Friday, 28 December 2012

Hellblazer and Vertigo for Beginners

2012 seems to be the year that DC really gave up on the Vertigo imprint. Over the last few years DC Editorial have been steadily removing all the toys they so graciously lent the original Vertigo movers and shakers in the 80s and 90s like Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing, and more recently Vertigo poster boy, John Constantine of Hellblazer fame. This last reappropriation really seems to be indicative of DC’s decision to finally finish off Vertigo once and for all. They’re going into the hospital when they think the doctors aren’t looking and are unplugging the life support. But not to worry horror fans! DC have announced that they will be replacing Hellblazer straight away with “Constantine” a series starring a younger, US based version of John set firmly in the New 52 universe, acting as their very own less 70s version of Doctor Strange. It’s sort of like finding out that although The Wire’s been cancelled, you can still follow the adventures of a young McNulty and the gang as they try to track down Clark Kent in the new series of Smallville! That or like your Dad taking his new girlfriend as plus one to your Mum’s funeral.

For those of you who don’t know, Vertigo was the brainchild of DC Editor Karen Berger, who herself has very recently severed ties to DC, another sign of the impending Vertigeddon. Set up to tell grown up stories in the comics medium, a mixture of strange and engaging new titles and oddball reimaginings of existing DC properties, which ranged from visceral horror to sensitive introspective works. With books like The Sandman, Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, 100 Bullets, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Doom Patrol, Fables, Shade The Changing Man, Scalped, Sweet Tooth, Y: The Last Man and countless more, Vertigo thrived critically and in the lucrative trade paperback market although rarely making great waves in the monthly issues sales charts, which seem to be DC’s current focus. Another feature which seems to have added to DC’s treating Vertigo like an unwanted lovechild is the fact that the majority of Vertigo’s output was creator owned, so DC’s percentage of the profits were limited. Vertigo was not afraid to take chances with new and old talent and certainly when it came to content where it more than earned its mature readers title. There were missteps aplenty but to this day the vertigo logo on a books cover is a mark of something worth taking a chance on. Luckily for readers, Image comics seem to have taken the mantle on in the past year or so, putting out diverse and exciting new books almost every week, Dark Horse were no slouch in 2012 either.

Hellblazer was one of the most successful Vertigo books, having been running since before the imprint was officially founded and the only one running to this day, well for two more months at least. In an odd turn of events, namely the Nu Coke 52, and Marvel’s somewhat trigger-happy renumbering policy, Hellblazer is currently the longest running, non rebooted comic from either of the big two publishers. This is especially impressive for an uncompromising supernatural horror book with a fairly immoral chain smoking English conman as a protagonist. Hellblazer has remained Vertigo's flagship of weird, following the ongoing adventures of British 'blue collar' mystic, John Constantine. An antihero at best, an utter bastard at worst, John Constantine is one of the most fleshed out, three dimentional characters I’ve seen in any medium, The writers have crafted such a unique full character that readers feel like they know John, whether they’d like to or not.

Cancellation comes at an unfortunate time too as Hellblazer has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late, under the fearless penmanship of Peter Milligan, a Vertigo veteran, If anything the current run has reminded this longtime reader why he fell in love with John’s dirty little world in the first place. Superior, supernatural horror for the modern reader, like an episode of Eastenders written by Clive Barker.

In fact it's been so long since I first picked up an issue of Hellblazer that I forget how one can get put off by the fact that so many issues have been published, and a new reader wouldn’t know where to start. This is bollocks though; as long as you go from the beginning of a storyline, Hellblazer is easy to start cold and rarely continuity laden. Apart from the occasional story all you need to know to read Hellblazer is: John does Magic, John likes women, John's a bit of a prick. Generally speaking all the information you need is there in the pages of the story you’re reading, and with a few exceptions, most notably his taxi driver mate Chas, the supporting cast rarely lives long enough to matter. What matters is that as ever, something moody's going on, John's deep in the heart of it and innocent people are getting hurt. And as ever John's not a hero, he's just the bloke who, when the world goes up shit creek, might, just might, have the only paddle, and fans wouldn't have it any other way.

If like many, you are curious about Hellblazer but just don't know where to start, there are many trade collections available at any good bookshop; you can start at the very beginning with ‘Original Sins’, a collection of the first year or so, but I would suggest reading something like ‘Dangerous Habits’ which came at the beginning of Garth Ennis’ run where he tries to cheat his way out of lung cancer, or ‘Haunted’ where he investigates the death of an ex girlfriend, at the hands of an sadistic amateur occultist. ‘Rare Cuts’ or ‘Setting Sun’ are good primers too as they both contain a selection of shorter stories. ‘City of Demons is’ another good starting point; a recent mini series that dealt with some violent and unexpected repercussions of the demon blood he acquired in an early story, spectacularly illustrated by Punk Rock Jesus’ Sean Murphy. Any of these books show you what to expect, which is gruesome urban supernatural horror with a not entirely irredeemable rogue in the lead, a book with a high social awareness and a dark, dark sense of humour.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Ho Drokkin Ho Creeps!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Nephew Reviews

Future bad guy and Nephew of Valhallahan gives his verdict on Punk Rock Jesus: Edible! If you're not eating this series every month already you really should be.

And remember, people who eat comics go on to do great things.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Some thoughts on the ‘New 52’ One Year Later.

I was really dubious about DC’s line wide reboot when first I heard of it, particularly when the creative teams were announced. It seemed like a who’s who of 90s Marvel rejects and Wildstorm also-rans, for the majority it looks like I wasn’t far off, unfortunately, but there have been some real successes and some genuinely good comics have been published under the New 52 banner. What follows is some thoughts on what books worked for me or not for me personally, based solely on my own forthright opinions (I won’t focus on James Robinson’s excellent Shade series as it wasn’t in the launch 52 and it was clearly written pre-reboot).

By the time the Launch came, my curiosity had grown enough that I was cautiously optimistic for some of the B and C list titles, the new mainstream Super Hero books like Justice League and the Teen Titans still looked like total shit. I’d ODed on Batman books in the years before the reboot so I was too Batman-ed out to try the Batbooks but they looked fine enough I guess and everyone I know who reads them seems to be loving Scott Snyder’s Batman. It was what was announced for the few titles I’d already been buying that worried me.

One thing that was alleged and seemingly true from the opening solicits was that DC were branching out into different genres, beyond the superheroes. When the books came out though, it became clear that although these series were ostensibly western, Sci-Fi and war books, they were all written in the modern DC superhero style. The outfits might be different but the feel of the books may as well be a Green Lantern or Justice League title. The supposed genre variation was essentially a fancy new bonnet on the same old pig.

I was particularly disappointed by what happened to Jonah Hex when it was reborn as All Star Western, the book was decent enough, but became steeped in making it ‘count’ in terms of the DC Universe. He moved to Gotham (like in Batman geddit?) his sidekick became Dr Arkham (like in Batman geddit?), the corrupt mayor of Gotham turns out to be Mr Cobblebott (like in Batman geddit?), at one point he ends up in a cave under the city (like in Batman geddit?) and fights a giant bat in one issue (like in Batman geddit?). Yes, we get it.

Another unfortunate aspect that was lost was the artistic variety, pre-reboot Hex had a selection of artists from across the globe doing alternate issues and one shot stories drawn by the industry’s finest. Now it has one artist who is undoubtedly good, but fairly uninspiring in comparison to the likes of JH Williams III, Darwin Cooke, Eduardo Risso, Phil Noto, Jordi Bernet, Fiona Staples and so on.

Basically Jonah Hex was a damn good, hard talking straight shooting, Western book, now it’s Batman: AD 1890, with some cool back up strips.

Alas, poor Jonah...

Another title that after a very strong start, soon lost it’s way was Batwoman. Initially the revamped Batwoman was written by Greg Rucka, and drawn by JH Williams III, but after the initial, exceptional run in Detective comics (collected in Batwoman: Elegy) Rucka left to pursue more personal projects (and eventually write Marvel’s Punisher) leaving Williams to script the series himself. The first few issues were beautifully rendered, but once Williams stopped drawing the title, the cracks began to appear. Amy Reeder’s fill in work didn’t have the wow-factor of Williams and it really highlighted the weaknesses in the story, leaving it a distinctly average book. The recent return of Williams and cameo from Wonder Woman have promise, but it may be too little too late.

Another book that started well, but has been getting on my britches of late is Wonder Woman, I’m still buying it, the art is delightful when it’s Cliff Chiang and very pleasant when the fill in chap comes in but the dialogue is so bad sometimes that it might end up on my personal chopping block. It has to be considered to be a success though as it has actually made me read Wonder Woman for the first time, and for a whole year. I’m certainly not the only surprise Wonder Woman fan and that’s pretty impressive, but Jesus, "Meat? Meet an Amazon!"

Fuck Off.

One of the best books from the relaunch that started exceptionally well but has lost some steam recently is Animal Man, on the whole an excellent book, with changing but top quality art teams, written by Jeff Lemire, a current favourite of mine. Travel Foreman’s art on the series’ first issues was a revelation, which set the bar very high for follow up artist Steve Pugh. Luckily Pugh is an expert craftsman and an alumni of Grant Morrison’s seminal 90’s Animal Man series from Vertigo. Needless to say there was no dip in quality, and the sheer demented malformation of the rot and the red (look it up) looks just as gut wrenchingly bizarre under Pugh’s pencil.

The book has a classic Vertigo feel, and looks incredible, but nothing has really happened yet. It’s largely been one big year long chase scene, so much so that it took me two months to realise I'd missed an issue. The concepts are great, the characters are great, the art is great, but Jesus, make something happen! The much foreshadowed Swamp Thing crossover finally happened this month so hopefully there will be a bit more than one long chase sequence in forthcoming issues, but the loss of momentum with issue zero may be the last nail.

The most concerning aspect of the reboot of course was DC editorial’s wholesale snatching back of the characters they had long since given away to Vertigo reinterpretations in the 90s and beyond. Those of us who were and are still big fans of the exciting, innovative, intelligent and downright weird Vertigo comics were rightly worried. The use of Vertigo writers Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder assuaged some fears but some of their other choices really didn’t (the less said about their ghastly new Phantom Stranger comic, the better). The reboot was especially keen to firmly bring John Constantine into the DC Super Universe by making him a member of the Justice League (Dark). About this I can say only one thing and that is fuck the fuck off you fucking fucks.

Obscenities aside, I’d like to end my extremely subjective ramblings about the New 52 (or should that be ‘Nu’ 52 as we are apparently in 1997) on a positive note, so erm.... at least they ditched Liefeld?

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Killing Joke - A newbie's review

Action Ash
We here at 2 Bad Guys like to encourage new readers as much as possible. So when a young man, by the name of Tim Ricketts, is searching for his first Batman fix, what's a bad guy to do? Action Ash was on the case with 'The Killing Joke' in hand. However, being the black hearted villain that I am, the borrowing of the book came with a price. Tim would have to do a guest review and forever sully his name by having it associated with those of the 2 Bad Guys from an 80s Movie...

After having watched and loved the recent Christopher Nolan film trilogy, as well as countless episodes of The Batman cartoon series when I was younger, I figured it was about time I actually picked up some comics and followed my favourite hero even further. One of my friends recommended The Killing Joke and, luckily, Ash just so happened to have a copy that he kindly offered to lend me. When I was finished with it, he asked if I'd like to write a review of it as not only a first-time Batman reader, but also someone that's never properly read comics before...

If Alan Moore had approached me (you're going to have to use your imagination here) and said "Hey, I'm thinking of writing a Joker origin story, but as flashbacks within another story. What do you think?", my gut reaction would be to reply "No, that's a terrible idea. Just focus purely on an origin story itself". That's what I expected The Killing Joke to be and, whilst I still think it would've been better like that, it's actual layout is brilliant. It's like you're getting two stories for the price of one, but it doesn't feel like you're hopelessly trying to juggle them both at the same time. Thanks to the perfect transitions between the flashbacks and current events, there's no disruption or stop-starting at all. For example, a frame depicting The Joker gazing into a puddle at a carnival cleverly switches to a flashback of him doing the same, but into a river outside a chemical plant. You really have to see this for yourself to appreciate just how well it's done.

The art isn't something to be underestimated either. There's so much detail on every page and Brian Bolland obviously spent a lot of time on it. It all paid off though and the result is just beautiful. It's generally very pleasing to the eye and compliments the story really well too.

The Killing Joke clearly has a very dark element to it and, without giving anything away, The Joker does commit some pretty horrific acts. New readers such as myself will find him more reminiscent of Heath Ledger's amazing portrayal in The Dark Knight than any other, which, in my opinion, is definitely the better kind.

After reading The Killing Joke, it's easy to understand why this issue is so revered and considered by many as one of the best. If, like me, you're new to Batman comics, don't worry about starting with this one and not something like Year One instead. Everyone knows about the Dark Knight's constant battle with The Joker anyway, so it's not going to affect any reading order too much (apart from perhaps one little bit, but I'm not going to ruin the story for you). And if you're into him already but haven't given it a go yet, you're missing out. Either way, it's definitely worth a read.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Another legend gone.

Action Ash 
By now everyone who's even remotely interested in the medium of comics has probably heard the news that Joe Kubert has passed away. I don't think any words I can put together could ever truly express the loss that the industry has suffered. So I'm just going to say this:

Thanks Joe, you were one of the people that elevated comics to the artform they are today. One of the greats. A true legend, artist and creator.


Monday, 6 August 2012

Hawkeye #1

Hawkeye #1
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja

Action Ash
Well what can I say. I knew it was going to be good because, aside from Brubaker, it had the team responsible for 'Immortal Iron Fist' (which was amazing).

The first issue's story is about Clint getting out of hospital to find out that his landlord has tripled the rent and is evicting the tenants that can't pay. Clint finds out there are dodgy dealings involved and tries to sort the situation out.

Now, I realise that this doesn't exactly sound like riveting stuff, however it's all in the storytelling and the character interactions. That's where the magic lies, and it was superbly executed and flowed nicely. This new street level approach really works for the character and definitely makes him more relatable. In the editorial at the back it is explained that this series was partly inspired by 70's cop shows but with a "modern sheen" and I personally think that is a great direction to go in with a powerless Avenger with a bow. I would totally watch that show but I don't need to worry because it exists in comic form and I'm more than happy with that. A major theme of the book seems to be Clint's awareness that he is just a regular guy of average intelligence amongst godlike beings (the Avengers). The only thing setting him apart from mundane suckers, like you  and I, being his amazing marksmanship. This was handled well and not too in-your-face or whiny, which it could have easily been. In fact, I liked the way Clint seemed content with his lot in life, despite his normality.

The art is fantastic in it's simplicity, David Aja is truly a modern master. It differs in style slightly from his Iron Fist work but has that same nameless quality that makes his art standout. He can make the mundane look cool, which is handy because this series seems to be specialising in making the mundane look cool. Also, he's really good at shadows and silhouettes. That may not sound like a thing but it's definitely a thing.

Interestingly, except for the first page, Hawkeye doesn't use a bow and arrow for the whole issue. Still rocks! In the editorial at the back there was the name of a song and artist as recomended listening for the issue, which I thought was a nice touch and I'm looking forward to future recomended tracks.

Five Russians in trakcsuits getting hit in the neck by playing cards out of Five!

...and my own personal Super Geil!

P.S. For those who've read it: I want to learn that penny trick.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Eternity is Not For Me

It's funny how a book can be so promising and yet when you have it in your hands you end up putting it back on the shelf. National Comics: Eternity is that book for me. I love Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, and Animal Man, and have enjoyed everything else I’ve read by him. I greatly enjoy Cully Hamner’s art too, having followed his work since the 1990s, Hamner, alongside his Gaijin Studios contemporary, Brian Stelfreeze have a real vibrancy in their storytelling and infuse real character in their characters. Their action choreography is exquisite also, noticeably superior to the vast majority of working comic book artists in any genre.

All in all this looks like a great book, but there’s something about the premise and the feel that left me a bit cold. I suppose what I’m trying to say is check out this book in the shop, it wasn't for me but I’m sure it'll be a class act. Let me know what it's like.


The Massive Disappointment

Well that’s annoying.

The Massive #2

We at 2Badguys do not approve of the industry’s frankly ridiculous love of alternative incentive covers (one to be filed under "shit that gives comic books a bad name"). This sometimes comes to a head, like this week when I picked up a copy of "Ninth Wave: Fight for Jakarta" the font of the title and presence of characters from The Massive indicating this is connected to the series. I picked this up, bagged in the shop, alongside my week's haul, thinking this was an addition to the main story presented in the comics actually titled "The Massive" only to find that this was just The Massive #2 but with a different cover and a higher price point. An issue that I bought when it came out last week.
Also The Massive #2

This is not the first time I’ve been suckered this way.

A word to the wise; if the book is sealed on the shelf, ASK the staff in the shop to have a look, don’t think "Ooh this must some kind of spin-off or prequel, may as well throw that on the pile". Another four quid I’ll never see again, and it didn't even get me slightly drunk.

A word to the publishers; what fucking shenanigans is this? You’ve printed the same fucking book as last week but with a different cover, a different title and no indication that it is a reprint of said differently titled book, just rebranded. At least give us something on the front however subtle that lets us know what book it is. Marvel and other publishers put a little "Variant" or "second printing" on there for those of us not keen on buying the same issue twice with different pictures on the front. Serious dick move.

Rant over.


Debris #1

Debris #1
Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe 
Art by Riley Rossmo

Action Ash
So I had seen the preview for this in the back of another book and I thought the cover art was really cool. I knew I was going to pick it up when it came out because what I had seen so far had piqued my interest. A girl fighting giant mechanical creatures in a junkyard landscape. What's not to like, right? Unfortunately there's not much else to it, and I was expecting a lot more.

Plot: Post apocalyptic world where the remnants of mankind live in a small fortified town and attempt to defend themselves against giant mechanical creatures, imaginatively named "Colossals". Oh and water is in short supply. Whatever.

The story is not that interesting and already within the first issue has fallen back on certain tropes and cliches of post apocalyptic fiction and typical quest stories. The lead character is chosen to go on a quest to a mythical place with the fate of humanity resting on her shoulders blah blah blah, you see where this is going.
The dialogue isn't anything special either.
Not a lot actually happens in this issue because it's mainly a set up issue, however this is only a 4 issue mini series so Mr. Wiebe might have wanted to have put more story in this issue and not so many of the page count swallowing action sequences.

On the other side of things, I couldn't fault Riley Rossmo too much, as his art is the best thing about this book. I recently read 'Wild Children' which was also drawn by him, however that also had a disappointing story (find better people to work with Mr. Rossmo). Getting back to Debris though, I think the 'Colossals' could have done with a bit more detail but I do recognise how hard giant mechanical snakes and birds can be to conjure up with just your pencil and imagination so I can cut some slack on that one.

It's not a completely bad book and I may buy the next issue to see where it goes, but I'm not digging Debris as much as I thought I would. The concept could be done much better. Distinctly average!

2 and a half mechanical monitor lizards out of a possible 5 Mecha Godzillas

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Be Warned!

Inveterate drunk that I am, I skipped out on my ticket to see The Dark Knight Rises with the irredeemable Action Ash to go on the sauce Instead. Though to my geek credit I was really doing it out of respect for the movie, chosing not to go whilst full of expensive hooch, prefering to witnes Nolan's finale with as unclouded a mind as I can muster. That’s my excuse anyway.

Essentially, what I’m saying is I haven’t seen it yet, so if you spoil the plot, I will

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

What I Got/What You Should Get: This Time I give You Orders!

OK so here we are again, here’s what I got and Why... but with a twist!

What follows is my haul for this and last week, with shorter bits on the usuals and as an added treat for all you kids at home, I'm throwing in alternative suggestions for the lackluster or impenetrable stories. Regardez! 

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #2
So this series is showing us the AmVamVerse (is that a term? If not, I just coined it) version of Dracula, and although I have little or no interest in yet another retelling of the Dracula myth, this is very well done. The art is creepy and atmospheric, and the interpretation and period setting fit well with previous American Vampire stories. A very good title that will read even better in trade paperback collection, if you like this, try any collection of the main series or the equally pretty previous mini series 'Survival of the Fittest'. Or, you know any other Dracula book, film, comic, video game cartoon, TV show...

Batwoman #11
It's good but it's losing me. Pick up Batwoman: Elegy instead, it's where the reimagining of the character began in earnest, originally running in Detective Comics. Elegy has the JH Williams art recently missing on the title but has a Greg Rucka script and plotting, something the title has sorely missed of late.

The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #6
We've got a lot of love for the Bulletproof Coffin here on 2Badguys, I recommend jumping in with the collected version of the first series or the third issue of this series (Tales Of The Haunted Jazz Club) as a taster. Dancer #3 A well made espionage-thriller-with-a-sci-fi-twist series. Try this if you liked the Bourne films/books, or Alias TV show.

Daredevil #15
Just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in again. Great Latveria Storyline. Or buy Daredevil: Born Again if you prefer your DD to stand more for 'Depressing Drama', than 'Derring Do'.

The Crow #1
I didn't get this in the end, decided to finish reading J O'Barr's original The Crow story instead as it's been collecting dust on my bedside cabinet for some time now. I may end up giving up and just rewatching the film like I did last time I tried though.

Eerie Comics #1
Some of the first comic books I ever read were my Dad's issues of Creepy and Eerie from the 70s. Where Creepy was a straight horror anthology, Eerie focused on Science Fiction Chillers. I'm not sure if this is reprints of old Eerie stories or a reboot or a bit of both, but it certainly looks like classic Eerie. Dark Horse has successfully resurrected Eerie's sister title Creepy, in recent years, further evidence of the industry's renewed interest in the horror genre.

Fatima: The Blood Spinners #2
To buy or not to buy, that is the question. Not to buy I think. Fork out a little extra for God and Science: The Return of the Ti Girls by the other Hernandez brother instead, you wont regret it.

Hellblazer #293 
What's the cockney equivalent of Hellbilly? Hell Sparrow? I dunno, just buy more Hellblazer.

The Massive #2
There's a lot going for this series so I'm giving it till the end of this opening three-part story at least. I probably won't go much further though. To it's credit The Massive unlike anything else on the shelves; a post-eco-disaster-apocalypse series set on a Greenpeace boat. Yeah I can't really say I've read that book before, and the premise has been set up well, but the characters aren't engaging me yet and there are odd discrepancies in the art which bug me, like that 20 odd year old looking Hipster in the captain's seat who is meant to be a 50ish hardened seaman and ex mercenary. Like the writer's previous work on Northlanders, and DMZ before it, it's good but I want better, so I'm using a harsh yardstick. Do try this out.

No Place Like Home #5
This is an odd one, sort of Wizard of Oz reimagined as a Teen Slasher flick, It's clumsily done in places and the reactions of the cast to certain events are inconsistent to say the least, but I've enjoyed this mini series. Issue five sees the final part of the first story arc, but there's more to follow apparently. A very pretty book, with a unique hook. Also, it has flying monkeys for fuck’s sake.

Punk Rock Jesus #1
The venerable (or is that venereal?) Action Ash already reviewed this, so I'll spare you my two penneth (go read his, we're not made of penneth), but suffice to say I agree. If you like this try True Faith by Garth Ennis and Warren Pleace, which reprints their story from UK comics-anthology-with-a-conscience, Crisis. Or anything written by Garth Ennis before he started working on Punisher for that matter.

Revival #1
Another week, another promising new series from Image. This series focuses on a small American town where after a particular time, townsfolk stopped being or getting dead. This ain't no zombie book though so stop the eye-rolling now, this is more of a psychological take on what would happen if people just couldn't die all of a sudden like in that Dr Who spin off series I didn't watch. But y'know, better than that. Lahverly looking cover too.

Saga #5
Just buy this, it's fucking great (see last month's quotes) the first few issues or reprints there of are still widely available, or wait for the inevitable collection due in a couple of months time. Or even just pick up the current issue, you won't have trouble catching up. A beautifully drawn and written book. An absolute class act.

The Shade #10
Basically what I said last time, engrossing story, charmingly roguish lead, beautiful art by Frazer Irving and a hell of a lot of bang for your buck. I'll be sad to see this go when it reaches it's stated end at #12. If you like this, go and read writer James Robinson's superb Starman run from the 90s, but if you're reading this you have probably read already, not that you need to have to enjoy this series, it’s all very self-contained. The bad news though is that sales for this series were piss-poor apparently so this may be the last Shade series we see for a some time.

Sunset: $1 Preview
I know piss all about this other than the art looks nice and it's a bit crime-y looking. Oh and it's cheap. Dirt cheap. This serves as a preview for a forthcoming collection and as a marketing ploy I like it. It's sort of like when you get the first chapter of a book printed in a magazine or the back of another book. Enough to get you piqued and have an idea of what you're looking at before you fork out for the full tome. Anyway this'n is by Christos Gage and Jorge Lucas, both creators with a lot of good work under their belts. Well worth your buck (or local equivalent).

The Walking Dead #100
In a word; brutal. Buy this issue if you like crying.

Wonder Woman #11
Still good, but losing the Wow Factor for me. It's actually hard to suggest something else similar instead, apart from Peter Milligan's Greek Street which wasn't actually as good as Wonder Woman is now.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Fifty Shades Of Greyskull

OK, I'm sold again.

In October, DC comics have announced that they are publishing the Origin of Skeletor, with 2Badguys favourite Frazer Irving providing the art. I was a big He-Man fan as a child, so nostalgia had my interest piqued but the presence of Frazer Irving on this project makes it a must-buy for me. I can’t wait to see his renditions of the denizens of Eternia.

Incidentally the last He-Man comic I bought was CrossGen's Masters of The Universe: Icons Of Evil - Trapjaw, which featured the titular character’s origin. The comic was written in 2003 by The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman and was jolly good fun. I picked it up in a bargain bin some time after it was published. Well worth a read if you're in the mood for that sort of thing

Masters of The Universe: The Origin of Skeletor #1 written by Joshua Hale Fialkov comes out in October.


Dirty Laundry: A Fan Film Better Than The Real Thing.

Dear Tom Jane,

On witnessing the below I take almost all of the mean things I've said about your attempt at a Punisher film back. Almost.

Actually none of it, but at least you're trying.



The Beginning of the Endless...

It's San Diego Comic Con time again folks, and the big companies have been making some big announcements as usual. I'd suggest heading over to Bleeding Cool or Comics Alliance or some other news website for a rundown, but I thought I'd comment on one tidbit.

By far the most surprising news from San Diego Comic Con this year was the revelation that Neil Gaiman is returning to Vertigo comics for a prequel to his legendary Sandman series. The series will tell the tale of how Orpheus was originally imprisoned, leading to his release in The Sandman #1, and will be drawn, no doubt entirely beautifully, by the inimitable JH Williams III.

"Shut up and take my money", as they say.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Punk Rock Jesus #1

Punk Rock Jesus
Written/art by Sean Murphy

Action Ash
As the latest Vertigo title to hit the shelve, Punk Rock Jesus is just what the doctor ordered as far as Vertigo titles go. Unlike their other titles of late this book comes straight from the old school. Irreverence - Check, Indie sensibilities - Check, Anti-religious sentiment - Check, and all rendered in the scratchy brilliance that is Sean Murphy's art.

Brief plot summary - A company named "Ophis" has funded a famous geneticist to clone Jesus Christ using the shroud of Turin, for the purpose of impregnating a virgin who is chosen through an audition process. This is all for a reality TV show that will follow the pregnancy and then the child as he grows up to be the second coming of Jesus. Also, an  uber violent ex IRA member has been hired to be the head of security for the project. Shit is clearly about to get real!

Being primarily an artist does not hinder Sean's ability to plot out an engaging story. This book seems very well thought out and seems to have a good few sub plots, however not too many and handled well so you don't find yourself getting lost. Then you have the themes of blind faith, the moral issue with cloning, the moral issue of bringing a child into the world with such a big responsibility already thrust upon it and of course cold blooded corporations willing to do anything for money.

The art is a masterclass in stark black and white storytelling, all done with a tremendous amount of detail.  Murphy's use of shading and shadow is an art form in itself, the extremity of which, in certain panels, calls to mind German expressionism. At times it seems slightly manga influenced (I mean that in the best possible way) especially during the action. The fact that it's in black and white seems to help exhibit Murphy's already impressive talent for drawing facial expressions.

Clocking in at approximately 30 pages it is well worth the £2.65 ($2.99) cover price.Technically, there's been no punk yet but I'm more than willing to stick around and see where that will come in to it.

5 Ex-IRA members breaking placards upside old men's heads out of 5

Super Geil!

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Walking Dead #100

The Walking Dead released it's landmark hundredth issue this week and it's another heartbreaker folks! I picked up a copy with this awesome Frank Quietly cover which has absolutely no relevance to the story.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What I Got and Why: Mixed Doubles

Guten Tag!

Just two posts in from the long hiatus and I’m reminded why the "What I Got" posts get a bit same-y from me; apart from the new titles, I've got my favourites that I say the same bloody things about week in, week out. With that in mind I’ll keep it short and sweet on the old faithfuls and have a re-jig on the next instalment. In the meantime, enjoy!

American Vampire #28
The past two storylines have been great, so hoping this one keeps up the momentum. Now we’re still in the fifties and back to the series' original cast members and setting albeit a long time later with a lot more water under the bridge, certainly for Pearl, who is worlds away from the naive ingĂ©nue we first met in American Vampire #1. Although there is certainly an ongoing story in American Vampire, it is a very new reader friendly book. The start of each new story arc is always marked clearly on the cover, and often feature heavily if not entirely on new characters. A very noob friendly and highly enjoyable series.

Creator Owned Heroes #2
This series is quite the curio. Spearheaded by Jimmy Palmiotti, whose Jonah Hex work I’m very fond of, this is a collection of creators mostly known for their big company work, displaying their craft in, well, Creator Owned Heroes. Does what it says on the tin I guess. The series features two strips and magazine style articles and interviews at the back. A full read for your extra dollar, it feels a bit like a short US version of Judge Dredd: The Megazine. The stories are a bit forgettable so far but Trigger Girl 6 is a fantastic showcase for the beautiful art of Phil Noto, a real favourite round these parts.

Fatale #6
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are two creators at the top of their game. No matter what they turn their hands to they ‘knock it out of the park’ as I believe the yanks say. The collection of the first five issues has just come out so it’s a great time to catch up. I recommend buying the individual issues of any Brubaker/Phillips series when you can as they fill the back of each books with fascinating articles on the films, shows and books of the genres they are dealing with. With this pair there is almost always a ‘noir’ filter; Criminal was crime noir, Sleeper and Incognito were Superhero noir and Fatale is Horror noir and damnit, who don’t like noir!

Fatima #1
Gilbert Hernandez, the batshit-crazy half (occasionally third) of Love and Rockets’ Los Bros Hernandez is back with a new series which, judging by the promo pages online deals with some kind of zombie crisis. On a quick flick through it looks like everyone involved keeps their clothes on which is pretty bloody weird for a Gilbert Hernandez book. The lead still has a figure Russ Meyer would be proud of though, so don't worry. In all seriousness, although I'm giving this a try, I'm enjoying Gilbert's books less and less these days so I've not set my hopes too high on this series.

iZombie #27
Onward goes the apocalypse! Only one more issue after this. Why, you bastards, why?

New Deadwardians #4
For me, this has been the best of the new batch of Vertigo titles that launched together a few months ago. The other three were Dominique LaVeau: Voodoo Child, Fairest and Saucer Country, all of which were pretty lacklustre. Although this series does have that unfortunate appearance of being "yet another zombie/vampire story" the book has enough of its own identity, brought about by the pacing and the understated nature of the Edwardian characters, that it’s been a rather pleasant surprise to me. Focus less on the criminally overdone vampire/zombie angle and it’s a very enjoyable crime mystery comic.

Prophet #26
I decided to stick around with this series after last month's blatant jumping Jumping-Off point. Brandon Graham’s straight-sci-fi approach to Rob Liefield’s Extreme 90s badass character has been a real success for me so far, but I fear that a lot of this was to do with the creepy art and design work from Simon Roy. Without this factor, I'm reminded that my interest in far-out space stuff can be a bit limited, and with no real characters cling on to, this can seem more and exercise in world-building, and I prefer my stories with a bit more human interest.

Resident Alien #2
Talking about human interest, this new series from Dark Horse by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse has human interest in abundance. This quirky tale follows a murder mystery in a small town from the perspective of an Alien who crash landed in the area some years ago and is posing as the local GP. I’ve been a big fan of (2000AD alumni) Parkhouse for a long time so it was his art that made me try the book but the perfect combo of his expressive characters and the charming, if occasionally gruesome story have made this a real win for me, Like a (very well made version of) the kind of murder mystery TV show they rerun on TV during the day; clever, but not so clever as to alienate younger viewers, gruesome, but not so gruesome that your Nan couldn’t watch it, a quirky twist in the lead detective role, and a charming supporting cast. It’s sort of a comic book version of Monk, or Diagnosis Murder, and all the more compelling for it.

Scalped #59
The excitement is too much!!!!!!! After 5 years of superb hard boiled crime fiction from Jason Aaron and RM Guera we’re reaching the high octane finale (in #60). There’s a lot of water under the bridge between these grizzled bastards and it's all coming to a head in a Mexican standoff. All secrets are out and all hell has broken loose! It's too difficult to avoid spoilers at this stage, so suffice to say this series is really, really, really fucking good. To be read with some Hank III blaring loud and proud and some sippin' whiskey on the go.

Spaceman #7
The 100 Bullets team of Azzarrello and Eduardo Risso have teamed up again to produce this intriguing science fiction mini series. Set in the half submerged wreck of a dystopian urban sprawl, we follow a "Spaceman", a large grotesque, specifically designed to survive deep space exploration, a task no one has any need for or interest in anymore, leaving him to eke out a dangerous living scavenging for scrap in the watery ruins. That is, until he comes into contact with a kidnapped Reality TV child star and the shit really hits the fan. This is another class act as you'd expect from creators of such pedigree, but will be a shock to the system for anyone expecting 100 Bullets 2, as this is much more like Eduardo Risso's 'Borderline' series from earlier in his career (written by the late Carlos Trillo, available in four paperback collections from Dynamite and highly recommended by me). Worth checking out, but as this is issue 7 of 9 you may as well wait for the trade collection at this point.

Sweet Tooth #35
Look, just go and buy the first Trade Paperback OK?

Whispers #1-3
This was recommended to me by a mate, and looking at the creepy covers I’m surprised I missed it when they were on the shelves the first time. Luckily the kind folks at Orbital had them in stock. The book is by Joshua Luna, who normally works as one half of the Luna Brothers. I've heard good things about their previous work (Ultra, Women, The Sword) but never actually read any. I know very little about the book, but if I can judge this book by it's cover, I'm impressed and slightly creeped out. I'll let you know either way.

(I’m a firm believer in buying my comic books monthly, but I loves me some readin' in chunks too.)

Invincible Vol.16: Family Ties
One of the few series I trade wait on. Invincible is superhero comics done right. Over the years the series has gone from a refreshingly simple and exciting modern take on a Spider-Man-esque superhero coming of age story into a full blown space epic set in a 'shared universe' as complex as Marvel or DC but without spilling over into a million other tie-in books. One of the all time best long form superhero tales, if ye ask me. Well done Kirkman!

Joe Sacco: Notes From a Defeatist
After catching him on the bizarrely presented but informative TV show ‘Ink: Alter Egos Exposed’ (Sky Arts. More on this another time) I realised that I hadn't read everything Joe Sacco has done, so I thought I'd rectify that. Most famous for comic book as journalism work in 'Safe Area: Gorazde' and 'Palestine', this is a collection of his smaller more personal works, a lot of which don't even take place in a warzone for a change.


Missing in Action: Desolation Jones

Way back in 2005 Warren Ellis and Superstar in waiting, J.H. Williams III started a rather cool series called Desolation Jones for DC's now defunct Wildstorm imprint. The story followed Jones, a grotesque shell of a man, living in Los Ageles, a haven for burnt out former secret agents like himself. Desolation jones essentially worked as a Private Investigator in the grubby city. The first critically acclaimed story arc was a sort of distopian mix of 8MM and the Big Sleep, with jones looking into a case involving Hitler's personal pornography. So far so Wareen Ellis, right?

Anyhow, the second storyline started in 2006 and featured art by 2 Bad Guys' favourite artist Danijel Zezelj. This story, focused on the mysterious death of one Jones' friends in a seedy motel room. In February 2007 issue 8 came out leaving us with a cliff hanger, and then.... Nothing.

Not a damned thing. At this point it's been 5 Years since the last issue, and Warren Ellis has stated that it probably won't happen now.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Back with a vengeance!

Action Ash
Yo yo, Action Ash here! After a long hiatus the 2 bad guys are back and in full effect, ready to talk about comics and make witty references to pop culture because that's what people do on the Internet. I'm gonna jump right in, if that's fine with you suckers, and talk about what I bought this week and then maybe a word or two about some other books that I've been dipping in to. There will be a quiz at the end.

The Punisher #13 - This is, in my opinion, the best book Marvel are putting out at the minute. An interesting crime story in which the peripheral characters are just as interesting as Frank Castle himself.

Danger Club #3 - An interesting take on the superhero genre from Image comics. The story revolves around teenage sidekicks fighting amongst themselves in the wake of the disappearance of the earth's superheroes after a dangerous space mission. Still not exactly sure where it's going but the artwork is quite nice and I'm enjoying the ride.

 Avengers vs X-Men #7 - I wasn't sure about this when it was announced but I am actually enjoying this event. I've been surprised at the amount of story in a comic that I was fully expecting to be a 12 issue fight scene. However, having said that, after this event I would like it if Marvel would stop doing stories about heroes fighting each other. It's been done. A lot.

The Cape 1969 #1 - I loved the first mini series based on Joe Hill's short story so I had to get this. Also I'm intrigued as to how a prequel set in the Vietnam war is even relevant to the original series. Should be interesting to say the least.

Morning Glories #20 - Yes, I am still following this and no, I don't yet fully understand what's going on. Yes, I'm OK with that.

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #4 - Loved the first series and love this series. It's refreshing to have an anthology title of short stories that are all self contained. Especially with the great creators they get on the title. Also, I'm a sucker for that retro pulpy feel.

Last week I bought the first trade of  Fatale. More Brubaker/Phillips magic and, even though I haven't finished reading it, I think this could possibly be one of my favourite comics ever. Also, as you might have noticed, Valhallahan has been attempting to groom me into a Vertigo fan boy over the years and it is starting to work. He recently lent me Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo's miniseries 'Girl' (which was brilliant) and Jamie Delano and Sean Phillips' 'Hell Eternal'. Both were fantastic reads, although I liked Girl more because I found it relatable and hilarious.

 So there you have it Dudes and Betties, I'll see ya soon. Hopefully sooner than last time.

Oh, hold on a minute, don't think I've forgotten about the quiz.

1. After saying the magic word SHAZAM, how much cooler does Billy Batson become?
2. Where the hell is Wally West?
3. Who would win in a fight between Spider-man and Hanuman?

Show your working!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

What I Got and Why: The Geek Who Came In From The Cold

Aloha from somewhere that ain’t Hawaii!

What follows is a massive blog post regarding my last few weeks comic book purchases. I'm trying out a lot of new books at the moment, mostly Image and Dark Horse as that's where the new-weird is at apparently. I'm also dropping a lot of books at the moment, Winter Soldier being a recent victim, along with a few 'New 52' books from DC that I was still buying. Mostly all good books but there is a lot of great stuff out and I can't buy it all. So without further prattle here is what I done gone and got.

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #1

Looking forward to seeing Dustin Nguyen work on something non Batman related (even if it is still bat-related) he's been doing sterling work over the last few years on various Bat-books, but it'll be nice to see him sink his teeth (see what I did there?) into some work that doesn’t involve superheroes. I've not really checked out what the story is going to be about, aside from that it's going to be a period piece with vampires.

The last mini they did had superlative art form Sean Murphy but the story went off the rails for me with the introduction of gigantic vampire gods, my least favourite aspect of the American Vampire mythos, but was still a fun romp. You just can’t go wrong with undead Nazis. The main series is on top form at the moment and it seems Snyder can do no wrong these days (though I'm not reading his Batman so I can't speak for that). Fingers crossed this'll be a jolly good mini.

Bad Medicine #1-2

I know bugger all about this new series from Dark Horse but the art looks funky and the first 2 issues were on the new imports rack. Looks like a mystery/detective story in the vein of X-Files of early Warren Ellis work. I'll give this opening two-parter a go and see what happens. Curious that so many mystery books are popping up this days (Hoax Hunters, Saucer Country etc...) The beginning of a '90s nostalgia trend?

Batwoman #10

I've spoken about this series' highs at length, but unfortunately I'm debating dropping the title soon. Sub-par artwork from Amy Reeder and Co, and a storyline too fantasy heavy for my tastes has put it in serious danger of being dropped. Happy to see that JH Williams is back soon, but I may start skip arcs drawn by others in future. It's still head and shoulders above most of the industry's superhero output, but without the razzle dazzle artistry of JH Williams III and without Gregg Rucka making Kate Kane a truly compelling character, it can fall a bit flat.

Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #5
The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #5

Another truly crazy series from messers Hine and Kane. This issue is not so much a comic as a series of fictional bubblegum cards, I've yet to read last months as well so I've got a double dose of Shaky goodness. I'm absolutely loving this series!

Casanova #4

Still weird. Still Love it. Stupidly late, but I don't really have a leg to stand on, do I? I suggest you buy a copy, you won't have a clue what’s going on, but who fucking does?

Daredevil #14

Top quality Superhero comics from Mark Waid with art duties from Chris Samnee at the moment, who although a beautiful craftsman, loses some of the acrobatic dynamism of the series' original artists Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera. Both of whom have unfortunately left the title now, leaving rather large shoes to fill. Samnee, a rising star of yankee picture books, does a bang up job, but it's another title in the dropped title dangerzone for me, due in equal parts to double shipping, the past few months mediocre fill in art, excessive crossovers and the massive anticlimax that was the end of The Omega Effect.

Dancer #2

In the words of M Night Shyamalan (by way of Robot Chicken): "What a Twist!!" So the mysterious reveal at the end of last issue was a bit Future Shocks, but it's a rather gripping series so far. I picked issue one up on a whim, I'm making a point of giving all of Image's new series a go at these days because they've got a pretty good hit rate. I'll go on about it more another time, but while Vertigo's on the wane, Image is the got-to publisher for exciting new series right now (with Dark Horse bringing up the rear). This series is basically an espionage thriller with a twist at the end of issue one that I shant give away. Without the twist it's a competent spy story, with the inevitable intrigues and occasional bouts of obvious expositional dialogue, but it hooked me for issue two at least. Artwise it's what you expect for this sort of story, moody, filmic and dark. If that sounds dismissive it's not meant to, Dancer is a very good looking book.

Grim Leaper #2

Another interesting new series from Image. I've yet to be 100% sold on this series, but issue one intrigued me enough to come back for issue two. I think it was the faux-retro romance strip at the end of issue one that sealed the deal for me. This is a sort of Groundhog Day/Quantum Leap/Rom-Com thing with a morbid humour to it. I like it. I think. Certainly enough to come back for issue two.

Hellblazer #292
Hellblazer #292

One Off Story! Bisley Art! Werewolves! Cockneys! Gangsters! Buy it!

We at 2Badguys are big Hellblazer fans and you should be too to be honest, so hop to it!

Seriously, what the shit are you waiting for?

iZombie #26

Alas poor iZombie, I knew him Horatio. Unfortunately Chris Robeson and Mike Alred's delightfully upbeat supernatural series is coming to an end soon, and the much publicised barney with DCEntertainment certainly suggests he wont be back for a second go. Ever. Sad to see yet another of Vertigo's consistently exciting series getting cancelled, they will have very few quality series left soon. I shall miss it.

As for the story, a Lovecraftian apocalypse is coming to the town of Eugine, and the thrill of it being a) a Vertigo book, and b) a Vertigo book that’s finishing in a few issues, means that literally anything could happen. I hope for, but wouldn’t put money on a happy ending. This is a great book for fans of bold art, Buffy fans, fans of classic American comic books, and generally those that like kooky spooky highjinks. A woefully underrated book.

Judge Dredd: The Megazine #325

Spurred on by the esteemed Action Ash I’ve been seduced by the Meg in recent months. In my years of absence, the Megazine has transformed into one of the best value for money packages on the market. For your entrance fee you get four new stories, creator interviews, reviews plus - and this is the best bit - a whole fat booklet of 2000AD reprints, seemingly chosen at random, but always complete. It’s like the Meg and Best of 200AD Monthly all in one Zarjaz package.

Heartily recommended!

Juxtapoz #138: Adult Swim Special

Unfortunately this is a massive disappointment from my favourite magazine and my favourite animation company. The art on display is scarce and uninspiring and the interviews as insightful as those to be found on the One Show. Do not but this issue, save your money I emplore you!

The Massive #1

Once again I'm taking a chance on Brian Wood's new series, once again I'm sure I’ll find it to be pretentious toss, but I’m a glutton for punishment and it does look rather interesting, but let’s see if he can write a character that doesn't come off as a hipster douchebag. What’s that? The lead characters are Green Peace activists? Oh well…
Saga #4

Saga #4

In another case of Image picking up on something you would expect from Vertigo of yesteryear, Brian K Vaughan’s triumphant return to comics continues. This book is a breath of fresh air, a real treat. Fiona Staple's design work on this is like nothing you have seen before, and Vaughan's at his usual high standard with the dialogue and storytelling. This space-opera has none of the baggage of the genre and all of the excitement. I urge you to read this if you aren't already it is a class act in every respect. A mere four issues in and I can tell you I’m in it for the long haul.

The Shade #9

This time-spanning, globe trotting maxi-series had been top quality all the way; it’s got it all intrigue, derring-do, morally dubious adventurers and exquisite art has put it on the top of my pile every month. The story follows immortal reprobate The Shade tracing the mysteries of his past, in flashbacks to various stages of the 20th Century and the modern day, with some choice cameos from the DC adventurers of yesteryear. Story as ever by Starman author James Robinson with Frazer Irving stepping in for art duties this week. Irving is as eerie and impressive as ever, I don't know how they did it, but they've put together a mind-blowing collection of artists for this series; Darwyn Cooke, Javier Pulido, Frazer Irving, Cully Hamner, Jill Thompson, Tony Harris. This is a must-try for any comics fan.

Sweet Tooth #34

Another excellent Vertigo series that's reaching journey's end, but what a journey! This off beat post-apocalyptic road book has been a real treat every month. I’m really going to miss it. I wouldn’t recommend anyone jump on at this point but I'd heartily recommend picking up the first trade and giving it a pop. Sweet Tooth is an offbeat but consistently touching, engaging and exciting series. One of my favourite series of recent years.

The Walking Dead #99

In this Issue: More talking and build up! As the series raises the tension in preparation for the big #100 we know is coming, we get a fairly quiet issue. If you aren’t reading this by now there’s not much I can say to make you but I will say that this series has now been consistently excellent for 100 issues. Not many book in the history of the medium can say that.

Wonder Woman #10
Wonder Woman #10

Another perfectly decent book that's in the drop zone. Love the covers, the story is rather gripping, the fill in art isn’t even that bad (yet still noticeably inferior), no this time I'll give the fill in art a pass, this time it’s the dialogue. The naff fucking wordplay, that littered Azzarello's early work is at it's lowest and most prevalent in this book. It seems like a minor thing, but Jesus, will you listen;

Hell: "...You're nothing but Meat now!"
Wonder Woman: "Meat? Meet an Amazon!"

Yeah, fuck off Brian.

And with that, I bid you adieu!

See you sooner than last time.


Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Good News and the Bad News

The Good News...

American Vampire is well and truly back on form with this promising new storyline set in the greaser-ific 1950s.

And The Bad News...

Unfortunately behind this beautiful cover by the inimitable Cliff Chiang, the art is by a fill in artist Tony Atkins, who... well, isn't Cliff Chiang. Also, please no more fucking puns Mr Azzarello!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hellblazer Annual

Hellblazer Annual #1
“Suicide Bridge”

Story: Peter Milligan
Art: Simon Bisley

You may not have noticed, but Hellblazer has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late, under the fearless penmanship of Peter Milligan. Milligan’s a veteran of DC’s beautifully barmy Vertigo imprint, having a pedigree of quality work there, matched only by the likes of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore or Garth Ennis, having been writing exciting ongoings, one-shots and mini-series relatively regularly since the imprint’s inception (Notable works being 'Enigma', 'Shade: The Changing Man', 'Girl', 'Face', 'Greek Street', 'Hell Eternal'). He has his misssteps, but as a reader you know a Milligan book is going to be in exciting journey wherever it takes you. I explain this to highlight what a perfect match Milligan is to Hellblazer, Vertigo's flagship of weird, following the ongoing adventures of British 'blue collar' mystic, John Constantine. Frankly it's surprising no-one made it happen before this run. Having breathed new life into the longest running (in unbroken numbering) title of the big two over the past couple of years we actually find ourselves at a point when the series even gets its own Annual for the first time in over a decade. This, dear reader, is where we come in.

This Annual is written by series writer Milligan and pencilled with signature flair, by the inimitable (though many try) Simon Bisley. Bisley's been the regular cover artist and semi-regular penciller for the series for a few years now, and has brought some of his career-best work to the title. His gaudy, tits-and-beasties fantasy edge is sanded down here to perfectly capture the spirit of the macabre life of John Constantine in these pages. To sound like a pretentious tit for a moment (or so) it’s really matured since his Lobo work but still maintains that mischievous edge and Biz's innate brutality. This is top level sequential art, as good as any of the many industry legends who've depicted John in the past, and no less than the book deserves.

It's been so long since I first picked up an issue of Hellblazer that I forgot how one can get put off by the fact that so many issues have been published you don't know where to start. This is nonsense though; as long as you go from the beginning of a storyline, Hellblazer is easy to start cold and rarely continuity laden. Apart from the occasional story all you need to know to read Hellblazer is: John does Magic, John likes women, John's a bit of a prick. The story in this Annual is a classic example, it concerns the family of an old friend of his from his childhood. Have they been in it before? I dunno. Does it matter? Nope, all the information you need is there in the pages of the book. The story actually involves a suspicious series of teen disappearances, but in a way much of this is irrelevant too, what matters is that as ever, something moody's going on, John's deep in the heart of it and innocent people are getting hurt. And as ever John's not a hero, he's just the guy who, when the world goes up shit creek, might, just might, have the only paddle, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

If like many, you are curious about Hellblazer but just don't know where to start, start here. This is what to expect, gruesome urban supernatural horror with a not entirely irredeemable rogue in the lead. If, like I was until a year or so, you’re a lapsed reader, pick this up, it'll remind you why you fell in love with John’s dirty little world in the first place. Superior, supernatural horror for the modern reader, like an episode of Eastenders written by Clive Barker. So yeah, it’s classic Hellblazer.