November 19, 2017
By contrast, The Lost Dimension has been well-plotted, carefully thought out and brilliantly fore-shadowed. The entire storyline has circled around a mysterious white void that has been sucking things in from all of time and space. By the time the true nature of the void is revealed, it is simultaneously a shock and stunning obvious at the same time: the best kind of revelation.
Every Doctor gets at least a momentary cameo, with the bulk of the lead time shared between Doctors 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Mariano Laclaustra's artwork is superb, giving everything a beautiful aesthetic somewhere between painting and traditional pen-and-ink. Carlos Cabrera's colours only enhance it. It simply looks tremendous.
So congratulations to writers George Mann and Cavan Scott; while individual issues of the crossover have wavered in quality, they have pulled out one hell of a climax. And think this all started with a comic I absolutely despised... (4/5)
Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Omega #1. Titan Comics. Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott. Art by Mariano Laclaustra with Fer Centurion. Colours by Carlos Cabrera.
Under the cut: reviews of Atomic Robo, The Beautiful Death, Darth Vader, Extremity, Lazaretto and Superman.
November 17, 2017
The story is genuinely messy, and regularly mystifying. For some reason Gordon is now acting as a US ambassador, and why he's assumed the role and why he's inspecting a nuclear plant both go unanswered. The artwork, however, is wonderfully old-fashioned and enjoyable to view, and will be the book's main selling point. Deadman is, after all, a book written and illustrated by legendary DC artist Neal Adams. Anybody with a sense of history and a love for DC's 1970s titles will get a lot out of this new series.
Overall it's a head-scratcher, but in the moment it's a wonderful throwback to the fast-paced, chummy books of my childhood. I'm a huge fan of Adams' artwork, and his talented have not abandoned him with age. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is hugely fun to read. (4/5)
Deadman #1. DC Comics. Story and art by Neal Adams.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Spider-Man and Usagi Yojimbo.
November 15, 2017
The Enterprise encounters an ancient temple in space, hidden beneath the surface of a comet. After an attempt to scan the temple, Data (Brent Spiner) begins to suffer the effects of external manipulation: he becomes increasingly obsessed with unusual sigils and begins to develop multiple personalities. As the Enterprise itself is gradually transformed by the temple's power, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) must play out ancient history in order to save his ship and crew.
"Masks" really is one of those episodes where you feel compelled to applaud the production team for their adventurous outlook, but you cannot actually praise the end result. It's a somewhat silly, and certainly very uneven hour of Star Trek. The ideas are there, and they're potentially great ones, but the execution stumbles badly.
November 14, 2017
That's where Saga #48 comes as a total surprise. Readers expecting to see some terrible tragedy befall Alana, Marko and their daughter will be shocked to find themselves back with the anthropomorphic seal Ghus, the young robot prince Squire, and the journalists Upsher and Doff. They are stranded on a remote planet with no hope of rescue and a rapidly shrinking supply of food. To avoid killing Ghus' beloved walrus, he and the young prince set off into the forest to kill an invisible monster for its meat.
It is not only a refreshing change from the trials of Alana and Marko, it is also a refreshing change in tone. This issue has a beautiful fairy-tale quality that makes it stand out. The characters are sweet and pleasant to read about, and Fiona Staples' art is - as always - wonderful to look at. Saga may go up and down from arc to arc, but now and then it really knocks an issue out of the park. I thought this one was fantastic. (5/5)
Saga #48. Image. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Art and colours by Fiona Staples.
Under the cut: reviews of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Copperhead, The Power of the Dark Crystal, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and X-O Manowar.
November 13, 2017
Set your expectations to Event Horizon and you'll have a ball with this series, which combines science fiction and horror with a strong cast of hard-edged, cynical characters. Andy Belanger's artwork uses slightly grotesque designs and a thick inking style to make it all look very stark and brutal. Lee Loughridge's limited colour palette tones everything down and gives it a very consistent and desolate aesthetic.
The biggest strength of all is the unpredictable storyline. Each arc has taken off in an unexpected direction, and this third volume seems set to do the same. Things have moved much faster than I expected them to here, from the opening - which pretty much picks up the exact moment the second volume ended - to the violent climax. (4/5)
Southern Cross #13. Written by Becky Cloonan. Art by Andy Belanger. Colours by Lee Loughridge.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Daredevil and Rebels.
November 12, 2017
It is a strong opening, one that both reminds the readers of Divinity's origins and current situation as well as set this new story in motion. The alien sequences are easily the best, showcasing a wonderfully 'out there' imagination of strange characters, names and settings.
The visuals definitely sit on a shelf next to the likes of Jack Kirby and Moebius, but there is a much more direct and realistic aesthetic to it. All in all it is an intriguing hook into what looks to be yet another excellent Valiant miniseries. (4/5)
Eternity #1. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn. Colours by David Baron.
Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, and Silver Surfer.
November 11, 2017
The Doctor (Robert Picardo) is activated in Voyager's sickbay, only to discover the entire ship has been abandoned. After discovering both Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Torres (Roxann Dawson) are still onboard, the Doctor then discovers the Starfleet engineer Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) who drops a bombshell: the Doctor is not onboard Voyager, but is in fact hologram designer Lewis Zimmerman inside a holodeck simulation that cannot be deactivated.
"Projections" hits off with a fairly dramatic hook: that we're not on Voyager back somewhere all the way back near Earth (Jupiter Station, to be precise). The problem is that before we even get to the central mystery - is he the Doctor or Zimmerman - the episode has included scenes that make the Barclay/Zimmerman scenario fundamentally impossible. The result is thus a fairly tedious wait for an extra 25 minutes for the Doctor's actual situation to be resolved. Thanks to poor scripting by writer Brannon Braga, the entire episode becomes a waste of time.
November 10, 2017
Sadly, as an imprint-launching comic, it is a messy disappointment. The story feels haphazard and unfocused. The characters feel derivative and uninteresting. All in all it feels as if writer Peter Milligan is running on automatic: this reads like a photocopy of much of his earlier, much better work. Tess Fowler's artwork is good, but artwork alone can rarely save a comic book.
It's ultimately a big disappointment, because Bond had a huge opportunity here to set up something truly dynamic, original and provocative - and instead she's edited together something that just feels like a by-the-numbers Vertigo copy. It's a terrible shame. (2/5)
Kid Lobotomy #1. Black Crown/IDW. Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Tess Fowler. Colours by Lee Loughridge.
Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Behind You, Kill the Minotaur, Spy Seal, and The Wild Storm.
November 9, 2017
Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is undertaking a Native American ritual in a shuttlecraft when he comes under attack by the Kazon. His key assailant is Kar (Aron Eisenberg), a Kazon youth undergoing a ritual initiation to become an adult member of his community.
With the Season 1 finale "The 37s" held over to launch Season 2, this actual opening episode got bumped to the second week. It is certainly a much stronger episode, although that doesn't necessarily make it particularly good. "Initiations" is a flawed hour of Star Trek with some decent character work, but a fairly rote and underwhelming story.
November 8, 2017
Writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims did the cleverest thing by noticing that the most interesting aspect of Swordquest was its real-life background. A four-game series, in which players who completed each game and solved its puzzles, could write into Atari and register for a special event. The best player at each game's event would win a special game-related prize. The final prize - a sword - was never given away, because Atari essentially collapsed before it could be awarded. It is that weird set-up and downfall that is powering this series, as a terminal ill ex-games player works to steal the never-awarded sword from a retro games expo. This issue things get a little weird, in the best possible fashion. The pseudonymous Ghostwriter X illustrates the book beautifully, with a very grounded, thickly inked style that add to its sense of real world, small-scale criminality.
That this series is not only readable but genuinely great is possibly the biggest surprise of my comic-reading year. (5/5)
Swordquest #4. Dynamite. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colours by Ghostwriter X.
Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Green Arrow, Poe Dameron and Super Sons.
November 7, 2017
They should. You should. Right now Aquaman the comic is about as good as it has ever been. Under writer Dan Abnett it has evolved into a long-running, character-focused epic. Arthur Curry, the rightful king of Atlantis, hides in his city's bottom slums while the tyrant Corum Rath rules in his place. Above the surface his fiancee Mera fights desperately to locate a way into the city. It is one big undersea fantasy, with long-term consequences and great character-based pay-offs. This particular arc is illustrated by Stjepan Sejic, one of the finest comic book artists working today.
This issue brings the current arc right up to a climactic point, and it feels like it's going to be character-defining one. This is a sensational run on a hugely underrated character. (5/5)
Aquaman #29. DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art and colours by Stjepan Sejic.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor, and Superman.
November 6, 2017
review of its second episode - "A Touch of Evil" - was the most-read post on The Angriest in October. Other popular posts included comic book reviews for 20 September (link), the review of the Colditz series finale "Liberation" (link), and reviews of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "The Pegasus" (link) and "Sub Rosa" (link).
All up in October 2017 I wrote one film essay, six film reviews, 11 TV episode reviews, three artist profiles, and short reviews of 48 comic books. A full index is included below the cut.
All up in October 2017 I wrote one film essay, six film reviews, 11 TV episode reviews, three artist profiles, and short reviews of 48 comic books. A full index is included below the cut.
Sacred Creatures is warming on me more with each issue. It is a beautifully illustrated book, with detailed artwork that carries two distinctive styles - one for the present day and one for a series of flashbacks. It is also a much thicker comic than you usually see - this issue has 48 pages of story, for example - and that gives it a lot more room to expand each installment for maximum impact.
It is a decidedly adult comic book. Previous issues have featured plenty of violence; this one tops that by the personification of Lust sparking off an incontrollable orgy in a New York hospital. Interestingly while the design and illustration of Sophia (aka Lust) is of the vaguely tiresome Greg Land school of sexualised characters, the actual story feels a lot more like the sort of thing you'd see in an issue of The Invisibles. I had my earlier doubts, but this book absolutely has me hooked. (4/5)
Sacred Creatures #4. Image. Story and art by Pablo Raimondi and Klaus Jansen. Colours by Dean White, Chris Chuckry and Brian Reber.
Under the cut: reviews of Lazaretto, Mech Cadet Yu, and Scales and Scoundrels.
October 29, 2017
Commander Data (Brent Spiner) wanders into a medieval village on the planet Barkon IV with no memory of who he is and what he is doing there. While he is adopted into a local family, the radioactive fragments he has carried with him go unnoticed as they begin to make the villagers sick. Back on the Enterprise, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) resolves to take the commander's exam to gain further command responsibility.
On the whole "Thine Own Self" is a well-written and engaging riff on James Whale's Frankenstein adaptation, with Data inserted into a pseudo-period setting as the Monster. He does not fully understand the world around him, he tries to befriend a young girl, and ultimately he gets hounded to destruction by angry villagers with torches and pitchforks. Thankfully in between those touchstones it tells its own story; it's a nice blend of science fiction story and pastiche.
October 27, 2017
Hisashi Tenmyouya is a Japanese artist whose work deliberately straddles a line between contemporary popular culture and art history. In 2001 he proposed a new style of art he called 'neo-Nihonga', or 'new Japanese-style', which combined traditional Japanese painting with sharply contrasted modern imagery. This style led to what is probably his most famous painting: two samurai playing football, in a commissioned piece for the 2006 FIFA World Cup (pictured below the cut).
Tenmyouya works extensively with gold leaf in his neo-Nihonga works, laid down onto wooden boards in a traditional Japanese style. He then paints over the top of the leaf in acrylics. There is a huge amount to love in these works: the blending of style, the combination of realist art, manga/anime and graffiti-style imagery, and a sort of deliberately absurd humour caused by the cultural clash that results.
October 26, 2017
Four junior officers onboard the Enterprise ready themselves for their staff evaluations; success can mean a much-wanted promotion, while failure could potentially set them back for years. One of them, Ensign Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill), struggles to move on from her misconduct at Starfleet Academy, and finds herself under the stern attention of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).
So here's the funny thing: I have an essay in a new book, Outside In Makes It So (link here), which contains 174 separate pieces by a huge variety of writers with each piece focusing on a different episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. My essay focuses on "Lower Decks", which is hands-down my all-time favourite episode of the entire series. It is probably my favourite episode of any Star Trek series. So part of me is sorely tempted to just point all readers in the direction of the book and have you read my opinions there. On the other hand it seems a little unfair to demand everybody drop US$24.95 plus postage - although you totally should go but it - so I suppose I'd better provide some critical opinions here for free.
October 23, 2017
I first encountered Yang Yongliang's digital art works in an exhibit of contemporary Chinese art in Singapore. They grabbed my attention immediately, and have been stuck in my memory ever since. They're just enormously effective and captivating. I think they have a near-hypnotic effect.
Yang originally trained in traditional Chinese ink painting before formally studying visual communication in Shanghai. After a few years of experimentation in ink painting, short film-making and photography, he started working on his so-called 'phantom landscapes' in 2006. In his works he draws intricate Chinese landscapes in the popular 'shanshui' style of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 CE). Into them, however, he inserted modern buildings and technology, and tightly clustered fictional cities. Then he animates them.
October 22, 2017
The writer/artist team of Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back with a third issue of Miracle Man, the best arthouse take on a long-running DC superhero you're likely to find on the shelves. It is inventively staged and shows off a lot of complexity, combined with some lovely flashes of character throughout. It's a challenging read, but as the issues go on it's becoming an increasingly satisfying one - assuming you're in that crowd who already knows their New Gods from back to front.
There is a lot of assumed knowledge going on in this book, and I would be interested to see how accessible it actually is to readers unfamiliar with Jack Kirby's Fourth World comic books and their various spin-offs and sequels. Characters step into frame with barely an introduction, and key sequences rely on a foreknowledge of exactly who each person is and what their significance is in relation to the events. While this is a great issue, it hardly seems an accessible one. (4/5)
Mister Miracle #3. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art and colours by Mitch Gerads.
Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Detective Comics, Ms Marvel and The Wicked + the Divine.
October 21, 2017
Takashi Murakami is a Japanese pop artist, best known for founding the so-called "superflat" movement of bright, colourful, anime-inspired paintings and sculptures. He has also expanded into film-making via his 2013 fantasy feature Jellyfish Eyes (which I reviewed here). Murakami is unapologetically a commercial artist: his stuff is widely merchandised and mass-produced, and he attracts a far wider audience and fan base than a typical fine artist might. More than one critic has compared his style and career to American pop artist Andy Warhol. Certainly he has followed Warhol's lead by establishing an entire factory-style studio where a team of assistants enable him to produce art works on an accelerated schedule.
I find myself attracted to Murakami's work because of the colour. The bright, bold colour schemes that dominate his work just jump right off the canvas, grabbing the attention in whatever room in which his works get exhibited. There's a childlike simplicity to most of his work, but there's something about some of his works that can be weirdly unsettling too.
October 20, 2017
This is not a drill. It's not an exaggeration. It is not as if I have forgotten all of those absolutely dire episodes made all the way back in Season 1, or the cobbled-together clips show that concluded Season 2. The truth is that "Sub Rosa" trumps them all with easily the most ridiculous and unsuitable premise ever pushed into the series, and a very poor execution of that already unfortunate concept. To momentarily use the episode title convention of Friends, this is "The One Where Dr Crusher Has Sex with a Space Ghost".
The Enterprise visits the colony of Caldos IV so that Dr Crusher (Gates McFadden) may attend the funeral of her grandmother. Caldos IV is a colony deliberately styled upon 18th century Scotland. While staying in her grandmother's cottage, Crusher is visited by a spectral apparition that calls itself Ronin; the same apparation with whom her grandmother appeared to be having a passionate love affair. As Ronin and Crusher enter into a romance of their own, she decides to resign from her Enterprise post to remain with him.
October 18, 2017
The issue moves in fits and starts. It really does lack any iconic action, although the central hero meeting in the Oblivion Bar is a hugely enjoyable one. Fans of Detective Chimp will get an immediate thrill, as will anybody who enjoys these kinds of widescreen-style superhero event titles. The combination of characters is clever and effective, and while this issue feels like a bit of a drop in quality it does set up the future well.
Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's artwork is excellent, and really sells the dynamic, over-the-top nature of the story. The colours by FCO Plascencia give everything a rich and dramatic look. It's imperfect, but this issue does keep Snyder's epic going. (3/5)
Dark Nights: Metal #3. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. Colours by FCO Plascencia.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension, Hulk, Kull Eternal and Star Trek: Boldly Go.
October 17, 2017
The American and Russian armies are both storming through Germany, as the prisoners-of-war in Colditz Castle wait to discover what happens first: rescue or execution at the hands of the SS. The Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) recognises that, regardless of which army reaches the castle first, his time in command is over, and begins arrangements to transfer control to Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) and Colonel Dodd (Dan O'Herlihy).
After 28 episodes and two seasons, Colditz comes to a conclusion with this straight-forward and hugely dignified final act. Truth be told, there is not a huge amount of suspense to be found here. We know from history that Colditz was liberated, and that its prisoners were successfully rescued by the United States Army. The focus here is not the 'how' of the story, but rather on the effect the events have on the characters we have been watching for the past two seasons.
October 16, 2017
Daniel Warren Johnson's post-apocalyptic Extremity returns for its second and final story arc, bringing with it strong and well-developed characters and absolutely stunning art and design. This is one of the best new comics of 2017 - if not the best - and it has lost none of its impact or style during its brief hiatus. Johnson picks up the story threads across the entire cast and points them all towards what I fear will be a devastating climax in the issues to come.
The detail of the artwork is incredible, particularly in one particularly impactful double-splash page where Thea gets her first glimpse of the mysterious "Essene". This is a wonderful comic book, and knowing that it has been planned as a limited 12-issue series from the outset just makes each issue feel a little more precious. (5/5)
Extremity #7. Image. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.
Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Batman, Darth Vader, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Shadowman, Spider-Man, Superman and Usagi Yojimbo.
The Enterprise comes to the planet Boraal II to rescue Nikolai Rozhenko (Paul Sorvino), a noted Federation anthropologist and Worf's adoptive brother. Boraal II is suffering a total atmospheric collapse, killing the primitive population entirely - but Worf is shocked to discover his brother has broken the Prime Directive and saved an entire village from destruction.
Another episode of Season 7 that deals with family: this time introducing the son of Worf's adoptive human parents the Rozhenkos. It illuminates Worf's back story a little more, as well as provides a strong personal link to the ethical and moral quandaries raised by the episode. This is not an out-and-out classic episode, but it's one that definitely provides an interesting story with some proper issues to discuss.
October 14, 2017
It also gets dark - sometimes very dark - and this seventh issue is not only the darkest to date it's also certainly the very best. The story takes what feels like a significant step forwards here, as Detective Theodore Dumas and academic Tyler Gaddis buy their way into a meeting with the god Mammon - and the price is terrifyingly steep. It's a meeting that finally shifts the book from dark and creepy urban fantasy into full-blown horror, and the book is all the better for it.
Hickman is an uncompromising writer, and his creator-owned work rarely wastes time handing the story to his audience on a plate, but if you like intelligent and complex genre works in a comic book format he's genuinely tough to beat. The Black Monday Murders is incredible. (5/5)
The Black Monday Murders #7. Image. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Tomm Coker. Colours by Michael Garland.
Under the cut: reviews of Generations: The Spiders, The Infinite Loop, and Rat Queens.
October 11, 2017
The Beautiful Death, by writer/artist Mathieu Bablet, follows a group of young scavengers working their way through a massive dead city. After more than three years on the run every other human is long dead, and they are rapidly running out of supplies. They are being pursued by giant insectoid creatures intent on killing them, and the stress is beginning to tear them apart.
As a scenario it isn't strikingly fresh, but it is excellently developed and beautifully illustrated. The extra page length is a godsend here - you could honestly see the same plot get squeezed by an American creator into 20 pages. Instead the real loneliness and hopelessness of the situation has time to fully sink in. Bablet's art has a nice distinctive style to it, reminding me a little of Noelle Stevenson's Nimona in its aesthetic. Bablet's colouring work is masterful. (4/5)
The Beautiful Death #1. Statix Press/Titan Comics. Story and art by Mathieu Bablet.
Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Saga and War Mother.
October 10, 2017
Major Mohn may have departed from Colditz Castle, but Major Carrington still remains under a death sentence for threatening to kill him. As he execution approaches, Colonel Preston (Jack Hedley) impresses on the Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) that such a killing would amount to a war crime. As the American tanks approach, tensions within Colditz reach an all-time high.
The oddest aspect of "Death Sentence" is that while the plot is primarily focused on Phil Carrington, the character - played by Robert Wagner - does not actually appear. It creates a weird sort of Waiting for Godot vibe throughout the episode; you keep expecting Carrington to turn up, and he never actually does. There is probably a behind-the-scenes explanation for his absence, but it sure does make this episode weirder than it was likely intended to be.
October 8, 2017
Never judge a story before it's done. That said, DC and writer Dan Jurgens are doing their level best to make me judge this particular story as soon as possible. I really hate the idea. I cringe at the re-imagining of Jor-El as some kind of selfish villain intent to removing his son from the Earth and letting the planet destroy itself. It's not noble. It's not dignified. It flies in the face of everything we know of Jor-El from decades of comic book lore. I am still half-convinced that it's all a ruse, and a shock twist in a fortnight or two will unmask the real Mr Oz. Or perhaps I'm just hoping that's going to be the case.
Ryan Sook's artwork is strong and boldly coloured. Jurgen's script is solid enough, although its reliance on narrated flashbacks makes it all feel unnecessary static and uninvolved. After such a long build-up, I'm not so much feeling disappointed as angry. Please be a ruse... please be a ruse... (2/5)
Action Comics #988. DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Ryan Sook.
Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Hi-Fi Fight Club, The Power of the Dark Crystal, Rebels and X-O Manowar.
October 7, 2017
The Enterprise is co-opted for a secret mission by Admiral Erik Pressman (Terry O'Quinn), the former captain of the USS Pegasus - where Riker (Jonathan Frankes) was first posted. When it is revealed that the wreckage of the presumed-destroyed Pegasus may have been found, and that its destruction coincided with an unprecedented mutiny against Pressman, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) finds himself pitted against his own first officer to uncover the truth.
"The Pegasus" is a great little episode that takes the pristine, whiter-than-white image of Starfleet in The Next Generation, and then kicks a pretty firm dent in it. That's an enormous step for the series, and will be followed by several more in sister series Deep Space Nine. Watched now - particularly in the wake of CBS' new series Star Trek: Discovery - and it may seem a little tame. In 1994 it was pretty shocking stuff for the Star Trek universe.
October 5, 2017
This series takes the various characters of Jim Lee's Wildstorm Universe, long since subsumed by DC Comics, and re-works and re-imagines them into a contemporary science fiction story. I'm not sure if 'post-superhero' is a term, but it should be so that I can use it to describe this book. It has all the hallmarks of a superhero title, but instead it's a story of billionaire tech industry CEOs, black ops crews, and rival secret services ruling both Earth and the space around it.
Davis-Hunt's artwork is clean and expressive, and gently coloured by Steve Buccellato. Ellis' script is smart, well-plotted and does a remarkably great job of bringing new readers (and readers like me with bad memories) an excellent summary of the first six issues to brings everything back up to speed. This is a long game story that Ellis is telling; DC announced from the outset that it's a 24 issue story. So far it's pretty much brilliant, and a must-read for fans of Ellis and that blurry space between costumed heroes and near-future SF. (4/5)
The Wild Storm #7. DC Comics. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon Davis-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato.
Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Green Arrow, Kill the Minotaur, Nightwing, Secret Weapons and Star Trek: Boldly Go.
October 4, 2017
Riverdale is an odd beast. It has a lot of positive elements: notably some great actors and a very well-defined mise-en-scene. At the same time it seems to want to be two different TV shows at the same time. My problem is that I am not really sure that either of the series Riverdale wants to be is one that I particularly care about watching.
October 1, 2017
here. Also popular with readers were reviews of the Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens" (link) and the Colditz episode "Chameleon" (link).
Altogether, in September 2017, I wrote one full-length film essay, two new films in cinemas, five older films, 10 TV episodes, one anime review, and short reviews of 51 comic books. A full list of posts with links is included below the cut. Thanks for reading The Angriest this past month.
Altogether, in September 2017, I wrote one full-length film essay, two new films in cinemas, five older films, 10 TV episodes, one anime review, and short reviews of 51 comic books. A full list of posts with links is included below the cut. Thanks for reading The Angriest this past month.
This new book from Aftershock simply feels dull. The concept works but the execution is sloppy. Bunn does not - in this issue at any rate - find an interesting enough story to build up his hook. There's some moping, and argumentative monsters, but no real indication on precisely where the story is supposed to go or why the readers should care. Juan Doe's artwork focuses a little too much on close-ups and head shots, without giving anything a particularly interesting background or sense of action. Then again, what sort of backgrounds can there be? The entire issue takes place on a ship in a storm.
A more interesting take might have focused on Shrae's journey to become the master of this 'dark ark'. Instead the most interesting parts of his story appear to have already happened.
Dark Ark #1. Aftershock. Written by Cullen Bunn. Art and colours by Juan Doe.
Under the cut: reviews of Cloudia & Rex, Generations: The Marvels, Invader Zim, and Superman.
September 26, 2017
It certainly feels climactic, with a few nicely played twists and turns, a very strong sense of 'ramping up', and some absolutely stunning artwork by Janin. The large cast of supporting players also helps to amp up the epic sense of scale.
That said, a continuing issue in this arc has been writer Tom King's tendency to tell the reader how devastating and violent the war has been, rather than actually showcasing it properly on the page. It has weakened everything slightly, and more than anything else is responsible from drawing the work back from 'future classic' to merely 'very good'. This all feels like it had the scope to be a major long-running arc along the lines of the big crossover events of the 1990s: "Knightfall", "Cataclysm", "No Man's Land", what-have-you. Despite being hugely enjoyable it's feeling like a missed opportunity at the same time. (4/5)
Batman #31. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art by Mikel Janin. Colours by June Chung.
Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batwoman, Poe Dameron and Spider-Men II.
September 25, 2017
A message bounces from person to person through time and space until it finally reaches the Doctor (Matt Smith), and directs him to AD 102 England where he discovers River Song (Alex Kingston), Stonehenge, and the Pandorica - a fabled prison for the most dangerous criminal in the universe.
As showrunner of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat clearly had a different attitude to story arcs than his predecessor Russell T Davies. For Davies it was largely sufficient to develop a buzzword or catchphrase ("bad wolf", "Torchwood", "Mr Saxon") and then lead the audience along until the meaning of the phrase was used in the season finale. With Season 5 Moffat took a much more active approach. The crack in Amy Pond's (Karen Gillen) bedroom wall, the growing silence falling across the universe, the revelation that the TARDIS will explode in the future, and the teasing of the mysterious Pandorica by River Song back in "Flesh and Stone" all come together in one two-part finale - not to mention cameo appearances in the cold open by Vincent Van Gogh, Elizabeth X and Winston Churchill. I'm honestly not sure any season climax has previously felt so deliberately climactic.
September 22, 2017
The Realm is a standard kind of post-apocalyptic adventure with one key twist: while the circumstances remain unexplained, the marauding hordes threatening humanity are not zombies for once but rather fantasy animals. It is as if a Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual has been unleashed upon the Earth, spilling out orcs, drakes, dragons and who knows what else. It is a neat change that helps lift an otherwise very predictable storyline. I suspect how future issues explore and expand this fantasy setting will dictate the long-term quality of the book.
Also lifting the book's game is Jeremy Haun's extremely detailed and boldly inked artwork. It gives the book a level of style and prestige that does paper over the story weaknesses quite a bit. (3/5)
The Realm #1. Image. Written by Seth M. Peck. Art by Jeremy Haun. Colours by Nick Filardi.
Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Ms Marvel, Ninjak and Sacred Creatures.
While the Kommandant (Bernard Hepton) is away, Major Mohn (Anthony Valentine) is left in charge of Colditz. When he learns via a lover that the German effort is close to defeat, and that his close connections to the Nazi government may see him executed for war crimes, he goes into a panic and tries ingratiating himself with the camp's prisoners.
"Chameleon" is an episode that has been a long time coming, ever since the deeply odious and unlikeable Horst Mohn joined the cast at the beginning of the season. He has constantly over-stepped his authority, broken the Geneva Convention, and pushed hard for the treatment of the prisoners to be harsher and more punitive than his superior has allowed. The swing in this episode is sudden and remarkable: he begins the episode at his most powerful to date, and ends it at his very lowest and most desperate.
September 21, 2017
It's clear from the outset that this relaunch assumes prior knowledge of the characters, because while it explains the basics of the spell-caster Nico Minoru and the time-travelling Chase it never really pauses to properly re-introduce them. That put me at something of a disadvantage when reading issue #1: it tells a tense, very well written scene, but because I am not invested in its participants it does not have the intended effect. I suspect pre-existing fans will get a lot more value for money.
Kris Anka's artwork is reasonable, but it is lifted to a new level by Matthew Wilson's colours. This issue is a really good example of just how important and useful good colouring can be. (4/5)
Runaways #1. Marvel. Written by Rainbow Rowell. Art by Kris Anka. Colours by Matthew Wilson.
Under the cut: reviews of Hulk, Mech Cadet Yu, Mister Miracle and Spy Seal.
The Enterprise hosts two scientists who are attempting to repair a planet whose magma is inexplicably cooling. One of the scientists, Dr Juliana Tainer (Fionnula Flanagan), reveals herself to be the former wife Dr Noonien Soong - the cyberneticist who created Data (Brent Spiner).
So after meeting a brother in Season 1, and a father in Season 4, Data finally completes his family set by meeting his de facto "mother". "Inheritance" is a weirdly flat and lifeless episode. The science fiction plot is so weirdly arbitrary and unimportant that it is barely worth noting. The development of Data and Dr Tainer's relationship is a meritable idea, but the execution is inexplicably dull. This is an easily skipped, readily forgotten episode.
September 20, 2017
It is a work that ties up plot strands that run back nine years to the climax of Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, and picks up elements from Scott Snyder's multi-year run on Batman along the way. It is essentially tailor-made for DC's hardcore fan base; I honestly don't know whether the casual reader will get confused by the various references and cameos or simply gloss over them. As one of the hardcore, I was delighted.
Snyder is really employing an 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach, providing superhero action and team-ups, surprise cameos and continuity reference, inter-dimensional horror, and numerous twists and turns. The sudden appearance of The Sandman's Dream at the end of issue #1 is almost hand-waved away here. It's a smart approach that softens the jarring effect that it had then, but still opening the character up to return later in the series.
It's all wrapped up in Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's fabulous artwork, that is just exaggerated enough and just detailed enough to hit that perfect superhero comic sweet spot. Metal isn't going to be for everyone, but for those for whom it is for, it's pretty much perfection. (5/5)
Dark Nights: Metal #2. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. Colours by FCO Plascencia.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Teen Titans.
September 19, 2017
Amy (Karen Gillen) is trapped in the TARDIS after it ejects the Doctor (Matt Smith) and gets caught by an unexplained force. Stuck in modern-day Colchester, the Doctor is forced to rent a room and become the housemate of the unsuspecting Craig Owens (James Corden) until he can work out what it is that is preventing the TARDIS from landing.
"The Lodger" is a strange little episode of Doctor Who that largely sees the Doctor trapped in present-day England and forced to pretend to be a normal human being for several weeks. The episode does have a science fiction plot at its core, but it is almost an arbitrary one. The bulk of the episode consists of Matt Smith trying - and failing - to look and act ordinary and not arouse any suspicions. It is messy, but also likeable.
September 17, 2017
This first issue is pretty much set-up of story and establishing characters, so it is a little difficult to fully judge the series at this stage. As a set-up it works perfectly well: we know the protagonists well enough, and we see them thrown into an extreme and potentially lethal situation. Is there enough to convince a reader to jump onboard for another four issues? That likely depends on how much that reader is willing to put their trust in the creative team I guess. I'm still on the fence.
I am also a little ambivalent about Jay Levang's artwork. The pencils and inks are rather scrappy and messy, I suspect intentionally so, and I am not sure it was the best visual style for the story that Chapman is attempting to tell. It looks a lot more like a fully independent kind of art style that you would usually see from a mid-level commercial publisher like Boom. I find myself very ambivalent about this book. It's good, but it's also not quite good enough. (3/5)
Lazaretto #1. Boom Studios. Written by Clay McLeod Chapman. Art and colours by Jay Levang.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Captain Phasma, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Seven to Eternity, Spider-Man and Star Wars Adventures.
September 14, 2017
This autobiographical one-shot depicts a vacation to Iceland with a friend, and a bad romantic break-up. Yanow's artwork is almost gestural. Everything conforms to a simple six-panel grid in black and white. Detailed art is not the focus here, however. Instead it is a simple tool to express a rather effective exploration of anxiety.
The narrative is not clearly structured. As I alluded to above, it really is an introspective meander across a story rather than a tightly plotted drama. It is curiously effective: a simple way Yanow has drawn a line here, a description of being heartbroken there.
This is not the greatest comic of its type, but it is a good and effective one. Fans of this kind of comic - and you can probably work out if that's you from the cover art alone - will get a bunch out of this. Superhero book lovers may find it a challenge. (4/5)
What is a Glacier? Retrofit/Big Planet Comics. Story and art by Sophie Yanow.
Under the cut: reviews of Doom Patrol, 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank, Superman, Usagi Yojimbo and The Wicked + the Divine.
With the tide of war firmly turned against Germany, orders are dispatched that the Waffen-SS will be placed in charge of all prisoners of war. All famous or well-connect prisoners, known as the Prominente, are to be transferred to Berlin to be used as hostages in the event that the war turns ever more against the Germans. When one of the American officers in Colditz is revealed to be the son of an ambassador, he is scheduled for transportation - leading to a tense stand-off between the prisoners and the guards.
There is a sudden and stark shift in Colditz with this episode. The end of the war is suddenly in sight, leading to desperate measures by the Germans and the sudden realisation by the British and American prisoners that they may all wind up murdered by the SS before the war concludes. It plays out in the series' well-established understated style, and that makes the climactic stand-off all the more confrontational and tense.
September 13, 2017
The book benefits enormously from its whimsical tone, one that gives the story and characterisation a nice lift and also soaks through the wonderfully simple but evocative art and design. There's a sense of Boom's successful all-ages book Lumberjanes in the air that suits the material well and gives it a fresh and hugely entertaining new angle.
This is a book that is playing with genre stereotypes, but it does so energetically and knowingly. It's the latter that makes the difference. It also benefits from a great protagonist in Luvander, whose spiky, cynical wit is already establishing her as a great character. The plot of this first issue perhaps falls just a little bit short of fully satisfying - it is a little too open and unresolved - but as a complete package this looks like another great Image title to watch. (4/5)
Scales & Scoundrels #1. Image. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art and colours by Galaad.
Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Darth Vader, Giant Days, Green Arrow and Swordquest.
September 12, 2017
Reality begins to shift around Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn). At first it is only small changes: a painting jumps from wall to wall, and the flavour of a birthday cake changes. Then bigger jumps occur: Worf finds himself in a world where Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) has died, and then one where he and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) are married. Is he losing his mind, or has something gone terrible wrong with reality?
"Parallels" is a deeply silly trip through a bunch of parallel universes, one packed with nonsensical technobabble, unexpected cameos (welcome back Wesley Crusher after almost two years), and 'what if?' fan-pleasing scenarios. Thankfully it is all anchored by Michael Dorn's spectacularly funny performance as Worf, whose deadpan delivery makes it all seem hugely entertaining.
September 10, 2017
This issue does not disappoint. It focuses on a young George Washington leading a group of soldiers on a reconnaissance mission. When he stumbles upon an English fort that has been taken by the French, he disobeys orders and decides to retake it by force.
The George Washington presented here is not the noble founder of the United States that we usually see. Here we see an arrogant young military leader with a poor respect for command, a lack of interest in his men's safety, and a casual disregard to any arrangement or promise made to indigenous peoples in the Virginia area. Andrea Mutti's artwork is beautifully composed and illustrated, but it is Lauren Affe's colours that richly bring the story to life.
As a one-short story you can easily just pick up this issue and ignore the rest of the series. It's well worth the purchase, and hopefully may drive some more readers to Rebels and offer Dark Horse a chance to keep its richly textured historical stories going. (5/5)
Rebels #6. Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.
Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Ghostbusters 101 and Rapture.
Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) races to escape Nero's court. Ian (William Russell) fights to escape the Roman Colosseum. The Doctor (William Hartnell) and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) fight to avoid being murdered and to get back to the villa in the country. Nero fiddles. Rome burns.
"The Romans" comes to its blazing conclusion in "Inferno", as the historical events of Rome's burning finally occur, and the four TARDIS occupants manage to make their way back to their villa before anybody notices anybody else was away. It's a successful return to the unusual blend of action, drama and comedy that made the first two episodes of the serial so good, with less of the English farce elements that dragged down the third.
September 8, 2017
To demonstrate Izetta's power to the allied nations, Finé pledges to destroy the Drachenfels - a newly built and immensely powerful Germanian aircraft carrier. On the ship itself, however, an ace Germanian captain prepares to defend the Drachenfels from the air, and Berkmann waits in the shadows to learn more of Izetta's powers.
We're up to episode 7 of Izetta: The Last Witch, and that is definitely long enough to get a firm understanding of the series' plot, tone and style. It is pretty clear at this stage that it's a series of two halves, one of which works exceptionally well and the other of which grates terribly on the nerves. What's a viewer to do?
September 7, 2017
There is no rush to hunt those books down, however, because truth be told The Lost Dimension is off to a horrifying start. The script by George Mann and Cavan Scott seems less interested in telling a dramatic story and more interested in packing in as many continuity references and cameos as possible, from the obvious (UNIT shows up, as does Jack Harkness) to the remarkably obscure (a bowship from "State of Decay"). In between these jarring cameos are momentary flashes of humour and charm, but they're utterly buried.
Then there is the return of the Doctor's cloned 'daughter' Jenny, last seen on television flying off to have adventures of her own in 2009's "The Doctor's Daughter". She was a gratingly irritating character on screen, and she is no more entertaining in print. The book even shoe-horns a way for her to briefly meet Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor with a cry of 'Dad!'; actress Georgia Moffett, who played Jenny on TV, is Davison's actual daughter.
This is the very worst kind of tie-in fiction. It is the sort of comic that gives all comics based on TV shows and films a bad reputation. I strongly recommend giving The Lost Dimension a miss. (1/5)
Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension #1. Titan Comics. Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott. Art by Rachael Stott with Cris Bolson, Pasquale Qualano, Elton Thomasi, Klebbs Jr and JB Bastos. Colours by Rod Fernandes.
Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Planetoid: Praxis and Saga.