16 Jun 2019

Mini Reviews 16/06/2019

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the not so good, and those that lie somewhere in between.

SONATA #1
Writer: David Hine & Brian Haberlin
Art: Brian Haberlin & Geirrod Van Dyke
Image $3.99

Jo S: Gorgeous world-building and lush artwork abound in this new outset from Image, which begins with what feels like an epic story of pioneering colonists on a strange planet, vying for resources with rivals from other world. Haberlin has totally gone to town in creating thermasaurs (a flying dinosaur you can ride), giant airships and huge sleeping monsters, with a level of scale and detail which must have taken forever to produce. Hine hasn't been sitting back and letting the art do the work, mind: his characterisation is superb, initially setting our hero Sonata and her people as sympathetic and optimistic, with their competitors as selfish and grasping, but then breaking down those absolutes to show a more subtle range of motivation. With a terrifying cliffhanger and a number of intriguing elements hinted at but yet to be explored, I'll be very much looking forward to issue #2. 8/10

11 Jun 2019

On The Pull 12/06/2019

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week along with a full list of titles that will be available from Paradox Comics.

Matt C: From Daredevil to Scarlet, the Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev team has always been pretty stellar so I'm generally inclined to look at anything they do together, but a major DC event series? The taster in the DC's Year Of The Villain one-shot was intriguing, and even though my expectation from the two creators together is something more street-level, they've produced the goods enough times in the past for me to give Event Leviathan #1 a punt.

Over at Marvel I've got my sights on Silver Surfer: Black #1 - I've long had an affection for the despondent Sentential of the Spaceways and as Donny Cates seems to have been marking his territory in the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe, he seems to be the right man for the job, plus Tradd Moore's pop art stylings are perfectly suited to this character and his environment.

Image have an enticing first issue in the shape of Sonata #1. A fantasy-themed book (of which there are many these days - thank you, Game Of Thrones!), Sonata has in its favour the talents of writer David Hine (who's quite possibly very underrated) and some very attractive artwork. Image also have the finale of Prodigy from Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque, a miniseries that's made such an impact that I've now realised I forgot to pick up the preceding issue! Oops.

9 Jun 2019

Mini Reviews 09/06/2019

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the not so good, and those that lie somewhere in between.

THUMBS #1
Writer: Sean Lewis
Art: Hayden Sherman
Image $4.99

Jo S: At a high risk of sounding like a broken record, it was the reuniting of the creative team who produced The Few which brought me to this. The Few was one of the first series that pushed my understanding of modern comics into areas previously unimagined and my hopes for this new series were dangerously high, courting deep disappointment should it not pass muster. The risk was worth taking though: Lewis' dystopian future in both these books has a unique character, enough to give something different in this otherwise well-worked genre, and Sherman's artwork, outrageously underused in another series recently, is once again given space, and distance, and a responsibility in adding to the storytelling that allows for his simplicity and subtlety to really shine. 'Shine' may be the wrong word here: Lewis has created a story of children of the future, nannied by a holographic Mom in the absence of their perennially working parents and recruited to a mysterious scholarship programme due to their skills in video war games, and Sherman's palette for this is almost unremittingly grey, with a few punctuations of shocking pink, sometimes in the lettering, sometimes a bangle or a small detail like a trailer park gas tank, or the looming, rather amorphous Mom figure. The story doesn't initially tread particularly new ground but then I do remember it taking until issue #3 for The Few to take my breath away, and the big splash pages, where writer and artist conspire together to emphasise the story twists with striking visuals, are alone enough to bring me back for more. 7/10

6 Jun 2019

Screen Time: X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jessica Chastain
Directors: Simon Kinberg
Runtime: 113 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 5th June 2019

Matt C: The last entry in 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise (with the long-postponed The New Mutants increasingly unlikely to ever see the inside of a cinema auditorium), X-Men: Dark Phoenix tackles the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga from the pages of Uncanny X-Men #129 to #138, a collaboration between Chris Claremont and John Byrne that is widely regarded as one of the best comic book tales of all time. This was notoriously brought to the screen in 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, which squandered the epic nature of the story by positioning it as more of subplot. Dark Phoenix brings Jean Grey's transformation front and centre but fans of the original source material are likely to be disappointed again as it forges along its own, not-entirely-convincing path.

4 Jun 2019

On The Pull 05/06/2109

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week along with a full list of titles that will be available from Paradox Comics.

Jo S: A couple of essentials first - if I was forced by economic or other circumstance to pare my list down to just the absolutely necessary, this week I would be selling the furniture to ensure that I could hang on to Batman, Criminal and Meet The Skrulls; my skeleton crew being nothing if not publisher-egalitarian. For the Bat, the flurries of excitement on social media this week regarding an imminent change of personnel serve only to make me more sure that this run is a keeper. Criminal has to be one of the best value books out there right now: exemplary writing and delicious artwork, bringing to life (and death, and all stages of mortality between) these connected tales of complex characters - truly one of those 'I never imagined comics could be like this' titles.

My rule about only starting one new series a week has been broken so many times it barely even qualifies as a guideline these days: I have three titles with #1 attached lined up for this week - in my defence, one is a one-shot! Incredible Hulk: Last Call reunites Peter David and Dale Keown, raising ripples of excitement among the PCG regulars, and the preamble suggests that this will see Bruce at his lowest ebb, before a miracle arrives to raise him up.

3 Jun 2019

Why I Love... THE X-MEN

Every true comics fan has their favourites: something that started us on our comics path, or changed our attitude to the medium, or something packed with nostalgia for a different phase of our lives. Here we explore why a particular favourite resonates with one of our number...

Mike S: So back in the dim and distant past when I was but a fledgling comic book collector, I lived in Germany which was not ideal for my love of comics, being largely limited to Avengers (George Perez’s original classic run) and the Legion Of Superheroes when I could get them. Comics were only stocked in the American PX (rarely) or on the van that used to visit to sell UK papers etc. One week I found myself Legion-less and took a chance on an odd looking comic with a cover that looked like a sideshow carnival’s freak show: Uncanny X-Men #111. That’s where it all began for me – my ongoing love, often bordering on obsession, for the X-Men and all they embodied. I consumed them ravenously and, while the Phoenix Saga was undoubtedly an instant classic, it was the run immediately preceding it which has stayed firm in my mind as my all-time favourite.

Claremont and Byrne are still my favourite creative team, perfectly capturing and developing the core cast and, in this particular run (#111-#131), introducing characters and concepts that have clearly stood the test of time. From old characters Mesmero, Sauron and the more recent Arcade, to the newly minted White Queen, Shadow King and, of course, Alpha Flight, Kitty Pryde and Dazzler: this was a golden age for me. (Ok, so maybe not so much Moses Magnum but that story at least introduced Mariko and in doing so made Wolverine far more interesting than he had ever been). And the grandiosity of it all: who could forget Magneto vs the X-Men under the surface of Antarctica and the cruel fate he had in store for the team at the hands of the robotic Nanny? Thank God for Storm and her hitherto unknown history as a master thief! But while I loved every issue of this run it was issues #125-#128 that truly encapsulate everything I hold dear about this era.
 

2 Jun 2019

Mini Reviews 02/06/2019

We may not have time to review every book on our pull-lists but we do aim to provide a snapshot of what's been released over the past week, encompassing the good, the not so good, and those that lie somewhere in between.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – X-TINCTION #1
Writer: Ed Piskor
Art:  Ed Piskor
Marvel $5.99

Mike S: Grand Design - X-Tinction is the most streamlined exploration of the mid-80s X-books, in all their convoluted glory, and this in itself is a huge achievement. As such, as an X-fan of long standing, I approached this title with a somewhat cynical eye, wary of how it might tarnish my memories - I needn’t have worried! Piskor has a distinctive, pop-art style that I find refreshing as he retells the 'Mutant Massacre', 'Fall Of The Mutants' and 'Inferno' story lines. Artistically, he perfectly evokes the feel of an '80s book, complete with outlandish outfits and stylistic choices. While the title takes minor liberties in the timeline and some aspects of continuity, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment derived from this nostalgic trip down Mutant Memory Lane. Sensibly, Piskor opts to retell this era through two revisited strands: baby Cable and the Madelyne Prior mystery, drawing in other events and characters along the way to pad things out, creating a real sense of how cluttered the X-universe had become with countless spin-off teams and multiple cross-overs flooding the market but never allowing them to overwhelm his central narrative. We have the Siege Perilous, Roma, the Outback years (one of my favourite eras, even with the ridiculous Orphan Maker and Nanny), and the Goblin Queen. While the pace is fast and covers a lot of ground, this is not at the expense of some nice character work which acknowledges the relationships which made the title so popular among its readership. With only one more issue to go, I am interested to see where we end up. I have thoroughly enjoyed this re-examination of the X-Men’s history and, with Hickman’s proposed revamp of the team, find it fitting in the timing of its scheduling. If you’re not reading it, and want a potted guide to all things X, this is a great place to start! 8/10

31 May 2019

From The Vaults: WHAT IF? #27

While we spend a great deal of time engrossed in the current crop of comic books, let us not forget those fantastic tales from the past that still sit in amongst our collections and are always worth revisiting...

WHAT IF ? #27
Writer: Mary Jo Duffy
Art: Jerry Bingham, John Stuart & Carl Garford
Marvel

Matt C: 'What If Phoenix Had Not Died?'

A somewhat ironic statement in hindsight considering the number of times Jean Grey has since experienced resurrection, but back in 1981, when this comic was published, the death of a major character was still raw and seemingly permanent, so cosmic baldy The Watcher providing a peek into how things could have turned out was one of the more hefty subjects tackled by this series.

This was actually my initial introduction to the Dark Phoenix Saga. I picked it up as a UK black and white reprint, as a source of bona fide American comic books had yet to reveal itself to me back in the early 1980s. Even though I had limited access to X-Men comics, their abiding coolness had made its impact on an impressionable young mind, and any opportunity to delve into their world was embraced with gusto. Here I got to see, from a slightly different angle, a majorly traumatic part of their history and, unaware as I was of Phoenix at the time (Jean Grey was still Marvel Girl to me at that stage), this issue ably underscored the sheer universe-threatening power the cosmic entity now bonded with Grey possessed.

28 May 2019

On The Pull 29/05/2019

New comics are due to hit the shelves on Wednesday so here’s a look ahead at some of the books we’ll be picking up this week along with a full list of titles that will be available from Paradox Comics.

Matt C: After having just one comic on my pull-list last week, this Wednesday is more or less business as usual ('back with a vengeance' would have been a bit of a stretch).

DC probably have the two highlights this week. It's time to start remembering what happened in the last nine issues as the belated Doomsday Clock #10 is making its appearance at last. It will be interesting to see what happens when the HBO Watchmen series debuts later this year, as that also appears to be a sequel to the original story, meaning there'll be two possible futures simultaneously available for a section of the Watchmen fanbase to shake their fists at. The other big release for DC is the final issue of Heroes In Crisis. The art and writing have been of an immensely high standard but the concept and its execution have felt off to me the whole way through; the idea of emotional trauma and iconic super-powered beings mixing together is a powerful one, but the emotional truths clearly sought remain elusive.

Over at Marvel, Chip Zdarsky is on a roll with Daredevil and the excellent podcast adaption (yes, really!) Wolverine: The Long Night reaches its conclusion. And for those of us who've been loving Ed Piskor's idiosyncratic coalescing of decades' worth of X-Men continuity will be eager to see the first instalment of his final two-parter, X-Men Grand Design: X-Tinction #1.

27 May 2019

From The Vaults: UNCANNY X-MEN #98

While we spend a great deal of time engrossed in the current crop of comic books, let us not forget those fantastic tales from the past that still sit in amongst our collections and are always worth revisiting...

UNCANNY X-MEN #98
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: Dave Cockrum, Sam Grainger & Janice Cohen
Marvel

Andrew B: At the beginning, she was something of a cliché. In 1963’s launch issue of The X-Men, Jean Grey may have been introduced as the newest student at the Xavier School, but we’d pretty much seen her type before.

“A most attractive young lady,” according to Professor X himself. “A real living doll,” according to Cyclops. And in the high-flying (and permanently leering) Angel’s words, “a redhead. Look at that face… and the rest of her.” More like Objectified Girl than Marvel Girl, perhaps, but there she was. In essence, a token female and potential love interest. A little predictable. A little dull. A little, well, grey.

To be fair, Jean is allowed to hint at her own hidden potential: “You’ll learn more about me, boys, in time!”

The time turned out to be about twelve years.