Alien #2 Review


Alien #2
Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson 
Art by: Salvador Larroca

Released: April 2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics


Alien #2’s cover of a ghostly Alien (Xenomorph) super-imposed on our protagonist, Gabe, had me eagerly anticipating what kind of direction this new story was going to develop.

In the first issue we learned that Gabe had been cocooned by xenomorphs in the past and his experience had been instrumental in the ongoing research at the Weyland-Yutani Epsilon station.  Issue #2 Return to Epsilon Station opens with a time line summary of events that bring us up to speed with all things Alien up to this point.

Spoilers ahead!!!
The plot development by Phillip Kennedy Johnson is engaging and progresses at a good pace. It is recognizably Alien franchise in nature, yet has a more Weyland-Yutani focussed twist to its development. 
Gabe has to return to Epsilon station having only recently been forced into retirement. Danny, his son, has broken into Epsilon Station with his girlfriend the leader of some anti Weyland-Yutani extremists called the Minute Hand Movement. Gabe may be Danny’s only chance of escape from almost certain death, either as a result of a “catastrophic systems failure”, (a cover up to burn up everything and everyone on Epsilon Station), or at the mercy of a new xenomorph threat that Gabe has helped create and that Danny has released. 


Gabe isn’t given much of a choice when he first learns of his son’s transgressions. He would prefer to embark on the mission with five synths (androids). Instead he’s given two wet behind the ears, cocky and ill prepared human agents. The clock is ticking, it’s over 32 hours since Danny boarded Epsilon station. Gabe has to race to face the threat and bring home the company’s prized asset, the ALPHA EMBRYO.

Gabe’s interactions with the company’s agents cement him as a no nonsense salty dog who isn’t easily riled. The flashbacks to his past provide good character depth around his traumatic experiences at the claws of the xenomorphs. Gabe having to get back into the ring with a frightening foe was reminiscent of Ripley returning to LV426 in the face of trauma for the second Alien film. 
I really loved a beautifully choreographed xenomorph kill in the middle of this issue. A headstrong, naive and foolhardy agent rushes after a face hugger who attacks from a ceiling tile. Seeing the face hugger enter in this fashion and the impaled agent on an intercepting xenomorph tail is iconic Alien imagery. I recalled Bishop at the end of the Aliens film. The rib removal in this scene was a delightfully gory death on the back of a thrilling piece of action.

Having set up up a new experimental xenomorph outbreak in issue one, the story opens with a frightened girl and her grandpa bathed in emergency lighting red. Outside there is chaos and the sounds of what may be xenomorphs. We are propelled straight into the action. The sound lettering is consistently eerie throughout this issue. The overall feel is claustrophobic, atmospheric and tense. The terror of the girl trying to find comfort in singing to herself provided a nice touch of emotional investment I thought.


Salvador Larroca (Artist) captures the instant terror of what has been released on Epsilon station to open and close this issue well by capturing well the frenzy of xenomorph encounters. Once again GURU-eFX does an outstanding job bringing the art to life, the colouring uses the perfect pallet for terror, suspense and threat lurking just out of sight. The entry to the station for Gabe and the agents is cold and shadowy. The red of the alarms framing the xenomorph encounters at the start and ending of the issue add to the overall heart pumping action. Splendid job GURU-eFX!

Larocca’s Aliens are mostly tracings or copies and this makes some appear clunky, disjointed or misplaced in their framing. The tracings do give a certain consistency to their presence  There is however, so much good xenomorph art to compare Larocca to that he comes off a bit short. The tracings do leave me questioning his passion for producing Alien franchise art. Gabe is drawn inconsistently in facial features and this affects the frame continuity. I did however wonder if this may be deliberate, maybe as part of some sort of clever metamorphosis process linked to Gabe’s encounter with Aliens, a mystery illness we know little about or perhaps as a result of the experimentation he was a party to at Epsilon Station.

The lettering is perfect and flows so well that I found it a great page turner and an easy choice to subscribe for A#3 Reunion. The xenomorphs are out! There is plenty scope in this story and more twists beyond a race to save the day. Keep it rolling Marvel!


Verdict 

Terror, action and horror in equal measures are strung together entertainingly in this continuation of a tense and atmospheric Alien story.

Reviewed by Taz Maz


Batman #111 Review


Batman #111
Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

Writer: James Tynion IV
Art: Jorge Jimenez (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)
Colours: Tomeu Morey (“The Cowardly Lot Part Five”) and Romulo Fajardo Jr. (“Ghost-Maker Chapter 4”)
Released: 03/08/21
Published by DC Comics

James Tynion IV does a truly great job on villain duty this issue. He is helped immensely with long-time Batman villain, Scarecrow, thanks to the amazing artwork of Jorge Jiminez and Tomeu Morey in ‘The Cowardly Lot Part Five’, which turns the villain into a truly scary, Jigsaw-like mad man. He becomes a viable threat towards Batman whereas, in the past, he has often run the risk of appearing like a B-lister.

I love that Tynion doesn’t get too precious with his own creations here too. Having brought us Peacemaker 01, building the villain up over the previous four issues, there might be a temptation there to show just how formidable he is at Scarecrow’s expense. But Tynion has no problem showing us where he sits on the rogues gallery totem pole, as Scarecrow takes centre stage and puts Simon Saint’s puppet in his place.

Not that I doubted for a second that Miracle Molly would get out of the predicament she found herself in at the end of the last issue, but I still couldn’t help breathe a sigh of relief that the character will live to fight another day, having grown rather attached to her.

Ghost-Maker chapter 4 properly gives us an introduction to the new villain, Razorline, a horrific self-made monster who, once again, gives off some serious movie-inspired vibes. For anyone who has seen the French horror film, ‘Martyrs’, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is a sick and twisted mind that has sought to gain some form of transcendence through pain.

The artwork by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz hasn’t really grabbed me until now. But his style seems to fit with the character of Razorline for some reason.

The only thing that I am seriously unimpressed with are the final words of the issue, which tell us that the conclusion to the Ghost-Maker storyline can be found in the upcoming Batman Annual #1. Personally I am of the opinion that annuals should feature self-contained stories, but that also, unless a particular story is part of a major crossover series then it should end within the pages of the title where it began. Otherwise it just feels like an attempt by the publishers to get you to pick up more titles.

Still, this is a great issue that makes me excited to read the conclusions to both storylines that feature within. Bring on Batman #112 and Batman Annual #1!


Verdict –

Ghostmaker is given a truly compelling villain and Batman faces off against perhaps the best iteration of the Scarecrow that I’ve ever seen.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 15/08/21

X-Men #2 Review


X-MEN #2
Reviewed By Nathan Harrison

Written by: Gerry Duggan

Art: Pepe Larraz

Colours: Marte Gracia
Released: 04/08/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Some of the best science fiction out there is the sort that can impactfully and economically tell a completely standalone main story whilst also effectively driving forward a broader narrative arc – see Doctor Who, Space:1999 etc. This certainly seems to be the approach that Gerry Duggan is taking with his new run on X-Men so far and it’s proving to be a masterstroke.

After cutting themselves off from the rest of the world in recent times, the X-Men are back to protect humanity from a multitude of threats sent one by one by the hideous and menacing Cordyceps Jones. This ‘monster of the month’ method of storytelling is an incredibly effective way of re-establishing the X-Men as superheroes rather than a small part of a self-interested island nation and brings with it echoes of some of the best Saturday morning cartoons of years gone by. Duggan’s little slips into Stan Lee style narration only heighten the nostalgia and should leave any X-fan with the widest of grins on their faces.

The art from Pepe Larraz continues to be outstanding and fits perfectly with the heroic focus of Duggan’s narrative. Every panel leaps off the page, from the busiest, chaos-filled action scenes to the quietest, zoomed-in character moments as Larraz shows once again that he is the perfect artist to draw Marvel books. Marte Gracia’s colours are similarly accomplished – the brightest moments seem designed to make eyes pop out of sockets and the darker, understated panels give just the right level of spook to the surprising returning threat the X-Men face this time around.

While the bulk of the issue centres around the heroics of the team, its final few pages hint at a new and menacing threat, with ripples from events that took place right the way back at the beginning of ‘Head of X’ Jonathan Hickman’s tenure seemingly starting to spread. While the X books may have shifted from Dawn to Reign, it seems these two eras are not as distinct and separate as the marketing would suggest. Anyone in doubt about whether Hickman is still the master of the long game, watch this space.


VERDICT

The newest team of X-Men continue to cement themselves as the superheroes they should be in this second thrilling issue, which screams pure quality and class from its frankly stunning cover (if this isn’t used as the dust jacket for the inevitable omnibus, we riot) right through to its intriguing cliffhanger ending that throws right the way back to House of X; it seems consequences and new dangers are ahead for Marvel’s mutants. In short, this is exactly what a superhero comic should be.


Review by Nathan Harrison, 11/08/2021


Star Wars: 4-Lom & Zuckuss #1 Review


STAR WARS: 4-LOM & ZUCKUSS #1
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison 12/8/21

Written by: Daniel José Older
Art: Kei Zama
Colours: Felipe Sobreiro
Released: 04/08/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Much like Star Wars #15 before it, 4-LOM & Zuckuss #1 (at least seemingly for now) acts as a bit of a diversion from the main narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters event that has been running through various Star Wars comics for the past few months.


While the earlier comic was a tense, nail-biting, white-knuckle ride of an issue, Daniel José Older’s approach is a much more light-hearted and humorous one which is no less refreshing. Could any less be expected from the man who brought us the Jedi affectionately known as Buckets of Blood in his work on The High Republic Adventures?

Insectoid bounty hunter Zuckuss and his lethal droid companion 4-LOM have proven surprising fodder for comedy in their appearances in the ongoing Bounty Hunters series and Older takes this even further with a truly madcap approach to his story, bringing in an almost Guardians of the Galaxy style sense of humour to proceedings. Heck, there’s even a raccoon-like creature with a penchant for removing limbs…

That’s not to say that this issue doesn’t have substance and depth – we see Zuckuss in a whole new light by the end of this issue and 4-LOM is certainly transformed, albeit in an altogether more out there, slightly terrifying way, wonderfully revealed in one of a number of Kei Zama’s splash pages. The Japanese artist’s lines are satisfyingly clean, creating a cartoonish feel when paired with Felipe Sobreiro’s dynamic colour work. A lot of this issue’s colour palette is on the darker end of the scale, but when brighter bursts are appropriate, Sobreiro makes the most of them, especially when blaster rounds start firing.

Deva Lompop, the new bounty hunter character introduced in the previous Jabba the Hutt one shot makes an altogether too brief appearance, although that does mean that the focus here is squarely on the title characters, which wasn’t quite the case with Jabba. That said, it would have been fun to see Older take on the character, as her anarchic presence seems like it would fit right within his wheelhouse.


VERDICT

4-LOM & Zuckuss #1 acts as a fun, exciting and somewhat bonkers side-line to the War of the Bounty Hunters, although no doubt the events of this issue will feed into the greater narrative at a later juncture. Older’s script is fast-paced and frenetic and the fun he’s had here is evident. And if the writer has fun, especially in a world like Star Wars, so does the reader. Those who haven’t had a chance to get into the wider event will have a tough job catching up at this point, but this issue stands on its own nicely and thoroughly entertains.


Review by Nathan Harrison 12/8/21


The Case For… The Green Lantern Movie


Article By Andy Flood 11/8/21

The Case for… the Green Lantern Movie


No! Wait!  Don’t leave, just… hear me out.  Put down the weapon… there we go. Now…

Released in 2011 to a distinct lack of praise or indeed, audience appreciation, the Green Lantern movie has long been the superhero film that no-one talks about unless it’s in jest.  Certainly, I remember not being overly fond of it on my initial viewing around the time of its home release (I borrowed it, don’t worry).

Following a family visit to one of our local Wow Comix to meet the very cool and kind staff (while also browsing the long boxes), my wife and I decided to revisit the film and watch with our sons.  This decision came on the back of some in-store banter at the expense of the film alongside my being assigned the new run of Green Lantern for review.  It seemed like as bad a time as any to watch it again and give it another chance.

Now for some, this film is a nameless horror, its number lying between 5 and 7, and so on.  For my part, I remember it being quite flawed but also quite fun.  We had access to the blu-ray release (we were keeping it for a friend, honest) and so were able to watch the extended version of the film, which expands on the central relationships in the film.  This helps.  A little.

I have found that when watching films with my sons, I often end up viewing them through a different lens; one concerned less with artistic merit or cinematic truth and more with fun and spectacle.  Thought of another way, I’m more forgiving of a film’s flaws if my family are enjoying it.  They have fun, I have fun.

That said, I’ve always been predisposed to finding the good in almost anything and I nearly always find something cool about whichever book, comic, game or film I’m engaged with.  Sometimes even the smallest positive element can make a piece of entertainment worthy of my time and consideration.  I believe that once you engage with the creative process a little for yourself, you gain a much deeper appreciation for the work and creations of others.  So with that mindset, I settled in for my second viewing of the Green Lantern movie.

Even in the earliest frames of the film, it’s apparent that efforts were made to adopt some of the framing techniques used in comics in the making of this film.  While there is some cross-pollination (now more so than ever) between ‘cinema’ and comics in the way images are presented, there are certain angles and ‘shots’ which are identifiably comic-like and I was happy to see some of these used here.

The opening expositional speech (delivered by Geoffrey Rush as the alien Green Lantern Tomar-Re) is similarly reminiscent of the sort of ‘catch up’ narrative you might see in comics from time to time, particularly those from silver and bronze eras.  We’re introduced to the idea of the Lanterns as a sort of intergalactic police force (this being in line with the comics) and are soon introduced to a problem from their past.

Following scenes of galactic intrigue and peril, we’re brought back to Earth and are introduced to Hal Jordan as a child and witness the formative tragedy of his losing his test pilot father to an accident.  We then go on to see Hal as an adult and his antics as he follows in his father’s footsteps.

As events build towards Hal being chosen as the next Green Lantern, the film tries to tap in to one of the factors which make the Green Lantern comics so appealing.  Consider the idea that almost anyone could be chosen by this cosmic ring, powered by the force of will, to be a superhero.

You don’t have to be Kryptonian, obscenely wealthy/disturbed, super powered or even a particularly ‘together’ person.  You just have to be fearless, or able to face fear, or strong willed; however you choose to interpret the criteria.  The point is, ‘it could be you!’.

Ryan Reynolds (GL) and Blake Lively (Carol)

This is pretty powerful when it comes to the imagination of a child or indeed anyone with some imagination and perhaps a desire to be something else, something more.  Green Lantern comics appealed to this idea and made their hero relatable.  The movie actually goes some way to doing a good job with this idea too, particularly seeing as Hal is essentially quite reluctant to engage with his calling and even ‘quits’ the position at one point.

The look of the film is a lot better than all the comments berating the CG would have you believe, and the depiction of the Green Lanterns’ powers and their central world of Oa is good enough to have some fun with, particularly if you disengage your critical brain.  With any high concept CG, it’s always easy to point at the flaws and scoff.  But if you choose to buy into it a little more, you start to worry a little less about the way the ‘manifestations’ appear.  It was always going to be a tall order to film the Green Lanterns’ powers.  I feel like they did okay. 

Of special note was the scene where he manifests a Hot Wheels track to save a crowd from a crashing helicopter.  It’s totally bonkers and requires heavy suspension of disbelief, but when two little voices cry, “No way!  Look!  It’s Hot Wheels!” it’s all good.

Similarly, the space-bound, multitude of alien life, science fiction type scenes are all quite good visually and undeserving of the panning they received.  The weird and wonderful space scenes were always some of my favourite aspects of the comics back in the ‘80s, so it was nice to see them represented here.

The Green Lantern (Hal) does look pretty much like the comic book version, despite the much derided CG costume.  This was always a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ type decision for the makers; no matter how the costume is filmed, there’s always a chance that it doesn’t come off right.  And similarly, no matter who you cast, you can’t please all the folk all of the time.

Something that did come off right was the presentation of Sinestro (even if we don’t really get to see him become a villain per se).  Mark Strong does a great job with his performance and it’s a shame that the intended sequel never came to pass, as he would have made a really good comic book bad guy.  Instead, the decision was made to focus on Hal’s childhood friend who, tormented by a disapproving father and being on the loosing side of a love triangle of sorts, proves an easy convert for the power of fear when a fragment of Parallax (the Green Lanterns’ nemesis in this film) enters his body.  It makes for a weak antagonist and Earthbound action which left me wishing we could have been in outer space more.


This is one of those films that disappointed fans and is quite easy to poke fun at.  It has pacing issues, bears the indelible mark of ‘studio interference’, feels like it was written by committee, has a poor choice of bad guy, doesn’t do enough good things with its arguably strong cast… the list goes on.  In spite of all that, my eldest son (he’s 10) enjoyed it.  And, because of that, and independently from that, I enjoyed it.  I was entertained.  And isn’t that what we’re here for?


Article by Andy Flood 11/8/21

Amazing Fantasy #1 Review

Amazing Fantasy #1

Reviewed by Andy Flood, 8/8/21

Story:  Kaare Andrews
Art:  Kaare Andrews
Letters:  Joe Sabino
Released: 28/7/21
Published by Marvel Comics


If you’re in a comic shop and don’t feel even the remotest pull of curiosity when faced with an image of Captain America riding a winged lion, then perhaps you are browsing the wrong shelves.  The first issue of Amazing Fantasy has such an image on its cover and it really is one you have to hold in your hands to appreciate.

Granted, old ‘Cap’ looks a little different here, with Thor-like hair and beard and Conan-esque garb.  But the shield is there, albeit peppered with arrows.  The whole composition of the cover, from the languid pose of the supple elf-maiden to the hyper muscled orc (?) and Cap bring to mind the classic sword and sorcery art of Frank Frazetta and maybe even a little Boris Vallejo.

The whole cover is gleefully anachronistic, and I love it.  From the title font down to the brief cover pitch, it instantly conjures up the feel of the pulps of old.  Indeed, the original run of Amazing Fantasy (originally titled Amazing Adult Fantasy) harkens back to the post-pulp early ‘60s, and while primarily being famous for featuring the first ever appearance of Spider Man, had previously featured some excellent, weird and wonderful stories from Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby!

It is perhaps fitting then, that this new book contains not only numerous nods to Marvel history but also stars Spider Man alongside Captain America.  Joining them is Black Widow, or perhaps more accurately here, ‘red-room’ era Natasha Romanoff.  Kaare Andrews has elected to use World War II era Cap and teenage Spidey in this awesome story.

Aside from the letters and editor credits, this title is very much a one man show, and Kaare Andrews makes sure it is a seriously impressive show, at that.  The opening scenes of ‘Arrival’ show us Captain America on what seems to be an ocean-bound escort mission during WWII.  Disaster soon strikes and the Cap is transported to a strange new world, lit by twin suns and populated by fearsome beasts.

We then change pace, tone and art style to join a young Black Widow in the depths of the Red Room programme.  Soon after experiencing some of her harsh reality, we shift over to join everyone’s favourite webslinger, mid-fight with the Green Goblin, just before he is similarly whisked away to find himself in hot water surrounded by odd, misshapen creatures.

This whole book is a love letter not only to Marvel but also the many early pulp fantasy and science fiction stories which informed a lot of later entertainment.  Kaare Andrews uses his shifts in art style to take us from one era or scene to another, with changes in line work and colours very effectively charting a course through the chaos until our three protagonists all arrive in this strange new world.

As the action unfolds and builds towards the climactic closing pages, we are left with a sense of wonder and discovery but also with questions as to the exact nature of our heroes’ experiences.  Is it real, a shared dream, or something more… permanent?


Verdict


‘Arrival’ is a superb opening issue for this 5 book run.  The standard cover is worth the price of admission alone (there are a few nice variant covers around, too).  As a comic creator, Kaare Andrews is openly flexing here, showing off his considerable talents to bring us a tale worthy of that awesome cover and a gathering of some of Marvel’s most popular characters.  This one is highly recommended.  I can’t wait for issue 2!


Review by Andy Flood, 8/8/21


WOW COMIX FREE COMIC BOOK DAY – 11/9/21

Due to the worldwide Free Comic Book Day having a scattered release in the UK this year, we have decided to put ours back a little so that we can make sure that all of the great free titles are available all together, at the same time.

So our revised date will be Saturday the 11th of September!

Free Comic Book Day you say?

Yup – To participate in Free Comic Book Day, simply go to your nearest Wow Comix shop (Stockport, Stretford or Bury) on the 11th of September and ask a member of staff for a free bag of exclusive Free Comic Book Day comics! Its THAT easy!

Each year, many of the major publishers release a one off special issue in celebration of the day and some of these titles over the years have become somewhat sought after due to the nature of them not being immediately available online!

There are two types of bag you can choose from, one that is child friendly and one with titles more suitable to teens and above. You can select which one you would like!
Only one bag will be available per customer, but fear not, it will be loaded with a great range of titles.

Below is just a tiny sample of what is coming up for FREE on the 11th of September. To see more of the titles that will be available follow this link!




Detective Comics #1040 Review


Detective Comics #1040

Reviewed By Bryan Lomax


Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“The Weekender”) and Dan Watters (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Art: Dan Mora (“The Weekender”) and Max Raynor (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Weekender”) and Arif Prianto (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Weekender”) and Rob Leigh (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Released: 27/07/21
Published by DC Comics

As I suspected, at the end of issue #1039, the “finale” to Mariko Tamaki’s story, “The Neighborhood”, was anything but. Hugh Vile, we are told, is still alive, leaving Penguin and Mr Worth to continue whatever scheme it was that Vile had concocted. Huntress and Deb Donovan wake up in hospital, seemingly recovered from the effects of Vile’s attacks. Meanwhile, Bruce sits in a prison cell talking to a drunken man, allowing Oracle to put the evidence together that would get him out.

All of this amounts to a mildly amusing dose of pop psychology, as Bruce’s drunken cellmate, having learned that he is Batman (something he conveniently forgets once sober), tells him that he essentially brings all the darkness and misery upon himself; that he is attracted to it. Bruce looks rather non-plussed by this revelation. Dan Mora’s art work, particularly his gift for facial expressions, body language and framing, really help in selling these exchanges. The splash page of Batman and Joker crashing through a skylight, during a flashback, is stunning and I get a kick out of seeing the 1980’s colours on their costumes.

We are told by Penguin that Vile is still alive but we don’t see him. We can only assume at this point he lies in a hospital bed under armed guard. And with Deb Donovan now fully awake and able to testify as to what happened to her, it’s unclear as to just what evidence Oracle needed to gather in order to free Bruce from custody.
The tactics that Penguin employs here also make little sense to me. He’s killed many people over the years without the perceived need to remove Batman from the equation first. And, given the level of destruction he manages to pull off at one point, it feels like a somewhat flimsy excuse for Penguin and Worth to not use all their resources to make a co-ordinated attack directly on Bruce.

‘The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom’ makes a concerted effort to paint some heroic light onto the tragic character of Man-Bat. Unfortunately, it relies quite heavily on some past events from stories that I’ve never read, which means I felt a bit distant from it all. Not to mention the fact that, by now, we all know that when people die in comic books they rarely stay dead. This made it hard for me to connect in any real emotional way with Langstrom, especially given how few pages that writer, Dan Watters, had to tell his story. In that respect he did a good job given he was so restrained.


Verdict:

Mariko Tamaki’s ongoing story, that began with so much intrigue, now seems to hang in limbo with too much uncertainty, while Man-Bat is given a “final” send-off that struggles to resonate emotionally. The highlight is Dan Mora’s artwork.


Reviewed By Bryan Lomax 6/8/21

Throwback Review – The Uncanny X-Men #146 – June 1981


THE UNCANNY X-MEN #146

Reviewed by Nathan Harrison


Written by: Chris Claremont
Art: Dave Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein
Released: June 1981
Publisher: Marvel Comics



The thing about winning streaks is that inevitably, inexorably, undeniably they must, at some point come to an end.

The Uncanny X-Men #146 came just a few short months after not one but two of the most iconic, revered, and well-regarded X-Men stories of all time – The Dark Phoenix Saga (so good they filmed it twice – badly) and Days of Future Past.
Even those with the most passing knowledge of Marvel’s mutant heroes will likely have heard of these essential parts of comic book history and they, of course, form small parts of a record-breaking and essential 17 year run on X-Men by the incredible Chris Claremont. However, even the best in the business have their off days…

This issue comes slap bang in the middle of a 3 issue tale, which sees the X-Men rescuing their foe, Arcade, from the clutches of Fantastic Four big bad, Doctor Doom. An exciting premise on paper…until you remember that Arcade is involved. While his elaborate escape room antics could be seen as a precursor to horror legend Jigsaw, Arcade appears as something more akin to a Chucky doll stuffed into a white suit and polka-dot bow tie, a look which must have seemed dated even in 1981.

Even fairly recent appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man have failed to update him in a convincing way. He’s the sort of lame, ridiculous villain that the comics try to take seriously but who’s crying out for the kind of treatment DC have recently given to Polka Dot Man in the latest Suicide Squad movie – main adversary for Deadpool’s first MCU appearance anyone?

That said, while the majority of the traps that Arcade and Doom set for Banshee, Havok, Iceman and Polaris (as well as some of the more popularly known X-Men who feature briefly) are on the silly side, there are some mind-bending and borderline scary panels – one featuring a merry-go-round with living vampiric horses stands out, as well as the twisty checkerboard hell that Wolverine finds himself in. David Cockrum and Jeff Rubinstein do a solid job of conveying the terror – when the trap itself is actually in any way terrifying. Less impactful are Havok’s trip on what appears to be Space Mountain and the whole team sliding down the pipes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Special mention must be given to a panel from one of the final pages, which sees Havok…well…just take a look at that pose. Naughty boy!

Well hello

VERDICT

Claremont certainly can’t be blamed for going for a lighter story after the earth-shattering and emotional events of what came before, but this one sadly misses the mark. What should be a fun romp turns out to be a bit of a slog, with only a few moments of levity and the occasional nightmarish panel (you decide which category that Havok one falls under!) to break up the tedium. However, that’s not to take anything away from a legendary run which will undoubtedly feature on every comic fan’s must-read list until the heat death of the universe.


Review by Nathan Harrison 5/8/21


Alien #1 Review


Alien #1
Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by:
Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art by:
Salvador Larroca
Released: March 2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Regardless of if you have ever read the Dark Horse Aliens, any other previous Alien franchise books, or even seen the films, this new and exciting direction in the Alien franchise kicks off well in Marvel’s Alien #1. 

The artwork that the Swiss born painter Hans Ruedi Giger gave us for the original films was sumptuous and visually stunning.  In the over forty years after his original creations there have been many Aliens drawn by amateurs, fans and professionals inspired by his work. Dark Horse comics had previously published some great Alien franchise comics and arguably made their name on publishing’s of Aliens, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator and Prometheus. Seeing how Marvel would run with this new series was intriguing on an artistic level alone.

Ahead of this first offering there was a little stirring of Alien comic fan interest. Tristan Jones, who provided the artwork for Dark Horse’s longstanding series accused Marvel Comics and artist Greg Land of tracing his work for the cover of the Aliens Omnibus. I wondered how would this first printing would hold up to scrutiny.

Giger the comparisons were hard to avoid and I found Larroca to be pretty average in parts.  The first two page scene didn’t need to introduce Alien imagery. The original film was so great at building the slow burn. Seeing that it was clearly tracing of action figure Aliens made the actual Aliens introduction a little disappointing. Never the less the overall art is solid and the tracings from toys, best forgotten I’d say. The good likeness to Lance Henrickson ( actor in the original films ) in the Bishop, android role is a nice addition.

Bishop is introduced as the therapist to our main character and it really helped endear me to the content as being recognizable as Alien franchise from early in the plot development. The palette by Guru-efx really is amazing. I loved it. Spot on! The choices redeem the art to some extent. It is wonderfully dark, ominous and compliments the lettering, and story with a sense of tension and foreboding

The character development and story is set out well too. Gabriel Cruz is the soon to be retired Weyland-Yutani security chief. His loyalty to the corporation has been unquestionable in his many years of service. It’s clear this tough well respected company man has made a lot of personal sacrifice to the detriment of his family and mentally evidrnced through trauma in the course of his recollections with Bishop of surviving an Alien encounter.

Shortly after retiring with an undisclosed sickness Gabe tries to mend fences with his broken relationship with his son Danny. Danny unlike his father has nothing but contempt for the agenda of the Weyland-Yutani corporation and steals a security pass from Gabe in a brief visit with him. Danny takes the security pass with his girlfriend and a bunch of terrorists to break into the Weyland-Yutani research facility. They end up finding more than they bargained for. What they find could easily be compared to a scene from the Alien Resurrection film. The bloody way they infiltrate the lab looks promising in terms of future horror art. This again bodes well as I did wonder if Marvel may tone down the horror to appeal to a wider age range and customer base.

For the fans I’m sure there will be a mixed reception given the tracings mainly. There was enough here for me to connect it with the Alien franchise and although not mind-blowing as first issues go, continued page turning is defiantly something I’d stick with. The art on A#2 RETURN TO EPSILON STATION cover really had me mulling over plot twists and I look forward to more to come.


Verdict:

This is a bold start to an Alien story. It has good character development and a pacey, original, intriguing plot of fright inducing promise. 


Review by Taz Maz – 4/8/21