Friday, 28 October 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 4x05 - "Lockup"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 4x05 - "Lockup"

Synopsis

It’s a race against time as the Agents of SHIELD, along with Ghost Rider, attempt to free Eli Morrow from prison before the Momentum Labs Ghosts can get to him. Meanwhile, Simmons finds herself working closely alongside the new Director of SHIELD as he engages in a public debate with anti-Inhuman politician, Senator Rota Nadeer.

Review

With Ghost Rider and Quake both working alongside SHIELD in a regular capacity, this episode of Agents of SHIELD got to show off one of the series’ strengths – the relationships between its core cast. While having the team scattered and resenting each other was a nice way to inject tension into the story, it is far more satisfying from a viewer’s perspective to see the team united and working towards a common goal. Returning to the series’ Season One roots, we have Coulson operating a team of hand-picked agents on globe-trotting missions whilst the larger SHIELD organisation deals with maintaining the peace and handling Human-Inhuman relations. I like this multi-tiered global structure much more than the underground, rebellious stylings of Seasons Two and Three where SHIELD was the underdog fighting against Hydra and the Inhumans in the shadows. It certainly fits in better with the established MCU and makes Agents of SHIELD feel like a cornerstone of the cinematic universe once again – although, behind-the-scenes it remains the faithful ‘lapdog’ to Marvel Studios' bi-annual movie releases.

While the prison break formed the bulk of the episode with some nice action set-pieces sprinkled about the narrative, it was balanced nicely with Simmons' attempts to avoid her lie detection test and Mace outing himself as an Inhuman live on television. These secondary plot threads complemented the main action of the prison break nicely, allowing the tensions within SHIELD's upper echelons to bubble away whilst Coulson and his team got their hands dirty. The fight sequence that pitted Daisy against the imprisoned Watchdogs was very well-choreographed, much like some of Chloe Bennet's scenes from previous seasons. Agents of SHIELD has always done really well with its slickly produced action sequences, but this season's later time-slot has given the series the opportunity to push boundaries and showcase more violence and gore. While it hasn't developed into the same bone-crunching brutality of its 'sister' Netflix shows, the series has definitely matured this year.


Even though the episode leaned towards the action side of the spectrum, there were still plenty of plot developments in store for viewers. The Raiders of the Lost Ark inspired pre-credits sequence revealed some tantalising hints about the Darkhold, which felt like a more sophisticated version of the Necronomicon. We also found out some more information about Robbie Reyes' backstory and the events that led him to becoming the Ghost Rider, although it seems that there is some kind of conspiracy behind the drive-by shooting that left him and his brother fighting for their lives. Gabriel Luna continues to play Reyes perfectly as a tortured man driven by the spirit of vengeance that resides within him – the scene where he had to decide whether to accompany his uncle through the prison or go back for revenge was extremely well-acted and ultimately, I think his choice will haunt him going forward. On a side-note, I loved the bad-ass tone to the Ghost Rider as he walked out of the flaming cell – there was definitely a strut to his walk and the CGI guys made sure the character radiated attitude.

Thanks to its tightened focus and a reunited cast, this was the strongest episode of Season Four yet. Rather than rushing through its big action set-piece in the prison, the writers made it the focal point of the whole episode and dedicated time to setting it up. Even though it appeared that the episode was focused on one narrative strand, the writers deftly addressed a multitude of ongoing plot threads such as the conspiracy surrounding the drive-by shooting on the Reyes brothers, Jeffrey Mace's backstory, Agent May's vision of Coulson during her near-death experience and Eli Morrow becoming swayed by the Darkhold. It all felt organic and seamless throughout – something that Agents of SHIELD hasn't always managed in the past with clunky gear changes and exposition dumps aplenty in past seasons. I am really enjoying how the series is riffing on its Season One roots with its current status-quo, yet still distinguishing itself from its tired 'SHIELD vs. Hydra' plot mechanic of the past few years. This more political side of the Humans vs. Inhumans storyline seems to be a more interesting way to explore the issue than having the Watchdogs become the 'new Hydra' – as seen with the recent storyline over on Supergirl – the Human vs. Super-Powered angle can allow television shows to interpret real-world problems like racial intolerance and hatred through a science-fiction prism. However, I don't think subtext is one of Agents of SHIELD's strengths.


Score - 9.7 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • During the flashback sequence when Lucy and Joseph Bauer are searching for the Darkhold in the former owner's house, there are some visual clues that reference Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider from the comics: the Quentin Carnival poster, a black leather jacket and a motorbike.
  • Senator Nadeer's claims of "blue-skinned men in Wyoming" during her debate references the Kree Reapers from the Season Three episode, "Failed Experiments"
  • Jeffrey Mace became famous for his heroics during the Vienna International Centre bombing, which was seen on-screen in Captain America: Civil War

Mysteries
  • Who was the previous owner of the Darkhold?
  • What exactly is the Darkhold capable of?
  • What secrets does Jeffrey Mace have regarding his heroics at the Vienna International Centre?
  • Who arranged the hit on Robbie and Gabe Reyes?
  • Why did Agent May see Coulson during her near-death experience?
  • Why is Senator Nadeer blackmailing Mace?

Next Episode - "The Good Samaritan"
The shocking origin story of Robbie's transition into Ghost Rider is revealed as the lives of Coulson and the team hang in the balance.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x03 - "Welcome to Earth"

Supergirl
Episode 2x03 - "Welcome To Earth"

Synopsis

With the President arriving at National City to sign an amnesty for all aliens living amongst human to come forward and register themselves, the tensions between human and alien reach new heights – especially after an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Kara attempts to find out more about the stranger who arrived in the Kryptonian Ship?

Review

After a corrupt Mayoral election taking place over in Gotham which saw the Penguin rising to prominence, it’s time for Supergirl to address this year’s US Presidential Election on-screen. Providing the light to Gotham’s darkness, Supergirl introduces a female President who is dedicated to improving Human-Alien relations with an amnesty bill providing protection for any aliens currently living on Earth. The Human vs. Alien plot-point is clearly going to dominate this season’s storytelling with Project Cadmus set up as a staunch anti-Alien organisation rebelling against the President’s more liberal agenda. Of course, parallels can be made to the current US climate with the anti-alien sentiment acting as a metaphor for Donald Trump’s ‘Mexican Wall’ and fear of Muslims. The political allegories, whilst well made, never dominate the narrative and the writers do a fine job at showcasing Kara’s own prejudices amongst those of her enemies – with her natural instinct to blame Mon-El for the crimes since he is a Daxamite. While it can be a bit obvious and ‘on the nose’ at times, I do like the thematic explorations that occur within the episodes.

While having a female president in the series is an obvious reference to Hilary Clinton, Lynda Carter’s President Marsdin differs from her real-life counterpart considerably and makes the character stand out from the stereotype, especially with the twist reveal at the end. The writers waste no opportunity to make in-jokes to her time as Wonder Woman in the iconic 1970s TV series. Her comment “you should see my other jet” references the character’s Invisible Jet, and the way Supergirl spun around to extinguish the flames on her costume was intentionally reminiscent of how Diana Prince would transform into Wonder Woman on-screen. I have to admit that I didn’t see the reveal that Marsdin would be an alien coming – that was one of the few twists that slipped me by – although my keen-eyed girlfriend called it moments before it happened. While it adds an interesting wrinkle to the storyline and provides motivation for the President’s actions, it does feel somewhat similar to what is happening over on Agents of SHIELD with the new Director of SHIELD working to improve Inhuman rights whilst he is an Inhuman himself.


Once again, the action sequences in this episode were exemplary and showcased a much keener cinematic vibe than seen in Season One – clearly, the move to The CW has seen the series increase its ‘superhero action’ quotient considerably. The special effects when Scorch attempted to assassinate the President were top-notch and surprisingly violent when her bodyguards were ignited in flames. I also enjoyed seeing Alex and Kara working together to defeat Scorch in the episode’s final scenes, and I wonder whether Alex will gain some kind of special abilities before the series is finished. The introduction of Maggie Sawyer seems to suggest that Alex may be exploring her sexuality this season, as there was definitely some flirting and chemistry between the DEO agent and the lesbian detective. With the Penguin coming out as gay in Gotham and Supergirl setting up Alex with a potential lesbian love interest, DC Comics is certainly embracing the LGBT community in its television shows.

This felt like a busy episode with the central plot involving the President fuelling plenty of secondary sub-plots such as James Olsen’s attempts to wrestle control of CatCo from Snapper Carr and J’onn J’onzz discovering that he might not be the only Martian left alive after all. Despite having plenty of moving parts, the episode flowed along rather nicely and never felt too cluttered, and most importantly, it proved that Supergirl could flourish without the help of her cousin. Superman’s absence was barely felt in this episode with so much going-on and plenty of hints dropped for future storylines. While this fast pace may be down to the writers wanting to quickly engage with new viewers brought over from the change in networks, it certainly seems to suit the series and allows it to nicely settle into its sophomore season. With its new status-quo already in place and some nicely developed sub-plots bubbling away, I have every faith that Supergirl is set to reach new heights during Season Two and become the breakout show it deserves to be.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Next Episode - "Survivors"
Supergirl tries to stop an alien fight club run by Roulette, whilst Hank gets to know M'Gann.

Review - Gotham: 3x06 - "Follow the White Rabbit"

Gotham
Episode 3x06 - "Follow the White Rabbit"

Synopsis

Driven to madness after the death of his sister, the Mad Hatter engages Jim Gordon in a game of cat-and-mouse that puts the women closest to him in serious danger. Meanwhile, The Penguin finds himself struggling to express his true feelings to his new love – The Riddler.

Review

There’s a hint of Die Hard With a Vengeance about this episode of Gotham as we see Jim Gordon get dragged into a game of cat-and-mouse by the Mad Hatter, rushing from pay phone to pay phone to take part in some twisted moral dilemmas. Taking up the lion’s share of the episode, this plot thread fuelled the entire episode and felt truly cinematic in scale – evoking memories of the Die Hard sequel and a hint of the Saw franchise too. With an episode littered with references to Alice in Wonderland, it came as no surprise that the final set-piece would take place at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and Benedict Samuel has done a brilliant job at portraying the unhinged hypnotist. The tension had been built up all throughout the episode, so to have either one of the women escape unscathed would have been an anti-climax. While it may be surprising that Gordon chose Vale over Thompkins, I suspect he was fully aware that the Mad Hatter would shoot whoever he chose and he was actually protecting Lee by pretending he loved Vale. I applaud the writers for actually following through with the threat and not copping out – the brutal way that the Hatter shot Vale in the gut was quite shocking and even though she’ll likely survive the wound, it was still a bold moment.

The episode was even bolder with its secondary sub-plot which had the Penguin realising that he was in love with Ed Nygma, and attempting to gain the courage to approach his friend with his feelings. While Gotham is no stranger to LGBT characters with Barbara Kean bed-hopping between male and female characters on the show, the decision to have Penguin come out as gay and potentially begin a relationship with the Riddler is ground-breaking stuff. Robin Lord Taylor has played Oswald Cobblepot as sexually ambiguous throughout the series, so this twist doesn’t feel forced or sensationalist in any way – unfortunately, it does seem that Nygma won’t be reciprocating those feelings anytime soon, especially since the writers have re-introduced Chelsea Spack as a new character, bearing a strong resemblance to the deceased Miss Kringle. It’s unclear whether Isabella will have any connections to the late Kristine Kringle, but it’s clear that the Riddler finds her attractive and will no doubt form an unhealthy relationship with his dead ex-girlfriend’s doppelganger. I wonder if this rejection will cause Penguin to revert back to his spiteful criminal ways – after all, the advice he gave the lonely boy seems to suggest that his answer to rejection is to hurt those who reject him.


This episode really benefitted from its strong focus on just these two parallel storylines with only key cast members making an appearance. I appreciated this more streamlined take on the series as sometimes less is more, and while the series does have a large ensemble cast – it doesn’t need to feature every character in every episode. The absence of Bruce, Alfred, Ivy and Selina means that those storylines can be developed in greater detail in forthcoming episodes, rather than sledge-hammered into this tight narrative of Gordon vs. The Mad Hatter. While I’m normally quick to dismiss Ben McKenzie as a one-dimensional scowler, this episode allowed the character to show a bit more range in his performance and I suspect that his failure to save the day with his typical ‘one-man army’ approach may result him in returning to the GCPD. As fun as the bounty-hunting incarnation of Jim Gordon has been, Vale said it best when she pointed out that he sucked at the job – getting the subject of his first case impaled on a pipe (Alice) and failing to even locate the second one (Ivy).

Gotham always excels when it crosses the line and shocks the audience, and this was the most shocking episode of Season Three so far. Despite its ties to established Batman continuity, the writers still find ways to slip in surprises and the revelation that the Penguin is in love with the Riddler is quite the departure from the comics, and one that I wholeheartedly support. The more the series diverts from the traditional Batman mythos, the better in my opinion as the constant nods and winks to the audience about Bruce Wayne’s destiny aren’t half as interesting as seeing genuinely shocking moments unfold on the small screen. Even though it seems the scriptwriters are going to keep the Penguin and Riddler apart – at least for the time being – it is a very bold move to take two well-established characters and interpret them in a completely different way. It feels like an organic development of the pair’s relationship and whether it becomes reciprocated or not, it is a very interesting way to explore the characters. While Valerie Vale being shot in the gut might have had the greater impact in the short-term, I suspect the reveal of the Penguin’s sexual orientation may leave the bigger impression in the long-term. Having me sat on the edge of my seat for over half the episode’s run-time ensures that “Follow the White Rabbit” thoroughly earns its 10 out of 10 score!


Score - 10 out of 10

Next Episode - "Red Queen"
After coming in contact with a substance by the hand of Mad Hatter, Jim Gordon gets led on a psychedelic trip and must confront his past, present and future. Meanwhile, Penguin struggles with Nygma's new relationship.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

2000AD Prog 2004

Prog 2004 Cover by Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison provides the pyrotechnics for this explosive front cover as he brings the devastating Straw Dogs to life. No stranger to a fire effect or two, Harrison's computer-generated artwork looks absolutely fantastic here, capturing the bombastic nature of the deadly vehicles from Savage in what that Patrick Goddard's interior artwork is unable to. As much as I love Goddard's grounded realism on the series, it's great to see Harrison cut loose and give us readers a glimpse at the fiery carnage let loose on the streets of Berlin. It's a wonderfully eye-catching cover, mixing explosions and lighting effects onto the page to create chaotic beauty.


JUDGE DREDD - ACT OF GRUD (Part 1)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Henry Flint
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After a three-parter which revealed the whereabouts of ex-Chief Judge Sinfeld following the events of “Enceladus: New Life”, Rob Williams returns to address another unresolved plot thread - namely, the fate of Judge Sam. Marooned on the Saturn Moon after saving the Big Meg from an icy alien parasite paired to the memories of the former Titan captives, Sam is eventually rescued from the planet – although it seems that the whatever intelligence was present on the Moon has followed him to the Big Meg. Instead of following up his “Enceladus” saga with another blockbuster epic, Williams instead offers up a bizarre 'whodunnit' as Judge Sam witnesses what appears to be a ghost murdering someone. It's early days yet, but the Williams droid has certainly piqued my interest with this tale.


Returning to tell the next chapter in the “Enceladus” saga is artist Henry Flint, whose artwork feels synonymous with epic storytelling. Seeing both Flint and Williams' names on the credits box for a Judge Dredd story is a surefire sign of quality and the fact the pair are following up on their ongoing narrative, which begun with “Titan”, is another reason to get excited. Flint is one of those artist who has carved out a unique visual identity that no other artist can get close to – his artwork suits the world of Judge Dredd perfectly, conveying the urban decay of Mega-City One as it lurches forward on his last legs. His recent work with Williams has been some of the best of his career, adding a true cinematic tone to some instant classic storylines. Whether “Act of Grud” builds up to another epic tale, or whether Williams opts for a more low-key denouement to the “Enceladus” saga, this first episode already has me hooked and eager to find out just what the Grud is going on...



FLESH - GOREHEAD (Part 3)
Script - Pat Mills 
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

There's a long-awaited family reunion in this latest episode of Flesh as Claw Carcer catches up with his estranged daughter, Vegas. While Pat Mills puts the father and daughter at odds in the final page cliff-hanger, I suspect that they may end up working together as, given his cynical nature, Claw Carcer is equally as anti-establishment as Vegas is. Saying that though, the teaser for the next episode reads 'Return of the Rex', so perhaps Gorehead will make his reappearance and interrupt Claw and Vegas' conversation – since this whole storyline is named after the 'deceased' dinosaur, it seems highly likely he is due a resurrection. Clint Langley continues to produce some absolutely astounding artwork on this series and the photo-realism on the character's faces is mind-blowing. I love the nuanced facial expressions that Langley puts on his subjects, injecting emotion into his panels and capturing the personality of the characters onto the page. The final panel with a scarred Claw Carver staring out to the audience as he prepares to put a bullet in his daughter is effective in sending chills down the spine, accurately capturing his mercenary nature. 



HUNTED (Part 4)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

Despite being the focus behind the early Rogue Trooper stories, the character of the Traitor General is somewhat shrouded in mystery and with this episode of Hunted, Gordon Rennie attempts to provide some motivation behind his actions that led to the Quartz Zone Massacre and the birth of the 'Rogue Trooper' himself. Presenting him as an anti-alien militant who thought that his Souther allies were not strong enough to fight alien threats, he sought to end the war with that decisive battle and instead earned Rogue's cross-hairs on his head instead. While it doesn't necessarily paint the Traitor General as sympathetic – after all, he has proven himself malicious and willing to kill anyone to achieve his aims – it does offer some much-needed backstory for the character after 35 years.


The tail-end of the episode focuses on the here-and-now and introduces a new character into the mix – one who looks like a typical 90s era X-Men character with a metal arm, huge gun and plenty of belt pouches. PJ Holden channels his inner Fabian Nicieza with this character design and I like the idea of more and more factions getting involved in this battle of wits between Rogue and the Traitor General. We already have the Southers, Norts, Rogue and the Traitor General – but now we have this mysterious bounty hunter too. Despite its 'untold stories' status, this is shaping up to be a really fun take on the Rogue Trooper mythos. I'm still not sure if it's a lost adventure from the classic era, or whether it is intended to be a retcon of the original Rogue Trooper conclusion but I am really enjoying seeing Rennie and Holden drag the reader back to Nu Earth for some good old-fashioned future warfare.



SAVAGE: BOOK 10 - THE MÄRZE MURDERER (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Patrick Goddard
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode of Savage once again pits the series' freedom-fighter hero against robotic foes, but instead of prototype Hammersteins, he finds himself up against some Transformers-style mechanoids that are able to switch from motorcycles into killing machines within seconds. It's thrilling stuff to watch Bill Savage take on foes that are overpowered and the visual of him using a grenade launcher to reduce them to piles of scrap is one of the series' highlights. Pat Mills once again splices song lyrics into his 'action sequences' which further heightens the cinematography of the strip, although I have to confess that I have no idea what the song is. I'm not much of a music fan unfortunately, but I'm guessing from the lyrics that it's "Sympathy for the Devil", or something like that? Feel free to correct me in the comments box below!


Patrick Goddard is a helluva artist, isn't he? I adore the tense grittiness of his art style and the way he can switch from a 'cold war thriller' vibe to an action-packed science-fiction tale within the space of a few panels - He is truly an ambidextrous artist, blending realism and fantasy together with ease. He is the perfect choice for this series, which offers a grounded take on an alternate Europe with the occasional science-fiction flourish here and there. Mills' script is perfectly paced and I love the new direction he has taken by having Savage attempt to overthrow the Volgans in Europe, whilst haunted by his memories of the 1999 Invasion. The Berlin setting has really reinvigorated this series, and I am really enjoying the journey as the noose tightens around Savage's neck.



COUNTERFEIT GIRL (Part 5)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo
Colours - Dom Regan
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After weeks of hints, this episode of Counterfeit Girl showcases the backstory behind Libra Kelly's hatred for the Albion Corporation and her skill for simming identities. Her father Scorpio (nice star-signs reference there) was apparently murdered by the head of the corporation after he found out she was dating his son. I'm sure there will be more to it than that, but Peter Milligan's fast-paced script makes sure that the exposition never gets too dense or slows down the action. There's a brilliant energy to this series, partly due to Milligan's bouncy 'frying pan into the fire' storytelling and partly due to Rufus Dayglo's amazing punk-rock visuals. I'm really enjoying this series, which continues to demonstrate the strength of the new series' that continue to debut in the Prog – it's not all about Judge Dredd and trotting out the popular franchises. This is a magazine built on innovative storytelling and bold, pioneering themes and Counterfeit Girl just sums up 2000AD's raison d'etre in one go - Inventive, spunky and full of attitude, this is one series you will not want to miss.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Toppling Judge Dredd off the top spot this week is Savage, thanks to Patrick Goddard’s elegant artwork which captures the hyper-kinetic violence as Bill takes on the Straw Dogs. This line-up continues to deliver an eclectic mix of thrills that tickle my frontal lobe in a variety of different ways. I’m really enjoying the densely atmospheric Flesh, the nostalgic overtones in Hunted and the lively exuberance of Counterfeit Girl, whilst the return of the Rob Williams / Henry Flint creative team on Judge Dredd is like the icing on an already sugar-laden cake. Oh, Tharg, you do know how to treat us, don’t you? It’s an often-overlooked talent, but editor Matt Smith does a tremendous job at selecting stories that go well together, much like a cook selecting the right wine and ambience for his meals. There’s not a single misstep in this collection of adventures as 2000AD continues to forge ahead towards its fortieth anniversary.

Thrill of the Week: Savage


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2004 will be available in stores on Wednesday 26th October - 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 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 14

Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 14
"Gently Pulls the Strings"
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Simon Fraser
Colours by: Gary Caldwell

Things get bloody and brutal with this penultimate issue of the Eleventh Doctor’s second year of stories as Si Spurrier returns to writing duties alongside Simon Fraser’s gorgeous artwork. Not content with the cliff-hanger ending which saw Absalom Daak shot in the back by a Dalek-infested Squire, Spurrier repeats the trick by having the self-proclaimed Dalek Killer shot again in the mid-riff. Simon Fraser’s artwork really emphasises the brutality of this sequence, much like with his work in the absolutely epic Nikolai Dante for 2000AD. Despite the apparent fatal injuries, I suspect that Daak might pull through this one as one panel shows the Doctor tinkering with one of the medical machines whilst the Squire-Dalek isn’t looking. I’m guessing that once they left the TARDIS, Daak was placed into medical stasis alongside River Song. The carnage doesn’t end there as Squire-Dalek summons the Malignant and begins to wipe out the Overcaste in an attempt to usher in a new era of Dalek supremacy with the Volatix Cabal. Things look pretty damn dire and Spurrier does a fantastic job at tying the entire year-long arc together as his antagonist fills in the blanks from the past few issues.


Fraser’s artwork is absolutely fantastic at crafting a grim, downbeat atmosphere and that talent is put to great use in this chapter of the story as the Doctor and Alice face death and defeat. I love the way that Fraser captures the manner in which the Squire’s body is reacting to the Dalek buried underneath her flesh as recognisable elements of the creature poke themselves out of her face. It’s a truly horrific image – way scarier than the Human/Dalek hybrids introduced in “Asylum of the Daleks” and Fraser’s artwork communicates the gruesome nature of such a creation. My favourite panel is where the Squire’s mouth is wide open – red raw at the edges – to reveal the familiar trim of the Dalek’s “neck”. It’s the closest that Titan Comics have ever gotten to showing a Dalek on-panel, and while I’m not sure why the comic has restricted its appearances of the infamous monsters, the restraint certainly paid off as it ensured that the reveal of the Squire-Dalek was something truly horrendous. Fraser’s artwork has a haunting quality to it, and ensures that this epic conclusion with linger in the minds of its readers for some time to come.

Even though the central mystery has been revealed, Spurrier and Fraser managed to keep the penultimate episode of this year-long story arc wholly engaging and filled to the brim with tension and horror. This has been a wonderful display of densely plotted comic-book narrative, masterfully telling the story across fifteen issues with twists and turns aplenty. This isn’t just a great Doctor Who story, it’s a great story period - do yourself a favour and pick up the trade-paperbacks.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor (Vol. 2) # 14 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!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 4x04 - "Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 4x04 - "Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire"

Synopsis

With the Watchdogs using SHIELD Intel targeting Inhuman assets, Simmons and Daisy team-up to warn their next victim: James aka Hellfire. Meanwhile, Coulson and Mack’s investigation into the mysterious ghosts leads them directly into contact with the Ghost Rider himself.

Review

After three episodes establishing Daisy’s estrangement with her former SHIELD colleagues, this episode went some way towards repairing that rift and bringing the seemingly disparate plot threads involving the Watchdogs, Ghost Rider and the Momentum Labs Ghosts together. It was quite satisfying to see the pieces come together to form something of a bigger picture, and seeing Coulson enlist both Daisy and Ghost Rider into the cause felt like a step in the right direction. Picking up on loose plot threads from the end of Season Three, Simmons and Daisy visited James (aka Hellfire) who’d been put in SHIELD’s Inhuman relocation programme and was now working in a fireworks shop – an irony that didn’t go unnoticed by the characters themselves. While his change in motivations from wanting to be an Inhuman to becoming a self-loathing Watchdog sympathiser were a bit hard to swallow, I appreciate the writer’s attempts to explain away his sudden shift in attitude. Tying his attitude shift to the withdrawal symptoms of Hive’s “sway” helped explain Daisy’s own dramatic change in personality to become Quake.

Running parallel with Simmons and Daisy’s adventure, we saw more from Mack and Coulson – who are fast becoming an effective duo – as they chased the Ghost Rider down in Lola. Obviously, budgetary constraints meant that we didn’t get to see Lola take flight and take-down the Rider’s Dodge Charger, but I liked the sudden and unexpected resolution to their car chase sequence. It was great to see Reyes teaming up with Mack and Coulson, particularly when he came up against Hellfire and used his chain against him. For fans of the Ghost Rider character, it was brilliant to see him realised on-screen with his iconic chain weapon from the comics – even though this is a different incarnation of the character, it was a nice nod to the Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch versions. I was convinced that Hellfire was going to be killed off in this episode, but the writers have spared Axel Whitehead’s character – presumably to have him reappear as a threat later on. I quite enjoy his cocky Australian attitude, and if he could be redeemed, it would be great to have him in the show on a more frequent basis.


This episode was the first in a long while to focus on Simmons as a character as I don’t think she has been given much of the spotlight since her return from Maveth early on in Season Three. It was very interesting to see the changed dynamic between her and Daisy – a far cry from their adventure in Season One’sThe Hub” where she attempted to lie to Agent Stillwell and ended up having to tranquillise him instead. This is a much more confident and self-assured version of the character, willing to deceive and break the rules. However, this may be put to the test in the next episode when she will be forced to cover up her involvement with Daisy and the truth about AIDA during one of her routine lie detection tests. It is also interesting to see how far her relationship with Fitz has developed between seasons with the pair planning to move in together and even saying ‘the L word’ to each other. Given the show’s tendency to play with audience emotions and the fact that no-one on the team is in a functional relationship, I suspect Simmons’ new job and Fitz’s relationship with Radcliffe and AIDA may drive a wedge between them.

The AIDA storyline received some more development in this episode as Radcliffe put his artificial intelligence to the test against Agent May. I was a little disappointed at how both May and Coulson failed to notice that AIDA was a robot – especially after her blunders in speech. These are meant to be experienced SHIELD agents, after all. I guess the point was to emphasise how life-like she had become, but Mallory Jansen still plays the character as being rather stiff and synthetic in tone. I’m still curious to see how this sub-plot fits into the season’s key theme of the supernatural and mysticism. Overall, this was a fire-cracker of an episode that provided some more forward momentum from the season’s main story-arc, blending the Darkhold storyline together with the show’s ongoing Watchdogs threat and reuniting the cast as one team. I’m really appreciating the fast pace to this season, thus far, and the unpredictable nature that the supernatural brings to the show. With Doctor Strange on the near horizon, I’m looking forward to seeing how the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe release impacts the world of Agents of SHIELD.


Score - 9.2 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Ghost Rider stealing and using Hellfire’s metal chain was a nice nod to the character’s weapon of choice in the comics – a flaming metal chain.

Mysteries
  • What exactly is the Darkhold, and what was Momentum Labs doing with it?
  • How did Robbie Reyes “make a deal with the Devil” for his powers?

Next Episode - "Lockup"
As Robbie Reyes struggles to control the Ghost Rider, S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrates a high-security prison to unravel the secrets that haunt them all.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Review - Gotham: 3x05 - "Anything for You"

Gotham
Episode 3x05 - "Anything for You"

Synopsis

Barely warm in his Mayoral seat and the Penguin is forced to confront the return of the Red Hood gang, unaware that the architect of his misfortune may be one of his right-hand men. Meanwhile, Bruce attempts to locate Ivy Pepper in an attempt to win over Selina.

Review

Things took a turn for the romantic in this episode of Gotham as love certainly seemed to be in the air for a number of couples. Firstly, we had Bruce Wayne confessing his feelings to Selina and having them somewhat reciprocated in return; then we have Jim and Valerie attempting to turn their ‘no strings’ relationship into something more; but most significantly, we had the ‘love triangle’ between Penguin, Riddler and Butch. While it may not have been an actual ‘love triangle’, there was a brief moment when Ed and Oswald hugged at the end of the episode when I thought we might see Penguin and Riddler become lovers – intentional or not, there’s definitely some sort of sexual tension between them, and I wonder if the writers would be daring enough to divert from canon drastically and make the two Batman villains gay. I’m not normally one to ‘ship’ characters in TV shows, but I might be willing to become a ‘Piddler’ for Penguin & Riddler!

The battle to become the Penguin’s ‘Number Two’ (what a lovely mental picture!) was the main thrust of this episode and it was great to see a ‘back to basics’ approach to the season’s storyline, moving away from Indian Hill monsters to focus on gang wars. In fact, Ed’s manipulation of events felt very much like a Season One Penguin move, further drawing similarities between the two characters. As much as I like Butch, I can’t understand why he is so subservient to the Penguin (the guy cut his hand off, for goodness sake!) and so, the results of this episode set things right for me in one sense as it put the two characters at odds. Gotham loves to twist and turn, and I have to admit that I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to Butch as he was pressured into assassinating the Penguin. While the Penguin and Riddler are ‘safe’, he is a character unique to the series and therefore, far more interesting. Much like with Chief Barnes and his infection, there is a freedom to these characters which is very appealing in a prequel show, and an area where Gotham can elicit real reactions from audiences.


This episode was definitely a return to form for the show, which was beginning to spin its wheels somewhat and touch upon old plot threads. Fuelled by the debut of the Mad Hatter two episodes, Gotham shows no signs in slowing down, even when it has to focus on its original cast. The dynamic between Penguin and Riddler is fantastic, and while Edward Cory Smith isn't quite good enough to convince the viewer that he could turn against Cobblepot - it was quite a roller-coaster of emotions. In all honesty, both Riddler and Penguin were given short shrift in the tail-end of Season Two in favour of developing Galavan and Strange as credible threats – so, their rise to prominence in this episode is something of a welcome reward for two of the series’ standout cast members. The chemistry (sexual or otherwise) between the two is fantastic, and I wonder whether the pair will remain friends throughout the series or whether they will eventually become rival crime-lords or enemies. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t much of a ‘bromance’ between the pair in the comics – but ultimately, their interests don’t clash as Riddler is more of a flamboyant super-villain, compared to Penguin’s gangster roots.

Despite a tighter focus on the episode’s central plot, there was plenty of opportunities for secondary characters to make an impact on the story. Nygma’s return to the GCPD was handled perfectly, as was his fiery interaction with Leslie Thompkins – I wonder if that slap has put her firmly in his cross-hairs now. There were also some great moments foreshadowing future episodes, such as Ivy playing about with a confused Selina, Chief Barnes’ increased strength, or the Mad Hatter’s attempts to recreate his ‘Alice’ through kidnapped victims. Obviously, all of these plot threads will develop over the coming episodes, but these ‘sneak peeks’ demonstrate the abilities of the series’ scriptwriters and how they are able to juggle multiple story-arcs without resulting in a cluttered mess. After quickly brushing the Court of Owls and Indian Hill escapees to the side, the central narrative to Gotham has actually become stronger and more reminiscent of its initial season. While I do like the goofy superpowers of Season Two, it was a somewhat jarring shift in tone for the series which had previously been rooted in realism. While it is too late for Gotham to put that genie back in the bottle, it is episodes like this one which allow the series to revisit the Machiavellian scheming and crime drama elements from its beginnings, recapturing past glories.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Next Episode - "Follow the White Rabbit"
Mad Hatter sets his eyes on his next victims, forcing Jim Gordon to make some tough decisions. Meanwhile, Penguin and Riddler's relationship continues to evolve as a familiar face comes back into Nygma's life.

Review - Supergirl: 2x02 - "The Last Children of Krypton"

Supergirl
Episode 2x02 - "The Last Children of Krypton"

Synopsis

With Superman in National City for an extended vacation, Supergirl is enjoying not being the only Kryptonian in town – however, both Alex and J'onn find the Man of Steel's presence annoying. Meanwhile, Project Cadmus finally reveals itself to the public as an anti-alien organisation, attacking Superman and Supergirl with Kryptonite-powered soldiers.

Review

After partially setting up the series' new status-quo in its Season Two opener, Supergirl continues to rearrange its cast-members with this second episode. We bid a surprisingly emotional farewell to Cat Grant, whose sudden departure is explained away as boredom with her role at the top – although it isn't particularly explained where she is headed next. It felt very inorganic and a case of behind-the-scenes drama dictating the plot, since Calista Flockhart unable to commit to the series' new shooting location of Vancouver. I'm genuinely surprised that the show didn't have Cat decide to give up the top spot in favour of mothering her two sons, since that appeared to be the trajectory she was headed on in Season One. At least she got a goodbye scene – we haven't seen anything from Maxwell Lord yet! Despite the slightly forced reason for leaving, the moments between Melissa Benoist and Calista Flockhart felt realistic and it was clear the two actresses had developed a bond. It was also telling that Cat finally started calling Kara by her real name, and I must admit that part of me wanted her to admit to Supergirl that she knew who she really was. It would have been a nice way to say farewell to the character.

Elsewhere, Superman continued to share the spotlight with his Kryptonian cousin and it seemed that he had a talent for getting up people's noses, as Cadmus, Alex and J'onn were all slightly miffed at the Man of Steel's presence. I quite liked the edgier dynamic between Kal-El and J'onn as the two clashed over the DEO's stockpile of Kryptonite, although when Winn shouted out “Superman vs. Martian Manhunter”, it made me wonder if J'onn's code-name had actually been used in the series before. As I was watching the episode, I did think Kara was acting out of character – dismissing her sister in favour of her cousin – but it did allow for the two Danvers sisters to have a huge row with each other. Their relationship is at the heart of this series, so its good to see the writers chip away at it occasionally – in fact, the way that the mysterious Cadmus scientist attempted to woo Alex over to her side makes me wonder whether there might be potential for a larger rift to occur. Clearly, the 'man vs. alien' subplot will be taking the focus in this second season with Project Cadmus taking the antagonistic role, so perhaps we will see another take on 'Alex vs. Kara' at the season's end?


After a brief appearance in last episode, John Corben received more screen-time this time around as his Kryptonite-powered alter-ego, Metallo. I didn't notice during the first episode but Frederick Schmidt, the actor who played Corben/Metallo, bore a strong resemblance to Tom Hardy – to the point where I googled his name to find out whether they were related to each other. Schmidt did a great job at portraying Metallo and I loved the design of his Kryptonite Heart as its pelted Kara and Clark with green energy. The fight sequences were spectacular, and despite rumours of a smaller budget on The CW, they felt equally as ambitious as any of the sequences from Season One. In fact, everything looks a whole lot more cinematic, and I loved that we briefly visited Metropolis for a fight sequence in Krypton Park – it enhanced the episode and made it feel like a joined-up world – much like the mention of Gotham City in the previous episode. Despite being 'killed off' at the end of this episode, I hope the writers revive Metallo for future encounters as he proved to be immensely watchable and a worthy foe for the last children of Krypton. Given Cadmus' predilection for manufacturing monsters to fight against aliens, I'm sure we'll see much more meta-human threats in upcoming episodes.

After deciding she was a reporter, Kara got a reality-check when she met her new boss Snapper Carr, who ticked every stereotype for 'grouchy editor' that ever existed. Obviously designed to reset Kara's work-life back to square one after the relationship between her and Cat had mellowed out, it is interesting to note how Kara's life now closely resembles Clark's. With everyone in their new roles, the series feels retooled and ready to find its new voice amongst the other 'Arrow-verse' shows on The CW...Oh wait, we forgot about James Olsen... and it seems the writers did too, until he turned up near the end of the episode claiming to be the new boss of CatCo – despite having no qualifications, no experience and no personality. It honestly felt like the writers had to do something with the character so they slung him into the only empty space in the show. No longer a viable love interest, it seems they are going to attempt to reposition him as the 'angel' to Snapper Carr's 'devil' – no doubt, offering sagely advice in the same way Cat once did. Despite the occasion moment when it was clear that 'behind-the-scenes' events had dictated plot decisions, this was a great sophomore episode for Supergirl's second season that deftly set up the key theme for the remainder of the season and introduced a brand-new organisation to compete against the DEO. There's still plenty to like here as the show embarks on a new era of greatness.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Next Episode - "Welcome to Earth"
Supergirl and the DEO are assigned to protect the President when an attack on her causes 'alien vs. human rights' in National City to heat up. Alex investigates the case with Maggie Sawyer while Kara fears Mon-El may be responsible.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

2000AD Prog 2003

Prog 2003 Cover by Ben Willsher

Ben Willsher is on cover-duty this week with this stunning Rogue Trooper piece, which captures the frenetic energy of the series perfectly. Willsher's interpretation of the Genetic Infantryman and his three bio-chip buddies is spot-on, carrying on the same wave of nostalgia that was unleashed back in Prog 2000. I love the attention to detail with barbed wire and bodies littering the battlefield and a Nort Soldier becoming exposed to the planet's poisonous gases when his air supply is damaged – it really sums up the series “War is Hell” message. Even though the focus of Hunted is firmly on the Traitor General and his attempts to leave Nu Earth, it's hugely satisfying to see that Rogue will be a prominent part of the series.


JUDGE DREDD - GET SIN (Part 3)
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Trevor Hairsine & Barry Kitson
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Rather surprisingly, “Get Sin” comes to a swift conclusion this Prog as Dredd, Anderson and the rest of his strike force make their escape from the Sov Prison. Despite the fast-paced nature of this concluding episode, Rob Williams' script never feels rushed and instead spends the right amount of time with each scene to maximise the tension and peril that the characters find themselves in. Even the last-minute save from Anderson flows nicely and avoids feeling like a 'deus-ex-machina', allowing Williams to provide a fun pay-off to the threat of flying drones waiting for our heroes at the end of the mission.


The artwork from Trevor Hairsine and Barry Kitson ensures that the action sequences become nail-bitingly tense, especially with Dredd desperately barking his orders at Anderson. I did notice, however, that a few panels were repeated (or zoomed-in) throughout this episode, and it did take me out of the story sometimes. That said, Hairsine and Kitson have done a tremendous job with this three-part storyline, capturing the espionage angle perfectly and also the beauty of the Siberia setting. This was a great way to tie up the loose ends from “Enceladus: New Life”, and I'm glad that Williams kept former Chief Judge Sinfeld alive at the end of the storyline.



FLESH - GOREHEAD (Part 2)
Script - Pat Mills 
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After focusing on Claw Carver’s motivations last Prog, Pat Mills turns his attentions to the other stalwart from the Flesh series: Earl Reagan. Presented as a ‘boy scout’ compared to Carver’s bad boy personality, we see Reagan avenging the deaths of his friends with graphic ferocity as Clint Langley’s haunting artwork brings the violence to life. Once again, the script was somewhat reflective and served mainly to reintroduce the character to audiences through a brief vignette instead of actually developing the plot any further. Three episodes in and the story feels somewhat static, although with the promise of an episode focused on Vegas Carver – the target of Reagan and Carver’s hunt -  perhaps we will see the narrative develop further. Even when the story is spinning its wheels, it remains a beautifully drawn strip with Langley’s realistic designs of both the human and dinosaurs ensuring that the action sequences have some ‘real bite’!



HUNTED (Part 3)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden's inverted tale of Rogue Trooper continues, and this time we get an extended glimpse at Rogue himself. Seeing Rogue, Helm, Gunnar and Bagman working together is a nice touch of nostalgia as Rennie accurately captures the old-school Rogue Trooper style. Clearly, the Traitor General plans to lure Rogue into a trap but I don't think either side is expecting the Nort army to get involved in the action – in fact, there was an additional surprise for the reader as Atalia Jaegir makes a cameo in the final few panels. Presumably this sequence is set before her current adventures and I wonder if we'll see her fateful encounter with Rogue, previously teased in an episode of her own series. Even if she doesn't make another appearance beyond this cameo, it's a great little easter egg and another way to strengthen Jaegir's connection to the Rogue Trooper universe.


It was absolutely fantastic to see PJ Holden's take on Rogue, channelling the character's classic design through his own art style. I loved the dynamic action of Holden's panels, making use of onomatopoeia during explosions to emphasise the chaos. He has a strong penchant for cinematic storytelling, utilising “camera angles” to their maximum to create a sense of movement and personality to the narrative. While this version of Nu Earth differs somewhat to the sulphur and fire ever-present in Simon Coleby's work on Jaegir, colourist Len O'Grady manages to evoke the same sense of polluted atmosphere through his thick green fog that clings to floor in every panel. Overall, this was a strong installment of Hunted – rewarding loyal Rogue Trooper fans with a slice of old-school Nu Earth action. I'm curious to see where this series is heading, and whether we may see a retcon of the final classic Rogue Trooper stories or a deeper connection to Jaegir.



SAVAGE: BOOK 10 - THE MÄRZE MURDERER (Part 3)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Patrick Goddard
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The noose tightens around Bill Savage’s neck in this latest episode of Savage, which sees the Volgan police resume their investigation into the Marze Murderer. After a slow-burn start, Pat Mills delivers some high-octane thrills as Savage finds himself against two futuristic robots known as Straw Dogs. The move to Berlin has given Savage a completely different tone to previous books, reminiscent somewhat of Cold War thrillers. Patrick Goddard’s immensely terrific work on art duties captures that European tone with ease, especially the sequence where Bill meets with his handler outside a Russian memorial. It feels so incredibly cinematic, you could almost see the cold breath coming out of their mouths. When things go fatally wrong at the meet-up, Goddard gets to demonstrate his skill with action sequences – again, capturing that Cold War spy thriller vibe as the Straw Dogs race onto the scene. Mills’ script is top notch here, strengthened by the change of location and more introspective start to the series. Even though elements of past stories are being retread in this chapter of the Savage saga, Mills and Goddard manage to keep things fresh and exciting throughout.



COUNTERFEIT GIRL (Part 4)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo
Colours - Dom Regan
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Infected with a deadly and surprisingly vocal virus, Libra Kelly undertakes a variety of exotic alternative therapies to cure her illness. Peter Milligan takes us on a tour of his wild imagination as Libra has a face-mask made from telepathic worms, some soul shocking, a touch of neural cleansing and most dramatically, some layer therapy – designed to strip away her false identities and revert her back to ‘factory settings’. This series is tremendously fun and quite infectious (no pun intended) in its enthusiastic take on the neon-tinged future that awaits us all – it’s clear that Milligan is enjoying his time world-building this strip and I love the chaotic and inventive ideas that litter the narrative – it definitely hearkens back to his days on the equally madcap Hewligan’s Haircut.


Rufus Dayglo’s energetic artwork propels this storyline along at a rocket pace, bringing out the charm and craziness of Milligan’s script with ease. Dayglo’s work is the perfect pairing for this series and it’s hard to imagine anyone else working on the character – credit must also go to Dom Regan and his spectacular colouring work on this episode. The world that the three of them have created is so vivid and mind-blowing that it feels like it is leaping off the page – you can almost smell the sleaziness of this seedy sex-shop laden district. With an effective internal monologue narrating the series, Milligan ensures that the reader connects to Libra Kelly almost instantly, seeing the person behind the many names and identities. There’s also a wonderfully laid-back approach to the storytelling here as Milligan drops morsels about the character’s past here and there, without dumping a mountain of exposition onto the reader. This series is fast becoming a favourite of mine, with such striking visuals and a bonkers script to go along with it.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

With a fast-paced and action-packed conclusion, Judge Dredd once again takes the prize of “Thrill of the Week” as Rob Williams, Trevor Hairsine and Barry Kitson deliver an awesome three-parter storyline. There wasn't a misstep in the whole three episodes, and it was hugely satisfying to see Williams tie up some of the loose ends from his “Enceladus” epic. The rest of the Prog flows nicely with an eclectic mix of classic and modern tales, mish-mashed together to cater to all tastes. I love the juxtaposition of old and new seen in all the stories: we have classic series Flesh revitalised with modern computer-generated artwork from Clint Langley; a fresh take on Rogue Trooper from Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden, and brand-new adventures from Savage – another Prog 1 stalwart revisited. Despite the references to past stories, each of these serials remain accessible and engaging to old and new readers alike. 2000AD has been at its creative zenith for years now, and with each fresh batch of thrills, it never fails to impress!

Thrill of the Week: Judge Dredd


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2003 will be available in stores on Wednesday 19th October - 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 - Torchwood # 2

Torchwood # 2
"World Without End" - Part 2 (of 4)
Written by: John Barrowman & Carole Barrowman
Art by: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours by: Marco Lusko

In an attempt to better understand the story being told in this comic, I purchased “Exodus Code” - the novel from Carole and John Barrowman which introduces the Ice Maiden and its crew into the Torchwood universe. I'm only three-quarters of the way through the book, but it has definitely made it easier to follow the plot and connect with these new characters – although it shouldn't have been necessary. Possibly as a reaction to the criticism of the first issue, Titan Comics provides a lengthy recap page at the front of this issue, complete with plenty of character biographies to help acquaint readers with this new cast of characters. While the opening issue of this series felt overwhelmed with constant scene changes and multiple narratives, this second issue slows the pace down considerably and focuses on the core Torchwood group on the Ice Maiden and the murder mystery occurring at Torchwood House, with the possibility of the pair connecting together in the next issue. Things even slow down long enough for the team to enjoy a cup of tea!


Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano continue to capture the dark, brooding nature of Torchwood with their artwork, although sometimes the action set-pieces feel a bit stilted and hard to follow. During the quieter scenes, the artists do much better and as mentioned before, the thicker lines on their art style reminds me of 2000AD artist, Dom Reardon and his wonderful work on Caballistics Inc. Definitely worth a read if you're a fan of Torchwood! This issue also introduces Vlad - a character I've been reading about in “Exodus Code” - and it's interesting to see the artists model him on Sean Bean, giving him a gruff and dangerous personality. It's quite a departure from the version I had built up in my mind's eye whilst reading, but I do like this interpretation of the character.

While this series is still rough around the edges in places, this second outing is a strong improvement on the first issue as Carole and John Barrowman streamline the narrative and spent a bit more time developing the characters. It seems the transition from novel-writing to comic-writing hasn't been an entirely smooth process, but this second issue definitely shows promise and I look forward to seeing this new team of Torchwood operatives being fleshed out and put through their paces in future episodes.


Score - 7.7 out of 10

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

Review - Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 4 (of 5)

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 4 (of 5)
"Supremacy of the Cybermen" - Part 4 (of 5)
Written by: George Mann & Cavan Scott
Art by: Ivan Rodriguez & Walter Geovanni
Colours by: Nicola Righi

Things take a deadly turn for the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors as their various timelines begin to crumble around them and each incarnation finds themselves assimilated into the Cybermen’s hive-mind. With a reset button no doubt waiting in the wings, Cavan Scott and George Mann have some fun with the ‘doomed’ timelines featuring the earlier incarnations of the Doctor, testing each of them to limit. Even though these tragic events are destined to be undone, there is something chilling about seeing the Ninth Doctor blowing up the Earth to prevent the Cybermen from accessing it, or the Tenth Doctor merging with a Cyber-King to prevent it from attacking the Sontarans. I suspect that somehow the actions of these Doctors will somehow have some ripple effect that will allow the Twelfth Doctor to succeed against his foes – or perhaps the technology that Rassilon has implemented in the Eye of Harmony may provide the solution to undoing all of the Cybermen’s work.


Ivan Rodriguez and Walter Geovanni do a superb job of capturing the desperation and emotion in each section of this multi-layered story, particularly in the Tenth Doctor’s chapter. The pained and determined expression on his face after he thinks Gabby and Cindy have died feels utterly authentic to the character and David Tennant’s portrayal of him. There’s plenty going on in this penultimate issue and both artists rise to the challenge with confidence. While the multi-narrative structure of this event has slowed the pace down at times, it remains an effective and innovative way to tell a multi-Doctor storyline without having the characters meet. Evoking memories of the universe-ending climax to “The Pandorica Opens”, this penultimate episode certainly increases the tension to unbearable levels and I cannot wait to see how Scott and Mann intend to resolve this truly epic cliff-hanger in the space of one issue. It’s a tall task, but I have every faith in the two writers after their amazing work in their individual Doctor Who titles.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 4 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!

Review - Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 10

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 10
"Playing House" (Part 2 of 2)
Written by: George Mann
Art by: Rachael Stott
Colours by: Rodrigo Fernandes

Taking the ‘Haunted House’ trope and subverting it nicely with a dash of Cluedo, Labyrinth and the Eleventh Doctor episode “Hide”, George Mann creates a thrilling Twelfth Doctor adventure that leaps off the page with energy and excitement. I was particularly impressed with how well-developed the secondary characters were, especially the Mother searching for her husband and children. It was exactly the sort strong supporting cast that we’re used to seeing in Doctor Who, and it was great to see Mann capture that in his script. Talking of supporting cast-members, Hattie’s time in the TARDIS comes to a conclusion somewhat sooner than expected as George Mann hands the reigns back to Robbie Morrison for the remainder of the Year Two series. Even though her tenure as companion was quite brief, I found her to be very fun and different from Clara Oswald – mainly due to the fact she came from a colony in the future instead of modern-day Earth. While the first year of Twelfth Doctor adventures had a ‘season arc’ involving the Hyperions, this second year feels a bit more scattered in its approach with no connecting tissue linking the stories – this isn’t a negative – but considering the tighter story-arcs seen in Titan Comics’ other Doctor Who series, it is a noticeable change of pace. Perhaps when Mann takes over full-time for Year Three, there will be a more visible theme to the stories and stronger continuity in-series.


With some magnificent double-page spreads that look like an M.C. Escher painting on acid, Rachael Stott confidently takes on the challenge posed by Mann’s complicated script, ensuring that the story remains easy to follow, yet able to communicate a sense of wonder with its visuals. Clearly a die-hard fan of the series, Stott pops in some lovely little Easter eggs into her artwork – did you spot the K1 Robot from the Fourth Doctor debut serial, “Robot”? Her take on the Twelfth Doctor is fantastic, and she consistently finds dynamic ways to depict him on-panel, capturing the character’s energy with ease. She’s a great fit for this series, and it must be a real thrill for her to be creating brand-new Doctor Who adventures ahead of the latest series.

Since the departure of Clara, the Twelfth Doctor series has felt rejuvenated and full of potential and the promise of another new companion ensures that the series will keep moving forward. It’s great that Titan Comics is here to fill-in this unbearable wait for new Doctor Who episodes, giving us a glimpse into the Doctor’s post-Clara life, before he meets Bill in Season Ten. As the ‘flagship series’ in the Doctor Who range, this is an utterly vital purchase for fans wanting to continue the story beyond “The Husbands of River Song” – with next issue offering yet another jumping-on point, there really is no excuse to miss out!


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 10 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 15

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 15
"Old Girl: The Return of Sutekh" - Part 3 (of 5)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Giorgia Sposito
Colours by: Arianna Florean

After a brief diversion featuring the Doctor and Cindy on Primordial Gallifrey, which is sure to have ramifications for the characters later on, Nick Abadzis returns his focus to Anubis and Sutekh as the elder Osirian begins to exert his evil influence over his son. Recalling elements of the iconic “Pyramid of Mars” serial, but with a more science-fiction based setting, Abadzis quickly establishes Sutekh as a powerful threat as he unleashes a horde of alien monsters into the universe. Taking place simultaneously with the events of the preceding issue, the Doctor is featured in a much reduced role – appearing only at the end when the proverbial hits the fan. Despite this, the issue manages to maintain its momentum and engage the reader throughout, thanks to the intensity of Sutekh’s resurrection and immediate takeover. As a long-running sub-plot since the end of Year One, it is very satisfying to see the Tenth Doctor comic series finally dealing with the Osirians and Sutekh, especially since it hasn’t been the most thrilling story-arc at times – personally, I find myself more engaged with the Time Sentinels and the Untempered Schism, which will hopefully play more of a part in these final episodes and the inevitable Year Three.


Giorgia Sposito once again demonstrates her innate talent for storytelling, building up an increasing sense of dread as Anubis begins his transformation into Sutekh’s puppet. Throughout the issue she manages to make the Osirian look formidable, alongside his familiar robotic assistants, and her solid panel work ensures that the story flows along nicely. I particularly liked her double-page spread revealing the alien monsters descending from the sky to prey on the Doctor and his companions, especially the dragon-like creature. She definitely has a talent for monster design, yet remains consistent with her interpretations of characters and monsters from the television series. Overall, this was a vital chapter in the “Old Girl” story-arc as Abadzis and Sposito work seamlessly together to introduce the true threat, or “Big Bad”, that has haunted the Tenth Doctor throughout this run of adventures. There’s a real sense of epic cinematography to this storyline that both artist and writer have cultivated throughout the past few issues – this is clearly building towards a dramatic climax and with the stakes raised higher than ever, I’m eagerly anticipating Abadzis’ wrap-up over the final two issues. Not afraid to take the Doctor, or his fans, out of their comfort zones, the Tenth Doctor series is an exhilarating take on Doctor Who mythology, revisiting classic storylines in completely different ways.


Score - 9.0 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 15 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website. Be sure to put in a standing order for the upcoming issues in the series when you pick up your copy!
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