March 22, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Alliances"

It is 22 January 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

After Voyager is almost destroyed in the latest of a series of Kazon attacks, Chakotay (Robert Beltran) persuades Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) to seek an alliance with one of the rival Kazon houses to protect the ship from the others. It is a proposition that Janeway despises - it is everything her Federation values stand against - but simply to ensure the survival of her crew, she is forced to compromise.

"Alliances" is a mostly great episode of Voyager, one only let down by an inevitably gun-shy conclusion. Until that point it is probably the best Season 2 episode so far, and a rare episode that actually makes use of the series' basic premise: Starfleet and Maquis crews having to join together and work as a single unit. This is, in essence, the sort of episode for which Voyager seemed designed to accommodate.

March 21, 2018

The Pull List: 7 March 2018, Part 3

Robert Kirkman is pretty much the most successful independent comic book writer at the moment, thanks to the runaway success of his ongoing zombie series The Walking Dead. He's branching out to a fresh title this month, with Oblivion Song #1.

Something happened to Philadelphia. The city was sealed off and transformed. 300,000 people went missing, and what remains is a no-go zone filled with monsters. Nathan Cole uses advanced technology to teleport himself inside and rescue civilians still trapped there after a number of years. The US government won't help, and Nathan won't stop until he finds the brother who went missing during the event.

Oblivion Song boasts a neat premise, and a lot of potential for a developing story. The artwork by De Felici is well composed and appealing. The characters, to be honest, feel a little thin in this first issue, but they work well enough to hook the reader in to see what happens next. That is largely due to the last page cliffhanger, which is the cleverest element in the entire series premise. With an entire year's worth of issues already waiting to go to print, it's a guaranteed 12 issue run at least - and in a time when indie books get regularly delayed, that's actually a pretty enticing promise. While it's doubtful Oblivion Song is going to reach the prestige and success of The Walking Dead, it has potential to be something pretty outstanding all the same. (4/5)

Oblivion Song #1. Image. Written by Robert Kirkman. Art by Lorenzo De Felici. Colours by Annalisa Leoni.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange: Damnation, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Green Arrow, Scales & Scoundrels, Spider-Man and The Wild Storm.

March 20, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Prototype"

It is 15 January 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

When Voyager recovers an inactive robot from deep space, Torres (Roxann Dawson) successfully repairs and revives it. Believing her to be one of the god-like aliens that created it, the robot kidnaps Torres and forces her to build a prototype for more of its kind to win a robot-vs-robot civil war.

"Prototype" is just a straight-up bad piece of television. Weak in concept, poorly brought to the screen, and crippled by one of the worst pieces of costuming undertaken in Star Trek history. Regardless of any other faults, if a single element of "Prototype" scuttles the whole enterprise it is those ridiculous robot costumes. Without exaggeration, Doctor Who was presenting more convincing robots more than 30 years before this episode hit the screen.

March 19, 2018

The Pull List: 7 March 2018, Part 2

Vep is a refugee, picked up from a planetary disaster and deposited inside some strange biological environment. She and her fellow prisoners work farming alien eggs in return for shelter. One day Vep is picked out from the crowd for resettlement - whether she wants resettling or not.

Prism Stalker is a new ongoing science fiction series from writer/artist Sloane Leong. While the artwork is relatively ordinary, it is vividly coloured - and that lifts the overall visuals up remarkably well. It has a richness that really suits its surreal, alien environment.

The script is stronger, establishing a setting and protagonist in an effective manner. It is a potent premise for a series, given the number of real-life refugees around the world, and shows plenty of potential for both future story directions and world-building. It's a new comic worth checking out and seeing how it develops. (3/5)

Prism Stalker #1. Image. Story and art by Sloane Leong.

Under the cut: reviews of Monstro Mechanica, The Spider King and Superman.

March 16, 2018

The Pull List: 7 March 2018, Part 1

The Roto and the Paznina face each other in one final battle - unless Thea can stop them both. With Shiloh transformed, that may not even be possible any more.

Extremity ends, after 12 sensational issues, and it's almost certainly the best comic of its genre from the past year or two. It's combined a sort of Miyazaki-esque sensibility with a stunningly developed post-apocalyptic world, strong characters, and Johnson's striking and deliberately rough, emotive artwork.

The entire series has been based around the damage caused by war, and the futility of violence, so it is not a surprise that the climax would be focused so closely on one final pitched battle. While unsurprising, it is absolutely not a disappointment: instead it feels perfectly appropriate and hugely satisfying. In essence, Extremity ends the way the reader should want it to. There is a resolution. There is heartbreak. Things are both won and lost. While one could conceivably keep some sort of story going from this point, it would never be as strong as leaving this world and characters right here. This has been one hell of a good series. (5/5)

Extremity #12. Image. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, She-Hulk, and The Wicked + the Divine.

March 15, 2018

The Pull List: 28 February 2018, Part 3

Finding Metamorpho being used to open a gateway to the Dark Multiverse, Mr Terrific and Plastic Man dive in to save him - getting dragged into another dimension in the process. There they meet Phantom Girl, and begin an all-new adventure as the DC Universe's newest super-team.

I have to spoil the last page of this comic to discuss it, so fair warning if you don't want to know.

Broadly speaking I really like this issue. It would have been nice to have gender parity, or even a predominantly female super-team, given the genre's historical penchant for all-male groups bar one woman. That aside, it's a solid group of second-string heroes whom I have often enjoyed, and they are well-written by Jeff Lemire and very nicely illustrated by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Then their first mission is revealed to be tracking down the mysterious Tom Strong - that's where the issue kind of lost me (albeit on the last page).

That would be the Tom Strong created by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse for Wildstorm's America's Best Comics in 1999. A character picked up by DC Comics as part of a wholesale buyout of Wildstorm, and now incorporated for the first time into DC's continuity. This was never Moore's intention, but it forms part of a growing obsession with DC's editorial division in shoe-horning whatever Moore creations they own into whatever they're currently publishing. Watchmen reborn in Doomsday Clock. Tom Strong appearing in The Terrifics. Promethea in Justice League of America. It feels tacky. It feels ugly in the most corporate of fashions. Moore doesn't want this, although at this stage I suspect he's simply washed his hands of the whole affair. Moore's fans likely don't want it either, at least not the majority. That leaves people who don't even know who Tom Strong is, at which point DC would be better off expanding their IP with new characters. This is a neat little comic with a really mercenary edge; what's a reader to do? (3/5)

The Terrifics #1. DC Comics. Written by Jeff Lemire. Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Colours by Marcelo Maiolo.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Doom Patrol/Justice League of America, and Mera: Queen of Atlantis.

March 14, 2018

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Emergence"

It's 22 May 1994, and time for the ante-penultimate episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When a train crashes through Data's holodeck simulation, Picard (Patrick Stewart) orders an assessment of how the data glitch occurred. When the Enterprise unexpectedly goes to warp on its own, it becomes clear that the computer problems are more widespread. Entering into a mish-mash holodeck projection of the Orient Express, Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis) attempt to get to the bottom of things.

Two episodes to go, and with the clock ticking down on The Next Generation, it is time to take one last trip into the holodeck for a victory lap of surreality and whimsy. I really do wish that they hadn't.

March 12, 2018

The Pull List: 28 February 2018, Part 2

15 years ago a group of teenagers stole a map to a hidden treasure and buried it, planning to come back as adults - when the heat had well died down - and collect the treasure for themselves. Now those 15 years are up, and the group has come back together. It's not to collect the treasure, but because one of their number has died - and it may not have been an accident.

Cult Classic: Return to Whisper, by writer Eliot Rahal, artist Felipe Cunha and colourist Dee Cunniffe, is another nostalgic crime book based on children and adults crossing paths. We have already had the likes of 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Night Owl Society, and now Return to Whisper adds its own personal wrinkle to the formula.

The balance between youthful flashbacks and present-day adult life works well, and certainly the stakes get raised a lot faster than I had expected them to be. Cunha's artwork has a simple, independent style that seems par for the course for this kind of a book. There are perhaps a few too many characters - and it's difficult to get a handle on at least half of them - but this is a first issue, so there's always time to get to know them. This is a solid book, but not an exceptional one - the US$1.99 price tag works well in its favour though: a cheap opportunity to test the waters. (3/5)

Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1. Vault Comics. Written by Eliot Rahal. Art by Felipe Cunha. Colours by Dee Cunniffe.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Rat Queens, Saga and X-O Manowar.