Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Charmed Season 9 Issue 1 'Charmed Lives' Review

Well here we have the first official issue (episode) of Zenescope’s Charmed (Season 9). Since it’s only one issue in it’s hard to tell the type of format they’re going to use to tell these stories and I think it will take a while before it’s clear exactly what they’re going to do with it. The first issue isn’t a stand alone story, so the first ‘episode’ is going to take at least two issues to tell, but beyond that it’s unclear if Charmed will follow the Buffy Season 8 method of 4-5 issues per episode, or like Angel a 10-13 issue arch that serves as a half season.

The issue picks up a little over a year, eighteen months to be exact, after the end of season 8. Now be warned because everything beyond this point is all spoilers.

Now the continuity here is really questionable, even more so than the normal problems Charmed had while on the air. Piper and Leo are still married and even though the eighth season ended with Chris barely 2 years old some how Chris and Wyatt seem to be around 4-7 and Piper has a toddler, a baby girl named Melinda. I actually like that because it’s a little throw back to season 2 when they went to the future and Piper had a baby girl and how after Prue died Piper believed she’d never have her baby girl, and unlike Chris, Melinda is taking after their older brother and has access to her powers from birth. Leo is off running Magic School and Piper is in the process of opening a restaurant of her very own.

Phoebe is still married to Coop and are still living in their own place away from Halliwell Manor. Phoebe still writes her advice column for Elise, only she had taken a break because of the fact that she had gotten pregnant and gave birth to the baby girl she had been dreaming about for years. Prue; which if you know the history of Charmed and the legendary epic ‘battle’ between Alyssa and Shannen that led to Shannen leaving the show you can’t help but laugh at this a little…. Anyway, Prue is half Witch half Cupid which also makes her powers work a bit differently. Like Paige baby Prue can also teleport objects to (and one would assume away from) her only instead of orbing it’s ‘beaming.’ It remains to be seen if baby Prue has any other powers at this point.

Paige is still acting as an official unofficial Whitelighter in addition to teaching at Magic School, she leaves the politics and paper work to Leo though. Paige and Henry are married and raising twins of their very own. Thankfully the twins don’t have any active powers yet because Paige has her hands full trying to teach the students how to use their own powers.

We get a few new characters here and like I said before, until we know the format of how long it takes for each episode it’s impossible to tell how long these characters will stick around; .the Angel of Destiny shows up, but just in a pop in, pop out, kind of way so it’s hard to count that as anything substantial. Billie and Henry are missing in action, although it’s likely we’ll see Henry before Billie since he’s married to Paige. The new characters so far aren’t anything to write home about.

Neena can open portals, only she doesn’t know where they lead and appears to have some sort of fire based powers that she uses to kill Weasel with. Weasel, well what’s to tell? He showed up, he was little, he liked to make sexual advances, he died. Hogan is working with Neena but it’s not clear if he’s a warlock, demon, darklighter or whatever because so far he’s shown no powers at all. There are a couple of new characters given to us from Magic School but the only one who actually gets a name is Jessalyn. There’s nothing really to say about her other than she gets bored easily and is not that good with the magic yet.

So far the plot is pretty standard: Piper, Phoebe and Paige try to balance their real lives with their magical ones and raise magical children (although the children part is new to Phoebe and Paige.) Neena and Hogan are trying to unearth some dark power, no idea what that is yet but the issue ends with both of them in the Underworld where people are being tortured and they’re looking for someone or something.

While it will take a while before I can accurately judge/review the long term plot I can certainly judge the art right now and let me say boy was it a BIG LET DOWN. The art in last month’s “The Book of Shadows” was really good and fitting for the series in general. I ended up getting the cover pictured above and I was psyched, the artist really captured Holly Marie, Rose and Alyssa’s respective likenesses. You looked at them and bam you recognized them instantly; the art on the inside though; yeah, not so much. Paige looks nothing like Rose, or even close enough for it to be recognizable as ‘Paige’ the character. Leo’s brief appearance left much to be desired; I had to reread the page twice before it sunk in that the person I was looking at was supposed to be Leo. Phoebe is a bit better than Paige artistically, but it’s still not Alyssa. To me it kind of reminds me of the art from the Witchblade comics. Coop actually manages to look enough like Victor Webster that it doesn’t bother me too much. Piper is done the best here however that’s because of how much Holly Marie stood out visually compared to Shannen, Alyssa, Rose and Kaley. The problem I have with how Piper is done that she suffers from Witchblade/Darkchylde art. It’s like ‘oh okay, I’m going to pick up this knife right here and cut up a plant but I can’t do it unless my chest is sticking out and my but is pointed directly in your face.’ I get that Charmed was mostly about the hotness of the actresses but I’ve got the dvds for that, let the comic be about amazing art and storytelling.

My fear with the art is that the girls don’t look enough like themselves, not even when they’re all together. They don’t ‘feel’ like The Charmed Ones, it feels like a bunch of girls sitting around on a couch together. I know it would have been almost impossible to do it but I wish the artist put in the girls’ tattoos. At least then you could tell which character was which more easily. Honestly I’m not feeling the art at all and it’s really bringing down the book for me. It takes me out of the world when I have to figure out who is who.

Another problem with the art is the way the pages are structured makes it seem like a very quick read. It took me so long to read “The Book of Shadows” because it pulled me in, both with the writing and the art. But with “Charmed Lives” it’s only 21 pages and out of that there’s one full page consisting of a long shot of Phoebe being ‘beamed’ in while Coop holds baby Prue; on top of that there are a total of THREE two page spreads. So this 21 page issue is in reality only 18 pages of story followed up by a two page spread promoting issue 2 “No Rest for the Wicca” and the rest are two back up stories/previews for other Zenescope books. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the book didn’t cost $3.50. So for fifty one cents more you’re getting exactly one LESS page than any given issue of Buffy Season 8. And this was the first issue, and first issues are usually LONGER than the standard comic.

Rating: C
There’s just not enough plot to rate it on and the art really brings it down for me

Friday, August 6, 2010

Charmed Season 9 Issue 0 'The Book of Shadows' Review

Charmed always had a special place in my heart, not for what it was, and not really for what it wasn’t either but because of all of the things it could be.  When the show was good it was really good and when the show was bad well… it verged on unwatchable.  I’m not going to get into the show too much because if I ever decide to rewatch the show it will be something that’s covered here, so for now this is going to strictly be about the comic book.

Much like IDW Publishing’s Angel: After the Fall (a.k.a. Season 6) and Dark Horse’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (currently wrapping up season 8 now, and after a break we’ll be getting season 9) we have an official comic book adaptation and canonical continuation with Zenescope’s “Charmed” (they don’t call it ‘season 9’ but it takes place after season 8 so it’s technically officially unofficially season 9.)  However unlike Buffy and Angel there wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare  or promotion surrounding Charmed’s relaunch.  There was one promotional image teasing with the symbol on the cover of the Book of Shadows and underneath a caption reading “The Girls Are Back Summer 2010.”  A little while after that there was a leaked cover, that thankfully so far has absolutely nothing to do with the actual series (I HATED the art on that, the image on the right is the one I'm talking about.)

The lack of promotion for the comic actually worked out as a plus because the series doesn’t start with issue number one, it starts with zero and is billed as “The Book of Shadows.”  This is really clever because not only does it give us a glimpse at the upcoming first issue but the entire issue is devoted to recapping the series mythology.  The pages are formatted to look like someone scanned a copy of the actual Book of Shadows, it includes the incantation that started it all as well as the etchings and spells that were used throughout the entire series.

There are pages ‘written’ by each of the girls where they talk about everything from their hopes and dreams to their love lives. There’s even a section for Prue!  The book really does cover everything and everyone: Melinda Warren, Patty, Victor, Sam, Henry, Coop, Leo, Chris, Wyatt, Prue, Andy, Cole, Billie and all the main demons too.  Of course they also cover everything from the ‘Up There’ to the Underworld, Magic School and The Hollow and everything and everyone in between. There’s also a section devoted to every single season of the show and the B.O.S. closes out with each of the girls talking about the events that have taken place between the end of season 8 and the start of season 9.

While Charmed #0 “The Book of Shadows” is a great way to kick off the series and to anyone who followed the series when it was on TV can understand how monumental it is to have Prue, Piper, Phoebe and Paige all included in a form of media at the same time; there are a few things that I didn’t really care for.  Sometimes when the girls are ‘writing’ it switches off too gradually and it’s hard to tell exactly which sister is the one doing the writing at the moment.  Another thing that doesn’t sit right with me, mostly because of how much I liked the character is the fact that it is established that back in season 6 when Piper gave birth to Chris while Future!Chris dies Future!Chris’ death doesn’t get ‘undone.’  In this new reality Wyatt is good yet somehow Chris still ends up traveling back in time and dying.  I hope they can find some way to undo this because I really liked the grown up version of Chris.  Two things that I really do love is that Prue is included in this, this implies that somehow Zenescope worked out some type of deal with the rights to Shannen Doherty’s likeness.  Granted it’s a photograph of Shannen, but legally they couldn’t have used it unless they owned the rights to use her image.  I hope this somehow paves the way to Prue visiting her sisters like Grams and Patty do.  Another thing is the fact that Billie is included in the B.O.S. now she was a major part of season 8 and couldn’t be ignored but the fact that she was included in there, no where near as much as Prue, but much more than Cole, Patty, Grams and even almost more than Leo gives me hope that we’ll see Billie in season 9.

Rating: A+