Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #4 – Review

STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #4
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Luke Ross with David Messina

Colours: Neeraj Menon with GURU-eFX


Released: 15/09/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Though issues of their own title have formed part of the wider narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters event, the main characters from the excellent Bounty Hunters series have been (mostly) conspicuous by their absence in the titular mini-series that acts as the linchpin of the 34-part narrative. That is, until now, and it was certainly worth the wait.

The focus of the series has understandably been on the heroes of The Skywalker Saga, but the ongoing story of the cyborg bounty hunter, Vallance, and his connection to Han Solo has been a truly compelling one. Finally seeing this play into a narrative which, despite not actually featuring him, is all about Han pays true dividends here. Seeing Vallance and Dengar tussle with Boba Fett is a punch-the-air moment, especially as it is depicted in the dynamic style of Luke Ross and the bright, characterful colours of Neeraj Menon. This title is where the disparate parts truly come together, not just from a narrative perspective, but visually also, as the approach to every character is brought under the umbrella of one incredibly skilled team.

Like all the best final acts of any Star Wars story, this lead-up to the conclusion jumps between sets of characters at the drop of a hat, whilst keeping the reader engaged with each thread of the events. Soule is the master of the balancing act – between swathes of characters all in different places, in altogether different situations, and between plot and pace. The plot drives forward inexorably and without any awkwardness or ham-fisted exposition, yet action and fun are still placed firmly at the forefront. This issue goes from the aftermath of the Scoundrel’s Ball to the surface of the planet Jekara, to the depths of space filled with swarms of ships in the blink of an eye without missing a beat. Soule’s impressive pacing must be a challenge for any artist, but it’s one that Ross and Menon rise to with aplomb, imbuing every distinct scene with oodles of charm.

All this flitting about leads to a corker of a final page, which sets the stage for an epic final battle as various chickens come home to roost, with major implications for the final throes of the narrative.


VERDICT

As the core mini-series of this massive event nears its conclusion, it’s great to finally see some more major players enter the fray as things hot up for a final showdown that’s bound to pop right off the page. After many, many issues across 5 titles, the majority of the pieces are in place thanks to Soule’s continued uncanny ability to perfectly blend plot and fast-paced action. Roll on issue 5!


Review by Nathan Harrison 25/9/21

This Month’s 10 Hottest Pre-Order Picks From WowComix.com!


Whether you’re looking to get a head start on your Christmas shopping a little early this year, or for some exciting new comics, graphic novels or action figures to add to your collection, here at Wow Comix we have a mountain of awesome new items currently available for pre-order! We’ve put a small list together of some of our personal favourites, featuring new products from well-known publishers and brands alongside a few things you may not have seen before. So if you’re in the mood to treat yourself or a loved one but you’re not too sure where to start, keep reading for some of this winter’s hottest (or should that be coolest?) new titles and collectables!


10. Buffy The Last Vampire Slayer #1

Due to be released this December, Buffy is back as we’ve never seen her before!

Can a lone Slayer save what’s left of humanity?

Buffy Summers is the last Slayer. Now in her 50s, she wages a one woman fight against the forces of darkness, who prey on humanity in the daylight unimpeded thanks to a magical catastrophe that has nearly blotted out the sun.

The same disaster robbed Buffy of her friends and ended the Slayer-line, forcing her into an endless guerilla war. That is, until she stumbles across something she hasn’t seen in a long time – hope, in the form of a prophecy and the young girl who carries it.

The Multiverse explodes as writer Casey Gilly (Femme Magnifique, You Died) and artist Joe Jaro (Firefly) bring you a dystopian tale of Buffy Summers as you’ve never seen her before for fans of Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, Batman: Last Knight On Earth, and Future State: Wonder Woman.

https://wowcomix.com/buffy-the-last-vampire-slayer-1-08-12-21-dynamite-comic/



9. Attack On Titan Omnibus Volume 2

The latest collected edition from the massively successful Attack On Titan manga series, this outing sees the Survey Corps trying dangerous new tactics to reclaim their land from the human-devouring Titans!

It’s never been easier to attack Attack on Titan than with these new, giant-sized 3-in-1 omnibus editions! The Survey Corps develop a risky gambit – have Eren in Titan form attempt to repair Wall Rose, reclaiming human territory from the monsters for the first time in a century. But Titan-Eren’s self-control is far from perfect, and when he goes on a rampage, not even Armin can stop him! With the survival of humanity on his massive shoulders, will Eren be able to return to his senses? This omnibus includes volumes 4-6.

https://wowcomix.com/attack-on-titan-omnibus-volume-2-08-12-21-kodansha-graphic-novel-tp/


8. Devil’s Reign #1

Kingpin (AKA Wilson Fisk) has gone from crime boss to mayor of New York and his new-found political power (coupled with his rather large evil streak) could lead to the downfall of our favourite Marvel superheroes!

The story that’s been building for years is here! Wilson Fisk went from Kingpin to mayor of the biggest city in America and is going to bring his full criminal and political power to bear on the super heroes who call NYC home. The man who once destroyed Daredevil has set his sights on The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and more. And since it’s Fisk, once he takes them all down, you know he’s going to sign it.

CROSSBONES! TASKMASTER! TYPHOID MARY! SHOCKER! WHIPLASH! RHINO! KRAVEN! Fisk has an ARMY of super villains at his command—and this is just his opening salvo. For years, Fisk has waited for his time to strike, and YOU WON’T BELIEVE the aces he’s got up his sleeves!

https://wowcomix.com/devils-reign-1-01-12-21-marvel-comic/



7. Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Clone Wars Aayla Secura Figure

A fan favourite from the Clone Wars animated series, here’s Jedi Knight Aayla Secura complete with robe and lightsaber!

Celebrate the legacy of Star Wars, the action-and-adventure-packed space saga from a galaxy far, far away, with premium 3.75-inch scale figures and vehicles from Star Wars The Vintage Collection. Figures feature premium detail and design across product and packaging inspired by the original line, as well as the entertainment-inspired collector grade deco that fans have come to know and love. (Additional products each sold separately.  Subject to availability.)

A cunning warrior and Jedi Knight during the rise of the Clone Wars, Aayla fought alongside Clone Commander Bly on many exotic battlefields

Featuring premium detail and design across multiple points of articulation inspired by Star Wars: Clone Wars, this collectible Star Wars The Vintage Collection 3.75-inch-scale figure makes a great gift for Star Wars fans and collectors.

https://wowcomix.com/star-wars-the-vintage-collection-clone-wars-aayla-secura-figure-01-04-22-hasbro/



6. Disney’s Stitch: Stitch & The Samurai Volume 1

Whilst on the run from galactic authorities, loveable alien Stitch finds himself mistaken for a tanuki and taken under the wing of a Samurai Warrior!

While fleeing the Galactic Federation, Stitch’s spaceship malfunctions and he makes an emergency landing… not in Hawaii, but in sengoku-era Japan! Discovered by the brutal warlord Lord Yamato and his clan, Stitch’s incomparable cuteness is no match for the battle-weary samurai, who decides to bring the “blue tanuki” home with him. Will Stitch’s love of chaos turn into a formidable advantage for the samurai’s influence? Or will his cute and fluffy form disarm the noble lord’s stern facade?

https://wowcomix.com/disneys-stitch-stitch-the-samurai-vol-1-10-11-21-tokyopop-graphic-novel-tp/




5. Swamp Thing: Green Hell #1

New from author Jeff Lemire and artist Doug Mahnke comes a DC Black Label gore-fest straight from the swamp!

The Earth is all but done. The last remnants of humanity cling to a mountaintop island lost in endless floodwater. The Parliaments of the Green, the Red, and the Rot all agree: it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start the cycle of life over again. And to do so, they’ve united their powers to summon an avatar—one of the most horrific monsters to ever stalk the surface of this forsaken planet. Against a creature like that, there can be no fighting back…unless you have a soldier who understands the enemy. Someone who has used its tactics before. Someone like Alec Holland.

Of course, it would help if Alec Holland hadn’t been dead for decades…

Jeff Lemire—the author of the smash hits Joker: Killer Smile and The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, along with the graphic novel that inspired the television sensation Sweet Tooth—returns to Black Label with one of the greatest artists in modern DC history, Doug Mahnke, in tow! Together they’ll unleash a gory, gruesome monster mash, where the fate of humanity rests in the hands of someone who isn’t human at all!

https://wowcomix.com/swamp-thing-green-hell-1-28-12-21-dc-comic/




4. Loki: Glorious Purpose Poster

Here’s one for fans of the hugely successful Disney + show, add a little mischief to your wall with this awesome Loki poster!

It’s time to embrace the true powers of Loki as you add this awesome poster to your home. Featuring the God of Mischief himself, this is sure to be the perfect way to show off your love for the future Marvel classic. Official merch.

https://wowcomix.com/loki-glorious-purpose-poster-31-12-21-pyramid-international/


3. Star Wars: Life Day #1

Inspired by the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, get into the festive spirit with Han and Chewie!

THE GALAXY’S FAVORITE HOLIDAY!

Happy LIFE DAY! Celebrate the galaxy’s favorite holiday with a collection of festive tales from all across the STAR WARS SAGA! Life Day is the last thing on HAN SOLO’S mind when he and CHEWBACCA find themselves outgunned and under fire. But Chewie won’t give up hope, remembering the lessons of Life Days past and present. As for Life Days yet to come… Well, they’ll have to survive the night first!

https://wowcomix.com/star-wars-life-day-1-17-11-21-marvel-comic/


2. Pokemon: Articuno Articulated 6 Inch Figure

An ice type Pokemon perfectly suited to the coming winter season, this new addition to the Pokemon select range is a must-have!

With more detail, more points of articulation, and more ways to play and display than ever, this 15cm super articulated Articuno is the perfect addition to any Pokémon trainer’s team! Every Select super articulated figure comes with 15+ points of articulation, high levels of detail, and a posing arm accessory so you can pose Articuno any way you’d like!

With authentic details that make this Articuno figure look like it flew right out of the Pokémon animated series, you can pose Articuno to recreate all of your favourite moments! Gotta Catch ‘Em All! Each sold separately.

https://wowcomix.com/pokemon-articuno-articulated-6-inch-figure-release-date-tbc-jazwares/



1. Absolute Doomsday Clock

Coming in 2022, the DC Universe meets Watchmen in this colossal-sized edition of the Doomsday Clock mini-series!

NOTHING EVER REALLY ENDS. The world of Watchmen collides with the DC Universe in a story that rewrites the past, present, and future of comics!

Doomsday Clock finally gets the Absolute treatment! Dr. Manhattan, a near-omnipotent being from the Watchmen universe, has been using his powers to rewrite the DC Universe–reshaping some heroes’ histories, erasing other heroes altogether, and playing with the fates of the good and evil alike.

But why? What does a godlike being from another world stand to gain from the DC Universe? The mystery remains, but now that our heroes know they’re being toyed with,what can they do to stop it? The clock is ticking…

From Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson, the critically acclaimed team behind Shazam! and Batman: Earth One, this collection includes the full groundbreaking 12-issue miniseries.

https://wowcomix.com/absolute-doomsday-clock-14-06-22-dc-graphic-novel-hc/


Batman #112 Review


Batman #112
Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

Writer:
James Tynion IV (Fear State Part 1)
Thomas Brandon (Clownhunter in DIY Part 1)

Art:
Jorge Jimenez (Fear State Part 1)
Howard Jason (Clownhunter in DIY Part 1)

Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 07/09/21
Published by DC Comics

Fear State finally gets under way in the latest issue of Batman. Although, truth be told, this really doesn’t feel like the starting point of the story given that the events that take place here are merely a continuation of everything that has already been happening for the last few months. I feel a more suitable title would be “Fear State: part seven” or whatever! Regardless, it’s a cracking issue, as everything in Gotham seems to be falling apart all thanks to the Scarecrow.

Seeing Batman crippled by fear, thanks to some new technology that Scarecrow is using, is really quite unnerving. At one point, he reaches out to his allies via radio communications, almost begging for help. Several times he uses the word, “please”, as he tries to reach his team. Seeing this from Batman just feels wrong. He’s not the kind of man who begs. Ever! And yet, it only adds to what writer James Tynion is trying to achieve here in making Scarecrow a truly A-list villain, the kind who poses a genuine threat to Batman as well as Gotham City.

Peacekeeper-01 descends further down the rabbit hole of insanity, again, thanks to Scarecrow’s new technology, paving the way for what is sure to be a much more formidable foe in Peacekeeper X.

So far, Simon Saint’s bodyguard, Ricardo, has been a pretty one-note character, so I’m hoping he’s going to get a bit more fleshed out over the course of the next few issues before we are asked to accept him as a bonafide, bad-ass super-villain. Either way, he seems to be heading for a showdown with former GCPD officer, Sean Mahoney which, if handled right, has the potential to flesh out both characters, as they compete for the “honor” of being Saint’s number one lapdog.

Tomeu Morey does the colours once more for Tynion’s story and it must be said that his work is absolutely beautiful! I particularly love what he does with Poison Ivy, who is given a very limited role here, but when she’s on the page with other colorful characters, like Miracle Molly and Harley Quinn, the images really pop. Ivy is a character that has recently been hovering on the peripheries of stories running throughout the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. It’s pretty clear that her power has grown exponentially beyond anything we’ve seen from her before. It’s also clear that, due to her constant background presence, she will at some point play a major part in Fear State. Whether that is in the form of a foe or an ally remains to be seen. But right now she seems to be the biggest threat to Scarecrow’s plans and probably the safest bet in Batman defeating Jonathan Crane’s alter ego.


Verdict –

Fear State kicks into high gear, promising a fantastic showdown between the heroes (and anti-heroes) of Gotham and the most threatening version of Scarecrow that we’ve ever seen, thanks to the wonderful team of James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey.



Review by Bryan Lomax, 23/09/21


Fantastic Four #35 Review


Fantastic Four #35
Reviewed By Ross Kelly

Written by Dan Slott, Jason Loo and Mark Waid.

Art by John Romita Jr, Jason Loo and Paul Renaud.

Released September 15, 2021

Published by Marvel Comics

Three tales as Marvel’s first family celebrate their sixtieth birthday in this oversized anniversary epic.

The main feature is written by series regular Dan Slott with art by John Romita Jr and together they craft a fun time travelling adventure into the FF’s history. Kang the Conqueror, time surfing megalomaniac and his various incarnations are on the hunt for ‘The Prize’, a final gift left to Reed Richards by his father, which had been split into four pieces and hidden at different points in Richard’s time line. Naturally the Kangs want it, whatever it is, and that’s reason enough for each Kang to invade a different period in the team’s past.

First stop, the sixties and the team are still new, still coming to terms with their powers. The first Kang turns up with an army of loyal Sarcophobots (Robots dressed as Egyptian mummies, and my new favourite word) and using his future knowledge promptly defeats the fledging team. 

Trips to the nineties and noughties follow and its soon three nil to the Kangs, who bicker and gloat, like a bunch of evil Doctor Whos. I won’t spoil part four of the story but its safe to say that all is not lost and Reed Richards has a plan. It all ends when we find out what the Prize is, setting up the next issue and Slott’s on-going story.

The trips to the past are good fun and Slott and Romita Jr don’t try and emulate the styles of comics past. They have their own story to tell. Instead, we’re treated to some nice homage covers in-between each jaunt, which help set the scene and allow Slott to keep the story moving at a brisk pace helped along by Romita Jr’s quick, bombastic art.

After the main event come two back up features. A two-page spread written and draw by Jason Loo sees a trip to the park interrupted by The Mole Man in an echo of the Four’s first issue story from 1961.  Loo packs in the panels and the story reads like a choose your own adventure puzzle giving the reader four paths to follow to the inevitable gag punchline. It’s an entertaining diversion before the third offering, a fresh retelling of the team’s origin story written by Mark Waid with art by Paul Renaud.

This time the story is told from the point of view of Mr Fantastic and how he carries the guilt for changing his friends lives forever. It was his over confidence and arrogance that unintentionally caused the horrific transformations that changed Sue, Ben, Johnny into The Invisible Woman, The Thing and The Human Torch. And Renaud’s art definitely portrays the changes as horrifying. Particularly that of Johnny Storm who is drawn as a man literally burning alive. In the first moments after the transformation, they are presented as monsters, terrified of each other and themselves. Four individuals afraid and divided.

Richards imagines them as outcasts shunned by society, their old lives full of promise and hope, over forever. His redemption comes by changing this fate, using all his talents to give them new lives. One of fame and adventure. Turning them into a team of superstars. Heroes.

This is easily the best FF origin story I’ve read and any new fan experiencing the story for the first time is in for a treat. My favourite story of the three on offer.

Naturally there’s a strong theme of family linking the stories and especially highlighting its importance to Reed Richards himself. Both Slott and Waid acknowledge that for Richards, nothing is more important than his family.  


Verdict

Thoroughly enjoyed it. A great birthday issue with a marvellous time traveling romp and a fresh perspective on the team’s origin. Definitely worth a read for old fans and new. Plus, there’s a letters page, which is always a good thing.


Reviewed By Ross Kelly

Spawn #321 Review


Spawn #321
Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Todd McFarlane 
Artwork by: Carlo Barberi 
Published by Image Comics
Published: September 1, 2021

The brand new installment of Spawn is a pretty interesting read, it adds some suspense to the ever building war, shocks the reader with a disturbing story and ends in a VERY intruiging manner.

The story begins with spawn arguing with Matt (Spawn’s friend/assistant) and Jessica (she-Spawn) about the safety of their hideout. Spawn fears that the base is no longer secure as villains seem to come and go as they please whereas Matt and Jess believe their sanctum is still suitable and question Al’s methods at which point he storms out in a rage and goes on the prowler for a man called Paul with some very shady connections.

Once Spawn catches up with Paul and interrogates him he finds himself wandering into the basement finding a startling discovery of a young lady trapped with her baby. Spawn places his hand on the woman’s head and witnesses the atrocities committed by Paul, plagued with anger spawn lashes out and seemingly causes nation wide blackout? The blackout seems to be some sort of supernatural happening as the last page reads that “No one will be able to light a fire”. Which obviously is impossible unless Spawn caused everybody to lose there sense of intuition.

The issue calls this the “Blackness” so it must become the books next storyline which could be really awesome and become a sort of every man for himself night war that could last for a few issues, in all fairness, spawn could use a good, long story line to break up the serialised story structure its had for the past few issues which leads me to a little bit of a problem with this issue.

The book went INSANELY quick, Spawn literally just had an argument and then found a woman in a cellar and then it ended. This would be fine for the trade but as a single issue it’s slightly incomplete which goes for the rest of the issues and it leaves me not as excited for the next issues as I think I should be. This issue doesn’t necessarily adhere to that however as I am pretty excited to see where the “blackness” leads.

Enough with the negatives though, this book is mostly pretty great. I don’t think the writing by the one and only Todd McFarlane will ever improve but that adds to the charm of the indie book and Carlo Barberi’s art continues to be astounding. It’s just so lively and fresh! It really makes the book so much more appealing and I hope he has a long tenure on this series.


All in all, this issue is quite uneventful, but Spawn continues to be intriguing and lures readers in with its brilliant artwork and ever building story arc.

7/10


Darth Vader #15 Review


DARTH VADER #15
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.
Written by: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Released: 25/08/2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

One of the bigger flaws with Disney’s expansion of the Skywalker Saga on screen with Episodes VII-IX was the feeling of everything being rushed. Many plot points that could have done with some expanding upon were introduced with very little in the way of explanation and simply brushed aside as unimportant (see ‘Somehow, Palpatine returned’). The same could be said for a number of characters who were given very little development and backstory. 

While he didn’t appear in The Rise of Skywalker as a living, breathing part of the action, Ochi of Bestoon falls firmly into this category, his existence simply used as a way of progressing what little plot the film offered. What we do learn about him, a Sith devotee and the killer of Rey’s parents, is enough to make him an intriguing prospect for further investigation, something that Greg Pak has taken on and delivered brilliantly since issue 6 of his run. And now, in issue 15, Ochi gets his time to shine, as ‘The Assassin’s Choice’ sees his faith and loyalty to Vader put to the test.

Such a story requires a slight gear shift, which is a little jarring – the events here take place before those of War of the Bounty Hunters #3, which was released first. Once this slight frustration is put aside, however, what we’re left with is an issue that manages to progress the plot of the WOTBH event, at least from Vader’s perspective, whilst also serving as a fun diversion from the wider arc. Pak balances this beautifully despite the blistering pace of the issue, just as he does the interactions between Ochi and Vader. Ochi’s motormouth, almost nervous energy plays so well against Vader’s laconic terror and yet they both show the same level of skill, the same number of reasons to be feared – it’s a partnership that pays dividends, so here’s hoping that Pak doesn’t separate them any time soon. If Ochi’s fate in Episode IX is anything to go by, he’ll certainly be making waves amongst the Sith for some time to come. 

Raffaele Ienco’s artwork is as solid as ever – his consistency across this run has been something to behold, as is his consistency across single issues when moving from static conversations to all out action. In a title whose two main characters both wear face covering helmets, Ienco shows incredible skill in still managing to convey a sense of each of them, lending the right emphasis to the dialogue in the reader’s mind, as if he were in fact showing the features underneath, whether it’s Vader’s stoic near silence or Ochi’s talkativeness he’s approaching. The action scenes virtually pop out of the page, giving an astonishing sense of movement to Ochi’s fighting style whilst also allowing each panel to be simple to follow and understand. So many artists can create fast, frenetic sequences that are so busy that the reader has to force themselves to slow down to take in the detail, to the detriment of the pace they are trying to convey – this is a trap that Ienco never falls into as the issue zips by with every nuance intact. 

Every panel is eye-catching and the colours by Jason Keith gel wonderfully with Ienco’s lines, his use of various shades of red creating a cohesive look for the whole issue, whether Pak is progressing the plot or taking the reader into the heat of battle. 


VERDICT

Further insight into the relationship between Darth Vader and Ochi of Bestoon is expertly mixed with high stakes action to create an issue that simply has everything, right down to the stunning final splash page that seems designed to finally cement these two characters as an unstoppable duo. 


Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.


Action Comics #1034 Review

Action Comics #1034
Review by Andy Flood

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman), Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter)

Art: Christian Duce (Superman), Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter)

Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Taki Soma (Midnighter)

Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Midnighter)
Published by DC Comics
Released: 24/8/21

‘Attack on the House of El!’ is the dramatic tagline emblazoned on the cover of Action Comics #1034 and it’s paired with some equally eye catching artwork from Daniel Sampere and Alejandro Sanchez. Our gaze is first drawn to a high angle shot of Superman as he makes a shocking discovery then to two figures looming large in the shadows above; Thao-La, seemingly thrall to Mongul.

For those following the story so far, this will act as a clarion call to open up and read on, as events leading to ‘Warworld Rising Part 5’ have been building up to something big. Maybe that something big is starting to happen? We pick up with Lois facing off against the Warzoon, fanatical followers of Mongul. She is joined in the fray by Thao-La, who is still trying to cast off the influence of her tormentors. Things quickly descend into chaos.

Meanwhile, Superman still seeks to resolve mounting tensions between the surface dwellers and Atlantis. His chosen actions here will no doubt have consequences in the future… What follows is a frantic return to the Fortress once Superboy, Supergirl and Superman share the joint realisation that all is not well. What unhappy fate awaits them?

This issue, while having cover art from Sampere, features a new interior artist, Christian Duce. Immediately, his work dazzles with dynamic figures depicted in hyper-kinetic scenes of battle. Paired with the always excellent eye-candy colours of Adriano Lucas, this issue is a visual feast. While Duce retains the feel of Sampere’s work on previous issues, he leaves his own mark here with panel after panel of action and excitement. At one point, we even get a double page splash which is hugely memorable and entirely ‘Superman’. Sound effects are writ large throughout and the emotional impact of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s superb story is shown to great effect in the close shot panels. It must have been intimidating to take over from Daniel Sampere, but Duce has done so with style.

Johnson’s writing on this series has been impressive throughout, controlling pacing with an expert hand and guiding us through quick fire events with a clear sense of where he is leading us. He knows when to let the action speak for itself while also being a fine judge of just how much to build the tension and suspense. There’s always a feeling of even more things to come, which is one of the elements that can be most enjoyable when reading comics.

As we rejoin Midnighter and Miracle Man in the recursive time loop events of ‘The Passenger’, we see them busting their way through Trojan’s complex. They wise crack as they go and trade on one another’s strengths and abilities as they tackle obstacles and crazy cultists. Their dialogue is great fun to read as they move from one crazy panel to the next.

This action-packed chapter is a great showcase for the talents of the creative team to shine through. Seeing great writing come together with bold, inventive art and create a unique experience for us readers is something I always look forward to when opening a new issue of a comic. The Midnighter team really deliver some great entertainment here and the mutual respect the creators have for one another’s input is always readily apparent.


Verdict

Action Comics reliably delivers two immensely enjoyable stories, both with a different feel, both equally cool. There’s page after page showing what super hero comics can offer and it will no doubt please fans both old and new. It is, once again, highly recommended. Now to look forward to both issue #1035 and the Midnighter Special, where his story concludes!


(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)

Review by Andy Flood, 07/09/21

King Spawn #1 Review


KING SPAWN #1
Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Sean Lewis
Artwork by: Javi Fernandez, Stephen Segovia, Marcio Takara, Phillip Tan and Brett Booth
Published by Image Comics
Released – 25/8/21

King spawn number one has arrived! The most anticipated spawn book since 1992 is here and it sure lives up to the disturbing nature it’s famously set for the last 30 years. The book contains five stories, so guess what? That’s right, we’re going through them all, one by one. Strap in!

The first is a (slightly disturbing) story about some cultists who murder children. Yep. Spawn is caught in the midst of this discovers the existence of a man(?) Named Metatron and sets out to of course stop him. Little does he know that this horrifying series of events is bigger than he can fathom and next thing he knows…. Megaton is quite dead. Murdered, even (in a pretty gruesome fashion). Turns out the big man behind the whole kid killing thing is none other than new York’s own resident serial killer turned evil hell-being: Billy Kincaid! In case you aren’t in the know, Kincaid is one of spawn’s earliest villains. The story is particularly traumatising and involves the disgusting evil-doer parading as an ice cream man and terrifying children all around. Eventually spawn saves the remaining children and puts an end to Billy’s reign of horror (permanently). He was revealed to be alive about a year ago after being presumed dead for nearly thirty.
This stories art is pretty solid, Javi Fernandez delivers on some form fitting Spawn art, scratchy with a pseudo realism style and it works. Spawn looks great but there are sections where it looks a little like it was traced over 3d models but so did Szymon Kudranski and Jason Shawn Alexander’s work. Sean Lewis’ writing is as good as it can be and I didn’t notice any weird, awkward pieces of dialogue. Moving on!

The second story was the one I was most excited about. Its the return of HAUNT!!! The character (created by Kirkman and McFarlane) was completely forgot about almost a decade ago, he’s a priest who is bonded with a symbiote and sent on missions by his dead military brother, that’s the basic gyst anyways. So this new story didn’t give put too much but at least we know he’s still around. He’s pinned to a wall jesus style with knives by the redeemer and then told about his involvement with heaven and hell, its basically a nice little check up on the character with some pretty amazing art by Stephen Segovia. To the next one!

Nightmare is a story I won’t linger on too much. It’s kind of gross and disturbing and is very, very short. The artwork by Marcio Takara is usually very nice and bright but here it makes we want to run into the nearest wardrobe and lock myself in for a month or two.

The story focuses on a Spawn? (Not exactly sure which one). Killing a couple guys in a particularly non-pleasant fashion and then it ends. “Nightmare” was for sure the right title to choose for this section.
“the hero” is kind of weird. It involves an angel brutally murdering a bunch of gangsters. The child of one of said gangsters comes back to see all the dead men and the redeemer looking guy who tells the kid HE did it and that they are basically one. He also reveals the child’s father is alive. Father and son reunjte. Angel leaves. Spawn looms. The end. The artwork in this portion is sensational and illustrated by spawn vet Phillip Tan and looks stunning in the parts without decapitated heads.

The last story is a continuation of the gunslinger back up featured in spawn’s universe. It’s pretty damn solid and gets the reader pumped for the next ongoing spawn title coming in October (which will be available to pre order from this lovely website if it isn’t already) Brett Booth really knocks jt out of the park here.


Verdict

In summary, King Spawn is a grisly and disturbing read that any hardcore fan of the franchise will surely get a kick out of. It isn’t for everyone but it’s certainly fitting of the spawn title and dishes out some real entertainment any comic reader will appreciate.

8/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst on 5/8/21

Pokemania At The Movies: A Look At The Merchandise and Promotion Of The Early Pokemon Films

In the late 1990s the Pokemon franchise was taking the world by storm, a storm which grew even bigger upon the release of Pokemon: The First Movie and the subsequent Pokemon movies that followed. Currently there are a staggering 23 animated Pokemon movies and 1 live action movie (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu) in existence, but for this article I will be taking a look back at the first 3 Pokemon movies and some of the merchandise/promotions that surrounded them. As a UK-based Pokemon collector a lot of the promotions I will be discussing here will be either UK-based, or were released in the UK alongside other parts of the world, however I do hope to include lesser known merchandise and information that will hopefully allow everyone reading to take a little trip down memory lane with Ash, Pikachu and the rest of the gang!

Pokemon The First Movie and Pokemon 2000 Burger King Toys:

The Pokemon franchise has teamed up with a multitude of different food and drinks brands/outlets over the years, particularly in the early days of promoting their movies. Burger King included an array of Pokemon merchandise with their kid’s meals when promoting the first and second movies, including beanie toys, light-up figures and action power cards amongst others.

These campaigns weren’t without controversy however, as during the promotional campaign for the first movie two infant children died due to getting part of the plastic Pokeball (in which the promotional items were encased) caught over their mouths and noses which led to them suffocating. This resulted in the toys being recalled and has since led to similar Pokeball toys (such as the ones that were included in Hasbro’s 1999 and 2000 action figure lines) having air holes implemented into the design of the toys.

Despite these issues, the Burger King toys remain popular on the Pokemon collectors market, as do other promotional items associated with the campaigns, such as the cardboard Burger King crowns and kid’s meal boxes from the Pokemon 2000 promotions which included branding featuring Ash, Pikachu and Lugia.

Pokemon Movie Soundtracks and Promotional Singles:

The first 3 Pokemon movies all received releases of their respective soundtracks onto CD (and audio cassette, in the case of the first and second movie). The scores to the movies were also separately released, however mainstream marketing tended to lean more towards promoting the soundtrack CDs, which featured contemporary pop artists and songs rather than the thematic instrumentals from the films’ scores.

The soundtrack for Pokemon: The First Movie was released in November 1999 by Atlantic Records and the tracklisting for the record serves as a sort of snapshot of late 90’s bubblegum pop, featuring artists such as *NSYNC, Britney Spears and Aaron Carter. Pokemon 2000’s soundtrack was similarly centred around songs from contemporary pop artists, featuring the likes of Westlife and Dream Street, however it did also include Pokemon-themed songs written by artists for the movie, such as Weird Al Yankovic’s “Polkamon”.

Pokemon 3’s soundtrack continued this theme with the majority of the soundtrack being orientated around the characters within the franchise, which is unsurprising considering many of the songs included could be found on other Pokemon soundtrack media, such as the Totally Pokemon CD. In the UK however, Pokemon 3 was promoted in the contemporary music realm with the single “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”, released by the band 5.0 Grind featuring Pokemon Allstars.

The single was available to purchase from UK music retailers upon its release, and a promotional CD-ROM sampler was also included with the Daily Express newspaper. 5.0 Grind performed the single on Nickelodeon UK (despite the fact Pokemon wasn’t aired on Nickelodeon at that time) and the single reached number #57 in the charts. The artwork for the copies of the single released into UK music stores featured Pikachu alongside Mewtwo, despite Mewtwo having nothing to do with the third Pokemon movie. This inclusion could be due to hearsay that Mewtwo was going to appear in Pokemon 3, which later proved to be misconstrued as Mewtwo actually re-appeared in Mewtwo Returns, a straight to VHS/DVD feature-length special which was also released in 2001. 

In a similar vein to the contemporary songs associated with the previous movies, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” is very much of its era, encapsulating the rap-metal/skate rock trends of the early 00’s (albeit watered down for a younger audience and occasionally featuring Ash Ketchum giving shout-outs to his various Pokemon). Personally, as cheesy as the track is I do find it to be quite catchy and I must give kudos to the band for the conviction they showed during their Nickelodeon performance, as I imagine it must be quite hard to simultaneously rock out in front of a crowd of small children and keep a straight face, particularly in the section of the song when a sample of Jigglypuff singing its lullaby plays over the top of the track.

Retail and Newspaper Promotions:

As well as the free Daily Express “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” CD-ROM, a number of other newspaper and retail outlets also ran Pokemon movie promotions during both the cinematic and VHS/DVD releases of the films. The Daily Mail gave away a free promotional VHS tape that gave fans a sneak peek at Pokemon: The First Movie and included other details about the franchise, such as interviews with staff from 4Kids Entertainment which provided a view into how the original Japanese version of the movie was adapted for western audiences.

Woolworths and Warner Brothers stores in the UK also ran Pokemon movie promos during the release cycle of the first movie, offering exclusive promo cards and money off vouchers upon the VHS release of the film. Pokemon promotions from this period also found their way onto snack foods, with Odeon Cinemas in the UK running a competition featured on their popcorn boxes in which fans could win a Nintendo 64 console and a copy of Pokemon Stadium. 

Trading Cards:

Well I couldn’t really write a blog about the promotion of the early Pokemon Movies and not include the cards which were given to ticket holders and packaged with home media releases of the movies could I? Probably the most well known of these cards are the 4 Wizards Of The Coast Black Star promo cards which were available alongside the first movie’s cinematic release, featuring Mewtwo, Pikachu (still sporting his Ken Sugimori-illustrated roundness, which I personally feel is how Pikachu should look and would very much like to see the return of Chubbychu), Dragonite and rather randomly, Electabuzz. Following the extreme renewal of interest in vintage Pokemon TCG cards in recent years, the value of these cards continues to grow (particularly as a complete set) so if you have any in your collection be sure to take good care of them!

A new version of the Mewtwo card was also included alongside VHS copies of the first movie upon its home media release. Promotional TCG cards were also available during the theatrical release of Pokemon 2000/The Power Of One, with Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno being featured. An Ancient Mew card based on the one owned by the film’s antagonist, Lawrence III, was also released, however it was only available along with the purchase of a movie ticket during the first week of the film’s release, as after this fans would only be able to receive a card featuring one of the legendary birds. In a similar fashion to the second Mewtwo card that was released with VHS copies of the first movie, a new Pikachu card was included alongside home media copies of Pokemon 2000.

Later in the course of the early Pokemon movies, in 2001 a promo card featuring Entei was available for ticket holders upon the release of Pokemon 3: Spell Of The Unown, with another promo card featuring one of the Unown being included with VHS and DVD releases of the movie.

As well as the Wizards Of The Coast-produced TCG cards, Topps Trading Cards also produced a line of trading cards featuring images of scenes from Pokemon: The First Movie, Pikachu’s Vacation and Pokemon 2000. As well as the regular Topps movie cards, rare silver foil and rainbow foil versions of cards were also randomly inserted into some packs, mirroring the ever-popular shiny hunting that helped make the TCG cards so popular.

Some of the Topps cards from the Pikachu’s Vacation animated short are notable for having some errors when it came to the names of new Pokemon, with Snubull being incorrectly named “Buru” (which may have been a mis-translation of Snubull’s Japanese name, Bulu) and Marill being named as “Pikablu”, which is perhaps an indirect reference to the rumours of a new version of Pikachu named “Pikablu” that cropped up when Marill’s design was first seen by fans. These errors were probably due to the fact that the Gold and Silver games had not yet been released in the west and that the english-language names of several new Pokemon were still being revised, as the Topps cards themselves were put into production before the western versions of Pikachu’s Vacation and the First Movie had been completed and non-Japanese audiences were yet to be familiarised with the 100 new Pokemon that would be introduced in the Johto region-based games and anime.

Other Pokemon Movie Toys:

As well as the Burger King toys, numerous other Pokemon movie toys were released. Hasbro released several different packs of Pokemon figures showcasing characters that were featured in the first 2 Pokemon movies. These packs were similar to the battle figures that were also released by Hasbro, featuring the same card battle discs that came with each character.

Hasbro also released an electronic Lugia toy following the release of Pokemon 2000, which made sounds based off the ones Lugia makes in the movie. This was quite a large toy and it was possible to fit the Ash Ketchum figure from Hasbro’s 2000 Deluxe Trainer figure line on Lugia’s back and recreate scenes from the film.

As the Pokemon world featured a vast array of characters and locations, it was an ideal choice to be transformed into Polly Pocket-esque playsets, which were popular within a variety of franchises in the 1990s. Several playsets inspired by the Indigo League and Orange Islands anime series were released by Tomy under the Pokemon House brand (known in Japan as Pokemon Mate) and when it came to the early Pokemon movies they didn’t hesitate to create playsets for them either. Pokemon 2000 had the most of these playsets produced, with the Fire, Lightning and Ice Islands from the film all receiving individual playsets along with the shrine at Shamouti Island which included Lugia keeping a watchful eye over the shrine.

Pokemon 3 seems to have had much less merchandise produced for it in comparison to the first two Pokemon movies, which is a shame as I personally consider the animation and story in this film to be fantastic and I think it deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. A Pokemon House playset inspired by the third movie was produced, however it is incredibly rare to come across. The playset was a deluxe model, featuring the Hale family home in the crystallised Greenfield which Ash and Co. had to rescue Ash’s mother from in the movie.

Books and Comics:

As is common with many movies from franchises aimed at children, the Pokemon films were also adapted into novels. Mewtwo Strikes Back: Pokemon The First Movie was written by Tracey West (who also adapted the Indigo League, Orange Islands and Johto Journeys anime series into children’s books) and published in 2000 following the western release of the movie. The book proved to be a favourite at Scholastic book fairs, which is where I purchased a copy from myself as a child when a book fair was held at my primary school. As I recall, a lot of other kids also bought the book and I’m sure our teacher was thrilled when we all handed in our weekly book reports exclaiming that Ash’s “death” during Mew and Mewtwo’s stand-off was the world of fiction’s biggest tragedy since Of Mice and Men’s Lennie last told George about “tending the rabbits”…

The animated shorts that played before the cinematic releases and VHS copies of the first 3 Pokemon movies (Pikachu’s Vacation, Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure and Pikachu And Pichu) were also adapted into Tracey West-penned novels as were Pokemon 2000 Pokemon 3, however much like in other areas of merchandising, the novelisation of the third movie was (and still is) seldom seen in comparison to its two predecessors. The First Movie was also released as a five-part comic series by Viz Media in 2000. This comic was a re-release of a 1998 graphic novel version of the movie which had been originally published by Japanese media publishers Shogakukan Inc as a singular title. The first four issues of the comic collected the story from the main film, while the fifth issue presented the story from Pikachu’s Vacation.

Much like the first movie, the comic adaptation of Pokemon 2000 had originally been released in Japan as a singular graphic novel and was presented to western audiences in five monthly comic releases, with the initial four comics containing the second movie story and the fifth comic showcasing the story from the Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure short. The Pikachu’s Vacation and Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure comics were later collected into the All That Pikachu! graphic novel, which was released by Viz Media in 2006.

Unfortunately Pokemon 3 did not receive a graphic novel or comic book release, which I think is quite a shame as I personally find it to be the most visually enticing of the early Pokemon movies and feel that it would look excellent in a panel by panel format. In recent years the comic book adaptations from the movies (particularly the first movie) have become favourites for fans to get signed by the voice actors from the Pokemon anime and signed collections of these comics can be found quite readily, which could make for a very cool addition to any collector’s arsenal of Pokemon movie merchandise (provided you have a spare £150-£300 available).

As a Pokemon fan and collector, one of my favourite things about the early movies and all the merchandise surrounding them was how they perfectly encapsulated the buzz that accompanied the release of each film, as there was nothing more exciting as a Pokemon-loving kid in the late 90’s/early 00’s than discovering the latest legendary Pokemon and new places that came along with each movie. Personally I think it would be amazing if a new animated Pokemon movie were to receive as wide a cinematic release as the early films did, or perhaps if one of the first three movies were remastered and re-released into the cinemas (maybe even in conjunction with an upcoming event or milestone, 30th anniversary I’m looking at you) as I would love for Pokemon fans old and new to have the opportunity to relive the magic of Pokemania at the movies all over again.

Written by Emily Carney

Sources and Further Reading:

Pokemon The First Movie: Free Daily Mail Promotional Video –

Hypebeast – Pokemon The First Movie Promo Toys + Cards –

https://hypebeast.com/2016/10/pokemon-the-first-movie-release-promo-toys

Burger King Pokemon The First Movie Promo Toys –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/1999_Burger_King_promotional_Pok%C3%A9mon_toys

Pokemon The First Movie Woolworths Promo Postcard –

https://picclick.co.uk/Pokemon-The-First-Movie-Woolworths-Promo-Postcard-233954948134.html

Pokemon 2000 Burger King Promo Toys –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/2000_Burger_King_promotional_Pok%C3%A9mon_toys

Pokemon Wizards Of The Coast Cards –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Wizards_Black_Star_Promos_(TCG)

5.0 Grind – Gotta Catch ‘Em All Pokemon 3 Promo Single Nickelodeon UK Performance –

Pokemon 2000 TV Spot #1 –

Worcester News – 5.0 Grind: Gotta Catch ‘Em All Review –

https://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/7730479.gotta-catch-em-all-50-grind-featuring-pokemon-allstars/

Pokemon Go Event: Pokemon The First Movie Screening –

Plague Von Karma’s Pokemon Prototype Research Blog – 5.0 Grind’s “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” Daily Express Interview Promo Disk –

https://plaguevonkarmabeta.weebly.com/blog/50grinds-gotta-catch-em-all-daily-express-interview-promo-disk

Ancient Mew (The Power Of One Promo Card) –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Ancient_Mew_(The_Power_of_One_promo)

Pokemon In The United Kingdom –

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_in_the_United_Kingdom

Horatiolikestoys – Pokemon Hasbro Electronic Lugia Figure –

Detective Comics #1041 Review


Detective Comics #1041
Reviewed By Bryan Lomax

Writers:
Mariko Tamaki (“The Jury Part 1”) and Matthew Rosenberg (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Art: Dan Mora (“The Jury Part 1”) and Darick Robertson (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Jury Part 1”) and Diego Rodriguez (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Jury Part 1”) and Rob Leigh (“What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”).
Released: 10/08/21
Published by DC Comics

Batman is called out by “The Jury”, a host of Gotham’s criminal underworld, led by Penguin, the Falcone’s and Mr Worth. But when he shows up to meet them, in order to answer for his “crimes”, he finds himself dealing with those who are unwilling to listen to reason. Batman is caught in a trap that might tether his very soul to that of another: Hugh Vile.

I would love to know just what information it was exactly that Oracle gave to the authorities in order to facilitate the release of Bruce Wayne. Mayor Nakano still appears to be clueless about Hugh Vile’s involvement in the whole affair, but surely that would have been the first piece of information that Barbara would have handed over! It only adds to my frustration over the sloppy handling of the story in the last two issues.

Aside from that though, writer Mariko Tamaki goes some way to winning me back on this issue. I like the motely crew of second string villains, led by Penguin, now referring to themselves as The Jury. Each one of these guys on their own probably doesn’t pose much of a threat to Batman. United, however, they may prove to be more than effective as a collective adversary. I think this is proven by the end of Tamaki’s story, in which Batman finds himself in quite the predicament, albeit one that reveals a rather interesting link to Huntress that has the potential to go to some exciting places.


One of the more interesting aspects of the current run of Batman comics is the fact that Bruce no longer has the endless wealth that he once had at his disposal. This means Batman has become more like a street rat, operating out of the sewers, without the security of his old bat-cave. This sometimes results in moments of humour, such as the one Tamaki gives us here, in which Bruce scares a woman carrying her groceries when he climbs out of a sewer grate.
These moments of Bruce struggling to live the life he once lived without the resources he once had also make me long for, perhaps a more valuable missing piece, Alfred Pennyworth, the father figure that Bruce is now lacking and yet sorely needs. Seeing him calling Oracle about business, inside a diner with public gawkers, is somehow one of the saddest reflections of just how far he has fallen from the ivory tower. Dare I say, he seems quite pathetic these days, when dressed in his civilian clothes!


Matthew Rosenberg’s B story, “What The #!$% Is Task Force Z Part 1”, is a really great start to a Deb Donovan adventure. It is filled with intrigue as the no nonsense reporter begins investigating the apparent disappearance of bodies from the Gotham City morgue. Rosenberg has a real knack for dialogue and the art from Darick Robertson is very easy on the eye. I’ve said before that I am really enjoying the Deb Donovan character. But, on the strength of Rosenberg and Robertson’s work here, I’d go so far as to say that, if these guys were assigned to a Deb Donovan monthly title, I’d be the first in line for a pre-order.


Verdict:


Mariko Tamaki shows us just how far Bruce has fallen and how, now more than ever, he is in need of allies. Backed up with excellent artwork from Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire, she is able to give us a really great character study of Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he struggles to maintain the vigilante life-style without the resources he once had.

4/5


Reviewed By Bryan Lomax – 22/9/21