Lovin’ the Sloppy Snowjobs!

Hello, I’m George, and I’m a fan of the GI Joe film. In fact, I saw it for my birthday last year, and It remains one of the best cinema trips I’ve ever had. Good lord I was so pumped up and over-excited after seeing that film, I could have played a banjo with my nutsack. And luckily for me, IDW publishing had just bought the licencing for the GI Joe characters and had started a whole new series of comics! The GI Joe comics have been going since I believe the 80’s when the cartoon and toy series was at its peak, and its licence has been passed from many different publishers over the years, after starting with Marvel. But IDW are behind the recent relaunch (I say recent, but its been going for about 18 months). The GI Joe Origins series has recently been releasing a number of done-in-one issues, introducing various heros and villains by different writer and artist teams. Its been a top way for me, as a new reader to the world of GI Joe to work out what the hell is going on, and who the devil is who. So then, Issue 15: SnowJob!

I was looking at this cover on the train on the way home from work, and something was niggling at the back of my mind for a long time. This swaggering ginger haired wally looked very familiar. And it wasnt untill I got home that I realised I already had a comic about his chilly willy. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce the 8th March 1986 edition of Battle Action Force!



Yes indeed, apparently GI Joe has been masquerading as Action Force in Britain since it was originally released. My brother had bought a box of Battle Action Force comics many years ago at our Granny’s village fete, and this box had been kept at Granny’s bungalow for us to read when we came to stay with her. Low and behold, I have had a comic published before I was born sitting on my shelf for years, and featuring on the cover the very same skiing sniper whose jolly red beard and tennis-racket shoes (I’m absolutely positive those snow shoe things don’t actually exist in real life, because I’ve never seen anyone actually wear them outside of a cartoon) are now staring at me out of a lovely new issue. But is the damned comic any good?

Luckily, there’s snow news like good news! Hah! I had to sneak that in there. It’s a fucking awesome issue. Since there is very little cause for adventure while being stuck in the antarctic, the issue kicks off with Snowjob (the codename for this particular GI Joe operative, who apparently is jolly good at dressing warmly and most likely wrestling with polar bears) being recalled to America from the south pole, to under-go a target shooting proficiency test at headquarters. On his way back to base, he is instructed to stop off in South America to protect the President of Venezuela, who has become the target for assassination. Bloody typical. So anyway, Snowjob is suddenly thrown out of his depth into operations in one of the hottest regions on the planet, with only his snow gear for company. Que plenty of A-Team style modifications of polar gear and ski wax in a jolly showdown between the terrorists and the Arctic warrior! Its 22 pages of romping action as Mr Job has to muddle his way through international politics, hot weather and gun fights, all in the capable hands of Merrill Hagan (writer, never heard of him) and Klaus Scherwinski (artists, who is an utter whizz with a pencil and paper, but I think this is his first bit of published comicbookery).

The art has a fantastic detailed, but blocky style, lots of angular edges and sharp corners, so Snowy has a nice square-shouldered, hard as nails profile, and the city looks all hot and sweaty and grimy, all helped along by the rich muggy colour palette. I also realised that as the action hots up, the comic panels change from straight forward squares and rectangles, to being these sort of twisted, jaggy holes punched in the page, slanting around and pushing over the top of each other in a mad rush to tell the story, and it is fantastic. Never once confusing whats going on, and always capturing the dynamic movement of the scene. We even get a nice little bonus page featuring some original pencil sketches by Scherwinski, showcasing his production of a page from pencils to inks to colours.

The GI Joe series has been a really nice fun little addition to my comic box each month, and it has only really been in the last few weeks that it has turned from being a series I will look at when I have the time, to being the comic that goes to the top of my pile to read on my way home from work. I’m sure they can all rest easy at IDW publishers knowing that their snowjob issue is a hell of a lot more entertaining than the Battle Action Force anyway.

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iron Man Noir #3! IIIEEEEEEEEE!

There is no other comic book ‘m buying regularly that I look forward to so much as this little beauty! Once again, that Iron bastard has knocked me for six with an issue that kicks seven shades of ass! From the delicious cover by Mike Fyles (who I think must be new to the comic world, since so far as I can tell, this is the first series he has worked on) to the opening page recap, to the smack down robot fight, to the climatic reveal on the last page, its 32 pages of giddy comic nuggets of fun. Take note writers, this is exactly, EXACTLY the sort of story comic books are invented for. Now I’m sure your all very pleased with your Watchmen, and your Dark Knight Returns, but fuck me if they ain’t a bit heavy going. What we all secretly want to see is a man in a suit of armour fly around and blow up Nazi castles. And this is exactly what we get!

After the nail-bitter of an ending last issue, we get to see how Stark, Rhodey and Namor escape from the exploding Lady Dorma. Naturally, ‘coz this is the best comic book series of all time, we learn that the Lady Dorma is actually just a shell, covering up the real Dorma vessel, a very League-of-Extraordinary-Gentlemen-esque mini submarine! (Bang, its captained by Namor, the submariner! Christ, I’ve only just worked that little reference out…this book just keeps on giving!) So off they float, keeping tabs on the bad guys who are now in possession of both the Trident of Orichalcum, but also the beautiful Miss Pepper Potts! Crivens!

They trace the naughty villains back to a castle on the coast, and after a bit of chatter with Rhodey and Stark, they fill Starks heart with electricity, and wack him in the suit to go and bash some heads together. Problem is, he only has enough electricity to power the suit for 4 hours, and after that time he’s gonna drop down dead. Uh-oh!  But no fear! Rhodey isn’t going to abandon Tony in his hour of need, and so, he joins his brother-in-arms in his own version of the Iron Man suit! Hot diggedy dog! Its Iron Man and War Machine! HOOOOOOO!

Then there is some exciting lady whipping action, and a load of explosions and quips and dying Nazi stormtroopers (By law, all germans have to shout “Gott in Himmel! IIIIIEEEEEEEE!” when they die) and then Bang! Another classic final page plot twist! Not only that, but we get a nice little flash back to the young Tony chatting with his dad, but also a little bit of a reveal of the Noir universe’s Thor! And War Machine has a Vickers machine gun mounted on his shoulder. Good lord Manuel Garcia can draw the hell out of a robot fist fight. His artwork has a little bit of a manga-style in some ways which usually puts me off, but I think it works really well here. The muted colours also get the pulpy-adventure vibe going too, so its easy to get caught up in the story. And there is one page with the two suited heros leaping out of the zeppelin air base, and its about the most vibrant, popping little panel you can imagine, it feels like these chaps are literally falling out of the page. And the War Machine armour just looks insane! He is a bit more streamlined and narrow from the Iron Man suit, but his helmet looks like a black skull so he looks the business.

I seriously cant say this enough, it’s easily the best series I’ve read in years. I hope to goodness that enough people are buying this little fellow to warrant a second series, because I’d love to read more adventures by this creative team with these characters. Reading this issue was like reading a comic for the first time, simply because it made me feel all young and over-excitable again. I very nearly tried to high-five the chap next to me on the train since I was loving it so much, but instead I had a big swig of Tesco own brand lager (yum yum yum) and giggled. My only problem with this series is that next month sees the final issue, and without knowing I’ve got a little treat like this waiting for me in my comic book box each week, It’s going to be a very hard to get all keyed up and giddy about another book for quite some time.

Kick your Ass! Kick your Face! Kick your Balls into Outer Space!

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thrusting into the Black Void!

There’s been a corner of the comic book universe I’ve been ignoring of late, and so now I’ve directed my telescope away from my neighbours bathroom window, and refocused it into the corner of the galaxy where the Marvel Universe is gearing up for its latest epic showdown!

For the past 4 years or so, The Marvel Universe has had a little corner dedicated to the adventures of a number of its intergalactic and space-based heros. Starting with the Annihilation series in 2006, there has been a number of intergalactic wars and invasions which, while never impacting on the Marvel earth-bound comics, have been absolutely shattering the events of everything beyond the horizon. And so the latest addition to this intergalactic saga is ‘THE THANOS IMPERATIVE!’ (again, it’s a title that needs to be exclaimed by a big rich booming voice.)

In the last 4 years of publishing history the cosmos has been ravaged by wars. Civilisations lay in tatters. The intergalactic peace-keeping force known as the Nova Corps have been wiped out, with only one survivor from the vast number left alive, who has taken the name of Nova. Nova now shares his brain with the nova corps databank artificial intelligence, which is driving him up the wall. There is also a new team of heroes formed to keep an eye on space, to take up a bit of the slack for Nova, and these are The Guardians of the Galaxy. There headquarters are inside the dead head of a huge god-robot thing, which is run by Cosmo, one of the first russian dogs into space, which was converted by radiation into a telepath. But anyway, I digress.

In the last epic war-story, a huge bomb was detonated, tearing a huge rift in space into a separate dimension. This dimension (called the cancer-verse) is a realm where death has ceased to exist, and endless life is now the order of the day, so it’s all chock full to the brim with matter, and so its forcing its way through into our dimension. Naturally, it’s all terribly bad news for our dimension, where the natural order of things would go completely out the window if the balance of life and death is changed. So, as if by magic, our galaxy’s ‘avatar of death’ Thanos has been summoned (bought back to life, but that’s another 8-issue series I can’t discuss here) to go on an invasion into this cancer-verse to stop it spreading into ours. But all that unchecked life-force has brought Thanos to a standstill and he has slipped into a coma, leaving the Guardians of the Galaxy to face the dimensional opposites of themselves in a fight for their lives, or deaths!

Christ, I’ve been reading these damned books for the last 4 years and I’m still a bit confused after all that. But that’s not a reason to ignore this new series! Firstly, its written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the two (BRITISH, Zing!) writers who have been directing the entirety of the Marvel Cosmic world since the first Annihilation series, and they have an absolutely cracking sence of humour, and adventure and of characterisation. The cosmic universe is a huge epic playground for these authors to explore, and they always manage to wring the humour and excitement from every page. For example, the Guardians of the Galaxy have as part of the team, a huge tree-man, called Groot, who turns up in every fight shouting ‘I! AM! GROOOOT!’ while stamping on the bad aliens. The team also has a talking raccoon weapons specialist, called happily Rocket Raccoon, who carries enormous machine guns and laser pistols, and who is usually carried around by the tree. There is also an alien called Bug, who is a massive pervert.

So! Usually, with these space adventures they get very complicated and confusing. Happily, with Abnett and Lanning, it’s always a very nice easy story to understand, and depending on how many of the different series you follow, you can get as deep or as straightforward a story as you like! The Thanos Imperative is a 6 issue mini-series, which can be read in and of itself as an exciting little adventure into the cosmos, but for readers of the past war stories, you get a nice big epic story, full of nice plot points picking up on previous events, and the welcome return of some previously lost characters! Ace!

And the artwork is a fantastic window into this bright, warm, buzzing electric universe! Artist Miguel Sepulveda’s frames crackle with energy and power, the characters burst off the page as they plunge into endless vistas or star-filled horizons, and there are murky shadows sneaking round the bright costumes just so we know it’s not all brightness and light! The final splash page with the guardians facing off against their opposite numbers is a fantastic example of the artist and colourist coming together to produce a big, bright but foreboding image, as if a gladiatorial fight was lit only by lightning and huge bonfires it glows out from the page and you can feel the heat of the battle about to break loose!

It’s full on escapist, silly, space-age, nutty fun. The sort of book you wished you could have read when you were 8 years old and still had weekends free to play with your lego and build spaceships.

And if that doesn’t win you over,  it has a Raccoon in a robotic battle suit.