Saturday, 21 May 2011

Alagg - Strip 22.

Northlanders - The Hunt (issue 40). Review.

Another of the on/off series of reviews from comics I have in my read pile.  Criminally ignored as they sit there asking me to read them!

Northlanders #40 - 'The Hunt'.

Written by Brian Wood.
Art by Matthew Woodson.
Colours by Dave McCaig.

Publisher - Vertigo for DC Comics.

Northlanders is a book that I have been reading and enjoying from issue 1.  It is almost always one of my favourite books every month but strangely not one that I go to straightaway to read from the pile.  I seem to always leave it until I am in an ideal spot and in the right mood.  Saying this, it is always great.

It has over the years had it's naysayers who seem to disagree with the use of modern vernacular by the players.  I can see what they mean but to me it has never got to a point that it has ruined my enjoyment of the stories themselves.  Let's face it, the people who are the ones that voice these opinions seem to have no problem with people flying around in capes or fighting dragons. 

What draws me to the comic is not the setting (although it does add to the plot) but rather the approach to character.  Compared to many of the contemporary set comics out there Northlanders always seems to triumph in the more personal moments (one of the best example of this is 'The Plague Widow' arc). I always has a sense of who these people are and what they are feeling which to me is always a priority.

To focus on this issue I should perhaps make clear that it is a 'one and done' story.  It's premise is quite simple.  It focuses on a lone hunter pursuing his prey through the snowy wilderness.  It is narrated for the first three pages by a third party.  This third party has an insight into the mind of the hunter and echoes his loneliness and desperation. 

For me the great writing begins when the panels switch from the third party to the hunter himself.  Panel narration can get a little wordy but this issue keeps it quite sparse.  Two lines of narration hit like hammers Page 3 -'Past the point of sensible return' and Page 5 - 'I suspect I'll never see them again.'  Palpable desperation makes the reader ask themselves 'why is he continuing on?' It also started me thinking early on that this was a nightmarish situation a feeling that later will lead to a feverish dream like story.  The hunter follows the prey through snow and rain.  He seems to feel no sense of self preservation and the deer is his only reason for being.

Much of the tone of the book is reflected in the face of the hunter.  The art by Matthew Woodson has an almost photo realistic style and you can see that he is classically trained as an artist.  He depicts the hunter as a human being full of faults and fears.  You can almost see his fingers shake as he strings the bow and notches the arrow ready to fire.  The cold blows out from the page and I smiled when I saw the redness of the hunter's nose as he stands wrapped in a raggedy cloak.  His style reminds me a little of Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge but Woodson has more of a storytelling flow than his English counterpart.

The deer itself is beautifully realised and you soon appreciate it's prescence in the story as much as you do the Hunter.  They represent the two sides of the coin, equal parts in the story.  The scenary towers over the story and the snowy mountains and the northern sky above the animal's antlers is a definite high point.

The story kept me guessing all the way to the end.  My mind kept asking me what will happen.  Would they end with a kill or would it end with the deer getting away and beating the hunter who would be left to die.  There is an end and it is not a cop out.  It's ending is bleak and beautiful in equal measure.  As I finished the story it pleaded silently with me to read it again.  Is it a dream?  Is it the dream of the deer or of the hunter? (if at all).

I will stop before I ruin the end.  If you are not picking this book up you should be!  Mr Wood's pacing is a master class in comics writing.  A small and personal story that is set up in a way that makes the reader feel the weight of the stakes at play. The art is a pleasant departure from the norm and looks amazing.

Don't wait for a trade on this one.  Get out there and pick it up.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Alagg - Strip 9.

Review - FCBS - Elric: The Balance

This year there were some great titles available on Free Comic Book Day.  The policy of my local shop was that customers could only take one or two titles each so I had to choose carefully.

Being a great lover of all of Michael Moorcock’s work and a fan in general of Sword and Sorcery, Elric: The Balance Lost was a must have.

Produced by Boom Studios it is a teaser story for an upcoming 12 issue mini series in July.  Written by Chris Roberson who has been working mostly recently for Veritgo on titles such as Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love and I, Zombie and art by Franceso Biagini who is an Italian artist and has recently worked on Dead Run for Boom.  Colours are by Stephen Downer who has done a lot of work at DC recently including colouring the Legion of Superheroes title.

The cover art by New York based Erik Jones is probably my favourite of all the FCBD covers and keeps the tradition of high art so recognisable on this character.

This particular genre has been served well of late with Conan and Kull at Dark Horse and Red Sonja at Dynamite. Along with the great Northlanders at Vertigo.  But of all these characters it is arguably Elric who has had the most irregular print history.

Not to say that the attempts at bringing Elric to the comics page have not been without their successes.  P. Craig Russell in particular has produced legendary work on the character (Roy Thomas on writing duty) with beautifully rendered magical and colourful images in the 1970s and 1980s.  In fact the second half of this FCBD issue focuses on the comics history of the character.

In fact the book is split into three distinct sections and in many ways presents the ideal example of what a ‘jumping on issue’ should represent.  The first half of the book is an introduction comic story for the character that highlights his rich history across the Eternal Champion timeline that Moorcock created in the books.  What follows then is the aforementioned potted history of Elric in comics and then five pages of concept sketches for the character and others who seemingly will appear as the title progresses.

The short comics story (only ten pages) sees Elric on a road travelling across country.  He has cause to fight a group of ferociously tusked wild creatures and in doing so introduces new readers to the concept of his soul eating sword Stormbringer (a concept that is central in many of the novels).  This fight is exposition heavy but then again that is nothing new to comics.  This does not stop it being well paced and beautifully drawn.  The art style is more workmanlike than say the Russell style but at least this hopefully indicates that we will get more than an issue a year! 

Biagini serves the story well and throws in some really great touches.  The energy surrounding Stormbringer after the kills looks amazing and serves the drama well.  We then get three splash pages detailing the different versions of The Eternal Champion as a talking crow describes Elric’s different incarnations.  The art looks great on these pages and the writing communicates the different qualities of each descendant.

The story ends in a Kung-Fu the series moment where Elric steps through a portal in his search through the Multiverse.  There is much talk in the issue about ‘The Balance’.  A concept that sets Elric up as the warrior who will help preserve the equilibrium of the Multiverse.

When all is said and done  this issue does what it needs to.  It gives us some great action.  A story that goes (possibly a little too far) in a direction that explains Elric’s back story and sets up the forthcoming maxi series.  We get a cool text piece that explains the publishing timeline of Moorcock’s characters and a neat sketch book that for once does not feel like filler material.

Biagini has a storytelling quality that really works for this style of story.  Along with Mr Roberson’s hitting record for well written and intelligent stories I fully intend to continue picking up this title.

Boom studios really seem to be on top of their game at the moment.  With this title and the new Planet of the Apes series now on my pull list I eagerly look forward to their future output.


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Alagg - Strip 8.

Alagg - Teaser Image for upcoming issues!

Here is a teaser image for some upcoming Alagg stories.

Some you have seen already and some are yet to come.


Free Comic Book Day - Saturday 7th May. - Photos.

Free Comic Book Day this year was the best so far.  Some great issues out.  I personally have just read the Spider-Man and Elric issues from Marvel and Boom and they are both excellent.

It seems that FCBD grows every year and all the big companies are producing some great and individual issues to encourage new readership.

My day was spent at Chaos City Comics in St Albans, Herts, UK and the ever great Dave Gibbons turned up to do some signing and some very cool free sketches.  (I even manged to recommend he pick up the new Planet of the Apes comic by Boom.)

Dave always gives genrously of his time and is a great raconteur with a story for every customer.  Above is a Batman sketch he did for me.  He even got a haircut for the event - bemoaning the fact that barbers never seem to have comics to read while you wait anymore.

Thanks to Derek and the newly appointed assistant manager Luke for organising the day.  It was a great turn out and also cool to see a lot of new people enquiring about our hobby and picking up product.

Here are some photos of the event.

Above is Dave with Elton.
(Dave was just in the middle of a Tom Baker story and showing us a photo he had taken with the ex Doctor)

The shop was pretty packed out all morning.

Now I can't wait until next year for FCBD.


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Alagg - Strip 5.

Free Comic Book Day - Saturday 7th May.

FCBD 2011.

This Saturday is the return of Free Comic Book Day.  The day in the year where we encourage new readers to have a taste of the hobby that we all enjoy.

All the big companies have some really interesting free comics.

I will be spending my day with all the guys and gals at Chaos City Comics in St Albans.
20 Heritage Close, St Albans, Herts, AL3 4EB.

To add to the day Dave Gibbons (and if you don't know who he is you are probably reading the wrong blog!) will be doing an impromptu signing in store.

So bring along all your Watchmen, Rogue Trooper, Martha Washington, Green Lantern or any of the other great books he has written or drawn!  I am sure that if you don't have any there will be plenty to purchase and get signed at the store.

Should be a great day and there is a rumour that some of us may be going to the pub afterwards!

Hopefully see you there.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Alagg - Strip 3.

The Boy Wonder Reviews (Thor Movie).

Myself and the Boy Wonder (for those not paying attention he is my comcs reading 14 year old son) went and saw the new Thor movie in 3D at the local cinema.  We wisely went to the 9.45am showing to avoid any crowds (have there been any?).

His review follows.

Not sure what you may have heard but there may be spoilers.


Thor - The Movie.

The movie Thor was well made. I specifically enjoyed the storyline. And Loki's deception of Thor.

My favourite character was Heindall and I thought his strange eyes were cool. He had a good view over the entire story.

My favourite scene was the bit when they got drunk as it showed the human side of Thor.  The battle scenes were good even though sometimes you couldn't see what was happening. It was a little fast and the special effects got in the way. 

The acting was good especially on the part of Loki.  I liked the interwoven story between Earth and Asgard.  Not sure if I liked the Destroyer and I wanted the fight scene to last longer.  It seemed to be over very quickly once Thor got his powers back.

I would recommend this movie if you know about the storyline at Marvel and watch out for the scene at the end after the credits. This was very cool.

Film overall - 8 out of 10.
Acting - 9 out of 10.
Special Effects - 7 out of 10.


I thought it was pretty good.  But this isn't my review is it.

See you soon.


Sunday, 1 May 2011

Alagg - Strip 2.

Alagg - Strip 1.

Here we go.  It's finally that time. The Story of Alagg: The Wilderness Years begins here.

This will get a bit weird in just a few days so we apologise for any future offence caused.

But I am sure that Alagg would not give a fuck!