April 30, 2018

The Pull List: 18 April 2018, Part 3

Giants comes to a conclusion with this dramatic fifth issue, wrapping up what has been a sensational American debut for writer/artists Carlos and Miguel Valderrama. Gogi and Zedo used to be brothers; now they are on opposite sides of a fight for supremacy, while two massive giant monsters challenge one another overhead.

This is a tremendous climax, working to perfection on both a visual level and an emotional one. It is testament to the Valderramas' talents that the issue feels simultaneously epic and intimate. The stakes and life and death, yet when all is said and done it's ultimately just two boys having a pitched fist-fight.

There has been a strong Katsuhiro Otomo influence over this miniseries, notably within the art, but across this issue there is a huge sense of Akira about things. It's destructive and cataclysmic, but above all there are two young men who used to be so close but who are now irreperably torn apart. It's hugely effective, visually dramatic stuff. This has been an exceptional miniseries, and I cannot wait to see what the Valderramas bring to the page next. (5/5)

Giants #5. Dark Horse. Story and art by Carlos and Miguel Valderrama.

Under the cut: reviews of The Crow: Memento Mori, Descender, and Superman.

April 29, 2018

The Pull List: 18 April 2018, Part 2

There is a remarkable rhythm to Mister Miracle, the 12-issue maxiseries by writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads. Pages regularly repeat the same angle across a nine-panel grid. The structure of each individual issue matches that issue's content. In the case of issue #8, Scott and Barda are taking turns between caring for their newborn son and leading the war against Apokolips. As a result the issues swaps back and forth with Scott, from their Earth apartment to the alien warzone and back, over and over, as their son gets older and the war progresses.

All the while there is still an overriding sense of dread. Each issue occasionally throws in a 'wobble' - a panel where the picture is distorted and messed up like a bad television signal. It is clearly leading somewhere, and given which moments are accompanied by it I am going to assume it isn't leading anywhere good. The unease throughout the series has been palpable.

This is such a wonderfully original and distinctive book. It has taken a genuinely fresh and innovative angle with two classic DC Comics characters. I really hope its success leads DC to consider more 'out of the box' adaptations of their various series and franchises. (5/5)

Mister Miracle #8. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art and colours by Mitch Gerads.

Under the cut: reviews of Antar the Black Knight, Daredevil, and Super Sons.

April 28, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Investigations"

It is 13 March 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Finding his position on Voyager untenable, Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) resigns his commission to join a Talaxian freighter. Neelix (Ethan Phillips) begins broadcast a daily news show to the crew, which leads him to suspect someone is sending unauthorised communications to the Kazon Nistrim.

After weeks of Tom Paris increasingly acting like a selfish idiot, Star Trek: Voyager turns the tables with the revelation that it was all an act: Tom's apparent playing-out was a ruse to enable Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Lt Tuvok (Tim Russ) to identify the mole leaking intelligence to the Kazon. While it is good to see Star Trek embracing longer-form storytelling, it ultimately does not worth very well. A for effort, but C for conclusions, I guess.

April 27, 2018

The Pull List: 18 April 2018, Part 1

1,000 issues is a pretty big deal for any publication. Action Comics finally crosses that threshold this month, the first of America's superhero comics to do so, and in celebration DC Comics has made the issue an 80-page anthology celebration.

Sure it is more expensive than a normal issue, but it is also a veritable "who's who" of Superman writers and artists, each presenting short but effective stories. Collectively they really nail precisely why Superman is such a great character. Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund present a series of testimonies over why Superman is such a hero. Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi use splashes pages to make a speed run through Superman's 80-year career. Marv Wolfman resurrects an old Curt Swan strip to moderate effect.

Two of the most effective strips come from Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Olivier Coipel - telling the story of the famous Superman-catching-a-car image - and Tom King and Clay Mann - really pushing the moniker "man of tomorrow" to a certain extreme. The issue ends with a short prologue for Brian Michael Bendis' forthcoming run on the Superman books: it looks intriguing, but there's honestly only enough there to grab the reader's attention.

Altogther it's a welcome and charming salute to DC's original superhero. Fans should find plenty to enjoy here - plus the wide range of alternate covers are wonderful. (4/5)

Action Comics #1,000. DC Comics. Written by Dan Jurgens, Peter J. Tomasi, Marv Wolfman, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Scott Snyder, Tom King, Paul Dini, and Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Patrick Gleason, Curt Swan, Butch Guice, Kurt Shaffenberger, Olivier Coipel, Rafael Alberquerque, Clay Mann, Jerry Ordway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan, and John Cassaday. Colours by Hi-Fi, Alejandro Sanchez, Dave McCaig, Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Brennan Wagner, and Laura Martin.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Ms Marvel, and Star Wars: Poe Dameron.

April 23, 2018

The Pull List: 11 April 2018

Vep has been taken from her home to serve the alien masters on Eriatarka. There she begins to learn about her environment and meet other students in the academy.

There is more than a small sense of Moebius about Prism Stalker. It has the same sort of world-building and surreal design. It hints at back story and context rather than spell it out to the reader. While the end result might feel a little confusing, I think to a large degree that is part of the book's charm. It's wonderfully strange.

Sloane Leong's script and artwork already feel more confident and effective in this second instalment. The art still looks somewhat haphazard, but the colouring pulls everything together. When Leong's art sings, it really makes an impression - it's just a pity it doesn't manage to hit those highs on every page. Nonetheless there is an indefinable appeal to Prism Stalker that lifts it well above the individual merits of art or writing. It has a weirdly effective cadence to it. (4/5)

Prism Stalker #2. Image. Story and art by Sloane Leong.

Under the cut: reviews of Darth Vader, Detective Comics, Doctor Strange, Ninja-K, Oblivion Song, Sleepless, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Vs.

April 19, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Lifesigns"

It is 26 February 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Voyager encounters a Vidiian transport with one passenger - a critically ill Vidiian doctor named Danara Pel (Susan Diol). With a neurological implant about to fail, the Doctor (Robert Picardo) transfers Pel's brainwave patterns to Voyager's computers - and creates a holographic body for her to use while he can stabilise her real one. While he cares for her, the Doctor begins to experience romantic feelings for the first time.

"Lifesigns" sees Voyager in classical Star Trek mode, with the Doctor - a character inexperienced with the human condition - experiencing a human emotion for the first time. Much like the Star Trek: The Next Generation showcased Commander Data's first romantic relationship, "Lifesigns" undertakes the first experience of love for the Doctor. It may be a re-used concept, but it still works very well.

April 18, 2018

The Pull List: 4 April 2018, Part 3

As his appointment approaches with the House Un-American Activities Committee, closeted gay playwright Snagglepuss struggles with his friends, his lover and his increasingly unhappy wife.

Police brutality, gay-bashing, identity crises, the tension between art and commerce, cold war paranoia, anti-communist crusades - these are all powerful and worthy subjects to cover in a 1950s period drama. That they're being expressed through a post-modern remix of Hanna Barbera cartoons just makes it deeply weird and unsettling.

It feels as if it shouldn't work, and every issue seems to put more pressure on top - how ludicrous can it get and maintain an authentic sense of drama? So far so good: this is the most surprising book of the year so far. Mark Russell's script is smart, literate and self-aware. Mark Morales and Mike Feehan's art and colours are unusual but effective. This book is just so strange - and strangely wonderful. (4/5)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4. DC Comics. Written by Mark Russell. 

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Demigod, Mech Cadet Yu, Monstro Mechanica, and Sonic the Hedgehog.

April 16, 2018

The Pull List: 4 April 2018, Part 2

Her underground adventure complete, Luvander wanders into a regional conflict between two human dukedoms - and a mercenary of elves hired to win the conflict for the highest bidder.

In this excellent one-shot we get to see more the world of Scales & Scoundrels, as well as more back story for Lu: who she is, where she has come from, and the position her people take in the world around them. It is a difficult thing to write a one-shot: with only 20 pages free to write a story with beginning, middle and end, it is the sort of task that can divide a decent writer from a truly exceptional one. Sebastian Girner more than passes the test here. The issue is to-the-point, rich in detail, and satisfying on its own merits. It is the best issue of Scales & Scoundrels so far.

Galaad's artwork is elegant and simple, with a pleasing European style. It's particularly good in terms of colour, with nothing every feeling too overwhelming or busy. It's the perfect complement to the writing. (5/5)

Scales & Scoundrels #8. Image. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art and colours by Galaad.

Under the cut: reviews of Giant Days, Superman, and The Wicked + the Divine.

April 12, 2018

Outlander: "The Devil's Mark"

It is 18 April 2015, and time for another episode of Outlander.

Clare (Catriona Balfe) has hit every time traveller's worst nightmare: being arrested for witchcraft. Captured along with apothecary and suspected witch Geillis (Lotte Verbeek), she is interred in a gated pit until her trial can be assembled - a trial that will almost certainly end with being burned to death at the stake. Geillis hopes that Dougal (Graham McTavish) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) will save them. Clare knows that both men have been banished from Castle Leoch.

There is something inevitable about "The Devil's Mark". If you are going to throw a woman back in time from the 1940s to the 1740s, sooner or later the witch trial chapter is going to come along. It is simply too easy to include, and comes ready-to-wear with high drama and desperate situations. It is also, sadly, a handy excuse for the series to dive once again into it's raison d'ĂȘtre: violence towards women.

April 11, 2018

The Pull List: 4 April 2018, Part 1

A soldier escorts a tiger through the forest, keeping an eye out for enemy combatants, monsters, and who knows what else. The soldier, named Rook, keeps referring to the tiger as if it is her queen. Something is clearly up, but it's not clear precisely what that is.

There's a deliberate choice to drop the reader in the deep end in the first issue of Isola, a new fantasy series from creators Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl. What readers receive is an arresting and dramatic opening chapter, but it is one that deliberately raises a lot of questions while withholding all of the answers. It's a gamble, but one that seems likely to pay off - Isola #1 is absolutely tremendous.

The intriguing story is enhanced by Kerschl's tremendous artwork. It has the look of a high-budget American animation, with beautifully rendered characters and emotion. The art has a sensational sense of movement. It is easily one of the best illustrated books of the year. Mssassyk's colours are intense and rich, and further enhance the impact - particularly when it comes to the tiger queen Olwyn, an intense and expressive co-protagonist whose entire character is expressed via the artwork alone.

This really strikes me as a comic book you are going to want to join from the ground floor. (5/5)

Isola #1. Image. Written by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colours by Msassyk.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Green Arrow, and Spider-Man.

April 10, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Death Wish"

It is 19 February 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

While investigating a strange comet in deep space, the crew of the USS Voyager accidentally free a trapped member of the omnipotent Q Continuum (Gerrit Graham). Soon afterward another Q (John De Lancie) arrives to apprehend the prisoner. His crime? He - a member of an immortal species - wishes to commit suicide.

The character of Q (the De Lancie version), who debuted along with the rest of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, was a fantastic foil of Patrick Stewart's Captain Picard. When Deep Space Nine launched, Q made one guest appearance during the first season which struggled to make the same impact. Tonally he simply did not fit the darker, more cynical style of Deep Space Nine's characters and storytelling. Not to let the character go to waste, the Star Trek production team now introduce him to Voyager - he is not much more successful here, to be honest.

April 8, 2018

The Pull List: 28 March 2018, Part 2

In the concluding part of "Mayor Fisk", New York City mayor Wilson Fisk prepares to sell the entire city to its criminal underground - unless Daredevil and an assembled group of local superheroes can intervene. Meanwhile, Blindspot finally confronts Muse, the deranged super-villain that cost him his eyesight.

And, of course, things do not go according to plan. This extra-length climax swings left just when the readers expect it to head right, leaving this celebratory 600th issue at a genuinely surprising cliffhanger ending and a wonderfully open sense that almost anything can happen to Daredevil and the Kingpin in the issues to come. It's a well-paced and dramatic finale. Ron Garney and Matt Milla's artwork and colours are bold and impactful. There is also a nice little back-up strip at the issue's end, by writer Christos Gage and artist Mike Perkins that acts as a small ode to long-running sidekick Foggy Nelson.

It's impressive when a comic book hits a milestone as massive as 600 issues, and for a character as strong and effective as Daredevil it is well-deserved. Now there's the wait to see what happens next - and to find out how many issues before Marvel reset the numbering all over again. (4/5)

Daredevil #600. Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Ron Garney. Colours by Matt Milla. Backup written by Christos Cage, art by Mike Perkins, colours by Andy Troy.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Doomsday Clock, Mera: Queen of Atlantis, and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra.

April 7, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Dreadnought"

It is 12 February 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Voyager stumbles upon Dreadnought, a Cardassian-designed weapons platform that had been sabotaged by B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) during her time with the Maquis but then lost in the Badlands. Now trapped, like Voyager, in the Delta Quadrant, it has accidentally mis-identified a nearby alien planet as its original target. Torres must race against time to re-program Dreadnought before it kills millions of people.

"Dreadnought" is a fairly decent episode that has been carved out of a fairly silly premise. One of the main elements that is supposed to distinguish Voyager from its predecessors is the isolation of its characters. They are a lifetime away from the Federation, and all of the various civilizations with which audiences were familiar. Having Voyager stumble upon a Cardassian super-missile in the Delta Quadrant is a leap the series shouldn't have to take. The reasoning for how it got there is weak, and the odds of Voyager and Dreadnought encountering one another when the two ships arrived there months apart and could have headed in any direction in a three-dimensional space beggars belief.

April 5, 2018

The Pull List: 28 March 2018, Part 1

There's a sense of very slow breathing about the DC Universe. It breathes in, and someone writes up a story in which there's only one universe and one Earth. It breathes out, and someone else writes up a story that breaks that confined universe wide open. It breathes in again, and we're down to a set 52 Earths. It breathes out, and Scott Snyder writes Dark Nights: Metal.

Snyder cracks the DCU wide open again in the latest in DC's periodic soft relaunches. It isn't a reboot in any sense, but it widens the universe for new characters and stories, and sets the stage for some re-arrangements across the various monthly titles. It's also kind of nuts, and is the most 'out there' and ridiculously over-the-top miniseries since Morrison's Final Crisis - to which it owns a rather large debt.

Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion's artwork shines, but then Capullo in particular has been working with Snyder for almost a decade. They're clearly one of the best creative teams in superhero comics today, and if this is indeed their final collaboration they have set off on a real high. (4/5)

Dark Nights: Metal #6. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. Colours by FCO Plascencia.

Under the cut: reviews of The Crow: Memento Mori, Detective Comics, Saga, and The Terrifics.

April 4, 2018

Outlander: "By the Pricking of my Thumbs"

It is 11 April 2015, and time for another episode of Outlander.

When Claire (Catriona Balfe) finds a harmful charm under her bed, she confronts a spiteful Laoghaire (Nell Hudson) - only to find the charm came from Geillis (Lotte Verbeek). Jamie (Sam Heughan) seeks the support of the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow) in ridding himself of Captain Randall. Dougal (Graham McTavish) is bereft with his wife unexpectedly dies.

It has been almost two years since I last watched an episode of Outlander; not by any specific intent, simply that I kept choosing to watch other things. I suppose that is, if nothing else, a minor indictment on how I find the series. It has a little too much sexual assault - and more often the threat of sexual assault - for my liking, and it gets a little tiresome. Thankfully this mostly self-contained episode steers away from that and into other criminal areas instead.

April 3, 2018

The Pull List: 21 February 2018, Part 3

Feargal Ferguson was finding high school hard enough without being haunted by the ghost of Sid Vicious. Now he's developing strange powers due to proximity with the dead punk rocker. While Fergie deals with those problems, Britain's Department of Extra-Usual Affairs are on the case of another haunting: former government minister John Profumo.

Punks Not Dead is a wonderful throwback to the classic DC Vertigo comics of the mid-1990s, only this time it is published by Black Crown, the new IDW imprint edited by former Vertigo head Shelly Bond. It's a scabrous mixture of sex, foul language and comedy, with a nice line in referencing punk music without overwhelming the story with it.

Martin Simmonds' artwork is excellent, and Dee Cunniffe's colours make excellent use of the book's soft inking to give it a distinctive and appealing look.

With books like this, I really hope Black Crown finds a strong and productive niche in the American comics market. Shelly Bond is a tremendous editor, as evidenced by Punks Not Dead, and this new endeavour really does deserve every success. (4/5)

Punks Not Dead #2. Black Crown/IDW. Written by David Barnett. Art by Martin Simmonds. Flats by Dee Cunniffe.

Under the cut: Deadman, Ms Marvel, Southern Cross, and Super Sons.

April 2, 2018

Highlander: The Series: "See No Evil"

It is 1 February 1993, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

A masked murderer stalks the streets of Seacouver, attacking women and scalping them for their hair. Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) knows the behaviour well: he saw it 70 years earlier when he hunted down an immortal serial killer. That killer, however, is dead. Who is picking up their crimes?

Brian Clemens is one of the most noted figures in British telefantasy history. Best known for his work developing and producing The Avengers (Steed and Mrs Peel, not Iron Man and friends), he was also instrumental to Adam Adamant Lives, The Persuaders, and Thriller. "See No Evil" marks his first and only episode of Highlander: The Series, but it is not Clemens' first encounter with the Highlander franchise. Brian Clemens was also one of the writers of the notorious film sequel Highlander II: The Quickening.

The Pull List: 21 March 2018, Part 2

Two samurai ride into town, with a small army hot on their heels. They're soon dead, but whatever treasure they carried is stolen before their pursuers can find it. Now the wandering ronin Usagi Yojimbo is on the case, along with his good friend Inspector Yoshida - and the murder victims seem linked to the strange foreign religion that has been sweeping the land.

Usagi Yojimbo splits from its normal serial schedule to tell a special seven-part storyline with its own dedicated title. It's a smart move, making this a first issue that anybody can jump in on and enjoy. People should: Usagi Yojimbo is one of the crown jewels of independent American comic books. Sakai has been presenting the immaculately told and illustrated adventures of a samurai rabbit for decades now. His combination of clean, engaging storyline and feudal Japanese history and culture is superb.

This looks like it is going to be a great story as well, taking inspiration from the Shogunate's real-life crackdown on Christianity, during which time Japanese Christians were forced to hide their faith lest they be arrested, tortured and executed. The longer length also afford Sakai the opportunity to tell a more complex and involved story. I was already going to buy this one: you should check it out as well. (5/5)

Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #1. Dark Horse. Story and art by Stan Sakai.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batwoman, Doctor Strange: Damnation, and Superman.

April 1, 2018

The Angriest: March 2018 in review

Comic book reviews of Songs for the Dead, Batman, Aquaman and a bunch of others wound up being the most popular post on The Angriest this past month. Other popular posts included reviews of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Resistance" and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Emergence". This was also the month when The Angriest finally racked up 1,000,000 hits since this version launched; thanks for reading! Over at FictionMachine, the most popular reviews were unsurprisingly of Ready Player One, Thor: Ragnarok and (maybe a little surprisingly) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Altogether in March 2018, I posted one film essay, seven reviews of new films, 12 reviews of older films, eight TV episode reviews, and mini-reviews of 66 comic books. A complete index to March's posts is included below.