Travelling Man's Blog


Review: Bunny vs Monkey Volume 2 by Travelling Man
November 2, 2015, 9:12 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , ,

bvmWritten and drawn by Jamie Smart

Published by The Phoenix/Fickling

£7.99

 

Bunny! Monkey! Bunny vs Monkey! Round two! FIGHT!

Jamie Smart is a genius. Everything he’s produced has been shot through the same maniacal energy and joy. Sometimes, like the magnificent Corporate Skull, it’s been dark. Sometimes, like the equally magnificent MooseKid, it’s been instrumental in making comics better.

Sometimes it’s featured a PTSD riddled Fox and an aquatic escape vehicle in the shape of a snooty duck.

This is one of those times.

Skunky is an evil genius. Monkey is not. But he is easily led and has decided he’ll rule the forest with the help of Skunky’s inventions. Weenie and Pig are endearingly stupid, good antured forest residents who like cake and getting into trouble. Metal Steve is a cyborg alligator.

Bunny is the designated grown up.

Well, I say grown up…

What follows is a series of flat out mayhem sprints as Monkey and Skunky unleash their latest evil plan, all of which goes wrong and Bunny cleans up the mess. They’re fun, sweet stories that are crammed full of jokes and energy as well as Smart’s magnificent sense of humour. Any book featuring a robotic octopus called Octo-BLIVION! Is a okay with me and there’s that level of glorious invention on every page.

If that was all you got, you’d need to buy this book. But it isn’t. Because as time goes on, Smart introduces some really surprising, very successful twists. There’s one of the best time travel stories I’ve ever read, a welcome sense of an overall arc for Skunky and, best of all, a Christmas story. Not just any Christmas story, but one that features a rocket powered sled and a remarkably clever set up for the next book. Things are changing in the wood and Bunny and Monkey are going to have a very interesting second year. One which will still feature colossal war machines and mayhem but for a whole variety of new and interesting reasons.

Like everything The Phoenix publish, this is great. Like everything they publish this is remarkably sweet and fun and like everything they publish, you’ll want to read more immediately. Just remember, OCTO-BLIVION SEES ALL!



Review: Corpse Talk Season 2 by Travelling Man
September 29, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

corpse talk season 2Written and drawn by Adam Murphy

Colours by Lisa Murphy

Published by Fickling and The Phoenix

£7.99

 

You know how fun and educational are two words that don’t tend to go together? Yeah? Adam and Lisa Murphy defy that. Not only defies it but proves that the two can actually go hand in hand with this just phenomenal comic.

Here’s the idea; Adam runs a chat show. The guests are famous people from history who talk about their lives and deaths. It all unfolds across two page spreads and manages to be information heavy, very funny and lovely to look at too.

A big part of that is just how well researched, and clever, the series is. One of the standouts here is the entry on Pocahontas precisely because of that. Adam contrasts the Disney movie with the reality in a way that’s funny, pokes fun at Disney but doesn’t insult fans of the movie. Likewise, the Guy Fawkes interview is great, not only because of the extra nuggets of information but for how much time Adam spends mocking Fawkes for being a completely rubbish anarchist.

There’s huge personality here, and it’s enthusiastic, funny and above all else, kind. This reads like listening to a genuinely great history teacher. You laugh and you learn at the same time, with Adam’s art and script, and Lisa Murphy’s exuberant and smart colours, tying it all together beautifully. The double page spreads that expand on some stories are especially great, with Lisa’s colours really helping build a sense of place and time.

This is a wonderful book that fizzes with joy at knowledge, learning and how much fun both can be. Plus it’s really, really funny. Grab it, and season 1, now. And then go subscribe to The Phoenix because, amazingly, it really is all this great.



Review: Pirates of Pangaea Volume 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron

Illustrated by Neill Cameron

Colouring Assistance by Abigail Ryder

With thanks to Benjamin Sharpe

Published by The Phoenix and David Fickling Books

£8.99

 

You know that feeling when you find something so perfect and so fun that you just want to reread it as soon as it’s finished and then shove it in front of as many other people’s faces as humanly possible like an over-excited sugarhigh Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life yelling ‘Read this! It’s great!’?

No?

It’s cool, just buy this, read it and then go watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Seriously. One of the greatest movies of all time.

But you know what it doesn’t have? It doesn’t have pirate ships riding on the back of sort-of tame dinosaurs.

Pirate Ships. On. Dinosaurs.

YES.

Hartwell and Cameron’s script is the first thing that impresses here, and it impresses two different ways. The first is in how little time it wastes. The first dinosaur hits in the first six pages and something huge or fun or scary or awesome or all of the above happens every few pages after that. The second thing that hits you is just how smart, and well thought out, this world is. The little details are what stayed with me; the Snuffmen who act as Pangaea’s ‘tug boat’ captains, the ‘sea’ that contains hordes of deadly velociraptors, the way different species are used by the ships’ crews. This isn’t a gimmick with a script attached to it, this is a complex, well realized and immensely entertaining world. The huge spectacle is always built from character or background, never feels unearned and is frequently breathtakingly beautifulo.

That’s down to Cameron and Ryder. The precision of the art here is key, with Cameron giving the pirate cast huge variety and character while still making sure they look ‘lived in’. Likewise Sophie, the lead, undergoes a subtle transformation from out of her depth to take-charge heroine that’s mirrored in the art. She’s still clearly from a different world to the pirates but the way she adapts is subtle, smart and show in how she’s drawn. Just as importantly, the various dinosaurs have incredible weight and scale, thanks both to Ryder’s excellent colour work and the script’s fondness for narrative spreads across double pages. This feels like a huge, very different world and that feeds back into the confidence and depth of the script and art to create something that feels like the best summer blockbuster no one’s quite made yet. Crammed full of action, humour, invention and character this is yet another incredibly fun series from The Phoenix. Pick it up, but beware the land sharks…



Review: Troy Trailblazer and the Horde Queen by Travelling Man

Written and drawn by Robert Deas

Published by The Phoenix and David Fickling Books

£7.99

 

Troy Trailblazer is a young space adventurer. Aided by Blip, his probability-obsessed droid sidekick, Barrus, his near silent alien muscle and Jessica Jetrider, a reformed bounty hunter, Troy fights for justice, the oppressed and anything that sounds fun.

Well that’s not strictly true. Troy, Blip and Barrus get in way over their heads and Jess rescues them. A lot. Not that they want to admit it. That’s more like it. But, when they pick up a distress signal from a mining colony, Jess finds herself fighting a very personal war…

 

First off, you really should be reading The Phoenix. It’s become not just an immensely successful champion for all-ages comics but a rally point for some of the best new talent working in comics. Plus, if you like 2000AD? Then you’ll like The Phoenix. There’s the same slightly punky sense of invention but with, a lot of the time, sense of wonder replacing the knowing satire. It’s flat out one of the best things being published in the field and it’s a huge pleasure to see their trade program collecting gems like this.

If you liked Guardians of the Galaxy you’ll like this. If you liked Guardians of the Galaxy and thought Gamora got a crappy deal, you will LOVE this. Deas takes similar SF tropes (Hero who isn’t quite as good as he thinks he is, chirpy robo sidekick, grumpy strong guy, very competent and tough heroine) and takes them down a complimentary but different path. There’s no good natured Chris Pratt-powered slobbery here but rather a kid who has the best job in the universe getting by on charm, luck and the competency of his friends. A lesser writer wouldn’t be able to make Troy remotely sympathetic but Deas nails it, making him a charmingly self aware and still endearingly rubbish lead. The first chapter here in particular is really good, slightly knockabout kids’ science fiction with lots of action, lots of impact and some wonderful, fast paced art.

Then the second chapter hits and you realize what’s really going on. It’s one of those annoying moments where I can’t tell you without spoiling it but there are some really nicely handled beats in that second chapter that give the story, if not a darker turn, then certainly a more mature edge. Every single moment of incident in the first chapter, including the one or two that feel just a little forced, pay off immensely in a smartly realized sting that makes both Troy, and Jess, into even more interesting characters. This is science fiction that knows its sources and influences and does new and interesting things with them, leading to a really fun, snappy read.

Plus the thing looks just flat out gorgeous. Deas’ character designs and page layouts are great and this feels like a refreshingly lived in world. So much so in fact that you could imagine Troy and Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect sharing space in a bar and neither looking out of place. Until, of course, someone realizes Troy isn’t old enough and then Shepherd, Jess and Garrus have to defuse the brawl he just started…

But the real fun here is in the cutaways. An opening breakdown of Troy’s ship is fun, but it’s Blip’s autopsy of a wonderfully nasty alien that stays with you. Deas uses the cutaways to give you a lot of information in a small space and they’re indicative of how versatile his script is. Flashbacks, montages, cutaways and character redesigns are all used to tell the story and they all work perfectly. The end result is a fun, big-hearted and clever piece of science fiction that deserves a place on any fan’s shelf. Oh and the best Alien joke you’ll see this year. Hugely fun stuff.



Review: The Phoenix Presents…Tales of Fayt-The Mystery of the Crooked Imp by Travelling Man

Written by Conrad Mason

Illustrated by David Wyatt

Published by The Phoenix and David Fickling Books

£7.99

http://www.conrad-mason.com/

 

Welcome to Port Fayt, where pirates rub shoulders with merchants, magicians and magical creatures. Law and order depends on who’s watching and everyone always has an inside line. Except The Demon’s Watch, a ragtag group of crimefighters. Based out of Bootle’s Pie Shop, the Watch will protect you, whoever you are. But when the watch are asked to find out who kidnapped the baby son of a powerful merchant family, they may be in over their heads.

This is just flat out brilliant. Every single page of Wyatt’s artwork sings with energy and invention. Port Fayt is a believably ramshackle, believably dangerous place and Wyatt always makes it feel grounded and well defined. The opening pages are a guided tour of the town that helps to orientate you and then it’s off at a sprint into a story that touches on family, class, the pressures of being the youngest member of a team and some really smartly handled bad guys.

Mason clearly knows this world inside and and there’s a tangible sense of history to the plot. Tabitha, the youngest member of the Demon’s Watch is the lead and her need to prove herself is a great dramatic engine for the book. What makes it work though is how well she interacts with the other team members. They’re a fun, motley bunch and Captain Newton in particular is a great character. Stern, fair, intensely violent when needed and intelligent with it there’s a sense that one universe over these are stories about him. They’d be fun too but with the spunky, quick witted Tabs front and centre they’re even better.

 

This is clever, fun fantasy with a vast amount of thought behind it. It’s also the perfect first visit to Port Fayt so sign on with the Watch and take a look around. The work’s hard, the pay’s low but it’s always fun and there’s all the pies you can eat.



Review: The Phoenix by Travelling Man

Created by Jamie Smart (Bunny vs Monkey), Will Dawbarn & Alex Matthews (Useleus), Adam Murphy (Corpse Talk) and dozens of others

£2.99

http://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/stories-creators/

 

For an industry based on escapism, joy or education (Depending on where you stand), comics sometimes seems to be proudly looking backwards as it marches over the edge of the nearest cliff. It’s very easy to get caught up in nostalgia and the conservatism inherent in that but if you do, then, well it’s like Ferris says. Life moves pretty fast. You don’t slow down, you might miss it.

A Ferris Bueller reference. The only way I could date myself more is if I downloaded email over dialup whilst listening to an audio cassette of Pearl Jam’s second album.

Oh…

 

OH GOD…

 

I’VE DONE THAT

 

Anyway, the past whilst often rubbish is also lovely and has a strong pull. The future is weird, difficult and shiny. The future is also where the new, positive things happen that will bring new readers in, restore your faith in the industry and make you laugh. The Phoenix does all of those things, every week, for £2.99.

The Phoenix is built on the same model as 2000AD by and large; weekly anthology with strips rotating out as they’re done. In fact in many ways it’s 2000AD’s cool younger sister, less concerned with satirical hyper violence, just as intelligent and often with a better, weirder sense of humour.

So, right now, about four of you are shaking your head going ‘Comics for KIDS?’ and making that face. Yeah, THAT one. So, I’m going to tell you about three strips the Phoenix runs and why they’re great and then you’re going to give it a try.

Ready?

Aces

I’m a huge Jamie Smart fan and Bunny vs Monkey is one of his very best. Monkey is a failed British space program primate-o-naut, Bunny is a bunny. Monkey is arrogant, dim and very very evil. Bunny is placid and trustworthy. Hilarity and bumkicking ensues. Jamie’s got a wonderful, anarchic sense of humour and it’s let off the leash here to epic effect. His other work for The Phoenix includes Looshkin by the way, the epic adventures of the world’s most evil cat. Who in my mind is voiced by Ade Edmondson. And yes he’s the Looshkin from Bear.

Useleus is a little less frantic than Bunny vs Monkey but no less fun. The worst hero in Ancient Greece, Usleus aspires to heroism but, along with his wonderfully zen Minotaur mentor (Minotor maybe?) he tends to get into trouble instead. Deadpan, lovely stuff that’s reminiscent of Asterix. Will Dawbarn & Alex Matthews have a wonderful, gentle style that gives every joke and character beat room to breathe.

Finally, Adam Muprhy’s Corpse Talk is brilliant, simple and deeply odd; a journalist interviews a famous historical dead person. Julius Caesar, Howard Carter, you name it they’re all up there. Funny, skewed and very smart it’s a real highlight of any issue it appears in.

That’s just three. The website currently lists 29 active stories. Try an issue, be prepared to buy more when you do. This is one of the most joyous, enjoyable, vital books on the shelves right now. Long may the Phoenix rise.



NEWS: Rise of the Moose Kid and How You Can Help Make Children’s Comics Even More Brilliant by Travelling Man
March 1, 2013, 11:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Jamie Smart is one of my favorite writers and artists. He’s been one of my favorite writers and artists since I first encountered the wonder that is Bear, and was taught the Bear song:
He’s Bear! He’s Bear!
He’s made of human hair!
You poke his nose and his head grows, He’s Bear He’s Bear He’s Bear!
Since the glorious days of a possibly immortal teddy bear doing battle with a sociopathic cat, his work has appeared in The Dandy, the DFC, the Phoenix and many more. He’s also turned out several fantastic creator owned series, curated several anthologies and done some work for the Doctor Who titles. Jamie’s very good, Jamie’s very busy and he’s about to get busier still. Jamie’s announced a new project.

Moose Kid Comics is designed to build on the slow, but definite, renaissance in kids’ comics in the UK. The Phoenix continues to do brilliant work and it’s fan base is growing, so there’s never been a better time to try and open the door a little more. After all, kids’ comics have been part of this country’s cultural landscape for decades so it’s about time there was another one on the market.
Jamie’s plan is simple; get a group of artists together to make brilliant comics. It’s really that simple. Moose Kid won’t look at licensed comics as competition but rather as inspiration to build on their successes and create new kid’s comics that will, hopefully, inspire more people to produce kid’s comics and, in doing so make this wonderful, and overlooked, genre of comics even stronger. Oh and of course any character created will be owned BY that creator.
That’s stage one. Stage two is even simpler: an online issue zero will be made available for reading and download. The idea is to show what can be done by a group of brilliant, invested artists working with the space needed to develop their characters. Whilst there are plans past this, for now, Jamie’s focus is understandably on getting to stage two and the issue zero.
Of course there’s no pay at this stage but neither is there a price. As Jamie puts it
‘We’re not doing this for profit, we’re doing this to show what CAN be done.’
Make no mistake this is a call to action and, make no mistake, Jamie Smart is exactly the creator to lead it. He cites the sort of material he’s looking for as

‘the wild hysteria of Ren And Stimpy, mashed with the brilliantly charming Adventure Time.’

And that’s exactly where his own work sits very comfortably. This is a great project led by a great comic creator and it deserves your attention, especially if you feel you could contribute.
And if you are interested then email your website moosekidcomics@gmail.com or check out www.moosekidcomics.com to see the plan in detail. Give it a shot. Be part of the revolution. Make some history. Draw some poo jokes. It’ll be ACE:)




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