Friday, 25 July 2014

New Beginnings - Spider-Man 2099 #1

by Matt Puddy

Being Spider-Man over the years has not been an easy thing to do. Parker has been cloned, confused over his own identity, half-killed more times than he can imagine, and finally had his whole body stolen and joyridden around by one of his archenemies in Superior Spider-Man.

So how can things get worse?

Luckily for Peter it’s the Spider-Man name that is taking the brunt of it, and it's not him who has drawn the short straw, but the Spider-Man from 2099, one Miguel O’Hara. For anyone who hasn’t read Superior Spider-Man, in part of the series Miguel was sent through time to save his Grandfather and ensure that he went on to be born as a result. However, it now means he is stranded in the present with no plan, other than a desire to improve the horrid future he hails from.

The very first page is designed to put new readers at ease as they may have no clue who this character is. Miguel is not a descendant or relation to Peter Parker - in fact O'Hara got his powers through a genetic experiment. He is also accompanied by Lysa, a holographic assistant who helps him by providing information and analysis. I will be honest, it was at this point I did begin to wonder. Superhero from the future with knowledge of how the world is meant to turn out, coupled with an electronic counterpart. It sounds scarily close to DC’s Booster Gold. (With a soupçon of Continuum or *shudder* Time Trax. BF)

However pushing further into the comic, things do take a change. As opposed to the financially and egotistically driven arrogance of Booster, Miguel has more towards the typical self-deprecating Spider-Man style – especially when it comes to women. This may be a different man from a different time but it appears some things transcend the ages.

While Miguel is settling down and trying to establish what resembles a normal life, he is unaware of the danger arriving from the future in the form of an Adjustor from T.O.T.E.M. In essence this is the old chestnut of a temporal police force sent back to remove anyone who is in a time they shouldn’t be in (similar to Timecop or episodes of Star Trek Voyager), and this Adjustor has Spider-Man clearly in his sights.

The most interesting thing is that as their fracas spills into Liz Allan’s office, pulling her into the fray, and Spider-Man 2099 is presented with an offer. He can let her die instead so he can live and it’s all over. So what is an upstanding hero from the future to do? Well it’s maybe not what you expect, he takes the deal, but at least there is a plan in mind.

More importantly is what has Liz done to deserve such future rebuke, and why would it matter if only one of them survived? I’m sure there is more to come. To add further twists, refreshingly Allan is no slacker and quickly figures out that there must be some connection between her company and this Spider-Man, leaving him open to further attack.

Peter David is not a writer I have really seen much work of personally. In the past I know he is well known for the award-winning 12 year run on Hulk. Something I found interesting in his writing though is that the scripting has a real identity to the characters in all the conversational pieces. There has been a lot of consideration taken in just how they all speak, and they stay in their own styles. It’s not often I notice this, but it really stuck out in a good way for me.

David co-created Spider-Man 2099 in the Nineties and worked on the original series that was set in the future. Following Dan Slott's efforts to bring Miguel to the present day, it's great to see Marvel let Peter David retake the reins to the character, creating a series that both follows the previous series for existing fans whilst remaining accessible to new readers. Take note DC, reboots are not the only answer! You can hook new readers with canny new pitches on existing characters, whilst remaining faithful to existing continuity. Ahem.

Artistically speaking, Will Sliney takes to the pencils. This definitely establishes itself as a Spider-Man title with the imagery being very “traditionally” Spidey. Sliney uses a lot of similar poses and images that have become a mainstay of the whole spider mythology, and that's no bad thing. There are some really nice extras too, such as the moment Adjustor comes into this time. The line work is fine as well, but in some cases the detail is somehow lost or just slightly off in some of the faces.

Put all together, you have the renewed face of Spider-Man 2099, all wrapped up in an interesting comic. This story is pretty much completely self-contained, but the ramifications can span a lot further. Spider-Man fans in general wouldn’t go badly wrong picking it up as there has already been a crossover phase and new readers can just jump straight on board now.

More over, Spider-Man 2099 fans will be kicking themselves if they miss this as Miguel O'Hara and Peter David are reunited once more!

Matt Puddy went to the year 2099. Not much as changed, but they live underwater, and your great-great-great-granddaughter is pretty fine.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

New Beginnings - Legendary Star Lord #1

by Matt Puddy

For the second review this week we take a look at another member of the Guardians of the Galaxy – Peter Quill – also known as Star-Lord. Helming this title is Sam Humphries who you may remember from the female incarnation of X-Force or his co-writing on The Ultimates with Hickman. Now on this standalone title Humphries is exploring the life and styles of the original Han Solo (yes Star-Lord predates the scruff looking nerf herder!).

From the opening pages we see Peter Quill as a young boy following his time in the orphanage juxtaposed with him in space on the next page turn with his “toy” gun. The strange thing about this is that it almost mixes both the original back story and the more recently retconned history of Star-Lord. That said it doesn’t detract from how the story progresses. Plunging you straight into the middle of a fracas, we see Quill facing off once again with the Badoon, who are trying to collect the bounty on him. To ice the cake for them as well it appears that the Mandalay Gem was also hidden there, which appears to be why Quill was there too.

So what is an interstellar vagabond to do? Held captive in a cage with no weapon, no ridiculously expensive gem and having been knocked out with a large metal bar? You do the only natural thing. Escape, take the booty and hand a huge bagful of cash over to the orphanage like a true hero... or is he?

Having not really read a lot of Humphries work previously, I didn’t have any predisposed ideas of what it should be like. As a story it’s light and cheeky, with a definite tongue-in-cheek element to it. Whilst you aren’t dragged along by the story, it’s not sluggish either and fun to read. You really get behind Quill even up to the point where he turns tail a little.

Paco Medina is an artist who has been quite prolific for both DC and Marvel, getting quite a few titles under his belt. As an artistic style it fits right in my wheelhouse for the most part, with crisp clean lines, however it does occasionally look a little cartoony in some respects.

All in all this is a good little comic. With the new film starring Chris Pratt as Star-Lord merely weeks away, it’s a good little introduction to the character and his general demeanour for newcomers. I think that maybe the trailers have come across a little stronger perhaps, but that’s the difference between scriptwriting combined with acting and writing for a reading audience I guess.

If you have no idea who Star-Lord is and want to get an idea of what he’s like, then you aren’t going to go wrong by picking this comic up. Guardians Of The Galaxy fans will most likely enjoy this spotlight on the roguish leader too. If you like it and follow it then I reckon you will find yourself following quite a fun ride too!

Matt Puddy is looking forward to July 31st!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

New Beginnings - Rocket Raccoon #1

by Matt Puddy

At the point of writing this review Guardians of the Galaxy is less than a month away from hitting the big screen. This is Marvel’s wild card as far as films go, as it takes off from Earth and steers away from the better known and more established characters. To make things even wilder two of the characters are entirely motion captured CGI, with only Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel’s voices to identify with. Welcome to the world of Rocket Raccoon!

Written and drawn by Skottie Young, the gun-toting pint-sized furball's new comic kicks off right away, with the cover depicting Rocket - complete with massive guns held aloft - in a dynamic action pose atop the head of Groot. What more could a small mammal want for an entrance?

The issue is all about introductions, on multiple levels. Going back three years to begin with, we meet our furry protagonist rescuing a princess from captivity. He’s dashing, debonair and most of all the girls love the tail. He’s a funny little ladies man wrapped up with cheek, charm and a dash of danger. So where else to go but a wrestling match to celebrate!

Our second introduction, albeit in third party, is the walking forest/enforcer Groot. Things are all going well until Rocket is recognised by the authorities and chased for something he didn’t really do... well mostly. After trying to escape through sewer tunnels and trying to find a way out whilst on the phone to Star Lord, he comes to a stark realisation. Maybe he isn’t the last of his kind in the universe after all,  especially if someone who looks like him is committing multiple murders and framing him for it. 

So cue, even by the Guardians’ standards, an incredible ridiculous plan. He turns himself in which not only surprises the guards but also his date. For a very different reason. It seems that Rocket’s cavalier approach to women may also be coming back to bite him in the ass. By the end of issue #1 he has been arrested, framed and is on a large hit list for a group he doesn’t even realise exists. Not bad at all for an opening gambit.

Young’s story is fun, fast paced and quite a giggle too. You can hear a cheeky little voice as you read along (although for me it wasn’t Mr Cooper’s voice I heard) which helps sweep you along. The other thing that really supports this happy go lucky feeling is the artwork. It oozes with Skottie Young's style - over-emphasised features and odd shapes combine with bright colours (from Beaulieu), all smothered in a disarmingly child-like veneer.

My one gripe with it was someone didn’t proof read it all well enough. It was only one word but when it’s a fairly pivotal word in a sentence and you stick it in bold, you could at least spell MOSTLY right!

All in all this is a cracking little comic bursting with energy and fun. If this is any indication of the way the film is going to go as well then that is even more to look for but in the meantime as a good tongue in cheek wise cracking issue this is a good one to pick up.

It's also been known to sooth a grumpy mood!

Matt Puddy is looking forward blasting off with the Legendary Star-Lord!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Big Game Hunting Live - Star Trek: Attack Wing & Star Wars: X-Wing

by Rae

It's time for Big Game Hunting Live! This is a monthly gaming event that takes place on the second Saturday of every month. Players will get a chance to learn and play featured games all day long. This month we're featuring Star Trek: Attack Wing and Star Wars: X-Wing!

Star Trek: Attack Wing takes its inspiration directly from the classic TV show and enables players to fly their favourite ships through the galaxy – while taking down their enemies, of course. The beginner's pack includes a starter set of cards and ships from the Federation (Enterprise), the Klingons, and the Romulans, allowing for up to three players right out of the box.

Similarly, the beginner's box for Star Wars: X-Wing features two of the most popular ships from the franchise: TIE fighters and X-Wings. Two players can battle it out with well known characters and their allies, such as Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, at the helm. 

Both games have a multitude of expansions and additional pieces to add to your playing experience. Star Trek fans will find the USS Defiant, USS Voyager, and the Borg Sphere and Tactical Cube included in an array of new options. Star Wars expansions feature the B-Wing, Slave-1, and Millennium Falcon, again only a fraction of the choice of ships now available.

During the day, there will be two main gaming sessions, from 10:30am until 1:30pm, and 2:00pm until 5pm. Star Wars will be played in the morning, and Star Trek will be played in the afternoon. Both games will be played with the starter sets, to allow new players to get to grips with the Attack Wing system. Feel free to drop in at any time, we're happy to teach you how to play!

All participants will receive a voucher that entitles them to 10% off any Star Trek: Attack Wing or Star Wars: X-Wing product. Items not available on the day can be ordered in by request.

Rae finally beat the Borg!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

New Beginnings - Superman #32

by Stuart Mulrain

Okay, cards on the table time. I’m a Superman fan and have been for a very long time. The first superhero comic I bought was a UK edition Superman comic that featured the second part of John Byrne’s Man Of Steel miniseries. The first American comic that I bought - from an actual comic book store (the long-passed Hobbit Hole in Gloucester) – was Superman #82. I then spent most of my teenage years buying as many issues as I could get my hands on, from the Man Of Steel miniseries up to that issue and beyond.

At a point where most teenagers were getting into the darker comics, I was binging on Superman comics, as well as episodes of Lois & Clark on TV and obsessive listening of the Dirk Maggs BBC Radio Superman movies. At a certain point though, the Superman comics stopped being of interest to me, partly because the creative team began to change - and Mike Carlin moved on as Editor - and partly because I’d decided it was time to start looking at other types of comics and comic book heroes.

I did dip back into Superman occasionally - Jim Lee’s run on the character in the mid 2000’s in particular - but they just failed to grab me like the comics did in that first post-Infinite Crisis decade did. And then came The New 52...

There was very little about The New 52 that grabbed or excited me, but on a whim I bought the first trade paperback edition of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run and while I quite enjoyed it, I have yet to get round to picking up the rest of the run. And that was it for me and Superman until this very issue I’m here to review.

DC are clearly excited to be putting this book out, even going so far as to give it its own title credits sequence that boldly declares that “DC Comics Proudly Presents” before listing the names of all involved in creating the book. They clearly think they have found a winning team in Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.

It’s true that any new arc that has Geoff Johns’ name on it is something to get excited about. Following the huge success he garnered following his Green Lantern: Rebirth series in the mid 2000’s, Johns has been the go-to-guy for reinventing characters that have fallen out of vogue, making them new, exciting and relevant again. He’s essentially to DC what Martin Campbell is to James Bond.

But given Johns' pedigree for making an event title out of reintroducing/reinventing old or stale characters, it’s a shame that this first part of his Superman is something of a nothing issue, taking a very casual approach to the way it tries to set up future issues and doesn’t really concern itself with trying to hook you in for future issues.

So what about the art?

Well, I know that he has his fans out there, but I’m personally not keen on John Romita Jr’s art and there’s nothing about the cover of Superman #32 that made me feel any differently about his work and it didn’t fill me with confidence about what I could expect on the inside. It’s a pleasant surprise then that after the first few pages you are greeted with a nice splash page of Superman fighting Titano.

There just seems to be a lack of depth to some of the panels, while others look like Romita Jr. sketched them out on the bus on the way to handing them in. While his rough art style works fine in a book like Kick-Ass, it lacks the sheen and polish that Superman deserves that somebody like Dan Jurgen’s would bring to him.

It’s odd then that, despite my issues with this first instalment and its seeming lack of effort to hook me in, it has actually succeeded in making me curious enough to want to pick up the next issue and see if and how this arc is going to move forward.

Stuart Mulrain is at Proud Lion this Saturday for True Believers Day!