May 29, 2017

The Pull List: 24 May 2017, Part 2

Valiant doesn't really do line-wide crossover miniseries like DC and Marvel, but they do regularly publish miniseries throwing multiple characters together for an adventure. Rapture presents a team-up between Ninjak, Shadowman and Tama the geomancer in the realm of Deadside, a creepy underworld filled with ghosts and demons.

Issue #1 pretty much sets up the story for the remaining three issues, and introduces the world of Deadside and its varied demonic inhabitants. Writer Matt Kindt has put a lot of creativity into this world, and the story benefits enormously by having this environment bedded down and explained before Ninjak and Shadowman enter it. Before they arrive the story is in the hands of Tama, a young girl with an enormous responsibility to see the approach of the end of the world. As written here she's very likeable and engaging.

Cafu's artwork is strong and Andrew Dalhouse's colours and wonderfully strong and rich. I am a huge fan of Dalhouse's work; he really makes his books pop off the page. You can pretty much always rely on Valiant to produce a solid and entertaining limited series, and Rapture is no exception. (4/5)

Rapture #1. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Cafu. Colours by Andrew Dalhouse.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Rat Queens, Seven to Eternity and X-O Manowar.

May 27, 2017

The Pull List: 24 May 2017, Part 1

Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti continue to do a wonderful job with Rebels: These Free and Independent States, a five-issue miniseries that follows on from their original monthly series from a year or two back.

It is a great series in part because it has such a rich historical background: a young United States of America being forced to defend its shipping lanes from French and English incursions. It is also great because it has such a strong and interesting protagonist: John Abbott, a highly talented ship-builder and engineer who also appears to be autistic. He does not care about family or romance or even the nation he helping to build: all he cares about are his ships.

Andrea Mutti's artwork is simply stunning, with a realistic style and a beautiful attention to detail. The realism is aided enormously by Lauren Affe's colours, which are deliberately muted in shades of grey, brown and green for the most part. It all gives a wonderful sense of the past, and of American history.

If this miniseries format is a long-term future for Rebels, it is one I welcome. There is so much potential for different aspects of American history to be showcased and explored in this exemplary fashion. This issue, for one, is a near-perfect exploration of history with a great script, a wonderful lead character, and remarkable artwork. (5/5)

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #3. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.

Under the cut: reviews of The Power of the Dark Crystal, Action Comics and Detective Comics.

May 26, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Suspicions"

It is 10 May 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) has been relieved of her duties as ship's chief medical officer, and awaits transportation to a court martial for disobeying a direct order. In conversation with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) she relates how she attempted to set up a small scientific conference only to have it end in a murder, a suicide, and the end of her Starfleet career.

Poor Gates McFadden. She does not get episodes dedicated to her character very often - certainly a lot less often than male counterparts like Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spider - and when she does get them they are almost invariably terrible. Her losing streak does not break with "Suspicions", a laboured and trite murder-mystery in which the killer is obvious and the flashback-based verbal narrative grates constantly on the nerves.

May 25, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Frame of Mind"

It is 3 May 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Riker fears for his sanity as he seems to shift back and forth between the Enterprise, where he is rehearsing the role of a mentally unwell murderer in a play, and an alien hospital - where he appears to be a mentally unwell murderer for real.

"Frame of Mind" is a trippy paranoid thriller, and a sharp change of tone and pace from its preceding episode ("The Chase"). It shines a spotlight on Commander Riker and puts him through pronounced psychological torture. That his mental instability is all some kind of alien ruse is never really in question, but the manner in which the story plays out remains enormously impressive.

May 24, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 3 Episode 1

It is 21 May 2017, and time for the Season 3 premiere of Twin Peaks.

This review assumes that the reader has either already viewed the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, broadcast back in 1990 and 1991, or does not remotely care about having key plot points from those seasons spoiled for them. I have recently reviewed Season 1, but not Season 2. Keep an eye on the blog titles to ensure you know which season I am reviewing in any subsequent review, as I will likely be jumping back and forth between Seasons 2 and 3.

25 years later in New York City, South Dakota and the small town of Twin Peaks, mysterious events occur. That is pretty much the only synopsis you need.

May 23, 2017

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 4

Angela Spica has a robot suit inside of her body that pours out whenever she is in trouble. She appears to be in a lot of trouble with two secret high-tech agencies hunting her down and murderously fighting each other over who gets to grab her. There is a lot of other stuff getting thrown at the reader in The Wild Storm, but thankfully that central conceit is enough to handle for now. Everything else is just washing over me.

It is a mark of how effectively Warren Ellis can develop a story that I can find myself surrounded by too many characters referencing too many names without context, but still find a tremendously entertaining story being told. The effect is rather like being thrown into white-water rapids: sure you're probably drowning, but it sure as hell seems exciting at the same time. More experienced readers of the old Wildstorm universe are probably going to spot and understand a lot more here than I am, but what I am seeing is some fantastic and immersive world-building.

Jon Davis-Hunt and Steve Buccellato are doing sensational work with the art. It is a clean, very neatly composed world of sci-fi tech, that reminds me a little of The Manhattan Projects but with a much less exaggerated style.

This book is taking its time, but it was announced from the outset as a self-contained 24-issue story, so to be honest I have no problem with that. Right now, I'm just trying to keep my head above water and enjoy the view. (4/5)

The Wild Storm #4. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon David-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Night Owl Society, Poe Dameron, Satellite Falling and a much-delayed review of Hadrian's Wall.

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 3

Marvel's revolving door of relaunches and re-numberings continues this week with Generation X #1, a new take on the popular 1990s X-Men spin-off. With Kitty Pryde taking over as head of the Charles Xavier School, a new group of young mutants all learn to control and apply their powers.

So there is a group of mutants to follow - some new, some pre-existing - and fan favourite Jubilee has been assigned to mentor them. This issue focuses solely on introducing them and leads to a cliffhanger ending for some action in issue #2. Plotwise it is nothing anybody has not seen before, and that is a bit of a problem. Marvel's sales are declining across the board, and offering up relatively generic X-Men titles are unlikely to help alleviate or even reverse that trend. The bottom line with Generation X is that there is nothing here to get returning readers excited and not enough introductory material to let new readers get in on the ground floor.

To its credit the artwork by Amilcar Pinna is nicely distinctive, and I particularly Felipe Sobreiro's relatively soft colours. It should also be noted that Christina Strain's script does not do anything specifically wrong, it just fails to bring a fresh angle to the title. The so-called "House of Ideas" desperately needs some new good ones. (2/5)

Generation X #1. Marvel. Written by Christina Strain. Art by Amilcar Pinna. Colours by Felipe Sobreiro.

Under the cut: reviews of Britannia, Star Wars and The Wicked + the Divine.

May 22, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Chase"

It is 26 April 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is urged by his own archaeology professor to abandon his Starfleet career and join the expedition of a lifetime. When that professor is killed shortly afterwards, Picard commands the Enterprise to investigate his discovery. It leads him on a planet-to-planet race against the Cardassians and the Klingons to gain an ancient secret from billions of years in the past.

"The Chase" takes a huge series-transforming concept and then attempts to tell it in the space of a self-contained 42-minute episode. That is a mistake on several fronts. For one thing the central concept that is revealed seems to demand a follow-up or further exploration, and gets none. For another the quest-like narrative turns the episode into a series of quickly expressed events rather than an actual story with weight and emotional resonance.

May 21, 2017

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 2

Paige continues her attempt to stop her father from participating in a bank robbery, while her friends abandon her for their own safety. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is a masterful miniseries from Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss and Clare Dezutti: masterful because the dialogue sparkles, masterful because the art is engaging and effective, and masterful because this isn't the sort of story we often get in comic book form.

It strikes me as inevitable that someone is going to turn this series into a feature film, because while it works beautifully as a comic book it contains the perfect ingredients to make a fantastic movie as well. That film will potentially become a moderate hit and a cult favourite, and if you act now you can claim you knew it back when it was an independent comic book.

The structure is great. The use of fantasy sequences feels pitch-perfect. The characters are immediately recognisable from anybody's childhood. This is a stunning miniseries that is worthy of a much wider audience than the one that it is getting. (5/5)

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #4. Black Mask. Written by Matthew Rosenberg. Art by Tyler Boss and Clare Dezutti.

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

May 20, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 7

It is 23 May 1990, and time for the Season 1 finale of Twin Peaks.

Under the orders of Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer), Leo (Eric Da Re) sets about burning down the Packard sawmill - with murderous intent for Shelley (Madchen Amick), Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Catherine (Piper Laurie). Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) successfully lures Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz) across the border to the USA, and discovers his role in Laura Palmer's murder.

Season cliffhangers were a popular technique in American television at the start of the 1990s: get the audience on the edge of their seats and then leave them hanging desperately over the Summer months before the series can make a widely hyped return in the Fall. Twin Peaks engages in a cliffhanger as well, but it does so in a typically self-aware, ridiculous and over-the-top fashion. I am not sure any other American series has developed a cliffhanger with so many characters' welfare at stake.

May 19, 2017

The Pull List: 17 May 2017, Part 1

After being hyped as the next great step forward for DC Rebirth, the Batman/Flash crossover "The Button" has wound up being more of a four-issue tease for a miniseries coming in November. That's the sort of bait-and-switch shenanigans that that really irritates. Rather than introduce any new developments it simply re-emphasises one the readers already know: that someone, most likely Dr Manhattan from Watchmen, has manipulated the history of the universe, that former DC Universe heroes are trapped in time and can only be freed via a close personal connection with someone already in the revised timeline, and that there is going to be a Watchmen/DC Universe crossover soon.

Some readers will be thrilled to see the return of original Flash Jay Garrick for an issue. I was more annoyed by how this widely promoted four-issue arc gave a lot of vague gesturing at continuity references and DC Universe history without providing a very satisfying story.

And the epilogue just irritates. No matter how much portent and gravitas DC shoves into their upcoming crossover, it will take a monumentally clever miniseries to overcome just how bad an idea exploiting the Watchmen characters is. Bad in terms of creativity, and bad in terms of respecting creators and artists. (2/5)

The Flash #22. DC Comics. Written by Joshua Williamson. Art by Howard Porter. Colours by Hi-Fi.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Freeway Fighter and Superman.

May 17, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Lessons"

It is 5 April 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) begins a tentative romance with the Enterprise's new head of stellar cartography Lt Commander Nella Daren (Wendy Hughes). While they share a love for performing music, and Daren's enthusiasm helps Picard to open up to his past experience, a dangerous away mission puts their romance under strain.

"Lessons" is another 'bottle' episode, using just the one main guest star and a simple additional set (the Enterprise's stellar cartography room) in order to save money on more ambitious episodes elsewhere. At first it seems it is going to be a fairly sedate and underwhelming episode, but as it develops "Lessons" is actually a rather wonderful epilogue to "The Inner Light".

May 16, 2017

The Pull List: 10 May 2017, Part 2

Doctor Aphra, the rogue archaeologist introduced in Marvel's Darth Vader, has certainly made an impact with fans. Not only did she get her own follow-up series, and not only did she just get voted to receive her own 4-inch action figure in 2018, but now she gets to co-star in a special new crossover event The Screaming Citadel, teaming her up with a pre-Empire Strikes Back Luke Skywalker.

Aphra finds Luke on the Outer Rim, and entices him to join her on a mission to the 'Screaming Citadel', the palatial home of the mysterious Queen Ktath'atn. Luke thinks it may enable him to meet a Jedi Master. Aphra clearly has a secret motive of her own. The mysterious Ktath'atn appears to be a space vampire.

This is Star Wars as gothic horror, a creative move that may seem a little risky, but which dances along merrily thanks to an excellent script by Kieron Gillen and incredibly strong artwork by Marco Checchetto. The story continues across Star Wars and Doctor Aphra over the coming weeks - based on the opening chapter, it is set to be a sensantional read. (5/5)

Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel #1. Marvel. Story by Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron. Script by Kieron Gillen. Art by Marco Checchetto. Colours by Andres Mossa.

Under the cut: reviews of Copperhead, Detective Comics, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor and Silver Surfer.

May 15, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 6

It is 17 May 1990, and time for another episode of Twin Peaks.

The only witness to the Laura Palmer murder may be a myna bird belonging to suspect Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz) - so long as it can be coaxed to talk. Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re) plans revenge on Shelley (Madchen Amick) and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook). James (James Marshall), Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) and Maddie (Sheryl Lee) uncover tape recordings made by Laura to Dr Jacobi (Russ Tamblyn) - and hatch a scheme to get inside Jacobi's office to find evidence he killed her.

In this, the penultimate episode of Twin Peaks' first season, the plot threads are getting pulled together towards some loose sort of climax. We have one set of characters moving to determine whether or not Dr Jacobi is Laura's killer, and another doing the same thing with Canadian drug runner Jacques Renault and local thug Leo Johnson, and Audrey Horne (Sherilynn Fenn) doing her own independent investigation in parallel. It seems to be a common element of the series to run identical storylines at the same time. The series started with a string of simultaneous secret love affairs, and this episode also features Leo plotting against Bobby while Bobby plots against James while James plots against Dr Jacobi. It gives the series a weird sense of unity while it juggles its relatively unwieldy cast of characters.

May 12, 2017

The Pull List: 10 May 2017, Part 1

Cannon Cove is a small, half-forgotten town whose only claim to fame is that the 1980s hit film The Gloomies was filmed there. When an elderly resident dies, leaving an old chest to the town's dilapidated and under-funded museum, four young woman find a secret map inside that points to a real-life treasure buried nearby.

Boom Studios seem to working to quite a formula with their all-ages books, riffing on Lumberjanes to create a raft of titles involving strong groups of female protagonists in pop culture savvy situations. It is a nice alternative to the overwhelmingly male set-ups of most DC and Marvel books, and it has been great to see Boom's work rewarded with both critical and commercial success. Misfit City is the latest in their run of books, and from its first issue it seems like a pleasing and light-hearted tribute to 1980s adventure films - The Goonies in particular.

Now in all honesty I never boarded the Goonies train. The film never impressed me as a child as much as it did many of my friends, and as an adult I'm not quite caught in its nostalgia trap. I think Misfit City works pretty well to capture both those enthused fans and people like me, since the book's cast are for the most part pretty jaded about an old 1980s movie too. Altogether it's a really fun set-up: hopefully the next three issues deliver on the premise. (4/5)

Misfit City #1. Boom Studios. Written by Kiwi Smith and Kurt Lustgarten. Art by Naomi Franquiz. Colours by Brittany Peers.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, All-Star Batman, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and Star Trek/Green Lantern.

May 10, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 5

It is 10 May 1990, and time for another episode of Twin Peaks. Or, to put it another way, hey let's all celebrate the 27th anniversary of episode 5 of Twin Peaks.

Audrey Horne (Sherilynn Fenn) blackmails the department store owner into giving her Laura Palmer's position at the perfume counter. Maddie (Sheryl Lee) joins up with James (James Marshall) and Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) to investigate Laura's death themselves. In the woods Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) discover the log cabin that they believe is the scene of Laura Palmer's murder.

There is a lot of plot advancement to enjoy in this episode of Twin Peaks, not only for the investigation into Laura Palmer's murder but also for the plot to burn down the sawmill, Shelley's (Madchen Amick) desperate need to escape Leo's (Eric Da Re) clutches, and two independent quests to find Laura's killer - one by Audrey and the other by Maddie, Donna and James. It feels as if there are more narratives simultaneously developing in this episode than other other episode so far. That's a lot of plates to keep spinning for 45 minutes.

The Pull List: 3 May 2017, Part 2

In the shattered remains of a once technologically advanced civilization, a roaming group of survivors work to enact their revenge against the empire that decimated their community. For traumatised artist Thea, further details of her past are revealed while she gains a chance to personally take revenge against one of the soldiers that cut off her hand.

Extremity is one of the best American comic books on the market. It is a realisation that took three issues to properly dawn on me, but as the shape and tone of the series has become clearer its immense merits have been cast into sharp relief. This is a hugely imaginative and brilliantly developed blend of science fiction and fantasy, one rather reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind yet still distinctive and packed with original angles and ideas.

More impressive still is that it's essentially the work of one creator: writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson, who infuses his artwork with a real sense of energy and motion. Mike Spicer's colours and wonderfully complementary, sealing off an outstanding creative package. We're only a third of the way through the year, but I will be very surprised if Extremity doesn't stand as one of 2017's very best titles. (5/5)

Extremity #3. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.

Under the cut: reviews of Ghostbusters 101, Giant Days, Planetoid: Praxis, Poe Dameron and Spider-Man.

May 9, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 4

It is 3 May 1990 and time for another episode of Twin Peaks.

The Twin Peaks police successfully track down the one-armed man from Agent Cooper's (Kyle MacLachlan) dream. In addition it becomes clear that the mysterious crazed man seen in Cooper's dream and the visions of Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriski) is indeed the one person. Suspicion grows around Leo Johnson (Eric Da Rae) and Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz).

There is quite a bit of work done in this episode to tie the events of Cooper's episode 2 dream back into the main narrative of the show. For one thing, the mysterious one-armed man seen in Cooper's dream and spotted sneaking around the hospital by Hawk (Michael Horse) is actually tracked down and questioned by the police. His name is Phillip Gerard, a travelling shoe salesman who does not seem to have anything to do with Laura's murder at all. The name is a reference to the 1960s TV drama The Fugitive, which featured both a US Marshal named Phil Gerard and a one-armed man.

Izetta: The Last Witch: "On a Quiet Day..."

It is 5 November 2016, and time for the sixth episode of Izetta: The Last Witch.

With the latest battle won, and the Germanian forces retreating for the time being, Izetta and Fine manage to spend a day out among the common people of Eylstadt. Meanwhile Jonas knows Izetta's secret, and it's a race between a Germanian spy and Eylstadt spymaster Müller to get to him first.

After the previous episode of Izetta had thankfully avoided the egregious fan service that marred episode 4, "On a Quiet Day..." dives straight back in to the cesspit of leering cleavage and unnecessary and unpleasant sexual titillation. It is tremendously frustrating, because in every other respect this is a wonderfully entertaining series. These intrustions - and in this episode's case it is one early scene - have a tendency to sour whatever appeal the rest of the episode has.

May 8, 2017

The Pull List: 3 May 2017, Part 1

In the 14th century the Papal assassin group Fiat Lux - led by the mercenary Roderick Helms - uncovers a new scourge threatening to devastate the whole of Europe. Not the Black Death, as history might suggest, but a continent-wide zombie infestation.

There is a weary sort of 'been there, done that' vibe to Pestilence. Its story beats feel worn-out and overly familiar, and there is nothing in this first issue that leaps out and suggests any sense of originality or invention. It is also unremittingly bleak and unpleasant, with plenty of graphic violence of both a physical and sexual kind. Naked women are used as decoration, and the paper-thin characters feel trite and under-developed.

I genuinely hate writing reviews like this: comic books take enormous effort and talent to assemble, and in all fairness there is likely some kind of audience for this kind of violent medieval gore horror. Sadly I am not that audience, and this first issue of Pestilence left me deeply disappointed. (1/5)

Pestilence #1. Aftershock. Written by Frank Tieri. Art by Oleg Okunev. Colours by Rob Schwager.

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

May 7, 2017

The Pull List: 26 April 2017, Part 3

A police detective attempts to find his way into a world where money does not simply buy social power, but elemental powers over the fabric of reality. At the high table of the world's most richest elite, a young woman fights to control her legacy and avenge her brother's murder.

The Black Monday Murders is back after a brief hiatus, to kick off its second story arc. If you have ever read one of Jonathan Hickman's independent books you are well primed for what to expect: hugely complex and imaginatively world-building, inventive ideas, and a slightly avant-garde presentation that nudges at the periphery of what the comic book format can do.

Tomm Coker's artwork is moody and atmospheric, although to an extent it is occasionally a little too atmospheric - sometimes it takes a moment to recognise a particularly odd setting or action. It feels a minor criticism in the grand scheme of things: this is a great, ominous sort of urban horror that is slowly unfolding like a well-developed mystery. (4/5)

The Black Monday Murders #5. Image. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Tomm Coker.

Under the cut: reviews of Black Road, Doom Patrol, Ladycastle, Night Owl Society, Rebels and Satellite Falling.

Colditz: "Frogs in the Well"

It is 4 February 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

Lt Player (Christopher Neame) thinks he has found an escape route via the closed castle theatre. After Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) convinces the German authorities to re-open the theatre for morale, things are all set for an escape attempt - until Player discovers that the French are attempting an identical escape using the same route.

I suppose this sort of thing would have to happen eventually: military officers of multiple nations all imprisoned together, segregated from one another and not speaking each other's language. Sooner or later two groups are going to have the same idea, and if they're working without the knowledge of their superior officers disaster is bound to occur. It is a great concept for an episode, and the execution is enhanced even further by some great interactions between Lt Carter (David McCallum) and Major Mohn (Anthony Valentine).

May 6, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 3

It is 26 April 1990, and time for another episode of Twin Peaks.

Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) struggles to remember the details of his dream. Laura Palmer's funeral ends in violence and tragedy. Truman (Michael Ontkean) introduces Cooper to the "Bookhouse Boys", and their investigation into alleged drug runner Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz). Diner owner Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) prepares for her incarcerated husband's parole hearing.

The problem with the previous episode of Twin Peaks is that it is so inventive, strange and unexpected that any follow-up would likely disappoint. Episode 3 is the first episode of the series not written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and you can immediately sense the difference. This is a much more conventional hour of television: not bad by any stretch, but unavoidably somewhat underwhelming.

May 5, 2017

The Pull List: 26 April 2017, Part 2

Antonius Axia is a Roman investigator that has been granted knowledge of the Codex, a mystical text that has given him great insight into the minds and motivations of humanity. His latest case sees him looking for young Romans reportedly joining a cult - only to stumble upon the site of a horrifying massacre in one of the city's temples. Dispatched to investigate by both Emperor Nero and the Vestal Virgins, Antonius' path takes him to the gladiatorial arena - and a very unexpected gladiator.

Britannia was a beautifully packaged four-issue miniseries of Roman history and graphic horror, packed with blood and gore and nice pieces of historical detail. It was an odd book for Valiant to publish, since it did not really line up with their shared superhero universe at all, but with Peter Milligan's entertaining writing and Juan Jose Ryp's excellent artwork it really won me over.

Now there's a sequel miniseries in the offing. Based on this first issue, Milligan and Ryp are onto another winner. The same dark tone and graphic violence is there, and the setting has shifted from the wilds of Britain back to Rome itself. If detective-horror in Ancient Rome sounds like your kind of comic book, you should absolutely check this series out. (4/5)

Britannia: We Who Are About to Die #1. Valiant. Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Juan Jose Ryp. Colours by Frankie D'Armata.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Archangel and Batgirl.

May 4, 2017

The Pull List: 26 April 2017, Part 1

"The Button", the DC Universe's next step in combining their characters with Watchmen, continues in The Flash #21. In the aftermath of the Reverse Flash's unexpected return and sudden death, Batman and the Flash go into forensics mode. It's a great creative move, finding a common ground between the two characters and exploiting it well for this story. The clues drive the Flash to pull the famous 'cosmic treadmill' out of storage, and before long he and Batman are on their way to a parallel universe.

This is huge issue for fans of DC's tortured and lengthy continuity, with some pretty major foreshadowing for the future of the line and a chance for a face-to-face meeting that's been hiding in the wings since Flashpoint back in 2011. Joshua Williamson writes a great script here, and Howard Porter does a fine job of illustrating it - he's always been one of my favourite DC artists.

The first instalment followed up on Saturn Girl's incarceration in Arkham, and this second part returns to former JSA member Johnny Thunder raging against a storm above an old folks' home. There is a very strong sense of set-up going on here too, for future DC books and certainly the proper return of such much-loved characters. I remain deeply concerned about the Watchmen elements, but as a hardcore DC fan this storyline is increasingly pressing all of the right buttons. (4/5)

The Flash #21. DC Comics. Written by Joshua Williamson. Art by Howard Porter. Colours by Hi-Fi.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hulk, Joyride and X-O Manowar.

May 3, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 2

It is 19 April 1990, and time for the second regular episode of Twin Peaks.

FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) employs a bizarre method of investigation to get a clue as to Laura Palmer's killer. A mysterious one-armed man is seen lurking in the hospital where the killer's other intended victim has been admitted. FBI forensics expert Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) arrives to review evidence. Laura's father Leland (Ray Wise) grows emotionally unstable. Cooper has the strangest of dreams.

This is pretty much the make-or-break episode of Twin Peaks. Get through it with a smile on your face and you will know this is a television series for you. Come out frustrated, annoyed, or even bored out of your mind, and I honestly think you can move on and never watch the show again. With Episode 2 the series dives full-Lynch into some remarkably odd territory - and it only gets weirder as the episode goes on. It is probably easiest to run through the episode in order from the most normal to the most inexplicable.

The Pull List: 19 April 2017, Part 3

Angela Spica is tracked down by Jacob Marlowe's agents and invited to meet him. That conversation turns to hell when IO launch a 'Razor' team to kill everybody in the room. The third issue of The Wild Storm presents all-out action with some pretty gory consequences.

On the plus side, this issue certainly presents some exciting action, not to mention properly revealing some of the re-imagined WildCATS characters for the first time. There are also some very cute references to other DC properties in the book's opening scenes; it's nice to see a superhero universe aware of the concept of superhero universes.

Sadly it doesn't so much end as stop. There is something very odd about the plotting of this issue, which spends maybe a page or two too long on the main combat sequence. It leaves the book with no way to conclude. The final panel is basically a guy barking an order. It remains a great series, with strong tech-future writing by Ellis and nice artwork by Davis-Hunt, but the weak structure does knock a point off its score. It's great stuff, but this month it's not quite brilliant. (4/5)

The Wild Storm #3. DC Comics. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon Davis-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato.

Under the cut: reviews of Poe Dameron, The Power of the Dark Crystal, Star Trek/Green Lantern, Superman and Super Sons.

May 2, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 1 Episode 1

It is 12 April 1990, and time for the first regular episode of Twin Peaks.

James Hurley (James Marshall) is interviewed by the police about his relationship with Laura Palmer. Waitress Shelley Johnson (Madchen Amick) discovers a bloody shirt belonging to her violent husband Leo (Eric Da Rae). Truman (Michael Ontkean) and Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) interview mill owner Josie Packard (Joan Chen), who received English tutoring from Laura. Laura's mother Sarah (Grace Zabriskie) has a terrifying vision of a creepy man in her house.

One of the great achievements of Twin Peaks' early episodes is the sheer number of characters that the series throws at the viewer without ever coming across as overwhelming or confusing. This first post-pilot episode juggles numerous plot threads, all of which may be related to Laura Palmer's death, and also undertakes the impressive task of interrelating half of them. It is actually quite easy when in the thick of all the different threads to overlook how carefully and slowly the episode is paced.

Izetta: The Last Witch: "A False Miracle"

It is 29 October 2016, and time for the fifth episode of Izetta: The Last Witch.

Izetta is publicly revealed to the people of Eylstadt, an act that also reveals her existence to the Germanian military. Germanian agent Berkmann begins to develop a theory on how Izetta's powers may be limited - a theory he does not realise is very close to the truth. When Germania attacks a pass where Izetta's powers cannot function, her secretly is in danger of being revealed.

I was rather put off by Izetta: The Last Witch's fourth episode, which disrupted an otherwise hugely entertaining alternate historical fantasy with egregious and ridiculously tacky fan service. It soured the entire series to date for me, and left me reluctant to continue with watching it. In the end I decided to persevere. Thankfully this fifth episode is devoid of such unnecessary and intrusive titilation and returns instead to the series' strengths: action, World War II-inspired battles, and the inventive insertion of magic into an otherwise historical setting.

May 1, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Pilot

It is 8 April 1990 and time for the pilot episode of Twin Peaks.

The small town of Twin Peaks, Washington, is rocked by the discovery of popular high schooler Laura Palmer, her dead body found naked and wrapped in plastic on the river's shore. When a second missing high schooler is found raped and tortured across state lines, the FBI dispatches Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) to work with local sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) and investigate the crimes.

Twin Peaks burst onto the television landscape towards the end of the 1989-1990 broadcast year, burned brilliantly for a season and a half, and then collapsed due to audience disinterest and behind-the-scenes turbulence. It is arguably that here never been another drama to last for such a brief amount of time yet exert such a phenomenal influence over the entire subsequent history of American television. The shadow cast by Twin Peaks is enormous. It is echoed in the quirky comedy-dramas of Northern Exposure and Picket Fences, the creepy mise-en-scene of The X Files, and the swathe of 'murder in a small town' serials that have continued to be produced both in the USA and overseas. Each of these subsequent works has drawn inspiration from some aspects of Twin Peaks, yet none have really managed to draw from them all. The original series remains comparatively unique.

It is also coming back: Showtime has commissioned an 18-episode third season to commence next month (it will be on Stan here in Australia), a mere 26 years since the second season ended on a whopping great cliffhanger. With the series returning, and having not re-watched the existing episodes in many years, it seemed an appropriate time to dive in and catch up.

April 30, 2017

The Angriest: April 2017 in review

I spent a fair chunk in the middle of April visiting family and attending Swancon 2017 in Perth, so this put a bit of a dent in the number of blog posts produced. The most popular post here on The Angriest was my review of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Birthright, Part 1", which you can read here.

This month saw the long-awaited release of Doctor Who's 10th season. This year my Doctor Who reviews are appearing over at FilmInk, so check the website out each Monday after the episode's broadcast to read my thoughts on it. As always, my film reviews are now posted over at FictionMachine, including April's special-length essay on The Wolfman.

In April 2017 I reviewed two new films, nine older films, seven TV episodes, one anime episode, and 45 comic books. A full index is available below the cut.

The Pull List: 19 April 2017, Part 2

Ms Marvel makes her final stand against the sentient computer virus Doc.X, although winning the day may require achieving the impossible.

It is always worth regularly highlighting the month-to-month strength of Ms Marvel, which for a couple of years now has pretty much been Marvel's most consistently enjoyable and 'on-message' comic book. What I mean by that is that I think there is a central conceit to the Marvel Universe, one that focuses on superheroic character who continue to suffer real-world issues and problems: self-esteem, fighting with friends, ill-fated romance, or even something as simple as passing high school exams or getting ahead in a day job. Ms Marvel is one of the best books at addressing real teenage issues through a super-powered lens, and in the hands of writer G. Willow Wilson the book does it damn-near faultlessly while also being consistently and brightly socially progressive.

Takeshi Miyazawa's artwork is wonderfully exaggerated and emotive as always, and Ian Herring's surprisingly subtle colours really help to give it all depth and tone. Long may the book continue. (4/5)

Ms Marvel #17. Marvel. Written by G. Willow Wilson. Art by Takeshi Miyazawa. Colours by Ian Herring.

Under the cut: reviews of Descender, Doctor Strange, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Green Arrow and Highlander: The American Dream.

April 28, 2017

The Pull List: 19 April 2017, Part 1

When DC Comics undertook a soft reboot last year with DC Rebirth, one of the most contentious elements was the foreshadowing of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' hugely popular and influential miniseries Watchmen colliding with the DC Universe. The key part of that foreshadowing was Batman's discovery of the famous Watchmen smiley-face button embedded into the wall of the Batcave. It's been almost a year, but Batman #21 finally returns to Batman's discovery in the four-part crossover with The Flash, "The Button".

While examining the button, Batman places it on a table next to Psycho Pirate's mask - something else he has been investigating - and an electrical flash allows him to temporarily see his father Thomas as Batman (from the 2011 crossover Flashpoint). He is then unexpectedly assaulted by the presumed-dead Reverse Flash, and must fight to survive the super-fast villain for 60 seconds until the Flash can come to the rescue.

There are positive ways to view this issue: Jason Fabok's art is great, and Tom King does an excellent job of both telling an action scene sliced down to second-by-second moments and of echoing the Watchmen aesthetic with a nine-panel layout. It also feels good to see the over-arching mystery of the DC Universe, the missing five years and the events of DC Rebirth finally start moving again - the Legion of Superheroes gets some positive foreshadowing for one thing.

Then there is the downside. No matter how well King writes this issue (and he writes it very well) the fact remains that combining the DC Universe and Watchmen is a catastrophically bad idea. One is a critical comment upon the other, which doesn't suggest there is anything to creatively gain from merging them. There is also the issue of cracking open a self-contained work to scoop out the IP inside (never a great look), and given the highly contentious manner in which DC has shut Moore and Gibbons out of their own work it does not exactly speak highly of DC's attitute to creators' rights.

At any rate, the storyline is here assuming you can stomach it. It is well written and well illustrated. It points to something that will very likely awful. Make your own choices. (3/5)

Batman #21. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art by Jason Fabok. Colours by Brad Anderson.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Aquaman, Batwoman and Daredevil.

April 27, 2017

The Pull List: 12 April 2017, Part 3

Seven to Eternity is back for its fifth issue, following a brief hiatus and the release of its first trade paperback. I really appreciate the Image release schedule, first employed on Saga: a string of single issues, then a collected edition for other readers to catch up, then a few more single issues, and so on. It's a strategy I'd actually be happy to see the 'big two' employ on at least a few of their books.

The issue picks up right where the fourth left off: Adam Osidis, slowly dying from an incurable sickness, travels across the wilderness with the Mosak Knights along with their prisoner - the tyrannical Mud King. They are intercepted by one of the Mud King's warriors, leading to a fierce battle and an emergency change of plans. You can probably tell from the names that this is a high fantasy saga, but the synopsis and the names fail to express the book's key strengths.

Rick Remender has developed a great range of characters with depth, regrets and grit. It is a much bleaker and more desolate fantasy world than the typical literary fantasy, edging almost into the post-apocalyptic milieu. Jerome Opeña's artwork is, quite frankly, jaw-dropping. There is a beauty and an attention to detail that most other contemporary comic books cannot match. Each issue to date has been an absolute feast for the eyes, and it is easily one of the book's strongest selling points. Matt Hollingsworth's colours accentuate the work rather than over-power it. Altogether it's a hugely attractive package. (4/5)

Seven to Eternity #5. Image. Written by Rick Remender. Art by Jerome Opeña. Colours by Matt Hollingsworth.

Under the cut: Rat Queens, Silver Surfer and The Wicked + the Divine.

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.