Thursday, 11 January 2018

Reading in 2017

2017 was quite the year. Anyone who is reading this presumably understands, as you sit dazed and confused at how we, as a species, managed to survive such an aggressive behemoth made of 365 days. Despite 2017 raking it's talons across my soul and causing emotional lacerations of some magnitude at times, it was not without it's positives. I was raised under several different roofs, each sharing the singular idea that you should always try to see the positive things, no matter how bad things may seem. So, in 2017, my positives are the love of my life and I reconciling our differences and becoming a couple once more, my son is growing into a wonderful creature known as a toddler and I still love and am loved by my family.

So in the spirit of that previous message, here is a completely unrelated list of books I read in 2017. This list was inspired by some of my Facebook friends who posted lists of books they read in 2016. At the time I thought to myself, I could trounce that. However this list appears to be somewhat smaller than some of theirs. Though it doesn't take into account the fact that The Stand, is an enormous undertaking and should count as at least twelve books.

1. Slade House- David Mitchell
2. Thin Air- Michelle Paver
3. Superman (Rebirth) Vol.1- Tomasi and Gleason
4. The Omega Men- King and Bagenda
5. The Losers, Book 1- Diggle and Jock
6. Low Vol.1-Remender and Tocchini
7. The Stand- Stephen King
8. Monstress Vol.1- Liu and Takada
9. Ack-Ack Macaque- Gareth. L. Powell
10. The Island of Dr. Moreau- H.G. Wells
11. Hive Monkey- Gareth L. Powell
12. Hellboy Vol.6-Strange Places- Mike Mignola
13. Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol.1- Moore, Bissette and Totleben
14. Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol.2- Moore, Bissette and Totleben
15. American Vampire Vol. 8- Snyder and Albuquerque
16. Power Rangers Vol.1- Higgins and Prasetya
17. The Essex Serpent- Sarah Perry
18. The Midwich Cuckoos- John Wyndham
19. Thinking about it only makes it worse- David Mitchell
20. The Walking Dead Vol. 1- Kirkman, Adlard and Moore
21. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams
22. Restuarant at the end of the Universe- Douglas Adams

Now, you may well notice there are a few graphic novels, collections, comics or; funny books if you will. There may be some of you who are in uproar.
"How dare you include such feckless frivolities in this list? You absolute fiend, I'm going to the garden now to punch a bag of mince."
Please, don't feel the need to punish harmless meat. You're entitled to your opinion as I am entitled to mine. But you merely have to look at a comic to appreciate the hive mind that has concocted such a work. The positive collaboration between the intellect of many to make something special.They are pieces of literature. Literature that works in tandem with art to take both disciplines to higher levels. It speaks volumes that comics have won 'real' literature awards. Do yourself a favour and soak up some volumes, or even single issues, sometime if you do feel this way.
Speaking for which, this list does not account for the countless single issues of comics I have absorbed this year. From new series that have piqued my interest to my continuing pursuit of classic ongoing series, I have read a lot. I feel that I will need to do a brief review of the comics that I enjoyed last year.
Anyway, that just about completes this little post. 2017 was bleak this blog for many reasons. Reasons that will become apparent as I make a much stronger effort in 2018. Here's to the new year, and more reading.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: Freelance Blues #6

Writers: Ian Daffern and Mike Leone
Artist: Becca T-R
Cover Art: John Lang
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Released: 27th July 2016

A mere glance at the above will indicate that this review is well over a month late/in the making. The reasons for this are personal, which makes them subjective and boring to anyone not involved, so I won't torment you with them. I have read comics in this period, but struggled with the drive and motivation to put into words how I feel. What has been important in this period of introspection has been the value that comics have to me, not mere financial face value, but something more intrinsic and dare I say spiritual. Comics have quite literally saved me. I have much more to explore surrounding this subject so look forward to further posts/essays.
Back though, to the matter at hand. Freelance Blues has been part of the healing process for me and issue 6 is the culmination of several months worth of storytelling rife with mystery and intrigue. Overall it's a satisfying denouement to a cracking story arc.

Lance is a compelling protagonist and I feel that most of his appeal resides in how readers are able to relate and identify with his struggle. Lance is really just a common man trying to make his way in the world and provide for his family. Who can say that they don't face that struggle most days in life? Lance ends up fighting monsters and beasts of myth, but this is just a weave of metaphor and hyperbole for what we mere humans view as our internal struggles externalised. Daffern and Leone have created the perfect foil for telling the story in this way, and with this issue they continue to tell this tale superbly. The pace picks up bringing the story to it's end nicely and revelations are exposed in great little pieces of storytelling and character work. I know it's been out a while now but I still won't include any spoilers just in case there are a few stragglers dragging their feet.
Now in the previous five issues the duty of art has fell to Vicki Tierney, taking up the pencil for this issue is Becca T-R, and to be honest the style of art is so similar that is almost indiscernible. There are only a few subtle differences in their styles that the storytelling doesn't suffer. Becca has a good grasp of the characters and the gifts of her art rest in it's ability to convey story, which for me is always the measure of a great comic artist. Tierney told the the first five issues excellently and I will always be a fan of hers, but T-R takes the reigns over just as well and brings the story to it's exciting conclusion.

As I've said, this issue has been around a while, so if you're following the series it's likely that you have already picked it up, so if you have then great, you'll love it too. However if you're completely new to the series and to Lance, then do yourself a favour, get all of the issues and immerse yourself in a wonderful world of storytelling.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Review: Freelance Blues #5

Writers: Ian Daggers and Mike Leone
Art: Vicki Tierney
Inks: Diego More no
Cover: John Lang
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Release date: June 29th 2016

I'm a couple of weeks later reading this. It's been on my list since a few days before its release and unfortunately I've only just managed to find the time to indulge myself. It was well worth the wait.
It is well documented that I'm a rather large fan of Freelance Blues. I have been since its release and it's intricate barbed hooks laced with the venom of fantastic storytelling are such know well and truly in me.
Part of what makes this series so likeable, is the empathy and compassion you cannot help but feel for the central protagonist Lance. He's just an honest hard working chap desperately looking to catch a break. Though his struggles are tinged with the supernatural, the core of his conflict is common and easily relatable. Add in some snappy dialogue and we'll paced storytelling and Daffern and Leone are suddenly giving a master class in comic book writing.
I'm a huge fan of Tierney's art work and have been since my eyeballs first exploded taking in its greatness. Her grasp of characterization is a great strength in her story telling bow, but combined with brilliantly detailed panels and pages and you get a spectacle on each page.
If possible this issue is only stronger that the previous run, my only regret is that it took me so long to read it. If you have any sense you will get a hold of this comic and devour it. Though hopefully because it's been put a while, you already have.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Review: The Dark #1 Boo Hag

Writer/Artist: Kelly Williams
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Release date: 22nd June 2016

It's been a while since I've written a review, life has been rather hectic and I've really struggled to juggle everything around. It's a shame as writing reviews is a cathartic experience that I enjoy. I've read 'The Dark' several times since its release and it really is a fantastic comic.
I've been a fan of Kelly Williams since I was directed his way by Peter Simeti on twitter. His artwork is detailed, atmospheric and jaw dropping. Such is the depth of my admiration for his work that I've actually written comic scripts with his work in mind, adjusting panels and mood in order suit how I think his art process works. It's a little sad I know own but it's made me a better script writer.
Anyway, coming back to the tangent. Williams is a despicable genius who has written and drawn this standout comic. His take on certain myths about Witches, Boo Hag is a tense tale about Steve Rankin, a writer in search of truth behind legends, and finding something altogether more horrifying.

I know Williams firstly as an artist, from flicking through Twitter and seeing the gorgeous artwork that he posts sporadically. So the fact that he is a stellar writer is a pleasant surprise. For a story that consists mainly of dialogue between two men, the writing is wonderful work.  Conversation is a tricky thing to do well, as is giving each character a voice, but Williams does both with style. The story flows well and the dialogue helps to accentuate the tensions that Williams' art projects off the page.
The artwork is a master class in storytelling. It positively drips atmosphere,  each panel is lushly detailed and feels almost alive. The pages are deliberately inked and each line made aids in bringing the panels to life. At times I forgot I was reading a comic and looked up to discover that I wasn't in fact sat in a dark, haunting forest.

It's been around a while now, so the chances are you already have your paws on this excellent comic, but if you haven't then I can't recommend it highly enough, even if horror isn't your genre, this work is to be enjoyed.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Review: Trespasser #3

Story: Justin M. Ryan
Art: Kristian Rossi
Letters: DC Hopkins
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Release date: June 15th 2016

The only problem with Trespasser is that after I've finished reading an issue, I have to wait for the next one. So I've been waiting for what feels like too long for today, and it didn't disappoint.

After the events and issue 2 and with the cover as enticing as it is, I was expecting this issue to be based a lot more on our science fiction extra terrestrial friends. However the focus of this issue is on the building anxieties in the house, the tension builds as things go from bad to worse. Ryan is a master craftsman, friction is woven into the script and as you read, the tension builds in you too, your heart begins to race and sweat beads on your forehead, it really makes reading quite the experience. Rossi's art once again is a fantastic spectacle to behold, it is moody and atmospheric and a master example of storytelling at its finest.
This issue is a study in character and relationships, to me that seems to be what trespasser is about, the dynamic between man and daughter. Ryan has a wonderful grasp of his characters and you can feel the personality behind each one, their spirit crackles on the page.

I cannot praise Trespasser enough, so be sure to believe the hype and get involved with a wonderful series that I really cannot do enough to praise.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Review: Charge #1

Writers: Dan Jury and Chris Jury
Pencils: Adhitya Zulkarnaen
Inks: Christopher Bryer
Colours: Pamela Siega
Letters: Michael Lagace
Cover Art: Jordan J. Nering
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Release date: June 1st 2016

Charge has been put for a week now. Everything I've sat down to try and write this something seems to have come up that I am unable to get out of. So it's nice to finally be able to get a moment to put something together about this cracking comic.
Actually a few days before this comic came out I fired up my Dropbox and found the review/preview copy of Charge #1 sat there just begging to be read. So it was quite serendipitous when I got the email from Alterna with the release details and link to review copy a few days later, forewarned is forearmed.
Charge is a great piece of tense science fiction thriller. It's got all the ingredients, a shady corporation, an uptight suit from head office, a remote cut off location and some scientists working on a clandestine experiment. Intersperse that with some time travel and you have a wonderfully crafted story in your hands.
Dan and Chris Jury have a wonderful understanding of their characters and material. With such a ensemble cast being used it would be easy for some of the characters to get lost in the crows and become a little one dimensional, but that doesn't happen here. The plot is well paced and reads smoothly, there are no clunky page turns or jilted storytelling that put off your reading experience.
The artwork is sublime, each member of the team performing their duties perfectly,  then combining to create pages that are wonderful to look at and are an excellent paradigm of sequential art and, more importantly to me, storytelling.

In short this is a wonderful comic, the story is interesting and engaging, without over complication. The art is fluid, dynamic and a joy to view. I can't wait to see where the plot takes us next. Get yourself on comixology and treat yourself. You won't regret it at all.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Review: Freelance Blues #4

Story: Ian Daffern and Mike Leone
Art: Vicki Tierney
Inks: Diego Moreno
Cover Art: John Lang
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Released: May 25th 2016

If you've been here before, if you've seen my reviews of previous issues then you may be aware that I am a fan of Freelance Blues, this issue does nothing to change that.

The spectacularly creative minds of Daffern, Leone and Tierney have crafted another immensely enjoyable chapter in poor unfortunate Lance's tale. In #4 we find Lance working on a ranch trying to make an honest living but, as always, things take a sinister turn. In the previous issue Daffern and Leone began to hint at some underlying familial conspiracy behind Lance and the twins plight, and that juicy vein of story is continued here. The information is teased out skilfully and woven into the structure of the plot, keeping the readers attention. It's another example of superb writing, with the story crafted wonderfully, paced excellently and peppered with humour throughout, this series has become a fine paradigm of excellent comic writing and storytelling.
In Lance they have created an ultimately likeable protagonist, in fact it must be impossible to dislike him, each issue comes with a wonderfully thought out supporting cast too.
I'm unashamedly in awe of Tierney's artwork, each panel crackles with life and energy, she is an excellent storyteller and her artwork is the perfect companion to Daffern and Leone's script. This issue is no different and her artwork seems to get better and better the more I look at it. Her command of characters is particularly impressive and you can feel the life that she puts into each one. 

This was a fantastic issue to read (twice.....ok three times) and I can't recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favour and read it, if you haven't already dipped into this series then go back to the start and enjoy a shining example of excellent comics. Daffern, Leone and Tierney, thanks for the fun, I can't wait to see what's next.