Monday, 25 February 2019

The Immortal Hulk #13 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 13, April 2019
It must have been hard for any within this comic’s open-mouthed audience to recall another book which so consistently assaulted their senses from cover to cover, as the creative team behind Issue Thirteen of “The Immortal Hulk” does courtesy of their “A Booth In The Midwest” storyline. For whilst Al Ewing’s somewhat nonsensical script for this twenty-page periodical may well have proved a trifle difficult to follow considering it contains Rick Jones’ sightless skin cadaver miraculously morphing into A-Bomb and Carl “Crusher” Creel somehow managing to defeat “Banner’s Dad” simply by touching Brian’s son as the scientist sits haplessly bound alongside “The Devil” in a chair, its visual storytelling is an absolute feast for the eyes, with regular penciler Joe Bennett even managing to incorporate the likes of Jeff Goldblum’s monstrous malformation from the 1986 horror flick “The Fly” and a toxic waste melted Emil Antonowsky from the 1987 science fiction film “Robo-Cop” into some of his early panels.

Similarly as successful is the Brazilian artist’s awesome-looking sketches of an emaciated Hulk pounding away at all manner of horned demons in a furiously desperate attempt to rid the Below Place of the flesh-chomping fiends. Absolutely packed full of thunderous punches, eye-winching bites and limb-wrenching amputations, this extensive fight sequence between the titular character and the One Below All’s seemingly endless minions never lets up, even when the gamma-enhanced giant’s blue-skinned side-kick is literally torn asunder before his horrified eyes; “Get up, Jones! Get up and fight! Jones!”

Of course, that isn’t to say that Ewing’s penmanship doesn’t provide a modicum of entertainment as well, as the Absorbing Man’s sub-plot to outwit Brian Banner by failing to succumb to the villain’s mantra of “Strength without pity. Strength without judgement” demonstrates. Predominantly an arch-nemesis of the Asgardian God of Thunder, Thor Odinson, the Bronx-raised criminal could so easily have “beaten the living crap outta” the supposedly mild-mannered suited figure before him once the former Master Of Evil had absorbed the properties of some surrounding rock. But much to Eugene Judd’s apparent delight, Creel choses to release “the Banner half” of the Hulk instead, and subsequently imbue the Green Goliath with all of his much-missed formidable potency.

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 13 by Alex Ross

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Exciting Comics #1 - Antarctic Press Comics

EXCITING COMICS No. 1, February 2019
Proudly publicised as a “premiere title” returning to stores “for the first time in over seventy years”, Issue One of “Exciting Comics” undoubtedly delivers upon Ben Dunn’s editorial promise of teleporting its readers back to “a time when heroes knew what to do and fought for what was right” with its wonderful concoction of street-level super-heroic shenanigans, Ancient Egyptian altercations and zany acrobatics. In fact, this “Antarctic Press” anthology’s only disappointment comes with each “Superverse” tale’s cliff-hanger conclusion, which always seems to arrive far too soon and invariably means that the book’s audience must frustratingly wait a while before they can get their hands on the next exhilarating edition…

Starting off this “new shared universe” is “The Revenge Syndicate”, a collaboratively-penned piece by John Crowther and Bradley Golden, which follows the feisty vigilante Black Jaq as she tackles Fats McQueen’s hard-hitting protection racket in New York City. Stunningly sketched by Carlos Tron, this twelve-page knock-out is as attractive to the eye as the female crime-fighter’s punches are bone-breaking, and contains an ending which shows just how close to the line a person may go when their fists are fuelled by their heart.

Similarly as successful, “The Scorpion’s Sting” must have momentarily taken its fans back to a far simpler storytelling time before radioactive substances haphazardly affected parts of the populace and creators relied upon the mystic arts and supernatural potions of our world’s ancient civilisations for their character’s super-powered origins. Brought bang up to date however, with a disturbing script focusing upon modern-day terrorist atrocities and the devastation of archaeological heritage sites, David Furr’s narrative rather neatly combines the two, and undeniably sets up plenty of anticipation for this story’s subsequent instalment by leaving its leading cast surrounded by bloodthirsty murderers just as Professor Samuel Kocian begins to feel the full effects of his chance encounter with a predatory arachnid.

Finally comes David Doub’s “Madam Mask”, an incredibly fast-paced nine-pager which zips along with such gusto that it debatably requires a second read before all of its plot points, such as the titular character’s motivation for industrial theft being that her grandmother requires $30,000 dollars-worth of medical care, properly come to light. Drawn by Larry Spike Jerrell with all the dynamic athleticism which the legendary Steve Ditko imbued his Amazing Spider-Man with, this uber-energetic escapade easily captures all the high-octane antics of a Twenty First Century thief and then without warning scintillatingly lands any perusing bibliophile smack bang in the middle of an Early Forties “Whiz Comics” adventure.
Writers: Bradley Golden & John Crowther, David Furr and David Doub

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Blue-Shift: Frenemies - Shades Of Vengeance Comics

“Speeding onto your bookshelf” courtesy of a successful “Kickstarter” in March 2018, which saw seventy-five backers pledge an impressive $1,201 “to help bring this project to life”, Johnathan Lewis’ narrative for “Blue-Shift: Frenemies” must have delighted both the universe’s creator, Ed Jowett, and the publication’s wider audience with its combination of compelling characters and promptly-paced fist-fights. Indeed, having efficiently established early on that “the fastest person on the planet” is as unlucky in her personal life as she is ultra-quick, the “Director for Shades of Vengeance Comics” arguably then crams this twenty-two page periodical’s plot full with a plethora of interesting emotional dilemmas for its blue-costumed heroine, as well as a pulse-pounding battle against a formidably-sized dirt zombie and its skull-faced sorcerous master.

Admittedly, this book’s storyline does get a little disorientating when Beth Sander’s alter-ego first discovers a seemingly lone female felon stealing from the city’s National Bank and attempts to incapacitate the blonde-haired criminal by knocking the wind out of her. The lightning-fast speedster’s sudden relocation to the top of a tall building, haplessly dangling in the grasp of Danny, makes perfect sense once it’s revealed that anything Shira touches can be teleported to her twin brother’s close proximity. But such exposition doesn’t come until slightly later in the adventure, so this initial encounter with the hoodie-wearing heister momentarily suggests that the tale has potentially somewhat jarringly skipped a piece of explanatory text or some such..?

Fortunately, once the necessary clarifications have been made, or at least the passage re-read, Lewis and Jowett's collaborative penmanship swiftly bewitches the reader once again, and soon it becomes clear that Blue-Shift is going to need to rely upon the robber’s enigmatic super-power to transport her to the likeable rogue’s locale so as to thwart the “charismatic and enthusiastic” vigilante’s real antagonist, a nefarious-looking magic user who quite wonderfully bears more than a passing resemblance to a cross between Mattel’s “Overlord of Evil”, Skeletor and Marvel's Taskmaster.

In fact, this pulse-pounding conclusion, terrifically-drawn and coloured by Rahmat Wisnubroto, really is debatably worth the cost of this book alone, as Sander combines forces with the well-meaning "Teleport Twins" so as to tackle the wielder of the Staff of Grathnalix, and ends up risking Daniel's welfare in order to destroy the source of the "probable" God's gift to Earth's power; “You’re making jokes?! I sent you to help him” Just leave” Just run away. It’s all you ever do, run!”

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Written by: Johnathan Lewis & Ed Howett, and Artwork by: Rahmat Wisnubroto

Friday, 22 February 2019

Aliens: Resistance #1 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: RESISTANCE No. 1, January 2019
Following “the events of the popular video game Alien: Isolation, which starred Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda, fifteen years after the events of the original film”, this first in a four-issue limited series published by “Dark Horse Comics” must have proved a somewhat baffling experience for those readers unfamiliar with its electronic survival horror roots despite Brian Wood providing some semblance of a summary as to his narrative’s background at the comic’s beginning. Indeed, the American author’s over-reliance upon his audience just soldiering on oblivious as to just how the female engineer became “the only survivor of the Sevastopol incident”, coupled with a poor pen-picture concerning this book’s other main protagonist, Zula Hendricks, makes it frustratingly hard to even understand just how the central cast so quickly become fast friends, or how “three years later” the rogue United States Colonial Marine Corps First Class Private manages to track down Ellen’s offspring when she is depicted simply wandering the vast wasteland of Earth..?

Admittedly, the “graphic designer who wrote the comic Aliens: Defiance” does manage to imbue this twenty-page periodical’s screenplay with some all-too brief moments of excitement, when he depicts Ripley attempting to infiltrate a Weyland-Yutani Corporation facility and being fired upon with alien acid blood-laced bullets by its suspicious super-enhanced synthetics. But just how the heroine managed to place herself in such perilous jeopardy in the first place is sadly never satisfactorily explained, nor why Hendricks’ partner on the Europa, Davis, needs “a minimum proximity of three meters from a node to pull data” on the location of a black site’s weapons test facility..? Disappointingly, all this action seems to have been contrivingly created for was to pad out the publication’s page count long enough for Zula to prepare her convenient missile-carrying flyer for nine days of hibernation sleep before it reaches the women’s target destination. 

Just as disappointing as the Eisner Award-nominee’s sedentary storyline though are Robert Cavey’s lifelessly lack-lustre illustrations, which although perfectly well-drawn debatably lack any dynamic vivacity even when he’s pencilling Amanda breathlessly racing down a partially-destroyed corridor for her very life. The creative team’s poor decision not to populate this comic with any sound effects, or even an exhausted grunt or wincing groan here and there, additionally makes the publication seem all the more a depressingly flat reading experience, dispiritingly devoid of any noticeable noise or energy.
The regular cover art of "ALIENS: RESISTANCE" No. 1 by Tristan Jones

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: Marcelo Costa

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Conan The Barbarian #2 - Marvel Comics

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.
The regular cover art of "CONAN THE BARBARIAN" No. 2 by Esad Ribic

Monday, 18 February 2019

C.H.E.S.S. #2 - Apogee Comics

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 or the "Apogee Comics" webstore.

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

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…
The regular cover art of "GEEK-GIRL" No. 4 by Carlos Granda

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #4 - Titan Comics

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

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.
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."
Writer: Donny Cates, Artist: Niko Henrichon, and Colour Assistant: Laurent Grossat

Friday, 8 February 2019

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

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

“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”…
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.
The regular cover art of "JUDGE DREDD: TOXIC" No. 3 by Mark Buckingham & Chris Blythe