May 23, 2018

The Pull List: 9 May 2018, Part 1

A lot of long-term DC Comics readers will be familiar with the Source Wall: a massive impenetrable barrier on the edge of the universe. For the first time that wall has been blown wide open, and something unimaginable is crossing through into our universe. Seeing the imminent threat, the alien villain Brainiac has assembled an unwilling team of heroes and villains to save reality before it is too late.

The appeal of Justice League: No Justice, a four-issue miniseries designed to set up the next wave of Justice League titles, is the manner in which it assembles four disaparate teams of characters to head out and complete four separate missions. A good superhero universe always rises or falls on the back of its characters, and a series like this makes great use out of how they interact with one another in surprising and entertaining combinations. A particular highlight is Starro, a maniacal psychic alien starfish who would be just about the last character you'd expect to see joining the Justice League. It's a positive delight.

The story and set-up is fairly simple, but the interplay sells it. The script by Snyder, Williamson and Tynion is funny, and the artwork by Francis Manapul is great - as his work always is. I'm a sucker for these kinds of big screen DC miniseries, so I'm already hooked. (4/5)

Justice League: No Justice #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson. Art by Francis Manapul. Colours by Hi-Fi Design.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Detective Comics, and Star Wars: Darth Vader.

May 16, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Innocence"

It is 8 April 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Lt Tuvok (Tim Russ) crashes his shuttlecraft on an unexplored forest planet - only to discover a small group of young children marooned there as well. While he protects them from what they claim is an invisible monster, back on Voyager Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) attempts to make first contact with the alien Drayans.

"Innocence" is a surprising episode in many respects. It starts off in a pretty risible fashion, and then somehow manages to pivot into something rather touching and effective, only to swing back once more with one of the more irritating endings to a Star Trek episode. What's a viewer to do?

May 15, 2018

The Pull List: 2 May 2018, Part 2

It is almost certainly an appalling coincidence, but just as DC Comics are set to relaunch Justice League with the arrival on Earth of massive, all-powerful giant aliens, Marvel has relaunched The Avengers with the arrival on Earth of massive, all-powerful giant aliens. Great minds and all that, I suppose.

In Marvel's case the storyline comes from the new creative team of writer Mark Waid and artist Ed McGuinness. I am an enormous fan of the former, but somewhat on the fence with the latter. That pretty much fits with the issue at hand: Waid's script manages to introduce both the new Avengers line-up and the threat to the Earth, as well as cover all the various continuity elements and backgrounds in a fairly neat and non-frustrating way. McGuinness' artwork feels surprisingly weak an inconsistent; either Tony Stark is a giant or he drinks frighteningly tiny cocktails. The colouring feels a little off in places too (pink ships?), and together it makes this first issue feel a little bit rushed.

Solid writing wins the day - as does a spectacularly silly opening scene involving the Avengers of 1,000,000 BCE. Hopefully the art settles a little with issue #2, but in terms of story and characters this new volume of The Avengers is off to a pretty solid beginning. (4/5)

The Avengers #1. Marvel. Written by Mark Waid. Art by Ed McGuinness and Mark Morales. Colours by David Curiel.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Green Arrow, Scales & Scoundrels, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Happy!: "Saint Nick"

It is 6 December 2017, and time for the premiere episode of Happy!.

When a young girl named Hailey is kidnapped by a disturbed man dressed as Santa Claus, Hailey's imaginary friend Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) goes for help: finding as her saviour a drunken ex-police detective turned professional killer Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni).

Based on a comic miniseries by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, Happy! is an absurd - and absurdly violent combination of grimy crime thriller and black comedy. Violence abounds, and over-the-top jokes and pratfalls sit uneasily alongside grotesque moments of horror. The episode works surprisingly well in fits and starts, but also makes several awkward missteps. It gets there in the end, but I suspect it will lose a fair proportion of viewers on the way.

May 14, 2018

The Pull List: 2 May 2018, Part 1

It's time for another periodic soft relaunch for DC Comics. Justice League is getting a new issue #1 in the aftermath of Dark Nights: Metal. Batman and Catwoman are about to get married. Brian Michael Bendis is coming in to overhaul the Superman books. Heralding these changes, and acting as a kind of prologue, is DC's 25c special DC Nation (also, I believe, going for free on Comixology).

The book's divided into three sections. The first, "Your Big Day", sees the Joker waiting at a random man's house for a mail delivery. It is brilliantly written and illustrated, with a Joker that is simultaneously funny and scary in equal measure.

"Office Space" foreshadows Bendis' new Man of Steel miniseries with a new character and a new status quo. Of the three prologues, this feels the weakest. It's obviously too early to say what Man of Steel is like, but this taste feels as if it's changing a little too much of the status quo between recent Superman books and whatever Bendis has planned for the future. "No Justice Prelude" is pretty much an excuse for some nice artwork and colouring, and a preview of the new expanded (and oddly improbable) Justice League.

It's a little odd scoring a three-part prologue; it's effectively like giving a score to an advertisement. All that in mind, it's one must-read little Joker short, plus two easily missable bonus strips. That pretty much leads to a score of (3/5).

DC Nation #0. DC Comics. "Your Big Day" written by Tom King. Art by Clay Mann. Colours by Jordie Bellaire. "Office Space" written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dexter Vines. Colours by Alex Sinclair. "No Justice Prelude" written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson. Art by Jorge Jiminez. Colours by Alejandro Sanchez.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Giant Days, and Spider-Man.

May 13, 2018

An hour with Kirby's Epic Yarn (2010)

Reviewing videogames is often a challenge for me, because I absolutely suck at videogames and rarely finish one for months on end - if at all. It's a combination of incompetence and a short attention span, I guess. What if I just reviewed a bit of a videogame, though? What if I just spent an hour on it and then gave my thoughts on that? It seems a lot more feasible, and it's still going to give a solid critical impression - if a game has not grabbed you in 60 minutes, what are the odds of you playing further anyway?

Kirby's Epic Yarn is a 2010 platform game developed by HAL Laboratories and Good-Feel for Nintendo's Wii console. It features HAL's oddly enduring pink mascot Kirby, and is styled so that all of the characters look as if they have been made out lengths of colourful wool.

I describe Kirby as 'oddly enduring' because in all honesty I am not certain why the character has lasted as long as he has.

May 12, 2018

The Pull List: 25 April 2018, Part 3

Doctor Aphra is the best Star Wars comic on the market today. It towers over Poe Dameron, vaults beyond Darth Vader, and even tops the regular Star Wars book. It does this because it smartly follows its own protagonist: Aphra only exists in the comic books, and so we don't know her future. We read Darth Vader knowing he will one day die over Endor; we have no idea what fate has in store for Aphra.

This book gets to use Star Wars' toys without also using its constraints. It can play with convention, and throw up all manner of surprising and inventive situations. It can also be wonderfully and bleakly funny while doing it. It also gifts Star Wars with what I believe is its first canonically non-heterosexual protagonist.

This issue brings the "Remastered" storyline to a wonderfully unexpected and satisfying conclusion. It's not only funny but gripping; there is a real joy is seeing how Aphra gets her way out of her latest life-threatening predicament. With luck this book will continue for a long, long time. (4/5)

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #19. Marvel. Written by Kieron Gillen and Simon Spurrier. Art by Emilio Laiso. Colours by Rachelle Rosenberg.

Under the cut: reviews of Doom Patrol, Mera: Queen of Atlantis, and Sacred Creatures.

May 8, 2018

The Pull List: 25 April 2018, Part 2

Marvel regularly struggle with their event miniseries - that's certainly been my feeling anyway. They always seem to run too long, get too many tie-ins, don't make a lot of sense, force characters to act in ridiculous ways to make the plot work, and collapse in their climaxes.

That's why Damnation seems to have made such a positive impression on me. It has a strong and easy-to-follow plot, smart twists and turns, a minimum of spin-offs, and a very clever use of a range of second-string characters. Sure its open-ended conclusion points to a forthcoming Midnight Sons series, but at the same time I don't need to wait for that series to get a satisfying conclusion here.

The artwork is strong, the dialogue sparks, and I really cannot exaggerate how well it utilises its broad cast of characters. With Marvel struggling to maintain market share in recent years, events like Damnation are a big step in the right direction. (4/5)

Doctor Strange: Damnation #4. Marvel. Written by Donny Cates and Nick Spencer. Art by Rod Reis and Szymon Kudranski. Colours by Rod Reis and Dan Brown.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman and the Signal, Doctor Strange, and Saga.