By 1966, Doctor Who was a well known program and drew millions of viewers on a regular basis. Its success seemed to be confirmed but behind the scenes, trouble loomed overheard. In 1965, the show went through a turbulent year with many rapid changes to the production team and a feeling of discontent permeated the team. Many in the team found it troublesome to work with the aging Hartnell and Hartnell himself found the heavy workload increasingly difficult to cope with. And so, in 1966, following the introduction of Shaun Sutton as the new Head of Serials at BBC, the cry for change was finally heard and it was decided that William Hartnell had to be let go. Unbeknown to everyone at the time, a change that stemmed from necessity would end up becoming the series’ biggest boon.
Back after thirty years, can Gavan steal the minds and hearts of kids again?
Monster War sounds like a Godzilla movie. In fact, I’m surprised there hasn’t been any Godzilla movie with that title. They’ve skirted the title plenty of times and they definitely have the plot and setting for it. So again, come on, Toho. What the hell!?
Sadly, what I’m talking about is not Godzilla. Had it been, I’d probably be in a better mood all things considered. I love Godzilla! Have all my life. Even before I saw a Godzilla movie for the first time, the idea alone enticed me so much that I had the movie sketched out in my head. And since I’m a fan to this day, needless to say my first exposure did not disappoint.
But that’s Godzilla. This is Monster War from 2005.
I mean, really? Come on…
Two things before I even talk more about the comic itself.
One, the only reason I read this… thing is because it had minor impact on another story I was reading and I was curious how things ended up the way they did. That’s how I tend to find new comics to read, references to other things or ads. Hell, it’s how I ended up buying Project Superpowers Chapter 1 Hardcover Edition without even reading it first, the ad said it all: hardcover. I love hardcovers, more comics should be collected in hardcovers, it’s the ultimate in collecting. Point is, I’m a bit like a leaf on the wind and I sort of go wherever I’m taken and in this case, I ended up in the Top Cow universe.
The second thing I need to get off my chest right away is that I don’t read Top Cow comics. To me they feel very much like a leftover from the nineties and I don’t like their character designs nor art. I know that’s a bit unfair, to generalize like that but I have yet to see a Top Cow comic that changes my mind. And from that you should not have a tough time guessing this certainly hasn’t changed my mind.
So understand that I’m coming into this comic not really getting the whole picture nor really wanting to. In retrospect I probably could’ve gone without reading it but that’s life. Hindsight is 20/20.
“Monster War” is a 2005, four issue crossover event between Top Cow characters and Dynamite’s, uh… monsters, I guess. I’m not really sure what Dynamite brings to the table in this case since it doesn’t really seem based on anything they’ve done or at least not that I’ve read but I could be very wrong, I have a lot of Dynamite’s library to get through still. Regardless, Top Cow brings their busty babes and Dynamite brings the age old classic monsters.
Dracula has been revived by Mr. Hyde and together they plan on taking over the world, of course. But when the Magdalena (a stripper warrior priest of some sort) is called into action, it sets off a chain of events that draws three additional warriors into the fight: Witchblade, Lara Croft and the Darkness. But what the four don’t know is the scope of Mr. Hyde’s plan because if they fail, it’s the end of the world and the beginning of a new one. One born out of darkness.
“Monster War” is a mess from beginning to end. Especially if you don’t know the characters but even then the story structure is flawed. It jumps around erratically to the point where I got lost several times, the flow of time is extremely difficult to grasp and throughout all of it character motivations are muddled at best. Mr Hyde wants to reshape the world because he’s evil or something and the heroes are… uh, heroes, I guess. Lara Croft is definitely the main character here even though she only receives top billing in one issue and Jackie Estacado (Darkness) and the Magdalena barely figure into the story. Which is odd because Magdalena is sort of central but overall she never does much of anything.
Except becoming a Damsel in Distress almost immediately. But I’ve never read her comics so I dunno, maybe that’s her MO, fooling them into thinking she’s utterly useless then kicking their ass when they’re not looking. She just never got to the last part in this comic.
Sara Pezzini (Witchblade) is kind of central to the plot but much like Magdalena never really does much with her time except exist. Sure, she gets into a few fights here and there and they’re impressive, I’ll give it that. The action does work surprisingly well for being, well, a comic. But in terms of story and agency, Lara Croft drags that particular wagon by herself. Primarily because she’s been saddled with Jekyll, Hyde’s more benevolent side physically split from his dark side (sort of killing that metaphor brutally, thank you very much).
Jackie, on the other hand, feels completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things and just kinda shows up towards the last issue, does his thing and then the comic ends. His main motivation seems to be that Dracula drank the blood of his whores (no, really) and that won’t fly with Jackie Estacado, no way, José. I suppose he wants to stop the violence from spreading any further but again, he’s only in this story because Dracula attacked one of his brothels.
No, the spotlight is definitely on dear old Lara Croft and it was quite the blast from the past seeing her in her, shall we say, classic shape and form. She’s definitely the character with the most to do as she saves the Magdalena, gets the full story from Jekyll, only one to fight the wolfmen, she finds Frankenstein’s monster and no doubt pays for all the traveling. The only thing she doesn’t do is kill Dracula (or Hyde but then none of the “four” do) but you have to leave something for the others, I guess.
This comic probably would’ve been better as a Lara Croft miniseries because it honestly doesn’t need any of the other characters given Croft’s treasure hunting profession. But even the most used character in the story never really gets decent characterization. She finds Michael, aka Frankenstein’s monster, frozen in ice and bam, she’s involved, never really questioning things along the way.
Overall the comic just never does much of anything except give me a rather unwelcome throwback to the nineties. Especially when it comes to the art. I like sexy women. I’m a straight guy so women are sort of my thing and it never bothers me if they’re easy on the eye. But… this isn’t attractive to me. It was, once, when I was a young teenager but I’ve grown up… sort of. All I can think of when looking at the art is:
“Why does using the Witchblade make her clothes fall off? Surely it could go over or under her clothes?”
“Why is Lara Croft posing like that? It offers no strategic value what so ever and it doesn’t look comfortable.”
“Why does Jackie get full on armor and Sara barely gets to cover her nipples? Surely she wants more armor than that!”
I wonder if there’s still a huge market for comics aimed at prepubescent kids these days what with the Internet and all but they’re clearly doing something right ’cause they keep publishing comics. I’ll give them this, their action scenes did work really well which is where comics tend to fail. More often than not comics tend to fall in one of two categories: combat that stretches for pages or combat that’s over way too fast. Top Cow seems to be in their right element here ’cause that is the one bit of praise I’ll give this miniseries. Sure, it can get a bit messy at times but then comics have an awful tendency to get muddy art when combat is involved.
So no, I didn’t like this miniseries all that much but you might have gathered that already. I found it to be a complete waste of a perfectly good idea and I still struggle to see what Dynamite brought to the table. Yes, the monsters but surely those are in public domain so it’s not like Dynamite was sitting on any sort of license. The only thing I see them adding was the follow up to this story but that’s a blog post for another day. I’ve got lots to cover there.