Monday, 19 March 2018

Red Sonja #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

RED SONJA No. 1, January 2017
“Based on the heroine created by Robert E. Howard”, Amy Chu’s storyline for Issue One of “Red Sonja” may well have momentarily disconcerted some of the comic’s 18,758 readers by following the exploits of New York beat cop Max and his investigation into a report of a “naked woman swinging a sword” rather than simply concentrating upon the titular character’s immediate predicament having inexplicably travelled “from Hyrkania to the Big Apple”. However, whilst initially bewildering, this story-telling technique actually provides an enjoyable introduction into modern times for the “She-Devil” and allows the Harvard Business School graduate to slowly flesh out the local authority’s reaction to the “mentally unstable subject”…

Indeed, the twenty-page periodical’s opening, which depicts the sword-and-sorcery heroine being surrounded by armed police and cursing the cowardly-armed curs about her, comes across as being as realistic a situation as one might expect within a comic book, especially when a terrified rookie shuts his eyes and opens fire at the Hyborian Age heroine, striking her sword arm and causing the “woman warrior” to mark him out for revenge; “<No one draws Sonja’s blood without paying dearly.>” Of course, the fact Max “speaks a semblance of my tongue” due to his Mother teaching him “a couple of languages before she died” may seem a little too lazily convenient for some, but it’s hard to imagine this side of a contrived magical spell or potion, how else the Boston-born writer was going to introduce meaningful dialogue and exposition into her storyline.

Chu’s decision to portray Sonja’s concerns as to “the dangers of our timeline” through the eyes of Jay’s partner also allows the narrative to slowly introduce the significantly sinister influence the “dreaded” sorcerer Kulan Gath apparently still wields over the world of men. Transferred to the ‘care’ of Elmhurst Hospital Center, the two police officers are initially just troubled by the rough treatment their hand-cuffed prisoner receives by the green-gowned medical staff, then later become positively alarmed when they are told to leave the building by a dark shade-wearing National Security Agency operative without even taking their report. Such well-written menace really does help overcome the title’s still palpable “What If? Conan Were Stranded In The Twentieth Century” flavour, and helps set this title apart from “Marvel Comics” previously published similarly-themed Bronze Age one-shots.

Similarly as impressive as this book’s penmanship are Carlos Gomez’s excellent illustrations. Amy proudly states in the rear of this magazine that she loves “seeing a talented artist like Carlos come up with his own interpretation of Sonja and the script” and it is clear from such panels as those depicting the “She-Devil” holding off half a dozen policeman with just the point of her sword, that the Spaniard “is really bringing his A+ game into this series”.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Amy Chu, Illustrator: Carlos Gomez, and Colors: Mohan

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Micronauts [2016] #6 - IDW Publishing

MICRONAUTS No. 6, September 2016
Focusing upon the fate of Oziron Rael, after Commander Raith had revised “our objectives” and cleaved the Pharoid apart with his force sword rather than simply apprehend him, Cullen Bunn’s script for Issue Six of “Micronauts” still contained plenty of punch to entertain its more action-orientated readers. For whilst matters do momentarily dwell upon the “roguish space pirate” and his conversation with an ethereal Time Traveller inside the Entropy Storm, they soon return to the pacifist’s team-mates and the truly impressive birth of a conscious Biotron; “That -- Hurt! Oh, like you don’t want to throw these guys around a little bit! They stabbed me too, you know!”

In fact in many ways it’s a shame the Bram Stoker Award-nominee’s narrative doesn’t feature the massive, powerful robot for longer and specifically explore just how the machine’s Artificial Intelligence picked up traces of Oz’s personality “when we were stabbed.” It’s certainly amusing to see the towering automaton already starting to develop his friendship with the “worrywart” Microtron, as well establish his formidable combat abilities alongside Acroyear.

Of course, arguably this twenty-page periodical’s biggest draw is the cataclysmic confrontation between Daigon and Karza, both of whom have ‘enerchanged’ into their resplendent centauroid battle forms. The dialogue between these former “old” friends is wonderfully written, touching upon the pairs’ one-time trust of one another, and current polar opposite interpretations of the mysterious Time Travellers and “their [supposed] weapon”, the Entropy Storm. Indeed, their duel especially adds an extra layer of depth to the Baron’s dark character, by suggesting he would have considered an alliance with the Minister of Science if Akai had agreed to devote “our efforts to destroying the Entropy Cloud, not trying to understand its purpose or the intent of those who unleashed it upon us!”  

This particular segment of the publication also provides Max Dunbar the opportunity to pencil both members of the Microspace ruling class at their very best, with the Canadian illustrator’s dynamically-charged depiction of the two close-combat monsters featuring a veritable range of ‘hidden’ weaponry, such as side-missiles, flailing tail-whips, chest micro-missiles and Karza’s ‘game-winning’ detachable flying hand. This ten-panel battle is genuinely pulse-pounding, and yet simply builds upon the artist’s earlier work within this comic when Biotron shocking gains sentience and starts beating up Commander Raith’s ant-like troopers.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "MICRONAUTS" No. 6 by Max Dunbar

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman #1 - DC Comics

Announced by “DC Comics” via The Washington Post in November 2017 as “a new six-issue… miniseries that will bring the two heroes into some very unfamiliar territory”, this opening instalment to “The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman” certainly depicts William Moulton Marston’s creation in something of a different light, with the somewhat surprisingly subdued Diana volunteering to investigate the murder of a Celtic god in order to prevent “a war between the fairy folk and a possible breach between worlds”. Indeed, Tir Na Nog’s wonderfully brutal and dirtily-grim setting, based upon “the legends of Irish and Celtic gods”, must surely have proved an enthralling contrast to the demigod’s Amazonian mythology for this book’s 42,087 readers and simultaneously shown just why “DC Comics” were willing to support Liam Sharp in “looking for a way to continue working with the character” having just come “off a run illustrating the new Wonder Woman series” during the publisher’s “Rebirth” re-launch.

Unfortunately however, such lavish attention to detail, both in the narrative’s meticulous background to Cernunnos Cernach’s world, as well as the Lord of Fertility’s return journey from requesting an audience with Hippolyta’s daughter, does mean that the Derby-born writer’s script pays far less attention to the “top billing” Batman than it does  the “most beloved of the Amazonians”, and in many ways seemingly just clumsily crowbars Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego into the story whenever the author needs a reason to momentarily distract his audience away from Wonder Woman’s situation; “When worlds collide, there will always be a reckoning… and when gods and monsters meet, it seems, nothing is ever predictable…” 

Equally as unnerving as the Dark Knight’s near non-existent presence, is the “Madefire” co-founder’s unnerving preoccupation with Diana and Steve Trevor’s love-life. The twenty-two page periodical starts with a seemingly innocuous bed-room scene between the pair, which merely alludes to their intimate relationship and is rather discerningly pencilled by the magazine’s creator. But within mere moments of the Celtic horned-god appearing before them the comic turns decidedly distasteful with its unsubtle implication that the tusked deity would happily join “the rutting of the beast with two backs” and even go as far as to “gladly anoint such a union with my --”.

Interestingly, arguably this book's biggest draw is also, in certain places, one of its weakest elements. There should be no doubt that the "2000 A.D." artist's attentive drawings of Tir Na Nog and all its fantastical inhabitants are absolutely top-notch and simply crammed full of the most intricate of details, such as tiny red-eyed imps clambering up over the shoulder of a beleaguered earth elemental who is simultaneously stomping on a dwarf's chest during a street-fight. But sadly, the same cannot debatably be said for this comic's panels featuring the Caped Crusader, which at times provide such a stark contrast in quality that they disconcertingly seem to have been sketched by someone else entirely...

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer/Artist: Kevin Sharp, and Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Star Trek: New Visions #18 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: NEW VISIONS No. 18, October 2017
Pleasingly paced, with plenty of precarious photomontage pauses and difficult dilemmas dotted throughout the narrative, John Byrne’s script for Issue Eighteen of “Star Trek: New Visions” explores the intriguing prospect of a Constitution-class starship finding itself submerged deep inside a planet of living water, and its crew facing the claustrophobic challenge of surviving inside a vessel which has been “put together t’keep everythin’ inside. Not t’keep things out!” In fact, Mister Scott’s battle against an ever-rising tide of water which results in fifteen dead crew members, arguably proves to be a far more engaging element to this adventure than the U.S.S. Enterprise’s primary mission to explain how Polymax VIII was completely flooded, or Spock and McCoy’s meeting with a homicidal fish-man.

Interestingly, the West Midlands-born writer also uses “What Pain It Is To Drown” to show just how imperative the spacecraft’s captain is to the successful running of the ship. James Kirk is needed absolutely everywhere during this tale, whether it be to see “what ve are lookink for” on the Bridge, provide “a chance to try out those new environment suits Starfleet sent us” or simply swim down to Engineering in order to authorise Scotty’s “crazy idea of somethin’ that might get this liquid off th’ ship.” There’s even a scene where Mister Sulu suddenly realises there’s a chance to save the Enterprise by piloting it into “anudder von of does vortexes… about five thousand meters avay”, and yet refuses to “take the risk without the Captain’s order”, so instead inefficiently sends Mister Kyle off to locate his skipper…

Far less successful sadly is the former “X-Men” artist’s rationalisation as to just how the aggressive water-world which destroyed Polymax VIII came to exist. The initial appearance of the mechanically-armed Ulum of the planet Pluul seems the logical point to provide some justification behind the comic’s events. But instead, the Eagle Award-winner waits until the story’s final moments, when Spock mind-melds with the dying frog-faced alien, to confusingly explain that all the sea-based shenanigans were due to the insane extra-terrestrial committing suicide? Just how wiping out “billions” of humans and projecting his life energy into globules of water would atone for the fish-man’s belief that he was “solely responsible for the extermination of his [own] species” must have baffled this book’s bibliophiles, especially when the half-Vulcan Science officer unsatisfactorily admits that Ulum “had buried too deeply in his subconscious” exactly what he had done?

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Photomontage: John Byrne, and Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Nemesis The Warlock #6 - Eagle Comics

NEMESIS THE WARLOCK No. 6, February 1985
Despite a somewhat sedentary start mingling with the assorted demonic-looking guests at Chira’s celebratory ‘Hatching’ of her first egg, Pat Mills’ script for Issue Six of “Nemesis The Warlock” must have whipped the comic’s audience into a feverishly frothing frenzy by its end, on account of the sensational giant robot battles he pens later in the book. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive series of towering automatons as the ones which prominently feature throughout the Siege of Ydrasill Castle, especially the homicidally violent Mek-Quake, whose over-enthusiasm to “crush those alien hordes” causes him to inadvertently stomp upon Terra’s own terminators, whilst lowering his boarding ridge too early; a decidedly dire decision that sees his ballooning belly’s “serjeant-at-arms” mistakenly lead his fanatical squad straight off the edge of the siege device uttering the words “The moment the tower reaches the wall, that ramp will drop down… I want you out and over the battlements - at the double! Now! Death to all devia…”

Fortunately, these somewhat sentient machines aren’t simply placed into the narrative just for the sake of it either, as there’s plenty of exposition as to just why Sir Evric, “the sinischal in charge of the siege”, requires such fallible colossi to help him breach the outer walls of the Great Donjon of the Basilisks and help “cleanse the galaxy of all aliens!” Motivated by the ever-pervading threat of Torquemada’s infamously lethal dissatisfaction, and plagued by the endless excuses from his siege engineer, Brother Hieronymus, the “bigoted human” soon requires more than boiled Roc’s venom to help his headaches when the titular character arrives on the planet Demotika and pushes his men back into the care of the army’s abusive Vestal Vampires. In fact, this apparent set-back to the knight’s plans only forces the milksop to rely ever more heavily upon the robots which “are hundreds of years old” and date “back to the Lost Age of Science!”

Undoubtedly however, all of this compelling combat wouldn’t prove a tenth as captivating if it wasn’t for Kevin O’Neill’s mouth-wateringly detailed story-boards. Mek-Quake’s over-sized “Big Jobs!” panel alone is well worth this publication’s cover price, and that’s pencilled well before the mobile battle tower inadvertently locks horns with the Imperial flag robot, Torque-Armada; “a giant effigy of the grand Master himself” whose double splash page barely manages to encompass the Man of War’s thirty guns, six catapults and two dart throwers…”

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Script: Pat Mills, Art: Kevin O'Neill, and Color: Kevin O'Neill

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Star Trek: Boldly Go #15 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 15, December 2017
Grown from a plantlet, having never known “my seed-father”, this third instalment of Mike Johnson’s “Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations” story-arc initially follows the life-growth of James Kirk until, “not long after… defeating the Romulan viroid that threatened Earth-Garden”, he takes his “place in the captain’s node aboard” the wooden Starship Enterprise and inexplicably suddenly encounters a non-botanical Lieutenant Uhuro, a female Captain Spock and “the only gas-based Starfleet officer here”, Montgomery Scott. Disconcertingly, this utterly bizarre plot-twist is perturbingly the basis for the much of the narrative to Issue Fifteen of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” and arguably must have made many a reader’s head hurt with its incessant chopping from the planet Risa, an “Earth where the augments won and humanity was enslaved” by Khan, and an alternative Vulcan which both houses a relocated Starfleet Command, as well as being the Federation’s last bastion against Nero and the Borg-enhanced Romulan Star Empire.”

Indeed, this twenty-page periodical’s narrative contains so much information involving the differences between numerous respective realities that the vast majority of the comic’s 6,441-strong audience probably didn’t even have the ‘where for all’ to spot “IDW’s Star Trek Kelvin Universe (and Discovery) wordsmith” imbuing Kirk with a certain “old Vulcan trick”, when the American author rather lazily depicts “the acting Captain of the Federation Starship Endeavour” over-powering the incredibly annoying Simon Grayson with a simple nerve pinch; “Learned it from a friend of mine.” Admittedly, “Johnson personally considers the current films [are] not set in a split timeline, but in a very similar reality, which allows him to ignore elements of canon that should hold true for both realities”. Yet ever since the March 1968 television episode "The Omega Glory" in which Spock admits having tried to teach his Captain the skill, it’s been canon that few non-Vulcans are capable of utilising the unconsciousness rendering technique and Kirk is most definitely not one of them.

Equally as frustrating as this comic’s space-time Einstein-Rosen bridge-based shenanigans is Tana Ford’s artwork, which whilst excellent at depicting “Captain Plant-Kirk” is far less successful in illustrating Chris Pine’s ‘Silver Screen’ personality and the lead character’s ‘big’ battle against the nauseatingly de-Vulcanised Commander Grayson. Crudely pencilled, with limbs that could seemingly out-stretch even those of the Fantastic Four’s leader, Reed Richards, the Lambda Literary Award-finalist’s combatants disappointingly appear somewhat facially-disfigured and implausibly bendy at a point in the book which surely should have been steeped in angry menace, as opposed to Lampoon-like ludicrosity.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Mike Johnson, Art: Tana Ford, and Colors: Mark Roberts

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Uber: Invasion #12 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 12, February 2018
Ploddingly-paced and packed full of the detritus of a long, drawn-out world war, the plot to Issue Twelve of “Uber: Invasion” could easily have come across to its readers as a Deutschland-based ‘filler’ edition, intended to simply ‘pad out’ Kieron Gillen’s narrative and provide the former computer games journalist with a little breathing room before he penned the next scintillating story-arc to his militaristic magnum opus. But such a disparaging summary of this twenty-two page periodical’s plot really doesn’t do the British writer’s disturbingly engaging work justice, and would simply shroud some truly disquieting moments within its text.

For starters, the late repugnantly vile German Battleship Siegfried is shockingly divulged to have been just a fourteen-year old boy by his mother, Fraulein Jung. This revelation by the proud parent, created by the woman removing her hand from the plaque of her child’s commemorative bust, comes completely out of the blue and yet makes perfect sense when one considers that the arguably homicidal Nazi, who seemed to relish killing and mutilation more than anything else, was in reality just a child who “always loved his toy soldiers” and wrongly thought “he took after his [war-hero] father.”

Equally as disturbing is Steele’s destiny at the very end of this publication, with a cowardly calm Albert Speer quietly informing Sankt’s former adjutant that she will have her tongue removed “and your hands” simply because she was overheard discussing with Klaudia what would happen if the facially-disfigured Sieglinde did “what Siemund did. [And] just surrendered…” to the Allies.Exactly like Markus’ adolescent age, this horrifying fate to the “emotionally-conflicted panzermensch secretary” comes from ‘out of no-where’ and is addressed so matter-of-factly that it must have sent a serious shudder down the spines of any perusing bibliophiles; “That we need your halo effect means you keep your eyes… But you don’t need your hands any more. Do not think too harshly of me. Remember, I’m the good one.” 

Adding to this comic’s sense of all-pervading doom and despair is Daniel Gete’s marvellous story-boarding, which provides the entire publication’s tale with a persisting aura of hopeless listlessness. Each panel is crammed with detail by the “Logan’s Run: Last Day” penciller, whether it be the visible grain in every single wooden board or the stitching on Steele’s overcoat, but also appears to have been drawn in such a way as to additionally elevate the incredible inconsolable lethargy everyone is experiencing during these trying times…

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 12 by Daniel Gete