Sunday, 31 March 2013

An Interview With Rachael Smith, Creator of Flimsy and Writer / Illustrator of The Way We Write

Today Curiosity of a Social Misfit welcome the talented artist Rachael Smith in to our midst for a chat about her new comic book 'The Way We Write' and her art.

PC: What made you want to become an artist?

RS: Well, growing up it was pretty much all I ever wanted to do. I’ve been drawing all the time since I was old enough to hold a pencil. All my folks even had to give me to keep me quiet was a ream of a4 paper and some felt tips. Then I did art at college and uni and loved it. There was a couple of years where I attempted to get a ‘grown-up’ job. I worked in a couple galleries in London, but in London you never really have much time to do any ‘hobbies’ when you’re working full time. I realised I was pretty miserable not making any drawings, so I stopped, came back to Leicester and started again. Now I still have an office ‘day job’, but hopefully in the next couple of years I’ll be able to stop and just do illustration stuff. I still make sure that I draw every single day.

PC: Do you have any strange quirks or traditions while you're working?

RS: Hm, I go through phases of needing complete silence or needing to have the telly on. I think I adapted to working through various noises as I’ve always shared houses with other people. I quite like having ‘Come Dine With Me’ on in the background! I often have to work with my cat on my knee as well.

Flimsy, one of Rachael Smith's Most Popular Creations

PC: You have quite a distinctive art style but how would you describe your work to someone who may not be familiar with it?

RS: In the comics world I get compared to John Allison and Marc Ellerby quite a lot. I suppose to someone not familiar with those guys my work could be described as very colourful and silly. Richard Bruton, of Forbidden Planet International describes my style as: ‘absolutely completely fun, wonderfully vibrant, full of joy, funny, and fresh’.

PC: You're best known for your feline creation Flimsy.  What inspired you in to creating such a popular character?

RS: Aw good old Flimsy! She’s been with me for a long time; I first started drawing her in 2004, when I was at uni. I pretty much started drawing Flimsy when I was in boring art history lectures, then a couple of fellow students saw her and asked about her, they seemed to really like her. Back then I just called her ‘Scribble Cat’. I can’t really remember when she became ‘Flimsy’, but I do remember making her blue for a video I made of her (http://vimeo.com/2601359) I think I made her blue because she’s always slightly downtrodden, and I knew she was different and shouldn’t be the colour of a ‘normal’ cat. These days Flimsy is still going, she has her own question and answer tumblr here: http://askflimsy.tumblr.com/, where Flimsy answers questions from fans.


An Excerpt from 'One Good Thing'

PC: As well as Flimsy, you have created a diary set out like a comic book.  What made you decide on such a project?

RS: A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression; it’s something I’ve struggled with for a long old time. At about the same time as the diagnosis I discovered ‘Emitown’ which is a really beautiful diary comic by illustrator Emi Lenox. I thought I could do something similar, but with a positive spin. So I started ‘One Good Thing’ (http://rachaelsonegoodthing.blogspot.co.uk/) which was based on me finding something good in each day and drawing it. I thought it would help me to think more positively and look for nice things rather than picking out the negative ones. It’s working OK so far! The nicest thing is though, because I’m so honest about my illness on the blog, I get the occasional email or message from readers that suffer from similar feelings that thank me for putting my stuff out there and making them feel less alone. Whenever I feel scared about posting something because it’s a bit personal, I think of all the people I could be helping and that helps me click ‘publish’.


PC: You've recently illustrated a comic called 'The Way We Write' featuring members of the band 'Her Name is Calla'.  How did that collaboration come about?

RS: Well, I’m good friends with the band and happen to be dating one of the members, Adam. One day Adam told me that him, Sophie and Tom were going on a writers retreat to Whitby. I did a little bit of reading about the place and it sounded really interesting. Especially all the tales of it being haunted! That sort of planted a seed and I came up with the story for ‘The Way We Write’. After getting the band’s permission to go ahead (they were all pretty excited about it) I started drawing it. It was fun having people to bounce ideas off and to show each page to as I finished them.


The Cover For Another Rachael Smith Release 'I Am Fire'

PC: After the great critical response to 'The Way We Write', what other projects do your fans have to look forward to?

RS: Oh gosh, yeah, ‘The Way We Write’ got SUCH a good response from critics; I was so touched and humbled. So for my ‘difficult second comic’ I’m very nervous! I’ve worked quite hard on writing my next one though. It’s called ‘I Am Fire’, and is about made-up characters rather than characters based on real life people. The other comics project I’ve got to work on at the moment is ‘Cooking with Annie and Oxford’, which will be a series of recipe books in comic form. The Forbidden Planet International blog did a nice preview of them here: http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2013/comics-more-rachael-smith/


PC: You have an exhibition coming up soon with a team of other artists.  What can you tell us about your art that has been entered in to that?

RS: The four pieces I’ve submitted for that exhibition are all based around bad choices that young women make. I find it difficult to talk about them as I didn’t really think much when I was drawing them, they just sort of…came out. I quite like that though as it makes them kind of more ‘ghostly’?

One of Rachael Smith's Entries For The 'Ghosts' Exhibition April 6th 2013, Leicester



PC: So what's next for Rachael Smith?

RS: Well, hopefully releasing ‘I Am Fire’ and the first ‘Cooking with Annie and Oxford’ comics over the next few months. I’m working on putting together a ‘Best of Ask Flimsy’ book for the last years’ worth of questions too. I’m doing a couple of comic conventions this year too, I’m at London Expo from the 24th-26th May, and Thought Bubble from the 23rd- 24th November.

A Forthcoming Release From Rachael Smith

PC: Thank you very much for joining us here today, it's been a pleasure.
RS: You’re welcome.

For more information about this talented artist, please check out these links.

Main website: www.rachaelsmith.org
‘One Good Thing’ Diary blog: www.rachaelsonegoodthing.blogspot.co.uk/
‘Ask Flimsy’ Tumblr: www.askflimsy.tumblr.com/
Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/FlimsyKitten
Link to buy ‘The Way We Write’: http://hernameiscalla.bandcamp.com/merch/the-way-we-write-a-comic
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rachaelsmithillustration
 Twitter: https://twitter.com/rachael_

Star Trek: The Animated Series DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Based on 'Star Trek' Created By Gene Roddenberry

Directed By Hal Sutherland and Bill Reed

Genre
Animated, Science Fiction, Adventure

Cast

William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott / Lieutenant Arex
Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura
George Takei as Lieutenant Sulu
Majel Barrett as Christine Chapel / Lieutenant M'Ress
DeForest Kelley as Dr. 'Bones' McCoy

Certificate U

Synopsis

This is the further adventures of the Star Trek series in a half-hour animated form. This show continues the adventures of the original series, but takes advantage of the unlimited special effects provided by animation to introduce more alien crewmen (the felinoid M'Ress and the tripedal Arex) as well as introduce more elaborate adventures like an underwater adventure, the miniaturisation of the crew to 1 cm., and the appearance of a giant fire-breathing two-headed dragon. The animated series includes the beloved characters in new adventures...with all characters voiced by their original actors.

Features all 22 episodes pristinely remastered.

Special Features
  • None

Review

'Star Trek' in all it's forms are rightfully thought of as being classics of the science fiction genre.  The characters have done down in science fiction lore thanks to characters such as James T. Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy and others from the original series as well as the myriad of characters from the other incarnations.

This, the complete animated series, is often thought of as the fourth series of the original series, featuring nearly all of the cast from the show.  Sadly, Chekov is not included here due to budget issues but he's not forgotten.  Walter Koenig, who played Chekov, wrote the episode 'The Infinite Vulcan', becoming the first 'Star Trek' cast member to ever write a 'Star Trek' story.

The animation is very similar to the style used in the older 'Scooby Doo' cartoons but don't let that put you off however.  Here that style works brilliantly well.  In fact, the series being animated gave the writers and animators a lot more leeway with their stories than they would have had with the live action series.  The gadgets are more impressive, the stories are even given more of a science fiction edge by being able to place the action pretty much anywhere.

Also for you 'Star Trek' trivia fans, this is the series that revealed James T. Kirk's middle name to be Tiberius.  The name then went on to be used in later live action productions.

Story wise, there are some absolutely brilliant stories here.  A lot of the background information about the characters here have gone down in 'Star Trek' lore and many of the episodes have gone on to be referenced in later series as well, especially in the 'Deep Space 9' series itself.

Other than the lack of special features, which is a real shame considering how interesting this series is, but when the episodes are this good, you kind of forget about little things like that.

One of the things that really impressed me was the transfer for the sound and the picture.  Both are clear as crystal, which considering the age of the series is testament to just how good a job they did here.

If you are a 'Star Trek' fan then it is well worth picking up.  The stories are fun and exciting, new characters are introduced, old characters are brought back and even new back stories are created for some of the characters that are even now, still being used by 'Star Trek' writers.

A superb set.

Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features N/A
Overall 12/15

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Zombie of the Month: Part 1 Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Erick Kwicien and Don Kunkel
Art By Don Kunkel
Cover By Charles Paul Wilson III

Genre
Horror, Comedy

Synopsis

In a world where zombies have adapted human-like attributes, follow Roy, an alcoholic zombie with a deep seeded hatred for authority. Join Roy and his morbidly obese vegan human friend Zach, in their quest to pay the rent. 

This 48pg on-going underground zombie-comedy includes the original ZOTM strip, Roy's origin, and Roy fights for his after life Part 1 and more...

Review

Zombies.  I've always had a bit of a soft spot for them in their various incarnations and forms.

Recently thanks to movies like 'Fido', 'Shaun of the Dead' and the such, the zombie comedy genre has absolutely exploded and this one fits in there brilliantly.

The writing here comes across as many different styles.  You have the 'best friends' style comedy of 'Shaun of the Dead', some slapstick comedy as well as moments of pure satirical goodness that had me in tears of laughter on more than one moment.

At the same time as being very funny, the story itself has some good characters in it.  They're written in such a way that they really do come across as best friends.  They mock each other, get in to scrapes with one another.  In fact, the fact that one is a zombie is pretty treated as not all that important.  It's a bit like it's the characters quirk.

The artwork is simple but effectively done here and really adds another layer to the story itself.but it's the covers that really stand out the most thanks to the work by Charles Paul Wilson III.

All in all, this is a really good release and a good addition to the zombie comedy genre in general.  Is it a world beating title?  No.  But it is a very funny and very enjoyable one that is well worth picking up.

Story 4/5
Art 4/5
Overall 8/10

Wreck-It Ralph Cinema Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Jim Reardon, Jennifer Lee, John C. Reilly, Sam J. Levine and Jared Stern
Directed By Rich Moore

Genre
Animated, Comedy, Adventure

Cast

John C. Reilly as Ralph
Sarah Silverman as Vanellope
Jack McBrayer as Felix
Jane Lynch as Calhoun
Alan Tudyk as King Candy
Ed O'Neil as Mr. Litwak
Dennis Haysbert as General Hologram

Certificate PG

Synopsis

A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

Review

I have to admit that I put off of watching this movie for a while because of the sheer amount of hype that surrounded it but you know what?  It was worth every single bit of that hype.

This animated tale of a video game villain wanting to be a hero instead is superb in it's simplicity but what really makes it fly off the screen are the performances and the little touches put in by the creators.

Take John C. Reilly for example.  He has long been one of my favourite actors and this performance definitely shows why.  He gives a wonderfully layered performance as Ralph, giving him a heart and soul to such a degree that he feels like a living, breathing person.  Reilly also manages to make him so sympathetic that you can't help but get behind Ralph's quest to better himself.

There are some absolutely fantastic cast members in this film.  Sarah Silverman is superb as a character named Vanellope, who despite being a glitch in the game just wants to race her cart in the racing game she inhabits.  Her childish humour and personality is well suited to Silverman's style of comedy and she absolutely knocks the character off the page.

Another great cast member is Alan Tudyk, who readers will remember as Wash in 'Firefly' and 'Serenity' as well as his superb performance in 'Dale and Tucker Vs Evil', who plays King Candy.  He truly gives a wonderfully maniacal performance and gives a massive level of smarmy menace.

Another thing I really liked about this movie is the fantastic animation.  Each computer game character is animated differently.  If the game is from the 80's, the character looks and moves as if from one of those games.  If the character has jerky movements in the game that he inhabits, the animation recreates that perfectly.  In fact, the computer game characters here are one of the best things about the game.  The creators mix real characters like Zangief and Bison from the 'Street Fighter' games and Dr Robotnik from the 'Sonic' game amongst others.  I won't spoil them for you but keep your eyes out for some superb cameo appearances.

All in all, I thought this movie was, for once, definitely worth the hype that surrounded it.  Both I loved the movie and laughed my butt off all the way through as well as my 3 year old son, who absolutely loved it and was glued to the screen the entire way through.

Movie 4.5/5


"I  like Felix.  He my favourite."

Popeye the Sailor Man: Volume 1 - Assault and Flattery DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Made By Fleischer Studios Based on the Comic Strips By Elzie Crisler Segar

Genre
Animated, Comedy

Cast

Jack Mercer as Popeye the Sailor
Mae Questel as Olive Oyl
Gus Wickie and Jackson Beck as Bluto

Certificate E

Synopsis

These classic children's cartoons from yesteryear feature the original cartoon heroes that have thrilled generations of cinema audiences from the black and white era to the glories of colour.

Now remastered for DVD, these great characters have been given a new lease of life and will inspire children of all ages.

Collected in this collection are
  • Assault and Flattery
  • Out to Punch
  • Patriotic Popeye
  • Floor Flusher
  • I'm in the Army Now
  • Me Musical Nephews
  • Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves
  • Popeye's 20th Anniversary
  • Shuteye Popeye
  • Taxi-Turvey

Special Features
  • None


Review

Popeye the Sailor Man is a legendary character that started life as a comic book strip and then was turned in to a legendary series of cartoons by the Fleischer Studios.

Here is a collection of some of those cartoons in all their glory.

The best of these is by far the cartoon 'Me Musical Nephews', which for the fans out there is one of the perfect examples of why Popeye became so incredibly popular.

The humor here is major league but old fashioned slapstick and works in spades.  The best way to describe the comedy would be to compare to the old 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons that we all grew up loving and laughing at.

Animation wise, it is crude in places but definitely classic at the same time.  The black and white cartoons in this set are beautiful and the color ones are bright, cheerful and very easy on the eye.

The transfer picture wise is a little ragged around the edges but that's mainly due to the sheer age of the film used here and in all honesty, I think they did a pretty good job.  It could have been clearer in places but that's a minor quibble.

It's the same with the sound.  It's a good transfer sound wise and works really well.  There's some crackling in the background but you get that with pretty much any release of this age.

All in all, this is a great release and a superb introduction to the world of Popeye.

Movie 4/5
Picture 3/5
Sound 3/5
Special Features N/A
Overall 10/15

In Dream World: Volume 2 - Aloft in a Dream Graphic Novel Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Jae-Ho Yoon
Art By Jae-Ho Yoon
Cover By Jae-Ho Yoon

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Manga

Synopsis

The quest to find a way home continues for the In Dream World voyagers. Hanee, Bunny Girl and Drake journey in a mighty airship, where a stowaway named Mei joins them. 

Mei can harness special powers from a magical tree, which proves invaluable in the battle against the Nightmares. But what are the Nightmares really after? And what is hidden in Rosemary's past? 

Truths are revealed and secrets are exposed in this magical volume of 'In Dream World' by Jae-Ho Yoon.

Review

As a bit a late comer to the Manga world, I've been snapping up titles left, right and center in these last couple of years.  This one had a great reputation as being an exciting and fantastical tale with some really solid and well written characters but is that what I got here?

Well, yes and no.

The story itself is indeed a fantastical and magical tale with a hell of a lot of twists and turns in the story itself.  In fact, there seems to be a couple of stories all running alongside each other.  My favourite of these is the tale involving the character named Drake, who seems to have a really mysterious past and none of the characters seem to know all that much about him.  I did like how a couple of parts were revealed here and there about him in this volume as well as some things about the other characters.  Some of the reveals were quite big and weren't what I was expecting at all but others seemed to fall a little flat but then again, not all of them can be winners.

Characters wise, we're only in to volume two so there's still a bit of development going on but that doesn't get in to the way of the good story.  In fact, Jae-Ho Yoon really knows how to spin a good yarn as the saying goes.

Art wise, it's solid but I had a couple of problems keeping up with what was going on, especially in the battle scenes as there seemed to be too much going on at the same time to be able to keep track of what each character was going.  One of the things that really bugged me was there would be randomly placed panels showing somebodies butt.  A lot of these just happened in the battle scenes too.  What on Earth does that have to do with the story or the battle itself?  I found that really distracting and even though the art is solid, I marked it down because of that.

While the story is fine and exciting with a fantastical edge, the art work and the random placings of panels with peoples butts really let it down.  Also some of the panels were so cluttered that I couldn't work out who was where and what was happening to them.

An OK addition to a Manga collection but not one that I would call essential.

Story 3.5/5
Art 3/5
Overall 6.5/10

 

Friday, 29 March 2013

Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Zack Snyder and Alex Tse based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore
Directed By Mike Smith and Daniel DelPurgatorio

Genre
Animated, Action

Cast

Gerald Butler as The Sea Captain
Cam Clarke as Money Lender
Siobhan Flynn as Sea Captain's Daughter
Jared Harris as Ridley

Certificate 15

Synopsis

The story within a story of Watchmen, Tales Of The Black Freighter is a gruesome 25 minute manga-style CG animated pirate story, following the lone survivor of an attacked vessel (Gerard Butler) and his desperate journey to safely return home.

Based on the comic book within the Watchmen universe, it is an example of post-modern Metafiction and a comic-within-a-comic that also serves as a foil for the main plot.

Special Features
  • Under the Hood (36 minutes) - A live action pseudo-documentary look at the first Night Owl's autobiography, detailing the establishment and disbandment of the group of superheroes known as THE WATCHMEN. It features Watchmen characters getting interviewed in TV news-magazine style.
  • Watchmen Comic Episode: Chapter 1 (25 minutes)
  • 'Story within a Story' featurette (25 minutes) - The books of the Watchmen, An insight look of TBF and Under the Hood Story theme, How TBF and Under the Hood evolved as part of the story within a story of the Watchmen.
  • A First Look at the Green Lantern (10 minutes)

Review

As a massive fan of the 'Watchmen' movie and of the graphic novel as well, I was quite disappointed that nothing had been made with the dark, brooding storyline based around the black freighter.

That's when I found this release and it was worth every single minute.

The dark, brooding and psychological tale the bridged the various parts of the graphic novel are now here in all their glory.  Animation wise, this is absolutely superb and even though it's violent and gore filled, it still manages to be insanely beautiful at the same time so kudos to the animators.

Also the writing keeps this tale as true to the one originally written by Alan Moore as possible and it's all the better for it.  The psychological aspect is well written and the descent in to madness incredibly well done.  A lot of that is down to Gerald Butler's great portrayal and voice work as The Sea Captain.

Special features wise, there is a hell of a lot for 'Watchmen' fans to be excited about.  The best of these by far is the feature named 'Under the Hood' that tells a straight story behind how the hooded adventurers came in to existence.  There are so many small details and little surprises that there really is something for all the 'Watchmen' fans out there.  The rest of the special features are very interesting and full of so many behind the scenes moments that the inner geek inside me practically jumped up and down with excitement.

For a 'Watchmen' fan, this is a fantastically essential purchase and full of little gems that both surprise and entertain.  Could you want anymore?

Movie 4/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 4.5/5
Overall 17/20

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Based on the 'Watchmen' series of comic books by Alan Moore and David Gibbons

Genre
Animated, Superhero, Action, Thriller

Cast

All Characters Voiced By Tom Stechschulte

Certificate 15

Synopsis

Watched any great books lately? Now you can. The most celebrated graphic novel of all time that broke the conventional mold continues to break new ground.

Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons oversees this digital version of the graphic novel that adds limited motion, voice and sound to the books strikingly drawn panels.

All 12 chapters of the story are here nearly 5 hours spanning everything from the mysterious demise of the Comedian to the crisscrossed destinies of loosely allied superheroes to their fateful impact on the world. Be in the know. Be watching. With Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic.

Special Features
  • A Sneak Peek at DC Universe's Animated Wonder Woman DVD


Review

'The Watchmen' comic book series and graphic novel is rightfully known as being one of the best in the history of comic books.  Both subversive and bitingly satirical while packed with slow burning twists and turns, Alan Moore and David Gibbons really crafted an absolute comic book masterpiece.

Here, Warner Brothers have put together the complete comic book series, added some limited motion and effects as well as voice acting to create a living breathing motion comic book but does it work?

Yes indeed it does.

This release has been put together as if by a fan of the series itself.  No stone is left unturned story wise and the characters are all exactly how they would be in the comic book.  In fact, it's almost as if you are reading the stories yourself only with the added extra of the animation.

There are some great touches here such as the small details such as the rain hitting the windows, cigarette smoke and the such that all add to the general atmosphere of the story itself.

The one major thing that was changed from the comic books are how the panels are positioned.  In the comic books and the graphic novel, they were set out in an unconventional way but here, that's completely lost in this release but that doesn't affect the story however.

All of the characters here are voiced by one person, an actor named Tom Stechschulte.  His deep voiced performance does become slightly jarring at first but the further in to the story you get, the more you get used to it.

The art / animated seems crude at first but it's completely in keeping with the now classic art work in the original comic books and graphic novel.

Weirdly Alan Moore's name seems very conspicuous by it's absence from this release.  However, the additional bits of art were done by Gibbon's himself so at least there is that.

While a good release and one that is very faithful to the original, it's also a bit of a redundant one.  If you have the graphic novel or even the movie itself, then you don't really need to get this.  At the same time, it is very well made so maybe one for the fans out there that just have to have every facet of the 'Watchmen' universe.

Movie 4/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 2/5
Overall 15/20

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Destiny of Dragons: Book One - The Book of Wrath by Billie-Jo Williams

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Billie-Jo Williams

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure

Synopsis

Damned by greedy Emperor Azmyth and his weak heir, Prince Len, the Imperial Capital of Ay is winked out in one terrible moment by the mysterious Dark Destruction. Ill prepared for the rigours of leadership, Prince Len leans upon Kai Canarbis, his Personal Protector, but as Kai spirits the unworthy Imperial Heirs through the disintegrating Empire, in search of sanctuary and support, they have to endure the karma of the Vallely dynasty’s crimes.

Caught in arrogant, naive Len’s web, Kai seeks to disentangle his master out of an impending sticky mess, his only reward being his blossoming romance with Princess Anna. However, having been badly wounded by the herald of the Dark Destruction, even the incredibly accomplished Kai falls victim to circumstance.

A desperate, but doomed quest to save the Empire leads across land, sea and ice, into Enemy-occupied territory, but as the unfathomable Dark Destruction continues to ravage the realm, there may not be an Empire remaining for anyone to claim…

Review

I'm always dubious when I pick up a new fantasy book because, just recently, they all seem to be cliched and unimaginative, which for a book in the fantasy genre is idiotic at best.

That is most definitely not the case here.

Billie-Jo Williams is a writer with a massively imaginative mind and, here, has created a rich and varied world so full of life that it's hard to realise that the places here don't actually exist.  It's the same with the characters, they are so well written that they honestly feel like real people and that you, the reader, are just watching them go about their lives albeit in a fantastical realm.

One of the things that struck me the most about Williams' writing is how original her style is.  There's a darkly cynical feel to her writing that sometimes gives way to being quite nihilistic in places.  That's not to say that the book isn't enjoyable, it really is.  It's just that the dark, cynical edge to it makes it incredibly unique in a genre so used to just coasting along and banging out the same old cliches over and over again.  While dark, the story itself has two things bubbling under the surface.  One is a feeling of dread, like a massive world changing event is about to happen but there is nothing that anyone can do about it.  Yet the other thing is that somehow, through it all, there seems to be a feeling of hope running alongside it.  Not many writers can juggle that sort of string throughout their story but Williams' does it with the skill and slight of a hand of a old veteran of the fantasy scene.

Character wise, this book stands head and shoulders above the plethora of fantasy books that are so readily available thanks to the world of electronic publishing opening up avenues for new and old writers.  The characters here feel like they are right in front of you and living and breathing.  I also liked the near complete lack of cliches here as well.  Yes there is a prince in the story and yes he is to inherit the kingdom.  Is he the perfect hero who'll save us all?  Hell no.  He is a completely selfless and quite frankly useless alcoholic who, one more than one moment, barely escapes with his head attached to his shoulders.  I really liked that  for once the prince wasn't a handsome, dashing, do everything right kind of a guy.

The best character by far however is Kai Carnabis, charged with basically protecting the ruler and his family, yet there is much more to the character than that.  I don't really want to go in to too much detail as there are tons of twists and turns that really surprised me, as a reader, and I don't want to spoil it for any of you guys and girls out there.  That said, there is one problem with Carnabis.  Williams' spends too much time saying how good this guy  is when I think it would have been a little more affective if there had been a bit more mystery to the character and his abilities.

One of the complaints I've read about this book is that the author spends too much time describing things and not showing them.  I actually liked that approach and I don't think that she has done that half as much as people have made out.  If a fantasy book is battle after battle after battle then I get bored in all honesty.  I want time for the characters to develop.  If they have a history or a past, you don't need to show them in the battles or fights that have made them in to who they are.  Sometimes just a nod to the past is enough if done well and Williams' has most definitely done that well here.  Very well in fact.

All in all, if you are a fantasy fan then I think you honestly will like it.  She has a bit of a Mercedes Lackey feel to her writing only it's a bit more bitter and cynical.  The worlds here are fantastical and well thought out and the characters are well rounded and exciting.  What more could you want from a fantasy novel?

Bring on book two!

Story 4/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 4.5/5
Overall 12.5/15

Transylvania 6-5000 DVD Review

Review By Dean Calcutt

Written and Directed By Rudy De Luca

Genre
Comedy, Horror

Cast

Jeff Goldman as Jack Harrison
Ed Begley Jr. as Gil Turner
Joseph Bologna as Dr. Malavaqua
Jeffrey Jones as Lepescu
Carol Kane as Lupi
Geena Davis as Odette
Michael Richards as Fejos

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Tabloid reporters Jack Harrison (Jeff Goldblum) and Gil Turner (Ed Begley, Jr.) are sent to Transylvania with two choices: find the Frankenstein monster or find new jobs. But before the jumpy journalists can dig up their big story, they must first face the horrors of an extremely clumsy butler (Michael Richards), a nymphomaniac vampire (Geena Davis) and a semi-mad doctor (Joseph Bologna), as well as assorted mummies, werewolves and more Transylvanian oddballs. Can these two bumbling heroes unravel this monstrous mystery or are they in for some very scary surprises?

John Byner, Carol Kane, Jeffrey Jones and Norman Fell co-star in this hilarious horror spoof written and directed by Rudy DeLuca (co-writer of Caveman and High Anxiety). For laughs, screams and a good time, call Transylvania 6-5000!

Special Features
  • Audio Commentary By Writer / Director Rudy De Luca and Visual Consultant Steven Haberman
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots

Review

In 1985 Dow Chemical company had funds in Yugoslavia, but Yugoslav law prevented them from taking those funds out of the country, bit of a problem, the solution? Finance a movie!

This is the result.

It's great, one of my favourite films of all time, not much plot really but I like that in a film sometimes.

Basically Begley and Goldblum play reporters on an American red top paper who think that Frankenstein's monster is alive in Transylvania, their editor sends them to investigate and what follows is a lovely little slapstick type of film with several funny characters performing set pieces with a paper thin linking story, but that doesn't matter this film is great, hunt it down you won't regret it

Oh and Geena Davis in the best vampire outfit ever!!!

Movie 5/5 (Just for Geena Davis's outfit)
Picture 3/5
Sound 3/5
Special Features 3/5
Overall 14/20

 

Crime Traveller: The Complete Series DVD Review


Review By Dean Calcutt

Series Created and Written By Anthony Horowitz

Genre
Science Fiction, Action

Cast

Michael French as Jeff Slade
ChloƩ Annet as Holly Turner
Sue Johnston as DCI Kate Grisham

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Meet the most unconventional investigative duo of any time - Jeff Slade and Holly Turner, in the mystery adventure series Crime Traveller.

Sleuths come and go, working on intuition, luck and clues, but Slade and his science officer colleague Holly are armed with something extra in their fight against crime - their very own Time Machine. High speed chases and intriguing puzzles are solved with the aid of their unreliable Time Machine, in this stylish, fast-paced drama. 

Special Features
  • Cast and Crew Biographies
  • Exclusive Interviews With Series Creator, Anthony Horowitz
  • Episode Synopsis

Review

This 8 episode late 90's BBC show is a must see DVD set, sadly for all the wrong reasons ( I'll explain later)

Jeff Slade is a British cop, a maverick who goes by instinct not rules ( seem familiar? ).
Holly Turner is a forensic scientist who works for the police.

One day Holly sees Jeff is in trouble because his maverick ways have ruined a case, so she tells him about a time machine she has that can send you back in time by varying amounts, but not the forward to the future as it doesn't exist yet (I know what you're thinking, I agree). Using this handy gadget they can then solve the crime before it happens, but there are rules,

You can't meet yourself

You can't change the past

You must be back at machine by the time you left

If you break any of these rules Very Bad Things will happen.

So begins one of the best programmes of the 90's, or it would have been if the budget had been higher than £2.50. You can see a germ of greatness in these episodes but it never grew, problems are sub Dr Who special effects, massive plot holes and some seriously dodgy acting, but I love it.

I won't go into separate episodes but suffice to say you'll enjoy them all.

A fine example of BBC trying to do an American style show on a shoestring budget, it never got a second series as not long after a little show called Jonathan Creek came along, maybe it's time to try again?

If you can find this set get it, you won't regret it .

Movie 4/5
Picture 3/5
Sound 3/5
Special Features 3/5
Overall 13/20

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Web of the City by Harlan Ellison Review

Written By Harlan Ellison

Genre
Crime, Thriller

Synopsis

The definitive edition of Harlan Ellisons first novel, returning to bookstores for the first time in 30 years. A harrowing story of gang violence on the streets of New York partly inspired by Ellisons own real-life experiences going undercover as a gang member in the 1950s.

Also features three thematically related stories the author published in pulp crime magazines in the 1950s.

Review

Originally 'Web of the City' was called 'Rumble' when it was released but when it was renamed, it became both controversial and popular with readers.

Now reappearing in print for the first time in over 30 years, the debut novel by the legendary Harlan Ellison is bound to find many new fans.

The stark and cynical writing style of Ellison is definitely present here.  It's true that it's not the polished, hard hitting style that he came to be known for but the ingredients are all here.

Character wise, it's as if they have stepped out of a movie such as 'Rebel Without A Cause' and really feel alive.  In fact, it's almost as if you are there with the characters themselves watching the events of the novel unfold before your very eyes.

At times a bit heavy handed and lurid, this is a hard hitting and violent novel written by Ellison after he went under cover with a gang in real life to research ideas for a novel.  Those ten weeks of Hell were then turned in to this, at times, brutal novel.

There is a hell of a lot of violence, drug use, sex and rape.  For it's time that was relatively untold of, especially at this level.  However, that doesn't over tint what is essentially a very important book in the crime genre.  In fact, this novel is one of the ones that brought the hard boiled crime genre to people's attention.  I would even go so far as to say it's a highly influential book but I wouldn't recommend it for the easily offended or faint hearted amongst us.

A lot of the story reads as quite biographical due to the nature  in which the writing of it came about but it's the vivid descriptions of the city and how the main character, Rusty, feels about the things going on around him, that really shine through.

While it is true that some parts of the story come across as quite dated, this novel is incredibly compelling, exciting and also addictive in a page turner kind of way.  There is also a quite creepy feel to proceedings as well and that really adds the sense of dread that the reader feels while reading about Rusty's life and surroundings.

Also included in this release are three stories by Ellison from the 1950's that share the same theme, which are all very good.  I also loved the introduction to the book as well.  I love seeing little touches like that as a reader but as a fan, I thought that they were brilliant additions.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the superb cover that really stays in theme with the book itself.  Superb, the cover definitely shows the reader what to expect when they pick up the book.

This book is an absolute classic despite a couple of flaws and I have marked it as such.  It is quite a brutal and lurid story but the writing itself is very well done.  However it does fall in to melodrama a couple of times but that's just done to the simple fact that this was Ellison's debut novel.

Well worth picking  up to see how the legendary Ellison's career started.

Story 4/5
Characters 3.5/5
Recommended 4.5/5
Overall 12/15

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Clone Rebellion: The Clone Republic by Steven L. Kent Review

Written By Steven L. Kent

Genre
Science Fiction, Action

Synopsis

Earth, 2508 a.d. Humans populate the six arms of the Milky Way Galaxy. The oppressive Unified Authority controls Earth’s colonies with an iron fist, stamping out revolt with a powerful military made up almost entirely of expendable, mass-produced clones.

Private First-class Wayson Harris was raised in a Unified Authority orphanage among thousands of clones, bred to be the ultimate soldiers. But unlike the other Marines, programmed to obey first and think later, Harris has a mind of his own. When he fends off an attack from a rogue general, Harris is thrust into the middle of a galactic conflict that forces him to question his existence as a weapon of the U.A., and the cost of rebellion.

Review

As a massive science fiction fan, I've heard some very good things about this series of books.  A massive series of  nine books, Steven L. Kent has attempted to craft an epic tale about power, rebellion and politics.  Has he succeeded?

He most definitely has.

Here, in this the first book of the series, Kent has crafted a well paced, exciting and full of twists and turns that really keep the reader guessing until the very last page.

The intelligent writing manages to mix the politics side of the regime with the sheer balls to the wall action of the action set pieces brilliantly.  I would have thought that trying to mix the two would have ended up with quite a disjointed story but not here.  In fact, each part of the story is connected superbly.  However it's in the details that Kent shines.  Every little thing, no matter how unimportant they seem at the time, all add to the bigger picture of corruption, absolute power and war.

While not all parts are 100% successful, there were a couple twists and turns that seemed a little cliched when compared to the rest but that's a minor flaw.  Besides, not all twists and turns can be 100% shocking or have the 'wow' factor.

Characters wise, there are a couple here that could have done with a little bit more background or been given a little bit more detail but for the most part the characters are really well done.  Kent's style really works with his characters.  In lesser hands a couple of characters could have been really cliched, like the clone who hates clones or the superior who's a hard ass but shows a kind side, but with Kent's style over comes that and you end up really caring about what happens to them.

So, while this book isn't the perfect science fiction story, this is most definitely a great start to the series and I'm eager to start reading the 2nd one in the series to see what ends get tied up and see what happens after the shocking revelations that were revealed here.

Well worth picking up.

Story 3.5/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 4/5
Overall 11.5/15

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Riding the Bullet DVD Review

Written By Mick Garris based on the novella By Stephen King
Directed By Mick Garris

Genre
Horror

Cast

Jonathan Jackson as Alan Parker
David Arquette as George Staub
Cliff Robertson as Farmer
Barbara Hershey as Jean Parker
Erika Christensen as Jessica Hadley
Barry Levy as Julian Parker

Certificate 15

Synopsis

Alan embarks on a 100-mile hitchhike to see his mother in hospital. Along the way he must confront his many demons - both living and dead - and in the end make the ultimate choice that will mean life or death for him and his mother!

Special Features
  • Director's Commntary
  • Shooting The Bullet Featurette

Review

Tobe Hooper, the legendary director of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', described this as the best Stephen King movie ever.

He was very wrong. That or he was watching a completely different movie to the one that I have just had the displeasure of sitting through.

After an accidental suicide attempt, Alan discovers that his mother has had a stroke and is therefore in hospital. After deciding to hitchike to see her, he sees lots of ghosts and personal demons on the way.

A relatively simple novella by the king of horror Stephen King has been adaptated by Mick Garris. Garris is famous for have done many King adaptations in the past with varying degrees of success.

This is definitely not one of his successful ones and in all honesty, I would class it as his worse by far.

The story itself is incredibly badly presented here and therefore a lot of the things that happen to Alan make little to no sense. A lot of them even go completely unexplained, which then leaves the viewer wondering what the hell has just happened.

The characters don't really seem to do a whole lot other than make really bad 60's references seeing as this is set in that decade. Pretty much every 60's cliche is used.

The only two highpoints in the movie, and considering the sheer majority of low points in this movie the fact that there are any at all is amazing, are the performances by Jonathan Jackson and an remarkably creepy performance by David Arquette. Other than that, the rest of the cast seem to be going through the motions, including the normally brilliant Barbara Hershey.

The special features, including the commentary, are nearly as dull and disjointed as the movie itself. I had to turn the commentary off after about half an hour as I find it mind numbingly dull. That's why I have given it the lowest score, which is normally reserved for movies with no special features at all.

I would definitely avoid this absolute pile of dross and watch the many, much better Stephen King adaptations out there and leave this one on the rental shelf to gather dust.

Movie 2/5
Picture 3/5
Sound 3/5
Special Features 1.5/5
Overall 9.5/20

Tarzan the Fearless DVD Review

Written By Edgar Rice Burroughs with Continuity By Basil Dickey and George H. Plympton and Dialogue Editing By Walter Anthony
Directed By Robert F. Hill

Genre
Adventure, Action

Cast

Buster Crabbe as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
Julie Bishop as  Mary Brooks (Credited as Jacqueline Wells)
E. Alyn Warren as Dr Brooks
Edward Woods as Bob Hall (Credited as Eddie Woods)
Philo McCullough as Jeff Herbert
Matthew Betz as Nick Moran
Frank Lackteen as Abdul the Aide to the High Priest
Mischa Auer as Eltar the High Priest of Zar
Carlotta Monti as Madi the Priestess of Zar
Ivory Williams as Unga

Synopsis

In the African Jungle, a group of Europeans come across the fabled white man who was raised by apes. Tarzan takes an immediate liking to the blond Mary Brooks and rescues her during a nasty storm.

Not everyone in the party sees Tarzan as a friend and one of the safari guides, Jeff Herbert, has a written offer of £10,000 for anyone who can confirm that the ape man is dead.

Mary's father disappears however, taken prisoner by those who guard the treasure of Zar.

It's left to Tarzan to rescue him and the others who have been taken prisoner.

Special Features
  • None

Review

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the old black and white serials from the 1930's onwards and even now I'm past 30 years old, that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.

This feature length movie is basically cobbled together using the first four chapters of a Tarzan serial.

To be honest, that makes the story quite disjointed in places and hard to follow in others yet it is still a hell of a lot of fun to watch.  Coupled together with Buster Crabbe's portrayal of Tarzan, that makes for a good, but not great, addition to classic movie fans collections.

Buster Crabbe, also famous for his role as Flash in the 'Flash Gordon' serials, is definitely one of the best versions of Tarzan to ever grace the screen.  His agility and poise  all while looking like someone that could legit wrestle animals.  While it's true he doesn't have the trademark Tarzan yell, his physical performance more than makes up for it.

The rest of the cast, while not memorable, aren't terrible either.  Mischa Auer however seems to be trying to channel Boris Karloff with his performance for some reason.

All in all, while the transfer isn't great, that's down to the sheer age of the movie itself so I've tried to be quite fair with the mark.  It's the same with the special features.  There never are any special features with the serial releases so I've not included it in the final score,

Even with no special features and a good but not great transfer, this is still well worth picking up.  Considering you can get this one for next to nothing and it has a great performance by Buster Crabbe as Tarzan, it's most definitely worth adding to your collection.

Movie 3.5/5
Picture 3.5/5
Sound 3.5/5
Special Features 0/5
Overall 10.5/15

The Muppet Movie DVD Review

Written By Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl
Directed By James Frawley

Genre
Family, Comedy, Musical

Cast

Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Dr Teeth, Waldorf, Doc Hopper's Men, Link Hogthrob and Swedish Chef
Frank Oz as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Doc Hopper's Men, Marvin Suggs, Swedish Chef, Motorcycle Guy
Jerry Nelson as Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, Camilla, Dr Bunsen Honeydew
Richard Hunt as Scooter, Statler, Janice, Sweetums, Beaker
Dave Goelz as The Great Gonzo, Zoot, Doglion, Pig
Charles Durning as Doc Hopper
Austin Pendleton as Max

Cameo's

Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas and Orson Welles

Synopsis

Jim Henson's Muppets make their film debut in this charming story that chronicles their rise to fame. It all begins with Kermit the Frog sitting in a swamp singing and strumming a guitar. Realizing he can use his talent to "make people happy," Kermit decides to head for Hollywood.

During his trip, Kermit meets fellow Muppets Fozzie the Bear, the Great Gonzo, Miss Piggy, and an odd assortment of others who join Kermit on his song-filled journey. But before Kermit and friends achieve their dreams of stardom, Kermit must confront the man who''s been trying to catch him since he left the swamp--a man who sees Kermit as a potential meal ticket.

The Muppet Movie is a lovingly made, touching story for kids of all ages as only Jim Henson could make it. The film includes clever, very funny cameo appearances by Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Bob Hope, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, and Orson Welles.

Special Features
  • Pepe Profiles Present - Kermit: A Frog's Life: Join Pepe King Prawn as we profile the life of Kermit the Frog

Review

Just recently, Jim Henson's The Muppets are having a bit of a resurgence in the public eye thanks to the awesome movie starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams.  However, this is where it all began movie wise.  The very  first movie featuring The Muppets.

After gaining a fan base with their television show, Jim Henson decided to take them to the next step in a rather risky move.  But did the risk pay off?

Oh come on guys, you all know it did.

The word classic is banded around a hell of a lot when describing movies but I honestly think that  this is one of the few that actually deserves that reputation.  You can honestly see the love and effort put in to throwing this movie together.  While some of the later movies lost what made these characters special, this one makes the characters feel like living, breathing people and not puppets.

That's down to the superbly intelligent writing.  This is a family movie that truly has something for every one.  I watched it with my nearly four year old son and I'm not sure who laughed more.  Me or him.  The story itself is pure classic Muppets.

The movie stands with Kermit in a swamp quite happily singing to himself, singing about rainbows.  He then meets a lost talent agent who convinces him to go off and find his fortune.  That's when the adventure begins and he meets all the Muppets one by one.

The entire movie is framed as if the Muppets themselves have gone to see it's premiere and that really adds a lot to some of the in jokes during the movie.

Cameo's wise, there are some absolutely brilliant people in this movie that really hold up their own next to the beloved Muppets.  You have every one ranging from Telly Savalas, from television's 'Kojak', and mega stars like Steve Martin and Richard Pryor.  While not all the cameo appearances are as successful as others but there are some brilliant ones, the best of these being Steve Martin as a rude waiter and Mel Brooks as an evil genius, who tries to help Doc Hooper, played with glee by Charles Durning, get Kermit to be the spokesperson for his restaurant train that sells fried frog's legs.

The only disappointing part of this DVD is the lack of special features.  There's only one special feature and that's a funny profile of Kermit the Frog presented by Pepe the King Prawn.  I wish they could have added a few more bits and pieces but no sense complaining considering how brilliant this movie is.

I honestly think that if you are a fan of The Muppets than you will more than likely have this movie already.  If not then why not?  As for everyone else out there, I can't recommend it high enough.  It's funny, heart felt and a hell of a lot of fun so I urge you all to pick it up.

Movie 4.5/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 2.5/5
Overall 15/20


"I like Kermit.  He my favourite.  He green and hops"










Bus Gamer 1999-2001: The Pilot Edition Review

Written By Kazuya Minekura
Art By Kazuya Minekura
Cover By Kazuya Minekura

Genre
Manga, Adventure, Action

Synopsis

Toki Mishiba, Nobuto Nakajyo, and Kazuo Saitoh are hired to play the Biz Game, a game much like capture the flag, only with company secrets and insane amounts of money involved. 

At first they think it's a crazy but fun way to get some money, but as the game goes on, they hear stories about mysterious deaths on the news, and recognize the victims as members of the teams they've beaten in the game. 

When one of the losers of a game dies right in front of them, they realize what is really at stake--their very lives!

Review

 'Bus Gamer 1999-2001: The Pilot Edition' collects all of the issues of 'Bus Gamer' that have been published thus far but alas, the collection ends on a cliffhanger due to the series being on hiatus at the moment.  In a nice touch however, Minekura has written a note to say that she will get back to the characters one day but doesn't know when.

'Bus Gamer' revolves around a game that  is very much the game 'Capture the Flag' but with a mini disk that contains major company secrets.  Each game consists of two teams, one home and one away.  One has the disc and one has to get to disc within a time limit.

Each team is put together at random and that's no more obvious than with the team AAA, whose adventure we follow in this collection.  Each of the three are there for secretive reasons but sadly we only get to see glimpses of those as this series was put on hiatus, although what we do get to find out really whets the appetite and makes the characters really mysterious and interesting.

About halfway in the team members start to realise that not everything is the way it seems and that's  when things get really interesting.  I won't say anymore about the plot here as I don't want to spoil it for anyone but the writing is intelligent and fast paced.

The pacing of the story really doesn't let up through the whole of the collection yet Minekura still finds time to make the characters have their own distinct personalities and motives.  While the series did go on hiatus before she had time to uncover the motives for each member of Team AAA, she manages to make each of the characters very interesting.

Nobuto Nakajyo has a kind of snarky big brother relationship going on with the naive Kazuo Saitoh and that's where a lot of the humor comes from.  He really does spend a lot of the collection just ripping in to him and making jokes at his expense.

Kazuo Saitoh is the best character here and the most down to Earth.  In fact, when they have guns pulled on them during one of the games he is the only one that's phased by it and it really affects him for the rest of the collection.  The best way to describe him would be that he seems to be the most innocent of the team because the other two seem to have quite shadowy or mysterious pasts.

Toki Mishiba is the stone faced bad ass of the team and the one with the most mystery to him, which sadly doesn't get time to be revealed but what we do find out is very well written and really hooks the reader in.

The art here is superb and definitely up there with some of Minekura's best.  I may in the minority here but I prefer the artwork here to the work she does in the 'Saiyuki' releases.  The stark nature of some of the panels really adds to the fear and the feeling of dread that runs through the team.

While it is a shame that the series is on hiatus and thus ends in a cliffhanger, the issues we have here are very well written and fast paced, which along with the parts of the mystery that are revealed, make  for a very good release.  I just wish Minekura would come back to the title and give us some more issues.

Story 4/5
Art 4/5
Overall 8/10

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Art of Dead Space by Martin Robinson Review

Written By Martin Robinson

Genre
Art, Game Tie In

Synopsis

The Art of Dead Space is the ultimate gallery of the Dead Space universe, with over 300 images plus sketches and concept art by acclaimed artists from breathtaking spacescapes to terrifying necromorphs, character designs to creating a religion, plus commentary from the artists. Includes art from, Dead Space, Dead Space: Extraction, Dead Space: Ignition, Dead Space 2, Dead Space 3.

Review

I've read a hell of a lot of tie in's recently.  Considering how much of a tie in fan I am and how much of a fan I am of the 'Dead Space' franchise then I was very eager to read this and I was most definitely not disappointed.

In fact, I have got to admit that this is one of the best tie in's that I read.

Pretty much every base is covered here from early drawings right up to the final, finished product.  Some of the art here is just incredible and it's amazing that such detailed and quite frankly scary drawings can  come out of simple sketches.

The drawings are accompanied by some brilliantly interesting facts and figures about the various games and their creation.  The sheer amount of information here is astounding and yet, not once, do they repeat themselves or overload the reader with too much behind the scenes stuff.

There are loads of facts and things that even the most hardened of 'Dead Space' fans would be surprised to find out.  That's not even the biggest strength of the book.  That's the artwork.

Like I said earlier in this review, the art work is spot on and a lot of them haven't been seen by anyone not on the creation team before.  That makes this a very special book and an absolutely essential purchase for all the fans out there.

Maybe it's true that this book could be viewed as a niche book but boy does it conquer that niche well.  It's one of the best books about creating the look and feel of a computer game that I have ever read yet just classing it as that would be doing it a massive disservice.  This is one of the best art books I've read and I for one, will definitely keep coming back to this book again and again.

Presentation 4.5/5
Informative 4.5/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 14/15

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Way We Write: A "Her Name Is Calla" Adventure Review

Written By Rachael Smith
Art By Rachael Smith
Cover By Rachael Smith

Genre
Mystery, Comedy

Synopsis

Tom, Adam and Sophie of band 'Her Name is Calla' are going on a writers retreat to Whitby.  It'll be perfect - it's in the middle of nowhere, no distractions, just them and their music for a whole week.  What could possibly go wrong?

Review

'The Way We Write' is a hard comic book to put in to an category.  There are elements of a good, old fashioned mystery, a self referential comedy and even a supernatural tint to it.

Normally that would make for a disjointed comic book but that's not the case here.  In fact, Rachael Smith has crafted a comic book that is all of those things and much more.

Known for her feline creation 'Flimsy', Rachael Smith has written a comic book featuring three members of the real life band 'Her Name is Calla' going on a writing retreat to write some new material and get in some much needed rest and relaxation.

'The Way We Write' is best described as Daniel Clowes writing and illustrating a 'Scooby Doo' comic book.  As a debut comic book, this couldn't have possibly been better.  It's a superb debut and definitely makes for a fun read.

Moving along at a cracking pace, the story itself is really flies off the page at the reader and drags you in to wanting to get to the next page to see just what is going to happen next.  I really loved each new page as Smith's style of art really makes the story vibrant and feel alive.  Same with the writing.  As well as having a solid  mystery to it wrapped up in a haunted house story, 'The Way We Write' is absolutely hilarious and had me in hysterics more than once.

All in all, this has shown one thing.  Rachael Smith is one hell of a writer and artist and definitely one to watch in the comic book world.  I, for one, will be keeping my eye out for any more of her comics and also for music by 'Her Name is Calla' after reading this.

Well worth picking up.

Story 4/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 8.5/10

To Buy 'The Way We Write' Click here
For More of Rachael Smith's Work Click here
To Follow Her on Twitter Click here
To Check Out Her Name is Calla Click here

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Songs That Saved Your Life: The Art of the Smiths 1982-87 (Revised Edition) by Simon Goddard Review

Written By Simon Goddard

Genre
Biography

Synopsis

Songs That Saved Your Life - The Art of The Smiths 1982-87 reveals the stories behind every track (including unreleased out-takes), catalogues all the groups UK television, radio and concert appearances and features interviews with original band members, producers and associates.

Review

As a fan of The Smiths I was very excited to see this getting a 'revised' edition as I'd heard a hell of a lot of good things about the original book.

For once, I wasn't disappointed.

This has got to be one of the best books about the seminal band The Smiths that I have ever read, although it's not without it's faults.

You can tell from the quality of the writing that Simon Goddard absolutely loves who and what he is writing about.  That really adds a personal touch to what might have been a quite text heavy and sterile book.  In fact, his enthusiasm throughout the book really makes you want to carry on and see what little facts he has dug up next or flick to your favourite song and see how that one came about.

For a book that is detailing a bands work song by song to have the 'let's see what happens next' feeling is a brilliant achievement.  I loved reading about the songs I liked and seeing what inspired them or how they were written.   I also liked the fact that they even included the bands 'lost' songs as well.

There is an absolute gold mine of information for each and every song that The Smiths created and for a fan, that makes this book positively essential.

If I had to nitpick, there was one thing that I didn't really  like and that I thought was a big over sight on the part of Goddard.  Shelagh Delaney is mentioned quite a few times in the book but it's only in her last reference that we get any kind of information about her.  Considering she was Morrissey's muse so to speak, that information should have been there at the forefront not put as an after thought.

While that did niggle me a bit as a reader and as a fan of the band, the rest of the book is very well written with a ton of emotion and that really gives this book a steady, beating heart at the middle of it.

This book could have been a stale list of their songs with a bit of information here and there but it's not.  Thanks to Goddard's skill with his words and his obvious devotion to the band we have what may be the best book written about a truly influential band.

Most definitely an essential purchase for the Smiths fans out there.

Presentation 4/5
Informative 4.5/5
Recommended 4.5/5
Overall 13/15

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl Graphic Novel Review

Written By Mark Millar
Art By John Romita Jr., Dean White and Tom Palmer
Cover By John Romita Jr.

Cover
Superhero, Crime, Action

Synopsis

Mindy McCready has mastered a hundred ways to kill a man.

Her father, the superhero known as Big Daddy, made sure of that.  She's used her skills to wipe out mobsters, super-villains and more.  So why does facing the popular girls at middle school feel like her toughest challenge yet?

With Big Daddy now gone, Hit-Girl tries her hardest to make good on a "normal" life with her mom and stepdad.  So she strikes a deal with fledgling superhero Kick-Ass: she'll train him to stay alive, if he'll teach her how to fit in with the other girls at school.  But with a new mafia don on the rise, being normal may just have to wait.

Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. pull back the curtain on Hit-Girl, the world's deadliest 12-year-old, in this prelude to Kick-Ass 2!

Collects Hit-Girl issues 1-5

Review

After reading the original Kick-Ass graphic novel and then watching the movie, I was very eager to see what was going to happen next.  While this was released after the Kick-Ass 2 graphic novel, the events here take place before that release.

Now what do we have here?

Mark Millar's 'A Clockwork Orange' style ultra-violence?  Check.

Copious amounts of swearing?  Check

Blood drenched heroes and pop culture references?  Check.

Superb art by the legendary John Romita Jr.?  Check

In fact, if you are a fan of the original Kick-Ass graphic novel then you will love this release.  The character of  Hit-Girl hasn't been diluted one little bit, which was my fear before I read this release.

The trademark humor of Mark Millar is here in absolute spades.  One of the best moments in this graphic novel are the hilarious monks that are training the soon to be 'Red Mist' to be a lean, mean, fighting machine.  This leads to all sorts of Christopher Nolan's 'Batman' references.

Story wise, this one bridges the gap between the first graphic novel and the second really well.  The thing that annoyed me about the 2nd graphic novel was the distinct lack of Hit-Girl and that the opening just didn't seem to fit in but this release really fixes that in a superb way.  In fact, they are combining this release with Kick-Ass 2 to make the upcoming movie.

The art by John Romita Jr. is once again absolutely fantastic and in keeping with the high standards of quality set by the first graphic novel.  The gore soaked pages absolutely fly at the reader and really force home the violence in  the story.  There is a hell of a lot of humor in some of the killings and the art here really brings that to life.

All in all, this is a brilliant release and if you are a fan of the Kick-Ass graphic novels then this is an absolutely essential purchase but you probably already knew that didn't you?

Story 4/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 8.5/10

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Powers Bureau Issue 2 Review

Written By Brian Michael Bendis
Art By Michael Avon Oeming
Cover By Michael Avon Oeming

Genre
Super Hero, Crime, Action

Synopsis

After the shocking events of issue 1, the team of Deena and Walker have reunited and are on the trail of 'Powers' related pregnancies and the dealer who is giving them the means to do so.

Someone is on their tail but who?

Review

After the absolutely brilliant return of 'Powers', I was massively eager to get my hands on the 2nd issue so that I can see what happened to Walker.

At the end of the first issue, we are  reunited with Walker and I was expecting some answers as to where he has been, what he has done etc but we don't get that here.  Instead we're thrown straight in to the story with the duo now working at the FBI.

On one hand that kind of disappointed me but on the other hand, I'm used to Bendis's writing in that just because it's not in this issue, it doesn't mean that it won't come up in a future issue.

The rest of the writing is up to Bendis's normal, incredibly high standards. In a monthly comic, long pages of just dialogue shouldn't normally work but with the skill shown by Bendis, it works brilliantly.  The interplay between Deena and Walker is fantastic as always and the interrogation scenes are equally funny and exciting.

Story wise, it moves along at a cracking pace and really answers some of the questions left by issue 1 but then replaces them with just as many, if not more, questions when this issue ends.

The only complaint I have about the issue is that the ending left me a bit confused as to who exactly did what.  The scene looked like the FBI had done 'the deed' (I don't want to give away the ending) but the writing makes out that a set of 'Powers' did it.  Hopefully that will become clear in the 3rd issue.

As always the art by Oeming is absolutely spot on.  I don't think I've been able to fault his 'Powers' work because he just seems to 'get' the characters and the stories, which leads to him seemingly knowing exactly what to bring to the forefront of the page and when to do it.  He really is a criminally under rated talent in the comic book world.

All in all, it's not as good but as the first issue but on the other  hand, the story is still setting up all it's pieces so it's a bit unfair to judge where a story is going on only it's 2nd issue.  Still well worth picking up for the great art by Oeming and the brilliant (as always) word play by Bendis.

Bring on issue 3!

Story 3.5/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 8/10