November 21, 2017

The Pull List: 8 November 2017, Part 1

If you ever wanted a demonstration of how much Grant Morrison influenced the DC Universe over the past 20 years, then Dark Nights: Batman Lost is a perfect place to start. This one-shot, which ties in directly to Scott Snyder's six-part Metal miniseries, positively screams the name "Morrison" from every panel. It is difficult to imagine it being published at all had Morrison not laid out the groundwork in advance.

Some years ago Batman was struck by Darkseid's omega beams, throwing him all the way back to the dawn of the human race (see Morrison's Final Crisis and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne). There he attracted the attention of Barbatos, a dark god that exists in the 'dark multiverse', which exists on the flipside to the main DC multiverse. Across thousands of years Barbatos has manipulated the entire human race in order to bring the 21st century Batman to a specific act in a specific place and time, and the gateway to the dark multiverse has been opened. While Earth falls to the power of Barbatos' Dark Knights, Batman is trapped in a nightmare world of illusions and cannot get out.

This is essentially an interlude to Metal, in which Batman struggles to escape the dreamlike environs into which Barbatos has placed him. It is a love letter: to Batman's seven-decade history, to Grant Morrison's unique style of comic book storytelling, and ultimately to DC Comics itself. It is tremendous fun, with a deliberately shifting art style and a wealth of clever comic book references. I imagine it might be hard to fully enjoy this issue without reading Metal, but in context and with an informed reader, it is one of the very best comic books I've read this year. (5/5)

Dark Nights: Batman Lost #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson. Art by Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jimenez amd Jaime Mendoza. Colours by Wil Quintana, Nathan Fairbairn and Alejandro Sanchez.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Mister Miracle.

Star Trek: Voyager: "Elogium"

It is 18 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

When Voyager encounters a school of alien creatures in deep space, the crew are keen to investigate. The creatures then surround and trap the ship. Their emanations have an unexpected effect on Kes (Jennifer Lien), accelerating her development and forcing her into her 'elogium'; the brief period of time in which her species may conceive a child.

We need to talk about Neelix and Kes. They were introduced to the series as a romantic couple in the very first episode, "Caretaker". It is not a relationship that sits well with me, and it never has. A lot is made in the series about how Kes is two years old, and from a species with a life-span of  nine years. Neelix's age is never referenced in the series, although we know he was an adult at least 15 years prior to meeting the Voyager crew. It seems safe to assume he is at least in his mid-30s (Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix, was 40 when the series premiered). In the end, it is difficult to see Kes and Neelix's relationship as being anything other than one between an adult and a child.

November 19, 2017

The Pull List: 1 November 2017, Part 2

It has taken Titan Comics three attempts, but they have finally nailed a multi-Doctor Doctor Who crossover miniseries without feeling forced and without tying everything together with a rushed and disappointing finale.

By contrast, The Lost Dimension has been well-plotted, carefully thought out and brilliantly fore-shadowed. The entire storyline has circled around a mysterious white void that has been sucking things in from all of time and space. By the time the true nature of the void is revealed, it is simultaneously a shock and stunning obvious at the same time: the best kind of revelation.

Every Doctor gets at least a momentary cameo, with the bulk of the lead time shared between Doctors 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Mariano Laclaustra's artwork is superb, giving everything a beautiful aesthetic somewhere between painting and traditional pen-and-ink. Carlos Cabrera's colours only enhance it. It simply looks tremendous.

So congratulations to writers George Mann and Cavan Scott; while individual issues of the crossover have wavered in quality, they have pulled out one hell of a climax. And think this all started with a comic I absolutely despised... (4/5)

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Omega #1. Titan Comics. Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott. Art by Mariano Laclaustra with Fer Centurion. Colours by Carlos Cabrera.

Under the cut: reviews of Atomic Robo, The Beautiful Death, Darth Vader, Extremity, Lazaretto and Superman.

November 17, 2017

The Pull List: 1 November 2017, Part 1

I couldn't honestly tell you why, but I have an enormous soft spot for Deadman, aka Boston Brand: a circus acrobat who was resurrected upon his death as a roaming spirit capable of possessing bodies and fighting crimes. DC recently gave him a miniseries in the form of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, which was a lot of fun, and now they're back with a new six-issue run simply titled Deadman. In this first issue, Deadman and Batman meet one another when Hook - the assassin who originally murdered Boston - sets up an attempt to kill Gotham's Commissioner Gordon at a nuclear power plant.

The story is genuinely messy, and regularly mystifying. For some reason Gordon is now acting as a US ambassador, and why he's assumed the role and why he's inspecting a nuclear plant both go unanswered. The artwork, however, is wonderfully old-fashioned and enjoyable to view, and will be the book's main selling point. Deadman is, after all, a book written and illustrated by legendary DC artist Neal Adams. Anybody with a sense of history and a love for DC's 1970s titles will get a lot out of this new series.

Overall it's a head-scratcher, but in the moment it's a wonderful throwback to the fast-paced, chummy books of my childhood. I'm a huge fan of Adams' artwork, and his talented have not abandoned him with age. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is hugely fun to read. (4/5)

Deadman #1. DC Comics. Story and art by Neal Adams.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Spider-Man and Usagi Yojimbo.

November 15, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Masks"

It is 21 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise encounters an ancient temple in space, hidden beneath the surface of a comet. After an attempt to scan the temple, Data (Brent Spiner) begins to suffer the effects of external manipulation: he becomes increasingly obsessed with unusual sigils and begins to develop multiple personalities. As the Enterprise itself is gradually transformed by the temple's power, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) must play out ancient history in order to save his ship and crew.

"Masks" really is one of those episodes where you feel compelled to applaud the production team for their adventurous outlook, but you cannot actually praise the end result. It's a somewhat silly, and certainly very uneven hour of Star Trek. The ideas are there, and they're potentially great ones, but the execution stumbles badly.

November 14, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 3

At this stage we all know the drill: another six issues have passed, bringing a story arc of Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan's Saga to a close. There is going to be tugging on heartstrings, a shock conclusion, perhaps a violent character death - it's become something of a routine.

That's where Saga #48 comes as a total surprise. Readers expecting to see some terrible tragedy befall Alana, Marko and their daughter will be shocked to find themselves back with the anthropomorphic seal Ghus, the young robot prince Squire, and the journalists Upsher and Doff. They are stranded on a remote planet with no hope of rescue and a rapidly shrinking supply of food. To avoid killing Ghus' beloved walrus, he and the young prince set off into the forest to kill an invisible monster for its meat.

It is not only a refreshing change from the trials of Alana and Marko, it is also a refreshing change in tone. This issue has a beautiful fairy-tale quality that makes it stand out. The characters are sweet and pleasant to read about, and Fiona Staples' art is - as always - wonderful to look at. Saga may go up and down from arc to arc, but now and then it really knocks an issue out of the park. I thought this one was fantastic. (5/5)

Saga #48. Image. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Art and colours by Fiona Staples.

Under the cut: reviews of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Copperhead, The Power of the Dark Crystal, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and X-O Manowar.

November 13, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 2

Science fiction horror series Southern Cross is back for a third story arc, and it is a very welcome return indeed. For the past 12 issues writer Becky Cloonan, artist Andy Belanger and colourist Lee Loughridge have developed a gripping and claustrophobic story that started with a murder and has no reached the exploration of a missing spacecraft that has just returned from somewhere outside of our own reality.

Set your expectations to Event Horizon and you'll have a ball with this series, which combines science fiction and horror with a strong cast of hard-edged, cynical characters. Andy Belanger's artwork uses slightly grotesque designs and a thick inking style to make it all look very stark and brutal. Lee Loughridge's limited colour palette tones everything down and gives it a very consistent and desolate aesthetic.

The biggest strength of all is the unpredictable storyline. Each arc has taken off in an unexpected direction, and this third volume seems set to do the same. Things have moved much faster than I expected them to here, from the opening - which pretty much picks up the exact moment the second volume ended - to the violent climax. (4/5)

Southern Cross #13. Written by Becky Cloonan. Art by Andy Belanger. Colours by Lee Loughridge.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Daredevil and Rebels.

November 12, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 1

Abram Adams was a cosmonaut who was sent into deep space, where an unexplained encounter transformed him into the enormously powerful cosmic entity known as Divinity. Now, after three great miniseries, the character is heading back out into void in this new four-issue event from the Divinity creative team of Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine.

It is a strong opening, one that both reminds the readers of Divinity's origins and current situation as well as set this new story in motion. The alien sequences are easily the best, showcasing a wonderfully 'out there' imagination of strange characters, names and settings.

The visuals definitely sit on a shelf next to the likes of Jack Kirby and Moebius, but there is a much more direct and realistic aesthetic to it. All in all it is an intriguing hook into what looks to be yet another excellent Valiant miniseries. (4/5)

Eternity #1. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn. Colours by David Baron.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, and Silver Surfer.