Sunday, 31 December 2017

All-Star Batman #6 - DC Comics

ALL-STAR BATMAN No. 6, March 2017
As a concept, the idea of Mister Freeze waking up “nearly five hundred people around the nation [currently] sleeping in ice, held in cryogenic stasis” and eradicating all other life through the release of a millennia-old deadly bacteria, is a pretty solid one. Unfortunately for this comic’s 84,296 buyers however, Scott Snyder’s decision to step away from the (tried and tested) traditional storytelling technique to one where the tale is told through the words of a narrator, is disastrously detrimental and arguably acts as a significant barrier to any enjoyment “DC Comics” presumably hoped to bring by publishing this adventure.

Admittedly, not everything is wrong with the Harvey Award-winner’s writing. For example, he wonderfully tricks the reader at the start of “Ends Of The Earth” by fooling them into believing it was a young Bruce Wayne who “had to memorize a poem for a school assignment” when it was actually Victor Fries. Yet such bookish cleverness isn’t enough to tie down any perusing bibliophile with the rest of the dialogueless drivel the New York author has on offer within this twenty-three page periodical, especially when the former cryogenics expert’s plan is supposedly thwarted by the titular lead having earlier infected himself with a virus which “hidden… in his body, his blood” would “when his skin was exposed… become airborne…”

Just as off-putting as the narration style though has to be Mark Simpson’s disconcerting and oft-times somewhat confusing artwork. There’s a lot to admire in Jock’s early frames as the Batman stoically stalks through an Alaskan blizzard, some “three hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle”. Whilst the Scots-born illustrator’s renderings of Freeze’s carbon-bonded ice zombies are as chillingly well-conceived as the biologically tough creatures are apparently immune to the effects of batarangs. But as soon as the action abates, and Nora’s husband settles down to the sedentary telling of “over fifty years worth of dreamers, all hoping to be woken up one day to a better world”, the scratchy drawing style starts to appear wooden, angular and downright unattractive.

Sadly, there’s little to like with this magazine’s secondary story, “The Cursed Wheel” either, despite Snyder’s attempt to throw his audience straight into the action by having Batman and Duke facing one of the Riddler’s explosive conundrums right from the opening splash-page. Featuring the typically colourful and characterful visuals of Francesco Francavilla, this short-lived crossword game using an apartment block and its aghast occupants makes little sense whatsoever due to its rushed pace and inaccessible over-reliance upon its fanbase having previously read up on Thomas’ journey as the Dark Knight’s latest side-kick; “You need to be patient. You’re doing great work, but you’re only half-way through the wheel."
Script: Scott Snyder, Artist: Jock, and Colors: Matt Hollingsworth

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Warhammer 40,000: Will Of Iron #2 - Titan Comics

WARHAMMER 40,000: WILL OF IRON No. 2, December 2016
Considering that Issue Two of “Warhammer 40,000: Will Of Iron” is only twenty pages long, George Mann somehow still manages to cram an incredible amount of diverging sub-plots within its narrative. Sadly however, whilst such an informative read makes Kalidius’ early subterranean sojourn into “an underground city” full of survivors a tense, excitingly atmospheric experience, it also means that by the time the storyline has leapt from the planet Exyrion to “an ancient observation platform”, and then on to the feudal world of Tintaroth, events, as well as the vast cast of characters involved, have become both overcomplicated and overwhelming to say the least. 

As a result, once the adventure finally settles upon the Chaos Space Marine spaceship fast approaching the Calaphax Cluster, it is somewhat hard to actually work out just which planet Korus is partially planning to destroy with his “Engine of Death”. In fact, without re-reading the series’ preceding instalment again, as this book’s early summarisation makes no reference at all to the machinations of the Iron Warriors Chaos Lord, its impossibly hard to recall just what secrets Rendix and Astorax are hoping to crack open once the missile has detonated upon “the Hive”. 

Equally as confusing to those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of “Warhammer 40K” lore, is Astor Sabbathiel’s “current goal… to uncover whether the Dark Angels are secretly riddled with heresy.” Apparently already convinced of the treachery of Lion El'Jonson’s legion due to the affidavit of an incarcerated “thing”, the Inquisitor unwisely visits a “weather station” potentially “designed to keep a watchful eye on Exyrion” and then barely bats an eye when one of her entourage notices that “after all this time, the air recyclers are still functioning.” The installation clearly reeks of being a trap set by “the creeping things of the warp”, so why is the Ordo Hereticus devotee so convinced that Anya’s discovery of a handful of bullet-riddled corpses found on board is “the evidence you’ve been looking for”..?

Clearly this publications saving grace though is the outstanding artwork of Tazio Bettin, which is so mesmerising and claustrophobically coloured by Enrica Eren Angiolini, that its almost immaterial how convoluted the storyline has become. The wonderfully drawn illustrations simply carry the reader’s eye along despite the aforementioned somewhat choppy script, and one can actually feel the heavy, living weight of the giant horned hounds as they momentarily fall upon Baltus’ squad and are then eviscerated by his sergeant’s chainsword; “There are spoors here. The place must be guard --”
The regular cover art of "WARHAMMER 40,000: WILL OF IRON" No. 2 by Fabio Listrani

Friday, 29 December 2017

Hulk [2016] #6 - Marvel Comics

HULK No. 6, July 2017
As conclusions to scintillatingly scary six-parters go, Mariko Tamaki’s script for Issue Six of “Hulk” must arguably have been a major disappointment for this magazine’s 20,482 followers, with the periodical’s opening half seemingly stalling the inevitable change from Jennifer Walters into the ‘gamma green goddess’, and its latter pages overcomplicating what should have been a cataclysmic fist-fight by having the titular character not only battling a sentient building, but also trying to rescue a suddenly suicidal Maise Brewn; "I'll burn this whole place to the ground before you take me." In fact, compared to the tight, orchestrated writing of this adventure’s previous instalments, this particular twenty-page publication’s storyline appears awkwardly paced and choppily plotted. 

For starters, any pretence that Brewn’s apartment building merely contains a lethal non-human killer lurking within its shadowy hallways and corridors, is completely thrown aside in favour of the accommodation block visibly manifesting itself into a multi-storey homicidal creature of brick and mortar. This change of tact at least provides the Canadian writer with an opportunity to detail how the monster looks to the general “Hey! We have a right to be here!” public, yet somewhat ruins the mysterious claustrophobic atmosphere of the piece which the script has previously tried so very hard to maintain.

Likewise, just as soon as Walters is encircled by the building’s tendrils it is obvious what is going to happen next, so just why Tamaki decides to waste several frames trying to implicate that Jennifer’s transformation was fear-related appears rather nonsensical. Surely, the “lawyer” could simply be shown to have been motivated wholly by anger at her first client’s misplaced belief that the She-Hulk’s alter-ego had somehow betrayed her? Why the utter injustice at Maise’s indignant, self-righteous delusion that Walters is the monster, and by horribly mutilating innocent people she is simply protecting herself, would certainly warrant Stan Lee’s co-creation losing her control in my book, especially when the human mutate is next of the murderer's list… 

Artist Nico Leon similarly appears just as confused as to where this tale is heading, with the freelance comic book illustrator’s drawings becoming increasingly undisciplined (and rather sloppy) as the action progresses. Indeed, inconsistent artwork would appear to be this edition’s biggest downfall with the building’s living embodiment harkening back to the appearance of the Sub-Mariner’s rival, Orka, and the Hulk disconcertingly suffering with a bright green vein which quite ludicrously runs right across the bridge of her nose.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki, Artist: Nico Leon, and Color Artist: Matt Milla

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Micronauts First Strike #1 - IDW Publishing

MICRONAUTS FIRST STRIKE No. 1, September 2017
Publicised by “IDW Publishing” as a “cosmic alliance” between the “Earth’s smallest heroes” and “Rom”, this “Hasbro comic book event” must have proved a bitter disappointment to its readership, not least of which because the Knight of the Solstar Order doesn’t even make an actual appearance in this twenty-page periodical until its very ending. Indeed, the cosmic superhero originally created for “Parker Brothers” as an action figure only appears in the magazine’s final four frames, yet still just long enough to disconcertingly transform from being the Micronauts’ much-sought after benefactor in their fight against Wraith “magic”, into an unforgiving killing machine who alarmingly misanalyses his tiny allies as his deadliest foes?

Christos Gage’s script for Issue One of “Micronauts First Strike” also suffers from containing some marked similarities to the 1989 motion picture “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, by depicting Microtron and Biotron narrowly avoiding the scything blades of a motorised lawnmower. It even includes a somewhat shrinking scene where one of the robots attempts to communicate with a garden invertebrate and then later, depicts Acroyear wrenching loose a (giant) daisy and unromantically offering it to space glider Phenolo-Phi in order to help the “rebel” feel better after Oziron Rael’s departure to become “a time traveller.” 

Admittedly, the American screenwriter’s narrative contains some elements to enjoy, such as the Dire Wraiths’ attempt to mutate “common Earth insects” into “biological weapons designed to infect native humans by a form of energy unknown in Microspace”, and the Micronauts’ subsequently bloody battle with a small coven of extra-terrestrial sorcerers. But even these pleasurable passages of action-packed fisticuffs are ultimately underwhelming due to some truly stilted dialogue and an ultimately illogical, yet all-pervading lack of menace towards the miniscule lead characters; “No time! Save yourself! And avenge me.” In fact, rather than squash their opponents when they have them at the mercy of the Dark Arts, the Dire Wraiths somewhat inexplicably release their foes so that their “enemies will take care of themselves.”

Sadly, this publication’s biggest hindrance however, is Chris Panda’s less than impressive artwork. The French pinup illustrator’s drawing style, which sports thick black lines that run around the entirety of his figures, doesn’t really suit the technologically advanced look of the titular team and definitely provides a great disservice to the look of the Dire Wraiths, which at times appear as if they’ve been sketched by an overenthusiastic amateur adolescent.
Written by: Christos Gage, Art by: Chris Panda, and Colors by: David Garcia Cruz