Thursday, 19 March 2020

ZARJAZ Issue 36 - Comic Review

Yay! It's Zarjaz time again, and the yay is because I've been looking forward to this issue of the long running and constantly high quality 2000AD fanzine. This issue comes complete with a very smart cover from 2000AD droid Paul Williams.

A big part oif the anticipation is the conclusion of John Farrelly's 6 part Harlem Heroes story 'Feat Of Clay', which details the back story of the Heroes' main man John 'Giant' Clay. The last two episodes, written and illustarted by Farrelly, bring the story right up to date, with the last panel leading straight onto the first panel of the Harlem Heroes strip published in 1977. It's a nice touch, really, and concludes a satisfying, entertaining and emotional story that may wee be the best thing yet published in Zarjaz. Well done, that droid!

An unusual issue to the mag is an Ace Trucking story 'The Boppo Job', scripted by Jacob Bouvet and illustrated by Alex Paterson. Paterson doesn't try to copy the great Bellardinelli, and to his credit the art works well. the story itself is a fun one, with Ace as usual taking advantage of his Biffo GBH foir the flimsiest of reasons. A fun, breezy story.

 Another seldom tackled character here is Bill Savage, who appears in David Fenn and Barry Renshaw's 'Savage: A Grave Result'. Fitting nicely into the 2000AD Savege strip, it's a subtle tale that isn't short of a bit of shootah blasting but still stays under the radar. Renshaw's art is decent and the script works well, making this a great read for fans of the Pat Mills strip.

Elsewhere it's Dreddword all the way, with some very different tales. 'The Flower That Grew From Bones' is operhaps the most orginal, as Michael Khazen's script sees Judge Mortis returned to Deadworld as something very odd has happened- life has returned! It's dark with a nice payoff, and the script is effectively brought to life (death?) by Sentinel comic's Ed Doyle.

The Dark Judges also feature in 'Back Again - For The First Time', as Mega City One sees an incursion by Death, Fear, Fire and Mortis from an alternate timeline, so whilst they ARE the real Dark Judges they're, like, different ones. Or something. Anyway, it's really an excuse for Daniel Whiston to do a nice story about a psi judge and a scared child, and he's very ably backed by Andy Richmond, who does a great job on the art.

There's a couple of light hearted two page stories written by myself in this issue, namely 'A Joe By Any Other Name' and 'Mean Machine Angel - This Here's A Story'. Aimed squarely at those of you who love short, sharp and funny Dreddisms, like the old Daily Star strips, they're both a lot of fun in a little space. Ian Beadle makes an impressive Zarjaz debut on 'A Joe By Any Other Name', really nailing Dredd's moserabkle bastard look, whilst Uwe De Witt brings a wonderful comic touch to 'This Hears A Story' that suits the script well.

inally there's 'Judge Purger', a Mega City vigilante story from Mike Kalin and Dave Deloe. Whilst it's fun to read with really nice, clear art, the story is just 'Perp does something, Dredd nails perp', which is a bit disappointing. It's about as 'meh' as Zarjaz ever gets, - not a bad strip, but underwhelming especially in light of the rest.

So there you have it - your guide to Zarjaz issue 36. For a few measly Galactic Groats (£3 plus post) there simply is no reason not to get this if you like 2000AD and want 'proper' stories like what we used to have. If you haven't read the last two issues and are worried about following the Giant strip, well you can easily buy those as well!  Go on... you know you want to.

ACTION - 2020 REVIVAL SPECIAL - Comic Review

Well if this doesn't take you back, then nothing will. Action is legendary in UK comics circles as it was basically corrupting the minds of our sweet, innocent children. The fact that the little brats (me included) loved it was immaterial. The Sun made a fuss and WH Smiths refused to distribute it unless changes were made. As a result the next issue was pulped and redone, resulting in a comic that had less bite than Gums the toothless shark from Buster.

Fast forward a few decades and those nice people at Rebellion (2000AD, Roy Of The Rovers and much more) have released (or will do soon, when the coronapocalypse eases off) a special one off revisiting some of the legendary stories. The thing is, has enough time passed that they can do it with a little bite? let's tale a look...

First up is 'Kids Rule OK,, notorious for featuring on Action's infamous cover where it appeared a kid was attacking a beat bobby. It's set in a Britain where the adult population has been decimated by a plague (wait a minute...) and kids basically run rampant. Scripter RamV has done indie and DC work, whilst artist Henrik Sahlstrom did Judge Death in the 2000AD Villains Special. The story is okay, mostly action with a plot that made me wince, and doesn't have a remotely British feel about it. There's many more more interesting takes on this that could have been played with, but it's, well, it's okay. Sahlstrom shines throughout, though, and his action work is spot on, bringing the strip up considerably.

Next up is 'Hellman', previously Hellman Of Hammer Force, Action's foray into the WWII genre. It was a good story originally, concerning a German tank commander who was not a fan of the Nazi party but still loved his country and did his duty. If I'm honest, this sort of thing is perfect for the likes of Garth Ennis, who loves both tanks and Germans who aren't caricatures, and bugger me sideways if Rebellion didn't think the same thing, as he's teamed up with veteran artist Mike Dorey (who actually drew the original) on this very tale, named Twilight Of The Reich. Fans of Ennis' previous tank stories will lap this up, mainly because it's excellent. Hellman and his crew decide to help a family fleeing the Russian advance on Germany (they've broken down) and have to face down four Russian tanks plus infabtry as a result. Mike Dorey's black and white art is fantastic, whilst Ennis's script is chock full of humanity not to mention some explosive action. I seriously can't find fault with this in any way, which is no surprise given the pedigrees involved.

Oddly, Rebellion has opted to put a new story in rather than make it all about the classics, in the shape of  'Hell Machine', thakfully NOT based on their Zombie ARmy 4 game (phew).  It's scripted by Henry Flint, usually known for his awesome art on the likes of Judge Dredd and Shakara, and he also privides half the art, with Dredd artist Jake Lynch doing the second half (though mimicking Flint's work perfectly). It's a bloody odd one, this. It's set in a knackered society and we follow heroine Tase through a bunch of mad shit that I can't even pretend to understand fully. There's nice vsuals, and it's pretty interesting if you don't get a headache trying to work out what the fuck's going on.

Last but one is the return of Action's Jaws rip off, 'Hookjaw'. Fondly remembered for lashings of gore and the interesting experience of cheering on a killer shark, Hookjaw was a firm favourite. Karl Richardson delivers a dialogue free script, though he's billed as Quint Amity here, whilst Dan Lish provides the art. It concerns a fishing vessel who have a captured killer polar bear (Shako, natch) on board, and Hookjaw's interference in this fact. I won't spoil what happens here, but suffice to say it's laden with gore and violence and is a ton of guilty fun that needs to be continued! Full marks to Lish, who's colour art owes a debt to the likes of Robert Crumb yet has a style all of it's own that works really well.

Finally we have 'Dredger', Action's take on Dirty Harry mixed with The Sweeney. Zina Hutton scripts, with her only previous comic work being on a Judge Anderson story, and she's backed up by well respected veteran comics artist Staz Johnson.  Although the art is fine, the story is rather bland, not halped by an odd lettering style that simply looks wrong. I wanted something gritty and streetwise, I got a lame James Bond knock off. Definitely the worst strip in the bunch in every aspect.

So, as with all of Rebellion's specials, it's a mixed bunch. It's rare that everyone likes everything, though, and I'm sure that your opinion will differ to mine. Of course you need to buy it to find that out, and even though it's not top of my list this Action special is certainly worth checking out, once you've fought your way through the zombie hoards to get it...


Monday, 3 February 2020

GET WOKE - Comic Review

After starting my own project on Kickstarter I started looking at other people's and then actually backing a few because, well, I like comics! Oneof these is Tim West and Kevin McCullough's 'Get Woke', which I wanted simply because it looked like my kind of bonkers.

John Woke (and yes, there is a 'wake up, Woke!' joke in there) is an American teenager raised on conspiracy theories. Whilst on a school trip to Washington D.C he gets involved in a ritual sacrifice which results in him meeting the Earth defending team of Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Bigfoot and JFK's brain. I swear I amnot making this up...

If the above, frankly insane summary above made you want to see what the fuck this is allabout then I urge you to give in to your desires, as 'Get Woke' is not only mad as a box of frogs it's very funny as well. Ably illustrated by McCullough and well colored by Dimas Mohammad, it jumps from the page at every opportunity. The star forme, however, is West, who delivers some sparkly dialogue that will annoy some of the more wimpy minded out there but I loved it. Such as:

'Satanic paedophiles answer to lead as well as Lucifer, but a cross will protect you from even the mnost rapey of demonoids.'

Princess Diana! 'She has boobies! Quick, misogynise her!'

And much, much more. I had a blast reading this one and can't wait for issue two, which has to come because of the cliffhanger ending to this one.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020


Released: 6th February 2020

Originally the title of a daft Tiger strip in the early 1960s, Billy's Boots was repurposed in Scorcher in 1970, which is where this volume joins him, right at the start of his very lengthy adventures. Fred Baker was to become a veteran at this sort of strip, going on to write the likes of Tommy's Troubles and Hot Shot Hamish, amogst others, but there's something iconic about Billy's Boots that allows it to overshadow his other work.

the Billy of the title is young Billy Dane, a lad who loves football but is pretty rubbish at it. By the end of the first two page chapter, however, he's found a rather old pair of boots in the attic (he lives with his Nan) and discovered they somehow allow him to kick like a pro. This, essentially, is the plot, and we follow Billy as he strats playing for hsi school team and more, with the boots not only making him pass, shoot and dribble better, but also literally making him run to the right area of the pitch. Basically, Billy Dane is a big fat cheat but unsurprisingly it's not presented that way!

As with any continuing strip there is a need for drama, so Billy's life is never smooth. He gets bullied, loses the boots, loses them again, has them fall apart, moves to up North where people don't like soft southern shites etc etc. It's just one thing after another, though as a reader you never really fear for him. What you do is carry on reading to see just how he gets out of whatever scrape fate has chucked him in. Billy's a decent, honest boy, so you always root for him whatever happens. Watching over him is the boots' former owner, the legendary 'Dead Shot' Keen, and when he's on the pitch Billy finds the boots make him play exactly as 'Dead Shot' would have done. Yes, this is now a horror story about a big fat cheat who has haunted football boots! Strewth!

In this 112 page volume we're presented with art by Colin Page, Mike Western and Tom Kerr, all of whom do a great job, and it's nice that the whole thing is in colour, as Billy was lucky enough to get the star treatment back in the day. It's entertaining throughout and a fine example of a fun sports strip that won't give anyone nightmares unless they REALLY think hard about what's going on in it. Personally, I love it, and hope we get the aforementioned Tommy's Troubles and Hot Shot Hamish (as well as Mighty Mouse, please) in the near future. Rebellion may be dipping into their treasure trove carefully, but once again they've showed great skill in selecting this lad for the first XI.

Treasury Of British Comics shop

Thursday, 2 January 2020


Never mind all the fuss over Brexit, one thing that's stablein Ireland is the Belfast based 2000AD fanzine Sector 13. doing their best  to take the worlds created in the comic in new directions and succeeding nuicely.

Printed in A4 size on nice, thick stock, Sector 13 always impresses before you even open it up. The Sector 13 fan group has a good few cosplayers amongst it's numbers, and a couple are used to nice effect on the photo cover, with Simon Crockett and Graham Alexander doing a good job as Titan inmates. Zarjaz!

The mag starts off with a continuation of Judge Knight's long walk from the previous issue. We were left with a revelation about organ leggers and other skullduggery, and the first strip carries on where that left off, although with a handy one page recap. The story actually continues directly into teh second strip, titles 'Home', though now it shifts to photo-story mode, and features some very impressive visuals. It's gripping stuff, and certainly left me wanting more. Scott Twells' minimalist art in the first part is quite effective (especially when there's a big explosion), and the photo strip follow up benefits from great costumes and model work.

'Borrowed Time' is next, a twisty slice of light horror that would have been at home is the pages of Misty back in the day. Morgan Brinksman's uncluttered, clear art compliments Julia Round's script nicely, and all in all the story works very well.

We're introduced to a couple of new Strontium Dogs next, as Billy Camo and Hurt Box hunt a mutant terrorist. This is an interesting one, mainly because writer WD McQuaid has managed to create an original planet and race of aliens, coupled with the very interesting Hurt Box. Between it all there's a strong story here with a pleasing conclusion, although I have to say I found Patrick Brown's art a bit too scratchy for my tsates although it does get the job done.

'Coltard The Conquerer' follows, and it's a funny one off about the daily doings of a galactic dictator. It's not easy being a dictator, especially with the likes of Blade Braxtin always trying to spoil things with his heroics and square jaw. It's aperfect few pages of daft after some serious stories, and Glenn Matchett's sperkling script is lifted even higher by Cat Byrne's wonderful, colourful cartoony visuals. A perfect example of self contained silliness, this is my favourite thing this issue, and I like the fact evil space dictators wear bunny slippers.

A bit of a coup next, as 'Horse Sense' is a fantasy one off written and drawn by 2000AD alumni Will Simpson. It tells of an unnamed hero and his horse Phoebes, as he bascially goes into an old temple and fights a bunch of monsters. Narrative-wise there's not much going on, as the whole point seems to be that if we had as much sense as horses we wouldn't go off fighting monsters. That aside, though, it really does look glorious, with Simpson's black and white action scenes jumping from the page. A light tale, masterfully executed.

The final entry is another self contained future shock, 'Lethal Weapons', written by Ed Whiting (his first for Sector13). It concerns an arms dealer who has to think of a new way to do business in a world that's attained peace. It's pretty good, though a had me scratching my head a few times, and Mike Slattery's art is a good fit. Logically, it doesn't hold up, but the pay off is original and I still enjoyed it.

So there you have it, as Sector 13 swerves away from 2000AD for half the mag and is none the worse for it. What you have is the best of both worlds, all wrapped up in high production values. As ever, this comes reccommended, and if you haven't tried any have a go at getting back issues if they're available.