Saturday, 21 December 2013

Five Ghosts: The haunting of Fabian Gray (TPB)


 
 
Fabian Gray is a thief and treasure hunter who is possessed by the ghosts of five literary characters, The Archer, The Samurai, The Wizard, The Detective, and The Vampire all who’s powers he uses to become a better thief and treasure hunter . We first meet Fabian as he is breaking in to a Nazi stronghold to find and to liberate a treasure for a well to do client, a client who it seems is willing to show her appreciation with more than money after Fabian delivers the item to her. The rest of the story takes you to London, Africa and Shangri-La as Fabian searches for a cure for his comatose sister, and quickly learns that the power he now wields comes with a high price one that could end his life. It seems the five sprits are now happy with their role in life or death and will destroy Fabian rather than stay as they are, to appease the ghosts our hero must pass five tests to get them to agree to work with him rather than against him. 

The mystery of how Fabian acquired his powers and what happened to his sister are told in flashbacks, while the reason he is haunted by literary characters is explained rather cleverly during his time in Shangri-La.Throw in a subplot involving Nazi’s and what looks like dodgy business men and you have the makings of a great story, at the end of the story you have a full understanding of Fabians powers and how he will handle them going forward. However, not all the plotlines are tied up which leaves things open for more adventures to come, which is fine by me as I intend to start picking up the book monthly from now on.

My understanding is that Five Ghosts was originally going to be a 5 issue story but has now been solicited as an ongoing monthly, and deservedly so in my opinion as writer Frank Barbiere has crafted a wonderful story with a great pulp feel all backed up with some very believable characters.The art of Chris Mooneyham is suitably moody with some great splash pages that only help to enhance the whole pulp feel of the book; he also has a wonderful eye for detail as seen on the very scary giant spiders. Lauren Affe's colours also help to enhance the pulp feel of the story, and the contribution she makes should not be overlooked

I picked up this trade after a recommendation from a friend on a podcast, and was then lucky enough to meet writer Frank Barbiere and Lauren Affe at the Thought Bubble comic convention last month. Frank and Lauren were a joy to meet their book was an absolute joy to read, I highly recommended it either in trade or single issues it is well worth seeking out

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Thought Bubble Comic Con 2013

Sunday 24th November my wife (Helen) and I braved the cold and ventured out to the Leeds comic con ThoughtBubble, we had decided to go on the Sunday as we hadn’t been on that day before it also fitted into our weekend plans so all was well. Unfortunately going on a Sunday it wasn’t the best decision we have ever made, and I will go into the reasons why at the end of this post.



Firstly let me say that Thought Bubble was once again a triumph the organisation was absolutely spot on, the volunteers who organise the lines, man the doors and hand out wrist bands and stuff were polite and very well informed at least the ones I meet were. Now I am sure there are other people doing lots of other important stuff that I haven’t mentioned and to you guys I apologise, but the fact that I didn’t see you means you were very good at your job. A job that I imagine is probably thankless and at times very frustrating and one I could never do, so to all the visible and not so visible but equally important people I thank you.

The day went very quickly a sign of enjoying ourselves and many things I planned to do we never got round too, however below is a brief synopsis of what we did manage to see and the people we meet.

Despite going straight to the table of  Fiona Staples the artist on the excellent Saga the queue for was very large and growing even at 10:30, none deterred by this I left Helen in the queue and headed off round the Hall to see what caught my eye. Around 20 minutes later I re-joined Helen who had moved around an inch (I kid you not), Helen decided she wanted to have a look around and promptly disappeared, by the time she returned my patience had run thin and we decided to skip the line to look at other things.

                                           
I got to meet up with Martin Gray, Martin writes the excellent blog Too Dangerous for a Girl and was instrumental in helping me set up my blog. When I was first thinking of blogging but had no idea on how to go about it, Martin gave me advice on how to go about producing a blog that hopefully people would want to read. We bumped into him and his friend Steve when we first checked in and agreed to meet later for coffee, it was a real pleasure to talk face to face with Martin after various conversations either through Facebook, email or blogs. Both Martin and Steve are the nicest people you could hope to meet and meeting them both made my weekend, hopefully we will meet up next year and if we do it will be my turn to buy the coffees.

                                                   Me, Helen, Martin and Steven

 I caught up and chatted with Steve Tanner of TimeBomb Comics mainly about the previous nights Doctor Who but also about his new comics, I picked up the graphic novel Squadron of the Screaming Damned and The Last ride of Henry Holden both of which I will be reviewing in a later post. Time Bomb have some very interesting and diverse comics and first caught my eye at Thought Bubble 2012, Steve is a great guy and the thing I love about his stall is that it has a friendly family feel to it. Steve's wife and daughter are always with him on the stall and are as friendly as he is, I recommend to anyone to check out the Time Bomb Comics website there is bound to be something that catches your interest.

I managed to talk briefly with John McCrea as he wondered around the hall, I first meet John at UKCAC in 96,and he always has time to talk to people even when he isn't sat at his table a true gent.

I managed to get Mark Buckingham to sign my issue of Doctor Who #1 then he drew a nice sketch of Matt's Doctor in my sketch book, as someone who cannot draw to save his life it always fascinates me how artists go about their work.
Mark Buckingham
 
 

Next to Mark was Jessica Martin who is probably better know for her acting, singing and dancing than her writing, Jessica was there promoting her one shot comic called IT Girl which is the story of Clara Bow. Clara was one of the  biggest starts in the early era of Hollywood but unfortunately is remembered by only a few people today, Jessica's also has a book coming out soon called Elsie Harris Picture Palace and a short story featuring that character was in this years Thought Bubble anthology. The IT Girl book was very fairly priced so I bought a copy as I have a love of all things connected with movies, Jessica was also kind enough to pose for a photo with me and Helen remarked that she looked every inch the film star she had written about, and added that her shoes were to die for (woman and their shoes).


London Horror Comics were in the Allied London Hall and I had a brief chat with writer John-Paul Kamath while picking up issue 5 of the book, LHC is an excellent anthology comic book of as you would expect horror story's, they are very well put together but not aimed at children which for me is how horror should be.

John-Paul Kamath London Horror Comics
 
 
 

Other highlights included buying a Anne Hathaway Catwoman statue that was spotted by Helen as we walked into the main hall, 2 rather nice prints one of Green Lantern and the other a black & white Batwoman and Poison Ivy from Patrick Walsh. I also picked up a very nice classic Christopher Lee Dracula print of a Dean Ormston, been a Sandman fan and all that spun out of that book I was aware of Dean's work on Lucifer. However, his classic monster paintings are new to me and they are just fantastic, I can see me getting a few more of these over time.



The last person I meet was writer of the comic book Five Ghosts Frank Barbiere this comic had been recommended on a podcast I listen too (Earth Station One), so when I saw that the writer of the book would be at TB I was determined to meet him. Frank was a genuinely nice guy and we chatted about his book and our impending trip to the states next year, I bought the trade of Five Ghosts which Frank and colourist Lauren Affe both signed, I will be checking out this on-going title in the coming months.


My one rant of the day is about a comic artist Rafael Albuquerque the artist on the excellent American Vampire, I had been looking forward to meeting Rafael as I am a big fan of the book and of the artwork in it. I was surprised that there was no one queuing for his table as I had presumed he would be a big draw, on approaching him I could see he was sketching so I waited until he stopped to hand over my hard back book and anthology comic of American Vampire. After he signed the books I asked him if he was doing sketches and was told no I'm only doing commissions, but I have prints and original art for sale if you want that. Given that the prints were Calvin & Hobbs and the original artwork while not total out of my budget were more than I could justify paying, I just thanked Rafael and took back my signed comics and left his table a little disappointed. It may be just me but I cannot understand why an artist would travel to a convention and not do any sketches for fans of their work, it also made me realise why his table had no queue.

 As I said at the start of the blog we decided to visit Thought Bubble on the Sunday rather than the Saturday and crowed wise it was a good decision, unfortunately it also meant that the buzz that is there on Saturdays was sadly lacking during the Sunday event. I believe this was due to the vastly reduced coz players on Sunday compared to what we have seen on the Saturday, for me coz players make a con so not having as many made Sunday a more sombre day. It was still a great day but personally we both prefer the hustle and bustle of the Saturday event, the decision to move to venues was also a good idea and just shows how the event is growing year on year, which can only be a good thing.



One final note we never did get to see Fiona Staples when we went back to join the line which was still rather large, we were told the line is now closed, never mind there is always next year.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Memmories of comic cons past

This weekend 23rd / 24th November sees the annual Leeds comic convention known as Thought Bubble, it’s a convention that has very quickly grown and it is fast getting a reputation of been the UK’s best comic con. It has grown from a one day convention in the local town hall attended by around 500 people, to a week long celebration of all things art which culminates with a two day comic con at the New Dock Halls and Leeds Amery’s. Last year around 10,000 people attended and numbers are expected to increase again this year, which is why they have probably added an extra convention venue which is great news for comic fans and the city of Leeds as well. The guest list is massive this year and it wouldn’t be fair to spotlight someone over someone else, although I’m looking forward to meeting Rafael Albuquerque the artist on the brilliant American Vampire. If you are interested in seeing who is there or want to attend the con then click the link at it will take you to the website: Thought Bubble Comic Convention.

Looking forward to the con and planning my time out (yes I do plan, sort of) it made me think back to other conventions I had attended, my first ever comic convention was way back in the mists of time 1993 to be exact. I was a fresh faced teenager in truth I was 32 and I had travelled to London with my son to attend the convention know as UKCAC, this of course stood for the United Kingdom Comic Art Convention and it was the biggest convention of its day. It’s hard to describe how I felt that first day as we handed our tickets over and received our convention badges, but I liken it to how Alice must have felt the first time she set eyes on Wonderland. All the big players were there Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Vertigo each with their own stands, and of course writers who were signing their books and artists who would if asked politely draw you a sketch. Now these were the days when sketches were free, yes you heard me right free, now I will admit that the ones that are done know are in most cases more detailed than the ones done back then but they were free so you didn’t complain. Now this is where the waters of time become muddy as over the years I attended all the UKCAC conventions from 93 up to 98, and I’m unsure which convention year some of my highlights took place but I do know that they happened at UKCAC. So below with no years attached are some not all I may save those for next year, are my convention highlights.

While having a rest in the bar area with my son  I was asked if the spare stool at our table was free, having said yes expecting it to be picked up and taken away the person in question sat down with us. It didn’t take me long to realise that we had comic artist Glenn Fabry sat with us, now I had heard or read not sure which that if you bought Glen a drink you had a friend for life. So yes you guessed it I finished my drink and as I got up I said “can I buy you a drink Mr Fabry I’m a big fan”, he smiled held up his glass and said “thanks and can call me Glenn”. I then had an enjoyable time talking comics with one of the great British comic artist,

I got to meet Dennis O’Neil and as a Batman fan I cannot tell you how excited I was to meet the great man himself, its just unfortunate that I was wearing a Superman t-shirt when I had my photo taken with him.

 
That's me in the cap by the way

I got to meet artist Mark Buckingham for the first time and managed to get a Death sketch from him, as a Sandman fan it was a big deal to me and the sketch sits proudly on my wall.

 

DC held the first UK showing of their new Superman TV show The Adventures of Lois & Clark which stared Dean Cain & Teri Hatcher, in a time when there was no Internet widely available and no You Tube to see this show before anyone else in the UK was a real geek out moment.

I bought my first piece of comic artwork for £35 at the end of convention comic auction; it was a sketch of Death and another character who I still don’t know to this day. Unknown to me the artist was sat behind me and thanked me for buying it, then posed for a photo holding it for me good times.


My son John bought his first collectible comic at UKCAC all by himself; he had been saving up for most of the year and was looking for something special to buy. He is a Spiderman fan so he obviously wanted something connected to Spiderman; he had eventually set his heart on the Superman Spiderman crossover comic that came out in 1976. Having asked me if he could spend his money on it I told him if that what you want then of course he could, he didn’t want me to go with him so I stood watching as he approached the seller and asked how much it was. I can’t remember the price but once he knew he had enough money he said he would buy it, the seller gave a quick glance over to me as John was sorting out his money and I just nodded. A moment later John was coming over comic in hand beaming from ear to ear saying look this is what I bought with my own money, a proud moment indeed as I realised my little boy was fast growing up into a geek.

At one convention comic auction a Captain America sketch by Jack Kirby was been sold off and bidding had got to around £50, confident that the great mans work would go well into double digits I shouted out “let make it a straight £100”. John just looked at me open mouthed and said “ do you have £100” and “you know mum will kill you if she find out”, I just smiled and told him it would be OK as it would sell for a lot more than the £100 I had bid. To my horror there were no more bids coming in and as the auctioneer began saying “if there’s no more bids I’m selling” panic began to set in, I not only didn’t want to have to tell Helen I had blow £100 on a sketch I didn’t have £100 to begin with. Just as the words sold were about to be uttered much to my relief someone from the back shouted £110, when the bid came back to me I just shook my head and dropped out of the bidding. I laugh about it now but I learnt a valuable lesson that day, don’t try to be Billy big balls if you can’t back it up.

So that’s it just a few memories from my times at UKCAK a convention that is sadly no longer with us, the last one was held in Manchester in 1998 before becoming Comic Festival and relocating to Bristol. The Manchester convention was my last one for many a year and I didn’t go to another one until Thought Bubble in 2009, I do however look back very fondly on UKCAC and the great times I had there.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Masters of the Universe vs DC #1


Now when I first saw this comic solicited I thought no way will that work but having had the same thoughts on the Star Trek Doctor Who cross over and given how good that comic was, I decided I would take a punt at this one as well which is not been the best idea I've had this year with my comic selections.
Now my background with the Masters of the Universe is the TV show from the 80’s that my son and me sat and watched religiously, well these Masters of the Universe are as far removed from that show as you could possibly get. This is not a bad thing as I understand that to be relevant things need to be shaken up and moved on, but it is a shock when you first start reading the dialogue between the characters especially between Teela and He-Man. There seems to be an underlined sexual tension between the two of them, something that never appeared in the cartoon show so I can only assume to be part of the resent Masters of the Universe comic.

At the start of the comic a mysterious woman is been chased by a group of skull headed rats in New York which sees her take refuge in the home of John Constantine, then you are thrown into what feels like the middle of the story in which Eternia has been taken over by Hordak and the Horde. An act that has now made He-Man and his team rebels which for me is one of the biggest problems with the comic, as this part of the story seemingly ties directly in to the resent Masters of the Universe run. As He-Man and his group talk they reference things that have happened in that series, so if you haven’t read it then it’s difficult to understand or know what they are talking about.


 He-Man and his team attack of a group of Robots where Evil-Lyn is found imprisoned within a high security Transom, think steel cube. Once freed Evil-Lyn explains that Skeletor who is now missing could be the person who tips the balance of the war depending on who he sides with, she knows just where to find him and as Skeletor has a thing for her (I can feel my sons childhood draining away) she can persuade him to help He-man and his group. Back in the DC world the mysterious woman is telling John Constantine and Madame Xanadu that Skeletor walks the earth, something that doesn't surprise Constantine all that much as it’s a name he knows through myth and legend. It seems that magic is a resource just like any other and its in short supply on Eternia, but with earth not having many Mages there is an abundance of magic to draw on and Skeletor wants it all. However Skeletor is not working alone he is aided by Black Alice and to some extent been controlled by what looks like an egg, I hope it’s the same one from the TV show Under the Dome, it will save me several more hours of a TV show that I know I won’t get answers to at the end but I digress.

Skeletor and Alice are holed up in the House of Mystery where Skeletor is more than a little interested in the Justice League, Alice has their images on a laptop I do hope she isn't using Windows 8 as a month in we still cant get used to using it. Skeletor is also not surprised to hear Alice mention the name Constantine, who he also knows from myth and thinks could possibly be an ally. 



Back in Constantine’s home John is telling the mysterious woman he won’t help her only to be knocked across the room for been disrespectful to the warrior queen of Eternia, and as all types of trouble begins to ensue remember the skull headed rats He-Man and his team appear shouting Mom at the woman.
As I indicated at the start of this post this is one cross-over that hasn't hooked me like I hoped it would, despite the idea of magic on Eternia and Earth been a resource that can be exhausted. The inclusion of Justice League Dark (well two of them) is a good fit for this type of story given the magic angle, but as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman all appear on the cover it’s a little disappointing we don’t see them in the book, but as you know you should never judge a book by its cover (sorry). 


Skeletors costume change also threw me as he now wears the most impractical head gear you have ever seen, think Loki but upside down and you wont be far off the mark.

Setting the story in what I am guessing is the current Masters of the Universe storyline is also a little jarring as you are left with questions that you don’t really need for this story, I have heard good things about the Masters of the Universe book so if you have been reading that then this crossover is for you, if like me you haven’t it may be one to give a miss.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Aquaman 23.1 Black Manta


Black Manta only lives for one thing and that's to kill Aquaman who he blames for the death of his farther, so what does he do now that Aquman is dead (allegedly) killed at the hands of the Crime Syndicate.  Well that's one of the questions asked in this villains story line, one that ties in directly to the Forever Evil event.

Manta is languishing in Belle Reve super maximum prison been proportioned by Amanda Waller (steady now), she wants him to join her Suicide Squad a team he is not too keen to join for several reason (the word Suicide would put me off). Manta is having none of it as he is clever enough to know there is no return from the Suicide Squad, and that any promise of early release and pardons are just empty words.


The prison is attacked by the Crime Syndicate causing mass chaos and releasing all the prisoners leaving Manta free to get his tech gear and escape, but not before bumping into Ocean Master Aquamans other adversary while doing so. The pair never speak they just look at each other then go their own way, a nice touch I thought. 

Once on the outside Manta attends the Crime Syndicates first appearance where he learns of the apparent fate of Aquaman and the Justice League, as Aquaman's trident, Supermans cape and Wonder Woman's lasso is throw to the baying crowed as proof of their deaths. However rather than take up their offer of an alliance for world domination, Mantra walks away from the Crime Syndicate carrying Aquamans trident. 

The focus for his rage is now dead and as he sits on his farther grave telling him its over Manta is preparing to hang up his helmet, but as fate has it (always does in comics) Ultra Man is moving the moon to block the rays of the sun, which seemingly have the opposite effect on him to what they do on Superman. An action that effects the tides and creates a tsunami that destroys and washes away his fathers grave right before his eyes, an act which leaves Black Manta with a new focus for his anger and rage.



The story is plotted by Geoff Johns & Tony Bedard with words by Tony Bedard and helps give the reader a small incite into the mind of Black Manta, and confirm what I have always suspected with the character that his hatred for Aquaman is not driven revenge alone. Manta needs to hate something to live without hate he is nothing and no one, its a credit to John's that he has taken a second string characters and now turned him into one of DC most dangerous and interesting villains

The story is worth picking up as it ties into Forever Evil directly although there are a few scenes that you will have seen already in Forever Evil 1 but now shown from Mantas perspective, the artwork by Clude St AUBIN is excellent as is the colouring by Blond?

The 3D cover is also top notch and defiantly one of the better ones that I have seen so far, not as good as the Swamp Thing cover but definitely well done. 




Monday, 23 September 2013

Swamp Thing # 23.1 Arcane


If your wanting a Villains Month comic that does not tie-in directly to Forever Evil then this is a book for you, whatever is going on in Forever Evil has no impact on this issue what so ever. 

Swamp Thing issue 23.1 unashamedly fleshes out what has been, and lays the foundations for what is to come in the Swamp Thing book. Anton Arcane the avatar for the parliament of rot before his fall is now locked in his own personnel hell, the parliament has imprisoned him in his own world that is full of life and where nothing ever rots, something that is slowly driving Anton insane (if he wasn't already).


Into this personnel hell steps the present avatar of the rot Anton’s niece Abigail who is looking for answers on what happened to her mother, as all memory of her was eroded by her Uncle as her prepared her to become a child of the rot. What follows is a shortened history of the Arcane family and the rot all from Anton’s perspective, which helps to give you (the reader) an understanding of how Anton became the way he did. While not avoiding the fact that even without the rots influence, Anton was always destined to become a monster of one sort or another.

The story is as you would expect not a happy one and I would suggest reading it after eating especially if you’re having rabbit (you have been warned), Abigail’s part in the story which is intertwined with Anton’s portrays her as a victim of the family curse, rather than the monster her uncle is or wants her to be. The verbal sparring between Anton and Abigail is brilliantly written as Anton looks for ways to exploit any vulnerability that Abigail may have, as she comes to term with the power she now wields from been the latest avatar of the rot. Its throughout this sparing that you always have the uneasy feeling that Anton is not quite as helpless as he acts or appears , despite the upper hand presently been held by Abigail you always feel that he is ultimately in charge of the situation.

The final revelation on what actually happened to Abigail’s mother is a predictable twist but is still shocking to read and see, Anton’s final act as Abigail exits leaving him alone to his hellish world sets things up nicely for future story lines to come.
Swamp Thing was one of those books I decided to try when the DC Universe reinvented itself a decision I have never regretted, so when it was announced that writer Scott Snyder would be leaving the book I had major concerns. After all he had (in my opinion) reinvented Swamp Thing and made a second string character a must read book every month, well I had worries and sleepless nights (not really) for nothing as the book hasn't missed a beat since Snyder’s departure. Charles Soule is capturing all the horror and madness of Swamp Things world that was set up in Snyder’s run, without compromising the stories and plot lines he is currently writing. Jesus Saiz art is as good as anything that's been produced in this book and his visuals leave you in no doubt that you are reading a horror comic that just happens to be set in the DC Universe, this book is not one for the little one.

If you are reading Swamp Thing and gave this a miss due to the Villains month tie-in get to your local comic shop as fast as you can because you've missed a great story, if you've not been reading Swamp Thing at all its the same advise.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #8


IDW’s celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th year continues in issue 8 of Prisoners of Time, this issue we are with Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor and his companion Grace Holloway.
It’s a year since the Doctor left Dr. Grace Holloway to return back to her life in San Francisco after she help him defeat the Master (again), Grace who was offered the chance to go with the Doctor but turned him down is now back in her daily routine and seemingly a little board. So it’s no surprise that the Doctor turns up on her door step asking her if she has changed her mind, despite been board with normal life she at first declines then agrees to go on one trip only (heard that one before).

The Doctor and Grace find themselves on an earth like planet whose inhabitants seem welcoming and friendly, and its after introductions are made that one family invite the Doctor and Grace to have a family meal with them. It’s during the meal that the Doctor learns of the inhabitant’s war like history that almost destroyed the plant, and of the benefactors known as The Overseers who saved the planet and its people from extinction. The only thing the Overseers have ever asked for in return for saving the planet and its people, is that they give up a few of their own each year to help the Overseers in their tasks in their city in the sky. 
It’s during one of these requests that the Doctor becomes at odds with the Overseers when one young girl who does not want to leave her family is forced to leave, a situation that the Doctor just cannot stand by and accept.
Things develop quickly and the Doctor and Grace find themselves in the sky city via a flying car like vehicle where they find all is not well, there is a reason why people never return (think organ donation without consent) a situation that the Doctor cannot and will not except. Battles ensue along with lots of running (it’s not Doctor Who without running) and good triumphs over evil once again, and all ends well for the planets inhabitants but not for the Doctor. 
He is already waiting for the appearance of mysterious man who keeps taking his companions, unfortunately despite been ready the Doctor is powerless to stop grace been taken but not before we get a bit more information on who this mystery man could be.
Now this for me is the weakest of the issues so far as the story of the Doctor coming back for Grace felt a little forced, I would have preferred his companion to be one from the big finish audio's but there may be licensing issues that prevented that. 
The story by the Tipton’s is a good Doctor story but I felt no real connection to this Doctor, most likely due to his only ever appearance been in the much maligned TV film of the BBC series. The art work was also a sticking point for me as it had too much of a cartoon look and feel to it, the likeness of Paul's Doctor was also hit and miss (more miss) so much so it did spoil the story in some parts. While the idea of the Overseers was a great one their design unfortunately was not, they looked like the 70’s badly dressed cousins of the Cone Heads, funny but not scary.
It’s disappointing that Paul McGann’s Doctor didn’t get the issue he and we deserved, as the Big Finish audio's have proved there is so much more to the 8th Doctor than we ever saw on screen.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Legends of the Dark Knight # 9


 
Dreaming he is a Butterfly

The story starts with Batman beating the snot out of the Scarecrows henchmen in a Hammer Horror style graveyard, as he makes his way to the inevitable confrontation with the master of fear, telling him his toxins don’t work on him as he’s built up resistance and is also wearing nose plugs. Unfortunately for bats the Scarecrows latest toxin is absorbed through the skin stopping Batman in his tracks, now this is where the story really kick in and takes the reader on a journey they didn’t expect (well I didn’t).
 

Bruce wakes up to find himself in his bed with Alfred tending over him as he has seemingly lost the use of his legs and several years have now passed, Bruce has to come to terms that the years of fighting crime have left him both mentally and physically injured beyond any hope of healing. Alfred explains that he now slides in and out of lucidity and for the short time he is lucid he has forgotten what happened to him and Alfred has to explain it to him all over again, as you would expect Bruce is having none of this saying no matter how hurt he was he would find away to go out and fight crime. Which is the cue for Alfred to vent his anger telling Bruce if he had helped people with his inventions instead of fighting crime the world may have been a better place, pointing out he could have saved millions and improved society if he had directed his energies into creating vaccines for diseases, instead of creating anti toxins to protect himself from his enemy’s. It’s a valid point and one that is improved upon by Jim Gordon who comes around every time Bruce is lucid with unsolved crime files he needs help with, Jim tells Bruce that since his enforced retirement things had improved dramatically in Gotham. With no Batman to fight or focus on the madmen have all left they city and the ones that didn’t were mopped up by Batman friends, as Jim points out Scarecrow is no match for Superman.

The most damming news is that Bruce was responsible for the death of Robin during one of his psychotic episodes believing he was Clayface in disguise, its news that just about pushes Bruce over the edge not only is his purpose for living now gone but he is responsible for the death of his partner.

Just when you think all hope is lost the Batman never give in never surrender attitude begins to kick in, and reality starts to intrude on the fear induced dream and we once again find Batman face to face with a disbelieving Scarecrow who is quickly dispatched. The Scarecrows new toxin makes its victims create an artificial life built on their own fears and dreams, but as Batman points out if he was going to have a fantasy life it would have been better than the one he has at present.

This is one of the best Scarecrow story’s I have read in a long time making the Scarecrow scary again, it asks some very interesting questions like would Gotham be better off without Batman and would society be better if Bruce's focus was more humanitarian than vigilante. They are interesting questions that most comic fans would have an opinion on, but they not an argument anyone would ever win or agree on believe me I've had enough of these discussions to know.

The Trap

The second story in the book has Batman tracking down Catwoman who is breaking into Gotham's newest billionaires home using cold technology from Mr Freeze, all is not what it seems as Catwomans intentions are noble (sort of) as the billionaire is an anti-establishment nut who is funding terrorists and she is trying to get proof. Now if she can help herself to a few million in Bearer Bonds in the process then more power to her, as she points out ''its not cheap being this cool'' a sentiment I can relate too but I usually wait until the Debenhams Blue Cross Sale. The final panel shows why Catwoman is such a perfect foil for Batman, and why like all cats she cannot be trusted as no matter how much they purr they always have their own agenda ad sharp claws. The story is fast paced and the artwork flows so well it’s like watching an animated film, so congratulations to Stephane Roux on the art and Ray Fawkes on the writing.

Now with all that’s been going on in the other DC books I have had Legends on the back burner, but after reading this issue there is no way it is going to stay there. Legends for me is simply the best of the Bat books out there at the moment and I cannot recommend it higher, it comes out in digital format weekly then is printed in paper form toward the end of the month which is how I get it. The beauty of this book is that the story’s tend to be one shot and don’t tie into present continuity some don’t even tie in to any continuity, so you can pick up any issue and not feel lost as the story your reading may have happened or they may not have, after all they are just Legends.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Rocketteer & Spirt #1, Pulp Friction


In a cold Central City councilman Alderman Cunningham is arguing against TV rights going to private enterprise, unfortunately his passionate pleas fall on deaf ears and as he leaves  the council chambers he indicates that the debate may be over but his campaign isn't.

The next morning during a sea front photo shoot three thousand miles from Central City the councilman is found dead, the model that stumbles across the dead councilman is none other than Betty the model girlfriend of Cliff Secord The Rocketeer (never a dull moment with that girl). The councilman's death prompts both police commissioner Dolan and The Sprit to fly across country to investigate, they are joined on their trip by the commissioner's daughter Ellen who has hopes of seeing someone famous while in Hollywood. Unknown to any of them the air field they are to fly into is the one where the Rocketeer works, and when 3 strangers one who is masked emerge from a plane looking for the woman who found the dead body of the councilman, alarms bells begin to ring for Peev the Rocketeers engineer. 


Insert your normal hero against hero battle as the Rocketeer try's to stop the car carrying the Spirit, the commissioner and his daughter as it makes its way to his girlfriends home, a battle that involves the Sprit  taking on the Rocketeer in mid flight its all good stuff and takes me back to the fun days of comics.



The twist is that Peev and the commissioner both know each other they are old war buddies its friendship that helps stop the Spirit & Rocketeer knocking lumps out of each other, so its off to Bettys (not the tea shop) to talk to her about the dead councilman.  Betty has been laid up in bed with the shock of finding a dead body (drama queen) refusing to answer her door to anyone, however on hearing a strangers voice at her door she is happy to open it and fall into the arms of the Sprit barley able to stand with all that she as seen (as I said drama queen). From the look on Ellen's face I cannot see her staying in the Spirits arms for too long, and I suspect the interaction between Betty and Ellen may be just one of the many joys this book has to offer.

I went into this story a little unsure as I don't have any history with the Spirit and I didn't want that lack of unfamiliarity to spoil my enjoyment, well it didn't the story written by Mark Waid is a total joy one of the best starts to a Rocketeer story I have read this year. and I've enjoyed all of them so far. Any lack of knowledge I had about the Spirit is handled on the inside cover in around 5 lines and gave me all I needed know, the art by Paul Smith is a good fit for the story along with the colouring of Jordie Bellaire who's colours set the pulp fell that runs throughout the book.

If you haven't picked this book up yet do yourself a favour and do so it a good fun book with a great story line featuring two fantastic characters, I cannot recommend it any more than that other than to say it has raised my interest in the Spirit and I will be checking out some of his past story lines, any pointers on what to check out would be appreciated.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Man of Steel Film Review (Spoilers)



Having waited for all the fuss to die down my wife and I ventured out to see Man Of Steel at the weekend around a week after its release, I had managed to avoid the spoilers and deliberately kept away from any reviews or podcasts that had a hint of Man of Steel about them. This was for me the most anticipated film of the year as a DC fan I want, no I need to have good DC hero films, and after the poorly received Green Lantern (I didn’t think it was that bad) the balance was restored by The Dark Knight Returns. As comic fans we needed this reboot of Superman to keep DC films in the ascendency, and did it didn’t disappoint until the final scenes of the film but I’ll get to that later.

Firstly the cinematography of this film is absolutely outstanding Krypton has never looked so good, the early  Christopher Reeve films had Krypton as a bland ice plant but here we see a Krypton that is vibrant, colorful and full of all types of life. Which is a pity as in keeping with the Superman mythos it’s also a planet that is on the edge of destruction, brought on by the over mining of the planets core in the pursuit of more resources.
The Cast:
The film boasts an impressive cast with Russell Crowe as Jor-El giving one of his best performances in a long while, his role has clearly been expanded as he appears several times throughout the film as a hologram to help the now grown up Kal-EL. You even get a reminder of Russell’s old Gladiator days when he goes hand to hand with General Zod, a pre-conditioned warrior who’s only thought is the continuation of the people of Krypton no matter what the cost. General Zod is played brilliantly by Michael Shannon and it’s to his credit that you do have some sympathy for his character, he sees himself not as a villain but as the savour of his people and if millions have to die to achieve that salvation then so be it.


Clarke’s Earth parents Jonathan and Martha Kent are played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, Costner is a little underused but good value for the screen time that he has. Whilst Diane Lane excellently portrays a rather feisty Martha Kent a Mother who has no issues telling Zod and his crew to go to hell when they come face to face, despite been thrown across the farm yard and having a pickup truck dropped on her house. Laurence Fishburne plays Daily Planet editor Perry White and Laurence plays him in the same way he plays everyone, I could have been watching Morpheus from the Matrix or Dr Ray from CSI but it’s a small role so I didn’t let it detract me from the film.


Amy Adams is Lois Lane and to be fair she plays a better one than Margaret Kidder or Kate Bosworth ever did in previous films, her Lois is one that uses her investigative skills and know how to track down and find the identity of the mysterious man who saved her life. Unlike previous Lois’s who used to sit across from him for around 8 hours a day, failing to work out that Clark Kent is Superman because he hides behind a pair of glasses. The problem I had with Amy’s portrayal of Lois is there was little or no chemistry between her and Caville when they are on screen together; this is supposed to be one of comic’s greatest romances but it just wasn’t there. That brings me to Henry Caville as the main man himself I had major worries about his ability to play the Superman role, I am not questioning his acting ability but everything I had seen from trailer clips to the stock photos he just didn’t look right to me, he didn’t look like Superman. Well how wrong was I, Caville was every inch the Superman I hoped he would be both in his actions and his presence on screen. The updated costume with no outside pants worked perfectly and although he must have worked tremendously hard to fill it out, I still think it would have looked better on me my wife confirmed as much when I raised the point with her as we sat having a drink and meal together after the film so it must be true. Cavills’ Superman is a lonely untrusting individual who has hidden away all his life trying to ensure no one finds out about his powers, a boy who was bullied knowing full well he could take down anyone who bullied him. Despite his mistrust he is still compelled to help those in need which he does as he wanders the world looking for clues as to who he really is, Clarks earlier life is show in flashbacks which works well and helps to explain why Clark is as untrusting in his fellow man as he is. Cavill plays this darker broodier Superman very well which includes his growth as his trust in mankind begins to slowly grow, this is probably the deepest look into who Clark / Kal-EL really is and the film is all the better for it.
The Action:
One of the main complaints about the last Superman film is there was very little action in it well this is not something you can complain about in this one, from the early scenes as Jor-El fights his way across a Krypton in the clutches of civil war to the films final confrontation between Kal-El and Zod the action never pauses for too long. The battle in Smallville between Superman and Zod is nothing but a taster on what’s to come, just when Zod is about to be beaten the ongoing battle between Kal-El, Zods right hand woman Faora-UL and the US military ramp the action up to spectacular proportions. I just need to add here that Faora-UL played by Antje Traue is a more frightening opponent than Zod, General Zod is driven but Faora-UL is psychotic and not afraid to hold back on anything be it jet fighters or some poor infantry man who happens to be in her way.

The final fight between a desperate Zod and Superman takes action and violence in a hero film to a whole new level, if you thought the Avengers destroyed Manhattan in their fight that was nothing compared with the destruction of Metropolis in this one. Which finally brings me to the scene that changed the whole feel of the film for me the killing of General Zod, up until this point this was the Superman film I had always hoped it would be, a little violent perhaps but still a great film then Superman broke Zod’s neck. Now I know in the context of the film he had no choice my wife pointed this out to me as we dissected the film over drinks and a very good pizza, but my one answer was Superman always finds a way, what that way is I don’t know but Superman would know and that’s my point he always knows.
Final Thoughts:

The whole character of Superman for me is one of hope he is the shining example other heroes aspire to be, by killing General Zod you move away from that ideal which is something I was not comfortable with when I saw it and on reflection I’m still not comfortable with now. So for me a great film was spoilt by that one action no matter how much he regretted doing it, having said all that its still a film well worth going to see and I know I will buy it on DVD when its released and you will see me in the queue to see Man of Steel 2 when its released. 
 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Constantine #3



Constantine continues his search for the final piece of a compass an artifact that has the potential to find any magical resource in the world, such is its danger in the wrong hands it has been split into three and hidden around the world. John has found and lost the needle but is now in possession of the dial and closing in on the lens which he discovered has been hidden in London. Hot on his heels also chasing the compass are Sargon the sorceress and the blind Mage Mr.E an name to strike terror in anyone heart if ever I heard one, Constantine managed to escape from Mr E in issue 2 mainly because Mr.E couldn’t see what he was up to a chink in Mr. E’s armour I suspect that needs addressing.

Once back in London Constantine begins to suffer from a blood curse (origin unknown) that seemingly slowly drains the life out of him when he visits the capital, I have to admit London has that effect on me but it’s usually down to seeing my football team getting beaten or the prices pubs down there charge for flat beer but I digress.
 
 

John has a cunning plan (cue Baldrick) to deal with his curse which involves a ride in an enchantment protected car a cunning plan indeed, unfortunately John and his driver take an unexpected trip to an alternate dimension where he strikes a bargain for his and his drivers life with the demon who is trapped there, the Riddling Butcher (now there's a name take notes Mr.E)
 


Back in the real world the final confrontation between Constantine, Sargon and Mr. E takes place in an antiques lens shop, where Constantine seemingly trapped in a magical circle is forced to explain that the hidden lens for the compass is in fact the eyes of the shop owner. A man who is been tortured by the two Mage's to reveal where the lens is, it transpires that the shop owner is the son of the man who built the compass.  As with all things Constantine you know he is one step ahead of everyone else and just when all looks bleak he unleashes the Riddling Butcher on Sargon and Mr.E, we find out it was Sargon’s farther was the one who trapped the demon in the alternate dimension and he wants revenge if not on him then on his daughter. Everything goes to hell the lenses are lost in the grizzly way you would expect, Sargon and Mr E are left fighting for their life’s against a very upset demon while Constantine escapes their trap and teleports out of London leaving them to their fate, although later back in New York during self reflection he admits they would probably survive and would be out for revenge.

 

So that’s the first story arc over and for this long time Hellblazer fan it has been a pleasant surprise as I found the book more to my likeing than I thought I would, its a good introduction story for anyone who wasn’t aware of Constantine and for long time fans it had enough of the Hellblazer elements to keep us interested. Ray Fawkes and Jeff Lemire have made a good start in establishing Constantine into the DC Universe while still keeping some of the elements of the character established in the Vertigo one.

My one complaint about the book (I always have one) is that its just too bright and colourful, I prefer my Constantine stories drawn dark and gritty but this is a new universe so I will have to live with it. I would like to add that the last statement is not a knock on Renato Guedes’ art which is excellent, but the first 3 books have had just a little too much colour for me.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Aquaman #20


 
The Others first introduced in Aquaman #7 have been asked by Aquaman to search out a Atlantean glove that has the power to punch through rock, the glove is one of many weapons that were lost during the resent Atlantis war with the surface world. The atlanteans are searching out any weapon's left on the sea bed but the glove has managed to find its way to the middle of the desert, and as its pointed out the desert is not the best environment for water dwellers.
 
The Others consist of military style man know as The Operative, Ya’Wara the animal woman and the Prisoner of War also added to the mix is a young Indian girl called Sky Alchesay, Sky walks between the land of the living and the dead and talks to her dead mother Kahina, who was previously a member of the Others prior to her death at the hands of Black Mantra?
 
The hunt for the glove begins once every gets to meet up via the will of the lightening gods, who bringing down the Others plane in the exact spot where Sky is standing waiting for them (I will point them in the direction of Ryanair Air they can give them some tips).

The glove is been used by a skin walker who is trying to free a lost group of skin walkers buried deep in a cave underground, the skin walker with the power glove turns out to be Sky's uncle Carl (poor name for a villain) who was briefly introduced earlier in the story trying to recruit Sky over protective brother. Having released the trapped skin walkers Carl plans to do whatever skin walkers do, however he didn’t count on the Others coming to thwart him and take away his glove trapping both him and the briefly freed skin walkers in a cave beneath ground, so plan thwarted then.

The issue ends with the Others leaving presumably to take the glove back to Aquaman and when Sky is asked if they (Others) will see her again, Sky replies that if they need her they know where she is then turns and walks back into the desert, man you have got to love an enigmatic ending, well I do.

Issue 20 is a fill in issue which takes you away from the excellent Death of a King story line that has been running in this book, not only is it a fill in but resident scribe Geoff Johns who has done so much to revive the fortunes of Aquaman is not writing it. Add to that very little Aquaman presence as the story revolves mainly around the team know as The Others, who are at best a rag bag team that Aquaman used to run with in his younger pre Justice League days and you would think it had the makings for a for disaster of an issue. However your thinking like mine would be wrong because the issue is so much more than a fill in book, writer John Ostrander does a wonderful job telling a story that is both entertaining and interesting, while dropping little hints and subplots that will surly play out in future Aquaman issues to come.

I did have a few minor points with the book one is that it felt a little rushed especially at the end as the team battled against the skin walkers, and why did Aquaman ask the Others to find the glove why not ask someone of his present team to find it. Surly Wonder Woman, Superman or the Flash could have done the job a lot quicker, but as I said these were minor points and didn’t detract from or spoil the story for me.

I will go as far to say that I would be happy to buy a monthly comic that featured the Others as they proved to be a very interesting group of characters, and to be honest DC have given worse characters their own books since rebooting the Universe so the Others are surly worth taking a chance on.

Come on DC you know you want too