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X-Men #3 – Review


X-MEN #3

Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art: Pepe Larraz
Colours: Marte Gracia

Released: 22/09/2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The X-Men have always spearheaded the weirder end of the Marvel universe (they’re not called ‘Uncanny’ for nothing!) and this has always been one of their greatest strengths. After a couple of issues that have been relatively straightforward as far as Marvel’s mutants are concerned (although excellent nonetheless), Gerry Duggan begins to lean into the bizarre for this third issue. Well, we say lean – dive headfirst might be more accurate. Electric elephants and robo-sharks, anyone?!

Duggan delivers another somewhat standalone piece here, albeit with another epilogue that shows that the story he is telling is anything but small. It’s skilfully balanced between moving the X-Men forward as the superhero team that they have once again become and reaping what they have sown following events stretching as far back as House of X/Powers of X. If Jonathan Hickman is the master of the long game, then Gerry Duggan is almost certainly his apprentice!

Until it’s quieter, continuity focused epilogue, this issue is essentially one big fight between the X-Men and the forces of ‘parasitic cockatiel’ The High Evolutionary, who turns up on Earth offering the mutants the chance to sterilise humanity, the greatest threat to the planet itself. It’s difficult to imagine what Xavier and Magneto’s answer to such an offer might have been in the early parts of Hickman’s run on the title; their actions were far from heroic at many points. But this team has very much cemented itself as a set of heroes from the get go, and the stage is set for a showdown that makes incredible use of the ever-impressive skills of artist Pepe Larraz. Every panel bursts with astonishing detail, but also big central focus points that leap out at the reader. This is an issue that’s worth a couple of extra read throughs – one to give justice to the pace that Duggan’s writing and Larraz’s broader strokes bring to proceedings, and another to take in every strange detail of the animalistic hordes that the X-Men face.

While the action itself is thrilling and The High Evolutionary makes for an intriguing villain, the route into the action does feel a tad rushed. It could have done with perhaps another page or two of lead in to dig a little more into the reaction of each of the mutants to the appearance of The High Evolutionary. While the standalone approach of each story month-on-month does work, in this instance it feels a little bit out-of-the-blue and the reasons for The High Evolutionary’s appearance on Earth are explained away all too quickly.

In contrast, the sub-plot of Orchis’ plans continues to be a slow-burn that leads to another excellent cliffhanger which hints at consequences aplenty for the actions of Charles Xavier over the past couple of years. The panels here are suitably moody and contrast in much the same way as the story at this point does to what came before – Pepe Larraz truly is one of the most versatile and talented artists in the Marvel stable.


VERDICT

Madness reigns in this third issue of Gerry Duggan and Pepe Larraz’s run and, boy, is it glorious. A slight misstep in the setup doesn’t detract from what is a simply eye-melting issue which foreshadows major upheaval both as a result of events way back and those that take place in this very issue. An issue of two halves, both of which are thoroughly entertaining.


Review by Nathan Harrison

The Swamp Thing #7 – Review


The Swamp Thing #7

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

Published by DC Comics

Released – 8/9/2021

As we rejoin our friend in the swamp, we find him still entangled with Suicide Squad in the Kaziranga Forest. This is shown to great effect on yet another eye catching cover from Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer. Peacemaker and his ragtag band are the red taint here, surrounded by the imposing presence of The Swamp Thing who seeks to contain them, remove their blight from The Green and from Kaziranga. This thematic contrast used throughout the story so far is really effective and often adds an extra element to many of the scenes.

Following on from the cliff-hanger last issue, we find The Suicide Squad picking up the pieces, almost literally. Some darkly atmospheric and intense scenes which call to mind the finest moments of the Predator film lead us to the title page for ‘In My Infancy part 2’. It is at once fascinating, beautiful and perfectly executed. Striking and memorable title pages have been something of a signature for this series, and this is no exception.

As we read on and Swamp Thing tangles further with the remaining members of Suicide Squad, the action is interwoven with explorations of memory, previously used as a means of recovery and growth, now manipulated and exposed at the whim of Nightmare Nurse. As she peels back the layers, Levi is forced to revisit his relationship with father and brother, his alienation from his own people, his lingering torment… Through these sequences, it’s apparent that Levi’s inner battles rival any physical struggle he may encounter.

History, folklore and belief play strong roles here, with the impact of colonialism and industrialisation looming large. Part of the Guardian of The Green is tradition or memory but in Levi, it is also progress, a striving for something new and better. Between Nightmare Nurse and Chemo, we find both Levi and The Green attacked in more ways than one. Perhaps his unique perspective will enable Levi to face these threats as Swamp Thing in a way no other could.

Once again, from start to finish, this is superlative stuff. The writing, art and lettering all form a symbiosis wherein each inform the other, where words and art come together to create perfect comic book storytelling moments. It’s a book where we get to learn things, to investigate, if we are so inclined. There is an unusual geography here which is almost a character itself, especially when viewed through the lens of history and anthropology. This might sound like this is a dry, academic story but nothing could be further from the truth; every panel, every moment is exciting. It just so happens that there is substance supporting the action, the interactions.

Ram V’s dialogue and narration, brought to life through Aditya Bidikar’s always impressive lettering, bring us entirely convincing moments of human experience, enhanced ever further by pitch-perfect work from the art team. No matter if we are seeing Levi’s shared moments with his father or his struggle as Swamp Thing as he grapples physical horrors, we are always right there with him.
Through the work of this incredible creative team, we can experience something akin to synaesthesia as we read, take in images and turn pages. We get to smell, hear, feel, maybe even taste through drawings, colours and words of great quality and depth. This is a comic which takes us way beyond our world in the best of ways.


Verdict

There’s a bittersweet sense building as I read and review this series; this is already issue 7 of 10. It’s therefore soon to end, and I’d really prefer it didn’t. I have every confidence that this limited run will be resolved in a satisfying way and yet I’m just as sure I’ll be left wanting more. It’s a great time to be into comics; there are plenty of good titles around. This is not just a good comic. It’s a great one. Read it if you can.


Review by Andy Flood, 12/10/21

The Best Vintage Pikachu Merchandise You Should Pika-Choose!


What’s cute, yellow and since 1996 has become a household name? Why, it’s the one and only Pikachu of course! Considering how synonymous Pikachu has become with the Pokemon franchise it’s strange to think that our little mousey friend wasn’t originally going to be Pokemon’s mascot, with that particular role originally set to go to Clefairy. This decision however, was changed as it was thought a mascot that would be perceived as gender-neutral in its design would be more equal in appeal to both boys and girls than Clefairy, the pink aesthetic of whom it was considered may be more popular with a female demographic. After taking center stage as Ash/Satoshi’s companion in the Pokemon anime, Pikachu would also become the star of Pokemon Yellow, a revamped version of the original Pokemon Gameboy games which took influence from numerous aspects of the popular anime series.

In the past two and a half decades Pikachu has continued to grace both the big and small screen in a variety of different Pokemon-related media. Along with an abundance of Pokemon video games, there have been Pikachu-branded planes, cars and more toys and pieces of collectable Pikachu merchandise than you can shake a Pokeball at. In this blog we will be exploring Pikachu’s impact on the success of Pokemon as a brand by taking a look at a few interesting pieces of vintage Pikachu merchandise from the golden age of Pokemania.

Tiger 35mm Pikachu Camera:

Despite being released on the cusp of the Millennium, here is a quintessentially 90’s piece of Pokemon merchandise if ever there was one. The 1999 Tiger 35mm Pikachu Camera featured a very cute Pikachu/Pokeball design with Diglett also making an appearance as the camera’s shutter button (I suppose out of all the Gen I Pokemon Diglett probably is the most applicable to be used as a button, as I can’t imagine the likes of Cloyster or Starmie would have made for very comfortable use of the camera). Fully functional, the Pikachu Camera came complete with a battery-operated flash and also had the added feature of being able to add a Pokemon-themed vignette frame around photos.

Pikachu Backpack:

Similar in design to the original “Fat Pikachu” plushies (as featured in my previous blog on vintage Pokemon plushies), the 20″ Pikachu Backpack was a very popular way of carrying your books and P.E kit to school for many kids in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. With a simple, cute and cuddly design, the Pikachu backpack was also released in a smaller 14″ version and as a 10″ gameboy carry case.

Pikachu Bubble Bath:

Produced by Grosvenor Consumer Products Ltd, the Pikachu Bubble Bath was a large plastic Pikachu figure with a bottle of child-friendly Bubble Bath fitted inside, which could be accessed via the bottom of the figure. Grosvenor have created a variety of bubble bath figures over the years, including worldwide franchises such as Disney, The Simpsons and Doctor Who, so it was only fitting that a phenomenon as big as Pokemon (and with a mascot as cute as Pikachu) should also join their ranks. Upon the western release of the Pokemon 2000 movie, a second Pokemon Bubble Bath figure was released featuring the film’s star legendary Pokemon, Lugia, alongside Pikachu.

Pokemon Yellow/Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour, Pikachu & Pichu Gameboy Colour and Pokemon/Pikachu Nintendo 64:

First beginning with the Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour, Nintendo have released a variety of Pokemon-themed consoles over the years including many editions of the Gameboy Advance/SP/Nintendo DS/3DS, a trend that continues today with the recent Pikachu-themed Nintendo Switch accompanying Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu. The Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour was packaged alongside Pokemon Yellow, which (as mentioned earlier) was an updated version of the original Pokemon games, where the player received a Pikachu as their starter Pokemon which would follow them during their adventures throughout Kanto, in a similar fashion to Ash’s Pikachu in the anime. The console itself featured bright Pikachu-yellow casing, with graphics of Pikachu and fellow fan favourites from the anime Jigglypuff and Togepi greeting the player alongside the screen.

In 2001, following the release of the second generation of Pokemon games, another Pikachu-themed Gameboy colour was made available. This console was produced in two different colours, yellow (the same bright yellow casing that was used on the previous Pikachu gameboy) and gold, with the border of the screen featuring Pikachu and his newly-introduced pre-evolution Pichu, one of the new baby Pokemon that made their debut in Pokemon Gold and Silver.

Prior to the release of the second Pikachu-themed Gameboy however, Nintendo’s first Pokemon-themed home console found its way into the hands of gamers upon the release of the Pikachu Nintendo 64 in 2000. Featuring a large plastic Pikachu on top of the console and a Pokeball as the power switch, a variety of different versions of the console were made available in various territories across the globe. The standard version featured solely the console and a Pokemon-branded controller, whereas Toys R Us shoppers in the USA were treated to an exclusive version packaged with a pocket watch and the game Hey You, Pikachu!  

Over in Australia, an edition known as the Pokemaniac Nintendo 64 was packaged with a VHS copy of Pokemon – I Choose You!, the first volume in the initial series of Pokemon anime VHS releases. Japan received an exclusive orange version of the console, which has since become much sought after amongst collectors.

Tiger Pikachu Radio Control Car:

In 2000 Tiger produced a Pikachu-themed radio control car, which was likely influenced (though this remains to be officially confirmed) by the Pika-Bug cars, a small fleet of Volkswagen Beetles with Pikachu-style aesthetics which had been used to promote Pokemon across the United States of America from 1998 up until the mid 2000’s.

The Pikachu Radio Control Car was operated via a Pokeball-shaped remote which connected with the car through the use of radio frequency. The remote allowed the driver to change direction as they pleased by using the two joysticks that were found upon opening the Pokeball remote.

Pokemon Pikachu/Pocket Pikachu:

Originally released in 1998, the Pokemon Pikachu (also known under the name Pocket Pikachu in Japan) was a Tamagotchi-style digital pet that functioned as a pedometer. Instead of requiring users to feed/clean the Pikachu as many other digital pets of the same era did, the user’s relationship with their Pikachu grew stronger by increasing their number of steps when wearing the Pokemon Pikachu. Every twenty steps would be converted into a digital currency within the device known as Watts, which could then be used to buy presents for Pikachu and thus improving the users standing with their new digital friend.

The first version of the device featured yellow casing similar to that used on the Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour, with black and white display graphics that would show Pikachu’s interactions with the user. Different animations would become accessible upon gaining specific amounts of Watts, depicting Pikachu eating, showering and watching TV amongst a number of other activities. If the user did not interact with Pikachu for a prolonged period of time, the Pikachu within the device would get angry with the player upon the Pokemon Pikachu eventually being turned on, even running away if the player’s absence went on for too long (Pikachu going AWOL wasn’t permanent however, as he could be called back by shaking the device). 

A new version of the device, the Pokemon Pikachu 2 GS, was released alongside the second generation of Pokemon Games, however this time around the player didn’t have to take care of Pikachu and the watts gained through use of the pedometer could be exchanged for items in-game.

Hasbro Electronic Pokemon Pikachu:

Last but certainly not least, my last addition to this blog list is Hasbro’s 1998 Electronic Pokemon Pikachu. Although there have been a variety of electronic Pikachu-themed toys released by a variety of different manufacturers since Pokemania first hit the world, this one is particularly special to me as (along with the electric Charmander toy from the same range) it was the first piece of Pokemon merchandise I ever got. With light-up cheeks and Pikachu-voice sound effects, this toy is also quite notable in aesthetic terms for featuring Pikachu with a semi-white face and a much shorter and rounder body than would be seen in later toys, both aspects of Pikachu’s early design which were dropped as the franchise became more widespread and the overall appearance of individual Pokemon became more consistent with how they appeared in the anime series as opposed to their designs in Ken Sugimori’s original artwork.

More Pikachu Merchandise?

Of course, as stated earlier this blog only features a miniscule example of the amount of Pikachu merchandise that is in existence, as after over 25 years of success the Pokemon franchise has put their mascot’s face on an impossibly large amount of products, each as cute as the last (though the recent and rather terrifying Pikachu-centipede style plushie might be a slight exception…). As new incarnations of video games, toys, trading cards and anime continue to introduce new fans to Pokemon, our little electric mouse friend has become a pop culture juggernaut, instantly recognisable to people of all ages. As the world of Pokemon has continued to keep up with changes in trends and technology, Pikachu has stayed in his rightful place at the centre of the franchise and I hope he continues to for many more years to come. 


Article by Emily Carney

Sources/Further Reading and Viewing:

The Toy Report – A Brief History Of Pokemon Toys:

The Phoblographer – This Pokemon Camera Will Make Your Inner 90’s Kid Swoon:

Bulbapedia – Pokemon Yellow Version:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Yellow_Version

Nintendo64.fandom.com – Pokemon Console:

https://nintendo64.fandom.com/wiki/Pokemon_Console

Pikabugs.weebly.com – History of Pikabugs:

https://pikabugs.weebly.com/

Mewisme700 – Pikabug Update 1: Complete Initial Overview:

CrimsonPanteon – 1997 Electronic Pikachu Toys:

Wikipedia – Pokemon Pikachu:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pikachu

Kotaku – The Virtual Pikachu That Didn’t Need Food, Just Affection:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pikachu

Dr Retro – Gameboy Color Special Edition Unboxing:

Serebi.net – Pokemon Pikachu:

https://www.serebii.net/virtualpet/pokemonpikachu/

The Amazing Spider-Man #75 Review



The Amazing Spider-man #75

Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Zeb Wells 

Artwork by: Patrick Gleason
Released on 6/10/21

Published by Marvel Comics 

BEYOND IS HERE!

So I haven’t been THIS excited for Spider-man in quite a while now, I was hyped when this new run started because we finally got a change up from Dan Slott to Nick Spencer and my favourite artist Ryan Ottley was on the book aswell.

However, as the series progressed, we lost Ryan Ottley (on Spider-man, he is still very much alive) around the halfway point of the run and the plots got a little stale (Kings Ransom and the Chameleon Conspiracy to be specific). The stories were in my opinion, more exciting than the previous run but lacking the constant state of epic-ness and energy that the book had seen before, but now, I think things are finally going to be… amazing (forgive the pun) once again. Let’s dig in!

This time around, the story starts with a young Peter Parker walking the streets of New York with Aunt May, blowing up a piece of gum. Aunt May realises she never bought that for Pete and asks where he got it from, Peter doesn’t understand what he did but said “it felt too easy”. They end up going back to the store and paying the store clerk for the gum and once they get home uncle Ben asks to talk to Peter, giving him a speech about the man who you are in private and that you can’t hide from him. Ben turns around, disfigured by a hole in his face with spiders crawling out of it and we soon discover it was just a dream.

Peter wakes up miserable over Harry’s death (last ish) and decides to go get some fresh air outside, on a specific building where its quiet and solitary, where he has nothing to worry about. I always like little things like this, they communicate to readers that Peter is a human being; he still faces problems and tribulation and has his safe spaces of his own to go to, they really drive home the “everyman” aspect of the character. Once he gets up onto the roof of this building he sees another Spider-man swing past?! Spidey throws a slue of tricks at the imposter but they prove useless; his webs bounce right of the shady character and they run right through the wall Peter pulls down on them. Following that, a spider looking device is deployed and wraps Peter up, allowing the doppelganger to escape. The device tells Peter that he will be let go in an hour and he should use this time to “reflect on his life’s decisions” Which might be the funniest thing I’ve read all year.

The following day, Pete runs into Ben Reilly (who last appeared in Iron man a few years back I believe but I’m sure you’re familiar with the character from the infamous clone saga storyline back in the mid 90’s). They talk in a restaurant and Ben reveals it was him who was running around the night before and that’s what he’s come to talk to  Peter about. The beyond corporation has hired him to be Spider-man after acquiring the trademark to the hero from the now defunct Parker industries (the company Otto Octavius began when he was in control of Peter’s brain, when Peter regained control he totally tanked the company and had to sell off all the assets although he was unaware Otto had trademarked the Spider-man name). Ben came to tell him that he wasn’t asking to be a Spider-man but that he will be, like it or not. After all, they both have the same moral code so its not like you can keep him out of the fight. Peter has no choice but to accept it and they go their own ways.

Ben returns to his penthouse in the beyond tower to his girlfriend Janine, who just got out of prison last issue. There’s a pretty nice moment where they take in just how different their living conditions are now from a few years ago until its interrupted by Reilly’s overseer of sorts to partake in some sort of session.

We cut to later as the (typically hulk villains) U-foes are carrying out a mission when Peter arrives on the scene to stop them, he makes a joke about the stench that X-ray carries when they reply that the joke wasn’t funny the first time when, all of a sudden, Reilly breaks through the debris under him. They team up against the villains and hold their own until X-ray let’s out an explosion of ionising radiation, reducing the area to Rubble; as Ben recovers (due to his radiation proof suit) and goes to re-group with Peter he sees that Pete’s been injured pretty bad and as he falls to the ground and blacks out, the issue ends.

Things look pretty rough for Peter but it makes for one heck of a story! Before I talk about anything else I just want to talk about beautiful wrap around cover by comic book veteran Arthur Adams! This cover was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the solicited covers for the beyond books look incredible, in other news, I loved this book! Pretty sure this is my favourite issue of Spider-man since the red goblin arc in 2018.




I didn’t realise how much the title was coasting until I came out of it and beyond looks like a non-stop thrill rife and I can’t wait!!! I’m pretty sure they had me in mind when they made the series thrice-monthly if I’m being completely honest. Zeb Wells writing was funny, exciting and did a spot-on job of all the characters personalities and the like although Wells is no newcomer to ASM, he’s done several short stories in other spider-books and scripted the awesome storyline SHED back in 2010 with legendary artist Chris Bachalo. Patrick Gleason’s art in this book is really just brilliant, I love the way he draws Spidey but I just have one teeny, tiny nit-pick on the artwork which is that it can be pretty inconsistent. I double checked and he is the only pencilled on the issue but it looks like it can be two different styles at some points. In parts, peter looks in style with Gleason’s art but in others he looks like a 3-d tracing. It’s the only problem I’ve had with his art, I don’t know whether he gets worn out or if he’s just experimenting with different styles but when that’s my biggest complaint with a comic you know it’s good, it’s sooooo good. BUY IT!


10/10

Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst 14/10/21

Spawn #322 – Review

Spawn #322
Reviewed by Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Todd McFarlane

Artwork by: Carlo Barberi
Released 30/9/21

Published by Image Comics

Hi there! You seemed to have stumbled on a review of Todd Mcfarlane’s latest issue of iconic indie comic series Spawn, I hope you enjoy it and remember all the new comics I review here should be available to order through this wonderful website you find yourself on!


The latest issue of Spawn is pretty decent, a solid filler issue with criminally good art and good enough plot. The book picks up directly where the last one left us; in a pitch-black city, confronting a monstrous vampire named Paul who has beaten abused and sexually assaulted a young woman and bore her a child that she can’t take care of under his cruel household. The reason for the city’s darkness is due to Spawn lashing out last issue in rage of Paul’s disgusting crimes and unlike my very cool idea in my last review, there is no epic night war battle (yet).


Paul shoots at Spawn with a shotgun but fails to hurt him and Spawn renders him unconscious. Following that, Spawn saves the young woman and takes her to safety by teleporting to some doctor’s office I’m pretty sure. Paul wakes up 4 days later and needs to feed (being a vampire and all) so Spawn has devised a cruel but justified game for the devilish wimp by removing all the spikes off of his outfit and placing them on a hallway, on the other side of it lies escape and food. The coward starts pushing himself through the torturous hallway in a truly gross scene that I may have skipped through and has given me an acute fear of small spaces.

About halfway through his fun little trip, a bunch of bugs start following him through (the comic explains that since Paul is a vampire, he is scared of anything that sucks blood because it’s some sort of competition I guess?), forcing him to push harder until he falls out a grim, bloody body. Spawn stands at the end of the corridor with Paul’s two dogs (that he has control of now because of Spawn powers I suppose). He tells Paul that on the OTHER side of the hall is an escape and he’ll have to venture through once more to get out and as Paul starts to limp through the hallway again, Spawn sicks the dogs on him and I’m guessing Paul is no longer among the living.


This issue was pretty good, I can’t really mention any flaws and I, as a reader feel Mcfarlane’s rage in this issue, I guess he watches the news. But the book suffers from the same flaws it has for a while. Namely that nothing of note to the overarching story has happened since way back in August 2019’s #300, the series keeps talking about some massive war between heaven and hell but I can’t see anything progressing to the point just yet, but as far as negatives go, that’s about the extent of it.


This book features stunning art by Carlo Barberi and is way less wordy than usual which is very refreshing since sometimes I feel like I should be awarded a medal for getting through all the text in a Spawn comic.

7/10



Review by Leo Brocklehurst 12/10/21

The Swamp Thing #6 – Review

The Swamp Thing #6

Reviewed by Andy Flood

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Published by DC Comics
Released: 4/8/2021

In the wake of ‘Survivor Bomb’, we come to issue 6 wondering ‘what’s next?’ and find Swamp Thing, looming from the dark of a forest, rain all around, a thermographic crosshair tracking his enraged form.  Every cover for this run has been a stand-out example of the form and this is no exception.  Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer’s cover work is exemplary and telegraphs some of the amazing visual storytelling to be found within.

Turning to the first page, we find a sinister aircraft, bristling with weaponry, framed against an infernal sky above a lush forest.  We are in Kaziranga Forest, India and, as the story unfolds against this striking backdrop, we see further aspects of the taint in The Green.

The double spread title page of ‘In My Infancy’ is astounding.  As a portrayal of Levi Kamei’s return to being through confused transformative process, it is note perfect.  As he writhes and wrestles with his strange rebirth over thirty-two immaculate panels, we then go on to see Levi is immediately under threat as the Suicide Squad touch down, tasked with his capture.  Believing the deployment of a bio-agent to have prepared the battlefield in their favour, Peacemaker, Nightmare Nurse, Heat Wave, Parasite and Chemo deploy with ill-placed confidence.

They are a task force in name only, and are clearly at odds with one another.  Even as they close in, Levi is faced with a Green that is diminishing.  He delves into memory, to tap into the depths of the Green’s power and so, as the action unfolds, we have momentary insights into Levi’s past and his struggles with family and identity.  It’s a phenomenal episode, which moves effortlessly from moments of brutality to glimpses of tender tranquility.

And I’ve no idea how they’re doing it.  Reading Swamp Thing is like witnessing comic book witchcraft; what strange, eldritch secrets do the creators employ to weave something this good?  Every page is surprising, be it mystifying, uplifting, thrilling or horrifying, each one, every panel, is of such high quality that it’s impossible not to be hugely impressed and entertained.

Ram V’s writing meshes perfectly with the deft and inventive lettering of Aditya Bidikar; with the always incredible lines of Mike Perkins’ art; with the vibrant, near tangible colours of Mike Spicer… It’s such a tour-de-force of complimentary talents that to break it down into analysis of each element as a separate entity seems like the wrong approach.  With every issue, we are transported as we read, our every sense somehow engaged and our imaginations fired up.

From quiet moments drinking tea through to loud, nasty displays of violence, we are fully immersed.  And always, the story moves forward, we come to know more of our hero and understand perhaps a little more of what is going on while glimpsing a hint of what lies ahead.  The final splash page is not only a superb piece of art but bears the words ‘to be continued…’ Rarely have I been so glad to have more to look forward to.


Verdict

Everything about this book is the absolute best of what comics have to offer.  I’m convinced that this 10 issue run will be considered a classic by a great many people.  I already count myself among them.  Swamp Thing comes with the highest possible praise and is unreservedly recommended.


Review by Andy Flood, 7/10/21


King Spawn #2 – Review

King Spawn #2

Reviewed By Leo Brocklehurst

Written by: Sean Lewis

Artwork by: Javi Fernandez 
Image Comics

Released 30/9/21

Hello again, it’s your friendly neighbourhoo—nope, wrong review. I mean its your edgy, cool, dark and not so friendly temporary king Spawn reviewer here, and I’m proud to report that this issue was pretty damn awesome! In my opinion it’s quite a bit better than the first issue and doesn’t suffer from a few of the problems the regular spawn series has.

In case you haven’t caught up on this new series, go check out my last review for the first issue, but if you can’t be bothered, I’ll give you a quick catch up; Billy Kincaid, the sick kid killer thought to be dead since 1992’s Spawn #5, has returned with a creepy new cult of malleable – minded teens who intend to carry out his evil and sickening plot to murder innocent children in order to lure Spawn in for revenge. 

The issue begins like most Spawn issues do these days which is arguing with Jessica priest, who wants to join Spawn In looking for Kincaid but Spawn refuses until finally giving in, attending an event where rumours are spreading there will be an attack from Kincaid’s clan. He then seeks the help of Terry (Wanda’s widower that she married after Al Simmons “death”) because he has a list of potential suspects for the attack on the parade, how he has this I don’t know but it’s nice to see Terry again after a couple years of silence.

Following this, we cut to the next day where Spawn discovers the two cult members ready to open fire on some children when Spawn decides to intervene, shielding the children and taking out one of the crazies as the other gets their soul eaten in Spawn’s Cape. After the situation is defused, Spawn and Terry are shocked by the fact the terrorists were just teenagers when in the reflection of one of their cult helmet thingies(?) Billy Kincaid appears and tells Spawn that his child killing actions will inspire thousands across the globe to join the cult and worship their king…. KING SPAWN!

The ending was an epic one and really made me excited for the next issue, it feels like the book is actually going somewhere and know I believe we have a reason for the books title of King Spawn which begs the question: is the book just going to be about this cult? It had me wondering since once this story is concluded the title would lose it’s meaning so it could be possible that this could be a really huge storyline ending in Kincaid’s final demise. Either way, I’m excited as heck.


Sean Lewis and Javi Fernandez are making a possibly classic Spawn story that becomes essential future reading, with a great story and immersive artwork, I’m just glad to be along for the ride.

9/10


Review by Leo Brocklehurst 1/10/21

Stretford Comic Fest 2021 – Photo Gallery


Gallery from Stretfords first Wow Comix Comix Fest! – 9/10/21

We want to say a big thank-you to all you folk who made it over on Saturday for Stretford’s first ever comic fest! It was great to see so many of you make journey over, we hope you all had as much of a blast as we did.
And, of course, a big thanks goes out to all of the fantastic creators and special guests too, who we could not have done it without!

Its great to have our events finally back on after such an unpredictable couple of years, and we are really looking forward to being able to put more on in 2022! So watch this space!

Here are a few of the photos that we took on Saturday’s Comic Fest in Stretford…

Batman #113 – Review

Batman #113

Reviewed by Bryan Lomax

Writer: James Tynion IV (Fear State Part 2) and Brandon Thomas (Clownhunter Part 2)

Art: Jorge Jimenez (Fear State Part 2) and Jason Howard (Clownhunter Part 2)

Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 21/09/21

Published by DC Comics

Gotham City remains in the grip of fear as the false Oracle continues to disseminate misinformation, telling the world of Batman’s demise, and pushing its people further into a state of paranoia. Meanwhile, Batman, very much alive, goes in pursuit of the evidence that he needs for Commissioner Renee Montoya to make a move on Simon Saint and shut down the Magistrate program. He begins by letting Ghost-Maker into his mind in order to remember what really happened to him when the Scarecrow had him bound and drugged. But this leads to revelations, not from his own mind, but Ghost-Maker’s.

I love how confidently Batman tells Simon Saint that he’s going to tear down everything he’s doing. It’s Batman at his most bad-ass and it’s awesome! On the flip-side of that, seeing Barbara aka the real Oracle, seemingly able to do nothing but slam her fist against her keyboard, is somewhat frustrating, as she is usually the one able to take control of the cyberspace.  Check out Catwoman #35 to find out who is behind the fake Oracle.

Also frustrating, but not entirely unexpected, is seeing Commissioner Montoya sitting behind a desk almost drowning in her sorrows as she struggles to police the city. Once, just once, I’d love to see the Gotham City PD being a bit more instrumental in helping Batman to bring down the villains’ schemes, instead of relying on him to do everything, thereby justifying their existence. In fact, the Fear State story-line calls for that, given Saint’s Magistrate program was instigated as a way of tackling the crime that is “too big for the police to handle”. It would be a great big middle finger at Saint to have Montoya and her officers be the one to work him and bring him down, while Batman and his posse take on Scarecrow and Peacekeeper-01.

The real standout section of this issue is when Batman and Ghost-Maker get together. There are a couple of times I actually laughed out loud, whether it’s the homoerotic framing of a situation being undercut by flashes to all of Batman’s very hetero-dalliances, or Ghost-Maker’s bland description of Bruce’s life history peppered with comments that allude to Ghost-Maker’s own “greatness”, the two men make for an entertaining double-act.

Props once again to Jorge Jimenez and Tomeu Morey whose art and coloring rank as my favorite in the current roster of Batman related titles on the market. 

I wasn’t particularly fond of the supporting story-line, “Clown-Hunter Part 2”, as it was pretty much over before it got going, which is unfortunately the case, more often than not, with these shorts that seem tacked on to the back these days. Bring back the letters page, that’s what I say!


Verdict

Some great interplay between Batman and Ghost-Maker makes for a highly entertaining chapter of the Fear State saga.


Review by Bryan Lomax, 03/10/21

Alien #3 – Review

Alien #3

Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by : Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Art by : Salvador Larroca 
Published by Marvel

Released : July 2021

What a great cover! InHyuk Lee’s wonderfully dark Alien tail coiling around a troubled child’s face heralds issue #3 ; I eagerly anticipated it’s contents. Spoilers ahead….

Epsilon station, a Weyland-Yutani bioweapons and research facility is orbiting earth on a self – destruct trajectory.

Gabe Cruz has helped build the success of this station based on an encounter with Xenomorphs (Aliens) in the past. His son Danny, as part of a terrorist organisation have stolen a pass from him to get on to the station and in the process released the dangerous Xenomorphs. Cruz has had to come out of retirement to take the lead on the highly risky mission of trying to retrieve the mysterious “ALPHA” sample from Epsilon station is he is to have any chance of saving his son and preserving his legacy. 

Issue #3 is a seriously action packed issue as we are propelled in to the midst of an Alien attack, with Cruz and two Weyland-Yutani agents walking into a maelstrom of terror. The time around we open with a dying agent lying on the floor, ribs exploded open having been impaled by a Xenomorph in a swift attack. In a last act of defiance he manages to fire on the creature in the midst of a firefight where Cruz and the other agent looked to be facing certain death, causing the it to sweep up the heroic agent and flee with him. The encounter brings up flashback memories for Cruz of the first time he and a crew responded to a rescue call and came under attack from Xenomorphs.

Kennedy has done a great job in crafting a tense story full of intrigue. He also finds a way to add to depth through intriguing subplots that had me wondering how this arc might develop. During one scene, there is a mention of another mysterious and enchanting female looking Alien that Cruz has some mental connection with called ” The Dark One” . This “Dark One” was pictured back in the opening issue, who could not want to learn more!  Kennedy has dropped a great little back story that we are yet to see develop and possible links to plot in ways yet to be seen through Cruz’s flashbacks.

I have been consistently disappointed in Larocca’s Xenomorphs and inconsistency in drawing Cruz in previous issues, but I’m not going to rehash old reviews. What I will say is that his art is solid but at this point it just feels disconnected to the horror of the franchise and historical xenomorph art. In this issue there is so much in terms of visible xenomorphs that it detracts from some of the tension and mystery associated with what fans would associate as typical Alien horror. The art and the colors for the Aliens are bordering on cheery and too crisp to invite mystery, tension and the necessary foreboding tones. That feeling of the surprising attacking and not being so visible is lacking when they are front and centre consistently.

The lettering from Clayton Cowles is perfect for showcasing the artwork and complimenting the frenzied action and overall this issue reads well, with Kennedy doing a great job of getting the reader intrigued as to the the direction that this story may go. The clinical way Cruz kills his old friend Mitch who he knows cannot be saved is a touching and shocking moment and the emergence of two small Xenomorphs from the body is a nice unexpected twist from the conventional Alien gestation of one Alien per host.

Perhaps this is not the best jumping on point for this run and this may have been a difficult issue to open up on if you hadn’t already read issues one and two, but holds its own well enough to give the reader enough information so that they might be able to easily decide if this is the right kind of space-horror for them. 

Verdict 

Compelling action that keeps the pages turning and a slow burn intriguing plot have this arc shaping up with promise. Despite some minor artistic gripes over character consistency here and there, Marvel’s first Aliens run continues to impress.


Reviewed by Taz Maz 8/10/21