Thursday, 26 March 2015

New Beginnings - Red One #1

by Matt Puddy

What happens when America’s greatest superhero is a Russian spy?

Well it’s certainly an interesting question to ask and the exact one that this week’s comic poses. Red One, by relative newcomer Xavier Dorison, is set back in the Seventies at the height of the Cold war. Opening in America at a controversial movie screening, the scene is set with the outrage and affront to moral decency that the film's release has caused. As a result of it all the leading lady is singled out and attacked by a shadowy figure simply referred to as the Carpenter. His actions are fanning the flames though and the more he strikes the more that he inspires for the cause.

Around the world several months later, a young Russian agent is seen putting young recruits as well as older agents to shame with her prowess, and to a degree her attitude. If anything in the contrary to the stereotypes many people have about Seventies, Russia she has a very liberal lifestyle. All of that has to come to an end though when she is summoned to find out her new and highly secretive mission.

To infiltrate the United States.

Armed with a Walkman (which cunningly hid a receiver), some rather revealing clothes and her can-do attitude, Vera heads for the States with a mission to emulate the quietly rising popularity of comic book icons such as Batman by using her physical attributes in more ways than one. This is a point which is highly emphasised when she finally meets her contact in the United States who provides her with a uniform (of sorts), which is apparently a little revealing, although that’s not something Vera is afraid of. With the first part of her infiltration well on the way to being a success, the only way is up.

The Dodsons provide the artwork for the series with some fantastic work. I earlier reviewed Princess Leia which also featured the Dodson’s artwork, but somehow even though it’s the same artist and colourist paring, the work here feels cleaner and better. Lines are neat and fresh, and the colour work matches and shifts with the environment creating a real feel for the different locations we see people in.

There is one thing that did irk me a little though, and that is the premise of the whole comic is based around a Russian spy imbedded in the American system, but in this first issue we just haven’t got there yet. This is an incredibly fun comic to read, but it might have been better if it had started in media res, jumping right into the heart of the action. That said it will be good to see this develop and the hijinks that Vera finds herself in as she adjusts to Western capitalist society. Along the way there is also the idea that she has to win the hearts and minds of the American public by being a hero too, which could put her in direct opposition to the Carpenter. Will she manage it? Will it be a bust? And who will she fight it out with? Only future issues will tell.

Matt Puddy is intrigued to see how this miniseries pans out.

New Beginnings - Southern Cross #1

by Matt Puddy

Image has always been an interesting publisher for me. Aside from the all-star line up of partners and founders that they have (Kirkman, Silvestri, McFarlane et al), I’ve often found that they take a slightly different approach to comics outside of the stereotypical masks and capes approach that the mainstream and first identified publishers such as Marvel and DC.

This week’s comic is a good representation of this. There’s nothing super, nothing powered and nothing mystical (so far) to push it along. Instead we have a story driven by a normal woman on the path to find out what has happened to her sister. When working in admin, it’s not that life threatening a role to play, even in a science fiction setting.

The opening to the series, by Becky Cloonan, is very akin to a murder mystery and quite reminiscent of something I would expect to see Hercule Poirot bobbing around in. This is a scene and pacesetter for the entire run right from the word go. The tone, both visually and literally, is created and there is an awkward rough feel to the story which is perfect for Alex Braith making her way to Titan surrounded by the roughnecks and workers bound for the refining station on Titan. There are a number of contradictions presented to you as well as you would find in life, which aid the story to feel more realistic, even though it’s set in the future. The mix of personalities which bond and clash is akin to the everyday relationships that everyone finds themselves in. From a wider perspective the claustrophobic feel of a close-quartered tanker, combined with the simple enormity of the ship itself is another great example of this.

As Alex moves through the ship she meets people who will no doubt shape her tale in more than one way. The doctor, the captain and her bunkmate for example. But everything takes a twist later on in this first issue. Whilst on a routine walk around the ship she is shown the gravity drive. Something takes her away. Did her mind drift or did she really see her sister calling out for help? Something is awry and only the inquest she is on will resolve it.

Working with Becky Cloonan is Andy Belanger on pencils. As I mentioned before the artwork is befitting the story. Lee Loughridge’s colouring certainly adds to this as well. Thoughout the issue there is a great level of detail in the surroundings which is fantastic, even when you get to the end and find an advert for positions on the crew along with schematics of the ship and station. The geek in me loved these extra little touches at the end. This is quite possibly due to my love of the Sulaco and Nostromo, but even so I thought they were great.

The visual characterisations are a little basic for my preferences, but even so there is a lot of interaction displayed and passed on by them. Overall the tone is further supported by the colouring. Individually the different aspects have varying merits but all together it works well.

As a first issue it has enough to keep you reading and asking questions. For a stop outside of the normal it’s a good one.

Matt Puddy is continually delighted by the variety Image are bringing to the shelves.

New Beginnings - Princess Leia #1

by Matt Puddy

Further celebrating the reacquisition of the Star Wars license by Marvel, their next offering is the first issue of a miniseries centred around Princess Leia.

The series is written by Mark Waid who seems to have written a bit of everything in his illustrious career so far with the exception of Star Wars, meaning that it is also a new beginning of sorts for him as well.

As with the other titles that Marvel have brought to the shelves for Star Wars, Princess Leia fits into the wider plan to create a new continuity after Episode IV A New Hope. However, what we also get to see is a slightly different perspective on things. Commencing immediately from the ceremony at the end of the film, Leia is still addressing the Rebel pilot and troops in the ruins on Yavin 4, but not all is going across well. Her strong feelings of duty mean that she doesn’t always come across as caring as could be, and thus she has already earned herself the nickname of the Ice Princess.

This creates a rift between her and almost everyone around her. The Empire are tracking the rebels down as they speak and a mass evacuation is required.

From a reader's perspective there is a great bit of levity added when you see Admiral Akbar becoming more and more frustrated with proceedings not being as quick or as smooth as he'd like. This scene definitely featured the funniest line in this first issue for me, as he shouts at a human for only looking at one thing at a time.

At a loss of what she can do – now that there is a 10 million credit bounty on her head – she begins to get frustrated. Avenues are closed to her by one of the heads of the Rebellion, as she is such a high priority target now. But that won’t stop her. Before she goes stir crazy on the base she finds a way to get out, and she embarks on a self imposed quest to find the remaining surviving Alderaanians.

Partnering Waid on this is Terry Dodson, an artist with an almost as impressively long list of accolades to his work. His style is probably best described as soft edges, with easily identifiable characters presented in a very pleasing way. There aren’t harsh lines and this makes it a nice easy read with as your eyes effortlessly dart across the pages.

This is supported further by a very simple and sombre colouring by Terry’s wife Rachel Dodson. It’s not all muted though, and things like the bright orange jumpsuits and the occasional flashes of red make the frames pop without being too over-the-top. It all blends together very well.

As an issue there is a strange feeling of Leia being a Rebel without a cause or at worst a slightly petulant princess not allowed out. There’s also the odd non-friendship towards the end which cuddles a touch of animosity up to smiles and admiration, adding an odd couple dynamic to the mix.

For me this made for a slightly lacklustre issue. However, this is also dictated by the way that there wasn’t a giant amount of action. If you’re a fan of it there was a lot of politically driven talk, and we got to see a lot of people with it getting a little sneaky towards the end which certainly picked it up for me as well. Setting the scene in one issue is always hard, but the greater universe has been opened up for our gallant princess.

Matt Puddy notes that Ben felt this was an issue full of great character development, but to each their own!

New Beginnings - Spider-Gwen #1

by Matt Puddy

If you’re looking for positive affirmation that the chaps and chapesses at Marvel take notice of their fans then look no further than Spider-Gwen. Born from the love of a character design that became a prominent part of Spider-Verse, this is Gwen Stacey reborn.

As a character, Gwen has had an impressive development and evolution. In her early days it would be fair to say that she fell well into the realms of a generic female character there to support or drive the main male protagonist and that her death was ultimately the equivalent of Kyle Rayner finding his girlfriend dead and stuffed into his fridge, thus providing the impetus to strive to be a better Spider-Man for one Peter Parker. Over the years that has somewhat changed with her taking more of an active role culminating in her position now.

In true Spidey fashion though this isn’t straight forward, and although there are no clones or time travelling involved this Gwen is from another world – Earth 65 to be precise – with the salient difference being that she was the one bitten by the spider in this reality whilst Peter pushed himself and took Dr Connors’ role in becoming the Lizard. Also in the true vein of all things Spidey it was that “death” of Parker that has Spider-Gwen vilified in the eyes of the public by none other than (yup you’ve guessed it) J Jonah Jameson.

As a quick side note other version of notable Marvel characters do make a quick cameo, such as Officer Ben Grimm and Detective Frank Castle, but for the whole most of the normal portrayals are on point aside for a little artistic license.

Jason Latour’s story opens with a bit of a recap and retcon on her backstory, as well as a slight nudge in the right direction for those who didn’t read her main story in Spider-Verse. In a bold move she unmasked herself to her father thus changing the dynamic in a way that “our” Peter never did.

Shifting straight into the story we find that the Vulture is stalking the city and you know that Gwen is going to be dragged into it all at some point. Admittedly there is also some Parker-esque personal troubles too, such as her career with the Mary-Janes, the egotistically-named all-girl band in which Gwen was once their drummer, as well as discovering that someone out there had put a hit on her father.

We all know where this is going; there’s going to be a showdown which is only hastened by the police posting the Vulture's address for all to see. Gwen tries to track him down but instead gets found herself culminating in a fight between the two as another age old question rears its head and turns into a cliffhanger. Can spiders fly?

Robbi Rodriguez is the artist for this new series and it’s fair to say he certainly has his own style. Spider-Gwen herself is very lithe and feminine, much like all the other female characters. The male depictions felt a little overemphasised though. Frank Castle has a strong male frame with wide shoulders and big chest, for example, but also a bit of a small face. It makes for an interesting mix as I found myself loving some of it but not all of it.

Fans will no doubt flock to get this issue, whether they are the newly minted Gwen fans or if they are Spidey fans who have continued on from the Verse. I enjoyed it but wasn’t as wowed as I would have liked to be. Still a great start to a title that is likely to go far.

Matt Puddy is just getting warmed up...

Friday, 13 March 2015

Big Game Hunting Live presents TableTop Day 2015 [Gather Your] Party!

by Rae

For this year's International TableTop Day, Proud Lion are proud to present the TableTop Day 2015 [Gather Your] Party! Join us from 6:30pm until 11pm at 2PIGS in Cheltenham for an epic evening of board and party games! We will be playing host to an assortment of games, including:
  • Cash 'N Guns tournament, where players will compete for a place at the top table, the Mafia Don Showdown!
  • exhibition-style Star Trek: Attack Wing, where players are invited to bring a 60 point fleet (one or two ships) to join forces with the Oversized Borg Cube or help defend the DS9! *
  • Star Wars: X-Wing "Podrace In Space", where players are invited to bring a single ship (points TBD) and speed through two laps to be first to the finish line! This is just a bit of fun for TableTop Day! *
  • D&D Attack Wing custom scenario, where players are invited to bring a 80 point legion to combat each other over hand crafted tabletop scenery! *
  • late night game of Cards Against Humanity, minimum age 16 - please be aware this game can be considered offensive and may not suitable for those of a sensitive disposition!
  • Dead of Winter (TableTop Edition), a new and very popular post-apocalypse game where humanity is struggling to survive a zombie infestation, but a betrayer hides amongst them...
  • Pints of Blood: it's Shaun of the Dead in board game form. Seriously. We may even put the soundtrack on!

Several more games will be available to play, but feel free to bring your own as well! Every ticket purchased includes one entry into the Cheltenham TableTop Day Prize Draw. More details about the prize draw will be available soon.

* Please contact Proud Lion to reserve a slot for the Star Trek: Attack Wing, Star Wars: X-Wing, or D&D Attack Wing games. Participation is open to all ticket holders.

A free buffet will be available to all ticket holders in the venue, and drinks will be available for purchase from the bar.

So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets now!

Tickets are available for ages 14+. Children under 14 are free when accompanied by a paying adult (maximum two children per adult). Advance tickets will be available for purchase until 5pm on the day. Tickets purchased online will incur a 50p booking fee. Tickets on the door will be available from 6:30pm for £5.00.

Rae is starting to wonder if she can clone herself and play all the games.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Big Game Hunting Live presents TableTop Day 2015

by Rae

Every year, Proud Lion takes part in an event devoted to encouraging people to play more games: International TableTop Day! This year the local gaming community in Cheltenham is joining forces to bring you the biggest and best TableTop Day yet. On Saturday 11 April 2015, take part in a Camden Crawl-style game day, where an assortment of locations will leave players spoiled for choice!

What is International TableTop Day?
International TableTop Day is an annual event celebrating tabletop gaming. People are encouraged to play more games, anywhere they can, and encourage others to join in. Many locations run open gaming for anyone to get involved, as we are! For more information about TableTop Day, how it began, and other events running on the day, check out the official website at

Where can I play games during the day?
Here at Proud Lion, we'll be offering a selection of card and dice games throughout the day, as well as a few of our favourite board games. Some of the games on offer include King of New York, Forbidden Desert, Munchkin Panic, Fluxx, and Ninja Dice! More details about when you can play these (and more!) will be available soon. All games will be open to the public, so just turn up and play! Proud Lion will be hosting open gaming in store from 10am to 5pm.

Around the corner at the 2PIGS, Pork Chop Gaming will be hosting tables full of epic games! Join in for some Warhammer 40K, Star Trek: Attack Wing, Star Wars: X-Wing, Wings of Glory and more. Pork Chop Gaming will be hosting their event from 10am until 6pm.

Slightly further afield you'll find St Paul's Boardroom! Based at St Paul's Church, this is where you'll find eurogames, co-ops, and classics. Some of the games you'll find here include Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, and Five Tribes. St Paul's Boardroom will be running from 10am to 6pm.

Why should I go to more than one place?
You mean besides trying out a bunch of new games and meeting like-minded gamers? How about a prize draw where you can win some cooling gaming stuff? To encourage people to try out new locations and expand the local gaming community, Proud Lion will be hosting the Cheltenham TableTop Day Prize Draw!

The rules are simple. When you go to any venue, you can pick up one of our TableTop Day flyers. Play at least one game at any of the participating venues to get your flyer stamped or signed by the organiser. If you collect two stamps, you will earn one entry into the prize draw. Collect three stamps to get three entries! You will also receive one entry to the draw if you purchase a ticket to [Gather Your] Party! (more details below).

Prize draw? What kind of stuff could I win?
Prizes are currently set to include a month's membership with Pork Chop Gaming, a Munchkin hoody, games, vouchers, and more! A full list of prizes will be available soon.

What is [Gather Your] Party?
[Gather Your] Party is a Proud Lion hosted event taking place at the 2PIGS! Just in case we haven't packed enough into TableTop Day, in the evening we will be running even more gaming! Some of the events include a Cash 'N Guns tournament, exhibition-style Attack Wing games, and a late night game of Cards Against Humanity. There will be food, there will be a bar, and there will be a lot of gaming going on! Details about how to get tickets for this event will be available very shortly.

Questions? Comments?

Feel free to contact us at If any other venues are participating in tableTop Day and would like us to help spread the word, please do get in touch!

Rae has decided that gaming is definitely more important than sleep.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Big Game Hunting - D&D Encounters: A new adventure begins!

By Rae

For the last six months, Proud Lion has been leading two groups of would-be heroes through burning villages, enemy camps, and evil creature-infested caves in our first ever season of Dungeons & Dragons: Encounters. This casual-style gaming event allows players to grab a character and join in the adventure at almost any time, and is particularly suited to those new to D&D or role-playing games in general.

We're pleased to let you all know that the new season of Encounters is about to begin! This month we will start a brand new adventure, Elemental Evil. This will feature content from the upcoming Princes of the Apocalypse. Once again we will be inviting players to join in and have fun as we battle minions, acquire allies, and defeat evil every week!

We will kick off this season with a session devoted to developing characters. On March 18th, we will be supporting players in building a character that is uniquely their own, and creating a background that will get them off to a running start. If you want to make a character but have no idea how to get going, this is a good place to begin. Experienced DMs (Dungeon Masters, the leaders of the game) will be on hand to answer questions and help generate your character.

On March 25th, we will being the adventure itself! Bring your newly created character (or grab a pre-generated character if you'd prefer) and get stuck in! Spaces for D&D Encounters are on a first-come, first-served basis, and we currently have enough space for a maximum of 14 players (2 groups of 7 players each). These do tend to fill up fast, particularly in the first few weeks, so don't be disappointed if we can't fit you in straight away!

To keep up to date with D&D Encounters, please keep an eye on the event pages on Facebook: the character building session, and the first play session.

Rae is planning and plotting for an epic TableTop Day this year!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Ramping up! EPOSible! Comic Wars! Gaming Tournaments! And TBCF16!

by Ben Fardon

Phew! What a busy time here at Proud Lion!

The shop itself has just seen several great upgrades in the past few weeks.

We've finally taken delivery of a folding access ramp. If anyone needs to make use of it, please ring either of the doorbells by the front door and we'll bring it out and set it up for you.

This is great news and something we've been working towards since we relocated the shop last year.

Apologies to anyone who has noticed that our email newsletter has become a little intermittent over the last few weeks. We're in the middle of an extensive EPOS upgrade that propels Proud Lion into the 21st Century with barcode scanners, touch screen tills and all manner of other great functions. This will allow us to unveil a host of excellent new features to our services in the coming months, and should speed up the queues on big events like Free Comic Book Day.

I'll keep you posted with the new developments as they become available and I'll endeavour to keep up-to-date with the mailing list during the upgrade as best I can. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you to everyone who has completed the DC Convergence order form we've been circulating in February; it's been a huge help! We have a little bit of every Convergence title on order for the shelves, with extra of the main title and the seemingly standout offerings like the Harley Quinn and Batman: Shadow Of The Bat issues, but I'd still advise you to pre-order anything you know you want to avoid disappointment!

To do so now that the survey is closed, please email

The aim next week is to bring you a roundup of all of the Secret Wars titles on offer from Marvel in May. I'm also delighted that after the frustration of Convergence, I find myself actually very excited about the following launch of DC's new Divergence titles in June!

“This heralds in a new era for the DC Universe which will allow us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.  “Whether you’ve been a DC fan your whole life, or whether you are new to comics – there will be a book for you beginning in June.”

More on that at the end of this month. Stay tuned.

We've just had our biggest weekend of gaming tournaments thus far, with both a Marvel Dice Masters Rainbow Draft and a Star Trek Attack Wing OP yesterday, followed by a really fun Netrunner draft tournament today. Our huge thanks to everyone who helped to get the word out about these events, and congratulations to all of our players from this weekend, not just the winners. Fantastic sportsmanship conduct throughout all of the events; you're all a credit to the local gaming community.

Work has also begun on bringing you our biggest and best TableTop Day event to date, on Saturday 11th April. Further details to follow, but for now you can follow the news at our TableTop Day 2015 Facebook event.

We're aware that not everyone uses Facebook, so work has begun on bringing a dedicated forum to the Proud Lion website; initially for gaming, but eventually intended to expand to include comics, TV, films, and more. This should hopefully create a place for everyone to discuss our favourite hobbies!

Finally, we're all booked in for the True Believers Comic Festival 2016 on Saturday 6th February next year. Save the date!

Ben Fardon really enjoyed Power/Rangers!