22 May 2019

From The Valuts: X-MEN: THE ASGARDIAN WARS

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...

X-MEN: THE ASGARDIAN WARS
Writers: Chris Claremont
Art: Art Adams, Paul Smith, Mike Mignola, Bob Wiacek & Terry Austin
Marvel

Mike S: It’s no secret that Uncanny X-Men is my all-time favourite comic book, going right back to my first issue (#111 – Mesmero, the brainwashed X-men as circus performers – seriously, check it out!) but once the franchise released its first spin-off in the form of the New Mutants, I was truly hooked. It seems so strange to think there was once a time when there was only one spin-off title and one main title and a crossover could be self-contained and not require enough expenditure to require a second mortgage. Which brings me to my all-time favourite X-Men crossover: The Asgardian Wars.

Collected in a trade, this arc contains X-Men & Alpha #1 & #2, New Mutants Special Edition #1 and Uncanny X-Men Annual #9. While the X-Men/Alpha Flight story is a nice enough two-part tale entitled ‘The Gift’, it offers little to the overall arc other than establishing the reason for Loki’s animosity towards the X-Men and his reasons for targeting the junior team, and some good character moments between Cyclops (currently married to Madelyne Pryor) and Rachel (his daughter from the future/alternate reality; it’s the X-Men – just go with it!).

21 May 2019

On The Pull 22/05/2019

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.

Jo S: It's a pretty unusual week incoming, with not even a single flimsy booklet in my line-up from either of the Big Two: it's all indies, all the time for me in the run-up to our half term break. Not entirely coincidentally, it's a pretty dark week too - the sun may have shone for a couple of days last week but my pull-list looks to be crypt-dark in many cases. They don't come any darker than Sink and its themed stories of wicked goings-on in a Glasgow estate: John Lees and Alex Cormack seem sometimes to be goading each other into more and more horrific depictions in this series and it's never a good choice to read right before tucking into bed at night. Cormack is also on art duties on a new debut this week: Road Of Bones, written by Rich Douek for IDW. I'm not completely sold on this - it's a story about an escape from a tundral Siberian gulag - but Cormack's art is very tempting: perhaps if the sun shines this Wednesday I'll find the requisite inner warmth to pick up this one too.

Themes of death and darkness persist with Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter and Bone Parish: issue #1 of the former felt like something of an underuse of Hayden Sherman's art - too much crammed into the page meant the elegant sparseness I've loved in his previous work was lost, and the story 'twist' was a bit of a lame duck: I'll give it one more issue to win me over, if only for Sherman's snowscapes - delicious.

19 May 2019

Mini Reviews 19/05/2019

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.

NAOMI #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker
Art: Jamal Campbell
DC $3.99

Matt C: This is a beguiling spin on the Superman origin story, reeling in pieces of the DC mythos to fashion something fresh and affecting, never once feeling like a rehash. Partly it's because the characterisations ring so true, the gradual reveal of information filtering out in an organic manner, the interactions between the cast natural and believable. But it's also the art, and the art here is a big deal. Campbell has rendered some extraordinary imagery on this series, full of energy, emotion and excitement, the bold dynamism of the action-heavy illustrations complemented by the more intimate scenes that are full of warmth and expression. The only criticism that can be levelled at this series is that there only appears to be one more issue left to go. Surely that can't be it? 8/10

18 May 2019

From The Vaults: UNCANNY X-MEN #137

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 #137
Writer: Chris Claremont
Art: John Byrne, Terry Austin & Glynis Wein
Marvel

Rob N: 'Phoenix Must Die!' screamed the sensational cover blurb of Uncanny X-Men #137 when it came out in 1980 as the concluding issue of the Dark Phoenix storyline. This had been a sequence of storytelling that had set fandom buzzing with excitement on a scale never seen before, and probably never seen again until Watchmen was serialised. A multi-part sequence that had its seeds sown in the equally epic Hellfire Club story arc, it inspired all manner of fan theories in the small press publications of the time and left us all on tenterhooks as each issue was devoured for clues, scraps of clues and, well, scraps. This was the very peak of the Claremont/Byrne partnership (not forgetting Terry Austin on inks – no one inked Byrne better than he did), pairing up great writing with exceptional art to deliver what is in retrospect a milestone of the late Bronze Age.

But of course we didn’t believe the cover blurb for a moment as we gazed at the cover. Yes, Marvel occasionally killed a supporting character for dramatic effect, but a central member of the X-Men who could trace her lineage all the way to the first issue? I mean – Jean Grey? No way. It was just the usual Marvel bombastic hyperbole that we came to expect on the covers.

Excelsior.

16 May 2019

X-MEN MONTH @ THE PCG

Matt C: The imminent release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix will see the end of the Twentieth Century Fox cycle of mutant movies. Now that Disney have taken over the company which will see the properties absorbed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the not too distant future (the endlessly delayed The New Mutants is looking iincreasingly like it will skip a theatrical release altogether - and as for Deadpool... who knows what'll happen there!).

Following the release of X-Men: Apocalypse and the announcement of a Disney-Fox merger it seemed the apparent popular consensus was leaning towards a dismissal of the franchise as a whole, a revisionist approach that took the position that Fox had completely mishandled the X-Men's cinematic journey. Sure, there have been several bumps and rough spots along the way, but by and large there has been plenty of greatness on offer since the first X-Men film made its debut nearly 20 years ago, with some entries easily capable of ranking highly in any Best Comic Book Movie Ever poll.

Considering we're saying farewell to these iterations of the characters - and bearing in mind that Jonathan Hickman is returning to Marvel Comics to relaunch the entire X-Men line in a couple of months - now seemed like the perfect time for a series of mutant-flavoured articles, so please join us over the next few weeks as we recall some our favourite moments in the long, convoluted history of the X-Men on the printed page...

14 May 2019

On The Pull 15/05/2019

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.

Andy H: This week is a Marvel-heavy week for me. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other great titles to grab, but mine all seem to fall into the House of M camp. Top of the pile of course is Immortal Hulk #17. Where else could it be after that stonking last page of #16? I can't even begin to suggest where this story will go next, as Al Ewing and Joe Bennett have just kept the surprises and twists coming, issue after issue. This is indeed an incredible era for the Hulk.

Writer Nick Spencer reaches the conclusion of 'Hunted' in Amazing Spider-Man #21. His run on Spidey has been great and this arc in particular has blown me away. Even the additional .HU issues have been worth getting, adding more depth to the story. Now, as we reach the end, I can't wait to see who lives and who dies and just how Spidey will deal with any fallout.

Sticking with all things arachnid, Spider-Man: Life Story #3 has moved into the '80s (greatest decade ever!). Unfortunately due to a shipping error I've still not had issue #2 of this series but that won't stop me picking up this latest instalment. Peter Parker, now in his thirties, has a family and a world to protect. Writer Chip Zdarsky has proven his ability as a Spidey scribe and this real-time adventure is a worthy addition to any Spider-fan's pull-list.

12 May 2019

Mini Reviews 12/05/2019

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.

FLASH #70
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Howard Porter & Hi-Fi

Mike S: Flash #70 is the first issue of a 'Year One' story, and to be honest, I am tired of the constant reinvention of the wheel. However, in this case it really works! At the end of #69, Barry was sent back to relive his first year in order to remember something vital to saving the multiverse (what is it with Flash and multiversal catastrophe?), providing a reason for the origin arc that makes sense. Having finished it, it was a great jumping on point for new readers, as well as an entertaining read for those of us who are a little more ‘mature’. The issue embraces its time travel roots by opening and closing with Barry seeing a future version of himself - and yet time travel isn’t the main concept: that would seem to be hope and optimism (most welcome after the horrific destruction of said hope in Heroes In Crisis – yes I am still bitter!) Williamson has been on the title since #1 and so takes the opportunity here to re-establish characters, add to their relationships and even name drop a Rogue or two before they were ever established as such and, on top of this, perfectly captures the shifting tone of Barry’s life: initially we have a child full of optimism, hope and righteousness (and my favourite bit: still a lover of the Jay Garrick Flash comic books!) before we jump forward fifteen years and see a much changed Barry. He is now a crime scene investigator for the Central City police, working on his father’s case at night. Williamson’s depiction of Barry is possibly the best I have read in a long time, as is the treatment of Iris West, who is definitely an alpha go-getter and not the love interest of old. I especially liked the reawakening of Barry’s hope as he began testing and developing his powers. Porter’s art is perfect for this story: it is dynamic and oozes character and emotion, especially in scenes between Barry and his mother. Ultimately, the issue succeeds because Williamson stays true to what makes Barry Allen an interesting character. We see just how much of a good-natured person he is, whether that is helping to stop a classmate being bullied or reaffirming his unwavering view of right and wrong, which is hugely refreshing after countless DC books in which everything is villain-centric or dark and gritty. 9/10

10 May 2019

Portsmouth Comic Con 2019: The Voyage Home

Now we've had a chance to settle back into reality following our second visit to Portsmouth Comic Con, here are some thoughts on last weekend's events...
Jo S: For last year's Portsmouth Comic Con, the PCG crew arrived a little later, some of us having opted to hang out at Paradox Comics for at least part of FCBD, and so turning up this time to find a huge queue snaking around the Guildhall, down one side of the street and back up the other side, was a little daunting! The con has certainly grown from last year's maiden event but, once we'd made it to the front and got inside, it was evident that the team had clearly got it covered in terms of capacity - the whole event was lively and busy without feeling crammed. For me, much of Saturday was about cosplay - I've never done it before but crushing my anxieties and throwing myself into it with gusto rewarded me with a brilliant day, meeting lots of lovely, supportive, positive people. Portsmouth really seems to have got this balance spot on: the event has a great mixture of family fun (The tiny Thors! The little Supergirls!) alongside more intense comics experiences, with panels that had me rapt and ample vendor tables with rows of comic boxes to rummage.

My top finds of the weekend included the second volume of The Ultimates, David Mack's Daredevil: Vision Quest run and, to my delight, a long sought-after Marvel 'Tails' - the first appearance of Spider-Ham. My favourite image of the weekend is probably one taken from the gallery during Roy Thomas' panel; the PCG team, including Wonder Woman in full gear, all listening intently as a man with decades of influence on the comics world chuckles as he reminisces. Ah, comics!

7 May 2019

On The Pull 08/05/2019

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.

Jo S: The excitement of being immersed in comics at Portsmouth Comic Con this weekend is still sending the adrenaline whizzing around my system and, although I returned with a decent haul of finds from the back issue boxes, I reckon that this Wednesday will only see my anticipation for new comics all the greater. If you made it into your local store for Free Comic Book Day I hope you too are enjoying some of the goodies you picked up and that there's maybe some inspiration to try something you might not have picked up otherwise.

What about my list for this week then? What will be staving off the pangs? Starting with dessert (because I'm non-conformist like that), the unique and quirky Ice Cream Man is always a bit different, a bit unnerving - 'Hopscotch Mélange - Part 4' wraps up a little miniseries within this run of themed, but often stand-alone, horror-with-sprinkles comics. At risk of repeating myself, I've given up giving up this series - it is consistently inventive, creepy and off-beat. An easy segue here: artist Chris O'Halloran shares art credit with Martin Morazzo on this; Morazzo also wields the pencils on my next choice, She Could Fly: Lost Pilot, and his skills are similarly employed in representing themes of paranoia and terrifying compulsive delusions.

3 May 2019

Mini Reviews: Free Comic Book Day 2019

This Saturday, May 4th (be with you!), sees the 18th annual Free Comic Book Day. Those unfamiliar with the event should head to the official site – here we take a look at an advance selection of freebies that will be available at your local comic shop on the day. Of course, those of you in the same catchment area as us need to head over to Paradox in Poole where Andy H will have available not only the comics reviewed below but many more besides! Get there early to avoid disappointment!

SPIDER-MAN FCBD 2019
Writers: Donny Cates, Saladin Ahmed & Tom Taylor
Art: Ryan Stegman, Frank Martin Jr, Cory Smith, Jay Leisten & David Curiel
Marvel $0.00

Mike V: This issue contains two stories, the first focusing on Eddie Brock and the second Miles Morales and Peter Parker. Donny Cates helms the former, with art from Ryan Stegman and Frank Martin Jr and with the tagline “The Venom epic of 2019 Starts here!” it features fantastic writing, supported by some of the best art I've seen in comics recently. The story serves as a taster for the Venom event 'Absolute Carnage' released this summer and I can safely say this will definitely pique the interest of fans, be they fans of Spider-Man, Venom, Carnage or X-Men. The backup story, by Ahmed and Taylor, offers great fan service to both Peter Parker and Miles Morales; you see the two sharing banter and a friendly rivalry that really captures the essence of both characters and is also lit up with some great artwork from Cory Smith. We even see a classic Spidey villain show his face along with action and side-by-side fighting for Parker and Morales. Specially written just for this issue, it's something long time fans of the web-head will appreciate, and new fans, perhaps from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, will find a fantastic jumping on point. 10/10