Travelling Man's Blog


by Travelling Man

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson

Art by David Lopez

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Cover by David Lopez

Published by Marvel

£2.85

 

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.



Review: Marvel Zombies Issue 1 by Travelling Man

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?

Yeah?

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.

 

Alasdair Stuart



Review: Nonplayer Issues 1 and 2 by Travelling Man

Written and drawn by Nate Simpson

£2.20

 

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.



Review: The Omega Men Issue 1 by Travelling Man

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.



Review: Bat-Mite Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Dan Jurgens

Pencils by Corin Howell

Inks by Corin Howell & Andres Ponce

Colour by Mike Atiyeh

Letters by Tom Napolitano

Published by DC

£2.20

 

The new wave of DC titles is doing some really interesting stuff, and, oddly, a good chunk of it is coming from two of the company’s most dated characters. Heath Corson and co’s work on Bizarro is easily the most fun the character’s been in a decade while over here, Dan Jurgens and Corin Howell lead the charge on Bat-Mite.

A 5th dimensional imp obsessed with Batman, Bat-Mite is not a character that’s aged especially well. Thankfully, a good chunk of his origin is basically ignored here as the book opens on him being exiled back to Earth in order to get him out of his people’s hair. He returns, ‘borrows’ a Batmobile and decides he’s going to help out, whether Batman wants him to or not…

The story that follows is a weird, surprisingly successful combination of styles. Howell’s art is gorgeous, like a Warner Brothers cartoon on the page and it’s a perfect fit for the big expressions and action that follows Bat-Mite around. There’s a particularly great gag involving a Bat-Selfie and some wonderful, flamboyant characterisation that really drives home the weird nature of the character.

There’s also a surprisingly dark story, one that’s far more Batman than Bat-Mite. It’s exactly the sort of dark science that Gotham is the perfect fit for and it works really well here. Largely because Bat-Mite’s so cartoony that having him front and centre in a story like this is a little like having a CSI episode fronted by Bugs Bunny. You know it’s going to be weird, but you also know the pre-credit stinger will be AMAZING.

The art side of things serves the story’s two masters very well, with Atiyeh’s typically impressive colours a particular standout and Napolitano doing even more good work on letters here. However it’s Powell and Ponce who are the stars, cramming the book with stylised angle,s massive expressions and high energy. The end result is a book that’s deeply odd but way more successful, and fun, than you might expect it to be. Give it a shot. You mite like it.



Review: Bizarro Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Heath Corson

Art by Gustavo Duarte & Bill Sienkiewicz

Inks by Pete Pantazis

Letters by Tom Napolitano

Published by DC

£2.20

 

The latest round of DC new series, staggeringly dim-witted internal ad placement aside, is trying some genuinely new stuff. This book’s a perfect example, taking a Superman villain who has been by turns bestial, tragic and really irritating and turning him into something very new and very successful.

The idea here is really simple; Clark (possibly) inadvertently talks Jimmy Olsen into taking a roadtrip with Bizarro. The idea is that by introducing Bizarro to Bizarro America, Jimmy’ll get a coffee table book out of it, Bizarro will get some culture and Metropolis will get some peace and quiet.

So far it’s not going so well for any of them. Well, aside from Metropolis.

Corson’s idea of combining Bizarro and Americana is inspired and the entire book zips along with an energy that the character has sucked out of stories in the past. Here though, Bizarro’s that thing he so rarely is; endearing. He’s clever, sweet natured and logical. He’s also Bizarro, meaning there’s no way he can turn away a hard luck case. And that’s why he has a pet Chupacabra.

Called Colin.

Yes.

For Jimmy’s part, this is also the most fun Olsen has been in ages. This is Jimmy as Barney Bear, an increasingly long-suffering, laconic figure who’s the perfect deadpan foil to Bizarro’s enthusiasm about EVERYTHING. They’re a classic odd couple, a Rocket and Groot where Rocket is a photo journalist who believes his own hype and Groot has a cape and way better language skills. It works really well.

A big part of that is Duarte and Sienkeiwicz on art. The big, slightly exaggerated cartoon style is a great fit for the character and there are some really nice sight gags, especially the pair of them wandering along the top of a page and the big open spaces where Bizarro and Colin meet. Pantazis’ inks suit the book’s big hearted style too, and really ramp up the comedy. Napolitano’s lettering tops this off, and is possibly the only lettering in comic history required to show the sound of a small, angry Chupacabra eating goat brain. All of which it rises to like a champ.

This is a really fun book. If you’ve fought shy of Bizarro stories, and God knows I have, in the past then this is the one to jump aboard. Clever, very funny, very sweet and like nothing



Review: Batman Beyond Issue 1 by Travelling Man


Written by Dan Jurgens

Art by Bernard Chang

Colours by Marcelo Maiolo

Letters by Dave Sharpe

Cover by Chang with Maiolo

Published by DC

£2.20

 

Tim Drake has taken on the mantle of Batman Beyond, passed to him by Terry Mcginnis before he died. Now, Tim finds a future oddly different but somehow, not different enough. His answers lie outside Gotham and will take him face to face with the last thing he expected.

Idiotically obtrusive Twix adverts.

And also a plot.

Moving aside from the Blue Steel-ing idiocy of Nick Lachey trying to convince you that Twix’s are sexay, this is a surprising and confident start for the series. Jurgens throws incidents at the newly stubly (and studly) Mr Drake with wild abandon and throws some nice nods to the old cartoon in too. He also has a good feel for the world and there’s some clever worldbuilding here. Gotham’s still luckless, even in the future and the way that’s handled is used both as continuity and a marker of the series’ uniqueness.

Of course there’s still the post-apocalyptic world of Brother Eye to deal with, which, bluntly, isn’t that interesting right now but by the end of the first issue it looks more complex and nuanced than it’s been. Tim and Terry’s actions in the past have had an effect but not what they expected. That bodes well for the future of the series, as does Chang’s art. Clean, precise lines married to Maiolo’s remarkable understanding of natural lighting give the book a feel that’s recognisably different from everything else. It moves, and looks like a science fiction book, just with a guy with a bat on his chest in the lead and that’s just how it should be. Dave Sharpe’s letters fit this clean, futuristic aesthetic perfectly and tie the book together to create a coherent, fun package. It’s not perfect; I could really do without Tim calling ALFRED ‘Alf’ for one, but it’s a great start to a great character’s new lease on life. The future sure doesn’t look bright, but it does look fun.




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