Monday, August 31, 2009

Until next time

This blog is going on a break - expect regular posting to be back around mid - september. Until then;

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review - Unknown Soldier #11 (Vertigo, 2009)

Jack Lee Howl returns, drunk, calling in favours, as an 'enabler' to Moses, in time for a showdown at the benefit dinner in Moses name Militants with murder on their mind. There, at the Benefit will be Margaret Wells, the American actress and campaigner, who is a target for assassination at the hands of the Militants who would use the instability caused by her death to push their own agenda. Meanwhile, ghosts from Moses past reappear, and Sara battles her own ghosts....

The art is exquisite - whether it be a panel showing the plains of Africa, the dusty villages or the big city, or even a perspective from above a helicopter as it strafes the land, they are all cinematic and beautifully realised.

The story ('Easy Kill') is building up to a pulsating finale, and the tension is palpable - the little details again astound, like the assassin, in a roof space, preparing for his deadly work, engage you and drive the narrative. There is nothing 'hard' to understand about this story, despite the political backdrop - and that is testament to Dysart and Ponticelli - when Dysart needs a point to be made, it doesn't need to be laboured, as Ponticelli can simply illustrate it with subtlety.

So, next time, a bloody showdown in a hotel looms. Dysart manages to put his point across, about the state of Uganda, the terrible war there, the state of some African countries and the first worlds involvement in it, without it ever being a polemic, or dreary. This is a big story, with a widescreen, cinematic approach, with the dynamics of a (good) big budget action movie.

Verdict. This is a title with consistent quality, with all the ambition to be one of the greatest ever comic titles. Alongside Daredevil #500 and Batman & Robin #3, this is another highlight of the month. 9.25 out of 10.

Review - Batman & Robin #3 (DC, 2009)

The hideous Professor Pyg and his deranged dolly followers have Robin trussed up like a pig, while Batman does his best Marv from Sin City impression in interrogation (you'll get the reference on the first page of this awesome comic). Three issues in and Batman & Robin is simply a joy to read - that is all there is to it. I want to be entertained, I want the Good Guys to get the Bad Guys and I want to look at great art. Well, this title has it all. Does it matter that Bruce Wayne is not the Batman at the minute? Not at all - this Batman is intriguing, mixing street fighting and acrobatics with trying to keep a teenage partner on the team. Robin, precocious, angry and vicious, never outstays his welcome on these pages. In fact, nothing outstays its welcome on these pages.

Pyg is a creepy, hideous villain, the Carny backdrop suited to the Freaks style horrorshow that unfolds. And when one story ends, another opens, and the multi-layered plot of issue 3 rolls to the end with more plots dangling, always tantalising. This comic is really a triumph. One of these a month please, forever?

Verdict. What a great advert for the comic book. 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2000ad - Garth Ennis enthuses, a flickr tribute, plus a new site dedicated to the art of the 2000ad (2009)

Garth Ennis writes a warm and heartfelt tribute to the 'Galaxy's Greatest Comic', praising the early years of the title. If you have any interest in the comic, or Ennis, you should take a look at it;

And when you have done that, have a look at this flickr page that accompanies / is a response to the text;

While we are on the subject, a new blog dedicated to a piece of 2000ad is up and running - covering the art and covers of the comic, it is here;

and I would urge you to check it out.

The Boys #36 Solicitation for November 2009

Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art and cover by DARICK ROBERTSON
32 pages
Mother’s Milk’s story concludes with a bang, as we find out the nature of the debt he owes Butcher and see him bear witness to a great American tragedy. Hughie gets another view of The Boys’ mission, one he hadn’t considered before, in part two of Nothing Like It In The World.

Full Dynamite solicitations for November 2009 are here;

Monday, August 24, 2009

Forthcoming Attractions (anticipated releases this week - 26.08.2009)

Here are my picks from this weeks full release schedule;


...a big improvement on last weeks lean pickings - top of the list has to be the new Unknown Soldier, closely followed by the brilliant new Batman title. The other 2 titles bring humour (Deadpool) and some brilliant storytelling (Immortal Weapons). All in all, a great week for comics.

and all of the weeks releases can be seen here

There is a preview of the latest Deadpool issue here

Batman and Robin #3 information here

Immortal Weapons #2 information here

Unknown Soldier #11 information here

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review - Daredevil #500 (Marvel, 2009)

You get the conclusion to the Ed Brubaker / Michael Lark run on Daredevil. You get a preview of Daredevil under the guidance of Andy Diggle and Billy Tan. You get a bonus story ('3 Jacks') from Ann Nocenti and David Aja which is quite wonderful, and would easily stand in its own right as an issue of Daredevil. You get a Daredevil 500 issue cover retrospective. You get a gallery of Daredevils from various artists. This is one hell of a way to celebrate the end of the Brubkaer run and Daredevils longevity.

I am quite happy to admit that this is one of the best comic books i have ever read - everything that this creative team have been doing over the last few months comes to together in a near perfect resolution. They manage to finish up all the plot strands but open up a whole new story for Matt Murdoch for Diggle and Tan to work with. The story and art flow in a beautiful way, effortlessly going back many hundreds of years to Japan, and then go back and forth in more recent time, and there is never any jarring in those jumps. The final panel of the main story is dramatic, visually arresting, a closure and a new beginning.

To give away any of the plot would be churlish. It is just superb, and is a testament to the writing of Ed Brubaker (as if he needs references....) and the moody styling of Lark & co. They will be missed on this title, but have given Diggle more than enough to work with. Comic of the year? To be honest, it depends on what The Walking Dead come up with before the end of the year, but this will be very hard to beat...

Verdict. A fantastic package and one of the comics of the (if not the) year. 10 out of

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Walking Dead #67 Solicitation for November 2009


Written by Robert Kirkman, art and cover by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn.

Finally, at long last... Eugene gives everyone the answers they've been waiting for.

32 pages, black and white, $2.99, in stores on Nov. 11.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Forthcoming Attractions (anticipated releases this week - 19.08.2009)

Not much going on this week as far as I am concerned - my 2 picks of the week are;


and all of the weeks releases can be seen here

Daredevil #500 sees the conclusion of the 'Return of the King' arc, and also the end of the fabulous Ed Brubaker run as well. Let us hope the issue does him justice. Also, The Stand adaptation continues its fine run with the conclusion of the current 'American Nightmares' chapter.


Daredevil #500 preview

The Stand: American Nightmares #5

Image of the Week (12/08/2009)

Dales madness reveals itself to be more than that - the bitter laugh of revenge. Taken from Walking Dead #64 - out now.

Comic of the week (12/08/09)

Well, it was a slow burner of an issue, but it really set up a showdown between Rick and his companions and the Hunters. In a trade, this would be the quiet before the storm - as an issue, it was light on action but high on drama, and, as always, it was excellent - Walking Dead #64 was my comic of the week.

Elsewhere, there was no shortage of fun - Deadpool #13 was fast and funny, and Ultimate Comics began to make up for the drudgery of Ultimatum with Avengers #1 and the reboot of Spider-Man

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review - Ultimate Comics Spiderman #1 (Marvel, 2009)

If the Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 is the action movie, then this title is the light relief, with a few surprises at the end. And a bit of action. Like the new Avengers title, this is a breath of fresh air, with a easy on the eye style (Lafuentes art is stylish but with character - it looks like good comic book art without any pretention to be anything else) and plenty of humour in the first few pages. More than that though, are the plot threads layered over the top of the fundamental one (that being the return of the feared dead Peter Parker as Spider-Man) - like strangers eager to do the same job as Spider-Man, the appearance of one of the Fantastic Four, a return of a formidable foe, and his defeat at the hands of a new character.

It all looks great, and promises a lot for future issues. Like the Avengers title, this could quickly help repair the reputation of the Ultimate Universe after Ultimatum. I have no doubt Bendis will deliver on the story lines.

Which brings me to the one gripe I have with the all new Ultimate line - this issue is set 6 months after Ultimatum, and Avengers is set 3 weeks after. Can't they sync the titles for continuities sake?

Verdict. A solid start to this reboot - no dramatic makeover, just business as usual - and that is good enough. 8 out of 10.

Review - Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 (Marvel, 2009)

Mark Millar and Carlos Pacheco kick off the rebooted Ultimate Universe with a lot of style - this is essentially one big action scene, with a nice twist at the end, and the result of all of it is that Nick Fury is back in the fold and Captain America goes AWOL.

Hawkeye is the star of the show, dealing with terrorists (including the Red Skull - re imagined for the 21st century and looking better for it) and saving a superheroes life in one issue. The art (courtesy of Carlos Pacheco) is lovely, lovely, lovely - your eyes dart from panel to panel with the exhilaration of watching a great movie action scene. Saying that, the whole experience of reading Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 is over in about 5 minutes, but it is a highly enjoyable few minutes. There is little hand-wringing or soul searching following the end if Ultimatum (this issue takes place 3 weeks after the end of Ultimatum #5), and that is a good thing - this new Avengers title seems fresh and full of life, so much more welcome than the nihilistic, petty Ultimatum title.

I think the Ultimate Universe could benefit from the slimmed down title roster, and if the quality of Avengers is maintained, I believe Ultimatum may be forgotten (though probably not forgiven).

Verdict - Flashy, loud and all over in 5 minutes - now, sometimes you could say that was a bad thing in a debut issue - but in this case, it takes away the bad taste of Ultimatum and restores some pride back to this stable of titles. 8 out of 10.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review - Deadpool #13 (Marvel, 2009)

So Deadpool now has a load of cash after the clash with Hawkeye / Bullseye, and after blowing his head off in boredom he now wants to be a pirate. He goes to do a deal with some Russians (from whom he has already purchased a ship that sinks - and that is typical of the humour here) and enlists 'Bob' to join him - as his parrot. The plan? To rob a private island getaway of its yachts!

I love this series. It's stoopid (sic). Teh (sic) stoopidist (sic again) comic around. Daniel Way writes this stuff as fun for kids of an advanced age, but with their humour in the toilet bowl. Shawn Crystal has a good eye for a funny visual. You will laugh at the parrot.

Oh, and that cover is cool. Rob Liefeld did such a great job - nay, iconic job - on the design of Deadpools mask that you can stick it on a cover with pretty much anything - a Jaws parody, or in this case a variation on the skull & crossbones - and it looks thrillingly. In a week where Rob Liefeld is in the news for being on the wrong end of some fanboy entitlement issues (google for liefeld and yellow hat guy if you must) I am happy to mention his name in a more positive sense.

Verdict. Dumb, fun and full of guns. 8 out of 10.

Review - The Walking Dead #64 (Image, 2009)

Warning - Spoilers!!!

If you haven't read the 5 page preview, then you will not know that Dale, held by the Hunters, reveals a big secret to them.

He has been bitten by one of the undead, and was walking out to die when he was caught.

The way this is handled, with Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn showing Dales grief / madness / bitter laughter developing over several quick fire panels. This really works well. Back at the Church, where Rick and the other survivors are holed up, try to come to terms with the loss of Dale. Andrea, in particular, delivers a very moving piece on her relationship with him.

As is Kirkmans way, a Walking Dead issue can be packed with dialogue and the dynamics of a group of survivors trying to get along as well as get by. This issue, though not packed with action, delivers plenty of human drama, little scenes of heartbreaking humanity - like Glenn and Maggie tucking Sophia into bed, Carl crying in the chapel (there is no need for words to elaborate on why he is crying - Kirkman lets you make up your mind). Pretty much all the group get some time in this issue. We also get a glimpse into the lives of the Hunters (and they seem startlingly normal).

The action, when it does happen, is sudden and happens towards the end of the issue. Rick has a handle on the situation, and there is a great final panel, full of pumped-up dramatics and the most 'comic book' splash page I have seen from Charlie Adlard (when you see it, you will understand what I mean). It looks great, and really sets up part 4 of 'Fear The Hunters' as the issue when it all really kicks off.

As usual, an absorbing read, well worth the money and time. The only criticism was that I wanted more (though with the pairing of Viking #1 on the back of this issue, like they did with Chew #1 last issue, those of us who buy the monthlies are getting a treat of a double feature).

Verdict. It may not be the 'all-out action' type of issue you may have expected, but this arc is building up to a messy conclusion. It is getting their with this titles usual style and flair. A solid instalment. 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont and AMC - the promise of Quality.

Amazingly, there is going to be an adaptation of The Walking Dead. Amazingly, because the names that are attached to it - Frank Darabont, AMC - are responsible for quality output. A film would not have worked, and so Television was the only viable option - the fact it has been picked up by AMC, who produce the mighty Mad Men, is terrific news. If I had heard HBO were taking it up, I would not be happier.

and check out the discussion at the Kirkboard at Image - where some forum members are making some suggestions for the casting (and getting it spot on - I mean, Cutty Wise (Chad Coleman) from 'The Wire' as Tyrese is brilliant (and he has Zombie form, having been working on Left 4 Dead 2), and even better - Danny Trejo as The Governor.....).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Forthcoming Attractions (anticipated releases this week - 12.08.2009)

Here they are - my picks of the week. The big one is Walking Dead (you should check out the preview) - there is a killer twist. The new Ultimate titles promise a fresh start after the Ultimatum debacle. Short and sweet this week - here are the titles, and the previews are below;




and all of the weeks releases can be seen here

Previews Ultimate Avengers preview Ultimate Spider-Man preview Walking Dead preview

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Comic of the Week (05/08/2009)

My comic of the week is 'Just Another Post-Apocalypse Story' by Edward J Grug III. See it here;

A sweet little tale of hope in a hell-on-earth situation, (and hell plays a big part in the story), this free web-comic gives another take on post-apocalypse, in a micro and very human way. After reading this, I wanted to read a bit more. I also liked the cause of the disaster (and you get to see the cause a few times in the 22 pages presented here).

Elsewhere, The Boys #33 continued it's good run of form (though there was no Carlos Ezquerra) and Dead Run #3 established itself as another good addition to the post-apocalypse comic readers library.

Image of the Week (05/08/2009)

Classic Post-Apocalyptic imagery. From page 23 of Dead Run #3 (Boom! comics). It is out now. You can read the review here.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Review - Dead Run #3 (Boom!, 2009)

If you have ever liked Mad Max 2, or any of its numerous offspring, then give this a look. It takes the fantastical elements of the post-apocalyptic genre - the shanty town communities, the customised vehicles, the outlandish desert warrior outfits - and wrap them around a slender story with generic ideas (in this issue, women held in cages for breeding purposes escape and attack their jailer!).

But it works. I love it. The art breathes life into this post-apocalyptic world, clearly showing a love for the genre. The story and dialogue are as cheesy as it gets, but that works within a genre that is 60 or 70% cheese anyway (just check out the early 80s Italian films for proof).

A limited series, and it's due to end next issue, and that is a shame, as I will quite miss the Saturday Morning Serial-ness of the cliffhangers ("only one radiation suit - but OH NO! there's two of us!!") and the silliness of it. Comics like this deserve a chance, and I am glad they are around to put a little extra colour into the medium.

Verdict. You may think I deride 'Dead Run' for its inherent cheesiness, but this is one of its charms. I think this is an excellent addition to the world of post-apocalyptic comics - and with only 4 issues, it will not outstay its welcome. 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Review - The Boys #33 (Dynamite, 2009)

What happened to Carlos Ezquerra this issue? I thought he was the artist on this arc. Instead, we get John McCrea, but that is no bad thing, as he handles the violence well, and frames some of the fear that Payback display with wit.

The story is straightforward, with Butcher up against the remains of Payback, though one of them gets away early on - but he will be back for the finale next issue. Yes, I am talking about Stormfront, the Super Nazi soldier. Do you think Ennis has something against Super-Teams? After this arc there will not be many left in the Boys universe, though I am sure he will come up with more analogues of popular teams to *ahem* 'caricature'.

Butcher takes no prisoners in his game of cat and mouse, and the result is satisfying. I believe he would be handy with anything that came to hand. The issue proves that, as he improvises on the fly to use his surroundings to his advantage.

Elsewhere, Mothers Milk wants revenge, The Female is still in a really bad way, and at Vought American, there are issues over the way Butcher is being targeted. Although The Boys as an outfit seem fair game, Butcher, as you might expect, has too much information - and that makes him very dangerous, in more ways than one.

Starlight, meanwhile, is really get pressured by (most of) the Seven into accepting her new costume and origin - to the point of bullying (though that is no surprise).

So, is it any good? Being mid-arc, this delivers all it has to, and met my expectations. Shame about Ezquerra not doing the art, as I was enjoying his portrayal of Butcher and just liked the fact I was reading something drawn by him. The finale, where Stormfront will confront Butcher and / or The Boys, should be great.

Verdict. Soild entertainment. 8 out of 10.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Forthcoming Attractions (anticipated releases this week - 05.08.2009)

My picks of the week - The Boys (and with Butcher fighting the remains of Payback, this promises to be brilliant), Dead Run (cheesy post-apocalyptic nonsense that is good for you), the end of Destroyer (flawed but fun) and the Ultimatum Requiems for Fantastic Four and X-Men (just interesting to see how they are going to put these titles to rest). Here is the list then;


and all of the weeks releases can be seen here


Boys #33
With the rest of The Boys out of the picture, the surviving members of Payback find themselves at an advantage of four to one- unfortunately for them, the one is Butcher. As the carnage unfolds, Vought struggle with ongoing internal divisions, Hughie calls in reinforcements, and Annie finds herself up against the Seven's biggest guns- but an unexpected ally may yet save her honor...

Dead Run #3
'All Speed. No Limits.' The end isn't near - it's here! America has become a wasteland, leaving the few cities that remain transformed into impenetrable fortresses. Nick Masters is a driver, the best there is.

If you need something picked-up, delivered, or disposed of, Nick's your man. But when he fails to deliver, all hell breaks loose!

From the writer of Fall of Cthulhu, Michael Alan Nelson, collaborating with Eureka creator Andrew Cosby! Covers by Jason Shawn Alexander and Eric Canete.

Destroyer #5
It's all been leading up to this! Destroyer comes face to face with his most dreaded adversary yet--DEATH! It's a no-holds-barred winner-take-all fight to remember. The stakes--high! The prize--life! Nothing can prepare you for this sense-shattering conclusion. Also in this issue--violence!

Ultimatum Fantastic Four #1

re • qui • em (noun) A song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to the departed. With the catastrophes wrought by Ultimatum, does this spell the end for the first family of the Ultimate U? Plus: Whatever happened to Johnny Storm?

Ultimate X-Men
Endcap to the ground-breaking series that helped launch the Ultimate Universe! Does the dream die with the man? How do you continue on when you've lost everything? In the aftermath of Ultimatum, the surviving members of the X-Men say goodbye to their loved ones, pay homage to their memory and try to figure out what happens next.

previews The Boys preview Dead Run preview Destroyer preview
Ultimate Fantastic Four Requiem preview Ultimate X Men Requiem Preview

Image of the Week (29/07/2009)

Taken from Unknown Soldier issue 10 (which is out now) - The deadly drudgery of landmine planting...

Comic of the Week (29/07/2009)

Unknown Soldier #10 (Vertigo) is the comic of the week. Because in any week it would probably get the title unless The Walking Dead was really on form. The story is flawless, the drama, while gripping, is totally believable, and the art is terrific.

Elsewhere, Citizen Rex #1 (Dark Horse) made a terrific start, and I look forward to issue #2. Marvel Zombies 4 wrapped up, and was a fine ending to a satisfying limited series.

And Ultimatum (Marvel) ended. Enough said.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Review - Ultimatum #5 (Marvel, 2009)

The whole concept of 'clearing the decks' in a comic universe is a pretty bold step. You are placing a lot on testing the faith of fans. After all, if the 'clearing' involves their favourite character - well, there goes a reader, a punter, a paying customer, a fan. They may not come back.

The Ultimate Marvel Universe has not so much been cleared as ransacked, raped and pillaged. I must admit to not really getting into the Ultimate titles in a big way, although I enjoyed the first 2 series of The Ultimates, and Ultimate Fantastic Four had a real charm and energy to it. I am sure that Ultimate Spider-Man did as well, based on the little I did read in trades. Ultimates 3, which was the genesis for much of what followed in Ultimatum, was not particularly good. That should have been a warning, as that was written by Jeph Loeb, as is Ultimatum, a 5 issue finale to the 'first chapter of the Ultimate Universe', that has now come to an end.

And it was ridiculous.

I don't really go into the Superhero comics in a big way, but the Ultimates and Ultimate Fantastic Four was a reboot that touched on the Silver age of Marvel and I felt a connection to that. I loved reading the reprints of Fantastic Four and The Uncanny X-Men from Marvel UK in the early 1980s. Similarly, the Lee / Kirby Spider man tales were reprinted in the early 1980s by Marvel, and I loved them to. The Ultimates and Ultimate Fantastic Four gave me a similar satisfaction when I read them.

But Ultimatum has made it all look ridiculous.

Ultimatum is ridiculous for a few reasons (the dialogue, the pacing) but the main reason it is lamentable is the fact that characters that have been around for years all start falling over like a stack of dominoes. It makes no sense. There are so many Heroes killed that it feels perfunctory. Similarly, major Villains are struck off with ease. Ultimatum just seems to be there to push the envelope until it becomes a unique, but flawed exercise in graphic violence and the toll it takes on humans - super or mutant or otherwise. It is certainly a page turner, as you anticipate a death around every corner.

It is a bit perverse, in that sometimes in the past I have thought it ridiculous that hardly any superheroes die in battle, to be complaining about a comic series that dares to kill heroes off without a second thought. But there are ways of doing it, to give a death the impact it should have, and also to treat a readership with a bit of respect, and allow them to experience the death of a character they follow with the necessary sensitivity. But hey, we are talking about comics here. Who cares? I don't think the creative team behind the Ultimatum storyline do - and that's the problem. If you were to read the Ultimatum series, you may be forgiven for thinking you are reading a comic written by someone who doesn't like comic book heroes, or their readership, all that much. I do not think that is the case, but sometimes it is hard to shake that feeling.

It is difficult to sum up my feelings on Ultimatum. One thing that is nagging at the back of my mind is the fact that when the Ultimate Universe comes back - 'rebooted', if you like - then eventually some of those dead heroes are going to be finding their way back into continuity. So really, what was the point of Ultimatum? I think that does sum up how I feel about it all.

Verdict. I think people will remember Ultimatum for a long time. For different reasons. I don't think you are likely to see this type of comic again in a long, long time. All of this may be a good thing or a bad thing. Depends on your point of view. The graphic glee with which established and loved characters were routinely dispatched is unique in comic history. For bloody mindedness, it gets 10 out of 10. Personally, I give this issue a 4 out of 10.