January 31, 2018
Gary Frank's artwork is admittedly great, as are Brad Anderson's colours. Stylistically it feels like a fairly impressive act of mimicry, echoing the look and tone of the original book remarkably well. In the end, however, it is just feeling like a mercenary copy. How many months will it take before Doomsday Clock is almost entirely forgotten; a weird footnote in comic book history to sit alongside DC's earlier and unnecessary Before Watchmen miniseries? (3/5)
Doomsday Clock #3. DC Comics. Written by Geoff Johns. Art by Gary Frank. Colours by Brad Anderson.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Batgirl, Detective Comics, and Gears of War.
January 29, 2018
It has been great to see this series right itself after a slightly rocky changeover of artist. For whatever reason, the change coincided with a somewhat uneven storyline. At its conclusion, that storyline has improved immeasurably - particularly thanks to its focus on series protagonist Clara and her previously hinted-at back story. It worked well, not only filling out character but showing off serious consequences to people's actions. It is a tremendously satisfying end, one that also points directly to the next story arc lying in wait.
Drew Moss has really taken this book and transformed the characters into his own. The subtly different aesthetic has really firmed up now, making this really feel like the definitive version of this space western town. (4/5)
Copperhead #18. Image. Written by Jay Faerber. Art by Drew Moss. Colours by Ron Riley.
Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman and Doctor Strange.
January 28, 2018
After finding popular success with Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl, the CW television network now adds a fifth television series about a DC Comics superhero. Is it overkill? Very probably, but thanks to a distinctive point of view and a strong lead performance it seems likely that Black Lightning will find a dedicated audience of its own. I hope it does: this is a very conventional but rather enjoyable first episode, and shows a lot of promise down the road.
January 24, 2018
The first half of its success has been writer Dan Abnett. He writes a long game: setting up a broad range of supporting characters and weaving in all manner of subplots as he goes. The longer it stretches on - and he's been stretching it for more than 40 issues now across two volumes - the more rich and complex the story becomes.
The second half is the recent shift to painted-style artists - first Stepjan Sejic and now Riccardo Federici - that has given this epic story of Arthur's overthrow and slow return back to save Atlantis the appropriate level of gravitas and emotional power. Sunny Gho's rich colours emphasise that power tremendously. There isn't currently a DC superhero book that looks better than this. (5/5)
Aquaman #32. DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art by Riccardo Federici. Colours by Sunny Gho.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Superman and Super-Sons.
January 23, 2018
On the one level it is a superbly written and on-the-nose challenge by the Devil towards Judas, God, and Jesus. On the other it feels decidedly less artful this issue: there was a lyrical quality to the first part's obliqueness, whereas here it just does its job in a less artful fashion. Jakub Rebelka's artwork is excellent and distinctive, and really gives everything a very particular tone and aesthetic. It feels ancient and foreboding. There's a slightly sharp, jagged sense to it. It works very well.
This book obviously isn't going to appeal to anyone with an aversion or dislike for Christian mythology, but for those like me who - despite not actually being religious - get a kick out of Biblical stories, it is a very good book. I think I can see where Loveness is going with this, and it promises to be a striking and dramatic work. (4/5)
Judas #2. Boom Studios. Written by Jeff Loveness. Art and colours by Jakub Rebelka.
Under the cut: reviews of Mech Cadet Yu, Port of Earth and She-Hulk.
January 22, 2018
The TARDIS has exploded. The Doctor (Matt Smith) has been imprisoned inside history's most impenetrable prison cell. Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) has been shot dead by her fiancee Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) - who turns out to be an Auton. Oh, and the universe just ended.
Doctor Who's fifth 21st century season ends with a complicated, time-travelling oddly miniscule epic that brings Matt Smith's entire 13-episode debut run to a close. Rewatched almost eight years later, and it feels like one of the most essentially 'Steven Moffat' episodes that Moffat ever devised. For me it also feels as if it has aged remarkably well. Upon its initial broadcast it felt a little too frantic and complex for its own good, with a hand-waved fairy tale ending. Sure, it's still a fairy tale ending, but in an entire season based on the idea that we are all in the end just somebody else's story, it's difficult to imagine a more perfect conclusion than this.
January 20, 2018
Monstro Mechanica is exactly my kind of comic: a period setting, a blend of real-life history and speculative fiction, and a robot with artificial intelligence. It's got a great sense of setting and tone, and is yet another book in the long and constantly growing list of "comics that, in the mid-90s, would have published by DC Vertigo".
Paul Allor's script is simple but strong, and he has presented a very fresh and more youthful take on some rather over-exposed historical characters like Machiavelli and Leonardo. That he makes his protagonist a spirited and aspiring young woman works very well, and provides a lot of dramatic material as she fights within an overtly patriarchal environment. Chris Evenhuis' artwork is clean, realistic and very sharply inked, and enhanced very well by Sjan Weijers' colours. Weijers uses a very simple palette, without much shading or too many colours, and that gives the book a very distinctive look.
With good writing, good artwork, an evocative setting, and a carefully limited fantastical element, Monstro Mechanica is pretty much my dream book. (5/5)
Monstro Mechanica #2. Aftershock. Written by Paul Allor. Art by Chris Evenhuis. Colours by Sjan Weijers.
Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Mister Miracle, Ms Marvel, and Rocko's Modern Life.
January 19, 2018
While walking down the street one night, Duncan (Adrian Paul) is the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Rushed to hospital, his immortal healing powers attract the attention of a deranged emergency ward doctor (Joe Pantoliano) - who kidnaps Duncan to undertake experiments on him.
You have to at least admire the consistency of early Highlander episodes. They're packed with silly plots, terrible acting, and often-times pretty cringe-inducing dialogue. This one throws in what is effectively a mad scientist crossed with a serial killer, one who kidnaps patients from his own hospital without people knowing and who operates an entire backyard surgery for human experimentation in his suburban basement. Not that the episode interrogates him at all; he's just the villain of the week.
January 17, 2018
Pau, a Spanish writer and artist, is clearly inspired by the French comedic books of the 1970s and 1980s - Asterix and the like - and certainly works the book in that vein. There's a nice balance of humour, although a fair amount is derived on having the humanoid animals act like their four-legged counterparts.
It's breezy and pleasant, but not a must-read. It is good, however, to see these European works get more exposure to English-speaking audience. There's a whole industry of this stuff that we rarely get to see. (3/5)
Atlas & Axis #1. Titan Comics/Statix Press. Story, art and colours by Pau.
Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Deadman and The Power of the Dark Crystal.
January 16, 2018
Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot) goes travelling in a mountain region, only to be kidnapped by a trio of men who live rough off the land - and whose leader Caleb Cole (Marc Singer) plans to forcibly marry her. Once Tessa is missing, Duncan (Adrian Paul) arrives to search for her - bringing back memories of an immortal hermit that once lived in the region.
Sometimes there are episodes for which there are no suitable words, and the best option for the reviewer is to just point in the episode's general direction and do 'jazz hand' motions. "Mountain Men" is, in spite of itself, pretty funny. I don't think it was supposed to be amusing, but sometimes bad television gets knocked sideways into the comedy genre by accident.
January 13, 2018
We're two issues into Sleepless and I think I've found another favourite comic. It is a beautifully developed but gently told fantasy, with a rich setting presented via beautiful artwork and engaging characters explored within excellent writing. Writer Sarah Vaughn and artist Leila Del Duca (not to mention editor and colourist Alissa Sallah) are presenting something rather special here.
While the deliberately slower pace does enhance the characters and the intrigue, it is making a little difficult to really ascertain precisely what sort of story Sleepless is going to tell. Personally, with writing and art this enchanting, I'm perfectly happy to wait and see it gradually unfold. (5/5)
Sleepless #1. Image. Written by Sarah Vaughn. Art by Leila Del Duca. Colours by Alissa Sallah.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Darth Vader, Detective Comics, and Doctor Who.
January 12, 2018
When Tessa (Alexandra Vandernoot) heads into city hall to pay a stack of parking tickets, she and Ritchie (Stan Kirsch) are taken hostage as part of a violent criminal's escape attempt. When Duncan (Adrian Paul) steps in to help, he gets shot for his troubles - but as an immortal he is soon up and running, taking down the hostage-takers one at a time.
Or, in other words, 'Highlander does Die Hard'. "Bad Day in Building A" is terrible; really, truly, and overwhelmingly terrible. It does not actually feel like something written for Highlander; take out one scene of Duncan being 'executed' and it could easily sit comfortably inside of Walker: Texas Ranger or the like. There are no flashbacks - a first for the series so far - and no immortals other than Duncan. It is entirely generic and miserably redundant television.
In this issue the heroes escape from angry fish people to reach the lost treasure of Dalden Laria, deep underground. Dorma gets lost, Koro still struggles with protecting her prince in such a ridiculous and dangerous situation, and Luvander reveals a whole side to her that readers mostly likely did not expect. There's a flashback, moments of quiet, moments of action, and a rollicking cliffhanger ending. This is the stuff for which I read comic books.
Next month sees the release of the first collected edition, alongside issue #6. It's the perfect time to catch up on a really fun fantasy comic. (4/5)
Scales and Scoundrels #5. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art and colours by Galaad.
Under the cut: reviews of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Extremity, Giants and Rat Queens.
January 11, 2018
The album begins with "Ingress to Form". A simple combination of guitars and percussion runs along with a very rough and simple sound. For a while it seems this garage-style grungy strumming is going to be all there is, but Timms' ethereal vocals kick in almost halfway through and lift the song up to a whole new level.
It is repetitive, but that repetition develops into an almost hypnotic hook. It's music you can feel as much as hear. There's something tremendously effective about it.
January 10, 2018
Scott Snyder created Duke Thomas during his New 52 run on Batman, with the character first encountering Batman during the events of "Zero Year". Duke then starred for a while in the underrated and short-lived We Are Robin, before becoming Batman's sidekick-in-training during Snyder's All-Star Batman. Most recently he was seen in the lead-up to Dark Knights: Metal, where he learned he actually had super-powers.
In this three issue series, Duke makes his debut as the Signal. He's the day shift for Batman's war on crime, and he has the power to see patterns of light that help him anticipate the movements of criminals in a fight, and see things that happened before he even entered the room. I like Duke as a character, and the Signal seems as good an identity as any. Cully Hamner's artwork is pretty great. I'm just not sure we need another supporting character helping Batman out. (3/5)
Batman and the Signal #1. DC Comics. Story by Scott Snyder and Tony Patrick. Script by Tony Patrick. Art by Cully Hamner. Colours by Laura Martin.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, Green Arrow, and Spider-Man.
January 9, 2018
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, however, grabbed my attention purely because it seemed just jaw-droppingly weird. Snagglepuss was a pink lion and aspiring actor who first appeared back in 1959 in an episode of Quickdraw McGraw. In this new comic miniseries written by Mark Russell, he has been re-imagined as a closeted gay playwright during the 1950s McCarthy hearings. It's also not really a comedy: it has a few jokes and gags, but nowhere near as many as you'd expect from the premise.
This book is just weird. It is weird that someone proposed it with a straight face, weird that a publisher would approve it, and weird that it was see release like this as if adapting a children's cartoon in an anti-communist LGBTI historical drama was a normal thing for DC comics to do. It's somewhat intriguing, and sometimes a little unsettling (the anthropomorphic animals looks bizarre without pants). Mainly, however, it's just really odd. (3/5)
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1. DC Comics. Written by Mark Russell. Art by Mike Feehan and Mike Morales. Colours by Paul Mounts.
Under the cut: reviews of Atomic Robo, Secret Weapons, Teen Titan, Superman, and Transformers vs Visionaries.
Richie (Stan Kirsch) meets a confused young woman named Felicia Martins (Joan Jett). Shortly afterwards she appears to commit suicide falling off the top of a downtown skyscraper. When Felicia returns, dazed but unharmed, Richie and Duncan (Adrian Paul) realise that she is a newly resurrected immortal. There is, however, more to Felicia that first appears.
In its early days Highlander: The Series undertook an odd little dalliance with stunt-casting pop and rock stars in guest appearances. It was a strategy that sort of worked, thanks to Highlander's Queen soundtrack giving it a sort of rock music cache to begin with, but it was also a strategy that sort of failed, since more often than not a talented rock singer was not also a talented actor. Joan Jett, the first of these guest stars, give it her all. Sadly she's really not very good, and it hurts the final episode.
January 8, 2018
Under the cut are the books that grabbed my attention the most in 2017. To qualify, I had to have read three issues in the past 12 months. Some are returning to my Top 10 from last year, while others are new entries. It was actually very hard this year to whittle the year's best list down to just 10 books. I've added a few runners-up just to give them their due.
January 7, 2018
Eternity is turning out to be an odd little miniseries, taking Divinity off the Earth after three successful storylines and throwing him into a crazy science fiction environment. At the issue's core there's a powerful dilemma. Assuming their captors are telling the truth, Divinity and Mishka's son is destined to keep the universe in balance. To achieve that task, they must abandon him and return home. If they continue with their rescue mission, while they may save their child they may also doom the universe. It's a perfect set-up to what should be a hugely emotional final issue next month.
Trevor Hairsine's artwork is good with nice slightly old-fashioned feel to it. The inks by Ryan Winn and Stefano Gaudiano work well. Once again, it's a solid miniseries from Valiant - the most underrated publisher in the business. (4/5)
Eternity #3. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn and Stefano Gaudiano. Colours by David Baron.
Under the cut: reviews of Back to the Future: Tales from the Time Train, Batgirl and Usagi Yojimbo.
Voyager collides with an unexplained phenomena in deep space, causing the entire ship's layout to warp and twist into a nonsensical maze. As the crew begin searching for a way to reach the engineering deck and bridge, it becomes clear that the distortions are spreading and time is running out.
"Twisted" is another episode of Voyager that was produced for the first season but delayed upon Paramount's instruction to the beginning of the second. It famously under-ran in its original edit, by a jaw-dropping eight minutes, and that necessitated a lot of additional dialogue and padding to fill a commercial hour. The end result is something that might have made an intriguing short film but which stretches at full length to a lethargic bore.
January 6, 2018
If there's a book for which Bendis shall be remembered, it's Ultimate Spider-Man. It helped launch Marvel's Ultimate line of superhero comic books, and after killing that universe's Peter Parker he replaced him with fan favourite Mile Morales. Some years - and one event series - later, Miles joined the Marvel Universe proper and now runs around New York as his own version of Spider-Man. Spider-Men II does not just feel like an end to Miles' story as Spider-Man; it feels like a farewell to that original title. Original Ultimate Spider-Man artists Sara Pichelli and Mark Bagley both illustrate this issue, which comes with an epilogue that pops out of nowhere like a grand sign-off on the creative team's part.
Does it work as an individual single issue? Possibly not, but as a sign-off from a much-loved comic it is difficult to fault. (4/5)
Spider-Men II #5. Marvel. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Sara Pichelli, Mark Bagley, Elisabetta D'Amico, and John Dell. Colours by Justin Ponsor.
Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Hawkman Found.
January 5, 2018
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is once again hunted down by Daimon Bok (Lee Arenberg), the Ferengi captain whose son Picard killed years ago while captain of the USS Stargazer. This time Bok has targeted Picard's son Jason Vigo (Ken Olandt) for death - a son Picard did not ever know he had.
You can't keep a running theme down, and once again Star Trek: The Next Generation chooses to base an episode around family. This time it's Picard meeting and struggling to reconcile with a previously unknown son - the result of a doomed romance decades into his past. While focusing on a family member again is irritating - this is the ninth time in Season 7 - what really strikes me as bizarre is the return of Bok.
January 4, 2018
Doomsday Clock's second issue rattles along like the first. The pace is fast, the art and dialogue are strong, and the entire book is littered with deliberate callbacks and references to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original miniseries master work. It also continues to leave me slightly ambivalent about it. It may be an exceptionally well crafted tribute, but that is ultimately all it can ever be. It won't break the mould like Watchmen, and it won't make a bold statement on superhero comics like Watchmen did. It's a tribute act.
Within those boundaries it's a lot of fun, but the real annoyance was never going to come from this. It will come from the subsequent series. The Rorschach monthly book. The guest appearances by Ozymandias in Justice League of America. The endless re-use of Moore and Gibbons' characters as pop culture fodder. We know its inevitable. Best enjoy these characters' final moments of dignity. Great comic book, awful implications. (4/5)
Doomsday Clock #2. DC Comics. Written by Geoff Johns. Art by Gary Frank. Colours by Brad Anderson.
Under the cut: reviews of Scarlett's Strike Squad, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and X-O Manowar.
January 3, 2018
It's a bizarre creative choice, given the quality of the original book. By any reasonable measure, this new first issue simply isn't anywhere near as good. It's difficult to emphasize just how important Ben Templesmith's artwork was to the original. It looked incredible, and was deeply atmospheric. This new version, with a much more traditional artist, simply looks like every other comic book.
Readers who have never sampled 30 Days of Night may enjoy this. Anyone looking to re-experience what attracted them in the first place will likely come away bitterly disappointed. (3/5)
30 Days of Night #1. IDW. Written by Steve Niles. Art by Piotr Kowalski. Colours by Brad Simpson.
Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Assassinistas, The Beautiful Death, Copperhead, Quantum and Woody, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Superman and Super-Sons.
January 1, 2018
review of Black Cab's recent electronica album (and anime tribute) Akira. Other popular posts in December 2017 included reviews of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Eye of the Beholder" and the Highlander: The Series episode "Road Not Taken". Over at FictionMachine, the most popular review published was (unsurprisingly) of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
During December 2017, I reviewed three new films and eight older films, nine TV episodes, two music albums, and 63 comic books.
A full index of reviews is included below the cut.
During December 2017, I reviewed three new films and eight older films, nine TV episodes, two music albums, and 63 comic books.
A full index of reviews is included below the cut.