Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Amazing Spider-Man [2018] #18.HU - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 18.HU, June 2019
Guaranteed to take all but the most hard-hearted of Web-head fans on an incredibly disconcerting emotional journey, few long-time buffs of “The Amazing Spider-Man” could arguably have foreseen Nick Spencer’s soul-searching ‘spotlight’ upon the hapless Gibbon providing this comic with such a traumatizing reading experience. Indeed, considering how tongue-in-cheek the villain’s ludicrous first appearance was way back in 1972, this nineteen-page periodical’s tear-jerker of a conclusion proves a real kick to the guts, and undoubtedly provides Martin Blank with just the sort of impactive finale a low-level criminal comic book character could usually only dream about.

For starters, the mutant’s depressingly unhappy life is wonderfully interwoven throughout the wannabe hero’s desperate attempt to escape a literal army of Kraven’s deadly Hunter-Bots in Central Park. Repeatedly shot, stabbed and bludgeoned in the modern day, the rapidly deteriorating 'Ape-Venger' demonstrates an endearing desire to simply be left alone following a childhood haunted by name-calling and brutal bullying. Yet this publication’s entire 52,075 strong audience already know the pitiable pleas of the harmless villain will fall upon all-too deaf ears; “What I want is you mounted and stuffed in my den.” 

Of course, the America author still grants both the Gibbon, and in turn any semi-compassionate bibliophile, a modicum of hope that the brutally beaten former member of the Legion Of Losers won’t end up being fatally scalped, by having the rampaging Rhino run straight through Marty’s numerous pursuers just as his demise seems certain. The mutilated man’s seemingly successful last gasp flight for freedom, coupled with the memories of his happy partnership alongside Grizzly and marriage to Princess Python, momentarily even indicates that a happy ending to this comic might possibly be on the cards.

However, this hope soon comes crashing down around Blank’s head, when his ailing strength finally fails him whilst hiding in a tree and he is subsequently shot by a Hunter-Bot who supposedly does it as an act of kindness. Mortally wounded, and unable to even talk because of his physical trauma, the Gibbon’s sad passing in the lap of Spider-Man is unbelievably moving, and undoubtedly must have made his new-found admirers yearn for a far more agreeably happy outcome to this special edition of Spencer’s “Hunted” story-arc.
Writer: Nick Spencer, Artist: Ken Lashley, and Color Artist: Erick Arciniega

Friday, 29 May 2020

The Amazing Spider-Man [2018] #18 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 18, May 2019
Chock-full of the headlong flights for freedom a reader might well expect when you throw together some of Spider-Man’s worst enemies and “an army of Kraven-lookalike robots that suddenly stormed into Central Park, firing at everyone and everything in sight”, Nick Spencer’s scintillating storyline for Issue Eighteen of “The Amazing Spider-Man” must most assuredly have had many of this ongoing series' 74,466 fans on the very edge of their seats. True, there isn’t any likelihood at all that this comic’s titular character was going to become one of this publication’s unfortunate fatalities, but the American author soon makes it abundantly clear that the same cannot be said for some of this publication’s other notable supporting cast members.

In fact, it is hard to imagine a more gripping dash through New York City’s fifth-largest park than the one presented with this second instalment of “Hunted”, as the likes of the Iguana, White Rabbit, Puma, Frogman, Beetle, Vulture, Gibbon and the Rhino, all face the very real possibility of being shot, stabbed, slashed, speared or bloodily battered by one of Arcade’s automatons. Such a sense of mortality really is positively palpable within this twenty-one page periodical, and shockingly only increases when a Bill Mantlo co-creation from way back in the late Seventies suddenly meets a grisly end at the hands of the portly, tuxedo-wearing Bob; “This is for always passing me up for that promotion! I -- I killed that thing. I -- I killed it!”

Similarly as sensational is Spencer’s excellent portrayal of this comic’s lead antagonists, with both Arcade and the Taskmaster coming across as a pair of seriously cold-hearted killers-for-hire. Indeed, the two-time Cincinnati City Council candidate’s depiction of Tony Masters treacherously betraying his long-time partner-in-crime, the Black Ant, for “double the bounty” so he “can get to pay for that beach house in Belize” is extremely well-penned, and arguably comes completely out of the blue despite the fact that “ants are animals too.”

Rounding off a truly memorable book are Humberto Ramos’ terrific-looking pencilled panels and Victor Olazaba’s dynamic inking. Spider-Man has debatably never looked better in his black suit than during his fleeting brush with Adrian Toomes, whilst the sheer terror etched upon the faces of so many hardened criminals as they are literally mowed down by the merciless hunter-bots proves an extremely disconcerting sight to behold.
Writer: Nick Spencer, Penciler: Humberto Ramos, and Inker: Victor Olazaba

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Marvel Two-In-One #3 - Marvel Comics

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE No. 3, May 1974
Featuring a Gil Kane cover illustration which would actually go on to serve “as the template for Daredevil’s 1975 Slurpee” cup, as well as promising a sense-shattering shoot-out involving the Man Without Fear and a gang of well-armed Black Spectre soldiers, Steve Gerber’s narrative for Issue Three of “Marvel Two-In-One” probably ended up deeply frustrating the vast majority of its readers in May 1974. Indeed, with the bi-monthly’s repeated references to the storylines of other “Marvel Comics”, such as “Shanna, The She-Devil” and “Ka-Zar”, as well as the book’s unfinished plot disagreeably continuing straight into the next edition of “Daredevil”, it must have been difficult for this nineteen-page periodical’s audience not to see this publication as anything other than a blatant advertisement for some of editor Roy Thomas’ other titles.

To make matters worse, even the half-realised insight into “Daredevil’s ongoing battle with Nekra and the Mandrill” which this comic does depict isn’t arguably all that satisfying, courtesy of the Missouri-born author’s insistence to predominantly focus the opening third of “Inside Black Spectre!” on Reed Richards’ experiments upon the child-like Wundarr in order to design the super-powered alien a brand new costume. True, this sequence does lead to an enjoyable acrobatic display from Matt Murdock’s alter-ego, but it’s then rather trivialised by depicting the blind crime-fighter having to ask the Fantastic Four for his baton back like he was some hapless child who had inadvertently kicked their ball over into someone’s back garden; "Listen… I need your help. I, eh, left my billy club up on your roof, and…”

Adding to this book’s choppiness is an utterly whacky theatre date Murdock ‘enjoys’ with Foggy Nelson’s mysterious sister Candace. Featuring an actor dressed as Captain America who is then brutally gunned down by a suicidal Adolf Hitler lookalike, this farcical fuss seems to have been solely manufactured as a contrivance to have Matt chase after the Black Widow’s “bizarre aircraft” across New York’s skyline, and makes as much sense as Daredevil subsequently attempting to drop-kick Ben Grimm into submission so as to steal the Fantasticar from the top of the Baxter Building.

Resultantly, perhaps this comic’s one saving grace are Sal Buscema’s layouts, which together with Joe Sinnott’s inking, incredibly manage to bring many of the aforementioned oddities to dynamic life. The heroic duo’s fisticuffs against Nekra and her goon squad appear especially well-pencilled, with an enraged Ben Grimm tossing around his would-be attackers like they were skittles, and completely ignoring the best efforts of Natasha Romanova to bring the Thing down with her famous Widow’s Sting.
Writer: Steve Gerber, Artist: Sal Buscema, and Inker: Joe Sinnott

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Incubus #2 - Dark Horse Comics

JUDGE DREDD VS. ALIENS: INCUBUS No. 2, April 2003
Bringing the titular character’s mano-a-mano confrontation with one of H.R. Giger’s Xenomorphs to a truly cataclysmic conclusion, John Wagner and Andy Diggle’s narrative for Issue Two of “Judge Dredd Verses Aliens: Incubus” must most assuredly have landed well with the mini-series’ audience. In fact, Old Stoney Face’s shoot-out with the “primal creature” at the Eisenhower General Hospital is arguably faultless, as the Apocalypse War veteran uses every weapon at his disposal, and then some, to finally kill the monster which previously had led to the deaths of “three people in thirty seconds” whilst hiding inside the building’s central ventilation shaft.

Delightfully however, simply because Mega-City One’s toughest lawman succeeds in his mission does not mean that this tremendous crossover title is over all-too soon, with the comic’s collaborative creators quickly shifting their focus away from the Justice Department’s meticulous investigation into just how Jimmy Godber “was breeding the aliens for pit fights”, and instead finally introducing this storyline’s lead antagonist, the facially disfigured Mister Bones. Shrouded in dark shadows and villainy, the former freebooter captain exudes menace in every panel he appears in, and quickly makes it crystal clear that he won’t be happy with any other result than the total destruction of the metropolis which sits above his Undercity-based secret headquarters; “Y-You’re sick, Bones! Rotten to the core! I don’t know why we ever got mixed up with you! You’re worse than the judges! Grud help them! Grud help Mega-City One!”

Also inserting plenty of dynamic tension and atmosphere into this twenty-four page periodical’s scintillating story-telling are Henry Flint and colorist Chris Blythe, whose combined artistry repeatedly imbues this book’s action sequences with plenty of punch and pizazz. Indeed, it’s hard not to feel the sheer terror Fisk must have been feeling when she realises the lethal alien she has been searching for is right behind her, or Maier’s sheer incomprehension at his horrific fate as Millar’s fiery corpse unerringly plummets straight towards him. In addition, the British penciller’s ability to crowbar in the odd moment of humour amongst all the bodily mutilation taking place is equally worth mentioning, with a cooing baby endearingly tapping a fearsome xenomorph’s chin as the alien’s slavering jaws hover above its crib debatably resulting in this book’s biggest chuckle.
Writers: John Wagner & Andy Diggle, Art: Henry Flint, and Colors: Chris Blythe

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Avengers [2018] #9 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS No. 9, December 2018
Whilst Bill Everett’s creation Namor has arguably always been portrayed as a holier-than-thou, pompous anti-hero, it is doubtful many within this comic’s 58,185 readers were expecting the paranoid Human/Atlantean hybrid to show quite such a lethal willingness to believe the worst of land-dwellers as he undoubtedly does in Issue Nine of “Avengers”. In fact, the King of Atlantis appears so determined to play the insane, homicidal arch-villain in Jason Aaron’s “The Defenders Of The Deep”, that it’s hard to reconcile the Alabama-born writer’s incarnation of the Sub-Mariner with that of the man who was once actually a well-respected member of this comic’s titular team; “This man is an invader in my realm. And invaders will no longer be tolerated. War Sharks. Finish him.”

Happily however, the Defender’s downward spiral into the darkest depths of his unstable personality provides this twenty-page periodical with some thoroughly memorable moments, including the truly sickening, cold-hearted murder of the hero Stingray, who was supposedly one of Namor’s “oldest friends from the surface world.” Walter Newell’s demise really is incredibly well-penned by the Inkpot Award-winner, with the hapless oceanographer being brutally beaten so mercilessly by the Scourge of the Seven Seas that even the horrifically savage Tiger Shark visibly blanches at its severity.

Somewhat less vicious, though just as surprising, is the Sub-Mariner’s apparent ability to hold off the latest roster of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes single-handedly. Marvel's First and Mightiest Mutant has always been one of the publisher’s more formidable powerhouses, especially when submerged, fighting beneath the waves. Yet his ability to withstand both Thor’s Asgardian hammer and Iron Man’s technologically-enhanced grip simultaneously is a stunning achievement, even if the underwater monarch’s strength has been additionally fuelled by “the power of righteous rage!”

Wrapping this tour-de-force up with a pleasing bow are David Marquez’s story-boards, which at times, such as Namor’s all-too brief tussle with the Black Panther, and the aforementioned gory demise of a hapless Stingray, are breathtakingly dynamic. Colour artist Justin Ponsor’s contribution to the murky ambiance of this comic’s deadly deep fathoms can also not be overstated, especially when the book’s sudden return to the bright daylight of the surface world will momentarily blind any perusing bibliophile whose eyes have become accustomed to the rich blue-greens of the Sub-Mariner’s domain.
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: David Marquez, and Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

Monday, 25 May 2020

Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Incubus #1 - Dark Horse Comics

JUDGE DREDD VS. ALIENS: INCUBUS No. 1, March 2003
Published weekly in the British comic “2000 A.D.”, as well as monthly by “Dark Horse Comics”, this cross-company mini-series must have had both "Dredd-heads" and fans of the “Aliens” franchise drooling at the prospect of Mega-City One’s toughest lawman battling one of “nature’s most adaptive and deadly killing machines.” For whilst Old Stoney Face already enjoyed a history rich with such notable extra-terrestrial foes like the Kleggs, Trapper Hag, the Nosferatu and Raptaurs, all of them arguably paled into insignificance when compared to the cultural impact of H.R. Giger’s Xenomorph XX121; “Gotta warn them! They don’t know what they’re dealing with!”

Delightfully, John Wagner and Andy Diggle’s script for Issue One of “Judge Dredd Verses Aliens: Incubus” doesn’t disappoint either, providing plenty of pulse-pounding action straight from the book’s get-go as low-life Jimmy Godber desperately attempts to avoid a bullet in the head from the criminals he double-crossed, whist simultaneously trying to reach Eisenhower General Hospital for medical assistance. Readers familiar with the “highly aggressive endoparasitoid extra-terrestrial species” will know exactly what is coming next, but such foreknowledge doesn’t stop the Judges’ first encounter with a Chestburster from still being a wonderfully shocking experience for all concerned.

Just as impressive as the Alien’s introduction is the collaborative writing team’s establishment of Packer and her Verminators. Despite the pest controllers being quite numerous, and resultantly struggling to attain much ‘screen time’ within this twenty-four page periodical, each individual still manages to demonstrate their own distinctive characteristics, personal beefs and ambitions, before “humanity’s ultimate nightmare” begins to whittle down their roster.

Undoubtedly this comic’s biggest highlight however, has to be Joe Dredd’s exploration of a rental warehouse at City Bottom and the lawman’s sense-shattering slugfest with an adult xenomorph. Dynamically pencilled by artist Henry Flint, and riddled with enough Ovomorphs to make even the biggest fan of Pat Mills’ co-creation somewhat nervous as to his future, this action-sequence is packed full of some truly jaw-dropping moments of horror. Whether it be Brubaker taking a Facehugger smack in his face, Pitt losing her fingers to a splash of the extra-terrestrial’s deadly blood, or Gomer and Earl literally been dissolved where they stand by a torrent of concentrated molecular acid, Wagner and Diggle are utterly merciless in their dissolution of the Senior Street Judge’s ill-prepared squad.
Writers: John Wagner & Andy Diggle, Art: Henry Flint, and Colors: Chris Blythe

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Nightfall: Michael's Awakening #1 - Animation Comics & Entertainment LLC

NIGHTFALL: MICHAEL'S AWAKENING No. 1, April 2019
Advertised as “brimming with captivating character development, stunning plot twists and beautiful artwork”, this opening instalment to Dwayne Robinson and Terence Young’s collaborative creation “Nightfall: Michael’s Awakening” certainly seems to live up to its promise of providing a pulse-pounding insight into the day-to-day life of a college football quarterback. Indeed, straight from this twenty-page periodical’s start, the comic provides its audience with a superb stadium seat at the Stampede’s last electrifying match of the season, as Michael Vash desperately tries to steal a win for his team in the game’s final twenty-five seconds.

Dynamically drawn and mesmerizingly paced, this action sequence genuinely gets the book off to an incredibly lively start, with both the titular character and his buddy John “Ace” Combs, doing their damndest to put some more points on the scoreboard with the seconds quickly ticking by. So frantic a foray into gridiron also rather nicely introduces the vast majority of the narrative’s cast, by coupling its fair share of thrills with some nice spectator shots of Vash’s sister and girlfriend both doing their level best to cheer their favourite side on. 

Equally as enthralling, though much more sedentary when contrasted against all the high octane shenanigans of “the most popular sport in the United States”, is the introduction of Michael’s mother, and the disconcertingly dark past experiences the single parent has apparently endured. Spending time talking to the local housing association’s chief “weird person”, as well as being regarded “as the town crazy woman”, seem to be the least of Diana’s problems when she dramatically stops taking her medication one evening and emotionally warns her disbelieving son that he “will undergo a transformation that our family has gone through for generations.”

This sudden injection of the supernatural towards the end of the publication rather cleverly leads to a dramatic metamorphosis in not only the physical appearance of the comic’s lead protagonist, but also in both the book’s look and feel. The sudden splash of colour into each black & white panel as Vash painfully transforms into a full-blooded werewolf is really well done, and genuinely helps the reader themselves partially undergo the life-changing evolution which is literally taking place on the page before their very eyes; “You should’ve just listened to Diana and just stayed home, Bro.”
Artists, Writers and Colorists: Dwayne Robinson & Terence Young

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Avengers [2018] #8 - Marvel Comics

AVENGERS No. 8, November 2018
Lacking any notable action whatsoever, unless any of this book’s 58,060 readers felt Captain America’s all-too brief training exercise with Roberto Reyes qualified, Jason Aaron’s somewhat sedentary storyline for Issue Eight of “Avengers” may well have struck many in its audience as being a rather lack-lustre affair when compared to all the sense-shattering shenanigans the eight heroes had previously experienced whilst battling the Celestials for the very future of Humankind. Indeed, apart from an intriguing flashback to the creation of the super-group’s new global headquarters at the North Pole and an off-screen battle aboard a whaling vessel “on the other end of the world”, little else arguably occurs within this twenty-page periodical apart from plenty of wordy-heavy discussions, disputes and disagreements.

Fortunately however, that doesn’t mean for a moment that the Alabama-born author’s narrative isn’t an enjoyable experience, with T’Challa’s exploration of the “desiccated, armoured corpse of an Alpha Celestial who died four billion years ago” posing all sorts of intriguing possibilities for future predicaments in its own right. Doctor Strange’s research into Jennifer Walters’ rocketing “Gamma counts” also looks set to provide the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with some quite literal explosive exploits, especially if the increasingly strong She-Hulk continues to demonstrate her inability to keep her formidable strength in check as she does when angered by the Sorcerer Supreme’s suggestion to undergo “more testing before you return to the field.”

Of course this comic’s greatest hook though is the utterly barbaric killing of three Fish People who storm the aforementioned fishing ship in an unsuccessful attempt to reach its Bridge. Brutally gunned down for their impudence by the boat’s heavily-armed security team, and then distastefully suspended from one of its sides like any other dead catch of the day, the sudden arrival of a giant squid, alongside the “Avenging Lord of the Seven Seas” is such a truly pulse-pounding moment that it must have had any perusing bibliophile begging their local comic shop owner to pre-order this ongoing title’s subsequent edition with spirited sincerity.

Undoubtedly adding to the grand look of “Inside Avengers Mountain” is David Marquez’s artwork, wonderfully coloured by Justin Ponsor. The University of Texas graduate’s opening splash page depicting Ghost Rider driving up to Avengers Mountain is particularly well-drawn, and really helps put the technologically-advanced place’s sheer size into jaw-dropping perspective.
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: David Marquez, and Color Artist: Justin Ponsor

Friday, 22 May 2020

Death-Defying 'Devil #4 - Dynamite Entertainment

DEATH-DEFYING 'DEVIL No. 4, November 2019
Having finally started to ‘rationalise’ the utterly bizarre happenings occurring within Winslow House with her script to Issue Four of “Death-Defying Devil”, Gail Simone probably felt a little hard done by that this title was only the three hundred and forty-seventh best-selling comic book in December 2019. True, the GLAAD Media Award-nominee’s slightly choppy narrative still lurches in between the modern day world and a universe populated by a little girl’s demon-infested flights of fancy. But at least the publication’s 2,867 readers are shown just why the child who “died when she should have lived” is haunting the residential building, even if the twenty-two page periodical doesn’t explain how the dearly departed Mika is doing it.

In addition, the Oregon-born writer also includes a rather fun nod to “Dungeons & Dragons” fans everywhere by transforming the titular character into a steely-thewed barbarian, and thrusting him into a mass battle against an entire army of Frost Goblins almost single-handedly. This sense-shattering sequence really forms the central core of this comic, and aside from its superb portrayal of a brutally bloody battle atop a frozen mountain top, also contains some much-appreciated cameos from Masquerade, the Black Terror and the Green Llama; “So we are a company, you see, not a solitary guest. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They’ve killed enough of your kind.”

Somewhat surprisingly, for those gore fans not sated by this scene’s graphic depiction of severed heads, dismemberment and splattering of brains, Simone then later repeats Bartholomew Hill’s apparent predilection for gratuitous violence, by having the costumed crime-fighter mercilessly butcher a number of hot-headed demons with his infamous razor-sharp boomerangs. To be fair, this modern-day, street-level skirmish is probably far closer to the original concept of the “public domain Golden Age character” than the vast majority of this mini-series’ plot has produced so far. Yet it is still somewhat disconcerting to witness a so-called super-hero gleefully decapitate hoodlums, even when they’re torch-waving, red-skinned demons.

Helping inject this book’s outlandish storyline with some dynamically-drawn action and just the odd bucket of blood, is Walter Geovani, who alongside colorist Adriano Augusto, does a prodigious job illustrating Daredevil’s peculiar exploits. The “Brazilian visual artist” seems especially talented at pencilling large formations of warriors, and as a result there is a genuine feeling of great scale to his representation of Bart’s aforementioned confrontation with the vile Goblin King.
The regular cover art of "DEATH-DEFYING 'DEVIL" No. 4 by Inhyuk Lee

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Errand Boys #5 - Image Comics

ERRAND BOYS No. 5, February 2019
Only briefly stopping to register the traumatic impact Jace Lopaz’s year-long stint of enforced incarcersleep has had upon the intergalactic delivery man, D.J. Kirkbride’s narrative for Issue Five of “Errand Boys” must surely have delighted its fanbase in February 2019, with its pulse-pounding depiction of the titular characters going on one last “super illegal” romp across the universe. Indeed, the slightly greying Hooman’s ‘tête-à-tête’ with a gigantic Space Manatee, coupled with his half-brother’s desperate attempt to pilot the ‘Bego single-handedly, is undoubtedly one of the highlights of this five-part mini-series, and probably had many of its loyal 1,263 readers wishing more exploits were to follow.

For starters, the action-packed sequence depicting numerous tickbroods consuming the spacecraft’s low-grade methanol fuel additive clearly demonstrates that the “hard-worn scoundrel” is still cursed with his incredible unlucky streak, despite the fact he’s now desperately trying to live up to his promise to Officer Bradley to “stay outta trouble”. Hastily donning a decidedly vulnerable-looking space-suit, the former convict’s complete disbelief that Tawnk has “never actually flown a ship before” also genuinely supplies this twenty-four page periodical with a laugh-out-moment, made all the funnier when an astonished Jace points out that the fourteen-year old extra-terrestrial has spent the past twelve month’s living with his ultra-shady boss, Bear.

Just as entertaining is the “Amelia Cole” co-writer’s subtle suggestion that even after their death-defying brush with the enormous, “mostly herbivorous”, sea cow and successful traversal of the deadly Green Space, things are still not going to turn out all that great for the two siblings. There’s a definite sense of tension in the script when the elder Lopaz both provides the formidable New Ebb security satellites with his ‘stolen’ planetary shield codes, and then later gives his Crystalline employers a noticeably nervous response when asked as to whether the pair “have such customs” as honouring their dead “on our sister planet of Old Ebb”…

Rounding off this comic’s excellent entertainment are Nikos Koutsis’ layouts, which really help imbue much of this book’s shenanigans with plenty of energetic bounce, and a solid sense of fun to boot. Jace’s brush with a ‘water hose’ shooting highly flammable fuel at a cute-looking horde of mini-manatees is particularly well-pencilled, as is Tawnk’s transformation from a ‘chip-on-the-shoulder’ Goth to a deeply-caring, blue-faced half brother.
Written by: D.J. Kirkbride, and Drawn & Colored by: Nikos Koutsis

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Warlord Of Mars Attacks #1 - Dynamite Entertainment

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS No. 1, June 2019
It's hard to imagine that many readers of this twenty-two page periodical disagreed with Jeff Parker’s pre-publication proclamation that “John Carter meeting the Mars Attacks! Martians may sound insane…” For whilst this convoluted crossover by “Dynamite Entertainment” supposedly “works” in the mind of the Burlington-born writer, his script for Issue One of “Warlord Of Mars Attacks” makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as it opens up with the green-skinned ‘Moonheads’ successfully breaching the outer defence barrier of Helium, subsequently depicts the self-destruction of the Red Martian City-state of the Fourth Planet, and then disconcertingly concludes with modern-day Doctor Edgar Norman suddenly sticking a gun to the back of Ramon’s head during an all-out extra-terrestrial invasion of California, so as to ensure the Jet Propulsion Laboratory visitor drives his car to Arizona rather than his mother’s underground bomb shelter.

Admittedly, all of the action set upon Barsoom is definitely both fast-paced and pulse-pounding, especially when Dean Kotz enthusiastically pencils the American Civil War veteran leaping aboard a Martian saucer, skewering its occupants with a single sword thrust and then blasting the rest of his adopted home’s invaders with the flying object’s laser guns. But even this sense-shattering sequence debatably disappoints due to being bogged down with some truly dire dialogue as the hideously cruel aliens stiltedly shout “It’s the mighty destroyer of our kind — The Warlord John Carter!” upon first seeing the dashing titular character, and Edgar Rice Burrough’s lead protagonist supposedly sums up his heartfelt affections for his soon-to-be-dead wife, the Princess Dejah Thoris, with the farewell “You are the strongest woman in all creation…”

Just as clumsily penned is Parker’s narrative portraying the Insight Lander’s safe arrival upon the surface of northern Mars from its Pasadena-based control area. Transmitted live across the television network, the scientists quickly discover that a local contest winner has easily befuddled the operation’s so-called security by simply swiping his roomie’s visitor pass and that their unmanned mission has been detected by the “power-hungry little green men.” This bizarre sequence of dialogue-heavy events arguably makes little sense and badly jars with all the aforementioned action, until it inexplicably culminates with hundreds of the Martian’s death-dealing saucers descending upon the Earth in order to blow up as many planes, buildings, cars and people as the diminutive space invaders can target; “It’s just an incredible co-incidence of timing, Dave.”
The regular cover art of "WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS" No. 1 by Dave Johnson

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Savage Sword Of Conan #12 - Marvel Comics

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN No. 12, February 2020
As final instalments go for a once-proud “cult-classic” publication, Frank Tieri’s script to Issue Twelve of “Savage Sword Of Conan” probably proved an entertaining read for the comic’s slowly dwindling 18,745 strong readership. Indeed, the Brooklyn-born writer’s tale of the Cimmerian crossing “near the Kothian Hills” in pursuit of a “mysterious demonic sect” is proficiently packed with plenty of pulse-pounding action, and even the early promise of the Barbarian potentially crossing swords with either the worshippers of Set, or even the sinister Serpent Men who so plagued Kull the Conqueror in pre-cataclysmic Atlantis.

Disappointingly however, such a mouth-watering confrontation is soon dispelled when it is revealed that the sword and sorcery hero is just battling a band of fanatical priests, and that “the little girl” Conan had earlier sworn to protect was actually the demon Amoth, who is intent on smiting its followers' enemies in Argos. This “surprise twist” is regrettably  ‘telegraphed’ just as soon as the child first appears within the coastal nation’s marketplace wearing her somewhat ornate-looking neck-chain, so despite all of the optimistic pre-publication publicity by “Marvel Worldwide” to the contrary, there is little within this twenty-page periodical’s covers which will actually daze and dumbfound the reader.

Mercifully though, just because it soon becomes clear that the titular “cretin” has been duped into cutting off the hands of the sole magician who could have permanently bound their unholy foe in its mortal form, doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of rumbustious violence to enjoy within the American author’s storyline. For whilst the Cimmerian’s showdown with Tama’s horrifically powerful alter-ego inevitably occurs close to the demon’s birthplace within the magma flame of Mount Rokk, the sheer ferocity of that fight, following on so quickly from the Barbarian’s vicious slaughter of Saleria’s religious order from Shem, arguably more than makes up for any lack of astonishment as to the adolescent’s true calling.

Adding to this plot’s vibrant dynamism and persistent air of impending doom are Andrea Di Vito’s layouts, which are simply spectacular, especially when it comes to Conan’s battle with the incredibly strong, almost serpentine-shaped Amoth. The adventurer’s desperate effort to reattach the fearsome fiend’s transformation-thwarting collar is nail-bitingly pencilled, and doubtless many a bibliophile winced at the impact of the Barbarian head-butting the red-eyed brute into submission; “Fortunately, my hard Cimmerian head can likely aid in the process…”
Writer: Frank Tieri, Penciler: Andrea Di Vito, and Inker: Scott Hanna

Monday, 18 May 2020

Judge Dredd: False Witness #1 - IDW Publishing

JUDGE DREDD: FALSE WITNESS No. 1, March 2020
Despite apparently wanting “to capture the essence of how he was portrayed in the early years of the 2000 AD comics”, Brandon Easton’s narrative for Issue One of “Judge Dredd: False Witness” arguably won’t please many of the Mega City One lawman’s oldest fans. For whilst Old Stony Face certainly plays a somewhat prominent part in this twenty-page periodical, the book’s spotlight is very much more focused upon the misadventures of Mathias Lincoln and his uncovering of a “horrific conspiracy stretching from the Cursed Earth to the city’s seats of power.”

Indeed, considering that for large swathes of this story, the “Glyph Award-winning writer of comics and television” does little else but present the background, thoughts, feelings and aspirations of his new character, a Justice Academy drop-out turned courier, it is somewhat surprising that Joseph Dredd obtains as much ‘screen time’ as the senior judge actually does. Such a disagreeable relegation to the side-lines really is this publication’s biggest frustration, especially when at one point it appears that the legendary lawman is going to have to track down his perp through “roughly fourteenth thousand kilometres interconnected tunnel lines”, battling all sorts of tentacled horrors on his travels.

Sadly however, such a promising ‘manhunt’ is quickly snuffed short by the Baltimore-born writer, who instead depicts Dredd uncharacteristically giving up the chase “a while later” and simply has him return to the sewer system’s street entrance outside Scalia Block empty-handed. Of course, for Lincoln to reach his extremely rich client and discover he’s carrying a container of Sulfuric Dioxide, the carrier clearly has to evade capture. Yet the manner in which the young man avoids both arrest and his spending time in the iso-cubes, seems as contrived as the punk’s first encounter with the veteran of the Apocalypse War, who Mathias far too easily defeats courtesy of a “low-grade flash-bang.”

Luckily, what this comic lacks in proficient penmanship it does contain in prodigious pencilling, with Kei Zama’s dynamic, action-packed panels predominantly proving a real delight for the eyes. Indeed, it’s a real pity that the Japanese “metalhead” isn’t given more opportunity to draw both Dredd and a pair of seriously formidable-looking Mechanismo robots, as the lawman has debatably never looked better; “You are all participating in an illegal demonstration. Disperse immediately! The next volley from the droids won’t be a warning shot.”
Writer: Brandon Easton, Art: Kei Zama, and Colors: Eva De La Cruz

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Amazing Spider-Man [2018] #17 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 17, May 2019
Selling 78,464 copies in March 2019, it was probably clear to many of this book’s readers just why editor Nick Lowe hired Nick Spencer “to write Amazing Spider-Man” if this comic’s premise was one of the first stories Dan Slott’s replacement pitched having been given the job. For whilst the American author’s initial proposal “grew so much that we couldn’t contain it solely” within just the one ongoing series and therefore needed to add “four extra issues to devote to three of Spider-Man’s biggest villains or frenemies”, this extra-sized thirty-page periodical’s narrative still contains a spellbindingly emotional plot which depicts many of the vulnerabilities that have made Peter Parker’s alter-ego “one of the most popular and iconic comic book characters of all time.”

To begin with the titular character is once again spurred on by his hypersensitive feelings of guilt, having previously failed to prevent Taskmaster and Black Ant from abducting young Billy Connors “right in the middle of Times Square.” Admittedly, Web-head wasn’t physically present to prevent the reptilian boy’s actual kidnapping, but in a similar leap of “Bacon’s Law” logic which saw the titular character previously feel responsible for his Uncle Ben’s tragic death, the costumed crimefighter tears himself up internally having had the two mercenaries “dead to rights the other day.”

Equally as absorbing is the American author’s use of Parker being “sick out of my mind” with a burning fever so as to rationalise just why someone with the “proportional strength of a spider" is eventually bested by Kraven the Hunter’s son. Ordinarily, this book’s audience would probably expect the super-strong Wall-crawler to defeat the clone utilising only a modicum of his special abilities. However, additionally affected by an hallucinogenic chemical gas alongside his “puking – my – guts – out” illness, Spider-Man is portrayed as being the slight underdog, adding plenty of pulse-pounding tension to his bout of pugilism which otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

Rounding off this splendidly over-sized, thirty-page publication is Humberto Ramos’ marvellous pencilling which adds plenty of gravitas to some of this comic’s more outlandish elements, such as Central Park somehow being filled with many of Marvel Universe’s most infamous villains during the dead of night. In addition, the Mexican artist’s depiction of Spidey eventually falling beneath the fists of Kravinoff’s younger self, beautifully inked by Victor Olazaba, is easily worth the cover price of this comic book alone.
Writer: Nick Spencer, Penciler: Humbertos Ramos, and Inker: Victor Olazaba

Friday, 15 May 2020

Batman/Superman [2019] #8 - DC Comics

BATMAN/SUPERMAN No. 8, May 2020
Neatly bookended with a surprisingly touching look at Dru-Zod’s childhood and his father’s desire to ensure the Kryptonian understands just why “Kandor is an important part of the House of Zod’s past”, Joshua Williamson’s action-packed adventure inside Issue Eight of “Batman/Superman” probably had its 38,236 readers wondering just how Superman’s arch-enemy was ever going to be stopped by this comic’s titular characters, considering he had already successfully resurrected the miniaturised metropolis’ long-dead inhabitants using one of Ra's al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits. Indeed, backed by an entire city’s super-powered population presumably grateful to the “distinguished soldier” for bringing them back to life, there arguably doesn’t look like there is much either Clark Kent’s alter-ego or Batman can now do against the insane intergalactic general except flee the Lost Temple of Quetzalcoatl, taking an enraged founder of the League of Assassins with them; “Kandor lives! No longer will your legacy be captivity and death!”

Fortunately however, the California-born writer’s narrative is far from so straightforward, and instead of depicting Zod’s moment of triumph, rather provides a sense-shattering action sequence involving the numerous, fly-sized Kryptonians frenziedly attacking all four of the Lazarus Chamber’s occupants, including their aghast saviour. True, such a response from those freshly reanimated by the restorative chemical pool arguably wouldn’t come as much of surprise to those bibliophiles familiar with the immortality of the Demon's Head. But the ensuing chaos as hundreds of tiny ‘supermen’ project their fiery eye-beams and freezing breath at this comic’s flabberghasted protagonists makes for a truly enthralling experience, especially when a number of the shrunken sadists painfully enter Ra's al Ghul’s ear…

To make matters even more complicated though, rather than regret his actions, the American author has Zod attempt to desperately defend his homicidal brethren against the centuries-old Egyptian and his plan to kill all his crazed people courtesy of “an ultraviolet-light grenade that replicates the effects of a Red Sun” and a specially synthesised Kryptonite blade. Dynamically-drawn by artist Nick Derington, this battle between two of “DC Comics” greatest super-villains is utterly riveting, even though it soon becomes blatantly obvious just how badly out-matched Talia al Ghul’s father actually is when confronted by an increasingly irate General Zod.
Writer: Joshua Williamson, Artist: Nick Derington, and Colorist: Dave McCaig

Thursday, 14 May 2020

The Amazing Spider-Man [2018] #16.HU - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 16.HU, May 2019
Impressively relegating the titular character to a series of emotionally-charged flashback sequences, Nick Spencer’s storyline for this first of four “Hunted” related bonus issues instead gave his 52,961 readers in March 2019 a fascinating insight into the turbulent world of the Black Cat, as Felicia Hardy tries to single-handedly right so many of the wrongs she committed whilst “becoming the Queenpin of Crime” and “running the New York underworld with Hammerhead as my right hand.” Such a marketing ploy, which resulted in “Marvel Worldworld” publishing no less than three different editions of “The Amazing Spider-Man” in a single month, could easily have oversaturated an audience already awash with other spider-related heroes in their Pull Lists. Yet such is the enthralling nature of the American author’s twenty-page plot that this particular comic is arguably crucial viewing for either a fan of the feline burglar or anyone intrigued as to just how Kraven The Hunter managed to ‘acquire’ his menagerie of “criminals who dare claim affinity with the beasts of the wild.”

For starters, Spencer provides plenty of evidence to show just how formidable a fighter the Black Cat can be when “I have a lot of unchecked aggression I need to get out of my system right now.” Enraged by her returning memories of Peter Parker and the break-up of their intimate relationship, Hardy is clearly as savage a street-level combatant as she is viciously clawed. Indeed, she wades through Hammerhead’s minions like they were playing pieces in a board game and even manages to momentarily gain the upper hand when faced with the combined might of Taskmaster and the Black Ant, courtesy of a well-thrown flash grenade.

However, this tome isn’t simply about Iban Coello pencilling plenty of pulse-pounding bouts of pugilism, but also shows how kind-hearted Felicia is determined to become despite all her deep, dark misgivings. Initially fooling herself into believing that she’ll leave the “poor little guy” Billy Connors trapped sobbing within a small cage so that another “do-gooder in tights” can rescue him, her subsequent decision to save the boy at the cost of her own well-being is dramatically-penned, and definitely gets the heart-racing when the entire scenario is revealed to have been a trap orchestrated by the Black Cat's former lieutenant in the Maggia; “Hey, Boss. I told ‘em I’d only help if I got to watch.”
Writer: Nick Spencer, Artist: Iban Coello, and Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Errand Boys #4 - Image Comics

ERRAND BOYS No. 4, January 2019
Featuring far less action-packed exploits than this mini-series’ preceding instalments, at least once Jace Tiberius Lopaz voluntarily surrenders himself to the intergalactic police that is, D.J. Kirkbride’s script for Issue Four of “Errand Boys” might have caused a few members of its 1,518 strong audience a moment of consternation as to just where his twenty-eight page plot was heading. Fortunately however, any such anxieties should soon have been forgotten once the court sentences the thirty-year old delivery man “to a one for ten incarcersleep” for ruining Moh Fud’s family heirloom and this comic focuses upon the early life the “hard-worn scoundrel” dreams he always wanted to have.

Indeed, the writer of “The Bigger Bang” manages to weave a truly enthralling spell with this publication, fleshing out many of Lopaz’s biggest regrets by penning the events as having a hugely positive result upon Jace’s existence, as opposed to the detrimental damage they caused him in the real world. As a result, the reader experiences the anguish the “lifelong solo act” experienced when his mother fell dangerously ill in hospital, but then blissful relief when he believes the expensive procedure needed to save her life is going to be paid for by his estranged father.

This intervention by the dad Jace clearly wishes he had had clearly then sets him up for “a whole different life”, with the two titular characters in particular enjoying a close, brotherly bond despite the seemingly inseparable duo being of dissimilar ages and having very different mothers. Lopaz’s relationship with his pop is also fascinatingly pleasant, due in large to the young human attending Upper Ebb University and achieving an educational qualification, courtesy of his moustached parent helping the graduate finance his scholarship.

Of course, this wonderful world instantly comes crashing down around Jace’s head once his incarcersleep ends, and the convicted felon realises he’s simply suffering from “some residual brain activity.” Prodigiously pencilled by Nikos Koutsis, who manages to sketch some delightful “Star Wars” Easter Eggs into the odd panel, this scene is passionately-parcelled full of raw, emotional heartache as Lopaz realises everything he remembers was a falsehood, and begs for his slightly inconsiderate custodians to keep him imprisoned; “I was… My life -- That life… Don’t wanna leave!”
Written by: D.J. Kirkbride, and Drawn & Colored by: Nikos Koutsis

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Ghostbusters: Year One #3 - IDW Publishing

GHOSTBUSTERS: YEAR ONE No. 3, February 2020
Predominantly focusing upon independent author Rebecca Morales’ determined effort to interview the “elusive subject” known as Peter Venkman, Eric Burnham’s narrative for Issue Three of “Ghostbusters: Year One” will probably strike the vast majority of its readers as a comic book of two decidedly distinctive halves. On the one hand, this twenty-page periodical’s opening contains a carousel of some of the 1984 film’s favourite supporting characters, such as Walter Peck, Louis Tully and Janine Melnitz, all providing their own pen pictures concerning the “Mouth of the Ghostbusters.” Whilst on the other, it later provides a fascinating peek at what really went on when “they go to The Rose” to battle a spooky soul, and then stay “on to dance the night away with some of the lovely ladies who witnessed the disturbance.”

Regrettably, this does mean that the early part of this publication is rather conversationally cumbersome and word heavy. Nice as it is to see the thoughts and feelings of those ‘close’ to the doctor of parapsychology, as well as watch the “quick-thinking man” repeatedly elude the questions of the female novelist, there is debatably only so much dialogue-driven banter a bibliophile can take until they grow as frustrated as Morales becomes with Venkman’s incredibly annoying evasiveness; “You’re not bringing this up because you don’t want to talk about your academic career are you?”

Happily however, once the Minnesotan writer turns his attention to the Boys in Gray slugging “it out with a pretty pesky poltergeist” at “the fashionable dance club, The Rose”, this comic’s entire pace and feel changes for the better. Laugh out loud moments, such as Ray Stantz being forced to dance the conga in mid-air by a spectral spirit, and Egon Spengler’s own boogie woogie moves really help make the entire sequence memorable, to the point where you can almost hear the late Casey Kasem’s narration from the motion picture in the background.

Also helping to make this comic capture both the eye and imagination are the lavish layouts by artist Dan Schoening and colorist Luis Delgado. It is evident from all the sumptuously detailed panels set within the multiple strobe-lit auditorium of the discotheque just why “Dapper Dan” apparently “spends fourteen hours on average on each page”, and equally as easy to sympathise with the animator when he explained in January 2020 that upon seeing he had to draw an entire club of people dancing that his hand was hurting “before I even start[ed] doing it.”
Written by: Erik Burnham, Art by: Dan Schoening, and Colors by: Luis Antonio Delgado

Monday, 11 May 2020

Marvel Two-In-One #2 - Marvel Comics

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE No. 2, March 1974
Considering that many readers of Steve Gerber’s narrative for Issue Two of “Marvel Two-In-One” most likely bought the comic based upon its cover illustration’s very specific claim to feature a story with “Namor and Ben Grimm -- side by side in battle for a man’s life”, this nineteen-page periodical’s actual plot probably came as something of a disappointment to its audience in March 1974. For whilst The Thing and the Sub-Mariner do eventually “work in tandem for the nonce - - [to] defeat what seems to be a mutual foe”, the pair are portrayed as predominantly going about their separate day-to-day business until Namorita’s desire to protect the child-like minded Wundarr brings them together towards the very end of the book.

In fact, the Missouri-born writer seems infinitely more interested in penning some additional background for his co-creation from Beta Rigel, than he does pitting this publication’s lead characters against the extra-terrestrial robot assassin known as a Mortoid. And rather disconcertingly, the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Famer seems to have been scratching around for inspiration even for that, at least until he appears to have sought inspiration from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s origin story for Superman; “Hektu was our world’s greatest astronomer until that fateful day he went mad, insisting that our planet Dakkam was doomed - - That our sun would go nova, reducing our sphere to a cinder… He built a rocketship to take himself and his family away…”

Mercifully however, none of these quibbles stop “Manhunters From The Stars” from being a darn good yarn, with Namor in particular providing plenty of amusement on account of his infuriating pomposity. Believing panic “is but proof of his guilt” and that none may harm any person “under the protection of Namor and Atlantis” no matter where within New York City they may be, the human hybrid lurches from one misunderstanding to the next, perhaps inevitably ending up trading blows with the Fantastic Four’s strongest member in Times Square.

Providing plenty of prodigiously pencilled panels, not to mention an incredible amount of Namorita’s bare flesh, is Gil Kane, whose instantly recognisable style provides Ben Grimm with some phenomenally powerful punches as he batters away against the likes of Wundarr and the Sub-Mariner. Indeed, in some ways it is a pity that Gerber didn’t allow for this comic’s two central attractions to slug it out against one another for a while longer, rather than cut their violent hostilities short by depicting the pair siding together against a common alien foe.
Writer: Steve Gerber, Penciller: Gil Kane, and Inker: Joe Sinnott

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Savage Sword Of Conan #11 - Marvel Comics

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN No. 11, January 2020
It was probably abundantly clear even to this series’ loyal 19,785 readers in November 2019, just why “Savage Sword Of Conan” was on the cusp of being cancelled, if Roy Thomas’ final instalment to his “Dark Cavern, Dark Crystal” storyline was truly the best tale “Marvel Worldwide” could provide for the “cult classic” publication. True, the former editor-in-chief certainly packs his twenty-page narrative with plenty of pulse-pounding action, courtesy of the Cimmerian discovering that the legendary treasure which his employer seeks is guarded by a horde of giant, flesh-eating bats. But so arguably ludicrous are the circumstances leading up to the Barbarian’s untenable situation deep within the bowels of the Himelian Mountains, that it is hard to take anything away from this comic’s plot, except perhaps some relief when its finally over.

Foremost of this book’s faults, besides some startlingly lack-lustre pencilling at times by Alan Davis, is debatably the duplicity all this yarn’s cast show once they have reached their prize and gazed in terror at the Keepers of the Dark Crystal. The character of Zubair, with his smooth-talking tongue and egotistical belief in his fighting skills was clearly always earmarked to commit some treacherous act. Yet the hired swordsman’s sudden transformation from a helpless rope-bound prisoner into a formidably-powered sorcerer seems a little far-fetched, especially when the wizard verbalises the terrific lengths he has gone to in order to fool his companions and reach his goal, despite him always having the ability to simply ward off the crystal’s custodians with a magic shield.

Lady Serra’s betrayal is however, even more disconcerting, after it’s unexpectedly revealed that the noblewoman contrivingly has “a tiny shard” of the luminescent sphere residing “in that ring you wear.” Setting aside any thoughts of originality concerning purple-coloured dark crystals, a long-lost shard, and the need for the giant gem to “be whole before it can fully function”, Thomas’ disclosure that the woman poisoned her own brother’s ale in order to procure Lord Fallo’s map, whilst at the same time having her stab the “ignorant barbarian” in the ribs for costing her the magical power she craves, seems a little ill-advised to put it mildly, especially when the two are alone atop a snow-covered mountain facing a monstrous guardian who just happens to be within reach to drag the peeress back down into its bottomless grotto; “I can’t save you from the bat-thing that was determined to reclaim the missing piece of their dark crystal!”
Writer: Roy Thomas, Penciler: Alan Davis, and Inker: Cam Smith