Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Inhuman, Volume 1: Genesis Review (Charles Soule, Joe Madureira)


In last year’s Infinity, Black Bolt detonated the Terrigen Bomb at the heart of the floating Inhuman capital city of Attilan, a last ditch move by the desperate king against Thanos. The fallout of the bomb was a massive cloud – the Terrigen Mist – floating across the world, transforming anyone with dormant genes from human to Inhuman. And that number turned out to be surprisingly high.

Black is the Color by Julia Gfrorer Review


A sailor is abandoned at sea, left to die. A mermaid appears and the two share an intense, doomed romance as the sailor’s life dwindles away.

The sailor/mermaid story has been told and retold for centuries but writer/artist Julia Gfrorer gives it a twist by making her characters talk like 21st century people, though the book is set in the 17th century! The mermaids in particular talk like hipster musicians. During a storm, a small group of them gather to watch a ship sink from a distance, talking about the evening’s gig and other mermaids’ beard vanity. Later, a couple of them talk about laying down backing vocals while eating freshly killed lobster.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Armor Hunters Volume 1 Review (Robert Venditti, Doug Braithwaite)


Following suit with the comics big boys, Valiant have done their own summer event comic, this one called Armor Hunters – and, surprisingly for an event comic, it’s actually not bad!

The Armor Hunters are a group of mercenaries flying through space in a giant robot on an unending mission to destroy every single piece of Manowar armor in the universe ‘cos they’re dangerous. Now they’ve come to Earth to separate Aric from Shanhara – but he don’t WANNA! Time for lots of smashy-smashy action between toy-like figures with many things going BOOM! 

Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith by William Todd Schultz Review


Torment Saint is the biography of Elliott Smith, the singer-songwriter of numerous great albums like Figure 8 and XO, as well as the Oscar nominated song Miss Misery which featured on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. Smith had a difficult life stemming from possible childhood abuse that led to a lifelong battle with depression and, eventually, drug addiction. Though a quiet, sensitive person he violently committed suicide in 2003 of two stab wounds from a kitchen knife through the heart.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Superman: The Coming of Atlas Review (James Robinson, Renato Guedes)


You guys know who Atlas is? He’s a strongman who wears red shorts and a red hood, and that’s it. He’s strong enough to fight Superman, which is what he does in this book. His reasons? Some nonsense about working with a secret government agency to kill Superman. He’ll then replace Superman and go on to conquer the world or some ridiculous crap that doesn’t make sense.

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 18: The Warrior Who Surpassed Goku Review (Akira Toriyama)


Volume 18 picks up with Son Goku stepping into the ring first with Cell and right away I was thinking that something was up. The guy who goes first never wins, and Son Goku’s the hero of the story, so it was an interesting choice of Akira Toriyama’s to open with the unexpected. 

And, y’know what, Goku’s fight with Cell is awesome. It’s great, it’s exciting, it’s everything readers of this series have come to expect from Toriyama. So why wasn’t I as engaged as I usually am with Dragon Ball Z? 

Maybe Later Review (Charles Berberian, Phillippe Dupuy)


Maybe Later is a non-fictional, behind-the-scenes look at how Charles Berberian and Phillippe Dupuy create their Monsieur Jean comics. The two have an unusual relationship in that they both write and draw the books together, so it’s interesting to see their differences here as they write and draw separate journals. 

A + X, Volume 3: Outstanding Review (Gerry Duggan, Howard Chaykin)


A + X was a series of two half-issue stories per issue where an Avenger and an X-Man would team-up and have an adventure or something. I’m talking in the past tense because this series is now cancelled and not without good reason - it sucked! And, by this third (and final) volume, Marvel had abandoned the concept altogether, bringing in Gerry Duggan to write a continuous 6 half-issues-long (3 full issues) story featuring Cap and Cyclops. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Superman: True Brit Review (John Cleese, John Byrne)


John Cleese has a long line of credit with me for creating Fawlty Towers alone - that sitcom is perfection! I watched it when I was a kid and an adult and loved it both times, it’s a comedy masterpiece. Then there’s Monty Python which I came to later but still loved and the Holy Grail is one of my favourite movies. Even his lesser-known work like A Fish Called Wanda was superbly written by him (and Kevin Kline steals the show with his insane performance!). 

So I have a lot of love for Cleese even though Wanda may have been the last great thing he did and that was some 25 years ago! 

That said, it’s really, really hard to reconcile that brilliance with this comic - Superman: True Brit - which might be the worst Superman comic ever created. It’s certainly the worst I’ve read! 

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 17: The Cell Games Begin Review (Akira Toriyama)


So it’s pretty clear what Akira Toriyama’s doing at this point: recycling the hits. And, to be fair, it actually works! And, of course, it’s his series, his characters, he can do whatever the hell he wants. 

Cell is essentially Freeza, what with his many transformations unlocking higher levels of power, not to mention his lizard-like appearance. And then Toriyama goes back even deeper into the well (is that a thing?), by reviving the classic Strongest Under the Heavens tournament from the original Dragon Ball series!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Woefully Ineffective: A Review of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion


NOTE: There are spoilers throughout so don’t read this unless you want the book to be spoiled for you (though I would argue it was already spoiled). But if you’re just looking for a yay or nay from me, it is most certainly a HELL NO!

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 16: Cell's Perfect-Form Achieved!! Review (Akira Toriyama)


It’s probably because the androids are wiped out in this volume, but I’m starting to like Dragon Ball Z again! 

Vegeta and Trunks emerge from the Chamber of Spirit and Time, fully levelled-up, to take on Cell. Vegeta fights Cell alone but, even though he’s able to best him easily, he allows Cell to remain alive to absorb Android #18 and assume his final form. Because he’s a dumb Saiyan Warrior who only wants to fight extremely powerful beings! 

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, Volume 1: Versus Review (Chris Yost, David Lopez)


This is what happens when a character becomes popular - you spin-off them off as many times as you can, which is why Wolverine’s in a million titles! So when the gamble of Superior Spider-Man paid off, we got titles like Superior Foes of Spider-Man (surprisingly good), Superior Carnage (unsurprisingly crap), and this one, Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, which is the most boring and worthless of the bunch. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Mighty Avengers, Volume 1: No Single Hero Review (Al Ewing, Greg Land)


Marvel Exec #1: We’re going to reintroduce the Heroes for Hire with Luke Cage and everyone in their own series. 
Head Honcho: I don’t hear the word AVENGERS or X-MEN in the title. 
Marvel Exec #1: … that’s because they’re the Heroes for Hire. 
Head Honcho: Are you fucking retarded?! Nobody knows who the fuck that is! It’s gotta have AVENGERS or X-MEN in the title! This is a goddamn 21st century Marvel comic, Thor-fucking-dammit! 
Marvel Exec #1: Sir, maybe… maybe not every comic needs to be branded as either Avengers or X-Men? 
Head Honcho: So, who’s in this thing?
Marvel Exec #2 (after Marvel Exec #1 is carried away, his groin thoroughly kicked by Head Honcho): Luke Cage, Power Man…
Head Honcho: They’re not the same thing?
Marvel Exec #2: Not any more, sir, and Superior Spider-Man, and… 
Head Honcho: THAT’S GREAT! Let’s call this Superior Spider-Man and the whatevers! People LOVE Superior Spider-Man and I LOVE money! 
Marvel Exec #2 (shielding groin): We’ll call it Mighty Avengers or something, sir, that seems more representative of the series. 
Head Honcho: Whatever. I’m gonna go look at the sales figures for the New 52 and laugh til I pee on a statue of Superman! 

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 15: Cell, Stealthily Approaching Review (Akira Toriyama)


After the bullshit of the last volume I’m glad things are getting better in volume 15 but this whole section still isn’t a great part of the Dragon Ball Z saga. 

Son Goku recovers and, realising his weakness against the androids, takes Son Gohan, Vegeta and Trunks to train in the Chamber of Spirit and Time. In the chamber time is distorted so one year inside equals one day on Earth - but only two can enter at once, so Vegeta and Trunks go in first while Goku and Gohan watch the chaos unfolding below. 

Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books by Nick Hornby Review


In September 2003, Nick Hornby’s first Stuff I’ve Been Reading column was printed in The Believer magazine. It had two lists at the start: Books Bought and Books Read (which never synced up!), followed by reviews of the books read in Hornby’s inimitable, charming style. This omnibus edition collects all of the columns published since then up to June 2013 (so it’s technically almost 10 years, but not quite!).

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Letter 44 #10 Review (Charles Soule, Alberto Albuquerque)


When we left our heroes last, the Clarke was under attack from some alien vessels - but is it their intention to destroy them? Meanwhile back on Earth, President Blades’ plan to end the Middle East wars in 90 days takes a massive setback. 

Letter 44 has been a near-flawless series full of top quality issues that’s never let me down and #10 is just such an issue. 

Chew #43 Review (John Layman, Rob Guillory)


Tony’s been sent to the Antarctic to investigate the death of a penguin - and the cigar-smoking, anchor-tattooed snowman is looking mighty suspicious! Now that he’s out of the picture, his daughter, Olive, goes on her first big mission with Mason Savoy (Tony’s former partner and now mentor to his daughter), John Colby and Poyo the cybernetic luchador chicken. They’re looking for information on the vampire Collector - and the trail leads to a Russian cake maker’s shop! 

Inhuman #6 Review (Charles Soule, Ryan Stegman)


The Unspoken has deposed Medusa as ruler of New Attilan and locked the place down. Unable to get back in, Dante/Inferno leads the fight back with his fellow Nuhumans at his side. 

Underwhelming and forced would be the words to describe this issue. Underwhelming because the fight back is so quick and dull, and forced because we’re supposed to think it’s this big dramatic event, and it’s not. At all. 

Get a Life Review (Phillippe Dupuy, Charles Berberian)


Comics for the most part are a collaborative medium usually with one person writing, another drawing, another inking, colouring, lettering, and so on. Rarely do you find two people who work on a comic and do both the writing and drawing together, but such is the case with Charles Berberian and Phillippe Dupuy. In fact, their drawing/writing styles are so similar, they’ve said that even they have a hard time figuring out who did what in their comics! 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Deadpool, Volume 5: The Wedding of Deadpool Review (Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn)


(If you’ve just been reading the Marvel NOW! Deadpool, you might well be wondering where the hell Deadpool’s wedding came from - after all, there wasn’t any indication of this in the previous four volumes! The missing link lies in Deadpool: The Gauntlet, which, helpfully, at the time of writing has yet to be published in trade, and should’ve really been Volume 5 seeing as it was written by Duggan/Posehn as well. 

Anyway, if you want the whole story, check that out before reading this - let’s say it’s Volume 4.5. If you don’t want to bother, the Cliffnotes version is that the bride’s name is Shiklah and she’s the queen of the Monster Metropolis under NYC. Dracula wanted her, Deadpool fought and beat him, she fell for Wade, now they’re getting hitched. Done and done!) 

Here’s what I thought when I first heard Deadpool was getting married: a Hangover-type story with Marvel characters, say, Wade, Logan and Steve Rogers on a lads’ night out in Vegas, encountering various Marvel characters, good and bad, along the way and getting into drunken superhero escapades. To me, that sounds like fun. Sadly, that’s not the direction the forces that be decided to go in. 

Instead, a TON of writers are brought in to write about the many, many times Deadpool got married before because for some reason this issue needed to be not only jam-packed with characters on the cover, but also crammed with writers! Besides series writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, there’s Joe Kelly, Jimmy Palmiotti, Gail Simone, Victor Gischler, Daniel Way, Frank Tieri, Christopher Priest, Mark Waid, and Deadpool’s co-creator Fabian Nicieza (apparently Rob Liefeld and Marvel still aren’t talking). 

The Deadpool previous marriages stories range from dull to crap to forgettable to I’ve-literally-forgotten-what’s-happening-in-this-5-page-story-and-I’m-only-on-page-3 to snoreworthy. These stories take up about half the book and are nothing but a chore to get through. There is a crazy bachelor party but it’s a framing device that takes up a few pages only. 

Then there are the other issues. An extra-long story where Deadpool becomes one with Madcap (yawn), another “lost issue” where Deadpool, Cable and Fury fight Hitler (not nearly as fun as it sounds), and finally the honeymoon issue which sees Deadpool and Shiklah fighting Pokemon-esque characters in Tokyo, that turns out to be a nod to the story arc from Volume 3 (dreary). 

So what was good? Unfortunately not much. The wedding itself is much more lo-fi than the cover suggests, with Wade and Shiklah tying the knot in the park with Nightcrawler presiding. It starts to rain but Thor helpfully nudges the clouds away. The ceremony is… kinda sweet. 

There’s a nice dig at DC on the cover of the wedding issue (“the most important #27 issue ever!” - Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27) and a fun variant cover parodying Batman’s famous first appearance. 

And then there’s the big-ass cover itself, which is more like a spot-the-superhero puzzle! It actually holds the Guinness World Record for Most Comic Book Characters on a Single Issue Cover! Looking at the detail and discovering who was in attendance was easily the most entertaining part of the book for me, and I loved that real world people got drawn in too, like the creative team for this book and some Marvel execs. 

This book should’ve been way more fun and entertaining than it turned out to be. The last word you should think of when you hear the words “Deadpool” and “wedding” is “boring”, and yet that’s what this volume is: a boring mess.

Deadpool Volume 5: The Wedding of Deadpool

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 14: Evil Premonition Review (Akira Toriyama)


Well, I was kinda hoping this wouldn’t happen for this series because it’s been mostly impossibly good but it finally did: this is the first Dragon Ball book that I didn’t like. That was a helluva run though: 29 volumes, a few of which were average, but most were really good, some extraordinary, and none bad. Until now. 

We’re still with the memorably named androids #16, #17 and #18. #16 looks like Ahnuld in the ‘80s, #17, I was shocked to learn, was a boy because he looks identical to #18 who’s a girl, only he has darker hair. #18 fights Vegeta and defeats him, even in Super Saiyan form, which is so lame because they’re boring characters and they’re mega-powerful for some reason as well. I suppose it's good to see a strong female character for the first time in 30 volumes though! 

Meanwhile, Son Goku takes his medicine but needs time to recuperate - 10 days is the arbitrary number thrown out by someone who isn’t a doctor - and it’s lucky for them too because rather than fly and be at Goku’s home in 2 minutes, the androids decide to take a road trip in a slow van because plot contrivance. I hate these characters.

The worst part though was Trunks’ revealing of how time-travel works in the Dragon Ball universe. Somehow Akira Toriyama has managed to make time-travel even more complicated! See, I thought he travelled back in time to change the past which would then alter the future - it’s a standard trope that kinda makes sense. But, apparently, he went back in time so that some parallel world in the future would have a world without the androids in it - no matter what he does, his future reality will always be this dystopian nightmare. So, his whole mission about going back has zero impact on his future reality - in other words, it’s completely pointless. 

Not least because, if you think about it, if there are endless parallel worlds, then chances are there’s a reality where the androids are defeated by Goku - or not even created by Dr Gero - so Trunks wouldn’t need to go back and change one reality’s future because there probably exists one which is better than his future reality without his intervention. And then how does he know he's travelled back to the right past world anyway? Oh man, this piece of exposition was so crushingly stupid! 

There’s also the possibility that the androids might not even be bad guys - if this happens to be the case, I’m gonna be so mad because all of this would’ve then just been treading water for nothing… but no, I won’t give up on this series, I’m in this til the end (besides I want to see Buu!). But this story arc is totally piss-awful! 

Luckily, a lizard-like alien called Cell appears at the end and he looks like a decent villain for our heroes to fight, so I’m hoping the whole androids thing is dropped (seriously, I wouldn’t care if Toriyama did a Poochie, “I’m going away to my home planet now…” and got rid of them that way!) and the series picks up again. But wow, this book suuuuucked so bad, I’m so disappointed.

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 14: Evil Premonition

Hawkeye, Volume 3: LA Woman Review (Matt Fraction, Annie Wu)


Clint Barton aka Hawkeye screwed up. No surprises there, but this time his protege, Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye, has had enough. She’s leaving New York for the West Coast, and she’s taking Lucky aka Pizza Dog with her. Together, they’ll set up an unlicensed private detective agency and Kate will strike out as: the West Coast Avenger! 

When Kate left to be her own person and left Clint behind, the series literally became split with Matt Fraction writing one issue of Clint, then one issue of Kate, and so on, which is why the numbering of this volume is all over the place (#14, 16, 18, 20 & Annual #1), and why it’s been over a year since volume 2 came out that we’re finally seeing volume 3. Good news is that volume 4 is right around the corner, bad news is that it’s Fraction and co.’s last Hawkeye book! 

I really liked this book but I didn’t LOVE it like I did the last two Hawkeyes, so, before the praise, let’s get the negs out of the way.

Hawkeye as a series has worked really well because of the concept - what he does when he’s NOT being an Avenger. It’s an anti-superhero book. It’s about becoming more street level than an already street level character. And that was really charming - for Clint. 

For Kate? Well, she sets up a detective agency. I love Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman/Bored to Death, but that is such a hipster douchebag-y thing to do. A detective agency? It’s just so twee and precious, y’know? And then there’s the cases themselves where she goes looking for some stolen orchids, or helps out a Brian Wilson-type who was a ‘60s superstar who went crazy and has been working on his masterpiece album for decades… they weren’t bad to read, I just wasn’t enamoured with them. 

Oddly, the concept the series has thus far tried to avoid - the superhero story - IS the best part of LA Woman. Kate tangling with her nemesis Madame Masque (who we met earlier in Volume 1 when Kate impersonated her) were the most entertaining moments in her story. It forced her to step up and become more real than the posturing, overly cute hipster-type she is when she’s pretending she’s a PI. 

I loved that Fraction splits the Hawkeyes but they both end up having similar adventures. On the East Coast, Clint’s got Clown-Face and the tracksuit bros to contend with, while on the West Coast, Kate’s got Madame Masque and the bellboys to fight. 

Then there’s Kate herself, whose character I really liked. I know, I called her a hipster douchebag, but, thankfully, there’s more to her than that - she’s got a great personality, she’s funny, she’s clever, she’s silly. She’s basically the younger female version of Clint! More impressively though is that Fraction’s made her seem like a real person - in the Marvel Universe! 

She is a superhero who’s part of the Young Avengers, and she’s killer with the bow, but she’s also a teenager and her limited world experience comes through at times to make her seem vulnerable, naive and human. She’s also optimistic and caring, and I’m tiptoeing around the fact that she’s beautiful too because that’s a pretty shallow judgement, but what the hell - yes I would!

Which brings us to Annie Wu, the artist on the Kate Bishop issues (David Aja draws the Clint Barton issues). Wowee, is this art good! Kate’s outfit is stylish but practical and also fits into her dead-broke-ain’t-no-joke situation. And yeah she makes Kate look gorgeous too! Wu isn’t Aja in that she doesn’t do crazy imaginative layouts and approaches, but she lends a smooth, flowing and beautiful line to the comics that feels perfect for the breezy West Coast culture. It’s her own style but it’s also incredibly accomplished and stunning to see - Hawkeye is a series that has had nothing but fine artists throughout. And I especially loved that Kate’s PI mentor looked exactly like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye! 

My favourite issue in the book though was drawn by Javier Pulido, the artist from the two-parter Tape storyline from Hawkeye Volume 1 (and who’s also currently drawing the brilliant She-Hulk series). Some people might not like his silhouette-heavy style, but I adore it and, while all of his pages were awesome, his credits panel was ridiculously special. It also helped that that issue was probably the best written of the bunch, too. 

Hawkeye Volume 3 may not be as perfect as the first two volumes were, but, damn, those were some pretty high bars Fraction and co. set for themselves, and it’s unfair to expect that level in every outing. Instead, Volume 3 is a really good Hawkeye book, one that focuses on a different Hawkeye but still retains the Hawkeye atmosphere and fun. Fans of the series will certainly enjoy it as will those who miss Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers - this is the story of what Kate did next. And she did good!

Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman

Monday, 22 September 2014

Marvel Knights: Hulk - Transformé Review (Joe Keatinge, Piotr Kowalski)


Bruce Banner wakes up at night floating in the middle of the Seine River, Paris - except he doesn’t know he’s Bruce Banner, and he doesn’t know about the Hulk either because he’s got amnesia. But he knows one thing: a rogue faction of AIM led by a woman with the Abomination serum, and SHIELD, are both after him. And he’s gotta RUN! 

After the terrible Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, I went into Marvel Knights: Hulk with very low expectations, which is maybe why I liked it so much. Joe Keatinge and Piotr Kowalski created a very cinematic, fast-moving story in this four-issue mini-series and it’s a very enjoyable Hulk book - a rarity! 

To be honest, I never really got what was happening with AIM, but it basically comes down to Hulk smashing bad guys, and that’s basically all you really need to know! The story was about a woman called Nikoleta Miru who breaks free of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and decides to get her own back on Doctor Doom/MODOK/Midas (for some reason) by capturing, and weaponizing, the Hulk against them. Surprisingly, she’s successful for a time and tons of mass destruction follows - if you’ve ever wanted to see Paris levelled by Hulk, this is the book for you! 

But it’s worth reading Keatinge’s afterword and the reprint of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s Hulk #1 from 1962 both of which follow the main story, as it helps you understand the book. Keatinge talks about wanting to dissect Hulk’s first appearance and there are very obvious echoes from Lee/Kirby’s comic in Keatinge/Kowalski’s. Keatinge copies Lee’s words for some of the flashback scenes, while Kowalski draws some of Kirby’s panels in his own style. Also, Keatinge’s story of someone wanting to control Hulk for their own purposes echoes Lee’s story of the Russian Gargoyle wanting to control Hulk for the glory of communism! In a way, you could say this mini-series was a modern retelling of Hulk #1.

Keatinge also mentions how he wanted to explore why Hulk means so much to him, and to many other people. First and foremost: Hulk SMASH! and you get a hefty dose of that in this book! But there’s also a very obvious effort to work in the idea that a world without Bruce Banner or the Hulk, and how, as dangerous as they can be, the world would be worse off without them. The book is as much a love letter to the big green giant as it is a look into why he’s such a fascinating and enduring creation. 

Piotr Kowalski is drawing in full-on Marvel Cinematic Universe mode, with BIG panels for EVEN BIGGER action set pieces, and it works well. The scale and force of the devastation is really felt, though he can also draw very quiet, beautiful Parisian street scenes. 

Colourist Nick Filardi’s work steals the show for me. From that first double-splash page of the seine, when the whole scene was bathed in the classic Hulk green, I was totally awestruck - that choice is absolutely perfect, not just because it’s eye-catching, but because you’re instantly transported into a real world that’s not real either. Kowalski’s art is really good but Filardi’s colours completely elevated it onto a new level. 

Marvel Knights: Hulk - Transformé is the best Hulk book I’ve read in a long while. It’s got really great writing and art, but most importantly has an exciting, gripping story at its core. The reprint of Hulk #1 was an added bonus and is actually a pretty decent comic - corny but interesting. If Marvel Studios are wondering what Hulk story they should adapt next into a movie, I’d say this one’s a definite frontrunner!

Marvel Knights: Hulk - Transformé

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 13: Goku, Defeated! Review (Akira Toriyama)


I’m guessing Terminator is a favourite movie of Akira Toriyama’s because the current plotline reeks heavily of it - except it’s reversed. Trunks, Vegeta’s son, travels back in time to before Dr Gero and his androids turn the world into hell, to warn Son Goku and co. This gives them the time to train and prepare for the fight, not to mention help Goku overcome his heart disease with futuristic medicine. Also, Vegeta reveals that he too can turn into a Super Saiyan! 

The problem with a massive ongoing series with multiple, succeeding story arcs is that some stories are just better and the weaker ones pale in comparison. Like the Saiyan story arc that kicked off the series was great and laid the foundation for Dragon Ball Z. Then Akira Toriyama raised the stakes with the epic Freeza story arc. Now we’re onto the arc that has to follow Freeza - the killer androids on Earth storyline - and it’s not as good. That’s not to say this arc itself isn’t enjoyable, it’s just that it really isn’t on the same level and so I’m less enthusiastic.

The fights are still fun and even when it’s Vegeta (who I’m liking more and more, despite his evilness) and some androids I couldn’t care less about. If there’s one thing Toriyama does superbly, it’s fight scenes. In fact, I was surprised that the rating for this book is “all ages” given the brutal killings the androids perform and the vicious way Vegeta defeats one of them. But the last book had a panel of domestic violence that was brushed off immediately as “comedy” so I suppose the ratings system doesn’t mean jack once you reach a certain level of popularity! 

The androids aren’t as personable or interesting as Freeza, Vegeta, and the other villains in this series have been - they don't even have names, they're just Androids #19 and #20! They’re just soulless killers. Yawn. But that wasn’t the only thing that annoyed me in this volume. Yamcha is maybe the most worthless fighter character ever. He’s always the first casualty, he never helps, and he’s a total non-entity. Guess what his contribution to this volume is? That's right, becoming the first casualty! Just get rid of this dude for good, he’s dead weight.  

The other thing was Son Goku’s stupidity. He was told by Trunks when he would be sick and in what way. He was then given medicine to cure the sickness. So at the time he knew he was going to be sick, and he does become sick, why doesn’t he have the medicine on him there and then? What’s it doing all the way back in his house? So because of his stupidity, he’s taken out of the fight immediately and has to be flown home to take his medicine. What a dolt! I’m liking Goku less and less as this series continues. 

I’m hoping this android arc doesn’t last as long as the Freeza one because I’m really not into it. Another book, maybe two tops, is all I can stomach of these dull characters - bring on Buu!

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 13: Goku, Defeated!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Two Pints by Roddy Doyle Review


- So I read this book called Two Pints by Roddy Doyle. 
- Doyle, sounds Irish. 
- He is, won a book prize back in the ‘90s for a novel. 
- Two Pints is fiction then. 
- Yes and no. 
- Oo, sounds arty! 
- It’s two ordinary old Irish fellas in a Dublin pub, shooting the breeze about what’s in the news, and it’s all about actual stuff that happened from May 2011 to September 2012. 
- Right. 
- But they’re not real - they’re just figments of the writer’s imagination. 
- Go on. 
- It’s also entirely dialogue based. 
- Like a play? 
- Yeah - minus the stage directions. 
- Ok, so, any good? 
- It’s realistic-sounding - the two old fellas sounded like real people, I guess. 
- Is it full of Irish dialect and stuff, like the Scottish heroin writer’s stuff? 
- It is, but not as thick, you know, more accessible. 
- That doesn’t sound like a glowing recommendation - “it sounds realistic”!
- No, but that’s tough to pull off, isn’t it? 
- Is it? 
- I suppose so. I’m not a writer. 
- No, me either. But I’d hope if I were reading a book about two guys nattering the whole time, I’d want to be interested in what they were nattering about. 
- They are interesting, kind of. You get their views on the recession, the euro crisis, various celebrity deaths, sports results. 
- Eh, sounds nothing more than mildly interesting gossip. Do they have any insights into any of that?
- Not really, they just comment on it. Bit like those two old muppet guys at the theatre?
- Alright. Can’t remember their names. 
- No. Doesn’t matter anyway. 
- It sounds like if you read this stuff a couple years after it’d happened, it wouldn’t have as much an impact - it sounds like they take it as read that the reader already knows the background. 
- And you’re right - the dialogues don’t really date that well. 
- Is this the book? 
- It is - I couldn’t find a coaster so I improvised. 
- I see what you mean - there’s a page of dialogue and then it’s onto the next topic. Sometimes not even the whole page is used. 
- But sometimes it bleeds over onto two or three pages. 
- Oh, yeah I see. Still, short isn’t it? 89 pages. Doesn’t look like it’d take long to read. 
- It doesn’t, and it’s written in this easy to read, flowing style, so you fly through it in no time. There’s also some fiction parts too, like one of the fellas’ grandkids - they’re both grandpas - called Damien gets some exotic pets like hyenas and whatnot and they die. 
- That’s a bit of a weird detail to lob in amongst the non-fiction. 
- Yeah but see that blurb about it being “funny” - I think that’s where the humour comes from. A bit of quirky surrealism here and there to tickle you. 
- And did it?
- Nah. Seemed like a strange misstep more than anything. Maybe it’s just me though, humour being subjective and all. 
- You know what this whole thing sounds like? The literary version of a daily newspaper cartoon. 
- It really is, except you couldn’t fit it into three panels or whatever, but it’s basically the same thing, tonally and whatnot. 
- Maybe they were writing exercises or cut dialogue from his other books? Are his other books this heavy on the dialogue?
- They are. Maybe. Who knows? Anyway, it’s not the worst thing ever but it’s pretty forgettable stuff. 
- Feels that way. You know, I don’t think this stuff is all as difficult to write as it seems.
- What, writing dialogue about stuff between two guys having a couple pints?
- Yeah, seems like any idiot with a keyboard who knows how people he knows speak and can type pretty quick, could whip up this kinda crap in no time. You know, taking as long to write as it does to read. 
- I don’t know about that. I’m not a writer.
- Nah. Me either. Another pint? 
- Cheers.

Two Pints

The Multiversity #2: The Society of Super-heroes: Conquerors of the Counter World #1 Review (Grant Morrison, Chris Sprouse)


Can someone explain to me the appeal of retro pulp in so many contemporary comics out these days? Is it purely an aesthetic thing, with the cool designs? Because I’ve read pulps from way back when and they were never any good. They were badly written, stupidly plotted - in other words, pulp. But apparently its cool these days to do comics in that style for some reason. 

So it is with Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity #2, or The Society of Superheroes: Conquerors from the Counter-World #1 (because they’re all going to be #1 comics in this series). On Earth-20, Doc Fate assembles the Society of Superheroes or S.O.S: the Immortal Man, Al Pratt aka The Mighty Atom, Lady Blackhawk and the Blackhawks, and Abin Sur aka Green Lantern. They face an incursion from Earth-40 led by the evil Vandal Savage with an army of Necro-Men, Blockbuster, Parallax, and Lady Shiva. 

Despite Morrison’s usual sharp cuts and jumps - the war begins, then suddenly we’re five years in the future, then we’re in the middle of the final mission - it’s a fairly straightforward story of good guys vs bad guys done in the usual over-the-top superhero style. It’s presented in a retro/pulp/post-modern (ow, my brain!) style that sees 1930s/40s style craft alongside super-advanced robots and whatnot that’s not that interesting to see, despite Morrison’s attempts to make it so - its just been done so much lately. 

Multiversity must be hell for readers totally new to the DC Universe because Morrison barely bothers to introduce the characters’ backstories. It’s all rushed and very surface level. I’m fairly well versed in DC’s stuff, but there were a number of characters I completely blanked on and even more references I’m sure I didn’t get. At any rate, I was ambivalent throughout as to whether or not Earth-20 prevails against Earth-40, and that’s the real failing of the issue. 

Because here’s the thing: you can’t instantly create dramatic tension or fully-involved interest in the reader just by concocting situations that seem dramatic/etc. If I wrote “the end of the world is happening” without setting up a story where that statement would mean something to the reader, then its totally ineffective - just like it is here. I’m totally detached from what’s happening in the comic and couldn’t care less about anything in it at all. 

The connections to the first issue are the reappearance of the “haunted comic” called The Multiversity and the mention of Nix Uotan, the comics reviewer who gave his life to save the universe, and of course the various DC worlds colliding, but it’s early days yet to understand what it all means besides boring DOOM!

It’s Chris Sprouse’s turn to draw an issue (a different artist will draw a different issue in the series) and he produces some good-looking pages. The lines are very clean, the outfits, as you’d expect, are very retro and uncomplicated - the Mighty Atom’s outfit is just a mask over slacks and a sweater! - and while there’s nothing incredible about his work here, it’s still well-drawn and strong. 

I’m a bit disappointed with how Multiversity is turning out. It’s really nothing new, it’s just Morrison telling generic superhero stories with obscure, little-used characters with the gimmick of parallel worlds colliding (yeah, never seen DC deploy that hacky trick before!). It’s Morrison so the stories are told in a more advanced, less-straightforward way, and sure it’s ambitious, but it’s also unsurprising and dull to read - completely at odds with the hype that built it up. 

So far I’ve yet to see anything truly original in this series and The Society of Superheroes #1 continues that trend - it’s all sizzle and no steak.

The Multiversity #2: The Society of Super-heroes: Conquerors of the Counter World #1

The Wicked + The Divine #4 Review (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie)


Ultimate fangirl Laura and her “journalist” friend Cassandra’s search for the killer of a judge leads them to Baal, a Kanye West clone, who swears he didn’t do it. Speaking for the group of gods, Ananke refuses to help Luci out of prison and that’s when Luci decides not to take this crap anymore - she’s gonna bust out with or without their approval. But don’t play with me ‘cos you’re playing with fire…

The issue as a whole is very fun but the best part was easily Kieron Gillen’s Baal, whom he clearly enjoyed writing as this super-arrogant rapper. It’s hard not to like that ridiculously high overconfidence and it’s easy to see why teenager Laura would crush hard on him. 

It’s good to catch up with the other gods who’ve been relatively quiet up til now, though I’m not sure why they were all sat in a Tron-themed room - I guess, just because? Baal has the cash and maybe he just liked Tron and thought, why not? Also, I don’t know why the other gods get to be young while Ananke remains perpetually an old woman. Maybe because she’s the boss god or the oldest god of them all? Maybe its her choice and she can’t do with sexy looks from others?

I love that Gillen picked out Play With Fire by The Rolling Stones as the song of the issue - haven’t listened to that since after I watched The Darjeeling Limited several years ago, and it’s still this uber-awesome, goosepimples-on-the-skin song. That it’s Luci’s breaking out of prison tune is perfect too, it’s so charged and menacing but lo-fi and not loud because it doesn’t need to be. 

This is another incredible looking issue with Jamie McKelvie’s art and Matthew Wilson’s colours seeming god-like on the page. That look on Luci’s face when she lights up her first smoke in ages and plugs in the Stones - that was quite something. Every panel looks wonderful and Wilson’s colours for the Tron room are unbelievably good. The Wicked + The Divine is seriously one of the best looking comics on the market right now. 

Things look like they’re headed to a pleasingly destructive finale in the next and last issue of this arc thanks to the way Gillen swirls together the threads so elegantly in this issue. The Wicked + The Divine #4 is a terrific comic with solid work from everyone involved - definitely the best comic of the week!

The Wicked + The Divine #4

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 12: The Boy From The Future Review (Akira Toriyama)


The insane fight between Son Goku as the Super Saiyan and Freeza on the dying planet Namek concludes in the first third of the book. As you’d expect, it’s very dramatic and tense, even if you know Son Goku’s going to win. And, of course, afterwards everyone who died is brought back to life so all’s well that ends well! 

THEN.

I knew Son Goku was coming back, but Freeza? My heart sank and I thought this was going to be the first Dragon Ball Z book that I would hate. Because at this point, I’m done with Freeza. The fact that he’s been patched up and brought his bigger, more powerful dad (yeah, he was a kid!) with him to Earth made me feel tired all of a sudden - Akira Toriyama beating this storyline deep into the ground, etc. 

Well, me of little faith! I should’ve known that Toriyama knew dredging Freeza back up would annoy his readers which is why he’s used here as an introduction to a powerful new character: Trunks! And he’s a good guy for once! 

I won’t go into his backstory because it’s full of fun spoilers, about his parentage, about … actually I’ll stop there! But he sets up the next big Dragon Ball Z storyline: killer androids! Dr Gero, who worked for the Red Ribbon Army in the original Dragon Ball series, has created some androids that’ve become too powerful and self-aware and have gone on a rampage in South City - only Son Goku and co. can stop them! 

What really dragged the book down for me was seeing Goku hitting his wife Chi-Chi in one panel! Even if he didn’t mean to hit her so hard, he did mean to hit her, which makes him kind of a dick! I was very disappointed and quite shocking to see that side of him. I mean, she was screaming at his face but still, you don’t smack your wife around, Goku! I guess becoming the Super Saiyan shortened his temper or something? It was still jarring to see in a kids’ book! 

Dragon Ball Z Vol 12 is basically a bridge book. It wraps up the Freeza storyline once and for all, resets the characters, and then sets up the next story arc. At the moment the androids don’t seem very interesting but I’m sure Toriyama will make it work. Let’s just ease off on the domestic violence, eh?

Dragon Ball Z, Volume 12: The Boy From The Future

The Judas Coin Review (Walt Simonson)


This is NOT a Batman book. I know he’s featured prominently on the cover, along with Two-Face, but the two characters are in the book for a handful of pages before disappearing. I understand why DC did this, because Batman sells, but it is misleading. 

I thought this was going to be - as strange a concept as it sounds - a weird origin story for Two-Face’s coin, the one he flips to decide the fate of his victims. But it turns out The Judas Coin isn’t even that lame! Instead, this is the story of one of the thirty pieces of silver that Judas gets for selling out Jesus, and that coin’s journey through the years, spreading bad luck to everyone it encounters. 

From the crucifixion, the coin falls into the hands of a Roman soldier/gladiator, a Viking Prince, a pirate, a card shark from the old west, Two-Face, and finally a bounty hunter from the future. Not that the stories are connected or anything - they’re totally arbitrary and events in one story don’t affect the next. I get it, the coin brings bad luck to whoever has it - why repeat this in every story without variation, Walt Simonson? 

Like other classic artists who turn their hands to writing as well as drawing, Simonson doesn’t prove to be much of a writer (though he’s not nearly as bad as Neal Adams. Batman: Odyssey was unforgivable!). 

Simonson can’t make us care about any of the passing characters and the tenuous story isn’t in the least bit interesting - guys, the main character is an inanimate coin! Each of the stories contains a betrayal but when you barely know the characters, it’s hard to give a damn, especially when each one is so formulaic. 

It’s a short book though so even if I was practically on the brink of dropping off to sleep most of the time, the low page count kept those lids open til the fast-approaching, completely boring finale. That and Simonson’s art are the only good things I can say about this book!

The Judas Coin is a totally forgettable, badly written and utterly boring original graphic novel that’s totally not worth bothering with.

The Judas Coin

Friday, 19 September 2014

15th review on Nudge


My 15th review for Nudge went up the other day - check it out here: http://www.nudge-book.com/bookgeek/th...

The Private Eye #8 Review (Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin)


PI’s assistant Melanie has been kidnapped by one of Deguerre’s French hitmen while the other has been killed by Deputy Correspondent Strunk. PI and Raveena hustle to discover where Deguerre’s taken Melanie before his villainous plan of bringing back internet can take off. Also, PI’s grandpa is questioned by CNN. 

I’m beginning to see flaws in this series now with The Private Eye #8 which has otherwise been utterly amazing throughout. The whole plan of kidnapping Melanie has turned into a fiasco for Deguerre. I know he did it to get back at PI but really, what a waste of time when (in the words of Chris Walken’s Max Shreck) you’ve got bigger fish to fry! The man’s trying to launch a satellite from the wonderwall to bring back internet, a massively ambitious plan, and he’s messing about with some guy he doesn’t like’s assistant? Sheesh, get your priorities straight, mister! 

It’s been three months since the last issue and the irregular schedule isn’t helping the increasingly slow plot. Nothing much happens in this issue besides setting up PI and Deguerre before the big moment when the satellite is launched. We catch up with Deputy Correspondent Strunk who was shot by one of Deguerre’s French assassins but is recuperating in hospital; PI’s grandpa is ornery towards reporter/investigators; there’s some minor action with the surviving French assassin; and not much else. 

There’s also an extended exposition scene between Deguerre and Melanie - maybe that’s why she was kidnapped, to be his audience? - that kinda makes Deguerre seem almost naive about what the internet could do. 

I’m still loving the art in this series and Marcos Martin’s work with Muntsa Vicente colours still looks fantastic. A lot of the stuff in this issue happens at night so it’s a bit more noir than the other comics have been though the pages still look amazing. And that cover’s awesome! 

But Brian K. Vaughan’s script for #8? A bit loose, a bit lacking in energy, and not nearly as snappy and fun as it usually is. The comic at times feels quite boring at times which surprised me. 

And with just two more issues left, I’d like to say I’m amped at what’s to follow but the way things seem to be going, I’m only losing interest. Maybe I’ll be surprised and the last couple issues will be amazing - I hope so! As it is, The Private Eye #8 is definitely the weakest issue in the series so far. 

Check out this issue and the others at panelsyndicate.com

Supreme: Blue Rose #3 Review (Warren Ellis, Tula Lotay)


So there’s this really long road through space, right? It took 12,000 years to complete and has a giant statue of Ethan Crane aka Supreme at the end of it. Ethan’s missing and though this series is called Supreme and you’d expect the superhero character to show, we’re still with Diana Dane, aka some woman, who’s investigating a plane crash on behalf of an eccentric billionaire called Darius Dax. Oh and she’s in a limo on the space road but it’s definitely not a dream even though she’s probably asleep. And it’s definitely nothing to do with her mental illness/meds. 

Darius goes to this strange bar to talk with the mysterious red-headed woman (from the cover of #2) and they talk about… stuff? Diana “wakes up” in Littlehaven, sees some ghosts, or maybe echoes from another dimension in her hotel room, and, just outside the town, she meets an elderly astronaut who asks for directions to the secret headquarters. 

I’d say I’ve lost my grip on this series but I never had one to start with - it’s been a constant freefall for three issues! 

I have no idea where to start or what to say about this issue. I think Darius is sending Diana on a wild goose chase to look for something he’s set up, but he really wants her to find Supreme, who’s gone missing. But why, I don’t know. Who the red-headed woman or the elderly astronaut are, I don’t know either. 

The whole series concept seems to revolve around communication and fantastical hidden parts of reality trying to break through to our dimension… or something? Tula Lotay’s art with the squiggly lines all over the place seem to represent the communication lines interspersed throughout the story. Also, some blue roses appear but what their significance is - besides their mention in the title - is anyone’s guess. 

But yeah, I couldn’t tell you anything much about this issue except to say it’s the artiest and/or most pretentious superhero comic I’ve ever read and arguably Warren Ellis’ most bizarre comic ever. And yet I want to keep reading to see if I can figure this out! I’m hoping it’ll pay off somehow but it could just as easily skew the other way to unsatisfying vagueness. 

Ellis’ Supreme: Blue Rose is the weirdest superhero comic of 2014 - and this is in the same year as the publication of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity!

Supreme: Blue Rose #3