issue as he unleashes the awesome power of Shazam in a special origin story! Also featuring the not-to-be-missed origin of Pandora and the next seeds of TRINITY WAR!”

Justice League has been my favorite of the superhero orgy comics out, and one of my favorite parts has been the short story of Billy Batson, who has been an unapologetic asshole throughout the mini-series. To see how he gains his powers and how it changes him is something I’ve been waiting on for a while.


Art and cover by CLIFF CHIANG
” A facet of the past is revealed – and a foe is introduced! How did Wonder Woman become a star pupil of Ares?”

The pairing of Wonder Woman and Greek Mythology has been one made on Olympus. I can’t wait to see how the fiery Wonder Woman catches the eye of the God of War. However, I’m still waiting on the real match-up between the bastards of Zeus, Kratos vs. Diana.

EARTH 2 #0
“It’s the tragic origin of Earth 2’s greatest villain! Don’t miss Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in action on Earth 2!”

Earth 2 is DC’s blatant attempt for Robinson to say, “you know what, screw the origin stories from the Golden Age. I’m gonna make my own!” And, for that, I love the new series. I’m really excited to see how it all began, after it all tragically ended.

Art and cover by CHRIS BURNHAM
“Batman has a war to fight, but first he must recruit an army to combat the menace of Leviathan. See how The Dark Knight assembled his lieutenants!”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Batman, Inc. for some time now. With only a couple issues out, it’s hard to really judge where this series is going, but I love it thus far – as well as the original run pre-New 52. I trust really anything Batman that Grant Morrison does, and I’m excited to see the book shine new light on some of the recruits, namely Nightrunner, the French Muslim Batman.

Backup story written by SCOTT SNYDER and JAMES TYNION IV
“Bruce Wayne has returned from his worldwide quest to take the law into his own hands! This issue reveals the early steps of building everything that surrounds Batman – the costume, the cave, the car, the gadgets!”

Batman origin story done by the great Scott Snyder? Sold!

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
“Damian’s complicated relationship with his mother, Talia al Ghul, takes center stage. Bred to kill and not to care, this is the birth of an assassin!”

I’ve been waiting for DC to explore more of Damian’s darker side. Tomasi did a great job of it in the “Nobody” arc, but to actually get into the training and upbringing that made him what he has become is something that I feel has been sorely lacking in the DC Universe.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
“PROLOGUE TO THE THIRD ARMY! The introduction and origin of a surprising new Green Lantern!”

This whole “Trinity War/Army” thing sounds compelling, but let’s be honest. The reason for my interest is pretty superficial; An Arab Green Lantern with “courage” tattooed on his right arm in Arabic (possible future tattoo if he’s a worthy character). The only question that begs asking is “Why does he need a gun?” We’ll see where this goes, but I’m pretty excited for a new, diverse Lantern.

That about sums up the most awesome Zero Issues to come. More news on them once they’re released in September!

written by Sherif Elkhatib

Joker Returns to Comics

DC’s Batman of The New 52 has been quite the thrill. The “Court of Owls” has been an emotional roller-coaster that has seen Batman at his most vulnerable against an enemy that has been his equal better than any since Bane in Knightfall. With the storyline coming to a close, writer Scott Snyder will turn to a familiar face for his next storyline – the Joker.

Joker’s last appearance was a pretty disturbing one in Detective Comics #1 where he had his face cut off with a scalpel. To add to the excitement, the name of this story arc is “Death in the Family.” Hardcore fans will recognize this title as the same arc that saw Joker murder the second Robin, Jason Todd. DC released this as the story description:

“He crippled Batgirl. He killed Robin. What will The Joker do next? And what must Batman do to protect his secret identity and that of those who fight alongside him?”

Considering Snyder’s recent history with Batman, as well as his acclaimed work on American Vampire and Batman: The Black Mirror, he and artist Greg Capullo have a vicious style and can, by all means, go “there.” October will be a promising month, following up on a slew of Issue #0’s that DC will be releasing in September. For now, here is the cover for the upcoming Batman #13, provided by IGN.

IGN - Batman 13

written by Sherif Elkhatib

DC’s New Series in September

Yesterday, DC Comics announced four new series joining the monthly lineup. Here’s a preview of what’s to come:

TALON – Writer: James Tynion IV. Artist: Guillem March. Meet Calvin Rose, the only Talon to ever escape the grasp of the Court of Owls. This former assassin of the Court is trying to live a normal life…but that’s impossible when he’s being hunted by his former masters!

Thoughts: For those of you not reading the new Batman story arc, “Court of Owls,” I strongly urge you to pick it up. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read since Hush. I love how they’ve been showing the conflict within the Talons, making them enjoyable dynamic characters. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of this.

SWORD OF SORCERY – Writer: Christy Marx. Artist: Aaron Lopresti. Featuring the return of Amethyst, Amy Winston leads a strange life on the road with her mother and resents it. She’s about to learn it’s all been necessary when she discovers she’s the lost princess of Gemworld—and she’s being hunted by her murderous aunt. With a back-up story written by Tony Bedard with art by Jesus Saiz, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the monstrous warrior Beowulf is charged with finding and defeating the evil Grendel.

Thoughts: I always have reservations when it comes to fantasy titles, but the words “post-apocalyptic wasteland” always peak my interest. I will probably keep judgment until I hear more, but it could be a decent book.

THE PHANTOM STRANGER – Writer: Dan DiDio. Artist: Brent Anderson Spinning out of his recent appearances in JUSTICE LEAGUE and DC’s Free Comic Book Day story, learn more about the true origin of The Phantom Stranger, his connection to the mysterious Pandora.

Thoughts: I think they did a nice job of building up to this comic, placing The Phantom Stranger in a number of New 52 comics. I’m not too sure what she will do or what her background is, but I’ll probably pick up a copy out of pure interest.

TEAM SEVEN – Writer: Justin Jordan. Artist: Jesus Merino Set in the early days of DC Comics-The New 52, threads of the entire DC Universe collide. As Superman emerges, so does the world’s counter measures against him and his kind. Comprised of Dinah Lance, Amanda Waller, Steve Trevor, John Lynch, Alex Fairchild, Cole Cash, Slade Wilson are Team 7—and their story will change everything you know about DC Comics-The New 52.

Thoughts: Not too excited about this book, but things could change. It seems like a poor attempt to replace what the Secret Six was right before the reboot. It could also be a hint that Suicide Squad, which has been poorly performing (I thoroughly enjoy it though), could be on it’s way out. Hopefully, there will be something new to separate this from all the other misfit team books.

Let me know your thoughts below! Thanks to IGN for covering this!

written by Sherif Elkhatib