Daily Archives: June 19, 2015

Review: Highlander, Volume 1: The Coldest War

[Ed. note: I recently joined Goodreads, the social media platform centered around books and reading, in hopes of… I don’t know… recapturing some of the literary mojo I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost, I guess. I’m also a member of a similar online community called LibraryThing, if you’ll recall, but I never could get the hang of the social aspects of that site; I’ve always used it purely as a catalog of my book collection. Goodreads, on the other hand, seems a lot better designed for the way I socialize online these days. (Basically, Goodreads is not a siloed community like LT; you can easily share your Goodreads activity on your Facebook page, if you’re exhibitionistic that way… which, apparently, I am.) I still haven’t quite decided if I like Goodreads, or how much I like it, but if nothing else, it’s providing more inspiration to write reviews than I’ve felt in some time. Goodreads makes it easy to export your reviews to other platforms, too, so as an experiment, I’m going to let it crosspost them here on Simple Tricks. (People who follow me on Facebook will also get links there; sorry, I don’t mean to spam you, I just know there are Loyal Readers here who aren’t on Facebook.) If you want to read my earlier reviews, there’s a link at the bottom of this post. And if you want to follow me on Goodreads, my profile is here. And feel free to let me know if this is interesting content to you, or if you’d rather I knock it off… ]

Highlander, Volume 1: The Coldest War
Highlander, Volume 1: The Coldest War by Brandon Jerwa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Continuity in the Highlander franchise is a tricky thing to explain to any but the hardcore fan, so my apologies if the following is as clear as mud: This graphic novel (which collect issues 0-5 of the tie-in comic series by Dynamite Entertainment) takes place shortly after the events of the original Highlander film, but within the timeline of the Highlander TV series, in which the events of the movie were retconned a bit. Which means that Connor MacLeod has defeated the monstrous immortal known as The Kurgan, exactly as seen in the movie, only without winning The Prize… it was just another fight between immortals and not the final battle. Savvy?

Okay, now that’s out of the way… the story begins with Connor abruptly called away from his new bride, Brenda Wyatt, to reunite with two other immortals and an elderly human scientist for a secret mission into the heart of the Soviet Union. Through flashbacks, we learn that the four of them had confronted The Kurgan once before, 20 years earlier, along with an army of genetically engineered cultist warriors who were fanatically loyal to the villainous immortal. They thought they’d defeated the cultists then, but now that Kurgan is dead, they’re back and looking to avenge their old master. They’ve already caused the historic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and now they have bigger things in mind. They’ve got to be stopped…

Following the resolution of this storyline (comprising issues 0-4), we have a short interlude (issue 5) featuring Connor’s kinsman Duncan MacLeod. Brenda has been injured in a car accident and is in surgery while the two immortal cousins talk, argue, and console one another.

Both stories capture the general tone of the Highlander TV series and are enjoyable, if rather superficial. The villains of “The Coldest War” are never fleshed out in any meaningful way and are merely “the bad guys”; the same with Paul and Tasya, Connor’s immortal comrades. We learn nothing about either of them and have no real emotional connection to them. The elderly mortal in the story, Doctor Volkov, fares a bit better, but only just. Brenda is a virtual non-entity in both stories. On the positive side, however, the writers have a good grip on the voices of the two MacLeods, and it’s easy to imagine the dialogue being spoken by actors Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul.

The artwork by Lee Moder in “The Coldest War” and Kevin Sharpe in “New Years Eve” is hit-and-miss, although I see a better resemblance to the actors in Sharpe’s work. The action is at least easy to follow, which I find is occasionally a problem in modern comics.

Overall, this is a pleasing but not spectacular return to the Highlander universe for fans of the franchise, but I can’t imagine it would make any new fans. I am willing to continue with Volume 2, though, so that’s something…

View all my reviews


Friday Evening Videos: “For What It’s Worth”

For a time in my teens and early twenties, I had a serious thing for the music of the 1960s. I remember I was becoming disenchanted with the direction contemporary pop music was headed by the late ’80s; meanwhile, the ’60s were very alive and accessible in the culture at that point, with constant media chatter about various landmark anniversaries, and period TV shows like The Wonder Years, China Beach, and occasional episodes of Quantum Leap. Probably the biggest reason was that I was spending every available moment of free time in the driver’s seat of my old ’63 Galaxie, which had only a stock AM radio, and there wasn’t much else to listen to on AM.

But whatever the impetus, I responded to this uncharted sonic territory like fanboys have done from time immemorial, by diving in headfirst and trying to learn everything about it I possibly could. I fondly recall afternoons at the library, paging through the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll and fat tell-all biographies of Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys. I loved discovering the connections between bands that I knew and ones I’d never heard of, and learning how the whole thing evolved. And I loved having this thing I could call my own. A lot of kids latched onto punk or Goth or some other form of “alternative” music. Later on, they’d have their grunge. Me, I expressed my individuality by digging the Sixties.

Eventually, the passion cooled and I moved on to other things, as one does. But there is still a lot of music from that era that I enjoy. Some of it is very badly dated now — the psychedelic stuff sounds really lame to me these days — but as with any musical genre or era, there are some songs that transcend their origins and continue to resonate. This week’s “Friday evening” selection is one of those.

“For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield was written by Steven Stills, who would later become part of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and occasionally Young), and later still enjoy a successful solo career. The song is often said to be about the infamous Kent State massacre, when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fired on unarmed college students during an anti-war protest, killing four of them; in reality, the song was written in 1966, four years prior to the events at Kent State, which occurred in 1970. Released in 1967, it would become the band’s highest-charting hit and is today ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

It’s a song that has haunted me at various times in my life. It comes to mind whenever the world feels like it’s spinning a little too fast, or is about to tip all the way over. The lyrics about paranoia and battle lines never seem to lose their relevance, and just lately, with all the back-and-forth about police brutality and who’s got privilege and who doesn’t, the bit about a man with a gun “telling me I got to beware” is downright chilling. Especially today, the day after Charleston. I’ve been feeling an angry energy building out there, like static electricity in the air. At times like this, when all the troubles of our nation lay exposed on the ground beneath an unflinching sun and civilization itself feels most precarious, “For What It’s Worth” starts playing in my head.

The video clip I’ve found for tonight is a live performance from the Monterrey Pop Festival, a landmark concert event that predated the more famous Woodstock by two years. It’s a bit more upbeat than most versions of the song I’ve heard, and we’ve got some nice imagery of cute little hippie children and balloons to take off some of the edge. And just for fun, Buffalo Springfield is introduced by Peter Tork of The Monkees:

And with that, as they used to say back in the days of flowers and love, “Peace.”