Friday, 27 December 2013

New Beginnings - Origin II

For a long time, Wolverine's s history was a mystery obfuscated by time, memory loss and narrative conceit. Then came the X-Men movie franchise and the possibility that if Marvel didn't make some revelations soon, Bryan Singer and his cohorts were likely to just make something up. As a result, we were treated to the Origin miniseries from Paul Jenkins and Adam Kubert, running from late 2001 into 2002.

Since then Logan - aka James Howlett - has one of the most tinkered with and revisited backstories in the entire Marvel Universe. It’s had many additions and revisions, especially in the fallout of House Of M with the Weapon-X survivor remembering the events of Origin, leading to the Wolverine Origins comic.

Now Keiron Gillen steps up to the plate, with returning artist Kubert to present us with Origin II. Gillen of course spent a few years writing Uncanny X-Men, so he's no stranger to the Children of the Atom. The news that Sinister will be playing a part in this new Origin miniseries should entice anyone who enjoyed that aforementioned run on Uncanny X-Men.

The first thing of note is the production of this comic. When you see it on the shelf with its glossy and enticing cover, you'll quickly discover there is a lovely little surprise. The clawed hand on the cover in the forefront of a pack of wolves is actually a thin clear acetate sheet, which in part hides extra detail on both the front and back. It’s a simple little thing but works very nicely for a first issue gimmick. As well as looking great, it adds a depth to the covers that a reader can get into and creates an instant collector's item.

Moving to 1907 we are reintroduced to a far more feral Logan. This could well be considered his wilderness years. He has chosen to remove himself from civilisation and the people who would bother him, now running with a pack of wolves. He’s been taken in as one of them, part of the family and part of the life cycle. There is an unspoken understanding and belonging.

Unspoken is also a very apt word in fact. Throughout the entire comic there is no written dialogue at all and the story is guided by image and narration instead. This doesn’t detract from it in any way and strangely the completely detached narrator also keeps things focussed. It's very reminiscent of a classic issue of GI Joe or indeed Marvel's wonderful 'Nuff Said month back in 2001. 

Hunting and living together means that with rewards and opportunities also comes the threats. On one hand there is the lone wolf. Calculated, cruel and patient, he is a serene threat in waiting. One that is ready to strike when the right moment presents itself. In true opportunistic fashion this does happen, but only after the main threat of a great white bear has torn his lupine family apart.

Wolverine, whether man or wolf, only knows a few ways to deal with something like this and reacts with all his force and beserker rage, leaving only bodies and carnage behind. A body that also carries the marker of Weapon 11.

It’s hard to read the comic without trying to divine some greater narrative meaning behind it all. There are several analogies that can be or should be applied to the story. So the economy of words Gillen has used helps to open it up for potential personal interpretation. A multilayered story inside and out.

The artwork is nothing less than you would expect from the house of Kubert. It sits extremely well with me as I am a fan of fine artwork; the definition in Logan’s muscles and the fur on the wolves and bear in particular. Some of the detail is lost in the bigger pieces but you come to expect that. Still, visually it is very good and adds a lot of details to what is essentially a barren wasteland.

Wolverine fans will lap this up. It’s a well produced and presented comic with a good story between the covers. For those who haven’t been following as well it’s a standalone book that can also be read as part of the richer tapestry. Part two comes out in January and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gained some new followers.

Matt Puddy is ready for the next challenge, bring on 2014!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Out today - Origin II #1

There are five new comics out today, including Avengers, Forever Evil, Justice League and the beautiful first issue of Origin II, with the stunning acetate cover you see above!

There's also a limited amount of blank covers and Skottie Young baby variants for Origin II, plus Avengers has a set of ten variants, all homages to classic Avengers and X-Men covers from the past 75 or so years:

If you'd like any of these reserved for you, drop me a line ASAP. The shop is open until at least 3pm today, and then we're closed until Friday. If you're doing last minute Christmas shopping today, best of luck!

Ben Fardon is looking forward to Christmas ham and eggs for dinner tonight!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Mane Event - X-Men: Battle of the Atom


I wanted to like Battle of the Atom, I really did. In fact for the first four issues, I loved it, thought it was a stellar, exciting crossover that didn't feel like a crossover as much as it did a brilliant miniseries that'd impact all the orbiting X-Books for the better. And they were already pretty great!

So what happened?

I don't know. It just kinda peters out after the fifth chapter (Wolverine and the X-Men #36) introduces the 'big twist', which is that the entire thing is really more of an incidental struggle between a future faction of the Brotherhood – here led by a kind-of-boring evil Xavier Jr. and the initially-interesting but eventually really boring Xorn II (the future incarnation of the Jean Grey brought back from the past), and the X-Men of the future. It should feel huge and explosive and really tense, but then there are so many twists without impact, so many 'surprise' characters, that it feels bloated.

The biggest problem with Battle of the Atom is a thematic one – it's about time travel, through-and-through. X-Men stories aren't about time travel, though. They're about prejudice, hate and fear, finding strength in bonds of fraternity and overcoming your struggles to forge a better future. Atom chooses a recurring element (which my inner cynic says was motivated by the upcoming Days of Future Past movie) of the grand X-Saga and makes it consume the entire thing, and the end result is really rather negligible. Atom's lasting legacy is some new stray bad guys including Evil Xavier and the amusingly-designed future Beast (forever named 'Goatman Beast' from now on) and the awful Raze, son of Wolverine and Mystique. Besides that, the only major shake-up is the insane moving of the Original X-Men to the side of Cyclops, mutant terrorist. That could easily have happened sans crossover.

Atom has its highlights, of course. Some of the action is ballsy stuff, and some of the future characters are fascinating, like Wiccan, Sorcerer Supreme and Quentin Quire, jerkass host of the Phoenix – so of course, none of them get any exposure, as the middle issues and even the finale devolve into lots and lots of padding. Even the final fight feels stuffed to bursting with nothing in particular, which is baffling.

Battle of the Atom isn't confusing or overwrought. It's clearly got a well-defined beginning, middle and end, with satisfying story beats dispersed throughout. But taken as a whole, it's dull, it's flabby, and it's not very fun to read past the first handful of issues. Maybe in six months, when the impact and fallout become clear, it'll feel more important – but right now, in the immediate aftermath, it feels like a missed opportunity.

At least Sentinel-X was cool.

Jack Meldrum wonders if anyone ever got their jetpacks in the future. Probably not.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Rescuing Strays - Pretty Deadly Vs. Velvet

Rescuing Strays is our new way of trying to call attention to comics that may have past you by. On this occasion I am looking at Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Pretty Deadly and Ed Brubaker’s Velvet.

First off the mark is Pretty Deadly. When I was presented with the two comics, this cover (the Thought Bubble 2013 variant) was the one that caught my eye. It mixes bright orange along with dark browns and blacks, but ultimately displays the main figure of the comic, Deathface Ginny, depicted in a style which reminded me of the Genndy Tartakovsky version Star Wars Clone Wars mixed with a restricted colour palette variation of his Samurai Jack.

Inside is a slightly different style of artwork, provided by Emma Rios and coloured by Jordie Bellaire. It's quite muted and is similar in its initial style to Five Ghosts, so another tick in my book. When you look deeper into it though there is a lot more detail in the frames, especially on the first page for instance, with the rabbit .

The story is akin to a precautionary tale for this issue. Rolling into a town from the Old West we meet a blind man and his young female companion. They travel the wilds visiting towns and cities to tell the torrid tale of how Deathface Ginny became to be. Her mother's beauty, her incarceration and finally her love affair with Death himself, with the product of their union being Deathface Ginny - a woman who was raised by Death as a reaper of vengeance and a hunter of men who have sinned.

Although she is not specifically in this issue (until the end where the final panel is a cracking shot of her) this really does set up the rest of the series for her to come into.

Velvet, by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, is a tale taking us back to the depths of the Cold War where spy versus spy is the norm. In contrast to Pretty Deadly, the artwork for this issue could be called luxurious. The opening page from the Parisian skyline and dinner jacketed killing are well-illustrated, smooth and sumptuously coloured to match. This then continues throughout the issue making it a really good looking read. The feeling, albeit a cleaner cut image, is akin to Brubaker's Fatale.

The reader is thrown right into the story from the very beginning with three murders in as many pages, which sets alarm bells ringing. It’s not a potential serial killer on the loose but more that the targets are specifically chosen and are all on a list of people who don’t officially exist. They are elite spies where every operation is a black op and their very existence is either not known about at all or simply just a rumour.

So who is killing them and why? This is the driving question for Velvet Templeton, a seemingly efficient but otherwise innocuous secretary in the patriarchal world of espionage in the Cold War. It transpires that she is far smarter and better trained than any of her co-workers and she has intelligence on a great deal of people who assumed far less of her than she really was. She begins her own investigation, but this does lead her into trouble, resulting in diving out of a window under gunfire from her own people at the end of the first issue.

Spy fiction is nothing new, but this is a character that will clearly challenge gender stereotypes then and now. It's a welcome take on the genre and the direction of this book is likely to change rapidly after this first issue, as we learn more about Velvet's mysterious past.

Whilst it may seem strange to compare these two different comics - one a western revenge title, the other a deceit and mystery-filled spy title - the common thread is the protagonist (and arguably the publisher). Both contain incredibly strong, motivated and powerful female characters – which given DeConnick is the writer isn’t too surprising for Pretty Deadly – and both play well into the idea of a femme fatale. It's further proof that the strongest, most progressive titles are coming out of Image these days, a commendable far cry from the large breasts and tiny waists that characterised the style of their early output.

If I were made to choose between to two I would have to say the winner for me was Velvet, due to it’s beautiful artwork but that does not make Pretty Deadly the loser by any stretch. I enjoyed both titles a lot and just simply found myself more involved with Velvet. Had I been given both titles on separate weeks then I would be gladly recommending them both for different reasons.

Matt Puddy is almost ready for Christmas!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Advance notice - price increases coming December 31st

We all hate price increases, so I'll start by saying I'm sorry!

The rising price of utilities and other daily costs means that on December 31st, all comic prices will go up by an average of 10p. This will include any comics in Reservation Service folders, so if you want to beat the price increase pop in before Tuesday 31st December and clear out your stash (realistically the last day to do so is Saturday 28th December, as we are closed on that Sunday and Monday).

I don't undertake this action lightly, but it is worth noting that Proud Lion's comic prices haven't increased since early 2009, so we've been well under inflation for almost four years. Which really should count for something!

Reservation Service customers are reminded that we still offer the lose a bag or gain a board scheme, whereby you can choose to  either get your comics boarded for an extra 10p per issue or save 5p per issue by opting to have your comics filed au naturel, without comic bags. The latter would help off set some of the price increase if you're on a tighter budget. 

For more information, see me in store.

Ben Fardon loves this town but wishes the cost of living wasn't so damn high.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

New Beginnings - Dead Body Road #1 & Manifest Destiny #1

Skybound is not a name in comics that most people automatically know. It’s actually an imprint of Image, although if I asked people to name titles that are under it’s umbrella I doubt many - including myself - could get past the odd one or two comics. If I dropped Kirkman’s name into the mix then icons such as The Walking Dead and Invincible should immediately spring to mind, giving you an idea of the creed that Skybound carries. There are some other notable titles such as the recent Thief of Thieves and the all-ages Super Dinosaur to name a couple.

Recently we have seen two new titles released on the imprint. Dead Body Road this week and just over a month ago Manifest Destiny. So this week we take a look at the pair of them to see how the new starters play off against each other.

Dead Body Road arrived in front of me as a complete unknown. Even the cover doesn’t give much away. A low profile shot of the front end of a car with a man nonchalantly walking towards it, a bag in one hand and a shotgun casually slung over the other shoulder. Matteo Scalera’s cover being suitably understated just added to the mystery. Plus it helps that I like his style too. Now I know I often mention my love of Larroca’s work, but if his linework and Ben Templesmith’s style had some kind of lovechild then Scalera’s work is the equivalent of that artistic offspring. The pencils have some great crisp clean lines but then the added extra detail and attention lends itself to a grittier feel without it going too far and feeling dirty or grimy. Given the story that it is wrapped around, it feels more than apt.

The story – from Justin Jordan – opens in a bank heist. Although it plays a role in the overall picture, it's predominantly designed to provide the reader with an idea of the team involved and that is the key. One of the members of the team simply bolts, he realises things are wrong and makes a run for it in fear of his life. This is a crime noir comic, so does he get far? Of course not. Like all the films we see he gets tracked down and subsequently hunted. Only to be “rescued” in unlikely fashion. Meanwhile another member of the team has been snatched from the street only to be tortured in a quite horrific way. The common link is that both parties hold information that will unlock accounts holding millions of secret, virtually untraceable money and they are not the only ones who want it.

Wrapped up in this all as well is the cover star Orson Gage, the unassociated wild card who is only getting tangled in this all - along with his trusty shotgun - to find a woman...

As first issues go I really liked it. There are elements of the book that would fit the big screen and it really drips with testosterone in places so will really tick the boxes of readers who like their macho comics and action films.

Manifest Destiny is a different kettle of fish. For a start it’s set in the West - the Wild West complete with uncharted and strange new territories. Revealing the "true story" of the Lewis & Clark expeditionary force, we meet a crew which is an amalgamation of trusty military men and a round up of volunteers and criminals. Although the crew think they are on a voyage of discovery they have no idea that the discovery is really to track down monsters.

The story starts with a narrative diary leading the reader through the opening pages. It’s a very straight forward way to get the audience into the story and up to speed quickly. Attention isn’t really to the individual sailors and crew outside of our main characters, but then again it isn’t necessary yet.

They do have a certain “bit part” feel to them and on one occasion I even felt that at least one of them should be wearing a red security Star Trek uniform. They definitely feel expendable. Even as they venture onto dry land and find a mysterious archway that can’t possibly have been made by human hands, the feeling that most of them are fated to perish still lingers.

True to form the prophecy comes true and a crewman falls foul of one of the monsters they were unwittingly hunting down, but two lucky shots in the melee brings down what can only be described as a werewolf centaur, leaving everyone dumbfounded.

Chris Dingess has taken a lot of time to make this an easy read and a lot of attention was paid to give it an historic feel in the writing, BUT there were occasional slips where language and vocabulary were somewhat anachronistic in tone. This was a slight sticking point for me and changed the feel of the book, breaking my suspension of disbelief.

Matthew Roberts has undertaken both the artwork and the colouring for the issue, meaning that the vision for it is completely his. The cover of the standard issue is full of intrigue when you look further into it and see a variety of ghouls and goblins hidden right before you. It promises the cowboy version of the X-Files, but I couldn’t help feeling that the story didn’t quite live up to that, yet. The internal artwork was full of attention to detail, but it’s not a style that I prefer. It’s not a bad book to look at but not for my preferences.

It’s unfair to compare the two with each other directly, as they hit different genres. I personally found that Dead Body Road chimed with me more, but fans of Supernatural, Buffy and Angel will potentially be more akin to Manifest Destiny. Personally I will be reading Dead Body Road, but I would suggest fantasy fans give Manifest Destiny a go and see where it leads.

Matt Puddy has fond memories of Lois & Clark.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Big Game Hunting Live - Eldritch Horror

This weekend we will once again be hosting 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.

This month we'll be playing Eldritch Horror, a new horror survival game from Fantasy Flight. In this cooperative game, players – or investigators, as they're called – can travel the globe, so long as they make sure they close the gates to hell, battle off the creatures pouring through those gates, and stop one of the four Ancient Ones from awakening and destroying the world.

This game will feature a great deal of familiar mechanics to anyone who has played Arkham Horror, though that's certainly not a necessity to play! For a full review of this game, check out last week's post on the game.

Due to the nature of this game, we will be playing in two main sessions – morning (10:30am – 1:00pm) and afternoon (2pm – 5pm). The game requires a bit of explaining to get started, so we recommend you turn up as close to the start time as possible.

Rae loves any excuse to visit the Pyramids in this game

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Rescuing Strays - Batman/Superman #1-4

Jack Meldrum introduces a new column, looking at recent comic book stories you may have overlooked or missed out on. We kick off this first instalment with a look at the New 52 Batman/Superman title.

Right now, the Grek Pak-penned Batman/Superman is kicking off a... difficult-looking arc with art by the contentious Brett Booth, but I'm sticking through it. My reasoning? The first four issues (with art from Jae Lee, Yildiray Cinar and Ben Oliver) are sublime.

It's no secret that Pak is a ludicrously talented writer - the man who brought us the near-flawless Planet Hulk - and one who generally goes about kicking bottom. He's a smart, stylish writer and Batman/Superman's début arc demonstrates that with style and flair to spare. It's just perfect comics, and the thing that gives it strength is the setting – B/S spends four issues in the past of the New 52 and most of that time on Earth-2, which lets Pak and the art team go hog-wild with big, nutty ideas.

If the New 52 has failed to tap into anything, it's the five years between Superman's origin and the present, and it's there that Pak and company kick off. This is a tale of the hotheaded t-shirt Superman and a grungy, paranoid Batman; it constantly emphasises both their differences and their shared youth. They're strong personalities, especially when backed by Jae Lee's elegant, eloquent art, which flawlessly uses lines of sight and motion with innovative layouts (including several pieces designed to create the heroes logos, which never failed to get me smiling) to draw out Clark Kent's raw heroic angst and Bruce Wayne's cold detachment.

It's the central premise, though, that makes these first four issues (plus a kind of coda in the very weird but enjoyable Villain's Month Darkseid issue) a treat – the brash youthful heroes paired up with and against their older, stronger selves from Earth-2. Lee handles most of these sequences with a fantastic eye for design, backed by June Chung's peerless colours. The characters are never indistinguishable, with differences not just in costume but word choice, body language and the tones and highlights of their colours. Pak's refreshing tweak on the archetypal butting-heads that new teammates have (where Clark and Bruce-Prime are at odds with each other, then in alliance with their doubles, then allied against them as their youth and impudence clashes with the smoother older heroes) is just the right kind of stuff. It's big fun.

No, really, it's so much fun. Wonder Woman slices a plane in half while riding a pegasus. I'm not kidding when I say that's my favourite comics moment of 2013, because it's the kind of ballsy action that works perfectly in the medium. And I would be remiss to not mention the deliciously entertaining Kaiyo, the ostensible villain of the piece. She's a fantastic creation, apparently an addition to the New Gods, and she's terrific – a moody, snarky teenager who serves as a living Boom Tube. Good times.

Batman/Superman #1-4 is a cracking story with a lot to offer. Seek it out in floppies or trade – it's well worth it. Wonder Woman slices a plane in half while riding a pegasus!

Jack Meldrum is still really excited by Wonder Woman slicing a plane in half while riding a pegasus, and he wants you all to know.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Proud Lion's Christmas Gift Guide, part two - Batman & his super friends!

The Proud Lion Christmas Gift Guide continues, and today we are moving on from the living dead and heading to Gotham City for a look at some of the best Batman - and other DC superheroes - gifts available this holiday season.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's work on the Caped Crusader has been sublime - possibly the best thing in the New 52 (other than Green Lantern and the new Batman/Superman) - but the Death of the Family is arguably the storyline their run will be remembered for above all else. Featuring the return of the Joker, sporting a horrific new look. This decaying, strapped on, and stapled into place visage is immortalised on the front cover of this limited edition hardcover collection, thanks to an acetate dust jacket of his face which peels of to reveal the bare flesh underneath. When these are gone, they are gone, with DC pledging that any subsequent print run will feature a more mundane glossy paper cover rather than this deluxe acetate rendition. A truly gruesome and unique collectors item that will make an excellent gift.

For anyone who missed out on the start of Snyder and Capullo's run on Batman, this is the perfect introduction! This box set collects the graphic novel of that first story arc, introducing the Court Of Owls - a secret society that have moulded Gotham from the shadows for over a century and can no longer ignore the interference of Batman and Bruce Wayne. They unleash their assassins - known as Talons - to hunt down the billionaire vigilante as the city Bruce calls home reveals a dark heritage that had hitherto remained a mystery to the World's Greatest Detective. Accompanying the graphic novel, is a replica of the Court Of Owls mask as worn by all of the members and even their children, a chilling sight to behold. Another superb collectors piece and a great gift for the Batman fan in your family.

From one billionaire vigilante to another! With the Arrow TV series capturing the imaginations of many of my customers - myself included! - here's the perfect gift for fans of the new small screen adventures of Oliver Queen. This self-contained graphic novel is illustrated by Jock and written by Andy Diggle, for whom the character of John Diggle was named in the TV series itself. Retelling the origin of the Green Arrow, from his ordeals on the island through to his return to society, the book also features recognisable villains such as China White, but it's still very much it's own story. Arrow's writers credit the book as a major source of inspiration for the tone of the show. Suffice to say, if you only buy one Green Arrow graphic novel this year, make it this one!

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg - the Justice League of the New 52. Seven DC super hero figures - normal RRP £23 each - in one beautiful box set for over 50 quid less than the combined price of all seven figures if purchased individually? In the words of Kevin Bacon, that's a no brainer! But it's better than that! 10% of the RRP of this box set is donated by DC Collectibles to DC's We Can Be Heroes giving campaign designed to increase awareness and raise funds to provide relief for the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. 

Another no brainer, seven figure box set from DC Collectibles, this heroes vs villains set is a grudge match that can barely be contained by the very box they're in! This set includes Aquaman, The Flash, Batman, Catwoman, The Joker, Captain Cold, and Black Manta, many of which feature all new redecos, or in the case of Aquaman a whole new head sculpt. On top of that, the Catwoman is a brand new figure, unique to this box set.

Watch this space with more wonderful Christmas gift ideas!

New Beginnings - Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle #1

In 1984 James Cameron brought to the big screen a film that is considered one of science fiction’s classics. Spawning three film sequels, a plethora of video games and a TV series which was blighted by the curse of Summer Glau, The Terminator is known by pretty much everyone.

Over the course of the last (almost) 30 years since its inception, The Terminator has also received comic book treatments too with several publishers (most notably Dark Horse and Dynamite)and now under the writing of J. Michael Straczynski the war between Skynet and the Human Resistance may be finally coming to an end.

All of the Terminator films - to one degree or another - have an element where the story straddles two separate timelines. This comic tackles three points of temporal reference instead, featuring the recent past, the near future and finally the distant future just over 15 years ahead of now. Although this isn’t completely explored in this issue, there is a complimentary multitude of story lines to follow. The human rebel in the past (much akin to Michael Biehn in the original), three individual Terminators also in the past searching for a serial killer, and a terminally ill doctor whose cancer is overcome to ensure that both her and the aforementioned killer are key to Skynet's future. Slightly confused by it all? Well don’t be, once in the comic it’s not overly hard to follow, with clear division of story between elements and even time distribution for the characters.

One plot element that I did consider is how the preceding films fit with this future - including why doesn’t a sentient machine know about the past - but Straczynski tackles this early on using simple computer logic.

A lovely little twist too is that the readers preconceived ideas of what Terminators do, which is reinforced by the small homage to Arnie’s entry into the present day of T2, is shaken by them searching to protect Dr Kogan.

The artwork by Pete Woods, isn’t what I normally personally associate with Dark Horse but when you look at his credentials it’s understandable why. Woods has worked for both Marvel and DC including Paul Cornell's under-appreciated run on Action Comics.

I can’t say that I find the artwork here bad, but then again it’s not setting my world on fire. It has plenty of character but without fine detail. That said the faces are all unique and defined so that they are easily recognisable. One thing that Woods has managed to do is skilfully draw emotionless faces without them looking unreasonably blank when it comes to the three Terminators searching for Kogan. On the other end of the scale is the overabundance of emotion that makes the serial killer look grounded in a crazy way too. That in itself is no easy feat, so kudos to him for that.

As a first issue I didn’t find myself overwhelmed by what I had been presented with. I know the Terminator mythology fairly well, so can appreciate how this comfortably sits with my understanding and thus I didn’t find myself questioning it, but the one thing I felt it lacked was the franchise's inherent tension. I’m sure there is going to be more to it in the coming issues, but with so many individual threads in such a small space of time there isn’t enough to give me a compelling hook. Maybe staggering the introduction of characters in some way could have aided this more.

Matt Puddy has no major problem with Summer Glau, but let's be honest, everything she's in gets cancelled. Doesn't bode well for Arrow...

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Proud Lion's Christmas Gift Guide, part one - The Walking Dead & other scares

So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun… until they go into the town centre to do some shopping, then it becomes a bit of a nightmare. Some of us now do it all online, which is great until some lamentable error with the courier sees your carefully chosen items failing to arrive, or turning up damaged.

Have no fear though, your friendly neighbourhood comic shop is here with a more personal touch to shopping. Pop in and we'll do whatever we can to find the perfect gift for your comic-book-reading, action-figure-covetting, fantasy-daydreaming, sci-fi swashbuckling loved ones!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be serving up a few great gift ideas from the carefully selected items we have in stock. To start off with - and to celebrate the mid-season finale airing this week - we have various Walking Dead merchandise, along with other horror genre gift ideas.

It's the classic family board game, themed to fit Robert Kirkman's zombie apocalypse with some amazing playing pieces including Michonne's katana, Rick's hat and Dale's RV. Currency has been replaced with supplies. Houses are walls and hotels are guard towers. Chance cards become Scavenge cards, and the Community Chest cards are Supply Chest cards. Income Tax has been replaced with Herd, the Luxury Tax has been replaced with Protection. A fun spin on an old favourite!

(with free limited edition promo cards while stocks last!)
In this survival board game, players must cooperate in order to defend their locations from Walkers and other, more-human horrors. Playing as key characters from The Walking Dead, one acts as the leader, making decisions in order to maintain supplies and protect resources - but those decisions can be ignored, at a price, particularly if they prove to be detrimental to your character's ulterior motive. The ultimate goal is to survive; how you manage that is up to you. Featuring superior production values to Cryptozoic's previous Walking Dead games, this looks like the zombie apocalypse's answer to the fabulous Battlestar Galactica co-op board game.

Everyone's favourite zombie-killing rednecks are back, in tiny posable plastic form! Featuring Daryl's trademark crossbow and capturing his older brother's inimitable bad attitude, McFarlane Toys bring you the ultimate family reunion for Christmas Day! Daryl sold out in record time when he was released on his own a while back and now goes for silly money on eBay, so this a great and affordable way to own your very own Norman Reedus.  

Any fans of the hit Playstation 3 game should definitely get their hands on this. American Dreams, co-written by the game's creative director Neil Druckmann, is a charming, if bleak, insight into Ellie's past, introducing new characters as well as drawing in a few familiar faces. The story gives a taste of her military school days and her initial encounter with the Fireflies and their leader Marlene. Of particular interest to players will be Ellie's first meeting with her friend Riley and their first adventure sneaking out of the school looking for freedom, beginning a pattern of thrill-seeking that presumably leads to the horrific encounter Ellie describes in a couple of memorable scenes in the game. All of this graphic novel takes place before the forthcoming DLC (with the players assuming the role of Ellie and accompanied by Riley) currently expected to be released during the holiday season. This is the perfect accompaniment to the Naughty Dog triumph.

Ah, Marvel Zombies! A few years ago, this was one of those eureka comics book moments, where an idea emerges that is so captivating it makes you wonder why it hadn't been done before. First introduced in Mark Millar's run on Ultimate Fantastic Four, the initial reveal of the undead versions of classic Marvel characters was a jaw-dropping piece of misdirection. The subsequent Marvel Zombies miniseries capitalised on the concept, with The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman at the helm, ensuring a certain shambling authenticity to the whole undertaking. Sadly, later volumes went off the rails a bit, but this newly released Ultimate Collection contains the initial offerings and none of the later nonsense making this a must-have volume for anyone who has yet to experience the magnificent Marvel Zombies. Highly recommended!

In the years between the excellent Aliens film and the appalling Prometheus train wreck, Dark Horse Comics published a series of wonderful Aliens comics including the wonderful Genocide miniseries. This four issue comic story, featured a human expedition funded by a billionaire with dubious motives travelling to a xenomorph world to capture a live Queen, only come face-to-face with a planet torn apart by two warring tribes of berserk xenomorphs - one breed of black aliens and the others a vibrant red. A truly memorable Aliens story that is now celebrated in these two excellent NECA action figures.

Watch this space with more wonderful Christmas gift ideas!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Big Game Hunting - Eldritch Horror in review

This month sees the release of Eldritch Horror, a fantastic cooperative board game from Fantasy Flight Games. In this game, you can travel the world, so long as you remember to close the gates of hell and stop otherworldly creatures from pouring through along the way. Oh, and don’t forget about the deadly Ancient One, ready to awaken and destroy the world!

Eldritch Horror is, at its heart, a horror survival game. It allows for anywhere between 1 and 8 players, with the difficulty escalating in relation to the number of people playing. Each player chooses a character from the pool of “investigators” provided, and each investigator has their own unique abilities. These abilities can prove to be crucial during gameplay, so it pays off to try for a strategic combination of skills that complement each other. It’s a refreshing change to have a game that caters to single players as well as larger groups - far too many times we’ve sat down to play a game only to discover we’re unable to play with only one or two people, and that's not the case here.

Every game features one of four Ancient Ones, each of which comes with their own deck of Mythos cards. Mythos cards are essentially events that take place during the game, and can help just as often as hinder. They also each have their own set of mystery cards, which players must resolve in order to win the game. The mystery cards have varying goals, each of which are specific to the Ancient One they accompany, making each game a unique experience - and also increasing the importance of having a group strategy.

Over the course of the game, you’ll struggle against monsters coming through the various gates opening across the world. This is where travelling becomes a highlight, as often you must travel to a particular world location in order to gain clues, close gates, or solve mysteries. It also is where games with less players tend to suffer slightly. At the most, you can only move along three paths in a single phase, and then only when you have picked up enough travel tickets to do so. The board does wrap-around, allowing for players to get from one side of the board to the other quickly, but if the location you need is four or five paths away, the chances of you getting there quickly are small. Working in tandem with other investigators who may be nearer allows players to achieve goals with less travelling required.

Despite being surrounded by elements and monsters who are determined to make you fail, there are plenty of objects that can be acquired to support you. Every investigator has a starting set of bonuses, which may include weapons, allies, or spells. These can be gained during gameplay, and can also be traded with other investigators who may be able to use them to their full advantage. To complement these (or perhaps just to make winning an even bigger challenge), the game includes Condition cards. Conditions can be beneficial or detrimental - for example, a Blessed condition makes it easier to succeed on dice rolls, while a Back Injury comes with the possibility of dropping items from your hands should a reckoning come along.

What’s a reckoning, you ask? It’s probably the most evil symbol in the whole of the game. A reckoning is essentially an event which makes bad things happen. If this deadly little symbol pops up on a Mythos card, you can all but guarantee the coming of bad stuff. Monsters, conditions, items, and even the Ancient One often carry extra dangers that are activated when a reckoning occurs. These can be minor, but can also be devastating, so removing monsters or condition cards with these symbols can at times prove to be essential to moving forward.

All in all, Eldritch Horror is another Lovecraft-themed adventure that proves to be completely engaging and a welcome challenge, being just difficult enough to make winning feel like a real accomplishment, but not an easy ride. I have no doubt this game will have a good number of play throughs in the coming weeks in our household!

If you want to give this game a try, pop in to Proud Lion on Saturday, 14th December, where we will be running an Eldritch Horror demo! Stay tuned for more details!

Rae is wandering through the Dreamlands...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Christmas Opening Times 2013!

Here's our opening times for Christmas 2013! We'll be opening late on the final Thursday before Christmas, plus a bonus Monday opening on the last Monday before Christmas.

As Christmas Day and New Year's Day both fall on Wednesdays this far, the comic industry as kindly brought the New Releases forward on both weeks to the Tuesday, which means there will be new comics out on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve! Check the bottom of this post for a full list of the titles currently expected on those two days (this is of course subject to change as per our fickle little industry!)

Here's those Christmas opening times again:


Thursday 19th 12pm – 8pm LATE NIGHT OPENING
Friday 20th 10am – 5:30pm

Saturday 21st 10am – 5pm

Sunday 22nd 11am – 3pm

Monday 23rd 11am – 3pm MONDAY OPENING

Friday 27th 10am – 4pm

Saturday 28th 10am – 5pm

Sunday 29th CLOSED

Monday 30th CLOSED




And as promised, here's a look at everything we'll be expecting to see released on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve!


Forever Evil #4 (of 7)
Justice League #26 (Forever Evil tie-in)

Saviors #1

Avengers #24.1
Origin II #1 (of 5)


Executive Assistant: Assassins #18

Hacktivist #1
Regular Show Skips #3 (of 6)
Robocop: Last Stand #6 (of 8)
Suicide Risk #9

Baltimore Chapel of Bones #1 (of 2)
Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight #4 (of 8)
Juice Squeezers #1 (of 4)
Star Wars Lucas Draft #0 (of 8)
The Terminator Salvation Final Battle #2 (of 12)

Adventures of Superman #8
All Star Western #26
Aquaman #26
Batman: Arkham Unhinged Vol. 3 HC
Batman: Arkham Unhinged Vol. 2 TP
Batman: The Dark Knight #26
Beware the Batman #3
Catwoman #26
Damian Son of Batman #3
DC Universe vs. The Masters of the Universe #4 (of 6)
The Flash #26
Forever Evil Argus #3 (of 6)
The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires #7
Injustice Gods Among Us #12
Justice League Dark #26 (Forever Evil tie-in)
Larfleeze #6
Red Lanterns #26
Superboy Vol. 3: Lost TP
Superman #26
Talon #14
Teen Titans #26 (Forever Evil tie-in)

Ash and the Army of Darkness #3
Garth Ennis' Jennifer Blood #35
Legenderry A Steampunk Adv #1 (of 7)
Lil Battlestar Galactica #1
Twilight Zone #1

Ghostbusters #12
Judge Dredd Vol. 3 TP
Sinister Dexter #2 (of 7)
Transformers: Regeneration One Vol. 3 TP

Artifacts #34
Carbon Grey Vol. 3 #2 (of 2)
Heavens War: New Ptg TP
Invincible Universe #9
Think Tank Vol. 3 TP

Avengers Ai Vol. 1: Human After All TP
Guardians of the Galaxy #10
New Avengers #13
New Avengers Premiere Vol. 2: Infinity HC
Savage Wolverine #13
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7

Dead Boy Detectives #1
Hellblazer Vol. 7: Tainted Love TP
The Sandman: Overture #2 (of 6)

Afterlife With Archie #3
Bar Maid #1 (of 5)
GFT Code Red #1 (of 5)
GFT No Tomorrow #5 (of 5)
GFT Oz Prequel #6 (of 6)
GFT Wonderland Vol. 3 TP
GFT Wonderland Through The Looking Glass #5 (of 5)
Grimm Fairy Tales #92
Hawken Melee #2 (of 5)
Hit List #4 (of 5)
Knights of The Dinner Table #206
Steam Engines of Oz Vol. 2 #3 Geared Leviathan
Super #4

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