Tag Archives: Story

Action Comics #1035 – Review

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman), Sean Lewis (Tales of Metropolis)

Art: Daniel Sampere (Superman), Sami Basri (Tales of Metropolis)
Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Ulises Arreola (Tales of Metropolis)
Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Tales of Metropolis)
Published by DC Comics
Released – 28/9/21

The sixth and seemingly final part of the ‘Warworld Rising’ saga brings us a cover depicting ‘The Goodbye!’, words which can be read in a number of ways, as we see Superman leaving not only Lois and Jon but the Justice League too, if the headline on the paper at Jon’s feet is to be believed. In the wake of events during the stand-off between Atlantis and the surface dwellers, this is not too surprising. It’s a great cover from Daniel Sampere and Alejandro Sanchez, capturing the emotional departure of Superman perfectly.

Reading on and we’re straight into the action as Jon and Supergirl take on Thao-La while Superman whisks Lois to safety. The ensuing explosive battle is complicated further by Mongul’s ongoing insidious interference and eventually leads to Clark seeing this particular nemesis face-to-face.

As Superman and family have a brief respite to recover from the events set in motion by Mongul, discussion turns to what happens next, both within his family and with his ‘other family’, the Justice League. The League visit the Fortress to check on all concerned and confirm that, as things stand, they cannot accompany Superman to Warworld. Batman and Superman share a quiet word, alluding to a second team (this further outlined in Batman/Superman and The Authority #1) while Bruce expresses concern for his friend, Clark.

What follows for the rest of this final chapter are emotional scenes of farewell as Clark says goodbye to Jon and then Lois ahead of his departure for Warworld, with his backup team being fully revealed on the closing page.

In writing this series, Philip Kennedy Johnson has always done an incredible job of balancing plot and character development with spectacular action scenes. We have a huge amount going on each issue and yet never feel overwhelmed. He’s a talented storyteller, juggling a good number of characters, settings and events and weaving a cohesive whole as he goes.

Meanwhile, Dave Sharpe has always supported and enhanced the work of each writer on both main and back-up titles through clear, clever and effective lettering and this issue is no exception. It’s always a pleasure to read when Mr. Sharpe is helping guide our way.

Further guiding us are the excellent panel layouts, which hold some of the most striking art you could hope to see in a superhero title. Daniel Sampere conveys super humans in really effective ways, with dynamic poses, judicial use of exaggerated anatomy and clean, confident line work. The end result is stunning, especially when paired with gorgeous colour work from Adriano Lucas. This issue in particular is a stand-out one for Mr. Lucas, as he takes the spectrum and makes it his own, using light to reinforce the emotional impact of each scene.

There are some huge moments within this issue, and the team have delivered some pitch-perfect work here. It’s a gripping and satisfying end to an excellent story.

Replacing Midnighter as the backup story is ‘Tales of Metropolis’. Our first tale is ‘The Guardian’, brought to us by a team who seem ready to have a lot of fun. In this opening story, they mine the rich vein of urban myth and folklore and emerge with something very much of the present day. We join Jimmy Olsen in detective mode, with trench coat to boot, as he investigates stories of kids getting involved in something called the ‘Cloud Game’ and subsequently going missing.

It’s clear something dark and dangerous is afoot, and so he enlists the help of Guardian. As more kids fall prey to the high-tech ouija board and the malevolent villain Dismember, Olsen and Guardian race to save them and stop the situation from getting worse.

This is a strong opener for Tales of Metropolis. The story is fast paced and well written, with convincing dialogue and a good sense of character from the pen of writer Sean Lewis. Olsen’s narration via internal monologue works well here, serving to take us down those mean streets of Metropolis with him as he searches for the missing kids.

Art is dynamic and expressive, with a clean, well executed style which renders the characters in a really pleasing way. As I look at Sami Basri and Ulises Arreola’s work, I see some hints of manga/anime influences blended in with a distinctly modern western style and, especially when considered along with the colours, the art could easily be the basis for the look of another run of animated shorts (Tales of Metropolis was a series of animated shorts featuring some of said city’s more notable characters). Basri’s characters are lively and engaging, and each panel has gorgeous and vivid colours from Arreola, making for a great first outing.


Verdict

Here’s an issue where we see the close of one story and greet the start of another. It’s an easy recommendation, as the closing of Superman’ story contains some unforgettable and classic moments. Meanwhile, the new Jimmy Olsen and Guardian tale has plenty to offer and feels both a contrast and compliment to the lead story. Action Comics remains a really nice title in the DC lineup. If you haven’t done so before, consider jumping on board, as new storylines begin.

(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)


Review by Andy Flood, 26/10/21

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


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


Action Comics #1033 Review


Review by Andy Flood

Written by:
Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Superman),
Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad (Midnighter)
Art: Daniel Sampere (Superman), Michael Avon Oeming (Midnighter)
Colours: Adriano Lucas (Superman), Taki Soma (Midnighter)
Letters: Dave Sharpe (Superman & Midnighter)
Published 27/7/21Published by DC Comics

The first notable thing when picking up this issue is the new logo.  It’s been overhauled by Darran Robinson, who has done a great job of encapsulating (in his words) 82 years of history.  It’s a logo with a modern feel which still manages to echo ages past.  The cover title ‘Under Siege’ refers to some of the story to follow and pairs well with further clues reflected in the excellent cover art.

The cover is handled on this occasion by the team of Daniel Sampere (also interior artist) and Alejandro Sanchez (colours).  We have Superman in a determined pose, framed by Thao-La and a great depiction of Lois channeling strong ‘Ripley from Aliens’ vibes (foreshadowing a great scene she has later in the book).  All this is set against the backdrop of Atlantean preparations for war.  Anyone who has been reading thus far will know by now that tensions are mounting.  It’s another great cover for this run, promising a good read.

And it’s no empty promise; there’s a lot to take in during this issue, with events moving pretty quickly.  ‘Warworld Rising Part 4’ opens with scenes of espionage, as we witness two high-tech camouflaged figures infiltrate the crashed alien ship held by the Atlanteans.  It’s a really atmospheric sequence, which leads us headlong into a face-off now made considerably worse.  As the Justice League debate events and the best course of action (in itself making for some very cool pages), Jon and Lois are meanwhile trying their best to accommodate the refugee Thao-la as she struggles to adjust to her new situation.  Tensions soon escalate even further, as the surface forces of Earth and the Atlanteans teeter on the brink of war and the Warzoon attack Thao-La at the behest of Mongul and his cronies.

If this sounds like too much to take in, fear not; Phillip Kennedy Johnson has done a fine job of making sure we are never lost, instead providing us with a truly enjoyable thrill ride.  He delivers on the promises of both the cover and events of preceding issues while keeping multiple plates spinning in truly entertaining fashion.  The dialogue is superb throughout, often being highly emotive, and we are with both him and the characters every step of the way until the closing panel.

Daniel Sampere’s art is, once again, just what the book needs.  He gives us dynamic action, imposing superheroes and dark, mysterious bad guys.  He etches lines of tension into the character’s faces, and draws us further into the drama unfolding.  There are numerous occasions throughout this issue where a feeling of Sampere’s original pencils shine through, something I personally love to see, as the shading lines and contours are further enhanced by subsequent inks and colours.

And what colours they are!  Once again, Adriano Lucas treats us to hugely atmospheric palettes, always giving us a firm sense of place and expanding our levels of excitement.  The colours are bright and dynamic and support the story perfectly.

We have more excellent colours from Taki Soma as we move on to the Midnighter story in this issue.  Her choices are always fresh, and support Michael Avon Oeming’s  striking art in a hugely complimentary fashion.  The writing duo of Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad have written a story which showcases the strengths of the medium.  It’s high concept and has a touch of the bizarre yet the creative team work together so well that it entertains and impresses each and every time.

The pairing of Midnighter and Mister Miracle works very well here and introduces a comedic element that plays well through their dialogue as the action unfolds.  It’s another jam packed instalment, and the creative team here ensure that every panel pops and every line engages.  This Midnighter run feels very new and fresh and serves as a great companion piece to the lead story.

Dave Sharpe letters both stories again and, as ever, his work is clean, clear and well considered.  It really makes a difference when a comic is as easy to read as it is to look at or scan over.  Thank you, Mr. Sharpe!


Verdict

Everything about issue #1033 of Action Comics impresses, from cover to closing page.  We have two excellent companion titles to enjoy and are spoilt by a wealth of great art and storytelling.  It’s one of those comics which has you reading along thinking, “what happens next?” while feeling no small dose of excitement.  If you haven’t done so already, give Action Comics a try.  There’s a lot to like here.


(Suggested ages 13+ by DC)

Review by Andy Flood, 02/08/21


Darth Vader #14 Review


Reviewed by Nathan Harrison 28/7/21
DARTH VADER #14

Written by: Greg Pak

Art: Raffaele Ienco
Released: 21/07/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Darth Vader’s part in the so far very satisfying War of the Bounty Hunters event continues in this latest issue, with a shadowy plot from within the Empire itself finally revealed and Vader on a collision course with the rest of the major players in the crossover.

Following an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Vader, Administrator Moore returns to plotting with her council. The intrigue and conspiracy of the first half of this issue is nicely played out – Greg Pak’s dialogue is engrossing, especially in a short encounter between Moore and a suspicious Mas Amedda, which sees her get the upper hand in more ways than one. Shadows skirt around every panel and loom large in some against the muted greys and whites that make up the Empire’s favoured approach to décor. Artist Raffaele Ienco and colourist Jason Keith put every nook and cranny of each room to use, creating a foreboding sense of dread and unease.

The second half runs at an altogether different pace when Vader bursts back onto the scene, lightsaber blazing (after a brief appearance at the start of the issue). The greys are illuminated by vivid red and the imposing figure of Vader towers over it all in a couple of impressive splash pages. It speaks volumes about the true icon that Darth Vader is that he barely needs to say a word in his own comic to be the star of the show. That said, it can’t be an easy thing to do from a writing perspective and Pak handles it beautifully. He puts the right words in Vader’s mouth at the right time, and nothing more. When coupled with the imposing angles that Ienco depicts him from, the Dark Lord of the Sith remains just as terrifying as the first time he walked on screen in 1977.


VERDICT

As the various strands of the 34-issue tapestry that is War of the Bounty Hunters start to come together, it only gets more stunning to look at, and this issue is no exception. Seeing some of the events of issue 2 of the main mini-series from a different perspective makes for a nice touch, placing our hero (yes, we’re calling him that, it’s his comic – search your feelings, you know it to be true) right where he needs to be for the sparks to fly when the crossover truly kicks off over the coming month.


Review by Nathan Harrison 28/7/21

Batman #110 Review


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”)

Published by DC Comics Released: 06/07/21

Review by Bryan Lomax


I stated in my review for the previous issue that I came into James Tynion’s story, “The Cowardly Lot”, somewhat late, but that I filled in the blanks with a quick search on the internet. Since then, I have gone back and read issue #106-#107, and I would highly recommend everyone doing the same if you haven’t already. Issue #107, in particular, really tells us who the character of Miracle Molly is, and what she stands for, in a way that makes me care for whether or not she will get out of the predicament we find her in by the end of issue #110. It also dives deep into the main themes of Tynion’s overarching story, adding more weight to events that happen in the current issue.

That theme is fear or, more to the point, societal fear. Tynion is asking, “where does that fear come from, why do we allow ourselves to be held prisoner by it and who stands to gain something from it?” The Scarecrow is obviously the perfect villain from Batman’s rogues gallery with which to explore that theme. But it’s still unclear as to where he fits into it all. Is he being used or is he the mastermind behind all that is happening in Gotham?

Then we have Simon Saint and his Peace Keeper program. Saint represents a threat that uses fear to achieve an agenda. And, while that agenda may ultimately be based on noble ideals, it’s execution reveals a complete lack of trust in the people it would supposedly serve. It is therefore no more than a vain attempt at making a play for power and control, marking Saint out as a true villain.

We have former Arkham security guard, Sean Mahoney, who takes up the frontman position of Saint’s Peace Keeper force. He represents much of what so many people today fear, particularly in the US, as their country becomes more and more divided, seemingly heading towards totalitarianism. If Gotham was to embrace Saint’s Peace Keepers then it might as well change its name to Mega City One.

The scary thing about Miracle Molly and the Unsanity Collective is that everything they say about the definitions of “sane” and “insane” and who gets to decide upon them makes for quite a convincing argument. The greatest system of control, Tynion argues, is fear and we are all caught up in it. But those who do not fear anything, such as Ghost-Maker, are labelled as psychopaths, even though, as this story shows, they might be the only ones we can count on to release us from our own prisons of fear.

These are the things I find myself thinking about as I read this issue, which is all down to the excellent story telling from Tynion. And once again I have to say that I’m really loving the artwork by Jorge Jaminez and the beautifully rich colours by Tomeu Morey.

I’m still not quite as keen on the artwork for the “Ghost-Maker” origin story, now in its fourth chapter, which kind of feels like Tynion is setting up a rogues gallery for his creation, that he can then use as a starting point, should the character get his own series. Beyond that there’s not much to complain about and I eagerly await the next issue.


Verdict –

The pairing of artist, Jorge Jimenez, with colourist, Tomeu Morey, works wonders in bringing Tynion’s compelling study on societal fear to life.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 17/07/21