Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Aliens: Dust To Dust #3 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DUST TO DUST No. 3, October 2018
Only pausing mid-way through its narrative whilst the rapidly dwindling survivors of the Trono colony somewhat hard-heartedly decide whether to leave their youngest member behind before attempting to “follow the bank of the spillway right to the facility”, Gabriel Hardman’s sense-shattering screenplay for Issue Three of “Aliens: Dust To Dust” must have had the majority of the mini-series’ audience panting for breath when the long-delayed publication finally hit the spinner-racks in October 2018. For although the twenty-page periodical momentarily becomes a little weighed down with the morality of “pushing forward without” the twelve year-old orphan, it quickly picks up its pulse-pounding pace once Maxon makes to ‘go it alone’ and inadvertently encounters an entire nest of xenomorphs hiding underneath the floor of the very system engineering facility he’s fleeing from.

Indeed, whether it be Roman and his aged wife’s horribly bloody deaths during this comic’s gore-fest of an opening, or the callous co-pilot’s ‘all-too just mutilation’ at the hands of a howling mob of aliens, having literally just refused to let the terrified boy and Waugh back into the building because “I’m not dying for them”, the persistent deadly threat of Ridley Scott’s legacy is palpably all-pervading, and rarely lets up even when the captain believes there’s “no evidence of xenomorph activity” and begins making sensible-sounding plans to reach a terraforming station the following morning. Certainly, it soon becomes hard to keep track of just who is still alive within the group as the “mysterious and deadly creatures” stalking them continuously claw, bite and tear their number asunder…

Arguably this comic’s greatest highlight however, has to be young Cregar’s headlong dash through the magazine’s final third, which starts with the adolescent being roughly rushed around the alien-infested sanctuary’s exterior by the unfriendly Assistant Administrator, and ends with him haplessly plunging into a fast-flowing river of “overflow from the facility’s cooling tower” along with the tale’s last remaining few fighters and a plethora of hostile life-forms. In fact, Hardman’s scratchy-styled line work for this sequence is so well-suited to the scene’s sense of panicked desperation, that it is a pity the frenzied flight across the broken bridge’s depilated suspension cable doesn’t last that bit longer and perhaps replaced the Hugo Award-nominee’s patronising panels within which Anne’s son is told to rest because “you’re just a kid.”
The regular cover art of "ALIENS: DUST TO DUST" No. 3 by Gabriel Hardman

Monday, 29 October 2018

Judge Dredd: Toxic #1 - IDW Publishing

JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC No. 1, October 2018
Publicised as Paul Jenkins’ “first shot at Judge Dredd” by “IDW Publishing”, this twenty-page periodical’s plot probably didn’t provide its audience with quite the spine-chilling shenanigans John Gallagher’s marvellously grotesque variant cover illustration foreshadowed. In fact, the “celebrated” British writer’s narrative for Issue One of “Judge Dredd: Toxic”, which disconcertingly heavily bogs the reader down with a politically-fuelled piece about anti-immigration and the aggressive prejudice of Mega-City One’s citizens, doesn’t even feature any sort of gigantic ghoulish-looking mutation whatsoever, and instead seemingly relies upon the shock inclusion of a Donald Trump lookalike leading an Anti-Alien League protest as its main adversary.

Admittedly, that isn’t to say that this twenty-page periodical lacks a genuine ‘monster’, as its titular character’s investigation into Clifton Chud’s surprisingly well-developed corpse soon reveals the presence of an extra-terrestrial life-form hidden away amongst the disagreeable-looking scrubbers of the urban sprawl’s Spillover. However, this tiny, “intelligent… species” with “an advanced intellect and a possible psychic connection with the host” actually appears to radically benefit the humans with whom they form a mutually agreeable symbiotic relationship, and certainly don't appear to want anything more than to be peacefully left alone in the sewer works.

So amiable an alien arguably means that the Prism Award-winner must instead turn his attention towards making someone else the supposed ‘villain of the piece’ and dishearteningly it soon becomes clear that “Old Stoney Face” has been cast in that role, as the future lawman is penned acting like a ‘real jerk’ around Judge Anderson during the telepath’s interrogation of the “off-world entities”; “You don’t like anything, Dredd. How about you let me do the talking, and you just go grimace in the corner, okay?” Indeed, this entire comic portrays Fargo’s clone at his robotic worse, impatiently discussing an autopsy with Coroner Levine, recklessly threatening to have the Spillover “pop like a blister” simply because he hasn’t thought through his demand of wanting “every scrubber in this sector assembled on the lower ops deck in ten minutes”, and childishly whining to Chief Judge Hershey that despite all their potential advantages the “undocumented illegals” shouldn’t be granted immunity because “they broke the law.”

Debatably this book’s biggest disappointment though, is Marco Castiello’s scratchy artwork, which seems particularly unsuitable when applied to Mega-City One’s lawmen. Dredd’s famous chin is especially inconsistently drawn unless pencilled in profile, whilst Scammon’s bedraggled red beard looks as if he’s spent the past year or more literally walking across the Cursed Earth and certainly reveals just the “sign of vanity” which saw Judge Lopez ‘unwillingly’ consume the fatal Oracle Spice during “The Judge Child Quest”.
The regular cover art of "JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC" No. 1 by Mark Buckingham & Chris Blythe

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Batman [2016] #57 - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 57, December 2018
First teased by artist Tony S. Daniel through his Twitter account, Tom King’s script for Issue Fifty Seven of “Batman” undeniably provides a seriously bone-shuddering third chapter to “Bruce Wayne’s latest duel with the Soviet assassin” Anatoli Knyazev. But whilst “the fight between the Bat and the Beast” ably demonstrates just how formidably brutal a combatant Jim Starlin’s co-creation from the late Eighties can be when cornered three hundred clicks from civilisation, this twenty-page periodical’s most engaging asset is arguably it’s intermittent secondary plot thread detailing the exploits of a pig, wolf, fox, hare and squirrel travelling together to Saint Petersburg “to pray to god.”

In fact, in many ways it is debatably “the Cold War between Batman and the Russian killer” which intrudes upon this comic’s overall enjoyment, especially when the youngster’s night-time nursery read takes a decidedly dark turn into the macabre and disconcertingly describes three of the supposedly fluffy animals mercilessly feasting upon those “who has the thinnest voice” following the entire group’s entrapment down a broad, deep pit. Perturbingly pencilled and painful to peruse courtesy of the fox apparently “eating my own flesh” at one stage, these perplexing panels are a far cry from the imagery conservationist Beatrix Potter created with her twenty three children’s books such as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”

Of course that doesn’t mean to say that the ex-CIA officer’s well-penned fist-fight amidst the frozen tundra isn’t also worthy of praise, as few within this comic’s audience could surely have found much to fault with the Dark Knight’s grim-faced, pulse-pounding punch-up against the cybernetically enhanced hit man and it’s cheerless conclusion. True, the Caped Crusader is unnervingly on the wrong end of a severe beating by a one-armed man whose simple-looking prosthetic hook can apparently scythe through the costumed vigilante’s face mask and body armour like a hot knife through butter. Yet the World’s Greatest Detective had apparently just trudged “through nothing but snow and ice” for almost two hundred miles, as well as “got a bullet in my arm.”

Regardless of any writing quibbles, Antonio Salvador Daniel is clearly at the very top of his game drawing “Beasts Of Burden”, and whether it be Batman unsuccessfully dodging all of his foe’s numerous shots, or Knyazev felling his well-worn opponent with a series of 'big boots', each and every one of this book’s break-breaking pictures is packed full of animated life. Indeed, it’s a genuine shame that the “Battle For The Cowl” illustrator doesn’t continue to regularly sketch for this title, or that "folklore artists" Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy won't dip into another of the fictitious Alexander Nikolaevich Afanesyev’s traumatising tales.
The regular cover art of "BATMAN" No. 57 by Tony S. Daniel

Friday, 26 October 2018

Uber: Invasion #16 - Avatar Press

UBER: INVASION No. 16, September 2018
Viewed by creator Kieron Gillen as the end of his “Mother Russia” arc, or rather “What To Do About A Problem Like Maria?”, this decidedly different “take on The Sound Of Music” almost exclusively focuses upon Katyusha’s miraculous resurrection following her previously depicted death during “a chance attack from a flank”, and the sweet mad thing’s subsequent unsurprisingly merciless revenge upon the traitorous Soviets responsible for her cold-blooded murder; “The enhanced forces that had accompanied Andreevna’s apparent corpse on its return from the East were deployed, but were neutralised swiftly. It could not be truly characterised as a fight. It was more like punishment.”

But whilst such a one-sided conflict may well seem a rather superfluously long sequence to some readers, the utter terror etched upon Joseph Stalin’s blanched features, as well as the narrative’s frequent biblically-based analogies, impressively still manages to imbue this twenty-two page periodical’s plot with an enthralling aura of nervous tension and suspense. Indeed, the Georgian dictator’s ultimately horrific, painful demise is as unforeseen a fate as his transformation into a statue of the highly valuable ruby “red muck” is fantastical, and few within this title’s audience wouldn’t have felt their heart quicken when the soon-to-be “pillar-of-catalyst” first peers from out of his Kremlin office’s window and open-eyed spies Maria merrily waving back at him from the cobbled Moscow street below.

Pleasingly however, just because the former music journalist’s narrative predominantly follows the exploits of "The Manic Sniper" doesn’t mean it simply ignores the likes of Olesya, Molotov, Siegmund and Leah Cohen either, with H.M.H. Churchill in particular being penned an especially poignant moment when Maria fixes the huge monster’s partially severed right leg and enables the super-strong woman to walk once again. This extraordinary ‘twinkling of optimism’ amidst a publication packed full of alarming atrocity is then arguably made all the brighter when artist Daniel Gete’s ‘camera’ promptly pans away from the fading figure of the stumbling British behemoth and highlights that Maria’s act of kindness actually occurs beneath the disconcertingly well-pencilled remains of the three crucified “Judas” Russians the “Battleship class Ubermensch” gruesomely dispatched without a moment’s thought just minutes earlier.
The regular cover art of "UBER: INVASION" No. 16 by Daniel Gete

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Star War Adventures #1 - IDW Publishing

STAR WARS ADVENTURES No. 1, September 2017
Presented in early 2016 by “IDW Publishing” as “a comic book series aimed at younger audiences to Lucasfilm”, Cavan Scott’s narrative for Issue One of “Star Wars Adventures” probably did provide its smaller readers with some semblance of excitement due to its heavy focus upon an early adventure of Rey's on the remote desert planet of Jakku. But whilst this fifteen-page long narrative ‘perfectly’ replicates the female scavenger’s claustrophobic tension as she explores the huge dilapidated “relics of a battle that was fought long before I was born”, as well as features a fun action-packed sequence depicting the “dune-rat” battling a pair of less chivalrous junk collectors over a handful of com-links, its central plot is bemusingly based upon the premise that Daisy Ridley’s ‘Silver Screen’ character would risk her life so as to save the highly disagreeable Unkar Plutt from a gang of “off-worlders lead by some guy called Zool Zendiat”..?

Of course, it should have come as no surprise to the 49,184 bibliophiles who bought this comic that the headstrong ‘Force Sensitive’ “maintains [a] fierce loyalty to her friends”, as seen by Rey’s plucky intervention between the elderly Bobbajo and Jakku’s new Junkboss, which causes her to scurry around after the battered crittermonger’s “poor creatures” following Krynodd savagely flooring the wizened old-timer. But arguably such a short-lived scene, even when pacily pencilled by Derek Charm, shouldn’t be solely enough to convince the gifted scavenger who resides amidst the Goazon Badlands that the snout-faced scumbag is “going to be even worse than the Blobfish” so she needs "to rescue Unkar…”

Fortunately however, this publication “aimed at [the] next generation of comic book fans" debatably contains a far more satisfying secondary story in the guise of Scott’s “Tales From Wild Space”, which transports its viewers back to “the days of the Old Republic” when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dexter Jettster tackle a Pa'lowick thief who has been repeatedly stealing from the Besalisk’s diner. Crammed into just six pages, and dynamically drawn by Jon Sommariva, this ‘short’ rather enjoyably demonstrates the Jedi Master’s famous wiliness in order to successfully locate the secret den the petite pickpocket “shared with an old rogue called Magreda”; “The Jedi Knight taught Tri Tellon a valuable lesson that day that nine time out of ten, you’re not half as clever as you think you are.”
The regular cover art of "STAR WARS ADVENTURES" No. 1 by Derek Charm

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Avengers [2018] #4 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS No. 4, September 2018
Despite “Marvel Worldwide” clearly hoping this comic’s 61,897 readers would focus upon its pre-publication question as to just how the Avengers could “possibly defeat a crew of 2,000-foot-tall, nearly omnipotent Dark Celestials bent on annihilating the human race”, it’s entirely possible many within this twenty-page periodical’s audience were actually more occupied trying to make sense of Jason Aaron’s incredibly choppy and convoluted narrative. Indeed, the sheer number of sub-plots and secondary cast members which the Alabama-born writer crams into “A Battle That Was Lost A Million Years Ago” is bewilderingly breath-taking, with the likes of Agamotto, Starbrand, a swarm of cosmic locusts, Celestials, Eternals, Frost Giants, Proto-Humans and even the “Dragons of K’un-Lun” all getting at least a mention.

Of course, such a wide ensemble would be perfectly palatable if this book’s script actually tried to tie the different races and their fantastic locations together into a sensible, logical storyline. But any perusing bibliophile who casually glanced inside Issue Four of “Avengers” would instead have first found themselves being thrown back in time to the prehistoric Pleistocene Period, before arriving at Old Asgard, the Mountains of Greece, Alpha Flight Space Station, and the North Pole, all within the passage of a plethora of Paco Medina and Ed McGuinness’ perfectly pencilled panels.

Disappointingly however, few of these trips actually appear to make much sense, with Iron Man’s surprise visit to the Home of the Eternals proving particularly puzzling as Tony Stark’s alter ego discovers that Zuras, Sersi and Thena have all apparently killed one another “within the last few hours” simply because they were driven mad by “the deaths of all those Celestials”..? To make matters worse, Thor’s outing to see the All-Father is arguably even more bizarre with Odin refusing to help his son recover the Blood of Ymir, and She-Hulk deciding the best way to warm up an all-too conveniently faltering God of Thunder is to give the bearded warrior a huge kiss on the lips; “Thank you… For, Ah… Saving my life back there, my Lady Hulk.”

Fortunately, such debatably poor penmanship is entirely survivable thanks to Medina and McGuinness’ sumptuous storyboarding and this comic’s attractively lavish inking by Juan Vlasco (with Mark Morales). Ordinarily, any series “scheduled to release eighteen issues per year” would understandably prove too “large load for one artist to handle by himself”, so Executive Editor Tom Breevort’s decision to add Paco “in the mix” with his similar style to Ed, really seems to have paid dividends with the illustrations for this specific edition.
Writer: Jason Aaron, and Artists: Paco Medina & Ed McGuinness

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Boy Zero: Volume One [Part Two] - Caliber Comics

BOY ZERO: VOLUME ONE, January 2016
Firmly fixing its sights upon the events occurring inside “a small neighbourhood, built for the workers of the factories” just outside the limits of Glass City, rather than depicting the corpulent Detective Nigel Drekker solving another bloody slaying, Chapter Two of “Boy Zero” undeniably delivers a far less pulse-pounding plot than its preceding instalment with its dark depiction of the day when “a moving van approached House Twenty Two” and “brought with it the Marshall Family.” Yet such a change in subject matter and pace certainly doesn’t mean that Charles Chester hasn’t penned a tale equally as shockingly spine-chilling and disturbing as that encountered within “The Ember Rose”.

Indeed, Edmund’s childhood memories of a time when two of his friends were literally torn in half (supposedly) by their father whilst sleeping in their beds, must have kept many of this graphic novel’s readers awake well into the night, especially as the “award winning” filmmaker’s text repeatedly insinuates that the mysterious Christian is in all likelihood actually at the centre of the horrific happenings and may well be this tension-filled tome’s Boogeyman; “And when night fell the half dreaming boy would often wander about the neighbourhood like a wraith, peering into the homes of his neighbours as if he couldn’t be seen.” 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the portly policeman is completely omitted from this twenty-four page phase of Chester’s enthralling narrative, as Drekker patiently plies a now adult Edmund with food in order to illicit the ashen-faced youth’s memories of his sister and how she dealt “with all the death surrounding her.” But such an intrusion upon this segment’s story-telling is fleeting, with the detective’s presence being largely left to the shadows so this book’s audience can watch in mounting dread as tiny, fresh-faced Paulette is found to be missing from her bed during the dead of night at the same time as “Boy Zero” is depicted stalking the local cemetery crying…

Adding to this episode’s aura of all-pervading doom and despair is Shiloh Penfield’s arguably angular pencilling, which imbues each character with a physical awkwardness that really lends itself to the disagreeability of this tale’s gory subject matter. Doe-eyed and grim-faced, the artist’s sketching style almost paints each of Charles’ characters as hapless puppets, who are woodenly walking towards some truly horrific fate from which there is absolutely no hope of escape or redemption.
Written by: Charles Chester, and Artwork by: Shiloh Penfield

Monday, 22 October 2018

The Immortal Hulk #7 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 7, December 2018
Absolutely crammed full of some of the Green Goliath’s hardest punches ever depicted, at least as far as the God of Thunder is concerned, Al Ewing’s script for Issue Seven of “The Immortal Hulk” contains a truly astounding fist-fight between its titular character and the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes which must surely have mesmerised many of this comic’s audience in October 2018. In fact, it is debatably difficult to recall a time when the likes of Ghost Rider, Thor Odinson, the Black Panther and She-Hulk have ever been so royally hammered by Bruce Banner’s alter-ego; “He overloaded the vibranium in my suit -- Almost an impossibility.”

Rather enjoyably however, this twenty-page periodical’s plot isn’t simply about the Avengers getting their proverbial clocks cleaned at the hands of the gamma-powered giant either, as the British author also pays some welcome attention to the hapless citizens of Iowa who must understandably flee for their very lives once the “Green Alert” is sounded. Focusing primarily upon tiny Julian, an infant who was previously enjoying playing with his Captain Marvel and “Mega-Laser” Iron Man action figures before the alarm was sounded, these intermittent insights into the cost and utter upheaval the ensuing battle creates engagingly brings home the realisation to the reader that there’s more than physical penalty to every super-strong thump thrown; especially when it results in Carol Danvers having to “organise putting a thousand people on Alpha Flight transports” moments before the entire habitable area is vaporized.

Similarly as successful is the "2000 A.D." writer’s remarkable ability to pen Tony Stark at his arrogant best, despite the “proficient" scientist's supposedly all-powerful New Hulkbuster suit being bent into “a total write-off” within a matter of moments. Straight from the fight’s start, the dislikeable playboy is desperate to utilise “our big gun parked at 10,000 feet”, even though Shell-head’s team-mates have yet to witness the staggeringly awesome savagery of their jade-skinned opponent. Clearly capable of incinerating anything and everything within its nuclear radius, the Helios Laser is evidently a major last resort, yet the moustached industrialist seemingly can’t wait for an excuse to activate it and mercilessly ‘kill’ “a friend in need.”

Undoubtedly this book’s biggest asset though, has to be Joe Bennett’s sense-shattering pencilling, which really imbues each and every blow drawn with some significant weight. The Incredible Hulk's trumping of Thor with a single, tooth-jarring sock to the jaw is bone-shudderingly sketched, and it’s evident from the artist’s subsequent panels depicting the bleary, red-eyed Asgardian just how much the skull fracturing hit hurt him.
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 7 by Alex Ross

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Heroes International #1 - Short Fuse Media Group

Set some “years after a tragic event that the media dubbed ‘The Zero Event’ where all of the superhero population disappeared”, Luke Herr’s plot for “Heroes International” #1 should effortlessly enthral many a reader with its heavy focus upon the new 'capes' emerging “around the world to fill the void left by the missing heroes.” However, whilst the arguably easy route for just such a storyline might be to have the likes of Iron Shield, Nimbus and Spyware fit seamlessly into the spandex-wearing crime-fighting gap, and effortlessly defeat the intriguingly powerful Dragoness due to their Extra Human Division (EHD) funded training, this particular twenty-two periodical takes a decidedly different route by “featuring a superhero team just like any other popular superhero team from Marvel or DC with one exception...They Suck!”

Indeed, straight from this book’s opening, it is all-too apparent that this squad’s diverse cast of characters are not only as inexperienced as Doctor Melanie Blake’s pre-mission briefing is uninspiring, but are almost all ‘in it’ for their own selfish reasons. Whether that be the super-strong Crag’s bone-headed desire to kill his foes rather than first save any hapless nearby civilians as ordered, or Hue-Man’s insufferable arrogance, which is as prominent throughout “Team Spirit” as his disconcerting potbelly. It’s certainly hard not to initially side with the villainess in her supposedly peaceful search of a German village for the Dragon Scroll until the green-clawed woman savagely cuts down an unarmed elderly Jewish homeowner later in the comic simply because the man “couldn’t make it easy” for her.

Fortunately, such ineptitude also provides this book with plenty of pulse-pounding action, which really helps infuse its narrative with a cracking pace and carries the reader through the plot’s obligatory flash-back sequence to a time when poor political decision-making robbed the government division of both its funding and its best members, such as Repotozone and Endeavour. In fact, the debatable highlight of this publication is Ad-Lib’s inadvertent entrapment within a dragon-shaped magical crystal and the highly disagreeable Kristopher Jordan’s ham-fisted effort to wrestle his former team-mate into submission following his latest faux pas; “What is a Drag-Lib? Did you get Ad-Lib turned into a dragon?” 

Quite possibly this “Kickstarter” financed publication’s biggest asset though, is the sheer number of different individuals which Quinn McGowan has had to pencil for it. Admittedly, some of the “self-taught” artist’s line-work appears somewhat hurried or overly cartoony in places, yet the “owner and editor in chief of Legends Press Comics” must still be applauded for drawing such a wide variety of oddities and imbuing them with such fascinating costumes, like that of Soundbyte’s claustrophobic-looking deep-sea diving suit or Eleven’s bug-eyed ninja attire.
Writer: Luke Herr, Lines & Inks by: Quinn McGowan, and Colorist: Michael Woods

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Timmy Lala's Ice Scream #1 - Ka-Blam Printing

TIMMY LALA'S ICE SCREAM No. 1, October 2018
Proudly publicised by creator Bradley Golden as “a one shot horror comic about delicious, sweet murder” during its successful “Kickstarter” in July 2018, this twenty page periodical undoubtedly lives up to its pre-print promise with its plot’s disturbing premise of the local ice-cream man being a deranged serial killer who murders innocent men, women and children so as to use “their body parts as new and delicious ice-cream toppings.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more disturbing narrative than that offered by this title’s writer as well-intentioned Miami-based mothers help shepherd their all-too innocent off-spring towards Thomas Wright’s truck and pay for their little darlings tasty treats, never suspecting for a moment that one of the ingredients of his delicious carbohydrate-filled frozen dessert may well be the bodily remains of his latest hapless fatality; “You know I make all my ice cream with love and care.”

Fortunately however, this book’s storyline isn’t simply just a straightforward tale about a homicidal maniac chopping up random inhabitants of Florida just for the fun of it, with the vendor’s motivation proving to be a far more complicated affair than that once he returns home and continues to torture his two-timing wife, Lucy, in his home’s dark basement. Bound to a chair and gagged, it soon becomes evident that “Thomas’ latest victim” will be missing more than her regular local yoga class unless her new sweetheart, Aaron, can mount a timely rescue and save her from the impressive array of sharpened knives with which the petrified woman’s mentally disturbed husband plans to slaughter her with.

Encouragingly, just such a liberation appears about to occur too when Lucy’s “secret lover” attempts to gain entry to Wright’s eerie house by posing as a representative of the “Heavenly Palace of Jehovah’s Witness.” But those bibliophiles anticipating a happy ending will be completely wrong-footed by what Golden pens next, as the Ice Cream man proves more than a murderous match for “the black guy at the door” and subsequently slits the throat of his shocked spouse whilst she’s still reeling from the disbelief of him killing her new partner on their very doorstep.

Similarly as successful as this comic’s delivery of its spine-chilling surprises, is Andrey Lunatik’s extremely characterful artwork, which genuinely imbues the bespectacled maniac with just the sort of humorous quirkiness this book needs to set it apart from being just another ‘slasher’ story, and keep the reader wanting to see more of its leading cold-hearted character. In fact, it’s easy to see just why Bradley wanted to use a portion of the $2,733 pledged “to help bring this project to life” to compensate the Russian (and the rest of this publication's creative team) for “putting out some great work”.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "TIMMY LALA'S ICE SCREAM" No. 1 by Helmut Rancho

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Like Father, Like Daughter #4 - Short Fuse Media Group

Featuring a disconcertingly foreboding cover illustration by Wayne A. Brown depicting a mortally-wounded Invulnerable potentially ‘bleeding out’ in the arms of his estranged teenage daughter, this twenty-two periodical’s narrative may well have proved something of a disappointment during its early stages as it depicts this series’ leading cast predominantly just ‘innocently’ sitting inside a regular diner eating hamburgers, drinking milkshakes and talking about Jim’s investigative incompetence. However, despite this debatably drawn-out sequence being discouragingly dialogue-heavy, it rather cleverly helps build up the book’s tension by slowly helping the publication, as well as the reader, count down towards the time until the titular character receives his ever-impending life-threatening injury.    

In fact, by the time “Casey decides that the best way to learn about her powers, is by going right to the source” and visits her father’s childhood orphanage, it is almost impossible to ‘shake off’ the pulse-poundingly palpable anticipation that at any moment a shot will suddenly ring out so as to lay the colourful crime-fighter fatally low. Of course, such an injury to a super-hero who has already proven himself impervious to bullets in previous editions does seem highly unlikely, especially when the pair are faced with nothing more formidable than an innocent looking elderly care-worker who was seemingly like a mother to Jim back when he was a boy, and a pot of tea which Invulnerable grew up drinking.

Yet the beauty of Kathryn Calamia’s story-telling is that despite the frail octogenarian’s appearance, the doddering woman’s sickly sweet politeness, uncanny ability to locate Jim’s old files almost instantaneously, as well as disconcerting strength of will to ensure both Wesley and Stephanie are separated from their blonde friend, all combine to subconsciously suggest that the super-powered pair could actually be in real jeopardy; A ‘spider-sense’ sensation which quickly resolves itself into hardened fact when the American author later pens “Mom” admitting to her mysterious employer that she has successfully placed a tracker upon her former ward so as to do "your country honour.”

Interestingly though, when the schoolgirl’s hyper-muscled father is finally shot in the chest, having stumbled upon an armed robbery which suspiciously occurs right before his eyes, the “new direction” upon which this first story-arc concludes does not arguably follow that implied by Brown’s pencilling either, but rather depicts a “surprising” reconciliation between Comic Uno’s titular characters. Indeed, despite his wound, the greatest threat to Invulnerable’s well-being would seemingly be his body’s ability to repair the injury before Casey has an opportunity to remove the bullet and his daughter's apologetic hug for being so awful to him since they first met…
Written & Created by: Kathryn Calamia, Pencils & Inks by: Wayne A. Brown, and Colors by: David Aravena

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Immortal Hulk #6 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 6, November 2018
Despite “Marvel Worldwide” stating at its time of printing that this twenty-page periodical supposedly sported the start of “The Green Door” storyline, it is difficult to believe many readers of “The Immortal Hulk” were particularly enamoured with Al Ewing’s lack-lustre visit behind the walls of “the mysterious Shadow Base”. Indeed, with the exception of a conscientious monitor who is ordered to have their “implant procedures reversed by 0600” so as to “report to sanitation for a mop”, little in the way of either excitement or interest arguably occurs throughout the entire publication.

Admittedly, the brief cameo by Alpha Flight within which General Reginald Fortean demands the extradition of Walter Langowski so as terminate him via death by “lethal injection”, as well as the subsequent confrontation between Colonel Carol Danvers and Bruce Banner on a deserted night-time Iowa roadside, certainly bodes well for this series’ future instalment. But such dialogue-heavy sequences debatably do little for Issue Six of “The Immortal Hulk” except establish the comic as nothing more than a disappointing ‘filler’ packed full of Captain Marvel’s prevarications concerning the Avengers being on hand not “to hurt you, Bruce” and General "Thunderbolt" Ross’s trusted second-in-command pontificating as to the dangers of even remotely caring about the innocent bystanders who “have all given aid and comfort to the Hulk.”

In fact, in many ways the "2000 A.D." writer’s narrative for “Action/Reaction” consists of the author simply penning a somewhat never-ending procession of panels featuring or mentioning almost everyone (and anyone) who has ever previously come to note as a secondary cast member within the Green Goliath’s previous tales, such as Jackie McGee, Betty Ross, Leonard Samson, Amadeus Cho, Rick Jones, Jennifer Walters, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Whilst "the soft-spoken bearded Brit" simultaneously introduces a bewildering number of his own characters from deep inside the United States Hulk Operations secret headquarters; “I seem to remember the Great America Public wasn’t too thrilled with how Gamma Base was run back in the day. If they knew about Shadow Base…”

Questionably this comic’s greatest frustration though has to be the pencilling of “Lovely” Lee Garbett, whose scratchy-styled drawings are shockingly very much to Ewing’s liking, according to the book’s letters page. Described by Al in his “Gamma-Grams” foreword as someone “I’ve been wanting to do something with… since our Loki: Agent of Asgard days”, it is hard to imagine just how poor this title’s “first full-issue guest artist” must have been whilst illustrating the God of Mischief’s magazine if “his art’s taken a quantum leap into new levels of gorgeousness since…”
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 6 by Alex Ross

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Batman [2016] #56 - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 56, Early December 2018
Sensationalised by “DC Comics” within its pre-publication publicity by pledging that the streets of Gotham City will run “red like borscht if the Dark Knight gets his way” against KGBeast, and sporting an impressively foreboding Tony S. Daniel’s illustrated foil cover, it’s not difficult to imagine that some readers probably quickly became somewhat frustrated with Tom King’s discernibly actionless script for Issue Fifty Six of “Batman”. In fact, despite the Eisner Award-winner’s narrative including the likes of the Bronze Tiger and Kanto, this twenty-page periodical’s central plot arguably barely contains anything like the violence the Burbank-based publisher’s marketing promised as the Russian assassin supposedly goes on a “rampage across Gotham City”.

Instead, it actually predominantly focuses upon Anatoli Knyazev catching up with his fat wheezing father in one of Russia’s “far east territories”, and dispatching the pot-bellied Vasily with a bullet to the brain; “<Hm. For this, you are weak. But that is my fault. I let you be weak. Because I love you, too, son.> Bang.” Of course, such a tense sequence, intermittently played out across the entirety of the comic, makes for a compellingly enjoyable read, but hardly lives up to this book’s pre-print hype of The Hammer’s former cybernetically augmented trainee tearing up Bruce Wayne’s metropolis so badly that his mayhem “takes a toll on Nightwing when he’s injured in the fray.” Indeed, having been shot in the head by Jim Starlin’s co-creation in this storyline’s previous instalment, the lack of even a medical update on Dick Grayson’s current status is especially infuriating, especially when Alfred Pennyworth is evidently on the verge of providing just such an appraisal following Batman’s identification of “the man with the missing arm at the restaurant” as the “professional killer.”

Fortunately, what King is good at is penning this comic’s titular character at his grimmest whilst trying to locate KGBeast and take him “down like the Berlin Wall.” Splendidly sketched by Daniel, the Caped Crusader has debatably never looked meaner, whether telling the Gotham gun dealer who supplied the Russian with a sniper rifle to run simply so he can savagely bat-a-rang him around the throat or losing three Bat-planes during his attempt to defeat the freezing cold of a harsh Siberian winter, and certainly appears wholly intent upon dropping “both the hammer and sickle on” Knyazev once he can get his hands on him.
Writer: Tom King, Pencils: Tony S. Daniel, Inks: Tony S. Daniel & Danny Miki and Colors: Tomeu Morey

Monday, 8 October 2018

Doctor Strange #382 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 382, February 2018
There’s debatably a palpable sadness emanating from Donny Cates’ script for this second instalment to his “Loki: Sorcerer Supreme” storyline which must surely have disconcerted some within the publication’s 24,286 strong audience in December 2017. But whilst the demise of the wonderfully lovable Bats towards the end of this twenty-page periodical is undoubtedly something of a true tear-jerker, this comic’s greatest lamentation is arguably due to just how uncharacteristically low “one of Marvel’s few bright spots in recent months” has penned Stephen Strange to sink.

Naturally, the former “preeminent surgeon” is going to be understandably disheartened by his ‘off-screen’ loss to the Asgardian God of Mischief, resultant abrupt departure from the Sanctum Sanctorum and surreal switch from being “Earth’s first defence against all manner of magical threats” to the life of an untrained veterinarian running a small animal hospital. However, that hardly explains why the Garland-born author would depict the Master of the Mystic Arts pitifully pleading with his former apprentice on the doorstep of his old mansion simply because he suspects Zelma Stanton has become Loki’s girlfriend; “Ouch. That’s… yeah, that’s rough, Doc. I mean, guy takes yer house… yer cape, yer job… And now this? Jeez, I feel for ya, I really… Doc?”

Interestingly, Cates does desperately try to overshadow the fallen member of the Illuminati’s evident bitter jealously by ridiculously revealing that Stan Lee’s co-creation has supposedly covertly bound the Exile of Singhsoon to the one-time mind-maggot infested librarian’s soul so as to keep the all-powerful spell out of “anyone’s hands”. Yet this bizarrely convenient rational as to why Strange subsequently awakens the Sentry, having been easily bested by Thor’s half-brother once again after spying him briefly kissing Zelma, somewhat smacks of contrivance and lazy writing.

Similarly as inconsistent as this comic’s questionable narrative is Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s artwork, with the Hugo Award-nominee’s pencilling imbuing both Stephen’s barking basset hound and venomously angered Stanton with some thoroughly enthralling dynamism one moment, and then presenting a somewhat lack lustre titular character or Loki in the next. In fact, much of the pet doctor’s emotions disappointingly are only ‘picked up’ from the book’s numerous text boxes rather than from any facial expression sketched by the Spanish illustrator.
Writer: Donny Cates, Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Errand Boys #1 - Image Comics

ERRAND BOYS No. 1, October 2018
In many ways it must have been quite hard for this comic’s audience to appreciate that D.J. Kirkbride’s inspiration for Issue One of “Errand Boys” was predominantly “all the non-Jedi bits of Star Wars… filled with scoundrels and no-goods who maybe secretly have hearts of gold”, as this five-issue mini-series’ opening instalment reads more like an episode of Matt Groening’s American animated sitcom “Futurama” than something found within a galaxy far, far away. Indeed, despite his heterochromia iridium, the thirty-year old Jace Lopaz could arguably be seen as little more than an older clone of Professor Farnsworth’s intergalactic delivery boy Philip J. Fry, as the rascal proves to be both an abject failure in his nefarious missions and maintaining a relationship with his extra-terrestrial love, Max; “Because, like you said, we’re not official, and, honestly…? I don’t want us to be. You’re not partner material.”

However, whatever this twenty-two page periodical’s stimulus was, the American author’s narrative certainly starts with plenty of pulse-pounding panels which undoubtedly grab the attention and make it abundantly clear that the “lifelong solo act” has only survived for so long because he somehow has the ‘luck of the gods’ when it comes to not breaking his neck or getting blown to smithereens by pop-guns. Interestingly though, the same unbelievable good fortune cannot be applied to the two-bit crook’s daily money-making shenanigans, as his appalling choice of merchandise container demonstrates when he unthinkingly leaps into a swimming pool so as to evade capture whilst carrying a cardboard box full of highly valuable baseball collector cards. 

Resultantly, for the first half of this publication Lopaz arguably comes across as little more than an idiotic, somewhat dislikeable self-centred scallywag who is seemingly being penned just for laughs by his co-creator, such as when he apparently seeks solace in Max’s left-over potato fries following his intermittent girl-friend’s permanent departure. But following Jace’s surprising decision to do the right thing by taking custody for his thirteen-year old half-brother Tawnk “full-time”, that opinion somewhat sympathetically shifts, even when it becomes clear that the “Errand Runner” probably sees his sibling as little more than extra-help by taking him straight out of school and starting the blue-skinned boy’s education on “the low, low streets of Old Ebb!”

Perhaps this comic’s biggest asset though is Nikos Koutsis’ excellently animated artwork, which despite being rather cartoony at times, really brings an extra element of energy to Kirkbride’s proceedings. In fact, much of Max’s disgust at her significantly souring relationship with the “spoof goof” and Tawnk’s understandable grief at having lost both of his parents so suddenly, is conveyed through the two characters’ well-defined facial expressions and enlivened body gestures, rather than any specifically uttered dialogue.
The regular cover art of "ERRAND BOYS" No. 1 by Nikos Koutsis & Mike Toris

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #801 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 801, September 2018
Dripping with the sickly sweet sentimentality of Dan Slott’s “final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man” after ten years”, it’s arguably hard to credit that “There For You” was the fourth best-selling comic of June 2018 by shifting a staggering 122,256 copies. For whilst the twenty-page periodical undoubtedly depicts the titular character web-slinging his way through a young, armed store robber, as well as a posse of Inner Demons, the Berkeley-born writer’s central plot predominantly focuses upon Kenneth Kincaid, “a busy office worker”, and the “worst night a’ my life.”

Of course, presenting a narrative which actually spends almost its entirety simply following the impact a super-hero’s momentary derring-do had upon a normal average Joe’s life is reasonably innovative, and actually ensures that the Eisner Award-winner’s narrative at least partially lives up to the “Marvel Worldwide” pre-publication hype that his story contains an “emotional, heartfelt” tale. However, the rescue of Ellie’s father from a pistol-totting masked gunman and his subsequent involvement in helping Web-head retrieve “the formula for the Devil’s Tears” some significant years later by tripping the Asian immigrants’ leader up is hardly one of the most moving adventures ever penned during “Dan’s run” or “in all of Mighty Marveldom itself”.

Indeed, considering that this comic was supposedly “one Marvel fans around the world won’t want to miss” and yet largely features Kenneth either burying his father, becoming a grandfather, celebrating Thanksgiving Day, attending his niece Judy’s successful Science Fair, or commiserating his wife’s Fortieth Birthday, Peter Parker’s crime-fighting alter-ego would debatably appear to be conspicuous by his very absence; “First time I ever get to see a super hero up close… And it has to be Spider-Man. Like why couldn’t it have been Thor, Captain Marvel, or Black Panther? Those guys are cool. When they save the day, they save the whole world.” 

Disappointingly, this magazine’s artwork is also debatably rather undynamically drawn and lack-lustre despite it being pencilled by “one of the best illustrators in the biz, Marcos Martin”. The Spaniard certainly would appear to have tried to emulate Spidey co-creator Steve Ditko’s quirky, ultra-athletic style when depicting the Human Mutate, something which is especially noticeable during the wall-crawler’s aforementioned fight with the teenage gunman, yet many of the “prolific” cover artist’s other panels questionably lack detail and appear more like preliminary sketches than the final product.
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 801 by Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente

Friday, 5 October 2018

Batman [2016] #55 - DC Comics

BATMAN No. 55, November 2018
There’s a palpable sense of fun to Tom King’s narrative for Issue Fifty Five of “Batman” which arguably must have helped carry this comic’s 105,609-strong audience along after the script’ sense-shattering shenanigans involving the Phantom Pharaoh are disappointingly concluded before the reader has even reached the book's half-way mark. Indeed, the ex-CIA officer’s apparent fixation in depicting Dick Grayson’s carefree attitude towards crime-fighting and his humorous baiting of Batman over a falling skills contest is debatably this book’s sole hook once the dynamic duo have all-too quickly overcome the King Tut replacement and his ancient, heavily-bandaged minions.

True, large swathes of this twenty-two page periodical are dedicated to Anatoli Knyazev’s infiltration of Gotham City and the Russian assassin’s acquirement of a “late-night expedited special” rifle from Tommy’s gun store. Yet despite KGBeast’s formidable presence, all of these somewhat stilted sequences debatably lack the sheer sense of energy with which the Eisner Award-winner imbues his scenes involving Nightwing, even following the terrorist’s apparent elimination of the Dark Knight’s original Boy Wonder; “This is Gordon! Get a damn medical team to the roof! Now! And I want cops in the --”

Just why “DC Comics” refused to let the “superstar writer” use Victor Buono’s character from the Sixties “Batman” television show was never made clear during the American author’s “spotlight panel at San Diego Comic-Con”, but what is abundantly unambigious is that his short-lived “creative solution” to “the somewhat obscure… Bat-villain” should probably have been given far more ‘screen time’ than his penmanship for this opening instalment to “Beasts Of Burden” permits. Certainly it must have frustrated the majority of the publication’s readers that King never provides any sort of insight as to just how “Fan Tom” was able to seemingly resurrect a number of malevolently-eyed decaying corpses or even explore just what the Ancient Egyptian ruler’s motives were when his crypt-born cadavers took to the metropolis’ streets…

Fortunately, Tony S. Daniel’s artwork does appear to effortlessly capture the perusing bibliophile’s eye with his wonderfully dynamic story boarding of the titular character, and contrasting ‘by-the-numbers’ framing of Knyazev’s pedantically-paced nine-panel per page cold-blooded machinations. In fact the “Batman: Battle For The Cowl” penciller undoubtedly adds an extra element to this book’s story-telling through his terrifically timed set-pieces, whether it be the Caped Crusader’s awesome-looking smackdown upon the Phantom Pharaoh or KGBeast’s coldly calculating murder of a hapless tenant who was just unlucky in his choice of apartment and it’s particular view of the Gotham night-time skyline.
Writer: Tom King, Artist: Tony S. Daniel, Inks: Tony S. Daniel & Danny Miki and Colors: Tomeu Morey

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Boy Zero: Volume One [Part One] - Caliber Comics

BOY ZERO: VOLUME ONE, January 2016
Described by “Caliber Comics” as “an epic noir tale spanning decades and two separate murder mysteries”, this opening chapter to “Boy Zero” predominantly focuses upon Detective Drekker seemingly solving a string of gory murders committed by a seriously sinister bald-headed serial killer, and in doing swiftly draws the reader into a terrifying world of brutalisation, bloody terror and truly repugnant police interrogation techniques which actually leaves its bed-bound victim both dead and saturated in another person’s urine; “During the excitement of the moment Mister Fich released his bladder…” So massively mature a tone may well disgust or revolt any perusing bibliophile haplessly flicking through this comic book whilst stood at the spinner rack, but for those who venture deeper into the sordidly dark world of Glass City, Charles Chester’s enthralling penmanship should easily have them ‘on the edge of their seats’ as the obese cigar-chomping detective spends a pulse-pounding thirty minutes racing sixty-three miles in a marked car so as to stop the death of Miss Hagen.

Interestingly however, the “award winning” filmmaker’s plot isn’t simply a straightforward tale of one of the portly policeman’s more grisly investigations, as its occasional decade long time jumps denote. Instead, the published author’s narrative also provides plenty of mystery in an underlying story-thread which sees artist Shiloh Penfield proficiently pencil the “hero detective” being psychologically analysed by a doctor so that the Mayor can force him into early retirement and ‘satisfactorily’ sign-off another chain of homicides against Nigel’s instinctive better judgement.

This additional scene, admittedly tremendously dialogue-heavy, yet absolutely crammed full of atmosphere, really brings some depth to Drekker’s potentially dislikeable character, so that by the time the foul-mouthed law enforcer is depicted allowing his partner Kip to nauseatingly torture their suspect in a secure hospital ward towards the end of “The Ember Rose”, it’s clear that the man does so “because I am not particularly fond of explaining to parents why their child has been hacked into little pieces” as opposed to being some sadistic tormentor in his own right. Indeed, the policeman’s sole motivation in life appears to be that “on my best day I may be able to prevent” such a thing from happening, and resultantly he’ll question a fellow officer’s manhood if they’re driving too slowly, as well as repeatedly verbally abuse his work colleagues, just to ensure he catches his suspect before they try to kill again.
Written by: Charles Chester, and Artwork by: Shiloh Penfield

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man #800 [Part Two] - Marvel Comics

Shifting a staggering 411,480 copies in May 2018, a particularly impressive feat considering that the book’s cover price was a whopping $9.99, there can surely be little argument that Dan Slott’s narrative for Issue Eight Hundred of “The Amazing Spider-Man” helped the eighty-page periodical sell extraordinarily well. Indeed, according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, this publication, alongside reorders of “DC Comics” very special oversized edition of “Action Comics”, represented an unbelievable “$4 million in comics at full retail shipped to the North American market” during a single month.

But despite such stunning sales figures, it is debatably difficult to agree with “Marvel Comics” claim that this final instalment to “Go Down Swinging” contains a story whose “scope [is] unmatched in comics”, especially when the over-stretched adventure’s second half seemingly just predominantly pits the titular character up against his old adversary one-on-one. Of course, Norman Osborn’s callous consciousness is admittedly merged with the super-powered Carnage symbiote, as Peter Parker’s alter ego is with Venom, and Flash Thompson momentarily appears in the guise of Agent Anti-Venom simply to heroically die in order to thwart perhaps one of the most unconvincing plot-points the Eisner Award-winner's penned since taking over the writing reins of the New York City-based publisher’s “company mascot”. Yet when the Red Goblin, despite all his previous prevarication finally has the wall-crawler’s life in his hands, he stupidly relents so as to strip himself of Cletus Kasaday’s influence and face his nemesis as “the real me” in one final fist-fight; “It’s taken everything I’ve had to last this long. I am not blowing this chance. Here’s whatever I’ve got left…”

Just as disappointing is the American author’s bizarre decision to have John Jonah Jameson attempt to kill a clearly defeated Osborn simply because he feels guilty at previously revealing Web-head’s secret identity to the super-villain. The cigar-chomping journalist has always proved somewhat nefarious in his Spider-Man smear campaigns. However, it’s hard to ever imagine the metropolis’ former Mayor gunning down a helpless man in cold blood, even when his target has attempted to eradicate this series’ entire supporting cast. In fact, there is disputably little about this comic’s concluding chapters which are satisfactorily scripted, as Slott first depicts Parker almost re-enacting blow-by-blow the closing sequence from Joel Schumacher’s 1995 American superhero film “Batman Returns” at the Ravencroft Solitary Confinement Wing, and then has him laughing as the Bugle reporter changes into his crime-fighting costume whilst still at Thompson’s funeral..?
Writer: Dan Slott, and Artists: Stuart Immonen, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marcos Martin