September 19, 2017

Doctor Who: "The Lodger"

It is 12 June 2010, and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

Amy (Karen Gillen) is trapped in the TARDIS after it ejects the Doctor (Matt Smith) and gets caught by an unexplained force. Stuck in modern-day Colchester, the Doctor is forced to rent a room and become the housemate of the unsuspecting Craig Owens (James Corden) until he can work out what it is that is preventing the TARDIS from landing.

 "The Lodger" is a strange little episode of Doctor Who that largely sees the Doctor trapped in present-day England and forced to pretend to be a normal human being for several weeks. The episode does have a science fiction plot at its core, but it is almost an arbitrary one. The bulk of the episode consists of Matt Smith trying - and failing - to look and act ordinary and not arouse any suspicions. It is messy, but also likeable.

September 17, 2017

The Pull List: 6 September 2017, Part 3

As a virulent virus spreads around the world, two first year college students begin their first day in a new dormitory. Lazaretto is a new five-issue miniseries from Clay McLeod Chapman and Jay Levang, that basically plays out a viral outbreak with its characters trapped inside a quarantine area.

This first issue is pretty much set-up of story and establishing characters, so it is a little difficult to fully judge the series at this stage. As a set-up it works perfectly well: we know the protagonists well enough, and we see them thrown into an extreme and potentially lethal situation. Is there enough to convince a reader to jump onboard for another four issues? That likely depends on how much that reader is willing to put their trust in the creative team I guess. I'm still on the fence.

I am also a little ambivalent about Jay Levang's artwork. The pencils and inks are rather scrappy and messy, I suspect intentionally so, and I am not sure it was the best visual style for the story that Chapman is attempting to tell. It looks a lot more like a fully independent kind of art style that you would usually see from a mid-level commercial publisher like Boom. I find myself very ambivalent about this book. It's good, but it's also not quite good enough. (3/5)

Lazaretto #1. Boom Studios. Written by Clay McLeod Chapman. Art and colours by Jay Levang.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Captain Phasma, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Seven to Eternity, Spider-Man and Star Wars Adventures.

September 14, 2017

The Pull List: 6 September 2017, Part 2

Is there a comic book equivalent to cinema's "mumblecore" movement? The sort of shoe-gazing, low key conversational works that do not feel a need to have an urgent plot, and spend more time on introspection that traditional storytelling? Whatever that term is - and we may as well borrow mumblecore for convenience's sake - it applies very firmly to Sophie Yanow's What is a Glacier?

This autobiographical one-shot depicts a vacation to Iceland with a friend, and a bad romantic break-up. Yanow's artwork is almost gestural. Everything conforms to a simple six-panel grid in black and white. Detailed art is not the focus here, however. Instead it is a simple tool to express a rather effective exploration of anxiety.

The narrative is not clearly structured. As I alluded to above, it really is an introspective meander across a story rather than a tightly plotted drama. It is curiously effective: a simple way Yanow has drawn a line here, a description of being heartbroken there.

This is not the greatest comic of its type, but it is a good and effective one. Fans of this kind of comic - and you can probably work out if that's you from the cover art alone - will get a bunch out of this. Superhero book lovers may find it a challenge. (4/5)

What is a Glacier? Retrofit/Big Planet Comics. Story and art by Sophie Yanow.

Under the cut: reviews of Doom Patrol, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, Superman, Usagi Yojimbo and The Wicked + the Divine.

Colditz: "Very Important Person"

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

With the tide of war firmly turned against Germany, orders are dispatched that the Waffen-SS will be placed in charge of all prisoners of war. All famous or well-connect prisoners, known as the Prominente, are to be transferred to Berlin to be used as hostages in the event that the war turns ever more against the Germans. When one of the American officers in Colditz is revealed to be the son of an ambassador, he is scheduled for transportation - leading to a tense stand-off between the prisoners and the guards.

There is a sudden and stark shift in Colditz with this episode. The end of the war is suddenly in sight, leading to desperate measures by the Germans and the sudden realisation by the British and American prisoners that they may all wind up murdered by the SS before the war concludes. It plays out in the series' well-established understated style, and that makes the climactic stand-off all the more confrontational and tense.

September 13, 2017

The Pull List: 6 September 2017, Part 1

Penniless treasure hunter Luvander sets out from the city in search of hidden treasure and adventure, in this charmingly written and illustrated high fantasy comic. While Scales & Scoundrels will have its worked cut out for it to stand out among the growing number of fantasy comics on the market, writer Sebastian Girner and artist Galaad are off to a pretty sensational start.

The book benefits enormously from its whimsical tone, one that gives the story and characterisation a nice lift and also soaks through the wonderfully simple but evocative art and design. There's a sense of Boom's successful all-ages book Lumberjanes in the air that suits the material well and gives it a fresh and hugely entertaining new angle.

This is a book that is playing with genre stereotypes, but it does so energetically and knowingly. It's the latter that makes the difference. It also benefits from a great protagonist in Luvander, whose spiky, cynical wit is already establishing her as a great character. The plot of this first issue perhaps falls just a little bit short of fully satisfying - it is a little too open and unresolved - but as a complete package this looks like another great Image title to watch. (4/5)

Scales & Scoundrels #1. Image. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art and colours by Galaad.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Darth Vader, Giant Days, Green Arrow and Swordquest.

September 12, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Parallels"

It is 29 November 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Reality begins to shift around Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn). At first it is only small changes: a painting jumps from wall to wall, and the flavour of a birthday cake changes. Then bigger jumps occur: Worf finds himself in a world where Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) has died, and then one where he and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) are married. Is he losing his mind, or has something gone terrible wrong with reality?

"Parallels" is a deeply silly trip through a bunch of parallel universes, one packed with nonsensical technobabble, unexpected cameos (welcome back Wesley Crusher after almost two years), and 'what if?' fan-pleasing scenarios. Thankfully it is all anchored by Michael Dorn's spectacularly funny performance as Worf, whose deadpan delivery makes it all seem hugely entertaining.

September 10, 2017

The Pull List: 30 August 2017, Part 2

With Seth Abbott's story winding to a close, and with three more issues left to go, Brian Wood's historical comic Rebels now shifts over to a trio of self-contained short stories. These short works often present Wood at his very best - as seen not only the previous volume of Rebels but also the likes of The Massive and Northlanders.

This issue does not disappoint. It focuses on a young George Washington leading a group of soldiers on a reconnaissance mission. When he stumbles upon an English fort that has been taken by the French, he disobeys orders and decides to retake it by force.

The George Washington presented here is not the noble founder of the United States that we usually see. Here we see an arrogant young military leader with a poor respect for command, a lack of interest in his men's safety, and a casual disregard to any arrangement or promise made to indigenous peoples in the Virginia area. Andrea Mutti's artwork is beautifully composed and illustrated, but it is Lauren Affe's colours that richly bring the story to life.

As a one-short story you can easily just pick up this issue and ignore the rest of the series. It's well worth the purchase, and hopefully may drive some more readers to Rebels and offer Dark Horse a chance to keep its richly textured historical stories going. (5/5)

Rebels #6. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Ghostbusters 101 and Rapture.

Doctor Who: "Inferno"

It is 6 February 1965, and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) races to escape Nero's court. Ian (William Russell) fights to escape the Roman Colosseum. The Doctor (William Hartnell) and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) fight to avoid being murdered and to get back to the villa in the country. Nero fiddles. Rome burns.

"The Romans" comes to its blazing conclusion in "Inferno", as the historical events of Rome's burning finally occur, and the four TARDIS occupants manage to make their way back to their villa before anybody notices anybody else was away. It's a successful return to the unusual blend of action, drama and comedy that made the first two episodes of the serial so good, with less of the English farce elements that dragged down the third.