Saturday 31 January 2015

Comics Round-Up (January the Last)

Still trying to pair down the series. Reluctantly dropping Batgirl for the time being. Star Trek is getting a rest after this story is finished. Going to keep going through Spider-Verse and its associated titles, then I think I'll stick to Spider-Gwen, so long as it's as good as expected. Wild's End must be seen through to the end, The Wicked + The Divine has become a must-read. Ms. Marvel is a must on those months it comes out, as is The Multiversity. Other titles here and there. Squirrel Girl and Thor I want to stick with for a while at least, although I'm not sure about Marvel's new Secret Wars plans. They seem to be gearing up for a DC-New 52-style event. Not sure I can be bothered with all that.

Spider-Verse #2 (Marvel)

I am enjoying these anthology titles, I have to say. None of them are actually necessary to read to follow the overall plot of the Spider-Verse event, which is refreshing, but they do add something to the characters and are a good read in their own right.

Spider-Verse #2 is a mixed bag of actual short stories, such as "Anansi: A Spider in Sheep's Clothing," which has an unexpected meeting of Anansi the Spider God and Spider-UK; and brief vignettes, such as the opening "It's Showtime," which is just one page of the Capcom video game Spider-Man. The highlight is "With Great Power, Comes No Future," an origin piece for "The Anarchic Spider-Man," aka Spider-Punk. I'd be surprised if he doesn't get his own title after all this is over. The final vignette, "It's the Little Things," is also cute; it's just a series of nods to the various Spideys that can't be included for various reasons, such as the Electric Company version and the Broadway musical star. So, even though we can't have a panel with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield facing off, we at least know they're there, along with all the others. Except LEGO Spider-Man and the evil misogynist Turkish Spider-Man from 3 Dev Adam, who have yet to show up.

The Amazing Spider-Man #13 (Marvel)

The penultimate installment of the Spider-Verse storyline visits a universe where it was Uncle Ben who was bitten by the spider. I can't recall this being tried in a "What if?" story before, though, even though it really is the most obvious idea you can think of. It's also very difficult to tell the various Spiders apart in some panels. There's a nice moment where Spider-UK and Spider-Man India reflect on their nature as shadows of Peter Parker, the Man-Spider appears and rips the villains to shreds, and Silk continues to screw everything up, but essentially this exists to set up the big shebang finale.

Star Trek #40 (IDW)
So, "The Q Gambit" comes to its conclusion, in quite a perfunctory way. I mean, it makes sense in light of the facts of the story so far, but it is a bit of a squib. I do like the idea that the Pah-Wraiths are potentially powerful enough to threaten the Q (and that the Q cannot see anything of their own future on their plane). The best part is Picard's final line on the last page.

Star Wars #1 (Marvel)

Well, I had to pick this one up, just like everyone else. It's fine, reasonably good fun, and it certainly feels sufficiently Star Wars-y. Can't say it really convinced me to follow the series though, and I don't really care that it's officially canon. This is Marvel, where every bit of nonsense is canon (except 3 Dev Adam). I'll probably give Kieron Gillen's Darth Vader series a look, though.

The Wicked + The Divine #6-7 (Image)

Speaking of Gillon, I've got myself both issues of the second volume of the superlative W+D. Laura has become more cynical in her view, giving this a distinctly aggravated, downbeat tone. Issue 6 sets up some direction for the second volume, but it's issue 7 that's the better read. This is such a gorgeous book, and the convention scenes are incredible, with the thousands of convention goers rendered as nothing more than faceless shades. It's callous, jealous, Daft Punk-inspired Woden who is the most fascinating thing in this story right now, though.

Avengers Universe #9 (Marvel/Panini)

Still on Gillon and McKelvie, their Young Avengers run is by the best thing about this compendium, even if this (issue 5) isn't best installment of the story. The Apocalypse Twins storyline for The Uncanny Avengers (issue 14) is throwing major events at us but it's starting to feel like overkill, although I am intrigued by the unravelling timelines. The Black Widow/Hawkeye/Spider-Woman story from Avengers Assemble #13 is frankly dull (and the cover provided for the issue as a whole is hideous). I'll probably see the current storylines through to one more issue and then rest it if it fails to reignite.

Wild's End #5 (Boom!)

Not much to say on this beyond it's still a solidly exciting and well told treatise on the horrors of war and its toll on civilian populations. The lantern-headed invaders are a monstrous force, and the animal characters are more well-rounded and believable than the stars of half the comics on the shelves.

SHIELD #2 (Marvel)

More of an extra issue of Ms. Marvel than an Agents of SHIELD instalment, but that's no bad thing in my book. Jemma Simmons gets some decent focus this time round, although it's still Coulson everyone's here for. Good fun, nothing special. I enjoyed the artwork, particularly Delgado's unparalleled colouring, but Humberto Ramos's pencils do make the characters look extremely dopey on occasion.

Guardians of the Galaxy #23 (Marvel)

Finally, the Planet of the Symbiotes arc arrives at the Planet of the Symbiotes. There's some wonderfully weird imagery on offer, but the exploration of the planet feels cut short. It's an mportant part of Flash/Venom's development though, and the diagnosis of the Venom symbiote as being disturbed and damaged is perfectly obvious.

Thor #4 (Marvel)

The inevitable man-Thor vs. woman-Thor issue arrives, and plays our predictably but entertainingly. I'm tempted to keep following this series; I find the new Thor a genuinely enjoyable character to read, and the ongoing mystery of her actual identity is intriguing. A fiver says she's Jane Foster.

Powers #1 (Marvel/Icon)

With a Powers TV series on the way, it's unsurprising that Marvel have launched another new volume of the comic, bringing Walker and Pilgrim back to Homicide. And, you know, it's fine. There are some striking images, as you'd expect from Oeming, but it's not the exciting title it once was.

Multiversity Guidebook (DC)

Oversized and overpriced, but an essential purchase to those following Morrison's latest opus. The actual guidebook segments are the part that can be done without. Fun and fascinating as the reality descriptions are, it's hard to care too much when we know they'll just be rebooted again a few years down the line (as the history of the various "Crises" makes clear). No, it's the actual storyline in which it is embedded that is the important part, building on events in the previous installments and setting up major conflicts to come. At the same time, the tales of the futuristic Justice League coming into contact with the innocent Chibi Little Leaguers is joyfully acerbic, pitting the two extremes of DC's story styles against each other with genuine consequences for the overall story. While the fallout will have to wait, this remains an excellent series.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

I ain't afraid of no reboot

I don't think there's anything I need to say about the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot - starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon - that isn't covered in this erudite post.


Wednesday 21 January 2015

TV REVIEW: The Man in the High Castle

As part of Amazon's new run of pilot episodes, The Man in the High Castle is so far just one small part of a much larger story that is begging to be told. I'll be candid: I've not actually read the original novel by Philip K. Dick (it's on the list, OK?) Dick's works are notoriously difficult to capture successfully on film. Ridley Scott was, of course, responsible for altering the acclaimed novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into the even more celebrated film Blade Runner. How extensive his work is here, as executive producer, isn't clear, but The Man in the High Castle does capture the astonishing attention to detail and visual panache that made Blade Runner such a masterpiece of world building. The script, by Howard Brenton and Frank Spotnitz, is remarkably utilitarian, with little of the flashy dialogue we've come to expect from shows trying to make an impression. It feels very natural and is all the more powerful for it. We spend only an hour in this world, but the vision of America we experience is entirely believable, recognisably the sixties America of a thousand movies but skewed and leached of hope. Unlike the original novel, this is a period piece, and therefore has a certain amount of further work to do in creating its world.

While any adaptation is bound to alter certain details, I understand that fans of the novel have, for the most part, been pleased with how little has been changed. As yet, this is set-up that, if Amazon have any sense, will be expanded into a full series which may, of course, move in unforeseen directions. As someone who is new to the story, I wonder if I am actually at an advantage; able to be surprised by developments. The revelation of one character's loyalties at the episode's end came as a surprise to me, although, in retrospect, it was hinted at by a cheeky bit of Scott set dressing. (Hint: you'll think Blade Runner again.) As with much of Dick's work, we are encouraged to question everything we see, and I'm sure there are more surprises to come.

The concept of a world in which the Axis won WWII is a cliche, of course, but only because it holds such endless fascination in our culture that it has been used time and time again, and will continue to be so. The conquered and divided States here are a little one-sided; the Japanese Pacific States seem too pleasant on first exploration, although the existence of a ruthless police force show how this is only surface deep. Nonetheless, while I applaud the representation of the Japanese people as varied in culture and attitude, I wonder if they are being made to acceptable as an occupying force here. Life for those under Japanese occupation in the War was horrific, and I wonder if things would have been so much better by this alternative 1962. The Nazi-occupied side, on the other hand, has the feel of occupied France all through it, right down to the resistance. A Nazi-ruled America is familiar enough from fiction, and this is perhaps the best and most believable depiction I have seen. Nonetheless, the Nazi forces come of far less attractively than the Japanese; they are, so far, villainous through and through. Hopefully further episodes will illuminate and explore all sides of the conflict more equally.

All that said, this is a masterful depiction of life under foreign rule, where ordinary people are pushed to extremes by the harsh political realities of their world. Huge praise is due for the cast, all of whom sell this world convincingly. In particular Alexa Davalos as Juliana, a wonderful but underused actress; Luke Kleintank as Joe, who carries much of the episode just driving in near silence and remains absorbing; and the great Rufus Sewell, who is terrifying as the calmly cruel Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith. We need to see more of them and the torn apart world they inhabit. More please, and soon.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Eight times a woman played the Doctor

With a new incarnation of the Master played by Michelle Gomez, showrunner Steven Moffat stating that one day it's bound to happen, and acclaimed writers such as Neil Gaiman pushing for the development, it seems that a female lead for Doctor Who is pretty much inevitable. If not the next Doctor, then definitely the one after, I'd say. Peter Capaldi could very well be the final example of an old white man in the role, taking the traditionalist version of the Doctor as far as it will go before the series tries something truly different. Some people support this idea, others are horrified by it. However, it is not without precedent. Here are eight women who have played our favourite Time Lord.

Barbara Benedetti

The Wrath of Eukor (1984)

The first serious attempt to make Doctor Who featuring a female Doctor, The Wrath of Eukor was a fanfilm produced by "Seattle International Productions." Running at less than half an hour long, the story began a short run of adventures for this new incarnation. Clearly the creators of the project weren't too keen on Colin Baker's taking the lead in the series, since they immediately regenerated him into a new, seventh incarnation. Having regenerated too many times over too short a period, the Doctor's DNA matrix fails and he regenerates once more, this time changing sex, which is something of a surprise. Benedetti became a popular Doctor in fan circles, and she was certainly the best thing about these cute but amateurish films. She was joined on her travels by Carl, a crude American idea of a Victorian cockney chimney sweep (played by Randy Rogel, now a well-regarded animation screenwriter).

After four adventures, in 1988 the Doctor regenerated again, this time into a traditionally male incarnation, played by Michael Santo. The director, Ryan K. Johnson, has details of the stories and how to obtain them on his website, although they also available to view on YouTube.

Joanna Lumley

Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death (1999)

The first time a woman played the Doctor in an officially BBC-sanctioned production was in the closing moments of this classic skit from Comic Relief 1999. Written by Steven Moffat, The Curse of Fatal Death's running joke (apart from the farting) was the deconstruction of Doctor Who by doing all the things critics and comedians continually brought up. The Doctor freeing himself from traps using time travel, marrying his companion, and of course, regenerating into a woman. There really was no one else who could have played the archetypal female Doctor but Joanna Lumley, giving her a girls school, jolly-hockey-sticks good humour. In fact, it was regenerating into a woman that gave the Doctor back her sense of adventure. Since 2010, Moffat has pretty much done everything from the skit for real in the actual series, with the exception that is was the Master who became a woman, not the Doctor. And in Dark Water, they just kissed, while the Lumley Doctor and Price Master went off arm-in-arm. Bwahhahahaaa...

Arabella Weir

Unbound: Exile (2003)

Big Finish's Doctor Who Unbound range was a series of "What-if?" style stories that had featured new actors in the role of the Doctor. The sixth release posited a different outcome for the Doctor's trial by the Time Lords, and instead of being exiled to Earth in the form of Jon Pertwee, he escaped, forced a regeneration and changed sex. (Apparently what happens when Time Lords attempt suicide to force a regeneration.) Nonetheless, Arabella Weir's Doctor ended up on Earth after all, hiding out in Sainsbury's and spending a great deal of time in her local pub. A very different, comedic take on the Doctor, who spent much of her time arguing with the phantom of her former self (voiced by Nick Briggs, who also wrote the script).

Catherine Tate

Journey's End (2008)

The official TV series itself finally got round to having a female Doctor, of sorts, in the climactic finale to the fourth series of the revival. The tenth Doctor had begun to regenerate, before offloading his excess energy into his handy spare hand, sparing him the awkwardness of changing his appearance in front of Rose again. When his faithful companion Donna touched the detached body part, a "Time Lord-human biological metacrisis" kick-started an hour of nonsensical technobabble. Said metacrisis led to the hand growing into a whole new extra David Tennant, while Tate's character took on elements of the Doctor's knowledge, intelligence and abilities. The temp from Chiswick thus became a sort of female human version of the Doctor, joining with both Tennant-shaped versions as the "three-fold man" to defeat the Daleks. Unfortunately, her feeble human brain was unable to take the strain and the real Doctor had to wipe her memory of the event. For a short time though, Catherine Tate was the Doctor.

Katy Manning and Nicola Bryant 

Ghost in the Machine (2013) and The Widow's Assassin (2014)

Oddly enough, the sci-fi staple of a bodyswap has never been used on televised Doctor Who. Possessions a-plenty, but not two people switching minds and bodies. In the expanded universe material, however, it has occurred more than once, most notably in two productions from Big Finish. Ghost in the Machine is part of the Companion Chronicles range, which utilises a mix of audiobook and cast drama techniques to provide stories for Doctors no longer with us. As such, the various companion actors, many of them female, have had a turn at impersonating their Doctors, but this story went one further by having the third Doctor and Jo Grant briefly switch bodies. It finally happened in the main range this year, when the sixth Doctor went in search of his lost companion Peri and became embroiled in a web of espionage, possession and mind-swappery. This culminated in a gorgeous scene in which Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant got to play each other's characters.

April O'Neil 

Doctor Whore (2014)

A XXX porn parody, Doctor Whore (not to be confused with Doctor Screw) is better than most, and actually bares some resemblance to the show it's spoofing. It's clear that the people involved actually do love Doctor Who. It's not the first time there's been a sexy female Doctor in little to no clothes (a particular shout-out to GoGo Blackwater of Suicide Girls for her set "Twelve"), but this version has gone down quite well with fans of a certain persuasion. After tenth and eleventh Doctors played by Kris Slater and Brian Street Team, the twelfth Doctor is portrayed by April O'Neil, legendarily geeky porn starlet. "After all, why would they pass up the opportunity to cast a woman or a minority?" She travels with Martha, played by another porn-performing Who fan, Skin Diamond, and Captain Jack (Aaron Wilcox). And then they all have sex, obviously. OK, so it's not the most effective feminist argument for a female Doctor, but they do get points for poking fun at the BBC for casting yet another skinny white guy.

Jenna Coleman

Flatline and Death in Heaven (2014)

Along with the Master returning as the Mistress, this is the clearest argument yet that one day soon we shall see a woman in the lead role. While some fans disparaged the latest series as being "Clara Who," this was an effective way of not only putting the companion on more equal footing with the Doctor, but also teasing the possibility of a future female Doctor. Clara stepped up to take the Doctor's place as investigator and hero in Flatline, while Death in Heaven took it further, briefly having Clara claim to be the Doctor to try to outwit the Cybermen. The showmakers even tweaked the title sequence so that it was Coleman's name that was listed first, and her eyes that appeared in the Vortex. It has to be said, Coleman did a convincing job of leading the programme, even for that short time.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

2014 Telefantasy review-y rambles

Sleepy Hollow

This series shouldn't work. Washington Irving's classics "Rip van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" are mashed up into what's basically Adam Adamant Lives redone for a modern audience. Yet it works, because it finds the balance between the ludicrousness of the premise and the drama of the approach. It takes itself just seriously enough, and it certainly helps that the writing on the show is top notch. So Orci and Kurtzman can make some good stuff when they work on it. Sleepy Hollow manages to be genuinely funny and properly scary at times. It also doesn't hurt that Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, as Ichabod Crane and his new ally Abby Mills, as well as being fine actors with some excellent chemistry, are both utterly gorgeous. You've also got Orlando Jones Captain Irving (nice touch there), and he's always a class act (personally, I could see him as the Doctor, but I'm always on the lookout). Then there's John Cho - John moviestar Cho - making guest appearances as a monster, along with John Noble, with his Vincent Price tones, as a semiregular and later regular cast member.

The recurring fish-out-of-water jokes regarding Crane adjusting to the modern world should become boring quickly, but they genuinely work, partly due to some actual originality on the approach and mostly due to some subtle comic skills from Mison. I wonder about the decision to have Crane portrayed as a Briton who switched sides during the American Revolutionary War. In fact, Crane is very little like the original version in the short story, who was a superstitious and selfish character as opposed to Mison's upright and, at first, skeptical hero. But this is a very loose adaptation of those original works, using the basic idea mixed in with Christian apocalyptic mythology and Goetic demonology to great effect. Plus some cracking monsters and a healthy dose of TV-friendly gore, of course. Looking forward to when I can stream season two without paying a premium.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

A huge improvement on the first season, picking up on the climactic events of those final crucial weeks and carrying on without dropping the pace. I still think Skye is a boring character, so basing the bulk of the ongoing story around her doesn't quite work for me; thankfully, the wider mystery has been enough to keep my interest, particularly with Clark Gregg and Kyle MacLachlan
giving such strong performances as her two father figures. The broader team has also improved, with May becoming a more relatable character without losing her edge, both Fitz and Simmons given some very strong material that has expanded their characters and Ward becoming a sinister background figure. The new team members were slow to come together, but the whole team feels really cohesive now, with Hunter and Mockingbird having genuinely good chemistry. Plus Fitz and Mac's bromance (or maybe romance) is just the sweetest thing. Only Trip has been badly served, and it's no surprise to lose him at the end.

There's far more integration of the comics material this year, but not to the degree that it's impenetrable for casual fans or non-comics readers. I'm pretty steeped in Marvel, so I can smile when I recognise the identity of Skye and her father, but they're obscure characters and the vital dialogue is pretty easy to miss. For anyone who doesn't know who Calvin Zabo and Daisy Johnson are - ie, the majority of the audience - it really doesn't matter. Seeding the Inhumans into the series is a good move on Marvel's part, I feel. They're a weird concept, so drip-feeding information years ahead of the planned movie not only gives viewers plenty of time to come up to speed, it's a good testing ground for concepts that might not work in the film. It also ties the show to the movies in such a way that they don't have to lag behind, as they did with Thor: The Dark World and The Winter Soldier.


After a shaky start, this has really built up to be something special. For a while it was very much a case of baddie-of-the-week, who's-that-villain, but it's important to remember that it's a rare series that hits its stride immediately. The generic material was in the foreground while more important elements were being set up in the background, and with episode seven "The Penguin's Umbrella" the series suddenly became a must-watch. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald remains the best thing in this by a country mile, but all the cast have come into their own as their characters have been refined. Well, except Jada Pinkett Smith's eye-rollingly tiresome Fish Mooney, who is due for a killing off. The ongoing cold war between the Falcone and Maroni organisations is genuinely gripping viewing now, and the series is standing on its own feet more than we'd expected from the early episodes' reliance on recognisable character cameos. Being less into DC than Marvel, I do sometimes wonder if I'm missing important references, but for the most part, I'm recognising characters than are genuinely important. Anthony Carrigna as Victor Zsazs was really rather excellent. Even the initially underwhelming Bruce/Alfred relationship has become a high point. This is becoming something quite interesting. I'm also loving the race, gender and sexuality mix here, which is notable for being almost unmentioned in the series itself.


I'm even less knowledgeable about Hellblazer, mostly knowing Constantine from his appearances in other titles such as Sandman. My flatmate, however, is a huge fan, and this has won her over. Again, the pilot was highly flawed, but this is working really well now it's found its feet. To clear something up, this hasn't been cancelled, it just hasn't been renewed, and I think it's unlikely they'll let the intitial thirteen episodes run without renewing it for at least a full season. Matt Ryan is pretty good as Constantine, even if he's a bit too clean and his accent wanders all over the shop, but he's got a good side of bastardly to him. Angelica Celaya is phenomenally watchable as Zed, sharing great chemistry with Ryan. Some people have unfavourably compared this with Supernatural, and while that's fair enough, calling it a rip-off is wrong; Supernatural took its cues from Hellblazer. The mythology is already building up to something very interesting here, and the series is a lot gorier than I expected it to be. Not too much, just enough to give it an edge of genuine threat. Another series which has become something to really look forward to.

Comics Round-Up (January 7th)

Back in the swing, but I'm going to have to drop some stuff to save money. Slimmer update than previously.

Agents of SHIELD #1 (Marvel)

Phil Coulson has already been assimilated into the mainstream Marvel universe, but now the SHIELD TV series has been absorbed and retooled for the comics. This raises some questions concerning what happens if Skye becomes a character, seeing that she already has a counterpart in the comics. For now though, this is all Coulson, with a little material for Fitz, Simmons and May, who are just recognisable as their TV characters. Effective TV characters don't always translate well to the page and vice versa, but Phil comes off well. He's basically the world's greatest comics nerd, now in charge of all his heroes. This is an opportunity to have Coulson rub shoulders with all the Marvel heroes without rights issues getting in the way, and it really goes for it, chucking everything in.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes #1 (IDW)

So this is the third crossover for IDW's Star Trek series? Fourth if you count the Deep Space Nine storyline running in the main range. We might have hoped for something a little more interesting than another use of a separate franchise as a parallel reality, but still, this is pretty fun. Apes and Trek make a better match than previous crossovers, and it's a nice take that the Klingons are getting round the peace treaty with the Federation by invading Earth in another timeline. Is this just an excuse to use the subtitle "The Primate Directive?" Why didn't they call it "A Primate Little War?"

The Amazing Spider-Man #12 (Marvel)

It's all kicking off now, with prime Spidey leading the mission to recruit as many Spiders from the Multiverse as possible, Big Bad Solus, daddy of the Inheritors comes for the team and storms their safehouse dimension, but Pete turns up with a bunch of guys from multiple Japans. Including Toei TV series Spidey, and his giant robot Leopardon! It's the big smackdown issue, with raised stakes, unexpected deaths and a great twist on the final page. However, the continual habit of starting plotlines and then dropping them with a note to go pick up another title is getting irritating.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Marvel)

Ryan North's new comic brings one of Marvel's least celebrated characters to the masses. You know what? Squirrel Girl is fantastic. She's one hell of an underappreciated character. This title is joyous, poking fun at the genre, and celebrating one of the most inventive and weird superhuman powers in the range. And with people actually arguing about the size of Spider-Woman's breasts, it's refreshing to have a superheroine who doesn't look like either a supermodel or a porn star. Plus, it made me enjoy a story about Kraven the Hunter, and he's rubbish. I'm sorry, but he is.

Monday 5 January 2015

REVIEW: The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

Gods as pop stars. In less talented hands this could be a tragically naff concept, but Kieron Gillen makes it work perfectly. The risk is that it's simply too obvious; celebrity is the modern divinity, the movie stars, singers and frontmen the god-kings of 20th and 21st century society. To make this work in a way that seem fresh, cutting and surprising is no mean feat. Gillen is most known for his lauded series Phonogram, which is now going straight on my reading list, but I know him through Young Avengers, on which he works with artist Jamie McKelvie, who joins him again here. Gillen has a knack for witty yet believable dialogue and realistically portrayed teenage characters, something which is notoriously difficult to manage. Most writers end up with nonsense or idiocy, even the ones who are the age of the characters they're portraying. The only slight oddity is that the characters here, in spite of inhabiting London, all have a certain Americanism to their dialogue, unless that's just how kids talk now and I'm even more out of touch than I thought.

Every ninety years, twelve gods return to Earth, for two years. Or rather, twelve young people are chosen, becoming the physical embodiments of the Pantheon. They are granted incredible powers, far too dangerous to use on any mortal, and are adored, hated and feared in equal measure. In two years, they die. By the end of this volume, we have learned the identities of ten or eleven of the Pantheon, (depending on whether Ananke counts as one of them or something else entirely), cherry-picked from various faiths and mythologies and each reflecting some facet of our culture. Our window into this world is Laura, a London teenager, obsessed with the gods that dominate celebrity culture. She becomes part of the gods' circle through Luci, the most engaging, original and attractive Devil I've ever seen. Luci, with her immaculate appearance and sexually predatory persona protecting someone who is still fundamentally a young woman, is the most fascinating version of Lucifer since the eponymous protagonist of Vertigo's series.

Indeed, there's a definite feel of the works of Gaiman and Carey, in the melding of contemporary culture with ancient myth. The Wicked + The Divine feels altogether sharper and more powerfully modern than Lucifer ever did, and has more of a claim to being today's Sandman that Gaiman's prequel series has. This is mythology as it always truly was; dirty, violent, beautiful and terrifying. So here's another title for the pull list.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Comics Desperate Catch-Up (January '15)

Scrabbling to catch up on some series, while trying out some new ones. Will I take any further? We'll see.

TMNT/Ghostbusters #2 (IDW)

The second part is still stuck on introducing the characters to each other, but makes such chores more fun than they have any right to be. Donatello's bromance with Ray is just a joy to behold, while Raphael matches up nicely as a foil for Venkman. Egon becomes more of a challenge for Donnie - one refusing to believe in aliens and the other in ghosts - while April and Janine bond. Most insightful is pairing up Leonardo with Zeddmore, the latter's position as the heart of the team interpreted as a leadership of sorts. That leads Michaelangelo with only Slimer to interact with, though. (Thank you Michele for getting this in for me x)

ODY-C #1 (Image)

Pretty incredible visually, this is Matt Fraction's new vast space opera, a hyper-modernist take on The Odyssey layered with psychedelia and science myth. I'll be honest, there were pages where I had little idea what was going on, but there's some very interesting stuff in this, with almost all the characters juxtaposed to female or gender-fluid forms and a vast galactic history sketched in through the use of fold-out chronologies and star charts. Probably something to admire more than enjoy.

Crossed + One Hundred (Utopia Press)

Ugh. I hadn't bothered with Crossed before because it just sounded like one of those titles trying to be as shockingly nasty as possible. But I thought I'd give this a go on the basis that anything new by Alan Moore is worth at least a look. So, a hundred years after a plague turned 90% of the human race into murderous rapists, we have an ongoing struggle for survival with some admittedly interesting language play. Really though, this isn't just unpleasant, it's really very dull.

Avengers Universe #7 (Marvel/Panini)

This has become my reprint series of choice, the one I'm going to keep buying after dropping Wolverine & Deadpool, Mighty World of Marvel and Batman Arkham. Enjoying the contrast between the relatively small-scale threats faced by the Young Avengers, and the vast cosmic, trans-temporal armageddon that threatens the Uncanny Avengers. Nicely in the middle is Mighty Avengers, and although this issue is mostly ground-based middle-of-the-story stuff, I'm loving Superior Spider-Man basically being a cunt to everyone.

Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor #6 (Titan)

This is undoubtedly the best of Titan's DW series, although I am looking forward to their limited ninth Doctor run. "Space in Dimension Relative and Time" is a truly clever story, running time backwards with only the Doctor aware of the discrepancies and playing with the paradoxes to great effect. I like this short, one-strip stories for the eleventh Doctor; they suit his fast-paced style well. Rob Williams is probably the strongest writer in Doctor Who comics right now, and Simon Fraser's art is just perfect for Eleven. Plus, this brings back the Nimon while ripping the piss out of them.

Ms. Marvel #10 (Marvel)

After a short break, this is back with a finely told, important chapter that sees Kamala rally up some disillusioned youths who have been under the thumb of the evil cockateel-faced villain the Professor. God, this pulls of some weird shit, this comic. It's the young together, very much not a call to arms but a call to live, fighting for tomorrow by dint of living today. This really is an excellent comic for teens, but not to the exclusion of old bastards like me. G. Willow Wilson's writing pitches it perfectly. Adrian Alphona's art is grand, too.

The Multiversity: Thunderworld (DC)

I do enjoy me some Captain Marvel (Shazam! style) and this latest from The Mulitversity, dated February for some reason, takes us to Earth-5 where Fawcett Comics is the still the dominant continuity and it's all about Billy Batson and his Marvel family. The nefarious Dr. Sivana strikes a plan to conquer the Rock of Eternity, breaching the walls of reality and importing time from across the Multiverse to create his own eighth day. Wonderfully high concept while remaining a good, old-fashioned sort of adventure, this is lovely stuff. More please.

Guardians of the Galaxy #22 (Marvel)

I'm enjoying the B-plot in this storyline, with political shenanigans on Spartax and the powers of the galaxy debating what to do with Earth. But really, this is just a series of over-the-top reveals with each character becoming Venom for a few pages. Venom-Rocket, Venom-Groot, Venom-Drax... it's thin, but it's bloody good fun.

Edward Scissorhands #2 (IDW)

I'm going to drop this. I like the idea, with Edward's unstable brother trying to fix himself while Kim's granddaughter searches for the truth about what happened all those years ago, but the telling's bland and the artwork isn't growing on me.

Thor #3 (Marvel)

Really enjoying this one. We still don't know who the new Thor is, but that's working for it, a little mystery alongside the action. Elves and Jotnar all coming for Midgard, and now the Odinson is coming back for his hammer.

Spider-Verse Team-Up #2 (Marvel)

I think these team-ups are the most enjoyable part of the Spider-Verse event. Two stories here, the first of which is just fabulously fun, bringing together Peter Parker from the '67 animated series, Parker from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series and Miles Morales from the Ultimate Comics universe. It gently mocks each version of the series but ultimately celebrates all of them, and it's very funny. It's followed by Spider-Gwen encountering a version of Parker who took up the mantle of the Green Goblin after his Gwen's death. A clever pairing.