Wednesday, 26 November 2014

2000AD Prog 1909

Prog 1909 Cover by Cliff Robinson & Dylan Teague

There's no denying that this is a fantastic image of Judge Dredd, expertly brought to life by one of the masters in the field, Cliff Robinson, but the angle and focus on Dredd's eagle shoulder pad does put me off slightly, as it feels a bit too bulbous in the foreground. Aside from that minor nitpick, I do love the attention to detail given to the Mega City One backdrop with an intricate series of buildings showcased. As with any Dredd portrait piece, my eyes goes straight to the chin, and it's wonderfully realised here by Robinson, emphasising the grim determination associated with the tough lawman.


JUDGE DREDD - BLOCK JUDGE (Part 10)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

'Block Judge' comes to a somewhat predictable end, considering the foreshadowing prior, but I did like the fact that John Wagner threw in a slight curve-ball by having the first attempt at blowing up Gramercy Heights fail. Even though I predicted that the block was going to explode at the end of the story, it seems like it didn't really have any chance to explore the impact, with Dredd and Beeny effectively getting on with it and riding into the flaming wreckage to help survivors. It was a subtle reminder of how short-staffed the Judges are since Chaos Day, and much like Chaos Day itself, they can try as hard as they can to uphold the law, but sometimes bad things will slip through the cracks.


Looking back at the ten episodes as a whole, it definitely reads much better than the episodic format. It's easier to recognise the tapestry of different cases and how some of them interconnected, and some of them were superfluous to the main 'gang war' plot line, but it seems like even if Beeny had caught the bomber, she might have missed the poisoner, so some catastrophe was destined to happen. Overall, I enjoyed this style of multi-layered procedural storyline, but I think I prefer the more linear and straight-forward case-by-case basis. With two Progs left until the much anticipated 'Dark Justice', it's likely we will get a couple of shorter stories in before things hit the fan.



STICKLEBACK - THE THRU'PENNY OPERA (Part 10)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This week’s episode of Stickleback adopts a much slower pace, taking time to highlight the aftermath of the Three Sister’s frenzied attack on the Empress and her dragon last Prog. It’s a rather emotional sequence as Stickleback embraces his dying love, the mother of child, and the pair regret those wasted moments between the two of them as they prepare to be separated forever. I’ll be honest, I had no real emotional ties to either character prior to this sequence but it was so powerfully written by Ian Edginton, accurately capturing that feeling of loss, with D’Israeli’s wonderfully paced panels capturing the sensitivity of the moment, especially when she dies in his arms. It’s easily the strongest episode of the series, thus far, and has reinvigorated my interest in the series, and motivated me to go check out the previous trades.



KINGDOM - AUX DRIFT (Part 10)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Simon Bowland

This concluding episode of Kingdom certainly concentrated on style over substance, with some bombastic set-pieces and cinematic explosions that wouldn't seem out of place in a Michael Bay film. Although, one must wonder just how Gene's explosive device was able to cause such a drastic reaction, compared to the previous attempts. I guess he used more explosives than the others, probably so he could steal the glory! 

Even if the way that the Alpha Them was dispatched stretches credibility a little bit, it is wonderfully represented by Richard Elson, who brings the carnage to life on the page beautifully. He also gets a chance to shine on the final splash page with the first glimpse at the titular Kingdom, which bears a remarkable similarity to the post-apocalyptic cities of the Mad Max series. I wonder if we'll see some new characters with pun names related to that film franchise. Maybe Mel Gibbs-Son, or Teena Turnah.

While this particular chapter in the Kingdom storyline has been high on action and low on plot development, I have a feeling that now our heroes have reached their end goal, we will see a much greater emphasis on characterisation and plot when the series returns.



GREYSUIT - PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Part 9)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - John Higgins
Colours - Sally Hurst
Letters - Ellie de Ville

John Blake ruthlessly crosses off another of his enemies in this brutal episode, in quite possibly the goriest sequence seen in the series yet. The panels where The Family Man bashes his own head against the wall to stop the pain are genuinely unsettling and a great example of John Higgins' unrestrained artwork. It's stark, graphic content really amplifies the tension and the high stakes nature of this series. There are no prisoners here – it's literally kill or be killed, and it's bloody fantastic!


I'm really enjoying this Kill Bill-style journey for revenge, with what looks like a facially altered Blake trying to infiltrate Prince's private security base to get closer to his prey. Considering the heinous crimes that Prince has been responsible for in his past, I am expecting his fate to be a darn sight more gorier than The Family Man's in this episode. As things head towards their violent conclusion, I remain in the same place since this series begun: the edge of my seat.



THE GRIEVOUS JOURNEY OF ICHABOD AZRAEL - ONE LAST BULLET (Part 9)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Mike Dowling
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This penultimate episode answers a few more of the ongoing mysteries, such as the identities of the inhabitants of Atonement, who are as I suspected the people that Ichabod had killed, making the town the stage of his own judgement, as to whether he is worthy of salvation or not. It also seems that the writer, or narrator, is indeed God and he is shot dead by Lucifer and his four horsemen of the apocalypse. It seems like this meta-fictional element to the series is some kind of reference to Ichabod's own story, rather than the world itself, and it seems that someone else is adding in elements, such as Ahtunowhiho, to influence the expected outcome, which is presumably Ichabod's demise, or descent into hell.


I think that once Ichabod hijacked Charon's boat and broke through the barriers of purgatory, he arrived in his own personal limbo (the town of Atonement) where he would be judged based on his choices in this reality. By choosing to be the protector of those he had killed in his life, it seems like he has redeemed himself somewhat, spurring his fictional daughter into action to tackle the overwhelming odds on his behalf. The fact that there is so much to read into this adventure, without being explicitly explained, just goes to show how strong and clever the writing is. I suspect that next week's conclusion might end things slightly ambiguously, allowing readers to develop their own theories on the events in Atonement. I look forward to de-constructing things once the story wraps up!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

With the conclusion of two long-running stories, next Prog promises some fresh blood into the line-up, with a new Judge Dredd storyline and a Twisted Tales. It also looks like Ichabod Azrael's time is finally up, with the concluding episode on its way. I imagine that Greysuit and Stickleback have two more episodes left in them, possibly setting up cliff-hanger endings for their next chapters. As the stories being to wrap up, I am becoming more excited for the upcoming Prog 2014 and its fresh selection of thrills.

Tharg's Nerve Centre delivers some news I've been waiting for: There will be a new Strontium Dog series in the Spring, entitled “The Jing Jong Job”. It sounds like a more light-hearted affair than recent adventures, but I am curious to see whether it will be set after the recent cliff-hanger ending of The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha arc, or if it will be a return to the lost stories approach. There's even the chance it might not even feature Johnny Alpha, allowing Wagner and Ezquerra to give the appearance that he did actually die during the last episode, saving up his return for a dramatic reveal.

Thrill of the Week: Stickleback


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1909 will be available in stores on Wednesday 26th November - 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, 25 November 2014

Review - Gotham: 1x07 - "Penguin's Umbrella"


Gotham
Episode 1x07 - "Penguin's Umbrella"

Synopsis

With news of the Penguin’s survival out in the open, Jim Gordon is placed in a perilous situation as the Falcone family seek retribution for his betrayal. With no friends left in the GCPD, Gordon must look to unlikely sources for support. Meanwhile, the war between Maroni and Falcone threatens to boil over into bloodshed as they clash over what to do with the Penguin.

Review

After that doozy of a cliffhanger at the end of the last episode, I was eagerly anticipating this next episode to see how greatly the status quo of the series would be rocked by the revelation that Jim Gordon had faked Oswald Cobblepot's death. As the driving force behind the opening six episodes, rivalling the death of the Waynes as the series' central mystery, the fact that this particular plot point was being addressed so early gave this episode a “season finale” atmosphere with a sustained level of tension and urgency present throughout the opening half. While some of that tension did dissipate slightly towards the end, it was still a wonderfully cinematic approach and it really felt like anything might happen.

For me, the standout scene would be the tense confrontation between Gordon and Victor Zsasz in the GCPD station, which soon erupted into a gun fight that spilled out into the car park. The moment where the menacing Zsasz ordered an entire precinct of police officers out of their own police station just highlighted how much power the crime families really have, and how little friends Gordon has on the force. Without wanting to overuse the adjective, the scene felt cinematic in scale, bringing forth memories of crime dramas such as Heat or The Untouchables. With a pitch-perfect blend of tension and action, the scene greatly contributed to the whole “season finale” feel to the episode, and quickly established Victor Zsasz as a threat.

As one of Batman's mid-tier villains, Victor Zsasz might not be as well known to non-comic fans as the Ridder or the Joker, but his introduction here hopefully means that he will develop more of a presence in the TV show. I'm vaguely aware of the character from the comic books and it seems like he is more restrained in this incarnation, although his trademark cutting of tally-marks to memorialise those he has killed remains present. With only twenty-eight victims it is clear that this is a Victor Zsasz early on in his career, as the version in the comics is covered with tally-marks and pretty much obsessed with killing. There were some hints of his insanity bubbling underneath his polite and intelligent persona and Anthony Carrigan did a fantastic job bringing him to life, with his bulging eyes and subtle manic tics. In his opening scene, both the actor and character confidently strode into the show and made himself equally as engaging as Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin.


At the heart of this episode was a frantic Gordon, caught between the machinations of the two crime families and the corrupt police organisation. I loved the “man without fear” personality that Gordon displayed here, although his endgame plan of effectively arresting the Mayor and Carmine Falcone was a tad short-sighted. If Netflix's upcoming Daredevil show can capture this same feeling in its storylines, it will definitely do well, as Gordon had some definite “Matt Murdock moments” here. Ben McKenzie did a fantastic job in playing the character at his wit's end and I wonder whether we'll see Gordon get to this same “nothing to lose” mode again in future episodes. As the episode ends it looks like both Gordon and Bullock are safe for now and the status quo has been restored, with the last minute twist moving the target crosshairs away from the GCPD and firmly onto Fish Mooney and Maroni.

I must admit that as that final scene begun and Penguin appeared to Falcone as he tended to his birds, I half-expected him to assassinate Falcone, but instead the shocking reveal that this whole thing had been orchestrated to ingratiate Penguin into Maroni's camp as a mole was simply fantastic and took me completely by surprise. While it does stretch credibility somewhat that the Penguin could work out all the angles and predict everything that would happen, it does return him back to the role of a master manipulator, with his previous missteps (revealing himself to Maroni, striding into the GCPD) suddenly making sense as part of the bigger game he is playing. While Falcone seems to be in control now, weakening both Maroni and Mooney with the Penguin's help, he is still unaware of Fish's femme fatale that is cooking food for him, and I suspect that she will be his downfall. I'm really enjoying the increased level of twists and turns in the organised crime element of the show, as it helps elevate the battle for Gotham's underworld into something more complicated and unpredictable as the various pieces on the chess board switch alignments, or are taken off the board completely.

To say this episode lived up to my expectations would be an understatement, it managed to maintain the excitement and unpredictable nature of Jim Gordon's predicament throughout the  suspense-filled opening half before delivering a stunning twist ending that caused me to re-evaluate everything I had seen up to that point. I love the fact that things are getting nicely complicated between the warring crime families and that Falcone, whom everyone presumed was getting old and weak, is actually the one with the most power even if they don't realise it now. This was a fantastic resolution to the first major arc of the series, setting up further plot threads to develop in future episodes. While the organised crime element of the series is easily one of the most gripping elements, I wouldn't be surprised if the next few episodes focused on other areas, possibly more on Bruce Wayne and his search for truth at Wayne Enterprises. Either way, the show will have to work hard to top this episode which was easily the best one yet.


Score - 9.8 out of 10


Next Episode - "The Mask"
Gordon and Bullock investigate a Gothamite who runs a deadly fight club for candidates applying for a job at his financial firm. Meanwhile, Bruce returns to school and gets a visit from a new friend.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 2x08 - "The Things We Bury"


Agents of SHIELD
Episode 2x08 - "The Things We Bury"

Synopsis

Now armed with the knowledge that the alien etchings point to a location, Coulson and his team begin their attempts to discover the whereabouts of the secret city before Hydra, uncovering some interesting secrets about their enemy, Daniel Whitehall, along the way. Meanwhile, Ward has a brutal family reunion with his brother, Senator Christian Ward.

Review

After numerous episodes focusing on the different members of Agent Coulson's team, this week saw things change somewhat as the emphasis was on unearthing the hidden backstory behind this season's main antagonist – the mysterious and seemingly ageless Daniel Whitehall. Revisiting the clues given in the first episode of this season, “Shadows”, flashback sequences set in 1945 told the story behind Whitehall's obsession with the Obelisk and his incarceration within SHIELD. The use of flashbacks to flesh out Whitehall's past reminded me of the TV show, LOST, particularly in the way that the flashbacks dovetailed nicely against SHIELD's own discovery of these secrets.

I really liked the way that Rhinehardt/Whitehall's story was woven into the various plot threads, with his encounter with Agent Carter and his eventual release from imprisonment being part of the Hydra infiltration of SHIELD, and the biggest surprise of the episode, that he regained his youth through dissecting and stealing the body organs of Skye's Mother. This episode saw Whitehall go through being a rather two-dimensional spooky Nazi to being a vital cog in the ongoing storyline, directly impacting the mythology of the series. I look forward to the eventual reveal that he is responsible for the death of Skye's Mother, as it appears that both Skye and her father are unaware of this fact currently.

A more cynical man would assume that the return of Agent Peggy Carter in these flashback sequences was another attempt from ABC to make sure that fans of Agents of SHIELD stick around for the Agent Carter mini-series in the New Year. Judging from her appearances in both Captain America: The First Avenger and her cameos in this series, I will definitely be watching her show. Hayley Atwell seems to be very watchable, and dare I say, very cute too. I am intrigued about watching a show about SHIELD's origins and hopefully the post-war setting should allow for a different type of show. It will also be interesting to see how closely linked the two series become. After the events of this episode, I doubt we will see much of Rhinehardt in the mini-series, but perhaps some other skeletons in SHIELD's closet will come to light throughout the eight episode run.


Moving away from the flashbacks seen in this episode, there was also a lot of movement in terms of the 'secret city' plot-line, with Hydra being brought up to speed on the meaning behind the alien symbols, courtesy of Skye's Father, who continues to go unnamed, fuelling more speculation that the 'Doctor' will be revealed to be a recognisable Marvel character. Interestingly, his insistence that Skye is not her real name suggests that she too will be revealed at some point to be someone from the comics. I must admit that I really enjoy Kyle MacLachlan's scruffy and out-there portrayal of the character, especially when talking to Coulson during Triplett's “operation”. There was a wonderful moment where he let slip Coulson's name and accidentally revealing himself that demonstrated the scatty and quirky nature of the character. Initially, I had considered him to be a villain, but it's hard to define the character, especially in light of the events of this episode as it could be that he is a normal man who has been slightly unhinged by circumstances. His love for his daughter does seem genuine, however, and I look forward to seeing his motivations develop over the upcoming episodes.

With all the advancement on the series' mythology, the encounter between the two Ward brothers took something of a backseat, and I have to admit that I was lulled into a false sense of security when Ward seemingly “broke” his brother's will and had him confess his crimes, leading to a weird moment of bonding where he appeared to forgive him as they left the Well. So when Whitehall revealed that Christian had killed his parents and himself, it was quite a shock, especially as this implies that either Ward manipulated him to murder his own parents, or staged the whole thing as an elaborate revenge. I'm guessing this will be left ambiguous as the show-writers are keen to leave viewers guessing about Ward's true alignments. Personally, I believe that he is loyal to Skye, and by extension, the rest of the SHIELD team, but I also think that loyalty is hanging by a thread. With the sub-plot of his brother and parents ending so abruptly, I am worried that things are leading up to Ward's departure from the series in the mid-season finale. Possibly with some last-minute sacrifice for Skye? I hope that I'm wrong as Ward is one of the most interesting characters on the show and deserves to remain part of the cast. If they want a body-count though, I think Triplett might be a good candidate. He barely has any lines, no involvement in the sub-plots and to be honest, him being shot this episode was the most screen-time he's had all season.

Overall, this was a great little retrospective episode that also built up momentum towards the mid-season finale by having both sides now on the same page as they head towards the secret city. By resolving some of the lingering questions about Ward's family history and Whitehall's youthful appearance, the show is able to move away from older plot-lines and concentrate on developing its core storyline. With two episodes remaining before the mid-season break, I am looking forward to seeing everyone converge on the secret alien city, wherever it might be, and finding out the true purpose behind the Diviner obelisk. Personally, I think it might be something like the Terrigen Mists from the Inhumans comic series, which will grant superpowers to those with Kree DNA inside them. Considering Skye's Father, Skye, Coulson, Whitehall and Raina all have Kree DNA inside of them, this could be a very interesting confrontation.


Score - 9.2 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References

Mysteries
  • Reinhardt claims that the Obelisk fell from space with “blue angels” - presumably the same race that the GH-325 came from, whereas Skye's Father claims the Diviner is there to choose those who are worthy to be saved. What is the true purpose of the Obelisk within the temple of the secret city?
  • It appears that Skye's Mother and Father both have delayed ageing – is the same true for Skye herself?
  • Does Skye's Father know that Reinhardt is the one responsible for the death of his wife? Or does he blame SHIELD?
  • What are the secrets from Agent Morse's time undercover with Hydra that Bakshi alludes to?

Next Episode - "...Ye Who Enter Here"
S.H.I.E.L.D. discovers the ancient city before Hydra, but uncovering the secrets may require one of Coulson's team to make the ultimate sacrifice. May and Skye race to get to Raina before Whitehall takes her.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

2000AD Prog 1908

Prog 1908 Cover by Greg Staples

This week's cover should be a familiar image to readers as it is currently one of the art prints offered as a gift to new and renewing subscribers. As such, I've become quite accustomed to the image, making it harder to judge it on first impressions like I do with most new covers. Despite this familiarity with the piece, it is simply a beautiful example of Greg Staples art, acting as yet another reason to look forward to his upcoming Dark Justice storyline starting in Prog 2015. Whenever there is a portrait piece of Judge Dredd like this, I always find my eyes drawn to his chin, which is usually a good guide of whether the artist has mastered the character or not, and in this instance it has been realistically depicted with the aged “wear and tear” you'd expect from a lifetime on the streets.


JUDGE DREDD - BLOCK JUDGE (Part 9)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

There's a real climactic sense to this episode of 'Block Judge' as the week's of pedantic policing finally get to the gangs and they make their biggest push yet to overthrow the Judges, although our three Block Judges manage to hold up against the onslaught, despite the overwhelming odds. The story hasn't ended yet, with several sub-plots still up in the air, particularly the Gramercy Heights bomber, who was brought back into the reader's radar last week with a near-miss. Could next week's episode bring this sub-plot back to the fore with a big bang?


I absolutely loved the opening sequence which showcased Dredd's long-time experience in a gunfight as he instinctively takes out his attackers, almost upon reflex. The close up of Dredd's face as he fires into the horde of advancing gang members is just a beautiful example of Carlos Ezquerra's iconic work on the character, especially with the orange glow of the gunfire illuminating his face. Further evidence of how Dredd's automatic reactions are built up from years on the streets is seen when the younger, and less experienced, Judge Corrigan attempts a less-successful version of the same thing, although he does use his brains and turns off the lights to regain the advantage, preventing his injuries from becoming fatal. 



STICKLEBACK - THE THRU'PENNY OPERA (Part 9)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This week's action-packed installment saw the three sisters triumph over the last Dragon in London in a deliciously gory manner. The way that they changed their form to attack the creature, eventually strangling it to the point where its head popped clean off was certainly surprising and really rather brutal, which helped establish the trio as a viable threat against Stickleback and his motley crew. I'm not too familiar with the female who the third sister was threatening, and it's not clear what actually happened to her, but I assume that this will be explored in greater depth when Stickleback happens upon the aftermath of this great battle. Considering how outmatched our heroes are and how close we are to the end of the year, it seems like this storyline might end with a dramatic cliffhanger to be continued.



KINGDOM - AUX DRIFT (Part 9)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Simon Bowland

As expected, this week's episode is rather action-heavy as the blockbuster battle against the Alpha Them continues, claiming Nick Rogue as a casualty. I think that the Alpha Them makes a fantastic foe visually with its epic, gargantuan form sprawling across the page. Richard Elson is just doing an amazing job with the design of these creatures, with the hundreds of Them swarming around their leader to protect it from surface parasites, such as Gene.


I loved the way that the battle transitioned from an aerial attack to a closer combat situation with Gene leaping from his Bi-Plane to make sure his explosive triggers. It definitely feels like the climactic sequence in a big-budget movie and I wonder if Gene will get a last minute save as he leaps towards one of the circling planes, or whether it will be a cliff-hanger ending as to whether he survived. Either way, I'm looking forward to next week's installment and seeing where Dan Abnett takes the story from here.



GREYSUIT - PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Part 8)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - John Higgins
Colours - Sally Hurst
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After the impulsive and violent way that he dispatched The Tangerine Man last episode, this week sees John Blake adopting a more stealthy and intelligent approach to infiltrating The Family Man's secure apartment. Outsmarting the paranoid Greysuit, the episode ends with Blake's prey tied to chair, suggesting some kind of torture session in store next Prog, which should allow John Higgins to showcase some of the gorier aspects of his artwork. I quite liked this more methodical approach to tackling his targets, which showcased Blake's intelligence rather than his enhanced strength. I have a feeling that he will need to rely on both sets of skills when it comes time to approach his arch-enemy, Prince. Despite the slight change in pace, I'm continuing to enjoy this series and the old-school espionage feel that it conjures up.



THE GRIEVOUS JOURNEY OF ICHABOD AZRAEL - ONE LAST BULLET (Part 8)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Mike Dowling
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Things are getting severely meta-fictional in these concluding episodes of Ichabod Azrael and I bloody well love it! We see the introduction of another mysterious enemy who, judging by his own omnipotent manipulation of the comic's panel borders, could be the devil to counter God. We also see further evidence to support my theory that the writer (possibly Rob Williams himself) is actually God, as he is seen to be writing the narration of the episode on his typewriter, and then complains that the mysterious stranger's appearance breaks the rules of storytelling as he has not been established in the story prior.


There's further breaches in the storytelling rules with the shocking reveal that the mysterious female watching over Ichabod since his arrival in Atonement is actually his daughter from his imaginary life with Zoe – a last minute addition to the story brought in to alter Ichabod's tale will end. Despite these answers, there are still plenty of questions waiting to be answered before the series comes to its conclusion, such as the identities of the people in Atonement, who seem to bear some importance to Ichabod, as well as whose hand is guiding Ichabod's fate in these dying moments as reality begins to erode. I am extremely looking forward to these reveals across the final few episodes, but also cautiously nervous as Rob Williams has a lot riding on these last few episodes as he works to tie the three books up.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

As Tharg mentions in his Nerve Centre introduction, the current line-up of thrills are fast approaching their conclusions with only three Progs remaining until the end of year Prog 2015 is released. Out of the current line-up, I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion of Ichabod Azrael, purely based on the intriguing mystery that Rob Williams has crafted with the meta-fictional elements. Elsewhere, it feels like Kingdom and Judge Dredd are closer to the end than the others, with the bulk of the action behind them and the wrap-ups to follow, whereas Greysuit and Stickleback both seem to have more to come over the next three weeks.

Interestingly, Tharg's Nerve Centre also teases the reappearance of Dirty Frank in Low Life: The Really Big Christmas Sleep, which judging by its title will be a one-shot seasonal story in Prog 2015. I'm not all that familiar with the character, but I do love Rob Williams' quirky characters, such as the Sarcastic Horse and the Sensitive Klegg, so I am looking forward to a proper introduction to Dirty Frank.

Thrill of the Week: Ichabod Azrael


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1908 will be available in stores on Wednesday 19th November - 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 - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor # 2

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor # 2
"Terrorformer" - Part 2 (of 2)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Dave Taylor
Colours by: Hi-Fi

After a strong debut issue that accurately captured the essence of the new Doctor and gave him an interesting new enemy to fight, I was interested to see how this story would develop. As I mentioned in my previous review, the concept of an age-old threat borne in fire and brimstone evoked memories of the Tenth Doctor episodes, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit and the concluding half of this storyline continued to capture that vibe, albeit with less nihilistic tone.

The opening flashback sequence explained the history of the Hyperions, a race of sentient suns whose own greed for energy destroyed their benevolent nature and made them into a threat to the entire galaxy. In reaction to their growing malevolence, numerous races came together to form a Galactic alliance, much like how the Doctor's enemies united and placed him into the Pandorica prison in the Season Five finale, The Pandorica Opens. It's an interesting bit of symmetry with the show, and the appearance of Rassilon in the alliance added a sense of historical importance to the events, as well as establishing a personal animosity between the Hyperions and the Time Lords which would come into play later.

As with last issue's references to Danny and Clara's relationship, this issue featured further tidbits of continuity to tie in with the recent series, such as Clara's fencing moves against the possessed robot which resembled that of the Doctor when he faced Robin Hood with a spoon in Robot of Sherwood. It is these little echoes of the TV show that help make this comic feel strongly linked to the same continuity. As I type this review, the current series has ended in a rather dramatic fashion, so it will be interesting to see whether the next story-arc advances its placement in continuity, or if it will continue to take place in the midst of Season Eight.


Robbie Morrison continues to nail the voice of Peter Capaldi's Doctor here, particularly in the scene where he confronts Rann-Korr atop the destroyed tower. Morrison manages to give his Doctor the same sense of underlying menace that is prevalent in the on-screen version, hinting at the same “Am I a good man?” identity crisis that the character struggled with during recent episodes. The relationship between Clara and the Doctor seems lighter than seen in the show, but it could be because this story is set prior to the more dramatic confrontations between the two that occurred this season.

As with last issue, Dave Taylor delivers some fantastic artwork here, demonstrating a fluid sense of movement during the action sequences, such as Clara fencing with the robot and her narrow escape from a fire blast. He also manages to capture Peter Capaldi's intensity in the role of the Doctor through some well-realised facial expressions and close-ups on those eyebrows! I also loved his anthropomorphised flame design for the Hyperions, which was showcased more in this installment. It accurately captured the burning rage bubbling away inside the creature and allowed the artist the opportunity to exaggerate elements as it got angrier and angrier.

Overall, this was a great little conclusion to this introductory two-part storyline, but the whole 80's horror movie “they're still out there” cliffhanger left me a little cold (pun not intended) as while I did enjoy the visual design of the Hyperions, I am in no rush to see them return in the near future. The tease for next issue really piqued my interest with what looks like an Indiana Jones-style romp through some hidden tombs in India. I can't think of any instances where the Doctor has explored mythical ruins, outside of episodes such as The Aztecs and Tomb of the Cybermen, but this looks to be a different type of story.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth 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!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review - Gotham: 1x06 - "Spirit of the Goat"


Gotham
Episode 1x06 - "Spirit of the Goat"

Synopsis

When a serial killer from Bullock’s past appears to return from the grave to commit more murders, the cynical police detective embarks on a journey to discover the truth behind the decade-old ‘spirit of the goat’ case. Meanwhile, Jim Gordon finds himself the focus of the Major Crimes Unit investigation into Oswald Cobblepot’s “death”.

Review

Stepping away from the gang-war tension between Maroni, Falcone and Mooney, this episode provided a bit more of an old-school noir vibe to proceedings as Detective Bullock found himself confronted with a closed-case from his past becoming reopened. The series of murders, known as the 'Spirit of the Goat' murders, targeted the first-born children of Gotham's elite and saw the victims hung in a gruesome tableau. Initially dismissed as a copycat killer, Bullock begins to suspect the original killer might be back from the dead somehow, when a key detail unknown to the public is revealed in the autopsy.

I really liked the fact that there seemed to be a hint of the supernatural to the 'Spirit of the Goat' killings, with the unexplained ten-year gap between murders making it seem like these men were actually possessed by a demonic spirit that compelled them to kill. After last episode's flirtation with the fantastical with the Viper super-serum, I was willing to accept a more supernatural solution behind this case, but the reveal that it was actually a hypnotic implant created by their hypnotists was a nice twist and actually took me by surprise.

I also enjoyed the use of flashbacks to open this episode, which helped showcase the difference in Bullock's behaviour as he evolved from rash, heroic cop (not unlike Gordon) to the cynical, lackadaisical cop he is now. I wonder if the show will continue to play about with the narrative structure and utilise more flashbacks, or perhaps flashforwards. It's unlikely to happen, but it would be pretty cool if we saw a flash-forward to Bruce Wayne in the Batman costume. Somehow though, I think that we might have a similar situation to Smallville, wherein they save the big reveal of the titular hero until the final episode.


While the 'Spirit of the Goat' storyline dominated the episode, there was still time to explore one of the more under-utilised characters of the show, so far: Edward Nygma. Up until now, he has largely made cameo appearances with dialogue that hints at his interest in Riddles, but little else to suggest any malevolence in his personality. However, in this episode, we see some hints that he might become disassociated with society through the constant rejection he receives. His quirky behaviour resembles Asperger's Syndrome, as he struggles to understand social norms or subtle cues, especially in his pursuit of Kristen Kringle, the girl in the evidence room. While initially harmless, his reaction to being rejected here could easily blossom into some kind of resentment. I look forward to seeing him become more bitter and twisted, after further rejections, as he begins to evolve into his Riddler personality.

Despite the episode focusing more on Bullock and Edward Nygma this time around, there was still time for Jim Gordon's sub-plots to develop, specifically Montoya and Allen's determined pursuit of him for the murder of Oswald Cobblepot. This hasn't been my favourite plot line, as I thought it was a bit dramatically flat considering that we, the viewer, were aware that Cobblepot was alive, but the way that the episode ended was just perfect and was probably the best cliff-hanger that the series has had so far. With the Penguin storming straight into the GCPD to announce that rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated and the wonderful visual of Gordon and Bullock, both handcuffed, lunging towards each other, I literally cannot wait to watch the next episode to see how it all unfurls, now that this lie has been exposed.

This was easily the strongest episode of the season yet, with the refreshing departure from the Gotham gang war storyline and the focus on a strong noir murder mystery. Hopefully the show will remember to balance the 'season arc storylines' with the more crime procedural episodes, such as this one. It was also great to see an extended appearance from Edward Nygma, who resembles a slightly less manic version of Pee-Wee Herman. The cliff-hanger ending is what really raised this episode above the others though, with a shocking ending that literally blew open the tangled web of lies that surrounded Gordon and Cobblepot. I can't wait to see how all the characters react to Cobblepot's 'resurrection', which will surely result in a massive change to the show's status quo established so far.


Score - 9.7 out of 10


Next Episode - "Penguin's Umbrella"
Word is out that Cobblepot is alive, leading Falcone and Maroni to the brink of war and causing Gordon to go on the run.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 2x07 - "The Writing on the Wall"


Agents of SHIELD
Episode 2x07 - "The Writing on the Wall"

Synopsis

One of the guinea pigs from Coulson’s T.A.H.I.T.I. project is murdering other test subjects, leaving the mysterious carvings on the bodies. Could these grisly crimes lead Coulson towards the truth behind the mysterious symbols he has been carving onto the walls?

Review

This episode saw the show moving away from this season’s overarching ‘Hydra / Skye’s Father’ sub-plot and returning back to the T.A.H.I.T.I. project which brought Coulson back from the dead, although as Skye says, “it’s all connected” and the secrets that are revealed in this episode are sure to impact the plans of Daniel Whitehall and Skye’s Father. The episode was nicely split in two, with half of the team assisting Coulson in his hunt for the meaning behind the alien map, and the other half searching for the escaped Agent Ward. Despite being two fairly separate plot threads, the two narrative strands worked well beside each other, balancing out the exposition in the Coulson storyline, with the action and espionage in the Ward plot.

I was actually pleasantly surprised that the show-runners decided to resolve the “compulsive carving” storyline at this point in the Season, as I was expecting it to run for a lot longer. Although that being said, it did feel like it was running out of mileage, with very little being added to the mystery until now. The episode also seemed to act as the definitive statement on the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, confirming that it was the blue alien’s blood that brought Coulson back to life, and his mental deterioration resolved from some kind of biological memory transfer that his brain couldn't process until now. It seems like now he understands his compulsion, it has lifted from his mind, and our resurrected Coulson is now free from the fear that he will turn crazy like Garrett did.

While it may have provided some answers and removed some of the longer-running plot threads from the show’s inception, the episode was still willing to introduce new mystery with the discovery that the alien glyphs were actually a three-dimensional blueprint of a mysterious city – heavily rumoured to be Attilan, the city of the Inhumans. If this turns out to be true, then the implication is that both Skye and her father, possibly Raina too, are Inhumans themselves and belong in the city. Considering that Inhumans develop their powers upon exposure to the Terrigen mists, it is entirely possible that Skye may be granted some form of super-power. With Marvel Studios announcing an Inhumans movie for November 2018, this early seeding of the concept should ensure that the series becomes an even more vital part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than before.


I quite liked the darker turn to this episode with the crazed Sebastian Derik hunting down the other former T.A.H.I.T.I. patients and carving the symbols into their bodies in an effort to discover their meanings. There was an element of “that easily could have been me” to Coulson’s behaviour this episode, as he seemed to begin a similar spiral into mental imbalance. Perhaps if he had not discovered the truth behind the symbols, he would have gone equally as feral as Derik and Garrett.

With the heavier emphasis on unveiling the last of the mysteries surrounding Coulson’s resurrection, it did feel like the Ward storyline was slightly pushed out of focus, and just keeping things ticking over to the inevitable confrontation between the two Ward brothers in the next episode. I quite liked Ward’s ingenuity as he evaded capture from SHIELD, showcasing the ace spy training that we've not had a chance to see since his imprisonment. The show continues to keep things ambiguous with the character, leaving the viewer unsure as to whether his apparent betrayal of Bakshi is in fact a betrayal of Coulson. Maybe I’m gullible, but I believe Ward’s declarations that he is through lying to Skye and is only out to prove himself to her, so aiding SHIELD against Hydra would fit in with that. As such, I suspect that Ward’s brother will be unveiled as the villainous manipulator that he has portrayed him to be, not this misunderstood senator he tried to present himself as to Coulson.

With the two simultaneous storyline running throughout the episode, there wasn't much room for any other supporting characters to get much development, although there was a very curious statement from Fitz regarding memory “back-ups”. With the reappearance of Raina’s memory machine in this episode, I have a feeling he might make a reckless attempt to reset his brain to factory settings, like a computer reboot. It might be a way for him to return to his full mental capacity, but at the cost of the emotional development he has made, in regards to his feelings for Simmons. The capture of Bakshi also provides some very interesting prospects for future episodes, allowing Coulson to get more information about the mysterious Daniel Whitehall.

Overall, this was a really strong finish to Coulson’s resurrection mystery, touching upon some of the unanswered Season One mysteries, such as why the T.A.H.I.T.I. patients needed their memories altered and what caused the mental deterioration to occur.  Hopefully these revelations will mean that there is no more risk of side-effects from Coulson’s resurrection and the show can move past this mystery and concentrate on its new direction – to locate the secret city before Hydra. I, for one, am looking forward to what the team will find there and how Skye’s Father ties into it all.


Score - 9.3 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • One of my sources, this guy Micro – he's kind of a crime scene junkie...” - this is a vague reference to Microchip, the computer assistant to The Punisher.
  • The memory machine from “The Magical Place” returns.
  • Since Strucker is overseas, I assume you report to someone else” - Baron Von Strucker (last glimpsed in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier post-credits) is a high-ranking Hydra officer and one of the leaders in the organisation (First app: Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos # 5)
  • The fire at the church in Miami was the handiwork of Sebastian Derik (“Face My Enemy”)
  • The surviving member of the T.A.H.I.T.I. project was Cameron Klein – a SHIELD technician that briefly featured in the Captain America comics (First app: Captain America (vol. 3) # 32)

Mysteries
  • Which city do the alien blueprints refer to? Is it Attilan - the home of the Inhumans?
  • Is Coulson now completely cured from the GH-325 side-effects, or does he still have the risk of mental degeneration hanging over him?

Next Episode - "The Things We Bury"
Coulson and team find themselves in an epic face-off against Hydra to uncover an ancient secret, while Ward kidnaps his brother, Senator Christian Ward, for a violent trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

2000AD Prog 1907

Prog 1907 Cover by Richard Elson

This striking cover from Richard Elson captures the frenetic energy of the Kingdom episode inside, depicting the aerial action as Gene and co. take on the “Alpha Them” and its flying stinger guardians using old-fashioned Bi-Planes. I like the fact that Nick Rogue's Bi-plane is in the midst of a spin, further emphasising the action occurring within the strip itself. Oh, and special points must go towards the 'headline droid' for coming up with the pun “Dog Fight”. Some simply perfect punning there!


JUDGE DREDD - BLOCK JUDGE (Part 8)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week's Judge Dredd continues to service the increasing number of sub-plots and criminal investigations that are happening within Gramercy Heights, as the various plot threads begin building towards a dramatic conclusion. The result is a little bit disorientating with the number of concurrent cases and frequent jumps in narrative. I get that this is the plot and it is a technique being used by John Wagner to illustrate how over-worked and under-staffed Dredd's team is, but part of me would enjoy the story better if it a more traditional narrative and dealt with each case separately, and in order. Although I do recognise that this isn't exactly how crime works in the real world!


After several weeks, Wagner revisits the Bomb plot from the beginning with a rather close call on Beeny's part, bringing this earlier teased “Chekhov's Gun” right back front and centre to the reader's mind, and even placing a deadline on when it is expected to go off. I'm guessing that with all the plates that Dredd and co. are trying to keep spinning at once that the bomber will be successful and cause some kind of massive disaster taking down Gramercy Heights with a massive death toll, and this high profile “failure” will serve as a symbol to the city for how overstretched the Justice Department has become since Chaos Day. Either way, my interest had piqued up more now that some of the disparate plot threads (Bomber, Poisoner, Fatties, Gang War) seem to be coming together for some sort of conclusion.



STICKLEBACK - THE THRU'PENNY OPERA (Part 8)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode of Stickleback shone a bit more light on the background of the three sisters (aka the Three Sorrows) and their plan to reshape London to mystically usher in their dark master. I quite like the concept of this “evil Feng Shui” that will result in the gateway to other dimensions to open and bring forth an evil creature. With London being such a key feature of this series, almost a character in itself, it is quite apt that it becomes a vital piece of the plot, and requiring protection. I quite like how things are starting to get more supernatural with various deities being brought into the mix and various legends and myths becoming tangled up to conjure up a fresh universe. Next week's episode promises another burst of action (which is something that has largely been lacking in this particular story) as the three sisters take on the last dragon in London.



KINGDOM - AUX DRIFT (Part 8)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Richard Elson
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Simon Bowland

This episode of Kingdom takes the action to skies as Gene formulates a plan to tackle the gigantic 'Alpha Them' using the three Bi-Planes kept at Aux Drift to attack the creature from above. The aerial nature of the action sequence with the flying Stingers makes a refreshing change from the standard ground-based fight scenes from the series. As the heroes approach the 'Alpha Them', I'm filled with a sense of trepidation, especially since Gene's mate Clara Bow happens to be in a separate Bi-Plane...


Richard Elson's artwork continues to impress with an impeccable consistency with every panel looking like an animated movie storyboard. I've said it before, but this series would make a fantastic animated feature or TV series, or failing that a motion-comic. I think that it is series' like this and Brass Sun which 2000AD should be looking into developing for other mediums. Hopefully with the far-reaching plans for both the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes, there will be opportunities for more independent comic publishers to release stand-alone movies (or TV shows) to offer diversity in the market. 

Something that I often find myself overlooking when talking about the series is the way that Dan Abnett's script aids in the world-building of the Kingdom universe. He really enriches the characters with the distinctive colloquialisms that the Aux use, as exampled by cool lines such as “Gene's Mouth is full of empty” which feels far more evocative than simply saying “I have nothing left to say”. It's quite similar to the 'Eurotrash' vernacular that Abnett introduced for his Sinister Dexter series, which brought the city of Downlode to life and set up the mood of the strip quickly and efficiently.



GREYSUIT - PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Part 7)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - John Higgins
Colours - Sally Hurst
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This episode of Greysuit raised the action quotient again with a jaw-droppingly (pun intended!) brutal fight sequence that was easily the best one yet. John Higgins' artwork just radiates the grim and gritty nature of the shady government agency, working well with Pat Mills' seedy descriptions about the way the Tangerine Man shames his victims' memories through linking them to Bestiality and Gerontaphilia (a sexual preference for the elderly – I looked it up...never again!)


The action is the major set-piece of this episode with Higgins' artwork capturing the rawness of the violence as the two Greysuits battle each other without restraint. In fact, the panel where Blake literally punches the Tangerine Man's chin off is wonderfully unapologetic in showing off some gore and just backs up my thoughts on this series. It is uncomplicated, unadulterated and uncompromising old-school fun, and I love it! I'm really looking forward to the next episode with Blake continuing his Kill Bill-esque quest for revenge by taking on the second Greysuit, 'Family Man'.



THE GRIEVOUS JOURNEY OF ICHABOD AZRAEL - ONE LAST BULLET (Part 7)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Mike Dowling
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode of Ichabod Azrael continues to draw the reader in, developing the mysteries of the townspeople of Atonement, the curious meta-fictional relationship with the comic's panel layouts and the story itself, the native american overseer and now introducing another group of riders to the mix. I don't think it's coincidence that the narration boxes seem to have grown in quantity as Ichabod arrived at Atonement, and I think that we're going to see more “deus-ex machinas” and uncharacteristic behaviour from Ichabod as things head closer to a confrontation with God, whom I'm still saying is Rob Williams (aka the writer within the story itself).

Talking of Rob Williams, his script is impeccable here, delivering wonderfully crafted one-liners from the Sarcastic Horse (who deserves a spin-off series, Tharg!) and the dialogue from Ichabod himself as he threatens the rampaging buffalo with a gun to the head. Aside from the humourous jokes, Williams' also provides the fantastic narrative voice guiding and describing events with a real literary tone, which also makes me suspect it is the writer with the typewriter glimpsed in Atonement. Each chapter of this series serves to make me love it more, and I cannot wait to get the full collection when it is released next year.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This week's Prog is another great example of the strips working in conjunction to offer a range of different flavours to the thrill-hungry Squaxx dek Thargo. Every strip is building towards its conclusion, delivering increased tension, or in the case of Ichabod Azrael, increased mysteries. It isn't long now until Prog 2015 comes along and refreshes the line-up, so looking at the stories as they approach the landing strip, I think we're going to see some really strong finishes.

Tharg's Nerve Centre teases the return of Survival Geeks, one of the Tharg's 3rillers that ran last year, written by Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby. From what I remember, it was a nice slice of geek-comedy in the vein of The Big Bang Theory, but with real-life science-fiction happenings. I look forward to it returning in the new year, hopefully for longer than its original three episode run this time, allowing the characters to develop a bit more.

Thrill of the Week: Ichabod Azrael


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1907 will be available in stores on Wednesday 12th November - 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!

Competition - Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds


COMPETITION HAS CLOSED

Courtesy of the lovely droids at 2000AD, we were kindly given a copy of the forthcoming BRASS SUN: THE WHEEL OF WORLDS to give away to one lucky winner. In order to win a copy, entrants were asked to use their imagination and create their own planet that would fit into the ‘clock-punk’ universe of the Orrery, with an equally as imaginative and evocative name as the ones featured in the story itself (Hind Leg, The Keep, Hot Air and The Deep). Entrants were asked to make their planets rich with detail and filled with imagination, and include sketches where possible to help visualise their new worlds.

Originally, there was going to be just a first and second prize, but because of the quality of the entries, I have included an extra third prize too!

So without further ado, here are the results:



THIRD PRIZE - wins a copy of 2000AD's Free Comic Book Day Prog

Coal Mine by Stephen Hallam

A whole planet of dark satanic mills. The atmosphere is entirely dark and clouded, lighting blitzes constantly, huge furnaces burn, visible from orbit, looking like volcanoes. The air is barely breathable. This is the planet that creates the resources the other worlds need, and it exploits its natural resources mercilessly it's been doing this for countless centuries. There are rumours of a valley left unscathed, still green, healthy and natural. Most miners believe it to be a myth. Clean air is an expensive luxury for the rich. Everything is powered by coal, steam hisses everywhere, soot covers the ground.


Wheezing, coughing, holding to gasping life, the proletariat live short harsh brutal lives. They are emaciated, dressed in dirty rags, dream of breathable air, and sing folks songs of the long forgotten green. Largely powerless, they seem like lost creatures from Lowry. Rebellion is unthinkable, putting at risk what meagre clean air rations they get from their overlords. There are those who dream of change..quietly. Houses are long streets of dismal terraces at best, tent cities at worst.


There are a series of bosses, all linked in a cartel to the Lord of the planet. Mr Scarr. The whole planet belongs to him. Literally he can say, "coal - mine. " he has a wide family, some worse than him, some hoping for a better world. They live in grand mansions, breath clean air and drink fresh water. Dealings with other planets is done from a position if economic dominance. - everyone needs what coal mine sells. The modern spaceships  dock in what look like London's old docklands, with tall cranes.



SECOND PRIZE - wins a copy of BRASS SUN # 1 & 2

Mitteltorta by John Pheby

Unfortunately, John's entry is far too large to paste here, but here are a few snippets:

The origins of the strange, anachronistic, unworldly world and society of Mitteltorta are not lost in the dim and distant mists of time. And nor are they especially mysterious. This has not prevented controversy, either in the wider Orrery or in what passes for discourse in the highly clipped, controlled, mysterious and fashionable Mitteltortan high society.

Most Mitteltortan historians do tend to agree that their world came into being during an explosion of well dressed but decadent grandeur about two centuries ago. For Mitteltorta is an artificial world, a study in the art of enshrining nationalistic belief in a bogus folk memory of a Golden Age that never ever was. Any historian that dares to state this, of course, is open to actual charges of being in thrall to an outside conspiracy against Mitteltortan society and its long Golden Age.

And so Mitteltortans, with the sole exception of its 'treasonous' historians, do believe that three seas once washed their shores, in a tremendous era in which outsiders gambolled in golden meadows, happily subjugated by their Mitteltortan betters, happily tilling, merrily tilled and filled, suffering the exquisite honour of knowing their very low places. When the subjugated peoples were not cleaning or happily debasing themselves before their Mitteltortan masters, it is claimed that they just danced, with such wild exuberance that they must have been happy.

When Mitteltorta rose to prominence, from its very zero hour actually, it conceived of itself as a wholly urban society. The founding fathers, keen to project a classical panorama of their world, instigated a series of grand architectural tournaments, for the construction of Mitteltorta's most important buildings. Right angles, large windows, normality, conformity and plenty of space for sotto-voce intrigues, scandals and balls, were the main requirements.

The full version of his document can be found here



FIRST PRIZE - wins a copy of BRASS SUN # 1 & 2


Twin Pendulums by Simon Cosier

Some called it 'the irrelevant planet'. Most simply ignored it all together. It was a planet that was of little interest to anyone. It was simply a sphere of landmass, drifting on an orbital path. No animals to speak of, just dirt and some meagre plant life. A few basic minerals. Nothing to get excited about.In truth, it was one of the most uneventful places in the entire Orrery…That was until the earthquakes started. Something, deep under the planet's surface, was shifting. Unfortunately, that 'something' happened to be the planet's core...The heart of the planet was exploding. The shock waves causing the ground to break apart. The planet was splitting in two. The two halves falling from the planet's natural orbit. Seemingly doomed to drift apart from one another. Forever.


Fortunately for the two pieces, the irrelevant planet was very near to the Seven Emeralds - a series of seven planets, all in a row, each of them with lush green forests. This was lucky because the gravity of the central Emerald was enough to pull the disparate halves to safety. Putting them on a daisy chain-like orbit that would see them drift down the line of emeralds. The western hemisphere passing by Emerald's 1-3. And the eastern hemisphere passing by 5-7. It was during this time that the halves earned their name. Several onlookers noted that the twin's orbital path resembled that of a pendulum. The two halves slowly swinging away from each other, as though counting some mysterious unit of time. When the name was coined, no one seemed to realise the obvious. Pendulums swing one way - and then the other! At the furthest of the Emeralds, the twins arced around continuing their lap of the Emeralds, going back in the direction they'd come. Inevitably drifting towards each other for a yet more inevitable collision. The two pendulums would impact at the centre of the Emeralds, causing a massive explosion - much like the one that had birthed the pair in the first place. "The great irrelevant planet doomed to burn. No great loss, surely?" You may say. But you'd be wrong. Back in the time of the great severing, the planet had been little more than an uninhabited world with no prospects. But things had changed.



As the pendulums journeyed through space, their eco-systems started to change. Creatures began to evolve. And while the halves were theoretical twins - made up of the same minerals and forests -  the species they spawned were very different. The western hemisphere drifted towards the light of a distant star, bathing it in light. The soil began to flourish. Beautiful and colourful fauna rising overhead to form a vibrant canopy. And then, up from the caves, came small orange life-forms. Furry and cute with an intellect to match.



The eastern hemisphere was not so lucky. It drifted away from the distant star. The surface of the planet becoming colder and more desolate. The only things that could survive were ruthless and wicked. Creatures of nightmare. Crafted from the ash and decay - demons held together by sheer luck. They were a perverse form of life, languishing on a dead world. These two life forms - born of the same soil - now found themselves drifting back towards each other on a collision course. The two pendulums coming together to mark the passing of a single unit of time. A single unit of time long enough to give birth to two distinct and fascinating species who would soon cease to exist. As though they'd never been there at all.


Congratulations to all the winners, and stay tuned to the blog (and our social media pages) for more competitions in the near future!


Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds will be released on 2nd December within the US (priced at $25) and the 4th December in the UK (priced at £25) - It is available for pre-order at the 2000AD webshop, 2000AD iPad app and Amazon.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Review - Gotham: 1x05 - "Viper"


Gotham
Episode 1x05 - "Viper"

Synopsis

When a dangerous new drug hits the streets, imbuing its users with super-human strength before a painful death, Detective Gordon and Bullock must track down the source to prevent carnage. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne begins to investigate the corruption in Wayne Enterprises.

Review

This episode marks the show's first foray into super-powered villainy, adding a touch of the fantastical to the series, rather than the previous grounded street-level crime that has been seen previously. While the storyline doesn't delve fully into super-powers, the introduction of Viper (the flawed first draft of Venom) which imbues its users with a short-term power boost before burning out the calcium in their bones, represents a departure into the unrealistic. This is a nice way to tease the more unusual villains in Batman's rogue gallery, such as Killer Croc, Poison Ivy and Bane. Besides these examples, the vast majority of Batman's enemies tend to be just disfigured or psychologically unbalanced criminals, so there shouldn't be too many departures of realism in future episodes.

There was also an increased focus on Wayne Enterprises and the suggestion that there may be corruption within its higher management, with the suspicious Mathis speaking to an unknown board member about the GCPD's interest in Wellsyn. It seems that Wayne Enterprises, and some of its subsidiaries, are involved in corrupt practices, such as offering land shares to known gangsters and developing pharmaceutical weapons. Could this be another potential suspect in the murder of the Waynes? If they uncovered this corruption in their own business, then perhaps the ringleader had them removed from the equation. Also, with Bruce Wayne now attempting to investigate the business, he might find himself targeted also.

I was pleased to see that Bruce was given something to do this episode, besides grieving his parents. His determined investigation in Wayne Enterprises and his parent's murder felt like the beginnings of the “Great Detective” persona of the Batman character. While we are seeing this more cerebral approach to tackling crime, I imagine it won't be long until we see him attempting to train his body to fight crime. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we see the iconic Bat scene at some point this season.

I also felt that the Bruce Wayne / Alfred dynamic was a lot stronger than it had been in previous episodes, especially in the opening sequence, where it felt very reminiscent of their relationship in the comics, with Bruce totally immersed in his work and Alfred attempting to make him step back and be more 'human'. I also liked that he was willing to support his and assist him in his investigations, perhaps realising the importance of discovering the corruption in Wayne Enterprises. Watching the two in this episode, I could definitely see this iteration of Alfred supporting his master's extra-curricular nocturnal activities.


Aside from the main 'Viper' plot, there was also dramatic developments in the Penguin / Marin sub-plot as Cobblepot, rather foolishly, told Maroni about his true identity expecting to be well-received but instead got viciously attacked. Despite all of his calculating and Machiavellian behaviour, he still seems to sabotage himself by misjudging things, as he did with Fish Mooney. However, it kind of works out for the weasely malcontent, as Jim Gordon is brought in to verify his story of betraying Falcone. There's a very tense moment where Maroni is interrogating Gordon as Penguin's face is placed against a meat slicer. It's this kind of high-pressure moments that I was hoping the series would deliver, and I really hope there are more tense sequences like this in the future, as Gordon tries to maintain the secret of Oswald Cobblepot's “resurrection”. A few episodes ago, it seemed like the Penguin had a master-plan, but now it seems like he is on the back-foot as Maroni's “secret weapon” against Falcone.

Talking of secret weapons, Fish Mooney continued to coach her own plot against her boss – teaching her “honey-trap” various tricks that will endear her towards Falcone. It's not clear as to what her end motive is here, whether Liza is there to assassinate Falcone, or to simply be an insider to the goings-on that Mooney herself isn't privy to. There is a further development in her quest to usurp Falcone, as it is revealed she is sleeping with another of the lieutenants, Nikolai, and I suspect she is using him as shield from her own plans and will sacrifice him as the 'ringleader' if things start to go wrong.

As with the preceding episode, “Arkham”, this episode maintained a balance between the 'villain of the week' main plot and developing the supporting the supporting character's story-arcs around it. It felt like there was some real and meaningful developments of the ongoing storylines here, especially with The Penguin, rather than just padding out the plots. It was great to get an extended look at Bruce Wayne in this episode, and it tied in nicely with the main plot. Also, it was one of the first episodes where Bullock didn't appear and save Gordon at the last minute, which was nice! I must admit that I am really enjoying their relationship, and hope that future episodes will focus on the two becoming friends and true partners, rather than begrudgingly working together. If future episodes can weave the short-term and long-term plot-lines together so effortlessly, then I have every confidence that this series will go from strength to strength.


Score - 9.5 out of 10


Next Episode - "Spirit of the Goat"
Someone is killing rich children by taking on the name of The Goat, a serial killer that Harvey took down when he was young. Montoya and Allen finally have evidence against Gordon.
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