Travelling Man's Blog


Review: The Fade Out Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Sean Phillips

Colours by Elizabeth Breitweiser

Edits by David Brothers

Published by Image

£2.50

 

ICharlie Parish has woken up in a bathtub. He’s a screenwriter and a partygoer in 1948 Hollywoodland and he’s fairly bad at both. As he stumb;es through the house, he slowly remembers not only the previous night but the bad things that happened. The arguments. The fight.

The murder.

Charlie has no memory of killing Valeria Sommers. That doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. In fact, in a town where fiction is foundation and lies are building blocks, it may not matter if he did. At least not to anyone but Charlie…

Brubaker and Philips are well on theirw ay to being the definitive creative team of their generation. Their work is as varied in scope as it is excellent in execution and here they step away from the historical supernatural world of previous book Fatale into something far more grounded and real. At least, it seems that way. This first issue features an interesting, possibly significant, discussion of the ‘phantom’ planes over LA during the war and a single image that’s vintage horror to the core. Whether either become important later isn’t important right now. With or without them this is a blistering opening issue that lays everything out for you and trusts you to pay attention.

At the centre of it all, Charlie is a resolutely flawed, almost unlikable figure. Timid and increasingly desperate, his dilemma is classic film noir; working out who to trust when he can’t even trust himself. His supporting cast is equally interesting including; smooth and untrustworthy film star Earl Rath, Charlie’s secret, blacklisted writing partner Gil Mason and Phil Brodsky the monolithic head of Studio Security. Then there’s Valeria, poor, dead Valeria who looks set to be more of a major player in death than she ever was in life. However, the character that really connects in this first issue is Dotty Quinn. A PR girl at the studio, Dotty is the most grounded, and decent, person we meet this issue. Between her and Gil, Charlie has the makings of some allies and by the looks of this issue he’s going to need them.

Brubaker’s script glows with constant menace and Philips is with him every step of the way. There’s some lovely, elegant narrative here but my favourite is a page that’s classic film noir montage. A haunted Charlie stumbles towards the screen, smoking and drinking as classic movies scenes play out behind him. We see a swordfight, a gangster and a cowboy and that last appears in two panels. In the first he’s riding towards Charlie. In the second his horse has reared and he’s turned. It could be read as him being startled or as Charlie’s inner, idealized self-refusing to let events slide even as he tries very hard to forget what’s happened. It’s an amazing, elegant page and shows just how good the creative team are. Breitweiser’s colours in particular are impressive throughout but genuinely amazing here.

 

Rounded out by an essay by Devin Faraci on the tragic Hollywood history of Peg Entwistle, this is an amazing opening issue from a truly amazing group of creators. Endlessly confident, gripping and assured this is modern western comics at its best. Go buy it.



Review: Galactica 1880 Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Tony Lee

Illustrated by Aneke

Coloured by Alex Starling

Lettered by Marshall Dillon

Main cover by Ardian Syaf

Incentive Cover by Sergio Fenandez Davila

Published by Dynamite

£2.50

 

There are some puns so perfect that they demand serious attention. Battlestar Galactica 1880 is definitely one of those and, in the hands of any lesser team, that’s all this would be; punservice. With this team though there’s a lot more going on.

 

Firstly, Aneke, Starling and Dillon have turned in amazing work. The character designs in particular are great, balancing human fragility and retro-Colonial splendour to create a series that feels familiar but at the same time constantly surprises you. Apollo reimagined as a goatee bearded, goggle-wearing swashbuckler works particularly well and Starbuck’s new lease of life as a Han Solo-esque buccaneer is a perfect fit. It’s not just the leads either, with Boxey’s new design working perfectly and Muffit reimagined as something halfway between Chewbacca and Robocop. There’s wit and intent behind everything that happens here and the art only stutters when those two things aren’t in lockstep. Athena’s strapless corset and gloves ensemble looks great but it doesn’t fit the regimented pomp and circumstance of the rest of the crew and jars more than it should. There’s not much that doesn’t work here, and the art is uniformly both detail heavy and great but the conflict encoded into the design philosophy hasn’t quite settled down yet.

That conflict comes from a refusal to rest on the punny, wordplay laurels of the title and that refusal is echoed in the script. Lee lays out every beat we’re familiar with from Galactica but adds several that skew the book in some lovely new directions. Doctor Baltar’s titanic ‘Cylonics’ storming across the surface of Caprica are a lovely idea and visual, as are the swarms of normal size Cylons they deploy. Likewise, the nature of Caprica’s fall is far more in keeping with the steampunk ethos. However, it’s Baltar and his plans where the book really shines. Here, the scientist is reimagined as a helmeted Iago, all grandiose transhumanist plans and good lighting. That transhumanism in turn brings the book to an old destination by a very new route; the collision between humanity and machine embodied in the ideas of transhumanism and cybernetic replacements. It’s a really smart approach that gives the book some big, weighty issues to wrestle with in upcoming issues at the same time as connecting it even more strongly to the steampunk ethos.

This is really smart, ideas heavy science fiction. If you’re a fan, or a steampunk, or both, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. If you’re not, this is a perfect place to start; a reimagined Galactica that’s polished to a sheen and full of smart choices, good jokes and great potential. Full steam ahead.



Review: Ms Marvel Issue 7 by Travelling Man

Written by G. Willow Wilson

Art by Jacob Wyatt

Colour Art by Ian Herring

Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson

Published by Marvel

£2.20

 

Previously in Ms Marvel issue 6!

Kamala’s nemesis is revealed! As a human/bird hybrid of Thomas Edision!

Wolverine is revealed! To be both dangerously mortal and still an absolute badass!

Kamala is revealed! To be an immense Wolverine fan!

The giant alligator is revealed! To be a giant alligator!

 

This is one of the best books on the market right now. Hell, it may actually be the best book. It’s fun, sweet, whip smart and full of exactly the sort of exuberant joy and neatly realized character moments that we’re all told superhero books are supposed to have and is, more often than not, contained in these 75 tie in books you just have to read as well. Apparently.

But Ms Marvel is the real deal, and this issue shwos you why. Firstly, through the art. Wyatt’s style is a perfect fit, combining a light touch with locations and action with some lovely, witty character beats. Kamala goes small and wide eyed with manga-style shock at one point whilst another scene combines West Wing-style walk-and-talk with a cut away of the tunnels Kamala and Wolverine are making their way through. It’s all light, fun, playful stuff that fits the tone of the book perfectly. Herring and Caramagna fit perfectly too, the light, airy colour palette giving a story that’s essentially a fight in a sewer a very welcome, open feel to it. Caramagna deserves special praise too for the walk-and-talk sequence in particular, leading the reader around so well you never notice it’s being done.

Then there’s the script, and that’s where the book soars. G Willow Wilson combines fierce intelligence and a compassion for her characters with the best comic timing outside of Atomic Robo right now. She never loses sight of two things; Kamala’s a high school student with almost no filter and she’s completely in love with the turn her life has taken. She and Wolverine are a ridiculously charming double act and Wilson uses their interaction to throw new light on both characters. We see how tough Kamala can be and how compassionate Logan, a man nearing the end of his life and knowing it, can be. They make each other stronger and one of the book’s most affecting moments sees Logan inadvertently tell Kamala why she is like she is and then immediately row back from it. He likes the kid, and she doesn’t need to know, yet. It’s an act of kindness from a character better known for acts of violence and it gives the book, and Logan, a surprisingly poignant touch.

This is yet another great issue in a fantastic series and it’s a delight to see it not only exist but thrive as much as it does. A straight up joy from start to finish. Plus, next issue? My second favourite Marvel character of all time guest stars! I’ll see you then



Trees Roundup: Issues 1 to 4 by Travelling Man

Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Jason Howard

Letters by Fonografiks

Published by Image

£2.20

Ten years ago, colossal objects fell from the sky and buried themselves in the Earth. They caused huge destruction, immense social upheaval and then…nothing. The world does what it always does; adapts. And, ten years later, the flowers start to grow.

Ellis and Howard build a soft future here that feels lived in and pragmatic. The simple fact humanity has adapted to the Trees’ presence is both optimistic and realistic, the two qualities that the book continually embodies. Everything is exactly the same, everything is completely different and Ellis uses the multi-national nature of the Trees to tell a story from multiple angles. The Somalia tree, the shortest in the world, becomes a military asset, in Spitzbergen a deep range research station discovers something new around its Trees and in Shu, a Special Cultural Zone, Tian Chenglei arrives to be an artist. A war, a breakthrough and an artist, all drawn to their Trees like bees to pollen.


It’s a fascinating, methodically paced book and Ellis and Howard take their time exploring the world. The book has been described as a science fiction graphic novel and it’s clearly that; a large but contained narrative that will grow, expand and then come to a specific point. Four issues in we’re getting our first indication of what that end point may be too, with the Somalia Tree the centre of a war and the Spitzbergen breakthrough throwing very different light on what the Trees are.


But it’s Tian’s story that’s the heart of the book. There are three moments in issue 4 that are just perfect, Ellis and Howard combining to use the well meaning country boy as a perfect audience stand in. His discomfort around Zhan, a transgendered friend is painfully well realized as is the moment where Zhan quietly, politely, kicks his ass. It leads in turn to the book’s first moment of real comedy that’s, like Tian, emotionally completely honest and remarkably sweet. It’s rounded off a few pages later with him finally getting a good look at the city and the Tree and the joy on his face is again, utterly genuine and sweet. He’s a child of this new world far more than the other characters and seeing how he interacts with it looks set to be the emotional heart of the book.


Howard’s work is extraordinary throughout, combining wide expansive page layouts with some of the best character work in modern western comics. His characters are vital, living people in an extraordinary world and he renders both with equal ease. The opening action sequence, the Spitzbergen scenes and the joyous chaos of Shu all shine through his artwork and the large cast are all distinctive, realistic and likable. Again, Tian and Zhan are the standouts but the entire book is full of great work, from Ellis, Howard and the unusual and effective Fonografiks lettering.

 

Trees is one of the best books on the market right now. A global science fiction novel with humanity and heart it’s unlike anything else you’ll read this month. Alien, humane, beautiful and eccentric, the first four issues are available now.



Batman Eternal Roundup-Issues 15 to 20 by Travelling Man

Written by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV

Script by Ray Fawkes

Consulting Writers John Layman & Tim Seeley

Pencils by Dustin Nguyen (15,16 and 17), Art by Andy Clarke (18), Emanuel Simeoni (19 and 20)

Colours by John Kalisz (15, 16 and 17), Blond (18, 19 and 20)

Letters by Rob Leigh (15, 16 and 17), Dezi Sienty (18 and 20), Taylor Esposito (19)

Published by DC

£2.20

This run contains everything that’s fun about Batman Eternal as well as a good chunk of what’s difficult to love about it.

The good stuff first, and let’s talk about art. Nugyen has been one of the best artists in the game for a while now and that doesn’t change here. His work is precise, angular and skewed in just the way Gotham needs (Or, perhaps, deserves). Andy Clarke’s work echoes that but has an almost Chris Weston-like precision to it and Emanuel Simeoni’s brawny style is nicely suited to both the book as a whole and the particular plot elements he gets to play with. Likewise, Leigh, Sienty and Esposito do good work with the lettering and Kalisz and Blond’s colours help the mood immensely. The Killer Croc story in 19 and 20 suffers a little from ‘none more black’ disease but it doesn’t hurt the story and that’s all that really matters.

 

Continue reading



Review: Spread Issue 1 by Travelling Man


Co-Created by Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm

Art by Kyle Strahm

Colour by Felipe Sobreiro

Letters by Crank!

Published by Image

£2.50 or £1.85 with that SuperCard Go! the mysterious, near silent man with the axe gave you

 

The world’s ended. We’ve lost. The only survivors left are constantly on the lookout for supplies, raiders and most of all, the thing that lives on this world now. America, at the very least, is almost exclusively home to the Spread. The Spread is a biological entity the size of a continent, a suppurating mass of gristle and teeth that deploys skinless abominations of countless types to consume the few people still alive.

No is still alive. He’s planning on keeping it that way.

Jordan and Strahm have created something, appropriately enough, fully formed here. In one issue we get a good look at the Spread, what it does, the people who fight it and how this world could be changed forever. The dialogue is sparse, the action is constant and brutal and the Spread is everywhere; a red, meaty nightmare with teeth where everything else should be. It’s a wonderfully designed foe, looking like an explosion in an anatomy lab and Strahm’s burly style brings it to horrific life. It’s Sobreiro’s colours that will stay with you though, the deep, gristle red of the hideous creature a neat contrast to the snowy setting.

That tremendous, wonderfully gristly art is backed up by Jordan’s brutally confident script. Elements of Lone Wolf and Cub, The Thing and Saga combine with Jordan and Strahm’s own unique style to create something that feels like it’s been around for years but still has something new to say. Much of the dialogue this issue is from a character we’ll meet fully later on but that doesn’t stop the monosyllabic No or Hope’s doomed guardian to register as characters. The first is a quiet, confident man rattled by the last thing he expected and the only thing he can’t fight. The second is only on the page for a short time but her scenes feel like the end of a book that’s only just finished and runs directly into this one. It doesn’t damage Spread at all, in fact it gives the book a sense of scope and place that really lifts it.

Rounded out by smart, expressive lettering from Crank! this is a grizly, horrifying, excellent start to a story. Horrific, and human, it’s on sale now.



Review: Lady Zorro Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Alex de Campi
Art by Ray Villegas
Colours by Morgan Hickman
Letters by Alex de Campi
Published by Dynamite
£2.85

Esperanza is out of the war. Moving to the coast, she’s working as a rose farmer when the war finds her again. Part of her is disgusted, the rest? Well, Lady Zorro was never cut out to be a rose farmer.

Alex De Campi’s script strides on stage with a swagger and a good looking cape from the first page and never once lets up. She reintroduces us to Esperanza and brings new readers up to speed in under a panel and the plot arrives (On horseback, looking cool, of course), by the end of the first page. From there it’s a straight run back into Mewxico to battle Dona Maria La Sangrienta, the new villainess, to recover a sacred Chumash axe. Without it, there will be all out war. With it, there is a chance that she, Zorro and their allies can contain the situation.
She of course, agrees.
It, of course, goes incredibly badly.
De Campi is an author who has always been very comfortable subverting expectations and that’s exactly what we get here both in and out of the story. Internally, there’s some really smart interplay between Esperanza and her new soldier sidekick. Hugo is everything Esperanza should hate, but the two are worryingly similar and there’s a sparky banter to their relationship from the start. He’s everything she hates and nothing she expected, whilst she is everything he hoped and nothing he sees coming. It’s a rapid fire, light on its feet relationship and one of the two that powers the book. The other is between Esperanza, Dona Maria and the villainous General Von Detmar. The three are connected in surprising ways and by the end of the book Esperanza has taken justifiable action that’s going to have disastrous consequences. Again, De Campi pulls no punches and the fight between Barbara and Esperanza is as brutal as it is surprising. As the book closes, everyone still standing is in a very bad way and De Campi has succeeded in setting up a classic pulp cliffhanger in a very different, surprising way.
Hickman’s deep, rich colours help set the tone perfectly and the whip fast yet precise art of Villegas gives the fight scenes the exact room they need. De Campi letters her own book and does so supremely well, especially in the fight and the whole thing fits together with style, panache and more than a little blood. The end result is a book as flashy, fast moving and brutally effective as it’s lead. Swashbuckling, surprising and huge fun.

Alasdair Stuart




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