“Fundamental Comics,” is a monthly editorial series that introduces readers to comics, graphic novels, and manga that have been impactful to the sequential art medium and the comic book industry on a foundational level. Each month, a new essay examines a familiar or less-known title through an in-depth analysis, exploring the history of the title, significant themes, and context for the title’s popularity since it was first released.
There’s a blaze in the northern sky: crimson, deep purple, and all of the darkness in between. A wronged man takes up his battle axe and sets out to destroy his destroyers.
Sitting triumphantly on his command chair, Lord Morgan of the Black Sun Templars surveys the carnage around him during the battle of the White Monk’s citadel. Captain Janek offers his services to safeguard the malevolent leader who overconfidently replies back, “No need. The Black Knight already killed all incoming reinforcements. They’re out of surprises.” What proceeds to follow for the remainder of issue five, the final issue of book one of Sword of Ages, is nothing but continuous surprises.
In the world of covert ops and espionage, World War II is almost legendary in its stories, both fictional and real, of code breaking, infiltration, assassinations, and intelligence gathering. Spy fiction has used the WW2 backdrop to tell stories both grounded in realism as well as pulpy and farfetched. Most of these stories center on male secret agents that run from suave and seductive to gruff and lantern-jawed; however, past this archetype, there’s a legion of women agents - vamps, femme fatales, and secret agents, too - with their own stories to tell.
Aside from a large vendor room full of exhibitors, authors, toy dealers, and guests who had worked on He-Man and She-Ra, Power-Con had an impressive lineup of panels for attendees to partake in. Running for one-hour sessions, the large Lighthouse Ballroom at the Marriott was devoted exclusively to panels that ranged in topics from the He-Man toys to the cartoon to the mini-comics.
The fifth issue of Xerxes sees the end of Frank Miller’s sword and sandal epic, putting closure both on this story, as well as the events of 300.
Issue four of Xerxes shifts the narrative from being a prequel to Miller’s 300 to now being a sequel. Xerxes has finally been assassinated, and his successor, the new Persian king and pharaoh of Egypt, is Darius III. Harking back to issue one of Xerxes, issue four is light on dialogue and heavy on combat as it portrays The Battle of Issus in 333 BC, where Alexander the Great defeated Darius’ and his Persian army. The vast majority of pages are dialogue and narrative free, as they show the Persians on the move, traversing canyons only to be met head on by Alexander’s men. The violence is particularly brutal and darkly comedic at the same time. In one moment, Alexander’s men are bursting from the water, impaling Persian soldiers in a gruesome fashion with their spears, and the next moment they exchange banter about their nagging wives as they mercy kill the fatally injured Persians that carpet the ground.
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…