What I thought of Britannia #1

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A new Pete Milligan comic is always worth a look because outwith his Marvel or most of his DC work, we’re going to get something interesting, and the blurb for Britannia is intriguing.

On the fringes of civilization, the world’s first detective is about to make an unholy discovery…

Ruled by the Fates. Manipulated by the Gods. Commanded by Caesar. In the year 65 A.D., one’s destiny was not his own. At the height of Nero’s reign, a veteran of Rome’s imperial war machine has been dispatched to the farthest reaches of the colonies to investigate unnatural happenings… In the remote outpost of Britannia, Antonius Axia – the First Detective – will become Rome’s only hope to reassert control over the empire’s most barbaric frontier…and keep the monsters that bridge the line between myth and mystery at bay…

You don’t see many stories of the Roman occupation of Britain, or of Roman detectives! However from the off this doesn’t look like a regular comic as artist Juan Jose Ryp employs full pages to fill in the backstory of the Roman Empires, and how the Vestal Virgins were the only women in the Empire who wielded any sort of real, meaningful power.

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The Centurion Antonius is given a task to find a missing virgin who has vanished, as if the Romans couldn’t control their virgins, silly Romans. Anyhow, the virgin is rescued though not before something mysterious, possibly magical happens.

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Antonius is dragged into a magical world of words and ideas alien to him as the Vestal Virgins introduce him to the Codex, which collects the history, myths and ideas of the Virgins. Once we find out what happened with Antonius we then see how years later he becomes a detective searching out adulterous senators and the like.

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Milligan builds up a lot of background of the machinations of Rome under the then Emperor Nero, before throwing us right in with whatever is happening in Britannia, the Roman name for what is the island of Great Britain today.

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Eventually with some coaxing and threats, Antonius is sent to Britannia to get to the bottom of what’s going on and what the Vestal Virgins seem to have been preparing him for over the years.

britannia5This is a cracking read. Milligan’s put together an interesting tale of myth, magic and Roman politics to create an adventure story which is wonderfully drawn by Ryp whose European style artwork suits the script perfectly. It looks beautiful in places, even when there’s grotesque stuff happening on the page. This is something quite different, not to mention unexpected as it didn’t once take a path I was expecting so unlike so many first issues these days I’ll gladly return for the second issue.

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What I thought of Terminal Hero #6

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4 and #5.

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This is the last issue of Pete Milligan’s Terminal Hero, a series I’d thought was ongoing but that I suppose shows how much attention I pay. It also comes out a few days after Milligan’s former collaborator Brett Ewins passed away which is a reason for me to say that it’s a bloody tragedy Ewins passed only at the age of 59. I met the man a few times in the 1980’s and 1990’s and he was funny, interesting and clearly loved his work. He’s a massive influence on the British comics scene, as well as the world of music and street art. He’ll be missed.

As for this final issue of Terminal Hero, Mia and Minesh square off against Rory after his attempts to reach a reasonable solution so here’s Milligan giving the superhero fan a tease of a Big Fight Scene from the off, but in reality, the Big Fight is with the grotesque Tumour Kid.

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After the fight, Rory gets dragged into an orgy that thanks to Treatment Q, is bizarre even for what he’s had to go though in the last five issues.

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MI6 however still wants Rory to kill Mia and Minesh or they’ll go back to his adopted family in America and threaten/kill them, so they have Rory by the bollocks and this is picked up by Mia and Minesh who share a psychic link with Rory. As for how Rory manages to wrap things up you’ll have to read it for yourselves but the ending feels rushed in places (the MI6 plot feels especially hurried) but there’s a sad melancholy that dominates this issue and that feels somewhat apt.

Terminal Hero has been the best thing Milligan has written in some time. It’s been a challenging, at times very challenging comic that’s dealt with the subject of cancer in what could be a trivial way, but feels like Milligan letting lose a massive scream as after all, we’ve all at some point had to deal with the effects of cancer either directly or indirectly as family or friends suffer from it. We’ve all wanted to kill cancer, and in this comic that happens so from a cathartic point of view Terminal Hero works, which is I think the point of the entire series. That’s all it needs to make it such an outstanding series.

What I thought of Terminal Hero #5

Thoughts about #1#2#3 and #4.

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As I’m writing this the Ramones are shouting ‘lobotomy’ at the top of their lungs as I listen to their greatest hits CD. It seems very apt for this comic that feels at times if your brain is being pulled out through your nose and then shoved back in once it’s taken a pounding by Pete Milligan who is personally mashing people’s brains in for a laugh. Right away this issue features Minish and Mia (the two students also developing powers thanks to taking Treatment Q but going quite mad and bad because of it) doing some very odd things indeed.

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As Minish and Mia have taken so much Treatment Q just upping their dose isn’t going to help them maintain their highs so they go off to find another solution, while Rory returns to the UK still in Chris Walker’s body to again work for the British secret service and kill Minish and Mia before they cause more mayhem. See, you don’t get that sort of synopsis in Green Lantern do you?

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Pete Milligan’s tale of reluctant hero Rory and the life he now leads is simply a fantastic comic only let down at times by some flat storytelling from artist Piotr Kowalski, but it’s not just going over old ground, but Milligan is pushing himself and what the reader can accept here which makes this an exciting comic, yet one that isn’t for the faint at heart especially as Mr. Tumor makes a return this issue.

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There is even a sort of superhero fight scene in this issue but it only really gets in the way of what is either a rhetorical story about Rory, a man struggling to deal with the visions his cancer has brought him or we really are reading about a man who has been turned into a superhero by taking a drug meant to cure his cancer.

Don’t know about you but I know what I’d prefer is going on.

What I thought of Miracleman Annual #1

 

Thoughts about #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10#11, #12 and #13.miracleman-annual1

 

Around 30 years ago Grant Morrison wrote a Kid Marvelman strip for Dez Skinn to appear in Warrior. It never got published and for years was thought long lost, until earlier this year when Marvel Comics editor-in-chief announced he’d spoken to Morrison and that Marvel were going to publish it along with the first all-new Miracleman material from Mike Allred and Pete Milligan for 20 years.

Now it’d be impossible to review this without mentioning that Alan Moore interview or indeed, the accusations (some true, some tenuous) of how Morrison hasn’t just followed in Moore’s footsteps, but has actively copied his style. These allegations simply are not going to go away nor will they after reading this story as it really does read like mid-80’s Alan Moore, though Joe Quesada (who has liberally adapted the script to spin out for longer than originally written, and I do like the Steranko-esque splash page) has tried to somehow tone that down, it still reads like Morrison doing Moore.

The story itself is set in 1966 and is a conversation between a priest and Kid Marvelman, who by this point has not turned back into Johnny Bates for three years and is in the process of generally becoming a total bastard. Also, Quesada draws Kid Marvelman to look like Grant Morrison and that’s a wee bit odd.

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Essentially Kid Marvelman returns to the place he landed after the British government tried to kill the Marvelman Family in 1963, and in this story, to the priest who saw him survive the blast to clean up some loose ends and panels that have captions that read like it’s 1986.

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It’s only a short story padded out by some nice storytelling from Quesada, but it’s not a terrible story, rather than an oddity brought back to life. It’s not going to add to the overall story as opposed to reading as it probably was which was to see if Morrison could ape Moore’s style enough to get himself a job writing Marvelman. On this evidence, he did a very good job copying Moore’s style.

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As for the new story by Milligan and Allred, it’s a charming little story done int he style of the 1950’s stories, but again, it’s slight for the first new Miracleman material for over 20 years.

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We do get to see Marvelman fighting some dolphins though.

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It’s got a nice Mick Anglo feel and a nice comment upon the trend for dark comics, but it’s fun and nothing more than that. It’s also telling Marvel haven’t used the Alan Moore updated version of Marvelman in this new story which does add to suspicion that perhaps there’s plans for that version after they finish the Neil Gaiman run,

As for the rest of the annual it’s made up of Morrison’s original script (rusty staples and all) and a comparison with what Quesada has done in padding the story out.

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It also becomes clear from the script that it’s not Quesada who decided to draw Kid Marvelman as Grant Morrison, but he’s only following Morrison’s instructions in the script and from a photo reference of Morrison himself from 1984.

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I’m sure they’ll be those putting a lot into Morrison dropping himself into a Kid Marvelman story, but creators have done it before where they drop themselves into a story, so it’s really not a huge issue even if it is odd in this case in retrospect. As for the annual, it’s thin picking for three quids worth of comics but it’s about worth it mainly because the Morrison story isn’t all bad even if it’s a Happy Shopper Alan Moore script, and the Milligan story is fun. Just don’t expect anything too revelatory on display here.

What I thought of Terminal Hero #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.

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There’s not many mainstream comics in 2014 which start with the hero discussing the tumour in his head, the rape he experienced at the hands of something called The Tumor Kid and his incestuous/paedophillic urges towards his sister, but this is it.

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We start this issue with Rory having to realise he can’t escape the madness of his tumour, which at this point it should be obvious to anyone with a knowledge of comics that this is the logical successor to Pete Milligan’s Shade: The Changing Man. After a shaky start Terminal Hero is by far the most transgressive mainstream comic I’m aware of right now, and it’s not just because it’s dabbling with ideas you wouldn’t normally see presented in these sort of comics, but because it’s Milligan letting go and frankly, it’s been a long time since Milligan produced a comic worth reading and this is it.

The tale of how Rory transforms from a young, good hearted doctor to a man with a tumour in his head but with super-powers thanks to an experimental drug treatment, and at the same time we find out Rory actually isn’t that nice a bloke, is a wonderful bit of very dark satire/adventure. At times it reads like Chris Morris, which as regular readers of this blog know, I think that is a very good thing.

This issue sees Rory perhaps finding a potential new purpose as more people find out about Treatment Q, the drug which gave him his powers.

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Terminal Hero really is about the story of Rory’s redemption not to mention his quest to just lead a life being a good man, but how this terminal cancer is shaping his life in a direction where he can help others like him.

This is a challenging comic, and many a prude will utterly hate it, but it’s Milligan on rare form operating at a level many other writers half his age aren’t able to do. I’m ashamed I wasn’t convinced with this comic at the start as it really is superb

 

 

What I thought of Terminal Hero #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.

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All three issues of Pete Milligan’s new comic Terminal Hero, have taken huge leaps in terms of story and character as our protagonist Rory has went from a young doctor doing good, to a hired killer murdering people for the British and American governments.  He’s also got over his incurable cancer but has developed very strange superpowers instead. Got it all? Good, because this really is a treat of a comic.

At the start of this issue Rory has assumed the identity of an innocent bystander at one of his assassinations by the name of Chris Walker in an attempt to escape his governmental masters. Unfortunately for Rory he’s landed himself in a very strange situation when he took over Walker’s body and meets who he thinks is Walker’s girlfriend.

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Kim turns out to Walker’s wife, and from here the story gets weirder if such a thing is actually possible at this point as Rory fully inhabits Walker’s life and thinks he’s become a happy man well hidden from his former employers in government. Sadly for Rory he’s haunted by visions of Lola, his dead sister, and at this point there’s suggestions of something very, very dark in Rory’s past.

Terminal Hero is a dark comic, but it’s also got a very twisted sense of humour which reminds me of the Chris Morris radio programme, Blue Jam, as it delves into the same dark humour that programme did.

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This really is a comic where I have no idea where it’s going as by the end of this issue more people have taken the ‘cure’ which gave Rory his powers and he himself seems to be turning to god to escape everything. Obviously he won’t but I do love how Milligan is throwing a lot out there in the hope it all sticks which thankfully, most of it does. There are things which don’t seem to work yet but this really does seem like a book that’s going to be more rewarding read as a whole.

I look forward to see how Rory gets further fucked up next issue.

 

What I thought of Terminal Hero #2

Thoughts about #1.

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Pete Milligan’s story of Rory, the good guy suffering from terminal cancer who develops super powers after receiving an experimental treatment, goes in even more bizarre directions in this second issue. A strange group of British government officials turn up to try to recruit Rory for their own, obviously dodgy, purposes.

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Agents Davenport and Campbell want to use Rory’s new powers to well,murder people, and not just any people. Rory is murdering suspected Islamic terrorists who are actually people who haven’t committed any crime yet.

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At this point Terminal Hero turns from an interesting comic to something else entirely. This addition of some very real international politics at a time when massive amounts of people are going from the UK to fight for ISIS should give people the same jolt it game me. After all, the portrayal of terrorism and it’s causes in American mainstream comics tends to be so pathetically binary, or worse, simplistic, that it’s often insulting to read. Milligan here plays with liberal sensibilities to a degree that’s going to shock people as he dabbles with sex, violence, incest and paedophillia in a story which on the surface, is about Rory gaining powers and killing people the British government want dead.

However, what if he’s just imagining all of this? He is after all suffering from a brain tumour which is killing him and this could be playing out in his mind. Is this really Rory playing out some very dark wish fulfillment fantasy in his tumorous mind?

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I wasn’t too gripped by the first issue of this series, but this issue is fantastic. I don’t find Kowalski’s art too great in places, but Milligan’s script is massively original, with some amazingly sharp dialogue and is amazingly troubling in places. I’m not kidding in saying this is an adult comic, but it’s not just the old sex and violence type of ‘adult’ that permeates mainstream American comics, but hard subjects that will shock. Milligan isn’t scared of getting out of his comfort zone and he ensures he takes the reader with him. I’d strongly advise that if you’ve not picked this up so far, then go out and get the first issue. This really is worth reading.