August 21, 2018

The Pull List: 18 July 2018, Part 1

Kate Kane is back in Gotham City, caring for her sister at last and teaming up with ex-girlfriend Detective Renee Montaya to fight another unexpected super-criminal. That makes this issue an incredible breath of fresh air, replacing the overwrought anguish and self-analysis that has flooded this title for multiple volumes with likeable characters and a well-developed story. I had almost given up on the character, but as always a back-to-basics approach saves the day.

Renee is a fabulous character and it's great to see her return to the DCU. One assumes that with the last reboot her history as the Question has been erased, which is a shame - but there's always the possibility of pushing her back in that direction in future. Her arrival also continues pushing this title for strong female characters, putting her alongside not just Kate and Alice but Julia Pennyworth as well. Fernando Blanco's artwork continues to be solid, serving the story ahead of anything else. With luck this new approach will continue for a while. With the CW Network preparing a Batwoman television series, it would be a shame to have the comic book end now of all times. (4/5)

Batwoman #17. DC Comics. Written by Marguerite Bennett. Art by Fernando Blanco. Colours by John Rauch.

Below the cut: reviews of Batman, The Immortal Hulk, Quantum & Woody and Shadowman.

August 19, 2018

The Pull List: 11 July 2018, Part 2

It feels a weird choice on DC's part to have Brian Michael Bendis write both Superman and Action Comics. Perhaps it was Bendis' demand when negotiating to come over from Marvel to write for the company. Perhaps DC's editors simply wanted to have a unified pair working in synch. Either way it feels like a weird redundancy.

It's an enjoyable first issue, picking up threads from the Man of Steel miniseries, but at the same time there is an unsatisfactory dourness about things. Superman performs best as an upbeat character, and to see him in both books as a morose and unhappy character feels tonally wrong. Hopefully it will pick up in the coming months, but for now Superman feels like what it is: a DC title getting written by a Marvel writer. You just want Clark to be having a better time. The art is very strong, thanks to the immeasurably talented Prado and Reis.

There's a mixture of the good and the predictable going on here. A conversation between Superman and the Martian Manhunter, in which Superman keeps zooming away to fix momentary crises, feels overly familiar, and the Manhunter's suggestion that Superman should become the world's de facto leaders feels tonally very wrong indeed. Other moments feel stronger - particularly the pretty awesome cliffhanger ending - but overall this remains a very good issue that never quite manages to be the great one that DC promised. (4/5)

Superman #1. DC Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis. Colours by Alex Sinclair.

Under the cut: reviews of The Crow: Memento Mori, Detective Comics, Isola, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mech Cadet Yu, Port of Earth, Rat Queens, and Transformers: Unicron.

August 10, 2018

Dreamcast20 #18: Ikaruga

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Dreamcast, Sega's final - and in my opinion the finest - home videogame console. Despite a range of excellent games, it simply failed to compete against Sony's PlayStation 2. To celebrate, The Angriest counts down its 20 best games.

I am a huge fan of scrolling shoot-em-up games, in which the player controls a little spaceship shooting at a relentless swarm of enemy spaceships. I say this despite being absolutely terrible at playing them; once they get more frenzied than Galaga or Dragon Spirit (which swapped spaceships out for dragons), I am floundering. That aside, one of my absolute favourites is Ikaruga: an innovative shoot-em-up for arcades and the Dreamcast produced by the Japanese developer Treasure.

August 1, 2018

The Pull List: 11 July 2018, Part 1

Carter Hall's investigation into his past lives takes him to the British Museum - and an unexpected slip back thousands of years to ancient Egypt.

Full credit to writer Robert Venditti, who has certainly committed one hundred per cent to his strategy of untangling Hawkman's tortured and contradictory back story by making all previous takes on the character true at the same time. It will take time to see if this plan results in a satisfying story - which is always the bottom line - but this second issue feels more focused than the first, and does show off the concept in a clearer fashion.

Of course the larger selling point for this new volume of Hawkman is Bryan Hitch's artwork. It is tremendous, as Hitch's work generally is, with a strong combination of splash pages and smaller panel-based art. It's well inked by Andrew Currie and Daniel Henriques, with solid colours by Jeremiah Shipper. Even if this time-crossing storyline stumbles, it will at least look great while it does. (4/5)

Hawkman #2. DC Comics. Written by Robert Venditti. Art by Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie, and Daniel Henriques. Colours by Jeremiah Shipper.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Ms Marvel, Oblivion Song, and Star Wars: Darth Vader.

The Angriest: July 2018 in review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" is an odd sex comedy episode, but my review of it was far and away the most popular post on The Angriest this past month. The Season 5 reviews were pretty much the most popular posts in July, including "Nor the Battle to the Strong" and "The Ship". Over at FictionMachine, and the review of the excellent Taiwanese documentary Black Bear Forest was the most popular new post, yet the 2016 essay on the making of Bedknobs and Broomsticks remained the most-read post overall.

Overall in July 2018, I reviewed 10 new theatrical or festival films, four older films, five TV episodes, two videogames, and 47 comic books. A complete list of reviews, published at The Angriest, FictionMachine, VCinema, and FilmInk, is included below.

July 31, 2018

Doctor Who: "The Zarbi"

It is 20 February 1964, and time for the second part of the Doctor Who serial "The Web Planet".

On the planet Vortis, the Doctor (William Hartnell) and Ian (William Russell) continue exploring the surface before being captured by the ant-like Zarbi. Meanwhile Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) finds herself captured by the Zarbi and the Menoptera, butterfly-like humanoids whom the Zarbi are hunting into extinction. Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) is still in the TARDIS, which the Zarbi then drag into their lair.

There is something quite impressive about this episode, which presents Doctor Who's first genuinely alien planet. There is no one here outside of the regular cast that looks in any way human. The ant-like Zarbi stumble around like drunk pantomime horses, and while the bee-like Menoptera have humanoid bodies, they are buried under bee masks and wings. I'm straining to remember for certain, but I'm pretty sure Doctor Who never tells a story so devoid of humans (or their analogues) ever again.

July 27, 2018

The Pull List: 4 July 2018, Part 3

The Man of Steel hits its sixth a final issue, which means wrapping up the immediate crisis of Rogol Zaar's attempt to blow up the Earth to kill Superman as well as revealing precisely what has happened already to cause Lois and Jon's absence.

The Rogol Zaar section is straight-up superhero action, as Supergirl assists Superman in defeating Zaar before his plan comes to fruition. It is very well illustrated by Jason Fabok, with a lot of pace and energy. That really is all backgrounded, however, in favour of Lois and Jon, and that's kind of where the issue struggles a little.

Superman's father Jor-El has arrived once again (oh yeah, he didn't die on Krypton after all), insisted on taking his grandson Jon around the galaxy to better train him in how to be a better super-human. Clark and Lois debate whether or not Jon should go, and ultimately Lois accompanies him on the voyage. After the terrible acts performed by Jor-El in his previous appearance, one would assume the idea of handing him your son would be unimaginable. Instead Lois and Jon willingly go with him, and Clark reluctantly allows it all to happen. It gets them out of the way for whatever ongoing story Brian Michael Bendis has in mind, but it's an awkward process and feels very badly shoe-horned in. It's not a great sign for the immediate future of the Superman ongoing titles. (3/5)

The Man of Steel #6. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Jason Fabok. Colours by Alex Sinclair.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor, and Sword Daughter.

July 26, 2018

Dreamcast20 #19: Chu Chu Rocket

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Dreamcast, Sega's final - and in my opinion the finest - home videogame console. Despite a range of excellent games, it simply failed to compete against Sony's PlayStation 2. To celebrate, The Angriest counts down its 20 best games.

Some times the best videogames are the simple ones, and they often don't come simpler that puzzle games. Chu Chu Rocket. Conceptually it's pretty easy: there's a grid upon which a train of mice are walking in a straight direction. Also roaming the board are cats looking to eat the mice. The player can drop arrows onto the grid to change the direction of the mice and guide them into a rocket that allows them to safely escape. If they get on the rocket, the player wins. If they get eaten by cats, the player loses.

It's a simple enough concept, but it's all playing just a little too fast to handle. It rapidly becomes a frantic combination of strategy and twitch gaming as the player starts having to lay down paths in faster and faster ways and in more and more complex set-ups.