Monday, 30 March 2015

My top five comics from March.

So March is over (well almost) and with it comes an hours less sleep (damn daylight savings) and the beginning of Convergence (well almost, but I don't really care about that).

While it's nice to see March go (it was too damn cold in the mornings), it's also a bit of a shame because this months comics really improved upon February's, despite there being no issue of Lazarus.

Nonetheless, I was still able to pick a top five, and here they are:

5. Fantastic Four #644 - I'm not sure if I gave this book 5th place because it was good or because I'm sentimental. However, despite there being very little of note actually happening, this issue was still pretty enjoyable as it saw the FF getting all the pieces in place for next months finale. What I enjoyed about it was just the fun little references which really felt like Robinson had mined the books long history, while the scene where the Thing took out a bad guy like he was swatting a fly is my favourite scene of any book and was drawn inch perfect by Kirk. It's a shame that it has to end, but because it's still just so much fun is the reason it just edged out in front of Daredevil #14.

4. Black Science #12 - It has been a good couple of months since I last saw an issue of this book and, while the previous installment left the story with a lot of questions to answer, this one just added even more depth, reminding me of how much I love what Remender is doing here. This issue saw some drama unfold thanks to the newly introduced Sara (or at least a version of her) while Grant's return is explained (in a way which makes me wonder if time displacement is a dimension hopping side-effect). Remender has really made this book more and more interesting with the intro of a world that hunts dimension hopping almost like it were witchcraft, as well as hinting that Rebecca may have had a hand in the events which started this series. Despite a bit of a wait, Black Science hasn't lost a beat. Bring on issue 13.

3. Batgirl #40 - And here it is; major upset of the month, again!!! I don't know what Messrs' Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr did with the final three issues of this first arc, but damn did they turn me around. This final issue of the first six part arc sees Batgirl come face to face with her nemesis; herself (well, a corrupted artificial intelligence version of herself). This cyber-Babs thinks criminals need to be dealt with before they act and so, using the books over-played social media angle, has brought everyone considered dangerous together to take them all out in one hit. What I loved about this issue was how it felt almost like a kid friendly version of Cap 2, right down to the social engineering angle and faux-Zola in a computer. Still the art continues to draw me in, while the depiction of Black Canary is the greatest thing this book has to offer (now being lost for her own ongoing). As a result of this issue, I'm going to be giving it one last chance after Convergence. Don't screw it up Babs!!

2. Alex + Ada #13 - The end is nigh and the action continues to ramp up!!! Alex + Ada continues to shine, even in a month of pretty awesome books. This issue continues on from the last page of the previous issue with Alex + Ada contacted to re-enter Degrees of Freedom with their friends after a message from a thought-missing ally. However, when it turns out to be a trap, the pair must do what they feared would happen; run. This issue, like all the others feels like a slow burn, despite the fast pace of the last few pages. However, the action is not what makes this book great but the dialogue, which in every panel does such a great job of tugging at my heart strings and making me love these characters and hate the circumstances they find themselves in. With two issues left I find myself wishing it wasn't going to end.

1. Descender #1 - The second I finished reading this title for a review on the Pipedream website, I knew exactly where it would place among all my books. Starting the story of a long child robot waking in a universe where robots are illegal after an attack by planet-sized celestial-like creations, this book was perfect from start to finish. Whether it was the story itself, which was engrossing, or the art which I loved and though was the most unique style I've ever seen, this book deserves its place as number one.

And so that is my March list. I've probably written a bit more than I planned, but it's nice to add a little more depth to why I liked these books. Hopefully the books that are continuing next month continue to shine, while Fantastic Four's finale is SO good that it makes number one (though with Descender, Alex + Ada and Lazarus I doubt it).

Nonetheless, this month has been a good month, following January's good and Feb's not so good. I hope this isn't the start of a pattern? Well, fingers crossed it isn't.

Friday, 20 March 2015

My wants from the June 2015 Solicits

Well, it took some doing, but I've finally gone through the June solicitations!

And with most of my books having ended in some fashion, and Convergence ending allowing a whole host of new series to start, there's a load of space to choose new books and a whole host to choose from.

And did I make one hell of a list!! Here it is:

Alex + Ada #15 (Image) - It's finally here! It's been an exciting journey but the final issue of Alex + Ada is upon us. Will they live happily ever after? I doubt it, but I'll tell you one thing, I'm not missing this issue.

Batgirl #41 (DC Comics) - Since the new creative team took over, Batgirl's been up and down. However, issue 40 was totally awesome and so I'm willing to give this book one last chance.

Bat-Mite #1 (DC Comics) - This is a book which feels a little out of left field for me, but, given my recent loss of faith in standard superhero books, I figured I'd give it a shot.

Bizarro #1 (DC Comics) - Pretty much word for word the same as for Bat-mite. However, they say it's like Harley Quinn, which everyone says is great. Can't think of a better argument to taking a look.

Black Canary #1 (DC Comics) - The best thing about the first six issues of Batgirl is Brenda Fletcher's fantastic depiction of Black Canary. Now the character gets her own book with Fletcher writing. Yeah, I'm in!

Black Hammer #1 (Dark Horse) - A superhero team trapped on a farm after a crisis-like event. The premise itself sounds intriguing to me, but given it's written by Jeff Lemire, whose Descender I recently read and loved, makes it even more of a lure.

Black Science #15 (Image) - From the solicits, it sounds like this is the beginning of the end. If that's the case then, this book has been one hell of a ride. Besides that, Rebecca's past has been played up recently and this issue might explain to me why.

Copperhead #8 (Image) - It's been a while since I read an issue of Copperhead, but the first five issues have given no reason not to come back for more. Besides, they promise more Boo, so win win.

Descender #4 (Image) - I read the first issue this week and I'm hooked. I don't care what happens in issue four, if it's even half as good as issue one, I'm getting it!

Dr Fate #1 (DC Comics) - I've always been a fan of Dr Fate (I think he looked cool in Smallville), and enjoyed his appearances in Earth 2. Now a new character is taking the title (who I hope is Kent Nelson) and I wanna give this book a shot to impress.

Earth 2: Society #1 (DC Comics) - This is an underdog book as Earth 2 and Earth 2: World's End haven't impressed. However, it's a new start for the book and so I wanna give the first issue the chance to redeem the title's reputation.

Green Lantern: The Lost Army #1 (DC Comics) - I'm a big fan of John Stewart and Kilowog. I'm also a fan of Lost in Space. Merging the two together makes me wanna check this book out.

Green Lantern #41 (DC Comics) - It's been a long time since I've read a Green Lantern comic but the idea that The universe's top cop is now a fugitive is an interesting idea. Therefore, I wanna give it a shot.

Lazarus #18 (Image) - A consistent top five book in my opinion, I'm looking forward to all out war in this book. Issue 18 will be the second part of the arc, so no way will I be missing it!

Martian Manhunter #1 (DC Comics) - A book starring the Martian Manhunter? About damn time! That's all I'm going to say.

And that's it. A long list (for me) and the first time DC has had so many books on my pull list since the new 52 started. No doubt some won't appeal and will get dropped before July, but it'll be nice to have such a large stack of comics to get through.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Review: House Party

It's strange really. After almost a month gathering dust to one side, I finally got started on all the small press comics from True Believers. What's stranger is, since picking the first one up, I find myself unable to stop.

This week, the only thing I could even consider looking at was House Party by Rachael Smith.

House Party's premise is all in the title. Three twenty something are struggling to adapt the life, discovering that their dreams and realities do not exactly appear to be compatible, Michelle, Neil and Siobhan are all feeling down about the the trajectories their respective careers have taken. However, upon going through some old photos of themselves, the three realize they were much happier at this time and resolve to make themselves happy by being young, and hosting a house party.

I have to say upon reading this it occurred to me that this book shouldn't have been mid way down the reading list; it should have first!! (or at least second.) Rachael Smith's debut graphic novel (as the credits in the back state) is a truly wonderful, almost coming-of-age like tale that's so superbly written it's yet another reminder to me (the first being Alex + Ada) that epic set pieces or loud panels are never needed to be a truly compelling story. The plot was heart wrenching as it followed Michelle (and to the lesser extent Neil and Siobhan) struggle to find her true place and contentment within a life far removed from what she envisioned in her dreams.

I think everyone has been there, thus giving them an emotional connection to the story. Of course, that would be for naught if the characters were poorly written, but here that is not the case. The case in point is Neil, who isn't written as a stereotypical bad guy despite his awful actions in the story (I'm trying not to spoil). In my opinion, this is the toughest thing a writer can do and Smith nailed it beautifully.

Speaking of beautiful though, the artwork deserves just as much praise as the writing. From cover to cover, the Scott Pilgrim-like style really suits this book, with quirky little moments (like the note alluding to Michelle's epic flashback) given it a unique kind of humour. Meanwhile, the guest art gallery in the back pages is just the icing on the cake with many great artists (some of whom I don't know, but wish I did) contributing their takes on the characters throughout the story,

I really enjoyed this book and do hate myself for not reading it sooner. It was an engrossing story which also hit me as very thought-provoking. If I have any regrets regarding this book, it's that I didn't hear about it before True Believers.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Review: 7String vol. 2 - the Clef strikes back!!!

Ok, first up, please note that the title of this post did actually take me a few minutes to think up.

That said, it kind of makes sense given my opinion of the first volume and it's similarities to that famous film series.

So, after reading Far from Faith and Midnight Man practically back to back, I figured I'd continue the trend of reading some indie comics, but this time returning to a series I had already started reading previously. Now, having read 7String volume 2, I am kind of wishing I had read it much sooner.

Following on from Volume 1, 7String's second instalment continues Zachary Briarpatch's quest for revenge on his mother's murderer as the world of Melodia around him falls to all out war. However, not considered strong enough, Zach has been travelling the world to get himself ready for the inevitable showdown. Meanwhile, other pieces begin to move across the board as Liph, Nette and Efex all making their way, independently towards their (obviously) fated meeting.

Now, while I liked volume 1, I have to say that volume 2 feels to be on a whole other level. Nich Angell has really taken the epicness to another level in this book as the story seems to take a darker turn. 7String feels like a book with a much tighter script, helped by a greater focus on the supporting characters as they start to (apparently) become more integral to the story. I would have to say that, after reading this, Nich's writing feels much more confident.

As for the art, well there is little I can say about it other than, much like its predecessor, this book looks totally awesome!! Identical to volume 1, the art here looks absolutely incredible, with the ethereal look continuing to imbue the fantasy aspect. Meanwhile the colours are loud and jump off the page, but also have a faded look to maintain its dreamlike charm.

In keeping with the Star Wars comparison, 7String volume 2 is most definitely the Empire Strikes Back to volume 1's a New Hope. It's bigger, darker, more desperate and, in my opinion better. I now can't wait for volume 3, though I hope it doesn't have any evokes in it.

(Oh, and more swords would be most welcome.)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Review: The Midnight Man

After last week (finally) starting on my stash of comics from True Believers, I decided to try and get through at least one book very week.

The downside to this idea is that it takes that much longer to get through everything. However, the upside is I got to spend the whole week on this first book, and that isn't such a bad thing. The Midnight Man, written by Mo Ali and drawn by Andy Bloor, tells the story of a mysterious man as he travels back and forth through time and space, taking no prisoners, as he searches for an evil being in the search for justice.

I really enjoyed this book, and the reason for that can be drummed up in two words; 'Art' and 'Character'. Andy Bloor's artwork is really awesome, giving of a Walking Dead, sometimes V for Vendetta (in black and white) like feel. The use of shadows plays a big part here and I think they are used really well, imbuing an essence of the Batman animated series in this title (which, given BTAS' greatness, this isn't a bad thing), while there is a villain fighting montage page which is just a delight to look at.

Meanwhile, Mo Ali has really written a top notch main character who, to me, comes across as a dark amalgamation of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly and Spider-man. Ali has always written a story within a universe which hints at deeper secrets and adventures, such as John Dee's magic and the seven sages, which really gives the character added depth, even if it isn't seen.

To be fair, the only criticism I could see when reading Midnight man was a lack of motive behind the Midnight Man's actions, with no reason (that I could see) being given beyond 'he's the bad guy'. However, to his credit, Ali does refer to this towards the end in a way adds further layers of characterisation, implying that maybe the Midnight Man follows his path based on instinct, instead of conviction. In fact, now that I think about it, if that was the plan, then it's not such a problem to me.

So, in short, I really enjoyed Midnight Man and think it showed a lot of promise as a story. I noticed that the underside of the cover mentioned this as book 1, vol. 1 which, if true, could further build upon this book, rendering any concerns I have as moot. Nonetheless, I'm glad I picked this up and hope more people do the same, because it is a fun character which deserves to be followed.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Review: Far from Faith #1

Well, it's been a month, but I've finally found time to start reading some of the small press books I picked up at True Believers (helps that I'm at the in-laws this weekend, away from distractions like tv and xbox).

So, with a large pile from that con to go through, I figured I'd start with Far From Faith, the last book I picked up on the day by (writer) Adam-James Faulkes and (artist) Lynne Triplett and produced by Brambletyne. 

Far From Faith tells the story of Helen Wisse, a government worker who, upon her boss's death is given his job to evaluate a secret operation for continued funding. So, starting the eval from scratch, Helen travels to the operation's base, the house, to get a hands on look courtesy of Mr Bailey, the ops' chief. However, Bailey has ulterior motives for this op and secrets he is keeping from Helen, secrets he's been holding since long before he got the job.

Now, I'd say how I've described this book makes it sound very thriller-esque (the genre, not the music video) and, I've got to say it is. While the story is a little confusing, with cards in this issue seemingly kept close to the chest as very little is explained about what the secret organisation does or what Bailey's actually working on/for etc, I do like the air of mystery which Far from Faith seems to invoke. It's Safe to say that this book has left me with a lot of questions which I need answering, such as 'who's the girl at the start?' And 'what is being worked on by Bailey and the House?' Which I think is the best way to entice people to come back for more, which it has certainly done with me.

Of course, I gotta say what I really love about this book and is Lynne Triplett's artwork. I mean the art in this title is just so gorgeous that I could happily look at it all day long ( though I can't as other books need reading). Triplett applies a very unique style which I've don't think I've ever seen in another comic book, Reminding of something that's a variant of some Japanese/anime inspired cartoon. However, this doesn't come across as cartoony, with each panel having a much more stylised with dark, moody colours which really add to a rather creepy, secretive atmosphere. I'm a little shocked I haven't seen her stuff before now.

Honestly, I find Far from Faith's first issue to be rather interestingwhile also looking extremely beautiful. After the conversation I had with both of them at True Believers about comics in general and specifically with Adam-James about his plans going forward, I'm compelled to see where this story goes in issue 2 and how it builds from here. Besides, who wouldn't want to see more of this art, because I sure do!!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

My top five comics of February.

So, once again I'm running a bit behind writing another 'Top 5 for the month' post In truth, after the last week having consisted of losing a friend, losing my job (which thankfully I replaced) and suffering from awful migraines, writing has taken a little bit of back seat of late.
Thankfully, however, the world now seems to have (for the most part) righted itself and as I've got a spare five minutes, I figured I'd write this post now because, frankly, I had so much fun writing one for January, I didn't want to just give it up after one go.
So, without further adieu, here is my top five for February:
5. Batgirl #40 - I'm a little surprised with this entry, but given that most of the rest of this months books were a bit of a let down, it was really the only option to take the final slot. While Batgirl #39 certainly followed on from the improved past issue compared to the three issues prior, it still felt like it had dropped in the story's quality. Of course, Babs Tarr's artwork continues to look awesome here, while the reveal of the arc's big bad along with how Black Canary's depicted are the books highlights (Canary totally deserves her own ongoing). With an issue left before Convergence, I'm in two minds whether this book will remain on my pull list upon the events end, but it certainly could be going the right way for the final issue.
4. Darth Vader #1 - after the successful start of the main Star Wars book (which, ironically, faltered with issue 2), my local LCS suggested the first issue of its sister book, Darth Vader, which followed the dark lord as he is dispatched to make a trade deal with Jabba the Hutt. However, Vader sees this less as a mission and more an opportunity to discover the secret dealings of the emperor and the identity of a certain X-wing pilot. Much like Jason Aaron did, Kieron Gillen really writes a fantastic first issue which really looks to set up a compelling first arc. With that and some great art, I find myself seriously tempted to pick up the second issue.
2. Lazarus #15 - this entry was a tough call because I couldn't say which got second and which got third place (it was that close), but Lazarus once again knocked it out of the park with yet another tremendous issue which saw an epic battle of Lazari between Forever and someone she is close to. In this issue, Rucka takes a back seat, allowing Michael Lark's art to elevate the book, and does it do so in spades. While the battle's end was a bit of a let down, the final cliffhanger more than made up for it and makes me eager for the next issue to resolve what has happened.
2. Fantastic Four #643 - the second of the 'joint second' entries, Fantastic Four is really becoming something great under James Robinson and Leonard Kirk as we head towards the end. This issue sees the Quiet Man begin the invasion of the monsters from Franklin's universe, just as the FF come back together with the plan to save the day by entering Franklin's dreams. Robinson really knows how to write these characters and, despite being something of filler issue, he imbues it with so much fun and heart that I can't get enough. It's sad that it's ending, but I'm glad Fantastic Four is ending with a bang, as this issue helps prove.
1. Daredevil #13 - For me, top slot this month had to go Daredevil because it is just truly awesome. This issue saw more of Daredevil's inner struggle with happiness as he worked to protect those he loves from his enemies who might be targeting him, although he is in for shock when he discovers the identity of this month's villain. Of course, what I like about this book, once again, isn't based on the plot but the art, which is still as tremendous as three plus years back (Samnee will be so missed), and the writing of the characters, from Matt's descent, to his friends differing support (oh, and Kirsten McDuffie needs her own ongoing too). When Waid and Samnee leave Daredevil it'll break my heart, but I'm glad about how good the book is until then.
So, that was it. In truth, it was a bit difficult to make this list as most of this month's books failed to grab me like they did last month. But hey, it's been a stressful month, so maybe next month I'll pick up a load more exciting comics.