Tuesday, 10 July 2018

ZARJAZ ISSUE 31 REVIEW



Considering that 2000AD is over forty years old now, it's admirable that there are fanzines that manage to bring new and interesting content from creators who are just happy to get their story or art accross and to share their love of some of the galaxy's greatest characters. Never less than entertaining and a literal breeding ground for future stars of the parent comic, Zarjaz once again has a scrotnig cover from a current 2000AD/Megazine art star, this time Steven Austin, who gives us a lovely interpretation of Torquemada after he's been lobbed down into the alien pit.

Inside we get 6 very different stories, spread over 40 pages or so, starting with the aforementioned Torquemada, as Lee Robson has him as victim of a coup resulting in the also aforementioned lobbing into the alien pit. 'Heads You Lose' is a pretty decent story, illustrated by 'zine regular Steven Denton. The art is certainly good enough, but I can't shake the feeling Denton could have used a smaller tip, as the thick(ish) lines are a little muddy on the A3 page size. Oh, and in case you are wondering how Torquemada could ever get out of the alien pit, so am I, and I've re read it several times. Bonus points for shoehorning in 80s pop names,


Nest up is a fun little strip called 'Judge Fudge & His Pals', where Mega City's finest are re imagined as confectionery, in what I assume is a Justice Department cartoon aimed at getting kids to grass people up to Judge Pal. Jonathan Dhenry certainly has fun with the visuals, which are clear, clever and worth taking time over. Scriptwise, it's a quirky and funny with a chortlesome take on a classic Dredd moment fans should love, so full marks to Matt Sharp also.



Things take a nasty turn with Lizzie and Conor Boyle's Button Man tale - 'Lucky Day'. It's dark and violent with a neat script from Lizzie and classy art from Conor. It's a separate tale to the main Button Man arc, and although there is some slight confusion (to me, anyway) as to exactly what's going on it's still a well told, gripping tale with art that separates it from the rest of the magazine in a good way.

Back to Mega City 1 for a one off Anderson story next, which sees poor old Cass visited by ghosts of the past for the billionth time. This isn't a criticism, mind you, as 'Facing Evils Past' is a dark story from John Osbourne which shows just what you can do with 6 pages and a fertile imagination. He's helped out by David Peloe, who's art suits the story well and flows clearly from page to page. I don't recall hearing of the protagonists named at the end before, and feel the idea could certainly be explored more in a follow up.


An unusual entry comes next, as Mark Howard tackles the subtle madness of Bix Barton, Master Of The Rum & Uncanny. It's always been a bit or a marmite strip, mixing humour and the occult along with a decidedly and deliberately dated hero, and kudos to Howard for managing to get it right here. Simon Bennett Hayes provides the art, and whilst he does a fine job we again have thick lines that make it appear muddier than it is on aa smaller page. In his favour, though, he manages to get a great deal in each panel where required. Bonus points for the title: 'RumMothers Do Ave Em'.

Finally we have part 2 of 'Desecendants' by Robomonkey 147, with a concluding part to come in issue 32. In part two we follow Linda Bronson's droid as he seeks revenge for her death on the Judge system, whilst within that system Cadet Bronson becomes directly involved. Suffice to say it's as good as part one and I look forward to seeing how it all ends.

As usual, this is a solid issue of Zarjaz with a decent mix of stories. Sometimes in fanzines there can be ropey art or poor scripts, but editors Dave Evans and Richmond Clements keep a lid on this one like it was their own baby, probably because it is. Copies are available at only three pounds Earth money, just click on the link!

Buy From FUTUREPRESS Here

Saturday, 30 June 2018

BELLA AT THE BAR - Volume 1 Review


Whilst Rebellion's Treasury Of British Comivcs has so far focussed on titles aimed at either boys or boys and girls, 'Bella At The Bar' is their first release that was originally a straight 1970s girls comic story, with no sci fi or horror elements. That said, it's a wise choice, as the story was  very highly regarded and as a reult is remembered fondly by thousands of ladies who will have sympathised with the titular Bella every on every step of her journey.

Like many stories of the time, the lead character's troubles are cause by horrible relatives. Rarely was this the parents, and whilst stepmothers and stepfathers were a popular choice in this case it's Bella's aunt and uncle who treat her like dirt so she has something to fight against and ultimately rise above. Bella Barlow works for her uncle as a window cleaner, with him and her aunt teating her like a slave at home as well. There's no mention of what happens to her parents, but it's not really important. What is important is that Bella has a natural gift for gymnastics (not the law, if you were thinking that the 'bar' in the title was a legal one) . Whereas her guardians won't let her do it unless they can make a few quid, Bella's determination leads her down a few different paths (all filled with obstacles, naturally) in her quest to just be the best gymnast she can be.


Write Jenny Mcdade, who would go on to find fame by adapting 'Supergran' for TV amongst other things, joined UK girls comic Tammy and proceeded to knock it out of the park with this one. Similar to strips like 'Roy of The Rovers' or 'The Leopard From Lime Street', 'Bella At The Bar' shows a knack for making you want to read the next instalment straight away until you've finished the entire book. Bella herself is very likeable, a plucky little cockney ragamuffin, whilst the bad guys will have the reader booing internally with every curled lip, put down and cruel act. The art, by John Armstrong, is uniformly good throughout, with his figurework bringing the gynmastic scenes to life most effectively.


I know full well that I'd have enjoyed this as a lad, even if I wouldn't be seen dead reading a copy of Tammy, but I'm rather surprised at how much I enjoyed it as a 49 year old grumpy old man. There's a tad over 100 pages here, and like 'The Leopard From Lime Street' before it I was itching to read more of Bella's trials and tribulations. The cut off point is a natural one, though, with Bella actually getting a win for a change, though I'm pretty sure it doesn't last. Released on 12th July, this is definitely one for all those who didn't have a sister to nick comics off, and those who remember Bella with the fondness her strip deserves.

Buy HERE From The 2000 AD Shop

Thursday, 28 June 2018

JINTY Volume 1 - Land Of No Tears/The Human Zoo





When I was a kid, I saw all the girls comics on the shelves like Tammy and gave them a wide berth. After all, I was a boy, and boys didn't want to read stories about ponies, ballerinas and cooking. Yuk! Completely unknown to me there was a wealth of science fiction and cruelty nestled within the innocent looking covers, as girls comics focussed on making it as nasty as possible for thir strips' protagonists, because that's what female readers seemed to thrive on. Okay, so the heroine won in the end but not before she'd had the metephorical shit kicked right out of her first.

The first volume from Jinty (zero chance any 1970s boy would pick that up, right?) collects two stories that certainly fit the mould, with science fiction and hardship going hand in hand. First up is "Land Of No Tears" by Pat Mills, who would later go on to create some of the best stories in 2000AD. In the strip, Cassy Shaw is a schoolgirl with a damaged leg who has to wear a surgical shoe. the problem is that she's also a right cow, using her minor disability to gain sympathy and get out of trouble. As this is girls strip we know she's in for a hard time, but in this case we're looking forward to it!


Under the anasthetic during corrective surgery (which she doesn't want because she will be treated like anyone else) she goes through the standard space warp/plot device and awakes in a mirror world where anyone with a slight defect is a third class citizen and emotions are supressed. Lumped in with other rejected girls, she determines to show the up-their-own-arse perfect people that those they look down on can be just as good as their "betters". Subtle as a brick and with plenty of nice touches, this is very decent story with plenty of "What the hell?" moments. An old hand when this was published in 1977, Mills effectively nakes us root for Cassy as she learns her life lessons, and that's what this type of story is all about, innit.


Second story "The Human Zoo" is thankfully cut from a different cloth, giving the volume a more fleshed out feel. the science fiction element is ramped up to eleven by writer Malcom Shaw as sisters Shona and Jenny are abducted with their classmates after a trip to the zoo and taken to another planer where - gasp! - the aliens put humans in zoos!! Okay, so you could see that coming, but the old sci-fi role reversal ploy is played very well as the sisters are treated very differently as they accept the situation in their own way. Of course, there is nastiness aplenty as the aliens treat humans as we would dumb animals (they are telepathic and so don't see our noises as speech). The underlying moral, hammered home with a sledgehammer,  is unsurprisingly that we shouldn't treat animals badly. Regardless of any unsubtlety it's a cracking story that must have thrilled British girls back in the day and can happily do so again.



Special notice must go to the art, supplied by Guy Peeters on both strips. Clear and well laid out, he brings a great realism to the stories, with the only downbeat being a mysterious character in "Land Of No Tears", although when we learn their secret the werid look becomes more understandable. All in all, the writers were lucky to get him to flesh out their scripts.


"Junty Volume 1" is a cracking slice of 1970s comic history, with great art and involving stories. It's not mad science fiction but it's also certainly not remotely what I imagined these comics were doing at the time. Accessible to both male and female readers of any age, Rebellion must be thanked for giving these strips a fresh airing thanks to their treasury Of British Comics imprint.

By from the 2000AD SHOP




Tuesday, 29 May 2018

THE FLEETWAY FILES



With Rebellion's acquisition of a horrendous amount of back catalogue from Fleetway, there's a renewed interest in the output of Britain's legendary comics group. A perfect time, then, for this smart publication to be released, delving as it does into Fleetway's golden years (and some rusty ones, too). Publisher Hibernia has already impressed with previous publications, but have outdone themselves with this 100 plus page perfect bound love letter to our youth.

For your money you certainly get a rounded selection of features. There's one on girls comics and their surprising depth (and popularity), a 'Roy of The Rovers' piece, plenty on the relaunch of Eagle in the 1980s, a stunning piece of unpublished art from Massimo Bellardinelli's 'Mars Force', and interviews galore with major figures from the UK comics scene, all of whom seem really lovely! Gil Page, Scott Goodall, Dez Skinn, David Hunt and the great Barrie Tomlinson are a few of them, and every one has plenty of stories to tell in their own way. One linking theme (apart from comics) os that they all seem to have loved what they did, which is nice to know.

Also inside is a sixteen page example of the sort of strips that came out of Fleetway, like the wonderful 'Hot Shot Hamish', the unusual 'Glory Knight: Time Travel Courier' and the downright awful 'Amazing Three'. As a single company now owns them all, it's exciting to wonder what they may put out as a collection next, following on from the wonderful 'One Eyed Jack', 'Leopard From Lime Street', 'Misty' and 'Marney The Fox' to name a few. Rest assured they will all be reviewed here!



The Fleeyway Files is not a cheap purchase at fifteen quid including postage, but if, like me, you have an interest in British comics of the latter half of the last century you will absolutely adore it. Lovingly put together and resaeched by people with a genuine affcetion for the maerial, The Fleetway Files is a must for anyone who has ever dreaded the words 'Great new for all readers inside'...


SLAUGHTER HAWK VOLUME 1




'Corporatism has a new foe' reads the tagline on this brand new IP set to launch officially this September. It looks like David Broughton (Solomon Kane, Spectre Show) certainly knows who the real bad guys are, and he has delivered a new hero for us poor, downtrodden masses.

Impressively bound, Slaughter Hawk volume 1 sees Broughton take a step up in the self publishing world. The solid spine means this and future instalments will sit nicely on a bookshelf rather than iside a comic box, and whilst it isn't cheap you can see where the money has gone. Broughton handles everything himself, as befits a true veteran of the self publishing world and, as ever, it's a pretty solid read.



In a near future where the Unites Corprorate States Of America shits over a growingly disgruntled populace, a mysterious vigilante fights against Da Man. Why does he do it? Dunno. Who is he himself working for? Dunno. Where does he get his wonderful toys? From inside his secret submarine base, naturally. His futuristic suit has all sorts of lovely, violent upgrades that allow him to spill the blood of corporate lackeys, and Broughton delights in what can only be described as really fun violence, with some rather sweet action sequences and plenty of claret.



This 48 page, high quality introduction to Slaughter Hawk is destined to be a guilty pleasure.Whilst not that innovative it retains a charm that's undeniable, boosted by a smart, easy to follow story and Broughton's always welcome clear, uncluttered art. As with any decent story about power mad corporations you can imagine Bad People doing exactly what they do in the book, and that makes it all the sweeter and enjoyable. I zipped through this quite quickly, pausing to take in the exposition that effectvely creates a bleak world. For the most part I had a smile on my face, though, as Slaughter Hawk is a serious comic that manages to be plenty of fun at the same time. The biggest compliment I can pay is that at the end I wanted to pick up another issue straight away to see what happens and learn more about the protagonist and the world he inhabits.

After many years of grinding away at the cliff face, David Broughton may just have stumbled accross a winner with Salughter Hawk, so do yourself a favour and check it out.

David Broughton's Blog


Thursday, 29 March 2018

READY PLAYER ONE - Film Review




WARNING: CONTAINS GEEKY REFERENCES


Well... where do I start! An adaptation of a book I heaped praise on three and a half years ago (read the review here), this one was always going to be tricky. Not because the book isn't awesome, because it is, but because a lot of the stuff within it would be shite on the big screen. I mean, do you really want to watch a film where the main character plays Pac Man, or Joust? Nah, me neither. How about one where he races in a Delorian against shedloads of other cool, iconic vehicles through a wild, dengerous track that culminates in a face off against King Kong (not to mention the part where a T-Rex chases the cars)? If you think that sounds a teeny bit awesome this is the film for you.


So here's the gist of it: In the next 20 years or so a genius will invent the Oasis, a virtual reality universe that you can basically do anything in. It's quite simply world changing. Said genius dies (natural causes) 20 years on and leaves behind a challenge that invites people to find three hidden keys within the Oasis, and the first person to do so will get the whiole shebang to control as well as oodles (oodles ia a lot) of cash. Fast foward five years an no one's got past his first challenge yet, the race described above. We follow young hero Wade Watts, a poor but very smart kid who uses the Oasis as an escape from real life. Wade wants to find the keys, as do his friends, as do the EVIL (yep - capital letters evil) IOI corporation who basically want to use it to make money off everyone (it's currrently free with no ads). All together - Boooo!!!


So we have Wade, online name Parzival, and his bestie Aitch (a sort of orc who is great at making things within the Oasis),  who get thrown together with Art3mis, a die hard enemy of IOI, plus Daito and Sho, two of the Oasis' best fighters. What starts as a fun competition turns deadly serious as they discover IOI has no qualms about taking the fight into the real world, where you can lose much more than your gold and magic items.

As a fan of the book, I was worried about what changes would be made, although with author Ernest Cline co writing the script I wasn't THAT worried. The essential plot has been kept, with a few set pieces as well, including a fantastic climactic battle. Some characters have been subtly altered, others excised completely, and the end result is a very different Ready Player One to that which is on paper. That said, I sat there for two and a quarter hours as entertained as I have ever been in a cinema, glad that I was getting the same amazing story but with brand new twists and turns.


Visually, it's a wonderful experience, with the drabness of real life at odds with the beauty of the Oasis. The VR sections are flawless, managing to look real and at the same time computer generated, if that makes any sense. Characters within the Oasis have real personality and depth despite their generally non human look, and all the other visuals around them are stunning. There's so many nerdy references crammed in that aren't even alluded to this is going to be freeze framed and squeed over for years to come. Best one, though? Definitely "HADUKEN!" - you'll laugh when it happens.


It's hard to see how well non readers of the book will take this film, but if you are one of the already converted just go with the changes and you'll have a whale of a time. Spielberg has crafted one of the most enjoyable films of his glittering career with this one, and whilst it's unashamedly geeky it's hits it's targey audience squarely in the face like a well thrown batarang (yeah, he's in it as well).  Hopefull Cline's follow up 'Armada', a less technically challenging tale, will be next.







Thursday, 8 March 2018

ZARJAZ Issue 30 Review (2000AD Fanzine)


Zarjaz is Betelgeusian for 'Excellent', as every devoted Squaxx Dek Thargo knows. If the previous sentence is a bit confusing, then you're probably not a long term reader of 2000AD, the UK comic that gave us Judge Dredd in 1977 and is still going strong, with Dredd celebrating his 41st anniversary this week.

Fanzines in comics are not a new thing, and are often useful in digging out new talent or people who have just one idea in them but it's a great one. For example, the cover artist for the latest Zarjaz is Dan Cornwell, who is a previous contributer that now is a bonafide official artist in the main comic. Similarly, current Dredd author Mike Carroll also made his early career steps in Zarjaz, so it's nothing to be sneezed at. It's really nice of Dan to do the cover when he's got so much actual paid work to get on with, and as you can see it's a belter.

Unusually, issue 30 is 100% Dredd centric. Normally other strips are included,but I guess there was just a lot of strips submitted featuring ol' stony face and his world this time round. The character has so much history and the world that's been built around him so much scope that he's a natural draw for would be scripters, I suppose. As a reult, we've got seven strips over 48 A5 pages of glossy loveliness.



First up is Judge Pigg, by Rich McAuliffe and artist Mick Cassidy. It's a tribute to the strip that the ludicrous and the dead serious have always gone hand in hand, and this a nicely daft take on the first ever Dredd story that is really funny and full of wince  and smile inducing puns. The art suits the tone perfectly, and the final page reveal would bring a smile to the face of Dredd himself, right before the creators wer arrested.

Next up is 'Spare The Rod', by Alan Holloway, with art by Dan Goodfellow. This perfectly illustrates my point about silly and serious strips, as this one is blacker than Baldrick's underpants. Addressing a topic never before attempted in the strip (quite a feat after 41 years), it's a tale that would have major repercussions if it had been in the weekly. Both writer and artist treat a potentially tricky subject with style and respect, with some excellent layout work from Goodfellow throughout.


The third strip is 'Descendants' (part one) from Alan Trench, illustrated very nicely by Robomonkey 147. Regular Dredd fand will be painfully aware that Dredd's home, Mega City 1, is routinely put through the wringer by the writers, resulting in plenty of deaths and misery. Each time it rebuilds and waits for the next disaster. The tale concerns a survivor of the first disaster, the Apocalypse War, and her subsequent life afterwards as she survives each citywide sneck up, though not without her own losses. It's a well told, serious story that works very well. Personally, I look forward to the next part.

'Law In Exile - Madhouse Bop' comes next, a tale from Judge Hershey's past by Santiago Mayaud and illustrated by JP Vilchis. In the strip, Hershey tracks an excaped hacker to a mental hospital on an asteroid, and violence ensues. It could have been a routine story, but Mayaud delivers a very clever twist to wrap things up in a satisfying way, comfortably aided an abetted by Vilchis' nice art.

The second half of the magazine starts off with 'Interrogation', always a popular subject in Dredd's world, where police brutality is a given. It doesn't help, however, when a Judge goes a bit nuts and is convinced an innocent(ish) citizen is a mass murderer and a hostage situation ensues. Although the art by Aaron Murphy is really nice, I found Gavin Johnston's script a wee bit clunky and at odds with how I expect Dredd's world to run. It's still an enoyable strip, though, even if my brain kept asking too many questions.

The penultimate (and longest at 9 pages) strip takes us away from Mega City 1 to Brit Cit and it's favourite vampire son, Devlin Waugh. Kevin McHugh obviusly has a fondness for the character and has the speech patterns and humour down well, but to be honest the simple story seems rather stretched out, even if Lorenzo Nicoletta's art is welcome throughout. As with 'Interrogation' , though, it's still a fun read, although this time my atitude to the strip may be tempered by the fact I have never had much love for Devlin Waugh.


Finally, we get back to Dredd with 'No Good Deed', written and drawn by Edward Whatley. A purely visual tale, it takes us down into the sewers and features an appearence by everyone's favourite gutter mouthed droid Ro Jaws. It's a short, sweet, smart and funny end to the issue, with Whatley's visuals showing genuine talent. One of several stories here that would not be out of place in the weekly itself, 'No Good Deed' will leave readers with a happy glow, and that's a job well done.

Zarjaz is worth a few quid of any 2000AD fan's money, showing a depth and quality that outstrips it's fanzine status. If you are a Dredd fan, or if you know one, go and get a copy because you (or they) will not be disappointed.

Buy HERE