Summer Reading: Terminator and Spider-Man: Reign

With Summer you always get some crazy deals at comic shops and book stores.  So, with Andrenn’s Summer Reading Recommendations you get a two for one special today. We’ve got a summer blockbuster book for you.  With the Terminator franchise returning to theaters for the first time since 2003, I thought it would be a good idea to review the first volume of Dark Horse’s Terminator Omnibuses. Now Dark Horse is the king of movie adaptations.  Dark Horse has turned in some grade A excellent work with the Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator Omnibuses. These book collect various stories into a neat twenty-five dollar package.

Terminator Omnibus

Writers:James Robinson, Ian Edginton and John Arcudi
Artists: Chris Warner, Matt Wagner, Paul Gulacy and Vince Giarrano

This volume is more like one gigantic movie as three of the four mini-series have the same evolving plot and characters. The one story after the first mini-series is the only exception, so I’ll cover that one first.

The first story is called “One-Shot” and much to my surprise it’s written by James Robinson.

This story is the most inconsequential of all as it asks the question “What if two Terminators where sent back for Sarah Conner, but one Terminator got lost and went after the wrong woman?” and from there it spins.

The most interesting part of this story has nothing to do with the Terminator though.  It is that this Sarah Conner wants her husband, Michael, dead as she only married him when she found out he was secretly rich but he hides it as he hates money. I have to give Robinson a lot of credit as this plot twist alone develops this woman’s character more than most adaptation characters get.

We see the Terminator coming after her of course and she’s helped by an old soldier from the future sent back in time who’s got the one weapon in this era that can stop a Terminator.

The story is at its best with the end.  Just when I felt it was getting too long and dragging a bit, the story comes to an exciting, but predictable, conclusion. I won’t spoil the ending but kudos to Robinson for shaking it up with the last four pages.

Matt Wagener does the art for this story.  I was even more surprised to see him on this title than I was with Robinson. Wagener’s art does do one thing perfectly: replicate the dark moody noir images from the film. The coloring is the best part of the art.  Still, while Wagener’s art is great, it just does not fit the realism of the Terminator franchise. And I do not mean that time traveling robots are realistic. I mean that when you draw this kind of world that the Terminators themselves have to have a robotic realism to them.  The other artists in the book capture that look.  Therefore, Wagener’s art does fall a little short in this story.

The rest of the volume is the story of Colonel Mary and another group of time traveler’s going back in time to stop the creator of A.I.

The story is incredibly well done for one that has three different writers handling each different section. Usually, that would make this storyline a disjointed mess that does not fit well together.  However, somehow the writers pulled it off and it worked amazingly well.

The characters are all well done, even the cannon fodder characters got in some good moments. Having said that, I did not like how in the final story a bunch of new time traveling soldiers where sent back as it felt like they where rushed into the story for more cannon fodder.

Still, this is an epic story that, while it’s not on the same level as the two films, easily makes this book well worth it for any fan of the Terminator franchise.

The artists do a great job.  It must be noted that the first artist had some problems at the beginning of his run.  Luckily, those art issues were gone by the end of that artist’s run on the story.  I also found it funny how the main character, Mary, evolves from a rough torn up soldier to a near glamorous beauty by the end of the story. 

Overall, the Terminator Omnibus is a great deal for anyone who loves the movies and is getting tired of having to pop in the DVD’s every other night to get your fill of Terminator.

Summer Reading Must Have

Spider-Man: Reign

Written and Art: Kaare Andrews with Jose Villarrubia

I should admit that I was tempted not to add this book to the Summer Reading Recommendation for one simple reason: It’s fairly dark for a summer reading book. I was hoping to focus the Summer Reading Recommendations on books that are lighter or more action oriented since Summer is such a great time for those types of stories.  But no matter what excuse I make for myself, I have always found Spider-Man: Reign to be one of the best Spider-Man stories in several years.  Therefore, I figured it deserved as spot on the list.

A lot of people have compared Spider-Man: Reign to Frank Miller’s beloved The Dark Knight Returns.  I admit that there is certainly a connection as it follows the same path with an elderly hero in retirement in a world going insane. Though, Spider-Man isn’t quite as psychotic as Batman was in his dark future.

I did like how we got a witty young man who looks just like Peter Parker did as a young guy.  The reader immediately thinks “Oh, that’s Peter!” but then we see this old man with a beard and giant glasses and it’s like “Oh…that’s Peter?”

From that point, most of the chapter is “look at the sad old man.” At first, it puts the reader in a sore spot of having to watch this really stupid old guy who should know better, but is just taking a beating from society.

Though, I guess the moment it all got really weird for me was in the first chapter when J. Jonah Jameson shows up. Peter himself looks ancient.  Jonah looks like a walking corpse. Though, in later chapters, Jonah gets much more vibrant and like his old self.  I loved it so much that I do not mind the Crypt Keeper Jonah.

Jonah gives Peter something that turns him back into Spider-Man, only for about a minute.  It was the closing final pages that properly killed off this awesome story and really got me excited for more.

Spider-Man isn’t the only character we see.  We have the kids who are rebelling against the city’s brutal law force. These police will sooner kill you than help you.  And through the eyes of the kids it really paints the horrific picture of just how hard this world is.

Later on in the story we do see some Spider-Man villains.  And we get a great twist involving the Sandman. I will spoil the main bad guy.  So if you don’t want to know, don’t read this paragraph. It’s Venom. While I’m a huge Venom fan, I can’t help but wish it was Green Goblin.  There is something about selecting Green Goblin for that role that would have fit perfectly.

There is a lot of social commentary in this book. Most of the social commentary deals with how America can be “too safe.”  That the less freedoms we give ourselves by placing more and more of the government’s controls on our lives then the more out of hand and bad things really get.  Andrews pulled this off while not shoving it down our throats.  And Andrews manages to keep the social commentary within the confines of a good super hero story.

Spider-Man: Reign is full of great moments.  I could write page after page about them.  But, rather than spoil the whole book, I will simply mention one more moment that I felt made this story so great. After we find out the fate of MJ, Peter has a dream sequence near the very end where MJ cheers him on.  And MJ cheering him on becomes Peter’s driving force in the final battle.  It was handled beautifully as far as the dialogue was concerned.

The artwork has some truly spectacular moments and some rather frustrating moments as well. Most of the time it looks absolutely incredible.  But, other times the art looks painfully rushed and unfinished.  While these moments are few they are still frustrating when you see how great most of the art is in this story.

I give Spider-Man: Reign a high recommendation for seasoned Spider-Man fans who love reading about the emotionally torn hero who still keeps on going no matter what happens. The story may open slowly, but you will find that the story evolves into an incredible read.  This is a story that no Spider-Man fan should miss out on.

Summer Reading Must Have