1 May 2016

Mini Reviews 01/05/2016

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 bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

BATMAN #51
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki & FCO Plascencia
DC $3.99

James R: For reasons that I won't bore you with now, last week I was going through my longboxes and I found my issues of Snyder and Capullo's run on Batman. It occurred to me that I hadn't read the initial instalments since their release in - unbelievably - 2011. I decided it was high time to take a look at those early issues and what struck me is how well they stand up. Back when they were first released, I think there was an expectation that the team of Snyder and Capullo would create a great Batman comic, and delivering on those expectations became the norm for the series. Snyder has always had a rich understanding of Batman and Bruce Wayne's world, and with the book shot through with his horror-influenced aesthetic, perfectly captured by Capullo's art, this has been the one New 52 title that's been an unqualified success. Reading this then, their final issue together, it's of course a little bittersweet, but it's a magnificent payoff for those of us who were on board from the start. This final chapter works as a mirror to the first. In the debut issue, the story began with reflections on the Gotham Gazette's 'Gotham Is' feature. Snyder returns to it here, and has Batman cross paths with a character who only appeared for four pages in issue #3, deftly illustrating the influence that Batman has on his city. As it has been for every issue, that art of Greg Capullo has been a perfect fit for Batman and leaving him with great new Batsuit is a nice send-off. It's an issue that can be read on its own but it is also a superb epilogue to a five-year run. Thanks gentlemen - you gave us the Batman we needed, and more than the one we deserved. 9/10

30 Apr 2016

Screen Time: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen
Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Runtime: 147 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 29th April 2016 (UK)/6th May 2016 (US)

Matt C: There are a number of reasons why Captain America: Civil War works so well, and why it provides a new peak for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but perhaps one of the most pertinent is that it feels like a real culmination of everything that has been put in place since Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark uttered the immortal words "I am Iron Man" back in 2008. Marvel has been able to cultivate its audience through twelve movies that exist in a shared universe, offering characters that never remain static but organically grow and develop over the course of time. Because we've invested in the various individuals that make up the Avengers (and beyond), and seen how their dynamics have shifted and matured, we now have enough built-in emotional attachment  to them so that when something causes a schism within the group, picking a side isn't quite as easy or clear-cut as choosing between the hastags #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan on Twitter.

28 Apr 2016

From The Vaults: CAPTAIN AMERICA #25

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...

CAPTAIN AMERICA #25
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Steve Epting & Frank D'Armata
Marvel

James R: Death in comics is a permanent punchline for us fanboys - the very nature of a business where sales always need to be driven up but the status quo needs to be kept means death is never the final chapter, more a temporary condition. When Ed Brubaker killed off Steve Rogers in the middle of his epic run on Captain America, I remember it being less of a shock and more a source of excitement - given how he had utterly rejuvenated the character and the book since taking over stewardship with Steve Epting in *gulp* 2005, it was clear that he had a master plan for the Sentinel of Liberty, and it was great to be along for the ride.

I haven't read this issue since its release in 2007, but after nine years it still packs a punch. What totally surprised me was that the death of Cap is in fact the epilogue to Civil War - I had absolutely forgotten that it was the conflict over the superhero registration act that saw Steve Rogers clasped in irons; my memory was that his arrest was part of the Red Skull (naturally) and Doctor Faustus' insidious plot. As always with Ed Brubaker, he makes writing good comics look easy - the assassination does tie in neatly with the ongoing plot in the title, and Brubaker gives us much more besides. In 32 pages he and Epting cover the build-up to the hit by showing us just who Captain America is, and what he means to those closest to him, before the fantastically claustrophobic and tense assassination outside the courtroom. The plot then shifts to arguably the true protagonist of the Brubaker/Epting run (more on that later), Bucky Barnes, as he attempts to track down the shooter with the help of Sam Wilson. And if all that wasn't enough, there's still time for one final twist, as one of Cap's closest allies is revealed to have had a hand in the dramatic events.

27 Apr 2016

Do You Remember The First Time? CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON #182

In Do You Remember The First Time? we take a nostalgic trip back in time to discuss a seminal purchase that introduced us to a character, title, creator, or even a hobby.

Rob N: I should perhaps come clean and begin by admitting that Captain America #182 wasn't actually my first Captain America comic, but sadly the advance of senility combined with the fact that I didn't buy that title in my early years of comic collecting means that the memory of my actual first issue is lost to posterity.

It could have been anything, to be honest, and probably was.

The thing is, I wasn't actually that keen on Cap to begin with. Yes, he was the mainstay of the Avengers, but he seemed a bit old fashioned even by Marvel standards, what with him lecturing Rick Jones and the 'Teen Brigade' (a worrying concept these days in light of Operation Yewtree) on the importance of getting at least eight hours sleep each night instead of riding around on Chopper bikes pretending to be the Fonz from Happy Days. He was a bit too clean cut and patriotic for the early 1970s when all the world seemed to be growing its hair long and protesting against Vietnam. I perhaps missed the point of Cap to begin with – that he was indeed a Stranger in a Strange Land, relegated to an era he didn't fully understand, and trying desperately to come to terms with it. By the mid-'70s writers like Steve Englehart took that concept in interesting directions when, with issue #175, Cap had his moment of doubt in the concept of Truth, Justice and the American Flag. At the culmination of a long running 'Secret Empire' saga he tracked down the leader of the villainous cabal that was out to corrupt American society to the very offices of the White House itself. There, in the heart of Government, Cap unmasks the villain as central to the US Government, though we don't see his face ourselves. The man commits suicide and Cap is left shaken with the realisation that... shock, horror... politicians may not always be honourable men! (Relax, this is only comic books – it could never be the case in real life).

26 Apr 2016

On The Pull 27/04/2016

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.

Stewart R: While it's something of a crazy week for brand new titles hitting the shelves, my initial focus is on the end of a superb miniseries in Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara's Four Eyes: Hearts Of Fire #4. This really hasn't been what I expected as Kelly has taken a very measured approach to Enrico's training of his runt dragon, instead giving us a slow burning family drama as the influence of the flawed adults around the young boy becomes all too apparent. This has been a book about harsh lessons, harsh times and the odd glimpse of hope and decency amongst the beatings and dragon fights. How it'll draw to a close here is anyone's guess, but I must recommend both volumes of this book to you all (once this arc is collected). And so onto the new titles! I'm going to give IDW's Micronauts #1 a crack as they've done a fair job with other '80s properties, it's written by Cullen Bunn and the art from David Baldeon looks eye-strokingly good. The Fourth Planet #1 created by Fred Kennedy and Mikko Maciaszek, released by Chapterhouse Comics, looks interesting as a refugee ship full of humans lands on an alien world being contested by three different native races. The art on this one reminds me of Dustin Nguyen's work on Descender and that's certainly no bad thing! Then comes 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #1 where the titular band of eleven year-olds will have to undertake a bank heist if one of them wants to keep her father out of trouble. I've read blurb stating this will be akin to Wes Anderson meeting Resevoir Dogs and that's hooked me deep enough to check out the first chapter at the very least. Final shout out from my pull-list this week has to go to Lee Bermejo and Alessandro Vitti's Suiciders: Kings of Hel.L.A. #2 which will follow up from a rage filled opener that solidified my opinion that this comic book world is an essential one for you to explore in 2016!

25 Apr 2016

Mini Reviews 24/04/2016

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 bad, and those that lie somewhere in between.

CRIMINAL: TENTH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Art: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image $4.99


James R: Long time readers can probably guess what I'll make of this book without reading the review. I've been a massive fan of Brubaker and Phillips' output ever since our EiC, Matt C introduced me to Sleeper many years ago and I’ve never seen them turn in a sub-standard title or issue. They've established themselves as masters of modern comics crime noir, and this lush tenth (tenth!) anniversary special is a fitting salute and a reminder as to why they are so damn good. Once more, we're given a snapshot into the life of the Lawless family - Teeg lawless takes 12 year-old Tracy on a roadtrip to track down a problematic former member of the Hyde gang. As with last year’s equally magnificent Criminal Special Edition one-shot, the action is interspersed with excerpts from the comic that features in the narrative - this time, the terrifically-titled Deadly Hands featuring Fang, the Kung Fu Werewolf. The book perfectly captures the feeling of ‘70s exploitation culture, and it's a heartbreaking tale. The nihilism of Teeg's life begins to infect Tracy's life, and knowing where these characters end up it makes for an unflinching and compelling read. The art from Phillips is superb as always, and Elizabeth Breitwiser's colours are pitch-perfect. Ten years in, this creative team show no signs of stopping - I hope I'm writing another salute to Criminal for the twentieth anniversary. 9/10

22 Apr 2016

Ten Forward: June 2016

Every month we spend an evening scouring the pages of the latest issue of Previews and pick the ten titles we are looking forward to the most. This month it's the April issue which includes comics scheduled to ship in June 2016.

SUPERMAN #1
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleason & Mick Gray
DC $2.99

Stewart R: Words and art, art and words. First it was beckoning me into their world of Green Lantern Corps and keeping me there. Then it was dragging my eyes and heart willingly through Batman And Robin's emotional father/son drama as they explored Bruce, Damian and Alfred's relationship. So yes, without hesitation, I will be buying and reading Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Superman come this new 'Rebirth' as this creative combo have delivered the most consistent and gloriously high calibre DC superhero experiences to me since I've been reading works from the publisher. Doug Mahnke is joining in on the fun as a regular artist (to keep up with DC's challenging/punishing schedule) in tandem with Gleason and that should be a reasonable fit for visual consistency. Tomasi is currently dealing with the mortality of Superman in the current volume so we shall see what sort of rollercoaster he inevitably delivers when the Last Son of Krypton is reborn this June.

21 Apr 2016

The PCG's Top 15 Current Comics - April 2016

Once more the assembled membership of the PCG have put on their thinking caps and compiled their Top 15 Current Comics to provide a more concise look at what they're currently reading and (more importantly) enjoying...

20 Apr 2016

Do You Remember The First Time? CAPTAIN AMERICA #318


In Do You Remember The First Time? we take a nostalgic trip back in time to discuss a seminal purchase that introduced us to a character, title, creator, or even a hobby.

Matt C: I’d come across Captain America a few times in various UK reprints of Marvel comics in my formative years, but this issue, released in 1986, was the first bona fide US Cap comic I'd ever picked up. Up to that point I’d never seen a genuine US comic book on the shelves of a British newsagent, so I guess there’s a fair amount of nostalgia tied up in recalling  this purchase, and while rose-tinted spectacles may be involved I think it still holds up pretty well 30 years later. Why this particular issue and not any of the others on the shelf at that time? As is often the case with this medium, it’s the cover that gets you first, and the cover of #317 was bursting with energy, excitement and a guy on roller skates. What’s not to like?

Although a roller skating bad guy isn’t really the most fearsome foe they could have thought up, the suit looks pretty cool if you ignore the wheels (it looked cool to 12 year-old eyes, at least!), and then there’s Cap on a motorcycle in pursuit, complete with distinctive helmet (“And Check Out Cap's Great New Head Gear!” screams the slogan!), which is either a homage to Evil Knievel or Peter Fonda’s character from Easy Rider (or perhaps neither). The armoured villain is called Blue Streak, a very minor entry into Marvel’s pantheon of super-criminals, one who doesn’t appear again after this instalment (for reasons which become apparent by the final page), although the name would get recycled several times across the years.

19 Apr 2016

On The Pull 20/04/2016

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.

Andy H: A little bit of everything this week. First, to quench my inner fanboy, is Harley's Little Black Book #3. This issue guest stars DC's mistress of magic, Zatanna, with the duo attempting rid a Coney Island mansion of ghosts. Now, as much as I love HQ, she's not the reason my fanboy radar is pinging. The artist for this issue is Joseph Michael Linsner, a long time fave of mine. While best known for his own comic creation, Dawn, I love to see his take on established characters and Harley and Zatanna are ripe for a JML makeover. Moving on to a completely different style and tone of book is Dept H #1, from writer/artist Matt Kindt. While I don't read as much of Kindt's output as some of my fellow PCGers, I do like to check it out and I've never been disappointed. Billed as an 'undersea sci-fi mystery', this has all the trappings of a read that you can totally immerse yourself in (see what I did there). Focused on an investigation of a suspected sabotage in the depths of the ocean, I think we can be assured we'll get a story with plenty of twists and turns that you don't see coming. Another new title from AfterShock Comics this week, Black-Eyed Kids #1 from Joe Pruett and Szymon Kudranski. If you've ever read (or watched the original version of the film) The Midwich Cuckoos, you know there isn't a lot of things freakier than kids with spooky eyes *shudder*. Still on a spooky vibe, but not quite so scary, is Marvel's Haunted Mansion #2. Issue #1 was good enough to bring me back to explore more of the building and other ghosts. James Bond #6 completes the first arc of the Warren Ellis series. It may not have lived up to everyone's expectations but still a decent read and I'm looking forward to seeing how it wraps up. Finally, staying with Ellis, its Karnak #3. A bit behind schedule but the only Inhuman title I'm reading, despite Marvel's best efforts to populate their Universe with a busload of them. Karnak has enough going on to keep me coming back.