Friday, 24 June 2011

Gene Colan 1926 - 2011

Sadly, master artist Gene Colan, passed away last night at the age of 84. This is a great loss to the industry and he will be missed by all.
His work was fantastic and he could surely show some of these young'uns a thing or two.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


ValhallahanI spent the weekend bouncing around the bars of Norwich drinking my body weight in cheap Bourbon. I've lost my voice and gained the shakes, but thankfully I had the presence of mind to fill my boots with Vertigo back issues at Norwich's own Abstract Sprocket when I first got to town, so I've a great deal to read in my recovery.

Purchases included:
4 Horsemen, American Century, American Freak, Battleaxes, Chiarascuro, Congo Bill, The Crusades, Doom Patrol, Enigma, The Extremist, Faith, Fault Lines, Flinch, Ghost Dancing, Goddess, House of Secrets, Millenium Fever, Jonah Hex: Riders on the Worm and Such, Seven Miles Per Second, Solo, Strange Adventures, Vertigo Pop: Tokyo.

I also had time to read Jeff Parker's The Inter Man and  Pat Mills and Leigh Gallagher's Defoe:1666 on the train. Reviews to come!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Isle of 100,000 Graves

Action Ash
This year I've been getting into the works of the Norwegian cartoonist Jason. I had seen his books around and online and they had always intrigued me with their animal characters and their simplistic, minimalist aesthetic. I finally gave in to curiosity and bought The Left Bank Gang, and I was not disappointed, which lead to me also purchasing The Last Musketeer. Now I'm a fan and have been waiting anxiously for his latest offering to be released, which it was last week.

The story is that of a young girl named Gwenny (often referred to as "that ugly little girl") who recruits a pirate crew to take her to the Isle of 100,000 Graves so she can find out what happened to her missing father. While there, it is discovered the island is home to a school for executioners and torturers and that is where the adventure really begins.

Isle of 100,000 Graves is the first work of Jason's to be written by someone other than himself. Boy, did he choose a good one! The scribe for this comedic pirate adventure story is none other than French comic writer Fabien Vehlmann, writer of the WWII adventure drama 7 Psychopaths (you can the bad guy's review of that here). Vehlmann and Jason seem to share the same sense of humour. As I was reading the story it seemed so much like the previous Jason books I had devoured. Also the pacing was very similar, which made me wonder if Vehlmann was trying his hardest to write a "Jason" story. However, thinking back on 7 Psychopaths I can easily see the similarity in pacing and humour and, also, could totally imagine it being illustrated by Jason. Although that would completely change the tone, so wonderfully set by Sean Phillips.

Visually it is much the same as Jason's other works, which in my opinion are stunning in their simplicity. The sparse composition of the panels, the 'ligne claire' art style (yeah, I just got pretentious on yo' ass) and the fantastic use of negative space all add to the understated, dead pan wit of the tale.

A fun and entertaining adventure that just goes towards further proving the talent of these men.

5 ugly little girls blackmailing dead pan pirates out of 5

Monday, 13 June 2011

Missing In Action: Image United


Surprising no-one, the (alleged) hotly anticipated reunion of the Image founders (sort of) in one book has fallen woefully behind schedule suffering severe delays. They have managed to get three whole issues out in the last few years though, so more power to you, Image. Well done on losing all the goodwill you've clawed back in recent years. Who saw that coming? Surely noone's career is going to come off well from this embarrassment.
But wait! It's been announced that DC are giving Rob Liefeld a new series in their relaunch. Is it some kind of self referencing joke?

Oh, and it looks like Xombi's being cancelled.

But Rob Liefeld is getting a new series.

Fuck you too DC.

Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1 Review

Writer Brian Azzarello
Artist Eduardo Risso
Cover by Dave Johnson
The boys, it seems are back in town. Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance as it’s so wonderfully titled, reunites the winning 100 Bullets team of writer Brian Azzarello, artist extraordinaire Eduardo Risso and comic book cover god Dave Johnson.  A winning formula indeed. I’ll preface this review by saying I have no idea what’s going on in Flashpoint, because frankly I couldn’t give a crap about The Flash, but Action Ash braved #1 and let me know the general gist; someone went and messed with DC Universe history so that The Flash never existed and the worlds in a right state. Sort of the Age of Apocalypse with less knobbly collars and more castrations. Anyway, as I have no intention of reading the rest of the crossover I’m just going to treat this as a “What If?” or “Elseworlds”.
“What If Thomas Wayne Became The Batman?” is what this story is essentially, things happened dramatically differently that fateful night in Crime Alley, and Thomas Wayne survived the encounter that otherwise would have forged his son’s destiny as The Bat. Whether Bruce and Martha survived is not clear from this issue, but I suspect it will be important in the story to come. Anyway, what we do get in this issue is a bit of set up with a very different, dangerous new Batman, stalking Killer Croc in Gotham’s sewers leading to a brutal confrontation. This Batman is a bit of a dick, to say the least, very Dark Knight Returns.
But is it any good? In a word, yes, but not thrillingly so. Risso captures moods like few others in the business; his pages are, as ever a delight to behold. I seriously love this guy’s art. And y’know, Azzarello, (although I find him a bit hit and miss) ain’t no slouch either, they set up a decent mystery, throw in some action and it looks pretty, what more do you want? If there’s anything negative to say, it’s that it’s a very brief read, it sort of whips by and you’re left wanting more, but at least you do want more.
Go buy it.
Or don’t.
It’s your life.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Well Who'd A Thunk


Please don't take this as an endorsement of their work, but by God, I never imagined a day when C-list X-Man Sean Cassidy aka Banshee* would feature in a music video by Pop dullards Take That. Says something about the place of comic book characters in popular culture in 2011.

The video is here, if you're that bloody bored.

*amongst others.

Monday, 6 June 2011

X-Men: First Class


Yesterday the nefarious Action Ash and I made a trip to our local picture house to see X-Men: First Class, and the verdict is that despite some terribly cheesy moments (Moira's gifts the CIA didn't give her, "Mutant and Proud") it really is a fantastic romp and a jolly good attempt to make a great X-Men movie. I'm going to give you a few thoughts on the film and a bit of a spoiler-free geek's eye view. Listen up punks!

The first X-Men film came out in 1999, and was instrumental to bringing the worldwide audience to the possibilities of superhero movies. It discarded much of the details of the books, and the colourful costumes preferring to reimagine all the details, stick ‘em all in combat leathers, and focus on the core concept of the team. Since then we've had more faithful adaptations of the 4 colour wonder of comics, like the Spider-Man films and Iron Man, and the audience's increased willingness to suspend disbelief is certainly played upon here, with a rather colourful globetrotting adventure. We even get traditional blue and yellow X-costumes and a rather spot on rendition of Magneto’s signature headgear. This doesn’t detract from the faux-real-world angst, or inventive violence of the earlier movies, and in fact reminds us why we liked them too. This is a very nice mix. As I said, there are some naff bits so be warned, the odd line here, the Bond-esque unnecessary sauciness there (your mileage may vary), but nothing that really detracts from overall enjoyment. If anything it fits together nicely. The 1960s setting is a masterstroke. As with the rest of the series don’t expect anything but the occasional scene to come directly from the source material –this is very much the filmmakers’ own creation.

In terms of fitting in with the previous movies, it amazes me that within the space of 5 films they've managed to create as many continuity discrepancies as they have in the comics, which is a nice bit of meta commentary I’m sure. I won’t delve too far into these for fear of spoilers, but suffices to say ignore X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, which is arguably a good rule of thumb to stick to anyway. One baffling choice, not a continuity problem per se, but damned silly, was to portray Moira MacTaggart as an American CIA Agent when she has already been established as a Scottish Doctor in X-Men: The Last Stand. My advice is just go with it, you won’t regret it.

The film largely focuses on the Xavier/Magneto relationship and it can be argued that this is really Magneto’s movie – he certainly gets all the moments of anti-heroic badassery. It’s possible that they even went a bit too far with Magneto as I found myself liking him a lot more than Charles, who sometimes comes off as a bit of a berk. Perhaps that says more about me than the film, but I cannot stress too much how fucking cool Magneto is in this movie. His journey across the globe hunting Nazi war criminals is an underused but established comic book fact, and leads to some of the film’s more memorable scenes.

I enjoyed Mystique's story arc in this film, I found her more likeable than Charles even, despite some seriously hokey lines (try not to cringe when she says "Mutant and Proud" I dare you) she's quite an engaging B-character. I am surprised though by how wildly she differs from her comic book character, I realise they are using her as an audience POV character, much like Rogue in the first movie, but when you compare her to the older, ruthless globetrotting assassin turned terrorist of the comics the charming young friend of Charles is quite jarring.

Interestingly, the Hellfire Club itself is very much how one would imagine it, although its membership is entirely different to the source material with the exception of Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw. I liked Emma’s characterisation; I'm not a big fan of the modern, reformed, toothless tiger Emma that appears in books these days, so it was nice to see her as her old formidable self. Curiously, Sebastian Shaw’s character seems to be a bit of a mixture of his comic book self and that of Mr. Sinister, certainly in terms of motives and history. I won't go into it too much for fear of spoilers, but it’s very well done in my opinion. It goes without saying that movie Azazel is better than his comics because a dogshit on a baked potato with pop tart legs and the voice of a Dalek would be better than the comic book version.

I could go on, but I won't. Words don’t grow on trees you know! Go see the film, it's good.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

What Is Wrong With You People? (A voyage into the DC readership Part One)


When DC announced that letters pages were returning to their books after a long absence, I was pleased to hear it. I enjoy anything that adds to reading time in my monthlies, even those annoying little Super 8 pull outs, I read The Walking Dead’s letter page every week and fondly remember the nerd raging fanboys in the X-Force/X-Statix issues, proving that sometimes there’s none so backwards as the fans of the fantastic. But what are today’s fan’s thinking what kind of person reads Jonah Hex? What are my fellow consumers thinking these days? How about the Vertigo readers, surely they’re my Kind of People right? Our survey says: “Hell Naw!”

Some people just don’t know when they’re on to a good thing. In this series I'll share some examples from three of my favourite books.

Scalped #48

In Scalped #48 Joe Fonseca of Kitchener, Ontario goes to great lengths to prove that not everyone in the land of Wolverine and Neil Young has the level of discerning taste we’d been led to believe. He writes:

“…Most Vertigo titles have Very good writing but poor art, Scalped is the exception…regarding the covers: I understand why Vertigo is going for a different look to their covers, but the fact of the matter is that the vertigo covers are not very appealing to the eye. The ironic thing is that of all the Vertigo books, I find Jock’s to be some of the more interesting ones (next to Bolland’s Jack of Fables covers).”

Couldn’t disagree with you more Joe, week after week the Vertigo covers pop out at you from the shelf, if anything, Bolland’s are the least interesting compared to the madness Jeff Lemire comes out with every month on Sweet Tooth, the pop art dynamism of Mike Allred on I Zombie, or the sheer force of Jock’s masterful works. Ask any grown up who hasn’t been trained for years to enjoy the stylised musclemen and women of modern superhero comics what stands out to them as something that might be worth reading...

“...If I was editor, I would let R.M. Guera do the covers as a straight scene from thee story or try some of the great superhero artists like Ivan Reis, David Finch, Gary Frank or Jim Lee.”

Well thank fuck you’re not Joe! I’d drop that book like a hot turd if you were! Perhaps you should stick to Green Lantern or Legion of Superheroes or some other artistically stunted dross. I’m just going to put up a little compare/contrast for you readers at home.

Vertigo's I, Zombie #1

Jim Lee's X-Men #1

Vertigo's Sweet Tooth #1
David Finch's Psylocke #2

Vertigo's American Vampire #1
Gary Frank's Superman: Secret Origin #2

Vertigo's Hellblazer #275

Ivan Reis' Blackest Night #0

Vertigo's Scalped #38

I guess it’s a matter of taste. Whether you have any, that is.

Stay tuned for parts two and three where I look at the letters from Hellblazer and Jonah Hex!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Crisis of Creative Competence!

Action Ash 
So, in case you haven't heard, in the wake of Flashpoint DC are restarting all titles from #1 and rebooting continuity to be more "contemporary" and more relevant to "today's audience". To top it all off, over 50 characters are going to be redesigned by Jim "add a jacket" Lee, apparently making them "more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old". What's more identifiable than Superman or Batman, I ask? Are they not two of the most iconic characters in pop culture history? Recognised the world over across a plethora of media? Apparently that's not good enough. Jim, get the jackets ready.
Of course I speak of only their physical appearance. DC probably meant identifiable as characters also. I for one will feel able to relate more to the orphaned billionaire turned vigilante, the indestructible alien super god, the super powered amazonian princess, the test pilot in charge of the most powerful weapon in the universe and the man who can run faster than the speed of light, if redrawn worse than before by an artist past his prime.

DC also claim that they are aiming to retell their character's stories while making them "reflect today's real world themes and events" and that "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience." So in other words, they're trying to be down with the kids. If I wanted to read about the Justice League as whiny youngsters I'd read Teen Titans. Did they not think that their continuity was convoluted enough, without adding "Post Flashpoint" to the list?

This is a most HEINOUS crime DC comics. I hope you're ready for the geek shit storm.

UPDATE: Here is a sneak preview of Jim Lee's redesigns, surprisingly sans jackets. He must of learnt his lesson after the Wonder Woman incident. The new Superman shield is truly bogus! All in all, not as bad as I thought they were going to be but an unnecessary waste of time. Click to make bigger.