Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Avengers [2018] #6 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS No. 6, October 2018
It must arguably have been hard for the majority of this publication’s 58,925 readers to work out just how Jason Aaron’s script for “Planet Of Pathogens” somehow managed to make this particular book the nineteenth-besting selling comic in August 2018. For whilst the Alabama-born author’s action-packed and undeniably pulse-pounding storyline ultimately brings to an end the super-group’s “final battle against the Dark Celestials”, it is debatable as to whether many within its audience actually managed to successfully follow just how “the new team of heavy hitters” were successful in winning “a battle a million years in the making.” Indeed, even the twenty-one page periodical’s heavily-narrated opening sequence debatably provides plenty of head-scratching puzzlement with its bizarre carousel of Man-Thing, Gladiator, Iron Fist and Odin all apparently somehow sensing “the Earth’s peril from afar… with a heavy heart” and bewildering deciding not to do anything about it..?

Dishearteningly, things do not get any better once the book focuses its sole attention upon the giant-sized Avengers fighting “somewhere in Russia”, as despite their enormously exaggerated strength and confidence, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Thor and Ghost Rider seem unable to overpower their silent opponents without resorting to some utterly unfathomable “Uni-Mind” mental merging. True, Jennifer Walters alter-ego, who disconcertingly seems to have developed a peculiar desire to both eat her foe’s bomb-tasting flesh and continue snogging the God of Thunder, does manage to knock Obliteron down to the snow-covered ground. But the blow is soon shrugged off by the blue-skinned Celestial, as the leaders of the Final Host increasingly demonstrate their superiority over the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes by slicing away one of the arms belonging to Tony Stark’s Godkiller Armor MK II and suddenly somehow resurrecting all their fellow dead extra-terrestrial cosmic beings into gigantic zombies.

To make matters even more indecipherable however, the conclusion to Issue Six of “Avengers” is based upon the premise that all of the planet’s super-powered inhabitants are part of “a live virus vaccine” against the Horde, and can therefore defeat the Dark Celestials simply by using “an ancient method the Eternals use to combine their energies.” Somehow united due to Doctor Strange’s incantations and some baffling rewiring by the Black Panther, the heroes inexplicably manage to imbue Robbie Reyes with their coalesced energies and in the publication’s final splash panel are pencilled preparing themselves for a final assault upon their enemies alongside the disconcertingly regenerated good Celestials; “So we’re right back where we started. Still trying to defeat the Final Host.”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jason Aaron, and Artists: Paco Medina & Ed McGuinness

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Uber: Invasion #17 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 17, October 2018
There’s debatably a perturbingly palpable aura of hurried haste to the penmanship of this twenty-two page periodical which must have unnerved many in its audience, and unhappily given them the impression that the ongoing series’ British creator was probably desperate to bring his depiction of “an alternate World War II in which the Third Reich develops powerful superhuman soldiers” to as quick an end as possible. Indeed, artist Daniel Gete’s Propaganda Poster Cover illustration for Issue Seventeen of “Uber: Invasion” even comes boldly emblazoned with the wording “Let’s Finish The Job!” on it, as a triumphant super-swift Zephyr faces the Nazi remnants.

Sadly however, such a panicky pace to this comic’s narrative doesn’t arguably allow the GLAAD Media Award-winner to properly explore all the interactions between his large cast of characters as he would ordinarily, and as a result this book swiftly sees the disappointing demise of both the Allies’ latest acquisition, the defector Werner, as well as Japan’s sole Battleship, Yamato, in quick succession. Admittedly, these battle-worn Ubermensch had been somewhat relegated to the side-lines for this publication’s previous few instalments, and were in “far from perfect condition”, even if Gete’s does mistakenly pencil Siegmund with two arms instead of one as the disabled German crash-lands into a partially demolished Tokyo. But that doesn’t mean that a potentially promising lengthy bout between the two super-powered behemoths should have been substituted for a more ‘readily-condensed’ plot involving a uranium bomb which had apparently been previously “dropped on Hiroshima”, and the wheelchair bound Miyoko having his head simply removed from his shoulders by Cruisers Bravo and Bluestone.

Equally as unenjoyable is this book’s cumbersome conclusion, which arrives so abruptly that it doubtless had many bibliophiles flipping through its numerous back-paged “Crossed Trades” advertisements, unsuccessfully searching for the storyline’s final few panels. As aforementioned, this publication contains a couple of notable culminations already, yet when it comes to depicting Vernon and Freddy Rivers’ raid of the Imperial Palace and “the fanatical resistance” thrown at the Americans by the Japanese, the publication’s readers aren’t shown any of the animated action whatsoever, and are instead merely presented with an inauspiciously brief look at the Emperor recording a message for broadcast before being “extracted successfully within the hour.”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 17 by Daniel Gete

Friday, 9 November 2018

Batman Secret Files #1 - DC Comics

Promoted as a one-shot opportunity to “delve into Batman’s case histories and discover brand-new stories by some of comics’ most exciting talents”, this thirty-five page anthology arguably must have both delighted and disappointed its readers due to the understandably disjointed nature of the publication’s content. Indeed, many within this somewhat choppy collection’s audience may well have believed that the book would probably have benefited from stories such as Jordie Bellaire’s “Enough” being entirely dropped so as to provide the likes of Tom Taylor more room with which to expand his excellently penned team-up of “the Dark Knight Detective with Detective Chimp.”

Nonetheless, as it stands there is still plenty for fans of the Caped Crusader to enjoy with Tom King’s thought-provoking opening ‘short’ “True Strength” setting a suitably high standard for the title. Incapacitated by some broken knuckles and haunted by his inability to thwart the Joker from murdering a hapless woman right before him, it is interesting to see the turmoil taking place behind Bruce Wayne’s eyes when Superman suddenly offers the 'playboy' an opportunity to be as powerful as the Kryptonian, simply by touching “a small, impossible rock.”

Similarly as successful is Ram V’s disconcerting mental assessment of Officer Fielding following the policeman’s recent exposure to Scarecrow’s infamous fear gas. This terrifying trip alongside Batman in "the warehouse district" is theatrically pencilled by Jorge Fornes, and provides a genuine ‘sting in its tail’ at the all-too brief adventure’s end when Gotham City’s leading billionaire philanthropist visits a local medical institution to establish just how essential his foundation grants are to the hospital and Henry’s wholly unstable condition is properly revealed; “He hasn’t made much progress. The gas still has him, I’m afraid.” 

Regrettably however, the quality of this comic’s “hand-picked teams of creators” debatably deteriorates at this point, with both Cheryl Lynn Eaton and Bellaire’s “look at Bat-mysteries past and present” proving bizarrely lack-lustre affairs in their depiction of Lucius Fox helping his caped employer stop a Wayne Enterprise’s drone from murdering a witness to a recent drug-influenced gang killing, and a perturbingly petrified Bruce shooting a harmless deer in the frozen wilderness because it spooked the lonely industrialist enough into believing the animal was the Man-Bat..? 

Fortunately, “DC Comics” would seem to have left the highlight of this “bevy of Batman villains” to the end with Brad Walker’s dynamically drawn "The World's Greatest Detective, and Batman" featuring the unlikely investigative pair of the Dark Knight and Bobo T. Chimpanzee tackling the Riddler in an effort to ‘rescue’ one of the insane criminal mastermind'’s latest recruited lackeys. Mistakenly shot by the adolescent he was trying to save, Taylor’s writing not only provides Detective Chimp with a heart-warming scene of forgiveness, but also shows a softer side to this book’s titular character as he rebukes his deerstalker hat-wearing wounded friend for believing he either underestimates the ape or is ashamed to be seen with the "Magnificent Finder of Tasty Grubs".
Writter: Tom King, Artist: Mikel Janin, and Colorist by: Jordie Bellaire

Monday, 5 November 2018

The Curse Of Brimstone #4 - DC Comics

THE CURSE OF BRIMSTONE No. 4, September 2018
Arguably featuring the ongoing series’ first self-contained story, Justin Jordan’s “classic water verses fire showdown” for Issue Four of “The Curse Of Brimstone” must surely have pleased the majority of the comic’s 13,741 readers in July 2018, with its pulse-pounding pugilism and the welcome appearance of the mysterious Enoch; “a former agent of the Salesman, granted powers in exchange for working for the… Home Office". In fact, having firmly established both the background to the titular character’s origin and his cataclysmic powers across this book’s preceding three instalments, “All That Remains” is debatably the Pennsylvania-born writer’s opening opportunity to pen a proper adventure for Joseph Chamberlain’s fiery alter-ego to undertake as a bona fide super-hero. 

Interestingly however, it isn’t this twenty-page periodical’s main protagonist who captures either the spotlight or probably its audience’s imagination, but his truly horrific-looking adversary Detritus. Somehow transformed by the Faustian super-powers broker into a multi-skulled giant water creature, this gruesome monstrosity, superbly pencilled by incoming artist Eduardo Pansica, disconcertingly sets ‘alight’ every sequence within which he features, whether it be liquefying an unnamed victim in the now extinct town of Aitch or horrifically having his skeleton’s spine literally torn out from inside his liquid torso, and resultantly it actually seems a real pity that Elijah dies at the conclusion of his fast-flowing fisticuffs with York Hills’ Brimstone.

Similarly disheartening is the abrupt departure of the mysteriously powerful Enoch, who despite needing to have the red-haired Annie point a loaded gun at his head so as to prevent him from finishing off her battle-weary brother, would undoubtedly have made an intriguingly welcome permanent addition to the Chamberlains’ party. Shrouded in inscrutability, and somehow able to steal just “enough juice to finally stop” the Salesman’s creations, this lone ‘gunslinger’ raises infinitely more questions as to the strange world where “it’s always decaying, always rotting” than he answers. Indeed, his apparent ‘intimate’ knowledge of “the Batman Who Laughs... from Earth-22 of the Dark Multiverse”, as well as Detritus' background, makes him fascinating to ‘listen to’ even when he’s simply catching a fish which would rival Springfield’s Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish when it comes to piscine mutations; “Corruption. This place is tainted, scarred. The Salesman is just an appendage. Imagine sticking your fingers in this water. To the fish, it would look like five worms. But they aren’t worms. All extensions of something bigger. Just one thing that looks like many. That’s what the Salesman is.”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Storytellers: Eduardo Pansica & Justin Jordan, and Inks: Julio Ferreira

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Wytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special - Image Comics

Served “as both a stand-alone story in the Wytches world and a prequel to the highly anticipated Wytches Volume Two”, this sixty-six page story-line proved in October 2018 to be just as disturbingly disconcerting as its Eisner Award-winning creators’ previous six-issue mini-series, with its pulse pounding opening featuring a boy being fed to a monster housed in the back of an everyday transit van, and subsequent focus upon Sebastian’s increasingly close friendship with a neighbour who is destined to meet a similar fate down the bottom of a woodland pit. However, whereas in his previous storyline Scott Snyder seemed keen for his audience to piece together his unwholesome tale's grotesque puzzle for themselves, in this Halloween Special he seemingly prefers to tell the reader almost straightaway how the gore-fest will conclude, and then sits back as its palpable tension builds towards the comic’s frightening finale.

Interestingly though, just because the anticipated ending to this “horror-filled romp” is soon made evident doesn’t mean that it isn’t still packed full of plenty of surprises, as the relationship linking this book’s “two innocent teenagers reared on opposite sides of the eternal struggle between good and evil” continually appears to threaten the truly sickening plans of both boys’ parents; whether that be to have the teenage Seb brutally murder his schoolmate just before they attend a local slot-racing championship so as to end an “age-old blood feud”, or willingly present their “ripe” child to a mercilessly slavering forest-dwelling monster and then gleefully watch him being eaten alive… Indeed, perhaps this perturbing publication’s biggest hook is that despite Ruby and Karl’s best intentions their distressingly macabre machinations only ever partially reach fruition, making the American author’s narrative enthrallingly difficult to discern whether the cast’s various fates are already sealed or not.

Also infinitely adding to this tale’s foreboding aura of creepiness is Mark Simpson’s eerie-looking storyboards, which genuinely imbue even something as innocent as Jackson’s impressively large track layout down in his basement, or a seemingly innocuous school lesson in family trees, with an unnervingly oppressive atmosphere of dire dread and menace. Moderately masked by a gossamer veil of paint splatters and disconcerting light sources, Jock’s instantly recognisable drawings are particularly impactive when portraying the scarily-toothed monstrosity at the end of this tale, and the fiendishly fast creature’s gruesome demise at the hands of the child it was expecting to consume; “Go on, ‘Cough’ baby sister! Beg! Beg Me! Beg!”
Written by: Scott Snyder, Illustrated by: Jock, and Color by: Matt Hollingsworth

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Avengers [2018] #5 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS No. 5, September 2018
Sticking to its reasonably straightforward revelation as to “the startling secret of the Progenitor”, Jason Aaron’s script for Issue Five of “Avengers” must have provided many within its 55,850 strong audience with a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience, which not only parades the increasingly irritating Loki trussed up like a chicken inside the trunk of Ghost Rider’s modified 1969 Dodge Charger. But also staunchly shows an entrapped Captain America bravely blindsiding the God of Mischief with an eye-watering head-butt and boot to the jaw despite being held captive some leagues beneath the icy waters of the North Pole; “You really love to hear yourself talk, don’t you? But who’ll be around to listen once we’ve all been fed to space bugs?”

Delightfully, it isn’t just the star-spangled World War Two veteran who provides “The Secret Origin Of The Marvel Universe” with plenty of punch either, as the Alabama-born author pens plenty of entertaining moments for Flag-head’s team-mates too, most notably Roberto Reyes, whose ability to resurrect a fallen celestial as a giant-sized fiery “All-New, All-Different” incarnation of Eli Morrow’s spirit really helps bring this publication to a jaw-droppingly good cliff-hanger. Indeed, the Inkpot Award-winner manages to imbue his narrative with several such stand-out scenes, like She-Hulk amusingly admitting that Thor and her were busy “smashing and kissing”, Ghost Rider’s human alter-ego having doubts as to whether he’s “more than a car”, Doctor Strange confronting Loki as “the [true] Sorcerer Supreme”, and Tony Stark demonstrating his vast wealth by summoning “the Godkiller Mark II” from where he keeps it “parked on Mars for eventualities such as this.”

Of course, none of these scenes would be anywhere near as fun or impactive if it wasn’t for the vibrantly dynamic artwork of Paco Medina and Ed McGuinness, whose intermingled storyboards are all superbly brought together into a beautifully blended feast for the eyes by David Curiel’s colours. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine a more moving death scene than that of “the first Celestial to ever set foot on the Earth” as the “omnipotent space god”, overcome by a “nasty infection”, pitifully sinks to its knees in its death throes and spews out a disgusting, oil-slick like substance from its maw, only to then have its submerged, partially decayed corpse be revisited four billion years later by Steve Rogers…

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jason Aaron, and Artists: Paco Medina & Ed McGuinness

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Aliens: Dust To Dust #3 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DUST TO DUST No. 3, October 2018
Only pausing mid-way through its narrative whilst the rapidly dwindling survivors of the Trono colony somewhat hard-heartedly decide whether to leave their youngest member behind before attempting to “follow the bank of the spillway right to the facility”, Gabriel Hardman’s sense-shattering screenplay for Issue Three of “Aliens: Dust To Dust” must have had the majority of the mini-series’ audience panting for breath when the long-delayed publication finally hit the spinner-racks in October 2018. For although the twenty-page periodical momentarily becomes a little weighed down with the morality of “pushing forward without” the twelve year-old orphan, it quickly picks up its pulse-pounding pace once Maxon makes to ‘go it alone’ and inadvertently encounters an entire nest of xenomorphs hiding underneath the floor of the very system engineering facility he’s fleeing from.

Indeed, whether it be Roman and his aged wife’s horribly bloody deaths during this comic’s gore-fest of an opening, or the callous co-pilot’s ‘all-too just mutilation’ at the hands of a howling mob of aliens, having literally just refused to let the terrified boy and Waugh back into the building because “I’m not dying for them”, the persistent deadly threat of Ridley Scott’s legacy is palpably all-pervading, and rarely lets up even when the captain believes there’s “no evidence of xenomorph activity” and begins making sensible-sounding plans to reach a terraforming station the following morning. Certainly, it soon becomes hard to keep track of just who is still alive within the group as the “mysterious and deadly creatures” stalking them continuously claw, bite and tear their number asunder…

Arguably this comic’s greatest highlight however, has to be young Cregar’s headlong dash through the magazine’s final third, which starts with the adolescent being roughly rushed around the alien-infested sanctuary’s exterior by the unfriendly Assistant Administrator, and ends with him haplessly plunging into a fast-flowing river of “overflow from the facility’s cooling tower” along with the tale’s last remaining few fighters and a plethora of hostile life-forms. In fact, Hardman’s scratchy-styled line work for this sequence is so well-suited to the scene’s sense of panicked desperation, that it is a pity the frenzied flight across the broken bridge’s depilated suspension cable doesn’t last that bit longer and perhaps replaced the Hugo Award-nominee’s patronising panels within which Anne’s son is told to rest because “you’re just a kid.”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "ALIENS: DUST TO DUST" No. 3 by Gabriel Hardman