Wednesday, 29 April 2015

2000AD Prog 1928

Prog 1928 Cover by Mark Harrison

This is a great cover from Mark Harrison that accurately sums up the status quo in Grey Area with a single image. The contrast of colours against greys not only presents Bulliet's crew as the odd ones out in the alien-filled Grey Area, but also acts as an eye-catching cover image on the newsagent rack. On initial glance, readers will notice the juxtaposition of colour schemes, but upon closer examination, it is clear just how much detail Mark Harrison has put into the various alien races in the background, giving them each distinctive looks and designs. I also like the way that Harrison includes the subtle detail of Kymn, the psychic translator on the team, being overwhelmed by the sheer number of surrounding aliens. It's a great cover image and does the strip inside proud.


JUDGE DREDD - ENCELADUS: NEW LIFE (Part 5)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Well, that was surprising. It turns out that this follow-up to “Titan” was actually a prelude towards a bigger adventure, filling in the gaps of what happened to the Enceladus survivors and setting up a mysterious new alien antagonist for Mega City One. I quite liked the chaotic pace to this story, which saw the remaining survivors massacred and left the fates of both ex-Chief Judge Sinfield and Aimee Nixon in doubt. Personally, I have a feeling that Nixon has somehow merged with the mysterious entity at the heart of Enceladus and it was her new form that was aboard the shuttle and she is now affecting the weather in the city. It's something of a left-field twist, going from the gritty realism of “Titan” to this more science-fiction led cul-de-sac. I must admit though, I like how Rob Williams made references to snow and the cold weather in episodes of both “Titan” and “Enceladus: New Life” - it seems like this has been part of an over-arching plan from the beginning.


Henry Flint's artwork just amazes me on every possible level – the panel where the Sov's unload their weaponry into the malnourished and defenceless prisoners was just perfect. Sinfield's look of utter shock and horror just shines through, and I also appreciate the way that Flint positioned the enemies in a line, evoking the cold, clinical and heartless way that the Nazi's exterminated their victims. With this short five-part prologue, Williams and Flint have certainly whetted the reader's appetites for more, leaving us with more questions than answers and a horrible sense of foreboding that Dredd and Mega-City One are on the cusp of another devastating attack on the city. As always, I eagerly await the next bit of work from both of these droids, who have proven themselves to be masters of storytelling on multiple occasions now.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 5)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Slaine continues to suffer a psychic pummelling from Gododin, the Lord Weird, focusing on his unresolved issues with his father and the afterlife. Gododin presents Slaine with visions of his father in the hell-world of Ifurin, where the dead face eternal torment and where Slaine is destined to end up when he is dead himself. This is a curious bit of foreshadowing and I wonder if this story is going to eventually see Slaine travel to the underworld, either to escape his own death, or possibly to redeem his father's lost soul.

After several episodes of heavy dialogue, the final scenes of this installment seems to imply that there is some action on the horizon, with the soldiers of Brutannia advancing on Slaine's position in a desire to hunt him down. While the previous episodes have been a great opportunity for Pat Mills to really delve into Slaine's past and fears in ways that he has been unable to do in prior Slaine stories, I must admit that I'm not overly invested in the character and would much rather see him hack and slash an array of deformed enemies, as in the initial storyline, “A Simple Killing”. Ultimately, the series still remains accessible to new and lapsed readers but a better blend of action and dialogue would benefit the strip.



GREY AREA - LOCKED IN (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

While the concept of a prison fight against the 'top dog' is nothing new, Dan Abnett manages to give it his own brand of humour and style, breathing fresh air into a tired plot device. I really enjoyed the light-hearted, almost slapstick approach seen in this episode with Mark Harrison's beautiful art (and well-timed sound effects) bringing the whole sequence to life. Sure, nothing much happens in this installment, but it is genuinely fun. Unlike his work on Sinister Dexter, I'm in no rush for Abnett to get to the meat of the plot here, especially when the “filler episodes” are as fun as this one. Maybe it's because he has been working on Sinister Dexter for almost twenty years now, but it feels as if Abnett is enjoying himself more writing for this series, building up new character relationships and imaginative alien races. The series certainly feels more ripe for exploration than the tired old duo from Downlode.


I said last week how this sequence reminded me of the film, Guardians of the Galaxy, which Abnett's work on the comic inspired. That statement still rings true with this latest episode which balances humour and drama deftly to generate a very similar tone to the Marvel movie. Mark Harrison's artwork is absolutely spot-on and manages to fill each panel with a sense of griminess and sliminess that no other artist would be able to pull off. Just from looking at the page, you can imagine how awful it must smell in that prison. Aside from conveying tone and atmosphere, Harrison can also draw a mean fight-sequence and considering this episode is a effectively a five-page fight sequence, he is the perfect artist for the job!



ORLOK: AGENT OF EAST MEG ONE - THE RASPUTIN CAPER (Part 5)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a series of uneven episodes, this installment of Orlok: Agent of East Meg One seemed to work really well, introducing the concept of towns populated with robots that create soap-operas. This reliance on tourist attractions fits in with the way that Murphyville was first represented in the Judge Dredd story, “Emerald Isle”, which depicted an Ireland where stereotypes and tourism were the key exports for the country. Things seem to be heading towards a crescendo with the surviving members of the Oz Mutanty chasing after Orlok, not to mention the reveal that the Black Widower survived his assassination last episode, due to an immunity to his own venom.

In a Dan Abnett-esque fashion, Arthur Wyatt keeps the Australian puns and references appearing thick and fast, this time with 'Erin Bay' – a portmanteau of Erinsborough and Summer Bay, the two towns of Australian soaps, Neighbours and Home and Away, respectively. Not to mention “Bad Max”, who may or may not have a passing resemblance to a certain Road Warrior with a new movie on the horizon. Aside from the more relaxed script, Jake Lynch's artwork seems to have improved, giving a much clearer (but still well-detailed) view of events. I particularly like the sense of action that he manages to convey in the scene where the Tank bursts through the wall, knocking Orlok to the ground. As the strip heads towards its inevitable finale, I hope Wyatt and Lynch maintain this level of quality going forward.



STRONTIUM DOG - THE STIX FIX (Part 5)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Opening up with Johnny Alpha narrowly avoiding 'Death by Stix', this episode displayed the Strontium Dog's ingenuity as he leafleted Stixville in the hopes to inspire one of the treacherous Stix brothers to reveal Mungo Stix's location. We also get the reintroduction of Precious Matson, the tri-breasted mutant reporter who helped Middenface McNulty resurrect Alpha during the epic storyline, “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha”. As a result, Johnny Alpha lives the dream that most male sci-fi fans have had since watching Total Recall...yes, I'm talking about motor-boating a girl with three boobs.


With each passing episode, Johnny Alpha appears to be returning to his old self, something that even Precious notes with his sense of humour about being interrupted mid-coitus. John Wagner's script continues the story's momentum, never feeling slow or rushed and much like Baby Bear's porridge, is “just right”. This is Strontium Dog at its best – in fact, the only thing it seems to be lacking is a regular mention of “cucumbers” from Wulf Sternhammer. As you would expect, Carlos Ezquerra's artwork is simply fantastic, managing to deliver fast-paced action sequences and even titillating readers (pun intended) with the sex scenes. The only way Tharg could “spoil us” any further would be if he wheeled out a pyramid made of Ferrero Rocher.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Yet again, this is another superb Prog with Judge Dredd, Grey Area and Strontium Dog standing out as particular highlights. Purely because of the fun nature of the story, I'd have to go with Grey Area as this Prog's “thrill of the week”, but that doesn't diminish the excellence of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog. One thing that is abundantly clear in this current line-up of thrills is the simply jaw-dropping quality of artwork in each and every story. Not only does 2000AD have the greatest stories and writers in the galaxy, but it also has the greatest artists too.

Tharg's Nerve Centre teases another strip appearing in the FCBD issue, this time it's Judge Dredd: In Through the Out Door by Matt Smith and Mike Hawthorne. Originally, this was going to be illustrated by Norm Breyfogle, but he was taken ill before he could complete the artwork and Mike Hawthorne was selected to draw the strip instead. In a kind-hearted gesture, it was recently reported that Hawthorne has donated the fee for one page of artwork towards Norm's medical bills. Norm has been making headway in his recovery and this generous donation from Mike Hawthorne is sure to aid him in getting better.

Thrill of the Week: Grey Area


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1928 will be available in stores on Wednesday 29th April - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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, 28 April 2015

Review - Gotham: 1x21 - "The Anvil or The Hammer"


Gotham
Episode 1x21 - "The Anvil or The Hammer"

Synopsis

Whilst Gordon and Bullock race to locate the Ogre before he can hurt Barbara, Bruce Wayne heads to Wayne Enterprises, where he discovers some uncomfortable truths about his father. Meanwhile, The Penguin continues to manipulate both Falcone and Maroni in the hopes to initiate a bloody gang war.

Review

This penultimate episode of Gotham's first Season served two purposes – firstly, it concluded the three-part “Ogre” story-arc, which has to have been one of the stronger GCPD investigations to be featured in the series thus far. Secondly, the episode served as a prelude to the Season finale, revealing The Penguin's machinations and his end-game of kickstarting a gang-war between Falcone and Maroni, finally breaking the d├ętente between the two bosses. I must admit that despite the show's attempts to hammer home the seriousness of the situation, it actually fell a bit flat compared to previous cliffhangers seen in “Spirit of the Goat” and “What the Little Bird Told Him”, where the status quo of the show genuinely felt changed as a result. Despite feeling underwhelmed by this initial conflict between the two mob-bosses, I am intrigued to see which of them will succeed in this war and how far-reaching  an impact it will have on the show.

I must admit I really liked the twist the writer's employed regarding the Penguin's attempted assassination of Maroni, using the audience's preconceptions of the character's cockiness to mislead us into thinking he was setting himself up for another fall. Initially, I thought that the brain-washed Butch might have actually betrayed the Penguin by planting empty guns at the restaurant, so Cobblepot's instruction to the hitman to make sure Maroni knows who organised the hit would backfire upon him, much like his previous displays of over-confidence had. Instead, we had a much more conniving Penguin here, forgoing his emotions and desire for revenge on Maroni, especially in light of the scenes with his mother last episode, and instead coldly calculating a scenario that would benefit him in the long run. It showed growth from the character and how he is learning from his mistakes, although to be fair, it's not over yet and he still might mess things up for himself down the line.

While the Penguin demonstrated intelligence in achieving his goals, Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, did not and stumbled into Bunderslaw's office to get his hands on evidence, but instead was given a lecture. While Bunderslaw admits to hiring Reggie to find out what Bruce had uncovered in his investigations, he stops short of admitting to murdering Thomas and Martha Wayne. Surely, that would be the first question Bruce should have asked his chief suspect – although I guess, Bunderslaw wouldn't openly admit that to him. It seems that the corruption within Wayne Enterprises is going to be a more prominent storyline within Season Two, as it hasn't really been given the same attention as the Falcone/Maroni gang war throughout this Season. I wasn't overly engaged with this particular sub-plot, although it was nice to see Lucius Fox introduced into the series as a potential ally for Bruce in his search for the truth. Hopefully, Bunderslaw isn't the mastermind behind the Wayne Enterprises' corruption as he doesn't quite command the same intensity as the Gotham mob-bosses do, even failing to intimidate a posh kid.


After his moment of madness last episode where he murdered his love-rival for Miss Kringle's affections, Edward Nygma spent most of this episode covering up his crime bringing the dismembered body parts of Officer Dougherty into the morgue to be dissolved in acid. There was a grimly comic vibe to watching this nerd covering up his crime, getting interrupted by Miss Kringle as he is about to melt her boyfriend. In some ways, it reminded me of Little Shop of Horrors with Cory Michael Smith imbuing Edward Nygma with a definite Seymour Krelborn vibe that echoes Rick Moranis' portrayal of the character in the 1986 film. I'm glad that Nygma got away with the murder, seemingly covering up all the loose ends and even putting a subtle clue in the goodbye note, foreshadowing his eventual obsession with riddles and clues in his crimes. I am looking forward to seeing this plot develop more in the next season and seeing more of Edward Nygma's dark side.

Once again, the central thread of the episode was the continuation of The Ogre serial killer storyline, which mirrored elements of “Beasts of Prey” and showed the Ogre attempting to brainwash Barbara into becoming his soul mate. What is interesting is that he seemed to have succeeded in some ways, with the young woman clearly traumatised by the events that resulted in the death of her parents. I must admit I fully expected her to say “Leslie Thompkins” as the person she wanted the Ogre to murder, so it was a nice twist to see that she indulged in a bit of patricide instead. Even though the Ogre didn't survive the storyline, I think that he has made an impact on Barbara and we might even see her descend into villainy in Season Two. She already seems a bit unhinged and out of touch with reality since Jim broke up with her – surely this will be enough to push her over the edge?

Talking of 'over the edge', I really enjoyed seeing Jim Gordon pushing the boundaries of his moral code in this episode, beating up witnesses and putting himself deeper into the Penguin's pocket. While Ben McKenzie does a good job of portraying the white knight of the GCPD, I find it much more interesting to watch his take on Gordon up against the ropes, outnumbered and out-of-control. In some ways this episode reminded me of the Taken trilogy, with Jim Gordon doing his best Liam Neeson impression. Hopefully, the writers continue to push Gordon to the limit in future episodes and seeing how close to breaking point the character can get.

Overall, this was a fantastic penultimate episode for the Season, concluding the best story-arc seen in the series and setting up the promise of an action-packed finale. While the cliff-hanger ending wasn't the most effective one in Gotham's history, it certainly advanced the status-quo and leads into an interesting finale. I suspect that Fish Mooney will return and given Jada Pinkett-Smith's claims that she is leaving the series, I expect it will be in a critical condition, possibly in her death throes. If it transpires that she is killed off by a random bullet, then it would be a pretty poor death for the character, who has been one of the more enjoyable elements of the series. That's not to say that I expect Mooney to survive this episode, but I hope that someone of note is the one to deliver the killing blow. Narratively speaking, Penguin or Butch seem to be the prime candidates to end that story-arc. There's still a handful of questions up in the air for the Season finale and I'm looking forward to seeing how the writer's plan to end things.


Score - 9.7 out of 10

Next Episode - "All Happy Families Are Alike"
As Gotham City's gang war reaches its boiling point, Fish Mooney goes head-to-head with Maroni and Penguin in an attempt to re-stake her claim on the city. Meanwhile, Barbara and Leslie Thompkins are brought together after recent events, and Bruce searches Wayne Manor for any hints that his father might have left behind.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 2x18 - "The Frenemy of my Enemy"


Agents of SHIELD
Episode 2x18 - "The Frenemy of my Enemy" 

Synopsis

Desperate to locate Skye, Coulson enlists the help of ex-Agent Grant Ward to infiltrate the remaining Hydra cells to discover more about their experiments on Gifted individuals. Meanwhile, Skye visits her father’s home town, unaware that this decision may put both her and the rest of the Inhumans at risk.

Review

With a clear split in the show's narrative between the Inhuman and “Real SHIELD” storylines ever since Skye escaped the Retreat safe-house back in “One Door Closes”, this episode finally sees the two plot threads converge together, providing viewers with clearer idea of what to expect from the Season finale. On the run from Gonzales' faction of SHIELD, Coulson remains dedicated to tracking down Skye, even enlisting Grant Ward to achieve this goal. I must admit the logic of this particular plot twist doesn't quite ring true – I'm not sure how Coulson made the assumption that Dr. List would have any idea on how to reach Skye. In fact, it just feels like a forced opportunity to foreshadow the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, by reintroducing List and Strucker as threats.

I must admit seeing the plot threads coming together did put a smile on my face, as events begun to spiral out of control and the seemingly disparate plot threads started to impact on each other and change the course of character's stories. The episode's main set-piece which saw the various forces (Inhuman, SHIELD and Hydra) convene on the one location was a wonderfully well choreographed piece of carnage, surpassing the previous series high point of  “What They Become”. Despite the flurry of characters appearing on-screen at once, the writers managed to maintain their witty dialogue and well-observed character moments even when the action began to heat up.

The episode wasn't exactly a thrill-a-minute however, and opened up with a relatively slow start. While Coulson's negotiations with Grant Ward may have lacked any real sense of tension, it was a joy to see these two characters sharing the screen again, and given the ending to this episode, it seems that we will see more of the “original” Agents of SHIELD line-up featuring in the next installment. Ward naturally stirs up drama amongst the team, ranging from Coulson's dislike and distrust, from Fitz's more emotional reaction to seeing his former team-mate attempting to play nice. Personally, I am rooting for Ward's redemption – ever since Garrett went crazy on GH-325 serum and begun prophesying, he has realised that he was happiest while undercover on Coulson's team. Sure, he's killed innocent people, but most of the team have undergone drastic changes since those early Season One days.


Another twisted character who I've become strangely sympathetic towards is Cal Johnson – aka Mr Hyde - who was portrayed as a maniac through his initial appearances but over the course of this season, we've seen a more tragic side to his personality that almost explains his murderous temper and poor life choices. It's clear that despite her fear and disgust towards him, Skye also pities the man who dedicated himself to finding his lost daughter. The sequences between the two of them in this episode were well-written and managed to dwell in this odd grey-area between father and daughter. I'm not entirely sure where Cal's character is going to go from here – I suspect that him returning with Gordon and Skye back to Afterlife might result in a firmer punishment than being abandoned in civilisation and we might see him exiled to the wilderness, possibly leading to a more savage form of Mr. Hyde next Season.

Even though Hydra are painted as the villains of the piece, kidnapping both Deathlok and Lincoln for their experiments into super-powers, I have this unshakeable feeling that Jiaying or Gordon will be revealed to be some kind of villain. Given the undertone of prejudice present throughout the series, I wouldn't be surprised if they attempt to wage war upon the human race, possibly seeding the main story-arc for Season 3 and the inevitable tie-in to the Inhuman movie. However, with an Avengers: Age of Ultron tie-in on the horizon, I am curious to see how Agents of SHIELD will be able to serve both itself and its cinematic “big brother” without sacrificing any of the hard-earned story it has built up over the past season.

This episode was definitely a major return-to-form for the series after a few slower-paced episodes which seemed to meander narratively. While I appreciated the flashbacks into Real SHIELD's creation and Agent May's “secret origin”, I'm glad to see that the show has returned back to “full throttle” mode and is heading towards its Season Finale. Maybe building towards the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron tie-in has revitalised the series, much in the same way Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for the tail-end of Season One. I'm eager to watch the next episode, not only to find out what happens to Deathlok and Lincoln under the clutches of Hydra, but also to watch more of the fascinating interplay between Ward and his former team-mates. This show continues to go from strength-to-strength, and I hope that any casual viewers checking back in with show to see cross-overs with Avengers: Age of Ultron will stick with the show and help boost its ratings, giving it a healthy number going into a third season.


Score - 9.6 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Cal's original last name was Johnson, thus confirming Skye is “Daisy Johnson” aka Quake from the comics.
  • “I changed it to something more sinister when I went on the run” - explanation behind why he is called “Cal Zabo” aka Mr. Hyde from the comics.

Mysteries
  • What is Ward's "endgame"?
  • What is the Theta Protocol that Coulson has been working on?

Next Episode - "The Dirty Half Dozen"
Gonzales and Coulson must find a way to put their differences aside and work together against Hydra, even if it means teaming up with someone they don't trust.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

2000AD Prog 1927

Prog 1927 Cover by Greg Staples

Fresh off of his work on Judge Dredd: Dark Justice, artist Greg Staples returns to 2000AD with this absolutely gorgeous Strontium Dog cover. I love the way that Staples manages to capture the Western tone to the series as Johnny heads off to Stixville, complete with a vulture sitting atop a makeshift town sign. There's always been a Wild West feel to Strontium Dog, thanks to its central conceit of bounty hunters and lawbreakers and it's nice to see this referenced in Staples' art. Even though Strontium Dog is very much Carlos Ezquerra's baby, I would love to see Greg Staples step in for a one-off story one day.


JUDGE DREDD - ENCELADUS: NEW LIFE (Part 4)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

For the first time in ages, this episode of Judge Dredd doesn't actually feature the titular character himself, taking place entirely in flashback to fill in the gaps of what happened to the Encaledus survivors prior to the beginning of this tale. Desperate for food and fuel, Nixon and Sinfield have turned to the enemies of Mega City One, even negotiating with the bloodthirsty Klegg Empire, but to no avail. It is this dismal failure that leads to some of the escapees willingly returning to the rebuilt Titan prison, as depicted in the opening episode. I'm guessing this flashback sequence will explain the purpose of the second shuttle being sent to Mega City One – given Nixon's intense hatred for Chief Judge Hershey and the Judges, it is likely that it something to do with the seemingly sentient being on Encaledus.


Rob Williams throws a shocking twist in the final page with the reveal that the Sov Empire have emerged as the escapee's saviours, presumably responding to earlier unseen pleas for help. Given the history between Mega City One and the Sovs, this apparent alliance could be a rather disastrous one for our heroes. Perhaps the Sovs are responsible for whatever biological weapon (or alien mineral) which was found on the shuttle. While the title of this story originally seemed to be related to the Titan escapees attempting to start a “new life”, I now wonder if it refers to the sentience of Encaledus – perhaps being sent to Mega City One to punish its inhabitants in a similar catastrophic storyline to Day of Chaos. As I've said before, Rob Williams continues to surprise his readers with unexpected twists and turns, and I love every bloody panel of it.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Continuing the introspective interlude between battles, this episode of Slaine delves into the titular character's past and his relationship with his deadbeat father. With Gododin festering within Slaine's mind and memories, he is enacting psychological warfare against the barbarian, much like he did with poor Sinead. I quite liked seeing more about Slaine's father, who we met before in the classic “Bride of Crom” storyline, but to my knowledge, haven't really seen explored much in stories prior to the Brutannia Chronicles.

Simon Davis manages to keep the talking heads aspect of the series visually engaging, but one can't help but think that his talents for dynamic fight sequences are being wasted with these more slow-paced chapters. I'm sure the story will read well as a whole, but the last three installments have felt like they could have been condensed into two, evident by the fact conversations appear to have carried over across Progs. I'm sure that this is building up towards a major plot point later on in the story, but part of me is missing the mindless violence of the previous chapter, “A Simple Killing”.



GREY AREA - LOCKED IN (Part 1)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Dan Abnett's script is rich with dialogue and characterisation, managing to quickly get readers up to speed on the roles of the various characters in the team and give them distinguishable personalities and interesting relationships. Slowing things down and depicting the ETC team locked up in a prison-like environment is a boon for a writer of Dan Abnett's skill, allowing him to develop his characters and build a compelling environment around them. This whole installment reminded me of the prison sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is ironic since Abnett was one of the writers of the comic which inspired the movie.


Alongside the strong script is Mark Harrison's fantastic artwork, which is the perfect fit for this particularly storyline as he manages to capture the griminess of this alien world, acting as a contrast against the cleaner, brighter version of Earth's Grey Area portrayed by preceding series artist, Patrick Goddard. I also love Harrison's design for the array of alien species roaming around the prison – the little dumpy fella watching Feo in the showers feels very Studio Ghibli, both in look and behaviour. It's these little slices of alien culture that really endears this series to me, and I hope that it becomes one of the regular strips in the Prog.



ORLOK: AGENT OF EAST MEG ONE - THE RASPUTIN CAPER (Part 4)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Opening up with the aftermath of Orlok and the Black Widower's attack on the Oz Mutanty, which was predicted by Jiri Rasputin last episode but actually occurred in between Progs, this episode promptly reveals Orlok's alliances as he promptly executes the Black Widower and plans to take Rasputin towards East Meg One. I must admit that I felt somewhat short-changed in having the fight scenes between Orlok, Black Widower and the Oz Mutanty take place via a vision, instead of in real-time. As with the preceding Orlok: Agent of East Meg One storyline, everything seems to be moving at a fast pace and the sequences which could benefit from more “screen time” are glossed over, or explained via narration boxes. It's hard to put my finger on, but the structure and pace of the story doesn't quite feel as organic as the other serials running at the same time.



STRONTIUM DOG - THE STIX FIX (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

This storyline continues to go from strength to strength with Johnny Alpha finally dealing with his chaperone, General Bing, allowing him to explore the town of Stixville. I really liked this in-story explanation behind the seemingly endless supply of Stix brothers who've menaced Johnny Alpha throughout the Strontium Dog series. It turns out that they really are a whole town of inbred mutants who happen to share the same facial structure and demeanour. Wagner's script continues to capture a sense of fun about the strip, whilst Ezquerra's artwork remains as timelessly brilliant as ever.


Both writer and artist work together seamlessly to deliver a superb cliff-hanger as Alpha finds himself surrounded by a horde of gun-toting Stix brothers. It's a tremendous return to form for the series and while Johnny seems to be edging his way back to normality, his dreams are still filled with nightmares and anxiety about his resurrection, suggesting that Wagner wishes to embed this survival guilt into Johnny's personality in the long-term. Considering that the character has always carried a sense of broodiness about him, this fits in with past portrayals, giving him an edge and allowing the series to switch between light humour and dark drama without much pause.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, it was a close race between Grey Area, Strontium Dog and Judge Dredd for the position of “Thrill of the Week”, but Dan Abnett’s sparkling dialogue and well-crafted storyline pipped the others to the post. Both Slaine and Orlok: Agent of East Meg One seemed to be suffering with the episodic format, and will perhaps read better as a whole.

Tharg uses the Nerve Centre to tease the upcoming FCBD issue, which will feature both new and reprinted strips including, “Doctor Sin: Don’t Call it a Comeback” by Rob Williams and Luca Pizzari. I’m not familiar with the Doctor Sin character, so I’m not sure whether it is a legitimate return of a classic character or whether it is a brand new character. The preview art from Luca Pizzari looks great though, and it is great to see 2000AD putting fresh content in its FCBD releases.

Thrill of the Week: Grey Area


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1927 will be available in stores on Wednesday 22nd April - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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, 21 April 2015

Review - Gotham: 1x20 - "Under the Knife"


Gotham
Episode 1x20 - "Under the Knife"

Synopsis

Gordon continues to hunt after the serial killer known as The Ogre, unaware that his actions are putting one of his loved ones at risk. Bruce and Selina concoct a plan to find out more about the mysterious Bunderslaw, the man accused of organizing the Wayne’s murder. Meanwhile, Edward Nygma takes his first steps towards becoming The Riddler.

Review

As Gotham fast approaches its Season One finale, this episode saw an increase in both pace and tension as the writers continued to develop 'The Ogre' storyline, stretching the story across three episodes in a first for the series. In some ways, this plot has been something of a distraction for both the viewers and the GCPD, allowing for some major developments to occur in the lives of the various supporting characters. It seems that the Penguin, the Riddler and Bruce Wayne are going to focus heavily in the events of the finale, with each one getting a major push towards their individual end-games.

It's curious to note that Fish Mooney didn't make an appearance here after the focus on her plight in the last few episodes, which seems to point towards her reappearing for a death scene in the season finale, especially as she was wounded in her escape. Personally, I would have been happier if she'd been killed off in “What the Little Bird Told Him” once her treachery had been revealed – it certainly would have achieved bigger shock value than if she dies in the next few episodes - knowing that Jada Pinkett-Smith is leaving the show has taken the suspense out of this particular plot.

The central plot of The Ogre managed to captivate me throughout the entire episode, despite the slow burn approach the writer's have taken with this particular case. Spending more time on this criminal has actually benefitted the story, giving us an interesting nemesis for Gordon to clash with, making me wish that The Ogre will become a recurring antagonist for the show. Given the reveal of his facial deformity, making his Ogre nickname much more ironic, I wonder if he will be retrofitted into being one of the more recognisable DC Comics villains – there's the potential that he could be Clayface, or perhaps even Hush. Maybe that's a reach, but I would really like to see Milo Ventimiglia return beyond this initial plot-arc.

I must admit that I found it quite amusing that Gordon completely forgot that his ex-girlfriend, Barbara, might be a potential target, especially after his insistence that she leave Gotham when he was in trouble with Falcone. It's a nice bit of character development, showing how much Gordon has grown and put his past behind him. In fact, placing Barbara in danger is quite possibly the most interesting thing that the writer's have done with the character and almost makes that awkward love triangle with Detective Montoya earlier in the series bearable. Considering that a dozen episodes ago, I would have gleefully liked Barbara to have been killed off, the writers have done a great job in making her more sympathetic, mostly through her odd friendship with Selina and Ivy Pepper. Ironically, she seems to have much more in common with The Ogre than she did with Jim Gordon...I wonder if he might facially disfigure her to make them soul-mates?


Fresh off their recent murder, Bruce and Selina continue to investigate Bunderslaw, the Wayne Enterprises board member who has been implicated in the recent wrong-doings, including Alfred's stabbing, the attack on Wayne Manor and potentially the murder of Bruce's parents. Given that the character was only introduced an episode ago, I highly doubt that he is the big brains behind the operation and, like Lovecraft before him, is merely a red herring or a middle-man. Given the lack of attention given to Falcone, I have an inkling that it will be him who is revealed as the mastermind behind the Wayne's murder, and possibly a silent partner within Wayne Enterprises. Even though Selina's homicidal tendencies caused a slight rift between the pair, once Bruce did a "Pretty Woman" and gave her an expensive dress to wear at the ball, he seemed to forget his qualms. This is a nice bit of foreshadowing for their eventual relationship, both established the pair's moral boundaries and how sometimes Batman thinks with his dick and not with his brain when it comes to Catwoman.

Somewhat needlessly, the Penguin was given extra incentive to kill off Don Maroni in this episode. Initially, I thought Maroni was going to threaten Gertrude Cobblepot with violence, but instead he does something worse and breaks that creepy and borderline incestuous bond between mother and son, by revealing what a sick psychopath her son really is. While Maroni hit Penguin where it hurts, it seemed somewhat unnecessary since we've already been given ample reason to understand the feud between the two. One thing I did like was how minutes after telling his mother that he was “just a nightclub owner”, he immediately murdered someone on his doorstep. In fact, between Penguin and Riddler, this episode proved how easy it is to get rid of an impromptu murder victim in Gotham City...

Speaking of the Riddler, his sub-plot might have been the most rewarding part of the episode yet. After months of slow build-up, the weird relationship between him and Miss Kringle finally paid off as he attempted to protect her honour and murdered her abusive cop boyfriend in cold blood. Knowing that Edward Nygma would eventually become the Riddler meant that viewers were expecting some major event to shatter his veneer of respectability and send him down the road of criminality. I must admit, I expected him to snap and kill Miss Kringle after some romantic misunderstanding, but instead he is shown attempting to protect her instead. I wonder if Kringle, who herself seems a bit peculiar, might become some kind of side-kick to his criminal activity, possibly a 'Harley Quinn' for the Riddler? I guess the next episodes will revolve around Edward covering up his crime, but I have a feeling that Season Two will see the Riddler (or Riddle-Man) become more of a threat for the GCPD and Gotham City, especially as he becomes more unhinged and addicted to setting riddles for the police to solve.

Overall, this was a fantastic episode that hit the right notes across all of the featured storylines. There was a great sense of momentum across the various sub-plots as the pieces began to align, ready for the season finale. Given the way that the stories have advanced, I'd imagine that the focus will be on the Penguin's attempted coup of Don Maroni, alongside Bruce and Selina's discovery of who killed his parents. The central plot of 'The Ogre' has been one of the strongest “case of the week” plot threads seen in the series thus far, and I hope the show-runners continue to experiment with different story lengths in Season Two, as it certainly adds a bit more spice and unpredictability to proceedings.


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Anvil or The Hammer"
The Ogre breaks down Barbara's emotions, while Gordon and Bullock track him down. Meanwhile, Penguin leads a massacre, beginning an epic war, while Bruce learns the truth about Wayne Enterprises and Nygma deals with his recent actions.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 2x17 - "Melinda"


Agents of SHIELD
Episode 2x17 - "Melinda" 

Synopsis

As Skye continues to learn more about her powers and her past, we learn through flashbacks about the tragic events that occurred in Bahrain, leading to Agent May's nickname "The Cavalry" and her self-imposed exile from field work.

Review

In many ways, “Melinda” felt like a companion episode to its predecessor, “Afterlife” in the sense that both episodes featured recurring flashback sequences that provided character development and served to explain the rationale behind the choices which characters were making in the present-day narrative. Another structural similarity seen across the two episodes was the continued split in focus on both the rival SHIELD factions and Skye's Inhuman training, with both plots being developed simultaneously. Ultimately, this resulted in some of the same problems which plagued “Afterlife” appearing in this episode also.

Firstly, I was a little bit disappointed with Jiaying's revival – immediately, I was under the impression that this was some shape-shifter adopting the role of the character to keep up a pretence, but it was revealed that Cal somehow stitched together the dismembered remains of his wife and her healing powers restored her to life. While this isn't totally out of the realms of comic book 'science', her resurrection just smells like a retcon. Ahead of the mid-season hiatus, Cal's attitude towards Whitehall and Skye seemed to indicate that his wife was dead, but I have a feeling the writer's liked the family dynamic so much, they've rewritten events to say that he revived her, but the pair separated afterwards. Luckily, it doesn't totally contradict anything from before, but it does make you wonder why he never told Skye she was alive earlier.


Talking of Skye, her time in Afterlife continued to dominate the episode, this time focusing on her discovering that Jiaying was her mother. While I'm not a fan of the scenes taking place in Afterlife, I have to admit the 'reveal scene' was actually quite well written and extremely well acted by both Dichen Lachmann and Chloe Bennett. It actually helped sell the possibility that Skye would walk away from her SHIELD family to join the Inhumans instead – something that the show needed to convincingly pull off to achieve dramatic tension later on. Despite this, I still found the Afterlife sub-plot slightly flat and predictable, although I must admit the reveal of Raina's precognitive abilities was quite surprising.

The main draw of the episode was the Homeland-esque flashbacks into May's past, delving into the origin of the nickname, “The Cavalry”. I quite liked the way Coulson and May played their characters slightly differently to their modern-day counterparts and the subtle references to the pre-Agents of SHIELD timeline. As the flashbacks continued, I figured out that the girl would be the one exerting control over the hostages, reasoning that it would be something really traumatic like shooting a kid that would force May out of active duty. This twist made sense for the character and perfectly explained May's complete shift in personality, as well as giving her a legitimate fear about out-of-control Gifted people, allowing Real SHIELD to manipulate her emotions against Coulson.

The episode was relatively Coulson-light, allowing Real SHIELD to announce their suspicions as to his true intentions, revealing the clandestine 'Theta Protocol' which he has been keeping secret from the rest of the team. It appears that Coulson is attempting to weaponise Gifted people, such as Deathlok and presumably Skye, in an effort to replicate the Avengers Initiative. Unfortunately, Real SHIELD seems to be taking a rather contrary opinion and instead wishes to subdue and contain any individuals exhibiting super-powered abilities. This seems to indicate that Real SHIELD will come into conflict with the Inhumans at some point, possibly with Coulson's team and Skye caught in the middle. With five episodes remaining, I look forward to seeing how the various pieces of the puzzle come together, starting with Coulson, Fitz and Hunter's attempt to recruit ex-Agent Grant Ward to the cause.


Score - 9.2 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • In the flashback, Coulson makes reference to Fury's plan to form a team of "Earth's Mightiest", which eventually becomes known as the Avengers Initiative.
  • In the flashback, Coulson refers to SHIELD as the "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division", which is the same way he referenced the organisation in the original Iron Man film, before settling on the acronym, SHIELD.

Mysteries
  • What is Coulson's "Theta Protocol" project?

Next Episode - "The Frenemy of my Enemy"
A dangerous new alliance is formed as Coulson and Hunter turn to the last person anyone would expect – Grant Ward! As the war between the two SHIELD factions continues, Skye and Lincoln find themselves drawn into the conflict.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

2000AD Prog 1926

Prog 1926 Cover by Henry Flint

This is a fantastic Judge Dredd cover by Henry Flint, which uses the striking image of Aimee Nixon's disfigured face in the background to convey how much her actions on Titan have haunted Dredd. It's a wonderfully symbolic cover and a nice departure from the recent run of portraits we've had. I also love the double-meaning behind the subtitle, “Dredd's not over the moon” not only referencing Dredd's displeasure that Nixon appears to have resurfaced, but also the lingering after-effects that plague him following his adventure on the Saturn moon of Titan. Lovely bit of punning there from the editorial droids.


JUDGE DREDD - ENCELADUS: NEW LIFE (Part 3)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After a few tense episodes set in the present day revolving around a Enceladus shuttle heading towards Mega City One, Rob Williams' script makes a sharp turn, sending the story off into a completely different direction, using flashbacks to chart the events that led the Justice Department to destroy the Enceladus survivors. It seems that the icy moon is sentient and attacking the escapees with earthquakes and ice volcanoes, reminding me somewhat of the Death Planet seen in the first series of Zombo. While Nixon survives this initial skirmish, it seems that life on Enceladus is going to be a lot tougher than it was on Titan.


When this series was initially announced, I assumed it was a direct sequel to “Titan” and would involve Judge Dredd heading up to Enceladus to tackle the remnants of Nixon's army personally, but instead it seems as if we're going to get a 'Scott of the Antarctic' style tale of exploration, which may shed some light on the icy alien material discovered inside of the ship. My guess is that it is the heart of the planet itself – possibly some parasitic organism that has hitched a ride towards Earth, or was sent down by Nixon as a weapon.

Rob Williams' script is simply top-notch, weaving a compelling mystery on multiple fronts, whilst Henry Flint's fantastic artwork continually surprises and impresses in equal measure. I absolutely loved the rich purple colours of the night-time scenes on Enceladus, accurately capturing the atmosphere and tone of the desperate search for sanctuary. When the planet reacts to its new visitors with violent earthquakes and dramatic spikes, Flint's gritty art style captures the rawness and gore of the subsequent deaths, especially poor Benis, who gets dealt with a dud hand.



SLAINE - THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES: PRIMORDIAL (Part 3)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This third episode of Slaine felt slightly disjointed with the opening continuing with Slaine's gruesome recounting of Slough Feg's death, allowing both him and Sinead to flee from the weakened Gododin. Next, there was a lengthy piece of exposition regarding the inaction of the Archons, who seem to be similar in behaviour to the Watchers from Marvel Comics – observing, but never interfering. Finally, through an extended conversation Slaine discovers the extent of the Cyth's manipulation of Sinead as it becomes apparent she has had her free will and energy sapped from her, resulting in her mindlessly repeating downbeat proverbs in response to his energetic pleas to fight back.

Clearly a transitional episode, this installment suffered due to its focus on exposition and conversation, with three separate monologues from Slaine dominating the six pages. Simon Davis' artwork continues to impress, but it definitely benefits from more action-packed scripts. Now he is out of Gododin's clutches, the story will hopefully advance further. It feels that this adventure has been floundering about somewhat and it needs some more direction, something which hopefully the titular Primordial will provide when he appears.



GREY AREA - JUST ROUTINE QUESTIONS (Part 2)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Opening up with the characters recapping and summarising recent events, Dan Abnett is not only able to keep the story accessible to readers, but also uses the sequence to introduce new characters, Neats and Manners, who were working on the gun-ship which transported the ETC team to the Homeworld system. I really enjoy the way Abnett manages to quickly establish his characters, setting up the antagonistic relationship between Bulliet and Manners as they literally fight over control of the group. I also quite like the situation that they've found themselves in – marooned in a parallel universe and about to face a potential Armageddon. Despite all of this, Abnett manages to lighten the mood with playful banter between the team, and the humourous punchline of the aliens misunderstanding the brawling and assuming it was a mating ritual instead.


Alongside Abnett's impressive script is Mark Harrison's equally impressive artwork, which seems to be getting clearer with each installment. I'll be honest, I wasn't all that keen on his art style for Durham Red: The Scarlet Cantos, which while impressive was somewhat busy and hard to comprehend at times, this simpler and more low-key approach to this talking head sequences definitely suits his artwork, and I like the use of lighting in panels to set the tone and give realistic shading to certain sequences. While Grey Area has used a variety of artists in the past, I hope that Mark Harrison sticks around for the long haul as I've really grown accustomed to his style for this series.



ORLOK: AGENT OF EAST MEG ONE - THE RASPUTIN CAPER (Part 3)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Hot on the track of the Oz mutants who kidnapped psychic painter, Jiri Rasputin, Orlok teams up with the flamboyant Black Widower from the rival city of East Meg Two. Given Orlok's track record as a lone wolf, I'm guessing this partnership isn't going to last too long, nor end well for the Widower. The episode is fairly straight-forward, with Rasputin making use of his powers to predict Orlok and the Black Widowers inevitable conflict against the Oz mutanty, with Jake Lynch's art effectively depicting the duo's ruthless and gruesome methods of dispatching the various mutants. However, it remains to be seen whether they can actually pull this off. Arthur Wyatt's script manages to keep the story ticking along nicely, even including a great reference to the iconic storyline, “The Day the Law Died” with a Judge Fish cameo. It's a lovely little nod to long-term fans and helps place this story within Judge Dredd's own continuity.



STRONTIUM DOG - THE STIX FIX (Part 3)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

After a few missteps with its depiction of Koreans, this episode of Strontium Dog returned the focus back to the story, rather than on its caricatures. Wagner’s script continues to distance itself from the serious nature of its preceding storylines and re-establishes Johnny’s character as a bounty hunter, rather than the figurehead of the mutant rebellion. I really like the ‘odd couple’ situation that is developing between him and his chaperones, which deftly balances slapstick with a subtle hint of menace bubbling underneath.


The investigation into the kidnapped dictator is moving along quite nicely with Alpha quickly discovering that the Stix family is behind the attack, and introducing the ‘black sheep’ of the Stix family, who has forsaken criminality and become a priest instead. It’s a fun concept and hopefully he reappears in future installments. There’s a lot to like about this storyline, which feels like a return to form for the series with the right mixture of humour and action. Quite frankly, this story has everything that a die-hard Strontium Dog fan could possibly want.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

With its mixture of action and humour coupled with an engaging script and beautiful artwork, Strontium Dog earns its place as “Thrill of the Week”, although both Judge Dredd and Grey Area are close behind. With such a strong line-up of stories, it's no surprise that each Prog since the jumping-on point has been filled with top-quality thrills. While Orlok and Slaine lack the same urgency as the other stories, they are still excellent reads and help balance the Prog out with their different genres.

Thrill of the Week: Strontium Dog


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1926 will be available in stores on Wednesday 15th April - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can now be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

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 # 7

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor # 7
"The Fractures" - Part 2 (of 3)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Brian Williamson
Colours by: Hi-Fi

As the middle section of a three-part storyline, inevitably this episode of “The Fractures” was a tad heavier on exposition explaining the mystery surrounding Paul Foster’s return from the dead and the motivations of the deadly Fractures who have seeped from the void and into our reality. The central conceit of the storyline reminds me of the cancelled US TV show, Awake, which also featured a man travelling between alternate realities which had diverged at the point of a car crash which killed either his wife or son.

I love the way that Robbie Morrison’s storyline balances the larger repercussions of Foster’s transgression across parallel universes and the smaller drama of a family reunited after a terrible tragedy. It’s a testament to Morrison’s writing style that he is able to get the reader to care about these characters so quickly, and begin hoping that the Doctor can find a way to save both the universes and keep this family unit together.

After spending last issue speculating whether or not this adventure was set after Season 8, we get confirmation here that it does in fact take place before Danny Pink’s death, thanks to a reference to Osgood and the fact she has begun wearing bow ties instead of the scarf seen in “The Day of the Doctor” and has yet to find out that the Doctor has changed again, something which we eventually see in “Death in Heaven”. There’s also a nice bit of foreshadowing to Clara’s desperate attempts to bring Danny back from the dead in “Dark Water” when she tells Hannah Foster that “If I lost someone I loved…I’d do anything to get them back”. It’s a nice little touch and helps solidify the adventure in the Season 8 continuity.


Aside from the references to its current and future continuity, I also liked the way Morrison made references to key elements of the Doctor Who mythos introduced during David Tennant’s era, namely the Void and Parallel Universes, which featured heavily in “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”. It also explains the appearance of the Doctor’s 3-D specs, which were established in those earlier episodes as being able to detect Void energy. Unfortunately, in that story, all those beings ‘contaminated’ by Void energy were sent back to their original dimensions, or into the Void itself, suggesting that the Fosters will be separated again in the concluding episode of this storyline.

As mentioned in my review for last issue, Brian Williamson’s beautiful artwork manages to effortlessly achieve a photo-realistic style, capturing the likenesses of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman perfectly. Coupled with Robbie Morrison’s expert handle on the character’s voices, this storyline truly feels like a “lost story” from Season 8 and surpasses the already excellent preceding adventures seen in the comic series thus far. I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to this storyline, thanks to the emotional investment that Morrison has placed in the character’s situations. Along with his recent Tenth Doctor storyline, “The Weeping Angels of Mons”, this storyline proves Robbie Morrison’s skill at writing for Doctor Who, and fans of the show NEED to be reading this series to get their fix in-between seasons. 


Score - 9.7 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor # 7 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor # 11

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor # 11
"Four Dimensions"
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Boo Cook
Colours by: Hi-Fi

Taking place mostly in the TARDIS, this issue of the Eleventh Doctor series features another high-concept narrative idea which makes use of the unique visual style that the comic book format offers. Much like with Rob Williams' innovative backwards storyline back in Issue 6, Al Ewing subverts the traditional storytelling methods and splits his story into four distinct narratives, represented on the page by four segments which follow each character across colour-coded panels. While this approach means the plot requires a bit more concentration than usual to follow events, it is still fairly easy to pick up the four diverging perspectives and quite satisfying to see them gradually re-converge upon each other.

Both Boo Cook and his colourist, Hi-Fi, do an amazing job on this issue where the visuals dictate whether the central conceit of split dimensions works or fails. Hi-Fi's colours on the segmented sequences are absolutely spot-on, and I loved the way that the backgrounds changed colours when multiple characters were in the frame. For example, when Alice (yellow) meets Jones (blue), the background suddenly shifts to green, helping explain the importance of all four protagonists to reunite to fix the splintered timeline. I'm also really enjoying Cook's artwork, which seems to be improving with each subsequent issue as he grows more confident with the Doctor and his supporting cast. I also think that this particular issue, with its monochrome colouring, definitely fits better with his art style than it would have done with Simon Fraser's.

Plot-wise, there's some very interesting developments as we witness the origin of the Talent Scout. It seems that I was mistaken in assuming that he was a third offshoot of the creature that both ARC and the Entity make up, and instead he is simply a human who was absorbed by the creature and has inherited some of it powers. Rather helpfully, The Doctor, or maybe that should be Al Ewing, provides us with a definitive linear time-line for the Talent Scout's various appearances, helping the reader to realign them chronologically. Not only does this clear up the story, straightening out any perceived plot-holes and confusion, but it also provides us with final missing piece of the puzzle and helps put the story back on track and set up its “season finale”.


David Bowie is a prominent element of this issue, and in fact has been present in the series since Jones was introduced. Clearly a homage to the musician, Jones has undergone a number of cosmetic changes throughout the series mirroring the same fashion styles that Bowie adopted throughout his career. Xavi Moonburst, a persona adopted in the previous storyline, was clearly a reference to Ziggy Stardust, and here we see Jones in a clown costume, not unlike Bowie's own pierrot clown persona used in the music video for “Ashes to Ashes”. A third persona is even referenced here with the Talent Scout adopting a look reminiscent of Bowie's Goblin King from Labyrinth - in fact, he is even referred to as the “Gremlin King” by the Doctor. I must admit that originally I found the Bowie references to be a bit hokey, but it dawned on me with this issue that Bowie himself has undergone a series of “regenerations” in his life, making him the Doctor Who of the music world.

One element that I particularly enjoyed about this issue was how Al Ewing retroactively fit in story elements introduced in recent episodes, such as the telepathic circuits being utilised as a GPS – seen in episodes “Listen” and “Dark Water” - ahead of their on-screen debut. There's also a glimpse of the TARDIS engine room and oft-mentioned swimming pool, shown here ahead of their official first appearances in “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”. It's a nice reverse-nod to continuity, making use of these plot devices and locations ahead of their formal introduction into the show's canon. In some ways, it helps legitimise their appearances later on in the show.

Overall, this issue was another great example of why the Eleventh Doctor series has been such an entertaining read. Both Rob Williams and Al Ewing aren't afraid to take chances, both when it comes to making use of the comic book medium to tell inventive new types of stories, or telling a bold non-linear season-arc which requires the reader to continually re-frame the previous events against new information. As the series heads towards the dramatic conclusion to its first year of adventures, I am looking forward to seeing how the ServeYouINC storyline climaxes, and whether the Doctor is able to put his motley crew of TARDIS adventurers into better places than where he found them.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor # 11 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 9

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor # 9
"The Weeping Angels of Mons" - Part 4 (of 4)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Daniel Indro
Colours by: Slamet Mujiono

While action and adventure pervades this concluding installment of “The Weeping Angels of Mons”, the emotional core of the story is the doomed romance between TARDIS companion, Gabriella Gonzalez and the Scottish soldier, Jamie Colquhoun. Robbie Morrison's script manages to tug on the heartstrings as the two star-crossed lovers are forced to separate at the close of the adventure, after only sharing one kiss. Despite only being developed over the past couple of issues, Morrison manages to craft a realistic and believable attraction between the two youngsters amidst the danger of the Weeping Angels.

While previous installments have alluded to the horrors of World War One, it is this concluding episode that really honours and pays reverence to the sacrifices those soldiers who died during the conflict. The sequence where Jamie makes his decision to stay in his own time zone rather than travelling with the Doctor and Gabby reminds me heavily of the closing scene of Blackadder Goes Forth, using the visual transition from the war-torn fields of World War One to a modern-day landscape filled with poppies. There's also a comparison to be made with the Doctor Who episode, “Family of Blood”, which also features the Doctor and his companion visiting a war veteran in his twilight years. Even though the World War One setting has been used to tell a science-fiction story, both writer and artist pay their respects to the sacrifices without seeming trite and insincere.


Morrison's script yet again manages to channel that same energy and tension found in Doctor Who TV episodes, with this whole subterranean sequence feeling as tightly plotted and rife with drama as any of the recent episodes. Splitting up the Doctor and Gabby adds a further layer of peril to the proceedings, and allows the Doctor to swoop in with a last-minute save. Congratulations must also be passed onto Daniel Indro who has delivered absolutely sterling work across this four-part storyline, really bringing out the grittiness of the trench warfare and capturing the melancholy of the war. I quite liked seeing the return of Gabby's sketchbook, along with artists Arianna Florean and Elena Casagrande, injecting a brief ray of sunshine into the dreary environment of the Somme.

As I've mentioned in my reviews for the previous installments, this has been one of the best storylines to appear in the Doctor Who comics, making fantastic use of a “famous” Doctor Who monster through an inspired choice of setting. While I would liked to have seen Jamie join the TARDIS crew, the bittersweet ending certainly gave the conclusion added pathos. Both Morrison and Indro have consistently delivered excellence over the course of the adventure, producing a practically flawless storyline. This is certainly the jewel in the Titan Comics' crown, although the Ninth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor series are pretty close behind in terms of quality. Fans of the TV show who aren't reading these comics are missing out on some absolutely amazing Doctor Who stories!


Score - 9.7 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor # 9 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!
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