Monday, 25 June 2012

Requiem for Silver Sable

Dan Slott’s ‘Ends of the Earth’ storyline was his first damp squib in a run which has been successfully been one-upping itself ever since the ‘Big Time’ period of Peter Parker’s life began. The very last attack from Doc Octopus didn’t end with his much-teased death - instead he was carted off, catatonic, to limbo-military hospital and likely will return alive at some point in a few years time. Meanwhile, Slott actually ended the story by killing off Rhino and Silver Sable through drowning. Although there are no bodies.

That anticlimax led into this week’s ‘epilogue’ issue of Avenging Spider-Man, a book which is used as a Spider-Man Team-Up style title, with new writers and artists and guests stars every couple of issues. This issue is written by Ty Templeton and drawn by Matt Clark, and is a flashback story which has Sable and Spidey team up in the past. This is recounted by a grieving Spider-Man, who looks back with findness on the story.

And it’s a fun story, with Spider-Man and Sable working together to stop Dr Doom from marrying a girl he wants to turn into magic and use to destroy the world -- or whatever. Sable gets a good moment, and Dr Strange shows up to be sarcastic. The story’s fine -- the one problem is a technical nit-pick which makes things more confusing than it should be. We have a framing sequence where Spider-Man looks for the two apparently drowned bodies, and then flash to the story. But there’s no caption telling us that this has happened, leaving us to think for a few pages that Sable is still alive.

The flashback story begins with her contacting Spider-Man via a billboard, which asks him to meet her at a place only the two of them know about. Now this is meant to be set in the past, as she is contacting him to ask him to join her for a job. But it comes across like the obviously-not-dead-they-re-never-dead-without-a-body Sable reassuring current Spidey that she’s still alive. That the flashback story will show us the story which reveals how he knows where to find her in the present. Not the case! It’s a technical issue, but one which threw me off, and surely many other readers. At least to start with.

For the most part, the rest of the story is fine. But it’s interesting to note how something so simple can make things so tricky when readers pick up an issue.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Green Lantern Corptinues

Green Lantern Corps continues on, as one of the few books which bluntly ignored the New 52 relaunch and instead carried on with all the old storylines. This is the Green Lantern book which features John Stewart and Guy Gardner, and is mostly set in outer space.

The current arc is dealing with the aftermath of Stewart apparently killing another lantern - I don’t know why he did - and being arrested by a higher authority of lanterns called The Alpha Lanterns. On the first page, they sentence him to death, and he accepts it calmly. Gardner is obviously angry, because he always is, and the issue plods from point A to Point B simplistically.

But it’s nicely written from Peter Tomasi, who takes time to actually focus on the two main characters and develop them out, round them a little. While Gardner remains the angry jerk character, here we see him a little restrained, holding back as he tries to work out what John is planning here. And John is fascinating, taking a stand which means he’ll be killed in order to leave an important message for those he leaves behind.

Not much goes on in the issue, in honesty, and the predictability of the story is altered only by Stewart’s unexpected decision and action. Artist Fernando Pasarin and colourist Gabe Eltaeb do some nice work making the story pop. You have to be prepared for some violently neon colour schemes when you come on to any Green Lantern issue, and Eltaeb works well on the title. This review is short because the issue doesn’t offer much to write about - it’s decent, simple storytelling, underpinned by two of DC’s better-defined lead characters who offer a sense of importance which the story doesn’t really explore deeply.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Justiniano Draws The Winter Guard

YES this merits a post.

Going clockwise from Darkstar: Crimson Dynamo, Vostok, Titanium Man, Fantasma, Vanguard, Ursa Major and Red Guardian.

Astonishing X-Men Invites You to the Non-Event of the Year

Partway through Astonishing X-Men #51 – “the gay marriage issue” – the bit-part character Warbird tells groom Northstar that she will not be attending the wedding. She doesn’t explain what her problem with it is, but simply states it to his face and walks away. And the crime is that WE DON’T GET TO FOLLOW HER.

The issue is really bad, guys. It’s shockingly awful, and it’s really sad to see Marjorie Liu’s name attached to something like this. Even though this was editorially mandated and forced upon her, you’d still think she’d be able to work around it and give us a few jokes, character moments, and fun beats before we head up the aisle to see Northstar and Kyle get married. But instead, here’s a quick run-through of some of the awful stuff we see:

Beast officiating. The character who most embodies science and lack of faith, and who would never get married himself. Beast has no reason to be at this wedding, as he’s made it thoroughly clear over the past few years that he hates the X-Men, will not play any part in their existence, and is actually currently sided with the ‘Avengers’ half of ‘Avengers Vs X-Men’.

Poorly chosen art. Everybody has been mentioning this in their reviews, but Mike Perkins is a fine artist assigned to completely the wrong title. Everybody in the issue looks faintly drunk – even before the wedding starts – and Northstar in particular looks like something horrible has happened to his facial muscles. At the start is a panel where Northstar says “this is the happiest day of my life” and delivers what can only be described as a grimace to the readers. 

Now – in the original script, this line this may have been either a heartwarming sincere statement or a sarcastic comment made as pre-wedding jitters. It comes across as neither. It just looks really really weird. Perkins is a good artist, but this is not the book for him.

The worst flashbacks of all time. Astonishing’s current arc has been flashing from the present to the past at random moments in time, mainly in ways which deflate any tension from the rest of the story. We’ve previously been asked to worry about Kyle’s life in the flashbacks even though he’s, y’know, GETTING MARRIED in the present. Liu has thoroughly botched the storytelling for this arc, as each time she goes back in time it undermines the events of the present, or outright spoils to the reader what’s going to happen.

Sappy dialogue. Yes, sure, weddings are a fundamentally sappy time for everybody involved, and Liu matches that when we see the happy couple deliver their – overlapping? – vows to each other. The rest of the issue, however….! Kyle and Northstar as a couple were first properly developed by Tim Fish, who cast them both as rather bland, sappy idiots. That’s the characterisation which continues here, sadly, with neither of them showing any sign of compelling character. Kyle is entirely reactive, whilst Liu’s premise for Northstar is that he ‘moves too fast’. That could be interesting, but Kyle ‘reacts’ to Northstar moving ‘too fast’ by ‘going along with it’. At first he turns down the engagement, but we’ve all seen the covers telling us that the marriage is going to happen! So how does this lead to any sort of tension? He gives in after almost getting shot on a mission, and agrees to marry Northstar. Cue nose-nuzzling.

Whatever happened to how Northstar used to be? Arrogant, snobbish and successful? He doesn’t seem to have any drive or ambition beyond Kyle anymore. Although, that’s sometimes how  marriages end up – limiting both people involved – so I’ll let that go for the moment.

Bad jokes. Seriously bad jokes, and that’s so annoying. The wedding brings together a disparate group of Avengers, X-Men, Alpha Flightinis and other heroes – and there’s barely anything witty done with it. Rogue arm wrestles Guardian, and that’s about it. There’s no banter, or strange pairings, and nobody gets any funny lines to say. The best part of the entire issue is when Storm and Wolverine reminisce about their own weddings – failures both, of course – and flirt with each other. It’s a nicely done moment, and the only time we have X-Men in the issue instead of random strangers who don’t know each other.

Karma is still missing. Yes, Northstar chooses to have a wedding whilst his team-mate has PROBABLY BEEN ABDUCTED and has at the very least been mind-controlled. She’s AWOL and nobody in the issue cares because they’re too busy playing around with flowers and saying out-of-character things. At least none of the other New Mutants are at the wedding – because otherwise this issue would be very very embarrassing for them indeed.

The cliffhanger. The issue ends with Wolverine getting ripped in half by – oh look – mind-controlled Karma. WILL WOLVERINE SURVIVE THIS? Of course he f****g will.

The issue is bland, uninspired, out-of-sync and terrible to read. The jokes are watery-weak and fall flat almost every single time. Not even cameos from Liu’s favourites Jubilee and X-23 raise a smile. The writing is singularly drab, and turns what could’ve been a big, vibrant event into a bunch of people in lycra sitting in a field, near a tent. It is the absolute definition of an anti-climax, and will disappoint just about everybody who reads it. An incredible, gut-smashing shame of an issue. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

New Joshua Middleton Art!

With this cover for Before Watchmen: Yellow Costume Lady:

No idea who she is, but Middleton has always been one of the most fun artists around - even turning drab stone like X-23 into glorious, free-flowing works of art. And his Supergirl was GREAT!

James Asmus Joins Thief of Thieves

Robert Kirkman's newest and least head-smashing-innest series is Thief of Thieves, which is obviously published by Image. This is an interesting project, because Kirkman oversees the project as a stylised show-runner, while a number of different writers hop on for each arc. It's a little like the way Joss Whedon ran Buffy Season #8, although this one doesn't seem set to become an absolute mess which wrecks a beloved franchise for years.

After Nick Spencer's opening arc - which ends in August - Kirkman has announced that the second arc will be written by Comics Vanguard's very own James Asmus! Yes, we have claimed him. If you wish to use him, you'll have to wait for us to go a year without mentioning his name, and then bring your lawyers over. Anyway, Asmus will jump on in September, continuing the story about a conman and his decision to qui-wait no he gets pulled into more work. If you’ll remember we gave the first issue, drawn by Shawn Martinbrough, a rather positive review. Martinbrough, that is, who has yet to take a break and is still drawing issues monthly as of September’s issue #8. Fairly impressive for the modern age of comics, eh?

Monday, 18 June 2012

First Cover for Doctor Who from IDW

The first cover for Dr Who #1 from the creative team of Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham has been revealed today as part of IDW's September Soliciations. Geronimo!

Brian Wood's Week of X-Men

Brian Wood’s spent most of this year trying to position himself as American's most prominent political comic-book writer. Have you noticed that? On top of his announcement that he’d be creating a new comic for Image with Ming Doyle, which had a female lead (and focusing almost entirely on that in the promotion for it) came The Massive, a book about eco-warriors which everybody apart from me loved. But he’s even managed to extend his political ideas across to the mainstream, finding two titles to work on which not only can be used as vehicles for political comment – but are crying out for somebody to use them as such.

Those books are adjectiveless X-Men, the former team-up book which floundered directionless under editorial decree and uninspired writing from Victor Gischler; and the impossible-to-keep-consistent Ultimate X-Men, which has been all over the place over the past few years. In both, Wood has found a place where his intellectualised style of writing can flourish. Ultimate X-Men in particularl has needed a strong direction for a while now, and in the wake of mass cullings of all the popular cast members in that universe (the Ultimatum event killed off Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Angel, Magneto, Xavier, Wolverine, Dazzler and several others) we’re down to a cast of four. Rogue, Kitty, Iceman and Wolverine’s son are the only four members of the X-Men still standing, and Wood has decided to call this their breaking point and have them fight back against the mass hatred they experience.

Ultimate X-Men has become a book about mutants-as-revolutionaries, with Kitty Pryde the new main character and the rest of the team her flunkies. Wood absolutely nails this idea, with Kitty’s decision to revolt against everything being supremely well handled. The Ultimate Universe has always been far crueller towards mutants than the regular Marvel universe, which makes it supremely rewarding to see the X-Men actually cut loose and return the favour. They put down riots and wear bandanas, and form a cause. It’s incredibly satisfying to read, and Wood’s momentum already seems set to steer this book into an interesting, dynamic area.

Writing X-Men at the same time means that Wood has one foot in each universe, although none of the cast are shared at this point. This book sees Storm establishing herself as a character once more, following on from ideas Kieron Gillen introduced in Uncanny. It’s such a relief to see Storm being independent from the grasp that the Fantastic Four office (who handle Black Panther) had on her that’s it’s almost a shock to read her dialogue. You forget what it’s like to read about her as a three-dimensional personality after so many years of her being the attractive decoration on T’Challa’s arm. The rest of the cast play off her for the most part, although it is strange to see the roles they play. Colossus is far more practical than he’s ever been, and Wood pays no attention at all to the ‘Juggernaut’ storyline which had come to define the character recently.

Pixie is great as always, however, which is wonderful news. She’s taken the role Kitty used to, and she comes across as a more fun and vibrant reflection of youth in the team than Jubilee ever did. Both books have a lot of politics creeping into them, but handles it all very nicely, and manages to give us two rewarding, interesting titles which give a little more depth to the X-Men.

He couldn't have better assistance in the form of David Lopez, one of the very best artists around. Lopez's sharp detailing makes sure to differenciate and properly account for each member of the X-Men. It's easy to draw a white face and then have the colourist turn it African-American - Lopez doesn't do that. He accentuates the African-American features in Storm's face to give her a sense of dignity and damned authenticity you don't see often enough. It must be something to do with being called David, because the other artist who is most known for this attention is David Yardin, who should be on a Storm ongoing series already. Lopez's action sequences are fluid and smooth, leading seamlessly between one another in long, sweeping movements which move across in horizontal panels. And he draws a really good Pixie.

Both books are really good fun, you guys. They're political - but the X-Men have desperately needed a political writer on them for years now. It's good to have writers who understand the themes and characters, but it's another to have a writer who seems set to push those themes and characters forward into complex and difficult places. Brian Wood is that man.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Now I’ve gone and bought an issue of Superboy what the hell

As part of my determination to read and write about as varied a set of comics each week as possible, I this week spent a good five minutes staring at a crisp copy of Superboy while it stood on the shelf. Then my eyes flicked to The Ravagers, which got wonderfully trashed by House to Astonish recently. After a quick glimpse at Resurrection Man, it was ultimately Superboy who went home with me.

Written by Scott Lobdell, issue 10 has a massively OTT cover for what is essentially an issue of downtime/flirting between Superboy and Wonder Girl - who wears invisible armour and doesn’t appear to have any actual connection to Wonder Woman that I can tell. Although we go have dinosaur fighting, it’s a very short sequence as we most see two superheroes decide to sit down in the woods, have a campfire, and bicker with each other.

Lobdell is fully aware that we’re expecting the two characters to inevitably fall for each other, and plays that up as much as he can, providing ample fire for internet shippers. He’s helped in this regard with a guest creative team who make the issue look a little similar to Francis Manapul’s Flash book - which as you may know by now, is my favourite DC title. Sebastian Fiumara draws with an interestingly misty flair, so the characters continually feel like a camera is sharpening and losing focus on them as the story goes on. They zoom in and out of shot, with the colouring from Richard and Tanya Horie providing an excellent tone for this short, throwaway story.

We get to see Lobdell really having a bit of fun with his dialogue, as we see these two teenage characters stranded on ‘Mystery Island’ together, with no idea how they get out (even though they can, uh, fly) and very little tolerance for each other. This version of Superboy was apparently grown in a lab with the intention of being set upon the Teen Titans. When he failed to do so, and grew a conscience, the Teen Titans helped him escape his creators and now he’s looking for a place to go find out who he is. Lobdell paints this on the character pretty thickly, overdoing things with a scene where Wonder Girl teaches the character what ‘food’ is and why it’s fun. But for the most part, this was actually a pretty entertaining comic.

The central problem is the pacing, which is dreadful and a little woeful. The dialogue and characterisation grows nicely over the course of the issue, and seems to be one of Lobdell’s greatest strengths as a writer. The shoehorned-in dinosaur fight and mystery of Mystery Island isn’t so good. The story skips in time at several points, creating a bit of a schizophrenic feel which doesn’t ground itself. While this does mean we get to see the relationship between the two characters build and provide some genuine laughs, it also makes the issue feel incredibly slight. Although, I suppose, there’s nothing wrong with that.

We’re obviously seeing much of this issue from Superboy’s perspective, which is why he seems to much more grounded than the flighty, moody Wonder Girl. At least that’s what I think is the intention here, and don’t think I’m not heading to some pretty vicious forums after this to find out what long-term fans think of the issue. But as far as I’m concerned this was a fun, simple issue, with good jokes, entertaining dialogue, and likeable characters. It’s not a massive important title, but it put a lot into the page count and made me… like? Superboy?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Thunderbolts Shifts to Dark Avengers

Jeff Parker's long run on Thunderbolts has long been one of the under-appreciated joys of Marvel, with a cast of relatively unknown villains forming the most entertaining and cohesive teams you could find. Better than the Avengers, perhaps on par with the best of the X-Men teams, and more surprising than the Defenders.

So the switch across to rename the title Dark Avengers comes as Marvel recognising the work Parker has done and attempting to gift him the chance to continue that run with a boost in readership. Any title with Avenger in it tends to sell a little better, after all. Parker takes the chance to switch focus from his previous team - who are still around, but sidelined for the time being - to a new set of random villainous characters. In this case, it's the undeveloped Dark Avengers team from Brian Michael Bendis' last arc of Avengers. We have a Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch character on this team, alongside Hulk's son Skaar and the Thor clone Ragnarok.

Parker struggles to make some of them interesting - Hawkeye is boring enough as it is, so imagine how dull a character must be to want to aspire to Hawkeye's level - but makes up for it with his teaming of Luke Cage and Hank Pym. Luke Cage has thrived under Parker's pen, and here again he walks away with the issue. His scenes with Hank Pym are the most fun and natural here, with a freeform repartee between the two which is pleasant to see from two characters who are usually stuck on the sidelines, being cynical from afar.

Declan Shalvey's art is appropriate for the book, perfectly suited to the genre jumps Parker is liable to make from time to time. While he isn't especially detailed, his work is full of impression and depth, which makes for a light, fun read. Frank Martin's colours certainly help to set the tone, as well, with an understated but smart choice of palette for each sequence. The story is slightly patchy - there are a lot of different threads being picked up here, and stories hinted at - but the humour helps pad things out and keep a sense of consistency.

In other words: business as usual for Marvel's most consistently entertaining title.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Spider-Men #1 Review

I had the chance to review an advance copy of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli's Spider-Men #1 for The Beat, and you can read the full review here. But as the issue comes out today, I'm going to crop a paragraph or two from the piece so you can have an idea of what I thought - basically, I recommend it!

While Bendis’ script is solid, there are several moments – especially during a scene midway through – which would’ve crashed without someone as flexible as Pichelli to handle them. Her decision to stick rigidly to a panel layout means that the fight scenes can sometimes feel a little like a progression of moves, instead of a fluid, flowing fight, however. Her refusal to break between panels does slow things a little. But it’s more than made up for through her actual fight choreography, which rolls across slowly and allows readers the chance to see what’s actually going on. There are no wasted panels of posing and charging – these is a properly assembled fight sequence.

The script does at times hint that a sense of extremely artificial danger is going to be blown up as the story continues – Bendis does have a tendency to mishandle the building-up of tension in his superhero stories sometimes, making them feel deflated and directionless. And really, I enjoyed the fun, carefree moments so much that I hope the forthcoming issues aren’t going to hammer a sense of tension into readers – this should be fun, not serious. There’s also a lack of Miles at the moment, with the first issue told entirely from Peter’s viewpoint. That’s a small complaint though – Bendis isn’t going to ignore his creation in a book called Spider-Men. This is a character-focused story, and Miles will surely have his time to shine as it continues

Boom Extermination Boom

Simon Spurrier charmed the World, or at least a good 10000 people who live in the World, with his X-Club miniseries which was probably one of the best X-Men stories of the past decade. And hot off that run, he’s moved across to Boom! (my favourite current publisher, especially when you take their all-ages ‘Kaboom!’ imprint into account) for a new series, which mixes Superhero fun with Warren Ellis-esque anti-superhero hi-jink fun.

Extermination sees the world’s greatest hero and greatest villain forced into teaming up after aliens destroy civilisation, and much of the World. In the post-apocalyptic landscape, they have to decide whether they want to free the world from alien menace or keep themselves alive. Do you go for the big heroic sacrifice and save everything, or do you look after yourself and only yourself?

It’s a smart premise, and the book is filled with Spurrierisms where characters layer noun upon noun whenever they hit an insult or punctuate their irritation with something. Spurrier is very very good with dialogue, keeping things over-the-top but realistic at the same time. Extermination is filled with silly one-liners and expanded lines of insult. The main story doesn’t seem particularly important, thankfully, because it’s far more interesting to see the hero and villain bouncing off and influencing each other.

At the moment the villain is far more influential than the hero, eventually setting up a snappy fall from grace which leads into the cliffhanger for next issue. But the conflict is well-played, with the two characters butting heads in small ways instead of arguing wildly about every tiny detail. You can see how their motivations differ, but you can also see them placing their egos to one side in order to try and get through this problem.

The one problem for the book - and this is something which will likely smooth out in time - is the pencilling of Jeffrey Edwards. Edwards gets the characters right, and his expression and perspective are both good. However, his storytelling ability is still a little bit off, and needs work. There are a few points when we switch to an action sequence where the story is hard to work out, and the progression of a scene grows confused. This is just a matter of teething issues, though, as the creative team start to form a more cohesive style of storytelling. Just a little more clarity in some of the sequences is required, that’s all.

Si Spurrier is really moving up this year. Although we’ve already established that this is the year for Brian Wood, it’s actually the work of people like Spurrier which makes me more excited for the future direction of comics. Extermination is silly and fun, and may even grow into depth as it goes on.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Spider-Man Fights the artist formerly known as Prince in August

Marvel have released a new teaser today, which strongly indicates that the artist formerly known as Prince has returned to being called squiggle and will make a comeback in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #692. In the run-up to the landmark - and much hyped - issue #700 we're going to see first a Lizard story and then something with Hobgoblin, and then it looks like Peter Parker will be subjected to a Purple Rain of fists from the 5ft miracle kid of music.

Humberto Ramos will return for the arc, which is amazing news because he would be my #1 choice for drawing a comic-book version of Wendy & Lisa.

Friday, 8 June 2012


YES! She rides on a flying pony, owns magical gems and has a sword! She is the Princess of Gemworld! And obviously she is one of my favourites. In September DC are allegedly going to be cancelling four titles and replacing them with four news ones, and while three of the incoming books - Batman spinoff Talon, Team Seven and Phantom Stranger - are dryer than a crusty slice of toast stuffed up a scarecrow's sock, the fourth book will be ALL ABOUT AMETHYST.

Titled Swords and Sorcery, this series will be written by Christy Marx and drawn by Aaron Lopresti starting with a #0 issue in September. The character has been aged up a few years, as you can see, although DC have also put trousers on her so she's unlikely to be as sexualised as, say, Starfire. The only problem at the moment seems to be the following quote Marx gives in an interview with io9:

I'm trying to avoid a sparkly-crystals-and-pegasuses kind of approach
WHAAAAAATT!?! Since when has any book ever been hurt by having sparkly crystals and flying ponies in it?! This is an outrage. If Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld is coming back, I simply demand that she be riding a flying pony by the end of the first issue!

Don't worry, guys: I am sure as HECK going to keep you informed about this one. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Becky Cloonan drawing Batman!

Yes, it's true. The Year of Becky Cloonan continues apace, you guys, with the news that she will be drawing issue #12 of Scott Snyder's run on Batman. This will be the issue which bridges the Court of Owls storyline with the... well, we don't know what comes next, although most people seem to be betting either The Joker or Ras Al Ghul are coming up. Here's Greg Capullo's cover for the issue:

Also, while we're talking about Becky Cloonan, guess what I did?


You can read the [annotated] interview over on The Beat! Or read a review of her book The Mire over on Comics Bulletin. Your choice!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mind the Gap.... Whodunnit?

Before the release of issue #2 of Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback’s Image series Mind the Gap, let’s take a look back over the forty-six page first issue, and try to establish who dun nit.

This is the story of an attempted murder, in which the victim - Elle - is beaten round the head and left in a coma. While her friends and family all seem to be grieving, and her doctors allegedly try to help her out of this state, she floats above herself and watches everything as it happens. She’s apparently going to be wandering around as the series progressed, floating around from place to place in order to work out which one of the characters attacked her, and why.

So it’s a murder mystery book, then! And in the back material, McCann states that it was a character who was named in issue #1 who did the deed. With that in mind, let’s go take a look through the story and round up the possible culprits...

1: Elle.

Our main character, who starts the issue off just prior/during the attack, calling her best friend Jo, only to groan in pain before the call cuts out. We don’t see her for this, so have no idea what the context was. Did she actually make this call? Jo seemed to recognise the voice, but it could’ve been set-up. The first time we actually see Jo is when she’s unconscious, and then we only get to see her character once she drifts out of her body, and starts piecing together what’s just happened to her. It’s unlikely she’s the one who knocked herself into a coma, but we won’t rule anything out yet.

2: Jo - best friend

McCann says that Jo has an alibi, merely because she’s the one who picks up the call at the time Elle is being attacked - and has clearly just woken up. Apparently this makes her one of two characters who are not going to be revealed as the attacker. BUT WHY SHOULD WE TRUST YOU JIM. Jo could have called somebody else and told them to commit the attack, and could be hiding any one of a number of secrets. Sure, her being the villain would mean she’s doing a hell of a job with her acting in this issue, but that’s what villains are all about!

3: Dane - Boyfriend

Well, it seems like he’s her boyfriend, although he makes a hint to the fact that he and Elle have been fighting prior to the attack. What were they fighting about? Is this the reason why Elle’s family are noticeably hostile towards him? At the start of the issue he’s in his flat and taking off his coat before Jo calls him and worries about Elle. Where has he just been in the rain? Did he attack his girlfriend?

4: Min - mother

The other character McCann says has a tight alibi is Elle’s mother, who seems incredibly distant to everyone around her. She seems to dislike her daughter and son, and have no interest in her husband whatsoever. She’s rather unlikeable, which in my mind suggests she’s probably innocent. But you never know.

5: Edward - father

Devoted father? It appears that way at the moment, and his reaction to the news about Elle seems genuine. But…. He is BY THE STATION when he heads the news! What was he doing so close to the scene of the crime?

6: Edward Jr - brother

Another self-absorbed character here, who was shopping at the time of the attack. Or was he? There’s clearly a coat hanging out of his bag of ‘shopping’, and he could well be hiding his disguise/weapon in there. He is noticeably unhappy with Dane’s presence in the hospital, but also overhears a suspicious conversation between two of the Doctors. What’s his agenda?

7: Dr Geller

Initially called to assess the unconscious Elle, Dr Gellar is pushed aside by one of her peers, who takes over responsibility for Elle’s care. Irritated, she starts to look closer into Elle’s medical history to work out why the rest of the hospital staff are behaving so strangely with this case. She ends the issue by being possibly taken hostage by a strange woman with a gun, and seems to be caught up in a conspiracy over her head. Unless that’s just what McCann wants us to think…?

8: Dr Hammond

A pompous ass, on the surface, whose main motivation appears to be keeping favour with Elle’s rich parents. Other members of the staff seem to be scared of him, though? He certainly seems to have a history with several of the other characters, and seems generally creepy.

9: Harold - Psychiatrist (?)

We don’t know what’s going on by the time Harold shows up. He gets a phonecall telling him about Elle’s attack, and immediately rushes out the house with a mysterious briefcase, to meet up with somebody. He’s going into a trap, and a hooded ‘agent’ sets him up for a car crash, before taking the briefcase and wandering off. This person talks on their phone to somebody called ‘Harry’ which appears to be the name of whoever coordinated the initial attack on Elle. Who is Harry? Erm… well, Harold would’ve been my first guess, if he weren’t unconscious in a car wreck at the time of the call.

10: Miles - Assistant

Harold’s assistant. Has glasses. We don’t spend much time with him yet.

11: Megan - Evil Nurse

Megan appears to be in the palm of Dr Hammond’s hand. Perhaps literally, by which I mean she might be sexually involved with him? I don’t like her very much, and she seems very protective of Hammond.

12: Louise

The person who calls Harold about Elle’s situation.

13: Bobby

Finally, and I think this rounds up all the characters who are suspects, we have Bobby. He meets Elle while she’s astrally projecting all over the place, and calms her down, introduces her to life in your subconscious. He seems like he’s friendly, and going to take the role of a guide for her. But what if he’s part of a greater plan to trick Elle into revealing something she knows? This is… admittedly a long shot, but you have to remember that YOU SHOULD NEVER TRUST JIM MCCANN

I’ll come back just before issue #3 comes out, you guys. We’ll see what we’ve learned in the meantime, and what it suggests about our thirteen possible culprits. Thoughts?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Daniel McNea Puts Dazzler in The Avengers

Daniel McNea, whose Deviantart page can be found over here, has finally given the World what we've been waiting for and added Dazzler to the Avengers. There is literally not a single person in the world who isn't in love with how amazing Dazzler is, and as you can see she's already made quite an impression on Thor, who already seems to be regretting his choice of boring scientist Natalie Portman and wishes he could date somebody with some real charisma.

And hyper blasty pop powers, of course.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Batman Annual #1 kinda makes Arkham City canon

This week's Batman Annual #1 by plotter Scott Snyder and scripter James Tynion IV is a decent story revisiting the character of Mr Freeze, and updating/revamping his modus operandi (that's latin, fact-fans) for the New 52 continuity. But more than that, it's a chance for the artistic team - led by artist Jason Fabok - to sneak in a suggestion that the recent Batman game 'Arkham City' might actually kinda be canon a little bit.

Well, not really, but there were several cute touches to suggest that the game has had a small effect on the way DC view their comic book Batman...iverse. Oh man, sorry for just writing that word. I feel just as bad as you do, promise.

We start off with Mr Freeze in prison, wearing an Arkham Asylum inmate outfit which looks just like the ones used in the game, complete with the diamond-shaped Arkham logo which features prominently in the games. When he inevitably escapes from his cell, the layout of the Asylum is also incredibly similar to the way designers Rockstead lay things out in Arkham Asylum, with monitors prominently displaying the logo, yet again.

There's also a great reference between these two, where we see a guard watching over Gotham via an overhead map. The map here is actually the layout from Arkham City, complete with references to the Amusement Mile area which leads towards where - in the game - Joker lurks. The other screens show an overhead map of an area from the Arkham Asylum game, while production design stills are also visible.

It's a cute little touch which shows DC are willing to incorporate successful elements from other media into their books - and frankly, most people were expecting to see more touches like this in the books. Why doesn't Harley Quinn act like the did in the cartoons? :(

Alan Scott is gay! Here’s a review of Witchblade

Hot on the heels of DC’s announcement that James Robinson’s Earth 2 series will feature a rebooting of original Green Lantern Alan Scott which will have the character be an open homosexual from the beginning, comes news that Comics Vanguard have finally gotten around to writing that piece about Tim Seeley and Diego Bernard’s Free Comic Book Day issue of Witchblade.

Woof! Witchblade is a very long-running series from Top Cow which I can’t say I’ve ever known very much about. I’ve heard a lot about it, with varying reviews and thoughts about the book. This is one of those titles which features strong female characters who are drawn to be provocative and cheesecake-y on their every appearance, you see, although this never seems to reach anything like the kind of nonsense you’d find in Tarot. First comes a backstory from Ron Marz which sets up the basic shape of the universe for new readers: there are thirteen magic artefacts in the world, and each is owned by a different owner. These thirteen people seem to be the thirteen protagonists of the Top Cow Universe – I recognised The Darkness amongst them, as well as Witchblade. The other eleven all seem to be a mix of different genres, with tough cops and freakish demi-mutants (mainly the female characters, those) and hulk monsters (mainly male) all standing alongside each other. All thirteen weapons were brought together at some point, and they destroyed the universe. Bummer! Then they brought it back, with minor changes.

Hence the ‘Top Cow Rebirth’ idea. This basically works in exactly the same way as DC’s reboot, with everything changed to make it easier for new readers to jump in. After the intro, which keeps things very simple, we go straight into a Witchblade story. She is one of the thirteen characters, and has a costume which looks absolutely freezing. It’s some kind of armour which covers her body, apart from the boobs stomach and crotch, and can fire magic bolts or something.

The story is a complete prologue for the current storyline that Seeley is writing over in the main book. As such we don’t get a full narrative here, only set-up which will bring us into Witchblade’s world, and then leave us to continue on with it if we like it. It’s an interesting approach and pays off in several ways – it’s always hard to resist stories where there are a finite number of characters to keep track of, and they all have a different magic power, Power-Rangers-Style – but the story is also quite jolting for those familiar with superhero comics. Instead of a straight hero narrative we instead have a story where the gross-looking villain does whatever they want, slaughtering the surplus cast members and corrupting the main character as is their wont at any given moment.

It’s a little like a super-gross version of Angel, the TV series, although the gore isn’t too bad. The art definitely makes sure to make any attack look like rape, though, and the character poses are proud to pander to the male gaze. Seeley’s story works like a police procedural, but with a vigilante in charge instead of a by-the-books officer. It’s kinda silly, played realistically, and exactly what you’d expect to get from a Witchblade story. It’s not the sort of story that I would read, but it does show a different side of the comic-book industry, and offers an alternative to the full universes of the Marvel and DC publishing houses. Witchblade feels like it has a scope, but then dials back to only focus on the one character. There are teases to the expanded universe, and the whole thing works rather well to not only explain the Top Cow universe to new readers – but to pull them into it.