Sunday, 23 December 2012

Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead

Dick Turpin and his friend Tom King the Gentleman Thief are happily robbing a coach in the dead of night, after relieving the passengers of their valuables Turpin and Tom make good their escape but not before charming the young Lady Isabel by throwing back her jewels as they leave.
It’s during their escape that they come across a small village in the middle of nowhere one that seems deserted, until they come across one lone boy wondering slowly around (you can see where this is going). Very quickly the two thieves’ are surrounded by the undead and fighting for their lives and not even a shot to the head of one of these zombies stops them advancing, lucky for Turpin and Tom, Toms horse Chestnut becomes the focus of the horde of undead which buys the two thief's some time.
Just as all looks lost a priest appears with a flaming crossbow and offers the two highwaymen sanctuary in the church, while pointing out fire is the only true way to dispatch the walking undead that he knows of. Once inside the church the priest tells them the story of how the dead came to take over the village and that he is the only one left, its during this time that Turpin comes across a tomb that reveals the twist in the tale. It seems the priest is one of the undead but for reasons unknown still has all his faculties and doesn’t crave brains, Turpin decides to lure the undead into the church and once they are all in set fire to it with himself and the priest inside. Tom who has made his escape once everyone is inside ensures the doors cannot be opened again, while Turpin makes his escape by jumping through a window as the dead are all engulfed in flame and the undead are finally put to rest.

The book is produced by Time Bomb comics and written by Steve Tanner with art by Andrew Dodd, the story is an interesting twist on your standard zombie tale with the decision to pit Dick Turpin against the undead is simply genius. Its a black and white book which in some eyes may be a draw back but lets be honest it never hurt the Walking Dead comic did it, in fact I think that the fact its in black and white helps the book and helps convey the time period better.

If you like horror books or you’re a zombie fan and you are looking for something a bit different then give this book a try, they have a very good website and Facebook page and produce several books besides this one click the link to get on their website to have a look. Time Bomb Comics
I came across this book at the Thought Bubble comic convention and had quite a long chat with the writer Steve Tanner at the stand, who listened patiently as I told him of my family's supposed Turpin connection. As his eyes didn’t glaze over as most people’s do when I go into this family tale I decided to buy a few copies of his book, but to be honest he had me as soon as I saw the words Dick Turpin on the stand.

The follow up book to this one is Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague, I will be reviewing that book in the coming weeks but take it from me its one hell of a good read.

Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead book cover is the sole property of Time Bomb Comics and only used as an aid to this review, the cover will be removed if requested to do so.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

All Star Western #13

A white faced clown with green hair has killed a priest in Gotham City leaving him with a smile on his dead face, now this may sound kind of familiar but you would be wrong because this is the Gotham of the old west, and the killer clown is Jingles who apparently has alter boy issues.

Hex, Arkham and Tallulah are called in to help solve the murder where Arkham quickly establishes that the killer is connected to a drug recreated from Dr Jekyll's formula, the seeds of the Jekyll story line were set up in issue 12. Tallulah points out that the priest has been left with a clown like face which leads Hex to suggest the killer could be a clown, Tallulah then adds that Haly's circus is in town that would be a good place to start looking for a clown, its almost like reading an episode of Murder She Wrote.

 Switch to Haly's circus and Yanmei Tsen is in town and looking for the golden Dragons a Triad type gang who frequent Gotham's underworld, Yanmei origin was told in the backup story's of this books early run. Yanmei is quickly butting heads with the Dragons and holding her own until she becomes outnumbered, just when all looks lost Hex and his gang turn up to help her out and save her life. Not that she hangs around to thank them for it as she  quickly disappears into the night when the fight is over, I suspect that this is a set up meeting and we will be seeing more of Miss Tsen in issues to come.

Hex finds the circus owner Mr Haley (who would have thought) who tells them that several of the circus crew have gone missing of late including Jingles, who is one of the nicest kindhearted people you could ever meet (its always the quite ones).

All hell then breaks loose as Jingles enters the circus waving his chopper and firing a gun, throw on top of that the animal trainer who decides to let the tigers loose and Hex and his friends have their hands full. Now I don't know how many tigers Hex or Tallulah have seen in their lives, but they seem fairly calm as they rampage through the circus crowds. Tallilah even has time to utter ''Ah ain't getting eaten by no tiger'' as she is pounced on by one. and after introducing her shot gun to it looks fairly unscathed. As someone who has had cats (not tigers admittedly) I know the cuts a small a Tabby can give you if they are in the mood too, so been pounced on by a Tiger and coming up without a scratch is a bit of a stretch for me. 

Que the gripping finally as the gang are surrounded by people high on Jekyll juice (dose that sound wrong?), the final pages show Dr Jekyll's assistant going into a ships hold to find the good Doctor only to come face to face with Mr Hyde.

This is a fun book which may seem a strange thing to say about a book that has so much killing and violence in it, but any book that's set in Gotham and has a parody of the joker in it called Jingles isn't taking itself too seriously. The appearance of Yanmei Tsen seemed a little forced but didn't detract from the main story line, and I suspect her appearance will have more relevance in future issues.

If I have one complaint about the book its the backup story Tomahawk, it just wasn't a story I could get into which is a shame as the artwork looked fantastic. However, I don't buy the book for the back up story's, I buy it for good Jonah Hex story's and so far this book has delivered those in spades.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Thought Bubble Comic Con 2012

Saturday 17th November was cold wet and grey but none of that mattered to me as my wife and I set off on the 13+ miles towards Leeds, today was my annual trip to the Thought Bubble comic convention and nothing could put a dampener on my spirit. Unlike previous visits to the convention this year I had a partner in crime my wife Helen was accompanying me on this trip, Helen had never been to a comic convention before so I did have a little trepidation on how she would react to the world she was walking into.
Like the previous year the convention would run over the whole weekend and be split between two conference halls, such has been the popularity and growth of Thought Bubble over the last few years.

Upon arrival we were greeted by one hell of a queue to get in but we happily joined the end of the line and patiently waited to shuffle along, to our delight one of the many and wonderful convention volunteers came along the line saying anyone with prepaid tickets can go through the door on right of the queue. I suddenly had a new best friend and within 5 minutes of arriving outside the convention we were having our wrist bands fitted and on our way into the main hall, once inside we decided to follow the flow and get a good look round although to be honest the flow was not that fast as people slowly drifted around. We passed one dealers table who was had silver age comics on display and Helen just gasped as she saw the prices of up to £300 per comic, one day I told her I will have one of those the look on her face said in your dreams.

I joined the line for Bryan Talbot who was there with his wife Mary and I picked up a copy of her and Bryan’s book Dotter of her Mother’s Eyes which they both signed, I also bought a copy of A Tale of One Bad Rat which I surprisingly didn’t have. Bryan not only signed it but drew a nice sketch of a rat on the inside cover, I now have quite a collection of Bryan’s work all signed with nice little sketches inside each of them.

Next stop was Charlie Allard who as you would expect had a very long line, but we waited patiently and I managed to get my copy of Walking Dead signed along with a copy of the 3rd trade of the book.

Then it was on to see Dave Taylor who signed my copy of Batman Death by Design,and I chatted with him about how much I had enjoyed the book and how much I enjoyed his art style in it, he said it was one he enjoyed doing but the pressure had aged him slightly while drawing it.

As we wondered around the packed hall I managed to get a wonderful sketch of Wild Cat from Gary Eskrin (I miss the JSA), he looked a little puzzled when I asked for it at first until so I said I had asked for that character as he had worked on the book JSA Strange Tales. After thinking for a while he answered yes I did I had forgot about that, it wasn’t until I got home and checked my back issues that I found the book came out in 2004. It’s no wonder he had forgotten about a 6 issue mini from 8 years ago, can’t wait to see his face next year when I ask for Alan Scott.

Next on my list was the surprise guests of the show Robert Llewellllyn, Kryten from Red Dwarf who has written several books(didn't know that) and had some of them with him, I spoke to him about the latest Red Dwarf series saying how much I had enjoyed it. He thanked me and said it was as much fun to make as it always was, I asked if there would be another series and he said nothing was planned but he would be surprised if there wasn’t. I picked up a flier for his new book about Red Dwarf called The Man in the Rubber Mask which he said would be out in December; I enjoyed my brief chat with Robert who was very friendly and happily to talk to everyone, an all round nice guy.

As always with Thought Bubble there were quite a lot of independents around and I spent quite a bit of time looking at their work and chatting with them, the guys who produce the comic Ladies & Gentlemen were there as you would expect as Leeds is their home town. I did a review of their first Issue and to my delight they have quoted me on the back of the second (fame at last), I also picked up issues from London Horror comics an anthology horror book as a horror fan I couldn't resist. I then came across Steve Tanner at the Time Bomb Comics stand as some of their books caught my eye, namely Dick Turpin and The Restless Dead, and Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague my family allegedly has a connection to this well known villain so every time I see his name I am drawn in. I chatted with Steve about his books and my family's alleged connection to the highway man and his gang and he seemed genuinely interested, which makes a change for me as peoples eyes normally glaze over when I talk Dick Turpin. Having enjoyed my chat with Steve who is a genuinely great guy I may add, I picked up the Turpin books which I will be reviewing these comics in the upcoming weeks.
In between our walking around and family ruminations we posed with the Dalek that was in the entrance hall, little did I realise that it was fully working and there was great delight when it came into the convention hall and interacted with the crowds.

Helen was happily taking snaps of the crowds, guests and cos players who seemed to be there in even bigger numbers than normal, to my delight Helen was really getting into the swing of the convention not only taking photos but also posing with some of the cos players for photos. The one where the joker gives her rabbit ears as she stand with him Batman and Black Cat is my favourite,she had become so involved that at one point she chased down a 10th Doctor lookalike and got him to pose with the Dalek I was so proud.

Other highlights of the day included my signed Swamp Thing & Batman prints from Yanick Paqutte who also signed my issue 1 of Swamp Thing, a wonderful Hit Man sketch from John McCrea who had previously drawn a Joker sketch for me in 1996 at a London convention. Several Doctor Who prints one of which showed all 11 Doctors and my talk with new Doctor Who writer Andy Diggle while he signed the 1st issue of his new book, to my surprise he asked me where I bought it from as he didn’t have a copy due it was hard to get in the UK. I told him eBay and he asked how much, when I said £6 he said I hope it was worth it I told him it was but I would wait for the trade for the rest.
Before we knew it the convention was coming to an end it was 5pm and the day had just flown by, I have to say hand on heart that this was one of the best conventions that I have ever been too and if anything did go wrong or not to plan we never saw it. The one thing that struck me about this convention was the amount of family’s that were there many of them in costume, and as Helen pointed out most of the male comic fans had girlfriends or wife's, so the lonely geek stereotype promoted by The Big Bang Theory is not that accurate.


My Thoughts on the show:
I personally had no complaints and thought the convention was very well organised, people I have spoken to since who had tables have said that everything went off as it should have. What I love about Thought Bubble is that despite how quickly it has grown in resent years, it still has that small convention charm and feel about it. Everyone is accessible and friendly and the commercial aspect that seems to dog other conventions isn't evident, and my it long continue to stay that way. If I could make a small suggestion its get some normal cider in the bar, the look on the barman's face as he offered Helen raspberry cider, and she said do I look like I drink overpriced poncey cider was priceless.

And finally special mentions go out to:
The cos players who were amazing this year, all the volunteer's who give up there time and kept the show running. Last but not least my wife Helen who helped make this the best convention ever, and also lent me some money when I had ran out I'm one lucky man.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Evil Ways by Bobby Nash

The main character of the story is FBI Agent Harold Palmer, Harold is taking some much needed time off from work to spend with his younger brother Franklin, who is the owner of the local newspaper in the sleepy Georgia town of Sommersville.
Sommersville's a town where the most that happens is a few drunken fights at the weekend, and the odd domestic disturbance now and then a great place for Harold to relax and catch up with his brother.

There's not too much that can go wrong on this trip you would think but unfortunately for Harold his visit coincides with the towns annual Autumn Festival, add to the that the class of 2002's 10th anniversary graduation reunion and you have a whole town heading towards party time, and Harold doesn't like crowds or party's. 

But in the mist of this celebration a killer is on the loose and he/she has their sights firmly set on the classmates of 2002, but this is no ordinary killer they are clever, calculating and they enjoy what they do.
Now don’t be fooled by my simple snap shot of the plot this is more than just a simple murder mystery book, there is a hidden complexity to it which you see with the introduction and interaction of the various characters, as their lives slowly become interwoven with each other once again. The story is peppered with sub-plots throughout the book some lead somewhere important and move the story on, some become just part and parcel of a characters daily life.
One such character is Sheriff Tom Myers whose home life plays only a small part of the story but you get a glimpse into the turmoil the man is going through, as he struggles with his loyalty to his dead parent’s home and doing what he knows is right by selling the home to keep financially stable as his wife suggests. It’s also clever writing that his wife is shown in a sympathetic light; she is not a woman who is throwing tantrums to get her husband to do what she wants. This is a wife who loves her husband and constantly worries about him, but knows he needs a strong push in the right direction now and again to do what’s right for the both of them. Throw on top of that all the problems he now faces at work and you have a very good grasp on the world of Sheriff Myers, does knowing all this move the story on, well probably not but it does connect you to the character and makes you care what happens to him as the story progresses. All of this helped to make the Sheriff the stand-out character of the book for me and I would be more than happy to read a solo story that featured him, as a side note he does appear in one of writer Bobby Nash’s other books Deadly Games.
The whole story moves on at a cracking pace and no part of the plot is wasted no matter how trivial it may seems at the time of reading it, the whole book is littered with small clues throughout that take you on the same ride as the characters to the final conclusion of the book and what a conclusion it was.
I was hooked on the book from the first paragraph, and read the book in the space of a week which for me is a quick read; it’s also an indication for me on how good I think a book is if I read it that quickly.

Evil Ways was Bobby’s first novel which has been re-released in both book form and all types of eBook, there is also a free download of the first chapter available on Bobby’s web page to give you a flavour of the book.
If you would like more information on this book or other works from Bobby click this link to his web page, or the link below to get to the Evil Ways excerpt.

Evil Ways book cover is the sole property of Bobby Nash and only used as an aid to this review, the cover will be removed if requested to do so.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Doctor Who #1

I am normally not a fan of comic adaptions of TV shows, however the resent Star Trek / Doctor Who cross over somewhat changed my previously held views against these type of books. So when I heard that a new Doctor Who book was coming out and the artist would be Mark Buckingham my interest was piqued.

The story starts off in Victorian London where a clairvoyant is contacting a woman’s dead farther; unfortunately all is not above board as the woman’s husband looks under the table to see the clairvoyant’s husband making sure that ghostly things happen on queue. As you can imagine the couple aren’t too happy with what they discover and threaten to call the police, however the husband changes his mind when the clairvoyant points out that if they are called she may have to tell his wife of a meeting he had with a young lady by the beach. Clearly the young clairvoyant has some powers, even if she is unable to contact the dearly departed.
Meanwhile the Doctor along with his companions Amy and Rory (before the angels story) are visiting the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, something I suspect the Doctor wants to do as Rory points out they should be going to Majorca. It’s during their walk round the exhibits that the Doctor hears a scream which takes him to a policeman who is frozen in time mid fall, in front of what the Doctor calls a Quantum Resonator. A machine that lets you see other worlds that might have been, so seeing this in Victorian London is like seeing an atom bomb in the Library of Alexandria well that’s the Doctors explanation.

The builders of the Resonator are brought to the exhibition and it turns out to be the clairvoyant and her husband, they explain that she sometimes goes into a trance like state (this happens to my wife on a Saturday night I blame vodka), it was while she was in one of those trances that she drew the plans for the resonator and her husband been good with his hands (behave) built it for her. However they could not get it to work so they sold it to the exhibition, the Doctor confirms that the clairvoyant is telepathic and that she is been used by some unseen force to build the resonator.

As you would expect the Doctor dives head first into the problem and sets off with Amy to find the source of the energy which is now powering the Resonator, leaving Rory the clairvoyant and her husband behind. All does not go as the Doctor expected and you are left with a cliffhanger at the end of the book, something which I think is sadly missing from the modern Doctor Who show.

Was it any good?

Well as an adaptation of a TV show it captures the feel and quirkiness of the show perfectly, and Andy Diggle interpretation of Matt Smiths Doctor is spot on. Mark Buckingham’s art seems to be made for this book, and except for the odd occasion he captures the likeness of the Doctor and his companions perfectly. I particularly liked the page showing the Doctor entering the exhibition as it has a few Easter eggs for long time fans, a Mummy from the Tom Baker era, a statue which looks to have a Sea Devils head, and what looks like a Sontaran helmet in a glass case.

Now here comes the bad news and my moan about the book, unfortunately this comic based on one of the longest running UK TV shows is not widely available in the UK. Which for me is absolute madness when its set to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and at a time when its popularity has never been higher it would surely be a big seller on this side of the Atlantic.
I recently vented my frustration about the difficulty of getting this book on a podcasts Facebook page, and was told by a fellow fan that IDW don’t have the rights to sell Doctor Who books in the UK. The fact that they called the crossover book Star Trek/ Doctor Who, meant that it was effectively a Star Trek book so it could be sold over here it didn’t help my frustration be helped me understand why it was hard to find. I eventually found a copy on EBay but it wasn’t cheap, and unless I can find a more regular source then I will wait for the trade which I am reliably told will be available over here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Disney scoop up Star Wars

A bit late out of the block on this one (dam you work) but as most will have read Disney have bought the rights to Star Wars from Gorge Lucas for around $4.05bn (around £2.5bn). News straight out of the block is that they intend to produce a new Star Wars film episode 7 by 2015, although what era of the Star Wars universe it will be set in hasn’t been mentioned. Personally I would like to see a story on how the Jedi and Sith were formed, rather than more tales of known characters or god forbid a remake of the original.
Disney will pay around half the money in cash and the rest in Disney shares around 40 million in total. This is the 3rd major deal Disney have done in recent years, in 2006 they bought Pixar for around $7.4bn and in 2009 Marvel Comics were snapped up for a mere $4.2bn.
However some fans are not happy saying that the franchise will be ruined now Disney has its hands on it, these fans clearly haven’t seen episode 1 or have conveniently forgotten about it.
British actor Simon Pegg joked “I was saying Lucasfilm was a Mickey Mouse outfit back in 1999," he later posted that it was actually good news for Star Wars fans.
The UK Disney podcast The Dibb is reporting that Disney are planning a new Start Wars style theme park which would make sense, as at the moment Star Wars is just one of many attractions in the Disney Movie Theme park.
Given that the Disney Star Wars weekends are very popular a bespoke park could prove to be a gold mine, add to that Disney now have the Marvel characters and you could create a rather exciting theme park similar in feel to Universal Island of Adventure.

Although give the experience I had in Disney a few years back they will need to improve on their customer relations if they want to keep the hordes of Star Wars fans happy, we were in the Disney movie park when some of the Star Wars characters were having photos taken with fans. The queue for Darth Vader was ridiculously long so I decided just to take a few photos of the man in-between changing kids, as I prepared to do this one of the Storm Troopers came up and said only official photos could be taken and asked me to stop.
I jokingly waved my hand in front of him and said ‘’I am not the photographer you are looking for’’, he clearly had no idea what I was on about or just had no sense of humour and again told me not to take photos. I politely informed him that as I had spent £530 on two five day park tickets I thought I was entitled to take a few snaps, but if he wanted to push it I was prepared to go all Jedi on him (it had been a long and hot day). ‘’Well just be quick then and don’t let anyone see you’ he said as he turned and walked away, I’m not sure if it was my Jedi mind trick finally kicking in or he didn’t see the point in arguing whatever the reason the family friendly face of Disney was sorely missing that day.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Superman Quits Daily Planet

Superman is to leave the Daily Planet according to an artical in todays copy of the free newspaper The Metro (24/10/12), according to writer Scot Lobdell Clark will stand up in front of staff in a "Jerry Maguire-type moment" which will see him resign from the Daily Planet and mourn "how journalism has given way to entertainment", Clark will also call on his fellow reporters to stand up for truth, justice, "and yeah — I'm not ashamed to say it — the American way," Lobdell told USA Today (so it must be true).
However this is not something new as Clarke has left The Daily Planet before, in a story st in the old DC universe before the reboot he left to take a job as a news anchor.
Call me old fashioned (I can hear you) but I personally prefer to see Clarke working at the Daily Planet, rather than going off on some internet blog style job I mean who wants to spend their time writing blogs?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Legends of the Dark Knight #1

Back in the late 80’s DC launched Legends of the Dark Knight and it quickly became (in my opinion) the must read bat book each month, each story arc had a different writer and artists and told stories from Batman’s past, present and future. Some of the best Batman stories you can read were in that book, stand-outs for me were Gothic, Venom, and the Joker story Going Sane to name but a few. Sadly the book was cancelled in 2007, but 5 years later and Legends is back with what looks like similar format as the original.
The first issue has 3 short storys in it, my review of all 3 is below.

The Butler did it:

This first story sees a Batman only 6 months into his crime fighting career, a Batman who is confident, so confident in fact he is bordering on arrogant.
While out on a roof top patrol Bat’s looks down a side street to see a family been held up by a lone gun man, the family consist of a father, mother and small boy seeing parallels with the death of his own family he jumps straight in to the mix. Only to find things are not what it seems, someone is using Batman’s weakness of his parents’ death against him to make a point. After taking a beating we see a flashback of Bruce telling Alfred that unlike the other heroes he has no vulnerability, he has no powers and all powers have a vulnerability as he is just a man with no powers that gives him the advantage. Alfred tells Bruce that everyone has a vulnerability so Bruce offers Alfred a Dollar bet if he can name his, as Alfred walks away an arrogant Bruce says '' that's what I thought''.
The title of the story probably gives away who it is that teaches Batman a humbling and painful lesson that he does in fact have a weakness, its a nice short story by writer Damon Lindelof add to that Jeff Lemires art and you have a very satisfying read.

All of the above:
Batman is on monitor duty in the JLA satellite when it is invaded by Amazo the android who has all the powers of the JLA, this is a classic 80's style Batman story as we see Bats uses all his intelligence, strength and gadgets to defeat Amazo.
Yes you have to suspend some aspects of reality like surviving in space with only the aid of a rebreather and lenses to protect his eyes, throw in the use of Bat-Shark repellent (Adam West punches the air) as a means of propulsion back to the satellite and you are really stretching things. However, this is a world where people fly, have magic rings and the dead come back with alarming regularity, so you can believe almost anything if you put your mind to it.
The artwork by JG Jones is a perfect fit for Jonathan Larsen's story, and I particularly liked the panel where you see Bats stood with a coffee cup with I heart Gotham on it, simply brilliant.
The Crime never committed:
The last story sees Batman & Robin visit a Marine Biologist who has recently been sacked from the Gotham Aquarium, Batman has noticed from the items he has recently bought he is intending to commit a crime to get some much needed cash.
After taking him from his bed (his wife must be a deep sleeper), they take him to the rooftops to explain what may happen to him if he commits his planned robbery. Satisfied that they have set the man back on the right path, the dynamic duo swing off leaving the poor guy stuck on the roof.
The story is another take on the Its a Wonderful life scenario, but in all honesty I'm a sucker for this kind of story so I was one happy reader.

So all in all a very satisfying first issue however what is slightly confusing is that although we have tales set in Batman’s early career, 6 months in the case of the first story they don’t appear to be set in the new DCU. I don't know if that is intentional or not but given the effort DC are putting in to craft a new universe, you would think there would be some indication on if these story's are a part of that universe or not.

Having said that as standalone Batman story's they are all worth reading and I would recommend them to anyone.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Comic & Si-Fi News 17/10/12

DC's New 52 gets smaller?

DC have announced the names of 4 more titles that are to be cancelled in January, the books are Frankenstein Agent of SHADE, Grifter, Blue Beetle and LEGION Lost all will finish on their 16th issue. All 4 books were part of the new 52 launch so it’s a surprise that they are been cancelled so far into their run, there is no news on what books will replace them as of yet. However with these books ending and only the new Justice League  and Threshold books to replace them, it leaves DC with 50 titles in their re-booted universe next year. So unless they are about to put the banner ‘The New 50’ on all their books, expect an announcement on some new books soon.
Thanks to the excellent Bleeding Cool for the heads up on this news, click the link for more detailed info.


Arrow starts on Sky 1 on the 21st October, the pilot episode aired in the States at the beginning of October and has had a good reception so far. News filtering through seems to be that this is a darker take on the Green Arrow character, and is vastly different from the Green Arrow that appeared in Smallville.

Watch out for Doctor Who and Torchwood actor John Barrowman who will be joining the show from episode 5 along with appearances of Deadshot and Jessica De Gouw as Huntress it shaping up to be a promising show.

Leeds Comic Con:
The final programme for the Thought Bubble Comic convention has been released with this year’s con looking to be bigger and better than ever, 200AD will be very prominent this year as it is celebrating its 35th year. The con will run over 2 days on the 17th / 18th November at Saviles Hall in Leeds (no comments please), amongst many others I am particularly looking forward to meeting Swamp Thing artist Yanick Paquette.
It will also be the first comic con that my wife Helen has attended; she has always said I would leave her in line for a signing or sketch and then wonder off on my own. Having promised not to do this (too much) she has agreed to come along and see what a comic con is like, I think we will have a new convention convert by the end of week-end fingers crossed.

Walking Dead is Back:

The Walking Dead is set to air on UK TV this Friday 19th October; I thank my wife for that bit of news as I didn’t think it was starting until the end of the month. Brit actor David Morrissey will play the popular and psychotic character The Governor, and with the inclusion of the sword wilding Michonne it should be a good season.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Green Arrow #0

Oliver Queen has been sent to work on one of his father’s oil rigs after messing up every other job his father has given him, and so he doesn’t spoil his record Oliver is doing his best to get thrown off this rig as well. While the rig is in full production good young Ollie is having a beach party complete with bikini clad girls on the oil rig deck in front of all the workers, now as a safety officer I could see several violations in just one panel but as its just a comic I will let it slide this time.

As you can imagine Ollie is not very popular except with the workers who are all trying to do hard manual oil riggy stuff (don’t know how else to put it), but does Ollie care no not really this is Ollie before his Green Arrow days rich, spoilt and selfish.
Unbeknown to Ollie his ferrying of his friends and drink to his party by helicopter has opened up a gap in the rigs security, a gap that the local pirates led by a super pirate called Iron Eagle take advantage of.

It’s here where we see a glimpse of the Ollie we have read over the last 12 issues come to the fore and along with his friend Tommy Merlyn he decides to take the fight to the pirates, this despite the fact that the pirates have wired every one up with explosives including his girlfriend Leena.
Ollie decides to take out Iron Eagle by shooting the detonator out of his hand, and true to form he is dead on shooting an arrow through Iron Eagles hand and making him drop the detonator into the sea. Unfortunately for him the beeping sound that follows means the detonator is about to blow killing all the hostages and destroying the rig, now I’m no expert but I would have thought blowing up your girlfriend may put a dampener on your relationship.
Ollie and Tommy escape from the burning rig where a badly burnt and dying Tommy tells Ollie that these wont be the last people he will kill, Ollie ends up alone on a deserted island where he repents and hones his archery skills (new Arrow TV show tie-in). We then jump forward a year to see a young Roy Harper (Red Hood & the Outlaws) in jail, where he is bailed and offered a job by the now returned Oliver Queen.

All in all its not a bad issue but it isn't as good as the previous 12 issues, the 12 month jump made the issue a bit disjointed and a bit rushed. I couldnt shake of the feeling that this was originaly a two issue story that had been cut down to fit into one issue, I may be wrong on that but thats how it felt.

The final scene with a bandaged patient zero starting to wake up from a coma was a great teaser on things to come, all in all not a great issue but if you have read the previous 12 then it’s worth picking up.

The artwork by Freddie Williams is up to his usual high standards (I'm a Freddie fan), and although the issue was a bit of a let down it wont stop me from continuing to read this book.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Batman 12

A Batman story that hardly features Batman would not normally be a scenario I would be happy with, however when Scott Snyder is the writer he can make a none Batman story feel very Batman if you get my meaning.

This story is set several weeks ago so its presumably set before the Court of Owls story line, and sets up the first meeting between Harper Row and Batman, Harper has popped up in 3 previous issues of Batman. In issue 7 Harper pulls Batman out of Gotham River after he escapes from Owls Labyrinth, when Batman comes round he says to Harper I’ve told you once already leave me alone indicating he has at some point already meet her. As she doesn’t seem to have meet Batman in this story line, I am rightly or wrongly (someone will tell me) presuming this is their first meeting.

Well now that’s out of the way on to the review:

Harper Row is a young woman who works deep below Gotham City maintaining the ancient and failing electrical grid, a grid that she knows should be failing but seems to be managing to keep running despite its age (I know how it feels).  Harper lives in the soon to be improved area of Gotham thanks to Bruce Wayne’s plans to rejuvenate the city, she has a ticket to go to a function at Wayne Manor where plans of Gotham’s rejuvenation are been unveiled. However Harper isn’t really convinced that this will improve her or her brother’s life, but after persuasion from her brother she reluctantly goes to the function.

Once there she takes little interest in what Bruce Wayne has to say and decides to leave early but not before taking some cakes for her and her brother to share, this is where she meets Alfred who tells her that she is making a mistake and that she should take the brownies instead as they are much better and an old family recipe. Its a brief appearance by Alfred but an importantant one as its shows that Alfred is more than just a buttler, given that he knew her name it shows he does his research on people that cross into Bruces and his path.

Upon returning home Harper finds her brother lying on the floor badly beaten after been attacked, we find out that he is constantly been bullied and beaten for been gay something that gangs in the area don’t tolerate. It is quite a powerful scean as Harper cradles her injured brother in her arms as he apologises for not been able to defend the home, your heart really goes out to them as you begin to realise the terrible situation these two youngsters find themselves in, its powerful writing indeed.

Harper decides enough is enough and is prepared to take on the bullies and on their next encounter she zaps one of them with an adapted tayzar, unfortunately for her and her brother there are more in the gang then she realised and they are quickly overpowered. Just as it looks like they will take another beating Batman comes swinging down and dispenses his own style of justice to the bullies, ensuring that Harper and her brother are not bothered again.

From that point on she is obsessed with Batman and sightings of him and quickly realises that he has control of the city’s CCTV cameras, taking them down in the areas he appears and then switching them back on when he leaves.

Harper figures out that the only way he can do this is by plugging in to the city’s power grid and quickly finds the points where Batman has plugged into the grid, which he does by means of an electrical Bat-box complete with its own bat symbol. Now I’m no expert on covertly plugging into electrical systems, but surly you wouldn’t put anything on a box you had plugged into a grid to highlight who had done it, but that’s just me. However it quickly becomes apparent to Harper that the boxes aren’t just plugged into the power grid, they are also helping to hold up and support the grid hence the reason it’s not failing.

While Harper is checking one of the boxes out she is caught up in a fight between Batman and Tiger Shark, it’s here where she decides to help Batman out just as he helped her and her brother out.
After helping Batman out Harper disappears from the scean as quickly as he does, unfortunately for her Bats notices that someone had a hand in helping him capture Tiger Shark and he’s not happy. A few days later Harper is back working on the grid when Batman appears behind her, he tells her not to bother him again and to leave him alone.  Despite Batman’s warning, the smile on Harpers face tells you that this is not the last we have seen of her.

As a one-shot story this is as good as it gets and the fact that it’s an origin introduction to a new Batman character makes it even better, 12 issues in and I cannot fault this run of Batman books it’s still the first book I go to every month when my order arrives.

Unfortunately I do have an issue with the artwork in this book, mainly because there are two artists on the book neither of whom have similar art styles. If the story hadn’t been so good this art change would have ruined the book for me, and I have to ask the question why did we have two completely contrasting artists on the same book?
For me Batman is one of the key flagship books of DC and as such should have art that is consistent throughout the book, if either of the artists had done the whole book I would not have had a problem. It may seem like a small thing to some but for me it’s a big thing, art works and storylines are the main ingredients of a comic book so they have to be consistent and the art wasn’t in this book.
So come on DC as readers who buy your product treat us with a bit more respect please.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Batgirl Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog one of the local comic shops I use has a loyalty card, where you get money back for every pound you spend. I don’t know the full detail on how it works but as I buy the comics anyway, I signed up just as the new DCU hit the shops and low and behold on my last visit I had enough to buy a trade book. The book I picked was the hardcover Batgirl trade which covers the first 6 issues of the new run, why that book well I am a fan of Gail Simone's work having read Birds of Prey and the excellent Welcome to Tranquillity. I had also heard good things about Batgirl, and having not bought it as a monthly due to budget reasons I decided to go for it.
The trade is tittled The Darkest Reflection and covers the first 6 issues of the run, although after finishing the book it did feel like a lot more than 6 issues (in a good way).  That’s because there is a hell of a lot of story packed into those 6 issues, and you feel like you’ve been on a emotional roller coaster when you get to the end.
Its the new 52 and Batgirl is back but its not Cassandra Cain or Stephanie Brown (both have their merits), but Barbara Gordon the original Batgirl the TV and animated series Batgirl. The Batgirl who was shot and paralysed by the Joker, then went on to become Oracle you get my meaning Batgirl is back.

In this new updated DCU Batgirl still has the history of been shot and paralysed but has now been cured, I won’t go into how if anyone hasn’t yet read the book I don’t want to spoil it. However for me the explanation on how she was cured is very plausible one, especially if you live in a world that is full of flying super heroes and villains.
There are two story arcs covered in the book the first of which sees Batgirl go up against The Mirror and then secondly Gretel, both of whom seem to be cold hearted killers but are really victims of circumstance and ultimately both tragic characters. It is a clever move from writer Gail Simone that she started the series with two new villains, rather than go with one who is more established as it gives the reader a chance to focus on Batgirl rather than villain of the month.

This is a Batgirl who was not written as I expected either; this is a Batgirl who still has doubts that she can be a hero, a Batgirl who freezes when a gun is pulled on her resulting in the death of an officer, a Batgirl who is good but is not sure if she is good enough? There are also several plot lines that are started in this book which don't get closed off by the time you get to the end (taxi for book 2), Barbra's new flatmate has secrets, police officer Melody McKenna has an unhealthy fixation with Batgirl (it was her partner who was shott and  killed), Barbra’s mother is back after abandoning both her and Jim years ago a story plot I liked and look forward to reading more of. 
All of these add to the tone and feel of the book and help create a world outside Batgirls crime fighting world, I found it fun to read and learn just as much about Barbara and her everyday life as I did about Batgirls.

There is the expected cameo from Knightwing and Batman but  you can’t have a story set in Gotham without these two iconic characters making an appearance, its also good that their appearances don't feel forced and it felt very organic within the story's they were involved in.

The artwork by Ardian Syaf and Vivente Cifuentes is stunning and looks absolutely gorgeous on the glossy pages of the book, add to that the covers by Adam Hughes and you have a very desirable book indeed.

If you haven't read Batgirl yet and I have to admit I may be in the minority here, do yourself a favour and go out and buy it you will not be disappointed. At £16 its not a cheap buy but trust me it is well worth every penny, my only dilemma know is do I continue to read the book in trade or go out and buy the monthly.

It is a dilemma I tweeted to Gail Simone after first congratulating her on her work, she answered back that she would go for the monthlies but that's because she is impatient. Now I wouldn't normally disagree with the lady but I think I will stick with the trade, its worth the wait to see such a high calibre of work presented in this format.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Rocketeer, Cargo of Doom #1

This was my first glimpse into the world of the Rocketter and as I have been dipping my toe into the world of Pulp, I thought why not when I saw this on the shelf of the local comic shop.
Its 1940 and Cliff Secord is the Rocketeer a stunt pilot who working out of an unnamed airfield (well in this book anyway), along with his mechanic friend Peev (short for Peabody) who knows Cliff is the Rockateer. Peev's niece Sally also works at the airfield as a mechanic and she has a big crush on Cliff, a fact she happily tells the Rocketeer not knowing he is Cliff I know it’s complicated. To make matters worse for Cliff (the Rocketeer if I’ve already lost you) he has a long term girlfriend called Betty, who is clearly based on the 50's pin up diva Betty Page so it’s not all bad for him when you think about it.

The story starts off with Sally who is testing a plane with a member of the Civil Aeronautics Agency, who makes it quite clear that he will grant the licence as long as Sally accepts his advances. Not been that kind of girl she pushes him away which causes the plane door to open and a parachute to fall out of the plane, the parachute then becomes entangled in the propeller causing the plane to go into free fall. Yes I know it’s all Saturday morning cinema drama (yes I am that old) but it is enjoyable, after been alerted to the falling plane by Peev Cliff dons his Rocketeer suit which he keeps in his locker(?). Then as the Rocketeer he fly’s to the plane untangles the parachute, and with a little help from Sally's expert handling of the plane save the day (I can hear the kids cheering as he does so).
 Meanwhile a ship is making its way to LA carrying a mystery cargo something deadly, well its deadly enough to literally bite off the hands that were feeding it but to be fair he was told to be cautious. The ship has its fair share of colourful characters theres the dodgy Captain, Duggan the short tempered neanderthal mussel and Guptmann who was subjected to some sort of brain surgery in the past, surgery that has left him not the man he ones was.
Once the ships docks we get to meet a mysterious character who the ships captain refers to as Master, he is also someone who seems to have more than a passing interest in the Rocketeer.

In the mean time Cliff has managed to upset his girlfriend then win her back again, hit the Civil Aeronautics Agency Inspector for grounding him. Not pick up that Sally has the hot’s for him something his girlfriend Betty did, although I think calling her a Jezebel is a bit harsh. Then finish the night by dragging Betty into the bushes for a goodnight kiss, they took it slow in the 40's or so I'm told (I'm defiantly not that old).

So all in all its a packed issue and you certainly get your money’s worth, and the book feels longer than 22 pages.

It was writer Marc Wades name that attracted me to the book and although I enjoyed the story it does feel like it jumps around a bit, at one point I did have to check that there wasn’t a page missing as the story didn’t seem to follow on quite right.
I found the art by Chris Samnee a little cartoonish in tone but it does fit the story well and helps set the feel of the era, however I did feel that the darker scenes set at night or in the hold of the ship came over better than the day time ones.

This book I suspect is not for everyone but if you’re a fan of pulp fiction (not the film) then you will enjoy this book, as I said at the start of this blog I have been getting into the world of pulp over the last few months. If I’m honest it’s not the best thing I have read in that time but it did get me interested in the world of the Rocketeer, and I'm prepared to continue with this book as my curiosity is peeked as to what’s been kept in the hold of the ship. I have my suspicions as the captain mentioned setting sail from Skull but was cut off mid sentence, I'm guessing its the land of Kong Skull Island and they have some sort of prehistoric creature in the hold,I will let you know if I'm right.

Monday, 27 August 2012

DC'c New 52 One Year Review

As the DC 52 book line is now approaching its first year I thought I would take a look (give my opinion), on how the new comics have shaped up over that year, well the ones I'm reading at least.

The Batman books: All the Bat books have been on top form over the last year, and if I'm honest there is not one of them that I am thinking of dropping as they all bring something different to the table.
Batman by Scott Snyder been the pick of the bat books his yearlong Court of Owls story line that eventually spin off into the other books, was always good but sometimes could only be described as sheer brilliance.
Batman and Robin ran comes a close second to Batman due to its telling of the relationship between Damien and Bruce, the issue where Damien takes on and takes down a Talon is the stand out issue in this run.
Detective has been solid but I do have one complaint in that you don’t see Batman do too much detecting in this book, it’s a small point but if you’re called Detective Comics detecting should feature in there somewhere.
Dark Knight has been excellent with it all out action story lines, if you just want to see Batman in action then this is the perfect book for you.
Knightwing is another solid Bat book; although I was disappointed when Dick was dropped as Batman I do enjoy reading him as Knightwing.
I don't read the other Bat related books, I know it’s a sin not to read Batgirl but for budgetary reasons I don’t buy it. However, in my defence I am getting the trade.

Green Lantern books: Like Batman the Lantern universe was unscathed in the reboot so it was business as normal.
Green lantern is still the stand out book and having Sinestro as a Green Lantern has refreshed the whole dynamic of his and Hal’s relationship.
New Guardians is the surprise hit for me is as all the characters blend brilliantly together and this is one of the best interpretation of Larfleeze I have seen since his introduction.
Green Lantern Corps is also firing on all cylinders’ and is essential reading if you want to see the build to the up and coming Third Army story line, I would call this a killer book but with John Stewart as one of the main characters it may not be safe to do so.
However I do have to ask where is Soranik Natu, from been one of the main characters before the reboot she hasn't been seen since apart from the cover of GLC #1.

This brings us to Red Lanterns which has been a disappointment as the book never really got going, once the Third Army cross over is finished this book will be heading for the chop.

Aquaman: This book is the best of John’s books at the moment, even outshining Green Lantern which is saying something.

Green Arrow: Started off well but has dipped in recent months, needs to pick up as the fun has gone out of this book.

Swamp Thing: Top class another great book from Snyder, can the man do no wrong.

Action Comics: This is the only Superman book I am buying at present, I’m loving the story on his early life, but find the constant changing of costume annoying small complaint but it erks me.

Justice League: This is the flagship book of DC it has one of the top writers in DC on it in Geoff John’s, and features the so called top tier of DC characters my question then why is it so bad? Wonderwoman comes over as a total sword welding nut job, Green Lantern is a total arse and nothing like he is in his own book. Batman and Superman don't have any command or presence of authority, and Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg just seem to be there for window dressing.
This is another of the books that I am thinking of dropping going into the second year, which is disappointing and hard for me as I’m a Justice League junky, James Robinson anyone?

Justice League International: Loved this book I say loved as its been cancelled and for the life of me I don’t know why, so please tell me DC why, why, why, why.

Justice League Dark: Apart from the resent I Vampire cross over this has been a solid book, yes I know it’s a watered down version of John Constantine and Zattana’s costume is a little disappointing. On the plus side story lines (I Vampire apart) have been good and it great to see DC taking a chance on a book like this. I was a big fan of Shadow Pact and was disappointed when DC cancelled it, so I jumped on this book when it came out as it as the same feel as that book.

I Vampire: I love horror story's and vampire ones are my favourite so this book ticks all the right boxes for me, the artwork is gorgeous and there hasn't been a cover I haven't drooled over one of my top books.

Legion: I had not read Legion before but I had heard good things about it and the reboot seemed a good point to jump on, it was one of the best team books of the last year.

Legion Lost: Not as good as Legion but still a strong book, and well worth checking out.

All Star Western: Jonah Hex was good before the reboot and its still good after it, the the story lines have been excellent and long may Palmiotti and Grey continue writing these books. The back up story's have also been excellent with Nighthawk and Cinnamon story been the pick of the bunch, although the Dr Terrence Thirteen story in the issues 11 and 12 comes a close second.
DC Comics Presents: I had high hopes for this book, as it was my understanding that it would feature characters who would not normally appear in a monthly book. Story's that could be told which we normally would not see, so why in the opening 7 issues did we get a Dead Man story. He had just spent the last 12 months appearing in Brightest Day, however the book did improve with the story featuring The Challenges of the Unknown. Along with the excellent Vandal Savage story, the book did enough to get another year.

Animal Man: Started off well but has dropped off a little over the past few months, I understand the Swamp Thing connection but there is only so much ROT story line a person can take.

Frankenstein Agent of SHADE: Another book that has dipped a little, and has lost something after the departure of both the character Lady Frankenstein and writer Jeff Lemire.

Demon Knights: Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant, nothing else to say.

Blue Beetle: This has been a solid read all year and the story line wrapped up very nicely in issue 12, and I'm looking forward to the next 12 months.

Earth 2: So far so good, but then again its James Robinson and I'm a big fan of his work.

Worlds Finest: I like the twist on the old Batman / Superman Worlds Finest books, in that now we have Earth 2 Huntress and Powergirl as the two main characters.  Only 3 issues in but its an enjoyable book, I would go as far as to say its a fun book something there is not a lot of in the new darker DCU. 

Books that I have dropped:  Supergirl, Wonderwoman, Catwoman, Voodoo, Hawkman, Firestorm, and Captain Atom. All were dropped due to budget reasons, when they first came out the shop I bought them from was doing a buy 5 get one free deal. Once the deal was over around issue 3 I had to decide what stayed and what went, these were the ones I got less enjoyment from so they went.
So that's it my thoughts on the first year of the new DC 52, and to be honest there have been more ups than downs for me anyway. If I had to pick my biggest surprise and biggest disappointment over the last 12 months. It would be Aquaman as my biggest surprise and Justice League as my biggest disappointment, strange that they both have the same writer.