Wednesday, 29 January 2014

2000AD Prog 1866

Prog 1866 Cover by Henry Flint

This great cover by Henry Flint captures the brutal reality of Dredd's situation, preparing the reader for the vicious contents of the strip inside. The light spray of blood splatter across the ground serves to accentuate the level of abuse that our favourite law-man has suffered at the heads of his captor, evoking a true sense of pity from the reader. It's a master-class in front cover artistry that perfectly supplements the painful events in the actual strip.


JUDGE DREDD - TITAN (Part 5)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Captured by Nixon and her army of Titan inmates, Dredd suffers a series of brutal beatings, holding his own for as long as he can before being outmatched. It has been a while since I have seen Dredd in such bad physical shape, and with his precarious mental state, this storyline feels like it is opening up possibilities to some real changes to the character's status quo. Henry Flint's art on this story has been amazing, with his work on this episode raising the bar to another level. Each blood-soaked panel hammers home the pain and agony that Dredd is suffering, yet also demonstrates the man's stubborn unwillingness to submit or die - something that even his adversaries recognise and fear about him.

Put it under your pillow, Dredd, the tooth fairy might give you a few creds

With three episodes remaining of the story-arc, I am intrigued to see how Rob Williams intends to wrap this up. Presumably, Gerhart and some of the marines are still alive after last week's flooding and will mount a rescue mission, but I wonder what will happen to long-term characters such as Amy Nixon and former Chief Judge Sinfield, not to mention the Titan facility, itself. It feels like a lot to wrap up in three parts, but I look forward to seeing it develop!



ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE - CENTRED (Part 6)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

There wasn't much development from last week, as we see the immediate aftermath of Ulysses' interaction with the Enlightenment zone and the beginnings of the pirates attack on the resort, although it still isn't clear as to what their motivation is. I liked how things have shifted and Ulysses Sweet has now been positioned as the group's saviour, but his current state of mind puts a crimp on that particular plan. There was a nice subtle reference to Red Dwarf in the form of the sentient toaster, but beyond that, it felt like this episode was largely filler.



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO MARS (Part 6)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I'm not sure how much of this week's episode was new ground for long-term readers, but I was surprised by the content, especially the discussed destruction of Mek-Quake, alongside a visual depiction of how that would go down. I liked the idea of the robots encrypting their speech, leaving Mek-Quake unable to realise they are discussing his fate right in front of him. The sequence with Shrapnel taking on Volkhan in Broadband asylum was a nice bit of action, and I liked the call-back to the previous episode with the repetition of “I'm just a mechanic”.

The series is taking a break for a week, which acts as a nice buffer between the flashback-heavy sequences and, presumably, the return to the present-day action once the strip comes back. I've really enjoyed this alternate viewpoint of the series' history, allowing an in-depth exploration of Harry Shrapnel's character. He reminds me of Kane from Kung Fu, or Bruce Lee in The Big Boss, with his pacifist exterior barely covering his true bad-ass nature within. I hope he becomes a more permanent fixture to the series.



GREY AREA - ALL GOD'S CHILDREN (Part 1)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This week's episode of Grey Area, sees the beginning of  another 'day-in-the-life' storyline featuring Bulliet's ETC team as they act as escorts for a charity organisation as they distribute aid to those alien refugees detained in the Grey Area. However, the charity's religious undertones don't go down too well with one particular alien species.


I've said it before, but I am really enjoying this series. The mix of quirky one-off Future Shock-esque stories with the longer, more developed tales really helps build the universe, much like Dan Abnett's other fan-favourite series, Sinister Dexter. I can see this series becoming a recurring classic, in the same manner as Abnett's two Downlode gunsharks are. Patrick Goddard's alien designs are fantastic and the constant stream of new species to pass through the Grey Area must give him plenty of opportunities to flex his skills as an artist with his multitude of alien races looking like a version of the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars.



STRONTIUM DOG: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JOHNNY ALPHA - DOGS OF WAR (Part 6)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

This week sees the tide turning towards the Mutants after the Strontium Dogs strike back against the Norm Brotherhood after luring them into a trap at Ongar, based on the intel acquired by Johnny Alpha during his undercover infiltration of their camp. However, the Brotherhood's leader, Dad Nabbett, manages to catch sight of Johnny, leading towards a confrontation between the two leaders, which might provide the vital turning point for the Mutants.


I'm expecting a smaller-scale focus with the inevitable fight between Dad Nabbett and Alpha, which I prefer to the bigger element of the war, which hasn't quite worked for me. Perhaps after the Norm Brotherhood have been dispatched, the Mutant Army might be one step closer to working out a peace treaty with the Human government. I'm looking forward to a return to a stable status quo and maybe a run of more light-hearted adventures from Johnny and Middenface.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

With the absence of The A.B.C. Warriors leaving a gap in the line-up next week, we're probably going to get another Future Shocks filler, or possibly a double-sized episode for one of the other stories. Judge Dredd continues to dominate the Prog, with an amazing episode that manages to load up even more tension and suspense to the storyline with the promise of some revelations in the next installment.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1866 will be available in stores on Wednesday 29th January - 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, 22 January 2014

2000AD Prog 1865

Prog 1865 Cover by Patrick Goddard & Chris Blythe

I really like this cover’s concept of a ‘holiday snap’ with the alien creature sporting bruised eyes and missing teeth, implying a sinister back-story behind the happy memento of his trip. The whole approach captures the atmosphere of the series perfectly and feels true to the mood established in its Prog 2014 story.


JUDGE DREDD - TITAN (Part 4)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Events take a sudden and shocking turn in this chapter of the story, with McIntosh betraying the Judges and flushing them away in the underground sewer system, whereupon it is revealed that the entire rescue plan appears to be a ploy to get Dredd to Titan as part of a larger scheme. It’s also revealed that the grand-master behind this riot on Titan is Amy Nixon, who long-term readers will recognise from the Low Life series, also written by Rob Williams.


While it looks like my long-shot theory of the Xenomorphs being involved is totally wrong, I am intrigued by the appearance of Amy Nixon, and the way that Williams is weaving together a multitude of plot threads such as SJS Judge Gerhart, Dredd’s old age and now, elements from Low Life, into one amazing tapestry of a story. I suspect that despite their dwindling air supply, we haven’t seen the last of the marine team, but I wonder what is in store for Dredd now he is a captive of Titan. The fantastic storytelling from both artist and script droid makes this the highlight of the current crop of thrills.



ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE - CENTRED (Part 5)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This series still feels very reminiscent of Deadpool, particularly with the fourth-wall breaking recap page by Arlene’s dog that precedes this installment, which is a common trope used by the Merc-with-a-Mouth. Surprisingly the story takes a quick tour through both the Earth and Air Zones, rushing Sweet and his entourage to the Enlightenment area, which seems to react very badly to Ulysses’ very own brand of crazy. Perhaps this is the reason why the orbiting pirates chose him as the bodyguard, although we've yet to discover the true motives behind their plan.

While the story has been bobbing along rather pleasantly, I feel that each one of the zones that surround the Amethyst Cluster have been rather bland and seemingly inconsequential to the plot, which makes the whole elemental aspect feel like it’s just there to pad the story out until Ulysses reaches the center and kick-starts the final act of the plot. As I've said before, it's a nice bit of amusing fluff which complements nicely against the more serious elements present in the Prog at the moment, but I feel that it could have worked better as a series of shorter stories rather than a larger story-arc.



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO MARS (Part 5)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This chapter felt like a ‘montage’ of sorts, featuring snapshots of the moments that took place between the adventures that the A.B.C. Warriors undertook whilst Happy/Tubal was their ‘repair-droid’. I really liked the recurring joke with Hammerstein asking Tubal to rejoin the Warriors during each instance of repair, and it also makes me wonder what threat looms over the Warriors to cause Tubal to change his mind.


It feels like we’re nearing the end of the flashbacks and moving onto the present-day, which means we might see a return to the CGI artwork that Clint Langley uses, which is a shame as I’m just becoming used to Langley’s hand-drawn style and I’m starting to prefer this scruffier black and white look to the metallic realism of his computer-generated art. While some readers have not enjoyed the flashback-heavy start to this series, I've really enjoyed this retread of older stories I have not read and hold some reservations about whether I will continue to enjoy the storyline once we move into the present day events. Hopefully, I will be proved wrong and the story manages to keep me hooked!



GREY AREA - SHORT STRAW
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Ellie de Ville

It looks like we're going to get a run of shorter stories for Grey Area, similar to the way that Damnation Station was written, which is a nice change from the more lengthy story-arcs that feature in the anthology. From a narrative point of view, these 'chapter breaks' allow for the passage of time and give the series more of an ensemble feel with individual stories able to feature specific characters and tell stories from different perspectives.

As with the one-off story in Prog 2014, this story covers the day-to-day running of the Grey Area, giving readers a glimpse into the regular events that occur on those “mundane” days, such as a full body cavity search. I liked how this story was structured in a similar fashion to a Future Shock, with the reveal of Bulliet's location saved until the end, although I did guess he was inside a creature from one of the earlier panels. I'm really enjoying this and look forward to seeing a continued mix of story types in the future.



STRONTIUM DOG: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JOHNNY ALPHA - DOGS OF WAR (Part 5)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Alpha infiltrates the Norm Brotherhood on a reconnaissance mission, managing to keep his temper in check as he witnesses the bigotry and depravity of the organisation first-hand. The sequence where he is offered Mutie meat is a particularly nasty moment, so it is gratifying that he manages to get his revenge on that one Norm before he leaves, although I do wonder if this brief outburst of anger might jeopardise his plans in the long-run, possibly warning Dad Nabbett that there had been a mutant spy in the camp?


This was a nice little sequence giving the reader some one-on-one time with Johnny, as well as setting up the next big confrontation between the Strontium Dogs and the Norm Brotherhood, which might result in some huge consequences for one side. I’m continuing to enjoy this story, but it is these more character-focused moments that stand out for me against the larger scale of the second Mutant War.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

We're at the half-way point now for both Judge Dredd: Titan and Ulysses Sweet: Maniac for Hire, with both stories beginning to heat up after a slow start. This line-up continues to fire on multiple cylinders with each thrill bringing top-notch entertainment, with the nostalgia of Strontium Dog and A.B.C. Warriors contrasted against more recent stories, such as Grey Area. 2000AD has been on top-form since the beginning of the year and I'm really enjoying all of the stories.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1865 will be available in stores on Wednesday 22nd January - 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!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review - Doctor Who: Phobos


Doctor Who: Phobos
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.5
Written by: Eddie Robson
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-259-3
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie and Immortal Beloved

The TARDIS lands on Phobos, one of the moons of Mars - where extreme sports nuts of the future indulge their passion for gravity-boarding and wormhole-jumping. But there's something lurking in the shadows, something infinitely old and infinitely dangerous. It's not for nothing that 'Phobos' is the ancient word for 'fear'...

Opening with a slightly irritating damsel-in-distress, this audio adventure feels reminiscent of Horror of Glam Rock, with a mysterious creature preying upon a group of people, although there is more to this menace than meets the eye. The Doctor and Lucie soon become embroiled with the dangerous events alongside a healthy mix of supporting characters and the tale moves along at a nice pace, with key exposition dropped in nice, manageable chunks throughout the story.

The front cover artwork is very effective in helping the listener imagine the snowy environment of the Phobos Lunar Park, filled with ‘drennies’ seeking the next burst of fear-induced excitement, although the only ill-described aspect is the 'Phobians' themselves, which I found difficult to picture in my mind's eye based on the visual information provided by the characters in the story.

As with the previous adventures in this series, there is a nice mix of supporting characters, all with a decent amount of characterisation and back-story, making the drama feel more like an episode of the TV show than an audio-book. The sub-plot between Amy and Farl, the secretive couple on the run from Farl's Githian relatives was a nice misdirection and allowed for some drama unrelated to the main plot. Although I did find Farl's voice rather irritating (it sounded like a yawn) and the storyline seemed to be rather inconsequential, especially since it didn't feel resolved. As with the sub-plot of Ganymede in Immortal Beloved, it felt like it could have had more resolution if the story had been longer.

Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith continued to impress as the Doctor and Lucie, as their relationship continues to grow. There is still a little bit of frostiness between the pair (“I've literally known Savages with better manners”) but I like the banter they share. One thing I noticed was that Lucie seems quite quick to mention the fact that she and the Doctor are time travellers, with her accidental slip of the tongue with Amy in this adventure, and blurting it out to her Auntie Pat in Horror of Glam Rock. With the mystery of her 'witness protection programme' still unresolved, perhaps it could be related to her “loose lips” regarding time travel?

Despite my dislike of the character of Farl, there was a brilliant sequence between him and the Doctor, when the Doctor reacts to Farl's threats with an amazing monologue about the various dangers he has seen and experienced, which neatly foreshadows his trip down the wormhole with the fear creature, as well as being totally keeping with his character, bringing to mind some of the Eleventh Doctor's monologues (The Eleventh Hour and The Pandorica Opens) as well as his prior incarnations.

Even though the audio drama appeared to be a retread of the 'base-under-siege' trope initially, it actually had a more detailed and layered storyline with a clever plot-twist at the end regarding the motivations behind the attack. Listening through the story a second time, there are some subtle clues there which are easily missed the first time around.

Overall, this was a great little adventure which could easily have been an episode of the relaunched series, both thanks to its format and the characterisation of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie, which continues to feel similar in tone to the Tenth Doctor and Donna. The next audio drama is called No More Lies and the trailer seems to be very mysterious with what seems like a dinner party trapped in a time loop by some malevolent entity, which the Doctor and Lucie must tackle. As with Immortal Beloved, I'm not sure what to expect from this one, but hopefully it should be a great one!

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

Score - 9.0 out of 10


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

2000AD Prog 1864

Prog 1864 Cover by Clint Langley

I quite like the concept behind this cover, which sees Clint Langley's interior artwork lavished with colour, although I'm not too keen on the angles and positioning of the characters. Perhaps this would have been better suited as a double-page wraparound cover to give both robots a chance to shine. I do love the retro-styled word balloons though, which really brings a sense of fun to proceedings.


JUDGE DREDD - TITAN (Part 3)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

In a brilliant bit of timing, this episode was released the same week as Rob Williams' story in the Judge Dredd Megazine with RM Guera, entitled 'The Man Comes Around', with both stories containing sequences where Dredd is hallucinating - this is either a symptom of his old age, or perhaps Williams has some long-term plot line that he is developing, possibly revolving around Dredd's bionic eyes? It seems like a fairly major plot point for the character though, which are not often introduced outside of John Wagner's storylines, and I look forward to seeing it develop further.

They didn't teach gratitude in the Academy of Law

After reading the theories of others on the 2000AD Message Board, several people have mentioned that perhaps there is an external force behind this 'riot' killing both inmates and wardens alike. I like this idea and my own theory takes it further - with the cinematic quality, and recent push by Rebellion to promote its Judge Dredd vs Aliens vs Predators trade-paperback, could it be that the Xenomorphs are back in the Dredd Universe, and this is some secret cross-over? It's unlikely, but it would be a real shocker if Titan turned out to be a rematch between Judge Dredd and the Aliens!

I really like the character dynamics between the various members of the recon team, with Dredd having to monitor ex-warden McIntosh, whilst he himself is being watched by SJS Judge Gerhart. Even though we have yet to discover the threat, the tension has been maintained superbly and Henry Flint's atmospheric panels have been pitch-perfect. This is fantastic storytelling by both Williams and Flint and quite simply, some of the best Dredd I've read in a long while!



ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE - CENTRED (Part 4)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

We get to see a bit of background on the Psyche Chip, who is actually the consciousness of a deceased therapist stored on the chip rather than a completely electronic AI chip, which gives a slightly different perspective on the character. Having murdered a dolphin in the Water-world, completely obliterated the Fire-world, it seems that Ulysses is causing exactly the right level of chaos that those who hired him wanted, although it is still unclear as to what their endgame is.

With the team (minus one) arriving on the Earth-world, it seems that this story is going to be rather formulaic, with Ulysses systemically destroying each one of the resort's zones, before the main thrust of the storyline kicks in with the orbiting pirates. While it is a nice bit of fun, perhaps a series of unconnected short stories would have been a better idea for the character than a lengthy tale.



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO MARS (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After digging it out of my old Progs from yesteryear, I managed to read the 'Roadkill' story from Prog 2000 which was referenced last week. I was worried that this episode would contradict the events of that story creating discontinuity, but instead it flows brilliantly, adding an extra layer of subtext and filling in the blanks seamlessly, bringing the rest of the A.B.C. Warriors into the flashback whereupon the events of 'Roadkill' presumably take place next.


As a new reader, I am really enjoying this flashback – and even armed with the briefest of knowledge of the past events, it's really neat to see stories from over a decade being referenced and 'fleshed out'. It was really fun to see familiar faces such as Mek-Quake and Ro-Jaws, and I imagine this nostalgia hit was even more fun for long-term readers! Clint Langley's black and white inks are fantastic and I loved his representation of Ro-Jaws, which deftly captured the sewer droid's attitude and mannerisms. I'm intrigued to see where the story goes next and whether it will continue to intertwine with other pre-established storylines.



GREY AREA - DID YOU PACK YOUR OWN LUGGAGE? (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Bulliet and his team are tracking the rogue Exos through the bagging system, managing to subdue the trio relatively easily. Meanwhile, Kymn suspects that perhaps Captain Delgado requested their team respond to this emergency as a way to appease the disgruntled aliens behind the attack. As the team interrogate the leader of the captured Exos, it seems likely that this is merely the first of a series of retaliation attacks after Bulliet killed the Ambassador, Uuveth.

"They mostly come out at night...mostly"

Initially I was unsure how much mileage a series set in an intergalactic border control could have, but it has been really fun so far, and there seems to be a bit of intrigue behind the whole situation with the Exos infiltrating the system, and whether the higher-ups are willing to sacrifice Bulliet's team to maintain intergalactic peace. Dan Abnett's script remains easily accessible and manages to infuse character into the various team-members, whilst Patrick Goddard's panels manage to create a sense of danger and suspense throughout the empty luggage, reminiscent of the marines hunting xenomorphs through maintenance tunnels in Aliens.



STRONTIUM DOG: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JOHNNY ALPHA - DOGS OF WAR (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Johnny posing as a member of the Norm Brotherhood seems like a step towards a more character-focused adventure, rather than the grander scheme of the Second Mutant War we've seen so far. Hopefully we'll get a few episodes of this 'solo adventure' – although I suspect Middenface may also appear disguised as a Norm to bail him out if things get too dangerous – a simple hat should cover up his lumps sufficiently to enable him to blend in...

I'm currently re-reading the earlier Strontium Dog stories with Wulf, Johnny and the Gronk working together, and I'm aware that Wulf dies at some point during the classic series, but I was wondering that since this current storyline is set after the Strontium Dogs series, has the Gronk appeared yet? I'm currently reading through Portrait of a Mutant, so it's really interesting to see the parallels between the events of the first Mutant War against those of the second.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

In the Nerve Centre, Tharg treats us to a sneak peek of one of his Thrills of the Future, from Leah Moore and John Reppion (Albion) with artwork by Steve Yeowell. It is called Black Shuck, and at first glance appears to be a pirate story. With Yeowell's artwork, it's inevitable that comparisons will be made to The Red Seas, so it will be interesting to see how much it differs from that series. It's not clear whether this will be a 2000AD or Judge Dredd Megazine story, as it could be either with the Megazine's creator-owned slot soon to become empty once Ordinary concludes.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1864 will be available in stores on Wednesday 15th January - 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, 8 January 2014

2000AD Prog 1863

Prog 1863 Cover by Dylan Teague

This cover by Dylan Teague showcases scenes from the Second Mutant War occurring in Strontium Dog, but the sepia tint to the colouring doesn't quite suit the frenetic futuristic nature of the battleground, feeling more akin to an older war photograph. I do admire the risky manoeuvre of including what looks like a swastika on the magazine’s front cover, even if the design has been slightly altered to avoid direct comparisons.


JUDGE DREDD - TITAN (Part 2)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The second installment of 'Titan' continues as strongly as the first, maintaining its cinematic quality as the Dredd and his crack-team make the perilous drop to the moon's surface. Again, playing with the narrative, Rob Williams reveals another layer to the story with the addition of two potential threats to the mission: a former warden with a criminal past and the SJS Judge Gerhart (who last appeared in Prog 1836) who wants to see Dredd brought to trial over the events of Chaos Day. The way Williams weaves these plot threads delicately into the story builds up the suspense and adds nuances to what could be considered a standard storyline.

Curiously, a second reference is made to Dredd's crotchety nature with him becoming frustrated with the younger Judge's warm-up routine, in the same manner he was irritated by the weather statistics spouted by the cadet before. This is obviously a symptom of his increasing age, a plot point that Williams has been investigating a lot recently, particularly in his upcoming story in Judge Dredd Megazine with RM Guera, which makes some bold suggestions about the ageing Judge's health. Whether this is Williams laying groundwork for a larger storyline, or adding his own quirks to his interpretation of the character, it does raise the question of whether Dredd is fit for the job, and with the long promised 'Dark Justice' storyline threatening the return of the Dark Judges - could this be the year that we lose Joe Dredd?


Meanwhile, Henry Flint's artwork continues to knock it out of the park, especially during the free-fall sequence where the blend of Williams' script and Flint's long panels helps to create a sense of panic and shock as Dredd collides with the orbiting corpses and loses control of his landing, creating a strong cliffhanger at the end of the episode. This is Dredd at his best, and I'm buckled in and ready for the ride!



ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE - CENTRED (Part 3)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

I wonder if Tharg will be giving Dolphin-themed hats away with future subscriptions

More clues are dropped about the mystery behind why Ulysses Sweet has been hired to protect pop-princess, Arlyne Glebe, and it seems that the woman who hired him doesn't represent Glebe's management and may be manipulating the situation so Sweet can cause havoc in the Amethyst Cluster, possibly so they can somehow get their hands on the giant diamond that forms its centre. While this installment continues to set the pieces into motion, I'm looking forward to the inevitable wacky carnage once the pirates/mercenaries orbiting the retreat make their move.



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO MARS (Part 3)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode sees further revelations about the details of Harry Shrapnel’s resurrection, tying into a story from Prog 2000 – 'Roadkill' – and the Medusa-era of the strip (I did some Wikipedia research!) and also sees the transformation of Clint Langley's art from its CGI approach to a more traditional black and white inked look. I'm not sure whether this particular era of flashback prompted Langley's change of art style, or if there were external constraints, but it looks fantastic and the level of detail on both the rotting corpses and the level of emotion he manages to convey on Harry Shrapnel's robotic face when he discovers he has been dead for centuries, rivals the realistic look he is able to achieve with his computer-generated imagery.


I'm really enjoying this story and as I've said before, it feels really accessible to both new readers and old. Just browsing over the Wikipedia article for The A.B.C. Warriors gives a glimpse into the long history of the strip and it's really interesting seeing the different eras of the story across decades that Pat Mills is referencing while recounting Harry Shrapnel / Tubal Caine's adventures behind-the-scenes of the main storyline. Considering how a similar approach was taken last year with Slaine's 30th year anniversary, I feel this particular nostalgic visitation of past eras has been much more reader-friendly, encouraging me to dig out old Progs (such as the Prog 2000 story) and re-read old stories.



GREY AREA - DID YOU PACK YOUR OWN LUGGAGE? (Part 1)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With Prog 2014’s one-off episode serving as a great introduction to the concept of the series without any continuity ties, this first episode of a recurring story picks up from events from previous storyline but in a manner which makes it accessible to new readers. I really liked the twist of the creatures infiltrating Earth by posing as luggage, and the teaser for next Prog, ‘Unexpected Item in the Baggage Area’ made me chuckle. Tharg needs to reward the droid responsible for that pun with some extra oil.

Dan Abnett’s script crackled at a nice pace with the exposition sounding like natural conversation and Patrick Goddard’s design of the various alien creatures is fantastic. I loved the imposing look of the golem-style handlers as they stood motionless before the team, and hope that we see more of them, possibly in action. Next week promises some frenetic action as the infiltrating Exos look set to cause havoc within the Grey Area facility.



STRONTIUM DOG: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JOHNNY ALPHA - DOGS OF WAR (Part 3)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

The Second Mutant War continues to escalate as a ceasefire is rejected by the Mutants, leading to the inclusion of the Norm Brotherhood into the fray. With bloodthirsty aggression, this cipher for the Nazi party ruthlessly attacks the Mutants, adding further hostilities between man and mutant and causing doubt as to how a peaceful resolution can ever be achieved.

With stakes raised as high as they can get, this storyline oozes with importance for the series' future, in the same manner that the 'Day of Chaos' storyline delivered cataclysmic consequences for Judge Dredd’s world. As John Wagner continues to cause disruption to his creations, the readers are left reeling at each additional plot twist. Could we be about to witness the second death of Johnny Alpha, as the martyr of the mutant race? As always, Carlos Ezquerra’s art is the definitive stamp on the Strontium Dog world, showcasing the horror and death that follows in the shadow of the Norm Brotherhood. I eagerly await Johnny Alpha entering the fight, and a possible confrontation between Dad Nabbit and the mutant leader.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Judge Dredd and A.B.C. Warriors continue the strong momentum of Thrill-power that started in the Prog 2014 annual, ably assisted by the likes of Ulysses Sweet and Strontium Dog. The addition of Grey Area is welcomed as it quickly catches new and lapsed readers up to speed with promises of an action sequence early on. All in all, this is a top-notch Prog and a perfect example of 2000AD at its best.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1863 will be available in stores on Wednesday 8th January - 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, 7 January 2014

Competition - Punisher: Born



UNFORTUNATELY, THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED!

THE WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN AND IT WAS ENTRY # 2 OF 6 - 
'Andrew Melarkey'


CONGRATULATIONS TO ANDREW, AND BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME TO EVERYONE ELSE.


REMEMBER TO FOLLOW THIS BLOG, AND OUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES TO KEEP UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST COMPETITIONS!

Interview - Tiny Rebel Games [Publisher / Doctor Who: Legacy]


As a fan of the TV show and casual puzzle games, I was really pleased to hear about Doctor Who: Legacy and the game plays really well and is especially rewarding to long-time fans to see the likes of K-9 battling alongside River Song against an army of Sontarans and Weeping Angels. It is a real pleasure to speak with Susan and Lee Cummings from Tiny Rebel Games and ask some questions behind the creation of the game, and what the future holds.


PCB Blog: Since the BBC owns the copyright to Doctor Who, they were involved in the process of making the game and presumably had some input in the finished product, but to what extent was their involvement? Did they make any suggestions or alterations during the game’s production?

Tiny Rebel Games: Yes, the BBC are our licensor for Doctor Who: Legacy, meaning ultimately they have final approval over content.  That said, they’ve really been a wonderful partner creatively from the beginning.  They embraced the vision for the game and allowed us to never have to deviate from it (which is rare for a game developer to be able to say…).  Because of the mutual respect and shared love of the property, we felt entirely comfortable involving them more than one usually might in the creative process ---- they were integral to decisions on the art style, audio, characters, and marketing.  And also led the approval process with all of the many people involved in the Doctor Who series over the years (an ongoing process as we add new content).  Their suggestions were very additive – if they said no or disagreed, it typically was because of what made sense in the canon of the show, not to make busy work or pointless/inappropriate changes.


PCB Blog: One of the things I love most about the game is the beautiful hand-drawn artwork and how effectively they capture the likenesses of the actors/creatures – who is the artist involved and how did that collaboration come about?

Tiny Rebel Games: While we had a great deal of input from the Doctor Who brand team on this, the vision for the art (and the majority of the actual drawings for Doctors, companions, and enemies) was led by Pest Jiang at Seed Studio, our development partner in Taiwan.  Pest is an incredibly talented character artist and continues to surprise us with how beautiful his work is.   


PCB Blog: One other key component about the game that makes it really fun and addictive is that it doesn’t force the player to purchase additional premium content, or harass friends into giving ‘energy’ or other items – obviously, this can be a game-breaking balance to strike as companies want players to enjoy playing the game, but also make a profit on those who want to buy additional content – do you feel that, as a company, you have the balance right?

Tiny Rebel Games: I think the problem with many mobile games is the publishers and developers have seen a few massive blockbuster hits and then decide to set out to also make a game where some are spending hundreds of dollars a month.  That’s not a sustainable model for most creators.  The only thing we could count on there would be upsetting the Doctor Who audience and burning them out quickly.  I do hope that everyone who plays sees enough value and joy in the experience that they decide to unlock the Fan Area (free with a 6 time crystal purchase).  If the majority do, we’ll know that we’re really on to something and financially, that puts us in a very good spot too.


PCB Blog: Which element of the game are you the most proud of, and why?

Tiny Rebel Games: I think of how much care went into the most minute details and that people actually notice.  We've spent hours researching the name of just one enemy ability.  And when people see that stuff and commend us for it – that’s very gratifying.  That and the other is that our 5 year old son gets just as much enjoying out of playing the game as we do.


PCB Blog: You have built up a really good online community of fans with regularly updated Facebook and Twitter pages – how has the reception been to the game so far? Has fan reaction affected any of the decisions you have made? Is there anything the fans are clamouring for?

Tiny Rebel Games: I can’t say enough about how supportive and wonderful our fans have been.  We’re already on first name basis with many of them who talk to us via Facebook, Twitter, Email, Support.  I think people really know that we set out with genuine focus on making a great Doctor Who game that we ourselves want and love to play.  And we are very in tune with what the fans want – it’s already affected content release (10th Doctor’s bathrobe costume, Christmas Invasion level with Santas and Killer Tree and Host Angels).


PCB Blog: With crowd-sourcing becoming a popular way for publishers to release games (such as Revolution Software’s recent release, Broken Sword 5: The Serpents Curse), was this ever considered as a potential method for funding the production of this game? Is it something you would consider in the future?

Tiny Rebel Games: For this one it didn't.  For the next game, perhaps….we've tossed the idea around for some of the more niche properties that we’re fans of.  It’s hard though, crowd funding…I've seen some very talented people and ideas not get funded and have seen the aftermath of it for them too.


PCB Blog: Are there any features that you would love to include, but were unable to do so, due to the logistics or feasibility? Personally, I would love to see multi-player battles, possibly with some slight social networking support?

Tiny Rebel Games: Multi-player would be great --- PVP obviously isn't appropriate to the property, but we are looking at other competitive options and one of them should hopefully be showing up in the first few months of the year as a new mode of the game! Other things we’re looking to add include cloud saving (this month), costumes which affect your companions abilities, new enemy / ally abilities, achievements.


PCB Blog: Are there any plans for the game to be released as a full-retail title, perhaps for the Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita – or as an download for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network?

Tiny Rebel Games: Always a possibility but no definitive plans yet.


PCB Blog: In terms of the game’s storyline, you made the decision to begin with the most recent series shown on Television (Series 7) and work your way backwards, but with the Twelfth Doctor and Series 8 on the horizon, are there plans to work with the BBC to get the latest episodes reflected in the game’s storyline also?

Tiny Rebel Games: We started with the most recent but we do intend to jump around too.  As evidenced by adding some of the older Doctors before finishing out the modern ones.  Also, we have some classic episode based levels coming in the not too distant future.


PCB Blog: Are there any plans to utilise the Big Finish audio stories as potential story-lines also, particularly the Eighth Doctor, who has had several audio-only adventures that fans would love to see referenced in other media?

Tiny Rebel Games: Not as of yet but it’s something we’re asked about frequently.  We’d also like to incorporate content from Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood.


PCB Blog: I have really enjoyed the Christmas Advent Calendar promotion and the new content being added to the game on a daily basis – can you tease any plans for the future, possibly in the New Year?

Tiny Rebel Games: Look for a new mode of gameplay, Season 5 content, new abilities, Amazon Kindle support, PC support.


PCB Blog: Looking at the level of detail in the game, it’s clear it has been made for fans by fans, so it begs the question – what is the general opinion of the office when it comes to: Favourite Doctor, Favourite Companion and Scariest Monster?
[It’s a tough question, I know, but mine is Third Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Sea Devils]

Susan: 10th Doctor, Jack Harkness, Peg Dolls
Lee: 8th Doctor, Jack Harkness, Toclafane


Thank you both for your time, I really do appreciate it. Tiny Rebel Games are available to contact through their official website, Facebook and Twitter pages – and once again, Doctor Who: Legacy is available as a free download from iTunes and Google Play.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2000AD Prog 1862

Prog 1862 Cover by Henry Flint

This is a great cover by Henry Flint showcasing the key elements of the story, such as the ship, the deep recesses of space and the determined crew of Judges clad in their spacesuits. I wouldn't be surprised if this ended up being the cover to the collected edition of this story. I also liked the tagline pun of 'Clash on Titan' referencing both the Ray Harryhausen classic, 'Clash of the Titans' and the impending confrontation on the Saturn Moon.


JUDGE DREDD - TITAN (Part 1)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This opening episode is somewhat similar to Rob Williams' last multi-part storyline, 'Scavengers', which had Dredd leading a small team to the sunken Luna-2 to defuse a threat to Mega City One. However, it appears that this storyline will be a lengthier and moodier piece, already managing to capture an epic feel to the proceedings with the use of outer space and the Titan prison colony as the setting.

During an interview we conducted with Rob Williams, he mentioned how this storyline was "the type of Dredd story that [he] would've got very excited by when [he] was a teenager first reading 2000AD" and I have to agree with him that the premise of the Judges having to deal with a potential prison riot on Titan with their current resources is a thrilling one, and I am looking forward to seeing Titan getting some renewed focus, possibly even changing the status quo at the end of the tale, if the place ends up being nuked.


I loved the cinematic quality to this opening episode, which played around with the chronology of events and gave Henry Flint plenty of opportunities to set the mood with establishing panels of the vast nature of outer space. I also loved the way that Dredd managed to put the sarcastic young marine in his place, which managed to assert the character's dominance and explain why someone of his age would be travelling into outer space. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one develop.



ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE - CENTRED (Part 2)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With this week's episode featuring the development of the secondary characters, it felt like there was less focus on Ulysses Sweet, which was a little disappointing as I enjoyed the banter between him and his psyche-chip. However, he does kill a helpless dolphin, so he wasn't completely out of the picture! But in future episodes, I would like to see more from Ulysses, rather than have him as a wacky observer to the adventure.

In terms of the other characters, I do like how Arlyne Glebe, the popstar under Sweet's “protection” is a mismatch of the various celebrities in today's media and isn't quite the innocent, butter-wouldn't-melt princess that I first assumed. At the close of the story, the character's make their way to the next zone, The Heart of Fire, where I'm guessing we might see the threat that Ulysses must protect Glebe from. Judging from her introduction in this episode, I'm going to call that it's all a publicity stunt and she's organised the “assassin” herself.



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO MARS (Part 2)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Despite being an extended flashback, I really enjoyed this episode for its depiction of a robot bar-fight and the character of Harry Shrapnel is really growing on me, even if I don't fully understand what the situation is with the present day A.B.C. Warriors. I've noticed a trend with Pat Mills' stories in that they seem to feature flashbacks to remind older readers of a character's motivations (Defoe in Defoe / McG in Flesh) and also to act as a way to introduce new readers to the strip, amongst the more continuity-heavy present day bits.


I love the close-ups of Harry Shrapnel that Clint Langley produces and I really enjoyed the moment when he snaps and begins to attack Gun-Nose using the barkeeper's bladed wheel as a weapon! While most of the artwork in this particular episode was quite easy to follow, I do worry that when things get more action packed, Langley's artwork gets more cluttered and blurred, so hopefully it will remain clearly defined and easy to keep track of.



FUTURE SHOCKS - DYING WISHES
Script - Eddie Robson
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

It's always great when someone new breaks into 2000AD through its Future Shocks submissions program and this week's Future Shocks features two newcomers. A new script-droid called Eddie Robson and an art-droid called Jake Lynch. As a wannabe script-droid myself, I am very interested in seeing stories from new writers.

I must admit I did find the twist a little confusing at first and still I'm not sure I have the right interpretation. From what I can tell, the creatures at the end of the strip were a mis-shapen version of the originals inhabitants that had been synthesised from their brain waves saved onto the crystal and proceeded to wreak revenge on Lawler for destroying their planet. Overall, I found the story to be well-scripted and I loved the black and white artwork, so I look forward to seeing more from the two creators in the future.



STRONTIUM DOG: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JOHNNY ALPHA - DOGS OF WAR (Part 2)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Compared to Prog 2014's installment, it felt like there were less character moments in this episode and it was merely a case of exposition and plot movement to get the pieces in the right place. There was a nice moment with the Cray brothers (a slight nod to Reggie and Ronnie Kray) who sacrificed themselves to destroy the drone's ship, but beyond that it felt like advancing the plot to introduce the next threat – the Norm Brotherhood.


The artwork by Carlos Ezquerra continues to be top-notch, and even with a more exposition-heavy episode, John Wagner manages to keep the reader on their toes by introducing more danger and uncertainty to the future of the Strontium Dogs. However, I am more invested in seeing how the war is affecting the characters themselves, rather than the general effect on the country and its politicians.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I'm not sure why the Future Shocks was pushed ahead of Grey Area, but it returns next Prog, completing the current line-up of thrills, which is a nice mixed bag of stories and a great start to the year. I'm looking forward to seeing where this current Judge Dredd story is going, and enjoying The A.B.C. Warriors as it continues to fill in the back-story of Happy Shrapnel.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1862 will be available in stores on Thursday 2nd January - 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!
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