Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Webstore now closed till 2011

Folks, the Proud Lion webstore is now closed till the New Year.

Any current orders will be completed as soon as possible.

Thank you for your custom in 2010.

The shop will remain open till Christmas Eve at 4pm. Between Christmas and New Year's, we are open on Wednesday 29h and Thursday 30th.

We will then re-open for 2011 on Tuesday 4th January.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

New Beginnings - Lady Mechanika #1

Lady Mechanika is the comic offspring of Sleepy Hollow wining and dining Steamboy then embarking on an illicit affair.

Set in the turn of the century, Lady Mechanika is Joe Benitez’s newest creation to fill the appetites of steampunk fans everywhere. Not only created, but written and drawn by Benitez; you can feel the heart and organs in the issue, not just the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the pages.


The story opens with an unknown character on the run from well armed assailants who have only one thing on their minds - capture, dead or alive. All the way through there is an internal monologue, adding to the tense nature and state of confusion being suffered. Her pursuit leads us to the city of Mechanika much to the annoyance of a somewhat stereotyped Nazi-esque bad girl.


Our strangers’ arrival in the city sparks a lot of interest, including that of our heroine, who all want to know more. Lady Mechanika's own past appears to echo this new situation, though sadly I missed the zero issue that elaborated on this.

Mechanika herself was apparently found in an amnesiac state amongst a plethora of bodies, parts and corpses having also had her limbs removed and replaced with mechanical ones. Understandably she wants to find out more about this new stray and potentially her own background as well - and thus begins “Lady Mechanika in the Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse”, almost like the opening of a blockbuster film. Did I mention that she’s a private detective too?

There are plenty of clichés and casual conveniences throughout, but the occasional cheese is so easily forgotten because it is simply beautiful, new and different. As an indy comic it doesn’t need to conform to the conventions of Marvel or DC and I’m glad it hasn’t even tried. Not being part of the norm means that it can appeal to its own specific audience and not simply the masses, or have to be 'appropriate' for all comers.

The art work is pin up and risqué, with some great line work and the colouring is suitably muted creating a fantastic mood. In fact the only the only brightness is used to highlight the innocence of youth in one character. A lovely touch in itself.


My advice is forget the need for mainstream. Go out, visit Proud Lion, smile and ask Ben nicely to let you buy this (and order issue zero at the same time). Then smile childishly all the way home and treat yourself to this comic. It is and will be worth it and not just for the recipes in the back! Yes, you read that correctly - recipes!

Matt Puddy is risqué baker. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Watcher - Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy opens with an introduction to a loving father telling a story to his son about his time in "the Grid". I enjoyed the ‘real’ world aspects of the movie like Sam’s family life with his grandparents and a constantly working father. Kevin Flynn then disappears, never to return, leaving poor Sam alone. Sam grows up but is still running away from the reality of his father leaving him.

Sam has fun with Encom, trying to keep his father’s beliefs alive while the company is being run in his absence. There are a couple of nods to the original film, including revisiting some classic lines and the son of Ed Dillinger - a cameo appearance by Cillian Murphy, apparently setting up a third film.


Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) returns to visit Sam and inform him of a page which originated from Flynn's Arcade. This leads Sam curiously back to the place where his father used to reside.

Once Sam is digitized into his father’s world, we hit the 3D action. This is where things come alive as we see brilliantly vibrant colours against a dark world. Starting with the disc battles and then moving onto the lightcycles, both of which are amazing to watch and have been updated from the original. I would also like to mention Daft Punk's soundtrack as it greatly enhances the beats of the action sequences.


The story then tries to take shape; Flynn’s digital world is changing, he is in seclusion and we meet Quorra who is the last of a unique set of programs. Clu - who was Flynn’s prime creation - is now in control and has a clichéd master plan to rule the world! I never quite get sucked into the story, but somehow I feel like that’s not what Disney were aiming for.

That said I do like the opaque style during the story flashbacks and Jeff Bridges' performance is excellent in his dual roles (just don’t mention the annoyingly odd CG on Clu). Micheal Sheen is entertaining as the flamboyant and extravagant Caster; Garett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde also do a reasonable job in their respective roles. I particularly like the fact that Quorra is rather naive and wide eyed but at the same time sexy and can kick butt!

There were a few things in the movie which irritated me slightly; plot points which were ether blatantly obvious or completely mystifying. For instance a custom lightcycle made by Flynn, fastest on the grid? Yeah, Sam’s going to be using that! Also why didn’t Flynn use his powers earlier and what is with Tron’s story? Oh and "biodigital jazz".

A feeling of nostalgia washes over me, I did enjoy the movie but overall I think it lacks the soul of the original and did not live up to my own hype. Ultimately watch the movie for its stunning visual style and some truly brilliant action sequences but don't go for a clear and deep story.

Stefan Harkins is working on composing some biodigital rap metal. Scared? You will be.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

New Beginnings - Heroes for Hire #1

Fresh from the final issue of Shadowland, we have issue #1 of the latest incarnation of Heroes for Hire.


Originally published in the late 70’s when Luke Cage and Iron Fist teamed up, Heroes for Hire has gone through various team rosters. The newest cohort is virtually straight from the pages of Shadowland. For those who haven’t been following that story, this gives you: Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, The Punisher, Moon Knight, Black Widow, Misty Knight, Paladin, Falcon, Silver Sable and Elektra.

Two things immediately spring to mind for me. Firstly, can you have a Heroes for Hire without the Luke Cage? Secondly, this is a massive roster for a relatively small offering, especially considering that at least two of the “squad” are doubling up with the Secret Avengers and others are notorious for working solo.

The former is answered very quickly as Abnett and Lanning have stamped their own mark on it to ensure you don’t need Cage in there, however I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed his face at some point regardless of Thunderbolts and/or Avenger commitments.


The latter however I am still very conflicted over. The cover was beautifully aggressive and vibrant featuring Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, Elektra, Moon Knight and Punisher all champing at the bit for action, only half of the full roster. Imagine my disappointment when the first issue betrayed my excitement by not having all the cover stars inside.

The other predicament was that the issue just had too much by the way of hero. The premise of a new narcotic and greed is an oldie but a goody. Sadly the constant chopping and changing from the handler to the different heroes became dull as if they had simply been used and discarded. There was no emotional attachment to characters I wasn’t overly familiar with. A couple of points did pique my interest, such as the silent Paladin, but this was my interest in the person and not really the story.


A saving grace is that amongst all the action and direction shifts, the artwork behind it is great. Full of colour - even the lettering for extra emphasis - it’s a credit to inker Jay David Ramos’s good work. If the art hadn’t been strong enough I don’t think the story would have held up. It is only the final pages of the story that had the extra save for me, as the twist was one that gave me a head tilt.

The extra inclusion of the Heroes For Hire history was interesting but not enough. It is frustrating to see a title with so much potentially that failed to deliver for me. I may pick it up again in the future but it will be cautiously and when the dust has finally settled leaving the group to establish their own roots.

Matt Puddy likes his heroes to be team players and not agency temps. True story.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Watcher - Monsters

Monsters is a film shot, directed and written by Gareth Edwards. Created on a shoestring budget with a small crew, but it doesn’t show at all!

A fresh face on the Hollywood scene, Edwards started off as a CG visual FX technician and always wanted to make a ‘monster’ movie of his own. He won the Sci-Fi London’s 48-Hour Film Challenge in 2008, which already shows the building blocks of his style and his first steps towards making Monsters.



The basis of the movie is that a NASA space probe has crash landed in America bringing with it alien life forms. Six years later there is a massive section of land between the United States and Mexico sectioned off as ‘infected’. We have giant squid-like creatures roaming the land and the armed forces trying to stop them doing damage, but as always causing some themselves.


Right from the start of the movie (which has a slight Cloverfield feel), we get glimpses of the monsters in the midst of army grunts and gunfire all displayed in night vision. This changes quickly when morning comes; we are hit with the after effects all this is having on Mexico and its citizens.

The two main players of the movie are unwittingly thrown together. One is a journalist who just wants to get some good shots and get paid. The other is the boss’s daughter who he has been assigned to collect and look after.

Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy who play the leads do so brilliantly; they are really the only actors in the movie, Edwards decided to cast all other roles with extras that he met during travels across the country. This gives the movie and its characters’ journey a more natural feel. Adding to this is the fact that Able and McNairy were actually a couple during filming and are now married!

The movie focuses more on these characters and what happens to them, their relationship and keeps the science fiction to the background. The monsters themselves just feel like new wildlife learning and stumbling through our lives. I found their use of light very interesting. I was not sure whether they used it for feeding or communicating - or were they just attracted to it?

Watch out for some brilliantly shot scenes involving the appearance of a fin in the water and later the shocking aftermath of a real hurricane as our characters enter the US.


“I tell you what I've learned on this film: you can make a movie for nothing. You can make a film for 10 grand, 10 million, whatever you want.” Gareth Edwards

I wish more directors/producers would learn from this. We would then have fewer movies like Transformers 2 and more like Monsters! When it comes to Gareth Edwards, definitely watch this space in the future!

Stefan Harkins would like to thank Cineworld, Cheltenham for making review possible..

Monday, 6 December 2010

Bite Sized Morsels - The Prowling The Savannah Digest

Here's what you might have missed last week:

We kicked off the week with a look at the recent preview event for the forthcoming Tron: Legacy, which opens in cinema on 17th December 2010.

On Thursday, Matt took a look at two other titles from the Bat-family with new beginnings - the now sold out detective Comics #871 (second printings coming soon) and Batwoman #0, the teaser issue for the new ongoing series launching next year.

More news on Friday, including the controversy surrounding The Walking Dead, series two and the initial batch of titles announced for Free Comic Book Day.

We also unveiled our opening times for the festive season...

...and announced the awesome Christmas raffle we're running this year! Stop by and grab a few tickets. Be lucky!

Stick around folks, we're just getting warmed up.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Christmas Raffle!

Those of you who follow Proud Lion's Facebook page, you may have seen my recent attempt to sell my silver Iron Man helmet on eBay for charity. 50% of the proceeds would have gone to Winston's Wish. Sadly, it didn't sell - perhaps due to the high starting price. Frankly though, we need to raise a certain amount to cover costs. After all, the helmet has an RRP $349 (plus sales tax) or £300 including VAT.

So rather than relist it on eBay, I have decided to raffle the helmet instead!

Tickets go on sale today. They are £1.00 each. 50 pence of the proceeds will go to Winston's Wish. And with every ticket purchased you get a free comic of your choice from the 50p box! You can of course increase your chances of winning by buying multiple tickets!

The aim is to sell 150 tickets or more. If we manage this by Saturday 8th January 2011, then I will do the draw at the close of business for the following superb prizes.


FIRST PRIZE
the silver Iron Man helmet

SECOND PRIZE
set of four Blackest Night figures
(Nekron, Black Lantern Batman, Black Lantern Deadman and Black Lantern Hawkman)

THIRD PRIZE
two Blackest Night figures
(Nekron and Black Lantern Batman)

TEN RUNNERS UP PRIZES
a comic book pack from the box

If we don't sell 150 or more by this point, I'll either extend the deadline (if we're nearly at our target) or do a single draw for the prize fund collected thus far (ie - if we sell only 75 tickets, that's a prize fund of 75 x 50p = £37.50).

Tickets are on sale today. You can enter multiple times and each £1 ticket includes a donation to Winston's Wish and a 50p comic. Not too shabby.

Friday, 3 December 2010

FACT x IMPORTANCE = NEWS

A little later than planned but here it is, the best in TV, film, gaming and comic book news from across sci-fi, fantasy and more.


RETURN OF THE STEWIE
Following on from our preview of the new Family Guy Star Wars spoof a few week ago, here's a new and somewhat funnier trailer.



RELENTLESS ONSLAUGHT
I have been reading comic since the Eighties, but it really kicked in to high gear in the Nineties when I found an American comic shop and some friends who also read US comics. One of the first storyarcs I read was the sprawling Onslaught saga that engulfed the entire Marvel Universe. You may complain about recent crossovers, but they have been a bargain compared to the financial commitment required to read the whole Onslaught story.

Despite that, I still have a misplaced sense of affection towards Onslaught. A few years back, Marvel released Onslaught Reborn, which was a crushing disappointment. Now they're bringing the super villain back once again in the forthcoming Onslaught Unleashed. I have to hope this is better than the last one! The miniseries writer, Sean McKeever, spoke to Newsarama this week.

In other news, Marvel announced that the video game tie-in to the new Thor will be voiced by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively.


SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD
Series one of AMC's The Walking Dead comes to an end this weekend but this week has been dogged by petty drama behind the scenes.

Deadline.com ran a story earlier this week saying that Frank Darabont has basically fired all of the writers from the first season and is planning to use only freelancers for season two.


Talking to TVGuide.com today, Robert Kirkman tried to clarify the situation, "It's kind of unfortunate that it's being reported that our writing staff has been fired because that's not the case. It makes Frank look bad. I don't think Frank wants it out there that he's just firing people off of a successful show seemingly for no reason."

Among the writers apparently let go is Chic Eglee, who was set to be the showrunner for series two if Darabont had left as originally planned. Eglee's previous credits include Dexter, Dark Angel and The Shield. "Chic didn't want to be second-in-command on a show when he's used to being a top dog," explained Kirkman. "And so he decided to go off and do something else, which is something that happens and is not a big deal."

AMC would only confirm that there will be some changes behind the scenes before pre-production begins on the second season.


THE JOKE"S ON YOU
Another production causing controversy was The Dark Knight Rises. Earlier this week it was reported that Chris Nolan would be using cutting room floor footage of Heath Ledger and CGI to put a Joker cameo into the third film. Today Hollywood Reporter carried a story quashing those rumours, after they spoke to Nolan and his wife/producer Emma Thomas at an awards season party for Inception. Which is a bit of a shame really, I think that's something I would've liked to see.


GOING FOR GOLD
Finally this week, Diamond have announced the Gold Sponsor Books for next year's Free Comic Book Day. Titles from Dark Horse, DC, Marvel, Image and others have been revealed - or in the case of DC, teased over at the Free Comic Book Day website. Free Comic Book Day 2011 will be on Saturday 7th May.


Ben Fardon loves Free Comic Book Day, but is struggling to find his Christmas spirit.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

New Beginnings Double Bill - Detective Comics #871 & Batwoman #0

This week, following on from the last review of Batman Inc. and Batman: The Return, Batwoman and Detective Comics #871 take a turn.


Batwoman is a zero issue preparing the way for the new series as written by Williams and Blackman. Whilst it is not branded as a Batman Incorporated title, it quite clearly is part of the bigger picture, or at least will be.

Interestingly the issue presents both a live and retrospective view at the same time, with the care and effort having been taken to make the look and feel of both aspects different. The use of different artists and inkers is an obvious example of this.


The issue is also unique, as it portrays an intelligent and well-trained main character who in this issue does not utter a single word. This is all about learning who Batwoman is from a third party with the luxury of being given the full narrative too. It is of course Bruce’s take on all of this that helps the reader along the way. It also demonstrates the lengths he’s willing to go.

All of this helps to make it a good introduction into the new beginning.

Now I’m not a Batwoman fan myself, but having come across her in the pages of 52 I knew who she was and where she came from, however I can honestly say that this was handy but not a necessary insight to have. Through Bruce’s deductions, this issue explores what has moulded Kate Kane into the masked crusader she is and - if you read between the lines - also shares some more of his mindset.

My criticism of it all though is the length. I felt a little cheated when reading through it that I got literally half way through the comic, the staples were a dead giveaway here, to find it was over. To be continued. The remainder of the issue was simply adverts and teasers. Somewhat unfair on the reader no matter how much of a fan.


Detective Comics #871 is also another new beginning, welcoming up-and-coming writer Scott Snyder. Retaining the mantle of Batman, we see Dick Grayson now having to live up to more of Bruce’s expectations as well as that of the surrounding world. Alfred was also a scene stealer with his insightful and poignant observations of Dick’s limitations and how he should acclimatise to his new position.

One of the other things I have really liked about the issue is the inking by David Baron. Each different section is given an inherent feeling simply by the wash of colour the background has. This has been enabled Jock’s artwork. Its backgrounds are non-descript and even empty, leaving the canvas free for Baron to work his magic. To the contrary the artistry in the foreground is full of fine tight linework but only to the extent of what is needed and not simply artwork for its own sake. The combination works very well together and gives a strange feeling of quiet, almost whispered interactions throughout the story.

The story itself opens with a mystery, as any good detective plot should and therefore holds the underlying theme of the title itself. Having never read Detective Comics before, it was nice that I was given a mystery and led through the initial steps of solving it too. I even found myself taking guesses at the possible culprits, only to then be left counter-guessing myself again later. A good story touch I felt. Even when it provides you with only the name of the possible villain behind this all, you are still questioning the evidence.


Something that I liked further was the way in which it didn’t have any involvement from Bruce. The occasional reference was the only indication but apart from that this title is all about Grayson, a chance for him to really strike out on his own again, reminiscent of his time as Nightwing. It also allowed his relationship with Commissioner Gordon to grow which is bound to prove invaluable in the future. I especially liked the nod towards change in Gordon’s comment about having to get used to Batman now being there, “...when I look back up.”

Without wishing to rave too much about it, Detective Comics #851 is a good strong entry for Snyder as his first foray into the series. I would hope that for long term readers it is on par with his predecessors, but as I have no knowledge of them all I can say is that this was a great start and well worth a read.

Matt Puddy will be pleased to know that he'll get a chance to review something from Marvel next week!

Christmas Opening Times 2010

Subject to change, here are the opening times for the festive period. If you like the artwork, it comes from the Larfleeze Christmas Special, on sale Thursday 23rd December in the UK.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Watcher - Tron: Legacy, 23 Minute Preview

Being a sucker for spoilers, I was quite happy to travel to a different city for a free 23 minute preview of the new Tron movie. Even friends scoffing at me couldn’t dampen my mood. Upon arrival at screening we went straight for the VIP seats - what the hell, it was a free screening and we were going to take advantage!


We start with a very Eighties-style text introduction along with a short premise; Kevin Flynn has turned his experiences inside the Grid into a popular videogame – Tron. But at the height of his fame and power as head of Encom, he disappears which leaves his son Sam to grow up all alone.

Our first scene starts with Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) visiting Sam to inform him of a page which seemed to originate from Flynn's Arcade. This leads Sam curiously back to the place where his father used to reside.


The arcade has a nostalgic feel - anyone who has a love of classic arcade games will be delighted when Sam restores the power and all the machines jump to life, filling the room with their sound effects. Upon further exploration Sam discovers a secret room which is hiding some very strange looking equipment.

Sam is then digitised into the world of Tron where he is captured and provided with his own in game suit and data disc. The new black suits with bright coloured lines, definitely feel respectful of the original but at the same time futuristically updated.

Next we are treated to an updated disc battle. No longer are the players standing on giant rings, instead they’re within a glass room where sections vanish when hit. The 3D is spectacular, especially the derezzed opponent exploding into a mass of multi-coloured cubes.


We get a glimpse of the brilliant new Lightcycles, now fatter and open-topped, reminding me of the Batpod from The Dark Knight. A rebel program Quorra (Olivia Wilde) helps Sam get off-grid and leads him to an older, wiser-looking Kevin Flynn. He seems to be living in an iPod-styled mountain hideout which allows him to watch over the world he created.

There are large hints towards Clu 2.0 (the program version of Flynn) being the movie's main antagonist. I did find the CGI manifestation of Bridge's face somewhat creepy, but I imagine that will add to my dislike of the character.

As things draw to a close, the pace is amplified and we see shots of the silver-haired and flamboyant Michael Sheen, new vehicles and an upside down disc battle! This is brought together perfectly by the synthetic sounds of Daft Punk (along with a nice cameo).

I enjoyed the composure of the preview because they selected five scenes which are in order but not sequential. This gave a feel for the story without giving too much of it away. December 17th cannot come soon enough.



Stefan Harkins still hopes that sitting on a computer scanner will transport him into the digital world. So far, all he has is photocopies of his own bottom.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Bite Sized Morsels - The Prowling The Savannah Digest

Here's what you might have missed last week:

We started on Wednesday with a look at the latest episode of AMC's The Walking Dead, showing on FX in the UK. Vatos was written by Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead.

On Thursday, Matt Puddy gave us his opinion of the new direction of Grant Morrison's Batman storyline. Stay tuned this week, when Matt takes a look at two other titles from the Bat-family with new beginnings.

We wrapped our second rejuvenated week with another news round up - including news of the Buffy remake travesty and the trailer for the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special.

Stick around folks, we're just getting warmed up.

Friday, 26 November 2010

FACT x IMPORTANCE = NEWS

A much quieter week this week, but there are a few odd gems that stand out. Here it is, the best in TV, film, gaming and comic book news from across sci-fi, fantasy and more.


A STAKE THROUGH THE HEART
I'm sure you've heard about this already, but for the one person who just got back from Narnia, here it is again. Warner Brothers have decided to reboot Buffy The Vampire Slayer, WITHOUT the character's creator Joss Whedon.

Sadly the rights to Buffy reside with the director of the original 1992 film starring Kirsty Swanson. The studio has optioned the rights from Fran Rubel Kuzui, her husband Kaz Kuzui and Sandollar Productions. The reboot will be produced by Atlas Entertainment from script by Whit Anderson. Anderson is an actress turned screenwriter, so that'll be good (sarcasm mode off).

Kristin Dos Santos from E! Online emailed Joss Whedon for his reaction and received this beautiful (and paraphrased) email:

Kristin, I'm glad you asked for my thoughts on the announcement of Buffy the cinema film. This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can't think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.

I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill. I can, however, take this time to announce that I'm making a Batman movie. Because there's a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you.

Leave me to my pain! Sincerely, Joss Whedon.

To read the full article and email, head to E! Online.

Just to make you laugh even more, Kirsty Swanson has expressed interest in reprising the role.

Former Buffy and Angel stars documented many of their reactions on Twitter. Eliza Dusku had this to say, "Joss made the "Buffster" & w/out him... I just don't trust the girl. Or the world."

Here, here.

Finally, over on the set of Bones, creator Hart Hanson tweeted this picture of him and David Boreanaz saying, "I just informed DB that they are remaking Buffy."



WHO'S THAT COMING DOWN THE CHIMNEY?
Last Friday saw Children in Need bring us our first glimpse of A Christmas Carol, the festive episode of Doctor Who.


"Amy and Rory are trapped on a crashing space liner, and the only way The Doctor can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser, in a festive edition of the time-travelling adventure, written by Steven Moffat. But is Kazran Sardick, the richest man in Sardicktown, beyond redemption? And what is lurking in the fogs of Christmas Eve?

Amy Pond is played by Karen Gillan, Rory Williams by Arthur Darvill, The Doctor by Matt Smith and Kazran Sardick by Michael Gambon."

A Christmas Carol will transmit on December 25th, in both the UK and the USA. This will be the first time the Christmas special has been seen on the same day on both sides of the Atlantic. Great news!


JUST WHY?
To being our wrap up for this week, SFX have the first set photos from the filming of Ghost Rider 2 - though I'm struggling to care.


GOING BATTY
Following up on our early review of Batman, Inc. - Grant Morrison spoke to Comic Book Resources about the future of the new title.


GHOSTLY BOOCHIES
Kevin Smith finishes his run on Green Hornet this week. He also spoke to Comic Book Resources - all the cool kids are doing it.

Speaking of Kevin Smith, here's the teaser poster for his new, independent horror film. Something different from the Bluntman. I have high hopes. See you next week.


Ben Fardon hasn't written the word "Snoogans" in years. Thankfully, that is now remedied.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

New Beginnings Double Bill - Batman: The Return & Batman Incorporated #1

Over the past year it’s fair to say that the Batman franchise has undergone some radical changes. We've had the death of Batman, the Battle for the Cowl, the debut of a new Dynamic Duo and the Return of Bruce Wayne. As the dust settles we are now presented with Bruce’s vision for an international crime fighting organisation.

Helmed by the renowned Grant Morrison, both the one-shot (Batman: The Return) and Incorporated flow seamlessly from his previous story arcs. This is both a blessing and a curse. Morrison’s obviously seen the bigger picture - he's in a unique position to support the franchise - using his history with the Dark Knight to support the new titles having already re-invigorated the Batman title and established Batman & Robin. The link through these titles works very well, but without the one-shot in the middle, Batman Incorporated could come across as a new beginning to the casual reader. Again, perhaps that's part of the publishing strategy.


Batman: The Return is a fantastic little one-shot in more than a few ways. For me it was an immediate treat from the feel of it, even before having a proper look at David Finch’s cover image. That - together with the actual production of the issue - are smooth in conception and touch. In fact the artwork throughout is both gritty and deep; further enhanced by Batt’s inking. A lovely touch is the extra behind-the-scenes material which will further your understanding and appreciation of what a good team can provide an eager reader.


The story itself is a progression from Morrison's exit on Batman & Robin #16. It begins with an iconic but self indulgent opening, that I personally found pleasing. The piece itself builds from a typical Batman rescue - done in Bruce's own distinct style - into an interesting plot complete with new landscapes, a new adversary and a new opposing organisation. Interestingly as well it explores the dynamics of Batman and Robin - or rather the lack of rapport between Bruce and Damien. This underlines Bruce's plans to create a crime fighting corporation. A nice touch when you consider the amount of writers who are accused of creating explanatory storylines to fill plots holes. The forethought is appreciated.


Batman Incorporated, whilst still a Morrison, has a completely different feel to it. When trying to read it straight after The Return I honestly struggled with the artwork. The style, whilst not bad, is a completely contrasting affair with an almost cartoony feel to it. There are a few little touches that were nice though, such as the glossy cover which instils a new and shiny feel to it all. Sadly after the weight and feel of The Return it still left me feeling a little underwhelmed.

Reading through it, I felt more of an understanding for the story but didn't become immersed in the way a good comic should. Morrison’s ideas developed well - thanks in part to the assistance of the premise provided by the one shot - but the way in which it was presented through the pencils and ink was overwhelming camp and theatrical. For me all that was missing was the flashes of BAM! or THWOCK! and the occasional cackling of Ceasar Romero and I would have been transported to Adam West’s Batman; not the harder black and white Dark Knight I’ve come to appreciate. Even the final page was reminiscent of the old TV show. It could almost have been, “Same Bat-time, Same Bat-channel.”


I’m not saying I don’t like it, but as an opener I felt I needed a bigger hook to keep me wanting more. I want the opening issue of a new title to really provide this, despite using such established characters. Mark Millar has a gift for giving us new creative approaches to old protagonists, but here Morrison's new direction doesn't excite me yet. I have to say that I want to see more, partly from morbid curiosity and also partly from intrigue. Either way I feel that this title will become a labour of love, unless it proves itself in the next few issues.

Matt Puddy has never been caught by anyone growling "I'm Batman" in front of the mirror. Doesn't mean he doesn't though...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Watcher - The Walking Dead, series one, episode four

SPOILER ALERT!
This review is for episode four of The Walking Dead, which doesn't air in the UK till Friday 26th November.
Consider this your only warning!

AMC's The Walking Dead has been an absolute triumph so far.

Great cast, beautiful direction and scripts that - despite the post-apocalyptic setting - sparkle when appropriate and then break your heart. It has been everything I hoped and proves what I have been saying for a long time - TV is a medium that deserves more intelligent drama. Film is still considered the zenith of audio-visual storytelling, but a television series can truly develop characters and plotlines, whereas films are often left just documenting a snapshot of the characters' stories. When TV does this right, it can be incredibly sophisticated and emotionally engaging.

Episode four is the ante penultimate instalment of the first series and the first one written by the comic series creator, Robert Kirkman. By the end of the hour-long, I could see why this is his episode.


In and of itself the episode has some beautiful symmetry, bookended by the two sisters Andrea and Amy. Sometimes, foreshadowing can seem ham-fisted and trite. Here, it just served to emphasise the deeply upsetting events at the end.

The other triumph in this episode is Merle. Michael Rooker's incredible performances in the last two episodes means that he can basically sit this one out; yet Merle still looms large over proceedings. I can't help but believe that the horror at the camp at the end was wrought by Merle in a twisted act of revenge. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

If I have any criticisms, I have to say I am unsettled by the slightly cheesy idea that Jim has prophetic dreams. Still, I happy to see how this unfolds as dreaming has a fine tradition in good horror stories.

In fact, my main criticism is of the sub-plot about the gang defending the old folks' home. I actually liked it, but it seemed a little out of place and I would understand if others found it somewhat ridiculous. The idea of these guys defending the elderly makes complete sense to me, especially when you consider the cultural background these people come from, but the early tough guy stand off is at odds with their later, friendlier attitude. Again, I can understand them wanting to show teeth and make the other side back down, but threatening to toss Glenn off the top of the building seems brutally cavalier considering they are basically decent people.


Thankfully, the cast have already gelled enough to sell me this whole incident. Lincoln and co. make a compelling little unit. Jon Bernthal has also brought a compelling Shane to our screens - breathing multiple dimensions into a character I almost instantly loathed in the comics.


Even though I knew some of the characters were likely to have only a limited run on the show, I was surprised how much I have warmed to most of them (not you Ed, you creepy wife-beater - don't think I didn't miss the implication that you have other sick tastes too, good riddance). So when Kirkman began his now legendary brand of zombie justice, I genuinely felt stunned. Not even Joss Whedon is that brutal.


And Greg Nicotero's zombie effects get better and better. Wow.

Episode four. One hell of an ending.

Ben Fardon has renewed hopes the HBO decides to make a Preacher TV series. And if they don't, maybe AMC would like a sister show for The Walking Dead...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Bite Sized Morsels - The Prowling The Savannah Digest

Slowly, like a belligerent teenager who is just starting to grasp the realities of life, Prowling The Savannah is pulling its socks up. The Proud Lion blog is aiming to produce more new content to a regular schedule each week.

Here's what you might have missed last week:

The Watcher - Skyline
Wednesday saw one of our new features debut with a double hitter. The Watcher will review the best of current superhero, science fiction, fantasy and horror TV, films and more. Last week new contributor Phil Davies took a look at Skyline...

The Watcher - Misfits, series two, episode one
...and Stefan Harkins reviewed the start of the new series of E4's Misfits.

New Beginnings - Teen Titans #88
On Thursday New Beginnings returned, spotlighting the best new comics around. Whether it be an issue one, or a new jump-on point for an existing title, this weekly column will give you an honest review of any hot new issues clamouring for your attention. This week, new contributor Matt Puddy had a read of Teen Titans #88, which saw the introduction of Damian to the team.

FACT x IMPORTANCE = NEWS
Finally on Friday, another new column. My weekly look at the biggest news from comics, gaming, TV and films. Amongst other things this week, we had trailers for Green Lantern and Cowboys And Aliens.

Right, you're all caught up on our first new week of content. There's more to come this week, with new columns hoping to join the party.

Gamers rejoice, Big Game Hunting will be returning soon too, with a look at new board games and RPG or feature articles on classics or trends.

And at weekends we're hoping to launch showcase some strong opinions. Watch this space!

Friday, 19 November 2010

FACT x IMPORTANCE = NEWS

OK, time for the new (and hopefully weekly) Friday genre news round up. The best in TV, film, gaming and comic book news from across sci-fi, fantasy and more.


LUKE... I KNOW WHAT YOUR GETTING FOR CHRISTMAS, LUKE... I'VE FELT YOUR PRESENTS...
They always say, start with a joke. So here's the trailer for Family Guy's Return Of The Jedi spoof. Hopefully this will be funnier than the last one. I saw some of it at the New York Comic Con and it was really good. Check out who is playing Admiral Ackbar...




YOU DO TOO MUCH; YOU'RE NOT SUPERMAN, YOU KNOW
And so to the biggest news from Marvel this week. They are (yawn) killing off a character. Aren't we all sick of the revolving door of death in comics? Well, the small silver lining to the cloud is that it's Ultimate Spider-Man; since the recent to re-energise the Ultimate universe, they are taking bigger risks with all the characters - so I'll certainly give this a look. Marvel.com have the full story here.


RING IN THE CHANGES
DC have a few big things going on this week. First up, you surely can't have failed to see this...


Staying with Green Lantern, DC released this teaser image this week:


And finally they announced that Doomsday was coming back, starting with the Steel one-shot in January. Marvel responded with a humourous Doop teaser.


3:10 TO PLUTO


Details of Jon Favreau's new film are started to appear this week. First the poster and now the trailer:


It's a superb trailer and a great cast. I didn't much care for the comic it was based on - mainly because the art work was really flat. Favs seems to have found the heart of the concept and really made something quite fun. Cowboys And Aliens is out next year.


QUOTH THE RAVEN, `NEVERMORE.'
Finally, A Game Of Thrones fans finally got their first look at the forthcoming HBO TV series this week. EW.com had ten photos on their website, with more and a set report if you pick up the latest issue.

Ben Fardon used to hate Westerns. That changed almost ten years ago now. Damn you Joss Whedon.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

New Beginnings - Teen Titans #88


This month we have a new jump on point for Teen Titans. Now if honest, this isn’t a title I have followed in the past opting more for Marvel’s Young Avengers (stifle the groans please). Even so I have an understanding of the premise and dynamics the comic has always held or steered towards from watching it on TV a few years ago.

From the start Teen Titans #88 hits you with a bright, colourful cover which screams forward movement. It’s dynamic looking and almost bursting out of the page, if it was 3D then you would be receiving a body part in the face, which makes it an appealing title to pick up even on a whim.


The story opens with a nice ambiguous narrator which unfolds nicely towards the end of the issue without having a direct impact on the Titans. The main story is used to explore who the different Titans are and how they fit without offering a deluge of their history.


Instead it focuses on the personal dilemmas of some of the more major characters. There’s an interesting moment of weakness in Superboy when Cassie leaves an open statement about their relationship. Highlighting the destructive Ravager on the team – contrary to what the Teen Titans stand for – is also a nice touch.

Yes, knowing all of the background would help to a degree but it isn’t completely essential - the story gives enough information for anyone who wants to know to find out. The running lines then pan out far enough to tempt and tease, leaving you wanting to read more.

Looking back at the cover it gives a second insight in to the new direction. The iconic Robin figure has been missing and the honour now falls to Damien, who swaggers in with his usual juvenile arrogance. My only criticism would be that this feels inconsistent with the rest of the DC universe. Personally as I’ve not seen this yet in Batman and Robin, I felt that this was misplaced. We are still awaiting the new Batman Inc. and already they are shipping Robin into another title before the Batman bombshell has fully gone off and given a full picture.

From a visual point of view I would have to say that my other minor disappointment would be the artwork. For me, Nicola Scott’s pencil work feels a little uneven and inconsistent when portraying the characters - Superboy’s muscle and body size for example. In other parts, her work seems bland and lacking detail.

It left me feeling that Doug Hazlewood’s colouring saved it on more than one occasion, creating more depth than was actually there. However, I also have to echo my thoughts on the cover which was Scott’s work too and in doing so I’ll leave this parting shot. Read the issue, take it in and then look again at the cover. Consider what is shown and also what it not. I hope you see it too.



Matt Puddy hails from a fairly normal life. He likes TV, games, playing sport and has within the last few years found a new love for reading comics.
Always happy to try something new and is a open minded person. His new found love for American comics have come more from finding Proud Lion and starting to read more DC, Marvel and Top Cow comics (to name a few); Matt has always had a fascination with Manga, Anime (such as Naruto, Bleach and One Piece) and general Japanese culture.
Jack of many trades, master of none, happy with that. He would be more apathetic but can't bothered...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Watcher - Misfits, series two, episode one

Previously…

Freak hail, powers, murder and a mouthy Irish kid. (SAVE ME BARRY!) Oh and did I mention murder?



If you haven’t watched the first series then STOP reading this and go watch it!
We start series two of Misfits with the return of the infamous ‘super hoodie’, some scenes of love and an amazing paper airplane flight! We are also introduced to our Misfits new probation worker - Shaun, who it would seem is a little more care free than what they are used to so far.

As per usual the group is put to a menial task, at which point we are shown someone that seems to recognize Simon - a very creepy looking girl. Her name is Lucy and she seems to have a past with Simon as well a slight obsession.

Lucy gets creepier after being insulted and shunned by the gang. Well, mainly by a newly returned Nathan (whose return to the world of the living fits the character perfectly) and then we’re shown what secrets Lucy’s been hiding - her power is displayed with simple and brilliant effect that is certain to make you shudder.

She decides to take revenge by pulling some pranks on the group which involve their feelings and relationships, during which time her past is revealed, along with something which Simon has tried to keep under wraps since the last series.

The pace of the episode really starts to quicken now as our Misfits are chasing a common enemy; in addition, Simon is made to feel like he is officially part of something and actually has proper friends.


Monkeyslut is blown! Murder occurs once again and the tooled up, new and improved, ‘super hoodie’ saves the day for one misfit. Where does he get those wonderful toys?! In proper bunny-boiler style Lucy singles Simon out so she can have him all to herself. I was wonderfully surprised by the skill shown by Iwan Rheon whilst playing multi-faceted sides of Simon.

A quick break for Cornettos (surely a reference to Simon Pegg and co?), then the group commences a very clumsy removal of Simon’s secret. Kudos to Tom Green for his direction and camera work as things are portrayed brilliantly.

This series manages to perfectly balance drama/comedy throughout – one minute you are laughing to the point of tears at something Nathan’s said, the next you realise he really has honest feelings for Kelly.

I also love this episodes music, the songs of which have been listed on the official site - http://www.e4.com/misfits/series2/ep1-music.html. I hope they do this every week as it makes me want to go back through the first series and re-listen just to see what I have missed!


Stefan Harkins is also known as Harry Stamper. Amongst other things.

The Watcher - Skyline

Now, call me a fan boy, but I’m a huge Cloverfield fan. Be it the pace and intrigue of these strange attacks in NYC, or the shaky realism of the film’s look; things were just done well. OK, the story has its problems, and once you see the creature the whole film feels a little deflated, but it worked. To say Skyline took more than a few pages from that formula would be a lie. They took the lot!

Skyline is the latest outing from The Brothers Strause. Set in modern day LA, strange alien blue lights land around the city, luring out most of the human population like moths to a flame. A glace into the light will provides a hypnotic zombified attraction, with plenty of skin deformation to boot. The lights act as some kind of navigation tool, for the huge ‘Matrix-esque mother ships’ to soon arrive around our planets major cities airspace. The movie begins with the arrival of the strange craft right from the get go. Fortunately, we instantly head back half a day in the next scene, before the carnage to meet our lead characters.

Again, another 'Cloverfieldism' if you will- we see lead characters Jarrod and Elaine arrive at the less than humble abode of lifelong friend Terry. I truly found this the strongest point of the film. It was good to see the characters build up some relationship with the viewer, even though you were constantly aware of the impending doom and the unshakable feeling that Terry (Donald Faison) looks strange - all buffed out and not in doctor’s green scrubs. Lots of drinks, money, and a small domestic later, time catches up to the film’s introduction and the arrival of the less than friendly E.Ts.

But from here on in, the film falls into every apocalyptic alien invasion movie pitfall there ever was. There’s just nothing to it. I won’t give the story away, people run and scream and things get smashed up. Pan shots of major cities around the world in ruin get broadcast to string-heavy, depressive music. Unjustified and rather idiotic decisions are made by all the main characters, costing lives and taxing a viewer’s patience.

Yeah, it looks pretty. CG alien warships and dogfights look just as good as any other Hollywood blockbuster, but it just lacks heart. It’s the sort of movie you use in a TV store on a massive set, with a 7.1 surround sound system to see how cool HD can look. Or to raise the bar of Independence Day into the next decade.

There really is nothing to it. I can’t even justify it being just ‘one to watch’ because there’s so many other films on at the moment, which can bring much, much more to the table. Oh, and the ending? Worst ending in the world. FACT.

God, don’t you just love a sequel setup?

Phil Davies emerged from the harsh ghetto streets of Swansea City, aged 7. His life took him on a path to the (Gloucester)shire, where thick local accents and many ciders seemed to fuel a burning desire for videogames, cinema, music and pretty much anything else seen within 'geek' culture. He also writes for www.7outof10.co.uk www.alternativevision.co.uk, and www.efestivals.co.uk.