Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Self/Made #3 - Image Comics

SELF/MADE #3, February 2019
Whether intentional or not, there arguably appears to be a tangible “Tron” (or perhaps “Ready Player One”) vibe to Mat Groom’s narrative for Issue Three of "Self/Made". True, the twenty-two page periodical’s storyline understandably lacks any specific references to the Master Control Programme, light cycles and recognizers of Steven Lisberger’s 1982 American science fiction action-adventure film, but the similarities between the Australian author’s self-aware computer character battling alongside their creator against an all-powerful evil regime deep within a digital world and the critically well-received “Disney” movie is fairly evident.

Mercifully however, that doesn’t mean for a moment that the Sydney storyteller’s “solo comics writing debut” isn’t able to contain plenty of innovative entertainment in its own right, as “The Sport Of Ghost Kings” provides a genuinely compelling reading experience which manages to capture the attention right from the ‘get-go’ and doesn’t stop carrying its audience along even after Rebecca has successfully outwitted her green-glowing pursuer by returning to the somewhat sedentary real world. Indeed, anyone expecting this publication’s plot to provide a happy conclusion following a partially-defeated Amala’s successful self-detonation whilst gasping out her last inside Prince Brycemere’s throne room is in for a seriously nasty surprise; “Yeah, I’m gonna stop you right there…You’re a crazy goddamned Doctor Frankenstein lady and you’ve made something which genuinely seems to be alive…”

Of course, this comic’s biggest debatable draw is the fact that for its opening two-thirds it depicts an incredibly dynamic battle through some sort of futuristic underhive between a seriously gun-toting scientist and a veritable horde of ghastly ghost-like, cybernetically-enhanced Undead. This fracas is pulse-poundingly paced to say the least, and must have got many a bibliophiles’ blood pumping with its mixture of skull-shattering shooting, explosive grenades and flesh-shredding close combat.

Eduardo Ferigato’s artwork is also a key ingredient to this book’s palpable success, courtesy of the São Paulo-born illustrator’s clean line work and sense for the theatrical when pencilling a panel, such as when an inexperienced Amala can’t help but fire an automated blaster straight up into the ceiling, despite being faced with a swarm of death-dealing robot zombies. Coupled with Marcelo Costa’s vibrant colours, and ability to utilise a palette in order to effectively contrast the digital dilapidation of Brycemere’s fake world with the cold grey of Rebecca’s work facility, this magazine’s interiors are undeniably a feast for the eyes, as well as strong recipe for story sharing success.
Writer: Mat Groom, Artist: Eduardo Ferigato, and Colors: Marcel Costa

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Conan The Barbarian #2 - Marvel Comics

CONAN THE BARBARIAN No. 2, March 2019
Penned as if Robert E. Howard himself had written a sequel to his 1935 short story “Beyond The Black River”, Jason Aaron’s narrative for Issue Two of “Conan The Barbarian” must surely have convinced the vast majority of this comic’s audience that the Alabama-born author had truly “been preparing for this gig for a very long time.” For whilst “The Savage Border” arguably depicts the Cimmerian’s grief for his dead friends at Fort Tuscelan being replaced by a primal respect for “the darker skinned race” a lot sooner than one would expect for a much angered warrior who had previously sworn to “claim the heads of seventeen Picts in honour of his fallen comrades”, the twenty-page periodical also portrays the Sword and Sorcery hero’s practically-minded acceptance of a situation where the enemy of his enemy is his friend, or at least very uneasy ally to begin with; “They hate and fear you, yes -- with good reason. But they hate and fear something else even more.”

In fact, Conan’s steady assimilation into the daily routine of the savage Pict and their begrudging respect for his Herculean efforts to keep their village safe from the persistent onslaught of giant Ghost Snakes actually provides an increasingly persuasive plot to the point where many a bibliophile must surely have been disappointed that the square cut-maned warrior didn’t accept the unnamed Shaman’s genuine offer to remain with his short, black-eyed brothers in their settlement… at least for a few stories more. Certainly, the Cimmerian’s sullenness once he has travelled “back across that border” and returned to Velitrium delivers an intriguing insight into just how complicated a character the scout has become as he enters his Forties, as well as perhaps just how tempted he truly may have been to have lived with “good women who would have you” and “men who would embrace you as one of their own” rather than the civilised Hyborians who currently find his “untamed nature” useful to them.

However, perhaps far more fitting for fans of this ongoing series is the sheer amount of sense-shattering action Aaron and artist Mahmoud Asrar manage to crowbar into so thought-provoking an adventure. Whether it be the blue-shirted barbarian’s brutal battle with a half-dozen well-armed Picts at the start of this book, or Conan’s titanic tussle towards the tale’s conclusion when he leads a thoroughly determined raiding party against the King Snake’s slithering horde, there are plenty of powerfully-pencilled blood-soaked panels to both catch the eye and spark even the most stagnant of imaginations.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "CONAN THE BARBARIAN" No. 2 by Esad Ribic

Monday, 18 February 2019

C.H.E.S.S. #2 - Short Fuse Media Group

C.H.E.S.S. No. 2, March 2019
It is hard to imagine how any creative team could better immerse their audience with so relentless an assault upon their senses as Issue Two of Alfred Paige’s “C.H.E.S.S.” does straight from the start. For whilst the twenty-two page periodical momentarily lulls any unsuspecting bibliophile into a false sense of sedentary security with its opening eavesdrop upon a tense dialogue between Avery and his ‘on the ground’ team leader, Deborah Stewart a.k.a. Heart, the action very quickly ramps up a few notches as the comic shifts focus to Infrared and Footpath’s supposedly stealthy night-time investigation of the Conflict Technology Solutions Headquarters in Kyoto, Japan.

Dripping in atmosphere and an urgent need to be absolutely quiet as the team’s “killer robot” silently sneaks into Nakadai’s building via its roof’s access stairwell, this sequence’s palpable claustrophobic ambiance genuinely makes it difficult for a reader to breath for fear of alerting the establishment’s authorities, and additionally makes Schafer’s verbal reservations regarding the mission’s roster appear all the more irritatingly loud whenever he speaks to Stewart; “And you’d be surprised how stealthy Infrared can be. Hence the text feed, to save him speaking. Maybe you should follow his example, Schafer.” Fortunately however, for those perusing this publication whose lungs were starting to burst for lack of air, the suffocating silence is reasonably swiftly broken when the villain’s criminal cadre suddenly ambush the so-called failed robotic super-soldier, and literally all Hell is let loose in a staggeringly entertaining fist-fight between Rowan Kelly Moore, Infrared and Nakadai’s group of super-powered assassins.

The dynamically-pencilled artwork for this lengthy battle royale compellingly speaks for itself, and gains some considerable gravitas due to the combatants predominantly only having enough time to grunt in effort or groan in pain. As a result much of this mêlée’s dialogue actually stems from Avery’s dislocated team who are ineffectively trying to make sense of matters using their mechanical comrade’s badly disorientated text feed, and their resultant confusion as to what is happening wonderfully adds to the turmoil of the chaotic bout itself. Indeed, even after Footpath is knocked unconscious, courtesy of a cowardly strike from behind, it still looks as if the two “C.H.E.S.S.” operatives may yet come out on top until Infrared has an arm lopped off by the ferocious cybernetically-enhanced Stress and logically determines that “the situation was turning in the enemy’s favour.”

Please note that for more updates on "C.H.E.S.S" you can go to its "Facebook" page.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Creative Team: Alfred Paige, Alex De-Gruchy, William Reyes and Jesse Hansen

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Battlestar Galactica: Twilight Command #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: TWILIGHT COMMAND No. 1, February 2019
Fans of Ronald D. Moore’s 2004 re-imagining of the American military science fiction television series “Battlestar Galactica” probably found Michael Moreci’s script for this untold tale’s opening instalment entertaining enough, what with the twenty-page periodical’s mix of fast-paced action sequences and conspiratorial conversations. However, those readers unable or unwilling to recall the plot to the programme’s two-part second season finale “Lay Down Your Burdens” arguably found it little more than a disconcerting mess of jumbled set-pieces focusing upon a settlement of weary-worn human survivors being unnervingly fed by their hated enemies and a small party of rebels fighting alongside a somewhat miraculously friendly talking toaster; “What in the -- A talking Centurion?! What are you waiting for? Kill it!”

Admittedly, “Dynamite Entertainment” does try to warn any bibliophiles haplessly perusing this publication within their local comic book store, that “the events of this issue take place concurrently with Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica.” But such a short summary as to where the mini-series sits within the “Sci-Fi Channel” show’s timeline is hardly going to make much sense to anyone unfamiliar with Admiral Adama’s shockingly sudden abandonment of his people on New Caprica, and resultantly any newcomers to this title will debatably spend most of their time understandably wondering just what in Kobol is going on as a scruffy-looking, one-eyed Executive Officer Tigh rushes headlong to Chief Petty Officer Tyrol’s tent before being ominously carted off by the Cylons…

Lamentably, Moreci provides little elucidation as to the background behind this story during its telling either, despite his narrative containing plenty of opportunities to do so, such as Galen’s heated night-time conversation with Samuel T. Anders when the pair squander three entire pages talking about how little they know about the mysterious Commander Flores, or the Colonial pair’s subsequent introductory meeting with the rebellion’s grim-faced leader. Indeed, with the exception of an early scene which was clearly penned simply to reinforce Saul’s fiercely loyal insistence that the Galactica’s commanding officer will return to rescue his people at some point, this entire adventure is debatably devoid of any meaningful exposition concerning its prior build-up whatsoever.

Similarly as unsuccessful are some of Breno Tamura’s breakdowns, which whilst excellent at depicting the awkward unnaturalness of the robotic cylons, seem rather disagreeably scratchy when used to depict facial expressions when in close-up. Packed full of dynamic gun-play and buckets of bullets, there can be no denying that the “Dragão Brasil Magazine” debutant can pencil some astoundingly energetic panels, yet his questionably inconsistent handling of human anatomy persistently jars the eye throughout this publication.
Writer: Michael Moreci, Artist: Breno Tamura, and Colorist: Dijjo Lima

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Spirit's Destiny #1 - Short Fuse Media Group

SPIRIT'S DESTINY No. 1, March 2019
Featuring a genuinely enthralling opening, which provides both plenty of heart-racing tension as a masked burglar seemingly attempts to steal away a sleeping baby, and a pulse-pounding punch-up between the titular character’s seriously super-kick ass parents, it’s abundantly clear that “writer/creator Dorphise Jean has been developing the story of Spirit's Destiny for multiple years.” Indeed, this marvellous introduction to “an ongoing comic series featuring a Haitian girl with extraordinary abilities” arguably couldn’t grab its readers’ attention any better, especially after it’s revealed that the sinisterly-clad intruder is actually the infant’s father Brian and rather than trying to steal his beloved daughter away from her mother, the overly-confident criminal is apparently disconcertingly injecting his child with a solution which he hopes “is best for you.”

Of course, after such a sense-shattering start, any subsequent depiction of Destiny simply going through the daily ‘hum drum’ routine of getting ready for school is going to significantly slow the twenty-eight page periodical’s pace down. However, despite the sedentary nature of this comic’s subsequent sequences, this publication’s creative team still manage to imbue its proceedings with plenty of intrigue due to the implication that some disconcerting family tension potentially exists involving the teenager’s French-based creole-speaking grandma; “I swear between the two of you, I’m gonna meet an early fate.”

Similarly as successful at injecting everyday events with plenty of ‘pow’ is Jean’s portrayal of the “poor, naïve, innocent soul” half-heartedly selecting the best food her cafeteria has to offer and suddenly encountering Noel’s unjustifiably enraged girlfriend. This book’s audience literally just have enough time to register the jealous Lisa’s presence in the panel before the irate long-haired blonde has been sketched momentarily grabbing hold of Destiny’s uniform-grey blouse and then getting savagely smacked straight in the face by her formidably fierce foe for her unfounded aggressive act.

Perhaps the only hindrance to Issue One of "Spirit's Destiny" is therefore that is has been pencilled by a plethora of artists, who despite all prodigiously doing their best to make this comic a visually engaging experience, debatably still can’t help but repeatedly remind its reader that someone else has intermittently taken over the artistic duties. In fact, by the time this plot’s troublesome trio have unwisely broken into the Lucid Mechanical and Chemical Engineering Corp, and played out a scene somewhat reminiscent of Flynn’s early fate in the 1982 American science fiction action-adventure film “Tron”, the amount of changes throughout this comic’s interior are arguably a palpable distraction.
Writer: Dorphoise Jean, and Pencilers: Edwin Galmon, Richard Perotta & Stan Yak

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Geek-Girl #4 - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL No. 4, January 2019
Deftly tying up all this mini-series’ previous plot threads in light of Sam Johnson’s decision to make this title an ongoing publication (utilising the funding platform “Kickstarter”), Issue Four of “Geek-Girl” arguably starts somewhat slowly before blossoming into a full-on action-fest involving Chromex, Terry, the League of Larcenists, Neon Girl and undercover telekinetically-powered operative Tyler. In fact, by the time Pig-Head is busy serving his “quirky bunch of villains” a formidably-sized pizza-feast, prior to “the briefing on today’s job”, and a furiously frustrated Sandra has finally managed to contact a hung-over Ruby Kaye, all of this comic’s main cast are clearly in position for artist Carlos Granda to prodigiously pencil one pulse-pounding climax; “I told you to be ready. I’ve got where the League of Larcenists are! I’ve texted you the details -- Get over there now. I’ll meet you!”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that this twenty-eight page periodical rests upon its dialogue-driven laurels for its entire opening third either, as its creator even manages to provide an evening visit to Munchers diner with plenty of punch when Summer James, Mariella and “Little Miss Popular” are suddenly robbed at gun-point by a seriously incompetent mugger. Instantly donning her “power-inducing super-tech glasses”, an incensed Kaye soon overpowers the Batman-masked thug courtesy of a table to the face, and simultaneously provides just the sort of the ‘pizzazz’ Maine College’s co-educational student needed to get Geek-Girl “back in the game.”

Interestingly however, despite Ruby being “back in the costume” by the time a cybernetically-enhanced Neon Girl literally crashes in upon Pig-Head’s plans, and rather whimsically quotes Mel Brooks’ 1974 American satirical Western film “Blazing Saddles” as she punches through the secret headquarters’ brick wall, this comic’s conclusion is not as straightforwardly scripted as its readers may have anticipated considering “Maine's First Lady of super-heroing” is leading the charge. Indeed, Sandra’s “hell bent” decision to soar off in chase of Chromex and Terry’s escaping armoured truck leaves a wholly out-matched titular character facing almost the entirety of the Larcenist’s “serious tech” and “a guy whose brain has been fused with a pig’s” who isn’t afraid to use them upon the bespectacled brunette.

Astonishingly for a book which has previously depicted its super-heroes suffering from all manner of physical beatings and maimings, Johnson actually pens for this intense laser beam-filled finale to reach a satisfying conclusion, as Kaye’s unsuccessful attempt to replicate Al Pacino's “Say hello to my little friend” scene from the movie “Scarface” is salvaged at the last second by Neon Girl’s return and Tyler’s revelation that he’s working for Mister Carlyle. True, Pig-Head loses a hand during the cataclysmic conclusion, whilst Chromex luckily lives to commit crime another day, but such intriguing developments are actually soon overshadowed by the prospect of Geek-Girl potentially teaming-up with the chain-smoking power broker’s telekinetic in this series’ next edition…

Geek-Girl #4 is Out Now and available at www.geekgirlcomics.com and www.comixology.com

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "GEEK-GIRL" No. 4 by Carlos Granda

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #4 - Titan Comics

DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR No. 4, March 2019
Long-suffering survivors of the British science fiction television programme’s eleventh season who turned to “Titan Comics” for a quality fix of their favourite Time Lord were debatably hard pressed to take away any lasting enjoyment from Jody Houser’s narrative for Issue Four of “Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor”. Indeed, the contrived penmanship behind this twenty-two page periodical’s plot is so exasperating in places, particularly towards its utterly unsurprising conclusion as the alien Hoarder is trapped by Perkin’s sabotaged vortex manipulator, that it smacks of the “Cupcake POW!” creator becoming hopelessly disillusioned as to where her storyline was heading and subsequently rushing the comic to a very unsatisfying end.

For starters, having previously written that the TARDIS could apparently automatically ‘swoop in’ to rescue the time travellers from certain death whenever they’re at the end of a corridor packed full of angrily armed extra-terrestrials, the Rod Parker Fellowship Award-winner suddenly decides that perhaps allowing the titular character to summon her antiquated Type 40 TT capsule whenever danger looms probably isn’t the most exciting of ideas, and awkwardly states that despite the Gallifreyan always having the ability to do this, the Doctor ludicrously doesn’t because the Police Box “gets a bit prickly… If you summon her too much. It’s a little demeaning for her, to be honest.” This explanation makes no sense whatsoever, and proves as unconvincing as Doctor Schultz’s account of having somehow “managed to locate… the traveller responsible for the antidote” to her potentially lethal poisoning, despite the hulking humanoid mule presumably travelling throughout the entire cosmos in order to acquire the formula’s precious ingredients.

Frustratingly, things debatably only get worse with Houser’s artificial script as “the time-twisting conclusion of the Thirteenth Doctor’s first comic adventure” reaches its climax and the “fizzing… confident explorer” solves almost everything courtesy of a wave of her ever-trusty sonic screwdriver. Apparently now able to utilise the multi-functional gadget to re-programme a large robot “for something more important than polishing gaudy décor”, such as cleaning locks right off of door handles, the Time Lord not only manages to succinctly rescue all of the Hoarder’s other captives, but handily even outwits the blue-skinned demonic-looking creature in to admitting his numerous transgressions within hearing of a band of law enforcement time agents; “Convenient they were listening right outside your door as you confessed your crimes. Temporal kidnapping. Temporal extortion. Temporal conspiracy…”
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR" No. 4 by Giorgia Sposito & Arianna Florean

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Conan The Barbarian #1 - Marvel Comics

CONAN THE BARBARIAN No. 1, March 2019
There can surely be little doubt that the hype surrounding the return of “Conan The Barbarian” to “Marvel Comics” following a fifteen year run at rivals “Dark Horse Comics” had plenty of the sword and sorcery hero’s fans analeptic with anticipation in January 2018. Indeed, even the New York-based publisher’s Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski got caught up in the company’s announced agreement with “Conan Properties International”, by stating that “It’s a legacy we’re now going to live up to with the talent we have lined up for the Cimmerian barbarian’s homecoming in early 2019. We’re excited!”

Some twelve months later and Jason Aaron’s narrative for “The Weird Of The Crimson Witch” arguably delivered upon that promise too, with a tale that should not only have sated the appetites of those readers who simply wanted to see the “black-haired, sullen-eyed” slayer of men just ferociously hack his way through a veritable army of opponents foolish enough to linger down in the fighting pits of Zamora. But those who also longed for the dark, magical elements of the Hyborian Age where a beautiful, partially-clad temptress can quickly transform into a wrinkled, undead witch and soon surround the hapless titular character in a writhing mass of hungry living corpses; “The dead flesh was soft and jellied. Held together by magic and maggots. But the teeth and nails were petrified and hard as jagged sea rocks.”

These sense-shattering shenanigans really do help carry the comic’s audience along at a terrific pace throughout the thirty-page periodical, and debatably don’t really ever slow down even when many years later, King Conan of Aquilonia walks across a victorious battlefield littered with Turanian bodies and subsequently challenges a pair of orphaned flesh-stealers who gleefully appear to be picking the juiciest of cadavers for their hand-pulled cart. This particularly gruesome sequence is admittedly somewhat dialogue-driven, yet soon turns the entire “all-new ages-spanning saga” upon its head when its revealed the tiny adolescents have been ‘mothered’ by the self-same Crimson Witch whom the Cimmerian had partially-beheaded so many years earlier “a league beneath the earth… in an ancient temple far older than Acheron, older than even Atlantis.”

Artist Mahmud Asrar also plays a prominent part in the success of this comic’s storyline, imbuing many of its ‘tried and tested’ action shots, such as Conan wrestling with the homicidal harpy he had moments before bedded or mercilessly carving through a ravenous horde of zombies, with plenty of pulse-pounding dynamism. In fact, the maniacal glint in the eye of this book’s main antagonist as her machinations reach fruition, along with the distinct feeling that the Turkish-born penciller was determined to populate as many panels as possible with swathes of blood, make every picture a compelling feast for the eyes.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "CONAN THE BARBARIAN" No. 1 by Esad Ribic

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Doctor Strange #386 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 386, April 2018
Containing little more than a skimpy summary of the titular character’s unsuccessful attempt to restore Las Vegas “back in[to] fighting shape” following the city’s total destruction at the hands of a squadron of Hydra Helicarriers in “Marvel Comics” 2017 crossover event “Secret Empire”, it is difficult to believe that many within this book’s 24,864-strong audience were particularly pleased with Donny Cates’ narrative for Issue Three Hundred and Eighty Six of “Doctor Strange”. True, the American author’s script does a reasonably good job of explaining the Master Of The Mystic Arts’ pivotal role during the proceedings of his “Damnation” mini-series, yet that arguably doesn’t help resolve the frustration surrounding just why so momentous a magical act as the Sorcerer Supreme trying to resurrect “the poor people who had passed away in the attack back from the dead” wasn’t depicted in detail within the the primary protector of Earth’s own ongoing series as opposed to a separately published “shocking misfire from the top-downwards” (“Bleeding Cool” 2018).

Instead, regular readers of Steve Ditko’s co-creation are forced to endure an incredibly word-heavy discourse between the Ancient One’s former protégé and Mephisto whilst the pair play a disturbing round of Brimstone Blackjack at one of Hotel Inferno’s gambling tables. This debatably sedentary sequence does contain a few fleeting moments of entertainment, predominantly in the form of Strange first being smacked in the mouth by a muscle-bound demon for uttering the words “hit me”, and secondly for depicting the beleaguered Illuminati momentarily besting his aghast opponent courtesy of a spell which causes the extra-dimensional devil to be (mis)dealt the losing card; “I wasn’t supposed to be next in the deck and then I got this weird magic key tingle all along my tongue and Boom! Here I am! I’m tellin’ ya boss. This guy’s a lousy card cheat!” However, these ‘laughs’ are few and far between amidst a storyline that generally seems to have been penned simply to pad out an entire edition which is disappointingly just ‘treading water’ alongside a dated “central premise [which] is [already] based on an event that occurred a year earlier.”

Questionably therefore, this twenty-page periodical’s sole success can only be found within some of Niko Henrichon’s well-pencilled panels, and dishearteningly, even these are not as many as some bibliophiles would have hoped due to the Canadian illustrator’s far too satanically smiley interpretation of Strange’s red-skinned, fang-toothed nemesis. The former member of the Six-Fingered Hand has always been portrayed as an arrogant, overly confident manipulator of men, and in many ways a Machiavellian match for Loki, the God of Mischief. But during this opening instalment to “Bleeding Neon” the demon seems to be enjoying himself far more than one might have expected for so sinisterly serious a "perennial villain in the Marvel Universe."

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Donny Cates, Artist: Niko Henrichon, and Colour Assistant: Laurent Grossat

Friday, 8 February 2019

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

PETER CANNON: THUNDERBOLT #1, January 2019
Described as a dark, humorous, and relentless love song to the genre”, this first in a “five-issue series from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Caspar Wijngaard certainly started the creative team's collaborative efforts off with a satisfyingly big bang courtesy of its opening featuring an alien invasion mercilessly wiping out the human inhabitants of an entire city. Indeed, the fleeting glimpses provided of the multi-tentacled, squid-like extra-terrestrials, almost sombrely floating through the destruction around them killing anyone foolish enough to have come out of hiding, genuinely seems to provide Issue One of “Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt” with a far more impressive, sense-shattering re-imagining of H.G. Well’s 1897 serial “The War Of The Worlds” than Steven Spielberg’s 2005 American science-fiction action horror film arguably ever did…

Disappointingly however, what then follows is an incredibly lack-lustre, dialogue-heavy conversational piece featuring a myriad of different colourfully “trippy” characters and a rather sedentary summary of Thunderbolt’s origin whilst the super-hero’s friend Tabu serve’s his guests their “preferred beverages”. Admittedly, this speech-laden sequence, debatably badly bloated by a pair of splash pages, does depict the instantly irritating Supreme Justice getting “his ass handed to him” by the titular character in an impressively-sketched demonstration of close combat fighting skills. Yet it isn’t until Pete Morisi’s “Charlton Comics” creation returns from having consulted his ancient scrolls that this book finally starts to deliver on its British author’s belief that “this is a comic about how we could be better” than “a lot of things with superhero comics.”

In fact, the only drawback to the pulse-pounding battle which follows is how decidedly one-sided and frustratingly brief the flurry of fisticuffs is. Blasted from out of its command vessel by China’s radioactive champion, and then battered into pulpy pieces by their fists, the alien’s pink-hued, wide-eyed commander-in-chief is surprisingly quickly dispatched. Such a loss of leadership proves catastrophic to the alien’s hierarchal structure, and subsequently within the space of a few prodigiously-pencilled panels the seemingly invincible invasion of Earth is quashed dead in its tracks; “I’d normally pretend to feel bad about this. But you killed a city, so…”

Lamentably though, for some reason Gillen decides not to allow his twenty-page periodical’s conclusion to end on such a high note as Supreme Justice astonishingly admitting that Thunderbolt is the planet’s “born leader”. But instead, questionably takes all the ‘sting’ out of the publication’s explosive narrative by revealing that the extra-terrestrial’s attack was actually an attempt by another Cannon from an alternative universe, who wanted to use their assault as a way to draw the different nations of the world together against a common foe.
Writer: Kieron Gillen, Artist: Caspar Wijngaard, and Colorist: Mary Safro

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Batman Who Laughs #2 - DC Comics

THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS #2, March 2019
“After the shocking ending of issue one”, which saw the insane Joker calmly shoot himself in the heart with a backwards firing trick pistol, many within this mini-series’ audience probably felt that the Clown Prince of Crime was either finally dead or that at some point “DC Comics” were potentially going to acknowledge Scott Snyder’s storyline was a non-canon piece of fiction like those printed insider the Burbank-based publisher’s “Elseworlds” comics. Disconcertingly however, neither outcome would’ve been correct due to the New Yorker opening up this second instalment of "The Batman Who Laughs" with Jerry Robinson’s co-creation somewhat simply shrugging off so serious a mortal wound courtesy of Alfred Pennyworth providing a bit of suction here and a few stitches there; “It’s just a physical response. Most people gasp. I suppose it means he’ll live.”

This miraculous piece of surgery by “Bruce Wayne’s loyal and tireless butler” genuinely must have stretched most readers’ willing suspension of disbelief to its outermost limits. Yet it is simply the start in a long line of contrived plot developments which the Stan Lee Award-winner employs throughout this twenty-four page periodical, starting with Batman “using ever Joker toxin antidote we have” daily to stave off his transformation into The Batman Who Laughs for a week, and ending with Wayne Tower’s “final defence against any chemical or biological attack” being supposedly guarded by an elderly blind man who haplessly allows this book’s homicidal titular character to effortlessly stroll into the top secret facility and blow the entire building up.

Admittedly, this final action-packed sequence does provide artist Jock with ample opportunity to pencil the World's Greatest Detective literally slugging it out with his opposite number from the Dark Multiverse, and resultantly imbue this magazine with an all-too brief twinkling of exhilarating entertainment. But the breathless Caped Crusader’s surprising victory over his ghoulishly-garbed semi-conscious opponent is soon brought to a swift end when he is suddenly shot in the chest from a nearby high-rise roof-top by the Grim Knight, and any onlookers are arguably left wondering why the “alternate version of Batman who uses guns” waited until after his target has smashed into Wayne Tower before firing, when it would surely have been far more straightforward to just bring his man down whilst he was presumably slowly scaling up “the tallest [tower] in Gotham.”
The regular cover art of "THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS" No. 2 by Jock

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Geek-Girl #3 - Markosia Enterprises

GEEK-GIRL No. 3, September 2018
Enthusiastically publicising that this twenty-four page periodical contains “Round Two” of Nina Dante’s attempt to unseat Ruby’s bespectacled alter-ego as “The Hero of Maine”, Sam Johnson’s narrative for Issue Three of “Geek-Girl” may well have surprised many within its audience by providing far more than a simple slug-fest between the jealous cybernetically-eyed lawbreaker and “Little Miss Popular”. Indeed, despite Kaye’s rival receiving “an experimental new power” instead of the robotic arm she was intending to purchase via “doing a Kickstarter”, “The Welcoming Party” arguably appears to focus far more upon the titular character’s doubts as to ever wearing Trevor Goldstein’s super-tech glasses again than the aforementioned rematch, especially when Karin Carpenter begins pressurising her resoundingly popular ‘friend’ into donning the costume once again as some sort of publicity stunt at Raleigh’s nightclub.

Before any of this dialogue-heavy soul-searching takes place however, this comic first resolves Summer James’ confrontation with “the menacing Chromex”. This altercation really must have got the readers’ blood pumping straight from the start as the heavily armoured maniac seems entirely hell bent on pummelling the powerless young woman before him as a result of her bravely interrupting his attempt to rob a gas station; “You got in Chromex’s way, lady. You don’t get to do that again!” 

Delightfully though, this somewhat tense sequence is seemingly penned by Johnson to provide Neon Girl with a truly awesome entrance, allowing this title’s fans their first proper look at the town’s “resident Big Gun super-heroine” during this mini-series’ second volume. Now sporting a robotic hand, the blond-haired heavy hitter makes short work of Chromex courtesy of hurling a car into the villainous tin-can, and is only thwarted in her attempt to incarcerate the clunky criminal when he is surprisingly spirited away by the League of Larcenists during an all-too brief vehicle chase.

Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, “the über-bitchy unofficial leader of Ruby’s clique” is also given plenty of ‘screen time’ within this publication, first as the model hostess for a geek-chic celebratory V.I.P. table, and then as an arrogant bully who forces an unconvinced fan into wearing some of her spare contacts so Kaye could borrow her glasses for the evening and look even more like her costumed counter-part. Manipulative, controlling and overbearing, Karin positively bristles with indignation when Summer’s late arrival ruins her plans to transform the evening into a major promotional event, even when James hands over to her “the replica [Geek-Girl] costume I made”…

Geek-Girl #4 is Out Now and available at www.geekgirlcomics.com and www.comixology.com

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "GEEK-GIRL" No. 3 by Carlos Granda & Chunlin Zhao

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Judge Dredd: Toxic #3 - IDW Publishing

JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC No. 3, December 2018
Packed full of more anti-alien extremism, block wars and citizen riots than many within Mega-City One’s metropolis limits can probably handle within the space of a few days, Paul Jenkins’ narrative for Issue Three of “Judge Dredd: Toxic” must certainly have quickened the pace of many readers with its combination of pulse-pounding violence, political machinations and a mammoth sewer-based monster. In fact, apart from a rather word-heavy sequence depicting Cassandra Anderson telepathically connecting with the surviving Blenders, the British screenwriter’s storyline for this twenty-page periodical is pretty much non-stop action; “Pull weapons and stay alert. I have a bad feeling about this place.”

Happily however, this publication’s invigorating tempo doesn’t mean that its plot is simply a series of straightforward set-pieces contrivingly crowbarred together. For whilst the cold-blooded shooting of Mister Pheta literally just before the “so-called body modifier to the stars” reveals the identification of the person behind the extra-terrestrial symbiotes is perhaps a little unoriginal, the subsequent vehicle pursuit through the busy streets of Judge Dredd’s super-sized city-state, complete with a “complimentary guide service” by the taxi’s robot-driver, is as scintillatingly scripted as its witty dialogue is reminiscent of the Johnny Cab ride during Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 American science-fiction action film “Total Recall”.

True, the Prism Award-winner’s decision to include “just a droid called Steven” interviewing the leader of the Anti-Alien League, and a clear stand-in for American President Donald Trump, does arguably seem a little too forced what with Mister Spencer Richards doing little else but spout his distasteful “wear your prejudice as a badge of courage” political nonsense for eleven excruciating propaganda-fuelled panels. Yet even this tongue-in-cheek depiction of the “uncontrolled Nazi sympathizer hearkening back to the dark days of the mid-twentieth century” is quickly overshadowed by the titular character’s claustrophobic excursion down into the Spillover alongside “the most on-point, brown-nosing, hyper-achiever we’ve ever had in the system”, Judge Scammon.

Disconcertingly, what does debatably let this comic down though are Marco Castiello’s breakdowns, which seem to lurch from the somewhat scratchily-sketched Pheta and the rich man's “sanctioned, sprayed or neutered” pets to the artist's much clearer dynamically-drawn depictions of Anderson firing her lawgiver from the roof of a fast-moving taxi car. Indeed, in many ways the apparent inconsistency of this book’s interiors makes it hard to imagine that the Italian was its sole penciller and Vincenzo Acunzo his solitary co-inker.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC" No. 2 by Mark Buckingham & Chris Blythe

Monday, 28 January 2019

The Immortal Hulk #12 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 12, March 2019
Arguably focusing far more upon the backstory to Brian Banner’s loathing for his son, Bruce, than the titular character’s trek across the One Below All’s post-apocalyptic Hell, Al Ewing’s script for Issue Twelve of “The Immortal Hulk” certainly seemed to provide its audience with an interesting insight into the abusive father’s first experience of “a grotesque presence, glimpsed through a crack in a door” to “a nightmare cellar-world underneath the floorboards of everything”, and the detrimental impact this encounter had upon his theory “that gamma might sometimes act not as a wave or particle… but as some unknown third form.”

Indeed, the utter despondency shown upon the scientist’s face following the sudden denouncement of this ‘nonsensical notion’ to his Department Heads and Rebecca’s subsequent surprise revelation to her husband that she was pregnant is positively palpable, and whilst hardly generating any sympathy for his resultant abusive behaviour towards his family, at least provides some semblance of understanding as to the selfish man’s emotional inadequacies; “Nine months later, you were born. A difficult birth. You were all but torn from the womb… It didn’t matter. I’d been replaced. You took the love I had from me. You did that, Bruce. You.”

True, these poignantly pencilled ‘flashback’ panels are somewhat scratchily sketched and inked by Eric Nguyen, as opposed to the twenty-page periodical’s regular artistic team of Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose. Yet whilst the American illustrator’s output for “All On That Day” is debatably less prodigious-looking than his peers' much more detailed depiction of an emaciated Hulk being brought to his senses by Jackie McGee’s tenderness, the level of animosity portrayed by young Bruce’s alcohol-fuelled parent when he discovers his tiny son easily building “an educational toy. Too complex for a child twice your age. And the instructions are still in the box” is utterly mesmerizing and doubtless provided an excellent hook for any potential “Hulk-heads” perusing the publication on the local store’s spinner-rack. 

Perhaps somewhat slightly less successful, albeit only just, is this comic’s first proper look at the One Below All, a truly “malevolent entity that resides in the Below-Place - the deepest layer of Hell” and apparently is the Machiavellian antagonist behind the majority of the Green Goliath’s difficulties since the purple-trousered powerhouse was resurrected prior to this ongoing series commencing. Looking akin to something Jack “King” Kirby might have created upon his drawing table during the “pre-Marvel monster explosion” of the Sixties, this gigantic-sized leviathan literally engulfs the entire horizon with its billowing bulk and looks set to appropriately require the combined efforts of this book’s entire supporting cast if it is to be defeated…

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 12 by Alex Ross

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Immortal Hulk #11 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 11, March 2019
Revealed at the 2018 New York Comic Con’s “Marvel: True Believers” super-secret “photography prohibited” panel, and published after the sad death of Stan “The Man” Lee, this first instalment to Al Ewing’s “Hulk in Hell” story-arc must have raised far more questions with its loyal “Hulk-heads” fan-base than its debatably dialogue-heavy plot answered. Indeed, the twenty-page periodical’s narrative genuinely seems to enjoy conjuring up all manner of puzzling enigmas during Jackie McGee’s emotional walkabout through the empty wasteland alongside this book’s emaciated Green Goliath, as the pair bizarrely encounter the sightless shell of Rick Jones, the “late Mister McGee” and “Banner’s father-in-law” Thunderbolt Ross; “You wreck a city, and Doctor Strange looks for a retirement home for you. Iron Man looks for a paradise planet to put you on. Your anger… it’s indulged, Even respected. Mine is dismissed -- If I’m lucky.”   

Admittedly, these oft-times heart-wrenching conundrums do arguably help provide the Arizona Herald’s news reporter with some fairly interesting character development, even when they’re just used to either reaffirm her ‘ultimate’ desire to “step into a Gamma machine” or depict her uselessly appealing to Jones’ corpse to transform into his Hulk so as to help Bruce’s incarnation in a battle against Thaddeus’ Red version. But ultimately, nothing particularly progressively notable appears to occur within the British writer’s script until its very end when to McGee’s horror her enraged companion literally tears his blood-coloured assailant to shreds before the distraught woman’s eyes, and in the distance Doctor Brian Banner all-knowingly turns to his apparently captive son so as to inform him that he’s better off without his super-strong, ever-angry alter-ego.

Perhaps far more successful than this comic’s story-line therefore, is Joe Bennett’s dynamic pencilling, which quite mesmerizingly manages to easily carry the reader on through some of this book’s more mundane, overly-wordy conversational pieces, like when Eugene Judd manfully takes charge of a seemingly mentally defeated Crusher Creel or Ewing waxes lyrical as to what he believes Hell to be. In fact, the Brazilian’s atmospherically ruinous landscape of the One Below All’s netherworld is questionably only outdone as the bona fide highlight of "This World Our Hell" by his later gratuitously grisly artwork portraying the Hulk’s anger-fuelled fisticuffs with his heavily-muscled red-hued nemesis.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 11 by Alex Ross

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #3 - Titan Comics

DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR No. 3, February 2019
It may well have been hard for many of this edition’s audience to comprehend just why anyone within its creative team thought it would be a good idea to simply chronicle a single conversation for almost the entire twenty-two page periodical’s length. Yet Jody Houser’s narrative for Issue Three of “Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor” debatably does just that as it follows the titular character’s discourse with an armed rival time-traveller who initially simply wants her ship, and then later, after a nice cup of hot tea with Yaz, Ryan and Graham, disconcertingly decides to join the TARDIS crew on “a proper Indiana Jones job” upon an alien planet..?

Admittedly, this publication’s final few panels does eventually depict something akin to the exciting “movie serials of the 1930’s and 1940’s”, due to the Time Lord’s party haplessly activating a rudimentary trap whilst exploring a tomb and subsequently finding themselves about to be crushed to death by an escape-proof pit’s constantly closing walls. But this moment of pulse-pounding tension is fleeting at best, and disappointingly seems to have been ‘bolted-on’ to the script’s ending in order to both provide this comic with some semblance of a cliff-hanger and allow Jodie Whittaker’s “most thrilling” incarnation to once again disagreeably wave her sonic screwdriver all over the place like some sort of demented fairy godmother; “It’s all very low-tech. Very nicely done if it wasn’t trying to kill us. Sonic’s not going to do us much good with the release points already triggered…”

Fortunately, much of this comic’s unsuccessful pacing and sedentary sequencing can arguably be forgivably forgotten, courtesy of Rachael Stott’s magnificent pencilling, which genuinely manages to capture all the mannerisms and facial gestures of the ongoing series’ television counterparts. The freelance artist does a corking job of portraying the leading cast members with Graham O’Brien’s wisecracking “whenever faced with the Doctor's eccentricities or dangerous situations” immediately making the reader think of how Bradley Walsh would’ve delivered just such a witticism during the programme’s actual broadcast. Indeed, despite the word-heavy dialogue questionably suffocating any life out of this particular book’s storyline, Stott’s clean-looking illustrations at least imbue her figures with something resembling entertaining energy and permit a modicum of enjoyment to be gleaned from an actor’s familiar grimace here or unconvinced scowl there.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR" No. 3 by Rebekah Isaacs & Dan Jackson

Friday, 25 January 2019

Micronauts [2016] #10 - IDW Publishing

MICRONAUTS No. 10, February 2017
Written by both Cullen Bunn and Jimmy Johnston, the narrative for Issue Ten of “Micronauts” must surely have struck many within the twenty-page periodical’s audience as being a decidedly disjointed affair, what with the book’s opening half featuring a lack-lustre, contrivance-riddled storyline based upon the titular characters’ realisation “that the [giant] scientist is in danger due to helping them escape the lab”, and its later stages depicting a pulse-pounding battle between Oziron Rael’s crew and “new Acroyears… outfitted with an endless supply of weaponry.” Indeed, it’s arguably rare to experience such jarringly contrasting writing styles within the self-same Max Dunbar pencilled cover, and debatably must have had some readers genuinely puzzling as to whether Editor, David Hedgecock, rather lackadaisically simply split the two authors’ responsibilities straight down the comic’s middle..?

Whatever the story behind the publication’s plot, its premise that the Pharoid can suddenly understand “the words the giants were speaking” from this story-arc’s previous instalment, alongside the Time Traveller’s face mask then coincidentally giving him all the information he needs so as to comprehend Commander Klain’s revenge, is frighteningly fortuitous, and only debatably superseded by Biotron Unit 556-01-17 amazingly developing an instantaneous ability to ‘enerchange’ with the planet’s internet; “I’m not arguing that we owe this woman our lives. But I’m worried about how you’re getting this information.” Such a carousel of lucky happenstances really do beggar belief and smack of sheer unimaginative laziness on behalf of this magazine’s creators, especially when they all essentially occur simultaneously in order to permit Microtron to receive the “transmitted co-ordinates of our new destination...”

Fortunately, once the Heliopolis lands outside the human scientist’s house, and the Micronauts waste a plethora of panels exploring the entirely empty abode, this comic finally starts to quicken its previously plodding pace, courtesy of Mister Mayhem’s military breaking into the building and fast finding themselves under attack by another race of tiny warriors “obviously from Microspace.” The resultant conflict, absolutely packed full of numerous laser beams and vicious hand-to-hand combat, is undoubtedly the highlight of this book, and provides the ongoing series with one particular stand out moment when a disarmed Acroyear utilises a toy Weeble to destroy a formidable-looking multi-armed robot; “This is a fine weapon! I’ll not leave it behind!”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Written by: Cullen Bunn & Jimmy Johnston, Art by: Max Dunbar, and Colors by: Ander Zarate

Monday, 21 January 2019

Star Wars #19 - Marvel Comics

STAR WARS No. 18, July 2016
Despite being the sixth best-selling title in May 2016, at least according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”, Issue Nineteen of “Star Wars” must still have had many of its 95,156 readers initially scratching their heads in puzzlement with its opening sequence involving Leia, Sana and Doctor Aphra facing off against Sunspot Prison’s fearless intruder beneath the underbelly of the Millennium Falcon. For whilst Leinil Francis Yu’s prodigiously pencilled tense confrontation is certainly packed with plenty of pulse-pounding gravitas, courtesy of Starros agreeing to kill Darth Vader’s misguided ally in cold-blood so as to ensure the safety of a helplessly unconscious Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, the actual circumstances of the smuggling pair’s capture isn’t even mentioned, and resultantly must have had some within this book’s audience nervously pursuing their collection of back issues in order to make certain that they hadn’t inadvertently missed an edition or two.

Indeed, considering that this twenty-page periodical’s opening word crawl ends with “Han and Luke… arriving in time for the unknown attacker to reveal himself” the fact that the publication subsequently begins showing the duo already impotently tied to one of the leg struts of the modified YT-1300 Corellian light freighter wearing grenade garlands is offputtingly jarring. Certainly the scene distractingly raises several questions concerning just how Obi Wan Kenobi’s protégé and the scruffy-looking pilot were so seemingly easily incapacitated at a time when Jason Aaron probably wanted his narrative’s bibliophiles to be solely concentrating upon Princess Organa’s emotional argument as to why Eneb Ray should spare her friends; “Don’t Hurt them. Look, I’ll put my blaster down. And then we can talk about…”

Unhappily, just as disappointing is the Alabama-born author’s revelation that the main antagonist behind his “Rebel Jail” script is simply a lesser-known character from this ongoing series’ first annual rather than perhaps one of George Lucas’ better known scum or villains. Admittedly, the former spy who successfully “infiltrated the Imperial bureaucracy on Coruscant” has the aptitude necessary to both overcome Sunspot Prison’s security systems and lead a team of droids to take the incarceration facility’s control room by force. But it still arguably seems shockingly wasteful to turn one of the Rebellion’s few figures who could apparently attempt to assassinate the Emperor Palpatine into little more than a deranged anti-hero simply for the sake of an unremarkable story-line…

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "STAR WARS" No. 19 by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho