Monday, 30 June 2014

Death Sentence Graphic Novel Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Montynero

Art By
Mike Dowling

Lettering By
Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt

Covers By
Montynero

Published By
Titan Comics

Genre
Action, Super Powers

Synopsis

Verity: frustrated artist.
Weasel: struggling guitarist.
Monty: rogue media icon.

Three people infected with the G+ virus - which gives them incredible powers, but which will kill them in six months!

Will they fade away - or go out in a blaze of glory?

From the streets of London to the North Atlantic, from muses lost to futures thrown away - Death Sentence is the jaw-dropping next step in superpowered storytelling.

Funny, fearless and frightening, this collection of the hit series is an unforgettable comics debut.

Introduction by Rob Williams (The Royals, Ordinary, 2000AD)

Review

Titan Comics may be a new comer to the comic book world but they have been slowly and steadily releasing some really good quality books and series with some really big names attached to them.

Death Sentence is apparently the debut of this creative team and what a debut.  One of the things that struck me the most about this release from Titan Comics is the simple fact that it really grabs you as soon as you open it.  Some of that is due to the art and some is due to the superb writing here.

The writing duties here are handled by Montynero and he really has a bit of a Mark Millar vibe to the writing and the story itself.  In fact, I would even say that it out Millar's Mark Millar in places yet it retains it's own voice and what a voice it is.  The story really comes across as a punch to the gut and incredibly dark.  It is definitely not one for the younger comic book fans out there thanks to it's sometimes disturbing subject matter.

I must admit that there were moments in the story that actually really got under my skin and made me feel uncomfortable but that's exactly the point of the story.  That's a great way of asking the question of what would you do if you gained these unstoppable powers and only had a few months to live.  Would you go the good route of trying to make the world a better place or go crazy and megalomania style ravings?

The answers to that question are explored here in great and quite graphic details.  The stories running alongside one another of the main characters lives and how they then converge in an orgy of violence and tragedy.  Yet all through that all, there's a deeply tragic and sympathetic story running throughout the collection.  They really take a good look at each aspect of the characters personalities and lives, including the flaws and their mistakes.  I loved that because of the simple fact that it showed us as a race as both brave, heroic and wonderful but also as fickle, cowardly and evil.

Art wise, Mike Dowling, has crafted a style for this story that really wouldn't look out of place in a Millarworld title.  It's dark in places, bright and colorful in others but that mixes so well with Montynero's writing and the action on the page.  Even in the parts of the story that really get under your skin, the art does a great job of making you look even if you feel uneasy about what you are seeing.  One of the best moments in this collection for me was a quite simple scene.  The stuff has literally hit the fan and Weasel and Verity are in a car together chatting and trying to work out a game plan when Weasel stops all he is doing to upload his new song to the Internet in a last ditch effort to get people to listen to his solo stuff.  The art and the writing combine here brilliantly well, especially in the reactions both dialogue wise and facial expression wise.  For me, that scene summed up both the characters brilliantly.

If this is going to be the sort of titles that Dowling and Montynero put out together then long may their partnership continue because this is definitely a title that not only carries on Titan Comics' run of good titles but I would say this is the best one that they have put out so far.

Story 8.5/10
Art 8.5/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 35/40

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Legion of the Damned Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
William C. Dietz

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Science Fiction, Action, Military

Synopsis

Far in the future, condemned criminals and the fatally ill have two choices: to die, or to join the Legion of the Damned, an elite fighting force made up of human legionnaires and cyborg soldiers.

If their enlist, their bodies will be destroyed and their minds implanted in gigantic armoured killing machines, programmed to fight for the Human Empire.

Review

The Legion of the Damned series is a celebrated slice of science fiction that has gained a very deserved reputation as one of the best science fiction series written in recent years.

Titan Books have released this, the first book in the series, and now I'm sat here having read it to see if it really holds up to it's massive reputation.

As if there were any doubt.  The Legion of the Damned by William C. Dietz was and still is one of the best science fiction novels that I have read in a very long time, maybe even of all time.  Dietz's masterful writing really does a superb job of making this in to a novel with multiple layers and themes that really raise this higher than a lot of the science fiction novels out there.

One of the things that really strikes me is that while this is a military novel set in a futuristic science fiction world, it's the human element of it all that really makes it stand out.  We are treated to a superb look at the mayhem and futility of war and sacrifice.  In fact the whole story includes the sheer unadulterated madness of those in charge of the war itself and then the humanity of the people involved in the front line.

The pacing of the novel and of the story itself really hooks you in and you end up feeling just like you are involved in the proceedings themselves.  When you get deep in to the story and the twists and turns speed up, you're so involved in the story that they strike deep and true.

As the first novel in a series, this is most definitely one of the best.  In fact, it's one of those 'must read' books that actually deserve their heralded reputation.  I would even go so far as  to say that this one was even better than I was thinking it would be so I really can't recommend it high enough.

If you a science fiction fan then this one needs to be on your book shelf.

Story 9.5/10
Characters 9/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 35/40

The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Ian Sharman
Pete Rogers

From A Story By
Ian Sharman

Art By
Ewan McLaughlin

Lettering By
Ian Sharman

Cover By
Ewan McLaughlin

Published By
AAM / Markosia

Genre
Science Fiction, Action, Comedy

Synopsis

Zakk Ridley, pilot, smuggler, rogue, rapscallion…he’d like to think he’s a nice guy. 

Zakk dreams of an easy life roaming the galaxy and making a fast buck or two, but those dreams are thrown into disarray when he and his robotic first mate, Dan, get involved in a simple delivery that goes awry. 

Before they know it they’re caught up in an intergalactic conspiracy to keep the galaxy in fear of a constant war on terror. Will they heed Kyouri Denan’s pleas for help in exposing this gross perversion of democracy? Of course they will…eventually… 

The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley is a rip roaring adventure across the galaxy, stopping off at a few of it’s seedier dives on the way…

Review

If you have been a regular visitor to this blog then you will know that one of the influences on my writing and one of the writers that I am a big fan of is Ian Sharman, the guy who brought us Alpha Gods, Hero 9-5 and much more.

Sharman has a reputation for being able to jump in to a genre and crack out a gripping and well paced story that will hook the readers in with the action and the well written characters.  Here he tackles space.  The final frontier.  Oh wait, wrong franchise.

With The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley, Sharman and his writing partner here, Pete Rogers, have taken all the good bits that we love about the idea of the lovable rogue.  Think Mal Reynolds from Firefly meeting Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies via a bit of Han Solo from Star Wars.  You might think that being influenced by such characters and many more would make this story unoriginal or even boring but that's very far from the case here.

Talking as a fan of the television series Firefly, I loved this story.  There were some absolutely brilliant action scenes that had me on the edge of my seat and then it would jump straight in to some interplay between the characters that had me howling with laughter.  Sharman and Rogers manage to do that without making the story seem disjointed at all and that's a hard task.  

One of the main strengths of Zakk Ridley is the pacing.  The quick writing of the story really lends it to having a television episode feel and sometimes even feels a little bit like those old black and white Flash Gordon serials that I like so much, just with added humor and fun.

Having seen the art for this one, I have to admit that I think Ewan McLaughlin has done an absolutely stellar job here at bringing the characters to life on the page.  His style mixes some of the best parts of the late 80's and early 90's styles while feeling completely up to date.  His flashy colors and great eye for detail really make this feel like it wouldn't be out of place as a television show or even a movie, especially on the action sequences.

All in all, this is one of the most fun science fiction titles I've read to review on this blog for a long time.  It doesn't take itself seriously yet feels utterly gripping and exciting, taking the best parts of some of the movies and shows that I've mentioned before yet still feeling original and fun.

Definitely one for the pull list.

Story 8.5/10
Art 9/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 8.5/10
Overall 35/40

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Resistance Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Samit Basu

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Superhero, Action

Synopsis

Eleven years after the passengers of flight BA142 from London to Delhi developed extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires, the world is overrun with supers. 

Some use their powers for good, others for evil, and some just want to smash up iconic monuments and get on TV. But now someone is hunting down supers, killing heroes and villains both, and it’s up to the Unit to stop them...

Review

After having read the original novel Turbulence by Samit Basu, I was impressed with the skill and wit in the writing but was left feeling like I wanted to know a little more about the characters and the actions surrounding the the gaining of the powers and their reactions to them.  It just felt like a little bit was missing.

Here in it's sequel Resistance, that problem is long gone.  Instead that's been replaced with a tighter pace, well rounded characters and some really well placed revelations about not only the characters but also their powers.

I loved the idea that not all people wanted to play the hero once they had gotten their powers.  While that idea wasn't taken to the extreme that it was in the comic series named Death Sentence, Basu takes a little more subtle yet well written approach.  Yes some of the people who gain powers go the stereotypical 'let's save the world' route and others just want to watch the world burn.  I loved that about the story.

Another thing that blew me away was the simple fact that there was so much happening in the story and so many threads that were running alongside one another that I was a little worried that it might get a little jumbled or confusing.  That's not the case here at all.  When all the pieces start to come together, it's just like watching a master painter working on his next piece of art.

That's massively helped by the pacing here too.  The story moves along at quite a quick pace but Basu doesn't leave any of the characters behind or loose ends.  That's the sign of a good writer and Basu is definitely one of those.

Characters wise, we get a whole load of new characters and they all fit in to the world that he was created very well.  We also get the return of some of the faces from Turbulence as well, with a couple of my favorites making triumphant returns.

If you are in to superhero stories but with a bit of a more human edge, then this is definitely the book for you.  It's well written, has great pacing and memorable characters so what are you waiting for?

Story 8/10
Characters 8.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 32/40

House Party Graphic Novel Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written, Art and Cover By
Rachael Smith

Published By
Great Beast Comics

Genre
Comedy, Drama

Synopsis

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.

Review

As visitors to this site know, I am very much a fan of indie comics and movies.  I tend to find that they are more open to taking risks with their stories and their art than the mainstream ones and that's one of the things that I like the most.  I will admit that can sometimes be one of their biggest failings too but the fact that they are at least willing to take the risk is enough for me to want to pick them up.

That's where I come to Great Beast Comics.  They, just like Self Made Hero, have a great reputation for putting out really high quality books and stories so when they signed the Leicester writer and artist Rachael Smith, I couldn't wait to see what the end result would be.

That end result is House Party and is the debut novel debut by the renowned Smith.  She's well known amongst comic book fans as someone that really excels at creating characters that are realistic to the point of feeling like the sort of people that you would meet in everyday life.

With House Party she keeps that tradition rolling on in a very impressive way.  In fact, she captures the feeling of hope and sometimes cockiness that comes with going to university and feeling on top of the world but then getting dropped back down to Earth with a bang when they come back from that rite of passage.  There really is a great mixture of the feeling of hope and sometimes futility that comes with youth in that no matter how good the intentions are, life can sometimes still throw you for a loop.  That's evident here when the group decide that they are going to throw a huge house party to regain some of that feeling they had when feeling so mega stars at the university.

The story really does a fabulous job of not only taking a little more of a cynical look at life but you also come away from the story with a bit of hope as well.  A bit like having a feeling of things not being as bad as you may have thought at first.

Art wise, if you have read any of Smith's work before then you know pretty much what to expect with her bright and colorful yet down to Earth art.  Think Daniel Clowes but with a bit of added color and you are pretty much halfway there.

Overall this is yet another very good release from the new partnership between Rachael and Great Beast Comics and long may it continue.  I have to admit that for me it doesn't surpass I Am Fire, my personal favorite of her releases, but it definitely keeps the momentum that she has built up for herself and long may it continue.

Story 8/10
Art 8/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 32/40

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Misadventures of Leon McKenzie: A Chat With the Comic Book Writer

 
Today at Curiosity of a Social Misfit, Patrick Scattergood is pleased to introduce Leon McKenzie.  The writer of the adventurous ‘The Misadventures of Adam West’ and many more has popped in to our part of the web to talk about his career, his inspirations and everything in between.

PS: Welcome Mr McKenzie, many thanks for joining us here today.

LM: Thank you for having me.
 
PS: As a well known comic book writer, what would you say was the turning point in to you jumping in to that world?

LM: The turning point was meeting up with an artist, waaaaaaay before Twilight was on the shelves, and he said to me “I’d love to draw something with vampires vs werewolves . . . maybe have some ninjas in there too?” and without thinking I calmly replied “I can do that.”
 
I put together a rough script which was heavily influenced by films rather than the actual comic books genre and then the artist took the first few pages and drew them up. when I saw the first page completed; iIwas in shock. An utter state of happy shock. My words had been turned into fully colored images and I knew, deep down, I had to have a crack at doing this.

PS: ‘The Misadventures of Adam West’ feels very different to your other work.  How did the project come about?

LM: Yeah, I usually write more serious superhero genre or straight forward horror. Ed and myself were once asked to put together a pitch for a Mr Burt Ward who liked the whole Misadventures of Adam West notion. We cobbled together some real psychedelic adventurer stuff. We liked it but Ward (or his people) didn’t. We rewrote it into a more straight-laced idea and sent it up again and they asked for a few additions and changes, we made them and then they came back with a small list of do’s and don’t’s . . . then we heard nothing. We carried on putting Fleischer together and finally word got back to us that Ward just went cold on the whole thing. Just like that. Cold. 
 
I was kinda gutted because there was some stuff in there that would have pushed Ward (the comic book version of Ward that is) from being viewed as the eternal sidekick to being a hero in his own right. A few days later I got a call from Ed telling me that the writer of the Adam West book had gone and we’d been asked if we would like to take over the writing position.
I said yes before Ed could finish the rest of his sentence.

PS: Did you feel star struck at all knowing that you were going to be working on a project with such a big name attached to it?

LM: Little bit, yeah. I mean it’s Adam West. He was my first Batman and I was getting the chance to handle his further adventures in another medium.
 
I geeked out then snapped back to the reality of writing the thing. We jumped into researching the previous issues to mine for story nuggets that we could take further but found nothing substantial enough, so we just added aspects like making the Amulet sentient and actually delving into what the transfer from fictional reality to fictional reality really felt like for Adam. Then we decided to compress the story telling.
 
By the time we had got all that under control there was very little time to feel star struck anymore.
West never personally reached out to us to say “What the fuck are you guys doing?? Make me a cowboy again!!” so we guessed that no news is good news

PS: What would you say is the issue of the series that you are most proud of?

LM: Every issue holds something different to me. can I cheat and say I’m proud of the entire run?

If I had to pick?

Issue Ten to Twelve. Without a doubt. We took over writing duties at issue five and it was all plotted to have this crossover at the end of our run. At the plotting stage of issue ten i had the idea to not even have Adam in the entire issue. We’d spent issue after issue building him up into this status of a dimensional skipping do-gooder but what about the influence/legacy he’d left in his wake? 
 
All the characters we’d brought in from issue five all team up and are fighting an impossible battle that is happening across the entire time/reality stream at the same instance. Some fiction was overlapping into fact and facts were leaking into fiction, certain characters were slowly becoming aware that they’re actual comic book versions of film/television characters and others flat out refused to accept the truth.

And there’s no Adam, who at this point was becoming a bit of an dimension skipping guru, to guide them through the ordeal.

PS: Were you worried what fans of Adam West would think of the series at all?

LM: The only thing I was concerned about was if people would accept the shift from the quite quirky and fun tales into a slightly darker toned condensed story telling. The previous writer worked on two issue story arcs and we came in and slammed it all into a single issue format to add a frenzied paced, chaotic and slightly off-centre feel to our entire run. Then we made each issue fit a television/film genre
issue 5 - Crime
issue 6 - Science Fiction
issue 7 - High School Slasher
issue 8 - Superhero
issue 9 - Slapstick Comedy
issue’s 10 - 12 - Meta Fiction

That’s not an easy thing to do; we’re changing the entire aspect of the book to have each issue tell a two tier story. Even number 9 which, on the surface, is basically an entire issue dedicated to a single dick and fart joke leads into the accidental end of an established fictional universe.

PS: You’ve also written ‘Fleischer’ and ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.  Do you have a preference as to what genre you work in at all?

LM: Honestly? Let me tell you something . . .  Fleischer was an utterly eye watering arse-ache for me at the start because I couldn’t write the slapstick silliness as easily as Ed. I once spent three weeks working on a five page section of an issue; that was painful because I couldn’t get the timing at all. So, I’m the phone to Ed and he told me what i already knew; I was over-thinking it. Something clicked in my head and i just started blurting out stuff and Ed’s screaming at me to write it all down. The idea was to let Ed do the slapstick and I’ll work on the overall plot breakdowns and add everything that makes a superhero NOT a superhero . . . Like a superman-type having baby momma drama from a wife from the future. He has a baby but without the fun of all the sex which smashes his brains. She keeps trying to come onto him and he has to turn her down because he’s a decent guy but she’s sexy as hell and he views it as her cheating . . . Cold showers for him. While that may not be funny for everybody it’s a fucked experience that Ed weaves into comedy moments.
 
Argonauts is far more comfortable for me to deal with because that’s straight forward “Guys-on-a-mission” type of story telling. I was asked to take over Argonauts at issue two and while some would panic at taking over a title before the thing had even really started; I'm so comfortable with that type of genre I accepted without thinking twice. I’m halfway through writing it and I’m just approaching the book as a superhero book. But with Greek Gods involved.

I’m taking steps in learning to balance the two extreme types of story telling. It’s graft but I’m loving it.
 
PS: What or who would you say has been the biggest influence on your writing?
 
LM: Biggest influence? I've learnt tricks/ideas from different writers over the years. I've sat and talked writers runs with a whole bunch of people for hours on end.
 
My little list of influential writers include -
Peter David
James Robinson
Gareth Ennis
Warren Ellis
Grant Morrison
Brian Michael Bendis

The top of that list would be Brian Azzerello. The man writes the ugly side of the human mind so well that I am forced to go back and reread it time and time again. Sometimes I have to put his stuff down because it's just . . . It's like "What the absolute fuck, man?? Please don't make me root for the bad guy!!!"
He's writing is so dense and unforgiving. You are submerged in the depths of the world he creates and you don't really want to say no to it. He writes and I read and scream to myself in creative envy.

PS: If someone has never read your work before, which of your titles would you start them off with and how would you describe your style?

LM: I would say start with Adam West as it's the gateway title at the moment. It's filled with ideas and narration that highlight my love for the superhero genre. Read the individual issues or read the entire run and gain a sense of an overall story arc . . . Up to you. 

The sad thing about Adam West is that it finished on issue twelve. There were plans for a spin-off with Eartha Kitt involved but for various reasons that never happened . . . Like I said; sad times.

PS: Since becoming a writer, what would say the best bit of advice you have been given and have given in return has been?

LM: Best advice I ever got was at a signing with Warren Ellis. He said, and it's so bloody simple, he said to just keep writing. Write until you get a little bit sick of it and if you want to continue being a writer then you're on the right track. 

Best advice I've ever given? 
 
I haven't reached the point in my fledgling career to hand out advice but once I hit my goal of writing Alpha Flight then I'll throw verbal shit out there like a prophet!! 

PS: Where can your fans expect to see you next?

LM: Under their beds.

Only Joking!!

I’m actually appearing at the Leamington Spa comic-con in October. I’ll be selling some limited edition Fleischer & The Group merchandise and I’m on a Q&A panel so good luck to the other panelists because I can bloody ramble!!

PS: Many thanks for popping in today to talk to the readers here.  Do you have any last words to leave for them?

LM: The entire world has now finally understood our geeky world due to Hollywood bringing our heroes and villains to life on the silver screen . . . WE’VE WON, GEEKS & NERDS!!

HAIL HYDRA!!!!

Seriously though . . . I'm under your bed. Possibly naked.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sneak Peek: Freak Show Art - Part 2


Well then ladies, gentlemen, animals and minerals.

After the popularity of the first post with some sample art for the 'Freak Show' story, we'd treat you all to another sneak peek at one of two more characters in the story, drawn by the superbly talented Carlos Moreno.

First up is...

The Human Blockhead!


For the 'Blockhead' we went the more extreme route for the blockhead.  In some acts they just go the route of nails etc going through the nose cavity and others, well others just pretty much like to try to ram nails anywhere they can.

It's a sense of grotesque danger in that you don't want to look at the act yet at the same, once the act catches your eyes, you just can't look away.

Secondly, it's Cassandra, The Bearded Lady


Cassandra is a very important part of the story.  Not only is her death at the beginning of the story the catalyst for everything that follows but she is the heart and soul of the entire tale itself.  She lends a human link to the battle between faith and justice.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United DVD Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Brandon Auman
Henry Gilroy

Directed By
Eric Radomski
Leo Riley

A Marvel Studios Film

Genre
Animated, Superhero, Action

Cast

Adrian Pasdar as Iron Man / Tony Stark
Fred Tatasciore as The Hulk
Dee Bradley Baker as Dr. Cruler / Zzzax
Robin Atkin Downes as Dr. Fump / Abomination
David Kaye as Jarvis
Liam O'Brien as Red Skull

Year Released
2013

Certificate
PG

Synopsis

Marvel makes cinematic history again with the most unexpected team-up in the universe! Joining forces for the first time ever, Hulk's brute strength and Tony Stark's high-tech brainpower come together to face off against the ultimate enemy. 

When "Zzzax," a seemingly invincible, energy-devouring monster, threatens to destroy the planet, Marvel's unlikeliest pairing of Avengers is mankind's only hope. Alone, neither can defeat the awesome power of Zzzax. As a duo, they just might have a chance - if they can find a way to work together without smashing heads before time runs out! 

Packed with explosive action and presented in groundbreaking Marvel CG Animation, Marvel's Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United is a must-own movie event that will blow you away! 

Special Features
  • None

Review

I have to admit, I've been a massive Iron Man and Incredible Hulk fan since I was a kid so when I saw this one, I knew I had to grab it and watch it.  In fact, I felt like a little kid.

Well, before I watched it I was wondering just what kind of portrayal we were going to get this time.  I was hoping for some knock down, drag out fights and some great interplay between the characters like we got in the live action Avengers Assemble movie.

We most definitely didn't get that at all.  What we got instead was a pair of bumbling Laurel and Hardy style heroes with some really awful attempts at humor and bickering.

That's not the only thing wrong with this one either.  The thing that really struck me was the simple fact that the animation looks incredibly dated, blurry and even unwatchable in places.  Considering the fact that they dropped loads of hints for a sequel during the movie, I'm thinking that they thought this one was going to rock the fans so much that they would want a lot more.  Well, this fan most definitely doesn't.  There were so many scenes that were blurry and even seemed unfinished in places that not only did it distract me from the story, what there is of it anyway, it also made me feel like it was pretty unwatchable.

Some of that has to definitely be laid at the feet of the writers.  I'm not the sort of fan that complains when their favorite characters are changed or anything like as long as it's done well.  Instead we have a very articulate Hulk bickering with a Tony Stark / Iron Man who seems to have taken some loopy pills at some point because he talks and acts like he doesn't know where he is or what the heck is going on.  The story itself doesn't really get going at all.  You don't feel like the pair are in danger at any point and there are times when the scenes go on for so long that you just feel like they padded them out in order to make the movie a little bit longer.

Talking of dialogue and the like, the cast is pretty bad for this one.  They all seemed rather bored by comparison to other Marvel and DC animated movies that I've seen and seemed even more lifeless than the awful Technovore movie that had Iron Man in.  Can anyone say pay cheque?

All in all, this one is most definitely not worth the time watching.  I'm not the biggest DC fan in the world but their animated movies most definitely are wiping the floor with the Marvel ones not only in the writing but in the animation stakes too.  This one felt like they'd found an old computer program and decided to crack a movie out in their lunch break.

This one is one to go on the give it a miss pile for sure.

Movie 2/10
Picture 5/10
Sound 6/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 13/30

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Jorg Tittel

Art and Cover By
John Aggs

Published By
Self Made Hero

Genre
Action, Comedy

Synopsis

Rick Rouse is a US Army deserter who, after running away to China, gets a job at Fengxian Amusement Park – a family destination ‘inspired’ by Western culture, featuring Rambi (the deer with a red headband), Ratman (the caped crusader with a rat’s tail), Bumbo (small ears and a big behind) and other original characters. 

The park’s general manager hires Rick to greet Fengxian customers dressed in a furry costume. When American terrorists take the entire park hostage, only Ricky Rouse can save the day…

This original graphic novel is a relentless action comedy, a satire of US-China relations, a parody of Western entertainment, and a curious look at a country that, once we look past its often outrageous copyright infringements, is a culture ripe with innovation and a unique, courageous spirit.

The book includes an introduction by Christopher Sprigman, Professor of Law at New York University and author of The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation.

Review

I must admit that after reading the synopsis of this one, I wasn't all that sure what I was actually getting myself in to.

The thing that stuck me however was just how easily it straddled so many different genres and styles while feeling utterly original.  There are so many nods and winks to various things.  You have little digs at the superhero genre, buddy movies and they even manage to tackle the relationship between the US and China in a very funny satirical way.

Normally a release that tries to tackle so much in one go would end up feeling really disjointed or sometimes even feeling a little convoluted in places but that's not the case here at all.  The flow and the pacing has a hypnotic and almost poetic feel to it.

It's in that hypnotic feel that the story sinks its claws in and hooks you in until the final page.  That's where one of it's many strengths lie.  Equal parts action story and a riot of a comedy story, there's a great cinematic sheen over the entire book.  The panel work and art here does a superb job of living side by side with the superb writing.

The satirical look at the relationship of the US and China, really had me in tears of laughter in places.  The way the writing takes a look at how their attempts to copy some of the famous characters in pop culture history can sometimes be just as famous as their original counterparts is really well done and adds an interesting layer to the book.

I would be remiss if I didn't some of the brilliant characters thrown throughout the story itself.  Rambi, a deer wearing a red head band, and Ratman, a caped crusader with a tail.  I absolutely loved these guys and they really hit the nail on the head big time about the whole, sometimes, outrageous copyright infringement that can sometimes happen.

All in all, if you are looking for a fun and hilarious action packed book then this one is definitely the one for you.

Story 8.5/10
Art 9/10
Cover 8.5/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 35/40

Self Made Hero have released, ahead of the September release of the paperback version, a lavish limited-run 'Gold Edition' of Ricky Rouse Has A Gun that is limited to just 500 copies so get yours while you can!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Popeye DVD Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Jules Feiffer

Based On
Characters By E.C. Segar

Directed By
Robert Altman

A Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Productions Film

Genre
Adventure, Comedy, Musical

Cast

Robin Williams as Popeye
Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl
Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy
Paul Dooley as Wimpy
Paul L. Smith as Bluto
Richard Libertini as Geezil
Donald Moffat as The Taxman

Year Released
1980

Certificate
U

Synopsis

The sailor man with the spinach can!

The legendary, beloved anvil-armed sailor of the seven seas comes magically to life in this delightful musical, starring Robin Williams as Popeye, who meets all challenges with the unshakable philosophy, 'i yam what I yam and that's all that I yam'. Shelley Duvall is Popeye's devoted long-limbed sweetie, Olive Oil, one of the familiar and loveable characters who joins Popeye in his adventures in the harbour town of Sweethaven. Meet Wimpy and Bluto and all the other cartoon favourites in this happy, tuneful fun-for-the-whole-family movie! 

Special Features
  • None

Review

Before I sat down to this one I figured I would try to remember just how much of this movie I could recall from the top of my head.  I mean it had been nearly 25 years since I'd seen it last but as a kid I remember absolutely loving this movie.

Well now that I've sat down to watch it again, this time with my little boy, I must admit one thing.  Time has not been brilliantly kind to this movie but at the same time, nor is it as truly bad as people say it is.  The best way to think of to describe it would be that it's just kind of there and not hugely memorable.

Out of the whole cast, it was kind of hard to remember who played who after the movie had ended.  They just seemed to all merge in to one another and that's a real shame because it was great to see that Altman had really tried to do something different with this movie and amidst all the parts that don't work, there are still some really good parts that work very well.

One of the things that I liked the most was the simple fact that some of it truly was quite bonkers.  The addition of circus workers to do their tricks and stunts in the background really gave it a bit of a weird feel in that it felt like something was off kilter and a bit strange.  I loved that about the movie.  Another thing I liked was that at it's heart, there was quite a sweet heart running through it all.

A lot of the complaints against the movie seemed to be about the simple fact that it didn't feel all that much like Popeye.  I can kind of understand that in a way because people are used to the cartoons that take a slightly more campy and fun approach to the character whereas this version has a bit of a harder and more cynical one.  That's because, I think, Altman tried to go for the original version of the character and not the more well known version that eats spinach.  While that doesn't really hit all the marks, it's still nowhere near as much of a disaster as a lot of the critics make it out to be.

All in all, I can see why this one isn't all that well known or even that loved but I for one enjoyed it.  Maybe that's thanks to my cynical and off kilter sense of humor.  I won't lie, it wasn't anywhere near as good as I remembered it being as a kid but there are much worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

Movie 6/10
Picture 7/10
Sound 7/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 20/30

A Fantastic Fear of Everything DVD Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Crispian Mills

Directed By
Crispian Mills
Chris Hopewell

A Indomina Productions, Keel Films, Pinewood Studios Film

Genre
Comedy, Thriller

Cast

Simon Pegg as Jack
Clare Higgins as Clair de Grunwald
Paul Freeman as Dr. Friedkin
Amara Karan as Sangeet
Henry Lloyd-Hughes as PC Taser
Bernard Cribbins as The Voice

Year Released
2012

Certificate
15

Synopsis

Jack (Simon Pegg) is a children's author turned crime novelist whose detailed research into the lives of Victorian serial killers has turned him into a paranoid wreck, persecuted by an irrational fear of being murdered.

When Jack is thrown a life-line by his long-suffering agent, and a mysterious Hollywood executive takes a sudden and inexplicable interest in Jack's script, what should be his 'big break' rapidly turns into his 'big breakdown' as Jack is forced to confront his worst fears; among them love, laundry and serial killers. 

Special Features
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Feature Commentary With Simon Pegg, Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell
  • Introduction by Simon Pegg
  • Interviews With Simon Pegg, Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell

Review

I'm known amongst my friends for having a bit of an off kilter sense of humor and so I went in to this movie wondering if it could really be as bad as some of the reviews made it out to be.  There really were some damning reviews out there about this movie.  Could it really be that bad?

The simple answer is no it's not but I can see why it got some bad reviews.

With my sense of humor being a bit strange, the synopsis of this one really sounded like my cup of tea and so I sat down with the wife to see just what it could be like.

Written by the lead singer of a band called Kula Shaker, this movie starts off really slowly and I mean a snail pace slowly.  That's one of the things I like about it however.  It really did a good job of showing the character descending in to madness and how his surroundings change according to whatever his mindset is.  That said, I can see why the pacing of the first half of the movie would put some people off but for me, I loved how Simon Pegg showed the slowly sense of paranoia that is creeping in to his world.

That's when it picks up speed and while it lost me a little when it did, I found myself really hooked in to the ride.  I wanted to see why Pegg's character was that troubled.  The idea of him seeing murderer and mad people around him the further he gets in to his research for a book on Victorian murders is a well done and well acted moment in the movie and really gives it a quirky, indie feel to it that runs through out the rest of the movie itself.

I can see why it didn't suit everyone.  Some of the humor is a little hit and miss but at times, the movie itself is very funny and even touching in places.  The scene involving the little boy in the laundrette is touching and heart breaking.

All in all, this isn't a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination.  There are a couple of moments where the acting goes a little over the top and you could cut a couple of scenes out to tighten the movie itself up a bit but that said, it's a fun and quirky little movie that really deserves to be seen by more people than it has.

Movie 7/10
Picture 7/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features 6/10
Overall 28/40

The Crow: Pestilence Issue 3 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
Horror, Action

Synopsis

As Salvador, led by The Crow, exacts his vengeance, the gang starts to push back...and Santa Muerte appears.

Review

Despite there being quite a few bad reviews for the first two issues of the Pestilence storyline in the ongoing The Crow stories, I've enjoyed them for the most part.  They have been a little hit and miss but they've at the very least kept me interested throughout the emerging story.

That's when I came to issue 3.  I loved how there were hints towards something or someone dark and powerful coming for Salvador in issue 2 and that's explored in a bit more detail here.

One of the things that struck me the most with this one was the decline in the writing in this one.  The story hands over the POV to the criminals and if I'm completely honest, I found them boring and really cliched.  The first two issues were a little hit and miss, there were some great nods to the criminals, making them sound like they were going to be this great group of people that would stand up to Salvador but, they just seem to be cannon fodder and not in the least memorable.  That's a real shame because I had higher hopes for this one.

The twist at the end was also really obvious and telegraphed that where it should have been shocking, it just came across as a bit disappointing.

Art wise, I must admit that is where the first two issues have been struggling the most and that carries on here.  There were quite a few panels that instead of looking frantic and action filled, they just felt messy and unfinished.  I picked up on the problem with some of the facial expressions in issue 2 and that's sadly declined here.  The faces sometimes look like they don't even belong on the right person or that they're not even reacting to what is going on in the scene itself.

As readers of this blog know, I love The Crow in all of it's guises.  The movies, the comic books, the graphic novels, the books, pretty much what ever kind they can put out.  Yet with this one, it's becoming more and more like a series that I can take or leave instead of being excited about the next issue and that's a real shame.

Story 6/10
Art 6/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 6/10
Overall 26/40

Sherlock Holmes: Gods of War Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
James Lovegrove

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Thriller, Crime

Synopsis

1913. The clouds of war are gathering. The world’s great empires vie for supremacy. Europe is in turmoil, a powder keg awaiting a spark. 

A body is discovered on the shore below Beachy Head, just a mile from Sherlock Holmes’s retirement cottage. The local police are satisfied that it’s a suicide. The victim, a young man, recently suffered a disappointment in love, and Beachy Head is notorious as a place where the desperate and depressed leap to their deaths. Holmes, however, suspects murder. As he and Watson investigate, they uncover a conspiracy with shocking ramifications. 

There are some men, it seems, who not only actively welcome the idea of a world war but are seeking divine aid to make war a reality.

Review

I must admit that as big a Sherlock Holmes fan as I am, especially of the books and anthologies that Titan Books have been putting out recently, the previous one by James Lovegrove entitled The Stuff of Nightmares didn't excite me as much as I had hoped.

When this one came through, I was a bit worried that it would go the same route of being good but not gripping and becoming a slight disappointment.  However, when I read the synopsis of the story, I couldn't but get excited.  The idea of murder and conspiracy being investigated by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson really made me wonder where Lovegrove was going to take the incredibly popular characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Throughout reading Gods of War I was struck at the fact that Lovegrove hit a brilliantly subtle pacing yet made it gripping to the point of needing to get to the next page to see where the shocks were going to come next.  Where The Stuff of Nightmares was a little hit and miss in that regard, Gods of War hits the right notes at the right time to get a reaction from the reader.

The fact that at first, seemingly unrelated happenings then all converged in to one case, really impressed me with how well it was written in that it came sometimes be really easy to see where the shocks are going to come but that's not the case here at all.  In fact, I loved the twists and turns set out through the story and at times, I even felt like Holmes was going to be at a loss to work out where the case was going.

Characters wise, it's quite hard to get the relationship between Holmes and Watson right but Lovegrove nailed it head on here.  The little remarks to one another, the little barbed jabs, the working out the case together, it's all here and well done.

All in all, this would have been a great story in the Jeremy Brett era of Sherlock Holmes episodes and I mean that as a big compliment.  Those stories always seemed to go more the more detailed route with the characters and that is what Lovegrove has done here.

I would definitely say that as a Holmes fan, this book is well worth picking up and adding to the collection.  In regards to the rest of the Titan Books Sherlock Holmes books, this is definitely up there with the best of them, especially those by George Mann.

Story 8/10
Characters 9/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 32/40

The Bestiary Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written, Art and Cover By
Barend Harris

Published By
Barend Harris

Genre
Fantasy, Art

Synopsis

The Bestiary is a collection of illustrations and descriptions of imaginary creatures and mythical beasts.

Review

During my time having a wander through the various displays and things at the Leicester Comic Convention, I had the pleasure of bumping in to the artist Barend Harris.

I was drawn to his work while looking at some of the Leicester Illustrator Group's pictures that were on display at the Crumblin' Cookie and noticed he had a comic book for sale so that one soon went in my bag to have a look at on the way home.

One of the things that struck me was that it kind of reminded me of my childhood in a way.  You used to be able to get these amazingly illustrated books, sometimes when you joined book clubs and such, that would tell you all about creatures in the fantasy genre and I absolutely loved them.

The Bestiary takes that approach and I thought it was absolutely brilliant.  The art inside the collection ranges from a child like cartoon style to some brilliantly detailed, slightly off kilter style.  My personal favorite of the book were the pictures of the Tree Wights.  They had a bit of a Pan's Labyrinth feel to them.

Looking through this one with my little lad, it really struck me that this is a book that we came come back to again and again.  The various styles of art and the descriptions of the creatures under them really made this an interesting one to read.  It had a bit of an old fashioned charm to it while adding a few creatures near the end that tied in with the modern world.

Definitely well worth picking up.

Story 7.5/10
Art 8.5/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 32/40

For more information about this title and the artist himself, please visit his site www.barendharris.com

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Geeky Book of Horror Kickstarter Announcement


A group of talented writers are creating a horror anthology. Writers Victor Wright (Author of Light of Darkness), Jeremy Biggs (Writer of Bearlands), Nathan Stack (Writer of Risen) and John Robinson are proud to announce their new Kickstarter campaign, which will kick off on 7th July.

‘The Geeky Book Of Horror’ is an anthology of horror stories like those you grew up with. All of the stories are new never before published. The twisted set of tales will suit the demands of today’s horror aficionado and will produce just the right amount of spine chill.

When asked what the goal of the anthology is meant to be Victor Wright stated “We wanted to write a book that would chill you to the bone; I think this does just that!" Wright is the author of the 'Light of Darkness’ series of books and several top selling independent comic titles as well as being MARsocial ‘Author of the Year 2014’ runner up and Writers Bureau ‘2014 Writer of the Year’ runner up. "It's great to be working alongside such great talent. These guys are gonna freak you out,” says Wright about his co-writers, all of whom have successfully published their own titles. One of the collaborators for the project is Jeremy Briggs who is not only the author of Bearlands series but also of the highly successful Kickstarter campaign - ‘Metal Made Flesh’.

The anthology will be approximately 128 pages, a total which is subject to change, and will carry two stories or more from each writer. As each writer has their own style, artists from all over the world will be supplying the illustrations. These include Mario Gully (Image Comics/Marvel) creator of ‘Ant’ the hit series by Image Comics and Maxi Quy a water colour painter living in New York. In order to link each of the stories in the anthology and in keeping with the theme of horror stories from the past these illustrations will be in black and white.

Geeky Comics, founded by Victor Wright is an independent publisher specialising in War, Horror and Crime titles. As an international team, they bring you the hottest creators in the comic scene. They are based in the UK, but ship their titles worldwide. In an effort to bring their fans only the very best the comic world has to offer, they welcome both positive and negative feedback. Whether you choose to write to them or to speak to them in person at one of the many comic conventions which they attend every year, they will not be sorry to see or hear from you and will answer all questions you may have.

The creators are asking for £6000 to produce the graphic novel. Backers who pledge £20 will receive a copy of the book, while the higher tiers will receive artwork, signed copies of the book, merchandise and much more. If funded, The Geeky Book Of Horror is due for release in December of 2014. The campaign will start on the Kickstarter platform on July 7th.

If you would like any other information about the anthology then email Victor Wright at vic@geekycomics.com

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Sneak Peek: Freak Show


I've also been a bit of a nut for history of all shapes and sizes.  Military, social and pretty much everything in between.

One of the periods that interest me the most is 1930's America, especially the era of the Dust Bowl.  At that time, carnival's and their various exhibits and workers were incredibly popular as a way of escapism.  The mix of sex, magic, games with rules that bend as the vendors see fit and loads more always interested me.  The part that interested me the most was the simple fact that they had their own language, their own rules and more.

With that in mind, I put pen to paper and started trying to write a story that would do my interest in the period and the people that traveled the length and breadth of the country justice.  So here is a sneak peek of what to expect.

Synopsis

1936.  Texas.  In the middle of the night Cassandra the Bearded Lady is brutally murdered by a traitor in the midst of the tight knit carnival freak show community.  The surviving members of the traveling freak show declare their intention to bring the murderer to justice but will their gaffer, a former priest, be able to choose between justice for those under his care and his faith?

So ladies, gentlemen, animals and minerals, here is a sneak peek of the art that will be in 'Freak Show'.


Illustration by Carlos Moreno

Keep your eyes peeled to this site for more updates, sneak peeks at new art for the story and for news on when you can read the story itself.

Kill Keith DVD Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Pete Benson
Tim Major
Andy Thompson

Directed By
Andy Thompson

A Dead on Arrival Digital, Gaia Media Film

Genre
Horror, Comedy

Cast

Marc Pickering as Danny
Susannah Fielding as Dawn
David Easter as Cliff
Simon Phillips as Andy
Keith Chegwin as Himself
Joe Tracini as Tony Blackburn
Tony Blackburn as Tony Burnblack
Russell Grant as Himself
Joe Pasquale as Himself

Year Released
2011

Certificate
15

Synopsis

Keith 'Cheggers' Chegwin is a household name and has been at the top of his game for nearly 40 years. He's an all round entertainer and has lived with us via our TV screens on Swap Shop as kids through to GMTV as parents. 

He is undoubtedly a national treasure, and for nearly four decades has been much loved by viewers young and old. But now it's time to Kill Keith. 

Special Features
  • None

Review

Let's get one thing clear from the outset shall we?  Kill Keith is a bad movie.  In places, a very bad movie.  That's part of the charm of it all though.

The team behind this movie obviously knew that they had next to no money for their budget and they really do their best with the tiny budget that they have.  For the most part they use the budget pretty well and have some inventive kills through out the movie, a couple of which had me howling with laughter.

Cast wise, the movie is peppered with famous faces from British day time television ranging from Keith Chegwin to Tony Blackburn and Joe Pasquale, the comedian.  When ever the three of these are on screen, the movie is an absolute riot of cheesy humor but while some of the jokes are quite cliched, they make it work with their enthusiasm for the movie itself.

One of the biggest surprises of the movie for me was the part of Danny played by Marc Pickering.  He really makes what might have come across as a pathetic and back bone less character in to a sympathetic and endearing bloke that you can't help but cheer on to get through the movie and win the girl, in this movie played by Susannah Fielding.

I loved the fact the movie was part soppy romance and part horror / comedy and it works really well.  The romantic parts of the movie are so sweet and adorable that you can sometimes forget the fact that there are murders going on around them.

Because of the budget of the movie making, the picture can sometimes be a little grainy in places but it's not distracting but actually adds to the grimy feel of the movie itself so that kind of works in it's favor.  It's the same with the sound as well.

This was apparently the directors debut movie but it doesn't really show.  He knows he has no budget at all and he knows that he has a cast full of people that are going to have fun doing utterly bonkers and they run like the wind with it.  While the twist is pretty much telegraphed from the beginning but that is another thing that makes the movie so much fun so I'll be rating it as fun because let's be honest, this isn't a good movie.  It's one of those 'so bad it's fun' movies and all the better for it.

Movie 7/10
Picture 7/10
Sound 7/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 21/30


Postman Pat: the Movie Cinema Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Nicole Dubuc
Annika Bluhm
Kim Fuller

Directed By
Mike Disa

A Classic Media, RGH Entertainment, Rubicon Group Holding Film

Genre 
Animated, Family, Comedy

Cast

Jim Broadbent as CEO
Stephen Mangan as Postman Pat
Ronan Keating as Ronan / Postman Pat's Singing Voice
Susan Duerden as Sara Clifton
Rupert Grint as Josh
David Tennant as Wilfred
Peter Woodward as Carbunkel
Greg Ellis as Jimmy
Parminder Nagra as Nisha Bains
Robin Atkin Downes as Simon Cowbell

Year Released
2014

Certificate
U

Synopsis

A well loved and veteran Postman finds his beliefs tested when he enters a television talent show in order to win a holiday to Italy for his wife.

Review

Like a lot of other people, I grew up watching television shows such as Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine and Postman Pat.  Some of these and others have made the jump in to movie form to varying degrees of success.  There have been some straight to DVD Fireman Sam adventures that while not terrible, haven't set the movie world alight.  There have also been some adventures for the little blue train Thomas the Tank Engine too that have met with varying degrees of success.  That said, the less said about Thomas and the Magic Railroad the better.

When they announced that they would be making Postman Pat in to a movie, I had very low expectations for it. Then they showed the trailer to the world and those expectations stayed low but what would the movie itself be like I wondered?

Well, I took my five year old son to watch it and I have to admit that he absolutely loved it.  That said, there didn't really seem to be all that many similarities to the Postman Pat of old but I suppose even children's shows have to move with the times right?  The one thing that bothered me was that even though it was rated at a U certificate, meaning kids could see it no matter how young, there were some moments that I would class as a bit too scary for the younger ones.

The story itself doesn't exactly scream originality.  Pat wants to win a holiday for his long suffering wife and therefore enters a television talent show with quite a few mundane results.  It's not a terrible story by any means but neither did it hold my interest that well.

However, that said there were some great moments for the parents in the audience in the cinema that really made me laugh, such as an appearance by a well known bad guy from the Dr. Who television show.  That got a few chuckles out of this cynical old soul, along with a few other moments.  For the most part however, the humor just seemed a bit forced and unfunny.  I mean come on, Simon Cowbell?  I wonder who that would possibly be a parody of.

That said, the cast do try their best with some really cliched and sometimes even bad dialogue.  Stephen Mangan does a great job at making Pat himself seem sympathetic but the movie definitely belongs to the tenth Doctor himself, David Tennant.  He seems to having a ball as Wilfred and it shows in the sheer glee that he delivers his lines.

Some of the moments in the movie seemed to go over the heads of the little ones in the audience and that's a real shame.  The story seemed to be aimed at older children yet at the same time, it's that age range of children that might have found this story a bit boring in itself.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the animation.  I'm not one of those sorts of people that moans when they change a show from stop motion to CGI or what have you but the animation here seemed a little rushed and cheap in a couple of scenes, especially in the facial expressions but that said, it's definitely better than the animation in Top Cat: the Movie.

The thing that the writers seemed to have missed is that Postman Pat is most popular amongst the pre-school age range and slightly higher but a lot of the jokes and scenes seemed a little too old for young ones in the audience.

It's a bit of a shame really as this could have been a great shot at bringing the beloved character to a whole new generation but for the most part, it just seemed kind of there and not all that memorable.

Movie: 6/10