Monday, 28 January 2013

Tuesday 29th January 2013 - revised opening times

Apologies folks, but Proud Lion will closed for two hours mid-afternoon on Tuesday 29th January.

This should be a one-off; normal hours should resume for the rest of the week. Our childcare for Tuesdays and Wednesdays have been struck down with vomiting and diarrhoea. Always a miserable experience. Needless to say we wish their household a speedy recovery! 

I'll be leaving to do the school run at 2pm on Tuesday, with the aim being to re-open by 4pm. My partner will leave her workplace early on Wednesday to cover that day's school run, so Proud Lion shouldn't be affected after Tuesday this week.

So for the next seven days, Proud Lion's opening times are as follows:

TUESDAY: 10:00-14:00, 16:00-17:30
WEDNESDAY: 10:00-18:30
THURSDAY: 12:00-17:30 (late opening for Jan-Feb)
FRIDAY: 10:00-17:30
SATURDAY: 10:00-17:00
MONDAY: 12:00-14:00 ("Monthly Mondays")

Thank you for your understanding.

After a rather disagreeable encounter last week, I feel I must sadly remind everyone that I am self employed, and as such I don't automatically get a minimum of four weeks holiday per year, any sick pay or benefits such as paternity cover or bereavement leave.

Whilst this is what I signed up for when I decided to open my own business, I remain shocked that a minority of customers take umbrage when the realities of a human life occasionally interfere with our normal opening times.

A small business such as Proud Lion is still going strong in this horrible economic climate - and has been for almost FIVE YEARS now - in part because I haven't rushed to hire staff. I won't take on employees until I feel I can guarantee their livelihoods and mine! So please bear with me when situations like this arise - it is after all just muggins here.

Thanks again!

Friday, 25 January 2013

New Beginnings - Young Avengers #1

"Young Avengers in its first incarnation was about being sixteen. This Young Avengers is about being eighteen." Kieron Gillen

I was struggling to review Young Avengers #1. Why? The simple answer is it's very, very good. The story, the characterisation, the art, the dialogue - it aligns to make one of the best comics I've seen from Marvel in years (second only to Matt Fraction's Hawkeye).

So unless I devoted 500+ words as to why Kate Bishop clearly has the Midas Touch, I was stuck. Reviews that gush are often dull, sycophantic nonsense. Similarly though, reviews that cynically trawl for a flaw in an otherwise stunning piece of work tend to reveal the underlying bitterness of the reviewer - a failed author swiping at the more fortunate.

Then I read Gillen's editorial piece in the back, in lieu of a letter column, and the quote above helped it all click into place.

I loved Young Avengers. Introduced in the wake of Avengers Disassembled, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung brought us a book about motivated individuals who aspired to be heroes. Rooted in Avengers lore - but not confined by it - the kids were first and foremost characters rather than components of an ensemble team.

Sadly, it was dogged by delays and concluded after twelve issues and a special. After that Marvel dabbled with a few miniseries, all with different writers, agendas and decidedly mixed results, culminating in the recent Children's Crusade - featuring the return of Heinberg and Cheung, and frustratingly delayed releases.

Enter Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, the creators behind the wonderful Phonogram. Picking up the best remnants of the old team, Gillen is adding the new Miss America; his own reimagined Kid Loki from Journey Into Mystery; and Noh-Varr - who is quickly shorn of his ridiculous Protector identity and neatly ditches all the nonsense he was saddled with during AvX.

The story contains sex, confusion, defiance, magic, conflict, science fiction, heroics, horror and a loving relationship. Plus the age old struggle between adolescents who are becoming adults and parents who refuse to accept that.

The art work is deceptively simple, with clean pencil lines and neat panel layouts, coupled with a perfect use of colour akin to cel shading in my eyes. The characters are recognisable and yet completely McKelvie, which seems to be so rare in franchised comics these days. Too often a stylised artist distorts a character's look away form what makes them identifiable - particularly Ramos and Allred - or we get an identikit in-house approach to the art that reflects none of the artists' personalities.

This is a 21st Century comic book, with style and substance despite the issue's bold title. It's diverse without feeling like it wants to be a banner pole for diversity.

Bryan Lee O'Malley variant cover!

It's about being 18 and all the wonder, pain and intensity that brought with it. There's a passion for music within, but moreover there's a passion for the Marvel Universe and these young characters within. There's no clumsy exposition here to artificially pull them together; in time you can trust their lives will force them together.

That and Loki's machinations no doubt.

And above all it's very, very good. ;)

 Ben Fardon is tired but glad that a few things have clicked into place.

Friday, 18 January 2013

New Beginnings: Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse)

This week we open the pages of the first new Star Wars title since the Disney takeover of Lucasfilm, although it is most likely to have been penned before the billions changed bank accounts.

This new title opens with a three part story called 'In The Shadow Of Yavin,' written by Brian Wood. It’s designed so that it fits in with the Original Trilogy and to pull readers in it bills itself as “Classic Characters, All-New Star Wars!” So the question is really where along the timeline does it sit?

For the casual reader, there is a direction on where the story fits as well. In The Shadow Of Yavin is set after Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which is quite important when you think about the mood and emotional states of the main characters. Potentially this may also fill in plot holes that fans of the films may have wondered about, but it will also have to stay within the realms of believability.

Due to the huge notoriety of the films, there is no real attempt to introduce the characters; they’re almost household names in their own rights after all! The action begins right away. Searching for a site for the new Rebel base, Wedge, Luke and Leia are in the Dominus Sector of the Outer Rim, far from anything when they are attacked by a seemingly well-informed Imperial force.

After being downed on the planet and saving her own life, Leia has her X-Wing repaired and a return to the fleet segways into the loveable rogue Han Solo and his faithful Wookie also returning to the Alliance. With the exception of using a written crowbar to lever these two into the issue, this piece has no bearing on the limited story. It’s simply living up to the claims on the front of the cover that all the big names are there which is a bit of a shame.

Leia on the other hand is the crux of the storyline - directed to create her own special team to find the spy in their midst. This needed to be introduced quicker I felt. We are already a third of the way through this first story arc and I am worried that the other two issues may feel rushed as a result.

The final big part of this issue is the introduction of Darth Vader into the mix. Fresh from his humiliating defeat through the lack of covering a simple exhaust port, he is stripped of his command and urged to redeem himself. Once again, Vader felt very much a periphery character to me and there has to be much more to come.

The artwork has been given to us by Carlos D’Anda and I really liked it. Very smooth and clean lines full of detail and depth. The likenesses to all the familiar characters are strong - this is the best Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill have looked in years (far better than his depiction in Mark Millar’s Secret Service)!

A lot of time has been taken to create a faithful representation of the films which people will either love or obsess over. The only panel that bothered me for some reason though was when we saw a deflated Vader leave his ship; he just didn’t look the part. The depiction of him reminded me very much of the striding poses we often see Cyclops or Cable in (maybe it’s a Summers thing!)

Due to the timeline there are some very obvious restraints that Wood has to work with, but I hope he does well. For this reason it’ll be an interesting title to follow. The story hasn’t completely grabbed me yet but as a gateway story into something bigger it could be well worth getting on board from the outset.

Matt Puddy is taking a break next week, so Ben will be bringing you is verdict on the new Young Avengers!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

January Sale continues!

The Proud Lion 2013 January Sale continues until the end of the month! We've still got some great bargains to be had, although we're down to our LAST THREE comic packs! We also have less than 30 manga books left now - all down to just £1 - plus we have only 14 reduced RPG books left!

Don't hang about - when they're gone, THEY'RE GONE! Check the previous Sale post for the full catalogue of what we started out with; though many items are now sold out!

All comic packs - reduced to a £1.00!

All 50p comics - reduced to 25p!

All manga - reduced to £1.00!

Many RPG books - reduced to £5.00 or less!

Many graphic novels - reduced to half price or better!

Friday, 11 January 2013

New Beginnings - Superior Spider-Man #1 (CONTAINS SPOILERS!)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This review contains HUGE spoilers. Admittedly those spoilers are all over the internet, but be warned if you haven't read this yet, you may want to click away.

You have been warned!

Only a couple of weeks ago I reviewed the rather controversial "final" issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Now for many it was the end of an era, so much so that the backlash from some readers reached as far as national mainstream news, but to others it was an opening for something more.

Issue #700 did provoke a large response from fans as they had to wave goodbye to Peter Parker and try to swallow the fact that Otto Octavius was now in essence Spider-man 2.0. A driven, ruthless genius filled with Peter’s memories. To many this was a step too far but have they been short sighted and not seen the bigger picture? Would Dan Slott really close the door on Peter Parker?

The issue begins exactly where it's divisive predecessor emotionally ends. Otto has not only accepted that he is now Spider-Man but he is also donning the full mantle and responsibilities that the mask carries too. Symbolically visiting the new grave of his former life he waves it farewell and moves on.

Getting thrown right in at the deep end, Otto is called to the scene of carnage being created by the new Sinister Six which provides a rather interesting dynamic. He's now on the other side of the fence. A side that he appears to be sick of almost immediately, as his ego can see how pathetic they really are. He struggles with them not because they pose a threat but simply because of how insipid he finds them.

Taking them lightly though doesn’t work well and Otto finds himself doing something that bemuses the Six, something Spider-Man has never done before; he goes to run away. But in the instant he turns his back Boomerang endangers the surrounding civilians and for some unknown (to him) reason Otto finds himself back in the thick of it to save them.

It’s all change in some respects, but all the same in the others as Otto figures out what is going on and how to counter the Six in some quite ingenious ways. More tellingly is the manner in which he does it. I mentioned ruthless earlier and the streak is most certainly there. All the way to the very end when, in front of a camera crew, he is about to strike the killing blow when a hand stops him. Not understanding what is going on, as he cannot see it or feel the presence around him, another force has prevented Otto from finishing things off. That other force... is Peter Parker.

It goes without saying that the final page is one to read and will have significant impact on this series. Those fans in revolt need to check it out before nailing down the coffin.

Ryan Stegman has the job of pencilling the series from the start. His style is a frustrating one for me. On the more open frames where there is a lot of action and multiple characters I like how he draws. There’s a lot of diversity and characters although they lose definition feel believeable. But when you have an individual highlighted I find that the definition goes. A more cartoon-like style comes to the front and they seem to lose much of their sincerity.

Stegman has also done the cover art for the issue I had and I found myself drawn to Spider-Man’s knuckles and how strange they looked, which slightly devalued it’s impact for me. As an aside within the pages of the issue you will find a page dedicated to seeing the variant covers which are also very good. My particular favourite being from Camuncoli, who although I don’t know him specifically I liked his work.

This is an issue to get. Full stop. I’m hoping to keep my review copy and will be following the series to see where it goes. I would strongly suggest that anyone who was unhappy with the end of Amazing Spider-Man needs to read this before making their minds up fully.

Matt Puddy was overruled about blowing the spoiler here - direct any criticism to the editor.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Big Game Hunting - LCG Day, Saturday 19th January

Please be advised that if the snow disruptions cause Stagecoach buses to stop running in and around the town, I'll be postponing LCG Day. Check our Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates before setting out tomorrow!

If you love deck-building, collectible card games, but hate the ongoing arms race and expense of CCGs like Magic The Gathering and Yu Gi Oh, you really should take a look at Fantasy Flight Game's clever Living Card Game model.

The games start with a boxed set that costs around £30 and includes everything you need for at least two players. The new Star Wars one includes all the major character cards too, unlike the previous CCG games where you'd hunt for ages for your favourite heroes and villains.

After that, expansions are done through regular 60 card (or more) fixed packs that give every purchasing player the same options, rather than 12-15 card random boosters.

It's a fantastic concept, as it makes the experience about the game and your mastery of it; rather than having superior luck or resources to acquire the rarest cards it becomes much more about designing your decks and understanding the mechanics.

So far Fantasy Flight have released six LCGs. Call Of Cthulhu, A Game Of Thrones, Warhammer Invasion, Lord Of The Rings, Netrunner - based on the popular old Richard Garfield CCG and hugely successful in this new LCG format already in only a matter of months - and Star Wars, the newest addition to the catalogue.

So on Saturday 19th January, we'd like to invite existing LCG players and new players who are interested to come to the store and play! Challenge others to a game, or simply show up and be taught how to play. We'll be hosting Star Wars, Netrunner, Lord Of The Rings and Warhammer Invasion in store, but players of Call Of Cthulhu and A Game Of Thrones are equally welcome!

That's Saturday 19th January, kicking off at 10:30am. Hope to see you there!

Please share, retweet and otherwise spread the word. Many thanks!

Ben Fardon still fears the shadow cards...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Carrier bags and charity - Alzheimer's Society

Hi folks,

Last week marked not only the end of the current financial quarter but also the end of the latest period of collecting money for charity from our sales of carrier bags.

This is our seventh full quarter and together we raised £11.56!

Last time I supported one of our customers - Matthew Dodwell - who ran the Bristol Half Marathon  yesterday to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, in honour of a close friend's young daughter who is a sufferer.

This time, I've supported the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Gerry Anderson, who sadly passed away in December, and other friends and family who have lost loved ones to this heartbreaking illness. If you'd like to make a donation of your own, their sponsorship page can be found hereMore information about the Alzheimer's Society can be found on their website.

The next carrier bag donation will be in early April as we move into the new financial year. If you have a charity you'd like Proud Lion to support, please email me at

Friday, 4 January 2013

New Beginnings - New Avengers #1

Very recently, we saw Jonathan Hickman taking the helm for the Avengers and this week, in a possibly confusing fashion, we also see him re-launching New Avengers.

The thing that strikes you immediately is that unlike Brian Michael Bendis' recent runs on Avenegrs and New Avengers, Hickman is creating two very distinctly different books. Flashing back to a quite a significant moment in the Marvel Universe, we are reminded that Black Panther previously made a moral stand against what became the Illuminati. This was the moment when the self-appointed strongest in the world were deciding its fate, and as a result Wakanda withdrew further from the fray.

Jumping forward to a more present moment, we are also given a very teasing single page with Reed Richards accepting the fate that everything dies, but without anything further we are left to wonder.

The main story revolves solely around the Black Panther and a number of Wakandan youths who are exploring their surroundings - and also their minds - in a test to prove their worthiness for greater things. All is going well until what can be described as an other worldly influence threatens to end the existence of the planet. Although it is merely a minor plot to go over at the moment, it will no doubt have a greater influence in the longer term, as this attracts the attention of the Illuminati. Their arrival in Wakanda (less the presence of Professor X for obvious reasons) leaves the Black Panther with a very difficult dilemma as to where his next steps lie.

The buildup through the comic leads you to believe that there will be a large deal of opposition to them however the cover, a lovely image provided by Jock, suggests strongly to the contrary.

For the rest of the issue Steve Epting has the pencils and I have to say I really liked his style for it. For once, it shows three variations on style to illustrate different points and ideas. This was a really nice touch I felt as the haziness of the past was met with the clarity of the immediate present. There is a lot of detail conveyed in all of the frames both directly and indirectly which means the reader is far more involved in the issue as a whole. A good example of this is when Panther enters the main story and he isn’t actually draw in, a lot of this is provided through use of shadow and empty space to provide the detail in the depiction.

I also liked the effort that was given at the end of the issue to re-introduce the Illuminati as well but without giving a huge reveal until the final page. Previous readers will have still known who they were but it was also something for new readers to take on board as well. The gravitas of the arrival was deepened by the simple use of a few panels.

As a package Hickman and Epting work really well together - after all this is the coupling who killed off the Human Torch and changed the line up of the Fantastic Four. The comic will no doubt be of high quality and this is the perfect point to pick it up and get on board with it too. There is some history behind it all as well but this is slowly being given to the reader so fans and newbies alike should get on well with it. I highly recommend that you pick this one up, regardless of whether you are also reading Avengers.

Matt Puddy is gearing up Superior Spider-Man next week...

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Thursdays - Revised Opening Times for January and February 2013

Please note we will be operating revised opening times for Thursdays in January and February.

We will now be open 12-5:30pm on Thursdays for these two months.

All other days will remain unaffected unless further notified.

Monthly Mondays will continue to operate in 2013. Our first two will be Monday 7th January and Monday 4th February. On these two days we will be open 12-2pm.