Friday, 31 August 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #797 - Marvel Comics

Providing a veritable fright-fest with its exploration of the truly dark side to Norman Osborn’s disconcertingly homicidal personality, Dan Slott’s opening instalment to “Go Down Swinging” may not have provided the wall-crawling action many of this comic’s voracious 128,189 followers were potentially anticipating due to the absence of this book’s titular character, except in flashback. However, such an omission in no way means that the Berkeley-born writer’s tale depicting the arms dealer sadistically torturing his unseen captive is any less engrossing an experience due to the sheer menace with which the Eisner Award-winner somehow manages to get Harry’s father to exude throughout his twenty-page periodical.

Indeed, due to the cold-blooded butcher repeatedly staring straight out of each panel directly into the eyes of the reader, and his submerged symbiotic relationship with the utterly murderous Carnage, this riveting read genuinely provides the former Green Goblin with a truly palpable presence which makes the American author’s “The Loose Thread” unputdownable, especially when it becomes clear the megalomaniac isn’t opposed to taking his time killing his predominantly silent prisoner by making “a game out of it”, or horrifically biting the head off of a hapless rat..!

Enjoyably, despite the lack of ‘screen time’ for Peter Parker’s alter-ego, Issue Seven Hundred And Ninety Seven of “The Amazing Spider-Man” still manages to provide a modicum of pulse-pounding action in the shape of Norman Osborn’s confrontation with Phillip Ben Urich. The evident discomfort the leader of the Goblin Nation demonstrates when initially faced with the man who “took you under my wing” so as to make “you my goblin knight” shows just how terrifying a supposedly powerless Norman “nobody” Osborn still is even to a super-powered villain who has recently bested Web-head, and as a result the costumed criminal’s utter shock at having his still-beating heart torn out from his chest is all the more impactive; “Osborn? I - - I’m not scared of you. You’re a nobody, Norman. A Nothing. Normal Osborn.”

However, perhaps this publication’s biggest draw is Mary Jane Watson’s potential re-emergence as Parker’s romantic partner having invited him into her apartment for a canoodle on the couch. Disappointingly, this flirtation doesn’t appear to amount to too much, but is subsequently superbly ‘twisted’ by Slott to wrong-foot his audience into believing that “Red Sonja” is distressingly Norman’s unseen victim. A worrying theory which is only resolved once this comic reaches its truly sense-shattering cliff-hanger…
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 797 by Alex Ross

Thursday, 30 August 2018

West Coast Avengers [2018] #1 - Marvel Comics

WEST COAST AVENGERS No. 1, October 2018
Whilst Kelly Thompson’s penmanship for Issue One of “West Coast Avengers” must have undeniably demonstrated to its readers her “love [for] team books… [and] that magic chemistry you can get” when the super-group assemble to thwart some villain’s diabolical scheme, the Eisner Award-nominee’s narrative also emphatically established her desire “to jam in all the jokes all the time” and disconcerting inability to employ the “certain amount of restraint you need” so as not to “quickly overwhelm everything” with humour. Indeed, straight from this oversized thirty-page periodical’s ‘get-go’ its entire proceedings appear to played for laughs, starting with its sense-shattering opening featuring Santa Monica being invaded by a rampaging shoal of fantastically-fanged land-sharks; “Look at the damnfutzing news, Clint! And get ready -- because America is gonna be there to teleport your butt right to me in about two seconds!”

Admittedly, despite the sequence’s utter silliness there must have been few within this new ongoing series’ audience who weren’t quickly enthralled by Kate Bishop and Hawkeye’s rodeo ride through the beachfront city atop a multi-legged man-eater, nor impressed with the pair’s athletic antics as they first lassoed the lead large fish with a rope arrow so as to “point it back toward the sea” and then successfully got the other monsters of the deep to follow it. However, once this pulse-pounding predicament has been overcome and Stefano Caselli’s proficient panels portray events back at Hawkeye Investigations on Venice Beach, this publication’s storyline sadly delves ever deeper into pure farce with its entire cast seemingly trying to be funny, facetious or downright juvenile, such as Gwendolyn Poole filling Kid Omega’s room with two hundred wet towels simply because the mutant powerhouse apparently leaves “your towels on the bathroom floor.”

Disappointingly, a lot of these jokes aren’t even all that original with one of the book’s main themes debatably being ‘borrowed’ from the December 1976 “Fantastic Four” story “Look Out For The Frightful Four”, where the Wizard attempts to recruit a much needed fourth member to his evil band from an array of no-hopers like Captain Ultra, Texas Twister and Osprey in a manner suspiciously similar to Bishop’s unsuccessful interviews with Bread, Doctor Mole, The Broken Watch and Surf Doctor. Whilst the amateur private eye’s agreement to have her team’s early days filmed for a television programme dishearteningly smacks of parallels to the truly tragic cause behind the "Marvel Worldwide" 2006-2007 crossover event "Civil War".
Writer: Kelly Thompson, Artist: Stefano Caselli, and Color Artist: Triona Farrell

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Like Father, Like Daughter #2 - Short Fuse Media Group

Firmly focusing upon the emotional turmoil of being a super-hero and the high maintenance involved in order to keep one’s alter ego safe from those who would likely take full advantage of such knowledge, Kathryn Calamia’s narrative for Issue Two of “Like Father, Like Daughter” is a good example of an author trying to provide the genre with a somewhat innovative and “unique spin” upon the idea of a teenager discovering they have super-powers. Indeed, both this comic’s pulse-pounding opening, which depicts two incredibly foolish muggers knowingly attacking Invulnerable with a blade simply because they decide the guy “needs to learn how to keep a secret identity”, as well as the publication’s introduction of “comic book geek” Wesley Kelly, prominently highlight the incredible dangers super-powered personalities face should they be exposed to the wider public; “This is exactly the reason why you need to learn how to use your powers correctly…Take these. It will teach you what to do in these kinds of situations.”

Of course so detailed an exploration of this subject does result in this twenty-three page periodical containing an awful lot of dialogue and conversation-heavy moments, the majority of which are centred around the corridors and canteen of Casey Ryder’s college. But whilst these sequences are understandably somewhat sedentary in nature, “Comic Uno” does manage to imbue her storyline with bursts of action, or at least tension, by having the blonde teenager’s increasingly disagreeable boyfriend demonstrate his adolescent immaturity by first ‘muscling in’ on the girl’s conspicuously conspiratorial lunch with Wes and Stephanie Wilkins and then later, almost ‘flooring’ her when he tries to catch a ‘long bomb’ despite being in a particularly packed school hallway.

In addition, the American “YouTube personality” cleverly injects this comic with some much-needed intrigue by having Invulnerable utilise the services of Detective Strong so as to covertly keep an eye on his daughter just in case, as he clearly fears, she has inherited his extraordinary abilities. This straightforward scene, coupled with Casey’s suddenly violent, gamma-coloured vision of “an island, scientists, and guns”, provides a great hook as to the potential history of James Ryder and his evidently close relationship with a marvellously mysterious man who seemingly ‘always has his back.’

The sheer creative energy which this Indie title exudes arguably also requires a notable nod to artist Wayne A. Brown and colourist David Aravena, who undoubtedly add plenty of dynamism to the book’s proceedings with some wonderfully exaggerated facial expressions and vibrant palette choices. Indeed, one of the highlights of this tale are the numerous looks of horror upon Stephanie’s face as her friend unconvincingly attempts to clumsily illicit information from Kelly to help with the fictitious “group project we’re working on.”
Written & Created by: Kathryn Calamia, Pencils & Inks by: Wayne A. Brown, and Colors by: David Aravena

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor #3 - Titan Comics

Providing a somewhat saccharin-sweet, arguably all-too neat conclusion to Andrew Cartmel’s three-issue mini-series, this twenty-two page periodical reads more like a re-imagination of Lewis Gilbert’s 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” than “an epic all-new adventure” featuring the Seventh Doctor with its strong spy-fi shenanigans and pitched battle inside a volcano-based secret military headquarters. Indeed, apart from a truly surreal moment when the titular Time Lord uses his umbrella to subdue a plethora of extra-terrestrial terrorists with a dose of knock-out gas, this publication’s plot noticeably ignores Sylvester McCoy’s television character in favour of focusing upon the exploits of the Intrusion Countermeasures Group and their successful efforts to parachute a heavily-armed force of soldiers into the alien’s underground nerve centre; “You know what, mate? This is the bit I live for. When all the c@#p stops and the action finally begins.”

True, such a decision makes some sense when it generates plenty of automatic-weapon firing gunplay and a high-octane chase between Group Captain Gilmore and his treacherous former junior officer, Delafield, as the pair desperately clamber up the tower-block tall ladder leading to the cockpit of a technologically advanced spaceship. But just why the almost-absent Gallifreyan doesn’t simply instruct Ian to drop gas-bombs from the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft as opposed to paratroopers is never raised, nor why the Doctor decides to materialise the TARDIS smack bang in the middle of the Royal Australian Air Force’s attack with nothing to protect either Ace or himself with other than a flimsy-looking radiation hazard suit..?

To make matters worse, the former script editor’s narrative also illogically has the incredibly talented Christopher Jones suddenly pencil both Professor Jensen and Doctor Williams wearing the self-same blue jumpsuits of the alien aggressors as opposed to their archaeological dig attire. As the Time Lord’s feisty companion quickly points out, such a change of clothes is a “bit dangerous” as the pair “might be mistaken for bad guys”, and seemingly appears to have been perversely penned simply to provide Allison with an opportunity to have a moment’s banter with Rachel as to the women’s ‘good looks.’ Certainly it makes no sense for the duo’s captors to have forced them into the uniforms as it would have made their prisoners, who had already previously attempted to sabotage their operation, even harder to spot from amongst the plethora of similarly-dressed scientists working around them.

Undoubtedly Cartmel’s biggest ‘leap of faith’ with his audience however, has to be the contrived nature of Gilmore’s rescue “over sixty years, and half a world away” following the senior soldier’s entombment within Delafield’s orbiting spaceship. Locked inside the vessel’s cockpit, circling the Earth, the military officer is nonsensically forced to ludicrously survive “in some kind of state of hibernation so I didn’t die from lack of oxygen… [or] even age” instead of being simply liberated by the Doctor in the TARDIS just as soon as the alien craft had entered a stable flight path.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE SEVENTH DOCTOR" No. 3 by Christopher Jones

Monday, 27 August 2018

Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps #48 - DC Comics

Chock-full of the Green Lantern Corps and featuring some truly scintillating space-based shenanigans of the highest order, Robert Venditti’s script for “Divided And Conquered” must surely have pleased each and every one of the publication’s 28,341 bibliophiles in July 2018. For whilst the twenty-page periodical’s plot quite understandably predominantly focuses upon the tense exploits of its titular character and his secret mission to stealthily infiltrate the Darkstar Stronghold “when everyone else is fighting” so as to “cut the head off the snake” by disconnecting the Controllers’ brains from the isolationist’s factory, the Florida-born writer’s penmanship is equally as up to the challenge of providing his audience with a comprehensive understanding as to just how the large scale invasion of Mogo is progressing as well.

Indeed, arguably this twenty-page periodical’s highlight is Kilowog’s bravely defiant defence of the Green Lanterns’ sentient homeworld, as the Bolovaxian geneticist leads the intergalactic police force in a noble counter-charge against Tomar-Tu of Xudar and his oribiting fellow Darkstars. Stunningly pencilled by Rafa Sandoval across a series of wonderful pulse-pounding panels, the widowed scientist’s fisticuffs with Tomar-Re’s beaked son provides plenty of punch and truly captures the sheer savagery of the fighting between two sides whose moral compasses are totally incompatible; “I know yer some poozer, Tomar-Tu. Don’t have what it takes to stay green, so you went and changed colours. You’ll be black and blue when I’m through with ya!”

Similarly as riveting a read though, has to be Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner’s fantastic-looking use of solid-light constructs to literally drive through their cold-hearted homicidal opposition. Whether this publication’s audience preferred the former Baltimore policeman’s “pedal to the metal” monster truck bowling over countless “jackasses”, or the one-time White Lantern’s far more sophisticated-looking Gundam-styled robot sweeping the spaceways clear with its over-sized samurai sword, the pairs side-by-side battle against a veritable tidal wave of mantle-wearing murderers is hard to fault.

In fact, Venditti’s narrative for Issue Forty Eight of “Hal Jordan And The Green Lantern Corps” even debatably will have had its fans cheering for the likes of the devious General Zod and Hector Hammond as the Kryptonian dictator temporarily allies himself alongside the likes of Arkillo and Orion in order to temporarily incapacitate swathes of Darkstars with his formidable eye-lasers. Whilst the “God Brain” provides the American author’s serious screenplay with some levity when he humorously bestows upon John Stewart and others the mental illusion of being at a celebration, a baseball game and a beach bathing party simply because “I just want everyone to be happy.”
Writer: Robert Venditti, Penciller: Rafa Sandoval, and Inker: Jordi Tarragona

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #796 - Marvel Comics

The tenth best-selling title of February 2018, at least according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, many of this comic's 55,138 readers were probably left wondering just how the Hunt Valley headquartered supplier apparently managed to 'run out' of Issue Seven Hundred And Ninety Six of "The Amazing Spider-Man" in advance orders alone and subsequently require the "Marvel Worldwide" book to go to a "second printing” before it had hit the shelves. Admittedly, this twenty-page periodical provides Norman Osborn’s incarnation of Carnage with a little ‘screen time’ as the murderously merged, sadistic symbiote cold-bloodedly kills a pair of the arms dealer’s loyal bodyguards slowly. Yet half a dozen panels somewhat ponderously pencilled by Mike Hawthorne hardly explains just why this publication was supposedly selling on “eBay” “for $15 to $25” before the $3.99 cover-priced copy had even gone on sale.

Likewise it is highly debatable that “Higher Priorities” owes much of its supposed success to Dan Slott and Christos Gage’s narrative either, as the collaborative partnership’s script featuring the colourfully costumed crime-fighter and Agent Anti-Venom battling the ever crazy Goblin Nation over “a rare explosive metal” was hardly likely to ever win the duo a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Single Issue despite the robbery's pleasing, pulse-pounding pace. Indeed, considering that the successful conclusion to thwarting Phil Urich’s dastardly theft shockingly hinges upon the fact that J. Jonah Jameson now knows Peter Parker’s secret identity may well have had many in this comic’s audience baying for the writing pair’s blood, considering that such an astounding revelation was not depicted within the “mainstream continuity of the franchise”, but rather previously penned in Chip Zdarsky’s “Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man”.

Of course that isn’t to say there is nothing to enjoy within this somewhat ‘self-contained’ story. Flash Thompson’s prominent presence throughout provides the piece with some fun moments, such as when an incapacitated Boomerang informs the titular character that having just “been busted” by Anti-Venom “I just wanna say -- He did it way better”, or later when the New York-born adventurer turns his back upon his fellow wall-crawler whilst the ‘team-up’ faces the Goblin King so as to return Hugo’s recently severed forearm to the disabled guard in order to help reattach it; “Okay, Now that’s hilarious. You look like you just got stood up at the super hero prom! Heh Heh…” However, such merriments simply make this tale a competent comic rather than account for why bibliophiles worldwide suddenly acquired so strong a bout of “Goblin fever”!
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 796 by Alex Ross

Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Vampires Of Lower Bennett Street #1 - Markosia Enterprises

Featuring an opening sequence which seems highly reminiscent of the action a bookworm might expect to find housed within one of Jonathan Maberry’s “V-Wars” adventures, this digital-only publication undoubtedly contained more than a few surprises for its audience upon its release in March 2018. For whilst Mike Lynch’s treatment for his twenty-seven page magnum opus initially portrays “the immortal Lazarus” fleeing precisely the sort of gas-mask wearing, automatic-firearm carrying, elite foot-soldiers pencilled within the panels of “IDW Comics” aforementioned book depicting the “sweeping, threaded narrative of the global phenomenon known as the Vampire Wars”, the West Irishman’s tale instead soon engagingly transcends into a fascinating ‘historical’ piece set within the author’s homeland in 1690.

Indeed, despite Mary’s one-time dead brother at first facing a hail of bullets, a fall from a considerably-sized skyscraper and a ride upon the wing of a technologically advanced fighter plane, all of which would quite understandably have left any perusing bibliophile somewhat breathless with excitement courtesy of Joe Campbell’s dynamic story-boarding, it is debatably not until the bearded Bethany-born adventurer undertakes his “quest to find an ancient artefact that will grant him the one thing he seeks most in life” that this comic truly captivates the reader on account of the man’s mysterious love-hate relationship with a band of dark-spirited blood-drinkers. So close an association between a supposed holy man of the Lord and the soulless creatures of the Devil really does 'strike a surprise', especially as Lazarus’ affiliation with the vampire, Martha, appears so intriguingly intimate during their joint atmospherically-penned exploration of “an ancient seat of worship.”

Interestingly however, Lynch is not shy of adding an enjoyable, strong sense of personality to his supporting cast either, with the local township’s guards Thomas and Oliver providing a moment of much-needed humour when they challenge a pair of impudent monster hunters for refusing to explain their presence before the settlement’s barred gate; “Emm… Well… Since you put it like that! We are bound for Lower Bennett Street to do the Lord’s work…” Whilst in addition, the viciously ill-natured Leon, unable to slake his thirst until he has unwisely slaughtered a handful of hapless soldiers and resultantly led the local enraged garrison to the very door of the coven’s secret abode, proves an entertaining foil to the high morals of Jesus’ long-lived, strait-laced friend.
Writer: Mike Lynch, and Artist: Joe Campbell

Friday, 24 August 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #795 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 795, April 2018
Shifting 52,844 copies in February 2018, it’s probably safe to assume that Dan Slott and Christos Gage’s script for Issue Seven Hundred And Ninety Five of “The Amazing Spider-Man” had some of its readers desperately scratching around for this title’s previous edition concerned that they had seemingly missed an instalment which covered both the breakdown of Peter Parker’s relationship with Bobbi Morse and subsequent requirement for him to find new lodgings with Mister Babcock in Brooklyn. Sadly however, rather than being simply a past overlooked panel or two, this dramatic turn of events within the newspaper reporter’s personal life is actually a ‘brand new development’ which is rather lackadaisically explored within this periodical’s twenty-page plot through intermittent flashbacks involving the couple “being stuck together for seven hours” on a flight back from England and finally realising “outside of work… We have absolutely nothing in common whatsoever” 

Indeed, the entirety of this second chapter to “Threat Level: Red” seems to smack of a lacklustre attitude towards its story-telling which irreverently skips over the emotional trauma of Aunt May “closing down a charity organisation named in honour of my late husband”, superficially discloses the removal of Stephen Strange as the Marvel Universe’s Sorcerer Supreme courtesy of an Editor’s tiny text box, and never actually makes any mention as to just why Loki Laufeyson supposedly owes the wall-crawler a favour; something upon which the entirety of this comic’s central narrative is based. Such lazy penmanship really must have grated upon the minds of many within this book’s audience, especially as only those who had been fans of the publication for the past fourteen or so years would have had any notion that its storyline follows on from J. Michael Straczynski’s 2004 adventure “Coming Of Chaos”.

Instead, the collaborative writing partnership decide to disingenuously regale any perusing bibliophile with the supposedly humorous suggestion that Spider-Man would need to wear a woollen bobble hat and body warmer whilst web-swinging his way across New York, and then accidentally destroy a cask of containment within the now-floating Sanctum Santorum whilst having a ‘temper tantrum’ with the mansion’s new permanent resident; “Stop crying over spilled bugs and put ‘em back!” Admittedly, the resultant release of the Fire-Wasps of the Faltine and Web-head’s fury-fuelled fisticuffs with “the deadly creatures of magical origin” alongside the God of Mischief, all precisely pencilled by Mike Hawthorne, makes for a pulse-pounding predicament. But the costumed crime-fighter’s sudden decision at the fight’s end to ask the Agent of Asgard to reverse time to “before I broke the vase” so as to return to life an innocent bystander makes the battle’s conclusion appear a little too neat, even if it is later revealed that the entire attack was manufactured by Thor’s stepbrother in order to ensure his debt was paid “to a vacuous idealist who might do something reckless with his leverage…”
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 795 by Alex Ross

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Doctor Strange [2015] #22 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 22, August 2017
Firmly focused upon the demonic events occurring within a truly terrifying “Darkforce bubble that envelops New York City”, Dennis Hopeless’ script for Issue Twenty Two of “Doctor Strange” must have somewhat surprised its 35,918 strong audience in June 2017 with its interestingly fresh look inside the financially biased world of Wilson Fisk. For whilst the “Secret Empire” tie-in certainly delivers upon its pre-publication promise of portraying “the incredible current events” occurring within the metropolis and its titular character’s action-packed efforts to protect the island of Manhattan from the Darkforce Dimension, the twenty-one page periodical’s central plot thread seemingly revolves around revealing the Kingpin’s startling relationship with black magic rather than the formidably-fat villain’s usual physically-violent machinations.

Indeed, for the majority of this comic’s length the pragmatic businessman genuinely appears to be the sole ‘voice of reason’ amongst the narrative’s four survivors, with the likes of Ben Urich disconcertingly taking up the mantle of the group’s incoherent madman when the former “leader of the Hand (American Branch)” offers Strange invaluable magical resources in return for the Sorcerer Supreme’s help to save his “dear” city. Of course, the plans of Don Rigoletto’s one-time bodyguard derail just as soon as the unlikely band of allies encounter his so-called ‘partner’ in the dark arts and discover the unnamed witch has switched allegiances. Yet even during this misfortune, as the party appear to be about to be overwhelmed by a mass of Mindless Ones, the bald-headed mass-murderer is quick to take the lead and supposedly save the day, courtesy of a disturbingly evil-looking energy-blasting weapon; “I’ve got no time for your white hat hand-wringing, Strange. We’re literally surrounded by weapons. Just pick one up and…”

Quite possibly this book’s ‘highlight’ however, doesn’t actually ‘spotlight’ Fisk’s insurmountable talents for death and misery, but rather concerns a truly inspirational-looking duel between Stephen and Wilson’s aforementioned treacherous ally. This battle of bodily transformation and counter-spells is highly reminiscent of the confrontation between Merlin and Madame Mim as depicted during the 1963 “Walt Disney” animated feature film “The Sword In The Stone”, albeit Niko Henrichon’s ability to pencil a truly furious-looking giant flaming tiger makes the Master of the Mystic Arts’ combat appear infinitely more death-defying and dramatic than the late Bill Peet’s family fun focused fight involving polka-dot purple dragons and comically-coloured blue walruses.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless, Artist & Colorist: Niko Henrichon, and Letters: VC's Cory Petit

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

True Believers: Fantastic Four - The Wedding Of Reed & Sue #1 - Marvel Comics

Featuring a reprint of Stan Lee’s “Bedlam At The Baxter Building!” storyline from Annual Three of “Fantastic Four”, this twenty-three page reproduction sold a staggering 16,987 copies in July 2018 and arguably demonstrated just how great a story the original October 1965 adventure was with its intense sense-shattering prenuptial shenanigans and all-encompassing cast of “Marvel Universe” characters. Indeed, considering that the then Editor-in-Chief somehow manages to incorporate the likes of the Avengers, the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil and Spider-man alongside a truly impressive rogues gallery of the New York City-based publisher’s super-villains, it’s incredible to believe the Will Eisner Award Hall Of Famer was able to pen anything even resembling a coherent narrative, let alone one which not only contains plenty of ‘screen time’ for its titular characters but additionally produces numerous stand-out moments, such as the Mole Man’s surprise attack from beneath the very foundation of the Baxter Building and his minions’ subsequent defeat by Professor X’s mutant students.

Admittedly, the basic premise behind this comic’s narrative is undeniably contrived with Doctor Doom “skilfully manipulating my high-frequency emotion charger” so as to “fan the flames of hatred in the heart of every evil menace in existence” and resultantly create “a veritable army of the most deadly villains alive” with which to destroy Reed Richards’ famous quartet. Yet the utter simplicity of the ‘hokey’ plot point does allow for the reader to be rapidly immersed in the mad machinations of the “paranoiac” Puppet Master, and no sooner has his poison-armed pawn been subdued by Nick Fury’s undercover agents, than Ivan Kragoff and Harvey Rupert Elder make their separate moves to bring Su Storm’s imminent wedding ceremony to a deadly end; “Ahh! The coast is clear now, my beauties! And so, the time has come for the Red Ghost and his Super Apes to finish the job they’d begun many months ago!” This rapid succession of threats and foes is so successfully implemented that any thoughts as to the dubiously manufactured nature of the script is swiftly forgotten and replaced with a genuine sense of awe at Lee’s sheer vision, with even Attuma, “merciless warlord of the deep”, deciding to seize the moment and threaten the land-dwellers with an invasion of his trident-carrying legions.

Of course, just how enjoyable this carousel of costumed crime-fighters and malevolent Machiavellian evil-doers would be without the dynamically-charged pencilling of Jack “King” Kirby is hotly debatable. The Manhattan-born artist’s breath-taking visuals for this comic provides every punch, kick and energy blast portrayed with just the sort of bone-crunching energy one would expect from an illustrator “widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators.” Whilst his incredible splash-page “photo of a journey thru the Fourth Dimension” which depicts the Watcher transporting Mister Fantastic to “a laboratory whose wonders beggar description” is certainly worth the one American dollar cover price of this digitally re-mastered book alone.
Written By: Stan Lee, Drawn By: Jack Kirby, and Inked By: Vince Colletta

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor #2 - Titan Comics

The three hundred and forty-ninth best-selling comic in July 2018, at least according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, Issue Two of “Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor” would certainly seem to contain the pieces necessary to make a successful publication which captures the very spirit of the BBC Television series during Sylvester McCoy’s tenure as the titular character. But despite it concerning giant extra-terrestrial spaceships, “a mysterious snake-like alien entity” and plenty of spy-fi thrills as Professor Rachel Jensen and Doctor Allison Williams are abducted away to “a volcanic archipelago off the Pacific Coast of Mexico” at gun-point, this twenty-two page periodical also arguably includes the self-same flaws which led to the increasing unpopular programme being cancelled at the end of 1989.

For starters, there never seems to be any sense of actual jeopardy throughout this publication, even when Group Captain Gilmore’s military unit are about to swallowed up in “a lethal cloud of radioactive dust” having been stranded in the Australian desert “with no communications and no transport.” Previously described as both “secretive and manipulative”, arguably one of the biggest criticisms levelled against the Scottish actor’s incarnation of the Doctor was his seeming "well devious" omnipotence and Andrew Cartmel’s script for this second instalment to “Operation Volcano” disappointingly provides it ‘in spades’ by depicting the troublesome Time Lord somehow conveniently conjuring up futuristic sand-gliders from a handful of tent pieces, so as to speed the party ahead of the oncoming storm; “Luckily, we still have the tents I brought. Rather useful, flexible items… Now, let’s help Ace dismantle them and reassemble them in a new configuration.”

Such contrivances permeate this book’s proceedings and resultantly probably repeatedly jarred its 2,842 readers from out of any reverie which they had acquired from its story-telling. Just how, for example, did the aggressive aliens manage to get one of their kind, namely Gilmore’s immediate subordinate Delafield, ensconced at the Intrusion Countermeasures Group Command Headquarters at Blythburgh House in Oxford at precisely the same time as Jensen suddenly sends the Group Captain a telegram urgently requiring the “physician”..? Or how does the Gallifreyan inexplicably deduce that by burying the corpse of a previously killed serpent at an Aboriginal scared site, its apparently inert dead body will still transmit a signal to its brethren and encourage them to manifest themselves in front of an armed military unit..?

Perhaps the former magazine editor’s biggest disappointment however is his script’s inclusion of yet another in a long line of amiable aliens who have the incredible good fortune to be able to mentally mind meld with one of the leading cast and subsequently provide both the humans, as well as this book’s audience, with plenty of exposition as to what is going on and why the anaconda-long multi-tentacled reptiles have been able to live unnoticed on the Earth since they first arrived thousands of years earlier. Sadly what Cartmel can’t explain though, is just how a serpent with no limbs whatsoever is capable of building the technologically advanced space-ships which “the Feds” apparently used to trace the “dangerous crooks” to our world in the first place..?

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE SEVENTH DOCTOR" No. 2 by Christopher Jones

Monday, 20 August 2018

Like Father, Like Daughter #1 - Short Fuse Media Group

Described during its Kickstarter in October 2014 as “a refreshing take on superheroes from the perspective of a young lady whose father left her to become the world's first superhero”, Kathryn Calamia’s treatment for Issue One of “Like Father, Like Daughter” is certainly successful in producing a pair of protagonists which are dissimilar to the vast majority of stock crime-fighting characters that have gone before them. In fact, despite this twenty-three page periodical’s narrative arguably touching upon some themes previously explored within the likes of Mike Mitchell’s 2005 comedy film “Sky High” or actor Tobey Maguire’s tongue-in-cheek scene during the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie where he tests out his super-powers for the first time, it is hard to recollect another comic’s leading cast member who seems to so intensely antagonise over their personal life choices by being a super-hero first and foremost, as Invulnerable seemingly does at this publication’s conclusion.  

Admittedly, like any good writer “Comic Uno” begins this tale with plenty of pulse-pounding action as the apparently all-powerful, blue-suited champion for justice is proficiently pencilled by Wayne A. Brown thwarting the escape of a pair of balaclava-wearing, gun-toting bank robbers. But whilst this exhilarating race through the city’s bustling traffic offers this book’s bibliophiles with plenty of visual evidence as to the superman’s terrific speed and formidable physical strength, the sequence’s intense pace is soon replaced with the much more mundane daily habits of Casey’s college life, and arguably it is only at this point that the “YouTube” personality’s script begins its interestingly unique detour from the cape-wearing genre’s normal fare…

Indeed, the utter loathing which Invulnerable’s daughter has for her ‘heroic father’ is particularly palpable throughout this piece, and only seems to dissipate once Stephanie enacts a strenuous work-out regime for her long-term friend in order to establish the limits of the student’s powers; “Look on the bright side, at least we know you can survive a five-storey fall.” The sheer sense of fun the two girls appear to be having during these passages brings a much-needed lightness to proceedings, especially after readers will have had to negotiate four-pages of Casey pontificating over what has happened to her in a local diner, and in addition, helps increase the dramatic sombreness of this comic’s final act, when in a clearly poignant scene wonderfully coloured by David Aravena, the father pens his child an emotional explanatory note as to why he “abandoned his true responsibilities.”
Written & Created by: Kathryn Calamia, Pencils & Inks by: Wayne A. Brown, and Colors by: David Aravena

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Superman [2018] #1 - DC Comics

SUPERMAN No. 1, September 2018
Proudly proclaimed by “DC Comics” as “a bold new chapter for the greatest superhero of all time”, yet disconcertingly only the fifth best-selling comic book in July 2018 according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, Issue One of “Superman” must have disappointed many of its 133,703 fans with its tantalisingly fleeting glimpses of Clark Kent’s alter-ego battling prehistoric monsters and giant astronaut gorillas on the moon. Indeed, just why Brian Michael Bendis instead frustratingly focused upon a dialogue-heavy tête-à-tête between the titular character and the Martian Manhunter which runs for half the entire length of the publication is anyone’s guess, and disappointingly results in the Cleveland-born author arguably squandering precious space within this twenty three-page periodical on Kal-El pondering the fact that “we’re going to be part of this galactic conversation soon and someone is going to have to lead us there” rather than providing his readers with a far more detailed account of the Man of Steel’s epic tussle with the entire Dominator Armada “headed right for earth”..?

Sadly, the five-time Esiner Award-winner’s infuriating ‘stop and start’ story-telling approach persists throughout “The Unity Saga” and whilst initially slightly amusing, as the Metropolis Marvel suspends J'onn J'onzz in his “lovely” sympathies surrounding “the shocking truth behind your home planet’s demise” so as to ‘punch-out’ a Doomsday-like dinosaur rampaging close to London’s St. Mary Axe, the interruptions soon become incredibly unfunny and additionally hint at Superman having some far more interesting interactions with the likes of a NASA-suited Gorilla Grodd or bravely defying the heat of another towering inferno in order to rescue a building full of children. These action-packed interludes are far more sense-shattering than anything the green Martian’s deadly dull discussion produces, especially when its revealed at the end of his conversation when the Big Blue Boy Scout unsurprisingly turns down the offer to “lead the world”, that the Justice Leaguer “knew this would be a hard sell” anyway.

Fortunately, this “looking at the world through new eyes… with new ideas” publication does contain a few highlights of note, such as the Kryptonian’s establishment of a new Fortress of Solitude hidden amidst the waters of the Bermuda Triangle. Incredibly well-pencilled by Ivan Reis, this double-splash of “crystal technology created light-years from the Earth and its yellow sun” appears a far more unfriendly, formidable looking “place of solace and mediation” than the one ‘borrowed’ from Henry W. Ralston’s co-creation Doc Savage. In fact, considering that the structure supposedly houses “a museum of all of Kryton’s history, an alien zoo, laboratories, technologies and rooms dedicated to all sorts of relics and trophies of his past adventures”, it’s a pity Bendis didn’t decide to have the titular character linger a while within its corridors rather than rush off to disappointingly debate with the Martian Manhunter.
The regular cover art of "SUPERMAN" No. 1 by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Alex Sinclair

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor #1 - Titan Comics

Unsurprisingly taking full advantage of the medium’s lack of financial restraints, Andrew Cartmel’s opening to “Operation Volcano” is undeniably packed with just the sort of mind-blowing ‘space-opera’ visuals which would have had the Eighties television series’ producer John Nathan-Turner furiously scratching out the scene in the screenplay with a big red pen so as to desperately ensure the adventure’s cost remained well within budget. However, whilst such an Arthur C. Clarke inspired look to “the first full-length comic story starring the Seventh Doctor since Cat and Mouse in 2013” may well have seemed a great idea on paper, the publication’s disconcerting jump from the Australian desert in 1967 to high Earth orbit in 2029, and then back to an earlier time in South Australia as Rachel and Allison investigate a “most remarkable cave system”, must arguably have caused its 3,944 readers a somewhat disorientating experience. 

Fortunately though, by the time the titular character and Ace finally meet up with Group Captain Ian Gilmore in the Bodleian Library, the British author would appear to have got his plot’s overly-enthusiastic scope more under control, and resultantly what follows is far more in line with what one might have expected from the science fiction programme’s former script editor. Indeed, as the “inquisitive explorer” and his “trusted companion” negotiate the deadly radioactivity of the Maralinga nuclear weapons test site, and encounter murderous spies along with a giant extra-terrestrial spaceship, this lavish-looking forty-four page periodical increasingly feels like a genuine story literally plucked out of Sylvester McCoy’s tenure as the Time Lord.

Admittedly Cartmel’s annoying hops forward to the European Space Agency’s Kourou Launch Facilities in French Guiana on April 16th 2029, where an extremely long-haired Royal Air Force officer refuses to have his “mighty mane” trimmed, does debatably disrupt both the flow of his narrative, as well as the comic’s classic era ambience. But such interruptions are somewhat forgivable once Ace inadvertently discovers that Daku Darana and Jimmy Benforado are enemy secret agents, and has to literally fight for her life until the Australian military party’s counter-espionage expert puts a bullet in the murderous Adelaide Herald reporter; “Yeah, nice work, Cookie. But next time get here a bit sooner, eh?”

Still, infinitely less forgivable is this book’s secondary tale “Hill Of Beans”, which whilst written as a direct sequel to “The Greatest Show In The Galaxy”, is far more noticeable for having Mags the Werewolf herself, Jessica Martin, penciling as its (guest) artist. Sadly, such an innovative 'sales pitch' really doesn’t do Richard Dinnick’s already dire script any justice whatsoever, and instead just provides this super over-sized book with a dismally disappointing ending which resembles a quality not dissimilar to that seen in hundreds of amateur-drawn fanzines...
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE SEVENTH DOCTOR" No. 1 by Alice X. Zhang

Friday, 17 August 2018

The Unexpected #3 - DC Comics

THE UNEXPECTED No. 3, October 2018
Despite containing an engaging history of Elligh, “the prince of an advanced society of creatures known as Orcks", at the very start of this twenty-page periodical, Steve Orlando’s script for Issue Three of “The Unexpected” must have utterly bewildered its audience in August 2018 with its dialogue-heavy dabblings upon Blackhawk Island and subsequent sojourn to Siberia’s secretive Monster Valley. In fact, June Robbins baffling gobbledygook concerning “a machine whose only function was to signal loved ones when you passed” and brief recollection of the Chronokinetic disaster which “all but wiped the Orcks from time” is so cumbersomely penned that it arguably would have deterred many a perusing bibliophile from traversing deeper into this comic and accompanying Neon the Unknown into the dinosaur-infested “sunken refuge one mile deep where, impossibly, it is still the Cretaceous Period.”

Unhappily however, even Colin Nomi’s adventure in the ‘Land That Time Forgot’ is rather poorly plotted, with the “infamous Burnside artist” being inexplicably ambushed by the formidably powerful Onimar Synn himself. Just how the Thanagarian tyrant happened to locate the defender of the multiverse when the molecular manipulator’s location is supposedly “silent and unknown to even its monstrous guardians” is never explained by the GLAAD Media Award-nominee, and resultantly smacks of little more than a lazy contrivance rather than the cataclysmic confrontation this comic’s dynamic cover illustration would try to suggest.

Of course, no matter how disappointing the New Yorker’s writing may debatably be, it must still have been hard for this book’s followers not to enjoy the sense-shattering surprise of a giant Brontadon momentarily flattening Neon’s startled opponent under the large reptilian beast’s massive girth; “You sicced a dinosaur on him?” Yet even this ‘highlight’, timed to perfection as both the “blind leader” and Firebrand appear to have finally been bested, is soon overshadowed by Orlando’s obsession to over complicate matters by depicting Synn waxing lyrical about “the renovation of your corpse to the Necrophists” and bewildering request for a Necropsy-chariot in order to aid “two for astral sublimation!”

Potentially this book’s biggest strength is therefore in the artwork of Cary Nord, which whilst a little inconsistent in its portrayal of the Challenger, Robbins, undoubtedly captures the pulse-pounding fisticuffs which ensues following the Nth metal-hungry dictator’s revelation to this comic’s leading cast that his bones contain “thousands of fragile souls”. Packed full of the sort of punch one might expect from a publication featuring a character who must “start fights to stay alive” and another who controls “gravity itself”, the Canadian penciler’s panels fortunately bring all the majestic might of such a formidable contest to sense-shattering life.
Storytellers: Cary Nord & Steve Orlando, and Inks: Mark Farmer & Scott Hanna

Thursday, 16 August 2018

C.H.E.S.S. #1 - Apogee Comics

C.H.E.S.S. No. 1, August 2018
Highlighting the disconcerting dangers of mercenaries being armed with technology which incorporates a manufacturer’s kill-switch, this opening instalment of Alfred Paige’s creation “C.H.E.S.S.” must surely have gone down well with its readers courtesy of its action-packed mixture of pulse-pounding gun-play and the sort of adult-orientated seriousness many mature “Hasbro” fans probably wished the animated adventures of “G.I. Joe” incorporated. In fact, it’s hard not to draw several comparisons between the ever-commanding Avery Davis’ off the grid “covert unit” and the “line of action figures” who continually struggle against the evil Cobra Command, as both feature a plethora of bizarrely-attired combat specialists, code-names and secret headquarters in their bid to thwart terrorism taking over the Free World; “Your mission is to investigate Takashi Nakadai and his operations. At first we observe, and then if necessary we disrupt. And if, based on your findings, I deem it necessary… We eliminate.”

Fortunately however, this Kickstarter funded publication is far more than an imitation of the trademarked “Real American Hero” franchise, replacing the toy-line’s woefully ineffective fire-fights with plenty of gritty, downright vicious close combat which produces the sort of bodily mutilation and head-shots that wouldn’t look out of place within the “militaristic black-ops” adventures of “X-Force” by “Marvel Worldwide”. Supported by its colourful cast’s grim humour, most notably the exchanges between Pinpoint and the disturbingly masked Blowtorch, such pitched battles really do help power this comic through its plot, providing a tense, well-developed meeting between the team’s newly acquired arms dealer and a Kyoto-based information broker with a satisfyingly thrilling conclusion which subsequently raises some significant concerns as to the reliability of their “first visitor to our little mountain retreat”, Errol Schafer.

Perhaps penned somewhat less successfully by Alex De-Gruchy, quite possibly due to the somewhat limited ‘screen time’ this twenty-two page periodical provides them, are Nakadai’s own team of super-powered assassins who apparently are perfectly capable of both infiltrating a private estate across the other side of the world in Minnesota and, quite perturbingly, murdering an innocent mother and child so as to make a statement. Their ninja-like introduction at the start of this book is as welcome as it is truly intimidating, but disappointingly their scene at its end is arguably somewhat confusingly story-boarded, supposedly depicting Yumi throwing a tantrum and endangering her colleagues simply because the child wanted to see her father..?

Indeed, the artwork for Issue One of “C.H.E.S.S.” genuinely appears to be a mixed affair which at certain points, such as JC Fabul’s deadly depiction of thirteen CIS contractors who “were carrying out a mission in Ramada when they became surrounded by local insurgents and slaughtered”, provides some sense-shattering visuals. Whilst some of the other sketched sequences, most notably the aforementioned disagreement involving Takashi’s daughter “almost one-hundred feet below ground-level” appear to be of a debatably dissimilar quality. Such discrepancies are though perfectly understandable when one realises that the freelance illustrator Hakan Aydin laudably stepped in at the last minute so as to ensure the comic met its publication deadline when its Manila-born penciler fell ill.

Please note that for more updates on "C.H.E.S.S" you can go to its "Facebook" page or the "Apogee Comics" webstore.
Creator: Alfred Paige, Writer: Alex De-Gruchy, and Artist: JC Fabul

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Doctor Strange [2015] #21 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 21, July 2017
Literally throwing its 32,142 followers head-first into the “Marvel Worldwide” 2017 multi-title comic book event “Secret Empire”, Dennis Hopeless’ script for Issue Twenty-One of “Doctor Strange” must have proved a truly pulse-pounding reading experience for those who already had some knowledge of the Cosmic Cube transforming “Captain America into the ultimate Hydra sleeper agent” and “some of Earth’s street-level heroes… [becoming] trapped inside the Darkforce bubble that envelops New York City.” However, for those bibliophiles ignorant of such catastrophic incidents, and faced with a Sorcerer Supreme who almost immediately hacks off the gory head of a needle-teethed demon inside a seemingly abandoned pharmacy, the Kansas City born writer's narrative must have been a somewhat surprising change of story-line to that anticipated following the recent departure of the ongoing series’ previously ensconced creative team.

Fortunately though, the GLAAD Media Award-nominee doesn’t entirely abandon his audience to the thrills (and spills) of the raggedy Master of the Mystic Arts armed with a demigod’s old hatchet and an enchanted swan feather without some exposition, and quite unobtrusively pens a summary of events to bring any bookworm back up to speed whilst the titular character fights his way through the sickeningly slimy digestive tract of a giant monster. This intimate insight into Strange’s most recent memories works really well, but disconcertingly doesn’t help explain just why the likes of Daredevil, Spider-Woman and Ben Urich are found scaling the Chrysler building, nor how the Sanctum Santorum is suddenly “inside a big marble halfway up” the skyscraper.

Still so bizarre an interlude does at least provide Baron Mordo with an opportunity to joyously verbalise his disreputable qualities to Matt Murdock’s alter-ego and demonstrate just why the “sorcerer of some renown in dark wizarding circles” is now the “all-powerful caretaker of this darkforce Manhattan.” In addition, the Transylvanian nobleman’s appearance also helps pin-point him as a very understandable target for Stephen’s “fine witches’ brew” and the perfect justification as to why the former preeminent surgeon has made such a desperately dangerous trek across the beleaguered metropolis’ ruinous landscape simply to acquire “a meal a young couple shared on the first night in their new home”, a “lucky rabbit’s foot dangled from the ignition in three separate fatal car accidents” and “the prized possession of a three-year-old boy”; “By the Flames of the Faltine! Peel back the dark veil that encases us!”

Adding to the enthralling atmosphere of Hopeless’ post-apocalyptic New York is Niko Henrichon’s dynamic pencilling and rich colouring. The Canadian artist’s various demonic creatures would arguably not look out-of-place within Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” cult movie trilogy and resultantly adds an element of blood-curdling horror to the proceedings which arguably wouldn’t have been so evident otherwise.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless, Artist & Colorist: Niko Henrichon, and Letters: VC's Cory Petit

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Hey Kids! Comics! #1 - Image Comics

HEY KIDS! COMICS! No. 1, August 2018
Reading like a reality television show based upon the comic book industry of yesteryear, this opening instalment to Howard Chaykin’s “new creator-owned series filled with what he calls behind-the-scenes personal drama, lurid flimflammery, and just plain out and out larceny” is undoubtedly not for the faint of hearted with its formidable mixture of expletive-laden dialogue, word-heavy speech bubbles and frequent time hops around “a fictionalised history of more than half a century.” Indeed, for those readers disinterested in this story-telling medium’s dark and dirty past, back when the likes of Jack “King” Kirby and Steve Ditko were merely artists working for hire and Stanley Martin Lieberman still had an aspiration to be a ‘serious writer’, the New Jersey-born author’s narrative to Issue One of “Hey Kids! Comics!” will doubtless disappointingly strike them as a choppy, tediously dull series of set-pieces depicting little more than a group of people, predominantly men, smoking, drinking and swearing at one another whilst trying to figure “out what comes next” now “the mask and cape thing has seen its day.”

For those who have perhaps read Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” multiple times however, this twenty-eight page periodical paints an enthralling flashback to the days when “aspiring artists climbed into business and bed with conmen and clowns, gainers and gangsters, to create the foundations of today’s biggest entertainment business”, and resultantly offers a fascinating insight into the harsh ‘hand-to-mouth’ job such Silver Age luminaries like Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Gene Colan, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams endured. Certainly it’s hard not to see comparisons between “some of the greatest comic book artists of their generation” and the Eagle Award winner’s fabricated pencilers Ray Clarke and Ted Whitman, nor sympathise with the unkempt Irwin when his creation “Powerhouse” opens up at the St. James Theatre on Broadway, and is forced to accept a begrudgingly given financial handout from the disheveled man’s former boss who is clearly living an extravagant lifestyle based upon his work; “Guy used to work for me, way back when. Him and his dead partner made the thing up.”

Chaykin’s own uniquely-styled artwork also adds to the engaging atmosphere of this publication, as its clear the illustrator learnt a lot when he once “lived in the same Queens apartment building as artists Allen Milgrom, Walter Simonson and Bernie Wrightson”. In fact, a good proportion of this book’s overall charm stems from Howard’s fantastic attention to detail for his leading cast’s facial features, as well as the similarities between them and the likes of Kirby’s famous pipe-smoking habit or Tom Hollenbeck’s evident financial success as a result of the “junk” his predecessors “made for a half-century” suddenly becoming “the culture…”
Writer & Artist: Howard Chaykin, Colorist: Wil Quintana, and Letterer: Ken Bruzenak