Amazing Fantasy #3 – Review

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different.

Amazing Fantasy #3

Story: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Colours: Brian Reber
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Released October 2021

I keep coming back to the covers for Amazing Fantasy 1 and 2 over and over, just to enjoy them, to find new details, to appreciate the skill of their creator. This one’s no different.

Here we have Black Widow, framed by an unmistakably alien vista, the victor of a battle against strange foes. It’s a wonderful piece of art by Kaare Andrews, once again nodding to his influences while creating something suited to the modern age. There’s a strong retro-futurism feel here, recalling the work of greats such as Ed Emshwiller, Virgil Finlay and the fantastical cityscapes of Frank R. Paul. There’s more than a dash of Rodney Matthews here too and, as each of these fantasy and sci-fi greats brought us whole new worlds of incredible imagination, so too does Kaare Andrews with his cover art here. If there are any elements that draw you in, be it the gorgeous rendering of Black Widow and alien companion, the Soviet rocket ship, the strange structures on the horizon, then you would do well to not only check out this run but also investigate Andrews’ predecessors.

While each of the three primary covers for Amazing Fantasy so far have been worthy of the ‘amazing’ tag and very much stand on their own, they also serve to signal a comic story which places its characters in situations and settings which are several steps from the norm. While the atypical nature of Andrews’ title might be divisive when it comes to audience, there are enough familiar elements to ease readers into this new world and allow them to enjoy the adventure.

And what an adventure it is! The action moves at quite a pace now, and early in this issue Andrews’ establishes the drums of war as a central theme. Certainly tensions have been building as each of the three main characters find their feet in this strange new land.

Another familiar face from the Marvel universe makes her entrance proper while a young king, Black Widow at his side, makes a bid to avert the impending conflict. Meanwhile, Captain America (in full pulp hero mode) attempts to rally the tribe of the Cat People to act against instinct and tradition in order to defend themselves. Spider Man/Peter Parker remains with the people of Dragon Rock, who make their own preparations.

Add to all this, two other bestial tribes, both of whom chomp at the bit for conflict, and soon we hear the drums start; DOOM, DOOM, DOOM. Moments of court intrigue and quiet reflection are done. Now is the time for battle to be joined.

Andrews switches to epic wide panels to depict both the prelude to war and its main act, a technique which works to great effect, especially when paired with the repeated sound of drums, literally spelling doom. The action is enhanced further by Brian Reber’s colours, shifting here to a dark, hellish palette and so fully immersing us in the grim events facing our heroes. The writing is working well too, with tight dialogue and good characterisation. Kaare Andrews guides us through his ‘Island of Death’ with confidence and no small amount of mystery, supported throughout by some great lettering work from Joe Sabino, who presents the words clearly while respecting the artwork.

The story brings a good number of dramatic moments, reveals and twists; certainly enough to make for a compelling page turner. By the time we reach the cliffhanger ending, we are left ready to read on, to look forward to the next instalment. And, as the preview of issue four’s cover would indicate, yet more stunning art to appreciate.


Verdict

Amazing Fantasy is a title I’d strongly recommend for anyone either intrigued by the lovely cover art, curious about the displacement of some key Marvel heroes, or who wants something a little different. As an added plus, this is a limited run and as such should be easy to track down and collect in its entirety. There are some great variant covers around for each issue too, so seek them out if you can!


Review by Andy Flood, 11/1/22


Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Son #1 – Review

Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles. First up it’s the Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four: The Prodigal Sun #1

Written by Peter David
Art by Francesco Manna
Released: September 2019

Published by Marvel Comics

Back in the summer of 2019 when comics were plentiful, the Marvel universe welcomed Prah’d’gul (or Prodigal according to mishearing Ben Grimm) in three one-shot comics where our young visitor from space bumps heads with three of Marvel’s mainstream titles.

First up it’s the Fantastic Four, who at the time of publication had only just returned to Earth after a few years of unpublished adventures in an alternate dimension and were busy settling into the early stories of Dan Slott’s excellent monthly run.

Prodigal crashes in the Savage Land, a prehistoric jungle hidden in the Antarctica much loved by the X-Men and populated by Dinosaurs and various warring tribes of pre-agricultural types. Our hero barely has time to pull a dramatic pose before he’s eaten by a T-Rex who must lie in wait for crashing spaceships, so often do they occur in this supposedly secluded paradise. (This is a great recurring gag in Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers. Pause while I go and re-read the first few issues.)


Unfortunately for Rex, Prodigal is hard mouthful to swallow and he’s quickly exploding his way out and being proclaimed a God by the locals. This suits him fine and he’s soon got his new congregation looking for a replacement spaceship and stirring up trouble with the neighbouring tribes. It’s a quick start, but one-shots don’t let you hang around and soon enough Ka-zar and Shanna, the underdressed Heroes who rule the Savage Land, have got the FF on the phone asking for help getting rid of the troublesome interloper. Cue action.


Peter David knows his game and keeps the script light and frothy with plenty of jokes. The classic superhero meet-cute fuelled by misunderstanding and bravado is played for laughs but soon begins to wear thin. It’s all a bit one-note and silly and Prodigal mainly comes across as an arrogant jerk complete with annoying catch-phrase. Unfortunately, the limited page count doesn’t give him much opportunity to redeem himself. Perhaps in the following instalments we see a bit more of his character. A bit of mystery would have been welcome too.
There’s time for a touch of perfunctory back-story but the few lines we get doesn’t sound that original or exciting. Mostly this is all just an excuse to showcase Prodigal’s fairly conventional superpowers, which in world full of superheroes isn’t that interesting. Even the Fantastic Four don’t really get that much to do. Reed and Sue get a few nice moments but The Thing and Human Torch are barely in it. I think Johnny Storm gets one line.


Francesco Manna art is solid and dependable if a little short on the spectacular. Again, I think the limited page-count doesn’t give him a chance to really shine. There was a real missed opportunity to draw an exploding Tyrannosaur, which I’m sure he would have enjoyed. But no room for it. Shame.
Next up for Prodigal it’s back into space and if the cover is to be believed it’s a zero-gee dust-off with the Silver Surfer while a ringside Galactus places his bets before a final meeting with the Guardians of the Galaxy rounds off the trilogy. After that, who knows? Did Prodigal become a regular somewhere? Did he become interesting? Maybe I’ll look online to find out. Then again.


Verdict
Mostly fun but ultimately a conventional intro for a conventional character. Prodigal didn’t really excite and I don’t think the FF gained much by being in it. Next time Ka-zar calls you Reed, send the reserves and save yourself the bother.


Ross Kelly
30/12/21

Conan The Barbarian #1 (1970) Facsimile Edition – Review

A facsimile of Conan the Barbarian #1 originally published by Marvel in October 1970.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1

Written by: Roy Thomas
Art: Barry Smith
Released: December 15th 2021
Published Marvel Comics

A facsimile of Conan the Barbarian #1 originally published by Marvel in October 1970.

For those unfamiliar with Robert E. Howard’s original stories published in Weird Tales from 1932, this is a great way of introducing one of pulp fiction’s most enduring characters to a new generation of readers. Writer Roy Thomas begins Conan’s story with the briefest of background information, welcoming the reader to the Hyborian Age placed somewhere between “the sinking of Atlantis and the dawn of recorded time.” At the back of the comic is The Hyborian Page, which goes into more detail about the world Howard created and, like all good works of fantasy, includes a half-page map indicating the various lands and kingdoms.

From page 2 it’s straight into the action with the youthful, mercenary Conan fighting alongside the Aesir against the invading Vanir. With the promise of more gold, Conan helps Olav — an Aesir chief — pursue two high-ranking Vanir warriors. Their search leads them to a shaman in possession of a Star-Stone, a cosmic jewel that can bring forth visions of both the past and future; it’s a neat narrative trick by Thomas that allows the reader to learn more about Conan’s past, while offering a glimpse into what will become of him.

Hyperbole and the heroic language associated with tales of sword and sorcery is a staple of the Marvel Universe, particularly in Thor and Tales of Asgard, so the world of Conan already feels like a natural fit for a comic book adaptation. Respectful of the source material, fans of Conan will appreciate the efforts Thomas has gone to in retaining the authentic dialogue (“By Crom!”) and imbuing in Conan the grey area that all great anti-heroes hold; he makes it clear that Conan is a mercenary first, but whose moral compass is such that he will still fight for what he believes is right over monetary gain. Barry Smith’s artwork is lively, breathing life into the battles scenes without resorting to the bloodshed that spattered the pages of Howard’s stories, while the various warriors, sorcerers and winged monsters will be instantly recognisable to those whose tastes lean towards fantasy. The lettering by Sam Rosen highlights key words, drawing attention to the names of the tribes and places that are all important when building an imaginary world, though in some panels this world-building would have benefited from more background detail by Smith rather than using blocks of colour.


Overall, this is a fine adaptation, as satisfying to a Howard reader as it is accessible to a newcomer to Conan’s world, serving as both a gateway for those who want to explore further and a homage to the pulp stories that inspired the likes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and, of course, Roy Thomas.


Review by Christopher Witty

Killing Moon Vol. 1 Graphic Novel – Review

The latest incarnation of Killing Moon is a nostalgia trip for any fantasy enthusiast, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a reimagining of a world, it’s an invitation to use and enjoy our own imaginations, it’s a series of great stories presented in a fun and unpretentious way.


Written by: Chris Denton (current run) and Chris Langton (original run)

Art: Neil ‘Bhuna’ Roche (current run) and Mark Roche (original run)

Colours: Darren Stephens

Letters: Bolt-01 (current run) and Vincent James (original run)
Pigdog Press – 2020

Imagine a world of dark legend, home to mad wizards and hooded assassins, where the undead and creatures fair and foul roam free.  Against a backdrop of imposing castles, fiery plains and dark dungeons we are invited to travel to this world and meet the intriguing cast of Killing Moon.

Volume one collects the first four issues of the modern run of this excellent title, paired with the original stories from the mid ’80s, presented here for the first time since original publication.  To further add to the book, Pigdog Press and the creators have included an interesting and inspirational foreword from Chris Langton along with a history of Moses Valentine and Killing Moon essay.  As if that weren’t enough, we then have a stunning back-matter gallery of artwork from numerous small press artists, each offering their own take on the world and characters of Killing Moon.

It’s a really impressive package and makes for a book that stands out.  It’s clear from the outset that the guys were keen to meet their promises to their Kickstarter pledges with gusto.  I’m certain that, if anything, they exceeded expectations (for those unaware, Kickstarter is a ‘crowd-funding’ platform; a website through which projects can be proposed/presented at various stages of development and the the fans/audience pledge a certain amount to help fund the project’s completion.  This is done in a tiered system, offering various rewards on delivery of the end product).  I’m certainly very glad to report that the Killing Moon crew exceeded their funding target.

The physical and overall quality of this book is very high; the wrap-around cover is produced on very high quality card stock and the interior pages are a delight to flick through.  They have a very pleasant tactile quality and present the contents in a way that should have some of the major publishers blushing and taking notes.

The cover itself has a striking logo and bold, atmospheric art depicting some of the main characters.  That it segues from the modern take on the world of Killing Moon on the front through to the original vision on the back is a really nice touch and hints at some of the changes that were made, both in art and narrative.  It’s a cover which will instantly appeal to Killing Moon’s target audience while also intriguing others who might have been browsing for something else.

So, first to our main characters, who are perhaps more fitting the mantle of ‘anti-hero’ than hero.  They are, after all, assassins for hire operating under the name ‘The Killing Moon’.  Ingrid Stensgarrd, Mr. McKie and Jack the cat are led by the grim faced, mysterious Moses Valentine.  Ingrid seems to be the newest member of the group and seems well suited for her profession, approaching her work with stoicism and gravitas.  Meanwhile, the darkly moustachioed McKie is given to moments of dry humour and seems entirely matter-of-fact in the presence of death.  Jack no doubt keeps his own secrets while Valentine is shrouded in shadows and mystery, often serious, always thoughtful and living to his own moral code.

While growing to become quite fond of a band of assassins seems like an unlikely side effect of reading about their exploits, here I am… liking them.  While that perhaps says something about me, the development of these characters through the book is a pleasure to follow and we are treated to a colourful and engaging cast of supporting characters too.  There is the aforementioned dark sorcerer, a hapless thief of crowns, various skeleton and zombie warriors, a city of entirely civilised orcs under the mountain… the list goes on.  It is through their interactions with each other and the other denizens of this world that we come to know Valentine and his band.  Each chapter, from prologue to issue four, has its own feel while still very much being part of the greater whole.

‘The Prequel’ opens on sinister happenings in the gloomy halls of a castle.  We are introduced to a couple of key figures who are about to set events in motion.  Several darkly comic, Monty-Pythonesque exchanges later and we move to the story of ‘The Tyrant Wizard’ in issue one.  ‘It began in Merstburg’… wherein the The Killing Moon are approached by the Mayor to rid the town of a necromancer who not only stole Castle Merstburg from their former lord but now uses the town’s dead as his playthings.  What follows is a hugely entertaining adventure which feels as if it could be a transcript of someone’s really, really good Dungeons and Dragons session.

The second story, ‘Warning to the Glorious’, follows Ingrid as she stalks a crown thief through the Flaming Fens.  It’s a story in which both main characters are relatable and, as such, we’re left on our own when it comes to which side to cheer for (so to speak).  The tale is bookended by depictions of Ingrid’s life prior to her joining The Killing Moon, bringing us closer to the character and offering up more intrigue.

‘The Man in the Mountain’ has us following our motley crew as they enter Miwk, an orc city built on cooled lava inside a volcano.  The enter at the behest of King Drenkost, whose people are being terrorised by someone known as The Man in the Mountain.  As they investigate, it is soon clear that the orcs are under threat from fanatical cultists who seek to eradicate orc-kind.  This is a great tale, which I’ll reveal no more of other than to say that again, this feels like it stepped from the pages of an old tabletop role playing game.  I mean this as great compliment; it’s full of the things that make fantasy/sword and sorcery stories such good fun.

‘Targets’ is the closing story for the current run, where we find The Killing Moon take on an ancient vampire nobleman.  As they set their ambush in a moonlit forest of twisted trees, we start to wonder if maybe they have bitten off more than they can chew…

The creative team have done a fantastic job here and it’s clear that they really care about their comic.  It’s a labour of love that is a real pleasure to share in.  Chris Denton’s writing is clever and darkly humorous, lending a strong sense of character and setting through dialogue.  Each story is accessible and enjoyable either as a standalone or as part of the larger arc, making for a book that can be devoured in one sitting or consumed in small doses.  Either way, it’s a fun and engaging read.  The narration and dialogue are conveyed by excellent lettering, always clear and sympathetic to the scene and, above all, easy on the eye.  The sound effects are also superb; well judged and full of energy.

The art is really great throughout and evokes the atmosphere of each setting by way of bold line work and vivid colours.  Action is dynamic and, at times, bloody but is always easy to follow and track.  Panel layouts are designed to help and guide the reader through the book, using splash pages for grand vistas alongside smaller, sometimes quick-fire panels for action.  Each character is given keen visual identity, with the art enhancing the charisma lent by the writing through dialogue and characterisation.  The art team of Neil Roche and Darren Stephens really draw us into their world, each page having been crafted through great care and attention.  I found myself transported not only to their world but further, back to Fighting Fantasy game books, to the role playing and video games of the 1980s, to sharing imaginary adventures with friends.

The latest incarnation of Killing Moon is a nostalgia trip for any fantasy enthusiast of a certain age, but it’s also so much more than that.  It’s a reimagining of a world, it’s an invitation to use and enjoy our own imaginations, it’s a series of great stories presented in a fun and unpretentious way.

And all of that before we get to visit the original version!  Here we move to black and white art and to a different vision of the world of Killing Moon.  It’s a post-apocalyptic place, having regressed to a near lawless, low-tech nightmare of a frontier.  It’s survival of the fittest, nastiest, most cunning and it’s in this environment that we meet Valentine as he teams with four other assassins to take on a near impossible job.  They are tasked with eliminating an overlord type figure and set off, squabbling and plotting as they go.

It’s interesting to see the genesis of the current comic and also to read a story (presented here over two issues) with a different feel.  Instead of facing undead monsters and foul magics, Valentine wields his blade against hooded henchmen (one of whom brings a pistol to the knife fight!).  This world is, if anything, even more dog-eat-dog and Valentine faces conflict from amongst his companions before he even faces his enemy.

The story moves along at a fast pace, and gives plenty of opportunity for the assassins to use their skills, both with blade and tongue.  The artwork is stylish, evocative and full of nostalgic design touches that work well for this type of comic.  There’s great use of shadow (there’s a three panel character reveal which is lovely) and each page has nice details to spot.

It’s a shame that the comic never continued beyond its initial run of two; it would have been interesting to see these ideas go beyond this formative stage.  Instead, fast forward to present day and the current iteration created by Neil Roche and friends and it’s easy to see why Neil wanted to resurrect his brother’s creation.

Shifting the setting to one more in-step with traditional sword and sorcery/dark fantasy has given the series perhaps more narrative freedom and while Valentine and company seem suited to either world, it is in his current form that he really shines.  Gone is the broadsword of old, replaced by a staff, a cat and no small magical prowess to match his martial skill.  The pipe smoking happily remains, giving us some cowl-shadowed-Strider-in-the-inn vibes (I’m thinking animated Lord of the Rings film here).

His companions are two equally interesting characters, and Ingrid offers a genuinely strong female lead, thus broadening appeal.  Each fan of this comic will have their own favourite character, their own favourite moments, and that’s a really good thing.  It means that it’s a comic people can engage with and relate to.  It’s a title that will appeal to fans of Conan, Elric, Geralt of Rivia and indeed fantasy stories in general, but it has enough to offer that its reach can extend beyond.

Killing Moon is a really high quality book, created with love and hard work.  It’s an expression of its creators’ wish to entertain, and has moments of high adventure, intrigue, dry, dark humour and even the occasional Star Wars quote in the dialogue. It’s packed with gorgeous, sometimes gritty art on every page, supplemented further by some stunning gallery work.  It’s just a really cool book to have on your shelf.  There’s more on the way too, with Killing Moon Rising, which I’m sure will be something to look forward to.  If you can, keep an eye out for the project on Kickstarter and lend them your support.


I feel very lucky that I was made aware of this book, so please allow me to recommend that the next time you visit a comic shop, maybe looking for something a bit different, ask for Killing Moon.  Nine out of ten assassins (and cats) prefer it.



Review by Andy Flood

5/10/21

Amazing Fantasy #2 Review

These are a great choice for someone wanting something unpretentiously entertaining from their comics or an adventure story to share with their kids. It’s a short run, which makes it manageable, and it has a genuinely unique feel…

Amazing Fantasy #2
Reviewed by Andy Flood


Story: Kaare Andrews
Art: Kaare Andrews
Letters: Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Released: Aug 25th 2021

Another luscious cover awaits with issue #2 of Marvel’s Amazing Fantasy, again reminiscent of the pulp fantasy art of bygone times. We’re treated to the spectacle of a beleaguered Spider Man locked in underwater combat with a grotesque giant snake while a captive maiden and treasure await. It’s a scene full of nostalgia, bringing to mind many of the great illustrations from the sword and sorcery genre.

This gorgeous cover painting does a great job of making the reader wonder why Spidey finds himself in such a situation and why he’s wielding a dagger and a whole host of other questions. Some are answered ably in the ‘story so far’ blurb on the title page within. Broadly, World War II Captain America, teenage Spidey and young Black Widow find themselves in a strange land after having seemingly died or otherwise departed their plane of existence.

Each then encounter fantastical, fearsome and, in some cases, ethereal beings and become involved with the people of this new land. ‘Tribes’ picks up from the last instalment with a nightmare for Spidey, a journey for Cap’ and pampering for Black Widow. Each goes on to have different adventures with their adoptive tribes, revealing more of the world as the story unfolds. And what a world it is, full of sweeping vistas, dense forests and grand throne rooms. Equally interesting are its denizens, split into at least three factions in conflict.

It’s apparent that Kaare Andrews has enjoyed creating this world and he’s crafted a story which makes the integration of our super heroes into this almost classic fantasy setting a lot of fun to experience. As we go along for the ride, we see dragon flights, elves, orcs and more. We encounter danger, romance, conflict and intrigue. We, as readers, have a really good time. The creator’s passion for this project shines through and includes us in the excitement.

Andrews plays with different ideas in both the art and writing, using light and shadow along with vibrant colours and distinctive line work to great effect. He teases us with hints of what is going on in the world and suggestions of why our protagonists might be there while always keeping things moving forward.

Even after the mysterious reveal at the end of this chapter, this near one man show isn’t quite done with us. We are treated to some back matter showing some of the creative process, including a cover concept sketch and several page layout to finished colours examples. These insights should be included more often, as they deepen the appreciation for just how much goes into making a comic like this. Lastly, we get a sneak preview of next issue’s cover, and it’s a thing of beauty; reason enough, in fact to look forward to #3!

If all that doesn’t tempt you, we get even more value for money with this series, as each issue comes with a bonus digital edition code inside, for use on tablets, phones and the like. Being able to pan, scan, pinch and zoom to your heart’s content offers another way to enjoy this great title.


Verdict

It’s hopefully pretty clear by now that I love this pulp fantasy and sci-fi infused title and, for me, the covers alone seal the deal. That said, these are a great choice for someone wanting something unpretentiously entertaining from their comics or an adventure story to share with their kids. It’s a short run, which makes it manageable, and it has a genuinely unique feel. Give Amazing Fantasy a try, if you can. I think you’ll stay for more than just the covers.


Review by Andy Flood, 03/09/21


Amazing Fantasy #1 Review

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…

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


Star Wars #15 Review

TIE fighters vs. X-wings, a desperate rebel last stand and an explosive finale make for possibly the most breathlessly exciting issue of this outstanding run so far…


Review By Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Ramon Rosanas
Released: 28/07/21Publisher: Marvel Comics

Though it may be named after one small set of characters, The Skywalker Saga and stories set within it will always be ensemble pieces. Charles Soule’s approach to his run has truly embraced this, bringing on board a wealth of new characters, reintroducing some old ones and occasionally taking some time away from whoever has been the focus of the last few issues to show what’s going on elsewhere in the galaxy. #15 is one of these issues, as we wipe transition from the main action of the War of the Bounty Hunters to see what Starlight Squadron, with Luke Skywalker in tow, have been up to. And while this issue may carry the overarching event’s name on its eye-popping cover, the story here is mostly separate from it and acts as a nice palette cleanser before hopping back into the action with the next issue of the central mini-series as we near the halfway point.

While it may be an almost standalone story, ‘Friends and Enemies’, as issue 15 is known, is densely packed – a huge dogfight makes up a good chunk of its duration, yet it’s still full of well thought out dialogue and character moments as Luke relives the destruction of the Death Star and finds that lightning doesn’t always strike twice. Ramon Rosanas brings a frenetic feel to the battle and his layouts make for tense, fast-paced reading, almost as nail-biting as the famous trench run itself. 

Starlight Squadron continue to be an engaging and fun element of Soule’s run, bringing Wedge Antilles right to the foreground, where he deserves to be. Considering how many strong, memorable, and iconic existing characters form the core of this title, Soule has done an incredible job of introducing a whole crop of new ones and making the reader genuinely care about them. 

His role as a writer on The High Republic also continues to have an influence – hope is a key theme of the original trilogy, so giving little nods to a period where the Jedi were at the height of their powers fits right in with this. Also, fans of Soule’s High Republic novel, Light of the Jedi, will get a kick out of the setting of this story. It’s satisfying to see some of the newest parts of the canon intertwining with what has been in place for over 40 years.



VERDICT

TIE fighters vs. X-wings, a desperate rebel last stand and an explosive finale make for possibly the most breathlessly exciting issue of this outstanding run so far. Soule provides some outstanding character moments and fun action, and Rosanas provides one of the most balletic and intense dogfights ever committed to the page, with many of his panels in glorious widescreen. While they and the rest of the team across the current Star Wars titles may be excelling at telling a broad, sweeping story right now, this slight detour proves that this comic is in just as rude health when almost the whole story is contained in just a handful of outstanding pages.


Review by Nathan Harrison, 30/07/2021