Saturday, 29 March 2014

Noah Graphic Novel Review


Review
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Darren Aronofsky
Ari Handel

Art By
Niko Henrichon

Lettering By
Nicholas Senegas

Cover By
Niko Henrichon

Published By
Image

Genre
Historical, Adventure, Fantasy

Synopsis

From acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler) and artist Niko
Henrichon (Pride of Bagdad), Noah is a fresh take on the biblical epic for the 21st Century.

A fantastical world is about to be destroyed and one man is chosen to start a new one.

As wicked forces try to take his Ark, Noah must hold his family together while they watch the annihilation of all they know.

Intermixing fantasy and sci-fi with Genesis, Noah both reinvents the elements of the Flood story everyone knows and simultaneously takes the reader beyond them and into the unexpected.

Review

With the movie 'Noah' dividing the movie going public, I was actually quite eager to read the graphic novel version to see if their vision of the story would flow.

After reading this one, I have to admit that while the story itself was interesting in their portrayal of the well known biblical story, I came away feeling a little disappointed with the end result especially considering the names involved.

There wasn't anything largely wrong with the graphic novel itself, it just felt like something was missing from it all.  The way that they portray Noah as a deeply flawed person instead of casting him as perfect and flawless is a great move and to me, it made the story a lot more character driven than it could have been.  There are still some superb set pieces, especially during the actual flood scenes themselves, that really make those parts of the story gripping for the reader but at the end, it just came across as something was missing.

Art wise, I was very excited to see what this was going to look like considering the man involved illustrated one of my favorite graphic novels in the shape of 'The Pride of Baghdad' and this is apparently his first major work since that utterly superb graphic novel.  The problem that plagued the writing are the same ones that plague the art work too.  As beautiful as the story looks, and there really is some brilliant panel work here, some of the  details that Henrichon is known for seem to be missing.  This is especially true when there are loads of people on the page because they seem to merge in to one incoherent mess in places.

While I was a little disappointed with the end result of this graphic novel, there are some very good high spots that make this one still worth checking out but not essential.

Story 7.5/10
Art 7/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 29/40

Noah: Ila's Story Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Susan Korman

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Historical, Adventure

Synopsis

Based on the major motion picture.

The ancient world.  A young girl, Ila, is found, injured after a violent raid.  She is taken in by Noah and his family and grows up strong and happy - she even finds love with her soulmate, Shem, Noah's son.

But when devastation comes to the world in the form of a huge flood, Ila and her new family are responsible for saving not only themselves but all life on Earth.

Against all odds they set off in the Ark, but all is not as it seems...

As events unfold, Ila has to find the power within her to help Noah in his epic quest, and ultimately save humanity.

Review

'Ila's Story' is a young adult novel based on the screenplay for the recent big budget epic 'Noah' written by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel and tells the familiar story from the point of view of the young girl, Ila, who grows up with Noah and his family.

The first thing that struck me was the relatively quick pacing, which both works as a strength and a weakness for this book by Susan Korman. It works well in that, for younger readers, you are thrown in to their world and you can really get in to what is going to happen to the characters themselves.  It's a weakness because of the fact that by going for a quick pace in such a way, some of the details and background are lost in the telling.  That's a bit of a shame really because this is definitely a story that lives off of the details but at the same time, I can see why they went this route considering it was for younger readers out there.

The second thing that struck me was how Korman interpreted the characters.  We pretty much all know the story of the flood and of Noah but Korman tries to put her own spin on the tale itself.  I haven't seen the movie itself yet so I can't comment on whether or not it's true to the film but as a story, Korman manages to do some nice character work and the main character of Ila is likeable enough for you to want to continue with the story.  I wish a couple of the other characters were a little bit more on the well rounded side but what we do have here is written well enough to keep the reader interested.

All in all, while the book wasn't exactly my cup of tea so to speak, it was still pretty well written and as a young adult book, does it's job of keeping the reader interested.  I wish there had have been a little more detail in the story and with some of the characters but for for a short novel with a fast pace such as this one, it's still worth picking  up at least.

Story 7/10
Characters 7/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 7/10
Overall 28/40

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Pit Stop (1969) Dual Format Pre-Release Review


AKA 'The Winner'

Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written and Directed By
Jack Hill

A Jack Hill Productions Film

Genre
Drama, Sport

Cast

Brian Donlevy as Grant Willard
Richard Davalos as Rick Bowman
Ellen Burstyn as Ellen McLeod (Credited as Ellen McRae)
Sid Haig as Hawk Sidney
Beverly Washburn as Jolene
George Washburn as Ed McLeod

Certificate
12

Synopsis

The most dangerous game ever devised, to pit man against man, flesh against steel – the figure-8 race! Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown) follows up Spider Baby, once again teaming up with Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses) in one of his greatest roles for this action-spectacular crash-o-rama!

Richard Davalos (East of Eden) stars as Rick Bowman, a street punk who winds up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Bailed out by race promoter Grant Willard, Davalos is put in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig’s maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast including Brian Donlevy (The Quatermass Xperiment) in his last film appearance, Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist), billed as Ellen McRae, and Beverly Washburn (Spider Baby), Pit Stop is one of Hill’s lesser known films but arguably his greatest.

Filmed on a real figure-8 track, Hill and his crew were able to capture gripping real-life car wreck scenes lending the film a brilliant sense of realism. You’ve never seen a motion picture like this before – can you take it?

Special Features
  • New audio commentary with Jack Hill moderated by his biographer Calum Waddell 
  • Crash and Burn! – Jack Hill on the making of Pit Stop 
  • Drive Hard – actor Sid Haig speaks about his experience of acting in Pit Stop 
  • Life in the Fast Lane – producer Roger Corman on the genesis of Pit Stop 
  • Restoring Pit Stop – restoration demonstration by Technical Supervisor James White 
  • Theatrical trailer 
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw 
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Glenn Kenny and musicologist and writer Gray Newell on the film’s soundtrack, illustrated with original stills and artwork. 

Review

Sadly, and I'm not sure why, 'Pit Stop' is one of the great Jack Hill's lesser known movies.  That's always puzzled me in a way because of the fact that it is by far his greatest movie.  When you consider the movies that he has made in his career, that's no mean feat.

The story of the movie itself is a simple one.  It's a tale of a man entering in to the world of racing, in this instance on a figure 8 track, and going up against the hot shot guy who always wins.  That may sound stereotypical and on one hand that is but it's the way that Hill both shot and directed the movie that makes this not only his best movie but also one of the best movies of the 60's.

The first thing that grabbed me while watching 'Pit Stop' is the filmography.  Shot in black and white, the movie looks incredibly atmospheric and even has a sense of dread running through it, especially during the utterly gripping race scenes themselves.

However, it's the cast that really make this movie so memorable for me, especially in the shape of the always brilliant Sid Haig, who gives a brilliantly bonkers and fantastic performance as Hawk.  He really does ooze the cocky nature of  the character yet you see the character exhibit many different layers that you see that he is far from a one trick pony.  If I was to tell you anymore of the characters then it might turn the review little too far in to the spoiler side of things and we all know that I hate that but keep an eye out for Ellen Burstyn, then named Ellen McRae, who really gives the movie an emotional edge.

Once again, Arrow Films have put some great special features here that really do a fantastic job of revealing the behind the scenes story of the making of the movie.  My personal favorite of these was the interview with Jack Hill, who really came across as someone who is more than happy to sit and talk to the fans about his movies.  It was the same with the Sid Haig interview too.

Definitely well worth picking up.

Movie 8/10
Picture 8/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features 8/10
Overall 32/40

No Hero Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Jonathan Wood

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy

Synopsis

What would Kurt Russell do?

Oxford police detective  Arthur Wallace asks himself that question a lot.  Because Arthur is no hero.  While he's a good cop, he prefers his action on the big screen.

But when he sees tentacles sprouting from the next of a fresh corpse, the secretive government agency MI37 come to recruit Arthur in its struggle against horrors from another dimension known as the progeny.

But Arthur is NO HERO!

Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?

Review

When I read some of the reviews of this book, they seem to have divided each other with either loving the book or absolutely hating it.  Because of that simple fact, I wasn't really all that sure what to expect when I picked this one up to read.

The synopsis and the general theme of the book sounded really interesting.  A kind of Lovecraft meets Edgar Wright style story.  That intrigued me enough to want to give it a go despite the bad reviews being extremely brutal in their dislike of the book.

I must admit that while I can understand a few of their gripes, this book is actually good, enjoyable and well paced and here's why.

For a of a book worm such as myself, there are quite a few things here that I enjoyed.  In fact, 'No Hero' is pretty much a story of an everyman who struggles with life in general let alone life with added creatures and magic involved.  That to me was an interesting taking on the character.  Some of the complaints are correct in that he can sometimes come across as a bit of a wet blanket but that's kind of the point.  He is a coward, he is  someone who is in way over his head.  I loved that about him.  He's not going to be an effective, bad ass hero.  Instead he's a guy that rushes in without thinking, he makes mistakes.  It makes him human.

Another thing that I liked was the lashings of good old fashioned British humor.  That may be a little lost on certain readers but there really is a dry, British cynicism that goes through the entire book.  That to me felt fresh and new when compared to other such books in the same genre.

There were quite a few really well written and memorable characters and that really makes them come to life in a great way.  I would even go so far as to say that the writing makes it feel like a Edgar Wright movie in how the scenes all knit together.

One of the things that did start to get a little bit annoying was the complaining by the character.  By the end of the book, the constant doubting of the character made it a little bit hard to side with him a couple of times.  I just wanted to tell him to get on with it on two moments.  I did like that a couple of characters picked up on it too in that they even told him to 'man up' in no uncertain terms.

All in all, I can see why the book would divide some readers in to the 'loved it' and 'hated it' camps because it definitely isn't for everybody but I really enjoyed it and would check out more work by Jonathan Wood.

Story 7.5/10
Characters 7.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 30/40

The Mis-Adventures of Adam West Issue 12 Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Leon McKenzie
Edward Gross

Art By
Luis Rivera
EScomic!

Lettering By
Gary Scott Beatty

Cover By
Tsubasa Yozora

Published By
Bluewater

Genre
Science Fiction, Action, Comedy

Synopsis

Final Issue! 

The powerful fictional vampire named T'damas-U stands revealed. Adam has an army with him. 

Will it be enough as the entire multiverse hangs in the balance!

Review

As a big fan of the 1960's Batman and of Adam West in general, I started following this series and was really entertained by the 'Quantum Leap' style stories.  Then the tone changed and it went full on in to action territory and was really exciting.

When they said that this, the 12th issue, was going to be the final issue it was a bit sad in a way because I was really enjoying the stories that these guys were putting out.  I also felt like there was going to be a big blow out ending to go out with a bang.

After reading this one, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in places.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad at all.  In fact, I enjoyed the issue.  It's just that it felt like it was missing something, especially in the final third.

In this issue, the loose ends are mostly tied up, we get to see some more of why West is calling forth all the people from his past like Vincent Price, Eartha Kitt and many more and we get to see the final battle as well.  Yet as exciting as it is, something  just felt a little bit off.  I loved the ending yet at the same time, it seemed to come out of nowhere.  The battle was getting more and more hectic, more and more information was being thrown at the reader and then bam, it was over.  Don't get me wrong, it was a nice heart felt ending, it just felt like it came out of left field so to speak.

Art wise, this issue had the same problem in that while the art wasn't fantastic, it wasn't bad either.  There were a couple of panels where the art felt like it could have done with being a little less hectic and a little more detailed but that's just my opinion on that one.  For the most part, this issue is a good one to end on for 'The Misadventures of Adam West' but, as a fan of the series, I suppose I just wanted it to go out with a little bit more of a bang than it did.

This one is definitely a title worth picking up if you want to see a fun and exciting read that will always give you a couple of laughs and also if you are a fan of the series then you will want to pick this one up.  However, if you haven't read any of the other issues then you're going to feel quite out of the loop by the story itself.

Story 7.5/10
Art 7/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 29/40

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Borderlands (2013) Pre-Release Review


Review By 
Patrick Scattergood

Written and Directed By
Elliot Goldner

A Metrodome Movie

Genre
Horror, Found Footage

Cast

Sarah Annis as Mrs Proudley
Marcus Cunningham as Mr Proudley
Patrick Godfrey as Father Calvino
Robin Hill as Gray
Kevin Johnson as Jim
Gordon Kennedy as Deacon
Aidan McArdle as Mark
Luke Neal as Father Crellick

Certificate
15

Synopsis

Elliot Goldner directs this British horror following a team of specialists from the Vatican who are drawn to a remote West Country church by reports of mysterious occurrences in the area. Though Father Crellick (Luke Neal) has video footage of items apparently being moved around inside the church by supernatural forces, Deacon (Gordon Kennedy) and Father Mark Amidon (Aidan McArdle) are sceptics by nature and want more conclusive evidence.

They duly set up more cameras inside the ancient building, but are the scratching noises coming from inside the walls a source of greater concern?

Review

I've never been that big a fan of the found footage genre in general.  Granted there have been some good ones such as 'The Blair Witch Project' and 'Troll Hunter' but for the most part, they've all been rather samey and, in the case of a few I've seen recently, even boring.

When I saw that despite this one having an interesting premise, it was still a found footage one, I lowered my expectations a bit.

The thing that made me decide to sit down and give it a go was the simple fact that it managed to sound a bit different from the normal found footage dross that's out  there.  I was interested in the simple fact that they would be combining religion with the found footage horror and wondered just how they would manage to marry the two without it seeming completely unbelievable.

Well, for the most part they managed it extremely well.  In fact, I would even go so far as to actually say that this one would be up there with some of the good to really good ones in the genre.

There were some moments that really get under the skin of the viewer without feeling a bit silly and over the top.  Granted, there were a couple of scenes where they resorted to jump scares but for the most part, they stuck to using the solid acting, well paced writing and creepy atmosphere to create the scares.

Talking of the acting, my word I've seen some truly awful performances in this genre but here, the cast are solid to good in their roles.  I can honestly say that they really nailed their characters and each one was memorable, even the minor ones.  By playing their characters so down to Earth, they really made what happens in the movie seem completely believable and subtle.  That really adds an edge to the movie and that's why it has a superbly creepy feel to it.

As for the end result, I really did enjoy this one, which considering it's a found footage movie came as quite a surprise to me.  In fact, I would even watch it again.  That's down to the multiple layers that the intelligent writing gives us viewers something to really sink our teeth in to and as a horror fan, is there anything else we could ask for?

Movie 7/10



FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics - Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift Graphic Novel Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Simon Oliver

Art By
Robbi Rodriguez
Rico Renzi

Lettering By
Steve Wands
Jared K.Fletcher

Cover By
Nathan Fox

Published By
Vertigo
DC Comics

Genre
Science Fiction, Action, Thriller

Synopsis

Wormholes in your kitchen. Gravity failures at school. Quantum tornadoes tearing through the midwest. As with all natural disasters, people do what they always do: They adapt and survive. And if things get really bad, the Federal Bureau of Physics (FBP) is only a call away.

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics is the story of Adam Hardy: Young, brash and smart, he's a rising star at the FBP, but when a gravity failure leads to the creation of an alternate dimension known as a "BubbleVerse," Adam is sent on a rescue mission and finds his skills and abilities pushed to their limits when he discovers his partner has a different agenda…

Collects issues #1-7

Review

When I picked up this title to review, I have to admit that I had heard next to nothing about the release itself.  I knew of the people involved and knew some of their previous work but for me, this one had slipped under the radar.

However, one thing really drew me into taking a look at the title was the absolutely stunning and rather unique cover art by Nathan Fox.  It's one of the most eye catching that I have seen in a very long time and from what I've seen, the rest of the covers in the series are just as amazing, if not better.

Story wise, there is a hell of a lot here for fans of comics like 'Hellboy' or television series like 'Fringe'.  The  collection comes across as loads of stories running alongside one another but not once does it feel disjointed or confusing.  You just know something big is coming and the writing really does a superb job of tying all of that together in an exciting and fast paced way without losing any of the character work.

The idea that the law of physics are basically failing is a very interesting one.  They don't really go in to very much detail as to why all of this is happening but maybe that will be explained a little more in future issues.

While the writing is massively strong, I was a little disappointed with the art inside the collection.  I think that was made more noticeable by just how brilliant the cover art was.  There were a few panels where some of the art looked absolutely spot on but there are also some panels and even pages where it just looked a little bit messy and rushed.  That's a bit of a shame because it does impact on the story itself due to feeling a bit distracting.

All in all, this is a collection that is really worth picking up.  I can't wait to see just where the team are going to take the title next.  It's a bit of a shame that the art seemed so hit and miss because it did get a little bit distracting at times.  Other than that, the cover art and the story itself make this first volume one that's a good title to add to your pull list.

Story 8/10
Art 6/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 31/40

Valley 01 Issue 1 Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
David Heath

Art and Cover By
Anita Zaramella

Published By
Bilateral Comics

Genre
Fantasy, Action

Synopsis

This issue follows the story of Bartlett, a wanderer who collects and sells technological scrap on the barren world of Valley-01.

Traces of the mysterious planet Charris, which looms overhead in the sky, give hints towards the coming conflict.

Review

The premiere issue of 'Valley 01' is a bit of a strange one to review if I'm totally honest because it fits in to so many genres and styles, especially with the writing.

Story wise it has a bit of a fantasy feel with a bit of dystopian science fiction  and action mixed in as well but there is also a feeling of humor the runs just under the surface as well.  That really comes across in the form of the characters.  You have a fairy type character who may or not exist only in the main characters mind, you have a fight with a massive bull type creature and much more.  The writing really makes me want to see what other kind of creatures and characters are going to turn up next.

The story itself doesn't really tell us all that much if I'm honest.  It felt a bit like it was whetting our appetite for what was going to be coming next and it does that very well indeed.  I loved the brave move of having the first few pages with next to no dialogue or words.  It rested completely on the art and facial expressions of Bartlett himself.  That was punctuated by a battle with a creature known as a Wyvern so personally, I'm looking forward to seeing more of him and his rather cynical nature.

The art does a superb job of putting forward a dirty, dusty world that is full of strange creatures and locations.  The art came in to it's own in the beginning scenes that I mentioned earlier that rested solely on the art itself.  I have to admit that I hadn't heard of Zaramella before I read 'Valley 01' but I would be very interested in seeing in how her art develops in the future issues.

All in all, I'm definitely interested in seeing where this tale is going to go next.  There are some interesting characters here and the ending has made me want to know how the addition of the female character near the end is going to affect Bartlett's life.  The various themes that are running through the story make me think that this isn't going to be a stereotypical story so bring on issue 2!

Story 8/10
Art 7.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 31/40

Thursday, 20 March 2014

House Party - A New Comic by Rachael Smith Bursts on to Kickstarter!


 HOUSE PARTY

A graphic novel written and illustrated by Rachael Smith and published by Great Beast Comics

Released 13th June 2014
Pre-orders open on March 21st 2014


“Bloody brilliant storytelling, bloody brilliant comics…
I honestly dare you not to be impressed.”
Forbidden Planet International

“With a balance of clean line, sharp wit and expressive cartooning
Rachael Smith is shaping up to be a major talent in British comics.”
GOSH! Comics



House Party marks the graphic novel debut by award-winning illustrator, Rachael Smith. The story follows three 20-somethings Michelle, Siobhan, and Neil, who are having trouble adapting to life in the real world since feeling like superstars at university. In an attempt to get their carefree composure and happiness back they throw a massive house party, just like they used to. Instead of reconnecting them with their younger selves, however, things go a little differently. In a story that will resonate with the ‘lost’ generation, we watch them try to move forward in lives that none of them really asked for.

Rachael Smith is still relatively new to the world of comics, yet her output has been prolific to say the least. In 2013 Smith released The Way We Write and I Am Fire and has been published through David (V For Vendetta) Lloyd’s digital publishing company Aces Weekly. I Am Fire was even selected as one of Forbidden Planet’s best comics of 2013, so future critical acclaim surely awaits. If you like the comics of John Allison, Chynna Clugston Flores and Marc Ellerby then you’ll find a lot to love from Smith’s smart cartooning.


Great Beast Comics was founded in April 2012 by Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby, and aims to provide the most fun and creative stories to as wide an audience as possible. They are extremely excited to be able to release House Party and support this rising star.



Preorders for House Party are open on the project’s kickstarter page here:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/flimsykitten/house-party-a-graphic-novel

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Moth Diaries DVD Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Based on
'The Moth Diaries' by Rachel Klein

Written and Directed By
Mary Harron

A Edward R. Pressman, Irish Film Board, Media Max Productions, Samson Films, Mediabix International Films

Cast

Sarah Bolger as Rebecca
Sarah Gadon as Lucy
Valerie Tian as Charley
Melissa Farman as Dora
Scott Speedman as Mr Davies
Lily Cole as Ernessa
Judy Parfitt as Mrs Rood

Genre
Supernatural, Thriller

Certificate
15

Synopsis

Led by British talent Lily Cole (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), Moth Diaries is a modern gothic coming of age story set in a world of obsessive teenage girl friendship. Rebecca (SARAH BOLGER), a young girl haunted by her father's suicide, begins a new year at an elite girls' boarding school. Before long, Rebecca's close friendship with the popular Lucy (SARAH GADON) is tested by the arrival of the dark and mysterious Ernessa (LILY COLE). Lucy quickly falls under the glamorous Ernessa's spell and becomes emotionally and physically consumed by their intense friendship.

Hurt and confused, Rebecca develops a crush on her English teacher, Mr. Davies (SCOTT SPEEDMAN), who is teaching a class in Gothic fiction. As she immerses herself in their assigned reading, the vampire novel Carmilla, Rebecca becomes convinced that Ernessa is a vampire. Mysterious deaths begin to occur and Rebecca is convinced Ernessa is to blame, but when her warnings are dismissed as the result of obsessive jealousy she decides that she must take drastic action to save herself and those around her. 

Special Features
  • None

Review

I must admit that I wasn't all that sure what to expect when I stuck this in to watch.  The cover made it look like it was going to be another one of those badly written 'Twilight' style movies full of cliches and wooden acting.

However, when the movie started, I soon came to the conclusion that this was going to be nothing like 'Twilight' or 'Warm Bodies'.

There's a grand Gothic feeling running through out the movie and that really helps to raise it above some of the other offerings in the genre.  As a visual director, Mary Harron, has done a majorly stand up job.  If anything, the movie itself looks gorgeous.  The settings are used almost as if they are a character themselves.

However, being Mary Harron, known best for 'American Psycho' and 'The Notorious Bettie Page', is also a downside for the movie.  After finding that she was involved, my hopes for the movie were raised but after sitting through the movie, I have to admit that I came away feeling a bit disappointed.

Firstly, the script and story itself feels incredibly choppy and some of the transitions between scenes wind up feeling a bit like filler or even as redundant.  The movie is based on a book that was written in diary entries  but Harron decided to film these as asides for the character and it just doesn't work all that well.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that they sometimes felt like they were from a completely different movie and that led to the movie feeling quite disjointed in places.

The dialogue comes across as inane and even completely flat and uninspired.  There were quite a few scenes  where I wanted to tell the characters on the screen to 'just get on with it' so that the plot could finally move on a bit faster.  It's the same with the performances.  A lot of the cast just seem completely uninterested in what they are doing.  There are even scenes that come across as if they are reading from cue cards or something along those lines.  One of the worst of these is Scott Speedman, who and I'm being brutally honest here, was awful.

That said, there was one shining moment in the movie and that was the amazing performance by Lily Cole.  She really came across as charming and sweet in some scenes, mysterious and brooding in others without the performance feeling forced or over the top at all.

Considering who was involved, I was hoping for a much better movie than the one we ended up getting.  Other than the performance of Lily Cole, who was absolutely fantastic, this is a movie that is the definition of style over substance.  Yes it looks gorgeous but the stilted dialogue, bad editing and lack of an interesting ending really make this one in to a movie that is really not worth the time spent watching it.  That's a real shame because the supernatural mystery element really seemed interesting but the execution of it all left this vampire movie without a bite to it.

Movie 4/10
Picture 7/10
Sound 7/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 18/30


A Dead Good Friend Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
James Mulholland

Art By
Henry Simon
Richard Sheehan

Lettering By
James Mulholland

Cover By
Henry Simon
Richard Sheehan

Published By
Web Comic

Genre
Thriller, Crime

Synopsis

A mob enforcer.  His best friend.  A job gone wrong.  Where will their paths go from here?

Review

At six pages, I have to admit that I wasn't really all that sure that 'A Good Dead Friend' would be able to make much of an impact at all.  I mean, what could possibly happen in six pages that could make a reader want to pick  it straight up and read it all over again.

Well, in this case, not a lot but a lot at the same time.  You may read this one and wonder just what I am talking about so let me explain.

If you were to just skim over this one then you would miss so much.  There's multiple layers here and despite the short length of the story, a lot to keep the reader hooked in until the end.  I also think that this story manages to do something amazing.  In the space of six pages, the writing here manages to cram much more in to this story than other writers manage to get in to an entire comic book.

James Mulholland is definitely a writer to keep an eye on if this web comic is anything to go by.  You don't get as much character work as some might hope but Mulholland does such a great job with the story that you wind up caring about the characters and the world that they inhabit.

Art wise, it's not perfect but at the same time it's not awful either.  There were a couple of panels that I would have liked to have seen a little bit more detail but it doesn't derail the story either.  That said, the art does do it's job.  One of the things that the art does do superbly well is in the color work and the panel placing etc.  They helped the story to feel a little bit cinematic, almost as if you could imagine this being set in a world of mobsters with someone like Edward G. Robinson in charge.

All in all, I'm not normally that big a fan of such short stories, or of web comics in general because I have read some truly awful ones, but this one is well worth sitting down and reading.  A great story, a near perfect pace and some really good panel work has definitely gone some way in to making me rethink my stance on web comics.

Story 8/10
Art 7/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 30/40

You can read 'A Dead Good Friend' here!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The X-Files: Conspiracy - The Crow Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Denton J. Tipton

Art By
Vic Malhotra
Matheus Lopes

Lettering By
Shawn Lee

Cover By
Miran  Kim

Published By
IDW Publishing

Genre
Supernatural, Thriller

Synopsis

Bernard is a decorated state policeman in love with his partner. But their romance is brutally cut short when both die following a high-speed pursuit and fiery car crash involving the Lone Gunmen. 

Bernard inexplicably awakens to find himself resurrected by an otherworldly crow and with only one thing on his mind: vengeance. 

Review

After reading the first issue of the new 'Pestilence' storyline set in the world of 'The Crow', I was quite eager to get to read this cross over issue of 'The X-Files: Conspiracy', a series featuring the Lone Gunmen characters from the iconic 90's show.  I was wondering just how they would marry the two very different worlds and if  the two would gel at all.

I have to admit that I wasn't all that familiar with the 'X-Files: Conspiracy' series before this one as it was my obsession with 'The Crow' that made me aware of it even existing.

As a fan of the original 'X-Files' television show as well as the Lone Gunmen characters themselves, I figured I would at least be in for an interesting read.  Add in to that, a story involving the 'Crow' character made famous by James O'Barr and I couldn't wait to read this one.

That excitement was increased by the superb and interesting cover by Miran Kim.  I really liked the layout of it and the art itself so I was really hoping the inside would be similar.

Well, I was a little disappointed with the art in that it looked good but it didn't seem to really bring the story to life.  That's a bit of a shame because there wasn't anything physically wrong with the art, if anything it is really well drawn but there just felt like there was something that didn't quite gel for me as a reader.

Writing wise, the story itself is an interesting take on the 'Crow' mythos but also fits in quite nicely with the idea of the Lone Gunmen trying to get to the bottom of a  conspiracy by investigating urban legends that may be connected with the bigger picture.  However, for me, the pacing seemed really off.  In fact, while the story itself was good, it just felt quite rushed.  I know that's because each issue of the 'Conspiracy' series, features a new urban legend but with slightly better pacing, this could have been a brilliant comic book instead of just merely being a good one.

While I really enjoyed this one as both an 'X-Files' fan and a 'The Crow' fan, the pacing and general feeling that something was off with the art.  That said, I did like the touch where one of the workers at the crematorium was wearing a name badge with 'O'Barr' written on it.

Story 7.5/10
Art 7.5/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 7/10
Overall 30/40

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Harlem Street Portraits Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Harvey Stein

Essays By
Herb Boyd
Miss Rosen

Published By
Schiffer Publishing

Genre
Photography, Art

Synopsis

Well-known New York photographer Harvey Stein documents the humanity and spirit of the people of Harlem in 166 beautiful black and white photographs taken over 23 years, from 1990 to 2013. 

The images are mostly close-up portraits that reveal the friendliness and warmth of this city's inhabitants, the vibrant and bustling vitality of the area, and the changing nature of the neighborhood. What may at first appear to be a casual encounter becomes a personal, intimate record, a meaningful collaboration between photographer and subject. 

With a population of nearly half a million people, Harlem is America's most celebrated African-American neighborhood. Its rich past and historical importance have made a unique contribution to our national popular culture. Stein’s photographs capture and celebrate the Harlem spirit.

Review

As a fan of social history and photography, the idea of mixing the two with this book made me very eager to get to read this one and with good reason.

With all I have seen about Harlem and it's rich tapestry of culture and life, the idea of the renowned photographer Harvey Stein having documented the heart and soul of Harlem sounded like an absolutely fantastic one.

And you know what?

It was.  The photographs here are brilliantly taken and show a great cross section of both the culture and the people that live there now and have lived there throughout the decades.

There are a couple of very good essays here as well by Herb Boyd and Miss Rosen that really stand side by side with the gorgeous photographs.  In fact that they really put forward just how varied life is there and how rich their cultured and sometimes troubled history is and has been.

Harvey Stein, as a photographer, is a fantastic and incredibly talented man and that shows here in all it's beautiful black and white glory here.  Stein really has an eye for making what could end up just being a picture of a person on any given day but in his hands, the photographs come across as something that would look amazing in a gallery.

All  in all, if you are a fan of photography, social history or just want to see some gorgeous pictures celebrating the rich tapestry known as Harlem, then you are definitely in luck here with this  beautiful release from Schiffer Publishing.

Presentation 8/10
Informative 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 23/30

The Crow: Pestilence Issue 1 Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Frank Bill

Art By
Drew Moss
Oliver Lee Arce

Lettering By
Shawn Lee

Cover By
James O'Barr

Published By
IDW

Genre
Supernatural, Action

Synopsis

Juarez, Mexico. A young boxer, Salvador, refuses to take a fall, but has no problem taking a vicious drug gang's pay-off. 

When they take their lethal revenge on the Salvador and his family, he returns as THE CROW, in search of vengeance...and forgiveness.

Review

After the superb original comic book series by James O'Barr and then the superb movie adaptation starring Brandon Lee, there have been many different guises for the titular character.  Some of them have been good and some of them have been really bad.

That's when I read the last mini series called 'The Crow: Curare', a heartbreaking and harrowing tale penned by James O'Barr himself and illustrated by the criminally under rated artist Antoine Dode.  It really showed just what could be done with a good team up.  It was the same with 'Skinning the Wolves', although to a slightly lesser degree.  With the momentum set by those titles, I had very high hopes for 'Pestilence'.

After reading this, the first issue, I have to admit that I'm not really sure about this one.  I enjoyed the story and the introduction of the characters themselves but something felt a bit like something was missing yet I couldn't place my finger on why.

Don't get me wrong, it was a good first issue.  I liked how they really made it feel dirty and gritty throughout the story itself.  The one problem for me was the 'Crow' character in that it didn't seem to be breaking any new ground.

Art wise, it's not on a par with Dode's work on 'Curare' but there are some absolutely superb panels here.  The dark and gritty feeling of the writing is really brought to life with the art here.  Drew Moss and Oliver Lee Arce do an amazing job at bringing the feeling of dread throughout the pages to the forefront.  They also bring the grimy feeling of the surroundings and of the characters alive fantastically.

All in all, while this isn't up to the high talents of the 'Curare' mini series, this is still a worthy start to the 'Pestilence' storyline.  There does feel like there is something missing but that said, I'm still interested in seeing where this story is going to go.

Story 7.5/10
Art 8/10
Cover 8.5/10
Recommended 7/10
Overall 31/40

International Steampunk Fashions Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Victoriana Lady Lisa

Foreword and Steampunk 101
Written By
G.D. Falksen

Published By
Schiffer Publishing

Genre
Fashion, Art

Synopsis

Climb into your steam-powered time machine aircraft for a tour of the fashion world, steampunk style. This fashion backward collection features hundreds of intricate, creative, and visionary steampunk designs from top names in the business and fans from around the world.

Presented in high-quality fashion photography, the looks in this compendium include head-to-toe Victorian-era style coupled with futuristic, sci-fi concepts, as well as hats, jewelry, and other accessories. With fashions from as far away as Europe, New Zealand, and the Americas, this volume celebrates the diversity and innovators of this international phenomena and showcases works by contributors such as G.D. Falksen, Everlyn Kriete, Jon Magnificent, Kato of Steampunk Couture, Lex Machina, Lee Ann Farruga, Daniel Proulx, The League of S.T.E.A.M., Cris Ortega, Jema Hewitt, Dim Horizon Studio, Starkall, Empire Art, Abney Park, Brute Force Studios, Veronique Chevalier, and many more.

Complete with a foreword and "Steampunk 101" by G.D. Falksen, this is the book for designers, fans, and collectors.

Collecting since age 15, Victoriana Lady Lisa travels the world with her personal antique traveling museum of Victorian and Edwardian fashions and artifacts, c. 1840-1919.

Review

I love watching television shows and reading books about how people make their steampunk clothes and inventions.  I really think that some of the things these people come out with are absolutely stunning and massively impressive.

That's the case here.  Some of the fashions here are stunningly beautiful and each page had a different style or slant on the whole steampunk sub culture.  Considering I read books by James Blaylock and George Mann, it was utterly brilliant to see some of the things that they talk about in those fictional stories come to life thanks to these incredible designers.

In the hands of anyone else, some of the clothes and accessories here would look maybe even a bit silly or a bit cheesy but they have put so much detail, attention and, let's be honest here, love in to all of the things here that they just get better and better with each passing page.

The foreword and the 'Steampunk 101' parts of the book written by G.D. Falksen are a great addition to the book and really comes across as a brilliant introduction, not only to the book, but also to the world itself.  You can really see just how much of a labor of love this collection was and that shows here with this book.

If you are in to the steampunk of any kind whether it's the stories, the fashion, even the culture itself, then this book is a great addition to your library.  Some of the things that they have in this book are breath taking in just how beautiful they are.  Well worth picking up.

Presentation 8/10
Informative 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 23/30

Roisin Dubh Issue 1 Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Robert Curley (Plot)
Maura McHugh

Art By
Stephen Daly

Lettering By
Stephen Byrne

Cover By
Stephen Byrne

Published By
Atomic Diner

Genre
Horror, Supernatural

Synopsis

It’s 1899, and the cusp of a new century in Ireland. 18-year-old Róisín Sheridan harbours ambitions to become a rival of the magnificent English actress Ellen Terry, if she can persuade her father that a career on the stage is ladylike.

Her plans are destroyed one horrific evening when she and her parents are viciously attacked by Abhartach: a neamh-mairbh who has been released after 1,400 years in the ground.

To survive and seek revenge Róisín must take up a new calling, one determined by ancient Gods whose agendas are not clear, and which will place her entire existence in jeopardy.

Review

I've been reading a lot of zombie, horror and supernatural books and comics since I started this review blog.  Some have been good and some have been, well, not so good.

When I was given this one to read, I have to admit, I hadn't heard of the title itself or of the publisher that had released it.  After reading this one, I'll definitely be checking them out a lot more.

What we have here is a great mix of horror, of the supernatural and a story that weaves a lot of Celtic sensibility through out.

On paper, a woman becoming someone that will hunt a zombie like villain may sound like a plot device that has been to death and in other hands, it probably would come across as cliched and maybe even a bit boring.  That's most definitely not the case here.  The fact that they have mixed the supernatural with the Celtic makes this a really unique story, especially with the utterly superb pacing of the story itself.

Character wise, you don't get to see  too much of their motivations in this issue but that works.  You're shown just enough to actually want to get your hands on issue 2 to see more of them.  The main character herself is a superb vision of a woman that seems a little bit like she's out of her own time.  She's a forward thinking woman with a mind of her own and not afraid to voice it in a world that still seemed to want women to be seen and not heard so to speak.  I loved that about the character and that she didn't jump straight back in to gaining revenge for the murder of her family.  She was grieving, struggling to come to terms with it all.  That made the character a lot more grounded.

The idea of her soul meeting other people that would help her become the hero of the title was really well done and that's where the brilliant art came in to play.

Talking of art, 'Roisin Dubh' is one of those stark, moody black and white comics that seem to be going the rounds at the moment.  However, this one doesn't get lost in the shuffle.  The art here really works and brings the story to the forefront for the reader.  It's the panel work that shines the most for me as there are a couple of pages that really put forward the feeling of dread and horror that runs through the title.

All in all, this is an utterly superb comic book that really deserves to be read by more people.  The story is exciting, it has a great ending that makes you want to get the second issue as soon as you can and the art is absolutely stunning.  What more could you want?

Story 8/10
Art 9/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 34/40

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft Graphic Novel Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Based on the Book
Harry Haft: Auschwitz Survivor, Challenger of Rocky Marciano by Alan Scott Haft

Written By
Reinhard Kleist

Art and Cover By
Reinhard Kleist

Published By
Self Made Hero

Genre
Biography, Second World War

Synopsis

Separated from his family in Nazi-occupied Poland and plunged into the horror and degradation of the concentration camps, young Hertzko Haft found himself forced into life-or-death boxing matches by his SS captors.

His battles took him to the end of the Second World War and - against all the odds - liberation.

Chasing a rumor to post-war America, Hertzko became Harry and traded desperation for professional boxing - all the send a message to a long-lost friend.

Reinhard Kleist's vivid and expressive storytelling shows us two halves of a divided life, and the common thread running through them both.

Contrasting the privations of wartime with the possibilities of a new life across the ocean, The Boxer tells the incredible true story of Haft's struggle against experiences that would shape the rest of his life.

Review

Self Made Hero has fast become one of my favorite publishers since I started reviewing their releases for a couple of reasons.  One is that their releases are so varied that there really is something for everyone.  Biographies, drama, horror, even adaptations of classic and modern works.  Sometimes their releases can seem a little random but that's one of the best parts about them, you never know what they are going to put out there next.   The second reason is that no matter what genre the release is, you just know that it's going to be incredibly high quality.

Their last release 'Vincent' got full marks on this site, which as regular visitors will know, doesn't happen very often.  I have to admit, that I didn't think they would be able to match such a gorgeous and brilliantly written graphic novel.

Well, did they manage to match it?

Most definitely yes.

The thing to remember is that this is a completely different story and art style to 'Vincent' and therefore can't really be compared so to speak.  That said, this stark and sometimes brutal telling of the life story of Harry Haft, is a massively well written, paced and drawn story that will positively drawn you in, shock you and touch you.

'The Boxer' really is a heartbreaking yet inspiring look at a man that was so affected by the brutal and tragic things that happened to him.  At the same time, Kleist manages to not paint him as completely perfect.  In fact, he is painted as flawed and sometimes even brutal himself in a few moments yet never painted as a horrible person.  Just as one that was psychologically damaged by all the things that he saw, did and was made to participate in just to be to survive.

Writing wise, this graphic novel is absolutely superb.  I honestly couldn't put it down, which seems to be pretty much the norm for the Self Made Hero releases, despite some of the more unsettling scenes.  One of the things that struck me about this one is the simple fact that I really think that this story really is one of the most important from the Second World War era in that seeing just what the people were subjected to.

This is where the art really comes in to it's own.  In fact, like the art for the 'Vincent' release, it's absolutely perfect for the graphic novel.  I honestly couldn't think of a different artist or style for 'The Boxer' in that I really don't think that any changes would work.  The stark, brutal black and white art really forces home just what happened in the camps and in the cities themselves.  The fact that it's in black and white is also another strength in that because of the stark nature of it, as I've said before, makes the scenes memorable and heart breaking.

If you are looking for a book that sums up the hardship, brutality and sadness of the Second World War, then look no further.  This is both a touching, sad story yet at the same time inspiring but without falling in to the trap of painting the subject as a perfect person.  Instead Haft is shown here to be a man with problems but they're so well explored that you can fully understand why he struggled after the war and why it was such a battle for him to come to terms with what he was made to be part of and with what he saw happen to the people around him.

Another fantastic release from Self Made Hero that is both beautiful, horrifying and inspiring in equal measure.

Story 10/10
Art 10/10
Cover 10/10
Recommended 10/10
Overall 40/40

Thursday, 13 March 2014

An Intimate Look at Writing Samsara - A Guest Blog By James Ninness


I wrote the first draft of SAMSARA almost a decade ago. After a six to seven month stint in Tucson, Arizona, I moved to Orange County to live with my friend, Brett.

Brett happened to have a house full of creative-types who went to school with him at Chapman, a rather popular film school. There were actors and directors and writers and editors - eight or nine of us in total, all living under one roof. At any given time there were plays, films, television pilots and/or writing meetings happening in or around the house. It was a place of great creative juju.

Up to that point, I had written only short stories and poetry (most of it terrible), but the environment pushed me to try my hand at screenplays. One of the first I put out was a reimagining of a poem I wrote that dealt with endless cycles. In the poem, a character wakes up and lives the same day over and over without knowing it, like Groundhog Day without the comedy. The screenplay, however, featured five characters whose stories interlinked into a single, never-ending story that picked up where it ended, and could potentially run forever.

I only shared the screenplay with three people. Of them, one had anything nice to say about it. I hid the screenplay deep in the recesses of my hard drive and moved on with life.

I’m going to try not to spoil anything here, but in SAMSARA there are four characters who make all of their decisions based on fear: a fear of hurting, a fear of loneliness, a fear of failing, and a fear of rejection. I continue to struggle with each one of these fears on a daily basis - I think a lot of people do - but I don’t think I suffered under the weight of these fears more at any point in my life than I did in Tucson.

I moved from Tucson from San Diego after a brutal break-up. I managed to secure a job at a local coffee shop, a small studio apartment across the street from said café, and a six-hour ride out there (I didn’t own a car at the time). My entire period in Tucson can be summed up as a series of bad decisions. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. I went from 210 pounds to 150. It was the single most self-destructive period of my life.

I hit bottom. Hitting bottom was exactly what I needed.

When I finally left Arizona, it was only because I had no money left to pay rent and was, quite literally, about to be homeless; that’s not an exaggeration: I was holding an intent-to-evict notice on my patio, thinking about nearby places I might be able to squat. As if on queue, two weeks before I was told I had to leave the apartment, I got an out-of-nowhere phone call from Brett asking if I’d be interested in taking a to-be-empty room in his house. Serendipity.

After I arrived in Orange I stopped using drugs altogether and vowed off women, convinced that the monks had it right. A few months in I met my now-wife. She made me want to go back to school, so I did. I got my degree and started climbing out of the social shit-hole I had dug for myself. Here I am, several years later, married, the father of two beautiful girls, writing and working and loving my life.

So what made me bring back SAMSARA? One of the people I met in Tucson sent me a correspondence several months ago. In it they haphazardly filled me in on the details of their life before eventually asking me for money. Apparently this person became a stripper* when I left, then a drug addict, and then a prostitute. I’m not sure where they’re at now… I wrote back to them but have not received a reply.

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried after reading their email.

The SAMSARA screenplay was dusted off, transformed from a short film to a comic book, and eventually produced into what you can now find on Amazon.

I got out of my rut. Thanks to Brett, my wife, two friends from Tucson, and a few of the people I met in Orange County, I was able to find scrape my way out of what could have been my demise. Not everybody gets to do that.

SAMSARA was written for the people who need an immediate perspective shift. It can be hard to see our lives from the outside looking in. I still think it’s normal to fear hurting, loneliness, failing, and rejection. I do not, however, believe it is possible to escape our cycle of suffering when we let those fears guide our decision-making process. It’s terrifyingly simple to get caught up in a cycle of suck.

A little perspective can be emancipating.


*I know that friend’s journey was his or her own and this should in no way be read as an indictment of strippers as a profession leading to drug-addicted prostitutes.

Grab a copy of SAMSARA on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Samsara-James-M-Ninness/dp/1496017579

Check out James's website: http://jamesninness.com/
 
Connect with James on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamesninness