Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Mane Event - Superior Spider-Man Annual #1

Some time ago there was the quite controversial move from Amazing Spider-Man to Superior Spider-Man, whereby Doc Ock took over Peter Parker's birthday and assumed the mantle of Spider-Man. For some fans this caused outrage! Parker has seemingly passed on (although this is yet to be fully believed by everyone) and the new methods that Spidey-Ock is utilising – whether it be robotics helpers, a team of mercenaries or an incredibly hard and fatal stance taken against criminals - have shocked even the fictional characters heads. Even so the title has continued to develop with more and more enemies coming out the woodwork to take on the wallcrawler.

So now we have got to the first Annual for this new incarnation.

Christos Gage (as opposed to the regular Dan Slott) brings out one of Ghost Rider’s adversaries Blackout, a half-human, half-demon hybrid who has the ability to take the light away from anywhere around him. Through Spidey's public association with Peter Parker - and therefore his family too - Blackout has his sights set on Aunt May as a hostage. That old cliche.

Whereas one element of the story does revolve around the kidnapping and inevitable subsequent rescue, the other side of the tale addresses a continual theme - the ongoing development of a new Peter Parker and Spider-Man. That in itself is quite an odd thing considering that the title first began way back in January (with two issues every month to boot), but then again it is the fanatical obsession of Otto Octavius to try to emphatically prove that he is better than Parker in every way. The other impact of this is that whenever a reader face-palmed when Peter “did the right thing” at his own personal expense – for example anything faintly romantic – now we have a composed and focussed Parker, who has managed to organise his “other” life in such a way that he can have a proper and full relationship with those who matter to him, like Aunt May. There is only one flaw in this though. A metaphorical leopard still can’t change it’s spots and although the Spider may have saved the day, the Octopus inside still has to go that one step further to make a definitive point.

The humour that has always been around the Spider-Man titles isn’t lost here either. There's a funny little moment towards the end when a pickpocket cowers at the thought that he made the mistake of stealing from Parker, but that’s the influence this new Spidey exerts. The other continuation is that this ties in with the building story arc concerning the return of the Green Goblin, something that has been going on for months now and looks set to come to a head next year after Spidey's upcoming bout with Venom.

For the artwork, Javier Rodriguez picks up the Superior pencil to give the Annual a much grittier, retro-look as opposed to the main title. Does this change the feeling of the comic? Well no, the story still conveys the levity, while the artwork supports the more sinister and clinical approach that Otto takes. Does it detract from what the reader has been used to up to this point? Not really.

What you are given as a reader is an Annual which - although it is brought to you by a different creative team than the norm - still fits in with the current story and ethos of the character. Marvel and Dan Slott have told us "this one counts" but it’s not essential, however it is a good little off-shoot for any reader to collect.

Matt Puddy is glad he remembered the hyphen!

Missing IDW products this week

Good morning folks, just received the following news from Diamond UK.

Dear Retailer,

Due to a shipping delay the following IDW titles will unfortunately not be included in your deliveries this week.

Diamond UK would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause, we expect these titles to be included with next week’s delivery and all will now have a UK on sale date of Wednesday 4th December 2013.

Sorry folks, I know it's a pain, but they will be with us next week now. Many thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Big Game Hunting Live - Eldritch Horror

STOP PRESS! Big Game Hunting Live now takes place on the second Saturday of each month!

It's not long now until the return of Big Game Hunting Live! This is a monthly gaming event that takes place on the second Saturday of each month. Players will get a chance to learn and play a different game every month.

On Saturday 14th December, we will be playing Eldritch Horror! This new globetrotting Lovecraftian board game from Fantasy Flight is "a cooperative game of terror and adventure in which one to eight players take the roles of investigators working to solve mysteries, gather clues, and protect the world from an Ancient One - an elder being intent on destroying our world. Each Ancient One comes with its own unique decks of Mystery and Research cards, which draw you deeper into the lore surrounding each loathsome creature."

This is a rare chance to play a new game ahead of it's official release which follows later in December. Here's a quick look at what's in store for the would-be heroes:

We'll be able to show you the ropes and get you up to speed on how to play! Just pop on down, no sign-up is required, though participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. We'll be having open game sessions at 10:30 – 1pm, and 2 – 5pm. 

All participants will receive a voucher that entitles them to 10% off Eldritch Horror when it's released.

If Mansions Of Madness is Scooby Doo: The Board Game, Ben Fardon is wondering what Eldritch Horror will become known as in local circles!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Mane Event: Batman Zero Year tie-ins, Detective Comics #25 and Action Comics #25

At the time of writing this review I have to say that I have only very recently completed Batman Arkham Origins, so my mindset for Gotham and it’s inhabitants is set in an appropriate timeframe for the Zero Year, with a very early Batman and an equally younger Jim Gordon.

The reason I mention this is twofold. Firstly the Zero Year tie-in issues are set in the past in the wake of an enigmatic new villain for Batman, The Riddler, who has effectively blacked out Gotham. Secondly Detective Comics #25 is based around Lieutenant Gordon in a precarious situation.

Gotham is in ruin and somehow still descending. The aftermath of the Red Hood Gang has opened the door to a variety of masked criminals coming out of the woodwork and to make matters worse a growing number of police officers are being paid off by the better off crooks. The cancer goes deeper than many suspected as well with Roman Sionis even having members of Internal Affairs within his grasp. Realising that Gordon was better off dead, arrangements were made for him to be thrown off the  New Trigate Bridge so that it looked like suicide. But somehow he survived...going back to the station armed with enough evidence to clean up the force. In one short issue he becomes the driven and focussed officer of the law we all know, complete with a new association.

What I’ve really liked about John Layman’s story is that it’s not excessive and over the top, or trying the blighted New 52 formula of attempting to recreate a character the readers know well. Instead we are given a solid foundation to the motivations that drive the man. All this without really pushing the Dark Knight on the reader as well. Jim Gordon is very much the star of the issue and carries it well. OK, so Batman does come swooping in at one point, but it’s a thought the reader has well before so he doesn’t steal much of the limelight at all.

Jason Fabok has provided the artwork for the issue and it’s great. He’s previously provided artwork for Detective Comics and it is very similar in style to another favourite of mine, Tony S. Daniel. Full of detail, full of action and often windswept and rain lashed. It’s an involved, yet dark depressing cityscape but very nice to let your eyes wander around.

As an issue exploring someone other than the Caped Crusader, this works well and is definitely worth a read.

Moving from the dark and into the light Action Comics #25 focuses firmly around a youthful Superman as well. Set back in the time first redefined by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales when the New 52 launched, it's a phase where the fledgling Superman isn't really sure of his full powers and boundaries.

Finding himself enjoying being able to use his power and needing a further outlet for it, Clark decides that he is going to head to Gotham to attempt to prevent the incoming storm. Running almost parallel to this, and very briefly retconned at the beginning, is Lana Lang also caught in the storm. 

Ultimately this is a story about wanting to do the right thing, but not really knowing quite what that really is and not necessarily going about it the right way. In Clark’s case it is also about learning about himself and understanding his personal boundaries, especially where the forces of nature are concerned!

It’s also the strangest comic book appearance of a whale I have seen in quite a while too! It seems that no matter what Clark wants to do, if someone is in trouble and he can help, he will help.

Now personally, I am not a huge Superman fan but when it comes to Greg Pak’s work I will happily give anything a read through at least once, especially after his opening story on the new Batman/Superman comic demonstrated he could make the inexperienced Man Of Steel more interesting than others writers have managed. I'm glad to say this one did indeed pique my interest as well. My one reservation is that this does really feel that the Zero Year connection has been really shoe horned in to this one. These are events that really could have happened anywhere. It predates Supes discovering he could fly, meaning that catching a lift on a plane’s fuselage is necessary. Things did seem rather convenient, especially when the ship in peril towards the end contains none other than Lana as well. That said Pak has written another good story but then I would expect nothing less.

The artwork on the other hand wasn’t massively impressive. It conveyed everything you could want or need, but it didn’t overwhelm me. Aaron Kuder’s work was good when it came to mechanical items or the raging waves and swell of the sea, but when it came to depictions of people I found it rather minimal and basic. For me it took away some of the emotions from the characters, although you still get the overall feel but I feel this is more through the narrative as opposed to the artwork on its own.

As a Zero Year comic I’m not sure this really works as it really is a rather tenuous link to the events in Gotham City, with no real ties to any of its inhabitants. As an issue showing Clark’s personal development and growth then this is far stronger. Fans of the New 52 Action Comics who are seeking a return to its roots will not be disappointed, but this is one to avoid if your only interest is the Zero Year angle.

Matt Puddy is keen to get the latest issue of Batman in his hands.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Supermythical - Superman

Well, here we go.

I'm Jack, and I read a lot of stuff. I mean, a huge amount. Comic books, classical literature, modern classics, pulps – you name it, I've at least dabbled, and that's come with a big, broad understanding of mythology, storytelling and character archetypes, and even how some of those characters revolve around or represent us.

Welcome to Supermythical, which is where I – with the backing of the marvellous folks at Proud Lion – take a close reading of where some of the characters in superhero comics relate to older stories. It's about tying our modern mythologies to the classical ones, exploring how they reflect and reinterpret ancient concepts. If you're really lucky, I'll even share personal experience on how some of them have affected me.

And we're going to start with Superman. Because if I'm going to talk about superheroes and comics as mythology, I have to start at the beginning.


Daunting, that. Superman, created in the 1930's by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, represents the genesis of the superhero and thus the root of their pantheon. He's the biggest and brightest. Batman might sell more t-shirts but Superman is infinitely more recognisable and, if we're honest, more appreciable as a character and a concept.

He's a sun god.

That's really all there is to it, on a basic meta-myth scale; he's powered by sunlight, he flies, he has more strength and capacity for survival than any average Joe. He's a Zeus, a Vishnu, a two-for-the-price-of-one Thor/Odin combo. He came first, he is the Alpha. There's really no one as powerful as he is conceptually – but what matters is his concept.

Superman represents something much, much more than most superhero constructs ever could. He's a perfect, honed personification of the idea of a sun god; he's not just great and powerful, he's endlessly benevolent. He represents the light inside of us all, and does it while absorbing the light beyond us all. He channels that universal energy into good deeds and a flawless soul in a way that can reduce grown adults to fits of tears, and sometimes becomes even more literal in the process, like when All-Star's take on the Big Blue Boyscout becomes one with the Sun itself. But on the flipside, this ascended, perfect character is also a very human dream made flesh – specifically, he's the American Dream, and even more specifically, the Immigrant's Dream.

Superman falls to Earth from a dead world, like endless men and women fleeing the worst places on Earth. Like them, he has nothing (he's a boy, a baby, a tabular rasa, but also comes sans heritage and history) but endless potential. Unlike them that endless potential is literal, realised in his own flesh and blood, and he grows strong of spirit and embraces his home as they might also hope to. The most furious patriots are often first or second generation – without our roots we tend to embrace what surrounds us with gusto – and Clark Kent is (as Waid's Birthright puts forward so eloquently) a product of the American heartland, a rural lad. He comes from an environment where your hard work really does equal bread on the table and the respect of your peers, and he emblazons that, perfectly. The purpose of the Clark/Superman division is not, as some would suggest, to make Superman more human, but less – it deliberately divorces the god from the man, and it does it to show that Superman/Clark (who I will always say is the 'real' identity) has a moral core even without his powers.

That's what the character is really about. Superman's position in the Super-Pantheon is to represent the good in all of us. 'Do good to others and any man can be a Superman' was written on the moon in the Pre-Crisis DCU and it's the truth. He's a humanist character, the ultimate anti-nihilist, a living and breathing force of good. Clark might represent how Super-values can be held by anyone, but Superman exists to show how those good ideas, that spark of kindness, can be drawn out. He thinks to do good and so good happens, he works hard and so good things happen, he is good and so he is loved. He's that dream of making your own way and it making things better made flesh.

His villains represent this, too. The best Superman villains are all antithetical to him – your Luthors and Zods, Parasites and Mxyzptlks. Lex Luthor is a normal man with endless potential – less than Superman, the inherent physical god – but he allows greed and bitter emotions to make him the worst of humankind. He lies, he cheats, he kills and he actively tries to murder the best person alive. Even without his powers, Superman would be a good man. Luthor could be, but chooses not to. He chooses himself over others and actively lies (especially in more recent stories) about his intent, even internally. Zod abuses his power. Parasite consumes the strength of others for his betterment. Mxyzptlk, a literal god, goofs off and plays tricks.

Superman, then, is the top of the tree. On the Super-Heroic Pantheon, he's the Sun God and the Spirit of Man. His stories should represent his position as a selfless, good-natured person of great power – they can and should be fun, imbued with his own warmth, or serious, and powered by observing it. They should be about truth, justice, and the heart of the American dream.

Jack Meldrum cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he can eat a whole bag of Haribo in one sitting.


  • Grant Morisson's All-Star Superman
  • Morisson's Action Comics Vol 1-3
  • Mark Waid's Birthright
  • Alan Moore's 'For the Man who has Everything'
  • Elliot S! Maggin's Last Son of Krypton and Miracle Monday
  • Kurt Busiek's Superman: Secret Identity
  • Superman The Animated Series
  • Alan Moore's 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?'
  • John Byrne's 'Man of Steel'
  • Man of Steel
  • Superman/Superman II
  • Superman – Secret Origin
  • The Dark Knight Returns
  • Smallville

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

New Beginnings - Protectors Inc. #1

As a renewed imprint, J. Michael Straczynski’s Joe’s Comics has been quite a hit for me. First with Ten Grand and then with Sidekick. So with a new title out this week - Protectors Inc. - it was a no brainer to pick it up to read.

Protectors Inc. opens with what should be a fairly normal flight for the CIA followed by a trouble free car transfer too. Well it should have been until the axle of the car breaks and there follows a suspicious flash of lightning.

Segueing into a courtroom - with the aforementioned lightning as a backdrop - we are introduced to our narrator. Things aren’t going well for him as the jury are all too interested in what is going on outside. The lightning wasn’t the sign of an impending storm, but in fact a superhuman fight being held in the clouds. This is a world (or at least a United States) where the evolution of superhero has gone from patriotic protector to sponsored territorial overseer. 

Through the power of flashback we learn how an incident in the Second World War left one man imbued with superpowers. He went on to become The Patriot. Once back in the States more heroes emerged – although this is cynically commented upon as being the product of rich individuals – and Protectors Inc. was formed. A band of superheroes using their powers for good. Although times changed and people became more attracted to sponsorship deals and appearances. All except for The Patriot who disappeared from the limelight, not really wanting to have been a part of it all.

Admittedly, this is all very similar to the story Jupiter’s Legacy released months ago by Mark Millar, and although it is not by any means a copy there are a large number of parallels that can be drawn. Here we have the new era of superpowers and a breed of heroes motivated by selfish luxuries not morals. Thankfully there are also enough differences to give this new title it’s own individuality and identity. The main difference being that unlike Jupiters Legacy, the splitting of the superheroes has led them to become territorial - protective of their own chosen cities and areas, even to the point of infighting between them.

The big question is what will happen when a hero is really needed? For example, a murderer with unfinished business is on the loose...

Gordon Purcell has created the art for the issue. Most people will know him for his work on licensed tie-ins such as Star Trek, but he has also worked for both Marvel and DC across a variety of titles. Strangely I found there was a slight incongruity between the cover work on my review copy (Cover A, which Purcell co-produced) and the internal artwork, as I felt the cover was clearly stronger. In a way it was very reminiscent of Constantine - an authoritative yet enigmatic character smoking. Inside is still quite strong with colourful imagery and some good emotive characters. However with the linework being so deft, it does mean that the detail is occasionally lost. What I did find is that each of the pages felt like they contained focal points for the story.

Overall I would say that this has the potential to be a good story. I didn’t feel that there was enough development or mystery in this issue to make it an absolute must though sadly. Readers should definitely take advantage of the QR code in the back of the issue to get access to an audio version which certainly adds considerable value. As part of the Joe’s Comics brand it’s certainly worth taking a look at, but I would also suggest Ten Grand (first graphic novel hopefully due out before Christmas) and Sidekick (still on the shelves in store) are stronger titles. 

Matt Puddy is wondering what the new art on Ten Grand will look like. By the time you read this, he'll know.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Catfish: The TV Show

Following on from its international success, MTV have announced plans to produce local versions of their ground breaking documentary series Catfish: The TV Show in the UK!

The smash hit show focuses on people involved in online romances but who have never met their partner in person, often with shocking discoveries.

According to an MTV poll apparently 25% of people pretend to be someone else online and 20% have created an entirely fake profile.

With the British version of Catfish due to hit our screens in 2014, MTV are calling for anyone in a serious online relationship with someone they suspect isn’t who he or she says they are, to get in touch.

Catfish producers are also keen to hear from anyone using a fake profile who is involved in a cyber romance.

For more information or to register your interest please email: catfish@renegadepictures.co.uk

For all the latest Catfish news, stay tuned to MTV UK!

Proud Lion is not involved with Catfish in anyway, other than helping to spread the word for the production team.