Thursday, 31 October 2013

New Beginnings - Damian, Son of Batman #1

In his day before Batman, Bruce Wayne met a fascinating enigma called Talia Al Ghul. Their tryst ended badly, but the fruit of their union was young Damian Wayne. Upon his initial introduction in Batman & Son, he was a pain in the ass. But over time he became a fan favourite and embraced his father's path and became the latest Robin.

Until he was killed.

Life moved on, people mourned in their own ways and the audience are currently taking in the Batman and Robin title with a variety of counterparts, instead of the Caped Crusader's trusty ward.

In the vein of “What If” or the now defunct "Elseworlds" imprint, veteran artist and (arguably) the co-creator of Damian, Andy Kubert gives us a peek at what may have happened if Damian had lived.

Twice before during Grant Morrison's run on Batman, we were treated to the sight of Damian as future Batman and both times it was wonderfully compelling. In these issues he made a great Dark Knight, edgier and yet still honouring legacy of the Bat, albeit in his own unique way! This new four issue miniseries serves as the origin for that new guardian of Gotham as he steps into his father's shoes.

Opening the story at the scene of a massacre, Batman and Robin are hunting for clues amongst the carnage. After searching for some time Robin chances upon a clue pointing directly at the Joker, a strange Jokerised fish, with the added bonus of a bomb beneath it. Caught in the blast, Batman is fatally wounded. 

The horrific event and the subsequent funeral wreaks such an emotional wound upon young Damian that he finds himself doing something you would never expect of him. He visits his mother and grandfather for help.

Due to the choices that Damian made in the past they have no choice but to turn him down, which only makes matters worse and directs him down an even darker path. All of the villains he previously handed over for justice are soon found murdered; a final solution to ensure they could no longer commit any sort of crime. The young vigilante heads further away from the principles that Bruce tried to instill in him. Even the counselling of the church and Alfred are not enough to stop him. It’s only the surprising sight of Bruce storming back onto the scene (accompanied by a strange cat) that stops Damian in his tracks.

Kubert is well known for his artwork which is why I was slightly surprised at the opening page. There is just something very wrong with Robin in the very first image. To make things even more ridiculous, Batman simply looks furious at the ill advised facial expression on his son!

Thankfully the situation improves through the rest of the issue (although some frames do stray as well) giving a good overall set of artwork. I found the Joker fish oddly fascinating as well. Batman is portrayed as the standard strong brooding type, but this is shaken with slightly stilted dialogue such as - “Focus on the mission, young man!” - which to me felt out of character especially considering that this story is supposed to be set ten years in Batman's future.

As a four part miniseries, I think that this is worth checking out, whereas I'd have more reservation if this had been announced as an ongoing title. I am left wondering where the story is going since there have been two fairly large revelations about Damian’s path already. I do hope that the small inconsistencies in writer/penciller Andy Kubert’s storytelling do tighten up and that this expands into a deeper story than just misguided rage and confused decisions. The mystery of Bruce's return will entice me to pick up the next issue.

Matt Puddy thinks that the new Robin should be Alfred...

Thursday, 24 October 2013

New Beginnings - Letter 44 #1

If you became the President of the United States, what would you seek to change over the four years of your elected term? This was the position that Stephen Blades, President-Elect, was put into after winning the election. How can he live up to his campaign pledges? How can he make the country a better place? All these thoughts racing in his head were dramatically derailed by a single scrappy letter left the Presidential desk. The tradition of the outgoing Commander-In-Chief leaving a message for the incumbent. Simply labelled 44, it will fundamentally change Blades' perception of his predecessor, his own job and the universe as a whole.

Letter 44, written by Charles Soule, is set in an analogous modern day America. Much like our current situation, seemingly ill-conceived war and economic instability have taken their toll on the country - and the choices of the departing President have been heavily frowned upon. The people have chosen a change of direction and control of the White House has shifted across the aisle. In his departing missive, Francis T Carroll reveals that years ago a mining construct was detected in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and it was clearly of extra terrestrial construction. Whatever it was, he was determined the USA would be prepared, and so his unpopular actions were to ensure his country would be ready for whoever  or whatever would doubtless come. 

Sun Tsu is famously known for saying one should know their enemy, and so the second prong of Carroll’s plan was to send a nine man scientific and military team to find out what was out there. At the point of his inauguration, Blades is hearing of this mission for the first time and learning that they are almost there. It’s only when the crew draw back the metaphorical curtain that Blades sees that things could not be much worse than initially thought. The construction is apparently complete and functional... and does not look at all friendly.

On the surface of it Soule’s story is one of impending doom with an unknown alien adversary but looking beneath this there are a multitude of facets to also take into account. On one level you have the dilemma of whether humanity is better off for not knowing? Should they simply continue in ignorance of the secret team of men and women who have learnt the frightening truth? And if not how do you disseminate that sort of information? Or on the other hand, as President, do you continue the somewhat shady work of your predecessor now you know the truth? Regardless of your choice you still have to consider what to do about the potential threat to your life.

On top of this you have to consider the fate of the unknown crew whose social relationships have evolved during their mission. Lines of etiquette and fraternisation have been crossed and there is a baby on the way...

So do you still want to be President?

Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque has put pencil to paper for this issue and this is the first I’ve seen of his work. I wouldn’t say it is bad or wrong, but for me the incredibly angular noses on all of the characters sticks out a lot which makes it a slightly odd comic to read. That said the final image of the alien craft looked great; a fantastic contradiction to the small, almost insignificant ship that the Earth has made.

All in all I found this an interesting comic as it has a fun if not sinister element to it, whilst also coupled with a large intellectual element. This is a great introduction to Oni Press for new readers if they’ve not knowingly come across them before, and the solicitations for this ongoing title are also promising too.

Matt Puddy thinks Virgin Galactic may be in for a rude awakening...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Big Game Hunting Live - Munchkin

Next weekend sees the return of Big Game Hunting Live! This is a monthly gaming event that takes place on the first Saturday of each month. Players will get a chance to learn and play a different game every month.

On Saturday 2nd November, we will be playing Munchkin! This dungeon-crawling card game takes a swipe at every RPG trope you've ever heard of. Take on monsters, wield powerful magic items, collect levels and treasures - and try to survive the “help” of your fellow players! This game was featured on season 1 of TableTop.

One of the best things about this game is that in comes in so many flavours: zombies, cthulhu, vampires, sci fi, super heroes, you name it! There are several complete themed Munchkin sets, and many of those have booster and expansion packs that can be added to the decks.

Even better, there are also booster packs which can be very easily added to any Munchkin set you already have, such as the newly released Dragons and Tricky Treats booster packs.

If you've never played before, or are a bit rusty on the rules, feel free to come and jump in! We'll happily teach you how to play. We'll be having open game sessions at 10:30 – 1pm, and 2 – 5pm. There will be a few different Munchkin theme sets available to try.

As a final note, all games will be played to a timer. Not only does this enable us to get more games in and get more people playing, but we've discovered it makes the game far more interesting!

All participants will receive a voucher that entitles them to 10% off all Munchkin products in stock and Proud Lion will be receiving a comprehensive restock of a variety Munchkin game products before this event.

(Additional Munchkin products can be ordered in, but the voucher will not apply to these items at this time.)

Rae Gould thinks it's time to make some creepy Halloween cookies.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Mane Event - Villains' Month, a retrospective

September 2013. The two year anniversary of the New 52. It brought us Villains' Month and a lot of stress and headaches for comic retailers, disappointment and frustration for comic fans, and a large jump in revenue for DC. I'm glad to see the back of it frankly, but now the dust has settled it's time to look past all the cover nonsense and ask a question that was often overlooked in all the kerfuffle.

Were any of the stories any good?

Matt Puddy and I are joined by our newest recruit, Jack Meldrum, as we delve into some of the best and the worst of Villains' Month.

Green Lantern #23.1 Relic

reviewed by Matt Puddy
Relic is a brand new villain who poses a great threat - he understands how all the rings and light works and intends to take it all away. Without stripping away the threat the Relic poses, Robert Venditti shows him to be a man of science who survived the destruction of the universe that came before the current one. He's on a mission to save this universe from the end that his fell to. It becomes clear that the Corps are using a power source which isn’t as unlimited as they think. Although this is a purely historic issue, it does also give context to the new Lights Out arc within the Green Lantern titles. The legendary Rags Morales has provided the artwork which includes the imagining of the former Lightsmiths and their war. All in all this makes for a well rounded issue that fans should definitely pick up.

Justice League #23.1: Darkseid
reviewed by Jack Meldrum

Darkseid #1 is one of the most unique comics I've ever picked up. It straddles multitudes of descriptors, evades easy pinning. At once artistically gorgeous, narratively engaging, character driven, mythic and bizarre, conflicted, self-conscious and flaccid, Darkseid is perhaps best put in that most unhelpful-but-succinct category – it's really, really weird. Greg Pak delivers the origin story for the all-new, all-shoulderpads Darkseid, and to my surprise, for a good 2/3 of the book it's really something. That's not a knock on Pak (I love his work) or DC, it's a comment on how difficult it appears to be to write the Lord of Apokolips well – but Pak pulls it off, mostly. Wrapped around gorgeous art by Siqueira and Diaz that lends the story a magisterial, earth-shaking quality, Pak tells us how Darkseid came to be – namely, he murdered his gods with a scythe and stole their stuff. Unfortunately, the book wobbles shortly after the delightful Kaiyo (currently messing stuff up in Pak's stellar Batman/Superman) escapes Apokolips and we start to get answers to questions floating around since that first Justice League arc.

Detective Comics #23.2 Harley Quinn
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Opening with a 3D cover that takes full advantage of Harley’s large... mallet... for impact, Matt Kindt story explores Harley’s backstory and mental state. The issue opens with her now free of the Suicide Squad and not sure what to do next. Looking back on her life, she reviews who she is, from her family and upbringing through to her 'rebirth' complete with almost self-induced schizophrenia. The writing is clever enough to make her sound completely self-aware, displaying the intelligence that earned her a doctorate, whilst also opening the door to her psychotic streak. The art is riddled with gratuitous male gaze though and the origin of some parts of her hideous current New 52 outfit will surely enrage some readers and does nothing to diminish the allegations of misogyny levelled at DC in recent years. A mixed bag and a wasted issue really. Roll on Harley's new ongoing series from Amanda Conner.

Green Lantern #23.3 Black Hand
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Of all of the Green Lantern villains Black Hand has to be one of the creepiest. After the Blackest Night arc, William Hand became the avatar of the Black Lanterns and essentially an immortal adversary through the power of the black ring. His command over the undead means that he also controls an ever expanding army too. As such a formidable foe it was unsurprising that he made it onto the list of characters to get their own issue. The story, by Charles Soule, shows the Hand’s re-re-re-birth (?) into this world again and he then finds his way to a well known port of call - the grave of Hal Jordan’s father. There was one moment when I was impressed at the creativity on display, finding a new way to use Black Hand's powers and kill a police officer using the recent vaccination he had. Artistically the issue is similar to Charlie Adlard’s work on The Walking Dead, but cleaner and fills the page more to bulk it out. An outstanding issue that stands on its own.

Batman: The Dark Knight #23.4 Joker's Daughter
reviewed by Ben Fardon
The concept of the Joker's Daughter predates the New 52 by some way, but it's a character that's rarely been showcased like this before. There was plenty of speculation as to her identity prior to the issue's release. Pre-New 52 she was Duela Dent, with a complicated backstory that varied depending on whether you were reading pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths or not. Here, many readers wondered if she'd turn out to be Harper Row, a character from Scott Snyder's Batman run who may be set to be the new Robin. Could she have created an undercover alias for herself, infiltrating the Gotham underworld in a manner akin to the Zero Year pre-Batman Bruce Wayne posing as a member of the Red Hood gang? Sadly not. This is a seemingly simplified version of the original Joker's Daughter. But let's not do Ann Nocenti any disservice, because I quite enjoyed this issue! Duela is the disturbed daughter of a wealthy Gotham couple, with subtle hints that it is indeed Mr & Mrs Harvey Dent. A pretty girl whose obsession with all things ugly leads her to scar herself, she is an outcast wandering the sewers with a mangy cat, until - quite by chance - she finds the Joker's discarded face floating in the effluent after the events of the Death Of The Family. This macabre mask of infamous flesh gives her a newfound resolve and she sets about uniting the criminal denizens of the Gotham Underground into a matriarchal society. It's superb fun and provides the origin for a story set to continue in Nocenti's excellent run on Catwoman.

Ben Fardon, Matt Puddy and Jack Meldrum have successfully completed their first team-up, neatly sidestepping the initial tedious infighting that usually characterises such fare.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Carrier bags and charity -

Hi folks,

The week before last (I'm a little late with it this time!) marked the end of the current financial quarter which means it's the end of the latest period of collecting money for charity from our sales of carrier bags.

This is our tenth full quarter and together we raised £11.01!

Last time I supported Charlie (from Judder) with her cycling challenge to raise money for Mind, the mental health charityThis time, I wasn't quite sure what or who to support. Then came word of the sudden flooding in Austin, Texas and the sad news that the waters have seriously affected comic writer Steve Niles and his family.

The lovely Mike Mignola posted this on his Facebook page:

The Niles have no flood insurance. They live in Texas! Why would they?! This is a horrible, freak occurrence. In the comic industry, our beloved creators are often the ones who get the short end of the stick, which is why I've been proud to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund but this is an occasion where I can directly help a creator in need. Steve Niles most notable work was the wonderful 30 Days Of Night, the first volume of which is still one of the finest horror comics ever and introduced many of us to the art of Ben Templesmith.

So I'm donating the £11.01 we raised via PayPal to I hope some of you, can find a little spare change and add your support. Many thanks.  

The next carrier bag donation will be in the New Year. If you have a charity you'd like Proud Lion to support, please email me at

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Reservation Service Customers - update your details and save money!

Calling all Reservation Service Customers! Throughout October and November, we'll be running a promotion in store - if you ask to check your details with us and provide up-to-date phone number, address and/or email address, then we'll give you 10% off your purchase. For hopefully obvious reasons this offer  is only available once per Reservation Service customers.

This also applies to all new Reservation Service Customers - when you set up your new account with us (and pay your £10 deposit as per our terms and conditions), you'll receive 10% off your first purchase.

Why the sudden interest in up-to-date contact information? Well to put it simply, there are several important changes on the horizon. We launching a new clearance webstore, with many bargains to be had; we'll be relaunching the blog as well, with new features and content; and of course with the Haines & Strange/Odeon Cinema/Albion Street demolish and redevelopment plans being approved, there is every likelihood that the store will be moving in the year ahead.

Whilst I will refrain from sending out annoying marketing mailings, it will become necessary to inform you all of the biggest developments at Proud Lion, especially if we move! It's going to be an exciting time and I look forward to our fantastic customers joining us as we embrace the future!

Ben Fardon is feeling very positive.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Big Game Hunting Live - Castellan

We're gearing up for another Big Game Hunting Live! This is a monthly gaming event that takes place on the first Saturday of every month. Players will get a chance to learn and play a different game every month. On Saturday 5th October, we will be playing Castellan!

This brilliant little game was recently released by Steve Jackson Games. Players take turns building a castle using walls and towers. Each enclosed space, or courtyard, can be claimed by the players, thus earning them points. The element of strategy, however, is that you can only build onto the castle using pieces determined by the cards you play at the beginning of your turn. The player who earns the most points at the end of the game is the winner!

Similar to last month's event, we will be hosting two main game sessions, from 10:30 to 1pm, and 2pm to 5pm. Feel free to come along at any point during the sessions and join in. Due to the nature of this game, we are only be able to support two players at once - but the game plays very quickly, so we'll make sure to rotate players frequently so everybody gets a chance!

As a side note, this will be the last time Big Game Hunting Live is able to hold a morning session for the foreseeable future. Due to a significant change in my work schedules, after the October event we will only host an afternoon session from 2pm to 5pm.

All participants will receive a voucher that entitle them to 10% off Castellan. As Proud Lion is only a small store, we only hold a limited stock so you may have to backorder your copy if we sell out on the day.

Rae  is looking forward to a week of all things gaming!