April 26, 2017

Colditz: "The Guests"

It is 28 January 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

Three British commandos are captured and locked up in Colditz's attached general prison. Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) agitates for their transfer into the prison camp properly, aware that an order from Hitler has decreed all captured commandos be executed. In an unexpected act of generosity it is Major Horst Mohn (Anthony Valentine) - a proud member of the Nazi Party - who comes to Preston's aid. When the British prisoners enact a plan to help the three commandos escape, the true motive behind Mohn's generosity comes to light.

One thing that Colditz has done tremendously well is its way of representing the gradual passage of the war. It is represented in comments and exchanges of dialogue, but also in the slow and ominous way that the series has darkened in tone. Here we have Hitler's orders defying the Geneva Convention entirely - prisoners are now no longer confined to camps, but may readily be shot.

April 25, 2017

Riverdale: "The River's Edge"

In the all-American small town of Riverdale, the community reels from the disappearance on the river of popular high schooler Jason Blossom. As school returns troubled teen Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) finds himself wedged between classmates Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) and Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), while his father Fred (Luke Perry) and Veronica's mother Hermione (Marisol Nichols) reveal a past connection.

Everything old becomes new again, and given the huge success that the American TV network the CW has enjoyed with its growing range of DC Comics adaptations it is little surprise that they might expand their focus to adapting other popular slices of comic book culture. Riverdale is an update of the Archie comics. They have recently enjoyed a widely acclaimed revival in print, and so it is unsurprising that they would also now make a jump to live-action television.

The Pull List: 12 April 2017, Part 2

One of the best things about Valiant as a superhero universe is the hugely inventive manner in which they re-position and re-develop their characters. For one thing their character roster includes three immortal brothers: Gilad, of Eternal Warrior fame, Armstrong, from Archer & Armstrong, and Ivar, star of Ivar Timewalker. Now in a new one-shot all three brothers stand together, not only in Europe's Dark Ages but the court of King Arthur of Britain in Immortal Brothers: The Green Knight.

It's a smart, funny retelling of the classic myth with a good mixture of comedy and drama. It is framed by fellow Valiant hero Archer reading a story to a bedridden and sick Faith, and does a solid job of wrapping an old story around the new characters. More impressive than the story is the artwork, which is simple but hugely effective and beautifully proportioned. Brian Reber's bold colouring also helps to bring the book to life.

In the end this really is just a small piece of whimsy, but I like that Valiant offers the freedom to tell these kinds of amusing side-stories. I can see a number of these Immortal Brothers one-shots developing in the future. (4/5)

Immortal Brothers: The Green Knight #1. Valiant. Written by Fred Van Lente. Art by Cary Nord, Clayton Henry and Mark Morales. Colours by Brian Reber.

Under the cut: reviews of Invader Zim, Justice League of America, and Motor Crush.

April 24, 2017

The Pull List: 12 April 2017, Part 1

The young viking woman Aydis has succeeded in freeing the goddess Brynhild from captivity, but has been captured and kidnapped by Freya and the Valkyries for her trouble.

There is a remarkable quality to Natasha Alterici's miniseries that is quite difficult to pin down. It skirts the edge of becoming an all-out sex-filled work of erotica - particularly in this issue, which reveals a Valhalla packed with scantily-clad lesbians - yet Alterici always pulls the book back to focus on characters and story, and a rich heartfelt tone of hope. The artwork is wonderfully subtle and almost gentle in style.

Perhaps best of all is just how distinctive and unique the book seems to be. It has an enormously strong identity and style that has made it stand out against all of the other comics I have been reading this year. When the time comes to consider the year's best books, Heathen is already a top contender. (5/5)

Heathen #3. Vault Comics. Story and art by Natasha Alterici.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Copperhead and Detective Comics.

April 23, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Starship Mine"

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

After the Enterprise is evacuated for periodic maintenance, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) reboards the ship - only to find it taken over by mercenaries on a raiding mission. While his command crew are held captive on a nearby planet's surface, Picard is forced to single-handedly take back his ship by force.

"Starship Mine" is an unashamed riff on the popular 1988 action film Die Hard, in which hostages are taken, a heist is performed, and a single man with a gun is forced to save the day all by himself. It is a fun episode because it provides some straight-forward action and adventure, but it is particularly fun because it does all of that with Patrick Stewart playing the man with the gun. Some episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation are science fiction masterpieces. Some provide intellectual debate on social issues. Some just run around punching and shooting people.

April 22, 2017

The Pull List: 5 April 2017

Thea continues her quest for vengeance against the Paznina war lords. In the wreckage of the rising plains, she discovers a new ally for her mission.

There is a certain kind of bleak, desolate science fiction/fantasy that particularly appeals to me in comic book form. It can be found all through the works of Moebius, and more recently in American comic books in the likes of The Spire, Prophet, Wild Blue Yonder and Planetoid. You can add to that list Extremity, a vivid and richly developed saga about a one-handed girl on a mission for revenge among the shattered remnants of her home lands.

Creator Daniel Warren Johnson has developed an intriguing and dramatic fantasy world in which Thea seeks her vengeance, and his detailed, distinctive artwork really draws the reader into that world. Colourist Mike Spicer is particularly good in this issue, making a sharp visual distinction between flashback and present events as well as the various locations revealed. For fans of speculative fiction, this book is definitely worth checking out; personally, I'm hooked. (5/5)

Extremity #2. Image. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman, Eleanor and the Egret, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Spider-Man and Superman.

April 20, 2017

Yowamushi Pedal: "Human Bullet Train!!"

It is 16 December 2013, and time for the 11th episode of Yowamushi Pedal.

The day after their special training sessions, the first years discover that the senior classmen have all travelled in secret to the preliminaries of the Inter-High Championship. Not wanting to miss seeing their schoolmates compete, Onoda, Naruko and Imaizumi sneak out of school to see the race. When they arrive, they discover the Sohoku team trailing in third with 50 seconds between them and their competitors.

To an extent this episode feels like an epilogue to the first 10 episodes, since it sets up the Inter-High Championships and gives a brief taste of the rival cyclists and teams that the protagonists are going to face. On the one level it's a nice piece of set-up. On another it makes the episode feel relatively redundant, since it is just sign-posting stuff the audience is going to encounter in due course anyway.

April 7, 2017

The Pull List: 29 March 2017, Part 2

Joyride kicked off with two wayward teenagers escaping a totalitarian planet Earth, hitching a ride on a spacecraft and going to explore the galaxy. Now it turns back: the cast has expanded, with four humans on the team, and they have decided it is time to re-introduce Earth to the rest of the galaxy and overthrow the despotic regime that controls the planet.

It's a plot development that carries a lot of narrative weight, since it reverses the 'running away' motivation that drove the first story arc. It also makes this a pretty fast-paced, energetic sort of issue as a lot of story gets told in a very brief amount of time. It's almost too brief: a slightly slower pace might have allowed events to carry even more weight than they already do.

The scripting is strong as always, as is Marcus To's wonderful artwork and designs. Irma Kniivila's colours always make this comic a visually rich reading experience, and certainly this issue is no different. This continues to be a hugely entertaining science fiction adventure comic. (4/5)

Joyride #11. Boom Studios. Written by Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly. Art by Marcus To. Colours by Irma Kniivila.

Under the cut: reviews of Divinity III: Stalinverse, Hadrian's Wall, Justice League of America, and Ladycastle.

April 4, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Birthright, Part 2"

It is 1 March 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While searching for his father, Worf (Michael Dorn) discovers a secret Romulan penal colony populated entirely by Klingons. Raised outside of the Empire and without the tutelage of their own kind, they have forgotten what it means to be a Klingon warrior. Captured by the guards and imprisoned alongside them, Worf takes their cultural education into his own hands.

The key fault of "Birthright" is clear once you view the second part. There is basically just a little bit more plot to the story that would fit into a single 42-minute episode. As a result the production team had two choices: condense and truncate, or expand and elaborate. Buoyed by the success of "Chain of Command" a few weeks earlier, the production team went with expanding. I think they made the wrong choice. While the first half, padded out by Data's learning to dream, had some genuine good material, the second half is just a chore.

April 2, 2017

The Pull List: 29 March 2017, Part 1

Recently DC Comics has undertaken a bizarre re-imagining of the Hanna Barbera cartoon properties, reworking children's entertainment from the 1960s and 1970s into odd re-imaginings aimed less at children and more at nostalgic thirty-somethings. Post-apocalyptic Scooby Doo has been a bedfellow with a Mad Max-esque Wacky Races and a cross-over Space Ghost/Johnny Quest mash-up. I have heard - but cannot confirm for myself - that their satirical new version of The Flintstones is actually very good, but to be honest the entire concept of these books do not interest me. A crossover between Banana Splits and Suicide Squad, however? That is a concept so completely wrong-headed and egregiously stupid that I felt compelled to check it out for myself.

More fool me. Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits is a train wreck in comic book form. Over-priced at US$4.99, its story by Tony Bedard is weak and superficial and its attempt to cross over the two properties takes the easy way out. It drags the look and tone of the Banana Splits aggressively towards Suicide Squad rather than work within the sharp contrast between the two properties. Ben Caldwell's pencils are generic and ordinary. There is a backup strip in the book's final third that launches another Hanna Barbera re-imagining - Snagglepuss as a gay 1950s playwright - but it is a little too short and simple to make any real kind of impact.

If you are going to deliberately produce a ridiculous crossover comic, it is important that you commit to the stupidity and make the most ridiculous comic that you can. Here DC pull their punches. Here they catch themselves in the middle. This book is garbage. (1/5)

Suicide Squad/Banana Splits #1. DC Comics. Written by Tony Bedard. Art by Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales. Colours by Jeremy Lawson.

Under the cut: reviews of Black Widow and Heathen.

The Pull List: 22 March 2017, Part 3

Every ongoing comic book needs jumping-on points for the new readers, and whether the pre-existing fans like it or not the most obvious way to provide one is to re-start a serialised comic from a new issue #1. Valiant in particular use this technique on all of their books, with few titles extending far between twenty issues or so without getting revamped, renumbered and relaunched. This month it has been the turn of X-O Manowar, which begins anew with a script by Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello.

To their credit it really does feel like a fresh book. Aric, the Roman gladiator who bonded with an alien suit of armour, now lives in a distant planet as a farmer with one hand missing and his iconic armour buried in the ground. When the military come conscripting cannon fodder, he is dragged away and forced to fight whether he wishes to or not.

Tomas Giorello's artwork absolutely sells this book. It looks fantastic, with a rich visual blend of science fiction and fantasy elements and a huge amount of tecture and depth. For new readers it is an easy book into which to jump: people often ask me which Valiant books to read, and this month you should absolutely be reading X-O Manowar. (5/5)

X-O Manowar #1. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Tomas Giorello.

Under the cut: reviews of Bloodshot Reborn, Helena Crash and Star Trek/Green Lantern.

April 1, 2017

The Angriest: March 2017 in review

Counselor Troi's adventures on a Romulan warbird caught the fancy of Angriest readers in March: the review of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Face of the Enemy" was the most-read post of the month, followed by comic reviews for 1 March (here and here), and reviews of two Colditz episodes ("Arrival of a Hero" and "Ghosts").

In total, between The Angriest and its sister site FictionMachine, March saw the publication of a new full-length film essay on The Last Temptation of Christ, and reviews of five new films, 17 older films, six TV episodes, one anime episode, and 53 comic books. A full index of posts is listed below the cut.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Birthright, Part 1"

It is 22 February 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While the Enterprise is docked at the space station Deep Space Nine, Worf (Michael Dorn) is presented with claims that his presumed-dead father may actually be alive and living on a Romulan penal colony. Meanwhile Commander Data (Brent Spiner) is hit by a strange energy discharge when assisting the station's medical officer Dr Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig), leading to a series of unexplained hallucinations.

"Birthright" presents yet another unexpected two-part serial for The Next Generation. Only a few episodes after "Chain of Command" the series is at it again; only this time the results are much less successful. While Worf's search for his missing father stretches over the two episodes, the side-plot of Data learning how to dream is run through and complete by the end of the first hour. It creates a slightly off-kilter rhythm to the story.

March 31, 2017

The Pull List: 22 March 2017, Part 2

Gerard Way's relaunch of Doom Patrol has had a fairly shaky start due to repeated delays: so much so that the entire book is getting temporarily shelved after next month's issue to give it enough time to recommence on a more regular schedule. These sorts of delays can really hurt a book's chances: it makes them a little more difficult to follow from issue to issue, and often kill any of the story momentum.

That is certainly the case here, since Way's deliberate pastiche of Grant Morrison's iconic Doom Patrol run employs a lot of surrealism and deliberately weird segues, and that is the sort of thing that already makes a book a little more difficult to follow. Add in the delays and it's a big of a mess for the average reader.

Nick Derington's artwork is appealing and well-suited to the material, but sadly that material still feels too locked-in to Morrison's run. The old familiar characters are returning one by one, and it continues to feel more like an enthused fan work that a proper advancement of the series. It's fun, and silly, and enjoyable enough, but it could be a lot more beyond. (3/5)

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Black Road, Descender and Ghostbusters 101.

March 29, 2017

The Pull List: 22 March 2017, Part 1

I had honestly assumed that Rebels, a historical comic book by Brian Wood and Andrew Mutti, was done and dusted. It told a story of Seth Abbott, a soldier in the American War of Independence, as well as a few side narratives here and there. It was exceptional stuff: well researched in both writing and art, and intelligently and thoughtfully presented. Then the issues stopped coming out, and I simply assumed low sales or creative disinterest had killed the book off.

Suddenly Dark Horse are back publishing Rebels: These Free and Independent States, a new follow-up storyline that jumps forward a generation to tell the story of Seth Abbott's son John. He is a quiet, intelligent boy clearly living somewhere along the autism spectrum, but he knows ships intimately: their names and routes, their designs, and their construction. As a young man he's encouraged into shipbuilding by his father, just in time for the United States of America to enter its first major naval conflict.

It's engaging history, smartly written and nicely illustrated. I adore historical drama in comic book form, and Brian Wood - through this and Northlanders - is one of the best writers of the genre. I hope Rebels sticks around for at least another few issues in this form: it's great stuff. (4/5)

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #1. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hulk and Spider-Gwen, as well as bonus late reviews of Justice League of America and Super Sons.

March 27, 2017

Colditz: "Odd Man In"

It is 21 January 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

The Germans bring in a new British prisoner: Pilot Officer Lawrence Page (Ian McCullough). He keeps to himself. He shies away from discussing his past. When another officer gets frustrated and threatens him, Page almost gouges his eye out. Suspicions are raised that Page may not be a British officer at all. Meanwhile Carter (David McCallum) tries to establish a coded communications line with British Intelligence back in London.

Some of the best episodes of Colditz have focused their stories on single guest stars, allowing the series to showcase particular events or personalities without having to worry about how to ensure that character survives or copes intact to appear in later episodes. "Tweedledum", for example, was pretty much the strongest episode in the first series, because by using a guest character it was free to take his story to its logical conclusion without having to pull its punches. Something very similar happens here with Pilot Office Lawrence Page.

March 26, 2017

The Pull List: "Superman Reborn"

Over the past four weeks, between Action Comics and Superman, DC Comics has been publishing "Superman Reborn", a four-part storyline in which the identity of the second Clark Kent is revealed and where young Jonathan Kent is kidnapped with Lois and Clark hot on the trail to get him back. For readers who have been trying to follow the various plot threads launched by DC Rebirth, this is a pretty significant storyline. After a shipping delay forced me to miss the first issue I figured it was worth waiting a couple of weeks and reviewing the storyline all at once.

It all kicked off four weeks ago in Superman #18, in which the mysterious second Clark Kent turned up at the real Kent family home - and demonstrated some genuinely unexpected powers, like a magical blue flame that engulfs the Kent home and seemingly erases Jonathan from the world altogether. It's an attention-grabbing first issue, since it really throws the potential identity of the fake Clark way up into the air. It also includes a tantalising prologue in which one of Mr Oz's prisoners - we don't get to see which one yet - escapes from captivity.

Mr Oz, a mysterious hooded figure that has been kidnapping different characters to prevent them from acting on the DC Universe's changed history, is one of the ongoing mysteries of the Superman books, and his return here immediately signifies something of importance is kicking off. Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray's art is excellent, as it always is, and nicely coloured by John Kalisz. (4/5)

Superman #18. DC Comics. Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. Art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray. Colours by John Kalisz.

March 25, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Tapestry"

It is 15 February 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When an away mission goes disastrously wrong, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) dies in the Enterprise sickbay. When he awakes it is in an afterlife controlled by the alien entity Q (John De Lancie), who offers Picard the chance to re-live a critical moment in his life all over again.

Q returns to torment Picard for the second time in one season - and only a week, in broadcast terms, after harassing Benjamin Sisko over in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It runs a terrible risk of over-using the character, since a little bit of Q tends to go a long way and also because his earlier 1992/93 appearances in "True Q" and "Q-Less" were hardly high quality outings. Thankfully "Tapestry" is a much, much stronger episode. It is probably the single-best Q episode Star Trek ever had.

March 24, 2017

The Pull List: 15 March 2017, Part 3

Head Lopper returns, with an all-new story arc but the same blend of simple, abstracted art work and Robert E. Howard-style sword and sorcery adventure. Norgal and Agatha are on a mission to enter the Crimson Tower and defeat the diabolical Ulrich the Twice-Damned. They are accompanied by a disparate group of other adventurers and - unexpectedly - a group of small goblin-like children.

Andrew Maclean is a tremendous talent, telling engaging fantasy stories with a strong sense of absurd humour. Anyone who enjoyed Trondheim and Sfar's excellent Dungeon series of graphic novels - and who wouldn't? - will find themselves very much at home here. Head Lopper also benefits from the extra length afforded to each issue. It makes the decompressed style and big colourful panels really work to the book's advantage.

Perhaps the book's greatest strength is that there simply is not another comic like it on the market. Maclean has established himself a comparatively exclusive niche with which to tell broad, entertaining pulp adventures with his own distinctive take. It is one of my favourite books in the US market today. (5/5)

Head Lopper #5. Story and art by Andrew Maclean. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Ms Marvel, Poe Dameron and Spider-Man.

March 22, 2017

The Pull List: 15 March 2017, Part 2

Last week saw the release of issue #2 of The Wild Storm, DC's relaunch of Jim Lee's popular 1990s Wildstorm Universe. A lot of the Wildstorm characters were inserted into DC proper back during the New 52, but The Wild Storm resets them all in their own world, and it makes a world of difference.

This is a smart, contemporary take on a superhero story, one without secret military organisations like SHIELD but rather Apple-style tech giants. This issue is low on action but high on dialogue and plot development, and the no-nonsense panel layouts and Jon Davis-Hunt's superb artwork make it an extremely clean, entertaining read. It is worth noting Steve Buccellato's emotive colours as well. As for the story, a young woman with an advanced tech-suit is now being tracked down by three separate organisations at the same time, with the strong sense that bad things are going to happen when those three groups collide.

For long-term Wildstorm fans it's great to see old characters reworked into a new form. For fresh readers this is just an intelligent and inventive new comic that is absolutely worth reading. Writer Warren Ellis is doing some great work here, and it deserves our attention. (5/5)

The Wild Storm #2. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon Davis-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Divinity III: Escape from Gulag 396, Highlander: The American Dream, and Star Trek: Deviations.

March 21, 2017

Colditz: "Ghosts"

It is 14 January 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

As the newly appointed escape officer, Carter (David McCallum) identifies the key problem facing escape attempts is the Germans noticing people are missing too early. After finding an old priesthole underneath the chapel pulpit, he decides to test the idea by hiding Player (Christopher Neame) and Brent (Paul Chapman) there

One of the greatest strengths of Colditz is how the series managed to find fresh angles on the same activity each episode. "Ghosts" presents a particularly clever variation: Player and Brent's use of the priesthole accidentally collides with a failed tunnelling attempt by some French prisoners, which leads the Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) to seal up the chapel completely. The episode's goal, therefore, is not to escape any more but to somehow save Player and Brent's lives without having to admit they are there to the German guards.

March 20, 2017

The Pull List: 15 March 2017, Part 1

After a fairly underwhelming prologue issue, Batwoman hits the ground running in its first issue. Kate Kane is travelling the world on the hunt for an illegal serum that transforms normal humans into terrifying monsters. Accompanying her on her travels is Julia Pennyworth, daughter of Alfred. It is a nice set-up that keeps the strong angle on female characters that made the last volume of Batwoman work so well.

Steve Epting's artwork is great, but the real star is colourist Jeromy Cox. His stark monochrome work in the issue's flashback sequence really makes it stand out. Exceptional artwork and Batwoman feel like they go hand in hand, due in no small part to J.H. Williams III's outstanding work some years back. The work here is different of course, and nowhere near as intricate, but it looks wonderful and adds a great deal to the book.

Batwoman is a great character. She is tied to Batman enough to benefit from the extended Batman characters and situations, but she is very much her own character as well. In many respects she is the Black Widow of the DC Universe: a talented espionage agent haunted by a violent past. She even has the red hair. It's another solid win for DC Rebirth. (4/5)

Batwoman #1. DC Comics. Written by Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV. Art by Steve Epting. Colours by Jeromy Cox.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman and Green Arrow.

March 16, 2017

The Pull List: 8 March 2017, Part 2

The Grass Kingdom is a small pocket of rural America that runs by its own rules, ignoring the Federal government in favour of independent, off-the-grid living. It is run by three brothers, including Sheriff Bruce - introduced escorting a young trespasser off their lands - and eldest brother Robert, who remains traumatised over the apparent drowning death of his daughter.

This is Grass Kings, a new monthly book by writer Matt Kindt and artist Tyler Jenkins. It is a very understated opening, easing the reader into the environment and characters without resorting to smash-and-grab action scenes or surprise cliffhangers. Kindt writes sparse, hugely effective dialogue too. Tyler Jenkins' artwork is beautiful, and similarly low key, and well served by Boom Studios' matt finish paper that really allows the delicate visuals to pop off the page.

If there's a problem it is that the book actually too low-key for its own good. It may ease the reader in gently, but it also lacks any proper sense of drama. There is nothing here to drag the reader back beyond the quality of the dialogue and the art, and in the hugely competitive world of American comic book publishing I am not certain if that will be enough. It is a soft opening, with a great deal to recommend, but it left me wanting just a little bit more than what I got. (3/5)

Grass Kings #1. Boom Studios. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Tyler Jenkins.

Under the cut: reviews of Copperhead, Doctor Aphra, and Planetoid: Praxis.

March 15, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 6

It is 27 March 2016, and time for the final episode of The Night Manager.

Everything comes full circle: Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is back at Cairo's Nefertiti Hotel, where he was first drawn into the criminal world of Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Roper's arms deal is about to be made, and with Corky dead Jonathan is running out of avenues to keep Roper from discovering he is a spy. Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) is in Cairo to help, but can she do enough to help trap Roper and keep Jed (Elizabeth Debicki) out of harm's way?

There is a very pleasing symmetry to this final episode of The Night Manager. After moving from Cairo to Switzerland to Spain to Turkey, the series now snakes back to its starting point: a new deal, a new disguise, but the self-same hotel in which Jonathan originally worked as the titular night manager. It also brings him back in contact with corrupt Egyptian playboy Freddie Hamid (David Avery), whose murder of his lover brought a vengeful Jonathan to British intelligence in the first place.

March 14, 2017

The Pull List: 8 March 2017, Part 1

Dan Slott and Michael Allred's run on Silver Surfer continues to be a sweet confection among Marvel's usual mess of crossovers and tie-ins. Ironically it was one of those incessant tie-ins that caused the book to stagger back in early 2016. That coincided with a significant slowdown in the pace of this title: since relaunching off the back of Secret Wars it has only managed nine issues over 15 months.

This ninth issue is the sort of self-contained story that makes the delays worthwhile. The Surfer and his companion Dawn discover a star system where the first three planets are devastated wrecks, but the fourth boasts a thriving civilization. While meeting the inhabitants, they discover the same people wrecked the other three worlds via environmental damage. The secret of how they have survived so well the fourth time around forms the core mystery for the Surfer and Dawn to solve.

Slott's intended model of treating the Silver Surfer as the Marvel Universe version of Doctor Who works incredibly well here. The plot is simple enough to fit comfortably into 20 pages, but still finds room for moments of character and some larger-scale story developments. Michael and Laura Allred do a predictably great job with the artwork. It is simple, but hugely engaging. (5/5)

Silver Surfer #9. Marvel. Written by Dan Slott. Art by Michael Allred. Colours by Laura Allred.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Detective Comics, Star Trek: Waypoint and The Wicked + the Divine.

March 7, 2017

The Pull List: 1 March 2017, Part 2

Rat Queens seemed to be one of Image's very best and most entertaining comics. Then its artist quit the book after an incident of domestic abuse. Then the replacement quit after only a few issues. Then the second replacement left under an acrimonious cloud, claiming that the original artist was coming back. Then the book got cancelled, pretty much on a massive cliffhanger.

Now it is back, keeping its creator and writer Kurtis J. Wiebe but introducing a fourth regular artist: Owen Gieni. It also pretty much ignores the cliffhanger ending of the first volume and simply jumps ahead to effectively reboot the entire story. It is back to basics here, with a group of badly behaved violent women essentially playing out the plot of every Dungeons & Dragons game with a greater-than-usual serve of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

Gieni's artwork has a nice storybook quality to it. The characters all look the same, but the aesthetic is distinct from earlier versions by Upchurch or Fowler. Wiebe's sense of humour remains intact as well, although the book's second half gets a bit too parodic for my taste. It does not hit the creative heights that the original volume did, but we're only on issue 1 at this stage. I'm happy to give the book the chance to sink back into the swing of things. It's a great set of characters, and I'm pleased to see them return. (3/5)

Rat Queens #1. Image. Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe. Art and colours by Owen Gieni.

Under the cut: reviews of Cosmic Scoundrels, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Extremity, Giant Days and Green Arrow.

Yowamushi Pedal: "Peak Spider"

It is 9 December 2013, and time for episode 10 of Yowamushi Pedal.

With the first club race complete, each new member is paired with a senior student to better develop their skills. Onoda is matched with Makashima, to improve his skills at climbing hills. Makashima's personal style, however, may be a little too distinct for Onoda to learn.

And, in fact, Makashima actively discourages Onoda from even trying. His nickname, "Peak Spider", comes from his bizarre weaving style of cycling uphill. After the overly lengthy serial of the club race, this episode is refreshingly self-contained. It is a nice continuation of the technical explanation of competitive racing, but that is balanced with a really enjoyable character piece.

March 6, 2017

The Pull List: 1 March 2017, Part 1

America Chavez has been a hugely entertaining Marvel Comics character without ever having an ongoing book to call her own. She was great in Gillen and McKelvie's Young Avengers, and more recently has since been leading the superhero team The Ultimates. This month she takes the spotlight for herself in her very first solo series: America.

I was really keen to like this book, because I love the character and want to see her succeed. Sadly this first issue at least really failed to work for me. It sees America break up with her girlfriend, take a break from fighting with the Ultimates, and enrolling to study at Sotomayor University. It is an oddly grounded and personal sort of story with a little bit of inventive panel designs and layout and a healthy dose of light-hearted banter.

I simply could not pull together much enthusiasm for this book. To an extent it may be a case of it simply not being aimed at me or readers like me. The artwork is solid, but Gabby Rivera's script is all over the place. There is very little holding the narrative together. It starts in another dimension, concludes back in the past, and spends a lot of time in the middle wasting that time. I want a great Miss America book. This isn't it. (2/5)

America #1. Marvel. Written by Gabby Rivera. Art by Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera and Paolo Rivera. Colours by Jose Villarrubia.

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

March 5, 2017

Colditz: "Arrival of a Hero"

It is 7 January 1974, and time for the Season 2 premiere of Colditz.

With Carrington and Grant safely escaped, it is up to the remaining British prisoners to suffer the wrath of the German authorities. While Lieutenant Carter (David McCallum) recovers from a broken ankle sustained in the escape attempt, he becomes the target for the camp's new second-in-command, Major Horst Mohn (Anthony Valentine).

"Arrival of a Hero" opens the second and final year for Colditz, and immediately goes about reframing the series in the absence of Carrington and Grant. While Grant in particular played a leading role in much of the first season, it seems the focus this time around will be more closely on Carter. It also introduces a sinister new antagonist in the shape of Major Mohn.

March 2, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 4

A few too many comics books came out last week, so we're off on a rare fourth instalment of The Pull List. Reviews of this week's comic will come along soon. let's start with Joyride.

After the pretty destructive events in issue #8 of Joyride, the book took a narrative jump forwards in issue #9 to show where the characters were a year later. Issue #10, released last week, focuses on love-struck teen Dewydd, now a walker-in-training on a mission to rescue his brother.

It is a smart and comfortable development for the character, rounding him off and giving him a greater strength and resolve. It is also great to see his relationship with his brother fleshed out. That all occurs within the framework of an inter-galactic prison break-in, with excellently devised aliens, technology and vehicles.

Marcus To does an excellent job with the art on this series, balancing the need to present realistic and sympathetic characters with wildly imaginative settings, aliens and planets. The book has consistently been wonderful to look at, and a large degree of its success comes down to his work. Irma Kniivila's colours complement the art beautifully. This is one of my favourite comic books at the moment: all science fiction fans should be reading it. (5/5)

Joyride #10. Boom Studios. Written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly. Art by Marcus To. Colours by Irma Kniivila.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Black Road, Descender, and Heathen.

March 1, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Face of the Enemy"

It is 8 February 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) wakes up on a Romulan warbird. Her face has been surgically altered to resemble a Romulan, and an officer named N'Vek (Scott MacDonald) reveals she has been kidnapped in order to assist in a top secret mission for Spock's underground unification group. While Troi works to hide the truth from the ship;s suspicious commander (Carolyn Seymour), the Enterprise collects a Romulan defector that may hold vital information for Troi's mission.

Troi rarely gets to be the focus of an episode, and when she does it is usually pretty poorly developed. "Face of the Enemy", then, presents a sharp contrast. It is a fantastic espionage thriller that uses Troi's talent and experience effectively and inventively. It also provides a nice central conflict between two female characters, with Carolyn Seymour giving a great turn as Commander Toreth.

The Angriest: February 2017 in review

February brought a big change to how I divide my blogging. From now on all of my film reviews are getting posted either to FictionMachine or FilmInk, leaving The Angriest to cover comics, TV episodes, anime, music and other things that take my fancy. I will still be using this post to collate all of my online writing for the past month, however, so if you haven't been following me at either of the other sites simply head below the cut to see what you missed.

In February, my episode-by-episode reviews of The Night Manager were far and away the most popular new posts at The Angriest, with episode 2 being particularly popular for some reason. Also particularly popular was my review of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Ship in a Bottle". The full list of posts is below. Across all websites, in February 2017 I wrote seven reviews of new films, 10 reviews of older films, 11 TV episode reviews, three anime reviews, two music reviews, one long-form essay, one obituary, and reviews of 47 comic books.

February 28, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 3

Sumesh and Nat are two hugh schoolers raiding abandoned technology parks for parts, in order to build a time machine. That seems to be basic premise of Quantum Teens Are Go, a marvellously energetic new comic book from Magdalene Visaggio and Eryk Donovan. There is plenty to recommend here, including the loose, agile art style and warm colours, the swiftly moving storyline, and perhaps most intriguingly of all its two distinctive protagonists.

Representation matters, and so I'm really happy to see this book not only focus on a transgendered teenage girl and her Indian boyfriend but treat it as something relatively commonplace. There's a short dialogue exchange between Nat and her mother about her transition, but that's about it. Beyond that the characters are what they, and no one seems that concerned. I like that.

Black Mask Studios are setting up quite a run of enthusiastic, original comic books. Some of them feel a little inexperienced, but I suspect that is because in many cases they are. This publisher seems to be rapidly turning into a showcase for promising early career writers and artists. This title in particular is off to an entertaining start.

Quantum Teens Are Go #1. Black Mask. Written by Magdalene Visaggio. Art by Eryk Donovan. Colours by Claudia Aguirre.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hulk and Justice League of America.

February 26, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 5

It is 20 March 2016, and time for episode 5 of The Night Manager.

Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) has defied the orders of his handler Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) and accompanied arms trader Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) to his latest deal in Turkey. Jonathan has never been closer to trapping Roper and exposing his criminal enterprise, but with his location growing more and more isolated and with Corky (Tom Hollander) still working to unseat him in Roper's circle, it may be too dangerous to continue.

There is a striking change in tone with this fifth episode, which takes the series out of its luxurious settings in Spain and Switzerland and shifting instead to the industrial ports and wilds of Turkey. The stakes have been raised considerably, since Jonathan is now operating without any support from London at all. The series also shifts its visual palette: the softer, richer colours of earlier episodes have given way to muddy greys and browns. As Jonathan moves closer to the centre of Roper's operations, so too does the audience: it is all feeling much more vicious and unpleasant.

February 25, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 2

As a pretty keen fan of Doctor Who, I have been a big fan of how Titan Comics has been handling the franchise: monthly ongoings for the most recent Doctors, and occasional five-part miniseries for the classic incarnations. Most recently it has been Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor that has been the focus of a miniseries, and writer Paul Cornell has certainly provided a lot of period-appropriate touch points and character traits to give it a proper 1970s vibe.

Sadly the story itself has been pretty haphazard and silly, first bringing in the Second Doctor to assist and then revealing midway that he was actually the identical-looking villain Ramon Salamander in disguise. It was fairly torturous continuity porn, to be honest, and with the fifth and final issue dropping into stores it's pretty clear to me that the story simply didn't work. This final issue in particular feels all over the place, and is far too rushed to generate any proper sense of drama. In the past Cornell has written some of the best Doctor Who available, for both prose and television. It is a shame that in this case he didn't manage to pull things off.

Christopher Jones' art is excellent, and captures the likenesses of the various TV characters very well. I would be very happy to see him have a turn on another Doctor Who miniseries in the future. Preferably one with a stronger storyline. (2/5)

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor #5. Titan Comics. Written by Paul Cornell. Art by Christopher Jones. Colours by Hi-Fi.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Highlander: The American Dream, and Spider-Gwen.

February 24, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 1

One of the most influential films I have ever seen in terms of making an impact on my life is Jim Henson and Frank Oz's 1982 puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal. It is hugely imaginative, without a single human being to be seen. It told a wonderfully dramatic quest story set in a superbly realised and distinctive world. While its initial theatrical release was a little underwhelming it became a massive long-term hit on home video, so much so that some years back attempts were made to produce a much-delayed sequel. Those attempts all failed, and with the project seemingly dead and buried Archaia - who have already produced a number of excellent adaptations of cancelled Jim Henson works - have been granted permission to adapt the screenplay into a 12-issue comic series.

20 pages is probably not enough to sufficiently judge such a lengthy and anticipated project, but taking the first issue as an indication it is wonderful to confirm not a foot has been set wrong. The tone is one hundred per cent that of Henson and Oz's original film. It is set 100 years later, as the Gelfling race has been restored and its people proclaimed custodians of the healed crystal. In comes Thurma, a fireling from a distant land, with a quest that may have grave repercussions to the Gelflings.

Simon Spurrier demonstrated himself to be a tremendous fantasy writer with his miniseries The Spire, and seems to be doing a great job here of translating a screenplay to a comic. Kelly and Nicole Matthews' artwork is absolutely wonderful, and captures the look and tone of Henson's fantasy works wonderfully. Jae Lee's striking painted cover is the icing on the cake.

This is a comic book for three audiences: those who want a decent fantasy series, those who want a sequel to The Dark Crystal, and those who simply want to see what the failed movie sequel might potentially have been like. All three audiences should be very happy with what Spurrier, Matthews and Matthews, and Archaia have put together. (5/5)

The Power of the Dark Crystal #1. Boom Studios/Archaia. Written by Simon Spurrier. Based on the screenplay by Craig Pearce and Annette Duffy & David Odell. Art by Kelly and Nichole Matthews.

Under the cut: reviews of Darkness Visible, Divinity III: Stalinverse, and the very last issue of Revival.

February 23, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 4

It is 13 March 2016 and time for the fourth episode of The Night Manager.

Former hotel night manager Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is now deeply enmeshed in the secret arms trade Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). As Pine gets closer to securing evidence of Roper's crimes, his mission is imperilled by a romantic advance from Roper's girlfriend Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), the growing suspicions of Corky (Tom Hollander), and his London-based handler Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) attempting to pull him out of the fire.

The slightly unconvincing insertion of Pine into Roper's life is complete, and that frees the second half of The Night Manager to arc up the stakes and suspense as it approaches its climax. Pine now has two main causes for worry: the fear he will be caught out spying on Roper, and the fear he is going to get caught out sleeping with his girlfriend. The second one feels a bit of a cliche to me, but it is admittedly very well performed by Hiddleston and Debicki and does lead to the episode's most outstanding scene.

February 22, 2017

Avantasia: Angel of Babylon (2010)

Avantasia is a rock opera super-group concept by heavy metal musician Tobias Sammett. It is a pretty simple concept: every few years he assembles a group of musicians from other European metal bands and gets them to perform a bunch of songs. The completed albums usually follow themes or narratives of one kind or another, but they also work as pretty great straight-up power metal CDs as well.

Angel of Babylon was released back in 2010 and was the third volume in a loose trilogy of releases. It was released side-by-side with The Wicked Symphony. Here Sammett used a core band including Sascha Paeth, Eric Singer (KISS) and Michael Rodenberg (aka Miro), and a group of musical guests including Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Felix Bohnke (Edguy), Bruce Kulick (KISS, Grand Funk Railroad), Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray), and Jørn Lande (Masterplan).

February 19, 2017

The Pull List: 15 February 2017, Part 2

Way back 25 years ago, when Marvel's most popular artists jumped ship to make and own their own comics, Jim Lee wrote and illustrated the hugely successful superhero team book WildCATS. That soon expanded to an entire line of superhero books under a unified imprint named Wildstorm. Eventually Lee went to work for DC Comics, selling the entire Wildstorm line to them in the process. Some of those characters were incorporated into the DC Universe as a result of the New 52 relaunch. Now that original and separate Wildstorm Universe is getting a relaunch of its own, in Warren Ellis' 24-part maxi-series The Wild Storm.

It is a clever reboot of the various characters and settings, because Ellis remixes the elements into something that feels smart, fresh and socially relevant. At the same time older readers who enjoyed earlier iterations of the characters will appreciate the little nods and touches that are included along the way. It is an intriguing first issue, with plenty of characters and set-ups to keep the title going for quite a while, and its snappy dialogue and well-crafted personalities making an immediate and positive impression.  Jon Davis-Hunt provides some tremendously effective and clean artwork, which is subtlely coloured by Ivan Plascencia. It is a hugely attractive book, visually speaking. On a creative level at least, DC look set to have another hit on their hands. (5/5)

The Wild Storm #1. DC Comics. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon Davis-Hunt. Colours by Ivan Plascencia.

Under the cut: reviews of Animosity, Batwoman Rebirth, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Poe Dameron and Spider-Man.

February 18, 2017

The Pull List: 15 February 2017, Part 1

One of the greatest strengths of the DC Universe - when its editors aren't indulging in rampant Silver Age nostalgia - is its constant creation of legacy characters: new versions of old characters that transform those personas a little a keep the various franchises fresh and interesting for readers. Two of the best in recent years have been Damian Wayne - the arrogant, aristocratic son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul - and Jonathan Kent - the bright-eyed, hopelessly optimistic son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. One has been Robin for some years now, and the other has adopted the Superboy identity as part of DC Rebirth. Now they're sharing their own monthly comic book: Super Sons.

It's a delight. It immediately reminded me of Young Justice, a much earlier team-up book featuring a different Superboy and Robin alongside Impulse (a Kid Flash variant). It's engaging, bright and tremendously funny. Peter J. Tomasi has a long experience writing for both characters, and Jorge Jiminez's artwork perfectly captures the script's tone.

They are a fantastic pair of characters, because they are effectively exaggerated versions of their respective fathers. Superman may be the straight-laced boy scout, but Jonathan is charmingly obsessed with helping others, doing the right thing, and taking down bullies. At the same time Damian is every iconic aspect of Batman dialled up to 11. He's moody, smart, stand-offish and an expert in tactics and hand-to-hand combat. The contrast between them throws huge amounts of comic potential into the air - a potential that this creative team seem very well-suited to capture. (4/5)

Super Sons #1. Written by Peter J. Tomasi. Art by Jorge Jiminez.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman, Green Arrow, and Superman. It's a DC Comics fiesta!

February 17, 2017

Red Dwarf: "Officer Rimmer"

It is 13 October 2016, and time for another episode of Red Dwarf.

After an act of cowardice accidentally saves another starship, Rimmer (Chris Barrie) is promoted to lieutenant. Not only does he take the opportunity to lord it over his crewmates, he uses a captured bio-printer to replicate himself dozens of times to populate the whole of Red Dwarf with Rimmers.

As with all of the other episodes of Red Dwarf's 11th season, "Officer Rimmer" takes a bunch of old episodes and throws them into a blender. In this case the resulting mess feels deeply unpalatable - while there are a few early jokes that work incredibly well, the episode as a whole simply fails to work. You can only recycle these sorts of jokes so many times, and in the main Red Dwarf appears to have passed that limit some time ago.

February 15, 2017

The Pull List: 8 February 2017, Part 3

Deadman is one of those wonderfully charming old-school DC superheroes who is never going to be a mainstream success but who continues to foster a small, dedicated fanbase over the years. It was great to see DC give him a brief bit of exposure with the three-issue miniseries Deadman: Dark Mansion of Love, which came to a conclusion last Wednesday. It was a slightly odd format, with double-length issues published every two months - yet it was clear from their structure that it was definitely a six-issue series instead. I quite liked getting the larger chunks of story each time.

The story by Sarah Vaughn was ultimately a fairly predictable one, but it hit all the right beats to be a charming gothic horror story with a few neat contemporary touches. The real star for me was Lan Medina's artwork (aided by Phil Hester), which gave the series a wonderfully rich tone and style. Once collected into a single volume it should make a wonderful purchase for the Boston Brand devotee in your life.

I would be happy to see DC continue to publish some miniseries in this format and schedule, and give a few more semi-obscure characters a refresh. Fingers crossed that it happens soon. (4/5)

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3. DC Comics. Written by Sarah Vaughn. Art by Lan Medina with Phil Hester. Colours by Jose Villarrubia.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Detective Comics, Doctor Aphra, Motor Crush and Southern Cross.

February 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Aquiel"

It is 1 February 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise arrives at a relay station lying along the Federation-Klingon border. Its crew are dead. While investigating the crime, Lt La Forge (LeVar Burton) studies the personal logs of the late Aquiel Uhnari (Renee Jones) to find any clue to what actually occurred. When Aquiel turns up alive and well and in Klingon custody, the mystery only deepens.

I have no idea why, or how it repeatedly occurred for the whole length of The Next Generation, but the series writers were fundamentally incapable of giving Geordi La Forge a normal romance. In "Booby Trap" they had him romance a hologram based on a real and unsuspecting person. In "Galaxy's Child" they had him meet the actual person he had copied, and actually have him somehow blame her for being offended - to the point where a weird creepy romance seemed to develop by the end. Here Geordi watches the personal video diary of a stranger, and then uses what he learns to chat her up. It's bizarrely awful, continuing the irregular process of making him the series' most unintentionally unlikeable character.

February 11, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 3

Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) has found himself stuck in Spanish island estate of billionaire-turned-arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Now he has to ingratiate himself fully into Roper's service if he is to stand any chance of helping British intelligence pin him down. All the while Roper's right-hand man Major Corcoran (Tom Hollander) is watching Pine with suspicion, waiting for him to make a single mistake.

One thing you cannot fault about The Night Manager is its cast. There is not a single let-down in the entire group, whether it's Tom Hiddleston's intense, mercurial Jonathan Pine, or Tom Hollander's bitchy, predatory Corky, or Elizabeth Debicki's mysterious, brittle performance as Roper's girlfriend Jed. Each actors gives it their all, and transforms what are in the main very archetypal spy fiction characters into three-dimensional people. Sadly with this episode there are a few things to criticise about the script.

February 10, 2017

The Pull List: 8 February 2017, Part 2

The world may be ending, and the gods need to discuss what - if anything - they are going to do about it. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's The Wicked + the Divine has been an astonishingly good series. Sure there have been a few wavering periods, but it has always pulled itself back to feel challenging, hugely entertaining and very contemporary. It is a book for now.

We knew, as readers, that Ananke was murdering the pantheon of gods to prevent the coming of a great darkness, but then the pantheon killed Ananke. Without the required sacrifices being made, that darkness now appears to be both real and present. The beauty of this series - and this current story arc in particular - is that I have no idea where this is all going. Maybe the gods will all die. Maybe the world will simply end. Maybe they will somehow emerge victorious. I could honestly believe any of these things might happen - that's what makes WicDiv (as the fans call it) so addictive.

Jamie McKelvie's art remains sensational, with a perfect handle of character expressions and emotions. He really is one of the best in the business. (4/5)

The Wicked + the Divine #26. Image. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by James McKelvie. Colours by Matthew Wilson.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor and Ms Marvel.

Olololop + MC Serious: Discovery (2014)

I find something rather wonderful about pop music produced in languages other than my own. It prevents me from engaging with the lyrics, since I have no ability to understand the words. Instead the vocals in any given tracks simply turn the singer's voice into another musical instrument. This seems to go double with hip hop, where the rhythm of an MC's voice essentially forms another layer of percussion. With the right musical backing it can sound positively hypnotic.

While in Taipei last October I bought a pile of North Asian independent rock and pop albums, and somewhere in the middle of the pile was Discovery (aka Hakken), a CD by Japanese electronic outfit Olololop and rapper MC Serious (Shiriashu). It is a stripped-back, staccato sort of an album, one that combines fairly minimal and experimental electronic beats with some very effective - and, to be, unintelligible, rapping. It's odd, but it's also highly addictive.

February 9, 2017

The Pull List: 8 February 2017, Part 1

With long-running comic book characters, it is sometimes necessary to pause for an issue or two and make a new statement of intent: who is the character, and why do they do what it is they do each issue? That's pretty much the aim in Daredevil #16, from writer Charles Soule and artist Goran Sudzuka. It re-confirms why Matt Murdock does what he does, in an issue packed with history.

Matt's new sidekick Blindspot has lost his eyes, and ever since Matt has seemed suicidal. He's put a contract out on his own head, and after fighting off nearly every hired killer in New York he has finally come face to face with his arch-enemy Bullseye. The bulk of the issue takes place in the split-second it takes for the bullet to pass from Bullseye's rifle to Matt's head, as he sinks into flashbacks about whether or not to continue as Daredevil, and what possible purpose his life can have.

Tragedy. Violence. Catholicism. Guilt. These are all very common themes to Daredevil since it was re-imagined in the 1980s by Frank Miller. Soule revisits it all, and it the process freshens it up and re-emphasises its strengths. This is the best issue so far of Soule's run. It's simply a great comic book. (5/5)

Daredevil #16. Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Goran Sudzuka. Colours by Matt Milla.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Black Widow, Donald Quest, and Justice League of America Rebirth.

February 8, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Ship in a Bottle"

It is 25 January 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

An error in the Enterprise's systems leads Lt Barclay (Dwight Schultz) to accidentally re-activate the sentient holographic recreation of Professional James Moriarty (Daniel Davis), who demonstrates a frightening increase in intellect and ability as he takes over the ship and even exits the holodeck. For the sake of his ship and crew, Picard (Patrick Stewart) is forced to listen to Moriarty's demands.

It took four years for Star Trek: The Next Generation to revisit its Sherlock Holmes-themed episode "Elementary, Dear Data". Legal issues stemming from a litigious Conan Doyle estate combined with a lot of confusion over whether or not permission was required from the estate at all delayed things until they were finally sorted out for this sixth season follow-up. It is perhaps not as outwardly fun as its predecessor, but it is a rather clever episode and certainly does a decent thing in pushing the story into fresh directions rather than simply emulate the original.

February 7, 2017

Red Dwarf: "Give and Take"

It is 6 October 2016 and time for another episode of Red Dwarf.

When exploring a soon to be destroyed space station, Lister (Craig Charles) is captured by an insane medical droid and has his kidneys removed. With only days left to life, he must convince the Cat (Danny John-Jules) to donate a replacement kidney.

With this 11th season of Red Dwarf there has been an enormous reliance on revisiting and remixing old storylines. This left the season premiere "Twentica" feeling particularly tired and repetitive, but managed to make the second episode "Samsara" a rather pleasant slice of nostalgia. "Give and Take" falls somewhere in between. There is some great character work and some genuinely funny gags, but the core narrative has simply been lifted from other episodes.

February 6, 2017

Doctor Who: "Day of Reckoning"

It is 5 December 1964, and time for part 3 of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth".

While the Doctor (William Hartnell) is rescued from the Dalek saucer, Ian (William Russell) remains trapped onboard as it travels to the Dalek's mysterious mining site in Bedfordshire. The human attempt to attack the Daleks with newly developed bombs end in failure, leaving Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), Dortmun (Alan Judd) and Jenny (Ann Davies) as the only survivors.

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" continues to be both the most expansive Doctor Who serial so far, and the absolute bleakest. A group of human resistance fighters storm a Dalek saucer early into the episode and are almost entirely wiped out. Later a sole member of the team bravely confronts three Daleks to test a new explosive device, and dies for his troubles - the bomb does not even make a difference. Later Dalek serials of the 1960s and 1970s will turn the Daleks into a sort of fun monstrous enemy for the Doctor, which rant and rave been which are easily evaded by running down a corridor. Here in their second appearance they pose a horrifying threat: come across one, and you are almost certain to die.