January 20, 2018

The Pull List: 10 January 2018, Part 3

While Leonardo supervises the implementation of his siege engines, Isabel takes his automaton inside Volterra to rescue the city's praetor.

Monstro Mechanica is exactly my kind of comic: a period setting, a blend of real-life history and speculative fiction, and a robot with artificial intelligence. It's got a great sense of setting and tone, and is yet another book in the long and constantly growing list of "comics that, in the mid-90s, would have published by DC Vertigo".

Paul Allor's script is simple but strong, and he has presented a very fresh and more youthful take on some rather over-exposed historical characters like Machiavelli and Leonardo. That he makes his protagonist a spirited and aspiring young woman works very well, and provides a lot of dramatic material as she fights within an overtly patriarchal environment. Chris Evenhuis' artwork is clean, realistic and very sharply inked, and enhanced very well by Sjan Weijers' colours. Weijers uses a very simple palette, without much shading or too many colours, and that gives the book a very distinctive look.

With good writing, good artwork, an evocative setting, and a carefully limited fantastical element, Monstro Mechanica is pretty much my dream book. (5/5)

Monstro Mechanica #2. Aftershock. Written by Paul Allor. Art by Chris Evenhuis. Colours by Sjan Weijers.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Mister Miracle, Ms Marvel, and Rocko's Modern Life.

January 19, 2018

Highlander: The Series: "Deadly Medicine"

It is 7 November 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

While walking down the street one night, Duncan (Adrian Paul) is the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Rushed to hospital, his immortal healing powers attract the attention of a deranged emergency ward doctor (Joe Pantoliano) - who kidnaps Duncan to undertake experiments on him.

You have to at least admire the consistency of early Highlander episodes. They're packed with silly plots, terrible acting, and often-times pretty cringe-inducing dialogue. This one throws in what is effectively a mad scientist crossed with a serial killer, one who kidnaps patients from his own hospital without people knowing and who operates an entire backyard surgery for human experimentation in his suburban basement. Not that the episode interrogates him at all; he's just the villain of the week.

January 17, 2018

The Pull List: 10 January 2018, Part 2

Statix Press and Titan Comics continue making European comic works available to English-speaking readers with Atlas & Axis #1, the first issue of writer/artist Pau's action fantasy starring a pair of anthropomorphic dogs. In a sort of cod early medieval Europe, Atlas and Axis find their village decimated and its women and children kidnapped. They set off to rescue their family and friends, encountering other anthropomorphic animals along the way.

Pau, a Spanish writer and artist, is clearly inspired by the French comedic books of the 1970s and 1980s - Asterix and the like - and certainly works the book in that vein. There's a nice balance of humour, although a fair amount is derived on having the humanoid animals act like their four-legged counterparts.

It's breezy and pleasant, but not a must-read. It is good, however, to see these European works get more exposure to English-speaking audience. There's a whole industry of this stuff that we rarely get to see. (3/5)

Atlas & Axis #1. Titan Comics/Statix Press. Story, art and colours by Pau.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Deadman and The Power of the Dark Crystal.

January 16, 2018

Highlander: The Series: "Mountain Men"

It is 9 November 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot) goes travelling in a mountain region, only to be kidnapped by a trio of men who live rough off the land - and whose leader Caleb Cole (Marc Singer) plans to forcibly marry her. Once Tessa is missing, Duncan (Adrian Paul) arrives to search for her - bringing back memories of an immortal hermit that once lived in the region.

Sometimes there are episodes for which there are no suitable words, and the best option for the reviewer is to just point in the episode's general direction and do 'jazz hand' motions. "Mountain Men" is, in spite of itself, pretty funny. I don't think it was supposed to be amusing, but sometimes bad television gets knocked sideways into the comedy genre by accident.

January 13, 2018

The Pull List: 10 January 2018, Part 1

Trapped in a castle and targeted for assassination by unknown forces, Pyppenia must rely on her 'sleepless' bodyguard Cyrenic - unless she can somehow beg the king's permission to leave.

We're two issues into Sleepless and I think I've found another favourite comic. It is a beautifully developed but gently told fantasy, with a rich setting presented via beautiful artwork and engaging characters explored within excellent writing. Writer Sarah Vaughn and artist Leila Del Duca (not to mention editor and colourist Alissa Sallah) are presenting something rather special here.

While the deliberately slower pace does enhance the characters and the intrigue, it is making a little difficult to really ascertain precisely what sort of story Sleepless is going to tell. Personally, with writing and art this enchanting, I'm perfectly happy to wait and see it gradually unfold. (5/5)

Sleepless #1. Image. Written by Sarah Vaughn. Art by Leila Del Duca. Colours by Alissa Sallah.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Darth Vader, Detective Comics, and Doctor Who.

January 12, 2018

Highlander: The Series: "Bad Day in Building A"

It is 24 October 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

When Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot) heads into city hall to pay a stack of parking tickets, she and Ritchie (Stan Kirsch) are taken hostage as part of a violent criminal's escape attempt. When Duncan (Adrian Paul) steps in to help, he gets shot for his troubles - but as an immortal he is soon up and running, taking down the hostage-takers one at a time.

Or, in other words, 'Highlander does Die Hard'. "Bad Day in Building A" is terrible; really, truly, and overwhelmingly terrible. It does not actually feel like something written for Highlander; take out one scene of Duncan being 'executed' and it could easily sit comfortably inside of Walker: Texas Ranger or the like. There are no flashbacks - a first for the series so far - and no immortals other than Duncan. It is entirely generic and miserably redundant television.

The Pull List: 3 January 2018, Part 3

Scales and Scoundrels is fast becoming a real favourite of mine. It boasts a wonderfully simple art style from Galaad with good colours. Its characters are archetypal yet richly developed. It takes the whole Dungeons & Dragons format and tells a fun adventure story out of it.

In this issue the heroes escape from angry fish people to reach the lost treasure of Dalden Laria, deep underground. Dorma gets lost, Koro still struggles with protecting her prince in such a ridiculous and dangerous situation, and Luvander reveals a whole side to her that readers mostly likely did not expect. There's a flashback, moments of quiet, moments of action, and a rollicking cliffhanger ending. This is the stuff for which I read comic books.

Next month sees the release of the first collected edition, alongside issue #6. It's the perfect time to catch up on a really fun fantasy comic. (4/5)

Scales and Scoundrels #5. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art and colours by Galaad.

Under the cut: reviews of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Extremity, Giants and Rat Queens.

January 11, 2018

Black Mare: "Death Magick Mother" (2017)

Black Mare is a music project written and performed by Los Angeles resident Sera Timms, who also plays in such bands of Zun and Ides of Gemini. Her latest release is Death Magick Mother, released this past September. I'm not quite sure whether one would describe it as an EP or a full album. It runs for seven songs in total.

The album begins with "Ingress to Form". A simple combination of guitars and percussion runs along with a very rough and simple sound. For a while it seems this garage-style grungy strumming is going to be all there is, but Timms' ethereal vocals kick in almost halfway through and lift the song up to a whole new level.

It is repetitive, but that repetition develops into an almost hypnotic hook. It's music you can feel as much as hear. There's something tremendously effective about it.