Travelling Man's Blog


Review: Starfire Issue 6 by Travelling Man

starfire issue 6Written by Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti

Pencils by Emanuella Lupacchino

Inks by Ray McCarthy

Colours by Hi Fi

Letters by Tom Napolitano

 

Kori’s attempts to work out just what the Hell is going on with possible murderer Soren are hampered by what seems to be a sporadic new superpower. Not to mention a bounty hunter intent on claiming her life, and the prize attached to it…

Conner and Palmiotti are one of those writing teams that never get enough credit. Their work, for years now, has been characterized by a lightness of touch, love for the characters they’re writing and willingness to engage and listen to their audiences. They’re class acts who do their jobs supremely well, and this issue neatly demonstrates that.

What you’ve got here is three things happening at once. The Soren plot is moved along a little as we see just what he’s done, but remain unsure whether he knew he was doing it. That’s tied to Kori’s chaotic new ability which is itself a pretty interesting idea. Kori’s always been a character whose mind set has been a combination of sweet and brutal and the new ability touches on both those sides of her. It’s a forcible kind of empathy, one that gives her an idea of what her opponent’s done but denies her context. In doing so, it also challenges her fundamentally good nature. When faced with a murderer, whose crimes you’d experienced, what would you do?  It’s a question with no easy answers and the book doesn’t shy away from that.

It also uses that dichotomy to deal with what would otherwise seem to be a fairly standard punch up. The bounty hunter who shows up is a charmingly cocky figure and Conner and Palmiotti cleverly use him as a means of catharsis, and questions, for both Kori and the reader. How she beats him, and what she does afterwards in particular, is an uneasy hybrid of both sides of her nature. She’s growing as a person and whether her actions here come back and bite her remain to be seen.

On the art side of things, Lupacchino’s clean lines mesh with the angle and panel choices of the script perfectly. Hi Fi’s colours give the book a convincingly sun drenched feeling that suits both its tone and the character and McCarthy’s inks are subtle but add welcome brawn to the art. Napolitano deals with lots of dialogue, and the interesting, staccato script structure, with aplomb too.

As clever, and fun, as Harley Quinn but a little quieter, Starfire is one of the best books DC put out right now. Fun, clever and, like Kori, far more complex than it first appears.



Review: Squirrel Girl Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 15, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

s1Written by Ryan North

Art by Erica Henderson

Trading Card art by Joe Morris

Colour art by Rico Renzi

Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover by Erica Henderson

Published by Marvel

£2.85

Doreen’s back! As is Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk! Or is that Chipmonk Honk! It is now!

 

There may not be an odder superhero book on the shelves right now. There’s certainly not one more exuberant as Squirrel Girl returns and runs headlong into the most terrifying danger she’s faced so far;

MOM VISITS

Plus also a Nazi robot from (sort of) space.

North’s gleeful scripting is in full force here, right down to the notes at the bottom of each page. Doreen is endlessly chirpy and up and clearly a little weirded out by being a New Avenger. She’s also deeply uncomfortable about Mom visiting and the tension between her and Nancy over that would drive a full issue of a normal book. Likewise, the glorious reveal that Nancy and Maureen, Doreen’s mom, actually get on like a house on fire.

But weirdly, this is a book where Brain Drain is the star.

Go look him up, I’ll wait.

See?

I KNOW RIGHT?! A Nazi vacuum tube robot is the star of the book! In a very odd way. North uses BD as an exploration of the sort of hero Doreen isn’t. She and Nancy screw up and they realize they have and they fix it. In doing so, they expand the supporting cast, set up a new dynamic for the series and do something genuinely very sweet. This is a book where no one gets left behind and this issue reminds you of that.

It also reminds you just how phenomenal Erica Henderson is. The art here is always fluid, always crammed full of the same energy as Doreen and always a joy to read. The book’s comic timing is baked into script and art alike and Henderson lands every joke the art is required to perfectly. She’s helped by Renzi’s bright, cheery colour scheme and Cowles’ lettering too.

All of which combines to make this the most cheerful, oddest book about Nazi supervillains and food courts you’ll read this year. Doreen’s back. She still kicks butts. She still eats nuts. And now she backup.

More backup.

Also more buttkicking. And nuts. And fun too. Especially that last one.

 



Review: A-Force Issues 3-5 by Travelling Man
November 14, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews, Uncategorized

a force 3

Written by Marguerite Bennett & G.Willow Wilson

Pencils by Jorge Molina

Inks by Jorge Molina & Craig Yeung

Colours by Laura Martin

Letters by VC’s Cory Petit

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

The inhabitants of Arcadia discover not only who has betrayed them but why. As, again, the iniquities and prejudices of Doom’s rule crash down around a group of innocents, She-Hulk’s team are faced with a choice that is no choice at all; fight or flight.

A-Force is one of the most interesting Secret Wars books because it almost exists as a proof of concept as much as a story. This is a book about the perils of running a fundamentally altruistic, community-driven team with entirely female members in a world designed to oppose that on an almost genetic level.

The team thrives, so does the book.

a force 4A huge amount of that is the scripting. Wilson and Bennett are two of the best writers in the business right now and they get to flex some really fun muscles here. She-Hulk in particular is written brilliantly; a complicated, driven woman who is entirely too hard on herself and defined by what she can do for others. But she’s a star not The Star, which is one of the things that works best. The other team members, especially Nico and Singularity, get chances to shine and the entire plot is ultimately structured around Them as a concept not Her. The book’s most emotional moment comes when Singularity shows the women of A-Force not just what they taught her but what they are. It’s the best kind of writing; simple, minimalist and incredibly impactful.

a force 5The art side of things is just as good, and Molina, Craig Yeung, Wong on inks and Laura Martin on art give this book an identity as strong as its leads. Arcadia is Greece on its best day crossed with San Francisco on its most beautiful; open, sun-drenched, friendly. The art gives the characters, and the readers, something to fight for and it’s a huge part of why the book works. Plus it’s often very clever. The opening page of issue 5 is the best metaphor for a book like this I’ve ever seen.
Rounded out by typically great lettering from Pettit this is the opening act for a book that deserves to run and run. Brilliantly done.



THOUGHT BUBBLE PREVIEW!-Weirdo Comics Annual by Travelling Man
November 11, 2015, 7:34 pm
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews, Uncategorized

weirdo comicsWritten and drawn by Marc Jackson

Published by Marc Jackson

Only 25 available at Thought Bubble this weekend!

£10

 

Marc Jackson’s work is always great fun, and Man From Space remains one of my favorite books from the last few years. Now he’s got an annual, Weirdo Comics, on sale at Thought Bubble this weekend. 52 pages of Marc’s unique brand of gentle weirdness it’s definitely worth your time, especially as there’s a Mr Pooch story in there.

Mr Pooch works in New York. Kind of. New York yes, work…enh..it’s complex. An amiable put upon dog with great taste in hats Mr Pooch is one of Marc’s best new characters. He’s just a dog trying to make his way in the world and getting into all sorts of trouble along the way and this story is a great example of that. Funny, weird and with one of the most delightfully left field and unexpected closing jokes I’ve heard this year, it’s available at Thought Bubble along with loads of other good stuff. Go get it.

 



THOUGHT BUBBLE PREVIEW!-Papercuts and Inkstains Issues 3a and 3b by Travelling Man
November 11, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

papercuts and inkstains 3a‘A Roll of the Dice’

Written by Rob Jones and Michael Sambrook

Art by Sprecher

 

‘Vampire Wonderland’

Written by Jones and Sambrook

Art by Paul Moore

 

‘Slaycation’

Written by Mike Sambrook

Art by Rosie Packwood

 

‘FPS’

Written by Rob Jones

Art by Dan Butcher

 

‘Perplexity’

By Gonzo and Burke

 

‘Profits of Doom’

Written by Rob Jones and Michael Sambrook

Art by Mike Smith

£4 each and available at Thought Bubble this weekend!

 

An issue so big it is in fact two issues! Papercuts and Inkstains Issue 3 is split in two, giving Jones, Sambrook and a rotating cast of artists a chance to really show off their versatility. It works too, especially with ‘A Roll of the Dice.’ Opening 3a, it’s a story about a botdged together heist in the Old West. Combining a sense of community and fun with a gloriously nasty central cast it’s a piece with blood on its knuckles and a nasty grin in its eye. Sprecher’s art, and the rigid nine panel grid I thrives under, is especially great and reminiscent of Lucky Luke or other classic westerns. Company this story deservedly stands with.

‘Vampire Wonderland’ follows it with even more gorgeous art. This time it’s Paul Moore’s work on deck, in a story that follows a vampire hunter on a very bad day. This is one of the best action stories you’ll read all year, as the heroine uses everything from a supermarket trolley to a parachute to get the job done. But that won’t stay with you. What will is the final scene and the peculiarly hopeful kind of heroism on display here. Not post-apocalyptic, quite, but something better and braver.

‘Slaycation’ closes 3A. It follows a group of friends going on holiday and what they find waiting for them. To say anything more would spoil it but suffice to say this is a highlight of both issues. Packwood’s art is exuberantly and friendly in a gloriously horrible way and Sambrook’s script delivers every beat with the precision of a highly trained and enthusiastic killer. Gloriously nasty fun.

 

papercuts 3b3B opens with ‘FPS’. Written by Jones it’s a skewed perspective action piece that works nicely. Butcher’s art captures the nervy feel required perfectly and while the ending may not surprise some readers, the story itself is intensely confident and effortlessly put together.

‘Perplexity’ is the only story that doesn’t quite land here and it’s not through want of ambition. A reality altering…someone…changes the outcome of a bank robbery and in doing so puts their city on notice that things have changed. Snarky and self-aware without the endless, mechanical aping of Grant Morrison that so often heralds, it’s a fun, clever story. It’s let down by clarity issues in a couple of places but even then the script carries you through. More of this please, and soon.

Finally, ‘Profits of Doom’ continues the story of the world’s most British, least effective cultists. Well, they used to be the least effective. Now they’re very very effective indeed and the world is in the process of ending a LOT. Aided (ish) by a bookstore owner who is either a very affectionate callout to one of the luminaries of modern fantasy or, simply, a man who likes hats, they get some more information about just how much trouble they’re in and grumble a lot. It’s brilliantly funny as ever, and Smith’s art somehow manages to make faceless cowls expressive and sympathetic.

 

This is about as perfect an example of just why Madius are so good as you’ll get. Hugely varied, hugely inventive and immense fun from cover to cover. And then from other cover to OTHER cover.

 

 

 

 

 



Review: The New Avengers Issue 1 by Travelling Man

the new avengerWritten by Al Ewing

Art by Gerrardo Sandoval

Colour Art by Dono Sanchez Almara

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel

 

The all new AIM is here and WAY less villain-y than it’s ever been before. Led by Sunspot, the new AIM is an Avengers unit/corporation designed to save the world and do better science for it to ensure it can maybe save itself next time. They have an island, a jet, a SHIELD liaison, a vast terrifying invasion of Paris and the real possibility no one trusts them.

YAY!

This is so much fun. Ewing excels at big ideas and tiny character notes and he gets a chance to do both here. He also makes Sunspot interesting inside two panels which has to be some kind of a record. The idea of graduating a relatively minor character like him to the big leagues is inspired and Ewing’s got a fantastic set up here. The idea of hijacking and subverting AIM is a neat reversal of the endless bloody ‘SHIELD was HYDRA all along!’ stuff and also speaks to the fundamental optimism of Roberto and his team. They’ve got a blank slate and a new approach. They want to do better. THEY HAVE SQUIRREL GIRL. This is the Avengers as startup, just with way less fossball and bromance and far more punching and altruism. It’s ace.

It’s also nice and complex, Ewing juggling the machinations of the The Thinker (Who’s actually interesting here), with SHIELD checking in on AIM, the arrival of a very logical new teammember and something awful being done to Paris. There’s incident on every page but it always feels frantic rather than rushed. It’s a textbook example of how to script action comics and the art is just as good. Sandoval’s exuberant style worried me a little in Avengers 0 but here it’s absolutely bedded in. The character work in particular is phenomenal and those quiet little moments I wanted? Here by the bucketload.

Almara’s work is hugely impressive too, the colours huge and bold but throwing remarkable subtlety of tone aout. The Thinker scenes in particular are really nicely done and the sense of place in every scene is absolutely bang on. As ever Caramagna’s lettering impresses too, especially in the various HUD displays we see.

 

This is really fun, and that need restating. If you’re looking for a light on its feet, punching above its weight Avengers book with no baggage whatsoever, then you’ve found it. Fun, smart, expansive comic storytelling.



Review: Uncanny Avengers Issue 1 by Travelling Man

uncanny avengers 1Written by Gerry Duggan

Art by Ryan Stegman

Colours by Richard Isanove

Letters & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover by Stegman and Isanove

£3.60

Published by Marvel

 

The Avengers Unity Squad was designed to show humans and mutants could work together. When the Inhumans rose, they were folded into the mix too. But tensions are running high, not just in the team but across the world. The Inhumans are everywhere, and not all of them look kindly on the people they share their world with…

There are three things going on here and two of them work. The first is the organic foundation of the book. The Unity Squad is an idea that’s absolutely logical in the current state of the Marvel universe, with the three biological power groups on Earth all jostling forstatus. Conversely, Duggan does a great job of throwing gooey biological singularities at them. I know I invoke this a lot, but Ellis’ seminal Stormwatch run springs to mind here. Both feature a fractious group of superhumans with the best of intentions and both explore what happens when those intentions go awry very well.

The second thing that works is the art. Stegman’s gloriously brawny, Ed McGuiness-like style is given a Hell of a workout here. A big cast and some huge action are all given a chance to shine and the end sequence, especially Quicksilver delivering the quickest briefing ever, is brilliant. Isanove’s colours are exactly what’s needed too; rich, vibrant and a little too alive in the biological tornado the team are dropped into at the end. Cowles lettering, likewise, is as impressive as ever.

Then there’s the thing that doesn’t work and it’s a biggie; most of the characters. Duggan excels at small character beats and his take on Brother Voodoo is the most interesting the character has been in years. Likewise, Quicksilver’s portrayal is really interesting; less the endlessly irritable speedster of classic era X-Factor and more a man hyper aware of time and what he has to do with the time available to him. They’re great, everyone else, right now, not so much.

Spider-Man’s appearance, and subsequent strop off the team here, feels perfunctory because, well…it is. It’s maybe an attempt to acknowledge the fact he’s everywhere but if it’s a joke it doesn’t land and if it’s a plot beat it plays as desultory, not to mention painting Peter as something of an asshole. Likewise, Cap’s return to the field as an old man appears to have shaved 30 points off his IQ. Here he’s less the moral compass and more the grumpy old uncle, something which maybe meant to be a reflection of his mild swing to the right. Again, though, it really doesn’t work.

Most egregious of all though is Rogue. Her venomous outburst about the Inhumans is meant to show how much strain she’s under but plays as hugely overdramatic and, well, pretty hypocritical. The new situation the mutants find themselves in is fascinating and there’s rich ground for stories there. None of that ground is going to be reached by having one of the primary mutants in the world cooking off in a manner she hasn’t for years. Worse still, her grumbling about Deadpool’s financing of the team feels both hypocritical once again and like a huge, and very forced, wink to camera. Wade, for all his numerous sins, is barely in the issue and remarkably well behaved when he is. Which doesn’t stop the newly humourless Spider-Man bagging on him of course.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good. It looks like a lot of the character beats I have problems with here are either start up issues or en route to being directly addressed in the plot. I certainly hope so because when it’s on form this is great. The ideas are big, the action’s neatly paced and the story is excellent. The characters are, I hope, on the way.




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