What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #19

wickedandivine-19Last issue, things were starting to kick off as Gillen and McKelvie moved into the final phase of this splendid comic. In the previous issue Laura has returned from the dead with some unexpected companions, while Annake is using what’s left of the Pantheon to try to stop her being exposed as the person that’s been killing gods.

This issue starts with Dionysus being taken to the Underworld to meet with Laura, or the god Persephone as she’s now calling herself.

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As for Annake she’s ready to go to war with Persephone/Laura, and she also drops a hint that Laura’s return isn’t all it seems.

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This leads to one half of the surviving Panethon fighting the other half in the Underworld..

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There’s a large battle, and Minerva is taken by Annake’s side of the Pantheon, but they’ve not got a clue what she’s got in store for Minerva when she gets her back.

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There’s a real sense of this comic rocketing towards a climax, and now with the introduction of the threat of Minerva’s death at the hands of Annake, there’s a countdown Laura’s group are working to in order to save her and stop whatever it is Annake is planning to do.

All the slow build up and characterisation is over now. The Wicked and the Divine has turned into a fast paced action filled comic while still retaining the feel of everything that’s come before it. This really is fantastic stuff.

What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #18

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It’s been four long months since the last issue of The Wicked and the Divine and it feels like years thanks to the paucity of good comics recently so it’s good to see it back. This issue starts with a gig being booked in London with a Persephone being booked to play, but Persephone was Laura and she was murdered by Ananke.

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It certainly seems like Laura. She’s got the same memories and not just that. She’s got the memories of Ananke murdering her parents as she plays her gig to a small, but highly appreciate audience.wickedandivine2

In the meantime there’s a series of shocking reveals, Ananke realises what Laura is and goes on the warpath, which suddenly leads into The Wicked and the Divine turning somewhat briefly into a superhero comic, with superhero poses and everything!

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After all this time away, and the previous half dozen or so issues being relatively quiet character pieces, this issue is a massive burst of energy as Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie come back on top form. This is an immense issue that kicks the series back to life, and it’s a superb mix of action and plot that sets up what is the final stretch to the series ending.

This isn’t an issue if you’re looking to dip in and see what the fuss is about. You really need to go back and give this a go from the start as you’ll be lost otherwise, but trust me, it’s worth it.

What I thought of Cry Havoc #1

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Si Spurrier’s new comic from publishers Image Comics and drawn by  Ryan Kelly is about a lesbian werewolf going to war. That should grab your attention.

It’s not as simplistic as that as you’d expect from Spurrier. The plot focuses round Lou, a young woman in London who has a partner looking after the hyenas at the zoo, and this allows some nice character building not to mention some foreshadowing.

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From here the story jumps to Afghanistan where Lou is in an American army helicopter full of ”private contractors” who are not ordinary mercenaries.

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From here the story flashes back to Lou’s life back in London where she’s attacked by a werewolf while busking near The Old Bailey before returning back to Afghanistan where Lou’s squad are further developed, and their mission revealed.

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We also find out that Lou has agreed to help track down the rogue operative in return for help with her condition, but that means she needs to embrace her condition to do so meaning she may lose her humanity.

This isn’t a straightforward war comic, nor is it told conventionally as different colourists are used to distinguish different times in Lou’s story, so her time in Afghanistan  uses hard, stark colours compared to her time in London which uses warmer colours. It’s a nice touch that’s not totally successful, but it’s trying something to help tell the story which is interestingly enough told by Spurrier who really is carving out a name for himself as a top quality writer from the UK. This could be a big success for him. The main character is engaging, there’s a lot of promised action and mystery to keep people happy, not to mention Ryan Kelly’s art keeps it flowing nicely along.

I’d recommend this if you’re a fan of smartly written stories about lesbian werewolves….

What I thought of The Walking Dead #150

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SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Walking Dead is the juggernaut that helped redefine Image Comics from a publisher still seen as mainly a superhero publisher into what it is today which is the natural successor to Vertigo Comics for new and interesting material in the mainstream. Robert Kirkman’s tale of survival in the zombie apocalypse now reaches the milestone of 150 issues which is a rare feat for any independent comic, and especially a black and white comic.

With current artist Charlie Adlard (who replaced co-creator Tony Moore some years ago) Kirkman has seen central protagonist Rick Grimes become the leader of a group of survivors not to mention the hero to other groups that are starting to form the basis of a basic trading society after the collapse of civilisation not to mention issues of strife with characters having a habit of dying when you least expect it. Hence why if you’ve come on board expecting the TV series you’ll be surprised at still seeing the likes of Andrea still knocking about, not to mention Carl’s lost an eye (though he’s still a pain in the arse) and the last big villain, Negan, has only been mentioned in the series once and Glenn’s long, long dead but Maggie’s still around. As for the current bad guys, The Whisperers, they’re a band of humans that have skinned zombies so they can wear the skin as suits to help disguise themselves among the zombies.

In the build up to this issue the leader of the Whisperers, Alpha, has allowed her daughter to return back to Rick’s care as long as Rick and his people stay on their territory. The way that territory has been marked out is with a line of severed heads of Rick and his friends’s loved ones left by Alpha.After several issues of talking (something the comic tends to do when building up to something big happening) among the characters, including Rick listening to Negan’s advice (Negan is Rick’s prisoner. Long story, buy the trades) he’s settled on the choice of building an army to fight and wipe out The Whisperers.

And that’s roughly where this issue starts…

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After telling Eugene of his plan Rick is mugged by two of his people frustrated with Rick’s supposed inaction at the deaths of their fellow survivors.

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Rick manages to see one of his attackers who were supposedly trying to scare Rick into action, but one decides that now Rick’s seen them that they have to murder Rick, but the other attacker isn’t having that and tries to stop the assault before Rick defends himself in an astonishingly brutal way that’s shocking even for a comic that’s dealt in shocking over it’s previous 149 issues.

As this is going on Andrea (who is now Rick’s wife) checks in on Carl to see if he’s OK, and he’s doing just fine….

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As for Rick, he’s discovered in a bloody mess by Maggie, and is taken to the infirmary to be fixed up, though he makes clear the other attacker needs to be found and dispatches Michonne to hunt him down. In the meantime while he’s still in a bloodied state he speaks to his people to remind them that they cannot return to the old days of survival of the fittest and to keep them on the path he’s guided them on.

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After telling his people about the plans to form an army, Michonne returns with the second attacker who thinks that Rick’s going to execute him in front of everyone, but he doesn’t. He spares his life and rallies his people against The Whisperers.

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At the end of this issue Rick is renewed as leader with his people falling back into line behind him as the mission to build an army begins but in this world nothing is easy, so I imagine something will go wrong because that’s how The Walking Dead works.

As for this issue it’s an issue for regular readers only because it’s continuing so many ongoing plot threads that if you’re going into this fresh then you’ll be totally lost, For those of us up to speed it’s an issue that does close a few flailing threads not to mention has the character of Rick Grimes return back to the brutal survivor he is which is fine as the story needs drama but I can’t help think that perhaps it’s time to start telling the story through another set of eyes, though I don’t think Image or Kirkman is willing to kill off their central character. It would however end the need for Rick to be able to essentially do anything. It’d also make it that anyone can die, even the lead character.

This is a fine issue though. Charlie Adlard does another sterling job and Kirkman turns out a script that hits all the beats perfectly. It’s a fine anniversary issue that helps set up the next stretch of story. In terms of individual great comics this doesn’t get on the list, but a s a chapter in a much larger story it’s important but missing something in terms of impact.

Next issue sees army training start so that’ll go as well as can be expected in the world of The Walking Dead..

What I thought of Paper Girls #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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As this issue starts with yet another set of questions being laid out in front of us, it’s worth noting that Brian K. Vaughn’s increasingly splendid thriller/SF tale is like one of those Russian dolls that seem to go on and on, but here Vaughan creates a mystery, not to mention he has our strange armoured protagonists speak a strange yet familiar language.

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As for Mac and the others they find out part of the truth about the mysterious men promising to help to heal Erin of her gunshot wound.

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Before they can help save Erin, we find out what an Editrix is and how dangerous whatever it is actually is, though thanks to some bravery from the girls they manage to hurt it.

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Do the girls escape to save their friend? That’s for you to find out but as this progresses I’m being pulled more and more into this story and yes, the lead characters are still a bit flat, but they’re starting to develop a little bit more this issue into fuller characters but it’s the developing SF storyline that’s driving this comic. It’s drawing from a number of influences (I especially like the Moebius ones) but it’s trying to be its own thing which is great. As usual next issue I’m sure will create more new questions for us…..

What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #17

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4#5#6#7 ,#8#9#10#11#12#13#14#15 and #16.

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The final issue of this arc featuring guest artists focusing on one member of the Pantheon is upon us and this issue deals with Sakhmet, a character that’s not been too prominent so far in this splendid series. Though like a cat, her main abilities seem to be sleeping and fucking.

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Sakhmet is a pretty, vain, arrogant girl suffering from punishing self-confidence so again, very much like a cat. She’s also able to land like a cat in her travels across London…

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So far so fine. It’s another nice character piece of one of the Pantheon, and like many of the others it’s another spoilt brat. Then Gillen turns everything on it’s head as he reveals the true nature of Sakhmet and it’s pretty shocking as she’s not just a spoilt brat, but a real monster.

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And the issue ends on a cliffhanger before the letter page announces there’s no more Wicked and the Divine til the spring, not to mention that this was the last character driven issue. Upon it’s return things ramp up a notch which I can’t wait for for as good as these issues have been it’s felt to me like a holding pattern in terms of plot.

So it’s a few months break and these hopefully it’s a full-on blast in terms of story just to wrap up all the dangling plot threads from this year and a half of story. Let’s see what happens in April…..

What I thought of We Stand on Guard #6

Thoughts about #1#2 ,#3#4 and #5.

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I’ve totally enjoyed We Stand On Guard not as an action/adventure story (which it is and works very well) but as a piece of expertly timed political commentary about American exceptionalism, and imperialism, however this issue is the climax and that means seeing if our group of Canadian freedom fighters survive their attack on the Americans.

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The fighters are outnumbered, but manage to get out a message via the future version of the internet to the people of Canada and it boils down to a confrontation between Amber and The American.

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In these pages Vaughan turns things into an interesting debate as it doesn’t become simple and binary, but not to panic, there’s violent action coming.

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I’ve said throughout this series that this is going to have been a touch book for those raised on the idea of American exceptionalism, and indeed, if you think there’s no such thing as American imperialism then this is probably something that you’ll find extraordinarily offensive. The writing though leaves it clear that the Americans are the aggressors, even at the end when there’s some doubt as to who exactly started the entire thing, it’s clear that Vaughan leaves it clear who are the bad guys here.

It’s been an interesting story for an American comic to deal with, and indeed, I don’t think it’s entirely worked (the Canadian freedom fighters are just far too underdeveloped as characters) but it’s brave. It’s not going to have went down well with some but I applaud Brian K. Vaughan for writing it, and Image Comics for publishing it.

What I thought of Paper Girls #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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This issue doesn’t reveal the outcome of last issue’s rather tense cliffhanger, but it does start by revealing a bit of whatever is going on and how it’s affected people in this small town in the 1980’s.

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This little diversion leads into the resolution of the previous issues cliffhanger and the realisation that Mac and her mother didn’t actually shoot each other. Erin was shot instead.

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It’s a shocking scene as our entry character and basically, lead, is shot so early on so the girls have to work out a way to cut through the strange clouds, lightening bolts and flying dragons to get Erin to the hospital and then hope that all the doctors haven’t been taken like everyone else. Unfortunately something gets in the way of getting to the hospital..

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From here it gets odd as more twists are chucked into a story brimming with them already, but as enjoyable a comic as this is I feel the plot is overwhelming the characters of the girls a little too much. They need a bit of time to breathe and develop off their own backs but Paper Girls is such a fast paced comic that it’s difficult to let the girls shine through as anything but broad stereotypes.

That’s a small moan though. This comic otherwise works as a fine SF/mystery comic that’s not predictable at all, which is why I’m coming back to it rather than abandoning it after a second issue which I do with so many new comics these days.

What I thought of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Thoughts about #1, #2 and #3.

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Last issue saw Emily try to escape using the video to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, but this issue starts in Bristol in 2008 which is a bit of a diversion to say the least. Still, Gillen and McKelvie share the horror that was an Indie night in the (now defunct) Cooler that was on Park Street in the city.

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At least I think it’s the Cooler, it certainly looks a bit like it and a ‘hateful hole full of hateful arseholes’ summed what it was up quite well.

It’s probably best that you’ve read the previous issue of Phonogram as this is a tale of Laura, another member of the coven and her time in Bristol. It’s also about spotting little bits of Bristol such as the Wetherspoons used for a scene, or wondering if the houses early in the issue are in Redland or Cotham, or generally as a current inhabitant of Bristol being utterly distracted by the detail McKelvie throws in along with some fantastic layouts.

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And there then follows some lovely pages of commentary of the Indie scene, before a superhero fight breaks out that I’m not going to spoil.

This is an odd little issue of the series that’s a bit of an interruption but there’s much going on here as small details are given that hint at the main storyline, and also, in the glossary Gillen confirms the club is indeed The Cooler and a shitehole it was too, but I only skirted the outskirts of the Bristol Indie scene mainly due to the astonishingly poncy arseholes that tended to smother the joy from it.

And this comic brings back the bad and good of days a decade ago. It’s fantastic for that alone.

What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #16

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4#5#6#7 ,#8#9#10#11#12#13#14 and #15.

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The Morrigan is The Wicked and the Divine’s token Goth, and every comic seems to have a token Goth.

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So if you haven’t gathered by now the focus this issue is on The Morrigan and yes, before she became a god and part of the Pantheon she was a typical Goth.

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After a meeting with Anneke, The Morrigan is born, and this as predicted, unleash’s trouble further down the line..

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This isn’t a bad issue, but by the recent standards it’s pretty dull as The Morrigan before she became a god isn’t that interesting, and neither is her stereotypicaly nihilistic boyfriend Cameron that she also makes into a god, which as we’ve seen, delivers the trouble we’ve seen in the series so far.

It just feels like a pause in the story with characters I don’t especially care for spouting sub Neil Gaiman-esque bullshit and it’s a pity, but it’s not terrible, just disappointing. That said, I’ve enough faith in Keiron Gillen to ensure this is but a momentary lapse in the quality he’s maintained on this comic for a long time now.