Saturday, 28 November 2015

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x08 - "Many Heads, One Tale"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x08 - "Many Heads, One Tale"

Synopsis

Coulson and his team attempt to find more about the ATCU and their plans for the newly transformed Inhumans, whilst Ward attempts to locate one of Von Strucker's legendary vaults for a weapon to destroy SHIELD.

Review

While previous episodes of Agents of SHIELD have seen the series veer towards spy drama or superhero fantasy, this installment felt like an old-school heist movie with Coulson's team working together to infiltrate the ATCU and discover the secrets within their organisation. The thing that stood out the most for me was how deftly the show's writers managed to weave the season's seemingly disparate plot threads (Hydra, The Monolith and the Inhumans) together to form one coherent narrative. Coulson's team, whilst split into separate strike teams, have actually all been working towards solving the same mystery without realising it. There was a genuine sense of satisfaction as the various plot threads become to align and the jigsaw puzzles that has been Season Three came together and the bigger picture revealed. It felt similar to the way that Season One was unveiled to be a lead-in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the SHIELD civil war.

There were plenty of great moments in this episode, kicking off with Ward's brutal take-down of Malick's men and his torture methods to find out where Von Strucker's secret vault was. However, the more intriguing moments for me where more character-driven, such as Coulson's distrust of Rosalind Price and the reveal that his 'relationship' had been a way for him to find out more about the ATCU. Going into the episode, I'd expected him to be under her thumb and blind to any potential corruption, but I'm guessing the events of the Hydra takeover in Season One still weigh heavily on Coulson's mind, making it harder for him to trust others. My favourite moment, as always, was the relationship of Fitz and Simmons who finally consummated their unspoken feelings with a passionate kiss. Once again, Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker are absolutely believable as the two luckless love-birds, and the frustration was so palpable that it was actually a relief to see them finally kiss.


While some might be frustrated that Hydra was once again revealed to be the villains of this season, infiltrating and masterminding events at the ATCU, I quite liked the fact that it brought Ward back to the main storyline providing him with increased purpose. Powers Boothe's Gideon Malick makes for an interesting new mentor for the character, exhibiting both power and wisdom. The revelation that Hydra has been around longer than World War II and worships a banished Inhuman adds another layer of menace to the organisation, and has me wondering about the identity of the mysterious Inhuman. With the mid-season finale on the horizon, I suspect that this half of the season will result in SHIELD bringing both Will Daniels and the Inhuman into our world, although it wouldn't be an Agents of SHIELD mid-season without some death or big revelations.

This episode certainly succeeded in providing a strong sense of direction to a season which up until now had been lacked one, with the conclusion weaving the key plot points together in a smart and satisfying manner. While I understand the whole philosophy of Hydra is that cutting off one head means two more grow in its place, I do think it is time that the series retired them. It feels like lazy writing to have more and more high-ranking commanders appear out of the woodwork – at the start of the season, it seemed that Hydra was almost extinct, but with the reappearance of Malick, it seems that there is still a hierarchy in place. While I'm happy for Hydra to be a side-plot or distraction from the main threat, I would prefer if the remainder of Season Three focused on a wholly new challenge for SHIELD. However, one thing you can't accuse Agents of SHIELD of is predictability, and I honestly can't work out what is going to happen next.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Gideon Malick references the Red Skull's time as the head of Hydra during World War II (Captain America: The First Avenger)
  • The Ancient Order first seen in "Purpose in the Machine" is revealed to be an early incarnation of Hydra, sacrificing unlucky 'volunteers' to the Inhuman located beyond the Monolith.

Mysteries
  • What is the identity of the ancient Inhuman banished to the other planet?

Next Episode - "Closure"
Ward's vendetta and plan for revenge against S.H.I.E.L.D. brings the team to their knees, and Coulson proves he will be willing to do anything to settle the conflict.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Review - Supergirl: 1x05 - "How Does She Do It?"

Supergirl
Episode 1x05 - "How Does She Do It?"

Synopsis

Kara struggles to juggle both her personal and work lives, whilst maintaining her superheroic role, and finds herself even more burdened when she offers to babysit Cat Grant's son, Carter. Meanwhile, Lucy Lane attempts to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend, James Olsen – pushing Kara into the “friend-zone”.

Review

While last episode's “Livewire” had very minor continuity issues due to the rescheduling in light of the Paris attacks, “How Does She Do It?” suffered from more obvious inconsistencies that stood out. The main one being the relationship between James and Lucy Lane, which begun very fractious and gradually rebuilt itself. There were also moments with Cat Grant asking about Kara's mother, and Alex's trust in Hank Henshaw, that were obviously designed to foreshadow what we ended up seeing early in “Livewire”. Perhaps it would have been better if CBS had aired a re-run, rather than showing the episode's out of sequence – I certainly hope that they resolve it for the eventual DVD release.

The main theme of the episode was about balancing work and relationships, evident from both Kara's sub-plot and the James/Lucy relationship. As with earlier episodes, there was a feminist message in there too, but it didn't quite ring true – it's odd to see Cat Grant champion Supergirl for being a strong female role model, when she is equally happy to tear her down in her articles. The James/Lucy angle failed to hold my interest, as I found both characters to be rather shallow and boring. I am far more invested in a relationship between Winn and Kara, but the show seems determined to pair her up with James instead. With Lucy in the frame, it seems the show is heading towards a classic 'love triangle' format, with poor Winn firmly trapped in the friend-zone.


With his sinister behaviour during “Fight or Flight”, it seemed a bit obvious that Maxwell Lord would be behind the bombs and snooping on Supergirl. As predicted back then, the show seems to be setting him up as the Lex Luthor of the Supergirl world – a scheming millionaire scientist with serious trust issues. Given the cringe-worthy flirting between Alex and Lord in this episode, I suspect that she will become romantically involved with him somewhere down the line, causing a rift between the Danvers girls. The series certainly seems to be telegraphing its shock twists and reveals way in advance, mostly through the obvious foreshadowing seen in the “previously on...” bumpers ahead of each episode.

It was interesting to get a non-superpowered threat in this episode, with Supergirl using both her brains and her powers to figure out who was causing the explosions and why. However, the romantic sub-plots still need a bit of work to remove the clichéd elements. The scenes with Kara babysitting Cat's teenage son where quite amusing, but I was hoping more would have been done with the juggling of responsibilities. It seemed to be pushed to the backseat in favour of the romantic angst over James and Lucy reconnecting. Once again, the special effects in this episode were very impressive, easily rivalling those seen in early superhero movies, like X-Men and Spider-Man. I particularly enjoyed the scenes of Supergirl in flight and chasing after the spy drones. It was also interesting to see more of Hank Henshaw's power set – red eyes and super-strength. Hmm, could he be experimenting with Kryptonian DNA to enhance himself? I hope future episodes strike a better balance between the light-weight romantic drama and the comic-book action and mythology scenes.


Score - 8.4 out of 10

Next Episode - "Red Faced"
Stress makes Kara go too far during a training exercise against a military cyborg commissioned by General Sam Lane, while Cat's mother comes to visit and Winn helps Alex investigate her father's death.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review - Bob: Non-Union Psychic # 0

Bob: Non-Union Psychic # 0
Created and Written by: Lance Lucero
Scripted and Edited by: Adam Volle
Art by: Francisco Resendiz
Published by: Warehouse 9 Productions

Continuing my foray into the world of Indie Comics, I was recently offered the chance to review a quirky horror-comedy series from an independent publisher, Warehouse 9 Productions, called Bob: Non-Union Psychic. The central premise at the heart of this comic is brilliantly imaginative, featuring a young hairdresser who also moonlights as a private investigator, egged on by his great-grandfather. With its blend of the mundane and the supernatural, the series certainly manages to ‘channel the spirit’ of the original Ghostbusters movie into its witty script.

This introductory “zero issue” is dense and full of content, effectively presenting the character and his unique status-quo to the audience. There are some great twists and turns in the narrative, and despite being an “origin story”, the issue flows really well and develops the character organically. While the easiest comparison to make is with Ghostbusters, the series is still its own beast and features its own comedic style, separate from the 1984 horror-comedy, although it is clearly an influence. Lance Lucero and Adam Volle work well together to develop a surprisingly complex narrative that doesn’t patronize its audience, forcing them to figure out some of the plot twists for themselves. There are also some great moments of banter between Bob and his grandfather that helps “grease the narrative wheels” and keep the exposition from feeling too perfunctory.


The other major draw to this series is Francisco Rensendiz’s absolutely fantastic artwork. It’s certainly a distinctive visual style, but has a self-assured confidence that is rare in independent comics and even some mainstream ones! I really enjoyed the glossy animated style that Rensendiz’s work brings to the comic, emphasising the comedic elements of the script. With such a distinctive style, it’s hard to think of mainstream comparisons, but there were some very slight echoes of Humberto Ramos’ style at times. Aside from wonderful character designs, Rensendiz also manages to capture a sense of momentum in his panels, ensuring that the more action-orientated sequences flow nicely.

Overall, I found myself very impressed with this debut issue of Bob: Non-Union Psychic – it struck the perfect balance between humour and horror, with a distinctive artist that helps the comic stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Fans of fantasy genre TV shows, such as Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer will find plenty to enjoy here, whereas Ghostbusters fans will enjoy this more subdued look at the supernatural. It's a great example of independent comics and as the foundations of a new comic book series, Bob: Non-Union Psychic excels in setting the scene with a group of wonderful characters, and I look forward to reading about Bob’s next adventure into the spiritual world.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Bob: Non-Union Psychic # 0 is available to buy digitally from the Warehouse 9 Productions web-store for $3.99. Check out a video trailer for the comic here. The creative team for this issue can be found on Twitter, so give them a follow and shout-out my review!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

2000AD Prog 1958

Prog 1958 Cover by Leigh Gallagher

As Tharg himself notes in his introduction, it is unusual for 2000AD to feature “superheroics” within its pages, but the Vizards from Defoe are far from the typical spandex-wearing heroes from Marvel and DC. I've really enjoyed their vaudevillian costumes and masks within the black and white pages of the Defoe strip, but realised in full-colour they look even more fantastic. Leigh Gallagher does a great job at capturing the menacing faces behind the masks as these “pseudo-heroes” descend upon 17th Century London. It's certainly a refreshing change from the zombie-infested covers that Defoe normally has, and represents the shift in tone within the series itself to focus on the gentry and elite as the main villains of the piece.


JUDGE DREDD - THE BEATING (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Adam Brown
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

John Wagner returns to Judge Dredd for a shocker of a first episode that appears to show Dredd breaking the law to deliver a death sentence to an innocent gang member. Considering this story comes from the character's co-creator, I'm sure that there is a logical reason behind Dredd's out-of-character behaviour and apparent villainous turn. I have two theories – perhaps Wagner is revisiting the character of Judge Bender, who displayed similar excessive violence in the storyline, “Bender” (Progs 1845 – 1849). My other theory is that perhaps this video has been leaked to the Office of Co-operative Development into order to lure some wrong-doers out into the light. I would be very surprised if Wagner decided to turn Dredd into a law-breaking villain in the final three-part storyline before the Christmas Annual, especially without any slow build-up.


Patrick Goddard's artwork looks totally different from his recent outing with Sinister Dexter, which shows how much of an impact a colourist can make on an artist's work. Adam Brown manages to inject an additional layer of grittiness to Goddard's pencils, effortlessly striking up the right atmosphere for this darker Judge Dredd adventure. I'm very excited to see where Wagner and Goddard plan to take this storyline – even if it is revealed that this is all part of a long-con to outsmart some corrupt official, it is gorgeously brought to life by Goddard and Brown, and amazingly well-written. But, with Wagner at the helm, one can't discount the fact that he might be dropping a status-quo changing storyline for Judge Dredd.



DEFOE - THE LONDON HANGED (Part 9)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This installment sees Defoe finally snapping and taking a stand against the Vizards, who have begun their attack on the poor of Alsatia. After weeks of set-up, Pat Mills' script delivers a pay-off as Defoe defies the government and puts his new family at risk by challenging the Vizards. While some of the earlier episodes did feel drawn out, especially those focusing on Defoe's indecision about his situation, this installment certainly rewarded those readers who'd stuck with the series. I also like the switch in focus from the murderous Reeks to the duplicitous Vizards, adding a whole new layer to the series and developing it into something more than just that “17th Century Zombie strip”.


Leigh Gallagher does a fantastic job capturing the atrocities committed by the Vizards as they wipe out the rioting poor of Alsatia, leaving charred skeletons in their wake. The battle between Defoe and his Vizard enemy was also well realised, capturing the frenzied nature of the fight as Defoe launches his sword into the shoulder of his assailant. Overall, this was a really satisfying episode of Defoe, which pushed the lead character into new territory and set up a whole new status-quo for the series. I look forward to seeing more of this anti-establishment take on the character as he finds himself caught between the Reeks and the Vizards.



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

Yet again Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard delivered another fantastic installment of Brass Sun, with Culbard's absolutely stellar artwork really managing to heighten the tension of this episode's climactic action sequence. I enjoyed the fluidity that Culbard brought to the panels as Septimus outsmarted Mother Gynor and the Arthur robot. I loved the cinematic nature of this set-piece, and although this episode felt somewhat brief due to the heavy action content, it worked really well as a culmination of events. As theorised in earlier reviews, I suspect that Septimus is going to attempt to install the Blind Watchmaker as the new “operating system” into the Arthur robot. Hopefully, it goes better than my attempts to install Windows 10 onto my laptop...


Regular readers of my blog will know how much I adore Brass Sun, and I have to say that this fourth chapter “Motorhead” has been the best installment so far! There's something about the dire nature of Wren and Septimus' situation that made this chapter stand out from the rest. I have also enjoyed the deepening of the series' mythology with the introduction of the mysterious Mother Gynor as a force to challenge the Arthur Robot and it's masters. As with Edginton's other series, Helium, it seems that Brass Sun is shaping up to be a more complex narrative than simply good vs. evil, with multiple factions - each with their own motivations - all vying for the key to restarting the Brass Sun.



BAD COMPANY - FIRST CASUALTIES (Part 9)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo & Jim McCarthy
Letters - Simon Bowland

This latest series of Bad Company continues to head towards its conclusion, with the team arriving at the Penal Planet in order to discover the secrets behind the massacre at Min Town that kicked off the Ararat war. Despite the continued descriptions that the Krool are a bloodthirsty bunch of killers, they look relatively harmless to me, especially in the final pages of this episode where they appear to be living peacefully in a makeshift village. I strongly suspect that the big reveal will be that they are a naturally peaceful race that were somehow provoked into violence by the Earth government. Given that the Krool were always portrayed as kill-crazy monsters who deserved the equally violent counter-measures of the Bad Company, I'm interested to see how far the moral compass will swing if it is revealed that the Krool were actually victims throughout the series. Once again, this storyline is shaping up to be a worthy follow-up to the original series and a fitting tribute to Brett Ewins.



TERROR TALES - THE CROW GIFTS
Script - David Baillie
Art - Joshua George
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This Prog sees returning script droid David Baillie paired up with newcomer artist Joshua George for another Terror Tale that delivers a slice of horror in four pages. Unlike last Prog's more action-orientated short story, this adventure focuses more on exposition and narration to set the scene, with Baillie creating a wonderful dystopian world that feels like an exaggeration of Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic, The Birds. In some ways, this story reminds me of the terrible M. Night Shyamalan movie, The Happening, except for a much better global threat  and filled with more interesting characters. I think it would make a great concept for a film, although perhaps it's best to keep Shyamalan away from it...

For a debut, Joshua George does a sterling job with a wonderfully detailed visual style that creates a sense of realism, further emphasising the “real world dystopia” element of this storyline and further drawing parallels with Hitchcock's black and white classic. Some of the scenes, especially the close-up on the female protagonist's face, reminded me those old 70's girl comics, which is ironic considering that 2000AD announced this week that it had reacquired the rights to reprint 1970's girls horror comic, Misty. Perhaps Joshua George could be an artist for any new stories if the publisher plans to print all-new adventures?



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Once again, Brass Sun takes the “Thrill of the Week” spot - although both Judge Dredd and Defoe gave the series a run for its money with some fantastic developments. I'm really enjoying the developments across every series as we head towards the end of year special, Prog 1961. Talking of which, Tharg finally gives us a brief glimpse at the contents of this extra-sized annual, announcing the return of wonderful medieval fantasy adventure, The Order, by Kek-W and John Burns, as well as the return of Simon Davis to Sinister Dexter for a special twentieth anniversary edition. Given the “factory settings reset” of the last storyline, could the return of the series' most iconic artist be a sign that it is coming to an end?


Thrill of the Week: Brass Sun


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1958 will be available in stores on Wednesday 25th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can 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, 24 November 2015

Review - Gotham: 2x10 - "The Son of Gotham"


Gotham
Episode 2x10 - "The Son of Gotham"

Synopsis

Desperate to find out the identity of his parent’s killer, Bruce Wayne attempts to get the information out of Silver St. Cloud, whilst Gordon searches for concrete evidence linking Galavan to the recent attacks on the GCPD. Meanwhile, the Order of Saint Dumas descends upon Gotham as they prepare for a ritual sacrifice.

Review

With the mad monks of Saint Dumas running around Gotham conducting human sacrifices and Bruce Wayne digging deeper into the mystery surrounding his parent’s murder, this episode was a worthy prelude for the mid-season finale as Theo Galavan’s scheme appeared to reach its climax. Appropriately named “The Son of Gotham”, this episode focused firmly on Bruce Wayne as both storylines revolved around the heir to the Wayne Empire. This was an opportunity for David Mazouz to shine, and he certainly rose to the occasion – particularly in the hostage scenes as he played against Silver St. Cloud. Moreso than in any previous episode, we saw hints of the man he will become – both in his duplicitous nature with Silver, and the self-assured confidence in which he spoke to Selina, surprising even her. It was a subtle change from Mazouz, but very much appreciated. It’s about time that we saw Bruce evolve beyond a sullen teenager with more ambition than talent.

The main centerpiece of the episode was the kidnapping of Bruce and Silver, and the subsequent twist reveal of who engineered the situation. I have to admit that originally I thought it was all a ploy by Silver to warn Bruce away, but when Bruce was dragged into the other room, I started to suspect that it was a ‘long con’ set up by him and Selina. Kudos to both the script-writers and the actors for pulling that one off, though – it was a brilliant moment and one of the better twists seen in the series, rivaling the Penguin’s duplicitous nature seen during Season One. Curiously, the name that Silver provides Bruce and Selina with, “M. Malone” seems to allude towards Matches Malone – a criminal alias that Bruce Wayne adopts in the comics when he wants to go undercover. This leads me to believe that this might be something of a red herring and M. Malone is simply a false identity.


Another great, and equally unexpected, moment was the fight between Alfred and Tabitha Galavan. I would never have thought to pair those two up, but it was absolutely dynamite watching them engage in a bit of fisticuffs. I love Sean Pertwee’s portrayal of Alfred Pennyworth as a “tasty geezer” and it’s great to see him in action, even if he doesn’t quite emerge unscathed. Alfred is one of the highlights of the series, but along with Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock, he feels woefully underused in this second season so I hope to see him get more screen-time in future episodes, especially now that Master Bruce has gone missing.

One of the strengths of this episode was how skilfully it managed to set up the pieces for the mid-season finale, without sacrificing its own story. The Order of Saint Dumas makes an interesting adversary for the series, adding a whole new element to the Gotham underworld, although I suspect that they will quickly disperse once Galavan is dealt with. This final half of this episode excels at cultivating a sense of anticipation for the mid-season finale, placing arch-nemeses Penguin and Galavan against each other with the series’ main protagonist in the middle. The Galavan sub-plot has been so engaging, even after the shock demise of Jerome Valeska, that I am genuinely excited to see how the series plans to resolve it. Hopefully, we will see another hour of chaotic television like the Season One finale, “All Happy Families Are Alike”.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Next Episode - "Worse Than a Crime"
When Bruce Wayne is kidnapped, Gordon must look to some unlikely and dangerous allies for help. It is the battle of the villains, and not everyone will make it out alive.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Review - Supergirl: 1x04 - "Livewire"

Supergirl
Episode 1x04 - "Livewire"

Synopsis

Demoted to a role as air traffic reporter, former “shock jock” Leslie Willis becomes living energy when both she and Supergirl are struck by lightning. Holding both Supergirl and Cat Grant responsible for her transformation, she enacts a plan to get revenge on the pair. Meanwhile, Kara finds herself stuck in the middle of a family feud between her sister and foster mother.

Review

As a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris, CBS decided to switch the order of the fourth and fifth episodes to avoid causing offence due to a bomb sub-plot in the original fourth episode, “How Does She Do It?”. I was a bit concerned about continuity issues caused by airing the episodes out of sequence, but they appear to be relatively minimal with the only casualty of the switcharoo being the James Olsen sub-plot. In this episode, he appeared to be ultra-chummy with his ex-girlfriend, Lucy Lane, who was briefly introduced at the close of “Fight or Flight”. Clearly, the original episode four must focus on this love triangle, so it does seem slightly odd to see them in a happy relationship with Kara looking all love-lorn on the side-lines.

As with “Fight or Flight”, the writers spent time developing the villain of the episode, the titular Livewire. Originally a character from Superman: The Animated Series, Livewire made the transition from cartoon to comics, and now to live-action, much like Harley Quinn has done with the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. I really enjoyed the visual design of the character, especially the impressive electrical effects that rivalled those used for Jamie Foxx’s Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I particularly liked the way that she dematerialised into electrical products, leaving a brief trace of her physical self as she disappeared. While the helicopter scene in which she gained her powers felt a bit basic and badly rendered, I absolutely loved the fight sequences between Livewire and Supergirl. This series certainly has exceeded my expectations on the special effects that can be used on prime-time comic book television shows, surpassing both Gotham and Agents of SHIELD.


Returning to the show after their five-second cameos in the pilot episode were veteran actors, Dean Cain and Helen Slater – famous for playing Superman and Supergirl, respectively. I like this subtle nod to previous Superman franchises, and I wonder if we’re going to see Tom Welling turn up – although Smallville might be a bit too recent in viewer’s memories. Throughout the episode we learn that the patriarch of the Danvers household appears to have died in some undisclosed incident with the DEO, pushing the red-eyed Hank Henshaw even further into a villainous role. The majority of the episode revolved around a Thanksgiving family drama, but the rift between biological mother and daughter didn't quite ring true to me. However, I did like the resulting reveal that Kara’s foster father worked for the DEO and died in mysterious circumstances, adding further mythology into the series.

Overall, this was a really strong episode which saw the series continuing to improve with another engaging super-villain at the heart of its storyline. Interestingly, the series seems to be work better when the threats are human-based, as seen here and with last episode’s Reactron. Hopefully, the show’s writers are able to make the Kryptonian threats more captivating in future episodes, since I’ve found myself more drawn towards Hank Henshaw and the DEO as the series’ “big bads” instead of Kara’s evil auntie, who lacks any real menace or even a master plan, at this point. Perhaps this one-sided nature and focus on enhanced humans is due to the rearranged schedule and maybe “How Does She Do It?” will feature a more enthralling Kryptonian sub-plot to balance out the human-centric villains of late. Against my expectations, Supergirl handles the comic-book action really well and seems slightly out of its depth with the emotional drama - hopefully future episodes will get a better grip on these soap opera elements, such as the Kara / James / Winn love triangle.


Score - 9.0 out of 10

Next Episode - "How Does She Do It?"
Kara must protect National City from a series of bombings and babysit Cat's son, while James is visited by Lucy Lane.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

2000AD Prog 1957

Prog 1957 Cover by Jake Lynch

Two Progs after his last Judge Dredd cover and Jake Lynch has returned with an absolutely gorgeous wrap-around cover that develops the automotive theme established in his last piece, with Dredd riding his Lawmaster into battle. I love the choice of colours in this tableau of Mega-City traffic control and Lynch's artwork has a wonderful feral quality to it. Eagle-eyed readers will also notice another cameo from celebrity 2000AD fan Johnny Vegas, following on from his appearance in Prog 1933, with the comedian receiving an apartment block named after him, while the word “Monkey” spray-painted onto one of the vehicles references his infamous adverts. There's a touch of Rogue Trooper about the helmet-wearing perps on the back cover and it suddenly struck me that Lynch's artwork would suit that strip tremendously. I'd definitely like to see him on a one-off story, perhaps in the next Sci-Fi Special.


JUDGE DREDD - THAT EXTRA MILE
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

One of the things that Judge Dredd, as a series, does extremely well is take 21st Century trends and places them under the microscope to exaggerate them to the nth degree in a science-fiction setting. In this story, Alec Worley takes the notion of marathon runners and fitness freaks and conjures up a fun, done-in-one tale of Mega City One citizens taking things to the extreme. This topic is particularly resonant to me as a number of friends of mine recently completed a 10K run – not me however, I get out of breath just doing a 10K drive! Worley's script is really fun and evokes memories of classic Judge Dredd extreme sporting stories, such as the Supersurf events from “Midnight Surfer” and “Oz”.


Karl Richardson's artwork is a fabulous companion piece to this story, making use of his muscle-bound character designs to exude that sense of ideal physical fitness throughout the story. I particularly liked the visual of Judge Dredd carrying an amputee throughout the Chaos Day ruins – not only was it a fun image, but it also evoked memories of the Luke Skywalker / Yoda training scene from The Empire Strikes Back. This current run of one-shot Judge Dredd stories have been a refreshing break from the multi-part storylines, giving readers a burst of stories with contrasting tones. While I enjoy the grittier side of Judge Dredd in stories like “Titan” and the recent “Serial Serial”, it is nice to see the more satirical aspects of the series too, which these shorter stories often provide.



DEFOE - THE LONDON HANGED (Part 8)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After the political machinations of the last few episodes, this installment of Defoe firmly re-establishes the gore factor as the flesh-hungry horde of Reek gruesomely dismember the corrupt Judge Jeffreys. Leigh Gallagher excels at these macabre displays of violence and this gore-tastic sequence is certainly one of the more brutal and explicit examples that I've ever seen in 2000AD. The addition of the nursery-rhyme style narration just heightened the horror of this scene, showcasing both Pat Mills and Leigh Gallagher's mastery of atmosphere and tone.


While previous installments have felt lacking in direction, the conclusion of this episode provides Defoe with a clear-cut mission and develops the story into a “whodunnit”, with the focus placed firmly on the mysterious resurrectionist responsible for this latest army of undead. It's also interesting to note similarities between Pat Mills' work here and on the latest series of Savage, as both stories featured their titular heroes coming out of retirement to deal with a new threat with an anti-establishment element tied into it. It's fun to notice recurring themes appearing in writer's works and seeing how they develop them in different ways.



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

Once again, this latest episode of Brass Sun demonstrates the high level of skill that both Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard possess as storytellers, as the pair balance character moments with the rising tension of impossible odds. One standout moment for me was when Septimus snaps and beats a fellow Tock to death to keep him quiet – it's an intense scene, wonderfully realised by INJ Culbard's artwork which captures the frenzied nature of the attack and conveys an unsettling element, which is further exemplified by Septimus' borderline sociopathic response to Wren's question about the blood. Clearly, Septimus is damaged by the events of the past few episodes and is determined to do whatever it takes to keep himself and Wren safe, but I do worry for his mental state and it's a credit to both Edginton and Culbard that they are able to evoke such a response for their readers.


Aside from this big character moment, I was also impressed by the small-talk between Wren and Benedict, which saw Ian Edginton indulge in a bit more subtle world-building as he focused on the weird inhabitants of the Orrery. There have been scenes like this in past chapters of the Brass Sun saga, and these moments always remind me of those classic fantasy movies such as The Never-Ending Story or Labyrinth with the richness of the secondary characters. There's definitely a Jim Henson vibe from the Tocks, and if the series ever did get picked up for a cinematic release (which it certainly deserves!) then I hope that it will involve more practical special effects and props, as seen in those movies.

Given Septimus' reference to a plan, I strongly suspect that our heroes will attempt to reverse-engineer Mother Gynor's programming on Arthur in order to transfer the Blind Watchmaker's consciousness into his metallic shell, but I have no idea how they intend to get close to the robot without being fried by his blue lightning. Once again, I find myself itching to read the next installment, which is a testament to the sublime storytelling on display here! As we edge ever closer to the end of this chapter, I find myself wondering how long it will be until it returns to the Prog. At least, we have the equally-epic Helium to help fill the gaps until Book Five of Brass Sun.



BAD COMPANY - FIRST CASUALTIES (Part 8)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo & Jim McCarthy
Letters - Simon Bowland

This revival of Bad Company has been an extremely intriguing series, due to both the art and script. It's been a joy to witness Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy's tribute to the late Brett Ewins with an art style that both pays reverence to the original artist, but also shows flourishes of their own art styles too. It's also interesting to see Peter Milligan revisit the macho ultra-violence of his original series with a more mature take on the characters. As the series has progressed, we've witnessed the soldiers of Bad Company morph from drug-addled shadows of their former selves into immoral killers, lacking in emotion. It's a complicated narrative as Milligan takes the series' breakout star, Kano, and plays with his morality until breaking point. As a reader, I'm unsure whether to root for or against the character and it's down to Milligan's fantastic writing and complex characterisations. It's clear that things are going to come to a head in these final parts and I'm still unsure of what cataclysmic reveals lay in store. 



TERROR TALES - NIGHT SHIFTS
Script - John Smith
Art & Letters - Peter Doherty

While most Terror Tales and Future Shocks attempt to cram in exposition and world-building into their four pages, this six-pager from John Smith and Peter Doherty adopts a more visual approach to storytelling. Doherty's artwork manages to create a genuine sense of movement across the panels, culminating in a humourous reveal that forces the reader to re-evaluate the “action” sequences they'd witnesses prior. Although, I have to admit that if my shape-shifting alien girlfriend destroyed my Xbox, there would be much foreplay going on! Both the contemporary urban setting and Doherty's art reminded me of John Smith's 2009 series, Cradlegrave, which featured art from Edmund Bagwell. With John Smith's long-standing history with science-fiction horror stories and Peter Doherty's association with Young Death: Boyhood of Superfiend, it's quite refreshing to see these two produce something that subverts that trend and delivers a humourous punch-line to a “Terror Tale”.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Brass Sun continues to stand out from the crowd with another episode that delivers a fantastic mix of both plot and character development. I'm really enjoying the current run of one-shot Judge Dredd stories, and the addition of Terror Tales / Future Shocks into the roster ensures that each Prog until the Christmas Special will have fresh new stories in them. Despite the fact we're only three Progs away from the next jumping-on point, none of the long-running stories appear to be losing any momentum and I am excited to see where they are all headed. This is certainly shaping up to be a fine way to close out the year, and I'm looking forward to finding out what will be appearing in the bumper-sized Prog 1961.


Thrill of the Week: Brass Sun


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1957 will be available in stores on Wednesday 18th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can 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, 17 November 2015

Review - Gotham: 2x09 - "A Bitter Pill to Swallow"


Gotham
Episode 2x09 - "A Bitter Pill to Swallow"

Synopsis

In a retaliatory move for her brother's arrest, Tabitha Galavan puts out a contract on Jim Gordon's head that attracts a variety of different assassins from Gotham's underworld. Meanwhile, Edward Nygma attempts to heal the Penguin as the two killers form an unlikely alliance.

Review

With the Theo Galavan storyline reaching an apex in the last episode, “A Bitter Pill to Swallow” struggles to shake off the sense that it is just filling in time until that plot thread is revisited. Despite this, the show writers manage to inject a great deal of tension into the episode with Gordon holed up in Galavan’s penthouse apartment attempting to fight off an army of mercenaries out for his blood. In some ways, the scene was reminiscent of the chaotic Season One finale, albeit on a smaller scale. Considering the number of assassins in the underground speakeasy, I’m surprised only half-dozen actually attempted to take Gordon out. The quick and easy resolve also harked back to Season One’s “done-in-one” episode format, which felt out of place against the more staggered narrative seen throughout this season thus far. Hopefully, Michelle Gomez’s “The Lady” will return in future episodes to pose a threat to the GCPD, and possibly even the Penguin.

With the pedal firmly off the narrative accelerator, the episode allowed for a bit more character development than usual with a lengthy interaction between the Riddler and the Penguin, as the former attempted to heal the latter in both mind and body. It was interesting to see how the characters had changed, with Penguin completely broken and ready to leave Gotham behind, only to be persuaded by an increasingly confident and psychopathic Ed Nygma. Ever since their brief meeting in “The Scarecrow”, I’ve been hoping the two would meet again, and judging from this episode, they may form a stronger relationship. Perhaps this despicable duo will become the focus of this season’s second-half, given that the Galavan storyline seems to be heading towards a mid-season climax, especially with the Dumas monks arriving into Gotham in the final scene.


It was also interesting to see some more characters from the Batman universe turn up with the flamboyant hit-man, Eduardo Flamingo, appearing as one of the cannibal assassin with a taste for Jim Gordon. While he wasn't quite as eye-catching as his comic-book counterpart, there was a reference to his pink costume in the dyed stripe in his hair. Considering that Gordon’s refusal to cross the line and kill Flamingo resulted in the death of a rookie cop, I wonder if this event will prompt him to break his moral code in future episodes. Ever since the beginning of this season, Gordon has been pushed closer to the edge than ever before – even contemplating shooting his ex-lover, Barbara. As much as I like the idea of Jim Gordon as the last “honest cop”, I am interested in seeing the show investigate his darker side, especially without a Batman to handle the nastier elements of Gotham crime.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad episode, but with the rapid pace and momentum set up in previous installments, it did feel a bit slow and there to pad the story out until the mid-season finale. With the Dumas monks now in Gotham and the ominous title of the next episode, I suspect that Theo Galavan’s plans are set to come to the fore, placing Bruce Wayne in danger and at the heart of the storyline. With Bruce at risk, could Alfred or Gordon be willing to cross the line to get him back? I would love to see Alfred, Gordon, Bullock and Selina teaming up to rescue Bruce from Galavan and the Dumas clan. I’m really enjoying the direction this season has taken, especially with the “Court of Owls”-esque history lesson into Gotham’s sinister past.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Son of Gotham"
Gordon confronts a suspect who is connected to Theo Galavan, but falls short of obtaining any information. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne gets one step closer to discovering the name of his parent’s killer

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x07 - "Chaos Theory"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x07 - "Chaos Theory"

Synopsis

Unaware that Andrew Garner is Lash, SHIELD gives the Inhuman killer access to one of their recent recruits, meanwhile Agent May confronts her ex-husband with the deadly truth with unexpected consequences.

Review

After the shocking reveal that Andrew Garner was the human identity of the Inhuman murderer known as Lash, Agents of SHIELD wasted no time in dealing with the fallout of this revelation, pitting Agent May against her former husband. Introduced at the tail-end of Season Two, the fractured relationship between May and Garner seemed to be on the mend, although I never really felt there was any genuine chemistry between the two characters. This lack of emotional resonance did make it hard to connect with the central plot-line as Ming-Na Wen and Blair Underwood worked hard to convince the viewers that there was a genuine relationship buried underneath all of these complications. The flashbacks into the hiatus between Seasons definitely helped bring the characters to life, but ultimately, I didn't care about their relationship in the same way I have done with Fitz and Simmons.

I really enjoyed how the writers managed to use the revelation of Lash's identity as a way to bring SHIELD and the ATCU together – pitting Daisy and Rosalind Price against each other in the first act before having them come to a mutual understanding throughout the confrontation with Lash with Daisy saving Rosalind's life with her powers and Rosalind offering a humane solution to Lash's situation. It was a well-written episode that definitely advanced this Season's themes forward, whilst dealing with one of its central mysteries. With Lash in stasis, along with numerous other Inhuman threats, I suspect that the second half of this season will revolve around Ward's Hydra faction releasing the various enemies all at once and causing even more bad press for the Inhumans.


Once again, the special effects for Lash were really impressive, and the addition of this undeniable desire to judge the worthiness of the Inhumans was a fun exaggeration of Andrew Garner's existing role in the show. With Lash dealt with, I am intrigued to see where the series is headed next. With Coulson literally getting into bed with the ATCU, I imagine he might be setting himself up for some more betrayal, considering that Ward's shifty Hydra leader seems to know her quite well. I'm also curious where the Fitz-Simmons side-plot is headed and what the fall-out of returning to the alien planet will be, as I suspect that Will the Spaceman won't be the only one coming through the portal.

Overall, this was another great episode of Agents of SHIELD that offered viewers a sense of resolution to one of this season's story-arcs, whilst subtly teasing up the others. While previous seasons seemed to focus on Skye/Daisy, this season is certainly sharing the spotlight around and giving various members of the ensemble cast a chance to shine. However, seven episodes in and there still isn't a strong sense of where this season is headed – the teases about a “Secret Warriors” unit within SHIELD haven't really materialised and the remaining plot threads seem quite disparate. This isn't a criticism, as the show has been doing fantastically and is actually remaining fresh and exciting from episode to episode, although it doesn't feel as unified as previous seasons have done. If Season One was the "Hydra Season" and Season Two was the "Inhumans Season", I'm not quite sure what Season Three will be known as. I'm sure this will change as we head towards the mid-season finale and get a better sense of the bigger picture.


Score - 9.5 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • N/A

Mysteries
  • Is Rosalind Price working for Hydra, or is she unaware of Gideon Malick's true identity?

Next Episode - "Many Heads, One Tale"
Dangerous facts about the ATCU are discovered by the team; Ward's plans to take down S.H.I.E.L.D. do not go as expected.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Review - Supergirl: 1x03 - "Fight or Flight"

Supergirl
Episode 1x03 - "Fight or Flight"

Synopsis

Still struggling to carve out her own destiny, Supergirl runs into one of Superman’s strongest enemies and finds herself determined to prove her own worth, rather than relying on her cousin.

Review

After a rocky start, Supergirl continues to develop into an interesting and engaging superhero show with each successive episode rectifying issues with the uneven pilot episode. This third episode sought to address one of my main concerns, which was the role of Superman and the show-runners decision to keep him as a separate, but still very prominent element of Kara’s world. Often referenced, but never properly seen, it seemed to be stretching credibility that Clark Kent wouldn’t show up to support his only living relative, but this episode tackled that issue head-on and tied it into Kara’s own development as a super-heroine to give logical arguments for keeping Superman out of focus.

Another of my criticisms from the opening two episodes was the show’s reluctance to develop its super-villains, beside from the main premise that they are all aliens escaped from a Kryptonian prison that crashed on Earth, led by Kara’s biological aunt. This was also remedied through its lengthy focus on Reactron, one of Superman’s adversaries who had fought the Man of Steel to a stand-still and was never been defeated. Having already been established, there was no need to show Reactron’s origin and instead it came out naturally within the narrative of the episode and once again tied nicely into the main themes of the storyline.


I also liked the formal introduction to Maxwell Lord, who appeared last episode in a cameo and was given a more prominent role here, played ambiguously by Peter Facinelli. It’s a bit early to say, but I wonder if Lord will adopt a Lex Luthor-esque role in the series, providing Supergirl with an Earth-based threat to balance out the Kryptonian enemies she has also accrued. The fight scenes between Supergirl and Reactron were brilliantly choreographed and plentiful, giving viewers plenty of action to balance out the emotional drama between Kara and her workmates, as well as her family. Compared to Gotham and Agents of SHIELD, Supergirl seems to have a sizeable budget for its special effects, allowing the character to be truly realised on-screen without skimping on quality.

With each episode, Supergirl is developing into a stronger show, and this one was filled to the brim with amusing one-liners, excellent fight sequences and an intriguing villain. It also resolved the need to have Superman appear on-screen by introducing an instant messaging service, allowing Clark to send encouraging messages whenever Kara needs a “pick me up”. While it is improving, Supergirl does still feel overshadowed by her more successful cousin, but at least the series is addressing this fact and making it a part of Kara’s development as a superhero, although it does still feel slightly lightweight compared to the more popular Arrow and The Flash series. It’s certainly a refreshing change of tone from the more male-centric superhero shows, but it hasn’t quite become “must watch” viewing and needs to build up its own mythology instead of relying on “villain of the week” episodes.


Score - 8.9 out of 10

Next Episode - "Livewire"
Kara's foster mother visits for Thanksgiving, while an accident transforms a volatile CatCo employee into Livewire.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

2000AD Prog 1956

Prog 1956 Cover by Jon Davis-Hunt

Jon Davis-Hunt returns to 2000AD with a brilliant cover for Sinister Dexter, which concludes in this Prog. I really like Davis-Hunt’s take on the Downlode duo here, with the cover not only emphasising the coolness of the two hitmen, but also communicating a Japanese anime influence. For some reason, it feels slightly reminiscent of the end of Akira – perhaps it’s the rubble and the bright skies, but it definitely conveys the aftermath of a momentous event and a potential hopeful future. It’s a great piece and a worthy send-off for the characters until they return in Prog 1961.


JUDGE DREDD - SLEEPING DUTY
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Nick Dyer
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After last Prog’s heart-warming tale of a young boy with Asperger’s in the big Meg, Michael Carroll returns this week with another one-off Judge Dredd story, but with a completely different tone. This humourous sees three wannabe burglars come across a sleep machine containing Judge Dredd, with only minutes to go until he awakes. It’s a really funny situation and Carroll makes the most of it with his witty dialogue and poking fun at how Dredd is considered an urban legend – so imposing that he is able to scare perps into giving themselves up while he is asleep.


Even though this episode is largely a series of “talking-heads” panels until the punchline, Nick Dyer manages to keep the reader engaged in events as the three perps consider their options, and subsequently talk themselves out of it. I also loved his panel showcasing Judge Dredd’s reaction, which really emphasises the humour of the punchline ending. This is a brilliant example of a one-off Judge Dredd story and with its very new-reader friendly approach, it would have made ideal content for a Free Comic Book Day edition, or other promotional materials to entice new readers. I wouldn't be surprised if it reappeared as a reprint in the near future. Great job from both the art and script droids on this one!



DEFOE - THE LONDON HANGED (Part 7)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Seeking into the Vizards secret chamber, Defoe discovers that the group are plotting an attack on the poor of Alsatia, although it appears this might not come to fruition when a group of Reeks interrupt their post-meeting drinks. Pat Mills continues to develop the central storyline, adding a touch of suspense during the meeting when the Vizard chairman demands that 'Cold Cook' (Defoe in disguise) removes his mask. Compared to previous stories in the series, this tale has been rather slow in action – however, the appearance of the gate-crashing Reeks at the end of this installment does promise some interesting developments as the various sub-plots begin to converge onto each other. Leigh Gallagher manages to convey the carnage of a zombie attack so well that I do hope he is given the opportunity to cut loose and depict some lovely gory deaths and battle sequences. Much like Slaine earlier in the year, this feels like the build-up to a cliff-hanger than a genuine story within itself, and I hope that it starts to come together soon.



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

This latest episode of Brass Sun gives both our heroes and the readers a brief respite from the action to recuperate and re-gather their thoughts. It transpires that the Blind Watchmaker wants out of Wren's head before he ends up killing her and the duo need to find a way to transfer the 'data' out of her head and into a new storage facility. Given the prominence of Arthur's empty shell of a body at the end of this episode, I suspect that he might become the new 'home' for the Blind Watchmaker, giving our heroes a lovely bit of fire-power to take on their enemies, plus if the original Arthur personality is at war with the Watchmaker, he will become an unpredictable ally. While they are safe at the moment, Ian Edginton's script fills each panel with a palpable tension that keeps the reader enthralled page after page.


INJ Culbard gets the opportunity to design yet more beautiful vistas from the shattered remnants of Wren's mind-scape, to the junk-filled subterranean tunnels of the Subside where the Tocks toil away in the waste. With a lull in the action, Edginton allows his two protagonists a chance to communicate properly in a lovely moment where they both “forgive and forget” their misdeeds over the previous few episodes. This episode sets up the final act of this chapter, detailing the obstacle in Wren and Septimus' way and presenting their enemies in a position of power. It's undeniably tense stuff, and I am itching with anticipation at the next Prog to find out how on earth they intend to achieve their goals. This is storytelling at its finest, and I implore latecomers to go out and pick up the hardcover collection of the first three books to catch up.



BAD COMPANY - FIRST CASUALTIES (Part 7)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo & Jim McCarthy
Letters - Simon Bowland

While initial episodes had portrayed the soldiers of Bad Company to be drooling medicated has-beens, this latest episode reverts them back to their kill-crazy and fanatical ways, as evidenced by the frenzied battle at the close of this installment. Peter Milligan's smartly written storyline blurs the lines between good and evil, having our protagonists striding outside of the morally grey area. I'm still unsure what Milligan is building towards here as he sets Bad Company on a journey of self-discovery, teasing secrets of their origin and potentially a Sixth Sense-style revelation about their current status. Artists, Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy, continue to draw the hell out of each panel, ensuring that the old-school Bad Company atmosphere remains part of this series. I'm really enjoying this odd mix of nostalgia and mystery as the art and script droids continue to chart the adventures of the men (and monsters) of Bad Company.



SINISTER DEXTER - THE TAKING OF THE MICHAEL (Part 6)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Eva de la Cruz
Letters - Ellie de Ville

With Holy Moses Tannenbaum finally taken out, this epilogue sets up a new status-quo for the gun-sharks. As a side-effect from removing Tannenbaum from reality, it seems both Sinister and Dexter have experienced some kind of reset, with the Generican PD unable to find any criminal record under their names. I'm curious to see how far this 'reset' will go – with no outstanding warrants and ties to the gun-shark profession, perhaps this is a way for the two characters to permanently retire. However, it could be a bittersweet ending for the two, as when they return to Downlode, as perhaps even their love interests will not remember them anymore?


The series is billed to return in this year's annual – now named Prog 1961, instead of using the year in the title – and I wonder if that might be the final hurrah for the characters. Dan Abnett has been writing the duo since the 2000AD Winter Special # 7, way back in 1995, and the series has had a number of almost-endings, so perhaps this could be the real finale. While I do enjoy the two characters, I do think there are plenty of other series' that could fill the space and after twenty years, surely all the possible Sinister Dexter stories been played out? It remains to be seen where the series goes from here, but I wouldn't be surprised if Dan Abnett called time on the Downlode duo in the annual and focused more on his other series, such as Grey Area and the upcoming Brink.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

I really enjoyed the humour of this week's Judge Dredd, and the conclusion to Sinister Dexter certainly raised questions about the future of the series, but the “Thrill of the Week” had to once again go to Brass Sun, with another fantastic episode that not only gave the characters a chance to develop further in light of recent events, but also set them both an insurmountable task to overcome in face of tremendous odds. Both Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard are doing a fantastic job on this series, and a week's wait between episodes feels too long!

With three more Progs left until the end-of-year annual, we're reaching the home stretch for many of the stories in the current line-up. With Sinister Dexter's conclusion in this Prog, I wonder whether we'll be treated to a Tharg's 3riller or some standalone Future Shocks over the next few weeks. This, along with the recent spate of one-off Judge Dredd stories, will ensure a level of freshness to the roster of the next few Progs.


Thrill of the Week: Brass Sun


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1956 will be available in stores on Wednesday 11th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can 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, 10 November 2015

Review - Gotham: 2x08 - "Tonight's The Night"


Gotham
Episode 2x08 - "Tonight's The Night"

Synopsis

Desperate to prove Theo Galavan’s involvement in the recent events that led to him becoming Mayor, Gordon finds himself heading straight into a trap with his ex-fiancée, Barbara Keen. Meanwhile, Galavan tries to pressure Bruce Wayne into selling his shares of Wayne Enterprises using information about his parent’s murder as bait.

Review

With a title like “Tonight’s The Night”, this episode of Gotham certainly heralded a major event, presumably a change to the status-quo, and despite a few red herrings revolving around Barbara, Jim and Leslie, the conclusion delivered a dramatic development to the Theo Galavan sub-plot, as his attempts to buy-out Wayne Enterprises were foiled. With all the effort that Galavan has put in to cover up his misdeeds, it feels like a major oversight that he left the former Mayor James alive, and unguarded, for the GCPD to find. It feels very anti-climactic that his plans were undone by such a simple mistake – especially considering the other elements still in play (Silver St. Cloud, Tabitha and the crazy priest fella). It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a twist within a twist, and he planned all this to happen exactly this way for some unexplained purpose.

Reintroducing this deranged version of Barbara Kean and pitting her against Jim Gordon was a confrontation that the viewers had been waiting to see since Barbara leapt off the deep end in the Season One finale. The two characters haven’t actually had much screen-time together and it was interesting to see them paired up once more. Unfortunately, Ben McKenzie’s inability to play any emotion aside from disgruntled and confused meant that it was difficult to see whether he had any residue feelings for Barbara, as he seemed to demonstrate the same amount of sexual chemistry with her as he did when they were together. Even his scenes with Leslie Thompkins lack any real chemistry or heart to them. Despite this, it was interesting to watch Erin Richards play up Barbara’s insane jealousy and obsessive behaviour, although it seems the show-writer’s opted against killing her off, instead deciding to place her “on the bench” in a comatose state.


The other dominant plot thread, and the whole reason behind distracting Jim Gordon with Barbara, was Theo Galavan’s attempts to intimidate Bruce Wayne into selling his majority shares of Wayne Enterprises, thus getting his hands on the Wayne legacy. Blackmailing Bruce with an envelope containing the identity of his parent’s killer, Galavan certainly knew exactly how to play the young millionaire, and I half expected Bruce to open the envelope to see the words “Me” written on a blank sheet of paper. As it is, the secret remains hidden for the time-being as Galavan torched the evidence before being dragged away by the police - I wonder if he will use that bargaining chip to somehow negotiate his way out of prison. If Penguin is able to slip through the GCPD justice system like a slinky down some stairs, I’m sure Galavan can handle it too. Either way, I’m very interested to see how things will progress now that his villainous side has been publicly revealed to all.

Aside from the Galavan-centric storylines, there was an amusing sub-plot revolving around the Riddler attempting to properly dispose of Miss Kringle’s body and being interrupted by others. It reminded me of the scene from Batman the Movie (“some days you just can’t rid of a body!”). While it was somewhat obvious that the mysterious second interloper would turn out to be the Penguin, I am still relishing the potential of a Penguin/Riddler team-up in the next episode as Edward Nygma becomes deeper embroiled in the series’ main arc, instead of working in his own corner of the GCPD. If anyone can spur Nygma to embrace his Riddler roots, it’ll be the Penguin. To say I’m looking forward to seeing the two of them interact is an understatement – after their brief meeting in “The Scarecrow”, I've been hoping the two would come together again and next week’s “A Bitter Pill to Swallow” should deliver that, and more!


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Next Episode - "A Bitter Pill to Swallow"
Gordon and Barnes continue cleaning up Gotham, and Gordon comes face-to-face with one of the city’s most dangerous hitmen, Eduardo Flamingo. Meanwhile, Nygma and Penguin cross paths again, and Bruce pressures Galavan into handing over the name of his parents’ murderer.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x06 - "Among Us Hide..."

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x06 - "Among Us Hide..."

Synopsis

Daisy, Mack and Hunter search for Lash’s true identity, whilst Coulson finds himself drawn closer to the ATCU and Rosalind Price. After Hunter’s failure to kill Ward, Agent May enlists Mockingbird to help chase down the new Hydra leader.

Review

After last episode’s extended flashback on the alien world, “Among Us Hide…” puts Fitz/Simmons’ search for a return portal on the back-burner in favour of the season’s other leading plot threads: The Inhumans and Hydra, which ended up becoming nicely intertwined at the end with the reveal of Lash’s true identity. Following in the footsteps of the “Skye is Daisy Johnson” reveal from last season, the Agents of SHIELD writers proved once again that they know how to deploy a shocking twist with some lovely misdirection. As I watched the episode, it was clear that Banks was designed to be a red herring to prepare the viewers for a shocking reveal, but I expected it to be Rosalind Price who was Lash, further complicating her burgeoning relationship with Coulson.

My initial thoughts when Andrew Garner survived his assassination attempt was that it felt like the writer’s chickened out of killing him off, but the end of the episode made up for that, providing a credible reason for his survival and turning him into a much more interesting character than he was before. Immediately, I’m filled with unanswered questions as to the character’s motivations behind killing off the Inhumans and whether he is in control of the Lash persona, or whether it is an incredible Hulk situation. The transition between Garner and Lash was some great looking CGI, rivaling that of Mark Ruffalo’s transformation into the Hulk. Dramatically, it’s a fabulous development putting Agent May in a tough situation as she comes to terms with the fact her ex-husband may be a serial killer. Given his current situation, I have to wonder whether Lash will attempt to kill Joey Gutierrez, the Inhuman from the premiere episode, who is currently housed in the SHIELD base.


It was fun to see May and Bobbi teaming up to take down Ward, especially in light of Hunter’s unpredictable nature. Ultimately, I do agree with him that he had to try and take the shot on Ward even if it meant risking Andrew’s life, but his reckless behaviour throughout this episode seems to suggest that he is heading for a fall. Even Daisy notes that he has some “anger issues” so I wonder if this is a plot point that will be developed further – I suspect that he is going to do something very soon that will endanger himself, or the others. It appears that the Ward sub-plot isn’t going away anytime soon with the appearance of another high-ranking Hydra official coming out of the woodwork to help strengthen Ward’s cause. It’s still unclear what Ward’s endgame is, but I do look forward to this plot thread coming to a head soon.

Overall, this was a great episode that had some wonderful momentum throughout and a brilliant twist ending as the icing on the cake. It certainly reinvigorated my interest in the Lash/Inhuman plot-line, which I’d found to be somewhat formulaic up until now. Aside from the big reveal, I’m also intrigued to find out what is happening with Coulson as he seems to be swayed towards the ATCU’s way of thinking – possibly causing a rift between him and Daisy as they come down on different sides of the fence on the Inhuman argument. In its third season, Agents of SHIELD shows no sign of slowing down, developing a really strong set of plot-lines that continue to propel the show along and keep the audience guessing as to what is going to happen next.


Score - 9.6 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Gideon Malick (played by Powers Boothe) was one of the shadowy World Security Council members who liaised with Nick Fury in The Avengers, and is now revealed to be a senior leader in Hydra.

Mysteries
  • What is Andrew Garner's motivation behind killing the Inhumans?

Next Episode - "Chaos Theory"
As Daisy and the team try to protect Inhumans, a shocking truth is revealed about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s biggest enemy; with Fitz's help, Simmons recovers information that could get them back through the portal.
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