Thursday, 21 September 2017

Heroes for Hire Vol. 3

This is a post that has been six years in the making, but this weekend just gone, with my infant son's nap affording me a nice 3 hour window, I decided it would be a good time to read the entire Abnett and Lanning run on Heroes for Hire.

A little backstory. This series came out from the Daredevil 'Shadowland' event and, because I was interested by the premise and creative team, I picked up the first three issues. However, Heroes for Hire, just didn't do it for me and by that third issue I'd dropped the series, picking up the remainder in back issue boxes and off of eBay. Despite having the whole run, however, I've never read the series in its entirety.

That is until now of course because I'm in the process of clearing out and selling off some of my comic book collection and this is one series which is up for the chop. However, before I do that (or, rather, in order to make that final decision), I thought I'd actually go through the whole run.

So, to the topic at hand. Abnett and Lanning's Heroes for Hire is pretty much as the title suggests; heroes of the Marvel universe are hire to complete jobs a la the A-Team. However, this volume differs in the tried and tested approach as it sees Misty Knight fronting the new Heroes for Hire with a little help from top Mercenary Paladin. Throughout this run Knight is 'control', the omnipresent voice who request a rotating cast of heroes every issue or two to complete missions on her behalf. The only problems is, while Misty may think she's 'control' she isn't 'in control', as a unknown figure appears to be pulling the strings, using Heroes for Hire to their own end.

Now, as I had said previously, I had problems with this series originally and my problem was that, while it delivered it's promise of a rotating selection of characters, I had expected more of a done-in-one format, essentially a series of one-shots showing off different missions. What I wasn't expecting was the larger arc involving villains pulling the strings.

However, time and hindsight are wonderful things because now, after the reading the entire run in full, I found Abnett and Lanning's Heroes for Hire to be a lot more enjoyable than I did upon it's original release. Once again, the opening three issues were a tough hump to get over as, for the second time, I had issue getting invested into the whole 'who really control's Heroes for Hire?' idea which certainly became the main crux by issues 4 and 5. However, once I got past this (about the end of issue 5) and the reveal of the bigger bad, I actually found myself a lot more interested.

That said, the main draw for me WAS the heroes who would appear and I've got to admit I did find this a joy second time round, especially as I got into the latter issues. This Heroes for Hire contained a number of (at the time) B and C list heroes (if you can call them that), some of whom have moved up in the world since then, but there were certainly some standouts for me that made me wonder if I've been focusing on the right books over the years.

These characters included Moon Knight and Silver Sable, who was absolutely bad ass consistently through the series (I've got to get the former's Ellis/Shavley run), The Shroud, who I read in Daredevil but I found much more interesting while partnered with Elektra, Gargoyle (who I've never heard off until now), Stingray, who has a brief cameo in the last issue but looks so cool I wish I'd paid him more attention, and, of course, Paladin, who was a seriously interesting character and has me tempted to recheck him out in Thunderbolts (he was in there I think?).

Of course, what helps me find all these characters impressive was the art, which I thought was pretty damn solid throughout. Main artist Brad Walker gives a really gorgeous house style amongst his issues, something I think is equally matched by Robert Atkins and even Tim Seeley when he's pre-Grayson on their issues. The only falter I could see amongst the drawing talent was Kyle Hotz, who pencilled amongst the Fear Itself arc with a style which really threw me as it looked so rough compared to the others. That said, as I read I thought it suited the rather chaotic story surrounding that tie-in and by the end, I did find myself enjoying it just as mush as the others.

In fact, I've got to admit that the Heroes for Hire Fear Itself tie-in was really good, to the point that I was stunned. I had expected something which felt shoe-horned (because it's an event tie-in) and, while it was, Abnett and Lanning managed to chisel out a pretty nice story which fit nicely into both the event and their own arc.

Looking back, I think that the reason I dismissed Heroes for Hire was because it wasn't what I was expecting, as I figured it would be more high brow given it came from the guys who brought us Annihilation and restarted Marvel Cosmic. That said, after giving this run a second chance, I'm glad I gave Heroes for Hire the second chance I think it deserved. This run is a fun read with some great art and showcases some awesome visuals of heroes I might never have given a second thought to.

In fact, because of that last point, I'm pretty tempted to keep the series for now and putting something else up for the chop.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Locke & Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows

The final trade of my recent week's holiday (though, I say recent but in reality it's been something like six weeks) was volume three of Locke and Key; Crown of Shadows.

This was because Locke and Key series had so far been nothing short of phenomenal in my eyes and, therefore, it made sense to read another instalment in order to round off a pretty great reading week.

This arc saw the Locke kids continue to get used to their new lives and the secrets of their home as the mysterious Dodge made moves to acquire all the keys of the house. However, when his in the shadows efforts to find the black key don't give him the success he hopes for, Dodge makes moves to acquire the titular Crown of Shadows. With this he creates himself a shadowy army in order to capture Tyler, Kinsey and Bode and find what he is looking for, a plan which takes some unforeseen turns, leading to an all out punch up with a larger than life Tyler.

Locke & Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows
With this volume, Lock and a key once again knocked it out of the park for me, being yet another part of this truly fantastic story. I am absolutely flawed with this book which feels like something which contains so many different genres, from young adult to horror to mystery, but all perfectly merged into one. What I love about this series has to be a couple of things, the first being how incredibly interesting all the characters are, especially each of the Locke kids, but also the vile, love to hate 'Dodge' who comes across as the perfect villain.

The other thing I love is just how well the story is written in general, while the whole idea is completely bizarre and unusual, it just feels completely grounded and relatable, so it doesn't feel too detached from real life. I'm not sure I can put fully into words just why this series is so great, but Joe Hill has something so compelling and special here that I now see how so many people have praised, either directly or indirectly, to me.

The same can be said for the art as Gabriel Rodriguez's style is just sublime. Again, I thought this looked very grounded but a little different, with it looking more predominantly like a young adult type style and being very easy on the eye. But also, Rodriguez showed me a real awesome imagination which he obviously employs as well as some real nice homage's, in this volume being the shadow creatures and, specifically, Bode's Peter Pan-esque shadow, which I had to do a double take on when I saw it.

In truth, I could probably ramble on about this book and this series on and on, not really making much sense to anyone but me. However, this wouldn't change the fact that this has been a fantastic read since the first page of the first volume and, again, a fantastic read for this volume specifically. As with the comics I've read this week, I'll happily get the remaining volumes for each series, but this might just be the one which takes precedence when spare funds are available.

And, with that, my holiday reading is over and so back I go to finding scraps of time to read the odd comic in. However, this was a lot of fun and makes me a little more amenable towards holidays in the future.

I'll just have to get more reading material ready before then.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Limited series over ongoing comics

Recently I've been going about searching through my comic book collection to see what comics continue to be relevant to me after 15 years and what comics no longer match to how my tastes have changed over that time.

(to digress slightly, this is a good practice which I recommend. Not only do you read books that you probably haven't read since you got them, however long that may be, but it also you to not let your collection overwhelm you. but anyway back to it....)

Although I've only just started doing this, I've found a few series which no longer float my boat (or, in one case, make ponder why I bought it in the first place) as well as one or two which I'd forgotten were really quite good despite thinking otherwise.

Now though, I've come back across the first seven volumes of the Walking Dead.

With the Walking Dead, although I recall enjoying the first couple of trades and even convincing my now wife to read the first one, I know that I've not read the last couple. I have also realised that while I had planned to catch up on this series in trade fashion, I haven't actually bought/been gifted any instalment of this series in at least three years.

After pondering on these revelations it has occurred to me that, in all honesty, I don't really care about this series (insert gap here for all those who think I'm crazy now to speak)!

Now this is a single series and there are many out there and with any of them you can't please all the people all the time (or whatever that quote is), but in thinking on whether to sell these trades I have begun to wonder; are ongoing comic series really for me?

At present, my pull list has taken a real battering and so I only have one comic left which is Lazarus. Before that, however, I had eight titles which I picked up, of which almost all of them could be called an ongoing. But what is an ongoing really? I'd have said anything which had an end in sight was not an ongoing and, therefore, Lazarus and Black Science, both of which I know the writer's have endgames in mind, would actually be limited series, with Black Magick no doubt running by similar rules.

This would mean, after removal of the 'actual' limited series, Star Trek Mirror Broken chief among them, I would be left to two titles which would be consider 'true' ongoing titles, the superhero titles.

How does this relate to the Walking Dead? Well, Walking Dead is currently at issue 171 which is not much by Superhero comic standards I'd grant you. However, this is a comic which, to my knowledge, has no specific or discernible ending planned at any point by it's writer. Because of this, I'd say it's fair to call Walking Dead a true ongoing.

Anyway, to my point. I've come to realise that in my old age I have become a lot more partial towards the limited series and stories which consist of a beginning, middle and end. A lot of people may argue that 'life doesn't end' and this is true (it's also false because we all have to go some time) but then none of the genres found in an ongoing comic are actually real life but instead fiction.

I'm realising I like my fiction to tell a single story, with a protagonist who is taking on a single specific goal. Lazarus will be roughly 70 issues long by the time it is complete (by my calculations) and while it will be a long series once it ends, at least it will end. Daredevil, on the other hand, will be at 600 issues come 2018 and I doubt we'll see the man without fear hang up his horns any time soon.

I have a lot of limited stories in my collection, some of which are longer than others. Who is Jake Ellis?, Snapshot, Punk Rock Jesus, X-Men: Magneto - Testament, all of these are five to six issues and guarantee me a resolution to the story. On the other hand, Irredeemable and The Massive are also in my collection and, while they are closer to thirty to forty issues, at least they too provide some kind of finality to them.

With ongoings like the Walking Dead (which I feel I'm starting to be unfair to but, hey, in for a penny) they just go on and on, often times (and this is less Walking Dead) with little to no character evolution or growth, meaning no change. Because of this fifteen years of Daredevil and the like can feel a little apathetic and dull.

I've rambled on for a bit here and I'm not sure if I have a point to it. I guess what this all says to me is that I should just sell my Walking Dead trades. If I find myself wanting to read them again then it's my tough luck, but I haven't even thought about them in a long while so why leave them to gather dust.

As for ongoing comics in general, I'm pondering that maybe I give them a wider berth than I would have previously. That's not to say they are bad and if you love comics which last a thousand issues then fair play to you. For me though, I'm no longer sure I have the patience, time or space to invest so much into one comic, especially when (like now) my ability to buy multiple series is severely limited and while it's easier than before to jump on or off a book (usually with the change in creative team), it's still something I think I'd like to take a break from.

Of course, with only one semi-ongoing title at this moment, that might be easier said than done.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Gotham Central Vol. 2: Jokers and Madmen

The penultimate read of my recent holiday I went back and forth on which trade I would go through. It was a toss up between the second volume of Gotham Central or something else, most likely the third volume of Locke and Key.

Well, fortunately, I decided to stick my original plan and read Gotham Central volume 2: Jokers and Madmen and see if this could be a better book than its predecessor.

In volume two of Gotham Central, entitled Jokers and Madmen, Brubaker, Rucka and (for the most part) Lark continue to tell the stories of the officers who work in Gotham police's Major Crimes Unit. This time round, the book starts with an overview of the team and the detectives who work within it by Stacy, the civilian administrator. This is then followed by a Christmas case where a crazed sniper grips the city in fear by going on a killing spree, leaving Montoya, Allen and co. on a race against time. Then comes a case with most the team getting involved to investigate a couple of murders relating to a drug company and maybe even the mob. Finally, the book finishes with a cold case picked up by Driver and MacDonald about the bombing of a baseball team which is going nowhere until new evidence comes to light. However, to move forward, the duo will have to speak with the original case officer, former cop Harvey Bullock.

Gotham Central: Book 2: Jokers and MadmenSo, all in all, an incredibly full trade in my opinion, which may have been due to it being eleven issues (I think) and not ten like the last trade. However, while it may have been longer, I don't think that this volume exceeded the previous one in terms of my enjoyment.

That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable because, once again, I did really enjoy this collection. Brubaker and Rucka have created some incredibly compelling characters, all of whom having fantastic character traits which make me route for them even when they feel like jackasses. This is a testament to these two creators as every character within this cast really feels like an essential part to me and every loss feels brutal and heartbreaking.

For me this is enough to make me enjoy it, although the only reason this trade doesn't beat out volume 1 is because the stories feel overly long, whereas I enjoyed the stories (particularly the first couple) previously. However, that's not to say these cases are bad because they aren't, especially the Driver/MacDonald case, but it's just a case of preference.

The art is much he same on this volume as Michael Lark once again gives me fantastically beautiful art to gaze at. One page in particular, an eight panel page showing all the different partnerships, is absolutely incredible and makes all invite be future changes to the roster hard for me deal with (I struggle with change). It also makes me want to blow up the page and make a poster out of it.

However, I did struggle with the opening issue which, having not been drawn by Michael Lark but by Brian Hurtt, does not look the same  the rest of the series (obviously). That said, the style isn't a bad style and it is softer than Larks but it's just that, by this point, I'm more than happy with what Lark has done to give Gotham Central and signature style and so am not really feeling a difference.

But this problems are not really problems at all, just my own personal issues, and they don't change the fact that Gotham Central is an awesome series and one I need to get to the end of (although, given how I read Final Crisis: Revelations, I fear I may already know what that'll be).

Anyway, enough about that, on to the final book from my holiday; Locke and Key volume 3; Crown of Shadows.

 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Daredevil #21-25: Supreme

Ok, another break between the ramblings of those Trades I read while on holiday (which was a while back now I think about it.

Late last week I finally picked up Daredevil #25 and so, felt it was time to go through the entire arc and write down what I thought about it (given that it's been a while since I talked about new comics).

Therefore, over the course of this past weekend I read Daredevil #21-25 in it's entirety to remind myself what had been happening in this latest story arc; Supreme.

'Supreme' sees the Man without Fear Matt Murdock, fresh off of his confession about how he regained his secret identity, deciding to put his master plan into action. Roping in some of his friends and allies to help him take out and armed gang of thugs, Matt uses this as an excuse to approach his boss with a bold plan; to place Daredevil on the stand to give evidence and open the door for other heroes to do the same. However, not everyone is happy with this plan as the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk, takes steps to put a stop to this motion, either by killing Murdock's case or killing the man himself.

Now hopefully I haven't laid any spoilers out there, although it does occur to me about how complex this story actually is. That said, regardless of it's complexity, after coming off of the 'Running with the Devil' arc I was really excited to see what Charles Soule was going to offer here, given his prior career and how his run has really pulled me back in since I jumped back onto Daredevil.

And, thankfully, this plot doesn't disappoint as I really enjoyed the legal manoeuvring of seeing Matt try to change the law and allow his superheroic persona to have more influence on his day to day. I will admit though that I do feel a little let down by the story, as though I was expecting something greater and more epic with these issues. After Dark Art and Running with the Devil, Soule's run felt like it was leading up to something and I really thought that this would be the 'Magnum Opus' of his run, the best part that he had been leading up to.

Of course, that doesn't take away from how good it was as I enjoyed seeing Matt as the hero instead of Daredevil, making for a nice change of pace. What I really enjoyed though were some of the character appearances which occurred here as not only does She-Hulk show up (in a way that makes me tempted to check out her most recent run) but also the character known as Legal from Soule's own She-hulk run. This character in particular, who seemed one note in that She-Hulk run, was much more intriguing here, especially with his speech about the law being fiction. This speech along with a more optimistic one by Daredevil kinda has me wondering if this is why Soule is now a writer and not a Lawyer; due to a somewhat paradoxical view on his former occupational field.

The art meanwhile was also pretty solid.... to begin with. Goran Sudzuka's art in the issues 21 and 22 was gorgeous and really gave me a reminiscence of Paolo Rivera's work during the early Waid run. It was just so beautiful and stylish and I'd have happily gazed upon this style for the whole arc. Sadly, that wasn't to be as the final three issues were drawn by Alec Morgan and, most likely because of this, the arc went downhill.

Sadly, I just wasn't a fan of Morgan's work in these later issues, with issue 25 looking nowhere near the quality of issue 25 through my eyes. The characters in particular didn't look particularly great in these three issues, with them all looking rather rough in their faces. As a result of this, I found myself struggling to get into those final issues and only by reading them as a bulk read was I able to actually enjoy the story.

Despite that though, I did enjoy this arc very much (though maybe not as much as I had expected it to) and found the end of it (which could have stuck with the status Quo) a little inspiring and optimistic. This end also gave me a nice teaser for what is to come down the road, which excites me (while also bothers as I may not be able to afford it when it gets here) and does make me glad I gave Charles Soule's run a second chance.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty

So, after a slight gap to talk about something else, I'm now onto talking (earlier in the week, as I'm want to get these done before my trip becomes too much of a distant memory) about the fourth comic trade I read while on holiday and, with each subsequent day, these books have gotten increasingly better and more enjoyable from one to the next.

But number 4 could quite possibly the best of them all, even those which come after it!

So, fourth on my list is volume one of Gotham Central, the police procedural comic by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark which follows the hardworking cops of the G.C.P.D.'s Major Crimes Unit as they struggle to catch the bad guys (both super and regular) in a city which is home to the Batman. This trade contains three separate stories which sees the unit chase mr Freeze after the death of one their own, then attempt to catch an arsonist and a child killer at the same time before the great Renee Montoya finds herself outed and set up for a murder, before being kidnapped by a classic Bat rogue.

Gotham Central: Book 1: In the Line of DutyNow I say that this is the best book of the week while only being halfway through it, but I seriously doubt that I'm exaggerating. Brubaker and Rucka have produced three truly fantastic stories, all of which drew me in deep and kept me totally engrossed as to how they would conclude. The way they developed the characters was also something I really enjoyed as both men filled Gotham Central with a tremendous cast; from Sawyer, Montoya and Allen to Davies, Chandler and even Fields in his limited appearance.

I think what really loved about this book though was that, while it is a Bat book in theory, it almost completely disregards the need for Batman, making him feel tolerated instead of required and the Gotham's finest can do the job just as well (to a point). I like this because it contradicts the popular theory which Batman '66 sold us about them.

Then, of course, there is the art. I've seen Lark's work on both Daredevil (with Brubaker) and Lazarus (with Rucka) and both look fantastic. But Gotham Central, while maybe a little rougher than the others, still looks equally terrific and I can't believe how perfectly it encapsulates these characters and their lives.

I've heard so much great praise about this series over the years and it kinda almost put me off in fear that it wouldn't live up to the hype. But now I'm here and I've read it and, damn, I wish I'd read it sooner. This is up there as as perfect as a comic book can get in my opinion and kinda hope the rest of the series would be this good.

Fortunately (or maybe 'unfortunately') I will find out soon enough as writing this has convinced me to make volume two the fifth read of the week.

 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Scars

I've decided to take a quick break from dropping the posts about my recent holiday reading to talk about....well, my bank holiday reading.

This weekend just gone I was back down my in-laws when I came across Scars amongst a pile of comics I had left there to store (my own home, as I've mentioned prior, is quite full). Now finding this book was not an accidental thing as I had just previously spoken with my neighbour in my office about it while trying to gauge whether she'd be interested in reading comics.

However, upon finding Scars amongst this discarded selection of trades if occurred to me that, while I have had this title for nearly a decade (roughly since it's 2008 release), I had never actually sat down and read it.

Therefore, I decided to take advantage of the three day weekend and do just that.

Warren Ellis' Scars is essentially a horror/crime fusion of a comic series, containing 6 issues of a story which follows John Cain, a police detective who's seen it all as he returns to his job after a terrible loss. However, his rather tough, seemingly emotionless surface is broken down when investigating the brutal murder of a young girl, a case which takes Cain right to the edge in order to solve it and catch the killer.

Now, I've tried my best to describe the plot as simply as possible in order to prevent spoilers (I think I've done ok) but, while the basic beats are all there, the one thing I haven't mentioned is about how absolutely, gut-wrenchingly brutal this comic is. Pretty much straight from the foreword, we are told repeatedly that this comic is quite a nasty comic and I don't think that's an understatement as the story takes a seriously dark and disturbing path.

There is no better example of this than in the discovery of the victim's body, whereby Ellis offers a reaction to scare us before going all out and showing us it in all it's gruesome glory. This is the first part of the book that actually made me feel quite a bit uncomfortable (and I always thought I had a high tolerance for such things).

That said, this doesn't make Scars a bad book, as I enjoyed how Ellis has put together what feels like a quintessential crime story to the almost noir degree, with the broken cop going rogue in his pursuit of justice. What really made me love it though was Ellis' (and others), notes at the end of each issue, giving some insight into why Scars could be the most realistic crime story going.

However, what I really, truly loved about this book was the art. I've never heard of Jacen Burrows before (or admittedly after), but his work in this is fantastic and goes a long way to selling Ellis' gory vision. I think what I enjoy most is that it isn't regular monochrome, instead looking like it's practically white with some light shading, which I think helps give it a subtler look than most other black and white stories I've read.

The big draw for me though are the Gutters (seriously!!!), which here are all black and, when combined with the panels, gives each page and almost dark photo album vibe in my opinion. But also, what really makes me awe is how they change as the book progresses, looking straight and standard at the beginning but looking more warped and creepy towards the end. It's a small thing (if I've looked at it right), but I enjoyed it.

And I've got to say, that's got to be my answer for the book overall. Sure, it was creepy and dark and maybe a little too brutal, but I enjoyed it. It was a nice story which some killer art and some really cool insights into how the creators made this series. That said, I'm not entirely sure if Scars has any re-readability to it (maybe in another few years when I've forgotten) but it was still a good read and I'm glad to got to check it out.

Even if I do wish I'd gotten to it a bit sooner than I did.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

James Bond Vol.1: Vargr

Ok then, for the third day of my recent holiday I decided to read the first volume of the Dynamite reimagining of 007 James Bond, entitled Vargr.

Day three's read of James Bond's first volume; Vargr, as told by the great Warren Ellis and Jason Masters, follows Britain greatest super spy who, after getting revenge for the murder of a colleague, inherits said colleagues active cases. However, the first case on this list turns out to be a lot more complex than the simple drug smuggling ring that it first appeared, with Bond coming up against a maniacal doctor and his artificially enhanced, bloodthirsty henchpersons.

Now, I had high hopes for this trade because, as fortune would have it, I got the opportunity to review the initial first issue for Pipedream Comics. Because of this, and the good impression that issue left with me, I decided to put this on my wish list to pick up, which I did a few months back when Dynamite had a sale on Comixology.

Fortunately, these high hopes were not in vain as I found this first trade to be absolutely fantastic and the highlight of my week so far (in regards to comic reading). Everyone knows how great Warren Ellis is, but I think he really pulls the cat out of the bag and really nails both the world and character of Bond. I have to admit I did find it odd how obnoxious the entire cast is when compared to some of Bond's movies but, then again, these are personality traits originally seen in Flemings novels and it fit the story and the idea of Bond to the letter.

But, what was truly fantastic was Masters' artwork. I love his style on this book, with his pencils looking so clean and sterile that it just imbues Bond's character. I'd also have to say that Coupling that with Guy Major's colours really made the whole book look 60's esque and more in line with the classic Bond films. I should also point out that I think Bond looks exactly like Bond should look, not like any one actor and more like Sterling Archer, with a little bit of Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig maybe.

This trade was a perfect contained story and I could happily have left it there. However, I really loved this James Bond series and kind of wish I'd picked it up as single issues. Therefore, I'm totally going to pick up the next trade and maybe even the Hammerhead mini which came out another time (once I can find the money).

In the meantime though, book four, which I'm thinking maybe the classic Gotham a Central (volume 1 of it anyway).

Star Wars: Vader Down

So, for day two of my recent holiday, I decided to follow through with my choice at the end of day one.

Day two saw me read Star Wars: Vader Down.

A crossover between Star Wars and Darth Vader, this event saw Vader, having tracked Luke Skywalker to a remote planet, forced to crash on that very same planet by that very same farm boy. Now, with no way to escape and no way to call for help, the Dark Lord of the Sith must go toe to toe with a Battalion of Rebels, including the regular Star Wars cast and the son he came looking for.

Going into this, I was in two minds about where it would go. The Darth Vader series had been great thus far, but it's arcs also seemed to be on a sliding scale, enjoyment wise, while the Star Wars series, which was also good, just didn't do it for me. For me, it could go either way.

Thankfully, I really loved this event. Once again, Vader was shown off as an incredibly bad ass character, both highly intelligent and physically imposing, who you could believe deserved the reputation he no doubt had. These comic series really sell me Vader far better than the film's did and once again he came off strong here.

Of course, he wasn't alone in this, as Aphra was also pretty cool after she felt underplayed in volume two, with her back and forth with Han Solo keeping me entertained. I again also loved the evil droids and their interactions not only with each other but also their more heroic counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Star Wars cast were written pretty well too but didn't quite appeal to me as much as the Vader cast did. This would certainly seem to confirm that the Dark Side is definitely better when it comes to Marvel's Star Wars books.

The art, on the other hand, was no where near as one sided. I absolutely adored both Deodata and Larocca's art on this arc, with displaying some truly gorgeous stuff throughout. What I loved most was Deodata's space fight splash pages which were just gorgeous (with the afterbattle splash looking so tragically beautiful, while Larroca, whose Vader depiction I already love, has to, hands down, draw the most beautiful and accurate faces of the Star Wars cast of characters bar none.

I really enjoyed Vader Down as it was full on Star Wars action at its best. I'm kind of wishing I could afford the next Vader volume now as I'm eager to get back onto that story, but I'm also a little curious about the Star Wars side (particularly the hints about Kenobi's diary) and how it had gotten here (and where it goes next).

However, both of these ill table until I can maybe afford their comics in future.

For now, I have other trades to read, of which the first volume of Dynamite's James Bond will be for holiday day three.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Darth Vader vol. 2: Secrets and Shadows

For this last week I've been on holiday, a nice little trip to North Wales (it's surprisingly quite nice, if rather wet) with my wife and son.

It's also a trip which has allowed me to take an iPad full of trades which I have yet to read through, with the sole intention of burning through them at the rate of one a night. I also decided that I would write about my thoughts for each one of these trades and then post them at a rate of once a week (unless something else got in the way).

So night one was Darth Vader volume 2: Secrets and Shadows

Volume two picked up from where volume one left off, with Vader having learned of the existence of his son as well as new Jedi-like weapons created by the emperor, continuing with his plans to capture the former and return to the right hand slot of the former. However, all doesn't seem that easy with his every move monitored by Grand General Tagge, the Emperor's current right hand man, while relying on the dnagerous support of Dr. Aphra and her droids.

Now I've got to admit that, despite my real love of the first volume, this second arc didn't really grab me in the same way. That's not to say that this volume was particularly different, because it wasn't, it's just that the plot felt a lot slower, with a lot more intricate parts. I think the problem with it was that now the objectives had been fully explained, these issues were kind of the planning phase of the entire, series long story arc, which I assume meant they'd be naturally slower.

That's not to say that this isn't still a good book as Gillen really writes some incredible characters which more than make up the slower story for me. Chief among them has to be, naturally, Darth Vader himself who I find to be vastly more dangerous thanks to this book than how he is portrayed over six films. I think this series shows Vader as more just a saber wielding monster but as a highly intelligent, incredibly cerebral man/machine who could, quite possibly match anyone in the galaxy in terms planning. Also, I love the two droids in this series, as both provide some great levity thanks to some incredibly gruesome and twisted humour.

But, for me, what I really love about this book is the art. I previously said how the CGS geeks keep praising Salvatore Larocca's art and after twelve issue, I'm glad to say I totally get it and am on board with those views. Larocca's art is amazing from start to finish, but I really go nuts over his depiction of Vader who he manages to draw with such menace in a face that is nothing but a mask. This alone makes me think the book was worth buying.

Like I said at the start, volume two isn't as good as volume one, but it still has enough good in it to keep me onboard. I can only hope that Vader Down doesn't cause its quality to drop further due to it being a crossover.

Well, I'll find out tomorrow as I think I'll read that for day two.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The decimation of my pull list

It's been a while since I've written here (a little over a month) and this wasn't an intentional absence, but more a case of being WAY too busy in real life.

However, I've got some time now and I figured I'd write about something, although the topic which is holding pride of place in my mind right now is not what I really wanted to end a break with. That said, this topic IS on my mind and I kinda wanted to write it down so that I'm clear in both my thought process and intentions.

So, let me begin.

Basically, it's come to my attention recently that my comics budget, despite it's rather small size and/or value, is now too much of an extravagance. This is down to a number of things which have affected how I spend my hard earned. Amongst them are that real life costs have risen (as bills tend to do for us all) and I've recently had to spend a large amount of savings money on a new car to better accommodate my ever growing family. Then there are comic books themselves which, while not exactly a very recent thing, have also seen their prices increase as a result of both publisher discretion and exchange rate fluctuations between the States and the UK, mainly as a result of Brexit.

Anyway, all of these things have had a negative effect on my month payslip as more an more of it has to pay the important stuff. Therefore, despite my best attempt to weather that particular storm, it looks like the time has come to make a really tough decision and pretty much end my pull list. This is not an easy decision, as the withdrawal symptoms are going to be murder, but it is one which has to be made in order to stay solvent.

Of course, while it might be somewhat counter-productive, I can't find it in myself to go 'cold-turkey' on all my comics as of right now and so have put together a rudimentary plan in order to 'ease' myself (for want of a better description) out of new comics.
  • Firstly, the Small Press Comics (Chunks, Afterlife Inc and Cognition and beyond), due to their more haphazard release schedule, will be cut immediately and their future instalments will be considered on an as and when basis (should funds be available). I feel bad for this as these books are created by talented people and deserve the same respect as any mainstream comic/ However, while they aren't as regular in their release, I may find it easier to pick their future issues in the future, considering them as 'one-offs'.
  • Comixology bought trades and single issues (consisting of Huck and Autumnlands, Titans and Black Science) will also be cut immediately with their titles re-installed later should my budget recover. The reason for this is that, due to all these book being digital, I can easily catch up with little difficulty in locating those missing issues. Therefore, dropping them first is a quick money saver, if not slightly annoying as they are great series (Black Science especially).
  • Printed comic mini series Star Trek: The Next Generation: Mirror Broken and Lazarus X+66 will be kept on until they complete, unless their quality dips. The reason for this is that, as they are only six issues a piece, they should be completed by November/December at the latest. Therefore, it seems silly to miss out on issues for so small a run and if I struggle to afford issues, my LCS can hold them for an additional month without me falling too far behind.
  • Printed comic ongoings Daredevil and Black Magick will continue to be picked up until the ends of the arcs ending in October/November time. This is for two reasons. 1. I don't want to screw over my LCS seeing as October solicits are out and they will no doubt have ordered. And 2. Both have been great series so far and, given they are picked up in print, I want to give them time to either drop the ball or my finances to pick up to accommodate. That said, should neither happen, the hard choice will have to be implemented.
  • Printed comic ongoing Lazarus will continue unaffected. This is because this is my most enjoyable series which is picked up in print and, given it's long term storytelling, I don't want to risk missing issues which I struggle to find in the future should I be able to come back. Of course, if it comes to the point that I can no longer afford a single comic book every month then this series will also have to go (and I'll probably have to seek medical help).
So, there it is! My plan towards the decimation of my pull list. I'll be honest, I'm not entirely happy with the fact I've had to do this as I was at a point where every book on my list was fantastic. However, sometimes (and I stress 'sometimes') comics are not the be all and end all and this, sadly, is one of those times.

Of course, I'm not counting myself out of the race yet as I do have quite a number of old series and back issues which I will happily re-read. Also, during the course of this mass re-read, I may find that some of these comics do not appeal to me as they once did when I had first bought them. In that case, a simply case of selling on ebay (or equivalent selling platform) can mean a temporary boost of comic buying funds.

But that's not going to be immediate so, for now, I'll be focusing on all those great comics for review, the plethora of back issues under my desk and the careful planning of rebuilding my pull list back to it's former self.

Or, hopefully, something bigger!!

Friday, 23 June 2017

(Some of ) June 2017's Pull List

June isn't quite over yet and I have a few comics on my pull list which are still to be picked up. However, while books are still to be read for me, the majority of them are the beginnings of (or in the case of Star Trek, early into) new story arcs.

Because of this, and because I kind of enjoyed talking about the Lazarus Contract in it's entirety, I decided I would hold off on Daredevil, Black Magick and Star Trek: Mirror Broken and talk about them in regards to the full stories.

Therefore, there were only two comics for me to talk about and both of those were released in the same week, early into this month.

First up was Titans #12, which was another little one-shot issue between arcs as Omen made a visit to Psimon in his cell in order to find out what had happened to Bumblebee's missing memories, only to have all of her teams problems thrown back at her by her nemesis, along with a terrible revelation to set up the next arc. Now, I have to admit that after the let down that was the Lazarus Contract last month, I was expecting an improved outing this time around. However, I don't think I was expecting this much of an improvement as this issue was fantastically written and totally had me hooked as all the revelations, secrets and frayed dynamics were shown. I also loved that Kenneth Rocafort is providing the art on this issue as I've always enjoyed his work since first seeing it on Action Comics (although I don't recall seeing it since then.) His work really works well here as he has a very similar style to Booth, meaning I don't find any transition in styles (which works for me). I've said before that Titans is a guilty pleasure more than a great book, as it has as many hits as misses, but this issue is certainly the best yet. I'm now eager for the 'Judas Among Us' arc and to see if my guess of who is the traitor is right. My guess: It's Garth.

Next was Copperhead #14, which saw the end of the current arc with the Sheriff closing in on the Mayor's killer, while Hickory causes more problems for Boo behind the scenes and Clay finally makes his way to his destination. Unfortunately, while I had hoped for something of a miraculous ending to this arc to regain my interest, this issue really turned out to be very forgettable. This issue, while tying up all the loose ends the arc had revealed as well as set up for what was to come next, just felt so boring to me and was just in no way captivating, while the characters of Clara and Boo just felt flat and shells of their earlier selves. Meanwhile, while I like Drew Moss' art, it's just not Scott Godlewski's and really doesn't make this book look like it did (in truth it doesn't look as gritty), something which really appealed to me when I first picked up this book. As a result, I'm kind of glad this issue is out as my time on Copperhead has come to an end. It had a good start in it, but it's hiatus seemed to be it's undoing and, as such, it's a comic I would rather not spend my limited funds on.

And so, I guess that's June done. I have to admit that I'm sad that Copperhead was such a let down and kind of sad to see it go, but when a book is no longer enjoyable then why spend good money on it? Thankfully, Titans more than made up for both it and it's previous instalment, so I guess it evened out overall.

For now, I won't be posting these breakdowns of my pull list for a while due to my grand plan of talking about books by arcs. In the meantime, I'll have to try and find something else to write about (but, in comics, that usually isn't too hard).

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Autumnlands Vol. 2

Like I said previously, last weekend I got to go on holiday and, due to circumstances beyond my control (well, kind of, I could have kept my son up I guess), I was given the gift of time to read some trades which I hadn't yet gotten around to. The first evening was taken up by the Mark Millar superhero book; Huck.

On night two, I decided I'd have a read of The Autumnlands Volume 2: Woodland Creatures by Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey. This was another book which I had been given the opportunity to review when it had initially been released. Now, as full disclosure, I hadn't originally enjoyed this comic but, when convinced to give it a second try (because it's Kurt Busiek), I did find Tooth and Claw (It's original title) to be much better than I had first thought and decided to give that first trade a try.

Well, volume 1 was read and thoroughly enjoyed and so when volume 2 was released, I snapped it up (which was helped as Comixology had it selling for a discounted price), but had yet to read through it, until now.

The Autumnlands volume 2 follows on from the first trade with Learoyd and Dustain recovering after their battle to defend the (former) floating city's inhabitants from Seven Scars and his Bison tribe. No lost and alone in the wilderness, the two set off for survival and civilisation when Learoyd has an encounter with a being unlike anything he's so far seen in the Autumnlands. This encounter leads the great Champion and his dog-wizard companion deep into the Woodlands and up a nearby mountain as he attempts to gain more answers as to how he got here and why.

Much like the first volume, however, this was a bit of a struggle to get into initially. That said, unlike the first volume, this had more to do with a lack of a recap page being included in Volume 2, meaning finding the memories in my rather full mind of the previous read. This, as is usually the case with a non-recap page book, made it a bit of a slow start to get into.

Of course, as I read and the first book came flooding back to me, I really got more and more engrossed into this story, which also saw the duo attempt to help a sheep's village and pick up a new companion in the form of a Goat called Albert as they made their way up the mountain. I have to admit that, once the comic's pace picks up, the entire story begins to feel incredibly mythic.

The thing I enjoy most though are the characters and their interactions as, free from the more political characters of Volume 1, Learoyd and Dunstain really come across better as the former shows his hidden depths beneath his rather crude first impression and the latter feels a lot more confident here with both his skills and his overall demeanour. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the rendition of the Sheep village, showing a simpler, more comprehendible aspect of the this world while Albert, although a little annoying in places, I thought helped give the story some levity with his arrogant and humorous nature.

Meanwhile, I do love the art, which really goes with the mythic quality of the overall book and it has some good colours to help bring it across really well (which you come to expect when it's Jordie Bellaire.) What's really great about the art in this book though are the truly mesmerizing landscape scenes at the start of each issues which make me think of Oil Paintings or the art you may see in ancient texts (although the actual text which goes with them feels a little long.)

In truth, this book is a seriously terrific book, but not just for the things I've mentioned above. I've always considered that there's some unknown quantity on every book which can cause you to love the worst made or hate one of the highest quality. With Autumnland, it is the better of those two options as I find this book incredibly epic and, despite having to have worked to remember what was going on, the pay off was worth the effort.

I could have picked a few other things to read in my precious free time, but I'm glad I chose this. I look forward to volume 3!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Huck Vol. 1

I'm on my first day back to work after a nice long weekend with my family down to Paignton and the 'English Riviera' (It's a lot nicer than Fawlty Towers ever implied it to be). Back to the daily slog of entering numbers after the high of (occasional) sun, sea and sand. For someone who doesn't like holidays, I've gotta say it was pretty good.

What made it good (amongst other things) is the fact that, due to my son going to sleep early and thereby limiting my wife and I's evenings, I got to read two full trades (one a night). This is something that has long been a pipedream for me given my having to help look after a demanding one year old. However, this weekend gave me the chance to catch up and I'll be damned if I was going to lose it.

So, for the first night I got to read volume one of Huck, which I've had for a good few months and have been wanting to read since I reviewed the first issue way back when. This book told the story of the eponymous character, a gas attendant in a small rural town with a secret only the locals know. Huck is super strong, super resilient, hero with a heart of gold who spends each day trying to do at least one good deed for those around him. However, when one local spills the beans, Huck finds himself in the spotlight and one a path to find his family, while sinister forces mean to capture him for themselves.

Now this may sound a little too epic for what it is but, when looking back at it, I'm not sure I could describe it any other way. I've rarely been a fan of Mark Millar throughout his career; Civil War was good but Fantastic Four was not. Meanwhile, most of his creator owned works have been too crude, gruesome and bloody for my tastes. But with Huck, Millar has written such an earnest, lovable story that I can't help but to be engrossed in both the character and his adventure. In fact, Huck the character is the key to pulling me into this series as he is so Superman-esque, uncomplicated and easy-going that I can't help but envy him and root for him, even without his super powers.

And then there is Rafael Albuquerque's art which is just so incredibly fitting with Millar's story in my eyes. I loved this art just as much as I loved the story with every panel in the early issues just imbuing such a rural, rustic look that it just helped sell the slice of life nature, before the tone shifted in the later issues and Albuquerque seemed to effortlessly change the tone without changing the style and giving me the feeling of a book which was the same but different. I remember how much I enjoyed Rafael Albuquerque's work on Uncanny X-Force way back when but, with this, it felt just inch perfect.

I remember how much I enjoyed the first issue when it came out but, with the trade, it's fair to say that I really loved this story. While, given how it ends, it could be reasonable to assume it is a single story with no continuation, I really hope the 'Volume 1' on the cover implies otherwise. Huck is a terrific story (which I'm surprised to be saying about a Millar book) which is gorgeous and something I really want to see it continue.

Bring on Volume 2!!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

May 2017's Pull List - The Lazarus Contract

As I'm writing this, the UK is having it's General Election and it has my whole office up in arms. I've just read an article about how the Tories have it won and, quite frankly, it's putting a downer on my whole day.

Therefore, I figured that I'd get my head away from all that seriousness and talk about my thoughts on the Lazarus Contract, the DC crossover story which crosses into four books; my pull list comic Titans #11Teen Titans #8, Deathstroke #19 and finally the Teen Titans Lazarus Contract Special #1. While initially annoyed at the announcement of this story (who wants a crossover with books they don't read?), enough time has passed for me to be rather excited about the idea, especially after other crossovers like the Button and Superman Reborn (which I hear were very good).

The Lazarus Contract (obviously named as an homage to that famous Teen Titans story 'the Judas Contract') follows all three sets of protagonists from the included comics as Deathstroke, the world's greatest assassin, decides to make amends for the mistakes of his past, starting with the death of his son Grant Wilson, otherwise known as the Ravager. Unfortunately, there is only one way that World's Greatest Assassin can do this and that's time travel. Therefore, this begins a mission which involves the abduction of the Wally's West in order to understand and harness their ability to time travel. Unfortunately for Slade the Titans and Teen Titans are hot on his trail as both teams, somewhat grudgingly, work together to save their respective teammates.

As I read this back it looks like a bit of a simple plot for four issues. However, the story is really that simple and this I found a struggle to handle as synopsis for this titles seemed to imply that this story would be more related to Titans' Flash and his return from limbo and how Deathstroke could use that to save his son. Unfortunately, it wasn't although that didn't mean it wasn't a good story because it was. It just wasn't as epic as I believed it was going to be.

Some of the reasons for this had to with the writing which, while itself was pretty solid overall, I struggled with, maybe due to differing writing styles from the three different writers. As usual, I enjoyed Abnett's issue (which I've obviously gotten used to) and Percy's instalment was ok. However, with Priest's issues (or issues as he did the script for the special) there was such a shift in how they were broken down, with lots of time jumping and 'chapter' breaks (for want of a better word) that I think that's where the story lost my interest.

Of course, that wasn't all the problems I had, as I felt like a lot of information was missing which was rather important to the plot. The majority of it seemed to stem from the Deathstroke series as Slade continued to know and do things that weren't fully explained. Of course, on the plus side, there were plenty of moments which piqued my interest for the Deathstroke series as a whole, as well as the first Teen Titans arc, although the latter was almost immediately reversed by Damian Wayne who, despite already being a vile character in my eyes, really came across as an even bigger villain here than I thought possible.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the art across the board. Also as usual (as like with Abnett's writing), I really loved Brett Booth's art, as it grows on me more and more with each new Titan's issue. I also really enjoyed the art in Teen Titans, as Jonboy Meyers and Khoi Pham offered up this really unusual, deep coloured style which was almost horror like in its overall look, something that really made sense with a nice panel of Kid Flash's very creepy shadow which I enjoyed as it worked nicely with his past.

Sadly, I wasn't quite as impressed with the art in Deathstroke, as it looked a little flat to me, even though it wasn't that different to the other two styles to be a problem. Fortunately, this bump in the road was made up for in the special as the great Paul Pelletier got to provide the pencils, which is always a treat in my eyes. I was also happy with the various 'post-credit' sequences (for want of a better description) which set up a few new story points in the various comics, although I was heart-broken by the revelation that was given in the Titans segment, giving me even more of a dislike of the current Robin character (why, oh why, couldn't Rebirth have caused him to be erased?)

Overall though, the Lazarus Contract was a fun enough story but it wasn't as epic as I was hoping for. While it gave me a bit more of the Titans (who I'm really getting more into), this whole thing really felt like a mega Deathstroke story and not an equal division between all three casts. If this crossover did anything for me then it made me tempted to go and pick up Deathstroke trades, but beyond that it didn't really resonate all that much for me (which is a shame) and look forward to a return to the regular schedule.

And hopefully, no other crossovers like this for a good long while.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

May 2017's Pull List

May 2017 has quickly become my busiest month in a good long while.

With Free Comic Book Day, a couple of delayed comics finally being realised and DC doing a load of crossovers which have affected the series of theirs I pick up, my pull list for the month has increased by six times it's regular size.

Anyway, with the free comics having been read through, I figured my regular pull list be crammed through next to get my thoughts down on those before the big (DC) crossover.

My first (proper) read of the month (and by far the longest) was the Lazarus Sourcebook #2, which focused only providing the detailed information regarding Carlyle's bitterest enemy. I have to admit, while I enjoyed the first sourcebook, this second was even more enjoyable (while also feeling like it took far longer to read) and I really found myself engrossed in the inner workings of the good doctor's Kingdom. Once again, this sourcebook was displayed on some great page design and, as such, this book is another reminder to me about how rich the Lazarus world is and it now has me pumped for X+66, the series proper and maybe even more of these sourcebook down the line (maybe Morray next time).
 
Next up was Copperhead #13, with Sheriff Bronson moving ever closer to finding the old Mayor's killer, while his replacement plots Hickory in order to keep the Sheriff under control. Unfortunately, once again, Copperhead really failed to capture me with yet another lacklustre issue. The problems seemed to show from the start with the cliffhanger from last issue skipped over to move the story on, so much so I actually went back thinking I'd missed something. The plot itself is rather simple and fine enough but it's overpowered by the new dynamic between the Sheriff and Boo, one I really can't get on board. Finally, the art by Drew Moss Doesn't have the same flair as Godlewski's did and does look considerably rougher. By the end of this issue, it's safe to say I'm done here. It's been fun while it lasted but unless something amazing happens in issue 14, then that'll be the end of my time in Copperhead.

My third read was Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #1, which followed on from the Free Comic Book Day issue by returning us to the Mirror Universe and seeing Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew of the I.S.S Stargazer decide to take action in the wake of the Empire's dire circumstances; by stealing the new advanced warship Enterprise. Now I've got to admit, I'm in two minds about this book after issue one. On the one hand, I love the artwork, with J.K. Woodward's style having the same photo-realistic, dark tone of the FCBD issue and I also really like the concept regarding the universe and the story arc. However, this issue did seem a little slow to get off the ground (although, admittedly, it took me three attempts to actually read the thing). One other, small thing which bothers me is why on Earth would the Warlike Empire call a ship the 'Stargazer' or the Shipyards 'Utopia Planitia'? That said, these are minor gripes compared to the pacing but, hopefully, this is a book which will pick up from the next issue.

Anyway, moving on from all the relatively middle road books, next up came possibly my favourite comic of the month up until this point, Daredevil #20, which finshed the 'Purple' story arc and completed the story about how the Man without Fear got his secret identity back into the bottle. I've got to admit, I know I have had problems with this run in the beginning, but this issue and the arc in general were outstanding. I loved the story during issue 20 and, while I kinda saw how it was going to play out beforehand, it nevertheless still pulled me in when it happened. I think Charles Soule has finally gotten comfortable with the character in this arc as he read exactly how Murdock seems to me while the artwork continued to be fantastic and exactly as a Daredevil book should look (while I did enjoy Garney's initial style in the early issues). Also, while it was still sad to see the end of Kristen McDuffie, I'm glad that Soule didn't kill her off as it gives the chance for her to return in the future (although hopefully a little better written than in this arc. This just didn't read like her). This was a great issue and it's tease in the last few pages now has me pumped to see what the next arc brings.

Next came something of an anomaly as while not released in May, I did happen to pick it up during the month (on Free Comic Book Day) and that was Justice League of America: Rebirth - The Ray. This issue, one of four set up issues for the new JLA comic, introduced us to Ray Terrell as we learned about his life from child who was allergic to light all the way to the introduction of his light powered alter ego, The Ray. Unfortunately, while I had high hopes for this issue, I really found the story to be a struggle to get into, something not helped by a lack of clear explanation behind his powers. However, it wasn't all bad as I really enjoyed how Steve Orlando put across Ray's isolated life as well as Stephen Byrne's always awesome artwork, which did make up for the books shortcomings. In the end, despite its issues, I think the book was still somewhat of a worthy purchase, if not my strongest read of the month.

Finally, I got to read Black Science #30, the final issue of this most recent arc which saw Grant and Brian fighting to survive as their world comes under siege from two evil alien races which then begin gunning for each other, with the McKay brothers stuck right in the middle. Once again, Remender, Scalara and co, steal the best comic for the month title in my eyes, easily outstripping the other books I picked up (some of which were also fantastic) with a fantastic story running at a frantic pace which didn't hinder it as I devoured this issue. Remender continues to dump more and more on his characters, with more chaos and trouble being added with no end in sight. That said, there were a lot of great moments in this issue, like Chandra's moment of reflection, Block long awaited departure and a nice throwback to issue 17 (I think). What was really great about this issue was the art because, while it continues to be top notch, the fact that Matteo Scalara can deliver this level of quality with a bust hand is incredible and he continues to earn my respect for that. It's a shame that this book is going on hiatus now because issue 30, like every other before it, just leaves me needing more immediately after.

And so that's the Pull List proper done and, while there was one book which didn't measure up to my high standards, it was a relatively good month with three great ongoings, a fun little one-shot and a mini-series which holds some promise.

However, I'm not done yet for even after 13 three comics, 6 bought comics and who know how many reviewed comics over May, next up will come the Lazarus Contract.

And I'm going to try something a little different there.

 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

May 2017's Pull List - The FCBD Comics

It's taken me practically the entire month of May but, finally, I've gotten through all the comics which I picked up on Free Comic Book Day 2017.

As mentioned previously, I had picked up 13 free comics on the day, attempting to select a nice, varied array of choices in the hope that maybe I'd find something new to sink my teeth into in the long term. Therefore, in order to help with this plan, I've decided to write a little something to help me maintain my thoughts on each title.

So, here goes:

Buffy: The High School Years - I must admit, while the cover implies it to be a very all ages book (which it kind of is), I wasn't sure I would enjoy this. Thankfully the Buffy story, while not being incredibly enthralling, was fun enough with some truly gorgeous, light artwork. That said, I'm not entirely sure it was gripping enough to make me try any additional issues, but it was nice enough way to spend a few minutes. On the other hand, the Plants vs Zombies back up had no such positivity to me. The art as fun and colourful, but it also seemed a little all over the place, as was the story which just felt a bit non-sensical to me. That series, based on this, I would definitely avoid I think.
 
Kid Savage - I've never really been that interested in Manga and Kid Savage, which looks incredibly Manga from start to finish, doesn't really improve that position. Pretty much from the get go, I couldn't get into this story, which is most likely down to the lack of dialogue and that very over the top artwork, although it certainly was colourful. The back up, Pix seemed a little better because it was colourful without being over the top and felt pretty damn adorable overall. However, this also didn't feel like my cup of tea and so I would most likely give both a wide berth in future.
 
The Legend of Zelda - I've never really been someone who was into Manga but the guy next to me in the queue recommended I pick this up. However, it would appear that my view on Manga hasn't really changed as I really struggled to follow this book and it's back to front reading style, although the art did look cool and if I can ever understand how it's laid out, I may give it another chance.
 
Steam Wars: Strike Leader - I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this, but I must admit that I really enjoyed Steam Wars: Strike Leader. The story, with the world designed as a cross between the Battle of Britain and Steampunk, was quite enjoyable and wasn't too heavy but gave just enough to intrigue me. However, what really had me hooked on this comic was the artwork, which consisted of soft pencils and light, pastel-esque colours, looked absolutely stunning, suited the steampunk vibe and made me think of a video game, Aqua, which looked equally cool. In all, I think this might be worth looking out for and picking up in some manner in the future.
 
Riverdale - Although I was unsure about this, I thought I'd pick it up as it might give me an idea about what the to series might have in store when I get and to it. Unfortunately, this just wasn't a book for me as it felt really in keeping with modern teen dramas and too full of Angst, something I'm not sure I expected or wanted in an Archie series. Besides this, the art and writing, while solid, didn't stand out either and leaves me not only wanting to give any series to come out of this comic a miss, but also considering to steer clear of the show.
 
Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken - Despite being a Trek fan, I'm not really into the comics surrounding the series. However, Mirror Broken was a really enjoyable comic with some very cool artwork. I do love the mirror universe and it's fun to see something not yet seen, especially with the art looking very dark to give everything a unsettling, creepy vibe. Unfortunately, the previews for Boldly Go, Farpoint and the Green Lantern crossover didn't appeal as much to me but with Mirror Broken it was just twisted enough and offered just enough about that world that I might actually pick it up.
 
2000 AD - I've never been much of a 2000AD fan (despite my love of the more recent movie). However, a good portion of this book I really did enjoy. The highlights here were definitely the Dredd story, which was a really good read (to my surprise), the Anderson story seemed cool and the Death art by Dave Kendall looks Templesmith level fantastic. On the other hand, the Hope story, while looking noir-like cool, felt a bit slow while the Blackblood story I just struggle to get on board with, both in terms of story and art. That said, I think I enjoyed enough of this book that I might make some inroads into reading some 2000AD in future.
 
I Hate Image - There isn't much I can say about this book, except for 'I Hate Image is F$%*&£$ insane!!!' This isn't a bad thing at all though as I really loved both the humour and the art, both begin completely over the top in a way I don't usually gravitate towards. Now, this isn't a series in itself, but the fun of reading this comic has me tempted to look into the book it's kinda/sorta based on, I Hate Fairyland, in the very, VERY near future.
 
The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire - Crossfire was something of a mixed bag for me. While I really enjoyed the art, which seemed like a hybrid of Mitch Gerards and Ben Templesmith, this reinterpretation of Wonderland was just a little too different for my taste (to the point I didn't even realise it was about Wonderland, though now the title does give it away). This is one I think I'll skip long term.
 
Keyser Soze: Scorched Earth - I'm a big fan of the Usual Suspects and so, from the moment I saw this cover, I knew I had to pick up this book. Sadly, while this Keyser Soze story, and it's back up tale the Rift, were visually beautiful, the writing just didn't grab me. Not that there was anything wrong with either, it was simply a case that neither drew me in as I had hoped, particularly Keyser Soze, which now occurs to me needs the mystique to make him interesting (as in the film).
 
Wonder Woman Special Edition - I enjoyed this issue, what I presume is part of the 2nd issue of the recent Rebirth volume, although I think I enjoyed it about as much as the Rebirth one-shot I read previously. The draw for me here is, as usmall,  the team of Rucka and Scott, whose works I could read/look at all day. Beyond that, this issue was a bit slow and i still prefer the LoWW origin, although it does have me intrigued and convinced enough that the trade is worth getting in the future.
 
Doctor Who - A fun, done-in-one story revolving around the four recent doctors, I have to say I'm middle of the road on this. I enjoyed the story to a degree, but did struggle to remain invested as it went on. As for the art, I liked the changes in style to coincide with each incarnation's appearance in the book, but it did look like the three prior doctors were a little simplistic compared to the style accompanying 12. Overall, I did enjoy reading this issue, but am unsure if that could convince me to pick up any of the regular series (although, I might consider the 8th doctor mini they referenced in the back).
 
Betty and Veronica - Having previously read the first issue of the new Archie, and really enjoying it, I had high hopes for this reimagining of his top two ladies. And, truth to tell, I did enjoy this issue, although not as much as I had hoped. The whole issue was a fun read, with the storytelling feeling kinda Scott Pilgrim with the stars when punching and the whole truck sequence. However, the book just didn't grab me like Archie did and it wasn't helped when both Betty and Veronica felt like bit players in their own book. I still enjoyed this, but I might hold off on looking at this for now.

And there it is! I have to admit, I am a little disappointed as I expected to enjoy the vast majority of the comics from the FCBD, in particular the Keyser Soze comic. That said, almost half of my total pick ups did make some kind of a mark on me and while I don't think all of those would make it to my pull list (although Star Trek already has), I'm confident all which made their mark will make it to my wish list in some manner.

Anyway, now the free comics are done, on to the Pull List proper.

Friday, 12 May 2017

So I wrote a comic.

It's taken me some time to get around to writing this post. However, it is something I felt I should do because not only is it a rare thing for me to be proud of something I've done (which I am), but also because it felt write to share the talent of my collaborator.

This story (the making of story more than the actual comic) started at the beginning of this year. I received a message from comic book creator (and my pal) Matt Garvey, who informed me of a competition he had decided to run through the Millarworld forum he was a part of to give unpublished creators the chance to have a four page comic printed in the back of one of his future works.

I recall thinking that this was a great idea and, after some encouragement (and possibly abuse) from Matt, I decided to give it a try.

Now, as I attempted to make this dream a reality, I remember that the various aspect of creating this comic had varying levels of difficulty. The writing of this story's script I, surprisingly, found to be the easiest part of the whole endeavour, with my being able to complete it within a lunch hour. What was more difficult was coming up with the idea in the first place, until it finally hit during a daft Twitter conversation with Matt and Joseph Nathan Smith (to which both get my grateful thanks).

However, the most difficult part of the whole endeavour was finding an artist who wasn't published (scratching out most my rolodex) and who wanted to work on the idea I had. Thank God then for the great talent of Ayoade Adobarin, an artist who answered my general call on the forum and brought with him a talent which exceeded what I thought it would look like. I've praised a lot of artists in my time, but this guy takes the biscuit (the cake, the whole damn shop) for not only making a bar bones idea look infinitely better, but also putting up with my vague flights of fancy. (Side note, if you are a creator wanting an artist, you can do a hell of a lot worse than this guy.)

In the end, sadly, it was all for nought as we didn't win. However, this isn't a problem for me as, first of all, we were beaten by a far superior idea (which I look forward to seeing in the finished article). But also, it showed me what I can do when I put my mind to it and that belief in oneself (along with Matt Garvey hurling insults) can achieve anything.

So, with that in mind, I figured I'd put up the finished article here to show everyone that if an idiot like me can help make four pages of comic book goodness then it's a possibility for anyone.

With that in mind, here is the comic Ayoade and I made. We hope you enjoy.







Friday, 5 May 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017

So another Free Comic Book Day has been and gone. For me, 2017 was a heck of a lot shorter than 2016 as my son tagged along for his second year running (I hope I can make this a reoccurring thing). However, as he was a new born last year, his attention span this time round was a lot shorter and so it really was a case of 'in and out.'

That said, despite its rather limited effect on my life, Free Comic Book Day is still a fantastic occasion. This year, this was made so due to my local comic shop again opening in a new (bigger) location on the second FCBD running. It was good to see the shop in a more spacious environment given its humble, cramped beginnings. It was also good to see that, despite its space, it was very cramped due to the number of customers who had shown up within the first 15 minutes of the day. In my opinion, it's a sign that FCBD does its job in that it pulls in comic fans both old and new. In fact, as I left the shop I spotted a couple who just happened to be passing by actually stop and go in (let's just hope they bought something).

But back to the comics and my LCS presented its customers with a vast selection of the free comics. This year, we were offered the chance to get as many as we wanted (we were limited to 7 each last year) and while I could have picked up many more, I only took copies of the books which really interested me. These books were:

Buffy: The High School Years
Kid Savage
The Legend of Zelda
Steam Wars: Strike Leader
Riverdale
Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken
2000 AD
I Hate Image
The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire
Keyser Soze: Scorched Earth
Wonder Woman Special Edition
Doctor Who
Betty and Veronica

So thirteen books in all. Of course, this wasn't all I bought as I also picked up a copy of the JLA The Ray one-shot. This was a book which caught my eye back when it was released and while I had intended to pick it up digitally, I really wanted to make a purchase today from the shop to support them because they had offered all this freebies and, as with all comic shops, doing this isn't free. I do feel bad I didn't buy more but hopefully I can start making up for that in the future.

In the meantime though, I now have 14 new comics to read. I'm probably going to give them a whole post to talk about my thoughts on them towards the end of the month (Pull List style). There are a number of which I'm truly excited to read (Star Trek, Betty and Veronica, Wonder Woman, Keyser Soze) and some which intrigue me (pretty much all the rest).

Hopefully, I can find the time during May to read through them all.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

April 2017's Pull List

So April is over. I have to admit that it's felt like a very short month, although that was probably helped by my last post being a few days late.

It's probably also been helped by the fact that I've been snowed under at work and in life, making me grateful that my pull list has been so short (although I'd never have a problem if it were bigger).

Titans #11 was the first comic for this month, which saw an end to the series second arc, Made in Manhattan, with the Titans facing off against the Fearsome Five to save a captured Nightwing and Flash. Now, I keep going back and forth on Titans as a series, with some issues feeling a bit bland while others come across to me as really compelling reads. However, issue 10 felt a bit more of the former because, while did enjoy the action sequences, particularly for Omen and Bumblebee, the story didn't seem to be particularly memorable save for the surprise revelation in the aftermath. Now this I was not expecting and leaves me in two minds about how I feel about; on the plus side it feels like a good reason to bring the Duncan's into the team full time, but on the downside, it feels like an unneeded plot twist. I'm still enjoying Brett Booth's art meanwhile as, though it's not perfect, it looks like the style best suited to displaying these characters. To be honest, I'm convinced that it's getting to read these classic characters which keeps me coming back while, all in all, it's still a fun book. And with the Lazaras contract now around the corner, I am looking forward to the future of this book, good or bad.

Next was Copperhead #12, which saw Clara deal with the fallout coming from the mayor's death while continuing to hunt his killer as her past slowly catches up with her. Unfortunately, this series, which had so much promise back when it started and had me hooked from the moment when I reviewed the first issue, just seems to have run out of steam after returning from its hiatus. The story now feels a little convoluted, not helped by the inclusion of the Ford character, and the pace just feels like it's ground to a halt. Also, both Clara and Boo no longer read as they did previously and while this might have to do with their changed dynamic I don't think so and it kinda hurt this issue. A final nail of he coffin though is Drew Moss' art which doesn't sit right with me, with places looking a bit rushed. Of course, this is all my opinion but I didn't enjoy this issue and neither the story nor the cliffhanger ending gripped me. What makes it even worse is hat I lost 8 pages to a preview for another book, meaning I bought a $3.99 book and got $2.99 worth of pages, not something I can stand. I'm not sure I care about this series at this point anymore and so will give it until the end of the arc (as I've budgeted for that) to turn me around but, as of right now, I think Copperhead is heading off my pull list.

Third on the list was Black Science #30 which returns it's focus to Grant McKay who attempts to make a daring escape from his prison in the wake of the Zirite invasion. Now, I've got to admit that the previous issue didn't grip me like most Black Science issues do. However, this installment more than made up for any concerns I had last time around. Despite a slow start, the pace built up as McKay attempted to evade possession, right up until the shock twist at the end which I didn't see (but maybe should have seen) coming. I think the thing I like about Black Science is McKay himself because, while he's an absolute dick, I can't help but cheer for him as he goes from one mistake to another. Actually, the other thing I like is the art and here is no exception, especially when I read that Matteo Scalara had a broken arm when he drew this. I'm stunned that it's this good and it gives me a whole new level of respect for this guy. All in all, I love Black Science and up until this point has got to be my favourite book of the monthings, as well as the best on my pull list. As always, bring on the next issue.
 
And finally (because the Lazarus sourcebook got delayed for a week, i hope) was Daredevil #19, which saw the man without fear in an unfamiliar bar with some very familiar patterns as he attempted to escape the thrall of the Purple Man. Once again, this series went from strength to strength in this issue after i was originally unimpressed enough to drop it. This arc in particular is fantastic and Charles Soule is putting together quite a captivating story. I thought this issue felt a little like filler compared to others but much like issue 10 of the volume 4 (Waid/Samnee's second run), I really loved how it gave a look at the inner workings of Matt's mind. Meanwhile the art, this issue by Marc Laming, was beautiful and I love it's clean and more colourful look. I have to admit it was a little jarring to see a contrast to prior issues but it didn't put me off any and seeing all the different Daredevils was a real highlight. I can see how this story is going to end (and not because it's a flashback) but I'm loving this as a read. It's just a shame that Marvel have to go a make it a two issue a month book in the near future but, for now, this is definitely a highlight read each month.

And that's April comics done. I've got to admit that April had a nice varied array of quality; from the brilliant to the not so good. However, May is next up and along new installments of the better books on my pull list, I'm expecting good things from the Lazarus Contract.

Hopefully, it'll live up to my expectations.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

March 2017's Pull List

I'm running a little bit late with this post, due to the unavoidable problems of Quarter end (work), Month end (again work) and my son's birthday (a genuine pleasure) all ending up being around the same time.

It also didn't help that March was a bumper month with six comics being released (Black Science got pushed back until April), meaning that I had more to read and, as a consequence, more to say.

So, let's not stand on ceremony. Let us begin.

My first read for the month was Titans #9, which saw the team encounter the Fearsome Five in their non-powered glory as they rescue Bumblebee before investigate the company they work for in order to protect their friends. Once again, as with the series' first arc, this issue seemed to make up for the opening instalment with my really enjoying the rather secret agent/heist turn the story went to as the Titans looked into Meta Solutions. I also really liked seeing the Fearsome Five turn up in this series, having originally been introduced to (some of) them in the old Teen Titans cartoon (yes, I watched it). These two things, along with my growing love of Brett Booth's art style certainly makes me glad I came back to this book and gave it a second chance.

Speaking of second chances, Copperhead #11 was next, which saw the return of this sci-Fi western series after a hefty hiatus with the sheriff beginning a new case after the murder of the town's Mayor, while also being distracted by the appearance of an old 'friend' and his news of an old 'enemy'. This was a comic which I had been toying with dropping due to its delay and this issue didn't seem to dissuade me from doing this. The problem I had with it was down to its delay, because I couldn't remember what had happened previously leaving me a little confused with current circumstances. It did all start to come back to me slowly but this wasn't enough to keep me engrossed in the issue and one major character seemed to play against type in my opinion, further turning me off the book. All in all, it probably didn't read as badly as I've implied but it wasn't great and was a weaker book of the month, to which we'll see if the next issue can amend this.

Next came Trinity #7, which is (at present) my last issue of this series as it took focus away from the big three to focus on their respective nemesis (Nemesi?); Lex Luthor, Ra's Al Ghul and Circe as they are drawn to a mysterious and dangerous force. Now for me, this was a book of two halves, with the opening pages giving us the introduction of Ra's and Lex which felt very interesting, completely drawing me in and intriguing with some good writing and cool art. However, on the flip side of the coin the Circe intro and it's following fight scene didn't really catch me, with the fight actually feeling shoe horned in instead of better story. The art though kept it's quality from the first half, overall looking dark, moody and fitting the characters. I did like the idea though, and it intrigued me for what what it's setting up but, sadly, I don't think enough to stop me cutting this book.

Thankfully, we went from bad to good with the next comic as Daredevil #18  delivered another great issue as it continued the tale of how Matt got his secret identity back in the bottle, as the arrival of the purple children spelt the return of the Purple Man. Now, while I had gripes with the start of the run, Soule has managed to turn it around as this story feels more like the kind of DD story I like. The return of the Purple Man, one of my favourite Marvel villains adds to this enjoyment. Meanwhile, Garney's art again looks great, and he manages to homage Samnee's style so well to keep in tone with the period it is meant to be set in, while still effortlessly going back to his own. With this he's really earning my love. All in all I'm totally engrossed in this story and am so glad I gave the book a second chance.

The next issue in my pile was Lazarus #26 and to this, all I can say is 'Finally!!!!' Although, my enjoyment might have been hampered a little by the gap between this issue and the last (I couldn't remember what happened and had to read the recap. God bless recaps, right DC!!! ), this issue saw Forever return to action to take on the Lazarus Smey, while Johanna took steps to help her sister on the homefront. Now, despite the need to remind myself of the lead up, this is of little consequence as all I had to say about this issue by  it's end is 'Wow.' This book is still so gorgeous; so beautifully drawn, so well written and so great in it's symbiosis of the two. Rucka really is a master as I loved the atmosphere and intrigue he's laced into this issue, with the scene between Micheal and Johanna really hooking me (if I needed it). Meanwhile, Lark's place is once again cemented with that final fight scene which was just brutal and shocking and ended in a way I didn't see it coming (although maybe I should have). This was by far the best book of the month and, while it's a shame there while now be a break before it returns, no creative more deserves a break and I'll totally be getting the Lazarus mini while I wait for this great series to return fully.

And so, that left me with Titans Annual #1 to finish out my pull list, which turned out to be another book of two halves as it saw Donna, Wally, Garth and Dick forced to work with their opposite numbers in the Justice League after finding themselves in an unknown location.With this annual, I found the first half felt very hard to get into, although I'm unsure why. While the reoccurring 'My Lord' gag regarding Aquaman was cute, the story just didn't seem to go anywhere. Fortunately, the second half improved and that was when the action really got started. That said, the thing I enjoyed most about this second was not so much the action but more the dynamic of the Titans as a revelation for Donna really showed their close-knit team which I enjoyed seeing as  well as the various teacher/student dynamics. All in all, I thought this was a largely forgettable issue which, while hinting at the overall big bad from the main series, offered very little else to Titans as a collection. I don't think it was quite a waste of my money, but pretty close. That said, my love of the Titans characters might mean this instalment doesn't hurt the series as a whole for me.

And that's March done. All in all, I thought it was a good month, especially thanks to the powerhouse comics of Daredevil and Lazarus. Now on to April, which sees my pull list down to five comics for the month. Hopefully, I can be a little more on time jotting down my thoughts for those.