Wednesday, 30 November 2016

2000AD Prog 2009

Prog 2009 Cover by Staz Johnson

This week’s Prog sports a great, but slightly generic, image of Judge Dredd pointing his lawgiver at the reader. Staz Johnson does a brilliant job of capturing the energy of the shot, and I like his take on Dredd a lot, especially his attention to detail on the futuristic décor of a Mega-City One block. The colours from Gary Caldwell help the image pop out of the page, and by shading in his face, it draws the readers eye to the area where the barrel of a lawgiver awaits them. It’s an excellent example of the standard “Dredd in the middle of a gunfight” motif, but lacks the same originality seen in Clint Langley’s recent Flesh covers.


JUDGE DREDD - THE CUBE ROOT OF EVIL (Part 3)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Colours - John Charles
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Arthur Wyatt’s darkly comic tale of forced cannibalism concludes this Prog, and while it lacks any real surprises, it delivers a solid ending to this three-part storyline. I particularly liked the way that Wyatt experimented with his narrative, making use of flashbacks to punctuate the story and provide context to Bierce’s actions in the present-day. Ultimately, the character is somewhat sympathetic – driven to cannibalism out of necessary, but continuing to take part in the act because her machines transforms the organic material into something delicious. It’s a real Soylent Green moment, and I like the subtle nod to Mads Mikkelsen – lead actor on the recent Hannibal TV series – a nice Easter egg for fans, without being an obvious distraction from the story itself.


Jake Lynch concludes this storyline in fine style, flexing his artistic muscles with an explosive action sequence. I really enjoy the way that Lynch is willing to experiment with his layouts and artwork, such as the transition from Bierce’s rescue and her product going on-sale in supermarkets occurring in the same panel. While I wasn’t keen on John Charles’ choice of purple skies for the initial installment, my opinion has softened with this final episode as the colour choice suits the dark and uncertain nature of the ending as Bierce takes to the streets, scavenging supplies from unfortunate robots to rebuild her machine. While the story lacks any long-term consequences, it was a fun little three-parter to fill the gap between the series’ longer-form story-arcs.



FLESH - GOREHEAD (Part 8)
Script - Pat Mills 
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Pat Mills goes all-in with his Western references in this penultimate episode of Flesh as the Beauty, the Beast and the Bastard come face-to-face with Pastor Sunday. Artist Clint Langley nails that Sergio Leone atmosphere with that fantastic double-page spread, littered with close-up panels of the characters eyes and hands that mirrors Leone’s distinctive directorial style. The resulting tension is palpable, and unsurprisingly the Beast wins out, leading to a confrontation between Beauty and the Bastard. Mills decides to play with his audience here, leaving the fate of Claw and Vegas ambiguous as Reagan shouts down the communicator for confirmation. Personally, I suspect that Claw has done the right thing and let his daughter escape, using a misleading gunshot to sow confusion amongst the Trans-Time staff monitoring the airwaves. Despite his hard exterior, his family clearly mean something to him otherwise he wouldn’t have hunted down Pastor Sunday to get revenge on his wife’s murder. The question is, is Vegas as sentimental as her father? This is a great penultimate episode, and hopefully next Prog’s finale will provide us with crucial answers about which Carver, if any, has survived…



HUNTED (Part 9)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

The constant machinations and web of deceit that follows the Traitor General catches up with him in this final episode of Hunted as his plans are thwarted by the emotional backlash of the women he has wronged during the series. As everything crumbles around him, the Traitor General showcases his innate ability for survival and his capacity for cruelness as he attacks Cochran and leaves her to die. The major difference between Rogue and the Traitor General is highlighted at the end, when he rescues Cochran from certain death instead of pursuing his mortal enemy. It’s a nice ending to the narrative, resetting the pieces into place and fans of the original series already know that the General eventually gets his comeuppance. Switching the perspective and focusing on the antagonist was a stroke of genius, adding a whole new dimension to the storytelling that really stood out from other attempts at ‘untold tales’ of the Rogue Trooper world.


I’ve really enjoyed Gordon Rennie’s script on this – keeping the series fast-paced and exciting, despite the fact that it is technically a flashback. At times, I was almost expecting this to be a revision of the original Rogue Trooper continuity and I would have happily have welcomed a twist-ending where the Traitor General defeats Rogue, akin to the Elseworlds stories from DC or the What If? tales from Marvel. PJ Holden’s artwork has been fantastic throughout, injecting a healthy dose of energy and enthusiasm into this cat-and-mouse game between deadly enemies. While it would have been nice to see more about the other ‘contestants’ taking part in the hunt for the Traitor General, it was fun to see a nod to JaegirRennie’s other Nu Earth series. I’m not sure if this was intended as a one-off, or a possible new recurring series – but I really enjoyed this reinterpretation of the Rogue Trooper series and would love to see the concept revisited again in the future.



SAVAGE: BOOK 10 - THE MÄRZE MURDERER (Part 9)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Patrick Goddard
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Action drives the narrative of this penultimate episode of Savage as Patrick Goddard takes ahold of the reins from writer Pat Mills and delivers a pulse-pounding tale of man versus machine amongst the graves of the fallen. Goddard once again displays his aptitude for clear, concise storytelling without sacrificing the nail-biting action that the series is known for. I love the cinematic feel to this series, which swallows all of the emotion and atmosphere of those classic 70s spy thrillers and spits it out with a wonderful science-fiction twist. I was so spellbound by the work that Goddard has done on this series that I would love to give him a blog reviewer’s equivalent of a standing ovation…which might just end up being me typing the word FANTASTIC in all-caps.


Pat Mills’ script continues to wring the 1970s nostalgia out of every panel, bringing the classic Invasion storyline to life in a fresh and exciting way. While it has gotten more sophisticated in its telling with political machinations and satirical references to real-world events, it still is a boy’s war comic at heart and Mills just spoils us all with episodes such as this one where he lets all hell break loose. It’s really interesting to see this series running alongside Flesh – both series appeared in Prog 1 but there is still plenty of mileage there. Even though 2000AD has grown up and is approaching its forties, it still has that cheeky, subversive glint in its eye and its capacity to entertain has just grown tenfold! This is a magazine that has grown up with its audience, delivering the same classic thrills but with more substance behind them.



FUTURE SHOCKS - RETURN OF THE REVOLUTIONARIES
Script - Rory McConville
Art - Eoin Coveney
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Parodying a very famous science-fiction film saga, this Future Shock from Rory McConville and Eoin Coveney is a wonderfully cheeky look at an alternative ending to Star Wars: A New Hope. Toying with the familiar trope of rebels versus the empire, McConville provides a more grounded look at life aboard a Death Star-esque base – it is reminiscent of the hypothetical situation posited by Kevin Smith in his classic film, Clerks, about the various independent contractors working on the Death Star who'd died alongside it. McConville's script is full of wit – much like his previous Future Shocks – and he has demonstrated a keen understanding of the format since winning ThoughtBubble's Portfolio competition in 2015. Coveney's artwork is fantastic, offering an unparalleled level of detail – especially on the panels that depict the Death Star-esque base from the outside. Coveney is great at bringing facial expressions to life and that skill is masterfully used in those final panels when the realisation sets in for our unlucky protagonist. This is a great little Future Shock, and just further cements my opinion that we need more stories from both of these creators in the Prog!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This was a solid penultimate issue to this current run of stories, enhanced by the addition of a well-timed Future Shock to capitalise on all the Star Wars: Rogue One chatter. Savage remains the standout thrill from the pack, but boy, was it closely followed by that brilliantly constructed Future Shock by Rory McConville and Eoin Coveney. While part of me was hoping for some bold shocking revisionist element to Hunted, it ended with a strong note and whether it was a one-off tale or the beginning of more Rogue Trooper adventures from the Traitor General's POV, it was a thrilling adventure that had me gripped week after week.

With one Prog remaining until the end-of-year special, Tharg once again dropped some hints at what we can expect in Prog 2011 – and we're going to see the return of The Order – one of my favourite series from the past few years. Looking ahead a bit further, and news broke online about the contents of the 40th birthday Prog, and it looks like we're going to see a return from Nikolai Dante from original creators, Robbie Morrison and Simon Fraser. Whether it is a one-off special, or another series, I am absolutely overjoyed at this news – even if it renders my complete collection of graphic novels somewhat incomplete! I literally cannot wait to see what the Russian Rogue is up to, and it just proves that you should always expect the unexpected from 2000AD!

Thrill of the Week: Savage


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2009 will be available in stores on Wednesday 30th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Review - Torchwood # 3

Torchwood # 3
"World Without End" - Part 3 (of 4)
Written by: John Barrowman & Carole Barrowman
Art by: Antonio Fuso & Pasquale Qualano
Colours by: Marco Lusko

This penultimate issue of Torchwood’s first volume suffers from many of the same problems that has plagued this series from the beginning – namely, the pacing. Having read most of Carole and John Barrowman’s book, “Exodus Code” – which this comic follows on from – I can see a lot of their novel writing style here in their comic book scripts, and unfortunately the two techniques don’t flow together well. In novel format, the constant scene changes adds an intriguing sense of pace with chapters dedicated to specific plot threads that come together to form a larger narrative – however, in a monthly comic book, it comes across as a muddied story with too much going on at once. I have to applaud the Barrowmans for creating multiple, engaging mysteries but it can be frustrating when the various storylines cannibalise each other for dominance in the issue. The main focal point of the issue should be on Captain Jack Harkness and the crew of the Ice Maiden, but they seem relegated to the back-burner in this issue for a focus on the events unfolding in Torchwood House and with Captain James. Rather annoyingly, both of those alternate story-arcs end with mysterious figures that aren’t revealed to the reader – it’s this staccato approach to the storytelling which weakens what could have been a thrilling adventure.


The art from Antonio Fuso and Pasquale Qualano remains top-notch and despite the differences in style between the two artists, they are relatively compatible as they work together to produce the issue. Both artists make use thick dark lines, which helps emphasise the grittier tone of Torchwood compared to the more fairy-tale nature of Doctor Who. Fuso and Qualano manage to capture that “black ops” feel to the series, especially in the scenes set aboard the Ice Maiden – you can almost imagine the salty sea air and the rusting metal of the cabins when reading the page. The likenesses, whilst not photo-realistic, manage to evoke memories of Eve Myles and John Barrowman’s performances and unsurprisingly, Barrowman knows how to write Jack Harkness to a tee, having lived inside the characters head for over a decade through the various television and audio adventures. While this series does have its flaws, the compelling mysteries at the heart of the story ensure that it is worth persevering with the clunky narrative – after three issues, the story is becoming clearer and easier to follow as the three distinct storylines begin to coalesce. With one episode left, it seems highly likely that this will end up being a prelude to the next volume of adventures, and I think when it is all collected in graphic novel format, it’ll be a lot more coherent and enjoyable for Torchwood fans to get to grips with.


Score - 7.8 out of 10

Torchwood # 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 series when you pick up your copy!

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

Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 12
"Terror of the Cabinet Noir" (Part 2 of 3)
Written by: Robbie Morrison
Art by: Mariano Laclaustra
Colours by: Carlos Cabrera

The Twelfth Doctor's adventures in 17th century France continue as he and new companion, Julie D'Aubigny, attempt to find out more about the sinister darkness consuming the high ranking officials in King Louis XIV's court. Robbie Morrison taps into a period of history that I was largely unfamiliar with, and creates a story so enthralling that it makes me hit Wikipedia to find out more about these real-life figures. If only my history teacher could have made learning this fun! My only experience with this era in French history is the equally fictional The Three Muskeeteers by Alexandre Dumas, and it's great fun to see the Doctor embroiled in this period of swashbuckling adventure, accompanied by a feisty female protagonist. Morrison does a great job at delivering the necessary exposition to explain how Cardinal Richelieu has tapped into the inter-dimensional energy that has extended his life beyond his original date of death – it never feels forced and flows naturally alongside the plot. Once again, Mariano Laclaustra switches art styles to depict the flashbacks, bringing an interesting 'sketchbook' narrative into play that helps distinguish the past from the present and injects a palpable feeling of 'storytelling' to events.


Laclaustra's artwork is simply breathtaking throughout this storyline, and every panel is rich with atmosphere, conjuring up the darkness and suspicion of the era. Even in the quieter moments within the TARDIS, Laclaustra experiments with his artwork adding visual effects such as blurring to remove the focus from the foreground when the Doctor and Julie examine the sliver of dark matter. Laclaustra does a great job with the interior of the TARDIS, using various light filters to exaggerate the gadgetry and illuminous nature of the time machine. It's a great juxtaposition to witness his artwork transition between these futuristic settings into the low-tech world of 17th Century Paris. His likeness of the Doctor is staggeringly realistic, and partnered with Morrison's authentic dialogue – this is the perfect antidote for those Doctor Who withdrawals since last Christmas. I'm a huge fan of the historical storylines in the Doctor Who universe, and I really admire the talent of writers who are able to weave a thrilling adventure in amongst the established lore of the time period. If you've been curious what the Doctor has been up to throughout 2016 whilst he has been off our TV screens, then this is the place to go to find out. Absolutely top-notch storytelling and one of those tales that you'd swear you'd seen on the TV before.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 12 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 3rd Doctor # 3 (of 5)

Doctor Who: The 3rd Doctor # 3 (of 5)
"The Heralds of Destruction" - Part 3 (of 5)
Written by: Paul Cornell
Art by: Christopher Jones
Colours by: Hi-Fi

Wow, I did not see that coming at all. Paul Cornell demonstrates his capacity to surprise as he reaches deep into Doctor Who's history for an obscure slice of continuity, revealing the architect of the Third Doctor's troubles to be Ramon Salamander – the Second Doctor's doppelganger from the serial, “The Enemy of the World”. It's a brilliantly bold choice of villain, and a lovely way to fool the readers into expecting a “The Three Doctors” reunion, but instead getting the return of Salamander instead. However, Salamander's appearance certainly leaves us with plenty of unanswered questions, such as how did he survive being expelled into the Time Vortex, and how does he know about the Second Doctor and the Time Lords? I'm sure Cornell will provide us with these much-needed answers in the remaining issues of the miniseries. Throughout the adventure, Cornell's script remains utterly authentic to the era – capturing the vocal stylings of all the main characters with ease, so much so that you can actually hear the likes of Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney and Roger Delgado reading the lines out loud in your head. With most of the cast from this era no longer with us, it is particularly special to be able to experience this 'untold story' with them.


Christopher Jones' amazing artwork is the perfect accompaniment to Paul Cornell's pitch-perfect recreation of the Third Doctor's era. Jones manages to evoke memories of that classic period in Doctor Who history with his startlingly accurate renderings of the various actors from that era. His take on Roger Delgado is simply amazing – capturing his micro-expressions and body language alongside his actual likeness. I'm a huge fan of the rivalry between his incarnation of the Master and Jon Pertwee's Doctor, so its great to see a double-page spread dedicated to the Doctor and the Master as they engage in a bit of Venusian Aikido, Martian Kendo and Mercurian Kung Fu. This miniseries is a wonderful trip down memory lane for fans of the Third Doctor era, and while Cavan Scott has been exploring this time period in his brilliant Ninth Doctor series, Cornell and Jones nail that real sense of nostalgia in a much more effective manner with their flawless blend of art and script. Throwing Salamander into the mix just sends this series up into the stratosphere – it has the perfect mix of UNIT espionage, classic monsters and flamboyant arch-villains. Three issues in, and this series has achieved 'Ten out of Ten' scores with every installment. This is the closest thing to perfection to come out of Titan Comics' Doctor Who line so far! No need to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow with this one, Doctor...


Score - 10 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor # 3 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x07 - "The Darkest Place"

Supergirl
Episode 2x07 - "The Darkest Place"

Synopsis

Kidnapped and depowered by Cadmus, Mon-El and Kara must rely on each other for help in order to escape from their dire fate. J’onn experiences curious side-effects from his recent blood transfusion that leads him to discover a terrible truth about M’Ghan. Meanwhile, a rival vigilante with a thirst for blood is causing problems for James Olsen in his Guardian identity.

Review

Things took a dark turn with this appropriately-named episode of Supergirl as Cadmus made its presence known by kidnapping both Mon-El and Kara. With Supergirl depowered and Mon-El suffering from lead poisoning after a gunshot to the leg, things looked genuinely bleak for the pair of heroes and it was difficult to see Kara in such a vulnerable position. The setting of an abandoned warehouse, riddled with dank corridors and makeshift cell-blocks was suitably grim and really contributed to the downbeat tone of this episode. It was also interesting to see the real Hank Henshaw make an appearance as the Cyborg Superman – finally realising the character’s comic book destiny after the Season One misdirect with J’onn Jonzz. It’s interesting to see David Harewood tackling the dual sides of the character – putting a subtle inflection on the anger as both versions of Henshaw leapt into battle this episode. I do wonder whether the reappearance of Henshaw will lead to J’onn adopting a new identity with Harewood becoming Cyborg Superman full-time. Hopefully this isn’t the case as I like his stern, yet lovable take on the Martian Manhunter and his human identity.

The revelation that his White Martian blood transfusion was effectively changing him into a White Martian himself provided further evidence that we might be saying goodbye to David Harewood in his Martian Manhunter form. Understandably, he was a bit pissed off that his only connection to his people was a fraud and not only that, but she’d infected him with a virus that would strip him of his very identity. With so much of J’onn’s character rooted in his identity as the last Green Martian alive, taking this from him would be a devastating blow and I have no idea how he will react, especially if he also gains the White Martian’s temperament.


With the increased focus on The Guardian and his vigilantism on the streets of National City, there was a nice grounded-feel to the episode’s action sequences that felt reminiscent of the Batman franchise. In fact, the whole episode felt reinvigorated with a frenetic energy that extended beyond the gritty, street-level superheroics – the opening conversation at the alien bar had the camera moving around the cast in a 360-degrees circle, and several other scenes had a more handheld camera style. It was an interesting cinematic technique and one that definitely brought the audience closer to events.

While this episode was a slight departure in tone for the series, enhanced by the inclusion of fresh camera techniques, it demonstrated that Supergirl is capable of focusing on the darker elements of the DC Universe. Ultimately, I prefer the series to be the more light-hearted and optimistic heart of the DCEU as too many comic-book adaptations rush towards being grim and gritty nowadays. After all, most of what makes the Marvel movies so successful is their humour and relatively even-toned content. Even Captain America: Civil War, which was arguably the darkest installment yet, had bright elements and humour throughout. I enjoy Supergirl because it is more positive than its competitors and I hope that it doesn’t lose any of that upbeat persona in its transition into The CW’s Arrowverse. With one episode left until the mid-season break, it seems that Supergirl is prepping towards another ‘Project Myriad’-style Armageddon as Hank Henshaw activated the Medusa protocol in the Fortress of Solitude. I’m really enjoying the mix of different storylines and it truly feels like Supergirl has settled into its groove and become a truly ensemble show by giving all of its cast members some purpose and story development, especially when compared to the Kara-centric Season One. There isn’t really a weak link in this chain anymore – all of the characters are pulling their own weight and the various storylines are coalescing to produce a strong and consistent core narrative.


Score - 9.6 out of 10

Next Episode - "Medusa"
As Eliza comes to National City for Thanksgiving, Kara turns to Lena for help when Cadmus unleashes a virus that instantly kills aliens, then is asked by Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon for help with an alien invasion on their Earth.

Review - Gotham: 3x10 - "Time Bomb"

Gotham
Episode 3x10 - "Time Bomb"

Synopsis

Determined to get revenge for the death of Isabella, Nygma kidnaps Butch and Tabitha and begins to subject them to a barrage of torture techniques, unaware that Barbara Kean is on the hunt for them both. Meanwhile, Gordon must protect Mario Falcone from assassins targeting him ahead of his wedding to Lee, and Bruce Wayne attempts to deal with the mysterious group searching for the key that Ivy stole.

Review

Time Bomb” is an appropriate title for this episode of Gotham, not just because of the exploding car sequence in its cold open, but also the way in which the writers attempted to cram in plenty of story development before the series’ mid-season finale hits. While it was jam-packed with momentum from the outset, the episode never felt overly busy and rushed – scenes like how Riddler kidnapped Butch and Tabitha were excised in favour of exposition, ensuring a tight and brisk pace from the beginning. It was also an episode filled with revelations – Riddler discovered that Butch wasn’t the one responsible for Isabella’s death, Bruce discovered a potential ally in his fight against the Court of Owls and the audience discovered that Barnes was not the only one to be affected by Alice Tetch’s blood. Each of these revelations are set to drive the narrative of the show into the mid-season finale, and beyond – no doubt the re-emergence of the Court of Owls will result in them taking the main stage for the second half of Season Three, whilst the inevitable feud between Penguin and Riddler will reignite the gang war plot strand. Gotham has done a great job at building each of these subplots towards their crescendo, although some of its plot threads (Valerie Vale, Jervis Tetch and Fish Mooney) have been discarded throughout this first half-season.

It was great to see Edward Nygma experimenting with death-traps, something which will become a more prominent theme in his Riddler persona, and the emotional torture that he put Butch and Tabitha through was very similar to The Mad Hatter’s own trials for Jim Gordon earlier in the season in “Follow the White Rabbit”. Ultimately, I think that Tetch’s version was more effective as Benedict Samuel managed to better convey that sense of unhinged grief, whereas Cory Michael Smith was a little too maniacal in his approach. I have to applaud Gotham for having the balls to go the extra mile and having Tabitha lose a hand – too many other shows would have wimped out and had Barbara arrive just in time to save the day. While it seems likely that she will get it reattached, much like with Valerie Vale’s shooting in “Follow the White Rabbit”, it was a genuine shock and a worthy pay-off to the lengthy setup throughout the episode. Interestingly, Nygma’s antics in this episode consolidates a new threat to the Penguin’s crown as Gotham’s kingpin as Barbara Kean, Butch and Tabitha unite together with the promise of revenge and war upon the Penguin and his organisation.


The threat of war was also seen in Bruce Wayne’s storyline as he scrambled to meet with those hunting down him and his friends in an effort to renegotiate the truce, only to discover this was a different organisation committed to defeating the Court of Owls. Coming so soon after the whole St Dumas conspiracy in Season Two, there is the feeling that Gotham is retreading old ground with yet another sinister ancient organisation running things from behind the scenes. Even the Owls’ mysterious assassin feels reminiscent of Theo Galavan in his Azrael persona, albeit with much less verbal input during his attacks. Hopefully the writers will be able to offer something different with this storyline, although considering the Court of Owls are in possession of the Bruce Wayne clone – I strongly suspect we’re headed for a ‘bait-and-switch’ situation with Fake-Bruce taking the original’s place for the latter half of the season. Even though this storyline has been given little prominence during this “Mad City” phase of the season, it has been the least enjoyable aspect and hopefully it doesn’t become the main focus of the series once its returns in the New Year.

Unfortunately, subtlety is not one of Gotham’s strong points and from the opening conversation where Mario expressed too much interest in Captain Barnes’ condition and a possible test to discover who was afflicted, it was obvious he had been affected by the same virus. I’m assuming that the mysterious plaster on his neck during “Red Queen” must have been something to do with his infection – although, it’s unclear whether it was intentional or not. Poor Mario Falcone was doomed the minute he returned to Gotham with Lee as he was merely a hurdle in her relationship with Gordon, waiting in the wings to be dispatched at the soonest convenience. I’m a little bit disappointed that the show will make him into a mindless villain, especially so soon after Barnes’ own transformation, as it would have been more interesting if he’d been a genuine nice guy alternative to Gordon. I’m curious as to why the Court of Owls got involved and attempted to assassinate Mario – how would they even know he was infected? It was fun to see Falcone revert back to his criminal roots, especially when he indulged in an impromptu dental examination in the interrogation room – if Mario is killed off, I suspect he will return to his role as mob-boss pretty quickly, especially if Gordon is the one who pulls the trigger.

As a standalone episode, this was a densely-packed tour through all of the current storyline percolating in Gotham, but it also demonstrated the scattered nature of the season with plot threads being dropped or put on hiatus in favour of pursuing other ideas – it’s almost as if the show cannot decide on what its main focus. In this episode, the Court of Owls seemed to be a recurring theme and with the Mad Hatter languishing in an Arkham cell, I suspect the series will attempt to knit its disparate plot threads together and focus on one common enemy.


Score - 9.3 out of 10

Next Episode - "Beware the Green-Eyed Monster"
Mario and Gordon face off before the wedding, Selina meets an unexpected face and Barbara comes to Nygma with information about Isabella.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

2000AD Prog 2008

Prog 2008 Cover by Rob Davis

Rob Davis graces the cover of this week’s Prog with his interpretation of Counterfeit Girl, which takes elements of Rufus Dayglo’s energetic portrayal but infuses it with a minimalist approach that is reminiscent of Steve Yeowell. I really like this style of artwork, which evokes memories of the work from legendary artist, Darwyn Cooke. The bright yellow and pink colour scheme is a very welcome contrast to the darker colour palette often used for cover artwork and introduces a jolt of energy to the Prog, no doubt achieving standout on the newsagent shelf and appealing to anime enthusiasts. It’s a great image to sell the series, and really captures the anarchic attitude of the storyline. 


JUDGE DREDD - THE CUBE ROOT OF EVIL (Part 2)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Colours - John Charles
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After the slow-burn introduction last Prog, Arthur Wyatt reveals the truth behind Marissa Bierce's machine – it converts any organic matter into food and Bierce used it to survive on human remains whilst trapped in her laboratory after Chaos Day. It's a rather dark twist, and explains why she couldn't eat her Synthi-Flakes in the previous episode. Even five years after the event, the repercussions of Chaos Day still affects the citizens of Mega City One – with Bierce driven to killing her sister and numerous strangers to feed her cannibalistic hunger. Wyatt's script is amusing and well-crafted, playing about with the narrative structure to inject some mystery into the storyline.


Jake Lynch's artwork is absolutely superb and the colouring from John Charles feels more consistent and muted than the previous installment, with the green hues in the Sector 27 warehouse evoking a spooky atmosphere as the Judges investigate the 'citizens in tubes'. Lynch's gritty art style works well for this type of story, nailing the dark underbelly lurking beneath the everyday and revealing that one of Mega-City One's lauded citizens is a cannibal. While it doesn't feel as essential and driven as the recent stories from Rob Williams and Michael Carroll, it is a interesting citizen-centric storyline that continues to explore the aftermath of Chaos Day in the most minute detail. Wyatt, Lynch and Charles have absolutely nailed the right tonal feel for this storyline and its grim take on survivalism. 



FLESH - GOREHEAD (Part 7)
Script - Pat Mills 
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Chaos continues to rain down on the Cretaceous period in the aftermath of “the big one” as both dinosaurs and humans attempt to cling onto survival during this post-apocalyptic wasteland. Pat Mills' script is suitably dramatic, setting up climactic encounters between his lead characters in amongst the ash-strewn remains of the period. Clint Langley rises to the challenge, establishing a strong cinematic tone to these moments and evoking memories of those classic 'Spaghetti Westerns' that helped inspire the series. The confrontation between Claw Carver, Vegas, Pastor Sunday and Gorehead is absolutely brilliant, with Mills and Langley perfectly capturing the high stakes feel to the storyline. This shift in tone since “the big one” hit Earth has resulted in a more frenzied and desperate battle for survival, heightening the tension of the series and creating a really dynamic and electric atmosphere. With two episodes remaining, it feels like anything could happen – although knowing the dark vein of satire and grim humour that runs through Flesh, I suspect that the dinosaurs will end up triumphant in the end.



HUNTED (Part 8)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

As the hunt for the Traitor General draws towards a close, Gordon Rennie manages to squeeze in one more grudge-match as he pits Dron against Rogue as the two blue-skinned 'brothers' fight to the death. Ever since the misshapen G.I reject was introduced, I've been hoping that Dron would end up fighting against Rogue and Rennie ensures that this battle lives up to expectations. While Dron has the strength and speed on his side, he lacks the intelligence and bio-chip support that Rogue has. This is an extremely well-written penultimate fight, whetting the appetite for the eventual climax between Rogue and the Traitor General. I've really enjoyed the way that Rennie has whittled the cast down throughout the past few episodes, cultivating an effective Battle Royale / The Hunger Games vibe in this storyline.


While Jaegir exits the series as the sole survivor from the Nort army, her presence was largely inconsequential and merely a bit of fan-service. Not that I'm complaining, as it was a nice cross-over and helped fill in some of the blanks in Atalia's own tortured past. PJ Holden delivers some of the best artwork of the series in this installment, capturing the fury and anger behind Dron's attack as he attempts to push his fingers through Rogue's eyelids. Holden maintains the chaotic nature of this fiery battleground in his artwork, bringing out the videogame 'death-match' atmosphere to this storyline. Even though this is a flashback to the original series, I am still excited to see where Rennie and Holden take these final episodes and whether or not they might through a spanner in the works.



SAVAGE: BOOK 10 - THE MÄRZE MURDERER (Part 8)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Patrick Goddard
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Pat Mills and Patrick Goddard continue to keep the tension running at unbearable levels in this latest episode of Savage as Bill and Nika trek through the sewers to avoid the deadly Straw Dogs machines hunting them down. I really enjoyed seeing Bill and Nika working together, and I'm sure her last-minute betrayal in this episode will result in her realising just how unforgiving the Volgans can be. Hopefully, Mills maintains his unlikely partnership for the remainder of the series, as I love the fractious relationship between the two natural enemies as they work together to survive. Mills also drops a hint that the narration boxes may be something more than an authorial voice, and perhaps some kind of link between Bill and the Straw Dogs.


Goddard's artwork is simply stunning throughout and so damn evocative, capturing the feel of a Volgan-controlled Berlin with ease. The expert use of shadow to accentuate the darkness as our anti-heroes attempt to escape detection is brilliant, showcasing Goddard's immense skill as an artist. I love the way that he fuses gritty realism with the science-fiction elements of the strip, creating this wonderful juxtaposition that serves the series well. With its 1970s influence still evident in the scripting, Savage is a wonderful mix of past, present and future – all blended together to create a truly unique comics experience, unlike anything else found in 2000AD's pages. I'm very interested to see where Mills and Goddard will be taking Bill and Nika going forward, and finding out more about 'The Thousand Year Stare' which has spawned these robotic killing machines.



COUNTERFEIT GIRL (Part 9)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo
Colours - Dom Regan
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Any hopes of a happy ending seem to be dashed with this penultimate episode of Counterfeit Girl as our heroine finds herself mind-wiped into becoming an obedient IT drone for the Albion Corporation. It’s a surprisingly bleak cliff-hanger for the series as the lead character’s identity is stolen from her against her will – although ultimately, it was never her own identity to begin with. Peter Milligan’s script raises some wonderfully philosophical questions about what defines a person and the fluidity of one’s identity, especially in this future where people can perform ‘cosmetic surgery’ on their personalities. Rufus Dayglo’s artwork has been absolutely tremendous throughout this series, amplifying Milligan’s neon-lit vision of the future and injecting a real sense of momentum throughout the storyline. He really captures the raw emotion of the sequence as Not-Libra is strapped down and effectively given a lobotomy, making use of a jagged panel shape to emphasis the action of the psychic-drill. The series is taking a week-off and returning in Prog 2010 for its conclusion, which further heightens the effectiveness of this cliff-hanger ending, giving us longer to wait for the resolution!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

With intense action sequences in both Hunted and Savage, it is a close-call to decide this Prog's “thrill of the week”, but Savage just edges it out with another fantastic episode. Pat Mills and Patrick Goddard have really done some tremendous work on this series over the past eight weeks, breathing new life into the series with its location change. Over in Hunted, Gordon Rennie and PJ Holden have kept the reader on tenterhooks as its gladiatorial combat has unfolded over the past few weeks – with the 'contestants' cleared off the board, I'm looking forward to seeing Rogue confront the Traitor General in the concluding chapters. This current line-up of stories have been a whirlwind of action and adventure, ensuring that readers won't want to miss a single moment.

In his Nerve Centre, Tharg teases the first story appearing in the end-of-year Prog 2011 – its a brand-new series from Ian Edginton and Leigh Gallagher called Kingmaker. Judging from the brief preview artwork seen, it seems to be a darker fantasy storyline than we're used to seeing from Edginton – rooted more in medieval times than his H.G Wells inspired adventures such as Helium, Scarlet Traces and Brass Sun. Edginton has proven himself to be adept at creating new universes and grabbing the reader's attention, so I look forward to his take on this new series in a few weeks. This has been a glorious year for 2000AD, although with its fortieth anniversary on the horizon, it looks like we've only seen the beginning.

Thrill of the Week: Savage


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2008 will be available in stores on Wednesday 23rd November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Review - Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 16

Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor (Vol. 2) # 16
"Old Girl: War of Gods" - Part 4 (of 5)
Written by: Nick Abadzis
Art by: Giorgia Sposito
Colours by: Hi-Fi

Nick Abadzis makes sure that the ‘drama dial is turned up to eleven’ on this penultimate issue of the Tenth Doctor’s second year of stories. With Sutekh free from his imprisonment in the void, he quickly puts the Doctor and his allies on the back foot as he begins his plans to take over the universe. Abadzis addresses one of the recurring plot threads of this ‘season’ by having the King Nocturne return to plague Cindy – a particularly heartless moment as he taunts her over her dead lover – only to have him destroyed at the hands of Sutekh. While this provides some resolution to the Nocturnes story-arc, it also provides a demonstration of Sutekh’s immense power. My only criticism is how ineffectual the Doctor seems in this episode as he fails to prevent Sutekh’s ascension and has to be saved countless times by his companions. I do like how Abadzis have developed both Gabby and Cindy into capable adventurers, with their own strengths and independence, but this also means the Doctor is diminished at times - much like how Clara’s “impossible girl” act reduced the Eleventh Doctor’s role at times.


The artwork from Giorgia Sposito remains as flawless as ever, lending a real mystical quality that befits the storyline. Her interpretation of Anubis and Sutekh is brilliant, adding a touch of regal elegance to the horse-faced Osirian ‘gods’ as they unleash disaster upon the universe. There’s even a nifty nod back to the “Pyramids of Mars” serial that allows Sposito to showcase her version of the Fourth Doctor and Sarah-Jane Smith. Based on this quick peek, I’d love to see her tackle the character on a more prolonged basis – perhaps for another miniseries one day in the future? Despite the epic nature of Abadzis’ scripting, Sposito’s art shines through with clear, concise storytelling that helps with the more complicated elements of the storyline. I love the way that Sposito captures the tone of Abadzis’ script, bringing to life on the page without fault and maintaining the fine balance between light and darkness, even when things seem at their most dire. Abadzis and Sposito have done a damn fine job at establishing excitement and dramatic tension for the final installment of “Old Girl” – although I do hope that the Doctor will have a more active role in resolving the threat. Hopefully the conclusion of this storyline will close the book on the Anubis / Osirian storyline so that Abadzis can focus on the goings-on with Ancient Gallifrey and the Untempered Schism.


Score - 9.1 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor (Vol. 2) # 16 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 9th Doctor # 7

Doctor Who: The 9th Doctor # 7
"Official Secrets" - Part 2 (of 3)
Written by: Cavan Scott
Art by: Cris Bolson
Colours by: Marco Lesko

With giant Kaiju rampaging around Bristol and a trigger-happy Brigadier racing around with a psionic laser cannon, Cavan Scott manages to tap into that UNIT era with ease – although unlike Paul Cornell’s fabulous Third Doctor limited series, Scott has the opportunity to subvert those classic stories by introducing a modern element into the mix. It was a great tragedy that Nicholas Courtney died before his character could be featured on Doctor Who and this storyline attempts to right that wrong by having the Ninth Doctor encounter the Brig back in his heyday. As fun as it was to see Harry Sullivan interacting with the Ninth Doctor, Scott raises it another level with the inclusion of the Brigadier. Interestingly, there’s still a bit of friction between the Doctor and the Brigadier about the use of military action against alien threats, although it would be interesting to see if the Doctor’s experiences during the Time War would make him understand the Brigadier’s perspective some more. The actual plot of giant Kaiju appearing out of nowhere feels very reminiscent of the classic “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” serial, even down to their sudden disappearing act. Scott drip-feeds the reader with clues as to the true origin of these monsters, hinting that the captive Agent Yaxley is responsible although there is also the suggestion that Yaxley’s son may also be influencing things – which itself is reminiscent of the aborted Walt plot thread from LOST.


Cris Bolson once again takes over from Adriana Melo, and whilst the two artists share somewhat different art styles, he manages to maintain a level of consistency with Melo’s work in the first installment whilst remaining true to his own style. The pair worked well together in the previous storyline “The Transformed”, so it isn’t overly jarring to see them collaborate here. Bolson does a great job at creating tension in his artwork, especially with that awe-inspiring double page spread of a Kaiju coming out of the water to attack the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I was seriously impressed by the level of detail and the scale of the image – it was truly a thing of beauty and Bolson clearly put a lot of effort into that blockbuster moment. Cavan Scott has done a great job at striking the perfect balance between the old and the new, creating a distinctive story that is rich with nostalgia on two levels - nostalgia for the classic UNIT team and nostalgia for the Ninth Doctor, Jack and Rose. Not afraid to tear up the rulebook in order to tell a good story, Scott has had the Ninth Doctor interacting with characters he would never have been able to meet in the television show and has firmly entrenched that Season One cast of characters into the deeper mythology of the show. Back when Doctor Who relaunched itself in 2005, it was specifically designed to be as accessible as possible but now it has become increasingly trendy to revisit the past and make use of continuity – something that Scott does impeccably with this issue. Quite simply, you cannot call yourself a Doctor Who fan if you are not reading this series!


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor # 7 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the Comixology website.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Review - Supergirl: 2x06 - "Changing"

Supergirl
Episode 2x06 - "Changing"

Synopsis

When a deadly alien parasite puts both Supergirl and Martian Manhunter out of action, who is left to protect National City from its latest threat. Meanwhile, Alex struggles with the new changes occurring in her personal life.

Review

One of the weaker elements of Supergirl’s first season was the series’ attempts to engineer a love story between Kara and James, placing her friend Winn and James’ ex-girlfriend Lucy as obstacles in the way of ‘true love’. At times the show felt like Ally McBeal but with super-powers, which is ironic considering Calista Flockhart’s presence as Cat Grant. The chemistry between Melissa Benoist and Mehcad Brooks just wasn’t there and as a result there was no emotional undercurrent to the relationship. Realising this, the writers quickly put an end to this plot thread early on in Season Two, allowing the characters to develop in different directions. Wisely moving away from saddling Kara with another overt love interest, although Mon-El seems to be a possibility, the writers have focused on Alex Danvers and developed her character beyond the faithful sister and devoted daughter into something far more three-dimensional. The scene where she came out as gay to her sister was impeccably acted by both Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist and for a show that features alien parasites and shape-shifters, it was surprisingly real and grounded. The raw emotion in the acting when Alex was rejected by Maggie was 100% more realistic and affecting than any of the silly love triangle nonsense from the first season and it seems like Supergirl has finally worked out how to get under its audience’s skin. I won’t lie – I did get a little red-eyed watching Alex break down in front of her sister…

Stepping away from Cadmus and human-alien relations for an episode, “Changing” was focused on the development of its supporting characters and the central threat of the episode was almost inconsequential and just a way to clear the stage for both Mon-El and The Guardian to step up to the plate to protect National City. Despite the reduced focus on Supergirl, Melissa Benoist had some great moments – from her first time drunk to her supportive attitude towards her sister.  Even James Olsen, a character I’ve openly disliked from his introduction, showed some promise as he evolved into his new superhero identity. Sure, his voice was a little hard to understand at times and he was effectively ‘Batman on a Bike’ but it was great to see the character being utilised in different ways and seeing the friendship between him and Winn which was gradually built up over Season One turning into a proper partnership. Keeping his secret from Kara is a nice touch and I like the addition dramatic tension that will result from this decision, especially if Guardian straddles the line between hero and vigilante.


For once, the action sequences were not the most impressive element of an episode as I found myself gripped by the emotional whirlwind that was happening to Alex. I applaud the writers for not having Alex and Maggie fall straight into a relationship and making her coming out into a much more realistic affair. Clearly, Chyler Leigh can handle the added emotional weight that this storyline requires and her scenes with Melissa Benoist were absolutely dynamite. Part of me was worried the writers would use this revelation to drive a wedge between the two Danvers sisters, but I needn’t have been concerned as the writers hit the right tone between the pair, further strengthening the sisterly relationship that they share. I suspect that Maggie Sawyer will eventually succumb to Alex’s charms, but that initial rejection was so well-acted that I’m sure it resonated with anyone who had been rejected by someone they loved.

While Alex, James and Mon-El went through the biggest and most overt ‘changes’ during this aptly-named episode, there was a more subtle change hinted at with the Martian Manhunter. Having received a blood transfusion from M’Ghan – it seems like her White Martian blood might be having some adverse effect with J’onn. Given the more barbaric nature of the White Martian, I suspect that J’onn may start experiencing some anger issues of his own in the near future – but who knows who far these changes may go. With Mon-El getting abducted by Project Cadmus, it seems likely that he might also be turned into an enemy against Kara – which will put a stop to any potential romance plans between the pair, although personally I think she should follow her sister's lead and start dating Lena Luthor! There are plenty of storylines waiting to be developed further as this second season of Supergirl continues to go from strength to strength – I’d even go as far to say that this might be the best episode yet as the series finally developed a genuinely effective love story between two of its characters that was strong enough to put the more action-led sequences on the back-burner.


Score - 9.8 out of 10

Next Episode - "The Darkest Place"
Supergirl comes face-to-face with Cyborg Superman when she attempts to save Mon-El from Cadmus.

Review - Gotham: 3x09 - "The Executioner"

Gotham
Episode 3x09 - "The Executioner"

Synopsis

Gordon suspects Barnes is responsible for the numerous vigilante murders taking place in Gotham City, but struggles to convince the rest of the GCPD of his findings. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy finds herself in trouble when a jewel theft goes bad, forcing her to team-up with Selina and Bruce. 

Review

After building up Barnes’ descent into madness over the past few episodes, the conclusion to this sub-plot lacked any real sense of resolution as Gotham once again reverted to half-measures to prolong the storyline. Barnes’ downfall was very reminiscent of Butch’s journey in “Anything for You”, even down to the point where the writers avoiding killing off the character when it seemed like the logical conclusion to the story-arc. Locked away in Arkham Asylum chanting “Justice”, Barnes is ready to be used again whenever Gotham needs to fill an episode – given the manner in which he was defeated, I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned to threaten Lee. The reluctance to kill off Barnes renders Gotham slightly impotent and serves to showcase the series’ shortcomings – I think it would have been a much stronger statement if Gordon had put a bullet through Barnes’ head, albeit reluctantly. It would have been another reason to hate Tetch, fuelling this rivalry between the pair.

Another example of the reluctance to commit to a storyline was seen in the Penguin / Riddler subplot. While I applaud the writers’ decision to have Riddler quickly discover the suspicious nature of Isabella’s death – it felt like a slight cheat to have him instantly blame Butch for the act. Still, this prolongs the story-arc and adds some more dramatic tension between Oswald and Edward. I’m a bit disappointed that the Penguin’s love for Riddler and the sudden appearance of a Miss Kringle doppelganger were introduced purely to build this rift between the two characters. It feels artificial and forced, reliant on unrealistic comic-book tropes – it would have been far more interesting to have had the Penguin embark in a relationship with the Riddler and deal with the aftermath of a break-up. It would have been the brilliant departure from continuity that Gotham should revel in – as it is, it feels like they’ve tried to be daring but have pulled back at the last minute. Saying that, the pair might still become a couple with this dark secret lingering between them – that would be an interesting development!


The most engaging element of this episode, and unfortunately the aspect that was explored the least, was the situation that Ivy, Selina and Bruce found themselves in. The actual reveal of an older Ivy was a bit underwhelming, although both Camren Bicondova and David Mazouz’s reactions were brilliant. The most intriguing part of this sub-plot was that the stolen Emerald contained a key – presumably for the Court of Owls – bringing the characters back into the foreground. After establishing a truce with Bruce in the opening episodes of this season, this shadowy organisation hasn’t really had the impact on the series that we’d expected with the writers focused more on Jervis Tetch and his sister’s dodgy blood. Now that Barnes is locked up, it seems that the writers will be returning to the core mythology surrounding this secret society and its plans for Wayne Enterprises. Gotham still seems to be a bit patchy when it comes to its overall season development – after the Season Two finale, it seemed like Season Three would focus more on the escaped Indian Hill test subjects and the Court of Owls, but we’ve seen little evidence of either across this initial batch of episodes.

There were some bright spots in this episode though – the tense car journey and ‘cat-and-mouse’ conversations between Gordon and Barnes were some really strong moments and Michael Chiklis got to explore his character in greater detail. On the whole, however, it definitely felt like the writers were holding off on any actual resolutions in this episode and the focus was on transitioning characters into the next stage for these final few episodes of the year. Maybe it’s because I cared more about Butch as a character than Barnes, but I found there to be no real tension in his downfall and eventual ‘outing’ as a villain. With “Anything for You”, I was genuinely concerned that Butch was about to be killed off, but with this episode, I expected Barnes to get a bullet to the head and was disappointed when it didn’t happen. With the Court of Owls and the Riddler/Penguin ‘murder mystery’ still to be explored, there’s plenty of mileage for the remainder of this season to cover, but the show has dipped slightly since the Mad Hatter was incarcerated, showing that it needs a flamboyant villain to drive the plot.


Score - 9.2 out of 10

Next Episode - "Time Bomb"
A threat to Lee and Mario is exposed on the eve of their rehearsal dinner and Falcone comes to Jim for help. Meanwhile, Nygma plans his revenge and Bruce learns more about the Court of Owls.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

2000AD Prog 2007

Prog 2007 Cover by Tom Foster

Staying close to the series’ roots in its Invasion incarnation, this tongue-in-cheek spoof of the traditional pub sign demonstrates the dark humour and British patriotism of Pat Mills’ alternative take on the archetypal war comic. Tom Foster does a brilliant job at capturing Savage’s laddish personality as the working class hero standing up to the Volgan invaders. I really like the double-entendre of the ‘Butcher’s Hook’, especially considering Savage’s use of the item in the previous episode, and the “Volgans Get Free Shots” joke is pure brilliance. While it may be a slight deviation from the more sombre tone seen in the series currently, this is still a wonderfully satirical cover piece and it captures that anarchic tone seen in both Savage and its predecessor, Invasion.


JUDGE DREDD - THE CUBE ROOT OF EVIL (Part 1)
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Colours - John Charles
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Primarily known for his Dredd movie sequel comic strips in the Judge Dredd Megazine, Arthur Wyatt crosses universes to write for the original Judge Dredd continuity with an intriguing slow-burn adventure that showcases Dredd’s disdain for the more administrative side of the Justice Department. While this opening episode doesn’t quite get to the meat of the story, hinting at some kind of misdeed performed by Marissa Bierce and her mysterious machine, it manages to weave in the events of Chaos Day into the character’s backstory. I also like the way Wyatt transitions from the acid pouring into the building during the flashback to the present day where Bierce is pouring milk onto her Synthi-Flakes, it’s a great handover and helps exaggerate the imagery of the preceding scene.


Jake Lynch handles art duties, although his artwork seems to work better in black and white, as evidenced by his previous work on Orlok: Agent of East Meg One. The colours provided by John Charles feel slightly off at times, especially the purple skies on the opening page, although it does stabilise later in the strip. I particularly like the grand scale of the disaster as the acid pours in through the windows and envelops the building – this allows Lynch to cut loose and create some real chaos. I’m intrigued to find out more about the mysterious machine, but as a standalone episode, this was a bit of a slower pace than expected and lacked a narrative punch at the end. Perhaps it was a Megazine tale resized for 2000AD? That said, I did like Dredd’s interactions with Admin Judge Orville and his displeasure at being called off the streets to do some glad-handing with prominent citizens.



FLESH - GOREHEAD (Part 6)
Script - Pat Mills 
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Ellie de Ville

There’s plenty of apocalyptic antics happening in this latest edition of Flesh as the meteor hits Earth, causing natural disasters and kick-starting the extinction of the dinosaurs. Pat Mills’ script is surprisingly brief, opting to let Clint Langley’s visuals tell the story instead. Langley does a brilliant job at cultivating the mood throughout this episode, transitioning from the exuberance of the ‘End of the World’ party towards the bleak, dust-filled wastelands after the meteor hit the planet. While it’s unclear exactly how the human characters survived the after-effects of the meteor’s impact, its great fun to see the status-quo shift so dramatically and how the environment turns against human and dinosaur alike. Without wasting much time since the character’s resurrection, Mills throws Gorehead straight into the mix, promising an exciting and fast-paced conclusion to this latest installment of the series.



HUNTED (Part 7)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

This episode of Hunted continues to revisit the early days of Rogue Trooper, whilst adding a Hunger Games spin on things. Gordon Rennie removes Player, the aptly-named bounty hunter, from the game as the Traitor General gets his hands dirty once again. The list of combatants getting smaller and smaller, and as Rogue encounters Dron at the end of this chapter, I suspect that the defective G.I might be the next character to meet their demise. With this episode, Rennie showcases the callous nature of the Traitor General once more, reminding readers that while he is the protagonist of this current adventure – he is still a malicious and scheming individual. It's interesting to see Rogue and Jaegir both hunting him down, and I wonder if the pair will team up to defeat the Traitor General. PJ Holden continues to produce some absolutely impeccable artwork on this series, capturing the frenetic blockbuster action of this series perfectly. It's an interesting tonal middle-ground between the black and white stylings of those early Rogue Trooper adventures and the smoky, industrial nightmare seen in Jaegir. It certainly suits this more action-heavy adventure, especially the 1990s-influenced design of Player. This is a really strong, and captivating series and I'm still excited to see how Rennie and Holden bring this one to a conclusion.



SAVAGE: BOOK 10 - THE MÄRZE MURDERER (Part 7)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Patrick Goddard
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

With his cover blown, all hell breaks loose in this latest installment of Savage as the series’ eponymous anti-hero finds himself up against the might of the Volgan police force. After weeks of slow-burn tension, Pat Mills has great fun with the public ‘outing’ of Bill Savage and still manages to throw in a few surprises by having Nika Volvodina switch allegiances and escape with Savage once her comrades turn on her. This is a great development and I love the idea of Savage being partnered with a female Volgan detective – there seems to be some hint of sexual chemistry between them and it’s a very complicated situation for the shotgun-wielding vigilante to find himself in. Mills has done a fantastic job at establishing Volvodina as a foil for Savage and this episode demonstrates the fun that could be had in a partnership between the pair. Hopefully, Mills will keep the character around for a bit longer.


Once again Patrick Goddard does a tremendous job on art duties, capturing the intense action of this frenetic shoot-out at the Butcher’s Hook. I loved the scenes of Savage and Volvodina hiding behind the bar as bullets fly out in different directions – it feels very gritty and cinematic. Even the final page reveal of the killer Transformers robot changing from a truck into an ED-209 clone manages to maintain an element of realism, juxtaposing nicely against the more grounded aspect of the series. With Mills and Goddard’s feet firmly on the accelerator pedal, it seems like these final few episodes of Savage are going to deliver some top-notch action and adventure, and I hope that we see more of this ‘odd couple’ partnership between Savage and Volvodina in future instalments. This has been a strong return to form for the series, and I’m loving the current direction that Mills and Goddard are taking the character.



COUNTERFEIT GIRL (Part 8)
Script - Peter Milligan
Art - Rufus Dayglo
Colours - Dom Regan
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a whopping great mind-f*ck of a twist last Prog, Peter Milligan follows up on this revelation with an exposition-heavy episode that explains the motivations behind the actions that have driven this narrative. It’s very well-written, and although Milligan is pulling the rug out from underneath the reader and shouting “everything you know is wrong”, he does so without undoing the work he has done already. The ‘bait-and-switch’ involving Libra Kelly plays upon the series’ central premise surrounding identity and how malleable a person can be – it’s fascinating stuff and rather than becoming overly introspective with the idea, Milligan manages to weave a fun and engaging adventure out of it.


Despite the more static pace to this episode, and its heavy use of flashbacks, Rufus Dayglo still manages to maintain the strip’s buoyant and light-hearted personality through his simply amazing artwork. Both Milligan and Dayglo are seasoned storytellers and their experience and skill shines through in this installment of Counterfeit Girl. While this kind of eleventh-hour twist can often make-or-break a series, both creators manage to pull it off in style, revitalising the story with this new direction. Counterfeit Girl has been great fun since it begun in Prog 2000, resembling something like a cross between The Ballad of Halo Jones and The Fifth Element, and this latest development just elevates the series even higher. 



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

A new thriller for Judge Dredd offers a burst of freshness into the current line-up as the remaining stories race towards their respective conclusions. With its high-octane action and cinematic gun-play, Savage earns the spot of “Thrill of the Week” – narrowly rivalled by Counterfeit Girl and Hunted. Each of the ongoing stories have really hit their stride at the moment, and while Judge Dredd does suffer slightly from its awkwardly paced opening episode, it promises to deliver an intriguing mystery tied to the events of Chaos Day. As the sounds of Santa’s sleigh bringing the end-of-year Prog gets ever louder, there is still plenty to look forward to in the final three Progs of this current line-up and I can’t wait to see how each of these strips ends!

Thrill of the Week: Savage


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2007 will be available in stores on Wednesday 16th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the standalone 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS and Android devices.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

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

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

Even though it was obvious that this series would need to hit the reset button to restore events to normal, Cavan Scott and George Mann manage to make this final chapter engaging and utterly thrilling throughout. Focused firmly on the Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon, this issue sees these two characters working together to use the Cybermen’s Cyberiad against them and restore the original timeline, thus undoing the death and destruction caused by the Cybermen. The grandiose nature of this reset button feels very Russell T. Davies in nature, mirroring similar unlikely deus-ex-machinas seen in previous season finales “Last of the Time Lords” and “Journey’s End”. Sure, it gets a bit timey-wimey and convenient, but the sheer emotional impact of the moment ensures that the somewhat shaky logic of the reboot is overlooked. The epilogue, which shows the Twelfth Doctor maintaining memories of the death and destruction, is rather poignant and reminds me of “Heaven Sent” and the internal and private torment that the Doctor carries about inside of him. Even though the events of this miniseries are undone by the end, it leaves an indelible mark on Gallifrey’s rebel time-lord.


With the heavy focus on the Twelfth Doctor story segments, Ivan Rodriguez handles the reins for this final issue and his art style is perfect for the dark and bleak future that the Cybermen have created. He puts in an incredible amount of detail and emotion into the panels where the Doctor is becoming incorporated into the Cyberiad, particularly the Tenth Doctor’s conversion into the Cyber-king, which is quite chilling to see. It’s quite unnerving to see the Doctor broken and beaten across these various timelines, so once the reset occurs, it is a relief to see the Cybermen’s work being undone across a series of panels spanning multiple timelines. Overall, this has been a great little miniseries which took the concept of a multi-Doctor storyline but added the unique twist of keeping each incarnation of the Doctor separate and encountering the same threat. While some readers might be angry that the story hinged on a ‘cosmic reset’, it should be noted that many televised Doctor Who stories do the same, so it’s not unfamiliar territory for the franchise.

Scott and Mann definitely should be applauded for creating a brilliant adventure that ties deeply into the events of “Hell Bent” and providing a worthy ‘sequel’ to that chapter. I’m sure it was tremendous fun for the writers to unleash the Cybermen against all the different eras of the Doctor, and part of me was disappointed that we didn’t see more from the first eight Doctors in this storyline, although given the limited space available, it makes total sense why the comic was restricted to the most recent four. With the bar set so high for its Doctor Who event series, Titan Comics will have a hard time beating “Four Doctors” and “Supremacy of the Cybermen” next year!


Score - 9.5 out of 10

Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen # 5 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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