Category Archives: comics

Comic Review: Hellsing

Though review might be stretching it a bit.

A while back I was on a work training course and shared a room with a guy who happened to have brought the first three volumes of Hellsing. I had heard a lot of great things about it over the years and the anime seems to be widely considerd as one of the great classics, like Full Metal Alchemist and Death Note. I had long planned to look it up but never got around to it, so I jumped at the opportunity to give it a try. This review only covers these first three volumes.

For comics, the visual style is obviously a major factor but not as relevant to the narrative, so let’s get this one covered fist. My impression of the drawing is that it’s okay. I’ve seen it praised, but I didn’t feel impressed by it myself. But it looks good and the images are not overcrowded with stuff that makes it difficult to figure out what’s going on. It works, that’s always the most important part.

But now to the story. Hellsing is set in a world that is plagued by vampires. Two main organizations are presented that are fighting against them. The Hellsing Organisation of the Anglican Church in Britain and Section XIII Iscariot of the Catholic Church. Both groups appear to be in a state of cold war but have made agreements to not operate in each others territory so they can focus on the main threat posed by the vampires. Hellsing’s top agent is Alucard, a vampire himself who dresses in a red coat and hat and has two big ass guns. The story begins with the recruitment of Seras Victoria, a police officer who was fatally wounded in a massacre commited by vampires and made immortal by Alucard who happened to have been send to deal with the situation. Shortly after the Hellsing headquarters get attacked and a majority of their staff slaughtered, which leads to Alucard and Seras going to Brazil to track down the people behind the attack.

What I quite liked of what I’ve read so far are the character design. Seras, Integra, Walter, and Bernadotte, as well as the two catholic nuns, all seemed like they could be really interesting or at least entertaining people to follow around in a story. But unfortunately I have to say, not in this story.

Even though it spans across three volumes, I found the plot to be very thin. Very little actually happpens or is explained and I had no real understanding of what’s going on for pretty much the entire time. The plot, or what little there is of it, seemed to me to be little more than an excuse to depict endless piles of slaughter and gore. It’s not that I have any problem with this in general. I like both the anime and manga of Neon Genesis Evangelion and have to say I am quite a fan of Elfen Lied. (Though the anime is awful, it drops almost all of the plot.) I’m still planning to get to Berserk in the near future. Extreme violence in manga can be great. But in Hellsing it felt very different to me. It didn’t seem like the blood and guts where there to make any point but that the comic exists only for the sake of violece and gore.

All in all, I have to say that the first three volumes of Hellsing left me very much unimpressed. Actually rather disappointed. Maybe “it gets better later”, but as it is I really feel no desire to get back to this one.

Comic Review: Tales of the Jedi

Totj_kotor1Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi is a comic series that was published by Dark Horse from 1993 to 1998 with a total of 35 issues. This was only two years after the Thrawn Series by Timothy Zahn had kickstarted the Expanded Universe as we know it now, placing it pretty early in the history of Star Wars tales. The series was created by Tom Veitch, who had written the Dark Empire comic series a year earlier (which I consider the greatest travisty of the Star Wars universe after the Holiday Special), but he was joined by Kevin Anderson in 1994, who had just released his Jedi Academy novel series (which also has a pretty poor reputation among fans) and became the sole writer for the series a year later.

The Tales of the Jedi are set 4,000 years before the movies, in a time when the Republic was still smaller, the galaxy less explored, and the Jedi much more numerous. The first three story arcs, written by Veitch, (and giving us the now popular title “Knights of the Old Republic”) follow the adventures of the young Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma and his brother Cay and their fellow knight Tott Doneeta, who are send to the planet Onderon to help the government of the capital city end a war with the tribes living in the surounding jungles. They discover the spirit of the Dark Jedi Freedon Nadd manipulating the events on the planet, facing the three Jedi with a much bigger threat than they anticipated. As the crisis escalates, Ulic’s path crosses with the newly trained Jedi Nomi Sunrider, who has an exceptional talent for the Battle Meditation technique, which allows a single Jedi to coordinate the efforts of an entire army and making her extremely valuable.

Once Kevin Anderson joined as second writer, he introduces Exar Kun, a character from his Jedi Academy novels, whose spirit is trying to turn Luke’s Jedi students on Yavin 4 to the Dark Side. Exar Kun is unhappy with his master not trusting him to learn about the dangerous powers of the Dark Side and so sets out to learn more about them on his own. A path that very much mirrors that of Anakin Skywalker in the movies that were made a few years later. Exar Kun gets corrupted by the still not fully destroyed spirit of Freedon Nadd who leads him to the ancient Sith tombs of Korriban, where he once more unearthes the ancient secrets of the Sith. At the same time Ulic Qel-Droma is trying to infiltrate the leadership of a new Sith cult called the Krath who also have been guided by Freedon Nadd and establishing their own galactic power by allying with the Mandalorians and become a major threat to the Republic. Halfway through the arc, after the Dark Lords of the Sith series, Veitch left as a writer, leaving the field entirely to Anderson with the Sith War series.

A third main arc is set a thousand years earlier and centers on the first clash between the Republic and the Sith Empire under the leadership of Naga Sadow, who uses trickery and conspiracy to first destroy his rivals for control over the empire in The Golden Age of the Sith and then sets his eyes on the Republic in The Fall of the Sith Empire. A final, much shoter arc called Redeption, is set some years after The Sith War, but is mostly a personal story of Nomi Sunrider’s daughter Vima and doesn’t really add much to the historic lore of the Old Republic.

The setting of these comics would later return on the Knights of the Old Republic videogames, which right after the release of the second game got another comic series also, and confusingly, called Knights of the Old Republic. I was interested in those comics and had read the Jedi Academy novels at some point in the late 90s, so I decided to start at the very begining with the Tales of the Jedi series to know more about those references to Exar Kun, Ulic Qel-Droma, and Naga Sadow. When I first read them some three or four years ago, I quite enjoyed them. But having read them again over the last two weeks, my opinion of the series is now very different.

The first arc, written by Veitch, is really pretty bad. The art is very sloppy and ugly, characters are as flat as it can get, and what little traces of a plot there are are almost entirely told by exposition in boxes with the characters not really contributing anything with their own words. The second arc, begun by Veitch and Anderson, is a noticable improvement in that the art now looks only bad and that the plot consists of exposition in speech bubbles instead of boxes. It’s still a bad comic, though. The third arc, now done completely by Anderson alone, first starts surprisingly well with Golden Age of the Sith. The art has now been upgraded to simply ugly, though servicable, and there’s actual plot and Naga Sadow has some real personality as we follow him taking out his rivals and becoming new Dark Lord of the Sith. Sadly that didn’t last and The Fall of the Sith Empire is right back to being a jumbled mess of exposition. The short Redemption at the very end is okay, I guess. I still don’t think it’s any good or very interesting.

So yeah. My final impression of the Tales of the Jedi series is that it’s bad! There are noticable improvements over time, but those are simply from “godawful” to “only bad”. The only reason why I would recommend to anyone to read any of these comics, would be a great interest in the lore of the early days of the Star Wars universe. But even then I would say that only The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire are worth it. If you really want to know about Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun, then you’re much better of at just reading the page on Wookiepedia. There is so little plot and characterization in Veitch’s comics that you really are not missing out anything. It probably is much more exciting to read a detailed summary than to shovel your way through that pile of dung yourself.

Things I still plan to review

This list is actually getting longer instead of shorter because I constantly forget that I wanted to write reviews for these. Hopefully I get around to do them someday not too far in the future. And if you want to, you can bug me about them still being late. That usually motivates me quite a lot. ;)

  • A Princess of Mars
  • Atlantis: The Second Age
  • Barbarians of Lemuria
  • Conan (Comic)
  • Dark Sun Campaign Setting
  • Death Frost Doom
  • Demon’s Souls
  • Gargoyles
  • Heavenly Sword
  • Hellboy
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Comic)
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Mirror’s Edge
  • No Salvation for Witches
  • Pitch Black
  • Primeval Thule
  • Red Tide
  • Riddick
  • Seirei no Moribito
  • The Savage Frontier
  • The Witcher 2
  • Thief: The Dark Project
  • Trawn Trilogy

This looks even worse that I thought. oO