Travelling Man's Blog


Review: Ms Marvel Issue 19 by Travelling Man

ms marvel 19Written by G.Willow Wilson

Art by Adrian Alphona

Colour art by Ian Herring

Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel

 

There’s a reference in the letters page to ‘season two’ of the book and I can’t wait, because this is one of the best titles being published in the West right now. Seriously, if you want the sense of underdog joy, community and good natured heroics that Spider-Man embodied in the 1960s, then you need to be reading this. If you don’t, you need to be reading this anyway.

Because as season finales go, this is so perfect it could almost be a series finale.

Every dangling plot thread (With one notable, delightfully slobbery exception who we’re assured will be back) is tied up here. That, for completists, will be enough. But each one is landed with genuinely extraordinary humanity and kindness. This is a book about a group of people facing the end of the world with nothing they can do about it. But they live in Jersey, and the fireworks, as ever, are in New York. So they’ll deal as long as they need to. Even if it’s forever.

Every page here is beautiful. Alphona’s art is the most expressive it’s been and in an issue built entirely on character interactions it’s never looked better. There’s subtlety and intelligence behind each character, a sense that everyone is a real, well rounded person facing the end of the world in the best way they know. Herring’s colour work is just as impressive, especially in the final panels and Caramagna’s exuberant lettering lands every careful, precise syllable and the emotion behind them all.

But it’s the writing you remember, and the characters. I teared up three times in this issue, and it wasn’t even due to massive, colossal events. Rather it was the love that Wilson so clearly has for these people and the fact she takes such great care to not let anyone get left behind. Kamala’s parents get a perfect signoff, her occasionally forgotten best friend is reintroduced in a way that’s sweet and genuine and hilarious and, best of all, Kamala and Bruno have The Talk

Yeah.

That Talk.

If the book was going to fall down anywhere, it’s here. But there’s no petty drama, no people acting stupid for the sake of plot. Just two clever, compassionate teenagers on the last day of their lives telling each other the truth and being absolutely okay with the truth being complicated. It’s not just sweet natured it’s inspirational. A gentle, clear eyed, clever end to the first volume of a series defined by those three factors.

And humour.

And Doom Dogs.

But I digress. This is an amazing sign off for an amazing book. Please, if you bemoan the lack of joy in superhero comics, pick up the trades and introduce yourself to Kamala. Because she really is here to save the day.



Review: Art Ops Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 16, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , , , ,

art ops 1Written by Shaun Simon

Art and cover by Michael Allred

Colours by Laura Allred

Letters by Todd Klein

Logo design by Steve Cook

Published by DC/Vertigo

£2.85

Regina Jones is the best there is at what she does. What she does is protect, and if needed, extract, art. Any art. Or any part of it. Because art is alive and intelligent and something is hunting it. Something that only Regina, her team and her traumatised son Reggie can stop.

Have you ever found something which feels like such a perfect concept you’re amazed no one came up with it before? You have now.

Art Ops is part of the traditional Vertigo refresh that comes every time a bunch of series finish, like Unfollow. And, like Unfollow, it’s as close to perfect a first issue as you’ll get. Simon wastes no time, laying the premise out in a glorious, high tension opening and then proceeding to blow it apart for the rest of the issue.

That’s the joy of it. What you learn at the top of the issue is actually only the beginning. As it goes on, and you meet Reggie and his magnificent, awful, feral injury you get an idea of just what this world is really like. Simon never loses sight of his characters, never gives any of them anything besides clay feet but also keeps things clipping on. It feels, almost, like the start of a new season of a really great show. The world’s established but there’s everything you need to jump aboard here too.

That’s helped immensely by the art. Allred and Allred always do amazing work and this is no exception. The poppy style fits the subject matter, the smart ink and colour choices keep it from getting too whimsical and Todd Klein’s lettering has a nice punch to it.

All of that combines to create art, of course. As feral and clever and interesting as its premise but with the added feeling of confidence and a vast world opening up in front of you that only comes can really bring. Ludicrously ambitious, ludicrously clever and ludicrously good



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: Codename Baboushka Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 14, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

baboushkaWritten by Antony Johnston

Art by Shari Chankhamma

Letters by Simon Bowland

Published by Image

£2.85

 

Countess Annika Malikova is Russian money embodied. She’s young, beautiful, rich, rarely out of the papers. She’s also, quietly, the most dangerous person in any room she’s in. And now, someone has noticed…

Johnston is one of the best comic creators of his generation. Start with this and The Fuse, the space police procedural he co-created with Justin Greenwood that they and Chankhamma produce and make your way through everything with his name on it, he’s that good.

You can see why here too. The script is as pared down and highly skilled as the book’s lead. No panel is wasted, no beat makes it on the page without earning its slot. Even better, the potential cheesecake element of a series like this is acknowledged, sidestepped and put flat on its back by a gloriously simple piece of narrative Aikido. You’ll know it when you see it.

Plus it’s FUN. Annika and Gyorgy, her minder/muscle/father figure are a charming double act and for all their training, Johnston and Chankhamma make you worry for them. Annika is a highly skilled assassin but she’s also a little rusty and only as good as the half second edge her training gives her. This issue takes that half second and rides it all the way through a highly creative, white knuckle action sequence that only serves as the warm up bout for the main event. It’s taught, smart action comics and it looks amazing.

Because make no mistake, Chankhamma is going to make waves here. Her art has the same sort of clean lines as Paul Duffield’s but, like its heroine, is very light on its feet. The book is graceful, fight scenes flowing with kinetic ease and character beats laid out with a cinematic eye and precision of touch that shows both creators at the top of their game. It’s a beautiful, brutal book and Bowland’s lettering ties everything together with the consummate ease his work is known for.

Tough, graceful, clever storytelling that’s always got an exit strategy, Codename Baboushka is great work from great creators. Find it, and see professionals at work, on the page and behind it.



Review: Deadpool Issue 1 by Travelling Man

deadpool 1Written by Gerry Duggan

Art by Mike Hawthorne

Inks by Terry Pallot

Colours by Val Staples

Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

Remember how I talked about Uncanny Avengers not quite working, largely because it’s the Deadpool Show? This is the Deadpool Show and it’s SO good.

Seriously, this and the excellent short in Avengers 0 are my first exposures to Duggan’s take on the character and it’s fascinating. This is absolutely the old Wade, the man who ties himself in knots using words and deflects as many blows with jokes as he does with his hands. There’s a lovely running joke (in fact possibly the only lovely running joke ever) involving George Stephanopoulos, welcome cameos from some of the Hell’s Kitchen crew and a maniacal sense of fun. The idea of Deadpool financing the team, and Rogue in particular having a massive problem with that, is revisited here too and far better than in Uncanny.

But where this really works is in the new material and the new approach Duggan takes. This Wade, not that he’d admit it, has grown up.

A bit.

Mostly.

He’s a businessman now, he has employees, a theatre, a franchise name he ABSOLUTELY HAS NOT GOT THE RIGHTS FOR. He’s trying to be good. He’s trying to be a hero.

And he’s about to kick his own ass.

Duggan does two brilliantly intelligent things here. The first is Wade’s surprisingly effective ascension to being a business leader. The second is the way the various Deadpools become parts of Wade’s consciousness. He’s externalized his Greek chorus and the Deadpools in his employ neatly fill the same role. They’re the secret to Wade’s success and to his mind being clear for the first time in years. They’re also the secret to his imminent downfall, as Wade is clear enough to, he thinks, do the right thing.

It’s a tense, tragic set up which gives the book the espresso shot of darkness it’s always excelled at and I honestly can’t wait for the next issue. Although Wade himself may want to…

Mike Hawthorne’s art is always impressive and this is no exception. His fight scenes are especially good, flowing and gracefully brutal in a way very few comics ever manage. Pallot’s inks are a godsend too, giving the book the detail it needs to give each Deadpool in particular a unique feel. Staples’ colours also impress, especially in the opening sequence and along with Sabino’s lettering give the book the confidence and ensemble feels that Deadpool’s Heroes for Hire has. Just without the sociopathy and growing instability behind the scenes of course.

Nasty, eccentric, too clever for its own good and really fun, this is a great reboot for one of Marvel’s weirdest success stories. Buy it and find out why Deadpool really is the murderous thug everyone loves to love.



Review: Unfollow Issue 1 by Travelling Man

unfollow 1Written by Rob Williams

Art by Mike Dowling

Colours by Quinton Winter

Letters by Clem Robins

Cover by Matt Taylor

Published by DC Vertigo

£2.85

In the Bahamas, a man is so terrified of his would be murderer he kills himself to escape him. In Missouri, David assists in a phone shop robbery and discovers that you really are always connected. Over New York, Courtney delivers a final middle finger to her rich family and discovers just how little it matters.

Because on the internet, Larry Ferrell has chosen 140 people to be rich.

But he hasn’t told any of them what it will cost.

Williams’ script is cold, clinical and unsettling in the best way. The central idea, what we see of it so far, is a digital spider. An app that sits on your phone and makes you rich, for a price. How people pay that price, or not, will clearly define the horror at the heart of the book.

It’s also a chance for Williams to show us a diverse and interesting cast. David, the reluctant phone thief, is especially great. Principled but all too aware that sometimes he needs to break the law, he sees something which may be a vision before getting the good news. He also, maybe, gets an early indication of just how odd this situation is in the most unsettling sequence in the book. Trust me you’ll never look at Carphone Warehouse the same way again.

Dowling’s art is a perfect match for the script. It’s clean, sleek lines are the same as those of the app, or Courtney’s wingsuit stunt. Fast, sleek, modern and ruthless. Winter’s colour work is muted and realistic and Robins’ letters give you the beat and tone of each line with the same ease the 140 app walks onto people’s phones.

This is a great start to a series which is all but certain to end very badly for everyone involved. A puzzle, a thriller and, it seems, much more, it’s out now. Pick it up.



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.



Review: Switch Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 14, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

switch issue 1Created, written and drawn by Stjepan Sejic

Published by Top Cow

 

The Witchblade has chosen a new host! The endless battle begins anew! The new bearer is…

A UFO enthusiast…teenager…

What?

Witchblade was the Patient Zero of early ‘90s cheesecake portentofests. It was a brilliant world set up all too often hobbled by the needs of endless serial comics and an art style that only worked if you believed women had no internal organs and legs 26 feet long.

Of its time it was great, and the late, great Michael Turner cut his teeth on those books so please believe me when I say I’m not hating on them. But times changes and for too long, those books didn’t. Then they did and the expansion of the universe worked beautifully. Now, we get more change and this time it puts the book solidly in the wheelhouse of arguably the best superhero comic on the planet right now; Ms Marvel.

And guess what, it works brilliantly.

Mary, the new host, is adorable and very familiar. She’s a normal, nerdy kid, just like Kamala and just like Kamala she gets greatness thrust upon her. In this case, upon her hand, after a moment of selfless and brutal heroism. Sejic’s art has always been defined by a sense of physical weight for me and that’s here in spades. Characters have mass and proportion and the horrible thing that happens to Mary on her way to the gauntlet really is horrible. And heroic. She’s a good kid. A heroine.

But she doesn’t believe that and that’s one of several subtle beats here. She has a line early on about how she figures that after centuries of steak, the Witchblade wanted a burger. It’s funny but speaks volumes about the kid’s self-confidence. She doesn’t think she’s worth the time. It’s a sweet, realistic character dynamic and it makes you care about her from the get go.

Sejic builds on that throughout, giving Mary a supporting cast, some welcome returning faces and best of all, the other hosts. Every bearer is imprinted on the blade and each one brings different skills to the field. The most beautiful page in the book, and believe me the entire thing is stunning, is our first look at all of them. The most entertaining pages in the book are the ones where we meet Una. The burly, kickass cavewoman who was the original bearer, Una is massive where Mary isn’t and seeing Mary fight like someone three times her size is brilliant fun. It’s supernatural superheroism and no one is better at that than Sejic.

 

This is a really sweet, funny book with a rich streak of darkness and melancholy running through it. The art is great throughout and Sejic’s comedy skills in particular are bang on here. But it’s Mary you remember as she takes steps into a world she never planned on being part of. Frightened, exhausted and doing it anyway she’s the hero the Witchblade deserves and we need. Go get ‘em, kid.



Review: Saints Issue 1 by Travelling Man
November 14, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

saints issue 1Written by Sean Lewis

Art by Benjamin Mackey

Published by Image

£2.20

Blaise Ramirez has a problem. Blaise actually has a lot of them, a good chunk of which are his bandmates.

But the visions, they’re a new kind of problem.

And then there’s the large, friendly gay man with holy wounds in his chest.

And Lucy.

And the end of the world.

 

Sean Lewis has an intimate understanding of exactly the level of mundane horror you find backstage. Not mundane in a dull way either, but mundane in that it’s all you ever see. The reason we have backstage is so you don’t have to see what happens to get people on stage. Lewis has seen that, and he shows us here with all the perception, fatigue and bone dry humour of a thousand gig roadie.

But that’s just the start. The story unfolds in a way that can only be described as a grumpy, American version of Neverwhere. Odd things, and people, are afoot and Blaise may have a higher calling. The only problem is, he’s really not a higher calling kind of guy. That’s where the book gets really clever by the way, as Mackey’s art and Lewis’ script combine in pages laid out like religious paintings that promise, threaten and cajole Blaise along. It’s a clever way to put the reader ad the character on the same page, and a cleverer way to raise the stakes.

That intelligence and bone dry humour runs through the whole book. Lewis and Mackey don’t just promise us horror and wonder out in the parking lots and back alleys, they show it to us. A world just as vital and weird and familiar as the normal one but, somehow, more enticing. Clever, surprisingly gentle and very dark this is a joy. Blaise may have issues with his calling but you won’t.

 

 



THOUGHT BUBBLE PREVIEW!-Kings Leap by Travelling Man
November 13, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , ,

kings leapWritten by Rob Jones

Art and Additional dialogue by Gareth Sleightholme

Published by Madius

£3 THIS WEEKEND AT THOUGHT BUBBLE!

 

The Vikings are telling stories. Or rather, listening to stories. Gathered around Amma, the old woman who always seems to know what to say, the Viking children listen to the story of King Gulbrand. His lands ravaged by plague, Gulbrand and his best warriors set off to find the cause. When they did, the trouble really started

Jones’ script has a really smart, light on its feet approach to the subject matter. The framing mechanism is cute and elegant but never gets in the way and there’s a smart gear shift between the language of the story and the language of the framing scenes. It’s classic heroic stuff and he clearly has a ton of fun getting all Robert E. Howard from time to time.

Sleightholme, who judging by the afterword from him is a newcomer to comics, is one Hell of a fun. There’s some really fun, scratchy, grimy art here that looks like Terry Gilliam’s lost version of Saving Private Ryan. The world feels lived in and real and the characters are far more than the stewreotypes they could so easily have been. That pragmatic approach also ramps the threat up, especially in the final pages.

And those final pages are what you’re going to remember. No spoilers but the art and the script funnel down into a constantly shrinking field of view that tells you everything you need to know and nothing you want to hear. Hugely clever, very nasty and one of the best comics you’ll pick up at Thought Bubble.




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