The Amazing Spider-Man #90 – Review

Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagley in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this.

The Amazing Spider-Man #90

Written by: Patrick Gleason
Artwork by: Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel
Released: 23/2/22

As a quick refresher, in the past couple of issues, Ben Reilly has been partially mind-wiped by those slimy rapscallions over at Beyond, the same dudes/dudettes that have unleashed the Queen Goblin on New York. On top of that, Old Peter Parker has managed to get back on his feet and is on his merry way to put an end to Queen Goblin’s reign of terror!

We begin with Beyond’s top dog, Maxine Danger tracing Ben Reilly as he swings across a bridge with Janine, who notices there’s definitely something off about Ben, which is where he confesses that he feels like he’s missing something in his mind (which, by the way, he totally is,  being brain wiped and all). He tells Janine that he just needs to focus and everything will be hunky-dory, but Janine knows that’s not good enough, it’s at that point that she spills the Intel she’s discovered about Beyond. Or rather, how they’ve set up the whole thing, sending out super-villains for Ben to stop so that they can get good publicity for themselves and their little Spider-man project. They decide that they’re going to take it to the top and go confront the big bosses at Beyond, but first, we’ve got some sweet, sweet action to attend to.

Pete is up in the skyscrapers, battling the new Queen goblin foe, which is where we get a ton of quality Spidey crack-ups, from getting confused with the X-men’s Goblin Queen to mentally crying for help as he barely manages to dodge the goblin’s blows. It’s moments like this where I feel Patrick Gleason really understands and gets the Spider-man character, I don’t feel like it’s one writer’s take on Spider-man, I just think of it as Spider-man, which is the best kind of writing. Of course, it’s great to actually know who’s writing a book by the tone it sets and dialogue and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo. But when it feels so much like the definitive, quintessential character, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job of writing a mainstream comic book. Obviously, it’s awesome to get some subversive material from creators not typically known for the superhero genre like, for example, Pete Bagge’s megalomaniacal Spider-man as well as a lot of other early 2000’s marvel books, which was a very interesting period for the company, but for Marvel’s flagship title, Pat Gleason does a fantastic job of realizing what readers want out of the main Spidey title. And speaking of what readers want, Mark Bagely is delivering some of his best work in the last 20 years in this issue as Spidey and the Goblin take their battle through offices, Spider-man billboards (with the Sam raising font, nice touch), and even subways. Every panel has energy inside it, there’s so much going on, but in a really good way, these pages are bursting at the seems with excitement and it really displays Bagely’s accumulation of skill on his 30-plus year tenure drawing the character. I, at least, got the sense that he must have really enjoyed penciling these issues and it shows great stuff.

Getting back to the story, the Queen goblin manages to use her unique “Goblins gaze” ability which she used successfully on the black cat’s last issue, which would have resulted in her death if not for the web-slinger arriving just in time. So Peter falls into the sea and goes through the whole “you’re not good enough” thing, but Spidey is able to defeat the hold it has on him, in his words “Doesn’t she realize self-doubt is kind of our thing?”. Pete manages to jump up out of the water and deliver the finishing blow to the latest addition to the Goblin Hall of shame.

Spider-man is able to get back onto the docks, where he meets up with MJ and the Black cat at that moment in all great superhero stories, where the previously split apart gang get back together again for the big finale, Peter is sent on his way to find Ben by his companions, but as we check up on Ben, he is kind of going a little bit insane, he’s not going evil insane, but Beyond have really scrambled his eggs to the point he doesn’t even remember Peter’s name when they meet up, but Ben pushes through it, and this installment ends with a page as awesome as when I found 20 pounds in a grid that one time, which means its totally awesome. Both Spider-men, suited up and ready to take Beyond down, Once and for all!


This issue was one of the best parts of Beyond to date, delivering all of those epic moments you know you love as we dive headfirst into what is bound to be an incredible final act of Spider-man: Beyond. Gleason’s writing chops are nothing to mess with and pair beautifully with legendary artist Mark Bagely in a satisfying issue that I couldn’t put down, as far as verdicts go, you’re not going to get a better one than this. Although if I had to make one small gripe, I would say that the Beyond company’s whole twist and game plan is a little predictable, but that is an issue that pails in comparison to all of the great aspects of this Spidey-saga. Join me soon for the next chapter!

9.5/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst



The Swamp Thing #10 – Review

This issue goes on to resolve and simultaneously expand on story threads established early in the series and it is an absolutely outstanding read!


The Swamp Thing #10

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Published by DC Comics
Released: December 2021

Well, it happened! DC has extended the run for Swamp Thing from the initial 10 issues to 16. I heard this great news a little while back and, soon after, was lucky enough to attend the Thought Bubble festival in Harrogate, U.K. where both Ram V and Mike Perkins were special guests and panelists discussing Swamp Thing. Both guys were a real pleasure and honour to meet and were all too happy to engage with their fans. They hinted (in very cryptic terms) about things to come, and I’m more sure than ever that we’re in for quite the ride.

Returning to the issue at hand, we have a cover that compels all readers of issue 9 to find out what happens next as Levi faces Jacob in the bowels of the Prescot facility. Mr. Pilgirm has escaped and has initiated protocols to engage a cryo-purge of his now ruined research facility. It’s a dramatic and striking piece of art, with Swamp Thing looking truly anguished, with Jacob’s ‘inverse silhouette’ bringing to mind the after-image of people left on the walls of Pompeii.

It’s a stark contrast then when we open the comic to find scenes of Levi and Jacob playing together as boys; carefree and happy against a warm Indian sunset. Juxtaposed with these images from Levi’s past are musings on Nature’s memory, specifically trees; referred to here as ‘silent sentinels’. This internal monologue from Swamp Thing is beautifully written by Ram V, carrying us over several scene cuts, and is thought-provoking while never becoming preachy.

As Jennifer tries desperately and futilely to dissuade Mr. Pilgrim from activating the fail-safe, Levi wrestles with his regrets while physically wrestling his enraged brother. It seems there is little hope for them as Pilgrim floods their surrounding with liquid nitrogen and the bio-agent used to subdue Kaziranga Forest.

The panels flow brilliantly throughout all of this, showcasing Mike Perkins’ immense talent for art and sequential storytelling. When I asked him about his approach on Swamp Thing, he said he basically lets the pen guide him and the lines follow; it’s an organic process. This certainly accounts for some of the incredible artwork he has brought us over the past ten issues but more so speaks to his incredible modesty. He was also quick to give credit to Mike Spicer, and rightly so. Quite how he manages to bring so much added depth and emotion to each scene with his colours is beyond explanation. Add to this, the ever immersive, inventive, and clear lettering from Aditya Bidikar, and you have a recipe for visual perfection.

This issue goes on to resolve and simultaneously expand on story threads established early in the series and it is an absolutely outstanding read. There are appearances from the established Swamp Thing canon or mythos which will thrill long-time readers while piquing the curiosity of those joining at the start of this run. There are many classic Swamp Thing moments and some that feel very much a part of this new and fresh take.

That Ram V and his creative partners have brought something so uniquely ‘theirs’ while also remaining very respectful of the source material (often referring to it through various panels) is hugely impressive. Certainly, during the Thought Bubble panel I attended and in a brief conversation with both Ram V and Mike Perkins, it’s clear they are huge fans of Swamp Thing in all his incarnations. They seem to genuinely enjoy working and indeed, conspiring together, enjoying a shorthand that leads to comic book excellence.

Some heavy hints were dropped that when the ‘season two’ run of this title commences in March, there will be some NDA-protected cameos (make of that what you will!) and much more of the things we have come to love from this title.


Verdict

Swamp Thing has been awarded a second series with very good reason. Each issue of its initial run has ticked all the boxes; with writing, lettering, art, and colours all being exemplary and combining to make something truly special. Whether it be in the current format or in the hoped-for trade collection, I cannot recommend the work of Ram V, Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer and Aditya Bidikar highly enough. Reading Swamp Thing has been a truly memorable experience so far; thanks, guys! Here’s to season two!


Review by Andy Flood, 18/1/22




The Amazing Spider-Man #84 – Review

This comic gave me everything I wanted. A hero and villain fight, character development, sharp humor, and a great cliffhanger.

Amazing Spider-man #84

Written by: Cody Ziglar
Artwork by: Paco Medina
Published by Marvel
Released – 5/1/22

THE DOCTOR IS IN!

Otto Octavius makes his sinister return in this issue of The Amazing Spider-man, but is he really such a bad guy? Yeah, he kind of is. However, the real question is: are Beyond worse?

Somehow, Doc Ock manages to slip into Beyond’s offices without tripping any mental alarms in the employees, it’s only when the turtle man (only people who read issue 80 will get that epic reference, and if you didn’t, there’s always my review on this very website you can skim through!) spots his ginormous octopus arms that they realise that they have an A-list supervillain in their office! It’s just a small thing, but the fact they put the turtle man back in the book as a cute little reference is a really nice touch and I can’t tell whether to feel rewarded for reading all these Spider-man comics or sad for paying so much attention, but screw you, Spider-man’s awesome.

So we end up getting another one of those flashbacks with Uncle Ben, where he has a webbed hole in his face, this is about the 4th one I think? And once we jump out of it, it just turns out to be Ben in therapy with Doctor Kafka, who, by the way, keeps on getting younger? Like seriously, if you guys go and look at her earlier appearances in the ’90s and 00’s she even has some white in her hair but over the years, she’s reverted into a 20 something-year-old, what’s up with that? Anyway, we check in on Janine as she and Ben appear to be going out for dinner which is a welcome touch as it shows the readers that these two are ACTUALLY dating, it’s something they haven’t actually done too much with Pete and MJ in recent years, it just makes it feel more authentic when they actually do stuff together instead of just being around each other a lot.

Cody Ziglar seems to have his strong suit set in character realism, in the past few issues he’s written of Spidey, we feel like these people are like us, and not just immortal gods that continue to be caught in an infinite loop of fighting super-powered enemies. Well, we would feel that way if Ben didn’t immediately get dragged into Beyond’s offices to fight Doc Ock! Before he goes though, he has to part with Janine and every scene that these two are in together makes me love them (agape style, not literally), and it kind of breaks my heart that this story is going to end in just 3 months time, I’m going to miss the couple and hopefully if they’re not dead in a Ditch by the end of this saga, they’ll get their own book someday? One can dream.

Octavius has taken Beyond staff hostage as he tries to attain Beyond’s central hard drive with all of the big, bad Intel on the company, let’s just call this the McGuffin of this book. Once Ock gets inside, he also gets a fantastically drawn Spider-man’s foot to the face as Ben shows up to tackle Otto for the first time since the clone saga, and even then it was his female counterpart so this is quite a cool sight to behold. Ock tells Ben that he’s only here for the info and things are looking up when Spidey slaps a mega cool anti-Doc-ock device on Octavius which causes his arms to go limo (insert funny ED joke here). But at this moment, in an incredibly cool moment. Ock just removes his metal companions and destroys Spider-man, using the control panel to barrage him with bullets and sonics, so this just in, Doctor Octopus just whooped Spider-man’s tooshie without his tentacles! And modern marvel veteran Paco Medina makes this brawl look astonishingly sleek, his Spidey looks so fluid and insect-like, he really sells the fast movement of the character and makes it look stunning as he does it.

Ben awakens to Marcus and Maxine Danger, the high up, scary boss of Beyond who assigns Ben to retrieve the Mcguffin at all costs, Ben continues to have problems with Beyond, or at least Maxine’s handling of it, but can’t rebel in fears of giving up his life and Janine’s freedom from prison and so his part in this issue ends with him accepting his mission. On the other hand, Octavius is far from done causing trouble for Beyond because THEY have assumed all of Parker Industries, the company Otto formed during his time as Spider-man (confused? Pick up Superior Spider-man!). His gauntlet begins once this book ends with him storming Beyond tower!


This comic gave me everything I wanted. A hero and villain fight, character development, sharp humor, and a great cliffhanger. Ziglar and Medina make a fantastic team and I’m twitching to get my next fix of two men with animal-based identities fighting about a company that stole one of their businesses assets (which they built whilst they had control of the other’s mind)! Come back into the Spidey corner soon when I blabber on about that for a few paragraphs.

8/10


Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst on 23/1/22



The Swamp Thing #9 – Review

Following the events of ‘In My Infancy’, Ram V and company bring us to a new chapter, ‘Conduit’.

The Swamp Thing #9

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Published by DC Comics
Released -Nov 2021

The cover for issue 9 feels like a promotional poster for a title fight, more so with the tagline ‘Brother vs. Brother’. This continues a vibe established by Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer on the title page of last issue, only here Levi/Swamp Thing faces his brother Jacob as the warped, vengeful perversion of the Green he has become. It’s powerful stuff, exuding the inner turmoil of both characters. Perhaps fight promoters ought to be approaching these guys to do some poster work…

Following the events of ‘In My Infancy’, Ram V and company bring us to a new chapter, ‘Conduit’. Part one opens on Jennifer Reece (Levi Kamei’s close friend/love interest) being ‘escorted’ through an imposing facility to meet with the apparent mastermind behind the machinations of the Prescot corporation. Mr. Pilgrim seems to know a lot about her, Levi and the Swamp Thing and, perhaps more dangerously, hints at considerable knowledge of The Green.

We then cut to New York and Levi trying to visit Jennifer, only to discover her missing. What follows is classic Swamp Thing and shows a much more ‘in-tune’, self-assured Levi as he puts his abilities to work tracking Jennifer down.

The story goes from there, with Ram V giving us a matter-of-fact ‘villain’ in Mr. Pilgrim, who goes on to outline his version of the big picture. In his hubris, he is quite unaware of the doom that approaches. It’s not long before chaos unfolds, with Jacob arriving to lay waste to the Prescot site.

As ever, this is a compelling read, initially offering a few moments to breathe following last issue’s action packed, fast paced events. Ram V does a great job of revealing the man behind the curtain while also showing us a more confident Levi alongside a further portrait of his brother, Jacob. The history of Prescot an Mr. Pilgrim’s involvement with Swamp Thing and The Green unfolds over a fascinating and brilliantly executed double page spread; one of many highlights in this issue.

Mike Perkins brings us everything here, from clever use of organic structures as both frames and panel elements through to inventive action and intricately rendered human emotion. His artwork is consistently amazing and is always perfectly complimented by Mike Spicer’s colours, whose palettes guide our subconscious mind as we read. Every colour choice has a purpose, beyond the function of looking good. Spicer makes a lab seem cold, a person seem even angrier, a moment of violence all the more unsettling.

As an interesting side note here on the subject of colours, at a recent panel discussing Swamp Thing, Mike Perkins and Ram V talked about some of the palette used in the title and its predecessors. Apparently, forests and swamps are often rendered in shades of purple so that Swamp Thing can stand out against the backdrop (avoiding a green-on-green mush of confusion). We can see this on not only the cover of issue 9 but in several interior panels as well.


Verdict

From cover to cover, this is an outstanding experience, with one of the best creative teams bringing us one of the best titles. It holds so much for the reader to engage with and gives us characters and events that we actually care about. And after all that, it’s full of cool things that we can check out again and again and say ‘wow’ to. I know I’m a proverbial stuck record on this, but Swamp Thing really is just that good.


Review by Andy Flood, 17/1/22



The Swamp Thing #8 – Review

Reading ‘In my Infancy’ part 3, we open on a scene with Nightmare Nurse offering a warning to Peacemaker which serves as a strong reminder of the true nature of what Levi Kamei has become.

The Swamp Thing #8

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

Published by DC Comics
Released – October 2021

With the cover of issue 8, Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer bring a new, twisted meaning to the notion of becoming one with nature. We see the suggestion of Swamp Thing in the throes of emergence or rebirth, his features in a tortured scream as he regenerates from within an ancient tree in the Kaziranga forest. Perkins’ tangled, twisted lines are used to great effect here and are made all the more unsettling by Spicer’s unusual colour choices. We’re very much transported to the setting before we even open up the book.

Reading ‘In my Infancy’ part 3, we open on a scene with Nightmare Nurse offering a warning to Peacemaker which serves as a strong reminder of the true nature of what Levi Kamei has become. Her words are punctuated as we turn to the spectacular title page, depicting a ‘rumble in the jungle’ between Swamp Thing and Chemo. It’s a double page spread straight out of an old monster flick or kaiju movie, and is yet further proof of the quality of this title.

In order to save Kaziranga Forest and himself, Levi/Swamp Thing must now face the remaining members of The Suicide Squad along with powerful memories, not all his own. As he is ambushed by a frenzied Parasite, we see Parasite’s grim origin (featuring further DC cameos). This segues into a sequence of Levi’s memories as the two combatants share an osmosis of recollection.

It’s an interesting and uniquely ‘Swamp Thing-esque’ way to resolve a showdown, and while the two brutish forms still go toe-to-toe, the real battle is fought in the mind. In what proves to be an issue jam packed full of action and revelation, Levi then goes on to face not only Peacemaker but his brother too, who bears a warning and hints of the larger tapestry at work.

In a run that has been unfailingly good in every way, this issue stands as perhaps one of the most ‘non-stop’ reads. Certainly, the Swamp Thing versus Suicide Squad element of the ‘In my Infancy’ story has been full of crowd pleasing moments (particularly in light of Peacemaker’s appearance in the recent DC film). But while Ram V writes to entertain, filling each page with cool stuff, he also gives us food for thought, each and every time. That’s one of the really great things about his work.

In a similar way, the work of his teammates, from the art of Perkins and Spicer to the ever-inventive lettering of Aditya Bidikar can be appreciated on a number of levels. There’s the initial read-through that gives the ‘wow’ factor, and then there’s the times when you look again and see the really clever things going on throughout.


Verdict

Swamp Thing #8 is a superb comic, being hugely worthy of the series’ reputation. It’s an ongoing testament to the remarkable talent of its creators that we get to read something exciting, cerebral and immediately relevant to our current world. I recommend you take a trip to The Green, maybe even stay a while. You’ll be glad you did.


Review by Andy Flood, 13/1/22


The Amazing Spider-Man #80 – Review

As far as writing goes, I see no flaws with this issue. It’s tight witty and funny, everything The Amazing Spider-man should be in my opinion…


Amazing Spider-man #80

Written by: Cody Ziglar

Artwork by: Michael Dowling

Published by Marvel comics

KRAVEN GOD TIME!!! In case you didn’t see my last review (in which case, what on earth are you doing?) The all-new Spidey is all drugged up on kraven’s mystical hallucinogens and is running scared from a huge God like Kraven creature. The newest beyond chapter pulls no punches and throws you right into the action, so let’s dig in quick before it’s over!

Whilst entranced by the poison running through his veins, Ben Reilly is thrust into a flashback of sorts where we get two incredible splash pages done by artist Michael Dowling (whose art in this issue is especially gorgeous) where we get to see Ben Reilly’s greatest fear on show in front of his eyes; the feeling he’s nothing more than a hollow shell of Peter Parker (who is a clone of. So technically, y’know…he is) upon seeing the grotesque illusions, Ben plummets down into an alleyway where Kraven waits for him as he tells Spidey that the trial has only just begun.

Snap back to reality (oh!) where the beyond corporation is in a state as to where their Spider-man has gone when Ben’s personal supervisor Marcus receives a call from Ben’s girlfriend Janine, also in a frenzy about Ben’s disappearance, she proceeds to give Marcus a verbal whooping if the rear and tells him he better bring Ben back alright.

Ben is not alright. He wakes up in some dark room, surrounded by other kidnapped civilians (who he sees as weird anthropomorphic dudes). One of the civilians who was seen in the bar last issue, gives Ben some of Beyond’s wonderful hangover pills to discard the hallucinations in the funniest Spider-man scene in the last however long where Spidey adjusts to the animal creatures in front of him, its very funny. Read it.

After coming to his senses and getting of that room, Ben discovers that he’s on a huge cargo boat when Kraven attacks him in a pretty exciting fight. Ben eventually over powers Kraven, tossing him over into a vat of some sort of chemicals. Before Kraven can be apprehended however, he disappears into the mist. Never to be seen again, even though of course he will be seen again because he’s Kraven.

Spidey gets back to beyond tower and reunites with Janine and all is well in the Reilly household, but maybe not the Morales one. Chief supervisor at beyond Ms. Danger (brilliant name) prepares to send the new Spider-man to take out Brooklyn’s very own Web slinger!


As far as writing goes, I see no flaws with this issue. It’s tight witty and funny, everything The Amazing Spider-man should be in my opinion, props to Cody Ziglar! Art duties in the book were covered by the previously mentioned Michael Downing who delivers some really beautiful art in this comic so we’ll done to the beyond team, keep it up. Stay tuned for next issue’s spider throw down!!


Review by Leo Brocklehurst on 20/12/21

NEW YEARS SALE ON WOWCOMIX.COM!

Graphic novels with up to 70% off and up to 40% off Comics!

To help ease the pressures of it being 2022 (already, blimey!), this January we are offering up a bumper sale on Wowcomix.com!

You will find graphic novels with up to 70% off and up to 40% off comics, alongside discounts on vintage card sets, books and classic British annuals!

Whats more, throughout January, any purchase made over £5 in value will be eligible to be accompanied by a free Marvel comic or poster! All you have to do is make sure that you state which one you would like in the additional comments section of the checkout. If you don’t state, we will send you one anyway, and if you don’t want one then you just have to say. But are you gonna turn down a free comic!? Really?

The Amazing Spider-Man #79 – Review

Whilst it doesn’t boast the non stop, cataclysmic action of earlier beyond chapters, it’s still no pushover and serves as a great continuation of the latest Spidey super arc.

Amazing Spider-man #79

Published by Marvel comics on 25/11/21
Written by: Cody Ziglar

Artwork by: Michael Dowling

The latest chapter in the beyond arc sees Ben Reilly settle into his role as Spider-man as he struggles with the beyond corporation’s tight grip aswell as coming face to face with the new (and improved?) Kraven the hunter.


The creative team has yet again had another 2 issue change. Which I like the idea of, so far we’ve had Zeb Wells and Patrick Gleason, Kelly Thompson and Sara Pichelli and now we’ve got Cody Ziglar and Michael Dowling bring us the beginning of this short story featuring Kraven! Our story begins with a beyond corp party at a bar, when one drunk worker is leaving the party down an alleyway, a mysterious shadow overcasts him as we cut away to Ben having his suit fixed up due to his encounter with morbius (see my review on issue 78). Marcus (Ben’s supervisor) chats the usual dirt about how “beyond has sacrificed a lot for you blah blah blah”. After their conversation, Ben goes out to see Peter in the time he has spare before he has to go on an assignment.


MJ sits at Peter’s bedside as Ben enters through the window, I really enjoyed the little bits of chemistry shown between the characters in this book. I wasn’t aware of Cody Ziglar before reading this (I think he may have written some Spider-man books before) but his writing feels really natural, it allows the reader to feel more involved in the comic and view these characters as real people. Ben says his goodbyes and swings off to stop an armoured car robbery, after doing so, he gets a call from Marcus, who needs to Ben to stop by the home of a beyond board member in distress. Upon arriving, he finds the man dead on the floor but before he can investigate any further, his Spider-sense is set off, but its to late has Ben is hit by a huge explosion!


Kraven reveals himself to the bruised up Ben and gives him a good beating until he manages to find his way out of the building. However, when Ben is in free fall, he’s it with a mirage of poison tipped darts, which send him spiralling down to the edge of a building. Broken, Ben manages to muster up the strength to stand, but when he dies, he is faced with a 500 foot huge kraven monster God who is the result of Ben’s hallucinations, right?



This issue was a decent read, Ziglar’s writing felt totally smooth and human and was accompanied by some really nice artwork by Dowling. Whilst it doesn’t boast the non stop, cataclysmic action of earlier beyond chapters, it’s still no pushover and serves as a great continuation of the latest Spidey super arc.


Review by Leo Brocklehurst on 14/12/21

The Swamp Thing #5 Review

Ram V continues to impress with his writing, handling a story that functions both as a standalone and as part of a larger arc. That he weaves in history, metaphysics and philosophy while still keeping us excited and engaged is quite a feat…


The Swamp Thing #5
Reviewed by Andy Flood
Written by: Ram V
Art: John McCrea
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

I’ve been looking forward to this issue of The Swamp Thing with genuine excitement, knowing that it would feature one of my favourite characters, John Constantine. Memories of his appearance in The Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing tales are still among my fondest when it comes to comics; seeing him lead Alec Holland through a dark, arcane and twisted learning journey was, and still is, a real treat. Fast forward to today and we have John joining Levi Kamei, latest Guardian of The Green to tackle a problem or two in ‘Survivor Bomb’.


I’ve been looking forward to this issue of The Swamp Thing with genuine excitement, knowing that it would feature one of my favourite characters, John Constantine. Memories of his appearance in The Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing tales are still among my fondest when it comes to comics; seeing him lead Alec Holland through a dark, arcane and twisted learning journey was, and still is, a real treat. Fast forward to today and we have John joining Levi Kamei, latest Guardian of The Green to tackle a problem or two in ‘Survivor Bomb’.

The original cover for this issue features yet more great art from Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer, depicting a bomb as part of the taint in The Green, red tendrils creeping forth and spreading their ills. It’s perhaps more directly emblematic of the interior story than the striking variant cover from Brian Bolland, who paints a more monstrous Swamp Thing, all shadows, claws dripping ichor and fierce glare. It is a dark and more symbolic cover, though both are excellent and leave the reader curious about what lies within.

The bulk of ‘Survivor Bomb’ takes place in London and opens in suitably dreary scenes of rain and dimly lit rooms. Just as Sierra Kirre calls on old magic and old ties to summon Constantine to help her find a friend, so too is Levi pulled into The Green and drawn to London. We learn of a darkness there centred around an unexploded bomb from World War II. Its insidious influence has been having serious repercussions, spreading and inciting hate, building on the tensions already present in the city.

Sierra’s friend Nigel is embroiled in this situation and, as the three main characters meet and work to save both him and the city beyond, we see the impact of human thought and action. Its ripples are evident both in the scenes of war and those in modern day London. They are seen further still as red taint in The Green. There is more here than bombs and hate…

Ram V continues to impress with his writing, handling a story that functions both as a standalone and as part of a larger arc. That he weaves in history, metaphysics and philosophy while still keeping us excited and engaged is quite a feat. As ever, we have the enticing sense of everything having meaning, of being interlinked. He presents Constantine in a very cool way and it’s clear that Ram V’s time spent with the character on Justice League dark has given him a great feel for how to work with him. Dialogue and narration are superb throughout and are supported and presented wonderfully by Aditya Bidikar’s lettering.

Artwork for this story is handled by John McCrea, who gives us hugely atmospheric scenes which retain the feel of the book so far while also giving tastes of his own distinct style. Every panel is one we are encouraged to return to after first reading so that we might see some detail we missed first time or indeed, just to enjoy the incredible visuals. When paired with Mike Spicer’s unique colours, we are transported through shifting landscapes of magic and tragedy. Atypical and very clever palette choices always serve to enhance our experience of the book. There is not a single lacklustre page to be found here.


Verdict

‘Survivor Bomb’ is another issue of Swamp Thing full of texture and nuance and is entertaining from start to finish. The appearance of John Constantine doesn’t disappoint and brings a deeper sense of the magical themes which have characterised and enhanced previous Swamp Thing stories. This series is nothing short of phenomenal and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


(Recommended by DC for readers age 13+)

Review by Andy Flood, 2/9/21


Batman #111 Review

Tynion has no problem showing us where he sits on the rogues gallery totem pole, as Scarecrow takes centre stage and puts Simon Saint’s puppet in his place.


Batman #111
Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Verdict –

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


Review by Bryan Lomax, 15/08/21