Nicholas Diak, Fanbase Press Contributor

Nicholas Diak, Fanbase Press Contributor

If you were a kid in the '90s and into dinosaurs, 1993 was your year. When Jurassic Park was released, a Pandora’s box of toy figurines, comic books, and video games was unleashed. At school, if you opened up a copy of the Scholastic book club flyer, you’d probably see advertisements for a couple of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books, including Dinosaur Island by Edward Packard.

Issue three of Frank Miller’s Xerxes takes on both an experimental and an artistic turn when compared to the first two issues of the series. While issues one and two focused on combat sequences and the Battle of Marathon, issue three is completely devoted to Xerxes and his rise as a god king. Miller accomplishes the telling of Xerses’ transformation by having every single page of issue three be a double-page spread.

All factions converge in Sword of Ages #4 (the second to last), as full-on war erupts outside the citadel’s walls with Avalon and her party, along with the White Monks of the Twin Moons, combatting the combined might of the Red Sun Clan and the Black Star Templars. This issue is non-stop action without a pause for breath; each panel showcasing hordes engaged in swordplay, ginormous beasts flinging soldiers around, and structures being battered. The battle is certainly not in favor of warding off the assault on the citadel, and losses are great in issue four, but perhaps the appearance of old friends from a prior issue may help to turn the tide…

The Comic Con Revolution convention in Ontario had its second year this past weekend. The convention was loaded with programming and panels, ranging from fandom discussions to “how-to” oriented ones. The crew of the Ready Set Geek! podcast (from the Geek Say What? network), Alix Galit, Cole Garrison, JPG, and Anthony Jones, conducted a how-to panel on getting started with podcasting.

In the year and a half since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States (and even prior, during his presidential campaign), fascism and racism under a variety of monikers (alt-right, neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, white supremacy, and so on) have become emboldened in America. While politicians and news agencies have either been slow or negligent in their response to this crisis, pop culture has taken up the mantle to criticize the Trump administration and the ensuing rise of the extreme right wing, from Saturday Night Live skits to promotional materials for a Purge prequel to comedians at correspondence dinners.

Continuing after the Battle of Marathon in Xerxes #1, issue two sees the Persian King Darius and his son, Xerxes, leading their armada to Athens. Though the Battle of Marathon was won, Athens itself is not in the proper state to combat the invading Persians. Themistokles, the cunning leader from the first issue, assumes command of all of the women, slaves, and injured of Athens and quickly formulates a plan to trick the Persians that perhaps Athens has more able-bodied soldiers than perceived.

Italian genre cinema has a rich history built on imitating other successful films. In the heyday of Italian cinema during the late '50s and '60s, the studio production machine of Italy cranked out cycles upon cycles of derivative films: Hercules (1958, Pietro Francisci) setting off a wave of sword and sandal films; Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton) starting the Eurospy trend; the spaghetti westerns were based off the success of Leone’s work; and so on. With the advent of the big budget, summer blockbuster films from America in the '70s, such as Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg), the Italians followed suit as best as possible: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg) led to Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982, Antonio Margheriti); Jaws became The Last Shark (Enzo G. Castellari); Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) became 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982, Enzo G. Castellari); and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos) became Strike Commando (1987, Bruno Mattei). If there was a blockbuster or a hit film, the Italians had an answer for it.

Complete and utter pandemonium is perhaps the best way to describe the fourth and final issue of Dark Horse’s buddy cop/Lovecraftian/carnivalesque series, Vinegar Teeth. The series’ revelation is that Vinegar Teeth (real name Zathral) was sent to Earth by his father, Cullzathro, to contaminate the water with alien eggs/embryos that, when ingested, brainwash the populace to sow the seeds of anger, allowing cosmic horrors to invade. Issue four sees Brick City aflame in chaos, as cultists and monsters run amok while Cullzathro’s hand gleefully plucks up buildings full of people to consume.  With their partnership fully solidified, it is up to Vinegar Teeth and Artie to thwart the invading forces through all means necessary: shootin’, singin’, and drinkin'.  

When sergeant Taine McKenna and his men of the New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) accompany a team of scientists into the Te Urewera Forest to validate a gold discovery, separatists, drug runners, corporate schemers, and natural obstacles become the least of their worries as they become hunted by a taniwha - a malevolent spirit in the form of a gigantic tuatara reptile. With their modern weaponry ineffective, McKenna and cohorts must find a way to survive and outwit the beast as it picks them off, one by one….

With legendary sword and scabbard in hand, Avalon departs the Guardian’s lake to continue her quest along with her new cohorts, Lancer, Trystan, and a reluctant Gawyn. Elsewhere, the Red Clan prepares for their duel with the White Monks, with the scheming Black Sun Templars behind the scenes. Despite Merlin’s many protests that the challenge is a trap, Lord Huss of the White Monks elects to engage the Red Clan, relying on the will of the gods and the long-established sacred laws to ensure his victory. En route to the White Monks, Avalon and company happen upon the immolated and crucified remains of the slavers. (See issue one.) Distraught by the scene, Avalon makes haste and finds the White Monk’s citadel surrounded. With the aid of Gawyn’s invisibility granting stealth pins, Avalon is able to make it to the citadel just in time to see the treachery of the Red Clan and the Black Sun Templars unfold.

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