Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL No. 42, April 2018
Whether it be due to the return of a “small team of career criminals” who “were among Spider-Man's earliest foes”, Peter Parker joining forces with J. Jonah Jameson’s former secretary at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant, or simply Dan Slott’s narrative for “Bury The Ledes” instigating the titular character’s return back to Empire State University, many of this comic’s 43,935 owners arguably must have felt a pang of nostalgia whilst reading this tale of “a mafia conspiracy that stretches back decades!” In fact, even the book’s simplistic story involving an investigation into just why “someone tried to fabricate a moment in history” by inventing the Battle of Blood Creek during the American Revolution is told by the Berkeley-born writer in a manner somewhat similar to the way Web-Head’s tales in the Sixties were told; “The good ol’ days. Where I met Gwen and Harry…”

Admittedly, that doesn’t sadly mean there aren’t a few artificial contrivances scattered throughout the plot with which to detract from its overall enjoyment, such as Ned Leeds’ contact, Prescott, supposedly being one of the few living people in New York to actually know about “a vast network of abandoned passageways running under the city”, or the sudden appearance of “the long-hidden leader of the shadow arm of the Maggia, the Undermob”, Ernesto Karnelli, who has apparently operated “completely off the grid” for decades. But such 'conveniences' are forgivable given some of the grandiose set-pieces they create within which Spider-Man is able to dutifully demonstrate his awesome athleticism and other arachnid-based super-powers.

Quite possibly less forgivable though is the inconsistent artwork of Cory Smith, which seemingly drifts between some superb panels depicting an astonishingly agile wall-crawler leaping over numerous fire-escapes during an agreeable chase-sequence, to pencilling a badly misshapen Parker fending off the angry protestations of a security guard who “invested my entire pension in your company! In Parker Industries! And you went and wrecked it!” This inability to competently sketch the Daily Bugle’s new science editor really grates upon the nerves, and only later resolves itself courtesy of Slott’s script placing the “Marvel Worldwide” “company mascot” in full costume for this publication’s dynamically-drawn conclusion.

Unhappily, this comic’s biggest disappointment however, has to be the “bonus story by Broadway playwright David Hein” which makes a complete mockery of “one of Spider-Man's most unique and prominent powers.” Ordinarily ‘described’ as “a tingling feeling at the base of his brain”, the Canadian songwriter instead would disconcertingly have this annual’s audience believe Peter’s persistent spider-sense specifically tells him what the problem is, whether it be something as straightforward as “when my alarm clock is about to go off” or a “dust bunny”, through to “this guy is made of sand and wants to kill you!”

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Dan Slott, Penciler: Cory Smith, and Inker/Finisher: Terry Pallot

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

V-Wars #7 - IDW Publishing

V-WARS No. 7, November 2014
Containing so much dialogue that arguably some of this book’s audience probably felt they were wading through one of the author’s prose novels rather than enjoying a comic book which “chronicles the first Vampire War”, Issue Seven of “V-Wars” still somehow managed to provide its readers with plenty of action-packed thrills and spills on account of Victor Eight’s fierce firefights. Indeed, as pulse-pounding plots go, Jonathan Maberry’s narrative for “Staring Into The Abyss” is as brutally bloody and deeply disturbing as any fan of the “multiple Bram Stoker Award winner” could debatably want.

For starters, the Federal Response Team is soon shown to be facing more than just “a new species of genetically enhanced vampire super-soldier”, as Joe Ledger, Luther Swann and Big Dog discover when the trio are ambushed inside the secret underground genetic laboratory they’ve recently discovered by “a variation of the Chinese hopping vampire”, whilst the rest of their Vampire Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism party are forced to blaze away at a unit of Red Knights from Iran within the confines of a dilapidated cavern system. Both sequences provide plenty of gore and gratuitous violence, especially when the “special ops gunslinger from one of those we’re so secret if I told you our name I’d have to kill you agencies” dispatches his pale-skinned Korean adversary with a blade to the brain, yet also help move the ongoing series’ overall plot forward as Taurus Harper is ‘forced’ to reveal himself to be an undercover agent of the Crimson Queen in order to save Lashonda from some “vampire assassins.”

This particular disclosure is superbly penned by the “New York Times best-seller” with the ferociously-fanged, blood-drenched corporal forcibly having to regain control over his bestial savagery just in time to recognise his wounded team-mate for who she is and “get you out of here.” Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things it seems somewhat wasteful for the American playwright to expose the soldier’s ghoulish lineage to his horrified comrade-in-arms so soon after introducing the character to this comic’s cast. But it does provide this twenty-page periodical with one of its most heart-stopping moments as the shell-shocked V-8 markswoman is pencilled by “guest-artist” Marco Turini placing her automatic weapon’s barrel squarely upon the vampiric marine’s forehead and threatens to squeeze the trigger; “You do what you have to do.”

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jonathan Maberry, Artist: Marco Turini, and Colors: Jay Fotos

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Iron Man #255 - Marvel Comics

IRON MAN No. 255, April 1990
Considering that “Switching Channels” manages to include the fascinating first appearances of both the “mentally unstable” Freak Quincy, who is inexplicably able to receive “all radio, television, and other transmissions directly into his head at all times”, as well as Colonel-General Valentin Shatalov as the second Crimson Dynamo, this twenty-two page periodical is perhaps understandably a rather rushed affair which must have disappointed its readers and made them wish Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco had insisted writers Glenn Herdling and Fabian Nicieza extend their intriguing story-arc by at least one or two more instalments. Indeed, this publication’s sub-plot of a Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) officer swapping minds with Tony Stark and resultantly having “<Every American military secret at my fingertips>” is arguably alone worth exploring within the covers of at least a couple more ‘Invincible’ issues alone, especially when Lieutenant-Colonel Yelena Brement’s intimate partner realises he also has “<control over the world’s largest industrial facility> and plans to severely cripple whatever technological assets he cannot steal.

Sadly however, rather than thoroughly explore such a scary situation, this Cold War comic’s collaborative couple scandalously squander so mouth-watering an opportunity by disconcertingly racing through what could have been a fascinating telephone conversation between the titular character (inhabiting the body of Mother Russia’s “true champion”) and his adversarially arrogant ‘doppelganger’ in just a handful of sketchily-drawn Herb Trimpe pencilled panels; “There is still much for me to learn here... Oh, and Tony don’t call me, I’ll call you.” In addition, the evident rivalry between Gregori Larionov and “the KGB-backed Crimson Dynamo”, which creates the vast majority of this comic’s action sequences within “a military complex in the Soviet city of Khimky”, is debatably only explored simply for the new Devastator to provide a power source of “satellite transmissions” with which to realign “the individual minds within their proper bodies.”

Annoyingly, the narrative to Issue Two Hundred And Fifty Five of “Iron Man” doesn’t seemingly treat Shell-Head’s questionable antagonist Quincy much better either, with the intriguingly powerful, erratically-minded ‘villain’ shown to “possess the ability” to override electrical broadcasts such as Tony Stark's spinal bio-chip” without any thought whatsoever. Just how the eventually armless intruder ever acquired such incredible power though is frustratingly never properly explained, nor is his presence at the Stark Enterprises Experimental Testing Grounds, Point Mugu in California at just before seven o’clock in the morning. Instead, this publication’s audience are apparently expected to just believe Iron Man intuitively understands the troubled interloper’s abilities and can easily reverse the damage they have caused...

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writers: Glenn Herdling & Fabian Nicieza, and Artist: Herb Trimpe

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #5 - Titan Comics

DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR No. 5, October 2016
Long-term fans of actor Tom Baker’s tenure as the British Broadcasting Company’s travelling Time Lord probably experienced a disconcerting sinking feeling of déjà vu whilst reading Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby’s narrative for Issue Five of “Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor”. For despite the twenty-two page periodical bringing the murderous exploits of an extra-terrestrial Medusa skulking in the catacombs of Ancient Greece to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, the similarities between the collaborative team’s treatment and the resolution to David Fisher’s screenplay for the 1978 broadcast serial “The Stones Of Blood” are disappointingly alike.

These ‘parallel proceedings’ sadly start straight from the comic’s opening, as the Gallifreyan is quickly teleported away from a claustrophobically atmospheric underground cavern aboard a jarringly gleaming alien spacecraft and discovers from the partially-defunct ship’s data banks that, as with the on-screen Justice Machines and Cessair of Diplos, the crashed craft’s crew are in fact intergalactic guardians who were about to begin “the long journey home” ferrying back a criminal when disaster struck their vessel. Regrettably, such dissatisfying resemblances don’t stop there either, as the scarf-wearing bohemian is forced to literally argue with the alien Zeus for his very life, to the point where some readers were probably half-expecting artist Brian Williamson to suddenly pencil the titular character donning the barrister’s wig which he wore whilst out-witting the Megara during the ‘Key To Time’ broadcast; “Sorry to interrupt, but don’t you think it seems terribly unfair that my friend and I are being included in this all must fall solution of yours?” 

Disappointingly, what innovation this fifth instalment to “Gaze Of The Medusa” does contain arguably struggles to withstand much scrutiny either, with “poor Lady Carstairs” suddenly becoming a supposedly “specially prepared” vessel within which the Medusa can conveniently relocate her consciousness just as “the ship’s generators are being overloaded”. Precisely why the snake-like gorgon hasn’t previously attained such a “full bodily transmogrification to go with the mental transference” using one of the dozens of victims littering her lair is never properly addressed, and resultantly this transformation appears to be used as a contrived plot device so as to give both the partially-petrified widower her just desserts for the cold-blooded murder of Professor Odysseus James, as well as provide the pair’s increasingly paper-thin plot with a reason as to why the scaly-skinned villainess reaches the Doctor’s time portal back to Victorian London somewhat simultaneously with the time traveller and Athena.

Of course, such shenanigans aren’t entirely without their entertainment as the comic ends with a rather enjoyable tongue-in-cheek conclusion involving Harry Sullivan’s great grandparents. Wonderfully sketched by Williamson, with Lieutenant Albert Sullivan, “a ship’s surgeon in the Royal Navy”, bearing a strikingly good resemblance to the late actor Ian Marter, this humorous eleven-panel long encounter is by far the highlight of the book, and it’s clear why Sarah Jane Smith much prefers an invitation to the loving couple’s wedding over visiting a Draconian coronation.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writers: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, and Art: Brian Williamson

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Red Sonja #6 - Dynamite Entertainment

RED SONJA No. 6, June 2017
Featuring a seeming wish list of the most contrived, co-incidental story-telling contraptions a comic book writer could conjure, Amy Chu’s script for Issue Six of “Red Sonja” must surely have baffled and bewildered the title’s loyal 11,215 readers in June 2017. Indeed, it is difficult to deduce a more randomly haphazard sequence of events than the one which befalls this publication’s titular character as the red-haired warrioress confronts a tower block-tall fiend from “the formerly mighty kingdom of Meru” on modern day Coney Island, Brooklyn, and ultimately defeats the massive, tendril-covered brute by using the amusement park’s big wheel to whizz around so fast that it somehow creates a time portal back to the monster’s home…

Regrettably however, even so utterly ludicrous a plot as having a time-travelling dinosaur being defeated by a funfair ride is disconcertingly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Boston-born author’s narrative for this twenty-page periodical, and is soon sadly overshadowed by a local beat cop fortuitously mastering the magical abilities of his forefathers just in time to withstand the supernatural onslaught of Kulan Gath, the illogical decision of the ordinarily-loyal “demon beast of Khauran” to turn against his master of several thousand years at precisely the point the sorcerer was about to defeat the ‘She-devil with a Sword’, and Max’s ridiculous realisation that after all this time all he needed to do to rid Mister Gault of his invulnerability was to shoot the glowing purple amulet the megalomaniac always wears about his neck; “This negotiation is over.”

Undeniably, such artificial and nonsensical story-telling certainly provides plenty of pulse-pounding action sequences as the waterfront’s main attraction is torn asunder by the giant Hyborian Age lizard, New York City’s finest blaze away with their ineffective pea-shooters, and a furious Red Sonja hacks away at her arch-nemesis with an all-too impotent blade. But a comic audience are rarely going to become totally engrossed in such engineered tomfooleries, no matter how “easy for me” a hubristic Chu believed penning this series was at the time. 

Almost as disappointing as the book’s script, is unhappily the story-boarding of Carlos Gomez, which whilst dynamically drawn and full of energy, seemingly appears to have been somewhat rushed. Indeed, there’s a definite atmosphere of ‘hurried harassment’ to the Spaniard’s pencilling that makes his panels appear a little inconsistent, angular and scratchily-sketched, especially during the magazine’s early interiors when Gath’s demonic pet is tearing up the pier’s Wonder Wheel in a scene somewhat similar to a sharp-toothed carcharodon carcharias ripping through the metal bars of a shark cage so as to eat its hapless occupants.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "RED SONJA" No. 6 by Mike McKone

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #7 - DC Comics

DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE No. 7, February 2017
Focusing upon the disconcertingly disorientated Kryptonians and Quar’s efforts to help his people “regain their strength” from the formidable assault they recently received at the hands of Gotham City’s irate population, many of this comic’s 119,114 readers probably felt that Frank Miller’s portrayal of Lara Kent erred somewhat during this particular twenty-two page periodical. For whilst Book Seven of “Dark Knight III: The Master Race” manages to maintain the character’s momentum as a truly troubled adolescent whose misplaced allegiance to “the inhabitants of Kandor” is as much a rebellious gesture towards everything which her forth righteous parents stand for, as it is an extraordinarily poor choice in friends, it’s hard to imagine even the illogical, emotionally-crazed half-Amazonian being won over to abduct her own baby brother by the terrorist’s super-powered leader angrily smashing her across the face with a closed fist; “What are you? Are you one of them? Or one of us?”

Similarly, having experienced first-hand just how sadistically sick and immature the now facially malformed Baal can be, when he thoughtlessly tossed a family-filled car up in the air with no intention of rescuing its occupants in a previous issue, it’s difficult to comprehend Superman’s daughter would willingly stand by and watch the cold-hearted killer be given Jonathan Kent “as a plaything” by the murderer's father, let alone actively participate in the criminals’ demented raid upon Themyscira by spearheading the toddler’s actual kidnapping. Of course, such illogical behaviour, even for a young woman who happily beat her ‘boy scout’ father into submission, could all be part of some massive deception in order to outmanoeuvre a clearly psychopathic extra-terrestrial invasion force. But even so, the so-called super-heroine’s willingness to participate in such insane shenanigans somewhat grates upon the senses, especially when the “Leader of the Master Race of Kandorian cultists” is so clearly deranged.

Fortunately, alongside a rather less contentious sequence depicting Superman plunging Batman's body into a Lazarus Pit in order to save the Caped Crusader’s life, this publication also contains the far more enjoyable mini-comic “Dark Knight Universe Presents: Strange Adventures”. Pencilled by Frank Miller, this ‘short’ demonstrates precisely why Hal Jordan is truly a man “without fear” as he ‘wings’ an attempt to steal “his lost hand with the Green Lantern Power Ring attached to it” from a band of desert-dwelling arms dealers and ultimately “retrieves the ring and his powers” with “Hawkman and Hawkgirl's help”. Far more dynamically penned than this book’s lead story, it’s a pity editor Mark Doyle didn’t decide to elaborate upon this abbreviated tale within the magazine’s main body, and perhaps utilise the far more sedentary, multi-panelled Bat-signal based conversation between Commissioner Ellen Yindel and Carrie Kelly for the micro tome instead.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Story: Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello, Pencils: Andy Kubert, and Inks: Klaus Janson

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Geek-Girl: What Ever Happened To Ruby Kaye? - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO RUBY KAYE?, May 2018
Published by “Markosia Enterprises” as a digital only edition for Free Comic Book Day 2018, Sam Johnson’s script for this ten-page periodical provides an impressive interlude between the events featured in Volume One of “Geek-Girl” and those yet to occur within the title’s forthcoming second series of adventures. In fact, part of the publicity surrounding the circulation of this somewhat scintillating ‘short’ is that is contains actual “material” from the bespectacled super-heroine’s earlier escapades “and sets up the second mini-series, launching [in] May…”

Fortunately however, it is far from imperative that this book’s audience have any previous knowledge of the “popular" Maine college coeducational student, or how she “landed a pair of power-inducing super-tech glasses from her college’s resident brainiac” due to the author’s informative recapitulation at the story’s start. Such a simple text-based method of bringing a reader ‘up-to-speed’ is arguably a little clunky when compared to some of the fast-paced, graphically-fascinating flashback sequences other writers seem to utilise within the modern-day tale-telling industry, but is still perfectly acceptable, if not even preferable, when space is assumedly tight within the confines of a freely distributable tome.

In addition, the ‘wordy’ summarisation actually adds to the impact of the pamphlet’s primary panels, as Carlos Granda pencils a fantastically-fast Silver Speedz whizzing through the carnage of Lightning Storm’s most recent attack upon Portland, and shockingly gets stripped to a skeleton when his common-placed thievery irks the seemingly unstoppable super-villainess; “Hell’ve a job yer doin’ -- Got myself a freebie! ZSHAAAKK…” In fact, with the possible pause of Summer James asking Josh Campbell to borrow a baseball bat, the sense-shattering action between Geek-Girl and her disconcertingly white-eyed, electric-manipulating opponent, simply doesn’t let up until towards the narrative’s end when a comatose Kaye has a friend visit her in hospital, and Terry rather unconvincingly tries to explain to his wife that becoming a heavily-armed bank robber, courtesy of joining the League of Larcenists, would potentially be a good career move for them...

This persistently relentless combat between the titular character and Neon Girl’s “extremely dangerous” nemesis really is the highlight of “Geek Girl: What Ever Happened To Ruby Kaye?” and genuinely grabs the attention the moment Johnson’s creation blindsides Storm with a satisfyingly sound sock to the jaw. Of course, along with the Police repeatedly shooting at her, such a move only seems to enrage the cold-hearted killer. But that doesn’t stop the tension rising as the pair’s savagely-fought confrontation develops to the point where both combatants seemingly beat one another within an inch of their lives.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Sam Johnson, Artist: Carlos Granda, and Colorist: Chunlin Zhao

Monday, 21 May 2018

Uber: Invasion #13 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 13, April 2018
Despite containing the highly anticipated rematch between Battleship Sieglinde and "the unclassified class of enhanced human, Maria Andreevna", Kieron Gillen's script for Issue Thirteen of "Uber: Invasion" must have struck the majority of its audience as an exceedingly choppy affair which promises much with its fleeting features focusing upon Stephanie, Werner Frei, General George Patton, Leah Cohen, as well as the Battleship Yamato, and yet debatably delivers little. Indeed, it's hard not to feel that the former computer games journalist was always going to struggle to produce a cohesive story-line just as soon as he set his sights upon covering events which occurred across the United States, Siberia, Italy, Minsk and "Japanese-occupied China" all within the space of a single, piecemeal twenty-two page periodical.

Such a truly mammoth bout of word-heavy, internationally-based exposition would ordinarily prove difficult enough for any perusing bibliophile to stomach, especially when huge chunks of text are somewhat monotonously penned to replicate the dry tone of a text book. But disconcertingly, the British writer arguably makes matters all the worse by placing this comic's emphasis upon its conversational sequences, rather than its far more engaging action-packed battles.

This perturbing prioritisation genuinely seems to drag any of the book's pulse-pounding pace down into the "lake of... nutritious fluid" along with "the primary Soviet asset" following her shock defeat, and begs the question as to why Gillen felt Battleship Siegmund's interrogation session in which the one-armed traitor simply states "<Oh -- and I killed Hitler>" was worthy of four entire pages, whilst the German offensive against a "Soviet side" consisting "solely of Tankmen" is limited to just two tiny rectangular panels? Surely, some of this sheet space would have been better employed providing a better insight into the Battle of Minsk, or elaborate upon Maria's terrifying realisation that the grotesque-looking Battleship Zero "proved indifferent to the halo effect's distortion of its body"?

Fortunately, Daniel Gete at least provides some consistency to this publication, courtesy of his scintillating story-boarding. In fact, the "Avatar Press" artist's truly horrific detailed depiction of General Sankt's initial attempt "to create a battleship", along with Katyusha's wide-eyed belief that she has come face-to-face with Satan, is potentially worth the cover price of this comic alone... And such an accolade comes before even mentioning the illustrator's subsequent sense-shattering skirmish between the the pair of fearsome powerhouses, or H.M.H. Churchill's earlier angst-fuelled assault upon her bespectacled creator for failing to inform her "about Tamara and the bomb."

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 13 by Daniel Gete

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Doctor Strange [2015] #15 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 15, February 2017
Starting with a genuinely disturbing sequence which depicts an already bloodied million dollar embezzler about to be bludgeoned to death by a posse of his financially-deficient victims, and ending with the cataclysmic cliff-hanger “of the dread Dormammu” impressively rising from beneath the shaking streets of New York City in order to kill the titular character, it was probably hard for this publication’s 39,549 readers to confidently predict where this twenty-page periodical’s narrative would take them from one pencilled panel to the next. Certainly, as comic book journey’s go, Jason Aaron’s script for “The Face of Sin” provides such a wildly irregular portrayal of “Doctor Strange’s Rogues’ Gallery”, including an unnerving scene where Karl Amadeus Mordo sadistically butchers a bar room full of customers with a magical knife whilst his sacrificial ceremony’s future casualties watch in open-mouthed horror, that his plot-threads become so increasingly choppy as to debatably make his writing a rather disagreeable mess.

For starters, it is hard to imagine the Sorcerer Supreme ever simply sitting feebly still in the back-seat of a “damn” taxi cab as the yellow-coloured vehicle’s driver purposely mows down an unarmed man in cold blood. Admittedly, the entire point of the Alabama-born author’s “Blood In The Aether” story-arc was to depict a number of the magician’s most-formidable arch-villains taking “their shot at a weakened” Master of the Mystic Arts. Yet it debatably doesn’t follow that the Orb is single-handedly so powerful following his receipt of one of the Watcher’s eyes, that he can bedevil the former “preeminent surgeon” with such immediate impotency so successfully; “And what did you do about it Doc? Nothing, that’s what. All you did was watch. In other words… nice work, Doctor. I think we’re gonna have a fun night.”

Similarly, it must have struck many of this comic’s audience as a somewhat surreal moment when “Captain Cornea” out-bests the founding member of the Defenders simply because his cue-ball shaped head is “like punching a beach ball filled with tapioca” and the criminal has no “stupid neck” with which Stephen can choke him. These tongue-in-cheek gags, like a screaming Doctor Strange ultimately being tied to the bonnet of a car as it gravity-defyingly careers down the side of a skyscraper, indubitably provide a modicum of dark humour within this magazine’s ever shifting story. But noticeably such pleasantries frustratingly jar with the murderously murky, distinctly dour depiction of the Baron and Mister Misery which surrounds them, and must have left some bibliophiles wondering whether the Inkpot Award-winner was in two minds as to the tone of this particular tale…

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Chris Bachalo & Jorge Fornes, and Letters: VC's Cory Petit

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Geek-Girl #1/2 - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL No. 1/2, October 2017
Digitally distributed freely for joining creator Sam Johnson’s “Geek-Girl” mailing list, this eleven-page computerised comic is a good example of just why Markosia Enterprises “has become one of the United Kingdom’s leading publishers” and “have gained a reputation for producing a diverse range of comic books and graphic novels that cover almost all genres.” For whilst “Lightning Strikes!” undoubtedly presents itself in many ways as a fairly stereotypical super-hero publication with its straightforward script depicting the fall of Maine’s “resident super-heroine” Neon Girl to a new villain, and a dubious Ruby Kaye resultantly taking up the mantle of the north easternmost state’s protector, its contrived mix of college high-jinx antics, sexual party games, cleavage-filled costumes and suddenly all-too serious ‘death-defying’ story-telling certainly makes this title a surprisingly adult, unusual read.

To begin with, the “writer of the acclaimed comedy super-team comic The Almighties” conceivably captures his audience’s attention by predominantly using this book to dwell upon one of the few areas which arguably the vast majority of similar heroic stock narratives tantalisingly truncate - the medical aftermath of a serious super-powered beat-down. Neon Girl’s physically horrific-looking hospitalised state genuinely conveys the savage raw power of Lightning Storm’s electrical attack in a way a half-dozen of Carlos Granda’s well-illustrated panels depicting crackling energy bolts could never properly communicate, and makes the bespectacled Little Miss Popular’s hesitancy to tackle the formidably-powered platinum-blonde psychopath all the more understandable.

Likewise, the arrival of the “Numero Uno” heroine’s brother at the badly-wounded protagonist’s bedside, as well as his subsequent frank conversation with the patient’s less than optimistic consultant, somewhat strikes home that there’s more than one victim to this savage assault and far wider consequences to Neon Girl’s rather public defeat than the woman simply dusting herself off and taking the fight back to her vicious rival. Indeed, if Johnson’s script suggests anything, it’s that “Sandy-pits” surgery will put her at “quite [a] high” risk of death, so everything seemingly rests upon the titular character’s disconcertingly amateur shoulders if the local “Big Gun” is to be avenged and Maine made safe once again.

Such medical drama is doubtless hardly the sort of baptism of fire Ruby imagined for herself in order to “demonstrate her newfound abilities” when she first “landed a pair of power-inducing super-tech glasses from her college’s resident brainiac.” Yet such scintillating spectacle is precisely what this comic somehow generates in between its disconcertingly immature ‘jokily given monikers’, klutzy drink spillages over “expensive designer dresses” and drunken strip poker shenanigans.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Sam Johnson, Artist: Carlos Granda, and Colorist: Nahp

Friday, 18 May 2018

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor #4 - Titan Comics

DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR No. 4, August 2016
Selling a reasonably respectable 7,187 copies in August 2016, this penultimate instalment to Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby’s myth-laden magnum opus finally places the titular character at the very centre of the action, and resultantly starts to decisively explain what a living Medusa was doing imprisoned within a labyrinthine catacomb in “Greece twenty-four centuries before the modern day”. Admittedly, this twenty-two page periodical still provides a modicum of ‘screen-time’ for Lady Emily Carstairs and “her small army of Scryclops”, but for once, the mini-series' episodic narrative predominantly focuses upon Doctor Who and both the bohemian's nervy exploration of the his cavernous surroundings with Athena, as well as the Gallifreyan's simultaneous scientific clarification as to the nature of the “particularly vile -- predatory alien species” which they’re facing.

Indeed, one of the book’s more tensely-felt moments is arguably when the Time Traveller unknowingly begins enlightening his Victorian London-born companion as to the alien’s ability to petrify its prey “in a basic form of quantum-locking… so the creature can feed on them at its leisure, drawing from their life energy”, just as the grotesque-looking extra-terrestrial is about to sate her ravenous appetite upon Sarah Jane Smith elsewhere; “Miss Smith! Oh my heavens, No!” Mercifully, such an ill-fitting demise for “one of the Doctor's longest-serving companions” is averted by the poorly-timed audible exclamation of a mortally wounded Odysseus James, yet even so, despite its readers knowing full well that the female reporter must most-assuredly outlast her stony state, the scintillating scene still conjures up the plausible possibility of the “dogged investigative journalist” dying “rather deep underground”.

Sadly, the survivability of this comic’s “expert” in chrononautology is shown to be an entirely different matter, as the hapless Professor James desperately tries to defend his daughter from a brutish one-eyed giant, and pays for his surprising bravery by having his calcified left side heart-breakingly pulverised into rubble. Of course this murderous act finally raises Carstair’s character to indisputable odious villainess, as opposed to her previous status of simply being a misguided widower dangerously desperate to do all she can to rid herself of both her debilitatingly blighted physical transformation and restore her dead family to her side. However it still comes as something of a shock considering the blustering buffoon has previously ‘grown’ into such a likeable aged coward.

Disappointingly though, Issue Four of “Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor” does seemingly still fall into the trap debatably a few of the Time Lord’s television serials succumbed to, by bringing its well-working exploration of myth and legend to a disconcerting end with the Gallifreyan’s teleportation aboard a giant alien’s spaceship. This unoriginal plot-twist really does jar with the claustrophobic aura of nightmarish monsters tirelessly chasing after the comic book’s cast through ancient Greece, especially as Brian Williamson pencils the heavily-bearded all-powerful celestial as a space-faring incarnation of the god Zeus…

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE FOURTH DOCTOR" No. 4 by Mark Wheatley

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps #44 - DC Comics

HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS No. 44, Early July 2018
Featuring a truly gripping opening as the demented Darkstar Tomar-Tu suddenly surprises Keith Kenyon’s alter-ego inside Central City’s Iron Heights Penitentiary, and cold-bloodedly murders Goldface whilst he's 'sleeping off' a custodial sentence for knocking “over a couple of jewellery stores”, Robert Venditti’s narrative for this inaugural instalment to “Enemies Closer” sadly soon degenerates into little more than a disinteresting recruitment drive for the Green Lantern Corps. True, the comic’s subsequent brief cameo from “the fastest man alive” is enjoyable enough, especially when it initially appears that Barry Allen's incarnation of the Flash will be teaming-up with Hal Jordan to further investigate the gold-skinned prisoner’s partial disintegration. But before long all the Florida-born writer’s plot actually provides is a string of scenes featuring fleeting appearances from the likes of Guy Gardner, Arkillo, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart and General Zod.

These word-heavy, dialogue-driven sequences would arguably be perfectly stomachable if they were interwoven between some pacier, action-orientated panels, yet as they stand the constant conversations and dreary discussions arguably do little to encourage any perusing bibliophile to keep on reading. Indeed, in many ways the former “Top Shelf Productions” author may well have been better served to simply have extended either the renegade Kryptonians all-too brief violent altercation with the “second African-American superhero to appear in DC Comics”, or alternatively bring forward the titular character’s cliff-hanger confrontation with the “boss turnkey” Atomic Skull, and leave part of this twenty-page periodical’s patter for its following publication; “You’ve miscalculated… You’re alone! One meagre ring against a family of Kryptonians gifted with the power of this world’s yellow suns!”

One thing Issue Forty Four of “Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps” does not suffer with however, is substandard artwork. Whether it be Jordi Tarragona and Rafa Sandoval’s outstanding cover illustration, which rather delightfully seems strangely reminiscent of the classic “Judge Dredd” ‘I am The Law’ covers used for the “weekly British science fiction-orientated” anthology comic “2000 A.D.”, or Brandon Peterson’s boldly coloured, highly-detailed story-boarding, this book is a treat for the eyes. In fact, what little energy this magazine potentially generates, such as Joseph Martin’s sensational entrance to thwart Hector Hammond’s shock escape from Stryker’s Island, is debatably due to the “X-Men spinoff” illustrator rather than anything which Venditti himself has penned.
The regular cover art of "HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS" No. 44 by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona & Tomeu Morey

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Immortal Men #2 - DC Comics

THE IMMORTAL MEN No. 2, July 2018
Despite giving its readers with some modicum of tantalisingly slow exposition concerning “the last of the Immortal Men”, James Tynion IV’s script for this second instalment to his “The End Of Forever” story-arc simply doesn’t stop providing its audience with sense-shattering action-packed shenanigans until its final panel, and even then the twenty-page periodical frustratingly stops mid-way through a captivatingly concentrated chase sequence. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more intense comic book reading experience than this “New Age of Heroes” publication, as the “emerging meta-human named Caden Park” runs for his very life from slavering demonic dog-creatures, a truly terrifying cold-blooded murderer who seemingly delights in the sadistic nature of killing innocents with a blade, and a missile strike which “breaks every immortal treaty, going back six thousand years.”

Fortunately though, none of this pulse-pounding pace actually ever gets overly-tiring, even if its intensity could arguably leave its readers as physically out of breath as the plot’s “point-of-view protagonist”. The New York City-born writer appears to know precisely when to weave some of his more sedentary scenes into the publication’s furious mix, and actually uses them, such as those based within the invisible Realm of Conquest, to help clarify what the various cast member’s rationalisation is for their animated antics; “My brother is playing some unknown game. It is imperative that we beat him at it before it’s too late.”

Perhaps this book’s most surprising and enjoyable highlight however, is the emergence of Roderick Clay as an innovatively determined protector of the Park family. Having left A.R.G.U.S. to take a more “cushy private-sector gig” and “never have to deal with super-powered freaks and monsters again”, the pistol-toting private investigator not only ‘rescues’ his employer’s son from the ‘clutches’ of the Immortal Man by crashing his car into the mysterious being’s anachronistic taxi cab, but also then goes on to make a last stand against a quartet of The Kill’s ferociously-fanged Bloodless.

Just as impressive is the transfer of pencilling responsibilities between this title’s co-creator, “DC Publisher and master artist” Jim Lee and Ryan Benjamin. The “digital production” illustrator somehow manages to provide Issue Two of “The Immortal Men” with a unifyingly strong imitation of the Korean American’s widely-regarded style, and resultantly the transition from the title’s previous cliff-hanger where Caden was supposedly facing a gory death in the jaws of the Infinite Woman’s savage pets, smoothly flows into this comic’s subsequent opening, which portrays the terrified young man plunging headlong through a spookily deserted underground tube line.
Storytellers: Ryan Benjamin & James Tynion IV, and Inker: Richard Friend

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

V-Wars #6 - IDW Publishing

V-WARS No. 6, October 2014
Clearly designed to be a supposed “perfect jump-on point” by “IDW Publishing”, this ‘revamped’ Issue Six of “V-Wars” seemingly ‘parks’ the franchise’s prior ‘obsession’ with the duplicitous delicacies of diplomacy, and instead provides an initially forthright fiction about a mass-murdering blood drinker who simply needs to be tracked down to his lair by Big Dog and receive “a bullet in their brain pan” before the fanged psychopath can kill any more hapless diners. Such a straight-forward story set within Jonathan Maberry’s ordinarily complicated “escalating battle with vampire terrorists” must have made a refreshingly enthralling read for this book’s insubstantial audience in October 2014, and certainly contains plenty of hackle-raising horror as Victor Eight deploys “to a research facility near an old mine” only to discover the location’s “small team of geeks here to study the environmental impact of using old copper mines as dumpsites for toxic waste” have been brutally beheaded. Indeed, the New York Times best-selling author’s narrative creates a palpable taste of terror in the mouth as his pens the so-called “top gunslingers” apprehensively scouring the cave system’s catacombs, and finding little more than blood trails, dismembered corpses, as well as half a dozen reasons for the heavily-armed military unit to foolishly split up.

Admittedly, the American anthology editor eventually imbues his script with a substantial element of political intrigue in the shape of “about a million dollars-worth of airlock” incongruously buried deep underground, as well as a heavily-financed computer-driven scientific research laboratory which immediately convinces Professor Swann that his party is well out of their depth. But by this point, any perusing bibliophile who may have inadvertently picked up this twenty-page periodical was probably as likely to return the book to its spinner rack as the Vampire Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism Field Team’s commander was of getting a radio transmission signal “upstairs” so as to “call this in.”; “Maybe it’s iron ore in the rock blocking the signal, or maybe we’re being jammed.”

Sadly, this opening instalment to “All Of Us Monsters” is arguably somewhat let down by Marco Turini’s rather messy-looking story-boards, especially those pencilled by the Italian artist once the foul-mouthed Big Dog starts scrapping for his life at close quarters against the formidably-powerful Nelapsi he’s been searching for. Undeniably dynamically-driven, and packed full of the frantic-pace one who expect from the veteran soldier’s desperate, breathless attempts to stay off “the lunch menu”, the Pulp Factory Award-winner’s scratchy sketching style still jarringly strikes as being far less attractive to the eye than this comic title’s rested regular illustrator, Alan Robinson.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jonathan Maberry, Artist: Marco Turini, and Colors: Jay Fotos

Monday, 14 May 2018

Savage Tales: Vampirella #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

SAVAGE TALES: VAMPIRELLA No. 1, May 2018
Just what “Dynamite Entertainment” was trying to achieve when it decided to print this $4.99 “one-shot” is arguably a little confusing. On the one hand the title’s Robert Hack drawn cover is clearly a deliberate homage to John Buscema’s grisly painting for the old “Marvel Comics” Conan book from the Seventies, and resultantly conjures up images of “violent barbarians”, blood-drenched beheadings and an entertaining mix of sword and sorcery. Whilst on the other, the periodical’s contents disappointingly appears far more akin to something found within the comic book publishing imprint’s back-catalogued series “Savage Tales”; a bi-monthly which featured both “the most savage stories that comic creators have ever told”, as well as “a rotating cast of characters and creators”, and was rather unceremoniously cancelled after just ten issues.

Indeed, one of the most frustrating elements to this book is that it is shamelessly (and as far as the magazine’s front page is concerned anonymously) padded out with a ten-year-old reprint of Doug Murray’s two-part tale “Valaka” from the aforementioned abandoned title’s run. Admittedly, this back-up feature is disconcertingly the highlight of “Savage Tales: Vampirella” with its terrific tale of revenge, treachery, swordplay, manacled damsels and demonic rituals. But considering that this particular publication supposedly spotlights Forrest J. Ackerman’s co-creation, the 'paying public' must surely have rightfully expected its entire contents to focus upon their vampiric super-heroine, rather than see her replaced by some dubiously duplicitous two-faced villain from yesteryear? 

Sadly, Erik Burnham’s lead narrative involving the one-time “horror-story hostess” isn’t even all that original either, with the lead character yet again finding herself in a strange land with no memory as to how she got there, why she was immediately attacked by a quartet of unruly-looking well-armed ruffians, or how to fully utilise her array of formidable powers. Such disorientation genuinely smacks of Paul Cornell’s incarnation of Vampirella from 2017 and unsurprisingly requires “the daughter of Lilith” to once more stealthily enter a foreign city in disguise, simply in order to ascertain what untoward magical machinations are taking place to its mind-controlled inhabitants.

Inconsistent, yet predominantly pleasing to the eye, this comic’s artwork by the combined creative team of Anthony Marques, J. Bone, Fernando Ruiz and Daniel HDR at least provides some modicum of entertainment. Packed full of gore and internal organs at first, as the scantily clad protagonist rips asunder a party of ill-meaning ruffians, the quality of the illustrations decidedly deteriorates the closer the action gets to the conurbation’s snake-like ruler, and only seems to ‘pick back up’ in time for the female vampire to settle herself upon her dead opponent’s throne, having torn his astonished head off…
Writer: Erik Burnham, and Artists: Anthony Marques, J. Bone, Fernando Ruiz and Daniel HDR

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi #1 - Marvel Comics

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI No. 1, July 2018
Positively publicised by “Marvel Worldwide” as an adaption which features “never-before-seen scenes of your favourite characters”, this opening instalment to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” arguably must have delighted the vast majority of its audience, including those who had already watched “the highest-grossing film of 2017”, with its noticeably new sequences and ‘extended shots’ from an earlier version of the movie’s script. Indeed, such is his narrative’s focus upon Luke Skywalker’s desperate desire to “achieve true solitude”, that Gary Whitta’s main aim for this over-sized thirty-page periodical would actually seem to have been to provide readers with a much deeper insight into the personal demons of actor Mark Hamill’s character, and the all-powerful hermit’s surprising, long-term aim to close himself “off from the energy that binds me to all living things everywhere.” 

Of course, this comic's innovatively intimate opening insight into the Jedi Master’s heavily-troubled mind, which depicts a sullen-looking Vader's son suddenly realising "someone... has found me" despite his self-imposed solitude, soon pales in comparison to the author additionally taking “full advantage of the comic book medium” by providing Luke a ‘genuine’ opportunity to mourn “the death of his close friend Han Solo” courtesy of a grief-sharing embrace with Chewbacca. But the entirely original introspective look at Obi-Wan Kenobi’s aging apprentice undoubtedly makes the Force-sensitive’s subsequent shocking refusal to acknowledge Rey’s presence on Ahch-To slightly more understandable; “Um… Master Skywalker? Master Skywalker? I’m from the resistance, your sister Leia sent me. We need your help. Hello?” 

Fortunately however, the former “ACE” magazine games journalist doesn’t provide this extra exposition at the cost of the publication’s pulse-pounding pace, and still manages to capture plenty of the sense-shattering shenanigans seen during the Resistance’s evacuation of the planet D’Qar. In fact, Po Dameron’s questionable decision to ignore his general’s direct order and ‘sacrifice’ the lives of numerous pilots in order to bring about the destruction of a spaceship with “more firepower than a dozen destroyers” is one of this magazine’s highlights.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Michael Walsh’s irregular-looking, amateurishly-angular artwork, which disconcertingly fails to attain a level anywhere near that of Whitta’s notable writing success. Clearly able to pencil an excellent Gial Ackbar, as well as an explosion-packed, intergalactic space battle, the Canadian’s somewhat cartoony drawing style disappointing fails to capture a lot of the plot’s tension and suspense, especially when an enraged Kylo Ren continuously smashes his infamous combat helmet into a wall or an irate Leia Organa physically slaps a certain "skilled X-wing fighter pilot" around his 'arrogant flyboy' face before demoting him to Captain.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Gary Whitta, Artist: Michael Walsh, and Colorist: Mike Spicer

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Moon Knight #193 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT No. 193, May 2018
Whilst Max Bemis undoubtedly lived up to his pre-print promise of having some “very weird” plans for this series with his script for Issue One Hundred And Ninety Three of “Moon Knight”, this sixth and final instalment to the lead singer’s “Crazy Runs In The Family” story-arc arguably fails quite miserably in its aim to create an “ultimate nemesis” for the titular character with its portrayal of the Sun King as being little more than a plain, unbalanced madman whose only as powerful as his confidence in Amon Ra is strong. In fact, far from being “the Joker to his Batman”, or even a plausible “ultimate bad guy who’s his polar opposite in pretty much every way”, Patient 86 ultimately must have struck the majority of this comic’s 20,383 readers as merely yet another disappointing addition to the Fist of Khonshu’s frustratingly impotent Rogues Gallery; “Never trust a madman to do a mercenary’s job.” 

Just as perplexing as the primary lyricist’s underwhelming main antagonist, who despite his formidable fire-starter super-power is ultimately bested by a bare-chested Marc Spector in a ritualistic fist-fight, is just why the silver-shrouded crime-fighter is even participating in the brutally sadistic ceremony anyway. True, Marlene is being held a prisoner on Isla Ra, and her deranged captor does seemingly plan to “hunt down your daughter after I strip off your flesh.” But none of that explains why, having beaten Bushman and an entire boat-load of criminals within an inch of their lives, the former U.S. Marine suddenly surrenders himself to being systematically brutalised and tortured once he arrives on the tropical island. Surely it would have made far more sense for Moon Knight to have stealthily infiltrated the despot’s small collection of huts and rescued his lover that way..?

Instead however, Bemis would have his audience believe Spector agrees to being repeatedly sliced, mutilated and bloodied just in order to say a touchingly sentimental farewell to Diatrice’s mother, before engaging Amon Ra’s host inside a fiery circle of night-time combat. Such unconvincingly abnormal behaviour, especially in one who as a hardened mercenary has already experienced death and been “returned to life”, is then made all the worse by the American author suggesting Marc’s ordinarily unconquerable will can be despairingly broken just because he loses a tooth and some hair during his clash with the bearded pyro-maniacal psychopath.

Quite possibly the only successful element to this disconcertingly contrived conclusion, is Jacen Burrows’ pencilling. It is quite clear from the quality of the San Diego-born illustrator’s bone-cracking pugilistic panels just why he has been one of Max’s “favourite artists for years and years” and reminds him “of artists like Steve Dillion”. Yet even the Sequential Art degree-holder seemingly struggles when drawing the “faint firings” of Moon Knight’s synapses, especially a less than flattering portrait of Diatrice which is supposedly meant to inspire Moon Knight to defeat his opponent with “the power of crazy!”

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Max Bemis, Artist: Jacen Burrows, and Inker: Guillermo Ortego

Friday, 11 May 2018

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Through The Mirror #1 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: THROUGH THE MIRROR No. 1, May 2018
Supposedly released as the first of five weekly instalments “because you demanded it”, this opening instalment to “the smash hit mini-series Mirror Broken” rather firmly fixes its attention upon the exploits of Commander Worf, as opposed to the rest of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D’s bridge crew. Indeed, apart from a handful of panels spent exploring the Starfleet Mining Facility on Naia IV, this entire sixteen-page periodical meticulously follows in the Klingon officer’s heavy footsteps.

Fortunately however, even those readers disinterested in the specific exploits of the “son of Mogh”, should still find David and Scott Tipton’s story-telling technique rather interesting, as it arguably works rather well as a plot-device to gradually inform the comic’s audience as to how the Federation staff’s investigation into a string of missing pieces of equipment is progressing. Admittedly, the Head of Security for the Galaxy-class starship was by necessity always going to be the one to spot the Mirror Universe’s doppelganger within their midst, but that doesn’t stop his subsequent fire-fight against a goatee-bearded Lieutenant Jones to be any less pulse-pounding.

In fact, Worf’s phaser exchange with the thieving technician deep inside the atmospherically dark Computer Labs is scintillatingly stuff, especially when Marcus To dynamically pencils the Klingon’s crew-mates, Reese and Hana, joining the ferocious fray and unsuccessfully attempt to corner their target with a flurry of laser fire. Angry, frustrated, his lavender-coloured blood clearly up, one can almost hear the Commander’s foul, warrior-based oaths being muttered beneath his breath as he leads Captain Ochoa and Lieutenant Amato headlong through the station’s arboretum and straight into a trap staged by a hidden alternative version of William Riker and seriously evil-looking Geordi La Forge; “The only place he could be heading in this wing of the complex is your transporter room…. Phasers ready. There he is! Don’t let him get away! Grrrr…”

Correspondingly as captivating is the comic book writing team’s “back-up” tale, “Ripe For Plunder”, which besides being beautifully painted by American artist J.K. Woodward, also provides plenty of potential insight into just what caused the Mirror Universe crew to “find their way” to the Prime plane of existence once again. Ultimately settling upon Jean-Luc Picard’s concerns as to Emperor Spock’s whereabouts, this four-pager explores just how bad things have gotten for the “cruel” Terran Empire since the Cardassians “destroyed… several key resource installations and mining colonies”, and intriguingly ends with the starship captain dispatching the barbaric realm’s Data in his yacht to “seek out other sources of information” on the former I.S.S. Enterprise's half-Vulcan first officer.
The regular cover art of "STAR TREK: TNG: THROUGH THE MIRROR" No. 1 by J.K. Woodward