Saturday, 31 March 2018

Red Sonja #3 - Dynamite Entertainment

RED SONJA No. 3, March 2017
Covering an awful lot of ground within the space of a single twenty-page periodical, from the titular character’s costume swap to the Hyrkanian’s reunion “with her trusty sword”, Amy Chu’s over-reliance upon manufactured set-pieces to help “the She-Devil” more easily communicate with her supporting cast and quickly track down “her old foe” Kulan Gath, must have increasingly troubled this comic’s 15,382 readers. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a more contrived set of circumstances than that which befalls the ‘sword and sorcery’ heroine as she discovers that Spike’s “workout gear [from] behind the bar” fits her curvaceous frame perfectly, and that the mixologist’s girlfriend at Columbia University just so happens to be working on a Hyborian studies thesis, so readily speaks the red-headed warrior’s language; “<I’ve studied it for the last five years. Pull up a chair. I need to hear your whole story…>”

Incredibly however, even these coincidences fail to compare to the Boston-born writer’s misguided belief that a warrior woman from a mythical land can simply hop onto a modern-day motorbike, pull off a pretty impressive-looking Evel Knievel wheelie and then speed off onto the New York City freeway just because Robert E. Howard’s creation has watched Sir Max of Bushwick ride the machine once before. Admittedly, Sonja’s freshly found skill does provide this comic with a momentous opportunity to have the sword-wielding six-footer, complete with a biker’s black leather jacket, momentarily mow down her assailants and subsequently careen through the Big Apple’s intolerant traffic. But for many this Borg-like assimilation of a modern-day transportation mode is debatably taking a person’s willing suspension of disbelief a step too far…

Fortunately though, all these fortuitous affairs are sketched by Carlos Gomez, so even if their lack of gritty realism grates upon the nerves, each providential progression is at least illustrated with plenty of life-imbuing vigour. Indeed, this publication’s conclusion, which depicts Sonja and her friends crashing the Columbia Centre for Hyborian Studies Annual Dinner, provides an otherwise lack-lustre narrative with some much needed excitement as the professional penciller draws the leading lady disarming gun-toting agents with her thigh-knife and denting their heads with the hilt of her formidably-sized blade; “See. Sir Max? I kill no one.” Plus, the Spaniard also even manages to please the pulp fiction devotees with a fleeting glimpse of the Kingdom of Meru’s Grand Bazaar “before it was destroyed by the evil sorcerer Kulan Gath.”
The regular cover art of "RED SONJA" No. 3 by Mike McKone

Friday, 30 March 2018

All-Star Batman #14 - DC Comics

ALL-STAR BATMAN No. 14, December 2017
Only the Twenty-Ninth best-selling title in October 2017, at least according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, this decisive instalment of the so-called “crown jewel of DC Rebirth” arguably depicts its titular character at his most impotent and ineffective, with Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego repeatedly requiring an airborne machinegun-toting Alfred Pennyworth to rescue him from the clutches of Briar and the scything blades of the Nemesis Program’s Dark Knight. In fact, the Caped Crusader is so poorly portrayed within this “final issue of Scott Snyder’s high-octane run on All-Star Batman” that it’s 55,614 readers were probably extremely grateful the book was being cancelled, especially when in its closing moments the new York-born writer has the cowled crime-fighter on his knees literally begging his superior opponent to look inside himself and find “a piece of you that’s good and kind” so the victorious combatant won’t kill him..!

To make matters worse, the assailant who has defeated Batman every time they have fought throughout this piratical-themed story-arc, and usually within the time it takes to peruse a single panel, is revealed to be none other than a young clone of the billionaire playboy’s butler who has been brain-washed by MI5’s elderly rogue operative; “He’s written from you, from cells you left behind. But with no life to separate him from, no father, no mother. This boy, he’s all you could have been and more.” Such a ludicrously absurd revelation would ordinarily prove impossible to outmatch, yet incredibly the Stan Lee Award-winner achieves this by subsequently proposing that the cold-hearted killer with an established track-record of murder and mayhem, would instantly turn upon his father-figure and betray him after simply hearing a few words from a badly wounded, grovelling in the blood-soaked sand Batman.!?!

Fortunately, this twenty-two periodical’s one redeeming feature is Rafael Albuquerque’s pencils, inks and cover. Snyder publically stated upon the news of this title’s cancellation that he wanted to give his scripts’ artists “creative freedom so I’d be challenged to write differently, [and] try new things”. But in the case of Issue Fourteen of “All-Star Batman” it is undoubtedly the abilities of the “exclusive artist from DC Comics” whose skills were sorely tested in order to turn the American author’s bizarre ‘retconning’ of Alfred’s military background into something which was at least pleasing to the eye.

Indeed, the Brazilian illustrator, along with collaborative writer Rafael Scavone, additionally provides this comic’s secondary tale, “Killers-In-Law”, with a noticeably nice touch by divulging that the vicious, heavily tattooed Princes Vik whom the Caped Crusader bested during an arms deal at the Moscow Canal in Russia, is these days better known as the Head of the Myasnik Family. This “Killer Queen” is then cleverly depicted by the “co-creator of American Vampire” selling the secret location of the Genesis Engine to the Black and Whites, thereby setting in motion the events of Scott’s “The First Ally” narrative.
Script: Scott Snyder, and Pencils, Inks & Cover: Rafael Albuquerque

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Cyber Force #1 - Image Comics

CYBER FORCE No. 1, March 2018
Described by co-writer Matt Hawkins as “a combination of a continuation and an origin story”, this re-imagining of Marc Silvestri’s Nineties “Top Cow Productions” comic book series treads some decidedly familiar ground for those readers acquainted with the 1987 American science fiction film “RoboCop”, or its more recent 2014 remake by producer José Padilha. For whilst Issue One of “Cyber Force” has undoubtedly been designed to allow first-time readers of the series “to fully get everything” without them having “read anything prior to this”, in doing so it contains some astonishing similarities to the aforementioned motion pictures due to its narrative focusing upon a security guard who when ‘fatally wounded’ by a criminal is subsequently transformed by a “megacorporation” into “a superhuman cyborg law enforcer”.

Fortunately for this twenty-page periodical’s audience though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this book’s creative team hasn’t got some enthralling surprises up their sleeves for them, with Morgan’s mask-wearing armoured assailant proving to be a particularly enigmatic nemesis when it is later revealed that the cold-blooded terrorist not only seemingly knew who he was, but also failed to finish him off despite killing everyone else at the Cupertino facility. Indeed, the so-called “firewall against your march towards destruction” looks set to be a particularly intriguing antagonist with their misplaced self-righteous belief that they are all of humanity’s saviour and clearly need to gun down dozens of hapless, innocent civilians in order to prove that point; “You have made gods of machines. But these gods shall not be merciful. These gods will be cruel. I have seen their judgement fall upon you.”

Equally as engaging is this publication’s other leading character, the eighteen-year old Carin, who desperate to see her father’s life saved, naively provides the legal authority necessary in order for him to be transformed into “the pinnacle of human achievement.” This well-written, emotionally-charged scene is made all the more poignant when the ‘camera’ pans out and reveals that the tearful teenager is actually chairbound herself, and whilst clearly not in the least bit interested in the “fiscal compensation associated” with her consent, is undoubtedly attracted to the prospect of being able to walk unaided herself.

Perhaps slightly less successful than this comic’s stimulating script, is some of the artwork drawn by Atilio Rojo. There can be little argument that the Spanish illustrator predominantly does a competent job throughout this tome, with his pencilling of the heavily-armed extremist proving one of the book’s highlights. Yet every now and then the freelancer’s figures appear a little two-dimensionally wooden, such as when Morgan faces his daughter for the first time since his operation, and realises that his benefactor’s “now… own us both.”
Written by: Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill, and Art by: Atilio Rojo

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Star Trek: Boldly Go #17 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 17, February 2018
Having previously built-up a somewhat engaging gallery of alternate James Tiberius Kirks in this story-arc’s earlier editions, and then rather savagely eliminated them all with a scratch of his pen, Mike Johnson’s explanation for his actions within Issue Seventeen of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” probably didn’t go down all that well with the book’s audience in March 2017, especially as it hark backs to them having some knowledge of his previously published “Kelvin timeline adaptation” of The Original Series (“TOS”) episode Where No Man Has Gone Before". Indeed, in many ways this twenty-page periodical’s narrative, which frustratingly once again just predominantly flits through numerous incarnations of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s Captain, demonstrates just why the American author should have heeded his own advice when he first started working on the comic book title and ‘promised’ he would just “divide [the] stories up into one-parters, two-parters, [and] three-parters”, stating he “probably won’t do more than that because it would be three months in real time for the story to play out for the reader.”

Sadly however, even a comprehensive understanding of Samuel A. Peeples's original 1965 television pilot and Gary Mitchell’s fearsome telepathic/telekinetic powers arguably doesn’t actually help make this magazine’s script any more enjoyable, as “IDW’s Kelvin Universe scribe” additionally seems to use the formidable scoring Duke-Heidelberg Quotient test subject as a contrived excuse to showcase a plethora of “infinite realities” where “the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans conquer each other’s homeworlds, and vice versa”; “I’ve been trying to keep score. The Klingons have a healthy lead so far.” This somewhat short sequence is admittedly rather intriguing and well pencilled by artist Marcus To, yet as with the aforementioned Kirk carousel, doesn’t add anything to an already over-convoluted and punishingly padded out plot, except perhaps the possibility that somewhere ‘out there’ exists a Godzilla-sized James T. battling a blue-skinned giant insectoid across a futuristic cityscape…

To make matters worse, this comic’s cliff-hanger conclusion, which depicts both Starfleet Officers arguing above the mutated lieutenant’s coffin in outer space, appears to have been entirely manufactured just to string out Johnson’s ineffectual “Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations” for one further issue. Mitchell makes it clear to his former friend that in his eyes he has the power of a God, and has already used that power to eradicate all the “infinite Gary’s out there”. Considering that he also plans to do the same with all the Kirks, why therefore does he risk everything by willingly giving his hated rival “part of my power” in order to “fight it out”, particularly when he knows full well that he’s being goaded into giving his opponent his “only chance of beating me”..?
The regular cover art of "STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO" No. 17 by Marcus To

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman #2 - DC Comics

Despite providing the Dark Knight with far more ‘screen time’ than its preceding edition, Liam Sharp’s script for Issue Two of “The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman” arguably still badly bogs itself down amidst the mythological weeds of Tir Na Nog and magic, to the point where much of the dialogue taking place within this twenty-two page periodical proves incomprehensible gobbledegook, or at best, a tiring banal read. In fact, there are debatably passages within this book, such King McCool’s speech “on behalf of the De Danann” or later Bruce Wayne’s laboriously lengthy explanation as to the tangible reality of enchantments, which genuinely must have tried the fortitude of even the most patient of bookworms.

Frustratingly for a publication featuring two of “DC Comics” ‘holy trinity’, there isn’t even any action to speak of with which to break up this monotony either, unless of course the co-founder of “Madefire Incorporated” felt Batman’s muscle-straining flight from “the dark spirit visions of the Phooka” was pulse-pounding enough to sate the adrenalin junkies within his audience..? Certainly, the Dark Knight’s tentative reaching out for a simple brick wall whilst being hollered at down his ear-piece by an increasingly anxious Alfred Pennyworth is about as exciting as this magazine’s plot gets, with perhaps the possible exception of Diana momentarily hoisting Captain Furf aloft and threatening to “end it” if the grotesque, skeletal-like warrior doesn’t stop threatening to kill Donal of the De Danann for the “murder of Eleatha, High King of the Fomorians”.

Quite possibly the only intriguing aspect to “In The Court Of The De Danann” therefore, apart from its British author’s marvellously detailed pencilling and fantastic-looking ghostly ghouls, is the strangely enigmatic hobo living within the Irish Quarter of Gotham City. Long-haired and weather-worn, the homeless vagabond predominantly speaks utter gibberish in his attempt to pacify his long departed “dear old ex-wife [named] Molly”, whose love the man seemingly lost whilst travelling “the length and breadth of Ireland” in search of “a way into fair Tir Na Nog”. This “last of the Gotham druids” apparently knows far more about the old places buried beneath the metropolis’ office blocks and car parks than he lets on, and his eventual discovery of a gateway to “freedom” at the end of his dilapidated, detritus-laden garden provides a surprising moment of emotional entertainment…
Writer/Artist: Kevin Sharp, and Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Monday, 26 March 2018

V-Wars #3 - IDW Publishing

V-WARS No. 3, June 2014
As the “War between Bloods (vampires) and Beasts (humans) continues to escalate” the plot to Issue Three of “V-Wars” most probably struck its dwindling 5,866 readership as a fairly run-of-the-mill tale which focused upon the “under-manned” Vampire Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism Field Team Victor Eight obtaining a new member in the form of twenty-five year-old Corporal Taurus Harper. Indeed, almost the entirety of Jonathan Maberry’s narrative for “A Puppy And A Picture Of His Kid” dwells upon the National Guardsman heroically fighting off all manner of vampires, whether they be gun-toting rioters at the Saint Thomas Housing Project in Brooklyn, or super-strong ghoulish “Middle-Eastern monsters”, in order for the “Newbie” to successfully become accepted by his team-mates; “We don’t have a learning curve. Genghis and Zman are going to kick your ass. Try not to let them. Show us you deserve to run with our pack.” The “New York Times bestselling author” even throws in a few sedentary barroom scenes between the “killer with a heart” and Luther Swann so as to help promote the “real soldier” to his audience and firmly establish that he isn’t simply “a gung-ho kind of guy.”

However, all of this multi-layered character development and exposition is shockingly spun upon its head with the turn of this publication’s final page, as the “magazine feature writer” stunningly has the “one-man wrecking crew” remove a set of fake teeth so as to expose pointed canines and his triumphant infiltration of Big Dog’s squad on behalf of the Crimson Queen. This revelation, which wonderfully comes completely out of the blue, genuinely makes this comic worth perusing a second time, if only to see just how very clever the Bloods have been in engineering the kill-team’s penetration and perhaps to reinterpret Taurus’ haunted looks at the dead Edimmu he recently killed as not being a man upset at senseless slaughter, but actually as a Vampire distraught at the slaying of his own brethren…

Of course in hindsight, Harper’s subterfuge could arguably be seen in Alan Robinson’s excellent pencilling. For whilst the vast majority of this book’s cast are healthily drawn, with square jaws, strong necks and well-filled clothing, the Chilean artist instead illustrates the man who has supposedly “acted in the best traditions of the National Guard” as a gaunt, overly thin figure, whose ill-fitting uniform consistently appears a few sizes too large, and yet still (inexplicably) appears to be more physically robust than his bigger comrades.
The regular cover art of "V-WARS" No. 3 by Ryan Brown

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Kong Of Skull Island #7 - BOOM! Studios

KONG OF SKULL ISLAND No. 7, January 2017
Set during the aftermath of “BOOM! Studios” original six-issue mini-series, James Asmus’ script for the seventh instalment of “Kong Of Skull Island” must surely have disappointed many of its readers with a plot that despite its gore-flecked violent action, doesn’t actually take the saga’s story forward any further until the publication’s final page. Indeed, for much of this twenty-two page periodical’s narrative it’s debatably difficult to even understand what the majority of this comic’s minimum-sized cast are actually doing, especially the plot’s two Kong Hunters who supposedly believe that the best way to eliminate a formidably tall gorilla is to incense the hairy beast to the point where it goes on an uncontrollable killing frenzy and unsurprisingly batters at least one of the nearly naked savages to death with a thwack of its fist..!

Admittedly, the Stan Lee Excelsior Award-nominee’s script starts off sensibly enough, with his previous story-arc’s heroine, Ewata, recognising her “duty to serve in my daughter’s place [as Queen] until she is old enough to rule.” However, no sooner has this ceremony taken place than the focus shifts to the ostracised Kong Valla, and the animal’s somewhat sedentary daily routine of foraging amidst a herd of Triceratops, scaring off Velociraptors from her watering hole and sleeping in the lair of her defeated enemies; an arguably idyllic lifestyle which is only brought to a sudden end by the mammal's discovery of “a miner with a broken leg, who had been injured in a tunnel collapse.”

Just why the “enormous gorilla-like ape” decides to safely carry the wounded man all the way back to the human settlement which has banished her is somewhat debatable, but their journey does then rather artificially set the primate up to be the subject of Utal’s bizarre trap utilising a ragamuffin scarecrow packed full of “incense… handed down generations” and a length of rope the savage B’San unwisely decides to tug in order to release the “pheromones”. Understandably the ensuing carnage results in at least one of the hunters being literally flattened, yet also leads to a surprisingly sudden sequence, albeit beautifully illustrated by Carlos Magno, where a pair of Deathrunners unwisely decide to attack one of Skull Island’s plant-eating dinosaurs and promptly get torn asunder by the manically-fuelled Kong.

This limb-ripping confrontation, as well as the aforementioned trek back to the Tagu-Atu village, was presumably penned to suggest that Valla is already beginning to establish herself as the isle’s protector. However, any semblance of sense is soon lost once the battle is over and “The Untamed” inexplicably bounds off a cliff-top into an underlying lagoon which co-incidentally just happens to lead to a small mewing baby ape and its seriously scarred, mean-looking mother…
Writer: James Asmus, Illustrator: Carlos Magno, and Colors: Jeremy Lawson

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Red Sonja #2 - Dynamite Entertainment

RED SONJA No. 2, February 2017
Initially settling upon the She-Devil’s disconcertingly quick adaption “to her new surroundings”, Issue Two of “Red Sonja certainly seems to start out well enough with its portrayal of the woman warrior spearing a duck at the North end of Central park, Near Harlem, and then racking up an eight hundred dollar beer tab in a local bustling bar. Indeed, up until Kulan Gath catches sight of a series of viral ‘selfies’ of the Hyborian Age heroine on social media, it appears that “this world is not so different from” the titular character's beloved Hyrkania, especially as she appears perfectly capable of effortlessly besting any and all of the public house’s clientele at arm-wrestling; “This pretty lady beat ya fair n’ square.”

Unsurprisingly, this ‘blissful state of affairs’ doesn’t last overly long, as Agent Smith, alongside her supposed N.S.A. cronies, arrive in order to (once again) detain the soundly sleeping “illegal alien” for their “boss” and inadvertently start an ever-escalating barroom brawl where punches are thrown, chairs smashed and heads painfully cracked together all within the space of a handful of panels. However, whilst Max's decision to allow his former prisoner to spend the night at his flat following their flight from this pulse-pounding sequence is perhaps understandable, it does mark a point in the narrative where Amy Chu’s writing arguably leaves its ‘realistic’ rails and quite possibly made some of this comic’s 14,721 readers a little nervous as to the direction this book may be taking.

Admittedly, despite some brief nudity there’s no suggestion that the “New York City cop” and his red-headed friend become intimate, far from it in fact, but the revelation that the undocumented orphan of the 1977 blackout is capable of magically making items disappear if he spins them fast enough simply smacks of ‘super-powers’ at a time when the script was seemingly trying to promote an aura of ‘pragmatism’ to its proceedings. Certainly, the albeit brief scene debatably jars the reader straight out of the storytelling and disappointingly suggests that rather than ‘visiting’ our own world, Sonja has simply found herself ‘trapped’ within yet another comic book version of the Big Apple…

Despite such a disheartening plot-twist, there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with this twenty-page periodical’s artwork, even if the majority of the publication is rather sedentary in nature and dialogue-heavy. Carlos Gomez was clearly in top-form when he pencilled the book’s barroom sequence, as it’s absolutely packed with punters drinking, cheering and applauding the scantily-attired six-footer. Whilst the Spaniard also has the opportunity at the start of the comic to once again pencil the Hyborian Age as a demonic dragon-riding Gath momentarily lays waste to the Meruvians.
The regular cover art of "RED SONJA" No. 2 by Mike McKone

Friday, 23 March 2018

All-Star Batman #13 - DC Comics

ALL-STAR BATMAN No. 13, October 2017
In many ways, it’s a pity that “DC Comics” didn’t decide to cancel “All-Star Batman” before Scott Snyder finished writing the script to “The First Ally” and it was serialised into this short-lived ongoing title’s final story-arc. For whilst the narrative’s fourth instalment makes for a pulse-pounding, rather entertaining read, it does imply that a concatenation of dedicated tales focusing upon Alfred’s fifty-two missions “all over the world” as “the wayward Black Knight” would have made for a far more captivating experience than the seemingly rushed, brusquely written adventure which the supposed “best-selling writer” presents within this twenty-two page periodical.

Indeed, rather disconcertingly the persistent glimpses of the modern-day titular character alongside the New York-born writer’s enthralling 'yesteryear' plot actually frustrate the flashback's telling, especially when things turn decidedly dour for the young Pennyworth following the moustached secret agent's mission in Marrakech, Morocco, and the book's focus rudely returns to the present day as the Caped Crusader appropriates a West Motor Club rider’s motorbike in order to race after the Black and Whites. Such repeated interruptions must have increasingly annoyed some of this title’s 56,990 readers, particularly this scene which frustratingly clips the conclusion to Briar's extraction of a disease from Alfred’s veins whilst simultaneously providing his “son” with the cure; “See, the terrible thing about it is it makes you euphoric as your insides blacken. This is the antidote. It feels awful.”

Dishearteningly, such engagement with its audience is equally as unsuccessful when it comes to Batman’s confrontation with his manservant’s cigar-chomping ‘father-figure’ and his latest in a string of defeats to the Nemesis Programme’s unknown assassin. In fact, the armour-wearing Teutonic-looking killer dispatches the apparently formidable Dark Knight so effortlessly within the space of a single panel, as to make the apparently legendary crime-fighter appear utterly impotent, and hardly the sort of super-hero who these days is widely viewed by the public as “an American cultural icon.”

Unnervingly, Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego in this publication’s secondary story, “Killers-In-Law” doesn’t prove any more capable in close combat either, with writers Rafael Albuquerque and Rafael Scavone having the so-called martial arts expert get well and truly thumped by a young woman armed with nothing more than a curved blade. Admittedly, the Caped Crusader had been shot in the arm the night before and hasn’t slept since arriving in Russia, but even so it’s hard to reconcile this ineffectual costumed “clown” with someone who has previously outfought the Green Lantern, Guy Gardner…
Script: Scott Snyder, and Pencils, Inks & Cover: Rafael Albuquerque

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Star Trek: Boldly Go #16 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 16, January 2018
It is difficult to imagine that many of this comic’s 6,564 readers were particularly impressed with Mike Johnson’s script for Issue Sixteen of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” in January 2018, considering that the twenty-page periodical not only sees the likes of Helm-Unit Sulu-1701 and Pavela Chekov being killed by Khan augments and the truly traitorous Simon Grayson respectively, but also the story-arc’s central cast of Captain Jane Kirk, “Captain Plant-Kirk” and even Chris Pine’s cinematic Kirk. This surprising bloodbath undoubtedly makes for a truly shocking experience, especially when the tone of the book’s narrator repeatedly implies that the U.S.S. Enterprise’s commander will successfully escape his perilous predicament along with his crew-mates. Yet equally must have made the publication’s audience despairingly wonder just what the point was of the series’ previous three instalments…

Arguably this book’s most disappointing aspect though, besides from editor Sarah Gaydos utilising a fourth different illustrator for “Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations” on-the-trot, must surely have been the American author’s handling of Earth-Garden’s Starfleet Officer, who is used within the tome to supposedly depict one of the main character’s defining traits, “the legendary Kirk charm.” In the past, this irresistibility to the opposite sex has predominantly been utilised whenever "the quintessential officer” needs to influence or persuade an opponent to acquiesce to one of his cunning plans or high-principled opinions. However, in this tale the leafy “man among men” is shown by artist Angel Hernandez as deliberately turning his back upon his mission and colleagues in order to make love to at least two vine-covered naked beauties; “Rest your tendril’s Uhuro! There’s no rush! Don’t they have Shore Leave in your reality? We’ll find a way home soon enough!”

Such behaviour is hardly demonstrative of charm, more an unpleasantly insatiable urge to put his own selfish pleasures ahead of his responsibilities and debatably ignores the Captain’s ability to put his assignment first even when he has lost his inhibitions (as seen in the 1967 “Star Trek” television episode “The Naked Time”). Indeed, it is actually hard not to cheer when, towards the end of this comic, ‘Klingon-Kirk’ unexpectedly interrupts his green-hued counterpart’s “private moment” by setting his leaves ablaze with a lighter, and subsequently causes the burning “hero for the ages" to explode when he startlingly comes into contact with the gaseous Montgomery Scott.
The regular cover art of "STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO" No. 16 by Angel Hernandez

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

V-Wars #2 - IDW Publishing

V-WARS No. 2, July 2014
“With the Vampire Wars burning hotter and bloodier with each new day”, Jonathan Maberry’s narrative for "Blood And Beats" engagingly shifts from predominantly focusing upon Presidential advisor Luther Swann and instead literally turns the camera upon reporter Yuki Nitobe in an attempt to identify just when she sold her soul so as to give her “the biggest ratings”. This harrowing self-reflection, initiated by the young Asian woman being “abducted and brought into the vampire underground”, is initially absolutely laced with menace and the implied threat of her being bloodily butchered if she fails to report “the whole truth.” However, such intimidation is soon withdrawn over a cup of tea with the polite, seemingly well-mannered Martyn, and the righteously indignant journalist quickly learns from Kyra Hanson, a Malaysian Jenglot, that the Bloods are being callously beaten, tortured and mutilated by the unaffected simply because “people are afraid of us, and they hate that they’re afraid.” A damning enough testimony which the bruised, broken and (cigarette) burnt daughter of an American Missionary makes all the more compelling when she reveals she won’t kill her attackers because as a Quaker “we don’t believe in any kind of violence.”

Fortunately for those readers within this comic’s 6,912 strong circulation who like their book’s more action-orientated, the Philadelphia-born suspense author also still manages to inject plenty of pulse-pounding proceedings into this twenty-page periodical’s plot, by depicting Yuki and Martyn witnessing a building of homeless, unarmed vampires being mercilessly gunned down by the Authorities under the pretence that the shabby, sharp-toothed vagrants are a dangerous terrorist cell; “These blood-Nazis hide among us. They want us to believe they’re helpless victims. Boo-Hoo.” This hard-hearted scene isn’t included just for the sake of pleasing part of the title’s demographic either, and sadly leads to Kyra being blown apart by a bomb just outside her home in retaliation for Nitobe’s newscast on the murderous Homeland Security raid.

Impressively, all of this character development, heart-searching and explosive shenanigans are wonderfully drawn by Alan Robinson, who really manages to imbue this publication’s cast with some highly emotionally-charged features. In fact, a lot of the story-telling inside Issue Two of "V-Wars" is very successfully told by the looks the Chilean artist bestows upon their animated faces and within their hauntingly realistic eyes.
Written by: Jonathan Maberry, Art by: Alan Robinson, and Colors by: Jay Fotos

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Rough Riders #4 - AfterShock Comics

ROUGH RIDERS No. 4, July 2016
Shifting 4,888 copies in July 2016, Issue Four of “Rough Riders” certainly ramps up the science fiction element within its ‘wild west’ narrative by both confirming that Spain’s military leader in Cuba is indeed under the control of “little green men from space”, and having Theodore Roosevelt explain to an increasingly agitated Annie Oakley that “the Battle of Little Big Horn was not Custer’s last stand against the Indians”, but was in actuality a combined effort between the cavalry commander and the Native Americans to thwart an alien invasion. Such a shockingly bemusing plot-twist arguably somewhat jars alongside this series’ preceding ‘realistic’ seriousness and is debatably made all the more incongruous by Adam Glass' rather comical depiction of the United States Army officer literally having a large hole bored through his chest by an extra-terrestrial laser beam, and the aliens’ space-faring vessel being fortuitously destroyed by a few rifle-carrying bare-chested tribesmen; “Luckily, the fierce spirit of the Indians brought that ship down.”

In fact, this rationalisation behind just why the future twenty-sixth President of the United States has brought his ‘expert’ team to the Northern Caribbean may well have caused some of this comic’s audience to have hollered with laughter in a fashion similar to that of "Little Miss Sure Shot", especially after a singularly stern-faced Thomas Edison produces a dead, Triffid-looking alien symbiote from deep within his brown jacket and theatrically declares that it “was dug out of General Custer’s ear after his death.” Sadly however, even this dubious dabbling into the science-fiction fuelled world of Walter “Jack" Finney does not seem to have been enough for the Georgia-born writer, as he later introduces Harry Houdini to an incarcerated living alien in the shape of Patrick Olliffe’s well-pencilled, yet heavily-manacled, semi-naked female with six eyes and insectoid-shaped lips…

Fortunately, for those bibliophiles who like their fiction a little more factually-based, or at least less speculative, “The Bull Moose” does contain a rather enthralling sub-plot involving Jack Johnson and Rasputin bare-knuckle fighting on the San Juan Heights. This highly prejudicial confrontation, where the racially intolerant mad Russian attempts to prove that “white man is superior to the chernyy”, is disappointingly as short as this action sequence’s pulse-pounding punches are dynamically-drawn, yet still manages to ably demonstrate that the Galveston Giant is perfectly capable of out-thinking an opponent as well as out-boxing them…
Creator & Writer: Adam Glass, Artist: Patrick Olliffe, and Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb

Monday, 19 March 2018

Red Sonja #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

RED SONJA No. 1, January 2017
“Based on the heroine created by Robert E. Howard”, Amy Chu’s storyline for Issue One of “Red Sonja” may well have momentarily disconcerted some of the comic’s 18,758 readers by following the exploits of New York beat cop Max and his investigation into a report of a “naked woman swinging a sword” rather than simply concentrating upon the titular character’s immediate predicament having inexplicably travelled “from Hyrkania to the Big Apple”. However, whilst initially bewildering, this story-telling technique actually provides an enjoyable introduction into modern times for the “She-Devil” and allows the Harvard Business School graduate to slowly flesh out the local authority’s reaction to the “mentally unstable subject”…

Indeed, the twenty-page periodical’s opening, which depicts the sword-and-sorcery heroine being surrounded by armed police and cursing the cowardly-armed curs about her, comes across as being as realistic a situation as one might expect within a comic book, especially when a terrified rookie shuts his eyes and opens fire at the Hyborian Age heroine, striking her sword arm and causing the “woman warrior” to mark him out for revenge; “<No one draws Sonja’s blood without paying dearly.>” Of course, the fact Max “speaks a semblance of my tongue” due to his Mother teaching him “a couple of languages before she died” may seem a little too lazily convenient for some, but it’s hard to imagine this side of a contrived magical spell or potion, how else the Boston-born writer was going to introduce meaningful dialogue and exposition into her storyline.

Chu’s decision to portray Sonja’s concerns as to “the dangers of our timeline” through the eyes of Jay’s partner also allows the narrative to slowly introduce the significantly sinister influence the “dreaded” sorcerer Kulan Gath apparently still wields over the world of men. Transferred to the ‘care’ of Elmhurst Hospital Center, the two police officers are initially just troubled by the rough treatment their hand-cuffed prisoner receives by the green-gowned medical staff, then later become positively alarmed when they are told to leave the building by a dark shade-wearing National Security Agency operative without even taking their report. Such well-written menace really does help overcome the title’s still palpable “What If? Conan Were Stranded In The Twentieth Century” flavour, and helps set this title apart from “Marvel Comics” previously published similarly-themed Bronze Age one-shots.

Similarly as impressive as this book’s penmanship are Carlos Gomez’s excellent illustrations. Amy proudly states in the rear of this magazine that she loves “seeing a talented artist like Carlos come up with his own interpretation of Sonja and the script” and it is clear from such panels as those depicting the “She-Devil” holding off half a dozen policeman with just the point of her sword, that the Spaniard “is really bringing his A+ game into this series”.
Writer: Amy Chu, Illustrator: Carlos Gomez, and Colors: Mohan

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Micronauts [2016] #6 - IDW Publishing

MICRONAUTS No. 6, September 2016
Focusing upon the fate of Oziron Rael, after Commander Raith had revised “our objectives” and cleaved the Pharoid apart with his force sword rather than simply apprehend him, Cullen Bunn’s script for Issue Six of “Micronauts” still contained plenty of punch to entertain its more action-orientated readers. For whilst matters do momentarily dwell upon the “roguish space pirate” and his conversation with an ethereal Time Traveller inside the Entropy Storm, they soon return to the pacifist’s team-mates and the truly impressive birth of a conscious Biotron; “That -- Hurt! Oh, like you don’t want to throw these guys around a little bit! They stabbed me too, you know!”

In fact in many ways it’s a shame the Bram Stoker Award-nominee’s narrative doesn’t feature the massive, powerful robot for longer and specifically explore just how the machine’s Artificial Intelligence picked up traces of Oz’s personality “when we were stabbed.” It’s certainly amusing to see the towering automaton already starting to develop his friendship with the “worrywart” Microtron, as well establish his formidable combat abilities alongside Acroyear.

Of course, arguably this twenty-page periodical’s biggest draw is the cataclysmic confrontation between Daigon and Karza, both of whom have ‘enerchanged’ into their resplendent centauroid battle forms. The dialogue between these former “old” friends is wonderfully written, touching upon the pairs’ one-time trust of one another, and current polar opposite interpretations of the mysterious Time Travellers and “their [supposed] weapon”, the Entropy Storm. Indeed, their duel especially adds an extra layer of depth to the Baron’s dark character, by suggesting he would have considered an alliance with the Minister of Science if Akai had agreed to devote “our efforts to destroying the Entropy Cloud, not trying to understand its purpose or the intent of those who unleashed it upon us!”  

This particular segment of the publication also provides Max Dunbar the opportunity to pencil both members of the Microspace ruling class at their very best, with the Canadian illustrator’s dynamically-charged depiction of the two close-combat monsters featuring a veritable range of ‘hidden’ weaponry, such as side-missiles, flailing tail-whips, chest micro-missiles and Karza’s ‘game-winning’ detachable flying hand. This ten-panel battle is genuinely pulse-pounding, and yet simply builds upon the artist’s earlier work within this comic when Biotron shocking gains sentience and starts beating up Commander Raith’s ant-like troopers.
The regular cover art of "MICRONAUTS" No. 6 by Max Dunbar

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman #1 - DC Comics

Announced by “DC Comics” via The Washington Post in November 2017 as “a new six-issue… miniseries that will bring the two heroes into some very unfamiliar territory”, this opening instalment to “The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman” certainly depicts William Moulton Marston’s creation in something of a different light, with the somewhat surprisingly subdued Diana volunteering to investigate the murder of a Celtic god in order to prevent “a war between the fairy folk and a possible breach between worlds”. Indeed, Tir Na Nog’s wonderfully brutal and dirtily-grim setting, based upon “the legends of Irish and Celtic gods”, must surely have proved an enthralling contrast to the demigod’s Amazonian mythology for this book’s 42,087 readers and simultaneously shown just why “DC Comics” were willing to support Liam Sharp in “looking for a way to continue working with the character” having just come “off a run illustrating the new Wonder Woman series” during the publisher’s “Rebirth” re-launch.

Unfortunately however, such lavish attention to detail, both in the narrative’s meticulous background to Cernunnos Cernach’s world, as well as the Lord of Fertility’s return journey from requesting an audience with Hippolyta’s daughter, does mean that the Derby-born writer’s script pays far less attention to the “top billing” Batman than it does  the “most beloved of the Amazonians”, and in many ways seemingly just clumsily crowbars Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego into the story whenever the author needs a reason to momentarily distract his audience away from Wonder Woman’s situation; “When worlds collide, there will always be a reckoning… and when gods and monsters meet, it seems, nothing is ever predictable…” 

Equally as unnerving as the Dark Knight’s near non-existent presence, is the “Madefire” co-founder’s unnerving preoccupation with Diana and Steve Trevor’s love-life. The twenty-two page periodical starts with a seemingly innocuous bed-room scene between the pair, which merely alludes to their intimate relationship and is rather discerningly pencilled by the magazine’s creator. But within mere moments of the Celtic horned-god appearing before them the comic turns decidedly distasteful with its unsubtle implication that the tusked deity would happily join “the rutting of the beast with two backs” and even go as far as to “gladly anoint such a union with my --”.

Interestingly, arguably this book's biggest draw is also, in certain places, one of its weakest elements. There should be no doubt that the "2000 A.D." artist's attentive drawings of Tir Na Nog and all its fantastical inhabitants are absolutely top-notch and simply crammed full of the most intricate of details, such as tiny red-eyed imps clambering up over the shoulder of a beleaguered earth elemental who is simultaneously stomping on a dwarf's chest during a street-fight. But sadly, the same cannot debatably be said for this comic's panels featuring the Caped Crusader, which at times provide such a stark contrast in quality that they disconcertingly seem to have been sketched by someone else entirely...
Writer/Artist: Kevin Sharp, and Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Star Trek: New Visions #18 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: NEW VISIONS No. 18, October 2017
Pleasingly paced, with plenty of precarious photomontage pauses and difficult dilemmas dotted throughout the narrative, John Byrne’s script for Issue Eighteen of “Star Trek: New Visions” explores the intriguing prospect of a Constitution-class starship finding itself submerged deep inside a planet of living water, and its crew facing the claustrophobic challenge of surviving inside a vessel which has been “put together t’keep everythin’ inside. Not t’keep things out!” In fact, Mister Scott’s battle against an ever-rising tide of water which results in fifteen dead crew members, arguably proves to be a far more engaging element to this adventure than the U.S.S. Enterprise’s primary mission to explain how Polymax VIII was completely flooded, or Spock and McCoy’s meeting with a homicidal fish-man.

Interestingly, the West Midlands-born writer also uses “What Pain It Is To Drown” to show just how imperative the spacecraft’s captain is to the successful running of the ship. James Kirk is needed absolutely everywhere during this tale, whether it be to see “what ve are lookink for” on the Bridge, provide “a chance to try out those new environment suits Starfleet sent us” or simply swim down to Engineering in order to authorise Scotty’s “crazy idea of somethin’ that might get this liquid off th’ ship.” There’s even a scene where Mister Sulu suddenly realises there’s a chance to save the Enterprise by piloting it into “anudder von of does vortexes… about five thousand meters avay”, and yet refuses to “take the risk without the Captain’s order”, so instead inefficiently sends Mister Kyle off to locate his skipper…

Far less successful sadly is the former “X-Men” artist’s rationalisation as to just how the aggressive water-world which destroyed Polymax VIII came to exist. The initial appearance of the mechanically-armed Ulum of the planet Pluul seems the logical point to provide some justification behind the comic’s events. But instead, the Eagle Award-winner waits until the story’s final moments, when Spock mind-melds with the dying frog-faced alien, to confusingly explain that all the sea-based shenanigans were due to the insane extra-terrestrial committing suicide? Just how wiping out “billions” of humans and projecting his life energy into globules of water would atone for the fish-man’s belief that he was “solely responsible for the extermination of his [own] species” must have baffled this book’s bibliophiles, especially when the half-Vulcan Science officer unsatisfactorily admits that Ulum “had buried too deeply in his subconscious” exactly what he had done?
Photomontage: John Byrne, and Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Nemesis The Warlock #6 - Eagle Comics

NEMESIS THE WARLOCK No. 6, February 1985
Despite a somewhat sedentary start mingling with the assorted demonic-looking guests at Chira’s celebratory ‘Hatching’ of her first egg, Pat Mills’ script for Issue Six of “Nemesis The Warlock” must have whipped the comic’s audience into a feverishly frothing frenzy by its end, on account of the sensational giant robot battles he pens later in the book. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive series of towering automatons as the ones which prominently feature throughout the Siege of Ydrasill Castle, especially the homicidally violent Mek-Quake, whose over-enthusiasm to “crush those alien hordes” causes him to inadvertently stomp upon Terra’s own terminators, whilst lowering his boarding ridge too early; a decidedly dire decision that sees his ballooning belly’s “serjeant-at-arms” mistakenly lead his fanatical squad straight off the edge of the siege device uttering the words “The moment the tower reaches the wall, that ramp will drop down… I want you out and over the battlements - at the double! Now! Death to all devia…”

Fortunately, these somewhat sentient machines aren’t simply placed into the narrative just for the sake of it either, as there’s plenty of exposition as to just why Sir Evric, “the sinischal in charge of the siege”, requires such fallible colossi to help him breach the outer walls of the Great Donjon of the Basilisks and help “cleanse the galaxy of all aliens!” Motivated by the ever-pervading threat of Torquemada’s infamously lethal dissatisfaction, and plagued by the endless excuses from his siege engineer, Brother Hieronymus, the “bigoted human” soon requires more than boiled Roc’s venom to help his headaches when the titular character arrives on the planet Demotika and pushes his men back into the care of the army’s abusive Vestal Vampires. In fact, this apparent set-back to the knight’s plans only forces the milksop to rely ever more heavily upon the robots which “are hundreds of years old” and date “back to the Lost Age of Science!”

Undoubtedly however, all of this compelling combat wouldn’t prove a tenth as captivating if it wasn’t for Kevin O’Neill’s mouth-wateringly detailed story-boards. Mek-Quake’s over-sized “Big Jobs!” panel alone is well worth this publication’s cover price, and that’s pencilled well before the mobile battle tower inadvertently locks horns with the Imperial flag robot, Torque-Armada; “a giant effigy of the grand Master himself” whose double splash page barely manages to encompass the Man of War’s thirty guns, six catapults and two dart throwers…”
Script: Pat Mills, Art: Kevin O'Neill, and Color: Kevin O'Neill

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Star Trek: Boldly Go #15 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: BOLDLY GO No. 15, December 2017
Grown from a plantlet, having never known “my seed-father”, this third instalment of Mike Johnson’s “Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations” story-arc initially follows the life-growth of James Kirk until, “not long after… defeating the Romulan viroid that threatened Earth-Garden”, he takes his “place in the captain’s node aboard” the wooden Starship Enterprise and inexplicably suddenly encounters a non-botanical Lieutenant Uhuro, a female Captain Spock and “the only gas-based Starfleet officer here”, Montgomery Scott. Disconcertingly, this utterly bizarre plot-twist is perturbingly the basis for the much of the narrative to Issue Fifteen of “Star Trek: Boldly Go” and arguably must have made many a reader’s head hurt with its incessant chopping from the planet Risa, an “Earth where the augments won and humanity was enslaved” by Khan, and an alternative Vulcan which both houses a relocated Starfleet Command, as well as being the Federation’s last bastion against Nero and the Borg-enhanced Romulan Star Empire.”

Indeed, this twenty-page periodical’s narrative contains so much information involving the differences between numerous respective realities that the vast majority of the comic’s 6,441-strong audience probably didn’t even have the ‘where for all’ to spot “IDW’s Star Trek Kelvin Universe (and Discovery) wordsmith” imbuing Kirk with a certain “old Vulcan trick”, when the American author rather lazily depicts “the acting Captain of the Federation Starship Endeavour” over-powering the incredibly annoying Simon Grayson with a simple nerve pinch; “Learned it from a friend of mine.” Admittedly, “Johnson personally considers the current films [are] not set in a split timeline, but in a very similar reality, which allows him to ignore elements of canon that should hold true for both realities”. Yet ever since the March 1968 television episode "The Omega Glory" in which Spock admits having tried to teach his Captain the skill, it’s been canon that few non-Vulcans are capable of utilising the unconsciousness rendering technique and Kirk is most definitely not one of them.

Equally as frustrating as this comic’s space-time Einstein-Rosen bridge-based shenanigans is Tana Ford’s artwork, which whilst excellent at depicting “Captain Plant-Kirk” is far less successful in illustrating Chris Pine’s ‘Silver Screen’ personality and the lead character’s ‘big’ battle against the nauseatingly de-Vulcanised Commander Grayson. Crudely pencilled, with limbs that could seemingly out-stretch even those of the Fantastic Four’s leader, Reed Richards, the Lambda Literary Award-finalist’s combatants disappointingly appear somewhat facially-disfigured and implausibly bendy at a point in the book which surely should have been steeped in angry menace, as opposed to Lampoon-like ludicrosity.
Writer: Mike Johnson, Art: Tana Ford, and Colors: Mark Roberts

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Uber: Invasion #12 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 12, February 2018
Ploddingly-paced and packed full of the detritus of a long, drawn-out world war, the plot to Issue Twelve of “Uber: Invasion” could easily have come across to its readers as a Deutschland-based ‘filler’ edition, intended to simply ‘pad out’ Kieron Gillen’s narrative and provide the former computer games journalist with a little breathing room before he penned the next scintillating story-arc to his militaristic magnum opus. But such a disparaging summary of this twenty-two page periodical’s plot really doesn’t do the British writer’s disturbingly engaging work justice, and would simply shroud some truly disquieting moments within its text.

For starters, the late repugnantly vile German Battleship Siegfried is shockingly divulged to have been just a fourteen-year old boy by his mother, Fraulein Jung. This revelation by the proud parent, created by the woman removing her hand from the plaque of her child’s commemorative bust, comes completely out of the blue and yet makes perfect sense when one considers that the arguably homicidal Nazi, who seemed to relish killing and mutilation more than anything else, was in reality just a child who “always loved his toy soldiers” and wrongly thought “he took after his [war-hero] father.”

Equally as disturbing is Steele’s destiny at the very end of this publication, with a cowardly calm Albert Speer quietly informing Sankt’s former adjutant that she will have her tongue removed “and your hands” simply because she was overheard discussing with Klaudia what would happen if the facially-disfigured Sieglinde did “what Siemund did. [And] just surrendered…” to the Allies.Exactly like Markus’ adolescent age, this horrifying fate to the “emotionally-conflicted panzermensch secretary” comes from ‘out of no-where’ and is addressed so matter-of-factly that it must have sent a serious shudder down the spines of any perusing bibliophiles; “That we need your halo effect means you keep your eyes… But you don’t need your hands any more. Do not think too harshly of me. Remember, I’m the good one.” 

Adding to this comic’s sense of all-pervading doom and despair is Daniel Gete’s marvellous story-boarding, which provides the entire publication’s tale with a persisting aura of hopeless listlessness. Each panel is crammed with detail by the “Logan’s Run: Last Day” penciller, whether it be the visible grain in every single wooden board or the stitching on Steele’s overcoat, but also appears to have been drawn in such a way as to additionally elevate the incredible inconsolable lethargy everyone is experiencing during these trying times…
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 12 by Daniel Gete