16 Feb 2020

Mini Reviews 16/02/2020

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.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #1
Writer: John Layman
Art: Karl Mostert & Dee Cunniffe
AfterShock $4.99

Jo S: If you've followed my short career in comics reviewing so far, you may be aware that time travel is one of my little bugbears BUT, in my defence, my only real problem with it is where it is discovered at the eleventh hour and used to solve an otherwise unsolvable plot problem. Here, in John Layman and Karl Mostert's new outset, the time-scrambling shenanigans are in place from the start, with the opening page featuring the titular 'man', in trainers and a backpack, being chased through streets of folks wearing stovepipe hats by what appears to be a Mongol warrior riding an armoured stegosaurus. Which is not a sentence I expect to use twice in my life. To anyone who has read John Wyndham's short story collection The Seeds Of Time, especially, 'Chronoclasm', this story rings familiar: Sean Bennett, cruelly undervalued lab assistant, hops into the time machine created largely based on his own work, whizzes back in time a little way, and returns, having made only the tiniest of adjustments, to a world which is clearly very much more different than he intended. Mostert's art reminds me very strongly of Martín Morazzo's work, crisp and fine-lined, with lots of nice detail in historical costume but, combined with Cunniffe's bright daytime colours, it conspires to feel a bit flat and empty in places. Couple that with a distinct feeling of 'I know where this is going', I'm not totally sure this one hit home for me as fully as it might. I'll give it a second issue though - who knows what a small adjustment in the time stream will bring. 6/10

11 Feb 2020

On The Pull 12/02/2020

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: The Image books delayed from last week's shipment across the Atlantic arrive on Wednesday, so for me that means I get my hands on the latest instalments of Gideon Falls and Manifest Destiny, both proving they have significant staying power many issues into their runs. Correctly on schedule is Ascender #9, the follow up to Descender, where magic has replaced technology, and Dustin Nguyen's watercolours continue to astound.

Marvel have two third chapters for Hawkeye: Freefall and Thor: I feel that the former freewheels rather than freefalls, but I kind of like it for that, and the latter has a brilliantly engaging universal scenario, with the Thunder God acting as the new herald of Galactus.

Not all of the 'Dawn Of X' launches have quite held my interest (I'm down to three series now) but after initially looking like it would be left behind, X-Men is right out in front of the pack again, exactly where it should be.

DARK HORSE:
Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out #3 £3.45
Stranger Things: Into the Fire #2 (of 4) £3.45
Tales from Harrow County - Deaths Choir #3 (of 4) £3.45

10 Feb 2020

Screen Time: BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)

BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor.
Director: Cathy Yan
Runtime: 109 minutes
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 7th February 2020

Jo S: Harley Quinn, powered with nuclear level energy by Margot Robbie, was the standout highlight of the otherwise fairly forgettable Suicide Squad, and now Birds Of Prey really allows that character to rule in the way she truly deserves. Robbie owns the screen: unhinged, eccentric, vicious, tortured but also gleeful, joyous, even tender; she has recreated the cinematic Harley Quinn from scratch. A story about stepping out on your own, this movie is much more about its subtitle than the titular team but that is absolutely not a criticism: Harley has earned her spotlight and here she takes it by force, with even Ewan McGregor's gangster Sionis (alter ego the Black Mask) taking something of a back seat role. That's not to say the supporting cast aren't also fantastic: Chris Messina's trophy-scarred Zsasz is terrifyingly creepy and Jurnie Smollett-Bell plays Black Canary with sensitivity and enormous physicality. Rosie Perez' Montoya is a jaded alcoholic cop (though the movie takes a rise out of itself by pointing out the corniness of this repeatedly) and Winstead and Basco both bring something special as characters who are trying to find their place having left something traumatic behind them.

9 Feb 2020

Mini Reviews 09/02/2020

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.

STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #1
Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco & Neeraj Menn
Marvel $4.99

James R: I will start with one of my semi-regular declarations: I love Star Wars. Virtually all of it (Caravan Of Courage and the infamous Holiday Special are the exceptions) but truth be told - I love anything to do with the tales from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far, away. I say this, as of late it seems the online Star Wars discourse has become incredibly negative and hate-filled, and I for one find it pretty distasteful stuff. The last few years as a Star Wars fan have been a delight for me, and I've loved both the continuation of the Skywalker Saga, and the vast majority of the expanded universe stories in both books and comics. This week, Greg Pak and Raffaele Ienco give us another example of why Disney-era Star Wars shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand. Following on from Charles Soule's superb run on Darth Vader (and keeping with the new Marvel focus), this issue takes us inside Vader's head as he reacts to Luke's refusal of an alliance at the iconic climax to The Empire Strikes Back. The thing that I enjoyed most of all here was that Pak (like Soule before him) is using the comics both to enhance the Prequels and also to create new layers for the iconic characters. The stand-out sequence for me was Vader watching Luke fall through Cloud City, and seeing his figure replaced first by Padme, and then by Shimi, his mother. Pak and Ienco use the language of comics beautifully here, and it immediately sold me on the title. It's not an absolute smash by any means - I felt the action sequence at the end felt a little too 'by the numbers' and even though I like Ienco's work, I don't love it like I did Giuseppe Camuncoli's art in the last iteration of the book. However, it's definitely a strong start, and with Soule's run on the main Star Wars title, this makes for a compelling double-header, and will certainly give me my Star Wars fix until Disney+ (finally!) launches here next month. 7/10

4 Feb 2020

On The Pull 05/02/2020

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.

Andy H: While the pallet containing this week's Image comics missed the flight over, there's still plenty of good reading to be had. First up is X-Men/Fantastic Four #1: not only does this boast a cover by Terry and Rachel Dodson, they supply the interior art as well! The art isn't the only 'draw' though - this miniseries is written by Chip Zdarsky, a writer always worth following. Krakoa is the home to all mutants but there's room for one more - Franklin Richards - though that may not sit well with the family Fantastic.

Fresh from her appearance in Conan: Serpent Crown, Dark Agnes gets her own miniseries. Set in 16th century France, I'm looking forward to seeing how writer Becky Cloonan brings Robert E Howards' swashbuckling leading lady to life. The Hulk leaves Bruce Banner and inhabits Peter Parker in Immortal Hulk: Great Power #1, a one-shot from writer Tom Taylor with Jorge Molina supplying some stunning artwork as Spider-Man goes green (and not in a good way). If you're going to do horror then one artist you should consider is Kelly Jones. Daphne Byrne #2 means I get to have another fix of this master of the genre - eerie stuff!

Finally, there's Savage Avengers #0. I wouldn't normally showcase what is essentially a reprint but this was one of my favourite two-part stories of the '80s. Kulan Gath has transformed Manhattan and all of its inhabitants, none of whom have any memory of their previous lives, including its heroes. Written by Chris Claremont and with art by John Romita Jr, this is a little hidden classic and well worth reading, again or for the first time.

2 Feb 2020

Mini Reviews 02/02/2019

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.

AVENGERS OF THE WASTELANDS #1
Writer: Ed Brisson
Art: Jonas Scharf
Marvel $3.99

Mike S: I was little sceptical approaching this title: I am not a fan of the over-saturation of a market but after enjoying both Old Man Logan and Old Man Hawkeye (but swerving Old Man Quill because – well, it’s Quill!) I was both looking forward to and, perhaps, a little wary. However, Ed Brisson provides a debut issue that introduces our key players well, albeit with some necessary exposition to fully establish the world we’re inhabiting. We have a new Thor, a thoughtful young Hulk, a new Ant-Man and a Doctor Doom to provide the necessary menace, along with a final page that promises even more shocking developments. The art from Jonas Scharf is expressive when focusing on characterisation and suitably epic when we’re immersed in the action scenes. It has a kind of raw grittiness in places, which is apt considering the title’s location. Particularly noteworthy, as a fan of Jane Foster’s tenure as Thor, is the treatment of Dani Cage as the new Thor, especially in the way Brisson seems to be clearly establishing the fundamental division between Dani’s opinions on the Doom situation and that of her Asgardian alter-ego: an interesting divide that might (or might not) foreshadow later development and conflict. An enjoyable read that certainly promises much moving forward. 8/10

28 Jan 2020

On The Pull 29/01/2020

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 the magnetic intensity of the previous issue, with a heist going wrong in dramatic fashion, the latest issue of Criminal deals with the aftermath. The various plot threads that have been weaving in and out of each other will finally come together in an undoubtedly violent conclusion that should underline why this series remains a cut above its contemporaries.

Marvel have the sophomore issues of two books that really impressed with their debuts: Hawkeye: Freefall and Thor. The latter was fairly majestic and showed that Donny Cates has a few tricks up his sleeve for the Thunder God while the former met expectations following some advanced drum beating from us (check out our interview with writer Matt Rosenberg if you haven't already). Jonathan Hickman's X-Men reaches its fifth instalment and here's hoping it doubles down on the terrific fourth issue which provided a potent reminder of why House Of X and Powers Of X were such a welcome shock to the system.

Over at DC is a Black Label book that perhaps isn't getting the attention it deserves. I'm not usually swayed by the sword and sorcery genre but Last God has the chops with a gritty atmosphere and some stupendous artwork. Definitely worth moving beyond preconceptions to check it out.

26 Jan 2020

Mini Reviews 26/01/2020

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.

BIRDS OF PREY GIANT #1
Writers: Various
Art: Various
DC $4.99

Jo S: I've developed something of a soft spot for DC's compendium format books, they seem somehow to have captured the near impossible skill of drawing together a collection of mini-stories in a way that allows each the space to shine in its own right whilst also hanging together nicely on a theme. The six stories here are a neatly tessellated fit: there's variety between big name writers like Gail Simone and Robert Venditti and those perhaps less well-known, such as the Benson sisters, whose story 'Gotham City Limits' is a perfect blend of wholesomeness, heroing, heritage and campfire horror stories, and the artists for each story are clearly carefully chosen - Isaac Goodhart's facial expressions in 'Disguises' are exquisite, for example; Harley's cringing smile as she tries to deal with her old friend's humble-bragging made my toes curl. The upcoming Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) looks set to ensure that the aforementioned two-tone trickster will be absolutely everywhere again, having been one of the few good things about the Suicide Squad movie, but here she (and Poison Ivy too) demonstrates the complex attitude to good and evil that makes her appealing. In Simone's 'Fight or Flight', she talks about how everyone's a little bit grey, not fully in the light or fully in the dark (although her 'Mistah Jay' she accepts is "like, dark dark") and her behaviour throughout is complicated, caught between wanting to do right and her perpetual taste for mayhem. Huntress, Batgirl and Black Canary get to take leading roles in their own stories too - Layman gives a nice twist to Huntress' duel with Deathstroke - and I was especially pleased to see stories from my two favourite writers side by side, with Matt Rosenberg moonlighting on a Black Canary story which must surely draw on his music business experience, and Joëlle Jones helping Harley mastermind a breakout from Arkham - as she says: "Safe is boring. I'd rather have an ADVENTURE!" 7/10

25 Jan 2020

The Shipping Forecast: March 2020

Every month we spend an evening scouring the pages of the latest issue of Previews and pick the titles we are looking forward to the most. This month it's the January issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in March 2020.

SPIDER-MAN NOIR #1
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Art: Juan Ferreyra
Marvel $3.99

Jo S: Obviously, from my point of view, all the best one-liners in 2018's excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie went to His Royal Porkness, Spider-Ham, but he did get a run for his money from the deadpannest of deadpan characters, Spidey Noir. It's great, then, to see a character who takes all the shiny goodness of the Spider-Verse and all the gritty darkness of Crime Noir and crams them together in the kind of crossover which, like peanut butter and marmite, shouldn't work but just… does, getting his own series after a while in the shadows. Margaret Stohl has listed a series of tasty elements we can hope to see in this compact five-parter, including all the classics we would expect from a crime noir series - but as that list includes 'punching Nazis' I probably need say no more...

21 Jan 2020

On The Pull 22/01/2020

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: My list this week is a delicious selection box of tasty morsels, with a little smidgen of each of my preferred comics genres. Kicking off in the horror zone, Hill House Comics' A Basketful Of Heads is really coming along nicely, with the origin of the cursed-enchanted axe starting to unfold and the quiet little town in which it has been hidden turning out to be riddled with secrets. Alongside that little fright-fest I'm going to give Kidz #1 a try; Ablaze comics are making a niche for themselves converting European comics for the US market and the art and premise for this (a handful of boys have survived the zombie apocalypse, and then the eventual zombie famine, but have their world shaken when a couple of girls join their group) appealed to me.

My sci-fi thirst is slaked by issue #3 of Far Sector, a Green Lantern story with some really inventive world building, and Kill Lock #2 - the first instalment of the latter drew my attention initially because, well, robots, but then delivered a feast of beautiful art matched with writing full of heart and intrigue, a surprise from leftfield and a real treat. Up in the Big Two zone, James Tynion's helming of Batman navigates us into Riddler territory with Guillem March and Tomeu Morey supplying the art this time, and while I'm in Gotham, I'm going to do a little homework in preparation for the upcoming movie, by snagging the Birds Of Prey Giant #1 - I don't know much about this team (other than the ubiquitous Harley Quinn) so I'm going to start a little research project on Huntress et al here. Marvel supplies just Marauders #6 for me this time - this series has been excellent so far.