Thursday, 25 May 2017

ONE EYED JACK, THE COMPETE REPRINTS - COMIC REVIEW



In the UK comics scene of the 70's it was a bit of a thing to watch what Hollywood was doing and rip it off. Not so blatently that you got sued, of course, but taking a successful film and adapting it's themes worked rather well, notably with Jaws and the shark strip Hookjaw in Action. One Eyed Jack was basically John Wagner's take on Dirty Harry, with the strip set in 70s New York - unusual for a UK strip in those days.


One Eyes Jack is detective Jack McBane, who earns the 'One Eyed' bit in the first episode. Of copurse, he's such a badass that he's back on the street as soon as possible dealing the kind of justice only a man with no depth perception can deal! This isn't subtle stuff, with the violence matter of factly platsred over the page and the good guys winning in the end. Jack likes to speak in soundbites, and astute reader will certainly see parallels between him and a certain Judge Wagner would go on to co create a few years down the line. I couldn't help but frin when the villain in an early story says "Izzat so?", later to be a staple phrase of Dredd villain Mean Machine.



The artwork is very much of the time, and lkuckilky it's by one of the most enduring British comic aritsts, John Cooper. Black and white throughout, the action leaps out of the page, with all the villains having nasty, sneery faces and the good guys radiating bravery. Great stuff, really, and although he wasn't the best of the time, Cooper was always a solid storyteller who could take a script and get the best out of it.

As far as the stories go there's nothing too surprising here. McBane goes through criminals like a knife through butter, and of course at one point he gets framed for a crime he didn't commit. We get soundbites at the top of the page like "Sensation! One Eyed Jack goes to jail!" and plenty of hackneyed dialogue, but it all manages to hold together and you end up with 150 or so entertaining pages of pure seventies action.



One Eyed Jack is a slice of comic history, and certainly of it's time, but I can see youngsters of today enjoying it, due to the immediate nature of the storytelling and the uncomporomisibg action throughout.  2000AD publisher Rebellion have bought an absolute shedload of similar gems (Leopard Of Lime Street anyone?), and with their track record there's a lot more quality reprints to look forward to. Definitely worth a look, the only downside is no cover mounted gift.

Pre Order Here


Monday, 15 May 2017

ROK OF THE REDS - Comics Review




It would be wrong to say that I used to love Roy Of The Rovers. Not because it's untrue, but because I never stopped loving it. I've still got the annuals and a few compendiums, and there's a real pleasure in following Roy's exploits, especially when it was decided he wasn't going to win every time like in the old days. It's soap opera comics, for sure, but if I'm honest most comics these days fall into that bracket anyway.


2000AD legend John Wagner also likes football comics, ans being John Wagner decided to write one. Not for him, though, a simple tale of soccer success – he's lobbed an alien into the mix, the titular Rok. Rok comes from Arkady, on the run for reasons that become clear, and takes over the body of football waster Kyle Dixon, a great player whose personality and bad habits have seen him plummet through the divisions, landing in the Radford Reds. 


It's no surprise to discover that Rok learns to love both football and our planet, finding an affection for humans not a million miles away from the old Eagle character Doomlord. With his help the Radford Reds go on a cup run, whilst his past sins catch up with him. Will the Reds win the cup? Will Rok survive the wrath of Arkady? Continued next month etc etc



I have to say I've bloody loved reading this comic. It's six issues of fun, football and final whistles, expertly plotted by Wagner and sitting just on the right side of silly. Artist Dan Cornwell really comes into his own with clear, clever visualization, and colourist Abby Bulmer brings his pictures to life. It's been a while since I waited anxiously for the postman to bring me a new issue of a comic, but Rok Of The Reds reduced me to that teenager desperate to find out What Happens Next. 



So this comes with a full recommendation from me, and you can now get all six issues from the creators themselves through the link below, and because it's all done in house, as it were, you get signed issues to boot! There should be a collected edition later in the year, but for now treat yourself to a set of the originals, because you won't be disappointed. UP THE REDS!




Wednesday, 22 March 2017

"Serial Killer" by Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neil



For anyone who recognizes the names at the top of the page, it wouldn't be unusual to expect this to be a review of a graphic novel of some kind, known as they are in the comics community as a first class writer and artist respectively. I picked this up at 2000AD's 40th birthday celebration, and it's quite obviously a bit of a labour of love for the veteran creators.

The story is set in the seedy world of 1970s comic publishing. Not the merry Marvel bullpen or anything like that, but instead the British humour machines that would crank out the likes of Buster, Whizzer & Chips and The Beano. Mills himself was a big cog in the UK comics machines, from kids comics to girls comics to war comics and beyond, so is well placed to satirize the industry.

Our hero, if he can be called that, is Dave. He works on a kids comic and hates every minute, loathing the stupid little imbeciles who get pleasure out of what he sees as a rubbish, unfunny comic. The most popular strip is the 'Caning Commando', a bizarre wartime tale that sees a headmaster behind enemy lines beating the Hun on the bum, basically. It's quite mental, and great fun to read Mill's episode descriptions. the strip is scripted by a bumbling old fool known as 'The Major', and Dave doctors those scripts so that they contain plenty of ways for kids to kill themselves, such as swimming at night in a disused quarry, making a pipe bomb or trying to breathe through a plughole to stop from drowning in a bath.

So we have Dave trying to kill kids from a distance, which is all well and good (and funny), plus his smarmy colleague Greg, a handsome Yin to Dave's hopeless Yang, and their shared love interest Joy, a rather strict girls comic editor. Add to this Dave's sexual interest in fur and the fact his dead mum wants her to solve her murder and you have a very bizarre story indeed.

What you should know about 'Serial Killer' is that it's funny. Many I time I found myself sniggering at the ridiculous characters, occasionally at the real life anecdotes such as the writer who claimed to make 'More money than the Prime Minister', such was his prolific output (names are obviously changed to protect the talentless). Dave works for a Fleetway type company, all the time envying the superior output of Angus, Angus & Angus, themselves a parody of DC Thompson, the legendarily miserly company behind The Beano and The Dandy. Aficionados of British comics will find much to love here, but the knowledge of such things is not essential to enjoyment of the tale told.

'Serial Killer' is the first in a series (with a cliffhanger finale), and after finishing it I hope Mills and O'Neil get a wriggle on with the next one, as it's tremendous fun to read. The whole thing comes across as similar in feel to Robert Rankin's 'Brentford Trilogy', set in an all to real 70s London, populated by characters who are all quite mad in their own way. If you have an interest in comics, laughing or having sex with a fur coat, this is the book for you, you dirty, dirty sod.

Millsverse Homepage (buy the book here)





Tuesday, 7 March 2017

LOGAN - Film Review




Saying that this film has been highly anticipated is certainly an understatement, but if I'm honest all superhero films are highly anticipated. It doesn't change the fact that whilst Marvel continue to pump out quality films everyone else is still lagging behind, and fingers have been desperately crossed that this would be the film to finally do cinematic justice to the character of Wolverine.

When the bods behind 'Logan' started going on about being inspired by Mark Millar's superb 'Old man Logan' story, my own ears pricked up, but cynicism stopped any real excitement because that particular story would be a nightmare to bring to the screen, not least because of various character copyright issues. Sure enough, all that is left is the fact that Logan is an Old Man, and that's it. Still, at least it's a try at something different, so kudos for that.



The film is set about 13 years in the future, although there's nothing to show that in the technology, it's more a way of distancing it from other films. Logan himself seems to have given up, working as a limo driver and looking worn down by the years and the asshole customers he has to ferry round. the adamantium that covers his bones has been slowly poisoning him over time, and his healing factor isn't what it used to be. This is a Wolverine with scars both mental and physical, one of the last mutants left alive as none have been born for thirty years. With the help of the mutant Caliban (Steven Merchant) he looks after an ailing Charles Xavier (now in his 90s) and dreams of living on a boat away from everything.


The plot revolves around :Laura (Dafne Keen - excellent), a young girl who rivals Wolverine for surly attitude, pointy claws and murdering abilities. It's a simple 'take the girl on a long but important trip' type of plot, with chasing bad guys to avoid/kill and new people to interact with along the way. So far, so standard, but 'Logan' isn't the film that it could have easily been, instead it's so much better.


Writer/Director James Mangold has really gone for it here, defying certain film conventions and reveling in several scenes of extreme stabby violence that finally shows audiences just how dangerous a man with metal coated claws can really be, even going so far as to introduce the comics legendary Berzerker Rage at one point. He's not afraid to have bad things happen to good characters, or even to allow mortal coils to be shuffled off, reflecting the real violence that the film's world is smothered in.


Suffice to say, 'Logan' is the Wolverine film fans have waited for. It's brutal, but compassionate, violent, yet empathetic. This is not just about good guys winning the day, this is about living with the consequences of what you are and what you have done. The only mis-step, for me, is the casting of Steven Merchant as Caliban. Whilst he looks the part, his broad West Country accent does not fit the character in any way. Perhaps some actual acting may have helped. Aside from that, this is a belter of a film, a fitting send off for Hugh Jackman, who has said this is his last rodeo as the character. Go see it, Bub.







Sunday, 19 February 2017

JOHN WICK PART 2 - Film Review


So John Wick is back, with a new job and a very short retirement. Thankfully no one's killed his goldfish or anything, but he is dragged back into the assassination game when total wanker Santino D'Antonio uses a marker Wick gave him when he got out of the game, and a hit man cannot refuse to honour a marker. Oh well, here we go again...



What follows is Keanu Reeves shooting lots of people and then shooting some more people and then shooting a few more for good luck. There's a reasonable plot in there somewhere, and it's all nicely set up for the next chapter in a way that really makes you want to see it. It's great to see Reeves sharing screen time with his old 'Matrix' mucker Lawrence Fishburne, and we also get a super cool mute assassin in the shapely shape of Ruby Rose. Ian McShane makes a welcome return as the boss of the Continental Hotel, as does Lance Reddick as the impeccably unruffled concierge. Rapper Common impresses as fellow assassin Cassian, and I look forward to seeing him again in the next one. All in all, it's a ridiculously solid cast.



'John Wick 2' is one of those films that could have easily been a straight to DVD duffer, but manages to be great thanks to everything being done in style. From the balletic gunfights to a final shootout that could have been a massive cliche but just ends up being a bit awesome. Keanu Reeves isn't required to actually do much acting, which is always a bonus, and he's helped immeasurably by the rest of the cast. Suffice to say if you enjoyed the first one this is a no brainer, and if you haven't seen the first one you really should. A wonderful example of a modern action film with total old school charm in abundance. Just don't hurt his dog...

Trailer


Thursday, 22 September 2016

2000AD "PROG 2000" REVIEW







When I was 9, reading about Bill Savage killing Volgs, or M.A.C.H 1 chatting with the computer in his head, I never imagined that nearly 40 years later I''d still be reading the comic that contained their adventures. Let's be honest, though, I'm far from the only one, including everyone who worked on said comic. I mean, it was called “2000AD” for drokk's sake, it was inconceivable it would even last that long, because that just didn't happen in boys comics.



Well happen it did, and I'm very happy to still be a fan, and to have weathered the highs, the lows and the middlings along with thousands of other devotees. Prog 200 is a landmark indeed, and starts off with three possible excellent variant covers (oh go on, buy both). One is a traditional ensemble piece by the talented Glenn Fabry and Ryan Brown, whilst another sees long term cover droid Cliff Robinson depict Tharg The Mighty flying through the cosmos on a space spinner, the free gift that came with issue one. The third, showing a miserable looking Dredd sitting on the number 2000 is not as fun or interesting, although Chris Burnham's art is fine.



Inside, we are guided by Tharg himself, as he tells us all about the comic in one page interludes between strips. These are all drawn by legendary creators such as Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Colin McNeil, Boo Cook and Mick McMahon, and there's also a welcome return for Robin Smith, a name many will remember fro the glory days. These pieces are very well done and give the prog a nice flavour to it. 



In between, of course, is the meat of the comic, the main stories. To be honest, it's a superb selection. John Wagner and Carlos Exquerra deliver a Dredd strip that ticks all the boxes and looks glorious (and includes a very special guest), a perfect way to lead off the 2000th prog. Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill bring back Nemesis and Torquemada for a rollicking tale that had me laughing at it's sheer sacreligiousness. Gordon Rennie's Rogue Trooper tale is probably the weakest of the classics, but is well served by Richard “Kingdom” Elson's gorgeous art. There's also a very welcome return for David Roach, who provides some simply stunning artwork for Alan Grant's neat little Anderson story. Last of the returnees is Sinister Dexter, always a deservedly popular strip by Dan Abnett, and here we get to learn a bit more about their car, with Mark Sexton showing he would be welcome to illustrate a full return of the strip. The final strip is Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo's “Counterfeit Girl”, a completely new ongoing series concerning personality swapping. It looks great, but it's too early to really tell if it's going to be a classic or clunker.



So that's Prog 2000, a glorious read for only £3.99 Earth money (would have been neat if they'd put that on the cover for old time's sake). This is one to savor, to buy in a real shop and read through whilst sipping a cold one and ignoring the stares of those who see a 47 year old man reading a comic (although The Sun is acceptable, go figure). Ignore the Grexnixes, embrace your inner Squaxx Dexx Thargo and prepare for an inevitable thrill power overload, as Prog 2000 will blow your circuits. Here's to next years 40th birthday...

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

THE MIGHTY ONE: MY LIFE INSIDE THE NERVE CENTRE - BOOK REVIEW



I should tell you straight off that I have read every issue of British comic stalwart 2000AD for nearly forty years now, so was really looking forward to reading these memoirs, penned by former Editor (amongst other things) Steve MacManus. When it finally dropped onto the mat I settled down for what promised to be a good read, dark glasses on as I opened the cover and winced from the thrill power held within.



 


Okay, so the image conjured above is akin to the sort of bollocks often peddled by people like MacManus when hiding behind the green rubber mask of Tharg The Mighty, but for a long time fan and enthusiast for comics history this is a genuinely exciting publication. The excitement is tempered somewhat by the rather cheap nature of the paper used for the book, akin to the legendary ‘bog roll’ of early issues of 2000AD itself, or for non comics readers a book club edition of a novel. So, taking extra care not to put my finger through the pages, I ploughed on and lost myself in the world of 70s and 80s British comics.








 
Thankfully, MacManus doesn’t pad his tale with a few chapters about growing up, preferring to focus on his introduction to the comic industry and subsequent career. We learn of his beginnings on some of the many war comics published by Fleetway in the 70s, comics he still has a lot of affection for, and even though these are not 2000AD the recollections are never less than interesting. Naturally, the meat of the book covers his time in the green mask of Tharg, covering what many still consider the heyday of  2000AD, working with some of the most talented, innovative creators in the business. When he came out of the other end he was responsible for the likes of Crisis and Revolver, valiantly trying to sell mature comics to a population who didn’t care half as much as they used to. Through it all, MacManus seems to have preferred hiding under his desk rather than getting too involved in politics, but even so played his part in getting proper rights for creators when he could. Of course, there’s also “Bad Steve”, who would come out and piss people off left right and centre, leaving normal Steve to clear up his mess.



“TMO:MYITNC” is a cracking read from start to finish. It’s interesting, well written and genuinely amusing at times. For example, early on MacManus says Dennis he Menace was created by Leo Baxendale, which I found hilarious as he should know better! Regardless of that, I cannot recommend this highly enough for anyone with a keen interest in either 2000AD or 1970s British comics in general.