Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: The Celtic Clan

Today's review is of The Celtic Clan, by Nigel Flood and Frank J. Right.  (On Facebook, they can be found here)

The Celtic Clan, as you might guess, is a superhero team, and they are based in Ireland.  Here's a run of the team's lineup:

Big Fella - Team organizer and leader.  He is the one who gives the assignments to the team so that they know where their help is needed.
Citizen - the field leader of the team when they're out on a mission.  He's a sort of Irish version of Captain America, sporting the colors of the Irish flag on his chest.
Celtic Tiger - a past-his-prime former boxer and MMA fighter with a fighting spirit, but no longer possessing the physique to match.  He's called "Tiger" because he's an anthropomorphic tiger - fur and fangs and claws and all that, so he's still not one to mess with - even past his prime.
The Athlete - a former junkie and now speed-based ("speed" as in "really fast", not the drug!) superhero, who's on the team somewhat reluctantly, but he still does the job.
Legacy - a warrior woman, who wears battle armor and wields a shield and a spear named Gae Bolg that never misses its target when she throws it.
Nymph - She sports fairy wings and has compound "bug" eyes, and is able to fly.
Druid - a druid (of course!) with magic-based abilities, including healing.
Ard Rí - A former king, he's now technically called a bog mummy, and he has the ability to form his body out of the surrounding ground, which is an interesting ability.  Presumably, his strength and stamina varies, based on what materials he used to form his body out of the surrounding area.
St. Patrick - as in, THE St. Patrick, who chased "snakes" out of Ireland some centuries ago (explanation below, so as to not spoil the story).

For this review, I read Celtic Clan #1 and 2.  Before I get into the story itself, it's time for the usual


SPOILERS AHEAD!  If you have not read Celtic Clan #1 and 2, and don't want what's in it spoiled for you, then STOP READING NOW!!  You have been warned!

Like I said, CC is based in Ireland, so there are numerous references to Irish landmarks and culture.  Not a bad thing at all - in fact, it would be an excuse for you all to do some research on Irish culture and lore.  Now, now - no excuses; you have Google and Wikipedia, so don't be a lazy-ass about this! Get some edumacation, dangit!

The story starts out with the CC on the verge of defeat by Ard Rí, who was being mind-controlled at the time.  The Athlete, who is being held aloft by Ard Rí, then recalls how the team formed - which is an interesting time for a flashback!  But hey, this happens all the time in comics.  :-)

For the writer, it's a good method to get his or her readers "up to speed" with the story.  For the hero, it could easily be explained as their life flashing before their eyes.  We then meet the team just as it was being formed, with the Big Fella, Citizen, and the Celtic Tiger.

This is gonna sound funny, but I liked the idea of a character like Celtic Tiger being an out-of-shape hero!  LOL  To me, it shows how some superheroes can't give up the role, even when they're past their prime.  In a sense, it's like when superstar athletes hang on to their cherished sport because they don't want to let go of the fame and the glory.  Think of Michael Jordan, or Brett Favre. 

In Celtic Tiger's case, however, there's still some spark left in that worn and paunchy physique, and the team is willing to give him one more shot at glory.  By the way, I also found it funny that a anthropomorphic character like him has a paunch!  Usually, the physiques of anthropomorphic characters are cut and chiseled, and not paunchy and out of shape, so that was an interesting take on the character, and I thank the creators for the intriguing twist to this type of character.  :-)

The flashback then catches up to where The Athlete is being held aloft by Ard Rí, and his little scheme to bringing the uniquely powered creature down finally comes to play, and Ard Rí is down for the count.  By the way, Ard Rí's power is rather fascinating, being able to form his body out of the surrounding ground.  In #1, he was made up of clods of earth, grass, and tree bark.  In #2, however, he formed himself out of the concrete of the city streets that the team was fighting on at the time.  By this time, Ard Rí was no longer mind-controlled, and was now part of the team. 

I have to wonder how Ard Rí's power works.  I have to guess that he can only form himself from the earth - that is, he couldn't form himself out of water, fire, or air.  Presumably, his consciousness, or "spirit", if you will, is able to move around inside the ground, and he's able to rise up from the ground, forming his new body in the process.  That's certainly a unique and interesting power, and it makes me wonder if we'll see how his powers might be different based on what materials he uses to form his body.   

 Legacy and Nymph were a two-woman team before joining the CC, and I'd like to see more of them and their personalities, and how they'll mesh with a mostly-male team.  I find The Athlete a bit interesting, because he was a junkie before joining the team.  He's also a bit reluctant in playing the role of superhero, but so far, he's done what he's asked to do.  I have to wonder, however, if his doubts get stronger the more he risks death or serious injury.  Or what if he resorts to his former drug habits if the stress of the job starts getting to him, and he feels the need to shoot up to "calm his nerves"?  I can also see him resorting to alcohol as a substitute, since alcohol is both socially acceptable and readily available. As both a comic reviewer AND a comic fan, he's one for me to keep my eye on.  :-)

I would also like to see more on The Citizen and his background.  So much mystery to the man!  Also, apparently he and St Patrick knew each other in the past, and their parting back then wasn't pleasant, because at the end of #2, Citizen leaves the team when he found out St Patrick was joining the team!  Holy cow, what the heck happened back then?

By the way, the "snakes" St Patrick chases away are a race of reptilian people known as the First Race; that is, the first intelligent race on Earth.  Many centuries ago, St Patrick succeeded in stopping the First Race's plans of conquest, and he did it in Ireland - thus spawning the legend of St Patrick chasing snakes from Ireland.  

 The funny thing is, it wasn't so much the stories in CC #1 and 2 that interested me as it was the characters themselves, and their personalities.  Don't get me wrong - the story was fine - but the character interplay was such that I can see all kinds of potential for future storylines.  Good storylines need good characters and good character interplay to make them work, and I already see that forming in just these two issues.

What I'd like to see - no, make that what I'd LOVE to see in future issues - is more background stories, of both the characters, and even the villains.  Hell, even the villains interest me!  LOL  I think more background stories will help develop the main storylines so that there will be even more plots and other plot twists, like Citizen abruptly leaving the team; or the Celtic Tiger having suddenly developed a more powerful and chiseled physique after his battle with a villain named Throwback, but possibly coming at the cost of him becoming more of the beast that he resembles.  Yeah, this is the stuff that comic nerds like me love.  :-D

So now we come to the part of my review in which I ask, "Do I want to know 'what happens next'?"  The answer to that question is my make-or-break of a given comic, for one of the main goals of writing comics is to encourage the readers to keep coming back for more. 

And the answer to that question is: Yes!  I think that the idea of an Irish superhero team is a very intriguing one, and I also think that CC has only begun to tap into the personalities of the characters.  Add to this the rich Irish culture, history, and lore, and we see all kinds of possibilities for stories that comic nerds of any country would love.  So I say, bring it on! 

Because the creators of the CC are part of Creators United, they will now officially grace my sidebar that you see over there waiting to be graced.  :-)   -------------------->

Thanks Nigel and Frank, for bringing us The Celtic Clan! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: Argo 5

First, my apologies for not putting out these reviews at a much faster clip.  Damn adult responsibilities keep cropping up!  And (sigh) being a responsible adult means taking care of them!  Don't worry, it's not related to health issues or to financial problems (I could use more money, sure - but it's not money problems I'm dealing with right now), it's just stuff that takes up more of my time than I'd like.  Anyway, I think I'm finally at a lull where I can knock out some reviews.  My thanks to you all for your patience!  Onwards to the review!


Today's review is of Argo 5 by Dan Sehn!  With a name that has "5" in it, then the number of members must be five, right?  You'd be correct!  The roster of Argo 5 is thus:

* Gladiatra, the team leader, who can fly and has super strength, and even has laser vision.

* Shazrath , the Maltese god of strength, the upper level of which is not known, but he’s pretty freakin’ strong.  Hulk-level strong?  Maybe (that would make a good fight, I think).  

* Blue Dynamo, aka "the human star".  He can fly and project solar energy, mainly in the form of solar blasts to shoot enemies with.

* Kasira, who is a half-genie.  Mostly, her abilities are of a magical nature, although she can’t conjure things out of thin air like a full-blooded genie.  Still, she’s a pretty formidable opponent.

* Chain Reaction, a kung-fu martial artist who is able to cause a chain reaction of events to occur in his favor.  This sounds almost like a probability-altering power a la Scarlet Witch from Marvel Comics.  If it's not that, then it might be that he's simply that skilled in physics that's he's able to do the math in his head to determine how to punch or kick his opponent in such a way that the opponent's momentum will carry him to hit something else, and thus causing other things to happen. 

For this review, I read Argo 5 #0, 1, and 2.  I have not read beyond that, nor have I read any of the other related titles by Dan Sehn, so what I’m reviewing is based only on those first three issues.  And before I continue, time for the oh-so-necessary

If you have not read Argo 5 #0, 1, and 2, and don’t want what’s in it spoiled for you, then STOP READING NOW!!  You have been warned!

Stories about a team of superheroes have their benefits and drawbacks.  The benefit is the increased possibility of the different types of stories that can be made based on the differing personalities. The drawback is that, depending on the number or on the personality types, you can have too many to keep track of, or the personalities of each hero either does not provide enough of a contrast to create stories, or that they are TOO different, and are always fighting.  Thus, writing for a team of heroes is a balancing act.

Usually, these kinds of stories work best when the number is low, like around 3 to 5 members, because that allows enough characters to develop storylines about how well they get along (or don’t get along) with each other.  Once you get into “Justice League” numbers, then it becomes difficult to balance the different number of characters and yet still give each character enough “face” time to develop a good story.  Argo 5 seems to have a good enough balance of characters to develop stories around their work and personal relationships with each other, while giving enough “face” time to each hero.

Argo 5 starts out a bit slow for my taste in #0 and 1, but improved in #2 to the point that I began to see potential storylines for future issues.  What I see a need for here is more backstory for each character, so as to develop their individual personalities more.  That way, their actions and reactions to each other while they are teamed up will be logical and make more sense, instead of feeling like their individual personalities and their relationships with each other are contrived.  

For example, we know Chain Reaction can be something of a jerk when it comes to women, but how did he become this jerk?  How did he develop these troubling attitudes towards women?  He’s something of a charmer it seems, but he seems to relate to women only in a physical and superficial way.  All flesh and lust, and no depth of commitment.

Meanwhile, poor Blue Dynamo would love nothing more than the love of a good woman, but has the worst luck with them. In a sense, he’s almost as superficial as Chain, but in a different way.  While Chain views women by their sexual attractiveness, Blue seems to have a more romantic view of women, which can sometimes be almost as unrealistic as viewing women only for their proverbial “T and A”.  

If I were to have a heart-to-heart talk with Blue, I would tell him not to lower his standards so much, but simply to adjust them so that women are more “real”.  No woman can live up to a romanticized ideal that a poor lovesick nerd like Blue seems to hold.  But who could Blue turn to on his team that might help him through this?  Chain?  LOL  Seriously, that would be a good question for the writers to answer about Blue’s relationships with women (Reminder: I have not read Argo 5 beyond #2, so these things I bring up may have already been addressed in the later issues).  Shazrath is a god used to a whole different type of woman.  Gladiatra and Kasira could help to some degree, but would it be a good idea for them to be so personally involved with someone who is basically a coworker?

My job as a reviewer is not to suggest what the writers should do, but simply to point out what I see, and what I’d like to see.  So I’m not going to suggest to the writers on how Blue will work out his romantic troubles, or to what level the women on Argo 5 go to help him – if they even want to help him.  That’s for the writers to determine.  I’m also at the disadvantage in that I don’t know the future storylines that the writers have in mind, so I’m just going with what I have on hand right now.

Also understand that I'm not looking for some sort of "reality show" style drama here - the superheroics and super battles are the mainstay for books of a superhero team, and always will be.  But stories of a superhero team are also about relationships of the heroes with each other.  Done right, it can make for some awesome stories - and I think Argo 5 can do that.

Let’s go ahead and hit on the big question when it comes to my reviews, and that question is: Do I want to know “what happens next?”  Answering that question is the make-or-break of my interest in a given comic, and the answer to that question in regards to Argo 5 is: Yes!  Absolutely!  :-)

If I seem a tad harsh in my words above, I promise that it wasn’t my intent – it was simply me thinking out loud of what I see in Argo 5 so far, and what I hope to see later.  And I see potential – very good potential.  Creating a team of superheroes is a difficult balancing act, but I think Argo 5 has a good start, and I very much look forward to future issues.  Good job, guys!  

And as a member of Creators United, Argo 5 has now been officially added to my sidebar that you see right over thar.  ------->