Friday, 30 September 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 4x02 - "Meet the New Boss"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 4x02 - "Meet the New Boss"

Synopsis

While Daisy continues to dig into Robbie Reyes’ past in an effort to discover more about the Ghost Rider, the Agents of SHIELD attempt to discover more about the mysterious ghosts who’ve infected the Yakuza. Meanwhile, Coulson finds himself at odds with the new director of SHIELD over the best way to treat May when she begins to show signs of spiritual possession. 

Review

After a strong opening episode that presented viewers with the new and improved SHIELD, which saw our familiar heroes divided from each other both physically and emotionally, this episode introduced the new director behind these decisions. Rather than being an imposing ogre of a man, Jeffrey was surprisingly affable and ill-at-ease in his position, resembling a pre-Season One Coulson at times – this was a more detached director than his predecessors, focused more on the image of the all-new, all-different SHIELD as he fought to restore the sense of glory and authority to the disgraced name. There were some nice passive-aggressive moments between Jeffrey and Phil as the pair clashed on how best to deal with May’s illness, and I suspect there might be more to the new director than his Inhuman abilities. While the introduction of Jeffrey allows the show to revert to its Season One roots, placing Coulson and his team as a cog in a bigger machine, I’ve grown accustomed to see Coulson in a directorial role, and I suspect he will find it difficult to relinquish control, making this ‘rivalry’ feel similar to the clash between Coulson and Gonzales during Season Two when there were two SHIELD organisations vying for the title.

Once again, the Ghost Rider scenes were the standout moments of this episode as Gabriel Luna made the civilian side of the character equally as watchable and intense as his supernatural alter-ego. I loved the tension in the air as Daisy popped by his workplace for an interrogation and the script crackled with humour and chemistry as the pair bickered amongst each other. While previous seasons made use of practical effects to depict Inhumans such as Raina and Lash, this season seems to be investing more heavily in CGI effects with Daisy and Ghost Rider requiring computer trickery to appear onscreen. While most TV shows would refrain from action sequences relying on the powers, Agents of SHIELD goes full-throttle (no pun intended) with a brilliant car chase scene as Daisy uses her powers to hitch a ride on top of Ghost Rider’s car.


Without pausing for breath, this episode clipped along at a fair pace, quickly tying the Ghost Rider together with the mysterious apparitions that had been inducing hallucinations in its victims. While the motivations of all concerned remains a mystery, it was interesting to hear the Darkforce mentioned onscreen, signalling the series determination to tackle the spiritual side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Darkforce is a spell book from the Marvel Comics Universe and it seems the ghost-like figures are scientists who may have unwittingly unleashed the supernatural powers contained within – perhaps this could also explain the Ghost Rider’s own origins? With the Rider already fully functional and experienced, I suspect that future episodes may delve into the character’s origin story in greater detail – perhaps it will be a stand-alone flashback episode like the well-received “4,722 Hours” from last season?

Moving away from its focus on the Inhumans has paid off for Agents of SHIELD as it experiences a much-needed re-invigoration during its fourth season – something that seldom occurs in television. Despite this increased emphasis on the supernatural, the scars of the Season Three finale and Captain America: Civil War are still keenly felt on the narrative, influencing the decisions of the cast in the present day. While absent in this episode, the AIDA sub-plot feels slightly out of place and doesn’t quite gel with the season direction and I’m curious to find out how the writers intend to bring it into the mix – perhaps Radcliffe will use the Life Model Decoy technology to revive one of the former cast-members? As much as I’d love to see Brett Dalton return as Robo-Ward, it’s far from likely to happen. There’s a much-welcomed sense of unpredictability about Agents of SHIELD this year as it veers away from the slightly formulaic pathway it carved for itself during Seasons Two and Three and heads into new territory. Although, if the Darkhold plot results in yet another reformation of Hydra with a brand-new leader, I may scream…


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The Darkhold mentioned by the ghosts is a fictional book of sins (or grimoire) from the Marvel Comics Universe used to conjure up black magic, (First App: Marvel Spotlight # 4)

Mysteries
  • Who are the ghosts and how did they become incorporeal?
  • What do the ghosts want and how are they connected to Ghost Rider?
  • How did the Ghost Rider get his powers?
  • Who exactly is the new director of SHIELD and what are his powers?

Next Episode - "Uprising"
As Coulson, Mack and Fitz attempt to track down and neutralise a rogue group looking to end Inhuman Registration worldwide, Simmons and Dr. Radcliffe only have hours to save May before she succumbs forever to her mysterious illness.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x02 - "Burn the Witch"

Gotham
Episode 3x02 - "Burn the Witch"

Synopsis

After contact with one of Fish Mooney’s monsters, Ivy Pepper undergoes a dramatic transformation and finds herself in control of her own destiny. Elsewhere, the million-dollar hunt for Fish Mooney continues as Gordon, Vale, Penguin and the GCPD attempt to stop her from finding Hugo Strange and discovering a cure for her illness.

Review

After instigating panic on the streets of Gotham, the Penguin had engineered a citywide manhunt for Fish Mooney, the titular witch of this episode, even going so far as to create his very own lynch-mob of ‘concerned citizens’. Admittedly, this was one of the cheesier elements of this episode – which is saying something since it also included an aged version of Poison Ivy killing someone because they threw a plant into the bin. I found it tough to believe that people would form a violent militia to attack super-powered threats, mostly because of how quickly it seemed to happen. If the writers had spent more time developing this particular plot thread, it would have been more realistic but the Penguin’s sudden rise in popularity just rang false to me and considering that future episodes involve him running for Mayor, it seems that it will be an ongoing plot point. That said, I quite liked the confrontation between Fish and Oswald and the explanation behind why she left him alive – so much has happened to these characters since Season One, it seems natural to bury their rivalry and redefine their relationship as ‘mother’ and ‘son’, especially since the Penguin craves that familial connection after the death of both parents in Season Two.

Having Jim Gordon as a bounty hunter remains an interesting plot device for the show, although Ben McKenzie doesn’t quite sell this more ‘morally grey’ version of the former GCPD cop. His banter with Valerie Vale was a highlight of the episode, and while it was predictable that he would end up checking her tonsils out with his tongue, I didn’t expect Lee to return to Gotham so quickly. With Barbara Keen still on the scene, it seems like Gordon’s love-life will become even more complicated than before. Hopefully, Valerie Vale will remain as combative with Jim after swapping saliva with him as I like this dynamic and Jamie Chung does a fantastic job as the over-zealous journalist. Out of the prospective love interests she seems best-suited for ol’ Jim, although given her profession and her willingness to jump into danger, I wonder if she has a target on her head already.

*Sigh* They grow up so fast...

The cliff-hanger ending of last week’s episode which saw Bruce Wayne abducted by the Court of Owls had a surprising denouement which left me wondering what Bruce and Alfred’s endgame was. Clearly they had some plan going into this confrontation, but it wasn’t entirely clear what it was – perhaps it was just a bluff to get confirmation that the organisation existed. I must admit that this aspect of the episode felt derivative of previous episodes of Gotham and the Bruce Wayne sub-plot needs a sharp kick up the backside, which hopefully the appearance of his doppelganger will provide. I was surprised at how quickly the writers united Bruce with his duplicate, and this feels like a more exciting and unpredictable route for the character’s storyline to follow. With the Court of Owls looking to remove Bruce Wayne from the picture and take control of Wayne Enterprises, could Bruce end up using this duplicate to fake his death and go abroad to train up as Batman – it would mean a time-jump at the end of this season, but it would be worthwhile to speed up the character’s evolution into the caped crusader.

There was plenty of things going on in this episode, although unlike the season opener, it felt more measured in pace. Not every character was given screen time and the narrative benefitted from this more selective approach. In typical Gotham fashion, the show still managed to surprise and the sudden appearances of both Bruce’s doppelganger and Leslie Thompkins were testaments to the series’ tendency to expedite plot threads quicker than expected. Given Jada Pinkett Smith and BD Wong’s position as ‘special guest stars’, I wonder if Fish and Hugo Strange will be kept out of the spotlight for the next few episodes, only to return with dramatic fashion in the mid-season finale. It would allow the show to focus on its other elements and return to the overarching threat of Fish Mooney’s cabal of monsters when necessary. Season Three is still proving to be slightly cluttered in terms of its many narratives, but hopefully future episodes will return the show to its more streamlined focus of two or three plot threads.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Look Into My Eyes"
Hypnotist Jervis Tetch arrives in Gotham to search for his sister, Alice, and hires Gordon to help find her. Meanwhile, Penguin decides to run for mayor and Bruce's doppelganger begins to channel him, causing some confusion around town.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

2000AD Prog 2000

 

Cover A by Chris Burnham; Cover B by Cliff Robinson

To celebrate this momentous occasion, Tharg has commissioned three variant covers for Prog 2000 – two of which are available on the newsstand and the third exclusively available from Diamond. Taking inspiration from Mike McMahon’s iconic Prog 168 cover, American artist Chris Burnham creates an equally eye-catching homage that perfectly encapsulates the milestone that 2000AD and Judge Dredd have reached. Of course no anniversary issue would be complete with Tharg the Mighty himself making an appearance on the cover and the variant from Cliff Robinson depicts the Betelgusian editor riding a space-spinner from Prog 1 into the outer reaches of space. It’s a marvellous cover and offers an alternate take on the celebrations inside. Last, but in no means least, Glenn Fabry has created a sprawling roll-call of characters past and present as they celebrate 2000 editions of the magazine. The cover is reminiscent of Chris Weston’s epic 35th anniversary poster for Prog 1771 and I particularly like the tongue-in-cheek humour to the image with Judge Death taking a selfie with Bill Savage – brilliant. Three awesome covers – one incredible issue!


JUDGE DREDD - BY PRIVATE CONTRACT
Script - John Wagner 
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

While I’d been predicting a status-quo changing installment of Judge Dredd for the two-thousandth issue of 2000AD, creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra have instead produced something much more entertaining – an old-school crossover between two of their most beloved characters, Johnny Alpha and Joe Dredd. Judge Dredd has a history of crossing over with Strontium Dog, most notably in the “Judgement Day” mega-epic, but this extended episode had a more laid-back and humourous tone. The beauty in this strip was seeing Dredd and Alpha interact and unspoken respect between the two of them – the fact that Wagner brings the characters together so sparingly makes it all the more special when it does occur. The beauty of this cross-over is how it links to the continuity of both strips, taking place after the most recent Strontium Dog story-arc and providing a comeuppance to the Stix brothers. It’s also great fun to see Middenface McNulty and Kid Knee finally meet and interact with Dredd himself – in some ways, it’s a shame that it’s just a fleeting visit as I’d loved to have seen this storyline run over a few more issues.


There is no way you could have a story with Judge Dredd and Johnny Alpha meeting and not have Carlos Ezquerra draw it. As co-creator of both characters, he literally draws the definitive version of them both, so naturally it is a joy to see him handling art duties for this extended edition of the series. When 2000AD announced its line-up for this momentous milestone issue, I did wonder why Strontium Dog was missing from the list, and I’m glad that Johnny Alpha was given the opportunity to appear as he possibly the second-most iconic character from the magazine, following Dredd. This storyline is the perfect way to celebrate 2000 issues of the magazine, reuniting two of the publication’s biggest stars in a cinematic showdown with an equally iconic old foe (or should that be foes?). As an opener to the Prog, this story certainly sets the tone for this edition as a fun jaunt down memory lane that rewards long-time readers by replaying some of its greatest hits. This story was so fun, it was worth the price of admission alone!



NEMESIS THE WARLOCK - TUBULAR HELLS
Script - Pat Mills 
Art - Kevin O' Neill
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Nemesis the Warlock returns to 2000AD for the first time since the last Prog 2000 (don’t ask!) for a special one-off tale which reunites the series’ creators Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. The last installment saw Nemesis and his eternal enemy Torquemada fused together with the Blitzspear and forced to spend eternity trapped in an endless flight through space. Well, it ended. As a treat for the fans, Mills resurrects his this iconic series and offers up an additional ending to the saga that removes Nemesis from the eternity of punishment and places the focus firmly on Torquemada. In some ways, it’s a more fitting ending to the series, although I loved the original concept of both character fused together in a never-ending purgatory. There’s a lovely sense of symmetry to this episode, which references a musical hit much like the original episodes of the series did, and O’Neill’s artwork feels like a warm gust of nostalgia hitting you in the face after time-travelling back to the 1980s. Given the popularity of the series, it is the perfect choice for such an iconic anniversary Prog, as evidenced by its original finale which appeared in the first Prog 2000 (I said, don’t ask!).



ROGUE TROOPER - GHOSTS OF NU EARTH
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Richard Elson
Letters - Simon Bowland

Another iconic character from 2000AD's stable of sci-fi legends is Rogue Trooper, and while the character himself has been semi-retired in recent years, Gordon Rennie has become the caretaker of the series' universe creating spin-off stories set on Nu Earth such as The 86ers and Jaegir. This anniversary episode serves as a prologue for his latest series, Hunted, which will present the Rogue Trooper's hunt for the Traitor General from the villain's POV. In the original stories, the Traitor General was presented as an extremely slippery customer, tenacious and deadly, and Rennie captures that persona in this brief introductory story. There's a fun juxtaposition of classic and modern storytelling here as this flashback to the early Rogue Trooper adventures is realised in amazing full-colour artwork from Richard Elson. As the main artist on Kingdom, Elson is used to depicting future war stories and his artwork has a distinctive quality that suits the series well. With a brief cameo from Rogue himself at the end, this tale serves as both a one-off nostalgic celebration of the series for this 2000th edition, but also as an intriguing taster for Rennie's next Nu Earth series.



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - A DREAM OF DEATH
Script - Alan Grant
Art - David Roach
Letters - Simon Bowland

After a seven-episode storyline from Emma Beeby and Nick Dyer (with some help from Ben Willsher), this black and white entry marks a return to the character's origins as a solo strip with long-time Anderson, Psi Division scribe Alan Grant returning to the series, assisted by legendary art droid David Roach. There's an immediate sense of 80s nostalgia to this episode, thanks to the return of the classic Anderson, Psi Division logo and Roach's photo-realistic black and white artwork. It's a pitch-perfect recreation of those early solo Anderson strips from both 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, and Roach's artwork just steals the show completely. It's amazing how evocative and mesmerising his artwork can be with just a monotone colour palette.


While the story revisits the tortured history between Anderson and Judge Death, Grant presents Cassandra here as strong, confident and fully capable of turning the tables on Death. It suits this anniversary tale nicely, tackling the long-standing relationship between the characters and possibly putting a stop to the hold that Death has on her. I would love to see Grant and Roach revisiting the character for an extended run as the pairing suits the character so well, balancing the juxtaposition of realism and dream-like sequences with ease. As the interlude sequence from Robin Smith points out, Anderson, Psi Division is one of the most successful Judge Dredd spin-off series over the past 2000th issues, so it has well and truly earned its place in this anniversary issue, and to have two of its most iconic creators working together again on a one-off adventure – well, you don't have to be a mind-reader to realise that is a winning formula!



SINISTER DEXTER - REPLICA
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Mark Sexton
Colours - Gary Caldwell
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Despite the recent changes to the Sinister Dexter status-quo this year, Dan Abnett and Mark Sexton have crafted an excellent one-off adventure that feels reminiscent of the single episode stories from the mid-nineties back when the strip had a semi-permanent role in the Prog. Focusing on the Edsel, an integral but often overlooked element of the Downlode Duo's life, Abnett creates a fun narrative that feels like a montage but ends with a very interesting development to the series as the pair encounter Billi Octavo. I was quite surprised that sixteen years had passed in the series' timeline as I never considered Sinister Dexter to run on the same 'real-time' schedule as Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog. As with the other single-episode stories in this anniversary Prog, this adventure hits that nostalgic hotspot and will surely appeal to lapsed fans.


Fresh from his knock-out appearance in this year's Sci-Fi Special, Mark Sexton returns to Sinister Dexter to deliver another stunner of an episode. His highly-detailed artwork helps bring Downlode to life, and I love his interpretation of Sinister and Dexter – interestingly, Sinister has the look of Joseph Gilgun about him, and the Irish actor would be the perfect choice to play the character in a live-action series. I also like the decision to use Billie Piper as a reference for Billi Octavo as, aside from sharing a first name, Piper encapsulates Octavo's personality. The flashback to Simon Davis' artwork just showcases how far the characters have come since their early days in the Prog, yet acts as another slice of nostalgia for fans who've followed these characters for decades. While Sinister Dexter may divide readers, there's not denying that they've been a huge part of the Prog since the mid-nineties and again, fully deserve a spot in this anniversary Prog.



COUNTERFEIT GIRL (Part 1)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo
Colours - Dom Regan
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Rounding out this issue is a brand-new strip, showcasing 2000AD's ability to find new and exciting franchises rather than relying on old classics. Influenced by problems found in modern life, Counterfeit Girl takes the concept of identity theft and sets it against a science-fiction backdrop to tell a cyberpunk adventure that screams off the page. Peter Milligan partners with Rufus Dayglo to create a rich and vibrant world that has a distinctive anime tone to it, with Dayglo's art evoking memories of legendary artists Jamie Hewlett and Brett Ewins. The unpredictable neon colours from colourist Dom Regan help capture the fluorescent noise of this sprawling urban nightmare.

Milligan's script hits the ground running, introducing the series' central concept and its lead character with efficiency and thrusting our heroine into immediate danger. While the identity theft angle is new, the series does borrow familiar plot points – overpopulated mega-cities, an overzealous police force and corruption from the top – ensuring that certain story beats are recognisable and easily digestible. The anime influence is strong here, both in terms of the locale and the artwork, and it has been a while since 2000AD has had such an anarchic series introduced to its library. As a symbol for the future of 2000AD, Counterfeit Girl showcases the current level of quality found in its new series – a far cry from the likes of Space Girls or Vector 13 – and I'm excited to see where this unpredictable adventure takes us next.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

To put it quite simply, this is the finest edition of 2000AD ever printed. A joyous celebration of the past two thousand issues, I loved this comic from cover to cover. The interludes between each story were inspired and gave the choice of stories added context as Tharg traversed throughout the past four decades to get to the present. The only thing that could have made this better would have been a postscript adventure for Nikolai Dante – arguably my favourite series to ever appear in the Prog. That said, there was a nice epilogue adventure for Nemesis the Warlock to reward fans – hopefully, I won't have to wait until Prog 3000 to see Dante reappear in the Prog. It is the character's twentieth anniversary next year after all! 

With global signings and heavy social media presence, 2000AD have made this anniversary Prog into a massive event, even selling out the initial print run and resorting to a second print – something the comic has never done before. I recommend you pick up a copy of the second print because it might end up being rarer than the first, given that it's the first time this has ever happened! If they're reading this, I pass on my congratulations to the whole team at Rebellion who have clearly worked tirelessly to bring this momentous achievement of British Comics into being. For all us Squaxx dek Thargo out there, you have our sincerest thanks. Here's to the next forty years!

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2000 will be available in stores on Wednesday 28th September - 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 9
"Playing House" (Part 1 of 2)
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Rachael Stott
Colours by: Alexandre Siqueira

This issue of the Twelfth Doctor comic sees the return of series artist Rachael Stott and this time she is accompanied by a different colourist, Alexandre Siqueira, who brings out a whole new edge to her artwork, imbuing it with a darker tone that fits the punk rock attitude of the Doctor's new companion, Hattie. This change in style definitely suits the more Gothic sensibilities of this storyline, which riffs on the typical haunted house trope in a similar manner to the Eleventh Doctor episode “Hide”. George Mann's script flows along nicely, introducing the Doctor and the reader into the mystery of the seemingly haunted house with a gentle pace, building up the mystique with every page. Despite the foreshadowing, the punchline cliffhanger ending to this installment still comes out of nowhere to surprise readers and poses far more questions than it answers. It's a great little reveal, and much like the Doctor, I slapped my head for not realising the truth behind the house sooner. When the twist ending of a story causes you to have that reaction, then you know it has been extremely well written. I also liked the Cluedo-inspired double-page spread from Stott showcasing the search throughout the house which, intentionally or not, also mirrored a similar spread from Mariano Laclaustra back in Issue 6.


Removing Hattie from her own timeline allows Mann to explore the character in greater detail, and while she takes a backseat at times to the exposition of the plot, she seems to be an interesting counter to Clara Oswald – wanting to go back into the TARDIS at the first sign of trouble at the haunted house and questioning the Doctor's decisions. It's also fun to see the Doctor exploring more of his musical side, which was a recurring element of Season Nine that received a positive reaction amongst the audience and made this Twelfth incarnation of the Doctor appear more human and relatable than he was during his initial appearances during Season Eight. These post-Season Nine adventures do a great job at showcasing the different sides to the Twelfth Doctor as he interacts with new companions, preparing for his relationship for the Season Ten companion, Bill. With no new episodes appearing until Christmas, Titan Comics are providing Whovians with in-continuity tales that follow on from the last televised episode, “The Husbands of River Song”. It's a great opportunity for the publisher to take the lead and given the dramatic events of “Supremacy of the Cybermen” and how it has directly followed on from “Hell Bent”, it is clear that Titan Comics is the best place for Whovians to get their fix of Doctor Who goodness.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 13

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 13
"Fast Asleep"
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: INJ Culbard & Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

After a year of fake-outs and dead-ends, this issue of the Eleventh Doctor series from Titan Comics finally reveals who was responsible for the creation of the Malignant, and it looks like a bit of a group effort to be honest. These past three issues set deep within the Time War have been utterly enthralling from start to finish, providing some of the best Doctor Who sequences ever committed to the page. It has been such an engaging interlude that I could easily read an ongoing series focused on the War Doctor, The Master and The Squire as they traverse the battlefields of the Time War battling allies of the Daleks. Williams has the unenviable task of explaining the complicated origin of the Malignant and the Then and the Now, and despite paradoxes aplenty and enough timey-wimey goodness to feed a Weeping Angel for eternity, it remains a fantastic and easy to follow read. Never losing sight of the human element of this story (Alice), Williams crafts a cataclysmic universe-ending set piece that rivals the scale of ending of “The Pandorica Opens”. Not content with the rather clever revelations within his story, he caps it off with a humdinger of a cliff-hanger involving the Squire and Absalom Daak. Obviously, there’s no way this issue couldn’t earn any less than a 10 out of 10 score!


Artists INJ Culbard and Simon Fraser work together on this issue as each artist handles a different Doctor’s timeline and the result is a wonderful visual treat for the readers. The two artists’ styles gel rather nicely together and it’s a lovely directorial device to showcase the two different eras in play throughout this adventure. Given the whole whodunnit nature of this second year, the success of this storyline ultimately hinged on this reveal and I have to say that Williams (and Spurrier) have done an absolutely fantastic job on nailing that landing. While some elements of the big reveal were telegraphed, there were some lovely additions that I didn’t see coming. I particularly liked how Williams incorporated The Master’s regeneration into Derek Jacobi’s Doctor Yana from “Utopia” into his plot, providing an in-continuity explanation behind his memory loss in that episode. I’m a sucker for a bit of pre-destination in time-travel stories and this ‘time loop’ and the way that the Then and the Now was responsible for its own creation in a Dave Lister-sort of way was an inspired decision. This whole year of adventures has been fantastically plotted from the outset and the attention to detail and continuity has been utterly flawless. While I enjoyed the intricate narrative of the Eleventh Doctor’s Year One adventures, this mega-epic has surpassed it entirely. The Doctor better watch his back because he has two rival time-lords in Williams and Spurrier.


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 13 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 4th Doctor # 5 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 4th Doctor # 5 (of 5)
"Gaze of the Medusa" - Part 5 (of 5)
Written by: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby
Art by: Brian Williamson
Colours by: Hi-Fi

The Fourth Doctor comes face-to-face with Gods and Monsters as his first Titan Comics miniseries comes to a dramatic conclusion. There’s an increased sense of confidence to the series’ narrative with this final chapter as writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby wrap up the various plot threads from the past four issues in a very satisfying manner. Throughout the series, I’ve been impressed with the way that they’ve maintained Tom Baker’s very distinctive ‘voice’ in the Doctor’s dialogue, aided by Brian Williamson’s photo-realistic artwork. The story has also felt tonally accurate for that era in Doctor Who history, channelling the Gothic horror vibe that was prevalent throughout Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes’ time on the show. I also liked how the writers offered up an extra-terrestrial explanation for the Medusa and the Gods of Ancient Greece – a staple element of Doctor Who storytelling seen with televised Fourth Doctor stories, “Underworld” and “The Horns of Nimon”.


Brian Williamson contributes heavily to the Gothic atmosphere in place in this issue, capturing Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen’s likenesses with uncanny accuracy. While his art may lack fluidity and movement at times, it remains impressive throughout and suits the tone of the story without question. I particularly liked his redesign of the Medusa once it had absorbed Lady Carstairs’ essence and evolved into a more humanoid appearance, not unlike the Ancient Greece legends she inspired. Overall, this has been a fun adventure very much in the spirit of the Fourth Doctor’s era, and I loved the nod to Harry Sullivan in the denouement. Throughout this series, Rennie and Beeby have demonstrated a keen understanding of what makes the Fourth Doctor so unique and lovable and translated that onto the page. These classic Doctor miniseries have been an absolute joy to read and I would love to see Titan Comics commit to an ongoing series featuring the Fourth Doctor, especially since he is the most recognisable and arguably the most definitive interpretation of the character.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor # 5 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 4x01 - "The Ghost"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 4x01 - "The Ghost"

Synopsis

Six months after the defeat of Hive, the Agents of SHIELD find themselves scattered across the organisation under the rule of a new director. Unhappy with the changes and the Sokovia Accords, Daisy has become a vigilante hell-bent on taking down the Watchdogs. Meanwhile, a new supernatural threat has arisen on the streets of LA...

Review

Over the past two years, Agents of SHIELD has been tasked with building up the Inhumans corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in preparation for the upcoming movie of the same name, which was unfortunately placed into development limbo. After two years mopping up plot threads from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and introducing the concept of Inhumans to the audience, Agents of SHIELD needed a shot in the arm to reinvigorate its narrative and the final five minutes of its Season Three finale promised just that. Jumping ahead six months, the teaser showcased Mack and Coulson on the hunt for their former colleague Daisy Johnson, who had now adopted the vigilante identity of Quake and was a fugitive from justice. This opening episode of Season Four doesn’t waste any time filling in the gaps and introduces the new status-quo for the team. With SHIELD once again operating under government control, things have taken a bit of a reset to Season One as Coulson and his team are now operating as part of a larger organisation once more, instead of gallivanting about in their own private jet.

The reset to Season One is clearly felt in the team’s new dynamic as Coulson finds himself demoted from director and back in active field duty, this time alongside Mack. The two have always had a good rapport and it’s a wise choice to keep them working together as a duo. Agent May remains behind-the-scenes training new recruits, but is on-hand to provide back-up when necessary. Fitz and Simmons haven’t regressed too much, remaining together both professionally and romantically, although the cracks in their relationship are beginning to show now that Simmons has received a promotion. Another return to ‘square one’ can be seen with Daisy, who goes back to living in her van and is on the run from SHIELD, presumably after refusing to sign the Sokovia Accords and registering her powers. This regression is somewhat frustrating, but I think that is meant to be the point – hopefully, the writers have split up our heroes and fractured their relationships in order to rebuild them at a later date.


Without much pause for breath, this episode quickly immersed Agents of SHIELD into the world of the supernatural with Daisy coming into contact with Ghost Rider and Agent May becoming possessed by a spirit before the forty minutes were up. While promotional materials had spoiled Ghost Rider’s inclusion in this series, I hadn’t realised that the supernatural and mystical elements would be so integral to the narrative arc, and I must say that I like this diversion. Hopefully, we’ll see characters like Werewolf by Night, Brother Voodoo and maybe even the previously teased Man-Thing make an appearance during this season. I was blown away by the special effects used for Ghost Rider, who looked just as impressive as he did in the two Nicholas Cage movies. I never once thought the series would introduce a big name Marvel character, and while Ghost Rider seemed like a perfect fit for the Netflix series, ABC has allowed the series to “go dark” with the source material and add a touch of horror to proceedings. In terms of the character, I’m surprised they’ve gone with the Robbie Reyes incarnation of the Ghost Rider, but it makes sense as it keeps things separate from the movies and allows Marvel the option to use the classic Johnny Blaze version in other media.

The Ghost Rider elements were clearly the big draw to the episode and those sequences managed to impress on every level, but some of the other plot threads introduced were less successful. The whole AIDA plot-line didn’t quite grab my attention and on the surface it seems like a rehash of Avengers: Age of Ultron with Fitz and Radcliffe repeating Stark and Banner’s mistakes with artificial intelligence – although obviously on a much smaller scale. Hopefully, the writers will find a fresh angle with this plot device and bring LMD’s into the series to do something interesting with them. Another area of interest was SHIELD intercepting a box containing a ghost, which has somehow attached itself to May – I have no idea where that plot-line could be going as it doesn’t seem to be following any existing Marvel Comics storyline. With Doctor Strange waiting in the wings to reveal the mystical underbelly of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen, this season of Agents of SHIELD seems well-poised to give loyal fans a nice teaser and judging from this first episode, this could be the series’ strongest season yet!


Score - 9.6 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • AIDA appears to be a version of the Life Model Decoys often used by Nick Fury as a way to protect himself from assassination in the field
  • Radcliffe and Fitz mention Ultron as a reason why they should keep AIDA a secret from SHIELD for the time-being
  • Robbie Reyes is the fourth incarnation of the supernatural vigilante Ghost Rider, swapping the iconic motorbike for a Dodge Charger. (First App: All-New Ghost Rider # 1)

Mysteries
  • Who is the new director of SHIELD?
  • What exactly is the Ghost creature haunting May?
  • How did Robbie become Ghost Rider?

Next Episode - "Meet the New Boss"
Daisy goes to battle Ghost Rider at a terrible cost, and Coulson faces the new Director, and his bold agenda surprises them all.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x01 - "Better to Reign in Hell..."

Gotham
Episode 3x01 - "Better to Reign in Hell..."

Synopsis

Six months after the Indian Hill fiasco, Fish Mooney has crafted a crime empire made up of super-powered threats and taken control of Gotham’s criminal underworld. Unwilling to return to the GCPD, Jim Gordon works outside of the law to take down the Indian Hill escapees, whilst Penguin attempts to re-consolidate his own organisation. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne returns from overseas with a new mission – to expose the mysterious Court of Owls who influence events within Gotham.

Review

Over the past two seasons Gotham has moved away from the realism of organised crime and gang wars to focus more on crazed criminals and super-powered threats. Towards the end of the second season, the series lent heavily on its science-fiction elements and resurrected characters from the dead, granting them a range of fantastical powers by the demented Hugo Strange. This moment definitely changed the format of the show, aligning it more with the other DC superhero TV shows from The CW and Marvel’s Agent of SHIELD. The third season embraces the concept of super-powered villains and almost recreates the status-quo from the initial season by having the Penguin pitted against his nemesis, Fish Mooney. With a six-month time jump at the start of the episode mirroring the show’s own hiatus over the summer, much of “Better to Reign in Hell…” is focused on re-introducing our favourite characters and showcasing their current status quo.

The most notable change is Jim Gordon’s decision to become a bounty hunter working outside of the GCPD to apprehend the escaped Indian Hill convicts for monetary recompense. It’s an interesting diversion for the character, removing his loyalties to the city and the law, and it certainly fits well with his decreasing set of morals throughout the second season. Hopefully the show will remain committed to this plot point, rather than quickly reinstating the detective to his familiar posting within a few episodes. The rest of the cast are shuffled into familiar roles with Barbara and Tabitha working together as nightclub owners, mirroring the Penguin’s own attempts to own a club in the first season. Interestingly, Butch and the Penguin remain partners in crime despite the fact that Butch had regained his own free will – considering Penguin cut off his hand, I’d have expected Butch to want to kill him and re-join with Mooney. This definitely felt out of character and the show has made no attempt to explain why Butch would want to work for his former enemy. Hopefully future interactions with Fish Mooney will explain Butch’s bizarre choice of allegiance.


Not willing to showcase any famous Indian Hill residents in its opening episode, most of Fish Mooney’s new gang members were no-name monsters. It would have been more interesting to see Killer Croc and other super-powered Batman villains working with Mooney, but instead they opted for a two-dimensional set of supporting characters. Controversially, Gotham has decided to sex up its Poison Ivy character by making her into a twenties-something bombshell and while I’m not sure how I feel about that decision, I quite liked the in-universe explanation behind the ageing as Ivy found herself in contact with a man with ageing abilities. The character herself has been largely useless for the past two seasons and this drastic change should hopefully provide some more interesting story options, although it will take some time to get used to seeing her as post-teen. If only they could magically speed up Bruce Wayne’s ageing and get him into the cowl! That said, Bruce returned from yet another break from Gotham with Alfred intact and proceeded to piss off the Court of Owls. I’m enjoying David Mazouz’s portrayal of Bruce, and am very interested to find out more about his emo clone.

As a re-introduction to the series “Better to Reign in Hell…” did well to touch base with the series’ expansive cast, spending enough time with each character to showcase their evolution over the past six months. Things certainly moved along at a swift pace for the majority of plot-lines, but I suspect that future episodes will focus on a modest selection of characters to tighten the focus, like in previous seasons. Despite changes to the status quo, there was a great deal of familiarity with this season opener as characters echoed previous plot-lines to an extent. With Lee seemingly written out of the season, it appears Jamie Chung’s Valerie Vale will be Gordon’s next love interest to clash with Barbara Keen. While this season opener felt like an odd mix of Season One and Season Two plot-lines mashed together, the show certainly shows promise as it confidently moves away from the crime genre to a more generic superhero-themed show. With its frequent sidestepping of Batman continuity, the series needs to make a bold statement and depart from the constraints of audience expectations – with Gordon placed in a semi-vigilante position working as a bounty hunter, it would make more sense to have him become Batman instead of Bruce, subverting expectations and providing Gotham fans with a different take on the Batman mythos.


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Next Episode - "Burn the Witch"
Fish Mooney takes matters into her own hands to locate Hugo Strange, forcing Gordon to reluctantly team up with journalist Valerie Vale to find her. Penguin rises in popularity after criticising the work of the GCPD and Bruce’s investigation of the Court of Owls is compromised. Meanwhile, Ivy Pepper is reintroduced into Gotham city.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

2000AD Prog 1999

Prog 1999 Cover by Boo Cook

It's yet another Judge Dredd cover for Prog 1999 and unlike last week's more grim and foreboding example, this piece is filled with bright colours and a wicked sense of humour, much like the interior strip itself. Boo Cook does a tremendous job at conveying the story's light-hearted tone through his artwork and his style lends itself well to the design of the gelatinous dinosaur rampaging through Mega-City One. I also love the little in-joke references to the Eldsters crossing the road, such as “Streets of Age” and the Werthers Original balloon. It's a great cover showcasing Cook's strengths as an artist and offering a memorable image that directly ties to the story. 



JUDGE DREDD - WELL GEL
Script - T.C Eglington 
Art - Paul Marshall
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After ruthlessly dispatching one of his longest-serving enemies, this episode of Judge Dredd switches gears quite dramatically to deliver a one-off quirky tale of Mega-City One life. It's this balance between serious police procedurals and humourous 'day in the life' stories that makes Judge Dredd such a fantastic series to read. T.C Eglington makes full use of his iconic visual of two juves riding a dinosaur made of jelly and contrasts this outlandish scenario with the very Mega-City One concept of an OAP pride march. It feels like classic Judge Dredd, taking elements of our own culture and stretching them to the nth degree – it didn't escape my notice that the inventor of the 'Well Gel' solution happened to look like Steve Jobs – another pop culture reference slipped in there.


While I initially expected Boo Cook to be on art duties following his spectacular cover art, it was a pleasant surprise to see Paul Marshall back in the Prog. Marshall's artwork has a wonderful ambidextrous quality to it – able to depict the most serious and brutal stories (“Darkside”) yet also able to inject a light-hearted tone when needed, such as with Ulysses Sweet. As a palate cleanser following the dramatic conclusion of “Ladykiller”, this story works brilliantly, thrusting Dredd back into chaotic and unpredictable adventures, and the cameo appearance of Mrs Gunderson at the Wrinkly Pride Parade reassures readers of her safety following her kidnap at the hands of PJ Maybe. With Prog 2000 promising a “very special Judge Dredd story” within its pages, this one-off adventure does a brilliant job as acting as a buffer between events.



JAEGIR - WARCHILD (Part 4)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

Rather than using flashbacks of Jaegir's father to punctuate the action sequences taking place in the present day, Gordon Rennie finally showcases the patriarch himself in a fight sequence that mirrors his daughter's own struggles against the Strigoi-powered children. The symmetry between the two plot threads is wonderfully effective and allows Rennie to adopt his dual narrative technique without slowing down the pace with flashbacks. As a long referenced figure, it's intriguing to see Josef Jaegir in person and it certainly appears that the legends surrounding him are justified. Judging from the final sequence of this episode, it seems that Atalia is going to choose to assist her father against those Nordland assassins who wish to eliminate him. I'm excited to see where this new direction will lead the series in the future, and whether Atalia will find herself turned against her former allies in the Nort Army.


This brief four-parter has been an excellent recap of the story thus far, reaffirming the fractious relationship between the two Jaegirs and sending the series off in a new direction. I've long enjoyed this series and its alternate take on the Rogue Trooper mythos and Atalia Jaegir certainly makes for an interesting female protagonist – subverting the traditional beauty for a scarred soldier (both inside and out). Simon Coleby's artwork helps bring Nordland to life, spewing out sulphur and rust from every panel and hammering home the struggle of the people. His interpretation of the Strigoi disease and the way it scars and transforms its hosts into mindless killing machines is brilliant and conveys the griminess of this world and the war crimes of Josef Jaegir. I look forward to seeing the series return with its new status-quo with the uneasy partnership between Atalia and her father against the Nort empire.



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - THE CANDIDATE (Part 7)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Ben Willsher
Colours - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Rather surprisingly, this final episode of Anderson, Psi Division has a replacement artist as Ben Willsher steps in for Nick Dyer. Despite the change in creative team, there is a strong element of consistency between the two artists and it doesn't distract from this climactic conclusion. Willsher is a hugely talented artist and I always love seeing his work in the Prog – even though he maintains the same character designs implemented by Dyer, it's great to see him drawing Anderson, Hershey and the others. Emma Beeby delivers a surprising last-minute twist as Anderson controls the Chief Judge and uses her to assassinate Carol Smart – it's a strong ending and Willsher's art delivers a gruesome end for the mind-controlling mayoral candidate. This storyline has been a real roller-coaster ride from start to finish, delivering a healthy mix of twist and turns to the narrative, not least in this final episode. I look forward to seeing Beeby tackling Anderson, Psi Division in the future, possibly focusing more on the central character herself.



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 12)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

There's a strong Empire Strikes Back vibe to this concluding episode of Scarlet Traces as our heroes reluctantly retreat from the Martian attacks, leaving the Theed to die. Ian Edginton fills this installment with some wonderful character moments, such as the emotional farewell between Iykarus and Irya and the frantic escape through the Theed toilets. Not content with a solid ending to this chapter of his storyline, Edginton also pushes boundaries with the inclusion of a waterfall shaped like an anus and the appearance of full-frontal male nudity. This series has been a highlight of the Prog over the past twelve weeks, thanks to Edginton's timeless script and D'Israeli's unparalleled skill as an artist. Much like the original Star Wars trilogy, Edginton has tapped into the quintessential 'fairy tale' structure and re-purposed it in a science-fiction format, resulting in a very enjoyable read.


While I'm always quick to point out the beauty in D'Israeli's artwork, this installment also showcased some of his skill at storytelling and making use of panels and perspective to emphasis the cinematography of a moment. The striking scene between Iykarus and Irya is just magnified due to D'Israeli's choice of perspective, framing Irya against the white light bursting through the walls as the tentacles encircle her. The following panels featuring the two lovers both being pulled away by external forces is immensely satisfying and conveys the action and movement perfectly. I'm not sure whether Edginton or D'Israeli was behind the specific design of the waterfall that our heroes exit from, but it was an inspired decision and a wonderful in-joke for those eagle-eyed viewers. By having the Martians shed their immobile forms and adopting a more humanoid shape, Edginton has shifted the status-quo once more and upped the ante for our heroes, giving them an equal threat to fight against. I cannot wait for this series to return in the future as yet again, Edginton and D'Israeli produce pure narrative gold onto the page.



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 10)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Winning the award for most depressing end to a series is this week's final installment of Outlier, which sees humanity wiped out completely by a weaponised star. After weeks of foreboding and warnings, T.C Eglington writes a dramatically downbeat finale that sees the Hurde win the war by making the human race extinct, absorbing what little remains into their shared consciousness. I admire Eglington for writing such a depressing end to his trilogy, although I did feel that the central story of Caul and Carcer got lost amongst the grander scheme in this final chapter. This brutal and uncompromising ending certainly elevates the series as a whole, and reminds me of the equally futile ending of Damnation Station a few years back. As always, Karl Richardson's art is impeccable, and the final sequence featuring the Hurde amongst the radiated remains of the Alliance planets was particularly poignant and a perfect way to close out the series. While it might not be an instant classic in the same way as Brass Sun or Helium were, Outlier was a fun diversion into the future war genre and definitely provided a gut-punch of an ending.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This has been one of the most enjoyable 'wrap up' Progs in recent years, delivering some fantastic conclusions to the existing stories. Apart from the humourous Judge Dredd story, all of the tales in this Prog had quite dark and bleak endings. Both Outlier and Scarlet Traces competed for the honour of “Thrill of the Week”, and it was a close call but the apocalyptic and sheer downbeat ending of Outlier earned it the title. While Scarlet Traces has been a better strip overall, I was taken aback by the apocalyptic ending of T.C Eglington's trilogy. Both Jaegir and Anderson Psi Division ended on a strong note too, and I look forward to seeing both strips returning in the near future with the same creative teams.

On the horizon for Prog 2000, Tharg has teased the full contents of the much-anticipated issue with a “very special Judge Dredd story” from the character's creators, the return of Nemesis the Warlock, another trip to Nu Earth but this time from the point-of-view of Rogue Trooper, another Anderson Psi Division story from legends Alan Grant and David Roach, Sinister Dexter and a new series from Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo called Counterfeit Girl. It's a great mix of new and old stories and I'm sure it will be worth the long wait. I am most excited about the Judge Dredd story, but I'm also looking forward to seeing Rogue Trooper explored again, especially in light of the events of Jaegir. 2000AD continues to go from strength to strength and I have no doubt that Prog 2000 will be nothing short of spectacular.

Thrill of the Week: Outlier


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1999 will be available in stores on Wednesday 21st September - 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!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

2000AD Prog 1998

Prog 1998 Cover by Paul Marshall & Chris Blythe

Playing on the cliff-hanger of last Prog's Judge Dredd, this dynamic cover from Paul Marshall teases a major death as the grim reaper's scythe hovers over both PJ Maybe and Vienna Pasternak. After John Wagner's reveal that he planned to kill off a major character, speculation has been rife and in fact, it is this rampant speculation which has driven this storyline. While the entire tone of the story has pointed towards Maybe's long-awaited downfall, I wouldn't be surprised if Wagner threw in a curve-ball and made the story's title “Ladykiller” into a reality. Marshall's cover is simple in its design, yet still manages to convey a real sense of occasion as a long-running supporting character meets their end inside.


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

Wow! What a gripping conclusion to one of the most tense and exhilarating Judge Dredd thrillers of recent memory. While it was inevitable that PJ Maybe would meet his end in this story, John Wagner still managed to add a twist regarding Undercover Judge Morgan posing as Vienna. The Justice Department had the advantage over Maybe throughout the entire story, and ironically, it was his own desire to stand out and punish Dredd that led to his downfall. The entire final sequence was chilling as Maybe attempted to escape Dredd, and I loved the subtle homage to The Fugitive as the pair had their final confrontation in the tunnels. Unlike Tommy Lee Jones, however, Dredd didn't let his man escape and Maybe got a brutal, and surprisingly gory, execution at the hands of his long-time enemy. I think it was a fitting end to the 'cat and mouse' game that the pair had been playing over the decades, and I'm glad Wagner got to end the PJ Maybe saga on his own terms.


Carlos Ezquerra has been on top form throughout this serial, but his artwork was absolutely sublime during that tense final face-off. I loved the greyscale shading and how the red from Dredd's helmet stood out – it was similar to the black, white and red colour scheme of the Judge Dredd Mega Collection books from Hachette, and equally as effective. That final page of Dredd looking down at his foe and summarily executing him with a shot to the gut was fantastic and just summed the character up perfectly - Tall, imposing and unrelenting. Even though there was an inevitability about this storyline, it has been an absolute joy to read over the past eight weeks and much like “Dark Justice” last year, it closes the chapter on an aspect of Dredd's life. However, I am very curious what the 'special story' teased in Prog 2000 will be, as my initial suspicions were that the death of PJ Maybe was being saved up for that issue. This has been a brilliant send-off for the PJ Maybe character, bringing his story to a natural end as his psychosis and need for attention eventually caused his downfall – I just hope that the character is allowed to rest in peace and no other writers attempt to retcon this wonderful storyline.



JAEGIR - WARCHILD (Part 3)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colours - Len O' Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

The brutal opening scene of this episode of Jaegir instantly changes the tone of this short four-part adventure as Markha and her street orphans are slain by a group of young Strigoi. Rather than abandoning the reflective tone of this story-arc, Gordon Rennie demonstrates his immense skill as a writer as he weaves in Markha's stories about Josef Jaegir inbetween the action scenes, fuelling Atalia for her battle against the Strigoi youth. It's an effective narrative decision that amplifys the emotion of the battle, further displaying how Atalia's father has shaped her into the woman warrior she has now become as she uses her rage towards him to fight super-powered threats.


The sudden shift in tone from reflective memories of her father to fighting mutated children keeps the series fresh and exciting, preventing this interstitial story-arc from being slow. Simon Coleby's artwork crackles with energy as he captures the frenzied action of the fight between Atalia and her infant assailant. His style is so gritty and dark that you almost feel like you're getting dirt underneath your fingernails when you turn the page. Coleby is the perfect accomplice to Rennie's writing, helping create a whole new world 'behind enemy lines' in the Rogue Trooper universe. The final panel that showcases the three remaining “beastie boys” is full of foreboding and demonstrates Rennie's williness to push boundaries and put his characters in moral quandaries. I look forward to seeing how this adventure will shape Atalia going forward, and how she intends to deal with her father.



ANDERSON, PSI DIVISION - THE CANDIDATE (Part 6)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Nick Dyer
Colours - Richard Elson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Peeling back more layers to this surprisingly complicated political thriller set against the Mega-City One backdrop, Emma Beeby leaves her lead character with a brilliant moral choice to make – uphold the law and shoot Carol Smart, or allow her to use her psi-powers on the Chief Judge to introduce reforms and changes to the Judicial System. As a character who has always struggled to deal with the harsh realities of the Justice Department, often clashing with hardliners like Dredd, it is very interesting to see Anderson offered this opportunity to introduce change to the system. Obviously, she won't take it as she wants change to happen naturally and not through murder and duplicity, but it's sure to put the character through the emotional wringer.


This has been a really strong outing for the Beeby droid, with each subsequent episode revealing greater depth and mystery to the initially shallow 'political assassination' storyline. Nick Dyer has provided solid support throughout with his excellent artwork which manages to evoke memories of classic Judge Dredd artists such as Cam Kennedy. Dyer's interpretation of Mega-City One is brilliant and feels rooted in 2000AD's past. While the first few episodes hadn't convinced me that this storyline was a good fit for Anderson Psi Division, Beeby has done a tremendous job at creating a strong and engaging story that showcased multiple sides of Anderson's personality – both her professionalism and her more emotive, sensitive persona for which she is best known. While it is obvious that Smart will fail in her plan, I am curious as to whether this story-arc will have a lasting effect on the title character.



SCARLET TRACES - COLD WAR (Part 11)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - D'Israeli
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This penultimate episode of Scarlet Traces offers an interesting revelation about the parentage of Ahron Shakespeare – unlike my initial suspicions, he isn't some heir to the Venusian throne, but the son of a provocative political leader who betrayed the Theed to the Martians causing much bloodshed. While Ian Edginton's previous works have usually focused on a 'chosen one' with a heroic backstory or bloodline, this slight subversion of the trope is a welcome one and places an exciting spin on Ahron's back-story - the son of a traitor attempting to rectify the mistakes made in his family's name. D'Israeli continues to draw some of the best scenes of his career here, and while this episode felt somewhat short in length, the fiery cliffhanger promises some brilliant sequences to come. Despite my complete lack of prior knowledge of the series and its original source material, Scarlet Traces has been refreshingly accessible throughout and a complete joy to read on a weekly basis – if not for the tense, game-changing story-arc unfolding in Judge Dredd over the past eight weeks, it would have been my “Thrill of the Week” many, many times. As with all of Ian Edginton's epic fantasy adventures, I will be eagerly awaiting its next appearance in 2000AD.



OUTLIER - SURVIVOR GUILT (Part 9)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Things are coming to a head with the penultimate episode of Outlier as Jess, Luthra and Caul attempt to persuade the Hurde that the humans are not a threat and the war has been organised by a rogue caste of the Hurde Elite. The pace of this episode is slightly off as T.C Eglington attempts to build duelling plot threads towards their conclusions, but he manages to inject a healthy sense of jeopardy into the final pages as it appears the Hurde are about to launch their final attack on the Alliance. Karl Richardson continues to provide dynamic visuals for the series, especially during the interplanetary fight sequences. His artwork is absolutely stunning and has defined this series from the very beginning, giving it a distinctive voice and flavour. With so many pieces left on the playing board, I have no idea how Eglington plans to end this trilogy in another five pages, and I love that feeling of unpredictability. Hopefully, the final episode in Prog 1999 will tie up the remaining plot threads and provide closure to the trilogy, but it will be a tough task!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Surprising absolutely no-one, the heart-stopping conclusion to “Ladykiller” takes the prize of “Thrill of the Week”, although all of the strips provide strong penultimate episodes with effective cliff-hangers. Tharg continues to tease upcoming strips with Flesh returning after Prog 2000 with Clint Langley taking over on art duties – I'm looking forward to seeing Langley on dinosaurs following his stints on Slaine and The ABC Warriors. The line-up for Prog 2000 itself seems very promising with a “very special” extended Judge Dredd story in the pipeline from creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, alongside the return of old favourites such as Nemesis the Warlock and Rogue Trooper. Also appearing is Sinister Dexter, featuring Mark Sexton's amazing artwork. It's sounded like a wonderful mix of old favourites to celebrate the 2000th issue of the magazine, and I'm in eager anticipation to get a copy of it in my hands! 

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1998 will be available in stores on Wednesday 14th September - 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!

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 3 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 3 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 3 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Geovanni
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Cavan Scott and George Mann continue to thrust the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors into battle against the Cybermen across a variety of different time-zones in this third issue of the Supremacy of the Cybermen miniseries. Splitting the narrative four ways has become something of a double-edged sword for this series – while it ensures the storyline has the right amount of epic scope as the Cybermen traverse time and space to dominate the galaxy, it also means that the issues feel a bit cluttered as each Doctor vies for attention. Given some of the dramatic events of this episode, it is clear that the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctor plot threads are going to be rewritten and undone before the end of the series with no lasting effects, which again diminishes some of the impact of those sequences. That said, it is great fun to see the Tenth Doctor fighting alongside the Sontaran armies against hulking great Cyberkings and the Eleventh Doctor battling hordes of Cyber-Silurians. Scott and Mann do their best to keep all four sections moving along at a fast pace, but sometimes it feels that the Twelfth Doctor section is the only essential element of the story. Hopefully the other sequences will have more of an influence on the main plot in the final two issues of the series.


Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Geovanni continue to handle art duties with Rodriguez handling the ‘past Doctors’ adventures as Geovanni focuses on the central Twelfth Doctor plot thread. This division of artists hammers home the separation between the ‘real’ story and the ‘disposable’ plot threads of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Rodriguez does a great job at conveying the increasing peril and lack of hope for the past Doctors as each adventure comes to a downbeat ending with the Cybermen achieving victory in each timeline. This issue also references the one-page prologues that appeared throughout the rest of the Titan Comics Doctor Who books which saw every incarnation of the Doctor attacked by the Cybermen at various points in their existence. This precision attack into the Doctor’s past reminds me of the Great Intelligence’s attempt to kill the Doctor during “The Name of the Doctor” and I wonder if a similar fix will be implemented to undo the damage to the time-stream. Even though much of this story will be undone by a cosmic reset button, I am eagerly awaiting the explanation that Scott and Mann have to this grand dilemma that the Doctor finds himself in. The writing duo have certainly stacked the odds against the Doctor here and I literally have no idea how he can get himself out of this predicament! While this event may have some minor structural flaws, it remains fully engaging and a treat for old-school Doctor Who fans. This has been the perfect way to celebrate the Cybermen’s 50th anniversary!


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 3 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 mini-series when you pick up your copy!
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