August 20, 2017

The Pull List: 9 August 2017, Part 2

For those who came in late: every 90 years a group of young humans suddenly manifest supernatural powers and are reincarnated as Gods. This "Pantheon" then shines brilliantly for two years before they all die. The only constant element appears to be Ananke, an immortal and hugely powerful figure who turned out to have been murdering the Pantheon every cycle to avoid "the great darkness". This time around the Pantheon got there first, Ananke is dead, and now what the great darkness is is rapidly approaching. No one can agree on what to do, one of the Pantheon - Sakhmet - has murdered a bunch of people, and is hiding out from her fellow gods with Persephone, who was a fan of the Pantheon before being reincarnated as one of them.

Sure it sounds a little confusing, but that's what you get if you come in at issue #30. If you have never read The Wicked + the Divine before, go hunt down the first few trades: it's a regular four-to-five star comic book and is a worthy read.

This issue is dominated by Dionysus and Morrigan having a conversation in the dark. It sounds a little dull but it's an important conversation. This really all feels like a calm before a storm, and with the characters all getting developed up to a critical point it suggests that the next few issues are going to be pretty apocalyptic. I do think we're reaching a point where, after 30 serialised issues, it's becoming difficult to keep the characters and the storyline all set in my head with month-long gaps between instalments. A re-read of earlier arcs may be in order before long. (4/5)

The Wicked + the Divine #20. Image. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by Jamie McKelvie. Colours by Matthew Wilson.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Harbinger Renegade, Hulk and Ms Marvel.

August 17, 2017

The Pull List: 9 August 2017, Part 1

Mister Miracle of the New Gods returns to the DC Universe in a new 12-issue maxiseries. That is always cause for celebration, since Scott Free and his wife Big Barda have always been two great and underrated characters for DC. Every few years they pop up, delight me with their adventures, and then drop back into second-string obscurity again.

What makes this particular relaunch so exciting is the creative team: writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads, whose DC Vertigo book The Sheriff of Babylon was my favourite comic series of 2016. Seeing them reunited is a promise of great things to come.

Based on this first issue they seem pretty likely to satisfy their readers. This is an inventive and slightly off-kilter premiere, using a deliberately limited colour palette, deliberately mis-aligned artwork and many visual artefacts to create a genuine sense that the world has gone wrong. The same thing appears to be going on in King's script, in which Scott appears to be slowly going unhinged - or the universe around him is. Actually, I suspect the latter. It's a brilliant hook, beautifully packaged, and pretty much the number one must-read superhero book this month. (5/5)

Mister Miracle #1. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art by Mitch Gerads.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Doctor Aphra, Freeway Fighter, Rogue One: Cassian and K-2SO Special, and Sacred Creatures.

August 15, 2017

Doctor Who: "The Slave Traders"

It is 16 January 1965, and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

A month after the TARDIS makes a crash landing in Ancient Rome, the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions relax in a nearby villa. When the Doctor and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) head off to visit Rome, the Doctor finds himself mistaken for a murdered musician. Back at the villa Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) are ambushed and captured by slave traders.

There is something genuinely delightful about "The Slave Traders", the first episode of Dennis Spooner's historical serial "The Romans". A lot of the appeal comes from seeing the regular characters actually getting to stop for a while and relax. They have rampaged from one adventure to the next for a series and a half at this stage, and have more than earnest a rest. That rest comes with a huge boost in warm humour: it seems clear at this stage that Ian and Barbara are actively enjoying their travels with the Doctor. New companion Vicki has slipped comfortably into her new routine. The one-month jump in time actually benefits her introduction enormously because she is now happily familiar with her new friends. It is a great narrative shortcut.

August 14, 2017

The Pull List: 2 August 2017, Part 3

It started with a resentful drug-addicted police detective flying out to a distant spaceship to conduct a murder investigation. It ends, eight issues later, with two people huddled together with no oxygen or warmth left with which to survive. A hell of a lot happened in between.

Hadrian's Wall has been a tremendous miniseries. A smart murder-mystery in space that segued into a sort of siege thriller, with well-crafted characters and intelligence science fiction detail. Rod Reis was the icing on the cake, creating stunning painterly artwork that echoed some of the best production design of 1980s science fiction cinema. It is a blueprint for a cult film that never got made; who knows, with the series complete perhaps an enterprising studio will be tempted to take a chance on it.

A collection edition is coming soon. I really hope that it finds a strong readership on top of those who have already discovered it. This is the sort of SF work that deserves a big audience. (5/5)

Hadrian's Wall #8. Image. Written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel. Art and colours by Rod Reis with Eduardo Ferigato.

Under the cut: reviews of Extremity, Giant Days and Seven to Eternity.

Doctor Who: "Desperate Measures"

It is 9 January 1965 and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

The Doctor (William Hartnell) and Ian (William Russell) make their way past the ancient traps of the Didonians. Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) get to know one another onboard the crashed starship. When the Doctor finally joins them, he gets to the bottom of the mysterious identity of the alien Koquillion.

"Desperate Measures" is a deceptively brilliant episode of Doctor Who. It throws in some great character-building scenes, properly integrates Vicki in the TARDIS crew, and climaxes with a tremendously atmospheric and dramatic reveal in an underground temple. This may be, at two episodes, one of the briefest of William Hartnell's Doctor Who serials, but it makes great and efficient use of its time.

August 11, 2017

The Pull List: 2 August 2017, Part 2

What if all of the famous people who vanished over history did not simply get murdered or die in obscurity somewhere, but actually found themselves transported to another universe? That is the basic premise of Elsewhere, a new fantasy series by writer Jay Faerber (Copperhead), artist Sumeyye Kesgin and publisher Image Comics.

To begin with, the series introduces us to Amelia Earhart, famous American long-distance pilot whose plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937. After being rescued from a tree by a pair of goblin-like rebels on the run from their totalitarian government, she goes looking for her co-pilot Fred.

Kesgin's artwork has a quite traditional sort of look: clean, bold and immediately readable. Faerber's script is where the book staggers a little: it's relatively early, so the story could go either way, but there really is not a huge amount of plot here and nothing really leaps out to feel inventive or especially attention-grabbing. The basic premise is a cool one, but the execution really does let it down just a little. (3/5)

Elsewhere #1. Image. Written by Jay Faerber. Art by Sumeyye Kesgin. Colours by Ron Riley.

Under the cut: reviews of Robotech, Spider-Man and Swordquest.

Doctor Who: "The Powerful Enemy"

It is 2 January 1965, and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

While the Doctor (William Hartnell) mourns the loss of Susan, the TARDIS arrives on the planet Dido and Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) go exploring a mountain-side network of caves. In the valley below, the two survivors of a crashed human starship - Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and Bennett (Ray Barrett) - live under the tyrannical control of the alien reptile Koquillion.

It is good that Susan's departure at the end of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" was not ignored or quickly shuffled away. The early scenes of "The Powerful Enemy" see the Doctor visibly worn by the loss. He sleeps through a TARDIS landing for the first time. He seems very keen to send Ian and Barbara off to give him time alone. At one key moment he asks Susan to open the TARDIS door, then pauses, with a mixture of sadness and embarrassment. Barbara gently asks the Doctor to show her how to do it. It's a perfect small moment between the two characters: a little bit of healing for the Doctor, and the acknowledgement for Barbara that she and the old man really have become good friends.

August 10, 2017

The Pull List: 2 August 2017, Part 1

Stanford Yu works as a young janitor at an elite academy for giant robot pilots. On the appointed day, when three alien giant robots are supposed to descend and accept their pilots, one fails to show up. When Stanford finds it damaged a few miles down the road it does the unimaginable and accepts him as its pilot instead.

Mech Cadet Yu is a four-issue miniseries from writer Greg Pak and artist Takeshi Miyazawa. It pays tribute to Japanese pop culture, particularly all of the giant robot anime productions that have been produced since the late 1970s.

The pedigree of its creatives is pretty high for anybody who's been reading Marvel comics: Pak did a sensational extended run on The Incredible Hulk, while Miyazawa has done superb work illustrating Ms Marvel in recent years. If anything it unfairly raises expectations. This is a pleasantly enjoyable first issue, but so far there is nothing that leaps off the page or makes the most significant impression. It's simply an enjoyable giant robot story; and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. (3/5)

Mech Cadet Yu #1. Boom Studios. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Takeshi Miyazawa. Colours by Triona Farrell.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Darth Vader, Green Arrow and Superman.

August 8, 2017

The Pull List: 26 July, Part 3

Usagi Yojimbo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always had a fairly close relationship: both independent black and white comic books of the 1980s, they crossed over fairly quickly and Usagi has been an intermittent presence in the Turtles comics and television cartoons ever since (right up to an appearance in the current series a few weeks ago).

This new one-shot is a real gem: written and drawn by Usagi creator Stan Sakai, with absolutely beautiful soft colouring by Tom Luth. The story itself is relatively straight-forward, but as is often the case with Sakai it is told in a very simple and elegant fashion with some absolutely beautiful art.

I feel the market does not give Usagi Yojimbo the respect it is due: it is rarely sensationalised or attention-grabbing, but Sakai does a flawless job with every issue he creates. It has a warm, likeable tone, a strong sense of Japanese history and culture, and a cartoon-like sensibility that is much harder to produce than it looks. It is such a pleasant read every time. Hopefully this crossover might bring a few new readers to Sakai's work. He deserves them all. (4/5)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo. Story and art by Stan Sakai. Colours by Tom Luth.

Under the cut: reviews of All-Star Batman, Doctor Aphra and Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor.

Doctor Who: "Flashpoint"

It is 26 December 1964, and time for the final episode of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth".

While the Daleks work to detonate their bomb inside the Earth's core, the Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian (William Russell), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Susan (Carole Ann Ford) finally reunite in Bedfordshire to stop the Dalek invasion once and for all.

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" ends with a finale that, while never particularly surprising, manages to bring this epic storyline to a strong and hugely entertaining close. It has been a success on a number of levels. Firstly this has easily been the most ambitious production of the series thus far, and with a few mishaps (the unfortunate-looking Slyther for one) the production team has pulled it off with tremendous skill. Secondly it has taken the Daleks and elevated them from one-off monsters to the series' first recurring villains. They will appear a third time to plague the Doctor before the second series is out.

August 4, 2017

The Pull List: 26 July, Part 2

John Abbott has designed and built the ships that won America its naval war against the British, but an act of mutiny to win a battle now sees him imprisoned for treason. An infection has cost him an arm. With peace settled, Nicholson travels to the White House to beg for John's freedom.

These Free and Independent States has been an exceptional miniseries, using the historical background of early American history to tell the story of a difficult man living in a difficult time. Brian Wood has developed a subtle and deeply affecting character in John Abbott, whose obvious autism in an age that knows nothing of the condition constantly disrupts and damages his life.

There is a gentle quality to this issue. It is there is Wood's carefully paced story, and certainly in Andrea Mutti's matter-of-fact, beautifully composed pencils and inks. It is particularly evident in Lauren Affe's colours: all muted and subtle, allowing the narrative to unfold without distraction but with beautiful enhancement.

This appears to mark the end of John Abbott's story, but Rebels continues in August with a self-contained issue focused on George Washington. I love that Wood and Mutti take the opportunity to explore these side stories. They did the same thing with the original Rebels series too. (5/5)

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #5. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Lauren Affe.

Under the cut: reviews of Ghostbusters 101, The Power of the Dark Crystal, and Saga.

August 3, 2017

Colditz: "The Gambler"

It is 25 February 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

Flight Lieutenant Jack Collins (Ray Barrett) arrives at the castle, immediately setting up a regular card game with some of the other British prisoners. He cons and cheats Captain Brent (Paul Chapman) out of his entire life savings - including his family house - and does the same to a German guard as part of an independent escape attempt.

Colditz has had its fair share of characters, both decent and unpleasant. For some reason Jack Collins seems particularly unlikeable, to the point where he is my least favourite character across the entire series to date. He is a card player that cheats and takes advantage, he is wilfully against cooperating with others, and is disrespectful and insulting towards his fellow British officers. It is rather strange: I would actually argue that he is so completely unpleasant as a character that he effectively destroys his own episode.

August 2, 2017

The Pull List: 26 July 2017, Part 1

After a short hiatus, Gerard Way's loving and nostalgic tribute to Morrison-era Doom Patrol continues. This issue comes illustrated by Michael and Laura Allred who are, let's be honest, the best possible art team a Doom Patrol comic could have.

Niles Caulder is back, fully prepared to take control of the Doom Patrol once again - except his team are very reluctant to let him anywhere close to their lives and abilities ever again. This is a wonderful surreal and absurd issue that is largely self-contained - although obviously a familiarity with Caulder and the Doom Patrol's back story will add a huge amount of value here. If plaid-wearing invisible aliens from another dimension creating honey out of human bad ideas sounds like your kind of thing, then this is definitely the comic book of the week for you.

The Allreds' artwork is exactly what those familiar with their work might expect: beautifully proportioned work with a wonderful simplicity to the designs and the art. It's immediately engaging, bright and light-hearted. Sadly they're only here for the one issue, but it's an outstanding one. (5/5)

Doom Patrol #7. DC Comics. Written by Gerard Way. Art by Michael Allred. Colours by Laura Allred.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Batgirl and Detective Comics.

Doctor Who: "The Waking Ally"

It is 19 December 1964, and time for the fifth part of the Doctor Who serial "The Dalek Invasion of Earth".

Ian (William Russell) and Larry (Graham Rigby) infiltrate the Dalek's mine in Bedfordshire. Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Jenny (Ann Davies) arrive there soon afterwards, after they are captured by the Daleks. Romance swells between Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and David (Peter Fraser) as they continue their trek out of London with the Doctor (William Hartnell).

Terry Nation certainly demonstrates how to plot a six-episode serial here. Every episode of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" has pushed the plot forward one key step, which gives each instalment a sense of purpose and avoids the middle parts feeling like a bunch of characters running around in circles. The bleak, despairing tone of the earlier episodes continues here as well: not only is this one of the best Doctor Who serials so far it is also certainly the darkest in tone.

August 1, 2017

The Angriest: July 2017 in review

When Richard Curtis agreed to write an episode of Doctor Who, he did not hold back in unleashing his talents. "Vincent and the Doctor" is a remarkable hour of television, presenting the reality of depression to a family audience with enormous sensitivity and effectiveness. I rewatched the episode in July, and my review was the most popular post on The Angriest for the entire month.

In July 2017, across The Angriest, FictionMachine and FilmInk, I wrote one interview, four new film reviews, 20 reviews of older films, 7 TV episode reviews, as well as short reviews of 52 comic books. A full index of my July blog posts is included below.

The Pull List: 19 July 2017, Part 3

Michael Cray, the world's best professional killer, is given an offer he really can't refuse. Angela Spica, who ran away from her employer IO with a highly advanced nano-technology super-suit, is reunited with the elusive billionaire whose life she saved. Perhaps most importantly, some things get explained and the set-up phase of The Wild Storm is completed.

Six issues initially seems an intolerable length of time in which to set up a comic series, but it's important to realise that Warren Ellis is playing a long game. The Wild Storm was conceived as a serialised 24-issue narrative, so this really is essentially the end of the first act. The cast has been introduced, the conflict revealed, and a huge amount of cool science fiction and technology concepts thrown up in the air. The issue's other great asset is artist Jon Davis-Hunt, who has managed to give it all a detailed and engaging look via his artwork.

Truth be told, the story will probably be more readable once collected into trade paperback form; there is an abrupt and arbitrary nature in the way the book simply stops at the end of each issue rather than hit a proper conclusion or cliffhanger. This issue ends more neatly than most; an indication, perhaps, that the first six issues will be collected together before long. (4/5)

The Wild Storm #6. DC Comics. Written by Warren Ellis. Art by Jon Davis-Hunt. Colours by Steve Buccellato and John Kalisz.

Under the cut: reviews of Britannia, Descender, Invader Zim, Kill the Minotaur, Rapture, Secret Weapons and Time & Vine.

July 28, 2017

The Pull List: 19 July 2017, Part 2

Poe and fellow X-Wing pilot Snap head off to track down the traitorous Oddy Muva. Meanwhile Suralinda and Jess are sent in an old Y-Wing to undertake reconnaissance for the Resistance's propaganda war against the First Order. At the same time Commander Malarus resolves to hunt Poe down and stop his interference with First Order business once and for all.

There is a sense of story threads pulling together in this issue, which makes me wonder if Poe Dameron is streaking towards a conclusion some time in the next few months. It makes a lot of sense: The Last Jedi debuts in cinemas in December, bringing with it not only more on-screen action for Poe Dameron but also opening up further possibilities for tie-in comic books.

That sense of building towards a climax helps this issue a lot. It's an engaging read that juggles quite a lot of characters, and pushes them towards conflict in the next issue. Angel Unzueta's artwork is strong, and nicely coloured by Arif Prianto. This has been a relatively uneven series, but it does seem to be improving as it goes. (4/5)

Poe Dameron #17. Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Angel Unzueta. Colours by Arif Prianto.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Doctor Strange and Ms Marvel.

July 27, 2017

The Pull List: 19 July 2017, Part 1

The king is dead - or so the villainous Corum Rath believes. Instead the deposed King Arthur hides out in the depths of Atlantis, defending the city's poorest and most vulnerable from Rath's soldiers. Meanwhile Mera bombards the city from above in an attempt to break inside and rescue her lover.

This second issue of the now-monthly Aquaman comic is great. Sejic's artwork makes it a visually beautiful read, and Abnett's story has gracefully repositioned the series as a sort of underwater high fantasy. After making her post-Flashpoint debut last month, Dolphin gets a proper re-introduction. She seems a hugely promising character.

It is great to see Aquaman stretch into a fresh style and direction, particularly with such strong artwork on it at the moment. It deserves to be a huge success. (4/5)

Aquaman #26. DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art and colours by Stjepan Sejic.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Batwoman, Green Arrow and Superman.

July 25, 2017

Doctor Who: "The End of Tomorrow"

It is 12 December 1964, and time for the fourth part of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth".

Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Jenny (Ann Davies) attempt to flee London in a truck. Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and David (Peter Fraser) attempt the same, using the city's sewers as an escape route. In Bedfordshire, Ian (William Russell) and Larry (Graham Rigby) are trying to go back in the opposite direction, but have not counted on the monstrous Slyther that stands in their way.

To a large extent "The End of Tomorrow" is a typical mid-serial episode of Doctor Who, in which everybody is effectively running from one place to another. The episode cross-cuts between three storylines, all about escape and a hope to reunite as soon as possible. Thankfully there is more to see than just running around; there is plenty of solid character work to be found as well.

July 24, 2017

The Pull List: 12 July 2017, Part 2

It has been several years, but Marvel has finally made good on the promise at the end of their miniseries Spider-Men and finally started publishing the sequel. The original series featured Peter Parker following the villain Mysterio to an alternate universe where he was dead and teenager Miles Morales had taken his place. Now both Peter and Miles live in the same re-ordered reality, but the portal that opened for Peter has now opened once again.

This is top-notch superhero entertainment, with a witty, well-paced script by Brian Michael Bendis that adds ominous foreshadowing through flash-forwarding and which uses the earlier miniseries as a starting point without disenfranchising readers who didn't read it. At the same time Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor are doing some of the best art they have ever done with a Spider-Man book; for both it feels like they are charting into new stylistic territory. It looks phenomenal.

It is absolutely wonderful seeing the two Spider-Men interacting with one another and working together. This series is off to a great start. (5/5)

Spider-Men II. Marvel. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Sara Pichelli. Colours by Justin Ponsor.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra, and Hulk.

July 22, 2017

Doctor Who: "Vincent and the Doctor"

It is 5 June 2010, and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

When the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy (Karen Gillan) spy the image of a monster hiding in a Van Gogh painting, they travel back in time to 1890 Artes to question the man himself. They find Vincent Van Gogh (Tony Curran) living in fear of a creature that only he can see - and which is murdering the villagers each night.

When Steven Moffat assumed control of Doctor Who in 2010, one of the bigger surprises was in the names of some of the writers hired to contribute to Season 5. One was Simon Nye, creator of the sitcom Men Behaving Badly, who wrote the excellent "Amy's Choice". The other was Richard Curtis, then a popular screenwriter of romantic comedy films including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually. Curtis seemed an odd choice for a science fiction drama; indeed seven years after the fact he still does. The biggest surprise, however, is just how outstanding his one script for the series is.

July 21, 2017

The Pull List: 12 July 2017, Part 1

Batman's quest draws him closer to the mysterious metal that may hold the secret to the entire existence of superheroes. Back in the Batcave, Duke Thomas and Hal Jordan confront the Joker - who has been held captive there without anybody's knowledge.

This second prologue issue to the upcoming miniseries Metal is nowhere near as effective as the first. Where the first felt provocative and foreboding, the second feels off-base and awkward. The various artists jamming together also feel a lot more discordant this time around, suggest perhaps the labour would have been divided better giving each artist their own issue instead of getting them to each one all together.

There is some big and provocative hints thrown around regarding the origins of DC's pantheon of superheroes as well, with an admittedly quite clever new take on the concept of 'metahumans'. It even shows off its roots back in Scott Snyder's hugely successful Batman run. Altogether it's adding into something that is certainly ambitious in places but could quite easily collapse into hideous and self-indulgent mess. I have my fingers crossed that once Metal commences in August it will also settle down and prove a large-scale entertaining epic. (2/5)

Dark Days: The Casting #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. Art by Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr, Scott Williams, Klaus Janson and Danny Miki. Colours by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Dread Gods and Freeway Fighter.

July 18, 2017

The Pull List: 5 July 2017, Part 2

In Sacred Creatures, an unwitting university student gets dragged into a supernatural conflict at the behest of a mysterious and seemingly diabolical family of magically enhanced siblings. It takes its time in doing so too: this first issue is practically its own graphic novel at 66 pages of story, more than justifying its US$4.99 price tag. You're definitely getting value for money.

The art by Pablo Raimondi is detailed and enormously readable. The story, by Raimondi and Klaus Janson, is where the book struggles a little. It tells a reasonable enough story in many respects, but it is saddled by two core problems. First, it feels terribly out of date. Stories like this seemed very popular a decade ago, and to an extent it seems the book is simply retreading old ground.

Secondly it just feels fiendishly complicated. The book begins with an ominous but incomprehensible prologue, and then flashes back. Then a few pages later it flashes back again. Then it simply becomes a bit of a non-linear mess, so much so that for a few pages in the middle I became genuinely confused as to what was going on. It also introduces too many characters too quickly, making it difficult to engage with either the story or its relatively bland protagonist.

There is potential, but in all honesty I am not sure there is enough. Some story knots will need to get untied very cleanly in the second issue to make this a comic worth chasing down. (3/5)

Sacred Creatures #1. Image. Written by Pablo Raimondi and Klaus Janson. Art by Pablo Raimondi. Colours by Chris Chuckry.

Under the cut: reviews of Diablo House, Extremity, Giant Days, Rat Queens, Spider-Man and The Wicked + the Divine.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Dark Page"

It is 1 November 1993 and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) has returned to the Enterprise to help a race of psychics better learn verbal communication. When she collapses unconscious in the ship's arboretum, her daughter Deanna (Marina Sirtis) is forced to enter Lwaxana's dream-state to uncover the cause of her collapse.

The merest mention of Lwaxana Troi is usually enough to make me run for the hills shrieking. She is a complete tonal mis-match for Star Trek: The Next Generation, adding an unwanted sort of 'saucy' sex comedy banter to any episode that she inhabits. There have been some exceptions for sure, but not enough to stop that instinctive flinch the moment she appears on the screen. What a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that in her final episode of The Next Generation the characters get her best story yet - and arguably ever, if one includes her handful of Deep Space Nine appearances.

July 15, 2017

The Pull List: 5 July 2017, Part 1

12 year-old Cloudia, her sister Rex and their mother drive cross-country to their new home. They collide with a rift in the universe, out of which pour a pantheon of gods escaping their own destruction. Suddenly Cloudia has super-strength, the gods can talk to her through her smartphone, and her sister Rex appears to have turned into a woolly rhinoceros.

I was first exposed to Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas via their intriguing anthology series Amazing Forest. Now they're working on a longer-form work, the contemporary fantasy Cloudia & Rex. This first issue is rich with ideas, but perhaps a little too abrupt to get the dramatic traction their story needs. On the plus side the characters are appealing and believable, despite the strange circumstances in which they find themselves.

Daniel Irizarri's artwork has a rough quality to it, but very subtle and effective colours. It has a distinctive style, which always helps. Particularly impressive are Irizarri's designs for the various gods - all inspired by real-world deities. This is a promising beginning to a new independent series, and time will tell if future issues live up to its potential. (3/5)

Cloudia & Rex #1. Roar. Written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas. Art by Daniel Irizarri.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Daredevil, Green Arrow, Seven to Eternity and Superman.

July 12, 2017

Colditz: "French Leave"

It is 18 February 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

The French prisoners are scheduled to be transported from Colditz to a labour camp in Poland. The British contingent are desperate to secure one of the French group's secret wireless sets. When a local church requests that the British prisoners perform as a choir for an important service, one French officer spies a chance to escape.

"French Leave" does what Colditz does best: take an element of World War II history and spin it out into a gripping drama. In this case, with France and Germany no longer at war, the French prisoners are to shipped out from a high security prison to undertake hard labour at a Polish prison camp instead. This change does not sit well with the entrepreneurial Andre Vaillant (Gerard Paquis), a seductive 'wheeler and dealer' who has been running an effective black market inside Colditz for years. He sneaks his way into the British choir and then seduces a young German woman to escape German custody.

July 11, 2017

The Pull List: 28 June 2017, Part 2

Livewire is a "technopath", a psychic who can use her mind to control electronic and computer devices. She's one of many so-called psiots in the world. Now a third party is tracking down a group of low-powered psiots, with Livewire hot in pursuit.

These low-level psychic powers are actually rather sweet - one young woman can talk to birds, while a young man has the ability to make inanimate objects glow. Writer Eric Heisserer gives them immediately distinctive and likeable personalities as well, making it a pleasure to be in their company for the duration of the issue. They are also very nicely drawn by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. There is an 'indie' sensibility about the art in this issue. It feels a bit more grounded and simple than the usual superhero universe artwork, and that would tremendously to the book's advantage.

Valiant do such a good job with these four-issue miniseries. They are easy to pick up, easy to digest, and consistently imaginative and enjoyable. In many ways it seems a smarter approach to a superhero universe than either DC or Marvel: find a story worth telling, with a character worth using, get in and out in a brisk fashion, and move onto the next worthwhile story. Based on issue #1 Secret Weapons already feels pretty worthwhile. (4/5)

Secret Weapons #1. Valiant. Written by Eric Heisserer. Art and colours by Raul Allen with Patricia Martin.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Ghostbusters 101, Kull Eternal, Rebels and X-O Manowar.

July 10, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Phantasms"

It is 25 October 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While Picard (Patrick Stewart) tries to avoid going to a tedious Starfleet banquet, Data (Brent Spiner) discovers that his dreaming program has started to give him nightmares instead.

"Phantasms" is a terribly messy episode with an awful lot of problems. It involves Data suffering from first bad dreams and then conscious hallucinations, leading to him actually stabbing a crewmate. It then concludes with everything being okay, and the Enterprise saved from harm once again. That feels decidedly false. To reiterate, Data stabs a crewmate in the shoulder - this is a horrifying act that should have serious consequences. That it does not makes the entire episode collapse; it simply is not believable.

July 9, 2017

The Pull List: 28 June 2017, Part 1

Kensho and Thurma are on the run with a crystal shard. Facing a prophecy that could spell the end of the world, an ageing Jen sets off on one final quest to retrieve the shard - unless the Skeksi Chamberlain finds them first.

We are now at the one-third mark of Archaia and Boom's 12-part maxi-series The Power of the Dark Crystal, adapting the screenplay for the never-produced sequel to Jim Henson and Frank Oz's 1982 fantasy masterpiece. I was always keen to read this comic to find out what the Jim Henson Company had in mind for the sequel. Based on the first four issues we lost a remarkably faithful and respectful follow-up, set a generation later and with a whole new angle on the characters.

Kensho and Thurma have an enormous amount of appeal as protagonists: both young and uncertain, both wildly out of their depths, and having to trust that what they are doing is the right thing and not a catastrophic mistake. The older Jen is also effective: he's harder but wearier, and really does feel like an old man rather than the idealistic and naive hero he was in the film. If anything feels a little misplaced it's the Skeksis, although that might simply be that they are less entertaining as still images than they are as bickering, gleefully vile puppets on screen.

This is a sequel that gets why the original work was so creatively successful. It is definitely worth fans checking out to discover what we lost. (4/5)

The Power of the Dark Crystal #4. Archaia/Boom Studios. Written by Simon Spurrier. Art and colours by Kelly and Nichole Matthews.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Invader Zim, Poe Dameron and Saga.

July 7, 2017

Doctor Who: "Cold Blood"

It is 29 May 2010, and time for another episode of Doctor Who.

Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) has been dragged far underground into a sleeping hive of Silurians - the original sentient inhabitants of the Earth. While a Silurian held hostage by a frightened group of humans on the surface, the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) race to prevent an inter-species war.

About six months ago I watched and reviewed the first part of this two-part adventure, "The Hungry Earth". Life got in the way a little, but after viewing Doctor Who's superb Season 10 finale "The Doctor Falls" I was keen to watch some more 21st century Who so figured I should finally get around to rewatching "Cold Blood". As with the first episode there is a certain level of timeliness about viewing the episode, since it is written by Chris Chibnall - the writer/producer who takes over running the entire series from 2018.

July 6, 2017

The Pull List: 21 June 2017, Part 4

I have mentioned this multiple times in earlier reviews, but it always bears repeating: The Black Monday Murders is one of the most interesting comic books on the market right now. It's complex, and dense, and is presented in an inventive combination of comic book narrative and background text.

This kind of hybrid format is not new for writer Jonathan Hickman, who created a range of provocative and interesting miniseries before becoming one of Marvel's key superhero writers. Here he presents a story about a global economy run from behind the scenes by all-powerful supernatural and magical forces. There is a power struggle within the echelons of power, and at the same time a half-believing homicide detective is trying to work his way behind the scenes to understand what the hell makes the world tick.

Tomm Coker uses a very realistic, photo-referenced art style to great effect in this book, making it feel distinctly film-like and sophisticated. Colourist Jordie Bellaire gives it all a gloomy, limited palette that beautifully ups the tension throughout.

Each issue is longer than your average comic book, using its extra space to expand the world, illuminate background detail and character, and sometimes simply give the narrative extra room to develop the strongest possible impact. I never realised that financial horror could be a genre. In the hands of the Black Monday Murders team, it's a great one. (4/5)

The Black Monday Murders #6. Image. Written by Jonathan Hickman. Art by Tomm Coker. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Green Arrow, Head Lopper and Superman.

July 4, 2017

The Pull List: 21 June 2017, Part 3

There I was, only two weeks ago, bemoaning that Aquaman never seems to find fresh angles any more, and seems dogged down by Aquaman arguing with Atlantean nobles and soldiers while trying to negotiate peace with the surface world. What a difference one issue makes.

Aquaman #25 sees Atlantis ruled by a new king named Rath, who covets magical items and who has sealed the city off from the surface world. Aquaman is presumed dead, but secretly lives on in the city's lower slums as a street-level vigilante: a sort of undersea Batman. It all feels exactly like the shake-up this book requires.

The new issue is immediately striking thanks to the presence of artist Stjepan Sejic, whose painterly work gives the entire story a very 'big budget' feel. Possibly to accommodate Sejic's process, the book has shifted back to a more leisurely monthly schedule. Combined with the new story direction, the art makes Aquaman feel the most exciting and dynamic that it has been in years. (5/5)

Aquaman #25. Written by Dan Abnett. Art and colours by Stjepan Sejic.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and The Wild Storm.

July 3, 2017

The Angriest: June 2017 in review

A lot of people remain very excited about the return of David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks, so I am not too surprised that my review of the second season premiere was the most popular post on The Angriest this month. The Star Trek: The Next Generation reviews continued to be popular as well, particular those for "Timescape", "Descent" and "Descent, Part II".

In June I published one full-length essay, four reviews of new movies, another 10 reviews of older movies, plus reviews of 15 TV episodes, one anime episode, one CD, and 44 comic books. A full index of reviews published here and on both FictionMachine and FilmInk, is available below the cut.

June 30, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Gambit, Part II"

It is 18 October 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) are trapped on a pirate ship that is hunting down the parts of an ancient super-weapon. On the Enterprise, acting Captain Data (Brent Spiner) maintains his pursuit.

"Gambit" is a rare Star Trek two-parter in which the second half is generally of the same quality of the first. A lot of that comes down to ambition: storylines like "The Best of Both Worlds" or "Descent" set up huge expectations with their first parts, only to fail to deliver with the conclusion. "Gambit" is a story of relatively modest ambitions, but by matching them "Part 2" wraps up an unexpected fun and breezy space opera.

June 29, 2017

The Pull List: 21 June 2017, Part 2

Some days it seems like every media property not properly getting nailed down is being picked up and adapted into a comic book. Cartoons, old TV shows, movie franchises, and even toy lines are getting tidied up and re-developed as comics. Some have been great; the majority have been pretty ordinary, and occasionally downright awful.

When independent publisher Dynamite announced they would be producing a range of comic books based on old 1980s Atari videogames, I was immediately fairly cynical. It is ostensibly a ridiculous idea, given how simple and slight those old games were. In effect it seems little more than a branding exercise, using a name like Yar's Revenge or Centipede to attract readers of a certain age to check out an otherwise unrelated book on the comic store shelf.

Sword Quest, then, comes as a complete surprise. Rather than adapt the game itself - a simple fantasy game released over three instalments between 1982 and 1984 - writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims have instead taken inspiration from the real-life competition that accompanied the original games' release. Players who solved the console games could write in to Atari and get shortlisted for a Sword Quest championship, the winner of whom would receive a one-off genuinely expensive jewel encrusted artefact based on the games' in-universe lore. When the fourth game in the series was cancelled the grand prize - a jeweled sword - was never actually awarded. This new comic miniseries sees one man attempt to steal it.

It is another heist comic, coming hot on the heels of the likes of 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank  and Night Owl Society, and to an extent it shares much of the DNA of those books. The artwork, by the pseudonymous Ghostwriter X, reflects that to a large degree, and the writing has a very down-to-earth and grounded quality - until the final page, at any rate. Some times a comic can really surprise you: Sword Quest is definitely one of those comics. (4/5)

Sword Quest #1. Dynamite. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colours by Ghostwriter X. Colour flats by Karl Fan.

Under the cut: reviews of All Star Batman, Darth Vader, Silver Surfer and Star Trek: Boldly Go.

June 28, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 2 Episode 2

It is 6 October 1990 and time for the next episode of Twin Peaks Season 2.

Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Truman (Michael Ontkean) attempt to question the awakened Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine). Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) meets Laura's secret friend Harold Smith (Lenny Van Dohlen). Audrey (Sherilynn Fenn) remains trapped at One-Eyed Jacks for a third straight day.

So: one plot thread at a time. Donna heads out on Laura's old Meals on Wheels route. Her stop is to an old lady who fusses over being given creamed corn when she didn't want it. No problem: her tuxedo-wearing grandson teleports it across the room and into his hands. There is no explanation given for this, and Donna seems surprisingly calm about it. It is also the beginning of a worrying trend for Twin Peaks that will come to cripple this second season: weirdness for its own sake. In the first season, even when things got delightfully surreal, there was a sense that the supernatural elements were informed by something behind the narrative. This is the first episode where it really feels like things are getting made up for their own sake. It is not a development I like.

June 27, 2017

The Pull List: 21 June 2017, Part 1

One of the things that always made me prefer DC Comics superheroes to their Marvel equivalents was the sense of legacy. Characters didn't always stick around, so when Hal Jordan stopped being Green Lantern there was Kyle Rayner to provide an alternative take. Oliver Queen was replaced as Green Arrow by his son Connor Hawke. Barbara Gordon made way for Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. Likewise Dick Grayson retired as Robin, to be replaced by Jason Todd and Tim Drake.

A lot of that legacy got jettisoned under publisher Dan Didio, who pushed a return to the Silver Age iterations of the DC legacy heroes. That sense of history is slowly coming back, however, and nowhere does it seem more obvious than in Super Sons. The book exploits the fact that both Batman and Superman each have a son, and their starkly contrasting personalities and methods make for a great combination. Issue #5 picks up with Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent having finished their first adventure together, but both in trouble with their fathers. Meeting up in the Batcave, they start taking their frustrations out of each other.

It's a great breather, giving room to develop character and cement the growing bond between them. Peter J. Tomasi's script has plenty of wit and snark, while guest artist Allison Borges really pushes a sense of fun about the book. It is such a pleasure to see the legacy angle revived; I can only hope the sentiment spreads to other characters. (4/5)

Super Sons #5. DC Comics. Written by Peter J. Tomasi. Art by Allison Borges. Colours by Hi-Fi.

Under the cut: reviews of Britannia, Highlander, Poe Dameron and Rapture.

June 24, 2017

The Pull List: 14 June 2017, Part 3

I keep recommending to comic book fans that I know that they should check out Valiant's range of superhero comics, since they consistently some of the most enjoyable stuff getting published these days. In particular I really enjoyed Rai, which was more of a far future science fiction story despite being set in the same fictional universe.

This month Valiant has launched the first of four one-shots, all titled The History of the Valiant Universe, and they're kicking things off with a return to Rai and his orbital home of New Japan. While it is well illustrated by Francis Portella, I am honestly not sure precisely who the market for this book is. It retells a highly truncated version of the Valiant Universe's history, but anybody who's read the storylines when they were first published will walk away a little bored and anybody who hasn't will simply be a bit confused - and likely also bored.

There are great ways into the Valiant titles - just buying volume 1 of one of the series in collected form would be enough - and this one-shot simply feels redundant. (2/5)

Rai:The History of the Valiant Universe #1. Valiant. Written by Rafer Roberts. Art by Francis Portella.

Under the cut: reviews of Copperhead, Detective Comics and Jem and the Holograms.

June 23, 2017

The Pull List: 14 June 2017, Part 2

Kill the Minotaur is a new series out from Image that uses the comic book medium to retell the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is far from the first attempt to adapt the story to comics, but based on the first issue it seems a fairly promising attempt.

One big selling point is Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa's script. It works pretty hard to actually give the various characters some depth and distinctive personalities. It makes them flawed human beings rather than iconic heroes and villains, and this is very much in the book's favour. They are not entirely original or fleshed-out - there is still a very heightened sense to them all - but it is a step in a good direction. Hopefully future issues will ease back just a little, since it has a tendency to be somewhat overwrought in key scenes. Lukas Ketner's artwork is lightly exaggerated, which emphasises the emotion of the script.

The Greek myths are rather dark, violent stories, and it is good to see that style retained for this adaptation. It even approaches a mild sort of horror from time to time, which feels appropriate. This is a slightly flawed but solid adaptation; I am keen to see where its creative team takes it. (4/5)

Kill the Minotaur #1. Image. Written by Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa. Art by Lukas Ketner. Colours by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Hulk and Star Wars.

June 20, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Gambit, Part 1"

It is 11 October 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The apparent death of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) leads the USS Enterprise on a hunt for a rogue starship of pirates, who are moving from planet to planet stealing archaeological artefacts. When Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is taken prisoner by those pirates, he finds Picard alive and well and working in their crew.

"Gambit" sees Star Trek: The Next Generation really head where no Star Trek episode had gone before: into a full-blown space opera replete with starship chases, space battles, races to track down ancient artefacts and a shipful of space pirates. It is hardly The Next Generation at its most intellectual, but after the past three episodes - whose quality has ranged from the underwhelming to the dire - it is a refreshing change and a hell of a lot of fun.

June 19, 2017

Colditz: "Ace in the Hole"

It is 11 February 1974, and time for another episode of Colditz.

Famed Squadron Leader Tony Shaw (Jeremy Kemp) is brought to Colditz. Carter (David McCallum) hopes that a high profile escape will raise the flagging morale of the British prisoners, only Shaw appears to have no intention of escaping and dedicates himself to researching English literature instead.

There is a problem with the format of a series like Colditz, or indeed any prison-based drama really, which is a lack of potential storylines. This is the sixth episode of the second season, and the third episode to base itself around a new inmate being transferred to the castle and interacting with the regular cast. On the one hand it's an easy way to create drama and intrigue, but at the same time it easily falls into a familiar and ultimately slightly dull routine. This episode is the first to really feel like part of that routine. It does not do anything specifically badly, but it does wear a little on the patience.

June 18, 2017

The Pull List: 14 June 2017, Part 1

DC Comics have a high profile miniseries coming up called Metal, reuniting the Batman team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I tend to enjoy DC's events a lot more than Marvel's for two reasons: firstly they tend not to suck in every monthly ongoing into the storyline whether their readers want them to or not; secondly they are in almost every case vastly superior stories. For some reason DC seems to get the events a lot more instinctively than Marvel do.

Metal is not quite here yet, but Dark Days: The Forge is. It is a prologue issue that sets up some mysteries, teases some new characters and lines up a broad-ranging cast of popular DC heroes. It is co-written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, and illustrated by a cavalcade of A-list art talent.

It is a mixed success. Some elements work, and some really do not. It is nice to see Carter Hall, aka Hawkman, make an appearance in flashbacks, and indeed it appears the mysterious 'nth metal' that powers Hawkman's flight may be a key factor in the series. There are also roles for Batman and Aquaman, Green Lantern and Duke Thomas, and even a few surprises thrown in. The mysterious 'immortal men', who are getting their own ongoing series on the back of Metal, make no great impression at all.

The book is a little pricey at US$4.99, but to DC's credit it comes in an attractive cardstock cover and does have a fairly lengthy page count. It doesn't satisfy as a book in its own right, but as a teaser of things to come it stimulates reader interest pretty well. If you're planning on reading Metal it's probably best to get in on the ground floor. (4/5)

Dark Days: The Forge #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. Art by Jim Lee, Adam Kubert, John Romita Jr, Scott Williams, Klaus Janson and Danny Miki. Colours by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Freeway Fighter and Ms Marvel.

June 17, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Interface"

It is 4 October 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While testing a new remote-controlled probe on a Starfleet vessel drifting inside the atmosphere of Marijne VII, La Forge (LeVar Burton) comes to believe that his mother - whose own starship has recently vanished without a trace - is trapped on the planet's surface.

By the time The Next Generation came around to its seventh and final season, viewers had been introduced to the family of almost the entire regular cast. They had seen Riker's father, Troi's mother, brothers for Data, Worf and Picard, a son and a late husband for Dr Crusher, and even a sister for the late Tasha Yar. The only character left with a proper back story or family was Geordi La Forge. That in mind, "Interface" was a pretty obvious episode to make.

June 16, 2017

The Pull List: 7 June 2017, Part 3

Quite a few European bandes desinees have been getting reformatted and released in American format lately. Add to that list Jazz Maynard, a new crime book by the pseudonymous Raule and Roger.

Maynard is a jazz trumpeter returning to Spain with his sister after many years away. He has just rescued her from a New York brothel, shooting a number of gangsters on his way, and while he's reached home his troubles have definitely followed him home.

There's a sort of ugly sexist tone to this first issue, visibly in the way it treats women - usually naked or half-naked - as collateral damage rather than proper characters in their own right. It may change in future issues, but for now it sets everything off on a slightly unpleasant foot. That's a shame too, since Roger Ibanez's artwork is stunning. It's reminiscent of both the anime Cowboy Bebop and the works of animator Peter Chung. The limited colour palette also gives it a great amount of atmosphere.

Repackaging bandes desinees as American comics is not my personal preference - I'd much rather English translations of the original paperback and hardcover volumes - but any exposure of European comic book creators to an English-speaking audience is a good thing. Something, as always, is better than nothing. (3/5)

Jazz Maynard #1. Magnetic Press. Story by Raule. Art and colours by Roger.

Under the cut: reviews of Extremity, Night Owl Society and Planetoid: Praxis - as well as delayed reviews of Hulk and Southern Cross.

June 15, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Liaisons"

It is 27 September 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise plays host to three ambassadors from the planet Iyaara. One is paired with Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis), and seems oddly obsessed with desserts. Another demands to be paired with Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn), and is an antagonistic boor. A third Iyaaran travels in a shuttle with Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), only for them to crash on a nearby uninhabited planet. While searching the crash site Picard is struck by an electrical discharge, and wakes up the prisoner of an amorous castaway named Anna (Barbara Williams).

"Liaisons" is one of those Next Generation episodes where you can see what the writers (Roger Eschbacher, Jaq Greenspon, Jeanne Carrigan Fauci and Lisa Rich) were attempting to achieve, but its execution simply does not properly capture their intention. Instead of a surprising story of aliens trying to comprehend the emotional states of other species, the episode is dominated by Picard being held against his will by a mentally unwell woman desperate to have sex with him. The gender politics, even at the time of broadcast, felt a little odious and out of date.

June 14, 2017

The Pull List: 7 June 2017, Part 2

Ashli is a nurse undertaking her first shift at the Saint Cascia Hospital. It is understaffed, under-funded, and packed with too many people suffering from mental illness. Then there are the 'administrators', shadowy men in suits that Ashli is told to keep away from and with whom she should never make eye contact.

The Unsound is a new dark fantasy comic from writer Cullen Bunn and artist Jack T. Cole. Cole's art is wonderful. It has a sketchy, slightly off-kilter style that suits the material - as does his relatively pale and subtle colouring work. As for the writing...

It is an effective first issue, without a doubt. Bunn establishes Ashli well from the get-go, and she is a sympathetic and immediately likeable character. The entire city in which she lives has a slightly threatening, edgy aspect to it, which ramps up the menace from the get-go. Inside the hospital the fantasy and horror imagery is creative and wonderfully effective. The problem is the use of a mental hospital as a site for horror. Not only does it feel like an over-used trope, it feels like an inappropriate one. It makes fictional horror out of human illness, and that is a very risky idea with which to play. It's not impossible to make it work, but the risk of crossing a line and being offensive seems pretty great to me. I worry this is a great comic borne from a bad idea. (4/5)

The Unsound #1. Boom Studios. Written by Cullen Bunn. Art and colours by Jack T. Cole.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Darth Vader and Giant Days.

June 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Descent, Part II"

It is 20 September 1993, and time for the Season 7 premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Data (Brent Spiner) has turned against his crewmates to ally with his twin brother Lore. While Data begins to conduct a potentially lethal experiment on La Forge (LeVar Burton), Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Worf (Michael Dorn) make contact with a Borg resistance group.

"Descent" simply fails to work as a story. There is something crudely superficial about it, as if the writers involved simply felt that 'Lore and the Borg team up' was a sufficient draw to make an entertaining pair of episodes. It simply fails to make any sort of impact, or indeed pick up where the Season 6 cliffhanger left off. Rather than destroy the Federation as claimed, Lore and Data simply continue some experiments into creating artificial life - including possibly killing La Forge in the attempt to give him brain implants.

June 12, 2017

The Pull List: 7 June 2017, Part 1

Atlantis declares Corum Rath as their new king, putting Arthur in serious trouble. With two successive wars with the surface world just ended, and relations still very strained, a war-monger for a king is pretty much the last thing the kingdom needs. Arthur could help - but his people have abandoned his leadership.

There is solid entertainment value in Aquaman #24, which brings some long-running Atlantean tensions to a head. Dan Abnett's script relies on that long build-up rather well, and the artwork (by a combination of Briones, Eaton and Faucher) is reasonably attractive and tells the story well enough. Sadly it all feels a bit repetitive. There is an over-reliance on Atlantis in Aquaman going back for many years. There are numerous creative directions in which one could take a comic book about a water-breathing super-human who patrols the world's oceans. Only a few issues ago Arthur and Mera uncovered a portal to an ocean planet on the other side of the universe. That seemed ripe for exploration and adventure, but as soon as it was revealed that portal was closed.

I adore the Aquaman character, but I feel as if successive writers simply do not quite now the best way to push the character forward. I am enjoying Abnett's run, but I want something more interesting than what he is currently providing. (3/5)

Aquaman #24. DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art by Philippe Briones, Scot Eaton and Wayne Faucher. Colours by Gabe Eltaeb.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Green Arrow, Heathen and Spider-Man.

June 9, 2017

Twin Peaks: Season 2 Episode 1

It is 30 September 1990, and time for the Season 2 premiere of Twin Peaks.

Nadine (Wendy Robie) and Leo (Eric Da Re) remain in comas. Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), shot by an unseen assailant, lies bleeding on the floor of his hotel room when he has a supernatural encounter with a giant. Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) is pressed by the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) to investigate Laura Palmer's 'meals on wheels' route.

Twin Peaks returned for its second season with a 90 minute premiere, written by Mark Frost and directed by David Lynch. From the get-go there is something off. Much was been written about the decline of the series during its second season, particularly once Lynch left the series following its seventh episode, but to be honest the rot - if we can call it that - has set in already. There is a wooliness to this 90-minute opener. It feels somewhat lost in its own storylines, and quite a few of them are simply not very good.

June 6, 2017

The Pull List: 31 May 2017, Part 2

Black Road comes to its inevitable, fatal conclusion: this 10-issue series, heralded as a "Magnus the Black mystery", has been a bloody and bleak journey through an early medieval Scandinavia overrun and transformed by Christianity. It has been rich in tone and character, and this final issue is no exception.

This is essentially more epilogue than climax. The main battle has been fought, and all that is left here is basically tidying up the loose ends and providing a full explanation for where Magnus has come from and what has led him to this point. He is a great character, and I really hope the "Magnus the Black mystery" tagline means we will get a sequel series before too long.

Garry Brown and Dave McCaig's artwork has effectively pressed the barren, frozen environs of the story. It's a wonderful shift in style from what the same creative team were doing on The Massive a year or two back.

There are no huge surprises here, because Black Road is not really intended as a surprise story. It is simply a good story, told in a strong and measured fashion. It ends on pretty much a perfect note. (5/5)

Black Road #10. Image. Written by Brian Wood. Art by Garry Brown. Colours by Dave McCaig.

Under the cut: a short end to the week with reviews of Hadrian's Wall and Star Trek: Waypoint.