Saturday, 20 October 2018

Timmy Lala's Ice Scream #1 - Ka-Blam Printing

TIMMY LALA'S ICE SCREAM No. 1, October 2018
Proudly publicised by creator Bradley Golden as “a one shot horror comic about delicious, sweet murder” during its successful “Kickstarter” in July 2018, this twenty page periodical undoubtedly lives up to its pre-print promise with its plot’s disturbing premise of the local ice-cream man being a deranged serial killer who murders innocent men, women and children so as to use “their body parts as new and delicious ice-cream toppings.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more disturbing narrative than that offered by this title’s writer as well-intentioned Miami-based mothers help shepherd their all-too innocent off-spring towards Thomas Wright’s truck and pay for their little darlings tasty treats, never suspecting for a moment that one of the ingredients of his delicious carbohydrate-filled frozen dessert may well be the bodily remains of his latest hapless fatality; “You know I make all my ice cream with love and care.”

Fortunately however, this book’s storyline isn’t simply just a straightforward tale about a homicidal maniac chopping up random inhabitants of Florida just for the fun of it, with the vendor’s motivation proving to be a far more complicated affair than that once he returns home and continues to torture his two-timing wife, Lucy, in his home’s dark basement. Bound to a chair and gagged, it soon becomes evident that “Thomas’ latest victim” will be missing more than her regular local yoga class unless her new sweetheart, Aaron, can mount a timely rescue and save her from the impressive array of sharpened knives with which the petrified woman’s mentally disturbed husband plans to slaughter her with.

Encouragingly, just such a liberation appears about to occur too when Lucy’s “secret lover” attempts to gain entry to Wright’s eerie house by posing as a representative of the “Heavenly Palace of Jehovah’s Witness.” But those bibliophiles anticipating a happy ending will be completely wrong-footed by what Golden pens next, as the Ice Cream man proves more than a murderous match for “the black guy at the door” and subsequently slits the throat of his shocked spouse whilst she’s still reeling from the disbelief of him killing her new partner on their very doorstep.

Similarly as successful as this comic’s delivery of its spine-chilling surprises, is Andrey Lunatik’s extremely characterful artwork, which genuinely imbues the bespectacled maniac with just the sort of humorous quirkiness this book needs to set it apart from being just another ‘slasher’ story, and keep the reader wanting to see more of its leading cold-hearted character. In fact, it’s easy to see just why Bradley wanted to use a portion of the $2,733 pledged “to help bring this project to life” to compensate the Russian (and the rest of this publication's creative team) for “putting out some great work”.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "TIMMY LALA'S ICE SCREAM" No. 1 by Helmut Rancho

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Like Father, Like Daughter #4 - Short Fuse Media Group

Featuring a disconcertingly foreboding cover illustration by Wayne A. Brown depicting a mortally-wounded Invulnerable potentially ‘bleeding out’ in the arms of his estranged teenage daughter, this twenty-two periodical’s narrative may well have proved something of a disappointment during its early stages as it depicts this series’ leading cast predominantly just ‘innocently’ sitting inside a regular diner eating hamburgers, drinking milkshakes and talking about Jim’s investigative incompetence. However, despite this debatably drawn-out sequence being discouragingly dialogue-heavy, it rather cleverly helps build up the book’s tension by slowly helping the publication, as well as the reader, count down towards the time until the titular character receives his ever-impending life-threatening injury.    

In fact, by the time “Casey decides that the best way to learn about her powers, is by going right to the source” and visits her father’s childhood orphanage, it is almost impossible to ‘shake off’ the pulse-poundingly palpable anticipation that at any moment a shot will suddenly ring out so as to lay the colourful crime-fighter fatally low. Of course, such an injury to a super-hero who has already proven himself impervious to bullets in previous editions does seem highly unlikely, especially when the pair are faced with nothing more formidable than an innocent looking elderly care-worker who was seemingly like a mother to Jim back when he was a boy, and a pot of tea which Invulnerable grew up drinking.

Yet the beauty of Kathryn Calamia’s story-telling is that despite the frail octogenarian’s appearance, the doddering woman’s sickly sweet politeness, uncanny ability to locate Jim’s old files almost instantaneously, as well as disconcerting strength of will to ensure both Wesley and Stephanie are separated from their blonde friend, all combine to subconsciously suggest that the super-powered pair could actually be in real jeopardy; A ‘spider-sense’ sensation which quickly resolves itself into hardened fact when the American author later pens “Mom” admitting to her mysterious employer that she has successfully placed a tracker upon her former ward so as to do "your country honour.”

Interestingly though, when the schoolgirl’s hyper-muscled father is finally shot in the chest, having stumbled upon an armed robbery which suspiciously occurs right before his eyes, the “new direction” upon which this first story-arc concludes does not arguably follow that implied by Brown’s pencilling either, but rather depicts a “surprising” reconciliation between Comic Uno’s titular characters. Indeed, despite his wound, the greatest threat to Invulnerable’s well-being would seemingly be his body’s ability to repair the injury before Casey has an opportunity to remove the bullet and his daughter's apologetic hug for being so awful to him since they first met…

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Written & Created by: Kathryn Calamia, Pencils & Inks by: Wayne A. Brown, and Colors by: David Aravena

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Immortal Hulk #6 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 6, November 2018
Despite “Marvel Worldwide” stating at its time of printing that this twenty-page periodical supposedly sported the start of “The Green Door” storyline, it is difficult to believe many readers of “The Immortal Hulk” were particularly enamoured with Al Ewing’s lack-lustre visit behind the walls of “the mysterious Shadow Base”. Indeed, with the exception of a conscientious monitor who is ordered to have their “implant procedures reversed by 0600” so as to “report to sanitation for a mop”, little in the way of either excitement or interest arguably occurs throughout the entire publication.

Admittedly, the brief cameo by Alpha Flight within which General Reginald Fortean demands the extradition of Walter Langowski so as terminate him via death by “lethal injection”, as well as the subsequent confrontation between Colonel Carol Danvers and Bruce Banner on a deserted night-time Iowa roadside, certainly bodes well for this series’ future instalment. But such dialogue-heavy sequences debatably do little for Issue Six of “The Immortal Hulk” except establish the comic as nothing more than a disappointing ‘filler’ packed full of Captain Marvel’s prevarications concerning the Avengers being on hand not “to hurt you, Bruce” and General "Thunderbolt" Ross’s trusted second-in-command pontificating as to the dangers of even remotely caring about the innocent bystanders who “have all given aid and comfort to the Hulk.”

In fact, in many ways the "2000 A.D." writer’s narrative for “Action/Reaction” consists of the author simply penning a somewhat never-ending procession of panels featuring or mentioning almost everyone (and anyone) who has ever previously come to note as a secondary cast member within the Green Goliath’s previous tales, such as Jackie McGee, Betty Ross, Leonard Samson, Amadeus Cho, Rick Jones, Jennifer Walters, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Whilst "the soft-spoken bearded Brit" simultaneously introduces a bewildering number of his own characters from deep inside the United States Hulk Operations secret headquarters; “I seem to remember the Great America Public wasn’t too thrilled with how Gamma Base was run back in the day. If they knew about Shadow Base…”

Questionably this comic’s greatest frustration though has to be the pencilling of “Lovely” Lee Garbett, whose scratchy-styled drawings are shockingly very much to Ewing’s liking, according to the book’s letters page. Described by Al in his “Gamma-Grams” foreword as someone “I’ve been wanting to do something with… since our Loki: Agent of Asgard days”, it is hard to imagine just how poor this title’s “first full-issue guest artist” must have been whilst illustrating the God of Mischief’s magazine if “his art’s taken a quantum leap into new levels of gorgeousness since…”

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 6 by Alex Ross

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Batman #56 [2016] - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 56, Early December 2018
Sensationalised by “DC Comics” within its pre-publication publicity by pledging that the streets of Gotham City will run “red like borscht if the Dark Knight gets his way” against KGBeast, and sporting an impressively foreboding Tony S. Daniel’s illustrated foil cover, it’s not difficult to imagine that some readers probably quickly became somewhat frustrated with Tom King’s discernibly actionless script for Issue Fifty Six of “Batman”. In fact, despite the Eisner Award-winner’s narrative including the likes of the Bronze Tiger and Kanto, this twenty-page periodical’s central plot arguably barely contains anything like the violence the Burbank-based publisher’s marketing promised as the Russian assassin supposedly goes on a “rampage across Gotham City”.

Instead, it actually predominantly focuses upon Anatoli Knyazev catching up with his fat wheezing father in one of Russia’s “far east territories”, and dispatching the pot-bellied Vasily with a bullet to the brain; “<Hm. For this, you are weak. But that is my fault. I let you be weak. Because I love you, too, son.> Bang.” Of course, such a tense sequence, intermittently played out across the entirety of the comic, makes for a compellingly enjoyable read, but hardly lives up to this book’s pre-print hype of The Hammer’s former cybernetically augmented trainee tearing up Bruce Wayne’s metropolis so badly that his mayhem “takes a toll on Nightwing when he’s injured in the fray.” Indeed, having been shot in the head by Jim Starlin’s co-creation in this storyline’s previous instalment, the lack of even a medical update on Dick Grayson’s current status is especially infuriating, especially when Alfred Pennyworth is evidently on the verge of providing just such an appraisal following Batman’s identification of “the man with the missing arm at the restaurant” as the “professional killer.”

Fortunately, what King is good at is penning this comic’s titular character at his grimmest whilst trying to locate KGBeast and take him “down like the Berlin Wall.” Splendidly sketched by Daniel, the Caped Crusader has debatably never looked meaner, whether telling the Gotham gun dealer who supplied the Russian with a sniper rifle to run simply so he can savagely bat-a-rang him around the throat or losing three Bat-planes during his attempt to defeat the freezing cold of a harsh Siberian winter, and certainly appears wholly intent upon dropping “both the hammer and sickle on” Knyazev once he can get his hands on him.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Tom King, Pencils: Tony S. Daniel, Inks: Tony S. Daniel & Danny Miki and Colors: Tomeu Morey

Monday, 8 October 2018

Doctor Strange #382 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 382, February 2018
There’s debatably a palpable sadness emanating from Donny Cates’ script for this second instalment to his “Loki: Sorcerer Supreme” storyline which must surely have disconcerted some within the publication’s 24,286 strong audience in December 2017. But whilst the demise of the wonderfully lovable Bats towards the end of this twenty-page periodical is undoubtedly something of a true tear-jerker, this comic’s greatest lamentation is arguably due to just how uncharacteristically low “one of Marvel’s few bright spots in recent months” has penned Stephen Strange to sink.

Naturally, the former “preeminent surgeon” is going to be understandably disheartened by his ‘off-screen’ loss to the Asgardian God of Mischief, resultant abrupt departure from the Sanctum Sanctorum and surreal switch from being “Earth’s first defence against all manner of magical threats” to the life of an untrained veterinarian running a small animal hospital. However, that hardly explains why the Garland-born author would depict the Master of the Mystic Arts pitifully pleading with his former apprentice on the doorstep of his old mansion simply because he suspects Zelma Stanton has become Loki’s girlfriend; “Ouch. That’s… yeah, that’s rough, Doc. I mean, guy takes yer house… yer cape, yer job… And now this? Jeez, I feel for ya, I really… Doc?”

Interestingly, Cates does desperately try to overshadow the fallen member of the Illuminati’s evident bitter jealously by ridiculously revealing that Stan Lee’s co-creation has supposedly covertly bound the Exile of Singhsoon to the one-time mind-maggot infested librarian’s soul so as to keep the all-powerful spell out of “anyone’s hands”. Yet this bizarrely convenient rational as to why Strange subsequently awakens the Sentry, having been easily bested by Thor’s half-brother once again after spying him briefly kissing Zelma, somewhat smacks of contrivance and lazy writing.

Similarly as inconsistent as this comic’s questionable narrative is Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s artwork, with the Hugo Award-nominee’s pencilling imbuing both Stephen’s barking basset hound and venomously angered Stanton with some thoroughly enthralling dynamism one moment, and then presenting a somewhat lack lustre titular character or Loki in the next. In fact, much of the pet doctor’s emotions disappointingly are only ‘picked up’ from the book’s numerous text boxes rather than from any facial expression sketched by the Spanish illustrator.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Donny Cates, Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Errand Boys #1 - Image Comics

ERRAND BOYS No. 1, October 2018
In many ways it must have been quite hard for this comic’s audience to appreciate that D.J. Kirkbride’s inspiration for Issue One of “Errand Boys” was predominantly “all the non-Jedi bits of Star Wars… filled with scoundrels and no-goods who maybe secretly have hearts of gold”, as this five-issue mini-series’ opening instalment reads more like an episode of Matt Groening’s American animated sitcom “Futurama” than something found within a galaxy far, far away. Indeed, despite his heterochromia iridium, the thirty-year old Jace Lopaz could arguably be seen as little more than an older clone of Professor Farnsworth’s intergalactic delivery boy Philip J. Fry, as the rascal proves to be both an abject failure in his nefarious missions and maintaining a relationship with his extra-terrestrial love, Max; “Because, like you said, we’re not official, and, honestly…? I don’t want us to be. You’re not partner material.”

However, whatever this twenty-two page periodical’s stimulus was, the American author’s narrative certainly starts with plenty of pulse-pounding panels which undoubtedly grab the attention and make it abundantly clear that the “lifelong solo act” has only survived for so long because he somehow has the ‘luck of the gods’ when it comes to not breaking his neck or getting blown to smithereens by pop-guns. Interestingly though, the same unbelievable good fortune cannot be applied to the two-bit crook’s daily money-making shenanigans, as his appalling choice of merchandise container demonstrates when he unthinkingly leaps into a swimming pool so as to evade capture whilst carrying a cardboard box full of highly valuable baseball collector cards. 

Resultantly, for the first half of this publication Lopaz arguably comes across as little more than an idiotic, somewhat dislikeable self-centred scallywag who is seemingly being penned just for laughs by his co-creator, such as when he apparently seeks solace in Max’s left-over potato fries following his intermittent girl-friend’s permanent departure. But following Jace’s surprising decision to do the right thing by taking custody for his thirteen-year old half-brother Tawnk “full-time”, that opinion somewhat sympathetically shifts, even when it becomes clear that the “Errand Runner” probably sees his sibling as little more than extra-help by taking him straight out of school and starting the blue-skinned boy’s education on “the low, low streets of Old Ebb!”

Perhaps this comic’s biggest asset though is Nikos Koutsis’ excellently animated artwork, which despite being rather cartoony at times, really brings an extra element of energy to Kirkbride’s proceedings. In fact, much of Max’s disgust at her significantly souring relationship with the “spoof goof” and Tawnk’s understandable grief at having lost both of his parents so suddenly, is conveyed through the two characters’ well-defined facial expressions and enlivened body gestures, rather than any specifically uttered dialogue.
The regular cover art of "ERRAND BOYS" No. 1 by Nikos Koutsis & Mike Toris

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #801 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 801, September 2018
Dripping with the sickly sweet sentimentality of Dan Slott’s “final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man” after ten years”, it’s arguably hard to credit that “There For You” was the fourth best-selling comic of June 2018 by shifting a staggering 122,256 copies. For whilst the twenty-page periodical undoubtedly depicts the titular character web-slinging his way through a young, armed store robber, as well as a posse of Inner Demons, the Berkeley-born writer’s central plot predominantly focuses upon Kenneth Kincaid, “a busy office worker”, and the “worst night a’ my life.”

Of course, presenting a narrative which actually spends almost its entirety simply following the impact a super-hero’s momentary derring-do had upon a normal average Joe’s life is reasonably innovative, and actually ensures that the Eisner Award-winner’s narrative at least partially lives up to the “Marvel Worldwide” pre-publication hype that his story contains an “emotional, heartfelt” tale. However, the rescue of Ellie’s father from a pistol-totting masked gunman and his subsequent involvement in helping Web-head retrieve “the formula for the Devil’s Tears” some significant years later by tripping the Asian immigrants’ leader up is hardly one of the most moving adventures ever penned during “Dan’s run” or “in all of Mighty Marveldom itself”.

Indeed, considering that this comic was supposedly “one Marvel fans around the world won’t want to miss” and yet largely features Kenneth either burying his father, becoming a grandfather, celebrating Thanksgiving Day, attending his niece Judy’s successful Science Fair, or commiserating his wife’s Fortieth Birthday, Peter Parker’s crime-fighting alter-ego would debatably appear to be conspicuous by his very absence; “First time I ever get to see a super hero up close… And it has to be Spider-Man. Like why couldn’t it have been Thor, Captain Marvel, or Black Panther? Those guys are cool. When they save the day, they save the whole world.” 

Disappointingly, this magazine’s artwork is also debatably rather undynamically drawn and lack-lustre despite it being pencilled by “one of the best illustrators in the biz, Marcos Martin”. The Spaniard certainly would appear to have tried to emulate Spidey co-creator Steve Ditko’s quirky, ultra-athletic style when depicting the Human Mutate, something which is especially noticeable during the wall-crawler’s aforementioned fight with the teenage gunman, yet many of the “prolific” cover artist’s other panels questionably lack detail and appear more like preliminary sketches than the final product.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 801 by Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente