June 27, 2017

The Pull List: 21 June 2017, Part 1

One of the things that always made me prefer DC Comics superheroes to their Marvel equivalents was the sense of legacy. Characters didn't always stick around, so when Hal Jordan stopped being Green Lantern there was Kyle Rayner to provide an alternative take. Oliver Queen was replaced as Green Arrow by his son Connor Hawke. Barbara Gordon made way for Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. Likewise Dick Grayson retired as Robin, to be replaced by Jason Todd and Tim Drake.

A lot of that legacy got jettisoned under publisher Dan Didio, who pushed a return to the Silver Age iterations of the DC legacy heroes. That sense of history is slowly coming back, however, and nowhere does it seem more obvious than in Super Sons. The book exploits the fact that both Batman and Superman each have a son, and their starkly contrasting personalities and methods make for a great combination. Issue #5 picks up with Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent having finished their first adventure together, but both in trouble with their fathers. Meeting up in the Batcave, they start taking their frustrations out of each other.

It's a great breather, giving room to develop character and cement the growing bond between them. Peter J. Tomasi's script has plenty of wit and snark, while guest artist Allison Borges really pushes a sense of fun about the book. It is such a pleasure to see the legacy angle revived; I can only hope the sentiment spreads to other characters. (4/5)

Super Sons #5. DC Comics. Written by Peter J. Tomasi. Art by Allison Borges. Colours by Hi-Fi.

Under the cut: reviews of Britannia, Highlander, Poe Dameron and Rapture.

June 24, 2017

The Pull List: 14 June 2017, Part 3

I keep recommending to comic book fans that I know that they should check out Valiant's range of superhero comics, since they consistently some of the most enjoyable stuff getting published these days. In particular I really enjoyed Rai, which was more of a far future science fiction story despite being set in the same fictional universe.

This month Valiant has launched the first of four one-shots, all titled The History of the Valiant Universe, and they're kicking things off with a return to Rai and his orbital home of New Japan. While it is well illustrated by Francis Portella, I am honestly not sure precisely who the market for this book is. It retells a highly truncated version of the Valiant Universe's history, but anybody who's read the storylines when they were first published will walk away a little bored and anybody who hasn't will simply be a bit confused - and likely also bored.

There are great ways into the Valiant titles - just buying volume 1 of one of the series in collected form would be enough - and this one-shot simply feels redundant. (2/5)

Rai:The History of the Valiant Universe #1. Valiant. Written by Rafer Roberts. Art by Francis Portella.

Under the cut: reviews of Copperhead, Detective Comics and Jem and the Holograms.

June 23, 2017

The Pull List: 14 June 2017, Part 2

Kill the Minotaur is a new series out from Image that uses the comic book medium to retell the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is far from the first attempt to adapt the story to comics, but based on the first issue it seems a fairly promising attempt.

One big selling point is Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa's script. It works pretty hard to actually give the various characters some depth and distinctive personalities. It makes them flawed human beings rather than iconic heroes and villains, and this is very much in the book's favour. They are not entirely original or fleshed-out - there is still a very heightened sense to them all - but it is a step in a good direction. Hopefully future issues will ease back just a little, since it has a tendency to be somewhat overwrought in key scenes. Lukas Ketner's artwork is lightly exaggerated, which emphasises the emotion of the script.

The Greek myths are rather dark, violent stories, and it is good to see that style retained for this adaptation. It even approaches a mild sort of horror from time to time, which feels appropriate. This is a slightly flawed but solid adaptation; I am keen to see where its creative team takes it. (4/5)

Kill the Minotaur #1. Image. Written by Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa. Art by Lukas Ketner. Colours by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Hulk and Star Wars.

June 20, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Gambit, Part 1"

It is 11 October 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The apparent death of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) leads the USS Enterprise on a hunt for a rogue starship of pirates, who are moving from planet to planet stealing archaeological artefacts. When Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is taken prisoner by those pirates, he finds Picard alive and well and working in their crew.

"Gambit" sees Star Trek: The Next Generation really head where no Star Trek episode had gone before: into a full-blown space opera replete with starship chases, space battles, races to track down ancient artefacts and a shipful of space pirates. It is hardly The Next Generation at its most intellectual, but after the past three episodes - whose quality has ranged from the underwhelming to the dire - it is a refreshing change and a hell of a lot of fun.

June 19, 2017

Colditz: "Ace in the Hole"

It is 11 February 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

Famed Squadron Leader Tony Shaw (Jeremy Kemp) is brought to Colditz. Carter (David McCallum) hopes that a high profile escape will raise the flagging morale of the British prisoners, only Shaw appears to have no intention of escaping and dedicates himself to researching English literature instead.

There is a problem with the format of a series like Colditz, or indeed any prison-based drama really, which is a lack of potential storylines. This is the sixth episode of the second season, and the third episode to base itself around a new inmate being transferred to the castle and interacting with the regular cast. On the one hand it's an easy way to create drama and intrigue, but at the same time it easily falls into a familiar and ultimately slightly dull routine. This episode is the first to really feel like part of that routine. It does not do anything specifically badly, but it does wear a little on the patience.

June 18, 2017

The Pull List: 14 June 2017, Part 1

DC Comics have a high profile miniseries coming up called Metal, reuniting the Batman team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I tend to enjoy DC's events a lot more than Marvel's for two reasons: firstly they tend not to suck in every monthly ongoing into the storyline whether their readers want them to or not; secondly they are in almost every case vastly superior stories. For some reason DC seems to get the events a lot more instinctively than Marvel do.

Metal is not quite here yet, but Dark Days: The Forge is. It is a prologue issue that sets up some mysteries, teases some new characters and lines up a broad-ranging cast of popular DC heroes. It is co-written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, and illustrated by a cavalcade of A-list art talent.

It is a mixed success. Some elements work, and some really do not. It is nice to see Carter Hall, aka Hawkman, make an appearance in flashbacks, and indeed it appears the mysterious 'nth metal' that powers Hawkman's flight may be a key factor in the series. There are also roles for Batman and Aquaman, Green Lantern and Duke Thomas, and even a few surprises thrown in. The mysterious 'immortal men', who are getting their own ongoing series on the back of Metal, make no great impression at all.

The book is a little pricey at US$4.99, but to DC's credit it comes in an attractive cardstock cover and does have a fairly lengthy page count. It doesn't satisfy as a book in its own right, but as a teaser of things to come it stimulates reader interest pretty well. If you're planning on reading Metal it's probably best to get in on the ground floor. (4/5)

Dark Days: The Forge #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. Art by Jim Lee, Adam Kubert, John Romita Jr, Scott Williams, Klaus Janson and Danny Miki. Colours by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Freeway Fighter and Ms Marvel.

June 17, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Interface"

It is 4 October 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While testing a new remote-controlled probe on a Starfleet vessel drifting inside the atmosphere of Marijne VII, La Forge (LeVar Burton) comes to believe that his mother - whose own starship has recently vanished without a trace - is trapped on the planet's surface.

By the time The Next Generation came around to its seventh and final season, viewers had been introduced to the family of almost the entire regular cast. They had seen Riker's father, Troi's mother, brothers for Data, Worf and Picard, a son and a late husband for Dr Crusher, and even a sister for the late Tasha Yar. The only character left with a proper back story or family was Geordi La Forge. That in mind, "Interface" was a pretty obvious episode to make.

June 16, 2017

The Pull List: 7 June 2017, Part 3

Quite a few European bandes desinees have been getting reformatted and released in American format lately. Add to that list Jazz Maynard, a new crime book by the pseudonymous Raule and Roger.

Maynard is a jazz trumpeter returning to Spain with his sister after many years away. He has just rescued her from a New York brothel, shooting a number of gangsters on his way, and while he's reached home his troubles have definitely followed him home.

There's a sort of ugly sexist tone to this first issue, visibly in the way it treats women - usually naked or half-naked - as collateral damage rather than proper characters in their own right. It may change in future issues, but for now it sets everything off on a slightly unpleasant foot. That's a shame too, since Roger Ibanez's artwork is stunning. It's reminiscent of both the anime Cowboy Bebop and the works of animator Peter Chung. The limited colour palette also gives it a great amount of atmosphere.

Repackaging bandes desinees as American comics is not my personal preference - I'd much rather English translations of the original paperback and hardcover volumes - but any exposure of European comic book creators to an English-speaking audience is a good thing. Something, as always, is better than nothing. (3/5)

Jazz Maynard #1. Magnetic Press. Story by Raule. Art and colours by Roger.

Under the cut: reviews of Extremity, Night Owl Society and Planetoid: Praxis - as well as delayed reviews of Hulk and Southern Cross.