Wednesday, 30 October 2013

2000AD Prog 1856

Prog 1856 Cover by Carl Critchlow

I love the colour and design of the feathered dinosaur that's attacking the rodeo cowboy, but the background just looks a bit too bland and featureless, giving it a slightly flat feel, almost like the two characters are posing in front of a painted backdrop. It wasn't until later on during my read-through of Flesh that I noticed that this cover art is a direct homage to a panel from the story, which is something that is seldom done with cover artwork, so I appreciate that.

Script - T.C Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

My initial suspicion, from last week, was that the kindly Dr Danes was secretly the creature that has attacking citizens in Sector 17 in a Jekyll and Hyde style relationship, but the conclusion to this week's episode reveals that the two of them are separate entities, although it doesn't mean that Danes is innocent, as he stops Dredd from attacking the creature, suggesting that he is either under its thrall, or there's a symbiotic relationship.

I really liked the spiky design to the creature, which looks reminiscent of the Raptaur monsters that have appeared in Mega City One before, but I think this is supposed to be an all-new species for this storyline. Hopefully, we will get to find out more about Dr Danes' relationship with the creature, since it appears to be more complicated than a simple transformation by night. 

Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

After the chase sequence from last Prog, this episode turns the action towards a 'zombie' swarm as the enemy (such a bland name!) infects the survivors of the crew, along with the natives, prompting Tura and Joe Nowhere to hold a last-stand defence against the deadly swarms, before they are saved by a timely air-strike by their re-enforcements, although I do wonder how an air-strike could be so precise as to target the zombies, leaving the friendlies harm-free, despite the close proximities, but never mind!

The story ends with an epilogue as once again Joe Nowhere makes a threat towards someone who has figured out his secret, reassuring himself that it's all for the greater good, although judging by the complete cluster-fuck of this mission, perhaps he isn't quite as infallible as he initially thought. As for future episodes, I'm not too sure where the story is heading - possibly the next installment will touch base with Brett Grayle in his comatose state.

Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Opening up with some political satire as the political candidates audition for the chance to run for office, with single panel spoofs of famous figures such as Bill Clinton, Adolf Hitler and Sarah Palin, as well as several others I probably didn't get. Meanwhile, during the Rodeo, the plot threads begin to piece themselves together as a despondent McGurk decides to enter challenge Dancin' Jim, the Balaur from the front cover, and outside the arena, Vegas Carver and her team bring Gorehead into the fray.

After a slightly stop n' start approach to the storyline as it has flipped between different perspectives, it appears that all the plot lines are beginning to converge and we might see some consequences, which I'm looking forward to. It feels like the episode before a season finale of LOST where all the pieces are being set up before the shit hits the fan - I just hope there is a big enough pay-off to all of this set-up!

Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Whilst this episode is predominately exposition, it still manages to captivate through the character interactions, especially between Ramkin, Wren and Septimus. The character of Cantor manages to advance the story past the dead-end left at the end of the last issue, whilst also providing the emotional core for this installment as he meets a tragic, selfless end, giving up his life to pass on vital information to Wren.

As always, the art by INJ Culbard delights and the use of the neon green to showcase the flashbacks and data transfer gives the story a unique look to its earlier episodes and captures the otherworldly mood to the sequence. The choice of colour also adds emphasis to the final scene where Cantor's eyes lose their glow as he slowly dies in Septimus' arms, working well with Ian Edginton's script to craft a truly emotional death for a minor character. 

Script - Robert Murphy
Art - Jesus Redondo
Colours - Eva De La Cruz
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This was an interesting premise of using time travel to investigate crimes of the past, avoiding the issues of paradox by introducing them as 'blisters' into the past, which recreate a single day allowing investigators to solve crimes, but not prevent them. Hopefully, there will be a bit more detail on the rules behind this method of time travel, but this little taste was enough to set up the storyline and the great dialogue, by Robert Murphy, introduced the characters pretty quickly.

I love the art by Jesus Redondo, ably assisted by the colours provided by Eva De La Cruz, whose different palette choices from the initial page subtly changes to more futuristic tones as the concept of time travel is introduced, before changing once more to a washed out approach, in order to reflect the journey to the past. Overall, this is shaping up to be a nice little three-parter, although I'm already suspecting a "by travelling back, we caused the murder" twist at the end.


The introduction of Rewind, this week, added a much needed boost to the line-up, giving readers a mix of new stories to contrast the ones that are heading towards their end. I'm not sure how many issues we have left until the end of year annual, Prog 2014, but we're heading close to the ends of our stories and each adventure has captured my interest and has me eagerly awaiting the next development!

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1856 will be available in stores on Wednesday 30th October - 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!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x05 - 'Girl in the Flower Dress'

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x05 - "Girl in the Flower Dress"


When a mysterious organisation kidnaps a Chinese street magician who can summon fire from his finger tips, the agents of SHIELD have to locate the Rising Tide hacker who leaked their private information, placing Skye's double-agent status under the spotlight.


This episode managed to balance multiple plot threads such as,the reappearance of Centipede and their genetic tinkering, as well as the discovery of Skye’s double-agent status and continued relationship with the Rising Tide. With two recurring storyline developing at once, there didn’t seem to be any noticeable lulls in the action, with every scene moving the story along at an enjoyable pace.

The pre-credits sequence was really effective at introducing both Chan Ho Yin (a Chinese version of the Human Torch) and the mysterious Raina, the titular girl in the flower dress, as they indulged in the familiar story of: boy meets girl, girl goes back to boy’s apartment, boy shows pyro-kinetic powers to girl, girl kidnaps boy with the aid of two asbestos-covered bodyguards. That old classic!

I’m glad that we got a concrete name (or nickname) for this mysterious group with “Centipede” as it was beginning to get a bit tricky to determine which various shadowy organisations were involved with which experiments, assuming that Centipede isn’t the same group that developed Akela Amador’s bionic eye in Eye Spy, and isn’t part of Ian Quinn’s group that intended to develop Gravitonium in The Asset. I have suspicions that these seemingly disparate groups will all be parts of one larger organisation – i.e. the many heads of HYDRA.

I really enjoyed Chan Ho Yin as a character, proving to be more complex than his predecessor in Michael Petersen, to the point where I didn’t even realise that his increasingly homicidal tendencies where due to his exposure to Centipede’s genetic cocktail of Extremis and Super Soldier serum. Interestingly, Centipede managed to get away with the crucial platelets from Chan’s blood enabling them to develop their serum, meaning that this plot thread is developing them into a serious threat against SHIELD.

As for the second major plot development in this episode, I was genuinely surprised that Skye's double-agent status was revealed to the team so quickly, especially with a Whedon-esque twist in the tale, after Skye and Miles engage in a large conversation about her returning to the team and keeping the deception on, to suddenly open the door and be faced with Agent May, holding her clothing. That particular sub-plot had the potential to continue over the course of several more episodes, but the writers instead subvert our expectations and deliver a shock reveal instead. While I enjoy that shock tactic, I do hope that they continue to take a slow-paced and "traditional" approach to the unveiling of the mystery behind the mystery behind Coulson's resurrection.

I liked how the team reacted to Skye’s betrayal, especially the differences between the more guarded reactions of Coulson, Ward and May against the naivety from Fitz-Simmons. I look forward to seeing the repercussions of this revelation, as Skye attempts to rebuild the bridges she burned in this episode, particularly with Ward and Fitz-Simmons, who had accepted her into the team wholeheartedly after their first adventure together.

In many ways, this episode felt like a distorted mirror image to the pilot drawing on many of the same themes, such as Centipede’s manipulative experiments and Skye’s double-agent status within SHIELD, but presenting a bleaker resolution to them. Whereas Centipede’s first guinea pig, Michael Petersen, managed to get a last minute reprieve from the deadly Extremis virus in his veins, Chan Ho Yin wasn’t so lucky.

The teaser at the end added a much needed injection of mystery, outside of SHIELD, such as the ultimate aim of Centipede, the cryptic messages relating to 'The Clairvoyant’ and the group's awareness of Coulson and his team, suggesting a more direct confrontation in the future. While Raina might not be the most imposing of characters to build as a recurring threat, I’m glad that the show is beginning to develop outside of the core team and build a rogue’s gallery rather than alien technology/powers.

This was easily the strongest episode yet, which is something I find myself saying as each episode premieres and proves to be better than the last. By drawing upon mysteries and plot threads it had seeded earlier on, it provided a much needed sense of cohesion to the adventures, removing the standalone feel to the series as it manages to build and evolve a more in-depth season arc.

Score - 9.1 out of 10

Easter Eggs/References
  • “Have you heard of Steve Rogers? But Captain America, he's on the news, on a lunch box, or a poster on the wall” (Captain America)
  • SIM card in Skye's bra to contact Miles - this was the one she snatched from her van (Pilot)
  • “It appears Centipede is behind Chan's kidnapping. First LA, now Hong Kong” (Pilot)
  • "The platelets in his blood keep the Extremis in his blood from combusting" (Iron Man 3)
  • Skye is searching for her biological parents who left her in an orphanage (The Asset)


  • Who is responsible for Centipede? And what is their aim?
  • Once again it is alluded that Coulson's personality has changed since his 'resurrection'
  • Who are Skye's parents and why are SHIELD involved in their disappearance?
  • Who is the man who Raina visits in prison?
  • Who is "The Clairvoyant"?

Next Episode - "FZZT"
When floating bodies turn up, Coulson and the agents of SHIELD must hunt down an elusive killer, and no one is safe – not even the team.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Interview - Pat Mills [Creator / 2000AD]

Pat Mills is the creator of 2000AD, who was not only responsible for creating the comic in the first place, but has been writing for it ever since its inception, often with one, if not two or three strips running concurrently in the magazine at any point. One of those series that he has been writing is the legendary, Sláine, which he co-created with Angela Kincaid in 1983.

I would argue that Sláine is up there with Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper when it comes to the most recognisable icons from the 2000AD stable of characters, and clearly the character is an enduring one, having appeared regularly in the weekly anthology since his creation, even being one of the rare strips to be awarded the honour of having an entire issue dedicated to it (Prog 1100). 

This month sees the release of the beautiful hard-cover collection of Sláine: The Book of Scars, which revisits the character’s 30 year history through a somewhat nostalgic trip (albeit, a painful one for the character) using key artists from each era to revisit old stories, so I was VERY lucky to be given the opportunity to speak with Pat about the character of Sláine and the 30 years they've spent in each other’s heads.

PCB Blog: Hello Pat, let’s begin by jumping back in time to the origins of Sláine, before his first appearance in Prog 330. At the time, 2000AD featured primarily science-fiction content – Were there any fears at the time about introducing a character, whose world of Celtic mythology and fantastical creatures/demons seemed at odds with the more modern, scientific nature of the other strips in the magazine?

Pat: No fears at all. Later there was some covert opposition from various fan sources outside 2000AD but they didn't represent the readers, only a small but influential faction who wanted to lead it down a direction that worked best for them rather than the comic as a whole.

They certainly held the view you’re describing.

PCB Blog: Did Sláine’s position within the fantasy genre (without any sci-fi slant) lead to any second thoughts about publishing it in 2000AD, and if so, were there any other options for it to appear elsewhere?

Pat: The question never arose. I knew the story would be successful and it was. Thus Angela’s episode one was Number One in the popularity polls. The first time ever that a rival serial had beaten Judge Dredd since around Prog 12

PCB Blog: When it came to plotting out the series, did you have a rough idea for a long-running storyline, obviously not 30 years’ worth, but how far in advance did you plot? 

Pat: A very long way. I wanted material for him to evolve and there are still concepts I had at the beginning which I haven’t yet drawn on

PCB Blog: Was it on a story-by-story basis, or did you have certain plot points you wanted to gradually reach?

Pat: I knew that … One day he would no longer be a wandering bum and would return home.

I also knew that I had to work out the Dark Gods responsible for bringing terror to his world.

PCB Blog: Looking back to how you wrote the series in the early days against how you approach it now, do you think much has changed?

Pat: In primary terms – no real changes. Pacing, character etc has probably gotten more sophisticated.

PCB Blog: One of the interesting things about Sláine is the richness of the universe, especially its ties with Celtic mythology and how it can be enjoyed on two levels – the purely surface level of watching a beefcake warrior with an axe, grinding the skulls of his enemies into mush, or following the adventures on a deeper basis with its strong ties to Celtic legend and its delicate blend of fact and fiction. As a writer, do you prefer to set your stories within the confines of the real world or legends and subvert it from within, or to have free reign to completely imagine your own rules and universe?

Pat: I think the real world and real legends are often more interesting than pure fantasy. I see what I'm doing as bringing them to life for a modern audience

PCB Blog: With Sláine: The Book of Scars, you had the chance to revisit some classic stories alongside the original artists involved, which must have been a unique experience to add to those adventures and retell elements of them. Were there any particular ‘eras’ of Sláine’s history that you were excited to revisit?

Pat: The Wickerman is a huge favourite of mine. I might even refer to it again in flashback in the forthcoming story. And Slough Feg fascinates me.

PCB Blog: Did you notice any changes in how you approached your scripts to suit the various artists involved in this epic journey through 30 years of Sláine?

Pat: Yes – the stories must adapt to different artists. So with Simon Bisley, there’s comedy as well as epic imagery; with Glenn Fabry there’s presenting Sláine as a rock star; with Clint – opening up the story to cinematic possibilities; with Belardinelli – the beauty of nature and the horror of the warp spasm, which he drew first. The scripts adapt to their strengths.

PCB Blog: Of the various creature designs by the multitude of artists who have worked on Sláine – do you have a favourite? I'm quite fond of Clint Langley’s Moloch, and its brutal eye piercing!

Moloch by Clint Langley

Pat: The monstrous dragon in Belardinelli's Dragonheist. And Moloch!

PCB Blog: Although Sláine himself might not ‘think it too many’, have there been times when editors have ‘thought it too much’ and asked you to tone down some of the more gory and risqué elements of the strip? 

Pat: In the Dave Bishop era, there were times when I don’t think they got some of the weirder Celtic ideas which are what distinguishes Sláine from other barbarians. So I had to modify them somewhat. And early on, there was some resistance to axe blows by comparison with gun wounds in other stories.

PCB Blog: As a reader looking in, the weekly Prog seems a much different place to how it was a decade ago, with the infamous ‘sex issue’ which came poly-bagged to protect children from the robotic sex-dolls in Judge Dredd, being the moment for me, as a reader, where 2000AD embraced its mature side and begun to slip in the occasional nipple or low-level swear-word without having to resort to emblazoning a ‘Mature Readers only’ warning on the cover. Have you noticed any differences in the way the stories, not just Sláine, have changed as the comic’s target audience has grown older?

Pat: Yes, there are subjects which I couldn't have hinted at in the beginning but which could be inferred or shown in a restrained way now. (e.g - The death of Niamh at the hands of Moloch)

That said, we shouldn't – in my view - become so adult that younger readers are alienated or not allowed to read it.

PCB Blog: There has been a resurgence of Fantasy-based TV serials recently, with Game of Thrones and Spartacus being notable examples. What are your thoughts on adapting Sláine as a similar TV serial drama, providing that it was given the freedom, as with Game of Thrones, to be completely uncensored with sex and violence? 

Pat: There’s been a little interest over the years. Of course it would be great if it happened.

PCB Blog: Have there ever been any attempts to make adaptations (Film, TV or Video-games) in the past, and is it something you would be open to, if it were to happen?

Pat: Sure. I know Duncan Jones likes Sláine. And there’s that brilliant Spanish trailer for The Horned God on YouTube.

PCB Blog: What do you think has made Sláine popular with the readers of 2000AD for these 30 years?

Pat: He’s based on a strong story dynamic that is relatively unusual: the dwarf who creates comical and dangerous scenarios for Sláine. And he is based on Ireland’s great hero Cuchulain. Plus I'm passionate about the character and the idea that Britain and Ireland are a great basis for fantasy. As opposed to the Greek or Egyptian legends. The Celts also are natural rebels, proto punks, which strikes a chord with me and the readers.

PCB Blog: And what about the character appeals to you to generate three decades worth of stories?

Pat: All the above. And exploring human nature. Fantasy is a good way to do this.

PCB Blog: Have you ever seen any cosplay of Sláine, or any of your characters before?

Pat: I saw a Marshal Law a while back. He was impressive! I’m looking forward to my Sláine beanie hat, but that’s as far as I would go! A few years ago I took some sword fighting lessons to get into the character further. I had all the gear: chain mail gloves, sword, helmet and shield etc. It was a lot of fun.

PCB Blog: One of the aspects of the stories that I enjoy the most is the relationship and banter between Ukko and Sláine – how do you see the relationship between the two of them? 

Pat: It was originally based on Minder and Steptoe and Son, although it has a life of its own now.

PCB Blog: Over the thirty years, there have been some critically-acclaimed stories, such as The Horned God and The Books of Invasion, but there have also been some amazing shorter stories that may have gone unnoticed between the bigger, more epic adventures – which would you say is your favourite story that you've written for Sláine, and why?

Pat: Probably episode one because it sums up the character in one story and introduces everything that counts. So we have Sláine cheating in a fight against a Rex by throwing a frog down its throat. The frog expands, choking the monster. Ukko’s idea, of course. This is very different to the way Conan and co would do things and that’s why I like it.

PCB Blog: Reading through the collected edition of Sláine: The Book of Scars, I was amazed at the comprehensive level of detail that went with the supplementary material, with hundreds of pages covering the various cover artwork that accompanied the series throughout its thirty years. Is there a particular piece of Sláine cover artwork that is your favourite?

Mine would have to be Prog 1095, by Duncan Fegredo, where Sláine is getting to grips with his religious side, quite literally, by romancing a nun. It’s such a beautiful and daring piece that just stands out amazingly. Equally, I also love Clint Langley’s wrap-around covers from The Book of Invasions.

Prog 1095 Cover by Duncan Fegredo

Pat: That’s a tough one. I think Clint’s covers have been particularly memorable; giving the character a cinematic quality. At the time of writing I haven’t got my copy of Book of Scars to check back, so there may be another. I look forward to checking out the Duncan Fegredo cover you mentioned. It’s been so long since I've seen it!

PCB Blog: Do you have a final story in mind for Sláine? How do you envision his end - a peaceful death surrounded by what loved ones he has left, or at the end of a blade in the heat of battle?

Pat: I think he’d have to die in battle. But even if I wanted to kill him, I don’t think 2000AD or the readers would let me. And quite right, too. He’s passed that point. Think of how Strontium Dog had to come back.

That said, I wouldn't be keen on anyone else writing him if I retired from the character. I doubt it would happen - these days there’s much more respect. Thus no one would write Halo Jones after Alan.

But – just in case – I always make my characters very difficult to continue with another writer by constantly shifting the story goal posts so there’s no obvious formula or setting for another writer to easily grip onto. This is very deliberate on my part. It’s not likely, but there’s the odd hungry hack out there who might be tempted. The damage these guys can do to stories is considerable. Thus the sequel to Charley’s War in World War Two killed the character stone dead in a matter of months.

But I think reader feedback would stop that happening on Sláine.

PCB Blog: In the short-term, what does the future hold for Sláine.  We know that there is a change in artist in the near future, with Simon Davis taking over from Clint Langley as the regular artist for the strip, but is there anything else you would like to tease?

Pat: Ah! Simon’s work is amazing. Every artist is brilliant in their own way and says something new. Simon is no exception! There’s a picture where Sláine is having a drink and looking thoughtfully at his victim and wondering whether to stab him with a sword or behead him. The victim meanwhile is rambling on to Sláine  unaware of his impending fate. The expression on Sláine s face is a joy! This is kind of new territory to me and is rendered by Simon in a way that an actor would have trouble competing with.

Sláine also enters a whole new fantasy world in Britain. It’s been covered a little in the past but now it’s fully explored. It’s based on the authentic British legends of New Troy which have been overlooked and have great potential.

PCB Blog: And finally, as a general question, do you have any other upcoming work that you would like to tease our readers with?

Pat: Lots on World War One. There’s a graphic novel of WW1 poetry and I’m dramatizing one of the poems with David Hitchcock. We also have our own project about brothers who fought in WW1, with the theme “The World is my Country”. Very necessary with these revisionist authors around at the moment whitewashing the butchers of WW1. I’m interviewing Joe Sacho this Saturday, so I'm about to look at his graphic novel on the Somme. The pages I’ve seen are superb.

PCB Blog: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Pat, I really do appreciate it and look forward to seeing more from Sláine and your other stories, in 2014!

Pat: Cheers, Jamie, I enjoyed answering them.

Pat Mills has his own blog where he frequently posts updates and he can be found on Twitter as @patmillscomics. Please visit him and let him know how much you enjoyed his interview here!

Sláine: The Book of Scars is on sale from 7th November, available through the 2000AD webshop and

To celebrate the book's launch Pat Mills, along with artist Clint Langley, will be signing copies at Forbidden Planet in London on 6th November

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

2000AD Prog 1855

Prog 1855 Cover by Mark Harrison

As with Mark Harrison's work on the interior pages for Damnation Station, this cover suffers slightly from a blurry background and excessive light 'glare', although the main characters in the foreground are well realised and clear to identify. While I can forgive the murkiness of the backgrounds when it's a neon cityscape or a starry sky, the problem with this cover is that the enemy ship is just a mass of glowing green light, so it's hard to determine just what is raining down fire upon the team.

Script - T.C Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Still reeling from the aftermath of Chaos Day, Chief Judge Hershey permits the emergency aid group, Without Frontiers, to help the more desolate areas of Mega City One. However, Dredd soon clashes with the leader, Dr. Danes, over the fate of a looter on their grounds. Without jurisdiction in the medical camps, Dredd is rebuked by Danes and sent on his way. However, the lucky looter doesn't get the last laugh as him and a friend are viciously murdered nearby. Could the killer be one of the aids workers?

It's very unusual for someone to tell Dredd off and live to tell the tale, so I don't hold out much hope for Dr. Danes getting out of this storyline without a bullet or a spell in the cubes. In fact, considering that the panel directly after the two perps are surprised by an off-panel menace is Dr. Danes walking across the desert alone, it seems likely that beneath his saintly exterior lies a killer, unless it's misdirection and the real killer is one of the other two aids workers?

The art by Karl Richardson is really strong, especially his depiction of Dredd, and it reminds of other artists at times, such as the elderly man who is treated by the two medics on the final page, who seems to resemble Simon Fraser's Tsar Vladimir from Nikolai Dante. Overall, this is a strong start to an intriguing murder mystery in the Big Meg.

Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

Joe Nowhere and the team are outnumbered and out-gunned as the enemy chases them down, with poor Reith getting a blast of superheated plasma to his face, resulting in a gory panel where the man's face is melted off and his eyeballs boil in their sockets...Yuck! Even when the team think they're safe from the attacks, a sneak attack from the darkness introduces a deadly contagion into the team...

The action is fast-paced and unrelenting with the strong sense that not everyone is going to make it out of this adventure alive, as one team-member suffers from deadly plasma burns to the face, and another one infected with an unknown contagion towards the end. I really liked the gory panels, showing Reith's injury, which managed to convey the terrible nature of his affliction as his face burned to mush, adding to the high stakes nature of this adventure. With the enemy hiding in the shadows as the team make camp, it seems like there will be no respite from the attack next week.

Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode opens up with a fantastic double-page spread from James McKay showcasing the dinosaur rodeo in all its glory. Even though the rodeo had been mentioned several times beforehand, I had no concept in my head of how it would look and this was impressive, as was the sequence where an unlucky cowboy found himself gored by the horn of a Triceratops.

McGurk is victim to a bit of backstabbing at the hands of Pastor Sunday, leading to him losing his post as Trail boss, letting Earl Reagan take charge instead, with the sinister Sunday as deputy. We finally get to see Claw Carver and Earl Reagan briefly interact with each other, both still harbouring a grudge from the events of the first Flesh series. I'm looking forward to the inevitable chaos when Vegas and her team arrive at the Rodeo with Gorehead in tow, and seeing where the pieces fall into place afterwards.

Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

The trio are faced with the impossible task of locating a book within an exhaustive library containing millions, however, they are given assistance by Mr Whisper, librarian second class, and a strange stumpy creature, known as a bookworm. Despite their eventual success, the team hit another roadblock in their search as the book appears to be empty - could it all be for naught?

I really enjoyed the design of Mr Whisper, with an unnaturally tall stature and three pairs of glasses hanging from his neck. His army of 'bookworms' within the stacks are equally well-designed and even though we get a brief glimpse into the inner workings of this library, there is a sense of an entire world existing within its walls. The fully-realised nature of these characters introduced in this episode feels reminiscent to the films, Labyrinth and The Neverending Story, as we take a brief detour from the main plot into the lives of some bit-players.

Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Ellie de Ville

Well, I wasn't expecting this series to end so quickly, after only five parts. While it will be returning with a new story-arc, 'Carnifex', next year, it seemed like it had barely any presence within the Prog before ending this week. The battle between Aquila and the Veiled Virgin is told largely in flashback from the emperor's dungeons, where Fortunato and Aquila are now captive, as Nero explains his grand plan - he intends to collect seven heads (one of which being the Veiled Virgin, which Aquila has already provided) which will make him a God.

While I was surprised at the sudden conclusion to the storyline, it has certainly reinvigorated my interest and the plot development of Aquila having to find and kill six more creatures gives the series a sense of purpose that felt missing before now. I also like the fact that Nero has a prophecy, ‘One who died and was reborn upon a cross will bring to Rome the reign of its greatest ever God', which could be interpreted in many ways, likely resulting into something different to what Nero expects.


With the shock departure of Aquila this week, we will see the return of Tharg's 3rillers, giving a fresh addition to the line-up. Also teased for the future is a new Anderson: Psi Division storyline in the Judge Dredd Megazine, which is the sequel to the Cadet Anderson storyline that ran in 2000AD, earlier this year.

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1855 will be available in stores on Wednesday 23rd October - 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!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x04 - "Eye Spy"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x04 - "Eye Spy"


A series of unlikely diamond heists brings Coulson and his team to Sweden, where they discover that the perpetrator is a former SHIELD agent - one of Coulson's former proteges, who went missing years ago. The team need to work together to figure out how she is able to pull of these impossible feats and just what is her motive?


This episode opened with another impressive pre-credits sequence, this time focusing less on the action, but setting up a genuine creepy atmosphere as dozens of men in identical red masks walk through Stockholm, Sweden. My initial guess was that these were some kind of cult or terrorist organisation, but it turned out that these were merely red herrings. It's a shame that these iconic-looking characters were revealed to be largely irrelevant to the plot - only existing to demonstrate the otherworldly powers of the jewel thief as she stole the correct suitcase, containing priceless diamonds, from one of the fifty-five identical guards.

Continuing to use a fast pace to rattle through the detective element of the story, the pieces were nicely lined up at the end of the first act, and the team were hunting a former SHIELD agent called Akela Amador (Pascale Armand) who was once one of Coulson's young protégés. While the others were quick to dismiss her as a traitor, he held out hope that there was more to her situation than met the eye. (pun intended!)

Layers of the mystery behind Amador's powers and motives were carefully peeled back during the second and third act, with genuine surprises to be had. I particularly liked the reveal that Amador's robotic eye could be tracked and viewed like a TV signal when the three 'inaction' agents (Skye, Fitz and Simmons) realised that they were being watched by her. This was neat way to let the audience know at the same time as the characters and kept the mystery unravelling at a nice pace.

I loved the sequence where Agent Ward had to infiltrate the base to fulfil Amador's mission on her behalf, whilst she underwent amateur eye surgery by Fitz-Simmons. I actually laughed out loud when the message on his specs prompted him to 'seduce' the guard, who blocked his entrance, leading to an awkward exchange as he attempted to 'bromance' the gruff Russian, before deciding to just let his fists do the woo-ing.

Despite the improvements in this episode, there were a few nitpicks – for example, the sequence where Agent May and Amador fight each other “to the death” only to be interrupted by Coulson, who is able to engineer a switch with Agent Ward using a false version of the robotic eye. Such a deception would have to be tightly choreographed to make sure that no suspicion would aroused, and I think some of the sequences with Skye and Ward in the car would also have aroused suspicion, but hey, it was a fun premise so I went with it!

With all the twists and turns in the story, it felt like the team were all busy working together like well-oiled cogs of a machine, well, everyone apart from Agent May, who spent most of the second half after her fight with Amador, sulking around 'The Bus' with her hands behind her back – her standard pose since the pilot episode. Apart from the occasional action scene, she is currently the weakest character of the bunch, closely followed by the bizarrely chirpy, Simmons. I was very impressed with the guest appearance of Akela Amador, and would love to see her return to join the team full-time, preferably to replace Agent May as the female muscle!

Overall, this was the strongest episode of the series to date and shows great potential for the series to produce compelling and thrilling episodes, without relying heavily on its Avengers or Marvel Comics roots. In fact, bar a few scant references to Coulson's “death” during the Battle of New York – there were no real identifiers that it was a Marvel Universe story at all, which worked well in its favour. I also liked that the story didn't have a definitive end and the mysterious threat is still out there, in possession of a secret that SHIELD doesn't quite understand themselves.

Score - 9.0 out of 10

Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A


  • Who was the organisation behind Amador's capture and robotic eye?
  • What did the mysterious symbols written on the wall mean? Alien language?
  • What has changed about Coulson? Has there been a shift in behaviour since Amador knew him years ago?

Next Episode - "Girl in the Flower Dress"
An elusive girl in a flower dress may hold the key to the mystery that brings Coulson and team to Asia to rescue a young man with an unusual and dangerous power; and Skye has a secret that jeopardizes her relationship with the team right when they need her most.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

2000AD Prog 1854

Prog 1854 Cover by Cliff Robinson & Dylan Teague

Wow...this has to be one of the most visually interesting covers to appear, since the retro-styled Gunheadz cover of Prog 1830 - I love the attention to detail with the various 2000AD memorabilia and logos acting as 'Easter eggs' for the long-term fan - the space spinner is my favourite! This would have been a fantastic cover for the Prog 1850 jumping-on point, especially with the nice shout-out to the 2000AD website on the punk's right arm!

Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Paul Davidson
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

This concluding installment had an awesome 'double' twist with the reveal of the 'Goblin King' and the bait-and-switch with the slave uprising. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a real resolution to the situation with Joyce and Pax, but I have every faith that this plot point will be picked up again with Michael Carroll's next story-arc. Overall, this was a fun multi-part storyline that brought together lots of elements (Foreign Judges, Undercity, Chaos Day, Sov Missiles) to craft a fun adventure, which felt part of something bigger.

aka The 'Blob-lin' King

While the plot was similar to the 'Scavengers' storyline from earlier this year, which involved Dredd and a small team of Judges going to the sunken remains of Luna-2 to prevent the threat of nuclear missiles from attacking Mega City One, enough time had passed, and it felt different enough, that I had only really noticed the similarities once the story had ended and looking at it as a whole.

The artwork by Paul Davidson was really strong throughout all five episodes, evoking memories of the work of PJ Holden and Ben Willsher at times and conveying the action of the Undercity checkpoint battles really effectively. I look forward to seeing even more Dredd work from him, possibly continuing this ongoing sub-plot with Judge's Pax and Joyce.

Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

As arranged by Joe Nowhere last episode when he spoke to the Hosts, the team run into 'The Enemy' and are massively out-gunned by them, resulting in a crash landing onto a strange jungle planet. However, there isn't time to relax as The Enemy continues their assault on them, chasing them down onto the planet's surface.

It's good to see some actual space-action take place in this series and to see things develop, although I have no clue whether things are going to Joe Nowhere's plan or not, as being stranded on a deadly jungle planet whilst being chased by a deadlier and more advanced species, does seem to be a negative, but it will be interesting to see whether or not he has a trick up his sleeve.

Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

We take another detour in the storyline as we touch base once again with McG and his group as they head towards confrontation with Vega's group of mutants, however, the majority of this episode is taken up by a flashback (which is technically flash-forward, considering the time periods) of the events that led up to McG being sentenced to the Cret.

While it was yet another instance of the story being dragged out at a snails pace, McG's story was an interesting diversion, introducing some curious themes which may yet come back into play in the current narrative. I liked the pun on the term, 'speedophiles' and the whole vibe of the plot, which was surprisingly adult and dark for a dinosaur-hunting storyline. After weeks of wanting the action to pick up in the Cret period, I must admit that I wouldn't be too disappointed to see more sequences from the 23rd century.

Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

While nothing really happens in this installment, we do discover Ramkin had the diary all along, going as far as to substitute the original for a decoy, ensuring that the trio remain ahead of the enemy. It's a testament to the storytelling skills that I am enjoying the relaxed pace to this adventure, compared to its companion strip in the Prog, Flesh, which frustrates me with its slower approach.

INJ Culbard's artwork continues to impress, utilising the space and arrangement of the panels to evoke a wonderful feeling of scale to the locations, especially the final page reveal of the Library. I have no clue where the story is heading, but I am eagerly awaiting to find out. Oh, and bonus points go to Ian Edginton for the cuss-word, 'Turd-Tick'.

Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Ellie de Ville

Continuing the focus on Gods and deities, it appears that Aquila and the Veiled Virgin are the 'pets' of two opposing Gods, which brings them into conflict at the close of this week's installment, promising an action-packing episode next week.

I think I'm gradually losing interest in this storyline, struggling to work out the motivations and the alliances between the relevant key players - obviously we're meant to be on the side of Aquila, but I have no real idea of the grand scheme of things, such as, where Nero comes into play, or just what the Hawk and giant sewer Wolf want. Perhaps things will become clear in time, but I have a feeling that this thrill is like Slaine and I'll only ever enjoy it on a truly surface level.


I'm looking forward to the start of a new Dredd storyline to refresh the line-up slightly, and I'm enjoying the rest of the strips, although Brass Sun is clearly my favourite read of the bunch. It looks like we're going to have some developments in Damnation Station and Aquila, with Flesh being a relatively blank slate - who knows what the next installment will focus on?

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1854 will be available in stores on Wednesday 16th October - 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!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x03 - "The Asset"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x03 - "The Asset"


When one of SHIELD's valuable assets, Dr. Franklin Hall, is kidnapped by his former business partner and held in his mansion in Malta, SHIELD must risk everything and send in their civilian consultant, Skye, undercover, to free the scientist without breaking international law.


After the criticisms of the last two episodes, this week was a marked improvement with an engaging pre-credits sequence that boasted some impressive visual effects as the various vehicles were caught up in the mysterious gravitational fields, reminiscent of Magneto's attack on a convoy in X-Men: The Last Stand. I wonder if any viewers were fooled into thinking that he might make an appearance, unaware of the legal complications that prevent certain Marvel properties from being used in the show.

One of the aspects of the show that I had been looking forward to since the initial announcement that it would be coming to TV is the chance for Marvel to bring some of their lesser-known heroes and villians to the small-screen, and while I was initially disappointed that the character played by J. August Richards in the pilot wasn't Luke Cage, the inclusion of Graviton in this episode seems to suggest that the writers are willing to introduce elements from the Marvel Comics rather than keeping them for the big-budget movies. If worked properly, this show could be a fantastic way to cross-promote the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially with the upcoming Thor: The Dark World movie released during the first Season – a sly nod to the events of that movie would be a fun 'cross-over' in the same vein as the comics themselves.

Even though we don't see too much of Graviton in this episode, saving him up for the post-credit teaser and future episodes, the idea of a recurring villain in both him, and presumably Ian Quinn, gives me some hope that the show will develop into a more engaging serial drama rather than a series of relatively unconnected stories. I have noticed that the best drama series in recent years have a strong narrative thread throughout its seasons making every episode unmissable, however, Agents of SHIELD still doesn't feel like essential viewing on a weekly basis, and I think a stronger season arc would remedy that. Classic Joss Whedon shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel practically wrote the book on the importance of having a 'big bad' throughout the season to give a sense of cohesion to the individual episodes within, so I hope Agents of SHIELD follows suit and introduces some ongoing opposition to its team of heroes soon.

As for the pacing of the episode itself, the first act managed to keep the momentum going from the excellent pre-credits sequence, although it did seem to slow down somewhat in the middle, until the final act with Skye undercover in Quinn’s mansion. Future stories would need to work on keeping the action moving throughout the whole episode, rather than just focusing on the beginning and end.

In terms of the plot, while some of the episode’s twists may have been slightly predictable to any long-term Avengers fans, especially those who had recognised that Franklin Hall was the alter-ego of the super-villain, Graviton, I did enjoy Skye’s shifting alliances during her undercover infiltration and was unsure of which side of the fence she would end up and whether she could be trusted. Hopefully, there will be more instances of her wavering loyalty to SHIELD as the series progresses.

The guest actors in this episode were really effective and I enjoyed David Conrad as Ian Quinn and hope he will return again to menace SHIELD, considering he made a quick escape at the episode's end, and Ian Hart was pretty good as the conflicted Franklin Hall, although whether he returns depends on how they visualise his now-empowered character. Oh, and while I'm on the subject of Graviton – the CGI on the Gravitonium wasn't that great, bringing back memories of the horrible CGI-laden movie, The Lawnmower Man, with its texture-less amorphous blobs that looked like mercury.

Overall, this was the strongest episode to date and while it still had some flaws, hopefully some of the plot seeds that were sown here will grow into more interesting consequences for later on in the season.

Score - 8.7 out of 10

Easter Eggs/References
  • In the comics, Franklin Hall is the civilian identity of the super-villain known as Graviton
    (First App: Avengers #158)
  • “Your search for an unlimited power source brought an alien invasion” (The Avengers)

  • Truth Serum - is it real or not?
  • Skye's Family - it's revealed she was previously in foster-care, but considering television tropes, it's likely that her real parents will reappear.
  • The throwaway comment about Coulson being unable to disarm the gun, despite his muscle memory, suggests that perhaps this body (and therefore, its muscles) isn't his original one.

Next Episode - "Eye-Spy"
Agent Coulson and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team try to track down a mysterious woman who has single-handedly committed numerous high-stakes heists. But when the woman’s identity is revealed, a troubling secret stands to ruin Coulson.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

2000AD Prog 1853

Prog 1853 Cover by Dave Kendall

I really like this fully painted cover by Dave Kendall, as it really captures the reptilian feel to Gorehead, as well as that prehistoric era atmosphere. It would be awesome to one day have a full-colour Flesh story using this art style, maybe a dinosaurs-only prequel?

Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Paul Davidson
Colours / Letters - Chris Blythe / Annie Parkhouse

Dredd and his team of Judges continue their journey through the Undercity to stop the Goblin King from using an ancient Sov missile to detonate vital structural components holding up Mega City, however, two heavily-guarded checkpoints stand in their way.

I really enjoyed the resourceful ways that the team overcame their problems, such as reversing into the checkpoint, or combining their heat-seeker ammo to make a deadly cannon. Despite the overwhelming odds that face them, it’s this kind of ingenuity that will give the Judges the upper hand. I have to disagree with Pax’s earlier assertion that Joyce would not pass this retest, with the bravery shown after the injury to his hand. It’s shaping up to a very interesting confrontation between the group and the Goblin King, and after Joyce’s injury, this Prog, I have to wonder if he might not make it to the end.

Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

With the start of another story-arc, the action shifts once more, rejoining Joe Nowhere aboard the new Earth Station, which has just shot down a civilian alien craft and celebrated it as another 'invader' kill, troubling Joe, who goes to speak to the Hosts, using their custom of Chu-ro and Cho-ra (obligation and counter-obligations) in order to gain an undetermined 'favour' from the Hosts.

While this was mainly an exposition-filled episode, there was some nice character moments again and brief updates on Brett and Father Razumov, from last week, giving the sense of progression between these story-arcs and filling in some of the narrative gaps from the spaces inbetween. I enjoyed seeing an interaction with the Hosts, as they are the more intriguing aspect of this strip and seeing how they react to the humans and the concept of Chu-ro and Cho-ra is fascinating. Judging by Joe's knowing response to the rest of the Recon team at the end of this installment, his 'Chu-ro' was to ensure that they would be sent on a mission to encounter the true enemy. 

Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Finally, we have some actual movement in the plot, as opposed to the exposition and talking heads of the last few episodes! Vegas Carver and her gang perform their prehistoric version of 'To Catch a Predator' as they manage to lure Gorehead into the circus transport, previously the home to Trunko, before making their way towards their deadly trap.

While it's taken some time to get there, hopefully this marks a change of pace as the story kicks into gear and the two split-focuses between both groups become merged into one storyline. Even though it’s the weakest storyline in the Prog, at the moment, it has great potential, so I do hope it improves with this plot development!

Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With a slightly disorientating start, following on from the implied capture of the trio by the Duke’s huge robotic guard last issue. After a brief interrogation, the tables are turned when the Duke’s daughter reveals herself to be the second traitor, and promptly commands the guard to crush the skull of her father. Always thinking, Wren, initiates an escape using a primitive version of a ‘flash-bang’ as the three prisoners flee in the confusion.

"Oooh, Nasty"

This strip continues to shine out from the others in the Prog, effortlessly advancing the story and including lovely character moments. Even though this instalment is effectively a lengthy interrogation scene, it manages to both shock and provide a sense of tension with the reveal of the second traitor, before launching the story off into another action-packed sequence. I’d imagine that despite the danger, finding her grandfather’s diary is still her utmost priority over escaping the palace.

Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours / Letters - Gary Caldwell / Ellie de Ville

The mystery surrounding the veiled assassin who wiped out a group of Christians is placed at the forefront of this Prog, as we are introduced to Triscus and Piro, as they use the former’s divination skills to locate the culprit, prompting the latter to follow a suspect through the busy Rome streets. Meanwhile, under the city the wolf creature, known as the Magna Mater, continues to drop hints as to Aquila's true purpose in Rome.

As I said before, I'm not overly versed in Ancient Rome myth, so I am a little confused at times with this strip - for instance, I was under the impression that the Emperor we'd seen in this story so far was Caesar, but it appears it's actually Nero. While some of the finer historical accuracies are lost on me, the general gist of the story still makes sense at a surface level, although I do feel like I'm not enjoying the story on the same level it was intended.


All the thrills are bubbling along nicely, particularly Brass Sun and Dredd, with even the weaker strips having some decent forward momentum to them. Other than that, there wasn't much going on in this Prog - it was just there to advance the story on, which isn't a bad thing, but it's hard to find discussion points when everything continues on an even keel. 

The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1853 will be available in stores on Wednesday 9th October - 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!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x02 - "0-8-4"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x02 - "0-8-4"


Investigating a reported '0-8-4' (an object of unknown origin), the team find themselves in Peru, where Coulson is reunited with an old flame, Camilla Reyes, and her team of soldiers. When rebel forces attack, the two teams retreat to 'The Bus' with the mysterious artefact they've discovered, whereupon things get more complicated.


After a slightly less than enthusiastic response from critics to its pilot episode, Agents of SHIELD had a lot to prove with its sophomore effort and wisely, they chose to focus more on the characters that comprise Coulson's team of agents and the fragile relationships between them, placing the mystery behind the '0-8-4' macguffin as a secondary plot device.

While we did see more interactions between the different team members in this episode, it all felt a little superficial and didn't quite ring true, with some of the friction between the team ironed out rather quickly in this episode. Hopefully, Agent Ward will continue to be surly and uncompromising towards the three non-combat ready members of the team, despite his apparent understanding and acceptance of their differences in this episode. However, I did appreciate the symmetry of having a 'common enemy' being used to forge the bonds with this team, as happened with The Avengers themselves.

The main cast manage to carry their characters over well, and I do like the dynamics that are being set up between them, although it feels like there needs to be more substance behind them. Perhaps, Agent Ward's distrust of Skye would have worked better if it had taken several episodes for him to accept her, rather than his fairly quick change of opinion. I do feel that the show could really do with focusing the next few episodes on individuals within the team to give us more of a glimpse into the characters and back-story, similar to the same way that LOST would have character-centric episodes. It doesn't necessarily need to use the flashback format, but tying the episodes (or the threats faced) closer to the characters would make it easier to grow to love the characters.

It was refreshing to see that the plot didn't involve another 'super-villain of the week' and this storyline certainly felt more like a hi-tech spy show than the pilot did, showcasing the potential genre changes that the show can make as it continues, but it does highlight a problem that the show will suffer from - if it continues to move away from the standard superheroics element that made the movies popular, it will alienate those fans, however, if it keeps living in the shadows of its big-screen predecessors than it will continually feel like a lesser-budget version. The show desperately needs to carve out its own identity and keep viewers interested, whilst paying homage to its comic-book origins. At the moment, besides the references to The Avengers in the show's dialogue, it hasn't really felt like a Marvel Comics TV show - at least Smallville had their interpretation of DC comic characters, no matter how obscure they were sometimes!

With a time gap in production between the pilot episode being made and this second episode, it is clear that the writers have had a chance to tackle some of the criticisms head-on, such as the comment made by Camilla Reyes about Agent Coulson 'surrounding himself with young attractive agents', which references an issue that many reviewers (not including me) had with how pretty and handsome the cast were, which seems a ridiculous thing to complain about. Another problem addressed fairly early on was the cameo of Nick Fury, which was something that I felt was lacking from the pilot, and was very happy to see rectified here. Even though Maria Hill featured in the last episode, having Samuel L. Jackson in the show, directly talking to Agent Coulson and referencing the new agents by name, added a much-needed sense of continuity and validity to the show, tying it in with its big-screen counterparts in a much more effective way than a throwaway line about Tony Stark.

Score - 8.4 out of 10

Easter Eggs/References

  • Will Skye become a double-agent for Rising Tide?
  • What happened to Agent May to make her so reluctant to re-enter combat?
  • Coulson once again refers to Tahiti as a "magical place" and refers to his 'mid-life' crisis as an 'after-life' one - just how much does he know about his return from the dead?

Next Episode - "The Asset"
When the brilliant scientist Dr. Franklin Hall is kidnapped, Agent Coulson and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents must race against the clock to locate him. Skye is their only way in -- pushing the team to their limits when the entire plan turns upside-down.
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