February 28, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

February 26, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 5

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

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

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

February 25, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2017

The Pull List: 22 February 2017, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 23, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 4

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

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

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

February 22, 2017

Avantasia: Angel of Babylon (2010)

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

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

February 19, 2017

The Pull List: 15 February 2017, Part 2

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

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

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

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

February 18, 2017

The Pull List: 15 February 2017, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2017

Red Dwarf: "Officer Rimmer"

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

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

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

February 15, 2017

The Pull List: 8 February 2017, Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

February 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Aquiel"

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

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

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

February 11, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 3

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

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

February 10, 2017

The Pull List: 8 February 2017, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

Olololop + MC Serious: Discovery (2014)

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

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

February 9, 2017

The Pull List: 8 February 2017, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

February 7, 2017

Red Dwarf: "Give and Take"

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

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

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

February 6, 2017

Doctor Who: "Day of Reckoning"

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

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

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

February 5, 2017

Yowamushi Pedal: "Full Power vs Full Power"

It is 2 December 2013, and time for episode 9 of Yowamushi Pedal.

Onoda and Imaizumi race the final 500 metres to reach the peak and claim the "King of the Mountain" title. Naruko has tipped the balance in Onoda's favour, however, having taught him a new racing trick before he caught up with Imaizumi. With his energy then spent, however, Onoda may not be able to finish the race.

This episode takes 10 minutes for Onoda and Imaizumi to ride 500 metres. I commented a few episodes back that the racing scenes feel as if they are occurring in real time. Now they're occurring at considerably less than real time. Time is now slowing in Yowamushi Pedal to such a degree that it is effectively being presented in slow motion.

February 4, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 2

It is 28 February 2016, and time for episode 2 of The Night Manager.

Jonathan (Tom Hiddleston) agrees to assist British intelligence operative Angela (Olivia Colman) in bringing down billionaire and suspected arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). To do so, he must create a believable and attractive back story for Roper to buy into and accept, and that means putting his own life and reputation at serious risk.

There seems to be a film-like storytelling style to The Night Manager. Each of the first two episodes has by-and-large told its own relatively self-contained mini-story. The first episode, set in Cairo and Switzerland, told the story of how Jonathan came to know of Roper and how the death of a woman he attempted to help left him intent on destroying Roper and bringing him to justice. This second episode is about how Jonathan transforms himself into a violent criminal to make himself a more likely candidate for Roper's operation. I like this sort of format, which reminds me quite a bit of fellow spy thriller series 24. It gives each episode its own sense of urgency and narrative, and ensures that despite the overall serialisation there is still a proper story each week with a beginning, middle and end.

Nanana's Buried Treasure: "The Nanae Island Third High School Adventure Club"

It is 17 April 2014, and time for the second episode of Nanana's Buried Treasure.

Jugo collects a small box that arrived without explanation via a little parachute into a back alley. Inside he finds a mysterious jewel. Nanana shows him that by holding it up to his eye he can see if people are lying to him or not. The following morning a young detective named Tensai and her assistant Daraku arrive on Jugo's doorstep to accuse him of being a thief. Later Jugo is invited to join the local Adventurer's Club - the same club Nanana led when she was murdered.

Goodness this series is a mess. Two episodes in - out of a total of 11 - I find myself struggling to understand precisely what Nanana's Buried Treasure is supposed to be about. A big problem is the characters. While the audience is still getting to know Jugo and Nanana, the series throws in Tensai and Daraku and then adds a bunch of members from the Adventurer's Club who all come too thick and fast to even remember their names. It's utterly confusing.

February 3, 2017

The Night Manager: Episode 1

It is 21 February 2016, and time for the first episode of The Night Manager.

Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is the night manager at Cairo's prestigious Nefertiti Hotel. During the chaos of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 he becomes involved with Sophie Alekan (Aure Atika), mistress to wealthy and influential playboy Freddie Hamid. When Sophie hands him documents to be copied and placed in the hotel's safe - documents that report on a massive illegal arms sale - Jonathan finds himself drawn into the world of international espionage.

The Night Manager is a glossy, lavishly produced TV adaptation of the John Le Carre novel of the same name, co-produced by the BBC and AMC and released to much acclaim last year. That acclaim is well deserved. This is, based on its first episode at least, a brilliantly directed low-key thriller with an excellent cast and a gripping narrative.

The Pull List: 1 February 2017, Part 2

DC Comics have really improved the quality of their books following DC Rebirth, pretty much by listening to their fanbase and delivering the sort of superhero books that the fans actually want to read. Popular versions of characters have returned, the style of storytelling has become much more gripping and addictive, and there's a really unified sense of style and purpose to the entire DC Universe line.

A fantastic example of that is Green Arrow. There was an attempt with the New 52 to re-imagine the character a little, and to make him a little younger and less experienced. It never really took, with a couple of different creative teams taking a shot at making changes and adjustments but never really finding a format that actually worked for the character. By contrast Benjamin Percy has stuck to the basics and delivered what feels like classic Green Arrow. He's still a rich masked vigilante like Batman, but he's a passionate social crusader with a green hood an blonde goatee. He's in a relationship with Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary. He's a more street level vigilante than a lot of his companions: less gadgets, and less outlandish stories. This current arc has dealt with corrupt politicians, a capricious media, and a rogue police unit murdering homeless and vulnerable people to 'clean up the streets'. It is exactly the kind of storytelling that made the character work so well in the 1980s and 1990s.

Otto Schmidt's artwork emphasises moments of action and movement beautifully, which accentuates the regular chases and fights that Percy peppers throughout each issue. This issue has a bunch, and just when it seems all settled a great surprise throws everything back into the air again. This is one of my favourite DC comics at the moment. I did not expect it to be when DC Rebirth was announced, but here we are. Check it out. (4/5)

Green Arrow #16. DC Comics. Written by Benjamin Percy. Art and colours by Otto Schmidt.

Under the cut: reviews of Faith, Giant Days, and Superman.

February 2, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Chain of Command, Part II"

It is 21 December 1992, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) has been captured by the Cardassian Union, and is tortured for intelligence by the interrogator Gul Madred (David Warner). Meanwhile the USS Enterprise prepares to prevent an illegal Cardassian expansion while Captain Jellicoe (Ronny Cox) and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) butt heads over whether or not to rescue Picard.

There is a pretty simple strategy for generating great drama, which is to put two talented actors in a room, and have them play two interesting characters in conversation. It's a technique that is well played here, as Patrick Stewart and David Warner - both exceptional British actors with extensive experience of screen and stage performing - go head to head in a prolonged interrogation. Most Star Trek two-parters suffer from a second part that fails to match the first. By pushing the interrogation entirely into the second part, "Chain of Command" avoids that problem. This is a fantastic episode.

The Pull List: 1 February 2017, Part 1

So back in March 2013 Image published the fifth and final issue of Ken Garing's Planetoid, a slightly flawed but very enjoyable miniseries about a man crash-landing on an industrial wasteland planet and having to choose between running away or staying to defend a group of colonists from invaders. While that series certainly left room for sequels and follow-ups, after almost four years I figured Garing had moved on. How wrong I was. Out this week is Planetoid: Praxis #1 the first issue of a belated and entirely unexpected sequel.

Some time after the events of the first series, in which the alien Ono Mao were successfully repelled, a single member of their race returns on an information-gathering mission. He is immediately captured, with the colonists debating whether or not to simply execute him. It is a strong opening issue, introducing a cast of engaging characters and setting up some strong story threads and ethical questions for the future. It also boasts some great artwork and inventive designs. The early pages, depicting the Ono Mao silently exploring its surroundings, are masterful. What's more, you really don't need to have read the first miniseries to enjoy and understand this new issue.

Planetoid was one of Image's first science fiction books, launching around the same time as Prophet and Saga. Image has published a lot of SF since then, and it's great to see one of the original back for a second run. (5/5)

Planetoid: Praxis #1. Image. Story and art by Ken Garing.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman and The Electric Sublime.

February 1, 2017

Yowamushi Pedal: "Sprint Climb!!"

It is 25 November 2013, and time for episode 8 of Yowamushi Pedal.

Onoda finally catches up with Naruko and Imaizuki. All three test one another's abilities as they make the difficult climb up to the peak. Imaizumi explains to Onoda about how the first rider to reach the peak will be declared "King of the Mountain" for the race. Naruko makes a break ahead, defying Imaizumi's dismissal that he is purely a sprint racer. As the peak approaches, Onoda decides to give his all in an attempt to get there first.

Three cyclists ride up part of a mountain road. That is literally all that happens in this episode of Yowamushi Pedal. I worked out at the very beginning of the series that this was going to a drawn-out, leisurely-paced story, but this really is a lot slower than I had anticipated even then. This is Dragonball Z-style "takes three episodes to power up a fireball fistfight" kind of a pace, and while the characters remain likeable and the cycling trivia interesting, there really is a difference between 'slow' and 'much, much too slow'. In this episode at least we're crossing a line.

The Angriest: January 2017 in review

Everybody loves a top 10 list, so it's no surprise that "The Top 10 Films of 2016" was the most popular post on The Angriest last month. Other popular posts included reviews of the exceptional British television comedy Fleabag, and the films Moana and This is the End.

In January 2017 The Angriest featured reviews of 20 feature films, 15 TV episodes, 11 anime episodes, two music albums, and 59 comic books. A full index is included below the cut. Last month I also reviewed the Jackie Chan comedy Kung Fu Yoga over at FilmInk. Each month I will include links to external reviews like this in the index.