Wednesday, 27 March 2013

2000AD Prog 1825

Prog 1825 Cover by Henry Flint

I liked the design of the cover with the split-screen approach showing the before and after of Zombo - I didn't realise quite how decayed his old body had become (after only reading his initial story arc) and I'm not sure how keen I am on his grey-skinned redesign - hopefully this is a temporary transition, although one thing is for sure with Zombo, it doesn't follow the traditional rules of comics, so anything might happen!


JUDGE DREDD - CYPHER (Part 2)
Script Michael Carroll
Art - Inaki Miranda
Colours / Letters - Eva de la Cruz / Annie Parkhouse


Wow, this was shorter than I expected. The chase is concluded from last issue fairly quickly as Dredd and the Sov Judge tackle the cyborg sniper who attacked Hershey and the Sov Envoy. However, it seems there is more to the case than first meets the eye as everyone congregates around the cypher's body and a PSI-judge performs a scan.

I was surprised at how quickly this story resolved itself, although it would have felt stretched if it had gone onto a third part. It was a little predictable in places with my review of last week's Prog guessing the plot fairly easily, although there was a nice surprise with the Sov Judge - although I doubt we'll see much follow-up on that plot point.

The artwork seemed to deteriorate in this second half and there seemed to be panels that were fairly lacking in detail. It felt like perhaps there had been a rush to complete all the pages and some of them suffered as a result. Not a bad two-parter, but I doubt it'll stick in anyone's memory in a few month's time.




DANDRIDGE - THE COPPER CONSPIRACY (Part 2)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Warren Pleece
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode improves over last week's as it focuses on Dandridge more and displays his character through actions rather than the descriptions of others. He reminds me of a cross-between Doctor Who and Nikolai Dante, especially in his reactions to his various scapes. I liked the aerial sequence as Dandridge attempted to escape his copper-based captors and the mystery appears to deepen towards the end.
Quite possibly the funniest line I've ever read in 2000AD
I really like the artwork and the sequences of Dandridge flying across England inside the copper cyborg were really well drawn. The plot has really captured my interest after an okay first episode, so much so that I really look forward to seeing more of this character and watching him develop over the coming weeks! 



THARG'S 3RILLERS - SURVIVAL GEEKS (Part 2)
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Neil Googe
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Annie Parkhouse


The plot continues with Sam now captive of the Dark Lord of Neklith and his grand scheme is for her to fight with one of his warrior courtesans for the 'prize' of sharing his bedchamber. There are a few references to geek culture and the whole environment feels like a mish-mash of our world and the fantastical lands of fiction - which makes me wonder if there's more to the tale here. I'm not sure whether Tharg's 3rillers are mandated to have a twist in the end, but I have a theory about this one. I think that the geeks' missing flat-mate whom they steal the sporting equipment is, in fact, the Dark Lord whom controls the world - not sure how or why, but there seems to be some clues setting up this Dark Lord to be something more than a stock character.

The artwork continues to be great and I really like the juxtaposition of modern world mixed with the fantastical, such as the tour bus to the Dark Citadel. As I said last week, these light-hearted and 'pop' style sci-fi storylines are useful to break up the more 'serious' and continuity-heavy stories and are really accessible to new readers.




STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 2)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

It's hard to review this strip with as limited knowledge of the previous events leading up to it as it clearly is part of some longer plot. Introducing a character back to the land of the living inevitably requires a lot of reminiscing and meeting old characters who have changed in the interim - unfortunately most of this is lost on me and I find myself enjoying the story on its own merits and the beautifully unique artwork.

Stickleback seems to be attempting to find his way back into his old life, unaware of how things have changed while he was dead. I found the exposition regarding the dinosaurs to be interesting, but I'm not sure if it was meant to have a larger impact and the same goes for the full page character reveal at the end. I'm sure long-running fans may appreciate these moments more, but it fell somewhat flat for me. Still, it looks pretty and hopefully some action will occur soon!



ZOMBO - PLANET ZOMBO (Part 1)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Simon Bowland

I've read the first two Zombo strips, but only really have recollection of the first one, but I do know that they are not your standard 'zombie' storyline, often lurching from horror to zany comedy in a matter of panels. Tharg's introduction to this Prog makes mention of the many dramatic events that have occurred to Zombo in the prior three series - the general gist is that his body was destroyed and he about to be reborn (as shown on the cover)

EVIL FALCON!!

I won't pretend to understand everything that happened in this episode, but I did enjoy the bad guy clichés that the 'Shadow President' had - it reminded me of Dr Evil from Austin Powers! Every panel it seemed another cliche appeared (The Golden Claw and Winged Monkeys were my favourite) - Again, lacking knowledge of the older series made it tough to understand the importance of the final page reveal, but I look forward to more madcap zombie adventures with crazier and crazier characters thrown into the mix.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This issue seemed to highlight some of the problems with the 'starting point' approach to last week's Prog, in that some of the stories (Stickleback and Zombo, in particular) required more prior knowledge. Now, I know that I can read the old Progs or buy the graphic novels, but I'm not entirely sure whether I like these stories yet because of the trickiness of understanding them - it's a Catch-22, really. However, I do think Dandridge and Dredd have come across as much more new-reader friendly despite having some 'history' to them, so perhaps given time, the other strips will improve over time. I'm looking forward to the new Dredd storyline, which was been teased as 'Suicide Watch' in the Next Prog line, and the conclusion to Survival Geeks. So, three out of five thrills seem to be working for me, so it's not a bad score! 


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1825 will be available in stores on Wednesday 27th March - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 2)


Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 2)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.2
Written by: Steve Lyons
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-256-2
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie

Trapped on the human colony of Red Rocket Rising, the Eighth Doctor has two Dalek threats to deal with. The true Daleks have arrived upon the planet under the false guise of friendship and offer salvation from the dying planet, but have in fact arrived to purify the Dalek bloodline and exterminate the Dalek-Human hybrids created by Professor Martez. In amongst the confusion and violence, the Doctor’s newest companion, Lucie Miller, has to work out who her friends really are – the strange pepper pot creatures offering salvation or the unusually dressed and slightly grumpy Time Lord with the police box…

The story continues immediately from the cliff-hanger of the last release, which is a little disorientating and abrupt. Considering how the classic Doctor Who television episodes used to have a slight over-lap of the  previous scene when presenting the resolutions of the cliffhangers - a similar approach here would have both preserved the classic Doctor Who feeling and helped refresh the memory of people listening to the story some time after the previous one.

I really enjoyed how his story delved into the darker side of the Doctor, something that the Daleks always seem to bring out of him. The scenes where he coldly exacts a plan to side with the true Daleks to wipe off the beginnings of a secondary Dalek race are very effective, especially when the Daleks praise him as being an 'efficient ally'. Paul McGann really manages to convey the history between his character and the Daleks, despite never appearing on-screen with them himself.

As with the first part, I found the cast to be really strong and it was somewhat easier to tell the difference in voices between Eileen Klint and Asha this time around, since the two didn't share many scenes. The relationship between Lucie and the Doctor is fleshed out a bit more as the begins to trust him a bit more and realises that he is 'the man with a plan'. I also liked the development in the closing scenes where they begrudgingly decide to travel with each other - I think this might be the only companion who didn't want to travel with the Doctor willingly, with is a definite breath of fresh air! I also like the fact that the mystery of her sudden appearance in the TARDIS has been teased and appears to form the basis of this 'season' of adventures. I definitely want to know more about her and the 'witness protection' she seems to be part of.

As a complete story, I can happily recommend this to fans of the TV show who may not have watched any of the classic episodes (or the fairly awful 1996 movie featuring McGann's Doctor in his only televised appearance) - This audio is really strong, both in script and performances and the whole production costs seem to be a cut above the other Big Finish releases, justifying their exclusion from the main range and the new-listener friendly approach.

The CD also includes a trailer for the next episode, The Horror of Glam Rock, which seems to involve the Doctor and Lucie travelling back to 1970's and getting stuck in a motorway service station with a deadly threat outside. I am intrigued to see whether the series continues to remain strong without the draw of a big-name enemy such as the Daleks and will definitely pick it up! 

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.6 out of 10


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

2000AD Prog 1824

It’s been a while since I’ve read 2000AD regularly and even longer since I’ve reviewed it. In fact, some of my old reviews may still be knocking around on 2000ADReviews.co.uk. This Prog has been well publicised as being a ‘Jumping on Point’ containing four all-new stories, so it should be perfect for a lapsed reader such as myself to read and review, so here is what I thought of this issue. Oh, and SPOILER warning - I try not to go out of my way to spoil things, but I do discuss the issue in some detail.

Prog 1824 Cover by D'Israeli

The cover's header announces 'ALL-NEW THRILLS START INSIDE', but perhaps a cover image of the more widely-recognisable Judge Dredd would have made a better choice considering the recent social media drive to draw new and lapsed readers back to the fold with this issue. I'm sure that this will only really grab the eye of existing fans or lapsed readers familiar with Stickleback. As a side-note, whether planned or not, there's a nice synergy with the 'Pope of Crime' reference appearing less than a week after the new Pope made his appearance. The art by D'Israeli is fantastic (as always!) but I'm not sure it was the best choice to entice new readers.


JUDGE DREDD - CYPHER (Part 1)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Inaki Miranda
Colours - Eva de la Cruz 
Letters - Annie Parkhouse


As a lapsed reader, I'm only half-aware that there has been major changes to Mega City One recently and the contents page description makes reference to these events succinctly, although the story stands alone without prior knowledge. Dredd and Hershey arrive at a clandestine meeting with a high ranking Sov official, which is promptly interrupted by a mysterious sniper. Dredd quickly gives chase, alongside a Sov bodyguard, determined to catch the perp alive to interrogate him. It appears that the sniper is robotic with a detachable hand and fixed eye-wear - my theory out the gate is that the sniper is controlled by either the Sov official or his bodyguard, and Dredd will end up having to fight her. 

Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell guest-stars?

The artwork was pretty good and reminded me of Karl Richardson at times, with some nice attention to detail in the backgrounds. It's a nice basic story which has loose ties to the current status quo regarding the problems with East-Meg Two. It will be interesting to see if it develops into anything surprising.


DANDRIDGE - THE COPPER CONSPIRACY (Part 1)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Warren Pleece
Letters - Ellie de Ville

I vaguely remember Dandridge's first appearance as part of a Future Shock, becoming one of a rare breed to transcend the one-shot format and come back for a longer series. From what I remember, the character is something of a Steampunk ghost hunter, who was a ghost himself. Judging from the introduction on the contents page and dialogue from the strip, Dandridge has gained his corporeal form once more. Miss Blake, the one responsible for Dandridge's corporeal form due to a magic jacket she made for him, is interviewed by two police-men, who are trying to locate Dandridge's manservant, Shelley, who went missing trying to obtain the Blade of Oberon. It seems that Dandridge has been making the most of his physical form and leaving a trail of destruction across the French Riviera, when three men coming looking for him in the most inopportune of moments.



The artwork by Warren Pleece reminds me of Simon Fraser's work on Nikolai Dante, especially the panel above which felt very much in the style of Dante. The script manages to be new-reader friendly and introduces the character through the opinions of others before revealing him in the final panel. It was quite easy to work out roughly what had happened prior to this strip and if it can remain as accessible as this in the future, I can see myself enjoying it.



THARG'S 3RILLERS - SURVIVAL GEEKS (Part 1)
Script - Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art - Neil Googe
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Annie Parkhouse

Tharg's 3rillers are a recent addition to the Future Shock format, where the story is given three parts to breathe and develop beyond a five-page one shot, and they don't necessarily have to have a twist at the end. These are a great place for new writers to develop, although in this instance Gordon Rennie is an established writer, although I'm not familiar with Emma Beeby

Sam wakes up after a drunken one-night stand to find that the boy she met with the night before wasn't wearing an 'ironic' Star Wars t-shirt and she is now in a house of geeks...and to make things worse, these are geeks who appear to have a dimensional porthole in their front door. Will Sam live long enough to regret her one-night stand?

It could be worse...it could be a 'The Phantom Menace' t-shirt

This strip reminded me of Bec & Kawl, another student meets the occult comedy sci-fi storyline. I really liked the artwork from Neil Googe, who if I remember correctly drew the adventures of Bazooka Jules, the girl with two spectacular *cough* talents *cough*. While the story seemed a bit light, I think it's good to have a mix of both heavy sci-fi and light-hearted stuff like this. I liked the pop culture references, especially the line about the Paul McGann Doctor Who movie.


STICKLEBACK - NUMBER OF THE BEAST (Part 1)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

A gang of thieves barely escape during the theft of an unknown cargo, leaving one of their own behind. The two that get away worry that by leaving their colleague that the world will become aware of them, whilst meanwhile, the 'pope of crime' Stickleback is released from his chamber where he has spent the last five years healing from a near-fatal injury he'd sustained. While Stickleback is eager to catch up on the five years of back business, his companion warns him that the world has greatly changed while he has been sleeping.

Out of all the new thrills in this issue, Stickleback is the one that I found the most difficult to get into - clearly the return of Stickleback from the dead should be a bigger 'wow' for older fans than it was for me. While it didn't grab me as much as the others, I did like the artwork although the whites and black felt a little over-saturated in some of the frames. I like the setting of an alternate Victorian London and hopefully with Stickleback's introduction to the world he left behind five years ago, some blanks will be filled in for new readers like myself.


OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Zombo returns next week - I remember reading his first strip, and I know he's had a few adventures since then, but they've always been quite fun to read. With Zombo, this should give us our five strips quota until Survival Geeks ends in Prog 1826 - whether another Tharg's 3rillers will replace this or not remains to be seen. As a whole, I really enjoyed this issue, particularly the reader-friendly aspects of Dredd and Survival Geeks. Dandridge seems quite continuity light so far, and I'm sure a wiki search on Stickleback should bring me up to date (or perhaps purchasing the graphic novel from Amazon?)


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1824 will be available in stores on Wednesday 20th March - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 1)


Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 1)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.1
Written by: Steve Lyons
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-255-5
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie

Idly travelling alone in his TARDIS, The Eighth Doctor is interrupted by the materialisation of Lucie Miller, a nineteen year-old northern lass from 2006. Affronted by this intrusion into his home, the Doctor attempts to return her back to Earth, but is blocked by some kind of barrier, sending them spiralling onto the human colony of Red Rocket Rising - a planet that has been ravaged by asteroids and suffering from an Impact Winter. But things are set to get worse for the inhabitants of Red Rocket Rising and its recent visitors, when the Daleks arrive under the guise of rescue…

These Eighth Doctor Adventures form their own Range outside of the monthly Doctor Who releases and are set later in the 8th Doctor’s timeline than his other adventures with Charley Pollard. This range also featured on BBC Radio 7 and is set out in ‘seasons’ which make them feel more compatible with the relaunched series. In fact, the 8th Doctor and Lucie’s relationship is similar to that of 10th Doctor and Donna, even down to the very similar entrances by both ladies. There is a nice bit of banter between the two, added with the intriguing mystery of where she came from, and what she knows and can remember.

I really enjoyed the characterisation of both the 8th Doctor and Lucie – Paul McGann’s Doctor was seldom explored in his one and only TV appearance, featuring more heavily in book and comic strips during the series’ absence between 1996 – 2005. These audio adventures (and the earlier ones from the main range) are the closest thing to an actual canon appearance for the 8th Doctor and delve more into the personality of this incarnation of the Time Lord. I like his whimsical soul and the gentle humour he possesses throughout the story – he doesn’t feel as hardened as his subsequent incarnation, but judging by this Doctor’s alluded involvement in the Time War, he is set for more difficult decisions ahead.

Lucie, as I mentioned, feels similar to Donna in as much as she is a brash, opinionated and distrusting of the Doctor. While she fits the same age as Rose Tyler, she is totally different in personality and doesn’t seem as in awe of the cosmos as she did – even feeling disappointment at the state of her first alien world. She is a great companion to entice new listeners to the audios, as she does represent much of the New Series’ popularity, so it’s an easy transition to go from the series to this audio and not feel the cultural divide between ‘Classic Who’ and ‘New Who’ as much as some people do.

The Daleks are an obvious choice to use to draw people in to a new series and they are utilised well here – as with ‘Evil of the Daleks’ and ‘Victory of the Daleks’, they adopt a benevolent and peaceful façade to their victims, in order to lure them into a trap. I like this approach as it showcases the intelligence and cunning of the Daleks, which isn’t highlighted enough, in my opinion.

The side characters are pretty intriguing, although I did find it a little bit tricky to tell the difference between Klint and Asha at times as both actresses had similar voices and when they were talking to each other, I would occasionally get lost in who was saying what and had to replay those chapters. I’m not sure whether this is something anyone else would experience, but I found everyone else to have more distinctive accents or voices, apart from those two.

The sound effects and score are really good – I am a sucker for audio effects and love turning the sound up and getting sucked into the visual world that the sounds conjure in my mind’s eye. The score evokes the mood perfectly and in some places reminds me of the initial Resident Evil game – it’s strange how certain bits of music stick in your head.

Overall, this was a great starting point! As this is the initial release for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, it is frequently on offer and has introductory prices, so it is worthwhile following Big Finish on Twitter to see if they are having any sales on these discs, but I would recommend it even at full price, especially if you’re a fan of the current series and have never experienced the Classic Doctors properly – it’s very new listener friendly and doesn't feel tied up in either TV or Big Finish continuity. As long as you know who the Daleks and Time Lords are, you can enjoy this first part of Blood of the Daleks! I purchased the second part at the same time, so I shall be reviewing that shortly.

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 9.5 out of 10


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Review - Porco Rosso


Porco Rosso is a Japanese animated film, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki is a famous animator, known as the Japanese Walt Disney due to the height of his popularity in Japan. While he was more renowned in his home country, he finally made his name in Hollywood when he won an Oscar for his animated film Spirited Away, in 2002.

I have been a fan of the Studio Ghibli films after watching Princess Mononoke and long held a desire to watch some of the studio's earlier works from the 80s and 90s, but unfortunately these films were not released outside of Japan. However, the success of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away soon led to the Studio Ghibli back catalogue being slowly released on DVD in America, and eventually to the UK.

Porco Rosso was one of the films I had read about long before getting a chance to see it and the description and photos I had seen online definitely piqued my interest in this film. Porco Rosso is the story of a former Italian fighter pilot who has retired to the Adriatic Sea after World War One. He makes his living as a freelance bounty hunter and frequently clashes with the local air pirates. Oh, and I should point out, he's a pig. Literally, a pig!

At some point prior to the film's beginning, Porco was cursed and his once human features disappeared, and he became a talking pig. This embitters him somewhat, and his personality becomes that of a recluse, shunning company and depriving himself of a potential relationship with the local bar-owner, Gina. The story develops when a dashing American pilot arrives at the island and not only works with the pirates to rid themselves of this troublesome pig, but gradually becomes involved in a love triangle between him, Gina and Porco. The tension between the two pilots threatens to break out as their rivalry increases.


I loved this film, mainly due to the unique setting. There aren't many animated films set during the two World Wars in the Adriatic Sea, and there's a definite romantic mood to the story, which I really enjoyed. It's reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast in some ways, mixed in with a dash of Casablanca. The beauty of the film is that it works on two levels, it's entertaining enough for children to watch on a purely aesthetic level with the flying pig and air battles, but there's also a really strong and adult story behind it. Like the best animated films, it is made for both children and parents to enjoy together.

The film has a slow, gentle pace and there's no gore, violence or unsuitable scenes. It's actually quite laid-back, like its setting and spends the majority of the screen time, developing both the characters and the mood of the film, rather than fumble from action scene to action scene. That's not to say there's no action in the movie, the climatic scenes are particularly thrilling and you'll be hoping that this pig can fly...at least, better than a dashing American can.

I would recommend this to families who enjoy Disney films and want to try something similar, but with a different approach. There's no sing-along theme songs in this or goofy sidekick characters – it's a good film with a strong plot that just happens to be about an animated flying pig. To that end, people without young children can still enjoy this film and take something from it. It's a great introduction to the world of Studio Ghibli, which has nearly thirty years of back catalogue of strong, narrative-driven animated movies to discover.

This DVD includes the American voice-over edition, with Michael Keaton as Porco Rosso and Cary Elwes as Curtis. It also contains the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles if you prefer to view the movie, as intended. The American dub is pretty good, unlike some anime voice-overs and the characters both sound as you'd expect and the script hasn't been changed drastically. In terms of special features, there are some storyboards to view through the disc menus, an interview with the producer, Toshio Suzuki, and the Original Japanese trailer, which is interesting to watch after seeing the film, just to see how different their trailers are to ours.

The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from retailers, such as Amazon.co.uk.

Score - 9.1 out of 10

"Now I believe in Flying Pigs"


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...