April 19, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Lifesigns"

It is 26 February 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Voyager encounters a Vidiian transport with one passenger - a critically ill Vidiian doctor named Danara Pel (Susan Diol). With a neurological implant about to fail, the Doctor (Robert Picardo) transfers Pel's brainwave patterns to Voyager's computers - and creates a holographic body for her to use while he can stabilise her real one. While he cares for her, the Doctor begins to experience romantic feelings for the first time.

"Lifesigns" sees Voyager in classical Star Trek mode, with the Doctor - a character inexperienced with the human condition - experiencing a human emotion for the first time. Much like the Star Trek: The Next Generation showcased Commander Data's first romantic relationship, "Lifesigns" undertakes the first experience of love for the Doctor. It may be a re-used concept, but it still works very well.

April 18, 2018

The Pull List: 4 April 2018, Part 3

As his appointment approaches with the House Un-American Activities Committee, closeted gay playwright Snagglepuss struggles with his friends, his lover and his increasingly unhappy wife.

Police brutality, gay-bashing, identity crises, the tension between art and commerce, cold war paranoia, anti-communist crusades - these are all powerful and worthy subjects to cover in a 1950s period drama. That they're being expressed through a post-modern remix of Hanna Barbera cartoons just makes it deeply weird and unsettling.

It feels as if it shouldn't work, and every issue seems to put more pressure on top - how ludicrous can it get and maintain an authentic sense of drama? So far so good: this is the most surprising book of the year so far. Mark Russell's script is smart, literate and self-aware. Mark Morales and Mike Feehan's art and colours are unusual but effective. This book is just so strange - and strangely wonderful. (4/5)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4. DC Comics. Written by Mark Russell. 

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Demigod, Mech Cadet Yu, Monstro Mechanica, and Sonic the Hedgehog.

April 16, 2018

The Pull List: 4 April 2018, Part 2

Her underground adventure complete, Luvander wanders into a regional conflict between two human dukedoms - and a mercenary of elves hired to win the conflict for the highest bidder.

In this excellent one-shot we get to see more the world of Scales & Scoundrels, as well as more back story for Lu: who she is, where she has come from, and the position her people take in the world around them. It is a difficult thing to write a one-shot: with only 20 pages free to write a story with beginning, middle and end, it is the sort of task that can divide a decent writer from a truly exceptional one. Sebastian Girner more than passes the test here. The issue is to-the-point, rich in detail, and satisfying on its own merits. It is the best issue of Scales & Scoundrels so far.

Galaad's artwork is elegant and simple, with a pleasing European style. It's particularly good in terms of colour, with nothing every feeling too overwhelming or busy. It's the perfect complement to the writing. (5/5)

Scales & Scoundrels #8. Image. Written by Sebastian Girner. Art and colours by Galaad.

Under the cut: reviews of Giant Days, Superman, and The Wicked + the Divine.

April 12, 2018

Outlander: "The Devil's Mark"

It is 18 April 2015, and time for another episode of Outlander.

Clare (Catriona Balfe) has hit every time traveller's worst nightmare: being arrested for witchcraft. Captured along with apothecary and suspected witch Geillis (Lotte Verbeek), she is interred in a gated pit until her trial can be assembled - a trial that will almost certainly end with being burned to death at the stake. Geillis hopes that Dougal (Graham McTavish) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) will save them. Clare knows that both men have been banished from Castle Leoch.

There is something inevitable about "The Devil's Mark". If you are going to throw a woman back in time from the 1940s to the 1740s, sooner or later the witch trial chapter is going to come along. It is simply too easy to include, and comes ready-to-wear with high drama and desperate situations. It is also, sadly, a handy excuse for the series to dive once again into it's raison d'ĂȘtre: violence towards women.

April 11, 2018

The Pull List: 4 April 2018, Part 1

A soldier escorts a tiger through the forest, keeping an eye out for enemy combatants, monsters, and who knows what else. The soldier, named Rook, keeps referring to the tiger as if it is her queen. Something is clearly up, but it's not clear precisely what that is.

There's a deliberate choice to drop the reader in the deep end in the first issue of Isola, a new fantasy series from creators Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl. What readers receive is an arresting and dramatic opening chapter, but it is one that deliberately raises a lot of questions while withholding all of the answers. It's a gamble, but one that seems likely to pay off - Isola #1 is absolutely tremendous.

The intriguing story is enhanced by Kerschl's tremendous artwork. It has the look of a high-budget American animation, with beautifully rendered characters and emotion. The art has a sensational sense of movement. It is easily one of the best illustrated books of the year. Mssassyk's colours are intense and rich, and further enhance the impact - particularly when it comes to the tiger queen Olwyn, an intense and expressive co-protagonist whose entire character is expressed via the artwork alone.

This really strikes me as a comic book you are going to want to join from the ground floor. (5/5)

Isola #1. Image. Written by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl. Art by Karl Kerschl. Colours by Msassyk.

Under the cut: reviews of Batman, Green Arrow, and Spider-Man.

April 10, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Death Wish"

It is 19 February 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

While investigating a strange comet in deep space, the crew of the USS Voyager accidentally free a trapped member of the omnipotent Q Continuum (Gerrit Graham). Soon afterward another Q (John De Lancie) arrives to apprehend the prisoner. His crime? He - a member of an immortal species - wishes to commit suicide.

The character of Q (the De Lancie version), who debuted along with the rest of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987, was a fantastic foil of Patrick Stewart's Captain Picard. When Deep Space Nine launched, Q made one guest appearance during the first season which struggled to make the same impact. Tonally he simply did not fit the darker, more cynical style of Deep Space Nine's characters and storytelling. Not to let the character go to waste, the Star Trek production team now introduce him to Voyager - he is not much more successful here, to be honest.

April 8, 2018

The Pull List: 28 March 2018, Part 2

In the concluding part of "Mayor Fisk", New York City mayor Wilson Fisk prepares to sell the entire city to its criminal underground - unless Daredevil and an assembled group of local superheroes can intervene. Meanwhile, Blindspot finally confronts Muse, the deranged super-villain that cost him his eyesight.

And, of course, things do not go according to plan. This extra-length climax swings left just when the readers expect it to head right, leaving this celebratory 600th issue at a genuinely surprising cliffhanger ending and a wonderfully open sense that almost anything can happen to Daredevil and the Kingpin in the issues to come. It's a well-paced and dramatic finale. Ron Garney and Matt Milla's artwork and colours are bold and impactful. There is also a nice little back-up strip at the issue's end, by writer Christos Gage and artist Mike Perkins that acts as a small ode to long-running sidekick Foggy Nelson.

It's impressive when a comic book hits a milestone as massive as 600 issues, and for a character as strong and effective as Daredevil it is well-deserved. Now there's the wait to see what happens next - and to find out how many issues before Marvel reset the numbering all over again. (4/5)

Daredevil #600. Marvel. Written by Charles Soule. Art by Ron Garney. Colours by Matt Milla. Backup written by Christos Cage, art by Mike Perkins, colours by Andy Troy.

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Doomsday Clock, Mera: Queen of Atlantis, and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra.

April 7, 2018

Star Trek: Voyager: "Dreadnought"

It is 12 February 1996, and time for another episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

Voyager stumbles upon Dreadnought, a Cardassian-designed weapons platform that had been sabotaged by B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) during her time with the Maquis but then lost in the Badlands. Now trapped, like Voyager, in the Delta Quadrant, it has accidentally mis-identified a nearby alien planet as its original target. Torres must race against time to re-program Dreadnought before it kills millions of people.

"Dreadnought" is a fairly decent episode that has been carved out of a fairly silly premise. One of the main elements that is supposed to distinguish Voyager from its predecessors is the isolation of its characters. They are a lifetime away from the Federation, and all of the various civilizations with which audiences were familiar. Having Voyager stumble upon a Cardassian super-missile in the Delta Quadrant is a leap the series shouldn't have to take. The reasoning for how it got there is weak, and the odds of Voyager and Dreadnought encountering one another when the two ships arrived there months apart and could have headed in any direction in a three-dimensional space beggars belief.