Randy Emberlin

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 6 (April 1999)

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The series ends with some undeniable problems–the Romeo and Juliet aspect is idiotic–but Richardson and Stradley manage to reign in their big conspiracy storyline.

They don’t resolve some of their threads, which is both a good and bad decision. It’s good because there’s not enough room for the resolution, but bad because they sort of promised it for the first half of the series.

There’s a lot of content to this issue–it’s not just a wrap-up. The wrap-up is saved for the last three pages or so… and it isn’t enough. This issue’s problems with pacing sort of reveal the series’s problems with it in general.

Gulacy is rushed here. He can’t make it all fit. It’s the least impressive art on the entire series, though there are some good space battles at the open.

The series nearly succeeds, overcoming a few major story problems.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 5 (March 1999)

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It’s a romance now? Seriously? Wow.

After a solid first half, Richardson and Stradley are running off the rails. They set up a convoluted set of schemes and subterfuges and are now rapidly resolving them. And what solves them all? Sworn enemies kissing.

But the issue has a bunch of great Gulacy sci-fi action so it’s impossible not to enjoy it. There’s spaceship battles, there’s blaster fights, it goes on and on. Even the talking heads stuff is great; Gulacy’s got lots of Star Wars technology around to draw.

But the writing has just gone off the deep end. The writers introduce a major new character this issue (more important than any other new character in Council of Blood actually) and reveal he’s been working behind the scenes the whole series.

It’s a complete mess. It’s like Richardson and Stradley changed their minds about the series’s plot halfway through.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 4 (February 1999)

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I’m not sure it’s possible this issue could have a softer cliffhanger. Soft as it may be, it does signal a change in Council of Blood… it’s finally a sequel to Crimson Empire.

Until this issue, Richardson and Stradley have been avoiding what they promised at the finish of the first series. While the previous issues touched on it, they more concentrated on the overall Dark Horse Star Wars universe. This issue brings Sinn (I finally remember her dumb name) and the Imperial Guard together.

And it does so on a strange planet with stranger aliens and Gulacy has a great time with all of it. There’s a lot of action this issue; Gulacy has to condense approximately twelve action panels to one page.

It’s a packed issue.

Sadly, bringing back the first series’s character relationship, the writers start to stumble. It’s an okay comic, but the characters are nonsensical.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 3 (January 1999)

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Interesting. The series is now half done and Richardson and Stradley haven’t shown much of their hand yet, as far as future events go. Instead, they’re still raveling the narrative. The reader gets to be a little ahead of the characters, but since there’s still no protagonist, it doesn’t hurt the comic.

This issue spends most of its time going over the business practices of the Hutt character. They’re sensational, which makes them engaging, and the writers hint just enough at how everything connects to make it intriguing.

There’s also some more business with the Imperials, with the writers identifying the villains among the villains.

It’s effective. It even makes one (stupidly) consider reading more Star Wars comics.

Nice art from Gulacy and Emberlin. Gulacy’s got some great page compositions to mix action and dramatics. He also takes the time to indulge his humorous side.

It’s a very strong issue.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 2 (December 1998)

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Once again, there’s the item you can tell Gulacy just went gloriously overboard with. This time, it’s one of the squid faced aliens–but as a Hutt dancing girl. Emberlin inks are especially good; there are some great alien worlds panels in the first few pages.

Richardson and Stradley are slowly developing the overall story. The dialogue is good, the characters are all good. The issue passes without many hiccups, but it also passes without a real character. Crimson Empire II is apparently a licensed Star Wars comic first and a narrative second.

In fact, this issue is still setup for whatever’s going to come, big and small. The previous issue introduced two general story lines. This one expands it out to three or more. The writers are enthusiastic about whatever they have planned and it helps.

It’s still too soon to decide on the series, but the issue’s good.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood 1 (November 1998)

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Once again, Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley are deliberate in their setup. Council of Blood has some fight scenes–well, some violent acts without real bloodshed (just the threat of it)–and some space stuff, but it’s all about the politics.

Just from this issue, it’s clear the dialogue’s better than the first series, at least for the politicians. While the comic obviously owes a lot to Star Wars–specifically Jedi–it’s hard not to see some Dune comparisons too.

I’m not sure how it reads to regular Dark Horse Star Wars readers, but it’s incomprehensible without reading the first series. Sadly, the Western flavor to the story isn’t back–there’s way too much planet-trotting–but Richardson and Stradley have a good tone.

Paul Gulacy (inked by Randy Emberlin) does fairly well. Emberlin’s a little thick for Gulacy. Gulacy’s best work is in the little details.

Blood starts fine.

Dark Horse Presents 32 (August 1989)

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Ugh, another “annual.” Sixty-four pages of Dark Horse Presents tends to be a little much.

The American is a little long here–it’s very passive and not at all dramatic. On the other hand, Peterson shows he used to be a lot more interesting of an artist.

The Wacky Squirrel strip from publisher Richardson is dumb.

Davis’s Delia & Celia is a complete bore, big shock. He manages to make a pterodactyl boring.

The longer than usual Bob the Alien just shows with more space Rice does an even better story. It’s funny and touching

The Concrete story is better than usual–Concrete’s jealous over girls–and Chadwick puts in three unanswered questions. Two are crime related, one personal. It works.

Bacchus is great. Campbell gets more into his eight pages than anyone ever has in one of these issues.

As usual, Zone is passable, Race of Scorpions is lame.

CREDITS

The American, My Dinner with the American; story by Mark Verheiden; pencils by Brandon Peterson; inks by Randy Emberlin; lettering by David Jackson. Wacky Squirrel; story by Mike Richardson; art by Jim Bradrick; lettering by David Jackson. Delia & Celia, Down, Down and Down; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Steppin’ Out; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Concrete, Visible Breath; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Bacchus, A God and His Dog; story, art and lettering by Eddie Campbell. Zone; story, art and lettering by Michael Kraiger. Race of Scorpions, The Rusty Soldier; story and art by Leopoldo Durañona; lettering by Laura Davis. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 20 (August 1988)

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This issue is a sixty-four page giant–only most of the extra is filler. They could have gotten away with a lot less pages.

The Mr. Monster story is real short (and lame). Gary Davis has a short space alien story showing he’s read some Arthur C. Clarke (it’s long, wordless filler).

Rick Geary’s got a nice two page story, which is filler but really excellent filler.

Then there’s the start of a Trekker serial. It’s incomprehensible if you haven’t read the Trekker series and probably even if you have.

Doug Potter has an excellent story about homelessness.

Oh, I missed Bob Burden’s Mystery Men and Flaming Carrot two page filler.

Then a real Mask story, which seems to be wrapping up. The narrative’s a little pat dramatically, but I’m not sure Badger cared.

Bob the Alien and Mindwalk have stories. Bob‘s hilarious, Mindwalk‘s weak.

Finally, even more filler.

CREDITS

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p style=”font-size:11px;”>Mr. Monster, The Thing in Stiff Alley!; story by Chuck Gamble and Michael T. Gilbert; pencils by Gamble, Gilbert and Chuck Wacome; inks by Gilbert; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. Anomaly; story, art and lettering by Gary Davis. A Mother’s Tragedy; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Trekker, Vincent’s Share; story and art by Ron Randall; lettering by Ken Bruzenak. The Mystery Men!; story and art by Bob Burden; lettering by Roxanne Starr. The Visit; story, art and lettering by Douglas C. Potter. The Mask; story and art by Mark Badger; lettering by David Jackson. Concrete, Watching a Sunset; story and art by Paul Chadwick; lettering by Bill Spicer. Bob the Alien, Bob, the alien, Goes Birddogging; story, art and lettering by Rich Rice. Mindwalk; story by Randy Stradley; art by Randy Emberlin; lettering by Willie Schubert. Wacky Squirrel, Mixed Results; story, art and lettering by Jim Bradrick. Black Cross; story and art by Chris Warner. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 4 (January 1987)

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It’s a real toss-up this issue for worst writing.

Randall’s script for Trekker is laughably bad, but there’s something almost confrontational about Stradley’s Mindwalk script. It’s like he’s punishing the reader for taking the time to read the story, as though he or she isn’t being punished enough by Emberlin’s artwork.

Randall’s Trekker art, on the other hand, isn’t terrible. He’s got some issues with proportions and perspective, but his enthusiasm and persistence are clear. He worked hard illustrating his derivative, atrocious sci-fi story.

The rest of the issue is similarly unimpressive. Sure, Chadwick’s Concrete artwork is amazing, but the story is another one where Concrete spends eight pages doing something then decides to reverse and not tell anyone. So why does the reader have to put up with it, to sympathize for the character? Why should we?

Once again, a moderately cute Boris strip closes the issue.

CREDITS

Trekker; writer and artist, Ron Randall; letterer, David Jackson. Concrete, The Gray Embrace; writer and artist, Paul Chadwick; letterer, Bill Spicer. Mindwalk, Mindwar!, Part Two; story and script, Randy Stradley; story and art, Randy Emberlin; letterer, David Jackson. Boris the Bear, The Boris Chronicles; story and art, James Dean Smith; script, Randy Stradley; letterer, David Jackson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 3 (November 1986)

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Yay, Warner’s back with Black Cross–featuring a bunch of expository dialogue recapping the first story. With all that useless exposition, one might think Warner would explain the ground situation to the reader. But he doesn’t. It’s confusing and a lot of work thinking about something so dumb sounding.

Stradley and Emberlin’s Mindwalk has its weakest entry so far, with Stradley inexplicably using two narrators here. A mediocre first person narrator is one thing, but then he brings in a female narrator who sounds like a six-year-old. Emberlin’s art is similarly problematic, though he draws Kirby-esque monsters well.

The Concrete story is charming. It’s the adventures of the female scientist (still not clear on Concrete’s origin, which seems to be intentional) trying to move his unconscious body. Chadwick’s art is gorgeous.

The Boris Chronicles strip is cute, with Smith basically converting a newspaper strip to four pages.

CREDITS

Mindwalk, Mindwar!, Part One; writer, Randy Stradley; artist, Randy Emberlin; letterer, David Jackson. Concrete, The Four-Wheeled Sleeping Pill; writer and artist, Paul Chadwick; letterer, Bill Spicer. Black Cross; writer and artist, Chris Warner; letterer, David Jackson. Boris the Bear, The Boris Chronicles; story and art, James Dean Smith; script, Randy Stradley; letterer, David Jackson. Editor, Randy Stradley; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

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