Friday, 29 January 2016

True Believers 2016 is nearly here!!!

So, True Believers Comic Festival 2016 will up and running again at the Cheltenham Racecourse in a little over a week and I for one can't wait.

Why can't I wait? Well, it is not because it's the first con of the year, or even because this might be the only one I go to in 2016. No, the reason for my excitement is because, in my opinion, True Believers' first show was the best convention I went to in 2015. I loved is due to the size of it, the amount of space there seemed to and just the number (and quality) of creators, guests and fans the people who were there.

So, Stuart Malrain and his gang have a long way to go to top things this time around. However, based on what I've been reading, along with the list of guests and creators they have in 2016, I'm pretty confident they'll pull it off.

So, yeah I'm excited and I'm also eager for the day to get here as I already have big plans with what I want to do and who I want to see.

Here are my main draws, along with the whys;

I'm not big in the know when it comes to the traders, I plan to just stop and check them all out if they look interesting and find some of the list of back issues I'm seeking. But one which I will definitely be stopping at is Proud Lion, which is always fun for a catch up as owner Ben used to work at a comic shop in Swindon and I know for a fact he has an extensive comics knowledge.

The Exhibitors, on the other hand, I know plenty of and about, so will be visiting many of them over my day. Planned stops include;
Sarah Millman - To say hi, hear about Heart of Time's future plans and get her full opinion on Alex + Ada.
Big Punch Studios - To get the lowdown on when Afterlife/7String will reappear, as well as see if Nich Angell does commissions.
Stiffs - To query Joe Glass about what his take on Superman would be.
Midnight Man - To pick up Andy Bloor's Andythology and see what the future of Midnight Man looks like.
Red Mask from Mars - To just pester Vince Hunt mostly, though maybe pick up Red Mask from Mars #2, as well as my Abe Sapian sketch.
Sam Roads - To discuss his comics, Silicon Hearts and Christo (I think it was called).
Sam Webster - Like Vince to just have a catch up and see about the future of Joe Cape
Mike Garley - To pretty much praise him for Kill Screen, while asking about future projects
There are many big guests who I admire and hope I can shake the hand of. But out of all of them, these are the ones I really want to make an effort to see;
Paul Cornell - I'll try and get him to sign my copy of Action Comics 900, while asking about my God Damned band and his series limit of 15 issues.
Rob Williams - While I didn't get on board with Unfollow, I do have a question or two about the first issue.
Rachael Smith - I'll probably pick up one of her books, other praise for House Party and generally ask about her future projects
Emma Vieceli - Praise her for Breaks and ask her to sign my copy of Young Avengers #14.

I love panels, they are a wealth of information and the lifeblood of any good con. But out of all of them there is only two I really want to attend;
12.15am - Discover something new 2016. For me, the draw is in the title. Discover something new? Yes please. Besides, there is something special in watching the passion and enthusiasm which is released by creators as they sell their books, Stan Lee style, to a group of people.
1.00pm - Comics as Inspiration: Inspiring Creativity. Of late I've been thinking about comics and how we can go about providing them for kids. I have a few in my extended family (and my best friend is a teacher) and so I always ponder how to pass comics on and get them involved. Sadly, I don't think I've seen anything in the current market which is suitable. So with this panel, I'm interested not only in comics inspiring creativity but maybe answering my questions on that subject.

And that's it!!! It's not everything which will be there but it's definitely the guaranteed stops on my journey around the Cheltenham Racecourse.

So, I'm all ready and planned for the upcoming True Believers. I just have to hope the next week goes by quickly.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Comic book catch up - Print

So, here's part two of my catch up on my slightly large comics to read pile. Unlike part 1 which focuses on the digital comics I'm reading, part 2 will focus on those print books I picked up. The reason I split it this way was simple enough, it made sense to focus on digital and then print.

Also, I had only just picked up my part comics, while the digital ones were available to me from day of release.

Nonetheless, they are here now and I am all read up, so I'll just dive in.

This time round, I started with Lazarus #21, which made sense to me because, a. It's the end of a story arc and, b. I've been waiting for this since the end of October (delays huh? Who'd have them?). I've got to admit though, if I'd known it would be this good I'd have left it until last. That is because this issue, which saw Forever and her team assault the focus of their mission while, simultaneously, her sister Johanna took control of the family to maintain its alliances, was so frenetic and action packed that it blew my mind.

Now I loved this series for the depth of the world that Greg Rucka and Michael Lark had created, but here was a perfect topper to place onto their perfect cake. I don't think I've ever cared so much about the fate of characters who are either the main lead and guaranteed not to die(though they could surprise us), or those who are rather despicable and shouldn't be rooted for. However, here Rucka has written both Forever and Johanna in such a way that you can't but help that they succeed.

And then there is Lark's art with Arcas' colours which, quite unsurprisingly, continue to excel and make the book look so dystopian but still so elegant (although I thought the opening couple of pages looked a bit rocky).

Now I have to wait until May for the follow up, which is such a hardship considering the absolute bombshell of a end this issue dropped on me. They say good things come to those that wait and, with that knowledge I'm happy because I don't doubt issue 22 will be phenomenal.

So, with that absolute greatness of reading behind me, I moved on to Daredevil #2, which my LCS continued to drop in my drawer for me and so, out of convenience, I obliged to pick up, despite my misgivings of the past issue. However, I've got to admit I was quite surprised with this instalment, which saw DD continue his battle against the church of tenfingers with the help of his new sidekick, whose side Blindspot is on remains to be seen.

I have to admit, the prospect of this title, with a new creative team had me concerned after Waid and Samnee's stellar run, a concern which wasn't helped by DD's costume being changed to reflect the netflix show. This was a book I had intended to drop as both a response to these changes and a protest to some of Marvel's recent decisions (and I mean the FF), something only made more certain by the first issue.

However, I'm glad I got lumbered with this second instalment as it reads so much better with the character seeming more like the hero I love. Soule keeps Matt's personality intact compared to past runs with his same inner strength, only now with a role which even I thought would be more fitting some years ago (my wife had to remind me of that). What's more, the introduction of an old foe adds to Soule's intention of bringing him back to a more noir tone, something I do like.

Also, Ron Garney's art, much like issue 1, feels very nourish but with a nice twist. I enjoy his use of watercolour style which is really enhanced by the limited colour palette.

There are still things I'm not bought on; the need to change to black and the lack of explanation behind how Daredevil's secret identity is back under wraps. However, while the previous creative team formed a masterpiece on this book, I think I was too harsh to judge this volume against the past ones and, despite some flaws, it is a good read deserving of my second chance.

So, that then left me to my last comic and what a comic to end on. Where is Jake Ellis? #5 has been MIA for so long I'm pretty sure I was single when it was first solicited (and that was some time back). However, after a VERY long delay, I finally got my hands on the finale which saw Jon and his ghostly partner face off against their deadly captures and enemies in a last face off to bring them down.

This final issue was a beautifully fast paced book, with the action and excitement and, as I seem to recall, the art is the star of the show, really using the unique style to its advantage, especially during one double page spread.

Unfortunately, the problems I saw with this book extend from the lengthy break between issues as, with no recap page, I couldn't remember what had happened previously which meant I couldn't get engrossed in the story as quickly as I'd like. Also, and this might be the cynic in me, but the ending didn't like the end of a story, but a nice placeholder until the next instalment begins. Now, more story is no bad thing but, after the length of time it took for this series to finish, I'd much rather it just ended now instead of making wait another five(?) years.

Regardless of where it goes on to from here, for now the run is finished and, while it might not have been worth the wait it out us through, I'm certainly glad it's over and don't think it was a wasted read.

And so, that's my comic book catch up over, although it's a shame it didn't last longer (it should have done, but Black Magick #2 was not in stock, though 3 was. Oh well, maybe next time). To be honest, I was surprised that I read so many good books, expecting a few duds.

However, I've decided to mention my favourite each month and this month I'd have to say it was a close one, but Black Science #19 beat out Lazarus #21 by a nose.

So, that's it! I'm done. Time to get on with some work, I have a four issue series to review for Pipedream Comics.

But first....Batman: Arkham Knight!!!!!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Comic book catch up - Digital

It's been a long hard month for me to start off 2016. My family's impending arrival has meant that putting together a nursery and getting all those sterilisers and travel systems has been my priority. Coupled with the fact that I recently started a new role at my work, meaning I am having to re-learn whole new procedures, it is fair to say that reading comics has not been my priority.

However, as February inches ever closer I've finally found a time to not only get to my local comic shop, but to actually get through my rather large (for me) backlog, some of which just happens to go all the way back to the November. So, with such a big list to read through, I figure I'd get started and talk about what I've read in January.

Starting with my digital series (because, you know, easier access), my first read of the month was the new instalment of my favourite series of 2015, Black Science which continued the five issue arc that was stated on the cover as lead Grant McKay continued to trek through the landscape of his own mind and memories, only this time joined by his late dad.

Now, while I was a bit worried after its hiatus with a forgettable #17, #19 builds on the greatness that 18 reminded me the series could be, causing me to be absolutely absorbed by the story. I think what really resonated for me though was how well written the father/son relationship was, with this issue breaking down Grant's failings and making him a better person.

Oh yeah, and lets not forget the art, which is still solidly beautiful and, in my opinion, is a style which the comic would be less without. I mean, seriously, if it wasn't Scalara's pulpy look on this book, then I might have given up on it some time back, good story or not.

With my wife due in a couple of months, this issue really made me think of my own impending fatherhood and what kind I want to be. In the end that's the best kind of comic, one which makes you think.

Next up I read Superman: American Alien #3 where writer Max Landis tells the story, with the help of new artist Joelle Jones, of young Clark Kent (though older than the last issue) as, after his plane crashes in the sea, he is mistaken for Bruce Wayne by a passing cruise ship which happens to carry a who's who of wealthy DC characters as the young Superman-to-be moves ever closer to becoming his iconic namesake.

Now, I've probably made this sound far grander than it maybe is but that doesn't change the fact that I found it a really good read, if not as good as the prior issues. The problems with this issue are down to how it opens up, as I thought Joelle Jones rather rough pencils really made this story somewhat jarring to get into.

However, once the initial turbulence (get it? Because the plane crashed.....Ok, moving on) wears off, I did actually find Jones's style to suit the very party, inebriated atmosphere of the setting, especially when Clark is drugged. I also liked that, once again, Landis focused the story more on Clark finding more about himself, with the only fight scene being used for comedy, as well as the characters lovely dynamic with a future villain. If there's one issue with the story for me it's that Sue Dibny appears but there was no Ralph!!

Before reading this I thought that I'd hate this issue due to the fact Bruce Wayne is mentioned, meaning his inclusion (Bats takes up too many books as it is). However, while, not the strongest, this was still another great issue and still the best Supes book on shelves, with only a slight Bat sighting (which I can live with).

So that brings me to my final digital book which wasn't just the last book I read but was also the first and that was The Legend of Wonder Woman which, as a digital-first title, means I got to read the first eleven issues (Which when printed, each issue will contain three 'digital' issues, so I'm into 'issue 4'), hence the backlog. This, kinda like Superman American Alien, tells the origin story of Princess Diana from birth to becoming Wonder Woman and slightly beyond.

And, just like Superman American Alien, this book is just pure gold and is quite possibly a far superior and faithful version of the character than what is seen in the character's book proper. I believe that Renae De Liz has written the quintessential version of Wonder Woman as feels more innocent but strong-willed, very much someone who wants peace but is ready for a fight (unlike New 52 WW). In fact I'd say this is spot on to Wonder Woman in my head, overtaking the characters look and feel from the Justice League cartoon.

Then there is Ray Dillon's art, which is so gloriously bright and vibrant that I think it only amplifies the feeling and tone the story tries to give. Even during some of the darkest moments amongst the series, the art just can't help but release the lightness, magic and wonder of the world it shows us.

Despite only having read about half the series, I'm convinced that this is essential reading for getting to know Wonder Woman and, as such, am equally sure that once it ends then the main book will struggle to be compared to this one, given what I know of it's darker, New 52 tone.

Beyond these three books nothing else has been read on my iPad besides a couple of indie comics,  Papercuts & Inkstains and Gutter Magic, but my thoughts on those can be found at Pipedream Comics. Suffice to say though, they are pretty good.

So, that's the digital books all read and given that I've written a lot I've decided to air my thoughts on the print books in another post.

So watch this space....