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ORACLE OF COMICS #031 – TOMB RAIDER #7 – IN MEMORIAM

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider is back, with a brand new story. The series is on shaky ground right now, not winning over any new fans, but partially annoying the current Tomb Raider crowd. A new story could be just the ticket to make Gail Simone’s series feel more best-selling.

Tomb Raider #7 Alex
While trekking through Snowdon, commemorating a touching childhood moment she had with Roth, Lara is struck with a vision. The vision includes her dead friend, Alex, begging her to save his sister who is in peril from something. Lara makes a few phone calls and discovers that his sister is currently in the Ukraine. Her search leads her to Chernobyl, where it becomes clear she is stumbling upon something big, especially when strange Americans start asking questions about her all over the globe. It is a hit and miss start to the story, touching upon a couple of my pet story-telling peeves. One is the whole adventure kicking off, because of a vision. It is probably meant to tie in with the new Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer, where she visits a psychiatrist, but I felt the scene was too heavy-handed and convenient. I wasn’t sold. Also, we are still mentioning Yamatai and reintroducing us to the game’s characters every few moments. On the bright side, it does seem like Simone is trying to write them off, with Lara making the decision to go out on her own, rather than risking her friends. Yes, this issue has some big problems, but I am going to call this first issue syndrome and hope that its job was to rush through the necessary exposition and set up a good five issues of action.

Tomb Raider #7 Wolves
My opinion of Dark Horse’s Tomb Raider is a weird one. I like it. I really do. It always seems to go off in the wrong direction (Yamatai as a plot point, needless flashbacks), but the core design (pun for the true fans), of this comic always shows promise. The dialogue is sharp, the action is crisp and Simone always finds time for Lara to be Lara (e.g.: the wolves!). There is the sense that this is the Tomb Raider comic we want, but we are just reading a rare, weak story. This is why the next few issues will be very important for the readers: was Gail Simone’s first story merely setting up the real comics she wants to write, or is this a series we could be better off dropping from our monthly costs?

Quote of the Issue:

American Detective: Why don’t you make me one of those delicious wheatgrass teas, pour it in the garbage and bring me a beer?

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on September 1st, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #022 – TOMB RAIDER #6 – THE WAY OF THE WIND

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider #6 Viking
Observation #1: Why is there a Viking on the cover? There isn’t as much as a Norse reference in this issue, let alone a bad-ass punch-up with one.

Observation #2: What a finale! I will be the first to admit that it could have been better. Matsu’s daughters have been bigged up for quite some time, yet they never really come into play, other than some creepy frames. Mathias feels like a cash-in to the old game. The fight is good, but not as climatic as I would have liked it. However, it could also have been a lot worse, which is my overall opinion of the first season of Gail Simone’s Tomb Raider series. It did the job well, tying up the story satisfyingly (although my Solarii plot hole question from the last review still stands), providing some decent set-pieces and some glorious explosions captured once again by Nicolas Daniel Selma’s art. Matsu was a fun villain and while he slipped into more stereotypical trademarks, he still made an impact. Without a strong villain, series like this often feel adrift, so it was good that he was well-written until the end.

Tomb Raider #6 Mathias
My favourite thing here is the twist at the end. It suffered slightly at the fact that this adventure only had six issues to tell its story. I would have liked it to have been slyly weaved in throughout the previous installments, but it definitely brightened up proceedings. Just when the finale seems to drift into the predictable with Lara’s friends coming in at the last minute and the cult’s plan being fully revealed, the twist added to the spark. Gail Simone is aware of this trick too, because this is one of the few points where the series isn’t rushing through material. The dialogue is really sharp too, highlighting Simone’s strongest point as a writer. In fact, the dialogue has always been the best thing about this entire collection of comics. There will be several Tomb Raider quotes joining the canon here.

Tomb Raider #6 Mummy
So where next? Another story (I assume a six-part one), is about to hit us and I hope it only improves on the first. I want to move away from Yamatai, move away from this specific group of friends (Will the game be using them? Can we kill one of them off?), and focus on Lara’s development into the character we know her as from the original games. This is a welcome comic for me to review, but it has a long way to come before it hits the expectations of Tomb Raider fans everywhere.

Quote of the Issue:

Lara: They forgot that they might not be the only monsters in the room.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on July 26th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #018 – TOMB RAIDER #5 – EYES IN THE HEAVENS

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider #5 Arrow
As the first storyline in Gail Simone’s Lara Croft series draws to a finale, this penultimate issue lines up all of the pieces. Matsu’s plot is fully uncovered, a new player is introduced to the story and hopefully all that is left to do is give us a pulse-pounding conclusion next time around. Sure, this issue feels like the setting up of an episode, rather than an episode by itself, but hopefully the sixth issue will make this pay off.

Therefore, maybe now is the time to raise a criticism I have had brewing in the back of my mind, since Matsu was first introduced to the story. I don’t quite understand Matsu’s scheme and if I do, then I don’t think it is a very strong one. Matsu reveals that he doesn’t worship Himiko as much as he worships the Solarii. This is confirmed at the reveal of a major twist early on in the issue. However, am I right in thinking that the Solarii were just a cult made up by Mathias on the spot, when he gathered a few survivors on Yamatai? How can these new bad guys know about them, let alone summon up the faith to worship them like Gods? Even if there is an explanation out there that explains why the Solarii are suddenly worth all of this attention, the main story thread still clings too tightly to the 2013 Tomb Raider game. There is a lack of originality to this story. This is a shame, because Matsu is a fairly good villain, sophisticated and brutal in all the right ways. However, this issue confirms my worst suspicion; he is a puppet rather than a bad guy in his own right. I am sure Matsu will still impress me in the finale, but my respect for the character has diminished somewhat.

Tomb Raider #5 Eat your bones
As a matter of fact, this issue spends too long in the past. Most of the set-pieces involve Lara reminiscing about the game, rather than taking on this new adventure. The Endurance makes a comeback and there is a vision with Alex’s corpse that serves to remind us of the old game. I didn’t need that; I would much rather have a prolonged action sequence, which was actually really entertaining and this series’ strong point. Staying with the Yamatai storyline has its merits from a writing perspective; there is little exposition to get through, because Lara Croft fans are already familiar with the background of Yamatai. We could get to the good stuff a lot quicker with this story. However, I really wanted a bit more originality from this series that I haven’t quite got yet. I will admit that Yamatai does give Nicolas Daniel Selma so great set-pieces to draw. Lara jumping around familiar scenes from Yamatai is awe-inspiring. The cover is also astonishingly beautiful. As ever, Tomb Raider’s art is bang-on-the-nose every time.

Tomb Raider #5 Mathias
And now we turn to the final issue to make our final decision on whether this series is a hit or miss. I am genuinely excited. There is still a mysterious fourth guardian to reveal although from the way the product placement is slowly losing its subtlety, I am assuming it will be a giant box of Jaffa cakes.

Quote of the Issue:

Lara: “Lara Croft, someday you are going to have to look in a mirror and ask yourself “How did a British schoolgirl get to be so good at killing?!”

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on June 26th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #011 – TOMB RAIDER #4 – UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider #4 Trust
This series is a very divisive one. People everywhere say that it is Gail Simone at her weakest, her dialogue and charm being sentenced to endless exposition. Fans of Tomb Raider are less than impressed with the depiction of their favourite gaming heroine. However, while I can agree with certain discrepancies with the plot (how can the villains be worshippers of the Solarii, a cult made up on the spot by a marooned Mathias in the game?), this is turning out be a fantastic series, with this issue thrilling in all the right ways.

In many ways, it is clambering through story, a much slower episode after the frantic dash through the streets of Dublin. One complaint is that the cover, with Lara clinging to a London bus, fleeing from enemies, is totally irrelevant to the actual content. All of the characters that have been scattered across the issues reunite and all of the little plot points are tied up, so we can focus on a focused rush to the season’s finale. We are back on board a ship and sailing for Yamatai. The issue begins to lose its way a little, as we are caught in dream sequences and the same, old ‘Why are we going back here?’ routine. However, then things get explosive very fast.

Tomb Raider #4 Slap
The best thing about the action here is that is so open-ended. We see it through Lara’s perspective, so we have no idea what happened to each of the supporting cast. I am sure none of these characters will get killed off-frame (I partially want Simone to have the gall to try it though, fans be damned!), but it makes proceedings very exciting. Lara also has some pretty bad-ass moments. A friend is shot through the heart with a harpoon, so she pulls it out of his chest and begins using it as a weapon against the bad guys. This is the kind of stuff I want to see Lara doing each issue. I also liked that this issue could have ended at any given moment. There would be a gripping action set-piece, a fantastic frame to end on and… you turn the page to find out there’s more. I loved that, as it made the issue feel more full throttle. A slow start to the fourth Tomb Raider, but when it hits the accelerator, you almost get thrown off the ride.

Tomb Raider #4 Harpoon
And that last frame. Lara, back in action, ready to take on the bad guys! Fantastic stuff.

Quote of the week:

Jonah: I am checking out immediately… and if it’s not too much trouble, could I possibly get some pants?

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on May 31st, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #006 – TOMB RAIDER #3 – A PAYMENT OF FLESH

By Luke Abbott

Tomb Raider #3 Drink
Issue #3 of Tomb Raider starts off poorly, but by the end it wins you back over. The entire issue tackles what happened after the cliffhanger of the last comic. Lara and Reyes are surrounded by Matsu and his gang of Solarii worshipers. A gun is pressed to Reyes’ daughter’s head and the trigger will be pushed, unless Lara can give the location of an artifact she has no memory of taking. She has until the count of five..

Tomb Raider #3 Aberdeen
When I say the issue starts off poorly, I am talking about the use of flashbacks. I despise flashbacks and Tomb Raider has used them in every issue so far. In my eyes, flashbacks should be used when the particular flashback has relevance to the story in the present. While we could argue, the first three pages of the third issue do contribute to the final page of the issue, for the most part, it is just about laying some more development for Reyes. The issue also later cuts back to another scene on the S.S Endurance, where we learn that Reyes is a grumpy woman. This fact has already been established and I felt it was a wasted space, even if it did bring a snort of laughter (see Quote of the Issue below)

Tomb Raider #3 Guitar
However, when we do finally get grounded into the present, we have the action we are craving. The entire issue is essentially Lara and Reyes escaping shadowy agents in the streets of Dublin. As I have a touch of Dublin blood in my own veins, I was loving the Irish charm of this issue. We get the cobbled streets, the traditional pubs, the use of a pint of Guinness as a weapon. While I am still slightly struggling to get over the fact that this series needs more tombs, when Lara took on thug after thug, I was content. We felt action, we felt humor – Gail Simone knows how to handle a good, old-fashioned punch-up.

Quote of the Month:

(Lara and Sam are bitching about Reyes on the S.S Endurance)
Sam: Really? Well, I heard she used to live under a bridge and eat children.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on April 29th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #003 – TOMB RAIDER #2 – THE FOUR GUARDIANS!

By Luke Abbot

Tomb Raider #2 Swimming
It’s still early days with this new Tomb Raider franchise for Gail Simone, so these opening issues still hover over the dark chasm of make-or-break territory. While I loved the opening comic for this new series, others complained that it was exposition heavy and left both Lara’s and Simone’s charisma at home. If you are in that camp of thinking, then this might be a much more satisfactory issue. We have action, character-development and some stunning artwork from Nicholas Daniel Selma.

After the horrors of Devil’s Rest, Lara heads off to Dublin, in order to ask an old colleague what the hell is going on. While reading this issue, I began to fear that Tomb Raider wasn’t about to escape the obvious flaw with this comic series: there is an awful lack of tombs. Thankfully, the story never seems held back by that aspect, as Selma makes use of the locations he has and the setting of a library in Ireland seems a fitting place for the narrative to take place in. The opening action sequence, as Lara struggles to survive in the harsh currents of a flooded canyon was beautifully sinister and no one was quite sure how the situation was going to turn out. I must also applaud Simone for a neat bit of misdirection with last issue’s shock ending.

Tomb Raider #2 Axe
The best thing about this issue though is the introduction to a handful of interesting villains. I am unsure how much longevity these new faces have to the show. I hope that Matsu has some life in him yet. There is something so fun about watching his character calmly explain his terms in an Irish pub, directly provoking the rage of Ms Croft. The best moment in this issue was easily Matsu breaking away from his bad guy monologue, to help himself to Lara’s Guinness. It was a wonderful piece of writing that added a bit of depth for what could have been your one-dimensional bad guy. On top of that, we have mysterious organisations (kept in the shadows for now), and the reveal of one of the Guardians. That ending, coupled with a horrible (in a nice way) cliff-hanger, the wait for issue #3 couldn’t be described as anything less than punishing.

Tomb Raider #2 Guiness
Quote of the Issue: Professor Cahalane: (after reading an ancient prophecy from one of two artefacts and already getting the reader on edge, he calmly follows that up with…) Now, this piece… this is the really dangerous one.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on March 29th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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ORACLE OF COMICS #001 – TOMB RAIDER #1

By Luke Abbot

Tomb Raider #1 Bullets
*As this is a follow-on from the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, expect major spoilers from the game.

Approaching Gail Simone’s Tomb Raider comic book companion to the award-winning game was a little like putting a toe into a warm bath. I was apprehensive, unsure if Lara Croft could survive the leap from a game that was still rubbing up fans the wrong way with such a thorough reboot of the character, and into the pages of a comic. However, as Lara always does, she made the jump not only safely, but with the finesse of a trained gymnast.

Tomb Raider #1 Roth
Despite being a first issue, we are thrown into the action right from the off. We find Lara, still in the dreaded island of Yamatai, running from the Solarii. She clambers across wreckages, trying to stay ahead of the constant barrage of bullets and arrows that gamers are only too familiar with. Glorious frames recreate the speed and tension that the game conveyed. We feel every blow and connection. However, there is something not quite right. As Lara struggles to stay alive, she crashes with the ghostly images of her dead friends, Roth, Grimm, Alex… This is not Yamatai after all, but a ghostly dream. Investigation follows and it turns out that she is not the only one experiencing these visions. It is everyone that made it off of Yamatai. After that quick dream sequence and a catch-up with a worn-out Sam (thankfully not as annoying, as we remember her from the game), we are thrown into the Deep South of America, hopefully the first of many colourful locations the series will throw at us. We are united with Jonah, who speaks about spirits that have followed them from Yamatai, intent on claiming them once and for all. It appears that the group are on borrowed time, an idea evidenced by a natural disaster materialising out of nowhere.

One of the most impressive things about the first issue was the artwork. Lara looks like the Lara from the game. It is an impressive likeness. Sure, there is a comic book style to the character, but we can still see the trademark facial features from the reboot version of Lara Croft. Artwork in modern comics is tricky to get right, as we often associate the comic book characters with a specific actor (Star Trek, Serenity), so the artists have to draw them realistically, yet still keep that comic book style that we buy comics to see. Nicolas Daniel Selma achieves this remarkably well. When a new character appears in the panels, we know who they are instantly, which trims the amount of exposition needed dramatically. It also makes the set-pieces more exciting to watch. Every time you turn a page, you are treated to a gorgeous spectacle, keeping you hooked in the series.

Tomb Raider #1 Jonah
It is hard to get first issues right. However, Gail Simone conveys everything we need to know about the upcoming series. We know the tone that the comic is going for, the stakes that are on the line and enough story to get us intrigued in where the storyline is going to go. In fact, despite taking time to have some action and cameos from certain characters, Simone gets through a lot of exposition. We even get a massive shock that no one was expecting this early in the comics. This series doesn’t seem prepared to slow down, making all of my original doubts drift away. It’s a resounding two thumbs up from me.

For more comic views and reviews follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeBbtt and check out his website at www.oracleoffilm.com

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Posted on March 10th, 2014
Category: ORACLE OF COMICS, REVIEWS
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PULP FRICTION #007 – SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND #1

By Robin Jones

Pulp Friction #007 Header
Written by Zack Whedon
Art by George Jeanty

I’m not the biggest fan of Serenity in the ‘verse, but I’m definitely amongst those who have been hoping for its return. It was a massively underrated TV show, a fantastic sleeper hit 8 years ago and had a wealth of great characters and was something that is sorely lacking in modern cinema, it was ORIGINAL! Step in Zack Whedon and Dark Horse comics. They bring us the long awaited next instalment of Mal Reynolds, Zoe Washburne, River Tam and all the other crew of the Fire-Fly class ship, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.

Serenity - Leaves on the Wind #1 Run
Picking up months after the revelations at the end of the film, Serenity LotW most definitely isn’t a jumping on point for those new to the series. Whilst there is some back tracking over previous events, a prior knowledge of the film is needed to get to grips with the meat of this story. After the loss of some of their own in the film, the rag-tag crew are in hiding, beset by problems of single parenting, being accused of lying to start a new galactic civil war and are being hunted by bounty hunters, mercenaries and the authorities over the revelations made at the end of the film. The script, written by Zack Whedon, younger brother of Joss, seems to lack the wit and bite of the TV series and film, with Mal coming across much less the wily, strong character he is in those respectively. Whilst laden with several nice surprises for our crew, a haunting scene involving Zoe’s late husband Hoban (my personal favourite character…) and packing several punches, personally I found it wanting. Perhaps I need to reacquaint myself with the show again to fully appreciate it!

Art wise, George Jeantry’s work is solid, but the characters are often a little ropey, with several scenes where I can’t tell Mal apart from Simon Tam, however the stand out scenes, involving the afore mentioned moment with Hoban etc don’t really make up for this. There really aren’t many stand out scenes for me. Again perhaps this is due to having been separated from the source material for so long, but I wanted so much more from Leaves on the Wind than it actually delivered. It was much less space-western than I desired.

Serenity - Leaves on the Wind #1 Waiting
In closing, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is a must for fans of Mal and the gang as they travel across the ‘verse. It gives new stories, new life and new hope for perhaps a continuing of the series in a live action format. However, for this to happen, it needs to be a stronger effort. I was left disappointed by the lack of punch to the story, the toned down characters and ultimately what was delivered. Here’s hoping we can see these leaves on the wind soar in the future.

I give this 4 out of 10

You can avoid the slight turbulence and not explode by checking out the Serenity series right HERE!

For more comic views and reviews follow Robin on Twitter at @Hulksmash1985

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Posted on January 31st, 2014
Category: PULP FRICTION, REVIEWS
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MATT ON COMICS #006 – BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT

By Matt onComics

Click HERE to watch Matt’s review of Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot

Front and center, America! Here comes action! Here comes adventure! Here comes The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot – a roller-coaster ride through the minds of Geof Darrow and Frank Miller, the tag team that set you reeling with their hard-hitting series, Hard Boiled! Everything you remember about being eight years old and watching monster movies is right here, but with all the magnified detail that you always wanted to see.

Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Hey I’m Matt, the reviews I do are spoiler free for the most part (except for sequential issues where I might mention what happened previously) but I aim to give you an overview of the story/art and basic quality of the book so you can make an informed decision and not waste those precious £!!

If there’s books you’d like to see reviewed just leave a comment and I will do my very best.

Follow Matt on Twitter! – https://twitter.com/Ass_H4t
Check Matt out on Youtube! – http://www.youtube.com/user/jezzamatic?feature=watch

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Posted on January 16th, 2014
Category: MATT ON COMICS, REVIEWS
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MATT ON COMICS #005 – BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT REVIEW

By Matt onComics

Click HERE to watch Matt’s review of Black Beetle: No Way Out

After witnessing an explosion that decimates the city’s organized crime community, killing dozens, the Black Beetle—Colt City’s sleuthing sentinel—is on the hunt for answers and justice!

Follow Francesco Francavilla’s critically acclaimed pulp hero as he searches island prisons, dank sewers, and swanky nightclubs for the mysterious man known as Labyrinto.

Follow Francesco Francavilla’s critically acclaimed pulp hero as he searches island prisons, dank sewers, and swanky nightclubs for the mysterious man known as Labyrinto.

Hey I’m Matt, the reviews I do are spoiler free for the most part (except for sequential issues where I might mention what happened previously) but I aim to give you an overview of the story/art and basic quality of the book so you can make an informed decision and not waste those precious £!!

If there’s books you’d like to see reviewed just leave a comment and I will do my very best.

Follow Matt on Twitter! – https://twitter.com/Ass_H4t
Check Matt out on Youtube! – http://www.youtube.com/user/jezzamatic?feature=watch

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Posted on January 9th, 2014
Category: MATT ON COMICS, REVIEWS
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TRADING UP #004 – MICHAEL AVON OEMINGS THE VICTORIES

By @Joe Molloy

Victories
Written and Drawn by Michael Avon Oeming
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Sick of the same old re-fried tales of super-heroics in your comic books? Michael Avon Oeming’s Victories is different from what you are used to. No stranger to creator-owned comics, Oeming is best known for his long running Powers series with Brian Michael Bendis. Taking full responsibility for the art and writing here, he does an excellent job of introducing a new city, crammed full of larger-than-life characters while still keeping the story grounded and human.

The Victories themselves are a group of heroes who could easily be seen as vigilantes if you squinted at them right. The focus here is on Faustus, a red-robed mask who gains his powers through years of martial arts training. His team mates are similarly powered and well named, Oeming has created some intriguing characters here that leave you wanting to learn more. They are all visually distinct, (I love Sleepers’ bandages and how his tie flaps in the wind) and have strong personalities. I can’t wait to learn more about Sleeper and Sai, meet Metatron properly and learn why D.D. Mau shouts her name when she fights.

The Victories line up
As in all good comics, this city is a broken dystopia, “it smells of rotting flesh and dirty money–the buildings creak like an old man’s bones.” Haunted by a drug called Float (a narcotic that grants a brief ability to hover while also causing gross physical mutation) the city is only kept from the brink by the Victories and even they may be teetering over.

This is a dark and very personal book. It feels like therapy of a kind, driven by something deep and powerful. At times it bordered on uncomfortable, but that also made for some very real, authentic story-telling. Everything builds to a peak, the unveiling of the secret is inevitable, you can tell what’s coming but cannot turn away.

Michael Avon Oemings Victories
I always think of Oeming’s art as being very clean-almost on the Bruce Timm level-but as in many things, I am so very wrong. Here it’s often fluid, messy and organic. The art gets it’s loosest in the personal monologue/drinking scenes of Faustus. The pages can be dark and visceral and bloody, there are multiple decapitations and the Victories signature move is lopping off the hands of their foes. Many of the panel borders are unevenly drawn, adding to the organic pace of the page. In a comic about a hero with drinking problem you can almost hear the clank of the hip flask in his utility belt as he moves.

The lettering of the SFX in fight scenes is great, huge chunky letters that ‘sound’ loud. The colouring dynamic and evocative while still allowing Oeming’s thick bold line do most of the work. I always enjoy the old technique of having the local TV news guy fills us in, for me it’s always one of the better exposition delivery systems.

Victories Jackal
Should I buy it? This is must for Powers fans, those who love Oeming’s art and for those who like a dark and introspective look at super hero comics. I enjoyed it greatly and think it works fantastically as an introduction to this series, I am excited to read the next collection

Next time: The long wait is over, as the only comic I would consider getting monthly releases its second volume. Saga Volume 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Will it reach the high bar that the first book raised or come crashing down under the weight of my expectations?

Follow Joe on twitter @JosephJMolloy or check out his website: joeblogscomics for more comic reviews!

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Posted on August 8th, 2013
Category: REVIEWS, TRADING UP
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SIX SHOOTER #007 – MARVEL AND DC WERE NOT INVITED!

By Daniel Cole

Daniel Cole brings you episode #007 of the Six Shooter!

Welcome to the Six Shooter! This is a weekly column that will review six specific comics. Big new releases, small interesting titles and random curiosities. All will be looked at. The way it works is that there will be a brief review of the comics followed by our rating system. Our ratings are:

Headshot (Best of the week)
Hit
(Read)
Miss (Don’t Read)
Misfire (Worst of the week)

This week I thought it would be nice to take a break from the big two and focus on the rest of the comics market. However one DC licensed hero does pop up. Anyhow lets do this!

THE CROW CURARE #2 – IDW PUBLISHING

This is certainly a different tale than the one fans will be familiar with, but that doesn’t mean it is inferior.

Written by James O’Barr
Art by Antoine Dodé

This new Crow series has the benefit of having the Crow’s creator James O’Barr in the driving seat. This is certainly a different tale than the one fans will be familiar with, but that doesn’t mean it is inferior.

In fact this miniseries is utterly gripping. O’Barr once again looks at violence, grief and the search for justice. This time around the story follows Detective Salk as he tries to find who is responsible for the brutal murder of a young girl called Carrie. O’Barr’s script is often uncomfortable to read due to the horrific nature of the crimes being committed, but this doesn’t stop it from being so compelling. As a character driven narrative O’Barr manages to show just how far the search for justice can lead a man. Salk has already demonstrated that he is willing to interrogate suspects with extreme prejudice and as the narrative moves forward he has become wholly consumed with his quest.

Antoine Dodé’s art is moody and perfectly suits the tone of the story. His ability to create a sense of dread is excellent, as he depicts the kidnapping of another victim. His visual story telling is extremely strong and the book is at its best when O’Barr sits back and lets Dodé tell the tale. The art is often haunting with the scene on the swings the most emotionally effective scene in the book.

An excellent character piece and an interesting murder mystery; The Crow Curare is something of a triumph. It is utterly compelling even if it is uncomfortably brutal.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HEADSHOT

WITCHBLADE #168 – TOP COW (IMAGE COMICS)

Seeley clearly has a plan and the plot isn’t a mess by any means, but there is a distinct lack of focus on anything interesting.

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Diego Bernard, Fred Benes, Allisson Rodrigues & Arif Prianto

The second part of “Absolute Corruption” continues at a pace befitting a three part storyline. However Tim Seeley’s script is having a hard time balancing all the plot elements.

Seeley clearly has a plan and the plot isn’t a mess by any means, but there is a distinct lack of focus on anything interesting. Characterisation is set aside for tedious exposition that expands the Witchblade mythology, but only by a fraction. The humour of the book doesn’t work, as Katarina isn’t really a fully formed character. It often seems that there is too much being crammed into these pages and our hero is sitting on the sidelines for most of it.

Diego Bernard’s pencils are functional, but lack any real impact. The clear and simple layouts allow the book to tell its story without incident. However the need for two inkers does seem excessive for such a simple looking book. Granted not every book has to be a work of art, but this type of tale needs something to make it compelling.

And that is the problem. There might be a lot of wheels turning in the narrative, but not much of it is interesting. It isn’t a disaster, but it isn’t good either.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

THUMBPRINT #2 – IDW PUBLISHING

Thumbprint isn’t a comic for everyone and the story is perhaps more suited to TV than this medium.

Written by Jason Ciaramelia
Art by Vic Malhotra

Thumbprint is a title that manages to justify its violence, but some of its more shocking moments go too far.

Jason Ciaramelia’s script delves deeper into the stories main protagonist Mallory. We see her life in the armed forces and how she was a person who was tasked to ask enemy soldiers questions. Of course this means that we get an unsavoury look on how she acquired knowledge from the enemy. For the most part the brutality of it all works within the confines of the narrative, but Ciaramelia does often go too far. The whole “fingering your wife” moment is utterly unnecessary, even if it shows what sort of character Mallory is. The comic has already stated her dark nature and that moment is a little too much. However Ciaramelia must be commended for showing the ramifications and the senselessness of war. His depiction of war may not be a revelation, but it at least brings depth to the books narrative and main character.

Vic Malhotra’s art is best described as David Aja-lite. He seems to mimic Aja’s deceptively simple pencils, but not his ability to inventively construct a page layout. This isn’t a bad thing as the book often looks good, but the instant comparisons don’t help the book. However the slight blur and colour difference in the flashback scenes are a nice touch.

Thumbprint isn’t a comic for everyone and the story is perhaps more suited to TV than this medium. Ciaramelia does go a little too far in places, but it does at least try and engage the reader in the horrors of war. But a lot of recent films/books/TV shows have already done this type of story and done it better.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

MASS EFFECT FOUNDATION #1 – DARK HORSE COMICS

It maybe a prequel comic, but it does not play out as one in this initial issue

Written by Mac Walters
Art by Omar Francia & Michael Atiyeh

Mac Walters, lead writer on Mass Effect 2 & 3, takes the franchise into the past with this new comic book series.

It maybe a prequel comic, but it does not play out as one in this initial issue. Walters hits the ground running with a fun script that involves a mysterious female agent. She has assassination on her mind and the way in which she gets to her target is playful. Using intimidation, a few disguises and the help of a child. It is a great secret agent style tale that has an excellent pace to it. Surprisingly the script is filled with world building and characterisation. Also that twist ending is very effective.

Omar Francia’s art is clean and clear for the most part. But there are few inconsistencies with his character work, namely body proportions. However the action scenes are kinetic and well rendered and Francia manages to emote his characters well enough to enhance the scripts character beats. He manages to fill each panel with imagery that helps create the world the characters live in, even if it is a little bland at time.

This might not instantly be recognisable as a Mass Effect comic, but it has enough about it to engage new readers and fans alike. The art does its job and produces a solid visual experience. But it is Walter’s fun script that sells this title.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HIT

ANTI-HERO #2 – MONKEY BRAIN COMICS

This is a great title that tells a compelling story and presents it in a colourful way.

Written by Jay Faerber
Art by Nate Stockman & Paul Little

Jay Faerber’s blackmailed superhero story is a book that knows how to entertain you.

The narrative concept may not be original, but Faerber embraces it with such glee that you can’t help but get invested in it. The script is witty, fun and surprisingly character driven, as poor Paragon has to do business with a bad guy. The heroes and villains of this world have wonderfully ridiculous names that really work due to the light-hearted tone of the book. However it is light-hearted to a point as Faerber cleverly invests time in making Paragon a character the readers can empathise with. His new identity is an outward expression of his plight and the dialogue is so well judged in the more sombre moments.

Nate Stockman’s art is also a lot of fun. There is something nostalgic about the hero and villain designs, with each being both unique and a familiar. Paragon’s new suit takes visual inspiration from Stormwatch’s Midnighter and clearly pokes fun at the “dark” hero stereotype. The art is very expressive and vibrant. Giving the reader a rich visual experience.

This is a great title that tells a compelling story and presents it in a colourful way. It successfully show’s that a book can be mature in its character work without sacrificing the inherent fun that comes with the superhero genre.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HEADSHOT

THE ROCKETEER & THE SPIRIT: PULP FRICTION #1 – IDW PUBLISHING

Some great dialogue softens the lack of originality and Waid really excels in presenting how different these two heroes and their supporting characters are.

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Paul Smith & Jordie Bellaire

Mark Waid brings two of the most recognisable pulp heroes together for a nostalgia infused tale.

For a lot of readers this may fall flat as it relies on the nostalgia factor heavily and doesn’t really offer an interesting narrative to engage with. It has the familiar heroes meet, fight and then team up arc that happens in almost all stories of this ilk. It is nice that Waid gets this out of the way so issue two can move the narrative forward, but it is certainly a hurdle to overcome in this issue. Some great dialogue softens the lack of originality and Waid really excels in presenting how different these two heroes and their supporting characters are.

Paul Smith’s art evokes the style of those old comic strips and the highly stylized pencils give the book a distinct look. It is more cartoonish than realistic, but that is intentional and really sells Waid’s script. The action is kinetic and quite dynamic due to the sense of momentum Smith gives the flying sequences. It certainly works on a visual level.

What it lacks in narrative originality it makes up for with charm and playful art. It is a comic that focuses on delivering a fun tale with well-loved heroes and for the most part its successful in doing so.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HIT

So this week has been a good one with two HEADSHOTS, two HITS and only two MISSES. A lot of books that focus on fun and just as many that focus on violence. IDW had a good showing this week and is definitely a company to keep an eye on. So all in all I declare this week a win for the reader.

Do you agree with the reviews? Did we get them wrong or right? Have any suggestions on what we should review next week? Get in touch in the comments section.

For more comic views and reviews follow Dan on Twitter at @gizmo151183

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Posted on July 26th, 2013
Category: REVIEWS, SIX SHOOTER
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SIX SHOOTER #006 – A DEMON DOG, ZOMBIES AND THE BEGINNINGS OF A WAR!

By Daniel Cole

Daniel Cole brings you episode #006 of the Six Shooter!

Welcome to the Six Shooter! This is a weekly column that will review six specific comics. Big new releases, small interesting titles and random curiosities. All will be looked at. The way it works is that there will be a brief review of the comics followed by our rating system. Our ratings are:

Headshot (Best of the week)
Hit
(Read)
Miss (Don’t Read)
Misfire (Worst of the week)

This week we have three digital only comics. As the digital revolution of the medium continues are these comics better than their physical counterparts. Find out below!

DEMON DOG #1 – SELF-PUBLISHED (FIND ON GUMROAD.COM)

However funny this is, it doesn’t make you want to come back for another helping.

Written by Derek Charm
Art by Derek Charm

Derek Charm’s Demon Dog is an interesting piece. It plays on the Lassie concept and includes a Saturday morning cartoon moral lesson.

In fact the tone is akin to a Saturday morning cartoon, but with a few elements that promote it to an Adult Swim type of product. There is fun to be had here, but it isn’t exactly memorable. The spoofing of the moral lesson and Lassie angle does make you smile.  However the whole thing seems to be over before it really gets going.

The pace is break neck and the plot is slim. Which in the context of what Charm is attempting to do is fine. But in essence the comic already seems to have already delivered the only joke it can tell in its first issue. However funny this is, it doesn’t make you want to come back for another helping.

Charm’s art is perfectly suited for the style of story he wants to tell. The cartoony aesthetic adds a lot of visual humour to the book. Charm manages to make a demonic phone look hilarious and the scenes that are silent work best.

Charm is a solid visual storyteller and Demon Dog will entertain a lot of people. However the comic evokes the feeling of a short comic strip and is utterly forgettable.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

UNCANNY X-MEN #8 – MARVEL COMICS

Bendis delivers another one of his famous talky scripts in this issue.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo & Tim Townsend

As the new shepherd of the X-Universe Bendis has created something interesting in the pages of All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. However more often than not Uncanny seems to be behind its sister title when it comes to quality.

Bendis delivers another one of his famous talky scripts in this issue. It is concerned with setting up the next arc and introducing the reader to a new team member. Now this isn’t a bad thing, but the whole issue falls under the weight of its own dialogue. The constant chatter becomes so much that even the art gets swallowed up by it.

It doesn’t help that certain plot points are revisited again this issue, but still nothing has moved forward; namely the fact that the senior X-Men’s powers are broken. Bendis attempts to give weight to the Cyclops/Magneto dynamic, but the scene between them seems too forced. Bendis is more successful when dealing with the persecution of mutants as both the new mutant and Fabio get interesting scenes. But it isn’t enough to excuse the rest of the books shortcomings.

Chris Bachalo’s art is uncharacteristically clear this issue. Although some of the visual choices are a bit much (Magik’s flaming demons). The visuals are strong for a mostly static issue, but Bachalo’s characters do sometimes look quite bloated in the face, which is a little distracting.

This isn’t a terrible comic, but it is a tedious read. Although the main plot moves forward somewhat there is still a sense that Bendis is treading water. Bendis becomes the victim of his own style this issue and the result is a long-winded and bland comic.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

SKYBREAKER #3 – MONKEY BRAIN COMICS

The pacing of the issue is somewhat slow due to the extended scenes explaining what is going on.

Written by Michael Moreci
Art by Drew Zucker

Skybreaker’s continues at a steady pace with issue three as the main story is built upon heavily.

However Michael Moreci falls down the exposition trap this issue. It is completely understandable that Moreci wants to deepen his story and give the reader information about character motivations and the plot, but his script is a little cumbersome. The issue often seems like it is just dumping information on the reader and this in turn hinders the book.

The pacing of the issue is somewhat slow due to the extended scenes explaining what is going on. The overreliance on exposition also makes certain scenes a little tiresome. Even the script’s moments of action don’t exactly help as they seem to be in the book to just give Drew Zucker something violent to draw.

Zucker’s art is slightly inconsistent. His penchant for having every characters head at a jaunty downward angle makes a lot of them look a little bizarre. There is definitely a lot of forehead in this book. The violence is gleefully depicted, but fails to impress visually. The black and white pages only help to highlight the little inconsistencies in the art, as facial features seem to be out of place and the backgrounds lack depth and detail.

This is a comic that isn’t a right off and there are elements to the plot that are engaging, but the execution is where Skybreaker fails. It’s over written and visually uneven.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

JUSTICE LEAGUE #22 – DC COMICS

The beginning of DC comic’s big Trinity War event is here.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert & Rod Reis

The beginning of DC comic’s big Trinity War event is here. It certainly starts with a bang, but perhaps it should have focused on making the reader care more.

It’s perfectly fine that Geoff Johns delivers the crescendo to what he has been building to in JL and JLA, but these plots will be alien for new readers. But Johns tackles this problem, but with little skill. He relies too heavily on characters recounting events that have happened before and this makes the majority of the issue one giant recap page. Admirable it maybe that Johns is bringing together so many characters and storylines for this event, but his exposition heavy script makes the book a cumbersome read. It is also worth noting that Johns makes a lot of these characters come across like arseholes (especially Shazam).

The choice to frame the action around Madame Xandu at least gives Johns an easy (lazy) way to introduce the major players on the battlefield. After all the backstory to the event has been described, Johns is free to deliver the opening moments of this crossover. And what he gives us is two deaths and a villain who is tied to DC’s Flashpoint series (that started the new 52). Much like a lot of these events, death is used so we take the whole thing seriously and it is a great way to exploit the readers into thinking there are actually high stakes involved in the story. But it is a tiresome exercise even if the actions of Superman are integral to the plot.

Ivan Reis is the books shining light. He is an artist that understands how to deliver top notched and polished superhero stories. His art is at times gorgeous and he constantly throws out great team shots. The action is kinetic and his character work is expressive. His work is tailor made for this type of blockbuster event.

So, even though the book looks excellent it still has major problems with its script. Johns’ lazy approach to exposition cripples the first half of the book and makes this read like a prelude as opposed to a part one. The “twists” and “surprises” have no real impact because there is little depth to the characters or plot. This is bloated first issue that gets more wrong than it does right, but Reis does enough to make sure it isn’t a total failure.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

BREATH OF BONES: A TALE OF THE GOLEM #2 – DARK HORSE COMICS

It is a testament to the creative teams skill that they have managed to present the tale in such a way that you care for the characters.

Written by Steve Niles & Matt Santoro
Art by Dave Wachter

This is a familiar tale set in WWII, but it has a supernatural twist that involves a golem. It may sound a little absurd, but Niles and Santoro ground this tale in humanity.

The scenario may not be anything new, an enemy of the Nazis being hidden by a friendly town, but the script has so much depth to it. It is a testament to the creative teams skill that they have managed to present the tale in such a way that you care for the characters. Using the eyes of a young boy, Niles & Santoro can really show the fear that comes with war. The comic’s most effective scene is when the boy (Noah) sees the tanks coming for the town.

Niles and Santoro know how to create tension and when not to use dialogue to enhance a scene. The use of exposition is sparse, but tied to the characters. The book delivers everything you need to know in a succinct manner and this allows the script to develop and revel in its character work.

Artist Dave Wachter brings this script vividly to life. His use of shading is excellent and adds a lot of visual depth to the black and white presentation. The overall tone of the art is sombre, which enhances the plot no end. His pencils are detailed and his characters truly emote. The book has several standout visuals that highlight the fear the boy has and this in turn adds depth to his character. Wachter’s visual storytelling is extremely strong with his choice of panel layouts giving the book a cinematic look, whilst making sure the story is well paced.

This is comic that deals with a subject matter that maybe familiar, but it is a well-executed book. It uses subtly and characterisation to tell its story. It’s a perfect example of a great creative team working in harmony to produce a great comic.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HEADSHOT

AMANDA HOCKING’S THE HOLLOWS BOOK FIVE – DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT

If you weren’t already done with the zombie genre then this comic will make sure you never want to read about the Walking Dead again.

Written by Amanda Hocking & Tony Lee
Art by Steve Uy

If you weren’t already done with the zombie genre then this comic will make sure you never want to read about the Walking Dead again.

It isn’t so much the zombies themselves that makes this an abysmal read, but the characters we have to follow. Hocking and Lee’s script makes sure that each one of the main protagonists are as annoying as possible with the exception of Blue (yes that’s his name). Blue doesn’t really do much, but that is probably for the best. Granted these characters are young, but could they perhaps be a little less self-absorbed, especially as they are in a crisis.

Hocking and Lee make these characters tread familiar narrative ground throughout the issue. They argue about staying in a comfy place, as oppose to keeping on the road. Understandably the youngest is a selfish child, but the dialogue really hammers home the point that she wants to stay in the comfy house. By the end of that scene you are willing the rest of the characters to just leave her there to die. The writers also have our character visit a Vegas casino to get supplies and meet a crazy religious group. The plot is neither interesting nor engaging and is made worst by the fact that every character in the book seems to be an utter twat.

Steve Uy’s art is hindered by the black and white style. The front cover show’s how his digital colouring techniques make for an enjoyable image. However the interior art is dull and lacklustre. His Japanese inspired style does fit with the zombie genre though. His characters are well animated and his action beats have a great sense of motion. But the whole book could have benefitted with a bit of colour.

The bland look of the art and the terrible characters make sure that The Hollow is not worth your time. It is hard to see who this is aimed for as it is tonally all over the place (Is it a comedy? A horror? Just for teens?). It is a comic that is best avoided.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISFIRE

VERDICT

Well this is one depressing week. One MISFIRE, four MISSES and one HEADSHOT. Even though there was a headshot, this week is officially a disaster. Perhaps there was too much black and white art. There was definitely too much emphasis on stilted exposition, that’s for sure. Oh well hopefully next week will have a better offering.

Do you agree with the reviews? Did we get them wrong or right? Have any suggests on what we should review next week? Get in touch in the comments section.

For more comic views and reviews follow Dan on Twitter at @gizmo151183

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Posted on July 11th, 2013
Category: REVIEWS, SIX SHOOTER
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SIX SHOOTER #004 – REOPENED X-FILES, A HIDDEN WAR AND ULTIMATE CLOAK AND DAGGER

By Daniel Cole

Daniel Cole brings you episode #004 of the Six Shooter!

Welcome to the Six Shooter! This is a weekly column that will review six specific comics. Big new releases, small interesting titles and random curiosities. All will be looked at. The way it works is that there will be a brief review of the comics followed by our rating system. Our ratings are:

Headshot(Best of the week)
Hit
(Read)
Miss (Don’t Read)
Misfire (Worst of the week)

This week is full of zombies, mysteries, reinvented superheroes and Darth Vader. It’s another eclectic collection of titles. So lets do this!

AMELIA COLE AND THE HIDDEN WAR #2 – MONKEY BRAIN COMICS

It seems that there have been many attempts at exploring magic since the introduction of a certain boy wizard.


Written by Adam P. Knave & D.J. Kirkbride
Art by Nick Brokenshire

It seems that there have been many attempts at exploring magic since the introduction of a certain boy wizard. Amelia Cole is not specifically geared towards the same market as Mr Potter though.

Knave and Kirkbride blend superhero and militaristic elements into this magical themed world and the outcome is mixed at best. There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept, but it seems like the execution is a little lacking. This is mainly due to a weak main narrative and bad dialogue. Amelia herself has too much “attitude,” which makes her an unlikable lead. Her thoughts are displayed in text boxes that don’t engage. Although they are intended to add depth to Amelia, they’re too forced and come off as superficial statements.

The narrative of the issue is well paced and the structure works well. But the content is a little uninspiring. The whole plot revolves around Amelia waking up and getting back into the game whilst The Omega Company find something in the desert. It may move the overall plot forward, but it lacks a hook to keep you interested. The opening flashback about Lemmy is the only part of the narrative that is engaging.

Brokenshire’s art is solid. The use of slanted layouts for the action scenes gives them a sense of motion. His character depictions work for the script and have a charming quality about them. However the backgrounds are bare and the colouring is flat, which adds to the issue’s problems.

The title’s concept is lost due to this issue’s mediocre presentation. The narrative is uninteresting and the script is marred by terrible dialogue. It isn’t the worst read you’ll ever have but it is utterly forgettable.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISS

X-FILES SEASON 10 #1 – IDW PUBLISHING

The issue’s moody visuals give the book a distinct quality and the writing is solid.


Written by Joe Harris (script) & Chris Carter (Story)
Art by Michael Walsh & Jordie Bellaire

This continuation of the cult TV show certainly starts like an episode of the X-Files, with a teaser before the title sequence. The issue’s moody visuals give the book a distinct quality and the writing is solid.

Walsh’s pencils might be simplistic in some respects. But his Mulder, Scully and Skinner look like their real life counterparts and there is much to appreciate from that alone. The big spacious panels evoke the feeling that you are watching television and the layouts are simple but effective. Empty panel space is used to accentuate a reveal (Mulder) and the heavy inking gives the book a noir quality that really works. As always colourist Jordie Bellaire is on fine form with her colours giving a depth to the art.

Harris’ script has the unenviable task of living up to the fans of the show. But he is more than up to the challenge. His character work shines more than the actual plot. Mulder and Scully are fleshed out and Harris make’s sure new readers can get in on the action as well. The interplay between the characters is fun, but some of Mulder’s humour does fall flat.

The only problem really is the plot. Granted Harris and Carter have to get their main characters back into the game, but it seems a little too contrived. The central mystery might hook a lot of readers, but the “someone hacked into the X-Files” angle isn’t the best opening gambit for this series.

However this is a title that will please both fans and new readers. As a first issue it’s a success. It has a great visual identity and the characters are engaging. The plot may not be exciting, but it has enough about it to make most readers come back for the next instalment.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HIT

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #24 – MARVEL COMICS

Bendis has made both Cloak and Dagger instantly likable as characters.


Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez & Justin Ponser

This issue is all about (re)introducing Cloak and Dagger to the Ultimate Universe. Their powers are the same, but their origin has had a much-needed overhaul. Bendis manages to link these new heroes to the Roxxon brain trust, who have been scheming for a while now. Bendis fills the issue with bad pseudo science and his talking head style does slow the pace of the narrative somewhat. But the new origin makes sense and surrounding it with science fiction elements keeps it in line with Ultimate Spider-man’s universe.

Bendis has made both Cloak and Dagger instantly likable as characters. There is history there and the flashbacks provide the reader with a succinct background to them both. However this being a Spider-man comic you’d expect he’d make an appearance. Well Mile Morales is still grieving from his mother’s death. Bendis continues the “I’ve quit” storyline and although it works in theory, Morales is barely in this issue. Therefore this aspect of the issue has no weight as Bendis is more focused on his new toys. He sacrifices Mile’s continued development to showcase his new take on Cloak and Dagger.

But for any problems the script has David Marquez more than makes up for it with his art. It is quite literally beautifully to look art. He has an eye for the human form and he is easily one of the best character artist working in comics. Every emotion is captured perfectly. His pencils are detailed, clean and dynamic. His fight scenes are kinetic and pop off the page. The redesigns of Cloak and Dagger aren’t especially inspiring, but Marquez sells them. Especially Cloak who is a wonderful visual.

The comic succeeds as an introduction to new characters. But it does little to truly move along Mile’s story. He is somewhat of an afterthought. But the art is excellent and that alone makes this issue worth a read.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HIT

STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE NINTH ASSASSIN #3 – DARK HORSE COMICS

He dispatches enemies, leaps around and walks menacingly. He does everything that Darth Vader does and it is presented perfectly.


Written by Tim Siedell
Art by Ivan Fernández, Denis Freitas & Michael Atiyeh

The creative team deliver a nearly silent issue that just has Vader searching for answers. It isn’t a revelatory character study and it isn’t something that deepens the Star Wars mythology. It’s a comic that show’s off how utterly cool the character can be. He dispatches enemies, leaps around and walks menacingly. He does everything that Darth Vader does and it is presented perfectly.

Siedell essentially lets Fernández tell the story through the visuals. But the script has a great pace to it and the limited dialogue delivers both exposition and characterisation. The less Vader speaks means that when he does it has impact. Cold and practical seem to be his defining traits. This less is more approach to the script really elevates this simple story.

Fernández does the heavy lifting and he does it well. Vast landscapes, alien beasts and lightsaber action are handled with the same level of detail. The book looks great and it is impressive that Fernández can create some distinct emotional reactions on the blank armoured faces of the issue’s cast. Best of all is the way in which he inserts heroic imagery into certain scenes, for example Vader putting his lightsaber back after killing a creature.

It isn’t the most interesting plot, but the execution is excellent. The lack of dialogue is a boon to the issue. There is little depth here, but the Sith Lord will entertain you.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HEADSHOT

EXTINCTION PARADE #1 – AVATAR PRESS

The author of World War Z adds another zombie tale to his bibliography.


Written by Mark Brooks
Art by Raulo Caceres & Digikore Studios

The author of World War Z adds another zombie tale to his bibliography. But this has a twist as Brooks decides to tackle another highly popular supernatural creature, the vampire.

From the off Brooks wastes no time in introducing everything you need to know about his new concept. Vampires are arrogant and have underestimated the threat zombies present. Brooks criticises previous popular incarnations of vampires, but crucially he doesn’t build a unique angle for his own interpretation. The main character’s narration is overwrought and reminiscent of other fictional vampires (namely Lestat). The whole concept is overplayed and makes for quite a tiresome read.

The art is rough, but the colouring has a bizarre sheen to it. This is due to the way in which the character and backgrounds are shaded. Caceres pencils are in direct conflict with Digikore’s colours and the book doesn’t quite come together visually. The detailed rotting corpses and violence impress, but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before.

And that is what the main problem is with the issue. The familiar visual and narrative elements detract from the main concept, which isn’t that interesting to begin with. It may set-up the overall plot and characters, but Mark Brooks’ script is utterly uninspired. The Extinction Parade is a lifeless book with nothing to offer.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – MISFIRE

BATWOMAN #21 – DC COMICS

As always the book’s visual structure is impressive and Francavilla has a lot of fun playing with the layouts. The crocodile theme is a stroke of genius and makes the book a great visual experience.


Written by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Art by Francesco Francavilla

This newest issue of Batwoman focuses on Killer Croc as we get a break from the main narrative.

As always the book’s visual structure is impressive and Francavilla has a lot of fun playing with the layouts. The crocodile theme is a stroke of genius and makes the book a great visual experience. However Francavilla’s actual art within the panels is a little inconsistent. The tone of the script doesn’t exactly go with the pencils, which often look a little cartoonish. The quality of the art changes throughout as detailed character work becomes simplistic by the end of the issue.

But Williams and Blackman’s script is good enough to hide the arts problems. Killer Croc’s narration is filled with character. There are moments of humour to be had, but the overall narrative actually explores Croc’s life. The writing team manage to make Croc empathetic and the plot actually earns its happy ending.

Although the art lets the issue down somewhat, the actual panel layouts and the script are enough to call this issue a successful character piece. Williams and Blackman continue to provide DC with one of its better titles.

SIX SHOOTER RATING – HIT

Verdict

Overall it has been a good week. A surprising star performance from Darth Vader has been the standout comic. Proving that good storytelling can come from a great understanding of how to use the medium. The good outweighs the bad for another week and although there was one utter failure of an issue, it is a good time to enjoy comics.

Do you agree with the reviews? Did we get them wrong or right? Have any suggests on what we should review next week? Get in touch in the comments section.

For more comic views and reviews follow Dan on Twitter at @gizmo151183

 

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Posted on June 21st, 2013
Category: REVIEWS, SIX SHOOTER
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TRADING UP #002 – THE MASSIVE

By @Joe Molloy


Written by Brian Wood
Art by Kristian Donaldson and Gary Brown
Colours by Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Comics

The Massive is the tale of a group of eco-activists called the Ninth Wave and their struggles as the World collapses around them. Spurred by a string of environmental disasters, society is bordering on collapse and the crew of the environmental-action ship Kapital (think the Sea Shepherd) battle to survive, find their friends and keep their ideals.

Because the Massive is also the name of a boat, a boat that barely appears in this story. Contact was lost during a huge storm and the Kapital has been searching for her sister ship ever since. A search that is hampered by the fact the world has descended into chaos.

This could be the smartest book that Brian Wood has ever written. Amongst a body of work that contains Demo, DMZ and Northlanders that is saying a hell of a lot. I’m a big fan of Wood and his political thrillers and very glad that this time he has expanded his scope to the entire world.

This could be the smartest book that Brian Wood has ever written.

At times Brian Wood reminds me of Warren Ellis (not too surprising they worked together at Marvel early on in Brian’s career). He creates these strong characters and then throws them into some very tricky situations. There is a strong Global Frequency vibe from the Massive, which is never a bad thing. Here too is a team of highly skilled and dedicated individuals brought together to save the world. The difference is in the Massive it is too late, the world has already gone to hell and they need to save themselves while still holding on to their ideals.

Because this is also a story about character. How it is formed and how it can be tested. How what we have done can become who we are. Callum Israel, the Captain of the Kapital and leader of Ninth Wave is an ex-mercenary who listened when the ocean spoke to him and then dedicated his life to protecting it.

Callum Israel is an ex-mercenary who listened when the ocean spoke to him and then dedicated his life to protecting it.

Artist Kristian Donaldson has an almost clinical cleanness to his linework but one that he never allows to become sterile. He excels at drawing the technical stuff that this book is stuffed with: boats, guns, oil rigs and sinking cityscapes. But he still manages to imbue his characters with real life, warmth, and great haircuts, (the selection and quality of the hair do’s in this comic wouldn’t look out-of-place in Melbourne’s most hipster riddled cafe).

Gary Brown takes over art duties for the second story arc. He has a rougher sketchier style than Donaldson but it has great energy and at times reminds me of R.M. Guera’s work on Scalped.

Artist Kristian Donaldson has an almost clinical cleanness to his linework but one that he never allows to become sterile.

Colourist Dave Stewart is generally regarded as being the best in the biz and has a string of Eisner awards to prove it. The book relies on flashback to fill in the back stories of these characters and the colouring does a vital job of letting the reader know the when we are looking back through time. Stewart changes the colour palette for the flashbacks and uses a pastel wash over everything to tie it together.

Captions are used well to keep the reader informed of just where the action is happening. The story whizzes all over the globe and I loved how new locations are indicated with latitude and longitude as well as by name. New characters are introduced with a tidy list of their name, date and place of birth. This is a comic that could fall victim to over complexity but the creative team fight that well with the tight structure they keep in place.

Part of what I love most about the Massive is that it feels like a global book.

Part of what I love most about the Massive is that it feels like a global book. The action takes place all over the world and the crew of the Kapital is multi-national. To those of us who live in Not-America it is nice to see, as it can feel as though the American comic book industry has no idea we are out here. Wood addresses this directly in the script with a great exchange on the Antarctic ice that says much about how he sees Americas role in the world.

The constantly changing locations suit the rotating roster of artists and it doesn’t feel like a disconnect when we get a new penciller. We also get to have the mighty JP Leon on covers. I love his art more every time I see it ( it also reminds me to build up the courage to write about the Winter Men).

The constantly changing locations suit the rotating roster of artists and it doesn’t feel like a disconnect when we get a new penciller.


Should I buy it?
 If you like Brian Wood then it’s a must. If you haven’t tried his work yet then this could be the start of something beautiful. Without really meaning to I have accumulated over Brian Wood 20 trades and I still haven’t picked up any of his Marvel, Star Wars or Conan work. The man has quite the back catalogue of fine comic books.
This collection is tidy package. You not only get first six issues but also the preview short stories that ran in Dark Horse Presents and fill in the back story on our main characters.

Next time: A tale of a cloned baby Saviour for the 21st Century. Punk Rock Jesus by Mr Sean Murphy.

Follow Joe on twitter @JosephJMolloy or check out his website: joeblogscomics for more comic reviews!

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Posted on June 19th, 2013
Category: REVIEWS, TRADING UP
Tags: , , , , , ,