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

Friday, 9 November 2018

Batman Secret Files #1 - DC Comics

BATMAN SECRET FILES #1, DECEMBER 2018
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".
Writer: 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