December 30, 2017

The Pull List: 20 December 2017, Part 2

It's my experience that Marvel's Star Wars comic books work best when they blend elements from multiple films, and add fresh material of their own. It's the approach that made Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader run sing - and which led to an excellent spin-off book Doctor Aphra - and it's the approach that makes Charles Soule's latest issue of Poe Dameron feel so entertaining as well.

Lor San Tekka (played in The Force Awakens by Max Von Sydow) has been captured by a Trade Federation baron, and to rescue him General Leia and Captain Dameron must work together on a calculated heist to get inside the baron's facilities and steal him out from under the baron's nose. It throws in back story from the Star Wars prequels, foreshadows the relationship between Leia and Poe in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and chucks in a couple of well-devised original characters.

It's a great issue, with strong art by Angel Unzueta and colours by Arif Prianto. I've gone up and down on Poe Dameron; with this issue I am way, way up. (4/5)

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #22. Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Angel Unzueta. Colours by Arif Prianto.

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

December 28, 2017

The Pull List: 20 December 2017, Part 1

Batman and Superman are trapped in a dark dimension at the behest of the demon Barbatos. In order to save the DC Universe from being consumed by Barbatos' legions, the Justice League desperately need to arm themselves with the mysterious "Nth Metal". As a result three teams of heroes have journeyed to the corners of the universe to retrieve it.

Dark Nights: Metal is a ridiculous comic. It's a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" extravaganza, with an expansive cast, over-the-top villains, and a very self-aware attitude to just how ridiculous it is. This is a comic where a passing fish will see Deathstroke desecrate an Atlantean tomb with a cry of "Poseidon's beard!", where Starro the Conqueror will leap out from behind a curtain shouting "Hahaha! I'm back, losers!", and Batman and Superman can be snatching from certain death by Daniel from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.

The bottom line is that is just fun. It's the sort of book we used to read as kids, where we didn't really care if anything made sense, we just liked watching superheroes have adventures and colourful images enchanted us. It's a deliberately over-egged pudding, filled with characters we like and throwing so much stuff into the mix that it'd be impossible not to find at least a few likeable elements. I adore all of it. This stuff is brilliantly stupid, and just plain brilliant. (5/5)

Dark Nights: Metal #4. Written by Scott Snyder. Art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion. Colours by FCO Plascencia.

Under the cut: reviews of BatmanLazaretto, The Wild Storm, and a delayed review of Scales & Scoundrels.

December 27, 2017

Roar: "Pilot"

It is 14 July 1997, and time for the series premiere of Roar.

In the year 400, young Irish rebel Conor (Heath Ledger) survives the massacre of his family before rising up to become the leader destined to rid his country of the Roman invaders. With the aid of his bodyguard Fergus (John Saint Ryan), former slave Catlin (Vera Farmiga), and African runaway Tully (Alonzo Greer), Conor starts with the rival chieftan who murdered his family and lover and who sided with the Roman during their invasion.

Roar is one of the most mid-1990s TV dramas you could find. Following the runaway success of the linked fantasy series Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, American TV networks and syndicates briefly went spare trying to recapture the appeal of those shows. To my mind Roar is the most accomplished of those attempts - albeit one of the more short-lived at just 13 episodes. It's an engaging remix of other programs, produced with a lot of enthusiasm and good humour.

December 26, 2017

The Pull List: 13 December 2017, Part 3

In 15th century Florence, Leonardo da Vinci works building war machines for the Medici while secretly building his own wooden automaton. I love period settings in comic books, and with this combination of history and science fiction the new comic series Monstro Mechanica is well set to be exactly the sort of book that I like.

What makes this book work isn't just the genre blend. It is also the characters, with Da Vinci sharing the limelight with his young female apprentice Isobel - a rebellious woman who turns head by her insistence on wearing men's clothing. On top of that it is the beautiful clean artwork by Chris Evenhuis, which feels quite reminiscent of the work undertaken by Mike Norton in Image's Revival. Sjan Weijers adds some outstanding colours too, with each page using a limited but rich palette. Altogether it's a highly promising package.

Of course it's hard to judge a whole story via its first issue, but as an opening chapter Monstro Mechanica seems very promising indeed. (4/5)

Monstro Mechanica #1. Aftershock. Written by Paul Allor. Art by Chris Evenhuis. Colours by Sjan Weijers.

Under the cut: reviews of Invader Zim, Mister Miracle, and The Wicked + the Divine.

December 23, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Firstborn"

It is 25 April 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While Worf (Michael Dorn) encourages his son Alexander (Brian Bonsall) to better embrace his Klingon heritage, he comes under attack from a House of Duras assassin. When the Klingon warrior K'mtar (James Sloyan) arrives to protect and guide Worf, the two men come to blows over how Alexander's instruction in Klingon tradition should be done - and indeed his future in general.

And that's it for Brian Bonsall's run as Alexander Rozhenko, after a seven-episode run across three seasons. Generally speaking, fans have been quite harsh on Alexander; both the character and Bonsall's performance. To be honest I'm a mild fan of both. Could the character have been better written? Possibly, but it was a genuinely nice extension of Worf's character to make him a father - particularly of a son who is not particularly interested in being a Klingon warrior any time soon.

December 22, 2017

The Pull List: 13 December 2017, Part 2

Zedo and Gogi are two boys living underground beneath the ruined wreckage of human civilization. Down below, rival gangs rule the streets. Up above, the Earth is dominated by giant monsters. When Zedo and Gogi earn the chance to prove themselves worthy of joining the "Bloodwolves" gang, they take it up without hesitating - but it does mean venturing across the city limits, and into the territory of the giants.

Fans of post-apocalyptic drama and giant monsters are going to have a ball with Giants. It marks the debut of Spanish brothers Carlos and Miguel Valderrama, and based on their work here they have a long and successful career ahead of them. This is a smartly plotted first issue. It introduces the setting and the characters with great effect. It's hugely enjoyable to read.

It has a lovely art style as well: there's a lot of motion in the art. It feels energetic and frantic. It's subtly coloured too, so that nothing ever feels overwhelming or overly busy. I cannot think of many comic book debuts that feel so slickly presented, or so immediately enjoyable. (5/5)

Giants #1. Dark Horse. Story and art by Carlos and Miguel Valderrama.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and She-Hulk.

December 21, 2017

Myrkur: Mareridt (2017)

Myrkur is not a band but an alias: used by Danish musician and folk singer Amalie Bruun to separate her heavy metal works from the rest of her compositions. She released her first album as Myrkur anonymously in 2015; while her identity has since been leaked to the public, she has kept the pseudonym for her 2017 follow-up Mareridt (the Danish word for nightmares).

It is a really distinctive act, because while Bruun personally identifies her Myrkur projects as black metal, there is a much more complex and nuanced sound being developed here. Her folk background feeds in heavily, and that tends to soften the harsher elements one would expect from a traditional black metal act and create something that feels a lot more mythological and unearthly. To a large degree the rage one would expect to hear in a metal album is absent. Instead it feels rather mournful and haunted. Long-term metal fans may struggle with Myrkur, because it often sits on the fringes of the genre. Anybody put off by the metal tag should probably give it a chance; it may pleasantly surprise you.

The Pull List: 13 December 2017, Part 1

Since childhood I have been fascinated by Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Christ to the Romans and led to him being crucified. He strikes me as a complicated figure: a traitor, yet one whose betrayal enables the entire Christian religion to unfold. If he was destined to betray Jesus, then how can he be fully culpable for doing what he was always going to do? It's fertile creative ground, which has famously been sowed before in The Last Temptation of Christ, and now the same ideas circulate through Judas, a four-part miniseries by Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka.

It's rare to see a theological book published as a mainstream comic book, but Judas is well worth the read. It looks outstanding, thanks to Rebelka's clean, haunting artwork. It also digs into Judas' character and backstory, while utilising a clever non-linear storytelling style. You absolutely don't need to be religious to enjoy this issue; I'm not, and it's one of the best debut issues I have read this year. This is an excellent set-up for an intelligent, literate dark fantasy. (5/5)

Judas #1. Boom Studios. Written by Jeff Loveness. Art and colours by Jakub Rebelka.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Detective Comics and Port of Earth.

December 20, 2017

The Pull List: 6 December 2017, Part 3

Jack Kryznan arrives outside the post-apocalyptic city of Paradiso, looking for a way inside. He brings with him a mysterious device that everybody - once they learn what it does - is going to kill to get it into their possession.

This new science fiction monthly is certainly the more mysterious debut of recent years. There's clearly a story here. There's clearly a lot of work done in terms of world-building that will undoubtedly pay off in future issues. The artwork by Pramanik is busy but eye-catching. The problem is that it really is all a little too mysterious; it's kind of hard to know what's precisely going on here.

In the end you're being asked to trust writer Ram V and assume that things will become clearer in the future. That's actually a big ask; there are a lot of independent and creator-owned books getting published these days, and they're all competing for readers. If you're really craving a cyberpunk-come-post-apocalyptic title, by all means check Paradiso out - but be prepared to work a little for your entertainment. (3/5)

Paradiso #1. Image. Written by Ram V. Art by Devmalya Pramanik. Coloiurs by Dearbhla Kelly and Alex Sollazzo.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Faith, Giant Days, and Spider-Man, plus a bonus review of November's issue of Eternity.

December 19, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Journey's End"

It is 28 March 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) attempts to relocate a Native American colony that has fallen under Cardassian territory, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) returns to the USS Enterprise.

With the seventh and final season wrapping up, and The Next Generation soon to be replaced by new spin-off Voyager, "Journey's End" tries to kill two birds with one stone: giving former series regular Wesley Crusher one last send-off, and introducing the idea of Native Americans living near Cardassian space. The former feels necessary: the last time viewers saw Wesley he was disgraced at Starfleet Academy and held back a year. It's nice to find out what happens next. The latter is just plain odd: while Voyager will feature a Native American first officer, the colony and events here never get referenced. It's foreshadowing without a purpose.

December 18, 2017

The Pull List: 6 December 2017, Part 2

Pyppenia - known familiarly as Poppy - is a princess; the illegitimate daughter of a recently deceased king. On the day of her uncle's coronation, Poppy falls under attack - and her 'Sleepless' bodyguard is the only man standing between her and death.

Sleepless is a new fantasy series from Image: written by Sarah Vaughn and illustrated by Leila del Duca, it introduces a medieval kingdom, courtly intrigue, an appealing and upbeat protagonist, and a strange magical sort of guardian. There is not a lot of detail here; in fact, this first issue feels more like a prologue than a genuine first chapter. Despite this, its evocative setting, beautiful artwork and clever world-building make it immediately addictive. It promises an excellent series to come.

Del Duca's artwork is beautiful. It isn't simply the art style, it's the production design: the costuming of this series is eye-catching and richly detailed. It all feels like a proper place, with a consistent and believable aesthetic. Sarah Vaughn's script teases a world without really opening it. It makes issue #2 a tantalising proposition, since what has been revealed so far is so evocative and entertaining. This seems all set to be a marvellous new comic book. (5/5)

Sleepless #1. Image. Written by Sarah Vaughn. Art by Leila del Duca. Colours by Alissa Sallah.

Under the cut: reviews of Deadman, Green Arrow, The Power of the Dark Crystal, and Usagi Yojimbo.

December 16, 2017

Highlander: The Series: "Innocent Man"

It's 10 October 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

Homeless veteran Leo Atkins (Vincent Schiavelli) is in the wrong place at the wrong time when he stumbles upon the recently decapitated corpse of an immortal. Framed for the crime by local sheriff Howard Crowley (John Novak), he must rely on a visiting Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) to demonstrate his innocence.

The late Vincent Schiavelli is one of those beloved fixtures of cult and genre cinema that his mere presence alone seems to demand that "Innocent Man" deserves praise. In a long career he appeared in such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Buckaroo Banzai, Amadeus, Ghost, Batman Returns, Lord of Illusions, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Man on the Moon. The temptation is there to simply shout 'Vincent Schiavelli, it's great, shut up', and call the review a day.

December 14, 2017

Black Cab: 明 (Akira) (2017)

For their fifth studio album, Melbourne-based electronica band Black Cab pay direct tribute to Katsuhiro Otomo's legendary 1988 anime feature Akira. In a project that commenced as a live in-cinema performance, they now distil the melodies and rhythms developed there into a full-length album. You won't be able to whack it into a CD player and play it in sync with the actual movie, but you can slip on a pair of headphones and imagine a 45-minute long cyberpunk film of your very own.

The immediate surprise is how much the album sounds like Blade Runner, rather than Akira. Its extended use of drawn-out synthesiser notes immediately remind you of Vangelis rather than Akira composer Geinoh Yamashirogumi. Even at the base melody level there is a sense that the band is often only one misplaced note away from a Blade Runner cover version. That is not necessarily a bad thing - Blade Runner boasts one of the best movie scores of all time - but it's a surprise when one expects to hear an aural tribute to another 1980s cyberpunk film.

December 13, 2017

The Pull List: 6 December 2017, Part 1

Tom King is regularly and effectively perfect as the writer of Batman. Take "Superfriends", the new storyline beginning in issue #36. Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are engaged. Bruce has told his sons, both biological and adopted. Now, surely, it is time to tell his best friend Clark - but is Clark his friend? Do Batman and Superman have anything in common?

Over the course of one issue Tom King drives right to the heart of Bruce and Clark's relationship: how they relate to one another, how they perceive one another, and just why a friendship between the two seems so odd and difficult. The characterisation is pitch-perfect; not just the two superheroes but also their respective partners Lois and Selina. It is regularly and hugely funny, but then that humour leads to genuine insight.

It's a structural marvel too, with a clever layout and story structure that impresses enormously once it becomes apparent. Clay and Seth Mann's artwork is simply stunning, and excellently coloured by Jordie Bellaire - currently the best in the business, as far as I'm concerned.

I really think this might be my favourite King issue of Batman so far. It's quite simply and effectively perfect. (5/5)

Batman #36. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art by Clay Mann and Seth Mann. Colours by Jordie Bellaire. 

Under the cut: reviews of Darth Vader, Rocko's Modern Life, and Superman.

December 12, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Genesis"

It is 21 March 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

An unexplained disease begins to affect the Enterprise crew in different ways. When Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Data (Brent Spiner) return to the ship after an away mission, they find the entire crew have devolved into a variety of animal-like creatures.

At the time of its broadcast I felt reasonably certain that "Genesis" was the worst episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever made. I hated it so much that it has taken me more than 20 years to get around to watching it a second time. It is still awful, but time has somehow made it that special kind of awful in which - once you overcome its silly premise and unconvincing make-up effects - it's a strange kind of fun. It's an episode in which Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is a fish person and Picard begins to transform into a lemur. It's hard to top that kind of insanity.

December 11, 2017

The Pull List: 29 November 2017

The latest movie property to be adapted into a comic book is John Wick, the 2014 action film directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Thanks to Dynamite Entertainment and writer Greg Pak, John Wick's ultra-violent gun-shooting adventures come to comic books on a monthly basis.

It's a wonderful concept to adapt, given Wick's stripped-back nature and reliance on near-endless, brutal gunfights. It is also heartening to see a talented writer like Greg Pak taking the reins. This first issue kicks off with Wick revisiting his childhood with lethal intent, and fills in some back story in the process.

Telling an origin story feels in some small part a betrayal of the films, since Wick's pre-existing reputation and anonymous history forms a fairly key part of his appeal. At the same time Giovanni Valletta's artwork does not seem dynamic and energised enough to capture the tone of the two John Wick films. There's promise in a John Wick comic book, but based on this first issue Dynamite is struggling to find it. (2/5)

John Wick #1. Dynamite. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Giovanni Valletta. Colours by David Curiel and Inlight Studios.

Under the cut: a bumper crop of reviews including Aquaman, Atomic Robo, Batman, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, Green Arrow, Poe Dameron, Sacred Creatures, Spy Seal, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and Star Trek: Discovery.

December 7, 2017

The Pull List: 22 November 2017, Part 2

The world has ended, with almost all of humanity gone and the Earth populated by strange alien insects. Three human survivors wander through a vast, empty city in search of both food and other people. Now the three men have met a mysterious woman, and everything looks set to fall apart.

The Beautiful Death is a strange, somewhat surreal post-apocalyptic drama. It has an arresting sort of dream-like style to it. Explanations have, to date, been in pretty short supply, but the air of mystery that leaves makes it all the more intriguing.

The real selling point is the artwork. Bablet has a slightly unusual style, giving his characters a distinctive angular look. The backgrounds and cityscapes are beautifully detailed, and it is all coloured in a typically French subtle style. Add in the lengthy page count per issue and this is a hugely addictive and enjoyable read. (4/5)

The Beautiful Death #3. Titan Comics/Statix Press. Story and art by Mathieu Bablet.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Copperhead, Detective Comics, Doom Patrol, and Rat Queens.

December 6, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Eye of the Beholder"

It is 28 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When a crew member commits suicide, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) begins to suspect that their death may be related to a previously undiscovered murder while the Enterprise was under construction.

"Eye of the Beholder" takes and ruins a pretty cool premise: that there's been a dead body sealed inside one of the Enterprise's bulkheads for close to seven years. It also sets off in a pretty bold direction for mid-1990s science fiction drama by starting things off with a suicide. From there it runs pretty enthusiastically downhill. The individual elements all have merit, but some specific creative choices halfway through scuttle the whole thing by the end. It's a shame, because I think the episode has genuine potential.

Highlander: The Series: "Road Not Taken"

It is 17 October 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

A cyclist goes on a violent rampage in a jewelry store before collapsing dead just outside. With the cyclist a friend of Richie (Stan Kirsch), he and Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) investigate - leading them to an old immortal acquaintance of Macleods who has spent centuries seeking the perfect super-strength elixir.

"Road Not Taken" marks an improvement over "Family Tree", which in its own small way improved upon "The Gathering". Highlander: The Series definitely appears to be getting better with each episode; in this case the episode is almost good. For one thing it involves another immortal. For another, it actually holds a comparatively complex storyline. On top of that the action is genuinely impressive stuff for a weekly television drama. It's still not particularly good television, but at least you can begin to see the good stuff in the distance.

December 5, 2017

The Pull List: 22 November 2017, Part 1

Swordquest has been one of the big surprises of my comic-reading year: an adaptation of an Atari 2600 videogame that came from a right angle and told an unexpected and inventive story about a terminally ill gamer, an unfinished competition, and a planned heist at a retro-gaming convention. As it went on the book made a shift from realistic and light-hearted crime book into an actual fantasy, which I was prepared to run with because I'd enjoyed it all so much.

Sadly when the time comes to tie everything together in a final issue, Swordquest stumbles and falls. The art and colours by Ghost Writer X remain solid and enjoyable, but they work best with a relatively mundane, realistic setting, and don't do anywhere near as well with the fantasy elements. It is the script by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims that actually causes the book to collapse. Everything feels rushed, causing the issue to feel less like a conclusion and more like a set-up to a sequel miniseries or ongoing book. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I'm sure some readers will enjoy the fanciful manner in which the book concludes. I found myself longing for the grounded tone of earlier issues. (2/5)

Swordquest #5. Dynamite. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colours by Ghost Writer X. Colour flats by Ellie Wright.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Giant Days and X-O Manowar.

December 4, 2017

Highlander: The Series: "Family Tree"

It is 19 December 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

Richie (Stan Kirsch) is trying to find out who his birth parents were, which leads the desperate con artist Joe Scanlon (J.E. Freeman) - who is in for $50,000 with the local mob - to masquerade as his father to get the money from him. Macleod (Adrian Paul) is suspicious, which puts him up against Joe's crime boss (Tamsin Kelsey) and violent henchman (Peter DeLuise).

Highlander's second episode is much better than the first: it's cleanly plotted and shot, the acting is better, and the production values seem a great deal stronger now that the majority of the budget isn't being spent on Christopher Lambert. You shouldn't get the wrong idea, however; "Family Tree" is still awful. It is derivative, creatively lazy and has almost nothing whatsoever to do with immortals fighting each other to the death. Some decent flashbacks to 16th century Scotland do lift it up a little, but certainly not by enough.

December 3, 2017

The Angriest: November 2017 in review

An absolute age after reviewing the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager Season 2 (I'm not joking - it was more than four years ago), I suddenly felt the urge to rewatch a few more episodes. The review of "Initiations" was the most-viewed post on The Angriest this month, as were the reviews of "Projections" and "Elogium". Over on the comic book side, reviews of comics from 18 October (here and here) proved unusually popular.

Over on the film side, readers of FictionMachine (where I keep all of my new film reviews and essays now) were most interesting in Justice League and Grosse Pointe Blank.

All up in November 2017, I reviewed three new films, seven older films, eight TV episodes, one music album, and 68 comic books. A full index is available below the cut.

The Pull List: 15 November 2017, Part 3

Talk about climactic: Tim-21 and Tesla fight off Tim-22, while the UCG and the Hardwire finally confront one another in open space - with catastrophic consequences.

All of that is probably unintelligible to you, assuming you don't already read Descender. This is a distinctive and smart science fiction series in which a galactic civilization was almost destroyed by a mysterious robot invasion, and ten years later it has become clear that the robots - all apparently destroyed - were not as thoroughly eliminated as had been assumed.

It's dramatic, intelligent and original, the latter nowhere more so than in Dustin Nguyen's excellent artwork. The entire series is illustrated in loose watercolours that are high on beauty but low on background detail. It's a style that forces the book to concentrate on the characters, not the technology around them. Given the technology-centric storyline, that creates a wonderfully odd effect.

This issue is probably the most satisfying Descender has had since it started more than two years ago. It pulls a lot of threads together and pushes the series into an all-new phase. (4/5)

Descender #26. Image. Written by Jeff Lemire. Art and colours by Dustin Nguyen.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Aphra, Ninja-K and Super Sons.

November 30, 2017

The Pull List: 15 November 2017, Part 2

Nicholas Cox is an enthused teen fencer, one desperate to win a regional championship. In his first round, however, he finds himself facing top-level fencer Seiji Katawama - does he even stand a chance?

You know all of those manga and anime based around sports, with a plucky teen protagonist slowly learning how to be the best in their particular pursuit? Meanwhile they make friends and establish relationships with a wide variety of supporting characters? That's Fence: it really is a sports manga in an American comic book format.

That's both good and bad. It's nice to see this genre get a decent shot in the English-language market, but at the same time it's a comparatively expensive way to experience this sort of a story: a manga might be in black and white, but it's going to give you a lot of pages for comparatively little money. While the writing and character work here is solid, and the art clean and very easy on the eye, it's really going to come down to how much you love this genre to buy it every month. (3/5)

Fence #1. Boom Studios. Written by C.S. Pacat. Art by Johanna the Mad. Colours by Joana Lafuente.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Darth Vader, Doctor Strange and Mech Cadet Yu.

November 29, 2017

New Pants: New Pants (1998)

A few years ago I stumbled upon a CD by a Chinese post-punk band named New Pants. I bought it on a whim and absolutely loved its blend of Ramones-esque fast punk and breezy electronica. I've enjoyed what I've heard of the band ever since, but recently I managed to track down a copy of their original 1998 self-titled album. It is a chance to hear the band in their early stages.

It's a slightly strange experience, since it almost sounds as if the tracks were laid onto the album in the chronological order in which they were written. It certainly ends with a fairly similar sound to the one with which I'm familiar, but it begins somewhere quite different. In truth it begins with them sounding like a straight-up Ramones tribute act.

November 28, 2017

Highlander: The Series: "The Gathering"

Small-time thief Richie Ryan (Stan Kirsch) breaks into the antique store owned by the mysterious Duncan Macleod (Adrian Paul) - only to stumble into a confrontation between Macleod, a sword-wielding immortal, and the villainous Slan Quince (Richard Moll). Slan is intent on decapitating Macleod and stealing his power, however another stands in his way: Macleod's relative and fellow immortal Connor (Christopher Lambert).

In case you spent the 1980s under a rock: Highlander was a moderately successful fantasy film released in 1986, which starred Christopher Lambert as a Scottish highlander cursed by immortality. It depicted a disparate group of immortal warriors scattered throughout history that would fight one another to the death - by decapitation, the only means that worked permanently - until they would all assemble for "the Gathering", finish off killing one another until only one survived, at which point the winner would receive a mysterious "Prize". It was very stylishly directed by Russell Mulcahy, boasted a great soundtrack by Michael Kamen and Queen, and did a particularly strong line in flashbacks to various historical periods. In 1992 its producers decided to make a TV series out of it.

November 27, 2017

The Pull List: 15 November 2017, Part 1

The Wicked + the Divine is a fantastic comic book. It is almost certainly the best work that writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie have ever produced - and they have done some sensational books over the years. In many ways it feels like the most refined and perfected form of their respective styles. It's energetic, musical, emotive, detailed, nuanced, funny, sad - I could literally just keep on listing adjectives, because they somehow encapsulate all of those things and more in a fashion that almost seems miraculous.

The book has been circling towards its conclusion for a while now, with a huge apocalyptic wave of ominous foreboding crashing over the entire cast. This, issue #33, was the final part of their "Imperial Phase II" story arc, and I was expecting something monumental to happen. What I did not expect was to have the rug pulled out from under my feet.

This isn't an issue to talk about without spoiling. This is an issue with big surprises, and game-changing reveals, and if I wasn't already feverishly anticipating each issue before I absolutely am now. This is one of the best single issues of an ongoing book I have read this year. (5/5)

The Wicked + the Divine #33. Image. Written by Kieron Gillen. Art by Jamie McKelvie. Colours by Matt Wilson.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman, Kill the Minotaur, Spider-Men II, and Superman.

Star Trek: Voyager: "Non Sequitur"

It is 25 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) wakes up in San Francisco, in a parallel world where he never joined the crew of the USS Voyager. While Starfleet begins to believe the confused Kim may be a Maquis spy, Kim desperately works to discover what has happened - and if he can ever return to his own universe.

Poor Ensign Kim. He doesn't get a huge amount of attention by the Star Trek: Voyager writers, but in Season 1 he did get to be the focus of "Emanations" - in which Harry is trapped in an alternative reality and must effectively die to get back to Voyager. Now he gets to feature in "Non Sequitur", in which Harry is trapped in an alternative reality and must effectively die to get back to Voyager. Like I said: poor Ensign Kim.

November 26, 2017

The Pull List: 8 November 2017, Part 2

In a neat twist on the usual first contact story, Port of Earth depicts a future where aliens do come and make contact with humanity, but only to lease space on the Earth for an interstellar spaceport. The aliens keep to themselves, the humans get advanced technology in payment, and that is supposed to be it. Unfortunately now and then an alien leaves the transit zone, leading to murder, violence and all kinds of mayhem.

The real strength here is that the aliens genuinely feel alien, since we do not really get to see them and we have no insight into their motivations. It makes everything feel just that little bit unsettling and paranoid - can the Earth be sure it's made an even-handed deal?

Port of Earth is a great spin on a traditional science fiction set-up, and in a comic genre that sometimes struggles to find fresh angles writer Zack Kaplan appears to have hit one right on the head. While it is too early to tell how this series will go overall, as a set-up it is second-to-none. It also benefits from great artwork by Andrea Mutti, and subtle colours by Vladimir Popov. It has a very mature, distinctive aesthetic. So far, so good - possibly even great. (4/5)

Port of Earth #1. Image. Written by Zack Kaplan. Art by Andrea Mutti. Colours by Vladimir Popov.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Daredevil, Ms Marvel, Scales and Scoundrels, and She-Hulk.

November 23, 2017

The Pull List: Doomsday Clock #1

It is 1992. The United States government has uncovered the truth: that several years earlier the world-famous superhero Ozymandias faked an alien invasion to prevent global war, murdering hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process. Now the whole world is falling apart. Thermonuclear war seems inevitable. Meanwhile a vigilante presumed dead breaks into prison to rescue a pair of criminals.

Alan Moore turned 64 on Saturday. It seems a fairly distasteful birthday present, then, that DC Comics would yesterday publish Doomsday Clock: the sequel to Watchmen, arguably his most famous work. Moore and artist Dave Gibbons produced Watchmen for DC Comics between 1986 and 1987, under a contract in which the rights to the characters would revert back to their creators once the comic was out of print. Put simply, Watchmen never went out of print. It remains in print today, and as a result Moore and Gibbons never got the rights back. Warner Bros have produced a Watchmen film, they're currently producing a HBO TV series, and a few years ago they even produced a string of fairly average prequel comics about the key characters. Moore has long since washed his hands and moved onto more interesting projects, but whenever DC mines back into Moore's work - knowing that he created these characters and that he doesn't want them exploited in this fashion - it feels a remarkably tacky move.

November 21, 2017

The Pull List: 8 November 2017, Part 1

If you ever wanted a demonstration of how much Grant Morrison influenced the DC Universe over the past 20 years, then Dark Nights: Batman Lost is a perfect place to start. This one-shot, which ties in directly to Scott Snyder's six-part Metal miniseries, positively screams the name "Morrison" from every panel. It is difficult to imagine it being published at all had Morrison not laid out the groundwork in advance.

Some years ago Batman was struck by Darkseid's omega beams, throwing him all the way back to the dawn of the human race (see Morrison's Final Crisis and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne). There he attracted the attention of Barbatos, a dark god that exists in the 'dark multiverse', which exists on the flipside to the main DC multiverse. Across thousands of years Barbatos has manipulated the entire human race in order to bring the 21st century Batman to a specific act in a specific place and time, and the gateway to the dark multiverse has been opened. While Earth falls to the power of Barbatos' Dark Knights, Batman is trapped in a nightmare world of illusions and cannot get out.

This is essentially an interlude to Metal, in which Batman struggles to escape the dreamlike environs into which Barbatos has placed him. It is a love letter: to Batman's seven-decade history, to Grant Morrison's unique style of comic book storytelling, and ultimately to DC Comics itself. It is tremendous fun, with a deliberately shifting art style and a wealth of clever comic book references. I imagine it might be hard to fully enjoy this issue without reading Metal, but in context and with an informed reader, it is one of the very best comic books I've read this year. (5/5)

Dark Nights: Batman Lost #1. DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson. Art by Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jorge Jimenez amd Jaime Mendoza. Colours by Wil Quintana, Nathan Fairbairn and Alejandro Sanchez.

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

Star Trek: Voyager: "Elogium"

It is 18 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

When Voyager encounters a school of alien creatures in deep space, the crew are keen to investigate. The creatures then surround and trap the ship. Their emanations have an unexpected effect on Kes (Jennifer Lien), accelerating her development and forcing her into her 'elogium'; the brief period of time in which her species may conceive a child.

We need to talk about Neelix and Kes. They were introduced to the series as a romantic couple in the very first episode, "Caretaker". It is not a relationship that sits well with me, and it never has. A lot is made in the series about how Kes is two years old, and from a species with a life-span of  nine years. Neelix's age is never referenced in the series, although we know he was an adult at least 15 years prior to meeting the Voyager crew. It seems safe to assume he is at least in his mid-30s (Ethan Phillips, who plays Neelix, was 40 when the series premiered). In the end, it is difficult to see Kes and Neelix's relationship as being anything other than one between an adult and a child.

November 19, 2017

The Pull List: 1 November 2017, Part 2

It has taken Titan Comics three attempts, but they have finally nailed a multi-Doctor Doctor Who crossover miniseries without feeling forced and without tying everything together with a rushed and disappointing finale.

By contrast, The Lost Dimension has been well-plotted, carefully thought out and brilliantly fore-shadowed. The entire storyline has circled around a mysterious white void that has been sucking things in from all of time and space. By the time the true nature of the void is revealed, it is simultaneously a shock and stunning obvious at the same time: the best kind of revelation.

Every Doctor gets at least a momentary cameo, with the bulk of the lead time shared between Doctors 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Mariano Laclaustra's artwork is superb, giving everything a beautiful aesthetic somewhere between painting and traditional pen-and-ink. Carlos Cabrera's colours only enhance it. It simply looks tremendous.

So congratulations to writers George Mann and Cavan Scott; while individual issues of the crossover have wavered in quality, they have pulled out one hell of a climax. And think this all started with a comic I absolutely despised... (4/5)

Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension Omega #1. Titan Comics. Written by George Mann and Cavan Scott. Art by Mariano Laclaustra with Fer Centurion. Colours by Carlos Cabrera.

Under the cut: reviews of Atomic Robo, The Beautiful Death, Darth Vader, Extremity, Lazaretto and Superman.

November 17, 2017

The Pull List: 1 November 2017, Part 1

I couldn't honestly tell you why, but I have an enormous soft spot for Deadman, aka Boston Brand: a circus acrobat who was resurrected upon his death as a roaming spirit capable of possessing bodies and fighting crimes. DC recently gave him a miniseries in the form of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, which was a lot of fun, and now they're back with a new six-issue run simply titled Deadman. In this first issue, Deadman and Batman meet one another when Hook - the assassin who originally murdered Boston - sets up an attempt to kill Gotham's Commissioner Gordon at a nuclear power plant.

The story is genuinely messy, and regularly mystifying. For some reason Gordon is now acting as a US ambassador, and why he's assumed the role and why he's inspecting a nuclear plant both go unanswered. The artwork, however, is wonderfully old-fashioned and enjoyable to view, and will be the book's main selling point. Deadman is, after all, a book written and illustrated by legendary DC artist Neal Adams. Anybody with a sense of history and a love for DC's 1970s titles will get a lot out of this new series.

Overall it's a head-scratcher, but in the moment it's a wonderful throwback to the fast-paced, chummy books of my childhood. I'm a huge fan of Adams' artwork, and his talented have not abandoned him with age. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is hugely fun to read. (4/5)

Deadman #1. DC Comics. Story and art by Neal Adams.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, Green Arrow, Spider-Man and Usagi Yojimbo.

November 15, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Masks"

It is 21 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise encounters an ancient temple in space, hidden beneath the surface of a comet. After an attempt to scan the temple, Data (Brent Spiner) begins to suffer the effects of external manipulation: he becomes increasingly obsessed with unusual sigils and begins to develop multiple personalities. As the Enterprise itself is gradually transformed by the temple's power, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) must play out ancient history in order to save his ship and crew.

"Masks" really is one of those episodes where you feel compelled to applaud the production team for their adventurous outlook, but you cannot actually praise the end result. It's a somewhat silly, and certainly very uneven hour of Star Trek. The ideas are there, and they're potentially great ones, but the execution stumbles badly.

November 14, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 3

At this stage we all know the drill: another six issues have passed, bringing a story arc of Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan's Saga to a close. There is going to be tugging on heartstrings, a shock conclusion, perhaps a violent character death - it's become something of a routine.

That's where Saga #48 comes as a total surprise. Readers expecting to see some terrible tragedy befall Alana, Marko and their daughter will be shocked to find themselves back with the anthropomorphic seal Ghus, the young robot prince Squire, and the journalists Upsher and Doff. They are stranded on a remote planet with no hope of rescue and a rapidly shrinking supply of food. To avoid killing Ghus' beloved walrus, he and the young prince set off into the forest to kill an invisible monster for its meat.

It is not only a refreshing change from the trials of Alana and Marko, it is also a refreshing change in tone. This issue has a beautiful fairy-tale quality that makes it stand out. The characters are sweet and pleasant to read about, and Fiona Staples' art is - as always - wonderful to look at. Saga may go up and down from arc to arc, but now and then it really knocks an issue out of the park. I thought this one was fantastic. (5/5)

Saga #48. Image. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Art and colours by Fiona Staples.

Under the cut: reviews of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Copperhead, The Power of the Dark Crystal, Star Trek: Boldly Go, and X-O Manowar.

November 13, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 2

Science fiction horror series Southern Cross is back for a third story arc, and it is a very welcome return indeed. For the past 12 issues writer Becky Cloonan, artist Andy Belanger and colourist Lee Loughridge have developed a gripping and claustrophobic story that started with a murder and has no reached the exploration of a missing spacecraft that has just returned from somewhere outside of our own reality.

Set your expectations to Event Horizon and you'll have a ball with this series, which combines science fiction and horror with a strong cast of hard-edged, cynical characters. Andy Belanger's artwork uses slightly grotesque designs and a thick inking style to make it all look very stark and brutal. Lee Loughridge's limited colour palette tones everything down and gives it a very consistent and desolate aesthetic.

The biggest strength of all is the unpredictable storyline. Each arc has taken off in an unexpected direction, and this third volume seems set to do the same. Things have moved much faster than I expected them to here, from the opening - which pretty much picks up the exact moment the second volume ended - to the violent climax. (4/5)

Southern Cross #13. Written by Becky Cloonan. Art by Andy Belanger. Colours by Lee Loughridge.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Daredevil and Rebels.

November 12, 2017

The Pull List: 25 October 2017, Part 1

Abram Adams was a cosmonaut who was sent into deep space, where an unexplained encounter transformed him into the enormously powerful cosmic entity known as Divinity. Now, after three great miniseries, the character is heading back out into void in this new four-issue event from the Divinity creative team of Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine.

It is a strong opening, one that both reminds the readers of Divinity's origins and current situation as well as set this new story in motion. The alien sequences are easily the best, showcasing a wonderfully 'out there' imagination of strange characters, names and settings.

The visuals definitely sit on a shelf next to the likes of Jack Kirby and Moebius, but there is a much more direct and realistic aesthetic to it. All in all it is an intriguing hook into what looks to be yet another excellent Valiant miniseries. (4/5)

Eternity #1. Valiant. Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn. Colours by David Baron.

Under the cut: reviews of Detective Comics, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, and Silver Surfer.

November 11, 2017

Star Trek: Voyager: "Projections"

It is 11 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

The Doctor (Robert Picardo) is activated in Voyager's sickbay, only to discover the entire ship has been abandoned. After discovering both Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and Torres (Roxann Dawson) are still onboard, the Doctor then discovers the Starfleet engineer Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz) who drops a bombshell: the Doctor is not onboard Voyager, but is in fact hologram designer Lewis Zimmerman inside a holodeck simulation that cannot be deactivated.

"Projections" hits off with a fairly dramatic hook: that we're not on Voyager back somewhere all the way back near Earth (Jupiter Station, to be precise). The problem is that before we even get to the central mystery - is he the Doctor or Zimmerman - the episode has included scenes that make the Barclay/Zimmerman scenario fundamentally impossible. The result is thus a fairly tedious wait for an extra 25 minutes for the Doctor's actual situation to be resolved. Thanks to poor scripting by writer Brannon Braga, the entire episode becomes a waste of time.

November 10, 2017

The Pull List: 18 October 2017, Part 3

Editor Shelly Bond was one of the most critical and successful editors at DC Vertigo, the imprint where she worked from its second month of publication all the way through to April 2016 when DC Comics made her redundant as part of a company restructure. Now she's back, thanks to IDW Publishing, with a new imprint called Black Crown and a new monthly comic by Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler: Kid Lobotomy.

Sadly, as an imprint-launching comic, it is a messy disappointment. The story feels haphazard and unfocused. The characters feel derivative and uninteresting. All in all it feels as if writer Peter Milligan is running on automatic: this reads like a photocopy of much of his earlier, much better work. Tess Fowler's artwork is good, but artwork alone can rarely save a comic book.

It's ultimately a big disappointment, because Bond had a huge opportunity here to set up something truly dynamic, original and provocative - and instead she's edited together something that just feels like a by-the-numbers Vertigo copy. It's a terrible shame. (2/5)

Kid Lobotomy #1. Black Crown/IDW. Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Tess Fowler. Colours by Lee Loughridge.

Under the cut: reviews of Batwoman, Behind You, Kill the Minotaur, Spy Seal, and The Wild Storm.

November 9, 2017

Star Trek: Voyager: "Initiations"

It is 4 September 1995, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is undertaking a Native American ritual in a shuttlecraft when he comes under attack by the Kazon. His key assailant is Kar (Aron Eisenberg), a Kazon youth undergoing a ritual initiation to become an adult member of his community.

With the Season 1 finale "The 37s" held over to launch Season 2, this actual opening episode got bumped to the second week. It is certainly a much stronger episode, although that doesn't necessarily make it particularly good. "Initiations" is a flawed hour of Star Trek with some decent character work, but a fairly rote and underwhelming story.

November 8, 2017

The Pull List: 18 October 2017, Part 2

Four issues in, and Swordquest is really firming up as one of the most surprisingly good comic book miniseries of 2017. I find myself how things possibly worked out as well as they did. Dynamite, a publisher mainly responsible for remakes of old pulp characters like John Carter of Mars and Vampirella, picked up the rights to make comic books out of Atari videogames. I expected fairly tedious attempts to expand 8-bit arcade games into science fiction narratives. I didn't expect Swordquest.

Writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims did the cleverest thing by noticing that the most interesting aspect of Swordquest was its real-life background. A four-game series, in which players who completed each game and solved its puzzles, could write into Atari and register for a special event. The best player at each game's event would win a special game-related prize. The final prize - a sword - was never given away, because Atari essentially collapsed before it could be awarded. It is that weird set-up and downfall that is powering this series, as a terminal ill ex-games player works to steal the never-awarded sword from a retro games expo. This issue things get a little weird, in the best possible fashion. The pseudonymous Ghostwriter X illustrates the book beautifully, with a very grounded, thickly inked style that add to its sense of real world, small-scale criminality.

That this series is not only readable but genuinely great is possibly the biggest surprise of my comic-reading year. (5/5)

Swordquest #4. Dynamite. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. Art and colours by Ghostwriter X.

Under the cut: reviews of Doctor Strange, Green Arrow, Poe Dameron and Super Sons.

November 7, 2017

The Pull List: 18 October 2017, Part 1

For a lot of people Aquaman is a kind of silly punchline: the ridiculous superhero from that old cartoon Super Friends who wore orange and green and talked to fish. For DC Comics fans he's often something more, but in the grand scheme of things not that many actually care about the character enough to read his comic.

They should. You should. Right now Aquaman the comic is about as good as it has ever been. Under writer Dan Abnett it has evolved into a long-running, character-focused epic. Arthur Curry, the rightful king of Atlantis, hides in his city's bottom slums while the tyrant Corum Rath rules in his place. Above the surface his fiancee Mera fights desperately to locate a way into the city. It is one big undersea fantasy, with long-term consequences and great character-based pay-offs. This particular arc is illustrated by Stjepan Sejic, one of the finest comic book artists working today.

This issue brings the current arc right up to a climactic point, and it feels like it's going to be character-defining one. This is a sensational run on a hugely underrated character. (5/5)

Aquaman #29. DC Comics. Written by Dan Abnett. Art and colours by Stjepan Sejic.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor, and Superman.

November 6, 2017

The Angriest: October 2017 in review

I am yet to be impressed by Riverdale, but my review of its second episode - "A Touch of Evil" - was the most-read post on The Angriest in October. Other popular posts included comic book reviews for 20 September (link), the review of the Colditz series finale "Liberation" (link), and reviews of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "The Pegasus" (link) and "Sub Rosa" (link).

All up in October 2017 I wrote one film essay, six film reviews, 11 TV episode reviews, three artist profiles, and short reviews of 48 comic books. A full index is included below the cut.

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 3

The Seven Deadly Sins have lived in exile on Earth for thousands of years, under the careful watch of the angel Naviel. Now they have successfully killed Naviel, and the only thing stopping them from running riot over the Earth is Naviel's son and an innocent human bystander drawn against his will into the conflict.

Sacred Creatures is warming on me more with each issue. It is a beautifully illustrated book, with detailed artwork that carries two distinctive styles - one for the present day and one for a series of flashbacks. It is also a much thicker comic than you usually see - this issue has 48 pages of story, for example - and that gives it a lot more room to expand each installment for maximum impact.

It is a decidedly adult comic book. Previous issues have featured plenty of violence; this one tops that by the personification of Lust sparking off an incontrollable orgy in a New York hospital. Interestingly while the design and illustration of Sophia (aka Lust) is of the vaguely tiresome Greg Land school of sexualised characters, the actual story feels a lot more like the sort of thing you'd see in an issue of The Invisibles. I had my earlier doubts, but this book absolutely has me hooked. (4/5)

Sacred Creatures #4. Image. Story and art by Pablo Raimondi and Klaus Jansen. Colours by Dean White, Chris Chuckry and Brian Reber.

Under the cut: reviews of Lazaretto, Mech Cadet Yu, and Scales and Scoundrels.

October 29, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Thine Own Self"

It is 14 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Commander Data (Brent Spiner) wanders into a medieval village on the planet Barkon IV with no memory of who he is and what he is doing there. While he is adopted into a local family, the radioactive fragments he has carried with him go unnoticed as they begin to make the villagers sick. Back on the Enterprise, Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) resolves to take the commander's exam to gain further command responsibility.

On the whole "Thine Own Self" is a well-written and engaging riff on James Whale's Frankenstein adaptation, with Data inserted into a pseudo-period setting as the Monster. He does not fully understand the world around him, he tries to befriend a young girl, and ultimately he gets hounded to destruction by angry villagers with torches and pitchforks. Thankfully in between those touchstones it tells its own story; it's a nice blend of science fiction story and pastiche.

October 27, 2017

An Artist: Hisashi Tenmyouya

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

Hisashi Tenmyouya is a Japanese artist whose work deliberately straddles a line between contemporary popular culture and art history. In 2001 he proposed a new style of art he called 'neo-Nihonga', or 'new Japanese-style', which combined traditional Japanese painting with sharply contrasted modern imagery. This style led to what is probably his most famous painting: two samurai playing football, in a commissioned piece for the 2006 FIFA World Cup (pictured below the cut).

Tenmyouya works extensively with gold leaf in his neo-Nihonga works, laid down onto wooden boards in a traditional Japanese style. He then paints over the top of the leaf in acrylics. There is a huge amount to love in these works: the blending of style, the combination of realist art, manga/anime and graffiti-style imagery, and a sort of deliberately absurd humour caused by the cultural clash that results.

October 26, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Lower Decks"

It is 7 February 1994, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Four junior officers onboard the Enterprise ready themselves for their staff evaluations; success can mean a much-wanted promotion, while failure could potentially set them back for years. One of them, Ensign Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill), struggles to move on from her misconduct at Starfleet Academy, and finds herself under the stern attention of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).

So here's the funny thing: I have an essay in a new book, Outside In Makes It So (link here), which contains 174 separate pieces by a huge variety of writers with each piece focusing on a different episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. My essay focuses on "Lower Decks", which is hands-down my all-time favourite episode of the entire series. It is probably my favourite episode of any Star Trek series. So part of me is sorely tempted to just point all readers in the direction of the book and have you read my opinions there. On the other hand it seems a little unfair to demand everybody drop US$24.95 plus postage - although you totally should go but it - so I suppose I'd better provide some critical opinions here for free.

October 23, 2017

An Artist: Yang Yongliang

An Artist is a series of posts profiling contemporary artists whose work I find interesting. I am a big fan of contemporary art, particularly from North Asia. I am by no means an expert in the field, but on a personal level these are the artists whose work I have liked the most in recent years.

I first encountered Yang Yongliang's digital art works in an exhibit of contemporary Chinese art in Singapore. They grabbed my attention immediately, and have been stuck in my memory ever since. They're just enormously effective and captivating. I think they have a near-hypnotic effect.

Yang originally trained in traditional Chinese ink painting before formally studying visual communication in Shanghai. After a few years of experimentation in ink painting, short film-making and photography, he started working on his so-called 'phantom landscapes' in 2006. In his works he draws intricate Chinese landscapes in the popular 'shanshui' style of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 CE). Into them, however, he inserted modern buildings and technology, and tightly clustered fictional cities. Then he animates them.

October 22, 2017

The Pull List: 11 October 2017, Part 2

Scott Free is back on Earth, on leave with his wife Barda from Orion's new war against Apokalips. It soon becomes clear, however, that Orion's war ambitions will stop at nothing - including allowing millions to die.

The writer/artist team of Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back with a third issue of Miracle Man, the best arthouse take on a long-running DC superhero you're likely to find on the shelves. It is inventively staged and shows off a lot of complexity, combined with some lovely flashes of character throughout. It's a challenging read, but as the issues go on it's becoming an increasingly satisfying one - assuming you're in that crowd who already knows their New Gods from back to front.

There is a lot of assumed knowledge going on in this book, and I would be interested to see how accessible it actually is to readers unfamiliar with Jack Kirby's Fourth World comic books and their various spin-offs and sequels. Characters step into frame with barely an introduction, and key sequences rely on a foreknowledge of exactly who each person is and what their significance is in relation to the events. While this is a great issue, it hardly seems an accessible one. (4/5)

Mister Miracle #3. DC Comics. Written by Tom King. Art and colours by Mitch Gerads.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil, Detective Comics, Ms Marvel and The Wicked + the Divine.