Monday, February 22, 2016

Dragonslayer (Marvel) (Ltd. 1981)

Dragonslayer!  An adaptation of a movie I've never seen or heard of, with Denny O'Neil doing the scripts and Marie Severin on the artwork.  The setting is solid: it's a sixth century England where the old ways of paganism, sorcery, and mystery are falling before the crusading monotheism of the Church.  These two issues are quite plot heavy!

In Issue # 1, one of the last of the great wizards, Ulrich, sees visions of a great monster rising in the land and sure enough, soon after, word comes of a massive dragon terrorizing the countryside.  Ulrich's apprentice, Galen, wants to slay the dragon, but Ulrich refuses.  When a representative of the king, an evil knight named Tyrian, arrives at the castle, Tyrian mocks Ulrich and doubts his power.  He arranges a test for the old wizard, which Ulrich intentionally fails and dies.  Galen takes an amulet worn by Ulrich and decides that, although he hardly has any magic power, he'll revenge himself on Tyrian and slay the dragon to boot!  After a rousing fight with the dragon, Galen thinks he's successfully buried it under a pile of rock.  But the king, instead of thanking him, decides that a wizard is too much of a threat to have running loose and throws him in the dungeon.  There's a subplot involving the king's daughter that I won't even try to shoehorn in here, but suffice it to say that she lets Galen loose--only to be confronted by Tyrian!

In Issue # 2, Galen escapes in an exciting scene: he tries to flee the evil king's castle on horseback, but the main gates are closed; so he turns back into the castle and leaps his horse towards a crumbled stone wall in the back and crashes through it!  Very cinematic.  Galen hides from the king and Tyrian by finding refuge with a girl named Valerian.  Valerian's father crafts him a special "dragonslayer" spear, and Valerian herself steals scales from the dragon's nest so her father can craft him a shield.  In molten caverns underground, Galen finally confronts the dragon (a good setting for an epic battle).  It's a stalemate until Galen realizes he can resurrect his mentor by opening the amulet and pouring the ashes onto the lava (apparently Ulrich's master plan from the beginning).  Although both Ulrich and the dragon are slain, the threat is ended and Galen emerges triumphant, but knowing that he is the last of the true sorcerers that will ever walk the land.  A new age has dawned, and the days of magic are withering away.

The theme of the comic--a last hurrah for magic that would dwindle to nothingness with the time of Christianity--was really well done, and made the story much more interesting than the standard fantasy setting.  There were some scenes that I could imagine would be pretty exciting on the screen, so I may actually try to track down a copy of the movie!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Buffy Comic Project: "Note from the Underground, Part 4"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 50

(Dark Horse, Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators:  Scott Lobdell & Fabian Nicieza (story); Cliff Richards (pencils); Will Conrad (inks)

Setting:  After Season Six

T.V. Character Appearances:  Buffy, Pike, Angel, Faith, Xander, Anya, Dawn, Adam, Merrick (flashback prose story), Cordelia (flashback cartoon story)

Major Original Characters:  Robert Berman (flashback prose story)

Summary:  Buffy and Pike return to Sunnydale, and Buffy defeats a Scourge guard to gain entrance to their underground prison.  Meanwhile, inside the prison, Angel, Faith, Xander, Anya, and Dawn confront the reborn Adam.  Adam explains that although his body was destroyed, his essence lives on as a computer program with holographic capabilities.  Buffy and Pike sneak through the prison but then fall through a shaft that leads directly to the main chamber where everyone is; Buffy ends up plunging directly into the pool containing the soul drops, but instead of being killed, she pulls out the plug at the bottom of the pool and drains it!  Buffy inspires all of the prisoners to break free and riot, and without them to use as a power source, Adam's computer program shuts down.  The Scoobies return to the Summers' house only to remember that it was ravaged when the Scourge first attacked.  Angel and Buffy have a nice farewell, and after he and Faith are gone, the others ask Pike to tell them about Buffy in high school.  Much to her dismay, he starts to tell them about Las Vegas.

In a separate prose story, Buffy and Dawn are out getting ice cream sundaes after surviving the battle against Adam and the Scourge.  Dawn asks Buffy about the first time she fought a vampire, and Buffy explains that it was when they lived in L.A.  She was a cheerleader and had recently been told her destiny as a Slayer by her first Watcher, Merrick, when they went to patrol a cemetery.  Suddenly, the grave of a high school boy named Robbie Berman.  After staking him and returning home, Buffy looked up who Robbie was and found that he a good kid who liked comic books, role-playing games, and the X-Files.  The pain of knowing who the vampire she destroyed was as a person before dying was so much that she decided she needed from that point forward to avoid humanizing them.

In a brief cartoony story, Buffy runs into Cordelia at the mall and they're chased by by giant rats.  They flee into a locked door, but Cordelia uses a credit card to ease the lock open and they escape, slamming the door behind them.


Not bad!  Buffy and Pike really have a fun dynamic, and I'm looking forward to seeing the flashback stories of their previous adventures starting next issue.  The explanation for how Adam is still around is plausible as these things go.  I thought Angel and Faith probably weren't used well after a fantastic entrance at the beginning of the story arc, but the epilogue was really well done, as we get to witness Angel telling Buffy about Connor, Xander explaining to Anya what happened after he slept with Faith, and more.  Funny, sweet, and well-written.  The prose story, written by Fabian Nicieza, was excellent and adds some more depth to Buffy in a meaningful way, which isn't easy to do after so many stories.  The idea that all of the vampires Buffy kills were once real people with real lives and families is an angle that's usually overlooked on the show.  (The idea that every vampire is a walking tragedy that cannot be rectified).


*  The usually bland credits page on the inside front cover was switched up for a cool, funky design (though admittedly, the font makes it hard to see who the credits actually acknowledge).

* I like that after the battle, the fact that the Initiative tunnels were never filled in with concrete as previously thought is rectified by Xander getting some of his construction buddies to home over with a cement truck.

*  The idea of Adam existing as a computer program brings in some echoes of Moloch the Corruptor from way back in Season One.

* Great panel with Buffy pulling the plug on the supernatural pool of soul drops with a genuinely funny line.

* It's a big unclear exactly what happened to Adam, and whether he'd be able to return if he found another demonic source of power.

*  The prologue to the main story was the perfect transition to the next story arc, with Pike and Buffy's adventures in Las Vegas.

*  I'm still not sure if the plot thread with the demons from the first issue in the story arc was tied up.

*  The inside back cover to this issue has solicitations for Dark Horse's output for the month, and they still list this issue with the title "Hellmouth to Mouth."

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