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.
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 11 by Alex Ross

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #3 - Titan Comics

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.
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!”
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…
The regular cover art of "STAR WARS" No. 19 by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Aliens: Dust To Dust #4 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DUST TO DUST No. 4, January 2019
Wholly successful in his mission “to tell the story from the point of view of a twelve-year-old boy… because that’s the age I was when first exposed to Aliens”, Gabriel Hardman’s conclusion to this four-issue “Dark Horse Comics” mini-series must have satisfied the vast majority of its eagerly awaiting audience when the book’s closing instalment was finally released in January 2019. Indeed, the Hugo Award-nominee’s decision not “to write about marines or anyone who seems like they could stand up to the Xenomorphs” genuinely seems to imbue his narrative with all the “extraordinarily scary and difficult circumstances” fans of the franchise would expect, yet make the publication even more pulse-pounding as a result of these blood-curdling challenges being faced by a “kid”.

Of course, that isn’t to say that the young orphan doesn’t need the help of others in order to successfully survive his ordeal on the planet LV-871, as one of the biggest shocks contained within Issue Four of “Aliens: Dust To Dust” is the revelation that Assistant Administrator Waugh is actually a Synthetic, whose limited functioning resultantly requires Maxon to “retrieve the sharpest piece of metal debris you can find in the shipwreck… [And] cut off my head.” But the boy still needs to climb “the whole way up” the nearby facility’s tower so as to reach the Evac Shuttle at the top and subsequently throw back the spacecraft’s throttle “twenty-seven percent” so as to “stay on the outlined orbital trajectory.”

Likewise, Hardman manages to produce another surprise in depicting Anne’s alien sacrificing itself in order to thwart the Queen Xenomorph from literally devouring this comic’s remaining protagonists towards the end of the twenty-page periodical. This demonstration of maternal instinct is all the more unanticipated due to the author’s one-armed creation previously seeming to attack the fair-haired lad when his party is lead into the colony’s storage chamber, and is only stopped by a hydraulically-powered mechanical arm slamming it aside just before it can impale the terrified boy; “You guys go! Get to the shuttle! It won’t hurt me!.. Ahhh!”

Also adding to this book’s claustrophobically-chilling atmosphere are Gabriel’s somewhat scratchily-drawn panels, with the penciller’s preference “to draw comic stories with… a lot of darkness” providing its action-sequences with plenty of terrifying appeal. Indeed, if the illustrator were telling “a bright, happy story” then he most certainly would “not be the guy for the job.” However, as “this is Aliens” the motion picture story-board artist is undeniably “a pretty good fit.”
Script and Art: Gabriel Hardman, Lettering: Michael Heisler, and Coloring: Rain Beredo

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Micronauts [2016] #9 - IDW Publishing

MICRONAUTS No. 9, January 2017
“Stranded on a world full of giants” with “relics from Microspace… all around”, Cullen Bunn’s script for Issue Nine of “Micronauts” certainly must have shown its 5,022 readers the gusto with which the Bram Stoker Award-nominee had grasped his chance to “build my own version of the Micronauts strange microscopic cosmos.” For whilst Oziron Rael and his team-mates spend the entire twenty-page periodical’s narrative firmly rooted on modern-day Earth, the American author’s introduction of the Kronus and their time-travelling mechanical ruler, allows him to develop an intriguingly complicated backstory behind all of “these wild toys” which tells of a time where the Entropy Cloud “sweeps across Microspace consuming everything in its path” and disconcertingly strands its pitiful few survivors thousands of years in the future…  

Indeed, despite being significantly conversation-heavy and dialogue-driven, the opening third of this publication arguably conjures up all manner of exciting possibilities for its lead cast, following the Egyptian-influenced automaton’s revelation that the Pharoid momentarily has access to the entire recorded “history of doomed Microspace” and the possibility of creating a “different result” for it; “That string represents everything you know. But what if you could take a second string from the pot? You now have two different timelines. All of time and space is an infinite amount of strings in a pot larger than you can fathom. A different string can be chosen.”

Admittedly, the arrival of Commander Klain’s mercenary forces and willingness to “afford a little collateral damage” soon dispels any notion that Oz will actually be able to utilise any learning from the events inscribed upon the ancient civilisation’s buildings in hieroglyphics. But the seed of the titular characters having endless adventures exploring numerous prehistoric sites searching for “an inter-dimensional portal” back to their own universe is well and truly planted, even if it is then superseded by a high-octane battle between the likes of the time casket’s insectoid-like people and Mister Mayhem’s military team.

Packed full of grenade explosions, laser fire, tiny winged extra-terrestrials and the Heliopolis’ doomed evacuation of the surviving Kronus, this book’s final third is about as pulse-pounding as one could debatably hope for. In fact, its fast-paced, pulse-pounding panels show off artist Max Dunbar’s drawing ability at its dynamic best, especially when the genetically engineered super-warrior, Acroyear, is pencilled rescuing his hapless captain from the dastardly clutches of Klain by slicing the Earthman’s fingers right off with his power sword.
Written by: Cullen Bunn & Jimmy Johnston, Art by: Max Dunbar, and Colors by: Ander Zarate

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Star Wars #18 - Marvel Comics

STAR WARS No. 18, June 2016
Straight from this comic’s first scene involving Chelli Lona Aphra it must have been abundantly clear to its audience that Jason Aaron loved “writing Kieron's [Gillen] characters” and was getting "a huge thrill” spending some more time with the female archaeologist seeing “how she bounces off the cast of my book.” Indeed, due to the good doctor’s humorous-laden interplay with Sana Starros and her subsequent ability to rewire a ‘one-man-army’ droid so it can thump a path through to Sunspot Prison’s Control Room, Darth Vader’s sharp-shooting, smart-talking sidekick is undeniably the star of “Rebel Jail”.

Equally as enjoyable though is the Alabama-born author’s intriguing development of the robot intruders’ “boss”, who mysteriously takes it upon himself to visit the inmate of Cell Seventeen in order to initially interrogate and then cold-bloodedly dispatch its feisty occupant in close combat. Just why the ‘terrorist’ would risk all by opening a maximum security cubicle alone and tackle a madman who has previously slit the throats of three Jedi isn’t particularly clear, albeit the killer does seemingly use the encounter so he can cathartically verbalise his “secret” that the “Emperor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.” However, what is evident is that a lot of the scintillating suspense found within Issue Eighteen of “Star Wars” is arguably due to the mass murderer’s secret motivation, rather than its “focus on the ladies of the book.”

The Inkpot Award-winner made it clear as part of this magazine’s pre-publicity that “Darth Vader has embarked on a separate adventure off in his own title”, so any perusing bibliophiles shouldn’t expect “to see Darth Maul or anybody too crazy” within this story-arc. Yet Aaron’s insistence upon the main villain still being “someone we've seen before”, as well as the central antagonist’s later admission to Leia that “he’s trying to teach you something… the way you once taught him” positively provides the narrative with an irresistible hook.

Sadly, the American writer’s handling of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker doesn’t debatably provide anywhere near as much enthralling entertainment, as the constantly bickering duo successfully complete a smuggling run to Ibaar on the Outer Rim, and then presumably head back to Princess Leia’s location with “supplies… for the Rebellion.” Admittedly, many within this publication’s 98,880 strong audience probably enjoyed seeing the former moisture farmer at the controls of the Millennium Falcon, but the pair’s persistent quarrelling with one another soon becomes somewhat grating until they finally arrive at Organa’s overrun incarceration facility and appear to be about to fall prey to an ambush; “Luke and I got your message. So relax, will ya, your highness? We’re here to save the day.”
The regular cover art of "STAR WARS" No. 18 by Leinil Yu & Sunny Gho

Thursday, 10 January 2019

1000 Nightmares #2 - Creator Studios

1000 NIGHTMARES No. 2, September 2018
Digitally released in September 2018, Bil Richardson’s “savage second issue” of “1000 Nightmares” undoubtedly demonstrates its creator’s desire for his publication not to be “your typical horror anthology” with its disconcerting look at religious fanaticism, a hapless human’s intimate relationship with an extra-terrestrial, and a savagely brutal case of animal cruelty. In fact, a number of this comic’s stories are so disturbingly thought-provoking and deeply troubling that, having finished digesting its concerning contents, many readers were probably very grateful to know that “all proceeds from the sale of this book” were due to “go to the mental rehabilitation of the truly sick individuals who created it.”

Opening this collection of ‘shorts’ is the filmmaker’s take on just what appalling lengths of behaviour people will go to supposedly “in the name of God”. Focusing upon the adolescent Ali, and the far older Aslam’s belief that the boy must “die now” so he can “go to heaven a hero of Allah” before the youngster acts upon his “sinful lusts”, this visually striking eight-page tale momentarily appears to be about to provide its audience with a genuinely happy ending. However, as the author’s point behind this narrative is that “it’s a good thing God is not as cruel to us as we are to each other”, the fact the child’s bearded guardian suddenly reveals he is carrying a remote controlled detonator for the suicide vest the lad is forced to wear, soon makes it abundantly evident that the unwilling pawn in the grown-up’s game is destined to face an explosive fate.

Perhaps far less provocative, albeit similarly as stimulating, is “STD”, which portrays Mister Jones’ admission to hospital following the man’s seemingly innocuous intimacy with a woman who “had a tattoo of a playboy bunny over her breast.” Infected with a truly horrendous-looking alien virus, Meg’s clearly suffering victim finally manages to locate the lady’s address “way out in the sticks” only to come face to face with a very hungry visitor from outer space; “When the thing exited Meg, her body exploded.” Wonderfully pencilled in black and white by Andy Dimitt, it is clear just why Richardson decided “colouring would only detract from it.”   

Arguably in some ways though, this book leaves its best anecdote until last, courtesy of its writer’s “adaption of a short story I wrote a long time ago.” Inspired “by people who treat animals better than humans” this narrative is definitely not for dog-lovers as an apparently quietly-spoken, well-meaning rancher decides to treat a cruel pet-owner with a lesson the beer-swilling “King of the Trailer Park” will never be allowed to forget…

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Written by: Bil Richardson, and Art by: Bil Richardson & Gustave Dore

Monday, 7 January 2019

The Immortal Men #6 - DC Comics

THE IMMORTAL MEN No. 6, November 2018
Supposedly planned “to go to at least twelve issues and have a mega-crossover” James Tynion IV’s narrative for this sixth (and final) instalment of “The Immortal Men” sadly must have come as a bitter disappointment to its remaining 15,341 followers in September 2018, with its numerous unanswered plot threads and somewhat rushed production values. In fact, even the comic’s ending, which finishes with a panel of Batman asking the rest of his fellow Justice Leaguers what they’re going to do about the book’s titular characters now the super-group know they’re real, arguably interrupts the action mid-way through as Caden Park leads his team-mates in a desperate jump off of Kyra Arg’s now visible flying fortress whilst hotly pursued by the Hunt and doubtless a number of heavily-fanged Bloodless…

Disappointingly however, such open-endedness absolutely plagues this twenty-page periodical’s storyline, with the Diamond Gem Award-winner even starting an entirely new, unresolved scenario at the very beginning of this publication involving the Infinite Woman calling an unprecedentedly early gathering of the “Great Council of the Bear Clan” and panicking the likes of the Forever Child into meeting “at the Old Rock in one month’s time.” Such odd penmanship from an author who apparently knew well in advance of this cancelled comic’s fate proves particularly frustrating when other sequences, such as Roderick Clay’s interrogation by Director Amanda Waller, clearly run out of space just as things get interesting; “Yeah. Okay. I’ll tell you. But you have to promise to find the boy.”

Perhaps debatably therefore this book’s sole salvation can only be found in its dynamic depiction of the Immortal Men’s desperate attempt to destroy the Siege’s cloaking tower. This pulse-pounding display of pugilism genuinely provides some ‘thrill-a-minute’ shenanigans as the deceased Communion forms a truly intriguing, almost symbiotic, partnership with the Blood-Mask’s latest wearer, and helps the American student to enthusiastically pummel a fair portion of the Kill’s surrounding dog-like creatures to pieces. Add Reload’s personal duel with his former comrade-in-arms, Walter, as well Timber’s formidable show of super-human strength into the mix, and for a while at least, many bibliophiles who perused this magazine will debatably have forgiven artist Tyler Kirkham his scratchy, potentially rushed pencilling.
Storytellers: Tyler Kirkham & James Tynion IV, and Colorist: Arif Prianto & David Baron

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Star Wars #17 - Marvel Comics

STAR WARS No. 17, May 2016
Somewhat annoyingly beginning this edition’s narrative after Princess Leia and smuggler Sana Starros have already apparently dealt with “a security breach” at Sunspot Prison, Jason Aaron’s script for Issue Seventeen of “Star Wars” certainly lived up to the Alabama-born author’s “idea of doing a Star Wars prison story, which is something very different than what we've done so far.” In fact, this second instalment to “Rebel Jail” probably wrong-footed its 107,058 readers on several occasions as the plot’s central antagonist turns out to be a murderous Rebel sympathiser of sorts, and the “poor, misguided princess” is driven to re-capture a number of released inmates alive rather than simply kill them as “the [new] man in charge” wishes.

Such pleasing prose really does help ramp up the intrigue as to the identity of this book's heavily armoured mysterious mercenary, as well as add an interesting spin to Organa’s lethal predicament by forcing the former member of the Imperial Senate to punch her way out of trouble, rather than just blast her opponents as her colleague recommends; “No one would blame you if you pulled the trigger. It’d certainly be a better death than the one he was about to give you.” 

Of course, despite all its dynamic, pulse-pounding panels and captivating moral dilemmas, it is difficult to believe that the sequence’s “adventure heroine” is realistically physically strong enough to overpower the likes of Imperial Special Force’s agent Kolar Ludd, a Gamorrean, a Zabrak, and at least two other highly dangerous prisoners without resorting to killing at least one or two of them. Yet such a willing suspension of disbelief is entirely necessary, particularly if any perusing bibliophile was ever going to imagine this comic’s subsequent cliff-hanger which disconcertingly sees “lawfulness” Leia hand Doctor Aphra a laser rifle and then seemingly turn her back upon Darth Vader’s “side-kick”.

Sadly, a lot of the impact to this third best-selling book of March 2016 is arguably also lost as a result of Leinil Francis Yu's somewhat inconsistent pencilling. It’s clear from Aaron’s comments at the time of this twenty-page periodical’s publication that the writer was “a huge fan of his stuff” and felt the Filipino was “a great choice for this arc.” But a number of the artist’s “dynamic pseudo-realism” drawn panels, such as when Luke and Han try to avoid a squadron of “bucket-heads” whilst “transporting illegal livestock”, debatably don’t look quite right.
The regular cover art of "STAR WARS" No. 17 by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson

Saturday, 5 January 2019

1000 Nightmares #1 - Creator Studios

1000 NIGHTMARES No. 1, September 2018
Straight from the ‘get-go’ and the comic’s stunning Simon Bisley cover illustration, it must have been clear to this digital book’s readers that Bil Richardson was determined to make his “ferocious” first issue of “1000 Nightmares” better than “the old conventions of short horror”. Indeed, the creator’s droll disclaimer that he “cannot be held legally liable for any scares caused by the reading” of this twenty-five page periodical is disconcertingly well-founded as the filmmaker “delves into the darkest depth of war, religion, desperation and the meaning of life” with a series of ‘shorts’ which are as horrific as they are, at times, disturbingly amusing.

Foremost of this anthology’s tales, and arguably the most visually impressive, is “The Oracle”, whose opening splash page depicting the malformed ‘head’ of a sinisterly creepy all-powerful religion is not only truly terrifying, but actually helped the author “spark the idea for the story.” Dialogue driven, as Jon unwisely publically undermines all the new church’s fateful predictions as “baloney”, it doesn’t come as much surprise when the non-believer is soon spirited away during the night by hooded zealots and comes face to face with the very “deformed guy who spouts gibberish” he’s been maligning. What follows next however, proves a real shock, and any pity the sympathetic prisoner feels for the multi-mouthed “poor wretched soul” is soon replaced by mortal terror; “Dinner is served.”

Equally as entertaining is the desolate black & white tale, “Hard Times”, which focuses upon the perturbing hardships forced upon a farming family during a particularly harsh winter. Desperate to keep their solitary cow alive, so as to ensure their baby is supplied with a continuous stream of milk, things soon look bleak for anyone’s survival after Old Blue, the hunting dog, croaks and the “old heifer” is found frozen to death in the barn. Uncomfortably, cannibalism soon becomes the next step for those who remain, yet this comic’s writer still manages to throw in a few shocks to misstep his audience’s expectations before the situation reaches its “gruesome conclusion”.

This publication’s final story, “The Meaning Of Life”, is also noteworthy, due to its all-too brief narrative containing plenty of gallows humour concerning the philosophical outlooks of two vultures as they’re about to feast upon a mass human burial site. In fact, the two raptors depicted within this fiction, whilst clearly unexpectedly intellectual for a pair of scavenging birds of prey, are precisely the sort of carrion feeders children wouldn’t have wanted to encounter whilst enjoying the classic 1967 “Walt Disney” animated film “Jungle Book”…

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Written & Art by: Bil Richardson, and Pencils: Yevgeniy Frantsev & Renan Shody

Friday, 4 January 2019

Planet Of The Apes: Ursus #6 - BOOM! Studios

Reading more like an official comic book adaption of Ted Post’s 1970 American science fiction film “Beneath The Planet Of The Apes” than an innovative exploration of the untold story behind arguably the franchise’s most memorable ‘supporting character in POTA lore’, this final instalment to David F. Walker’s six-issue mini-series probably provided its 3,645 fans with a surprisingly poignant ending to the gorilla general’s life which, despite all the acting qualities of James Gregory, was never made clear on the ‘Silver Screen’.

Indeed, as the Simian soldiers invade the mutant humans’ partially ruined subterranean city and Méndez XXVI is subsequently shot before “the instrument of my God”, those within this publication’s audience who were already familiar with the (second) film’s plot were probably just waiting for the military leader to be slain by Brent so the twenty-two page periodical could end. However, rather than simply fall to the wayside dead as in the motion picture, the titular character instead momentarily considers the “kind of life” he perhaps could have lived had his beloved wife, Qama, not died in labour, or at least experienced if he hadn’t allowed Kananaios to fill his heart with hate.

This emotional, remarkably sentimental scene genuinely depicts a regretful side to the military commander which is movingly penned by this comic’s writer, and arguably makes Issue Six of “Planet Of The Apes: Ursus” worth its cover price alone. In fact, the narrative to this edition is so hauntingly melancholy, and yet strikingly self-contained, that it probably would have worked better if simply published as a stand-a-lone one shot, rather than the dramatic ending to a disappointing extended storyline which in no way depicts the gorilla learning “the truth of the talking human that fell from the sky” as “Boom! Studios” advertised in its pre-print marketing.

Similarly as underwhelming as the publisher's impotent boast is Walker’s decision to ‘kill off’ the then Chief Constable of Terminus’ wife (and baby) as a result of a difficult childbirth. It is clear how such a domestic tragedy could cause Ursus to lose all faith in both the teachings of his ‘father’ and the Lawgiver. But how this loss helps fuel the Ape City leader’s passionate loathing for humanity and strong belief that “the only thing that counts in the end is power. Naked, merciless force” is another matter entirely…
Written by: David F. Walker, Illustrated by: Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Colored by: Jason Wordie

Thursday, 3 January 2019

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

BOY ZERO: VOLUME ONE, January 2016
Positively disturbing in both its creepy exploration of Detective Drekker’s investigation into a “female… attempted rape” and subsequent depiction of young Dill’s truly horrific homicide whilst the bespectacled adolescent is busy watching “Day of the Chicken, or something like that” on television, Charles Chester’s narrative for Chapter Four of “Boy Zero” must have made many perusers of his graphic novel continually look up from reading this publication in nervous anticipation that they might not be safely alone. Indeed, despite not containing any dynamically-arrayed action sequence as such, “Perspectives” still proves to be an incredibly pulse-pounding experience, which simply doesn’t stop over-exciting its audience’s collective heartbeat until after Kip Russell and his partner have left Mister Morty Stevens’ interrogation so as to thwart an unknown madman’s attempt to rain bodies “upon the streets of Glass City” and then “burn and crumble” the city itself.

Much of this perpetual sense of menace debatably originates from any confidence this comic’s onlookers had in its lead character’s ability as a competent investigator being increasingly eroded by the thoughts and feelings of the supporting cast, starting with the Mayor expecting the portly sleuth “to sign off on that report yesterday” and culminating in the aged man’s inability to believe a Pet Shop owner who clearly knows far more about “the killings of nine citizens of Glass City, as well as the attempted murder of one Joan Hagen” than the grizzled cop gives the elderly gentleman credit for. Admittedly, there’s still plenty of evidence to suggest that Nigel is still a very capable policeman, and certainly better suited to capture the metropolis’ mass-murderer than his much younger colleague. But such undermining seeds of doubt are continually sown throughout the overweight detective’s day-to-day dealings, and resultantly provides every sequence with the palpable edginess that at any moment another monstrous mutilation may occur.

Shiloh Penfield’s prodigious pencilling undeniably adds to this tale’s unambiguous atmosphere full of foreboding dread, and it is very clear just why Chester “immediately took to her style” when he first saw the illustrator’s submission; “As far as the story went, she just got it.” In fact, the one-time “Red Knight” guest artist’s storyboarding of tiny Dill’s gruesome demise is all the more spine-chillingly terrifying due to her marvellous sense of theatrical timing as the transmission of the boy’s “bad sci-fi movie” is suddenly cut short and the bemused lad pulls his glasses back on just in time to see the dreadful death fate has in store for him.

For more details on Charles Chester's "Boy Zero" graphic novel please visit its "Face Book" page.
Written by: Charles Chester, and Artwork by: Shiloh Penfield

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Planet Of The Apes: Ursus #5 - BOOM! Studios

Focusing far more upon its titular character’s younger years and his brutal battle against a barbaric horde of humans upon the very steps of the Lincoln Memorial, than it does the gorilla General’s ‘current’ exploits within Ape City, David F. Walker’s storyline for Issue Five of “Planet Of The Apes: Ursus” probably proved something of a choppy experience for its 3,732 readers. For whilst the filmmaker’s intermittent flashback sequences located on the partially destroyed National Mall in Washington are undeniably permeated with an invigorating sense of energy and action, the author’s much more sedentary scenes concerning Doctor Diersa, the increasingly troubled military commander and the “rambling incoherent nonsense” of a shattered Sergeant Moench, are debatably disappointingly lack-lustre and lifeless; “He has answered enough. Please doctor… Give him some relief from the pain.”

Mercifully for this mini-series’ long-suffering audience however, almost three-quarters of this twenty-two page periodical remains firmly fixed in the Simian official’s far more fascinating past and genuinely tells an intriguing tale as to just why perhaps this publication’s writer was “endlessly fascinated and horrified by General Ursus” when “I was a little kid”. Indeed, the gorilla’s incomprehensible dark dread as to why any of his fellow apes “would build a shrine to a human” is only surpassed during the hairless savages’ subsequent brutal assault and the bloody death of Kananaios, who falls beneath the sword of a gore-caked semi-naked African-American.

True, Walker does provide the ‘modern day’ warmonger with an alarming instant of anger when the infuriated ape is disconcertingly pencilled by illustrator Lalit Kumar Sharma taking out all his mounting frustrations with the Simian High Council, the Minister of Science and his soldier friend’s splintered mind, upon the stuffed corpse of Dodge in the Museum of Natural History. But this fleeting moment of violence pales in comparison with the ferocious, close combat witnessed by Qama as a number of her travelling companions are cold-bloodedly dispatched by “the Plague of Man” using spear or sword, and Doctor Zauis ably demonstrates both his physical strength of arms and his determined will to ensure “the truth is whatever we make it -- Whatever we need it to be.”
Written by: David F. Walker, Illustrated by: Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Colored by: Jason Wordie

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Star Wars #16 - Marvel Comics

STAR WARS No. 16, April 2016
Confidently featuring a “new arc” about Princess Leia transferring Doctor Aphra “to a secret prison that the Rebel Alliance maintains for the most dangerous of Imperial prisoners” this twenty-page periodical probably demonstrated the best and worst aspects of Jason Aaron’s penmanship to its impressively large 110,407 strong audience in February 2016. For whilst the month’s second biggest selling comic book undeniably both starts and ends with plenty of pulse-pounding action, as well as a smattering of laser fire, the Alabama-born author’s narrative arguably sags in the middle under the weight of some seriously word-heavy scenes.

Indeed, for large swathes of this publication, its readers are disconcertingly treated to a seemingly endless patchwork of dialogue-driven panels portraying Organa’s long-winded attempt to recruit Sana Starros as a Rebel sympathizer, some seriously sarcastic sniping from Darth Vader’s captive female “sidekick”, and the over-confident ramblings of Sunspot Prison’s arrogant warden; “Doctor Aphra will be quite secure here, for as long as you wish. As I told you, this facility is the safest, most secret prison in all of…” True, the Inkpot Award-winner does manage to engineer a moment of interest amidst all this talk by briefly visiting Han Solo just as the Corellian smuggler is caught cheating at a dive’s Sabacc table. But this adrenalin-pumping glimpse of the Millennium Falcon’s owner, along with Luke Skywalker, running for their lives is disappointingly fleeting.

Perhaps far better written is Aaron’s inclusion of a skulking group of ne'er-do-wells, who have assembled in a spacecraft located “as far as we can risk going [near the Rebellion's prison] without being picked up by their scanners.” These rogues seemingly mean to rescue Chelli despite a number of them being “burned alive” due to the closeness of the penal facility to its star, and their sudden gun-toting assault upon the secret installation’s guards in Q Sector doubtless provided any perusing bibliophiles with just the sort of cliff-hanging hook needed to ensure they returned to the store’s spinner rack the following month. 

Disappointingly, what does seem somewhat apparent from the storyboarding of this comic is that Jason has not previously worked with Leinil Yu before, despite the pair at the time of this book’s printing arguably being “Marvel mainstays”. The Filipino penciler’s artwork for Issue Sixteen of “Star Wars” is definitely dynamic enough, especially during Aphra’s unsuccessful attempt to overpower her captors whilst aboard Starros’ ship. Yet his somewhat scratchy style doesn’t really imbue his figures with any noticeable vivacity whenever they’re not fleeing or fighting for survival, and that lifelessness resultantly slows down an already somewhat ponderous plot…
The regular cover art of "STAR WARS" No. 16 by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson