16 Jan 2019

Trading Up: BLACK HAMMER VOLUME 3: AGE OF DOOM

We're big fans of monthly comics at the PCG, but if you missed an issue, or just fancy reading a story in a single sitting, a trade paperback or hardcover is the way to go.

BLACK HAMMER VOLUME 3: AGE OF DOOM
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Dark Horse Comics

James R: It will come as no surprise to long-time readers  how much I love Jeff Lemire's work, and this series in particular, but if you have been holding off on delving in to the world of Spiral City and Rockwood, the latest collection from Dark Horse (assembling issues #1-5 of Age of Doom) should definitely be worth your hard-earned cash. Why? Well...

1. It's so much more than a tribute to comics history. 
One of the most notable things about the world of Black Hammer is that Jeff Lemire has used the history of comics as one of the narrative threads of the book. As in the real world, the heroes of Black Hammer have gone through Golden, Silver and Bronze ages, and have a Legion of Superheroes-esque future ahead of them. In Age Of Doom, Lemire uses the 'dark' comics trend typified by Vertigo in the '80s and '90s. In her quest to find out the truth behind her father's disappearance, Lucy Weber travels to dimensions that will be familiar to readers of Hellblazer and Sandman. What works so well is that Lemire doesn't use the history of comics as a punchline, rather it's a salute, and a deftly-woven use of familiar tropes to move the narrative forward. As Lucy travels through the netherworlds, it's balanced by the heart-breaking stories of love and loss for Gail, Barbalien and Abraham Slam. Black Hammer is a story about outsiders: despite their heroic mantles, many of the main characters simply don't fit in, and their attempts to overcome loss or make peace with themselves grounds the story, making even the most alien of protagonists recognisably human.

15 Jan 2019

On The Pull 16/01/2018

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: Breaking down my list to something manageable  was a challenge but it seems the week I tend to think of as the gloomiest of the year in terms of weather and work will instead be studded with bright lights.

In a normal week, Babyteeth, A Walk Through Hell, Gideon Falls and JoĆ«lle Jones’ spectacular Catwoman would each have taken pride of place in the ‘most anticipated’ spot, but with Days Of Hate reaching its twelfth and final issue, there can be only one choice for that award. Spare in dialogue yet rich in unspoken communication, this terrifyingly credible vision of the near future has been an ongoing lesson in what can be achieved with a tiny cast watched in detailed close-up. Kot's observations on motivation have so far left me uncomfortable at my capacity to empathise with those with even the most monstrous of ideologies.

Reaching the end of its arc is Uncanny X-Men, with issue #10 marking the close of a breakneck run of weekly issues. In the time it would usually take to see at most three issues, this has cantered through its story skillfully - I've enjoyed the ‘team’ approach to writing from Rosenberg, Thompson and Brisson more than I thought I would and have warmed to the different elements of the X-Men, especially the ‘kids’. I can't go on indefinitely with something that appears weekly though - it's just too much of a commitment when there are great new titles appearing all the time - so this will be the rounding off point for me.

13 Jan 2019

Mini Reviews 13/01/2018

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.

CRIMINAL #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Jacob Phillips
Image $3.99

James R: At the halfway point of this issue, I found myself saying to myself; 'this is so, so good': it should come as no surprise, seeing that Brubaker and Phillips have consistently produced some of the best comics of the last twenty years, establishing themselves as the masters of the crime comic, but still, the quality here is outstanding. Following the appetiser that was My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies last year, 2019 marks the return of Criminal as a monthly book as we're plunged back into the dark world of the Lawless family and a desperate situation for Teeg and Ricky Lawless. As always, Brubaker's storytelling is masterful, re-establishing the world of Criminal, and setting up the new plot in 34 (gloriously ad-free) pages. Sean Phillips is, of course, the perfect foil for Brubaker and his son Jacob's colours add both a dreamy feel to some pages and a sense of filtered neon, making the pages feel even more alive. An absolute treat from beginning to end, the year has started off in fine fashion thanks to Criminal. 9/10

8 Jan 2019

On The Pull 09/01/2018

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.

Kenny J: A new movie quite often brings a new comic title and this year’s Captain Marvel is no exception. I am as excited for the latter as I am for its celluloid equivalent. Apart from being a fan of the many masks of Carol Danvers, the fact that Kelly Thompson is writing this new book is enough of a reason for me to pick it up this coming week. She has been consistently great on the new West Coast Avengers book, bringing a mix of humour and action that would definitely fit a Captain Marvel book.

This is the week where I finally do what all of us comic fans should have been doing since issue #50 and that is picking up Batman #62. It's been a while since I’ve read the main Dark Knight book; Tom King's initial stories didn't work for me, but having now read Mister Miracle and Heroes In Crisis it is time to listen to my PCG colleagues.

The adaptation of William Gibson's Alien 3 script has exactly the right mix of politics, science fiction and horror. We are yet to see an adult Xenomorph but there is a different kind of nasty happening in Gibson's original story and that enough for me to come back for the third issue. I was also impressed by Jed Mackay's writing on this past week’s Man Without Fear so I'm braving the weekly schedule on this book and picking up issue #2 as I'm really intrigued to see whose injuries heal - will it be Matt Murdock's or Daredevil's?

6 Jan 2019

Mini Reviews 06/01/2019

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.

MAN WITHOUT FEAR #1
Writer: Jed Mackay
Art: Danilo S. Beyruth & Andres Mossa
Marvel $3.99

Kenny J: Foggy Nelson has always been Matt Murdock's anchor to the real world and with the first issue of Man Without Fear he plays Daredevil's angel once again. With a mixture of humour and home truths, Jed Mackay nails the voice of the humble Franklin Nelson as he takes the nightwatch by Murdock's comatose body, sleeping but not dormant. I didn't read the last volume of Daredevil but this issue provides a perfect initiation into the Daredevil character and his current status as he is deconstructed, stripped of era-defining costumes by his own pain and fear. A nightmarish fight plays out against grotesque personifications in Murdock's mind and is one that Danilo S. Beyruth obviously relished drawing. After all, it is a greatest hits of a book, albeit one with a solid metaphysical conceit, touching on all parts of Murdock's decades-long struggle. It looks as if this won't be the status quo for long which is a shame as an extended look at Daredevil's psyche with a revolving ward door of his supporting players could have been a wonderful plot for a book with this title, however, I was impressed with Mackay's writing, his handling of characters, and the ideas in this initial issue. I'm excited to find out where he'll be taking DD next. 8/10

1 Jan 2019

On The Pull 02/01/2018

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: A new year, a slightly rejigged look for On The Pull. Allow us to give you our personal picks before we reveal a full listing of what will be available in Paradox Comics, Poole (and your Local Comic Store of choice) - although note that UK NCBD will be delayed until Thursday due to the Bank Holiday this week!

Top of my first pile for 2019 will be, of course, Conan The Barbarian #1 from Marvel Comics. The franchise has been with Dark Horse for over a decade, and while the initial blast of Kurt Busiek/Cary Nord greatness was rather exhilarating, the property began to feel a little stale in recent times. Perhaps a return to the House of Ideas - which gave the Cimmerian a new lease of life in a different medium back in the 1970s - will reinvigorate the character once again? Putting Jason Aaron in the writer's seat seems like the smartest move as his work on a number of books - Thor in particular, but stuff like The Goddamned too - make him ideally suited for some swords and sorcery action.

To coincide, Marvel are turning the attention of their True Believers imprint to Conan, and I will always take the opportunity to remind you of the value for money these reprints offer.

Over at Image there's the return of Low from Rick Remender which has been absent for what feels like a long time but was a series that, after a slow start, had been building some real momentum (although if I'm honest I hope it's not one of those books that lingers past its sell-by date). DC have the finale of the latest run of Scarlet (and let's hope it doesn't follow its historical pattern of disappearing from view for ages) and the next chapter of Heroes In Crisis, Tom King's surprising and unique take on the blockbuster event book format.

22 Dec 2018

The Shipping Forecast: February 2019

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 December issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in February 2019.

DAREDEVIL #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Art: Marco Checcetto
Marvel $4.99

Matt C: Details about this series are sketchy, and it's been a while since I've picked up a Daredevil comic, but the cancellation of the Netflix series following a franchise peak with the third season has left a gaping Man-Without-Fear-hole in my story-absorption schedule that needs filling. After scooping our Most Promising Talent award at this year's Paradoscars, our eyes are now firmly on what Chip Zdarsky does next, and his hinting of a 'reality-based' approach certainly bodes well for this series. Marco Checcetto has been impressing over the last couple of years on various Star Wars books, amongst other things, so it will be interesting to see him work in a more grounded environment. Often the most layered, complex of Marvel's more recognisable characters, a new Daredevil book from a top tier creative team deserves your attention.

20 Dec 2018

Screen Time: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin
Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Runtime: 117 minutes
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 12th December 2018 (UK)/14th December 2018 (USA)


Jo S: There has been such a richness of comic book related movies this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was one too many to bother with. “Meh, it’s animated”, “Pffff, it’s for kids” you might say, and maybe find something else to see or watch another Christmas movie on Netflix. I am here to tell you, you MUST see this movie and if you’re a comic book fan too then you are in for the treat of the year. From the start this has a totally new feel - characters are inklined, like a comic book, and surfaces are made up of close-packed dots, not to make it look more realistically textured, but instead to make it look like a kind of classy, hi-tech newsprint. Kirby Krackle abounds, filling the screen with bubbling brightness, and there are continual tricks of focus and perspective, blurring of elements to fool the mind into wondering what’s real and of this dimension and what might be from another place entirely. As the different universes are brought together, what could have been a contrived tangle of different art styles are instead seamlessly woven together, their incongruities becoming greater than the sum of their parts, and as the newest Spider-Man begins to get a feel for his powers, his thoughts appear in old-skool thought bubbles bouncing across the screen.

18 Dec 2018

On The Pull 19/12/2018

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.

Matt C: As seems to be the tradition, the New Comic Book Day before Christmas is a full Santa's sack of goodies (and a worrying dent to the festive bank balance to boot). Top of the pile is a twofer from Brian Michael Bendis and his Jinxworld imprint: Cover and Pearl both see the writer playing to his strengths, and they're accompanied by some breathtaking artwork from David Mack and Michael Gaydos respectively. Also from DC on Wednesday is Batman #61, which we just awarded Best Ongoing Title at the Paradoscars, and by now the reasons why it more than deserved that accolade should be apparent to everybody. If not, well, it's never too late! Our Best New Series - Gideon Falls - makes its final appearance in 2018, and it will doubtless contain overwhelming evidence as to why Andrea Sorrentino won our Best Artist prize. Image Comics (another winner!) also have a nominated title in the form of Days Of Hate, which reaches its penultimate issue and has been one of the most relevant highlights of the year. Marvel has the next instalment of the latest volume of Captain America and the new issue of Kelly Thompson's West Coast Avengers, the latter seemingly coming out every other week but is so utterly delightful that it still doesn't seem often enough. And finally, there's the latest set of True Believers reprints, featuring first appearances of the likes of Blastaar, Klaw, the Kree and the Frightful Four from the pages of Fantastic Four. I'll never stop banging on about how these represent incredible value of money for some of the high points in Marvel's history. My eldest son is getting a proper schooling in the brilliance of Lee, Kirby et al in the Silver Age from this imprint and I hope it continues for a long time!

16 Dec 2018

Screen Time: AQUAMAN

AQUAMAN
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison
Director: James Wan
Runtime: 143 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 12th December 2018 (UK)/ 21st December 2018 (USA)

Matt C: Whilst the Marvel Cinematic Universe is operating like a finely tuned machine - cohesive and coherent - DC's attempt at a shared cinematic universe (dubbed the DCEU) has continued to flounder, lacking any clear direction or ethos. This was evidenced most dramatically with last year's Justice League; it struggled to pass $200 million domestically and was followed a few months later by Black Panther - which on paper shouldn't have been able to hold its own against the combined might of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman et al -  a supremely confident movie that edged over that financial milestone within its opening weekend. Rumours now suggest we won't see Henry Cavill as Superman again and Ben Affleck has possibly already hung up the cape and cowl; Wonder Woman was a high point for the franchise but it's still unclear where the DCEU is headed. Aquaman was already in production when Justice League performed well below expectations, so can the aquatic superhero who's been the butt of many a joke in recent years help get things back on track?