March 16, 2018

The Pull List: 7 March 2018, Part 1

The Roto and the Paznina face each other in one final battle - unless Thea can stop them both. With Shiloh transformed, that may not even be possible any more.

Extremity ends, after 12 sensational issues, and it's almost certainly the best comic of its genre from the past year or two. It's combined a sort of Miyazaki-esque sensibility with a stunningly developed post-apocalyptic world, strong characters, and Johnson's striking and deliberately rough, emotive artwork.

The entire series has been based around the damage caused by war, and the futility of violence, so it is not a surprise that the climax would be focused so closely on one final pitched battle. While unsurprising, it is absolutely not a disappointment: instead it feels perfectly appropriate and hugely satisfying. In essence, Extremity ends the way the reader should want it to. There is a resolution. There is heartbreak. Things are both won and lost. While one could conceivably keep some sort of story going from this point, it would never be as strong as leaving this world and characters right here. This has been one hell of a good series. (5/5)

Extremity #12. Image. Story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. Colours by Mike Spicer.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Giant Days, She-Hulk, and The Wicked + the Divine.

March 15, 2018

The Pull List: 28 February 2018, Part 3

Finding Metamorpho being used to open a gateway to the Dark Multiverse, Mr Terrific and Plastic Man dive in to save him - getting dragged into another dimension in the process. There they meet Phantom Girl, and begin an all-new adventure as the DC Universe's newest super-team.

I have to spoil the last page of this comic to discuss it, so fair warning if you don't want to know.

Broadly speaking I really like this issue. It would have been nice to have gender parity, or even a predominantly female super-team, given the genre's historical penchant for all-male groups bar one woman. That aside, it's a solid group of second-string heroes whom I have often enjoyed, and they are well-written by Jeff Lemire and very nicely illustrated by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Then their first mission is revealed to be tracking down the mysterious Tom Strong - that's where the issue kind of lost me (albeit on the last page).

That would be the Tom Strong created by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse for Wildstorm's America's Best Comics in 1999. A character picked up by DC Comics as part of a wholesale buyout of Wildstorm, and now incorporated for the first time into DC's continuity. This was never Moore's intention, but it forms part of a growing obsession with DC's editorial division in shoe-horning whatever Moore creations they own into whatever they're currently publishing. Watchmen reborn in Doomsday Clock. Tom Strong appearing in The Terrifics. Promethea in Justice League of America. It feels tacky. It feels ugly in the most corporate of fashions. Moore doesn't want this, although at this stage I suspect he's simply washed his hands of the whole affair. Moore's fans likely don't want it either, at least not the majority. That leaves people who don't even know who Tom Strong is, at which point DC would be better off expanding their IP with new characters. This is a neat little comic with a really mercenary edge; what's a reader to do? (3/5)

The Terrifics #1. DC Comics. Written by Jeff Lemire. Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Colours by Marcelo Maiolo.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Doom Patrol/Justice League of America, and Mera: Queen of Atlantis.

March 14, 2018

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Emergence"

It's 22 May 1994, and time for the ante-penultimate episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When a train crashes through Data's holodeck simulation, Picard (Patrick Stewart) orders an assessment of how the data glitch occurred. When the Enterprise unexpectedly goes to warp on its own, it becomes clear that the computer problems are more widespread. Entering into a mish-mash holodeck projection of the Orient Express, Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis) attempt to get to the bottom of things.

Two episodes to go, and with the clock ticking down on The Next Generation, it is time to take one last trip into the holodeck for a victory lap of surreality and whimsy. I really do wish that they hadn't.

March 12, 2018

The Pull List: 28 February 2018, Part 2

15 years ago a group of teenagers stole a map to a hidden treasure and buried it, planning to come back as adults - when the heat had well died down - and collect the treasure for themselves. Now those 15 years are up, and the group has come back together. It's not to collect the treasure, but because one of their number has died - and it may not have been an accident.

Cult Classic: Return to Whisper, by writer Eliot Rahal, artist Felipe Cunha and colourist Dee Cunniffe, is another nostalgic crime book based on children and adults crossing paths. We have already had the likes of 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Night Owl Society, and now Return to Whisper adds its own personal wrinkle to the formula.

The balance between youthful flashbacks and present-day adult life works well, and certainly the stakes get raised a lot faster than I had expected them to be. Cunha's artwork has a simple, independent style that seems par for the course for this kind of a book. There are perhaps a few too many characters - and it's difficult to get a handle on at least half of them - but this is a first issue, so there's always time to get to know them. This is a solid book, but not an exceptional one - the US$1.99 price tag works well in its favour though: a cheap opportunity to test the waters. (3/5)

Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1. Vault Comics. Written by Eliot Rahal. Art by Felipe Cunha. Colours by Dee Cunniffe.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Rat Queens, Saga and X-O Manowar.

March 9, 2018

The Pull List: 28 February 2018, Part 1

Archaia have enjoyed huge success over the years with a string of Jim Henson-derived titles, including comics and graphic novels based on The Dark Crystal, Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller and even long-forgotten unfinished Henson works like A Tale of Sand. Last year they hit a creative goldmine in adapting the abandoned sequel The Power of the Dark Crystal, and for a follow-up they have understanding gone to Henson's beloved feature film Labyrinth for an all-new 12-issue maxi-series.

On the face of it, it all seems like a wonderful idea. They have hired excellent writer Simon Spurrier to script the new project, and decent artist Daniel Bayliss to illustrate it. Sadly once you begin reading the first issue, it all falls into a bit of a heap. It's a prequel.

Yes it's decently written, and yes the art is solid, but at the end of the day no reader needs to know the origin story of Jareth the Goblin King, memorably performed by David Bowie in the original film. Prequels do not provide drama or suspense; at their best - and I find that rare - they offer character insight, but most often they deliver trivia. The hard-core may adore the chance to see how he got to the Labyrinth. For me it's a mystery I never wanted solved. (2/5)

Labyrinth: Coronation #1. Archaia/Boom Studios. Written by Simon Spurrier. Art by Daniel Bayliss. Colours by Dan Jackson.

Under the cut: reviews of Darth Vader, Detective Comics and Doctor Strange.

March 6, 2018

The Pull List: 21 February 2018, Part 2

Back in 2016 comic book editor Shelly Bond was crudely dropped from DC's Vertigo imprint as part of a broader publisher shake-up. Landing on her feet at IDW, she went about setting up her own imprint of original comic book titles. Black Crown has published a couple of books so far, some promising (Assassinistas) and some less so (Kid Lobotomy). With Punk's Not Dead, a new ongoing monthly, I think she has hit the jackpot. If you want a good mature age comic book, this very well may be it. If you want a book to remind you of DC Vertigo at its height, this is even more likely to be your book. Punk's Not Dead has Shelly Bond's editorial insight all over it.

Fergie is a rebellious teenager from a town near Manchester, who - after an unexpected encounter at Heathrow Airport - finds himself visited by what appears to be the spirit of punk singer Sid Vicious. At the same time MI5's top-secret Department for Extra-Usual Affairs is tracking down an imp from hell inside 10 Downing Street.

If you were a fan of Vertigo back in the mid-to-late 1990s, Punk's Not Dead is like putting on a warm, comfortable sweater. It feels immediately familiar, infused with a sense of British pop culture and brilliantly and effectively illustrated. It's funny where it needs to be, and points to a broader supernatural storyline as it goes on. Previous Black Crown books have left me intrigued. This one has me actively excited. (5/5)

Punk's Not Dead #1. Black Crown/IDW. Written by David Barnett. Art by Martin Simmonds. Colours by Dee Cunniffe.

Under the cut: Batwoman, Daredevil, Descender, Doctor Strange: Damnation, Heathen, Invader Zim and Quantum & Woody.

March 5, 2018

Highlander: The Series: "The Sea Witch"

It is 5 December 1992, and time for another episode of Highlander: The Series.

Richie (Stan Kirsch) runs into a former friend, which leads to both of them getting chased down by a local drug syndicate. When Duncan (Adrian Paul) gets involved, he discovers the drug kingpin Alexi Voshin (Stephen Macht) is the same immortal that betrayed him in 1938.

I can go no further in reviewing this episode until I express how disappointing it is to watch an episode of a fantasy television series titled "The Sea Witch", only to discover that the titular witch is not a witch at all, but rather the name of a 1938 Eastern European cargo ship. Way to let the audience down from the outset. On its own, the title suggests any number of cool stories and characters. In reality, "The Sea Witch" is a staggeringly dull waste of time.

March 3, 2018

The Pull List: 21 February 2018, Part 1

Bethany is a young woman travelling a medieval European-style world looking for adventure. She claims to be a minstrel, but that is simply a cover to hide her true identity: Bethany is a necromancer.

The good kind of necromancer, that is, and her first quest - to find a missing boy in the forest - gives her ample opportunity to show how one can raise the dead and still be a good person. This new comic series Songs for the Dead has a warm tone and a rich heart, even though both story and art feel a little limited. Coming via independent publisher Vault Comics, it feels very much like early career work.

That is not intended as a criticism by the way, it simply means that it is worth measuring your expectations before diving in. There is potential in the story, and a likeable protagonist, and while Sam Beck's artwork is perhaps not quite at a professional standard his colours lift it up considerably. I found myself rather taken with this book; with luck it will continue. (3/5)

Songs for the Dead #1. Vault Comics. Written by Andrea Fort and Michael Christopher Heron. Art and colours by Sam Beck.

Under the cut: reviews of Aquaman, Batman, Batman and the Signal, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, and Superman.