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The Worst Comics I Own: Aliens – Earth War


Why I Bought It:

I’m a lifelong fan of the Alien universe and mythos.

For better or worse, I’ve found reasons to enjoy all of the Alien films, with the exception of the Aliens vs. Predator ones.

Those are just straight up hot garbage.

I like to think of the Alien extended universe as one of the more successful in pop culture history, as it’s produced some damn good videogames, as well as a handful of rather impressive comic books.

That being said, while I only owned 1 Alien collected edition prior to picking up Earth War, (later reprinted as “Female War”) that of course being Labyrinth AKA the best damn Alien comic I’ve ever read; I could recall reading numerous reviews of it.

Find it. Read it. Then Read It Again. You Won't Be Disappointed.

For the most part, Earth War was regarded as a below average contribution to the series.

Despite willfully avoiding it for most of my life, as fate would have it I stumbled across a copy of Earth War, along with 2 other vastly superior Alien comics, Rogue and Hive; during a trip I took down to Tucson, Arizona.

As it turned out, the comic shop had a special deal for old trades where if you bought 3 from the “crap pile,” the total cost would come to $10 flat.

Seeing that a good opportunity to pick up a handful of souvenirs for my trip, as well a solid deal to boot, I bought all 3, hoping that Earth War wasn’t nearly as crappy as I had heard.

To this day, I still wish I had grabbed that Mark Texeira Sabretooth comic instead…

Why It Sucks:

Earth War is an absolute mess.

Quite literally, from the art, to the layouts, to the soulless dialogue, everything about Earth War just oozes disorganization and messiness.

The funny part is, the actual art for the book, drawn by Sam Kieth of The Maxx fame; is quite stunning at times in a late 80’s-early 90’s sort of way.

Employing a rough and heavily detailed style, the book has a “texture” to it like what I’d imagine a Heavy Metal comic put through an “R. Crumb filter” would look like.

The R. Crumb references end there however, as the women in Earth War are rendered with ethereal beauty and perpetual soft-focus effects, the men are hairy and burly lumberjacks, and the Aliens are impressively designed, yet far less horrifying and more streamlined than that of the designs seen in the films.

Less insect-like and bony, more meaty and "friendly."

One odd note I feel I have to make mention of regarding the art is that, stepping in line with the Heavy Metal vibe I mentioned earlier; the gadgets and weaponry in Earth War have a decided low-tech look to them.

As well as it was all drawn, I found this to be particularly jarring given the more sleek and organized designs found in the films up that point (Earth War made between Aliens and Alien 3).

That being said,, while the art can be quite good at times, especially in close-ups, most of the renderings are extraordinarily inconsistent from panel to panel, suggesting a rushed or awkward production timetable.

More so than the art though, perhaps the biggest strike against Earth War comes from it’s infuriating layouts.

Layouts are, in my opinion, the one reason why it takes a special kind of talent to craft a really good comic.

You can suck the gas pipe at drawing.

You can be the shittiest writer on the whole goddamn block.

But if you have that special talent for putting panels in sequence to tell a story, cleanly and efficiently, then you sir; are 2 steps ahead of the curve when it comes to making comics.

Unfortunately, the guy that made this JLA comic was definitely lacking that special something.

That being said, Earth War makes use of some of the most frustrating layouts I’ve ever seen in a mainstream published comic.

Nearly every panel, at least when there are panels, is a close-up, and virtually all of the backgrounds are either implied through color splotches, or ignored altogether.

The combination of these 2 design flaws results in the book suffering from a lack of a distinct “path” for your eyes to follow, with many of the panels doing little to lend the book any sort of consistent spacial awareness from panel to panel.

That is to say:

Earth War is a book makes you work your ass off to read it, and if you couldn’t tell from the title of this post; it’s hardly worth the effort.

Which brings us to the actual story of this fucking book.

Penned by Mark Verheiden, who also wrote other Dark Horse comics, and subsequent movie adaptations such as Timecop and The Mask; Earth War actually has a fairly intriguing premise.

Pretty impressive for a guy that penned a scene involving Van Damme fighting some dudes in his boxer shorts in Timecop:

At this point in the Alien comic universe, the Alien’s have essentially conquered Earth, resulting in mankind evacuating the planet to regroup and/or find a way to cleanse the planet of the Xenomorphs.

The interesting part in all this, is the fact that, unlike reprinted versions of Earth War and other early Alien comics, the version I picked up retained the use of the characters of Hicks, Newt, and Ripley.

Apparently there was some sort of legal dispute regarding the use of the 20th Century Fox characters, resulting in the comic characters being renamed and redrawn for future printings.

With Earth War and it’s predecessors essentially serving as a direct follow-up to Aliens, one would think the story would be quite good, however this is hardly the case.

The story is told largely through the inner monologue of Newt and Ripley, both of whom are apparently at odds with one another due to Newt’s abandonment issues following her experiences on LV-426.

Personally, I maintain that no amount of writing wizardry could ever hope to make Newt a worthwhile character following her downright painful portrayal in Aliens, and if anything; Earth War proved me right in this regard.

Shoulda' left that bitch in the sewer... Jus' sayin'...

All through the book she is whiny, and largely irredeemable, making her segments some of the more annoying portions of the story.

Oddly enough though, it’s Ripley that serves as the both the protagonist and one of the more frustrating characters in the book.

Ripley was intriguing in the movies because she was tough, decisive, and relatable, but in the comic she is portrayed as being emotionally distant to the point of being robotic.

While one could argue that having an alien species utterly ruin your life likely could result in a person shutting down and devoting themselves entirely to destroying said species, personally I prefer Ripley as the more complete human being that was portrayed in the movies.

Most of the story surrounds Ripley and a squad of marines, who I might add are virtual carbon copies of some of the more developed characters from Aliens, working to capture a unique breed of Alien that could turn the tide of the war.

That “unique breed” of Alien serves as perhaps the one really big contribution that Earth War made to the Alien mythos.

Said species was the Queen Mother alien sub-species.

Not as impressive as you were expecting, right?

Essentially serving as a governor to the standard Queen’s mayor, the Queen Mother was clearly intended to serve as a plot convenience in terms of allowing the human’s to handle a planet-wide crisis of alien infestation.

Personally, I think the idea of the Queen Mother makes a fair amount of sense in terms of overall practicality, though I don’t see it as being an entirely necessary element to the Alien mythos.

Even in the comics, the Aliens have always been compared to ants or wasps, and as such, it makes sense for each hive to be at odds with one another, with each being governed by a singular Queen.

All the addition of a Queen Mother really does is makes it possible for the Aliens to be further demonized through giving them the ability to function as a unified and sentient species.

My personal fascination with the Alien stems largely from it’s status as a destructive, but otherwise animalistic creature, hence my great love for the Labyrinth story arc.

In my eyes, the inception of the Queen Mother stands as both a lame plot convenience for an equally lame story, but also as an annoying and unwarranted part of the canon that makes the Aliens seem like they’re “Out To Get Us” when it’s much more interesting to view them as destructive and industrious that can’t coexist with humanity largely due to the parallels they share in their tendency to effect their environment in profound and irreversible ways.

Obviously, I’ve had a minute or 2 to think about this.

That being said, Earth War sucks balls because it took advantage of, and did harm to the canon of the films and comics, but more importantly because it gave me a headache on my vacation with it’s shitty-ass layouts.

Is It Still Worth Reading Anyway?:

Unless you’re a supercalifragilistic fan of the Alien comic series, then there really is absolutely no reason to pick up a copy of Earth War.

Like I said, the thing is a chore to read, and it doesn’t really add to the series so much as mire and drag it down with extraneous elements.

You could do a lot worse of course, but with so many other quality pieces of Alien fiction floating around out there, I really don’t see why you’d waste your time with Earth War.

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The Worst Comics I Own: Nemesis


Why I Bought It:

The irresistible writer/penciler duo of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.

Mark Millar is far from my favorite writer, but he was on one helluva’ hot streak around the time Nemesis started printing, making it a must-buy book for me despite middling to fair reviews.

Why would I feel this way about a book written by a writer I’d describe as “far from my favorite?”

Well, shut up for a second and I’ll tell you.

The rule of thumb when it comes to Millar’s work, at least for me; is that many of his stories are only as good as his artists.

In this sense, when I heard Steve McNiven, one of my favorite artists in the industry, was going to be re-teaming with Millar for Nemesis, not just as the penciler, but as co-creator; I couldn’t help but be excited.

McNiven is a terrific artist, but he isn’t exactly the most prolific, making any work he does all the more special.

When the pairing of these 2 men results in the brilliance of Civil War, and Old Man Logan, one can’t help but have high hopes for their creator owned project involving a white clad “Evil Batman.”

Sadly, the resulting product was far from equal to the sum of it’s parts…

Why It Sucks:

To clarify, Nemesis is actually pretty far from “suck-y.”

In fact, it’s actually quite good at times, however only at the rate of about once or twice per issue.

Mark Millar’s strength’s as a writer stem from his tendency to test the creative limits of his artists in rendering Michael Bay-like set piece sequences and fanboy moments.

In case you forgot, he put VENOM on a T-REX.

His writing resonates most with an audience that isn’t afraid to tap their inner teenage self, and as such, his stuff can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to turn your brain off, laugh at poop jokes, and admire the pretty pictures for a few hundred pages.

That being said, Nemesis actually delivers in virtually every area you’d expect it to, however it does so clumsily and with less energy than one would hope.

The story makes itself out to be much more complicated than it actually is, and the characters are mostly bland, or in the case of the title character; impetuous and largely unlikable.

What’s more, backstory and history is largely ignored throughout, leaving most the characters feeling one-dimensional, and much of the plot feeling very much like like the writer is flipping you the bird and saying “Don’t worry, it’ll be explained in the inevitable sequel.”

Given that it’s a creator owned comic, consisting of entirely unique and unknown characters, I was totally prepared for generic characterization and poor plotting.

Like I said, Millar’s not my favorite writer, and as such, I was wholly expecting to have some problems with Nemesis on that end of things.

What really bugged me about Nemesis, was the fact that the art didn’t live up to my expectations.

Let’s get one thing straight:

By normal standards, Nemesis is one gorgeous fucking comic.

You could do a lot worse...

The problem is, when you’re dealing with Steve McNiven, normal expectations get tossed out the window.

I don’t know if he was working from a strict time table, or if the inker Dave McCaig fucked things up; but Nemesis just doesn’t seem to have the same love put into it that Civil War and Old Man Logan did.

It’s still great by most standards, but when you compare his pencils for Nemesis to his past works, they just don’t hold up.

Is It Still Worth Reading Anyway?:

Nemesis stands as a predictable progression of Mark Millar’s fascination with the concept of a realm of superheroes being dominated by it’s villains, (I.E. Wanted, Old Man Logan) and while it might not be the best permutation of it, it’s still fun in a brainless popcorn movie sort of way.

Like a big dumb summer blockbuster, many of the action sequences in Nemesis arrive without cause or meaning, robbing them of dramatic weight, however due to Steve McNiven’s stellar (but not exceptional by his standards) artwork; simply bearing witness to them can be thrilling in it’s own right.

While I didn’t care much for the characters or story, particularly the antagonist and title character, I can honestly say the brutal jailbreak fight sequence pitting Nemesis against 97 riot cops stands as one of the finest melees ever drawn in Western comics.

FUCK YES!

For this, and other such instances of over-the-top bloodletting, I’d say Nemesis is worth a read for anyone interested in that sort of thing (I.E. Me).

Just don’t expect to be sitting on the edge of your seat during the panels in between all the big action moments…

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The Worst Comics I Own: Army Of Two – Dirty Money


Why I Bought It:

Believe it or not, there was a time when I thought Army of Two was poised to be a force to be reckoned with in the realm of co-op gaming.

As evidenced by both the first and second games’ vanilla gameplay, obvious technical flaws, and tiresome usage of “bro-iness” in place of characterization; the franchise pretty much failed to live up to any of the promise I saw in it.

Despite poor reviews, I actually bought the first Army of Two, almost entirely due to the impressive nature of the character designs.

I don’t know about you, but if you ask me, the tactical armor+mask combo that Salem and Rios wear are some of the more iconic designs the of past half decade.

Seriously man, if you ever go to any airsoft meet, I guarantee you there’ll be at least one kid wearing one of their masks.

Pictured: Cosplay for people too "manly" to call it cosplay.

In many ways, the character designs blinded me to what I knew, deep down, was little more than a mediocre third-person shooter.

That being said, I ended up picking up a copy of “Dirty Money” in anticipation of the games’ release.

…And because it was on sale on Amazon.

Why It Sucks:

Army of Two: Dirty Money isn’t necessarily a shitty comic, it’s just incredibly bland.

In nearly every element of it’s composition, there’s a niggling sense of vanilla-ness that just sucks the fun out of what could’ve been a decent military conspiracy comic.

The art by Brandon McKinney is actually pretty good, but indistinct and poorly reproduced so as to muddy the colors and actually pixelate the text.

While I’d love to show you some examples of said mediocrity, all images of the book’s interior seemed to be buried in the internet, as I can’t find any scans of it.

If that’s not a sign of crappiness, I don’t know what is.

Instead you get a pic of Salem and Rios high-fiving... During a firefight.

The plot is your run of the mill military/revenge thriller stuff, with a double-crossing phantom of the past (a past introduced to the franchise solely within the context of this comic) reemerging to tangle with our heroes in the present.

The real problem with “Dirty Money,” is the horrendously “bro-ish” dialogue penned by John Ney Rieber.

I know it was a conscious decision of the designers of the Army of Two game to make both Salem and Rios foul-mouthed, high-fiving bro’s of the highest degree; likely in the hopes of reeling in the A.D.D-afflicted UFC/Spike TV demographic, but in written form, their dialogue just doesn’t work.

In the game, most of the annoying and ludicrous bro-isms are used as asides, sound bites that only occur intermittently.

In “Dirty Money,” bro-isms aren’t just used as asides to the action, they make up virtually every exchange of dialogue between our 2 heroes.

That’s like 80% of the fuckin’ book!

Seriously man, any book that includes the use of the terms, “Eat Me” and “bro” within it’s first page is one that takes pride in it’s bro-iness and doesn’t give 2 shits about whether you like it or not.

This guy likes it.... He likes it A LOT.

Potentially worse than the palpable nature of “Dirty Money’s” bro-osity though, is it’s excessive use of profanity.

I don’t mind swearing, in fact I do quite a bit of it myself; but the way the characters in “Dirty Money” let ’em fly would make even the saltiest of potty-mouthed sailors blush in embarrassment.

Virtually every speech bubble in the book has a 4-letter word of some sort, and if I recall correctly, I seem to remember Rios referring to someone as an “asswipe.”

I don’t know about you, but battle-scarred, Vin Diesel-esque bro-hemoths aren’t exactly the people I picture tossing around schoolyard terms like “asswipe.”

Then again, I pretty much described exactly the type of dudes I tend to avoid in my daily life, so I’m not exactly drawing from a great deal of life experience in this regard.

All in all, “Dirty Money” pretty much lives up to the standard of the game it serves as a prequel to in the sense that it’s bland and lacking in most regards, and completely without depth or substance.

Is It Still Worth Reading Anyway?:

“Dirty Money” was published by Prima Games, (a publisher of strategy guides) likely on the cheap and in short order, and it shows in virtually every regard.

Like most licensed comics, “Dirty Money” was likely produced for the purposes of cross-media promotion, however in this case, Army of Two was as a particularly weak source material, and a comic of said franchise was a very poor choice of medium.

Put it all together, and you have a lame comic that is constantly winking at you with the fact that it’s based off a game, but fails to hide the fact that said game is a piece of crap.

They got my money with all the pre-release hype, and I’m still kicking myself over it, but without all that to suck you in; there’s really no reason for an intelligent human being to ever pick up a copy of “Dirty Money.”

That is, unless the clip below describes an act you’ve performed on others at some point in your life:

Filed under: Games, Movies, Worst Comics I Own, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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