Sunday, 31 July 2016

Injection #10 - Image Comics

INJECTION No. 10, June 2016
It probably wasn’t too hard for the majority of this comic’s 11,771 followers to read “Image Comics” post-publication announcement that Warren Ellis’ series concerning “five crazy people… [who] poisoned the 21st Century” would not return until “later in the year”, as the unimaginative writing and woefully poor artwork contained within this concluding instalment of ‘Volume Two’ must genuinely have resonated with them as to just how fatigued “the acclaimed creative team of Moon Knight” had presumably become working on the series. Indeed it’s genuinely hard to take anything positive away from a twenty-page periodical whose narrative predominantly focusses upon a debate between Vivek Headland and some Rubedo operatives in Mister Van Der Zee’s sitting room…

Admittedly the Essex-born writer uses this frighteningly lengthy conversational piece to quite neatly tie-up all of the plot points his multi-issue story-arc has generated. But even so it shouldn’t take a multiple Eagle Award-winner over a dozen convoluted pages of wearisome wordiness to depict the “logician and Ethicist with an interest in security” informing his armed opponents that “the rogue artificial learning system” the terrorists “keep calling the Philosopher’s Stone” is actually The injection, and that it was actually responsible for the deaths of the financier’s wife and son; “Yeah. Traffic light failure did for her. Car’s onboard computer system failure caused his.” 

What isn’t explained however is just how the Manhattan-based detective miraculously managed to have all of the Rubedo assassins’ “guns unloaded hours ago.” It is quite clear that Ellis has endowed Headland with such an incredible “ability to think of all the possible outcomes” that Vivek ‘borders on the precognisant.’ Yet that still doesn’t explain the removal of the bullets, especially when one of the black-jacketed would-be killers expostulates that she checked her firearm before infiltrating Van Der Zee’s isolated mansion.

Such objectionable gobbledegook might though have been potentially palatable if it were not for Declan Shalvey’s amateurishly sketched and diabolically rushed pencils. Having “made his name with his first comic Hero Killers” it seems unacceptably strange that the Irishman’s breakdowns for so well publicised a title as “Injection” would, in the main, simple consist of numerous panels comprising of a single, awkwardly angular, facially disfigured form, with nothing in the background whatsoever apart from the occasional outline of a curtain or piece of furniture.
The regular cover art of "INJECTION" No. 10 by Declan Shalvey

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016 (Captain America) #1 - Marvel Comics

Heavily advertised by “Marvel Worldwide” as “one of Steve’s first adventures since his dramatic return” this Free Comic Book Day publication of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” probably came as something of a disappointment to many of the Sentinel of Liberty’s followers, despite the ten-page short story somehow containing the pulse-pounding exploits of the ‘original’ World War Two super-soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. Commander Sharon Carter, Sam Wilson and the “All-New All-Different” Falcon, Joaquin Torres. For whilst Nick Spencer’s script undoubtedly gives “the reinvigorated Steve Rogers” plenty to do as the patriotic powerhouse pulverises a hidden Hydra cell in Graz, Austria. It does so using a seemingly pedestrian ‘plot-by-numbers’ technique which unfortunately pales in comparison with the excitement and sense of anticipation Dan Slott’s secondary Spider-Man tale “Up & About” undeniably generates.

Indeed of this publication’s two stories, it is the Diamond Gem Award-winners nine-page “special prelude to Dead No More” which doubtless raised the most questions in its audience's mind, on account of its narrative containing at least three characters who are supposedly deceased; “Oksana [Sytsevich] should be dead. The Rhino should be dead. And Vanessa [Fisk] should be rotting away in a crypt somewhere." The Wall-crawler’s pulse-pounding 'novella' even finishes on a devilishly well-timed cliff-hanger, courtesy of a shock appearance by Sixties super-villain the Jackal, and (presumably) his clone of Gwen Stacy… 

Disappointingly however, Slott’s purported “first look at the blockbuster storyline coming later this year” is nowhere near as well drawn by Javier Garron as this title’s star-spangled opening adventure is by Jesus Saiz; a new face at Martin Goodwin’s old company who was clearly enjoying his “first gig for Marvel”. In fact the Spaniard’s artwork is arguably awfully amateurish in places, especially when Peter Parker grimaces at the sound of nearby gunfire, or the Rhino realises his web-spinning nemesis has quite literally pulled the ground from under his feet with a few well-placed “explosive spider-tracers”. Certainly the vast majority of Spidey fans, upon seeing the Barcelona-born penciler’s panels depicting an incredibly egg-headed Kingpin, must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when they realised that Jim Cheung was going to be the main artist on the “Dead No More” multi-issue event and not Garron.
Writer: Nick Spencer, Penciler: Jesus Saiz, and Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Friday, 29 July 2016

Kong Of Skull Island #1 - BOOM! Studios

Publicised as “an original, limited comic book series… featuring the famous gargantuan ape, King Kong”, and coinciding with the increasing public interest generated by “Legendary Pictures” planned release of a “Kong: Skull Island” motion picture in 2017, the plot to Issue One of “Kong Of Skull Island” must surely have still come as something of a surprise to the twenty-two page periodical’s audience. For whilst Merian C. Cooper’s colossal-sized anti-hero does feature somewhat throughout James Asmus’ narrative, the gigantic gorilla is actually just one of several simian monstrosities referred to as "The Kong", who have been bred to compete in gladiatorial confrontations.

In fact the activities of the great warrior primates are undeniably secondary to a storyline which primarily focusses upon the mounting political tensions between the Atu tribe (who “gorge their Kong on our island’s precious limited resources) and the Tagu people (who “must sail for greener grazing -- just to ensure there will still be enough here for the people”). Certainly “BOOM! Studios” incarnation of the “prehistoric type of ape” appear to be just as much a victim of the events on Skull Island as their accompanying superstitious native sailors are, and swiftly succumb to the sudden savage attack of a giant Pteranodon flock.
Fortunately, despite its arguable lack of any titular character, the Stan Lee Excelsior Award-winner’s tale of a female Kong trainer and her beloved Prince K’Reti is rather well-written, even if it is a little too stereotypical in its portrayal of Usana as an evil, manipulative rival for the royal’s attention. The barbed banter betwixt Ewata and the various members of the arrogant Atu clan rather succinctly illuminates the fragile, patently one-sided arrangement the two populations ‘enjoy’; an understanding which presumably won’t last once the island's "comfortable" inhabitants realise they need the Tagu fleet to evacuate them before they fall prey to a volcanic eruption.

Carlos Magno’s artwork for this opening instalment of a ‘six-issue series’ is incredibly well-detailed, as his pulse-pounding drawings of the Kong battling one another attests. But whilst the Brazilian’s panels are somewhat reminiscent of an overly-cluttered Gil Kane illustration, the sheer volume of detail he depicts can at times actually make it hard to distinguish one cast member from another, especially when both Usana and Ewata are together.
Writer: James Asmus, Illustrator: Carlos Magno, and Colors: Brad Simpson 

Monday, 25 July 2016

James Bond #6 - Dynamite Entertainment

JAMES BOND No. 6, April 2016
Focussing almost exclusively upon the movements of its titular character, this concluding instalment to “the debut storyline in the all-new James Bond comic book series” certainly brings Warren Ellis’ multi-issue narrative to a thrilling, rather blood-thirsty end as the British spy single-handedly storms a privately-owned battleship docked in Norwegian waters and ultimately blows it up. But such a dynamic resolution disconcertingly, never actually explains what motivated Slaven Kurjak to go to such extraordinary criminal lengths and put “a disease inside a drug” in the first place?

In fact, even the secret serviceman asks his mortally wounded foe as to just “why you did all this… The real reason. No justifications…” at the very end of the twenty-two page periodical and rather frustrating receives a nonsensical uninformative response from the bleeding villainous mastermind about him wanting “to be happy with friends and doing beautiful things.” It is little wonder therefore that the black-clad occasional assassin immediately shoots the crook neatly through the head once he’s presumably finished talking.

Plot holes as to his heavy’s incentive aside however, the Essex-born writer’s script for Issue Six of “James Bond” swiftly throws its 15,287 strong audience straight into the thick of things by having the former Royal Naval Reserve Commander utilise the “Russian collapsible suppressed sniper rifle” his Quartermaster has given him, and ruthlessly dispatch two of Vargr’s land-based guards with grisly throat shots. Indeed it’s hard to imagine a more pitiless cold-blooded incarceration of the main protagonist as the one Ellis has stalk the corridors of the German-owned “live action role playing” vessel, indiscriminately shooting men, women and unarmed laboratory technicians through the brains; “What the hell is going on --”

Impressively all of this pulse-pounding action is wonderfully illustrated by Jason Masters, whose pencilling of Bond furiously rushing through the ship’s sparsely decorated walkways, dodging bullets and eliminating his well-armed pursuers, quickly makes it evident as to why the comic pop culture website “Comic Crusaders” described the publication as containing “strong action pieces… full of pace and movement.” Certainly the South African’s detailed panels depicting the fragmentation of the secret agent’s bullets as they enter the heads, mouths and soft body organs of his victims are as insanely impactive as they are arguably ghoulish.
Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Jason Masters, and Colors: Guy Major

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Harrow County #4 - Dark Horse Comics

HARROW COUNTY No. 4, August 2015
Whilst undeniably proving to be a twenty-six page periodical which quite neatly ties up most of the plot-threads from the title's "Countless Haints" story-arc, Issue Four of "Harrow County" must surely have disappointed some of its 8,893 readers with the illogically contrived manner in which it does so. For having spent the best part of the lengthy narrative fearfully fleeing her Pa and fellow townspeople because “she knows we want her dead”, Emmy bizarrely returns to where the ‘lynch mob’ are congregating and supposedly convinces them to let her reside amongst them despite disintegrating three of their number when they murderously launch themselves upon the young witch; “I don’t want to hurt anyone… Not you… Not the other folks who live hereabouts.”

Admittedly Cullen Bunn does try and rationalise this arguably incongruous behaviour on behalf of his story’s main protagonist, by having Mister Sorrell illuminate her as to Hester Beck’s creation of men and women “from the mud” during a rather dialogue-heavy sedentary sequence. But the suggestion that the settlement’s local folk have been lead to their homicidal resolution by a number of cruelly misguided mud-people, who “genuinely believed Hester was a creature of evil” and “thought they would never truly be alive until their creator was dead”, is perturbingly far-fetched.

Fortunately, despite these reservations as to the teenager’s guileless behaviour, the Bram Stoker Award-nominee’s script does still contain plenty of “genuinely creepy and engaging” moments. The comic’s opening, within which Emmy faces a ferociously huge, multi-eyed black-furred demon in the woodland, provides a wonderfully tense confrontation that momentarily actually looks like being a rather fatal meeting for the flush-cheeked blonde. Whilst Mister Sorrell’s overly-friendly, bespectacled countenance proves as disturbing a characteristic for a child kidnapper as any Film Noir writer could wish for.     

Possibly somewhat fatigued by this edition’s extra page count, or perhaps because so much of the tale is confined to well-lit locations, Tyler Crook’s artwork also seems to be a little worse for wear towards the end of this comic book. The American artist’s initial pencils and water colours depicting the long-forgotten bull-horned forest-dwelling fiend are wonderfully detailed, as are the panels depicting the stark terror etched upon the fledgling witch’s face as she flees the monster’s furious assault. Yet some of his illustrations concerning the ruddy-faced child snatcher, the skinless haint, and Emmy’s badly battered father aren’t quite as well-realised as perhaps they would have been in previous issues…
Script: Cullen Bunn, Art and Lettering: Tyler Crook, and Publisher: Mike Richardson

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man [2015] #9 - Marvel Comics

Arguably best described as being reminiscent of an early Seventies copy of “Marvel Team-Up”, courtesy of a fast-paced, no frills opening which quickly sees its titular character and Nick Fury racing towards a “Zodiac hacked” orbital space platform on board the painfully-named “Arachno-Rocket!”, Issue Nine of “The Amazing Spider-Man” must surely have caused plenty of its 88,164 strong audience many a wry smile when first published in March 2016. For despite being a thoroughly entertaining twenty-page periodical that sees Peter Parker’s alter ego at his action-packed best as he helps the “agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” trouble-shoot a number of Scorpio-controlled killer satellites, it’s hard not to feel that Dan Slott’s enjoyable script wouldn’t have better suited a protagonist like the Fantastic Four or Iron Man instead. Indeed the Diamond Gem Award-winner even makes light of the fact that his hero isn’t the Golden Avenger later in the book by having a worried Web-head, whose suit is rapidly breaking up as he re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, grimly state “H-h-hell, Iron Man d-d-does stuff like this all the t-t-time!”

The Wall-crawler’s access to all manner of state-of–the-art technology, whether it be a rocket ship, a spider-armoured space-suit, an emergency beacon or back spinnerets capable of deploying an all-encompassing ball of protective web-foam, also must have undoubtedly grated upon the subconscious of the long-suffering Spider-Man reader, especially as the Web-Spinner seems to demonstrate a contrivingly convenient amount of forethought in each device’s creation; “Impossible! This is Spider-Man we’re talking about. Not Thor!” It’s true that during the Berkeley-born writer’s tenure the former Daily Bugle photographer’s intellect has been continually re-emphasised to the point where Parker is the CEO of a “cutting edge” company which “has offices across the globe.” But even so “One Way Trip” still feels like something out of a Jim Steranko espionage-laden “Strange Tales” storyline than a narrative entirely in tune depicting the (mis)adventures of the friendly neighbourhood hero.

Slight misgivings as to Spidey’s use aside however, Slott’s opening instalment of the “Scorpio Rising” storyline is additionally engaging on account of it containing a succinct update as to Otto Octavius’ mechanical machinations within the “London Headquarters of Parker Industries.” Trapped inside the metallic mind of the robot servitor Living Brain, the super-villain spies Aiden Blain sharing an affectionate kiss with the criminal’s one-time fiancée Anna, and momentarily becomes enraged at the sight. Disappointingly Doctor Octopus' murderous electronically-voiced rant is cut all-too short by Spider-Man’s current plight. Yet such developmental teases as to a future confrontation between the costumed crime-fighter and his arch-nemesis provides some assurances as to the American author’s commitment to an over-arching narrative, and undoubtedly delivers an ample hook with which “Marvel Worldwide” could maintain this title’s impressively-sized readership.
Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Inker: Cam Smith

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Doctor Strange [2015] #7 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 7, June 2016
It's hard not to think that at least some of this title’s 49,590 readers didn’t pause midway through the comic’s opening third and check Chris Bachalo’s rather gruesomely grotesque illustrated cover to ensure that they hadn’t inadvertently picked up a copy of “Superman” by “DC Comics” instead. For whilst the opening to this second chapter in “The Last Days of Magic” story-arc doesn’t specifically refer to the Man of Steel’s home planet of Krypton, Jason Aaron’s script depicting the last moments of a scientific couple determined to save their sole child from death by transporting him off-planet in a spaceship before they themselves are killed, significantly smacks of Kal-El’s origin story. Indeed with the exception of Abbadona Hellgore’s son actually being saved from the sacrificial maw of “the great beast called, Shuma-Gorath” and obtaining a crew of eyebots in the process, the similarities are all too evident and perturbing.

Fortunately the Alabama-born author’s narrative doesn’t linger too long upon the supposedly innovative causation of the “heretic” Imperator from Tentacle Hill and instead soon returns this book’s audience to New York City “now” in order to resolve the titular character’s grim fate having been irrefutably defeated in the series’ previous instalment. This rather terse, overly-wordy ‘judgement’ by the super-scientist upon the bloodied Sorcerer Supreme initially proves something of a dank dialogue-heavy disappointment, despite the Imperator partially focussing some of his ire upon an incarcerated Magick. But is then rather delightfully ‘saved’ by the sudden appearance of Monako; a somewhat underrated magic-user who first appeared in the January 1940 first edition of “Daring Mystery Comics” (as published by “Timely Comics”).

This rather endearing “son of a missionary couple who were proselytizing in early Twentieth Century India” injects Aaron’s seemingly bleak adventure with some much-needed colourful humour as the gruff ‘elder statesman’ momentarily stands his ground against the formidable might of the Empirikul, and additionally imbues the twenty-page periodical with a genuine sense of tragedy too as the “Prince of Magic” subsequently sacrifices his life in order to teleport all his friends to safety; “Used up everything I had. Heh. But it was worth it. You shoulda seen the look on your --”
The 'Civil War' variant cover art of "DOCTOR STRANGE" No. 7 by Chris Stevens

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Moon Knight [2016] #2 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT No. 2, July 2016
Despite containing a particularly ponderous beginning which somewhat laboriously focuses upon Khonshu’s explanation as to the circumstances surrounding Marc Spector’s mysterious incarceration within a “nightmarish insane asylum”, Jeff Lemire’s script for Issue Two of “Moon Knight” eventually makes for a genuinely thought-provoking read and certainly towards the end of the twenty-page periodical must have partially conjured up within its audience the sort of pulse-pounding euphoria that actor Christopher Reeve once generated in the 1978 “Superman” motion picture when he first tore open his well-pressed shirt and revealed his alter-ego’s world famous ‘S’ symbol. For whilst the Ontario-born writer’s story is far from action-packed and instead in places horrifically wordy, it does ultimately lead to the titular character once again finally donning the crisp white three-piece suit and hood of Mister Knight; “I found that in storage. I thought you would like it back.”

Disappointingly however, some of this comic’s 35,282 followers probably struggled to reach such feelings of elation upon their first attempt, on account of the Egyptian deity didactically debating Seth’s invasion of the modern-day world with the titular character for almost the entirety of the book's opening half... A lengthy, soul-destroying sequence whose tedium unquestionably isn’t helped by it predominantly being told via a series of small-sized panels featuring large white elaborately-styled text and printed upon black-backed speech bubbles. Indeed in many ways the Canadian author's purpose may well have been better served if he’d simply stuck solely to the far more succinct rationalization of events that “we are dealing with an invasion of immortals from another dimension, and we are on the clock, people…” as subsequently given by the Fist of Khonshu to his fellow escapees.

Fortunately though once Lemire has (re)introduced ‘long-time supporting cast members’ Jean-Paul “Frenchie” Duchamp, Marlene “Blondie” Alraune and Gena Landers into the mix, as well as the sudden realisation by Spector that Doctor Emmet is in fact the “God of Judgement” Ammut, this second instalment of “Welcome To New Egypt” really starts to take off, and the group’s fearful tension as they explore the heavily-hieroglyphic sublevels to where the hospital “connects to an old subway tunnel” is pulse-pounding palpable prose. Certainly one could easily argue that as they incorporate Greg Smallwood’s fantastically-drawn living mummies, along with the American artist’s “raw and creepy” dilapidated underground train station, this comic book’s final five pages are worth the cover price alone.
The variant cover art of "MOON KNIGHT" No. 2 by Julian Tedesco

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Conan The Slayer #1 - Dark Horse Comics

CONAN THE SLAYER No. 1, July 2016
Cullen Bunn’s narrative for Issue One of “Conan The Slayer” certainly seems to be “one that fans will no doubt be familiar with” as the Ghastly Award nominee undoubtedly manages to capture the mood and feel of Robert E. Howard’s writing with this story of animalistic human savagery, gruesome mutilation and Turanian affairs of state. In fact in many ways “Blood In His Wake” actually reads like an adaptation of one of the Cimmerian’s genuine novels rather than simply a twenty-two page officially licensed comic book.

For starters the American author immediately replicates the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre’s writing technique by ‘picking up’ the “brazen” fighter’s adventure part-way through its telling and introducing the “black-haired, sullen-eyed” titular character literally just after he has single-handedly survived a large-scale battle in which the barbarian’s “proud desert wolves” have been slaughtered to a man by an all-encompassing Turanian host. As a result this publication’s audience are instantly thrown into a compellingly dramatic action sequence which follows the bloodied and bruised blacksmith’s son as he ambushes his heavily-armed pursuers with extreme prejudice and finds safety within the tent of a Kozak settlement; “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about them, Cimmerian. I have less use for Turanians than I do for warlords and even less for those who refuse to show respect to their betters.”

However Bunn’s script doesn’t simply rely upon providing plenty of panels depicting grisly decapitations and dismemberment in order to tell his tale. But instead additionally weaves the primal political machinations of the Hyborian Age into his work; something which gives a smattering of depth to Mykylo’s motivation for sparing Conan’s life after the bandit Hetman’s reputation is arrogantly insulted by three “Turanian bloodhounds.”   

Sadly Sergio Davila’s breakdowns for “number one hundred and thirty eight in a series” are not quite as good as the plot, and at times disappointingly appear both rushed and almost unexpectedly amateurish in their execution. There is little doubt that the former “Dynamite Entertainment” artist can produce some outstanding illustrations, as his double splash of the sinisterly shadowy Ghul menacing “the uncountable dead men” the Cimmerian “left in his wake” attests to. Yet his rather anatomically correct, distinctive drawings become increasingly less disciplined in their pencilling, as the comic progresses…
Script: Cullen Bunn, Artist: Sergio Davila, and Colors: Michael Atiyeh

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man [2015] #8 - Marvel Comics

As multi-issue story conclusions go, Dan Slott’s third and final part of “The Dark Kingdom” certainly manages to do a nice job of tying-up all of his narrative’s plot threads, and even succeeds in keeping the titular character’s romance with Lian Tang alive despite “his current girlfriend and designer of his spider-mobile… working for the terrorist organisation, Zodiac, in exchange for medical treatments for her dying mother.” But whilst Mister Negative’s defeat is all well and good, as is Cloak and Dagger’s return to normality now they’re immune to the villain’s poison, the “Arkham Asylum” author’s ending arguably must have struck many of this comic’s 71,599 strong audience as being a little too sickly sweet a finale for the infamously luckless Peter Parker. Certainly the Web-crawler’s morally righteous speech to his company’s female “mole” that he’d be a hypocrite “if we didn’t give you a chance to work with us… [to] take down Zodiac” seems rather conveniently contrived considering she had only just moments before caused thousands of pounds worth of damage whilst trying to kill him; “I promise to make this quick. If it helps. This isn’t personal.”

Fortunately, despite such reservations with its script, “Black & White” still proves to be a genuinely fun and thrilling read, crammed full of action sequences, such as the Shanghai Police Department’s battle with Martin Li’s demonic mask wearing minions, and the sort of smart-mouthed humorous banter that Spidey’s followers have come to expect. Indeed the “friendly neighbourhood” Web-spinner’s delightful remonstration of his old foe’s “worst Admiral Ackbar” impersonation ever as the ebony-skinned villain shouts “It’s a trap” in surprise, must have had the comic’s “Star Wars” fans smiling broadly.

Arguably somewhat less successful, though undoubtedly competently drawn, is Matteo Buffagni’s rather lifeless artwork. The Scuola Internazionale Di Comics graduate certainly knows how to pace a script, and does an especially fine job of storyboarding the hero’s fraught high-rise confrontation with his errant spider-mobile chauffeur, as well Cloak & Dagger's rescue of Quinghao after the “Humanitarian of the Year” is ordered to jump out of the multi-storey building’s window by the manipulative mind-controller Mister Negative. Yet sadly none of these theatrically dramatic occurrences appear particularly animated or even energic, and rather seem perturbingly two-dimensional despite Marte Gracia’s evident attempt to provide the figures with some much-needed depth courtesy of the Mexican’s colouring.
Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Matteo Buffagni, and Colorist Artist: Marte Gracia

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Harrow County #3 - Dark Horse Comics

HARROW COUNTY No. 3, July 2015
Despite depicting fiery ghosts rising from beneath their long-forgotten grave markers, the haunting whispers of an adolescent boy’s skin confined within a satchel, and the gory body of an “angry, ferocious” haint, the most disturbing element of Cullen Bunn’s plot to Issue Three of “Harrow County” must undoubtedly be the savage murderous attempt to kill Emmy by the girl’s own Pa; “It’s good that you’ll be gone before you realize -- what you are! Stay back! Let me finish this!” Indeed the sequence where the tearful yet perturbingly determined farmer brutally throttles his daughter before the eyes of her friend Bernice must have chilled many of this comic’s 9,189 readers to their very bones.

But whilst the somewhat unthinkable attack upon his teenage child may well have unsettled many of this horrific tale’s audience, the American noir author’s narrative also uses this distressing situation as the catalyst for the protagonist’s realisation, and swift acceptance, that although she was “not some monster”, she “can be.” This sudden loss of all innocence in the lead character is “deftly written” by the Bram Stoker Award nominee, especially when it at first appears to convince the bloodied blonde that she must find “a way to get rid of” her father “and to make sure he stayed gone… forever.”

Equally as compelling as Bunn’s narrative though, has to be the “beautifully drawn” illustration work of Tyler Crook. The former “sports video games” artist does a terrific job in captivating the eye with his brightly coloured blazing ghosts wordlessly mouthing words of warning to the startled trespassers. But it’s his incredibly emotive facial expressions found upon the figures of the living which really help tell this story of paternal betrayal and treachery. In fact the utterly astounded look in young Emmy’s eyes as her Pa mercilessly strangles her whilst all the while telling her he’s sorry, followed by the young woman’s almost malevolent look as she subsequently considers the battered and bruised farmer’s fate, is actually far more hauntingly impactive than the comic’s cliff-hanger when a sobbing naïve witch inadvertently disturbs the slumber of a four-eyed demonic creature that “would just as soon kill the girl as lay eyes upon her.”
Script: Cullen Bunn, Art and Lettering: Tyler Crook, and Pinup Art: Shane White

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

James Bond #5 - Dynamite Entertainment

JAMES BOND No. 5, March 2016
Somewhat slower in places than its previous instalments, and certainly far wordier once the titular character returns to the relative safety of his superior’s office on the Albert Embankment in London, Warren Ellis’ narrative for Issue Five of “James Bond” still manages to imitate the franchise’s recognisable motion picture formula of sinister espionage and mastermind machinations by presenting a genuinely thrilling, no-nonsense grudge fight between the British secret agent and his nemesis Kurjak’s main assassin, the cybernetically enhanced ex-marine Dharma Reach.

Indeed, the sociocultural commentator dedicates almost the entire second half of this twenty-two page periodical to resolving the pair’s final confrontation, and even self-indulges in a thirteen panel sequence depicting the former Royal Naval Reserve Commander’s own motor vehicle being ambushed by his opponent as its being driven “through one of the old docks in the east.” There’s even room for the multiple Eagle Award-winner to illustrate Bond’s darker side by having the groggy, battered spy sadistically tell his would-be murderess that he actually tortured her homicidal lover Bryan Masters before killing him; something which understandably throws the woman into an uncontrollable rage and thus buys 007 some much-needed time in order to scramble free of the debilitating car wreckage.

Ellis is also able to incorporate the occasional reference to his subject matter’s previous adventures into the mix, such as having the intelligence officer’s driver at Heathrow use James’ “Diamonds Are Forever” alias “Peter Franks” on the arrivals placard; “You’re a funny man, Bill. I’d come over there and shoot you if I still had a gun.” Such delightful nods to the secret serviceman's formidable history doubtless caused a knowing smile amongst many of this publication’s 15,667 strong audience, as must have M’s familiar spikiness when he dispatches his unarmed operative to liaise with some MI5 colleagues, and reminds Bond he’ll have just his wits to rely upon.

Equally as impressive, despite having to handle a somewhat sedentary script, is Jason Masters’ artwork. The South African penciller really manages to capture the fierce manly arrogance of Sean Connery’s silver screen performance, without his protagonist actually bearing the actor’s physical features. As a result, a dapperly dressed 007 appears wonderfully at ease during the animated action sequences, and later dangerously constricted within the confines of his suit when moodily sat during a debriefing.
Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Jason Masters, and Colors: Guy Major

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Revenger #1 - UK Comics Creative

REVENGER No. 1, September 2014
One of the highlights of the May 2016 “MCM London Comic Con”, Issue One of “Revenger” is undoubtedly a title worthy of its front page “suggested for mature readers” warning, with its grisly depictions of brutal beatings, gruesome gunplay and graphically explicit sex. In fact it’s hard to imagine a more disturbingly violent narrative than the one played out within this twenty-four page self-published periodical as headless torsos, bodiless entrails and sadomasochistic paraphernalia populate its panels.

However for those readers able to stomach such wanton carnage as a maimed drug dealer having his head blown away by a former British Para, mentally scarred by the mutilation and dismemberment he witnessed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Warwick Fraser-Coombe has undoubtedly crafted a narrative which is both packed full of suspenseful action and laugh-out-loud humour. It’s certainly hard not to guffaw when the mask-wearing vigilante finishes off his opponent Jason Fell with a sawn-off shotgun despite his victim’s demand to “call me an ambulance”; “You’re an ambulance.” Boom!

Fortunately the former Parachute Regiment Reserve writer proves just as adept at providing his ‘post 2008 banking collapse’ world with a strong element of gritty realism, as he does interspersing his blood-soaked storyline with moments of humour. Roger is undoubtedly not a comic book "hood and cape" character who miraculously manages to dodge bullets and shrug off punches. Indeed the writer goes to quite extraordinary lengths to demonstrate just how fragile the heavily-armed rookie actually is by having him bleed profusely upon receiving his very first blow to the head and then later ends this ‘Prologue’ on a knife’s edge courtesy of a somewhat claret-covered Revenger desperately trying to staunch his wounds within his semi-detached home, whilst the local Police Constabulary encircle the residence.

Having penned such a wonderfully absorbing tale as “Coming Home From War To A House Full Of Snakes”, Fraser-Coombe’s artwork additionally does a terrific job in depicting all the savagery of what is clearly “a very personal project”. His highly stylized, somewhat raw, drawing style is reminiscent of “Nemesis The Warlock” co-creator Kevin O’Neil and really imbues his fight scenes with some alarmingly dynamic energy.
Artwork, Story and Lettering: Warwick Fraser-Coombe

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Doctor Strange [2015] #6 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 6, May 2016
Predominantly focusing upon the magically-charged confrontation between the comic’s titular character and the Empirikul’s Imperator, Issue Six of “Doctor Strange” certainly showed its 52,440 strong audience in March 2016 just how doggedly determined the former “preeminent surgeon” could be when faced with an opponent he apparently cannot best… and likewise demonstrated to its readership the formidable power wielded by the deadly globe-headed spell-caster purifiers.

Indeed, Jason Aaron’s opening chapter to “The Last Days Of Magic” really seems to have gone that extra mile to exhibit just how truly cataclysmic the Sorcerer Supreme’s supernatural abilities really are by having Stephen literally “drain the Dragon Lines [and] drain the Earth itself of all its magical energy” in order to try and lay a decisive ‘smack down’ upon his terrifying opponents; “Abracadabra, You son of a bitch!”

Previous displays of “such power” by the Ancient One’s successor have usually been limited to him simply evoking a dread-sounding incantation or perhaps had the book’s illustrator sketch a flamboyant splash reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s Sixties surrealistic work. But for this twenty-page periodical the Alabama-born author’s script instead meticulously details the “Man of Magic” breathlessly fending off his lethal attackers with captivating shrubbery, numerous abandoned automobiles, the thick black tar-like despair of the Bronx and Harlem, as well as the bestial fire from the planet’s very heart. In fact in many ways this entire comic is arguably just one long battle between the “Little Wizard” and his monotone-coloured would-be killers, with the Harvey Award-winner’s narrative only occasionally giving its audience pause for breath with the briefest of interludes.

Fortunately these glimpses into the worldwide battle against the Empirikul’s forces are equally as enthralling as Doctor Strange’s toe-to-toe slugfest with the high and almighty Imperator, courtesy of artist Chris Bachalo weaving an incredible amount of characterful cameos throughout the action. Doctor Voodo, Professor Xu, Mahatma Doom, Hellstorm, Scarlet Witch, Wong, Count Kaoz, Magik, Shaman and Talisman all join Chondu and Monako in their fight against the crew of “a giant eyeball ship in the sky”. Whilst the publication’s secondary short story features the ‘demise’ of such notables as Mistress Miraculous, Mister Sunny, Lady Butters, Snoozy, Bipples and Captain Kazoo.
The variant cover art of "DOCTOR STRANGE" No. 6 by Butch Guice