Wednesday, 27 August 2014

2000AD Prog 1896

Prog 1896 Cover by Glenn Fabry & Adam Brown

This is a brilliant cover from legendary artist Glenn Fabry, with some excellent colours capturing the rotting, decomposing skin of the zombies (or wights) that threaten to overcome the Black Shuck. I love the finer details of the piece, such as the bulging eyeball that Shuck's elbow has dislodged from the head of one unfortunate zombie and the boil-ridden flesh that has greyed and become diseased. My only nitpick is the awkward positioning of the Black Shuck's sword-arm, which doesn't look at all comfortable or particularly realistic given his current pose – I guess it's meant to be some back-handed swipe, but it just stands out as an unusual choice of stance.


JUDGE DREDD - CASCADE (Part 3)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Paul Marshall
Colour - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This story continues to surprise me as it has evolved from its initial ‘fish out of water’ setup with the time-displaced astronaut, Indira Knight, into a larger story about dissatisfaction with the Justice system with Gideon Dallas once again inspiring the masses to revolt. This time, however, he is working with the Indira and the Lawlords to overthrow the Judges and introduce a more regimented system, using the historical disasters such as the Day of Chaos and The Apocalypse War as examples of ‘human’ error caused by the Judges.


Originally, the final splash page that revealed the Lawlords was lost on me, besides being a cool visual and a distorted version of the current Judges, but thanks to the 2000AD Tumblr account, it turns out that the Lawlords aren't a new creation but actually appeared in the Judge Dredd Megazine storyline, “Lawcon” which saw the intergalactic alien warlords attempt to bring their own brand of ‘law’ to the Earth for the first time, only to be thwarted by Dredd. I really admire Michael Carroll’s ability to dip into Judge Dredd continuity (both new and old) to add these little details that enrich a fresh and exciting tale with a sense of history and heritage, building upon what has come before.

It’s a shame that there’s only three more weeks left for this storyline to play out before the line-up reboot for Prog 1900 and the teased mega-epic “Block Judge” by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra begins. I feel like it deserved a bit more space to play out, or at least the chance to appear as if it might have lasting effects, rather than going in knowing it will end soon. I suspect that the 'Chekhov’s Gun' of Indira’s satellites might be used later on to target the Lawlords bringing forth a swift conclusion to the story, when needed. I’m really enjoying Michael Carroll’s work, who alongside Rob Williams, seems to be carving out his own niche in the Judge Dredd universe.



JAEGIR - CIRCE (Part 4)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode of Jaegir is not quite as ‘trippy’ as I’d expected, given the psychedelic colours from last Prog, but it still manages to be an interesting journey through Atalia Jaegir’s subconscious uncovering various psychological traumas from her past, such as her time on Nu Earth fighting the ‘blue demon’ and delving into her complex relationship with her father, which was previously hinted at during the initial story-arc, Strigoi, and seems to be becoming a pivotal element of the series. The enemy agents seem to have taken of Atalia’s blood, with references to a ‘gift’ or ‘curse’ that her father gave her, as well as injecting her with something (possibly the Circe drug) which appears to have sent her into a crazed frenzy. It seems like this whole mission has been a set-up to get ahold of Jaegir’s DNA for some undetermined reason.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 9)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This week’s episode featured a slice of action packed, high-flying adventure as our heroes once again took to the skies to prevent the Sweet Sisters from escaping with the gaseous clay. As with previous episodes, it felt over too soon, with an emphasis on the visuals rather than dialogue making it a quick read. Despite this, I loved the sense of movement that was conjured up in those final panels as Ariel takes out the Nominal Charge and her former comrades, although hasn't she doomed the whole expedition by destroying the gaseous clay, unless they have some spare supplies aboard their vessel from when they healed Ramkin.


In comparison to the ‘dense’ nature of the previous two books, ‘Floating Worlds’ has felt a bit sparse in terms of script (apart from the dream episode) opting to rely on I.N.J. Culbard’s delightful visuals to tell the story instead. While I have enjoyed this diversion into sky piracy and alien worlds, I am looking forward to the strip moving away from this location and back to the main plot-line and hopefully we will see some developments as the story wrap up in the final three episodes.



BLACK SHUCK (Part 6)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Simon Bowland

As with previous week’s, there isn't much plot advancement in Black Shuck, but despite this I’m still really enjoying the atmosphere that Leah Moore, John Reppion and Steve Yeowell have built up in a short amount of time. There’s a great story here, but it really suffers from the weekly installment format as it attempts to fit in the flashback narratives within each episode to maintain a stylistic consistency, resulting in a feeling of repetition as the last few episodes haven’t really advanced the plot. I do appreciate and enjoy the flashback style used, as I am convinced that there will be a LOST-style twist that will make us re-evaluate the main storyline, but with the small page count afforded to each installment, it does seem to be slowing the main plot to a crawl.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 7)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

One of the aspects I've enjoyed most about Leigh Gallagher's work on this strip is the way he brings the gory elements to life, as he does in zombie-filled horror strip Defoe, and this episode of Aquila is no exception with some fantastically gruesome sequences such as the Roman mobs being butchered in the streets so that their blood runs into the sewers and the horrific fate of the senate's men as their bodies are torn to pieces and strung up in the trees by demonic cherubim. Gordon Rennie's script and Leigh Gallagher's artwork manage to work wonderfully together to craft a truly bleak atmosphere as various bad omens come together to signify the potentially apocalyptic nature of events.


After weeks of doing the emperor's bidding, Aquila is ready to stand up and kill a 'Caesar' as was prophesied, however, I suspect things might not go to plan. I have a feeling Nero will be betrayed by his poison witch Locusta and she will end up becoming some kind of god creature instead. With only three episodes left of this current storyline, the dramatic tension is at an all-time high as the various players in the adventure begin to congregate for what might be the final confrontation. The beauty of this series is that I have no clue as to whether we're about to hit the finale, or whether it will lead into another multi-part storyline down the road, and it's this unpredictable nature that has me very excited for these next installments.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This was another strong Prog that left me eager to find out what happens next with Judge Dredd, Aquila and Brass Sun, whereas I’m merely curious to find out where Jaegir and Black Shuck are heading. In the case of Black Shuck, I am holding out hope for a really strong pay-off to these weeks of slow build and that the writing team of Leah Moore and John Reppion can deliver. With three more Progs left until the line-up refreshes, we’re heading into the final straight and I’m expecting some dramatic developments in all of the stories as they hurtle towards their respective conclusions.

Thrill of the Week: Aquila


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1896 will be available in stores on Wednesday 27th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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

Review - Brass Sun # 4 (of 6)

Brass Sun # 4 (of 6)
Written by: Ian Edginton
Art by: I.N.J. Culbard

This fourth issue of the Brass Sun miniseries, collects the concluding half of the second book 'The Diamond Age', which was published originally in weekly installments within 2000AD last September. In the midst of a civil war taking place on the planet known as 'The Keep', Wren and her companions, Ramkin and Septimus, attempt to locate the secret key referred to in her grandfather's diary amongst the Duke's vast library, dedicated to the minutia of his families history, including one particularly nice egg that the Duke's great-grandfather had for his breakfast.

Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard's brilliant designs for the quirky creatures that live in and run the library evoke memories of Jim Henson's Labyrinth, with the hideously tall librarian, Mr. Whisper, and the countless midget 'bookworms' living on the shelves waiting for someone to request a book from the Stacks. Even though they're only featured for a handful of pages, there is the sense that there is a rich back-history behind the library staff that could be explored in its own series.

In fact, the whole of The Keep's storyline feels ripe with unexplored possibilities as the planet is left behind as the story proceeds to visit new worlds, giving the sense that Wren and her companions are passing through someone else's story. It's a refreshing way to deal with things and any other series would have spent a lot longer dwelling on the Machiavellian nature of the de Kype family civil war, but I do wonder whether we'll see the tangling plot threads from The Keep resolved in future issues, or whether Ian Edginton intends to leave it with that unresolved nature.

In the midst of our heroes escape from The Keep, there is an interesting sequence where Cantor passes on his knowledge onto Wren. At the time of reading this in 2000AD in a weekly format, not much of this sequence stood out to me, but with the fore-knowledge of events from the next chapter 'Floating Worlds', it is very interesting to see the plot points seeded here, with references to the Blind Watchmaker / Wraith that later appears to Wren being 'downloaded' into her mind. There's a few subtle references to the antagonist that will later feature in a big way in the third book's conclusion, showing how far ahead that Ian Edginton has planned this series. It makes me wonder what other clues are in place here waiting to come to fruition in later series.

The final section sees a shift in tone as our trio find themselves on another planet, Hot Air, and are promptly captured by Sky Pirates, which sets up the direction for the more aerial nature of the third book, as well as introducing a fourth member of the team, Ariel O' Conner, the wise-ass pilot. I really like the characterisation of the central characters with a range of different personalities from the heroic and selfless Wren and Septimus and the more selfish nature of Ramkin and Ariel.


Yet again, each page features absolutely beautiful art from I.N.J Culbard, with one of my favourite examples of his skill as a storyteller being the three page sequence where Septimus recounts the history behind the planet of Hot Air, which showcases the decaying process of its towering spire across each page. With a series of location changes within the one issue, Culbard manages to adapt to each scene change, conjuring up a vivid mood and atmosphere to each new setting, such as the vast and overwhelming nature of the Duke's enormous library and the derelict disarray of the post-apocalyptic landscape of Hot Air. Aside from his awe-inspiring designs, Culbard's artwork also manages to lend a sense of motion to the action sequences, making the reader feel the urgency to our heroes escape from The Keep's deadly scythe robots and the perilous nature of the group's attempts to avoid becoming a light snack for a Skyshark.

Overall, this is yet another great installment of Brass Sun, once again blending plot development with some cracking action set-pieces to deliver a truly thrilling storyline, set against the beautiful backdrop of an imaginative clock-punk world. I've said it before, but the series reads brilliantly in this more lengthy chunks, although I do think the original weekly format helps maintain a healthy sense of urgency. If the series was originally written for a US monthly format, it might run the risk of becoming a bit too decompressed. Having just finished reading the third book in the weekly Prog, I am intrigued to find out how differently the series reads in a semi-collected format, as opposed to the smaller weekly chunks, especially since it is a lot fresher in my memories.


Score - 9.7 out of 10

Brass Sun # 4 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the 2000AD webshop. Be sure to put in a standing order for the remaining issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 2

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 2
"Revolutions of Terror" - Part 2 (of 3)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Elena Casagrande
Colours by: Arianna Florean

This issue kicked off straight away with the fast-paced resolution to the effective cliffhanger from the end of the first issue, before moving swiftly on to explaining the threat and providing both the Doctor and Gabriella with a mission in order to defeat it. It was a perfect 'second issue' of a multi-part storyline, building on the suspense and mystery of the initial chapter with answers and developments.

While last issue focused more on establishing Gabriella as a character in her own right and gave us a glimpse into her home life and family relationships, this issue allowed the Doctor to play a much larger role in the story beyond his extended cameo last time. It was enjoyable to see the relationship between Gabby and the Doctor develop, but I did find that with the increased exposure of the Doctor, there were instances where his 'voice' was slightly 'off' on the page and some of David Tennant's vocal mannerisms didn't quite come across in the same way that Al Ewing and Rob Williams managed to capture Matt Smith's portrayal of the 11th Doctor in their opening issue.

There's a lot of neat continuity nods for long-time fans of the show, most notably when the Doctor refers to Cameca from the First Doctor adventure, 'The Aztecs', which saw the Doctor accidentally get engaged to the Aztec woman by offering her cocoa. The serial had a bittersweet ending with the Doctor leaving his unlikely love behind, but taking a brooch with him as a memento. With this reference, Nick Abadzis is instilling a happier ending to Cameca's story, suggesting that later incarnations revisited the woman and the two remained friends. Abadzis also adds to the long-running joke of having the Doctor name-drop famous historical figures he has met by having the 10th Doctor mention Mexican painters, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.


While the Doctor jokingly refers to himself as Peter Venkman, it is a rather apt alias for him to adopt, as this issue does feel like it has a strong Ghostbusters vibe with the various different gadgetry behind used by the Doctor and the incorporeal nature of the Pranavores and Cerebravores. There's also an interesting bit of symmetry between the two Titan Comics titles, with both series' featuring emotion-eating aliens, with the 'happiness' eating Pranavores in this issue and the sadness eating Kharitite from the 11th Doctor's opening issue. It's probably a coincidence, but I did enjoy the loose theme shared across both titles.

I absolutely love Elena Casagrande's artwork on this title. She does a great job in capturing David Tennant's likeness and in some panels, even his facial expressions come to life on the page. I also enjoyed the spectral design of the Pranavores and the incorporeal versions of the Cerebravores, as well as the distorted versions of the creature once they are joined to the flesh and create warped and twisted 'fear monsters'. Casagrande's art has a bright, colourful nature to it, which fits well with this story managing to convey a sense of horror without delving too deeply into 'creepy'.

Once again, I plumped for Alice X. Chang's wonderfully painted cover over the many variants on offer and it's a shame that it appears to be the last one that she's providing for the series, although Titan Comics seem to be continuing with the variant covers for future issues, with what seems like three options: a photo cover, an interior artist and guest artist variants. Looking ahead to Issue 3, I quite like the look of the Verity Glass one, and will probably get the 'guest artist' ones going forward.

Overall, this was an improvement on the first issue with the bulk of the issue focusing on the Doctor/Gabby relationship. I really liked the way they interacted together, and I'm sure Gabby will be a really great companion for the Doctor. Once again, there is a great little cliffhanger and I'm glad to see this trend continue, evoking memories of the 'Classic Who' multi-part serials.


Score - 8.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor # 2 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Interview - Rob Williams [Writer / Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor]


I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Rob Williams, one of the writers of the new Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor series from Titan Comics. As a massive Doctor Who fan myself, it was really fun to get to speak to someone who is involved in creating stories for the character and finding out his thoughts on the show. Aside from his work on Doctor Who, Rob has also written a number of series for 2000AD, such as Judge Dredd, Low Life, The Ten-Seconders and The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael. He also recently released his creator-owned series, Ordinary, which added a unique twist to the well-worn genre of superheroics.


PCB Blog: The first question, and probably the one you get asked all the time since taking the job, is: Which of the incarnations of the Doctor is your favourite?

Rob: I have several. Loved Matt Smith for his quirky, angry joy and wonder. Tennant for the sense of a god having fun. Tom Baker was my Doctor as a child though, and I still think he may be the pinnacle. The sheer gleeful eccentricity amidst danger seems to grab exactly what The Doctor is.


PCB Blog: On that note, Which of the enemies that make up the Doctor's rogue gallery is your favourite?

Rob: Do you know, I'm not sure I have a favourite bad guy for The Doctor. It's more about the story. for me. Of modern times I rather liked The Dream Lord, but perhaps that's more about Toby Jones' performance. Still, with the Doctor being so old and powerful, dark aspects of the character are rather appealing. Where's The Valeyard, eh? But, I digress.


PCB Blog: Is there a particular episode, from either the classic series or the relaunch, that you really enjoy? And why?

Rob: It's so difficult to pick one. I did have a moment - a three-week moment - where Paul Cornell's two-parter 'Human Nature' and then Steven Moffat's 'Blink' ran and that felt something of a high-point to me. Who at its very best. Blink was the timey-wimey stuff done brilliantly and accessibly, with a brilliant, memorable new villain. Human Nature captured the feel that this character - while easily dismissed as an eccentric in a magic box, was really a hugely powerful god, and that there were major repercussions for those who encounter him.


PCB Blog: Last of the Time Lords, The Oncoming Storm, A Madman with a Box – there have been many ways to describe the Doctor, but how would you describe him? What is it about the series (and character) as a whole that appeals to you, both as a writer and a fan?

Rob: Moffat's recent mini-essay about the fact that he's called 'the Doctor' because he looks to heal, and carries a screwdriver because it fixes rather than the far easier 'gun' - that gets to the heart of the appeal of the character, I think. People want a hero that's good and sees the joy and wonder in the universe, when there's darkness everywhere we look. And he's fun. Great comic appeal alongside the adventure and the horror. In 'The Day Of The Doctor' there's a moment where the three Doctors say "Never cruel nor cowardly, never give up, never give in.” That's a character worth following.


PCB Blog: What elements of the Eleventh Doctor's personality (and Matt Smith's interpretation of the character) do you enjoy? Are there any challenges in writing his 'voice' on the page?

Rob: The main challenge I find writing Smith is not to over-write him. He lends himself to train of thought dialogue. Things occurring to him in an instant. Jokes, ideas. He is almost too easy to write dialogue for, which is a problem in itself. You look at a page of script and there's a tonne of dialogue there, and it might be very good dialogue, but comics are a visual medium. If you have a page filled with voice balloons, it's going to be a dull-looking book. So you have to trim back some potentially good work. That's all testament to how strong Smith's voice is on-screen, the performance and the writing.


PCB Blog: Doctor Who isn't the only 'British institution' you have written for. You have written for Judge Dredd over at 2000AD – Do you ever feel pressure on tackling characters with such a long history and fervent fan-base? Does it feel different to writing creator-owned content, such as your series 'Ordinary' which you released through Titan Comics earlier this year.

Rob: You do feel the weight with such fan favourite characters. Especially when they're synonymous with such good writing. But you can't stop you doing the job. The sense of joy that comes from writing these characters far outweighs the pressures. I grew up reading Dredd and watching Who, so it's a complete joy writing both these characters. Creator-owned does offer more freedom too. But that's part of the fun of freelance writing. You can tick several boxes.


PCB Blog: The first issue was a joint venture from both yourself and fellow writer, Al Ewing. How did you find the process of writing together? Is it different to the way that you, Al and Si Spurrier approached the interconnected 'Trifecta' story-arc which interwove three Judge Dredd universe stories into one cohesive tale? And, will there be more instances of co-writing in future issues, or will you take turns in writing adventures?

Rob: Trifecta came about primarily from myself, Si and Al talking stories in pubs, and was mostly plotted in pubs too. We were friends and thought it'd be a fun thing to do together. Writing's often such a solitary thing. And it worked. I think we've all been professionals for a while now, we all recognise process and structure, and that allows co-writing to work, I think. You put a structure in place and then each have individual freedom within that agreed structure. So, with Who # 1 Al & I worked out the plot via Skype calls, and then each had 11 pages of script for first draft purposes. Then we both got to do a dialogue pass on each other's pages, so we'd end up with a uniformity of voice. That seems to have worked well. #2 is entirely Al, #3 is entirely me. # 7 & # 8 is a two parter where I've written the first part and Al the second. But all this happens within an over-reaching plot for the series that we've worked out together. But there'll be a couple of co-written issues again towards the end of the 'series'. We've plotted out a year's worth of stories that are, effectively, acting as a series of the TV show.



PCB Blog: One of the things I loved about this first issue was how it captured the tone of a 'new companion' episode and it reminded me of Martha Jones' debut in 'Smith and Jones' at times, with the focus on Alice Obiefune rather than the Doctor. What was it like creating a brand-new companion for the 11th Doctor in Alice? Did you look at any preceding companions and cherry-pick elements, or were you purposefully trying to create a new type of companion not seen in the TV show?

Rob: We wanted to offer someone a bit different from previous companions. An older companion. In recent times Martha, Amy, Rose, Clara have all been younger female foils for The Doctor. Alice is in her 30's and going through some things in her life that you don't experience in your early 20's. Losing her mother, her job. Her life falling apart. And Alice isn't the only new companion. We have two more joining her in The TARDIS. Both of whom are, I think it's fair to say, companions you have never seen before in the TARDIS.


PCB Blog: I also really enjoyed the stand-alone feel to the story which worked perfectly as an introduction to the series, but there was also a hint of a mysterious sub-plot in the form of a familiarly-dressed character. What sort of format do you plan to have for the series? Will it follow the same tone as the TV show with individual stories tied together with a 'season-long' through line?

Rob: Yes, that's it. There's an over-reaching A plot for the series, which we'll tease and dip in and out of, building to the series climax. And then there's individual episodes with their own finite plots.


PCB Blog: With Titan Comics also publishing ongoing series for the Tenth and Twelfth Doctors, is there a possibility of a cross-over between the three series for a multi-Doctor adventure? Or possibly revisiting some of the older Doctors? Are there particular elements of the series you would like to bring into the comic?

Rob: I believe, following 'The Day Of The Doctor', that the Beeb is keen to avoid multi-Doctor stories for a while, which you can understand. Although there may be a cheaty way around that somewhere around issue #6. As for plans for stories with older Doctors, keep an eye on Titan's future announcements for that.


PCB Blog: Will see any of the classic monsters appear in future issues?

Rob: The Beeb were keen for us to come up with new monsters and adversaries, for the most part. We've got a few oldies in there too though. I don't want to give too much away...


PCB Blog: Speaking of new monsters, I loved the design of the Rainbow Dog in this issue, and the nod to the Wizard of Oz with the transition from a dreary black and white viewpoint into a world of colour. How does the collaborative process between you, Al and Simon [Frazer] play out in regards to character designs and visual choices? Do you give him freedom to run free with the designs, or do you have specific ideas on what you want the creatures or alien worlds to look like?

Rob: As always with comics, the writer offers a description and then the artist has the freedom to go where they will. It's a visual medium and really, after we offer the script, the artist is the director, the director of photography, the concept designer. We offer notes on the final design - it's a collaboration - but the artist is in charge of the visuals. As long as the narrative is adhered to, my attitude is always "if you have something better than my description, go for it."


PCB Blog: Within Doctor Who history, there has been the more scientific, future-based serials and the historical time-travelling ones – will you be doing a mix of both types of adventures? Do you prefer one type of story over another?

Rob: It's a bit of both. Variety is the spice of life, after all. We have historical adventures, future planets, self-enclosed high concept 'timey wimey' episodes. It's a fun balance.


PCB Blog: Do you have any teases for future issues of the series that you can share?

Rob: I won't speak for Al's episodes. I'll just say what I've read is huge fun with a great sense of insightful character definition. But for me, #3 delves into the mystery of who, exactly, bluesman Robert Johnson met at the crossroads at midnight, #6 sees an old foe turn up and something very odd happening to time itself. #7 is called 'The Eternal Dogfight'' and I'm saying no more.


PCB Blog: Wow, that all sounds great and I'm looking forward to reading those issues! Moving away from Doctor Who somewhat, I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved your recent Judge Dredd stories, 'Titan' and 'The Heart is a Lonely Klegg Hunter' – do you have any future stories for 2000AD in the pipeline?

Rob: Thank you. Yes, I'm currently writing the third and final series of The Grievous Journey Of Ichabod Azrael (And The Dead Left In His Wake) and a new multi-part Judge Dredd. Chris Weston and I have talked about more Sensitive Klegg too. We'll see.

PCB Blog: Thank you for your time Rob.



Rob Williams has his own blog where he frequently posts updates and he can be found on Twitter under the username @RobWilliams71. Please visit him and let him know how much you enjoyed his interview here!

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor # 1 launched on 23rd July and is available in all good comic book shops, as well as digitally via the Comixology website, where users can also subscribe and receive copies of the latest issue every month.

Here are the Pop Culture Bandit reviews for both The Tenth Doctor # 1 and The Eleventh Doctor # 1 comics, which marked the starting point for Titan Comics tenure over the Doctor Who comics licence.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

2000AD Prog 1895

Prog 1895 Cover by Jake Lynch

This is my first experience of seeing Jake Lynch's artwork in colour after his black and white work on Orlok: Agent of East-Meg One in this year's Sci-Fi Special and Sinister Dexter in the Prog proper. The addition of colours adds a whole new dimension to Lynch's artwork and reminds me of Filipino comics artist, Leinil Yu, particularly his work on Wolverine, with the use of cross-hatching to add detail on Dredd's visor and bike. I also love the choice of colours used, with the greens and blues evoking the atmosphere of Mega-City One's bleak urban metropolis. I'd love to see more covers from Lynch in the future, maybe tackling other iconic figures from the 2000AD stables. I think his style would be a great fit for Rogue Trooper.


JUDGE DREDD - CASCADE (Part 2)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Paul Marshall
Colour - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode was a great example of the various threads that Michael Carroll has been weaving together over the past few years being brought together in a satisfying way, with the appearance of Dolman and continued presence of Gideon Dallas. I really like the sense of continuity that follows his “Carroll-verse” stories with multiple plot threads being ‘on the boil’ at once.


I really enjoyed the way the story continued with the same wacky humour from the Mega-City media, with the alien interview being a particular highlight. I also like the way that Indira Knight has turned the tables and appears to be using the media to voice her own agenda, rather than pander to their inane conversation and prattling on.

I wasn't expecting the story to head in this direction with Indira's attack on the Justice System reminding me of Max Blixen's attempt to generate dissent during the recent ‘Mega-City Confidential’ story-arc. Given how the department resolved the issue with Blixen, I don't hold out much hope for Indira Knight as she tries to take on the system.



JAEGIR - CIRCE (Part 3)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As with the previous storyline, ‘Strigoi’, this series rattles along at a quick pace throwing the reader straight into the action, as Klaur and Jaegir head to the murky underworld of Nordland in order to investigate the mysterious drug, Circe, before running afoul of two ‘enemies of the state’. I must admit that I did find some confusion with the artwork during the action sequences with one of the renegade soldiers appearing to look just like Jaegir herself, with short blonde hair and a slightly scarred face.

I loved the concept of the Chem-Bars, catering to those battle-hardened soldiers who find it tough to adapt to breathing without gas-masks after their experiences on Nu-Earth. I liked the way that Len O’Grady’s change in the colour palette helps to establish the smoky environment of the seedy Chem-Bars, gradually developing into a more psychedelic nature as Jaegir succumbs to narcotics in the air. With Jaegir's recent pre-occupation with Rogue Trooper and her now hallucinogenic state, I'm expecting a rather trippy journey through her sub-consciousness next episode as she fights off the side-effects of the drug.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 8)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As expected, Ramkin is given a healthy dose of the gaseous clay in an effort to revive him, but the script doesn't dwell on his recovery for too long as the remaining trio rush to Ariel's old ship in an effort to catch up with the Sweet Sisters and the stolen Nominal Charge before they find themselves stranded in the Deep.


I really enjoyed the pace of this episode as Ariel works hard to pull a miracle out of her hat and keep them all from becoming left behind. I also liked the brief flashback to how her original crew were taken out by the massive Leviathan creature, which felt like a bit of a 'Chekhov's Gun' to me, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see the monstrously large beast reappear later in the series.

With a handful of episodes left, I am surprised to find that the story is still firmly entrenched in the current “gaseous clay” given the relative speed that the previous two books had addressed their storylines in both Hind Leg and The Keep, and suspect that we might end this particular book on a cliffhanger, rather than moving onto a new world for the fourth.



BLACK SHUCK (Part 5)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Simon Bowland

This series has been surprisingly slow-paced considering its elevator pitch concept of Trolls vs. Vikings, although I do suspect that this might be one that makes more sense as a whole rather than on a week-by-week basis. As with previous installments, the dual narrative continues to tell two related stories and I am strongly suspecting that the Black Shuck is not the heir to the throne and that the other survivor on the island is the actual heir and that something will happen as a result. I am really enjoying the atmosphere crafted by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Steve Yeowell and look forward to seeing how they handle the final episodes. Considering the talent involved in the story, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a contender for the next US-sized one-shot, following in the steps of Dredd: Underbelly and Jaegir: Strigoi.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 6)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I had actually forgotten about the guardian wolf creature that Aquila had befriended in the sewers in the last storyline, so I was actually quite shocked to see her reappear and meet a rather gruesome end, eliminating one potential friendly force against Nero's ascension, as well as delivering the final 'head' into the crazed emperor's hands.


I liked the design of the electric guardian of the Temple of Jupiter Maximus, wonderfully representing the fury of the Roman God, Jupiter, with his charged weapons creating a vivid and eye-catching visual, even if the cluttered nature of some panels required a bit more examination to determine that Aquila strangled the deity with his own electrified mace.

With the close of this episode, it seems like all of our characters are being brought together to some kind of final reckoning, and I wonder if there will be some last minute save from the Christianity's “carpenter messiah” in the lead up to the finale.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I really liked the development in this week's Judge Dredd, which took the story in a direction that I wasn't expecting, however, the amazing visuals and pure exuberance of Brass Sun ensures that it is my top story for the week. As things continue to heat up in both Aquila and Jaegir, I must say that I am also eagerly awaiting their next chapters, as we begin the countdown towards the new 'jumping on point' of Prog 1900.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1895 will be available in stores on Wednesday 20th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

2000AD Prog 1894

Prog 1894 Cover by Neil Roberts

This fantastically gruesome cover image of the reanimated G.I corpse that houses Kolonel Mabuse's brain can only be described as “Frankenstein's Trooper”. It's a wonderful piece of artwork from Neil Roberts, sporting some realistic looking skin textures that highlights every detail of the rotting blue flesh as it is stapled together to maintain a form for the body-less Nort Kolonel in Jaegir.


JUDGE DREDD - CASCADE (Part 1)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Paul Marshall
Colour - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week's Judge Dredd introduces a 'fish out of water' storyline with an astronaut from our future, but Mega City One's past returning to Earth to find that it has changed dramatically in her absence. I really like the concept of a Captain America-esque “man out of time”, especially using a strong female character who is capable of looking after herself, rather than a damsel in distress. By using Indira Knight, Michael Carroll is able to explore Mega City One from a different perspective, effectively showing the reader what it would be like to wake up in the future and having to adapt to the bizarreness of Mega City One Life.


I enjoyed the humourous interplay between the Mega City One journalists who were more concerned with Indira's views on mundane current day events, rather than finding out about her own experiences and getting a first-hand account of the past. It shows the fickle, self-obsessed nature of media, and I could totally see our own tabloids doing the same if we happened to discover a frozen caveman, 'California Man' style. On a side note, it's interesting that a second reference is made to Gideon Dallas from the recent Under-city storyline (after his cameo in 'Traumatown') – could there be more to this sub-plot, or is Michael Carroll just building up some continuity between his own stories in the Dredd universe?



JAEGIR - CIRCE (Part 2)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Ellie de Ville

In the pursuit of a suspect for one of their war-crime investigations, Jaegir and Klaur are wrapped up into a greater conspiracy when the corrupt Kolonel Mabuse (in his stolen G.I corpse body) asks them to investigate the drug, Circe, which consumes and transforms those who use it into lifeless husks. As with the previous storyline, it seems that Jaegir's “day-job” hunting war-criminals takes the back-seat as she is drawn into a larger adventure.


I really enjoy seeing these glimpses into the seedy underbelly of Nordland, richly brought to life through Simon Coleby's and Len O'Grady's art. The dystopian nature of the environment reflects the unpleasantness of Jaegir's job of hunting her own kind, amongst those who dislike and distrust her. With the story heading towards the drugs trade in the Nordland Underworld, it seems like things will only get tougher for our anti-hero.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 7)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After weeks of set up, the inevitable double-cross by the Sweet Sisters occurs as they take both the gaseous clay and the Nominal Charge leaving our heroes stranded. The bulk of the episode consists of a fast-paced action sequence with a firefight between the two factions, with the more combat-experienced Ariel O' Connor showcasing her skills with a pistol. I was quite surprised by the shocking consequences of the battle, although with the already established 'deus ex machina' of the gaseous clay, I'm guessing that Ramkin will survive this particular battle. Considering the more cynical tone that the brings to the team, I would be very surprised if he was removed from the story at this relatively early stage.


INJ Culbard's artwork continues to impress with a fantastic use of the colour blue to highlight an otherworldly, twilight atmosphere of The Deep. Culbard's skill at using colours to set the mood has been a key element of this particular chapter of the Brass Sun storyline with his bold artwork really capturing the wonder of the floating worlds visited on this sky odyssey. While his panels may have been lacking some of the detailed backgrounds seen in earlier episodes, I found this served to accentuate the emotions and action-packed movement during the confrontation between our heroes and The Sweet Sisters. As a side-note, I liked the nice nod back to the previous book where Wren and Septimus used a similar flash-bang distraction to escape certain death.



BLACK SHUCK (Part 4)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Simon Bowland

I'm really enjoying the slow build of Black Shuck, which continues to utilise flashbacks to tell its dual narrative. This effective method allows Leah Moore and John Reppion to balance the exposition about the cursed Jotunn gold with the action-packed energy of the flashbacks showing Black Shuck fighting nightmarish creatures as he is stranded on a mysterious island. As I've said before in reviews, I'm convinced there is some important connection between the flashbacks and the main storyline, but it remains unclear what it might be so far. Steve Yeowell's art continues to impress with Chris Blythe's colours providing clear indication between the flashback sequences and the present-day events.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 5)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

With a somewhat slow episode this week, Aquila focuses on the antagonistic relationship between the gladiator and Saint Peter, suggesting a begrudging nature behind their alliance to thwart Nero's plans to become a god. Judging from Triscus' visions, it doesn't look like Saint Peter is going to do well out of the partnership.

The highlight of this week's installment is the horrific final panel of the cursed Vestal Virgin, Mater Clementia, hounded by the demonic cherubim of her drowned children. Leigh Gallagher's artwork is fantastically well suited to bringing to life the grimy underbelly of Ancient Rome, vividly capturing the gory elements of both the mass grave where our heroes hide out, and the brutal executions of the female guides to the Temple of Vesta.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Overall, this was a strong Prog with all the stories delivering great installments, although both Aquila and Black Shuck seemed to be sowing the seeds for future episodes with more exposition focused content. Brass Sun was the highlight of the Prog for me, with a fantastic bit of gunplay and a shocking conclusion, whereas the start of an intriguing new Judge Dredd serial offered a different perspective on Mega City One life.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1894 will be available in stores on Wednesday 13th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

2000AD Prog 1893

Prog 1893 Cover by I.N.J. Culbard

This fantastic Brass Sun cover from INJ Culbard captures one of the more intimate moments from this week's episode as Wren and Septimus hold hands together whilst staring into the gaping maw of one of the gigantic creatures from The Deep. This image really sums up the epic nature of Culbard's artwork in this third book of the series, with a vivid range of gargantuan beasts inhabiting the skies of The Deep.


JUDGE DREDD - A NIGHT IN SYLVIA PLATH (Part 2)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colour - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

There is a brilliant farcical nature to this week's episode of Judge Dredd, which feels reminiscent of an episode of the TV sitcom, Frasier, with a series of misunderstandings leading towards humourous results. With the focus more on the Judge Death robber in this installment, it's almost a shame that the Walter sub-plot is resolved so quickly. I'd like to have seen a bit more interaction between him and Dredd after his fault had been repaired.



As a bit of continuity-hound, I really enjoyed the numerous references to the events of the classic storyline, Young Death – Boyhood of a Superfiend, which saw Judge Death lodging with Mrs Gunderson in Sylvia Plath block whilst conducting an interview about his past. The concept of a Judge Death robber was a fantastic way of touching upon Mrs Gunderson's history with the Dark Judge without invoking the character himself, who is being saved up for the much-awaited 'Dark Justice' storyline. This was a fantastic slice of nostalgia and I hope that we see more from Walter and Mrs Gunderson in the near future!



JAEGIR - CIRCE (Part 1)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Jaegir returns after a brief hiatus (and coinciding with the release of the first arc as a US-sized comic) with a storyline that strengthens the series' link to the Rogue Trooper universe as we not only catch our first glimpse of Rogue via one of Atalia's flashbacks which shows her encountering the G.I, but the cliffhanger reveals that Kolonel Mabuse has adopted the blue-skinned body of one of the Souther G.I's, although presumably the body doesn't belong to Rogue/Friday.

I absolutely loved the inclusion of Rogue Trooper into the story, albeit through flashbacks. While the first arc introduced Atalia Jaegir as a character in her own right, the whole benefit of setting the story within Nort-occupied Nordland was that it provided a different perspective on the Rogue Trooper legend, and we finally get to see some of that with this episode. The way Jaegir refers to Rogue as a “blue demon” suggests she harbours some fear and resentment towards the G.I's, so seeing someone inhabit one of their bodies should lead to some interesting character developments.

As with the previous story-arc, Simon Coleby's artwork is fantastic, especially the way he manages to imbue the masked characters with facial features underneath the cloth. I also found that the dark, rusty colouring used by Len O' Grady to depict Nordland worked brilliantly as a contrast to the bright blue-skin of the G.I soldiers, making them stand-out and lending them an otherworldly quality. I'm really looking forward to seeing more Genetic Infantrymen action in upcoming episodes.



BRASS SUN - FLOATING WORLDS (Part 6)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a dense burst of exposition in last week's episode, this installment of Brass Sun adopts a more laid-back and visually intensive approach with a beautiful double-page spread by INJ Culbard showcasing one of The Deep's enormous predators, the Sabrefin. The sequence also features one of the more intimate moments between Wren and Septimus, hinting at a potential romance between the two young adventurers. It's a nice bit of characterisation with Culbard's subtle panel placement and Ian Edginton's dialogue accentuating the awkwardly timid nature of the couple. 

While the slow-paced storytelling of this particular chapter in the Brass Sun series might frustrate some, I've really enjoyed the leisurely pace as the airships have travelled through The Deep and the chances for INJ Culbard to flex his creative muscles with a range of exotic creatures filling the skies. It does appear that the story will begin to pick up speed now that the Nominal Charge has located Ariel O' Connor's previous ship.



BLACK SHUCK (Part 3)
Script - Leah Moore & John Reppion
Art - Steve Yeowell
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Simon Bowland

I'm really enjoying the dual narrative structure of Black Shuck, which alternates between two timelines, with one showing the Black Shuck's journey to Scandinavia where he was shipwrecked on a strange island inhabited by deadly supernatural creatures and the 'present-day' storyline where he has reached his destination and claimed his crown, only to find himself cursed into fighting a war with the Jotnar. The use of flashbacks and the fact that Black Shuck was ship-wrecked on an spooky island reminds me of the TV series, LOST, although I'm sure that's where the similarities end.


I'm convinced that there is a reason why Leah Moore and John Reppion have structured the story to feature both the past and present timelines simultaneously, rather than tell the story in a traditional chronological manner. Perhaps, there is some secret revelation in the flashback sequence that will coincide with a moment in the present-day. Even though this is only the third installment, the series has definitely carved out its own identity and I look forward to seeing this one develop, and hopefully surprising me, in the future.



AQUILA - CARNIFEX (Part 4)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After weeks of seeing Aquila acting the servant and beheading priests and deities, we get our first glimpse that the gladiator is not just a puppet, blindly following Nero's orders, as he seeks out and protects Triscus and his cohorts from danger. It appears that he will become embroiled in the plot to prevent Nero's ascension. I love the idea that Aquila will be a 'double-agent' as he works both sides and it instils a whole new dimension to the storyline as the group work to prevent St Peter from becoming a decoration on Nero's set of plinths.


Gordon Rennie and Leigh Gallagher are weaving a fantastically tense swords and sorcery story here and I absolutely love the old-school approach to the tale with the devilishly evil Nero, who appears to be manipulated by his female companion. This feels like classic 2000AD to me, partly due to the similarities to the 80's strip, Blackhawk, and also due to the whole 'boys adventure' feel to the story blending historical events with amazing visuals of gods and monsters. This is easily becoming one of my favourite reads in the Prog!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

The return of Nort-themed war series, Jaegir, does a fantastic job of replacing Sinister Dexter, getting straight into the action with some references to classic series, Rogue Trooper. All of the existing stories continue to work well together with the leisurely pace of Brass Sun contrasting well against the frenetic action of Aquila. This is a great line-up to lead us up towards Prog 1900.

Interestingly, Tharg lets slip in the letters page that Mark Harrison is busy at work on the third book of Grey Area. Considering how it appeared to end with all of the main cast being blown to pieces by a nuclear device, it is very curious that there will be a third series. Hopefully we will see Adam Bulliet and his team survive, but the nature of the Grey Area series also could allow for a fresh new cast to take their place and operate within the immigration zone.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1893 will be available in stores on Wednesday 6th August - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

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