Friday, December 19, 2008

Review - The Walking Dead 56

Rick and Sgt Ford lock horns as the struggle for control of the group breaks out into the open

Although this issue lacks the WOW factor of issue #55 (and does not have the startling cliffhanger conclusion of that issue), issue #56 is a slow burner. It took me a re-read of the issue to really get it. My first impressions were that it was a let-down after the high drama of the previous couple of episodes. Reading it again, I realised that this was a more subtle drama.

The main interest lies in the increasingly fractious relationship between Rick Grimes and Abraham Ford. Where previously Rick seemed content to let Sgt Ford take a firm grip on leadership of the survivors, he is now reasserting himself, and there appears to be an impasse developing. An impasse that looks likely to result in a bad outcome. We learn a little more about Ford towards the end of the book, and it is not in keeping with the previous 'action hero' persona. The new characters suddenly become a little more than saviours - more problematic and possibly posing more danger than previously thought. The battle for leadership of the group is beginning to break out into the open, with no reassurance that it will end peacefully.

A slow burner of an issue, but by the end of it the tensions and drama are beginning to boil. As they head on towards Washington DC, you get the sense that this group will have a hard time remaining united.

Verdict - moody, tense and bleak. After the amazing quality control of the last few issues you may feel that this issue is a slight downturn. Read it again. There are a lot of subtle power plays going on, broken hearts trying to find reassurance, new alliances being forged. Robert Kirkman just gets deeper and deeper into the fraught psychology of these survivors. Oh, and Adlard's art is, as always, superb. As this is the 5th Anniversary issue, it is also worth remembering that this is a title with astonishing quality control. Looking forward to when it reaches 10. I give this issue 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Young Liars no.10 - a review

Fairly linear story shock! Doesn't make it alright.

David Lapham has taken us on a bewildering journey over the last few episodes, but suddenly, and jarringly, we are back to something that is almost normal by the eccentric and almost halluciogenic qualities of this title. Dealing pretty much exclusively with the fate of Cee Cee, it plots her empty and tragic life, filled with grisly (yet touching) memento mori, the grief of loss and how sex becomes a way of numbing the pain and a weapon to use against men.

The problem for me is, as much as I want to like this title, and sometimes I do, I just find the narrative too disparate. How have we got to this part of the story? I am aware of all the characters, but I only really know their names. I dont know what if anything motivates them, and then we get to this issue, and we find out that Cee Cee got rejected when she was pregnant, had a miscarriage and went off the rails in a big way. I dont get it though. I dont understand why we find this out now, when it bears no real connection to issue 9, 8 or 7. Are we back to flashbacks and retrospective storytelling?

As a standalone issue it is fine. I dont know how sensitively the miscarriage and its aftermath are handled (a gratuitous amount of blood is depicted). I dont get it. I am lost as far as trying to orientate myself with the plot of Young Liars.

Verdict - its more confusing when its trying to tell a linear story about one of the cast of characters. It is not working for me anymore - none of it adds up. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. 5 out of 10.

Crossed #2 - review (2008)

Is there worse to come?

There is something very, very unnerving about the Garth Ennis / Jacen Burrows ultra-horror title 'Crossed'. Reading issue no.2, it was the equivalent of watching a horror film through your fingers, your hands up against your face, waiting for the inevitable and very bloody pay-off.

After the gruesome, blacker-than-black humour of issue no.2, where I sounded my reservations, I actually think I am beginning to understand it now. Ennis and Burrows are showing that in the terrible world they are creating, anyhting is possible, and the depravity unleashed is beyond some peoples comprehension. However, just because they can show it laid bare in its primal, evil squalor does not mean that they are going to show it.

Economy is the key with issue no.2, and it works magnificently. You go through the issue fearing the worst, and in that sense, you are almost in the experience with the survivors who aren't 'crossed'.

The characters who make it through to the end of the pages feel like survivors, and are actually starting to feel more rounded and less like devices with which Ennis and Burrows can work out their sex and gore mojo. Maybe that's the plan and next issue Ennis will throw it back in our faces, giving them all unimaginable deaths......

We reach the 'end of the first year' according to one of the characters, at the end of issue 2. It will be intriguing to see what Ennis and Burrows produce next time. What was looking tired, formulaic, survival horror, with an emphasis on the outre horror that mainstream comics probably haven't dared publish before is now looking like it has more substance and a more immersive quality than I gave it credit for. There are still some ridiculously gross moments, but they don't seem as bad as before. I am looking forward to issue 3 - and I never thought I would be thinking like that a month ago.

Verdict - thrilling, frightening, a queasy, unsettling thrill. 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review of The Walking Dead 55

The best issue yet?


In the letters pages,('Letter Hacks'), at the end of this book, Robert Kirkman expresses his, and his teams, satisfaction at this issue. The fact that it has come out a mere fortnight after issue 54 is a cause for celebration - the fact that it is so bloody fantastic and brilliant makes me incredibly happy - all this, and Batman #681 (ie the end of 'Batman RIP') to follow.....glorious. A lot of people will be happy with this issue of 'The Walking Dead', and it will, no doubt, get great reviews. All fully deserved.

Back to the book in hand - what is it that makes this issue so amazing? It is simple - Kirkman is starting to peel off plots and drop them all over the pages, which are again gloriously drawn by Charlie Adlard. If anything, Adlards art looks cleaner and fresher in this issue, and the emotion he manages to portray on these drawings of people is a high point for me issue after issue. In this single issue we got a further exploration of Ricks mental anguish, via a disturbing dream and his ongoing 'long-distance' relationship with Lori. We get an insight into his fears, especially with the dream. You can feel the man starting to break up, bit by bit. Be thankful then, that Sgt Ford is the new protector/warrior. There is a section where Sgt Ford gets to work out his action-man mojo on some 'roamers'. On top of that, you get a new perspective on the undead - a startling new avenue of exploration that neatly dovetails with the arrival of the new characters and specifically Dr Eugene Porter. Alongside that, there is a sense of fatigue and agitation amongst some of the group. Finally, to say that the ending is shocking.........I gasped. I never really gasp when reading comics, but this ending - it made me gasp. Kirkman, as I have said before, really seems to put a lot of energy into ending the issues on a cliff-hanger. This one is one of the best. Trust me.

After the bloody denouement of the prison siege and the relative calm of the following issues, 'The Walking Dead' has now begun a trajectory that is near impossible to chart - but it is certainly going upwards and onwards, and it is managing to be exciting and consistent and credible. The shocks and revelations are believable whilst being exciting and they genuinely move the story on. Lets hope (please!) we get one more before the end of the year. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

Verdict - I never get tired of praising this book - the best title out on the stands this year, any year. 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Young Liars - and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? (Vertigo, 2008)

David Laphams 'Young Liars' is proving to be an amazing experience - not always entertaining, sometimes confusing, but amazing indeed. The plot is not linear in the slightest - it hops, skips and jumps around time until, frankly, I am lost.

But it is the only comic book out now that can make me gasp and laugh at the same time. In fact it is the only book ever to make me laugh and gasp at the same time.

In this issue, we learn that, maybe, the invasion of the spiders from Mars is really just Sadie’s delusional dream -- but only “maybe” as Sadie’s confrontation with her mother and half-brother suggest that it could be real. Except that Danny knows she confuses reality and this delusional dream of hers, and has somehow worked to influence it, to change his role in it from the father/invader to hero Danny Duoshade. We’re never told how Danny accomplished this, but the idea is very intriguing.

As is Sadie’s continual failure to stop this invasion. Danny narrates that she always fails and always somehow lets five spiders escape, suggesting that this delusion is some sort of psychological defense, a reason to live in a way. Or, those five spiders actually keep escaping the same way villains continually escape the hero after being foiled in superhero comics. Lapham purposefully references superhero comics as Danny calls the manic, violent, excitable Sadie “Superhero Sadie,” the survival persona of Sadie who hunts the spiders and saves the world... but not quite.

What’s amazing is that the story Lapham is telling could turn out to be something as simple as a messed up girl with a bullet in her brain who is delusional, or it could be a full-out invasion by spiders from Mars with this Martian spider-princess as the only line of defense. Even Danny isn’t totally convinced that one possibility is the true one, and Lapham is brilliant at making both seem equally likely. There’s even the hint of questioning why they both can’t be true.

I cannot begin to summarise, and do not advise any newcomers to do anything other than, if they wish to join in on Laphams fun, then start with issue #1. You will still be confused within a few issues, but still, start at issue #1 or you will never ever understand.

Ostensibly about a group of 20-somethings from New York, all potentially treacherous, mainly psychotic, self serving and messed up, lurching from one disaster to another, their lives constantly in danger.

However, it is funny, energetic and vibrant. There is a lot of love going into this book, and it really deserves to be read by anyone with a love for comic books. Lapham, who writes and does the art in the book, and it is a great achievement.

But anyway, back to issue #9 -

Are these Spiders real? Who the hell is the guy who turns up at the end (this was the bit where I laughed and gasped at the same time)? What was going on with Sadies mom? and dad? The dad seemed fine a few issues ago, why is he dying now and what is with the dwarf and the prostrate??

My head hurts. They are collecting the first few issues in a trade and calling it 'Daydream Believer' - out Dec 2008. Relive it all in its gory, brutal, funny, weird beauty.

I am confused about Crossed

I am confused about Crossed (from Avatar Comics). I really enjoyed the first issue (which was a scene setter numbered as #0 and which I have written about here) but the second (i.e issue #1) left me with mixed feelings. I can understand what Garth Ennis (along with artist Jacen Burrows) wants to do here with this title. He wants to put a spin on the zombie genre by making those afflicted with the 'cross' the most depraved and insatiable savages imaginable. Or unimaginable. Probably unimaginable as there is one particular scene that happens towards the end of issue #1 that made my stomach churn and left me feeling very unhappy.

I read to be stimulated, and to be entertained, enlightened, moved, scared, even horrified. What Crossed #1 did was none of that. It just made me feel upset. I think I understand what Ennis wants to do - he wants to show what the end of the world could be like, a literal hell on earth. Those afflictged with the cross are a truly depraved bunch. I just dont know if I can stomach another issue of it. The title is essentially another zombie-type comic book. It does not deliver anything new - the plot mechanics are the same, in as much as there is an apocalyptic event and there are some survivors facing overwhelming odds to survive. It really doesn't look good for those trying to survive in Crossed. Maybe Ennis is trying to make a point about the inhumanity of man, the obsession with sex and horror ('are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?'*) and the appaling acts humans will inflict on each other - like the Nazis treatment of the Jews prior to and during World War II, the treatment of the Chinese at the hands of the Japanese aggressors when they occupied parts of China during that same war, and the more recent Genocide in the Balkans (to name a few). Maybe.

Maybe he just wants to see how far he can go. He has proved in other titles (including the excellent 'The Boys') that he is not afraid to portray sex, violence and death in unsentimental and disturbing ways. He has just excelled himself with 'Crossed'. There are a lot of questions posed - what is the significance of the cross on the afflicted? Is it an illness? Virus? If you can look beyond the outrageous and gratuitous sex and violence, you will probably get the answers. Maybe I will too, but whereas after issue zero I was firmly along for the whole run of the title, after issue one I am not too sure at all if I will be back beyond issue 2.

You can decide if future episodes are for you based on the solicitations of the forthcoming episodes (there are sceduled to be 9 not including issue #0). Have a look - this link shows issue 2 but there are others to look at;

Crossed solicitations at TFAW

*A Lyric from 'Two Tribes' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984)

Whatever happened to Infinite Horizon? AKA The frustration of the comic book reader and awry scheduling.

'The Infinite Horizon', an updating of 'The Odyssey' to reflect a modern day America and its troubled relationship with the Middle East, was given much fanfare and attention late last year by Image comics, who were to publish the 6 part series, and hailed by the comic community at large.
The initial episodes lived up to the hype, with both the story (by Gerry Duggan) and the art (by Phil Noto) being of a high quality and also inidividual enough to stand out from the ranks of superhero and zombie titles.

The first 3 episodes had been shipped by Spring 2008, but since then - nothing.

No news on the official creator site

Try googling for news - nothing, just the solicitations for #4 and onwards.

Considering this was a title that justified the hype,it seems a great shame that we may not get the chance to finish reading this story. Or maybe it will come out in another year or so. But will anyone care? You can expect delays
when it comes to comic book scheduling and releases. You need to be patient and allow a month or 2 of no releases on a title - but a 6 month delay? Longer than 6 months? It smacks of trouble, and inevitably there will be frustration, and ultimately this can lead to indifference, on the part of the reader, the person who has put it on their pull list. The person who has been led to believe a 6 issue
series should come out in regluar instalments. When issues fail to ship you lose continuity (which can always be remedied by reading the previous issues again I know), but more fundamentally, the reader can lose faith in the product.

I hope Image and the creative team behind 'The Infinite Horizon' can get the remaining issues out. I hope they still get a substantial readership. They deserve it for
such an interesting and innovative title. If they leave it much longer though, I think it may be too late. In that case, 'Infinite Horizon' may be an apt description on how shipping dates for #4, 5 & 6......

Can anyone update me on this?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review - The Walking Dead #52 (Image)

Well, it's a bit of a bridging episode this, as we get reintroduced to some old faces and we see more of the change in Rick (his lack of confidence, his hurt, his powerlessness, his disability, his anger). Carl has a few moments where we still glimpse the child who has somehow got this far amongst all this horror and death.

The main returning character plays up to their strengths, and it is great to see them in action again, and it seems as if Rick is glad of the relief. There are a couple more who make an appearance.......but that would spoil it wouldnt it? Go read it.

Not a lot happens, but at the same time the pieces are being put together for something much bigger than this current arc, which now seems to be coming to an end (I assume that this arc was all about Rick and Carl post-massacre). The fact that there are going to be more characters means we lose the intimacy and slower pacing of recent issues, but maybe what we will be getting in the near future is something more dynamic and pacy. Robert Kirkman always serves up a cliffhanger or a surprise, and this issue is no different. What the ending seems to suggest is a new lease of life for Rick and Carl. That should be a good thing, especially in terms of survival....

I still love this title. 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Whats looks good, out this week....(03/09/08)

Not a lot really catches my eye this week - nothing from Image or DC in particular, or Dark Horse, but Marvel have a couple of intriguing titles;

The Stand: Captain Trips #1 (Marvel)

Well, finally they get around to serialising the best (in my opinion) Stephen King novel, 'The Stand'. This could be amazing if done well.........More info on the link below;

The Amazing Spiderman #570 (Marvel)

All I need to say is - Anti-Venom!!!

and finally, but most importantly, the fantastic 'The Boys' #22 (Dynamite), as 'I Tell You No Lie, GI' wraps up. After the awesome #21, I am expecting more revelations, more violence and great storytelling from Garth Ennis

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Where are.........................????

Where are

Resurrection #6 (out end of august????)
Kick-Ass #4 (again, reportedly out last week in August)
Pretty Baby Machine #2 (heard nothing about this one)
Infinite Horizon #4 (again, not a sausage)
Zombies! Hunters! #2 (I think this has just sunk without trace)

Come on, where are these comics!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review - The Boys #21 (Dynamite Pub.)

This issue of Garth Ennis' 'The Boys' is up there with the best of the year -(The Walking Dead #48, Kick-Ass #3, Mighty Avengers #13, Judenhaus). It came out around 10 days ago, but I have only just got around to reading it, and I need to express my admiration for it.

This is the 3rd part of the current story arc 'I Tell You No Lie G.I', and recounts the involvement of the super-team 'The Seven' in that worlds version of 9/11. The President has all the intel on the planned terrorist atrocities and the Military are primed to intercept the threat. On the day, all but one of the hijacked planes are intercepted and shot down, but the last plane is ordered to be left alone. Why? So 'The Seven' can use their powers to save the plane and the passengers and kill the bad guys. There is a vested interest in this, in that the Vice-President is heavily involved with the Company who 'own' the Superheroes who comprise 'The Seven'. This sort of superhero involvement would generate lots of good press, and lots of money-making opportunites as a result. Cash from chaos and bloody murder.

Things do not go to plan. The Superheroes are ill-prepared to face the threat and their incompetence soon becomes apparent. Uncompromising and blackly comic in its narration of the hijack rescue as it is lacerating in the anger toward the collusion between Industry, Government and Military, this issue is angry and shocking, and a fantastic read. The art matches the bleak storyline, as it judders towards its Munich massacre/UA Flight 93 conclusion.

The Boys is a brilliant title, dark, comedic, crude, bloody and a smack in the face of the belief that because there are Superheroes, they must be doing the right thing and are beyond reproach in their actions, and these actions (of course) only have consequences for the villains. Recommended (get the first 2 Trades and work your way up to #21)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Review - Welcome to Hoxford #1 (IDW)

Ray Delgado has lived a bad and disturbed life. He has been created from pain, abuse and misery, and is now the one who deals out pain, abuse and misery. A lifer with no chance of parole, he and several others who are beyond salvation are sent to a maximum security facility that is privately owned by a Russian security firm. You know that there is some other motive other than rehabilitation about the place, and the pay-off is well worth buying this book for. When a violent, unlikeable psychopath looks like they are going to play hero, you know you are in for something a bit beyond the pale. This has the makings of being up there with the best high concept mash-ups in comic form. Templesmith keeps the language gritty, the story repulsive and the art is a brilliant blend of photo-realism and celebratory gore.

It is isn't going to be for everyone, but along with the release of Crossed last week, this is proof that Horror fiction is best played out in comics right now.

Consider me *ahem* 'hooked'.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reaction to The Walking Dead #51

The Walking Dead #51 is deservedly getting a great big YESSSS! from anyone who has read it, seemingly; - IGN
- Comics Bulletin - ifanboy

and my take on it is here

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Out of a cannon, like a daredevil......!!

This has to take the prize for the worst pitch for a superhero cartoon ever - check out the link and you too will believe that a man without fear can be called Daredevil, and have a crime-fighting sidekick sight dog and a young niece who fires him out of a cannon from the back of a van;

and then give thanks to Frank Miller, for this cover;

Was Matt Murdock aiming the gun at anyone particular (like the ABC executives??)?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Walking Dead 51 Review (2008)

First of all, let me say that that cover is great - a POV of a fatal zombie attack with a kind of pink hue makes for one of the more interesting covers of the year so far. I like what Adlard does with his covers, and the way he uses a dominant background colour to denote something or other (like with the reds of the 'No-one is safe' arc.

So issue 51 finally comes around, 6 weeks after the 'standalone' issue 50, which was all about Carl. This issue is more balanced, with Carl still getting a chance to develop as a character (and Kirkman gets to put an educational message across about the joy of reading). You get the sense more and more now that this is a child who is having to grow up fast, but for all his steely resolve and pragmatism, the child in him still manifests itself on occasional moments that are touching and real.

Rick is troubled, and this is understandable, but the way this is developing gives cause for concern (for the character). I will say no more on that, other than to praise the plot device that enables it, alongside the big full page reveal, and the subsequent aftermath where Rick realises (maybe) what is going on.

Out in the world beyond their current bolt-hole, there is a zombie attack (hence the cover). I'll say no more on that. It works, it sums up the desperation and lack of hope in a disturbing, horrific way.

This is another issue where you could say that nothing much happens, but I would argue that this issue may prove significant in determining the futures of both Rick and Carl. Is Ricks grief at the death of his wife and infant child going to take its toll? Is the hopelessness of their situation finally weighing him down? I hate to make comparisons but when I am reading through this issue I cannot help but think of 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy - the strong bond between father and son, the massive importance on the basics of life (food, shelter) and the tangible feeling that the burden of responsibility on the father may ultimately prove too much, mentally and physically.

I don't care what happens next issue - I trust Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard to deliver. It looks as if someone from the recent past may show up, and that may be the beginning of a new chapter in Rick and Carl's life. If that is the case, then this brief glimpse into the father and son dynamics, played out since the end of the 'no-one is safe' arc, has to be cherished as a change of pace and scripting that worked beautifully.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Monday, August 11, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, August 13th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

The Walking Dead #51 (Image)

The cover is intruiging enough - though, if like me, you tend to hunt out future comic covers, you may or may not be too excited by the tease on the cover. Whose hands are those??? At the very least, it looks like we are in for some zombie action...

Last issue was a bit (*sigh*) of a let-down really. A bit forgettable, not long enough for a 50th issue and didnt really take the story anywhere. It was still better than most anything else that week (or that month), but that is not the point. Standards are high with 'The Walking Dead', and when they dip a little, especially combined with the slipped shipping dates, it can make it a bit of a disappointing experience. Still, I have high hopes for this issue - bring back the rest of the cast!!!

Young Liars #6 (Veritgo)

Well, where do you go after the final pages of #5? I cannot imagine. For anyone thinking of jumping on at this point, I would suggest they go back and investigate from issue 1 - this is NOT the sort of tale you can just dip in and out of. The situation that some of the main characters find themselves in as of the end of #5 are so dire, so life threatening and so truly horrific that it really would make no sense to newcomers. It doesn't make that much sense to me either, and I have been reading the thing since #1. Probably the most intriguing release of the week, and will more than likely be the most controversial.

A couple of huge titles out this week - namely 'Secret Invasion' #5, and Batman (RIP) #679, which should be well worth it, and these Secret Invasion tie-ins;

Captain Britain & MI13 #4
Secret Invasion: Thor #1
Secret Invasion: X-Men #1
Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1

all look promising - all in all this is looking the best week in several for titles. Which is good, beacuse the weather here is rubbish and there seems to be no let up.

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Review - Crossed (Avatar)

Out now as an issue 0 (and cheap at under £1 - you shouldn't expect to pay more than 75p) this is the new Garth Ennis title, with art by Jacen Burrows. It starts off with a startling first page;

and from there it gets more and more nightmarish, anarchic and nasty. Told from the perspective of a young man seemingly content to drift through life, the text is sharp, concise and knows when to drop a startling, sickening observation on the madness that ensues. Although there are only 11 pages, this truly is a showcase on how to get readers locked into a story. The horror is bloody, disturbing and visceral - I found myself turning pages and wondering how much more perverse and gory it could get. That is a recommendation, by the way. Great way to end the issue as well. Burrows art keeps up with the manic thrills and does a good job of illustrating a towns descent into hell.

As horrific and post-apocalyptic as it gets, Crossed is on my pull list, joining the likes of Kirkman's 'The Walking Dead' and Guggenheim's 'Resurrection'.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Was it worth it? July 20th 2008

A new feature where I sum up the weeks releases, as seen here.

Marvel have been releasing some fantastic Avengers material this last few months, tying in with the main 'Secret Invasion' title. This week saw the release of 'Mighty Avengers #16, with the back-story on how Elektra became a Skrull. This issue was not as involving as recent issues, there were no real revelations, no 'wow' moments. For that, you needed to be reading 'Marvel 1985 #3', because there were some disturbing scenes, not least a woman cradling her baby, singing a lullaby and......i'll say no more. It has to be seen, not spoiled. Best title of the week, getting an 8.5 out of 10 from me.

Elsewhere, another Zombie title surfaced, 'ZMD Zombies of Mass Destruction', which was okay - a decent enough premise, nicely paced, reasonable cliffhanger (that you could see waaay off, but anyway). Worth getting #2 for anyway. 'FoolKiller - White Angels' #1 (Marvel Max) sees white supremacists loose in LA. Great art and a nicely paced story. A bit generic, but in a good way, because it is so well told. It will also make you angry, but that is probably the point. Up there with the best this week.

So was it worth it? Well, 2 great titles, 2 good titles. 'Foolkiller' and 'ZMD' are worth following up on, and 'Marvel 1985' gets better and better.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, July 16th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

Quick post this, as there is nothing that really grabs me this week......

Mighty Avengers #16 (Marvel)

More Secret Invasion! One of the best titles on the market at the minute - better than the main title etc....This one tells the back-story of the Elektra Skrull.

Preview here

Marvel 1985 #3 (Marvel)

The mysterious house, the super villains, the old comics, the estranged father etc etc

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, July 9th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

It's Captain week!!!

Captain America White #0 (Marvel)

Loeb & Sale bring their 'colour' treatment to bear on the USAs finest soldier. Intriguing, exciting and it will be interesting to see if knocks Secret Invasion into a cocked hat (likely..)

Captain Britain & MI13 #3 (Marvel)

The not-so Secret Invasion of the UK continues, but where is Brian Braddock?? After the great opening issues, I still have a lot of faith in this.

Shark-Man #3 (Image)

Wasn't the last one out about 6 months ago? Whatever - although the story seems a bit hokey I can live with it if the artwork is as good as the last couple of issues.

Oh, and we get Secret Invasion #4 (Marvel), but lets face it, everyone would rather read the Avengers tie-ins. Saying that, #3 had the return of Nick Fury and his new squad, so maybe it will just be a bigger and better scrap this time round.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Review - The Walking Dead #50 (Image)

Carl steps out of the shadow of his Father

The best that can be said about this issue is it brings on the progression of one of the major, but hitherto underdeveloped, characters in this title. As Rick Grimes drifts in and out of consciousness, his son Carl is hostage to his emotions, as helplessness, anger, grief (especially in light of what happened in issue #48) and fear take hold. When unexpected visitors turn up at their hideout, Carl has to make some tough decisions. After that we are left with Carl questioning his relationship with his Father and the dynamics of responsibility and duty of care that bind any parent and child. There is some great artwork, especially the final frame - for once, something other than a cliffhanger, but actually all the better for it. I read the thing twice, and I got it more the second time around. The recent 'no-one is safe' arc was such a relentlessly violent and brutal series of issues that the change in pace in #49 and #50 is a bit of a jolt, and this issue is more thoughtful and relies more on the personality of the characters. It does work. It works well as what we are witnessing is another character taking the centre stage, some character progression. When Carl speaks, his monologues just stay the right side of 'perhaps a young kid would say that'. Thank you Robert Kirkman.

Review - don't expect fireworks, but this tale is moving and moves the overall story on. 8.7 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, July 2nd, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

It's Walking Dead week!!!!!!!

Walking Dead #50 (Image)

A one-off special story that will apparently warm our hearts while chilling us to the bone - there is a 5 page preview here. It feels like another looong wait since #49, but that is part and parcel of following the comics as opposed to the trades for Kirkmans' apocalyptic drama. Waiting for the trades must be even worse (#8, 'Made to Suffer' is finally out now). There will be a review of this as soon as it gets read.

Batman #678 (DC)

Batman RIP continues, as the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together. Shaping up nicely, and the tie-in issues (Nightwing, Robin etc) kick in soon...

The Boys #20 (Dynamite)

More revelations about the Boys and the Seven as 'I Tell You No Lie GI' continues. This title gets better and better, in both the story and the art.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Review - New Avengers #42 (Marvel)

The best Secret Invasion title so far

The story of how Jessica Drew, a double agent for SHIELD and HYDRA, and a reinstated Avenger as Spider-Woman, got replaced by the Skrull Empress Veranke. To go into too much detail would post too many spoilers, but let me say that this story never challenges the Marvel continuity, its full of talking but never boring, the action, when it happens, tends to be of the inter-personal variety and does not suffer one bit for that.The art is fantastic, the ending is amazing and it is about 10 times better than the main title it ties into. Above all else, the Avengers titles that tie-in to the main 'Secret Invasion' book are mandatory if you want to get more out of the story than a few big fights. I look forward to these Avengers titles more than any other at the moment. The best Marvel is offering at the minute, and its of a very high standard.

Review - intricate, makes sense, thrilling, great art, a fantastic, mysterious climax - the best this week. 9.5 out of 10.

Review - Mighty Avengers #15 (Marvel)

Those Avengers titles keep proving to be the best books out there at the moment

Hank Pym, ex-Yellowjacket, Ant-Man and Goliath, was, at some point, replaced by a Skrull as part of their Earth Invasion plan. This issues gives you the backstory on those events. We see how the volatile, destructive relationship between Hank and Janet Pym (aka Wasp) leads to him falling under the influence of a female Skrull disguised as a beautiful British student. From there on in, we see Hank embrace the Skrull mission with shocking ease - and the final panel is a disturbing 'here, my dear' moment as Hank and Janet are briefly reunited.

Review - these titles (Mighty & New Avengers) lift Secret Invasion from the average to the sublime. You have to read this. 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, June 25th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

Wow - in some amazing piece of planning, it's Avengers week.....

Mighty Avengers #15
New Avengers #42
Avengers Initiative #14 (all Marvel)

In Mighty Avengers;

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO-----? Rewinding the clock to Avengers Dissassembled we reveal how one of the main players in SECRET INVASION was replaced by a Skrull and what the fallout has been. A major SECRET INVASION chapter is here! Oh, but you want to know exactly who we're talking about right? Spoilers, dude!

In New Avengers;

THE EMPIRE part 3. For 42 issues readers of New Avengers have wondered, who caused the breakout in New Avengers #1 and why? And how was this the real start of the SECRET INVASION? Find out right here!! Special guest artist Jim Cheung returns to these pages for this shocking story.

In Avengere Initiative;

"We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us!"
During the INFILTRATION, a Skrull at the heart of the Camp Hammond said these words: "It won't be long until we have a Skrull in every state! "Now that Skrull stands revealed and the fate of The Initiative, the United States, and Planet Earth hang in the balance. Plus: Former Avenger, Delroy Garret, assumes the mantle and arsenal of Earth's greatest Skrull-Hunter, THE 3-D MAN. He's here to chew bubblegum and kick some Skrull-@$$. And he's all out of bubblegum.

Uncanny X-Men #499 (Marvel)

The one before the big 500, as 'Divided We Stand' reaches its conclusion, with Wolverine and co in Russia, and Cyclops and Emma Frost are still psychedelicalised (is that a word?)

Daredevil #108

Part 2 of 'Cruel and Unusual', as a reeling Matt Murdock is fighting a losing battle defending a man who is on Death Row and has every intention of keeping his execution date. Ed Brubaker continues his excellent Daredevil run.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, June 11th 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

Young Liars #4 (Vertigo)

The kerazy life of Sadie Hopkins and those pulled into her happy/insane malevolent/innocent orbit continues - hope this issue picks up a bit as last time it felt a bit laboured.

Captain Britain & MI 13 #2 (Marvel)le

Really liked the debut issue, a nice take on the worldwide trauma of the 'secret invasion'. I think I am going to like the follow up, as we find out if Brian Braddock (aka Captain Britain) had made the supreme sacrifice....oh, and maybe a look at Captain Midlands? (I like to know who represents me in my constituency).

Red Mass For Mars (Image)

Brought to us by the man behind the excellent Transhuman & Pax Romana, Johnathan Hickman, with art by new Image artist Ryan Bodenheim. The solicitation goes like this;

"In a world that has survived every catastrophe imaginable, a new threat from the beyond stars looks to be the end of all humanity. "A Red Mass For Mars" tells the story of the last days of Earth and the one man who could have saved us all - but didn't!"

Sounds super-intriguing, lets hope this post-apocalyptic tale lives up to Hickmans other work. The pick of the bunch this time round, with a review, no doubt.

Although I am only on the trades (and around issue 21 as it stands) I am way off the landmark 50th issue of Invincible (Image Comics), but its been a long time coming, so gets the mention. The cover, if you have even a passing knowledge of the series, is terrificly exciting;

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Week of the Dead at CBR

Over at CBR this week they are running a 'Week of the Dead' special to celebrate 'The Walking Dead' hitting issue #50. Interviews with Kirkman & Adlard, and best of all, a 5 page preview of #50...

Interview with Robert Kirkman
Interview with Charlie Adlard
A preview of Walking Dead #50

Review - Zombies! Hunters #1 (IDW)

Its the undeadliest game! Big money zombie shoot!

A few months ago I speculated about Zombie game hunting while surrounded by some of my work colleagues. They can stop laughing now, because it is a reality......

Well, okay, it is just a new comic book from IDW titles 'Zombies! Hunters'. The title itself is a bit cumbersome, but the action contained therein is not. In terms of high concept, it goes a bit like this;

'The Most Dangerous Game' meets 'Resident Evil'

and yes, 'The Most Dangerous Game' has been lifted many times (like 'Surviving the Game' with Ice-T, and the early 'Most Dangerous Game' from 1932 which you can watch here). This comic uses all the conventions of this concept (the wealthy hunters, the remote island) and throws some Voodoo magicked Zombies in as the prey. These zombies seem pretty resilient though, and you get the sense that some of these big time, big game hunters are going to get theres sooner rather than later (maybe one of the rednecks or the Internet entrepreneur for starters??).

The art is a major plus factor, especially the portrayal of the zombies as pumped up, fearsome killers, as opposed to shambling, pathetic cannon fodder.

So what if it is another riff on the Zombie genre, and the concept of big money, illegal hunting humans is not very original? This issue manages to get the scene setting out the way quickly enough to see some major action at the end, with a great 'Zombies Lake' pay off at the end. What's not to like??

Review - loved it. Trashy, fun and action packed, with great artwork. 9 out of 10.

Review - Pigeons from Hell #2 (Dark Horse)

Issue #2 of this Robert E Howard adaptation, and things start getting really nasty

Shaping up to be a great mini-series, as things get grisly and ever so slightly like Evil Dead-ish as the malevolent spirits that surround this damned house begin to move in on the inheritors and their friends. A lawman turns up to aid the beleagured group, but you get the feeling that no-one is going to get out of this happy.

The art is a great visceral treat, and the dialogue doesn't drag the action down too much. This is a great slice of Southern Gothic. Looking forward to next time.

Review - Another unexpected treat - visceral and creepy, with a great sense of foreboding. 8 out of 10.

Review - The Mighty Avengers #14 (Marvel)

The Secret Invasion story gets more expansive as the Skrulls mind games get nastier

These great 'Secret Invasion' tie-ins keep coming. This one fills out part of the story from issue #13 when Vision (one of the Heroes from the past) confronted present day Sentry. Let's just say it's all part of the Grand Skrull Plan, and it is told with great flair.

There is not a lot more to say really - Jarvis has a great part to play in it, Sentry is a flawed character that you feel bad for, especially now he is being manipulated by the Skrulls, and everything is looking pretty bleak for Earth at the minute.

Review - Another essential part of the overall 'Secret Invasion' title. It all adds up to a whole lot of trouble for Earth, but enjoy it while it lasts. A great tie-in (again!). 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, May 21st, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next Aweeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

Walking Dead Special Ed #1 (Image)

A reprint of No.1 with extras (which is why I am getting it)

Kirkman discusses the Walking Dead, including issue 50 here

Pigeons from Hell #2 (Dark Horse)

Really enjoyed the first issue of this creepy Robert E Howard adaptation, even if pigeons don't really come from Hell. They are just really annoying.

Preview here

Bomb Queen V #1 (Image)

Hoorah! More perversity, mindless carnage and bad language courtesy of Jimmie Robinson. I would love to see them try to make the Bomb Queen saga into a movie....

Preview of the first issue here

No 'Listening for the Letterbox' for a couple of weeks now - back in early June.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Friday, May 16, 2008

Review - Young Liars #3 (Vertigo)

It's rock n roll! It's bewildering! Sadie Hopkins wants to dance, dance, dance!

David Laphams 'Young Liars' is so closely linked with music (for example, the title is taken from 'TV on the Radio's first EP). Most of the action seems to take place in clubs or gigs, one of the male leads is a wannabe guitarist, there are lyrics all over the panels moving the narrative along. You also get a real sense of the urgency of youth, the energy, the drama. All the things that drives rock n' roll and all that stuff. Plus you get all the attendant bullshit, the backstabbing (ever been in a band?), the shattered dreams, the effervescence bordering on nauseating (more on that in a bit).

This issue continues the music theme (this issue is entitled 'Hard Knock Life' reflecting the characters own fortunes), but the story gets bewildering at times, jumping around like a needle skipping across a battered vinyl record. One minute we are in 2006, then the 'present', then January 2008. It all gets a bit confusing, but in a happy drunk kind of way. The tale fairly skips along, though I must admit to getting a bit exhausted with Sadie Hopkins''exuberance' as she seems to be permanently on some sort of sugar high, even at times when its obvious that everyone else is concerned about a more important matter, Sadie just don't get it. She just wants to dance. I know this is explained by the bullet lodged in her brain (that is eventually going to kill her) has removed her inhibitions, but does she ever calm down a bit?

I loved the first couple of issues, it is just I love this one a little bit less. I hope it starts to make more sense next time round. I hope Sadie calms down a bit.

Verdict - like having lots of beers on an empty stomach, the high is great while it lasts, but then confusion gives way to a headache. Bizarre but full of life. I want this to succeed. as I think it has the potential to be another great Vertigo title. this issue gets a 6.5 out of 10.

Young Liars at the Vertigo Site

Thursday, May 15, 2008

2000ad - the home of future sport in the 70's and 80's

Adapted from the article that first appeared on Those We Left Behind

2000AD - the British comic of the future from the 1970s right up until now, where it is more of an institution, a comic that has survived the now depressed and ravaged British comics scene for over 30 years. Telling stories of the future by reflecting the interests of the day has enabled the comic to retain a readership and continue to survive. One of the comics favourite themes in the early years was future sport. The very first strips in 2000AD were heavily inspired by popular culture (MACH1 was another take on the 6 Million Dollar Man, Judge Dredd a version of Dirty Harry/ Clint Eastwood) and so the first future sport strip 'Harlem Heroes' was probably influenced by the commercial success of Rollerball, the 1975 film starring James Caan. It is also worth noting that most British boys comics of the time had sports strips, from 'Roy of the Rovers' (who had graduated from 'Tiger' to his own comic in 1976) to 'Look out for Lefty' from 'Action' comic. Action (the forerunner of 2000AD in many respects, not least the fact it came from the same publishing house, IPC) also had the prototype for future sport titles, 'Death Game 1999'. The strip was written by Tom Tully who went on to create both 'Harlem Heroes' and later on, 'Mean Arena' for 2000AD.

What follows is not a definitive article on 'future sport' titles that appeared in 2000AD, but it lists some of the more popular and/or long-running series in the comic, specifically in the late 1970s (when the comic began) through til the late 1980s (when my own interest in the comic dissipated).

Harlem Heroes (progs 1-27)

Although I can speculate that the interest in future sports had come from the success of 'Rollerball', 'Harlem Heroes' was actually a strip based around the fictitious game of 'aeroball' that had swept the world by the year 2050;

"It's Football, Boxing, Kung Fu and Basketball all rolled into one! Players roar through the air wearing jet packs (controlled by buttons on their belts) and score "air strikes" by getting the ball in the "score tank". One of the top teams is the all-black Harlem Heroes!"
(taken from the first 'Harlem Heroes' strip in Prog 1 of 2000AD, 1977)

and the titular team are obviously inspried by the 'Harlem Globetrotters' who had their own Hanna-Barbera cartoon series in the early Seventies.

One of the main stars of the strip was the team captain, John 'Giant' Clay, and his character was one who would crossover into another title - a rare 'cross-over' event within the 2000AD universe - as he was the father of Judge Giant, an important figure in the early stories of Judge Dredd, who helped defeat the tyrannical Judge Cal. The series followed the fortunes of the 'Heroes as they competed in the 'World Aeroball Championship'. In a storyline reminiscent of the Munich disaster that claimed the lives of 7 Manchester United football players, the Harlem Heroes have to recover from the devastating loss of most of their team who are killed in a bus crash following a preliminary round victory. Subsequent episodes followed by the survivors and new recruits as they battled through the Championship against the likes of 'The Baltimore Bulls' and 'The Siberian Wolves'. The early episodes were drawn by Dave Gibbons, but the amazing Massimo Bellardinelli took over the art duties on the final episodes and its sequel, Inferno.

Inferno (progs 36-75)

Inferno was the direct sequel to Harlem Heroes, again scripted by Tom Tully and illustrated by Bellardinelli. Billed as being 'Deadlier than Aeroball' on its very first page, it lived up to its promise. Overtly violent compared to its predeccesor, it followed the 'Harlem Hellcats' who were the rechristened, surviving 'Harlem Heroes' as they contested in 'Inferno', a legalised spectator 'death sport'. The plot wreaks havoc and death upon the team, with very few surviving to the gloomy, nihilistic finale. Even Tharg seemed to have had enough by then, popping up in the middle of a page in the final episode, adding narration and explaining another Hellcat loss, as opposed to Bellardinelli visualising it. All very brutal and downbeat. This wouldnt be the last time a strip would be ended so gracelessly (see the entry for 'The Mean Team', further down this post).

Harlem Heroes / Inferno Links

The Harlem Heroes entry at 2000AD online
Harlem Heroes at wikipedia entry for Inferno
David Bishop on the Inferno controversy
The 'progslog' blog details the final episodes of Inferno

The Mean Arena (various progs from 1980 until 1982)

That man Tom Tully again. Alongside several artists (notably Steve Dillon did a stint, but John Richardson was the first artist on title) Tully created another futuresport scenario - this one was a bit like street football and rugby, but with whole urban areas given over to it. There was, of course, the possibility of death lurking around every corner. The hero was called Matt Talon, and he led the Slayers in the 'Mean Arena', helping them rise from obscurity to new heights. Think 'Rollerball' meets 'Roy of the Rovers'. Sub-plots abounded such as Tallons brother dying as a combatant in the 'Mean Arena', and the possibility of a traitor in his own ranks. Despite its numerous appearances over several years, it was never a classic in my opinion, but gets 7.26 thrillpower at the 2000AD site (mind you, only 19 people have voted...)

Mean Arena Links

The 2000AD fansite nails it with all the info, including all progs that featured The Mean Arena
2000AD site entry
This is great - a really fascinating insight, writer david bishop interviews 2000ad editor steve mcmanus (aka 'tharg') and puts it on his blog. There is a short conversation about Mean Arena

The Mean Team (various progs from 1985, 1987 & 1989)

Another strip illustrated by the peerless Massimo Bellardinelli, who made memorable anything he worked on (Ace Trucking Co, Meltdown Man, early Slaine, Harlem Heroes, Inferno), 'The Mean Team' was another mixed affair. Sometimes it was downright bizarre as well as bleak, brutal and ham-fisted. Initially written by Wagner & Grant under the pseudonym of 'The Beast', this was initially a future sport title, where really bad people got to play some sort of death sport with death around every corner (you follow me?), but turned into something like a quest. It was a bit silly really and a lot of it was forgettable - especially the sequels to the original 'Mean Team', those being 'Return' in 1987 and 'Survivor' in 1989. Anyone who has read the story will know that this is how silly it could get;

That is 'Bad' Jack Keller finding the right combination of words to get some magical staff working to save himself and his fellow team members. Lucky those words happened to be 'The Mean Team', eh???

There were times when you could almost read the new instructions coming from editorial decisions panel by panel, as the future sport theme was clearly not working, so they changed tack so that the story turns into a sort of quest, followed by a last minute decision to ensure that most of 'The Mean Team' would not be coming back for a sequel - I mean, how abrupt an ending is this?

As freakytrigger
succinctly puts it in a great article about the end of The Mean Team, it is probably the worst ending to a comic ever - it just feels like its execution (pun intended) is done on a whim, almost an afterthought to wrap up the story.

Mean Team Links

International Hero profiles the Mean Team
2000ad entry for Mean Team
Well, at least someone likes it
2000AD review site
Wiki entry for Bellardinelli
2000AD online entry for The Mean Team

2000AD seemed to stick to a formula for 'future sport' titles, and that mainly involved the threat of violence and sudden death (a legacy of 'Rollerball'?). There is no doubt that there was a perceived need for this element in the comics make-up, as sports strips were very popular throughout the 70's and 80's. The success of 'Roy of the Rovers', as well as factual titles such as 'Shoot' (which for a while in the 90s ran 'Roy of the Rovers' episodes and 'Goal' proved there was an appetite for such fare. Translating this passion for sports stories to science fiction did not always work - 'The Mean Team' seemed convuluted, 'Inferno' unnessecarily violent and bleak - but when it hit its stride, it could provide as entertaining as any other strip in that particular issue.

Review - Captain Britain and MI13 #1 (Marvel)

Another Secret Invasion tie-in? I know, I know, but wait! This one has the reappearance of Captain Britan and The Black Knight!

Britain is under attack by the Skrulls - but why? Something to do with the amount of magic flowing around this green and pleasant land apparently. Only Captain Britain, The Black Knight, Pete Wisdom and Spitfire stand between us and the Skrulls dastardly plan,

The comic rips along at a great pace, with some surprising violence, including decapitations and throats getting ripped out by teeth. The pace is lively, with a real sense of Britain under siege. All the heroes get a turn in the spotlight, and the Super Skrull composites of earthly heroes are imaginative and fun. Captain Britain is really given a chance to prove his heroic credentials in the final pages, and the issue leaves us on a (quite literally) explosive cliffhanger.

Unlike the recent Avengers tie-ins, this Secret Invasion title is all about the Captain Britain and MI13. It is all the better for it. Looking forward to a glimpse of Captain Midlands in the next issue, please!

Verdict - the pace, writing and art are great. An enjoyable Secret Invasion tie-in. 8 out of 10.

Reaction to Walking Dead #49

Weekly Comic Book Reviews thoughts

IGN review

Amber Streets thoughts on the issue

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Review - The Walking Dead 49 (Image)

We are pitched straight in after the events of issue #48, and you really get a sense of desolation, of the aftermath of a war. The pace is slower, but The Walking Dead never ceases to be anything less than engaging.

As we return to the scene of the massacre, a familiar face surveys the battleground, clearing up one plot thread while taking care of business, as old friends threaten to reanimate. Meanwhile Rick & Carl are trying to come to terms with the horror of their loss, while having to cope with the new hostile environment they are in. They are out in the open, having to look for food and shelter, dealing with the undead 'roamers'. Kirkman even finds humour in the food hunt as Carl, despite his experiences, shows a childs petulence when faced with 'crappy cereal'.

As the issue progresses we focus on Rick & Carl. It is a simply told issue, not a lot happens, but the small touches, such as Carls all too obvious grief, are touching and are made so by Adlards sterling artwork.

The final scenes are low key compared to recent issues, but no less devastating a cliffhanger awaits you. There are never enough pages in these damn issues. Next up, the big get the feeling that Kirkman is about to heap more misery on whats left of the Grimes family........

Verdict - quieter, more understated, but Kirkman is tantalising us with possibilities while delivering another mighty cliffhanger. Up to the usual standard. 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Secret Invasion update, plus assorted news

An update on 'what we know' about the Skrulls Secret Invasion, courtesty of newsarama

New Clone Wars trailer here

Lying In The Gutters
has news on Garth Ennis, Kick-Ass and more

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

The Walking Dead #54 cover art

This is the cover art for The Walking Dead #54, a planned August 2008 release from Image. It was posted on the Kirkman board at Image, but there is no link to an official solicitation. The cover art follows on neatly from issue #53, where we get a first glimpse of some new characters. Well, it looks like they could be sticking around for a while. This cover is proclaiming that there will be more action, more Zombies, and those Zombies are getting got. Gun n' run. Love it. Have we seen the last of Rick and Carl for now? Is The Walking Dead now following the lives of others as the main storyline???

Let us hope it is August 2008 when we get the answers to these questions (though it would not be unrealistic to expect to get issue #54 anytime around the Autumn).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, May 14th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

Secret Invasion Fantastic Four #1 / Captain Britan & MI13 #1 (both Marvel)

More Secret Invasion tie-ins (surprise, surprise). Looking forward to Captain Britain in a new title!

Transhuman #2 (Image)

A documentary in a comic!

Young Liars #3 (Vertigo)

More teen spirit and angst, with added murder and violence (and guitars) courtesy of David Lapham. Loved the first 2 issues, see no reason why #3 will not be as good.

Batman #676 (DC)

The beginning of the end for Bruce Wayne? The start of 'Batman RIP'.
Who will live, who will die, who will be Batman?

The Walking Dead #49 (Image)

After the incredible, blood-soaked and emotionally draining finale to the 'No-one is safe' arc, we are plunged into the living nightmare that Rick & Carl Grimes are going through. No idea how this is going to pan out, but I do not doubt it will be anything less than 22 pages of brilliance.

More on Young Liars #3 here

More on Batman RIP here and

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Secret Invasion round-up

CBR has Mike Careys plans for Secret Invasion here

CBR review of Secret Invasion #2

Good to see that the Secret Invasion tie-ins are doing well

A round up of what has been going on from comics2film

IGN Secret Invasion #2 review

A review of Mighty Avengers #13 from IGN

Review - The Mighty Avengers #13 (Marvel)

Unbelievably, this is another fantastic tie-in to the main 'Secret Invasion' title. It is almost too good to be true. In fact 'Mighty Avengers' is currently even better than the main title it is feeding into....

Carrying on from last month, we basically get less Nick Fury, but he is still there at all the right moments. Who we do see more of is Dasiy Johnson (aka Quake), a former SHIELD agent who manages to cover a lot of ground as she goes around the world recruiting 'caterpillars' as part of a Nick Fury masterplan....

Though there is limited action, what there is (showing off the new recruits powers) is nicely done. The art, from Alexi Maleev, is outstanding. I particuarly liked the grainy detail in the convenience store, and the way he illustrates a high speed chase. His facial drawings are also brilliantly realised - there is a great sequence where 3 taunting children get more than they bargained for, and its highly amusing.

Exciting times ahead for this title, or whatever title decides to take this nascent teaming, with Fury as the lead. There are some great choices in amongst the ranks, and I look forward to seeing how they work out.

Verdict - This title goes from strenght to strength. Are we due a retitling - namely 'Nick Fury & His Howling Commandos'??? Whatever happens next, this is an essential component in the 'Secret Invasion' saga, and just about the best Marvel title out there this week (and maybe even this month). 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, May 7th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

Exterminators #29 (Vertigo)

One of the finest comic books of recent years reaches its penultimate episode, in the 'Bug Brothers Forever' storyline. Very sad to see this go, but hope it goes out with the quality we have come to expect from this fine series.

Pretty Baby Machine #1 (Image)

Described as;


32 PAGES, BW, $3.50

PRETTY Boy Floyd, BABY Face Nelson and MACHINE Gun Kelly join forces when 1933’s mob-boss supreme, Al Capone, declares war on them! The most unexpected team-up in comics history told in a film noir style that will have fans of Road to Perdition and Batman: The Long Halloween screaming for more!

Tommy guns! Broads! And three of the most infamous mobsters of all time in a thrilling action-packed drama!


Well, that's me sold! Sounds superb.

Secret Invasion #2 (Marvel)

After the brilliant tie-ins of recent weeks (Mighty & New Avengers) I have high hopes for the main title to keep up the quality. Fingers crossed...and more skrull revelations please!

Mighty Avengers #13

More Secret Invasion madness! After the all Nick Fury issue last time, this promises to be a lot more of the same, which is alright by me! There is a preview here at IGN.

The Boys #18 (Dynamite)

The funniest, loudest book out there right now. 'Good for the Soul' concludes with Hughie versua Blarney Cock!!

I was hoping for confirmation of Walking Dead #49, but maybe next week. As it is, still the best week in comics for a while. Cannot wait.....

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Review - New Avengers #40 (Marvel)

Another excellent tie-in from the main 'Secret Invasion' title. Like in last weeks 'Mighty Avengers', actual superheroes in the Avengers are very much peripheral figures. In fact, in this issue, humans are conspicuous by their absence. This does not make a jot of difference, as the story is immersive and provides more valuable references to the overall 'Secret Invasion' story.

Bendis goes back through Marvel continuity and lets the Skrulls take centre stage as they map out their invasion plan, explaining along the way how long established characters in the Marvel Universe could have feasibly been Skrulls all along. Its a fluid, consistent piece of work, with a nice twist at the end as another Skrull imposter is revealed to us. How this revelation will play out in the overall 'Secret Invasion' arc remains to be seen, but it leaves this issue on a high point.

Jimmy Cheungs art breathes life into the Skrulls, especially the really mean looking ones. They look like a threat, physically imposing. Cheungs art is clean and bright and makes the Skrull Universe come alive. There is also a great splash page with Galactus in it, depicting the devouring of the Skrull homeworld.

These tie-in issues have, so far, really added to the main title, which is promising, as the next few months see more and more titles pulled in to expand the story of 'Secret Invasion'. I hope they maintain the high standard set by the 2 recent Avengers titles.

Verdict - A strong back story that adds to the main 'Secret Invasion' title. Some important plot details are revealed, and we discover another of the Skrull imposters. Great art throughout the issue. 8 out of 10.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Listening for the Letterbox, April 30th, 2008

A regular feature where I look ahead to what I have on order from the releases of the week. This is obviously not a definitive release schedule - for that, try Diamond for the list of next weeks releases and this weeks releases (updated every monday).

As usual, I will put the titles in reverse order of anticipation (ie the bottom of the pile being the most anticipated;

New Avengers #40 (Marvel)

After the brilliant Mighty Avengers 'Secret Invasion' tie-in last week I know have high hopes for this - expect revelations!!

and... that is it really. Glamourpuss (previewed last week) and Crawlspace (previewed the week before) are finally out this week (apparently). Image are releasing the fourth TP of Bomb Queen in 'Suicide Bomber', and Wizard magazine reaches issue 200, and I'll be getting that.

Out of interest, Newsarama have an article keeping us up to date on who is who in Skrull terms here plus they make some predictions on who they think is part of the Skrull 'Secret Invasion' - it's an entertaining read.

Brought to you by the letterbox listener........