50-Word Review: Star Wars – Obi-Wan and Anakin #1

Obi-Wan_and_Anakin_1_coverSet between Star Wars Episode 1 and 2, Obi-Wan and his padawan Anakin are called to assist on a planet that’s meant to have no inhabitants.

Charles Soule’s writing and Marco Checchetto’s art come together well. There’s also some nice back story featuring Palpatine / Mace Windu – this five-issue series is looking good.



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50-Word Review: Daredevil #1

Daredevil_Vol_5_1_TextlessDaredevil’s back in New York, his identity again secret and he has a trainee / sidekick to boot. Soule’s writing continues the story nicely from Waid’s farewell and Garney’s art creates the required dark atmosphere.

Add in Murdock as a prosecutor and all the ingredients are there for a great series.

I Was Cynical About Secrets Wars and Battleworld Until..

Cursor_and_1872__2015___1___Comics___Marvel_com… I finished reading the first issue of 1872, one of the 5000 comics Marvel is putting out with it’s universe-altering, cross-over reboot extravaganza.

But before I get onto that, I just want to put it out there that I was cynical about the whole Secret Wars / Battleworld thing from the time it was announced. I saw it as both an overt money grab and a lazy way to change a whole bunch of character relationships and storylines. I actually still think I’m right to some extent on both those counts, but given I’ve only read Secret Wars #1 up until now, it’s not fair for me to stake my claim too forcefully.

The 1872 title stood out for me as something a little different, given it was featuring the long-dormant character Red Wolf. I decided to add the title to my pull list and I’m really glad I did. Set in the Wild West of… 1872… I was expecting something a little quirkier than the more standard superhero titles and I was spot on in that expectation.

The town of Timely has Wilson Fisk as its Mayor. It’s Sheriff is Steve Rogers and its newspaper editor is Ben Urich. The town drunk is a Mr T Stark and there’s a nerdy guy called Bruce Banner as well. Get the picture? Writer Gerry Duggan could have turned the premise into a feast of in-jokes feast thankfully he hasn’t, instead focusing on the story itself and the qualities these characters bring to the situation at hand.

Nik Virella’s art is excellent, creating an authentic Western feel without overstating the case.

This is a title I’ll be buying to the end, and it’s also made me think twice about checking out some of the other new titles. Hats off to the team on this title: you’ve managed to do something fresh that will likely stand the test of time well. Not just real time: Marvel time even!

Review: Darth Vader #1 and #2

Darth_Vader__2015___2___Comics___Marvel_comMarvel had lots to live up to when they took over the reins from Dark Horse in telling Star Wars stories in comics. The first two issues of Darth Vader prove they’ve achieved that aim.

Darth Vader is everything you’d expect plus some. Vader’s personal agendas, combined with a Empire struggling to regain its feet after the loss of the (first) Death Star make for a great story. Kieron Gillen’s writing is strong and like Jason Aaron’s work on the flagship Star Wars title, replicates the atmosphere of the original movies beautifully. Salvador Larroca’s art is top notch as well, with some great full page Darth Vader art to stop and savor. The scene in Jabba’s palace with the full audience is alone worth the price of admission.

It’s been way too long since I’ve been truly excited about Marvel titles, but Darth Vader (and Star Wars) are definitely in that category at the moment.

Why are you not reading this?

Review: Sandman Overture #4

Sandman-OvertureI’ll admit. I read issue 4 and was confused. There has been a long wait between issues, even on top of the gaps for the Sandman Overture Special Editions. (Which I’m not reading – I don’t really watch the extras on DVDs either.) The artwork by J. H. Williams III has been lush. Big double-page acid-sheet spreads, dripping with trippy. Some reviewers have called it a bit over the top. No such issue with me. It was visually reading more like a Promethea story than a Sandman story, but you’d expect that from the Promethea illustrator.

This series was making me angry largely because I felt that it was missing something essentially Sandman about it. There were some very Neil Gaiman-esque touches through the story, and some familiar themes were being re-visited (dreams of cats, Morpheus being a callous bastard and having to deal with the fallout, rules that are meant to be followed, stories within stories), but it felt like it had been written by a Neil Gaiman plot generator. All of the elements were present, but there was something genuine missing.

Or maybe I had just not been paying enough attention. So I re-read the 4 issues out to date in one sitting, to see if it was me, or if, indeed, Neil had lost the plot (so to speak).

It turns out, it’s a bit of both, I reckon.

The story makes more sense now. But I reckon I’ve put my finger on why I’m annoyed with this series, given I’m such a fan of Sandman in particular, and Neil Gaiman generally.

I don’t care about what’s happening in this series. Or why.

Sandman Overture seems to be explaining to us the events behind and the reasons why Morpheus was weakened enough to allow himself to be captured at the beginning of the Sandman series. It’s a prequel. The trouble is, I’d never really given it a thought as to why Morpheus was weakened enough to be imprisoned in the first place. I never felt that it needed explaining. So I’m not jumping around with excitement with having this particular revelation tacked onto the Sandman universe. And the revelation that The Endless have a Mother and Father (the Father we meet in issue #4) just doesn’t resonate.

So what’s good about issue #4? Well, the artwork is a real trip. Which you’d hope would be up to it, given that Morpheus, and a Cat version of himself, and some annoying blue child called “Hope” (facepalm) are visiting a City of Stars.

And there was one moment of genuine Gaiman when Morpheus referred to a star both by its present scientific name (Formalhaut), and (presumably) a title, Eye of the Lonely‘. This had me thinking. How many names do stars have? A Scientific Name? A title? Does that depend on their position within a constellation? Would that change if seen from another planet, another constellation by alien races? Would a star have a million names for each group of alien races making stories about them? Could a star tell a lot about you, depending on what name you call it by? This is the Gaiman I remember, who could explode in my head with just a provocative phrase. He’s been a bit heavy on the ‘explanation’ and a bit light on the ‘evocation’ in this series.

It’s revealed that the insane star whose madness has already killed one aspect of Dream, and is threatening the universe with its insanity, was caused by Morpheus and his delayed action over killing an alien child ages ago who was ‘a vortex, an anomaly. An Annulet’ (whatever that is), Her madness has spread and infected her whole planet, and it was Morpheus’ responsibility to kill her, and her infected world. But he couldn’t bring himself to kill the sun of the world and now it’s insane. Cosmic, to be sure, but it all feels a bit ungrounded, and convenient. And it’s starting to sound a bit like a plot from ‘Shade the Changing Man’ a la Pete Milligan (I’m so glad that is finally being reprinted!).

So maybe that’s it then. Sandman Overture is a Shade the Changing Man story dressed up as a Promethea story masquerading as a Sandman story. I knew there was something fishy about this limited series. I know Vertigo is struggling, but this pastiche? Joking aside, for all that, it’s still worth picking up, if only to see what the hell Neil Gaiman is up to with his beloved Sandman multiverse. Fingers crossed he ties it all up.

Has Neil Gaiman ‘lost the plot’? Do you care whether The Endless have parents or not? Are you a bit sick of a ‘vortex’ being the cause of every cosmic problem in the universe?

Batman # 38 Review – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

batman38Since I started writing for The Comics Herald I’ve learned a lot about comics, both in the way the proverbial sausage is made and how I tackle reviewing them. I’d like to think that I have grown into my own voice, and have moved away from simply stating the story beats, and actually delving into what they actually mean.

Writing anything is always a work in progress, and writing for comics – admittedly an area which I have only truly begun to embrace in my formative years of being an adult – has taught me a lot about what I should and shouldn’t do. This week I discovered I have a tendency to make definitive statements that veer too much into the dramatic – see my final line of my Batman #13 review. Or the way I structured my review of the “Death of a Family” arc, and how I claimed that it was the greatest event ever to grace our shelves in modern comics (and that no one could tell me other wise goddammit!). I’ve learned to pare back such statements. I can’t tell you if this or that comic is a classic – it’s too soon after the fact to make bold remarks.

But there is a problem when something so good rolls around. The monthly release schedule means that often I completely forget what happened in previous issues, and sometimes the weekly releases feel like a chore more than anything. But not Batman. I have never forgotten what has happened between issues, nor have I looked at the release once and gone “Maybe I can skip it this time.” Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have constructed such a fantastic story, time and time again, that it is very hard not making big claims. And “Endgame”? You bet I’m going to burst a blood vessel trying not to.

“Endgame” is dealing with something that hasn’t really been dealt with in recent memory – what would happen if the Joker stopped playing around? No longer seen as some kind of twisted friendship, Batman has finally become something that the Joker can no longer stand – someone he finally hates. This arc becomes somewhat of a second act to “Death of the Family”, where the Joker was acting out of some form of love by removing the things he viewed as making Batman weak. He is now plainly trying to remove Batman out of the equation forever. This Joker has become truly terrifying.

Snyder and Capulo have capitalised on the fear people have for the Joker before, but not like this. This issue highlights how this arc has become a city wide horror story, where a legion of Joker zombies are hunting down Batman thanks to an airborne version of the Joker gas. The scenes echo classic zombie movie tropes and it is always fun to see Batman move through a story that feels more at home in the horror genre.

Enough about mood and themes, lets talk about the two big developments this issue. Firstly, Batman’s investigation into the Joker suggests that he may belong to the same kind of villainy that Vandal Savage and Ra’s Al Ghul inhabit, and there may be historical evidence to back it up. This is a fascinating development, as it ties in brilliantly with the Joker over the years who should have died, but keeps bouncing back. The best part of this revelation is that in true Joker fashion, there really isn’t any definitive answer to that allegation – at least not yet. It echoes the multi-choice origin from the Killing Joke, and I think it would certainly add layers to the character if it was never substantiated.

Secondly, and this is the big one, Batman turns to the Court of Owls for help in an incredible cliffhanger. This is brilliant as it ties together their run on Batman nicely. Too many comics seem to have an amnesia for whatever small events that preceded it, so it is refreshing for Snyder and Capullo to really make this story seem like it was built from the beginning. “Court of the Owls” was a fantastic visual showcase for Capullo, and I look forward to seeing what else he brings to the table in the remaining issues of “Endgame”.

Like I said, I’m having a hard time trying not to gush over these turn of events. Really, all I can say is that I cannot wait for what happens next. February 25th cannot come soon enough.

Daredevil TV Series Trailer: Watch It Here

It’s not long until April 10th. I have to keep telling myself that.

So what do you think? Looking good?

50-Word Review: Star Wars #1

starwars-issue1Huge expectations surrounded this series re-launch and to a large extent they are met. Set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Aaron’s story deftly recreates the atmospherics of those movies whilst providing a new and interesting storyline. Cassaday’s art also ensures this series is a keeper.


Tales of Suspense 61: The Death of Tony Stark

Grab of the Week is a regular column where we feature an old comic we’ve picked up ourselves or you’ve sent us your own example.

If you’d like to have your old issue featured, just send us the pic via our website, Facebook page or Twitter account.


Tales of Suspense 61 was the January 1965 issue and it has it all. A Jack Kirby cover, Stan Lee story and Don Heck pencils. The story is called ‘The Death of Tony Stark’ and it follows that Iron Man is front and centre, with Pepper Potts playing a key role alongside Happy Hogan as well. Then there’s Captain America.

If you own or have read this issue, post your thoughts in comments!

Fantastic Four Trailer: Watch It Here

Like a lot of people I’m not trying to get my hopes up too much about the new Fantastic Four movie being released in August. That said, the trailer just released does give me some hope that it’s going to be a decent version and definitely a step up from previous attempts to capture the team:

What do you think?