Graphic Novel Review Archive

DEAD SPACE: SALVAGE

Review by Pzomb

Written by Antony Johnston | Art by Christopher Shy | Published by Titan Books | Format: Paperback, 128pp

When reviewing the Dead Space graphic novels it’s quite interesting, especially if you have played the games. The first novel looked at events before the first game, giving an explanation of sorts as to just what happened to cause the destruction that you find once you make it onto the USG Ishimura. In the second graphic novel, Dead Space: Salvage we now look at the events after the first game, when a bunch of Magpies decide to see what pickings they can get from the drifting seemingly dormant ship.

The Magpies are a group of scavenger ships that look for scrap in space and see what they can salvage from it. When they find the USG Ishimura it’s like striking gold so straight away they try to claim it so that processing the ship can begin. As we know though from past events the ship is not as dormant as it seems and it’s not long before the Magpies find themselves fighting against the Necromorphs, and discovering strange shards clinging to the ship that just may be the remnants of the Marker. With the government closing in looking to reclaim their property the Magpies find themselves in a fight to survive not only the creatures in the ship, but also the human danger of the agents looking to cover up what happened, and reclaim the Marker for themselves.

The first thing that is noticeable about Dead Space: Salvage is that although it’s written by Antony Johnston this time the job of artist has been taken over by Christopher Shy. What this leads to is a very different style, which is quite jarring from the style of the first Dead Space graphic novel but in a good way. The difference is that where the first followed the usual comic book conventions Christopher Shy applies an almost dream like style to the pages, with the characters looking more lifelike and less cartoonish, but dreamlike, or to be more fitting nightmarish. For my tastes I liked the first graphic novel, but I’m adaptable enough to like this style too, in fact in terms of artistic quality there are some truly beautiful images in Salvage and you’ll find yourself taking in the qualities of the pictures sometimes more than the story itself.

Even though I say you’ll be loving the art work and sometimes taking it in more than the story, this does not mean that it’s a weak novel, if anything it’s more abstract and interesting. Dead Space: Salvage is more focused on the characters themselves, the Necromorph danger is there growing as you turn the pages, but most of what you take in is actually the human side of the danger, the conspiracy and the fact that the people on the USG Ishimura can feel something is growing, that something is not right and that they should probably get the hell off the ship. If anything greed keeps them on there, or maybe a need for the profit such a big ship would bring, even if it costs them more than they’ll realise.

If you are looking for a continuation of Isaac Clarke’s story you won’t really find it here, Dead Space: Salvage is to all intents and purposes a side story from the main Dead Space storyline though it does end in a way that can feed into Dead Space 2. If you are a fan of the Dead Space games though it is an interesting read and is very much of the same “universe”. I’d argue if there is one weakness it’s that to fully understand why the USG Ishimura is drifting through space though, you’d have to at least know the events that take part in the first game. If you’ve never played it, all you really need to know is the ship is not as empty as it seems, and it was drifting in space looking for its next victims. Based on that, it gives you a good place to start with the story of Dead Space: Salvage.

DEAD SPACE

Review by Pzomb

Written by Anthony Johnston | Art by Ben Templesmith | Published by Titan Books | Format: Paperback, 192pp

Dead Space is a game that pushed you straight into the middle of an event that was already in progress. Through discovering logs and finding other information we were able to bring the story together and find out the true horror of what happened on the USG Ishimura and just where the Marker came from, what caused the creation of the Necromorphs and what happened to the woman that Isaac is searching for. The full story though is available in a graphic novel by Anthony Johnston with Ben Templesmith providing the art work.

When an alien marker is discovered on a remote human colony investigations find that it’s covered in strange symbols. With Unitologists proclaiming this is one of their religious markers and people starting to act strange it’s obvious that something is not right. As people start to suffer from insomnia, psychosis and paranoia there is an obvious connection to the newly discovered object. As people start dying though and a mass suicide creates a mass of dead bodies, something is brewing in the colony and as the dead begin to rise as Necromorphs the colony is overtaken with the awaiting USG Ishimura that has come to collect the marker the next obvious target.

It’s actually quite interesting as somebody who has played Dead Space to see the actual reasons behind the Necromorphs that you fight in the game. The rise of the Necromorphs themselves is a gradual thing, with the growing insanity in the Unitology believers being more of a focus in the initial part of the novel. There is a feel of The Thing and more than a dash of Alien with the H.R Giger style necromorphs, the growing paranoia within the colonists is very reminiscent of the situations in those movies. As the reader we see the full story, with the conspiracy of Unitology coming into play and the religions dominance over some of the colonists. The Markers are thought to be hidden from the devoted followers and the emergence of this new one force the government into action to retrieve it (the reason for the USG Ishimura’s appearance) and the fact the authorities almost expect the emergence of the Necromorphs within the colony. It’s something that continues not only into the games but further graphic novels that continue the series.

One of the main things I liked about the Dead Space graphical novel, especially the artwork is the use of colour. There are obvious themes, from peaceful blue colours, to greenish colours for the growth of paranoia, and of course when things start to go downhill the use of red for signs of danger relate of course to the visceral nature of the dead bodies and the infiltration of the creatures that cause the Necromorph transformations. I also liked the way that the colours tend to merge into each other as you have the different elements of the story in the same image. Examples of this would be when the initial Necromorphs attack the living are shaded in blue, with the attackers in more of a red hue. I found this a nice touch, especially in creating atmosphere. The oncoming red shadow of the Necromorphs adds to the feeling of danger.

For fans of Dead Space who are interested in the prequel story of the first game this graphic novel will of course interest them, but this is also for people who’ve never even touched the game – although they may feel left out not knowing what actually happens in-game, but all they have to do to fix this issue is of course to take a step into the game playing world and find out.

SUPERCROOKS

Review by Pzomb

W: Mark Millar | A: Leinil Yu | Published by Titan Books | Format:Hardback, 128pp

I have to admit heist movies are a guilty pleasure for me, I’ll fully admit that the Ocean’s Eleven films aren’t the best and are somewhat overshadowed by the actors who star in them but I still enjoy watching them. I enjoy that friendship dynamic they use, the chemistry between the characters and of course the heist scenario itself. This is one reason when I read Supercrooks Book One: The Heist by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu it may be one turned out to be one of my favourite comics I’ve read in a long time.

The concept for Supercrooks is that America is too full of super heroes, and the crooks are having a hard time. They fight to do what they do, but more often than not they have to deal with the fact that the super heroes will win out in the end. This is the problem when The Heat, one of the most respected super villains of all time and one that helped many younger villains realise their true potential finds himself in debt for 100 million dollars to the Salamander. Johnny Bolt a thief meant to be retired chooses to help The Heat by forming a group of the best villains he can find to perform a heist in Spain, away from the super heroes and one that will help save The Heat and also provide the rest of them with enough money to never work again. The only problem they have is by choosing the Bastard as their target for the heist they may have chosen one of the most dangerous enemies to ever take on, one more powerful than any of the villains or super heroes put together, they don’t just call him the Bastard for no reason and messing with his usually leads to fatal conclusions.

Supercrooks is a very charming comic book, it instantly gives the feel of Ocean’s Eleven but with Mark Millar’s ability to come up with some originality, especially when it comes to the super hero genre. Giving all of the focus to the Supercrooks themselves as anti-heroes is a very nice move, they are likeable “real” people who know their place in the world, and they are the ones who get the crap kicked out of them by the heroes. The fact that the over-abundance of super heroes has pushed them out of the market have made them somewhat losers, but of course this is the charm. In the same way that Ocean’s Eleven uses comedy and the lovable rouge style characters to make the audience like them, we feel the same for the super villains. We also have the unique power that each have, one of my favourite being the duo who have the ability to regenerate body parts (super healing), this causes some quite gory scenes as they throw themselves at some fairly unique defences in The Bastards vault and literally put their bodies on the line to make it through to the off switch. They also provide the chance for some comedy as well as the gore though which makes them a fun pair.

What I also enjoyed was the fact that the super powers the villains possess add to the heist scenario, with psychic powers, super regeneration, the ability to walk through walls etc. these characters all have a unique part to play in not only the heist but the story itself. Johnny Bolt as the main catalyst for the tale is very much an “Ocean’s” character, he cares about The Heat and wants to help the old guy, as well as making enough money to stop him ever having to work again, then we have the love interest who can manipulate what people see when she’s not altering peoples reality she’s arguing with Jonny, it’s nice to add the humanity into the tale and add to that level of danger into the story as these people actually care about each other.

As well as Mark Millar’s story of course the art work is just as important and Leinil Yu some excellent imagery to go along with the plot. There is so much life in each tile of the comic that it pulls you into the story, with a level of detail that fleshes out the world of the Supercrooks and their super hero counterparts. The work done by all members of the team who worked on this comic really excelled themselves to create an excellent piece of work.

From what I’ve read Supercrooks is already on its way to becoming a movie and it’s going to be one I keep an eye on, I hope it’s done right and kept as close to the style of the comic as possible because this is a tale that is perfect for this type of conversion. In the Titan Books release art work is included to show ideas for the film and it does provide a glimpse into how much work is going into getting this right. I know I for one cannot wait for this one to come out. For people looking for Christmas presents I think this one (especially for fans of Millar’s work like Kickass) would be a very good choice for comic book fans.

SUPERNATURAL: THE DOGS OF EDINBURGH

Review by Phil Wheat

Writer: Brian Wood | Artist: Grant Bond | Published by DC Comics/Titan Books | Format: Paperback, 144pp

“On an academic break while at Stanford, Sam Winchester visits the United Kingdom on what is meant to be a sleepy trip. His first day he meets the alluring ‘Emma of the Isles,’ and his visit begins to get exciting.”

Penned by acclaimed writer Brian Wood (DMZ, Northlanders) with art by Grant Bond (Revere: Revolution in Silver), Supernatural: The Dogs of Edinburgh follows WInchester brother Sam as he travels solo to Scotland in pursuit of occult knowledge only the ancient civilisations of Europe posses. Meeting up with a fellow hunter, Emma of the Isles, Sam is recruited into a whirlwind of guns-blazing attacks on Scotland’s supernatural predators, and an unforgettable night of romance. Then Emma disappears… Three years later a mysterious package arrives from abroad containing a phone, a map, a gun and a series of newspaper clippings about murders and disappearances along the Scottish coast. Sam immediately knows that Emma needs him and his brother Dean more than ever before…

Set before the television series whilst Sam Winchester is attending Stamford College, Supernatural: The Dogs of Edinburgh is yet another tie-in to the long-running CW series and is the fourth graphic novel collection following Origins, Rising Son and Beginnings End. Unlike the recently reviewed Rites of Passage novel, the Wildstorm/DC Comics stories are not tied into the mythology or canon of the show and so can explore more diverse storylines and expand on the Supernatural universe. However this also works again the comics – case in point, this particular tale posits that Sam had supernatural adventures whilst in Stamford College but if memory serves me right, it was clearly stressed in the very first season that Sam had gone to college and avoided any such hunter-style confrontations.

Stylistically Supernatural: The Dogs of Edinburgh is a strange beast. With fantastic cover art by Dustin Nguyen, characterisation of Sam feels very wrong compared to the TV series and as I mentioned the story doesn’t tie in correctly to series canon. On top of that Grant Bond’s artwork looks too “comic-y” and very out of place compared to Nguyen’s covers – if that style had covered across to the entire of the book this would have at least made for a fantastic looking book. As it is, there’s nothing much to recommend about this graphic novel, not even to hardcore Supernatural fans.

HARKER: BOOK OF SOLOMON

Review by Mark Allen

Written by Roger Gibson | Art by Vince Danks | Published by Titan Books | Format: Hardback, 128pp

Writer/letterer Roger Gibson and artist/co-plotter Vince Danks’s comic Harker feels a little unfinished, both in terms of the story and its rendering. Gibson’s tale of titular cynical detective and his boisterous young assistant Critchley investigating what looks to be a series of ritual killings on the steps of a Hawksmoor church in London seems solid enough on paper, but there’s little within the six-issue series to make it stand out among the countless other murder mysteries clogging up every other media.

Harker himself seemed like an intriguing character until I realised that he was just being given a new quirk every other page, leaving the suave yet childish Critchley as the sole likeable presence among sex-crazed satanists and skittish booksellers.

The dialogue drifts from needlessly expository – “I see you have the book,” the murderer tells an unfortunate victim for some reason, likely because including a panel of ‘the book’ would have been a difficult request) to irritatingly cute (there’s a two-page scene that has the characters mention Batman at least six times, which mostly just made me wish I was reading Batman instead), and the plot doesn’t wholly satisfy or surprise, though the climax does ramp the pace up rather enjoyably.

One thing that does make it stand out is the minute detail Danks affords to the backgrounds and structures in establishing panels and full-page spreads, which makes it all the more irritating when he leaves so many other panels empty, filled largely with confused expressions on half-finished faces.

For those looking for a by-the-numbers serial killer hunt with vaguely noirish art, Harker might well be up your alley. For those looking for something with a bit more character and darkness, Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith’s disturbing procedural Fell is much more worth your coin.

SPANDEX: FAST AND HARD

Review by Phil Wheat

Writing & Art by Martin Eden | Published by Titan Books | Format: Hardback, 96pp

Prowler, Liberty, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr Muscles, Diva — all superpowered, all British, and the first all gay super-hero team there ever was! Created by independent creator Martin Eden, Spandex charts the highs and lows of a group of Brighton-based heroes, doing battle with 50-foot lesbians, a group of deadly pink ninjas, as well as their own complicated love lives! This is the very first collection of Martin Eden’s Eagle award-nominated comic and collects Spandex #1-3 plus bonus material, including newspaper strip style shorts, character profiles (heroes and villains), and afterword by Eden and a brief history of the comic.

If someone said to you “imagine a comic that features a group of gay superheroes”, I have little doubt that you’d imagine something very much like Eden’s Spandex. Filled with a cliched gaggle of heroes fighting camp stereotypes for villains, Spandex: Fast and Hard makes for rather cliched reading which left me wondering why such a comic would be nominated for any award. That is until I reached book three. Which, in a complete u-turn, totally blew me away…

Like all good superhero books before it, the third issue of Spandex is, on the surface, just another superhero tale, but dig a little deeper, think about the story a little more and you realise that this particular adventure is also a metaphor for depression, persecution and “fitting in.” I was seriously ready to write off this hardback collection up until the final tale, which shows just how powerful the comics medium can be – there’s no spoon-feeding of story, no poor acting performance to ruin the characterisation, just a intimate moment between writer and reader that, in this case, is one of the most powerful examples of its kind.

Packed with pop culture references, nods to classic comics and chock-full of humour and drama, Spandex is a super-hero book like no other.

SUPERIOR (Hardback, 200pp)

Mark Millar, creator of Wanted and Kick-Ass and writer of Marvel’s epic Civil War teams up with Leinil Francis Yu (Secret Invasion) for Superior, the first comic to feature an MS sufferer who becomes a superhero! The second comic to hit news stands after Kick-Ass exploded in mainstream consciousness, Superior is Millar’s follow-up to Nemesis and like that book Millar manages to find just the right artist to bring his story to life in Leinil Yu, whose artwork brings a real vitality to this tale of boy whose dreams come true.

The book follows Simon Pooni, comics-reading, movie-loving pre-teen, stricken by multiple sclerosis who is granted a magical wish by a mysterious talking monkey called Ormon and is transformed into his superhero character. Before long Simon uses his super powers to put a stop to the world’s ills – ending conflict in the middle east, feeding starving children and rescuing people from natural catastrophes. However Ormon’s gift may not be for Simon’s own good, or anyone else’s for that matter…

Much like Kick-Ass, Superior deals with the transformation of a child into a superhero, however in this case the transformation comes complete with real super powers and real responsibilities. But in a departure from what is becoming the Millar standard, this book doesn’t feature the gratuitous violence and over the top gore. Instead Superior goes for the heartfelt, feeling very much (as was obviously Millar’s goal given the “in memory of” credit in the back of the book) like a tribute to Richard Donner’s Superman – the wide-eyed innocence of a superhero without any ulterior motives, which given today’s climate for heroes with issues is refreshing in itself.

Plus any book that throws in a faustian pact and a talking monkey is a winner in my book!

Batman versus Bane (Paperback, 144pp)

Bane, the man who broke Batman’s back in the Knightfall saga, returns once more and embarks on a quest to find his father, which leads him to a team up with the villainous Ra’s al Ghul. The two then launch an attack on Gotham City with only the city’s Dark Knight protector to stop them.

Obviously a release timed to coincide with the huge amounts of interest in the character of Bane generated by his appearance in the forthcoming third film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman versus Bane couldn’t be more of a misnomer as Batman only appears in the first story in this book and for less than a dozen pages. This book is really all about Bane, his life story and how he fits into the Batman universe beyond being the man who broke Batman’s back.

Penned by Chuck Dixon (himself one of the creators of Bane), Batman versus Bane collects Bane’s first appearance in Batman: The Vengeance of Bane #1 along with the Batman: Bane of the Demon miniseries, and with three two-page origin “stories” from the more recent DC Comics’ event books 52 and Countdown

The origin tale of Bane, The Vengeance of Bane #1 is one of the great origin stories of all time – a child scarred by his youth who becomes an unstoppable force, in this case for vengeance – sound familiar? It’s almost the mirror of Batman’s origin, only told with more passion and melancholy that the dark knights. It’s interesting to read the two very different stories, both penned and drawn by the same team of Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan, one is a thoroughly compelling read, whilst the other seems forced (given how the story was written to bridge the gap between the “Contagion” and “Legacy” storylines of the late 90s that seems understandable).

What I will say is that given the rumours surrounding Nolan’s film and the involvement of the al Ghul family in it makes Bane of the Demon a more interesting proposition now than it ever was before…

Batman: Arkham City (Hardback, 168pp)

Batman: Arkham City is an all-new epic tale that follows up on the story began in the hit video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and built upon by its eponymous sequel. Paul Dini (Harley Quinn, Batman: Streets of Gotham) penned the game and now in this graphic novel he tells the story of just what happened after the events of the first game. With the Joker now back in Arkham, which has now expanded from a mere asylum to a whole section of Gotham City, where criminals are allowed to run riot, building their own twisted version of society. But behind the scenes is a grand manipulator who is playing puppet master to not only the criminals but also those on the side of the law…

Batman: Arkham City is billed as a book that bridges the gap between the two Batman video games, leading into events in the sequel, but what it also does offer more depth to the tale found within the Arkham City video game by expanding on the motivations of the madman that is Hugo Strange.

Writer Paul DIni is a master of the Bat-tale, having worked on Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, and written for Detective Comics and Batman: Streets of Gotham, so its to be expected that he has a handle on Batman and his miscreant cronies, and I was not to be disappointed. Dini’s take on a post Arkham Asylum Joker and the madman that is Hugo Strange are superb. Plus Dini’s fantastic writing and characterisation are backed up by some fantastic art from Carlos D’Anda which perfectly matches the dark tone of the book and the game from which it is inspired. I wasn’t aware of D’Anda before reading this book but I shall definitely be going back and grabbing what I can of his work in the future now I seen it used to such good effect here.

Besides the individual Batman: Arkham City issues, this graphic novel also includes the digital chapters which further expand the Arkham City universe. Batman: Arkham City is available from your local comic shop or at Titan Books.

The Boys Volume 9: The Big Ride (Paperback, 288pp)

Volume 9 of The Boys collects three separate story arcs, including the momentous issue #50, with bonus pin-ups and interviews: Issues #48-51; Proper Preparation and Planning – With Hughie absent, Butcher re-examines the Boys’ first encounter with the Seven, trying to figure out what went wrong. But first there”s some disquiet in the ranks to be dealt with, not to mention the return of an old and unexpected enemy who finally, incredibly, has come into his own. Meanwhile, on the Seven’s floating headquarters, a flying lesson goes badly awry.

Issues #52-55; Barbary Coast – Hughie travels out west to finally meet Lieutenant-Colonel Greg Mallory, the man who started The Boys. All kinds of secrets await our hero, beginning with the terrible story of the first supes to see action in World War Two. When the revelations cease, will Hughie return, or walk away from the team forever?

Issues #56-59; The Big Ride – The countdown to the end begins, as Jack from Jupiter takes one step beyond… or does he? Hughie’s triumphant return is not all he’d hoped for, but Butcher has bigger fish to fry. And The Boys meet the mysterious Doctor Peculiar…

The Boys has always been bleak, but as the series approaches its crescendo the darkness of Ennis’ story is rising and between the plot threads coming to fruition and new threads emerging the story of The Boys is becoming more and more mired in continuity by the issue – the book can, at times, make for a hard read. A good read, but a hard one nonetheless. Given that that two-thirds of this particular book deal more with character development rather than moving the story forward this particular volume took some time to digest – there’s a ridiculous amount of back story filled in (most of which long-time readers will have pieced together for themselves) before the final 3 issues take it home in superb fashion, leaving readers on tenterhooks for the next volume.

As with every volume of The Boys I read I can’t wait for the next, just to see where Ennis plans on taking this grandiose tale of man vs. superhero.

CROSSED

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Garth Ennis | Art by Jacen Burrows | Published by Avatar Press | Distributed by Titan Books | Format: 240pp, Paperback

“In the blink of an eye, humanity is lost. The Crossed are upon us. Men, women and children alike fall victim to the mystery infection that makes killers out of parents and rapists out of lovers. Ruthless, berserk and evil beyond measure, these cackling demons spread their plague across the Earth – until our species teeters on the brink of final extinction.

Now, a small band of survivors make their cautious way across a deserted America, existing in a state of constant terror, only too aware that death beyond description lurks around almost every corner. They have in common only their determination to survive – but in the world of the Crossed, survival has a cost all its own. By story’s end, each will discover exactly what they’ll do to stay alive… and, in a world of monsters, just how easy it is to become inhuman too.

There is no hope. There are no heroes. No one is coming to save you.”

I’d heard many things about Crossed before being sent this graphic novel for review – about how dark it was, how disturbing and about how depraved it was. Everything they said is true. Crossed may be the sickest, most depraved comic book I’ve read (not counting the twisted sexuality of Lost Girls that is). The book is very similar to movies such as 28 Days Later and Romero’s Day of the Dead, but the villains here aren’t zombies, or demonic beings. No, these are people. Afflicted people, but people nonetheless. Only this infectious outbreak turns the “crossed” (hence the title) into raging homicidal psychopaths without any sort of moral compass and with a desire to rape, torture and kill anyone and anything that crosses their path.

Crossed is the NC-17 of comics. Uncensored, unadulterated and explicit, almost nothing is left to the imagination – whether it’s scenes of graphic mutilation, killing kids (and not just at the hands of the “crossed”), or rape, writer Garth Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows tell the entire no-holds-barred story. Scratch that first thought, Crossed isn’t the NC-17 of comics, if this book was a movie it would never get a rating, and would no doubt be banned across many parts of the world, especially here in the UK!

I’ll admit as a horror fan I love my gore and I’m always on the look out for the next big gross-out, the next thing that will challenge my morals and my stomach. Crossed fits that bill. And just when I thought I’d seen it all, then came THAT double-page spread – probably one of the most depraved things I’ve ever seen in fiction, but yet I could’t look away and I definitely couldn’t stop reading. It’s testament to both Ennis’ writing and Burrows’ artwork that Crossed is both repulsive and compelling at the same time. It’s also why this is one of the best comics I’ve read in the past year.

Not for the weak of stomach or the easily offended, Crossed is out now from Avatar Press.

ONE MODEL NATION

Review by Andrew James

Written by Courtney Taylor-Taylor | Art by Jim Rugg | Published by Titan Books/Image | Format: 160pp, Hardback

“From US rock band The Dandy Warhols’ frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor comes an original graphic novel illustrated by indie super star Jim Rugg. A work of historical fiction set in Germany in 1977, it follows four young men who were to become the voice of their generation. This is the epic journey of art noise band One Model Nation, the final dark days of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the band’s mysterious disappearance only months later. Features a host of bonus extras: sketches, director’s commentary, deleted scenes and more.”

Timed to coincide with the release of a music CD by fictional 1970s German new wave group “One Model Nation” entitled “Vol.1 Totalwerks 1969-1977” this graphic novel is about the fictional band in question and how after becoming figureheads for the increasingly violent Red Army Faction, disappeared during the “German Autumn” during the events that led to the capture of the Baader-Meinhof Group in 1977.

The design of the hardback itself is great and based on the Red Army Faction logo and graphic language used for the Baader-Meinhof Complex movie posters. Unfortunately the inside of the graphic novel isn’t quite so good. I was impressed with Jim Rugg’s clean lines and figure work on the recent Guild comic, and his work on the Plain Janes books has been describe as Daniel Clowes-esk, but I was less than impressed by his work on this Image series. I’m not sure if Rugg was going for a different feel with this book, but gone are his clean lines, you can see the beginnings of his current style in the characters faces, but the art has little variety in line weight, which seems even odder when you see his sketches in the back of the book which look better than the finished work. I think a lot of the problem here is the colouring, everything is shades of grey or subdued colours, the only person not coloured like a Twilight vampire in the entire comic is David Bowie in a brief cameo and looking like he’s been drawn by Mike Allred.

Apparently it took 10 years for this story by Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Donovan Leitch to make it to an audience after originally being a screenplay, and it’s an odd story, its set amongst real events in the late 1970s, but one of the characters has built a robot version of himself to go on stage – WTF? You never see the robot so it seems weird that it’s even mentioned. The members of the group aren’t very well defined, we learn more about Sebastian than any of the others, but there is little sense of individuality amongst them, partly due to all of the band members wearing the same grey outfits for most of the book, but mainly because they have no back-story.

This is Taylor-Taylor’s graphic novel version of The Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night”, with German electro-synthpop band Kraftwerk playing the role of the Beatles, unfortunately the comic book version of Kraftwerk/One Model Nation have none of the charm of the “real” Beatles.

TANK GIRL: BAD WIND RISING

Review by Andrew James

Written by Alan Martin | Art by Rufus Dayglo, Sofie Dodgson | Published by Titan Books | Format: 104pp Hardback

“A brand new graphic novel collecting all four issues of the latest Tank Girl comics series, featuring the return of a much-loved secondary character, the break up of Tank Girl and Booga and a crazed gang of killer kangaroos. It’s wild, it’s off the wall, and it’s the greatest story yet. Don’t miss Tank Girl’s latest twisted action adventure!”

Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl originally appeared in Deadline magazine in 1988, and became very popular with the counterculture crowd, especially those involved in the punk scene, as a symbol of the growing empowerment of women, and she was also adopted as a gay and lesbian icon. This support led to the Deadline strips being collected and published in books across Europe, South America, Japan and the United States.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Tank Girl, being more a fan of Hewlett’s artwork than the character, which is probably why I didn’t really enjoy this graphic novel – it’s just not my bag. The colours by Sofie Dodgson work with the character and setting, and the majority of Dayglo’s artwork has a Tank Girl feel to it, although some pages look a little unfinished. If you’re a Tank Girl fan you’ll probably enjoy this book, if you’re new to the character I would suggest starting with her earlier adventures.

NEONOMICON

Review by Pzomb

Written by Alan Moore, Antony Johnston | Art by Jacen Burrows | Published By Avatar Press | Distributed by Titan Books | Format: Hardback, 176 pp

When it comes to comics and graphic novels I’m pretty lightweight. With Alan Moore for example I’ve read From Hell and Watchmen and I’ve loved them both. The people who work on the artwork are always well chosen and the storylines have a depth to them that really pull you into the story and create a believable world that at some levels you can relate to. Neonomicon takes us into a darker and more fantastical place as Moore delves into some of the Lovecraft mythos.

The Avatar Press hardback release of Neonomicon is a book of two parts. It features The Courtyard which is a prequel to Neonomicon and looks at the story of Aldo Sax an agent looking into what he believes is a drug that turns people into killers. He soon discovers that the drug is not a drug at all but something much darker, something that leads him to kill and become part of the world he was sent to investigate.

Jumping from The Courtyard we then move into Neonomicon itself which deals with two FBI agents who interview Sax in a mental hospital about what happened to him but all they get out of him is a strange language that leads them into the world of Lovecraftian Cults. As they try to infiltrate these they are led into a world where the cults are worshipping some darker beings that share more with Lovecraft’s so called fiction than the real world and where they may be part of some bigger game nobody every envisioned.

One thing is for sure with this graphic novel is it takes some liberties with the Lovecraft fiction – or you could say it takes it from a different viewpoint. In Lovecraft’s work he shows a level of sexual repression and the use of such things in rituals are very abstract and held back from the reader. What Moore does is put the sex back in and creates a very adult graphic novel. The cults are literally sex cults and feature rape of a female FBI investigator in a means of proving what the cult actually is and what her part in their plans she has to play. The artwork is one of the best parts of this work as it shows off the Lovecraft feel in all its glory; yes we’ve got tentacles, Cthulhu type creatures and alternative realities in full effect. If you don’t mind a little nudity in your graphic novels and love Lovecraft this is probably for you, even though I’m sure a few hardcore Lovecraft fans will not be too happy with the sex side of things. That’s just an assumption of course as it will depend on their viewpoint on the issues of sex in his work.

Although it’s a fairly heavy story with its use of sex cults and violence Neonomicon is an enjoyable piece of work. As a horror fan this hits all the right notes for me with people being pushed to the level of insanity and a cultish feel of not only the murders but the worshipping of the Lovecraftian creatures. Although it’s not possible for the story to go too deeply into the mythos, the graphic novel manages to use the more well-known Lovecraft themes to weave a story that can easily be extended as it leaves the end very open for continuation. I will admit though the artwork is that good that sometimes it surpasses the story itself and you’ll enjoy looking at that more. Probably not for everyone, maybe not even for all Lovecraft fans but it’s a unique take on a well envisioned world that doesn’t expect you to understand everything Lovecraft, just know that a few tentacles can go a very long way.

RESIDENT EVIL

Review by Mark Allen

Written by Ricardo Sanchez | Art by Jeremy Raapack, Kevin Sharpe, Al Barrionuevo | Published by DC Comics/Titan Books, Paperback, 144pp

Fans of the Resident Evil game franchise will find little recognisable in this violent and gruesome (and not in a good way) tome. The story and characters are fresh to the series, with only passing mention of the infamous Umbrella Corporation and ‘the Raccoon City Incident’ that the many of the series’s games are based around.

Instead, we are introduced to the clunkily-named B.S.A.A (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) and two of its S.O.A.s (Special Operations Agents – yes, acronyms abound in this book): tech-savvy Mina Gere and the brawny, hilariously named Holiday Sugarman. Reluctantly put together to battle the forces of the undead and uncover yada yada evil plot blah blah sinister German millionaire etc. etc. and in the end they realise they have more in common than– Wait, you don’t really care about the plot, do you? If you’re reading a comic continuation of a game, you really should be aware you’re not entering nuanced storytelling territory. I’ll accept there are a few exceptions, such as Antony Johnston’s Dead Space comics, but Resident Evil is definitely playing by the rules.

However, if you’re looking for gore, you’ve come to the right place. There are more bites, dismemberments, gouges, beheadings, explosions and flying mutant apes than you can shake a bloody stump at, and that’s only in the first two issues. All this is brought to life by pencillers Jeremy Raapack, Kevin Sharpe and Al Barrionuevo, who inject plenty of vigour and claret into proceedings in between wading through the occasional macho speech from the pen of Ricardo Sanchez.

If the plot is a lost cause, then the dialogue never had any hope. Now, I know the games have never won any awards for their great storytelling (it’s the palpable tension in between each genuinely terrifying scare that always got me – and none of that subtlety is evident here) but at least they wouldn’t incessantly quote philosophers, Napoleon and, er, metal bands in order to give their characters the illusion of depth. Every utterance is a cheesy one-liner or a clunky device to get the plot moving. Which to be fair it does, at breakneck pace in fact, but I stopped caring about what was going on fairly early on and simply waited to see how creatively the artists could implode a zombie’s brain for the 400th time.

One major disappointment was the inclusion of Mina’s ever-exposed, unnaturally pert cleavage, presumably included to reach the appropriate mix of sex appeal and violence. I know it’s not a new concern, but sexism in mainstream comics is something that’s always bothered me and is a perfectly valid reason for women not to be interested in them. Which is an incredibly disappointing prospect, because it means they’re still not cool enough to chat up girls with.

Simply put: If you like gore and tits on the same page and aren’t a fan of good storytelling (or words in general), then this is definitely for you. For those looking for a compelling tale or insight into the nuances of the Resident Evil world, you might want to steer clear.

TURF

Review by Andrew James

Written by Jonathan Ross | Art by Tommy Lee Edwards | Lettering by John Workman
Published by Titan Books/Image | Format: 192 page Hardback

“The first comics work from TV ‘s Jonathan Ross is a hard boiled noir crime thriller with girls, guns, fangs and aliens.

New York, 1929. The height of Prohibition. The cops turn a blind eye while the mobs run the city, dealing in guns, girls and illegal liquor. But the arrival of the mysterious Dragonmir Family from Eastern Europe with more of a taste for blood than booze upsets the status quo. As the gangs fall before the fangs, only handful of mobsters survive. But an unlikely alliance formed between tough guy Eddie Falco and a character from a LONG way from New York City – a long way from Earth in fact – offers the humans a glimmer of hope. As the strong-willed young reporter Susie Dale from the Gotham Herald tries to survive in the middle of the maelstrom, and an ancient prophecy unfolds, no one can guess who’s going to win the battle for this particular slice of Turf.”

Being a Brit and also being familiar with how much of a true geek, chat show host and radio DJ, Jonathan Ross is, I thought that he’d be one celebrity comic book writer who would not disappoint. I thought correctly. An avid comic book collector, Ross has obviously done his home work, Turf is quite unlike anything else on the shelves; granted there are a lot of genre mixing comics, but Ross and Edwards throw pretty much everything into the Turf blender.

The story starts with Susie Randall, a young reporter who thinks she’s found her big break when she discovers that New York mob families are the victims of grisly murders. Her desire to get the story leads her into conflict with a newly arrived vampire clan who are set to claim New York as their food source and raise the legendary Old One. Meanwhile, mobster and bootlegger, Eddie Falco is lured into a vampire ambush by corrupt cop, and ironically the vilest person or creature in the comic, Pete O’Leary. Eddie quickly becomes the reluctant hero and “Han Solo” of Turf, especially when he partners up with crashed alien bootlegger Squeed.

Ross writes an interesting and very page turning story; Turf is very entertaining and you can see Ross getting better at pacing and paring down the amount of text on each page as you read through this collection. In this age of decompression in comics, where a once one-issue origin story can now last six-issues, you really get your money’s worth from Ross and Edwards, and especially from letter John Workman; Workman, who still letters by hand, really earns his money as some panels are almost 50% speech bubbles and captions.

There’s a rule of thumb, attributed to Stan Lee, that says there should be a maximum of 25 words, whether dialogue or caption, per panel. Fellow Brit and wordy comic book author, Alan Moore, is quoted as saying that 210 is the maximum number of words you should have on a page. The first page of Turf, has one panel containing speech balloons with 28, 33, and 34 words, meaning 95 word in one panel. 95! The first page alone has 221 words in total, and two of the panels are “silent”. Now this pattern doesn’t last, as I said earlier, as the story progresses Ross cuts back on the words and lets Edwards’ artwork do most of talking, by the final issue the word count drops to 15 words on a 6 panel page.

As I write this review I realise that Edwards is the only artist who could have been teamed with Ross on his first comic. Edwards has an old-school way of working, he draws in word balloons and indicates lettering placement on his pencilled pages, which he then sends to Workman to hand letter, making the text part of the page and a real part of the art-process. I think if anyone else had handled the art and lettering chores on Turf it could have been a huge disaster, with either heavily edited script or important elements of the art covered up by inelegant word balloons.

Edwards is also perfect for Turf because of his wide body of work, he’s as at home drawing Star Wars characters as he is drawing dinosaurs, vampires, soldiers, gangsters and superheroes; skills that are tested with Turf. Edwards also colours his own work, which gives the book a consistent pallet, with lots of electric blues and rich blood reds, and allows him greater control of scene lighting. The comic staple of flashbacks is used a few times in Turf, but each time Edwards tweaks his style to fit the subject; O’Leary’s disturbing origin story is done in the style of a 1920s newspaper strip, with the panel borders being formed out of his cigar smoke.

Turf is one of those comics that you hope will be made into a movie, but you know deep down that no one has the kind of money to produce a movie that could match the scope of the comic, it truly is epic and I’m hoping that Ross, Edwards and Workman bring us more tales from the Turf universe. Judging from his first published work, Ross is easily the best celebrity comic book writer so far (yes, that includes Kevin Smith) and he’s better than a lot of so called professionals, and with 5 more comic series planned it won’t be long before he’s the next Millar or Bendis.

THE CROW (SPECIAL EDITION)

Review by Pzomb

Written and drawn by James O’Barr | Format: Paperback, 272pp | Released by Titan Books

The first thing I will admit about The Crow is that I was introduced to the story as many were by the movie. I became a huge fan and won’t hide the fact I’m one of those people who say it could never be remade and it should remain untouched, I’m an avid fan. Being such a fan made me buy the graphic novel which I love, so when I got the chance to review the Special Edition I jumped at the chance.

The Crow is the story of Eric Draven who is brought back to life to wreak vengeance over the people who killed both he and his fiancée Shellie. As he moves from each perpetrator of the crimes enacting his vengeance on them his memories of Shellie come back and we learn that it’s not only retribution he is seeking but forgiveness for the way he sees he has failed. His vengeance is almost a cry to Sherrie’s soul to forgive him for not doing enough to save her; it’s a call to her to take him away from the hell that is the world and take him to be with her in eternity. The fact is though is it her forgiveness he needs or his own? And will succeeding in his vengeance finally give him the peace he looks for?

The world created in the pages of The Crow is taken from Eric’s viewpoint. It is a mixture of dreams of the past that push Eric onwards and the reality of the world that he has been brought back to. This “reality” is a dark place full of the evilness of a world that took his soul mate away; it is the place where he will have his vengeance; a bloody and violent world where the innocent fight for a life within the corruption that appears to have taken over. The dream world in contrast is bright and filled with a melancholy happiness as Eric looks to times he loved, but with the knowledge that they were all destroyed when Shellie was ripped away from him. The Crow as his spiritual guide tries to stop Eric from looking back to these memories as it only brings back pain and suffering, but this is the very thing that pushes Eric on in his quest which in some part the Crow has to help motivate so even in its protests about watching the memories there is a part of it that knows he must live them to keep him focused on what he must do. It’s a double edged sword of happiness and sadness and a fuel for vengeance.

One of the most striking things about The Crow is the artwork. Though mostly done in shades of black and white it manages to create a contrast between the dreams Eric has of Shellie and the harshness of the real world of his vengeance. The world of his retribution is decayed and dark, rotten to the core and the violence is very visual, especially the violence enacted on Eric. He knows he cannot be hurt so almost relishes the pain which we is both graphic and bloody. Nothing is held back as it is almost thrown in our faces, this is just pure violence. The dream world with Shellie though is the total opposite; this is Eric’s happy place so it is bright and illuminated. Only when the sadness takes over do things darken, especially the scenes of their deaths. This of course is where the real world is intruding on his memories of times he’d rather be living.

The Crow is all about the loss of love, but also how strong love can be. Shellie is the love of Eric’s life, his soul mate and that never changes even after death. When he has had his vengeance and believes Shellie has forgiven him he will return to death to finally be with her. He is in some way wrong in this though because it’s not Shellie who needs to forgive him but he himself that needs to do the forgiving. His guilt darkens his soul and controls him, he takes this out on the people who killed the couple but in the end it’s only he who can have the true victory by finally realising he had no power over what happened to him. This is part of what the special edition of the novel adds. It emphasises that need to be forgiven as being the true backbone of the story. James O’Barr says this in the introduction he gives, this is a very interesting introduction as it really gives emphasis on Eric’s situation and how it was born and put onto paper. Make sure you don’t just skip the introduction, it’s an important read.

One thing that is sure for me is that The Crow is a very good graphic novel. I’m not sure the additions for the special edition are really needed to improve it anymore but it is still interesting to see how the writer wanted his original work to be seen. For people who have already read the original graphic novel it’s not an essential purchase but it is one that I would have made and not felt disappointed with. For people who have never read it, I’d argue this is the version to purchase. It is The Crow in its true form, and an essential reading for any fans of the movie. With the news that the Crow remake is in production it’s also interesting looking at the novel as it is in ways so different than the original movie. I doubt though that any movie could compare to the novel and be able to convey the emotions that are put down in print. The original movie took the concept and the themes that run through the story and made a good movie out of it that stands the tests of time. Even if the remake was to look at the graphical novel and tried to be more faithful I doubt it could do it justice.

MODESTY BLAISE: MILLION DOLLAR GAME

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Peter O’Donnell | Art by Enric Badia Romero | Published by Titan Books | Format: Paperback, 104pp

For those that aren’t familiar with the character, Modesty Blaise and her partner Willie Garvin are “retired” ex-cons who are given the chance by British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant to hit the adventure trail once more – this time on the side of good. Originally published in the Evening Standard in the 1960s, Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise mixes pulp crime, adventure tales, spy stories, racketeering and a 60s vibe, and has over the years become synonymous with sexy spy glamour.

Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game is the latest bumper volume from Titan Books and collects three more classic Modesty Blaise newspaper strip adventures: Butch Cassidy Rides Again, in which Modesty meets the legendary outlaw; Million Dollar Game, which sees Modesty take on game poachers in East Africa; and The Vampire of Malvesco in which Modesty confronts a mythic bloodsucker in Transylvania.

This is yet another example of British comics at their best, with superb storytelling from the now sadly departed Peter O’Donnell matched only by the crisp, clean and downright gorgeous black and white artwork from Enric Badia Romero. If you’re a comics fan and you haven’t read a Modesty Blaise strip before, there’s no better way to start than with this volume which features its two creators at the very top of their game.

As with all of Titan’s Modesty Blaise volumes Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game contains detailed story introductions – in this case from Blaise historian Lawrence Blackmore, and a complete checklist of Blaise’s adventures, creator credits and and outline of which collected volume contains which newspaper stories.

BATMAN: HUSH – UNWRAPPED DELUXE EDITION

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Jeph Loeb | Art by Jim Lee | Published by DC Comics/Titan Books | Format: Hardback, 320pp

One of the most widely praised, highly regarded, and now-classic Batman stories of all time, Hush, gets an all-new treat from DC Comics and Titan Books with this brand new hardcover edition of the story that follows Batman as he sets out to discover the identity of a mysterious criminal mastermind who is using The Joker, The Riddler, Ra’s al Ghul any many more of the Dark Knight’s enemies, and allies, as pawns in his plan to wreak havoc on Gotham City.

By now most, if not all Batman fans, and perhaps even comic book fans in general will have read Batman: Hush, so I doubt there’s any need to rehash my thoughts on the book and how good I think the story, from writer Jeph Loeb, is. However this new edition brings with it something interesting, and after reading it, also something quite remarkable…

This new “unwrapped” edition presents the artwork of the legendary Jim Lee in its, crisp, original pencil form for the very first time. Which in itself makes for a very interesting read, but and this is what’s remarkable – seeing Jim Lee’s uninked and uncoloured pencils actually gives Hush an entirely new feel. It looks and feels more visceral and more dynamic at the same time. It actually feels like reading an entirely new comic rather than just another reprint of a classic.

It’s easy to see from the raw and unedited art why Jim Lee is regarded as one of the best artists in the business, even without the addition of ink his version of Batman still looks dark and brooding, and his villains – especially The Joker – have an even more evil, and somewhat manic, appearance. And of course Lee’s Batman is THE epitomy of the DC hero for many, myself included. I don’t think there’s anyone who can draw him better…

AARON AND AHMED

Review by Andrew James

Written by Jay Cantor | Art by James Romberger | Released by: Titan Books/Vertigo | Format: 144pp, HC

“What causes Terrorism? After his fiancée dies during the 9/11 attacks, the question plagues Aaron Goodman. It makes him give up his career as a doctor to become an interrogator/torturer at Guantanamo Bay. And yet, he’s still no less obsessed. He begins overseeing experiments of how meme theory might program people into becoming suicide bombers. (Could there be a science behind terrorism?) Still nothing – until he meets Ahmed, a Gitmo prisoner who might know how the jihadists are using a variation of meme theory in their camps.

To finally learn the truth, Aaron and Ahmed’s search will take them from Gitmo to the jihadist camps in Pakistan right back to Ground Zero in New York City. But where do Ahmed’s real loyalties lie, and will Aaron’s exploration into terrorist camps make him as much of a threat as those he’s protecting his country against? To answer Aaron will have to stare down one of the most compelling questions of the 21st century.”

Aaron and Ahmed is an odd book to get your head around, it’s a politically explosive mix of elements that include gay love, US military torture of suspected terrorists, fanatical suicide bombers and their ideology/brainwashing, human experimentation, and man’s nature to seek out answers.

American novelist and screenwriter, Jay Cantor, tells an interesting and thought provoking story that rather than paint the world in shades of gray, paints it black (now I have the Rolling Stones song and Tour of Duty theme in my head. Fortnightly Fact: U2 covered it for the B-side to “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”). Aaron and Ahmed is dark, so dark, even the gay love element has a darkness to it at first as Aaron has been drugging Ahmed to fall in love with him, plus when you’re part of a fanatical terrorist group, being gay is probably not something you want to shout about.

I’ve not seen any of James Romberger’s comic art before, and to be honest it’s not my sort of thing. It serves the story well enough but looks too much like a newspaper political cartoon, it doesn’t distract from the story, but the artwork of the usual Vertigo graphic novels and trades far surpasses it. I do realise that art is subjective, so there will be some readers who like his realistic cartoon style.

GREEN LANTERN: SECRET ORIGIN (New Edition)

Review by Andrew James

Written by Geoff Johns | Art by Ivan Reis | Published by Titan Books/DC | Format: 192pp, TPB

“Before he became the Green Lantern… before he unwittingly brought about the downfall of the Green Lantern Corps… before his rebirth as the universe’s most powerful protector… Hal Jordan of Earth was just a washed-up test pilot with no way to fly… until the dying alien Abin Sur granted him his power ring, the most powerful weapon in the universe – and his entry into a reality he could never have imagined.

Witness the beginning of the career of the bravest Green Lantern who’s ever lived as the secret origin of Hal Jordan is revealed. Discover how and why Hal received the power ring. Uncover the mystery of Abin Sur’s death. Find out why Jordan’s teacher and mentor, Sinestro, became obsessed with the prophecy of the apocalyptic end of the universe the Blackest Night.”

With the Ryan Reynolds staring film version of Green Lantern due in cinemas this summer it makes sense that Titan Books together with DC Comics would release a new version of his origin… Green Lantern’s not Ryan Reynolds. “Secret Origin” was first published in the 4th volume of Green Lantern, issues 29-35, which at the time was a bit of a surprise as the series was in full swing and gearing up for Blackest Night by introducing the other lanterns of the emotional spectrum, but looking back the placement of this re-telling of Green Lanterns origin makes perfect sense as it gives you the origins not just for GL but for many of the major players in Blackest Night and the current comic storyline.

I’m a bit of a Geoff Johns fan, my bookshelf contains not just the singles, but the two trades of Stars and STRIPE, his runs on JSA and Justice Society of America, his Legion of Superheroes arc from Action Comics, and of course his stellar Green Lantern run. Johns had a monumental task in returning Hal Jordan to the DC Universe after he’d been replaced as Green Lantern 10 years ago after he lost his mind, became Parallax and tried to remake the universe in his own image, only to give his life to restart the sun and save humanity; Events that Green Lantern fans weren’t overjoyed about.

Johns did this in the mini-series “Green Lantern: Rebirth” in 2004, where Parallax was revealed as the parasitic embodiment of fear opening the door to the concept of the emotional corps and the various embodiments of the emotional spectrum that are currently the main focus of the 3 ongoing Green Lantern series.

Green Lantern: Secret Origin is a great read, and a perfect origin story; if the movie is half as good as this trade I’ll be a happy cinema goer. Johns delves into Jordan’s psyche and explains that he isn’t a man without fear, he’s a man who has conquered his fears, he’s a man who never gives up and like another great space hero, Han Solo, he doesn’t care about the odds. Like I said earlier “Secret Origin” isn’t just the origin of Green Lantern, Sinestro, Abin Sur, Atrocitus, Hector Hammond, and Black Hand all have parts to play in this story, and Johns does an amazing job of retconning Hal’s silver-age history to make it more streamlined and more entwined with the supporting characters.

The art by Ivan Reis, inker Oclair Albert, and colourist Randy Mayor is stunning, despite being a science fiction drama, the artwork is very grounded and realistic. Everything Reis draws adds to the story, there are quite a few double and single page spreads, but they aren’t the old Image style spreads, that interrupt the storytelling, these provide a cinematic widescreen impact that reminds you that Geoff Johns comes from a movie making background. The double page spreads of Hal walking away from a crashed jet, and of his arrival on the planet Oa are both breathtaking, but couldn’t be more different.

You can’t go wrong by buying Green Lantern: Secret Origin, I give it a huge thumbs up, and this new edition has an introduction from man in a box Ryan Reynolds and a few pages with information and images from the film. If you like the movie buy this to see how it started, if you don’t like the film buy this to see what it should have been like.

FIGHTING AMERICAN

Review by Andrew James

Written by Joe Simon | Art by Jack Kirby | Published by Titan Books | Format: 200pp, TPB

“Joe Simon and Jack Kirby – the legendary creative team behind Captain America – were responsible for the wildest and most imaginative superheroes of comics’ Golden Age. In 1954 they created Fighting American, who alongside his trusted sidekick Speedboy, was always there to do battle with the crazed Commies and deranged deadbeats that dared threaten the American Way!”

Fighting American is very much a product of its time, created in 1954 by writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, and interestingly given all the legal battles going on over Captain America – creator-owned, it has been called the Doctor Strangelove of comic books. It obviously has its roots in Captain America territory, with a commie-smashing, flag-inspired costumed, patriotic, everyman hero, who starts the story as someone unable to serve his country but willing to stand for justice and the American Way.

The title originally only ran for 7 issues, from April 1954 to April 1955, which are all presented in this paperback along with issue 1 of volume 2 from October 1966, and an unpublished issue 2 of the same volume. The quality of the artwork varies, due to the age of the original work and the difficulty in finding the original art, with the unpublished issue 2 looking the cleanest. All issues have been restored and recoloured by Harry Mendryk, who uses a halftone style of colour reproduction that bridges the gap between the large, badly registered halftone screens of the 1950s and the almost invisible, tightly registered, 300 lines per inch screens used in printing now. You can see the beginnings of the “Kirby style” that people still reference today, but it’s not as well developed as it is in his later work.

Fighting American is a weird comic, the hero is a crippled war veteran, who’s mind is transferred to the enhanced body of his dead brother by the U.S. military; Nelson is then forced to pretend to be his brother – newscaster, Johnny Flagg, for the rest of his life, whilst running around with his youthful sidekick, Speedboy, fighting “The Reds” as the Fighting American.

Fighting American is almost an American version of 2000ADs Judge Dredd in tone, with colourfully named villains, often sporting physical deformities. There’s The League of Handsome Devils (ugly men who wear dashing masks whilst the mug and murder people), Poison Ivan, Jiseppi the Jungle Boy, and many more. Within just a few issues Fighting American is already sporting quite a rogue’s gallery. One of the weirdest stories is Home-Coming Year 3000, where 1950s Nelson/Johnny dreams about a Johnny Flagg of the future who explores strange new worlds and seeks out new life and civilisations. Like I said weird, and more at home in early 2000AD.

If you’re a fan of Simon and Kirby or 1950s commie-smashing comics then this will fit nicely in your collection, plus it’s an interesting slice of history and commentary from the 1950s.

THE BOYS: VOLUMES 7 & 8

Review by Phil Wheat

THE BOYS, VOLUME 7: THE INNOCENTS
W:
Garth Ennis | A: Darick Robertson, Russ Braun, & John McCrea (with Keith Burns)

“Convinced that Hughie was never what he seemed, Butcher goes to see the Legend- and sets something terrible in motion for our little Scots pal…”

THE BOYS, VOLUME 8: HIGHLAND LADDIE
W: Garth Ennis | A: Darick Robertson, John McCrea

“Everyone’s favourite pint-sized Scotsman from The Boys gets his own origin story. Wee Hughie heads home to the semi-idyllic Scottish seaside town where he grew up. All Hughie wants is some time to himself, to return to the bosom of family and friends, and get his head together after two years of unimaginable chaos. But the familiar surroundings he craves are not all they might be.”

Garth Ennis’ The Boys is one of the most notorious comics on the market today. Originally released via DC’s Wildstorm imprint, the book was swiftly cancelled when DC realised exactly what kind of book they were putting out each month. Swiftly picked up by Dynamite, the book has since gone from strength to strength, poking fun at, and at the same time extoling the virtues of, superhero-dom.

Volume 7 collects issues 39-47 of The Boys, whilst Vol.8 collects issues 1-6 of the mini-series Highland Laddie. Combined these two latest volumes cover one of the most pivotal points in the long-running comic book series, which looks likely to change Wee Hughie’s outlook on supes (superheroes) forever. Featuring the same misogynistic, juvenile, crude and downright hilarious storytelling and the same high standards of artwork we’ve come to expect from the series, The Boys Vols. 7 and 8 are an essential purchase.

GREEK STREET VOL. 2: CASSANDRA COMPLEX

Review by Andrew James

By Peter Milligan & Davide Gianfelice | Published by Titan Books/Vertigo | Format: 144 page TPB

“Behind the girls, gangs and glamour lurks a doom that’s hard to predict but impossible to avoid. Within its grasp, a man running from sights he can never unsee is caught up in an odyssey of sex and slaughter; a cop on the trail of a monster gets lost in a labyrinth of lies; a lord’s awful appetites consume the only people he truly loves; and a girl who can glimpse things to come envisions a bloody house of death.

Peter Milligan’s re-imagining of the brutal and visceral tragedies of Ancient Greece played out on the mean streets of modern-day London returns. In this second volume a shocking new drama unfolds on Greek Street as disturbed mother-killer Eddie and aristo visionary Sandy try to get to London where Dedalus investigates a suicide and an urban witch tries to get through to a monster.”

Greek Street: Cassandra Complex follows main protagonist and mother-killer Eddie (Oedipus) as he and girlfriend Sandy (Cassandra) try to get to London to enlist the help of detective Dedalus (Daedalus) who is trying to track down the killer from the first volume. Greek gang family, The Fureys, are also looked in on, as they battle against a Chinese gang and impose their will on Lord Menon (King Agamemnon).

There are some nice touches in this series, such as Chantel, stripper and one of the chorus, delivering a prologue at the start of each chapter, but despite Milligan’s writing and the very fine art of Davide Gianfelice something feels missing. Greek Street: Cassandra Complexis an enjoyable, if dark, read and looks amazing; in a recent review of Daredevil: Reborn I commented that Gianfelice’s artwork reminded me of Rick Leonardi’s art from the late 80s. In Greek Street there is less of that influence, as there is very little action in comparison to Daredevil, but Gianfelice and colourist Patricia Mulvihill add a nourish flair to the art without negatively affecting the good storytelling we’ve seen before on Northlanders.

This series had a lot going for it, Peter Milligan was great as the writer of Shade The Changing Man, Enigma, and X-Statics, Gianfellice has produced solid work since the Italian Dylan Dog, it’s a retelling of a classic tale that definitely feels like a Vertigo comic, but there’s just some spark missing that Y: The Last Man, DMZ, and Northlanders all had early on. There was potential in the concept, but DC have cancelled the series after issue 16. On the plus side – buy 3 volumes you’ll have all of Greek Street, which won’t be a detriment to your book shelf.

FABLES VOLUME 14: WITCHES

Review by Andrew James

By Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, David Lapham, Jim Fern, Andrew Pepoy, & Craig Hamilton| Published by Titan Books/Vertigo | Format: TPB, 192pp

“In the wreckage that was once Fabletown, the sinister Mister Dark is building a web of fear and anger that threatens to ensnare any Fable that strays too close. Cut off from the Woodland building’s business office and its trove of magical weapons, the exiled free Fables now must turn to their oldest and most powerful members – the witches and warlocks who once occupied the Woodland’s 13th floor – to defeat this latest adversary. But even as those still trapped within the business office struggle against a legion of uncaged foes, rivalries within the Fables’ sorcerous community threaten to fracture their united front – and open them up to destruction.”

Fables Volume 14: Witches collects issues 86 to 93 of the multiple Eisner award winning Vertigo series, and covers life at the farm after the free Fables are forced to flee from Mister Dark who now inhabits the ruins of Bullfinch Street. The first chapter, illustrated by Jim Fern, introduces us to magician Dunster Happ, and reveals that the Empire actually did some good by capturing magical threats to power Empire magicians.

The next five chapters, illustrated by British legend Mark Buckingham, cover Bufkin’s fight against the freed Baba Yaga in the untethered business office. It’s great to see the flying monkey in the spotlight where he reveals his secret power – knowledge, the most dangerous power of all. Plus it’s pointed out that despite his comedy monkey antics, Bufkin was a member of the armed forces and is no stranger to combat.

These chapters also follow Frau Totenkinder as she prepares for her inevitable confrontation with Mister Dark, and the machinations of the other witches of the 13th floor, particularly Ozma, who’s keen to take her turn as the coven’s leader. The last chapter, illustrated by David Lapham, checks in with the residents of the kingdom of Haven, where Flycatcher has two difficult decisions to make.

Willingham’s writing and Buckingham’s art are as good as ever, just look at page 91 where tiny Bufkin confronts the page filling all powerful Genie. Witches is as good as previous volumes, but as Fables heads towards issue 100 the sense of urgency and mystery that were a huge part of earlier stories is waning a little – but only a little, and I sense this will change once Mister Dark is established properly in New York.

Let’s face it if you’re already a fan of Fables you’ll be buying the latest trade, if you’re not, then I doubt you’d start with volume 14, so go out and buy Fables volume 1: Fables in Exile now!

SWEET TOOTH VOLUME 2: IN CAPTIVITY

Review by Andrew James

By Jeff Lemire & Jose Villarrubia | Published by Titan Books/Vertigo | Format: TPB, 144pp

“Gus thought the man called Jepperd was his protector, his friend. But then Jepperd brought him to a terrible place where half-animal hybrid children like Gus are kept in cages. A place where hard men conduct lethal experiments in a vain attempt to unravel the secret of the plague that has ravaged the world. These men sense Gus is special, and they’ll get to the bottom of what makes him that way… by any means necessary.”

I’ve not had the chance to read the first volume of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, but I’ve seen the splash this Vertigo title has made, with its favourable comparisons to Vertigo’s other award winning post-apocalyptic quest series – Y: The Last Man.

To set the scene, if like me you’re a newcomer to Sweet Tooth – A decade ago, a horrible disease raged across the world like a forest fire, killing billions. Even more mysterious is that the only children born since are a new breed of human/animal hybrids. Gus is young boy with a sweet soul, a sweeter tooth – and the features of a deer. He has lived his entire life in isolation, deep in the forest with his father, a kind but zealous man. But when Gus’s father dies, violent drifter, called Jepperd takes Gus under his wing acting as his protector, and eventually substitute father.

Lemire’s artwork has an ugly beauty to it, not my usual cup of tea, but it works well in this post-apocalyptic setting and with the hybrid children. Some of his page layouts in this volume remind me of Gibbon’s Watchmen, with its nine-panel grids. Like Y: The Last Man before it, each question answered in Sweet Tooth leads to more questions, like why is Gus the oldest animal-hybrid alive? What was his dad up to? What was in the bag that Jepperd received as payment for betraying Gus?

You’ll realise when reading this book that it’s not all about Sweet Tooth, Jepperd is very much Yin to Gus’s Yang, and his story didn’t end with his betrayal of Gus. In fact his story is older than Gus’s and even more haunting.

Sweet Tooth isn’t for everyone, but if you’re already a Vertigo reader or you’re looking for something different, you won’t be disappointed by Sweet Tooth. This is what The Road should have been!

NEMESIS

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Mark Millar | Art by Steve McNiven | Distributed by Titan Books

After the huge success of Kick-Ass the big question on everyone’s lips was just how Mark Millar would follow-up what became a phenomenal hit comic book…

It turns out Nemesis was the answer.

Partnering with artist Steve McNiven – whom Millar had previously worked with to great success on Wolverine: Old Man Logan and the epic Civil War – Millar flipped the classic tale of wealthy playboy turned superhero on its head and asked “What would happen if the smartest, toughest, costumed hero in the world was totally evil?” Yes, this is Batman gone bad (for want of a better example).

The first thing that hits you about Nemesis is the totally cinematic style in which both the story plays out and the way McNiven draws each panel and page – this comes as no surprise given Millar’s experience on Kick-Ass. The story is split down into typical movie “acts”: prologue, first act, second act, third/final act and then epilogue, and it works – at least here in graphic novel form, how well it translated in single issues I don’t know.

Like Kick-Ass before it, a major part of this books success is the art. Kick-Ass has John Romita Jr., Nemesis has Steve McNiven, who’s art which both brings out the best in Millar’s Hollywood-esque script and brings a demented grotesquery to the characters; and let me say this – McNiven really knows how to bring viscera alive on the page, man is Nemesis gory! People being splatted by trains, heads blown off, eyes gouged out, bodies exploding and a knock-down, drag-out bloody fist fight are just some of the gory “highlights” to be found in this book! It takes the OTT action of Kick-Ass and turns it up to 11.

Now despite featuring plenty of action and satisyting my need for a good bit of comic book gore, Nemesis is missing something Kick-Ass had in spades. Heart. Having its main protagonist be a sick evil bastard means we the reader have no empathy for the character and even the “hero” of the book, Chief Morrow, is written as a two dimensional (pardon the pun) character. Which is possibly why traditional comic fans haven’t taken to Nemesis as much as they did Kick-Ass.

If I’m honest, it’s actually hard to write about Nemesis without giving away the huge twist at the end of the book. A twist which took me by surprise and brought a huge grin to my face as I read the final few pages. Suffice to say that the story takes a lot of influence from the classic tale The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell , with Millar and McNiven infusing this update with a post-modern twist playing on the publics current obsession with superheroes.

SUPERMAN EARTH ONE

Review by Andrew James

Written by J Michael Straczynski | Artist: Shane Davis | Published by Titan Books/DC | Format: HC, 128pp

“Clark Kent is different. He can fly. He can see through walls. Burn objects with his gaze. He is a god among mortals. But he is alone and without a purpose. Like most 20-year-olds he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He can choose from anything: sports, science, finance or media. The sky is the limit… if he conceals his powers and his true identity from the world.”

DCs new Earth One line of graphic novels allows established writers and artists to re-examine some of DCs most popular character’s origins without being constrained by DC continuity past or present, and without having to cause a Crisis. Superman Earth One is the first in the line by, ex-Marvel and current DC revamper, J. Michael Straczynski and up and coming DC artist Shane Davis.

I’ve never been a Superman fan, I’ve got the odd comic and the films and TV shows on DVD, but I never really connected to him like I did with Marvel’s flawed heroes or DCs slightly less perfect heroes, such as Batman and Green Lantern(s). The only Superman comic I’ve raved about in the past was Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen (the best Superman comic EVER and it’s not even about the ‘real’ Superman), but I really enjoyed Superman Earth One. JMS writes Clark Kent as if he was Peter Parker, using his superhuman abilities to get the job of his dreams, or rather jobs plural, but like Parker he has a sense of responsibility, he wants a job with a large salary so that he can look after his widowed mother. Despite his mother and late father wanting him to use his gifts to help the world, Clark just wants to fit in with humanity.

This is an interesting take on Superman, and makes him more believable than the boy-scout do-gooder he’s often seen as in the comics. The only reason he dons the suit his mother made him is to hide who he is whilst he fights the alien invaders who threaten his adoptive planet in their search for him.

Overall, JMS’s writing is solid, with the story never quite going in the direction you expect. Davis’s artwork is good and serves the story well, with people and places looking “real”, but I do wish there was a bit more oomph to it. The graphic novel itself is presented well with a nice bit of UV spot varnish on the embossed ‘S’ logo under Clark’s shirt, it’s just a shame they didn’t add a bit of varnish to his glowing red eyes. A decent read, but I’m still more of a Batman fan, and I’m looking forward to see what Gary Frank does in Batman Earth One.

BRIGHTEST DAY: VOLUME ONE

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi | Art by Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Fernando Pasarin, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado

“Once dead, twelve heroes and villains have been resurrected by a white light expelled deep from within the centre of the earth. Called a miracle by many and a sign of the apocalypse by others, the reasons behind their rebirth remain a mystery. Now Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Deadman, Jade, Osiris, Hawk, Captain Boomerang and Zoom must discover the reason behind their return and uncover the secret that binds them all.”

The follow up to DC Comics’ huge chart-topping event Blackest Night, Brightest Day: Volume One is once again written by Geoff Johns, teaming up with Peter J. Tomasi on a tale that is just as epic and DC universe shaking as its predecessor. The first of three, volume one picks up exactly where Blackest Night left off, with twelve once-dead DC characters stood around looking very confused – and they’re not the only ones!

Brightest Day: Volume One follows our 12 heroes as they try to figure out why they’re back from the dead and at what cost. Focusing mainly on Deadman, the once ghostly hero of the DC universe now reborn in flesh, as he bounces around the lives of his fellow reborn comrades, all the while conversing with the White Lantern ring he now wears upon his finger. And that’s pretty much it… Yes, volume one is all set-up and no pay off, with the actual crux of what the heroes were brought back for only laid out in the books final few pages.

To say this book was written by Geoff Johns, one of DC Comics’ superstar writers (and guiding light of DC’s future movie output), there’s actually not that much of a script or story and there’s certainly hardly any explanation as to who, what, why and wherefore – all of which left me feeling a little cold. Thanks god then for some great artwork to look at is all I can say. Vibrantly coloured, with plenty of fluidity and a real sense of action, the art throughout the book was the one thing that really kept me reading. However, I do have one bug-bear with the art, and it concerns one of my favourite characters (well, thanks to Infinite Crisis now ex-favourite), Maxwell Lord – there’s some glaring differences to how Lord is drawn, not only compared to other DC books in which he appears, but also within the pages of this one book. I totally understand that there were a number of artists working on the books, but when each issue is presented together it, at least for me, really stood out – but hey, perhaps my many years of JLI old and current have made me bias. Who knows?

Now I’ll freely admit I’m not as much of a DC Comics reader as I am a Marvel Comics one; as someone who’s dipped in and out of comics over the years I’ve always felt that DC books relied more on readers knowledge of their entire gallery of characters as well as long since past events, and I still do – especially when it comes to huge universe-crossing events like Blackest Night and Brightest Day. Plus, unlike Marvel’s huge event books which allow readers to get all of the pertinent central story in the main title and then expanding the story in individual books (and if you don’t read those it won’t affect your enjoyment of the event), DC tend to use their main event books as jumping off points – making it so readers must buy all the individual books of the characters involved to get a clear picture of the event. Which is why by the end of Brightest Day: Volume One I was just as confused as the DC characters taking part!

All of which leaves me in a quandry. I’m not excited enough to want to run out and read the next volume, but then again I really want to read the next volume in the hope I’ll actually get more of the story! So what wins? Lack of excitement or curiosity?

MOUSE GUARD: LEGENDS OF THE GUARD VOL.1

Review by Andrew James

By: David Petersen, Jeremy Bastian, Ted Naifeh, Alex Kain, Sean Rubin, Alex Sheikman, Terry Moore, Gene Ha, Lowell Francis, Jason Alexander, Nate Pride, Katie Cook, Guy Davis, Karl Kerschl, Craig Rousseau, Mark Smylie, João Lemos | Published by Titan Books/Archaia | Format: HC, 144 pp

“Inside the June Alley Inn, located in the western mouse city of Barkstone, mice gather to tell tales, each trying to outdo the other. A competition, of sorts, begins. The rules: Every story must contain one truth, one lie and have never been told in that tavern before. With the winner getting his bar tab cleared, fantastic stories are spun throughout the evening. Legends of the Guard is a new Mouse Guard anthology series featuring the work of artists and storytellers handpicked by series creator David Petersen.”

Despite my strange fear of animal comics I’ve been a huge fan of Mouse Guard since the first oddly shaped issue caught my eye. The seemingly endless wait for the first hardback collection of Mouse Guard: Autumn 1152 was well worth it as it’s easily one of the best collections produced by any comic company. Archaia/Titan Book’s attention to detail was extraordinary and the first beautifully illustrated collection was soon joined by Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 and the Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game (worth picking up just for the map printed on the inside of the dust jacket – genius!) on the shelf I save for my comic book works of art.

Until Legend of the Guard, Petersen has been the only artist to illustrate Mouse Guard, so I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d be picking up this anthology, even produced by artists and writers of the calibre of Moore, Ha, Alexander, Davis and Rousseau. But the way in which Petersen presents the many varied stories as yarns spun in a rustic inn to entertain the owner, linked by his amazingly detailed art and writing which lets you into the hearts of the patrons and adds another level to the stories they’re telling.

This is a must have for all Mouse Guard fans, and every one of you will choose a different winner from the contestants inside June Alley Inn. Petersen has chosen his storytellers wisely, and there isn’t one bad story in the bunch, each creator and tale adds to the Mouse Guard world, fleshing out its history and lore. Even the Inn adds to the lore, you’ll see painting on the walls, which were the covers for the individual issues and are reprinted in the back of the book. If Petersen doesn’t tell some of these tales in the next volume of Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, I’ll have tell them myself with the roleplaying game.

VICTORIAN UNDEAD: SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. ZOMBIES

Review by Rob Orme

Written by Ian Edginton | Artist Davide Fabbri | Published by Titan Books

>A mixing of genres in the most epic of fashions – Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson battle a zombie outbreak that threatens to overwhelm London. In 1854, a meteor streaked across London’s skies, bringing with it a zombie plague. For twenty years, Her Majesty’s Secret Service kept the threat under control. But now a dastardly fiend has begun using the zombies in an attempt to overthrow the Victorian Government. Holmes and Watson must face off against their favourite foe, MI-5 and zombies at the same time…

I have often thought that even the most tepid of Movies/Books/TV Series or whatever can be improved by adding zombies. For example some of the cross-overs I am hoping for in 2011 include Entourage vs Zombies, Batman vs Zombies and there’s a glimmer of hope for meerkat manor vs Zombies. I was going to include Sex and the City vs Zombies in there too, but then I realised that would have been hugely tautological.

Writer Ian Eddington clearly shares the same passion, fusing together Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories The Hound of the Baskervilles; A Study in Scarlet; The Sign of Four; and The Valley of Fear, and it turns out it’s a much more enjoyable tale than I had first thought. Whilst the artwork itself isn’t exactly mind blowing, the story is interesting and retains the signature Homes wit and camaraderie with his partner Dr. Watson. It doesn’t quite have the “crack factor” like other zombie graphic novels such as my current favourite The Walking Dead and suffers from trying to cram lots of action and dialogue into a very short space, but at the very least it appeases the appetite for zombie pollinations.

A SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY

Review by Rob Orme

Writer: Denise Mina | Artist: Antonio Fuso | Published by Titan Books

According to Denise Mina, “This story came out of King Lear and rollicking house prices in Britain” and it is an extremely well paced and orchestrated tale of how a family’s fortune and legacy can tear them apart. Be warned Miss Mina, I’m a big fan.

Meet the Ushers (the name is no coincidence). Parents, Ted and Biddy. Grandma Martha. Children William, Amy and Sam. Just a normal, middle class family gathered around the table on Christmas Day. Until they start dying very violent deaths. One-by-one. As secrets and resentments boil to the surface, it becomes clear there’s more than one Usher with a motive for killing off the others. But in the end, the truth turns out to be far more shocking than anyone in the ill-fated family could have imagined.

This is a strong addition to my new-found enthusiasm for graphic novels and the noir-esque styling by Antonio Fuso perfectly suits the crime tale which is darker than a sit down meal with Fred and Mary West. Overall this sick tale about a sick, twisted, dysfunctional family is pure brilliance. Whilst 2010 was dominated by The Walking Dead, I have a feeling that Denise Mina will be my new found favourite of 2011.

Withdraw some of that Christmas money now and go buy a copy.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Review by Jack Kirby

Written by Chris Ryall | Art by Zach Howard

Shaun of the Dead remains perhaps one of the best loved films of recent years, so it is unsurprising that the film lives on, now in graphic novel form. A collation of the four issue run by IDW Publishing in 2005, Shaun of the Dead was adapted from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s screenplay by Chris Ryall and illustrated by Zach Howard.

The comic follows the plot and script of the film pretty much exactly. Middle management drone Shaun finds himself dumped on the eve of a full-scale zombie outbreak. Armed with a cricket bat and selection of vinyl, Shaun and his best friend Ed attempt to rescue friends and family and make for the safety of the pub.

Whilst anything connected to the film provokes a lot of goodwill from me, the graphic novel is difficult to wholly recommend as it so exactly mirrors the film. You could practically read it along with the DVD if you chose to. So whilst the plot is cleverly put together, the characters interesting and the comedy punctuated with a surprising amount of pathos, anyone familiar with the film is not going to be surprised by anything in this book, with the minor exception of a few panels that detail exactly how Shaun gave the zombies ‘the slip’. Worse, a fair amount of the sound-based humour – such as when zombie-Philip turns off the car stereo or the various jukebox based gags – is lost on the page.

Fortunately, like a riot van packed with machine gun toting SWAT soldiers, Zach Howard’s artwork pretty much saves the day. His sketchy, frantic style looks great and the characters have a vibrancy and sense of movement about them. Amusingly, Pegg and Frost have been slightly caricatured to look more like the action heroes they imagine themselves to be. There is also a collection of the various covers at the back of the book, all of which are quite brilliant.

So while the casual fan won’t get a great deal from this graphic novelisation, Shaun’s most ardent devotees will most likely enjoy seeing the story in this new medium. A good last-minute stocking filler for the Rom Zom Com fan in your life.

WWE HEROES: RISE OF THE FIRST BORN

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Keith Champagne | Pencils by Andy Smith & Tom Nguyen | Published by Titan Books

Since the dawn of time the powers of good and evil have been locked in unending battle and the firstborn children of light and darkness have been reincarnated time and again. In each new generation these children are amongst the mightiest warriors of the age, one destined to protect and the other destined to destroy. Now, in the present day, where else would these champions be found than within the ranks of the WWE? Battle lines will be drawn as the best (and worst) in sports entertainment fight for the biggest prize of all the future of the human race!

WWE Heroes: Rise of the First Born sees some of the WWE’s biggest superstars, including Triple H, Batista, John Cena and The Undertaker square off against demons, religious zealots and each other, in a tale that mixes wrestling with the supernatural as one of the WWE’s roster turns out to be one of a pair of resurrected immortals that have battles throughout the centuries, to their final showdown – at Wrestlemania!

Let’s get this out of the way first – this book is NOT for the average comic fan, this is aimed squarely at WWE fans, especially those that really buy into the storylines. It’s a rather strange book in all honesty… On the one hand it features even more ridiculous dialogue and wrestling action than an episode of WWE Raw, and on the other it’s a really rather traditional (if a little stoic) supernatural demon story – and the two mixed together make for an odd combination.

But you have to hand it to writer Keith Champagne, he does at least manage to make this story readable – in lesser hands this story could have been a total disaster, as it is now it’s merely confusing. The artwork in WWE Heroes: Rise of the First Born is just as hit and miss too – on one page the likenesses will be spot on, the next everyone will look nothing like their real-life counterpart, some even look identical, but a least Smith’s demons (sort of ) look the part – the evil, if slightly camp, jolly green giant looking one would be right at home in the WWE roster!

As a comic fan I can find little to recommend this book to other comic fans, and as a casual wrestling viewer I found the whole thing to be more ridiculous and camp than the infamous gay marriage episode of WWE Raw…

STAR WARS THE FORCE UNLEASHED II – THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

Review by Andrew James

Script by Haden Blackman | Art by Omar Francia with Manuel Silva | Colours by Diego Rodriguez | Published by Titan Books, RRP £9.99

“The end of The Force Unleashed left the Star Wars galaxy poised at the brink of civil war. But before that can happen, Darth Vader has another plan already in play – and he needs bounty hunter Boba Fett to help him! Hired to recapture a rogue clone of Vader’s secret apprentice, Fett traverses the stars, following a very definite trail while he forms a plan to bring in such a challenging bounty.”

Set 12 months before the battle of Yavin (Star Wars: A New Hope) and shortly after events in the first Force Unleashed game & multimedia event, Star Wars The Force Unleashed II follows the story in the game thru the eyes of fan favourite Bounty Hunter Boba Fett. Like the Sean Williams penned novel (reviewed earlier on Blogomatic 3000), which follows the story mainly from Juno’s point of view Haden Blackman’s graphic novel only intersects Starkiller’s story a few times, Boba either interacts with Darth Vader, fights Juno, Kota and Starkiller’s droid PROXY, or sees the aftermath of Starkiller’s battles with the Empire. The closest you get to a Fett – Starkiller face off is when he encountered one of Starkiller’s deranged clones.

Without the page count and more in-depth writing of the prose novel the graphic novel comes across as a bit of a meaningless tie-in. Many scenes don’t ring true, from the fact that Fett has a partner, both in a business and romantic sense, his being defeated by a damaged PROXY whilst having no trouble taking down Jedi, his far too easy killing of the Gorog which Starkiller has so much trouble with in the book and game, to his seemingly casual acceptance of the fact that two people have been betraying him. There’s a nice twist towards the end of the story, but you’d expect a greater level of retribution from a proud Mandalorian like Boba Fett, not crying like an emo bitch in the rain! It’s hard to feel sorry for a bounty hunter who’s spent the book killing the good guys.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is okay, but after reading previous comics by Blackman and knowing how involved he is in the Star Wars universe, I would have expected him to stick to Star Wars continuity a bit more rather than alter a character’s personality to tell a story.

On the plus side Omar Francia’s, and Manuel Silva’s artwork is great, especially when combined with the colouring of Diego Rodriguez. Character faces aren’t an exact likeness to what you see in the films and games, that’s not uncommon in adaptation and tie-ins, but they are close and it’s easy to tell who’s who, which some more established comic artists still have trouble with. What the art team on Star Wars The Force Unleashed II excel at are the high tech sci-fi elements, blasters and armour look spot on, and spacecraft look amazing. Boba Fett always looks on model, and the splash page of Slave 1 half way into the book is brilliant. The colouring of the stars and nebula makes the spacecraft stand out from the page, and Francia’s vista shots of Cato Neimoidia and Kamino look very “Star Wars”.

My final thoughts are that the Star Wars The Force Unleashed II graphic novel is definitely worth a read, but not an essential purchase, unless you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan and want the full Force Unleashed II multimedia experience. If you’re a fan of Omar Francia I can definitely recommend his work in the Mass Effect: Redemption comic from Dark Horse, samples of which are available here http://omarfrancia-comics.blogspot.com/

THE SIMON & KIRBY SUPERHEROES

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby | Introduction by Neil Gaiman

Beginning with the Black Owl in December 1940, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby set the standard for costumed heroes, and despite creating some of the most iconic characters in comic book history – such as the legendary Captain America – there are some Simon & Kirby characters that haven’t stood the test of time and have faded in relative obscurity. However The Simon & Kirby Superheroes from Titan Books looks set to put that right.

The only compendium authorized by both Joe Simon and the estate of the late Jack Kirby, this massive full-colour hardback features some of the “lost” classics restored to to the former glory (and in some cases even better than the original) and on top of that, The Simon & Kirby Superheroes features three NEVER seen before stories!

The comics in this collection are all of a certain age: The Black Owl, Stuntman and The Vagabond Prince are all from the 1940′s and have an innocence about them in both story and art. Despite having superhero leanings the three characters do seem very much based in the noir style, with an air of mystery and romance about them that was a common theme throughout the decade across all media. Moving into the 50s, and by this time Simon & Kirby are in their prime – with Fighting American taking a leaf out of Captain America’s book (who was also created by Simon & Kirby) and is a typical “star-spangled” hero, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. The other big superhero character that rounds out this massive tome is The Fly – who eerily reminded me of another rather famous insect-based superhero, he of the arachnid variety!

The Simon & Kirby Superheroes is a great look back at the beginnings of comic-dom and two of the industries greatest comic creators, lovingly put together with the kind of care and attention that these true classics deserve. This book isn’t going to appeal to everyone, I (sadly) can’t see many manga-obsessed teens picking this up, but they should. If you have, or have ever had, an interest in the history of comics then you should really read this book to get a perspective on the birth of a genre that we, and Hollywood, now seem to take for granted.

A GOD SOMEWHERE

Review by Andrew James

Written by John Arcudi | Drawn by Peter Snejbjerg | Coloured by Bjarne Hansen

After a mysterious disaster, a young man named Eric finds that he has just as mysteriously developed extraordinary abilities. He sets out to be mankind’s first true superhero, but his solitary position in the world isolates him in ways no ordinary human could understand. A God Somewhere charts the arc of Eric’s evolution from man to something more, as seen through the eyes of his family and best friend.

I’ve enjoyed Arcudi’s writing on BPRD, and liked Snejbjerg’s art on both BPRD: War on Frogs and Starman, but had no idea what to expect when I picked up their new graphic novel – A God Somewhere.

It’s rare these days that an original graphic novel isn’t released first as a hardback, especially when published by one of the big two. It’s a strange book, a Wildstorm trade paperback, that first started off life as a proposed DC Comics mini-series. A God Somewhere‘s origin as a mini-series is apparent in the chapter breaks and pacing of the story, but none of these observations are criticisms, it’s just the book feels like a trade papaerback of a Vertigo mini-series rather than an original graphic novel.

None of these observations detract from an amazing story from John Arcudi, which is well illustrated by Peter Snejbjerg. The story is told by Sam, the friend of two brothers, one of whom mysteriously receives superhuman abilities which turn him into a modern day superman. But what happens if superman can’t take the pressure?

Arcudi uses the origin tale to examine friendship and family, religion and science, empathy and indifference. He takes the idea of joe average with super powers and asks how the world would see him and how he would see himself – helpful hero, avenging god, or aphetic immortal?

I don’t want to go into too much detail as the story doesn’t quite go where you expect it to. In fact the most shocking moments come from nowhere, and leave you staring at the page wondering what is wrong with the ‘hero’ and why is he being such a massive tool to people who obviously care about him.

A lot of praise must go to Peter Snejbjerg, who’s art is both beautiful and ugly. As the story is told from Sams point of view the main way into Eric’s thoughts and motivations are thru Snejbjerg’s excellent facial expressions – Eric starts off cocky and go lucky, but becomes shocked and wide eyed once her gets his powers, this becomes a religious fervour, then anger and finally apathy as he becomes more ‘godlike’. The flip side to the great facial expressions is the realistic violence and gore that come with the use of Erics powers, limbs torn off, eyeballs literally popping out. The violence feels similar to that used in Preacher or The Wire, it’s not there for effect, it’s there to ground the story and show you this isn’t Earth-0 or Earth-616, it’s our Earth.

I’ve only recently taken an interest in who colours what I’m reading, but Bjarne Hansen colours make A God Somewhere feel even more like a Vertigo comic, and it’s no surprise when I look for his previous credits and find he coloured Vertigo’s House of Secrets, DCs Superman for all Seasons, and even some BPRD War on Frogs, teaming again with Arcudi and Snejbjerg. Hansen uses bright colours for his flash backs to show people where friendlier and happier, and darker more muted colours as time passes and relationships get more strained.

Overall A God Somewhere is a thought provoking read with bold emotive artwork, and I would recommend it to mature readers who are not easily shocked. If you enjoyed Oeming and Soma’s Rapture, you will like A God
Somewhere
, which examines some of the same themes.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith | Adapted by Tony Lee | Illustrated by Cliff Richards

Based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same name released by Quirk Books, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes from writer Tony Lee (Harker, Doctor Who) and artist Cliff Richards (Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and follows the merry adventures of the Bennett sisters as they choose which suitor to marry… and train with ninjas in order to prepare for the impending zombie apocalypse!

I was very interested to see how writer Tony Lee would adapt Pride and Prejudice and Zombies into the graphic novel format as the book, like the original Jane Austen tale, is a wordy affair. Thankfully Lee manages to tell the story with a excellent script that gets the story across without too many speech bubbles and long wordy scenes – helped in part by Richards amazing artwork. In fact the pairing of Lee and Richards seems to be a perfect fit – each one complimenting the other to bring us what is a brilliant graphic novel, one that truly surpassed my expectations.

Cliff Richards stark black and white illustration fits nicely with the idea that this is a period piece, and his choice of paneling? Amazing! There’s a real filmic feel to the action when Richards breaks out from the traditional style of comic panels, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in the sequence where Elizabeth is on the way to London on a stage coach and it’s attacked by hoards of zombies. Richards uses a ‘widescreen’ five panel page, which looks very film-like, but then on the very next page the panels are all breaking down, and it looks like someone has taken snapshots during a huge fight (I wish I could find a scan of the page to show you) – it’s just one in a set of brilliant choices by Richards, that really helps to make Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ fight scenes stand out.

There’s plenty of other extraordinary sequences in the book too – but none more so than Elizabeth training with ninjas! That entire scene is made of pure awesome, and it contains one thing I always wanted to see… Someone being strangled with their own intestines! Yes folks, this book is definitely not for kids! (Well maybe big kids like me). Kudos to Lee and Richards for including that in the book.

I could go on and on about how good this graphic novel is. There really is nothing bad to say about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Lee and Richards have done a superb job of adapting the book, it’s really everything you could wish for in a comic adaptation. If you’re a fan of Seth Grahame-Smith’s original book you’ll love this graphic novel and if you haven’t read the book yet? Don’t bother! Pick up this instead! I have a feeling I’ll be disappointed by the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies after reading this…

WOLVERINE: PRODIGAL SON

Review by Phil Wheat

Written by Antony Johnston | Illustrated by Wilson Tortosa

Released by Del Rey Manga is Wolverine: Prodigal Son, a new take on the Wolverine mythology from writer Antony Johnston (Wasteland) and artist Wilson Tortosa (Top Cow’s Battle of the Planets).

Wolverine: Prodigal Son tells the story of a teenage Logan, left as a baby on the doorstep of a secluded dojo, coming to terms with his powers and abilities whilst preparing to graduate from the Quiet Earth school of martial arts. Besides having to deal with his own insecurities and a desire to fit in, Logan must also deal with a cabal of villains intent on capturing him for scientific research. Whilst the Wolverine of Prodigal Son is younger than other incarnations, he still has the same inherent traits we all know from the many years of Marvel comics, he’s still the rebellious outsider with no recollection of who he is or where he came from…

Taking a leaf from the pages of shonen manga, Wolverine: Prodigal Son features plenty of action, with brilliantly drawn action-packed fight sequences from artist Tortosa. There are also elements of traditional shonen manga throughout the book, in fact the exam chapter of Prodigal Son could easily take place within the realms of a volume of Naruto. The story works hard to establish this Wolverine as a traditional manga hero, rather than relying on the conventions set up in the Marvel universe, and there are some genius story choices within the book. Chapter Seven: “Silent Running” is brilliant scripting, without uttering a single word we see the fear and terror of a lone Wolverine as he makes a hasty return to from New York to Canada.

There has been talk that shonen manga fans won’t rate Prodigal Son highly against the pantheon of other shonen titles such as Naruto, and that die-hard Wolverine aficiandos may not enjoy this origin story, but as a comic fan I can appreciate a decent alternate universe tale when I read one. For me, as a fan of both American comics and manga, Wolverine: Prodigal Son balances the line between a traditional Wolverine tale and manga perfectly. Volume 1 held my interest from start to finish, and the second volume can’t come soon enough.

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