Thursday, 27 February 2014

New Beginnings - Tomb Raider #1

by Matt Puddy

Crossovers between various mediums are becoming an every day thing for us. There are the obvious comic book adaptations the become multi-million dollar budget films that are well into their prime at the moment, and vice versa, comic tie-ins to big films such as the impending Godzilla HC.

There are some occasions where video games have been made into films as well (although I grimace at the thought of the big screen debut of Doom), and there have also been some successful game franchises that have been transported into comics. A recent success story has been the well known Mass Effect series, but many of us remember the hugely successful Tomb Raider comics from Top Cow a decade or so ago. Last year brought us the impressive debut of a new, reimagined young Lara Croft which was surely the start if a new series for the franchise, so it's very appropriate that the next stepping stone in her story is a return to comic books.

The Top Cow era
Lara Croft is possibly one of the best known video game characters and is quite likely the most recognisable female character too. So much so that I don’t have to describe her intellect, rugged resourcefulness or the plethora of other talents. This new version has dumped the pneumatic chest in favour of a more believable protaganist ready to reclaim her place from the Uncharted usurper Nathan Drake. As a strong, modern female character, who better to write for her than Gail Simone?

Tomb Raider: Survivors Guilt picks up a short time after the 2013 multi-platform game (now out on PS4 and X-Box One too). Having made her way off of the island, along with a few of her companions, Lara is finding that she is suffering from recurring nightmares linked to her ordeal. She has also fallen into the role of “den mother” to her group of friends, as she holds herself responsible for both what happened on the island and ensuring their safety now that they are back.

Sam, one of Lara’s companions, is also struggling but trying to deal with it herself. It’s only when Jonah calls that things go awry. Thrust into desert conditions deep in the US - territory that is almost alien to Lara - and accompanied only by a leering and sleazy guide (perhaps an avatar of the ageing mysogonisticmale gamer associated with the early Tomb Raider games), things get twisted beyond belief. Between the almost incoherent jabbering from Jonah and the freak tidal wave appearing inland, Lara is once again forced to fight to survive, losing another friend in the process. She is left with a conundrum of what is happening, with talk of missing artifacts and four imposing guardians.

The artwork is also a bit of a mystery. The cover by Dan Dos Santos is a fantastic, well-rendered picture with a smooth, detailed finish. If honest I can’t tell if it’s hand drawn or computer generated, but it looks great and also follows the continuity of the game, right down to the ice pick. Inside though is the polar opposite from Nicolas Daniel Selma. It’s full of simple, open linework making it easy to read. Even with such a basic approach in its style, all of the characters are easily recognisable and so is the island, meaning that fans of the game will immediately connect with the progression from the game and beyond.

Dark Horse is a publisher that I normally think of for teen and slightly more mature comics, but it has really felt that on this occasion the level has been played down to fit a much wider audience. Gail Simone still plays to her strengths though, with the fierceness of Croft on display once again, with much more to come. Hints at a the larger story are dropped in this first issue, meaning that the mystery is the ideal Lara Croft adventure. With the news that this is considered to be an in-canon bridge between the first new Tomb Raider game and the eagerly awaited sequel, this should be another hit title for Dark Horse across a good range of readers. Highly recommended to fans of the franchise.

Matt Puddy is intrigued by the prospect of a new Heroes miniseries.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

New Beginnings - Undertow #1

Atlantis is a place which has been written about often. Fictional or not, Atlantis has been a place of interest to many. Image are now revisiting a new vision of how things could have been with Steve Orlando at the helm.

Undertow is set in our past with what could be considered an alien race of water-breathing humanoids. Life is comparable to our standards on some levels, which makes the opening narrative of a young man born and bred into privilege quite relatable, but it is only a short precursor to the story. As a way to strike out and break away from the social norms expected of him, he enlists into military service. A way to see new places and people that hadn’t been vetted by his parents, but also a way that thrust him into harms way. Into the sight of Redum Anshargal, a person who supposedly didn’t exist.

Redum has been built up to be somewhat of an urban myth, an individual who brings fear to the hearts of Atlanteans for being a rebel or to some degree a terrorist. But is this really the case? The story follows how Redum is more of a scientist than a warrior, searching for the next step that allows his species to walk the Earth without the need for a water breathing suit. Along the way, they observe early man first starting to become organised, as they hunt for an amphibian that could potentially unlock the key to the next step in their evolution. 

Visually the comic’s cover immediately struck me as having similarities to Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's “The Wake” with dark, detailed imagery and contrasting colours. Inside this is carried over further, but it also had me thinking of other titles like Jeff Lemire’s Trillium, although that is admittedly due to the face shapes and types that artist Artyom Trakhanov has used for the characters. Having to imagine a reversed world where in water is the natural state can’t be easy but Trakhanov has managed it. His is quite a heavy style, though I did start to find it got quite tough on the eye especially with such a dim palette used for the colouring, but it does give a certain sense of gravity to it all. This isn’t a jovial light-hearted comic and the main characters have differing levels of sombreness, so the dialogue and depictions work together well.

As a story I found this issue a bit slow as it took two thirds of the book to get to the actual main target. This is more about the history of the team and getting them established as a unit in the reader's mind. The amount of time spent on just a couple of the characters did seem a little unbalanced, but they did go on to be the main focus for this issue.

This is quite a brave piece in my mind as there are a lot of similarities and potential nods to other titles. It also is set in a time period which gives quite a free rein to the creative team. As such I think this could be a bit of a Marmite title, which those who love vehemently love and those who don’t, really don’t.

Matt Puddy now understands why people were raving about Cabin In The Woods - great film!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Licensing restrictions ends UK supply of some animated tie-in comics

by Ben Fardon

Some bad news that I've been trying to find a way around before breaking.

Sadly, we're stuck with this, so future issues of the following titles will no longer be available through Proud Lion. 

Licensing Restrictions 

Due to licensing restrictions the following titles will no longer be available via Diamond UK:
  • TMNT Animated (IDW)
  • Samurai Jack (IDW)
  • Powerpuff Girls (IDW)
  • Ben 10 (IDW)
  • Dexters Laboratory (IDW)
  • Regular Show (Boom!)

I'm really sorry folks.

Please drop me a line at if you are affected and would like some guidance on sourcing these direct from the US, though bear in mind that with shipping costs this won't be cheap!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

New Beginnings - The Fuse #1

by Matt Puddy

Digging deep into a large selection of styles he loves, Antony Johnston brings us The Fuse this week, bringing science fiction and police procedurals together 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The Fuse is a five-miles long space station, inhabited by roughly half a million people - all of which needed to be watched over. Much like a normal city the citizens have separated into various social statuses and roles. There are the obvious staff and services on the station, but equally poverty has crept in as well and “cablers” – the equivalent of homeless people – have propped up the human hierarchy.

On his way to the station is Ralph Dietrich, a young detective who has volunteered to get his position on the station, and upon his arrival he is thrust straight into the thick of it with a murder almost falling into his lap. To make matters worse he also meets his new partner, a veteran of the force, and they both make a less than impressive first impression. Putting this aside the two push forward to start solving the crime. With little practical knowledge or understanding of how the station works, Dietrich is a little left behind on the processes, and owing to Klem’s cold demeanour, the partnership doesn’t really start working, creating a growing animosity. With dead ends and odd clues, including the arrival of another body – the vagrant we are introduced to in the first page, who is appearing to be a scapegoat – it all just complicates matters further. So what happens next? The hunt for the metaphorical needle within a huge floating pressurised haystack begins.

To me Image is known for being more of a non-typical publisher, and by typical I mean capes and powers. This is a good example of taking a straightforward style of story and giving it an extra twist. If you wanted to be flippant about it you could drill Johnston’s story down to a simple detective story, with the location and settings being merely incidental, but it’s the added layer of uncertainty in his surroundings that is given to Dietrich that turns things on its head. Johnston is also used to writing in a non-realistic realistic style after being on Oni Press for a very long time and his sci-fi credentials are easily verified by his work on the Dead Space computer game series to name just one.

Justin Greenwood is the artist for the issue and has a quite particular style. In some frames there is an almost cartoon like quality. Faces are smooth and - with the exception of the Cablers - fairly blemish free. It’s almost like social status has once again had an influence on a person’s visible standings. My one gripe is that the style leads to Klem having a certain androgynous appearance, that even after Klem's gender is confirmed I still wasn’t convinced as a reader .

There is certainly a lot of mystery in this issue, which was the desired outcome that Johnston was aiming for, and there is plenty room for manoeuvring in future issues. I would hope that Image keep this title for a long time, as this is just what happens on the “Russia Shift” meaning there are so many other places to go and things to do or see. One for fans of 2000AD or the wealth of comparable science fiction stories coming from European band dessinée, and definitely worth a look for anyone who loves Arthur C. Clarke.

Matt Puddy was impressed by the trailer for The Crew on the next-gen consoles.

Friday, 7 February 2014

New Beginnings - Loki, Agent of Asgard #1

by Matt Puddy

As revealed a few weeks ago in the Marvel Point One review, one of the new titles entering the fray in 2014 is Loki, Agent of Asgard. The teaser we got was full of the typical mischief and misdirection we expect from Loki, all in the service of recovering a sword. In this first issue we get to find out exactly why.

Al Ewing, a well known British 2000AD writer, has penned the story for us. We learn that the real reason that Loki was sent to retrieve the sword was not for its killing potential as a weapon, but for another ability that can be used to save someone, although this too is not without risk. Loki is being guided on a quest for the benefit of Asgard by the All-Mother (still reigning in Odin's place after the events of Fear Itself). Under their guidance Loki sets off for Avengers Tower. Using a few magical items to assist him, he climbs the tower only to be sniffed out by his brother Thor.

Now given the past that Loki has with Thor and the Avengers as a whole, the negative reaction and treatment he is given is no surprise. Before not too long though he is up to his normal tricks of twisting words, using subtle – and some not so subtle – misdirection and mirage to accomplish what he needed to do and also serve his own needs. For the Sword of Sigur was intended to be driven through Thor as we saw in the opening page, in what appeared to be a visceral attack. However it is the other ability of the sword that was desired - to make the individual struck by it face the truths that they deny themselves. In Thor’s case it was the evil that has resided within him.

It’s not an easy thing to stab the God of Thunder through the back in front of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but an illuminated Thor speaks on Loki's behalf and it isn't long before the newly minted Agent of Asgard is back in front of the All-Mother, complete with the evil that he stripped from Thor. This where the biggest twists come in though. Loki claims to be acting as said agent in the spirit of redemption, but is he really? This young Loki is most certainly trying to clean the slate, but upon opening the jar the All-Mother reveals the true character behind this. Loki’s former self.

Now I have to be honest, after the Point One issue I had high hopes for this title. The newest incarnation of Loki was interesting and I can understand his motivation (even though it’s still Loki and I wouldn’t trust him at all!), but this first issue didn’t excite me as much as I wanted. What it did do was open a lot of ideas in my head though, with the duality of the Trickster being showcased, along with a lingering feeling that this is a character who isn’t easily played, so there must be more to this and more to come. This is a title that may well become indispensable over the course of the coming arcs, despite a slightly lacklustre debut.

Lee Garbett’s artwork is similarly conflicting for me. Although I wasn’t taken aback by the overall artistry, I really liked the emotive faces and body language that you are given all the way through the issue, such as the comical moment just before Loki is punched by Hulk. Garbett demonstrates time and time again how he can skilfully convey the feelings throughout. He’s also done it in such a fashion that - when combined with my thoughts on Loki’s acumen - I really couldn’t entirely trust the All-Mother. I don’t believe Loki is that naive! The depiction of the former Loki is also strikingly different from his newer self, complete with a craven pose that demonstrates an entirely different body language and hints at devious actions ahead. A great piece of work.

This first issue has some fantastic elements to it which impressed me, but also others which dulled the impact a little and made it not quite live up to my expectations. I will be interested to see which way this goes. It’s perhaps not one for Tom Hiddleston lovers, but still worth a peek.

Matt Puddy is ready for a trip into the unknown...

Thursday, 6 February 2014

THE RESULTS ARE IN! Free Comic Book Day 2014 - the Proud Lion line up!

by Ben Fardon

Back in mid-January, we announced that this year's Free Comic Book Day at Proud Lion would feature a selection of 20 different titles. Ten of those would be picked by me, the remaining ten would be chosen by yourselves through responses to a SurveyMonkey poll.

Well, the results are in and today I can reveal our full Free Comic Book Day 2014 line-up! So without further ado:

Congratulations to Rocket Racoon!
  1. All Rocket Raccoon
  2. Grimm Fairy Tales #0
  3. The Tick
  4. Dark Horse Avatar Hellboy Juice Squeezers
  5. Steam Wars
  6. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  7. Zombie Tramp & Ehmm Theory
  8. Dark Horse Project Black Sky
  9. Epic #0
  10. Worlds Of Aspen

These ten titles join the ten I'd already pre-selected: DC The New 52 Future's End Spec Ed, Guardians Of Galaxy, 2000 AD Special, Atomic Robo & Friends, Kaboom Summer Blast, Mouse Guard Labyrinth Rust HC, Sonic The Hedgehog Mega Man Flipbook #1, Street Fighter #0, Teen Titans Go #1 Spec Ed and Transformers Vs GI Joe.

That's a great line-up and all of us here are really looking forward to the big day on Saturday 3rd May 2014. For those of you who want to add the date to your diary, the preliminary Facebook event is now up for you to join and please do share!

If there are any Free Comic Book Day 2014 titles you would like (click through to the FCBD website for more details) that aren't on our line-up, please email me a request by Thursday 13th February. Be advised that you may be asked to cover the cost of any title outside of our selected twenty, with prices ranging from 10p to 36p this year.

The selected twenty will be absolutely free of charge of course, though we won't be accepting any reservations for those titles, I'm afraid if you want them you do have to come in on the day! Strictly first-come, first-served.

More details to come!

Ben Fardon is off to see The Lego Movie this weekend!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The True Believers Comic Festival 2015 & the Proud Lion £1 per Pledge promise

by Ben Fardon

We have a great many festivals here in Cheltenham, so many in fact the old Firkin Brewery named the local pub in our town the Festival & Firkin! From jazz music to gourmet food, there's a great range of events in the town and finally we're going to have a comic book convention here on our doorstep.

In 2015, The True Believers Comic Festival will take over the Cheltenham Racecourse for their inaugural event! The organisers are offering a range of advance tickets, table bookings and incredible merchandise (including this print from Nich Angell!) through their Kickstarter that launched on Friday!

Nich Angell's wonderful print!
We're already backing this Kickstarter, but in addition to this, Proud Lion will be kicking in an extra £1 for every pledge made over the first three weeks!

The initial weeks of a Kickstarter are crucial and a lot of potential backers hold back until they get paid, but there's no need! Your payment source won't be charged until the Kickstarter concludes so there's no point in holding back. Besides, if you do you run the risk of missing out all together.

So don't delay, head over to the The True Believers Comic Festival Kickstarter campaign page today and pledge your support, safe in the knowledge that your pledge will go £1 further courtesy of Proud Lion!

Please note: Proud Lion reserves the right to cap this pledge at any point during the offer period. All pledges made up until that point will be honoured with the Proud Lion £1 per Pledge Promise.

Ben Fardon is wading through treacle...