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.

Tony Stark’s Powerful Rod

Iron Man Noir #2

 

It’s been a long wait, but finally Iron Man Noir 2 pokes his head about the parapet and dashes out into the comic shops! Last time we left Mr Stark and Pepper Potts heading off to find Atlantis, pursued by some furious Nazis, so how have they fared this month eh? 

We kick things off this issue with Stark and Pepper aboard ‘The Lady Dorma’ yacht under Captain Namor, the stern and mysterious pirate commander, whose crew slit their ears so they resemble shark fins. The vessel is heading out from Spain into the atlantic searching for the sunken city of Atlantis, where a nice helpful bit of exposition from Stark to Pepper shows us how the Atlanteans had a powerful metal called Orichalcum which acted as an enormous superconductor, powering their great city. The center of the city held a temple, and inside this temple was a vast statue of Poseidon and his trident was made from Orichalcum. Sadly, the conductive nature of the metal played merry havoc with the oceans, and eventually caused a vortex which sucked the city under the waves. 

Thank goodness then, that Stark has an underwater submersible (the Happy Hogan) to travel down under the surface and locate the sunken city, much to everyone’s surprise. The orichalcum trident is located, captured, and they return to the Lady Dorma. But all is not well! They have been traced by the Nazis, and the Lady Dorma is sunk, apparently with Stark and his motley crew all aboard! What is their fate?! We will have to read next month to find out! Pow! 

It’s another absolutely riveting romp through 1940’s Marvel Universe, chock full of classic pulp scenarios from the stern captain Namor with his surprisingly swift and nimble craft, to the Jules Verne-esque diving bell which locates the vast sunken city, its everything a matinée adventure title needs to be. Theres more mysteries as to why the Nazi’s need the orichalcum, (to power some sinister technological juggernaut??) how Stark will survive being blown up with his dodgy ticker doing him no favours, and to the real mystery of where the hell is the Iron Man suit? 

The one downer this issue is the sad fact that the suit has still yet to make a proper appearance. We have caught a glimpse of it in action in the first issue, but only for a matter of pages. Hopefully we are building up to a balls-to-the-wall robotic smack down with Iron Man facing a Nazi robot in the final issue, (Iron Man vs. The Iron Cross, how bout that for a title!) but so far for a story called ‘Iron Man Noir’ we have seen very little of the titular character. Again the artwork is beautifully suited to the over-the-top adventure we are reading. From the moon lit deck of the pirate ship and her rum soaked crew, to the murky depths of the sunken Atlantis and its colossal tower of shipwrecks drawn to the staff of orichalcum, its got every element you need for a thrilling old-style adventure. This is the best Indiana Jones film never made. And judging by next months issue’s cover we are finally going to be getting a bit of robot Iron Man action! 

Iron Man meets Lead Zeppelin.

I love drunk pussys.

Achewood. Its online for free, because legally, they can't charge you to watch a cat get picked up by his package.

I’m trying something new here with this review, since for the first time ever I’m gonna talk about a comic series that you can actually read for free right now. Achewood is an online comic series that has been running since 2001, written and drawn by Chris Onstad. It features a collection of animals, and a couple of robots who live in a town called Achewood.

http://www.achewood.com

Its updated every 3 or 4 days, and its completely free to read! Though you can turn up and start reading the series right now, it’s probably better to either start at the beginning, or jump to a story line, easily found in the drop-down menu on the first page. Discussions in drawing rooms and pantrys up and down the nation have confirmed that ‘The Great Outdoor Fight’ is a good story to start with, and if you’re not a fan of reading comics online, this story arc is available in a lovely hardback edition for about a tenner, with a load of jolly extras!

So then, what the devil is it all about? Golly, its essentially about a group of friends who are either cats, or bears (but there is also a special little 5-year-old otter, Phillipe) who enjoy drinking, fine food, hanging out at their rich cat friend’s pool house and looking at the internet. It’s a comedy, with each strip being a little joke or sketch, but they all build up (usually) into a longer running theme or story event. If you like drawings of a cat wearing a thong, your gonna be into Achewood. There is also a tiger with a massive handlebar moustache who likes heavy metal, drinking Jack Daniels and being obnoxious to the elderly english bear he lives with (called Mr. Bear).

Todays Thought for the Day.

That cheerful chap above is Ray Smuckles, he is the ringleader of the gang, a rich entrepeneur, the brainchild behind ‘Chatsacks’ the fake rubber testicles you stick on your phone so it looks like your mobile has nuts. He hangs about all day wearing a black thong, and drinking, but he will occasionally wear a hat. As befitting an online weekly cartoon series, the illustration is all nice and simple line art, minimal shading and no colour, but that all adds to the silly charm.

I hope his nuts weren't loose.

So there we are! What more can be said about this series? It’s an absolute treat! And its free! So I’d recommend, more than any other comic I write about, check this one out. www.achewood.com I read the whole lot from start to finish in one weekend, and I was chuckling out loud the whole time.

And if anyone out there is strong enough to pick me up by my cock and balls, please leave a comment with your contact details.

Dirty Little Secrets

I have a very funny caption for this picture, but it's a secret.

 

It’s been waaaay too long since my last post, so I’m fisting my way back in hard to this shriveled up hole of a blog with Secret Avengers #1! Oooh Boy!

Steve Rogers (the original Captain America) is now head of S.H.I.E.L.D., (the Strategic Hazard Intervention, Espionage Logistics Directorate) and that means he gets to swagger about kicking arse and wearing an awesome costume. And it also means he needs a super-secret squad of heroes who he can rely on to go on all the missions he can’t send the big-shot superhero teams on. When it’s not a villain in a mask who needs to be stopped, but a multi-national corporation or terrorist organisation, he needs to send in the Secret Avengers! And he makes it just about the coolest team I’ve ever seen.

First off we have Steve Rogers himself, a man who has actually punched Hitler in the face on the cover of his comic way back in 1941.

Little does Cap realise that Churchill has already given ol' Adolf an enormous wedgie.

Theres also War Machine, off of the Iron man film. And Moonknight, who is a nutcase who is driven by the egyptian spirit of vengeance, and the Black Widow, off of the Iron Man film, and Valkyrie who is a gosh-darned nordic goddess, and Beast off of the X-Men 3 film played by that one out of Frasier, and Ant-Man who can turn all small. It’s the most daft team-up of all time, and that’s why this book works so well. Each one of these characters is given their little moment to shine, and you suddenly realise that this is actually made up of the most competent and skilled heros in the whole of the Marvel universe. An example of just how cool this team is:-

BEAST (to Steve Rogers) :- “You have someone on this team who can just check out the planet Mars for us?”

STEVE ROGERS:- “Of course I do…..What kind of operation did you think I was running?”

And its true! The Secret Avengers actually have a proper intergalactic Guardian of the Galaxy on the team! This comic has it all, from sexy ladies all punching up special forces soldiers, to spaceships screaming through space, spys and black-clad secret organisations, and a twist at the end that made me whoop out loud on the train with excitement. (“Surely NOT!” I should have said to myself quietly, but instead I said out loud “FWOOO-COR!”)

And the artist on this comic is throwing his all into it. From every introduction scene were Steve rounds up his posse, each character is pictured in exactly the sort of epic, heroic, larger-than-life pose you expect of these people to be in, from standing on the ledge of a skyscraper with a vast cape billowing in the wind, to crashing through windows and summoning swords from mystical realms. Each panel is dripping in shadows and muted colours, since its mainly set at night, and about 50% is all flashback, but you do get big flashes of colour in uniforms or landscapes, and it is an absolute joy to behold. Marvel’s new ‘Heroic Age’  is finally telling stories that are just honest, pure, damned good fun. This comic has space ships in! And a secret villains base on Mars!!

This is exactly how comics should be done.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gagging for some anal Hex

With fingers that red its gotta be that time of the month.

Yee-Ha! Ka-Pow! Its cowboy time! My absolutely most all-time favourite comic every month is Jonah Hex from DC Comics. Written for the last 55 issues by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, they have a revolving artist for each issue, from Tony Dezuniga to Rafa Garres, who did that awesome cover to The Savage Axe of Ares! This week we have Vicente Alcazar, who I don’t believe has illustrated an issue before, but by jingo he does a jolly good job! 

Entitled ‘The Brief Life of Billy Dynamite’, this issue rattles along with typical western runnawaywagon style! The best thing about Jonah Hex is that each issue is a self-contained story, so there’s no deep continuity, and all you need to know is Jonah is a rough and tumble bounty hunter. He has death, and the acrid smell of gun-smoke as his only companions. And he has a mad scarred up half-face after a run in with a red-hot tomahawk at the hands of the apache tribe that raised him. And he still wears the uniform of the confederate army years after the civil war is over. 

But all you need to know about him this issue is that he was on his way to save a bar from a shoot-out. But he arrived 2 minutes too late. Sadly a 7-year-old child finds himself in charge of this rough-and-tumble western pub, and from then on in we get the rise and fall of the Black Mare Saloon. And 22 pages later we get a terrifically bloody explosive ending. 

One of the greatest treats about Jonah Hex is that every week we get a different type of story. Some weeks we get a murder mystery, other weeks its all-out action, the next its horror, and then after that we get a silent comedy caper. This week we get a Jonah Hex tale almost totally absent of the titular character. He remains a threatening presence over the whole issue, yet appears in less than 10 pages.And in those few pages he still remains a mystery, he manages to straddle that white picket fence of hero and villain. He remains a pissed up violent old bastard, yet in the end always manages to come out as a vague sort of heroic champion. And that’s why he is fucking awesome. 

The art in this issue is a bit hit and miss. The violence is captured fantastically, with bullets zipping through skulls left, right and center, yet sometimes the faces of characters suffer a bit from looking a little too simple, and it is really only the colour palette that brings them to life. That said, this is very much in the style of the early Jonah Hex comics from the 70’s, so it does add a touch of old-timey charm. Alcazar adds plenty of iconic western scenes, and certainly knows how to draw a good blood spray, so that is always a winner. All in all, this isn’t an absolutely fantastic issue of Jonah Hex, but it certainly is one that entertains, and is well worth a look.

Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Brown Frown

In this comic his glass eye is made from magic, and it turns nice old ladies into Bigots.

 

In celebration of everyones favourite wally, here is the panel of Captain Britain and MI13 issue one from 2008, featuring the one and only Gordon Brown. He was helping save Britain from an alien invasion. Nice one Gordon!

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 8:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Comic Blogs are for Losers!

Only Losers look up peoples skirts

I’m very sorry to report I’m an absolute sucker for a film based on a comic, and so with this Summer’s ‘The Losers’ coming out to play in cinemas, I thought I’d have a look at the comic series itself. Written by Andy Diggle, with art by ‘Jock’, it looks as though this one is a popular little scamp, since my local London Comic shop (Orbital Comics www.orbitalcomics.com) were sold out of all the collected volumes of this series. Happily for me though, the Waterstones near my work had this new collected edition of the first two volumes of the series, which works out at 12 issues for £15. Zing!

Right then, down to the nuts and bolts of the series! The Losers are a secret team of CIA operatives who we learn were formed from military personnel who were experts at their jobs, but not too good at following orders. They were sent into super-confidential operations by the CIA to keep America safe. Then on one operation, they saw too much, and the agency had them killed in a helicopter crash. Two years later the Losers are back! Alive! And they are ready to get their revenge on the people who set them up!

Oh boy! The only way to describe this comic is that this is what the A-Team would be like if they actually fired guns at soldiers, rather than building machines that fired cabbages and grumpy mexicans who tried to smuggle tequila into schools. The action starts up and just doesn’t stop, from the team stealing a chinook helicopter, to breaking up massive drug deals, to finally hijacking a nuclear warhead, these losers are just about the busiest heroes in any comic. And all that shit happens in the first 5 issues.

But it’s not all shoot-shoot-bang-bang, as my Mum would describe it. The history of the team, and the characters back stories are slowly dropped into each issue as we go along, so at first we don’t know quite why they are so angry, and we are never even quite sure why the team ended up together, and whether they could all be trusted. Theres plenty to keep you guessing, and a load of stuff to pick up on with each read-through of the book.

And no action book can ever be properly exciting without the art work to match, and goodness me Jock can draw! He has rather an angular style, with plenty of use of shadows, but his art work is always clear and it is never dark or murky during the frequent action set pieces. And helpfully each character is instantly recognisable and each has their own trademark, so its easy to tell everyone apart from the first page, even if we may not be too sure as to names. Naturally with an action-mystery adventure like this Andy Diggle didnt want to reveal too much right away, so while keeping the mystery as to characters motivations, Jock’s art work made it immediately obvious as to who was who, so while mysterious it is never confusing.

As I said, this collected edition collects the first two volumes of this 5 volume series, so I’m really looking forward to hunting down the next 3. There are enough unanswered questions to bring me back to see what happens next, while also leaving a satisfying end to the 12 issues. Even casual readers who don’t necessarily read comics and just want to pick this up after seeing the film are gonna get a real kick out of it, it was a great fun read, and I was hooting with laughter  on the train home from work reading it.

I can’t recommend this bad boy enough!

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Is That A Sasquatch In Your Comic, Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

 

The first natural law: Big Foot, Big Bone.

Written by Alexander Grecian, with art by Riley Rossmo, Proof is about the nuttiest tale (Tail, haha, and that’s an animal pun) I’ve read in a comic. Anyone over a certain age will remember how awesome the X-Files used to be when they did one-off episodes about weird mythical animals (there was a really creepy one about a big fluke-worm man, and then one about little green glowing insects in a forest) in the early series, before it got way too complicated and confusing. Proof is like one long series of all those mad animal adventures, without any of the tedious FBI crap.

At its most basic, Proof is a comic series about John ‘Proof’ Prufrock. John is Bigfoot. And he was caught about 200 years ago, and so now he works for a secret government organisation called ‘The Lodge’ whose job it is to hunt down all the cryptids (supposedly mythical animals like the Lock Ness Monster and the Jersey Devil) who are not magical animals, but endangered species who may pose a risk to the humans they encounter, and at the same time protect these animals from the human race.  The first story arc introduces us to the main players of the series, and joins them as Proof hunts down the ‘Goatsucker’ creature, which feeds on animal blood, and skins creatures in order to dress up in their skins. It’s all rather odd, but there are some cool bits where the goatsucker is dressed in the skin of a character’s grandmother.

I told you it was a nutty story.

But at its heart, despite the elements of horror, Proof is a brilliant fun read. It is peppered throughout with little ‘Cryptoid’ facts, (‘Hawaii remains the only US state with no recorded bigfoot sightings’) which I’d like to believe are true, and certainly led me to spend a jolly afternoon on Wikipedia scaring myself silly looking up the creatures mentioned in passing within the pages of ‘Proof’. Suitable to the spooky whimsical style of the writing and story, the art is sketchy, and sometimes dark and shadowy, but it also brilliantly captures the humour of the book. The visual jokes and slapstick moments are fantastically rendered, and the sketchy-cartoony style captures the facial expressions of the characters in a very charming, almost Disneyesque way. Plus you get to see a naked lady at one point, so that’s always a bonus.

Proof is a tip-top read, effortlessly moving from comedy, to horror, to action, to police drama, to mystery at the drop of a hat, and while its characters are 3-dimensional and believably portrayed, it never takes itself too seriously or develops into too much of a heavy-going dramatic slog. If you like your myths and legends, and enjoy seeing huge apes wear suits and drink tea while discussing the mating rituals of male fairys, then you can’t go far wrong than giving this book a try.

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Short-Ass!

UK exclusive sketch by John Romita Jr.

A terrible photo, but a tip-top image from John Romita Jr., the artist behind the Kick Ass comic series. It was the cover for the free magazine Shortlist a few weeks ago, and included here as a UK exclusive image, unseen by those beastly Americans with their hot-dogs and their more up-to-date and entertaining comic book blogs. Up Yours Uncle Sam!

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ambassador, with your Comics you are really Spoiling us!

Iron Man: Bashing Nazis since 1939

For the last year or so Marvel have been putting out 4-issue mini-series of their most popular characters in 20’s and 30’s Film Noir situations, under the inspired title of Marvel Noir. After the X-men, Spider-man and Daredevil Noir series comes Iron Man’s turn! But for this series we get something a little different. Rather than aiming for a dark and gritty 30’s melodrama full of pinstripe suits and cigarettes in silhouette, Iron Man Noir is a fantastic pulp adventure. It’s exactly what Indiana Jones would be up to if he had a battery-powered heart and a suit of armour.

The issue, written by Scott Snyder with art by Manuel Garcia, kicks off with Tony Stark and his gang of explorers looking for a mythical gemstone mask which reportedly gives the wearer a second chance at life. Much like the beginning of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, no sooner does Tony get the mask he is betrayed by a member of his team, and then the Nazis show up to claim the goods! One swift exciting escape later, Stark is back in New York and discovers a secret Nazi operation to discover Atlantis! This is the sort of comic where every sentence! Ends! In an exclamation! Mark!

This is exactly the sort of daft adventure that I read comics for. We get giant snakes, jungle adventures, nazis (who are always the best bad-guys)  , explosions, and huge robotic suits. The suit in particular is nicely inspired by the Rocketeer, crossed with an armoured train. It’s only briefly seen this issue, but I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do. We also get a nice insight into Tony Stark, a man with a terrible disability which is killing him, which pushes him onto these crazy adventures (The Search For The bloodstone Gem!) in the vague hope of finding a cure. This is one of the more lighthearted additions to the Noir-universe, and so far looks to be the best.

The art by Garcia is also a real treat, he captures the iconic look of the 30’s adventure-hero, with a nice filmic eye for close-ups, action and dynamic chases. He is obviously cutting loose and having some fun with the project, getting to draw giant anacondas, huge Inca temples and marauding monocled villains. His slightly cartoony style also nicely reflects the light-hearted nature of the book as compared to the grim and gritty scratchy style of the other Noir series.

This is comics done right; a fun, cheerful read with some jolly chase scenes and a nice bit of mystical mystery thrown in for good measure. It’s a shame this is just going to be 4 issues, since I’d collect this series for years.

Published in: on April 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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