Friday, 30 January 2015

New Beginnings - The Dying and the Dead #1

by Matt Puddy

Truth be told when I got given the review copies for this week I was given a choice. On one hand there was The Dying and the Dead and a different comic on the other. So what do I do? Well given that it was also a Jonathan Hickman title I didn’t have too much trouble in choosing.

The Dying and the Dead is a curious story. It doesn’t really give a huge amount away in the opening; it's driven mainly by narrative and the setup is mainly introducing a mysterious organisation lead by an even shadowier Bah Al Sharur and his band of clones – at least that’s apparently what they are.

In the meantime we are also introduced to our “hero,” the Colonel. A man who in a similar fashion to the story’s opening is motivated by love of a woman but with considerably different consequences. Whereas one man died at the hands of his wife, the Colonel here is ready to die for her. As a terminal cancer patient there is almost nothing left of her, but he still has hope. Even when conventional medicine doesn’t seem to be able to provide anything more than palliative comfort and pain relief, a mysterious man offers a solution not based in science.

Almost as if it were a prophecy, The Bishop wants to speak to the Colonel and has an offer for him.

After being driven to the desert and a small unassuming church, the Colonel is taken to a vast extensive region simply known as the City, inhabited by a civilisation older and more powerful than humankind. To them the Colonel is just a tool; should he accept the deal he is being given then it will entail removing Bah Al Sharur. All in return for ridding his beloved from cancer.

Without it really being much of a choice the Colonel now has a new mission and companion. From here on it’s all down to the execution.

In terms of the writing, there are certain elements that I felt were really good. The opening felt like a mini-movie with either music or a narrator over the scene. On the other hand though I also felt that there was too much allusion to a higher power or a greater group of people behind it all in a large amount of the dialogue too. It quickly became distracting. One of the other things that did infuriate me a little was the story progression, or rather the lack there of. On the cover we see the Colonel and at least one companion with an interesting spear, but we have no clue about it. In addition there is a mysterious Pulp Fiction-esque box that was stolen in the preamble, that you have really no clue about. I understand that plot can take time to build up and develop intrigue, but a bit more description and better pacing would have helped.

Ryan Bodenheim is the artist for this comic working with Michael Garland and they've taken quite an interesting tack on it all. A lot is conveyed visually. All of the assumingly good guys are purely white, from top to toe in both dress and skin. This makes them stand out significantly in every pane;, while the other characters move and change within the frames. I can’t quite put my finger on why this changes things, but it all ties in with the emotional shifts the story holds. It’s a lot of fine detailed work that tells a lot of the story to - even when a few frames are partially duplicated.

It’s an interesting opening with some ideas that could pique a reader's interest, but some parts could have been made more. I suppose wanting more from it is also a good sign though despite the fact it's a huge and hefty comic for a modern issue. If you love Hickman, mysteries, the Illuminati or even just quest-based stories built on the concept that love endures then you’re in for some enjoyment.

Matt Puddy is often purely muddy, from top to toe.

PREVIEWS FEB15 - DC Convergence special

by Ben Fardon

By now many of you are used to the usual shenanigans that DC produce in September ever since the New 52 launched. Well, we've got an extra publishing stunt from them this year - as they cover their relocation from New York to LA - with the nine-week Convergence event that has been described by some at DC as a chance to have their cake and eat it.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of this. Basically it appears that not one, but two Braniacs have managed to squeeze the secrets of time travel and alternate dimensions out of - again - not one, but two Booster Golds. This leads to Convergence were said Braniacs are pitting pre-New 52 versions of characters against their New 52 versions, and indeed Flashpoint incarnations of heroes and villains too.

Written by relative newcomer Jeff King with assistance from Scott Lobdell and Dan Jurgens, the main nine-part Convergence miniseries is a weekly title starting on April 1st (I know, right?). Here's the pitch straight from DC:

Where do worlds go when they die? The Earthquakes felt round the Multiverse, Superman's lost days after 'Doomed,' the World's End - all these points will converge as the history of the DCU is spun from a new perspective, the perspective of a mad god and his arrogant child. The biggest story in DC history ties into literally every DC story ever told - and it all begins here. Kingdom Come, Red Son, Wild West Justice League, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew - all the worlds you remember can still be found on Telos. Everything matters. Every story matters. Don't miss the start of DC's April/May 2015 event with this special issue! 

After that, there will be eight further issues for Convergence. In addition to that there will be twenty other titles, all running for just two issues, featuring an array of characters from the New-52, the previous incarnation of the DCU as well as Zero Hour, Crisis On Infinite Earths and Flashpoint.

These titles are as follows: Atom, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Harley Quinn, Justice League, Nightwing Oracle, Question, Speed Force, Superman, Titans, Aquaman, Batman Shadow Of The Bat, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Parallax, Justice League International, Suicide Squad, Superboy, Supergirl Matrix, Superman Man Of Steel, Adventures Of Superman, Batman & The Outsiders, Flash, Green Lantern Corps, Hawkman, Justice League America, New Teen Titans, Superboy & The Legion, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Crime Syndicate, Detective Comics, Infinity Inc, Justice Society Of America, Plastic Man Freedom Fighters, Shazam and Worlds Finest Comics.

Full details on these issues can be found on DC's website here:

Despite serious concerns about the overall title, I do think some of the individual titles tickle my interest as a fan of the DCU prior to the New 52. My personal selections would be the Batgirl issues featuring Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain; the return of the Gotham City Sirens in the Harley Quinn issues; the Nightwing/Oracle issues because they're written by Gail Simone and Gail + Babs = win; the return of Renee Montoya as The Question in - appropriately enough - The Question; the grudge match between Batman and Azrael that we'll find in Batman: Shadow Of The Bat; and the fate of the Booster Golds at the heart of it all in their titular issues. 

We're offering a special offer on a complete set of all 49 comics in the Convergence for £140 saving you over £20. A deposit of £40 will be required by 2pm on Monday 2nd March to confirm your order if you take up that special offer. This can be paid in store or via PayPal.

(With regret the offer above has been withdrawn, due to a miscalculation in the number of Convergence issues (89 comics, not the previously stated 49). We will honour this offer for any customer who has paid in full before the release of Convergence #0 and contact all other customers to advise them of any replacements offers and refund deposits where already paid. We apologise for the inconvenience.)

Reservation Service customers are asked to complete our SurveyMonkey order form for the Convergence event before midday on Sunday 1st March. You can do this in the embed below, or follow this link if that's easier: Alternatively, please pop in store and we can help you place your order.

Our orders for comics for the shelves on Convergence are going to be pretty low based on the reaction to previous DC New 52 stunts, so please do use this order form to guarantee your Convergence comics.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Convergence starts on Wednesday 1st April.

I'll be back later in the month with a look at the rest of the highlights from Previews. Please email any questions to

Ben Fardon is looking forward to giving the XCOM Board Game a go.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

New Beginnings - Powers #1

by Matt Puddy

There is something special about getting a comic to review that you know very little, or even nothing, about before picking it up. Okay, you might recognise the writer or artist which certainly does alleviate some of the casual awkwardness when your editor hands over a shiny copy for you to thumb through, but outside of that the contents are still a (hopefully) pretty mystery.

So this is the position I was in when my editor handed me over a copy of Powers by Brian Bendis and Michael Oeming. All I’ve got to go on is the cover image and the thoughts that you can’t really go too far wrong with Bendis at the helm.

Now my first mistake was that I did, for once, judge a book by its cover. In my day job I travel around a fair bit and find myself on a train heading for London while reading the issue and writing this review. BIG mistake as after reading it I realise that there is an almighty 15 year history behind this title which has culminated presently in this series launch, as well as a new live action series being launched on the Playstation Network in the near future.

Not only has this made me realise how big this is now but also how powerless (pun intended) I feel when it comes to writing about this a fun and engaging title.

Powers is set in a dark crime noir city in a time when new and almost random powers are emerging daily. Whilst this may seem like a good thing in some people’s eyes, this isn’t necessarily the case and the upshot is that there is more trouble than good from it all and that there is a requirement for a special type of person to police it all. So here we meet Deena Pilgrim, a cop with a specific knack of taking down Powers and making the streets safer in an evolving time.

Pilgrim - aside from being a strong detective - is in a period of change herself as she becomes a media icon from the launch of her book. This - along with her skills - put her and her partner firmly in the limelight when it comes to investigating a multiple murder case on a boat. A well known politician and all of his clientele (similarly wealthy figures) makes for a very high profile case and even more so when it comes to light that they all apparently died because their genetics seemed to have just “stopped”. With powers being the mainly contended weapon of choice it’s up to Pilgrim to solve the case.

Across town in a dimly lit room we receive the humbled argument of a Police Captain imploring an, at first, unknown man to help in the growing situation. Finally we are presented with Christian Walker, Pilgrim’s former partner and the other part of this winning combination – even if he does have to be found in a super-themed strip club.

Walker, by the way, has a fantastic back story leading up to this point and although he is a non-powered cop now he most certainly wasn’t in his incredibly long (think dawn of time!) past.

As a new reader I found this issue one for scene setting and introductions. As I said I had no previous knowledge of the comic but I felt very comfortable reading it and how it moved and flowed. Without spoonfeeding the reader, you get a good sense of characters and that there are broken or flawed elements behind them giving them depth. You can imagine my pleasant surprise when I then read up on the history of this title and now as a result want to get my paws on the full back catalogue. I’m also slightly envious of those on the Playstation Network who will see Sharlto Copley take up one of the lead roles in the new series. From this comic alone I’m looking at investigating this when I get a chance.

The artwork from Oeming is very much in feeling with the comic. Playing heavily on the noir aspects as well as bold characters, it captures an almost Sin City meets Scott Pilgrim feel to it all. Clearly time has been taken to develop the sense and feeling of the look of it all along with the story. Sadly this is something I feel could be lost with the TV series, but that is yet to be seen.

The characters have an exaggerated yet archetypal feeling to them, but that doesn’t mean that there are some occasional nods or jokes snuck in there too. Currently on Marvel's Icon imprint there is a sneaky wink at Spider-Man in one of the images, as well as keeping a fairly adult feel to it all as well (which has also been carried into the TV series).

This has been a fun comic to read and certainly grabbed my interest. I would suggest that people jump on board with it now and also, from what I’ve read, try to get hold of the trade paperbacks while they can too!

Matt Puddy hopes the Powers release date is simultaneous worldwide like Netflix...

Friday, 23 January 2015

PREVIEWS JAN15 - selected highlights (Last chance!)

by Ben Fardon

In what we're hoping to make a regular feature - time permitting! - I'm going to quickly run through some of the selected highlights from January's Previews that are available to pre-order from Proud Lion.

I'll try to do this earlier in the month in February and from then on, giving you longer to place your orders. For now, I need any orders back by 11:59pm on Tuesday 27th January to definitely guarantee said items if you want anything.

Please email all orders to Please note that all release dates below are subject to change.

Frankenstein Underground #1 (of 5) is a five issue miniseries written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola with art from Ben Stenbeck (Baltimore, Witchfinder, Living With The Dead): The Frankenstein creature is alone, abandoned, and wandering underground, where he will discover other strange creatures-and dark secrets to the universe!

In an interview previously posted on Dark Horse's web site, Mignola commented "It’s intimidating as hell to take on an icon like the Frankenstein monster,” said Mignola. “I’m trying to do something that’s true to the origin Mary Shelley created for the creature but also captures a bit of the feel that Boris Karloff brought to the role in the classic Universal films. At the same time I’m throwing the monster into an entirely new environment, so I think the result will be something new. It’s an odd one, but ultimately will add an important new wrinkle to the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. world.”

Scott Allie, Dark Horse Comics’ editor in chief, weighed in on the project by offering that “this version of the Frankenstein monster has the same thirst for knowledge readers will remember from Mary Shelley’s novel. The monster takes the reader through some of the biggest mysteries of the Mignolaverse, shedding new light on important stuff we’ve only touched on before.”

Frankenstein Underground #1 comes out on Wednesday 25th March.

Batman Endgame #40 also comes out on Wednesday 25th March and during that last month of the story there are four additional tie-in one shots:

These books are $2.99 each and will automatically go aside for anyone who has the parent-title on their Reservation Service pull list (i.e. if you get Batgirl monthly you'll get the Batgirl Endgame #1 one-shot too) unless you opt out by Tuesday 27th January.

If you would like any or all of these added to your order, please email me ASAP.

The Endgame one-shots are due out throughout March.

Speaking of Batman, the eagerly anticipated next-gen video game Batman Arkham Knight is currently scheduled for release in June and DC have an official prequel comic starting in March.

Batman Arkham Knight #1 will fill the gaps in between Arkham City and the next chapter of the successful video game franchise: The Joker is dead. Arkham City is closed. As a new day begins, Bruce Wayne finds himself in devastating pain, recovering from his injuries and questioning whether his role as Batman is still necessary to the city's survival. But as the sun rises in Gotham City, dangerous new threats emerge from the shadows.

Batman Arkham Knight #1 comes out on Wednesday 11th March.

Image Comics go from strength to strength with their incredible offerings of late and this month is no exception.

Chrononauts #1 is from Mark Millar (Secret Service: Kingsman) and Sean Murphy (The Wake) and will almost certainly be turned into a movie in the future. Which is ironic considering it concerns time travel: A bromance for the ages! Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly are two buddies who love to have fun. They're also scientific geniuses. When their research leads them to a time-traveling adventure, will they use their knowledge for the good of all mankind? Or use the space-time continuum for their own ends? This is the story of man's first, televised steps through the time-stream and everything going wrong in the process.

Chrononauts #1 comes out on Wednesday 18th March.

Fans of Trillium and Sweet Tooth will want to check out Jeff Lemire's new title Descender #1 with art from Dustin Nuygen (Lil Gotham): One young robot's struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera. Extra-sized first issue. 30 story pages for only $2.99!

Descender #1 comes out on Wednesday 4th March.

There's definitely a science fiction theme to this month's new Image titles which suits me just fine! Next up is Invisible Republic #1Breaking Bad meets Blade Runner. Arthur McBride's planetary regime has fallen. His story is over. That is until reporter Croger Babb discovers the journal of Arthur's cousin, Maia. Inside is the violent, audacious hidden history of the legendary freedom fighter. Erased from the official record, Maia alone knows how dangerous her cousin really is...

Invisible Republic #1 comes out on Wednesday 18th March.

Not to be out done, Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger are also producing a new science fiction series called Southern Cross that has been eagerly anticipated since it's announcement at the Image Expo last year: NOW BOARDING: Southern Cross, tanker flight 73 to TITAN! Alex Braith is on board retracing her sister's steps to the refinery moon, hoping to collect her remains and find some answers. The questions keep coming though-how did her sister die? Where did her cabin mate disappear to? Who is that creep across the hall? And why does she always feel like she's being watched? Inspired by classic mysteries and weird fiction, SOUTHERN CROSS is a crucible of creeping anxiety and fear as Braith struggles with the ghosts of her past on board a ship that holds secrets best kept buried.

Southern Cross #1 comes out on Wednesday 11th March.

As a big fan of Terry and Rachel Dodson's work together, I have to say that Red One #1 has really piqued my interest: What happens when America's greatest a Russian Spy? Soviet Agent Vera Yelnikov is sent to 1977 Los Angeles by the Kremlin to become an American Superhero and spread communist values in the land of Uncle Sam in a funky superhero romp straight out of a Tarantino film by TERRY & RACHEL DODSON (Uncanny X-Men, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Harley Quinn) and XAVIER DORISON (Long John Silver, The Third Testament).

Red One #1 comes out on Wednesday 18th March.

And finally, those chaps from the Thrilling Adventure Hour are serving up a new comic Beyond Belief #1It's time to send the little ones to dream land, and set your radio's dial to 'SPOOKY.' Steel yourself for mysterious suspense in...BEYOND BELIEF! Meet Frank and Sadie Doyle, toast of the upper crust! Headliners on the society pages. And oh yes...THEY SEE GHOSTS! Who cares what evil lurks in the hearts of men... unless evil's carrying the martini tray! Based on the hit Nerdist podcast! 

Beyond Belief #1 comes out on Wednesday 18th March.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan) is back with an interesting new miniseries called Blackcross from Dynamite Entertainment that sounds like it as potential to be one of the creepier reads of the coming year: All small towns have secrets. All small towns have ghosts. Blackcross, in the Pacific North West of America, has more secrets than most. And it is being haunted by something impossible. BLACKCROSS, a supernatural extension of the PROJECT SUPERPOWERS mythos, is a ghost story about something reaching out from the other side of the night, through the forest and mist of this remote town, to grasp at the hearts of a handful of people who may not find out that they're the targets of a strange killer until it's much, much too late.

Blackcross #1 comes out on Wednesday 4th March.

And that's your lot for this month. Next month will include the chaos that is DC's latest nonsense, Convergence.

Please send any orders back by 11:59pm on Tuesday 27th January to Many thanks!

Ben Fardon welcomes any feedback on these new Previews highlights articles.

THE RESULTS ARE IN! Free Comic Book Day 2015 - the Proud Lion line up!

by Ben Fardon

Last week we announced that this year's Free Comic Book Day at Proud Lion would feature a selection of 25 different titles. 19 of those have been picked by us, with the remaining six to 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 2015 line-up! So without further ado:

  1. Steampunk Goldilocks  
  2. The Tick  
  3. Motorcycle Samurai  
  4. Lady Justice  
  5. Legendary Comics Sampler  
  6. And Then Emily Was Gone #0  

These join the 19 titles we've pre-selected: 2000 AD Special, Avengers #1, Bobs Burgers, Bongo Comics Free-For-All!, Boom Studios 10th Anniversary FCBD Special, Dark Circle Comics #1, Dark Horse Fight Club The Goon The Strain, DC Comics Gold Book, DC Comics Silver Book, Doctor Who Special, Perfect Square Presents Pokemon, Savage Dragon Legacy, Secret Wars #1, Sonic The Hedgehog Mega Man Worlds Unite Prelude, Spongebob Freestyle Funnies, Street Fighter Super Combo Special, Stuff Of Legend Call To Arms, TMNT Prelude To Vengeance and Transformers Robots In Disguise #0.

That's a great line-up and all of us here are really looking forward to the big day on Saturday 2nd May 2015. 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 through social media!

If there are any Free Comic Book Day 2015 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 29th January. That's only a week away, so don't delay in putting in your request and please remember this is only for titles NOT on our list of 25 titles. Be advised that you will be asked to cover the cost of any title outside of our selected 25, with prices ranging from 17p to 32p this year.

The selected 25 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!

The second half of our survey polled as to whether we should change the format of Free Comic Book Day this year, namely how we hand out the free comics.

With multiple options, first past the post isn't a great representation of what the majority of our responding customers want, as whilst 30% for the top result, that means 70% of you were against it!

To move forward we'll be using the results of that question to create a second survey comprising of just two questions in the coming weeks. For you consideration, the decision will be between a) leaving it as it is - first come, first served - or b) switching to limiting people to a limit of ten different free comics per customer. This second survey will follow in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned as we'll have further Free Comic Book Day announcements between now and Saturday 2nd February.

Ben Fardon is gearing up for our first D&D Attack Wing tournament.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Reservation Service Reward Week - 20% off reserved comics and more!

by Ben Fardon

Starting today (appropriately January 20th) and lasting throughout this week until the end of Saturday 24th, we're offering Reservation Service customers 20% off comics from their pull list reservations!

In addition, any Reservation Service customers making further purchases totalling £50 or more will also receive 20% off said purchases as well (offer excludes items that are already reduced, deposits and back issue comics; cannot be combined with any other promotion).

Please note this only applies to Reservation Service customers (i.e. those who have paid their £10 deposit as per the terms and conditions of the Reservation Service). New Reservation Service customers who set up their folders this week will immediately be eligible for this offer.

We look forward to seeing you in the shop this week!

Ben Fardon is looking forward to getting his hands on the X-Com board game!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Contacting us online

by Ben Fardon

Folks, we've seen exponential growth as a family business over the last year, but one thing you may have noticed we're struggling with is online correspondence.

This is part of the modern condition, but we need to consolidate the avenues through which you can reach us. This should hopefully speed up response times for you, and rest assured we definitely do still want to hear from you!

Worth bearing in mind that during the delivery days and new comics days (usually Tuesday and Wednesday), we'll be pretty busy in the store and may not get chance to go through our email until things calm down, so please keep that in mind to avoid frustration.

The best and fastest way to get in touch is to email us at You can also call us during opening times, though if we're all busy serving customers in the store we're sorry but we may not be able to answer the phone the first time. In that instance, please do try again!

Twitter will remain unchanged, you can find us at @proudlioncomics where you can tweet at us or DM us, although bear in mind the character limit of Twitter means it's often better to send an email.

Our Facebook page will also remain unchanged, but we will be turning off Facebook messages through the page at the end of January. Instead, please now email us at

Quite often we receive emails asking when certains comics or graphic novels are released. I highly recommend using the excellent when looking for these release dates as it's very helpful.

In addition, we do have a weekly email newsletter that features a digest of all of our biggest news stories, special offers and more. You can sign up for that newsletter below:

Subscribe to the Proud Lion (comics, games and more) mailing list

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Friday, 16 January 2015

Free Comic Book Day 2015 - vote for the line up!

by Ben Fardon

Faster than a speeding bullet, Free Comic Book Day 2015 is almost upon us.

Last year we successfully trialled offering a more focussed line up, offering our lovely customers the chance to help us decide on the final line up, picking ten comics to join ten we'd pre-selected to make a total of twenty comics that were on offer last May.

This time, we've pre-selected 19 great titles and need your help to pick the final six bringing us to a grand total of 25 comic books (out of a possible 50) to choose from on Free Comic Book Day 2015.

The 19 issues we've selected are:

  • 2000 AD Special
  • Avengers #1
  • Bobs Burgers
  • Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
  • Boom Studios 10th Anniversary FCBD Special
  • Dark Circle Comics #1
  • Dark Horse Fight Club The Goon The Strain
  • DC Comics Gold Book
  • DC Comics Silver Book
  • Doctor Who Special
  • Perfect Square Presents Pokemon
  • Savage Dragon Legacy
  • Secret Wars #1
  • Sonic The Hedgehog Mega Man Worlds Unite Prelude
  • Spongebob Freestyle Funnies
  • Street Fighter Super Combo Special
  • Stuff Of Legend Call To Arms
  • TMNT Prelude To Vengeance
  • Transformers Robots In Disguise #0

We're also asking for your input on how you'd like us to run the day, in an effort to avoid running out too soon without the need to involve a corporate sponsor (which I'm not saying we're adverse to in future years). The various options are listed in the survey below, and you're welcome to suggest alternatives (sensible suggestions please!) using the Other option.

This survey will close at 11:45pm on Thursday 22nd January so you only have just under a weeks to get involved!

Further details about the comics on offer this year can be found here.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Don't fret if the title you like the look of doesn't make the cut, we will once again be offering a chance for customers to request specific comics not included in the final selection. More details on that to come once the selection is finalised.

So please scroll back up and get voting!

Ben Fardon is impressed with how fast Star Wars #1 has flown off the shelves!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

New Beginnings - Star Wars #1 (Marvel)

by Matt Puddy

Iconic opening lines to one of the most well known science fiction films in history. Also the line emblazoned on the first page of this week’s new beginning.

In fact you could also see this comic as a homecoming as this is a brand new Star Wars comic back once again with Marvel. From 1977 to 1987, Marvel produced a 107 issue comic series which loosely followed the original films. During this time it was rumoured to have had such strong sales that it kept Marvel financially afloat. A few years later Dark Horse gained the license and took a more creative approach opening up much richer back stories to main characters as well as introducing new arcs, side characters and areas of the Star Wars universe. Now, with the Star Wars and Marvel brands both part of the Disney family, the circle is now complete and Jason Aaron takes the helm to pen new tales from the galaxy.

From the outset you know exactly where you stand with the cover depicting all of the well loved characters - well the good guys that is anyway (on the cover designed by John Cassaday). The comic then opens with as close to the cinematic experience as the printed medium can. The huge Star Wars sign followed by the implied scrolling prologue breaks you in nicely. Set after the Death Star has been destroyed, the Rebels are moving onto new targets in an attempt to beat the Empire.

The setting is Cymoon 1 the largest munitions factory supporting the Empire’s war effort, and the loveable rogue Han Solo is the man with the plan. Infiltrating the site under the banner of Jabba the Hutt, all seems to be going well and the destruction of the base looks imminent, but where is the fun if it was that simple!? Things start to go wrong when it transpire they Empire uses slaves there and Luke’s instincts draw him away, only to be followed up with catastrophic news. The negotiator has arrived and it’s none other than Darth Vader himself. A botched assassination attempt, the Millennium Falcon being slowly dismantled and ultimately a showdown between Vader and Luke. It’s a whole film is just a few pages complete with a huge cliffhanger.

As mentioned previously John Cassaday is the artist for the issue and it’s great. So great in fact that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford owe him a lot for turning back the clock and giving the readers such fresh faced and youthful depictions of them all. If anything this helps support the comic's place in the chronological order of Star Wars even further, as it dates it all so well. Strangely though one of my favourite panels was when the team discover the hold of AT-AT’s. Aside from the cheeky demeanour from Solo, Cassady also lovingly renders the vehicles and tech as well as he depicts any of the original cast! Classic images given to the reader with strong fine line work – what isn’t to like about this?

Without being a massive Star Wars fan, even I can’t find much fault with this issue. It’s well drawn and well written. The combination sweeps it along at a great pace and is a lot of fun. You constantly find yourself hearing the tonal inflections, the attitude and most of all the well known voices from the films.

It’s a cracking first issue that any reader, fan or otherwise, will enjoy.

Matt Puddy is not the droid you're looking for. Move along.

Friday, 9 January 2015

New Beginnings - S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

by Matt Puddy

When the words "Inspired by the Hit TV Series!" are emblazoned across a product, it can simultaneously spread joy and fear in the hearts of fans. Which is why I approached this week’s review with a little bit of trepidation, but also a touch of interest as well. The other thing that I noticed is that Marvel have put a fairly heavyweight team on the project too with Mark Waid writing and Carlos Pacheco providing the pencils.

The comic starts off with a little bit of a history lesson. Starting out when he was just nine years old, we learn that Coulson’s interest in superheroes has been a defining characteristic throughout his life. Back even then he was making notes on the various heroes that were around. This then carried on through his college years and into his S.H.I.E.L.D. training, until he became a strong agent in the field. Finally, when promoted to Officer, we get to see him truly in action. His analytical prowess and tactical skills immediately shine through in this first issue, as he is tested in a battle that erupts on multiple fronts with various enemies. Wanting someone to multitask in this situation is a big ask but Coulson pulls it off.

Coulson - in his own words - is good when it comes to mixing and matching skills. After all he has been studying all of the mutants, robots, gods and heroes since he was born! Whether it is the Fire Demon, the Storm Giant, the new tyrant Abu Mussan or even the mighty Heimdal, Phil has got a handle on it.

Along the way we are briefly introduced to Agents May, Fitz and Simmons (jumping from the TV show into the original comic universe) who have a small input into the story but cement themselves within cannon. Whilst their presence is noted, it is fairly overshadowed by the plethora of superheroes who also flood the pages having to deal with the various threats. What it does really show is that tactically Coulson it a genius! Moving various players and heavy hitters around, this is one huge game of chess that simply left people like Mussan outclassed before they even realised it.

From a story point of view it is packed and quick moving. Even though there are some fan favourites like Iron Man thrown in the mix - along with some cute nods to other older heroes like the original Human Torch - the tale doesn’t feel like it is about anyone other than Coulson.

One thing that felt a little awkward was the timeline and also some of the depictions. Without knowing how old Coulson is (and he is somewhat dated by the TV show this is based on), the timeline feels a little off as we see Superior Iron Man (current) alongside the Hulk (currently Doc Green) and other heroes who should be older than they are due to the continuity, but then comic time has always been elastic and fluid to suit the narrative.

Visually I think a great job has been done. Translating characters from a show to a comic can either be representations or ideas of the original actors, but in this case they have gone for quite accurate depictions so that when you see Fitz, you know it’s Fitz, and everyone knows who Coulson is too. The extra little files at the back of the issue (courtesy of Joe Quesada for one) are also furthering this.

Throughout the comic Pacheco’s work is fantastic as well. It’s clean and fine with tonnes of detail in it to keep the attractive to the reader throughout.

As a first issue it was more character building and informative rather than arc building but it certainly has promise. It’s also a good preamble for those who like the TV series and wanted to see the team they know and love become legitimate parts of the larger Marvel Universe.

Matt Puddy is back baby! (And it's totally Ben's fault he's been gone over Christmas, sorry folks...)