Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #7 - DC Comics

DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE No. 7, February 2017
Focusing upon the disconcertingly disorientated Kryptonians and Quar’s efforts to help his people “regain their strength” from the formidable assault they recently received at the hands of Gotham City’s irate population, many of this comic’s 119,114 readers probably felt that Frank Miller’s portrayal of Lara Kent erred somewhat during this particular twenty-two page periodical. For whilst Book Seven of “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” manages to maintain the character’s momentum as a truly troubled adolescent whose misplaced allegiance to “the inhabitants of Kandor” is as much a rebellious gesture towards everything which her forth righteous parents stand for, as it is an extraordinarily poor choice in friends, it’s hard to imagine even the illogical, emotionally-crazed half-Amazonian being won over to abduct her own baby brother by the terrorist’s super-powered leader angrily smashing her across the face with a closed fist; “What are you? Are you one of them? Or one of us?”

Similarly, having experienced first-hand just how sadistically sick and immature the now facially malformed Baal can be, when he thoughtlessly tossed a family-filled car up in the air with no intention of rescuing its occupants in a previous issue, it’s difficult to comprehend Superman’s daughter would willingly stand by and watch the cold-hearted killer be given Jonathan Kent “as a plaything” by the murderer's father, let alone actively participate in the criminals’ demented raid upon Themyscira by spearheading the toddler’s actual kidnapping. Of course, such illogical behaviour, even for a young woman who happily beat her ‘boy scout’ father into submission, could all be part of some massive deception in order to outmanoeuvre a clearly psychopathic extra-terrestrial invasion force. But even so, the so-called super-heroine’s willingness to participate in such insane shenanigans somewhat grates upon the senses, especially when the “Leader of the Master Race of Kandorian cultists” is so clearly deranged.

Fortunately, alongside a rather less contentious sequence depicting Superman plunging Batman's body into a Lazarus Pit in order to save the Caped Crusader’s life, this publication also contains the far more enjoyable mini-comic “Dark Knight Universe Presents: Strange Adventures #1”. Pencilled by Frank Miller, this ‘short’ demonstrates precisely why Hal Jordan is truly a man “without fear” as he ‘wings’ an attempt to steal “his lost hand with the Green Lantern Power Ring attached to it” from a band of desert-dwelling arms dealers and ultimately “retrieves the ring and his powers” with “Hawkman and Hawkgirl's help”. Far more dynamically penned than this book’s lead story, it’s a pity editor Mark Doyle didn’t decide to elaborate upon this abbreviated tale within the magazine’s main body, and perhaps utilise the far more sedentary, multi-panelled Bat-signal based conversation between Commissioner Ellen Yindel and Carrie Kelly for the micro tome instead.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Story: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello, Pencils: Andy Kubert, and Inks: Klaus Janson

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Geek-Girl: What Ever Happened To Ruby Kaye? - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO RUBY KAYE?, May 2018
Published by “Markosia Enterprises” as a digital only edition for Free Comic Book Day 2018, Sam Johnson’s script for this ten-page periodical provides an impressive interlude between the events featured in Volume One of “Geek-Girl” and those yet to occur within the title’s forthcoming second series of adventures. In fact, part of the publicity surrounding the circulation of this somewhat scintillating ‘short’ is that is contains actual “material” from the bespectacled super-heroine’s earlier escapades “and sets up the second mini-series, launching [in] May…”

Fortunately however, it is far from imperative that this book’s audience have any previous knowledge of the “popular" Maine college coeducational student, or how she “landed a pair of power-inducing super-tech glasses from her college’s resident brainiac” due to the author’s informative recapitulation at the story’s start. Such a simple text-based method of bringing a reader ‘up-to-speed’ is arguably a little clunky when compared to some of the fast-paced, graphically-fascinating flashback sequences other writers seem to utilise within the modern-day tale-telling industry, but is still perfectly acceptable, if not even preferable, when space is assumedly tight within the confines of a freely distributable tome.

In addition, the ‘wordy’ summarisation actually adds to the impact of the pamphlet’s primary panels, as Carlos Granda pencils a fantastically-fast Silver Speedz whizzing through the carnage of Lightning Storm’s most recent attack upon Portland, and shockingly gets stripped to a skeleton when his common-placed thievery irks the seemingly unstoppable super-villainess; “Hell’ve a job yer doin’ -- Got myself a freebie! ZSHAAAKK…” In fact, with the possible pause of Summer James asking Josh Campbell to borrow a baseball bat, the sense-shattering action between Geek-Girl and her disconcertingly white-eyed, electric-manipulating opponent, simply doesn’t let up until towards the narrative’s end when a comatose Kaye has a friend visit her in hospital, and Terry rather unconvincingly tries to explain to his wife that becoming a heavily-armed bank robber, courtesy of joining the League of Larcenists, would potentially be a good career move for them...

This persistently relentless combat between the titular character and Neon Girl’s “extremely dangerous” nemesis really is the highlight of “Geek Girl: What Ever Happened To Ruby Kaye?” and genuinely grabs the attention the moment Johnson’s creation blindsides Storm with a satisfyingly sound sock to the jaw. Of course, along with the Police repeatedly shooting at her, such a move only seems to enrage the cold-hearted killer. But that doesn’t stop the tension rising as the pair’s savagely-fought confrontation develops to the point where both combatants seemingly beat one another within an inch of their lives.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Sam Johnson, Artist: Carlos Granda, and Colorist: Chunlin Zhao

Monday, 21 May 2018

Uber: Invasion #13 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 13, April 2018
Despite containing the highly anticipated rematch between Battleship Sieglinde and "the unclassified class of enhanced human, Maria Andreevna", Kieron Gillen's script for Issue Thirteen of "Uber: Invasion" must have struck the majority of its audience as an exceedingly choppy affair which promises much with its fleeting features focusing upon Stephanie, Werner Frei, General George Patton, Leah Cohen, as well as the Battleship Yamato, and yet debatably delivers little. Indeed, it's hard not to feel that the former computer games journalist was always going to struggle to produce a cohesive story-line just as soon as he set his sights upon covering events which occurred across the United States, Siberia, Italy, Minsk and "Japanese-occupied China" all within the space of a single, piecemeal twenty-two page periodical.

Such a truly mammoth bout of word-heavy, internationally-based exposition would ordinarily prove difficult enough for any perusing bibliophile to stomach, especially when huge chunks of text are somewhat monotonously penned to replicate the dry tone of a text book. But disconcertingly, the British writer arguably makes matters all the worse by placing this comic's emphasis upon its conversational sequences, rather than its far more engaging action-packed battles.

This perturbing prioritisation genuinely seems to drag any of the book's pulse-pounding pace down into the "lake of... nutritious fluid" along with "the primary Soviet asset" following her shock defeat, and begs the question as to why Gillen felt Battleship Siegmund's interrogation session in which the one-armed traitor simply states "<Oh -- and I killed Hitler>" was worthy of four entire pages, whilst the German offensive against a "Soviet side" consisting "solely of Tankmen" is limited to just two tiny rectangular panels? Surely, some of this sheet space would have been better employed providing a better insight into the Battle of Minsk, or elaborate upon Maria's terrifying realisation that the grotesque-looking Battleship Zero "proved indifferent to the halo effect's distortion of its body"?

Fortunately, Daniel Gete at least provides some consistency to this publication, courtesy of his scintillating story-boarding. In fact, the "Avatar Press" artist's truly horrific detailed depiction of General Sankt's initial attempt "to create a battleship", along with Katyusha's wide-eyed belief that she has come face-to-face with Satan, is potentially worth the cover price of this comic alone... And such an accolade comes before even mentioning the illustrator's subsequent sense-shattering skirmish between the the pair of fearsome powerhouses, or H.M.H. Churchill's earlier angst-fuelled assault upon her bespectacled creator for failing to inform her "about Tamara and the bomb."

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 13 by Daniel Gete

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Doctor Strange [2015] #15 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 15, February 2017
Starting with a genuinely disturbing sequence which depicts an already bloodied million dollar embezzler about to be bludgeoned to death by a posse of his financially-deficient victims, and ending with the cataclysmic cliff-hanger “of the dread Dormammu” impressively rising from beneath the shaking streets of New York City in order to kill the titular character, it was probably hard for this publication’s 39,549 readers to confidently predict where this twenty-page periodical’s narrative would take them from one pencilled panel to the next. Certainly, as comic book journey’s go, Jason Aaron’s script for “The Face of Sin” provides such a wildly irregular portrayal of “Doctor Strange’s Rogues’ Gallery”, including an unnerving scene where Karl Amadeus Mordo sadistically butchers a bar room full of customers with a magical knife whilst his sacrificial ceremony’s future casualties watch in open-mouthed horror, that his plot-threads become so increasingly choppy as to debatably make his writing a rather disagreeable mess.

For starters, it is hard to imagine the Sorcerer Supreme ever simply sitting feebly still in the back-seat of a “damn” taxi cab as the yellow-coloured vehicle’s driver purposely mows down an unarmed man in cold blood. Admittedly, the entire point of the Alabama-born author’s “Blood In The Aether” story-arc was to depict a number of the magician’s most-formidable arch-villains taking “their shot at a weakened” Master of the Mystic Arts. Yet it debatably doesn’t follow that the Orb is single-handedly so powerful following his receipt of one of the Watcher’s eyes, that he can bedevil the former “preeminent surgeon” with such immediate impotency so successfully; “And what did you do about it Doc? Nothing, that’s what. All you did was watch. In other words… nice work, Doctor. I think we’re gonna have a fun night.”

Similarly, it must have struck many of this comic’s audience as a somewhat surreal moment when “Captain Cornea” out-bests the founding member of the Defenders simply because his cue-ball shaped head is “like punching a beach ball filled with tapioca” and the criminal has no “stupid neck” with which Stephen can choke him. These tongue-in-cheek gags, like a screaming Doctor Strange ultimately being tied to the bonnet of a car as it gravity-defyingly careers down the side of a skyscraper, indubitably provide a modicum of dark humour within this magazine’s ever shifting story. But noticeably such pleasantries frustratingly jar with the murderously murky, distinctly dour depiction of the Baron and Mister Misery which surrounds them, and must have left some bibliophiles wondering whether the Inkpot Award-winner was in two minds as to the tone of this particular tale…

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Chris Bachalo & Jorge Fornes, and Letters: VC's Cory Petit

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Geek-Girl #1/2 - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL No. 1/2, October 2017
Digitally distributed freely for joining creator Sam Johnson’s “Geek-Girl” mailing list, this eleven-page computerised comic is a good example of just why Markosia Enterprises “has become one of the United Kingdom’s leading publishers” and “have gained a reputation for producing a diverse range of comic books and graphic novels that cover almost all genres.” For whilst “Lightning Strikes!” undoubtedly presents itself in many ways as a fairly stereotypical super-hero publication with its straightforward script depicting the fall of Maine’s “resident super-heroine” Neon Girl to a new villain, and a dubious Ruby Kaye resultantly taking up the mantle of the north easternmost state’s protector, its contrived mix of college high-jinx antics, sexual party games, cleavage-filled costumes and suddenly all-too serious ‘death-defying’ story-telling certainly makes this title a surprisingly adult, unusual read.

To begin with, the “writer of the acclaimed comedy super-team comic The Almighties” conceivably captures his audience’s attention by predominantly using this book to dwell upon one of the few areas which arguably the vast majority of similar heroic stock narratives tantalisingly truncate - the medical aftermath of a serious super-powered beat-down. Neon Girl’s physically horrific-looking hospitalised state genuinely conveys the savage raw power of Lightning Storm’s electrical attack in a way a half-dozen of Carlos Granda’s well-illustrated panels depicting crackling energy bolts could never properly communicate, and makes the bespectacled Little Miss Popular’s hesitancy to tackle the formidably-powered platinum-blonde psychopath all the more understandable.

Likewise, the arrival of the “Numero Uno” heroine’s brother at the badly-wounded protagonist’s bedside, as well as his subsequent frank conversation with the patient’s less than optimistic consultant, somewhat strikes home that there’s more than one victim to this savage assault and far wider consequences to Neon Girl’s rather public defeat than the woman simply dusting herself off and taking the fight back to her vicious rival. Indeed, if Johnson’s script suggests anything, it’s that “Sandy-pits” surgery will put her at “quite [a] high” risk of death, so everything seemingly rests upon the titular character’s disconcertingly amateur shoulders if the local “Big Gun” is to be avenged and Maine made safe once again.

Such medical drama is doubtless hardly the sort of baptism of fire Ruby imagined for herself in order to “demonstrate her newfound abilities” when she first “landed a pair of power-inducing super-tech glasses from her college’s resident brainiac.” Yet such scintillating spectacle is precisely what this comic somehow generates in between its disconcertingly immature ‘jokily given monikers’, klutzy drink spillages over “expensive designer dresses” and drunken strip poker shenanigans.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Sam Johnson, Artist: Carlos Granda, and Colorist: Nahp

Friday, 18 May 2018

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #4 - Titan Comics

DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR No. 4, August 2016
Selling a reasonably respectable 7,187 copies in August 2016, this penultimate instalment to Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby’s myth-laden magnum opus finally places the titular character at the very centre of the action, and resultantly starts to decisively explain what a living Medusa was doing imprisoned within a labyrinthine catacomb in “Greece twenty-four centuries before the modern day”. Admittedly, this twenty-two page periodical still provides a modicum of ‘screen-time’ for Lady Emily Carstairs and “her small army of Scryclops”, but for once, the mini-series' episodic narrative predominantly focuses upon Doctor Who and both the bohemian's nervy exploration of the his cavernous surroundings with Athena, as well as the Gallifreyan's simultaneous scientific clarification as to the nature of the “particularly vile -- predatory alien species” which they’re facing.

Indeed, one of the book’s more tensely-felt moments is arguably when the Time Traveller unknowingly begins enlightening his Victorian London-born companion as to the alien’s ability to petrify its prey “in a basic form of quantum-locking… so the creature can feed on them at its leisure, drawing from their life energy”, just as the grotesque-looking extra-terrestrial is about to sate her ravenous appetite upon Sarah Jane Smith elsewhere; “Miss Smith! Oh my heavens, No!” Mercifully, such an ill-fitting demise for “one of the Doctor's longest-serving companions” is averted by the poorly-timed audible exclamation of a mortally wounded Odysseus James, yet even so, despite its readers knowing full well that the female reporter must most-assuredly outlast her stony state, the scintillating scene still conjures up the plausible possibility of the “dogged investigative journalist” dying “rather deep underground”.

Sadly, the survivability of this comic’s “expert” in chrononautology is shown to be an entirely different matter, as the hapless Professor James desperately tries to defend his daughter from a brutish one-eyed giant, and pays for his surprising bravery by having his calcified left side heart-breakingly pulverised into rubble. Of course this murderous act finally raises Carstair’s character to indisputable odious villainess, as opposed to her previous status of simply being a misguided widower dangerously desperate to do all she can to rid herself of both her debilitatingly blighted physical transformation and restore her dead family to her side. However it still comes as something of a shock considering the blustering buffoon has previously ‘grown’ into such a likeable aged coward.

Disappointingly though, Issue Four of “Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor” does seemingly still fall into the trap debatably a few of the Time Lord’s television serials succumbed to, by bringing its well-working exploration of myth and legend to a disconcerting end with the Gallifreyan’s teleportation aboard a giant alien’s spaceship. This unoriginal plot-twist really does jar with the claustrophobic aura of nightmarish monsters tirelessly chasing after the comic book’s cast through ancient Greece, especially as Brian Williamson pencils the heavily-bearded all-powerful celestial as a space-faring incarnation of the god Zeus…

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR" No. 4 by Mark Wheatley

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps #44 - DC Comics

HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS No. 44, Early July 2018
Featuring a truly gripping opening as the demented Darkstar Tomar-Tu suddenly surprises Keith Kenyon’s alter-ego inside Central City’s Iron Heights Penitentiary, and cold-bloodedly murders Goldface whilst he's 'sleeping off' a custodial sentence for knocking “over a couple of jewellery stores”, Robert Venditti’s narrative for this inaugural instalment to “Enemies Closer” sadly soon degenerates into little more than a disinteresting recruitment drive for the Green Lantern Corps. True, the comic’s subsequent brief cameo from “the fastest man alive” is enjoyable enough, especially when it initially appears that Barry Allen's incarnation of the Flash will be teaming-up with Hal Jordan to further investigate the gold-skinned prisoner’s partial disintegration. But before long all the Florida-born writer’s plot actually provides is a string of scenes featuring fleeting appearances from the likes of Guy Gardner, Arkillo, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and General Zod.

These word-heavy, dialogue-driven sequences would arguably be perfectly stomachable if they were interwoven between some pacier, action-orientated panels, yet as they stand the constant conversations and dreary discussions arguably do little to encourage any perusing bibliophile to keep on reading. Indeed, in many ways the former “Top Shelf Productions” author may well have been better served to simply have extended either the renegade Kryptonians all-too brief violent altercation with the “second African-American superhero to appear in DC Comics”, or alternatively bring forward the titular character’s cliff-hanger confrontation with the “boss turnkey” Atomic Skull, and leave part of this twenty-page periodical’s patter for its following publication; “You’ve miscalculated… You’re alone! One meagre ring against a family of Kryptonians gifted with the power of this world’s yellow suns!”

One thing Issue Forty Four of “Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps” does not suffer with however, is substandard artwork. Whether it be Jordi Tarragona and Rafa Sandoval’s outstanding cover illustration, which rather delightfully seems strangely reminiscent of the classic “Judge Dredd” ‘I am The Law’ covers used for the “weekly British science fiction-orientated” anthology comic “2000 A.D.”, or Brandon Peterson’s boldly coloured, highly-detailed story-boarding, this book is a treat for the eyes. In fact, what little energy this magazine potentially generates, such as Joseph Martin’s sensational entrance to thwart Hector Hammond’s shock escape from Stryker’s Island, is debatably due to the “X-Men spinoff” illustrator rather than anything which Venditti himself has penned.
The regular cover art of "HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS" No. 44 by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona & Tomeu Morey