50-Word Review: Archie #1

archieArchie and friends are iconic and a reboot to the modern day could have been an utter disaster.

The result is actually the opposite: a totally entertaining, plausible story line that keeps the best aspects of the original without making it seemed forced.

A title that will be a stayer.

Headspace TP Released Next Week

Headspace_Full_pdf__page_1_of_70_Regular readers will know I’m an unadulterated fan of this series (check our review of issues 1-5 here).

So I’m pleased to hear that a trade paperback of the 8-issue series from IDW is hitting shelves on the 29th April. I’ve had a quick look through the TP and it doesn’t disappoint.

Check out the IDW website next week for more details.

Review: Usagi Yojimbo Senso #6

24907Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story. Well, actually, it’s kinda one of those.

(Warning. This review is from a long-time Usagi Yojimbo fan. He tried to keep a lid on it. He really did.)

Stan Sakai is back after a break from looking after his sick wife, with a superb Usagi Yojimbo story. We have come to expect over the 30 years (!) Stan has been crafting Usagi stories, particular styles of stories from the master. Not so much predictable or formulated, as a welcome dip into a familiar world carefully crafted with long term appeal. Senso (War) has introduced something we don’t get to see so much in the world of Usagi.

Something unexpected: an outright WTF!

Because the way the story was developing, as much sheer fun as it was to read, the question in the back of my mind was, This Changes Everything! And I mean in a B.P.R.D. monsters now rule the world kind of way! He’s gone down a path that is impossible to back out of, without turning it in to a hoax story of some kind.

(Spoilers ahead)

Senso starts out with a battle scene between Lord Hijiki and an adult Lord Nobiyuki, so most of issue 1 reads like a welcome return to the world of Usagi after a long break. Then things get weird. Senso has read like a ‘Usagi: The End’ story, with familiar faces meeting their deaths in glorious battle. But this is all against the backdrop of the story being invaded by The War of the Worlds. Everyone in Usagi world now faces survival against the seemingly indestructible tripods of the alien invaders. Gen, Jei, Chizu, the Komori Ninja clan, all die. Even the evil Lord Hebi, faced with the depths of Lord Hijiki’s evil, dies a noble death. It looks like no-one is getting out of this story alive!

Amid the carnage, Usagi snatched a moment with Tomoe in a very Japanese exchange regarding what ‘could have been’, and the price of honour in the face of feelings for each other.

So, when faced with a larger-than-life threat to everything in Japan, even in anthropomorphic feudal Japan, there’s only one way to respond. Jump in to a giant robot suit and go toe-to-toe with the enemy. Enter…Usagi Gundam! It just keeps getting better – issue 6 is a glorious homage to every Japanese monster movie. It’s East vs West in a funny animal comic, and Usagi was enjoying every minute of it! Well, until everything crashed down after immense property damage to Edo, but that’s to be expected.

Oh, and Usagi dies. Did I mention that this wasn’t a hoax story? Or a dream? Or an imaginary story? Well, here’s the final twist. This isn’t a Usagi Yojimbo story. It’s a Space Usagi story! How does that work out? I won’t give everything away, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. Needless to say, Stan Sakai has returned to Usagi Yojimbo in style. He has mixed everything we have come to expect with some thoroughly enjoyable liberties, and tied it all up with everything making perfect sense and all is well again in Usagi world.

I’m very much looking forward to the re-launch of Usagi Yojimbo, and maybe even a few more WTF moments too.

50-Word Review: Deadly Class #10

Releases___Deadly_Class__10___Image_ComicsI don’t read comics for laughs, expecially Deadly Class. Issue #10 keeps a frenetic pace, but still manages to add a scene that had me laughing big time. It’s not all laughs though and again I’m hanging for the next instalment.

More than a must-read.


Review: Red Baron Book 2 – Rain of Blood


Red Baron Book 2 Rain of Blood By Pierre Veys and Carlos Puerta Published by Cinebook

Warning: Review with major spoilers

Red Baron on first impression is an engrossing visual feast. And that first impression never goes away.   The immediate standout feature of this series is the lush artwork by Carlos Puerta. At times, especially when detailing locations, the artwork showcases a photo-realistic level of detail. This eye for detail remains constant, even when rendering motion blur in action shots for heightened visual drama. It’s all the more remarkable as the graphic narrative is entirely free from sound effects, freeing up each panel from clutter and drawing in the eye with mesmerising sweeps, whether it be aerial shots over landscape, or a boxing match.

This book doesn’t entirely fail at reading like a slideshow, which is an easy pitfall for a sequence of panels that are pretty much frameable in their own right, but for the most part it’s not an issue. The ultra-thin gutters are precision separators of the panels, and add to filling the page, making each page a visual pool to drown in. It certainly helps that the books are being published in the larger European volume-size editions.

Which brings me to the second impression reading this series: the balance of picture and words. There’s a sparseness of words that, together with the freedom from sound-effects, lead to a very modern feel to the book (it’s an English translation of a 2013 comic, so it is actually a very modern comic, unlike many other Cinebook translations). The similarity however ends there. I tend to feel a bit empty after reading many ‘modern’ comics that seem tailored more for tablet readers than anything else. Here there is an intriguing story at work, using an economy of words that drives the artwork along – there is a sense of satisfaction after having read a volume.

And so we come to the second volume of the series. In Book 1: The Machine Gunners’ Ball, we are introduced to Manfred von Richthofen a.k.a. The Red Baron. This story could easily have been a straight historical war story and been none the poorer for it, but in this fictional account, we are introduced to a plausible fictional rationale for the Red Baron’s aerial success. It turns out that Manfred is in possession of a ‘supernatural’ sense, not unlike a mutant power, that acts like a Spider-sense and involves a low-grade telepathy as well. Manfred can sense danger, can read the intentions of an enemy pilot, and so can anticipate actions and counter them. This gives him a ‘supernatural’ advantage, not just in the air, but in any form of combat as we find out in the boxing match at the end of this volume. There’s certainly no attempt to turn this into a post-human manifesto – Manfred just accepts this as something to take advantage of in his own sadistic way.

In Book 2, Manfred struggles to learn the art of flying a plane, rather than being a gunner and relying upon other pilots as he had been forced to do until now. In this he is as human as the rest of us. The heart of the story is essentially Manfred’s will – he is a dashing figure with a sadistic streak, not unlike Jaime Lannister. The comic drives this paradox of brutality lying at the heart of civilisation using both the character study of the Red Baron and in visual cues throughout the story. A particularly striking example is the cut between a plane shot down by Manfred in a nosedived upright position, and an upright flute glass of champagne and bottle at the social gathering for the pilots after the event.   Manfred has no illusions about it, and for him, there is no conflict. His reflection, after downing an enemy pilot in a particularly cold manner is “I have but one desire – to start all over again!”

At the start of Book 2, in an infirmary when being treated for a self-inflicted wound after a dog-fight, Manfred is informed that he has also received a bullet-wound from the enemy pilot, as his flight jacket has been shot up at the shoulder. Manfred remarks, hand on heart, “Hell…I didn’t feel a thing.” Significant, as the shoulder-wound wasn’t near his heart. He feels nothing like remorse for his enemies but does go on to feel the barbaric lust of combat. For him it’s the ‘indescribable pleasure’ of inflicting death upon people which he sums up eloquently in the opening scene of Book 1:

“For me there is nothing better in the world. War is a fabulous thing!”

There are two things to look forward to as the series progresses. First, how much more we learn about Manfred’s ‘supernatural’ power, and the cruel use he will put it to, and second, the wait for the Fokker tri-plane, the Red Baron’s signature aircraft.  I’m drooling in anticipation over Carlos Puerta’s visual depictions of the classic Red Baron in action. The story so far is reading like the origin of the Red Baron, with marvellous visuals over Ostund, Champagne, Verdun and Luxembourg in Book 2 alone.

I am a sucker for fine European comics. And war stories. So Red Baron is another fine series to add to the already impressive output by Cinebooks.

IDW Releases Disney Monthly Titles

Pree release below in full. I can see this going starkly one way or the other – they’ll sell gangbusters or flop spectacularly based on the remaining level of public interest in these characters. I like that the legacy numbering will be maintained inside the issues at least. The Artist’s edition will be interesting to see.
IDW Debuts Collection of Disney Comics 
Starting This April
Multi-tiered Publishing Plan Brings Classic Characters 
To New Audiences

San Diego, CA (January 22, 2015) – IDW Publishing is proud to announce that they will debut a new collection of Disney Comics beginning in March 2015 with the publication of Don Rosa’s Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Artist’s Edition, followed by four extra-length comic series launches in April, May, June, and July.

April sees the debut of Uncle Scrooge #1, which will feature the best tales from creators around the world starring the iconic tycoon adventurer. Donald Duck #1 launches in May, Mickey Mouse #1 in June, and in July, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories will maintain the original numbering and launch with #721 as the first IDW issue.

“The chance to bring Disney comics to fans, both old and new, is a fantastic opportunity,” said IDW editor Sarah Gaydos. “We cannot wait to get these into the hands of readers!”

All four premiere issues will offer 48 pages of content for $3.99, with subsequent issues offering 40 pages per issue for that same cover price.

“It’s the best bargain in the business,” said IDW archival editor David Gerstein. “No wonder it’s attracted Scrooge McDuck! And we’ll be attracting a big following, too—with stories by epic talents like Romano Scarpa, Daan Jippes, Casty, Giorgio Cavazzano, and Al Taliaferro.”

Each issue will feature two regular covers, as well as a unique cover that places the characters in different environments that feature theme park attractions—including April’s Adventureland-themed cover—and other very familiar settings and costumes. If you aren’t already an avid collector, you will be! Some examples of what fans can expect to see are:

April 2015 – Adventureland

  • Uncle Scrooge #1 (48p)

May 2015  Tomorrowland

  • Uncle Scrooge #2 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #1 (48p)

June 2015 – So special we cannot tell you yet!

  • Uncle Scrooge #3 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #2 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #1 (48p)

July 2015 – Fantasyland

  • Uncle Scrooge #4 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #3 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #2 (40p)
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #721 (48p)

August 2015 – EPCOT Center

  • Uncle Scrooge #5 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #4 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #3 (40p)
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #722 (40p)
  • Uncle Scrooge TPB, Vol. 1

September 2015 – Frontierland

  • Uncle Scrooge #6 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #5 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #4 (40p)
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #723 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse TPB, Vol. 1

October 2015 – Haunted Mansion

  • Uncle Scrooge #7 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #6 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #5 (40p)
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #724 (40p)
  • Donald Duck TPB, Vol. 1

November 2015 – Toontown

  • Uncle Scrooge #8 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #7 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #6 (40p)
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #725 (40p)
  • Uncle Scrooge TPB, Vol. 2
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories TPB, Vol. 1

December 2015 – Top Secret!

  • Uncle Scrooge #9 (40p)
  • Donald Duck #8 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse #7 (40p)
  • Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #726 (40p)
  • Mickey Mouse TPB Vol 2

The new IDW titles including Donald, Mickey, and Scrooge will be #1s, but will continue their classic legacy number inside the issues.

In addition to the monthly comics released in print, IDW will also be bringing Disney Comics into new territories with Micro Comic Fun Packs, and subsequent Artist’s Editions, too. Details on titles and release schedules will follow.

Image Goes Mail Order

12_Issue_Subscriptions_–_Image_DirectWell here’s a bit of news I didn’t expect. Image Comics have gotten themselves into the direct subscription and mail order business big-time, offering dozen of titles with multi-title discounts of up to 35%.

However don’t get excited at this stage if you live anywhere but the USA – they only ship to continental US although they’re inviting feedback from the rest of us to gauge interest in expanding the service.

On the face of it I like what I see. Hell, those of you with cash to throw around can even subscribe to all titles on offer for subscription as a bundle. So currently, for US $1117.99 (usually $1719.36 if the 35% discount isn’t applied) you can get all 42 titles on offer for 12-months.

Price-wise, if you’re subscribing to multiple titles I can see it being cost-efficient, although that assumes everything you want to subscribe to you’ll love for at least 12 months. For those who like to sample titles off a shelf or who like to change their pull lists every month or two will find this offering less appealing.

CBR have some exclusive details as well on the announcement, so go have a read.

Over to you: is this a service you’re likely to take up if it’s ever offered in your country / location?

Headspace To Be Released In Print



IDW’s press release immediately below. For those interested, here’s our review of the Headspace series to date.

‘Headspace,’ Originally Appearing Digitally From Monkeybrain Inc., Is Making Its Way Into Reader’s Hands, (And Their Heads) This April!

San Diego, CA (January 13th, 2015) – The thrilling and complex tale of a town that discovers their own terrible reality becomes even more frightening when the Sheriff of Carpenter Cove discovers whose mind he and his neighbors now reside in. “Headspace is a comic made by true craftsmen at the top of their game and the result is one hell of a trip,” says Paul Allor (G.I. JoeTMNT)  “Great characters, amazing art, and a central mystery that I actually care about. I have no idea where it’s going, but I’m in for the ride

From breakout creators Ryan K. Lindsay (CMKY) and Eric Zawadzki (Last Born), Headspace delivers twists and turns that will make any fan of suspense squirm!

“Headspace is a personal tale Eric and I started kicking around over two years ago,” said series writer Ryan K. Lindsay, “It’s been an honor to have it digitally distributed by Monkeybrain Comics, and to be able to bring in amazing talent like Sebastian Piriz, Marissa Louise, Chris Peterson, Chris Kosek, and Dan Hill in various guises has been a collaborative blast. Having the collection now through IDW is so, so cool and I feel the emotional core of the book is strong enough to shine through the Philip K. Dick insanity in a John Carpenterflick tone we were going for. This tale of a sheriff fighting his way out of a killer’s mind is full of high concept right next to the emotional lows.”

Look for the collection in stores this April, and remember you can get any of the acclaimed Monkeybrain titles in print from IDW at your local comic shop.

50-Word Review: Deadly Class #9

DeadlyClass_09-1This title’s been personal for Rick Remender and from reading the letters pages it’s personal for many others as well.

Issue #9 continues the dark and very violent story that never lets its grip loosen. Craig and Loughridge’s art remains brilliant. Still a must read in my books.


Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth – Kirby Artist’s Edition


Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth 
Like You’ve Never Seen Him!
The Jack Kirby Artist’s Edition Library Adds Essential Series

San Diego, CA (January 9, 2015) – Of all Jack Kirby’s celebrated DC Comics creations, perhaps none has struck such an enduring chord with readers as his post-apocalyptic adventure Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Now, to the delight of fans far and wide, this much-anticipated series joins the esteemed ranks of Jack “King” Kirby’s Artist’s Editions!

Long after the age of super heroes, Kamandi triumphed as humanity’s last beacon in a world ruled by beasts. Traveling the remnants of civilization after a great disaster, the Last Boy on Earth found both friends and foes among the irradiated animal kingdom that now inhabited the world. Written and drawn by Kirby, the series was unique to comics and completely unlike anything else readers had seen.

“To me personally, Jack Kirby is the greatest creator in the history of comic-book storytelling, period,” said Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman. “At the age of ten, Kamandi was my all-time favorite character, and now, at the age of fifty-two, he still is. This series was the reason I decided to dedicate my life to comics, hoping and dreaming if I worked hard, I could try to follow in Kirby’s giant footsteps.”

This enthralling Artist’s Edition features some of the most influential complete issues from the revered series, including issues 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 9, along with additional covers and other bonus material. At 160 pages and measuring 12” by 17,” this Artist’s Edition will amaze and delight fans this May!