Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #793 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 793, February 2018
Plunging its 53,260-strong audience straight into the thick of Spider-Man and Anti-Venom’s team-up “to locate the missing symbiotic of Flash’s friend, Andrea Benton” with no more than a handful of explanatory sentences at the very start of the book, Dan Slott’s script for this twenty-one page-periodical must have proved a particularly illusive, rather haphazardly-paced reading experience for those who hadn’t bothered to previously purchase the rest of the multi-title event’s corresponding chapters. Indeed, it’s arguably hard to discern precisely what is meant to be happening within this comic, as the Berkeley-born writer’s narrative illogically leaps from the Meatpacking District, Karnelli’s Scrapyard in the Bronx and Alchemax, until it finally settles upon “the five largest crime families in the World” and Lee Price’s apparently successful attempt to ensorcel the Maggia by ‘spitting in their food’; “Your food tasters would’ve warned you… But they work for me now. Like you.”

Before this cliffhanger conclusion though, the Eisner Award-winner’s story-line is arguably a befuddling mess, with the titular character seemingly foiling a truck robbery only to then steal the vehicle’s cargo of caviar, foie gras, and “some of the most expensive wines on the East Coast” for himself. True, this publication’s aforementioned short-lived introduction does mention the fact that Web-head had been “outgunned and captured” by Maniac 'off-screen', yet the first indication that Peter Parker’s alter-ego has actually become one of the criminal’s “burgeoning symbiotic army” isn’t debatably clear until the wall-crawler’s facial disfigurement is fully disclosed by artist Ryan Stegman later in the scene, and furthermore this particular comic never properly explains just how the costumed vigilant became an “unfriendly neighbourhood spider-slave”, nor how Price’s villainous super-power actually works..?

Equally as disconcerting is Mania’s introduction, which initially seems to have been perfectly timed in order for Agent Venom’s partner to inadvertently watch her “coach” shockingly burn to death inside a melting furnace. The purple-haired student apparently still has “some powers of my own” despite losing her symbiote, however somewhat frustratingly none of Benton’s loss or the girl’s past relationship with Flash Thompson is explored within this instalment of “Venom Inc.” except via an off-hand remark that Andi still has “my mystic Hell-mark” and conveniently “could kinda sense” she had to leave Philadelphia to visit the Bronx-located scrapyard.

Of course debatably this book’s biggest foible is its belief that by threatening the staff of the Daily Bugle, the “mind-controlled” Spider-Man would somehow attract the Black Cat’s attention “and draw her into the open.” This puzzling scene, which the “out of character” inkling himself laters admits probably “wasn’t the best plan”, is genuinely head-scratching, and seems to be a complete waste of time unless cynically seen as a lazy way for Slott to show New York City’s media that the human mutate was acting criminally whilst ‘under duress’...

Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Ryan Stegman, and Color Artist: Brian Reber

Sunday, 29 July 2018

The New World #1 - Image Comics

THE NEW WORLD No. 1, July 2018
It's clear from the very start of this “massive-sized debut issue” that an awful lot of thought and attention to detail went into the story-telling of “The New World”, from its text-book description as to how “nuclear devices simultaneously exploded over the metropolitan areas of five major cities of the United States of America” through to its later emotional ‘flashback’ depicting the grim fate of Stella’s parents as they fatally try to escape through the chaotic country’s great wall; “Wait a second. What… Officer Sherazi reporting more runners! I need back-up! I repeat! I need --” But whilst such labour intensive efforts may well have engagingly immersed some readers into the post “Second Civil War” biosphere, for others such plot threads as a lengthy, detailed account of an artificial intelligence's non-ending battle with a household cat, probably became a little too ‘overly complicated’ and detrimentally distracted its audience's attention away from a fairly straightforward tale of “two lovers” innocently meeting for the first time.

Indeed, in many ways the complexity of the society within which Ales Kot’s script is set is arguably far more effective as a screen to mask the simplicity of his actual story, than it is as a vehicle to draw his audience into the Czech-born writer’s “ballistic sci-fi action romance miniseries”. Certainly it’s not hard to quickly realise that the comic’s two opposing lead characters are inevitably going to unimaginatively ‘hook-up’ as a result of a horribly contrived sequence of co-incidental events; a fact which even “Image Comics” boldly acknowledges during its pre-publication advertisement for the magazine by drawing direct parallels to its arguably unoriginal central narrative with that of William Shakespeare’s tragic play “Romeo And Juliet”.

Of course, that isn’t to say that there isn’t still much to enjoy within the confines of the action-packed, reality television show-obsessed New California. The “straight-edge vegan hacker anarchist boy with a penchant for messing with the State” is a somewhat personable rogue despite his terrorist tendencies and inability to actually verbalise just why he has “plenty [of] legit reasons to hate the government.” And similarly, the “hedonistic cop with a… license to kill” is equally as likeable, particularly when the short-scalped celebrity continues to take the moral high ground over her presidential grandfather’s draconian, cold-blooded desire to see wrong-doers murdered in front of millions of viewers.

Yet perhaps this comic’s greatest draw is actually in the luscious Manga-like artwork by Tradd and Heather Moore, which in many ways seems highly reminiscent of a “Where's Wally?” puzzle book due to their panels containing such a sense-shattering amount of detail and hallucinogenic colour. In fact, some of the couple’s double-splashes, such as those pencilled inside a Long Beach discotheque are absolutely mind-blowing, and well worth investing plenty of time in so as to see all the different figures dancing, drinking and earning this publication its well-deserved “Mature” rating.
The regular cover art of "THE NEW WORLD" No. 1 by Tradd Moore

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps #45 - DC Comics

Packing plenty of punch with its graphically grotesque depiction of Green Lantern Weggett’s death at the hands of the Darkstars, and Hal Jordan’s subsequent skirmish with Atomic Skull, Robert Venditti’s treatment for “New Recruits” must surely have provided the vast majority of its 27,682 buyers in May 2018 with plenty to enjoy. Indeed, the twenty-page periodical’s pace doesn’t really stop until it focuses upon John Stewart’s confrontation with the House of Zod a third of the way through the publication, and even those tense negotiations for the Kryptonian general to ally himself with the inter-galactic police force are far from being a dull read; “Then afterwards we’ll tear you apart and hang your pieces from the Fortress spires. Before the twin suns set, the Green lantern Corps will be searching for a new leader.”

Unfortunately however, the Hollywood-raised writer’s narrative does seemingly start to slow down once proceedings reach Heep in Space Sector 1974. Guy Gardner’s attempt to recruit Arkillo to his cause via an “emergency drink-up” is somewhat reminiscent of Ben Grimm’s draughts alongside his old nemesis the Sandman, but the dreary dialogue “preaching forgiveness” carries little of Tom DeFalco’s Early Eighties charm, and only proves enlightening once the former Baltimore law enforcement officer suddenly accepts a surprising invitation from Tomar-Tu to become “a new deputy” for the Darkstars.

Disappointingly events soon simmer down within Stryker’s Island Penitentiary as well, with Hector Hammond’s telekinesis laying low Albert Michael’s radiated alter-ego without a moment’s thought, and arguably reducing what potentially looked like a fearsome battle between Atomic Skull and this comic’s titular character into nothing more than a truly word-heavy conversation between two former foes in which Jordan manages to convince Gil Kane’s co-creation that he shouldn’t dispose of his gaoler by ‘popping his brain’. This somewhat monotonous interchange debatably would have proved far more entertaining if it had been shortened in order to provide the easily overpowered Metropolis Special Crimes Unit agent with a couple of opportunities to take his best shot at the Green Lantern, especially when Venditti imbues the skeletal former-villain with such entertaining dialogue as he threatens to “spew a radioactive hole right through your overripe melon!”

This book’s success therefore rather rests somewhat upon the shoulders of Ethan Van Sciver, whose superb pencilling fortuitously makes even the most tedious of scenes within this magazine perfectly palatable. Marvellously dynamic in his sketching of Hal’s disappointingly short-lived fracas with Atomic Skull, and simultaneously able to provide Zod with a gloweringly-formidable demeanour when simply talking with Stewart, the Utah-born artist’s attention to detail provides ample reason alone as to why this comic is worth it’s cover price.
The regular cover art of "HAL JORDAN AND THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS" No. 45 by Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza & Arif Prianto

Friday, 27 July 2018

Man Of Steel #5 - DC Comics

MAN OF STEEL No. 5, August 2018
Considering that this penultimate instalment to the American author’s “Man Of Steel” mini-series both shows Superman to be almost nonchalantly bested by his new nemesis and then disconcertingly left alive on the Moon despite the “religious zealot” making it abundantly clear that he wants to eradicate all Kryptonians, it is difficult to imagine that many within this twenty-three page periodical’s 62,468 readership actually believed that Brian Michael Bendis genuinely felt “the legacy of the [titular] character” when he first ‘hopped on’ to deliver the comic’s narrative.

Indeed, the logic behind this publication in particular doesn’t debatably make much sense when compared to what the Cleveland-born writer has penned before, with Rogol Zaar’s decision to permit his hated foe to be revived by the Justice League simply being the tip of the literary ice-berg. For one, considering the sheer cataclysmic confrontation which tears up great divots into the Moon’s surface, how come it takes Supergirl so long to realise that that is where her cousin is battling for his life? True, scientifically-speaking “you cannot hear any sounds in near-empty regions of space”, but surely that would be a clue in itself to one with super-hearing that just such a location was a possibility, and judging by the huge billows of dust previously being raised by the duo’s bout of fisticuffs it surely wouldn’t have been impossible for Kara Zor-El to have spotted what was taking place with her super-vision..?

Similarly, having been battered to near-death by the Phantom Zoner (for a second time in as many issues) and buried alive beneath the Moon’s surface, Kal-El supposedly just needs a moments bed-rest before being able to drill through the Earth’s crust at such an incredible speed that he quickly reaches the planet’s core. This incredible feat of recovery admittedly provides this comic with an awesome-looking conclusion, as Superman faces the “anti-Kryptonian mass-murderer” for presumably a final face-off, yet surely if the Metropolis Marvel’s constitution worked so fast such classic crossover event storylines like his near-fatal fight with Doomsday would have had remarkably different resolutions..?

Quite possibly this magazine’s least frustrating element therefore, is its focus upon Jor-El’s visit to the modern-day Earth-based House of El, and his arrogant offer “to take Jon across the galaxy and show him a side of his heritage Jon's parents can't teach him” without even discussing such a trip with the boy’s stunned parents. This infuriating haughtiness, superbly pencilled by Jason Fabok, must genuinely have irked those parents within the comic’s audience which have encountered similar attitudes from their own children’s grandparents, and Clark Kent’s ability not to punch Mister Oz in the face for such a suggestion does him proud, especially when a brattish Jon impudently declares “I’m going.”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, and Artists: Adam Hughes & Jason Fabok

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman #6 - DC Comics

Described by “DC Comics” in their pre-publication publicity as supposedly featuring “an epic battle for Tir Na Nog” in which “both Fomorian and Dé Denann creatures are spilling into our own realm”, Liam Sharp’s actual finale to this six-issue mini-series probably left its audience feeling badly let-down, if not entirely mislead. For whilst the Derby-born writer’s concluding instalment to “The Brave And The Bold: Batman And Wonder Woman” does feature certain elements of King Elatha’s fight against the forces of his tyrannical brother, it does so in arguably the most cursory of manners, and definitely fails to deliver any lasting satisfaction with its “End Of Book One” conclusion.

Indeed, in many ways the narrative for this twenty-two page periodical seems to be far more concerned with raising more questions for an evident sequel publication than it does answering, or at least eloquently exploring, any of the issues its previous chapters created. For example, having been a mainstay of the central cast for this storyline’s entirety the formidable-looking Captain Furf is disrespectfully dispatched ‘off-screen’, presumably during some great pitched conflict, and is subsequently given just the simplest of death scenes in the presence of his mournful king. Likewise, Gotham City’s invasion by Balor’s armies would surely have made for a short-lived series in its own right, and yet the “co-founder/CCO of Madefire Inc” squanders such an opportunity courtesy of a double splash which straightforwardly depicts the Batplane dousing the orcish trespassers with sleeping gas so Commissioner Gordon can simply “send your men in now.”

Perhaps this comic’s biggest disappointment however, is in Elatha’s highly-anticipated confrontation with Balor Evil-Eye, which initially looks set to simply be a portrayal of the king impotently being roasted alive by his all-powerful sibling. Considering that Ethné’s husband was somewhat cognisant as to what his foe was capable off, it seems utterly ludicrous that such a powerful ruler would simply stand still in front of so lethal an attack, especially when the quickly badly burnt leader doesn’t even bother to carry a shield with him..?

Of course, such a ludicrous lapse in judgement does provide Sharp with the opening to have Wonder Woman literally come out of nowhere to smack the God of Blight and Droughts squarely in his laser-beam eye and resultantly save the day. But such a contrivance seems to have been lazily orchestrated just so the Princess of Themyscria had something to do besides bewail Cernunnos’ shocking death at the hands of an unknown spearman, as well as allow Balor to escape justice and rather mercenarily set-up a follow-up publication…
Writer/Artist: Kevin Sharp, and Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The Immortal Hulk #3 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 3, September 2018
Apparently “inspired in part by an episode of the Italian strip Il Commissario Spada which involved the titular policeman chasing a purse-snatcher and asking various witnesses about him,” Al Ewing’s script to Issue Three of “The Immortal Hulk” probably seemed like a clever(ish) idea on paper, especially as its execution would mean editors Tom Brevoort and Wil Moss inviting a handful of artists in alongside regular Joe Bennett to provide the required carousel of creativity. Unfortunately however, those illustrators chosen for this pencilling gestalt are so markedly different from one another in technique, and arguably poor in their performance, that “Point Of View” debatably fast becomes such an unpalatable assault upon the senses that it is all too easy to put the publication down and perhaps just simply stare in wonder at Mahmud Asrar and Edgar Delgado’s awesome-looking variant cover celebrating ‘Fifty Years of Carol Danvers’.

For starters Leonardo Romero's “The Cop’s Story” segment, whilst admirably based upon “the classic super hero style”, debatably suffers as a result of its mimicry of Sixties printing processes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Brazilian’s line-work, as the more modern-day colouration of his panels proves, and quite possibly an entire twenty-page periodical populated with such ‘vintage’ story-boarding would be perfectly passable. Yet seeing as the Sao Paulo-born artist’s pictures are persistently interposed with the utterly amateurish-looking “art-comix” drawings of Paul Hornschemeier, and then later Garry Brown’s heavy, scratchy-styled sketches, the entire look of the British writer’s narrative makes this magazine difficult to stick with even for a few minutes.

Indeed, with the exception of Jeff Lemire’s 2017 run on “Moon Knight”, it’s hard to recall a more diverse-looking “Marvel Worldwide” publication, especially when it intermixes its questionably more roughly hewn-looking passages with Marguerite Sauvage’s beautifully romanticised illustrations for “The Old Lady’s Story”. Sadly however, it may well have struck many in this book’s audience that there probably isn’t that much of a plot hidden beneath the multiple artists’ failing façade anyway, as this entire book’s script seems to tell a relatively straightforward tale of the Hulk thwarting Hotshot’s hostage-taking antics inside a church despite taking an energy bolt straight through the stomach. Admittedly, this plot does conclude with the surprising deaths of Lou Lembert and Jailbait, as well as the introduction of Walter Langkowski, but any sensationalism created by such twists are lost amidst this comic’s ill-conceived implementation.
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 3 by Alex Ross

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Immortal Hulk #2 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 2, September 2018
Al Ewing’s script to Issue Two of “The Immortal Hulk” definitely demonstrates just how hard the author was “pushing for a horror take” on the Green Goliath in July 2018, with it’s subtle avoidance of the titular character’s obligatory “mass destruction” and fascinating focus upon “his shadowy nature” instead. Indeed, the British writer’s decision “to reset the tone” of the series “to the very start” and show the Hulk’s “unstoppable” strength actually taking “a back seat” to the storyline’s more frightfully shocking elements as the world-weary Bruce Banner investigates a mystery illness which is spreading through “a random small-town”, is arguably precisely why his pitch ultimately “won out” with “Marvel Worldwide”.

This ‘new take’ upon the doctor’s “forever companion” really does make for an enthralling read, with the somewhat emaciated man one moment desperately trying to find a sense of inner peace by enjoying the simple things in life, like “two eggs, sunny-side up”, and in the next acting upon an “itch” when he hears from the locals that “four people fell to the same thing… When the Frye boy died.” “Intelligent, [and] still a nuclear scientist”, the “physically weak” physicist’s distraught reaction to discovering that a well-visited grave is emanating gamma radiation is incredibly well-penned, and must surely have had this book’s audience feeling their hearts noticeably beat all the quicker when an enraged Banner fails to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to dispatch a radiological emergency response team to his location until after he aggressively provides their telephone operator with his details; “Fine. Fine. You want my name? My name… is Robert Bruce Banner. Don’t make me angry.”

Interestingly, such a loss of temper doesn’t actually result in the Hulk making an appearance either, forcing fans of the human mutate’s alter-ego to wait until the book’s horrifying conclusion when the scientist is shockingly murdered by Doctor Frye within the irradiated villain’s secret mountain-top lair. Sickeningly scary, as Bruce’s neck cracks like a rotten twig between the hands of the sincerely sorrowful, yet determined, translucently-coloured killer, Ewing once again produces a sombrely spooky stand out moment within the covers of “The Walking Ghost” by having the green-skinned muscular humanoid suddenly transform before his startled assailant’s eyes and angrily demand an explanation as to his unforgivable actions.

Well-detailed, dynamic and as energetic as the sight of Delbert John Frye’s eyes literally bleeding gamma goo is grotesque, it is also easy to see why Joe Bennett’s pencilling for this periodical was described by its author as being “fantastic”. The Brazilian artist has “a real way with layouts”, whilst his “really wonderful, almost unnatural mass to the Hulk” shows just why “most of the reviews” of this book have apparently mentioned the monster almost looming from “out of the page.”
Writer: Al Ewing, Penciler: Joe Bennett, and Inker: Ruy Jose

Monday, 23 July 2018

The Immortal Men #4 - DC Comics

THE IMMORTAL MEN No. 4, September 2018
Pleasingly providing a look at a time “before common tongues and calendars, when Man was new, and the world was still taking shape”, this fourth instalment to James Tynion IV’s “The End Of Forever” storyline finally gave its readers an explanation as to just how the Immortal Man and Infinite Woman gained their super-powers 50,000 years ago. But whilst this exposition concerning the cave-dwelling Bear Clan makes for an entertaining start to the “DC Comics” storyline, it is delightfully soon overshadowed by the sheer sense-shattering shenanigans of the New Yorker’s modern-day based script, which features some stunning fight sequences between the likes of Timber and the Bloodless.

Indeed, the “member of the native Menominee Nation” initially takes centre stage with great gusto as she grows in size “to reach the height of a house” and with a smile upon her face, begins chopping Kyra Arg’s demonic minions to pieces, courtesy of Babe the Blue Axe. These early scenes, competently pencilled by Utah-born artist Tyler Kirkham, really are a joy to behold, and both demonstrate just how formidable a team member the fur-wearing Keshena Carpentier is, as well as provide an opportunity for the American author to detail her early 19th Century origin story; “The strange tale would carry east, to Philadelphia. To the Immortal Man. He would come to tell her that legends are shaped by great actions. And that as Timber she would shape many legends.”

Incredibly however, the majority of this twenty-page periodical actually predominantly focuses upon Klarn Arg rather than his House of Action, and in a demonstration of wielding a pair of laser swords which would truly put the likes of George Lucas’ Darth Maul to shame, this ongoing title’s audience are given a mind-blowing glimpse as to what perfecting “every fighting skill into an intimate art form" over "tens of thousands of years” looks like. In fact, the Immortal Man’s ability to best an entire army of savage, heavily-teethed Bloodless one-on-one makes for an incredible piece of action-packed story-telling, and only the epic confrontation’s conclusion, which results in his near-defeated sister cowardly skulking up behind him to fatally skewer her sibling upon her overly-large blade, probably drew a bigger intake of breath from the reader.
Storytellers: Tyler Kirkham & James Tynion IV, and Colorist: Arif Prianto

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Aliens: Dust To Dust #2 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DUST TO DUST No. 2, July 2018
Firmly focusing upon Maxon’s perilous plight aboard a spaceship that fast becomes “a death trap from which escape seems impossible”, Gabriel Hardman’s treatment for Issue Two of “Aliens: Dust To Dust” certainly provides its readers with plenty of pulse-pounding action. Indeed, despite this particular instalment of the “Dark Horse Comics” mini-series only featuring a single xenomorph XX121, and an infant-sized “vaguely worm-like organism” at that, the diminutive endoparasitoid extra-terrestrial arguably proves just as lethal as it’s human phenotype by tearing out the throat of one hapless passenger and resultantly causing the vessel’s captain to remotely blow the ship up in the hope that "there aren’t any more this far out.. [as] we’re miles from Trono.” 

Intriguingly however, the “co-writer/artist of Invisible Republic” doesn’t arguably make the highly aggressive creature the ‘villain of this particular piece’ and instead seems to favour simple ill-fortune in the role of antagonist, as the twelve-year-old's transporter desperately battles to climb through planet LV-871’s horribly polluted atmosphere in a frantic bid to reach the safety of the U.S.S. Carver; “Once we make contact, they’ll send another shuttle and we can attempt a transfer.” This seemingly endless battle against the elements really provides an enthralling roller-coaster of a ride with the vessel’s lack of knots to gain a safe altitude not being helped by either the fact that due to a hole in their port shielding it can’t actually reach orbit, or that its aft stabiliser snaps just as pilot De Vore is fast-approaching a towering mountain range.

Similarly, the previously gallant Assistant Administrator Waugh, whose heroic efforts ensured that young Maxon and his ill-fated mother successfully got aboard the spaceship in the first place, swiftly deteriorates into a rather brusque unlikeable fellow, once it becomes clear that any authority he apparently believes he has as a governmental official can be easily overruled by the shuttle’s no-nonsense captain. Such a change in personality proves fascinating, especially as the man appears to take his frustrations out on the twenty-page periodical’s central lead by scolding and roughly handling him, as if it’s the boy’s fault that the entire alien infestation has destroyed the bureaucrat’s settlement.

Slightly less successful than his writing though, is Hardman’s scratchy-style of pencilling, which occasionally makes it quite hard to discern what is actually taking place within a panel. True, the “Planet Of The Apes” artist for “Boom! Studios” sketches a genuinely heart-melting, utterly-silent sequence early on within this publication, when the craft’s passengers realise that Maxon’s mother is dead. Yet his story-boarding of the spaceship’s crash bags deployment as it nears an outcrop of deadly-looking stalagmites may debatably take several re-reads before it becomes entirely evident as to just how the bone-shuddering landing actually occurs…
The regular cover art of "ALIENS: DUST TO DUST" No. 2 by Gabriel Hardman

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Planet Of Daemons #1 - Amigo Comics

PLANET OF DAEMONS No. 1, September 2016
Proudly entered “into our little family” by “Amigo Comics” in July 2016, this “hell of a book” undeniably contains an incredibly well thought out universe “created by the British team of Kevin Gunstone and Paul Moore” which seemingly mixes the very best elements of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem “Divine Comedy” with the paranoid prosecutions of the Salem witch trials. Indeed, up until her death by hanging, during which she curses the land “in the name of the succubus Nehema”, the persecution of poor old widow Barebones, which progresses throughout this twenty-two page periodical, appears to simply be the unjust maniacal imaginings of an overzealous magistrate rather than any actual practical demonstration of witchcraft.

Delightfully however, as this “bewitching” book’s audience immediately discerns, it is not just the Borough of Ipswich in Massachusetts, New England upon which the servants of Satan wantonly roam, but also the occult realm of the Qliphoth. Plagued by beaked bat-creatures and wookie-like horned beastmen, this shadow world “of sorcery and ill-intent” proves as fascinating a landscape as it is clearly deadly, and provides plenty of pulse-pounding action-packed exploits to beautifully counter the somewhat slower-paced court-room tensions of Amos Deathridge’s 17th Century investigation into a cattle plague; “For you and your kind, I offer only imprisonment or oblivion... There is no escape! Daemon, it is time we bartered words..."

In fact, one of the most harrowing scenes in this publication occurs upon one of the spheres “hidden from man’s perception” when the puritan discovers the corpse of his fellow adventurer Baron Aubert and utilises “the pure light of Adam’s Jewel” to command the cadaver to “tell me who is responsible for your ruin.” Dressed in the chainmail of a crusading knight, the image of the magistrate’s desperately struggling friend being stretched over Count Eligos’ sacrificial tree stump, held firmly in place by the blue-skinned demon’s red-robed acolytes so as to extend the fiend’s “influence on Earth and the Qliphoth” is disturbingly penned by Gunstone and additionally provides an ample example of just how perilously quick one’s gruesome death can be within the jailer of evil spirits’ world.

Quite possibly this book’s only downside therefore is in some of Paul Moore’s pencilled panels, which occasionally appear a little too roughly-hewn for a professional publication. There should though be no doubting the artist’s ability to imbue his figures with plenty of dynamism, as the gaoler of daemons’ closely fought battle with a pack of fur-covered fiends attests, but a fair few of the illustrator’s faces arguably appear to wear a disconcerting grimace which distractingly detracts from the overall storytelling.
Writer: Kevin Gunstone, Art: Paul Moore, and Colour: Stefan Mrkonjic

Friday, 20 July 2018

Man Of Steel #4 - DC Comics

MAN OF STEEL No. 4, August 2018
It’s arguably hard not to feel that Brian Michael Bendis placed an awful lot of faith in this title’s 63,565 readers, in so far as believing they’d actually go and seek out all the additional information relating to Rogol Zaar's background which "DC Comics" was contemporaneously printing, simply to help them fill in the gaps which his penmanship creates throughout this mini-series’ narrative. For whilst the Cleveland-born author’s script for Issue Four of “Man Of Steel” predominantly focuses upon the titular character’s failed fist-fight against the “alien who claimed to have been responsible for destroying Krypton”, the twenty-two page periodical never touches upon the Phantom Zoner supposedly committing “a string of atrocities across the cosmos” prior to his arrival on Earth, nor clarifies what his vendetta with Jor-El's people is.

Admittedly, this lack of clarity surrounding the facially-disfigured, super-strong “religious zealot” does provide a significant element of intrigue to proceedings as to why he seemingly hates Clark Kent’s alter-ego so much and how he so nonchalantly managed to obliterate the entire hapless population of Kandor. But in only laying “down the bread crumbs leading to the writer’s first issues of Superman and Action Comics in July” the Metropolis Marvel’s lengthy battle with his new nemesis in this publication eventually becomes little more than a debatably stale confrontation which rather drags on, especially as Kal-El’s adversary “has not spoken. Not one word.”

Similarly as disconcerting is just how tough Zaar apparently appears to be, batting off the all-powerful punches of the Big Blue Boy Scout and his cousin, Supergirl, in one pulse-pounding panel, and then effortlessly laying a serious sense-shattering smackdown upon the pair in the next. Indeed, it’s hard to recall Kara Zor-El being treated in such a disrespectful fly-like manner as Bendis portrays her within this book, with the Kryptonian being repeatedly swatted away into the sky like an irksome insect by “the new big bad.” 

Perhaps this magazine’s biggest disappointment however, comes with Kevin Maguire’s artwork which seems better suited to a more humour-filled magazine, than one cataloguing Superman’s all-too sombre “cleansing” with an extra-terrestrial mass-murderer. Highly stylised, and supposedly “comedian… Seth Meyers… favourite comic book artist”, the American’s heavily outlined cartoony illustrations badly jar with such life-threatening circumstances and debatably make the likes of Hal Jordan’s appearance as “the Green Lantern of this Sector” look like something from a Late Sixties issue of “Not Brand Echh”.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, and Artists: Kevin Maguire & Jason Fabok

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Doctor Strange [2015] #18 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 18, May 2017
For those amongst this comic’s 41,801 readers anticipating some sort of sorcerous showdown between its titular character, Thor and Mister Misery, Jason Aaron’s narrative for Issue Eighteen of “Doctor Strange” debatably must have come as something of a let-down with its predisposition towards surgical procedures as opposed to mythical weapons, spells and incantations. Of course that doesn’t mean that the Alabama-born author wastes an opportunity having Jane Foster’s alter-ego prevalent throughout this twenty-page periodical, au contraire, but his penmanship does fiercely focus upon her god-like abilities as a medical practitioner rather than the wielder of Mjolnir.

Indeed, in many ways “The World’s Finest Super-Surgeons” shows an enthralling side to the Goddess of Thunder which has not been seen before in a “Marvel Worldwide” publication, as Stephen mentors the Asgardian in the nuances of brain surgery and she uses a scalpel to “open a corridor to the tumour” inside a terminally unwell patient’s head. This intriguingly tense sequence, and subsequent ‘successful smiting’ of the abnormal growth of tissue, is tremendously well-written and only ventures into the macabre towards its end when “Thunderpants” is actually attacked by the objecting slick-black tumour; “You are… eating a brain tumour, Doctor Strange. Tell me, are all of your team-ups this bizarre and revolting?”

Even more impressive though, is Thor’s decision to operate on all the remaining patients simultaneously when Mister Misery realises what the pair are up to, and decides to “inflict maximum pain” on his hated adversary by causing the rest of its hopelessly sick victims to suffer lethal seizures. Working at the velocity of lightning, a move which necessitates Strange to “cover thy ears”, the Former Avenger’s sheer speed is breath-taking and shows just how different this particular incarnation of the Norse mythological legend is from her potentially more action-orientated predecessor Odinson.

For those bibliophiles who perhaps wanted to see more of the “Mighty Mallet” however, this comic’s conclusion still provided plenty of multi-eyed, tentacle-thrashing pounding, as all the “Odin-damned tumours” coagulate together into a grotesque gestalt which only Mjolnir can apparently best. Disconcertingly drawn and coloured by Chris Bachalo, this ‘set-piece’ is simply packed full of squidgy tendrils, xenomorph-like incisors and maleficent maws, all of which are either electrocuted by the weapon forged by the Dwarves of Nidavellir or enraged by Doctor Strange's seemingly impotent magical axe...
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist & Colorist: Chris Bachalo, and Letters: VC's Cory Petit

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Outpost Zero #1 - Image Comics

OUTPOST ZERO No. 1, July 2018
In many ways it’s hard to imagine that seven years before this title saw print, Sean Kelley McKeever’s external pitches had dried up at “Marvel Worldwide” and that despite “DC Comics” “just launching the New 52” the California-based publisher “didn’t have any openings” for him. True, the Appleton-born writer’s treatment for this “oversized debut issue” doesn’t contain any super-powered heroes and villains, or actually anyone even slightly outside the accepted Homo sapiens norm. But it does include a thoroughly engrossing script which quite beautifully depicts the inhabitants of “the smallest town in the universe”, and all their emotional insecurities as they go about their daily routines of working the land, visiting “the fights every Friday night” and “tuck[ing] their children into bed”.

Indeed, due to “Outpost Zero” being located “on a frozen world never meant to support human life” the book's narrative spends the best part of its formidable page count portraying the adults as determined drones who, for better or worse, have set aside their own personal aspirations in order to serve the larger community. However, even this seemingly endless carousel of educationalists, low-level workers, engineers and civilian administrators somehow manages to enthral any reader who can stomach a script which essentially revolves around the lifestyles and desires of a handful of young teenagers.

Arguably any such “Little House on the Prairie” in space story-line will eventually start to peter out in both pace and interest though, yet fortunately for fans of McKeever's penmanship the discovery of an all-too imminent, civilisation-level threatening electrical storm two-thirds through the publication swiftly injects the Eisner Award-winner’s treatment with plenty of actual pulse-pounding pizzazz. In fact, the potentially lethal plot twist genuinely imbues all the characters which the American author has so patiently painted a detailed background to with a startling amount of dynamic energy, and only the most superfluous of bibliophiles won’t be caught up in all the excited activity of the stranded colony’s final three and a half hours as it prepares for the inevitable assault upon its dome and life-giving apparatus. 

Somewhat as successful as McKeever’s soul-searching story-telling is Alexandre Tefenkgi’s competent, almost cartoon-like, artwork. Considering just how many individuals feature within this comic’s cast, it’s incredible to see how unique-looking the “Skybound Entertainment” artist makes each person’s facial details appear, whilst few within this book’s audience could surely suppress an involuntary shudder when the settlement’s discovery team venture outside in the cold, arctic tundra; “I feel good about this spot. We’ll find something. Solid ground, signs of life…”
Creator/Writer: Sean Kelley McKeever, and Creator/Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #2 - IDW Publishing

Mark Russell’s treatment for Issue Two of “Judge Dredd: Under Siege” clearly shows the Eisner Award-nominee taking up the “chance to step into the role of sci-fi social commentator” by focusing far more upon the fall of Patrick Swayze Block into an insular, self-serving community than it does Judge Beeny’s firefight with attacking mutants. Indeed, in many ways this twenty-page periodical’s narrative is all about Tiger Whitehead’s exploitation at the hands of Kidney Hut, and her young brother’s subsequent rescue before the organ harvester’s body-armoured bully boys can remove it, rather than a story about Mega-City One’s greatest lawman defending a band of his metropolis’ hapless citizens from the multi-limbed machinations of the Cursed Earth’s mutated denizens.

Fortunately however, that doesn’t mean that “the author of God Is Disappointed in You” hasn’t penned an enthrallingly entertaining tale, as his plot-thread involving the examination of “fine print” and giving a corporation your liver “when someone turns seventy” proves itself to be a disturbing, disconcertingly engrossing read which in some ways arguably harks back to the horror of Malcolm Shaw’s April 1977 “2000 A.D.” story “Frankenstein 2”. Certainly, it’s not hard to cheer Gilberto on as the (then) young man desperately engages a pair of the corporation’s mean-spirited internal collection agents with a hand pistol in order to give his purple-haired friend an opportunity to both find the infant Jerome and “destroy all the records for Swayze Block.”

For those within this mini-series’ audience more interested in the exploits of its titular character though, such advantageous abuse of the underprivileged by greedy, money-making executives, are impressively also interspersed with action-packed insights into Judge Dredd’s current battle against the building’s invading host. Hauntingly illuminated by Whitehead’s “light jacket”, these pulse-pounding panels not only show the lawman at the very top of his game, as he dispatches numerous heavily-armed mutants courtesy of the various settings available on his lawgiver, but also manage to convey the sense of unease between the judges and their lawbreaking allies, “a small local gang, under the command of an enigmatic man known as The Mayor.”

Perhaps this book’s only disappointment is therefore some of Max Dunbar’s pencilling, which whilst top notch and sense-shattering when used to convey all the dynamism of the publication’s pitched battles in the near darkness of a church and shopping mall, strangely lack that ‘something extra’ when depicting family life within Tiger’s household and the sterile environment of the Kidney Hut offices.
The regular cover art of "JUDGE DREDD: UNDER SIEGE" No. 2 by Max Dunbar

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Immortal Hulk #1 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 1, August 2018
Spinning out of the sixteen-issue long “Avengers: No Surrender” story-line, at least according to its author Al Ewing, this first instalment of a “new ongoing series… which launches this June as part of Marvel Comics Fresh Start initiative” certainly seems to have lived up to its pre-publication promise that none of the title's 84,153-strong audience needed “to have read No Surrender – or any other comic ever published by Marvel or anyone else – to enjoy Immortal Hulk.” For whilst an understanding of the lengthy association between Bruce Banner and the World’s Mightiest Mortal makes it easier to understand just how come Thomas Edward Hill’s attacker “was big… built like an engine of Hell… and… was green”, “every Hulk fan, old and new”, will still make sense of the British comic book writer’s script for “Or Is He Both”. In fact, in many ways an ignorance of the Green Goliath’s previous adventures probably helped better sell this oversized thirty-page periodical as a “new, horror-themed comic”, rather than just another straightforward chapter in the titular character’s ever ongoing ‘super-heroic’ chronology.

Interestingly however, this magazine’s readers still had to wait quite a considerable time before Joe Bennett's fantastically pencilled Hulk actually made an appearance, due to the creator of “the comedic blog The Diary of Ralph Dibney” initially just focusing upon “the psyche and fragile form” of Banner as he witnesses the cold-blooded murder of an innocent young girl in a bungled petrol station robbery and is ruthlessly shot through the forehead before he can 'transform’; “You… You just… You --” BDAM. This truly horrific crime, made all the worse by Hill’s callous ability to simply shoot the hapless cashier as the crying man pleads for his life, is wonderfully penned by Ewing and proves such an emotional journey that the vast majority of bibliophiles were probably cheering when “the Strongest One There Is” later bursts in upon the Dogs Of Hell’s dilapidated headquarters so as to wreck his revenge upon the weak-willed man who killed him.

Somewhat bizarrely though, Bruce’s “savage, nocturnal alter-ego” undoubtedly appears to have undergone something of a personality change for this book, with his renovation into "an instrument of justice and vengeance” appearing more in keeping with that of Gary Friedrich’s Ghost Rider than the human mutate’s usual “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” shenanigans. Indeed, Tommy's slaying of three innocent people and the loathsome man’s irritating claim that he didn’t want to do it, would surely have tried many a crime-fighter’s patience beyond its moral limits, and yet the green-skinned, oft-times murderous “monster who can’t die” surprisingly still leaves the blonde-haired robber “clinging to life”, apparently unwilling to completely snuff out his existence.
Writer: Al Ewing, Penciler: Joe Bennett, and Inker: Ruy Jose

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Geek-Girl #2 - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL No. 2, July 2018
It’s rare for a magazine to generate such a strong, mounting sense of injustice in its audience as Sam Johnson’s script for Issue Two of “Geek-Girl” arguably does in its terrible treatment of the “comic book geek with a basement stuffed with super-hero funny books”, Summer James. For whilst by her own admission, the fashion student has simply been carrying “on Geek-Girl’s work until you got better -- Just until you got back into it --”, the poor young woman’s unforgivably antagonistic reception by Ruby Kaye and her best friend’s mean-spirited parents is infuriatingly hostile, especially considering that the super-heroic stand-in only visited Little Miss Popular's residence because her supposed buddy invited her to; “Yeah, it’d be great to see you.”

This scene is tremendously well-penned by the title’s creator, and turns what was initially expected to be a joyful reunion between “the cool kids” into a somewhat uncomfortable doorstep greeting, and then later full-on verbal tirade by Janice, who immediately starts irrationally accusing the bespectacled-rookie of irresponsibly putting her daughter in a coma and almost getting her killed. This outrageous welcome to someone who has simply been trying to do their best, and placing their life on the line as a consequence, genuinely gets the blood boiling, and any liking for the original super-tech glass-wearing protagonist debatably evaporates when she subsequently further deflates Summer’s bubble by taking back Trevor Goldstein’s invention from her, even though Ruby apparently has absolutely no intention of ever wearing them again…

Happily however, this understandably depressing, dialogue-heavy sequence is interestingly interspersed by a much more humorous series of scenes focusing upon the utterly inept Terry and his unwise decision to join the League of Larcenists. Anyone foolish enough to believe a man with literally half a boar’s brain is going to produce a “rock-solid” plan for robbing Maine of half its considerable wealth is asking for trouble, so it surely wouldn’t have come as a surprise to this twenty-one page periodical’s audience that the criminal’s relationship with Pig Head and Mongo quickly degenerates in something of a farce, particularly when one of the crew reveals “he was telling me his wife made him have a vasectomy the other week” and the naïve crook’s resultantly awarded the codename “Numb Nuts”.

Quite possibly this publication’s biggest draw though is Summer’s confrontation with the mechanically-menacing Chromex. Fantastically pencilled on this comic’s variant edition cover by Carlos Granda, the heavily armour-suited villain would potentially appear a match for James even if the caped crime-fighter still actually had her powers, let alone now when she isn’t “wearing the glasses”, so his devastating destruction of Josh’s car as the student desperately attempts to save the head-miked damsel in distress sincerely shows what the robotic lawbreaker is probably planning to do to his fallen prey at the conclusion of this book.
The regular cover art of "GEEK-GIRL" No. 2 by Carlos Granda 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Stroper #2 - Stroper Store

STROPER No. 2, June 2018
It’s clear from Eddie Porter’s script to Issue Two of “Stroper” just why the digital comic’s Kickstarter managed to raise an impressive $2,186 in funds by the end of February 2018, with its broadening of the title’s leading cast and additional insights into Pak Booker’s incarceration “in the Bo’ak 5 prison mines”. Indeed, the thoroughly entertaining interplay between the mullet-haired hunter and his robotic assistant Tango, is arguably worth any cover price alone, especially when the surprisingly terrified bot begins to produce a high-pitched scream as it desperately tries to help its master lug his latest prey’s burdensome corpse aboard their spaceship before the pair are consumed by zillions of hungry Krill; “You know my courage drive is under cranked. It’s a sensitive subject for me.”  

Similarly amusing is the automaton’s all-pervading aura of doom, which persistently appears to tweak the nose of the fate for all its worth. Understandably defensive when it is initially blamed for not correctly calculating that the stalker would actually encounter a female Rook on the Moon of Centi-7, the android rather humorously constantly goads the gods with its prediction that “things could be worse…” and subsequently seems to set up a sequence of events which disquietingly sees Booker’s dead extra-terrestrial prize ‘give birth’ to a cute, six-eyed living hatchling just before his vessel C16-227 is intercepted by “the boys in blue”.

Far less witty however, and understandably so, is the visual effects artist’s disconcerting dalliance upon Pak’s daily deadly routine “chain ganged to the Galaxies finest scum bags.” Strapped into a hammer suit whilst drilling for “the galaxies most precious resource” this arduous, soul-sapping punishment actually seems entirely appropriate for someone who killed “endangered aliens for money.” But when the prisoner stood working right beside our titular character is seemingly vaporised by a ruby-red release of rays from inside the ‘coal face’ upon which they’re working, it quickly becomes apparent that Pak’s sentence is probably a short-lived terminal one, where he literally takes his life in his hands every second of the working day…

Of course, what really helps bring across the monotonous nature of the captive stroper’s existence is Porter’s excellent computer-generated artwork. The scenes showing this title’s protagonist simply being one of many minuscule-sized miners as he traverses a leviathan-long, winding ravine “down into the belly of hell” alongside his innumerable fellow inmates, really captures the analogy of him simply being seen by the Galactic Union as nothing more valuable than a replaceable worker ant. Whilst Booker’s increasingly troubled facial features, in light of his latest hunt’s aftermath, shows the man's agitated unease as circumstances pour woe after woe upon his shoulders, and really adds to the growing tension inside his spacecraft’s cockpit.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer & Illustrator: Eddie Porter

Friday, 13 July 2018

The Curse Of Brimstone #3 - DC Comics

Selling just 15,949 units in June 2018, a disappointing drop of over four thousand copies on its previous instalment, Justin Jordan’s treatment for Issue Three of “The Curse Of Brimstone” arguably provided its audience with both a reasonably neat conclusion to the new title’s opening story-arc, and a moment of true tragedy which will doubtless haunt its titular character for the foreseeable future. Indeed, “Inferno: Finale” unquestionably packs plenty of punch within its twenty pages, as Joseph Chamberlain’s fiery alter-ego literally goes toe-to-toe with the ever-boastful Hound and Annie demonstrates a strength of will perhaps rarely seen before in a secondary cast member when she clobbers the Salesman straight into his next incarnation; “You kill me here, I am a dozen other places. It won’t matter--”

Luckily however, the co-creator of “The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode” doesn’t just use this comic to pen a straightforward fist-fight, and adds plenty of gravitas to its pulse-pounding proceedings by continually having the bizarrely-masked “persuasive operative working for… the Home Office” persistently offer the red-headed siblings deal after tempting deal. These emotional enticements, which initially start with the Faustian manipulator simply threatening to fatally slice the throat of Darren if the old man’s son doesn’t finish turning his local town into “human ash statues”, soon degenerate into bargains involving letting the demonic agent go, as well as him offering Brimstone’s sister the possibility of her not needing “to study for your nursing degree anymore”, and all add to the proceeding’s palpable tension through the possibility that at some point someone might actually yield to what’s being offered…

Coupled with the flurry of blows being exchanged between Joseph and his female super-powered adversary, plus the frail welfare of the human mutate’s evidently vulnerable father whose mortality constantly seems to lurch from one danger to another, such poignant story-telling genuinely produces a real roller-coaster of a ride, with every other turn of the page debatably causing the reader’s heart to race in anticipation of what artist Philip Tan may (or may not) pencil next. In fact at one point, just before the cold-blooded killer is momentarily surprised by Annie’s dad bodily bowling her to the ground, it actually looks as if Brimstone will be dispatched with an icy stake through the heart and his sister offered a similar deal to replace him in exchange for not bludgeoning the Salesman to death with a baseball bat.
Storytellers: Philip Tan & Justin Jordan, and Colorist: Rain Beredo

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Unexpected #2 - DC Comics

THE UNEXPECTED No. 2, September 2018
It’s difficult to believe that any reader was able to comprehensively follow Steve Orlando’s narrative for Issue Two of “The Unexpected” without them first owning either a working knowledge of this twenty-page periodical’s previous installment or a basic grasp of “the events of Dark Nights: Metal”. For whilst “Grenade Tour” undeniably supplies plenty of pulse-pounding panels packed full of urgent tension and only the sort of pace a frantic flight for survival can generate, its far from straightforward script contains little to no exposition as to what is actually happening, nor why the likes of Neon the Unknown and Firebrand are having to flee in the first place.

Admittedly, the Syracuse-born writer’s narrative does contain an early double splash summarisation of Colin Nomi’s origin story, and later it becomes relatively clear that the Bad Samaritan’s mysterious metal, which can apparently “detonate a second time” at any moment, is actually the “heavy isotope of iron” known as Nth metal. But none of this information arguably helps with a plot which sees the blind material manipulator teleport repeatedly from dimension to dimension in order to outrace Lord Onimarr Synn’s ferociously-fanged owl-minions and their female Twi'lek-lookalike “Lady Lamp”; “Manhawks! Hold the fool’s protector --! This shoat cannot keep the Nth metal isotope from me!”

Indeed, if anything this desperate dash from Red Hook, Brooklyn, to Penn City, then Vanity, Ivy Town, National City, Slaughter Swamp, and finally Blackhawk Island only muddles the various plot threads up even more, especially when Janet Fals’ accompanying dialogue concerning “whatever the hell the World Forge is”, is overshadowed by her sorcerous companion’s gobbledygook regarding his “other senses… [being] tuned to more planes of existence than most people’s”, Quench’s metal disrupting “our universe’s fundamental forces”, and another explosion which potentially “could puncture the membrane of reality like a water balloon.”

Happily, this magazine is blessed with some rather dynamically-drawn artwork by Cary Nord, whose storyboarding for Firebrand’s battle with Synn’s General Phade is undoubtedly the highlight of the publication. Clean-lined and well-animated, “the award-winning artist of comic books and graphic novels such as Daredevil, X-Men, and Conan The Barbarian” provides both plenty of gravitas to Nomi’s emotional loss at the death of his friends, Ascendant and the Viking Judge, as well as insurmountable rage in Fals’ furious assaults.
Storytellers: Cary Nord & Steve Orlando, and Inks: Wade von Grawbadger