Friday, 30 November 2012

New Beginnings - Fantastic Four #1 & FF #1 (MARVEL NOW)

Over just a year ago Marvel separated out one of its franchises into two separate titles, Fantastic Four and FF. Both titles are back as part of Marvel Now. In what could be a stroke a genius (or madness) Matt Fraction is writing both titles, with different artists penciling the titles. For Fantastic Four he teams with Mark Bagley and on FF it's Michael Allred.

Now I know that there is an old adage saying that you should never judge a book by its cover, but considering that both these comics are penned by the same writer you could certainly get the chance to ignore that rule. However, with that said, I think the distinct difference in artwork between the two will divide the camps.

Personally I prefer Bagley’s work and as a result felt the Fantastic Four comic was far more appealing. Michael Allred’s art style is most definitely a marmite decision - either loved or hated. For me I’m the former. Whereas Bagley uses much cleaner and finer lines, Allred’s work comes across as a far more basic with a greater emphasis on bold linework and colouring too. One thing that can be said is that it is incredibly distinctive.

Fantastic Four was purposely released two weeks ahead of FF as it sets up both titles. Fantastic Four will follow the path of a sci-fi safari and a medical crusade, while FF takes the arduous task of creating hope and a safer future world too.

Reed has made another discovery, and one that isn’t favoured by him at all. He is dying. It turns out that the cosmic force that gave the Fantastic Four superpowers is also now ending it. There is nothing in the known universe that can save them, so it is the unknown universes that must be explored and used to provide a cure. There is a lovely little aspect to it as well which I enjoyed - even though they will go through a lot they will only lose four minutes of our time. Something I will return to.

This also leaves a second dilemma. If the Fantastic Four are away then who will be responsible for the world in their place? This is the pitch for the new FF title. Interspersed by “interviews” with the Future Foundation children, issue #1 works to establish pretty much all of the characters involved. Due to the quick punchy method it uses, it doesn’t necessarily give you everything but does work to establish their characters. For example the opening shot with Val and Franklyn, where you have a super genius child being eloquent and educated - able to understand and communicate effectively - whilst her older brother is pulling faces in the background. Quite impressive for a child who is possibly one of the strongest mutants there is - casually broaching it with a comment that he has a pet Galactus.

The meat of the story follows the main Fantastic Four players visiting allies and essentially recruiting them into the fold to look after things while they are away. Each of them uses their own style tailored to whom they were speaking with. It is only Ant-man who shows some apprehension as his elation of being a Fantastic Four member wanes when he realises that entails also being the Future Foundation babysitter too, something that I feel most readers will realise he has underestimated completely.

The thing I liked most, as I mentioned earlier, is that throughout this it is made clear that Reed feels that this will only be for four minutes and yet none of our heroes find this strange, odd or out of the ordinary. It’s a quirky element to pick on I know but I liked it. The reverence that is held and understanding that even in such a tiny amount of time so much can happen is right there.

Looking at both comics, and even though they have the same writer, I know I will gravitate towards Fantastic Four simply because I like the artwork as well as the story. Fraction’s quality shows on both titles, but I think you’ll need to be a fan of Allred’s work as well for the full impact.

This is a split decision for me as I know the story will be great but I don’t know my eyes will agree.

Matt Puddy is not responsible for this review being so late.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Movember 2012 - almost over! One last challenge!

Movember is almost over. In less than 48 hours now, I'll be clean shaven and doing my best to grow back my traditional goatee in time for Christmas.

As a team we've raised £125 together, with more than £30 (at last count) still to be paid in from the collections from the charity box in the store.

But it's not over yet! And I have one last challenge for you all.

If you guys can help us hit £250 worth of donations by 7:00am (GMT) tomorrow morning, I will trim my moustache into this style:

"Where's your Movember moustache Parker?!"

That's right. If you guys can dig deep just before Christmas and double the money we raised in less than 24 hours, I'll spend the last day with a toothbrush moustache on my face.

Now, we all know who we immediately think of from history when someone mentioned a toothbrush moustache. Comedian Richard Herring had a stand up show a few years ago that talked about that an pointed out that Charlie Chaplin had one long before Hitler.

The show was met with quite a lot of controversy though, as Herring was sporting a toothbrush moustache during the run of the show and some people took offense, so if you can meet my challenge it should make my life very interesting tomorrow!

It's all for a good cause though, so go on - put your money where my mouth is!

Ben Fardon wonders what tomorrow will bring.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Why Should I read... Green Lantern Rebirth

Every kid has heard a grandparent, or parent, or just an old person tell them how much better things were way back when. Maybe that's true sometimes. I personally have no frame of reference. I never just got an orange for Christmas. I've never walked to school over 20 miles barefoot in the snow. I never mixed fruit with sawdust and claimed it was a meal. Hard to imagine how that might have been better than how things are now. Green Lantern Rebirth gives me the same feeling.

Again, I have no basis of comparison. My reading habits have often steered me away from the more mainstream titles, so my first Green Lantern experience was this book. I had three attempts at reading it and therefore three experiences reading it.

The first time around, I sat down to read what I thought would be a classic superhero comic book. You know the kind of thing; heroic stances in Lycra, vanquished villains and witty one liners. I was expecting a reboot and a return to those days of yore. What I found was a number of multidimensional characters struggling to come to terms with what had gone before. A vast and emotional landscape was laid out very quickly, not only for the central Hal Jordan, but for those connected to him, from close friends and family, to those only connected by the common ground of the Green Lantern Corps. It was so complex and subtle, so different from what I had expected, I was forced to set it down and revisit it at a later date.

I did a little research to prepare myself. I tapped up Wikipedia to understand (albeit in abridged form) what had lead to this point. Rebirth is very much not a reboot of Green Lantern. It is a point in the timeline of the Green Lantern universe where the characters react and reflect on the events of such massive magnitude that time is required to process. It is a time when a line is drawn under what has gone before, and as the reader you observe the line being drawn and most importantly what it takes to draw it.

The second time I tried to read Rebirth, I discovered that the story was about that line, not what the line was being drawn under. It's always nice to know, as insatiable as curiosity is, but it's not necessary. My second attempt at reading the stopping point was the characters. Not only had I not read Green Lantern before, but despite years as a comic nerd, I was a relative novice to the wider DC universe. I was drawn away to check out the lesser characters; the various Lanterns of note, the villains, the 'normal' people of prominence and so on. While Rebirth is a great entry point in to the Lantern universe, there is a lot of history prior to it and it deserves to be respected. So I read up, and returned fully prepared to sit and read the book in its entirety, and I did.

The book reads like a hole in a fence. You look one way and you get a good look at the past. You look straight ahead, you can see what's happening, flashes of change, of motion. You look another way and you get a good idea of what's coming. But you can't see it all at once, no matter how hard you press your face against the fence panel. Given this book contains so much, is a lynchpin between stories, characters and their emotions, it's just about the perfect way to write it.

That's not to say it is a very accessible book. You need to be prepared for the intricacies of the interactions between the characters (knowing who they are certainly helps). There's a certain level of effort required to deal with some of the more fantastical or ethereal elements of the book. They are rewarding when you become familiar with them, but to the uninitiated they could be daunting.

Rebirth is very compelling once you are underway. It draws you in to its various elements as an angler might a fish, gently teasing and tugging as it switches pace and direction. Whilst I loved that aspect, I wouldn't place it in the hands of a novice comic book reader, but to someone familiar with the medium, it is as satisfying as any book I've read.

Green Lantern Rebirth is ultimately a gateway in to the Green Lantern, one that I strongly suggest you step through. Just don't trip over the Ryan Reynolds on the way in.

Chris Boyle is prepping the one man cave to rule them all.

Friday, 23 November 2012


All t-shirts reduced to £10!

All manga reduced to £1!

All comic packs half price!

Six 50p comics for only £1!

Today only!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

New Beginnings - Indestructible Hulk #1 (MARVEL NOW)

Another year, another Hulk relaunch. It seems that the Jade Giant just can't catch a break.

For over a decade both Marvel and readers alike knew that Bruce Banner and his alter ego were safe in the hands of Peter David. Sadly though, after that the character languished until Bruce Jones did some wonderful stuff in a run that was annoyingly cut short when Jones signed an exclusive contract with DC. Peter David returned for less than a year, leaving again due to his own high workload. Then came Greg Pak with Planet Hulk, possibly the finest Hulk story ever crafted - a science fiction opus with oppressive regimes, gladiatorial games and rebellions that owed a debt to Messrs Ridley Scott and George Lucas, yet was greater than the sum of its parts.

Unfortunately the subsequent World War Hulk was akin to watching students trying and failing to recapture the magic of an unexpectedly awesome house party. Even as a publishing event, Marvel branded it as a '"sorbet to cleanse your palate" rather than the hearty dining experience of Civil War. And then once again, Hulk and the good Doctor caught the yips, being sidelined by Jeph Loeb's Red Hulk nonsense.

I know Red Hulk was well received by many, but the publishing delays and the mystery behind his identity were badly handled. I'm still convinced the ultimate identity reveal was fudged and altered after internet speculation hit on the originally intended alter ego (*cough* Talbot *cough*). Seriously, his moustache disappears when Ross becomes the Hulk? WHAT? Red Hulk was a great idea from Mark Millar's original Civil War outline, that would have made a great self-contained story like Planet Hulk or Millar's own Old Man Logan, but Loeb and the powers-that-be at Marvel made it into a shambolic mess.

Soon after we ended up with both a (Red) Hulk comic and an Incredible Hulks comic, the latter featuring Banner and his half-alien son. I kid you not. It was frustrating. Iron Man may be my favourite Avenger, but Hulk is the close second and it's hard to see Bruce Banner treated so poorly when he's such a great analogy for young men struggling with their own rage, power and intelligence. A modern day Jekyll and Hyde, with a soupçon of something more.

Then came news of possible salvation in the shape of Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri. Incredible Hulk relaunched last year under these two celebrated creators. I was excited.

It was crap.

The Hulk and Banner had been separated after the events of Fear Itself. Hulk was the reluctant hero. Banner was the monster - a mad man consumed with mad science. It was miles away from what made Hulk special; a terrible misstep by Jason Aaron (whose Thor God Of Thunder #1 released last week is a testament to how good he can be!). Even Silvestri left after five issues. The two subsequent story arcs ultimately put the toys back in the box - reuniting Banner and Hulk - albeit with a brief diversion to essentially rip-off the Crank movies. Badly.

So here we are, just over a year on and the Incredible Hulk has been cancelled and replaced by the Indestructible Hulk. The new writer Mark Waid is a man you can often trust to deliver a fresh take and some solid quality. He was the only writer other than Ed Brubaker to make the mainstream Captain America readable for me. Both Irredeemable and Incorruptible are a fantastic look at the superhero genre taken to an extreme, without resorting to hyper-violence and harsh language. Not to mention the seminal Kingdom Come and the acclaimed new run on Daredevil. And I'm relieved to say he's done it again.

This first issue of Indestructible Hulk is a masterclass in comic writing, as it both delivers an entertaining self-contained story, whilst also setting up the premise for this new run.

It's a short time after AvX and SHIELD has lost all trace of Banner/Hulk, much to the chagrin of Director Maria Hill. It turns out the man has been off thinking: weighing up his options, reflecting on his mistakes and consulting with his inner monster. In short, he's had a bit of a breakthrough. The Hulk isn't something he can cure, but it is something he can live with - managing the transformations - taking inspiration from the thousands of people who deal with diabetes or MS. With that, the world is his oyster once more. Rather than treating Hulk like a ticking bomb, he's a cannon to be aimed at a problem when the time comes.

So he's come to SHIELD for funding and support. When he's Banner, they get one of the brightest minds in the Marvel Universe, finally free of the self-imposed shackles of guilt and responsibility, ready to contribute and help - determined to leave a positive legacy like his peers. When he's the Hulk, he's a weapon - the strongest SHIELD agent they've ever had. He's even approached Hill on the day of a dangerous op, planning to save lives and audition for his new role in one grand swoop.

It's a bold new beginning and exactly what I've been waiting for. Leinil Yu's intricate pencils bring the whole thing to life and have a feel that reminds me of his lovely work on Secret Invasion (rather than his slightly underwhelming New Avengers art), though I'm reminded that Yu's art needs a good inker to give his fine lines some definition where appropriate. Thankfully he has one here, though I'm not sure whether that's down to Yu himself or colourist Sunny Cho. The colouring occasionally wanders off piste - most notable when Hill briefly looks like she's come down with a bad case of the Red Hulks - but for the most part it's a good effort.

So Hulk in comics seems to have followed a path similar to Hulk in film and TV adaptations. After a long running, much loved TV series, the Ang Lee film was a horrid travesty. And whilst the Ed Norton penned Incredible Hulk film was pretty good, it wasn't great, and it was no great shock when Marvel passed on a sequel to focus on other characters. Then came the Avengers, where Mark Ruffalo's Hulk was arguably the breakout star. Like Ruffalo's interpretation, Waid's Indestructible Hulk similarly feels like a fresh twist that somehow still embodies the heart of the classic character.

The Hulk has a bright future ahead I feel. If you also felt burnt by the promise of last year's Incredible Hulk, rest assured that Indestructible Hulk does deliver.

Ben Fardon eagerly awaits issue #2.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Digital Canvas - Truth Is Beauty

Some time ago now, I wrote an article detailing why I thought that the art of a webcomic isn't the be-all and end-all, and that good writing should always come first. With that in mind, lets celebrate webcomics with the most beautiful artwork! I don't pretend to be an art critic by any means, so in this article I'll be letting the pictures do most of the talking. I apologise in advance, this may be a looong stretch of an article!

I've often mentioned Gunnerkrigg Court in my articles, but I feel that I can bear to repeat myself once more by saying what a glorious webcomic it is, especially in relation to the artwork. The muted palette does a lot to establish a wonderful atmosphere throughout, and the Court is a beautifully realised setting that our protagonists have bearly even scratched the surface of, if the following page is anything to go by:

Gunnerkrigg also benefits from healthy doses of surreality and symbolism, especially when dealing with the delightful trickster god Coyote or the troubled reality-altering girl Zimmy:

As you can tell, the creator Tom Siddell has improved immensly since those first few pages, especially since he quit his normal job to focus on the webcomic. Buy some of his stuff guys, and long may his webcomic flourish.

The Abominable Charles Christopher is a webcomic that is both beautiful and moving, with pages ranging from humour to melancholy. The story follows a silent sasquach who acts like a child, slowly gaining perspective on the world in a forest full of funny talking animals that is slowly being encroached upon by the influence of Man. The art is made up of blacks and light greys, and the artist Karl Kersch is particularly gifted in displaying fluid movement:

Throughout the strip, a deeper story involving animal deities is often hinted at, and when one of these enigmatic characters show up it's always a visual treat:

I wasn't surprised to later learn that Kersch has done various work for Marvel and DC, his talent truly shines through here.

The next webcomic I want to showcase, Cucumber Quest by Gigi D.G., is a twist on various boy-goes-on-adventure-to-save-the-kingdom stories and constantly plays/messes with the familiar themes of these age old tales. Also everyone is a rabbit-person! It has a gorgeous soft and flowing style in various pastel colours that gives the strip bags of atmosphere:

The use of light and shade is wonderful throughout, and the settings are beautifully imaginative:

Plus as an added bonus, the strip is truly hilarious throughout! Well worth a look!

And when I'm taking about beautiful webcomics, how can I fail to mention Evan Dahm's truly epic Rice Boy. Rice Boy starts off small and sneakily grows before your eyes to become a huge sprawling tale equal to any Lord Of The Rings or Iliad you'd care to mention, filled with themes of lost innocence and destiny versus choice, but coupled with a distinct storybook asthetic that fits the tone so well.

At times the art is naively simple, but when it calls for it the level of detail can be breathtaking:

Sadly, there are far more beautiful webcomics in the world than words I can use to write about them, so I'll wrap this up with a few special mentions of strips suggested to me specifically for this article by my good chums at the MSPA forums (shout out to the webcomics board!):

Lackadaisy by Tracy Butler, with its wonderfully fluid anatomy and use of greyscale:

Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski, with its breathtaking use of colour and dramatic lighting:

And finally Unsounded by Ashley Cope, which I can only describe as simply visually stunning:

I’d just like to reiterate that art shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of choosing a webcomic to read, that should be reserved for the quality of writing, whether that be for punch lines or story lines. But often I find that good art goes hand in hand with good writing!

Todd Marsh just voted for Proud Lion in the Gloucestershire Echo Love To Shop Awards

Friday, 16 November 2012

Missing titles in next week's deliveries

With regards to next Wednesday's new comics (the 21st), here's an edited version of an email I received today from Diamond UK, for your information.

Dear Retailer,

Unfortunately a few DC comic titles will not be shipping as expected next week, the following titles will be one week late and will now have a new UK on sale date of Wed 28th November.

SEP120217  Blue Beetle # 14
SEP120258 – Fables # 123
SEP120260 – Hellblazer #297
SEP120267 – The Unwritten # 43

Diamond would like to apologise for an inconvenience that this may cause.

Diamond Comic Distributors.

So if you order any of those titles from Proud Lion, please be aware they will be late and it's sadly beyond my control.

These things happen and it's annoying, but being forewarned is forearmed as they say.

There are lots of awesome books shipping on time next week, including Justice League #14, Walking Dead Vol 17 TP, Indestructible Hulk #1, Deadpool #2 and many more!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

New Beginnings - All New X-Men #1 (MARVEL NOW)

This week, as part of Marvel Now, we finally have the new X-Men comic that has been advertised for quite a while with a new campaign built around the retro image on the front cover.

Whilst on that subject it is worth mentioning that the cover, brought by Grawbadger, Immonen and Gracia together may not look totally enticing but give it a shot as it’s a double spread opening up with the back page too making it a whole world better! Although I have to admit that my favourite is the back page.

Here's the wrap cover from issue #1, plus the start of the cover for issue #2...

The story is a continuation from the AvX arc but starts with a very different scene. Beast is struggling, his mutation on the verge of changing once again. Will this be once too many? Even he doesn’t know. It’s a tense double page spread which leaves the reader hanging for the rest of the issue (and beyond) meaning all the time there is a cliffhanger waiting to drop.

Bendis then radically changes the scene to another new mutation, where following on from the Phoenix force’s reawakening of the X-gene, another new mutant emerges in the midst bustling nightlife. For her it’s confusing and new - she can’t even believe it in herself - but for the fugitive Cyclops he knows exactly what is going on and in his mind he believes he knows how to handle it.

Although this comic is essentially about finding new mutants and the repercussions it is creating, there’s also a significant amount of “evolution” tying in with the Join the Revolution theme of Marvel Now. As mentioned before there is Beast, followed by the new kids but perhaps even more sinister is Scott’s evolution. Here we have the man who has finally stepped out of Charles Xavier’s shadow not to fulfil his dream but now resembling the political stance and actions of Magneto more than ever.

But it is for these actions that the second act of the comic is created. In an attempt to fix things, and undoubtedly himself too in the process, Beast breaks the time continuum to visit the first X-Men to bring them back in an attempt to stop Scott’s radical stance.

The dilemma it poses is layered in multiple ways so that it will be a hard thing to refuse.

The visuals are brought to us by Stuart Immonen and inked by the fabulously named Wade Von Grawbadger. It’s vibrant and capturing but often also has a colour wash running through an entire double page spread to hold it all together. I especially liked the pages where Eva’s mutant ability manifests. I just like how it looks and I can’t quite put my finger on why! One thing that can be said is that Immonen is very good at conveying emotion through facial expressions and takes care to involve everyone in the frame. It doesn’t always have all of the detail in the world but then again I don’t feel it needs it either.

I’ll be the first to admit that in my comic world bubble the X-Men are not my first choice of comic to read, however, I was really surprised by the content of this new start. There is definitely a new feel to it and the story has matured, coming a long way in its time so I found it personally enjoyable to read.

As a new start for a completely blank reader it would work, although there would be a great deal of questions posed. This has been restarted from where things were left so there is no quirky reworks or story alterations to make things fit. As a way of jumping into the pool, it's a welcoming dive into the deep end.

Matt Puddy is off to another continent and will return in two weeks.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

New Beginnings - Thor God Of Thunder #1 (MARVEL NOW)

Time travel can be a fickle beast can't it? Especially in fiction, where the myriad of possibilities enthral some while alienating others. Be it a narrative that crashes through time, with the audience experiencing things first hand like the Doctor and his companions, or showing disparate but connecting time zones like Cloud Atlas, it can be a very divisive storytelling device.

Personally I tend to love time travel stories, as they can maintain the thrust of a progressing plotline, whilst compellingly obfuscating certain details until the moment is right. With Thor God Of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron has chosen to do exactly that. The story initially moves back and forth between a young Thor, fighting and carousing alongside Vikings and the Thor of now, answering a young child's cries for help in deep space.

Well, I say cries, it's actually her prayers. This first issue firmly reestablishes that the Marvel Universe has various pantheons of Gods. I know that some readers will struggle with this, for a variety of reasons. Mark Millar's Ultimates' Thor neatly sidestepped this controversy by implying at first that he might simply be a madman with delusions of pagan deification. But this is Earth-616 Thor, the mainstay of Marvel comics and this character firmly believes he is a God. It's even in the title after all!

There's no hint of the Marvel Cinematic Universe take on it all here either. If - in order to suspend disbelief - it helps you to believe that there are older alien races with superior technology and physiology, and that these Gods are simply such as those who have bought into their own hype, then there's also nothing here to contradict that. Prayers for help could simply be a form of telepathic SOS after all.

The point I'm making here is that Jason Aaron has embraced Thor wholeheartedly in a way that even JMS didn't quite manage during his run. Rather than modernise Thor by blurring the lines as in the Ultimates or trying to blend the middle America with the fantasy of Asgard, Aaron presents us with classic Thor in a supremely confident way, without teetering into arrogance. Across three time zones, we see the God Of Thunder at various stages in his life, confronted by the same menace and responding as only Thor can.

Three time zones? Oh yes, that's the crowning jewel in this Asgardian treasury of a first issue. There is a menace that Thor has encountered before, first depositing the dead God of a Native American tribe on the shores of a Viking settlement, then later slaughtering a whole pantheon of alien Gods in deep space. There's a God Butcher on the loose. And so, several millennia from now, Thor the King of Asgard sits atop his throne - the last of his kind, waiting to face the one responsible for deicide in final glorious battle. According to interviews with Aaron, the story will continue to unfold across these three times, first showing us what Thor learnt from his first encounter, before setting up the beginning of the end in present day and culminating with the epic showdown in the future. As I said, supremely confident storytelling.

It reminds me of the way I felt about Brubaker's run on Captain America. Both the Super Soldier and the Thunder God are Avengers that failed to inspire me as a teenager. I flat out disliked their stories on the whole and gave them a wide berth. Brubaker made me put Cap on my pulllist and - damn it - I'm certain Aaron just sold me on Thor. Even JMS didn't manage that, though admittedly he came close.

The artwork from Esad Ribic is beautiful, like an ethereal painting that fits this story of dark fantasy and heroic majesty. Thor does look a little effeminate when he smiles, but it's a minor criticism in the grand scheme of things.

Last week's Iron Man fell short, but this book, Deadpool, Fantastic Four and All New X-Men are all a breath of fresh air. Thor God Of Thunder #1 embodies the quality I'll be holding Marvel Now to. It sets a nice high benchmark. I never thought I'd say that about a Thor comic!

Ben Fardon is pleasantly surprised! 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Lion's Share - Walking Dead posters, charity auction UPDATE

The charity auction for the Walking Dead posters continues! It's not too late to post a bid and secure these beauties for yourself - whilst also raising money for a good cause.

All of the proceeds from the auctions will go to Prostate Cancer UK in honour of Movember!

The season one poster is doing OK, but could do better. And shockingly, NO ONE has bid on the season two poster yet. What is wrong with you people?! Come on, dig deep!

You can find the auctions here:

Happy bidding!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

New Beginnings - Deadpool #1 (MARVEL NOW)

We recently saw him tear the Marvel Universe a new one but this week due to the Marvel Marketing Machine, we have Deadpool relaunching from issue #1 as part of Marvel Now.

Many of you will know the Merc with a Mouth as he has now spanned (just) over 20 years of comic service, especially due to his wise cracking and loud approach to life. He’s the joker in the pack but with a killer edge. Although he may be completely unhinged and schizophrenic, he’s still completely deadly with a healing factor to boot.

Now all of the above is known to fans and regular visitors to the MU but in the case of this issue, brought to us by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, there is no back story. This is an issue one which takes great strides from the word go. The reason why? Well it’s all explained on the back page in typical Deadpool crayon signed style. This is NOT a reboot. (which I've been teling people for weeks now! *head desk* Relaunch, not reboot! BF)

Hitting the ground retrospectively running we are quickly given the reason why we need Deadpool.

After a madman (in a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform) is found to be resurrecting dead presidents to revive a failing America (which is ironically timed almost perfectly with the American Presidential Elections), Captain America is openly seen decapitating a former head of state. The resulting media backlash means it is decided that things cannot continue. You can’t have the most famous boy scout killing historical figures and founding fathers, even if they are zombies hell bent on destroying the nation. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Preston is tasked with finding a way to covertly fix the problem.

The answer virtually falls into her lap.

After finishing off a giant lizard in grotesque style, Deadpool is faced with a wheelchair bound necrotic FDR. Without being able to resist his natural urges, Wade can only engage whilst letting the jokes fly at the same time. In beating FDR he earns himself the job of clearing up the rest of the undead former Commander-In-Chiefs, because he’s not the hero they want but he is “the scumbag they need”.

The writing is a lot of fun and displays the flair for humour that you would expect from two comedians.  Brian Posehn is an actor, writer and comic that many of you will recognise as Brian Spukowski from The Sarah Silverman Program. His co-writer is Gerry Duggan, a film and TV writer who works on Attack Of The Show.

A lot of it is very tongue in cheek but I do miss the monologue that follows Wade as he engages with everyone, including the reader. This seems to be played down a lot and reserved for people in the comic. He certainly doesn't break the fourth wall. He also seems a little more with it than the normal Deadpool rather than the borderline psychotic we saw in arcs such as the Dark Angel Saga in Uncanny X-Force, but then this is clearly artistic license being exercised. Underneath it all he’s still the confused killer we love, and I’m sure more will come through in time. Rumours are he'll have new voices in his head soon enough.

I’m usually fairly set on how I feel about the artwork in comics but this time Tony Moore has me stumped a little. Overall it is consistent and follows the same set of personal rules of drawing throughout, but what I find odd is that some things have fantastic definition and linework - leading to depth and detail - while others simply don’t. A good example is the second page where the fifth panel loses all detail and looks almost 2000AD-esque. This keeps happening throughout and occasionally goes the other way too where the definition smooths out all the lines (third page with Cap) and an almost Ramos-style (*shudder* BF) comes in. Big jaw, soft lines and smooth skin...

It doesn’t take anything away from the story but I didn’t feel it enhanced it as other artists have done for me in the past.

That said this is still a cracking issue and a great story to pick up. A good start in my eyes for Marvel Now.

Matt Puddy is wondering what to expect from Bendis' X-Men...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

New Beginnings - Iron Man #1 (MARVEL NOW)

Let's start with a confession that won't be news to long term readers. Iron Man was my first American superhero, occasionally tucked in the back of weekly Transformers comics. Years later I renewed my connection with the Golden Avenger and found I loved his stories.

When they were good.

Some damn shiny Iron Man stories!

Great storylines like Armor Wars and Demon In A Bottle; in fact most of the Micheline/Layton run. Or Kurt Busiek's Heroes Return run and Joe Quesada's The Mask in the Iron Man storyline. Sadly after Joe Q moved on the comic had a long slump in quality, similar to the sad days of The Crossing and teen Tony. It wasn't until Warren Ellis and Adi Granov came along with Extremis that Iron Man regained it's spark. The Civil War that came soon after was spellbinding, followed by the intricate and compelling work from the Knaufs on Iron Man, Director Of SHIELD.

Then came Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca, with the run that finished last month. Superb work that ranks alongside the Micheline/Layton stories for pace and characterisation. So going into Marvel Now, I knew I'd be one of the harshest critics for Kieron Gillen and Greg Land's new beginning with ol' Shellhead.

That said, I have enjoyed the majority of Gillen's computer games journalism and comic work thus far (from the sublime Phonogram, to his run on Uncanny X-Men and the much missed SWORD series, right through to his truly excellent  work with Kid Loki) and I'd say his Young Avengers is one of the Marvel Now titles I'm most looking forward to.

Sadly, Iron Man #1 is closer to his muddled work on Generation Hope (which now seems to have been consigned to obscurity by Avengers Vs X-Men).

It's a slow start, with Stark suited up and flying over a modern urban sprawl, beautifully lit up at night by the sunset and the city lights. The visual certainly reflects the technological beauty of our protagonist  but it's juxtaposed with a maudlin voiceover from Tony himself. As a solo title, Tony's monologues have always been his stock in trade and should be the perfect place to establish the writer's own characterisation on the hero. Instead it's revealed to be a clumsy effort by Tony to talk to a pretty blonde at his table, as we cut to a bar in New York.

In the same transition, we push from two pages of satisfying work from Greg Land, to four pages of frankly horrible line art. The thing that really stands out is how plastic and wooden the people look, like disturbing real dolls. The amount of top front row teeth on display is laughably distracting and does little to convey a wealthy playboy. Instead the result is terrifyingly creepy. Land's work isn't bad when he's drawing Tony in the armour, but the rest of the time it's serviceable at best and unsettling at it's worst.

I just couldn't bring myself to show you the awful wooden faces and plastic teeth!

Staying in the bar, things slip further into shambolic dialogue as Tony briefly addresses his status as a recovering alcoholic before lurching into verbal sparring with Pepper and a bunch of exposition reestablishing Tony's current business status with regards to Resilient, the company he established during Fraction's run.

It's here that Pepper brands Tony as a man having a midlife crisis, and that's certainly how this book feels. After a high of seven years of mostly great storytelling, this is sadly pedestrian. The meat of the story comes from a brief reappearance by Maya Hansen before seemingly being unceremoniously killed by what I assume is an Extremis-enhanced AIM agent. Hopefully Hansen herself was also similarly upgraded and will survive to return at a later date, otherwise it's a disgraceful quick exit for a pivotal character.

Please let issue #2 be better!

The rest of the story is shamelessly built on the Extremis storyline. In the past Gillen's writing has always including a hook to bring you back for more with some exciting foreshadowing of what's to come. Sadly here, all we get here is the lead that there are four more people using Extremis enhanciles in the world. It adds little to Ellis and Granov's work - trading entirely on past glories - with Tony even obliquely referencing the Armor Wars and Demon In A Bottle as he vows to liberate Hansen's work from the hands of these madmen.

It's pains me to say, but this comic is disappointing and it's the first comic I've read from Kieron Gillen that doesn't leave me wanting more. It reads like a filler issue, rather than a bold launch of a new ongoing title that in turn is part of a larger brand relaunch. Hopefully issue #2 (out in just two weeks time), wil start to fulfil Gillen's promise of depicting Tony as a technological visionary bright knight rather than the introspective midlife crisis on display here.

Ben Fardon reluctantly refers to the classic storyline as Armor Wars and not Armour Wars, in deference to it's American authors.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Proud Lion webcomic #11 revised - Test Card Redux

We are experiencing existential difficulties. Please stand by.

Author's note: Apologies for the long delay folks. This revised version of #11 features wonderful brand new art by Ian. The original version of this edition can still be found here. We'll be back at the end of November with #12 which rounds off Season One, other than an epilogue for Christmas. After the holidays, we will return with Season Two in 2013!


Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Lion's Share - Walking Dead posters, charity auction

Movember continues! There is a dark shadow atop my upper lip and fundraising is going well.

In addition, having talked about it for a while now I'm finally auctioning off the two Walking Dead TV posters we've had in the store.

Many customers have expressed interest in them and I've always felt the fairest thing to do is to auction them for charity.

So here goes, raising money for Prostate Cancer UK in honour of Movember!

You can find the auctions here:

Please give generously!

Friday, 2 November 2012

New Beginnings - Wolverine Max #1

After a delayed release this week we have Jason Starr’s Wolverine Max #1. Starr is more predominantly known as a crime and thriller writer; he made the transition into comics in 2009, and in 2011 won the first Anthony award for a graphic novel with The Chill.

From the very beginning the explicit content warning label is used with not only a plane crash but the use of the F word on the opening double page spread. Something I have to admit I am not used to seeing in a Marvel comic.

It’s disoriented, frantic and confusing - which is exactly what the story needs to begin with as Logan finds himself once again without memory or any clue as to where he is or why. Relying and acting purely on instinct he finds himself a celebrity, the miracle man who was the only survivor of a terrible plane accident at sea.

It’s at this point that the story splits into two separate stories. A retrospective of where he has come from  and the primal drives that he has resorted to in order to staying alive, juxtaposed with the aftermath of the crash where Logans mutant abilities are manifesting and confusing all around him as well as himself. As the only survivor he is under scrutiny and investigation. To confuse matters further he sees a girl that he thought had died in the sea.

Not knowing what to believe and who to trust Logan slips back in his mind to a time when as a monk he met a kindred soul called Victor.

The culmination of the issue is that Logan is left in a position where he can’t take anything he sees for granted and is unsure of all around him. With the sole exception of finally knowing he is not the miracle man - he is Logan.

The artwork for the issue is provided by Roland Boschi and Connor Willumsen with two very different styles being used to denote the flashbacks and current events. In addition, Jock has provided the covers which are looking minimalist and great!

I found that the flashback artwork was too indistinct for me with a very rough approach to it all. I can appreciate the idea behind it though as it does give a skewed perspective on things which is exactly how Logan’s mind must be. The present day artwork is a lot more distinct and clearer. There are still some moments when you have to accept the artist's reinterpretation of Wolverine as there is a loose depiction of him but not necessarily an easily identifyable version of him.

I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the artwork but (and I’m hoping that this was the angle that was being chased) the styles representing the current and past situations as experienced by Logan are explored. Even though I didn’t like it all I can appreciate the thought and work behind it all.

Interestingly, Connor Willumsen has since left the book, claiming there has been a ”a disrespect of agreement” with Marvel. For more details, click here.

This is a strange issue for me. The main character is possibly one of the best known in the Marvel Universe and the “Max” brand is a new way to experience his life but it has been done in such a way that new readers would be lost or left with a lot of questions. Fans of Wolverine will gravitate towards it well though and I think that there would be plenty of takers for an ongoing series.

Matt Puddy is ready for the next wave of Marvel Now!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Lion's Share - Movember 2012!

White rabbits!

A pinch and a punch for the first of the month! No returns.

Whatever first of the month rituals or routines you may hold, in addition hundreds of thousands of men around the world are shaving their faces and preparing for Movember.

Myself included.

Movember began in Australia in 2003, but it's now spread to 21 countries around the world.  For the thirty days of November, the registered Mo Bros will grow, groom, trim and wax their way to a gentlemanly moustache. It's all in the aid of men's health, raising vital funds for care and research, plus raising general awareness for a range of concerns from prostate cancer to mental health.

  • 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK – one man is diagnosed every 15 minutes
  • A man will die from prostate cancer every hour - more than 10,000 men will die of the disease this year in the UK 
  • African Caribbean men are three times more likely to develop prostate cancer
  • You are 2.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer if your father or brother has had it 
  • Occurrences of prostate cancer in men are comparable to the rates of breast cancer in women 
  • 2,209 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2009 
  • 47% of testicular cancer cases occur in men under 35 years and over 90% occur in men under 55 years

Unlike the nonsense Facebook status memes of recent year, Movember is not exclusively for one gender alone. The campaign acknowledges that these health matters affect the lives of women as much as they do the men, and so ladies are encouraged to support the men in their life - be they family or lovers - by becoming Mo Sistas, spreading the word and fundraising as well.

Last year was their most successful campaign to date with 854,288 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas raising £79.3 million. This year, almost 550,000 participants have registered already, with a full month ahead of us.

This year, I'm doing it. Most of you will now I usually look like this:

But as of this morning, I now have a clean shaven face ready to begin my great Moustache Adventure!

 If you can spare a small donation to sponsor me, it would be greatly appreciated. This can be done here. If anyone out there is also doing Movember, and is doing it solo, come and join our Proud Lion Movember team and pool our efforts!

I'll be posting updates of progress as we go. I'm still deciding on the type of moustache I'm going to grow. I think there maybe an attempt to sport three different ones over the course of Movember!

New Beginnings will return tomorrow, with Matt's review of Wolverine Max #1.

Ben Fardon has a very cold face today.