Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Immortal Hulk #9 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 9, January 2019
Despite Carl “Crusher” Creel acknowledging himself that he has “literally… never won a fight” with the Hulk, and always been “pulverized” by Bruce Banner’s alter-ego, the prospect of “The Sinners” storyline once again pitching the Absorbing Man against the Green Goliath must have had the vast majority of this comic’s Hulk-heads foaming at the mouth in anticipation for a re-match; especially when Alex Ross’s awesome-looking cover illustration depicting the two combatants engaged in a brutal fist-fight was released early as part of the book’s pre-publication advertising.

But whilst Al Ewing’s script for Issue Nine of “The Immortal Hulk” certainly delivers upon its promise to include the “greatest [of] enemies” going ‘toe-to-toe’ with one another towards the end of the twenty-page periodical, the lead up to their conflict, as well as its grotesque culmination, probably struck some readers as being somewhat choppy and frankly, rather bizarre. Indeed, at times it is debatably difficult to understand in just which direction the British author is actually taking his “Green Door” narrative with this tome's mix of a “Videodrome” like secret agent with a gun-transforming hand, a “cute little” gamma-powered hamster called Derek, and a creature which closely resembles the murderous extra-terrestrial in John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film “The Thing”..?

Of course, once “Codename Red Dog” and this publication’s titular character do finally meet in person, courtesy of General Reginald Fortean’s cold-blooded calculations, there are a plethora of pulse-pounding panels for the “2000 A.D.” writer’s audience to enjoy, particularly as Creel has rather unwisely agreed to be injected with the Bannerman Gene-Enhancement package beforehand. Disappointingly however, even Carl’s “Hulk Plug-In”, which rather unnervingly provides the super-villain with an incredible ‘emaciating edge’ over his hated anger-fuelled opponent, doesn’t allow this gripping bout of muscle-bound pugilism to last all that long, and their ‘classic’ confrontation is sadly brought to an apparently all-too fast end within the space of just a few heartbeats.

Perhaps this comic’s biggest frustration though is the persistent intermittent page swapping which takes place between regular artist Joe Bennett and the disconcertingly different Martin Simmons. True, there’s little not to like about Benedito José Nascimento’s dynamic pencilling even during this book’s more sedentary scenes, yet the same probably can’t be said for this tome’s guest illustrator, whose drawing, inks and colours appear somewhat lifelessly wooden and flat when laid out alongside the much more energetic work of his Brazilian counter-part.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 9 by Alex Ross

Monday, 10 December 2018

Avengers [2018] #7 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS No. 7, November 2018
“Featuring Ghost Rider 1,000,000 BC” in a stand-alone origin story set “before the dawn of civilization”, Jason Aaron’s storyline for Issue Seven of “Avengers” probably pleased the vast majority of this comic’s 65,815 strong audience in September 2018 with its intriguing hypothetical insight into the life “of cave folk struggling to survive on the edge of the Big White” and its subsequent depiction of a seemingly unstoppable blood-crazed Wendigo, who in just one night “killed and ate them all.” In fact, it’s arguable that many within this comic’s increasing audience probably wished that “Fire And Bone” was the start of an ongoing series focusing upon the Spirit of Vengeance and “a period of Marvel history that’s never been explored” before, rather than a simple ‘filler’ following the conclusion of the Alabama-born author’s “first explosive arc featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”.

Perhaps foremost of this twenty-page periodical’s biggest draws is the way in which its Inkpot Award-winning writer pens the primitive life of the Neanderthal, at a time when neither names nor speech were even known, and Ghost’s fellow cave-dwellers simply “communicated with grunts and fists.” “Smarter than everyone I knew” the fledgling super-hero’s determination to track down the human-shaped monster who slaughtered his entire clan proves a somewhat mesmerising experience, especially when tired, alone and dying of exposure the young man encounters a giant talking snake called Mephisto and haplessly agrees to the snow-coloured reptile’s generous offer to “make it sso you’re never cold again.”

Of course, in making such a deal the semi-conscious adolescent curses himself to a fiery future, but at least finds himself in a position some five years later where he is sufficiently strong enough to challenge the savage might of the bestial stranger who once slaughtered everyone he knew. Indeed, the Rider’s ensuing battle with Wendigo, complete with Sara Pichelli’s perfectly pencilled woolly mammoths, really does bring this comic to a sense-shattering conclusion as the white-furred ‘feeder upon manflesh’ demonstrates just why his scourge would later prove so difficult for Alpha Flight to overcome in the Modern Age of ‘capes and cowls’, whilst Mephisto’s flame-headed agent has an opportunity to demonstrate his prehistoric powers by drawing the grim skeletal remnants of his opponent’s former feasts into a hellfire-fuelled chain; “The bones say you’ve eaten your fill. Now it’s their turn to feed.”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Sara Pichelli, and Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Boy Zero: Volume One [Part Three] - Caliber Comics

BOY ZERO: VOLUME ONE, January 2016
Predominantly maintaining its focus upon “Edmund’s cross to bear” some ‘twelve days, ten hours and two minutes before zero’, this third chapter to Charles Chester’s “Boy Zero” graphic novel must have made its audience almost taste the metallic tang of rust in their parched mouths, as the children living just outside Glass City show newcomer Christian their secret hideout buried deep inside a dilapidated factory and claustrophobically encircle themselves in a wall of decaying, half-eaten corrugated iron sheeting, red oxide covered machinery and chain-linked fencing. But any readers anticipating that this publication would subsequently provide a light-hearted insight into the craftiness of children “when looking for adventure” were undeniably in for a startling shock once the adolescent party’s game of hop-scotch is interrupted by the sudden arrival of a wizened old “homeless individual” armed with a seemingly blood-stained knife and a brain full of madness; “I think you lied to me! I need to speak to him! Noooo! No No! Where are you going?! No! Come back! I’ll tell you where the lion lives!”

Indeed, the utter terror on the faces of the youngsters as the dishevelled tramp heads towards their main hiding place is absolutely palpable, as is the adrenalin rush caused by the award winning filmmaker’s penmanship in his depiction of the kids rapidly bolting from out of their refuge and ‘pegging it’ past the gore-splattered vagrant towards the safety of a nearby cemetery. Of course, many perusing bibliophiles’ hearts probably stopped dead when the prone hobo manages to take hold of Christian’s ankle as the lad leaps over the fallen intruder’s form, yet fortunately for those holding their breath in anticipation of the 'cutting to come', the old man does not have the strength to drag the wide-eyed boy down to the ground, nor maintain his grip when he takes a well-placed kick to the head…

Perhaps somewhat disappointingly the rest of this particular twenty-six page instalment never arguably manages to ever replicate so pulse-pounding a predicament, even later on when an actress is assaulted at knife-point by a street-level criminal down a dark alleyway. However, that doesn’t mean that the dialogue-driven sequences which follow don’t still easily hold both the attention and imagination either, as Chester’s somewhat disrespectful (young) Detective Drekker unconvincingly assures the local petrified parents that “there is no reason [for them] to worry” despite the recent spine-chilling mutilation of Mister Adams’ two sons, and Christian’s truly nerve-wracking account to Edmund of the Boogeyman coming out at night to tell his next victim that “he is going to hang a child from a tree and gut him from neck to belly…”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Written by: Charles Chester, and Artwork by: Shiloh Penfield

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Immortal Hulk #8 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 8, January 2019
Any Marvelites with a queasy stomach who happened to peruse Al Ewing’s gruesome opening to Issue Eight of “The Immortal Hulk” were probably feeling nauseous within the comic’s first few panels due to its narrative macabrely exploring the dissection of the Green Goliath’s heart straight “through the interventricular septum” with an adamantium scalpel. But for those unsettled "Hulk-Heads" able to stomach such mutilation, the British author’s script actually only gets worse as the criminally-minded Doctor Clive surrounds himself with all manner of the founding Avenger’s body parts, including a miraculously sentient head which soon demonstrates an horrific ability to mobilise its various dismembered limbs into a truly terrifying weapon against his captors.

Indeed, “His Hideous Heart” really does demonstrate to any lifelong fans of Stan Lee’s co-creation just how different a version of Bruce Banner’s alter-ego the “2000 A.D.” writer has created for this “new series”, with the gamma-grown monster’s internal organs beating and breathing as “good as new”, even though they’ve been crudely cut asunder and pickled in giant specimen jars which litter the numerous shelves of Shadow Base’s central laboratory; “I mean, look at you. Trying to talk with no air in your lungs. No lungs.”

Disappointingly however, arguably far less successfully penned by the “Squaxx Dek Thargo” are his fleeting visits to Alpha Flight Space Station, and the readers’ subsequent opportunity to eavesdrop upon Carol Danvers as the champion of the Kree voices her concerns regarding the United States Government supposedly losing the Hulk amidst “a sea of deliberate obfuscation.” True, these scenes do herald the creation of Walter Langkowski’s new task force, Gamma Flight, but it’s debatably difficult to so quickly accept the non-powered Jacqueline McGee as part of this team, even if the secretly obsessed Arizona Herald journalist’s presence on the roster is explained away as simply being just “an embedded reporter.” 

Fortunately, Joe Bennett’s pencilling for this twenty-page periodical is predominantly up to his usual high standard, with only the artist’s line work seemingly suffering when used to depict the aforementioned dialogue-heavy conversational pieces concerning Captain Marvel, Sasquatch and Jackie. In fact, the Brazilian’s spine-chilling splash pages featuring the Hulk reassembling himself whilst simultaneously absorbing the panic-stricken Clive alive are a remarkable sight to behold and almost worth this “Rated T+” publication’s cover price alone…

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 8 by Alex Ross

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Electric Warriors #1 - DC Comics

ELECTRIC WARRIORS #1, January 2019
Advertised by its Burbank-based publisher as “a new tale of the future DC Universe, set in a previously unexplored timeline – the Cosmic Dark Age”, this opening instalment to a six-issue limited series set during “Jack Kirby’s Great Disaster timeline” disappointingly lacks any real action whatsoever, and instead seemingly fills such a void with an endless procession of dialogue-heavy, gobbledegook-laden conversations about "the great compromise", electrogenesis, and the apparent benevolence of the planet’s Gil’dishpan governors. True, Steve Orlando’s script for “A Far Better Thing” undeniably starts off with plenty of punch, as two lion-headed patrons of a Beast Bar batter Ian Navarro within an inch of his life after the human foolishly enters the licensed premises clearly looking for trouble. But disheartening, the all-too brief scrap appears to have been penned simply to provide a fleeting hook for this comic’s perusing public, and subsequently the most pulse-pounding this book’s narrative gets is to depict a family argument over the dining room table between Oscar’s grey-haired mother and her oldest son.

Just as discouraging is the highly dislikeable personality behind the American author’s lead character. Always inexplicably angry, despite the Personhood Accords apparently being signed years ago, Navarro arguably simply smacks of your stereotypical sibling who rather than being pleased with his brother’s apparent success to be named Earth’s first human Electric Warrior, is actually infuriated with the decision and absolutely desperate to rid the declared ‘diplomatic gladiator’ of his Armageddon forestalling responsibilities. Indeed, despite the GLAAD Media Award-nominee’s attempt to depict the obnoxious youth as someone who deeply cares for his family member’s future by having him abducted the night before his initiation ceremony, this twenty-two page periodical instead debatably portrays Ian as an unbelievably arrogant individual who conceitedly imagines that his warped viewpoint of the world is right, and everyone else’s is utterly wrong; “Then, now -- it doesn’t matter, heroes either make people weaker… or die trying.”

Perhaps this comic’s most notable highlight can therefore only be found buried deep inside Travel Foreman’s proficiently pencilled panels. The artist’s competent line-art does an acceptable job of storyboarding Orlando’s “New worlds, new faces, and a new time to fight” vision. Yet, it’s his inclusion of such notable nods to “DC Comics” past, such as the inclusion of Joker-Fish as an edible solution to Mankind’s perpetual suffering, and Superman’s famous red cape being so ritualistically presented to Humanity’s sole Electric Warrior, which only truly captures the eye.
Writer: Steve Orlando, Artist: Travel Foreman, and Colorist: Hi-Fi

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