Nicholas Diak, Fanbase Press Contributor

Nicholas Diak, Fanbase Press Contributor

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.

It was 50 years ago today that audiences were transported back in time a million years to a watering hole on the African desert, where two rival hominids clashed with deadly results in the shadow of a black monolith. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey has become one of the most revered films in the history of cinema and has influenced many of our contemporary science fiction directors today. Fanbase Press honors the 50th anniversary and celebrates the fandoms surrounding this film.  

If Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) was the film to resurrect the sword and sandal genre back into mainstream limelight, then Zach Snyder’s 2006 adaptation of Frank Miller’s 1998 graphic novel, 300, was the genre’s follow-up boost of literal and figurative testosterone. With cheers of “This is Sparta!” entering the pop culture lexicon, interest in the original comic was rejuvenated while a mini-media empire was born; a video game, 300: March to Glory, was released on the PlayStation Portable, NECA released figurines of some of the film’s characters, and a sequel film, 300: Rise of an Empire, was released in 2014.

Of all the deities and figures of Greco-Roman mythology, perhaps none is as renowned or revered as that of Hercules (Heracles). His legends and deeds have endured centuries of adaption and appropriation, inspiring art, film, comics, and other stories. Steve Reeves’ portrayal of Hercules in the 1958 peplum film of the same name set the template of a cinematic Hercules which would be echoed over the years by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and Dwayne Johnson, with a small-screen incarnation portrayed by Kevin Sorbo. Hercules has appeared in various comic book iterations at DC, Dell, Marvel, and Gold Key and in a set of graphic novels by Steve Moore, The Thracian Wars and The Knives of Kush. Each of these iterations of Hercules take liberties with his mythology (which itself is fluid and composed of conflicting accounts and tales), but interprets and builds upon it, as well.

After a narrative sidetrack during issue two, issue three of Vinegar Teeth sees officers Buckle and Vinegar Teeth back into proper action. The issue begins with Vinegar Teeth accidentally eating two cultists while trying to apprehend them and seeks out Buckle afterwards for consultation. They both proceed to get drunk (or drunk-er in Buckle’s case), with Vinegar Teeth having dreams of a spiraling Azathoth-ish chaos at the center of the universe. Afterwards, as quickly as he had left the police force, Buckle rejoins (more or less making his abdication from the police force superfluous). He and Vinegar Teeth take to the beat, arresting Cullzathro cultists as the city plummets into a stage of anarchy. Buckle and Vinegar Teeth are soon requested personally by the mayor for protection duty. All of the foreshadowing in prior issues comes to fruition, as Buckle realizes that there is something very, very wrong with Brick City’s water….

“A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad… The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again… After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.”

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