TP Review – Happy

Happy TP Cover
Once upon a time, Nick Sax was an idealistic cop with a pretty young wife and a great future ahead of him.  That was before the realities of the job, a corrupt department and an affair with his partner cost him everything.

Now, Nick is a hitman and an alcoholic. He suffers from eczema and doesn’t suffer fools. He’s also very good at his job, but being good will only get you so far.

When Nick’s latest assignment goes wrong, he winds up strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance with a bullet in his side and the cops and the mob on his tail. Plenty of trouble to worry about without Nick starting to hallucinate due to the pain and his current bender. Unfortunately, that is when Nick sees the little blue pony…

This Christmas Eve, Nick Sax will become a hero again, however reluctantly. Because a deranged child-killer who dresses as Santa Claus is out there. A little girl named Hailey is in danger. The only one who knows how to find Hailey is her imaginary friend, Happy The Horse. And Nick Sax is the only other person who can see Happy…

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Most readers will come to Happy due to its recent adaptation into a television series for the Syfy network by Crank writer/director Brian Taylor. Others may come as fans of geek icon Patton Oswalt, who voices Happy The Horse in the new series. Still others will be drawn to the promise of dark humor in a holiday-themed setting.

Comic fans need no such excuses. They already know that Happy will be good because of the talent involved. The series was written by Grant Morrison – one of the most prolific and eclectic writers in Western graphic literature. The artwork is by the equally legendary Darick Robertson, best known for his work on the The Boys and Transmetropolitan – two other mature readers’ titles that, to borrow a tagline from the commercials for Happy the TV show, put the “graphic” in “graphic novel”.

The artwork in Happy is nothing if not graphic. There’s no outright nudity though there are a few mostly bare bottoms. There’s a lot of violence and Robertson lovingly depicts it in every gory bit of detail. He also does a fantastic job of capturing the Noir aesthetic of Morrison’s script. He also draws a mighty fine cute cartoon horsey.

To state the obvious, Happy is not appropriate reading for children. To be brutally honest, Happy is probably not appropriate reading for adults. While this is far from the oddest thing Grant Morrison has ever written, it is perhaps his darkest and least hopeful work to date.

The odd thing is how lifeless the script for Happy seems in spite of that. Morrison has written some great comics but there’s little evidence of the spark that usually infuses Morrison’s dialogue here. Wit is replaced with expletives and one almost feels like Morrison was purposely trying to write like frequent Robertson collaborator Garth Ennis. Whatever his intentions, Morrison’s dialogue here comes off as a half-hearted parody of Frank Miller’s work on Sin City.

Happy is a good read but fans of Morrison’s earlier works may find it disappointing outside of its concept. There’s little of the sense of wacky fun promised by the base idea and Morrison’s earlier work. Still, Darick Robertson’s artwork is as fantastic as ever and that alone should be reason enough to get Happy.

6/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Witchblade (2017) #1

Alex Underwood had always wanted to make a difference – first as a reporter and then as a social worker. Merely wanting to make the world a better place is not enough, alas, and Alex Underwood died. She was gunned down by the husband of one of her clients while in the midst of searching for the hotel maid who could collaborate her client’s stories of abuse.

That should have been the end of Alex Underwood… but something brought her back.

Alex Underwood has become the latest host of The Witchblade – an ancient artifact which grants the women it bonds to amazing mystic powers. Unfortunately, Alex is convinced that the voice in her head speaking to her of the amazing power she now commands and warning her of the demons that now seek her destruction is only the latest in a series of PTSD-fueled delusions that plagued her for years following her being taken hostage.

Hallucination or not, Alex is not the sort of person who gives up without a fight. And with or without mystic powers, she still has a client who needs protection from a dangerous man. Unfortunately, as Alex hunts her client and the abusive husband who is trying to kill her, so too are the demonic enemies of The Witchblade hunting her while she is still weak and forming her bond with the weapon.

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Born of the “bad-girl” boom of the mid-1990s in the midst of what became known as The Dark Age of Comics, Witchblade was not originally friendly to female readers. The most famous “power” of The Witchblade was ripping off whatever clothes its host was wearing whenever it activated in order to sprout metal bikini armor that left little to the imagination and offered little protection! This “feature” was dropped in recent years but a Google image search for Witchblade still brings up pages upon pages of cheesecake-driven cover art.

Thankfully, such blatant fan-service is absent from the new Witchblade series. The artwork by Roberta Ingranata is free of gratuitous posing and idealized body types. The aesthetic is all about action, with even the static scenes of people in an office talking having a continual sense of motion as the point-of-view jumps from panel to panel. The colors by Bryan Valenza establish a cool, muted feeling which well-fits the winter setting and the idea of Alex returning from the dead.

In terms of writing, the focus in this first issue is on character, not concept. While a brief overview is given of The Witchblade’s history, Caitlin Kittredge’s script is primarily concerned with defining Alex Underwood as the sort of person who would live a hero’s life even without a magical bracelet. Giving Alex anxiety issues and a history of PTSD puts an interesting wrinkle on the classic hero’s journey, as Alex isn’t entirely sure that she can believe what is going on around her. It also makes her seem all the stronger as a character that she carries on doing the right thing despite her uncertainty.

If you haven’t read Witchblade before, you can jump into this issue without worry. If you have read Witchblade before, you’ll find this to be a welcome new spin on the classic concept. The only readers likely to walk away from this book unsatisfied are those who only read the original series for the pictures.

8/10.

Witchblade #1 releases on December 6, 2017.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Quarry’s War #1


Max Allan Collins is an experienced writer whose works span across multiple formats. He is probably best known to mainstream audiences as the author of The Road To Perdition graphic novels, which inspired the 2002 Academy Award winning movie staring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. He’s also notable for having been entrusted with completing a number of Mike Hammer stories that were unfinished by Mickey Spillane at the time of his death. Max Allan Collins also wrote the Dick Tracy comic strip for a number of years and has written more than a number of mystery novels and novels based on popular mystery television series.

Quarry’s War #1 marks the first time Collins has adapted one of his earlier works into a graphic novel format. The point of view character here is Quarry – a former U.S. Marine Sniper who becomes a professional assassin for hire upon returning home from The Vietnam War.

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Quarry’s War #1 tells two stories, with the setting shifting between every alternating page. The first story, set in Chicago in 1972, sees Quarry and one of his partners (a man with the code name of Boyd) sent out to dispatch a Chicago mobster who slept with the wrong man’s side-piece. The second story, set in Vietnam in 1969, shows Quarry and his spotter, Lance Corporal Lance Roberts, as they are shipped out to clear out a village that seems to be a front for the Viet-Cong.

Those who are unfamiliar with the character of Quarry don’t need to worry about not having read Collins’ earlier novels. This comic proves to be a wonderful introduction to Quarry’s character. Both stories are easily accessible and sure to please those who enjoy action stories with anti-heroic leads, realistic military comics or true-crime thrillers. It will also appeal to fans of the recently canceled Quarry series on Cinemax.

Collins found a perfect artistic partner in Szymon Kudranski. Best known for his work on SpawnArrow: Season 2.5 and various Batman books, Kudranski boasts a gritty yet photo-realistic style which suits both the suburban jungles of Chicago and the rain-forest jungles of Vietnam. The action is crisp and clear throughout, with well-choreographed action sequences and some memorable character designs that give each and every character a distinctive and unique look. Colorist Guy Major does a fine job of varying his palettes, using different color schemes for one story than he does for the other. The lettering by Comicraft is nice and legible, with distinctive balloons used for each character’s voice-overs and Quarry’s own thoughts rendered in regular text rather than all capital letters.

While mostly of interest to fans of Max Allan Collins’ earlier works, Quarry’s War #1 offers wide appeal to a number of genre fiction enthusiasts. If you enjoy comics or short stories about manly men who work in the shadows, dealing with decisions that most people hope they never have to hear about, you’ll want to enlist in Quarry’s War.

8/10.

Quarry’s War #1 releases on November 29, 2017.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Doomsday Clock #1

The world stands poised on the brink of another World War.

God is not dead but he is absent.

The smartest man in the world is Public Enemy Number One.

The black and white man who died rather than compromise his code of honor lives again.

It is November 22nd, 1992.

Or maybe it’s the 23rd.

Either way, this is the day the world ends.

 

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Those who come to Doomsday Clock #1 expecting immediate resolution regarding anything in any on-going DC Comics story line will be sorely disappointed. There are no stunning revelations regarding the Machiavellian schemes of Mr. Oz and his plans for Superman. There is no new data regarding the odd button which Bruce Wayne found embedded in the wall of The Bat Cave. There are no clues as to what force was responsible for trapping Wally West outside of time. And there’s certainly no explanation for that giant light-blue hand that created The DC Universe and whose hand it might have been.

What Doomsday Clock #1 is thus far is the first chapter in a straight-forward sequel to Watchmen – the classic graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. The sheer audacity of such a thing has already turned many readers against this book and this is completely understandable. Writer Geoff Johns has been accused of strip-mining the works of Alan Moore for his projects before, the most famous example being Moore’s Green Lantern story Tygers providing the seed of the ideas which informed Johns’ run on Green Lantern and his redevelopment of the DC Universe’s cosmology.

It is far too early to draw comparisons between Watchmen and Doomsday Clock textually. Taken on its own merits, unfortunately, there’s not much to Doomsday Clock so far. Anyone who hasn’t read Watchmen will be rendered hopelessly lost by the story and Johns’ dialogue reads like a parody of Moore’s textual style rather than a pastiche of it. There’s far more comedy at play in this issue than its original source material and most of it falls flat. When the jokes work, however, they work incredibly well.

Gary Frank’s efforts to emulate Dave Gibbons are far more successful. Ignoring that Doomsday Clock #1 utilizes the same three-by-three, nine-panel grid structure as Watchmen, Frank’s detail-driven aesthetic is a good match for Gibbons’ visually. It’s truly stunning how much Frank depicts in each panel of this comic and eagle-eyed readers will no doubt reread this book several times trying to winkle out every last Easter egg. Brad Anderson’s colors provide the perfect finishes and Rob Leigh’s font selections deliver a little extra punch every time Rorschach speaks.

It remains to be seen precisely what manner of beast Doomsday Clock will be in the end. This first issue gives readers enough reasons to be optimistic, with amazing artwork and a story that is gripping so long as you’ve read the original Watchmen. Hopefully the series will continue to build momentum in the coming year.

7/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Tomb Raider Survivor’s Crusade #1


Lady Lara Croft is on the move again! Tracking the sinister organization known as Trinity – an ancient society that seeks to find and destroy ancient artifacts of great power, lest they be used to corrupt modern society or challenge the official history laid down by the rich and powerful – Lara has come to the Italian village of Cornigila. The city hosts a small chapel to Saint Christopher – the patron saint of travelers – but Trinity believes the church hides a greater secret than that.

As much as it pains her to see historical artifacts destroyed, stopping Trinity’s destruction of the chapel is not Lara’s first priority. She seeks the name of the Trinity agent who killed her father, whose work as a scholar threatened to expose Trinity’s existence to the world. Lara may have to settle for thwarting their plans, however… assuming she survives!


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Those who are unfamiliar with the current state of the Tomb Raider franchise – either having missed out on the series’ reboot in 2013 or only being vaguely familiar with the character from the classic video games or the Angelina Jolie films – need not worry heading into Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade. The story by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly (JoyrideHacktivist, Gotham City Garage) is written to be easily accessible to new readers. Everything you need to know about Lara’s motivations is explained in the opening pages.

Everything you need to know about Lara as a character is shown in the following pages, as we see Lara take on several Trinity soldiers in close-combat. This action sequence does a great job of replicating the experience of playing the game. More, it shows Lara’s skills and ferocity in battle far better than any exposited internal monologue ever could.

Unfortunately, this action sequence is also simultaneously the weakest aspect of the book. While the artwork for this issue isn’t bad, the art team involved might not have been the best choice for delivering Lara Croft to the comic page. Artist Ashley A. Woods can draw great action sequences with strong female leads, as the series Ladycastle proved. However, with thin inks and limited shading coupled with the light colors of Michael Atiyeh, the aesthetic here seems entirely too bright for the world of Tomb Raider.

This light touch results in some pages that look just plain goofy, such as when Lara shoots several Trinity soldiers in the head with arrows. The red on the arrow heads looks like red tempera paint and there’s no blood around the entry wounds. Lara herself is shot at one point and the bullet wound looks like a black dot with some light cross-hatching around it!

While Lara herself is well-drawn and the character designs and poses look amazing, one expects more realism in terms of how damage is depicted in something bearing the Tomb Raider name. Fans of the games will probably love this comic despite the issues with the art, but this Survivor’s Crusade is unlikely to develop many new fans for the franchise.

5/10.

Tomb Raider Survivor’s Crusade #1 is due out November 22, 2017.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

TP Review – Batgirl: Son Of The Penguin

Batgirl: Son Of The Penguin Cover

Newly returned from an extended vacation that proved anything but relaxing as she made her way across east Asia tracking down a cabal of criminal martial artists, Barbara Gordon is happy to be back home in Burnside – the Gotham City borough that houses most of the city’s tech-savvy and trendy.

Unfortunately, while Babs was out of town, the neighborhood became a whole lot trendier. Her favorite coffee shop was turned into a pet supermarket specializing in fat-free, gluten-free, all-organic dog food. Her roommate and business partner just elected to move in with her girlfriend, leaving Barbara paying all of the recently doubled rent. Throw in the fact that Barbara is going back to school to start work on a Masters Degree in Information Science and its a lot to cope with at once, even ignoring her getting back into the swing of things as Batgirl at night!

Thankfully, Barbara seems to have found a sympathetic soul in Ethan – a fellow tech-genius and entrepreneur who seems more interested in what Barbara has to say than in how well she fills out her swimsuit when the two meet at a charity pool party. Ethan is smart, kind-hearted and, well, let’s be honest, really cute. In fact, there’s only one thing that gives Barbara any reservations about Ethan apart from her rules about mixing business with pleasure – the fact that Ethan’s last name is Cobblepot. As in Oswald Chesterfield Copplepot – the crime boss known as The Penguin.

When questioned about his name, Ethan admits that he is The Penguin’s illegitimate son. He’s quick to add, however, that his infamous father wants nothing to do with him and the feeling is mutual. So why does Barbara still get a bad vibe from Ethan? And why is it that all of the apps funded by his company that are meant to fuel community outreach and help people seem to keep finding ways to be exploited by Gotham’s super-criminals?

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Despite being the second volume of Batgirl following DC Comics Rebirth revamp, Son Of The Penguin is a perfect entry point into the world of Barbara Gordon. Author Hope Larson does a fantastic job of establishing the new status quo of Barbara’s life, as she tries to balance work, school and being a superhero. The overall effect is reminiscent of the classic Stan Lee-penned Amazing Spider-Man comics where Peter Parker faced the same struggles. Larson’s stories feature the same smooth balance of comedy, action, romance and drama.

Larson’s story is brought to life by an equally skilled art-team. Chris Wildgoose boasts an animated aesthetic that proves a perfect partner to Larson’s script. His inks are largely thin, barely outlining the original pencils – a choice that gives the artwork a light, airy aura. The color art by Mat Lopes is wonderfully varied, with a plethora of vivid palettes breathing life into the finished artwork.

10/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 Cover

With a TV series based upon him in the works on The CW, Black Lightning’s star has never been higher. Yet despite being one of the most prominent Heroes of Color in American Comics, few fans know much about him and his complicated history.

It all began in 1977 when writer Tony Isabella – who had written Luke Cage for Marvel Comics – was brought in to create an African American hero to headline his own series for DC Comics. Enter gold-medal athlete turned inner-city teacher Jefferson Pierce. Born with the power to generate and control electricity around him, Jefferson repressed his powers until the day one of his students was killed by gang violence the police were reluctant to address. Inspired by a quote which said “Justice, like lightning, should ever appear to some men hope, to other men fear,”, Jefferson created his Black Lightning persona and began fighting the one-man war on crime his neighborhood needed to survive.

Tony Isabella’s relationship with DC Comics would wane and wax over the years, due to problems stemming from the rights to the character and Isabella’s belief that he was being treated unfairly due to his contract granting him a cut of any merchandise or licensing that came from the character. As a result, despite being used as a frequent guest star in other comics, Jefferson Pierce has only had his own comic twice and then never for longer than a year!

Isabella was also vocal in his disapproval when writer Judd Winick decided to create two super-powered daughters of Black Lightning for his own book, Outsiders. This occurred despite Jefferson Pierce having never been depicted as having children. Indeed, he once directly said that he would he’d give up his heroic life if kids entered the picture because it wouldn’t be responsible for him to risk leaving behind orphans.

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Thankfully, DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns approached Isabella about his past mistreatment and made amends. Not only did Isabella agree to write a character guide for the upcoming TV series but he agreed to come back and write a new Black Lightning mini-series that would reintroduce the character for modern audiences – a task which Cold Dead Hands accomplishes with style.

This first issue comfortably establishes Black Lightning’s status in the world of DC Rebirth. Fans of the classic character may wonder at changes like Jefferson Pierce now being based in Cleveland rather than the Suicide Slum neighborhood of Metropolis, but such modifications are merely cosmetic. The core of Jefferson’s character – an uncompromisingly moral man who believes in Power and Responsibility as immutable forces just as strongly as Peter Parker – remains untouched.

Even in this first chapter Isabella’s script is not afraid to tackle big issues like racism and police brutality but it does so without getting preachy about them. This issue also takes care in establishing Jefferson’s supporting cast, his arch-enemy Tobias Whale and Jefferson’s status as a peer of The Justice League, who has gotten personal training in being a better crime-fighter from Cyborg and Batman.

The artwork by Clayton Henry isn’t quite as strong as Isabella’s writing.  There’s something oddly flat about Henry’s characters, who don’t seem quite as animated or vividly detailed as his backgrounds. It seems that in trying to streamline the appearances of his people, Henry may have gone too far in the other direction, crafting figures that look unnaturally smooth and undefined. Colorist Pete Pantazis deserves credit, however, for his use of a varied palette that utilizes a variety of colors and little details like the night sky in the inner city being a defused blue rather than pitch black.

Despite the minor imperfections in the art, those who are unfamiliar with Black Lightning will find this first issue of Cold Dead Hands to be a wonderful introduction to one of comics most underrated heroes. Fans of Isabella’s original comics will find it to be a welcome homecoming.

7/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – The Flash #33

The Justice League has faced many strange threats in their time together, but the so-called Dark Knights may be the greatest threat yet. Seven alternate-universe versions of Batman with all of his training and none of his morals, each one empowered in the same manner as another member of The Justice League!

In the case of Barry Allen, The Fastest Man Alive, he is countered by The Red Death – a version of Bruce Wayne who, as part of a desperate attempt to save his Earth, killed his world’s version of The Flash in order to steal his powers. However, this action corrupted The Speed Force within him and now The Red Death drains the life energy from the bodies of those around him as he runs.

With The Red Death laying waste to Central City, The Flash is desperate to head home and face his dark doppelganger. But The Justice League needs his help to save the world at large. Specifically, they need him to help Superman breach the barrier between realities so that he can find their Batman while the rest of The League seek out more of the strange metals that are the only thing that can hurt the Batmen of the Dark Multiverse. Thankfully, Barry Allen is good at multitasking and making up for lost time. Unfortunately, The Dark Knights are on the move and two of them are sent to make Barry Allen The Fastest Man Dead!

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This Dark Nights Metal tie-in comes at a rather odd time for The Flash. The last issue, #32, started a new story-line with several on-going subplots moving forward. Among these were Barry Allen’s difficulties in controlling his powers following the latest attack by The Reverse Flash, Iris West pushing him away in the wake of her killing The Reverse Flash to save him and his starting a new job as a staff CSI at Iron Heights Prison.

None of this is addressed in this issue, with the exception of Barry talking to Iris for the first time in a long while. It’s a minor point and part and parcel of comic-book crossovers. Still, it does raise questions about just when Bats Out Of Hell takes place relative to the stories in the books tying in to Dark Nights Metal. It also takes the wind out of the sails regarding the current story in The Flash and right after a great jumping-on issue for new readers!

The Flash #33 works somewhat better as a Dark Nights Metal tie-in. Joshua Williamson’s script does a great job of explaining the story to date and catching-up those Flash fans who might not have been reading the crossover. Unfortunately, despite a sense of urgency to the story and Barry running himself ragged for most of the issue, there’s little in the way of actual action. The story here is primarily concerned with exposition and setting up the next big challenge and it manages that task well.

Thankfully, Howard Porter does a fantastic job of depicting what action there is. Porter’s run on JLA with Grant Morrison twenty years ago is still fondly remembered and Porter’s work has only grown stronger since then. The colors by Hi-Fi are brilliantly applied, with a variety of palettes in play as the settings shift. The only real artistic weak-spot lies in the lettering, with the dialogue of The Batman Who Laughs nearly unreadable, rendered as it is with dark red text on a black background.

The Flash #33 is a fantastic continuation of Dark Nights Metal but isn’t a good representation of what the series is usually like. Despite featuring the same great writing and artwork as the usual bi-monthly book, most of the story elements that make The Flash unique are missing here. Those who are curious about what Barry Allen’s comic adventures are usually like would do well to check out The Flash #32 or wait two weeks for The Flash #34.

9/10.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor: Year Three #8 (The Lost Dimension – Part 6)

All around the universe, in different places and different times, something has awoken. At first impossibly large white holes began to manifest, absorbing or annihilating everything unfortunate enough to encounter them. Now, the holes are smaller, leaking some sort of anti-energy which possesses the minds and bodies of anyone unfortunate enough to be struck by it… and the anti-energy has come to Earth!

The Doctor – currently employed as a professor at St. Luke’s University in Bristol – encountered this anti-energy as he was approached by his friends at UNIT regarding the current crisis. He was also approached by Jenny – a “daughter” of sorts, created from a mingling of human and Time Lord DNA during an earlier adventure – who sought out her “father” for help after an encounter with the anti-energy of her own in deep space.

With The Doctor’s assistant Nardole and student Bill in two, the four quickly take refugee inside The TARDIS… only to find another Doctor and his companions waiting for them!  A paradox of this magnitude can only occur under the most dire of circumstances and two heads are rarely better than one with the egotistical Doctor is forced to work with himself. How much worse can things get? And how many more Doctors are likely to show up to stop this invasion from a lost dimension?



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The odd thing about the Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension event thus far has been how well its individual chapters have stood on their own. This tends to be the exception rather than the rule with comic book crossovers, which are usually written in such a manner as to encourage (if not outright require) the reader to have been picking up every single related issue. The third chapter, for instance, focused on The Tenth Doctor being drawn into the action and the events of The Lost Dimension were made to fit naturally into the flow of the on-going story of The Tenth Doctor’s comic book.

With this sixth chapter, The Lost Dimension starts moving forward with its main plot and bringing the various Doctors together to tackle a crisis that threatens all of space and time. George Mann does a fantastic job capturing the voices of the various Doctors and companions – no surprise given Mann’s extensive experience writing Doctor Who in both novels, comics and radio plays! The only real fault with the story is that the companions get abandoned early on and basically shrug it off, literally saying they need to stay free in case The Doctors need rescuing later.

The artwork suffers from a similar sense of incongruity. Both Rachael Stott and Marcelo Salaza are fantastic artists and, individually, their pages look fantastic. There is a good deal of difference between their personal styles, however, and it’s somewhat jarring visually as the book shifts from one aesthetic to another. Still, those Whovians who have been reading the story to date will find a lot to love about this latest Twelfth Doctor comic.

8/10


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Torchwood: The Culling #1

Historically, the results are mixed when the actors involved in a franchised creative property decide to seek artistic fulfillment at the planning level. For every great director or writer discovered, there are twice as many hacks who forsake the usual tone of the series in order to build monuments to their and/or their character’s glory. For every Voyage Home, there is a Final Frontier.

Fan-favorite John Barrowman has thankfully proven to be more Nimoy than Shatner. Writing with his sister Carole E. Barrowman, the two have crafted a children’s book series (The Hollow Earth trilogy), an Arrow tie-in comic detailing the secret life of Malcolm Merlyn and a number of Torchwood tie-ins.

Torchwood: The Culling is the third of these Torchwood mini-series published by Titan Comics. Set immediately after the events of Torchwood: World Without End and Torchwood: Station Zero, the story also draws off the Torchwood novel Exodus Code as well as the short comic Captain Jack and The Selkie.

That sounds like a lot of back-story (and it is) but The Culling does a fantastic job of establishing itself without an overly-long explanation of what came before. A cast list at the start of the issue gives us all of the major players we need to know and the dialogue handles the rest of the exposition before we jump into the action with a sequence that seems to pay homage to the films of John Carpenter.

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Having just thwarted an attempt by the plant-based lifeforms known as The Vervoids to conquer the Earth, Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper – acting leaders of The Torchwood Institute – have returned to Torchwood House in Scotland to do a bit of cleaning-up. They’re shortly contacted by Captain John Hart – Jack’s ex-partner in every sense of the word – who has news regarding a Vervoid scheme Torchwood didn’t know about. Namely, that the Vervoids were trying to create a Human/Vervoid hybrid that could move undetected on Earth.

Most of the action of the comic concerns one of these hybrids, who somehow survived the destruction of Station Zero in the last Torchwood mini-series. The hybrid takes the name Sladen (A clear tribute to actress Elizabeth Sladen, who played the character of Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who) and sets about learning and evolving while running into another of Torchwood’s enemies who is out for revenge.

Dry as this synopsis may sound, the execution is top-notch. The Barrowmans fill the script with the sort of humor Torchwood fans have come to expect as well as the harder sort of science-fiction that informed the television series. Artist Neil Edwards does an equally fantastic job on the artwork, capturing the likenesses of the established actors perfectly and choreographing the action of the issue well.

The only respect in which the comic falters is that, accessible as it is to new readers, it’s still primarily aimed at those who have been keeping up with the story so far. Longtime Torchwood and Doctor Who fans will love it but newbies may feel like they’re not in on the joke.

8/10


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.