Sunday, 9 July 2017

Injection #13 - Image Comics

INJECTION No. 13, June 2017
Arguably focusing far more upon the mystic nature of primeval manifestations and the sinister machinations of modern day magicians than its more recently printed publications, Warren Ellis’ script for Issue Thirteen of “Injection” must have both encouraged and delighted this comic’s increasingly dwindling audience with its simply told tale of terror concerning Brigid Roth’s patient excavation of the Cold House. Certainly, the twenty-page periodical’s plot seemed far more closely aligned to the Essex-born author’s original vision for the on-going series' content to be “high-concept science fiction fused with elements of magic and mythology”, than its story-arc’s previous instalments had been.

Foremost of these improvements has to be Professor Derwa Kernick’s creepy examination of the ancient site’s archaeological finds, and her menacing dialogue with Roth involving the early Christians in the area being sacrificed as part of a “cultural exchange” with mischievious pixies. Indeed, one doesn’t need to be the computer geek’s Stanley-knife carrying female chauffeur Emma Louise Beaufort to know that the elderly bespectacled expert is lying, and clearly knows how “the mechanism of the cell” operates; “She already cited local stories and poetry. Poetry was how oral history survived -- put into rhyme to make it easier to remember. She knows.”

Equally as captivating is the Cold House’s reaction to Force Projection International performing “a series of small current tests across the mineral pan.” Initially innocent, and simply part of a checklist in order for the scientists to get paid, this experiment shows just how gruesomely fatal Brigid’s miscalculations can be by causing one of the nearby FPI assets to be unceremoniously torn to shreds by giant claws composed of blindingly white energy…

Gratuitously drawn by Declan Shalvey, without a single syllable being uttered, this ten-panel soundless sequence genuinely appears to be pencilled in order to replicate the stuff of nightmares, as heavily-whiskered Bob Gristle has his skin ripped from his face, his tongue gouged out of a mutilated mouth, and his entrails pulled from the man’s still pain-wracked, breathing torso. In fact, the entire scene, which ends with all the corpse’s meat being somehow dragged through the earth by the savage spriggans, appears to have been a disconcerting labour of love for the Irish comic book artist.
The regular cover art of "INJECTION" No. 13 by Declan Shalvey

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Aliens: Dead Orbit #2 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT No. 2, May 2017
Packed full of pulse-pounding corridor chases, chest-bursting chaos and blood-soaked baby xenomorphs dashing for freedom from the confines of a juddering corpse’s rib cage, James Stokoe’s narrative for Issue Two of “Dead Orbit” doesn’t admittedly bring anything particularly new to the “Aliens” franchise. But frankly, it’s doubtful that many of this twenty-two page periodical’s fans really cared, for in replicating the motion picture series’ more graphically memorable moments, and then weaving them amongst his own tale of terror on board the Spacteria 284255, the Canadian writer genuinely appears to capture all the spine-tingling horror of H.R. Giger’s merciless extra-terrestrials.

Indeed, within moments of the Weyland-Yutani way station’s newly-arrived patients starting to shudder and convulse in the Med-bay, it is likely the vast majority of this comic’s readership felt their hearts starting to beat a little faster; especially when Doc Harrow angrily remonstrates with his skipper that he is doing all he can simply to sedate and stabilise the badly mutilated “three unlicensed passengers”. This all-pervading sense of unease doesn’t abate either, just because the scene disconcertingly shifts to Wascylewski’s more sedentary investigation into the supposed freebooter salvager’s ship manifest.

Coldly curious as to why the recovered deep space vessel’s “payroll suggests” it still has five missing crewmembers, the engineer’s partial briefing to his shipmates actually succeeds in slowly heightening the storyline’s mounting tension up until the point where Captain Hassan is suddenly urgently called back to Medical, and Stokoe pencils some truly gruesome splash pages depicting infant aliens erupting from the inside of their ill-fated carriers. This sequence, notable for the carousel of panels showing the open-mouthed horror on the faces of “Wassy” and his dumb-struck colleagues, is incredibly-well illustrated, and goes a long way to recapturing all the chaotic atmosphere of Kane's dinner-time demise in the original 1979 British-American film “Alien”; “Stay back! Don’t touch them!”

Perhaps far less satisfying, is sadly the comic book artist’s conclusion to this publication, which disappointingly switches back to Wascylewski’s ‘present day’ predicament as the increasing derelict fuel depot continues to break apart, and the protagonist finds himself momentarily breathing vacuum. Eyes bulging, gasping for a lungful of non-existent air, and unable to acquire an emergency rebreather, the sole survivor is shown one minute blacking out before the station’s computer can recalibrate the life support systems for that area and then in the next being inexplicably dragged off into darkness by a pair of slavering drones...
Story, Art and Lettering: James Stokoe

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Star Trek: Boldly Go #9 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 9, July 2017
If Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott’s goal with their one-shot storyline for Issue Nine of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” was to turn the Vulcan race into a dislikeably arrogant people, who are as judgemental and condescendingly conceited as they are frustratingly logical, then this twenty-page periodical’s narrative definitely works on every level. For whilst the character of Sarek, marvellously rendered by “series-regular artist” Tony Shasteen to replicate the facial features of actor Ben Cross, comes across as a well-meaning, pleasantly-mannered member of the relocated race, the likes of Uhura’s fellow Vulcan teacher and Spock’s drill rig companion smack of inter-galactic hubris and personal unpleasantness which would rival that of the Klingon House of Duras.

Indeed, for some reason, the collaborative writing partnership seem to actually go out of their way to make the stoic cultured aliens appear disconcertingly disagreeable, and even pen one not only nastily suggesting that Nyota is not an “adequate mate” for the Ambassador’s son because she is a worthless ‘incompetent’ human with “volatile emotions”. But then venomously implying that it is simply not logical “for any Vulcan to choose a mate who is not Vulcan”, as such senseless selfishness would threaten the survival of their species.

Just how the Starfleet Lieutenant stops herself from punching the poisonous educationalist, or her partner’s egotistical colleague, is doubtless a testament to Uhura’s patient Federation training. Yet surely, even that wouldn’t prevent the Communications Officer from having a sharp word to say in retaliation towards the pointy-eared extra-terrestrials; especially when they derogatively refer to her as Spock’s “human friend” and suggest she “is in need of medical attention” when she is literally stood right beside them saving their new planet… 

Sadly, all this obnoxiousness doesn’t help the publication’s scandalously poor storyline either, which seems far too nonsensically contrived to even be read worthy. Presumptuous and lackadaisical, the tale never even attempts to explain just why the “geothermal anomaly” at “the Voroth Massif near the Southern Pole” was not detected by the Vulcan’s “initial planetary scans prior to colonization”, nor how the new radioactive isotope’s ability will help make them “self-sufficient.” And let’s not even mention the ludicrously lazy conclusion when New Vulcan is apparently spared a cataclysmic fate by the ghosts of its centaur-like “native inhabitants”; “Spock’s best hypothesis is that they are psychic echoes of the last survivors.”
The regular cover art of "STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO" No. 9 by George Caltsoudas

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Injection #12 - Image Comics

INJECTION No. 12, April 2017
Bedevilled by overly-long, drawn-out sequences and enough needless dialogue to make even the head of a romantic poet like William Wordsworth spin, Warren Ellis’ narrative for Issue Twelve of “Injection” doubtless made many of this title’s 8,615 fans wish that they’d just simply stuck to reading “Image Comics” brief publication promotion blurb rather than the twenty-page periodical itself. In fact, the publisher’s one-liner “Brigid Roth uncovers the death box known as the Cold House” pretty much sums up the entire contents of the English novelist’s storyline without necessitating the need to peruse endless panels pressed full of colourful metaphors, unnecessary expletives, and poorly penned conversational pieces concerning Emma Louise Beaufort’s “brief and surprisingly fun career as a getaway driver.”

Sadly, this apparent obsession by the Eagle Award-winner with anything that doesn’t seemingly progress the book’s plot, yet painstakingly pads out the tale, runs rampant throughout this comic, and resultantly numerous pages are seemingly squandered depicting Professor Derwa Kernick’s identification of “an old Cornish spirit”, Roth’s tedious banter with her new driver en route “to the local police station”, and a disconcertingly bizarre telephone conversation featuring Maria Kilbride and the “supposedly sorcerous” penis of Rasputin. Indeed, Just why Brigid even needed to ‘recruit’ a criminally-inclined female chauffeur, or later contact the Cross Culture-Contamination Unit founder “now it’s got interesting” is far from apparent, and thereby makes the Essex-born writer’s inclusion of the former Lowlands University professor talking whilst looking at the Mad Monk’s pickled sexual organ all the more gratuitous and gravely grotesque; “I will hunt you down and skin you and believe me I have done that before --”  

Unfortunately, all these pointless detours and meaningless side-missions, badly detract from the magazine’s cliff-hanger conclusion, and ruin what otherwise would have been a seriously sinister story involving the Force Projection International not only discovering the skeletal remains of numerous people who had presumably been buried alive by “wee spriggan fellas”, but a chillingly menacing stone monument, known as the “Cold House”, which reeks of “the space between here” and “all the folk of the Other World.” As it is however, this particular instalment of Ellis and penciler Declan Shalvey’s supposed “techno-thriller” appears to lurch from inconsequential instance to aimless act, disastrously diluting any of the “horror” its creative team originally promised when the series was first advertised.
Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Declan Shalvey, and Color: Jordie Bellaire

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Captain America: Steve Rogers #12 - Marvel Comics

CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS No. 12, April 2017
Shifting 32,567 copies in February 2017, at least according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, it’s hard to imagine that many followers of Issue Twelve of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” weren’t enthralled by its cacophony of conflict and marvellously realised “Universal Newsreel” footage of Captain America “leading the charge against the [Third] Reich and their allies in the evil organization known as Hydra!” True, the vast majority of Nick Spencer’s writing is frustratingly as erratically penned as the inconsistent artwork of Javier Pina & Andres Guinaldo is poorly pencilled. But that still doesn’t stop the comic’s patriotic pulse from pounding when the titular character, fighting “alongside his best pal, Bucky”, confronts Nazi automatons and gas-masked goose-stepping troopers or seventy years later, “the creation of the Mad Thinker”.

In fact, the S.H.I.E.L.D. director’s ‘fist-fight’ with the Awesome Android inside the Museum of American History, is arguably worth this book’s cover price alone, as it genuinely seems to return to a far simply time when the Sentinel of Liberty just stood toe-to-toe with his opponent and outfought them using his fighting savvy and pugilistic smarts. Certainly the sequence, somewhat annoyingly dotted about throughout the twenty-one page periodical, contains all the elements needed for a sense-shattering ‘punch-up’; and one which Rogers only wins when he stops trying to trade like-for-like blows with the “artificial lifeform” and instead targets a natural weak-point of the robot's humanoid-shaped “almost indestructible body”; “Never fear, dear viewer -- We’ll always come out ahead in the end now that we have Captain America on our side!”

Far less impressive, and frankly followable, is Spencer’s sub-plot concerning the Taskmaster and Black Ant trying to sell Maria Hill the footage of the First Avenger whispering “Hail Hydra” to a captive Doctor Erik Selvig in Bagalia. Just why the former S.H.I.E.L.D. leader is conveniently skulking about the shadows of “the nation of super-criminals” is contrivingly explained by her “trying to find something -- anything -- that can get me back in the action.” Yet that doesn’t explain her willingness to agree Anthony Masters’ proposal to get “first refusal on every arms deal that comes across your desk” once the ex-Director has been reinstated, nor Elisa Sinclair’s revelation at being Madame Hydra?
Writer: Nick Spencer, Artists: Javier Pina & Andres Guinaldo, and Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Uber: Invasion #6 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 6, May 2017
Bringing an end to “what will be the first trade of Uber Invasion” this particular twenty-two periodical initially focuses upon the reactivation of one of “the first wave of Japanese enhanced soldiers”, Hideki, and his three month sabbatical upon a desert island in order to become the Battleship Yamato. Honourable, dedicated and loyal to his Empire, the Okinawa veteran’s sense of duty, and occasional questioning of his handler’s ‘animal experiments’ in Manchukuo, admittedly makes for something of a sedentary narrative, despite Daniel Gete’s opening splash illustration depicting the warrior holding the bloodied corpse of an American uber by the throat. But also appears a necessary ‘evil’ by Kieron Gillen, in order to explain just how one of General Ushijima’s many miyoko has suddenly become so powerful that he can “devastate San Diego’s harbour and its defences the moment he was able to see them.”

Disappointingly, this rare glimpse of Hideki’s tremendous power, which fleetingly includes his “complete annihilation of the city on foot”, is then followed by a seemingly cumbersome conversational piece between Miss Stephanie and Eamonn O’Connor, concerning the grisly fate of the American’s older brother. Set against the backdrop of Freddie Rivers “relatively humane euthanasia” of Dixie in a darkly foreboding wooden barn, this disconcerting, dialogue-heavy scene appears to simply repeat Razor’s ever-present doubts as to H.M.H. Colossus’ fate in Paris, as well as his own role in the fight against “the German battleships”, and strangely suggests that the title’s creator has swapped the two brother’s first names around; with both the super-powered adolescent and British scientist referring to the deceased “first Allied enhanced human” as “Eamonn” rather than Patrick?

Just as arguably frustrating to this title's 4,314 followers, must have been Gillen’s decision to conclude Issue Six of “Uber: Invasion” with General George S. Patton spending four entire pages contemplating whether his army is going to cross “the goddam Alps” and risk being ‘isolated and destroyed’. If the former music journalist’s previous scene didn’t smack of superfluous prevarication then this supposed ‘insight’ into the military thought-processes of “Old Blood and Guts” certainly is, and provides an incredibly dissatisfying conclusion to a comic book which primarily appeared destined to continue the series’ graphically gruesome depiction of an alternative World War Two.
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 6 by Daniel Gete

Friday, 16 June 2017

Captain America: Steve Rogers #11 - Marvel Comics

CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS No. 11, April 2017
In many ways, Nick Spencer would arguably have been far better off simply sticking to a script detailing the demise of Doctor Abraham Erskine in his ‘controversial’ Cosmic Cube altered reality, than trying to additionally squeeze both the funeral of Jack Flag and a nauseatingly long speech by the supposed Sentinel of Liberty into Issue Eleven of “Captain America: Steve Rogers”. Indeed, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award-nominee’s technique of darting back and forth along the titular character’s time-stream not only erodes any sense of sombreness to Harrison’s reasonably well-attended burial proceedings. But actually detracts from the utter sense of betrayal and shock supposedly intended by this comic’s depiction of the na├»ve Super-Soldier scientist being cold-bloodedly gunned down in his own quarters whilst preparing his fresh-faced assassin some “rindergulasch”; “I made far too much, I am afraid.”

As it stands however, this twenty-two page periodical’s biggest problem is Cap’s terrifyingly trite monologue/discourse, which somehow manages to ‘run’ a staggering thirty panels in length, before culminating in Helmut Zemo bear-hugging his childhood Hydra friend, and promising to aid him in his mission to wrest control of the fictional terrorist organization from Johann Schmidt. Horrifically word-heavy and self-righteously monotonous, this discourse sadly permeates the entire book, and in doing so must surely have bored many of this title’s dwindling 36,610 followers. Certainly, the frustrating story-telling technique hardly helps create an atmosphere to “electrify” its readers as “Marvel Worldwide” optimistically advertised at the time of this comic’s publication.

Sadly, not even Spencer’s handling of Abraham’s murder is without its faults though, as it’s based upon the absurd assumption that as far back as 1940 Hydra owned “something Fenhoff invented” which allowed them to steal the minds of the dead; a preposterous-looking device pencilled by Jesus Saiz, which Rogers is clearly oblivious to. This unbelievably convenient piece of equipment at least vindicates why Zemo killed the Jewish scientist before he had a chance to test out his Super-Soldier serum. Yet it doesn’t explain why Steve attempted to poison the German chemist’s coffee a few days earlier (when such a contrived contraption wasn’t to hand), nor the Allies motivation to ‘broker a deal’ with the untrustworthy Arnim Zola to continue Erskine’s work before the scientist had even been killed?
The variant cover art of "CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS" No. 11 by Joe Jusko