Wednesday, 28 August 2013

2000AD Prog 1847

Prog 1847 Cover by Cliff Robinson

Great pun on 'Facebook' and I love the sense of action with the blurred images of the sub-machine gun firing in all directions as Dredd knocks the perp backwards with a swift kick to the jaw. It's supplemented by a nice, bright background and this could easily be used as a poster, or promotional materials for 2000AD's Faceboot page


JUDGE DREDD - BENDER (Part 3)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Ben Willsher
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

Judge Bender's rule-bending rises to another level with the accidental death of their suspect due to his unorthodox techniques of dangling over the edge of a balcony. After threatening the emotionally unstable Judge Lock into backing up his false story, the partners join Dredd to raid the Zizz cookhouse.

I noticed a few subtle visual references in Ben Willsher's art that made me smile, such as the only body parts left intact when Bigfoot hit the floor was his big feet, and it might be because I've been watching a lot of Breaking Bad recently, but in the final panel where Bender and Lock bust into the secret Zizz den, the two drug cooks appear to resemble Walter White and Jesse Pinkman...or maybe it's just me!


I am enjoying this story and am wondering whether Lock will confront Bender himself, or whether Dredd will get involved. As I said before, the beauty of having Dredd in a supporting role is that there are plenty more scenarios that could happen considering that both Bender and Lock aren't the title characters. 



SLAINE - THE BOOK OF SCARS (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Glenn Fabry
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Another week, another guest artist on Slaine and this week it is the turn of Glenn Fabry, whose work I was familiar with through his painted Preacher covers for the Vertigo imprint. This is the first time I'd seen his interior work, and in black and white, and I'm pleased to say that I love it. While the script continues to be overly self-referential about Slaine's history, the main draw here is the return of legendary artists, with Simon Bisley returning next Prog.

Taking the plot as a relative newcomer to Slaine, there hasn't been any real sense of connection between each of the jumps through history which leaves each successive installment feeling disjointed from the previous one. I hope the final part ties it altogether in a satisfactory fashion, but I feel that some form of transition like the one between the first two episodes would have allowed it to flow that much better, especially for the upcoming graphic novel collection.



AGE OF THE WOLF III - WOLFWORLD (Part 8)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Annie Parkhouse

As we draw closer to the conclusion of the series, it dawned on me that there hasn't been much complexity to this particular series of Age of the Wolf, with the entire plot boiled down to an extended chase sequence between Rowan and Sigrid Runecrafter based upon a vague prophecy and the sacrifice of Rowan's adopted daughter. I think that perhaps if more developments had been thrown into the mix, it could have been a much more worthy storyline to the original concept of having werewolves take over the Earth, rather than Zombies or Vampires, as seems to happen in most fiction.

I don't want to crap over the story because it doesn't have as much depth and detail as some of the other tales in the Prog, because it is nice to have some more action-heavy stories to balance the cerebral elements of some of the stories, but I can see why some readers haven't been the most enthusiastic about this particular series. In terms of positives, I really liked how Rowan challenged Alpha Sigrid to a duel mirroring the one that occurred in the opening chapter, almost bookending the story, and I am looking forward to seeing how things tie up, but considering the pacing of the series, thus far, I worry that it may be either rushed, or left to our own imagination.



DEFOE - THE DAMNED (Part 12)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This series of Defoe comes to a conclusion with a fairly low-key denouement which sets up a very intriguing direction for the next story. I like the design of the Vizards, who I hadn't seen before, and look forward to seeing them take a more antagonist role in future stories - with Faust out of the way, I'm not sure if the Reeks will take a back seat as the focus and perhaps the stories will showcase other aspects of this alternative Victorian London that haven't been introduced yet.


I was relieved to see that Damned Jones hadn't died when Defoe attacked him, which makes his "traitorous" turn seem like a more reasonable course of action, but clearly Faust's words have affected the soldier deeply, as he turns his back on his government and his friends with treason on his mind. It's a very effective cliffhanger that leaves a lot of prospect for upcoming stories and the direction that Pat Mills could take the character as he is placed into direct opposition with his former friends.



THE TEN-SECONDERS - GODSEND (Part 9)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Ben Willsher
Colours / Letters - Abigail Ryder / Simon Bowland

The Scientist's plan begins to take form as he lures all of the Fathers to the Star Nursery and unveils his secret weapon - Jennifer. By forcing her to absorb the dangerous energies, he is able to manipulate her into destroying his makers, but not before one of the dying Fathers attempts to destroy her form.

I kind of predicted that the Scientist planned to wipe out his creators, although I didn't think he'd be quite so successful in his attempts. With his side-plan to destroy Malloy, the only remaining threat to his dominance also in progress, it makes me wonder whether this series will conclude with The Scientist triumphant, or perhaps a cliffhanger leading to a battle between Malloy and the Scientist. Either way, I am really enjoying this series at the moment.


I should give a special shout-out to Ben Willsher who was able to maintain the same style set in place by Edmund Bagwell, so much so that it took a few panels before I realised that Willsher had taken over the art duties. He does a great job at replicating the same character likenesses, particularly Damage, with the only real difference being his slightly rougher edges.


OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I'm sad to see Defoe conclude, knowing that we probably won't see the next storyline until next year, but I am glad it didn't finish the story outright, although it could be that the next series is its last. The rest of the stories are heading towards their conclusions and apart from Slaine, I'm not entirely sure what direction they're going to take.

With Defoe's absence in the next two Progs, it looks like we're going to have a few Future Shocks, or double-page conclusions to the current stories until Prog 1850 where we will get a brand-new line-up of stories.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1847 will be available in stores on Wednesday 28th August - 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!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

2000AD Prog 1846

Prog 1846 Cover by Tiernan Trevallion

I'm not familiar with this week's cover artist, Tiernan Trevallion, but he draws an effective horde of Zombies as they congregate towards Defoe. Considering the contents of this week's installment, it might have been a better fit to have had the cover reflecting the nautical aspect of the strip, but this generic 'Defoe fighting the undead' pose is pretty good. I really like the night-time colour palette that had been used on this cover and it's a pretty strong attempt at matching Leigh Gallagher's vision of the strip. In fact, if it wasn't for the slight differences in Defoe's facial features, it would be a pretty close match.


JUDGE DREDD - BENDER (Part 2)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Ben Willsher
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

I’m really enjoying this approach of focusing on other Judges with Dredd, himself, resigned to a supporting character role; although I’m sure that once things heat up with Judge Bender and Lock that he will return to the focus to resolve things. Bender is an interesting character, who clearly enjoys using excessive violence to gain results, but he isn't too far removed from Dredd in some of his more extreme storylines, although the major difference is that Dredd doesn't revel in the pain he is causing the perps.

After just two installments, I'm already attached to the characters of Bender and Lock and am looking forward to seeing how this pans out. With Lock experiencing flashbacks of his mother's murder with the violent Bender substituted for the crazed killer who beheaded her, it seems like only a matter of time before his post-traumatic stress disorder results in a deadly clash between the two Judges.



SLAINE - THE BOOK OF SCARS (Part 3)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Mick McMahon
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Unfortunately, with the increasingly self-referential aspect of this storyline, I feel like I'm struggling to enjoy it at the same level that long-term fans of the character can. At face value for someone unfamiliar with the original stories, this whole arc reads very disjointed and the whole thing comes across as an experiment and an indulgent way to celebrate the character's anniversary with the script coming second to the act of reuniting the artists with the character. To me, this adventure sums up the need for this strip to get a Pat Mills reboot in the same way Invasion and Flesh did.

Compared to both of the styles Clint Langley used for the preceding parts, Mick McMahon's style is very minimalistic, somewhat akin to Steve Yeowell's work on The Red Seas. While I do appreciate the artist's work and his history on the strip, it doesn't quite fit the gritty Barbarian feel in the same way that  Clint Langley or Simon Davis' artwork does. 



AGE OF THE WOLF III - WOLFWORLD (Part 7)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Annie Parkhouse


I really like the zombie werewolves design by Jon Davis-Hunt which manages to avoid being overly cute and cuddly like some of the other werewolf designs that have appeared. Interestingly Rowan gives in to her werewolf side and transforms, which makes me think she is doomed to make some supreme sacrifice to eradicate the wolves from existence, including herself. I must admit that I am still struggling to root for the human race in this battle for supremacy - we've had our time, let's just give the wolves a chance at being the dominant species.



DEFOE - THE DAMNED (Part 11)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This week's installment of Defoe takes a more nautical turn as Defoe and Faust duel to the death atop his reek-powered sailboat. Reminiscent of a climatic light-saber battle from Star Wars, Defoe and Faust use their electrically-charged power sabres to battle each other whilst Tomazine struggles to avoid being munched on by a Reek with a foot fetish. I'm surprised that Faust met his end so soon, and with most of the more prominent villains dispatched in this book, it makes me wonder if we're going to see a new threat emerge in the concluding episode next week, or whether the series will come to a end.

Unfortunately, there is a slight hiccup with Leigh Gallagher's usually stellar artwork this week, with the opening panel establishing Faust's ship as being quite some distance away from the land, yet Defoe is able to use his grapple to swing over to it, which seems impossible given the previously established distance.



THE TEN-SECONDERS - GODSEND (Part 8)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Edmund Bagwell
Colours / Letters - Abigail Ryder / Simon Bowland

With this installment, we seem to be edging closer to The Scientist's true agenda - my theory is that he is planning to wipe out both the Fathers and the other Gods, including poor Malloy. However, by sending Harris and Kane to eliminate Malloy, I think he may have miscalculated and the trio may unite to take him down.

This is continuing to be one of my favourite strips in the current line-up, with fantastically epic artwork by Edmund Bagwell and a true sense of big-budget action. I am looking forward to seeing where it is going, and I have the horrible sense of foreboding that it might just end with a tragic apocalypse as the Earth is just smashed to pieces by the omnipotent Fathers, who just get bored with all the hassle.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Defoe concludes next week, and I am keen to see whether there will be any hints of a future conflict or enemy, considering how things appear to be winding down after Faust's defeat. We're approaching the jumping-on Prog 1850, and as a result, each strip in the current line-up seems to be heading towards its conclusion, which always brings an odd mood to the anthology when they end simultaneously. I hope that Slaine and Age of the Wolf can pick up the slack once Defoe has finished.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1846 will be available in stores on Wednesday 21st August - 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!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Immortal Beloved


Doctor Who: Immortal Beloved
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.4
Written by: Jonathan Clements
Directed by: Jason Haigh-Ellery
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-258-6
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Horror of Glam Rock

The Doctor and Lucie arrive upon a mountain-top just in time to stop two star-crossed lovers, Kalkin and Sararti, from taking their lives. Before they can delve too deeply into their motivations, an army led by General Ares appears and takes the two lovers into custody. Soon afterwards, The Doctor discovers the secret behind the faux-mythological society he has stumbled into – the self-decreed Gods of this Earth Colony have been using clones of themselves to transfer their personality into younger bodies, in order to maintain a semblance of Immortality. With two candidates in the young lovers, Kalkin and Sararti, the Doctor and Lucie realise that there are some fates worse than death.

Upon hearing the trailer and reading the sleeve notes for this release, I was worried that it would attempt to integrate the fantasy of Ancient Greece with the science-fiction canon of the Doctor Who universe. Rather than using the actual Gods from Greek myths and legends, the story gives them a neat twist by explaining that the strange names and labels are a deception, so that the Earth colonists can manipulate their subjects into treating them as God-like figures, as well as keeping them in the dark about modern conventions such as rifles, cloning and immortality.

The core concept of the story is that these false-Gods have been cloning themselves, in order to use the younger bodies as vessels for their minds once their older bodies die. The young Kalkin and Sararti are the current viable options for mind transfer should the colonist leaders Zeus and Hera die. The idea of using clones to achieve immortality is one that has appealed to me, such as in the classic Lupin 3rd anime, The Secret of Mamo. In some ways, the Doctor's regeneration can be seen as a perfected version of this process with him achieving near-immortality when he changes his body, but retains aspects of his personality and his memories, allowing him to live on.

Ian McNeice, plays Zeus, and manages to portray the selfish and greedy ruler well without resorting to pantomime villain levels of menace. He would later go on to portray Winston Churchill in Victory of the Daleks, who in some ways is a less severe version of the same character. Both are men driven by their own needs and are willing to do anything to achieve them.

One element that felt odd was the inclusion of Ganymede, the younger clone of Zeus, whose desire to become the host body for the tyrant's mind was cruelly denied due to his young age. The storyline didn't really pan out and seemed superfluous to the plot. The part was ably played by Jake McGann, but ultimately it felt like a 'Chekov's Gun' that had failed to go off.

This adventure showcased another side to the Doctor and Lucie's budding friendship, highlighting the element of distrust that Lucie has in the Doctor and his desire to do the right thing. The final sequence, which felt really out of character and full of plot holes, involved Lucie and Sararti attempting to hijack the TARDIS to destroy it. This idea, devised by Lucie, seemed ridiculous as it would have either killed the pair of them, stranded Lucie and the Doctor on the planet or at the very least, left the Doctor abandoned. It felt like a cheap way to attain some dramatic tension in the climax of the story, but it failed to properly attach itself to the characters and their motivations - it would have been more believeable if Sararti alone had wanted to kill herself, dragging Lucie along against her will.

Overall, this is an interesting storyline with a really strong start and middle, but a slightly rocky ending which doesn't quite work. I did enjoy the storyline, especially the concept of immortality through cloning and appreciated the twist to the Ancient Greek mythology within the story. The trailer for the next release, Phobos, seems to be a more action-orientated adventure featuring monsters on the Mars moon of Phobos, which brings a welcome change of pace after this more intellectual adventure.

Doctor Who: Immortal Beloved is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from Amazon.co.uk

Score - 8.7 out of 10


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

2000AD Prog 1845

Prog 1845 Cover by Karl Richardson

Nice dynamic image with Dredd using the wall as cover during a fire-fight - it might just be me, but the angles seem slightly off, but it's a good change from the usual Dredd poses. I also like the slow, measured approach as he reloads, rather than him being scared or frantic. One thing that I didn't notice at first, until reading the 2000AD Message Board, was the rather large bulge in Dredd's trousers, but now it's been pointed out to me, it's the only thing my eyes are drawn to.


JUDGE DREDD - BENDER (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Ben Willsher
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

This week, we have another John Wagner scripted story, once again focusing on the aftermath of Chaos Day, although from the perspective of the Judges rather than the citizens. This particular story focuses on Judge Lock who, as we learn through his nightmares, lost his mother on Chaos Day and has been on Med Leave ever since. Upon returning to active duty, he is paired with the older Judge Bender, as the two are given an assignment by Dredd to catch two perps who have remained 'at large' in the twelve months since Chaos Day. However, once he is out on the streets with Bender, Lock soon realises that the elder Judge has his own 'old fashioned' form of judgement for the perps of Mega City One.

Even though Dredd only appears in three panels of the story, I still found this riveting – perhaps even more so, since with two unknown Judges, the story has more potential to surprise the reader with more daring twists than if Dredd was cast in the leading role, since as a reader we assume he will overcome and survive any obstacle. Within his three panels appearance, Dredd sums up his feelings since Chaos Day – the Justice system cannot afford to be seen as weak and long-standing escapees need to be apprehended to stop the public from thinking that the system is no longer efficient. Bender, in his own way, mirrors this but rather than following the law to the letter, as Dredd would, he is willing to bend the rules in order to make sure that the Justice department suffers no loss of faith in terms of its ability to uphold the law. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.


I really enjoyed the art by Ben Willsher, although the structure of some of the panels, particularly during the nightmare sequences were a bit tough to follow, which I'm guessing was meant to evoke that strange feeling of dreams and how they bleed together within one's mind. Apart from that minor nitpick, the art managed to convey the sense of action whilst Bender savagely beats the insolent perp, as well as the excessive brutality of his attack. Oh and as a Doctor Who fan, I liked the Russell T Davies Block cameo!



SLAINE - THE BOOK OF SCARS (Part 2)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Firstly, I was wowed by the changes in art style as Clint Langley homages the late Massimo Belardinelli - I much prefer this approach to the computer graphics artistry he employed in the previous issue (although I enjoyed that too!) - As this story was a Quantum Leap style jump into a previous story, there was probably more for older fans to enjoy with the subtle differences between the two versions, but to the uninitiated, it reads as a fairly good fantasy yarn.

As I said last week, I'm not overly familiar with Slaine, or his ability to 'warp out' which I'm guessing is akin to Bruce Banner turning into The Incredible Hulk, but the visual effect of the change was fantastic - I loved the Warped Out version of Slaine, and I'm much more interested in reading more about the character, although I am not well-versed in Celtic myths, so it does feel impenetrable at times.



I have the sneaking suspicion that the next chapter will have a different artist from Slaine's history, covering a different storyline from his past, which will make the story feel slightly disjointed for those who weren't overly familiar with the way that the original concluded. I think that while this is a nice bit of indulgence for long-term Slaine fans, perhaps moving on with the presumed reboot of the series with Simon Davis, or at least, starting a new storyline looking forward, may have been a better decision for the 30th Anniversary?



AGE OF THE WOLF III - WOLFWORLD (Part 6)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Jon Davis-Hunt
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Annie Parkhouse

One of my complaints of this series has been not feeling any real connection or emotional investment in the cast or the fate of humankind within this Wolfworld - part of my disconnect with the humans in this story is the fact that beyond Rowan and Keira, there hasn't been much focus on the larger human settlements. This episode deals with that and reintroduces the human element as a key reason for Rowan's determination to wipe out the wolves - although they are promptly left behind as she carries on her crusade, alone.

This story feels like an extended chase sequence with the wolves throwing various obstacles in Rowan's way as both parties make their way to their location before the full moon. It doesn't make for the most thrilling of stories, although there have been some fun set pieces, such as the Wolves airship battle and the armoured Wolves. The conclusion of this episode suggests some kind of undead zombie werewolves, which should make for an interesting visual (and possibly the front cover for next week) so I do look forward to that.

In terms of the art, once again Jon Davis-Hunt has trouble communicating the characters movements with his panels, specifically with the sequence where Rowan destroys the bridge to the human settlement. It appears that Rowan is on the same side as the humans (i.e - behind the rift she creates) but the following panels show her making her way past the bridge, suggesting that she can float or that there was another way down, defeating the point of blowing up the bridge.



DEFOE - THE DAMNED (Part 10)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As many had predicted, Defoe's betrayal doesn't last long and he double-crosses Faust, destroying the crystal, which forces Faust to retreat to his back-up plan: A boat powered by Reeks, with the captive Tomazine and Sean aboard as hostages. Unfortunately, Defoe's change of heart comes too late for Josiah Creely, who is ripped to pieces on the Tower wall.

Dinner's Served - Grab it while it's Breathing!

While I am glad Defoe's betrayal was temporary and he ultimately saved his friends at the Tower from the hordes of Reeks - his actions over the last few episodes have resulted in the deaths of Damned and Josiah Creely. I'm still not sure whether Defoe really did betray his friends and recanted at the last minute, or whether it was part of his plan from the beginning - the deaths of Damned and Creely suggest to me that it was perhaps the former, but the ambiguous way it has been written leaves it open to interpretation. I'm looking forward seeing how this will tie up and leave the series in the future.



THE TEN-SECONDERS - GODSEND (Part 7)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Edmund Bagwell
Colours / Letters - Abigail Ryder / Simon Bowland

We continue the journey of Kane, Harris, The Scientist, Damage and Jennifer as they make their way through the expanse of the Fathers' ship to confront Malloy. They encounter the enormous corpse of the First and end up confronting the security system, which coats the group in a black ooze of nano-creatures which begin to hurt them - Jennifer destroys these creatures with her powers, keeping the creatures on her body for an unknown reason.

As I've said before, I am really digging the epic feel to this story with the cast making their way out of Earth and exploring the massive craft that had swallowed it. I am enjoying the dynamics within this small group, especially Damage, who is easily my favourite character. It is easily one of the strongest and consistent thrills week after week, alongside Defoe.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I really liked the way that the new Judge Dredd storyline is going - strangely, I seem to prefer the stories when he is a cameo appearance. Defoe is winding down with two episodes left to go and we've reached the halfway point for Age of the Wolf and The Ten Seconders, which helps get an idea of the pace that remains of the story.

In the Input Centre, Tharg teases the upcoming stories for the next jumping on Prog, which is Prog 1850 and I'm not overly optimistic, as I don't have much experience with any of them. They are: Brass Sun, Damnation Station and Flesh - judging by the appearances in the 'coming soon' box art, I'd guess they'll be joined by Gray Area shortly too.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1845 will be available in stores on Wednesday 14th August - 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!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

2000AD Prog 1844


This week's Prog comes with TWO covers to celebrate Slaine's 30th Anniversary - Cover A features a cover by Simon Davis, whilst Cover B features a cover by Clint Langley. Out of the two, I prefer the Clint Langley version, mainly because I like the photo-realistic art style, which I've grown accustomed to on this particular strip. The Simon Davis cover is good too, although he does go a bit overboard with the hair in the background image. I do think he'll be a worthy replacement for Langley when he takes over the strip early next year.


JUDGE DREDD - SCAVENGERS (Part 3)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Carl Critchlow
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Somewhat surprisingly, this storyline comes to an end this Prog, as Dredd and his crew of undersea Judges attempt to defuse the situation in the nuclear-ready underwater city of Luna-2. Two rival gangs of criminals and terrorists are fighting for control of the nukes for their own purposes, leaving it up to Dredd to remove the threat to Mega City One.


This felt like a rushed end to the storyline and it definitely felt like it needed an extra episode to make the pacing feel right. One thing that struck me as odd was how ineffectual the Judges were, with the Klegg doing most of the legwork and preventing the nukes from launching and even saving Dredd's life. I do like the character, however, and would happily see more from him in the future.

As I said earlier, I loved the art on this tale by Carl Critchlow - his style really suits Dredd, with the chunky armour and the big chins! I liked his design of the deep-sea Judges uniform and the mood he brought to the underwater aspect of this storyline. I look forward to seeing more of his artwork on Dredd, in particular.



SLAINE - THE BOOK OF SCARS (Part 1)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As a casual reader of Slaine, I'm vaguely aware of the concept behind it, but always found it convoluted and confusing in places, preferring to read the smaller storylines where it's simply a case of 'man with big axe fights monsters'. In keeping with the celebration of his 30th anniversary, this tale opens with Slaine reflecting on his past battles, using the scars on his body as a history book, when his female companion is ripped to pieces by a creature inside her belly, the Godhead. Disgruntled by the tales of Slaine spread by Ukko the dwarf, the Godhead sends Slaine's spirit back in time to relive his greatest triumphs, with the hope he will fail the second time around.


Clint Langley's art can be a bit hit and miss with me, often becoming dark and muddy in places, but here it looks amazing with such attention to detail and photo-realism on Slaine's face. The scene where the Godhead rips his way out of Vevina's body was amazingly gory, due to the realistic nature of it. His design of the creatures is really impressive and suits the story well.

I like the idea of a It's a Wonderful Life-esque travel through Slaine's past and reliving his past adventures as a way to celebrate his legacy. It's a fantastic way to involve all of his iconic artists to draw a chapter of the adventure focusing on a particular past storyline that they had drawn.



AGE OF THE WOLF III - WOLFWORLD (Part 5)
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Jon Davis-Hunt
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This was possibly the strongest episode of this series so far with a genuine sense of foreboding and tension. The tattooed bond between Rowan and Keira has been broken, leaving the two separated for the first time in years, as well as leaving Rowan susceptible to the werewolf bites she has received over the years. I like the idea of Rowan fighting against the urge to turn into a beast herself, as she struggles to locate her adopted daughter and prevent the extinction of the human race.

The Alpha Wolf, Sigrid, continues to hunt Rowan after her escape via hang-glider, and the plucky young girl almost gets the upper hand on the feral creature stalking her. I'm really becoming attached to these three characters and seeing how their story develops. Strangely though, I might be sympathising with the werewolves more than the humans. One nitpick I have is that we've not really gotten a sense of the number of human survivors or why the wolves are so determined to wipe them out - so far, it seems to be just Rowan and Keira who pose any sort of threat to the creatures.



DEFOE - THE DAMNED (Part 9)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Ellie de Ville

In a shocking turn of events, it appears that Defoe has truly turned against his fellow Reek Hunters and promises Faust that he will aid him in defeating his friends remaining at the Tower, in order to get his hands on the gold within. When Damned makes a stand against his former friend, it looks like he is rewarded with a boot to the neck, seemingly killing him.


When Faust first made his offer to Defoe, I was convinced he'd tell him to "shove it" but as events have shown, he appears to have fully betrayed his cause, going so far to kill one of his own. It looks like this particular book of Defoe might end with a major shift in the status quo with the titular character becoming the villain? I really have no clue what's going to happen next and I love it! Every installment of this story, thus far, has been the must-read element of the Prog and I will sorely miss it when it goes.



THE TEN-SECONDERS - GODSEND (Part 6)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Edmund Bagwell
Letters - Simon Bowland

After an episode focusing on the godly Malloy and his grand schemes to right the wrongs on the Earth, we see the consequences of his actions from a very human perspective as Kane and Harris are shown the naivety in the young God's broad changes by the Scientist.

I'm really liking this strip and the duplicitous nature of the Scientist, who clearly has his own agenda. I wonder how Malloy will react to his former comrades confronting him on his actions. As with Defoe and Age of the Wolf, it feels like this is building up to a crescendo, possibly the final series.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I must admit to being shocked by Defoe's turn to the dark side in this week's installment, after being convinced it was merely a ploy to trick Faust, but his actions suggest he is either truly bad, or he's going to sacrifice himself. Could we be closing in on the end of this series?

In his introduction to the Prog, Tharg lets us know that Simon Davis to work with Pat Mills on the next proper Slaine story after this retrospective, "A Simple Killing", due early 2014. Judging by his version of the cover this Prog, he looks to be a worthy artist to work on the Celtic Barbarian.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1844 will be available in stores on Wednesday 7th August - 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!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Review - The Complete Zenith

The Complete Zenith
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Steve Yeowell, M. Carmona, Jim McCarthy and Simon Coleby
Price: £100 (UK)

Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell's classic 1980's science-fiction superhero masterpiece, Zenith, has been out of print for over a decade, with the final installment, Phase IV, never actually collected as a trade paperback at all. Tied up in legal issues over ownership, it seemed like it would be one of those lost classics that would be unavailable in a collected edition. However, on 29th May, 2000AD announced plans to produce a limited run of 1000 hardcover collected editions called, The Complete Zenith, which would collect all four Phases of the main series, plus subsequent bonuses such as: Cover Art, Spin-Off appearances and concept sketches by Steve Yeowell. This special edition was strictly available through 2000AD's online store and priced at £100. Needless to say, there was a strong interest in this rare collected edition amongst fans who never thought they would see it collected again.

The Zenith saga is split out into four books, or 'Phases' which are supported by a handful of prologues and interludes. The first Phase, Tygers, introduces readers to the concept of this alternative 80's Earth to our own, where World War II was ended when American dropped a nuclear bomb on Berlin on two warring superheroes (Maximan & Masterman) - Post-war, a team of superheroes, Cloud 9, attempted a political statement but gradually faded into obscurity after they lost their powers, with the only legacy being Zenith, the only child born from two super-humans. However, rather than use his abilities in any altruistic fashion, he is more concerned with fame and his music career, whilst a decades-long conspiracy involving Lovecraftian creatures from an alternate dimension threatens to bring him into danger.

This first Phase does a fantastic job of setting up Zenith's world and the character of Zenith, himself, is a really good proxy for the audience since he is so self-obsessed, he is discovering the history and legacy of the superheroes alongside the reader, often speaking in our places. There is a Watchmen feel about this book, with the nostalgic look at retired superheroes and the 80's vibe, and the downbeat attitude towards superheroes. As someone who is only aware of Steve Yeowell's more minimalistic work on The Red Seas, it is strange to see his more detailed artwork here and I must admit I absolutely love it.


The second Phase, The Hollow Land, delves deeper into the history of Zenith's parents and the characters of Cloud 9, including their "father", Dr. Michael Peyne, who created them in the years after Maximan's death in Berlin. This Phase also introduces the concept of alternate Earth's to the strip, which would gain much more prominence in later Phases, as well as the understated appearance of Chimera, who plays a key role in the final Phase. With this Phase, Morrison fleshes out the concepts he introduced in the first, but the threat of the Lloigor takes a backseat compared to the cross examination of the Cloud 9 survivors and those who created them. It's a tricky storyline to review as its main purpose is to set up events for the upcoming third and fourth phases, as well as give us a deeper look into the back-stories of Zenith and the other superheroes of his world.

Phase III, War in Heaven, feels like a big budget epic and was described by Morrison himself as, "one of the greatest superhero crossover events ever" - it certainly feels akin to the Marvel and DC events of the past, such as Secret Wars or Crisis on Infinite Earths, with various superheroes from alternate Earths convened in one place with a mission to sacrifice two universes to prevent the Lloigor from gaining control. There is a nice 'Chekov's Gun' in place with Zenith's very own alternate version, Vertex, who is a more conscientious gentlemen and willing to help, which nicely sets up a sub-plot for later on. Running for over 25 episodes, this is the darkest Phase to date with a grim tone throughout, despite Zenith's best attempts to lighten the mood. There is a feeling of true hopelessness to the last ditch effort to prevent the Lloigor from taking over the multi-verse, and numerous sacrifices are made amongst the heroes.

Unlike its predecessors, Phase IV, is drawn in colour, due to its appearance in 2000AD when it had upgraded to a full colour magazine, rather than predominately black and white strips. It feels a bit disjointed having colours associated with characters you'd previously only seen in black and white, but it's a minor quibble. The final Phase ties up some of the loose ends, in surprisingly ways, with a glimpse into the creation of the Lliogor, themselves, as well as a cheeky twist or two. I really liked the Armageddon vibe to this storyline and while the resolution of the plot may have annoyed some, I thought it was a clever ending and worked well. As well as the final Phase, this complete edition collects the interlude pieces between some of the Phases and a Zenith's appearance in 2000AD since, such as a short story in Prog 2001, showing the character in a different phase in his life, and an out of canon appearance celebrating 2000AD's 25th anniversary at the Ministry of Sound.


Overall, I really enjoyed the Zenith saga, and can definitely see why long-time fans of 2000AD hold the strip close to their hearts. I think that the legal difficulties which stopped reprints from being available for so long has helped the strip obtain a mythic status amongst fans, but I am glad to say that there is a strong story behind this legendary status. It fully deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns as evidence of comics rising from simple superheroics for children to legitimate entertainment for adults. This isn't just a satire on superheroes, but a intellectual and well developed storyline that utilised science fiction and the concepts of alternate universes to their strengths - something Grant Morrison would continue to explore in his work for DC Comics.

Unfortunately, the limited edition hardback copies have sold out (within 48 hours!) from 2000AD's online store, where they were exclusively available. Due to the unprecedented interest and sales, I would imagine that further editions (possibly in a more affordable softcover format) will be released at some point. However, if you were one of the lucky thousand to pre-order a copy of this once-in-a-lifetime edition, you will be truly honoured to own such a beautiful and lovingly created version of this story, complete in all its glory, when they are released on December 1st.

Score - 8.8 out of 10

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