Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #10 - Titan Comics

Having argued during a contemporary interview with the “Sweety High” website that “the character of the Doctor and the companions they’re travelling with at the time” should be at “the heart” of any good adventure, Jody Houser’s script for Issue Ten of “Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor” probably proved something of a hard read for many of its 4,941 strong audience in July 2019, on account of the “critically-acclaimed comics writer” predominantly focusing her narrative upon the flamboyant Corsair as opposed to this book’s titular character. Indeed, the Rod Parker Fellowship winner’s plot for this twenty-two page periodical imbues the dark-haired “old friend of the Doctor” with so much more vibrant life and swashbuckling shenanigans than her exasperatingly serious Gallifreyan counterpart that any perusing bibliophile naïve to the long-running British science fiction television programme could easily have mistaken the Ouroboros tattooed “bad girl” as the star of the show.

Admittedly, the Corsair’s impressive ability to give half a dozen of the galaxies more interesting-looking extra-terrestrials a taste of her sword-fighting prowess is undoubtedly the highlight of this publication, especially when it is depicted within the confines of a scintillating splash page dynamically pencilled by Roberta Ingranata. But this pulse-pounding fencing display would debatably have been even more enjoyable if the Doctor wasn’t just quietly standing on the side-lines with her three rather docile assistants impotently watching on, and was instead fighting alongside her fellow time traveller brandishing a blade with all the aplomb of actor Tom Baker in “The Masque of Mandragora”; “I thought I was the fun one…”

Lamentably, all Houser persistently pens for the Doctor to do is maddeningly moan, discouragingly preach and tediously admonish every action-packed moment which takes place within this comic, and such unlikeable toxicity quickly turns the so-called “charismatic and confident explorer, dedicated to seeing all the wonders of the universe” into an unrecognisable kill-joy who drearily spouts unnecessarily sarcastic comments about her fellow Time Lord at every opportunity. To make matters worse though, the American author then seemingly ‘ramps up’ this venomous portrayal of the Thirteenth incarnation once the ‘gang’ retreat into the TARDIS, by going so far as to have her angrily rebuke the Corsair for stealing “something called the gem of Niag from the planet Devivian” when they’re both stood in the Type 40 time and space machine the Doctor herself stole from Gallifrey…
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR" No. 10 by Giorgia Sposito

Monday, 23 September 2019

Death-Defying 'Devil #2 - Dynamite Entertainment

DEATH-DEFYING 'DEVIL No. 2, September 2019
Considering that this book is absolutely packed full of nostalgic nods to the super-powered Mystery Men from “the early days of Western comics”, and a healthy dose of head-breaking as this comic’s titular lead brings his brutally badass style of street-level crime-fighting to the aisles of Miss Thomas’ local super-market, the vast majority of its audience probably thoroughly enjoyed the opening half of Gail Simone’s screenplay to Issue Two of “Death-Defying Devil”. But whilst the twenty-two page periodical continues to contain plenty of socked jaws, broken ribs and bust guts all the way to its utterly bizarre conclusion, the Oregon-born writer’s disconcerting decision to suddenly transform Daredevil into an actual boomerang-slinging cowboy probably made them then drop the publication like a partially read hot potato.

To begin with however, there is a reasonable amount to enjoy regarding the former hairdresser’s narrative, courtesy of a somewhat sickly-sweet sentimental scene depicting Bart sat upon an ornate settee, munching a slice of homemade coffee cake and delicately holding a tiny cup of tea. Literally surrounded by cats and old movie posters, this well-penned look back over the Swan from Milan’s motion picture career provides a convincing rationale as to just why the frustratingly mute super-hero would ever consider accompanying the elderly actress to the “Food 2 Go” store for some vanilla or rum raisin ice cream.

Yet sadly, once the “comic strip” adventurer has bloodily dispatched the axe-wielding assailants such a shopping trip was bound to enrage, things take a horrific turn for the worse as events are seemingly sucked back in time to an old black and white picture studio, where corrupt police officers are transformed into trench coat-wearing marshals, Louisa rejuvenated into a buxom wench, and Daredevil distorted into “a rotten actor in a lousy B-movie.” In fact, almost everything which was compelling about Simone’s story-telling is arguably torn away from beneath the feet of this comic’s readers within the space of a single sheet of paper; “I’m askin’ one last time tenderfoot. A bullet here, or a noose at the penitentiary. What’s it gonna be?”

Wretchedly, even worse is to come though as Gail decides a brief sojourn to Robert Zemeckis’ 1990 science fiction film “Back to the Future Part III” isn’t pulp enough for her perusing bibliophiles, and shockingly reveals that one of the modern-day cops turned Wild West desperados is actually a cloven-hooved, red-skinned demon, who instantly teleports Bart to a lynching atop a ludicrous-looking, antler-bearing satanic beast. Poorly pencilled by Brazilian artist Walter Geovani, who quite possibly couldn’t quite believe what he was being asked to illustrate, this change of events completely ruins what had initially appeared to be an enjoyably grounded tale of penniless house-bound tenants fighting against the tyranny of their town’s indigenous crime boss.
The regular cover art of "DEATH-DEFYING 'DEVIL" No. 2 by Inhyuk Lee

Friday, 20 September 2019

The Immortal Hulk #14 - Marvel Comics

IMMORTAL HULK No. 14, May 2019
Selling an impressive 45,708 copies in March 2019, Al Ewing’s darkly depressing storyline for Issue Fourteen of “Immortal Hulk” contains such a palpable sense of mounting tension that it must have made many of its audience start to increasingly fidget in their reading chairs as the disagreeable Bushwhacker continuously keeps threatening “to put one through Missus Banner’s back and finish this --” In fact, Agent Carl Burbank’s tensely-worded ongoing argument with his commanding officer, General Reginald Fortean, is so well-penned by the English author that it debatably manages to even overshadow the tedious inadequacies of this comic’s far more sedentary dialogue-heavy discussion sequence between Bruce Banner and the daughter of the late Taddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross; “But… Something happened before I called you. And it just… It broke me open, Betty. Tore me in half. I didn’t have my protection anymore, and everything I’d been numbing it just…”

Of course, this lengthy demonstrative discourse between the “physically weak” scientist and his long-time love provides much of the emotional turmoil which is so crucial to the success of “We Only Meet At Funerals”, and simultaneously proves vital to Betty discovering her deep-rooted hatred for her ex-husband mere moments before she is shockingly shot straight through the head. But even so, the sheer dreariness of its pedestrian pacing debatably makes the scene pale in comparison to the anger-fuelled vitality of this twenty-page periodical’s opening burial, or the grieving daughter’s subsequent bitter exchange with a surprisingly socially awkward Tony Stark, when the representative of all “the costumed heroes her father had worked with” unwisely blames Bruce for the mess caused in Iowa following his refusal to surrender to the Avengers and the inventive playboy's deadly use of “a flying death ray that blew up a town”.

Significantly adding to this comic’s all-encompassing aura of inescapable death and mortality is guest artist Kyle Hotz’s incredibly detailed layouts, with the “Zombie” penciller’s depiction of Ross proving particularly mesmerising. The American illustrator’s ability to imbue the woman’s doe-like eyes with a lifetime of pain and suffering says so much more than anything which Ewing could physically pen, especially when Burbank’s so-called ‘enemy collaborator’ flashes Fortean a glowering glare when the “Project Greenskin” soldier unexpectedly decides to say a few unwelcome words at her father’s funeral.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
The regular cover art of "IMMORTAL HULK" No. 14 by Alex Ross

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Moon Knight Annual #1 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT ANNUAL No. 1, November 2019
“Continuing the Acts of Evil summer annual event”, where “new rivalries are formed between heroes and villains” in novel match-ups, Cullen Bunn’s narrative for this thirty-page periodical probably disconcerted many long-term Moon Knight fans by transporting the street-level vigilante far from his usual stomping ground of New York City’s dirty night-time alleyways, and somewhat surprisingly re-casting the ex-mercenary in the role of Khonshu’s champion of time. True, Marc Spector’s subsequent battle against Kang the Conqueror so as to prevent the Thirty-First century scholar’s reality-changing plan to rule a world that was “not what is meant to be” undeniably provides the titular character with plenty of pulse-pounding opportunities with which to demonstrate his proficiency in armed combat. But some within this annual’s audience may still have found the West Coast Avenger’s numerous trips through time and space a step too far for a super-hero ordinarily grounded by his very personal struggle with multiple personality disorder; “And I can’t help but wonder if this is just another surreal dream.”

For those bibliophiles un-phased by Moon Knight’s time travelling excursions however, this publication contains several sense-shattering sequences which debatably demonstrate just how much of an influence Don Perlin’s co-creation has had upon crime-fighting throughout the ages. Whether it be Silver Gulch, Utah in 1874, London 1896, Boston 1776, or Ancient Rome in 300 BC, the Cape Fear-born author’s storyline parades such a perplexing plethora of alternative Fists of Khonshu throughout this comic, that in some ways it is disappointing that so many of these incarnations are only seen for the briefest of sketches as opposed to featuring in a mini-series based upon the ex-United States Marine’s persistent bouts of pugilist with Nathaniel Richards’ technologically advanced alter-ego. Indeed, the intriguing background behind just why the Egyptian God has a gun-toting champion leading Silver Company in a fight “to steal the Fuhrer’s prize” in Germany 1945, or a swashbuckling agent sea-faring their way across the high seas of the North Atlantic in 1710, are surely worth exploring across an issue or two in their own right..?

Perhaps therefore this comic’s only true weakness, apart from the odd disappointingly pencilled panel by artists Ibrahim Moustafa and Matt Horak, is Bunn’s bemusing conclusion which somehow sees Moon Knight both summon an army of his predecessors to his side, as well as sacrifice his Mesopotamian self, simply to thwart Pharaoh Rama-Tut’s future personification from connecting with the scarab, the ankh and “this sceptre which focuses time.” Just how the super villain becomes “entombed in time forever” is never explained, nor how Khonshu “ensured that Kang and the first of my knights will never exist at the same instance again.”
The regular cover art of "MOON KNIGHT" Annual No. 1 by Philip Tan & Rain Beredo

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Riddler: Year Of The Villain #1 - DC Comics

Penned as part of “DC Comics” crossover comic book event “Year Of The Villain”, Mark Russell’s storyline for this thirty-page one-shot certainly delivers in its creative team’s goal of portraying the Riddler as an “inherently tragic… forty-year old man who dresses up in a green costume covered in question marks because he happened to win a riddle contest when he was ten…” In fact, despite this periodical containing plenty of hilarity in the shape of King Tut’s humiliating multiple defeats at the hands of Batman, it will arguably be hard for its audience to recall so sombre a depiction of Edward Nygma as that which Lex Luthor encounters whilst presenting his “dark gifts to super-villains across the DC Universe.”

Fortunately however, “Thanks For Nothing” doesn’t simply contain a sedentary script focusing upon the titular character’s repeated failures “to kill the single best-prepared-for-violence man in the world”, but instead intermixes the murderous mastermind’s depressive musings with plenty of slap-stick action, courtesy of a half-hearted team-up alongside the criminal Egyptologist, Victor Goodman. This compelling combination of the mutton-chopped maniac chasing his personal validation coupled with such antics as the pharaoh’s man-eating tiger prematurely roaring behind the door of the Hall of Two Truths, really manages to imbue a potentially pedestrian-paced plot with infinitely more bounce.

Perhaps this comic’s only possible disappointment is therefore the fact that at no point does the American author actually pit the ‘prince of puzzles’ against the Dark Knight himself, despite having Bill Fingers’ co-creation place himself (“under protest”) inside an ancient sarcophagus ready to administer a lethal coup de grace upon Batman at the conclusion of the comic. Such a confrontation would undoubtedly have gone sour for the Riddler, considering just how inept Tut’s previous efforts to “put one over on a regular dude in a bat costume” have gone. Yet Nygma’s decision to simply walk away from the opportunity to finally defeat his arch-nemesis still somewhat smacks of being anticlimactic; “I quit… I need to start over. I have to leave the failures of the past behind. And say goodbye to myself if I’m ever going to become what I was always meant to be.”

Infinitely more appealing than this book’s demoralising ending is Scott Godlewski’s pencilling, which somehow manages to provide the “pathetic” Edward with an almost palpable atmosphere of gloomy despondency due to “his body language”, whilst simultaneously giving Tut the manic energy a reader may well expect from a lower-tier member of the Caped Crusader’s Rogues Gallery who is blindly determined to somehow defeat his foe with as much gimmicky aplomb as possible.
Writer: Mark Russell, Artist: Scott Godlewski, and Colorist: Marissa Louise

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Moon Knight #200 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT No. 200, December 2018
Described by “Marvel Worldwide” in their pre-publication publicity drive as “a celebration of two hundred issues of the multifaceted Moon Knight with an oversized anniversary issue you’d be crazy to miss”, this thirty-page periodical clearly flew off the shelves upon its release in October 2018, astonishingly almost doubling its usual monthly sales figures according to “Diamond Comic Distributors”. But whilst the notable inclusion of artistic legend Bill Sienkiewicz’s single sheet cameo at the very end of this book may well have gleaned some sense of nostalgia from its 33,387 readers, it is arguably unlikely that Max Bemis’ penmanship generated anything else other than bemusement, frustration and perplexity.

For starters, the New Yorker’s belief that Marc Spector would ‘happily’ enlist the help of “his old nemesis” the Sun King so as to finally defeat the Societe des Sadiques seems infinitely farfetched considering just what Patient Eighty-Six put the titular character through when they first fought. In the past the pyrotechnic Nameless One has literally threatened to kill both the ex-mercenary’s girlfriend Marlene Alraune, as well as their daughter Diatrice, and yet supposedly because “this hog you just rode in on has got some very cool angel wings aaaand you are a wildebeest” Doug Moench’s co-creation takes the fiery killer back to meet the family the scarred criminal previously attempted to destroy; “Marly… This looks bad. But I’m as sorry as hell.”

At the time this publication was printed the internet news site “Bleeding Cool” posted about Bemis wrapping up his run on the series, in addition to “cleaning up his life after suffering an emotional breakdown”, and the American author’s battle with his own personal demons debatably shows in the confused mess which follows as the Fist of Khonshu leads a small army of the “Sun King’s old crew I converted” in a full-on frontal assault upon “Uncle” Ernst’s anti-carrier. Admittedly, the ensuing fight sequence is truly pulse-pounding, with artist Paul Davidson superbly pencilling the masked crime-fighter beating the literal hell out of a horde of purple-hooded Nazi sadists and the formidably-sized “False Truth”. But it’s never made clear what on earth any of these sense-shattering shenanigans are actually about, why the Sun King turned against the German who gave him “one more shot to get your proverbial cojones back”, or how Raul Bushman’s former blue-gunk spewing partner became the “living propaganda” of the Societe des Sadiques..?
Writer: Max Bemis, Art: Paul Davidson, and Guest Artists: Jacen Burrows, Jeff Lemire & Bill Sienkiewicz

Monday, 16 September 2019

Star Trek: Year Five #4 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: YEAR FIVE No. 4, July 2019
Apparently motivated, at least according to co-showrunner Jackson Lanzing, by “a beautiful Mondo poster for the second season episode A Piece of the Action” that was hanging in the “super-secret Star Trek archives”, it is extremely doubtful that many of this particular twenty-page periodical's readers would agree with “IDW Publishing” that Brandon Easton’s script for it managed to “sequelize” the January 1968 televised adventure “in a smart way.” In fact, it’s highly improbable that the comic’s audience would even acknowledge that the “Transformers scribe” succeeded in penning a “humanistic backstory” to the estranged relationship between James Kirk, Carol Marcus, and their infant son David, considering that the starship captain’s supposedly “deep and personal” difficulties aren’t even mentioned in this actual publication..?

Instead, the Baltimore-born educator outwardly provides a horrifically over-wordy depiction of Spock “running for the presidency [of Sigma Iotia II] under the banner of Jojo Krako’s Astro-Liberation Party” and demonstrates an uncanny ability to basically bludgeon any unsuspecting bibliophiles into mute submission with some of the most dialogue-packed word bubbles debatably yet seen within a comic book; “As elected leaders squabble over an endless array of foolhardy proposals, countless resources earmarked for planetary development are squandered while southern continent citizens go without basic necessities…”

True, once the niceties of President Jamek’s fledgling democratic civilisation are contrivingly cast aside so as to allow Kirk, Spock and McCoy to assault a heavily-armed government installation theatrically named Omega Base, Easton’s narrative finally contains a remarkable amount of pulse-pounding action. But this blatant disregard for the Prime Directive, which has Martin Coccolo poorly pencilling the U.S.S. Enterprise’s senior officers pummelling the rocket installation’s security guards, makes little actual sense when it becomes clear that the Constitution-class vessel’s captain won’t actually agree to the projectile mowing down the Iotian Air Force threatening it post-launch. 

The Disney-ABC Writing Program recipient’s sub-plot concerning Ensign Satie and his attempted revenge upon the Tholians for the disappearance of his sister “aboard the Defiant” similarly suffers from such nonsensical narration, with Scotty discovering that the red-shirted conspirators had supposedly caused an unstable dilithium chamber by altering their “phaser’s power settings to emit a low-level pulse…” This gibberish tactic would apparently “rattle” the starship’s crystals “when refracted off another crystal structure”, both causing the engines to explode and triggering the Chief Engineer to supposedly kill his Tholian ward in cold blood.
Writer: Brandon Easton, Artist: Martin Coccolo, and Colorist: Fran Gamboa

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #9 - Titan Comics

Considering writer Jody Houser’s pre-publication admission to the “Syfy Wire” website that "Whenever we have an idea for the next story arc, we write it up” and have to send it to the British Broadcasting Corporation “to make sure it isn’t interfering or isn’t too similar to the show or other media", many of this twenty-two page periodical’s most ardent fans were probably wondering just why the “bestselling” author’s narrative “Old Friends” wasn’t stopped by the public service broadcaster before it ever saw the light of day. For whilst the screenplay to Issue Nine of “Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor” includes a prison break on the planet Devivian, a subsequent short-lived speeder-bike chase which is rather reminiscent of that depicted within George Lucas’ 1983 "Star Wars" film “Return Of The Jedi”, and a tantalising implication that the female Time Lord is about to confront actress Michelle Gomez’s maniacal incarnation of the Master, these sequences are so sedentarily-scripted that arguably few of their 5,233 readers probably remembered them once they’d finished perusing the publication.

To begin with, there is absolutely no atmosphere of jeopardy surrounding the Doctor and her “fam”, despite the quartet being arrested and ‘interrogated’ for the theft of the Gem of Niag by the local tentacled-headed police authorities. Much of this ‘invulnerability’ stems from the portrayal of the fearlessly omnipotent Gallifreyan herself, who appears to be entirely in control of the situation despite being “locked in a cage”. Such repugnant smugness, arrogance and nauseating disdain for the aliens’ criminal investigation genuinely grates upon the nerves, and it comes as absolutely no surprise later on when the time traveller simply (once again) pulls out her sonic screwdriver to evade punishment; “This is going to be a bit messy.”

Similarly as straightforward is the Time Lord’s search for the real culprit behind the mineral crystal’s mysterious disappearance. Instead of scouring the scene of the crime, extracting any residual evidence, and concocting a hypothesis which takes the TARDIS crew ever further into deadly danger, Houser simply pens for the patronising protagonist to lamentably just flick a switch on her spacecraft and arrive at the robber’s location in another part of the universe.

Regrettably, Roberta Ingranata’s lay-outs don’t help add much dynamism to this adventure’s snooze-inducing storytelling either, despite the Italian illustrator’s prodigious pencilling proving to be perfectly agreeable to the audience’s eye. There’s no doubt that the “interior artist for European publishers” can certainly capture the likeness of Jodie Whittaker and her fellow thespians, but when all those well-detailed portraits then do is stand and grimace, panel after panel, even the most amenable of drawing styles can start to increasingly infuriate.
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR" No. 9 by Veronica Fish

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Batman Vs. Ra's al Ghul #1 - DC Comics

BATMAN VS. RA'S AL GHUL No. 1, November 2019
Excitedly reuniting legendary American artist Neal Adams with a character he co-created alongside Denny O’Neil and Julius “Julie” Schwartz way back in 1971, this opening instalment to “Batman VS. Ra’s al Ghul” was one arguably of the most hotly anticipated titles announced by “DC Comics” as part of their Year of the Villain promotion. And to begin with, at least, the twenty-two page periodical’s pulse-pounding plot genuinely looks set to provide a truly enjoyable read, as the Joe Sinnott Hall of Famer’s narrative goes straight for the jugular with the titular character desperately trying to single-handedly save his beloved Gotham City from a mass terrorist uprising.

Packed full of far more punches, pugilism and pooches than arguably your average modern-day superhero comic book contains, the Manhattan-born illustrator's dynamically-sketched action depicts the Caped Crusader at his bone-breaking best, even pencilling the Dark Knight heatedly turning upon a group of heavily-weaponed “not S.W.A.T.” who have started gunning down a group of extremists; “Batman is attacking… the… Batman is certainly angry here. He’s punishing those armed men for shooting the terrorists.”

Yet despite being supposedly “pushed back two weeks for a September… release” by its Burbank-based publisher, this “end of an adventure that's taken three graphic novels to resolve” suddenly provides a disappointingly palatable sense of ill-disciplined haste, by nonsensically proposing that Ra’s al Ghul, an international criminal mastermind and Image Games Network’s seventh top comic book villain of all time, has inexplicably been brought in by the municipal’s mayor in order for the maniac’s “thirty-five trained and equipped agents” to aid the over-stretched authorities in their fight to suppress an already disconcertingly contrived metropolis-wide emergency.

To make matters worse, this utterly whacky and unstomachable decision is even ardently defended by Commissioner Gordon, despite the senior policeman having literally just witnessed one of Professor al Ghul’s personal security guards gun down a “man in cold blood”. The fact Adams depicts the moustached, former United States Marine Corps veteran siding with Batman’s ‘Moriarty’, rather than turning to his government’s armed forces for assistance, unhappily makes this six-part mini-series story-line fall flat on its face almost from the get-go, and comes across as being as likely a response to such troubled times as the Bronze Age superstar’s next decision, which is to portray Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego wearily walking away from the ongoing death and destruction surrounding a triumphant Ra's al Ghul in abject defeat...
Written, Darwn and Coloured by: Neal Adams, and Lettered by: Clem Robins

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy #1 - DC Comics

HARLEY QUINN & POISON IVY No. 1, November 2019
Announced by Jody Houser on her “Twitter” account back in June 2019, and “set after the events of Heroes In Crisis”, Issue One of “Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy” disappointingly doesn’t actually provide much in the way of exciting entertainment until the comic’s conclusion when the titular characters are faced with a decidedly deranged Floronic Man. Indeed, the vast majority of this snooze-inducing, sedentarily-paced twenty-page periodical simply follows the sprawling soliloquies of Harleen Frances Quinzel as she dubiously determines whether to genuinely become a super-hero, and Doctor Pamela Lillian Isley’s difficulties having so recently returned from the dead.

Naturally, such a lavish attention to the mental well-being of the Joker’s pony-tailed main squeeze, provides the “critically-acclaimed” comics writer with several opportunities with which to both further explore the intern psychiatrist’s mounting insanity, and the villain's strong liking for her resurrected floral ‘partner in crime’. But even these, the highlight of which is arguably Quinn angrily kicking a fluffy, cuddly unicorn across her bedroom floor, don’t actually help progress the book’s lack-lustre plot, and instead simply inundate the reader with a plethora of text boxes and dialogue-heavy speech bubbles; “You’reawakehowareyoufeelingdidthefertilizerwasitmagicareyouallbetternow?”

Sadly, Ivy’s ‘spotlight’ is similarly as devoid of interest, as the occasional anti-heroine spends most of this publication simply struggling to maintain her humanoid shape, as well as coping with the mental trauma of being “merc’d by one of the good guys.” This debatably monotonous mindlessness of “one of Batman's most enduring enemies” really does Robert Kanigher’s co-creation a disservice, and sadly it debatably isn’t until towards this book’s end, once the Metahuman has fully consumed Lex Luthor’s box of specially treated fertilizer, that Pamela finally starts to attract the attention warranted by one of the mainstays of the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery.

Mercifully however, what this comic lacks in quality penmanship, it does partially make up for in its arts department, courtesy of some wonderful pencilling by Adriana Melo. The Brazilian illustrator’s layouts arguably get better and better with every panel, and especially prove eye-catching once she is tasked with sketching the flowery Floronic Man. Little wonder therefore that Houser has gone on record as saying that she is “having a blast working with Adriana. I love the emotion and energy she brings to the characters.”
Written by: Jody Houser, Pencils by: Adriana Melo, and Colors by: Hi-Fi

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Moon Knight #199 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT No. 199, November 2018
It is reasonably clear from Max Bemis’ narrative to Issue One Hundred And Ninety Nine of “Moon Knight” that the “primary composer… of the band Say Anything” was being entirely truthful when he told the website “Newsarama” that “he didn’t have a long-term blueprint for the book” and instead “often relies on improvisation.” For whilst this twenty-page periodical contained a modicum of entertainment for its 17,344 bibliophiles in September 2018, courtesy of the titular character finally ridding himself of the increasingly annoying former member of the National Socialist German Workers Party, “Uncle Ernst”, it’s somewhat self-contained story bears absolutely no resemblance to the events which preceded it in this ongoing series’ earlier instalment.

Indeed, those within this comic’s audience anticipating a ‘no holds barred’ battle between Marc Spector’s alter-ego and the lethal-looking mass firepower of the Societe des Sadiques, as seemingly promised by the this book’s previous cliff-hanger, must have been entirely thrown by this particular publication starting with a far more sedentary sequence of Moon Knight simply supping tea with the elderly war criminal inside the Carbonatium Café, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Of course, fans of the New Yorker’s penmanship could argue that the “lead singer” was merely replicating with his readership the severe sense of helpless disorientation his tale’s central protagonist was feeling being in the devilish clutches of "the Nazi-disguised-as-Rabbi he had befriended as a youth".

But whilst so a clever writing technique is potentially plausible, the inclusion of such bizarrely unconnected additions, like a diminutive Cthulhu nonchalantly wandering through an extended street scene or the Fist Of Khonshu inexplicably suddenly facing a ferocious host of imaginary daemons, seem far more likely to be examples of Bemis simply working “through his own struggles with mental illness.” Whatever the reasoning though, these befuddling distractions certainly lessen the impact of an already arguably actionless adventure, and actually makes following Ernst’s rambling rhetoric even more of a dissatisfying challenge; “Prepare to meet yours, you Nazi geezer…”

Sadly, this sloppy story-telling also belittles some excellent visuals by Paul Davidson, whose artwork imbues even this befuddling misadventure with some prodigiously pencilled ‘belly laughs’, such as Spector desperately trying to punch the aforementioned phantom Cthulhu and taking a beating from an innocent passer-by for his troubles. Distinctly cartoony, and definitely comical in style, the professional illustrator’s drawings undoubtedly add an element of dynamism to an otherwise snooze-inducing script.
Writer: Max Bemis, Artist: Paul Davidson, and Color Artist: Matt Milla

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Skateman #1 - Pacific Comics

SKATEMAN No. 1, November 1983
“Primarily known for its artistic failings, despite being the product of the highly regarded and influential comics creator Neal Adams”, Issue One of “Skateman” by “Pacific Comics” arguably contains far more punch per panel than many of the independent publisher’s other titles during the early Eighties. Indeed, as far as origin stories go, the Manhattan-born writer’s nineteen-page storyline rarely delivers a moment for its readers to catch their breaths, before hurtling headlong into another phenomenal demonstration of Billy Moon’s prowess with martial arts, or a scintillating, sense-shattering flashback sequence; “You didn’t know till later on that one of Jack’s skate wheels had come loose just before you hit him! You thought it was you that caused Jack to fall that crooked way. Caused him to hit wrong.”

Disappointingly however, whilst this pulse-pounding pace does lead to some truly awesome ‘super-heroic’ moments, such as “one (of) the least-acclaimed heroes of all time” tackling a gang of leather-clad motor-cyclists single-handedly or skating beneath the very wheels of a plastics factory’s cargo container, it doesn’t debatably leave much room for any actual character development. True, the “creators-rights advocate” does pen a few trips back into the Vietnam veteran’s haunted past so as to allow his audience to better understand just how the roller derby star became such a mentally-damaged masked vigilante, and wanted revenge for the brutal murder of his beloved Angel.

But such intriguing insights are frustratingly rapid and rushed, and would undoubtedly have benefited from being given much more space within the publication, even to the point where Moon’s multiple motivations were perhaps explored over two or three editions, as opposed to being callously crammed into just the one. This significantly slower speed to events would also have allowed the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Famer to utilise some noticeably larger layouts with which to pencil Skateman’s action-packed exploits, rather than shove such sequences as Billy’s recovery from a life-threatening beating, into a horrifically-cramped, scratchily-drawn, single stamp-sized picture.

Similarly as off-track with its pacing is Jack Arata’s "Futureworld", which as five-page backup features go, questionably delivers a fascinating insight into a post-apocalyptic world where multiple monsters stalk the last bastions of humankind in their unquenchable search for fresh flesh. Firmly focusing upon the exploits of Korlack and his air ship’s journey to a disused nuclear power station, this tale is sadly sold disappointingly short due to its creator’s dizzying dash to have his protagonist uncover the Great Machine’s lead box and “bring back its power to defeat the lizards before it is too late!”
Writer, Artist & Inker: Neal Adams

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Star Trek: Year Five #3 - IDW Publishing

STAR TREK: YEAR FIVE No. 3, June 2019
Supposedly scripted by a "writer's room" consisting of Brandon Easton, Jody Houser, Jim McCann, Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, it must have amazed many of this title’s 8,749 readers that just a couple of instalments in to this new ongoing series’ narrative, one of its authors was already going to have to substantially pillage from an early televised episode for their ideas. True, the highly successful box office returns for producer Robert Sallin’s movie “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” showed just how popular a story could be when based upon a previous tale from Gene Roddenberry’s original "Wagon Train to the stars.” But this particular twenty-page periodical’s plot is a far cry from both the 1982 “Paramount Pictures” film, and “IDW Publishing” editor Chase W. Marotz’s extraordinary claim of it being an “incredible sequel to the TOS episode “A Piece Of The Action!”

For starters the contrived nature of the U.S.S. Enterprise even returning to the Sigma Iotia system is bewildering, with Brandon Easton arguably failing to convince anyone that the Constitution-class starship just happened to drop “out of warp to initiate diagnostics on the nacelles” one hundred light years “beyond the edge of Federation territory” and blind fate inadvertently picked the Chicago mob-inspired planet for it to orbit around..? To make matters worse though, the Eisner Comic Industry Award nominee would then have his audience believe that having spent months learning of “the events of Earth after 1929” from Doctor McCoy’s previously abandoned communicator, the Iotian civilisation would rapidly evolve into a thermonuclear reactor-powered space-faring society within a couple of years; “The structural design is comparable to early Twenty First Century Earth aeronautical technology mixed with Late Twenty Second Century propulsion elements.”

Disagreeably, the Baltimore-born writer even seemingly struggles to be able to pen a believable secondary plot on board the Enterprise, and resultantly portrays an angry Lieutenant Nyota Uhura having to stand toe-to-toe, phaser pointedly drawn, with the anti-alien Ensign Satie simply to try and encourage the 'red shirt' to follow her orders. Debatably such an ill-disciplined incident would never occur under “actin’ Captain" Montgomery Scott’s command without an antagonistic outside influence manipulating events, and yet Easton would have any perusing bibliophile believe an entire Starfleet security detail would mutinously arm themselves against their superior officer simply because one of them illogically believes the communications specialist is preposterously “harbouring a hostile enemy agent!”
Writer: Brandon Easton, Artist: Martin Coccolo, and Colorist: Fran Gamboa

Friday, 6 September 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #8 - Titan Comics

“Having already tracked the Stilean Flesh Eaters throughout time”, and incomprehensibly then left them to feast upon the human blood of the vulnerable for generations to come, Jody Houser’s snooze-fest of a script for Issue Eight of “Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor” must have come as a great relief to this title’s slowly-dwindling 5,252 strong audience, by finally bringing her humdrum “Hidden Human History” multi-part narrative to a most welcome end. In fact, it is arguably hard to recollect a more soullessly mundane conclusion to a comic book serial than this particular twenty-two page periodical, whose most dynamically-charged, action-packed highlight simply consists of the Gallifreyan and her time-travelling friends sat drinking tea with the aged Bethany Brunwine in the aged alien’s quaint little modern-day house; “I was very young when I met you. Young and foolish. But I was the oldest who survived when my people crashed on this planet.” 

Surprisingly however, the “Cupcake POW!” web-comic creator does at least somehow manage to imbue this publication with a brief element of intrigue at its very start, courtesy of Roberta Ingranata pencilling a disturbingly dark funeral scene set in Nineteenth Century Canada after the Battle of Ridgeway. But whilst this solemn ceremony is brimming with all the mysterious menace a reader might expect regarding the death of a war veteran who “stood with the Welland Field Battery against impossible odds” only to be suspiciously “taken by fever so soon after”, the smirkingly-smug Doctor’s utter apathy to the dead soldier’s demise, and his very recent attack from the band of forever-hungry extra-terrestrials, quickly rids this sequence of any lasting menace.

Indeed, the “confident explorer” is seemingly portrayed as being a big admirer of the insatiable horrors skulking in Mankind’s shadow so as to feast upon the dangerously sick, and even jokes with the TARDIS crew that due to the monsters’ ability over the centuries to change their physiology to something more humanoid in looks, their “great, great grandchildren might have a Stilean classmate or two in school.” This complete disregard to the fact that the ghoulish creatures have infiltrated society simply to bite and drink the blood of their victims makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, especially when the fizzing” Time Lord could have repeatedly put an end to their salacious shenanigans, and debatably soon reaches the point where “the first woman to play the character in the series” is utterly unrecognisably unheroic in the role.
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR" No. 8 by Giorgia Sposito & Adele Matera

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Batman/Superman [2019] #1 - DC Comics

BATMAN/SUPERMAN No. 1, October 2019
Initially conceived as a “very Superman centric” title which may well have simply built upon the “New 52” Greg Pak and Jae Lee “Batman/Superman” series, at least according to Joshua Williamson, this exhilarating twenty-two page periodical undeniably benefits from the inclusion of The Batman Who Laughs as the book’s “underlying villain” and its narrative’s shift in focus from the Big Blue Boy Scout to the Dark Knight instead. In fact, it’s arguably hard to imagine the “New York Times best-selling author” penning such a deeply dark and disturbing storyline as “Who Are The Secret Six?” with Clark Kent’s alter-ego actually taking the lead, especially when this publication’s storyline so clearly spins “out of the devastating events” previously wrought upon Gotham City by Batman’s evil counterpart from Earth-22; “I stopped his plan, but there was a serum… He could have used it to infect others…”

Fortunately, such a “switch it round” clearly took place, leading to a genuinely unnerving exploration of what would happen to “our heroes” close relationship with one another should the Man of Steel truly turn evil, and a tense journey beneath the pious pavement of Crime Alley into the dank, torture device-filled Bat Cave of The Batman Who Laughs. Wonderfully claustrophobic, and packed with plenty of action too as the ‘dynamic duo’ are assaulted from all sides by a horde of robotic “Knightfall” flavoured drones, this comic increasingly manages to raise the neck hairs as it becomes progressively clear no cape within the DC Universe is safe from the maniacal machinations of the utterly insane alternate universe Batman, not even those within the Titans, the Justice League or the Teen Titans.

Likewise, Williamson’s writing throws quite a few curveballs into the mix both to keep this title’s readers on their toes, and maintain the strong belief that the “terrifying new threat” of the clown-faced maniac’s highly-infectious serum “could strike from anywhere.” Superman’s supposed death, courtesy of a lungful of Kryptonite-infused gas within the Justice League satellite is a great example of this, as is the disconcerting Cheshire Cat grin of Commissioner Jim Gordon following his apparently earnest dispatchment of the 'Caped Crusaders' to recover the abducted adolescent Danny Mills.

Sensationally supplementing this superlative story-telling is David Marquez’ prodigious pencilling, which goes a tremendously long way to help build the mounting horror which his creative co-worker’s script contains. In particular, the American artist’s incredibly emotional and well defined faces really help to sell the rising discomfort Superman starts feeling as he realises his entire mission is a set-up, and that instead of facing a toxin-poisoned thirteen year old kidnap victim, he has stumbled upon an unbalanced Billy Batson instead… “Shazam!”
Writer: Joshua Williamson, Artist: David Marquez, and Colorist by: Alejandro Sanchez

Monday, 2 September 2019

Moon Knight #198 - Marvel Comics

MOON KNIGHT No. 198, October 2018
Packed full of some seriously disturbing shenanigans, such as Marc Spector being forced to eat a rabies-ridden dolphin alive in water-filled tank, and then subsequently tasked to gut an innocent infant girl simply to show his inhuman old “Uncle Ernst” he has what it takes to join the Societe des Sadiques, Max Bemis’ narrative for Issue One Hundred and Ninety Eight arguably wholly warranted the “Rated T+” warning placed upon its Becky Cloonan illustrated cover. In fact, it’s hard to recollect such an utterly sickening storyline for a “Marvel Worldwide” publication as the “super-group” singer’s script takes its 17,660 strong audience on a grotesque journey through the disconcerting trials of “uber-sadists”, perturbing Nazi war criminals and depraved wannabe child-mutilators; “Complete the ritual. Become what you were meant to be, beside me, forever.”

Utterly bizarrely however, there is debatably no logical reason as to just why the titular character even permits himself to undergo these inexplicable, cold-blooded sacraments in the first place, considering that the super-hero was last seen ably out-fighting the gun-toting minions of their nefarious inner circle’s mysterious leader during the secret group’s bi-annual feast. Just why the Fist of Khonshu allows himself to be detained by his captors is never explained, nor why he willingly surrenders to spending two weeks locked in a room with nothing to consume but a dangerously infected aquatic mammal, or then cold-bloodedly murders the chair-bound Jess Ebidiah because the FBI has supposedly implicated the morbidly obese felon in “what may be the worst case of animal cruelty in the history of California”..?

Admittedly, towards the end of this twenty-page periodical Spector’s submissive supplication to the desires of a proven serial killer does potentially appear to be based upon Ernst’s threat to “eliminate your child” if the costumed vigilante doesn’t follow his orders. But even though Marc has previously “witnessed [his ‘Uncle’] torturing a man in his synagogue as a child” he surely could have outfought his former rabbi friend when he had the chance earlier..? Certainly, as Moon Knight would soon go on to show in this comic, courtesy of some pugilistic pencilling by Jacen Burrows, he could easily have given the four new inductees a sound “spanking”, and presumably then taken out the long-lived German mere seconds afterwards..?
Writer: Max Bemis, Penciler: Jacen Burrows, and Inker: Guillermo Ortego

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor #7 - Titan Comics

It is decidedly difficult to imagine that many of this edition’s 5,535 readers in May 2019 agreed with either the website “Rogues Portal” that this was “the kind of comic we need right now”, or with the extremely positive recommendation from “Comicbook.com” that the title was “a great place to get an extra dose of Doctor Who.” For whilst this lethargic instalment to Jody Houser’s “Hidden Human History” storyline indubitably focuses upon “the first woman to play the character in the series” and her televised TARDIS crew, absolutely nothing happens within this twenty-two page periodical except an awful lot of tedious talking and protracted walking…

In fact, it is arguably hard to see just how this publication progresses the “critically-acclaimed” writer’s overall plot by even a smidgeon, considering the Time Lord (once again) merely converses with the (now) two hundred year-old Stilean Flesh Eaters, before deciding to leave the pack of dangerous, blood-thirsty extra-terrestrials to their own devices on Earth and travel to Canada “a century and a half from now.” Such utter indifference to so deadly an invader to human history genuinely beggars belief, especially when the disinterested female Doctor has literally just had to step in so as to thwart the aliens from sucking an elderly local resident dry; “Based on the blood volume, I’d guess that she was fed on within the last few hours.”

Admittedly, Houser does try and spice things up a little bit by reintroducing Schulz and Perkins from this ongoing series’ previous adventure, as a pair of much older Time Agency operatives who have been “tracking temporal disturbances centred on minor wars in Earth’s history.” But whilst such an innovative ‘time leap’ worked well enough for Professor Travers in the 1968 broadcast story “The Web Of Fear”, the duo’s pedestrian presence within Issue Seven of “Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor” debatably appears to have been done simply to help populate and pad out a disconcertingly high number of panels with dreary dialogue-heavy discourse.

Disappointingly, Roberta Ingranata’s artwork doesn’t seemingly help matters either, as despite the Italian’s remarkable ability to pencil the actors’ likenesses, the fact that all the figures do is talk provides her with little opportunity to imbue any dynamism into her work. Indeed, the illustrator may well have been so bored with her part in the creative process, that at the start of the comic when the time traveller’s exploration of North Carolina is suddenly interrupted by Schulz and Perkins, she erroneously places Magda incredulously witnessing the “wibbly-wobbly” event, despite the fact the young girl had previously been left behind in Sixteen-Century Europe.
The regular cover art of "DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR" No. 7 by Sanya Anwar