Archive for December, 2011


 

Henry Flint is perhaps one of the most popular atists working on 2000AD today, drawing everything from A.B.C. Warriors to Zombo. Its no suprise then that he was chosen to have a collection showcasing his work on Judge Dredd. Whats immediatly obvious upon reading this collection, is just how versatile Flint’s artwork can be. If I didn’t know better I would have sworn some of the stories were drawn by different artists, such is his ability (you only have to compare his work on Dredd to his work on Zombo to see what I mean). Every story is drawn superbly, from the slightly more rough art on “Mrs Gunderson’s Little Adventure”, to the gory-ness of “The Gingerbread Man”. 

The stories are something of a mixed bag, although theres nothing really bad here. Most of them are self contained stories from the Megazine and, whilst fun to read are hardly essential. Perhaps the only story of note here is “The Gingerbread Man”, in which Byron Ambrose (in reality serial killer P.J.Maybe in disguise) becomes the mayor of Mega City one, a storyline which would continue for a long time in the Prog. Thats not to say the other strips are to be ignored however. There’s a couple of Christmas stories here alongside some other one offs, which are fun enough while they last.

“The Henry Flint Collection” is not an essential purchase, seeing as it does not contain any of the more epic story lines that Flint has put his pencils too. However it is a lot of fun to read, and it goes without saying that the art is top quality throughout. If you can pick it up for a decent price then you could do a lot worse than this.

7/10

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Have A Zarjazz Christmas

Wishing a very Merry Christmas too all of you who read the blog. The blogs been going for just over a month, and seems to be going pretty well up to now. There’ll be more reviews coming up after Christmas, hopefully including regular reviews of the latest Prog. Don’t forget you can send your reviews to britcitreviews@gmail.com and I will put them on the blog.

Have a Zarjazz Christmas.

WARNING – REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

When I picked up the first Stickleback trade, in the Edinburgh branch of Forbidden Planet this week, I was taking something of a shot in the dark as I’d never read any Stickleback strips before. It proved to be a damn good shot as, as the back cover claims, Stickleback really is a modern 2000AD classic.

Stickleback is somewhat unusual in that the main character and his cronies, are out and out crooks. The only real heroic character is the police Inspector who is on his trail, Valentine Bey. The first of the two (lengthy) strips in this trade focuses on the character of Bey, with Stickleback lurking in the background, only making a couple of appearances in the entire strip. This is very effective as it immediatly adds an air of mystery to Stickleback, and when he kills Bey in cold blood at the strips conclusion, it comes as a real shock. The second strip is really where we start to get to grips with Stickleback and his gang of supernatural accomplices. Having established the steampunk style world that Stickleback inhabits in the first strip, writer Ian Edgington is able to use the second strip to introduce us to the criminal gang of Stickleback, and add a few more layers of mystery to the eponymous title character. The choice of D’Israeli as artist was a great one, as his extremly distinctive and innovative art, is perfectly suited to the Gormenghast-style London town.

Throughout this trade are references and hints to other stories, including a couple of cheeky nods to the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Edgington is known for tying his different strips together to create a single universe, and that is clearly evident here, especially tying in to another of his 2000AD strips “The Red Seas”. Both the pub (The Jolly Cripple) and one of the main villains (Orlando Doyle) from The Red Seas put in an appearance, although it is certainly not neccessary to have read The Red Seas to be able to enjoy Stickleback.

Sitckleback certainly lives up to the moniker of a modern 2000AD classic. Imaginative storytelling, intriguing characters, and innovative art make Stickleback one that is not to be missed. I suggest you pick up a copy of England’s Glory at once.

9/10

2000AD Prog 2012 – A medical review

Special Guest Reviewer – Eamonn Clarke.

WARNING – REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

2000AD prog 2012 is the big Christmas 100 page special, rather like the old annuals that British comics used to put out. It’s an excellent jumping on point for 2000AD as several new stories start in this issue so there isn’t a lot of previous continuity to catch up on.

The Judge Dredd story in this issue is a stand alone that parodies choose your own adventure books. It’s ok but after the building tension of the recent Day of Chaos and Assassination List storyline it seems a bit lightweight.

More interesting is the first part of a new Absalom story, “Sick Leave” by Gordon Rennie, with art by Tiernan Trevallion and letters by Simon Bowland. Harry Absalom is a police inspector who heads up a paranormal investigation team that spun out of another 2000AD strip called Caballistics, Inc. He is a cranky and hard drinking old-school police officer who is also suffering from advanced cancer. While his team are investigating some strange graffiti in an East London estate, Absalom is at the hospital for a consultation with his oncologist. He is shown into a clinic room where he encounters a demonic ghost version of himself.

The above panels reveal that Absalom has cancer of the Pancreas which has a notoriously poor prognosis. Sadly, you can’t diagnose Pancreatic cancer from x-rays as the demon does here. It needs a CT or MRI scan to detect the tumour in the Pancreas gland which lies behind the stomach and underneath the diaphragm, which separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. The demon seems to be looking at chest x-rays with lots of dark, round shadows on them. Presumably these represent metastases or spread from the original cancer. Technically the shadows should be in in the peripheries of the lung fields and not, as they are shown in these panels, overlying the central structures of the heart, mediastinum and sternum. You can see an image of a real chest x-ray with metastases here.  Spread to the lung can occur in many different types of cancer, and are not typical of pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately you can’t tell what type of cancer causes lung shadows like this just by looking at them. Still, let us assume that demon, ghost thingys have diagnostic powers beyond those of us mortal doctors.

The other very interesting thing about the Absalom strip is its references and nods to other classic works of occult fiction. The next page in this issue includes these panels.

Harry Absalom refers to Inspector Trout from the Abominable Dr. Phibes movies, starring Vincent Price. Inspector Calhoun was played by Donald Pleasance in the 1972 film Death Line, in which he investigated Cannibals in the underground.

Jack Regan was, of course, played by the late John Thaw in The Sweeney. Inspector Barlow was a character in the British TV shows Z Cars, Softly, SoftlyBarlow at Large, and Second Verdict, and was played by Stratford Johns. Regan and Barlow didn’t investigate the paranormal although Barlow, with his colleague John Watt, did look in to the Jack the Ripper case once.

Finally, the reference to the “Irish git who was involved in that Zombie mess up in Manchester” is a reference to the film The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, and to the police sergeant played by Arthur Kennedy.

The images in the third panel show from the left, Dr Phibes, Inspector Barlow, Jack Regan and, I think, Inspector Trout. Hopefully, somebody will let me know where the demon with the inverted cross on its head comes from.

The artist and writer got a bit confused about Pancreatic cancer, metastases and chest x-rays, but they more than made up for it with the cult references. For medical accuracy this story gets a solid 3 out of 5 outpatient clinic appointments. However this is a great first episode and I’ve now got something to look forward to in 2000AD other than Judge Dredd.

(Published in Venus Bluegenes – Venus On The Fragshell. Bagged with Judge Dredd Megazine 318)

WARNING – Review contains spoilers. (See also the previous Tor Cyan review – https://britcitreviews.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/tor-cyan-world-of-hurt/ )

The final Tor Cyan strip really is the big one. This is the one with all the answers to Tor Cyan’s past, and I must admit they took me by suprise. Obviously before reading it was pretty obvious that Cyan was a G.I. from Nu-Earth, but exactly which G.I. I did not see coming. The big reveal is that Tor Cyan is essentially a reincarnation of Rogue Trooper.

After Rogue’s death his body is discovered and his Bio-chip removed, at some later point Tor Cyan’s body is grown and implanted with the chip. This really took me by suprise and was absolutly gripping to read. Considering how poor the Cyan strips were at first, “No Such Place” (along with the previous two strips “Rahab” and “Phage”) really raised the bar, and after reading “No Such Place” i’m actually sad its all over. Its not just the story that improves but also the art, (by Jock) which is superior to the earlier Cyan strips.

If Tor Cyan’s entire run had been like his last three strips, then they would be fondly remembered I’m sure. As it is, its a real shame that they didn’t come good untill the very end.

8/10

The Strontium Dog audios from Big Finish are, sadly, something of a forgotten gem. Selling far more poorly than the Dredd audios, only two were ever made (with Johnny Alpha making a further appearance alongside Dredd in a later release). To this day though, the quality of these two audios is frequently praised and quite rightly so.

Fire From Heaven by Jonathan Clements, sees Johnny, Wulf, and the gang, in pursuit of a conman who is masquerading as a high priest. Landing on a nearby University planet the S/D agents have to mingle with the student population in order to discover his where abouts. As you would expect theres a lot of humour to be had here, particularly from Middenface McNulty, who lets just say isn’t exactly the most learned of people. His reactions to everyones patronising attitude towards him always raises a smile. The story as a whole is very light hearted, especially when compared to the previous Strontium Dog audio “Down To Earth”. Fortunatly the humour is always funny, so Fire From Heaven stands up to repeat listens.

The performances of the cast are spot on. As with the Dredd audios, whenever I read a Strontium Dog strip now I hear the voices from these audios. Middenface McNulty is particularly spot on, and you really have to buy this if only to hear how a Gronk sounds. Simon Pegg (who Im sure needs no introduction) is thoroughly convincing as Johnny Alpha, while Toby Longworth gives an admirable performance as Wulf Sternhammer (who must surely have been the most difficult part to cast).

Unfortunatly the chances of there being any more Strontium Dog audios are pretty much nil, so I recommend you pick up Fire From Heaven, as well as Down To Earth, as soon as possible.  If you want to pick them up now then they are both available as part of a bundle of four 2000AD audios from Big Finish, for just £7. At that price you really have no excuse not to get them.

8/10

Link to purchase: http://www.bigfinish.com//SPECIAL-OFFER-2000-AD-4-Single-CD-Special

The 86ers

(WARNING – Review contains spoilers)

Im amazed there haven’t been more spin offs from Rogue Trooper. The war on Nu-Earth is very much a blank canvas in that, we don’t know how it started, how it will end, or to be honest much of what happens that doesn’t involve Rogue. So when I heard that there was to be a spin off set in space, but still part of the Nu-Earth war, I was pretty excited. Unlike many others, I wasn’t disapointed.

Set aboard the Souther station called The Citadel, The 86ers is a classic space opera type strip. You can expect lots of battles in space, and lots of space crafts, against the backdrop of an asteroid belt and a Gas Giant. We’re introduced to the The 86ers through new recruit (and female G.I.) Rafe, which was a great idea as it allows the reader to be introduced to the many characters aboard The Citadel through her eyes. After the first strip though the focus is taken away from Rafe, and becomes more about the crew of The Citadel, and their ongoing battles with the Norts. The crew are a really interesting bunch, especially the squad of Norts who have joined the Southers, after betraying their own clan. The other characters are a cynical (but memorable) bunch, just trying to survive against the odds in a (seemingly) never ending war.

There is a story arc running right the way through this trade, although its not always entirely clear what it is. It would appear that the Southers have discovered an extremely powerful race of aliens, who were long thought dead. I say appears as we never actually get to see the aliens, apart from one which is in stasis so doesn’t actually do anything. While that is frustrating, it does lend the aliens a real sense of mystery, and when it comes down to a desperate attempt to stop them from being awoken, the reader believes that they really are all powerful and should never be disturbed. All of this is a nice change from the usual “G.I. battles Norts on Nu-Earth”, that we’ve come to expect from anything associated with Rogue Trooper.

The art is nice throughout, and is exactly the sort of clear, crisp art that suits storys set in space. It must be great fun for an artist to get to draw a strip like The 86ers, especially the huge battle scenes which occur throughout, and I did get a sense while reading that the atrists were having a blast. There is however a change of artist two parts into the first strip, which is both jarring and immediatly obvious.

I can’t work out why The 86ers isn’t more popular than it is. Im a huge fan of these space opera type storys, so I guess I was always going to like it, but I can’t find anything wrong with it. Theres a really clever and complex story running though out the strips, which puts The 86ers way above your generic battles in space type story. The only fault I can find is that the ending is a bit open, and seems to be the set up for a sequel, which sadly has yet to materialise. If your a fan of well written space opera, or you want to learn more about the war from the Rogue Trooper strips, then I can highely recommend The 86ers.

9/10

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