Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alan Cowsill, Andy Lanning, Clayton Cowles, Colonel Liger, Dark Angel, Death's Head, Death's Head II, Killpower, Knights of Pendragon, Marvel, Mephisto, Motormouth, Mys-Tech, Rachelle Rosenberg, Rich Elson, Supersoldiers, Tuck, Warheads
Written by Andy Lanning & Alan Cowsill
Art by Rich Elson
Colour art by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel
Killpower has come home, and he’s brought Hell with him. Now, the tattered remnants of Britain’s heroes must fight the devil’s army, led by one of their own.
The wrap up for stories like this is always hard to land well and this is no exception. It’s, in essence, an enormous fight. The sort of enormous fight that has huge, Earth-shaking consequences and yet you know won’t really be reflected anywhere else. That’s a tough mark to hit and still tell a satisfying story but by and large this issue does it.
The actual fight itself is the big thing that works. The resolution to Mys-Tech’s kidnapping of various people is nicely played out and the solution is exactly the sort of grim, pragmatic heroism that suits these characters to a tee. This was never going to be a series everyone got out of alive and the death here, whilst surprising, is really inevitable. Unfortunately, the need to get the wider Marvel universe characters in place means what should be an emotional high spot is done in two pages. It’s a shame, especially given how emotionally grounded most of the one shots have been. The Guardians of the Galaxy joke we get as a result is nice, and logical, but not necessary.
That moment aside there’s a lot to enjoy here. Elson’s art is great, especially the opening pages. He uses Killpower’s drawings of his time in Hell to not only counterpoint the horrific events with the child at the centre of them, but also to give the story an edge that’s both absurd and personal. Likewise, the closing wrap up montage works surprisingly well and sends some of these characters out into the wider Marvel universe and off to some very fun places. Rosenberg’s colour work is excellent too, especially the sickly green of the Mys-Tech crystal and how she uses shadows and light, especially, once again, in those closing pages. Cowles also turns in great work and the design sense for the entire series has been uniformly strong and often brilliant.
Revolutionary War has been a curious series about a curious group of characters. The Dark Angel, Knights of Pendragon, Motormouth and Warheads specials have been flat out brilliant, combining a social commentary element with the characters and showing just how well they stand up to modern day sensibilities. The rest has been uneven but never less than interesting. Dark Angel has already showed up in Iron Man and here’s hoping the others will follow. These characters have survived the ‘90s. They deserve our respect, as well as another shot at the limelight.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alan Cowsill, Andy Lanning, Clayton Cowles, Gary Erskine, Liger, Master Key, Mys-Tech, Virago Troop, Yel Zamor
Written by Andy Lanning & Alan Cowsill
Art by Gary Erskine
Colour Art by Yel Zamor
Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel
Just buy this issue. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t pick up any issues of Revolutionary War prior to this, and in fact, there’s a strong case for coming in here. But please, just buy this issue, if nothing else for the art.
Gary Erskine is one of the finest comic artists working today. His work defined a lot of the comics that influenced me and, over time, it’s become one of those styles that seems to become part of the background of the industry. His work is always impressive, always detailed and witty but at times overlooked. Here it positively shines as we get the story of the last battle with Mys-Tech and the price Colonel Liger paid for victory. Haunted by the loss of his troops, Liger goes to Master Key, the erratic magician who powered their trips across dimensions, for help. He gets it. He soon wishes he hadn’t.
This is the perfect jumping on point for the series for three reasons. Firstly, Liger’s experiences are central to the overall plot and secondly every major tentpole concept of the Marvel UK characters is both central, and explained, here. Most importantly, this is just beautiful work. The closing pages hit Mignola levels of scale but what stays with you are the characters and the cruelty of what happens to them. Every one of these people is battered or warped by their experiences, heroes fall, villains rise and there are no easy answers. It’s the best of Marvel UK crystallised in one place. Compassionate, brave heroes, terrifying villains and Faustian pacts, all beautifully captured by Erskine, Yel Zamor’s colour art and Cowles’ lettering. Like the best issues of this series, it honours and builds on everything that came before. Unlike the best issues of this series, it has an ace in the hole; Erskine’s artwork. Phenomenally impressive and a hell of a start to the series’ endgame.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Clayton Cowles, Glenn Dakin, Harley, Killpower, Motormouth, Mys-Tech, Revolutionary War, Ronan Cliquet, Ruth Redmond
Written by Glenn Dakin
Art by Ronan Cliquet
Colour Art by Ruth Redmond
Letteriung & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel
Motormouth hasn’t been a superhero since the Mys-Tech War. She lost Killpower, her partner and best friend, a child in an artificially accelerated body designed for combat, Killpower’s last moments as the gate to Hell closed have haunted Harley for years. Now, as a young single mum with two kids, she finds herself drawn back into the hero game. The only question is who’s in more trouble. Her? Or the people coming for her?
Revolutionary War has been lumpy at times but when it’s worked it’s been amazing. This is tired with the Knights of Pendragon and Dark Angel issues for the series high point. Dakin’s script takes the same approach as Williams and Gillen did with their issues, marrying Harley’s current life with an aspect of British culture as well as the hideous things she saw in the past. Dakin chooses the social stigma surrounding single mums and council estates, riffing on Attack the Block and Hellblazer on the way. This is the grimmest issue of the series, Harley broken by her experiences and Redmond’s bleak colour scheme showing just how subdued and small her life is.
Until the closing act. This is a book with not one but two stings in its tail. The first sets Harley up for a role in the endgame and the second is, as all this series’ best moments are, equal parts dark and beautiful. Harley isn’t alone anymore and the pragmatic approach her kids take to protecting their mum is very powerful and subtly handled. A lot of the characters we’ve seen in this series haven’t really changed in the intervening years. Harley’s got stronger and far more complex and interesting. Hopefully we’ll see more of her further down the line.
Cliquet’s art is reminiscent of David Lloyd in places, especially with Redmond’s colours and special mention has to go to the kiddified battle for Hell that opens the issue. Along with the usual great work from Cowles, it ties off a book that, like its lead character, is full of surprises. Clever, dark, grounded and fun stuff.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Clayton Cowles, Death, Deathface Ginny, Emma Rios, Fox, Jordie Bellaire, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mason
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art & Cover by Emma Rios
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Edits by Sigrid Ellis
Published by Image
Ginny goes home. Ginny goes to war.
There’s not a single comic like this on the market. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s script is rich and dense with imagery and meaning, thick with spilled blood and the promise of more to come. In fact, blood in all its meanings is central to the book. Ginny’s two families, the one she chooses and the one she’s given, clash head on in a book whose extraordinary colour scheme shifts from blood red to translucent green as the world around the characters shifts. The huge structures and size of Death’s realm only emphasize the fragility of the characters more and, by the time you get to the gallows where everything started, that fragility is central to the book. Everyone pays. Everyone bleeds. Not everyone gets back up.
The idea of blood as family, and bond, is what powers the closing sequences. The survivors are the people brave enough to believe what Ginny tells them; they can be what they choose to be, their fate is defined by their belief and sometimes the strongest thing in creation is a human. As the book closes, in a string of frankly astonishing images and art work from Rios, that’s the thing that becomes clear; immortals are trapped by their own longevity. Mortals have no time but can do anything they’re brave enough to try. Death isn’t the end and neither is this issue. Instead, the end is a scene as beautiful and circular as it is horrifying. Nothing changes. Everything changes.
There’s not a weak link in this book. Everything locks together, from DeConnick’s heartfelt script to the looping flocks of birds and butterflies that whorl around Rios’ art. Bellaire’s colours emphasize the fragility of the characters and the supernatural nature of the world and Cowles’ lettering walks you through a fragmentary reality as though it was a busy, sunlit street. These are some of the best creators on the planet, turning in career best work on a book unlike any other. Challenging, heartfelt, brutal and compassionate, the first five issues of Pretty Deadly have been utterly extraordinary. If you haven’t yet, track them down, read them, get your breath and be ready for issue 6. Deathface Ginny will be back. We’ll be waiting.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Ales Kot, Clayton Cowles, Garry Brown, Iron Man, Iron Patriot, Jim Charalampidis, jim Rhodes, Marvel, War Machine
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Garry Brown
Colours by Jim Charalampidis
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel
£2.85 or £1.99 with that Stark Industries SuperCardGo! Of yours
Iron Patriot is a name with lots of connotations, none of them good. Originally used as Norman Osborn’s identity during the period where the Dark Avengers were active, the name is synonymous with oppression, arrogance, fear. Jim Rhodes is planning on taking the name, and the heroic identity behind it, back.
Ales Kot is one of the best writers working in western comics right now. His work on Zero is exemplary, his Secret Avengers run is off to a great start and everything he’s produced to date is intelligent, challenging and shot through with colossal narrative confidence. Iron Patriot is different, in one, single, respect. This is a book built from the ground up.
In one issue Kot gets to the heart of why Rhodey is a strong, vital character in his own right. It’s comparable to the approach taken with Sam Wilson in The Winter Soldier. Both men are highly trained, experienced soldiers defined by their compassiona as much as their martial ability. The fact that Rhodey’s family is part of the book really drives that home, with his conversations with his father providing the emotional core of the story. He’s a good man, raised by a good man, but neither of them are perfect. The fact Rhodey keeps trying and has absolutely no ability to back down makes him one of the most admirable, and sympathetic, figures in the Marvel universe. It’s a pleasure to see him written so well.
On the art side of things, Garry Brown excels in the quiet conversational sequences in particular. He’s just as at home with action too and there’s some really fun action beats with the armour. Charalampidis’ colour work is absolutely on the money as well, especially in the ‘in helmet’ sequences and one striking underwater panel. Just as the suit is an extension of Rhodey, the art is an extension of the script; versatile, hard working, shot through with character and warmth.
Rounded out by yet another impressive turn by Cowles, this is a book that wears its heart on its sleeve, or, perhaps, on the chestplate of its armour. Political, clever, grounded and humane it’s a welcome addition to the Marvel universe and a neat expansion of the Iron Man mythos. Highly recommended.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Chris Samnee, Daredevil, Javier Rodriguez, Mark Waid, Marvel, Matt Murdock, San Francisco, VCs Joe Caramagna
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Chris Samnee
Colours by Javier Rodriguez
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel
£2.85 or £1.99 with that money off coupon from Mcduffie and Murdock, Attorneys-At-Law
Daredevil is, for a chronically unlucky man, a blessed fictional character. We’re coming up on something ridiculous like a solid decade of Daredevil writers leading the way in how to tell contemporary superhero stories and this new volume is no exception. It helps, of course, that Waid and Samnee aren’t new at the job but it helps even more that this is a new direction, and a new city, for Daredevil. He’s moved coasts, operating out of San Francisco with a new partner, a new city and new challenges.
It’s not going that well.
Waid’s script has two absolute masterstrokes encoded into it. The first is that he never loses sight of the fact Matt isn’t just tough, he’s clever. There’s an action beat involving a bomb defusal here I’ve never seen before that’s flat out brilliant and it’s not the only one. Stripped of his support system, Matt becomes much more than an urban ninja with a blackbelt in New York. He becomes a man who uses his brain as much as his body, a hero who’s smart and dangerous, not just dangerous.
The second masterstroke is that he needs to be smart. If Matt’s a blackbelt in New York he’s a first lesson white belt in San Francisco and Waid and Samnee get some of the best moments of the book out of him having to improvise on the fly. The city is built completely differently, shaped completely differently and watching Matt adapt to it even as he’s under threat is immense fun. You get the same sort of angles and fluidity of motion, but there’s a real sense of it being a new place and, through that, a new start. If you’re a San Franciscan native, as my fiancé is, you may well have some issues with the geography but roll with it, Matt is.
Rounded out by wonderful, poppy colour work by Rodriguez and some magnificent, Eisnerian lettering from Caramagna this is a great start to yet another great run for the Man with No Fear. Ot only that but this is an arbitrary restart in numbering that, for once, makes perfect sense. Clever, funny and tough, just like it’s lead, this is great. I await the inevitable Golden Gate Bridge fight with glee.
Filed under: Our favourite things | Tags: firefly, Georges Jeanty, history of firefly, jed whedon, joss whedon, serenity, serenity: leaves on the wind, zack whedon
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
Fans of the famously cancelled series Firefly have reason to rejoice, as it’s back with a vengeance in comic book form.
If you’re unfamiliar with Firefly and Serenity then honestly, where have you been? When the series aired on Fox in 2002, sci-fi geeks found a new show to get passionate about, but as so frequently happens the network wasn’t nearly as interested. Its first airing had its time slot changed numerous times with the episodes not even shown in the right order, so it’s unsurprising that on-paper ratings made it look unpopular. Before all thirteen of the season’s episodes were released it was cancelled.
After a huge petition including letters, adverts and conventions, Firefly was released on DVD and a few years later the film Serenity was made in an attempt to give the show’s fans a sense of closure. Today, both DVDs are a permanent fixture on the International Space Station, and despite nearly ten years without any chance of a film revival, the fandom is still going strong.
There have been other additions to the franchise, most notably in the comic book world where just recently the story has been added to again. Zack Whedon, brother of Joss and Jed, has taken control of the first canon Firefly story in some years, using the tried and tested technique that was used in the continuation of Buffy The Vampire Slayer through comic books, and the book is being illustrated by Georges Jeanty who became well known for working on the aforementioned Buffy comics. Joss Whedon has kindly offered his name as executive producer, although by all accounts he has mostly trusted his brother with running the show.
The comic begins eight months after the end of Serenity, and does an excellent job of skipping over what could be quite a lot of action in between. At the end of the film Wash was killed, Mal exposed The Alliance’s evil scheme, and River began to work out who she was, but as we all know a good story exists outside of the physical media, in the hearts of its fans. The intense fanbase of the show is a double-edged sword for the comic, as it comes with not just love but expectations, and a knowledge of the show which means if Whedon or Jeanty get even the slightest thing wrong, there will be some serious backlash.
Luckily, Serenity: Leaves On The Wind hasn’t failed to impress. The name is, of course, a tribute to Wash’s dying words in the movie but they end up meaning much more as the crew are now flying without aim, just trying not to get caught. Eight months after their world-shattering announcement, Jayne has left the crew of Serenity, a widowed Zoe is pregnant and Inara is finally in a relationship with Mal after being blacklisted by the Companion’s Guild. River has picked up the co-pilot’s controls and loves the ship as completely as Wash ever did. It feels seamless, like we haven’t left the show at all – nothing about the characters’ actions, words, circumstances and feelings has been altered, and it’s exquisite. By the third issue however, we start to see that constant peril is beginning to have an effect on the crew, especially the once innocent Kaylee.
After illustrating for the Buffy series, I’m impressed that Georges Jeanty went for another comic book based on a TV show, which comes with great expectations for how the characters appear. It isn’t always spot on and at a few moments in the first three issues I wasn’t sure who a character was meant to be, but the giveaways are the facial expressions, which are surprisingly close to the actors’. If you look at Jeanty’s influences – Mobius, Geof Darrow, Walt Simonson – you can see that he is inclined toward a folksy style of art which works beautifully with the rustic space-opera of Firefly. If anything, the ship itself was probably more difficult to render as it is a character in its own right with a very distinctive style.
Like any large governmental organisation, The Alliance aren’t about to just give up because they’ve been exposed, and as River comes to believe that there may be more like her the story continues in a believable way. But rather than just extending the chase, Zack Whedon has introduced a new character to the team: Bea, the idealist current leader of “the New Resistance” who views Mal as nothing short of a hero, should provide a much needed dose of youth, optimism and political passion. While we’ll almost certainly see these traits beaten out of her – the ‘Verse is not a kind place – she may be just what the team needs.
Beginning in January, three issues of Leaves on the Wind have been released so far and are everything a Firefly fan might want from the series; namely a continuation of the story. While other Firefly comic book series have aimed to provide back stories, Leaves on the Wind looks to the complex future of Serenity’s crew in a world where they aren’t just outlaws, but both revolutionary heroes and wanted terrorists at one time. For fans of Firefly, reading this comic series is a necessity.
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