Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Baroness Cochran, Battleworld, Bee, Big Mack, Blaze, Carol Danvers, David Lopez, Geraldine Quimby, Hala Field, Helen Cobb, Jerri, Joe Caramagna, Jolene Saulsby, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kelly Thompson, Knock Knock, Mackie, Maggie McMorrow, Marvel, Pancho, Secret Wars
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson
Art by David Lopez
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by David Lopez
Published by Marvel
Hala Field is the home of Banshee Squad aka the Carol Corps. An elite squadron of female fighter pilots led by Captain Marvel, the Corps are the best fliers on the planet. But when you’re in the air all the time, your perspective changes and the Carol Corps are about to see things very differently…
The really successful Secret Wars miniseries, like both Marvel Zombies and this, feel like you’re joining a story already in progress. That’s especially true here where the premise (‘Carol Danvers and her elite fighter squadron!’) is established inside two panels and then used to walk you round the premise of the world. The scale, and fragility, of Battleworld is demonstrated here by a pair of chilling operations, one the Squadron complete and one they don’t. Both emphasize two things; the incredible powers barely contained on this world and the fragility of everyone who is subject to them. This is where Lopez really comes into his own, using a notably more muted colour palate and an increase in scale to give you action scenes that play halfway between an aerial Game of Thrones and a really good episode of Battlestar Galactica. Untidy, frantic, over as soon as it begins and with an inescapable cost.
That cost, and how it’s examined is at the heart of the book. The Corps, and Carol herself, are aviators but they’re also explorers. Women who, by definition, push the envelope and inevitably become curious about what’s on the other side of it. That idea is both absolutely in tune with the previous incarnation of the character and dealt with here in a way that’s completely new. Battleworld is a place where science is heresy and thought is dangerous, so everything the Corps do as the issue progresses puts them in ever thinner atmosphere. The final scene here is electric, not because it’s a fight but because it sees these women all figure out the same thing and the consequences of that realization are huge. DeConnick and Thompson absolutely nail it too, using the fundamental trust the Squadron have for one another to not only bring us on side but show just how much trouble they’re in.
This is exceptionally good stuff. It cleverly embodies the major themes of DeConnick’s run to date in a way that explores the new status quo while also questioning it. The best comic about intellectual debate and fighter aircraft you’ll read this month and another excellent entry in the Secret Wars canon.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Battleworld, Clayton Cowles, Elsa Bloodstone, Frank D'armata, Ken Lashley, Kev Walker, Marvel Zombies, Paul Mounts, Secret Wars, Simon Spurrier, The Shield
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Kev Walker
Colours by Frank D’Armata
Lettering & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Ken Lashley & Paul Mounts
The Shield is the wall that stands between Battleworld and the dead armies that besiege it. The Shield is also the force of criminals, dissidents and fools sentenced to spending the remainder of their short lives defending the wall.
Then there’s Elsa Bloodstone. Daughter of a legendary monster hunter, relentless Shield officer and tea enthusiast. Elsa has one job; hold the line. She’s exceptionally good at it. She’s going to need to be.
You know how a lot of crossover tie-ins tend to not be fun? How they tend to be ticks in boxes as the uber plot shambles onwards and you read them and they’re…well…competent and fun…ish and you like them and then you put them away and never read them again?
No. Not this time.
This is not only epically fun and features a version of Elsa Bloodstone I desperately hope becomes the default, but is infinitely cleverer, more nuanced and entertaining than a comic with ‘Marvel Zombies’ in the title might be expected to be. Spurrier hasn’t so much knocked it out of the park here as blown the park apart and held a tea party in the ruins. From page one, he perfectly balances the necessary fan service (‘Look! It’s a famous Marvel character as a zombie! And they’re dead now! For real!’) with a story that not only speaks to the overall theme but does brave, emotional stuff itself. Elsa is an amazingly competent soldier and a barely competent person and the situation she finds herself in forces her to confront that dichotomy. The depiction of trauma here is subtle, understated and realistic and Elsa’s character arc across this issue is completely engrossing. She’s forced to realize what, as well as who, she is and face up to that in the worst possible location. She’s also thrown deep into the heart of enemy territory with a possibly evil (or perhaps lovely) sidekick and a dreadful surfeit of tea. As a result, Spurrier gets to explore not only who her life as a soldier but the life sacrificed for her to get there. It’s clever, involving stuff and manages to be self aware without being smug, a feat many comics fail at.
The art is a perfect fit for Spurrier’s energetic, cheerfully nasty script too. Walker’s brawny style fits life on the Wall like a glove and his zombies are gooey, gristly monstrosities that pose a real physical threat. The best page here, by a mile, is the moment Elsa gets a view of the back of the army she’s used to facing. It’s nightmarish and oddly beautiful; a stream of zombies marching off into obscurity, horror made abstract and weirdly serene. That page in particular is helped by D’Armata’s strong, bold colour palate while Cowles’s lettering hits every emotional beat, especially in the frantic battle against an especially large zombie.
This is one of the strongest entries to date in the uniformly pretty strong Secret Wars lineup. It’s a smart, funny, bleak look at a criminally overlooked character and a welcome spotlight on one of the most interesting parts of Battleworld. Here’s to lots more tea and zombie killing from this team. Like Elsa, they excel at it.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Clockwork Watch, Corey Brotherson, Fabio Duarte Martins, Jennie Gyllblad, Mike Stock, Steampunk, TickTock IPA, Yomi Ayeni
The UK indie comics circuit is brilliant, in every way you can define that word. It’s a shining beacon of intelligence, energy and enthusiasm in an industry that’s regularly predicted the world ending since at least 1999. It’s crammed full of incredible talents and the work they produce and, bluntly, it’s a beacon that puts the lie to every piece of negative crap that this industry regularly spews out. As a journalist in the field, I get all too used to endless snark and hipster disinterest, or the disillusionment of seeing a character or title taken the ‘wrong’ way or mishandled. It’s depressing, endlessly negative and crucially, insular. Comics aren’t a medium that will flourish through in-fighting and smirky jokes that fifteen people, all in the industry, ten of them guesting in your comic, will get.
Comics will flourish through smart, hard working, inclusive, good comics.
Comics like Clockwork Watch.
A multicultural, multi-part steampunk comic, Clockwork Watch is a collaborative project with Corey Brotherson (Editor), Fabio Duarte Martins (Front Page Design), Mike Stock (Letterer), Jennie Gyllblad (Illustrator), and Yomi Ayeni (Author). You may recognize several of those names. Click here and find out just how ridiculously talented this team are.
Right now they’re funding the final volume of TickTock IPA. Here’s what it’s about:
Tick Tock IPA is the story of Ervin, a Clockwork Servant who falls into a brewery’s fermentation tank, and gains his sentience. Exactly the opposite of what would happen to a human being. He finds himself in a world sick to the core, searching for a miracle.
The series is a continuation of a story from the Steampunk world of Clockwork Watch. It’s a tale of perseverance and determination against the odds, the fight for freedom, and an alternative / fictionalised history of the Victorian era’s first internationally renowned Indian Pale Ale – Hodgson’s IPA.
Robots, beer, excellent hats. What’s not to love? Here’s what the art, done by the phenomenally talent Jennie Gyllblad, looks like:
As I write this they’re on £4536 of their £5000 goal and have 14 hours left. £10 gets you the following:
An exclusive digital copy of all three Tick Tock IPA books, packaged in a unique form, with editors notes on the original script.
Along with updates about production. The rewards only get better the higher you get too. Plus, whatever you pledge you’re also getting the knowledge that you’ve not only helped this exceptional team of creators out, but have continued to make the comic industry a better, delightfully weirder, happier place.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Brian Level, Ed Brisson, Image Comics, Jen, Jordan Boyd, Kabrah, Necra, Phil Hester, Robbie, Shadow, The Mantle, The Plague
Written and lettered by Ed Brisson
Art and Cover by A by Brian Level
Colours by Jordan Boyd
Cover B by Phil Hester
Published by Image
Robbie and Jen are having a bad night. The band sucks, Robbie’s just taken some mushrooms which aren’t doing a damn thing, it’s starting to rain and Robbie’s being chased by lightning.
Check that, it’s a really bad night.
This is a very difficult comic to talk about for a couple of reasons. The first is the fact that Ed Brisson is a steely eyed plot wizard who knows what he’s doing and doesn’t do a single thing without a reason. To tell you anymore would be to try and peek at his cards and trust me this is something you want to come to cold.
Secondly, Brisson’s brave enough to make his two leads really unlikeable for a good chunk of the issue. It’s not that they’re actively evil or anything, it’s just that they’re well…twentysomething assholes all too aware of both their twentysomethingness and their inherent assholeness. Neither are bad people but neither are really going anyway, which is why Robbie being chosen to be The Mantle hits them both so hard. They’re contentedly discontent with their lives until all of a sudden they have no choice but to accept the change they pretended to want is definitely here. Even then, the three heroes who tell him about his inheritance; Kabrah, Necra and Shadow, aren’t exactly pleasant. They’re spiky, preoccupied and treat Robbie with the same disdain he’s treated the rest of the world with. It all peaks in a moment which is soaring, heroic and explains something utterly chilling;
They’ve all done this before. Many, many times.
This is the ‘heroic responsibility’ trope that defines Green Lantern in particular coupled with the bloody knuckled desperation of Invincible. Robbie is in so much trouble from the moment he’s chosen, not because he isn’t worthy but because no one may be worthy enough. In that one twist, Brisson redeems his entire cast and sets the book on a course halfway between postmodern ‘90s grim and soaring Silver Age heroics. It’s unique and gripping and absolutely worth your time. Just push through that first half issue.
A script this smart and nuanced needs art that’s its equal and that’s exactly what it gets. Level and Boyd give the book a grounded, realistic palate that makes the more fantastic elements of the book, especially characters like Kabrah and The Plague really stand out. Level’s art is, sensibly, character driven but is absolutely up to the action sequences too and The Plague’s first appearance is especially chilling. Together with the script, they combine to create a first issue that’s confident, surprising and worthy of your time, even if Robbie might not be worthy of The Mantle…
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: alex ross, chris eliopoulos, Doom, Esad Ribic, Idette Winecoor, illuminatee, illuminati, Ive Svorcina, jonathan hickman, Marvel, secret society do exist, Secret Wars, tee, Ultimate Universr
Written & designed by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Esad Ribic
Colour art by Ive Svorcina
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Production by Idette Winecoor
Cover by Alex Ross
Published by Marvel
£2.85 an issue
For years, the Marvel multiverse has been slowly collapsing. Now there are only two realities left; the Marvel core universe and the Ultimate universe. Today, they collide.
Today, the worlds end.
This is a deeply weird year for big cross company crossovers and, oddly, that’s a good thing. Convergence has given DC creatives a chance to do something new and interesting with characters who many feel were unfairly taken out of play and, apparently, will be sticking around. Meanwhile, Marvel have taken their two existing continuities and, well, ended them. Seemingly forever. To the tune of there being tombstones of sorts for both in the back of issue 1.
Of course we know that’s not going to happen. Decades of experience, and a raft of movies, have taught us that the IP has to protected at all costs and a Marvel universe of some form is undoubtedly going to be restored after this event is done. In the meantime though, we, and the marvel characters get to spend a summer on Battleworld. The journey there is rough. But the early signs are that this core series and the various mini-series that orbit it will be huge fun.
But, like I say, that first step is a doozy. The first issue of this series is…cold, for want of a better word. It’s impossible not to feel cynical about the parade of high profile deaths that litter it (Which I won’t spoil here, trust me) because we know we’ll see those characters again. It’s not quite someone screaming while holding the shattered form of their partner but it’s pretty close and none of the deaths have the emotional weight they should.
Unfortunately, neither does the story. The cacophonous end of two worlds doesn’t serve either of them especially well. The Ultimates are seemingly taken off the board with contemptuous ease as are several mid to high level Avengers and it feels, like the deaths, closer to housecleaning than narrative necessity. It’s not helped if you’ve not been following Hickman’s epic Fantastic Four and Avengers runs, both of which set up the events that culminate here. If you have, I’m sure the first issue will blow you away. If not, it’ll just make you oddly sad.
Thankfully, from issue 2 onwards this gets hugely more entertaining. We’re introduced to Battleworld, the fractionated world that the survivors live on. It’s created, and run, by Doom who is worshipped as a God. His law is enforced by Barons, each one controlling a different kingdom (Those of you who read A-Force, this is why Jen’s the baron of Arcadia. Those of you who didn’t, go read A-Force its great). The law is enforced by the Thors, a legion of thunder gods. When the law is broken, in most cases, the perpetrator is banished to the Shield. The Shield is the vast wall that separates the Deadlands from the rest of the world. Or, to put it another way, the vast wall that keeps the Marvel Zombies from eating everybody.
There’s huge amounts of wit and invention on every page of issues 2 and 3. We’re introduced to the Thors, to Doom’s court and various barons and quickly learn how morally complex and fractious the world is. On the one hand Doom is God. On the other, the biggest threat we see in these three issues is from a group of survivors from the previous two Earths. There’s peace, of a sort , on Battleworld and that peace is threatened not just by change in the future but knowledge of the past. It’s clever, heady stuff that hits every Marvel plot beat you’d want but does so in a way more akin to classic European science fiction than anything else. That feeling is enhanced by the wide open panels of the script and Esad Ribic’s clean, precise lines. The book feels different to a normal Marvel title and the careful design and character work is a neat counterpart to the frantically cobbled together nature of Battleworld. Eliopoulos’ lettering helps too, especially in the cutting between various locations we get as the story progresses. Most impressive of all though is Svorcina, whose careful colour choices make the outdoor locations in particular look amazing. The design and production impresses too and this feels like a large, significant story even as it focuses in on individual characters. As the third issue finishes, our whistle stop tour of Battleworld finishes with it. What follows looks to be as much a clash of ideals as it does large people punching one another and based on these first three issues, there are plenty more surprises still to come. A rough start but the most ambitious crossover Marvel have attempted in years has definitely found its stride.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Dana, Image Comics, Jeph Homer, Nate Simpson, Nonplayer, Warriors of Jarvath
Written and drawn by Nate Simpson
The Queen of the South Realms is dead, slain by a brave, ultimately foolish pair of assassins.
Except the Queen of the South Realms isn’t real.
But if that’s the case, then why does the King want the assassins found and killed?
You can’t talk about this without talking about its extraordinary art. Simpson’s style evokes Moebius, Frank Quitely and Masamune Shirow to create a series which is full of incredible intricate detail. The opening attack on the Queen’s convoy is pure Final Fantasy, while a later guided tour to the world of Jarvath plays out a little like early Jonathan Hickman. There’s constant style changes in the art, constant focus on different characters and places and not a single page that isn’t beautiful.
The script matches the art’s ambition. Dana, the book’s lead is a tamale delivery girl who is also a high ranking assassin in Warriors of Jarvath, the world’s largest online game. A nation state of gamers, Jarvath is renowned for its incredible size and intricacy, right down to NPCs who almost seem alive…
The script shifts between Dana, a pair of police officers chasing what may be a feral AI, the CEO of Lands Unlimited, Jeph Homer and Jarvath itself. Across these two issues, Simpson’s laying out a huge story that takes in AI, what sentience really means, online gamer culture and a world that seems to be post a very untidy, dangerous singularity. He’s got a great ear for dialog, an incredible eye for spectacle and the entire book feels like a first trip to Jarvath; intoxicating, in depth and with so much more still to come. The one bum note here is a reveal that comes towards the end of issue 2. I won’t reveal it, because it’s a spoiler, but one character seems to be an absolutely off the peg stereotype. It’s a real shame as everyone else is nuanced and different, and I’m hopeful that as the series progresses we’ll see something to him other than what seems, now, to be the sole piece of lazy writing in the book.
That aside this is stunningly beautiful and extremely successful storytelling. If you’ve ever played an MMO, you’ll find something familiar here. Beautiful, often very clever and with so much more to come.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Barnaby Bagenda, Broot, DC Comics, Lantern, Pat Brosseau, Primus, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Skrapps, The Omega Men, TIgorr, Tom King, Trevor Hutchinson, Vega
Written by Tom King
Art by Barnaby Bagenda
Colours by Romulo Fajardo Jr
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Trevor Hutchinson
Published by DC
A raid in the Vega system leads to both the first, and last thing, the authorities want to find. The Omega Men are in play and their enemies will burn anyone and anything to get to them.
This may be the most extraordinarily pretty comic you’ll see this month. Bagenda’s art is extremely detailed but entirely personal, and there’s a real sense of this being a lived in universe. Everything is both clearly massively science fiction-y and functional and the characters are all dynamic at the same time as being care worn by the burdens they work under. Fajardo Jr’s colours only help this and the book has one of the most realistic colour schemes I’ve seen. Every scene is enhanced by it too, little touches of lighting and shade doing nothing but making an already gorgeous book look even better. Brosseau’s lettering is phenomenal too, crossing linguistic barriers but still giving us an excellent idea of what’s actually being said.
King’s script is where the book is most ambitious. There’s almost no attempt to info dump, as he drops you into the centre of a story and trusts you to swim to the edges. It works too, as we’re introduced first to the Omega Men’s foes and then to them. There’s a feel of classic European science fiction here, aided immensely by Bagenda’s character design and the clever focus King puts on the consequences of the war they’re fighting. By the time the book ends you’ll know what you need to and pick the rest up on the fly, just like the Omega Men themselves.
This is uncompromising, brave, brutal science fiction that does some surprising things very well. Trust the book, take the leap and join the Omega Men.