Viking Gods Vs. Good Manners! Thor vs. Captain Britain!

Boy's Knight Out.

What I like about Thor is the simple fact that he is a man who willingly goes into fights armed with nothing but a big hammer. Just imagine it, not only being in the middle of a war with Frost Giants armed only with a hammer which requires you to be within a foot of your enemy for you to do any damage with it at all, but your also Thor, Prince of Asgard and expected to be right in the thick of any battle. And all you have is a brick on the end of a stick with which to swing as hard as you can into the villains face.  And he is also God of Thunder, so while he is bashing your elbows inside out, he is also making a dreadful noise and making it rain on you. I honestly don’t know why anyone would ever have a fight with him.

And do you know what I like about Captain Britain? He’s British, and he drinks big pints, and he isn’t afraid to wear a skin-tight costume. And he doesn’t need to carry a hammer to start any s#!t. He just gets busy with the fists! POW!

So, that said, who would win in a fight?  Lets ask ‘Thor: The Mighty Avenger’ Issue 4! Written with wit by Roger Langridge, and pencilled with panache by Chris Samnee, this series is a completely new set of tales without any need for knowing history or back-story of any of the characters. As far as I can tell it’s aimed at re-introducing young folk and comic readers of all ages to Thor before his big new film comes out next Spring. The basic premise is that Thor, the young and hot-headed prince of Asgard has been kicked out of the golden realm eternal and sent to earth to learn humility. But he doesn’t remember quite what it was he did wrong. He is found by a lovely young lady called Jane Foster who handily works in a museum and is an expert on all things Viking. Thor saves her from the advances of a dastardly villain Mr. Hyde, and once Jane realises Thor actually is the god of legend, she agrees to take him in and teach him about the world, and work on finding a way for him to get back home.

This issue happily gets away from any soap-opera, man-out-of-place plot contrivances to focus on Thor and his three friends who come to visit him from Asgard. Apparently they can come visit him, but the only rule is they must not tell him why he has been exiled or how to get back home. Naturally, when your friends come round to see if you can come out to play, you immediately leap onto your chariot driven by ‘Toothgnasher’ and ‘Toothgrinder’ (who are both giant goats) and head off to Norway to go to a pub.

Ahh! “But where does Captain Britain fit in?” I hear you groan! 

A Friend To All!

Haha! It turns out that Thor’s friends (The Warriors Three, Hogun, Volstagg and Fandral) are absolutely terrible at reading maps, and they end up not in Norway, but in Britain. Happily for us, Thor learns humility by realising he doesn’t know where he is, and goes to ask for directions in a pub. And who should be out for a drink with his own chums but Brian Braddock! And who is this beautiful blond Mr Braddock? He is Captain Britain!

Naturally all hell kicks off when the bar lady mis-hears Thor’s requests for the ‘way to Trondheim’ (“we havent got any waiter called Trondheim. And we don’t call them waiters…”) and Captain Britain steps up to the God of Thunder who carries A MASSIVE HAMMER, and he asks him to step outside. Sadly, the Captain is then punched right through the door.

One short scuffle later (in which I’m sorry to say the Captain gets sat on by a fat man, and one of the giant goats eats someones bicycle) and Thor learns that he shouldn’t start fights just because he is lost, and they all head back into the pub for a booze up! ‘Just a Quick One’ turns into a whole night of it, and as we follow a terrifically drunk Thor back to his parked goats we discover he drank so much he was sick all over poor Capt. Britain, and all the Norse Gods decide the Captain is “a lovely fellow…Lovely Lovely Lovely”.

So, then they get home, and Thor says goodbye to his chums who have to get back to Asgard, and Thor is met by Jane Foster who has also been out on the town with her friends and she is all drunk as well! They have all been at it! And how does this tale end?

I Made A Friend

Thor tells Jane he had an ace night out, and that he made a new friend! Oh Man!!! Call me old-fashioned, Call me soppy, Call me a prize donkey, but there is a part of me that just melts inside to read about how this poor old chap Thor, lost and alone and confused in the modern world has made his first new friend in Captain Britain. Not only is it a coming together of my two favourite heroes, but it is an actual bit of characterisation that we can all relate to! Thor has started his first day at a big new school, and he has made himself a new pal! I feel very proud of them both, and I hope they will continue to go round to each other’s house to play in the garden.

And then the artwork! Goodness me, I’m quite sure you can’t actually tell from the photos in this article just how wonderful the art by Chris Samnee actually is in this series. His work is terrifically simple and cartoony, an economy of lines which is very bold and creates an instant visual impression. It captures the comedy and vibrant life in each panel, and my god can this chap draw some heart-warming hugs! The best thing is that his pictures actually look like they belong in a comic. It isn’t trying to be photo-realistic, it’s not trying to look wide-screen, or cinematic, or hip, it’s just trying to tell an amusing and exciting little story. And the bold colours that bring these pencils and inks to life bounce of the pages like coiled springs. It’s absolutly wonderful to see that such a simple, bold and direct artistic style can be so effective in today’s comic box where it seems every panel has to be passed through 9 different Photoshop filters before hitting the page.

It is just a Lovely Lovely Lovely issue to read. Its made me smile, and laugh, and want to punch the air in victory and also want to phone up all my friends and invite them out for a drink up.

So, Thor Vs. Captain Britain. Who won? Well, I don’t think we will ever know.

But at least Captain Britain didnt sick up on anyone like Thor did.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ridin’ the Rawhide Kid…HARD!

All Leathered up, with nowhere to go.

Backs to the walls, pardners, the Rawhide Kid is back in town. In March 1955, outlaw Johnny Bart swaggered into Atlas comics, and he didn’t leave the saloon for 151 issues. Better known as the Rawhide Kid, Bart tamed the west one outlaw at a time. With the arrival of the railroads, and superhero comics, the western heros galloped off into the sunset, and weren’t seen again. That was, of course, untill July 2002, when the old west heros were reassembled for one final huzzah, in Marvel Comics (Atlas comic’s grandson) ‘Blaze of Glory’. The classic Marvel western hero’s were given a new lease of life, and Johnny Bart was no exception, even achieving his own miniseries as a sequel to ‘Blaze of Glory’ a year later in ‘Apache Skies’. The no-nonsense Bart was last seen disappearing into a cloud of acrid gunsmoke at the scene of a colossal shootout and train crash. Was this the end of the Rawhide kid of legend?

Well, Yes….. and No. He wasn’t seen riding the plains untill late 2005, when he trotted back into the west in a big way. A Big, Fabulous way, in Slap Leather!, the western mini-series to end all mini-series. The Rawhide Kid had finally come out, he didnt just wear chaps for work, he wore chaps for pleasure too. The Kid was the first openly gay cowboy.  But don’t let that fool you into thinking he was a big softy! If you would so much as just look at him funny as he drank his chardonnay, and he would knock your teeth so far down your throat you would be rechewing yesterdays jerky.

And now he is back, in an all new mini-series, and he is painting the West a jolly pink colour! The Sensational Seven  series is a 4 issue story, focusing on Rawhide as he has to assemble a team of 6 ne’er-do-well’s (both real personalities from American history, and Marvel western characters) to rescue the Earp brothers who have been captured from the Town of Tombstone and held hostage by Cristo Pike in Fort Pecos! So with help from Anne Oakley, Doc Holliday, Kid Colt, the Two-Gun Kid, Ghost Rider and Red Wolf, Johnny Bart sets off to kick some ass and take some names!

Two issues down into the series, and it is an absolute thigh-slappin’ good time. Written by Ron Zimmerman, and drawn by Howard Chaykin, (who is rapidly becoming my favourite artist working at the moment), the story zips along at breakneck pace, while still allowing plenty of character moments to properly introduce each character properly. We get scenes of Rawhide taming the town of Tombstone since the loss of their sheriff Wyatt Earp, a clear 2 page intro to each of his new posse, and a nice little set up for the Earp brothers who are played as moronic feuding but very close brothers in their tiny jail cell.

Rawhide Kid’s sexuality, while known to his outlaw chums, still seems to be a bit of a mystery to the general populace, who all seem to marvel (pun pun pun!) at his terrific dress sence. (Quote “Honey, I was BORN well-dressed, and they’ll lay me in my GRAVE well-dressed”) But never is it taken as a source of mockery or gay-bashing. In fact, Mr Rawhide is leading the way in the bashing stakes, taking out a gang of cowboys without breaking a sweat. He actually punches a huge hulking thug of a man clean out of his boots, which remain floating in the air in classic Warner Brothers cartoon style. In fact, this fight scene begins with about the best pre-fight quip of all time: “Lets get this over with, I’m having my shirt buttons shined at two.” And it isn’t just Rawhide who gets his chance to bash some heads together, we also have Doc Holliday (my all time favourite western drunkard) shoot up a bar, and stab a thug in the head with a hairpin, all while smoking and drinking and dying of consumption.

The art work by Chaykin is note perfect for the western setting. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Chaykin is a follower if the Howard Pyle art school (and if you don’t know Howard Pyle, I suggest you google him immediately if not sooner, as he is a classic book illustrator of the early 20th Century) and it certainly shows in his panels. The Hero’s are all square-jawed and handsome, the villains all have sinister dark faces, and everyone is covered in a fine layer of dirt and grime as is fitting the dusty landscape and rough living of the Wild West. And by god the ladies are busty.

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.

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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