What I thought of Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz #2

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Garth Ennis isn’t one for being subtle or taking the piss where needed and the cover of this spin-off from his DC title, Section 8, shows John Constantine (a character who Ennis wrote and helped make his name on) in a wee bit of a state.

The splash page opening the book hammers the point home…

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Constantine over the last few years has been treated terribly as a character by DC. Pulled from Vertigo Comics (DC’s supposed more mature imprint) into the regular DC universe to regularly interact with superheroes and not just that, become a superhero himself. It’s a far cry from the character Ennis wrote decades ago hence why he’s now ripping the piss out of that, and his employers at DC.

It also features Dog Welder fisting his dead dog.

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This is Ennis showing his utter contempt for superhero comics while having a major dig at his employer for managing to fuck up one of their best characters via a series of dreadful editorial decisions and a series of poor creators who just don’t get what to do with Constantine.

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This isn’t Ennis at his best, but this is Ennis at his best taking the piss and it’s good to see some blows land on DC Comics from within as they bloody deserve a good hard kicking for the mess they’ve made of a character like John Constantine.

What I thought of Doom Patrol #1

doompatrolAt a Reading Festival back in the 2000’s I watched a hailstorm of piss-filled bottles rain down on Gerard Way and his band, My Chemical Romance. It was a beautiful sight watching the constant stream of bottles rebounding off the performers and I thought it the most Punk thing I’d seen at Reading for some years.It was fresh, exciting and fun,

This brings me to DC’s latest Doom Patrol reboot, this time written by Gerard Way and drawn by Nick Derrington for the new Young Animal imprint which is a sort of Vertigo-lite and the blurb goes like this…

The atoms are buzzing. The daydreams crowd sentient streets, and the creative team has been warned, “Turn back now or suffer the mighty consequence of sheer, psycho-maniacal mayhem.” Generation-arsonists unite—this is DOOM PATROL, and the God of the Super Heroes is bleeding on the floor.

A blenderized reimagining of the ultimate series of the strange, DOOM PATROL combines elements from classic runs, new directions, and things that could not be. Our entry point is Casey Brinke, a young EMT on the graveyard shift to abstract enlightenment, with a past so odd that she’s not entirely sure what is real and what is not. Along with her partner, Sam Reynolds, the pair blaze a path through the city and its denizens, finding the only quiet that exists at 3am is the chaos of the brain. When the pair answer a hit-and-run call, they find themselves face to face with a familiar figure: Cliff Steele, AKA Robotman.

“It gets weirder from here,” writer Gerard Way had to say about the book, with artist Nick Derington gripping tightly on the wheel of the ambulance. The pair’s only communication? Shouting out of the open windows while at high velocity. Who needs a new roommate? Who names a cat “Lotion”? And when do we get to see all those muscles?

When did the blurb for new comics sound like someone trying a wee bit too hard? Make you miss the days of Stan Lee’s Bullpen Bulletins.

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The first thing that are apparent is that Derrington’s not a bad artist at all and that Way’s doing a Grant Morrison ‘homage’ in terms of writing, which does lead to panels loaded with dialogue trying to be ‘weird’ or ‘edgy’ but ends up just making panels look clustered. The one on the right above would work better if there were less captions or none at all, but this is about creating an internal narrative but this is comics. I get what the characters are doing from looking at the panels. I wish writers would break away from their fifth generation Alan Moore style and be confident enough to let the artists do their job.

Anyhow, Casey Brinke is a paramedic, and is very good at her job because Way has to tell us often. As for the Doom Patrol, Robotman is still around.

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As is NIles Calder and  Danny the Street.

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Brinke is then brought into the weirdness when this happens…

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Eventually Brinke meets another new Doom Patrol member over the remains of Robotman.

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Doom Patrol works as a cover version of Grant Morrison’s run on the title back in the 1980’s and early 90’s. If you’ve read that run and want something which is sort of like that but not as original, witty or interesting then this is for you. This is sort of like the guy in the office that wears ‘zany’ ties for Red Nose Day. It is basically trying too hard which is a pity as Doom Patrol is a great concept. The original Arnold Drake written stories are bizarre while still playing it straight. This is too aware, too knowing, plus Way’s narrative captions become so painfully excruciating in it’s sixth form Morrison prose that it renders the comic a chore.

Which it shouldn’t be. The art is very good, and when Way turns off all the bollocks he thinks makes him Grant Morrison, Doom Patrol is fun. It isn’t as fun as watching Gerard Way being pelted with bottles but it could be a passable fun bit of superheroics if Way was told to dial it back. Seeing as Young Animal is his own imprint that isn’t likely.

 

What I thought of The Twilight Children #1

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Gilbert Hernandez is simply one of the finest creators of comics from the last 35 years, not to mention one of the finest American writers of the same time. If you’ve not read Love and Rockets I suggest stopping reading this now and go do so because his work is exceptional. His occasional work for DC Comics over the years has been a tad sketchy, but this title with artist Darwyn Cooke (one of the creators that took DC schilling for Beyond Watchmen) isn’t up to the standard of his Love and Rockets material, but it’s good.

Here’s DC’s blurb.

For the first time ever, legendary comics creators Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) and Darwyn Cooke (DC: THE NEW FRONTIER) have joined forces for a surreal project unlike anything you’ve ever read before! When a white orb washes up on the shore of a remote Latin American village, a group of children naturally poke at the strange object to see what it is. The orb explodes, leaving the children completely blind. And when a beautiful young woman who may be an alien is found wandering the seafront, she’s taken in by the townspeople, but soon becomes a person of interest to a quirky pair of undercover CIA agents, and the target of affection for a young scientist. Can they come together to prevent an all-out alien invasion and save the souls in this sleepy, seaside town?

Cooke’s art sort of works. It’s a wee bit too polished for my liking so the Hispanic village looks too nice, whereas in Hernandez’a Heartbreak Soup for example, the villages look lived in and real.

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It does make the book pretty to look at, plus once I got into it the style helps with the more fantastical aspects of the story as it progresses from it’s realistic start. It’s Hernandez’s story that pushes this on and it is full of the touches I expect from a talent like Hernandez all the way, not to mention the oddness.

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The Twilight Children is a promising first issue even if at times it does feel like the creators are ticking off boxes. It’s got a nice mix of fun, melancholy and weirdness that’ll make me pick up the rest of this series.

What I thought of Mad Max: Fury Road #2

Thoughts about #1.

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This prequel to Fury Road is interesting in that it’s not quite a fully realised film script but there’s points that had it been filmed it’d have looked spectacular, but for much of it the script feels like a low budget Mad Max film, which might have worked.

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But ultimately the story here is not just about Max descending into the depths of a destroyed Sydney to recover his car, but also a young girl who is the daughter of the woman that saved him in the first issue. The plot as such of the issue is Max and the girl fighting their way past an endless parade of bad guys which is where it begins to dawn why this story has ended up as a comic and not a film. It’s essentially similar in places to Dredd and The Raid (hero fights their way out of somewhere full of evil bastards) but it’s still interesting to imagine a cinematic version of this though it’d probably suit Mel Gibson better than Tom Hardy’s version of Max.

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The problem is that there’s a lot of post-apocalyptic comics out there and this does blend in at times, but there’s some odd little touches like the fact the bad guys breed moths for food, however unlike a lot of similar comics it has a pretty straightforward hero in Max who ultimately is a good guy.

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Most of all it explains the little girl in the flashbacks in Fury Road, the return of the V8 and why Max is on the run from raiders at the start of the film. As a bit of Mad Max canon it’s pretty essential plus it’s not half bad at all which considering how bad comic adaptions of films normally are is some serious praise.

What I thought of Mad Max: Fury Road #1

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A Mad Max comic from DC’s Vertigo imprint written by creator and director George Miller filling in the blanks between Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road? Yeah, I’ll have some of that!  The idea of a Mad Max comic would have sent my teenage self into ecstasy for a week, now it’s just a few minutes but that’s age for you.

The issue starts off at the citadel of Immortan Joe some time after the events of Fury Road with a brief recap of all the three original Mad Max films.

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These pages are fabulous if you’re a Mad Max fan as they’re lovely little summaries of all the first three films that not only finally sort out the timeline as to when the nuclear war happened, but add little details such as the one that Max has been trying to rebuild his V8 Interceptor in Beyond Thunderdome, and that artist Mark Sexton is very good at drawing Max in a way that doesn’t quite look like Mel Gibson and vaguely looks like Tom Hardy in these pages.

This prequel story is set in Gastown, the city mentioned in Fury Road, and is set round Max trying to win a V8 engine in the Thunderdome that’s relocated there after the events of the third film.

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This is a fun first part of the Fury Road prequel that is going to explain just how Max got his car back, and why he was being chased at the start of the film. It reads like a bit of a failed script and as a film it wouldn’t have worked but as a comic it serves a good purpose in filling in the gaps. It also shows that creator George Miller has the world, not to mention the future of Mad Max very clearly mapped out and it’s telling that in the scenes set after Fury Road there’s not a sign of Furiosa…

I’d say this is purely for Mad Max fans only, but that doesn’t make it a bad comic. It’s fun. Treat it for what it is and does.

What I thought of Strange Sports Stories #1

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Anthology titles in comics have a pretty checkered history. EC Comics were, and indeed, still are the benchmark but companies like DC Comcs did some good stuff in titles like House of Mystery, Unexpected and the original Strange Sports Stories. The problem is that in American comics as opposed to British comics, the sports strip isn’t exactly successful, or even any good so this new four issue miniseries from Vertigo Comics is a patchy, but welcome attempt to bring the sports strip back and make it work. Having Gilbert Hernandez do a strip is as good as you can get.

Hernandez’s story is about a bunch of kids that are playing football (the real version, not that crap American version), burst their ball and then have their ball nicked by bullies. However a strange ball arrives from the sky…

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This is one of Hernandez’s great little short stories about a mysterious alien ball that lures boys and has them abducted by Martians.

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Even though the reader can see whats coming, even though the punchline is obvious, there’s a lovely tone and touch on display here from Hernandez that perfectly captures kids playing not to mention he throws in a nice little bit at the end that tops it off perfectly. It’s a great start to the issue.

The next strip by Amy Chu and Tana Ford looks nice and is decent enough as a short story but it’s a 2000AD Future Shock that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but doesn’t stay in the memory either.

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The third story by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorson and Christopher Mitten has traces of the DNA of Death Game 1999 in it, and it’s gloriously gory fun in the EC tradition.

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The last story by Ivan Brando and Amei Zhao is a tale of the end of the world and the last baseball game.

strangesportsstories5It’s melancholic in tone and that sticks out against the other three stories being either light in tone, or having their tongue very firmly in cheek, but it’s good for a short story and helped by some beautiful art that carries the story well.

Strange Sports Stories #1 is a patchy affair. No story though is terrible, though the Hernandez story is superb making everything after it an exceptionally hard act to follow. As an anthology it’s a good attempt to cover as much ground as possible and I hope the other three issues maintain this sort of quality because frankly DC/Vertigo don’t publish much that’s at all good, so this is a welcome addition to their titles.

 

What I thought of Bodies #7

Thoughts about #1#2#3,  #4#5 and #6.

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At the end of last issue I had no bloody idea how the writer Si Spencer could wrap up this fascinating series from Vertigo Comics. After reading this issue there’s some more clues but I’d still stuck wondering how things are going to be wrapped up in the final issue.

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So yes, we want answers and we get them, but thankfully Spencer doesn’t spoon feed the reader, and as has been the case all throughout this series, the reader has to work too, especially as the issue starts in the Victorian era with the detective Edmund being lured into something, and as we’ll realise by now, it’s probably not going to be good.

As Edmund deals with his discoveries, we find out more about Moriarty’s past in the future London, and again, it’s not good.

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And in the present day things don’t look good for Sharara.

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As for Karl in the past during the Second World War, things are really bad.

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Though things aren’t quite as they seem here.

By the end of this issue the reader has some idea as to what they think is going on, but the final page makes it clear that really, we’ve not had a bloody clue about anything or anyone in this splendid series that is really the best thing Vertigo have done in some time.

And there’s the thing. Vertigo Comics should be about risks and Bodies has been a risky series for a mainstream American publisher in the current climate as it really doesn’t feel like a typical Vertigo comic. Now as for what happens in the final issue I’ve not got a fucking clue and that is what you need from a mystery so next issue we find out about the Order of Mithras, the pulse, Jack the Ripper and everything else.

Or do we? After all nothing in this series has been predictable.

What I thought of Bodies #6

Thoughts about #1#2#3,  #4 and #5.

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I had the impression that this was the last issue, but there’s two more to come, so I put my confusion down to the fact that it’s Christmas and I actually have time off work! Also, this is by far the best cover in this series so far. It’s very Manara which is a nice compliment to a series where I’ve not especially said much about the art, which is consistent but at times a bit patchy. This issue however has the best art of the series from all the artists and it’s a joy to look at.

As for the story, it’s entitled ‘Interview‘ which is exceptionally topical and a handy stroke of coincidence with what’s going on in the world right now. Moving on, the issue starts right after last issue with the murder victim at the heart of the story confessing his own murder throughout time.  Yes, you really have to have been reading this comic from the start to even understand a bit of that statement.

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We find out why ‘Interview’ is the title of this issue quickly as the early part of this issue is made up of an interview between John Bull, the victim, and the D.I, but things take a quick shocking diversion before ending up in the Victorian era again with more hints and clues as to what exactly is going on including the nature of the Long Harvest.

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Si Spencer has littered clues and hints throughout this series as to what exactly is happening but I’m still at a total loss as to what’s going to happen in the last issues, or indeed how the main characters will end up as all of them seem to be in very bad places by the end of this issue.

Bodies is building up to a promising climax after what for me, was an iffy first couple of issues, but it’s head a fantastic head of steam for what is a proper genre mash-up of SF, horror, detective fiction, Guardian level politics, and melodrama among the dozens of others ideas it takes and uses in order to tell a complete story.It’s almost like a crime investigation in itself as each issue uncovers a little bit more of the story and more facts are presented forensically to the reader.

Only two more issue to wrap all this up in and I have no idea how that’s going to happen which is wonderful.

What I thought of Bodies #5

Thoughts about #1#2#3 and #4.

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Bodies really has hit a head of steam now. Yes, I was convinced that Si Spencer had thrown together a disjointed stew of a story but as I’ve been saying, this really is a comic which is going to benefit from a collected edition and a continuous read. This issue however starts to drop some answers, or at least clues to some answers to all the questions we’ve been asking about the labyrinthine plot.

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Thing is though as much as Spencer drops hints of answers he throws out new question and frankly, I’ve not got a clue what the bloody hell is going to happen in the last three issues. That in itself is a talent as Bodies has barely been predictable which has made this a better comic than I first thought. I do still think the part of the story set in the future is the weakest link but this has become a small criticism as this is part of a larger piece.

Only three issues to go til we (hopefully) get our answers.

 

What I thought of Django/Zorro #1

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It’s very common to see comic book sequels to films but it’s incredibly odd to see a comic book sequel to a film which is not just official, but written by the original film’s writer/director, in this case Quentin Tarantino. Add in the wonderful talent of writer/artist Matt Wagner and this should be an outstanding comic but it’s co-written by Wagner, so I assume Tarantino had the plot and probably some of the dialogue with Wagner beefing it out. The art is by Esteve Polls and it’s very nice, but it’s no Matt Wagner.

As for the story, here’s the official blurb.

Set several years after the events of Django Unchained, Django/Zorro #1 finds Django again pursuing the evil that men do in his role as a bounty hunter. Since there’s a warrant on his head back east, he’s mainly been plying his trade in the western states. After safely settling his wife, Broomhilda, near Chicago, he’s again taken to the road, sending her funds whenever he completes a job. It’s by sheer chance that he encounters the aged and sophisticated Diego de la Vega – the famed Zorro – and soon finds himself fascinated by this unusual character, the first wealthy white man he’s ever met who seems totally unconcerned with the color of Django’s skin… and who can hold his own in a fight. He hires on as Diego’s “bodyguard” for one adventure and is soon drawn into a fight to free the local indigenous people from a brutal servitude, discovering that slavery isn’t exclusive to black folks. In the course of this adventure, he learns much from the older man (much like King Schultz) and, on several occasions, even dons the mask and the whip… of The Fox!

 

The problem with this comic is that it’s trying hard to be a film and a comic at the same time but the thing is these are two entirely different artforms so contrary to current belief, a comic isn’t just a storyboard for a film, and an film can’t be broken down into a comic easily. It’s one or the other and here’s the problem with Django/Zorro. It opens with a long scene of dialogue as is the case with a lot of Tarantino’s film which in a film would introduce both characters, but readers of comics know exactly who Zorro is and if you’re picking up this comic then you know who Django is. It all comes over as a bit flat as the dialogue would have been better coming from good actors but on the page it doesn’t come alive.

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Yes, it’s fun and the action when it comes is fine but it’s a muted Tarantino on display here as he plays in the world of mainstream comics and frankly, comes short. All in all it’s still worth picking up the next issue, partly due to the John Severin inspired art of Polls but it’s a bit too turgid and bland for what should be a defining Tarantino moment as he writes his first comic.