Tuesday, 31 January 2012

DC Plays Musical Chairs with Milligan, Lemire, Cornell, Kindt, Jenkins

In news which looks suspiciously like an attempt to save DC's "The Edge" line of books, the company have today announced a wacky switcharound of writers. Firstly, Jeff Lemire will give up writing Frankenstein in order to write Justice League Dark, leaving friend Matt Kindt free to pick up the Franky ongoing. Peter Milligan, as a result, will leave JLD, and move over to Stormwatch instead. This pushes Paul Jenkins off the title, and leaves him without any books in the New 52.

This seems interesting, because in interviews Lemire has said that JLD (which keeps Mikel Janin as artist, don't worry) will now become analogous to the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee Justice League, in essence turning JLD into the flagship title of "The Dark" line of books. Kindt will writer Frankenstein, Lemire will continue to write Animal Man, and control over this line of titles seems to now belong to Lemire.

In turn, Milligan's appointment on Stormwatch seems to be in order to make Stormwatch into the flagship title of "The Edge" line of titles, which was hit hard by the first wave of DC cancellations and now offers only a few titles - Grifter, Voodoo - to its credit. With Milligan in charge, Stormwatch can now become the home to any characters who lose their own title, and DC can attempt to keep hold of their Milestone and Wildstorm characters.

All conjecture. But it does look likely that DC are now going to be making one title in each set the 'flagship' of the line. Justice League, Superman, Batman, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, and I don't know what any of the "Young Justice" books are so can't tell you which of those might be in line to take over there. Keep an eye on DC! This definitely seems to be part of a longer-term plan.


Of all the X-Men books pre-Schism, the one which most needed a good hard kick was X-Men Legacy. Originally planned to be a team book led by Rogue, the title eventually morphed into a series of D-List character studies. After fixing Danger, the book moved on to lengthy arcs about Blindfold, Anole, Indra and even-less well known characters. Which wasn’t too bad, until the ‘Rogue’ part of the premise started to strain. Mike Carey’s handle of the character made her increasingly distant, and her newfound control of her powers didn’t lead anywhere. She was also saddled with yet another relationship, this time with terrible character Magneto. For a character who has been repeatedly turned into “the girl” of a relationship, it proved to be yet another dull move. While she may have been interesting in a relationship in the cartoon or whatever, she’s never been in an interesting relationship within the comics themselves. NEVER.

So Christos Gage was inheriting a title which had several problems. In this, the first official issue of his run (he also wrote the point one issue preceding it), he has to deal with Rogue, her relationship, her position helping the students (which also never seemed to resolve) and her supporting cast of characters. At the same time, he has to write a book about students concurrent with Jason Aaron/Chris Bachalo doing essentially the exact same thing. He struggles to create a due purpose for Legacy.

But he doesn’t fail. There are several promising parts of this issue, most of them centring around the four/five teachers at the Jean Grey School where Rogue is now based. While Aaron’s ‘Wolverine & The X-Men’ is focused on the new set of students brought in, Gage seems to have inherited the old characters - giving him a slight advantage, as many of them are more popular and developed than, say, Kid Gladiator. But it also means he has to deal with characters like Anole, who are not so interesting or developed. His solution is to turn this into the channel 4 show ‘Teachers’ (just TRY and understand that reference, America!) and give us some soap opera dramatics.

Rogue is typically working through romantic issues, but by actually keeping her away from the men in her life we get to see this addressed in a slightly more interesting way. Rachel Grey has barely been developed in years, so it’s nice to see her play sounding-board to Rogue’s problems. Gambit and Frenzy also have an interesting dynamic - although so far it seems to have changed Frenzy’s character significantly, so she’s hardly the angry woman she’s famous for being - and Gage plays on that too. Cannonball, Husk, Iceman and Wolverine also pop in and out of the story, and it’ll be good if Gage can keep them as the forefront.

This is also a more traditional storytelling style than Aaron is employing. The basics of this issue is this: Exodus appears, wants to destroy the school and unite Wolverine’s side with Cyclops. He is attacked. He then decides that he wants to destroy Utopia and unite Cyclops’ side with Wolverine. This leads to a great final page, which delivers a fantastic joke. The issue is clean, simple fun, and leaves Gage free to develop character within the cast.

The art, by David Baldeon, is fun and free. He’s helped immensely by the brilliant colours of Sonia Oback, however, who remains one of Marvel’s best and boosts every single page. Together, the creative team create a fast, free-flowing issue which suggests a future run which will pick up the pieces of Mike Carey’s sluggish finale and take them somewhere more interesting. There are still some problems with the core premise and characters, but Gage seems determined to move past them and give us something fun.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Mike Allred uses Comics Vanguard to trick Jill Thompson into drawing Madman for him

When we posted a short piece about all the great writers and artists who are contributing to Madman's 20th Anniversary Spectacular, we didn't realise at the time that what we were actually doing was creating a cosmic allignment. After posting the piece to the site, it was then picked up by our twitter feed, and went off into internet immortality. The tweet promoting the article promoting the comic was picked up by Mike Allred himself, the creator of Madman, and he retweeted it to his significantly larger fanbase.

One of the people who read that was Jill Thompson, artist and writer for many books, including Sandman, The Invisibles, and many othes. Jill Thompson is many things - an artist, fan of Kitty Pryde (she drew the Kitty Pryde story in the brilliant "X-Men: Origins" anthology book) and according to her twitter feed a massive supporter of the WWE. But one thing she is NOT, is in the list of creators who are contributing to Madman's 20th Special. Which she duly mentioned to Mr Allred.

That gave Mike the opportunity he needed, and he leaped in like some kind of quick brown fox. Grabbing hold of his keyboard like a man possessed, he sent her a reply which burned with the power of fifteen suns.


So you guys. When you next check in on Jill Thompson, and you find she's drawn something amazing for Madman... remember who inadvertently got it to happen, yeah? Comics Vanguard sort-of had a slight possible hand in proceedings almost maybe, and YOU ARE MOST WELCOME INDEED.

The Scarlet Witch Returns!

Here's a preview page by Frank Cho for Avengers Vs X-Men #1, the prologue to Marvel's big summer event. Look! Wanda is back, and she's fighting to SAVE lives this time round! Hurrah!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Steal Everything!

No, this isn't our attempt to wander into the piracy debates which are currently raging around Comics Beat, Comicsalliance, and several other well-written websites. This is a look at a series David Gallaher and Steve Ellis pitched to DC a few years ago. It would've been a digital series, chopped into short sections, featuring Catwoman as the lead.

Why are we posting this? Because Comics Vanguard are preparing to become CATWOMAN-FRIENDLY. We've put down newspaper, thrown a rug over the sofa, and poured out some milk. Keep your eyes peeled! And then, keep those peeled eyes glued to this site.

Boy, that sounds painful. Don't actually do either of those things.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Justice League Dark's Crooked Path

We’re five issues into Justice League Dark, Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin’s attempt to bring the spirit of Vertigo into the mainstream DC Universe. And by all accounts, it’s doing a fantastic job of achieving that goal. It helps to have a cast which includes Madame Xanadu, John Constantine and Shade the Changing Man, of course, all of whom have had Vertigo titles in the past, but Milligan is able to go beyond the cast and bring the tone and style of a Vertigo story into the book. With one more issue to go before the first arc is rounded up, allow us to give you an overview of the cast and story of Justice League Dark, and tell you why we think it’s DC’s best title of the New 52.

The first arc has centred around Enchantress, a relatively obscure magic-user within the DC Universe whose powers were in turmoil after part of her soul went missing. And by turmoil, we mean she made a storm of rotten teeth attack Superman, turned politicians mad, and gave a nuclear power plant sentience. Milligan took increasing glee in upping the levels of madness on an issue-by-issue basis, while by the end The Sphinx was coming to life and fighting Animal Man and Frankenstein was thrown into the middle of a civil war between fans of reality TV and soap operas. You can always tell when Milligan’s eyes are twinkling with malevolent delight, and JLD has been a master showcase in ridiculousness.

What makes this even more enjoyable is that only a handful of the characters actually seem to realise how mad their surroundings are. John Constantine’s voice is essentially the same as it is in the current Hellblazer series, and his deadpan reactions to this magical silliness are a constant delight. He’s joined by a slightly-sidelined Zatanna, who gets a great scene with Batman early on but then shrinks to the background. She may have a new costume, but she’s recognisably the same Zatanna who appeared in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers. Her voice is less distinctive at the moment, but stands besides Constantine’s as a disinterested voice of rationality amongst unreality. Deadman, surprisingly, also seems interesting.

There’s then a gap between these three and the other characters, who are more serious and dramatic. Madame Xanadu is the heart of the series at the moment, and her role in bringing the cast together is also interesting for being a complete failure. By the end of issue #5, she has not only failed to get the team to work together but has also been called a fraud by Constantine and turned everybody against her. The enigmatic Xanadu here is more in line with Matt Wagner’s version, and doesn’t sync up whatsoever with the saucy Xanadu in Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights. Which is pretty good news really, because the talkative Madame is one of the few low points of that particular series. Shade has had a fair bit of coverage, mostly because he’s involved in the best twist of the book so far. Milligan is struggling to resist the urge to put Shade in charge of the team, which is rather good news.

But then there’s the last member of the team. Do we want Milligan to do the Time Warp again? The character turns up halfway through this story, doesn’t do much of note or interest, and then reappears at the end to do further things of notelessness. The character’s only purpose at this point seems to be to give colourist Ulises Arreola a chance to flex. Arreola’s work on the book is an absolute sensation, with shocks of electricity racing across the pages, and some great uses of white space to emphasise certain panels. Arreola truly adds an extra dimension to Justice League Dark, with letterer Rob Leigh having an absolute ball with the different characters.

Mikel Janin! Good lord, but Janin’s work is incredible on this series. Five issues in a row with no drop in quality is impressive enough, but Janin’s art actually improves as the book goes on. Milligan asks a lot of his artists, and here Janin has to draw swarms of teeth, hoardes of demons, and a spectacular sequence with a series of clones wandering innocently across a busy motorway. He pulls all off with immaculate style and control, setting the tone for Milligan to then write as much weirdness as he wants. Perhaps the one problem he has at the moment is in distinguishing Xanadu’s face from Zatanna’s as both characters have similar hair and features right now. Enchantress, Constantine and Shade are all especially well-conveyed, though – Janin seems to enjoy drawing these guys in particular.

So hey, the first story arc is also really well-written. The threat and scope of Enchantress; the plotting of Xanadu; and the reckless “heroics” of Deadman, Shade and Constantine are the three main elements at work. Milligan really packs in the character moments here, ignoring splash pages in favour of conversation and magic. Also, one issue is called “Shibboleths and Alcohol”. Which is totally wonderful, and more of that please. This is our absolute favourite DC title right now, and we’re hoping that the creative team stay onboard for a very long time to come. Buy! Buy!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Everybody is doing something for Madman's 20th Anniversary

Aside from creator Mike Allred, who else is involved in "The Madman 20th Anniversary Monster", out next week? Why, Frank Quitely, Philip Bond, Peter Milligan, Darwyn Cook, Paul Pope, Erik Larson, Los Bros, Dean Haspiel, Jack Kirby, Patrick McEown, Frank Miller, Bernie Mireault, Michael Oeming, Eric Powell, Steve Seagle, Matt Wagner, Daniel Acuna....

I've never read anything about Madman before.

Have you?

Now you've seen this ONLY PARTIAL list of the collaborators on this title, you're going to start too, right?

Aren't you?

Captain America fights Bucky, Androids, Sentient Skulls and Evil Nurses

Plotted by Ed Brubaker and James Asmus, and scripted by Asmus, Captain America and Bucky is currently telling a rather familiar story in a very unfamiliar way. Jumping on with issue #626 means that I don’t really know what’s going on (the recap page is an absolute nightmare) but gradually it becomes clear that, yes, this is yet another story where somebody pretends to be either Captain America or Bucky and only the real spirit of America can save the day.

This is a well that Brubaker has returned to at least three times now, with Marvel hinting heavily that Winter Soldier #1 may kick off a fourth version of the storyline. Basically, somebody has put on a Bucky costume and started shooting at civilians – so in comes Steve Rogers to hit him with a shield.

Brainwashing an iconic figure, a figure who represents everything that America should stand for? We can understand why Brubaker would want to write that story. Why he’d want to do it several times in a row? Maybe slightly harder to grasp. Which, leaves James Asmus with the tricky task of making the story different from the times before.

He’s aided by sensational work from the obviously-brilliant Francesco Francavilla, whose artwork is immediately striking and dynamic. Francavilla also appears to be responsible for colouring the comic – and that’s where the comic shines. The art looks great, but the colouring adds so much more. Asmus aims for a slightly campy B-Movie vibe here, and Francavilla catches that idea and runs away with it. Each page is washed with bright reds, oranges, dark shadows and flashes of blue. Cap and ‘Bucky’ stand out for wearing blue costumes while the rest of the book looks like it’s been set on fire.

The campy horror, tinged with an edge of sci-fi nonsense, makes the book different from all the other ‘fake captain america’ stories. Asmus throws in mind control, androids, melodramatic nazi scientists and psychotic nurse assassins for Cap to swerve around, drily observing all the madness going on around him. The final page goes right over my head, but the rest of the issue is so over-the-top and frenetic that it more than makes up for the obscure references that the story makes. Fast-paced, backed with one of the best artists in the business right now, Captain America and Bucky is slightly incomprehensible but entirely enjoyable.

What is Magik Doing to that Slug Demon??

Either writer Kieron Gillen has been writing some very strange panel descriptions into his script, or artist Greg Land has been using suspect art sources again.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cosby and Eliopoulos Bring Back The Wild West

New comic alert! Although Nate Cosby is currently giving us one of the bloodiest comics on the stands right now, in the form of Image's 'Pigs' series, he's better known for masterminding many of Marvel's all-ages titles. Thor: The Mighty Avenger and the Oz books came to print primarily because of his work behind the scenes, and this week he's finally returned to the world of all-ages entertainment. 'Cow Boy' is a soon-to-be-published original graphic novel by Cosby and frequent collaborator and all-ages mastermind in his own right Chris Eliopoulos.

Published by Archaia, the hardcover for this story comes out in March. But what is it about you ask, opting not to include any grammatical symbols as you do so. Well, it's about a Cow Boy, who is on a mission to liberate the wild west from some of the meanest, toughest varmints (oh boy, I so love using that word) to ever strut the sands. Oh, and those varmints all happen to be members of his family.

Excellently, Cosby and Eliopoulos have put some prequel chapters of the book online, at www.cowboycomic.net. And guys, these are some really, really good comics. The characterisation is already smashing, with Boyd Linney - our Cow Boy himself - shaping up to be an excellent compadre (boy oh boy! wild west words are AWESOME). Eliopoulos is an amazing talent, and his work here is gritty and cartoonish at the same time. His character designs are fun and interesting, and he draws a mean six-shooter.

Hee. I love the Wild West. Look out for the hardcover when it comes out in March, and catch up with the comic at the official website!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Hulk Gets His Tummy Stuck

Marvel's newest theme month for their variant covers will be "Avengers Art Appreciation Month", in February. Over the 29 days of February, a number of comics will have a variant cover which pays homage to famous artworks, but also feature the cast of Joss Whedon's 'Avengers' movie in them. Here is the best one, drawn by Charles Paul Wilson III -- an homage to A.A. Milne, with Hulk taking the place of Winnie The Pooh.

Seven Ways to End a Superhero Marriage

Daredevil, The Flash, Spider-Man and The Wasp; all characters who’ve walked down the aisle at one point in their lives. But comics are an ongoing medium, and marriage exists only for writers to dissolve and disrupt. Chances are, somebody is going to get killed unless the couple breaks up, and go their separate ways. The only problem is that having two characters divorce ages them, gives them baggage, and doesn’t make for particularly riveting reading. Kramer Vs Kramer was like three hours long or something – just imagine how long it’d take for a company to plot the slow dissolution of a marriage, as the two participants get more and more bitter and jaded.

Over the decades, writers have found all kinds of ways to get around this, breaking up relationships without any paperwork whatsoever. Here, presented in an ever-popular list format, are seven ways writers have got around the ol’ ‘marriage’ problem in the past.

7: She was a skrull!

Hawkeye and Mockingbird had a lot of troubles with their relationship. For one thing, Clint has slept with seemingly every single woman in the Marvel Universe, and Mockingbird got thrown into Hell at one point. But when she apparently was killed, it seemed like the final curtain for their relationship. They were heading for divorce anyway, so at least killing her off saved her from fighting off She-Hulk in the courtroom. BUT! Brian Michael Bendis has always been fond of the character, and so he took it on himself to bring her back to life as part of his Secret Invasion event. The Mockingbird who’d died was actually a skrull! And the real Mockingbird was back, unaware that everybody thought she was dead! And then! She did basically nothing for the past three years or so. So just to keep track – the bride was kidnapped, then announced as dead, then escaped, then announced as alive, and then finally got round to checking her divorce papers. Man, that sounds EXHAUSTING.

6: Lob someone in an alternate dimension

Always a bizarre coupling, Marvel’s Captain Britain and Meggan have been locked inside different dimensions repeatedly over the years. When Captain Britain – Brian, you guys – got stuck in another dimension and turned into a King, things looked bleak. But the power of love brought him back, and he returned to wedding bliss with Meggan. But then she got locked in a different dimension this time, and was only recently saved by Dr Doom/Paul Cornell in the underrated ‘Captain Britain and MI13’. Other couples have suffered from this as well, of course: Mr and Mrs Fantastic have had the odd alt-universe mishap in their time.

5: Crash the Universe and create a new one

Superman and the Flash are among the DC heroes who recently broke up with their wives without knowing anything about it. As part of the big ‘Flashpoint’ event by Geoff Johns, the old DC Universe was destroyed and a new one took its place – one which didn’t seem to feature Alan Scott or Jay Garrett, and one which DID feature a single Barry Allen and a single Clark Kent. While it looks like Barry might actually fall in love with his wife all over again, Clark and Lois don’t look like they’ll be settling down together anytime soon.

4: Turn someone mad

When you think of somebody going mad, you tend to think of Batman. But in this case we’re actually referring to Daredevil. Matt Murdock’s gone through quite a few wives in the past, but his most recent one – Milla – had perhaps the cruellest fate. After getting married to Daredevil as part of a whirlwind romance, she was injected with a drug that sent her crazy, and prone to train-push murder. She ended up locked up in a mental asylum, while Daredevil sat on the roof and brooded. With her sanity essentially gone, she was left a shell of a person, and was forgotten about for a fair while. Her parents eventually found out about her and took her home, while Daredevil sat on a roof and brooded.

3: Get the devil involved

Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson. They met, they fell in love, they got married. Then along came the devil and they decided to erase all that, go back in time, and halt their wedding from ever taking place. Who would’ve thought it? Many Spider-Man fans are still suffering from post-traumatic shock after the events of ‘One More Day’ took away one of Marvel’s most enduring couples, and instead gave us Carlie Cooper. But also Norah Winters! See, it wasn’t all bad.

2: Hire Bullseye

Always happy to kill a wife or two. Bullseye has caused Daredevil a LOT of trouble in the past, but don’t forget that he also killed The Sentry’s wife, which ultimately lead to Marvel’s ‘Siege’ event.


The greatest thing to ever happen in the history of DC comics.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Supergirl's Higher Purpose

Supergirl #5 came out this week, and while the first four issues were fun, they only hinted at a few of the ongoing plot points which would come into Supergirl’s life as the series continued. Issue #5 proves to be the first step in exploring the character and giving her a long-term storyline to deal with. And in the process, it proved to be the strongest issue of the relaunched series so far.

Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson take Supergirl off-Earth once again (she has yet to spend much time there, really, and the cosmic side of things seems a more interesting place to develop the character. On Earth she is going to be frequently compared to Superman, but in space she can be established as her own person more) to investigate her origin. We obviously know that Krypton, her home planet, was destroyed – Action Comics has been retelling that old story for the past few issues – so G&J needed to give Supergirl’s backstory some kind of twist on the Superman origin. And here, they’ve managed to do just that, and in the process set up a mystery which will probably take up the next few issues.

What’s clever about this issue is that it suddenly twists five different elements of the story and aligns them: Supergirl has been struggling to grasp a sense of self after waking up on Earth. The only thing she owns is a sunstone, and several others have been trying to steal it from her. She wants to find out what happened to her family. She is semi-aware of the fact that somebody is watching her. And she has anger issues. Without warning, all five of these traits have suddenly become an active part of the story, as the narrative makes a snap progression and tells us all about Supergirl’s family, home, and world. We in turn get a sense of purpose for the book – something which only a few of the other DC books has attempted to create thus far – and hints of the long-term story that’s being planned.

Having Mahmud Asrar on pencils helps as well, as he has a particular knack for character. Supergirl is the focus throughout the issue, and although we’re still not sure that the muddier colour palette is a good choice by Dave McCaig, they don’t actively hurt the issue. Asrar latches onto Supergirl’s sombre nature here, as she explores the ruins of her old house and looks for any sign of her parents or friends. This is the strongest sequence of the issue, both in terms of writing and art. The final few pages are given over to the fight scene on the cover. Pleasingly, the writing for the fight scene is solid, as G&J have already set up Supergirl as conflicted, angry, and unstable. It’s perfectly in-character for her to attack new character ‘Reign’, even though it’s obviously a mistake on her part. And Asrar switches easily from a sombre tone to a big, splashy fight sequence. The only thing we would perhaps mention is that Reign’s costume doesn’t really hide much – nothing out of the ordinary for a comic book, but Asrar does at times struggle to… uh…. ‘contain’ her. Her breasts are all over the place, basically. Sure she’s racing about, and fighting… but if she’s going to have a costume like that, then Asrar needs to be careful to keep her body in proportion.

That’s a strange critique, but we felt the need to mention it. It is a little distracting. Anyway, let’s get to the REAL meat of the issue here: the absence of Streaky the Super-Cat. With Krypto apparently dead, it falls to Streaky to take his place as the DC Universe’s most fabulous super-animal. Although there haven’t yet been any firm references to Streaky yet, we have read several into every issue out of sheer will, and are convinced that his return is absolutely inevitable. With Supergirl back on her home planet, looking for some remnants of her previous life, what could be more perfect for her that finding Streaky alive and well? We expect that Streaky will probably appear at the climax of this arc, and will then be the protagonist of the third big storyline. After that? Well, we’re probably looking at a miniseries, followed by an ongoing series. We’re taking this slowly, you guys. Don’t want to rush straight into a Streaky ongoing title, after all. But given the events of this issue? It seems inevitable.

Have Comics Vanguard got an EXCLUSIVE look at the cover for Avengers Vs X-Men #3?

Revealing that former New X-Man (and Peter Milligan creation) Onyxx is the new apparent owner of The Phoenix Force, is this the cover for Avengers Vs X-Men #3? After iFanboy, Newsarama, ComicsAlliance, Comic Book Resources and MORE all revealed their exclusive teasers for the story - handed to them by Marvel - have Comics Vanguard finally joined the elite website club and been given the honour of sharing an AvX teaser with you all?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

GLAAD nominate at least two terrible comic-books for their 2012 Awards

Proving once and for all that the LGBT community can be just as blinkered as everybody else, GLAAD's list of nominees for their "Outstanding Comic Book" category at the GLAAD awards features several absolutely terrible comics. At the same time, it ignores some really good comics which featured an LGBT character in 2011. Here is the full list of nominees for the category --

  • Avengers: The Children's Crusade, by Allan Heinberg (Marvel)

  • Batwoman, by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman (DC Comics)

  • Secret Six, by Gail Simone (DC Comics)

  • Veronica Presents: Kevin Keller, by Dan Parent (Archie Comics)

  • X-Factor, by Peter David (Marvel Comics)

  • Sharp-eyed readers will immediately spot the absolutely awful comic which was nominated solely because two of the characters are in a gay male relationship with each other, but did you know that there is also a second terrible title amongst this list of five? Guess away!

    Incidentally, Dan Parent's Kevin Keller storyline is pretty good, and worth picking up. So it's certainly not that one.

    In the meanwhile, don't forget that you don't have to buy dreck if you want to support LGBT characters in mainstream comics! Picking up decent, enjoyable comics like Daken, Generation Hope, Avengers Academy, Demon Knights and so on is perfectly acceptable, and nobody will look down on you for choosing to doing so.

    Batman #5 was hard to read as a digital download

    Mike Marts, editor for the entire line of Batman books at DC, has noted that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's fifth issue of Batman may have been difficult for fans to read on their iPad.

    Roberson and Ellis Open The Memorial Door

    Once upon a time there was a girl and a key and a door and a talking cat…

    Ironically, I forgot to buy Memorial #1 when it came out. But even more wonderfully I remembered to buy it this week when issue #2 stood on the shelf and wolf-whistled for my attention. Memorial is a new creator-owned series by Chris Roberson, you see. That's right - the man who made Superman likeable for the first time in what seems like years whilst simultaneously (well... roughly) turning Cinderella into the World’s greatest super-agent joins forces with artist Rich Ellis for a new series published by IDW. Yes! Memorial continues the pleasing recent upswing in comic-books featuring a talking cat as one of the main characters. And it turns out that Schrodinger, as this kitty calls himself, is a deft hand with mysterious doorways and keys, which is handy. The basic premise of the series is that a girl – Em – is given a key to a doorway. When she steps through it, she finds herself in a totally different dimension – one where shadows come to life, fairies and gargoyles and monsters exist, and cats can talk (did we mention that already?) However, this land is also in turmoil, as three different realms are currently at war with each other, and only Em has the key to get them out of it.

    Roberson is obviously enjoying the book, as the writing creates a carefree attitude where he can throw any mad idea onto the page and see if it works. In issue #2, for example, we see the introduction of the three warring realms – called Maybe, Is, and Was. Within the story we’re told that when an idea is created, it comes to life within the realm of Maybe. When it’s made a reality, is heads over to the realm of Is. And when the idea has been used up, it goes to the land of Was. There’s clearly going to be some metatextual stuff coming up, the kind that gets English students into a right old tizzy. And to that effect, the clever use of the fourth wall in page 5 of issue #2 basically works as a pitch for the reader – if you want to read past it, then the series is something you’re going to really enjoy. But for the moment, the title is mostly still occupied with building up the world that Em and Schrodinger live in.

    They’re helped in that regard by a sterling artistic team. Rich Ellis’ pencils are reminiscent of Pia Guerra’s work on Y: The Last Man (another title which can send English students into tizzy-fits), centred around a well-defined main character. Em comes across as a very realistic character – covered up, sensible figure, and a wide range of small tics and facial expressions which recur. She’s especially prone to waving her hands about while she tries to grasp onto an idea. Schrodinger is adorable, and is also a talking kitty-cat. And while we’ve only been given a few looks at the three realms, Ellis and colourist Grace Allison give them a depth and range which stands each one apart, and makes the reader excited for future issues. This is a book which has a long-term plan, and it’s evident in every page that the creative team have marked out where they’re going with all this.

    The book is a modern-day fairytale, obviously, but it’s the modern-day aspects which most grab the attention. As more and more bizarre characters make their way into the real World, the grounding of reality starts to become more and more precarious. Also, a rock monster tries to eat a rucksack at one point. This contrast between real world and imaginary concepts is likely going to become more and more important as the series goes on, but there’s also a simple pleasure to be had in watching a talking cat eat a hamburger. Seeing Em try to adapt to this new blending of the imaginary, make-believe and now-real is incredibly entertaining – you can almost sense her sigh when a character tells her that she can teleport to another land if she “jumps over a candlestick”. Time and again, Ellis nails the facial expressions of his main character. And Schrodinger has a surprisingly wide range of facial expressions too, actually.

    Memorial is a very good comic-book indeed. We have a writer literally throwing ideas into thin air, while the artistic side of the book take those ideas and make them into grounded, real images. If this series can keep up the momentum it’s currently building, then we could be looking at a future classic. ANDITHASATALKINGCATINITANDITISADORABLE

    Wednesday, 18 January 2012

    Batman #5

    Somewhere over the past few years, Damian Wayne evolved into one of the best characters in the history of Batman. Whilst not even Morrison could keep the character safe from the initial wave of disdain he received from fans angry that Batman had procreated, over time Damian developed from annoying brat into annoying brat who earned our respect. It was probably the moment when he was hurled off a building and offered only a miffed *tt* as his final words which did it for us, but everyone has their own moment of admiration for the character. He’s easily the best Robin, although that may be partly because Tim Drake is fairly terrible and Jason Todd is deathly dull.

    Batman #5 is framed by a sequence showing the Bat Signal overheating and blowing up. The middle of the comic details Batman’s descent into his own private hell, driven mad by his own feelings of inadequacy and discomfort. The framing sequence is the better of the two.

    Batman going mad has been done before, of course – half the concept of Bruce Wayne is that other characters try to rob him of his sanity, health, and ability – and Snyder’s exploration of a dehydrated, exhausted Bruce Wayne doesn’t add much new to the character. It is massively realistic in the way it slowly twists the knife through Bruce’s head, though, and the climax is brutal and chilling. He’s helped by versatile art from Greg Capullo that maintains a calm composure even as the main character completely loses his – and there’s also a clever gimmick in the storytelling which adds a lot of fun to the comic. It might be lost a little when it shows up in the trade paperback, but it’s an absolute blast to read here.

    The star of this issue is actually the colourist – we’re assuming that ‘FCD’ are a collective studio, but the work they put into this issue really shines. The colours are a little muted, but deliberately so. While Batman is in the shadows there is a dusk which falls over the pages. But whenever a light is shone upon him, the reader feels the glare from the bulb. It’s an astonishing piece of work, and adds a dense layer over Capullo’s already masterful pencils. Batman has gone crazy before, but this feels like a different way for it to occur. It may give us twists on things we’ve seen before – Bruce sees his dead parents, they vanish – but Snyder throws in several surprises in the background. One of them appears to concern Commissioner Gordon’s loyalties to Gotham, while another casts a slight shadow over Alfred. Two of Batman’s most loyal and trusted friends, made sinister.

    But the framing sequence is the best part of the issue, especially the final page. Damian Wayne, as we told you at the start, has grown over the years. His first line of dialogue reflects the initial glimpse at the character we were given during ‘Batman and Son’. The second line shows the more fragile and complex character who emerged during ‘Batman and Robin’. And his appearance adds electricity to this title.

    Roger Langridge takes over Popeye

    When we spoke to Roger Langridge at Thought Bubble last November, he mentioned that in 2012 he'd be announced as the writer of a mysterious 'big property' comic-book, but that he couldn't tell anybody what that is. Well today Langridge, whose work includes Fred The Clown, Snarked and Thor The Mighty Avenger, has been announced as the writer of a big property comic book. And that comic book is POPEYE.

    Joining him on the title, to be published by IDW, will be Bruce Ozella, who will be contributing both short and long stories for each issue. It'll be very similar to Fred The Clown, then, with one-page strips sitting alongside five or six page stories, all drawn by the same artist. AMAZING NEWS. Roger Langridge is one of the best humourists in comics, and there is no better news than news of Langridge getting more work.

    Tuesday, 17 January 2012

    Ryan Stegman Pits Captain America Vs Cyclops

    Ryan Stegman has revealed, on his fine Tumblr blog, the first variant cover for issue #1 of Avengers Vs X-Men. It appears that each variant for the series (and there will likely be several for each issue) will depict a different "round", with two major characters fighting over the future of Hope Summers. In this one, Captain America appears to be devastated that Cyclops has ripped his costume at the shoulder. That'll be a MARE to fix!

    Wonder Woman Uses Guns?

    However! These are pistol given to her by Eros - note the love hearts in the bulletsmoke? There's more to this than first appears, in this cover for Wonder Woman #8. As a sidenote, the solicitation for the issue also seems to suggest that Cliff Chiang will start working as a co-writer with Brian Azzarello, which is interesting.

    Piggin’ Out #5

    As Pigs heads into a second arc which almost completely ignores the previous one, so Piggin’ Out returns to give you that sweet sense of consistency you crave. “San Quentin Blues” lobs the five little piggies into a room together, has them try to hash out the next move in their operation, and seems to be heading into a ‘Prison Break’ style change in tone. Both in that the tone changes completely between storylines, and in that we think there’s going to be a prison break imminent. Let’s get into it! Spoilers ahoy.

    The central chunk of this story has the five little piggies (we’re really trying to get that to stick. Also, hoping that two of them die) in a hotel room together, trying to plan a jailbreak. Only, it appears that three of them are now doubtful about the mission. And it’s not a jailbreak, but an assassination. We already knew that Felix and Alexandr were dubious about the mission, but not we’re starting to see some definition for Ekaterina as well – who seems terribly cautious about the assassination. Her scenes with Felix don’t spell out anything, but suggest heavily that she trusts him more than anyone else. But on the other hand, it’s clear now that Havana is siding with Victor against Felix, and she seems to be calling most of the shots right now. This is all speculation based on Breno Tamura’s use of body language, but it certainly seems to be how the creative team want us to see things right now.

    No sign of any of the handlers this issue, made clear by the lack of flashbacks. Instead we have flashforwards, showing a man in a prison cell who’s just become a foot shorter. This is the most confusing part of the issue, and emphasises one of the more annoying parts of reading a mystery: it’s mysterious. Readers already have no idea what’s going on with most of the Cubans and Russians, and now we’re thrown into a new set of mysteries which likely won’t be cleared up for at least a few more months. It looks, from the way the story unfolds, that the five piggies send in somebody to perform an assassination within San Quentin Prison. However, that man is caught before he gets to his target – by a neo-nazi prisoner who appears to be acting as a bodyguard to said mystery target – and has his leg cut off. It’s hard to tell what’s happened though, because Cosby and McCool refuse to spell things out. Once more, they stick rigidly to a realistic, exposition-free narrative, and the dialogue gives away nothing. It could be that the neo-nazi is a red herring, or that he was the intended target, or even that he is the assassin that Felix is buying. Until next issue, we’re probably not going to be able to tell.

    So for the moment, let’s focus on our five main characters. Felix is already an open book for the readers, with Alexandr the next more developed member of the cast. So it becomes Victor’s turn to develop as a character, as he talks with Felix about his frustrations. This is the best-done scene in the issue, which plays strongly to Tamura’s strengths as an artist. Tamura’s art has slipped since he first began, with his work now starting to resemble Larry Stroman’s linework. No bad thing, but it certainly seems like he may need some assistance in future issues to help him keep a consistent level of quality. Half of Victor’s conversation is silences and pauses, and the writers lean heavily on Tamura to make sure that the unspoken subtext is clear for readers – and he has yet to let them down. Victor comes across very strongly in the issue: he doesn’t come across as likeable, but he certainly starts to make a stronger impression for the readers. He’s a little reckless, a little enthusiastic, and it’s clear he’s going to become a problem for Felix over the rest of the series. This could come across as clichéd, but McCool and Cosby manage to temper the character by giving him some neat touches – his admiration for Victor’s reputation, for example.

    Kicking us into a second storyline, Pigs #5 has a few disappointments, but remains one of the strongest monthly titles in the comics market right now. The dialogue is spot-on, realistic and clever, while Tamura’s use of expression is top-notch. We’re a little confused by the nature of this second arc – why do they want someone in this prison dead, anyway? – but are confident that it’ll be cleared up in due time.

    Sunday, 15 January 2012

    Those Avengers Vs X-Men Line-Ups in Almost Full

    Marvel have released about fifteen or so teaser images for the big "Avengers Vs X-Men" event coming later this year, featuring the rival characters pairing off against each other. Now, these may never actually happen in the comics, and may just be teases. But if they're all true, what should we expect? Let's go through some of the fights Marvel are teasing and see which ones look most interesting.

    Gambit Vs Spider-Woman! A fight which nobody expects to end without the two characters having sex. In honesty, this doesn't seem to be a fight which we'll actually see in the event, as neither character is really that important for their team. Gambit barely counts as an X-Man, and it's very hard to remember the last time Spiderwoman said anything.

    Nice to see that Emma Frost's got over the arm problem that Kieron Gillen gave her, and glued it back on. Her big boost into A-List status came about in the first place as Grant Morrison wanted somebody tough and strong to survive the Genosha massacre, so it's no big leap to set her up against Hulk. Interesting that it's Green Hulk though, and not Red. Green Hulk isn't on the Avengers at all. But if he does show up for this fight, it would make sense to do a psychological fight rather than a physical fight - it allows Jason Aaron, the current Hulk writer, a chance to really investigate his lead character.

    Obviously this was going to happen. Carol Danvers and Rogue have such a long history that there was really no other character for either of them to go up against. This fight seems destined to be written by Brian Michael Bendis, who is a big fan of them both.

    Another fight which seems obvious, only we're not so sure that we'll be seeing this at any point. For one thing, Storm's main point of conflict in AvX comes not from any of the currently active Avengers, but from her estranged husband Black Panther. Panther has been an Avenger in the past, and has never seemed to have any particular love for the X-Men. It seems very likely indeed that he'll be siding against Storm, and that's where Storm's story will lead. For another thing, there's still no sign that Matt Fraction wants to end his current weird "Tanarus" replacement story thing. If Thor shows up, we won't be expecting it until towards the end of the story, as a last-page cliffhanger.

    Very doubtful that this will happen. Beast has no loyalty, and will be supporting the Avengers during this event.

    Interesting that this seems to be happening all over the World. With Phoenix approaching, will both teams be spreading out to make sure that wherever Phoenix lands, one of them will be nearby? Or it might be that the X-Men have that as their plan, but the Avengers are simply following them round the World, ready to catch them out? At any rate, it's no surprise that the two 'strong' characters are fighting each other during AvX.

    Don't think that Wolverine will be siding with the X-Men during this event, but it makes for an interesting teaser image at any rate. If Wolverine does have any kind of conflict of character, we'd expect him to side with neither the X-Men or the Avengers - he'll side with whoever can contain the Phoenix. Captain America, on the other hand, certainly seems to be making a massive mistake by trying to take Hope away from the X-Men. That will be the moment which makes or breaks the event - is it plausible that the Avengers wouldn't trust the X-Men to look after Hope?

    Well, looks like we know what Brubaker will be writing!

    Saturday, 14 January 2012

    Peanuts Old And News

    Earlier this month Kaboom! celebrated the return of Charles M. Schulz's beloved Peanuts franchise to monthly comics, featuring a mix of classic strips by Schulz himself mixed with new material written by people like Vicki Scott and Shane Houghton. The decision caused a few worried ripples through the comics world, with people uncertain as to whether the new material would be able to sit alongside the late Schulz's work. But good grief, if Peanuts #1 doesn't silence those... ripples.

    Kaboom have been compiling a highly impressive selection of comics of late, with Roger Langridge's Snarked series delivering brilliance every month and the promise of an ongoing Adventure Time series (by Ryan North!) coming next month. Peanuts acts as the bridge between the two, offering a classic 'gag' comic which doesn't have the traditional echoes of Snarked but also avoids the surrealism of Adventure Time. Each strip here is carefully judged, so nothing goes on longer than it has to. The classic strips, obviously, only last a page each, which leaves Scott and Houghton with the task of writing longer material which keeps to the tone and style of Schulz. There's nothing harder than extending a gag, but Scott in particular proves well-suited for the role, as her strips are the best of the lot.

    Focusing on Lucy is probably a good idea, because Charlie Brown was always best as a supporting character, reacting mournfully to the antics of his friends. Lucy, on the other hand, is manic energy and plays beautifully to an extended story. Editors Matt Gagnon and Adam Staffaroni have carefully selected the classic material to work with the new material, so we have recurring Lucy anger throughout the book. At one point Houghton's story references an old strip in passing, so the editors smartly put in that strip to provide later context. It adds a neat sense of continuity, of passing the torch.

    And most importantly the comic is FUNNY. The Schulz strips are slightly more sophisticated, but the new stories have a great sense of energy and don't stray far from the classic Peanuts formula. Kaboom have really done their work with Peanuts #1, making sure it respects the old work but also pushes forward and gives readers some new, all-ages comedy. A daunting challenge defeated!

    And Kaboom once again show themselves to be one of the best comic publishers around.

    Green Arrow attempts to join the Justice League

    Issue #8 of Geoff Johns run with Justice League will see the book finally join current continuity, after seven issues of origin storyline. And to do so, he'll be joined by artist Carlos D'Anda for a story which sees Green Arrow attempt to win membership. This seems like the perfect time to give Green Arrow a push, given that Ann Nocenti will be beginning her run on the title, but it's hard to tell if this is a silly one-off story or if Johns is actually planning on having the character remain in the cast.

    McKelvie Blobs Out

    Jamie McKelvie is a big fan of twitter, and has used the site to share several images from his forthcoming 'X-Men: Series One' graphic novel, written by Dennis Hopeless. Here is the most recent one, featuring the first appearance of The Blob!

    Thursday, 12 January 2012


    Regenesis affected the X-Men books in many different ways. But one thing it didn’t do was have any effect whatsoever upon X-Factor. In many ways a Peter David showcase title, X-Factor has spent the best part of a year shunning the rest of the Marvel universe in favour of getting into some long, character-driven storylines about the core cast. Essentially, it is the ideal title for people who don’t want to see their stories interrupted every other month for a crossover or tie-in storyline.

    But X-Factor #230 changes this, with a visit from Wolverine as part of 'Regenesis'. Although it doesn’t look like the book is going to take a side during the Schism, David makes it clear that he’s intending to shake up a title which has, in fairness, been in danger of stagnancy for a while. The issue, therefore, builds up to Wolverine’s big plan for X-Factor, by setting the various members of the team against each other. And anyone who has read X-Factor before will know that there’s nothing David enjoys more that getting his characters into frenzied arguments.

    Building on plot points from the past few storylines, Wolverine’s arrival doesn’t take up as much space as you’d think – he instead spends most of his time acting as a wall for a grieving Layla Miller to bounce exposition from. He acts as the surrogate for the audience, asking questions which will help them get up to speed. And, although Layla normally only works when she’s holding secrets from everybody, this part of the comic still stands out as some of the best work of the issue. David gives her a chance to fully express herself in a way which fleshes out more of her character, and works to establish her personality. Which, is what Peter David is known for.

    The other half of the issue, in which the other members of X-Factor all get into a big argument, works less well. Mostly because it paints half the team as silly objects of mockery, and the other half as unlikeable idiots. Shatterstar and Monet come out of the exchange as particularly terrible, as the former only exists to make weak sex jokes, and the latter has apparently become shrill and unbearable. Her arguments don’t make any sense from any perspective, and David seems overly keen on the idea of shoehorning in her religion (recently established as Muslim) into every conversation. This is where the large cast works against the book, because characters like Wolfsbane – who is typically a great choice to throw into an argument – are sidelined in favour of Longshot and Shatterstar, who contribute nothing. While David has spent a long time building up Siryn and Rictor, he has yet to give Longshot or Shatterstar anything remembling depth or likeability.

    Which means the final reveal of the issue is an incredible relief. It’s no surprise to see Polaris and Havok return to X-Factor, but it’s certainly nice to see them back. And not least because the pacing of the issue suggests that they’ve been sat in a car during the entire argument, waiting for Wolverine’s summons and entirely oblivious to everything. David is clearly trying to suggest that with the team in such shambles, they need reliable leadership to steer them straight. And boy, but that’s true. As a comic, X-Factor really needs to start realising the characters that are working and the characters who are getting in the way, and perhaps this will pave the way for a cull over the next few months.

    Let’s get to the highlight of the issue. We’d never seen any art by Emanuela Lupacchino before, but her work in this issue is absolutely STUNNING. Less bulky than Terry Dodson, but more consistent than Daniel Acuna, her character models are distinctive, entertaining, and tell the story brilliantly. She has an excellent command of facial expression and body language, giving every member of the cast their own posture and attitude. The issue doesn’t give her much to do other than conversations between the cast, but she manages to make things seem reasonably dynamic. The inking and colouring as well, by Guillermo Ortego and Matt Milla respectively, is superb, and gives each page a vibrant, fresh feel. For the artwork alone, X-Factor is worth picking up. It’s fun, interesting, and effortlessly stylish.

    X-Factor #230 is a decent issue. It sets us up for what will hopefully be an interesting upswing in the ongoing saga of the team, and features some great artwork. If we’ve seemed overly critical of the book it’s because there are so many characters, and they’re a frustrating mix of complex, layered personas and stupid gimmicky joke characters. If David can get that fixed in future issues, he’ll be onto a winner here.

    Time for a Cold Johnston

    Antony Johnston, writer of Wasteland and Daredevil and we're also fairly sure he wrote a book with Misty Knight in it which was drawn by Wellington Alves but we're blanking on the title right now... has announced his newest project! An original graphic novel, called "The Coldest City". Drawn by Sam Hart, this spy story set during the last few days of the Berlin Wall looks set to evoke memories of Graham Greene and John LeCarre, amongst others.

    It's a bit of a change of pace for Johnston, who is more known for the apocalyptic Oni Press series Wasteland and for growing fabulous moustaches. But a welcome one, as the spy genre hasn't ever really been covered by the comic-book world. The story sees MI6 strugglign to recover after one of their European Agents is killed, and top secret dossiers go missing in the aftermath. Documents which happen to contain a list of every undercover agent in Europe. The story also features a main character called Lorraine, which is totally awesome.

    Also published by Oni Press, The Coldest City will be available from May, and is available for pre-order now.

    (The coldest city in the World, incidentally, is probably Hull)

    DC Cancel Six Books in May, and Create Six More

    Inadvertently defining Newton's third law of motion as they do so, DC have announced that in May six of their titles will end, with six new titles taking their place. This 'second wave' of comics will include work by Nicola Scott, Grant Morrison, China Mieville and others.

    But first, let's spare a moment for the six titles which DC are cancelling.

    Mr Terrific, which was silly, nonsensical, and utterly entertaining.
    Blackhawks, which was about some people in an army or something.
    OMAC, which had a lot of smashing in it.
    Static Shock, which was about something or other
    Men of War, which was about some people in an army or something
    Hawk and Dove, which was one of about seven titles Rob Liefeld was drawing a month, and may have been cancelled in order to ease his workload.

    RIP to all these books.

    So! The new titles, according to DC's press release, are:

    •BATMAN INCORPORATED – Writer: Grant Morrison. Artist: Chris Burnham. The acclaimed ongoing writer of ACTION COMICS, Grant Morrison, presents a fresh take on BATMAN INCORPORATED, in which the Batman brand is franchised globally in preparation for a major international threat.

    •EARTH 2 – Writer: James Robinson. Artist: Nicola Scott. The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

    •WORLDS’ FINEST – Writer: Paul Levitz. Artists: George Perez and Kevin Maguire. Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2. Perez and Maguire will be the artists on alternating story arcs.

    •DIAL H – Writer: China Miéville. Artist: Mateus Santoluoco. The first ongoing series from acclaimed novelist China Miéville, this is a bold new take on a cult classic concept about the psychological effects on an everyman who accidentally gains powers to become a hero.

    •G.I. COMBAT – Writer: J.T. Krul. Artist: Ariel Olivetti. Featuring the return of a classic DC Comics series, THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT, along with rotating back-up stories and creative teams – including THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, with writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Dan Panosian; and THE HAUNTED TANK, with writer John Arcudi and artist Scott Kolins.

    •THE RAVAGERS – Writer: Howard Mackie. Artist: Ian Churchill. Spinning off from TEEN TITANS and SUPERBOY, this series finds four superpowered teens on the run and fighting against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

    Several of them appear to be repackaging the same kind of content which just got cancelled. Some of them are very interesting! One of them is our favourite. In May we'll let you know which ones fall into which category.

    Wednesday, 11 January 2012

    Comics Vanguard talks to STEVEN SANDERS!

    When Steven Sanders isn’t dealing with the SERIOUS BUSINESS of drawing Wolverine (as he started doing in today’s milestone Wolverine #300, and will continue for the next few months) he’s busy drawing X-Men characters getting arrested or drink coffee. After starting his career by drawing the original graphic novel Five Fists of Science for Image comics, he’s since jumped across to Marvel for stints drawing SWORD, Uncanny X-Men, and now Jason Aaron's final arc on Wolverine. On top of that, he once drew a picture of Deadpool fighting a man who is also a monkey.

    Clearly, he is a man worth spending some time with.

    So we did! With Wolverine #300 out today – go get it! – we decided to sit down with Sanders and go through his career, in comb-breaking depth and detail. We’re getting so in-depth here that you won’t be able to stop thinking about him for at least the next two hours. HE SHALL HAUNT YOU. A Sanders Spectre, if you will.

    With that in mind, let’s get into it! Why, we’ve got alien adventures, steampunkery and cosmic fashion to discuss!

    First off - with three dual-fisted protagonists, shouldn’t it have been SIX fists of science?

    Timothy only had one real hand. POW.

    Comics Vanguard always like to kick things off with an inaccuracy caused by lack of research.

    Your first Marvel project, SWORD, gave us space geraniums, Dark Avengers, alien invasions, British bounty hunters, copious muffins and an alcoholic dragon. How did you first get involved with such a bizarre-sounding project?

    I think Matt Fraction suggested to Nick Lowe that Kieron and I be paired up to work on it. I'm sure Nick has been regretting that decision ever since.

    What were your favourite moments from the series to draw?

    Oh, man. All of it? I liked the Marvel Boy scene, as I loved the Grant Morrison mini, and that was basically a tribute to that, and the transforming space car from the first issue, and I think the entire last issue. I'm sure there's more, but that's all that sticks out at the moment. Scenes with UNIT were enjoyable.

    You created quite a lot of aliens during the series. Have you ever been tempted to give them complicated, overdramatic back-stories?

    Not really, I saved that for the machinery.

    If the series had continued, where do you think it might have headed next?

    Got me, I just draw what gets placed in front of me. Likely something involving space.

    Is Hepzibah your favourite character?

    Do people exist who do not consider her to be their favourite character?

    Hepzibah was responsible for many of SWORD's finest moments

    And of course, there has been a lot of online squabbling over your depiction of Beast. And by that I mean your decision not to put a bow-tie on his space suit. Do you ever regret making that artistic choice?


    You’ve worked a lot with Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen, who are rumoured to be friends in real life. Would you call them YOUR friends, too?

    Matt, Jamie McKelvie, Kieron and I all shared a table at SDCC in 2006, I think. Matt used to live in town, wherein we'd unhermit and be social on occasion, and Kieron visited for dinner once, so we are automagically best friends forever.

    Our Love is Real saw you handling another interspecies relationship, to go alongside SWORD. Are you worried about typecasting at all?

    It's better than getting typecast for steampunk. That poor genre. It was so enjoyable and then everyone showed up with glue guns and watch gears.

    And these weird hats.

    The book also saw you experimenting with your art style – using more of an ink and wash method, I think. Was this a deliberate attempt to try something different? How important do you think it is for an artist to try and develop/evolve their style, create something unique for themselves?

    Yeah, I have never really been an inker. I learned to draw using pencil, and always hated giving up the shading you can easily achieve with it vs straight black ink. So I started messing around with a variety of techniques until I arrived at what was used in OUR LOVE IS REAL. It's my pencils, with ink used to lend line weight where needed, (mostly in outlines and areas of pure black) and then I shaded it in photoshop. I'm using the same technique in WOLVERINE 300-303.

    I think individual style can be a double edged sword. I do think that one should always be striving to make their work better, in whatever form that takes. Otherwise it gets boring. That said, if you cultivate a very unique style that is a hit and stick with it, you are likely to age poorly as an illustrator, as eventually it will fall out of fashion. Ideally, I'd like to have a style that is "invisible", where you don't see the work as having a particular "look", but see the characters and backgrounds and what is happening instead. I don't want style to overwhelm the communicative aspect of the drawing.

    The world Sam Humphries and yourself created in the issue seems too big for just one story. Would you ever consider revisiting the premise and telling new stories with this world?

    We are currently mulling that over. It's more a matter of money and time than anything else.

    You seem to flit between independent work - like Five Fists of Science - and Marvel work quite often. What is it about working independently which most interests you as an artist?

    It's completely accidental. I just want to draw things and get paid, so if I work on something, I'm most likely doing it for money or to set myself up for more paying work. I'm trying to be, for lack of a better term, process focused rather than product focused. A craftsman instead of an "artist".

    Certain stories and themes do appeal to me, but that comes second to getting paid, largely by necessity. Ideals and vision won't pay my mortgage. If I ever become fiscally independent, maybe I'll look into indulging myself a bit more. Or if I can find a way to both indulge myself and make money doing it

    Would you ever consider writing and drawing a comic yourself?

    Maybe a silent one. I'm a poor writer, I'm afraid.

    You drew an issue of Generation Hope recently, which featured a Hepzibah cameo in the background. Is she your favourite character?

    Hepzibah is everyone's favourite character.

    You’ve kept pretty staunchly to X-Men comics so far. Were they the comics you grew up with?

    In grade school, yeah. I switched to japanese and european comics in middle school onward. I've been doing X-books mostly because I only know X-book editors, for the most part. That said, if I were allowed to pick, I'd still go with the X-books as they tend to be the closest thing to sci-fi in the marvel universe outside of the cosmic stuff, and I like drawing sci-fi machinery.

    You can actually find some of Steven’s sketches in the back of Wolverine #300, where he breaks down his process when designing a suit of armour for one of the characters to wear. Did we mention how you should buy the issue immediately?

    You’re currently drawing for Jason Aaron’s Wolverine series – can we assume you will be continuing and wrapping up the Yukio/Amiko storyline?

    I'll be continuing it for a bit. I don't know about wrapping it up.

    This question, we’ll admit, was asked before we picked up the issue. It turns out that instead of having three stories with a different artist on each, Sanders’ art rotates with Adam Kubert and Ron Garney to tell individual ‘chapters’ of the same story.

    What can we expect from these final few issues? Can you guarantee THRILLS?

    AND SPILLS. And ninjas and shooting and things exploding and fighting and cool shit.

    And farming!

    Will Hepzibah – your favourite Marvel character – appear at all?

    She's in every comic I make. Sometimes just off panel.

    You can find Steven at his website, on his twitter, on a tumblr, and if you search hard enough in your garden. MANY MANY thanks to him for giving us so much of his time!

    Tuesday, 10 January 2012

    Monday, 9 January 2012

    AvX: Psylocke Vs Black Widow

    Captain Britain Meets The Queen

    From Secret Avengers #22, drawn by Gabriel Hardman and written by Rick Remender

    The Night of the Owls

    What's better at flying than a bat? A plane. But also, an owl. And Scott Snyder is going to exploit that later this year, as he ups the stakes of his current Batman story and delves into the history of 'The Court of Owls'. Introduced in Batman #1, so far we've only seen teases that this shadowy coven have been controlling Gotham City's fortunes for decades, but Batman #8 looks to be the issue which really brings them a spotlight.

    Beginning with that issue, DC will start telling backup stories in the main Batman book which reveal the full extent of the Owls' control, and their history with Gotham City. Co-written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, these backups will be drawn by Snyder's old American Vampire collaborator, Rafael Albuquerque.

    In May, things will come to a head, as a massive Batman crossover event called The Night of the Owls begins, and looks set to rope in Nightwing, Batgirl, and several other titles as The Court of Owls make their move on Gotham. Who will win?! Probably Batman, in fairness. But it should be a close match!